Magnetic processes in space can accelerate electrons to near light speed

A chance observation of high-energy electrons emanating from a tiny region of space where the sun and Earth’s magnetic fields intertwine provides the first solid evidence that a process called magnetic reconnection accelerates electrons to near the speed of light in the Earth’s magnetosphere and perhaps throughout the universe where magnetic fields entangle.

Researchers Say Tiny Phytoplankton Plays Large Role in Earth’s Climate

The ecological importance of phytoplankton, microscopic plants that free-float through the world’s oceans, is well known. Among their key roles, the one-celled organisms are the major source of sustenance for animal life in the seas. Now, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego say that phytoplankton exert a significant and previously uncalculated influence on Earth’s climate.

European Seal Plague May Threaten Population Survival

Time to find zee cureThe 2002 outbreak of phocine distemper virus, or PDV, in European harbor seals may reduce the population by more than half and that future outbreaks with similar characteristics would significantly increase the risk of population declines. Their findings are the first epidemiological data reported on the 2002 outbreak, which is still underway, and may help predict the recurrence of the outbreaks and the impact on the long-term growth and survival of the European harbor seal population.

Genes, Neurons, Internet Found to Have Organizing Principles-Some Identical

How do 30,000 genes in our DNA work together to form a large part of who we are? How do one hundred billion neurons operate in our brain? The huge number of factors involved makes such complex networks hard to crack. Now, a study published in the October 25 issue of Science uncovers a strategy for finding the organizing principles of virtually any network ? from neural networks to ecological food webs or the Internet.

New Tool for Studying Animal Models of Neurological, Psychiatric Diseases

U.S. government scientists have demonstrated that a miniature positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, known as microPET, and the chemical markers used in traditional PET scanning are sensitive enough to pick up subtle differences in neurochemistry between known genetic variants of mice. This “proof-of-principle” experiment “opens up a whole new, non-invasive way to study and follow transgenic or genetically engineered strains of mice that serve as animal models for human neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease or psychiatric diseases such as substance abuse, depression, and anxiety disorders,” said Panayotis (Peter) Thanos, lead author of the study.

Physicists to ‘boost’ satellite with microwaves

A California physicist will announce plans for the first known attempt to push a spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit with energy beamed up from the ground. The satellite will be called the Cosmos Sail, the first solar-sail craft to orbit Earth. The physics team developed the sail with researchers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Made from lightweight layers of aluminized mylar, the sail will allow a craft to be propelled from low orbit to high orbit and ultimately into interplanetary space, driven by microwave energy, similar to the way wind pushes a sailboat across the sea.

Researchers close in on natural solution to PCB contamination

An environmentally friendly solution to one of the world’s most notorious chemical contamination problems may be a step closer to reality, reports a research team from Purdue University and the University of British Columbia. The team has identified one of the key stumbling blocks that prevent microorganisms from decomposing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a persistent and potentially hazardous industrial chemical that has become nearly ubiquitous in the environment. While capitalizing on the discovery will take time, it could eventually show researchers how to teach microorganisms to break down PCBs into ecologically safe molecules, a process known as bioremediation.

Alaska Quake Seems to Trigger Yellowstone Jolts

A major, magnitude-7.9 earthquake that rocked Alaska on Sunday apparently triggered scores of earthquakes some 2,000 miles away at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. By 8:30 a.m. MST Monday Nov. 4 – about 17 hours after the Alaskan quake – more than 200 small earthquakes had been detected occurring in clusters throughout the Yellowstone area. The quakes were recorded by the Yellowstone seismic network operated by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations.

Picky microbe could aid environmental cleanup

Michigan researchers have found an elusive microbe whose pickiness could be key to the cleanup of a common type of environmental toxin. The researchers report the discovery of a microbe dredged from the bottom of the Hudson River that has an insatiable appetite to break down the environmental pollutant TCA. That means the bacterium shows promise as the missing piece of the puzzle to clean up soil and groundwater contaminated by multiple chlorinated solvents.