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Eyes in the Sky: What You Should Know About Satellites

Satellites are a common technology nowadays. Yet every launch costs million of dollars and involves a lot of risks. If one single thing goes wrong, those millions of dollars and hundreds of hours invested are gone.

However, satellites do provide invaluable information that could only be vaguely estimated from the ground. With sophisticated sensors and by repeating their orbit around the Earth over and over again, they can monitor the tiniest variations in the Earth atmosphere.

In the last few years, satellites have been put to use for the following purposes:

  • The Global Positioning System (GPS) used in your car can also be used to detect tiny movements in the Earth’s crust as slow as millimeters per year. Cracks and strain patterns can be identified, helping to forecast the next seismic disaster and potentially saving thousands of lives.
  • The GOCE satellite (Gravity field and Ocean Circulation Explorer) has allowed scientists to measure and map gravity across the planet. This information was only estimated until the satellite was put into use in 2009. It can be used to further understand oceanic activity and help predict earthquakes. Regrettably, this satellite has been destroyed.
  • The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite, known as SMOS, helps us understand the varying levels of salinity in oceans and of moisture in soil. It contributes to better weather forecasting, to the study of ice and snow accumulation and to better understanding of climate.
    Infrared imaging has revealed pyramids buried under Egyptian sand for millennia that had remained unknown to man. More than 1000 tombs and 3000 settlements were found in 2011.
  • Satellite-based LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is similar to RADAR, which uses radio waves, in that it uses laser rays to calculate distance. It is used to study everything from weather patterns to the rainforest canopy.
    CryoSat-2, launched in 2010, measures the thickness of the polar ice caps with a resolution of half an inch. It provides vital information on climate change, ocean circulation and sea-level rises.
  • GPS is applied to biological and earth sciences in many different ways like tracking bird migrations or monitoring changes in the topography of Antarctic ice.
  • Satellites can also monitor the amount of carbon dioxide and methane emitted and absorbed by the Earth, helping us understand the carbon cycle, greenhouse gases and humans’ contributions to their emission.

These satellites are extremely relevant to our environmental situation right now. Perhaps the days of space exploration are over, and priority should be given to launching satellites that can help us better understand our own planet. Through satellite studies, we can hope to fully comprehend all the different systems that play a role in climate change and seismic activity.

Electricity Generated from Plants

plants as energyEnvironmental pollution and related problems are becoming a growing concern all over the globe. The fossil fuels used to power most vehicles and generate most energy are responsible for a significant percentage of these problems. Globally, scientists are looking for innovative ways to address them. One area of particular concern is in the generation of electricity, since an efficient alternative to the fossil fuel that currently creates electrical power would have a huge impact on our planet. The technology company Plant-E is exploring the possibility of harnessing the power of plant life to generate electricity.

Fossil fuel is primarily generated from coal and petroleum. The process of locating, processing and delivering these fuels causes catastrophic pollution. It creates greenhouse gasses which then create holes in the ozone layer, leading to continuing environmental damage. This is the primary reason that scientists have been searching for an alternative; Plant-E’s work is one very exciting possibility.

Walking across a carpet in socks on a dry winter’s day and touching another object will create an electric spark. Electricity is essentially power generated from an atom. Inside an atom are electrons which escape if something opens a pathway for their release. After walking on a carpet, the electrons are released from the point of contact and react with the electrons of the object being touched. Everything that is made of atoms contains electrons and this includes plants.

Plants not only contain the potential to create electricity, they also contain soluble chemicals that act as a great conductor of electricity. Plants can potentially be harnessed to provide a steady stream of electricity in an environmentally friendly way. They also have the added benefit of being able to absorb the harmful carbon greenhouse gasses which pollute the air and harm the ozone layer.

Using plants to generate electricity might have sounded like science fiction to the average person a few decades ago, but the concept is actually not new. Scientists have been seeking new ways to harness the power of the plant for years. Due to the versatility of plant life around the globe, the possibilities for using it to generate energy are almost unlimited.

Countless schoolchildren have learned how a simple potato can be used to generate electricity. The juices in a potato contain chemicals that cause a reaction with copper and zinc electrodes, producing about 1.2 volts of electricity. The potato acts in much the same way as a battery. If you were to use several potatoes, you could actually generate enough power to light a diode bulb. This might not be a practical means of large-scale energy generation, but it does illustrate the potential for creating electricity from plants in principle.

Plants can be grown to create another product which generates electricity – alcohol. Grapes, barley, rye and several other grains can be used in the creation of alcoholic products, which can then be used to generate electricity. This happens by creating an alcohol-based fuel to power a generator. An alcohol-powered generator stores its energy in a large battery which releases its power through positive and negative electrode connectors and fiberglass conduit.

The ability to harness plant life to create electricity is a proven fact. The possibilities if this technology is developed to the point that it is efficient and cost-effective are truly staggering; by utilizing natural and renewable resources for energy creation, pollution and greenhouse gas levels could be lowered significantly.

Innovative companies like Plant-E are at the forefront of the effort to make this technology widely useable. Developed at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Plant-E relies on a green electricity roof which uses plants as a battery to generate and store energy. This technology does not harm the plant or its environment. Plant-E recently received €250,000 to do further research.

This planet is on a perilous course due to the overuse of wasteful and dirty sources of energy. Organizations with vision and creativity are realizing the potential of plants in generating this energy. Plant-E is one such organization; only time will show whether their research can be widely implemented.

How the Weather and the President are Ruining Your Life

I’ve been doing a pretty good job at complaining about the weather lately. Spring has shown up on the calendar, but, in these parts, it has done a downright lousy job of showing up anywhere else. So much so that I have essentially retreated to the treadmill for my runs. I’m sick of the cold. So, I complain about it. I pine for warmer days. And you know what? For all that complaining I am doing, one thing is true.

It’s still cold.

And there is still some snow on the ground.

Nothing changed.

It got me thinking on that blasted treadmill the other day. The weather is not unlike the government in some ways. People do a good job complaining about it like I complain about the weather. Many think it is the source of all of our ills. If you are a Republican, President Obama is ruining your life. If you are a Democrat, the Republicans are succeeding in undermining all of your hard work. Right?

Which gets me back to the title of this post, which I will admit is kind of misleading. It is misleading because the weather isn’t ruining my life and the President isn’t ruining yours. Neither are the Republicans. In fact, I hear people go on and on about a great many things that are “keeping them down”. Their families, spouses, bosses, co-workers, friends, neighbors, pets, you name it.

Unfortunately, for the chronic complainer, there is simply one constant through all of those interweaving relationships spurning the complaining. You know what that is?

Yes, the complainer.

I have heard people complain about all of these things and more. Man, I have even heard people complain about ALL of them. Yes, they are a treat to be around. Trust me. But, when it comes down to it, all of these things are nothing more than weather. You can’t change it. The only thing you can change is how you react to it.

If you don’t have the life you want, stop complaining about Corporate America and “The Man”. Look in the mirror. The economy isn’t bad, it is different. It requires a different approach by you if the results are not where you want them to be.

If your health isn’t where you want it to be, stop blaming “Big Agriculture” or devious advertising “causing” you to stop at McDonald’s. Look in the mirror. Turn off the TV if you think you are being manipulated into bad decisions. Ultimately, you are the one making the decisions.

Personal responsibility is at the very core of growing. Once you accept that responsibility, the real wins start piling up. I have been there. I still am. I have found, time and time again, that placing myself in the crosshairs of any dissatisfaction I have with a part of my life that I can begin to turn the tide almost immediately. Change doesn’t happen instantly, but the dial does begin to move in the right direction.

Does all this mean I now pledge to embrace the snow and cold? No. Winter still stinks and none of you are going to convince me otherwise. So, save your breath 🙂 However, I can and will find other ways to deal with my displeasure with it. The weather isn’t the source of my displeasure, my reaction to it is. As long as I can see deep down inside that the dial I am trying to move is inching forward little by little, I can keep staring out the window with a scowl on my face knowing I am smiling ever so slightly on the inside.

I want a Space Funeral!

I’m most definitely a science nut. And I mean that in the most sincere way.space funerals

And if you read my previous post you know I really love astrology as well.

So much so that I’ve been following the Gaia satellite and all of its miraculous discoveries.

It’s made me think a lot about the future. Simply because it gets me really excited about all the possibilities.

I mean just think about all the new planets that are being discovered.

Hundreds of millions of stars.

It just makes my mind wander into the galaxies and think about all the possibilities of life out there.

I wish so much that I could be an astronaut. Just jump on a spaceship and fly right out like it was Star Wars or Star Trek.

But of course that’s not reality. I’m a geek, not an idiot!

I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Internet lately about the stars and galaxies and space travel.

It’s a shame that NASA has really stopped a lot of what they were doing. I’m sure it saddens a lot more people and just myself.

But what I did stumble across is this website called Celestis, Inc.

it’s really kind of cool. What it is is a way for you after you have died to go to space. You literally have a space funeral.  Or at least a part of you does.

What it is as if you get cremated, you can request your remains be put on an actual rocket and be blasted out of the Earth’s atmosphere and into space.

From there there are a few choices on what you can do with your ashes.

Personally for me, I would want my ashes to be jettisoned out into space so that I can float along with the galaxy for the rest of eternity.

Yeah, it’s not quite the same as being alive in jet setting across the galaxy in a cool spaceship, but it is a real attainable thing that you can do.

I mean what are the other choices? Be buried in a hole? Be put into an urn on somebody’s fireplace for a while until somebody spills into the carpet and the gets vacuumed up and thrown out with the rest of the waste?

I mean once your dad you’re dead. What does it matter anymore?

At least you’re kind of leaving a legacy behind. Whatever your friends talk about you they’ll always end up slipping into the conversation how your floating around in space for the rest of eternity. How cool is that?

So that’s how am going to go. I’ve heard he made my decision.

I’m going to float in space for all of eternity. Or at least my ashes will be.

Although I guess it would be kind of hard to have a funeral? LOL!

Over 400 Million New Stars to Name!

Astronomers have been extremely excited lately with all of the data pouring out of Gaia.precise map of the stars

The only problem is, there’s too much of it!

Over a billion flecks of light have been recorded already. Four hundred million have never been recorded before. That’s a HUGE new database of stars.

In fact, it is such a huge leap that a website has been set up asking for any one’s help that’s willing to give it. You can find the website here.

And don’t worry if you’re no expert. A group of school children while demonstrating to the BBC on how to use the website stumbled on a supernova, an exploded star.

So if school kids can do this, you sure can too!

And on On May 16, the Gaia satellite spotted its first superluminous supernova.

And it’s not only stars that Gaia has captured, there will undoubtedly be planets as well.

Some scientists speculate that the number of new planets found will top 20,000 in the next five years.

In the last twenty years of searching for planets in our solar system by both professional and amateur astronomers, only 3,000 have been found.

Imagine all of the possibilities in our heavens now…

It’ll be interesting to see how these new stars will be named and cataloged. Since I’m not married, I guess I’d be naming a star after someone like my grandmother or even my cat Mila.

But to be serious, this represents an entire new “world” to play in.

I love astronomy, and this just gets me even more motivated to buy a telescope or something.

I love looking up at night at the stars. There grandness makes me realize how insignificant I am at the end of the day.

And how beautiful and amazing our universe really is.

and is scheduled to stay out there giving up the most precise map of our heavens for the next five years.

Gaia will make a very precise 3D map of our Milky Way Galaxy:

  • It is the successor to the Hipparcos satellite which mapped some 100,000 stars
  • The one billion to be catalogued by Gaia is still only 1% of the Milky Way’s total
  • But the survey’s quality promises a raft of discoveries beyond just the star map
  • It will find new asteroids and planets; It will test physical constants and theories
  • Gaia’s sky map will be the reference to guide future telescopes’ observations

It’s believed it will find stars, asteroids and even planets. Let alone all of the supernovas and other natural disruptions of the universe.

It will also end a lot of debates in the scientific world as well.

And most likely create new ones.

I’m so excited to see how this all works out!

Everything you know is wrong!

everything-you-know-is-wrongIf I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a huge fan of the band U2.

I became a fan in earnest back in the early 90’s when they shook up the rock and roll world with their Zoo TV tour in support of the Achtung Baby album.

That tour sported a gigantic set that boasted multiple giant television screens.

The screens flashed countless messages and images during the show.

It was clearly a satire of the whole concept of television.

Screens bombarding you with all kinds of memes. Conditioning the audience, if you will.

For some reason, one of the messages has stuck with me for years. At one point in the show one of the screens flashed a message that caught my eye.

Everything you know is wrong.

Now, that’s a bit of an overgeneralization, but to some extent it is true. I find it is true because the learning process to me is eternal. I’m constantly re-learning things. Finding that the beliefs I once held dear to me really don’t hold an ounce of water.

For me?

I once thought the key to being healthy was whole wheat instead of white, a 100 calorie pack of Oreo Thins instead of the real thing. Now, I know it’s eating real food. Bacon and eggs. Fruits and vegetables.

I once thought being a better runner was simply running more. Running faster. Now, I know managing my effort is far more important than exerting blunt force. Quality over quantity.

I once thought getting stronger was something beyond me. The realm of those with “better genes” than me. Now, I know it is the investment in my future self. My ticket to a life lived. Not a life survived.

I once thought the world existed in one area code. Beyond that were kingdoms populated by people of different makeups and dispositions. In truth, I learned the world has been put here to be experienced. Challenging my boundaries has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.

I once thought the world was a scary, unfriendly place. I now know that this planet is populated by amazing, special people. That people are generally good.

I once thought others held a lien on my dreams. I needed to fulfill their needs before my dreams. I now know I am no good to anyone else if am not shooting for the stars myself. I am no good example to others if I sell myself short. I have no business having anyone look up to me if I make excuses and blame others.

I once thought the key to happiness was acceptance. Please everyone, be liked, be happy. The wisdom of years has taught me to accept myself and happiness follows.

I once thought peace would always slip through my fingers. Then, on a quiet morning run, I saw the sun barely beginning to rise through the Florida palms. I could feel the gentle breeze and stare at the eerie calm of the fog hovering over the ponds. I felt peace.

I felt that peace because, at some point, I admitted everything I knew was wrong. I set out to learn the real truth. I humbled myself into admitting that to believe the lies is to sell yourself short.

Admit it. Everything you know is wrong. It’s scary, downright petrifying. The truths you cling to, they do you a disservice. They tell you that you can’t. They tell you the deck is stacked against you. They tell you powers beyond your control hold you back.

They all lie. They whisper in your ear the pain and fear you will feel if you try. But they lie.

Trust yourself enough to know it is all wrong.

Believe it can change.

Sustainable Energy for Your Home

Solar Energy Solutions Suitable For Homessolar panels on roof

Individuals who favor to switch to using solar energy on their property are set to enjoy several benefits.

The sun provides us an abundance of renewable energy on a daily basis.

This energy may be used to form our electricity, heating, light-weight or hot water.

Within the previous few years, the installation and use of solar power in residential properties has seen a good increase.

It provides a particularly low cost answer to supply energy in a very property.

There’s an initial expense of apparatus and installation, however there’s no real expense when this as systems terribly rarely need any maintenance.The system can normally have began to buy itself when the primary few years.

Then, people will enjoy ‘free’ energy from the sun and escape the entice of rising utility company costs. Solar energy may be stored, to be used at a later time.

Solar energy could be a fully inexperienced energy answer that puts no harmful emissions into the atmosphere. This energy is environmentally friendly.

Sadly, many people feel that the cost of investing in solar panels far outweighs the benefits. They’re very wrong!

In fact, not only are solar panels the cheapest they’ve ever been, but there are now many government subsidies to help cover the cost.

Although I do think our government could step things up a bit.

Following installation, solar systems will save their house owners a large quantity of cash.

Energy sources are being rapidly exhausted and that we have all felt the impact of giant will increase in bills, this makes solar power the right various. other than the installation prices, the suns energy is freely accessed.

Traditional energy sources injury our surroundings. Solar solutions give the scope to scale back outgoings and facilitate the atmosphere at identical time.

A number of firms are producing quality solar systems for residential use. Over recent years firms are producing equipment that’s economical, engaging and competitively priced when you look at your other options.

This has led to the supply of excellently performing systems with a price tag the typical home-owner can afford.

These systems capture energy from sun rays and subsequently convert it into electricity. This can not only drastically reduce your home’s electric bill, it can actually cancel it out entirely.

In fact, you can even make money by selling your left over energy to the utility company! This is already happening today and will only grow as solar panels become better  and even more affordable than they are today.

These solar systems are the perfect solution for a longer term solution. A solar system of any kind could be a wise investment for your home.

Systems add worth to properties similarly as all of the opposite advantages they provide.

No one likes getting an expensive utility bill. Especially when most utility companies gauge you during the hot summer months or in cold months. There simply isn’t a better solution for a family home no matter where you live than Solar energy.