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Methane Hydrate

A chunk of methane hydrate looks like a piece of ice. But it’s really highly concentrated molecules of methane — the chief constituent of natural gas — trapped in a cage-like lattice of ice. As it melts, huge amounts of methane bubble out. These hydrates have been an isolated curiosity in the lab for a century. …

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Helium Conservation

The element helium makes up one quarter of the mass of the visible universe . . . . . . but only about one millionth of one percent of Earth’s atmosphere and crust. That’s because helium is so light that — once released into the atmosphere — it escapes into outer space. Also, helium’s an …

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Satellites and Disease

On the use of satellites orbiting Earth in helping to stop the spread of disease. For example, malaria is carried by a certain kind of mosquito. Nearly two million people, mostly children, die of this disease every year. And about 90% of cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Epidemiologists are now using satellite data …

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Cool Sounds

Most modern refrigerators use chemicals called Hydro-Chloroflurocarbons — or HCFCs. If these chemicals leak into the air, they act as greenhouse gases. They’re thousands of times better at holding in heat than carbon dioxide. That’s why scientists at Penn State University are developing more environmentally friendly refrigerators. Instead of using HCFC’s, the new fridges use …

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Saturn’s Rings

In Ocboer of 2002, the Cassini spacecraft took its first picture of the planet Saturn. The picture shows Saturn’s trademark — its glorious rings. Philip Nicholson: A lot of us … who work on the rings became fascinated by them partly because they’re just so beautiful and so elegant. And that hasn’t gone away. That’s Phillip …

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