Archive for the ‘environmental’ category

Oct 25, 2020

Microbes of the Universe — Could our Solar System be rife with Pathogens?

Posted by in categories: alien life, biological, environmental, ethics, existential risks, habitats, health, space travel

In a recent study of the upper atmosphere of Venus, finding the chemical fingerprint of phosphine has led to speculation that it may be tied to airborne life high in the clouds of our sister planet [1]. We harbour similar suspicion of microbial life on Mars [2], Saturn’s moon Enceledus [3], and Europa, the icy Galilean of the Jovian system [4]. The dwarf planet Ceres of the asteroid belt could be added to that list also, with recent evidence of oceanic water [5], while more exotic variations of life may exist on Titan, which is known to be teeming with organic materials [6]. Should we be more wary of our Solar System as an environment to explore, and the potential of pathogens we may encounter?

If one rewinds 500 years, to when exploration of new worlds involved sailing the oceans, the discovery of the Americas introduced viruses which decimated the native population at that time [7]. That in itself was far from a unique event in history, of course. There have been many occurrences throughout history where travel between distant lands has resulted in the introduction of devastating plagues to one population or the other — not least the Black Death, which arrived in Europe from commercial travel with Asia in the 1300s [8]. Meanwhile, 2020 has reminded us how a novel virus can prove virtually unstoppable from spreading worldwide in a matter of months and reaching pandemic level, once introduced to our now interconnected world [9].

Indeed when the first astronauts returned from the Moon in the 60s, they had to undergo weeks of quarantine as a precaution against introducing a lunar pathogen to Earth [10]. We now know the Moon to be a sterile world, but this should not give us a false sense of security when visiting and returning from other worlds, which are far more likely to harbour microbial life. It is quite plausible to consider that any microbes which have evolved to survive in the harsh environments on other worlds could multiply out of control if introduced to a more fertile environment on Earth. The likelihood of any such foreign microbes being capable of becoming infectious pathogens to our species is difficult to measure, but one could still cause problems regardless, by undermining Earth’s ecosystem in competing with native microbial life as a runaway invasive species.

Fortunately, due to the vast distances involved in inter-planetary travel, returning astronauts would likely show symptoms of infection from any dangerous pathogen long before reaching home, as such a journey would be expected to take many months, even with more advanced propulsion technology than we use in space travel today. That is not to say they could not inadvertently return with microbial life on board — or even on the exterior of craft: Earth’s tardigrades, for example, have proven quite durable in journeys into outer space [11].

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Aug 30, 2020

Venus map with water: stunning terraforming image shows alternative to Mars

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, space travel

A new image shows what Venus would look like if it had water on its surface, similar to the Earth.

Aug 11, 2020

Musk Reads: SpaceX Starship has taken flight

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, space travel

Starship lifts off and a terraformed Mars map is published. How will Mars astronauts reach the surface? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #193.

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Aug 7, 2020

Mars map with water: incredible terraforming image shows Elon Musk’s dream

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, engineering, environmental, space

A new map shows what the red planet would look like if 71 percent of its surface area was covered with water — around the same proportion as Earth.

Jun 12, 2020

Dr. Thupten Jinpa, Founder and Chairman of Compassion Institute, and The Dalai Lama’s Principal Translator — Discussing Compassion, Spirituality and Human Longevity — ideaXme — Ira Pastor

Posted by in categories: aging, biotech/medical, business, environmental, futurism, government, health, innovation, posthumanism, transhumanism

Apr 22, 2020

Dengue case predictor mapping system wins the 2019 NASA global hackathon

Posted by in categories: astronomy, big data, computing, disruptive technology, environmental, events, hacking, information science, innovation, machine learning, mapping, open source, satellites, science, software, space
Upper row Associate American Corner librarian Donna Lyn G. Labangon, Space Apps global leader Dr. Paula S. Bontempi, former DICT Usec. Monchito B. Ibrahim, Animo Labs executive director Mr. Federico C. Gonzalez, DOST-PCIEERD deputy executive director Engr. Raul C. Sabularse, PLDT Enterprise Core Business Solutions vice president and head Joseph Ian G. Gendrano, lead organizer Michael Lance M. Domagas, and Animo Labs program manager Junnell E. Guia. Lower row Dominic Vincent D. Ligot, Frances Claire Tayco, Mark Toledo, and Jansen Dumaliang Lopez of Aedes project.

MANILA, Philippines — A dengue case forecasting system using space data made by Philippine developers won the 2019 National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s International Space Apps Challenge. Over 29,000 participating globally in 71 countries, this solution made it as one of the six winners in the best use of data, the solution that best makes space data accessible, or leverages it to a unique application.

Dengue fever is a viral, infectious tropical disease spread primarily by Aedes aegypti female mosquitoes. With 271,480 cases resulting in 1,107 deaths reported from January 1 to August 31, 2019 by the World Health Organization, Dominic Vincent D. Ligot, Mark Toledo, Frances Claire Tayco, and Jansen Dumaliang Lopez from CirroLytix developed a forecasting model of dengue cases using climate and digital data, and pinpointing possible hotspots from satellite data.

Sentinel-2 Copernicus and Landsat 8 satellite data used to reveal potential dengue hotspots.

Correlating information from Sentinel-2 Copernicus and Landsat 8 satellites, climate data from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PAGASA) and trends from Google search engines, potential dengue hotspots will be shown in a web interface.

Using satellite spectral bands like green, red, and near-infrared (NIR), indices like Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (FAPAR) and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) are calculated in identifying areas with green vegetation while Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI) identifies areas with water. Combining these indices reveal potential areas of stagnant water capable of being breeding grounds for mosquitoes, extracted as coordinates through a free and open-source cross-platform desktop geographic information system QGIS.

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Apr 5, 2020

Attacking Global Warming With Satellites

Posted by in categories: climatology, disruptive technology, energy, environmental, space
Artist impression of a Methane hunting satellite by Bluefield

Global warming is a complex problem that is not easy to solve. While world leaders seem to be dragging their feet over the issue, Yotam Ariel, founder of Bluefield, believes he might have at least one piece of the puzzle sorted. Methane monitoring from space. By leveraging a network of microsatellites with a proprietary sensor, Bluefield plans to deliver alerts and analytics to oil and gas clients to help combat the inadvertent release of methane gas

Methane, a greenhouse gas, is leaking into the atmosphere. One might ask, “Why bother with methane, isn’t carbon dioxide the problem?” Well, according to the IPCC (, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which is clearly a bad thing for global warming. Methane is believed to be responsible for 25% of global warming and knowing who is emitting, when, and how much, would be a massive step towards reversing climate change. Since between 50 and 65% of total global methane emissions come from human activities, being able to identify and stop leaks is crucial to lowering greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Bluefield plans to specialize in methane gas detection and not try and solve all problems all at once and thereby reducing complexity. Further reduction in complexity is achieved by leveraging outside suppliers where applicable that complement the Bluefield plans. By reducing the complexity, Bluefield can focus on its core mission and specialty. Areas outside of detection such as the satellite parts, ground stations, the launch, and other services will be outsourced. This will allow Bluefield to quickly move through its development stages. Whereas it might take up to 10 years for a space agency like NASA, JAXA or ESA, to fund, design, test and launch a custom satellite, Bluefield aims to accomplish this as early as next year.

In fact, the prototype for the first microsatellite design has already been completed. Bluefield shortlisted several suppliers and the final selection will be made soon. The company is well on its way to testing its technology in orbit after completing both field tests and high-altitude balloon tests this year. By mounting its newly developed sensor on several backpack-sized microsatellites, Bluefield will be able to collect enough raw data to provide methane emission monitoring at a previously unthinkable level in terms of global coverage, high resolution and at a price point well below what is currently available.

Mar 13, 2020

First-time direct proof of chemical reactions in particulates

Posted by in categories: environmental, sustainability

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have developed a new method to analyse particulate matter more precisely than ever before. Using it, they disproved an established doctrine: that molecules in aerosols undergo no further chemical transformations because they are enclosed in other suspended particulate matter. In the smog chamber at PSI, they analysed chemical compounds directly in aerosols and observed how molecules dissociated and thus released gaseous formic acid into the atmosphere. These findings will help to improve the understanding of global processes involved in cloud formation and air pollution, and to refine the corresponding models. The results of this investigation are published today in the journal Science Advances.

The familiar scent of a pine forest is caused by α-pinene. This is one of the in the oils of conifer trees, and it also occurs in eucalyptus and rosemary. The smell triggers pleasant feelings in most people. Less pleasant is that under the influence of radicals, the compound changes into other compounds in the atmosphere, so-called highly oxidised . Some of these are reactive and to some extent harmful substances. They have only recently come under scrutiny by atmospheric researchers, and their role in cloud formation is not yet understood.

These highly oxidized organic are less volatile than the starting substance α-pinene and therefore condense easily. Together with and other solid and liquid substances in the air, they form what we call particulate matter or aerosols.

Jan 10, 2020

Ms. Nemonte Nenquimo, President of the Waorani Pastaza Organization, CONCONAWEP, following their recent landmark legal victory against the Ecuadorian government, leading to 500,000 acres of Amazon rainforest protected from oil drilling and timber companies — ideaXme — Ira Pastor

Posted by in categories: bees, biological, climatology, environmental, food, geography, geopolitics, health, life extension, science

Sep 24, 2019

Why A Venus 2.0 Could Still Be Habitable Today

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, space

If we terraformed Venus, would it remain habitable in its present orbit?

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