16th July 2019
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Trevor Nace, writing at Forbes:

NASA has some good news, the world is a greener place today than it was 20 years ago. What prompted the change? Well, it appears China and India can take the majority of the credit.

In contrast to the perception of China and India’s willingness to overexploit land, water and resources for economic gain, the countries are responsible for the largest greening of the planet in the past two decades. The two most populous countries have implemented ambitious tree planting programs and scaled up their implementation and technology around agriculture.

This is very encouraging. Hopefully this is something that we can start to compete on, as it will only result in a better planet for us all.

16th July 2019
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Leah Burrows, writing at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences blog:

People have long dreamed of re-shaping the Martian climate to make it livable for humans. Carl Sagan was the first outside of the realm of science fiction to propose terraforming. In a 1971 paper, Sagan suggested that vaporizing the northern polar ice caps would “yield ~10 s g cm-2 of atmosphere over the planet, higher global temperatures through the greenhouse effect, and a greatly increased likelihood of liquid water.”

Sagan’s work inspired other researchers and futurists to take seriously the idea of terraforming. The key question was: are there enough greenhouse gases and water on Mars to increase its atmospheric pressure to Earth-like levels?

In 2018, a pair of NASA-funded researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder and Northern Arizona University found that processing all the sources available on Mars would only increase atmospheric pressure to about 7 percent that of Earth – far short of what is needed to make the planet habitable.

Terraforming Mars, it seemed, was an unfulfillable dream.

Now, researchers from the Harvard University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and the University of Edinburgh, have a new idea. Rather than trying to change the whole planet, what if you took a more regional approach?

This is all rather fascinating. And I wonder if any of this stuff will actually happen in the near future? Or if it will remain in theories, and local experiments here on Earth.

12th March 2019
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Photo Credit: Royal Mint

BBC:

Prof Stephen Hawking has been honoured on a new 50p coin inspired by his pioneering work on black holes.

The physicist died last year at the age of 76, having become one of the most renowned leaders in his field.

He joins an elite group of scientists to have appeared on coins, including Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

Designer Edwina Ellis said: “I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought.”

I’ve always liked the fact that we place very important people on our money, such as Charles Darwin, James Watt, and Michael Faraday. It signifies their reverence to the entire world.

It also reminds me of a talk that Neil Degrasse Tyson made at The Tanner Humanities Center, where he spoke about what some countries place on their money, from the perspective of America not having a lot of scientific achievements on theirs.

4th May 2018
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(Image: NASA)

Mallory Locklear, writing for Engadget:

Being able to generate power will be essential for long-term space travel. Powering a stay on Mars, for example, will require a lot of fuel, way more than we can pack onto a rocket. That’s why NASA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Department of Energy and a number of other groups have been working on a small, transportable nuclear reactor that can reliably generate power on the go. The reactor they’re developing is called Kilopower and earlier this year, they announced that they had conducted successful tests of the system. In March, the team ran the first full-power tests and during a press conference today, they reported that those tests went extremely well.

Lower power Kilopower systems, like the one kilowatt version, can power a basic toaster, while the largest version, a 10 kilowatt model, can do a bit more. Four or five of the latter could be used to power a habitat on Mars and importantly, they don’t rely on the sun, meaning they can be used on planets with less sunlight than ours, in shadowed regions and during light-blocking dust storms. “Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in January.

It’s certainly not Iron Man’s Arc reactor, but this is still pretty cool!


Los Alamos National Lab made a video to explain the whole thing.

30th March 2018
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China have a water problem. Their solution:

China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve.

The system, which involves an enormous network of fuel-burning chambers installed high up on the Tibetan mountains, could increase rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year – about 7 per cent of China’s total water consumption – according to researchers involved in the project.

I wonder if the clouds will have “Made in China” printed on the bottom of them.

Read the full post.