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  • Pollution In China Could Be Driving Freak Weather In US

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jonathan Kaiman reports at The Guardian that China's air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America leading to more ... warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole. 'Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the U.S.,' says Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading. 'The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms.' Fossil fuel burning and petrochemical processing in Asia's rapidly developing economies lead to a build-up of aerosols, fine particles suspended in the air. Typically, aerosol formation is thought of as the antithesis to global warming: it cools our Earth's climate. But researchers say, too much of any one thing is never good. 'Aerosols provide seeds for cloud formation. If you provide too many seeds, then you fundamentally change cloud patterns and storm patterns,' says co-author Renyi Zhang. China's leaders are aware of the extent of the problem and will soon revise China's environmental protection law for the first time since 1989 ... 'The provisions on transparency are probably the most positive step forward,' says Alex Wang, expert in Chinese environmental law at UCLA. 'These include the requirement that key polluters disclose real-time pollution data.'"

    99 comments | 3 hours ago

  • Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation

    An anonymous reader writes "Google has a huge research budget and an apparent willingness to take on huge projects. They've gotten themselves into autonomous cars, fiber optic internet, robotics, and Wi-Fi balloons. But that raises a question: if they're willing to commit to projects as difficult and risk as those, what projects have they explored but rejected? Several of the scientists working at Google's 'innovation lab' have spilled the beans: '[Mag-lev] systems have a stabilizing structure that keeps trains in place as they hover and move forward in only one direction. That couldn't quite translate into an open floor plan of magnets that keep a hoverboard steadily aloft and free to move in any direction. One problem, as Piponi explains, is that magnets tend to keep shifting polarities, so your hoverboard would constantly flip over as you floated around moving from a state of repulsion to attraction with the magnets. Any skateboarder could tell you what that means: Your hoverboard would suck. ... If scaling problems are what brought hoverboards down to earth, material-science issues crashed the space elevator. The team knew the cable would have to be exceptionally strong-- "at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel that we have," by Piponi's calculations. He found one material that could do this: carbon nanotubes. But no one has manufactured a perfectly formed carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter. And so elevators "were put in a deep freeze," as Heinrich says, and the team decided to keep tabs on any advances in the carbon nanotube field.'"

    78 comments | 7 hours ago

  • Climate Scientist: Climate Engineering Might Be the Answer To Warming

    Lasrick (2629253) writes "Tom Wigley is one of the world's top climate scientists, and in this interview he explains his outspoken support for both nuclear energy and research into climate engineering. Wigley was one of the first scientists to break the taboo on public discussion of climate engineering as a possible response to global warming; in a 2006 paper in the journal Science, he proposed a combined geoengineering-mitigation strategy that would address the problem of increasing ocean acidity, as well as the problem of climate change. In this interview, he argues that renewable energy alone will not be sufficient to address the climate challenge, because it cannot be scaled up quickly and cheaply enough, and that opposition to nuclear power 'threatens humanity's ability to avoid dangerous climate change.'"

    332 comments | 2 days ago

  • The Best Way To Watch the "Blood Moon" Tonight

    An anonymous reader writes "People on the West Coast should be able to watch the beginning of the upcoming total lunar eclipse tonight at 10:20 pm. The entirety of the moon surface will be in Earth's shadow and start to glow red a couple hours later, a little after midnight. From the article: 'A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon, and Earth align so that Earth's shadow falls across the moon's surface. Monday night's lunar eclipse is a total eclipse, which means Earth's shadow will cover the moon completely. The moon won't be blacked out by our planet's shadow. Instead, it will take on a reddish hue — anywhere from a bright copper to the brownish red of dried blood.'"

    144 comments | 2 days ago

  • Mathematicians Use Mossberg 500 Pump-Action Shotgun To Calculate Pi

    KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Imagine the following scenario. The end of civilization has occurred, zombies have taken over the Earth and all access to modern technology has ended. The few survivors suddenly need to know the value of pi and, being a mathematician, they turn to you. What do you do? According to a couple of Canadian mathematicians, the answer is to repeatedly fire a Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun at a square aluminum target about 20 meters away. Then imagine that the square is inscribed with an arc drawn between opposite corners that maps out a quarter circle. If the sides of the square are equal to 1, then the area of the quarter circle is pi/4. Next, count the number of pellet holes that fall inside the area of the quarter circle as well as the total number of holes. The ratio between these is an estimate of the ratio between the area of the quarter circle and the area of a square, or in other words pi/4. So multiplying this number by 4 will give you an estimate of pi. That's a process known as a Monte Carlo approximation and it is complicated by factors such as the distribution of the pellets not being random. But the mathematicians show how to handle these too. The result? According to this method, pi is 3.13, which is just 0.33 per cent off the true value. Handy if you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world."

    303 comments | 2 days ago

  • Pluto May Have Deep Seas and Ancient Tectonic Faults

    astroengine (1577233) writes "In July 2015 we get our first close look at the dwarf planet Pluto and its moon, Charon — a fact that has scientists hypothesizing more than ever about what we might see there. One of the latest ideas put forward is that perhaps the collision that likely formed Pluto and Charon heated the interior of Pluto enough to give it an internal liquid water ocean, which also gave the small world a short-lived plate tectonics system, like that of Earth."

    47 comments | 2 days ago

  • UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate

    An anonymous reader writes "On the heels of a study that concluded there was less than a 1% chance that current global warming could be simple fluctuations, U.N. scientists say energy from renewables, nuclear reactors and power plants that use emissions-capture technology needs to triple in order keep climate change within safe limits. From The Washington Post: 'During a news conference Sunday, another co-chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri of India, said the goal of limiting a rise in global temperatures "cannot be achieved without cooperation." He added, "What comes out very clearly from this report is that the high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station soon, and all of global society needs to get on board."'"

    423 comments | 2 days ago

  • Civilization: Beyond Earth Announced

    An anonymous reader writes "Today at PAX East, Firaxis announced Civilization: Beyond Earth. It's a new Civ game inspired by their sci-fi strategy classic Alpha Centauri. Beyond Earth is currently planned to launch this year on the PC. According to Game Informer: 'Beyond Earth presents an opportunity for Firaxis to throw off the shackles of human history and give players the chance to sculpt their own destinies. Civilization games typically have a set endpoint at humanities modern age, but Beyond Earth has given Firaxis the opportunity and the challenge of creating a greater sense of freedom. ... The five different victory conditions that represent that next major event in human history are tied to the new technology web. At the start of the game, players will choose leaders and factions (no longer bundled with one another) and choose colonists and equipment to settle the land. Once descending from orbit, the technology web allows players to move in a number of directions.'"

    85 comments | 4 days ago

  • Study Rules Out Global Warming Being a Natural Fluctuation With 99% Certainty

    An anonymous reader writes "A study out of McGill University sought to examine historical temperature data going back 500 years in order to determine the likelihood that global warming was caused by natural fluctuations in the earth's climate. The study concluded there was less than a 1% chance the warming could be attributed to simple fluctuations. 'The climate reconstructions take into account a variety of gauges found in nature, such as tree rings, ice cores, and lake sediments. And the fluctuation-analysis techniques make it possible to understand the temperature variations over wide ranges of time scales. For the industrial era, Lovejoy's analysis uses carbon-dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels as a proxy for all man-made climate influences – a simplification justified by the tight relationship between global economic activity and the emission of greenhouse gases and particulate pollution, he says. ... His study [also] predicts, with 95% confidence, that a doubling of carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere would cause the climate to warm by between 2.5 and 4.2 degrees Celsius. That range is more precise than – but in line with — the IPCC's prediction that temperatures would rise by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius if CO2 concentrations double.'"

    837 comments | 4 days ago

  • 93 Harvard Faculty Members Call On the University To Divest From Fossil Fuels

    Daniel_Stuckey writes: "One hundred faculty members at one of the nation's most renowned university have signed an open letter calling on Harvard to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. Harvard's is the largest university endowment in the world. For the last few years, a national movement has called on on universities, foundations, and municipalities to divest from fossil fuels. Led by students, as well as organized groups like 350.org, it has seen a number of significant victories — at least nine colleges and over a dozen cities have pulled their investments in companies that extract or burn fossil fuels like coal and oil."

    214 comments | 5 days ago

  • Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie

    EwanPalmer (2536690) writes "Three scientists and Star Trek actress Kate Mulgrew say they were duped into appearing in a controversial documentary which claims the Earth is the center of the Universe. The Principle, a film which describes itself as 'destined to become one of the most controversial films of our time', argues the long-debunked theory of geocentrism – where the earth is the center of the Universe and the Sun resolves around it – is true and Nasa has tried to cover it up. The film features the narration of actress Mulgrew, who played the part of captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek Voyager, as well as three prominent scientists."

    639 comments | about a week ago

  • Last Month's "Planet X" Announcement Was Probably Wrong

    KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Last month, astronomers announced the discovery of the most distant body in the Solar System, a dwarf planet called 2012VP113. They also said this body's orbit was strangely aligned with several other dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt and that this could be the result of these bodies being herded by a much larger Planet X even further from the Sun. They calculated that this hidden planet could be between 2 and 15 times the mass of the Earth and orbiting at a distance of between 200 AU and 300 AU, an announcement that triggered excited headlines around the world. Now it looks as though these predictions were wildly optimistic. It turns out that the position of Planet X can be constrained more tightly using orbital measurements of other planets. And when this data is added into the mix, Planet X can only only orbit at much greater distances, if it exists at all. The new calculations suggest that a planet twice the mass of Earth cannot orbit any closer than about 500 AU. And a planet 15 times the mass of Earth must be at least 1000 AU distant. What's more, the New Horizons mission currently on its way to Pluto, should constrain the distance to beyond 4700 AU. So any Planet X hunters out there are likely to be disappointed."

    44 comments | about a week ago

  • Will Living On Mars Drive Us Crazy?

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "When astronauts first began flying in space, NASA worried about 'space madness,' a mental malady they thought might arise from humans experiencing microgravity and claustrophobic isolation inside of a cramped spacecraft high above the Earth. Now Megan Garber writes in The Atlantic that NASA is hoping to find out what life on Mars does to the human emotional state by putting three men and three women in a 1,000-square-foot habitat shaped like a dome for four months. The volunteers in the second HI-SEAS mission — a purposely tiny group selected out of a group of 700 applicants — include, among others, a neuropsychologist, an aerospace engineer, and an Air Force veteran who is studying human factors in aviation. 'We're going to stress them,' says Kim Binsted, the project's principal investigator. 'That's the nature of the study.' That test involves isolating the crew in the same way they'd be isolated on Mars. The only communication they'll be allowed with the outside world—that is to say, with their family and friends—will be conducted through email. (And that will be given an artificial delay of 20 minutes to simulate the lag involved in Mars-to-Earth communications.)

    If that doesn't seem too stressful, here's another source of stress: Each mission member will get only eight minutes of shower time ... per week. The stress will be compounded by the fact that the only time the crew will be able to leave their habitat-yurt is when they're wearing puffy, insulated uniforms that simulate space suits. In the Hawaiian heat. Throughout the mission, researchers will be testing the subjects' moods and the changes they exhibit in their relationships with each other. They'll also be examining the crew members' cognitive skills, seeing whether—and how—they change as the experiment wears on. Binsted says the mission has gotten the attention of the TV world but don't expect to see much inside-the-dome footage. 'You wouldn't believe the number of producers who called us,' says Binsted. 'Fortunately, we're not ethically allowed to subject our crew to that kind of thing.'"

    150 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Underground Ocean

    astroengine (1577233) writes "Gravity measurements made with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft indicate the small moon Enceladus has an ocean sandwiched between its rocky core and icy shell, a finding that raises the prospects of a niche for life beyond Earth. The Cassini data shows the body of water, which is in the moon's southern hemisphere, must be as large or larger than Lake Superior and sitting on top of the moon's rocky core at a depth of about 31 miles. 'The ocean may extend halfway or more toward the equator in every direction,' said planetary scientist David Stevenson, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena."

    51 comments | about two weeks ago

  • How a 'Seismic Cloak' Could Slow Down an Earthquake

    Daniel_Stuckey writes "The United States is currently gripped in a bout of earthquake mania, following a series of significant tremors in the West. And any time Yellowstone, LA, or San Francisco shakes, people start to wonder if it's a sign of The Big One to come. Yet even after decades of research, earthquake prediction remains notoriously hard, and not every building in quake-prone areas has an earthquake-resistant design. What if, instead of quaking in our boots, we could stop quakes in their tracks? Theoretically, it's not a crazy idea. Earthquakes propagate in waves, and if noise-canceling headphones have taught us anything, it's that waves can be absorbed, reflected, or canceled out. Today, a paper published in Physical Review Letters suggests how that might be done. It's the result of French research into the use of metamaterials—broadly, materials with properties not found in nature—to modify seismic waves, like a seismic cloaking device."

    101 comments | about two weeks ago

  • UN Report: Climate Changes Overwhelming

    iONiUM (530420) writes "'The impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible", a major report by the UN has warned.' A document was released by the IPCC outlining the current affects on climate change, and they are not good. For specific effects on humans: 'Food security is highlighted as an area of significant concern. Crop yields for maize, rice and wheat are all hit in the period up to 2050, with around a tenth of projections showing losses over 25%.'"

    987 comments | about two weeks ago

  • UN Court: Japanese Whaling "Not Scientific"

    First time accepted submitter Nodsnarb (2851527) writes "The UN's international Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that Japan's Antarctic whaling program is not for scientific purposes. In a statement, the court said that Japan's programme involved activities which 'can broadly be characterised as scientific research.' However, it said that 'the evidence does not establish that the programme's design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving its stated objectives.' It added: 'The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not 'for purposes of scientific research' pursuant to [the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling].'"

    188 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Famous Paintings Help Study the Earth's Past Atmosphere

    houghi (78078) writes "From European Geosciences Union: 'A team of Greek and German researchers has shown that the colours of sunsets painted by famous artists can be used to estimate pollution levels in the Earth's past atmosphere. In particular, the paintings reveal that ash and gas released during major volcanic eruptions scatter the different colours of sunlight, making sunsets appear more red.' The original paper can be found here. In the last 150 years, the sunsets have become redder, likely reflecting increased man-made pollution."

    126 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Software Upgrade At 655 Million Kilometers

    An anonymous reader writes "The Rosetta probe was launched in 2004 with a mission that required incredible planning and precision: land on a comet. After a decade in space, the probe woke from hibernation in January. Now, Rosetta has spotted its target. 'Rosetta is currently around 5 million kilometers from the comet, and at this distance it is still too far away to resolve – its light is seen in less than a pixel and required a series of 60–300 second exposures taken with the wide-angle and narrow-angle camera. The data then traveled 37 minutes through space to reach Earth, with the download taking about an hour per image.' Now it's time to upgrade the probe's software. Since it's currently 655,000,000 kilometers from Earth, the operation needs to be flawless. 'When MIDAS is first powered up, it boots into "kernel mode" – the kernel manages a very robust set of basic operations for communicating with the spacecraft and the ground and for managing the more complex main program. From kernel mode we can upload patches to the main software, verify the current contents, or even load an entirely new version.' The Rosetta blog is continually being updated with progress on the mission, and the Planetary Society has more information as well. The probe will arrive at the comet in August, and will attempt landing in November."

    57 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Geologists Warned of Washington State Mudslides For Decades

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Seattle Times reports that since the 1950s, geological reports on the hill that buckled last weekend, killing at least 17 residents in Snohomish County in Washington State, have included pessimistic analyses and the occasional dire prediction. But no language seems more prescient than what appears in a 1999 report filed warning of 'the potential for a large catastrophic failure.' Daniel Miller, a geomorphologist, documented the hill's landslide conditions in a report written in 1997 for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribes. Miller knows the hill's history, having collected reports and memos from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s and has a half-dozen manila folders stuffed with maps, slides, models and drawings, all telling the story of an unstable hillside that has defied efforts to shore it up. That's why he could not believe what he saw in 2006, when he returned to the hill within weeks of a landslide that crashed into and plugged the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, creating a new channel that threatened homes on a street called Steelhead Drive. Instead of seeing homes being vacated, he saw carpenters building new ones. 'Frankly, I was shocked that the county permitted any building across from the river,' says Miller. 'We've known that it's been failing. It's not unknown that this hazard exists.'" (More, below.)

    230 comments | about three weeks ago

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