THE SHADOW OF REDOUBT: Alaksa's Redoubt Volcano could erupt at any time, scientists are warning. It began rumbling Sunday to a degree not seen since it last blew its top on Dec. 15, 1989. That eruption, the volcano's only one on scientific record, spat an ash cloud 40,000 feet in the air and sent superheated rock, mud and gas rushing down the mountainside. Redoubt — a stratovolcano, whose gaseous magma makes for more explosive eruptions than oozy flows like Kilauea's in Hawaii — is only about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, and residents there are stocking up on protective eyewear and masks. Ash sent into the atmosphere from volcanoes can cool the planet, but Redoubt is too small to have any major climatic affects. (Sources: The Anchorage Daily News, The Christian Science Monitor, The Associated Press)
THE JUNGLE BACK: Are we saving the rain forests a little too much? That's a question raised by Smithsonian scientist Joe Wright, who's been making environmentalist enemies by arguing that jungle regrowth may be balancing out deforestation. As children of poor, tropical farmers abandon the fields for city life, "secondary" rain forests are reclaiming the land surprisingly quickly. While Wright says our well-meaning resources would be better spent fighting coal plants than fighting loggers, other scientists point out that scattered pockets of partially regrown jungle in Panama do little to save biodiversity and endangered species in vast, but still shrinking, primeval forests such as the Amazon. (Source: The New York Times)
DON'T DRINK WHAT WATER? Mexico City is infamous for its overpopulation, and that crush of people has put a lot of pressure on already scarce water in the region; the city's main reservoir just fell below 60 percent capacity, its lowest in 16 years. Beginning this weekend, officials will begin a drastic water-rationing program that will affect 5.5 million people, rich and poor, in 10 boroughs and 11 other nearby cities. (Source: The Los Angeles Times)
PLAGUE MENTALITY: Locusts — normally solitary insects — swarm into massive, devastating plagues due to surges in serotonin, a brain chemical that also affects moods in people, British researchers have discovered. When resources are scarce, locusts congregate around pools of water or food, and the sight, smell and touch of other locusts can triple the amount of serotonin in their brains, sending them into their notorious crop-killing, en masse frenzies. The researchers were able to recreate this behavior in the lab, but some poor guy had to tickle the locusts' back legs for "a couple hours" to get them to swarm. (Source: AP)
CLIMATE BALE-OUT: Could solving global warming be as simple as sweeping it under the sea? So says a University of Washington scientist who suggests we start making bales with 30 percent crop residue — stalks and other by-products left after harvesting — and sink them to the bottom of the ocean. This could cut atmospheric carbon dioxide buildup by 15 percent a year, he says, and would trap the CO2 in sediments and deep-sea waters for thousands of years. (Source: ScienceDaily)
SEA CHEFS: Dolphins can be finicky eaters and capable chefs, fussing and obsessing with their food until it meets their culinary standards, Australian scientists report. A wild female bottlenose dolphin was recently observed killing a cuttlefish with her snout, lifting and beating it to empty its ink sac, and then dragging it through the seafloor sand to remove its hard, unappetizing cuttlebone, making it soft for eating. (Source: Reuters)
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