As we transition away from fossil fuels, one way for us to have our cake and eat it too is to capture the CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere and stick it back down in the ground. That can be done by pumping it into the same reservoirs that once held oil and gas or into deep, saline aquifers. While that CO2 will gradually dissolve and eventually form carbonate minerals, in the meantime, you’re relying on the integrity of the rocks to provide the container that keeps the CO2 locked away.
Injecting CO2 beneath the seafloor is also an attractive option, but questions have remained about the ecological effects of a CO2 leak on the ocean floor. A newly published study created an artificial leak off Scotland’s western coast to measure its impact; the work was done by a large group of researchers led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory’s Jerry Blackford, the Scottish Association for Marine Science’s Henrik Stahl, and the University of Southampton’s Jonathan Bull.
They drilled a horizontal borehole out to a point 11 meters (slightly more than 36 feet) below the seafloor, beneath twelve meters of water. They monitored and sampled that area while injecting CO2 for about five weeks. The injection started out slow, increasing over time. Without a barrier to keep it below the seafloor, some of the CO2 escaped upward.
The side of the Moon that faces us is dominated by a series of mares, or seas. These aren't water-filled seas teeming with moonsharks, however. Instead, they're filled with darker rock, thought to be the product of impacts that unleashed a flood of magma onto the surface of the Moon.
The largest of these features was apparently too big to be a mare, and it has picked up the name Oceanus Procellarum. It truly is massive, at about 2,500 kilometers across (for contrast, the Moon is 3,500 km in diameter). It has been interpreted as the remains of an even larger impact basin, but data from the lunar GRAIL mission has now called that theory into question. The new information suggests that Oceanus Procellarum may be the one case where the Moon's own internal heat drove massive volcanic eruptions.
GRAIL involved two satellites orbiting the Moon, with the distance between them being constantly monitored. As they zoom above denser features in the Moon's crust, the leading satellite will accelerate slightly, increasing the separation. Over multiple orbits, this builds a gravity map of the Moon, revealing details of its inner structure that could otherwise only be inferred from surface features. (The mission was based on the successful GRACE satellites that orbit Earth, coming to an end in 2012.)
The Dallas Morning News is reporting that we've now seen the first case of Ebola infection diagnosed within the US. Although patients were previously brought back to the US for treatment following infection in West Africa, this is the first case we know of where the infected individual traveled back on their own, possibly unaware that they were infected.
According to the article, the patient is currently being kept in isolation at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas after doctors found that he had symptoms consistent with Ebola and had recently been to West Africa. Blood samples were shipped to the CDC for testing yesterday, which led to today's results.
Details are scarce at the moment, but it's safe to assume that health officials are trying to track back to the individuals that were in contact with the patient since his return from overseas. This will allow them to be monitored and treated quickly if symptoms should emerge. Depending on the exact details of when the patient traveled, it could be possible to keep the virus from spreading to other patients within the US.
In the public's mind, it's impossible to separate the climate from the weather. Each significant weather event seems to be accompanied by discussions of its implications for climate change; is it an example of what to expect, or clear indications that climate change isn't happening?
Often lost in the public discussion is that determining the role of climate change in a specific weather event is a challenging but interesting scientific problem. It's also one with immense practical implications. As regions rebuild after a damaging event, it's important that these efforts be informed by what we should expect in the future.
This month's edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society tackles this problem, termed "attribution," in a big way: 22 different studies of weather events rolled into a single report entitled "Explaining Extreme Events of 2013."
Scientists are explorers by nature, and when the edges of their maps are terra incognita, researchers sometimes must give names to phenomena for which we have little knowledge. Sometimes those names linger after we know exactly what an unknown quantity is; X-rays are a classic example. The “X” initially referred to mystery, but by the time physicists determined they were simply a high-energy form of light, the name had stuck.
Dark matter, however, is still a placeholder term. Over the decades since astronomers determined that most of the mass in the cosmos is invisible, researchers have done a much better job of figuring out what dark matter isn’t than what it actually is. We know it must be electrically neutral, and it can’t be made up of ordinary matter (electrons, atomic nuclei, etc.). And while “dark matter” itself is a general term, physicists have a sort of cartography of hints: areas on the map in which various dark matter candidates reside.
The most popular of these realms contains the WIMPs: weakly interacting massive particles. Like the term “dark matter," WIMP is generic: the name describes the energy scale at which these hypothetical particles interact with ordinary matter, which in turn reveals something about their mass.
The most complex organic molecule yet to be discovered in interstellar space has been reported. While organic molecules that are organized in a straight line have been seen previously, the new molecule—iso-propyl cyanide—is the first molecule found with a branched structure.
In the 1980s, scientists were beginning to realize that it’s possible for complex organic molecules to form on the surfaces of dust grains. As a result, some of them predicted that the interstellar medium would contain complex, branched molecules. But none were discovered until now.
The molecule in question is an important building block of amino acids, which are themselves one of the important building blocks of life. The discovery reinforces hopes of finding life elsewhere in the Universe.