Noel W. Hinners, Voice for Scientific Research at NASA, Dies at 78

Noel W. Hinners, a geologist and soil chemist who helped NASA launch some of its farthest-reaching scientific probes into space – to retrieve moon rocks, map the surface of Mars and peer beyond intergalactic dust to where stars are born – died on Friday in Littleton, Colo. He was 78…Dr. Hinners, who held various titles as an administrator and chief scientist for NASA in the 1970s and ’80s, was the main advocate for pure scientific research in an organization ruled by rocket engineers and pilots…Dr. Hinners graduated from Rutgers University in 1958 with a degree in soil science and agricultural research, and with thoughts of a career in agriculture.

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A Front Line Against Ebola Runs Through Newark’s Terminal B

Erica J. Sison has dealt with sick and dead dogs and cats, 40 dead lab rats in bags, trophy animals, cooked monkey meat on sticks, human skulls from Indonesia and a live Asian bat that flew out of an airplane cargo hold. Now she is poised for Ebola, and has seen three false alarms in the last two weeks…Ms. Sison, 36, who has degrees in chemistry and public health and is completing her doctorate in epidemiology at Rutgers, took the post five years ago. She found out about it while working at the Newark city health department, on a measles case with the airport quarantine office.

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Food Safety in China Still Faces Big Hurdles

China has been scrambling to right its gargantuan processed-food ship ever since six infants died and thousands more were hospitalized with kidney damage in 2008 from milk adulterated with an industrial chemical. But as the latest scandal involving spoiled meat in fast-food shows, the attempted transformation over the last six years has run up against the country’s centuries-old and sprawling food supply chain…"The way I keep explaining China to people is that it’s kind of like the U.S. in the time of Upton Sinclair and ‘The Jungle,’"; said Don Schaffner, a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University and president of the International Association for Food Protection, referring to the 1906 novel that described unsanitary conditions in the meatpacking industry and inspired reform. "There is tremendous desire by the Chinese to get it right, but they have a long way to go."

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An Exaltation of Moths, Much-Maligned Kin of the Butterfly

The night was still young and a tad too breezy. But already, more than a hundred people were gathered around a series of fluttering, black-lighted sheets in the middle of the New Jersey Meadowlands, waiting for their quarry. They were looking for the nocturnal members of the order Lepidoptera, at one of dozens of events organized in the New York region as part of National Moth Week…For the organizers, the moth events are a way to dispel some of the myths about moths – that they are brown and drab, that they eat tomato plants and nibble at sweaters. "Only a very few are pests," said Elena Tartaglia, who has a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from Rutgers University and specializes in hawk moths.

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Embrace the Fuzz of New Jersey’s Peaches

At Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, midsummer brings peach season, when Jason DeGise and James Spollen, the owners, are constantly reminded that the public can be out of touch with peaches in their natural state…New Jersey is the fourth-largest peach producing state, behind California, South Carolina and Georgia, reaping roughly 60 million tons of peaches and nectarines per year, according to Jerome L. Frecon, a horticultural consultant to the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council in Glassboro…"We’re always working on something new to improve the size or flavor, or to lengthen the growing season," said Joseph C. Goffreda, 53, the director of the Rutgers Fruit and Ornamental Research Extension Center in Cream Ridge. The typical growing season lasts from late July through Labor Day, he said.

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In Vietnam, Paying Communities to Preserve the Forests

Before the patrollers spotted the interlopers, they heard the sounds of illegal logging. When the two groups finally met, violence erupted and rocks flew, according to one of the patrollers, Huynh Van Nghia…Mr. Nghia and the other patrollers, a band of about 30 farmers, essentially work as freelance park rangers under a 2010 law that established a nationwide incentive program in which companies – mainly state-owned hydropower operations – pay communities to protect watersheds…So far, the payments are "not really paying for environmental services – they’re essentially labor contracts," Pamela McElwee, a professor at Rutgers University who studies environmental policies in Vietnam, said recently in Hanoi.

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A Growth Spurt at 1,500 Years Old

Signy Island, which lies 375 miles off Antarctica, has too harsh an environment to support a single tree. Its mountains are girdled instead by banks of moss. "It’s just like a big, green, spongy expanse," said Peter Convey, an ecologist at the British Antarctic Survey who has worked on Signy Island for 25 years…Blankets of permafrost have grown on the island for thousands of years, since the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age…In 2007, Paul G. Falkowski of Rutgers University and his colleagues reported reviving bacteria trapped in Antarctic ice for eight million years. The idea that bacteria can survive for so long has inspired a lot of debate. "It gets controversial pretty quickly," said Dr. Jay Lennon of Indiana University, who was not involved in Dr. Falkowski’s study.

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Peter Rona, 79, Explorer of Ocean Depths, Dies

Peter A. Rona, an oceanographer who dived into the depths of the world’s seas and surprised his peers by discovering vast mounds spewing hot smoke at the bottom of the icy Atlantic, exciting interests in deep-sea mining and the origins of life on earth, died on Feb. 20 in Plainsboro, N.J. He was 79. The cause was complications related to multiple myeloma, according to Rutgers University, where Dr. Rona was a professor of earth and planetary sciences. Fascinated by the mysteries of what he called "the last frontier on earth," Dr. Rona specialized in exploring the dark abyss for more than a half-century, starting around 1960…"I was one of those kids who collected rocks and minerals, climbed mountains, loved the outdoors and identified with geology," he told a Rutgers publication.

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The Flood Next Time

The little white shack at the water’s edge in Lower Manhattan is unobtrusive – so much so that the tourists strolling the promenade at Battery Park the other day did not give it a second glance. Up close, though, the roof of the shed behind a Coast Guard building bristled with antennas and other gear. Though not much bigger than a closet, this facility is helping scientists confront one of the great environmental mysteries of the age…Up and down the Eastern Seaboard, municipal planners want to know: How bad are things going to get, and how fast? One of the most ambitious attempts to take account of all known factors came just a few weeks ago from Kenneth G. Miller and Robert E. Kopp of Rutgers University, and a handful of their colleagues. Their calculations, centered on New Jersey, suggest this is not just some problem of the distant future.

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Polar Vortex: Temperatures Fall Far, Fast

Meteorologists called it "weather whiplash" – a drop of roughly 50 degrees in a matter of hours that took temperatures from 55 in Central Park on Monday morning to a record low of 5 overnight and an expected high on Tuesday of only 10. The last time temperatures in New York fell that much in such a short time, Warren G. Harding was in the White House…David A. Robinson, New Jersey’s state climatologist and a professor at Rutgers, said the huge one-day temperature swing was not particularly surprising given the other weather extremes of recent weeks. "We’ve had this amplified pattern for the past six weeks or so," he said. "With it, we’ve had record warmth. We’ve had record cold. The fact is it’s happened, and we don’t know exactly why."

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