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Extinction Countdown

Sunday Species Snapshot: Blue-Crowned Laughingthrush

Blue-crowned laughingthrush

There isn’t much to laugh about when we’re talking about the blue-crowned laughingthrush. Only about 250 of these rare birds, whose songs sound like human laughter, remain in the wild. Species name: Blue-crowned laughingthrush (Garrulax courtoisi), also known as the Courtois’s laughingbird. The birds have only been recognized as their own species since 2006 (prior [...]

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Extinction Countdown

How the Western Black Rhino Went Extinct

western black rhino

Oh what a difference a century makes. At the beginning of the 20th century, an estimated one million black rhinoceroses from four different subspecies roamed the savannas of Africa. By 2001 that number had dropped to about 2,300 black rhinos and just three subspecies. This is the tale of how we lost one of those [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Sunday Species Snapshot: White-Cheeked Gibbon

white cheeked gibbon roger smith

These arboreal lesser apes evolved for life in the trees. But when people cut those trees down the gibbons had nowhere left to go. Species name: Northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys). The northern and southern (N. siki) gibbons were only recognized as separate species a few years ago. Where found: Very small regions of Vietnam, [...]

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Extinction Countdown

22 Links for World Rhino Day as Poaching Levels Shoot Past 2012′s Deadly Record

southern white rhino

Statistically speaking, at least two rhinos will probably be killed by poachers today. The criminals will descend upon the fallen animals, chop off their horns and disappear. Those horns will then begin their long journey to China or Vietnam where they will be ground up and sold as “cures” for ailments ranging from cancer to [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Rare Monkey Population up 50 Percent in China and Tibet

black snub-nosed money Franziska Bauer

Two decades ago just 50 black snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus bieti) lived in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. This January a survey revealed that number had risen to an amazing 700 animals. Now further surveys of the monkeys’ other populations in China bring us even more good news: The total population for this endangered species [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Pangolins in Peril: All 8 Species of Scaly Anteaters Endangered by Illegal Trade

pangolin

Dan Challender remembers the first time he saw someone eat a pangolin. As part of his research into the consumer demand and illegal trade of the small mammals—often referred to as scaly anteaters—he found himself in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012. To help his research Challender made friends with the restaurant [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Satellite Reveals Possible Habitats for Rare Apes in China and Vietnam

Cao Vit Gibbon

Fan Peng-Fei of China’s Dali University was worried the first time he entered the forest habitat of the critically endangered cao vit gibbon (Nomascus nasutus). The isolated forest, skirting the China–Vietnam border, had been heavily degraded by years of agricultural development, firewood collection and charcoal production. What little forest remained provided poor habitat for the [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Poachers Have Killed 62 Percent of Forest Elephants in the Past Decade

forest elephant ivory

Central Africa has become increasingly inhospitable to forest elephants, according to a study published March 4 in PLoS One that found that 62 percent of the species was killed by poachers between 2002 and 2011. The study—by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and more than a dozen other institutions—also found that 30 percent [...]

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Extinction Countdown

5 Turtles from Nearly Extinct Species Fly Home to Hong Kong

golden coin turtles

Asia’s turtles and tortoises are in an extinction crisis. Few species embody that more than the critically endangered golden coin turtle (Cuora trifasciata), which is so valued in the illegal pet trade and for its use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that a single specimen can fetch $25,000 or more on the black market. The [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Giant Pandas at Risk from New Chinese Forestry Policies

giant panda

China’s efforts to conserve and grow its populations of endangered giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are at odds with its own changing forestry policies, which could damage or destroy up to 15 percent of the pandas’ habitat, according to conservationists writing in the February 1 issue of Science. At the heart of the matter is a [...]

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Food Matters

What Is Success?

Says the Raven. PHOTO BY ARJAN RAVEN

“Goodbye don’t mean gone.” – attributed to Ray Charles “Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.” – Flannery O’Connor When New York calls, you listen, you go. That’s what two decidedly non-scientist role models in my life, Ray Charles and [...]

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Guest Blog

Researchers Discover Hacker-Ready Computer Chips

Computer Chip X-Ray

A pair of security researchers in the U.K. have released a paper [PDF] documenting what they describe as the “first real world detection of a backdoor” in a microchip—an opening that could allow a malicious actor to monitor or change the information on the chip. The researchers, Sergei Skorobogatov of the University of Cambridge and [...]

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Observations

China Crushes Ivory, but Must Do More to Fight Wildlife Crime

China

In a development that has conservationists abuzz, Chinese officials crushed 6.1 tons of confiscated elephant ivory earlier today in a ceremony in Guangzhou. The move comes two months after the U.S. pulverized its six-ton stockpile of ivory contraband to signal that it will not tolerate the illegal wildlife trade, and one month ahead of a [...]

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Observations

China Moon Rover Landing Marks a Space Program on the Rise

China

China cemented its reputation as the fastest rising star on the space scene this weekend by landing a rover on the moon—a challenging feat pulled off by only two nations before: the U.S. and the Soviet Union. “This is a very big deal indeed,” says lunar scientist Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute [...]

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Observations

How China’s Pet Dogs Might Save Wild Tigers

tiger

On the streets of Beijing, little old ladies coax even littler dogs to do their business. Some even bear the little plastic bags carried by civically conscious urbanite pet-lovers everywhere. Yet in cities across China one can also still find dog on the menu, as I can personally attest. This divide between a growing middle [...]

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Observations

What Do China’s New Policies Mean for the Environment?

china-high-speed-train

BEIJING—A Chinese high speed train whispers into the station, before finally engaging the brakes and coming to a stop with a sound like the tinkling of breaking glass. Five years ago, such trains hardly existed. In the span of one Communist-style planning period, China has built a high-speed train network that now crosses the entire [...]

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Observations

More Solar Panels at the White House

white-house

The Washington Post‘s indefatigable Juliet Eilperin got an unnamed official at the White House to confirm that solar panels are being reinstalled at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this week—fulfilling a promise made by the Obama administration three years ago. President Jimmy Carter famously put solar hot-water heating panels on the White House roof in the 1970s [...]

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Observations

Who Is Fooling Whom When It Comes to Combating Climate Change?

obama-and-xi

400 PPM: What’s Next for a Warming Planet Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached this level for the first time in millions of years. What does this portend? » Here’s the scam. A Chinese company manufactures hydrofluorocarbons, the refrigerant gases partially responsible for climate change. The gases can efficiently be turned into cash, [...]

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Observations

Can Cities Be Both “Resilient” and “Sustainable”?

gowanus-canal

This article arises from Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University. On the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 24, Future Tense and Scientific American will be hosting an event in New York City on building resilient cities. To learn more and to RSVP, visit the New America Foundation website. [...]

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Observations

Best Countries in Science: SA‘s Global Science Scorecard

“Global society operates as a network of creativity and innovation.”–John Sexton, writing in Scientific American. In the October 2012 issue, we publish our Global Science Scorecard, a ranking of nations on how well they do science—not only on the quality and quantity of basic research but also on their ability to project that research into [...]

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Observations

U.S. Battery-Maker Says China May Lead the World in Electric Vehicles

Despite the hip advertising seen in the U.S. for electric cars such as the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, analysts indicate that the vehicles will only make up a small percentage of the market for years to come. But a recent deal between a Boston-based battery maker and a major Chinese auto company shows that [...]

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Observations

Imagination + a Little Movie Magic = a Volkswagen Hover Car Silently Navigating City Streets [Video]

Volkswagen,hover car,magnetic

A year ago, Volkswagen in China launched a marketing campaign called The People’s Car Project (PCP), which invited Chinese customers to submit ideas for cars of the future. Participants were able to tinker with designs on a Web site that Volkswagen set up for that purpose, or they could upload their own designs. Wang Jia, [...]

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Plugged In

When, not if, China taps into shale gas

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Think of China as an energy consumption behemoth, but also an energy production behemoth.

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Plugged In

Smog shuts down Harbin, China, as seen from space.

Harbin_smog_385

NASA’s Aqua satellite captured an image of smog that paralyzed the northeastern Chinese city of 10 million.

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Plugged In

China enveloped in smog, as seen from space. Again.

China_smog_Oct_2013_385

Heavy smog that paralyzed eastern China is visible from space in this satellite image from NASA.

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Plugged In

What if the Chinese consumed as much oil as Americans?

Credit: South China Morning Post

China has an opportunity to leapfrog the oil-intense Western lifestyle. Will it?

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Plugged In

China is now the world’s largest oil importer – in one graph

China_flag

China is leading the United States in… net oil imports!

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Plugged In

Don’t just blame the EPA – coal exports are down, too

coalbarge_seine_385

It’s important to understand that not all of the bad news for the coal industry is coming by way of the EPA. While the CO2 limits for new coal and gas plants complicates domestic power generation, the global market for U.S. coal is softening. Up until several months ago, many people (myself included) were expecting [...]

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