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July 6, 2010 at 5:48 PM
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Large amount of oil fouling Texas unlikely

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, July 6 (UPI) -- Although tar balls from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill washed up in Texas, a large amount of oil reaching the state's beaches is unlikely, an ocean expert said.

Piers Chapman, head of the oceanography department at Texas A&M University, said the tar balls found near Galveston recently were in such small amounts that the risk is slight for larger quantities of oil washing ashore on the Texas coast. The oil comes from the spill that has been active since April 20 when an oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers, then sank two days later, the university said Tuesday in a release.

"It's hard to say if there will be a lot more, but the best guess is, not likely," Chapman said. "What has been found in the Galveston area is a very small amount, something like only five gallons or so."

Tar balls indicate a particular batch of oil has been in the water for a long time, perhaps several weeks, "so it's much less of a problem than fresh oil," he adds.

Chapman offered two possible scenarios for the tar balls in Texas: Hurricane Alex pushed them toward Texas or they're from ships traveling near the oil spill en route to Texas ports.

"It's very possible some more could reach Texas, but you will probably not see any large amounts. I don't think these pose a major problem at the moment," Chapman said. "I think you will see most of the oil continue to go north and east from the spill site, most likely away from Texas."

EPA rule would cut power plant pollution

WASHINGTON, July 6 (UPI) -- Proposed pollution-reducing rules would affect power plants in 31 states and the District of Columbia, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

The proposed "transport rule" would target power plant pollution that drifts across the borders of 31 eastern states and the District of Columbia, the agency said in a release. Coupled with local and state air pollution controls, the proposal is designed to help areas in the eastern United States meet existing national air quality health standards.

The transport rule would reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides to meet state-by-state emission reductions, the EPA said. By 2014, the rule and other state and EPA actions would reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 71 percent over 2005 levels and nitrogen oxide emission levels would drop by 52 percent.

The transport rule also would help improve visibility in state and national parks and increase protection for ecosystems sensitive to pollution, the agency said.

"This rule is designed to cut pollution that spreads hundreds of miles and has enormous negative impacts on millions of Americans," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. "We're working to limit pollution at its source, rather than waiting for it to move across the country. The reductions we're proposing will save billions in health costs, help increase American educational and economic productivity, and -- most importantly -- save lives."

EPA will take public comment on the proposal for 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register, as well as conduct public hearings.

Warm water may mean malformed salmon bones

TROMSO, Norway, July 6 (UPI) -- Rearing young salmon in relatively warm waters, used when farmers want to increase fish growth rates, causes skeletal deformities, Norwegian researchers found.

Harold Takle and researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research said they found juvenile salmon raised in warmer water suffered bone and cartilage damage, BioMed Central reported in a release Monday.

"The data presented here indicate that both production of bone and cartilage were disrupted when promoting fast growth using elevated temperature." Takle said. "It is very likely that higher temperatures result in the increased rate of deformities observed in the 16 degrees (Celsius) group."

Researchers at the institute in Tromso raised 400 fish in 10 C water and 400 in 16 C water. They said they found the fish raised in the warmer water grew faster but 28 percent showed some signs of skeletal deformity compared with 8 percent of the fish reared in the cooler water.

"Our results strongly indicate that temperature-induced fast growth is severely affecting gene transcription in osteoblasts and chondrocyte bone cells, leading to a change in the tissue structure and composition," Takle said.

Physics laws lead to super soccer plays

LYNCHBURG, Va., July 6 (UPI) -- Science helps explain how the world's soccer players playing in the World Cup can make a soccer ball do things that don't seem natural, a U.S. scientist said.

U.S. scientist John Eric Goff, in an article published in the July issue of Physics Today, looked at the ball's design and how its surface roughness and asymmetric air forces help determine its path once it leaves a player's foot, the American Institute of Physics said in a release.

His analysis indicated reduced air density in games played at higher altitudes -- such as those in South Africa -- can contribute to some of the eye-popping ball trajectories already seen in some of this year's World Cup matches.

"The ball is moving a little faster than what some of the players are used to," said Goff, a physics professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia and an expert in sports science.

Goff said soccer is more than a sport -- it is a living lab where physics equations are constantly expressed.

Goff's recently published book, "Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports," explores the scientific mechanisms behind some of the greatest moments in sports history, including quarterback Doug Flutie's "Hail Mary" touchdown pass from the Boston College 22 yard line that led to a BC victory over the University of Miami.

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