Archive by date | July 2010

More questions raised over South Korea’s sunken ship

South Korea’s bid to convince the world that North Korea sank its corvette, the Cheonan, had another setback today. A Korean newspaper, the Hankyoreh, reported that a group of Russian experts investigating the matter came to a very different conclusion — that the ship sank after striking a mine.

Quango cull triggers research regulator rationalisation

The UK’s bonfire of the quangos continued today, as the coalition government lined up a selection of health-related agencies for termination. Rising from the ashes may be a new super-regulator for research as the government has pledged a “radical simplification” of medical research.

Spilled oil is spreading in hidden plume

Spilled oil is spreading in hidden plume

The US government has acknowledged what scientists first reported nearly 2 months ago–that a deep plume of diffuse oil was spreading away from the leaking Macondo well and that oxygen concentrations in the vicinity were below what is expected in that region. The Joint Analysis Group, or JAG, today announced that elevated oil concentrations could be found up to 25 kilometres from the wellhead at depths between 1,000 metres and 1,300 metres. The report notes that some natural oil seeps are in the vicinity of the wellhead but that the “subsurface oil concentrations are highest near the wellhead and become more diffuse farther away from the source,” according to a NOAA release. The JAG did not say anything about the environmental consequences of the oil spreading

The report also documented a depression in dissolved oxygen below 1,000 metres, which could be caused by microbial consumption of the oil and methane spreading away from the wellhead. But the JAG also said that the oxygen levels are not low enough to be of concern.

Scientists on board the R/V Pelican first reported finding a deep plume of spreading oil as well as depressed oxygen concentrations during a cruise in May.

US Senate punts on climate legislation

After a long and torturous debate that has worn on for the past year and a half, Harry Reid, the Democratic Majority leader in the US Senate, finally acknowledged this week that he doesn’t have the votes to proceed with global warming legislation. At least not now. And the future doesn’t look terribly bright either.  Read more

Hot rocks help scientists map Moon’s terrain

Hot rocks help scientists map Moon’s terrain

Scientists are using temperature measurements to map the rockiest parts of the Moon – and the results could help NASA choose better landing sites for missions.

Infrared radiation readings taken by the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, an instrument on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, have enabled researchers to see the moon’s temperature variations in detail. Not surprisingly, the surface heats up during the day and cools down at night. But rocks tend to retain their heat longer than the regolith, or lunar soil, and so they stay warm throughout the night.

Mapping these hot spots has provided a quick and quantitative way to assess rock abundance over vast areas of the Moon, says planetary scientist Josh Bandfield of the University of Washington in Seattle, who presented his results on Thursday at the Lunar Science Forum, held at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. It’s a faster method than counting rocks one by one in the high-resolution images provided by LRO. Mission planners could use the resulting rock abundance maps to pick landing sites that don’t present too many rock risks – but have enough rocks nearby for interesting geological research.