Nabucco eyes land studies in Turkey

VIENNA, March 2 (UPI) — The Nabucco pipeline company announced it was ready to start land acquisition studies in more than 20 provinces in Turkey.

“Nabucco Gas Pipeline International will commence activities pursuant to the ‘decision of public utilities’ concerning the pipeline route within the boundaries of Turkey,” the company said in a statement.

The company described this as “a very important step” in the project that is seen as a prerequisite to start land acquisition activities in Turkish territory.

Europe is looking for ways to break the Russian grip on the natural gas sector by pursuing a series of pipelines for the so-called Southern Corridor. Of those, Nabucco is the most ambitious though its $10 billion price tag and lack of firm supplier commitments is causing critics to emerge.

Turkish officials had said Nabucco was important because European demands for natural gas won’t be met even if all projects in the Southern Corridor eventually come on stream.

The pipeline would link the eastern Turkish border to Austria via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.

U.K.: Collaboration needed in wind sector

LONDON, March 2 (UPI) — London would be “crazy” not to encourage the interconnection of offshore wind and power linkages, the British minister of state for energy said.

The British government said it’s on the way to generating as much as 18 gigawatts of wind energy by 2020, compared with the 1.6 GW available now. In a report with energy regulator Ofgen, the British Department of Energy and Climate Change said interlinking the grid could cut as much as 15 percent from overall construction and operating costs.

“These cables could even be linked up to European projects, increasing opportunities for trading electricity,” said British Energy Minister Charles Hendry.

Hendry added this would add to efforts meant to reduce the cost per megawatt-hour and lower the cost of offshore connections as much as 15 percent.

“Linking up power cables between offshore wind farms could make some serious savings, so we would be crazy not to encourage it,” he said in a statement.

The United Kingdom is the world leader in offshore wind capacity. The country aims to generate 15 percent of its overall energy from renewable resources by 2020.

U.K. may join Nord Stream, Putin says

MOSCOW, March 2 (UPI) — With natural gas needs on the rise, the British government may consider joining the Nord Stream pipeline, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.

Energy statistics for 2010, released last month by the British government, indicated a general decline in production levels. Putin suggested this meant London should consider a role on Nord Stream.

“The U.K. may join the Nord Stream project because it’s gradually becoming a gas importer,” he was quoted by Voice of Russia as saying.

The British Department of Energy and Climate Change said the country remained a net exporter of petroleum products in 2011 but domestic natural gas production was down 20 percent compared to 2010 levels.

Russia aims to diversify its European transit options through Nord Stream. The dual pipeline runs from the shores of the Gulf of Finland through the Baltic Sea to Germany.

Both lines, once fully operational this year, will transport around 1.9 trillion cubic feet of Russian gas each year to European consumers for at least 50 years.

Putin didn’t elaborate on the British role in Nord Stream other than to say negotiations have started.

Structure of virus gives drug possibility

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., March 1 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say knowledge of the structure of a virus that causes a potentially fatal disease in children could bring antiviral drugs to treat the disease.

Purdue researchers have created three-dimensional reconstruction of enterovirus 71, which causes hand, foot and mouth disease common around the world but which can reportedly sometimes cause potentially fatal encephalitis.

Their study, along with one from Oxford University, shows a possible path to creating antiviral drugs to treat the infection, a Purdue release said Thursday.

“Taken together, the findings in both papers are useful when you are trying to stop the virus from infecting host cells,” Purdue biological science Professor Michael G. Rossmann said. “The common theme is that they both report for the first time on the structure of this virus, and this tells us how to design compounds to fight the infection.”

Both teams used a technique called X-ray crystallography to determine the virus’s precise structure, showing similarities to features on related enteroviruses including poliovirus.

The disease is found primarily in the Asia-Pacific region. Of the 427,278 cases of the disease recorded in mainland China between January and May 2010, 5,454 cases were classified as severe, with 260 deaths, the World Health Organization says.

“Right now, there isn’t much you can do for a child who contracts encephalitis,” Purdue researcher Richard J. Kuhn said.

$35 computer goes on sale in Britain

CAMBRIDGE, England, March 1 (UPI) — A credit-card-sized low-cost computer designed to help teach children to code has gone on sale in Britain, its developers say.

The Raspberry Pi is a bare-bones computer created by volunteers mostly drawn from academia and the British tech industry hope the machines could help reverse a lack of programming skills in the country.

“It has been six years in the making; the number of things that had to go right for this to happen is enormous,” Eben Upton of the Raspberry Pi Foundation based in Cambridge told the BBC. “I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Sold uncased without keyboard or monitor, the $35 Pi has drawn interest from educators and enthusiasts.

The launch of the Pi comes as the Department for Education is considering changes to the teaching of computing in schools with the goal of greater emphasis on skills like programming.

“Initiatives like the Raspberry Pi scheme will give children the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of programming,” Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove said.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation says it has already produced thousands of the machines using a Chinese manufacturer.

Across the U.S. on 10 gallons of gas?

MURFREESBORO, Tenn., March 1 (UPI) — A U.S. academic says he believes he can drive across the United States from coast to coast on 10 gallons of gasoline and will begin the attempt Saturday.

Agriscientist Cliff Ricketts of Middle Tennessee State University will set out to drive the approximately 2,532-mile distance from Savannah and Tybee Island, Ga., to Long Beach, Calif.

Ricketts will use two alternative-fuel vehicles in the first 916 miles of the journey from Savannah to Fort Smith, Ark., where his fuel sources will be the sun (solar) and hydrogen from water in a 2005 Toyota Prius and 1994 Toyota Tercel, a university release said.

Leaving those two vehicles in Fort Smith, Ricketts says the remaining 1,616 miles to Long Beach will be done with a plug-in hybrid 2007 Prius using E95 –95 percent ethanol and 5 percent gas — and electric in the form of two 10-kilowatt-hour battery packs.

The vehicle should get about “100 miles per gallon for about 200 miles until the batteries run down and then purely on ethanol only the rest of the way,” he says.

Ricketts says he expects to drive the cars at between 58 mph to 65 mph along an almost entirely Interstate route.

Comet dust reveals Jupiter secrets

HONOLULU, March 1 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say studies of tiny grains of a comet brought to Earth in 2006 have revealed clues that help date the formation of the planet Jupiter.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii said particles from comet 81P/Wild 2 returned to Earth by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft indicate Jupiter formed more than three million years after the formation of the first solids in our Solar System.

The findings suggest the formation of this giant planet affected how materials in the early solar system moved, collided, and coalesced during the complex planet-forming process, a university release reported.

Analyses of the Wild 2 samples showed comets are composed of both low-temperature and high-temperature materials that must have come from completely different environments.

Scientists said they wanted to know how high-temperature objects from the innermost regions near the Sun became the predominant dust components of an icy comet in the outer solar nebula and set out to determine when this grand, outward migration of materials occurred.

“We were surprised to find such a late-forming, high-temperature little rock in these cometary samples,” researcher Ryan Ogliore said.

“That we are able to test theories about the formation time of Jupiter and consequently, the origins of our Solar System is really a testament to the importance of sample-return missions like Stardust.”

EU says Google policy breaches laws

BRUSSELS, March 1 (UPI) — Changes to Google’s privacy policies now in effect are in breach of European Union laws, the EU’s justice commissioner says.

The policy change, implemented Thursday, means private data collected by one Google service can be shared with its other platforms including YouTube, Gmail and Blogger.

European authorities found that “transparency rules have not been applied” in changing the policies, Commissioner Viviane Reding told the BBC.

Google responded by saying it believes the new policy complies with EU law.

“We are confident that our new simple, clear and transparent privacy policy respects all European data protection laws and principles,” it said in a statement.

Google went ahead with implementing the changes despite warnings from the EU earlier this week after data regulators in France had cast doubt on the legality of the move and launched a Europe-wide investigation.

France’s privacy watchdog CNIL had urged Google to take a “pause” in rolling out the revised policy.

“The CNIL and EU data authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services,” the regulator wrote.

Green algae again fouling Great Lakes

HOUGHTON, Mich., March 1 (UPI) — Slimy green algae that fouled beaches around the U.S. Great Lakes in the 1950s are back with a vengeance due to an invasive species of mussel, scientists say.

The green, bottom-dwelling alga called Cladophora glomerata first choked lake waters in the mid-20th century when humans discharged large amounts of phosphorus from agricultural runoff into the lakes.

Then the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement brought tough new regulations that limited phosphorus and Cladophora all but disappeared.

Now it’s back, researchers at Michigan Technological University report, thanks this time to billions of exotic zebra mussels that have created a perfect habitat.

The mussels, as filter feeders, have clarified the Great Lakes water, allowing more sunlight for Cladophora to grow in areas that were once too dark, the researchers said.

The mussels also excrete a type of phosphorus that Cladophora love to feed on, and the mussels’ hard shells covering the sandy lake bottoms provide solid real estate where the algae can grow.

Michigan Tech’s Robert Shuchman and his research team are helping resource managers survey the extent of the Cladophora problem.

Using remote-sensing data from satellites the can measure “radiance,” or reflective brightness, to distinguish Cladophora beds from areas where the lake bottom is clear.

“By doing this, we can map Cladophora in a straightforward way,” he Shuchman said.

‘Twisted’ San Andreas fault described

Research on the structure of California’s San Andreas fault suggests a rupture might shake some places harder than current forecasts predict, seismologists say.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey found the southern section of the fault isn’t vertical in most places, as previously thought, but rather twists in opposite directions along its length, ScienceNews.org reported.

“We now have a picture of a propeller-shaped San Andreas,” USGS geophysicist Gary Fuis said.

This unexpected shape could make the San Andreas, which has been locked and building up strain in some parts as the Pacific and North American plates try to move past each other, even more hazardous, the researchers said.

“The dipping geometry may allow for significantly larger earthquakes,” Roland Burgmann, a geophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, said, explaining that tilted faults possess more surface area in a given depth, potentially releasing more energy when they break.

In its northern section the fault leans to the southwest, then as it snakes to the south it becomes vertical in the Mojave Desert.

Closer to Mexico, it dips to the northeast, cutting into Earth’s crust at an angle of 37 degrees near San Bernardino, Calif., the researchers said.