Scientists discover hidden galaxies behind the Milky Way

Hundreds of hidden nearby galaxies have been studied for the first time, shedding light on a mysterious gravitational anomaly dubbed the Great Attractor. Despite being just 250 million light years from Earth, the new galaxies had been hidden from view until now by our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Using CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope equipped with an innovative receiver, an international team of scientists were able to see through the Milky Way, into a previously unexplored region of space. —> Read More

Got Science? Will Oklahoma Finally Get Serious About Fracking-Related Earthquakes in 2016?

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credit: U.S. Geological Survey/photo by Brian Sherrod

For years, Oklahoman homes and nerves have been rattled by a series of ever-more-frequent earthquakes: in 2015 alone, 857 earthquakes in the state registered 3.0 or more on the Richter scale. Today, it’s not just homes being shaken up. Public outcry and a series of new lawsuits are finally forcing Oklahoma officials to address the quakes, and their root cause.

Until 2009, Oklahoma experienced an average of just two earthquakes per year with a magnitude of 3.0 or more. But that was before a dramatic increase in hydraulic fracturing in the state led to the drilling of thousands of deep injection wells to dispose of so-called wastewater–the brine or sludge collected with oil in the hydraulic fracturing process. Unlike other wastewater associated with fracking, this sludge cannot be reused.

Given the quantities involved, the most economically feasible option for oil and gas companies is to use gravity-fed wells to pour it deep into the ground, beneath Oklahoma’s aquifers. Just last year, oil and gas companies in Oklahoma poured 1.5 billion barrels of this wastewater sludge back underground–the equivalent of roughly 3 million swimming pools’ worth.

Scientists say that there’s little doubt that the more than 400-fold increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma in recent years has been induced by wastewater disposal. And the U.S. Geological Survey warns that the dramatic rise in tremors greatly increases the risk of a major catastrophic earthquake in the state, whose infrastructure is not built for such major events.

Playing the waiting game with public safety

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC)–the state agency charged with regulating utilities–are finally beginning to take steps to address the earthquakes. This is a welcome development following several years of inaction, despite mounting scientific evidence linking the —> Read More

Who Knew This Big Creature Starts Out Small Enough To Fit On Your Fingertip

This photo may seem fishy, but it’s completely real.

Jay Rooker, a marine biologist and professor at Texas A&M University at Galveston, took the photo of a baby Atlantic swordfish in 2013 while he was surveying the northern waters of the Gulf of Mexico. With the aid of a team, he conducts larval fish surveys, and this little guy was caught using a Neuston net the group towed at the surface.

It’s hard to believe but this tiny tot — which can fit on top of a fingertip — could have grown to be as big as 39 inches within its first year, according to marine biologist Juan C. Levesque.

Levesque told The Huffington Post that a typical swordfish weighs between 250 to 325 pounds, but it can grow to be much bigger.

For instance, the largest on record in Florida, where some of the biggest swordfish are believed to be found, was caught in Key Largo and weighed 612 pounds, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

That hefty weight is a sign of the species bouncing back from the overfishing it experienced from 1960 to 1996. During that time the average weight of the floundering species dropped to 90 pounds, according to The Washington Post.

Yet thanks to conservation efforts and commercial fishing regulations in the U.S., the Atlantic swordfish is thriving once again and its stock is completely rebuilt, according to NOAA Fisheries.

The same, however, cannot be said for the Mediterranean swordfish, which has been overfished in countries like Italy for the past three decades. The Malta Independent reported that in 2013, the species had the lowest total annual catch on record ever. To make matters worse, 72 percent of the swordfish caught on record were juvenile, which means they did —> Read More

Adaptive control techniques can help manage pests more effectively

As population growth, greater food consumption, competition for land use, and climate change pose challenges to world food production, managing loss of crop due to pests and weeds becomes increasingly important. While chemical pesticides offer effective means for control, potential loss of crop yield is still significant, as is cost. Global potential loss from pests has been estimated to be between 50% and 80% of yield based on crop type. —> Read More

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