Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rare white killer whale spotted in Alaska

Image: White killer whale
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The white killer whale spotted in Alaska's Aleutian Islands sent researchers and the ship's crew scrambling for their cameras.

The nearly mythic creature was real after all.

"I had heard about this whale, but we had never been able to find it," said Holly Fearnbach, a research biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle who photographed the rarity. "It was quite neat to find it."

The whale was spotted last month while scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research ship, were conducting an acoustic survey of pollock near Steller sea lion haulout sites.

It had been spotted once in the Aleutians years ago but had eluded researchers since, even though they had seen many of the more classic black and white whales over the years.

Fearnbach said the white whale stood out.

"When you first looked at it, it was very white," she said Thursday.

Further observation showed that while the whale's saddle area was white, other parts of its body had a subtle yellowish or brownish color.

It likely is not a true albino given the coloration, said John Durban, a research biologist at NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. That's probably a good thing — true albinos usually don't live long and can have health problems.

Durban said white killer whales have been spotted elsewhere in the area twice before: in 1993 in the northern Bering Sea around St. Lawrence Island and in 2001 near Adak in the central Aleutians. There have also been sightings along the Russian coast.

While Alaska researchers have documented thousands of black and white killer whales in the Bering Sea and the Aleutians during summer surveys, this was something new and exciting, Durban said.

"This is the first time we came across a white killer whale," he said.

The scientists observed several pods over a two-week period. The white whale was in a family group of 12 on a day when the seas were fairly rough. It was spotted about 2 miles off Kanaga Volcano on Feb. 23.

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Daylight savings is found to waste energy

March 5, 2008 For decades, conventional wisdom has held that daylight-saving time reduces energy use. Now a university study of a unique situation in Indiana has provided compelling evidence challenging that view. Daylight savings may actually waste energy.

The Wall Street Journal is running a story on a study that unambiguously concludes that Daylight Saving Time not only doesn't save any energy, it actually wastes it and costs more. The study mirrors recent findings in an Australian university and it's a big shame because the concept first championed by Benjamin Franklin more than 200 years ago is now not just conventional wisdom but in widespread usage.

Last year the US switched to summer time, three weeks earlier than usual and added another week at the other end to cut fuel consumption and help the environment. The concept is that electricity demand falls in the evening because of the extra hour of usable daylight.

DST was signed into law with the Energy Policy Act and was expected to save US$4.4bn in energy bills over 15 years and avoid the need for three electric power plants. So someone has done their sums wrong - either the Government has unknowingly destroyed enough resources to feed a third world nation, or the new studies are wrong.

There are of course, many other factors to consider in this equation – there are documented social benefits to daylight-saving time such as more recreation time and increased economic activity, and others that claim it results in less crime and even less traffic accidents.

Via Slashdot

The Escher-inspired illustration was created by Sam Rohn of New York Locations using mathmap under OSX and can be seen on his Flickr page. via Einstein’s Lock

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In pictures: Grand Canyon flooded

Water flows from the number one and two jet tubes at the Glen Canyon Dam, 5 March 2008

Water is unleashed from Glen Canyon Dam towards the Grand Canyon in the United States - an experiment to mimic natural floods and recharge the ecosystem.

Water flows from the number one and two jet tubes at the Glen Canyon Dam, 5 March 2008

More than 300,000 gallons (1.1m litres) of water per second gushed from giant steel tubes into the river - the equivalent of turning on 1.3m garden hoses simultaneously.

US Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, in blue shirt at railing, watches water flow from the number one and two jet tubes at the Glen Canyon Dam

US Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, in the blue shirt at the railing, released the valves. He said the volume of water could fill the Empire State Building in 20 minutes.

Water flows from the number one and two jet tubes at the Glen Canyon Dam, 5 March 2008

The manmade flood will carry rich sedimentary residue to nourish the Grand Canyon area, improving the fish habitat in the river and rebuilding beaches.

Water levels at the Colorado River's Horseshoe Bend begin to rise along the beaches just hours after the Glen Canyon Dam jet tubes began releasing water , 5 March 2008

Water levels along the Colorado river rose quickly after the flood was released. Since the dam was built in 1963, 98% of the sediment carried by the river has been lost.

Water flows from the number one and two jet tubes as seen from atop the Glen Canyon Dam, 5 March 2008

Before then the river, near the Arizona-Utah border, was muddy, and natural flooding built up sandbars essential to native plant and fish species.

A boat navigates the turbulent waters caused by the jet tubes at the Glen Canyon Dam being released, 5 March 2008

After the flood ends on Friday, it is hoped the water will leave behind sediment, and restore sandbars, as it goes back to normal levels.

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