Scientific discoveries this week: 9-26-11

Geneva, Switzerland – The existence of particles travelling faster than light has been deemed impossible since Albert Einstein laid out his famous theory of special relativity in 1905. That theory is being challenged, as physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (known as CERN) have clocked neutrinos arriving at a target 60 nanoseconds faster than light. Many in the scientific community are clamoring to begin independently recreating the experiment to verify the validity of the feat, but the team who originally discovered the faster-than-light neutrinos are very certain that their data is correct. They have released their results in the hope that someone will invalidate them.

Nanyuki, Kenya – Challenging the long-held belief that the most profitable thing a rancher can do is fence in his herd, ecologists in East Africa have postulated that cattle actually experience long-term benefits when other grazing animals are allowed to intermix with the herd. To test this hypothesis, ecologists set up special pastures in a 50,000 acre ranch in East Africa and divided them into two sections. One section was fenced off to isolate the grazing cattle while the other was opened up to the wild so that other species could wander through and graze alongside the cattle. The results showed that during the drier months, the cattle in the open pasture did get thinner than the closed herd, but during the rainy months, they gained weight much faster and kept more weight in the long term. The ecologists explained that the the other grazers, especially zebras, ate the things that the cattle would not eat, and exposed the better greens for the cattle to eat.

Pasadena, California – The asteroid that scientists and astronomers say wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago may not have been the product of a massive collision as once thought. It has been widely viewed that the massive asteroid, estimated at roughly 5 kilometers in diameter, was created from the collision of a much larger asteroid, roughly 170 kilometers in diameter, with another huge asteroid. It was believed that this collision produced a large amount of debris which was flung toward Jupiter where it entered the planet’s gravitational field and was launched toward Earth. That hypothesis is now being challenged by new studies which show that it was likely that the asteroids in the collision were much smaller and traveling at higher velocities.

University Park, Pennsylvania – Hydrogen fuel cells may finally be sustainable, according to a new study by environmental engineers at Pennsylvania State University. For years scientists have been trying to find a way to make hydrogen fuel sustainable, but current technology has limited the practical use. Hydrogen fuels cells require an outside source of electricity in order to produce the hydrogen gas that is reacted to produce energy. But the engineers at Penn State have discovered a way to produce hydrogen gas that does not require any added electricity. Instead, the process involves using bacteria that acquires its energy from the small voltage difference created by salt water and fresh water separated by an osmotic membrane.

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