Sci-Tech Briefs

Group names polluted places

A United States environmental group called the Blacksmith Institute released a list of the world’s 10 most polluted areas. The list features India, China, Russia, and several former Soviet republics along with Peru and Zambia.

According to the report, 12 million people are threatened by the pollution in these 10 locations. The United Nations further suggests that 20 percent of premature deaths around the world may arise from environmental faactors.

The pollution is primarily the result of metal, chemical, and mining industries. Those affected by this pollution may suffer side effects that include chronic illness and premature death.

Source: BBC News

Meteorite piece up for auction

A man in New York is going to sell a 30-pound piece of the 15-and-a-half-ton Willamette meteorite. The meteorite chunk will be up for auction Oct. 28 and is estimated to be worth between $1.1 million and $1.3 million.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, a group of American Indians, claims the meteorite should not be sold because it was discovered on their territory in 1902.

The seller obtained the meteorite chunk by trading a piece of the Governador Valadares, a meteorite from Mars. He is auctioning the meteorite to supplement his regular income from managing jazz artists.

Source: The New York Times

Brown alumni create iTunes alternative

Three Brown University alumni have created a music-sharing site called, one of the first of its kind to feature variable pricing. Songs enter the site as free downloads, then increase in price as they increase in popularity, with a limit of 98 cents per song.

The creators envisioned to be a middle-ground between free download sites, which are often illegal, and corporate services, like iTunes, whose prices largely deter the college crowd. has yet to make arrangements with major record labels, so the only songs available on the website are those of independent artists.

Source: The Washington Post

Smartest parrot dies at 31

A parrot trained to recognize words, shapes, and colors died unexpectedly of what appear to be natural causes. Alex, an African grey parrot, was expected to live into his 50s.

Alex challenged what scientists had long assumed to be the limits of bird brains. He knew how to count to six and understood over 100 words.

Before Alex, scientists assumed that only apes and dolphins could grasp such difficult concepts. Alex’s owner, a chemist who studied and trained him, claimed that Alex was as smart as a 5-year-old and could communicate as well as a 2-year-old.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette