According to a new study, known as the Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains, because of climate change, Southwestern USA is soon believed to be facing the worst drought in 1,000 years. This is NASA’s most thorough research regarding draught prediction.
The American southwest region, along with other parts of this world are expected to face unprecedented megadroughts, because of the rising carbon emissions and global warming. Ben Cook, a NASA climate scientist explains the seriousness of the situation we’ll soon have to put up with:
“Recent droughts, like the ongoing drought in California and the southwest and historical droughts like the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, these are naturally occurring droughts that typically last several years or sometimes almost a decade. In our projections with climate change, what we’re seeing is that these droughts could last 20, 30, or even 40 years, even exceeding the duration of the long-term, intense megadroughts that characterised the really arid time period known as Medieval climate anomaly.”
The study was published last Thursday in the Science Advances journal, and is based on premises coming from several climate models, one sponsored by NASA being among them. The research undoubtedly found a continuous increase in human-produced greenhouse gas emissions, which will definitely drive up the risk of severe droughts.
So in other words a megadrought is basically a drought that lasts more than three decades. We are currently facing a 12% risk of having a mega-drought. However In case greenhouse gas emissions stop increasing in the mid-21st century, Cook and his colleagues projected the likelihood of a megadrought to over 60%. Also in case greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase along current trajectories throughout the 21st century, there is an 80% probability of a decades-long mega-drought in the Southwest and Central Plains between 2050 and 2099.
In order to reach this result, researchers applied 17 climate models in order to analyse the future impact of rising temperatures on regions starting from Mexico and going through the United States and Canada.
Moreover they projected a continued rise in emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and also looked at a scenario in which they took some action so as to cut back on greenhouse gases that resulted in lower emissions. However both approaches are extremely pessimistic.
Here’s the video that explains it all:
Google’s vice president, Vint Cerf, warned that it’s high time we started preserving the enormous amount of digital information before it’s too late and we may lose it forever. He explained that the 21st century could easily turn into a second “Dark Ages.” Technology is evolving so fast that in the near future chances are that we will no longer be able to access our information due to incompatibility issues.
“We stand to lose a lot of our history. If you think about the quantity of documentation from our daily lives which is captured in digital form, like our interactions by email, people’s tweets, all of the world wide web, then if you wanted to see what was on the web in 1994 you’d have trouble doing that. A lot of the stuff disappears,”
Cerf explained during a conference in San Jose, California.
The first steps humanity took as far as the digital era is concerned are likely to be lost for future historians, Mr. Cerf explained the American Association for the Advancement of Science during its annual meeting. He encouraged the development of a “digital vellum,” meant to preserve old hardware and software so that files that are out-of-date can easily be recovered despite their date of provenience.
People are storing everything from music, photos and emails onto their personal hard drives, but the ever-developing technology will make it harder and harder to access the files through newer programs and hardware devices.
Just think of floppy disks and audio tapes that are in good condition but most people are no longer able to access due to their not having the required hardware anymore. As far as old civilisations are concerned, one only needs a pair of eyes in order to access any kind of information available as they are by excellence written on cuneiform on baked clay tablets, or on rolled papyrus scrolls, or on cave walls.
Cerf used an analogy of a classic example of valuable document recovery, explaining the fact that historians have learned how Archimedes, one of the greatest mathematician of antiquity, regarded the concept of infinity and how he anticipated calculus back in 3BC just by finding his palimpsest hidden under the words of a Byzantine prayer book dating from the 13th century.
The absolute astronomy highlight of the week is actually seeing the formation of a multiple-star system unveiling before our eyes. This definitely gave the science world a a revolutionary understanding regarding what happens before a star is born.
Capturing this exact phase of formation is particularly important because it is the one that determines the number of stars in that system. However it is usually hard to catch a glimpse of because of dust clouds and dense gas.
Researchers studied a dense core of gas, called Barnard 5, which is located in a young star-forming region of the constellation Perseus, 800 light-years from Earth.
The article was published in the latest issue of the Nature journal and it was led by a team of astronomers from England and United States. The research team was conducted by Jaime Pineda from the Institute for Astronomy at ETH Zurich. Observing the exact phase of the birth of a multiple star system offers some vital clues, like the frequency of planets, the formation of stars and planets and, most importantly, it offers valuable insight regarding habitability.
“Seeing such a multiple-star system in its early stages of formation has been a longstanding challenge, but the combination of the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) has given us the first look at such a young system,”
said Jaime Pineda.
The authors were involved in mapping radio emissions coming from methane molecules in the proximity of a young proto-star when they detected some fragmenting filaments of gas that were condensing in order to form three new stars. But the universe takes its time, that’s foe sure, as these condensations are expected to gravitationally collapse and form stars as a consequence sometime during the next 40,000 years, which is a rather short period of time considering the astronomical standards.
Researchers are of the opinion that these stars in the system will eventually range between one-tenth and one-third the mass of our Sun. However the main question that rose came as a consequence regarded why our system has only with one star, while the nearest system, Alpha Centauri, has three.
Scientists are out of this world. Or at least this is how they are regarded by regular people. Or the other way around might as well apply. The general public and scientists seem to think differently when it comes to common sense issues, such as what is good, what is bad, what should our fears be or whether we should agree with the animal testing.
The Pew Research Centre published the results of a new poll in which they examined the mindsets of about 3,700 scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and comparing them to answers, opinions and attitudes regarding various issues, belonging to over 2,000 normal people.
Before enumerating the subjects regular people and scientists don’t agree on, let’s talk about what they agree on. First of all it’s the International Space Station that everybody believes to be a great investment. Secondly, everybody agrees on the need to use more bioengineered fuel and on the fact that the K-12 level isn’t what it should be.
The issues regular people and scientists don’t agree on involve matters like climate change, world population, vaccination, evolution, animal testing and genetically modified food.
87% of scientists believe human activity is to blame for global warming, only 50% of regular people agree. 89% of scientists feel that the the increasing number of the world population is a menace, while only 59% of regular people share this opinion.
Moreover scientists believe more in vaccinating our children, on the theory according to which we evolved rather than being created, and animal testing, which 89% of scientists approve of. The biggest mentality gap involved genetically modified foods, with which 37% of the general public approves, compared to 88% of scientists, who think this type of food is absolutely safe to consume.
But nevertheless the biggest gap between the two responding groups regards education and race. All the AAAS scientists involved in the poll are well-educated, with 72% holding one Ph.D. In contrast, only around 40% of the regular folks had even completed a bachelor’s degree, while almost 35 % of them had no college education whatsoever.
But nevertheless scientists are of the opinion that unless they don’t start really winning over the general public, serious problems are likely to occur in the future.
Hymalaia is an instrument resembling an icebox with the help of which scientists have been able to determine the exact texture of a comet. And these findings, published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry, are pretty reassuring.
The lead author of the study is Antti Lignell, who is a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
“A comet is like deep fried ice cream,”
according to Murthy Gudipati of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who is a corresponding author the recent study.
“The crust is made of crystalline ice, while the interior is colder and more porous. The organics are like a final layer of chocolate on top.”
What happens is that as a comet is getting closer to the Sun, its surface, otherwise rather soft, crystallises and hardens. Thus water-ice crystals form, which become denser and more ordered, while other molecules containing carbon are expelled towards the surface of the comet, resulting in a crunchy comet crust that’s “seasoned” with organic dust.
This is not the first time scientists have announced that comets have hard surfaces and soft interiors. This theory was also confirmed as Rosetta’s Philae landed on the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko last year. Not to mention the Deep Impact mission that looked into the same issues among other things.
Lignell and Gudipati put together a closely resembling model of crystallising comet crust and began their experiments with amorphous (porous) ice, which is by excellence the proposed composition of some of the chilliest comets and icy moons.
The icy comet surfaces are different from the ice we have here on Earth because of the fact that we don’t have temperatures that are so low so as to form amorphous ice on the planet. So the scientists involved in this discovery used the Himalaya instrument in order to slowly warm up amorphous ice mixtures from minus 243 to minus 123 degrees Celsius, thus imitating the conditions a comet would have to go through throughout its journeys towards the Sun.
Both scientists regard comets as time capsules that contain within themselves clues to our planet’s history and to the birth of our solar system.
“Kill switches,” which allow users to turn off their phones remotely after having them stolen has dramatically decreased smartphone’s theft. According to an announcement, in 2014 the total number of stolen smartphones dropped by 50% in London, by 27% in San Francisco and by 16% in New York.
In 2013 alone, after Apple first introduced this feature, the iPhone thefts decreased by 40% in San Francisco and by 25% in New York. In 2014, Samsung introduced the “kill switch” to a few of its smartphones as well. Moreover Google also added a “kill switch” to its newest Android operating system, Lollipop. As far as Microsoft is concerned, the company has granted to add a “kill switch” to its smartphone models by July 2015.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon along with New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are among the officials who argued for new laws that mandated the kill switches:
“The wireless industry continues to roll out sophisticated new features, but preventing their own customers from being the target of a violent crime is the coolest technology they can bring to market,”
Following Apple’s “kill switch” measure, Gascon, Johnson and Schneiderman all called on other manufacturers so as to make the technology active by default. Some smartphone systems still require consumers to opt in. In other words not all are protected while their phones are operating in the default mode.
According to reports from the National Consumers League, handheld devices had been stolen from 1.6 million Americans in 2012. Particularly in California, smartphone theft represents more than half of all crimes in San Francisco, Oakland, as well as other cities.
Moreover some other states are also experiencing a rash of smartphone thefts which led them to considering similar measures. For instance Minnesota passed a theft-prevention law last year.
At first, the cellular industry was reluctant towards these safety efforts, but later they changed their position. This means that most U.S. carriers are beginning to become more proactive as far as sharing data on stolen phones is concerned, preventing them from being activated on networks throughout the U.S. and abroad, albeit they don’t contain a “kill switch.”
Predator cats and foxes are on the verge of creating a new calamity: mammal species in Australia are being wiped off the surface of this planet. Experts actually call this strange phenomenon:“extinction calamity.” Foxes and cats brought mostly from Europe by the initial settlers are causing an unprecedented fast extinction rate. These phenomena are usually caused by human hunt or loss of habitat. But with the Australian mammals things stand differently.
“A further 56 Australian land mammals are now threatened, indicating that this extremely high rate of biodiversity loss is likely to continue unless substantial changes are made,”
said the leader of the research, conservation biologist John Woinarski.
This study was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. It basically proves that over 10% of the land mammal species endemic to Australia have been wiped out since the European settlement took place, back in 1788. 21% of the mammals are currently endangered, but not yet extinct.
In order to discover the cause of the massive and rapid extinction, scientists tracked the fate of all the country’s land and marine mammals ever since the first European settlers initially arrived in Australia. And much to their surprise they found the decline coincided with two animals arrival onto the Australian land: the feral cat, which was brought by sailors to Australia on ships as they kept the on-board rat populations at a low range, along with red foxes, which were brought to the continent for hunting.
The scientists explained that seven species that used to be widespread on the Australian land now only live on islands that haven’t been colonised by cats or foxes. Moreover they also found that unlike the rest of the world, where the risk of extinction is affecting much larger animals, the Australian mammals that are being killed to extinction are rather small, just a perfect meal size for a cat or a fox.
Another culprit identified by scientists regarding the mammals’ extinction rate is the different way in which the nation’s wildfires are handled and managed. Meaning that during the past years, indigenous Australians used to set small fires on a regular basis, fires that burned away dry brush, which is a perfect tinder for wildfires. But this practice is no longer common today, and therefore wildfires have a tendency to ignite more frequent and to spread more widely, making the mammals lose their food sources and compelling them to hide in places that protect them from the hungry cats and foxes.
According to an exclusive joint interview with The Associated Press, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg along with LinkedIn CEO Jeffrey Weiner are launching support programs at several colleges so as to get more women to take up studying technology. This initiative will hopefully help the two companies have more women employees.
Currently only 31% of all Facebook employees are women, 16% of them having jobs that are tech related. As far as LinkedIn is concerned, women comprise 17% of the tech employees and 39% of the overall employees. And things look the same, or even worse for other related companies.
“Think about it,” Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, a partner in the initiative, said. “If everybody who creates a product looks the same, you know the results won’t be nearly as interesting. We want for the sake of our future to have women involved in all the projects that will change our lives.”
Sheryl Sandberg published a book in 2011 called “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” in which she raised the problem regarding the constantly diminishing the number of women in positions of power. She’s been trying to make a change with the help of her nonprofit organisation, LeanIn.org, which actually provides a platform for the currently established groups.
Sandberg is of the opinion that gender equity is the key to a balanced outcome as far as serving users and clients is concerned. All in all the percentage of women who enrol in undergraduate computer science programs peaked at 35 percent back in 1985 and is down to about 17 percent currently.
The initiative is intended to go worldwide. Nevertheless the executives wouldn’t reveal how much the financial commitment they are making adds up to.Moreover the nature of this investment is somewhat different, meaning that it focuses more on peer groups and on mentoring processes.
Girls studying fields such as computer engineering tend to get discouraged easily because of the male competition and attitude that includes sexist remarks as well. But this LinkedIn – Facebook joint venture is supposed to solve these problems too. Integration and confidence as well as the need to know that they are not alone is likely to give women a boost in order to pursue a tech related career, if this is what they wish for.
Evolution is a way of life and living things regularly evolve and change to adapt to the changing environment. However, having said that there are some things which never change even after 2 billion years.
An international team of researchers have unearthed a deep sea microorganism that has not evolved in at least two billion years, nearly half the age of the planet. Researchers were quick to point out the fact that it provides ironically the best proof for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, said lead researcher J. William Schopf. The findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Professor of earth, planetary and space sciences at the University of California in Los Angeles, Schopf explains, “If evolution is as we understand it, organisms adapt to a changing environment. But if you take away any changes then there should be no evolution.”
Schopf added that he was right from his college days some 50 years ago looking for a permanent, durable environment which could provide credence to the theory that absence of evolution will lead to equal absence of changes.
The research team found living specimens of sulfur eating bacteria off the coast of Western Australia in the muddy sediments on the ocean floor. Needless to say there is no oxygen or light. Neither are there any waves to disturb the sediments.
Using the latest diagnostic technology researchers were able to compare the microbes with a set of fossils preserved in rocks found in Western Australia’s coastal waters that date back 2.3 billion years ago. This was also a time when there was a remarkable spike in oxygen levels; this produced an increase in oxygen-containing sulfate and nitrate compounds that sunk to the bottom of the ocean. They provided the “food” that allowed these bacteria to thrive and multiply.
They also match up exactly with fossils from 1.8 billion years ago found in the same area.
Charles Darwin explained how species changed overtime in response to a change in environment. The latest discovery fits in well with Darwin’s theory since it explains how organisms do not change or evolve if there is no change in the environment.
This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas saw automakers unveiling their self driving cars. Auto manufacturers also used the CES platform to showcase hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Mercedes Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche unveiled the self-driving Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept vehicle at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Costantine Samaras, a professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon University said, “CES is a place where automakers can reach an entire new audience of consumers who are looking for what’s next. Even if it’s just at the concept level, there’s a lot of spillover for technology up and down an automaker’s supply chain.”
The car can accommodate four persons facing each other in a lounge-style seating while the car drives autonomously. It is just 15 years in future.
Toyota unveiled its self driving prototype last year’s CES event and this year it is showcasing the Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Toyota magnanimously announced that 5600 of its patents related to Hydrogen Fuel Cell will be free to anyone who wants to use them.
Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter said, “The first-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, launched between 2015 and 2020, will be critical, requiring a concerted effort and unconventional collaboration,”.