Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when

June 22, 2017 by  
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We humans have done a pretty good job of trashing the Earth all by ourselves, but we don’t often stop to consider external threats – like asteroids . A 1908 asteroid explosion over Tunguska, Siberia ravaged 800 square miles, and Queen’s University Belfast astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons said another asteroid collision is simply a matter of time, which could have devastating consequences if we remain unprepared. He said most of us don’t think about asteroids as a threat to our existence. We now remember the day of the 1908 asteroid strike as Asteroid Day . It’s June 30, and Fitzsimmons is joining other experts like physicist Brian Cox and International Space Station astronaut Nicole Stott to call attention to the threat. Fitzsimmons says it’s not a matter of if an asteroid will impact the Earth, but when. He said a strike like the Tunguska one today could demolish a mayor city – and a larger asteroid strike could be even more devastating. Related: NASA rolls out new asteroid detection program to defend Earth from destructive meteors Fitzsimmons said in a statement, “Astronomers find Near-Earth Asteroids every day and most are harmless. But it is still possible the next Tunguska would take us by surprise, and although we are much better at finding larger asteroids, that does us no good if we are not prepared to do something about them.” He said experts have gotten much better about detecting Near-Earth Asteroids, and have found more than 1,800 objects that could be potentially hazardous. But there are more out there – and we need to be prepared. Fitzsimmons is part of a European Research Council-funded project, NEOshield-2, whose mission is to figure out how to deflect the hazardous asteroids. Asteroid Day events will be live streamed here . There will be conversations with space agencies like NASA and a Neil deGrasse Tyson-narrated video series on scientists laboring to protect Earth from asteroids, to name a few. The organization says it will be the first 24-hour live broadcast about space ever. Via Queen’s University Belfast Images via Asteroid Day

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Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when

UN releases inconceivable new estimate of Earth’s 2050 population

June 22, 2017 by  
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Right now there are 7.5 billion people on Earth and counting. But the world in 2050 will be even more packed, according to new United Nations (UN) projections. The new World Population Prospects: 2017 Revision report estimates that there could be nearly 10 billion people on the planet in a little over 30 years. By 2030, the global population could be 8.6 billion, according to the UN. 9.8 billion people might reside on Earth in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. As around 83 million people are born every single year, the organization expects the total population to rise even if fertility levels go down. And while China currently has the most people of any country, the UN estimates India will surpass China in around seven years. Related: Earth’s population just hit 7.5 billion people Of the world’s 10 largest countries, Nigeria is growing the fastest. The country is currently the world’s seventh largest but the UN estimates they will surpass the United States to become the world’s third largest country just before 2050. And between now and 2050, around half of all the population growth on Earth will be centered in only nine countries: Nigeria, India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the United States. The new report doesn’t just cover the amount of people in the world. It addresses fertility, life expectancy, and refugee movement. For example, fertility has fallen in almost all the areas of the world, even in Africa. One exception is Europe. A reduction in fertility has led to an aging population. Meanwhile life expectancy has risen globally from 65 to 69 years for men and 69 to 73 years for women, although the UN noted large disparities between countries in those figures. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division put out the June 21 report. The organization says the statistics could help agencies better work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Via the United Nations Images via Guillaume on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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UN releases inconceivable new estimate of Earth’s 2050 population

World’s greenest and healthiest office crowned in Washington, D.C.

June 22, 2017 by  
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The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) headquarters in Washington DC was just named the greenest and healthiest office on the planet! Perkins+Will designed the groundbreaking interior, which has received both LEED and WELL Platinum Certification under WELL Building Standard. The 8,500-square-foot office features human-centric design elements that reduce stress, increase air quality, mask sounds and regulate the body’s physiological processes. Employees have no assigned seats, but choose available workplace environments that support specific daily tasks. The interior includes meeting spaces and private areas that can be reserved for several hours at a time. Related: GSK’s US Headquarters Awarded Double LEED Platinum in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard Biophilic design strategies employed throughout the space include the use of natural materials , architectural forms, patterning, and state-of-the-art monitoring systems to create a world-class working environment. ASID staff participated in the design process by wearing sensors that measured speech patterns and body movement when they interacted with each other. These sensor readings were compared to show how their interactions changed as a result of the new office design. Related: NBBJ Unveils New Plans for Biosphere Greenhouses at Amazon’s Seattle HQ “We began this project with a clear goal of showcasing the many ways design can positively affect the health and well-being of employees while boosting resource efficiency ,” said ASID CEO Randy W. Fiser. “At ASID, we believe in research-based results in design and placed an emphasis on third-party validation of the space,” he added. + Perkins+Will + American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)

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World’s greenest and healthiest office crowned in Washington, D.C.

NASA identifies 219 new planet candidates – and 10 potential ‘Earths’

June 20, 2017 by  
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Our knowledge of the galaxy just expanded significantly, thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The exoplanet -finding machine allowed the agency to add 219 new planet candidates to their growing list. 10 of those planets are around the size of Earth and are around the range away from a star where water might pool on their surface. This new list of 219 candidate exoplanets is the most comprehensive and detailed from the first four years of Kepler data, according to NASA . It will also be the last catalog from Kepler’s view of a piece of sky in the Cygnus constellation. And it includes a planet National Geographic said could be the most like Earth we’ve found yet: KOI 7711.01. Related: 7 NASA discoveries that will blow your mind KOI 7711.01 is only about 30 percent bigger than Earth. It orbits a star 1,700 light-years away that’s quite like our sun, and receives the correct amount of solar warmth necessary for liquid water. Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson of the SETI Institute told National Geographic, “It gets approximately the same amount of heat that we get from our own star.” But there are still a lot of questions surrounding KOI 7711.01. Thompson said, “It’s hard to say whether it’s really an Earth twin – we need to know more about its atmosphere , whether there’s water on the planet.” After the release this week of the catalog, Kepler has identified 4,034 planet candidates total, according to NASA. 2,335 of those have been verified as exoplanets. The space telescope has also identified around 50 potentially habitable candidates around the size of Earth, with over 30 having been verified. Thompson said they’re now able to shift the focus away from simply finding new individual systems, and onto learning more about the worlds we think may be like Earth. This research has also allowed scientists to better classify planets. According to NASA, Kepler data has allowed scientists to discover a division between the sizes of rocky planets around the size of Earth and gaseous planets that are smaller than Neptune. They didn’t find many planets between those two groups. Scientist Benjamin Fulton of the University of Hawaii in Manoa said in a statement, “We like to think of this study as classifying planets in the same way that biologists identify new species of animals. Finding two distinct groups of exoplanets is like discovering mammals and lizards make up distinct branches of a family tree.” Via National Geographic and NASA Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech and NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel

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NASA identifies 219 new planet candidates – and 10 potential ‘Earths’

South Korea to throw out any plans for new nuclear reactors

June 20, 2017 by  
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South Korea currently obtains around 30 percent of its energy from nuclear power , but with the election of a new president the country seems ready to shift away from that energy source to something a bit safer. President Moon Jae-In – who campaigned on a platform of phasing out nuclear energy – says he will toss out plans to build new reactors and won’t extend the lifespan of existing ones in the country. The 2011 Fukushima disaster in nearby Japan incited concern in South Korea, as many of the country’s nuclear plants were then getting old. According to the country’s new president, many of the plants are located dangerously near residential areas. He said a nuclear meltdown could result in unimaginable consequences. Add to that corruption scandals over state nuclear energy agencies during the last few years and public unease over several earthquakes in South Korea in 2016, since an earthquake sparked the Fukushima meltdown. Related: Finland’s Green Party says humanity must embrace nuclear power Moon echoed these fears when he said, “South Korea is not safe from the risk of earthquake, and a nuclear accident caused by a quake can have such a devastating impact.” South Korea is running 25 nuclear reactors right now. Many of them will expire between 2020 and 2030, leaving the decision to extend several of them or not in Moon’s hands during his 2017 to 2022 term. He campaigned on the idea of shutting down every single one – although that task could take decades. As he decommissioned the Kori-1, South Korea’s first nuclear reactor, Moon said in a speech, “We will dump our atomic-centric power supply and open the door to the post-nuclear era.” He’d like to move towards what he described as more environmentally-friendly and safer energy sources like solar power and wind power . He’s also pledged to promote a post-coal energy policy . During his campaign he said he’d abandon coal to help curb air pollution . Among the member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Korea is home to the highest levels of small air particles. The country currently obtains around 40 percent of power from coal. Via Phys.org Images via IAEA Imagebank on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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South Korea to throw out any plans for new nuclear reactors

Elon Musk releases 15-page manifesto explaining how humans will colonize Mars

June 16, 2017 by  
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Long gone are the days of dreaming about space travel and seemingly impossible inventions, thanks to science and geniuses such as Elon Musk , fantastical goals are turning into everyday realities. In fact, Musk — the founder of PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX — recently unveiled a 15-page paper that goes into great depth explaining how humans will successfully colonize Mars in the near future. Published in the journal New Space , the paper details the realistic costs per person, possible engineering challenges and even a timeline of transferring humanity to the Red Planet — which includes sending the first unmanned payload into space within two years. The paper, entitled “ Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species ,” follows on the heels of Musk’s hour-long presentation last year in which he outlined his ambitious plan to transport humans to Mars. Though it is lacking in some specifics it is a compelling read and is available to the public for free until early July. As The Guardian reports, the founder of SpaceX is ambitious to colonize Mars in the potential likelihood of a nuclear war or natural disasters which cause Earth to become uninhabitable. To Musk, Mars is a “backup drive” for the planet we all live on now. “So how do we figure out how to take you to Mars and create a self-sustaining city,” Musk asks in the paper, in ”a city that is not merely an outpost but which can become a planet in its own right, allowing us to become a truly multi-planetary species.” His long-term goal is to create a self-sustained civilization of about one million people which, admittedly, will take about 40-100 years. Before full colonization can take place, however, much work needs to be done. After sending supplies to Mars beforehand, Musk envisions blasting off a gigantic spacecraft that can carry the first 100 passengers. “The thrust level is enormous,” Musk says in the paper. “We are talking about a lift-off thrust of 13,000 tons, so it will be quite tectonic when it takes off.” Regarding the timeline, Musk wrote, “We are going to try to send something to Mars on every Mars rendezvous from this point on. We plan to send Dragon 2, which is a propulsive lander, to Mars in a couple of years, and then probably do another Dragon mission in 2020.” Related: Send your loved one’s ashes to space – on one of Elon Musk’s rockets Colonizing the Red Planet might seem like a grand ambition — and it is, but Musk isn’t ready to stop there. He wants humans to be able to explore even more of the galaxy. As NewsAtlas reports , “He envisions a series of in situ propellant depots, from the asteroid belt to Europa or Titan, allowing humanity full access to the greater Solar System .” The engineer fails to mention where on Mars new settlements will be founded — a detail that is vital yet will likely be determined in the near future. Whether or not this vision will be made a reality in this century remains to be seen. What is clear is that Musk is one of the more extraordinary minds in our time who has played a big role in advancing humanity. + “Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species” Via The Guardian , NewsAtlas Images via Pixabay

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Elon Musk releases 15-page manifesto explaining how humans will colonize Mars

Federal court rules Trump’s Dakota Access Pipeline approval violated the law

June 16, 2017 by  
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Injustice has been a common theme of the Standing Rock Sioux’s battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline , as they faced fines , water cannons in sub-zero temperatures , and eviction at gunpoint . But the tribe said this week they just won a ‘ significant victory ‘ in court that could be a game-changer. A federal judge said the United States Army Corps of Engineers did not conduct an adequate study of the environmental risks associated with the controversial oil pipeline  when the Trump administration rushed through its completion. Embed from Getty Images District Judge James Boasberg, who sits on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, said in a 91-page decision the Corps “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice .” It’s an important step that could set a precedent – but the judge did not order the pipeline to be turned off. Instead Boasberg asked for additional briefing, requesting attorneys appear again next week for a status conference. Related: Dakota Access Pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion According to The Atlantic , the case isn’t about the potential harm to the tribe, but whether the Corps adequately researched and reported on the risks before they approved the pipeline. The Corps reportedly did not study whether a spill would kill most of the fish in the river, or if the chemicals that might be used to clean up after a spill would poison animals. Many members of the tribe source their food from the fish or animals that could potentially be impacted if a spill were to occur. Embed from Getty Images Even though the pipeline hasn’t been shut off, the tribe is still celebrating victory. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement, “This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing. The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests . We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.” Via Stand With Standing Rock and The Atlantic Images via Wikimedia Commons and Becker1999 on Flickr

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Federal court rules Trump’s Dakota Access Pipeline approval violated the law

Former NASA chief scientist says Americans ‘under siege’ from fake climate news

June 12, 2017 by  
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The science is in on climate change – it’s real and hurting Earth right now. But not all Americans are aware of the threat, according to former NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan. She said the country’s citizens are “under siege by fake information that’s being put forward by people who have a profit motive.” Stofan said the science on climate change is unequivocal. Nevertheless there are still deniers of the phenomenon in the United States – some holding top government positions. Stofan said disinformation and half-truths designed to confuse people have been spread about climate change, and now many people in the country are unaware of the pressing consequences of carbon emissions continuing as is. Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation She said oil and coal companies have been behind the disinformation, telling The Guardian, “Fake news is so harmful because once people take on a concept it’s very hard to dislodge it.” Stofan said she saw “an erosion of people’s ability to scrutinize information” across the political spectrum, not just on the left or the right. “All of us have a responsibility. There’s this attitude of ‘I read it on the Internet therefore it must be true,” she said. Stofan said the American science community has been realizing the threat of climate change fake news during the past six months, and are working to communicate more with the public and share information with the press. During her career Stofan pointed to planetary science as important for understanding the environment here on Earth. She said planetary science has offered proof that atmospheric carbon dioxide results in a warmer climate . She finds similarities between Earth’s carbon emissions and the runaway greenhouse effect on the planet Venus . Venus once had oceans but now the volcano and lava plain-strewn planet has temperatures nearing 500 degrees Celsius – Space.com described the planet as “our solar system’s analog to hell.” Stofan told The Guardian, “We won’t go all the way to Venus, but the consequences of putting more and more CO2 into the atmosphere are really dire. There are models that suggest if we burn off all our fossil fuels , the Earth would become uninhabitable for humans.” She said our first job should be to keep Earth habitable. Via The Guardian Images via Pexels and Wikimedia Commons

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Former NASA chief scientist says Americans ‘under siege’ from fake climate news

Bio-inspired wind turbines with flexible blades 35% more efficient

June 8, 2017 by  
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Wind energy already yields four percent of Earth’s power, but five researchers at French institutions recently drew inspiration from nature to make wind turbines even better. Inspired by creatures like dragonflies, they found flexible blades on wind turbines make the machines much more efficient. Wind turbines today work best under optimal wind speeds, but the new bio-inspired design could offer a way around that fact, making wind power even more accessible. Wind speeds impact the functioning of a wind turbine. If the wind is too slow, the turbine won’t turn and generate energy; if the wind is too fast it could damage the turbine. Wind also must hit the turbines at the correct pitch angle to apply the correct amount of torque to the generator, according to Science. The new research from scientists at Sorbonne University and École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers-ParisTech fixes these issues with flexible blades much like insect wings. Related: Revolutionary flapping wind turbine mimics hummingbirds to produce clean energy The researchers constructed prototypes with regular hard turbine blades, slightly flexible turbine blades, and very flexible turbine blades. The last design turned out to be too floppy, but the slightly flexible blades outperformed the rigid ones, offering as much as 35 percent more power . They also continued to work in lower wind conditions and weren’t as susceptible to damage in high winds. The journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A published the research online in February. But the scientists’ work isn’t yet done: they now need to search for the right material that’s “flexible, but not too flexible,” according to lead author Vincent Cognet, to scale up the findings. Engineer Asfaw Beyene of San Diego State University, who was not part of this study, told Science, “The fluid mechanics and the physics make absolute sense. There’s no reason why we cannot make morphing blades that will adapt to wind conditions.” Via Science and Tech Xplore Images via Joi Ito on Flickr and Pexels

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Bio-inspired wind turbines with flexible blades 35% more efficient

World’s fastest electric car just shattered its own record

May 24, 2017 by  
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Critics used to say that electric cars would never be as powerful or speedy as gasoline-fueled ones. Well, they were wrong. The Nio EP9, designed by Chinese company NextEV, recently smashed its own speed record at one of Germany’s most difficult tracks. The Nio EP9 just took a historic lap around the Nürburgring car racing track in Germany on May 12, completing the feat in 6:45:9. In 2016 they’d finished the lap in 7:05:12. According to a Business Insider video , the track is notorious for being difficult to drive. Related: Introducing the fastest electric car in the world In a statement, NIO United States CEO Padmasree Warrior said, “As a company, we were born to push limits. Setting and breaking records with our EP9 is for the sole purpose to show the world that we have the automotive and technical expertise to succeed in the global automotive market. Our vision is to be the best of the next generation of car companies by producing the smartest vehicles in the world.” The super speedy car can reach 124 mph from zero in 7.1 seconds. The company says their goal is for people to “feel positive again about owning a car.” Futurism pointed out the Nio EP9, however, isn’t a car for the masses: Nio only plans to produce 10 of the EP9s, and each will cost $1.48 million. The recent record isn’t the only one the Nio EP9 has set. The vehicle became the fastest autonomous car on Earth back in February, setting a record of 2:40:33 at the Circuit of the Americas Race Track in Austin. The car hit a speed of 160 mph, all without a human driver. Via Futurism Images via Nio

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World’s fastest electric car just shattered its own record

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