African 'fairy circles' shown to come and go

July 9, 2012 

Tens of thousands of “fairy circle” formations – bare patches of soil, about 6.5 to 13 feet in diameter – freckle grasslands from southern Angola to northern South Africa. Locals say they’re the footprints of the gods. Scientists have thrown their hands up in the air.

Florida State biologist Walter Tschinkel first encountered fairy circles in 2005 in southwestern Namibia. He thought they were caused by underground termites, but on a return trip two years he found no evidence of termites.

But by comparing satellite photos taken over a four-year period, he found that the circles were dynamic, if not alive: A number of circles had appeared and disappeared. Extrapolating from the data, Tschinkel calculated that most smaller circles arise and vanish every 24 years; larger circles last up to 75 years. ScienceNOW

Museum curators suspect email scam

A growing number of museum curators are suspicious about specimen requests from the Life Science Museum, purportedly located in Jhansi, India. Over the past decade, natural history collections around the world have reported receiving emails requesting specimens for the museum – fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Requests for specimen exchanges or donations are common among natural history museums. But these emails often specify species and sizes that are commonly used in schools and training programs, raising concerns that their donations could be used for profit.

“No one’s been successful at getting confirmation about this institute’s identity,” said Richard Vari, a fish expert at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. “My guess is it’s a biological supply company.” Science Insider

S.C. firm honored for eco-friendly innovation

SmartTruck, an automotive engineering company in Greenville, S.C., was honored in June at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil for a fuel-saving invention. The SmartTruck Trailer UnderTray System was named to the Sustainia100 list of holistic, Earth-friendly solutions and innovations.

The SmartTruck system improves fuel efficiency in Class 8 long-haul trucks with configurations and options that fit truck trailers to significantly reduce aerodynamic drag.

It provides an alternative to traditional trailer side skirts through a durable, EPA SmartWay-verified solution that yields a fuel-efficiency gain of more than 7 percent for the base model and at least 10 percent for trucks fitted with the UnderTray System and add-on side fairings. Staff Reports

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service