Category Archive : Science

Much of Canada’s remaining intact ice shelf has broken apart into hulking iceberg islands thanks to a hot summer and global warming, scientists said.

Canada’s 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island had been the country’s last intact ice shelf until the end of July when ice analyst Adrienne White of the Canadian Ice Service noticed that satellite photos showed that about 43% of it had broken off. She said it happened around July 30 or 31.

Two giant icebergs formed along with lots of smaller ones, and they have already started drifting away, White said. The biggest is nearly the size of Manhattan — 21 square miles (55 square kilometers) and 7 miles long (11.5 kilometers). They are 230 to 260 feet (70 to 80 meters) thick.

Read more: 2020 Is Our Last, Best Chance to Save the Planet

“This is a huge, huge block of ice,” White said. “If one of these is moving toward an oil rig, there’s nothing you can really do aside from move your oil rig.”

The 72-square mile (187 square kilometer) undulating white ice shelf of ridges and troughs dotted with blue meltwater had been larger than the District of Columbia but now is down to 41 square miles (106 square kilometers).

Temperatures from May to early August in the region have been 9 degrees (5 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1980 to 2010 average, University of Ottawa glaciology professor Luke Copland said. This is on top of an Arctic that already had been warming much faster than the rest of globe, with this region warming even faster.

“Without a doubt, it’s climate change,” Copland said, noting the ice shelf is melting from both hotter air above and warmer water below. “The Milne was very special,” …read more

Source:: Time – Science


In recent decades, tens of thousands of people around the globe have died as the result of extreme heat, and yet the phenomenon of deadly heat would be easy to miss. That may not be true much longer.

A new analysis published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that, if left unchecked, climate change could drive temperatures up to the point where they would lead to 85 deaths per 100,000 people globally per year by the end of the century. That’s more than are currently killed by all infectious diseases across the globe.

“We’re doing a lot of things around the world that are improving healthcare rapidly,” says Solomon Hsiang, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the new paper. “Climate change would be a giant step backwards on that progress.”

The paper is formally a “working paper” and has not undergone peer review, but it quantifies a reality that researchers who study climate change have long understood. Humans already struggle to survive in extreme temperatures, and that challenge will only get worse as average global temperatures rise. Even today, many people—particularly older adults—are vulnerable. A 2015 heat wave in India and Pakistan, for example, killed more than 3,000 people.

The new research suggests temperature rise will become an increasingly significant strain on the health care system, forcing doctors to battle a surge in heat-related ailments over the coming decades.

Some places will handle those challenges better than others. Already, vulnerability to extreme heat isn’t equally distributed, with poor communities and poor countries more vulnerable to heat-related ailments than their wealthier counterparts. The new study shows how that inequality will continue with time: some of the worst-off places today could reach a death rate as high as 160 per …read more

Source:: Time – Science


The scariest dream my now-college-age daughter ever had was the one about the running legs—or, as they became known in our family, The Running Legs, almost audibly capitalized. She was in kindergarten at the time and the dream amounted to little more than an image of a pair of black tights, filled by an invisible lower body chasing her.

It was the first thing she mentioned when she got up in the morning and she brought it up again over breakfast—clearly distressed. We talked about it a bit and I asked her what she thought the legs would have done if they had caught her.

“Bite me,” she answered.

“With what?” I asked.

That made her laugh, but not so much that she didn’t also mention the dream to her teacher, who had her draw a picture of it and then talk through it together. The fear faded after that, but the memory did not.

Silly or not, childish or not, The Running Legs checked several boxes that would generally qualify it as a nightmare. It was recalled upon awakening—and may even have been the reason for the awakening. It caused distress the next day. It involved danger—in the case of nightmares, it’s most commonly some kind of physical aggression, a serious accident, a disease, or, yes, being chased.

Nightmares may also involve being the person who causes harm to other people. “Humans are social beings,” says professor Michael Schredl, a sleep researcher at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, and nightmares may be sign that a bit of the social code that keeps us in line during the day and is fundamental enough to who we are that it apparently operates even in our sleep. From the time we emerged as a species we have depended on our acceptance within a group …read more

Source:: Time – Science


(BERLIN) — British scientists say there are more emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica than previously thought based on evidence of bird droppings spotted from space.

A study published Wednesday by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey counted 61 emperor penguin colonies dotted around the southernmost continent, 11 more than the number previously confirmed.

Scientists used images from Europe’s Sentinel-2 satellite mission to look for smudges on the ice that indicated large amounts of guano, or penguin poop.

The majestic emperor penguin breeds in remote areas where temperatures can drop as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit). Researchers have long relied on aerial photographs and satellites to spot colonies of the flightless marine birds.

Peter Fretwell, a British Antarctic Survey geographer and the study’s lead author, called the latest count “good news” but noted that the newly spotted colonies were small.

“(They) only take the overall population count up by 5-10% to just over half a million penguins or around 265,500 – 278,500 breeding pairs,” he said.

Emperor penguins are vulnerable to the loss of sea ice predicted to occur because of man-made global warming. Some researchers suggest the number of colonies could drop by more than 30% by the end of the century.

Some of the newly discovered colonies are located far offshore, on sea ice that has formed around grounded icebergs and which is particularly at risk of disappearing.

Yan Ropert-Coudert, an ecologist who wasn’t involved in the latest study, said that while satellite images are a powerful tool for tracking penguin colonies, large-scale explorations and counts on the ground are also needed whenever possible.

Reliable assessment of local and global populations are necessary for conservation bodies to decide what actions are needed to protect the species, said Ropert-Coudert, who heads the biological sciences section of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

…read more

Source:: Time – Science


The coronavirus pandemic has worn out its welcome on Earth. Just try and find someone who’s not sick and tired of working from the basement, wearing a mask, bumping elbows in greeting or simply living with the worry of themselves or their family getting sick. And these inconveniences pale in comparison to the pain many have suffered from sickness or the loss of loved ones.

If we could have seen the pandemic coming and had the power to prevent it, of course, we would have. If we had that power but sat on our hands as millions became sick and died, that inaction would be unforgivable.

There is another problem that we know is coming, that we have the power to address, and yet which we continually do too little—or often nothing—to tackle. I’m talking about climate change.

Left unchecked, the impact of climate change will only further alter our world as we know it—reshaping our coastlines and the cities that sit on them, accelerating species extinction, devastating agriculture and causing famine, ravaging our economy and impacting everyone’s health.

Though often regarded as a hot potato in politics, one of the biggest points of opposition to addressing climate change is the cost. How can a world whose transportation and energy systems are so heavily rooted in burning hydrocarbons afford to scrap them and shift to other, cleaner forms of energy?

I approach it from the other direction, however: how can we afford not to?

Yes, the looming cost to human life and the natural world are paramount and merit immediate and sustained commitment to long-term action. For those who also worry about the economics of tackling climate change, consider this: Goldman Sachs recently estimated that there is $16 trillion to be made in just the next 10 years from new investments in renewable …read more

Source:: Time – Science


(ORLANDO, Fla.) — Sorry, boomers. Millennials and their younger siblings and children now make up a majority of the U.S. population.

A new analysis by the Brookings Institution shows that 50.7% of U.S. residents were under age 40, as of July 2019.

The Brookings’ analysis of population estimates released this summer by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the combined millennial, Generation Z and younger generations numbered 166 million people. The combined Generation X, baby boomer, and older cohorts represented 162 million U.S. residents.

“To many Americans—especially baby boomers themselves—this news may come as a shock. For them, the term “millennial” has been associated with a youthful, often negative, vibe in terms of habits, ideology, and politics,” William Frey, a senior fellow at Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, wrote in the analysis. “Now, the oldest millennial is 39, and with their numbers exceeding those of baby boomers, the millennial generation is poised to take over influential roles in business and government.”

Those under age 40 are more diverse than the older cohorts, with almost half identifying as being part of a racial or ethnic minority. Past surveys show that the younger generations split from the older generations on issues such as immigration reform, criminal justice reform and environmental protection, and the pandemic and recent racial justice protests are likely to galvanize the younger groups to promote an array of progressive causes, Frey wrote.

Millennials typically are defined as being born between 1981 and 1996. Baby boomers, long considered a primary driver of demographic and social change in the U.S. because of their large numbers, were born between the end of World War II and the arrival of the Beatles in the U.S. in 1964.

Squeezed between the boomers and millennials, Generation Xers were born in the late 1960s and 1970s. Members of Generation Z were born after …read more

Source:: Time – Science


(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — Two NASA astronauts returned to Earth on Sunday in a dramatic, retro-style splashdown, their capsule parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico to close out an unprecedented test flight by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

It was the first splashdown by U.S. astronauts in 45 years, with the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from orbit. The return clears the way for another SpaceX crew launch as early as next month and possible tourist flights next year.

Test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode the SpaceX Dragon capsule back to Earth less than a day after departing the International Space Station and two months after blasting off from Florida. The capsule parachuted into the calm gulf waters about 40 miles off the coast of Pensacola, hundreds of miles from Tropical Storm Isaias pounding Florida’s Atlantic coast.

“Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” said Mission Control from SpaceX headquarters.

“It was truly our honor and privilege,” replied Hurley.

The astronauts’ ride home in the capsule dubbed Endeavour was fast, bumpy and hot, at least on the outside.

The spacecraft went from a screaming orbital speed of 17,500 mph (28,000 kph) to 350 mph (560 kph) during atmospheric reentry, and finally to 15 mph (24 kph) at splashdown. Peak heating during descent was 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius). The anticipated top G forces felt by the crew: four to five times the force of Earth’s gravity.

“Endeavour has you loud and clear,” Hurley radioed following a brief communication blackout caused by the heat of atmospheric entry.

A SpaceX recovery ship with more than 40 staff, including doctors and nurses, moved in quickly following splashdown and lifted the 15-foot capsule onto its deck. Two smaller, faster boats arrived first at the capsule while it was slowly bobbing upright …read more

Source:: Time – Science


NASA Perseverance

If there were any intelligent beings on Mars, they’d likely be confused by a little plaque recently added to the side of the SUV-sized Perseverance Mars rover, which lifted off at 7:50 AM local time on Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida and is set to reach Mars in February. Nobody had planned any late additions to the rover—but no one had planned on a lot of things this year, least of all the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to burn across the world.

As it did with pretty much everyone else in the United States, the pandemic forced the Perseverance team to work from home if they could, social distancing in the factories and clean rooms if they couldn’t. As a nod to the challenges that presented, the flank of the rover now carries the medical community’s snake-and-staff caduceus symbol, along with a picture of Earth and the flight path of a spacecraft soaring away from it:

NASA/JPL-Caltech Seen from below, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is in position in the aeroshell that will protect the rover on its way to the Red Planet.

Perseverance is not the only ship that recently embarked on the seven-month journey from the troubled blue planet to its mysterious red neighbor. On July 19, the United Arab Emirates made its first bid to join the Mars game, launching the 1,360kg (3,000lb.), 3m (10ft.) tall Amal, or “Hope,” spacecraft on a mission to orbit Mars for at least two years while studying its atmosphere. Just four days later, China launched its Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven,” spacecraft, a three-part ship with an orbiter, a lander and a six-wheeled, 200kg (440lb.) rover.

The ships on the Mars-bound international convoy will by no means be alone when they arrive. Mars, a cold, dry desert planet, …read more

Source:: Time – Science