Tagged: early days

Scientists retrieve sea ice imagery from dawn of satellite observation

Images from the onset of the satellite age, long languishing in storage, have been recovered by University of Colorado researchers, shedding light on sea ice variations going back 50 years.

David Gallaher and Garrett Campbell have succeeded in digitizing more than 750,000 long-lost images off data tapes and black-and-white film from NASA’s early Nimbus satellite series, focusing on changes in sea ice extent in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Both scientists work in CU’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is part of the university’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Their project was fueled by $550,000 in NASA funding.

The Nimbus satellite series consisted of seven spacecraft launched over a 14-year period, its primary mission to capture clouds and other atmospheric features to aid the forecasts of hurricanes and other weather events. But now the satellites’ decades-old harvest is yielding further insights for contemporary study…

The modern satellite record of sea ice goes back only to 1979.

Gallaher learned about the stored data from the early years of the seven-satellite Nimbus series — Nimbus 1 launched Aug. 28, 1964 — during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union at San Francisco in 2009.

“We found out that it was sitting down in this warehouse in Asheville, North Carolina (at the National Climatic Data Center),” Gallaher said. “We called up and said, ‘Gee, could you send us the data for the Arctic and the Antarctic?’ And they said, ‘No.’

“They said there was no way, that it was truly ‘dark data.’ It was only on these giant rolls of film, and the only way to get what we really wanted was to scan all of it,” Gallaher said. “We asked, ‘How much are we talking about?’ And they said it would fill at least a pallet and a half.’ What? Really?”

From the efforts of Gallaher, Campbell and about eight CU students logging countless hours over the past three years — working with a $40,000 Kodak scanner picked up “dirt cheap,” according to Gallagher — more than 250,000 of the recovered Nimbus images have now been made public. The painstaking process involved having to consult NASA metadata to determine the orbit of the satellite at the point each image was recorded, and from that, identify the geographic location for each image.

Images they have recovered reveal that in 1964, Antarctica showed the largest sea ice extent ever recorded there, and that just two years later, in 1966, it registered a record-low maximum sea ice extent…

“If we had information about the winds and sea surface temperatures down there, we might be able to better interpret it,” said Campbell, a project scientist. “We have not had the time and energy to look into that. We’re still in the details of extracting all the information from these images.”

An interesting by-product of the scientists’ work is that they learned of a University of Tasmania study creating a 150-year proxy record of Antarctic sea ice change, extrapolating data from methanesulphonic acid concentrations drawn from the Law Dome ice core, south of Cape Poinsett, Antarctica. That study had indicated a 20 percent sea ice decline since about 1950.

“We’re able to validate (the Tasmanian study) with 1960s Nimbus (images),” Gallaher said. “Is it the end all? We don’t know, but if you look now at their record, validated by our records, it turns out the Antarctic started a major decline in 1950s.”

Such an interesting search. You’re tired of hearing this; but, given back, say, the last thirty years, I’d get serious about a new career in computational analysis. Though I think the craft can be used with broad strokes down to the finest, narrow quizzing of scientific data, I’d probably focus on work like this.

Of course, if you want to daydream, you could end up working for Craig Venter on genomics. Woo-hoo!

Thanks, Mike

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Stefani Germanotta before she was Lady Gaga: The unseen photos


Click on photo to access series

…Before the world tours, “The Fame” or even the dress made of meat, photographer Malgorzata Saniewska knew her simply as her restaurant co-worker, Stefani Germanotta.

In the summer of 2005, Saniewska, who goes by Maggie, happened to be tending bar at the same West Village restaurant where the 19-year-old soon-to-be star worked as a waitress.

Just 24 at the time, Saniewska had moved from her native Poland to the United States two years prior with dreams of becoming a photographer.

But to support herself, “I started working as a bartender,” she recalled. “It was definitely a money thing. I did want to go to school, but I didn’t do research on photography, my focus was to make better money…”

“We were colleagues, we didn’t hang out really heavily, but she’s the nicest girl ever. … She’s down-to-earth,” Saniewska said. “At that time, she gave me a CD of her first single, and I listened to it and I was really impressed. And she’s a beautiful girl. Based on her looks and her personality I thought (a photo shoot) would be great fun.”

Gaga had the perfect location in mind: Her parents’ place on the Upper East Side…

The two young women hopped on a train and headed over there, and set to work creating what Saniewska says became Lady Gaga’s first photo shoot, although Saniewska didn’t know that at the time.

Good photographer’s eye for a subject. Her technique was rough in spots; but, cripes, she was just starting out, too.

Scientists claim first creation of human sperm – UPDATED

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Scientists claim to have created human sperm for the first time, in a breakthrough they say could lead to new treatment for male infertility.

The sperm was grown in a laboratory in Newcastle from embryonic stem cells. Led by Professor Karim Nayernia, researchers developed a method of growing early-stage sperm from human embryonic stem cells by using retinoic acid, a vitamin A derivative…

Nayernia, of Newcastle University and the North East England Stem Cell Institute (Nesci), described the cells as “fully mature, functional” sperm, which he called In Vitro Derived (IVD) sperm.

He said: “This is an important development as it will allow researchers to study in detail how sperm forms and lead to a better understanding of infertility in men – why it happens and what is causing it…

“It will also allow scientists to study how cells involved in reproduction are affected by toxins, for example why young boys with leukaemia who undergo chemotherapy can become infertile for life – and possibly lead us to a solution…”

Professor Robin Lovell Badge, from the Medical Research Council Institute of Medical Research…questioned the findings, saying that “they need much better evidence that such in-vitro derived sperm are normal” but added that any progress by the team “will be very important for research” and “ultimately, although definitely not yet, fertility treatments”.

Nayernia responded by saying that his research paper was clearly labelled a “proof of principle” which concludes that it is in its early stages and further research is needed. He said: “We are not claiming this research is complete but we are saying that we have found human sperm.”

Of the hundreds of news reports on this study, I happened to choose this one from The Guardian. For two reason:

1. They didn’t waste time and space on religious wingnuts who will lose sleep over the “soul” of critters produced by this sperm – or the usual array of quasi-ethical crap questions about humans and monsters. The nutball brigade will take care of that on their own, thank you.

2. The Guardian actually reported responsible questions [and answers] from those qualified by virtue of trying to advance the science – instead of playing at skeptic for media perks.

The single worst discussion I’ve seen was on CNN, this morning – where an anchor-lady ventured discourse with a science-lady about how the ongoing experiments affected “girl mice” and “mice children”.

Where the frack is Miles O’Brien when you need him?

UPDATE: The journal article has been withdrawn over questions of attribution of part of the introductory text. None of the science has been questioned or removed. It will be rewritten and published again.