Science in the News

Worst California Earthquake in 25 Years

Around 3:20 am early Sunday morning a powerful 6.0 earthquake shook the Napa Valley region of California. Over 170 people were injured although only two critically. As many as 100 buildings were damaged so much that they are no longer inhabitable and the economic loss could be close to $500 million to $1 billion. Over 50 aftershocks have been reported so far and more are expected to occur over the next several weeks. One positive of this is that the Earthquake Early Warning System at UC Berkeley was able to correctly predict the magnitude and location of the quake and give 10 seconds of warning. Perhaps in the future this warning time could be increased and people would be able to know about earthquakes before they happen.

Ebola Patients Recover and Leave Hospital

Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol contracted ebola while working in west Africa to help patients suffering from the same disease. Ebola is an extremely virulent virus, and about 90% of the people who contract it die. This week Writebol and Brantly were released from the hospital they were recovering at in Atlanta because they had completely healed from ebola infection. This is a very rare case and many in the medical community are wondering whether the experimental medicine that they received made a difference in fighting off the virus. If so this would be the first ebola vaccine to work effectively and it might save hundreds or thousands of lives. Both Writebol and Brantly credited God as helping them through this ordeal.

Oarfish Found off the Coast of California

This giant sized oarfish was found by a snorkeler off the coast of California. With the help of other people she was able to bring the 135 kg (300 lb) fish onto shore. This oarfish was a small one measuring only 5.5 m (18 ft), deep in the ocean where they live oarfish can grow to 15 m (50 ft) or more. It is possible that these fish may have led to the stories of sea monsters.

Carbon Nanotube Computers are Tiny!

Pictured is a wafer of carbon nanotube computers. They use carbon nanotubes for transistors instead of regular carbon transistors. While this causes a few headaches for manufacturing it would allow computers to be incredibly tiny, use less electricity, and perform much better than they do now. It may be 10-15 years before we can buy computers made from carbon nanotubes but it looks like they will be awesome!

Forest Fire Threatens Yosemite National Park

The Rim Fire forest fire has already reached the edges of Yosemite National Park. This forest fire is about the size of Chicago (around 600 square km) and more than 3600 fire fighters are fighting to keep it contained. So far it has consumed about 50 square km of the park but it has not reached the popular Yosemite Valley. This fire, started by a careless camper, has destroyed around 4500 homes and cost about $20 million in damages. What is really amazing is that while fires like this burn the current trees and vegetation, the heat they produce is often the only way for some trees and other plants to produce seeds. In a few years the burnt forest will regrow!

New Mammal Discovered - Olinguito

This small furry mammal is the first one to be discovered in the Americas in 35 years! The carnivorous animal is described as a mix between a house cat and a bear. The olinguito is rare but native to cloud forests in Columbia and Ecuador. This is a special find since scientists think that they have found most or all of the carnivorous mammals in the Americas. The olinguito has been featured in collections before, but it has always been mislabeled as a near relative.


The Comet named PanSTARRS (named after the telescope used to discover it) is now coming into view in the northern hemisphere. This comet was discovered in 2011 and will get no closer than 1.1 AU to earth. This comet has been visible in the southern hemisphere for a month or more, but has recently entered the view of the northern hemisphere. It can be seen in the west after the sun sets for about one hour. You should be able to see it with the naked eye or binoculars for most of March. In April it will be difficult to see as the comet will be travelling back to the outer edges of the solar system.

Near Earth Asteroid

The asteroid 2012DA14 is going to come very close to Earth on Friday February 15th. It will come as close as 17200 miles, which may not seem too near to Earth, but it is closer than some satellites. The approximately 45 m long asteroid will NOT hit earth, but will return for another near pass of Earth in another 7 or 8 years.

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast of the United States last week (10-29-12) when it came ashore. Although it was only a category 1 hurricane the size of the storm brought tremendous amounts of rain, and snow as well as sustained heavy winds and storm surge. This gigantic storm was the diameter of hurricane Irene and Katrina put together and is estimated to have caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. This is an image of Sandy from the International Space Station as it orbits earth.

Curiosity Rover Takes Pictures of Itself

The Curiosity rover on Mars took pictures of itself using its equivalent of a hand lens camera during some testing. The NASA team wanted to check to make sure the arm and other parts of the rover were still functioning properly after 34 Martian days of operation. For more info try the link below

Neil Armstrong Passes Away

On Saturday 8-25-12 Neil Armstrong passed away presumably from heart related issues. He was a great explorer and he inspired many people to explore space and science. He truly was a great and reluctant hero for all people. For more info see the article below:


New Breakthroughs in Artificial Muscles

Scientists have recently discovered two different ways to make artificial muscles. They have developed a wire with a special coating that contracts when heated and lengthens when cooled. Scientists have also come up with carbon nanotubes that expand and contract when exposed to electrical charges. Either way researchers have determined that small engines running on condensed fuels could provide all the energy necessary to work these artificial muscles. This is exciting news for people who are handicapped, or if you are trying to build a robot that doesn't need large clunky batteries.

Russian Soyuz Fails to Reach the International Space Station

Wednesday night this Soyuz rocket crashed before reaching the International Space Station. This creates a huge problem for the six astronauts remaining on the ISS because Russia is not going to launch anymore supply rockets until they fix the problem. That means the astronauts may not get any more supplies until late October or November. However, their current supplies might not last that long, so the astronauts might have to abandon the ISS!

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene hit the east coast of the United States this weekend. The damaging winds have died down and now residents are just dealing with all the flooding. Reports indicate that more than 4.5 million people are currently without power.

Earthquake off the Coast of Japan

The HUGE 9.0 earthquake off the coast of north-eastern Japan triggered a large tsunami that has devastated Japanese coastlines. The massive tsunami also hit Hawaii and the west coast of the US, but it was much more damaging in Japan. The unstable fault that lies to the east of Japan moved significantly in order to cause this large disaster.

Boeing is Preparing for Space Tourism

That's right! Boeing is developing shuttles for possible tourism purposes. They hope to have these operational in the next 5-10 years. These shuttles will reach further into orbit than previous space tourism vehicles, they would actually be able to reach the ISS or further! Sounds like fun to me! For more info check out the link:

Bloom Box - New Cheap Energy?

The Bloom Box is the newest most promising "green" energy on the market. It promises to provide electricity from fuel cells made of sand and two special kinds of ink! It does require a fuel, like natural gas, but produces more electricity than any current generator by far, and is kinder to the environment than solar cells. We'll have to see how well it works for the long run. For more info see:

Mysterious Wandering Rocks!

A recent group from NASA studied the mysterious wandering rocks in Death Valley. These rocks appear to slide along the playa leaving trails, but scientists are still not sure how they move! For more info see:

Space Elevator!

That's right! NASA wants to build an elevator into space! While there are many scientific as well as political questions to address they have held competitions for the past four years to see if anyone could develop a model solar powered space elevator. They finally have a winner! A Seattle based team completed the climb and won $900,000! For more info check out the story at the link below.

Electricity from a Tree?

That's right! Scientists have discovered a way to collect and use electricity that is naturally produced by a tree. The maple trees that they studied can only power very low voltage items (1.1 volts) but it might be enough to run an environmental sensor, or fire detector. That sounds amazing to me!

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Space Walk

The astronauts space walk is still planned for Thursday 9-3-09 even though there is a large piece of space junk that will be passing nearby. It is surprising that space is already so littered that astronauts have to take cover some times!

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Loggerhead Turtles at Risk

More and more loggerhead turtles are being caught in fishing nets prompting some groups to push for endangered status for the animals. These large migratory sea turtles are in danger of population decreases if something isn't done soon, expecially since their largest nesting grounds (south-east coast of the US) are being depleted.

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Lightning Helps Create Aritifical Blood Vessels

When an electrically charged block of plastic is struck with a nail lightning bolts tunnel through creating a template upon which artifical blood vessels could grow. The tunnels, which resemble capilaries, could be used to grow new arteries and veins for a person, or to help scientists grow organs in a laboratory setting. Cool!

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