Discovered: Stanford research encampment fueled solely by sun; Japanese lake key to updated carbon dating; expiring tax credit could stall wind power; global warming changes sea acoustics.
Elephant researchers go 100 percent solar. Hollywood often depicts field research as a rugged endeavor, showing Indiana Jones type scientists roughing it in the Savanna with little more than a rucksack and machete. In reality, research conducted from remote outposts is much more complicated. Stanford University researchers studying elephants in Namibia's Etosha National Park, for example, need power to keep their computers, refrigerators, and photographic equipment humming. But instead of relying on noisy generators that pollute and scare the elephants away, Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell and her colleagues have outfitted their encampment with solar panels. "Basically, all of our high-tech electronics are run off of a couple of solar panels, a couple of batteries and an inverter," says O'Connell-Rodwell. "The sun does the rest." See a brief documentary about the researchers' eco-friendly digs below: [Stanford University]
Bringing carbon dating up to date. "It's like getting a higher-resolution telescope," is how the University of Oxford's Christopher Bronk Ramsey describes his discovery of exquisitely preserved samples of radioactive carbon-14 isotopes found in the sediment of a Japanese lake. The sediment captures atmospheric carbon levels going back 52,800 years and will help scientists hone carbon dating techniques, improving current estimates by hundreds of years. Trees offer the best historical snapshot of atmospheric carbon levels, but they only go back 13,000 years at most. Bronk Ramsey says finding this soil sediment in Lake Suigetsu was a unique find: "It’s not unusual to have lakes with varves for short periods, but to have one that extends to the last ice age is unusual."Carbon dating is significant to global warming research because it allows scientists to study the historical connection between human activity, atmospheric carbon leves, and climate change. [The Scientist]