A time-lapse taken from the front of the International Space Station as it orbits our planet at night. This movie begins over the Pacific Ocean and continues over North and South America before entering daylight near Antarctica....
Source: National Geographic - Santa better check his compass, because the North Pole is shifting—the north magnetic pole, that is, not the geographical one.
New research shows the pole moving at rapid clip—25 miles (40 kilometers) a year. ver the past century the pole has moved 685 miles (1,100 kilometers) from Arctic Canada toward Siberia, says Joe Stoner, a paleomagnetist at Oregon State University. At its current rate the pole could move to Siberia within the next half-century, Stoner said.
"It's moving really fast," he said. "We're seeing something that hasn't happened for at least 500 years."
Stoner presented his team's research at the American Geophysical Union's meeting last week in San Francisco.
Lorne McKee, a geomagnetic scientist at Natural Resources Canada, says that Stoner's data fits his own readings.
"The movement of the pole definitely appears to be accelerating," he said.
Not a Reversal The shift is likely a normal oscillation of the Earth's magnetic field, Stoner said, and not the beginning of a flip-flop of the north and south magnetic poles, a phenomenon that last occurred 780,000 years ago.
Such reversals have taken place 400 times in the last 330 million years, according to magnetic clues sealed in rocks around the world. Each reversal takes a thousand years or more to complete...
Source: NASA - NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.
Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.
"The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it." This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.
Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth. Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, the structures that carry genetic instructions for life, and is considered an essential element for all living cells.
Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.
"We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new -- building parts of itself out of arsenic," said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA Astrobiology Research Fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team's lead scientist. "If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven't seen yet?" The newly discovered microbe, strain GFAJ-1, is a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria. In the laboratory, the researchers successfully grew microbes from the lake on a diet that was very lean on phosphorus, but included generous helpings of arsenic. When researchers removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells.
The key issue the researchers investigated was when the microbe was grown on arsenic did the arsenic actually became incorporated into the organisms' vital biochemical machinery, such as DNA, proteins and the cell membranes. A variety of sophisticated laboratory techniques was used to determine where the arsenic was incorporated.
The team chose to explore Mono Lake because of its unusual chemistry, especially its high salinity, high alkalinity, and high levels of arsenic. This chemistry is in part a result of Mono Lake's isolation from its sources of fresh water for 50 years. The results of this study will inform ongoing research in many areas, including the study of Earth's evolution, organic chemistry, biogeochemical cycles, disease mitigation and Earth system research. These findings also will open up new frontiers in microbiology and other areas of research.
"The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction," said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake." The research team included scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Penn., and the Stanford Synchroton Radiation Lightsource in Menlo Park, Calif.
NASA's Astrobiology Program in Washington contributed funding for the research through its Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. NASA's Astrobiology Program supports research into the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life on Earth.
Source: Ode - The environmental crisis is indeed alarming, but it is also an opportunity to bring visualization skills, teamwork, and creativity to the fore. In Japan rubbish bins for paper, plastic bottles and tin cans are ubiquitously lined up in front of supermarkets, convenience stores and in train stations. For household trash every week there are days for burnable rubbish, days for plastics and days for bottles, glass and cans. Twice a year there are "Big Garbage Days," which means large amounts of newspapers, cardboard boxes, and old clothes are collected. But you can buy special stickers anytime and have someone from the city come to collect more bulky items that need discarding. And there are private trucks that go round collecting paper and large throwaways, too. Recycling is an integral part of everyday life here.
Now many of the police uniforms and furoshiki (cloth folded and tied as a carry bag: a very old tradition) are now made from recycled plastic bottles. Buses go by with signs proudly saying that they are run on salad oil. In buildings main windows face east to catch the warmth of the rising sun. And traditionally only one room of a home was, and often still is, heated in winter.
In addition to these, I recently heard about a man who has invented a remarkable machine that turns plastic into oil. His name is Akinori Ito and he works for Blest Company. In a YouTube video about him, he explained that as a child he loved playing outside, but had no concept of the environment. But once he had children of his own and saw how much less open space they had to play in, he became acutely aware of the problem.
In the clip he says "we," which means that he and his colleagues got together and came up with the realization that modern technology could be used to turn plastic into oil. "It’s not hard," he said, "after all, plastic is originally made from oil, so why not reverse the process and extract oil out of plastic?"
His company designed a small, easy-to-use, easy-to-transport machine that gobbles up any sort of plastic, melts it down, turns it into gas, and finally into oil. One kilogram of plastic yields about one liter of oil. This oil can be further separated into gasoline, diesel, or kerosene. That means cars, motorcycles, generators, boilers, and kerosene heaters can all run on this oil.
This machine itself is a wonder, and Akinori Ito goes to the developing world to teach about the stupendous potential of plastic. He usually goes to schools, talks to the children and teachers and sends them out to collect plastic. Then he demonstrates the use of the machine, so everyone can see how simple and useful it is. The kids, of course, get their parents and other adults involved, and then the whole movement is underway.
Akinori Ito says we can reduce CO2 as much at 80% by using recycled plastic. "Plastic is not waste," he says, "it is a treasure."
By Mark K. Matthews - More peace and fewer space junk are the missions in an update of U.S. space policy, crafted decades ago during the Cold War.
President Obama underscored his desire to turn space into a place for peace on Monday, releasing a policy paper that advocated international science missions and opened the door for future treaties that could limit space junk and weapons above Earth.
But administration officials said the push for international cooperation did not mean the U.S. necessarily would ask its allies to join Obama's proposed mission to send NASA astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, which he outlined during a visit to Florida's Kennedy Space Center in April, or immediately seek a treaty that would ban space-based weapons.
"The United States will consider proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies," administration officials wrote in the 18-page policy paper.
The paper acknowledges that U.S. space policy — crafted decades ago during the Cold War with the then-Soviet Union — is no longer "racing against an adversary." Instead, Obama calls for greater cooperation with space-faring nations, including Russia and China.
Jim Kohlenberger, chief of staff to the White House science advisor, acknowledged that "there aren't any new specific pieces in this space policy today that lay out new partnerships." But, he added, "there are going to be lots of opportunities … for new collaboration in space as we go forward."
A key concern is the amount of space debris in orbit. More than half a million pieces of space junk larger than half an inch are whipping around Earth at speeds approaching 18,000 mph, and even an errant screw could destroy a satellite or endanger an astronaut.
Obama said the U.S. intended to develop a better system to monitor space junk while finding ways to avoid a repeat of the 2009 collision between an American and Russian satellite — the first impact by two intact satellites.
"This policy recognizes that as our reliance on satellites and other space-based technologies increase, so too does our responsibility to address challenges such as debris and other hazards," Obama said in a statement.
The paper also touts the benefits of using commercial rocket companies — rather than NASA-designed spaceships — to send crew and cargo to the International Space Station after NASA retires the space shuttle fleet, adding that a "robust and competitive" commercial rocket sector is vital to the American economy and its security.
This argument is aimed at congressional critics who have opposed Obama's plan to cancel NASA's Constellation moon program and use commercial rockets to resupply the station. A House committee with oversight of NASA's budget is scheduled to debate the plan Tuesday.