Animals, plants already feeling effects of global warming

Global warming is having a significant impact on hundreds of plant and animal species around the world — although the most dramatic effects may not be felt for decades, according to a new study in the journal Nature. “Birds are laying eggs earlier than usual, plants are flowering earlier and mammals are breaking hibernation sooner,” said Terry L. Root, a senior fellow with Stanford’s Institute for International Studies (IIS) and lead author of the Jan. 2 Nature study. “Clearly, if such ecological changes are now being detected when the globe has warmed by an estimated average of only 1 degree F (0.6 C) over the past 100 years, then many more far-reaching effects on species and ecosystems will probably occur by 2100, when temperatures could increase as much as 11 F (6 C),” Root concluded.

New Theory Accounts for Existence of Binaries in Kuiper Belt

In the last few years, researchers have discovered more than 500 objects in the Kuiper belt, a gigantic outer ring in the outskirts of the solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune. Of these, seven so far have turned out to be binaries–two objects that orbit each other. The surprise is that these binaries all seem to be pairs of widely separated objects of similar size. This is surprising because more familiar pairings, such as the Earth/moon system, tend to be unequal in size and/or rather close together. To account for these oddities, scientists from the California Institute of Technology have devised a theory of Kuiper belt binary formation.

Against all odds, researchers find new superconductor in plutonium

Scientists have discovered superconductivity in a most unlikely place: the highly radioactive element used to make nuclear weapons. In an article set to appear Thursday in the journal Nature, a group of researchers, including a University of Florida physicist, report discovering a plutonium-based electrical superconductor. The finding is significant because plutonium, the active ingredient in atomic bombs, has physical properties that should prevent it from behaving as a superconductor – suggesting current theories about this phenomenon may not apply to this element.