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Elon Musk's Mars Colony Would Have a Horde of Mining Robots ( 61

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: If it wasn't already clear that Elon Musk has considered virtually every aspect of what it would take to colonize Mars, it is now. As part of his Reddit AMA session, the SpaceX founder has revealed that his vision of a permanent colony would entail a huge number of "miner/tunneling droids." The robots would build large volumes of underground pressurized space for industrial activity, leaving geodesic domes (made of carbon fiber and glass) for everyday living. As a resident, you might never see the 'ugly' side of settling the Red Planet. Musk also explained how his colony would get to the point where it can reliably refuel spacecraft all by itself. Dragon capsules would serve as scouts, helping find the "best way" to extract water for fuel reactions. An unmanned Heart of Gold spaceship would then deliver the basics for a propellant plant, while the first crewed mission would finish that plant. After that, SpaceX would double the number of flights between each ideal Earth-Mars rendezvous (every 26 months) until the colony can reliably produce fuel by itself. Oh, and don't worry about today's Falcon 9 rockets being consigned to the history books. Although the main booster for interplanetary travel will "have an easier time of things," Musk believes that the final iteration of Falcon 9 (Block 5) could be used "almost indefinitely" if properly maintained. Production on Block 5 should fly in the next 6 to 8 months.

A British Supercomputer Can Predict Winter Weather a Year In Advance ( 157

The national weather service of the U.K. claims it can now predict the weather up to a year in advance. An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: The development has been made possible thanks to supercomputer technology granted by the UK Government in 2014. The £97 million high-performance computing facility has allowed researchers to increase the resolution of climate models and to test the retrospective skill of forecasts over a 35-year period starting from 1980... The forecasters claim that new supercomputer-powered techniques have helped them develop a system to accurately predict North Atlantic Oscillation -- the climatic phenomenon which heavily impacts winters in the U.K.
The researchers apparently tested their supercomputer on 36 years worth of data, and reported proudly that they could predict winter weather a year in advance -- with 62% accuracy.
The Media

Journalist Cleared of Riot Charges in South Dakota ( 72

Her video went viral, viewed more than 14 million times, and triggering concerns online when she was threatened with prison. But a North Dakota judge "refused to authorize riot charges against award-winning journalist Amy Goodman for her reporting on an attack against Native American-led anti-pipeline protesters." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes NBC News: Goodman described the victory as a "great vindication of the First Amendment," although McLean County State's Attorney Ladd Erickson told The New York Times that additional charges were possible. "I believe they want to keep the investigation open and see if there is any evidence in the unedited and unpublished videos that we could better detail in an affidavit for the judge," Erickson told the newspaper.
The native Americans "were attempting to block the destruction of sacred sites, including ancestral burial grounds," according to a new article co-authored by Goodman about her experiences, which argues that "Attempts to criminalize nonviolent land and water defenders, humiliate them and arrest journalists should not pave the way for this pipeline."

Stanford Researchers Release Virtual-Reality Simulation That Transports Users To Ocean of the Future ( 83

Tekla Perry writes: Stanford's Jeremy Bailenson and his Virtual Human Interaction Lab have for more than a decade been testing whether experiences from virtual reality can change real-world behavior. Now they are using their knowledge -- and expertise at developing VR software -- in what they hope will be a large-scale move towards making people behave better. The lab this week released, for free, a VR experience for the HTC Vive. It's aimed at giving people the sense of diving down to a coral reef -- but the real goal is getting them to consider how carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is killing the oceans. He hopes, with the dearth of good VR content available, this software will proliferate at least as fast as VR hardware does. Next up for the lab, a deep dive into homelessness. The experience is formally called "The Ocean Acidification Experience" and it's "intended to teach users about the chemistry behind ocean acidification, as well as the problems it causes, and what they can do to help prevent it," according to IEEE Spectrum. Bailenson describes the general story line by saying, "It starts with a globe. We talk about how we can see climate on the coastlines, but nobody can see how carbon dioxide affects the oceans. We then take you into a crowded city. You touch an exhaust pipe, and you then see carbon dioxide go into the atmosphere, and you're told to follow one particular molecule. Then you are in a boat, on the ocean, you see your molecule come towards you. You touch it and push it into the water; when it lands you see the chemical reaction that creates acid; that's the chemistry lesson. Then you are underwater, at this special reef in Ischia, Italy. This reef has naturally occurring carbon dioxide from underwater volcanoes; it shows how all our oceans will look by 2100. We take you to a normal reef, where you see coral, and count sea snails and species of fish. Then you go to an acidified reef; you see that algae have taken over the reef, there is no coral; there are fewer fish species, and no sea snails. The final scene tells you what you can do to help, prevent this future, including managing your own carbon footprint, talking to decision makers, and supporting research organizations."

Venus May Have Been the First Habitable Planet In Our Solar System, Study Suggests ( 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Venus is often referred to as Earth's evil twin, but conditions on the planet were not always so hellish, according to research that suggests it may have been the first place in the solar system to have become habitable. The study, due to be presented this week at the at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Pasadena, concludes that at a time when primitive bacteria were emerging on Earth, Venus may have had a balmy climate and vast oceans up to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) deep. Michael Way, who led the work at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, said: "If you lived three billion years ago at a low latitude and low elevation the surface temperatures would not have been that different from that of a place in the tropics on Earth," he said. Crucially, if the calculations are correct the oceans may have remained until 715m years ago -- a long enough period of climate stability for microbial life to have plausibly sprung up. "The oceans of ancient Venus would have had more constant temperatures, and if life begins in the oceans -- something which we are not certain of on Earth -- then this would be a good starting place," said Way. With an average surface temperature of 462C (864F), Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system today, thanks to its proximity to the sun and its impenetrable carbon dioxide atmosphere, 90 times denser than Earth's. At some point in the planet's history this led to a runaway greenhouse effect. Way and colleagues simulated the Venusian climate at various time points between 2.9 billion and 715 million years ago, employing similar models to those used to predict future climate change on Earth. The scientists fed some basic assumptions into the model, including the presence of water, the intensity of the sunlight and how fast Venus was rotating. In this virtual version, 2.9 billion years ago Venus had an average surface temperature of 11C (52F) and this only increased to an average of 15C (59F) by 715m years ago, as the sun became more powerful. Details of the study are also published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Orbital ATK Returns To Flight With Successful Antares Launch To Space Station ( 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The Orbital ATK Antares rocket -- the same rocket that exploded on its way to the International Space Station two years ago -- returned to flight today with a much-anticipated launch. Lifting off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the Antares rocket is now on its way to deliver the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000 pounds of cargo to crew members aboard the ISS. Today's launch was particularly special for Orbital ATK, a company contracted by NASA to deliver 66,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS through 2018. After their Antares rocket exploded during a launch in 2014, destroying thousands of pounds of experiments and cargo bound for the space station, Orbital ATK worked for two years to upgrade that rocket and prepare for its return to flight. Today, the Orbital ATK was finally able to fly Cygnus on top of their own rocket again. The RD-181-equipped Antares rocket carried Cygnus, which housed science experiments and supplies for the ISS crew, for their fifth operational cargo resupply mission for NASA. Along with crew supplies, spacewalk equipment and computer resources, Cygnus will bring over 1,000 pounds of science investigations to the five crew members on the ISS. One of those experiments is Saffire-II, the second Saffire experiment to be conducted inside Cygnus in order to study realistic flame propagation in space. Cygnus will spend over a month attached to the ISS. In late November, the spacecraft will be filled with about 3,000 pounds of trash and then released to begin its descent back to Earth. During reentry through Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft, along with trash and Saffire-II, will be destroyed.

Scientific Breakthrough Increases Plant Yields By One Third ( 197

Slashdot reader schwit1 writes, "Plant scientists have found a way to encourage plants to better use atmospheric nitrogen, thus increasing yields by more than one third. The technique not only produces healthier plants and more seeds, it reduces the need for fertilizer, the overuse of which can be an environmental issue." From WSU News: For years, scientists have tried to increase the rate of nitrogen [conversion] in legumes by altering...interactions that take place between the bacterioid and the root nodule cells. [Washington State University biologist Mechthild] Tegeder took a different approach: She increased the number of proteins that help move nitrogen from the rhizobia bacteria to the plant's leaves, seed-producing organs and other areas where it is needed. The additional transport proteins sped up the overall export of nitrogen from the root nodules.

This initiated a feedback loop that caused the rhizobia to start fixing more atmospheric nitrogen, which the plant then used to produce more seeds. "They are bigger, grow faster and generally look better than natural soybean plants," Tegeder said.


Images Show Further Damage To Great Barrier Reef, But Scientists Assure It's Not Dead ( 99

New images of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living thing on Earth, are alarming and show the extent of the damage climate change has caused to the coral. But it's not dead yet, scientists have assured, reports the HuffingtonPost citing several scientists. In April, researchers found that more than a third of corals in central and northern parts of the reef had been killed and 93 percent of individuals reefs had been affected by a condition known as coral bleaching (which happens when the water is too warm). New research shows the damage has worsened. A story, however, doing rounds on social media claims that the Great Barrier Reef has died. The viral story has been picked up by many well-read outlets, creating confusion among people. From a HuffingtonPost article: But as a whole, it is not dead. Preliminary findings published Thursday of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority surveys show 22 percent of its coral died from the bleaching event. That leaves more than three quarters still alive -- and in desperate need of relief. Two leading coral scientists that The Huffington Post contacted took serious issue with Outside's piece (the misleading viral story), calling it wildly irresponsible. Russell Brainard, chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, told HuffPost he expects the article was meant to highlight the urgency of the situation. But those who don't know any better "are going to take it at face value that the Great Barrier Reef is dead," he said. The Spokesman-Review, in Spokane, Washington, fueled the myth Thursday, when it published a blog with the headline: "Great Barrier Reef pronounced dead by scientists." Brainard told HuffPost the recent bleaching event was a "severe blow" that resulted in serious mortality. Still, "we're very far from an obituary," he said.

The Universe Has 20 Times More Galaxies Than We Thought ( 258

A new study by a team of international astronomers has produced some astounding results: they concluded that the universe contains at least two trillion galaxies -- as much as 20 times more than previously thought. The study adds that 90 percent of all galaxies are hidden from us. This hidden portion can't be seen even with our most powerful telescopes. Gizmodo adds: Consequently, this means we also have to update the number of stars in the observable universe, which now numbers around 700 sextillion (that's a 7 with 23 zeros behind it, or 700 thousand billion billion). And that's just within the observable universe. Because the cosmos emerged some 13.8 billion years ago, we're only able to observe objects up to a certain distance from Earth. Anything outside this "Hubble Bubble" is invisible to us because the light from these distant objects simply haven't had enough time to reach us. It's difficult -- if not impossible -- to know how many galaxies reside outside this cosmological blind spot.

Scientists Unveil Plans For First Space Nation 'Asgardia,' Open Citizenship Applications ( 275

Scientists and legal experts have unveiled plans for the "first nation state in space." The state is called "Asgardia" after one of the mythical worlds inhabited by the Norse gods, and it will eventually become a member of the United Nations -- complete with its own flag and anthem. The Guardian reports: According to the project website, Asgardia "will offer an independent platform free from the constraint of a land-based country's laws. It will become a place it in orbit which is truly 'no man's land.'" Initially, it would seem, this new nation will consist of a single satellite, scheduled to be launched next year, with its citizens residing firmly on terra firma. Speaking to the Guardian through an interpreter, the project lead Igor Ashurbeyli, said: "Physically the citizens of that nation state will be on Earth; they will be living on different countries on Earth, so they will be a citizen of their own country and at the same time they will be citizens of Asgardia." "When the number of those applications goes above 100,000 we can officially apply to the UN for the status of state," he added. According to the project website, "Any human living on Earth can become a citizen of Asgardia," with the site featuring a simple registration form. At the time of writing more than 1000 individuals had already signed up. At present, the Outer Space Treaty that underpins international space law states that responsibility and liability for objects sent into space lies with the nation that launched them. But the project team claims that Asgardia will set a new precedent, shifting responsibility to the new "space nation" itself. "The existing state agencies represent interests of their own countries and there are not so many countries in the world that have those space agencies," said Ashurbeyli. "The ultimate aim is to create a legal platform to ensure protection of planet Earth and to provide access to space technologies for those who do not have that access at the moment."

Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 Recall Is an Environmental Travesty ( 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Lost in the hype about Samsung permanently pulling the plug on its exploding phone is this: The failure of the Galaxy Note 7 is an environmental tragedy, regardless of what Samsung decides will happen to the 2.5 million devices it manufactured. Early Tuesday morning, Samsung announced it has permanently discontinued and stopped promoting the Galaxy Note 7, and has asked its customers to return their devices for a refund or exchange. A Samsung spokesperson told me the phones will not be repaired, refurbished, or resold ever again: "We have a process in place to safely dispose of the phones," the company said. There are two main things to consider here: First, though smartphones weigh less than a pound, it was estimated in 2013 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers estimated that it takes roughly 165 pounds of raw mined materials to make the average cell phone, a number that is certainly higher for the Note 7, being both one of the largest and most advanced smartphones phones ever created. Second, much of that mined material is going to be immediately lost. This is because we are terrible at recycling smartphones -- of the 50-or-so elements that are in a Galaxy Note 7, we can only recover about a dozen of them through recycling. Lost are most of the rare earth elements, which are generally the most environmentally destructive and human labor-intensive to mine. This loss of material is why smartphones are not usually recycled even several years into their lifespans -- they are refurbished and resold to cell phone insurance companies and customers in developing markets. This is because the recoverable elements within any given smartphone are only worth a couple bucks; it is far more environmentally sustainable and more profitable to extend the life of a smartphone than it is to disassemble it and turn it into something else. There is a potential silver lining here: Just as oil spills give scientists an opportunity to try out new cleanup techniques, a large-scale smartphone recall may allow us to learn more about how to recycle smartphones.

NASA To Allow Private Companies To Hook Up Modules To ISS ( 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Private space companies may soon get the opportunity to add their own habitat modules to the outside of the International Space Station. That's according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who announced the new initiative today as a way to help expand the number of companies and people that can do work and research in space. That can eventually help companies gain the experience and capability to create private space stations of their own. "A vibrant user community will be key to ensuring the economic viability of future space stations," wrote Bolden in a White House blog post. The announcement of this new opportunity comes just a few months after NASA asked private companies for ideas of how they might use one of the docking ports on the ISS. Based on the responses NASA received, Bolden said companies had a "strong desire" to attach commercial modules to the station that could benefit both NASA and the private sector. Bolden didn't specify which companies expressed interest, but one company in particular, Bigelow Aerospace, has been very vocal about its desire to hook up habitats to the ISS; the company wants to attach its next big inflatable habitat, the B330, to the ISS as early as 2020. One of Bigelow's experimental habitats is already connected to the ISS, though its stay is only temporary and meant to gather data about Bigelow's habitat technology. While the new ISS initiative is meant to foster innovation in the private sector, it will also presumably help jumpstart the space station's transition from a state-run project to one helmed by the private sector. The ISS is set to retire in 2024, and NASA is looking to move beyond lower Earth orbit and send humans to Mars by the mid-2030s. But before NASA abandons the ISS, the space agency wants to leave the orbiting lab in some private company's capable hands. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-Earth orbit," Bill Hill, NASA's deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, said at a press conference in August. President Barack Obama also said Tuesday that the country will send Americans to Mars by the 2030s and return them "safely to Earth," which is part of a long-term goal to "one day remain there for an extended time."

Barack Obama: America Will Take the Giant Leap To Mars, To Send People There by the 2030s ( 348

The United States President Barack Obama said Tuesday the country will send Americans to Mars by the 2030s and return them "safely to Earth." This is all part of a longer-term goal of making it possible to "one day remain there for an extended time," he added in an op-ed published on CNN. The effort will require cooperation between public and private space interests in meeting that goal, the president added. As a sign of forward progress, private space companies will send astronauts to the International Space Station within the next two years. "Someday, I hope to hoist my own grandchildren onto my shoulders. We'll still look to the stars in wonder, as humans have since the beginning of time," Obama wrote. "But instead of eagerly awaiting the return of our intrepid explorers, we'll know that because of the choices we make now, they've gone to space not just to visit, but to stay -- and in doing so, to make our lives better here on Earth." The White House in a joint blog post with NASA said that seven companies have received awards to develop habitation systems. And this fall, NASA will provide companies with the opportunity to add modules and other capabilities to the International Space Station.

'Space Brain': Mars Explorers May Risk Neural Damage, Study Finds ( 186

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Astronauts making a years-long voyage to Mars may get bombarded with enough cosmic radiation to seriously damage their brains, researchers reported Monday. The damage might be bad enough to affect memory and, worse, might heighten anxiety, the team at the University of California Irvine said. It's the second study the team has done to show that cosmic radiation causes permanent, and likely untreatable, brain damage. While their experiments involve mice, the brain structures that are damaged are similar, they write in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. NASA knows that astronauts risk physical damage from the radiation encountered in space. Earth is enveloped in a large, protective sheath called the magnetosphere, which deflects a lot of the ionizing radioactive particles that speed through space. Teams aboard the International Space Station are inside that envelope. But moon travelers were not, and this summer a study showed the cosmic radiation may have damaged the hearts of many of the Apollo program astronauts. A trip to Mars would expose astronauts to even more radiation -- enough to cause cancer, for sure, and now this research suggests brain damage, as well. They bombarded mice with the same type of radiation that would be encountered in space, and then looked at what happened to their brains. It did not look good. The changes were seen in the connections between brain cells and in the cells, as well. "Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel -- such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making. Many of these adverse consequences to cognition may continue and progress throughout life."

MuckRock Identifies The Oldest US Government Computer Still in Use ( 60

Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: When MuckRock started using public records to find the oldest computer in use by the U.S. government, they scoured the country -- but it wasn't until a few tipsters that they set their sights a little higher and found that the oldest computer in use by the government might be among other planets entirely.
The oldest computer still in use by the U.S. government appears to be the on-board systems for the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes -- nearly 40 years old, and 12.47 billion miles away from earth. (Last year NASA put out a call for a FORTRAN programmer to upgrade the probes' software.) But an earlier MuckRock article identified their oldest software still in use on earth -- "the computers inside the IRS that makes sure everybody is paying their taxes". And it also identified their oldest hardware still in use -- "the machines running the nuclear defense system". (The launch commands are still stored on 8-inch floppy disks.)

New Study Suggests There's a Limit To How Long People Can Live ( 290

Life expectancies have risen in many countries around the world thanks to breakthroughs in medical treatment and sanitation in the last century. The maximum age of death has also increased. But as these numbers continue to rise, it raises the question as to how long can people live? ABC News reports: The record for the world's oldest person is 122 years and the odds of shattering that record are slim, according to an analysis published Wednesday in the journal Nature. In the new study, researchers [at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York] analyzed mortality data from a global database. They found that while there have been strides in reducing deaths among certain groups -- children, women during childbirth and the elderly -- the rate of improvement was slower for the very old, those over 100 years old. Next they examined how old centenarians were when they died. The record holder is Jeanne Calment, of France, who lived until 122 years old. Since her death in 1997, no one has broken her record. The researchers calculated the odds of someone reaching 125 years in a given year are less than 1 in 10,000. They think the human life span more likely maxes out at 115 years. Some aging specialists said the study doesn't take into account advances that have been made in extending the life span -- and health -- of certain laboratory animals including mice, worms and flies through genetic manipulation and other techniques. The goal is to eventually find treatments that might slow the aging process in humans and keep them healthier longer.

Blue Origin Lands Rocket During Launch Escape Test ( 89

SpaceX isn't the only private company interested in reusable rockets. Blue Origin, an American privately-funded aerospace manufacturer established by founder Jeff Bezos, surprised everyone, including itself, by successfully landing its New Shepard rocket in today's in-flight launch escape test. Gizmodo reports: Moments ago, Blue Origin conducted an in flight test of its launch escape system, separating a crew capsule from its New Shepard booster at an altitude of 16,000 feet. This test was critical to ensure that the rocket will be safe for human passengers, whom Blue Origin hopes to start flying into sub-orbital space as early as next year. Not only did the crew capsule make a clean separation, deploy its parachutes, and land softly in a small cloud of dust back on Earth, but the booster -- which everybody expected to go splat -- continued on its merry way into suborbital space, after which it succeeded in landing smoothly back on Earth for a fifth time. Although Blue Origin has tested its launch escape system on the launchpad before, this is the first time such a system has been tested, by anyone, in flight since the 1960s. It was almost too perfect. You can watch the test here.

Boeing CEO Vows To Beat Elon Musk To Mars ( 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg sketched out a Jetsons-like future at a conference Tuesday, envisioning a commercial space-travel market with dozens of destinations orbiting the Earth and hypersonic aircraft shuttling travelers between continents in two hours or less. And Boeing intends to be a key player in the initial push to send humans to Mars, maybe even beating Musk to his long-time goal. "I'm convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said at the Chicago event on innovation, which was sponsored by the Atlantic magazine. Like Musk's SpaceX, Boeing is focused on building out the commercial space sector near earth as spaceflight becomes more routine, while developing technology to venture far beyond the moon. The Chicago-based aerospace giant is working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to develop a heavy-lift rocket called the Space Launch System for deep space exploration. Boeing and SpaceX are also the first commercial companies NASA selected to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing built the first stage for the Saturn V, the most powerful U.S. rocket ever built, which took men to the moon. Nowadays, Muilenburg sees space tourism closer to home "blossoming over the next couple of decades into a viable commercial market." The International Space Station could be joined in low-earth orbit by dozens of hotels and companies pursuing micro-gravity manufacturing and research, he said. Muilenburg said Boeing will make spacecraft for the new era of tourists. He also sees potential for hypersonic aircraft, traveling at upwards of three times the speed of sound.

India Ratifies The Paris Climate Change Agreement ( 130

"India just ratified the Paris climate deal -- bringing it extremely close to taking effect," reports the Washington Post, calling India the world's fourth-largest producer of greenhouse gas. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes NPR's update on the Paris agreement: It will not become binding until it's ratified by 55 countries that contribute a total of at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The 55-country requirement has already been fulfilled -- India is No. 62 -- but...the current signatories account for about 52 percent of global greenhouse emissions, according to a statement released by the U.N. on Sunday.

India currently produces about 4.5 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions [and] has set a goal of producing 40 percent of its electricity with non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. India also promised to plant or preserve enough tree cover to act as a sink for at least 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and has called on the U.S. and other fully developed countries to share technologies that help decrease emissions.


Scientists Identify Another Source of Dangerous Greenhouse Gases: Reservoirs ( 159

A team of researchers from Canada, Holland, China, the U.S. and Brazil "found that greenhouse gas emissions from man-made reservoirs were likely equal to the equivalent of one gigaton of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere every year...a little less than one-sixth of the United State's greenhouse gas emissions." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Popular Science: A reservoir is usually created by damming a river, overflowing the banks and flooding the surrounding area, creating a man-made lake...the perfect conditions for microbes to generate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane (a gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide)... "When reservoirs are first flooded there's organic matter in the soil and vegetation that can be converted by microbes into methane and carbon dioxide," John Harrison, a co-author of the paper, tells Popular Science.

"Also, reservoirs because they are in line in rivers, they receive a lot of organic matter and organic sediment from upstream that can fuel the production of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide." Harrison says that reservoirs also tend to occur in areas where fertilizers are used on the surrounding land. Runoff from those fertilizers into bodies of water can cause algal blooms that can also produce more methane and carbon dioxide.

If the world's reservoirs were a country, they'd be #8 on a list of polluters -- right behind Brazil, China, the EU and the U.S.

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