Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta island giant tortoises and a conservation icon, has died of unknown causes. He was believed to be about 100 years old. He was found in 1972 and become a symbol of the Galápagos Islands. His species helped Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution in the 19th century
That’s a new image from our buds at NASA, showing the Arctic ice cap, a sort of white-capped on our blue home. If you have faith in your internet connection, you can view an 11,000 x 11,000 pixel version here.
NASA’s new Suomi NPP satellite started sending images back to Earth this year, and they are stunning. We were even treated to an updated 2012 version of the iconic Blue Marble shot (which you really must see). But as the detailed images of our planet’s climate and atmosphere roll in, so does the worry that we may be capturing a few views for the last time.
Each summer, Arctic sea ice melts and recedes to a certain degree due to higher temperatures. But over the past few decades, the melting has gotten faster and more severe (the 2011 melt was a record low). Don’t believe me? Check out this video from NASA showing the change in summer ice from the past 32 years.
Climate change models have predicted the complete loss of summer ice in the Arctic by 2070 or so. But as this years melt begins, hot and fast, 2030 is looking like a real possibility for an ice-free Arctic. That means that in as little as 20 years, this photo could be a look into the past instead of the present.
In this illustration, the blue ball represents the volume of all the water on earth, relative to the size of the earth. The tiny speck to the right of the blue ball represents Earth’s fresh water. CREDIT: David Gallo/WHOI
If Earth was the size of a basketball, all of its water would fit into a ping pong ball.
How much water is that? It’s roughly 326 million cubic miles (1.332 billion cubic kilometers), according to a recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey. Some 72 percent of Earth is covered in water, but 97 percent of that is salty ocean water and not suitable for drinking.
“There’s not a lot of water on Earth at all,” said David Gallo, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts.
According to an article in LiveScience, spatial memory can be improved by sending electrical impulses into the brain. With spatial memory being the culprit for lapses such as “Where did I leave my keys?” or “Do I take a left at this light, or a right?”, this study, if it proves effective in further, broader trials, could be the answer for many forgetful folks.
However, on an even broader scale, these deep-brain stimulation techniques could eventually be used for patients effected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The study itself was small, with only seven participants, who were treated to determine whether these techniques enhanced spatial memory in patients with epilepsy. Thus, with the small numbers and specific participants, many more studies are necessary before determining whether the findings could apply to people without epilepsy.
But scientists are hopefully that it not only will prove effective for better spatial memory for all patients, but also of the possibility of the technique being used to improve other types of memory, such as the ability to remember events in your life.
What if you could use your phone to test the air for toxins? What if you could monitor your health simply by blowing on it? Sounds amazing, right? Nanosensor technology developed by NASA Ames is going to make that a reality.
Jing Li, a scientist at NASA Ames, has been working for years on what will be the greatest phone accessory of all time. It’s a small chip (about the size of a postage stamp) that houses 32 nanosensor bars. Each bar is composed of a different nano-structure material. Because each sensor bar is unique it can respond to different chemicals in different ways, enabling it to not only differentiate between them, but also to monitor their relative levels, in real time.
In its current state (which is looking mighty close to production-ready), it’s housed in a small case that attaches to a smartphone. For legal reasons they wouldn’t say which smartphone it’s built to attach to, but you can probably guess. Eventually, it will be built to attach to many other popular models. The idea is to develop a low-cost version so that consumers can afford to have them for health and safety applications. But let’s back up a second.
This nanosensor technology was originally developed by NASA Ames for space applications. This is NASA, after all. The first usage was monitoring for fuel leaks around launch vehicles. They’ve been on the International Space Station since 2008, monitoring air-quality and checking for formaldehyde in the air. Future applications could include taking samples on asteroids and Mars missions. So that’s where it started, but the Department of Homeland Security is now funding this project in order to bring it back down to earth—and to consumers.
The most exciting potential use, though, is how it could diagnose and monitor people with medical conditions. For example, for diabetes patients there is a direct correlation between the level of acetone in their breath and the level of sugar in their blood. The nanosensor could be used as a completely non-invasive diagnosis and measurement method. Just breathe on your phone. No more pricking your finger a million times a day. We have a pretty serious aversion to the word revolutionary here, but this thing fits the bill.
Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise. They hope the water comes back to the surface fast enough and hot enough to create cheap, clean electricity that isn’t dependent on sunny skies or stiff breezes - without shaking the earth and rattling the nerves of nearby residents.
No team of reindeer was necessary for these holiday treats from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. A beam of radio signals, from clear across the solar system, has delivered a Christmas package of glorious images of Saturn’s largest, most colorful ornament, Titan, and other icy baubles in orbit around this splendid planet. These treats are being featured today in a public release from the mission’s imaging team.
Imaged Above In Order From Left to Right, Up, Down:
Titan and Dione — Saturn’s third-largest moon, Dione, can be seen through the haze of the planet’s largest moon, Titan, in this view of the two posing before the planet and its rings from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
Orange and Blue Hazes — These views from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft look toward the south polar region of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and show a depression within the moon’s orange and blue haze layers near the south pole.
True Colors, Deceptive Sizes — Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, appears deceptively small paired here with Dione, Saturn’s third-largest moon, in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
Haze Before Ice — Saturn’s moon Tethys, with its stark white icy surface, peeps out from behind the larger, hazy, colorful Titan in this view of the two moons obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Saturn’s rings lie between the two.
Titan Upfront — The colorful globe of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, passes in front of the planet and its rings in this true color snapshot from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.