SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY,                                  AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER220 t h issue, Febru...
S C I E N C E : Cosmos May Be Inherently Unstable                                                                         ...
CHILE: Amazing Photo Captures 84 Million Stars in Our Milky Way Galaxy                                             Astrono...
ENERGY: Company Says It Can Make Fuel Out of Thin Air                                          Air Fuel Synthesis is pione...
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Newsletter 220

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER220 t h issue, February 20, 2013 NASA: Hosts Its First Google+ Hangout Connecting with Space Station In this issue: NASA will host its first Google+ Hangout live with the International Space Station from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST, Friday, Feb. 22. This event will connect NASAs social media followers with NASA: Hosts its first astronauts on the ground and living and working aboard the laboratory orbiting 240 miles above Google+ Hangout from Space Station. Earth. Science: Cosmos may be inherently unstable. Google+ Hangouts allow as many as 10 people to chat face-to-face, while thousands more can tune Environment: First test in to watch the conversation live on Google+ or YouTube. on reformed U.N. formula for making planet NASAs social media followers may submit video questions prior to the Hangout. During the event, greener. several video questions will be selected and answered by the station crew and astronauts on the CHILE: Amazing photo ground. Unique and original questions are more likely to be selected. Additionally, NASA also will captures 84 million stars take real-time questions submitted by fans on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. in our Milky Way Galaxy. Science: Urban noise makes flycatchers Also use #askAstro to ask real-time questions on Google+, YouTube or Twitter during the event. On change their songs. the morning of the event, NASA will open a thread on its Facebook page where questions may be Energy: Company says it posted. can make fuel from thin air. The hangout can be viewed live on NASAs Google+ page or on the NASA Television YouTube Health: Astronomers and channel. To join the hangout, and for updates and opportunities to participate in upcoming cancer researchers team hangouts, visit the NASAs Google+ page at: up to beat cancer. Astronauts Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn of NASA and Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Next events: Agency will answer questions and provide insights about life aboard the station. Crews conduct a variety of science experiments and perform station maintenance during their six-month stay on the March 22, 2013 outpost. Their life aboard the station in near-weightlessness requires different approaches to World Water Day everyday activities such as eating, sleeping and exercising. March 23, 2013 Earth Hour For information about the space station, research in low-Earth orbit, NASAs commercial space April17-19, 2013 programs and the future of American spaceflight, International Fair of visit: Technologies Energy, Santiago, Chile To follow Marshburn and Hadfield on Twitter, visit: April 22, 2013 ; Earth Day and June 5, 2013 World Environment Day July 10-12, 2013 Eolica, Buenos Aires, Argentina Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The information contained herein was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. For questions or comments, please contact us at * Free translation prepared by REO staff.
  2. 2. S C I E N C E : Cosmos May Be Inherently Unstable By Jonathan AmosScientists say they may be able to determine the eventual fate of the cosmos as they probe theproperties of the Higgs boson. A concept known as vacuum instability could result, billions ofyears from now, in a new universe opening up in the present one and replacing it. It all dependson some precise numbers related to the Higgs that researchers are currently trying to pin down.A "Higgs-like" particle was first seen at the Large Hadron Collider last year. Associated with anenergy field that pervades all space, the boson helps explain the existence of mass in the cos-mos. In other words, it underpins the workings of all the matter we see around us. Photo by Mahdi Abdulrazak (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.Since detecting the particle in their accelerator experiments, researchers at the Geneva lab andat related institutions around the world have begun to theorise on the Higgs implications for physics. One idea that it throws up isthe possibility of a cyclical universe, in which every so often all of space is renewed. "It turns out theres a calculation you can do inour Standard Model of particle physics, once you know the mass of the Higgs boson," explained Dr Joseph Lykken."If you use all the physics we know now, and you do this straightforward calculation - its bad news. "What happens is you get justa quantum fluctuation that makes a tiny bubble of the vacuum the Universe really wants to be in. And because its a lower-energystate, this bubble will then expand, basically at the speed of light, and sweep everything before it," the Fermi National AcceleratorLaboratory theoretician told BBC News. It was not something we need worry about, he said.The Sun and the Earth will be long gone by this time. Dr Lykken was speaking here in Boston at the annual meeting of the AmericanAssociation for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He was participating in a session that had been organised to provide an updateon the Higgs investigation.Two-year hiatus. The boson was spotted in the wreckage resulting from proton particle collisions in the LHCs giant acceleratorring. Data gathered by two independent detectors observing this subatomic debris determined the mass of the Higgs to be about126 gigaelectronvolts (GeV).Read more at: Reformed U.N. Formula for Making Planet Greener to Get First Test By Alister DoyleA new United Nations plan to involve all nations in marshalling science to fix environmental problems ranging from toxic chemicalsto climate change will be put to the test from Monday at talks in Nairobi. The 40-year-old U.N. Environment Programme will openits annual governing council to all the worlds almost 200 nations, up from a current group of 58, under reforms aimed at makingthe world economy greener at a time of weak economic growth. "A strengthened UNEP will ... improve and enhance internationalcooperation on the environment," Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, said of the annual February 18-22 meeting in a tele-phone interview with Reuters.Environment ministers or senior officials from about 150 nations are due to attend, out of almost 200 possible worldwide. Untilnow, UNEPs governing council has left out many smaller states, from Guyana to Albania. The shift is meant to sharpen world focuson problems such as toxic chemicals, over-fishing and global warming. Getting more countries in the room will not necessarilymake reaching agreements easier but should give UNEP decisions more authority.Steiner said the talks would be a first chance to see how the new approach works. UNEP oversees many scientific studies guidingU.N. work, such as monitoring climate change or the pace of extinction of animals and plants. Under an agreement last year at anEarth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, UNEP will get a bigger budget. "By (February 22) the plan is that we will have the final steps in im-plementing the Rio summits decisions to reform UNEP," Steiner said.The Rio deal fell short of calls by some nations, such as France, to create a completely newU.N. environment agency. "The seeds of what we are seeing will be seen only 5 or 10 yearsdown the line," Steiner said. "One of the major issues is a new strategy for the organizationand a programme of work for the next 3 years," Steiner said of the Nairobi talks that will layguidelines for work on issues from oceans to slowing extinctions.Read full article at: Photo by Jussi Mononen flickr user). Under Creative-making-planet-greener-to-get-first-test.ashx Commons License.
  3. 3. CHILE: Amazing Photo Captures 84 Million Stars in Our Milky Way Galaxy Astronomers have catalogued 84 million stars at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy using an enor- mous cosmic photo snapped by a telescope in Chile, a view that is billed as the largest survey ever of the stars in our galaxys core. The staggering 9-gigapixel picture was created with data gathered by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), an instrument at the European Southern Observatorys Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. The zoomable image is so large that it would measure 30 feet long by 23 feet tall (9 by 7 meters) if printed with the resolution of a typical book, researchers said. The catalogue derived from the new image contains 10 times more stars than previous studies have provided. It should help astronomers better understand the structure and evolution of our home galaxy, researchers said. "By observing in detail the myriads of stars surrounding the center of the Milky Way we can learn a lot more about the formation and evolution of not only our galaxy, but also spiral galaxies in general," study lead author Roberto Saito, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad de Valparaíso and The Milky Way Millennium Nucleus, said in a statement.Photo by Darren Kirby (flickr user). UnderCreative Commons License. [Stunning Photos of Our Milky Way Galaxy]The huge new picture probes the Milky Ways central bulge, a concentration of ancient stars found near the core of most spiralgalaxies. Getting good looks at this region is not an easy task. "Observations of the bulge of the Milky Way are very hard because itis obscured by dust," said co-author Dante Minniti, also of Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. "To peer into the heart of thegalaxy, we need to observe in infrared light, which is less affected by the dust."VISTA was able to do just that, snapping thousands of infrared images that were combined to generate a monumental color mosaicmeasuring 108,200 by 81,500 pixels. Its one of the biggest astronomical images ever produced, researchers said.Read full article at: Urban Noise Makes Flycatchers Change Length of Their SongsDo birds change their tune in response to urban noise? It depends on the bird species, according to Dr. Alejandro Ariel Ríos-Chelén from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and colleagues. Their work shows that while some birds do adapttheir songs in noisy conditions by means of frequency changes, others like the vermilion flycatchers adapt their song by meansof changes in song lengths. The work is published online in Springers journal, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.Birds use their songs during social interactions to attract females and repel intruders. Factors affecting acoustic communication,such as urban noise, may therefore impair breeding success. Research to date has shown that several songbird (or oscine) specieslike robins, nightingales and blackbirds, adapt their song in response to noise. This is done in order to improve acoustic communi-cation in noisy conditions. However, little work has been done on the more tropical sister group of the oscines, the sub-oscines,which includes the vermilion flycatcher.Rios-Chelén and team investigated whether male vermilion flycatchers adapted their song under noisy conditions in the same wayas their less tropical sister group. They recorded the songs of 29 territorial vermilion flycatcher males in different parks and urbanareas of Mexico City. They registered noise levels at different moments of both the pre-dawn and dawn chorus, measured songlength, and counted the total number of elements in the birds song to assess song versatility.They found that males occupying territories with relatively high noise levelsproduced longer songs, whereas males in quieter places sang both long andshort songs. Males also showed song plasticity as they sang less versatile songslater in the morning when noise level was higher, but time of day seemed toplay a more important role in driving this shift than did noise levels.The authors conclude, "While these results show that time of day has an effecton individual song versatility, we cannot discard an influence of noise... thisstudy supports the idea that sub-oscine adaptation to noise is different in de-gree and mode to that taking place among oscines, suggesting heterogeneity inthe capacity of bird species to colonize and survive in the urban environment."Read more at: Photo by blmiers2 (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.
  4. 4. ENERGY: Company Says It Can Make Fuel Out of Thin Air Air Fuel Synthesis is pioneering revolutionary renewable fuels to provide secure, stable, and sustainable alternatives to global uncertainty about the future of fossil fuels and fossil oil based products. Air Fuel Synthesis uses renewable energy to do what nature does with photosynthe- sis and time, converting carbon dioxide into oil. Put simply, Air Fuel Synthesis converts carbon dioxide and water into synthetic hydrocarbon liquids from which sustainable fuels or other oil based products can be made. Oil is basically made from carbon and hydrogen. Carbon is in the air in the form of carbon diox- ide and hydrogen can be found in water. By means of this process and integrating various tech-Early Project Mercury food tube and dry nologies, carbon dioxide and hydrogen in water turn into a sustainable fuel.bite-sized snacks with gelatin coating. Air Fuel Synthesis is developing sustainable fuel operational expertise through its high-techdemonstrator facility. This facility produces a range of renewable fuels as a precursor to commercial scale applications and pro-jects.However, there are many skeptics scientists and they question how much energy is would require to extract CO2 from air. Also, thefull impact on environment has to be analyzed. For example: toxic by-products during production of various components or theirdisposal. All these should be analyzed by cost to see if this technology is really possible.Read more about this topic at: HEALTH: Astronomers And Cancer Researchers Team Up to Beat CancerCancer Research UK and Institute of Astronomy scientists have honed techniques originally developed to spot distant galaxies andused them to identify biomarkers that signal a cancer’s aggressiveness among some 2,000 breast tumours. The findings mean that theage-old practice of pathologists looking down the microscope to spot key differences in the staining of tumour samples could one daybecome a thing of the past.To develop this new automated approach the researchers adapted techniques used by astronomers to automatically pick out indis-tinct objects in the night sky. They applied these to immunohistochemistry (IHC), which relies on pathologists being able to distinguishsubtle differences in the staining of tumour cells down the microscope, depending on the specific proteins they express.To road test the new approach they used it to measure the levels of three different proteins linked to more aggressive cancers, acrosstumour samples from more than 2,000 breast cancer patients. They compared the accuracy of manually scoring these results, by ob-serving the staining of the tumour samples down the microscope, versus relying on a computer to do this automatically. This showedthat the new automated system was at least as accurate as the manual one, whilst at the same time being many times faster.Study lead author Dr Raza Ali, a pathology fellow from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge, said:“We’ve exploited the natural overlap between the techniques astronomers use to analyse deep sky images from the largest tele-scopes and the need to pinpoint subtle differences in the staining of tumour samples down themicroscope. “The results have been even better than we’d hoped, with our new automated ap-proach performing with accuracy comparable to the time-consuming task of scoring imagesmanually, after only relatively minor adjustments to the formula. We’re now planning a largerinternational study involving samples from more than 20,000 breast cancer patients to furtherrefine our strategy.”Senior author Professor Carlos Caldas,also from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Institute at theUniversity of Cambridge, added: “Modern techniques are giving us some of the first insights intothe key genes and proteins important in predicting the success or failure of different cancertreatments. But before these can be applied in the clinic, their usefulness needs to be verified inhundreds or sometimes thousands of tumour samples. Already this new automated approachmeans we can now analyse up to 4,000 images a day, helping streamline the process of translat-ing these discoveries into the clinic. Photo by Ed Uthman (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.Read more at: