Gay animals get their 20 minutes, engineers design an invisibility cloak, and An Inconvenient Truth gets an international audience.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that

The Oslo Natural History Museum in Norway opened the world’s first exhibit focused on the dozens of instances of homosexuality in the animal kingdom. The exhibit, called Against Nature?, has been well attended so far, despite facing loud resistance from Christian groups.

Steve Irwin’s 8-year-old daughter Bindi will star in a new television show on the Discovery Kids Network. Bindi began filming the wildlife documentary show with her “Crocodile Hunter” father, who was killed by a stingray in September.  Bindi decided to continue the show with her mother’s blessing, but at least one Australian politician has voiced concern that Bindi is being deprived of her childhood.

Iceland will resume commercial whale hunts for the first time in twenty years, according to an announcement by the country’s Fisheries Ministry. The decision ignores an international moratorium on whale hunts and will permit the harpooning of a small number of endangered fin whales.

An international team of field anthropologists and paleontologists has discovered the fossil of an extinct and yet unknown species of dwarf water buffalo. Named Bubalus cebuensis after the Philippine island of Cebu, where it was found, the buffalo’s two-and-a-half foot stature distinguishes it from its larger cousin, which stands at six feet tall. The fossil, estimated to be between 10,000 and 100,000 years old, will help researchers to better understand island dwarfing—a phenomenon in which island mammals evolve to be smaller in response to a scarcity of food and predators.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Now we all can be Harry Potters, thanks to a group of engineers who have designed the first “invisibility cloak.” The cloak’s complex material properties can redirect microwave beams around an object, essentially “hiding” it. The researchers say their results, reported Oct. 12 in Science Express, could play a role in the next generation of wireless communications and radar applications.

There is no ice inside the impact craters at the Moon’s poles, new radio-signal images from the Arecibo Telescope in Peurto Rico and Robert C. Byrd Telescope in West Virginia reveal. The previous discovery of hydrogen concentrations at the lunar poles raised the possibility that ice deposits—similar to those found inside impact craters at Mercury’s poles—existed on the moon. Ice deposits on the Moon could make a future lunar base more viable. 
Andromeda, a galaxy visible from Earth to the naked eye, collided with a smaller galaxy roughly 210 million years ago, according to a study published in the journal Nature. The collision explains the warped plane and the overlapping rings that make Andromeda’s shape so unusual.

An International Truth

Though the documentary An Inconvenient Truth was a big hit in the U.S. this summer, ratings released last week revealed it got mixed reviews internationally. In Germany, where Al Gore attended the movie’s recent premiere, it received coverage from all major media outlets and praise from government officials. Critics in Bangkok weren’t so enamored, however, saying that the film was boring.

Scientists have discovered microbes that fight global warming by reducing levels of methane, a greenhouse gas. The organisms live in the vents of mud volcanoes in the ocean and “eat” the methane produced by the volcanoes, according to a study in Nature.

The Norwegian government, in conjunction with oil company Statoil, announced that it would finance building the world’s biggest carbon dioxide capture and storage facility. Carbon dioxide capture and storage, considered to be the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is not a well-developed technology, in part because of its high cost. Norway plans to spend $594 million to build the plant.

Angered by Britain’s proposal to buy and sell the trees of the Amazon rainforest, Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva has asked former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to support her global rainforest protection plan. The program would provide incentives for countries that voluntarily bring deforestation to below 1990s levels.  Brazil will present the new conservation plan at global climate talks in Nairobi next month.  Deforestation releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.

Shake and Bake

A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit a sparsely populated area of western Hawaii on the morning of Oct. 15, taking out power in Honolulu and across Oahu. Though the quake caused landslides and forced authorities to close the Honolulu International Airport, it wasn’t strong enough to set off a sister tsunami.

Annual forest and brush fires are wreaking havoc in Indonesia, and the nation is hard-pressed to put an end to them. Farmers typically use fire as a means to inexpensively convert land into plantations. The fires create thick smoke that worsens air quality and has drawn complaints from Indonesia’s neighbors, particularly Singapore and Malayasia.

About 200 people were admitted to hospitals near the central Indian city of Bhopal after an unknown gas—officials believe it might have been either ammonia or chlorine—leaked from an unknown industrial plant. This incident does not represent the first time toxic gas leaks in India have caused trouble: in 2001, three workers at an oil recycling plant in Bhopal died after inhaling fumes, and in 1984, more than 3,500 people died after inhaling leaked gas fumes from a pesticide plant in an area adjacent to Bhopal.

Watchdogs howl

On Oct. 16, a watchdog group reported dangerously lax security at a major U.S. nuclear facility. About a year ago, investigators from the group loitered just outside of the fence surrounding Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee for a full 15 minutes before guards approached them. Investigators say that would have given them plenty of time to detonate a bomb.

The Environmental Protection Agency is getting sued for testing pesticides on pregnant women and children. On Oct. 12, three Democratic congressman added their names to the lawsuit. They say the EPA has not been adhering to the one-year moratorium on testing pesticides on humans that Congress imposed in July 2005.

Several consumer and religious groups petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to instate a moratorium on the introduction of food made from cloned livestock. The FDA may approve the use of milk and meat from cloned animals by the end of the year.

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Originally published October 24, 2006


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