How Satellite Alerts Save Forests

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Information is key to success, and that’s especially true when it comes to fighting deforestation. Organizations and governments trying to protect our forests need to know where the illegal activity is happening, when, and who the perpetrators are. A team of researchers wondered if providing alerts from satellites could help organizations preventing deforestations. The short answer is yes.

Those findings come from new research into the effect of GLAD, the Global Land Analysis and Discovery system, available on the free and interactive interface Global Forest Watch. Launched in 2016, GLAD provides frequent, high-resolution alerts when it detects a drop in forest cover. Governments and others interested in halting deforestation can subscribe to the alerts on Global Forest Watch and then intervene to limit forest loss.

Moffette and her co-authors set out to understand whether these kinds of automated alerts could achieve their goal of reducing forest loss, which has global climate implications. Land-use changes like deforestation account for 6 percent to 17 percent of global carbon emissions. And avoiding deforestation is several times more effective at reducing carbon emissions than regrowing forests.

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A Team Cools the Planet by Sending Heat to Outer Space

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Aaswath Raman, a material scientist at UCLA, has looked into the past to solve today’s problems. He has led a team that’s created an impressive device that uses radiative cooling to help cool anything by sending heat into outer space. This sounds like it’s right out of science fiction, but it is very real and is based on sound science that’s been ignored for decades. A basic example of radiative cooling is how temperatures drop on buildings overnight due to the lack of sunlight, in this case the heat just goes into the atmosphere. Using Raman’s new device the heat can get transferred into outer space because the material used reflects a very particular wavelength which won’t get trapped in the atmosphere.

In a few years the Stanford group had its first prototype. Placed outside in the hot California sun, it felt cold to the touch. It was a giddy, counterintuitive sensation, even to Raman.

Yet even after he convinced himself that daytime radiative cooling was possible, it wasn’t until a trip to visit his grandmother in Mumbai that Raman started to see how it could also be useful.

A growing number of homes in Mumbai had air conditioners in their windows, something he rarely saw during childhood visits. That’s an unqualified victory for people’s health, Raman said; exposure to extreme heat can lead to a range of illnesses, from respiratory illness to psychological distress.

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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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A Space Race Approach to Fighting Climate Change

Here’s a neat idea: save the planet using the research and development practices used during the space race. The state-lead push for advanced science led to really fun things like cellphones and laser eye surgery. Imagine what we as a species could create if we had the same push into sustainability like we did during the race to the moon.

If markets left to themselves will continue to merely pump out “innovations” along certain pathways, then it is up to the state to play a more direct role in starting a “greentech” revolution. Mariana Mazzucato, in her book The Entrepreneurial State, argues that major advances in tech from the internet to nanotechnology to pharmaceuticals were born either directly from government research or because governments made the risky investments necessary for the private sector to act.

The good news is that not all money is the same, and those behind Mission Innovation and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition seem to have read Mazzucato. They explicitly reference “patient capital” which can reduce the risk of uncertain technological investments. There is no question this is a major step in the right direction.

Governments certainly need to price carbon, but they should also act as entrepreneurs and market-creators to kickstart innovation for the green growth of the future. If we are underspending on this by orders of magnitude, then doubling is not nearly enough.

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Help NASA Find Asteroids

Everyday we face an existential threat to our planet from outer space! Asteroids can hit the planet at any moment and ruin our days. To help us prepare for such an event NASA (and other space agencies) are searching for and tracking asteroids. By knowing where they are we can potentially deflect an asteroid to not hit the Earth. Now you can help in this process using your computer at home.

The computer program was created through NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter challenge, itself a part of the space administration’s larger Asteroid Grand Challenge, and was done in partnership with the Redmond, Washington-based Planetary Resources Inc. The contest, explains a NASA release, was launched at last year’s South By Southwest conference, to develop more sophisticated means of detecting and identifying asteroids by way of land-based telescopes.

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