The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (7/27)

GRB-illustration Gamma-Ray Bursts Could Halt Photosynthesis

Cosmic explosions thousands of light-years away could shut down photosynthesis in the ocean at depths of up to 260 feet, a new study suggests. The calculations add to a growing body of research linking these great blasts, called gamma-ray bursts, with biological damage and even mass extinctions on Earth. Gamma-ray bursts are tremendous explosions detonated during a massive star’s death throes. When stars eight times the mass of the sun or larger reach the end of their lives, they die in spectacular supernova explosions that can temporarily outshine entire galaxies. Under certain conditions — astronomers aren’t exactly sure what — all that energy can be concentrated into a tight beam extending like a spotlight away from the star. These bright beams, known as gamma-ray bursts, can last up to 10 seconds, and carry energies equivalent to billions of nuclear bombs going off at once. And according to the new research, phytoplankton would not enjoy them. In a paper published on the astronomy preprint site arXiv.org, biologist Liuba Penate of the Universidad Central de Las Villas in Cuba and colleagues model the marine food web from plankton up if a gamma-ray burst were to strike.

7A4CE3D3-EBD9-40B9-A993-9D1E3189C534_mw800_mh600 Chem Weapons Scare, Osama Clue in WikiLeaks’ War Docs

Most of the reports catalog counterinsurgency’s basics — weapons caches found, gun battles fought, village elders chatted up. But buried in the tens of thousands of U.S. military logs dropped Sunday night by WikiLeaks are incidents that are anything but routine: a suspected chemical-weapon attack by the Taliban; rumors of Al Qaeda poisoning the U.S. military food supply; a tip about Osama Bin Laden’s status. WikiLeaks’ massive trove of field reports from Afghanistan documents many things. One is that the fog of war can lead troops down some awfully strange paths. Especially when RUMINT (mil-speak for “rumor intelligence”) becomes the guide.

Isitgreen_walmart-2 The Climate Bill Is Dead, But Large Businesses Will Pursue Sustainability Anyway

The climate bill's death in the U.S. Senate last week was a major blow to environmentalists everywhere. As a result of extensive infighting, the watered-down bill omits cap-and-trade, energy efficiency standards, and the Renewable Electricity Standard. There is no upside to what happened here, but all hope is not lost, at least for corporate sustainability. According to Paul Hepperla, VP, Product Strategy of Verisae, businesses still have a number of reasons to continue on the path toward lower carbon emissions. "There are three primary reasons why you'll focus on sustainability: regulatory compliance, brand reputation and risk, and operational efficiency," he explains. "[The bill] will slow down momentum as it relates to carbon markets, but there are still plenty of reasons to look at sustainability." Companies like Walmart and Whole Foods have built brand reputations around their green initiatives. And in many cases, lowering carbon emissions goes hand in hand with energy–and cost–savings.

Iphone-4g1 IPhone 4 Available (Almost) Worldwide this Friday

Despite delays, production troubles and having to deal with the whole antennagate non-issue, Apple has managed to gather enough iPhone 4s together to launch the handset in 17 more countries this Friday (the 6th). If you live in one of these countries, you can grab the be-camera’ed, hi-res phone and try out the bar-dropping death-grip for yourself: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland Unlike the exclusive AT&T carrier-deal in the US, in many countries Apple is making the iPhone available through multiple carriers. This is a lot easier in Europe, as pretty much all telcos use the same GSM technology. In Spain, for example, the Telefónica exclusive is over, with Vodafone and Orange also selling the handset. Prices, I’m sure, will be all over the place, but at least we’ll have a choice. Y’all might have gotten the iPhone first over there in the US, but you are, for now at least, still stuck with the ever-unpopular AT&T.

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