Welcome one more time. Magical, marvelous Monday is here. The time has come to gather around and take a well deserved hiatus from all the politics of the day. Science talk is here. New discoveries, new takes on old knowledge, and other bits of news are all available for the perusing in today's information world. Over the fold are selections from the past week from a few of the many excellent science news sites around the world. Today's tidbits include the first census of marine life shows ocean life richer than expected, bioenergy choices could dramatically change Midwest bird diversity, oasis of life discovered on the floor of a Yellowstone lake, 200 new species discovered in remote Papua New Guinea, cell phones bring spectroscopy to the classroom, galaxies found in today's universe that were thought to exist only in the past, and human activities overload ecosystems with nitrogen. Pull up that comfy chair and relax. There is plenty of room for everyone. Settle in for one more session of Dr. Possum's science education and entertainment.
For a decade scientists around the world have been working on a census of marine life in our oceans.
The Census encountered an unanticipated riot of species, which are the currency of diversity. It upped the estimate of known marine species from about 230,000 to nearly 250,000. Among the millions of specimens collected in both familiar and seldom-explored waters, the Census found more than 6,000 potentially new species and completed formal descriptions of more than 1,200 of them. It found that rare species are common.Healthy bird and insect populations depend on a wide range of crops which may be replaced by specific crops in the ongoing search for biofuel crops.
With its collective digital archive grown to almost 30 million observations, the Census compiled the first regional and global comparisons of marine species diversity. It helped to create the first comprehensive list of the known marine species, already passing 190,000 in September 2010, and also helped to compose Web pages for more than 80,000 of them in the Encyclopedia of Life.
Applying genetic analysis on an unprecedented scale to a dataset of 35,000 species from widely differing major groupings of marine life, the Census graphed the proximity and distance of relations among distinct species, painting a new picture of the genetic structure of marine diversity. With the genetic analysis often called barcoding, the Census sometimes shrank seeming diversity by revealing that organisms had been mistakenly called separate, but generally its analyses expanded the number of species—and especially the number of kinds of different microbes, including bacteria and archaea.
After all its work, the Census still could not reliably estimate the total number of species, the kinds of life, known and unknown, in the ocean. It could logically extrapolate to at least a million kinds of marine life that earn the rank of species and to tens or even hundreds of millions of kinds of microbes.
The study showed that planting almost 23 million acres of corn or similar crops on marginal lands in the Upper Midwest could reduce the number of bird species by 7 percent to 65 percent in much of the region.Life is nothing if not tenacious managing to exist in conditions far removed from human conditions. The floor of a Yellowstone Lake is now known to harbor an oasis of unexpected life.
A colony of moss, worms and various forms of shrimp flourishes in an area where the water is inky black, about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and a cauldron of nutrients, gases and poisons, the researchers reported in the September issue of GeobiologyAs scientists continue to explore the earth some species are disappearing while others are now being discovered.
The vent is close to 100 feet below the surface of Yellowstone Lake and a third of a mile offshore in the West Thumb region. The worms and shrimp live among approximately two feet of moss that encircles the vent.
The survey of remote New Britain island and the Southern Highlands ranges, accessible only by a combination of small plane, dinghy, helicopter and foot, found an exciting range of new mammals, amphibians, insects and plants.In the continuing search for knowledge about star formation one scientist has found galaxies in today's universe long thought to exist only in the past.
The galaxies in question look like disks, reminiscent of our own galaxy, but unlike the Milky Way they are physically turbulent and are forming many young stars.In an ongoing effort to encourage interest in science among high school students one scientist developed a way to use the cell phone in building a functional spectrophotometer.
"Such galaxies were thought to exist only in the distant past, ten billion years ago, when the Universe was less than half its present age," (researcher) Glazebrook said.
In a spectrometer, white light shines through a sample solution. The solution absorbs certain wavelengths of light. A diffraction grating then spreads the light into its color spectrum like a prism. Analyzing that spectrum can tell chemists about the properties of the sample.The cell phone serves to collect images which a software program can analyze. The entire process serves to bring students much closer to real science and to show them ways to investigate their own world.
For a light source, Scheeline used a single light-emitting diode (LED) powered by a 3-volt battery, the kind used in key fobs to remotely unlock a car. Diffraction gratings and cuvettes, the small, clear repositories to hold sample solutions, are readily available from scientific supply companies for a few cents each. The entire setup cost less than $3. The limiting factor seemed to be in the light sensor, or photodetector, to capture the spectrum for analysis.
Too much of a good thing may be the case with nitrogen in ecosystems
Humans are overloading ecosystems with nitrogen through the burning of fossil fuels and an increase in nitrogen-producing industrial and agricultural activities, according to a new study. While nitrogen is an element that is essential to life, it is an environmental scourge at high levels..
According to the study, excess nitrogen that is contributed by human activities pollutes fresh waters and coastal zones, and may contribute to climate change. Nevertheless, such ecological damage could be reduced by the adoption of time-honored sustainable practices.
Other Worthy Stories of the Week
Alarming increase in flow of water into world's oceans
New findings about wind farms could expand their use
Magnificent coral reefs discovered in Mediterranean
West Virginia is hot bed for geothermal resources
NASA's WISE mission warms up but keeps on working
A thirst for excitement is hidden in your genes
New language identified in remote corner of India
Invasive tallowtree spreading rapidly across the Gulf coast
Ancient Colorado river flowed backwards
Oldest evidence of dinosaurs found in Polish footprints
Bricks made with wool
American life expectancy continues to fall behind PDF
A trove of space pictures Pictures, pictures. Glorious pictures!
Scientists discover plant with the largest genome known
Long extinct passenger pigeon finds a place in the family tree
For even more science news:
General Science Collectors:
BBC News Science and Environment
Eureka Science News
A Few Things Ill Considered Techie and Science News
Cantauri Dreams space exploration
Coctail Party Physics Physics with a twist.
Deep Sea News marine biology
Laelaps more vertebrate paleontology
List of Geoscience Blogs
Tetrapod Zoologyvertebrate paleontology
Science RSS Feed: Medworm
The Skeptics Guide to the Universe--a combination of hard science and debunking crap
Daily Kos regular series:
Daily Kos University, a regular series by plf515
This Week in Science by DarkSyde
This Week in Space by nellaselim
Overnight News Digest:Science Saturday by Neon Vincent. OND tech Thursday by rfall.
Weekend Science by AKMask
All diaries with the DK GreenRoots Tag.
All diaries with the eKos Tag