Archive for the ‘Science’ Category
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Sea Ice Might Be More Resilient Than Thought
Single cool summer briefly reversed decline in ice cap around the North Pole, study reports
Arctic sea ice is so sensitive to changing temperatures that a single cool summer briefly reversed the decline in the ice cap around the North Pole, says a new study released Monday.
Using new satellite data, researchers at University College London reported in Nature Geoscience on Monday that the total volume of sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere was well above average in the autumn of 2013, traditionally the end of the annual melt season, after an unusually cool summer when temperatures dropped to levels not seen since the 1990s.
“We now know it can recover by a significant amount if the melting season is cut short,” said the study’s lead author Rachel Tilling, a researcher who studies satellite observations of the Arctic. “The sea ice might be a little more resilient than we thought.”
A steady decline in the extent of Arctic sea ice since the late 1970s has been taken as a barometer of longer-term warming trends in the Northern hemisphere. The U.S. Navy last year predicted that by 2030 the Arctic’s northern sea route could be ice-free and navigable for nine weeks every year.
Miss Tilling and her colleagues used new data from the European Space Agency’s Cryosat-2 radar satellite, launched in 2010. For the first time, they measured changes in the overall volume of seasonal sea ice across the Arctic and Greenland. Until now, researchers have been able to track the extent of ice, but not its thickness.
In 2013, summer temperatures were about 5% cooler than the previous year and the volume of autumn ice jumped 41%, they said.
As temperatures warmed again after 2013, the decline in annual sea ice resumed, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. At its greatest expanse this past winter, the Arctic sea ice was the lowest since satellite measurements began.
Write to Robert Lee Hotz at email@example.com
TODAY IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN’S SPEECH TO THE NATION – THE SPACESHIP CHALLENGER DISASTER – JANUARY 28, 1986
In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.
Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 21 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here. (more…)
Ship of Fools in the Antarctic
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.
In the mega-bestseller of the 15th century, “Das Narrenschiff,” Swiss lawyer Sebastian Brant satirized the pretensions, delusions and follies of his day through descriptions of passengers on a ship bound for “Narragonia.”
Brant’s depiction of humanity as a ship of fools sailing without rudder or compass captured the imagination, inspiring a painting by Hieronymous Bosch, a song by the Grateful Dead.
So when the research ship Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck in the ice about 40 miles from Antarctica, some who knew the purpose of its voyage dubbed it the “Ship of Fools.”
“It would take a heart of stone not to laugh,” said British journalist Leo McKinstry.
Aboard the vessel were 22 scientists headed by Chris Turney, a professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales, four journalists and 26 tourists.
By comparing their measurements with those taken by Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson in 1913, they hoped “to prove the East Antarctic ice sheet is melting,” noted the Australian, a newspaper in Sydney.
It was “a pseudo-scientific expedition,” the director of the French Polar Institute told Agence France Presse.
“The debacle in the Antarctic ice is probably the largest setback for global warming campaigners since the Climategate scandal in 2009,” said the (London) Financial Times.
There’s more sea ice around Antarctica than at any time since the U.S. Snow and Data Center began keeping records in 1978.
“Mawson’s ship was never icebound,” the Australian noted (more…)
Here is a mind-blowing text that was sent to all EPFL researchers (presumably) by a doctoral student during the week-end. It expresses feelings that are worth to think about.
Just to be crystal-clear:
- I am not the author of this text.
- I don’t publish the name of his/her author, since I have no proof that his/her e-mail address was not spoofed.
- I don’t think that the exposed facts are a problematic unique to EPFL, nor to any other Swiss university: to the contrary, this is probably a worldwide phenomenon.
- Finally, I would like to make very clear that I did not experience the same feelings at all during my (very happy) PhD times at EPFL. So, don’t try to make any parallel with my own experience.
- Like the author, I don’t have any good idea how to change the system towards a better one.
Still, if you are or have been in the academic world, I think it is worth to invest 10 minutes to read this text.
Dear EPFL,I am writing to state that, after four years of hard but enjoyable PhD work at this school, I am planning to quit my thesis in January, just a few months shy of completion. Originally, this was a letter that was intended only for my advisors. However, as I prepared to write it I realized that the message here may be pertinent to anyone involved in research across the entire EPFL, and so have extended its range just a bit. Specifically, this is intended for graduate students, postdocs, senior researchers, and professors, as well as for the people at the highest tiers of the school’s management. To those who have gotten this and are not in those groups, I apologize for the spam.While I could give a multitude of reasons for leaving my studies – some more concrete, others more abstract – the essential motivation stems from my personal conclusion that I’ve lost faith in today’s academia as being something that brings a positive benefit to the world/societies we live in. Rather, I’m starting to think of it as a big money vacuum that takes in grants and spits out nebulous results, fueled by people whose main concerns are not to advance knowledge and to effect positive change, though they may talk of such things, but to build their CVs and to propel/maintain their careers. But more on that later.Before continuing, I want to be very clear about two things. First, not everything that I will say here is from my personal firsthand experience. Much is also based on conversations I’ve had with my peers, outside the EPFL and in, and reflects their experiences in addition to my own. Second, any negative statements that I make in this letter should not be taken to heart by all of its readers. It is not my intention to demonize anyone, nor to target specific individuals. I will add that, both here and elsewhere, I have met some excellent people and would not – not in a hundred years – dare accuse them of what I wrote in the previous paragraph. However, my fear and suspicion is that these people are few, and that all but the most successful ones are being marginalized by a system that, feeding on our innate human weaknesses, is quickly getting out of control.I don’t know how many of the PhD students reading this entered their PhD programs with the desire to actually *learn* and to somehow contribute to science in a positive manner. Personally, I did. If you did, too, then you’ve probably shared at least some of the frustrations that I’m going to describe next.(1) Academia: It’s Not Science, It’s BusinessI’m going to start with the supposition that the goal of “science” is to search for truth, to improve our understanding of the universe around us, and to somehow use this understanding to move the world towards a better tomorrow. At least, this is the propaganda that we’ve often been fed while still young, and this is generally the propaganda that universities that do research use to put themselves on lofty moral ground, to decorate their websites, and to recruit naïve youngsters like myself. (more…)