Pluto has a blue sky — NASA just released its first colour view of those planetary hazes they have been so curious about. And, it turns out that, just like Earth, Pluto has bright blue skies arching overhead. The blue tint tells us about the size and composition of the haze particles in its atmosphere.
~ Some may have been hoping for Purple Haze.
Planetary Habitability Index — Researchers at the University of Washington’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory have devised a new habitability index for judging how suitable alien planets might be for life. The point of the exercise is to help scientists prioritise future targets for close-ups from NASA’s yet-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope and other instruments.
~ Meanwhile, we’re lowering our own.
How to message aliens — Our devices interface extremely well with humans but might not be very good modes of communication for an Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. If alien life did pick up our broadcasts or space probes the relatively narrow-range of audio (narrow and low frequency), visual (slow refresh rate), and data transmission methods we use may make no sense to non-human entities. It’s therefore interesting to think of other ways we might communicate with beings of fundamentally different biology.
~ ‘We’re scary, unpredictable and violent, especially against our own kind and against anything we do understand, and against our own planet, but please don’t nuke us.’ Good luck with that.
Simulating a universe on computer — The EAGLE Project is trying to simulate a universe inside a supercomputer. Housed at the University of Durham in the UK, is trying to understand how galaxies form and evolve. It starts using the basic information gleaned from cosmic microwave background by the Planck satellite, and then lets gravity ‘work its magic from there’.
~ Wait till they find the one actually running our universe.
The port of Los Angeles had such a successful tech upgrade it’s already hitting its 2023 emission goals — Ports are responsible for some of the nastiest air pollution in major cities. The air was so bad from diesel-burning container ships as well as the trucks required to move the containers away from the port of LA that the surrounding neighbourhood of San Pedro sued LA, launching a highly publicised public health battle. In 2005 a series of strict environmental reforms planned to cap emissions at 2001 levels, something that was called impossible at the time. But ten years later, LA did it.
~ It has giant charging stations so container ships can ‘plug in’ to electrical power instead of burning more diesel in the port.
Wind power now the cheapest energy in the UK and Germany — Wind power has now crossed the threshold to become the cheapest source of energy in both the UK and Germany. This is the first time it has occurred in a G7 country. In the US, wind and solar are still massively overshadowed by the power generated from fossil fuel plants, but the percentage is creeping up.
~ No subsidies required.
Princess making solar waves in Africa — Many people living in Africa need electricity. Luckily, something of a solar power revolution is afoot in Africa, triggering a wave of innovation from solar energy entrepreneurs. One of them is a princess (descended from an ancient Mossi warrior princess) who stresses that the best way to combat this problem is by empowering the people to educate and help themselves.
~ Goodbye to top-down solutions, which only really benefit the top.
France plans to bury its carbon emissions. Literally — At a March 2015 conference on Climate Smart Agriculture, Le Foll proposed the ambitious target of increasing French soil carbon contents by 0.4% year-on-year (“4 pour mille”). How France will meet the target is currently unclear but Le Foll clearly wants to stimulate French farmers and researchers into action.
~ And then you can’t see the problem.
Tactics for Happier Living quiz — This quiz combines a number of scientifically valid scales for measuring happiness. These measurements are then used to generate a highly detailed and customised report with concrete suggestions for how you can live a happier life. It also includes your greatest strengths and weakness as it relates to your score, and compares it to population averages.
~ I’m happy. Or deluded. Either way, all good.