June 2013

June 5th, 2013

From University of Washington

"Most astrobiologists believe that life in some form is likely to exist away from Earth. But new research demonstrates that life as we know it on Earth might never have come to exist at all if not for a key element delivered to the planet by meteorites billions of years ago.

Scientists at the University of Washington and the University of South Florida found that during the Hadean and Archean eons – the first two of the four principal eons of the Earth’s earliest history – the heavy bombardment by meteorites provided reactive phosphorus essential for creating the earliest life on Earth.

When released in water, that reactive phosphorus could be incorporated into prebiotic molecules, and the researchers documented its presence in early Archean limestone, showing it was abundant some 3.5 billion years ago."

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June 4th, 2013

From USA Today

"An upside to climate change? The issue has been blamed for many problems, including more acidic oceans and rising pollen counts, but a study released Friday suggests a benefit: Arid regions are getting greener.

Satellite data since the early 1980s have shown a flourishing of foliage worldwide, and scientists have suspected this change may be due partly to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas emitted by the burning of fossil fuels..

Turns out, they were right because of CO2's "fertilization effect," according to a team of scientists led by Randall Donohue of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra, Australia."

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June 4th, 2013

From The New York Times

"The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Tex., in April has highlighted glaring shortcomings in federal and state regulation of facilities that produce, store and use toxic chemicals.

The casualties in Texas — 14 killed and nearly 200 injured — were shocking, but the fact is that chemical disasters imperil millions of Americans who live and work close to industrial plants in dense cities and sprawling suburbs. Last November, the Congressional Research Service identified 2,560 facilities that could each put more than 10,000 people at risk in the event of an accident. Last year, 1,270 people died in more than 30,000 chemical spills and accidents. The Texas catastrophe showed that federal regulators have been far too lax in their oversight of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer at the center of this explosion. The West Fertilizer Company stored 540,000 pounds of the stuff at its plant in 2012 (it is unclear how much it had in April). In spite of the potential risks posed by the fertilizer, plants are allowed to keep it near residential areas. Plants with large quantities are required to tell the Department of Homeland Security how they keep the material secure, but the West plant did not bother to do so. "

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