She is the Red Spotted Coral Crab, but she’s not likely to tell. If you’d like to learn the names and basics about coral reef fauna- or the different penguin species of the world, or the common butterflies of North America, or any of a hundred other sets of wildlife, try the Name It app.
It’s free in the iTunes store, and will train you in recognizing and naming Caribbean reef fish, (or the trees of Switzerland, or whatever you choose), flashcard-style. The app will track your progress, and offer snippets of information about each organism.
Are you an educator training the next generation of naturalists for your region? Create your own custom deck of digital flashcards for the wildlife that interests you. All you need is a list of their names. You can create the collection on EOL and load it into the app in a few minutes.
A Hard Look at 3 Myths about Genetically Modified Crops
Superweeds? Suicides? Stealthy genes? The true, the false and the still unknown about transgenic crops
by Natasha Gilbert and Nature magazine
In the pitched debate over genetically modified (GM) foods and crops, it can be hard to see where scientific evidence ends and dogma and speculation begin. In the nearly 20 years since they were first commercialized, GM crop technologies have seen dramatic uptake. Advocates say that they have increased agricultural production by more than US$98 billion and saved an estimated 473 million kilograms of pesticides from being sprayed. But critics question their environmental, social and economic impacts.
Researchers, farmers, activists and GM seed companies all stridently promote their views, but the scientific data are often inconclusive or contradictory. Complicated truths have long been obscured by the fierce rhetoric. “I find it frustrating that the debate has not moved on,” says Dominic Glover, an agricultural socioeconomist at Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands. “The two sides speak different languages and have different opinions on what evidence and issues matter,” he says.
Here, Nature takes a look at three pressing questions: are GM crops fuelling the rise of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’? Are they driving farmers in India to suicide? And are the foreign transgenes in GM crops spreading into other plants? These controversial case studies show how blame shifts, myths are spread and cultural insensitivities can inflame debate…
GRIST.ORG: Just stick this portable outlet to your window to start using solar power
by Sarah Laskow
We have seen a lot of solar chargers in our day. And among of all of them, this is the first one we’ve seen that we will definitely run out and buy as soon as it’s made available in the U.S. It’s a portable socket that gets its power from the sun rather than the grid. You plug into a window instead of into the wall. It’s easy.
That was the whole point, according to the designers, Kyohu Song and Boa Oh: “We tried to design a portable socket, so that user can use it intuitively without special training,” they write.
It is really simple. The portable socket attaches to a window like a leech to human skin. On its underside, it has solar panels. The solar panels suck energy from the sun. The charger converts that energy into electricity. You plug in to the charger.
Even better, the charger stores that energy. After 5-8 hours of charging, the socket provides 10 hours of use. You can pop it off the window, stick it in your bag, and use it to charge up your phone with solar energy, even if you’re sitting in a dark room.
First algae powered building goes up in Hamburg, Germany
April 12, 2013 by Bob Yirka
A 15-unit apartment building has been constructed in the German city of Hamburg that has 129 algae filled louvered tanks hanging over the exterior of the south-east and south-west sides of the building—making it the first in the world to be powered exclusively by algae. Designed by Arup, SSC Strategic Science Consultants and Splitterwerk Architects, and named the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) House, the building demonstrates the ability to use algae as a way to heat and cool large buildings…
The space agency wants to tow an asteroid back to our planetary neighborhood.
by Marc Kaufman
NASA wants to identify an asteroid in deep space, figure out a way to capture the spinning and hard-to-grab orb, nudge it into our planetary region, and then set it into orbit around the moon, the agency announced Wednesday.
The capture would be performed robotically, and the relocated asteroid would become a destination for astronauts to explore—and, possibly, for space entrepreneurs to mine.
The idea may sound more like science fiction than national policy, but it actually fits in with key goals of the Obama administration and the space community.
Those goals include learning how to identify asteroids heading toward us and to change their course, finding destinations where astronauts can go as they try to learn how to make the longer trip to Mars, and providing opportunities for space investors…
As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes its journey to its second target, the dwarf planet Ceres, Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer, shares a monthly update on the mission’s progress.
In the depths of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, far from Earth, far even from any human-made object, Dawn remains in silent pursuit of dwarf planet Ceres. It has been more than six months since it slipped gracefully away from the giant protoplanet Vesta. The spacecraft has spent 95 percent of the time since then gently thrusting with its ion propulsion system, using that blue-green beam of high velocity xenon ions to propel itself from one alien world to another.
The ship set sail from Earth more than two thousand days ago, and its voyage on the celestial seas has been wonderfully rewarding. Its extensive exploration of Vesta introduced humankind to a complex and fascinating place that had only been tantalizingly glimpsed from afar with telescopes beginning with its discovery 206 years ago today. Thanks to the extraordinary capability of ion propulsion, Dawn was able to spend 14 months orbiting Vesta, observing dramatic landscapes and exotic features and collecting a wealth of measurements that scientists will continue to analyze for many years…
Scientists a step closer toward creating biofuels directly from atmospheric CO2
Researchers have taken a step closer to using atmospheric carbon dioxide as a biofuel, potentially helping mitigate climate change while at the same time meeting rising energy demand, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists at the University of Georgia and the North Carolina State University are working with the bacteria Pyrococcus furiosus to convert CO2 into directly biofuels…
A giant, slimy, tentacled robot modeled after one of the world’s largest jellyfish could be a precursor to self-powered, autonomous robots that monitor the seas, map the seafloor and even reveal secrets of marine life, engineers say.
Dubbed Cyro, the newly unveiled robotic jellyfish is a scaled-up version of another mechanical swimmer, this one the size of a human hand, called RoboJelly that was developed by the same team of researchers at Virginia Tech College of Engineering.
At 5-ft-7 (1.7 m) and weighing 170 lbs (77 kg), Cyro is the jelly equivalent of an average human guy…
We are in the midst of a “narcissism epidemic,” concluded psychologists Jean M. Twnege and W. Keith Campbell in their 2009 book. One study they describe showed that among a group of 37,000 college students, narcissistic personality traits rose just as quickly as obesity from the 1980s to the present. Fortunately for narcissists, the continued explosion of social networking has provided them with productivity tools to continually expand their reach — the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, and occasionally Google Plus…
Want to travel the oceans alongside great white sharks, but your busy schedule and fear of death always seem to get in the way? There’s an app for that.
Now anyone with an iPhone or an iPad (and $3.99 to spare) can follow along in near-real time with a dozen of the world’s most iconic predators with the app Expedition White Shark.
“We’re hoping it raises public awareness about white sharks, which helps our conservation efforts,” said marine biologist Michael Domeier, the man behind the app and president of the Marine Conservation Science Institute, a small, California-based nonprofit research organization.
Domeier has studied great white sharks for many years, and was one of the first people to ever outfit adult great white sharks with satellite tracking tags — the key to the new app. His adventures were chronicled on the National Geographic Channel program “Shark Men.”…
In January 2013, a new Earth-observing instrument was installed on the International Space Station (ISS). ISERV Pathfinder consists of a commercial camera, a telescope, and a pointing system, all positioned to look through the Earth-facing window of ISS’s Destiny module. ISERV Pathfinder is intended as an engineering exercise, with the long-term goal of developing a system for providing imagery to developing nations as they monitor natural disasters and environmental concerns.
The image above is the “first light” from the new ISERV camera system, taken at 1:44 p.m. local time on February 16, 2013. It shows the Rio San Pablo as it empties into the Golfo de Montijo in Veraguas, Panama. It is an ecological transition zone, changing from agriculture and pastures to mangrove forests, swamps, and estuary systems. The area has been designated a protected area by the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) of Panama and is listed as a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention. (Note that the image is rotated so that north is to the upper right.)
“ISERV’s full potential is yet to be seen, but we hope it will really make a difference in people’s lives,” said principal investigator Burgess Howell of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “For example, if an earthen dam gives way in Bhutan, we want to be able to show officials where the bridge is out or where a road is washed out or a power substation is inundated. This kind of information is critical to focus and speed rescue efforts.”…
Private Plan to Send Humans to Mars in 2018 Might Not Be So Crazy
By Adam Mann
An ambitious private manned mission to Mars aims to launch a two-person crew to fly around the Red Planet and return to Earth in 501 days, starting in January 2018.
This bold undertaking is planned by the Inspiration Mars Foundation, a non-profit company founded by millionaire and space tourist Dennis Tito that was officially unveiled on Feb. 27 after early details leaked. Though the spacecraft would not land humans on Mars or even put them in orbit, it would bring people within a few hundred kilometers of the Martian surface — roughly the same distance between the International Space Station and Earth — and represent a major milestone in human spaceflight. If successful, the mission would go down in history as the first time a private company accomplished something government agencies were unable to do in space.
The mission is extremely ambitious, well beyond anything previously accomplished by the private sector and it faces plenty of obstacles. The company has an aggressive schedule to keep if it wants to hit its 2018 mark and needs to make sure the necessary technology is developed and well-tested. Despite its deep-pocketed backer, the mission has nowhere near the funding it needs to launch and will require raising greater sums than have ever been done for a private space endeavor.
Its designers also need to figure out exactly how to keep the crew healthy, both physically and psychologically, for the 501-day duration of the flight as they face dangers from radiation, bone and muscle loss, fatigue, and depression. Mission designers will have to ensure they can get the crew safely to the ground when the capsule returns to Earth at a screaming 30,000 mph…