Scientific discoveries this week: 10-15-10

Mount Wilson, California – Researchers at Mount Wilson Observatory in California have discovered a star whose “starspot” cycle is 1.6 years, the shortest on record. The star, known as Iota Horologii, has a very active magnetic cycle, which means that its sunspots occur with a much greater frequency than Earth’s own sun. The sun has a sunspot cycle that waxes and wanes over an 11 year period. At the peak of that period the sun launches sunspots with the power to knock out satellites and damage orbital vehicles.

Portland, Oregon – Geckos find improved holding power in the presence of high humidity. Scientists at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, collaborated on a project to study the effects of humidity on the climbing ability of a gecko. They found that increased humidity enabled the gecko to climb on any surface and that the humidity effectively made the tiny hairs on the gecko’s feet softer and stickier. It was originally believed that geckos climbed using strong water bonds to a surface.

Dutch Antilles, Caribbean – Researchers in the Caribbean are monitoring what appears the be the worst coral die-off in years. The die-off happens when coral experience warmer than normal temperatures and the essential organisms that feed the coral leave. This process, known as coral bleaching, can lead to the coral dying if the temperatures stay at high levels for an extended period of time. This new die-off in Dutch Antilles could surpass the coral die-off in 2005 for overall damage to the coral beds. The high temperatures and resulting bleaching often occur when there is not sufficient mixing of the water by wind action.

Rome, Italy – Veterinary scientists have declared another viral disease completely eradicated. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization stated that the disease Rinderpest has been successfully removed from the Earth after a 16-year eradication effort. The disease, which affects cattle and livestock, had been an epidemic since before the turn of the 20th century. Rinderpest had been the direct cause of famine and starvation in many African nations, as well as Eurasia and the Middle East. This disease is the second disease to have been successfully eradicated along with the smallpox virus, which was declared non-existent in 1980.

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