Posts Tagged ‘NASA’
The full copy of an email received yesterday from 350.org
Breaking news about a good friend
Big news has just emerged: Dr. James Hansen, the planet’s premier climate scientist, announced his retirement as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, where he began his career in 1967.
If 350.org has a patron saint, it’s Jim. It was his 2008 paper that gave us our name, identifying 350 parts per million CO2 as the safe upper limit for carbon in the atmosphere.
But as much as for his science, we respect him for his courage. He’s always been willing to speak the truth bluntly, from the day in 1988 when he told Congress that the time had come “to stop waffling so much and say the planet was warming,” to all he’s done to bring attention to damaging projects like Keystone XL — even to the point of risking arrest to do so. I have no doubt he’ll go on doing science, and speaking plainly — indeed, he told the New York Times that one reason he’s leaving the federal payroll is so he can take on the government more directly.
But this is a big moment, and we need to mark it. Here’s what I hope you’ll do: honor Jim’s lifetime of work by making a public comment to the State Department about Keystone XL and tell them to reject the pipeline. In this case, speaking out is simple — click the link below to go to the page to submit from. There’s a list of ten arguments to choose from – you can mix and match or put it in your own words and just speak from the heart.
Sending a message to the State Department might not seem like much, but I think it’s actually quite fitting tribute.
One reason we’re fighting the pipeline is because Jim Hansen did the math to show that if we combusted the tar sands on top of all else we burn, it would be “game over for the climate.” So far that message hasn’t gotten through: the State Department hired a bunch of compromised oil industry analysts to ‘review’ KXL, and unsurprisingly they decided it would have ‘minimal’ environmental impact. We need to get them to take reality seriously, and change that assessment.
Maybe — just maybe — with a truly overwhelming flood of comments, we can break through. Together with our friends across the movement, we’re aiming for an ambitious target of 1 million comments to the State Department to stop the pipeline.
Beginning this comment push is all the more timely after the disasterous tar sands pipeline spill in Arkansas, where thousands of gallons of toxic oil ran freely through the streets of a suburban community.
Jim Hansen has been to jail twice to try and block KXL. When I saw him in handcuffs, I cringed. I don’t mind going myself, but it seems crazy that we have to send our best climate scientist off in handcuffs; in a sane world he’d never have to leave the lab. And in a sane world we’d just be toasting his retirement from NASA with well-deserved champagne.
But it’s a crazy world, heating fast, and so we need to mark this historic day in a way that really counts. Please do take a couple minutes to submit a comment on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
So many thanks,
P.S. This article about Jim’s work in the New York Times is supurb — please take a moment to read and share: nytimes.com/2013/04/02/science/james-e-hansen-retiring-from-nasa-to-fight-global-warming.html
P.S. please submit your comment re the Keystone XL Pipeline; for all our sakes. This is the acknowledgement you will receive from 350.org.
Thanks for submitting your comment. We’ve set the ambitious goal of 1,000,000 comments to the State Department because our best defense against the big money behind this project is overwhelming numbers — in short, people power.
Submitting a comment is just the first step — to hit that big goal, we each need to get our friends, family and maybe a few new people to join us. The next step is to share this with your social networks. You can click below to easily share with Facebook and Twitter:
Also, emails to friends is a great way to encourage people to share as well — just include this link when you reach out:act.350.org/letter/a_million_strong_against_keystone/
No doubt we’ll talk again soon about all this — there’s still a ways to go.
Does rather serve to remind us of our place in the scheme of things.
This stunning image was taken by the Cassini-Huygens probe. Many of the images taken by NASA are available for download from the DVIDS website, which is where this one was found. (But also do visit the Ciclops website.)
The title of the photograph is:
A View of Earth from Saturn
Although the Earth Observatory typically reserves ”Image of the Day” space for publishing data and images acquired by Earth-observing satellites, we are sometimes so enthralled by the spectacular images acquired by spacecraft observing other parts of the solar system that we want to share these ‘otherworldy’ views with our visitors. And if you are looking for remotely sensed images of the Earth, this view is the most remotely sensed image we have ever published!
This beautiful image of Saturn and its rings looks more like an artist’s creation than a real image, but in fact, the image is a composite (layered image) made from 165 images taken by the wide-angle camera on the Cassini spacecraft over nearly three hours on September 15, 2006.
Scientists created the color in the image by digitally compositing ultraviolet, infrared, and clear-filter images and then adjusting the final image to resemble natural color. (A clear filter is one that allows in all the wavelengths of light the sensor is capable of detecting.) The bottom image [the one above. Ed.] is a closeup view of the upper left quadrant of the rings, through which Earth is visible in the far, far distance.
On this day, Saturn interceded between the Sun and Cassini, shielding Cassini from the Sun’s glare. As the spacecraft lingered in Saturn’s shadow, it viewed the planet’s rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world. Seen from more than a billion kilometers (almost a billion miles) away, through the ice and dust particles of Saturn’s rings, Earth appears as a tiny, bright dot to the left and slightly behind Saturn.
Although it might appear that Earth is located within Saturn’s outermost rings, that positioning is just an illusion created by the enormous distance between Cassini and Earth. When Cassini took this image, the spacecraft was looking back at Saturn from a distance of about 2.2.million kilometers (about 1.3 million miles). The Sun was millions of additional miles beyond, hidden behind Saturn. On September 15, Earth’s orbit had brought our home planet to a location slightly behind and to the left of the Sun from Cassini’s perspective. The Website of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) provides more detailed information about this image. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency.
Trying to find that faint image of Planet Earth in the above photograph is a challenge, even for those with much younger eyes than mine.
However, with a little bit of jiggery-pokery I was able to crop and enlarge the photograph, see below:
Planet Earth is in the ’10 o’clock’ position in the photograph, about half-way from the centre of the enlarged segment towards the top-left corner of the picture, just outside the outer white ring.
That’s us. All that we have ever been. All that we ever will be. Just that small white dot.
Not such a bizarre post title as you might think!
DA14, or to give it’s full name, Asteroid 2012 DA14, is calling by Planet Earth rather soon. To quote the item on the Planetary Society’s website,
Asteroid 2012 DA14 Discovery Enabled by Planetary Society Grant
On Friday, February 15, 2013, Asteroid 2012 DA14 will travel just 17,000 miles above the Earth – closer to our planet than the orbit of the communications satellite that broadcast the Super Bowl around the world. About half the size of a football field and with more than 100 times the energy impact of the nuclear bomb that fell on Hiroshima, DA14 will miss Earth this time around, but if it had impacted, this asteroid could have taken out any major metropolitan city on our planet.
The discovery of Asteroid DA14 was made by a small team of observers at La Sagra Observatory in Southern Spain, on February 22, 2012, enabled with a grant provided by The Planetary Society. One of the observatory’s telescopes had recently been upgraded with funds donated by The Planetary Society’s NEO Shoemaker Grant program. Its new camera enabled detection of fast moving objects like 2012 DA14 – requiring very fast imaging for discovery and determination of their paths. The upgraded instrument has far outperformed the Observatory’s other telescopes.
Now, we get to point the world’s telescopes at this 2013 close flyby and learn more about this asteroid and its orbit because of the support of our Planetary Society Members all over the world.
This asteroid won’t hit Earth, at least for many, many decades. But it is a reminder we live in a cosmic shooting gallery. We need to find, track, and characterize these objects and develop the technical and political capability to deflect an asteroid. It is not a matter of whether there will be a dangerous impact, it is a matter of when.
The Planetary Society and its members are working to do our part through programs like ourShoemaker NEO Grants, like the one that made the discovery of 2012 DA14 possible, and projects like Laser Bees, exploring new ways to potentially deflect a dangerous asteroid.
NASA have recently released a video, see below, but a search on YouTube will find more, some of which are more engaging than the rather dry style of the NASA release.
Have questions? Bet you do! Here are some of the answers to the obvious ones. Including these:
What is the time of closest approach
Feb. 15, 2013, 19:25 UTC (11:25 PST)
What is the closest approach altitude?
Approximate altitude above the surface of the Earth will be 27,330 km, 17,000 mi (34,100 km, 21,200 mi from center of Earth). That is closer than the altitude of geosynchronous satellites, e.g., satellite TV satellites, at 35,786 km (22,236 mi) altitude.
Will it be visible with the naked eye, how bright will it be?
It will not be a naked eye object. At closest approach, its brightness will be about a magnitude of 7. It will be bright enough that it could be seen with steady binoculars or a small telescope if you are on the side of Earth it will be passing.
What parts of Earth will have a chance to observe it telescopically?
Near closest approach when it is brightest, most of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It will pass from the southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere. Though it will be much dimmer, it is observable by larger telescopes for days to weeks before and after closest approach.
Finally, well done those gents that first spotted DA14.
Now where did I put my tin helmet?
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”).
As I wrote yesterday, “… out of curiosity I wondered what I had published a year ago, in early February 2012. To my amazement what was published was as fresh and relevant as if it had been published today.“
So here’s the second part of that trilogy of posts from February, 2012. (It reads in its original form with the links and references unchanged.)
Climate, truth and integrity, part two
Continuing from Part One last Friday.
Last Friday I started re-publishing the wonderful comments that had appeared on Climate Sight in response to a question that I had raised, namely,
“While in every way that I can think of, I support the premise of mankind affecting global climate, I would love to hear from someone who could reconcile the Post above with these recent items:” and then included the links to the WSJ and Daily Mail items.
If you are not familiar with those WSJ and Daily Mail items, then you will need to go back to Friday’s Post.
So moving on.
The third response was from chrisd3, here’s what he wrote,
Paul, here is the Met Office’s response, which begins, “[The Daily Mail] article includes numerous errors in the reporting of published peer reviewed science undertaken by the Met Office Hadley Centre and for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading.”
Here is Deltoid taking David Rose apart on some earlier pieces:
And NASA never said anything about the Thames freezing over. Rose just made that bit up.
Finally, here is a chart of global temps from HadCRU:
From this, it is pretty clear why Rose chooses 15 years as his starting point: 1997-1998 was the time of the largest El Nino ever recorded, resulting in a huge temperature spike. Using that as the starting point for a temperature comparison is absolutely classic cherry-picking.
And in any event, you can’t say anything about trends in noisy data by simply comparing two arbitrary points. That is not a valid way to analyze the data (especially if you pick an obvious outlier as your starting point!). It is like trying to say whether the tide is coming in or going out by looking at the height of two waves. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to look at the long-term trend to remove the noise.
Let me take you to that Met Office response (and I’m republishing it in full).
Met Office in the Media: 29 January 2012
Today the Mail on Sunday published a story written by David Rose entitled “Forget global warming – it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about”.
This article includes numerous errors in the reporting of published peer reviewed science undertaken by the Met Office Hadley Centre and for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading.
Despite the Met Office having spoken to David Rose ahead of the publication of the story, he has chosen to not fully include the answers we gave him to questions around decadal projections produced by the Met Office or his belief that we have seen no warming since 1997.For clarity I have included our full response to David Rose below:A spokesman for the Met Office said: “The ten year projection remains groundbreaking science. The complete period for the original projection is not over yet and these projections are regularly updated to take account of the most recent data.
- “The projections are probabilistic in nature, and no individual forecast should be taken in isolation. Instead, several decades of data will be needed to assess the robustness of the projections.
“However, what is absolutely clear is that we have continued to see a trend of warming, with the decade of 2000-2009 being clearly the warmest in the instrumental record going back to 1850. Depending on which temperature records you use, 2010 was the warmest year on record for NOAA NCDC and NASA GISS, and the second warmest on record in HadCRUT3.”
Furthermore despite criticism of a paper published by the Met Office he chose not to ask us to respond to his misconceptions. The study in question, supported by many others, provides an insight into the sensitivity of our climate to changes in the output of the sun.
It confirmed that although solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years this will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The study found that the expected decrease in solar activity would only most likely cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08 °C. This compares to an expected warming of about 2.5 °C over the same period due to greenhouse gases (according to the IPCC’s B2 scenario for greenhouse gas emissions that does not involve efforts to mitigate emissions). In addition the study also showed that if solar output reduced below that seen in the Maunder Minimum – a period between 1645 and 1715 when solar activity was at its lowest observed level – the global temperature reduction would be 0.13C.
Back to that response from chrisd3. He offered this, “Finally, here is a chart of global temps from HadCRU.” Here is that chart, remember we are looking at Global temperatures.
OK, between this Post and my Post last Friday, you probably get the message! There were many other contributions and I could go on and on quoting the great responses I got, all of them uniformly saying there IS global warming unprecedented in recent years. The message is crystal clear and those who wish to deny the evidence … well, I can’t come up with a polite term, so will just leave it at that!
My final contribution is from Martin Lack, author of the Blog Lack of Environment, and a good friend of Learning from Dogs. Here is what he wrote in a recent email,
You may have seen my latest response to How much is most?
When I eventually saw your earlier comment, I was surprised and disappointed in equal measure because I almost feel that I have failed in some way. Let me explain: Unlike ClimateSight and SkepticalScience, which both do an excellent job of focusing on the science of climate change, my blog is deliberately focused on the politics underlying the denial of all environmental our problems; including 2 key aspects to my MA dissertation, namely the political misuse of scepticism; and the psychology of denial. See my How to be a Climate Change ‘Sceptic’ for more detail.
Therefore, although not specifically categorised as such, just about everything I have posted is traceable back to Paul and Anne Ehrlich’sBetrayal of Science and Reason (1996) and/or Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt (2010). For someone who does not currently go to any Church, I am remarkably fond of quoting Scripture so, if necessary, please forgive me but, as the Good Book says: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Therefore, I do not think you should be surprised by the amount of misinformation and misrepresentation contained in the original WSJ Sixteen’s article; and/or the fact that denialist arguments are repeated no matter how many times they have been shown to be false. Furthermore, I would warn against trying to summarise it all on Learning from Dogs. This is definitely Book territory and, in addition to the two mentioned above, the market is already saturated by the likes of Climate Change Cover-up by James Hoggan and Climate Change Denial by Haydn Washington and John Cook.
With very best wishes for a fog-free future,
What to say to close these two Posts off? Frankly, it’s difficult to know how to pitch it. The science seems clear beyond reasonable doubt. But if you are reading this and disagree, then PLEASE offer the science to refute the conclusions presented here. I promise you that I will present it on Learning from Dogs.
So let me end with a simple photograph.
This is the photograph that wilderness photographer Galen Rowell called, “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”
The now world-famous photograph was taken by Astronaut William Anders from Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, a little over 43 years ago on December 24th, 1968.
As the Earth rose above the horizon of the moon, NASA astronaut Frank Borman uttered the words, “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.” Bill Anders then took the ‘unscheduled’ photograph.
Now project forward 43 years to the year 2055 and play with the idea of what ‘pretty‘ planet Earth will be like for mankind and so many other species, including our longest companion, the dog, if we don’t get our act together pretty soon!
Maybe not from a Mayan perspective but, nevertheless, who knows!
For some time now I have subscribed to the online magazine Big Think. Daniel Honan, Managing Editor, has contrived to bring together a group of very interesting authors from a wide range of disciplines, presenting a weekly collection of thought-provoking articles. Despite the volume of emails that seems to assault my in-box each day, it’s very rare for me not to browse the weekly digest from Big Think.
Thus it was that early on the 13th (last Thursday) I read a wonderful item written by Steven V. Mazie, Associate Professor of Political Studies at Bard High School Early College-Manhattan.
A quick telephone call to Dan Honan produced an immediate ‘yes’ to my request for permission to republish the Steven Mazie piece here on Learning from Dogs so settle back and enjoy.
Googling the Apocalypse: the Web as Epistemological Vortex
Steven Mazie on December 11, 2012, 2:12 PM
Let’s say you’re just now tuning in to reports that the world will end on December 21 when the Mayan calendar resets to zero. Maybe you’re one of the 35 million Americans who fear it will really happen. Maybe the prospect of solar storms, rogue planets and devastating floods is a welcome distraction from more pedestrian anxieties of everyday life. Or maybe you’re just curious how such a ridiculous idea could persuade “panicked” Russians to buy up all the “matches, kerosene, sugar and candles” in town or spur a Chinese man to spend his life savings building an ark to keep him afloat after the catastrophe.
Where do you turn to learn more? To the epistemic umbrella of the 21st century, of course, and here is what Google will show you.
Do you consult the first hit, billed as the “official website for 122112 information”? Do you settle for the detailed account in the Wikipedia entry, listed second? Or do you flick down to the third, an earnest attempt by NASA to explain “Why the World Won’t End”?
If you go with the first site, you will find a bizarre, colorful bazaar of information, perspectives and advice on the approaching doomsday. There is enough to keep you occupied here for a while: a list of celebrities who believe the hype (finding Mel Gibson on the list isn’t much of a surprise, but Janeane Garofolo? really?), an article listing “37 Things You Should Start Hoarding Now” and one remarkable video summarizing the various ways the world might end and calling on world leaders to tell the “TRUTH” about the devastation awaiting us:
The video is a study in epistemic manipulation. Narrated by a man with a severe British accent, the presentation claims — three times — “we just don’t know what to believe anymore” about “the most anticipated date of our time.” Implying that the media, corporate advertisers, the “government-sponsored scientists” at NASA and “even highly respected major religious organizations” are all either mistaken or willfully fooling us, the video appeals to our “gut instincts that something is wrong — something just doesn’t feel right.” It’s a miracle Stephen Colbert hasn’t picked this up yet. “In the eyes of many,” the video announces with no substantiation, “the prophecies of doom have been written.”
The sad hilarity of NASA’s attempt to calm everyone down takes the form of a staid FAQ. There are no bells and whistles, videos, garish colors or flashing links. Just sober, somewhat condescending, straightforward claims: “Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.”
The problem is that credible science often fails to convince the masses. It cannot budge the majority of Americans who continue to deny the reality of evolution. It cannot convince more than 41 percent of Americans that the activities of human beings play a role in global warming. It’s no wonder, then, that so many people worldwide are keeping doomsday supply companies in business, buying up freeze-dried food rations and personal bunkers rather than Christmas presents, or that sites like December212012.com are profiting from these advertisers.
It’s dispiriting to witness the mass delusion of a tenth of humanity. You have to feel sorry for the Chinese ark-builder who will be left penniless on December 22, and you have to empathize with the people who are contemplating killing their pets or committing suicide to avoid the doomsday devastation.
But this unsettling phenomenon is a symptom of a universal human quandary: how to know whom to trust about things we can’t see or don’t understand. In a section on the rationality of belief in his delicious book Cunning (2006), political and legal theorist Don Herzog offers this:
What you believe depends on who you believe. And who you believe depends on what you believe. Your beliefs, your knowledge, your experience, your assignments of what I’ll call epistemic authority, that is, who or what sources are trustworthy on what issues: all are caught up in each other…Whether it’s rational for you to believe something depends on how it fits in with what you already believe, not least about the credibility of those reporting it.
The best argument against the doomsday believers may come on December 22, when, with any luck, most of us will still be around. But as my fellow blogger David Ropeik explained recently, and as Herzog’s analysis indicates, the next epistemological doomsday is just around the corner.
Follow Steven Mazie on Twitter: @stevenmazie
My judgment is that I should leave this post as it is. As a slightly tongue-in-cheek review of this much heralded prediction.
But I can’t.
I’m going to follow Steve’s article with this (thanks Christine):
More footage from Chasing Ice, an astonishing clip of the largest iceberg calving ever recorded. Arctic sea ice levels this summer hit a record low; according to the U.S. National Snow & Ice Data Centre in September, more than 600,000 square kilometres more ice had melted in 2012 than was ever recorded by satellites before. We are indeed melting our children’s future, and apparently many of us are too busy to hold our governments to account for their lack of action.
If we don’t change our ways on this beautiful planet pretty damn soon, then my guess is that we are headed for a massive depopulation and a return to a much more primitive lifestyle, a future that will be brutally obvious by 2020.
What is relevant, to a degree unprecedented in the history of humanity, is how the peoples of this planet respond NOW!
Historic times indeed.
An extraordinary view of the Universe
I first saw this report on the BBC News website,
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has produced one of its most extraordinary views of the Universe to date.
Called the eXtreme Deep Field, the picture captures a mass of galaxies stretching back almost to the time when the first stars began to shine.
But this was no simple point and snap – some of the objects in this image are too distant and too faint for that.
Rather, this view required Hubble to stare at a tiny patch of sky for more than 500 hours to detect all the light.
“It’s a really spectacular image,” said Dr Michele Trenti, a science team member from the University of Cambridge, UK.
Then while the BBC News item had that stunning picture, over on the NASA website there is was together with more information.
Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full moon.
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time.
The new full-color XDF image is even more sensitive, and contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.
Magnificent spiral galaxies similar in shape to our Milky Way and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy appear in this image, as do the large, fuzzy red galaxies where the formation of new stars has ceased. These red galaxies are the remnants of dramatic collisions between galaxies and are in their declining years. Peppered across the field are tiny, faint, more distant galaxies that were like the seedlings from which today’s magnificent galaxies grew. The history of galaxies — from soon after the first galaxies were born to the great galaxies of today, like our Milky Way — is laid out in this one remarkable image.
Hubble pointed at a tiny patch of southern sky in repeat visits (made over the past decade) for a total of 50 days, with a total exposure time of 2 million seconds. More than 2,000 images of the same field were taken with Hubble’s two premier cameras: the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3, which extends Hubble’s vision into near-infrared light.
“The XDF is the deepest image of the sky ever obtained and reveals the faintest and most distant galaxies ever seen. XDF allows us to explore further back in time than ever before”, said Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz, principal investigator of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2009 (HUDF09) program.
The universe is 13.7 billion years old, and the XDF reveals galaxies that span back 13.2 billion years in time. Most of the galaxies in the XDF are seen when they were young, small, and growing, often violently as they collided and merged together. The early universe was a time of dramatic birth for galaxies containing brilliant blue stars extraordinarily brighter than our sun. The light from those past events is just arriving at Earth now, and so the XDF is a “time tunnel into the distant past.” The youngest galaxy found in the XDF existed just 450 million years after the universe’s birth in the big bang.
Before Hubble was launched in 1990, astronomers could barely see normal galaxies to 7 billion light-years away, about halfway across the universe. Observations with telescopes on the ground were not able to establish how galaxies formed and evolved in the early universe.
Hubble gave astronomers their first view of the actual forms and shapes of galaxies when they were young. This provided compelling, direct visual evidence that the universe is truly changing as it ages. Like watching individual frames of a motion picture, the Hubble deep surveys reveal the emergence of structure in the infant universe and the subsequent dynamic stages of galaxy evolution.
The infrared vision of NASA’s planned James Webb Space Telescope will be aimed at the XDF. The Webb telescope will find even fainter galaxies that existed when the universe was just a few hundred million years old. Because of the expansion of the universe, light from the distant past is stretched into longer, infrared wavelengths. The Webb telescope’s infrared vision is ideally suited to push the XDF even deeper, into a time when the first stars and galaxies formed and filled the early “dark ages” of the universe with light.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.
What a fabulous achievement. Just think that “The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.” and “The history of galaxies — from soon after the first galaxies were born to the great galaxies of today, like our Milky Way — is laid out in this one remarkable image.” Plus, “The youngest galaxy found in the XDF existed just 450 million years after the universe’s birth in the big bang.“
Do you know what crosses my mind looking at the picture? All those galaxies with, presumably, tens of thousands of planets and, surely, the near certainty that intelligent life must be teeming across those trillions of miles!
Let me close with this YouTube video brought to my attention thanks to Peter Sinclair of Climate Crocks.
Watch this and other space videos at http://SpaceRip.com
We’ve all seen pictures of Earth from space, but have we really taken the time to appreciate what our planet looks like against the starscapes of the Milky Way galaxy? Here, we beckon viewers to see Earth in its cosmic context, which includes the stars, interstellar gases, the moon, the sun, and the solar winds. Be sure to watch in full HD, 1080p, and imagine you’re an astronaut aboard the International Space Station with a little time on your hands.
How Virtual Reality Has Changed the English Language and the Way Humans Communicate
One of the wonderful consequences of spending far too much time ‘blogging’ is the connections that I have made over the last 27 months. I have come across a wonderful range of interesting writers and learnt so much more from those links. However, that’s not all, by a long chalk. A number of you have offered to contribute an essay to Learning from Dogs. (And if you are reading this and would like to offer a guest post then ‘fill your boots!‘ )
So it was that a few weeks ago I received an email from Alexa Russell. She offered me a guest post that I found very interesting, leading to it being published today.
I asked Alexa to write a little about herself, to which she replied, “I am a freelance writer who likes to write about technology, education and the changing nature of society. I am currently considering graduate school but fear being scared off by mounting costs and diminishing returns.”
So onto the post, which Alexa explains is about the ways in which virtual reality and digital devices change how we humans communicate and use the English language. Alexa is the author of several resources on studying English and the value in earning anEnglish PhD. Here she asks what Learning from Dogs has previously wondered — do we need to understand language in order to get the message?
How Virtual Reality Has Changed the English Language and the Way Humans Communicate
Technology has changed the way we communicate in some obvious (and occasionally obnoxious) ways. Grammar, punctuation, and even a more general respect for lexical rules have diminished in favor of speed and facility in text messages, which are now the most common communicative tool. Probably more periods have been omitted in the last two days than in the hundreds of years since the Gutenberg Bible. None will be omitted here, but maybe they should be.
As social networks expand, making an acquaintance at a coffee shop can easily translate to a lifetime connection – thanks to Facebook. And finally, there is a way to sever contact without engaging in direct conflict – defriending. The funniest thing about defriending is that it is usually considered as an unimpeachable revocation, as starkly offensive as a breakup – when in fact the message has not even crossed the digital threshold to the real world.
As virtual reality and networks progress, so too do our attempts to understand exactly what has happened and may happen to our grip on physical reality. There are a myriad of movies that attempt to explore the subject: The Matrix, Inception, and Avatar, to name a few of the most popular. In The Matrix, Neo discovers that he can will himself to do anything, move with almost infinite speed, gain superman strength, as long as he can carry that belief to his avatar in The Matrix. In Avatar, the protagonist cannot walk in real life but is then given a taller, stronger, more agile host to control. Inception tests the boundaries of the physical, as well as the emotional, as the virtual realities of the “hacked” mind have real impact on his or her emotional truth.
The conclusions that all of these movies come to is the same, albeit shocking fact: virtual reality has real-world effects. Neo can die if he believes he has died. Love can transfer from the blue, tall, strong, avatar to the avatar’s handicapped controller. Inception controls the outlook and actions of an individual well beyond the confines of the dreamworld. It can even come to define the rest of the dreamer’s life.
Virtual reality allows us to shed our physical shells and our weak points. There is nothing holding us back from becoming what or who we want to be. The zits and potbellies of real life give way to what is being communicated. Equally, as in the Matrix, World of Warcraft and even in NASA’s new medical diagnosis virtual reality for astronauts, skills can be learned more quickly than ever will be possible in real life. The NASA device gives astronauts an instant how-to guide, which will enable them to collect data and provide diagnoses as if they had years of medical school under their belts.
So, it really shouldn’t be all that surprising that grammar, punctuation, and spelling have lost a lot of their importance. When people communicate through a virtual medium, they can forget things like academic training and rules of grammar. The value of training and rules is diminishing. It is the essence of the message, not its style, that matters. The biggest question, however is, can you understand the essence?
You can understand why it was such a pleasure to receive Alexa’s essay! And the question left in the air, so to speak, in her closing sentence, is one of huge import. As we add to, or is it replace, our tradition of the ‘spoken’ word with this new-world of staccato speak, what’s happening to the essence of the message!
I do hope that Alexa will grace these pages again.
An afterthought about the adventurous spirit of man.
While the focus on the manned exploration of space has declined significantly since those days of the Apollo missions, the spirit to explore has not diminished. This was underlined in spades by a recent post from the British blog Earth & Solar System that I have been subscribing to since a few weeks ago.
First some background to Earth & Solar System.
This blog reflects the research interests of the Isotope Cosmochemistry and Geochemistry Group at the University of Manchester. In our laboratories we study samples from comets, interstellar dust, interplanetary dust, Mars, the moon and asteroids to understand how the Earth and the Solar System were formed, how they evolved and became what we see today. We study the Earth and its chemistry to understand how it works, its mantle, crust, oceans and how we change it. We want to share and discuss what we find with everyone.
The blog is for sharing science and what we and other research groups discover as we do science in real time. Discussion, questioning and enquiry are good, but politics, and opinion that can’t be backed up by published scientific work are strictly off-limits and will be removed.
Yet another example of why integrity is the only way forward.
Anyway, the recent post that was published came into my ‘in-box’ on Monday and I wanted to share it with you. Primarily because the mainstream media have moved on and there is little ‘news’ about NASA’s Curiosity rover. That’s why this post is so fascinating and it’s reproduced on Learning from Dogs with the permission of Ashley King, the author.
A busy week
Posted on September 3, 2012 by Ashley King.
The past week has seen NASAs Curiosity rover return more amazing images of the Gale crater, fire up its DAN and SAM instruments, and take its first steps towards Mt. Sharp.
The new images, captured using the 100mm telephoto lens of the Mastcam, provide a glimpse of the geological treats that await scientists at the base of Mt. Sharp. Of particular interest has been the identification of an unconformity, where two rocks in contact but of different ages indicate a break in the geological record. Satellite data suggests that the rocks lying below the unconformity contain hydrous minerals whilst those above are “dry”. It appears these rock units formed under very different environmental conditions.
Next, Curiosity had another driving lesson, this time positioning itself over one of the scour marks created during landing. This allowed the rover to continue testing the ChemCam and turn on the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument, which will be used to search for water below the Martian surface. The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, comprising of a mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph and tunable laser spectrometer, was also gently woken up. SAM can measure the abundance of C compounds, H, N and O, elements associated with life, in atmospheric and powdered rock samples. A quick test of some Earth air trapped in the instrument since launch confirmed that it is working well and should soon be ready for Martian samples.
Curiosity has now completed four drives and is heading for Mt. Sharp. However, the first target is Glenelg, a rock outcrop 400m to the east of the Bradbury landing site, where it’s hoped Curiosity will start using its drill. Although the journey will take several weeks, Glenelg contains at least three different rock types that will help scientists piece together the geological history of Gale crater.
Makes a nice change to forget about the goings-on here on Planet Earth!
Just about the most fundamental requirement in life!
I subscribe to the Mother Nature Network website and recently in their ’round robin’ was this item, A Breath of Fresh Air. It’s all about the role of plants inside the home for improving the quality of the air we breathe. Thought, dear reader, that you would enjoy this.
15 houseplants for improving indoor air quality
A breath of fresh air
In the late ’80s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America studied houseplants as a way to purify the air in space facilities. They found several plants that filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Lucky for us the plants can also help clean indoor air on Earth, which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air. Other studies have since been published in the Journal of American Society of Horticultural Science furtherproving the science. Want to see the best flowers? Just click through the buttons above to see all 15 plants. (Text: Julie Knapp)<
The image above is just one of 17, each with details of how they contribute to cleaner, less toxic, air. So don’t delay, click here and read all about them yourself. Here’s an example of the presentation from picture number 16.
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
Shade and weekly watering are all the peace lily needs to survive and produce blooms. It topped NASA’s list for removing all three of most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzeneand trichloroethylene. It can also combat toluene and xylene.
Have a great day!