Using footage from the International Space Station (courtesy of NASA’s Johnson Space Center), National Geographic filmmaker Fede Castro has created one of the most breathtaking time-lapse videos of Earth from space.
The video is just over four minutes, and features the world’s major cities, as well as the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) and a few massive thunderstorms, among other things.
Take a trip around the world in just minutes in National Geographic’s video “Nuestra Tierra—Our Earth”:
China has become notorious in recent years for its high levels of air pollution. This, however, is only one of many issues facing China as the country’s middle class continues to grow.
Beijing, China’s capital city, is home to around 20 million people. As a result, the city produces a lot of trash.
On a number of occasions, academics have attempted to estimate just how much trash Beijing produces. They have all failed, due in large part to the fact that the massive trash collection industry in China is extremely unorganized.
So back in 2012, the government of Beijing came up with an innovative solution to their trash problem: reverse vending machines that reward people who recycle with credits that can be applied to phone cards or public transit costs.
The machines are equipped with scanners that can identify what type of bottle you are recycling to determine its value. More valuable bottles get you more credit.
Beijing has contracted Incom, the company building the kiosks, to build 100 of the machines across the city (Incom thinks the number will eventually be in the thousands).
34 kiosks have been built so far. Check out the video below to see one of the machines in action and hear how local people are responding to them:
Dr. Maximilian Schich is a professor of art and technology at the University of Texas at Dallas. His current research focuses on how the spread of the arts and sciences affected the spread of culture.
To illustrate this process, he decided to map the movements of 100,000 of the most influential figures of western culture from the past 2,000 years.
Among the names were people like Apple founder Steve Jobs, Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen, and the famous artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci.
Schich gathered information about the birth and death places of all these great figures, and plotted it on an interactive map. Being able to actually see culture as it spreads over time is a truly fascinating experience:
Earlier this week, I was watching an episode of the BBC series Human Planet and saw clips of some amazing, natural-looking root bridges in India.
I immediately wanted to know more about them.
Cherrapunji is a subdivisional town in the East Khasi Hills district in the Indian state of Meghalaya. With over 75 feet of annual rainfall, the climate in this region is one of the wettest in the world.
The intense rains have created a perpetually wet and often harsh environment. Local villagers are forced to cross numerous rivers, many of which can turn into violent rapids during the rainy season.
But the wet climate has also given locals there a gift: it allows the Ficus elastica tree to thrive, giving the locals a solution to their problems.
According to inhabitat.com…
“Villagers in Meghalaya, India have come up with a unique construction technique that harnesses nature in its purest form – they grow their own living bridges! Using the roots of the Ficus elastica tree (rubber fig tree), the residents have woven an elaborate system of living bridges, some of which are thought to be over 500 years old.”
Below is a collection of Living Root Bridges Photos
The construction of these structures is almost as remarkable as their beauty. Since their strength comes from the growth of the roots, the pieces of living architecture can take as long as 15 years to become usable.
But after a bridge becomes functional it actually tends to become stronger with age- some of the older bridges can hold over 40 people at once.
The secret to creating these bridges is in the rubber fig tree’s unique secondary root system that grows above the ground floor. According to inhabitat.com…
“Long ago, the war-Khasis, a tribe in Meghalaya region, realized they could tap into the power of these roots and use them to their own advantage. By manipulating and directing the secondary roots, they could create ultra strong living bridges with which to cross streams and rivers.”
These bridges are still used daily by the people of the villages around Cherrapunji. Many people believe that some of the bridges are well over 500 years old. Over the decades, many of these bridges have grown deep foundations, and some have had rocks added to serve as foot steps.
The most famous of these bridges is a double-decker bridge known as the “Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge”. This unique two-level root bridge is thought to be the only of its kind in the world.
NASA is confident that underneath Jupiter’s moon Europa there could be more water than in our oceans here on Earth. So naturally, Europa has attracted a lot of attention, encouraging the curious to ask, “Could there be life on Europa?”.
Currently, NASA is aiming to send a new mission to Europa by 2025. The White House’s 2015 federal budget allocates $15 million towards making this Europa mission a reality.
Europa has recently become one of NASA’s main focuses because, out of all the other planetary bodies in our solar system, it has arguably the greatest chance of harboring life.
“Every 10 years, the U.S. National Research Council, a nonprofit organization that advises the government, issues a report that recommends a planetary exploration strategy for NASA and the National Science Foundation. The current report (which covers 2013 to 2022) ranks an exploration of Europa among the highest priority missions. According to the report, the future mission should focus on taking a closer look at the ocean that scientists suspect lies below the surface; characterizing its icy crust and looking for any subsurface liquid water; determining the surface composition and chemistry; examining surface features and identifying landing areas for future missions; and understanding the purpose of its magnetosphere — the magnetic field surrounding the celestial body. NASA officials said the instrument proposals should focus on at least one of these exploration goals. The announcement calls for instruments designed for a spacecraft that will orbit Europa or complete several flybys, since astronomers do not yet have enough data to pinpoint safe landing sites on the icy moon.”
The video below describes Europa in more detail.
NASA hopes that by providing monetary incentives to private parties, they will encourage competition and innovation, leading to affordable development processes for the instruments necessary for new missions like the upcoming one to Europa.
Two of the main challenges for teams developing instruments are overcoming Jupiter’s high levels of radiation and making sure that no organic material from Earth (like microorganisms, for example) is introduced to Europa’s potentially habitable surface.
The competition ends in April 2015. NASA will select the top 20 proposals, rewarding $25 million to each of the selected teams to further advance their designs for their instruments. NASA will also select eight winners whose instruments will be developed and actually used in NASA’s mission to Europa.
This competition is included in NASA’s budget to get to Europa, according to Space.com…
“NASA is in the process of designing a mission that will cost less than $1 billion and will still meet as many of the exploration goals as possible.”
Check out NASA’s full guidelines for Europa mission science instrument ideas here.
You can also learn more about how Europa works in this infographic from Space.com (click to enlarge):
The search for extra-terrestrial life has been one NASA’s most important missions in recent years. NASA has estimated that in our galaxy alone, there are 100 million planets that cold possibly host alien life.
Speaking at their Washington headquarters on Monday, NASA outlined new plans to use current telescope technology to help in the search. They also announced that they would be launching the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017 to aid in the search.
“Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe,”
said Matt Mountain, who serves as director at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. The Institute will be launching the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 to help in the search as well.
Mountain also added,
“What we didn’t know five years ago is that perhaps 10 to 20 per cent of stars around us have Earth-size planets in the habitable zone… It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever.”
NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden also weighed in on the announcement:
“Do we believe there is life beyond Earth? I would venture to say that most of my colleagues here today say it is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the universe we humans stand alone.”
Recently a man named Russ Schut was fishing in Sproat Lake, which is on Vancouver Island (Canada), just northeast of Washington state.
With just a worm as bait, Russ was able to haul in a 2-foot-long American bullfrog (which he released).
Schut posted this picture with the enormous frog thinking that it wasn’t particularly exceptional, other than being impressively large.
But according to GrindTV.com the photograph was noticed and has fueled concern that the,
“…voracious amphibians are spreading unchecked across the British Columbia island’s landscape. Because they’re not native to the Canadian southwest and have few natural predators, such as alligators, water snakes, and kingfishers in their native American southeast, some of the bullfrogs are growing to abnormally large sizes.”
American Bullfrogs grow to an average length of around 7 inches and weigh up to 1.5 pounds, so the 2-foot-long Bullfrog caught by Russ Schut was defintly abnormal.
Gail Wallin works with the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia. She told Alberni Valley Times that these frogs are,
“Big and voracious…And when you’ve got a species like that, that can basically out-eat some of the native species; it will take away the forage that native species would use and at times they can be aggressive on other smaller-sized, earlier life-cycle frogs.”
A current study at the University of Victoria is mapping the rate of the bullfrogs’ spread. Wallin has theorized that they were initially introduced to the area by people emptying their aquariums, unaware of the environmental consequences.
According to National Geographic, American bullfrogs can lay as many as 20,000 eggs, with tadpoles sometimes reaching lengths of 7 inches. These bullfrogs populate quickly and with few natural predators in the area they also populate effectively. Suitably, a group of bullfrogs is called an army, or colony.
Though native to the American southwest, they now range throughout the continuous U.S., as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico and Cuba. Their presence also has been documented in Europe, South America, and Asia.
As of now there is no plan to rid the region of the American bullfrog. Check out some images of the American bullfrog below.
This November Samantha Cristoforetti, the first female Italian astronaut in space, will deliver the “ISSpresso” to the International Space Station (ISS).
For the first time astronauts aboard the ISS will be able to enjoy freshly brewed cups of coffee. It’s amazing to believe that despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone into the ISS, astronauts still don’t have access to a simple cup of Joe.
“the ISSpresso: a specially designed machine created by Italian coffee manufacturer Lavazza and aerospace specialist Argotec that is capable of producing an “authentic Italian espresso” in space.”
Aside from the tremendous costs associated with anything that goes to or from the ISS, one of the main challenges for making coffee in space is overcoming the lack of gravity on the ISS. The last thing you want is scolding coffee droplets floating around in the morning.
Fortunately the “ISSpresso” has been designed to overcome zero gravity and according to The Independent,
“The ISSpresso weighs 20kg and includes “back-ups of all the critical components,” with a heavily-modified design tackling the unique problems of making coffee in a microgravity environment as the ISS hurtles through space nearly 400km above Earth.”
Check out the video below to learn more about the “ISSpresso” …
Last month, NASA set out to create a “global selfie”. First, they asked people around the world to take pictures of themselves with a little NASA placard saying where they were. They then compiled the 36,422 selfies they got into a stunningly accurate mosaic of the Earth.
For Earth Day (April 22), NASA used social media to pose the question, “Where are you on Earth right now?”, encouraging fans and followers to take selfies and post them using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie.
Selfies were taken on every continent (including Antarctica), and 113 different countries and regions were represented. Each picture was used as a tile on the earth, creating a fully zoomable global mosaic that you can view by clicking the image below.
Everybody got in on the fun, including Elmo, a lego pilot, an astronaut and even a lazy cat. Check out some of the coolest selfie submissions below.
Our modern society here on Earth depends heavily on just a handful of resources. These resources include fossil fuels like oil and coal, as well as raw minerals like copper, lead and zinc. With the rapid advancement of technology and industry worldwide in the last half century or so, our demand for these raw goods has skyrocketed.
This cool infographic lists some of our most widely-used resources, showing how much of each was left in 2010 and where the remaining resources are located.
For the top graph, the longer portion in the middle of each bar predicts the number of years until the resource runs out if it keeps being used at current rates.
However, most resources are being used more each year than the year before, so the shorter outer portion of each bar predicts the number of years left if our demand and production continues to increase. Click the image to see the full size version.