July 14, 2011
Navy ships

Navy ships on a training exercise     Photo: Courtesy US Navy

Navies To Battle Pirates, For Science

Warships will release research probes

Climate scientists are teaming up with the U.S. and Australian navies to deploy weather-tracking probes in areas of the Indian Ocean where pirates are active. The scientists have asked the navies to release six-foot-long robotic Argo probes, which each cost around $19,000, to gather information on salinity and water temperatures. The devices help predict weather patterns and track climate change in the Indian Ocean, information critical to Australian meteorologists as they estimate the country's rainfall and flood risks. In the past, scientists have used chartered ships and commercial vessels to deploy the probes, but the threat of pirate attacks have left unarmed carries vulnerable to attack in the northwest Indian Ocean. Worldwide, about 3,000 Argos are already at sea.

Read More at Reuters

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Samuel Sanchez

Samuel Sanchez     Photo: Petit Brun/Flickr

Schleck Leads CG Contenders in Pyrenees

Contador struggles, Voeckler holds on

Frank Schleck opened a small but important gap on the Tour de France's major contenders Thursday, finishing a close third to winner Samuel Sanchez on the race's first mountain stage. Schleck came in 10 seconds behind Sanchez, the 2008 Olympic road race champion, but 20 seconds ahead of his brother Andy, Cadel Evans, and Ivan Basso, and 33 seconds ahead of defending champion Alberto Contador. The result is especially bad news for Contador, who is already four minutes off race leader Thomas Voeckler and appears to be struggling with a knee injury. Voeckler had a surprisingly good ride on stage 12 and retained the yellow jersey for at least one more day. Schleck sits second, 1:49 behind Voeckler in GC standings, with Evans at 2:06. Schleck's brother Andy is fourth. Johnny Hoogerland, the rider who ended up in a barbed-wire fence after Monday's horrific crash, relenquished the climber's polkadot jersey to Sanchez. Mark Cavendish stayed in green after beating the main field to the day's only intermediate sprint. Thursday's stage through the Pyrenees, at 131 miles and with more than 5,000 feet in elevation gain, pitted the field against the first real mountains of the race. Friday's stage 13 features three climbs but finishes on the flat and is not expected to greatly affect the overall standings. 

Read more at VeloNews

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Neck X-ray

Neck X-ray     Photo: Andrew Ciscel/Flickr

Breakthrough In Spinal Cord Repair

Enzyme restores breathing in mice

Researchers have successfully repaired damaged spinal cords in mice, restoring the animals' ability to breath in what could be a major breakthrough in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. According to a paper published yesterday in the journal Nature, scientists from Case Western University in Cleveland were able to successfuly patch areas of damaged spinal cord. Previous efforts to repair spinal cord tissue have proved ineffective. In the Case Western study, reserachers grafted nerve tissue onto the section of damaged cord, then injected it with an enzyme called chondoitinase ABC. Other attempts at nerve grafts have failed, perhaps because the spinal cord rapidly scars after injury, blocking the transmission of signals through the nervous system. Chondoitinase appears to undo some of the effects of that scarring, allowing the nerve tissue to form a bridge across the injury. The researchers hope to try the procedure in human trials. "It is potentially life-changing if this or similar techniques can be translated to the clinic," says Mark Bacon, a doctor with the non-profit of Spinal Research organization.

Read more at the BBC

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Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn     Photo: U.S. Ski Team/Flickr

Vonn Is Nation's Favorite Female Athlete

Skier wins second-straight ESPY award

Lindsey Vonn won an ESPY as Female Athlete of the Year on Wednesday night, beating out snowboarder Kelly Clark and WNBA player Lauren Jackson to take her second-straight award in the fan-favorite category. Vonn, an Olympic gold medalist, won World Cup titles in 2011 in downhill, super G, and combined. She was in contention for the overall world cup title when ski officials canceled one of the season's final events, leaving Vonn second to Austria's Maria Riesch. Vonn has racked up 41 individual wins on the world cup and owns three world championship gold medals in addition to her Olympic title, making her the most successful skier in American history.

Read more at CFNews13

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Amur Leopard

Amur Leopard     Photo: William Warby/Flickr

Elusive Cats Caught on Camera

Is the Amur leopard making a comeback?

Recent videos hint that the Amur leopard, a rare speciecs of big cat hovering on the brink of extinction, could be making a comeback. Camera traps in eastern Russia spotted 12 of the leopards in a recent survey period, far more than scientists expected to see. Fewer than 50 Amur leopards exist in the wild, and previous efforts by the World Wildlife Fund and Russian biologists had yielded photos of between seven and nine individual cats. "The results are pointing to a population increase of up to 50 percent within the target group in Kedrovaya Pad and Leopardoviy," Sergei Aramilev, WWF Russia's program coordinator, said. "I think we can attribute this to improvements in how our reserves are managed and the long-term efforts that have gone into leopard conservation.” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced last December that the government would soon create a "Land of Leopard" national park, which would merge the current Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and the Leopardoviy Wildlife Refuge.

Read more at TreeHugger.com

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