Facing Reality About Life on Other Planets: Moon, Atmosphere, and Mass

first_imgby Dr Henry RichterThis is a continuation of my discussion on the requirements for life to exist on a planet elsewhere in the universe. Facing Reality #1 listed 20 features and characteristics, all of which are required for life to exist and flourish. It also addressed the importance of our location in the galaxy. Facing Reality #2 addressed our location in the solar system and characteristics of our orbit. Now we will move in closer to our planet earth, and look at what our moon does for us, examine a little about the earth itself, and then discuss our atmosphere.The MoonApollo astronaut Jim Irwin standing on the moon in “Moon Rovers” by Alan Bean. Used by permission.Earth has a satellite moon, about a quarter of a million miles away. It is about one-fourth the size of the earth, and in a nearly circular orbit around the earth. Each orbit takes just under thirty days – a month (from “moon-th”). This moon does a number of things for us, some of which are important to the support of higher forms of life.First, the gravitational pull of the moon helps stabilize the tilt of the earth as it spins once a day. This tilt is important because it creates the seasons. As the earth progresses around the sun, making a complete trip in a year, direct sunlight varies throughout the year. For the summer solstice the northern hemisphere get more straight-on sunshine, for the two equinoxes the sunshine illuminates our sphere equally, then for the winter solstice the southern hemisphere gets more sun. Having these seasons fosters plant growth and re-growth in a cyclic pattern, giving us more productivity of plants—not to mention a more interesting environment to live in.Second, the gravitational pull of the moon creates tides in the ocean and in the earth’s crust. Tides in the oceans are important since this is what stirs the water up, allowing it to absorb oxygen from the atmosphere (essential to marine life) and moves nutrients around. The movement of water from the ocean’s depths causes constant mixing; without it, the oceans would be stale water, not healthful to life forms (both plant and animal). The tidal action is minimal at the equator, and substantial at high latitudes, being as much as fifty feet of vertical movement in parts of Alaska. There the tides are such that one does not want to be trapped on one of the mud flats in the ocean inlets, as this much tidal action means the water rushes in and out faster than one can run.The pull on the earth’s crust is not so noticeable, but does cause some movement on a geographical scale. This flexes the earth’s surface, and does facilitate tectonic movement under the crust.  It helps the earth’s dynamics, freshening the surface and sub-surface mantle. Let me digress a moment with something that really impresses me.There are a large number of features that do not relate to allowing life, but make life interesting. I have commented from time to time about features that allow scientific exploration related to an understanding of the universe and its principles. I note that the moon is of an exact size and location to exactly blot out the sun in a very precise way. The fact that we have solar eclipses that allow a special examination of the sun is remarkable. When the moon juxtaposes itself in front of the sun, often there is an exact fit to blot out just the sun, but not its atmosphere. When a total solar eclipse occurs, the sun’s atmosphere (the chromosphere), and its spectra can be recorded. Because of this tight fit, much was learned about the sun – one example being the discovery of the element helium. If the moon were 1% larger, the chromosphere would be hidden. If the moon were 1% smaller, there would be too much light to see the chromosphere (as occurs in annular eclipses) Fascinating!Great American Eclipse of Aug 21, 2017, by Dave WeberThe AtmosphereMoving in even closer we come to the earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere is very thin and is held in by gravity. The amount of atmosphere results in a gas pressure that is low enough to not crush delicate life and chemical structures. Some planets have an atmosphere that is destructively dense with correspondingly high pressures. Venus, for example, has a dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide with such pressure that it crushes spacecraft that have landed on the planet. That particular notorious ‘global warming’ gas also creates a greenhouse effect, making the atmosphere unsurvivably hot. Earth’s atmospheric pressure is high enough to supply oxygen to tissues in a quantity sufficient to facilitate metabolism.Again, we see other factors that are just right, such as the composition of the earth’s atmosphere. Three main components comprise our atmosphere: 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen and 1% carbon dioxide. The oxygen is necessary for metabolism. Too much oxygen would overwhelm the metabolic chemical reactions; i.e., they would in essence burn up. Too little oxygen would not support metabolic reactions. The nitrogen, although somewhat inert, provides enough substance to the atmosphere to maintain its thickness. Nitrogen is used by plants to build molecules such as amino acids, and thus is also a vital element for life. As we breathe, nitrogen helps sweep out our lungs, clearing out carbon dioxide, a waste product from our body metabolism. The low concentration of carbon dioxide provides enough carbon for plant growth. It also helps regulate the temperature of the atmosphere. There is much public concern about the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the possibility of climate change. Just a small change in the carbon dioxide percentage can cause global changes in temperature. Some of the oxygen exists in the form of ozone in the high atmosphere which absorbs harmful ultraviolet light from the sun.Lightning storms from Earth orbit (NASA)Another important role of the atmosphere is to transport water. As planets go, Earth’s atmosphere is generally pretty mild wind-wise. Some of the planets have violent windstorms with velocities of many hundreds of miles per hour. We have an occasional hurricane or typhoon, but, in general, winds are gentle. Water evaporates from the ocean and lakes and is carried around by our atmosphere. Clouds form and the water drops to earth as rain or snow, thus watering most of the continents. Although probably not a key requisite for life, the transport of water to wet the land is sure a good thing.The inner planets have atmospheres of carbon dioxide, methane, oxygen, and nitrogen.  The outer planets – the gas giants – are mainly hydrogen, helium, and traces of methane and ammonia. All the planets (except earth, of course) have atmospheres that would not support life. They also have temperatures that will not support life.Earth’s MassThe mass of the earth is just right to create gravitational attraction sufficient to hold things to the surface, and to maintain our atmosphere. Too much gravity would make living structures (at least as we know them) have a difficult time growing and moving. Too little gravity would mean no atmosphere, so the mass of a planet needs to be within a certain range. The mass of the earth is distributed from the iron-nickel core, to the mantle, and to the subsurface material and the rocky surface.In the next segment of this series, we will examine additional realities that must be faced to have a habitable planet, finding once again that the earth is right in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of being just right.Is the earth a product of design or chance? Photo by David CoppedgeDr Henry Richter, a contributing science writer to Creation-Evolution Headlines, was a key player at NASA/JPL in the early days of the American space program. With a PhD in Chemistry, Physics and Electrical Engineering from Caltech), Dr Richter brings a perspective about science with the wisdom of years of personal involvement. His book America’s Leap Into Space: My Time at JPL and the First Explorer Satellites (2015), chronicles the beginnings of the space program based on his own records and careful research into rare NASA documents, providing unequaled glimpses into events and personnel in the early days of rocketry that only an insider can give. His next book, Spacecraft Earth: A Guide for Passengers, is due out later in 2017. For more about Dr Richter, see his Author Profile.(Visited 420 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Prison island to tropical paradise

first_imgFrom Ibo Island you can sail by dhow to have lunch on an offshore sandbar. The ramparts of Ibo Island’s Fort of São João Batista, which variously served as a Portuguese military bastion, a slave house and a prison. Inside the fort, a silversmith continues the island’s long tradition of intricate craftwork. Ibo is one of those places that constantly feels like it’s falling down – as if its buildings are crumbling into the sand and the sea. (Images: Chris Thurman) MEDIA CONTACTS • Ibo Island Lodge +27 21 702 0285 [email protected] RELATED ARTICLES • A holiday – in Zimbabwe? • The adventure starts here • Wandering the Whale Trail• Scuba-diving South AfricaChris ThurmanThe old fort is full of intriguing sense data. Walking past one doorway, you hear the clang of metal beating metal and the murmur of voices; through another, you catch a glimpse of a man bringing a fire to life with the bellows of his lungs. The smoke mixes with the salty-stale smell of the ocean blowing in over the ramparts.Outside, the sun that has flaked the paint on the walls beats down on your skin, and you seek shade under the canopy of the lone tree in the whitewashed courtyard.Nowadays the Fort of São João Batista, or St John the Baptist, on the shore of Ibo Island off the coast of northern Mozambique is a pleasant place, occupied by a cohort of silversmiths producing finely-wrought jewellery. But for most of its more than 200-year history, the fort was a site of violence and oppression: the clanging sounds would have come from shackles and iron bars, the smoke would have risen from guns and canons, the voices would have been screams and moans.The fort was built by the Portuguese in 1791 as a military bastion to ward off the Dutch, from whom they had wrested control of the Mozambican trade routes, after ousting Arab traders from the region some two centuries before that. It subsequently served as a slave house and then a prison in which many of those who opposed colonial rule were detained and tortured.Its star-shaped, pentagonal building is the most recognisable structure on Ibo. It is the island’s most potent symbol, with its changing fortunes mirroring the shifting historical tides shaping life on the island.Ibo is part of the Quirimbas archipelago, some 27 islands that form part of Mozambique’s Quirimbas National Park. While a strategically significant location for Portugal’s imperial ambitions, the archipelago remained isolated and developed its own particular cultural flavour.As with the rest of Mozambique, Portuguese is a lingua franca, but locals greet each other with “Salama”, a linguistic reminder that there was an Arab settlement on Ibo in the 12th century. Arab and Chinese trading posts were established along the coastline of the mainland as early as 600 AD.Ibo is one of those places that constantly feels like it’s falling down – as if its buildings are crumbling into the sand and the sea. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ghostly streets of what used to be the island’s wealthy areas, which are lined with the hollow shells of houses that were abandoned overnight when the post-independence government effectively expelled all “foreigners” in 1975.This lends the island an evocative charm, but, of course, such slow degeneration is only romantic to temporary sojourners and holidaymakers. For those who live on Ibo, the lack of socioeconomic opportunity is a serious problem.Yet the island’s great appeal to adventurous travellers is also its salvation. The Quirimbas are an exquisitely beautiful natural formation: warm azure seas, dazzling coral reefs, abundant sea life – a tropical paradise. Some of the islands are uninhabited or privately owned. Not so on Ibo, where the permanent population numbers some 4 000 – and the jobs available are limited.For this reason, the silversmiths’ combined workshop and showroom at the fort is a welcome intervention. While the artisan-artists there are simply continuing an ancient Ibo tradition of producing fine metalwork, the growth of jewellery production and the employment it provides is largely the work Fiona and Kevin Record, the owners of Ibo Island Lodge.When they first sailed into the harbour at Ibo some 15 years ago, the Records did not plan to stay for long. But the magic of the place soon captured them, and they decided to settle on Ibo and open the lodge.This was a huge logistical challenge, but the beautifully understated coral-and-limestone lodge buildings Fiona and Kevin renovated are testimony to their determination. Since then, they’ve profited from bringing visitors to the island, but have also worked to create jobs for the people of Ibo.“Part of Ibo’s charm was that it had fallen into decline, and harboured a history, culture and marine world totally unexplored,” says Fiona. “The area’s pristine beauty and the hospitality of the local people had a profound effect on us. We made a commitment to create a tourism project that would positively affect the lives of the impoverished community on Ibo.”The silversmith venture is just one of the Records’ initiatives. In addition to employing 40 staff, each of whom supports an estimated 20 other people, the lodge is the centre of numerous community schemes providing both income and development opportunities. There is a Montessori school for the island’s children, as well as an adult education facility that teaches English and tourism awareness, as well as training in conservation, gardening and guiding.Creating jobs also helps protect the local environment. The more jobs there are that don’t depend on fishing, the better for the increasingly overtaxed marine life of this World Heritage Site.Along with a host of impossibly-coloured fish, underwater life in the Quirimbas includes a variety of turtles, sharks and rays. They, like the birds overhead that are an equally vital part of the ecosystem (there are 10 red-listed species in the Ibo area), are threatened by the sheer numbers of people whose livelihood is fishing.Given all of this, Ibo Island Lodge offers guests something that most accommodation establishments cannot.Yes, there are the bright and richly-furnished rooms, and the veranda view between palms and bougainvillea blossoms out to sea. Activities include kayaking through mangroves, snorkelling and dhow sailing, while low tide brings an opportunity to have lunch on a sandbar surrounded by nothing but crystal blue ocean. And each day ends with sundowners on the roof, listening to the deep beat of humpback whales striking their tail-fins against the surface of the water.As gratifying as any of these, though, is the sense that a visit to Ibo is not a one-sided affair in which only the tourist benefits. As much as 50% of the island’s population is positively affected by the presence of Ibo Island Lodge. Now that’s responsible tourism.last_img read more

An Agent of Green Invention in Philly: Row House Demolition

first_imgHomes adjacent to demolished rowhouses in Philadelphia are left with more exposure to cold and heat. But three local professors collaborated on a solutionThere are certain efficiencies inherent in rowhouses, not the least of which is that their common sidewalls limit extreme-weather exposure largely to the front and back of each house.Noise sometimes leaks through the walls, but rowhouse living generally is fairly comfortable and energy efficient for city dwellers. Unless, of course, the rowhouse next to yours is razed.As a recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, that is one of the unintended consequences of an initiative launched several years ago by the administration of John F. Street, who served as mayor of Philadelphia from January 2000 to January 2008. Designed to further neighborhood revitalization, the program included tear-downs of derelict rowhouses but didn’t anticipate the tear-downs’ effect on the homes of adjacent neighbors, who were suddenly faced with increased sidewall exposure to heat and cold, and the added expenses that go with it.Maintaining Philly’s reputation for inventionThe occupants of many of the remaining rowhouses are “people who really can’t afford” to pay more to be comfortable, Fredda Lippes, an architect and also the city’s sustainability manager, told the paper. So Lippes and other city officials contracted Philadelphia University to find a solution, which, according to the Inquirer, now appears to be “just a few safety tests away” from being implemented.Three of Philadelphia University faculty members – engineering professor Chris Pastore; Robert Fleming, an associate professor in architecture; and Tom Twardowski, a chemical engineer – developed a product that consists of layers of insulating foam, high-density foam, fabric (to prevent penetration of sharp objects), and a latex-stucco finish. The material is durable and aesthetically appealing, its developers say.The plan is to produce this sheathing in 2×4 panels that can be affixed to an exterior wall with foaming adhesive. The university was awarded a patent for the product, called Exolation, last month.A potential bonus for the city, if the testing goes as hoped and officials can find a local company to make the sheathing, is that Exolation’s manufacture will create jobs for Philadelphia. So far so good. In two tests, the Inquirer points out, crews of three were able to cover an entire rowhouse wall in four hours or less.Another potential positive is that Exolation installations could help Philadelphia maintain its existing stock of rowhouses, which shape the character of much of the city. The town’s interest in preserving these homes is such that, as part of the city’s participation in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Development Initiative, Philadelphia published a 52-page document on rowhouse preservation titled “Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual: A Practical Guide for Homeowners.”To say the least, city officials seem excited by Exolation’s prospects, and take particular pride in the fact that it is a product of local innovation.“In our city, [invention is] a tradition as old as Ben Franklin,” said Mark Alan Hughes, policy adviser to the current mayor, Michael Nutter. “Need fire insurance? Invent the fire insurance company. Need to make that company more profitable? Invent the lightning rod. Need a way to bring the benefits of insulation to rowhouses that have lost a neighbor? Invent Exolation.”last_img read more

Yes, We’re A Tech Site. Yes, We’re Suggesting You Spend Less Time Online

first_imgI’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much time I spend on the Internet, and worrying that it’s too much. When I joined ReadWrite I was surprised to discover that my new colleagues are struggling with the same issue. Just last week Jon Mitchell wrote two great pieces about this: Four Days Of Digital Detox: The Ultimate Tech Decelerator and Confessions of a Professional Internet Addict. Those came on the heels of a story by Brian Proffitt, Why I’m Joining The Movement To Stop Answering After-Hours Email.Those articles all argued (albeit not in so many words) that everyone needs to get off the Internet on a regular basis. They resonated so much with me and the rest of our staff that we’ve created a new series called “ReadWrite Pause” to explore issues around finding the right balance of online and offline life.Less Is More, More Or LessMaybe it seems weird that an Internet publication, especially one devoted to covering technology, would be urging people to spend less time online. But here we are. I’m guessing that a lot of our readers are like us, and have mixed feelings about how much time we’re all spending online. And maybe, if we all put our heads together, we can find a solution.In my case it’s all about my kids. They’re twins, age 7. I have this terrible fear that they’re going to remember me as some old guy who lived in their house when they were kids and was always staring at a smartphone. Or, worse, they’ll remember me as some guy who was always in another city, calling home once a day to say good night.This week I’m stuck in Las Vegas, living in a hotel, unable to get back to the East Coast thanks to the big storm. Tomorrow I head to Canada. By the time I get home next Tuesday night, I will have been home a total of three whole days in the past four weeks. On those three days I was mostly exhausted, and, yes, even on those days I spent time working at a computer and staring at a smartphone.I look at what I just wrote and I’m ashamed of myself. Honestly.And then I think: This is my life? Really? The issue goes beyond how we live at home. It’s even about how we work.Work Less. Get More Done.I was struck this week by this article on Forbes.com by a CEO who outlawed email at his company for a week and discovered that everybody actually got more work done. More important, they all felt more sane and less frantic as “a sense of calm descended.”The CEO, Shayne Hughes, argues that a lot of what email does is just get us all wound up, stressed out – spinning our hamster wheels but going nowhere. That certainly resonates for me. Some days (a lot of days, actually) it seems that all I do is go to meetings and then come out of meetings and hack through the email that has piled up while I’ve been in those meetings. Then it’s the end of the day and if I’ve managed to actually get anything done, it’s pretty much a miracle, or an accident.I know I’m not alone. I’ve even had people from Google – the most wired of wired environments – talk to me about the importance of going “off the grid,” and how this makes people more productive.This seems like common sense, but maybe not. It turns out there are people who believe that being online 24×7 is a fantastic way to live. Some Folks Seem To Like Staying ConnectedEarlier this week ReadWrite published a really fascinating interview with YouTube pundit Chris Pirillo who said he never disconnects, doesn’t want to. His one hobby involves playing with Legos, but he’s so busy with his online life that he doesn’t have time for Legos.I posted a link to the article on Facebook with a comment that the interview had made me profoundly depressed, and asking, rhetorically, whether there is anything sadder than someone who never disconnects from the Internet and is proud of that fact and thinks it’s great.Within minutes Marc Andreessen posted a comment saying, “And yet he’s a lot happier than you are.” Then David Berlind, a tech journalist, jumped in, saying my comment was “total bullshit” and that I should not be judging other people for what makes them happy. (Berlind might just still be sore because a few years ago I mocked him for predicting, in 2004, that Apple was “on the way out” – ha! – because of the looming juggernaut of… desktop Linux. I know, I know – just give those Linux guys more time and they’ll get it.) Anyway.Apparently there are people who never want to be cut off from the sacred umbilical cord that connects us to Mother Internet. (I’m guessing that if you made a Venn diagram of the “24×7 digital” people and the people who are still waiting for the Linux-on-the-desktop revolution, you’d have a big overlap.)And that’s fine, I guess. The fact that some people want nothing more than to be on the Internet, at all times, only makes the subject more interesting.I will tell you that earlier this summer my family spent a weekend at an Appalachian Mountain Club hut in New Hampshire, a place with no heat or electricity. We brought no iPads, no smartphones. No electronics at all. It poured rain the whole time. We stayed in the hut and played cards. We talked. It might have been the best time we have ever had as a family.And it made me wonder: If you live entirely on the Internet, are you even living? I’m fascinated by the Singularity movement, where the vision is that someday (not so long from now, if you believe Ray Kurzweil) the biological and the digital will become so thoroughly enmeshed that we won’t be able to tell one from the other.For a lot of us, a kind of virtual Singularity is already where we’re living. Maybe it’s just a personal decision. Maybe everyone has to find the balance that works for them. That’s the conversation we’re hoping to start with ReadWrite Pause. Where do you come down on this? Are you wired in at all times, and ecstatic about it? Or do you worry about how much time you spend online? What would be your ideal balance? And how can you achieve it? Tags:#iPad#iPhone#mobile technology#Pause#smartphones 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market dan lyons Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hostingcenter_img A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Related Posts Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic…last_img read more

Six stories in the news today May 4

first_imgSix stories in the news for Wednesday, May 3———PM TRUDEAU TO HEADLINE FUNDRAISER IN MONTREALPrime Minister Justin Trudeau promised political donors would not get preferential access to his government, and now the Liberals are trying to show they mean it as they revive their fundraising efforts. Trudeau will appear at a party fundraiser this evening in Montreal, which is unremarkable except for the fact that anyone can go. Anyone, that is, who has up to $250 to spare for a ticket, wants to give that money to the Liberal Party of Canada, and is not registered to lobby the PMO.———B.C. NDP VOWS TO FIGHT PIPELINE, BUT WON’T SAY HOWBritish Columbia’s New Democrats are vowing to do all they can to stop Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion if they’re elected next Tuesday, but Leader John Horgan isn’t saying how he would do so. Horgan will only say he’ll raise the $7.4-billion pipeline expansion with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the day after the election.———FINAL ARGUMENTS IN FATAL GAS AND DASH TRIALA Calgary jury will hear final arguments today in the trial of a man charged in the hit-and-run death of a gas station worker. Joshua Cody Mitchell, 22, is on trial facing several charges, including second-degree murder. Maryam Rashidi, 35, tried to stop a driver from leaving a Calgary Centex gas station without paying for $113 worth of fuel in June 2015.———CROWN WRAPS ARGUMENTS IN B.C. POLYGAMY TRIALThe prosecution in the trial of two B.C. men accused of having multiple wives has wrapped up its case. Winston Blackmore is the head of a religious group in the province where residents follow the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, a faith that condones plural marriage. Blackmore is on trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook, B.C., alongside James Oler, and each is charged with one court of polygamy. Blackmore allegedly has 24 wives, while Oler is accused of marrying four women.———VERDICT TODAY FOR WOMAN WHO GAVE PIGS WATERA judge will deliver the verdict today in the case of a Toronto woman charged after giving water to pigs on a truck headed to slaughter. Anita Krajnc, of the group Toronto Pig Save, has pleaded not guilty to a mischief charge, although she has admitted that she gave water to the pigs. One of Krajnc’s lawyers has argued Krajnc was acting in the public good, and was therefore not breaking the law. The Crown has argued the pigs were the property of a farmer, and Krajnc was interfering with his property.———GIN RECALL EXTENDED COUNTRYWIDEFederal health authorities have extended a recall of gin that contains far more alcohol than what is declared on the label. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the recall of 1.14-litre bottles of Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin began in Ontario and is now countrywide. The recall was initiated the gin’s alcohol content was found to be 77 per cent — not the 40 per cent declared on the label.———ALSO IN THE NEWS TODAY:— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet in Montreal with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.— Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz will speak to a business audience in Mexico City.— Statistics Canada will release the Canadian international merchandise trade figures for March.— The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to decide if it will hear an appeal over a ruling on cross-border alcohol shopping.— The Fraser Institute will release a study examining carbon taxes and the cap-and-trade systems in Canada.last_img read more