Sci/Tech Briefs

Study indicates rapid sea-level rise

After studying the fossils of corals in Mexico, scientists have concluded that 121,000 years ago, there was a 6.5- to 10-foot rise in the sea level within a period of 50 to 100 years. This period marked the last warm gap between the two ice ages.

Scientists believe that this proves the instability of seas and the potential for rapid sea-level rise due to melting of ice in the future.
The study, published in the journal Nature, was done by measuring the ages of the coral reefs by studying the levels of isotopic thorium in the coral.
The scientists discovered that at specific levels in the reef, the coral died very rapidly, indicating a sudden rise in sea level; the corals then grew again, but at a point nearly 10 feet higher in elevation, indicating a rise in sea level.

Source: The New York Times

Emergency shuttle ready for launch

The space shuttle Endeavour was rolled to the launch pad last Friday as an emergency back-up for the shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis is scheduled to lift off on May 12 with the mission of undertaking the last servicing call for the Hubble Telescope.
The Endeavour will be launched to bring the crew of Atlantis back in case of an emergency.

After the death of seven astronauts in the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, NASA has been taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of the astronauts. The International Space Station served as a refuge for astronauts in case of emergencies. However, since the Hubble telescope orbits the earth at a different altitude than the space station, astronauts in the Atlantis would not be able to reach the space station.
This prompted NASA to have the shuttle Endeavour ready in case of an emergency to bring the astronauts aboard Atlantis back home.

Source: Reuters

Scientists find ancient bacteria

A team of researchers from Harvard university and Dartmouth university have discovered a group of bacteria living in isolation under an Antarctic glacier.
The species are similar to modern species living in marine environments. Scientists believe that this suggests that the newly found microbes were once part of a larger group that lived in an open sea and then got segregated.

These microbes live by breathing iron that seeps through the rock using a sulfur catalyst.

Source: ScienceDaily

EPA declares six gases as hazardous

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared six heat-trapping gases as potential health hazards last Friday. The gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

This announcement was made after the culmination of a study conducted by the EPA on the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere and their effects on global warming and human health. The report published by the EPA on this study is titled “Assessment of the Impacts of Global Change on Regional U.S. Air Quality: A Synthesis of Climate Change Impacts on Ground-Level Ozone.”