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What Would Happen If Rainforests Were Destroyed?
The report, “Effects of Tropical Deforestation on Climate Change and Agriculture,” published today in Nature Climate Change and released in collaboration with Climate Focus provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the climate impacts of tropical forest destruction on agriculture in the tropics and thousands of miles away. Specifically, the study finds that deforestation in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa may alter growing conditions in agricultural areas in the tropics and as far away as the US Midwest, Europe and China.
The study is also the only global synthesis of research based on cutting-edge climate models and empirical data on the direct local, regional and global impacts of cutting down tropical forests, which regulate interactions between the earth and the atmosphere. It predicts that atmospheric impacts resulting from complete tropical deforestation could lead to a rise in global temperature of 0.7 degrees Celsius (on top of the impact from greenhouse gases), which would double the observed global warming since 1850. Currently, climate change negotiators are shaping policies that focus on greenhouse gases, in particular carbon. To date, they have overlooked policy responses that address other ways that forests affect climate.
“Tropical deforestation delivers a double whammy to the climate — and to farmers,” said Deborah Lawrence, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, the study’s lead author. “Most people know that climate change is a dangerous global problem, and that it’s caused by pumping carbon into the atmosphere. But it turns out that removing forests alters moisture and air flow, leading to changes — from fluctuating rainfall patterns to rises in temperatures — that are just as hazardous, and happen right away. The impacts go beyond the tropics — the United Kingdom and Hawaii could see an increase in rainfall while the US Midwest and Southern France could see a decline.”
The report presents compelling evidence that tropical deforestation is already affecting local and regional climates. Meteorological data, for example, show that in Thailand, the beginning of the dry season is experiencing less rainfall due to deforestation. And in parts of the Amazon, the world’s largest stretch of rainforest, the timing of once-predictable rainfall has shifted due to deforestation. In deforested regions, the wet season is delayed by two weeks; in forested regions, there are no changes.
“The study not only compiles highly relevant scientific literature, it will also help guide policy makers working on climate change. Tropical deforestation impacts weather patterns globally, which makes addressing deforestation one of the most important mitigation strategies,” adds Dr. Charlotte Streck, Director of Climate Focus.
Globalized Impacts of Deforestation
“Teleconnections,” associated with the mass movement of air and conditions in the upper atmosphere, have the potential to extend the impacts of tropical deforestation on climate globally. An increase in temperature in the tropics due to deforestation generates large upward-moving air masses. When these hit the upper atmosphere they cause ripples, or teleconnections, that flow outward in various directions, similar to the way in which an underwater earthquake can create a tsunami.
Models examined in the study showed that increased or complete deforestation could put the climate in some of the world’s most important agriculture regions off kilter. These variations in rainfall and spikes in temperature could occur across the world, according to the report.
For example, complete deforestation of the Amazon Basin would likely reduce rainfall in the US Midwest, Northwest and parts of the south during the agricultural season. The complete deforestation of Central Africa would likely cause declines in rainfall in the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the US Midwest and Northwest and increase it on the Arabian Peninsula. There could also be precipitation declines in Ukraine and Southern Europe.
“While complete deforestation is unlikely to occur, over the course of history, deforestation has continued as countries develop,” Lawrence said. “Further, this study fills gaps in our understanding of deforestation tipping points — and what could happen if we continue down this path.”
Turning up the heat, turning down the rain
Across the board, the study reports, deforestation poses risks to agriculture by causing an increase in average temperature, a decline in average rainfall and a change in the location and timing of rainfall. Deforestation, for example, would lead to a reduction in rainfall between 10-15 percent in the region surrounding where the deforestation took place.
According to Lawrence, there is almost always an increase in temperature with deforestation. “This does not change, no matter what you do — no matter what kind of model you use, temperature increases occur — whether it’s half a degree, a full degree or two degrees.”
“That’s a very big deal,” said Lawrence. “In the last few centuries, the average global temperature has never varied by more than about one degree. Once we go above one degree — to 1.5 degrees or more — we’re talking about conditions that are very different from anything humanity has ever experienced.” Because crops are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture, she added, they would suffer in hotter conditions. Increased floods or decreases in soil moisture would further add to stress on crops.
“Farmers, so reliant on consistent and reliable growing conditions, could lose their bearings and even their incomes, when facing these ups and downs in temperature and rainfall,” Lawrence said. “While farmers may ultimately adapt to shifts in the season, it’s difficult — if not impossible — for farmers to adapt to increased floods or parched soils.”
Forests: Not Lungs but Sweat Glands
Because forests turn water from soil into moisture in the air, they cool the atmosphere above them. Tropical forests move more water than any other ecosystem on land. They are central to the earth’s process of generating and regenerating moisture, so clearing ever-larger swathes of forest eventually leads to a drying and warming effect. By disturbing the movement of air in remote parts of the atmosphere, tropical deforestation throws temperature and rainfall patterns worldwide out of whack.
The impact of deforestation is diverse and varies across regions and scales — from small plots of farmland in the midst of the rainforest to large swathes of cattle pasture bordered by forests — but the more deforestation that occurs, the greater the impact.
“Tropical forests are often talked about as the ‘lungs of the earth,’ but they’re more like the sweat glands,” said Lawrence. “They give off a lot of moisture, which helps keep the planet cool. That crucial function is lost — and even reversed — when forests are destroyed.”
The study found that relatively small plots of deforestation can actually increase rainfall at a local scale. There is, however, a critical clearing size above which rainfall declines dramatically.
Models studied in the report show that in the Amazon and, possibly, in the Congo Basin, 30-50 percent may be the deforestation tipping point. Any additional forest clearing would lead to rainfall reductions that could significantly change ecosystems, and compound the risk of additional dangers, such as an increase in forest fires.
The location of deforested areas can also affect their impacts on regional climates, the study finds. Deforesting West Africa or the Congo could reduce rainfall across the region by 40-50% and increase temperatures there up to 3°C. Regional scale models project that in the Amazon Basin, clearing 40% of the forest would decrease wet-season rainfall by 12% and dry-season rainfall by 21%. It would also reduce by 4% rainfall in the Rio de la Plata Basin, a center for soy, corn and wheat production, thousands of miles south of the Amazon. Because Southeast Asia is surrounded by oceans, the impact of deforestation on regional temperatures and rainfall may be less severe.
To reduce the effects of deforestation on climate change, the data suggest it would be best to retain large swathes of forest across the tropical forest belt and to avoid large-scale deforestation in any single location.
Lawrence added that climate-change negotiators and other policymakers should take the impacts of deforestation seriously. “What happens on the surface of the earth (in terms of changes in vegetation) is a big factor in climate change. We ignore it at our own peril.”
Read more at http://www.geologyin.com/2014/12/what-would-happen-if-rainforests-were.html#MOLmoEpHbwbPI7UV.99
Why is Ice Important In the Artic?
Sea ice is the single most important feature of coastal Arctic regions. Its presence or absence affects travel, weather and the presence of sea mammals. Its thickness determines the route one takes when travelling by land. As the distribution of ice changes, life in the Arctic changes.
Sea ice is the most visible feature in an Arctic climate. Sea ice dominates many areas of the Arctic for between nine and twelve months of the year. Some areas of the high Arctic have remained unfrozen since the fourteenth century or earlier!
Ocean currents determine the distribution of sea ice, and many forms of marine life are influenced by the extent of its coverage.
The reflection from snow-covered pack ice helps keep temperatures low. Because they cool the air, sea ice surfaces can generate fog and low cloud. This makes it difficult to navigate, either by land or sea.
Latitude, elevation and closeness to sea ice change seasonal temperatures in arctic regions. The coldest temperatures usually occur during the months of December, January, February and March, when they can drop as low as -35° C. In May, daily temperatures in the Arctic Islands can change by as much as 20° C in the winter.
In the short Arctic summer, daily temperatures can rise to as high as 10° C in July, with sheltered localities such as Hot Weather Creek on Ellesmere Island experiencing daily temperature maximums up to 5° C higher.
The amount of rain and snow in the Canadian Arctic Islands is actually extremely low when you compare it to locations further south. Most areas of the Arctic get between two and thirty cm of rain and snow each year. In fact, much the Canadian high Arctic is classified as polar desert.
Annual rates of snow and rain vary each season – most occurs during the months of July and August and the lowest is during the months of February and March, where most moisture is snow. Sometimes the Arctic can experience weird weather. In 1939, for example, heavy rainfall was reported at the North Pole!
What is a rock?
A rock is a solid made up of a bunch of different minerals. Rocks are generally not uniform or made up of exact structures that can be described by scientific formulas. Scientists generally classify rocks by how they were made or formed. There are three major types of rocks: Metamorphic, Igneous, and Sedimentary.
Metamorphic Rocks – Metamorphic rocks are formed by great heat and pressure. They are generally found inside the Earth’s crust where there is enough heat and pressure to form the rocks. Metamorphic rocks are often made from other types of rock. For example, shale, a sedimentary rock, can be changed, or metamorphosed, into a metamorphic rock such as slate or gneiss. Other examples of metamorphic rocks include marble, anthracite, soapstone, and schist.
Igneous Rocks – Igneous rocks are formed by volcanoes. When a volcano erupts, it spews out hot molten rock called magma or lava. Eventually the magma will cool down and harden, either when it reaches the Earth’s surface or somewhere within the crust. This hardened magma or lava is called igneous rock. Examples of igneous rocks include basalt and granite.
Sedimentary Rocks – Sedimentary rocks are formed by years and years of sediment compacting together and becoming hard. Generally, something like a stream or river will carry lots of small pieces of rocks and minerals to a larger body of water. These pieces will settle at the bottom and over a really long time (perhaps millions of years), they will form into solid rock. Some examples of sedimentary rocks are shale, limestone, and sandstone.
The Rock Cycle
Rocks are constantly changing in what is called the rock cycle. It takes millions of years for rocks to change.
Here is an example of the rock cycle describing how a rock can change from igneous to sedimentary to metamorphic over time.
1. Melted rock or magma is sent to the earth’s surface by a volcano. It cools and forms an igneous rock.
2. Next the weather, or a river, and other events will slowly break up this rock into small pieces of sediment.
3. As sediment builds up and hardens over years, a sedimentary rock is formed.
4. Slowly this sediment rock will get covered with other rocks and end up deep in the Earth’s crust.
5. When the pressure and heat get high enough, the sedimentary rock will metamorphose into a metamorphic rock and the cycle will start over again.
One thing to note is that rocks don’t need to follow this specific cycle. They may change from one type to another and back again in practically any order.
There are actually some rocks that come from space called meteorites. They may have different elements or mineral make up than a typical earth rock. Typically they are made up mostly of iron.
Interesting Facts about Rocks
The word “igneous” comes from the Latin word “ignis” which means “of fire.”
Ores are rocks that include minerals that have important elements such as metals like gold and silver.
Sedimentary rocks form layers at the bottoms of oceans and lakes.
Marble is a metamorphic rock formed when limestone is exposed to high heat and pressure within the Earth.
Layers of sedimentary rocks are called strata.
How Plants Survive in the Desert
It’s hot in the desert. It’s awful dry too. Succulent plants such as cacti, aloes, and agaves, beat the dry heat by storing plenty of water in their roots, stems, or leaves.
How? For starters, when it does rain, succulents absorb a lot of water quickly. In the desert, water evaporates rapidly, never sinking deep into the soil. Thus, most succulents have extensive, but shallow root systems. Their roots absorb water just a half inch or so below the surface.
Succulents have evolved a number of strategies for holding onto this water. They tend to have a thick waxy coating, which helps seal in moisture.
All plants are covered by tiny pores called stomates, which allow plants to take in gasses for photosynthesis. However, these pores also allow water to be lost. Succulents have fewer stomates per cubic inch through which water can evaporate. In addition, succulents have a reduced surface area and, if they have leaves at all, they’re thick and fleshy.
Many succulent plants also have a modified way of conducting photosynthesis. Other plants open their stomates during the day to take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Many succulents, however, keep their stomates closed during the heat of the day and open them in the coolness of the night to take in carbon dioxide, which they store until the next day.
Finally, because water is a scarce commodity in the desert, succulents have to protect themselves against thirsty animals. These plants protect their water supplies by being prickly like many cacti or in other cases, by being toxic, by growing in inaccessible locations, or by camouflage.
Living in Space
Living in space is not the same as living on Earth. Many things are different. Our bodies change in space. The way we stay clean and neat is different too. Learn how astronauts stay strong, clean and neat.
Living in space is not the same as living on Earth. In space, astronauts’ bodies change. On Earth, our lower body and legs carry our weight. This helps keep our bones and muscles strong. In space, astronauts float. They do not use their legs much. Their lower backs begin to lose strength. Their leg muscles do too. The bones begin to get weak and thin. This is very bad for astronauts’ bodies. So, how do astronauts help their muscles and bones? They must exercise in space every day.
The heart and blood change in space, too. When we stand up on Earth, blood goes to our legs. The heart has to work extra hard against gravity to move the blood all around the body. In space, without the pull of gravity, the blood moves to the upper body and head. Water in the body also does the same thing. It makes the astronauts’ faces look puffy. The blood and water are fluids in the body. These fluids move from the bottom of the body to the top. The brain thinks that there are too many fluids. It will tell the body to make less. When the astronauts come back to Earth, they do not have enough fluids in their systems. It takes their bodies a few days to make more blood and water. The astronauts have to rest so their bodies have time to make new blood and water. If they don’t, they can feel very weak. They might even faint!
Astronauts use toothpaste and toothbrushes just like yours. There is no sink like yours on the Space Shuttle, though. Astronauts have to spit into a washcloth.
People take baths a different way in space, too. Astronauts use special kinds of soap and shampoo. These soaps do not need water to rinse. Astronauts must use them carefully. They do not let the soap bubbles go all over the place. After washing, they use a towel to dry off. They do not rinse. These special soaps and shampoos were made for hospitals. Patients who cannot get in the water use these soaps.
Doing chores is not always a fun thing. But we have to keep our rooms and houses clean and neat. In space, astronauts live in a very small space. They have to keep their area clean in space just like we do on Earth.
In space, the astronauts wipe the walls, floors, and windows to keep them clean. They use a soap that kills germs. The astronauts also use wet wipes to wash things. They use the same kind of wipes and cleanser on their forks, spoons, and eating trays.
Astronauts have to take out the garbage, too. There are four trash bins on the Space Shuttle. Three are for dry trash and one is for wet trash. Wet trash is anything that could smell bad. Each trash container has a trash liner placed inside. It is like a plastic garbage bag. If the liner becomes full, it is closed. Then it is moved far away from the astronauts. The wet trash is closed up tight. It is then connected to a hose. The hose helps move bad smells away from the astronauts.
Astronauts must use a vacuum cleaner in space. The vacuum has a normal hose. It also has extra parts. These parts can clean areas that may be hard to reach. They also use it to keep dust out of the air filters. And sometimes things get loose. When things get loose, they float. Astronauts use the vacuum to “catch” floating objects that are out of their reach.
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Wildlife world Atacama desert near Chile. (Desert Science)
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2016 Was The Hottest Year On Record
This marks the third consecutive year of record-high global temperatures.
Last year was the hottest on record, two federal agencies confirmed Wednesday morning, after months of warning that 2016 would be another chart-buster.
Findings from separate analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mark the third consecutive year that the planet has experienced record-high temperatures and the 40th consecutive year that global temperatures were above average in more than a century of record-keeping.
NASA found that 2016 was 1.78 degrees warmer than the mid-20th century average, while NOAA found 2016 was 1.69 degrees warmer than the 20th century average. The agencies use those periods as a set point for measuring climate change.
“The trends that we’ve been seeing since the 1970s are continuing and have not paused in any way,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told reporters Wednesday.
The 2016 record should be viewed as “part of a multi-decade trend,” Deke Arndt, chief of the global monitoring branch of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, told reporters Wednesday.
“2016 being the warmest year on record is a data point at the end of many data points that indicate several decades of warming that continue,” he said.
The announcement comes the same day that an annual Yale University/George Mason University survey found that 19 percent of Americans are “very worried” about global warming, marking the highest percentage since they first began surveying in 2008.
The U.S. agencies’ findings confirm those released by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service earlier this month. According to its findings, the average global surface temperature soared to 58.6 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial times.
The writing’s been on the wall since the beginning of the year, when the agencies recorded a record hot January. By the release of April’s data, which marked a yearlong streak of record-high monthly temperatures by NOAA’s analysis, Schmidt tweeted that it was more than 99 percent likely that 2016 would set a record.
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“There is time and then there is how fast the Earth spins,” said Duncan Agnew, a geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, who was not involved with the work. “Traditionally those things are closely linked, but they are not the same.”
Our earliest ancestors measured time based on the position of celestial bodies in the sky, such as the rising and setting of the sun or the changing shape of the moon. Scientists refer to this as Universal Time, and it is governed by the dynamic gravitational motions of the Earth, moon and sun.
Terrestrial Time, on the other hand, is measured by clocks and is independent of the laws of physics. Since the 1960s, it has been tracked by exquisitely precise atomic clocks. According to our modern take on Terrestrial Time, there are exactly 86,400 seconds in a day and each second is defined as exactly 9,192,631,770 oscillations of a cesium-133 atom.
But our planet does not keep perfect time, so Universal Time and Terrestrial Time do not always line up.
In our modern world, governed by atomic clocks, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service calls for a leap second to be added whenever Universal Time is on track to be out of sync with Terrestrial Time by more than 0.9 of a second. Leap seconds traditionally are added on June 30 or Dec. 31. (In fact, one will be added this New Year’s Eve.)
The Earth’s rotational rate, which determines Universal Time, is affected by many factors.
Large weather systems and atmospheric winds can exert enough force on Earth’s surface to cause it to slow down or speed up by thousandths of a second over a single season. Large volcanoes and earthquakes may also cause Earth to speed up or slow down, but these changes are hard to detect. In 2011, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge calculated that the magnitude 9 quake that struck off Japan may have shaved about 1.8-millionths of a second off the calendar year.
The dominant force affecting Earth’s spin rate over longer time periods is the interplay of gravity between the oceans and the moon. Scientist have known for decades that this phenomenon is causing Earth to spin more and more slowly. However, there are other, more subtle factors at play on this timescale as well.
Changes in the amount of polar ice affect the shape of Earth and can impact how fast or slow the planet turns on its axis. In addition, movements of molten rock in the planet’s core can affect the speed of its rotation, Agnew explained.
To determine how much all these forces have changed the planet’s spin rate over the centuries, a small group of British scientists took on the Herculean task of gathering hundreds of astronomical records made by ancient scribes from around the world.
The team’s goal was to pinpoint when and where lunar and solar eclipses occurred in antiquity, then compare them to computer models of when and where they should have occurred based on the current rate of Earth’s spin. By measuring the difference between these two sets of data, researchers can determine how much Earth’s rotation rate has changed over time.
It wasn’t easy to assemble. Richard Stephenson, an astronomer who recently retired from Durham University in England, started working on this project 40 years ago when he was a young researcher at the University of Essex.
Because nearby Durham University had a good Chinese studies department, he began with ancient texts from China. To aid him in his search, he memorized 1,500 Chinese characters — too few to read a newspaper, but enough to help him decipher astronomical records written into dynastic histories. Over the years he was able to find about 50 reliable dates and times of solar and lunar eclipses recorded between AD 434 and AD 1280.
“During that period they were using water clocks to tell time,” he said. These devices work by dripping water into a vessel at a constant rate. “While those are not terribly accurate, if you get 50 observations over a period of time you can get a good average.”
A treasure trove of data came from translations of clay tablets written in cuneiform by Babylonian astrologers. Although many of the tablets were damaged in the excavation process, Stephenson found more than 150 useful entries dating from 720 BC to 10 BC.
Other observations came from Islamic astronomers working in the Arab world between AD 800 and 1000, as well as from mentions of solar and lunar eclipses in medieval European chronicles, mostly written in Latin.
“The Arab timing of solar eclipses in particular is superb,” Stephenson said. (He could not say the same for the European data.)
Stephenson said he is grateful to all these ancient sky watchers.
“People recording these things never had the slightest notion that what they were doing would lead to people in our generation actually studying changes in the Earth spin,” he said. “We are very much at the mercy of these ancient chroniclers and astronomers.”
He added that despite the crude instruments many of these observers had to work with, they were often remarkably accurate both in their observations and their ability to keep track of time.
“In 90% of the cases in the Chinese and Babylonian records, their dates reproduce exactly to the date of the calculated eclipse,” he said. “This gives us a lot of confidence in our data set.”
Stephenson’s interest in ancient astronomical observations stops around 1600. That’s about when the first telescope was invented and astronomical measurements became significantly more precise.
Luckily, he teamed up long ago with Leslie Morrison, a recently retired astronomer from the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London who has collected thousands of records of lunar occultations from the last 400 years.
Lunar occulations occur when the moon appears to block certain stars from the perspective of an observer.
“After the advent of the telescope and the introduction of pendulum clocks, it was possible to watch the moon approach a star in its path, suddenly block it out, and then see the star reappear again on the other side,” Morrison said. “This allowed us to measure difference in time no longer in hours or minutes, but in seconds.”
Astronomers in the 1600s and 1700s made these observations mainly to try to pinpoint the orbit of the moon. Today, scientists know where the moon and stars were hundreds of years ago. If they know what time the observations were made, they can use all this information to determine how much faster Earth was spinning at the time.
Stephenson and Morrison have continued to work on this project in retirement, and they say they are not necessarily done yet. Stephenson would like to find observations from the Incas and the Maya that could be added to their data set. So far, he said, they have struck out.
He would also like to find more observations from AD 200 to 600. That would help fill their biggest hole.
In the meantime, geophysicists like Agnew said they will use the astronomers’ work to better understand the forces speeding up and slowing down the spinning of our planet.
“Nothing else on Earth cares about when an eclipse happens, so we have to rely on these observations,” Agnew said. “The most astounding thing about this paper is the fact that we have this information at all.”
Everglades mangroves’ carbon storage capacity worth billions
When it comes to storing carbon, scientists have put a price tag on the value of mangroves in South Florida’s Everglades — and it’s in the billions.
Mangrove forests absorb carbon dioxide, and much of that carbon remains trapped in the trees’ biomass. Based on a scientific cost estimate, the stored carbon is worth between U.S. $2 billion and $3.4 billion. The billion-dollar price tag reflects the cost of restoring freshwater flow to areas that need it most, preserving the Everglades’ mangroves.
That’s a relatively small price when considering the cost to society if, rather than being stored, the carbon were released into the atmosphere, according to researchers at Florida International University (FIU).
Their results are published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Water, Sustainability and Climate Program and the NSF Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site.
“If there isn’t enough freshwater flowing through the Everglades, we may eventually lose some of the mangroves,” said Mahadev Bhat, a scientist at FIU and co-author of the journal paper. “Once you let stored carbon out, that same carbon can lead to increased global warming and cost society a lot more.”
In addition to removing excess carbon dioxide from the air, mangroves provide other benefits, including flood control, storm protection and good water quality.
“This finding is an excellent example of how research at long-term ecological research sites can inform management and policy decisions and help in making wise choices, in this case, how to mitigate the effects of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said David Garrison, LTER program director in NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences.
The mangrove forests of the Everglades are the largest in the continental United States. Although protected, Everglades mangroves are affected by sea level rise, hurricanes, alterations in water flow and other changes.
“While our understanding of the Everglades is strengthened by this study, we need to remember that threats to this valued resource come from both saltwater intrusion and sea level rise,” said Tom Torgersen, director of NSF’s Water Sustainability and Climate program. “Management and policy decisions need to reflect the value of the Everglades, as well as the issues facing Florida.”
According to the FIU researchers, preventing the loss of stored carbon in mangroves could become a critical component of the nation’s climate change mitigation strategies.
“Having an inventory of the stored organic carbon and its potential economic value is key to designing strategies that secure funding for conservation and research work,” said Meenakshi Jerath, lead author of the paper and a researcher at FIU’s Extreme Events Institute. “It could, more importantly, further awaken public interest in and understanding of mangroves’ socioeconomic importance.”
Added John Schade, LTER program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology: “This research is a reminder of the valuable services mangroves provide, and the global benefits that can come from restoring and preserving them.”
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at Louisiana State University and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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The underground labs
Studies of the universe and its makeup generally conjure images of astronomers at telescopes, peering up at the galaxies, nebulas and stars scattered across the night sky. But to understand the decidedly less visible, but very important, parts of the universe, such as neutrinos and dark matter, scientists have to take a different approach — namely, by going underground.
Being underground gives scientists protection from most of the “noise” created by other kinds of particles entering the Earth, such as cosmic rays and other background radiation from the universe.
Of course, it is somewhat complicated to get underground, so scientists how have to get creative. Sometimes researchers work in repurposed mines. Others are required to drill big tunnels themselves to run particle accelerators or study nuclear fuel disposal.
The underground labs here are sprinkled across two continents and are seeking answers to questions such as how the universe formed, how particles can transform into other ones, and the true nature of dark matter.
Extensive deep coral reefs in Hawaii harbor unique species and high coral cover – Date: October 4, 2016 – Source: PeerJ
Researchers has completed a comprehensive investigation of deep coral-reef environments throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago. The study spanned more than two decades and the researchers documented vast areas of 100% coral-cover at depths of 50-90 meters extending for tens of square kilometers, discovering that these deep-reef habitats are home to many unique species.
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Hubble Telescope Images
What Is the Hubble Space Telescope?
The Hubble Space Telescope is a large telescope in space. NASA launched Hubble in 1990. Hubble is as long as a large school bus. It weighs as much as two adult elephants. Hubble travels around Earth at about 5 miles per second. That is as fast as driving a car from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast in 10 minutes.
Hubble faces toward space. It takes pictures of planets, stars and galaxies. Hubble has seen stars being born. Hubble has seen stars die. It has seen galaxies that are trillions of miles away. Hubble also has seen comet pieces crash into the gases above Jupiter.
Scientists have learned a lot about space from Hubble pictures. The pictures are beautiful to look at too.
Where Did the Name Hubble Come From?
Hubble is named after Edwin P. Hubble. He was an astronomer. An astronomer is a scientist who studies the planets, stars and space. Edwin P. Hubble made important discoveries about the universe in the early 1900s.
What Is NASA Learning From the Hubble Space Telescope?
Hubble has helped scientists learn about our solar system. The telescope observes comets and planets. Hubble even discovered moons around Pluto that had not been seen before. The telescope has helped scientists understand how planets and galaxies form. Galaxies contain billions of stars. A picture called “Hubble Ultra Deep Field” shows some of the farthest galaxies ever seen. Pictures from Hubble help scientists learn more about the whole universe. Because of Hubble pictures, scientists think the universe is almost 14 billion years old.
Hubble has spotted black holes. Black holes suck in everything around them. They even suck in light. And Hubble has helped scientists learn more about explosions that happen when huge stars burn out.
What Is the Future for Hubble?
In 2009, astronauts flew to Hubble on the space shuttle. This was the fifth time astronauts went to Hubble. They went to fix parts. They also put new parts and cameras in the telescope. So it is working very well. Hubble will not be fixed again. In 2015, Hubble turned 25 years old. It still takes beautiful pictures of objects in space.
NASA is building another space telescope. It is called the James Webb Space Telescope. It will be bigger than Hubble. Webb will not orbit Earth as Hubble does. Webb will orbit the sun in a spot on the other side of the moon. The Webb telescope will be able to see a different kind of light than the light Hubble sees. Webb will help NASA see even more of the universe.
The Solar System
What Is The Solar System?
The Solar System is made up of all the planets that orbit our Sun. In addition to planets, the Solar System also consists of moons, comets, asteroids, minor planets, and dust and gas.
Everything in the Solar System orbits or revolves around the Sun. The Sun contains around 98% of all the material in the Solar System. The larger an object is, the more gravity it has. Because the Sun is so large, its powerful gravity attracts all the other objects in the Solar System towards it. At the same time, these objects, which are moving very rapidly, try to fly away from the Sun, outward into the emptiness of outer space. The result of the planets trying to fly away, at the same time that the Sun is trying to pull them inward is that they become trapped half-way in between. Balanced between flying towards the Sun, and escaping into space, they spend eternity orbiting around their parent star. Source: http://www.kidsastronomy.com/solar_system.htm
Star Facts: The Basics of Star Names and Stellar Evolution
History of observations
Since the dawn of recorded civilization, stars played a key role in religion and proved vital to navigation. Astronomy, the study of the heavens, may be the most ancient of the sciences. The invention of the telescope and the discovery of the laws of motion and gravity in the 17th century prompted the realization that stars were just like the sun, all obeying the same laws of physics. In the 19th century, photography and spectroscopy — the study of the wavelengths of light that objects emit — made it possible to investigate the compositions and motions of stars from afar, leading to the development of astrophysics. In 1937, the first radio telescope was built, enabling astronomers to detect otherwise invisible radiation from stars. In 1990, the first space-based optical telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, was launched, providing the deepest, most detailed visible-light view of the universe.
Ancient cultures saw patterns in the heavens that resembled people, animals or common objects — constellations that came to represent figures from myth, such as Orion the Hunter, a hero in Greek mythology. Astronomers now often use constellations in the naming of stars. The International Astronomical Union, the world authority for assigning names to celestial objects, officially recognizes 88 constellations. Usually, the brightest star in a constellation has “alpha,” the first letter of the Greek alphabet, as part of its scientific name. The second brightest star in a constellation is typically designated “beta,” the third brightest “gamma,” and so on until all the Greek letters are used, after which numerical designations follow.
A number of stars have possessed names since antiquity — Betelgeuse, for instance, means “the hand (or the armpit) of the giant” in Arabic. It is the brightest star in Orion, and its scientific name is Alpha Orionis. Also, different astronomers over the years have compiled star catalogs that use unique numbering systems. The Henry Draper Catalog, named after a pioneer in astrophotography, provides spectral classification and rough positions for 272,150 stars and has been widely used of by the astronomical community for over half a century. The catalog designates Betelgeuse as HD 39801.
Since there are so many stars in the universe, the IAU uses a different system for newfound stars. Most consist of an abbreviation that stands for either the type of star or a catalog that lists information about the star, followed by a group of symbols. For instance, PSR J1302-6350 is a pulsar, thus the PSR. The J reveals that a coordinate system known as J2000 is being used, while the 1302 and 6350 are coordinates similar to the latitude and longitude codes used on Earth.
A star develops from a giant, slowly rotating cloud that is made up entirely or almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Due to its own gravitational pull, the cloud behind to collapse inward, and as it shrinks, it spins more and more quickly, with the outer parts becoming a disk while the innermost parts become a roughly spherical clump. According to NASA, this collapsing material grows hotter and denser, forming a ball-shaped protostar. When the heat and pressure in the protostar reaches about 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (1 million degrees Celsius), atomic nuclei that normally repel each other start fusing together, and the star ignites. Nuclear fusion converts a small amount of the mass of these atoms into extraordinary amounts of energy — for instance, 1 gram of mass converted entirely to energy would be equal to an explosion of roughly 22,000 tons of TNT.
Evolution of stars
The life cycles of stars follow patterns based mostly on their initial mass. These include intermediate-mass stars such as the sun, with half to eight times the mass of the sun, high-mass stars that are more than eight solar masses, and low-mass stars a tenth to half a solar mass in size. The greater a star’s mass, the shorter its lifespan generally is. Objects smaller than a tenth of a solar mass do not have enough gravitational pull to ignite nuclear fusion — some might become failed stars known as brown dwarfs.
An intermediate-mass star begins with a cloud that takes about 100,000 years to collapse into a protostar with a surface temperature of about 6,750 F (3,725 C). After hydrogen fusion starts, the result is a T-Tauri star, a variable star that fluctuates in brightness. This star continues to collapse for roughly 10 million years until its expansion due to energy generated by nuclear fusion is balanced by its contraction from gravity, after which point it becomes a main-sequence star that gets all its energy from hydrogen fusion in its core.
The greater the mass of such a star, the more quickly it will use its hydrogen fuel and the shorter it stays on the main sequence. After all the hydrogen in the core is fused into helium, the star changes rapidly — without nuclear radiation to resist it, gravity immediately crushes matter down into the star’s core, quickly heating the star. This causes the star’s outer layers to expand enormously and to cool and glow red as they do so, rendering the star a red giant. Helium starts fusing together in the core, and once the helium is gone, the core contracts and becomes hotter, once more expanding the star but making it bluer and brighter than before, blowing away its outermost layers. After the expanding shells of gas fade, the remaining core is left, a white dwarf that consists mostly of carbon and oxygen with an initial temperature of roughly 180,000 degrees F (100,000 degrees C). Since white dwarves have no fuel left for fusion, they grow cooler and cooler over billions of years to become black dwarves too faint to detect. (Our sun should leave the main sequence in about 5 billion years.)
A high-mass star forms and dies quickly. These stars form from protostars in just 10,000 to 100,000 years. While on the main sequence, they are hot and blue, some 1,000 to 1 million times as luminous as the sun and are roughly 10 times wider. When they leave the main sequence, they become a bright red supergiant, and eventually become hot enough to fuse carbon into heavier elements. After some 10,000 years of such fusion, the result is an iron core roughly 3,800 miles wide (6,000 km), and since any more fusion would consume energy instead of liberating it, the star is doomed, as its nuclear radiation can no longer resist the force of gravity.
When a star reaches a mass of more than 1.4 solar masses, electron pressure cannot support the core against further collapse, according to NASA. The result is a supernova. Gravity causes the core to collapse, making the core temperature rise to nearly 18 billion degrees F (10 billion degrees C), breaking the iron down into neutrons and neutrinos. In about one second, the core shrinks to about six miles (10 km) wide and rebounds just like a rubber ball that has been squeezed, sending a shock wave through the star that causes fusion to occur in the outlying layers. The star then explodes in a so-called Type II supernova. If the remaining stellar core was less than roughly three solar masses large, it becomes a neutron star made up nearly entirely of neutrons, and rotating neutron stars that beam out detectable radio pulses are known as pulsars. If the stellar core was larger than about three solar masses, no known force can support it against its own gravitational pull, and it collapses to form a black hole.
A low-mass star uses hydrogen fuel so sluggishly that they can shine as main-sequence stars for 100 billion to 1 trillion years — since the universe is only about 13.7 billion years old, according to NASA, this means no low-mass star has ever died. Still, astronomers calculate these stars, known as red dwarfs, will never fuse anything but hydrogen, which means they will never become red giants. Instead, they should eventually just cool to become white dwarfs and then black dwarves.
Hidden underwater river flowing under the ocean in Mexico
Located in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, there’s a secret underwater river called Cenote Angelita.
The word “Cenote” is pronounced, say-no-tay and is derived from the Mayan word, “Dzonot” which means sacred well. A combination of various geological events and climate changes created an incredible and unique ecosystem in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. These caves and underground rivers were created naturally over 6,500 years ago. Over the past 20 years, experienced scuba divers have explored these caves discovering more than 300 miles of interconnected passageways and caves that make up this amazing one of a kind ecosystem. These cenotes, only found in this part of the world, offer certified divers the opportunity to explore something different! Discover the tranquil beauty of these pristine windows to the underwater world and experience the dive of your life floating through caverns full of crystal clear water, stalagmites and stalactites.
This dive site is must do for advanced divers who are looking for something a little different. The name means “little angel” in English and there may not be a better way to describe this magical dive site. The setting is perfect as you walk a short distance through the jungle to the rather large hidden away cenote. To describe it simply this cenote does nothing else but go straight down 200 feet
Should We Seed Life on Alien Worlds
by Jessica Boddy
Astronomers have detected more than 3000 planets beyond our solar system, and just a couple weeks ago they discovered an Earth-like planet in the solar system next door. Most—if not all—of these worlds are unlikely to harbor life, but what if we put it there?
In an essay published last month in Astrophysics and Space Science, theoretical physicist Claudius Gros of Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany suggests we do just that. His proposed Genesis Project would send artificially intelligent probes to lifeless worlds to seed them with microbes. Over millions of years, they might evolve into multicellular organisms, and, perhaps eventually, plants and animals. In an interview with Science, Gros talked artificial intelligence (AI), searching for habitable planets, and what kind of organisms he’d like to see evolve. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Astronomers have detected more than 3000 planets beyond our solar system, and just a couple weeks ago they discovered an Earth-like planet in the solar system next door. Most—if not all—of these worlds are unlikely to harbor life, but what if we put it there?
In an essay published last month in Astrophysics and Space Science, theoretical physicist Claudius Gros of Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany suggests we do just that. His proposed Genesis Project would send artificially intelligent probes to lifeless worlds to seed them with microbes. Over millions of years, they might evolve into multicellular organisms, and, perhaps eventually, plants and animals. In an interview with Science, Gros talked artificial intelligence (AI), searching for habitable planets, and what kind of organisms he’d like to see evolve. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: What inspired you to dream up the Genesis Project?
A: Much of it was science fiction. When I was younger, I read 2001: a Space Odyssey. I didn’t understand a whole lot of it, but I was very interested in life and the cosmos. I still watch things like Stargate and Avatar and it makes me wonder what kind of life exists, or could exist, on other planets.
Q: What would the starting microbes look like?
A: There are two strategies: AI could create specifically adapted microbes for each planet’s conditions, like a very hot planet would be given bacteria called extremophiles that are known to survive in very high temperatures. Or, the AI could just send down the same kind of microbes on many planets. The first would have better survivability, but the second would have more opportunities to branch off and create different species—though many would perish in harsher climates. In the end, you would want to optimize for the ability to evolve but still make sure they wouldn’t all die right away—so probably a combination of those two options. But finding how to optimize the ability to evolve is something we’d have to figure out.
Q: How would AI facilitate the process?
A: AI is important because we will not be around to direct anything once the probes arrive at a planet. The robots will have to decide if a certain planet should receive microbes and the chance to evolve life. The AI would be aboard the Genesis probe, which would only be about the size of a smartphone. And the probe would be sent to an exoplanet using solar sails to accelerate, similar to the Breakthrough Starshot mission, which plans to send probes to Alpha Centauri in search of life. Once the probe arrives, it would fall into orbit around the planet and, after double checking the planet was lifeless, begin the seeding process. Microbes would be inside small capsules, only millimeters long, and shot down to the exoplanet’s surface. The capsule would crash land, but the AI would be able to calculate an angle to shoot them at so the landing wouldn’t be lethal.
First, the AI would seed with photosynthesizing microbes. These would make oxygen accumulate in the atmosphere so that other kinds of life, like animals, could live there. When oxygen levels were high enough, which the probe would measure from orbit, eukaryotic microbes—which have more specialized cell machinery and make up multicellular life—would be sent down, too. Then, the probe would stop. That is where evolution would begin on a planet, and over millions of years, there might be many kinds of alien plants and animals.
Q: What happens if life is already there?
A: That is very important. We’d try to avoid that, we want to target only planets where there is no life. So AI would scout for uninhabited planets from orbit to make sure there was no life there. The probe could spot larger, more complex organisms pretty easily, but smaller organisms might also be detected with technology that already exists called spectrometry. This technique is how we saw that there might be water on Mars. A spectrometer could analyze light from a planet’s surface to determine what kind of atoms are there because each kind of atom has a different signal. It wouldn’t be perfect, but if there were no obvious signs of life—like large amounts of oxygen or carbon dioxide—the probe would seed the surface with microbes.
Q: What kind of organisms would you like to see evolve from these seeds?
A: The dream would be something intelligent. There is a theory that we became an intelligent species when we began to develop language. So I think that any animal that would evolve to be what is referred to as intelligent life would have to be a social being.
For example, I like to imagine a planet where gravity is more intense. Animals would be heavier then, so perhaps they would evolve with more limbs to spread out their weight more evenly. With more limbs, maybe they would be excellent climbers and live in forest communities. They could even have a type of sign language instead of a vocal language to use the extra limbs to their full potential.
I would also find it fascinating if there would be a moving plant. In my mind, this looks like [a] flat green sheet of paper that crawls like a larva. It wouldn’t move quickly or even a lot, because energy production wouldn’t be massively efficient with photosynthesis. But maybe it would live in the mountains and lay on a rock all day to gather energy, and crawl down to a water source when it got thirsty.
Q: How soon would this kind of project be ready to launch?
A: Optimistically, a Genesis probe could be sent in 50 years. Pessimistically, 100 years. We could build the small probe in a decade or two once we figure out solar sails—which the Starshot mission is already doing—but the real challenges would be to program the [AI], and also be able to gather more data about the exoplanets we would send the probe to. It would be a waste if we sent a probe to a planet that was completely uninhabitable, like planets in extreme temperature zones or that are not tectonically active. If a planet isn’t tectonically active, that means it has no volcanoes and can’t produce carbon dioxide, and that’s a really important building block to have when trying to seed life.
Q: Because of the time it takes to travel to other worlds and for life to evolve, we’d never be able to see the products of the Genesis Project. So why do it?
A: Personally, I think life is beautiful. We should give it chance to flourish, even if we never see the result. But for those who think we need to do interstellar projects for human benefit, Genesis is the only one that let’s humans play an active part in the cosmos. It is a question of if humans really want to change part of our cosmos actively, or do we want to just observe passively? The Genesis Project gives humans a chance to leave a legacy.
Turn your eyes to the skies for the latest explorers
National Science Foundation
From strengthening wildlife conservation efforts to improving disaster response, researchers are finding new ways to use small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — also known as drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) — to gather data, improve communication, and explore environments where humans and larger aircraft dare not go.
These advances are due, in part, to improvements in UAV technology, as well as clearer ground rules that govern the many uses of unmanned aircraft. Increased federal funding, including a recent $35 million commitment from the National Science Foundation (NSF), will advance the basic research needed to design UAVs that can save lives, improve safety, and enable more effective science.
“Designing and developing highly-capable UAS platforms requires basic research in the theoretical principles of UAS, including sensing, perception, control and communications,” says Lynne Parker, NSF director of the division of information and intelligent systems. “Once these agile and robust UAS systems are developed, they can be extended to operate in a variety of challenging domains, such as serving as vital tools for scientific exploration.”
Since 2010, NSF has funded dozens of UAV research projects related to computing, engineering, earth science and biology, and supported entrepreneurs through its Small Business Innovation Research program.
The examples below demonstrate the potential for researchers to advance their scientific knowledge and provide benefits to society through the use of unmanned aircraft.
With their ability to travel at altitudes and in environments where manned aircraft cannot, UAVs can study species in difficult-to-reach locations, and to help researchers address a number of important questions about ecosystems.
Michael Shafer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Northern Arizona University, is working on an NSF-funded project to better track wildlife — particularly small animals such as bats and birds — in non-intrusive manner. By developing low-cost, UAV-mounted radio telemetry systems that can receive radio signals from tagged wildlife, and by making the pre-engineered systems available to wildlife researchers via open source publishing, he hopes to significantly reduce the barriers to tracking animals in the wild.
Shafer’s lightweight modules leverage the flight capabilities of UAVs to better detect signals from wildlife transmitters. This involves developing signal-processing algorithms to assist in detecting and localizing very high frequency radio tags, and assembling a radio system capable of providing the required sensitivity. It also involves designing a system compact enough to fit on a UAV, along with special vehicles for field researchers and the radio-sensing modules they carry.
In addition to the technical development effort, Shafer and his team plan to work with the Upward Bound program at Northern Arizona University to guide first-generation, low-income high school students from the Four Corners region — Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico — toward successful college careers.
Increasing the accuracy of weather forecasts
UAVs are particularly well-suited for gathering data in the lower atmosphere (1,000-4,000 meters), where many weather phenomena begin and where manned aircraft are too dangerous or expensive to fly. Radar cannot always track conditions at this level and weather balloons have too short of a duration at these altitudes.
Through the $6 million, four-year Collaboration Leading Operational UAS Development for Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics (CLOUD-MAP) project, Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Nebraska will work together to develop the capabilities of meteorologists and atmospheric scientists to use unmanned aircraft as an everyday research tool.
The CLOUD-MAP project recently completed its first flight campaign, which resulted in nearly 250 unmanned flights of 12 separate UAV platforms over a three-day period — one of the largest scientific unmanned aircraft operations ever. The effort, which brought together more than 65 researchers and students, collected important meteorological, climatological and operational data that will increase the accuracy of weather forecasts, ultimately saving lives and property.
Enhancing communications in a disaster
NSF CAREER awardee Yan Wan from the University of North Texas is developing aerial networking systems that use directional antennas on UAVs to deliver on-demand communication to first responders in emergency response situations.
Typical wireless communications have a range of only 100 meters, or just over the length of a football field. Wan and her colleagues, however, developed technology that extends the Wi-Fi reach of drones to 8 kilometers, or about 5 miles.
Wan and her team have worked with emergency agencies across Texas to test their system’s ability to quickly establish emergency communications in disaster drills and exercises. In May 2015, working with researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the Austin Fire Department, she demonstrated how UAVs can establish aerial communication in a search-and-rescue operation, providing emergency responders with the aerial views they need to direct robots to find victims quickly and transmitting video streams of survivors to control centers. For this, and other activities, she and her colleagues won the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex’s 2015 Tech Titan Award.
UAVs in hurricane and nuclear disasters
Robin Murphy, the director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) at Texas A&M University, has deployed UAVs to some of the worst natural and man-made disasters in recent memory.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Murphy directed UAVs to explore buildings along the Gulf Coast — the first time an unmanned aircraft was used for emergency structural inspections. During the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, she was part of a team that flew UAVs to determine radiation levels and inspect damage at the reactors. And in the days following the 2015 floods in Texas, Murphy led a team that deployed UAVs to inspect the storm-ravaged area.
Murphy determined that one 20-minute drone flight would generate roughly 800 photographs, each of which takes a minute to inspect. This led her to conclude that data analysis tools, deployed alongside unmanned aircraft, are necessary to make UAV technology useful in time-sensitive situations.
Working with collaborators and students, Murphy has developed software that uses computer vision and machine learning to improve UAV flight paths, as well as anomaly detection techniques to better locate survivors with UAVs.
Combining the capabilities of UAVs with tools that allow them to work in a targeted way is the secret to developing effective search-and-rescue UAVs, Murphy believes.
Sea ice mapping
Last year, scientists aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel carried out two separate UAV trials as part of a research cruise in the Southern Ocean. The flights evaluated the aerial mapping of sea ice to determine the distribution of floating sea ice. [Watch a video of the flights.]
Researchers on the trip were exploring the vulnerability of Antarctic ice to melting due to the presence of relatively warm ocean water below it. Melting ice would drive glaciers into the sea faster and raise sea levels worldwide. This data will inform for future integrated observation programs.
In remote and dangerous locations such as Antarctica, UAVs can help to gather critical information without endangering human pilots, which is why the NSF-managed U.S. Antarctic Program is developing a policy on the safe and environmentally sound use of UAVs in Antarctic research.
Safer, cheaper infrastructure monitoring
As U.S. infrastructure ages, its operators need more efficient and affordable techniques to monitor and assess bridges, railroads, power lines, dams and other large systems. UAVs enable innovative approaches for monitoring the health and stability of structures from above and below.
Ivan Bartoli of Drexel University leads a project that focuses not just on UAVs, but on what those unmanned aircraft look at. Using novel manufacturing processes, his team designs special surface coatings — like paint — that enable UAVs to rapidly collect multi-spectral imaging data. Advanced algorithms then analyze that data to find structural deformations, allowing engineers to quickly identify damage to critical components of monitored structures.
Scientists and engineers are already moving many of these technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace. Hung La of the University of Nevada, Reno is building on NSF-funded research to create low-cost UAVs and robotic systems that can efficiently inspect steel and concrete bridges.
La is part of an NSF Innovation Corps Team that has completed more than 160 customer interviews, helping him focus on customer uses as the research team finalizes the drone and robotic platform and thinks about the long-term commercialization of the technology. The product has been tested and deployed in the field, and La is working with his university to patent the technology.
These and other new ways of thinking about infrastructure are leading to a safer, more stable future.
International Space Center
Living in space!
Before French chemist Louis Pasteur began experimenting with bacteria in the 1860s, people did not know what caused disease. He not only discovered that disease came from microorganisms, but he also realized that bacteria could be killed by heat and disinfectant. This idea caused doctors to wash their hands and sterilize their instruments, which has saved millions of lives. Source: http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0932440.html
Perpetual Motion Machines: Working Against Physical Laws
Almost as soon as humans created machines, they attempted to make “perpetual motion machines” that work on their own and that work forever. However, the devices never have and likely never will work as their inventors hoped.
“In short, perpetual motion is impossible because of what we know about the geometry of the universe,” said Donald Simanek, a former physics professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania and creator of The Museum of Unworkable Devices. “Nature provides no examples of perpetual motion above the atomic level.”
Laws of thermodynamics
To the best of our knowledge, perpetual motion machines would violate the first and second laws of thermodynamics, Simanek told Live Science. Simply put, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed from one form to another. A perpetual motion machine would have to produce work without energy input. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that that an isolated system will move toward a state of disorder. Additionally, the more energy is transformed, the more of it is wasted. A perpetual motion machine would have to have energy that was never wasted and never moved toward a disordered state.
Still, the inviolability of the laws of physics has not stopped the curious from ignoring them or trying to break them. According to Simanek’s online museum, the first documented perpetual motion machines included a wheel created by Indian author Bhaskara in the 12th century. It supposedly kept spinning due to an imbalance created by containers of mercury around its rim. Other attempts include a 16th-century windmill, 17th-century siphons, and several water mills.
While most perpetual motion attempts have been in the spirit of scientific inquiry, others have aimed to deceive and make money. The most famous perpetual motion hoax was devised by Charles Redheffer in 1812.
An age of wonders and mischief
Redheffer’s perpetual motion machine enthralled the Philadelphia and New York communities and brought in thousands of dollars. It was debunked twice by engineers, which ultimately led to Redheffer being run out of town, according to “Perpetual Motion: The History of an Obsession” (Adventures Unlimited, 2015) by Arthur W.J.D. Ord-Hume.
Nineteenth-century America was a prime time for hoaxes. According to Kimbrew McLeod, author of “Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World” (NYU Press, 2014), the Age of Enlightenment’s focus on science, learning and gaining knowledge through personal experience and observation led increasing numbers of people to seek out phenomena that they could judge for themselves. Additionally, increasing literacy rates meant that more people were familiar with concepts like perpetual motion and were eager to see a machine that achieved it.
But, as Barbara Franco wrote in “The Cardiff Giant: A Hundred Year Old Hoax,” “people were interested in the new sciences without really understanding them … The nineteenth century public often failed to make a distinction between popular and serious studies of subjects. They heard lectures, attended theaters, went to curiosity museums, the circus and revival meetings with much the same enthusiasm.”
Amy Reading, author of “The Mark Inside: A Big Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con” (Vintage, 2013), notes a peculiar characteristic in the American sense of fun. People seem to enjoy being taken in by a story that they know might be untrue, falling for it anyway and then being surprised upon learning they were duped. That Redheffer was actually run out of town suggests that early 1800s audiences perhaps hadn’t yet fully embraced that form of entertainment, though they would in subsequent decades.
Perpetual motion stirs Philadelphia
Historians do not know Redheffer’s background prior to the hoax, according to Ord-Hume. He appeared on the scene in 1812 when he opened a house near the Schuylkill River for public viewing. Inside was a machine he claimed could keep moving forever without ever being touched or otherwise aided.
Redheffer’s machine was based on an “assumed ‘principle’ of perpetual motion that assumes continual downward force on an inclined plane can produce a continual horizontal force component,” said Simanek. The machine had a gravity-driven pendulum with a large horizontal gear on the bottom, according to Ord-Hume. Another, smaller gear interlocked with the larger one. Both the large gear and the shaft were able to rotate separately. Placed on the gear were two ramps, and on the ramps were weights. The weights were supposed to push the large gear away from the shaft, and the friction would cause the shaft and gear to spin. The spinning gear would, in turn, power the interlocked smaller gear. If the weights were removed, the machine stopped.
According to the Visual Education Project, sources differ on the amount Redheffer charged unsuspecting Philadelphians to see his machine. Some say he charged $5, others say he charged $1, and others say women were let in free or for $1. Regardless, the price did not deter the fascinated public, and the machine became a sensation. Bets up to $10,000 were placed on its authenticity.
Redheffer was so pleased with his machine and its reception that he lobbied the state of Pennsylvania for funds to build a larger one. On January 21, 1813, the state sent inspectors to investigate before doling out the money. It was then that Redheffer’s scheme fell apart.
The first debunking
According to Ord-Hume, upon arrival, the inspectors saw that the machine was in a room with a locked door and missing key. They could only view it through a window. One of the inspectors, Nathan Sellers, had brought along his son, Coleman. Young Coleman noticed that the gears in the machine were not working the way Redheffer claimed they did. The cogs in the gears were worn on the wrong side. This meant that weights, shaft, and gear were not powering the smaller gear to the side; the smaller gear was powering the larger device.
Nathan Sellers believed his son and determined that the machine was a hoax. Rather than confront Redheffer, however, he hired Isaiah Lukens, a local engineer, to build his own perpetual motion machine, which would look and “work” the same way Redheffer’s did, according to Ord-Hume. Lukens constructed a machine that looked like Redheffer’s but had a seemingly solid baseboard and a square piece of glass at the top. Four wooden finials, supposedly decorative, were on top of the glass and attached to the wooden posts. Lukens placed a clockwork motor in the baseboard. One of the finials was, in fact, a winder. It could be wound and power the motor all day. The motor would turn the shaft, which would power the gears.
Sellers and Lukens showed their machine to Redheffer, who was overcome at seeing his fake machine seemingly work for real, according to the University of Houston’s website The Engines of Our Ingenuity. He offered them money to know how it was done. Sellers and Lukens did not denounce him on the spot but rather let news of the hoax spread throughout the Philadelphia.
Perpetual motion moves to New York
Though Philadelphia was on to Redheffer, the era’s slow communication speeds meant that New York was still a target. Redheffer set up his machine again. Again, he drew large crowds. Among the onlookers was Robert Fulton, an engineer best known for developing the first successful commercial steamboat. Ord-Hume writes that when Fulton saw the machine, he exclaimed, “Why, this is a crank motion!”
Fulton had noticed that the speed of the machine and the sound it made were uneven, as would be the case if it were being cranked by hand. Some reports state that the machine also wobbled slightly. According to Ord-Hume, Fulton accused Redheffer, who blustered and proclaimed that his machine was real.
Fulton made an offer: Redheffer would let him try to expose the real source of the machine’s energy, and if he could not, he would pay for any damage caused in the attempt. Redheffer agreed — likely under pressure from the crowd of visitors — and Fulton began prying off boards from the wall next to the machine, revealing a catgut cord. The cord ran through the wall to the upper floor. Fulton hurried upstairs, where he found an old man sitting on a chair, turning a crank with one hand and eating a crust of bread with the other.
Realizing they had been duped, the crowd of spectators destroyed the machine on the spot. Redheffer fled the city immediately.
Little is known about Redheffer post-hoax. According to “Citizen Spectator: Art, Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early National America” (University of North Carolina Press, 2011) by Wendy Bellion, he constructed another machine in 1816 but did not let anyone see it. He was granted a patent for it in 1820, but nothing is known about the device or what became of Redheffer. The patent itself was lost in a fire.
The “impossibility” of perpetual motion
Redheffer’s hoax is history’s most famous perpetual motion attempt but it is far from the only one. Most, however, were not designed to swindle the public out of their money.
Why do people continue to attempt perpetual motion machines when all laws of physics suggest they are impossible?
“My hunch is that they are motivated by their incomplete understanding of physics,” Simanek told Live Science. “The perpetual motion machine inventors’ view of physics is a collection of unrelated equations for specific purposes. They fail to grasp the greatest strength of physics — its logical unity.
“For example, the laws of thermodynamics do not arise by fiat. They are derivable from Newton’s laws and the kinetic model of gases and have been well-tested experimentally … You can’t simply discard one law you ‘don’t like’ without bringing the whole logical structure of physics crashing down.”
Simanek noted that most perpetual motion machine inventors do not believe their machines violate the laws of physics. “Some suppose that certain specific laws do not apply, usually conservation of energy and the laws of thermodynamics.”
“Could there be some place where the geometry (and the physics) are different?” Simanek said. “Maybe, but we have no clue where to find that place, and one might wonder whether we could even go there, or exploit it for our purposes … That’s armchair speculation, and science-fiction, not science.”
If a perpetual motion machine did work, it would need to have certain traits. It would be “frictionless and perfectly silent in operation. It would give off no heat due to its operation, and would not emit any radiation of any kind, for that would be a loss of energy,” said Simanek. Even so, such a machine would not run forever because “due to its rotation, its parts would be continually accelerating, and we know that matter is made up of charged particles, and accelerating charges radiate away energy.” This would cause changes to the machine, making it eventually slow or stop.
Still, “if a machine could spin a wheel at constant speed for a very long time, with no measurable diminution of speed, and with absolutely no input energy, we could consider it, for all practical purposes, to be perpetual motion … But it would be only a useless curiosity, for if we tried to extract work from it, it would soon slow to a stop,” Simanek said.
Most inventors of perpetual motion machines have a different goal in mind. “They want ‘over-unity’ performance — a machine that puts out more useful work than its energy input,” said Simanek. Then, you would have energy left over for use.
Other than swindling the public, this might have been Redheffer’s ultimate goal. Even after the hoax was revealed, Philadelphia newspapers speculated that the city had missed its chance to operate water pumps for free, according to The Engines of Our Ingenuity. And Redheffer’s 1820 patent was for “machinery for the purpose of gaining power,” according to the Visual Education Project. But those were wishes rather than realities.
Water Drop Lens
Water Drop LensPhysicist and inventor, Bruno Berge, has created a liquid optical lens. Using a process known as electro-wetting, a water drop is deposited on a metal substrate and covered by a thin insulating layer. When a voltage is applied to the metal, it modifies the angle of the liquid drop. The liquid lens is comprised of two liquids, water and oil, one is a conductor while the other is an insulator. A variation in the voltage causes a change to the curvature of the liquid to liquid interface, which changes the focal length of the lens. The use of liquids allows for low cost construction. There are no moving parts and electrical consumption is extremely low. The lens has a large inverse focal length range, quick response, high optical quality and can operate in a wide temperature range.
See more at: http://www.inventor-strategies.com/latest-science-inventions.html#sthash.AL3uAYqR.dpuf
Kids educational Videos – Learn about Oceans for Kids – Ocean Discovery
Genetic diversity data offers medical benefits
A large study of human genetic variation finds more than 7 million spots where one person’s DNA can differ from another’s. Analyses of such variants, compiled from cataloging the genes from more than 60,000 people, are already offering doctors helpful insights into diseases such as schizophrenia and some heart conditions.
Researchers from the Exome Aggregation Consortium first presented their analysis of the ExAC database online at bioRxiv.org last year (SN: 12/12/15, p. 8). Now, the project is getting its official debut in the Aug. 18 Nature.
An exome is just the protein-producing genes in a person’s genetic instruction book, or genome. Researchers from nearly two dozen studies around the world pooled exome data they had collected from 60,706 people, nearly 10 times more data than any previous study of human genetic variation. The people in the study were far more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous study as well, and included both people with various diseases and healthy people.
Any one person carries tens of thousands of DNA variants, said Daniel MacArthur, a geneticist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in a telephone press briefing. The ExAC team found that, on average, one in every eight DNA bases (the information-encoding chemical building blocks of DNA) differs among people. In total, the researchers recorded more than 7.4 million DNA variants, most of them changes in single DNA bases.
ExAC researchers released the data in 2014 for other scientists to use. Already these data have contributed to the day-to-day interpretation of genetic information in the clinic, says Eliezer Van Allen, a medical oncologist at Harvard Medical School. “It gives a new look into the drivers of human genetic diversity.”
A companion paper published August 17 in Nature Genetics, for instance, found that people are missing some genes or have extra copies of other genes. On average, people have 0.81 deleted genes and 1.75 duplicated genes. The analysis echoed previous studies in showing that people with schizophrenia are more likely to have such missing or duplicated genes, particularly genes important in the brain.
People may lose or have extra copies of some genes. Researchers found that, on average, each person has 0.81 deleted genes (red) and 1.75 duplicated genes (blue), but some people may be missing or have extra copies of up to 10 or more genes, which may put them at risk for diseases such as schizophrenia.
It’s a relief to researchers that the paper confirms the results of previous schizophrenia studies, says Jennifer Mulle, a psychiatric geneticist at Emory University in Atlanta who was not involved in the work. “We all breathe a collective sigh of relief that this thing we thought to be true continues to be true,” she says.
Now, the challenge is to figure out what all of the variations mean.
Two independent studies suggest that the ExAC data could give doctors and researchers a clearer picture of the gene changes that contribute to heart conditions known as cardiomyopathies.
As DNA sequencing studies, which decipher people’s genetic makeup, became more common in the last 10 years, researchers amassed a growing number of rare DNA variants implicated in causing the heart diseases. “There was always a lot of doubt cast about whether these [variants] were real or not,” says Roddy Walsh, a geneticist at Imperial College London.
Walsh and colleagues used the ExAC data and DNA data from 7,855 cardiomyopathy patients to reevaluate the likelihood that a particular variant would cause a heart problem. Finding a variant in heart patients that is rarely seen in people without the disease suggests the variant could be causing the disease. But if the variant appears just as often in the general population that don’t have cardiomyopathies as in patients, it is unlikely to cause disease.
Of the people in ExAC, 11.7 percent carry variants associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Walsh and colleagues report August 17 in Genetics in Medicine. That’s far more people than expected for a rare inherited heart condition, which strikes about one in 500 people. Those data and other evidence suggest that many of the variants implicated in the disease are actually benign, the researchers say.
ExAC data alone aren’t enough to rule out a potentially disease-causing variant, says Benjamin Meder, a cardiologist at Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany. Researchers don’t know the full medical history of the ExAC volunteers. Some may have undetected cases of cardiomyopathy, or others may have been misdiagnosed as having the disease, which could throw off the results, he says. It’s important to clearly define who has a disease and who doesn’t before conducting genetic studies, Meder says. “This paper does it the wrong way around.” Still, he says the study does offer some valuable insights into the genetics of heart problems.
Misdiagnosing a genetic disease can negatively affect entire families, says Isaac Kohane, a biomedical informaticist at Harvard Medical School. For instance, people related to a young person who collapses on the basketball court and is found to carry a rare variant associated with the heart condition may also be screened for the genetic variant. Family members carrying the disease-associated variant may be treated for a condition they don’t have.
Such misdiagnosis is much more likely for African-Americans, Kohane and colleagues report August 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Five variants previously associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy kept popping up again and again in the general population most of whom do not have the heart condition, Kohane’s team found. Those variants are far too common to cause a rare genetic disorder; 2.9 to 27.1 percent of black Americans were found to carry at least one copy of the variants, while 0.02 to 2.9 percent of white Americans had one of the variants.
Kohane and colleagues now say the variants are benign. The mistake could have been avoided if researchers had included even a few black Americans in their studies, most of which involved people of European descent who carry only a fraction of the genetic diversity found people with recent African ancestry. The researchers calculate that the ExAC data, with its great genetic diversity, could rule out many benign variants including ones carried by 0.1 percent of the population.
Above Rain Forest
Science is part of the world all around us.
On the webpage above, you will find resources to help students connect science content to things they can see and experience. Videos, Interactive Explorations, and Interactive Videos engage students and encourage them to explore more on their own with your help.
Source: Science Bob
“Science Bob” Pflugfelder is a science teacher, author, maker, and presenter that knows how to share the world of science like never before. He is a regular guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Live With Kelly & Michael, and The Dr. Oz Show, and he has also had several Guest Star appearances on Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn. His experiments have been featured in magazines including People, Popular Science, Disney’s Family Fun, and WIRED magazine.
Bob continues his work through presentations at events around the world including the USA Science & Engineering Festival, the World Science Festival, The White House Science Fair, and Maker Faire events in the US, Rome, and Singapore.
Most importantly, Bob encourages parents and teachers to practice “Random Acts of Science“ by providing instructions and videos for interactive science experiments on his web site.
Scientists Just Discovered A Secret American Manuscript That Was Hidden Under Paint For 500 Years
Long before Wite-Out was invented, people still found ways to get a second chance at reusing a surface.
And now scientists have an example from the Americas as well, as reported in a new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
There are only a handful of manuscripts remaining from before Europeans came to the continent. They’re made of leather strips coated with white plaster-like substance called gesso.
The one the researchers studied is called the Codex Selden, and scholars have been suspicious for decades now that the book is hiding something beneath its surface.
But the Mixtec people who created the manuscript used inks made from plant materials. That means there haven’t been any techniques that would give researchers the equivalent of X-ray vision, letting them see a hidden image without destroying the surface of the manuscript as we know it.
A fairly new technique called hyper-spectral imaging changed that. It lets researchers take very high-resolution images at many different wavelengths of light. Those images can then be added and subtracted against each other to reveal the ghosts beneath a manuscript’s surface.
The rare books community has been using it for the past couple years on a range of texts like the Archimedes Palimpsest, a lost manuscript of Archimedes hidden behind a 13th-century religious text, and the first map to feature the word “America” on it.
But this is the first pre-Colombian text to be scanned with hyper-spectral imaging.
What the scans revealed
The researchers haven’t yet scanned all the pages, and note in the paper that interpretation can’t really happen until the entire manuscript is scanned.
But they were still able to identify individual people in the original text. As they scan more, they may be able to connect those characters with historical figures.
While the text hasn’t been translated, it’s still exciting for a couple different reasons. Of course, when you have fewer than two dozen manuscripts from an entire region and period in history, any additions are exciting for scholars.
But from these early scans, the researchers were able to figure out that the hidden manuscript is a different style from any of the others that have survived. That means it could offer new perspective on archaeological finds from the area. The hidden text also flows sideways across page spreads, rather than from bottom to top the way the manuscript on the surface does.
Now that they’ve confirmed there’s more to see under the surface, researchers are hoping the rest of the book can be scanned and even that these pages can be revisited with stronger light at different wavelengths to better understand the book and its history.
Source: Fox News Science – For more information go to their website below.
While scientists see Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus as prime candidates for life away from Earth, Cornell University researchers are eying Titan, another moon around Saturn and its biggest, as a place that could possibly be home to the chemical precursors for life.
Titan is a very cold place, and instead of water on the surface, there is liquid methane and ethane; its atmosphere is full of nitrogen and methane. But in a new study, scientists look at the presence of hydrogen cyanide in the planet’s atmosphere and speculate that it could become a chemical called polyimine on the surface— and that could possibly lead to what the study calls “prebiotic chemistry.”
The study’s lead author, Martin Rahm, a research associate at Cornell, said that since Titan is so different from Earth, it doesn’t make sense to think about the presence of traditional biology as we know it on the Saturnian moon.
“We are used to our own conditions here on Earth,” he said in a statement. “Our scientific experience is at room temperature and ambient conditions. Titan is a completely different beast.” To read more go to http://www.foxnews.com/science/2016/07/06/could-saturns-moon-titan-support-alien-life.html
Science News for Students
Space Probe – Venus Surface
Founded in 2003, Science News for Students is an award-winning online publication dedicated to providing age-appropriate, topical science news to learners, parents and educators. It’s part of the Science News Media Group, which has published its flagship magazine since 1922. SNS is a program of the Society for Science & the Public (SSP), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education. SNS — which is both ad-free and free to use — helps to fulfill the Society’s enduring mission to inform, educate and inspire. To get more information on Science News go to the website below.
Easy Science for Kids
What you can find at this website: If you love science, this is a great site to help your kids with Science. Easy Science for Kids at Home helps homeschooling, kindergarten or after-school enhancement programs. Their site will help you as a parent, teacher or tutor to enhance your kids’ development with fun science facts, science activities, science videos.
Science Channel Videos
Explore the depth of science programming any time with Science Channel collection of web series, video moments, outtakes, and more! http://www.sciencechannel.com/videos/
I enjoy watching there videos. very informative.
40 Cool Science Experiments on the Web
Use videos of science experiments to teach basic concepts and spark students’ interest in science. The website below connects you with various science project videos by Scholastic.
Scholastic is a nice website for parents, teachers, kids and anything one interested in education.
Perhaps you don’t have enough class periods to do every science experiment you wish you could, or maybe your budget for beakers and baking soda is all tapped out. Maybe you just want to watch and see how it’s done before you try to build a volcano with 24 fourth-graders. Whatever the reason, having students watch a science demonstration close up on the Web is the next best thing!
Read on to discover 40 favorites for K-8 students chosen by the great people at the X-Ray Vision-aries blog. They may even inspire your students’ next science fair projects!
To read more go to: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/40-cool-science-experiments-web
Exploring Science on this site is fun and educational.
Government Information for Kids, Parents and Teachers
- ChemicalElements.com – http://www.chemicalelements.com/ An interactive period table of elements.
- Nanoscience – Nanooze – http://www.nanooze.org/ A place to hear about exciting stuff in science and technology, particularly things related to Nanotechnology, the science of really small things.
- Nanoscience – What is a Nano? – http://whatisnano.org/ Learn about nanoscience with games, videos, activities and more.
- Radiation – RadTown USA – https://www3.epa.gov/radtown/ Learn about radiation; where it is and how its used.
- Science Facts – http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/ Get the answers to life’s most interesting questions through scientific inquiry. It will introduce you to the Library of Congress’ rich collections in science and technology.
- Science of Cooking –http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/index.html Discover how a pinch of curiosity can improve your cooking! Explore recipes, activities, and webcasts that will enhance your understanding of the science behind food and cooking.
- The pH Factor – http://www.miamisci.org/ph/Interesting experiments you can do to learn more about acids and bases.
- Zebrafish Helping Science – https://kids.usa.gov/watch-videos/science/zebrafish/index.shtmlMeet “>Dr. Harry Burgess, an Investigator for the National Institutes of Health. He talks about the zebrafish experiments and how they’re behaviors are similar to humans.
Energy Kids – http://www.eia.gov/kids/
Who are they – Part of the U.S. Energy Information Administration
ARKIVE – is a not-for-profit initiative
of the charity Wildscreen
What we do
With the help of the world’s best wildlife filmmakers and photographers, conservationists and scientists, we are creating an awe-inspiring record of life on Earth.
Freely accessible to everyone and preserved for the benefit of future generations, ARKive is a truly invaluable resource for conservation, education and public awareness.
Amazing Space uses astronomical discoveries to inspire and educate about the wonders of our universe.
Popular Science website – http://www.popsci.com/
Connect to STEM-Works – http://stem-works.com/
Welcome to STEM-Works, a resource for teachers, mentors, parents, STEM professionals, volunteers, and everyone passionate about getting children eager to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math.
STEM to STEAM: Resources Toolkit