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Content about Environment

April 9, 2008

  Feature - Wonderful wheats: automating the search for new genes How will growers meet the increasing demands for high quality food and feed produced in an environmentally sensitive, sustainable, and profitable manner? Engineering new wheat variety will allow for wheat cultivation to be transformed in the same way as maize, rice and soyabeans cultivation.Stock images from Providing vital food for billions of people, wheat cannot afford a sick-day off. It must resist new diseases, adapt to environmental change and flourish in the face of viruses, bacteria, insects and fungi.Cultivated since the dawn of civilization, wheat must now enter the 21st century. The race for survivalThe keys to flourishing wheat fields are diverse and effective genes, found in wheatÂ’s gargantuan genetic toolbox: a DNA collection containing an astounding 17 billion base pairs.“If you can find the right genes and the right alleles for a given genome, you can select the qualities you want in a new wheat variety,” says Philippe Leroy of Génét

April 9, 2008

Image of the week - FOCUS on fire This image shows a flame held by a flameholder. The FOCUS project simulations have demonstrated that taking radiation into consideration when making calculations modifies the dynamics of the flame. Image courtesy of FOCUS Combustion is hot stuff, playing a part in more than 80 percent of primary energy conversion processes worldwide; however, the way things burn remains a complex phenomenon, characterized by instabilities and side effects, such as pollutant formation and radiative heat transfer.Hot computingComplex numerical simulations are used to aid the design of industrial combustors, and now a team of researchers is using Europe’s DEISA e-infrastructure to make these simulations even more accurate.The team, a collaboration between Olivier Gicquel’s team at the EM2C laboratory of the Ecole Centrale Paris and the IDRIS team at CNRS in France, say CPU-power fueled their results. “The DEISA project gave us access to the coupling technology that we required,” says Gicquel. “It also provided u

April 2, 2008

Feature - Cutting edge computing helps discover the origin of life A snapshot from a large-scale molecular dynamics simulation of a 480 base pair DNA plasmid sandwiched between two sheets of a clay mineral. The plasmid structure remains essentially stable and intact at the elevated temperatures and pressures of deep ocean hydrothermal vents, where life on Earth may have originated. Image courtesy of P V Coveney. The National Grid Service in the UK and the TeraGrid in the U.S. have joined forces to help University College London scientists shed light on how life on earth may have originated.  Deep undersea secretsDeep ocean hydrothermal vents have long been suggested as possible sources of biological molecules, such as RNA and DNA, but it was unclear how they could survive the high temperatures and pressures that occur round these vents.Peter Coveney and colleagues at the UCL Centre for Computational Science have used computer simulation to provide insight into the structure and stability of DNA while inserted into layered

February 6, 2008

  Feature - Testing the waters: coastal ecologists look to open source software to manage distributed sensor data Groundwater monitoring stations like these provide data on the quality and level of groundwater across the coast of South Carolina, allowing researchers to track any changes as commercial and residential developments go ahead.Image courtesy of PISCES Environmental Science graduate student, Samuel Esswein, is keeping a watchful eye on South Carolina’s changing coastline. With assistance from his graduate advisor, Christopher Post, Esswein and a team from Clemson University, U.S., are studying the impact of commercial and residential development along South Carolina’s traditionally forested coastal areas. Their work is funded by the Program of Integrated Study for Coastal Environmental Sustainability (PISCES). A system of sensors“Rapid coastal development has had a dramatic effect on the hydrologic and ecologic systems of South Carolina’s coastal areas,” Esswein says. “This has wid

January 16, 2008

Announcement - UC San Diego joins the Green Grid Where does it go? The Green Grid breaks down energy consumption in data centers, offering guidelines and recommendations for best practise.Image courtesy of The Green GridThe University of California San Diego has become the first university to join The Green Grid, a global consortium of companies dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and computing ecosystems.Membership in The Green Grid underscores the university’s commitment to environmentally sound practices, including efforts at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, a national-level supercomputer center funded by the National Science Foundation and UCSD.The SDSC is currently undergoing a “green” building expansion featuring a host of energy-saving designs, materials and practices, all intended to put the data center at the leading edge of operational efficiency. The 80,000 square-foot building, to open next year, earned the 2005 Best Practices Award for innovative heating, ventilation and air

September 12, 2007

  Feature - Grids point to pollution solutions eMinerals’ scientists are using grid computing to delve into the chemical substitutions that lead to arsenic contamination of drinking water. This image shows an arsenic atom (purple) substituted for a sulfur atom (cream) rather than an iron atom (red) in the structure of pyrite.  Image courtesy of Kat Austen and Marc Blanchard eMinerals scientists will deliver new dirt on soil pollution at the 7th UK e-Science All Hands Meeting in Nottingham this week.The eMinerals team, funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council, is using grid computing to tackle some serious environmental problems, including arsenic contamination of drinking water and dioxin pollution of soils. Over a series of thousands of calculations, researchers have simulated all possible interactions between dioxins and arsenic—extremely toxic pollutants—and the various rocks and soils in which they lurk.Fools’ arsenicArsenic often appears in minerals rich in iron and sulf

September 5, 2007

  Feature - Polar Grid: entering the ice age Polar grid will link the North and South Poles to teraflop facilities in the U.S., providing the massive power required to fill the gap in understanding of ice cap behavior in a changing climate.Images courtesy of Polar Grid “Things that took 100,000 years to change are now changing in ten years,” says Geoffrey Fox. “This was a relatively sleepy field. It has come rapidly to the forefront.”Fox is director of the Community Grids Lab at Indiana University’s Pervasive Technology Labs. A computer scientist by trade, he’s been swept into the fever of ice-sheet science.“In the last ten years something has happened,” he says. “Ten years ago the ice sheets weren’t melting. Now they are. And we don’t know why.” The need for information is critical. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report explicitly stated that understanding of ice flow dynamics is limited, that there is no consensus on the magnitude of i

August 29, 2007

  Opinion - Grids can be green Piles of cables and computer waste wait to be scrapped or reused in Guiyu, China.© Greenpeace, Guide to Green Electronics David Wallom is the technical manager of the Oxford e-Research Centre at the University of Oxford and chair of the UK e-Science Engineering Task Force. He is currently working on a JISC-funded Low Carbon Information and Communications Technology project. Can grids really be green? Grids have been designed to provide collaborating researchers with resources from many different physically disparate organisations. This has the advantage of ensuring that high-cost resources—in terms of initial purchase price and running costs—are operated as near to maximum capacity as possible. This means that, through correct management of related resources, grids have the potential to effectively lower an organisation’s overall carbon footprint.Disposing with pretenceHowever, we should also recognize the natural resources consumed to build these computing systems