Sci/Tech Briefs

More star births than expected

Since many stars are too far away to count using a telescope, scientists keep track of newly formed stars using “H-alpha” emissions. H-alpha radiation is only emitted near heavy stars. Scientists previously believed that there was a 1-to-230 ratio of births of heavy stars to light stars, and could therefore estimate emerging stars by measuring H-alpha emissions.
Since the edges of disc galaxies contain no H-alpha emissions, astronomers previously thought that no stars were being formed at the edges of disc galaxies.

A recent satellite mission, however, proves that stars are being formed at disc galaxy edges. The heavy to light star birth ratio only applies to the centers of galaxies. At the edges of galaxies, there are many emerging light stars, but they do not emit H-alpha rays and were therefore previously ignored.

Source: Science Daily

Seawater used to help environment

Physicist Carl Hodges, the founder of the Seawater Foundation, is devising new agricultural methods that can help solve a lot of environmental problems. The Seawater Foundation draws seawater inland and uses it to turn desert into farmland.
Hodges’ farms, located in Africa and Mexico, have created wealth and jobs for residents in those areas. The farms produce shrimp, fish, and other animals, and also help with forest growth. Hodges’ plan also provides a solution to the rising sea levels caused by global warming. Finally, the plan also offers an alternative energy source — a plant called salicornia, which, when grown in sea water, produces vegetable oil that can be used to fuel cars.


Genetic code of wheat to be cracked

The wheat genome was previously considered impossible to sequence due to its size. The genome, comprised of 17 billion base pairs of the nucleic acids that make up DNA, is five times larger than the human genome.

However, French scientists recently constructed a map of chromosome 3B, wheat’s largest chromosome. Finding wheat’s genetic code can help develop wheat with important traits, such as survival in drought.

Scientists are currently working on using the discovered sequence to develop wheat resistant to a strain of stem rust, called Ug99, that has spread across East Africa and parts of the Middle East.

Source: Reuters

Wolffish could be endangered

The Atlantic wolffish, also called the ocean catfish, is known for its unattractive appearance and viciousness in eating urchins and crabs. The wolffish lives at the ocean floor at 250- to 400-foot depths off the coast of New England. Commercial fishermen drag fishing nets and dredges along the ocean floor, ruining the habitat of the fish. At risk of being wiped out, the fish is currently listed as a “species of concern” by the National Marine Fisheries Service, but the Conservation Law Foundation recently asked that the wolffish be classified as an endangered species.
If their request is granted, fishermen will face additional fishing restrictions.