SciTech Briefs

America’s house cats more violent than thought

A new analysis conducted by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute found that domestic cats have been killing more wild birds than scientists thought. America’s domestic and feral cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds per year, a number that is drastically larger than the previously estimated 500 million.

These numbers were determined by studies assessing the hunting habits of cats in the United States. The result from calculating the percentage of cats that live outdoors, the percentage of household cats that are occasionally allowed out, and the amount of hunting a cat will normally do when outside was “alarming.” Conservationists have tried capturing and neutering wild cats, but the process has been too time consuming and expensive.

Source: Science News

Wristwatch to help combat sexual violence in India

In response to the string of violent gang-rapes of female bus passengers in New Delhi and Gurdaspur, Indian officials are developing an innovative wristwatch that can help protect women. The watch’s main feature is a button that sends a text message to close relatives and the nearest police station.

A GPS inside the watch will determine the wearer’s location and a small camera will record for 30 minutes after the button is pressed. The prototype for this wristwatch is due to be released in half a year. While rape-prevention technology is a step in the right direction, some are skeptical on how effective it will be.

“I don’t think this will make any difference in controlling rape cases,” said Sehba Farooqui, a women’s rights activist in Delhi.

Source: Discovery News

South Korea launches first successful satellite

After three failed attempts in the past four years to launch a civilian rocket, South Korea launched its first space rocket carrying a science satellite last Wednesday. While previous launches failed within minutes, this rocket, named Naro, successfully entered orbit.

However, South Korea is still far behind its rivals, China and Japan, in space efforts. While South Korea is capable of producing satellites, it has relied on other countries to put them into orbit. South Korea plans to build a rocket on its own by 2018 and eventually send a probe to the moon. South Korea’s rocket program is an issue of contention with neighboring North Korea, which is included in the United Nations’ sanctions for launching long-range rockets.

Source: Reuters

Storm on Saturn travels the globe; then swallows self

Scientists from NASA’s Cassini mission recently published a paper detailing a 267-day-long storm on Saturn. The storm was tracked by Cassini’s radio and plasma wave subsystem and imaging cameras. It erupted at the 33 degrees north latitude and moved west, covering 190,000 miles and wrapping around the planet. Unlike terrestrial storms that run into mountains and other topographic features, causing them to die out, Saturn’s storm traveled all the way around the planet — unimpeded by any land features — until it reached where it began. At this point, the storm ran into itself and mysteriously dissipated, putting an end to one of Saturn’s longest-running storms.

Source: Astronomy Magazine