New species face threats amid Madagascar turmoil

From giant palms to mouse-sized lemurs, unique plants and animals are threatened on Madagascar as political deadlock drags on since a 2009 coup.

Conservation group the World Wildlife Fund drew attention to the Indian Ocean island’s natural wealth in a report released today that looks at the more than 600 new species discovered on the island between 1999 and 2010. Many of the new finds are already endangered, the group said, in large part because deforestation is destroying their habitat.

Madagascar’s rain forests, with their precious rosewood and other timber, were pillaged amid the instability and political and economic isolation that followed the 2009 coup, the WWF said in its report “Treasure Island: New biodiversity in Madagascar.”


Antimatter atoms trapped by researchers at collider

Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider trapped atoms of the elusive antimatter form of hydrogen for nearly 17 minutes, a major step toward understanding what happened to this mysterious form of matter when the universe was created 13.6 billion years ago.

Physicists plan to study the antihydrogen to see how it interacts with gravity and other forces of nature, looking for slight differences between its behavior and that of normal hydrogen. Such differences might explain why normal matter dominates the universe and antimatter is virtually nonexistent.

Current theories hold that matter and antimatter were created in equal quantities during the Big Bang. Antimatter could have been annihilated when it came into contact with normal matter, but if they were formed in equal quantities, there would be no universe left. Researchers hope that examining the properties of antihydrogen and other forms of antimatter in precise detail will explain the discrepancy.


Volcanic eruptions force people from their homes

A volcano in the Caulle Cordon of southern Chile erupted for a second day Sunday, shooting out pumice stones and sending a cloud of ash six miles high and three miles wide.

Flights in the region were canceled and more than 3,500 people stayed away from their homes near the volcano. Most of the residents in 22 settlements near the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex evacuated when the eruption began Saturday afternoon and were staying in government shelters or friends’ homes. One group of 122 people were being moved from a shelter for fear that the eruption could cause flooding on the Nilahue River.

— From news service reports