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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 1, 2009
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In brief
July 1, 2009   
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Watching Pond Turtles
Naturalists from the Polish Bird Protection Association are keeping a close watch on pond turtle females in the northeastern district of Mazuria. This is because the species is threatened with extinction and under strict protection. Researchers have attached transmitters and antennas to four females living in Napiwodzko-Ramucka and Piska Forests.

Observations have shown that pond turtle females lay eggs in dry and sunny places, mainly on southern slopes. They dig holes more than 10 centimeters deep in the ground, in which they lay from a few to 15 eggs. They cover their eggs with earth and return to water. Small turtles, which hatch out in August or early spring, leave their nests and head for boggy areas. Along the way, some of them fall prey to predators.

The exact size of the pond turtle population in northeastern Poland is unknown. The ongoing observations are important because the district is the northernmost habitat of the species. The research findings are expected to help protect the turtles and improve their living conditions by preserving boggy areas in forests.

Discoveries in Ancient Egyptian Port
Pieces of pottery with inscriptions written in a pre-Islamic language are among the artifacts found by a U.S.-Polish archeological mission in Berenice, an ancient seaport in Egypt.

The pottery, imported from the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, provides evidence that Berenice was a cosmopolitan city. The archeologists have identified 12 different languages on objects unearthed in Berenice.

Other finds in the area have included a high-quality relief-carved gemstone and two pieces of Syrian fir wood, which was highly valued in those times because of its aseptic resin, which was also used for mummification. The archeologists have also unearthed numerous papyri and ostraca, or pieces of pottery and stone containing scratched notes. They have identified Greek and Latin inscriptions confirming the receipt of drinking water supplies for a Roman garrison stationed in Berenice.

The international team of archeologists is headed by Prof. Steven Sidebotham of the University of Delaware and Iwona Zych of the University of Warsaw Center of Mediterranean Archeology. The archeologists resumed their excavations on the site earlier this year after a hiatus of eight years.

The seaport of Berenice was founded in the 3rd century BC by Egyptian king Ptolemy II (285-246 BC). The port served as a transshipment point for trade in African elephants.

Recycling Sewage Sludge
Researchers at the Institute of Mechanized Construction and Rock Mining in Warsaw have developed an artificial aggregate based on sewage sludge and municipal and mining waste.

Production of the aggregate is an efficient and economical way of recycling sewage sludge, the researchers say. The product may be used in the building materials industry as aggregate for lightweight concrete and for the production of concrete structural components; in agriculture as a substrate for plant growing; in environmental protection for water and sewage treatment; and as an insulation and drainage material.

The aggregate is produced in the process of thermal synthesis of sludge with the use of mineral municipal and mining waste at a temperature of around 1,100 degrees Celsius. Heavy metal compounds contained in sewage sludge are safe for the environment because they are part of the crystalline structure of the aggregate, according to the researchers.

The disposal and recycling of sludge from sewage treatment plants is a global problem. For many years sewage sludge has been used in agriculture. Since municipal waste is discharged together with industrial waste, sludge is contaminated with heavy metal compounds, organic matter, bacteria, fungi, parasite eggs and other dangerous substances. As a result, processed sludge cannot be used directly in agriculture.

"Our method of sewage sludge disposal is based on the assumption that different types of waste should be used and neutralized in a single process and that a commercial product-for example, lightweight aggregate suitable for wide application and meeting all product safety requirements-should be obtained as a result," says Stefan Góralczyk, D.Sc., director of the Institute of Mechanized Construction and Rock Mining.

Portable Radiation Detector
A team of researchers at the £ód¼ University of Technology have developed a portable detector for gamma and neutron radiation. The device makes it possible to measure radiation with the use of innovative neutron radiation dosimeters. These include a digital dosimeter sensitive to neutron radiation and used for measuring small doses of radiation. Another dosimeter, based on light emitting diodes (LED), is intended for measuring large doses of radiation. Both devices have excellent selectivity, which is particularly important when measuring radiation in accelerator tunnels, the researchers say.

The device has been designed by Dariusz Makowski, D.Sc., and Piotr Krasiński, M.Sc., of the Microelectronics and Information Technology Department at the £ód¼ University of Technology. They worked under the guidance of Prof. Andrzej Napieralski.

The researchers have developed an innovative method for measuring gamma radiation. The method guarantees high measurement accuracy within a broad range of radiation doses.

Radiochromic films are widely used in medicine, but using them for measuring radiation in an accelerator is a completely new idea, the researchers say. Radiochromic film is available in the form of sheets. The dose is read by measuring the film's shadowing, which depends on the level of radiation. The reading device contains a source of light and a photosensor. Both the photosensor and the component which generates light need to have high linearity and low sensitivity to external factors. A special system has been developed to monitor LEDs and minimize the effects caused by changes in their temperature.

Bears Under Surveillance
Researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Nature Conservation are planning to put special telemetric collars with transmitters on bears living in the Tatra and Bieszczady Mountains to trace the movement of these animals and study their behavior.

Because of crowds of tourists visiting the area, bears living in the Tatra Mountains are losing their natural fear of man and may even lose their instinct to find food, says Pawe³ Skawiński, director of the Tatra National Park. Bears in the Bieszczady mountains are wilder, according to Skawiński.

The researchers plan to use eight telemetric collars, six for bears living in the Bieszczady and two for bears in the Tatra Mountains.
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