Archive for the ‘Earth’ Category
ESA’s Sentinel-1A satellite has returned its first images of Earth from space in its second week of achieving orbit. The satellite, having been launched on Apr. 3. has only recently undergone a complicated maneuver to extend its 10 meter solar wings and 12 meter radar imaging array.
There are due to be six constellations of two Sentinel satellites designed to image the Earth, in part to observe climate change as a part of the Copernicus program. The satellite is not yet positioned in its operational orbit, nor is it fully calibrated to supply true data to the mission. However, the images taken on Apr. 12 are a truly stunning example of the observational capabilities of the cutting-edge satellite…
Over the next three months, the satellite will run through its commissioning phase, during which it will achieve operational orbit and be calibrated to begin what will be the most ambitious and largest Earth observation mission ever undertaken.
Lovely work. And much more knowledge to be gained about our planet.
Los Angeles’ La Brea tar pits have coughed up massive animals, from saber-toothed tigers to mammoths. But this discovery is much smaller—tiny bee pupae, still wrapped up in the leaves they use as a nest.
The samples were actually excavated all the way back in 1970. But at the time there wasn’t a way to analyze the sample without destroying them, so they were set aside. But now, the tiny pupae can be seen with a micro-CT scanner. Just take a look:
The researchers say that the cells are so well preserved that they were probably assembled in the exact place they were found—rather than moved around by time. Using the micro-CT scanner, the team was able to create a 3-D model of the pupae made of 2,172 scanned slices.
These bees are between 23,000 and 40,000 years old, according to radiocarbon dating. They are probably a species called Megiachile gentiles, a species of bee that’s actually still alive today. And, the researchers say, this bee is one of the rare species that’s probably benefitting from climate change, having expanded its range since the last ice age all across the United States.
Photomicrographic study is actually a scientific craft I apprenticed at – 57 years ago :) – working at the time in a lab that did non-ferrous metals research. Laid off when the whole research department was shutdown as the result of early days conglomerate building by capitalist boffins who only cared about this year’s P&L Statement.
Rather like Paul Ryan and his peers on Wall Street.
In some parts of Ethiopia, finding potable water is a six-hour journey.
People in the region spend 40 billion hours a year trying to find and collect water, says a group called the Water Project. And even when they find it, the water is often not safe, collected from ponds or lakes teeming with infectious bacteria, contaminated with animal waste or other harmful substances…
The invention from Arturo Vittori, an industrial designer, and his colleague Andreas Vogler doesn’t involve complicated gadgetry or feats of engineering, but instead relies on basic elements like shape and material and the ways in which they work together.
At first glance, the 30-foot-tall, vase-shaped towers…have the look and feel of a showy art installation. But every detail, from carefully-placed curves to unique materials, has a functional purpose.
The rigid outer housing of each tower is comprised of lightweight and elastic juncus stalks, woven in a pattern that offers stability in the face of strong wind gusts while still allowing air to flow through. A mesh net made of nylon or polypropylene, which calls to mind a large Chinese lantern, hangs inside, collecting droplets of dew that form along the surface. As cold air condenses, the droplets roll down into a container at the bottom of the tower. The water in the container then passes through a tube that functions as a faucet, carrying the water to those waiting on the ground…
So how would Warka Water’s low-tech design hold up in remote sub-Saharan villages? Internal field tests have shown that one Warka Water tower can supply more than 25 gallons of water throughout the course of a day, Vittori claims. He says because the most important factor in collecting condensation is the difference in temperature between nightfall and daybreak, the towers are proving successful even in the desert, where temperatures, in that time, can differ as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The structures, made from biodegradable materials, are easy to clean and can be erected without mechanical tools in less than a week. Plus, he says, “once locals have the necessary know-how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the Warka.”
It costs about $500 to set up a tower.
Not certain if Vittori’s project is set for donations, yet – but, I’d recommend checking in with the Water Project. Folks at Tekzilla and HD Nation have worked with them in the past.
Director and producer of films like Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, James Cameron has made a 9-part documentary on the environmental challenge climate change presents. The Years of Living Dangerously debuts Sunday night, April 13th, on Showtime. If you don’t subscribe to Showtime the debut will be available on YouTube.
Click on the graphic above to check out your choices.
Aerial view of flower fields near the Keukenhof park, also known as the Garden of Europe, in Lisse, Netherlands, April 9, 2014. Keukenhof, employing some 30 gardeners, is considered to be the world’s largest flower garden displaying millions of flowers every year.
MIT professor of geophysics Daniel Rothman stands next to part of the Xiakou formation in China
A team of researchers from MIT may have found new evidence to shed light on the cause of the most devastating mass extinction in the history of our planet. The event, estimated to have taken place around 252 million years ago, was responsible for the extinction of roughly 90 percent of all life on Earth.
The team’s research indicates that the catastrophic event was in fact triggered by the tiniest of organisms, a methane-releasing microbe called Methanosarcina. New evidence suggests that at the time of the extinction, the microbes appeared in massive numbers across the world’s oceans, spreading vast clouds of the carbon-heavy gas methane into the atmosphere. This had the effect of altering the planet’s climate in a way that made it inhospitable to most other forms of life inhabiting Earth at that time.
It was previously believed that the mass extinction, known as the end-Permian extinction, was due to either vast amounts of volcanic activity, a devastating asteroid strike or prolific all-consuming coal fires. Any of these events could have caused the mass deaths, however there are inconsistencies in the evidence that point away from the traditional theories and towards the new findings presented by the researchers from MIT…
Although the team does not believe that…heightened levels of volcanism were responsible for the extinction itself, they do believe that it could have been the catalyst. The sudden and devastating increase in carbon-containing gases present during the end-Permian extinction is put down to a massive bloom of Methanosarcina. However, for this bloom to take place, the microbes would require an abundant source of carbon and nickel, both of which were discovered in a new analysis of sediments in China, and could have been distributed widely through a volcanic eruption.
The case for Methanosarcina being responsible for the extinction is further strengthened by the team’s findings that, at the time of the end-Permian extinction, the microbes had undergone a genetic transfer from another microbe. This is what gave the Methanosarcina the ability to produce methane at such a prolific rate.
With the catalyst of volcanic activity, the Methanosarcina were able to spread across our planet’s oceans unchecked. This allowed the microbes to produce vast quantities of carbon-containing methane, by harvesting the now carbon- and nickel-rich water. The release of said methane would have had the effect of raising the carbon dioxide levels in the waters, causing ocean acidification, irrevocably altering the ecosystem.
Let us hope no natural occurrence allows us to experiment firsthand with the hypothesis.
Of course, if such a cataclysm initiated, we can count on the usual assembly of know-nothings to stand around – doing their best to interfere with any attempt to save the species of Earth – while the rest of us die trying.
An 8-year-old South Carolina girl’s dream of having the woolly mammoth become the official state fossil has been put on hold while lawmakers debate an amendment that gives God credit for creation of the prehistoric animal.
A bill that recently passed the state House to designate the Columbian Mammoth as the state fossil stalled in the Senate after Republican Senator Kevin Bryant added two verses from the book of Genesis.
That amendment was ruled out of order but senators this week will debate a new amendment that says the mammoth was “created on the sixth day along with the beasts of the field,” Bryant said on Monday…
Just in case you think the notion of stupid vs ignorant has been resolved in Confederate politics.
The original measure followed a letter to elected officials by Olivia McConnell, an-8-year-old from New Zion, South Carolina.
In it, she pointed out that there is no state fossil, said Democratic Representative Robert Ridgeway, who received the letter and sponsored the measure.
McConnell suggested the elephant-like mammoth because an early find of its remains took place in 1725 on a South Carolina plantation where slaves dug up a tooth, Ridgeway said…
Reaction from some South Carolina residents has been “nasty,” Bryant said.
“Please stop making our state look like backwards hillbillies who believe in fairy tales,” Alex Davis commented on Bryant’s website. “Keep your religious views out of the government.”
Ridgeway said he was surprised at the controversy.
“I was just trying to support a young child who is interested in science,” he said. “We should support children in any endeavor that they seem interested in. That’s one thing the state should be behind.”
The official Republican response will most likely be “the behinder we are, the more behinder we get!”