RISING SEAS BE DAMMED
Melting ice caps have released far more water than previously thought. The missing water’s hiding place? Artificial reservoirs. Scientists at the National Central University in Chung-Li, Taiwan, estimate that nearly 29,500 reservoirs around the globe now hold about 10,800 cubic kilometers of water, or roughly twice the volume of Lake Michigan. Although global sea level has climbed steadily during the past 80 years, reservoir construction has artificially kept sea levels from rising another 30 millimeters in the past 50 years, the researchers estimate in findings published online March 13 in Science. By 2100, sea levels may rise by 100 to 900 millimeters because of global warming. —Charles Q. Choi
CLOUDS OF ENTANGLEMENT
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have combined quantum entanglement—the faster-than-light communication among particles—with the technique of halting light dead in its tracks. Physicists used a beam splitter to cleave a single photon into an entangled pair and stored the two states one millimeter apart in a cloud of cesium atoms chilled to near absolute zero. When they recombined the pair back into light, 20 percent of the original entanglement remained—better than prior entanglement experiments.
The demonstration opens the door for entangling two distinct atomic clouds and using quantum teleportation to flash the quantum state of a particle from one cloud to the other, a kind of quantum telecom network. —JR Minkel
MINI SOLAR SYSTEM
Astronomers have discovered a pair of planets around a star 5,000 light-years away that resembles smaller versions of Jupiter and Saturn. Scott Gaudi, an astronomer at Ohio State University and lead author of the study published in the February 15 Science, discovered the planets with his colleagues over a two-week period in 2006, when their stellar parent crossed in front of a more distant star, causing the nearer star to magnify the light from the more distant one. The finding suggests that solar systems like ours, with rocky inner planets and outer gas giants, may be common. —JR Minkel
If you hear that a sea creature splits after sensing a foe, that may not be just a figure of speech for it swimming away—it may literally split in two. That is the case for the sand dollar (Dendraster excentricus), a spiny critter related to starfish. When the larvae detect mucus from nearby predatory fish, they start cloning themselves, asexually reproducing within 24 hours. Although cloning is slow compared with a fish attack, if the larvae get enough of a head start, it may boost their chances of evading detection. That is because the clones are about two-thirds the typical length of the original. Many animals clone themselves, but scientists thought that the process was generally driven solely by growth and reproduction, not by a need to defend against carnivores. The scientists, who published their findings in the March 14 Science, speculate that cloning in response to predators may be found where small size confers a safety advantage. —Charles Q. Choi
Researchers have been searching for an ideal substance that can soak up carbon dioxide (CO2) in smokestacks before the greenhouse gas enters the atmosphere. Existing CO2 sponges have drawbacks: they may be too expensive, take too much energy to operate, do not capture much carbon or are unstable over long periods. Now chemical engineer Christopher Jones of the Georgia Institute of Technology and his colleagues have developed a solid adsorbent that is both strong and long-lasting.
The material contains nitrogen-rich compounds called amines grown on porous silica. The amines are bases that neutralize the acidic carbon dioxide gas. Heating the substance releases trapped CO2 for later storage. The low-cost material has a hyperbranching structure, which helps it hold many amines, Jones explains, and the strong chemical bonds holding it together allow it to be reused often. The absorbing findings appear in the March 19 Journal of the American Chemical Society. —Charles Q. Choi