Good Web Designers Care about Accessibility

computer screen

Web design gets overlooked by users even though its impact on them is large. Bad design can lead to misunderstandings and to people accidentally buying something that they didn’t want to. In all likelihood you have had suffered from poorly designed websites. If you’re a person with any sort of disability then you also probably appreciate good web design because it takes into consideration accessibility. Good accessible design is a benefit to everyone for many reasons, and if you’re wondering why then check out the following article.

Without accessible technology, there’s a discriminatory gap between those who can get full use from their devices/products/services, and those who can’t. As technologists, we have a moral imperative and belief that technology can empower people of every language, culture, geographical location, ability, to do more — therefore, accessibility is a requirement of such a belief.

…with every new feature, every new website, the divide between those who are online and those who are not increases, making it all the more imperative to make the web available for everyone.
— Tim Berners-Lee

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Students Don’t Want the Planet as-is

The kids these days aren’t alright with the world they’re inheriting. Many of the homes kids are growing up in will be under water if climate change continues at its current pace. Students who aren’t on the coast will still face extreme weather and crop shortages. Understandably, kids these days aren’t happy about this and want the situation to change. Inspired by reality, and the very determined Greta Thunberg, students are taking to the streets to let their parents, the olds, and politicians that this generation isn’t going to take it.

The posters students held up advertised statistics about the environmental impact of consumerism (including the grim fact that just 100 companies are to blame for large portions of global emissions), as well as slogans conveying their frustrations with inheriting a mess. “You mind if I breathe?” one read; “All we want is a future” said another.

“The onus is being placed on young people who don’t even have that much money or power to do things,” Rubin said. “People in power are the ones who should be doing something not regular kids – it shouldn’t be up to us to save the world, but it is.”

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The History of the Carbon Cycle Sits in Ancient Wetlands

forest and river

Scientists have unearthed and pieced together evidence on more than 1,000 ancient wetland sites from across the globe, that are presently covered by fields, forests and lakes. Although vanished from the Earth’s surface, these buried sites could explain some of the differences between global carbon cycle models and real-life observations.

Cliffs, quarries, road construction, and scientific sampling have revealed carbon-rich wetland deposits buried under other kinds of soils and sediments. Many wetlands are characterized by thick deposits of undecomposed plant material (or peat), which is often preserved, resulting in a record of wetland presence. The buried wetlands frequently included coastal marshes that had been flooded by sea level rise, and wetlands that had been buried by glaciers, flooding, or wind-deposited sediments.

The researchers compiled the information about these buried wetland deposits, including where they were found, when they formed, and why they were buried.
 
“We were really surprised when we started to combine our data from different sites around the world. What we thought would be only a few sites turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. When we started to look for more examples from previous studies, we identified more than 1,000 buried wetland sites across the globe,” Dr Claire Treat from the University of Eastern Finland says.
 

The study was led by Dr Treat at the University of Eastern Finland and by Dr Thomas Kleinen at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany.

Buried wetland sites were found from high Arctic islands of Canada and Siberia to tropical Africa and Indonesia, to Southern South America and New Zealand. Some formed less than 1,000 years ago, while others formed during the warm climate period between the two latest glaciations more than 100,000 years ago.

Using these records of wetland presence since the beginning of the last interglacial, 130,000 years ago, the researchers found that wetlands in northern latitudes responded to changes in climate. Wetlands formed when the climate was warmer, and many wetlands were buried during periods of glacial advance and cooling temperatures. When it was cold, few new wetlands formed until the climate warmed again. Some of these buried peat sediments remain until today. These new findings of widespread buried peats suggest that, on the whole, peat burial can result in the slow transfer of carbon from the atmosphere to land, ultimately offsetting a small part of climate warming in the past.

“The fact that these peats are buried and stay on land is  basically like a leak in what we usually consider a closed system of how carbon moves around the earth, from the atmosphere to the land and oceans. This new finding isn’t represented in our models of the global carbon cycle, and may help to explain some behaviour that differs between models and observations,” Dr Treat from the University of Eastern Finland says.

The results also suggest that present-day wetlands may continue to offset rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations as the climate warms if they remain undisturbed by drainage and wildfires.

Press Release from the University of Eastern Finland.

Lunar Library Launched

A couple weeks ago a rocket blasted into space to deliver a satellite into orbit, this sort of thing is now routine. However, this rocket carried a unique payload destined for the lunar surface: a library. The Arch Mission Foundation is piggy backing a special disc on Spaxe IL’s lunar mission. The disc holds all sorts of information that may outlast humanity so future civilizations can get a glimpse into the past. If all goes well it will land on the surface of the Moon on April 11th.

In addition to the English version of the Wikipedia (approximately 7.5M printed pages), the Library contains more than 25,000 books and other resources, including collections from Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive, and the Long Now Foundation Rosetta and PanLex datasets, which provide a linguistic key to 5000 languages with 1.5 billion cross-language translations. The Library also holds a long-duration duplicate of SpaceIL’s Israeli Time Capsule, and several other private archives and special collections.

“Our goal is to provide a backup of human civilization,” said Nova Spivack, co-founder of the Arch Mission Foundation. “Instead of trying to create a generic representation of humanity, our approach is to send crowdsourced resources like the Wikipedia, and many other datasets.”

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Documentaries can Change the World

If you enjoy documentaries you might be changing the world. Documentaries change conversations around important issues and some are so effective at doing so that they make a real-world impact beyond the audience. By bringing issues to light these films raise awareness to problems that we as a society can solve, sometimes the solutions are complex (like Inside Job) and other times they are easier to argue for (like banning the capture and torture of whales). If you want to make the world a better place then go watch some documentaries and tell your friends about it.

Two Columbia University staffers appeared in this exposé of the 2008 financial crisis: Economist/professor Frederic Mishkin and Business School dean Glenn Hubbard. Both men were less than transparent about their professional connections to the finance world. The film reveals that Mishkin wrote a paper about Iceland’s economy without disclosing the $124,000 he’d received from the country’s chamber of commerce. Hubbard, meanwhile, grew combative when questioned about his many consulting clients. A few months after Inside Job’s release, Columbia released much stricter disclosure rules for faculty who work with Wall Street, and the economics department chair credited the movie (which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2011) as a driving force.

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