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Jan. 29, 2013 at 7:02 PM
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Quake warning system for California?

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- An earthquake warming system proposed for California, similar to one in Japan, would use sensors in the ground to alert residents to temblors, scientists say.

Such a sensor system sent text message warnings to about 50 million people in the devastating 2011 Japan earthquake, and many people in Tokyo, 200 miles from the epicenter, knew the quake was coming 30 seconds before the shaking started, they said.

A group of California's top geophysicists and seismologists have proposed an $80 million plan to create a similar earthquake early warning system in California, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

State Sen. Alex Padilla is introducing legislation to expand and upgrade the existing California Integrated Seismic Network of ground sensors that produces online maps after quakes showing their epicenter.

Officials say they envision people installing a quake warning application on their computers and mobile devices that would present an on-screen alert in the case of a large earthquake. Alerts could activate automatic systems to tell elevators to stop, firehouse doors to open and notification to be flashed on freeways, they said.

An early warning system could be particularly important in Southern California, officials said, where the San Andreas fault is located far enough from metropolitan Los Angeles to give residents as much as a 1-minute warning of a huge quake.

"Think of the lives we could save," Padilla said. "The injuries we can reduce. And the billions upon billions of damage. If we can just reduce that by a small percentage, or a fraction, the system would more than pay for itself."

Ancient 'super predator' identified

GLASGOW, Scotland, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A fossil gathering dust in a Scottish museum since its discovery more than a century ago has been identified as a marine "super predator," paleontologists say.

The new species, dubbed Tyrannoneustes lythrodectikos or "blood-biting tyrant swimmer," belonged to a group of ancient crocodiles with dolphin-like features, they said.

The reptile's partial skeleton, including a jawbone and teeth, has been housed in the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow since an amateur fossil hunter found it in a clay pit near Peterborough in England in the early 1900s.

Experts have only now been able to confirm the identity of the remains, The Scotsman reported Tuesday.

"It is satisfying to be able to classify a specimen that has been unexamined for more than 100 years, and doubly so to find that this discovery improves our understanding of the evolution of marine reptiles," University of Edinburgh researcher Mark Young said.

Little research had been carried out on the specimen since its arrival at the museum in 1919, Hunterian paleontology curator Neil Clark said.

"It is comforting to know that new species can still be found in museums as new research is carried out on old collections," he said. "It is not just the new species that are important, but an increase in our understanding of how life evolved and the variety of life forms that existed 163 million years ago in the warm Jurassic seas around what is now Britain."

Extreme weather future for Australia?

BRISBANE, Australia, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Scientist in Australia say extreme weather such as the recent storms flooding much of the country's east coast may become more common with global warming.

The storm that started as tropical cyclone Oswald just north of Australia was pulled south over most of the east coast by a low-pressure system extending all the way to New South Wales, Richard Wardle of the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland said.

As it made landfall, Oswald lost its cyclone status but remained a "vigorous" storm, Wardle said.

In Queensland and New South Wales, the flooding occurred while bush fires that broke out two weeks earlier were still smoldering, and climate scientists said both the fires and the storms were "consistent" with climate change, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

"The frequency of more intense events is going to increase. Droughts, heatwaves and -- in northern Australia -- rainfall events and tropical cyclones are going to be more intense," said Jon Nott of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, who researches extreme weather events.

Beer hops could be new drug resource

SEATTLE, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say hops, which help preserve beer and give it its distinctive flavor, may yield new drugs to treat diabetes, some cancers and other maladies.

University of Washington researchers used a process called X-ray crystallography to analyze the precise configuration of humulones, substances derived from hops that give beer its flavor.

"Now that we have the right results, what happens to the bitter hops in the beer-brewing process makes a lot more sense," chemistry Professor Werner Kaminsky said in a university release.

Previous research has suggested beer and its bittering acids, in moderation, can have beneficial effects on diabetes, some forms of cancer, inflammation and perhaps even weight loss.

While "excessive beer consumption cannot be recommended to propagate good health," the researchers wrote in their published study, "isolated humulones and their derivatives can be prescribed with documented health benefits."

The findings sets the stage for discovering which of those humulones might be useful in new compounds to be used as medical treatments, they said.

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