SciTech Briefs

CO2 levels benefit marine algae

Recent studies show that acidification of the oceans may actually be beneficial to coccolithophores, single-celled algae enclosed in carbonate shells.

Studies conducted by scientists at the University of Southampton in England and the University of Oxford showed that when carbon dioxide was bubbled into water, the algae grew bigger in size.

Previously, scientists believed that acidification was harmful to coccolithophores. Scientists had also shown that a low pH hampered the algae’s ability to build its carbonate shell.

The scientists attribute this difference to the fact that previous studies lowered the pH of water by adding acid and not by bubbling in carbon dioxide. The excess carbon dioxide increases the rate of photosynthesis of the algae, thereby benefiting the algae.

Source: The New York Times

Darwin papers published online

Private papers written by Charles Darwin have been released for free public viewing at Darwin Online.

According to organizers from the Cambridge University Library, where all of Darwin’s papers are currently held, the release of 20,000 written items and 90,000 images is the largest release in history. Notes and drafts from Darwin’s legendary voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle are among the materials released.

It was during this voyage that Darwin first came up with his theory of evolution. Items available online include the first draft of Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species.

Source: Reuters

Probe tours Saturn for two more years

NASA declared that it will be extending the International Cassini mission, which has been touring Saturn and its moons since 2004, by another two years.

The purpose of the mission is to study Saturn’s climate, rings, and moons. The unmanned probe has sent back 140,000 images to date.

NASA believes that the $160 million extension will allow the probe to make 60 more revolutions around Saturn and fly past its Titan, its largest moon, and four other satellites.

Source: CNN

Ethanol production boosts food prices

An increase in the amount of corn being used in ethanol production has led to a worldwide increase in food prices. Statistics released by the World Bank suggest that food prices have nearly doubled in the past three years.

Although a variety of factors contribute to this increase, the use of corn as a biofuel has been targeted as the main cause, since it can be controlled by the government.
In an effort to reduce worldwide food prices, experts are demanding limits on ethanol production and asserting that biofuel be produced from nonfood sources.

Source: ABC News

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