A lobby group of scientists have urged the United Nations to invest in a system for detecting near-Earth asteroids that could collide with the planet. We’ve got a lot of existential risks on our plate right now, of which being clobbered into a prehistoric state by a lump of space rock is just one – and a fairly remote possibility, thankfully. But it’s also one that we’d need every spare moment of advance warning to deal with… Bruce Willis will need time to put on a clean vest, if nothing else. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that. [image by goldenrectangle]
That said, space rocks striking planets might have their upsides… at least on currently uninhabited planets. A paper from a Japanese university suggests that meteorites colliding with Earth may have been the source of the amino acid groups that began the chain of life. Not quite as science fictional as panspermia, but still quite a mind-bending thought.
News to me:
Like giant, cosmic chutes between the Earth and sun, magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with its host star.
Once the portals open, loads of high-energy particles can travel the 93 million miles (150 million km) through the conduit during its brief opening, space scientists say.
Called a flux transfer event, or FTE, such cosmic connections not only exist but are possibly twice as common as anyone ever imagined, according to space scientists who attended the 2008 Plasma Workshop in Huntsville, Ala., last week.
“Ten years ago I was pretty sure they didn’t exist, but now the evidence is incontrovertible,” said David Sibeck, an astrophysicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
There must be a use for these things, in fiction or real life…
The Moon seems like a pretty static place. After all, there’s little atmosphere and apart from occasional meteorite impacts, nothing much happens. Or so we thought. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission found that every month when the moon is full, the moon crosses through the Earth’s magnetotail, bathing our satellite in high energy charged particles that may create dust storms and electrical static.
Astronauts have never been on the Moon during this period. Landings have never taken place when the moon is full. But as Roland Piquepaille on ZDNet’s Emerging Tech blog discusses, if astronauts return to the moon to establish a base, they will have to face the challenges of the magnetotail, which could clog up vents and even give astronauts electric shocks!
[via Science Daily, image by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab]
The typical ending of our lovely planet will come in several billion years when the Sun swells up and engulfs all of the inner planets. But it’s never too early to start thinking of how to rescue our beloved cradle.
According to an article in the NYTimes, the Earth faces an unknown future because it will move further out in orbit as the Sun expends its mass and the gravitational forces become weaker.
One solution is to lasso comets and asteroids, swinging them near the Earth and using their slight gravity to boost the Earth to a higher orbit, where it could escape the Sun’s expansion. Because, y’know, what could go wrong with that?
(image from NASA website)
A lot of money has been pumped into Carbon Sequestration recently, to try and put some of the CO2 we produce back into the earth in the underground aquifers where we got the oil and gas that caused it in the first place. However, another way of storing carbon is in the soil, which benefits agriculture as well. Indigenous tribes in the Amazon basin have been using a technique of introducing charcoal to soil to produce darker ‘terra preta‘ soil for millenia. The low temperature charring of plants and trees introduces more carbon to the soil and encourages worms to break down the charcoal and soil to make a nutrient-rich loam.
A study into the method by MIT professor Amy Smith found that using agricultural char methods could be a great way of producing low-cost fuel for developing nation. You can view a speech on the subject she made at TED 2006 here. By burning waste materials in a gasifier, the methane, hydrogen and other burnable gases it produces can be used as fuels, leaving behind a charred solid that can be mixed into the soil as fertiliser, building back the soil content. Because the organic content has charred, it doesn’t decompose to be released into the atmosphere. WorldChanging has a great analysis that the process could actually provide power whilst potentially reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
[via WorldChanging, image via Papa Goiaba]