Two more sets of instruments studying hurricanes — Global Hawks

NASA’s Hurricane Severe Storm Sentinel Mission, or HS3, will be studying hurricanes at the end of the summer, and there will be two high-altitude, long-duration unmanned aircraft with different instruments flying over the storms.

The unmanned aircraft, dubbed “severe storm sentinels,” are operated by pilots located in ground control stations at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Va., and NASA’s Dryden Flight Center on Edwards Air Base, Calif. The NASA Global Hawk is well-suited for hurricane investigations because it can over-fly hurricanes at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet with flight durations of up to 28 hours.

Using unmanned aircraft has many advantages. Hurricanes present an extreme environment that is difficult to sample. They cover thousands of square miles in area, and can also extend up to 50,000 feet in altitude. Second, they involve very high winds, turbulence and heavy precipitation. Third, ground conditions (high winds that create heavy seas or blowing material) make surface observations difficult.

“Several NASA centers are joining federal and university partners in the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) airborne mission targeted to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin,” said Scott Braun, principal investigator for the HS3 Mission and research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Two NASA Global Hawks that will be flying during the HS3 mission. Each will have different payloads, or collections of instruments onboard. Necessary observations are winds, temperature, humidity (water), precipitation, and aerosol (particle) profiles from the surface to the lower stratosphere…

Both Global Hawks will be flying out of NASA Wallops Flight Facility in September, the peak month for the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

RTFA for details on payloads and flight plans. Not only interesting stuff; but, a delight to see a peacetime use for craft generally dedicated to death and destruction.

Should men be allowed to sit next to unaccompanied children on airplanes? Are you kidding me…?

An Australian airline’s policy prohibiting male passengers from sitting next to kids traveling alone has fueled a social media firestorm and caused the company to review the rule.

“I am an emergency service worker when I’m off that plane, but as soon as I boarded it I was a presumed pedophile,” firefighter Johnny McGirr told CNN Australian affiliate Network Ten.

While on a Virgin Australia flight earlier this year, he was seated next to two young boys traveling alone until he says a flight attendant asked him to trade seats with a woman.

“It was interesting, like I had done something wrong. Really embarrassed,” said McGirr. He was on a flight from Brisbane to his home in Sydney.

Virgin Australia said its long-standing policy, initially based on customer feedback, allowed for unaccompanied children to sit next to women or an empty seat.

In light of recent feedback, we’re now reviewing this policy,” it said on its blog. “Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way”…

“Airlines are acting as custodians of unaccompanied minors, and therefore have the ability to move them to a different seat if they believe that is in their best interest,” a U.S. Department of Transportation spokesman told CNN. “However, DOT has statutes prohibiting airlines from having discriminatory seating policies, including on the basis of gender or age. … Therefore, airlines cannot have policies forcing a man to move if seated next to an unaccompanied minor, but they can, if they choose, have policies requiring an unaccompanied minor to be moved if he/she is originally seated next to an adult male.”

Leave it to bureaucrats to figure out some way to be on both sides of a silly question.

The science of cute

Why do small helpless things – babies, kittens, puppies, pandas in baby form – turn even the most cynical human into a helpless wreck..?

But why? Why do small helpless things – babies, kittens, puppies, pandas in baby form – turn even the most cynical human into a helpless wreck? Why don’t we have the same reaction to a baby lizard or fish or bird? What, in short, is this cuteness thing all about? It turns out that the science of cute is far more interesting than you’d think.

Cuteness is evolution’s devious way of getting you to look after your offspring. Human babies – unlike many other species – are totally dependent on their parents for years after their birth. And you’d find it hard to overlook the constant interruptions to your life if babies weren’t so darn cute.

Zoologist Konrad Loranz argued way back in 1949 that the typical baby face – big eyes, heads large in comparison to their bodies and small noses – turned adults into happy baby-tending machines. More recently, researchers found that babies perceived as more cute made parents more willing to drop everything and look after them. Clever trick, babies.

So why does that transfer to animals? Well, it turns out our brains latch on to pretty much anything with the same criteria. Kittens: big eyes, large heads, small noses. Baby pandas: ditto. Puppies: yep. That might even be one reason why domestic dogs and cats look quite different to their wild ancestors – we’ve bred the cute into them…

Of course, babies get less cute as they get older. Their bodies grow in proportion to their heads. Their eyes seem less huge. They gain co-ordination. But by then, evolution’s work is done. It’s a trick – but it’s a good one.

And it’s been way too long since the last time we had a panda photo here at eideard.com. 🙂

Another Bill Gates prizewinner — solar toilets to improve sanitation

Reinvent the Toilet
Click on the graphic to see it all

Bill Gates is, in a manner of speaking, flushing his money down the toilet…His charitable organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is looking for future loos that can improve sanitation around the world.

At the Reinvent the Toilet fair, hosted at its Seattle campus this week, designs included a lavatory that used microwave energy to turn poo into electricity…Another turned excrement into charcoal, while a third used urine for flushing.

In total 28 designs were shown off at the fair and the winner was a team from the California Institute of Technology…Led by Prof Michael Hoffman, the toilet they designed was solar-powered and generated hydrogen gas and electricity. They won a $100,000 prize.

The project challenged inventors to come up with a toilet that operated without running water, electricity or a septic system. It needed to operate at a cost of no more than five cents (3p) a day and would ideally capture energy or other resources…

Traditional flush toilets waste tons of drinking water and are often impractical in many areas of the developing world.

The UN estimates that disease caused by unsafe sanitation is responsible for half of the hospitalisations in the developing world. About 1.5 million children die each year from diarrhoeal disease…

Bravo! Chalk up another positive step by the Gates Foundation. Imagine how many important tasks like this would move towards reality, functional aid to the poor of the world – as an alternative to the devotion to death and destruction so well-funded in the United States, UK, Russia and in other “modern” nations?

Ships’ sulphur emissions down 66 pct since 2010

Sulphur dioxide emissions, which cause acid rain, have dropped by 66 percent from ships in European Union ports since a new policy on shipping fuel began in 2010…

Scientists at the EU Commission’s Joint Research Centre measured air quality in Mediterranean harbors before and after the entry into force of the low-sulphur requirements for ships at anchor in January 2010.

In European Mediterranean harbors (Civitavecchia and Savona in Italy and Palma de Mallorca in Spain), they found an average decrease of 66 percent in concentrations of sulphur dioxide, while measurements taken in the non-EU port of Tunis showed no decline.

“This shows that the decreases in sulphur dioxide are a direct consequence of the application of the EU requirements,” the Commission said in a statement.

“The study also confirms a correlation between sulphur dioxide and chemical elements typically emitted from ship stacks, which demonstrates that ships were the main source of sulphur dioxide in the harbors.”

Sulphur dioxide is one of the main chemicals responsible for formation of acid rain, which harms plants, aquatic animals and infrastructure. It can also contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Always useful to witness verification of good science used to aid health and life in general. Too bad there still are a number of politicians both sides of the pond still missing in action in the fight for healthier life on this planet.

Our American EPA just instituted a similar regulation for all coastal waters, east and west.

Military aircraft will soon be quieter – courtesy of university research

They’re sleek. They’re fast. They’re powerful. And, they are deafening.

Furthermore, those Top Gun military jets need to be up in the air in the wee hours – over land – to simulate their landings on aircraft carriers. But innovations out of the University of Cincinnati’s Gas Dynamics and Propulsion Laboratory are showing promise in reducing the intense noise of these supersonic jets without impacting their power. It’s research that can help neighborhoods slumber a little more soundly, keep their windows rattling a little less loudly and also protect the hearing of military personnel.

…Jeff Kastner’s…research, supported by funding from the Office of Naval Research, is examining chevron technology developed at UC that has, in part, been commonly used in the commercial aviation industry to reduce noise on jet engines.

Chevrons – serrations on the exhaust side of a jet engine – are becoming more popular in commercial aircraft. They control the turbulence and resulting noise coming from the high-speed flow as it exhausts from the jet engine.

Kastner says the velocities of exotic military planes are much higher than commercial aircraft, which is the main reason they’re so much louder. Since chevrons can result in some fuel loss when controlling turbulence, Kastner’s research is testing fluidic technology to enhance the performance of chevrons for high-power military jets. He explains that since the planes only need the noise reduction during takeoff, his lab is exploring a chevron/fluidic injection system that can be turned on during takeoff and turned off when the plane is in the air, eliminating fuel loss…

The short-term goal of the UC research is to reduce noise by 3 decibels while ultimately reducing noise 10 decibels or more.

The numbers may not seem like a lot; but 10 decibels is a qualitative change in the level of sounds.

It would be nice to see our military doing something useful about noise levels – instead of just passing out those stupid bumper stickers that say “Jet noise – the sound of freedom”. Agitprop for simpletons.