Mount Everest now ‘wired’ for Internet, ready for Starbucks

TeliaSonera subsidiary Ncell has just completed installation of a 3G base station at 5,200 meters (17,000 feet) that will reach the 8,848-meter peak of Mount Everest. Mind you, we’ve already seen a cellphone call made from the world’s highest peak using a temporary base station in a Motorola publicity stunt. This time, however, it’s permanent and faster allowing climbers to surf the internet or make 3G video calls. Why would Ncell want to build a base station in such a sparsely populated area? Because it is there.

Thermogeddon: When the Earth gets too hot for humans

Thermogeddon: When the Earth gets too hot for humans.

According to a recent study, parts of the Earth could start to become uninhabitable within a century. Surely it cannot be true?

IT IS the late 23rd century. Houston, Tel Aviv, Shanghai and many other once-bustling cities are ghost towns. No one lives in Louisiana or Florida anymore, and vast swathes of Africa, China, Brazil, India and Australia are no-go zones, too. That’s because in all of these places it gets hot and humid enough to kill anyone who cannot find an air-conditioned shelter.

NASA and Mary J. Blige partnership

Mary J. Blige is partnering with NASA with the objective to encourage girls and women of all ages to take up careers in science. Cited in a recent article.

NASA released two public service announcements featuring Blige and space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin this week on NASA TV online. In addition, Blige, who cofounded the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now in 2008, has made several television appearances in the last week to talk about the program.

The goal of the collaboration is to gather attention for NASA’s Summer of Innovation, a multiweek, intensive STEM program for middle school teachers and students during summer 2010. Coordinators hope the program, which is in support of the US President Barack Obama’s Educate to Innovate Campaign, will counter the “summer slide” (loss of academic skills over the summer) and other issues facing students who are underrepresented, underserved, and underperforming in STEM. SOI programs will take place in several states in the US including Idaho, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Wyoming, and students will learn about and develop projects involving wind turbines, weather stations, engineering in suborbital space, robotics, astrophysics, and space exploration. This, oneday should be made a global initiative!

The are a few things parents, teachers and society can do to encourage girls to pursue an interest in science.

Expose them to female role models. Find other women in science who can tell  them, what they did in science when they were young girls.

Use role models who can demonstrate that you can be attractive, wear nice clothes, have children, and get married–all while being successful in science. “That may sound a little bit sexist, but it turns out this is what little girls think about early on, and even the young girls you meet today in schools across the world [think you can’t be involved in science and still be feminine],” Quote “If you can expose them to role models who have these characteristics, it is positive reinforcement for them.”

Relate science to activities that girls, in particular, will understand. Tell and teach them about the chemistry involved in cosmetology or the scientific processes involved in cooking. There is an entire discipline of science devoted to food science. Show them that bread is made from yeast rising, that pickles are made as a result of the fermentation process, and explain to them the role of microorganisms in yogurt and cheeses. “Explain science so that children can see how it is used in their everyday experiences. Then it will help them to be more engaged and empower them.”

Build their math skills early. “Make sure they have a good foundation in math because math is fundamental to science,” If they have a good background in math, science will come easy.”

Space tourism could have big impact on climate

Space tourism could have big impact on climate

Space tourism could have major consequences for Earth’s climate. New computer simulations suggest soot emitted by the rockets could raise temperatures at the poles, significantly reducing seasonal ice cover there.

In the next few years, space tourism companies hope to start routinely flying passengers on suborbital space flights. Now, Martin Ross of the Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles, California, and colleagues have performed the first detailed simulations of the flights’ effects on Earth’s climate.

They assumed a flight rate of 1000 suborbital trips per year, the number put forward in business plans for suborbital space tourism in 2020, and estimated the emissions from a rubber-burning engine like that planned for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

The researchers found that the effect of soot, which is incompletely burned fuel, would dwarf that of the carbon dioxide emissions from the launches. Soot readily absorbs sunlight, warming the atmosphere where it is abundant.

Above the weather

The 1000 annual launches would belch out about 600 tonnes of soot, or black carbon – less than today’s output from airplanes and other sources. But plane soot occurs at low enough altitudes for rain to wash it out of the atmosphere in just days or weeks. Rockets expel the stuff at altitudes three times as high – in the stratosphere more than 40 kilometres above sea level. There, well above the weather, it can remain for up to 10 years.

To study the effects of black carbon emissions, Ross’s team used a 3D simulation of Earth’s climate. They assumed that all the black carbon is emitted over Spaceport AmericaMovie Camera, a space tourism hub being constructed in New Mexico, US.

The researchers found that the black carbon caused temperatures to rise at the north and south poles. The increase was about 0.2 °C for most of the year, but peaked at around 1 °C during each hemisphere’s winter. The extra warmth caused sea ice at each pole to melt, especially in Antarctica, where the area covered by ice shrank by as much as 18 per cent in the summer.

Ozone connection

Team member Michael Mills of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says the team is still trying to understand exactly why the black carbon emissions would cause warming at the poles.

But the soot should warm air in the stratosphere, and this could strengthen currents there that carry air from the equator to the poles.

That would reduce the amount of ozone over the tropics and increase it over the poles – an effect seen in the simulation. That increase in polar ozone might be responsible for the polar warming, Mills says, pointing out that the converse has been observed on Earth – polar cooling is associated with decreases in ozone over Antarctica. The connection is probably due to the way ozone interacts with radiation, he adds, though researchers are still trying to understand the exact mechanism.

“It’s not a pretty picture for the Arctic or Antarctic,” says Charles Zender of the University of California, Irvine, who says the new study was “very carefully done”.

Educated guess

Mills admits there is still uncertainty about the study’s findings. He notes in particular that the team lacked data on how much black carbon would be emitted per flight by space tourism vehicles. The team assumed that Virgin Galactic’s rubber-burning engine would emit 60 grams of black carbon per kilogram of fuel burned.

However, the team did not have access to measurements of black carbon emissions from Virgin Galactic’s engines, or those of other space tourism companies, which plan to burn other types of fuel, such as kerosene.

Kerosene-burning rocket engines not associated with space tourism emit 20 to 40 grams of black carbon per kilogram. Rubber is expected to burn less cleanly, but it is not clear by how much – the 60 grams is just an educated guess.

Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace, based in Mojave, California, which is developing a suborbital tourism vehicle called the Lynx, says his company’s engines emit far less unburned carbon than previous rockets, like those used to launch the Apollo moon missions. “We burn the fuel with very high efficiency in the chamber,” he says.

Ouachita Mountains, Oklahoma

Ouachita Mountains, Oklahoma.

Prairies stretch across much of Oklahoma, but the state also holds mountain ranges, including the Ouachita Mountains in the southeastern corner. Formed over 300 million years ago, these mountains are a highly eroded remnant of a much larger range, one that may have stretched from Texas into southeastern Canada.


Earth Observations

Earth Observations.

How fast is the world population growing?

Population in the world is currently growing at a rate of around 1.15 % per year. The average annual population change is currently estimated at over 77 million.

Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2% and above. The rate of increase has therefore almost halved since its peak of 2.19 percent, which was reached in 1963, to the current 1.15%.