BBC: The isolation and initial study of graphene occurred at Manchester University in the UK. Now the British government is increasing its investment in research on the novel material. A previous investment of £12 million ($19.3 million) and almost £10 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will be divided among the following universities: the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, Durham University, the University of Manchester, the University of Exeter, and Royal Holloway. Along with their industrial partners, the universities will also contribute another £14 million. All the selected universities have existing research projects to examine and take advantage of graphene’s unique properties. Chancellor George Osbourne, who announced the investment, says the funds are to help transfer technology from laboratories to factories.
Nature: A new examination of satellite data has revealed that a 2005 drought in the Amazon basin was so severe that damage to the canopy remained four years later. Earlier studies using reflected solar radiation to determine the “greenness” of the basin provided contradictory results because clouds and aerosols could influence the data. Sassan Saatchi of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California used microwave satellite imagery of the area to measure the canopy’s structure instead of its greenness. Where the canopy was full, the images were smooth; where it was damaged, the images were rough. Saatchi found that more than 70 million hectares of rainforest were affected by the drought. By the time the satellite failed in 2009, much of that area had not returned to pre-drought conditions. Saatchi hopes to use a new satellite to examine the damage from another drought that occurred in 2010. He believes that if droughts become more frequent in the Amazon, it will be important to understand how the area continues to respond to the damage.
Ars Technica: A jury has awarded Carnegie Mellon University $1.17 billion in damages in the university’s patent infringement lawsuit against Marvell Superconductor. If the jury’s decision is not overturned or the penalty reduced, it will be the largest patent infringement fine ever, and will cost Marvell more than one year’s profits. At the heart of the lawsuit are two patents for reducing the noise that occurs when computers read hard disks. Carnegie Mellon alleged that Marvell sold 2.34 billion computer chips that violated the patents, while Marvell claimed it had patent rights that predated the university’s. The lawsuit itself highlights a growing trend of universities filing lawsuits over the patents they own. Because universities don’t produce any products from their patents, they have the benefit of not being targets of countersuits. However, large decisions and settlements such as this one are not yet common, and most universities end up spending more on their patents than they gain via litigation.
Discovery News: The average yearly air temperature over the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has risen 2.4 °C since 1958. Derived from 50 years of temperature data collected from Byrd Station in the middle of the ice sheet, the increase is twice what current climate models predicted and triple the rate of most of the rest of the planet. Because most of the additional warming occurs during the summer, when temperatures are already at their highest, the risk that the ice shelves will destabilize is heightened. David Bromwich of the Ohio State University, who led the research, says that the shelves currently hold a large portion of Antarctica’s ice back from the oceans. If the ice shelves destabilize, the ensuing melting could make an even larger contribution to sea-level rise than currently predicted.