Every day more than 1,000 water tankers rumble past Nagraj's small plywood store in Bangalore, throwing up clouds of dust as they rush their valuable cargo to homes and offices in India's drought-stricken tech hub. Gleaming new apartment blocks are still springing up all over the city known as India's Silicon Valley -- even though there is nowhere near enough mains water to supply those already living and working there. Many rely entirely on supplies shipped in by tankers filled from giant borewells that have caused groundwater levels to plummet, sparking predictions Bangalore could be the first Indian city to run out of water.
China plans to begin offering recoverable satellites to commercial users between 2019 and 2020, the official state news agency Xinhua reported. The country has successfully brought back more than 20 satellites from space since 1975 and is confident its technology is highly reliable, said Zhang Hongtai, president of the China Academy of Space Technology, a satellite and spacecraft maker. "We plan to upgrade this technology in order to satisfy the needs of commercial users," he was quoted as saying.
Bangkok graffiti artists painted a mural on Friday of panthers seated at a "Last Supper" table, the latest subversive depiction of an animal that has come to symbolise injustice after a tycoon was accused of poaching the wild cat. Construction magnate Premchai Karnasuta, one of Thailand's wealthiest moguls, was arrested in a wildlife sanctuary in February with guns and animal carcasses, including that of a black leopard. With public protests still banned under a junta that grabbed power in 2014, the anger has taken the form of sly street art focused around the image of the panther.
“Politicians from both parties publicly worship the solemn dignity of entrepreneurship and small businesses. But by the numbers, America has become the land of the big and the home of the consolidated,” writes The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson. In a time when Americans have lost faith in their institutions, the nation seems to now look to corporations for positive action. Can big business be a force for good or only a force for profit? Does their very size pose a threat? If corporations can be people, can they be good citizens?Links
There's a never-before-studied aurora gracing night skies around the world, and NASA wants you to try to spot it. The newfound aurora, named Steve (short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement), looks like a purple light with some green features. Scientists think that Steve likely appears when charged plasma from the sun hits the Earth's magnetic field in a certain way, according to a new study published in the journal
Science Advances. SEE ALSO: 'Steve' is the name of a new kind of aurora, discovered thanks to citizen scientists Citizen scientists helped discover Steve, but more observations in the future could help researchers figure out exactly how and when it forms. So, what's the deal with Steve, and how can you spot it in the night sky? The particularly unique thing about Steve is that it looks somewhat like a line instead of the more typical oval you get with traditional auroras. It can also be seen from space, according to NASA. "This is a light display that we can observe over thousands of kilometers from the ground,” NASA scientist Liz MacDonald said in a statement. “It corresponds to something happening way out in space. Gathering more data points on STEVE will help us understand more about its behavior and its influence on space weather.” The more observations of Steve the better, as far as NASA is concerned. By spotting the mysterious type of aurora, scientists should hopefully be able to piece together exactly how it works and why it appears every now and then. If you want to try to spot the special aurora in person, NASA has a some tips for you: Be sure to document all your Steve sightings with Aurorasaurus, the organization that first started gathering observations of it. Auroras are created when charged particles shot out by the sun slam into Earth's magnetic field, warping it. Some of those charged particles make it through the magnetic field, slamming into the upper atmosphere and interacting with neutral particles, creating the glow that we see as the northern or southern lights. For the most part, the auroras can only be seen in the high latitudes, not far from the poles due to magnetic field lines, but when a solar storm is particularly intense, the oval of the aurora can reach down farther, bringing the special lights to people who usually can't see them. WATCH: These new images show just how dazzling Jupiter's auroras are
British billionaire businessman Sanjeev Gupta will build the world's biggest battery in South Australia, officials said Friday, overtaking US star entrepreneur Elon Musk's project in the same state last year. The 120MW/140MWh battery storage facility will support a new solar farm at the Whyalla Steelworks, which was taken over by Gupta's GFG Alliance when it bought Australia's cash-strapped steelmaking giant Arrium last year. The push towards more renewable energy projects in South Australia followed an "unprecedented" storm that hit in 2016, causing a state-wide blackout.
A new high-level council advising President Donald Trump's government on wildlife conservation is made up of big game hunters and professional hunting guides. The Interior Department's International Wildlife Conservation Council had its first meeting in Washington Friday. The panel, created and chosen by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a hunter himself, is chaired by Steven Chancellor.
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy has commissioned a national group of scientists to study the viability of diluting surplus weapons-grade plutonium and storing it permanently at the federal government's underground repository in New Mexico.
Every week the Senate has been in session since April 2012, one lonely Democratic senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, has taken to the Senate floor to speak about global warming. On March 13, Senator Whitehouse gave his 200th “It’s Time to Wake Up” speech on climate change. The speech was atypical for Whitehouse, who has grown accustomed to the unsettling feeling of standing virtually alone on the Senate floor while speaking about a topic that he believes is of the utmost importance. SEE ALSO: Rex Tillerson's replacement is a nightmare for anyone who cares about climate change “It’s a very hollow feeling. If you believe that this is a matter of such consequence and that it’s going to hit your home state so hard that you are going to put in this kind of an effort, then to have it be in an empty chamber, it’s a little disconcerting,” he said in an interview, regarding most of his climate speeches. This time, though, to mark the anniversary, 19 of his Democratic colleagues joined him to discuss the issue. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse takes part at a climate march in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2017.Image: NurPhoto via Getty ImagesWhitehouse’s speech was the culmination of years of research and determination on his part, focused on a combination of disturbing new scientific results as well as what he described in an interview as the “creepy mold growth” of dark money groups spending millions to stop climate action and convince the American public that climate science is uncertain. “The fact that stands out for me, here at number 200, is the persistent failure of Congress to even take up the issue of climate change,” Whitehouse said. “One party won’t even talk about it! One party is gagging America’s scientists and civil servants, and striking even the term ‘climate change’ off government websites.” “In the real world, in actual reality, we are long past any question as to the reality of climate change,” Whitehouse said. “The fact of that forces us to confront the question: What stymies Congress from legislating, or even having hearings, about climate change? What impels certain executive agencies to forbid even the words?” Sheldon Whitehouse is the closest the current Senate has to former senator and vice president Al Gore. He’s bookish to the point of being a geek, is obsessed with environmental issues, and is not content to just scratch the surface of a problem — he delves deep, traveling the country in order to understand the science and politics of global warming. He’s also a bit quirky. For example, at the start of the interview in his office, I commented that the senator comes from a beautiful state, mentioning Rhode Island’s beaches and coastal vistas. What followed was unexpected, and revealing. It made me realize the senator might not be the person you’d want to sit next to on a long distance flight, but he is definitely someone you want fighting for you in the Senate or in court, given his experience as the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island and subsequently as the state's attorney general. “We’re kind of just emerging from the least beautiful season,” Whitehouse said in response to my comment. “And then, yeah, we’ll be through that, and we’ll get into the spring and spirits rise, and then summer comes and tourists come and money flows and people are happy, and then you hit September and October which are the golden months, when it’s just beyond gorgeous everywhere. And then you slide back into the darkness of winter again.” Whitehouse began his weekly speeches soon after the Obama White House gave up on pushing a climate bill through Congress, despite one having already passed the House in 2009. “I think it has been an often lonely undertaking but it started at a particularly bleak period when we Democrats had walked away from the climate change issue after the House had passed Cap and Trade,” he said, referring to a bill that would have put a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allowed companies trade emissions allowances to ensure they met their obligations under the new law. “Democrats in the House had put their careers on the line to pass that bill, and the Senate and the White House completely collapsed after that. Just fell apart,” he said. “You couldn’t get the Obama White House to use the words climate and change in the same paragraph, and it just seemed really, really bleak,” Whitehouse said. “So, I figured, let’s start talking about this on a regular basis.” In some ways, the senator provides a good lesson in sticking to a routine, considering he put a climate speech on his schedule every week to prevent some other issue of the moment from crowding it out. He also has the benefit of having a sharp legal mind, which will help amplify his voice as the wave of climate-related litigation builds during the next few years. Whitehouse contributed to disqualifying President Donald Trump's first nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White. His questions showed that she didn't just hold views about climate science that were outside the mainstream, but that she had no idea what her own views were. Whitehouse says he’s learned a lot about the science preparing for these speeches, and also has come to investigate why the politics of this issue are so intractable. This has turned his gaze squarely on the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in
Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed for unlimited corporate money and so-called “dark money” to flow into politics. “Climate failure and dark money are two sides of the same coin,” Whitehouse said. Dark money is flowing to groups that promote the view that climate change is not real, and also punish Republicans that contemplate acting to reduce the severity of the problem. Despite these well-funded interest groups, though, Whitehouse is hopeful that the tide is turning on this issue. First of all, he thinks the public understands the reality of the science, which is born out in polling, though far fewer Republicans think there is a scientific consensus on global warming compared to Democrats. Second, he says the economics increasingly favor renewable energy sources, as more and more coal plants are shutting down simply because it’s cheaper to use either cleaner natural gas or carbon-free renewable sources such as solar and wind power. Lastly, he said the combination of shareholder pressure and legal pressure is going to bring the fossil fuel industry to the table faster than many others think. He described oil companies as “spooked” by the reality of having to present evidence of what they knew, and when they knew it, in a courtroom, as they may have to do in several pending cases nationwide. “... Courts over and over again in our history have been places where big ideas have been thought through because the political system was incapable of dealing with them,” Whitehouse said, mentioning the case in Oregon in which 21 young Americans are suing the federal government for depriving them of the right to a stable climate. Clearly, 200 speeches have not resulted in climate action at the federal level, at least not yet. But Whitehouse says his work has been successful in other ways. He compares his efforts to serving as the pilot light of an oven, keeping it ready to turn on as soon as the conditions align and “it comes time to start cooking.” He said he has “very intentionally wanted to be the witness on the ground” to tell future generations exactly why Congress has not acted. In his view, it’s not because of partisanship or the failure of the Democratic system, but rather special interest money flowing unfettered into campaigns, squelching any potential bipartsian compromises on climate legislation. “There’s a story that needs to be told, because when some coastal farmer in Malaysia or Madagascar or Sri Lanka has lost their farm and their village has had to go and there’s fighting for resources, all the things the Defense Department talks about at the policy level, all that stuff happens to somebody, to some kid, to some tribe, to some village, that stuff happens, and they’re mad and they want answers,” Whitehouse said. “And here we are sitting on a hill, with our lamp up to the world, and right now we are providing a disgusting example of corruption of government by a huge special interest. And we’ve got to be able to fix that.” Whitehouse has no plans to stop the lecture series, which you can watch online via Youtube. He may lack the star power of Gore, but he’s every bit as serious, knowledgeable, and determined to make a difference. So stay tuned for speech 201. Oh and also 202, 203, 204... WATCH: We could see a decline in King Penguins thanks to — you guessed it — climate change
Just months after the Sputnik launch, the U.S government began testing the Vanguard project. Exactly 60 years ago, on March 17th 1958, Vanguard 1 was sent into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida, becoming the second satellite launched by the U.S.
NASA's Kepler spacecraft has been peering deep into the Milky Way galaxy for nearly a decade. It has spotted over 2,500 confirmed planets orbiting distant stars, and over 2,500 more possible worlds are waiting to be confirmed. Thirty of these confirmed planets live inside their host stars' habitable zones, places where liquid water could exist like it does on Earth. But Kepler is now running low on gas. "With nary a gas station to be found in deep space, the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel," Charlie Sobeck
, the system engineer for the Kepler space telescope mission, said in a NASA statement. "We expect to reach that moment within several months." SEE ALSO: Thousands of SpaceX Starlink satellites could pose 'unprecedented' space junk problem NASA placed the Kepler telescope 94 million miles away from Earth, in an orbit around the sun. This way, Earth's gravity and reflected light don't interfere with Kepler's precise measurements of distant planets. Out there, in the void, it's extremely unlikely that Kepler will become a threatening piece of space junk that could pose collision hazards to other satellites. An artist's conception of the Earth-sized exoplanet Kepler-186f, which orbits a star some 500 million miles away from Earth.Image: NASA"Deep space missions like Kepler are nowhere near Earth or sensitive environments, which means we can afford to squeeze every last drop of data from the spacecraft," said Sobeck. It's incredible that Kepler is still working at all. In 2013, a wheel used to keep the spacecraft pointed in the right direction broke, meaning that Kepler's entire mission — which hinged on pointing in one specific direction — had to change. However, NASA found a way to temporarily stabilize the telescope for months at a time by using pressure from sunlight, "like a kayak steering into the current," said Sobeck. An artist's conception of the exoplanet Kepler-22b, a planet about two and half times that of Earth orbiting in its solar system's habitable zone.Image: nasaSince then, Kepler has spotted hundreds more exoplanets, over 300 of which have been confirmed. When Kepler spots an exoplanet, however, it doesn't actually capture an image of the distant planetary body — they're much too far away. Instead, Kepler watches a star for dips in brightness as a planet occasionally transits in front of the distant star. NASA scientists can then judge the size and possible composition of the exoplanet based upon how long it took to travel around the star and how much light the planet temporarily blocked. In December 2017, Kepler shifted its view and caught a blast of reflected light from Earth in its extremely sensitive camera, ultimately appearing as a vertical beam of light.Image: nasaAlthough Kepler will soon be spent and left to its long, lonely orbit in space, the spacecraft will soon be replaced by another exoplanet-hunting space telescope, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). TESS is set to launch into space on April 16. "TESS will search nearly the entire sky for planets outside our solar system, focusing on the brightest stars less than 300 light-years away, and adding to Kepler’s treasure trove of planet discoveries," said Sobeck. WATCH: 'I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die.': some of Stephen Hawking's most inspirational quotes.
Midnight. As I was browsing the internet, I saw, like shooting stars, emails suddenly appear and disappear from the right-hand corner of my computer screen. The first from CNN announcing the death of Stephen Hawking, the second from an editor at The Atlantic asking me to write about him.
A rainbow which lit up the sky for nearly nine hours is officially recognized by the Guinness World Records for being the world’s longest-lasting one. Authorities from the organization held a ceremony on Saturday in Taiwan to honor the achievement—the first-ever world record the country has received for a natural science-related phenomenon, Taiwan News reports. Professors and students at the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan witnessed the rainbow, which lasted for 8 hours and 58 minutes last November.
Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos paid a visit to the National Reconnaissance Office this week — which fits right in with his plan to participate in national security space missions through his Blue Origin space venture. Based on the readout from the NRO, the nation’s spy-satellite agency is also interested in what Bezos had to say about technological innovation. “We cheer every new entrant who’s brave enough to go into the space business,” NRO Director Betty Sapp said during Monday’s meet-up, according to the agency’s Facebook posting. “You’re obviously an innovator — like few others in the United States — and a… Read More
The bedrock of the ocean's food chain, on which whales, sharks, and octopi ultimately rely, are tiny bits of photosynthetic algae called diatoms. They come in thousands of shapes and are imperceptible to the human eye. If their populations collapse or shrink, there could be dramatic reverberations throughout the vast marine food web. Scientists have now identified a climate change-related threat to diatoms, and it comes from a known and growing threat: Ocean acidification. SEE ALSO: Scientists intentionally acidify sea water to show just how screwed coral reefs really are In a study published Wednesday in the journal
Nature, scientists collected a species of diatom from the ocean and exposed it to increased seawater acidity — akin to the projected ocean acidity levels by the end of the century. They found that more acidic waters hindered diatoms from getting the nutrition they need, specifically iron, for their numbers to grow. And if diatom populations were to plummet, there would be global implications beyond the sea. Diatoms float near the ocean's sunlit surface, and they suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then use this carbon as a key nutrient. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the ocean absorbs 30 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and much of this is consumed by hungry, surface-dwelling diatoms. The diatoms take in the carbon, but release oxygen — so much so that "Diatoms supply the oxygen in every fourth breath you take," according to NOAA. Eventually these heavy diatoms sink to the ocean floor, where they naturally "sequester" this carbon far from the atmosphere. If diatom numbers fall, so might the ocean's natural ability to gulp carbon dioxide, a potent and long-lived greenhouse gas, out of the air. This could speed up global warming. A massive phytoplankton bloom, including diatoms, in the Barents Sea north of Norway in 2011.Image: NASAAlthough researchers are not yet projecting dire circumstances for both vast regions of our oceans and the planet's climate — the potential cascading effects of their collapse are troubling. "It's significant and worrisome," said Andrew Allen, who researches microbial oceanography and ecology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in an interview. Allen was a coauthor of the study. So, how can acidifying oceans limit diatom growth? The problem begins with the burning of fossil fuels. Burning fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas releases heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing the planet's temperature to increase. Today, carbon dioxide levels are the highest they've been in at least 800,000 years, and global average surface temperatures have been setting all-time records. Carbon dioxide in the air naturally reacts with sea water, producing carbonic acid and incrementally increasing the acidity of the seas. This increase in carbonic acid, however, results in fewer carbonate molecules (technically a carbonate molecule that's negatively charged, or an ion) available. And this is key: The researchers found that fewer carbonate molecules interfere with diatoms' ability to "grab" onto iron — a vital nutrient that enables them to multiply and flourish. A species of diatom.Image: Alaska fisheries science center/noaaAccording to the researchers, due to ocean acidification, the carbonate near the ocean's surface — where most of the acidification is taking place — will decline by nearly 50 percent during this century. So, although much more research is needed to build upon this initial study, this could spell doom for diatoms in vast swathes of the ocean, particularly seas in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica that are already iron-deficient. Falling diatom populations can stoke a vicious "feedback loop," wherein there's fewer diatoms to suck carbon out of the air and eventually sequester it near the ocean floor. Accordingly, there will be more carbon dioxide left in the atmosphere, further acidifying the oceans and making it more difficult for diatom populations to grow. This effect, the researchers emphasize, will be most prominent in oceans that are already low in iron. "In these regions, high concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide could decrease phytoplankton growth, restricting the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide and thus leading to ever higher concentrations of carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere," said Jeff McQuaid, a microbial and environmental genomics researcher and the study's lead author, in a statement. Fish like the algae blenny eat diatoms and plankton.Image: Wikimedia commonsLike many carefully designed studies, this one took place in a laboratory setting where researchers like McQuaid and Allen could control all the variables. But out in the open ocean, the effects on diatoms could be different — and may not result in such an adverse feedback loop. That's why it's too early to say that such an effect will likely occur. "Ecological systems are complex and it's hard to predict how systems might compensate or adjust," Allen said. But if the laboratory results are similar to those in the actual ocean, the oceans might one day speed up global warming, rather than dampening the rate at which the planet's climate is changing. In other words, the oceans may one day go from climate change friend to a foe. WATCH: We could see a decline in King Penguins thanks to — you guessed it — climate change
When a forest is scorched by a fire, you can safely bet that grasses will be the first to regrow, followed by small bushes, and eventually trees. When a newborn baby is born, it will first be colonized by bacteria that can digest milk, followed by those that break down plant fibers. When a dead whale sinks to the ocean floor, it will first be consumed by writhing hagfish and scavenging sharks, then crustaceans and snails, and eventually mats of microbes. These are all examples of ecological succession, where new habitats are colonized by orderly and predictable waves of species.
Over the last few years, citizen scientists have been sharing pictures of a mysterious, aurora-like purple arc 'dancing' in the sky. Earlier this week researchers confirmed the arc is a distinct structure largely unstudied in scientific literature.
Brasília (AFP) - Brazil -- the country with the world's greatest fresh water reserves -- hosts an international conference next week on growing fears over the fragility of drinking water supplies in a heating planet. Under the slogan "sharing water," the 8th World Water Forum will bring together 15 heads of state and government, 300 mayors and dozens of experts in the Brazilian capital Brasilia from Sunday to March 23. Participants will meet against the backdrop of the drama in Cape Town, which until earlier this month was projected to run out of water as early as July, forcing the closing of household taps and extreme rationing.