August 08, 2007

Science & Environmental News

China's Yangtze river dolphin is now extinct:

... Around half of all river dolphins were killed as a result of indiscriminate and often illegal fishing practices. Though banned for the past 30 years, some ships still drag long lines of unbaited hooks. "They just drift through the water snagging everything. They slash and entangle and suffocate the dolphins," said Dr [Sam Turvey, a conservation biologist at London Zoo]. Low employment in the 1980s and 1990s saw a rise in unskilled fishing.

Dr Turvey said conservation organisations had been quick to call for action to protect the river dolphin, but many were too cautious to take meaningful action.

"The loss of such a unique and charismatic species is a shocking tragedy. The Yangtze river dolphin was a remarkable mammal that separated from all other species over 20m years ago. This extinction represents the disappearance of a complete branch of the evolutionary tree of life," Dr Turvey added.

China has also rejected binding greenhouse gas cuts. And to that I say, if the richest nation on earth can't get its act together on this score, then we should shut up about China.

Oh hey, look, another example of climate leadership from a major corporation hailing from the world's more 'civilized' regions ... Shell Oil flips the bird to the environment:

Shell made profits of £1.5m an hour in the second quarter of the year and said it would not turn away from drilling in environmentally sensitive areas such as the Arctic or producing from carbon-intensive tar sands such as those in Canada, where governments give it the go-ahead. ...

Coral reefs are in worldwide decline:

Nearly 1,554 sq km (600 sq miles) of reef have disappeared each year since the 1960s - twice the speed at which rainforest is being lost.

... The UN says that a third of the world's coral reefs have already died. By 2030, that figure is predicted to be closer to 60%.

Caffeine can improve women's memories as they become older. (Dude! I'm set!)

Scottish Puffin chicks are starving to death as more southerly species replace the types of food their parents used to bring them.

European heatwaves doubled since the 1880s, threatening water resources, glacial cover, and increasing incidences of forest fires.

The largest exoplanet yet discovered is bigger than Jupiter, but less dense than water.

P.Z. Meyers lays out why mammals have 7 neck vertebrae, offering some interesting statistics about how variations in this number dramatically decrease fetal viability.

It's good to eat your fruits and vegetables, but they don't seem to halt the progress of cancer once you've got it.

Meet one of Wal-Mart's newest hires: Dr. John Agwunobi, current Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A new species of photosynthetic bacteria is discovered at Yellowstone.

Tune in tonight for the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, as it sets off to work on the International Space Station. Also on board will be civilian astronaut Barbara Morgan, a teacher whose place in the program is meant to take up the role intended for Christa McAuliffe, who died in the Challenger disaster in 1986. I'll probably always remember where I was that day, because our teachers took us down to the library to watch the Challenger lift off on live television. One of our school's teachers had been a very close runner-up to McAuliffe and we'd been talking about it a lot in class. It was disturbing, to say the least.

Just recently, the first deaths occurred in the private space industry. An accident during a fueling test killed three employees of Scaled Composites, and seriously injured three others, while working on a vehicle intended to carry the next wave of space tourists into orbit for Virgin Galactic. At the bottom of the page, there's information on how to contribute to the families of those killed in the accident.

Posted by natasha at August 8, 2007 08:06 AM | Science | Technorati links |

Driving Green in China Towards a New Generation of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
Toyota, ZAP and Honda Bring Environmentally Friendly Cars to China

POINT ROBERTS, Wash., Delta B.C., August 10, 2007 -, an investor and industry portal focused on the China-Asia sector, spotlights China as it plays a key role in the future success of electric and hybrid vehicles. As the number of cars is expected to grow significantly in China, eco-friendly choices are a must as China battles massive environmental and air quality concerns.

Capitalizing on the nationís need for cleaner alternative transportation are several car manufacturers that are turning Chinaís challenges into lucrative business opportunities. Among the companies with their eyes on China as a key expansion market are Japan's Honda Motor Co. (NYSE: HMC), who recently announced they will start selling hybrid cars in China later this year; and Toyota (NYSE: TM), the first foreign car manufacturer to bring hybrid cars to market in China in late 2005 with its branded Prius model.

Electric car pioneer ZAP (OTCBB: ZAAP) has also set its sights on this rapidly developing region, entering into a supply agreement to acquire $5.168 Million in lithium-polymer and nanotech batteries from China-based developer Advanced Battery Technologies, Inc. (OTCBB: ABAT). A joint development office in Beijing has been announced to focus on R&D, manufacturing and marketing of these advanced batteries for use in various electric cars, utilizing innovative nanotechnology to improve overall performance and radically shorten the charging time
full article -

Posted by: D Van Zant at August 12, 2007 07:13 AM