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Fracking: Shale rock professor says UK gas reserves 'hyped'

Fracking: Shale rock professor says UK gas reserves 'hyped'

Science
The gas reserves in shale rocks in the UK have been "hyped", an academic said. Professor John Underhill from Heriot-Watt University said the UK's potential shale deposits were likely to have been disrupted by shifts in the earth 55 million years ago.He said the government would be wise to formulate a Plan B to fracking for future gas supplies.But the fracking firm Cuadrilla said it would determine how much gas was present from its test drilling.Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale, a sedimentary rock found worldwide.The amount of shale gas available in the UK is acknowledged to be a great unknown.Cuadrilla said estimates from the British Geological Survey (BGS) indicated a large potential gas reserve.What is fracking and why is it con...
Freeze-dried dung gives clue to Asian elephant stress

Freeze-dried dung gives clue to Asian elephant stress

Science
"Collecting fresh faecal samples is not as easy as it may sound," says researcher Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel.But her efforts have helped scientists in India devise a unique, non-invasive way to monitor the physiological health of wild elephants.The key has been freeze-drying dung in the field to preserve the elephant's hormones.As a result, scientists found stress levels in females were more conspicuous than in male elephants.Over five years, Sanjeeta and her colleagues collected more than 300 samples from 261 elephants in the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats area.She explained her technique: "I used to hide and observe till the elephant defecated and moved away."She told the BBC: "These samples mean a lot to me." Ethical approachThe aim of the research was to evaluate the influence of the el...
Why whiskey tastes better with a little bit of water

Why whiskey tastes better with a little bit of water

Science
Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Whiskey has long been diluted by water before bottling. Many whiskey drinkers also add a few drops of water to their glass. Water makes whiskey taste better. But until now, researchers weren't sure exactly why."The taste of whisky is primarily linked to so-called amphipathic molecules, which are made up of hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts," Björn Karlsson, a researcher at Linnaeus University in Sweden, said in a news release. "One such molecule is guaiacol, a substance that develops when the grain is dried over peat smoke when making malt whisky, providing the smoky flavor to the whisky."Karlsson and his research partner, Ran Friedman, used computer simulations to study the behavior of molecules in different concentrations of water and ethanol. The simulations showed guai
Scientists measure whales' aversion to noise pollution

Scientists measure whales' aversion to noise pollution

Science
Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A new study has offered fresh insights into how whales are impacted by noise pollution.Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia wanted to find out if "ramp-up sequences" allow whales to acclimate to foreign noise. Ramp-up sequences describe the use of softer sounds for 10 to 20 minutes prior to the introduction of louder noise levels.To find out, researchers subjected a pod of migrating humpback whales to a series of acoustic air guns, at different distances and decibel levels. The test results -- detailed this week in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin -- suggest ramp-up sequences have no effect.Whales avoid noise pollution, whether it is preceded by ramp-up sequences or not.Air guns are frequently used by oil and gas drilling operations to map the ocea...
Research reveals how neurons communicate

Research reveals how neurons communicate

Science
Aug. 17 (UPI) -- New research at the University of Pittsburgh suggests scientists have misunderstood the neuron communication process, specifically the dopamine release mechanism.The discovery -- detailed this week in the journal Neuron -- could have wide ranging implications for the study and treatment of dopamine-related disorders, including Parkinson's disease, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia and addiction.Neurons communicate by releasing neurotransmitters like dopamine into the small gap known as a synapse before they're received by other neurons. Inside neurons, neurotransmitters await their release inside small sacs called vesicles.In studying the release process, researchers found the vesicles begin to fill again before being emptied. Researchers ...