March for Science: What You Need to Know

April 21, 2017 by  
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2017 is shaping up to be the Year of the March, and Earth Day will get an inaugural march to add to its festivities: the March for Science. Millions of people are expected to join in, from places as far apart as Anchorage, Alaska, to Wangdue,…

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March for Science: What You Need to Know

Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

April 21, 2017 by  
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Even if the president of the United States rejects science , scientists plan to make their voices heard. Tomorrow they’ll march on Washington, D.C. and over 400 locations around the world in the March for Science . While organizers say the march was inspired by the success of the January 21 Women’s March, they also emphasize their event is nonpartisan. Their march will celebrate science and highlight “the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.” Tens of thousands of people are expected to show up for the March for Science in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. People will gather at the Washington Monument starting at 8:00 AM, and will participate in teach-ins and a rally program until the march at 2:00 PM. Speakers include Bill Nye and pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha who helped expose Flint , Michigan lead poisoning. Related: Trump inspires 400 scientists to run for office Trump isn’t the only reason for the March for Science. Scientists and academics have been concerned for years now over public distrust of science. The event’s mission page says, “People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world. New policies threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings. We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely…We must take science out of the labs and journals and share it with the world.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science , the American Chemical Society , and the American Geophysical Union all support the march. Satellite marches will take place on six different continents. You can register for the march in Washington, D.C. or find a march near you here . If you can’t attend the Earth Day science march, you can march for climate science in the People’s Climate Mobilization on DC on April 29. + March for Science Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and March for Science

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Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

Elon Musk’s latest company aims to make us cyborgs within the next four years

April 21, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk must not be busy enough with his Boring company , Space X and Tesla , because he just became CEO of another company, and this one has a goal of turning us all into cyborgs .  Neuralink,  a  San Francisco -based startup says they are “developing ultra high bandwidth brain -machine interfaces to connect humans and computers ” and Musk says he hopes to start delivering by 2021. Musk hinted that he was working on neural lacing last year , though details were scant, but he has never been shy about his opinion that we should be connecting our brains to computers. According to TechCrunch, Musk wants to make that leap with Neuralink. He wants to integrate our brains and computers, or allow us to connect cloud-based artificial intelligence computing with our selves. This could allow humans to communicate directly with each other, instead of having to compress thoughts into language. Related: Elon Musk says new company will start drilling under LA next month It sounds like science fiction. Musk explained it in detail to Tim Urban of Wait But Why . Musk said we already are cyborgs; we’ve “already kind of merged” with smartphones and laptops. He added, “You’re already digitally superhuman. The thing that would change is the interface – having a high-bandwidth interface to your digital enhancements. The thing is that today, the interface all necks down to this tiny straw, which is, particularly in terms of output, it’s like poking things with your meat sticks, or using words – either speaking or tapping things with fingers. And in fact, output has gone backwards. It used to be, in your most frequent form, output would be ten-finger typing. Now, it’s like, two-thumb typing. That’s crazy slow communication. We should be able to improve that by many orders of magnitude with a direct neural interface.” Neuralink’s product probably won’t be ready for the public any time soon – it could be eight to 10 years for people without disabilities, according to Musk, who said the timeline depends both on regulatory approval and how well the devices could work for disabled people. If you want to dig more into the project, Urban wrote a 36,000-word explanation . About the piece, Musk said on Twitter , “Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to.” Via Wait What Why ,  The Next Web and TechCrunch Images via OnInnovation on Flickr and Max Pixel

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Elon Musk’s latest company aims to make us cyborgs within the next four years

A mile-wide asteroid is flying uncomfortably close to Earth tomorrow

April 18, 2017 by  
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A mile-wide asteroid is about to swing by the Earth in the closest shave we’ve had in over a decade. Nicknamed ‘The Rock’ because of its massive size, the asteroid is barreling towards us at 75,072 mph – and it’ll fly past Earth at 4.6 times the distance of the moon. Scientists don’t know much about The Rock – it was only spotted 3 years ago – but we do know that it is twice as reflective as the moon, so you might be able to see it fly past on its way through the galaxy. Object 2014 J025 will fly 1,097,590 miles away from the earth tomorrow – and it won’t be this close again for at least another 400 years. We’ll be safe here on the ground, but it is also a pretty close shave – scientists call it “among the strongest asteroid radar targets of the year.” A large ~2 km asteroid, 143404 (2003 BD44), will pass safely by the Earth today (22 Lunar Distance) pic.twitter.com/X4pWnQyjo1 — Ron Baalke (@RonBaalke) April 18, 2017 Related: Scientists capture first ever image of dark matter web that connects galaxies The Rock should pass by around 8:24 am (Eastern). This will be the closest asteroid this size to pass by Earth since September 2004, when 4179 Toutatis passed within 4 lunar distances. While there isn’t any chance it will hit Earth, it is a startling reminder of how close space debris comes to smacking into the planet all the time. Via the Daily Mail images via NASA and Kevin Gill

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A mile-wide asteroid is flying uncomfortably close to Earth tomorrow

Researchers develop solar-powered device to harvest water in the desert

April 14, 2017 by  
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A solar-powered device could make water worries a thing of the past. Nine scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology , and University of California, Berkeley designed a water harvester that can pull water from air even if humidity is just 20 percent. Chemist Omar Yaghi of UC Berkeley said, “We wanted to demonstrate that if you are cut off somewhere in the desert , you could survive because of this device.” Yaghi invented compounds known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) 20 years ago, and now is using MOF crystals to harvest water even in dry places. In the water harvesting device, around two pounds of tiny MOF crystals are compressed between a solar absorber and condenser plate to collect around 0.7 gallons of water in 12 hours. Related: World’s largest fog harvester produces water from thin air in the Moroccan desert That may not sound like all that much, but it’s plenty for a human trapped in the desert to survive. Yaghi said, “A person needs about a [330ml] can of water per day. That is something one could collect in less than an hour with this system.” Right now there’s no other way to harvest water in low humidity except to draw on extra energy , according to Yaghi. “Your electric dehumidifier at home ‘produces’ very expensive water,” he says. In contrast sunlight enables the new device to work. Rooftop tests at MIT have already demonstrated the device works in the real world. Even if you never find yourself stranded in the desert, you could benefit from such a water harvester. “One vision for the future is to have water off-grid , where you have a device at home running on ambient solar for delivering water that satisfies the needs of a household,” said Yaghi. “To me, that will be made possible because of this experiment. I call it personalized water.” Science published the team’s research yesterday . Via the University of California, Berkeley and The Independent Images via MIT/laboratory of Evelyn Wang and MIT/Hyunho Kim

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Researchers develop solar-powered device to harvest water in the desert

NASA announces alien life could be thriving on one of Saturn’s moons

April 13, 2017 by  
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In a live broadcast today, NASA researchers announced the agency has uncovered the existence of key ingredients for life as we know it on Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus . Scientists already knew that the moon had liquid water on the surface, due to the presence of geysers spewing water near the moon’s south pole. Now, hydrogen has been detected in those jets of water, which suggests the strong possibility that Enceladus’s oceans could support microbial life. It may seem strange that an ice-covered world like Enceladus is being looked at as a potential source of extraterrestrial life, but beneath the planet’s icy shell spans a worldwide ocean over a rocky core. The ice is thought to act as a protective outer layer for the sea, the same way that our atmosphere protects Earth and makes life possible on our own planet. In fact, NASA is closely observing many of these “ ocean worlds ” for signs of life. While Enceladus’s geysers have been known to scientists since 2005, this is the first time the Cassini probe has been able to detect any traces of possible life within them. It’s believed that the plumes originate in a hydrothermal system within the moon’s core, estimated to be 2 1/2 times more powerful than the one that drives Yellowstone’s geysers and hot springs. Despite the icy outer shell, the gravitational pull of Saturn provides heat for the water in the moon’s interior, another encouraging sign for the development of life. Related: Trump plans to strip NASA’s earth science division, promote mission to Mars This new information about the moon comes from October 2015, when the Cassini craft flew into the plumes themselves, a mere 30 miles above the moon’s surface. The probe was able to capture particles from the plume inside a piece of equipment called an Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer, which can analyze the makeup of material encountered on its journey through space. The probe detected a number of interesting organic molecules, including molecular hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. The level of hydrogen , in particular, was surprising to researchers . This volatile gas isn’t easily captured on small, icy worlds like Enceladus, so there must be some chemical process beneath the surface producing the molecules. It may be that hot water from the ocean is flowing into iron-rich cracks in the sea floor, causing a chemical reaction that is constantly replenishing the ocean’s supply of molecular hydrogen. This is the same process that happens in Earth’s own hydrothermal vents , which helps fuel the strange and diverse ecosystems of the deep oceans. Because we’re familiar with exactly how this process supports Earth life, there’s a strong possibility that life could thrive on Enceladus in the same way. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have the instruments necessary to detect life directly on these watery worlds – only to look for the chemical indications of an environment that could potentially support it. Related: NASA discovers 7 Earth-sized planets outside our solar system NASA also today announced that they had found evidence of similar water plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa , though less is known about their makeup. Unlike the Saturn Cassini mission, scientists don’t currently have an up-close view of Europa. Instead, they had to rely on data from the Hubble Space Telescope , which has been monitoring the moon to try to learn more about the makeup of its oceans. We may not know for certain until the 2020s, when NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to launch. Via NASA Images via NASA/JPL

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NASA announces alien life could be thriving on one of Saturn’s moons

Scientists capture first ever image of dark matter web that connects galaxies

April 12, 2017 by  
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For the first time ever, scientists have captured an image of a dark matter bridge, confirming the theory that galaxies are held together by a cosmic web. Until now, the massive dark matter web was hidden to us, but using a series of individual images to create a composite, researchers have identified the elusive cosmic connector. Dark matter makes up about a quarter of the universe, but it is difficult for us to detect it because it doesn’t reflect or shine light. But using a technique called weak gravitational lensing, researchers were able to identify distortions of distant galaxies as they are influenced by a large, unseen mass, such as dark matter. Related: Newly discovered ‘ghost galaxy’ full of dark matter is as big as the Milky Way The scientists looked at more than 23,000 galaxy pairs to create a composite image that shows the dark matter web for the first time. Researchers published their findings in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . “By using this technique, we’re not only able to see that these dark matter filaments in the universe exist, we’re able to see the extent to which these filaments connect galaxies together,” said Seth D. Epps, one of the scientists, along with Michael J. Hudson, who completed the research. via Phys.org images via Epps and Hudson, The weak-lensing masses of filaments between luminous red galaxies

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Scientists capture first ever image of dark matter web that connects galaxies

Koch-backed group distributes 25,000 insane climate change conspiracy booklets

April 12, 2017 by  
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The climate change deniers at the Koch brothers-backed Heartland Institute have apparently mailed a lengthy report challenging established climate science to 25,000 educators across the nation. The report, entitled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” has been challenged as climate “propaganda” by the National Science Teachers Association . The goal of the Heartland Institute’s campaign is to continue to mail out the 135-page report until it reaches the hands of 200,000 teachers across the country. If you’d like to read the report, it’s available freely online , but here are a few of the highlights. The report opens by arguing that the science of climate change “is not settled,” despite the fact that multiple studies have found the vast majority of scientists agree that human-caused global warming is real and a serious threat. Study after study has shown that 97% of researchers surveyed are in consensus on this. Related: Fossil fuel-funded study attempts to deny the human causes of climate change It also bashes the science of climate models, claiming that because the certain aspects of the climate are not completely understood, that it’s impossible to predict how global temperatures will change over time. Over at Gizmodo , climate scientist Patrick Brown of the Carnegie Institution for Science explains, “Scientists are constantly working to try to improve these models and reduce uncertainty. This is all done openly and honestly in the peer-reviewed literature.” There’s a lot more inaccurate information packed into this report, including the claim that changing global temperatures are all just part of Earth’s “natural variability” and that global warming could be caused by the sun instead of CO2 emissions (in case it needs to be said, this is not true ). The authors even go so far as to claim that evidence of climate change is “unreliable” and that there’s no proven correlation between melting sea ice and rising temperatures. Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation Finally, it closes with conspiracy theories claiming that climate scientists are corrupt and driven by a political agenda rather than accurate science. That’s rich coming from an organization backed by fossil fuel companies like Exxonmobil , although perhaps not terribly surprising. While science teachers who receive the booklet will be able to easily see through the flimsy reasoning and distorted facts, it’s troubling to think of other educators or students who might stumble across the publication without the background to analyze its credibility. That’s why educational organizations are encouraging teachers who receive the report in the mail to toss it straight into the trash . Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons and Knitty Marie

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Koch-backed group distributes 25,000 insane climate change conspiracy booklets

Arctic Ocean undergoes ‘massive shift,’ becoming more like Atlantic

April 7, 2017 by  
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Increasing temperatures aren’t the only factor to blame for dramatic Arctic sea ice loss. An international team of 16 scientists led by the International Arctic Research Center in Alaska discovered warm currents from the Atlantic Ocean are snaking up to the Arctic and melting ice from below. They call this phenomenon the Atlantification of the Arctic. Scientists placed sensors in the Arctic seas in 2002, and the information they’ve gathered isn’t good. The Arctic Ocean’s behavior has undergone a massive shift, according to physical oceanographer Finlo Cottier of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, who was not part of the study. Related: Scientists hatch crazy $500 billion plan to refreeze the Arctic Warm Atlantic currents have a lot to do with this change, according to research published online by Science yesterday. The scientists looked at the Eurasian basin, or one of two basins in the Arctic Ocean divided by a ridge far beneath the surface. The Eurasian basin is north of Europe and Asia. Scientists have long known warm Atlantic currents prevent ice formation on the western side of the Eurasian basin north of Scandinavia . But now it seems those currents are working against ice on the eastern side north of Siberia too. Atlantic currents stream into the Arctic at depths of around 656 to 820 feet, with temperatures around four degrees Celsius higher than surface water. When they mix with surface water, which cools and falls in winter, the mixed water is a little warmer overall so the ocean has little sea ice. On the Eurasian basin’s eastern side a barrier known as the cold halocline layer (CHL) used to prevent much of that mixing. But now the eastern side is becoming more like the western side. Summer sea ice once helped form the CHL, but without that ice the ocean mixes more – and then not as much ice forms. Study lead author Igor Polyakov of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks told Science , “Previously this monster, Atlantic warm water, was well covered from the surface” by the CHL. “The new data show this layer has disappeared in winter.” Cottier told Science , “Here we’re seeing an ocean basin changing on a generational timescale – or less.” Via Inverse and Science Images via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Arctic Ocean undergoes ‘massive shift,’ becoming more like Atlantic

Bee-killing pesticides have been found in US drinking water

April 7, 2017 by  
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We’ve known that neonicotinoid insecticides are bad news for bee populations for several years now, but one thing we don’t know about these pesticides is how they impact human health. A new study from the US Geological Survey and the University of Iowa reveals how terrifying that question could be, revealing minute traces of neonicotinoid chemicals are present in at least some drinking water in the US. In the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters , researchers took samples from two water treatment plants in Iowa. Though many might assume waste treatment plants would be able to remove pesticides from drinking water, trace amounts of the neonicotinoids were still present after passing the water through the facilities’ carbon filtration systems. Granted, the amounts present ranged from 0.24 to 57.3 nanograms per liter, which Gizmodo describes as “like a single drop of water plopped into 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.” The amount is obviously incredibly small, but unfortunately scientists have no idea whether the residue that remains in drinking water could potentially impact human health. The Environmental Protection Agency has set no regulatory limits on the use of these substances, saying that previous studies have shown they have only low rates of adverse health effects for humans. There’s a catch, though – those older studies only looked at brief exposure to high concentrations of neonicotinoids. It’s still unknown whether low-level chronic exposure could result in long-term health problems. Related: Over 700 North American bee species are heading towards extinction Ideally, more research would be done to learn more about the effect these chemicals have on human health. But with Donald Trump and his cabinet attempting to loosen regulations on industries that pollute the environment and hobbling critical environmental research, it may be a few years before we know for certain whether low levels of neonicotinoids are harmful or not. Via Gizmodo Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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