Updates from richardmitnick Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 5:15 pm on August 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    From EarthSky: “Record-breaking three Category 4 hurricanes in Pacific!” 



    Aug 30, 2015

    NASA’s Terra satellite saw Hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena lined up across the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean on August 29 at 22:25 UTC (6:25 p.m. EDT).

    NASA’s Terra satellite just released this August 29 image of Hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena, all Category Four Hurricanes.

    NASA Terra satellite

    According to the Weather Channel:

    This is the first recorded occurrence of three Category 4 hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific basins at the same time. In addition, it’s also the first time with three major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger) in those basins simultaneously, according to hurricane specialist Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center.

    The Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) in Honolulu Hawaii is issuing advisories on all of the hurricanes. On Sunday, August 30, from west to east, Hurricane Kilo was located 1,210 miles west-southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii, Hurricane Ignacio was located 515 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii, and Hurricane Jimena was located 1,815 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii.

    Hurricane Kilo: Category Four Hurricane

    At 5 a.m. EDT (0900 UTC) on August 30, the center of hurricane kilo was located near latitude 18.6 north and longitude 176.8 west. Kilo was moving toward the west-northwest near 9 mph (15 kph). Kilo is expected to curve toward the northwest…then west northwest over the next two days.

    Maximum sustained winds are near 140 mph (220 kph) with higher gusts. Kilo is a category four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane wind scale. Little change is expected for the next 12 hours…then slight weakening through 48 hours. The estimated minimum central pressure is 940 millibars.

    Kilo is expected to continue remaining a major hurricane through Thursday, September 3 is it moves to the north-northwest while remaining away from and to the west-southwest of Midway Island, Kure Atoll, Pearl and Hermes Atoll. For updated forecasts and local effects to Hawaii, visit the CPHC website: http://www.prh.noaa.gov/cphc

    Image via Central Pacific Hurricane Center, Honolulu, Hawaii

    Hurricane Ignacio: Category Four Hurricane

    On August 30, a tropical storm watch was in effect for Maui county…including the islands of Maui…Molokai…Lanai and Kahoolawe, in addition to Hawaii County.

    Like Kilo, Ignacio is a category four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane wind scale. Maximum sustained winds are near 140 mph (220 kph). The CPHC expects Ignacio to weaken through Tuesday, September 2.

    At 8 a.m. EDT (2 a.m. HST/1200 UTC) the center of Hurricane Ignacio was located near latitude 17.9 north and longitude 148.2 west. Ignacio is moving toward the northwest near 8 mph (13 kph) and this motion Is expected to continue for the next couple of days. On the forecast track…the center of Ignacio is expected to pass to the northeast of the big island on Monday, then northeast of the smaller islands Tuesday. The estimated minimum central pressure is 948 millibars. For the National Weather Service local statement on Ignacio on August 30: http://www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl/pages/HLS.php.

    Meanwhile, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, @Astro_Kimiya, captured some amazing images of the eye of Jimena.

    Hurricane Jimena: Category Four Hurricane

    At 5 a.m. EDT (O900 UTC), the eye of Hurricane Jimena was located near latitude 13.7 North, longitude 128.4 West. That’s about 1,365 miles (2,200 km) west-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico.

    Like Kilo and Ignacio, Jimena is a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 130 mph (215 kph) with higher gusts. Fluctuations in intensity are possible during the next day or so, but Jimena is expected to remain a major hurricane through Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

    Jimena’s estimated minimum central pressure is 947 millibars. Jimena is moving toward the west-northwest near 13 mph (20 kph) and this general motion is expected to continue for the next couple of days. For updated forecasts, visit the National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov

    Three Category 4 hurricanes on Sunday morning in the Pacific. Kilo (left), Ignacio (center) and Jimena (right). Image via NASA.

    Bottom line: It’s the first recorded occurrence of three Category 4 hurricanes in central and eastern Pacific basins at once. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, Hawaii is issuing advisories on all three.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 4:44 pm on August 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Sleep   

    From Brown: “Bright screens at night imperil sleep of young teens” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    August 26, 2015
    David Orenstein

    Must … have … sleep Light from device screens — even the old reading under the covers with a flashlight tactic — in the hour before bed can significantly disrupt sleep time. The effect is more pronounced in younger tweens and teens, ages 9 to 15. Photo: Mike Cohea/Brown University

    A new study has an important implication for tweens and young teens as they head back to school: Taking a gadget to bed could really hurt their sleep.

    Enough light exposure at night can keep anyone from falling asleep as quickly as they otherwise would have. But the new research, published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, finds that the sleep biology of boys and girls aged 9 to 15 who were in the earlier stages of puberty were especially sensitive to light at night compared to older teens. In lab experiments, an hour of nighttime light exposure suppressed their production of the sleep-timing hormone melatonin significantly more than the same light exposure did for teens aged 11 to 16 who were farther into puberty.

    The brighter the light in the experiments, the more melatonin was suppressed. Among 38 children in early to middle puberty an hour of 15 lux of light (think dim “mood” lighting) suppressed melatonin by 9.2 percent, 150 lux (normal room light) reduced it by 26 percent, and 500 lux (as bright as in a supermarket) reduced it by 36.9 percent. The 29 teens in the late or post-puberty stage were also affected, but not as much. Exposure to 15 lux did not suppress melatonin at all, 150 lux reduced it 12.5 percent, and 500 lux reduced it by 23.9 percent.

    The effects were the same for boys and girls.

    “Small amounts of light at night, such as light from screens, can be enough to affect sleep patterns,” said study senior author Mary Carskadon, professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and director of chronobiology and sleep research at the E.P. Bradley Hospital in East Providence, R.I. “Students who have tablets or TVs or computers — even an ‘old-school’ flashlight under the covers to read — are pushing their circadian clocks to a later timing. This makes it harder to go to sleep and wake up at times early the next morning for school.”

    Carskadon, lead author Stephanie Crowley of Rush University Medical Center, and their co-authors said children and their parents should limit use of screens at bedtime, even though it has become pervasive. One study found that 96 percent of teens use at least one form of technology in the hour before going to bed.

    In addition to Carskadon and Crowley, the study’s other authors are Christine Acebo from Brown University and Sean Cain and Angus Burns from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

    This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (grants MH52415 and MH01358) and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (HL105395).
    Note to Editors:

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

  • richardmitnick 9:21 am on August 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    From Brown: “Research may solve lunar fire fountain mystery” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    Evidence of lunar fire fountains Fire fountains — dramatic, explosive volcanic eruptions — require volatile elements mixed in with lava. New research by Alberto Saal and colleagues suggests that carbon monoxide was the volcanic gas that drove lunar fire fountains. Photo: Mike Cohea/Brown University

    Tiny beads of volcanic glass found on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions are a sign that fire fountain eruptions took place on the Moon’s surface. Now, scientists from Brown University and the Carnegie Institution for Science have identified the volatile gas that drove those eruptions.

    Fire fountains, a type of eruption that occurs frequently in Hawaii, require the presence of volatiles mixed in with the erupting lava. Volatile compounds turn into gas as the lavas rise from the depths. That expansion of that gas causes lava to blast into the air once it reaches the surface, a bit like taking the lid off a shaken bottle of soda.

    “The question for many years was what gas produced these sorts of eruptions on the Moon,” said Alberto Saal, associate professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown and corresponding author of the new research. “The gas is gone, so it hasn’t been easy to figure out.”

    The research, published in Nature Geoscience, suggests that lava associated with lunar fire fountains contained significant amounts of carbon. As it rose from the lunar depths, that carbon combined with oxygen to make substantial amounts carbon monoxide (CO) gas. That CO gas was responsible for the fire fountains that sprayed volcanic glass over parts of the lunar surface.

    For many years, the Moon was thought to be devoid of volatiles like hydrogen and carbon. It wasn’t until the last decade or so that volatiles were definitively detected in lunar samples. In 2008, Saal and colleagues detected water in lunar volcanic beads. They followed that discovery with detections of sulfur, chlorine and fluorine. While it became apparent that the Moon was not completely depleted of volatiles as was once thought, none of the volatiles that had been detected were consistent with fire fountain eruptions. For example, if water had been the driving force, there should be mineralogical signatures in recovered samples. There are none.

    For this research, Saal and his colleagues carefully analyzed glass beads brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions. In particular, they looked at samples that contained melt inclusions, tiny dots of molten magma that became trapped within crystals of olivine. The crystals trap gases present in the magma before they can escape.

    Volcanic evidence Super-tiny bits of molten magma became trapped in tiny crystals of olivine, preserving evidence of volatile gasses. Saal lab/Brown University

    Although other volatiles were previously detected in the lunar volcanic glasses and melt inclusions, the measurement of carbon remained elusive due to the high detection limits of the available analytical techniques. Erik Hauri from Carnegie Institution for Science developed a state-of-the-art ion probe technique reducing the detection limits of carbon by two orders of magnitude. That allows a measurement of as low as 0.1 part per million.

    “This breakthrough depended on the ability of Carnegie’s NanoSIMS ion probe to measure incredibly low levels of carbon, on objects that are the diameter of a human hair,” said Hauri. “It is really a remarkable achievement both scientifically and technically.”

    The researchers probed the melt inclusions using secondary ion mass spectroscopy. They calculated that the samples contained initially 44 to 64 parts per million carbon. Having detected carbon, the researchers devised a theoretical model of how gases would escape from lunar magma at various depths and pressures, calibrated from the results of high-pressure lab experiments. The model had long been used for Earth. Saal and colleagues changed several parameters to match the composition and conditions affecting lunar magma.

    The model showed that carbon, as it combines with oxygen to form CO gas, would have degassed before other volatiles.

    “Most of the carbon would have degassed deep under the surface,” Saal said. “Other volatiles like hydrogen degassed later, when the magma was much closer to the surface and after the lava began breaking up into small globules. That suggests carbon was driving the process in its early stages.”

    In addition to providing a potential answer to longstanding questions surrounding lunar fire fountains, the findings also serve as more evidence that some volatile reservoirs in the Moon’s interior share a common origin with reservoirs in the Earth, the researchers say.

    The amount of carbon detected in the melt inclusions was found to be very similar to the amount of carbon found in basalts erupted at Earth’s mid-ocean ridges. Saal and his colleagues have shown previously that Earth and the Moon have similar concentrations of water and other volatiles. They have also shown that hydrogen isotope ratios from lunar samples are similar to that of Earth.

    If volatile reservoirs on the Earth and Moon do indeed share a common source, it has implications for understanding the Moon’s origin. Scientists believe the Moon formed when Earth was hit by a Mars-size object very early in its history. Debris from that impact accreted to form the Moon.

    “The volatile evidence suggests that either some of Earth’s volatiles survived that impact and were included in the accretion of the Moon or that volatiles were delivered to both the Earth and Moon at the same time from a common source — perhaps a bombardment of primitive meteorites,” Saal said.

    Other authors on the paper were Diane Wetzel, a graduate student at Brown, and Malcolm Rutherford, professor of geological sciences. The study was supported by NASA’s LASER program (NNX08AY97G and NNX11AB27G), NASA’s Cosmochemistry program (NNX12AH62G), the Deep Carbon Observatory, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

  • richardmitnick 9:05 am on August 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Oliver Sacks   

    From NYT: “Oliver Sacks Dies at 82; Neurologist and Author Explored the Brain’s Quirks” 

    New York Times

    The New York Times

    AUG. 30, 2015

    Dr Oliver Sacks

    Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and acclaimed author who explored some of the brain’s strangest pathways in best-selling case histories like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, using his patients’ disorders as starting points for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition, died Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 82.

    The cause was cancer, said Kate Edgar, his longtime personal assistant.

    Dr. Sacks announced in February, in an Op-Ed essay in The New York Times, that an earlier melanoma in his eye had spread to his liver and that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer.

    As a medical doctor and a writer, Dr. Sacks achieved a level of popular renown rare among scientists. More than a million copies of his books are in print in the United States, his work was adapted for film and stage, and he received about 10,000 letters a year. (“I invariably reply to people under 10, over 90 or in prison,” he once said.)

    Dr. Sacks variously described his books and essays as case histories, pathographies, clinical tales or “neurological novels.” His subjects included Madeleine J., a blind woman who perceived her hands only as useless “lumps of dough”; Jimmie G., a submarine radio operator whose amnesia stranded him for more than three decades in 1945; and Dr. P. — the man who mistook his wife for a hat — whose brain lost the ability to decipher what his eyes were seeing.

    Describing his patients’ struggles and sometimes uncanny gifts, Dr. Sacks helped introduce syndromes like Tourette’s or Asperger’s to a general audience. But he illuminated their characters as much as their conditions; he humanized and demystified them.

    In his emphasis on case histories, Dr. Sacks modeled himself after a questing breed of 19th-century physicians, who well understood how little they and their peers knew about the workings of the human animal and who saw medical science as a vast, largely uncharted wilderness to be tamed.

    “I had always liked to see myself as a naturalist or explorer,” Dr. Sacks wrote in A Leg to Stand On (1984), about his own experiences recovering from muscle surgery. “I had explored many strange, neuropsychological lands — the furthest Arctics and Tropics of neurological disorder.”

    His intellectual curiosity took him even further. On his website, Dr. Sacks maintained a partial list of topics he had written about. It included aging, amnesia, color, deafness, dreams, ferns, Freud, hallucinations, neural Darwinism, phantom limbs, photography, pre-Columbian history, swimming and twins.

    Robin Williams, left, and Robert De Niro in the 1990 film “Awakenings.” The movie was based on Dr. Sacks’s 1973 book about a group of patients with an atypical form of encephalitis. Credit Columbia Pictures

    “I am very tenacious, for better or worse,” he wrote in A Leg to Stand On. “If my attention is engaged, I cannot disengage it. This may be a great strength, or weakness. It makes me an investigator. It makes me an obsessional.”

    He was also a man of contradictions: candid and guarded, gregarious and solitary, clinical and compassionate, scientific and poetic, British and almost American. “In 1961, I declared my intention to become a United States citizen, which may have been a genuine intention, but I never got round to it,” he told The Guardian in 2005.

    Dr. Sacks first won widespread attention in 1973 for his book Awakenings, about a group of patients with an atypical form of encephalitis at Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx. When Dr. Sacks started his clinical career there, in 1966, many of the patients had been catatonic, locked inside themselves for decades as a result of their “sleeping sickness.”

    Dr. Sacks gave them the drug L-dopa, which was just beginning to be recognized as a treatment for similar symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s, then watched as they emerged into a world they did not recognize. Some responded better than others — both to the drug and to their changed circumstances — and Dr. Sacks used his book to explore the differences and celebrate his patients’ limited rebirth.

    “I love to discover potential in people who aren’t thought to have any,” he told People magazine in 1986.

    Other books included the best-selling An Anthropologist on Mars (1995), about autistic savants and other patients who managed to thrive with their disorders; The Mind’s Eye (2010), about the ways people compensate for brain injuries; and three books about specific neurological conditions: Migraine (1970), The Island of the Colorblind (1997) and Seeing Voices (1989), a look at language perception among the deaf. He also wrote Oaxaca Journal, a 2002 travelogue about a trip to Mexico with the American Fern Society.

    Dr. Sacks began his medical career as a researcher but gave up early, conceding that he had neither the temperament nor the eye-hand coordination for it. “I lost samples,” he told an interviewer in 2005. “I broke machines. Finally they said to me: ‘Sacks, you’re a menace. Get out. Go see patients. They matter less.’ ”

    Yet even after he left research for clinical practice, he retained his scientific curiosity and his intuition for asking big questions. Years before it became fashionable to study the chemical and neurological foundations of the mind, for example, Dr. Sacks identified the need for such a field in A Leg to Stand On, where he termed it clinical ontology or existential neurology.

    Dr. Sacks linked himself to the Soviet founder of neuropsychology, A. R. Luria, whom he considered a mentor. The two never met, but they maintained a long correspondence, and in 1977, Dr. Sacks wrote Dr. Luria’s obituary for The Times of London.

    Dr. Sacks’s accounts of neurological oddities found a wide popular audience and were adapted for Hollywood, the theater, even opera. Robin Williams portrayed a Sacks-like doctor in the 1990 film version of Awakenings, and the novelist Richard Powers based a central character on him in his 2006 book, The Echo Maker.The 2011 movie The Music Never Stopped was adapted from The Last Hippie, one of the case studies collected in An Anthropologist on Mars. An opera based on The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, with music by Michael Nyman and a libretto by Christopher Rawlence, had its premiere in London in 1986 and was staged at Lincoln Center in New York in 1988.

    The Independent of London called Dr. Sacks “the presiding genius of neurological drama.” Reviewers praised his empathy and his graceful prose. Scientists could be dismissive, however, complaining that his clinical tales put too much emphasis on the tales and not enough on the clinical. A London neuroscientist, Ray Dolan, told The Guardian in 2005: “Whether Dr. Sacks has provided any scientific insights into the neurological conditions he has written about in his numerous books is open to question. I have always felt uncomfortable about this side of this work, and especially the tendency for Dr. Sacks to be an ever-present dramatis persona.”

    In an otherwise laudatory review of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat in The New York Times Book Review, the neuropsychologist John C. Marshall took issue with what he saw as Dr. Sacks’s faux-naïve presentation (“He would have us believe that an experienced neurologist could fail to have read anything about many of the standard syndromes”), and called his blend of medicine and philosophy “insightful, compassionate, moving and, on occasion, simply infuriating.”

    Dr. Sacks often wrote about the relationship between music and the mind, eventually devoting a whole book, “Musicophilia,” to the subject. Credit Knopf

    More damningly, the disability-rights activist Tom Shakespeare accused Dr. Sacks of exploiting the people he wrote about, calling him “the man who mistook his patients for a literary career.”

    A skilled pianist, Dr. Sacks often wrote about the relationship between music and the mind, eventually devoting a whole book, Musicophilia (2007), to the subject. Dr. Sacks disagreed with the Harvard psychologist and author Steven Pinker’s view of music as “auditory cheesecake, an evolutionary accident piggybacking on language,” and pointed to its ability to reach dementia patients as evidence that music appreciation is hard-wired into the brain.

    “I haven’t heard of a human being who isn’t musical, or who doesn’t respond to music one way or another,” he told an audience at Columbia University in 2006. “I think we are an essentially, profoundly musical species. And I don’t know whether — for all I know, language piggybacked on music.”

    Referring to [Friedrich] Nietzsche’s claim that listening to Bizet had made him a better philosopher, Dr. Sacks said, “I think Mozart makes me a better neurologist.”

    Dr. Sacks speaking in 2009 at Columbia University, where he taught neurology and psychiatry from 2007 to 2012. Credit Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Oliver Wolf Sacks was born on July 9, 1933, in London, the youngest of four sons of Samuel Sacks and the former Muriel Elsie Landau, who were both doctors. His father, in Dr. Sacks’s words a “moderately Orthodox” Jew, read the Bible daily, and Dr. Sacks often demonstrated a spiritual impulse in his books. But in Uncle Tungsten, his 2001 memoir about his childhood love of chemistry, he explained that the inflamed Zionist meetings his parents held before the war helped turn him away from organized religion.

    In Uncle Tungsten, Dr. Sacks described how growing up in a household of polymaths fostered his interest in science.

    “The thousand and one questions I asked as a child,” he wrote, “were seldom met by impatient or peremptory answers, but careful ones which enthralled me (though they were often above my head). I was encouraged from the start to interrogate, to investigate.”

    When World War II broke out, his parents sent Oliver and his brother Michael to a rural boarding school that Dr. Sacks described as a sadistic travesty, rife with bullying and cruelty. “The horribleness of the school,” he wrote in Uncle Tungsten, “was made worse for most of us by the sense that we had been abandoned by our families, left to rot in this awful place.”

    Dr. Sacks would take long swims around City Island in the Bronx, where he lived for years. Credit James Estrin/The New York Times

    Four years later, when he returned home, he immersed himself in the refuge of his basement chemistry lab and the “eternal system” of the periodic table.

    After receiving his medical degree from the Queen’s College, Oxford, Dr. Sacks moved to America in the early 1960s for an internship at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, then did his residency at the University of California, Los Angeles. He embraced the culture he found in California — befriending the poet Thom Gunn, entering weight-lifting competitions and joining the Hells Angels on motorcycle trips to the Grand Canyon, adventures he wrote about in his 2015 memoir, On the Move: A Life.

    In that book, he also discussed his sexual identity for the first time, describing his adolescent realization that he was gay. After several early flings, he wrote, he settled into a period of celibacy that lasted 35 years before he found love late in life. He is survived by his partner of eight years, the writer Bill Hayes.

    Dr. Sacks moved to New York in 1965 for a fellowship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, and, a year later, began the clinical work at Beth Abraham that led to Awakenings. Over the years, he received many awards, including honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Royal College of Physicians. In 2008, he was named a Commander of the British Empire.

    In 1974, Dr. Sacks tore his left quadriceps while running from a bull on a Norwegian mountaintop, an injury he wrote about in A Leg to Stand On. In that book, he recalled an aunt visiting him in the hospital and telling him: “You’ve always been a rover. There are rovers, and there are settlers, but you’re definitely a rover. You seem to have one strange adventure after another. I wonder if you will ever find your destination.”

    A prolific journal-keeper, Dr. Sacks compiled more than 600 notebooks. He published his essays in medical journals and magazines like The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books as well as small literary magazines like Antaeus, and he often revised them to add new information even after they had already appeared in book form. “Ah, Oliver!” he once quoted an exasperated publisher as saying. “You’d do anything for a footnote!”

    For years, Dr. Sacks lived on City Island in the Bronx, where he liked to take long swims around it. More recently, he lived in Greenwich Village. But he remained ambivalent about being called a New Yorker.

    “I rather like the words ‘resident alien,’ ” he told The Guardian. “It’s how I feel. I’m a sympathetic, resident, sort of visiting alien.”

    Dr. Sacks preferred to be an alien in New York rather than in California, he told The Calgary Herald. “Living there was too easy and too sweet,” he said. “I needed ugly and violent, ferocious and challenging. … There is a tremendous richness of life here, Tourette’s visibly present on the streets.”

    Dr. Sacks remained active well into his later years. In 2007, at 74, he severed his 42-year relationship with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to accept an interdisciplinary teaching position at Columbia. In 2012, he returned to the New York University School of Medicine as a professor of neurology. (He had had an adjunct position there for a couple of years in the 1990s, working mostly with its Tourette’s clinic.) And despite the enormous success of his books, he never gave up his unglamorous medical practice — partly, no doubt, because it provided him with material, but also because he genuinely loved working with patients.

    In 1989, interviewing him for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, Joanna Simon asked Dr. Sacks how he would like to be remembered in 100 years.

    “I would like it to be thought that I had listened carefully to what patients and others have told me,” he said, “that I’ve tried to imagine what it was like for them, and that I tried to convey this.

    “And, to use a biblical term,” he added, “bore witness.”

    He also bore witness to his own dwindling life, writing reflective essays even in his last days. On Aug. 10, his assistant, Ms. Edgar, who described herself as his “collaborator, friend, researcher and editor” as well, wrote in an email: “He is still writing with great clarity. We are pretty sure he will go with fountain pen in hand.”

    Several days later, a valedictory essay titled Sabbath appeared in The Times. In it, Dr. Sacks considered the importance of the Sabbath in human culture and concluded:

    “And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.”

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 2:06 pm on August 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    From Nautilus: “The Supervolcano Under Yellowstone is Alive and Kicking” 



    Aug 29, 2015
    Shannon Hall

    The wind shifts. The stench of rotten eggs makes it nearly impossible to breathe and the hot fog clouds my view. I hold my breath and close my eyes, imagining the fog growing thicker, crushing me. Then without warning the wind clears and I’m enveloped once again in the cold, dry air. The heat feels like a lost dream. I shiver as I analyze my surroundings.

    Before me lies a steaming blue spring with concentric rings of green, yellow and dark red. I turn around to see another pool. But the rising fog is so dense, I can only guess at the existence of blue water below. Sometimes I glimpse bubbles boiling from some unknown source. The pools are a small sampling of the 10,000 geothermal features that dot Yellowstone’s caldera and hint at a mysterious hot spot beneath the crust.

    Yellowstone sits on top of four overlapping calderas. (US NPS)

    Yellowstone Caldera
    Yellowstone Caldera map

    It’s this alien landscape that makes it surprisingly easy to believe that northwestern Wyoming sits directly above a supervolcano — a behemoth far more powerful than your average volcano, with the capacity to eject more than 240 cubic miles of material.

    But why do scientists believe there is a supervolcano hidden below? When I asked Henry Heasler, a park geologist at Yellowstone this question, he waxed philosophical. “Good science is nothing more than a progress report,” he said. “It’s what we know at a certain time with the data that we have.”

    And this year scientists provided one of the most impressive progress reports yet: They peered deep beneath the Earth’s surface and created the first three-dimensional image of the supervolcano’s plumbing. Although they had already imaged a plume, which brings molten rock up from deep below the mantle to a region about 60 kilometers below the surface, and a magma chamber about 10 kilometers below the surface, the new work had found the missing link between the two.

    A second, 11,200-cubic-mile magma chamber connects the plume to the shallower magma chamber. It’s 4.5 times larger than its shallow companion and has enough hot rock to fill the Grand Canyon nearly 14 times.

    Hsin-Hua Huang, a seismologist from the University of Utah and his colleagues used earthquake data to capture this astonishing image. It’s similar to an ultrasound, said Heasler. “We have the skin of a surface—of a person—but we want to see what’s inside.” When earthquakes travel through dense, hot spots they slow down. So if a seismic wave reaches a sensor later than expected, scientists know there’s a low-velocity, and hence denser and hotter, region hidden deep within the Earth.

    “Another thing more worrisome than global warming: Yellowstone super-volcano has 4x more magma than once thought”, from “Watts Up With That”, Alan Watts.

    “If we were just using one pathway—so one earthquake and one seismometer—we couldn’t be able to tell where along that path that low velocity body was. We’d have no idea,” said co-author Jamie Farrell from the University of Utah. That’s where multiple earthquakes and sensors come into play. Huang’s team used 4,849 earthquakes, originating from all parts of the earth, plus 80 seismographs across Yellowstone and beyond, to create a rough three-dimensional picture.

    Their study was also the first to combine both worldwide and local earthquakes. Distant earthquakes allow scientists to image deep structures (any earthquakes originating under India or China will first travel through the Earth’s core before reaching the U.S.) and local earthquakes allow for shallow structures. Combining the two let the team image the deep magma chamber for the first time. Given that natural earthquakes, however, are relatively rare events—even in one of the most active areas in the world—they had to collect 30 years worth of data.

    But seismic tomography isn’t the only way to peer deep underground. GPS satellites can scour the area searching for any ground movement; gravity satellites can look for any changes in the density below; and ground instruments can sample the heat and gases rising from the geothermal features.

    All methods point to a supervolcano that’s very much alive. From 1976 to 1984, GPS satellite data showed that the caldera floor was swelling upward. Magma was flowing from the deeper chamber into the shallow reservoir, causing the above ground to inflate. This influx of hot material, which happens to be less dense, was also reflected in gravity data. To a satellite orbiting directly above the inflow, the Earth will seem to pull on it a little less than expected. Meanwhile ground instruments measured increasing heat and gases rising from the active features.

    Then from 1985 to 1995 the caldera sunk back down about 5.5 inches. Magma was either moving out of the system laterally or the shallow reservoir was simply cooling and contracting, letting gases seep through the surface. Later measurements show that the caldera floor is continuing to swell and sink. But scientists still don’t understand the complex interplay between the supervolcano’s moving parts.

    “I think our next step—hopefully—is to be able to look at some smaller scale features of how these bigger features are connected to each other,” said Farrell. If scientists can determine how the large magma chambers interact with each other, they will better understand how fluids and heat move the Earth. “Then we can start looking at how long it would take for enough material to get from the deep to the shallow [reservoirs] and maybe where we are in the volcanic cycle of eruptions. But we’re not quite there yet.”

    Although past eruptions dot the Earth’s surface from Oregon to Wyoming, it’s hard to infer anything about a future eruption. And Farrell isn’t convinced another super-eruption will happen at all. “The system might be dying,” he said. “The Yellowstone hot spot is moving into thicker, colder continental crust. And it takes a lot more energy to burn through that crust than it did the thinner crust that it’s been burning through for the last 17 million years.”

    But as I watch Yellowstone’s surface boil over before my very eyes it’s hard to believe that the system deep beneath my feet might one day fade away. And as a geyser before me erupts, shooting steam and water tens of feet into the air, I have to wonder if it’s instead slowly building toward another super-eruption. After all, despite Farrell’s uncertainty, he continued to say: “It’s happened in the past, it could happen in the future.”

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Welcome to Nautilus. We are delighted you joined us. We are here to tell you about science and its endless connections to our lives. Each month we choose a single topic. And each Thursday we publish a new chapter on that topic online. Each issue combines the sciences, culture and philosophy into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. We follow the story wherever it leads us. Read our essays, investigative reports, and blogs. Fiction, too. Take in our games, videos, and graphic stories. Stop in for a minute, or an hour. Nautilus lets science spill over its usual borders. We are science, connected.

  • richardmitnick 1:12 pm on August 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    From UBC: “Breakthrough discoveries change how we understand breast cancer” 

    U British Columbia bloc

    University of British Columbia

    No Writer Credit

    No image credit

    Through a series of major breakthrough studies, scientists at UBC and the BC Cancer Agency have transformed our understanding of breast cancer and set the stage for the development of new treatments.

    It began with a landmark discovery in 2009.

    By decoding—for the first time in history—the three billion letters in the DNA sequence of a patient’s metastatic lobular breast cancer and following its evolution over nine years, Dr. Samuel Aparicio, Dr. Marco Marra and Dr. Sohrab Shah were able to show how this complex cancer mutates and spreads.

    Aparicio is a Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC and heads the BC Cancer Agency’s Department of Molecular Oncology; Marra directs the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre and the Department of Medical Genetics at UBC; and Shah is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC, a Scientist at the BC Cancer Agency, and Canada Research Chair in Computational Cancer Genomics.

    The research team they led found that of the 32 mutations in the metastatic tumour, only five could have been present in all the cells of the original tumour, thereby identifying them as the suspected cause of the disease getting started in the first place.

    The internationally significant findings were published in the prestigious journal Nature.

    “This is a watershed event in our ability to understand the causes of breast cancer and to develop personalized medicines for our patients,” declared Aparicio at the time.

    In 2012, international research led by Aparicio at the BC Cancer Agency and Dr. Carlos Caldas at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute was able to classify breast cancer into ten subtypes. They then grouped these subtypes by common genetic features, which correlate with survival, to suggest how treatments could be tailored to treat women with better defined types of breast cancer.

    This discovery followed on the heels of Aparicio, Shah and Marra leading the decoding of the most deadly triple-negative breast cancer. This research similarly discovered new genes that had never before been linked to the disease and showed that breast cancer is an umbrella term for what is really a number of unique diseases.

    Aparicio and Shah have since led further research to understand and predict how these complex cancers evolve over time.

    The two researchers used Shah’s statistical modelling software, PyClone, to analyze the billions of pieces of genetic data gathered from the tumour samples. Their findings, published in Nature in 2014, provided a map for how certain breast cancers evolve to become drug resistant over time.

    “By pinpointing which individual cancer cells are the ‘resilient’ ones that are most likely to have an impact on patient survival,” says Shah, “We are paving the way for drug development and treatment practices that will stop these cellular superbugs from taking over.”

    “Because of this research we have a way to identify the cancer ‘super-cells’ and stay one step ahead of disease progression by tailoring effective treatments to individual patients,” adds Aparicio.

    It’s a radical shift in the way we understand cancer—one that is of vital importance to both the global cancer research community and to future drug studies.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U British Columbia Campus

    The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the 40 best universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s West Coast spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. Its entrepreneurial perspective encourages students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.

  • richardmitnick 12:51 pm on August 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    From CSIRO: “Explainer: El Niño and La Niña” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    June 20, 2014
    Author: Carol Saab
    By Jaci Brown, CSIRO

    Australia’s weather is influenced by warm water movements in the Pacific. Image: Flickr / Shayan USA, CC BY

    We wait in anticipation of droughts and floods when El Niño and La Niña are forecast but what are these climatic events?

    The simplest way to understand El Niño and La Niña is through the sloshing around of warm water in the ocean.

    The top layer of the tropical Pacific Ocean (about the first 200 metres) is warm, with water temperatures between 20C and 30C. Underneath, the ocean is colder and far more static. Between these two water masses there is a sharp temperature change known as the thermocline.

    Winds over the tropical Pacific, known as the trade winds, blow from east to west piling the warm top layer water against the east coast of Australia and Indonesia. Indeed, the sea level near Australia can be one metre higher than at South America.

    Warm water and converging winds near Australia contribute to convection, and hence rainfall for eastern Australia.

    La Niña. Image: US National Weather Service

    In a La Niña event, the trade winds strengthen bringing more warm water to Australia and increasing our rainfall totals.

    El Niño. Image: US National Weather Service

    In an El Niño the trade winds weaken, so some of the warm water flows back toward the east towards the Americas. The relocating warm water takes some of the rainfall with it which is why on average Australia will have a dry year.

    In the Americas El Niño means increased rainfall, but it reduces the abundance of marine life. Typically the water in the eastern Pacific is cool but high in nutrients that flow up from the deep ocean. The warm waters that return with El Niño smother this upwelling.

    Have El Niño and La Niña always been around?

    El Niño and La Niña are a natural climate cycle. Records of El Niño and La Niña go back millions of years with evidence found in ice cores, deep sea cores, coral and tree rings.

    El Niño events were first recognised by Peruvian fisherman in the 19th century who noticed that warm water would sometimes arrive off the coast of South America around Christmas time.

    Because of the Christmas timing they called this phenomenon El Niño, meaning “boy child”, after Jesus. La Niña, being the opposite, is the “girl child”.

    Predicting El Niño and La Niña

    Being able to predict an El Niño event is a multi-million, possibly billion dollar question.

    The drought hit Wagga Wagga, NSW, in 2006. Image: Flickr / John Schilling, CC BY-NC-ND

    Reliably predicting an impending drought would allow for primary industries to take drought protective action and Australia to prepare for increased risk of dry, hot conditions and associated bushfires.

    Unfortunately each autumn we hit a “predictability barrier” which hinders our ability to predict if an El Niño might occur.

    In autumn the Pacific Ocean can sit in a state ready for an El Niño to occur, but there is no guarantee it will kick it off that year, or even the next.

    Nearly all El Niños are followed by a La Niña though, so we can have much more confidence in understanding the occurrence of these wet events.

    A variety of events

    Predictability would be even easier if all El Niños and La Niñas were the same, but of course they are not.

    Not only are the events different in the way they manifest in the ocean, but they also differ in the way they affect rainfall over Australia – and it’s not straightforward.

    The exceptionally strong El Niños of 1997 and 1982 have now been termed Super El Niños. In these events the trade winds weaken dramatically with the warm surface water heading right back over to South America.

    Recently a new type of El Niño has been recognised and is becoming more frequent.

    This new type of El Niño is often called an El Niño Modoki – Modoki being Japanese for “similar, but different”.

    In these events the warm water that is usually piled up near Australia heads eastward but only makes it as far as the central Pacific. El Niño Modoki occurred in 2002, 2004 and 2009.

    (a) Australian rainfall in 1998 La Niña (May 1998 to March 1999), (b) the 1997 Super El Niño (April 1997 to March 1998), © the 1982 Super El Niño (April 1982 to February 1983) and (d) the 2002 El Niño Modoki (March 2002 to January 2003). Image: (c) Bureau of Meteorology

    Australian rainfall is affected by all its surrounding oceans. El Niño in the Pacific is only one factor.

    As a general rule though, the average rainfall in eastern and southern Australia will be lower in an El Niño year and higher in a La Niña. The regions that will experience these changes and the strength are harder to pinpoint.

    El Niño and climate change

    It is not yet clear how climate change will affect El Niño and La Niña. The events may get stronger, they may get weaker or they may change their behaviour in different ways.

    Some research is suggesting that Super El Niños might become more frequent with climate change, while others are hypothesising that the recent increase in El Niño Modoki is due to climate change effects already having an impact.

    Because climate change in general may decrease rainfall over southern Australia and increase potential evaporation (due to higher temperatures) then it would be reasonable to expect that the drought induced by El Niño events will be exacerbated by climate change.

    Given that we are locked into at least a few degrees of warming over the coming century, it’s hard not to fear more drought and bushfires for Australia.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 7:27 am on August 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    From TUM: “Humus depletion induced by climate change?” 

    Techniche Universitat Munchen

    Techniche Universitat Munchen

    If the input of organic matter stagnates, soil will lose some of its humus in the long term. (Image: Fotolia)


    Dr. Martin Wiesmeier
    Phone: +49 8161 71 -3679

    Desk: Sabine Letz

    The yields of many important crops in Europe have been stagnating since the 1990s. As a result, the input of organic matter into the soil – the crucial source for humus formation – is decreasing. Scientists from the Technical University Munich (TUM) suspect that the humus stocks of arable soils are declining due to the influence of climate change. Humus, however, is a key factor for soil functionality, which is why this development poses a threat to agricultural production – and, moreover, in a worldwide context.

    In their study, which has been published in Science of the Total Environment (2015), scientists from the Technical University Munich (TUM) evaluated the crop yield statistics for EU countries compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) since the 1960s. The yields for the three most important cereal crops, wheat, barley, and corn, have been stagnating in Central and Northern Europe for 20 years. “The stagnation in yields has only been statistically verifiable for a few years,” explains Dr. Martin Wiesmeier from the TUM Chair of Soil Science in Freising-Weihenstephan and first author of the study. This finding coincides with those of other studies, which confirm that crop yields, particularly in the case of cereals, are falling throughout the world.

    “Due to the strong link between crop yields and the input of organic substances into the soil, the stagnation in yields must also have an impact on the humus stocks in the soil,” says TUM scientist Wiesmeier, “particularly in the context of the steady rise in temperatures.” Given that rising temperatures cause higher levels of humus decomposition while, at the same time, the supply of organic substances is stagnating, a depletion of humus must be expected in the long term.

    Climate change and changes in EU agricultural policy as possible causes?

    The cause of the yield stagnation has not yet been explained but is probably due to a variety of factors: “Following the introduction of new priorities with the joint EU agricultural policy of the 1990s, among other things, less fertilizer was used and leguminous plants were often omitted from crop rotation cycles,” explains Wiesmeier’s co-author Dr. Rico Hübner from the Chair for Strategic Landscape Planning and Management, also in Weihenstephan. “Few authors have discussed this as a reason for the stagnation in crop yields,” he notes.

    However, the changes in climatic conditions arising from climate change could represent a far more important factor here: i.e. temperatures that increasingly exceed the optimum level for plant growth, like those experienced this summer, shifts in the vegetation periods, and more frequent droughts. “This inevitably leads to stagnation in crop biomass production and reduced inputs of organic matter into the soil,” says Wiesmeier.

    Moreover, livestock numbers in Europe have also declined significantly since the 1980s. “The spreading of organic fertilizer, another important source of organic matter, is also falling as a result,” adds Wiesmeier.

    Early signs of a reduction in humus stocks due to the stagnating harvest yields can already be observed. Initial indications of humus depletion in arable soil have been observed in almost all EU countries in recent years.

    Interdisciplinary research group

    While many previous studies predicted a future increase in humus levels as a result of climate change, based on their current findings, the TUM scientists are critical of this assumption: If the input of organic matter stagnates, soil will lose some of its humus in the long term. “If this trend continues, it could have negative impacts on soil fertility and water storage capacity,” concludes TUM scientist Wiesmeier. “This, in turn, could ultimately result in poorer harvests – a vicious circle,” he adds.

    To counteract the problem, agriculture needs to make far greater use of positive measures for the promotion of humus formation. “These include the diversification of crop rotation, the application of green manure and winter greening to reduce soil erosion, optimized soil cultivation, organic farming, agroforestry, and leaving crop residues on fields,” explains Hübner. The study authors also consider that interdisciplinary research on the causes of yield stagnation and humus depletion is essential, “as a single discipline alone cannot solve this problem.”

    Martin Wiesmeier, Rico Hübner, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner: Stagnating crop yields: An overlooked risk for the carbon balance of agricultural soils? Science of the Total Environment, August 2015. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.07.064

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Techniche Universitat Munchin Campus

    Technische Universität München (TUM) is one of Europe’s top universities. It is committed to excellence in research and teaching, interdisciplinary education and the active promotion of promising young scientists. The university also forges strong links with companies and scientific institutions across the world. TUM was one of the first universities in Germany to be named a University of Excellence. Moreover, TUM regularly ranks among the best European universities in international rankings.

  • richardmitnick 3:24 pm on August 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , DKIST   

    From AURA: “The UK in DKIST” 

    AURA Icon
    Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

    UK Solar Physics

    August 17, 2015
    Lyndsay Fletcher University of Glasgow
    Mihalis Mathioudakis Queen’s University Belfast
    Erwin Verwichte University of Warwick
    On behalf of the UK DKIST consortium members.


    The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope [DKIST] is a 4m ground-based solar telescope currently under construction on the Haleakala mountain on the island of Maui, Hawai’i. It will be the largest solar telescope in the world by some way, with a diffraction limit a factor 3 smaller than that of any existing solar telescope. The UK has now joined the DKIST project, providing the cameras for four of the DKIST instruments. The UK DKIST consortium is financed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, 8 UK universities, and Andor Technology plc. This nugget gives an overview of the DKIST, the UK’s contribution, and the opportunities for all UK solar physicists to get involved.

    DKIST telescope

    The DKIST is led by the US National Solar Observatory (NSO) with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It will operate in the optical and near-infrared and will be the pre-eminent ground-based solar telescope for the foreseeable future. Its adaptive optics will enable diffraction-limited observations with a spatial resolution of 25 km, less than the photon scattering mean-free path in the photosphere — a fundamental physical scale in the visible. It is located at an altitude of 3,000 m on Haleakala, Hawaii, giving the very low scattered light necessary for coronal studies. The DKIST first light will be in 2019, and it will serve the solar physics community to 2050 and beyond.

    Fig 1: The main structural elements of the DKIST dome being installed; the basket on the crane gives an idea of the scale. Source NSO/DKIST.

    The DKIST’s main science goals are:

    What are the building blocks of solar magnetism?
    How is magnetic energy built up, released and transported in flares and CMEs?
    What is the origin of solar variability?

    The key advances in the DKIST’s first-light instruments, which will be used to address these questions, are ultra-high spatial resolution (25 km) and ultra-high time cadence (10’s of ms) imaging, high resolution photospheric and chromospheric imaging spectroscopy and vector magnetometry, plus infrared coronal magnetometry.

    Fig 2: The chromosphere in He 304 from AIA at 1.2″ resolution (right) and the same view in H-alpha from IBIS equipped with a ROSA camera (left) at 0.25″ spatial resolution (click for full resolution). The improvement in spatial resolution offered by DKIST will be about the same again. Image credit: Kevin Reardon PhD (NSO/QUB).

    As a highly sophisticated facility, DKIST will normally be operated in service mode by expert astronomers on behalf of the PIs of observing proposals – like a ‘spacecraft on the ground’. The telescope has five first-generation instruments: VBI -the Visible Broadband Imager; VTF – the Visible Tunable Filter; ViSP – the Visible Spectro-Polarimeter; DL-NIRSP -the Diffraction Limited Near Infra-Red Spectro-Polarimeter and Cryo-NIRSP the Cryogenic Near Infra-Red Spectro-Polarimeter. The first light instrument will be the VBI, for which the UK’s ROSA imager is the prototype. Light from the primary can be shared between the first four of the five listed instruments simultaneously, allowing enormous flexibility in operations and thus science investigations. The Cryo-NIRSP instrument focuses on diagnostics of the faint corona, and will observe by itself, taking advantage of an unobstructed aperture and best coronal seeing conditions. Full details of the instruments can be found here.

    The UK Consortium

    Fig 3: The UK DKIST consortium institutes

    The UK DKIST consortium is led by Queen’s University Belfast, and involves 7 other institutes (Armagh, Glasgow, MSSL, Northumbria, Sheffield, St. Andrews and Warwick). Finance for the consortium has been provided by the STFC, by the UK institutes involved, and Andor Technology plc who are investing internal resources in the camera development. The consortium will provide 9 identical cameras for four instruments on the DKIST, and in return the UK will have some guaranteed access time to the DKIST (in addition to competitively awarded open time). The consortium will also develop and implement aspects of the data analysis toolkit and help members of the UK community become involved with the DKIST science plan, and preparation of observations.

    How to get involved

    The UK DKIST consortium was formed for the benefit of the whole UK Solar Physics Community; it is not necessary to be working at one of the Consortium institutes to propose for observing time. However, the Consortium does aim to co-ordinate UK activities in DKIST, and to provide assistance with understanding the telescope, the instruments, and the process of preparing a proposal. There are two main ways that you can currently get involved;

    Contribute data processing, analysis or forward-modelling software (contact Erwin Verwichte)
    Contribute to the DKIST Critical Science Plan, and propose for observations (contact Lyndsay Fletcher)

    Some of the DKIST’s science topics are described in the science cases. The UK DKIST consortium will be adopting the process for developing DKIST proposals outlined in the critical science plan.

    The DKIST is an exciting new facility that will address many science questions of interest to the UK solar community. It will be able to work in co-ordination with ESA’s Solar Orbiter, though this will take very careful planning. We encourage the UK community to start developing their ideas for ground-breaking new science with the DKIST.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 2:59 pm on August 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    From NASA: “NASA’s New Horizons Team Selects Potential Kuiper Belt Flyby Target” 



    Aug. 28, 2015
    Editor: Tricia Talbert

    Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

    NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system.

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft
    New Horizons

    The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 (formerly labeled 1110113Y in the context of the Hubble Space Telescope, and 11 and PT1 in the context of the New Horizons mission) that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

    An annotated overlay of 5 Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 images of 2014 MU69 taken on June 24, 2014.

    Kuiper Belt

    This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team. Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

    “Even as the New Horizon’s spacecraft speeds away from Pluto out into the Kuiper Belt, and the data from the exciting encounter with this new world is being streamed back to Earth, we are looking outward to the next destination for this intrepid explorer,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and chief of the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “While discussions whether to approve this extended mission will take place in the larger context of the planetary science portfolio, we expect it to be much less expensive than the prime mission while still providing new and exciting science.”

    Like all NASA missions that have finished their main objective but seek to do more exploration, the New Horizons team must write a proposal to the agency to fund a KBO mission. That proposal – due in 2016 – will be evaluated by an independent team of experts before NASA can decide about the go-ahead.

    Early target selection was important; the team needs to direct New Horizons toward the object this year in order to perform any extended mission with healthy fuel margins. New Horizons will perform a series of four maneuvers in late October and early November to set its course toward 2014 MU69 – nicknamed “PT1” (for “Potential Target 1”) – which it expects to reach on January 1, 2019. Any delays from those dates would cost precious fuel and add mission risk.

    “2014 MU69 is a great choice because it is just the kind of ancient KBO, formed where it orbits now, that the Decadal Survey desired us to fly by,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “Moreover, this KBO costs less fuel to reach [than other candidate targets], leaving more fuel for the flyby, for ancillary science, and greater fuel reserves to protect against the unforeseen.”

    New Horizons was originally designed to fly beyond the Pluto system and explore additional Kuiper Belt objects. The spacecraft carries extra hydrazine fuel for a KBO flyby; its communications system is designed to work from far beyond Pluto; its power system is designed to operate for many more years; and its scientific instruments were designed to operate in light levels much lower than it will experience during the 2014 MU69 flyby.”

    The 2003 National Academy of Sciences’ Planetary Decadal Survey (“New Frontiers in the Solar System”) strongly recommended that the first mission to the Kuiper Belt include flybys of Pluto and small KBOs, in order to sample the diversity of objects in that previously unexplored region of the solar system. The identification of PT1, which is in a completely different class of KBO than Pluto, potentially allows New Horizons to satisfy those goals.

    But finding a suitable KBO flyby target was no easy task. Starting a search in 2011 using some of the largest ground-based telescopes on Earth, the New Horizons team found several dozen KBOs, but none were reachable within the fuel supply available aboard the spacecraft.

    The powerful Hubble Space Telescope came to the rescue in summer 2014, discovering five objects, since narrowed to two, within New Horizons’ flight path. Scientists estimate that PT1 is just under 30 miles (about 45 kilometers) across; that’s more than 10 times larger and 1,000 times more massive than typical comets, like the one the Rosetta mission is now orbiting, but only about 0.5 to 1 percent of the size (and about 1/10,000th the mass) of Pluto. As such, PT1 is thought to be like the building blocks of Kuiper Belt planets such as Pluto.

    Path of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft toward its next potential target, the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, nicknamed “PT1” (for “Potential Target 1”) by the New Horizons team. NASA must approve any New Horizons extended mission to explore a KBO. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

    Unlike asteroids, KBOs have been heated only slightly by the Sun, and are thought to represent a well preserved, deep-freeze sample of what the outer solar system was like following its birth 4.6 billion years ago.

    “There’s so much that we can learn from close-up spacecraft observations that we’ll never learn from Earth, as the Pluto flyby demonstrated so spectacularly,” said New Horizons science team member John Spencer, also of SwRI. “The detailed images and other data that New Horizons could obtain from a KBO flyby will revolutionize our understanding of the Kuiper Belt and KBOs.”

    The New Horizons spacecraft – currently 3 billion miles [4.9 billion kilometers] from Earth – is just starting to transmit the bulk of the images and other data, stored on its digital recorders, from its historic July encounter with the Pluto system. The spacecraft is healthy and operating normally.

    New Horizons is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. SwRI leads the science mission, payload operations, and encounter science planning.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 462 other followers

%d bloggers like this: