Cool Stories Earth

2,000 Feet Wide Asteroid Whizzes Past the Planet

The rather unimaginatively named 481392 (2006) SF9 asteroid measuring around 2,034 feet rushed past the Earth at an incredible 17,800 miles /hour on 20th November 2019.

The giant rock has a diameter of 2,034 feet and came to within 2.7million miles of the planet we call home. According to NASA, this is a distance 11 times greater than the distance between the Earth and the Moon.  This is likely to be the closest the asteroid will get to our planet for at least for the next 200 years.

The giant asteroid was first seen by astronomers near Tucson, Arizona back in 2006.  The Catalina Sky Survey is run by scientists based in the Steward Observatory and aims to look for asteroids, comets, and meteors.

How Far is “Near” in Space Terms?

Despite the huge distances involved this giant asteroid is known as a NEO (Near-Earth Object) because it came within 121 million miles of the sun and 30 million miles of our own planet’s path around the star.

There are numerous other types of NEOs but asteroids are the most common and are only considered “potentially hazardous” in certain circumstances.  NASA would start to become concerned about an asteroid if it came to within 4.6million miles of Earth and had a size over 460 feet.  This is about 19 times the distance between the moon and the earth.

It seems then that 481394 (2006 SF6) is seen as a potential hazard and certainly if it did hit the Earth there would be devastating results.  That said, it is not considered likely to hit the Earth within at least the next 200 years and, despite its size, the asteroid is still too small to cause the sort of extinction-level event that wiped out the dinosaurs even if a collision occurred.

There are around a quarter of a million NEOs larger than 460 feet at present, yet, according to NASA this probably represents only 35% of the total figure of asteroids in circulation.  Once you start looking at the smaller objects, those with a diameter of under 33 feet, you start to see figures shoot up to the 100 million range.

There are likely around 5,000 asteroids that could prove to be a hazard.

An asteroid consists of debris that was leftover for the early formation of the solar system. Most of the material joined together to form planets but some are still floating around out there. These asteroids give us valuable insights into how our solar system originated and shows that even now, around 4.5 billion years later, it is still changing and evolving.

The rather unimaginatively named 481392 (2006) SF9 asteroid measuring around 2,034 feet rushed past the Earth at an incredible 17,800 miles /hour on...

Cool Stories Earth

If You Missed Mercury’s Journey Across the Sun, You’ll Have to Wait Another 13 Years!

Mercury’s journey across the sun happened on November 11th and if you missed it, you will have to wait another 13 years before this event occurs again.  Mercury’s next journey across the sun will not take place until November 13, 2031.  If you think this is a long wait, consider Venus who will travel 93 years from now!

Phenomenal events like this only happen when there is a set alignment on planet orbits. Just like all the planets in our solar system, Mercury and Venus circle the sun in a plane, similar to a pancake but it’s not perfectly flat because each planet has a tilt in its orbit.

Take Mercury’s path, there is an incline of 7° to the plane in which the planet, on average, orbits in the sky. From the perspective of our planet Earth, Mercury passes above or below the sun almost all the time, only crossing the sun 13 or 14 times in one century.

With Venus, this phenomenon is much rarer. It happens in transit pairs separated by 8 years and each pairing only happens about a century apart from each other.

Also, only Mercury and Venus can cross the sun since they are on the inner side of the solar system, unlike Earth.  Transits of Mercury seem to happen around the same time of year, either in November or May while Venus’ is more scattered.

When Will the Next Transit Be?

According to NASA, if you missed this last transit of Mercury, you will have to wait a really long time.  The next 2 transits will happen in 2032 and 2039 but will not be visible from North America. Skywatchers in the U.S will have to wait until 2049 and from the West Coast in 2052.

Regarding Venus, you should mark it on your calendar and even consider if you will still be around.  According to NASA, from December 10 to 11, 2117 it will be visible in southern and western North America and other locations.

As of December 8, 2125,  it will be visible for half its journey in the U.S.  The next pairing will not occur until 2247 and 2255.

If all of this seems too far in advance for you to even consider, have peace of mind, you will have plenty of chances to watch the moon travel across the sun during a solar eclipse or to watch the moon pass into Earth’s shadow during the lunar eclipse.

Eclipses take place every few months but visibility varies considerably, especially for solar eclipses.

If you were fortunate enough to capture the Mercury event, share it on your social media so the rest of us can enjoy the moment!

Mercury’s journey across the sun happened on November 11th and if you missed it, you will have to wait another 13 years before this event...

Earth Vacation

Is it Safe to Visit Venice Even With Flooding Shutting Everything Down?

At this time, tour companies and those living in Venice are urging travelers to stay away.  The flooding has become quite dangerous and it’s not recommended that anyone making plans to visit.  There are many other Italian destinations that should take advantage of and consider Venice for a future trip.

Many people know that Venice is slowly sinking, but this low-lying city is more than 85% underwater after this severe flooding which has put the city in harm’s way over the past few days.

Acqua alta or high waters are the highest in over 50 years, reaching just over 6-feet or 1.87 meters. The devastation from flooding over this past week is almost as high as their record flood that occurred in 1966.  It’s been reported as the 2nd worst flood in history, according to the Associated Press.

Venice is a very popular destination in part to their incredible landmarks including St. Mark’s Square.  Due to the recent flooding, these landmarks are now underwater!

According to Mindi and Daryl Hirsch from 2foodtrippers.com, even though Venice is still a charming city, the flooding is a totally different story. They told Newsweek there is nothing charming about wading through 3-feet of cold, smelly water.  This kind of water makes galoshes and boots useless.

The couple who has a travel-blogging site walked in wast-high water after dinner and said they felt the situation was very dangerous.  They have strongly suggested that if travelers experience this kind of flooding, they should take all warnings very seriously.

The city sounds an alarm when flooding is imminent and the number of tones will signify the expected level of water.  When this happens, you should take cover until the water recedes.  The couple added they believe they will hear these alarms in their dreams for the next few years.

What Travelers Need To Know

 Marco Amorico, president of Access Italy, which is a luxury tour company, recommends travelers avoid the city until normal water levels are restored.  They should pay close attention to all weather forecasts.

If your plans are set and you are ready to leave for Venice, it’s strongly advised you travel to Milan or Turin instead.  If your travel dates are more than a week in advance, monitor the situation and consider looking into other cities like Rome and/or Florence.

Italy is conveniently connected by trains and travel times are relatively short.

 At this time, Urban Adventures Venice is currently closed.  Cecilia Cambero, manager of the Venice Tours for Urban, told Newsweek that travelers going to Venice need to be aware that the city is in peril at this time.

Travelers will be limited in moving about and many sites including museums are closed or in the process of closing down.

At this time, tour companies and those living in Venice are urging travelers to stay away.  The flooding has become quite dangerous and it’s...

Category - Earth

Earth

Changing Climate Could Melt Tons of Human Poop

Climate change with global warming is doing more and affecting us differently than we may have ever expected. Decades of hikers have been leaving their poop on Denali, North America’s tallest mountain located in Alaska, and with the warmer climate, these feces might become exposed on the glacier.

It’s been surmised that this Alaskan summit has 66 tons of frozen feces as it’s, by far, one of the most popular climbs in America. Over the future years, this excrement will become more and more visible, USA Today reported.

As a result of this recent discovery, some guide companies are doing what they can to alleviate the situation. These businesses that take climbers up year after year have changed their policy to require climbers to pack their waste down the mountain.

Updated Policy

Just a year ago, the National Park Service had made a new policy stating that all human waste below 14,000 feet must be taken off the mountain.

“Climbers and particularly guide services are really embracing the new policy and are even exceeding it. It has become kind of an informal badge of merit to carry off all your waste,” Michael Loso, a National Park Service glaciologist, told USA Today.

However, there’s more at stake than we realize. From his research, Loso has discovered that bacteria and bugs that thrive in human feces can survive snow, cold, and time. Tests of water melt from Denali revealed small amounts of fecal coliform bacteria.

The poop will be brought to sight, regardless. “The waste will emerge at the surface not very different from when it was buried. It will be smushed and have been frozen and be really wet,” Loso told USA Today. “It will be biologically active, so the E. coli that was in the waste when it was buried will be alive and well. We expect it to still smell bad and look bad.”

Climate change with global warming is doing more and affecting us differently than we may have ever expected. Decades of hikers have been leaving their poop on Denali, North America’s tallest mountain located in Alaska, and with the warmer climate, these...

Earth

The Earth Just ‘Rang Like A Bell’ And Nobody Knows Why

It seems like the earth is up to something, and no one can tell what exactly it was. Some sort of “event” originating near an island between Madagascar and Africa, as far as Chile, New Zealand, and Canada was picked up by sensors.

What’s phenomenal is that 11,000 miles away in Hawaii, the “event” was also picked up by sensors.

So, what exactly was it? An earthquake? Some sort of volcanic activity?  A nuclear test?  A meteorite? Scientists are having a hard time identifying its cause.

Göran Ekström, a seismologist from Columbia University, gave his two cents to National Geographic:

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. [However] it doesn’t mean that, in the end, the cause of them is that exotic.”

The “event,” beginning around 15 miles off the shores of Mayotte, on November 11 wasn’t just a short occurrence that popped up and then disappeared instantly; it had sensors ringing for twenty minutes, but without the sensors, we may have never known it happened. Not one single human felt it!

Wave Train

Researchers are identifying it as a “monotone, low-frequency ringing,” but they still haven’t put their fingers on what caused it.

The possibility of an earthquake has altogether been ruled out. What normally happens in an earthquake is a sudden jerk lasting just a few seconds as a result of tension built up between earth’s plates. This occurrence was nothing like that.

The waves following an earthquake’s initial jolt are a sort of “wave train” according to Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the University of Southampton. The “primary waves” move forward quickly in bunches, and the “secondary waves” that follow have more of a side-to-side motion. Both these waves possess a high-pitched frequency which Hicks refers to as “a sort of ping rather than a rumbling.” Finally, surface waves similar to the “event” that recently occurred happen, and these can travel the planet more than once. They “ring Earth like a bell,” as Hicks so eloquently put it.

The problem with the waves coming from Mayotte is that no earthquake happened to trigger them, so scientists are saying it was a monochromatic event, meaning it possessed only one type of wave which repeated itself every seventeen seconds.

However, Mayotte has been plagued with frequent seismic activity over the last year. Since May of 2018, the island has experience hundreds of quakes originating approximately 31 miles offshore, a location just east of the recent “event.”

The French Geological Survey suggests that a “new center of volcanic activity may be developing” off the island’s coast as they’ve been monitoring Mayotte’s seismic activity.

Though it’s been over 4,000 years since the island experience any major volcanic eruptions, the French Geological Survey thinks it’s possible that there could be a new movement of magma offshore.

However, results are still unclear and inconclusive. Researchers continue to look into the “event” and figure out the origin and potential effect of this seismic activity.

It seems like the earth is up to something, and no one can tell what exactly it was. Some sort of “event” originating near an island between Madagascar and Africa, as far as Chile, New Zealand, and Canada was picked up by sensors.
What’s phenomenal is...

Earth

Cut & Save: What To Do If You’re Caught In Rising Waters

According to the National Weather Service, flood-related deaths account for the majority of storm hazards.  Out of these flood-related deaths, over half will occur from driving a car into floodwaters.

As the National Weather Service explains on its website, many people do not have any concept of how strong the currents are in a flooding situation.  The deaths occur as drivers’ cars are swept away.

The saddest part is that these deaths are almost always preventable.  Drivers place their lives at risk when they choose to ignore warning signs and drive around barriers blocking flooded roadways.  According to the National Weather Service, it is never safe to walk through flooded areas, or to drive through flooded roadways.

Flooding can occur through a gradual buildup of water, as seen in many hurricanes.  If flooding happens quickly, within three to six hours of rainfall, it is called a flash flood.  Flash floods can occur from thunderstorms with heavy rainfall, broken levees or dams, or mudslides.

The rapid onset of a flash flood is what makes it dangerous.  People can be caught off guard and be unprepared for how quickly their situation becomes dangerous.

Get Ready For Hurricane Season

Flash flooding can occur across the United States, but the time of year can pose bigger risks for some areas. Coastal areas are high risk for flooding, especially during hurricane seasons, but heavy spring and summer rains place the Midwest at risk.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, states that if you live in low-lying areas near water you should always be prepared for a flood situation.

Here are a few tips to prepare in case of flooding, as recommended by the Ready Campaign:

  • Don’t drive across any bridge that spans fast-moving floodwaters. The force of the flood can make the bridge footings under the structure very unstable.
  • It doesn’t take much to sweep away an adult; your car can be swept along by only one foot of moving water while it only takes six inches to knock you off your feet.
  • Get yourself out of danger and move to higher ground if flooding is predicted.
  • Stay in your car if the car is being swept along by moving waters. If the water isn’t moving, abandon the car and seek safety.
  • Don’t park or camp along the banks of streams, creeks or rivers if heavy rainfall is expected. These areas will flood quickly and take a victim by surprise.
  • Never drive or walk through floodwaters, even if they don’t seem to be moving.
  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! ®

According to the National Weather Service, flood-related deaths account for the majority of storm hazards.  Out of these flood-related deaths, over half will occur from driving a car into floodwaters.
As the National Weather Service explains on its website...

Earth

The Real Cause For The Ice Ages

The past three leading ice ages which happened over 540 million years ago, were followed by massive tectonic build-up all across the equator.  A team of U.S. researchers’ findings were published in the Journal of Science offering new insight into the causes of ice ages that were believed to be related to volcanic eruptions, until now.

A team from the University of California, led by Francis Macdonald, had been looking at the collision of tectonic plates that created the Himalayas.  The team discovered that when an oceanic plate pushes against a continental plate, a mountain range of rock is created.

They also discovered the two collisions that created the Himalayas happened in tropical zones near the equator.  They found both collisions were immediately followed by global atmospheric cooling.

This led to questioning if the exposure of new rock caused a chemical reaction that led to global cooling?  After examining the rate at which the rock from the oceanic plate reacted with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it could have removed enough of the greenhouse gas to trigger an ice age.

The team further researched if there were similar patterns in other ice ages. They traced back the cooling events from the last 540 million years and were able to match them to locations of continental collisions.  Their findings revealed that before each ice age, there were collisions in the tropics.

More Than One Reason

They believe that the combination of heat and humidity in the tropics aided in spurring a chemical reaction between calcium and magnesium found in rocks and atmospheric carbon dioxide causing gas to be sucked out of the atmosphere.  Atmospheric carbon dioxide has a warming effect on the planet, creating a barrier around the Earth.

This prevents heat from escaping back into space which means its removal led to Earth’s temperature dropping. What this means, we are presently living in an ice age that started over 2.5million years ago.  We are in an interglacial period in which the earth goes through a warming period with this ice age.

Right now, there is a zone in Indonesia in which two tectonic plates are colliding.  It’s believed this could potentially be responsible for our current ice age along with why we have a cool climate along with ice caps.

It’s believed this will end in approximately 10 million years and it is believed the Earth will return to a non-glacial climate.  Macdonald said that due to the current movements of the plates, they can project arc-continent collisions and their latitude will become more uncertain the further the projection.

With further studies, the team hopes to clarify records regarding continental collisions and be able to calculate the changes more clearly regarding carbon dioxide concentrations. Their study shows a coincidence but in order to test causality, they need a better understanding of the chemical mass balance.

Macdonald believes what they have gotten from their work is the geography in the tropics which is particularly important for the chemistry of the oceans and setting the global climate condition.

From the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences in France, William Gray said even though he was not involved in the study, the findings contributed to their understanding of what causes ice ages over a period of time – volcanic eruptions and/or the chemical breakdown of rocks.

He said it has been long debated which side of this balance is more important for driving the variations in CO2 and climate.  The results from the study by Macdonald and his colleagues suggest the changes in the level of CO2 removed from the atmosphere by the weathering of rocks could have driven variations in atmospheric CO2 and the climate over the past 500 million years.

This suggests changes in CO2 emissions from volcanoes may only play a minor role.

The past three leading ice ages which happened over 540 million years ago, were followed by massive tectonic build-up all across the equator.  A team of U.S. researchers’ findings were published in the Journal of Science offering new insight into the...

Earth

Turning CO2 Back Into Coal. Is That Even Possible?

As we know, the world has a bit of a problem with CO2 particles. While useful for things like plants, too much CO2 going into the air is simply going to get trapped. However, this then leads to problems like dirty air and a drop-off in living standards.

Science, though, might be in a position where they could finally overcome this problem. How so? A team of scientists at RMIT University, Australia, have managed to take a CO2 gas and turn it into solid carbon particles.

This would be a solution for helping to combat problems with greenhouse gases. It would be a safe solution, too, and could be the groundbreaking solution that we need to try and overcome the CO2 problem in the air.

Presently, we use a solution that captures carbon and tries to compress the CO2 into a form of a liquid, then injecting it back underground. Engineering issues and the economic cost of production, though, has seen progress halt on this move.

Now, though, it’s likely that, thanks to the work of Dr. Torben Daeneke and co. that this problem could be solved. The much more cost-effective and easily managed system developed down under could be the ideal solution to this problem.

This could become a more sustainable approach, according to Dr. Daeneke, who said: “While we can’t literally turn back time, turning carbon dioxide back into coal and burying it back in the ground is a bit like rewinding the emissions clock.

‘To date, CO2 has only been converted into a solid at extremely high temperatures, making it industrially unviable. By using liquid metals as a catalyst, we’ve shown it’s possible to turn the gas back into carbon at room temperature, in a process that’s efficient and scalable. While more research needs to be done, it’s a crucial first step to delivering solid storage of carbon.’

An important step forward in environmental sustainability

This is a huge step forward and has been a major boon for the science community. Using an electro-chemical technique developed by Dr. Dorna Esrafilzadeh, they are able to take atmospheric CO2 and turn it into a solid form of carbon.

The process itself sounds very interesting and could be an essential step forward in our ability to combat the man-made problems hurting our environment. This could be used in various ways; it could even be turned into electrodes and used in other formats. This is very interesting and could become a breakthrough moment in modern science.

Produced in the Nature Communications journal, this groundbreaking study was put together by people from the University of Munster, Nanjing University and the North Carolina State University alongside RMIT and other Australian groups.

While it might be some time until it can be used in a viable circumstance, this could be a genuinely life-changing solution to the problems we face on this planet.

As we know, the world has a bit of a problem with CO2 particles. While useful for things like plants, too much CO2 going into the air is simply going to get trapped. However, this then leads to problems like dirty air and a drop-off in living...

Earth

Second Impact Crater Found Buried Under Ice In Greenland

In November of 2018, scientists revealed that they had discovered a 19-mile wide impact crater below the ice in Northwest Greenland, called the Hiawatha impact crater.  The crater was the first of its kind, found under one of the earth’s continental ice sheets.

Scientists have now uncovered another impact crater underneath a mile of ice about one hundred miles from the Hiawatha crater, according to a study led by NASA glaciologist Joseph MacGregor that was recently released in Geophysical Research Letters.

 Joseph revealed in the study that it has become very rare to find any previously undiscovered impact craters on Earth, much less to find one buried so deeply under the ice.

This particular crater has a diameter of twenty two miles, making it even larger than its neighbor, the Hiawatha.  It’s not certain that this is, in fact, an impact crater but researchers feel confident enough in the site’s shape and geophysical makeup to categorize it as one.

If this crater was made by a falling meteorite, it will be the second of its kind to be found under ice sheets in Greenland or Antarctica.   It will be the 22nd largest impact crater currently known on Earth.

Astro-Geology

Both craters were discovered with the help of MacGregor, who stated that he was excited that new discoveries were still possible after having surveyed the earth at length from space, air and land. Prior to discovering Hiawatha, it had historically been believed that any impact craters in Greenland would have been destroyed by the moving and eroding forces of ice.

When the team discovered Hiawatha, they decided it was possible that more craters may exist under the ice. The scientific team studied the topography of the terrain under the sheets of ice in Greenland and compared them with the ice surfaces in data gathered by satellite.

One hundred and fourteen miles to the southeast of Hiawatha, they discovered a circular pattern and suspected it may have been an impact crater.  MacGregor asked himself if his research and findings could support the idea; having already discovered one crater below the ice was amazing enough, but to find two was unheard of.

Initially, MacGregor considered the idea that the circular area was a collapsed volcano, but he realized that all volcanic activity in Greenland was hundreds of miles from the site.  He was also unable to see any evidence of positive magnetic anomaly that typically accompanies volcanic sites.

In November of 2018, scientists revealed that they had discovered a 19-mile wide impact crater below the ice in Northwest Greenland, called the Hiawatha impact crater.  The crater was the first of its kind, found under one of the earth’s continental ice...

Earth

Beekeepers Are Buzzing About AI

Artificial Intelligence is a technology that promises to solve many problems, but it doesn’t seem likely that it would help preserve our honeybee population.  As unexpected as it seems, though, AI can be used to protect bees from the Varroa mite and will help beekeepers keep their hives healthy and safe for the declining honey bee population.

The Varroa mite is a tiny bloodsucking parasite that feeds on bees, both adult and young.  It will weaken the colony, resulting in deformed and weakened generations of bees.  While the parasite is not a direct cause of death for the bees, their presence will eventually lead to a complete collapse of the colony.

The mites are so tiny that they will escape detection by the naked eye.  Only a millimeter in length, the colony can be affected for a very long time before the devastating results of the infestation are noticed.

Historically, beekeepers have had to carefully pick through the leavings of the hive, collected in a flat pan under the hive itself, to find the bodies of the tiny terrors if they wanted to stop the infestation.  Beekeepers try to meticulously comb through hive dirt and waste to find Varroa mites, and it is easy to miss the tiny creatures and not realize there is a problem.

This Is Where AI Comes In

AI is far superior to the naked eye in picking up undetectable data in a noisy background, like finding dead Varroa mites in piles of hive dirt, and in fact, students in Switzerland have invented ApiZoom to do just that.

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne students have been working on ApiZoom, programming it to detect and identify the tiny mites in pictures.  Beekeepers feed the data to the application by uploading photos to the EPFL site via smart device.

The students started testing the application in 2017 and have a 90% success rate.  The ApiZoom model has been trained to thousands of images, and the success rate is similar to humans performing the same task.

On the heels of this success, according to project member Alain Bugnon, the students are planning on widely distributing the app as soon as possible.  The application will be unrolled in two phases, first a web application to be followed by a smartphone application.

By combining the findings of these two approaches, it will be possible to evaluate the degree of infestation in individual hives as well as hives across a region.  In addition, the app will be able to identify any possible mutations of the mites and any beekeeper practices that might unintentionally encourage an infestation.

An appropriate infestation response can be coordinated using the data collected from ApiZoom. Alain Bugnon is planning on releasing ApiZoom as its own company, which will speed the production and release of the software to beekeepers.

Artificial Intelligence is a technology that promises to solve many problems, but it doesn’t seem likely that it would help preserve our honeybee population.  As unexpected as it seems, though, AI can be used to protect bees from the Varroa mite and will...

Earth

Scientists’ Response To Presidential Climate Change Tweets

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine wants to clear misconceptions put out by individuals with high influence.

Quick Response

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are looking into a “quick response capability” to confront the misinformation told to the public about climate change.

One recommendation in a report from last month which was aimed at making it easier for experts to communicate climate issues, such as the undoubtedly real problems caused by global warming, effectively, is now the strategy for independent national academies. These academies advise the government on issues of science.

They did not mention President Donald Trump in the report. But the quick-response tactics being considered are aimed at the mischaracterizations of the science of climate done by highly influential people or groups, stated the “Climate Communications Initiative Strategic Plan.”

They can make policies that would make it possible for academics to give a response to issues that pertain to climate within 48 hours.

According to the report, the National Academies might choose to respond quickly in different scenarios, like when a statement that is made to the public contains information about the climate which is scientifically incorrect and may misinform or confuse them.

Also, the National Academies may decide to control the situation by communicating quickly when there appears to be significant potential for misinformation.

This report was formed by an independent advisory committee which the academies formed a year ago to look into communication on climate science.

In a tweet he posted this week, Trump indicated to millions of his that the severe cold spells being experienced in some parts of the country disprove the presence of global warming. “What the hell is going on with Global Warming? Please come back fast, we need you,” he tweeted.

 

 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine wants to clear misconceptions put out by individuals with high influence.

Quick Response
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are looking into a “quick response...

Earth

Watch: Burning Tracks To Help Train Pass

The sparks are flying—literally!—in this eerily beautiful video footage of fires lit on the tracks of Chicago’s famed El train this week, meant to keep the trains running during the worst cold snap to hit the area in almost a generation.

The Arctic blast that struck Chicago on January 28th and 29th was described by the National Weather Service as “brutal, historic, and potentially life-threatening.” No kidding! We’ve heard reports that the temperatures dropped into double digits below zero—that it’s so cold, mere minutes of exposure to the air can cause frostbite to set in. That’s cold!

The footage in this video shows sections of burning railway on Chicago’s Union Pacific West Line on Monday, January 28th.

Why Are They Doing It?

Chicago’s Metra railway authority, charged with the task of keeping the trains running, and safe from pull-aparts (which can cause derailment and serious injury to passengers), no matter how unforgiving the weather might get, explained the track fires and the science behind them in an Instagram post on January 21st: .

“Pull-aparts are rail defects in which two rails separate at their connection. They occur in extreme cold when the metal shrinks and the rails literally pull apart from each other. How Metra forces make repairs is by warming the metal with fire until it expands and the two rails can be reconnected.”

By around 6:50pm local time on Tuesday the 29th, the National Weather Service in Chicago said that temperatures in Rockford, Illinois, fell below zero between 3pm and 4pm, and would most likely not rise above zero until Friday morning, at the earliest.

The temperature recorded at Chicago O’Hare Airport also reached sub-zero temperatures before 6pm, and the National Weather Service noted that the temps would stay that cold until Thursday, if not longer. The result?

This unexpectedly lovely video—all shades of blue, gray, and white, the calming tranquility of which is periodically broken by bright orange flames licking up from the train tracks.

It’s definitely hypnotizing, as fire usually is for us humans, and we’re sure that Chicago area commuters, making the long trek to work in the unforgiving cold, appreciated this little spark of visual and literal warmth to accompany them on their voyage.

It’s the little things in life, after all. Still, we’re pretty sure they’ll be even happier once the temperatures finally warm up enough that lighting the tracks on fire is no longer necessary.

The sparks are flying—literally!—in this eerily beautiful video footage of fires lit on the tracks of Chicago’s famed El train this week, meant to keep the trains running during the worst cold snap to hit the area in almost a generation.

The Arctic...

Earth

Mushrooms Could Save The Bees

Scientist suspect that mushrooms could possibly restore the population of bees.

The average human being usually has issues when it comes to bees. Bees help pollination and this helps everyone, but alternatively, they sting people. Most of the time, a bee sting is not fatal, but it isn’t exactly a pleasant experience either.

Although most people see bees as a nuisance because of their poor temper and their ability to sting, everyone knows that bees are needed for survival. This is why it’s been unsettling to hear the reports of populations of bees dying in masses. How would we survive without bees?

There are a lot of solid theories and reasons for the death of these bees, but a single man has decided to take the responsibility of finding a way to save the bees. It may be hard to believe, but the answer to the survival of bees is found easily and freely in nature. The answer lies in mushrooms.

What Causes Bees To Die?

Companies are usually blamed for the death of bees because of the pesticides they use, but there are many other reasons for the death of these bees. TIME reported in an article in 2017 that the number of bees in over 700 species of American bees was falling.

What’s more is that this isn’t just restricted to bees alone. It affects butterflies too. Bees are at about a 37 percent species loss. 9 percent of bee and butterfly populations could actually become extinct.

Dennis vanEngeldorp, an entomology professor at the University of Maryland, says that bee colonies are dying off because of Varroa mites. Varroa mites spread certain viruses that are deadly to bees, to their colonies. This wipes them out quite fast. This is a shockingly natural reason for the death of the bees, but it is still very worrying. Luckily the cure is also created by nature.

The Cure Is In Mushrooms

Paul Stamets was the first man to discover the antiviral properties of a mushroom – specifically for insects. Paul Stamets retails mushrooms and has thus has spent a lot of time with them. He spoke to Tuscaloosa News about the morning he made the discovery. He saw some bees interacting with his mushrooms.

He could see the bees sipping the droplets coming out of the mycelium. He had previously thought that the bees were in search of sugar, but he’d had a hypothesis that it may be something else.

The first person to really appreciate Stamets’s work was Steve Sheppard, an entomology professor at Washington State University. He pursued Stamets’ mushroom theory. He ran tests on bees who had been exposed to the mites, giving half of them a mushroom additive.

The test subjects who were given the mushroom additives were cured of the mite-borne viruses, proving Stamets correct.

The Plan To Save The Bees

Stamets sees bees as civilization’s canary in the coal mine. If the bees are dying, we will soon follow suit. He asks what important thing that we will lose that will lead to a catastrophic failure. He believes the rivet to be losing the bees. Over a third of the food we eat is dependent on bees.

Bees have been dying since the first breakout of these mites in 1980. Several other scientists fear that the extinction of bees could also be the extinction of the human race. The goal is to have 3D-printed mushroom mycelia extract feeder on our shelves in 2019. This extract will likely be sold by subscription.

Of course, this is dependent on people stepping forward and taking action to save the bees, so only time can tell how this will go. Would you help save the bees by buying this product? That might be dependent on of a bee has ever stung you before.

Scientist suspect that mushrooms could possibly restore the population of bees.

The average human being usually has issues when it comes to bees. Bees help pollination and this helps everyone, but alternatively, they sting people. Most of the time, a bee...

Earth

Help! Antarctica Losing Six Times More Ice Every Year

Were you to even be a minimal user of social media, you would find that the #10yearchallenge was in full swing: people posting photos of themselves 10 years ago until now. However, some people used it to make a more pertinent point – with some climate activists using it to post pictures of rapidly degrading parts of the world.

If these images resonated with you, then this might also do so: according to NASA, Antarctica is losing roughly six times more ice every single year than it was in 1979.

That’s a hell of a lot of work and ‘progress’ for a few short decades. The levels at which we are seeing ice melting should worry us all, yet little is done to try and combat the issue. These new numbers from NASA, though, should be the wake-up call that we need.

Thanks to a new study put together in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, we now know that the ice mass loss in Antarctica is accelerating at a pace we can barely keep track of.

Naturally, this is not a good thing. It’s going to cause a huge amount of issues and is only likely to get worse. This is according to Eric Rignot, the lead author on the study, who works for the University of California as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who said: “That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,

“As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.”

If that does not make you think that we need to act now, you have to look around to work out what the next step is.

An Assessment Which Requires Action

As the largest assessment of its kind across Antarctic ice mass this is going to provide us with a case study of what has to change. The team used all manner of imagery from NASA aircraft as well as useful satellite data collected by numerous groups.

With around 40 billion tons of ice lost per year from 1979-1990, today we see around 252 billion tons wiped off the Antarctic. That means that we are seeing, roughly, a 280% increase on the amount of ice that was lost from 1979-2001. In 16 years, we’ve done so much incredible damage.

Rignot continued, adding: “The Wilkes Land sector of East Antarctica has, overall, always been an important participant in the mass loss, even as far back as the 1980s, as our research has shown,

“This region is probably more sensitive to climate [change] than has traditionally been assumed, and that’s important to know, because it holds even more ice than West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula together.”

Is the prognosis good, though? Not according to Rignot: “As climate warming and ozone depletion send more ocean heat toward those sectors, they will continue to contribute to sea level rise from Antarctica in decades to come.” He concluded.

This is a worrying development and one which should require urgent action – worldwide. We’re beginning to see more and more information come out with regards to the severity of the climate change impact. We might not be able to stop this, but we could mitigate it: we need to act as soon as possible, though, or stories like this will become increasingly commonplace.

Were you to even be a minimal user of social media, you would find that the #10yearchallenge was in full swing: people posting photos of themselves 10 years ago until now. However, some people used it to make a more pertinent point – with some climate...

Earth Science

Billionaire to Investigate the Great Blue Hole

There are so many strange places in the world yet to be explored. One of them is the great blue hole; it was discovered in Belize, on the eastern coast of Central America. The great blue hole is now the focus of many explorers who are determined to find out what is beneath the hole.

Currently, there is a team of scientists and explorers who plan to investigate the great blue hole. They will be going on this expedition with a full crew of filmmakers who will capture the adventure and show everything the explorers discover.

The great blue hole is located at the center of the Lighthouse Reef. Its measurements indicate the great blue hole is about 100 kilometers off the eastern coast. The site is about 300 hundred meters wide and 125 meters deep from the estimations. The past reports indicate the place was formerly a limestone cave. Over the years, the water level rose, and the cave became destroyed forming the cavern now known as the great blue hole. It is currently the second largest blue hole existing in the world.

The efforts to explore the great blue hole started in 1971; the expedition was organized by Jacques Cousteau, a French diver, and explorer. Now, the team going on this new expedition include Fabien Cousteau, the son of the explorer and Richard Branson, known for his interests in exploration and adventure. The goal of this team is to map and explore the great blue hole.

The team will be using specially designed Aquatica Stingray 500 submersible watercraft to reach depths that cannot be reached by divers. With this high-tech equipment, it may be possible to see what lies beneath the great blue hole.

This adventure will be fun; there are also many benefits. The reports from this exploration will be useful in understanding the events that led to the formation of the great blue hole. There may also be useful discoveries to help us understand how the Mayan Empire which existed in the 10th century fell. The team plans to collect water samples from the bottom of the cavern as well as soil samples from the seabed. These and more findings will be analyzed to find more details about the great blue hole.

The audience has not been left out of this expedition. You can watch the preparations and some parts of the expedition on the Discovery Channel; the shows will start running in December 2018. The expedition is planned to last for about two weeks, but it may take longer. There will be video clips captured at the bottom of the great blue hole to show the world what it looks like at those depths.

The entire expedition will also be channeled towards projecting the need to preserve the aquatic habitat and its marine life. While exploring the depths of the great blue hole, efforts will be made to avoid touching or destroying the natural settings beneath the water, shipwrecks and other objects found beneath will only be photographed without physical contact.

There is a lot to reveal, considering that the great blue hole was explored many years ago. So, we look forward to the new findings.

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There are so many strange places in the world yet to be explored. One of them is the great blue hole; it was discovered in Belize, on the eastern coast of Central America. The great blue hole is now the focus of many explorers who are determined to find out...