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  • richardmitnick 5:07 pm on January 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Research in Colorado mountains takes students’ environmental immersion to new heights", , , Bringing the research alive and painting a more holistic picture of what Earth processes are happening., , Communication of Science and Technology, , Earth Sciences, , Environmental Sciences, Environmental Sociology, , Glacial Geology, Glaciers are disappearing.,   

    From Vanderbilt University (US): “Research in Colorado mountains takes students’ environmental immersion to new heights” 

    Vanderbilt U Bloc

    From Vanderbilt University (US)

    Jan. 20, 2022
    Amy Wolf

    Research trip to Colorado takes students’ environmental immersion experience to new heights.

    Vanderbilt junior Callie Hilgenhurst and a dozen of her classmates took their research to a new immersive level, collecting soil and rock samples 9,000 feet up in the Sawatch Mountain Range of Colorado. Their work in the mountains and then in the lab helped show the movement of glaciers, ultimately giving clues about the impact of climate change.

    “This trip to Colorado was really incredible,” said Hilgenhurst, an Earth and environmental sciences major from Nashville. “Going out and being part of the scientific method—literally taking samples that we get to bring back to the lab—and experiencing the research on such a grand scale was awesome.”

    Students in the new Glacial Geology class. From left to right: Miquéla Thornton, Genna Chiaro, Sophia Wang, Courtney Howarth, Easton Maxey, Alex Xu, Kevin Chen, behind him is Ellie Miller, and to the right of her is Estelle Shaya, and Bryce Belanger; on the bottom is Rachel Brewer, Callie Hilgenhurst and Kristin Sequeira.

    The immersive trip was part of a new class in the College of Arts and Science called Glacial Geology.

    “It’s designed to help students think about the landforms and landscapes that glaciers create and leave behind,” said Dan Morgan, associate dean in the College of Arts and Science and principal senior lecturer in Earth and environmental sciences. “Then we analyze what drives those advances and retreats in glaciers and put that in the context of global climate change.”


    Many of the students in the class said making an impact on climate change is crucial. That’s why faculty designed the class with only one prerequisite, allowing students with diverse majors to take the course.

    “Fighting climate change is very big in my heart, and it’s really important that we do everything we can to maintain the 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming as much as we can. I also took the class because I know that glacial geology isn’t always going to be around in the future because glaciers are disappearing,” Hilgenhurst said.

    Fellow student Ellie Miller has dedicated a great amount of energy to Earth sciences as a triple major in Earth and environmental sciences, environmental sociology and communication of science and technology. She jumped at the chance to gather data in the field and learn more about glacial environments.

    “I was so ready to get my hands dirty and actually see where my samples are coming from—and then carry that all back to the lab and be able to run procedures,” said the Olathe, Kansas, resident. “Being able to see the connection between our field site and the data that we’re producing here at Vanderbilt brings the research alive and paints a more holistic picture of what Earth processes are happening.”

    This trip was Miquéla Thornton’s first experience out west. The communication of science and technology and creative writing double major from Richton Park, Illinois, said she loved observing her fellow students and then writing about the experience.

    “In my time at Vanderbilt, I’ve taken both environmental science and psychology classes, which really sparked an interest in science writing because everyone needs to understand what’s going on with climate change and what’s happening with our Earth,” she said.

    Dan Morgan (far right) teaches as part of his Glacial Geology class during an immersive trip in Colorado.


    Morgan, who has led Vanderbilt undergraduates on expeditions to places as remote as Antarctica, said bringing students into the field is invaluable in connecting them to the research.

    “This is something that’s fun and makes Vanderbilt a really special place because we’re educating and expanding the living-learning experience all the way to this mountain.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was in his 79th year when he decided to make the gift that founded Vanderbilt University (US) in the spring of 1873.
    The $1 million that he gave to endow and build the university was the commodore’s only major philanthropy. Methodist Bishop Holland N. McTyeire of Nashville, husband of Amelia Townsend who was a cousin of the commodore’s young second wife Frank Crawford, went to New York for medical treatment early in 1873 and spent time recovering in the Vanderbilt mansion. He won the commodore’s admiration and support for the project of building a university in the South that would “contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country.”

    McTyeire chose the site for the campus, supervised the construction of buildings and personally planted many of the trees that today make Vanderbilt a national arboretum. At the outset, the university consisted of one Main Building (now Kirkland Hall), an astronomical observatory and houses for professors. Landon C. Garland was Vanderbilt’s first chancellor, serving from 1875 to 1893. He advised McTyeire in selecting the faculty, arranged the curriculum and set the policies of the university.

    For the first 40 years of its existence, Vanderbilt was under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Vanderbilt Board of Trust severed its ties with the church in June 1914 as a result of a dispute with the bishops over who would appoint university trustees.

    From the outset, Vanderbilt met two definitions of a university: It offered work in the liberal arts and sciences beyond the baccalaureate degree and it embraced several professional schools in addition to its college. James H. Kirkland, the longest serving chancellor in university history (1893-1937), followed Chancellor Garland. He guided Vanderbilt to rebuild after a fire in 1905 that consumed the main building, which was renamed in Kirkland’s honor, and all its contents. He also navigated the university through the separation from the Methodist Church. Notable advances in graduate studies were made under the third chancellor, Oliver Cromwell Carmichael (1937-46). He also created the Joint University Library, brought about by a coalition of Vanderbilt, Peabody College and Scarritt College.

    Remarkable continuity has characterized the government of Vanderbilt. The original charter, issued in 1872, was amended in 1873 to make the legal name of the corporation “The Vanderbilt University.” The charter has not been altered since.

    The university is self-governing under a Board of Trust that, since the beginning, has elected its own members and officers. The university’s general government is vested in the Board of Trust. The immediate government of the university is committed to the chancellor, who is elected by the Board of Trust.

    The original Vanderbilt campus consisted of 75 acres. By 1960, the campus had spread to about 260 acres of land. When George Peabody College for Teachers merged with Vanderbilt in 1979, about 53 acres were added.

    Vanderbilt’s student enrollment tended to double itself each 25 years during the first century of the university’s history: 307 in the fall of 1875; 754 in 1900; 1,377 in 1925; 3,529 in 1950; 7,034 in 1975. In the fall of 1999 the enrollment was 10,127.

    In the planning of Vanderbilt, the assumption seemed to be that it would be an all-male institution. Yet the board never enacted rules prohibiting women. At least one woman attended Vanderbilt classes every year from 1875 on. Most came to classes by courtesy of professors or as special or irregular (non-degree) students. From 1892 to 1901 women at Vanderbilt gained full legal equality except in one respect — access to dorms. In 1894 the faculty and board allowed women to compete for academic prizes. By 1897, four or five women entered with each freshman class. By 1913 the student body contained 78 women, or just more than 20 percent of the academic enrollment.

    National recognition of the university’s status came in 1949 with election of Vanderbilt to membership in the select Association of American Universities (US). In the 1950s Vanderbilt began to outgrow its provincial roots and to measure its achievements by national standards under the leadership of Chancellor Harvie Branscomb. By its 90th anniversary in 1963, Vanderbilt for the first time ranked in the top 20 private universities in the United States.

    Vanderbilt continued to excel in research, and the number of university buildings more than doubled under the leadership of Chancellors Alexander Heard (1963-1982) and Joe B. Wyatt (1982-2000), only the fifth and sixth chancellors in Vanderbilt’s long and distinguished history. Heard added three schools (Blair, the Owen Graduate School of Management and Peabody College) to the seven already existing and constructed three dozen buildings. During Wyatt’s tenure, Vanderbilt acquired or built one-third of the campus buildings and made great strides in diversity, volunteerism and technology.

    The university grew and changed significantly under its seventh chancellor, Gordon Gee, who served from 2000 to 2007. Vanderbilt led the country in the rate of growth for academic research funding, which increased to more than $450 million and became one of the most selective undergraduate institutions in the country.

    On March 1, 2008, Nicholas S. Zeppos was named Vanderbilt’s eighth chancellor after serving as interim chancellor beginning Aug. 1, 2007. Prior to that, he spent 2002-2008 as Vanderbilt’s provost, overseeing undergraduate, graduate and professional education programs as well as development, alumni relations and research efforts in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education, business, law and divinity. He first came to Vanderbilt in 1987 as an assistant professor in the law school. In his first five years, Zeppos led the university through the most challenging economic times since the Great Depression, while continuing to attract the best students and faculty from across the country and around the world. Vanderbilt got through the economic crisis notably less scathed than many of its peers and began and remained committed to its much-praised enhanced financial aid policy for all undergraduates during the same timespan. The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons for first-year students opened in 2008 and College Halls, the next phase in the residential education system at Vanderbilt, is on track to open in the fall of 2014. During Zeppos’ first five years, Vanderbilt has drawn robust support from federal funding agencies, and the Medical Center entered into agreements with regional hospitals and health care systems in middle and east Tennessee that will bring Vanderbilt care to patients across the state.

    Today, Vanderbilt University is a private research university of about 6,500 undergraduates and 5,300 graduate and professional students. The university comprises 10 schools, a public policy center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education and human development as well as a full range of graduate and professional degrees. The university is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top 20 universities by publications such as U.S. News & World Report, with several programs and disciplines ranking in the top 10.

    Cutting-edge research and liberal arts, combined with strong ties to a distinguished medical center, creates an invigorating atmosphere where students tailor their education to meet their goals and researchers collaborate to solve complex questions affecting our health, culture and society.

    Vanderbilt, an independent, privately supported university, and the separate, non-profit Vanderbilt University Medical Center share a respected name and enjoy close collaboration through education and research. Together, the number of people employed by these two organizations exceeds that of the largest private employer in the Middle Tennessee region.

  • richardmitnick 10:44 am on November 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "To advance geothermal systems EGS Collab maps the hidden fractures behind a wall of rock", A series of sensors called wireline geophysical logs, After examining both the core and the void it left behind researchers combine the information to get a more complete picture of their testbed., Before natural fractures can be propped open however researchers first must locate them., Earth Sciences, EGS Collab is investigating ways to maximize the usefulness of natural fractures that exist in rock formations., Geothermal energy extraction requires three things: hot rock; permeable pathways through the rock; and fluid to extract the heat., Researchers drilled nine boreholes which will be used later in the experiment to stimulate and monitor the rock’s response to hydraulic shearing., SURF’s Core Archive: a library of rock samples collected over several decades from underground., The 4100 Level of Sanford Underground Research Facility, The EGS Collaboration is contributing to the nationwide goal of extracting clean renewable energy from the ground beneath our feet., The Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Collaboration, The information EGS Collab gathers will has real-world applications beyond the 4100 Level., , Turning the rocks inside-out   

    From The Sanford Underground Research Facility-SURF (US): “To advance geothermal systems EGS Collab maps the hidden fractures behind a wall of rock” 

    SURF-Sanford Underground Research Facility, Lead, South Dakota, USA.

    From The Sanford Underground Research Facility-SURF (US)

    Homestake Mining, Lead, South Dakota, USA.
    Homestake Mining Company

    November 29, 2021
    Erin Lorraine Broberg

    In 2021, the EGS Collaboration began outfitting a drift on the 4100 Level of Sanford Underground Research Facility for geothermal research. Photo by Adam Gomez.

    Picture this: you’re standing in a drift, 4,100 feet below the Black Hills of South Dakota. Wrinkled rock arches over you. At first, the rock appears gray and featureless. But as you peer through the net-like metal mesh of ground support, you notice something interesting: a thick stripe of white quartz then faint, hairlike veins swirling like loose cursive against the dark, amphibolite rock.

    The drift you’re imagining is a research testbed on the 4100 Level of Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) and home base for The Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Collaboration, a research group interested in extracting renewable energy from Earth’s deep, hot rocks.

    “Geothermal energy extraction requires three things: hot rock; permeable pathways through the rock; and fluid to extract the heat,” said Tim Kneafsey, a staff earth scientist at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) who leads the EGS Collaboration research group. “Hot rock is an abundant resource in the U.S., but it is often missing open pathways that allow you to extract the heat.”

    Because pathways are often the limiting factor in geothermal systems, EGS Collaboration is investigating ways to maximize the usefulness of natural fractures that exist in rock formations.

    While rock on the 4100 Level isn’t hot, it gives the EGS Collaboration a place to test a method called “hydraulic shearing” to open, or stimulate, a matrix of preexisting natural fractures in their testbed.

    “By opening them and causing them to shift slightly, the roughness of the fractures keeps them propped open,” Kneafsey said. “This self-propping allows water to flow through and–in hot rock environments–transfer heat.”

    Before natural fractures can be propped open however researchers first must locate them.

    A library of rock

    At their testbed on the 4100 Level of SURF, researchers drilled nine boreholes which will be used later in the experiment to stimulate and monitor the rock’s response to hydraulic shearing.

    The boreholes, which measure four inches in diameter, vary in depth, the shallowest measuring 180 feet and the deepest measuring 265 feet.. When the rock, or core, is removed from these boreholes, it is carefully boxed and delivered to SURF’s Core Archive, a library of rock samples collected over several decades from underground.

    The Core Archive was originally created by the geologists at Homestake Gold Mine. The core samples allowed them to probe the boundaries of gold, silver and copper ore bodies throughout the mine.

    Earth scientists, however, are more interested in fractures than precious metals.

    Megan Smith, an Earth scientist at The DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Bill Roggenthen, a research scientist at The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology(US), laid out the recently drilled core samples, each representing the length of one borehole.

    Megan Smith, an Earth scientist at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), examines recently drilled core samples. Each column represents the length of one borehole. Photo by Adam Gomez.

    On the surface, Smith and Roggenthen spent two days meticulously inspecting more than 1,000 feet of core, seeking natural fractures in the rock. Optimally, they look for fractures that span the length of the testbed, cutting through several boreholes that could be propped open using the hydraulic shearing technique.

    It wasn’t an easy task.

    “The vast majority of the breaks are from the drilling process, and we are looking for the ones that aren’t. And that’s a difficult interpretation,” said Smith. “The drilling process will break rocks along weaker planes, right where natural fractures might be, too. When the breaks are perpendicular through the core sample, we can tell that the drilling process caused that break. But if there’s a break that follows along a mineralized zone, that’s something we have to pay more attention to.”

    When cracks run perpendicular through the core samples, researchers can assume those breaks were created during the drilling process. Those breaks are ruled out as researchers search for patterns of natural fractures in the rock formation. Photo by Adam Gomez.

    Turning the rocks inside-out

    Back underground, other researchers use the now-vacant boreholes to further probe their testbed. Lowering a series of sensors called wireline geophysical logs, into the borehole, researchers explore the rock formation from the inside-out.

    Researchers with the EGS Collaboration perform “logs” of the boreholes, gathering data to create a clear picture of the rock formations they will study. Photo courtesy Timothy Kneafsey.

    Perhaps the most straightforward of these sensors is called an “optical log,” which takes images from inside the borehole. These high-resolution images offer a 360-degree view of the borehole. The optical log alone, however, yields limited information.

    “The rock is nearly black in some areas, and when you have a dark, shadowed fracture in a section of dark rock, all you get is a dark image, which doesn’t tell us much,” said Jeff Burghardt, lead geomechanic at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

    Other wireline logs can complete the picture. The “acoustic log,” for example, uses ultrasonic frequencies to map the borehole.

    “We are making a series of snaps—short, sharp sounds—that reflect off of different materials in the borehole,” said Paul Schwering, senior geoscientist at Sandia National Laboratories. “If the snap hits solid rock, it will reflect really fast. But it it’s softer rock or if it’s been gouged out, then that response slows down.”

    These reflected acoustic signals can flag fractures the optical log cannot.

    The list of wireline logs continues—and gets increasingly complex. The logs take measurements of geomechanical properties; monitor fluid and temperature conductivity; and even test electrical conductivity that yield insights into permeability, porosity and water quality. Using these tests, the researchers can infer information about the routes water takes as it flows through the rock.

    Data from the wireline geophysical logs is represented on a computer screen. Photo by Adam Gomez.

    Completing the map

    After examining both the core and the void it left behind researchers combine the information to get a more complete picture of their testbed.

    “If we see something promising when we evaluate the core, we can correlate it to the wireline logs that were performed after the cores were drilled,” Smith said. If they see a correlation, they can be relatively certain of a fracture in that location.

    If a specific section of core is promising, they use photography of the core to render a 3D model of that section.

    “With the 3D model, we can rotate the core, move it around and even orient it back into the borehole, the way it was originally oriented, and measure directions and angles from that core very easily,” said Roggenthen.

    A 3D model of a core sample is examined on a computer screen. GIF courtesy Timothy Kneafsey.

    The challenge

    Having mapped the invisible landscape behind a wall of rock, what have researchers learned?

    “These wells are what we would call very ‘tight,’ meaning they hold the water very well. The hydraulic permeability—how well water can flow through rock—is very, very low in most of these wells,” Burghardt said. “The challenge before us is to enhance the permeability of this testbed.”

    To test hydraulic shearing techniques, the EGS Collaboration will need to zero in on the few fractures that were located.

    The boreholes will be outfitted with equipment that stimulates the rock with pressurized water, opening and propping the fractures, in an attempt to create an interconnected network. All the while, researchers will closely monitor changes in the rock and water flow between boreholes.

    The information EGS Collaboration gathers will has real-world applications beyond the 4100 Level.

    Every byte of data will inform expansive field experiments, like the Department of Energy’s FORGE laboratory in Milford, Utah. This field laboratory hopes to develop techniques that will enable powering 100 million American homes through geothermal energy.

    “Getting EGS [Enhanced Geothermal Systems] demonstrations all the way through to commercialization and understanding how geothermal energy can be used to produce electricity—that’s the bottom line,” said Hunter Knox, a geophysicist at PNNL.

    By mapping, stimulating and monitoring the subsurface at SURF, the EGS Collaboration is contributing to the nationwide goal of extracting clean renewable energy from the ground beneath our feet.

    The EGS Collaboration includes researchers from ten national labs—DOE’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (US); DOE’s Sandia National Laboratory (US); DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (US); DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (US); DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (US), DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (US); DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (US); DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (US); DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory (US); and DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US); and seven universities— The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (US); Stanford University (US); The University of Wisconsin (US); The University of Oklahoma (US); The Colorado School of Mines (US) The Pennsylvania State University (US); Rice University (US), and The Texas A&M University (US).

    This EGS Collaboration Project is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Geothermal Technologies Office; part of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About us: The Sanford Underground Research Facility-SURF (US) in Lead, South Dakota advances our understanding of the universe by providing laboratory space deep underground, where sensitive physics experiments can be shielded from cosmic radiation. Researchers at the Sanford Lab explore some of the most challenging questions facing 21st century physics, such as the origin of matter, the nature of dark matter and the properties of neutrinos. The facility also hosts experiments in other disciplines—including geology, biology and engineering.

    The Sanford Lab is located at the former Homestake gold mine, which was a physics landmark long before being converted into a dedicated science facility. Nuclear chemist Ray Davis earned a share of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2002 for a solar neutrino experiment he installed 4,850 feet underground in the mine.

    Homestake closed in 2003, but the company donated the property to South Dakota in 2006 for use as an underground laboratory. That same year, philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated $70 million to the project. The South Dakota Legislature also created the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to operate the lab. The state Legislature has committed more than $40 million in state funds to the project, and South Dakota also obtained a $10 million Community Development Block Grant to help rehabilitate the facility.

    In 2007, after the National Science Foundation named Homestake as the preferred site for a proposed national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) began reopening the former gold mine.

    In December 2010, the National Science Board decided not to fund further design of DUSEL. However, in 2011 the Department of Energy, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agreed to support ongoing science operations at Sanford Lab, while investigating how to use the underground research facility for other longer-term experiments. The SDSTA, which owns Sanford Lab, continues to operate the facility under that agreement with Berkeley Lab.

    The first two major physics experiments at the Sanford Lab are 4,850 feet underground in an area called the Davis Campus, named for the late Ray Davis. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment is housed in the same cavern excavated for Ray Davis’s experiment in the 1960s.

    The LBNL LZ Dark Matter Experiment (US) Dark Matter project at SURF > , Lead, SD, USA </a.

    In October 2013, after an initial run of 80 days, LUX was determined to be the most sensitive detector yet to search for dark matter—a mysterious, yet-to-be-detected substance thought to be the most prevalent matter in the universe.

    The U Washington MAJORANA Neutrinoless Double-beta Decay Experiment Demonstrator experiment (US), also on the 4850 Level, is searching for a rare phenomenon called “neutrinoless double-beta decay” that could reveal whether subatomic particles called neutrinos can be their own antiparticle. Detection of neutrinoless double-beta decay could help determine why matter prevailed over antimatter. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment is adjacent to the original Davis cavern.

    The LUX Xenon dark matter detector | Sanford Underground Research Facility mission was to scour the universe for WIMPs, vetoing all other signatures. It would continue to do just that for another three years before it was decommissioned in 2016.

    In the midst of the excitement over first results, the LUX collaboration was already casting its gaze forward. Planning for a next-generation dark matter experiment at Sanford Lab was already under way. Named LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), the next-generation experiment would increase the sensitivity of LUX 100 times.

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory(US) physicist Tom Shutt, a previous co-spokesperson for LUX, said one goal of the experiment was to figure out how to build an even larger detector.

    “LZ will be a thousand times more sensitive than the LUX detector,” Shutt said. “It will just begin to see an irreducible background of neutrinos that may ultimately set the limit to our ability to measure dark matter.”

    We celebrate five years of LUX, and look into the steps being taken toward the much larger and far more sensitive experiment.

    Another major experiment, the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE)—a collaboration with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and Sanford Lab, is in the preliminary design stages. The project got a major boost last year when Congress approved and the president signed an Omnibus Appropriations bill that will fund LBNE operations through FY 2014. Called the “next frontier of particle physics,” LBNE will follow neutrinos as they travel 800 miles through the earth, from FermiLab in Batavia, Ill., to Sanford Lab.

    FNAL DUNE LBNF (US) from FNAL to SURF >, Lead, South Dakota, USA

    FNAL DUNE LBNF (US) Caverns at Sanford Lab.

    U Washington MAJORANA Neutrinoless Double-beta Decay Experiment (US) at SURF.

    The MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR will contain 40 kg of germanium; up to 30 kg will be enriched to 86% in 76Ge. The DEMONSTRATOR will be deployed deep underground in an ultra-low-background shielded environment in the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, SD. The goal of the DEMONSTRATOR is to determine whether a future 1-tonne experiment can achieve a background goal of one count per tonne-year in a 4-keV region of interest around the 76Ge 0νββ Q-value at 2039 keV. MAJORANA plans to collaborate with Germanium Detector Array (or GERDA) experiment is searching for neutrinoless double beta decay (0νββ) in Ge-76 at the underground Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS) for a future tonne-scale 76Ge 0νββ search.

    Compact Accelerator System for Performing Astrophysical Research (CASPAR). Credit: Nick Hubbard.

    Compact Accelerator System for Performing Astrophysical Research (CASPAR). Credit: Nick Hubbard.

    CASPAR is a low-energy particle accelerator that allows researchers to study processes that take place inside collapsing stars.

    The scientists are using space in the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, South Dakota, to work on a project called the Compact Accelerator System for Performing Astrophysical Research (CASPAR). CASPAR uses a low-energy particle accelerator that will allow researchers to mimic nuclear fusion reactions in stars. If successful, their findings could help complete our picture of how the elements in our universe are built. “Nuclear astrophysics is about what goes on inside the star, not outside of it,” said Dan Robertson, a Notre Dame assistant research professor of astrophysics working on CASPAR. “It is not observational, but experimental. The idea is to reproduce the stellar environment, to reproduce the reactions within a star.”

  • richardmitnick 9:17 am on August 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "From detecting earthquakes to preventing disease- 27 U of T research projects receive CFI funding", Aerospace Studies and Engineering, , Baby Brain and Behaviour, , Cellular and Biomolecular Research, Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, Civil and Mineral engineering, Dynamic Emotional Behavior, Earth Sciences, Macromolecular bioelectronics encoded for self-assembly, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, Medical Biophysics and Cancer studies, Multi-organ repair and regeneration after lung injury, Nutritional sciences, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Radiation Oncology, Stem cell models, , Sustainable Water Management and Resource Recovery, Targeted brain tumour therapies,   

    From University of Toronto (CA) : “From detecting earthquakes to preventing disease- 27 U of T research projects receive CFI funding” 

    From University of Toronto (CA)

    August 12, 2021
    Tyler Irving

    In a U of T Engineering lab, rock samples are subjected to the stress, fluid pressure and temperature conditions they experience in nature. Photo courtesy of Sebastian Goodfellow.

    Sebastian Goodfellow, a researcher at the University of Toronto (CA), listens for hidden signals that the ground is about to move beneath our feet.

    That includes so-called “induced” earthquakes that stem from human activities such as hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) and enhanced geothermal systems.

    “Think of the cracking sounds a cube of ice makes when you drop it in a cup of warm water, or the sound a wooden stick makes when you bend it until it breaks,” says Goodfellow, an assistant professor in the department of civil and mineral engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

    “This occurs as a consequence of sudden localized changes in stress, and we study these microfracture sounds in the lab to understand how rock responds to changes in stress, fluid pressure and temperature.”

    While the frequency of these sonic clues is beyond the range of human hearing, they can be picked up with acoustic emission sensors. The challenge, however, is that scientists must listen continuously for hours in the absence of a method to predict when they will occur.

    “We’re talking about more than a terabyte of data per hour,” says Goodfellow. “We use a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning to extract patterns from these large waveform datasets.”

    Goodfellow’s study of induced seismicity project is one of 27 at U of T – and nine from U of T Engineering – to share more than $8.2 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (Read the full list of researchers and their projects).

    Named for the late U of T President Emeritus John R. Evans, the fund equips university researchers with the technology and infrastructure they need to remain at the forefront of innovation in Canada and globally. It also helps Canadian universities attract top researchers from around the world.

    “From sustainable electric transportation and engineering of novel materials to non-invasive neuro-imaging and applications of AI in public health, U of T researchers across our three campuses are advancing some of the most important discoveries of our time,” said Leah Cowen, U of T’s associate vice-president, research.

    “Addressing such complex challenges often requires cutting-edge technology, equipment and facilities. The support provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation will go a long way towards enabling our researchers’ important work.”

    Goodfellow’s team will use the funding to buy a triaxial geophysical imaging cell fitted with acoustic emissions sensors as well as hardware for high-frequency acquisition of acoustic emissions data. The equipment will enable them to carry out controlled experiments in the lab, test better algorithms and develop new techniques to turn the data into insights – all to better understand processes that lead to induced earthquakes.

    By learning more about how these tiny cracks and pops are related to larger seismic events such as earthquakes, the team hopes to help professionals in a wide range of sectors make better decisions. That includes industries that employ underground injection technologies – geothermal power, hydraulic fracturing and carbon sequestration, among others – along with the bodies charged with regulating them.

    “Up until now, our poor understanding of the causal links between fluid injection and large, induced earthquakes limited the economic development of these industries,” says Goodfellow.

    “Our research will help mitigate the human and environmental impacts, leading to new economic growth opportunities for Canada.”


    Here is the full list of 27 U of T researchers who received support for their projects:

    Cristina Amon, department of mechanical & industrial engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering: Enabling sustainable e-mobility through intelligent thermal management systems for EVs and charging infrastructure.

    Jacqueline Beaudry, department of nutritional sciences in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Lunenfeld-Tannenbaum Research Institute at Sinai Health: Role of pancreatic and gut hormones in energy metabolism.

    Swetaprovo Chaudhuri, U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering: Kinetics-transport interaction towards deposition of carbon particulates in meso-channel supercritical fuel flows.

    Mark Currie, department of cell and systems biology in Faculty of Arts & Science: Structural Biology Laboratory.

    Marcus Dillon, department of biology at U of T Mississauga: The evolutionary genomics of infectious phytopathogen emergence.

    Landon Edgar, department of pharmacology and toxicology in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine: Technologies to interrogate and control carbohydrate-mediated immunity.

    Gregory Fairn, department of biochemistry in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and St. Michael’s Hospital: Advanced live cell imaging and isothermal calorimetry for the study immune cell dysfunction and inflammation.

    Kevin Golovin, department of mechanical and industrial engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering: Durable Low Ice Adhesion Coatings Laboratory.

    Sebastian Goodfellow, department of civil and mineral engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering: A study of induced seismicity through novel triaxial experiments and data analysis methodologies.

    Giovanni Grasselli, department of civil and mineral engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering: Towards the sustainable development of energy resources – fundamentals and implications of hydraulic fracturing technology.

    Kristin Hope, department of medical biophysics in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network: Characterizing and unlocking the therapeutic potential of stem cells and the leukemic microenvironment.

    Elizabeth Johnson, department of psychology at U of T Mississauga: Baby Brain and Behaviour Lab (BaBBL) – electrophysiological measures of infant speech and language development.

    Omar Khan, Institute of Biomedical Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and department of immunology in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine: Combination ribonucleic acid treatment technology lab.

    Marianne Koritzinsky, department of radiation oncology in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network: Targeted therapeutics to enhance radiotherapy efficacy and safety in the era of image-guided conformal treatment.

    Christopher Lawson, department of chemical engineering & applied chemistry in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering: The Microbiome Engineering Laboratory for Resource Recovery.

    Fa-Hsuan Lin, department of medical biophysics in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Sunnybrook Research Institute: Integrated non-invasive human neuroimaging and neuromodulation platform.

    Vasanti Malik, department of nutritional sciences in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine: Child obesity and metabolic health in pregnancy – a novel approach to chronic disease prevention and planetary health.

    Rafael Montenegro-Burke, Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and department of molecular genetics in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine: Mapping the dark metabolome using click chemistry tools.

    Robert Rozeske, department of psychology at U of T Scarborough: Neuronal mechanisms of dynamic emotional behavior.

    Karun Singh, department of laboratory medicine and pathobiology in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network: Stem cell models to investigate brain function in development and disease.

    Corliss Kin I Sio, department of Earth sciences in the Faculty of Arts & Science: Constraining source compositions and timescales of mass transport using femtosecond LA-MC-ICPMS.

    Helen Tran, department of chemistry in the Faculty of Arts & Science: Macromolecular bioelectronics encoded for self-assembly, degradability and electron transport.

    Andrea Tricco, Dalla Lana School of Public Health: Expediting knowledge synthesis using artificial intelligence – CAL®-Synthesi.SR Dashboard.

    Jay Werber, department of chemical engineering and applied chemistry in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering: The Advanced Membranes (AM) Laboratory for Sustainable Water Management and Resource Recovery.

    Haibo Zhang, department of physiology in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and St. Michael’s Hospital: Real time high-resolution imaging and cell sorting for studying multi-organ repair and regeneration after lung injury.

    Gang Zheng, department of medical biophysics in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network: Preclinical magnetic resonance imaging for targeted brain tumour therapies.

    Shurui Zhou, department of electrical and computer engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering: Improving collaboration efficiency for fork-based software development.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Toronto (CA) is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, located on the grounds that surround Queen’s Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King’s College, the oldest university in the province of Ontario.

    Originally controlled by the Church of England, the university assumed its present name in 1850 upon becoming a secular institution.

    As a collegiate university, it comprises eleven colleges each with substantial autonomy on financial and institutional affairs and significant differences in character and history. The university also operates two satellite campuses located in Scarborough and Mississauga.

    University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

    Academically, the University of Toronto is noted for movements and curricula in literary criticism and communication theory, known collectively as the Toronto School.

    The university was the birthplace of insulin and stem cell research, and was the site of the first electron microscope in North America; the identification of the first black hole Cygnus X-1; multi-touch technology, and the development of the theory of NP-completeness.

    The university was one of several universities involved in early research of deep learning. It receives the most annual scientific research funding of any Canadian university and is one of two members of the Association of American Universities (US) outside the United States, the other being McGill(CA).

    The Varsity Blues are the athletic teams that represent the university in intercollegiate league matches, with ties to gridiron football, rowing and ice hockey. The earliest recorded instance of gridiron football occurred at University of Toronto’s University College in November 1861.

    The university’s Hart House is an early example of the North American student centre, simultaneously serving cultural, intellectual, and recreational interests within its large Gothic-revival complex.

    The University of Toronto has educated three Governors General of Canada, four Prime Ministers of Canada, three foreign leaders, and fourteen Justices of the Supreme Court. As of March 2019, ten Nobel laureates, five Turing Award winners, 94 Rhodes Scholars, and one Fields Medalist have been affiliated with the university.

    Early history

    The founding of a colonial college had long been the desire of John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and founder of York, the colonial capital. As an University of Oxford (UK)-educated military commander who had fought in the American Revolutionary War, Simcoe believed a college was needed to counter the spread of republicanism from the United States. The Upper Canada Executive Committee recommended in 1798 that a college be established in York.

    On March 15, 1827, a royal charter was formally issued by King George IV, proclaiming “from this time one College, with the style and privileges of a University … for the education of youth in the principles of the Christian Religion, and for their instruction in the various branches of Science and Literature … to continue for ever, to be called King’s College.” The granting of the charter was largely the result of intense lobbying by John Strachan, the influential Anglican Bishop of Toronto who took office as the college’s first president. The original three-storey Greek Revival school building was built on the present site of Queen’s Park.

    Under Strachan’s stewardship, King’s College was a religious institution closely aligned with the Church of England and the British colonial elite, known as the Family Compact. Reformist politicians opposed the clergy’s control over colonial institutions and fought to have the college secularized. In 1849, after a lengthy and heated debate, the newly elected responsible government of the Province of Canada voted to rename King’s College as the University of Toronto and severed the school’s ties with the church. Having anticipated this decision, the enraged Strachan had resigned a year earlier to open Trinity College as a private Anglican seminary. University College was created as the nondenominational teaching branch of the University of Toronto. During the American Civil War the threat of Union blockade on British North America prompted the creation of the University Rifle Corps which saw battle in resisting the Fenian raids on the Niagara border in 1866. The Corps was part of the Reserve Militia lead by Professor Henry Croft.

    Established in 1878, the School of Practical Science was the precursor to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering which has been nicknamed Skule since its earliest days. While the Faculty of Medicine opened in 1843 medical teaching was conducted by proprietary schools from 1853 until 1887 when the faculty absorbed the Toronto School of Medicine. Meanwhile the university continued to set examinations and confer medical degrees. The university opened the Faculty of Law in 1887, followed by the Faculty of Dentistry in 1888 when the Royal College of Dental Surgeons became an affiliate. Women were first admitted to the university in 1884.

    A devastating fire in 1890 gutted the interior of University College and destroyed 33,000 volumes from the library but the university restored the building and replenished its library within two years. Over the next two decades a collegiate system took shape as the university arranged federation with several ecclesiastical colleges including Strachan’s Trinity College in 1904. The university operated the Royal Conservatory of Music from 1896 to 1991 and the Royal Ontario Museum from 1912 to 1968; both still retain close ties with the university as independent institutions. The University of Toronto Press was founded in 1901 as Canada’s first academic publishing house. The Faculty of Forestry founded in 1907 with Bernhard Fernow as dean was Canada’s first university faculty devoted to forest science. In 1910, the Faculty of Education opened its laboratory school, the University of Toronto Schools.

    World wars and post-war years

    The First and Second World Wars curtailed some university activities as undergraduate and graduate men eagerly enlisted. Intercollegiate athletic competitions and the Hart House Debates were suspended although exhibition and interfaculty games were still held. The David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill opened in 1935 followed by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies in 1949. The university opened satellite campuses in Scarborough in 1964 and in Mississauga in 1967. The university’s former affiliated schools at the Ontario Agricultural College and Glendon Hall became fully independent of the University of Toronto and became part of University of Guelph (CA) in 1964 and York University (CA) in 1965 respectively. Beginning in the 1980s reductions in government funding prompted more rigorous fundraising efforts.

    Since 2000

    In 2000 Kin-Yip Chun was reinstated as a professor of the university after he launched an unsuccessful lawsuit against the university alleging racial discrimination. In 2017 a human rights application was filed against the University by one of its students for allegedly delaying the investigation of sexual assault and being dismissive of their concerns. In 2018 the university cleared one of its professors of allegations of discrimination and antisemitism in an internal investigation after a complaint was filed by one of its students.

    The University of Toronto was the first Canadian university to amass a financial endowment greater than c. $1 billion in 2007. On September 24, 2020 the university announced a $250 million gift to the Faculty of Medicine from businessman and philanthropist James C. Temerty- the largest single philanthropic donation in Canadian history. This broke the previous record for the school set in 2019 when Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman jointly donated $100 million for the creation of a 750,000-square foot innovation and artificial intelligence centre.


    Since 1926 the University of Toronto has been a member of the Association of American Universities (US) a consortium of the leading North American research universities. The university manages by far the largest annual research budget of any university in Canada with sponsored direct-cost expenditures of $878 million in 2010. In 2018 the University of Toronto was named the top research university in Canada by Research Infosource with a sponsored research income (external sources of funding) of $1,147.584 million in 2017. In the same year the university’s faculty averaged a sponsored research income of $428,200 while graduate students averaged a sponsored research income of $63,700. The federal government was the largest source of funding with grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council amounting to about one-third of the research budget. About eight percent of research funding came from corporations- mostly in the healthcare industry.

    The first practical electron microscope was built by the physics department in 1938. During World War II the university developed the G-suit- a life-saving garment worn by Allied fighter plane pilots later adopted for use by astronauts.Development of the infrared chemiluminescence technique improved analyses of energy behaviours in chemical reactions. In 1963 the asteroid 2104 Toronto was discovered in the David Dunlap Observatory (CA) in Richmond Hill and is named after the university. In 1972 studies on Cygnus X-1 led to the publication of the first observational evidence proving the existence of black holes. Toronto astronomers have also discovered the Uranian moons of Caliban and Sycorax; the dwarf galaxies of Andromeda I, II and III; and the supernova SN 1987A. A pioneer in computing technology the university designed and built UTEC- one of the world’s first operational computers- and later purchased Ferut- the second commercial computer after UNIVAC I. Multi-touch technology was developed at Toronto with applications ranging from handheld devices to collaboration walls. The AeroVelo Atlas which won the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition in 2013 was developed by the university’s team of students and graduates and was tested in Vaughan.

    The discovery of insulin at the University of Toronto in 1921 is considered among the most significant events in the history of medicine. The stem cell was discovered at the university in 1963 forming the basis for bone marrow transplantation and all subsequent research on adult and embryonic stem cells. This was the first of many findings at Toronto relating to stem cells including the identification of pancreatic and retinal stem cells. The cancer stem cell was first identified in 1997 by Toronto researchers who have since found stem cell associations in leukemia; brain tumors; and colorectal cancer. Medical inventions developed at Toronto include the glycaemic index; the infant cereal Pablum; the use of protective hypothermia in open heart surgery; and the first artificial cardiac pacemaker. The first successful single-lung transplant was performed at Toronto in 1981 followed by the first nerve transplant in 1988; and the first double-lung transplant in 1989. Researchers identified the maturation promoting factor that regulates cell division and discovered the T-cell receptor which triggers responses of the immune system. The university is credited with isolating the genes that cause Fanconi anemia; cystic fibrosis; and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease among numerous other diseases. Between 1914 and 1972 the university operated the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories- now part of the pharmaceutical corporation Sanofi-Aventis. Among the research conducted at the laboratory was the development of gel electrophoresis.

    The University of Toronto is the primary research presence that supports one of the world’s largest concentrations of biotechnology firms. More than 5,000 principal investigators reside within 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the university grounds in Toronto’s Discovery District conducting $1 billion of medical research annually. MaRS Discovery District is a research park that serves commercial enterprises and the university’s technology transfer ventures. In 2008, the university disclosed 159 inventions and had 114 active start-up companies. Its SciNet Consortium operates the most powerful supercomputer in Canada.

  • richardmitnick 8:38 pm on June 16, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Imagining the distant past — and finding keys to the future", , EAPS: MIT’s Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, , Earth Sciences, , , , MIT Terrascope, , Terrascope is one of four learning communities offered to first-year MIT students., Working with cores of sediment drilled from the Earth that hold clues to our planet’s climate long before there were records created by humans., You’re able to go basically from mud to a coherent picture of what the atmosphere was doing in the past-what the ocean was doing in the past.   

    From Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) : “Imagining the distant past — and finding keys to the future” 

    MIT News

    From Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US)

    June 16, 2021
    Michaela Jarvis

    MIT earth science professor David McGee studies the atmosphere’s response to paleoclimate changes. “A really basic message that comes from the study of paleoclimate is the sensitivity of the Earth’s system,” he says. “A few degrees of warming or cooling is a really big deal.” Credit: Adam Glanzman.

    The most dramatic moments of David McGee’s research occur when he is working with cores of sediment drilled from the Earth that hold clues to our planet’s climate long before there were records created by humans.

    “Some of the biggest excitement I have,” says McGee, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), “is when we’re working with sediments that have been taken from 2,000 meters down in the Atlantic Ocean, for example. You’re performing various geochemical measurements on the sediments, you’re using radiocarbon dating to figure how old a core is, and you’re developing records of how the climate has changed over the past thousands of years. You’re able to go basically from mud to a coherent picture of what the atmosphere was doing in the past-what the ocean was doing in the past.”

    Imagining the natural world as it was in the distant past, when no people were around to directly observe or write about it, always fascinated McGee. As a child, before it even occurred to him that there was such a thing as an Earth scientist, he was “constantly wondering about what mountains and beaches would have looked like millions of years ago and what they might look like a million years from now.” Recently, while going through the artifacts of his childhood, he found a rock collection and a creative writing project focused on time travel back to the Precambrian Era. He recalls that once when he was set loose in the school library to find a science project topic, he chose a book on ice ages and tried to develop related hypotheses that he could test.

    Later, stumbling into a geology class in college, as he describes it, McGee was completely taken in by the idea that Earth science involved a sort of detective work to uncover history out in the natural world, using the tools of modern science, such as geochemistry, computation, and close observation.

    “I really fell for it,” he says.

    McGee’s focus on studying paleoclimate and the atmosphere’s response to past climate changes satisfies his lifelong curiosity — and it yields important insights into the climate change the planet is currently undergoing.

    “A really basic message that comes from the study of paleoclimate is the sensitivity of the Earth’s system,” says McGee. “A few degrees of warming or cooling is a really big deal.”

    From the start of his career, McGee has been dedicated to sharing his love of exploration with students. He earned a master’s degree in teaching and spent seven years as a teacher in middle school and high school classrooms before earning his PhD in Earth and environmental sciences from Columbia University. He joined the MIT faculty in 2012 and in 2018 received the Excellence in Mentoring Award from MIT’s Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming office. In 2019, he was granted tenure.

    In 2016, McGee became the director of MIT’s Terrascope first-year learning community, where he says he has been able to continue to pursue his interest in how students learn.

    MIT Terrascope

    “Part of why Terrascope has been so important to me is it’s a place where there is a lot of great thinking about what makes a meaningful educational experience,” he says.

    Terrascope is one of four learning communities offered to first-year MIT students, allows them to address real-world sustainability issues in interdisciplinary, student-led teams. The projects the students undertake connect them to related experts and professionals, in part so the students can figure out what blend of areas of expertise — such as technology, policy, economics, and human behaviors — will serve them as they head toward their life’s work.

    “Students are often asking themselves, ‘How do I connect what I really like to do, what I’m good at, and what the world actually needs?’” McGee says. “In Terrascope, we try to provide a space for that exploration.”

    McGee’s work with Terrascope was, in part, the basis for his September 2020 appointment to the role of associate department head for diversity, equity, and inclusion within EAPS. On the occasion of McGee’s appointment, EAPS department head Rob van der Hilst said, “David has proven he is a dedicated and compassionate leader, able to build a robust community around collaboration, shared purpose, and deep respect for the strengths each member brings.”

    McGee says Earth science is often unwelcoming to women, members of racial or ethnic minoritized groups, and people who are LGBTQ+. Improved recruitment and retention policies are needed to diversify the field, he says.

    “Earth science is a very white science,” McGee says. “And yet we’re working on problems that affect everyone and disproportionately affect communities of color — things like climate change and natural disasters. It’s really important that the future of Earth science look different than the present in terms of the demographics.”

    One of the things McGee takes from his research experience as he approaches students is his observation that being an Earth scientist represents many different approaches and avenues of study — inherently, the field can extend itself to a wide diversity of talent.

    “The thing I try to make clear to students is there’s no way to be the expert in every aspect of even one Earth science study,” he says. “With the study of paleoclimate, for instance, there’s field geology, careful analytical chemistry, data analysis, computation, the physics of climate systems. You’re constantly on the edge of your learning and working with people who know more than you about a certain aspect of a study. Students are not coming to Earth science to become a carbon copy of any of us.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal

    USPS “Forever” postage stamps celebrating Innovation at MIT.

    MIT Campus

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) is a private land-grant research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The institute has an urban campus that extends more than a mile (1.6 km) alongside the Charles River. The institute also encompasses a number of major off-campus facilities such as the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the Bates Center, and the Haystack Observatory, as well as affiliated laboratories such as the Broad and Whitehead Institutes.

    Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength. It is frequently regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

    As of December 2020, 97 Nobel laureates, 26 Turing Award winners, and 8 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT as alumni, faculty members, or researchers. In addition, 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 29 National Medals of Technology and Innovation recipients, 50 MacArthur Fellows, 80 Marshall Scholars, 3 Mitchell Scholars, 22 Schwarzman Scholars, 41 astronauts, and 16 Chief Scientists of the U.S. Air Force have been affiliated with MIT. The university also has a strong entrepreneurial culture and MIT alumni have founded or co-founded many notable companies. MIT is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU).

    Foundation and vision

    In 1859, a proposal was submitted to the Massachusetts General Court to use newly filled lands in Back Bay, Boston for a “Conservatory of Art and Science”, but the proposal failed. A charter for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proposed by William Barton Rogers, was signed by John Albion Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, on April 10, 1861.

    Rogers, a professor from the University of Virginia (US), wanted to establish an institution to address rapid scientific and technological advances. He did not wish to found a professional school, but a combination with elements of both professional and liberal education, proposing that:

    “The true and only practicable object of a polytechnic school is, as I conceive, the teaching, not of the minute details and manipulations of the arts, which can be done only in the workshop, but the inculcation of those scientific principles which form the basis and explanation of them, and along with this, a full and methodical review of all their leading processes and operations in connection with physical laws.”

    The Rogers Plan reflected the German research university model, emphasizing an independent faculty engaged in research, as well as instruction oriented around seminars and laboratories.

    Early developments

    Two days after MIT was chartered, the first battle of the Civil War broke out. After a long delay through the war years, MIT’s first classes were held in the Mercantile Building in Boston in 1865. The new institute was founded as part of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act to fund institutions “to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes” and was a land-grant school. In 1863 under the same act, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts founded the Massachusetts Agricultural College, which developed as the University of Massachusetts Amherst (US)). In 1866, the proceeds from land sales went toward new buildings in the Back Bay.

    MIT was informally called “Boston Tech”. The institute adopted the European polytechnic university model and emphasized laboratory instruction from an early date. Despite chronic financial problems, the institute saw growth in the last two decades of the 19th century under President Francis Amasa Walker. Programs in electrical, chemical, marine, and sanitary engineering were introduced, new buildings were built, and the size of the student body increased to more than one thousand.

    The curriculum drifted to a vocational emphasis, with less focus on theoretical science. The fledgling school still suffered from chronic financial shortages which diverted the attention of the MIT leadership. During these “Boston Tech” years, MIT faculty and alumni rebuffed Harvard University (US) president (and former MIT faculty) Charles W. Eliot’s repeated attempts to merge MIT with Harvard College’s Lawrence Scientific School. There would be at least six attempts to absorb MIT into Harvard. In its cramped Back Bay location, MIT could not afford to expand its overcrowded facilities, driving a desperate search for a new campus and funding. Eventually, the MIT Corporation approved a formal agreement to merge with Harvard, over the vehement objections of MIT faculty, students, and alumni. However, a 1917 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court effectively put an end to the merger scheme.

    In 1916, the MIT administration and the MIT charter crossed the Charles River on the ceremonial barge Bucentaur built for the occasion, to signify MIT’s move to a spacious new campus largely consisting of filled land on a one-mile-long (1.6 km) tract along the Cambridge side of the Charles River. The neoclassical “New Technology” campus was designed by William W. Bosworth and had been funded largely by anonymous donations from a mysterious “Mr. Smith”, starting in 1912. In January 1920, the donor was revealed to be the industrialist George Eastman of Rochester, New York, who had invented methods of film production and processing, and founded Eastman Kodak. Between 1912 and 1920, Eastman donated $20 million ($236.6 million in 2015 dollars) in cash and Kodak stock to MIT.

    Curricular reforms

    In the 1930s, President Karl Taylor Compton and Vice-President (effectively Provost) Vannevar Bush emphasized the importance of pure sciences like physics and chemistry and reduced the vocational practice required in shops and drafting studios. The Compton reforms “renewed confidence in the ability of the Institute to develop leadership in science as well as in engineering”. Unlike Ivy League schools, MIT catered more to middle-class families, and depended more on tuition than on endowments or grants for its funding. The school was elected to the Association of American Universities (US)in 1934.

    Still, as late as 1949, the Lewis Committee lamented in its report on the state of education at MIT that “the Institute is widely conceived as basically a vocational school”, a “partly unjustified” perception the committee sought to change. The report comprehensively reviewed the undergraduate curriculum, recommended offering a broader education, and warned against letting engineering and government-sponsored research detract from the sciences and humanities. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the MIT Sloan School of Management were formed in 1950 to compete with the powerful Schools of Science and Engineering. Previously marginalized faculties in the areas of economics, management, political science, and linguistics emerged into cohesive and assertive departments by attracting respected professors and launching competitive graduate programs. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences continued to develop under the successive terms of the more humanistically oriented presidents Howard W. Johnson and Jerome Wiesner between 1966 and 1980.

    MIT’s involvement in military science surged during World War II. In 1941, Vannevar Bush was appointed head of the federal Office of Scientific Research and Development and directed funding to only a select group of universities, including MIT. Engineers and scientists from across the country gathered at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory, established in 1940 to assist the British military in developing microwave radar. The work done there significantly affected both the war and subsequent research in the area. Other defense projects included gyroscope-based and other complex control systems for gunsight, bombsight, and inertial navigation under Charles Stark Draper’s Instrumentation Laboratory; the development of a digital computer for flight simulations under Project Whirlwind; and high-speed and high-altitude photography under Harold Edgerton. By the end of the war, MIT became the nation’s largest wartime R&D contractor (attracting some criticism of Bush), employing nearly 4000 in the Radiation Laboratory alone and receiving in excess of $100 million ($1.2 billion in 2015 dollars) before 1946. Work on defense projects continued even after then. Post-war government-sponsored research at MIT included SAGE and guidance systems for ballistic missiles and Project Apollo.

    These activities affected MIT profoundly. A 1949 report noted the lack of “any great slackening in the pace of life at the Institute” to match the return to peacetime, remembering the “academic tranquility of the prewar years”, though acknowledging the significant contributions of military research to the increased emphasis on graduate education and rapid growth of personnel and facilities. The faculty doubled and the graduate student body quintupled during the terms of Karl Taylor Compton, president of MIT between 1930 and 1948; James Rhyne Killian, president from 1948 to 1957; and Julius Adams Stratton, chancellor from 1952 to 1957, whose institution-building strategies shaped the expanding university. By the 1950s, MIT no longer simply benefited the industries with which it had worked for three decades, and it had developed closer working relationships with new patrons, philanthropic foundations and the federal government.

    In late 1960s and early 1970s, student and faculty activists protested against the Vietnam War and MIT’s defense research. In this period MIT’s various departments were researching helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war in Vietnam as well as guidance systems for nuclear missiles. The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded on March 4, 1969 during a meeting of faculty members and students seeking to shift the emphasis on military research toward environmental and social problems. MIT ultimately divested itself from the Instrumentation Laboratory and moved all classified research off-campus to the MIT (US) Lincoln Laboratoryfacility in 1973 in response to the protests. The student body, faculty, and administration remained comparatively unpolarized during what was a tumultuous time for many other universities. Johnson was seen to be highly successful in leading his institution to “greater strength and unity” after these times of turmoil. However six MIT students were sentenced to prison terms at this time and some former student leaders, such as Michael Albert and George Katsiaficas, are still indignant about MIT’s role in military research and its suppression of these protests. (Richard Leacock’s film, November Actions, records some of these tumultuous events.)

    In the 1980s, there was more controversy at MIT over its involvement in SDI (space weaponry) and CBW (chemical and biological warfare) research. More recently, MIT’s research for the military has included work on robots, drones and ‘battle suits’.

    Recent history

    MIT has kept pace with and helped to advance the digital age. In addition to developing the predecessors to modern computing and networking technologies, students, staff, and faculty members at Project MAC, the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and the Tech Model Railroad Club wrote some of the earliest interactive computer video games like Spacewar! and created much of modern hacker slang and culture. Several major computer-related organizations have originated at MIT since the 1980s: Richard Stallman’s GNU Project and the subsequent Free Software Foundation were founded in the mid-1980s at the AI Lab; the MIT Media Lab was founded in 1985 by Nicholas Negroponte and Jerome Wiesner to promote research into novel uses of computer technology; the World Wide Web Consortium standards organization was founded at the Laboratory for Computer Science in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee; the MIT OpenCourseWare project has made course materials for over 2,000 MIT classes available online free of charge since 2002; and the One Laptop per Child initiative to expand computer education and connectivity to children worldwide was launched in 2005.

    MIT was named a sea-grant college in 1976 to support its programs in oceanography and marine sciences and was named a space-grant college in 1989 to support its aeronautics and astronautics programs. Despite diminishing government financial support over the past quarter century, MIT launched several successful development campaigns to significantly expand the campus: new dormitories and athletics buildings on west campus; the Tang Center for Management Education; several buildings in the northeast corner of campus supporting research into biology, brain and cognitive sciences, genomics, biotechnology, and cancer research; and a number of new “backlot” buildings on Vassar Street including the Stata Center. Construction on campus in the 2000s included expansions of the Media Lab, the Sloan School’s eastern campus, and graduate residences in the northwest. In 2006, President Hockfield launched the MIT Energy Research Council to investigate the interdisciplinary challenges posed by increasing global energy consumption.

    In 2001, inspired by the open source and open access movements, MIT launched OpenCourseWare to make the lecture notes, problem sets, syllabi, exams, and lectures from the great majority of its courses available online for no charge, though without any formal accreditation for coursework completed. While the cost of supporting and hosting the project is high, OCW expanded in 2005 to include other universities as a part of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which currently includes more than 250 academic institutions with content available in at least six languages. In 2011, MIT announced it would offer formal certification (but not credits or degrees) to online participants completing coursework in its “MITx” program, for a modest fee. The “edX” online platform supporting MITx was initially developed in partnership with Harvard and its analogous “Harvardx” initiative. The courseware platform is open source, and other universities have already joined and added their own course content. In March 2009 the MIT faculty adopted an open-access policy to make its scholarship publicly accessible online.

    MIT has its own police force. Three days after the Boston Marathon bombing of April 2013, MIT Police patrol officer Sean Collier was fatally shot by the suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, setting off a violent manhunt that shut down the campus and much of the Boston metropolitan area for a day. One week later, Collier’s memorial service was attended by more than 10,000 people, in a ceremony hosted by the MIT community with thousands of police officers from the New England region and Canada. On November 25, 2013, MIT announced the creation of the Collier Medal, to be awarded annually to “an individual or group that embodies the character and qualities that Officer Collier exhibited as a member of the MIT community and in all aspects of his life”. The announcement further stated that “Future recipients of the award will include those whose contributions exceed the boundaries of their profession, those who have contributed to building bridges across the community, and those who consistently and selflessly perform acts of kindness”.

    In September 2017, the school announced the creation of an artificial intelligence research lab called the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. IBM will spend $240 million over the next decade, and the lab will be staffed by MIT and IBM scientists. In October 2018 MIT announced that it would open a new Schwarzman College of Computing dedicated to the study of artificial intelligence, named after lead donor and The Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman. The focus of the new college is to study not just AI, but interdisciplinary AI education, and how AI can be used in fields as diverse as history and biology. The cost of buildings and new faculty for the new college is expected to be $1 billion upon completion.

    The Caltech/MIT Advanced aLIGO (US) was designed and constructed by a team of scientists from California Institute of Technology, MIT, and industrial contractors, and funded by the National Science Foundation (US) .

    MIT/Caltech Advanced aLigo .

    It was designed to open the field of gravitational-wave astronomy through the detection of gravitational waves predicted by general relativity. Gravitational waves were detected for the first time by the LIGO detector in 2015. For contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves, two Caltech physicists, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, and MIT physicist Rainer Weiss won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2017. Weiss, who is also an MIT graduate, designed the laser interferometric technique, which served as the essential blueprint for the LIGO.

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

  • richardmitnick 8:53 am on December 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NSF-funded deep ice core to be drilled at Hercules Dome at Antarctica", , , Earth Sciences, ,   

    From University of Washington: “NSF-funded deep ice core to be drilled at Hercules Dome, Antarctica” 

    From University of Washington

    December 8, 2020 [Just now in social media]
    Hannah Hickey
    Kiyomi Taguchi

    Scientists drill deep in Antarctic ice for clues to climate change.

    Antarctica’s next deep ice core, drilling down to ice from 130,000 years ago, will be carried out by a multi-institutional U.S. team at Hercules Dome, a location hundreds of miles from today’s coastline and a promising site to provide key evidence about the possible last collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

    The National Science Foundation has funded the roughly five-year, $3 million project involving the University of Washington, the University of New Hampshire, the University of California, Irvine and the University of Minnesota. Work has been delayed by the novel coronavirus, but drilling the 1.5-mile ice core likely will begin in 2024.

    This is part of the more than 1-mile-deep ice core drilled at the South Pole in 2016. Each section of ice is about 3 feet long, and deeper layers contain older ice. Layers in the ice are analyzed for clues to past climates. The new project aims to drill 1.5 miles deep. Credit: T.J. Fudge/University of Washington.

    “The ice at this site goes back to a time when sea level was about 6 meters (20 feet) higher than it is now,” said project leader Eric Steig, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. “One of the most likely reasons that sea level was higher is that a large area of Antarctic, known as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, was gone.”

    Scientists hope to understand the most recent collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in order to better gauge its potential risk in today’s warming climate. Deeper ice layers at this site reach back to Eemian times — the most recent period that, like now, was between ice ages. The Eemian was even warmer than today’s climate and oceans were higher.

    “This location, which is now hundreds of miles from the ocean, may have been waterfront property 125,000 years ago,” Steig said. “We should be able to determine this from the chemistry of the ice — for example, the salt concentration may be higher if there was open water nearby, instead of more than a thousand miles away. Understanding that event will help guide our understanding of how quickly sea level may rise in the future due to ongoing anthropogenic climate change.”

    An aerial view of the 2019-2020 field camp shows the researcher’s tents (black dots) on a flat expanse of snow-covered ice. Hercules Dome is a gradual rise on a flat part of the ice sheet, out of view of the nearby Transantarctic Mountains. The UW team is believed to be only the second research group to visit this remote site. Credit: Gemma O’Connor/University of Washington.

    The Hercules Dome site, remote even by Antarctic standards, lies near a mountain range that divides East and West Antarctica. UW researchers visited the site in early 2020 to survey potential locations for drilling. They used ice-penetrating radar to find places where the layers of ice are uninterrupted back more than 125,000 years, when oceans rose dramatically.

    Ice and air bubbles trapped in the ice layers can provide researchers with various information about past conditions The most recent deep ice core in Antarctica was completed in 2016 at the South Pole by many of the same team members.

    The new ice core will be drilled at Hercules Dome at 86 degrees South, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the South Pole and 1,000 km (650 miles) from today’s coastline. This map shows the sites of previously drilled Antarctic ice cores. Credit: University of Washington.

    “The Hercules Dome ice core will be the first U.S. ice core with the potential to yield a detailed climate record during the last interglacial period,” said principal investigator Murat Aydin at the University of California, Irvine.

    The project will begin with online workshops over the next year to seek new collaborators and work to broaden participation in polar science. The initial investment by the National Science Foundation covers the costs of the drilling project, but over the next few years, many more scientists can seek additional funding to analyze the core. The delays caused by the pandemic offer more time to try to bring new people into the discipline.

    “Earth sciences is known for being particularly white and male, and polar Earth sciences is even more that way,” Steig said. “It’s well established that having a more diverse community leads to better outcomes — that is, we’ll do better science with more kinds of people involved. But also it’s the right thing to do. Anyone who is interested in being involved in this science should have the opportunity to do it.”

    The field camp for the 2019-2020 site visit to Hercules Dome. Researchers camped in tents for three weeks, using the black panel on the left for satellite communication and a generator for power. The surrounding snow provides water and refrigeration. Credit: Gemma O’Connor/University of Washington.

    The University of New Hampshire will provide logistics and science support planning for the field project. Researchers will live in tents on the ice sheet hundreds of miles from any inhabited areas for the months-long field seasons.

    “Our planning will detail, for example, how we will get ourselves and all of the required science cargo and camp materials to Hercules Dome, likely through a combination of overland traverse and aircraft support; specifics on the field camp, such as camp population, camp structures and layout, power and fuel requirements, camp equipment; and the fieldwork schedule,” said Joe Souney, research project manager at the University of New Hampshire.

    In this photo from early 2020, the Hercules Dome field team poses next to a Hercules LC-130 aircraft, for which the site is named. From left, team members are Ben Hills, Nick Holschuh, field project leader Knut Christianson, John Christian, Andrew Hoffman, Gemma O’Connor and Annika Horlings. Credit: University of Washington.

    The project has plans to coordinate with artists, computer scientists, media outlets, educational organizations and museums to share the effort and the science of climate change.

    Heidi Roop, a climate scientist at the University of Minnesota, will lead the engagement programming and will work to connect the science through this project to different audiences including those who are actively planning and preparing for the impacts sea level rise — from coastal planners and water utility engineers to homeowners and elected officials.

    “This is the first U.S. deep ice core drilling project with a lead researcher dedicated to the integration of community engagement and communication across the full lifespan of the project,” Roop said. “With this investment by NSF, we are confident we can more effectively connect this science to action.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 9:57 am on May 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Spotlight on the pulse of our planet", , , Climate activist Jakob Blasel: “In my view world leaders do not take the climate crisis seriously.”, , , Earth Sciences, , ESA’s Living Planet Symposium, Information from space, The Living Planet Symposium is hosting over 2000 children with their own dedicated programmes.   

    From European Space Agency: “Spotlight on the pulse of our planet” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    13 May 2019

    ESA’s Earth Explorers surpassing expectations

    Milan in focus


    Satellites deliver crucial information to help solve what is our biggest global problem: climate change. As well as taking the pulse of our planet, satellite data are used in a myriad of daily applications, and are also used increasingly in business. It’s no surprise then that over 4 000 people have flocked to Milan to hear the latest scientific findings on Earth’s natural processes and global change, and to learn about the wealth of new opportunities that Earth observation has to offer.

    ESA’s holds its Living Planet Symposium – the largest Earth observation conference in the world – every three years, each time drawing more participants than the last. The current edition, which has been organised with support from the Italian Space Agency, got off to a flying start this morning in the heart of Milan, Italy.

    Traditionally, the focus of this series of symposiums has been on Earth science – and while this still takes centre stage, the importance of international cooperation in developing satellite observing systems that bring the most benefits to society is also very much at the forefront of discussions.

    In addition, the landscape of Earth observation is changing. Against the backdrop of commercial Earth observation and the digital revolution, participants will be talking about how satellite data and new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain can benefit business, industry and science, and also ESA.

    Living Planet Symposium opens

    With all these topics, and more, to be presented and discussed in the days ahead, the symposium was opened by Milan’s Councillor for Urban Planning, Parks and Agriculture, Pierfrancesco Maran, who wished everyone a warm welcome from the city.

    He noted, “Cites around the world are facing the issues of climate change and pollution, but while cities are part of the problem, they can also be part of the solution through better education and innovation.”

    Participants were also welcomed by ESA’s Director General Jan Wörner. Stressing the importance of information from space to address the global challenges of climate change, energy and resources shortages, he said, “Earth observation is expanding the frontiers of knowledge – through this we understand climate change and much more.

    “From space you don’t see borders and this is the same for us – the countries of Europe are working together for a coherent approach that includes common goals and a full integration of space to bring the biggest benefits to society.”

    Deputy Director-General of the EC DG GROW, Pierre Delsaux, noted, “Climate Change is not just a European issue, it is a world-wide issue. We work to involve, sometimes convince our partners around the word that new missions can give us clear scientific assessments of the changes happening to our planet.”

    Recent demonstrations by students around the world make it clear that the young have serious concerns about the health of the planet and are pushing for action.

    Climate activist Jakob Blasel

    Young climate activist, Jakob Blasel from Fridays for Future talked passionately about his worries, “Our generation is the most conscious about climate change as we will have to live with the consequences in the next decades. I’m one of the people who fears the future.

    “In my view, world leaders do not take the climate crisis seriously.”

    The young are also in the spotlight this week. For the first time, the Living Planet Symposium is hosting over 2000 children with their own dedicated programmes. There are the Open Days available for 8–12 year olds and School Labs for 13–18 year olds. Students, for example, will be taking air pollution measurements, and much more.

    With the environment very much in the news, many governments, institutes, businesses and individuals are making different choices to reduce the impact we are having on our fragile planet.

    The EC’s Deputy Director General for Research and Innovation, Patrick Child, highlighted, “The transition towards a carbon-neutral economy and a sustainable Europe by 2030 requires advancing our knowledge of the Earth system, its dynamics and its interactions with human activities.

    “There is an urgent need to develop instruments to better predict and mitigate the consequences of climate change.

    “The global challenges our society faces requires knowledge-based policy-making, building on reliable observation systems, products and services.”

    Mr Child’s words are at the heart of the symposium – as science and understanding is critical to addressing environmental issues.

    ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said, “I am thrilled to see so many people here – a true testament to the growing interest and importance of what Earth observation brings.

    “We are looking forward to hearing the latest scientific results. And, with ESA’s next ministerial council, Space19+, in November, we will also be talking about how we will take Earth observation into the future, particularly through innovation and partnerships.

    “But crucially we need the engagement of young people, the scientists of tomorrow.”

    With eyes now on Milan, the week not only promises to be a week of discovery about our changing planet, but also showcases how society at large benefits from Earth observation.

    We are changing our natural world faster than at any other time in history. Understanding the intricacies of how Earth works as a system and the impact that human activity is having on natural processes are huge environmental challenges. Satellites are vital for taking the pulse of our planet, delivering the information we need to understand and monitor our precious world, and for making decisions to safeguard our future. Earth observation data is also key to a myriad of practical applications to improve everyday life and to boost economies.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 9:44 am on February 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Earth Sciences, , France- The Scientific Group of Space Biology and Medicine, Germany -DLR Planetary Space Simulation Facilities, Recreating space on Earth – two facilities join ESA’s platforms for spaceflight research, Space reseach   

    From European Space Agency: “Recreating space on Earth – two facilities join ESA’s platforms for spaceflight research” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    6 February 2019

    Science is everywhere but opportunities to carry out research in space can be limited. To combat this, ESA works with institutes across Europe to maintain a network of ground-based facilities that recreate aspects of spaceflight.

    From radiation to weightlessness, isolation and a lack of Earthly comforts, astronauts and robots on missions far from home face many challenges in space.

    To help mitigate these, two new facilities have been added to Europe’s roster of places where researchers can apply to run spaceflight experiments on Earth with ESA.

    New opportunities for young researchers. Released 06/02/2019 ESA–G. Porter

    Random Positioning Machine Simulates martian Gravity

    In Toulouse, France, the Scientific Group of Space Biology and Medicine with support from France’s space agency CNES has a number of instruments that can recreate microgravity for plant experiments. One of these is a random positioning machine that moves its experiment along all axes as it rotates, turning it upside-down and left-to-right for long periods of time.

    Multigen Arabidopsis. Released 04/07/2016 . Copyright ESA

    Charles Darwin first described how plant stems grow in a corkscrew fashion, but how it happens was unclear. The Multigen experiment on the International Space Station showed in 2007 it is driven by an interplay of light and gravity driving cell signals in the plants. The Aradopsis plants were grown in ESA’s European Modular Cultivation System – a miniature greenhouse to probe how plants grow in weightlessness.

    On average, over weeks or months, the effect of gravity negates to zero allowing researchers to study how plants grow in and react to different levels of gravity.
    The facility in Toulouse also has a low-level radiation generator that bombards cells with similar levels of radiation levels to those that plants would receive on Mars or in Earth orbit. These kinds of plant-based experiments are paving the way for greenhouses in space and could see astronauts harvest their own food during long missions away from Earth.

    Space simulation facilities in Germany

    The second new addition comes from the German aerospace center DLR where Planetary Space Simulation Facilities focus on how biological and chemical materials react to spaceflight.
    DLR facilities enable cells and particles to be exposed to ultra-high vacuum, gas compositions, extreme temperatures, UV radiation and x-rays, helping researchers better prepare their experiment or hardware for the realities of spaceflight.

    Planetary and space simulation facilities
    Released 06/02/2019 11:38 am
    Copyright DLR

    The fully equipped and monitored Planetary and Space Simulation facilities allow a broad range of tests with biological and chemical material individually or integrated into space hardware. The equipment can simulate ultra high vacuum, gas compositions, low and high temperature limits, temperature oscillations, extraterrestrial UV radiation and x-ray.
    The analysis of these exposure tests contribute to a deeper under-standing of the individual and synergistic effects of space with the exposed material. In this way they support the design optimisation and verification of spacecraft devices and the selection of the most promising biological candidates and chemical compositions for flight experiments in low Earth orbit or other space destinations.

    “As with any expedition, preparing and testing equipment is key to successful exploration,” says Jennifer Ngo-Anh head of ESA’s human spaceflight research team, “the better prepared we are for the extreme environments humans and robots must face as we explore our Universe, the better the outcome of the missions.

    “We offer researchers state-of-the-art facilities all over Europe and beyond our planet to carry out experiments and increase knowledge of our world. I am very happy to include these two sites in the roster with our partners and hope to see more ground-breaking research projects in the future.”

    European researchers can apply to run their experiment through ESA’s continuously open research announcements here.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 8:46 am on February 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Drones in Geoscience Research: The Sky Is the Only Limit, Earth Sciences,   

    From Eos: “Drones in Geoscience Research: The Sky Is the Only Limit” All Drones Need Proper Control Legislation and Enforcement 

    AGU bloc

    Eos news bloc


    All Drones Need Proper Control Legislation and Enforcement

    Christa Kelleher
    Christopher A. Scholz
    Laura Condon
    Marlowe Reardon

    A quadcopter is deployed to collect visual and thermal imagery along Onondaga Creek in Syracuse, N.Y. Credit: Syracuse University photo by Steve Sartori.

    In the digital age, our capabilities for monitoring Earth processes are dramatically increasing, offering new opportunities to observe Earth’s dynamic behavior in fields ranging from hydrology to volcanology to atmospheric sciences. The latest revolution for imaging and sampling Earth’s surface involves unmanned aircraft systems, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, remotely piloted aircraft, or, colloquially, drones.

    Drones come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and platforms. These include several different designs (single rotors, multirotors, hybrids, and fixed-wing platforms) that can be used to carry many different types of payloads, including sensors, cameras, and sampling equipment. More important, drones are now applied toward a range of objectives for assessing dynamic processes in two, three, and four dimensions, revolutionizing our ability to rapidly collect high-quality observations across Earth’s surface.

    The geosciences community at large has taken to the skies, with a broad spectrum of researchers using an array of drone platforms and sensors or samplers in several unique and innovative applications. The codevelopment of drone technology alongside new sensor technology is paving the way for drones to be used as more than just Earth surface imagers. This opens a world of possibilities for Earth science research.

    Six Ways That Drones Transform Geoscience Research and Environmental Monitoring

    A review of the geosciences literature shows that drones are now actively applied toward several objectives and across many fields (Figure 1). The latest generation of drones is especially versatile because these drones can carry payloads of sensors and sampling equipment capable of collecting an impressive variety of images, physical samples, and synoptic measurements.

    Here are six ways that drones blaze new paths of observation:

    1. Drones characterize topography. In recent years, drones have increasingly assisted with the photogrammetry technique known as structure from motion (SfM), where 2-D images are transformed into 3-D topographic surfaces (Figure 2). This technique provides high-resolution topographic imagery, which can be used to augment existing topographic data as well as to identify microtopographic features like small water channels on the surface of a glacier.

    In a study by Rippin et al. [2015], SfM techniques used drone imagery to produce high-resolution digital elevation models over the lower reaches of a glacier in Svalbard. The team then used the models to identify minor channels that were altering the roughness of the ice surface. Because roughness alters energy exchange, the findings of this study have implications for understanding the energy balance of glaciers.

    SfM is relatively inexpensive compared with traditional survey methods such as lidar, and it can be used with off-the-shelf software available for imagery postprocessing and development to produce high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs).

    Fig. 2. A 3-D model produced using SfM photogrammetry obtained at Chimney Bluffs State Park in New York. Note the badlands landscape produced by severe shoreline erosion of Pleistocene age drumlins. The inset shows an aerial view of this type of topography on the southern Lake Ontario shoreline at Chimney Bluffs State Park. Credit: Main imaget: P. Cattaneo, J. Corbett; Inset: C. Scholz

    2. Drones assess hazardous or inaccessible areas. Drones are particularly useful for acquiring imagery or measurements over locations that are hazardous or difficult to reach on foot. In one early example, McGonigle et al. [2008] acquired measurements of volcanic gases using a quadcopter outfitted with spectrometers and electrochemical sensors within the La Fossa crater (Vulcano, Italy). The study set the benchmark for quadcopter use in volcanology and its ability to measure carbon dioxide flux and enhance eruption forecasting.

    In another example, Brownlow et al. [2016] deployed octocopters to monitor methane (CH4) dynamics both above and below the trade wind inversion on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, an ideal location for characterizing tropical background methane concentrations. The octocopters operated at high elevations, sampling methane at altitudes up to 2,700 meters above mean sea level. The researchers then used observed air chemistries to delineate chemical signatures that indicate sources of air masses at various altitudes. The study demonstrated ultimately that atmospheric monitoring via drones can reveal spatial complexities (e.g., the air column) that are often missed by sampling at the surface.

    In another innovative application, Ore et al. [2015] designed and deployed a quadcopter capable of collecting water samples from rivers and lakes. These researchers successfully applied their system, which can collect three 200-milliliter water samples under moderate wind conditions, during more than 90 different missions on lakes and waterways. Such efforts present an exciting path for monitoring environmental hazards or disasters such as oil spills, tracking waterborne diseases, and sampling remote locations.

    3. Drones image transient events. Drones are ideal for mapping nutrient blooms, sediment plumes (Figure 3), and floods, examples of ecosystem and landscape responses that may occur for only short periods of time. Spence and Mengistu [2016] demonstrated the use of drones to identify an intermittent stream network in the St. Denis National Wildlife Area in Saskatchewan, Canada.

    The authors also found that drone delineation of narrow intermittent streams consistently outperformed delineation with multispectral SPOT-5 satellite imagery (10-meter resolution). In fact, training SPOT-5 delineation on drone imagery did not improve classification accuracy, suggesting that high-resolution drone imagery may be one of the few tools capable of capturing continuous images of fluvial dynamics at relatively fine scales.

    4. Drones contextualize satellite and ground-based imagery. With the proliferation of satellite data products, comparisons between drone-collected data and satellite imagery offer a pathway for reconciling data collected at multiple spatial scales. This nested approach was used by Di Mauro et al. [2015] to examine how such impurities as mineral dust may alter snow radiative properties in the European Alps.

    They used a combination of snow sampling, red-green-blue imaging with quadcopter drones, and Landsat 8 imagery, producing local and regional maps that demonstrated the effects of snow impurities on snow albedo. These impurities directly affect snow surface energy exchanges at many spatial scales, so these researchers’ findings are useful for climate modeling as well as for mapping potential feedbacks between snow surfaces and energy exchange.

    5. Drone imagery validates computational models. Drone-collected data have also been used to constrain model inputs or to compare data to model simulations in many different fields across the geosciences. One growing application is the spatial modeling of stratigraphy (the sequencing of rock layers in a formation). Drones have the potential to revolutionize assessments of spatial patterns of Earth processes, as demonstrated by two recent studies.

    Nieminski and Graham [2017] describe modeling stratigraphic architecture to characterize difficult-to-access outcrops in the Miocene East Coast Basin in New Zealand. They demonstrate how 3-D SfM alongside 2-D visual imagery can enable interpretations useful for both research and the classroom (Figure 4).

    Drones are also commonly used to create model inputs. Vivoni et al. [2014] demonstrated that fine-scale data collected via drones may be particularly useful for generating distributed hydrologic models. The authors describe several different drone-derived data sets, including elevation models and maps of vegetation classification, at resolutions ranging from about a centimeter to a meter that were used as inputs to a spatially distributed watershed model. Such applications may be useful in places where inputs with resolutions finer than 10 meters are desired but may not yet exist.

    6. Drones make the world a better place. Beyond the research world, the drone revolution is spilling over into many everyday humanitarian and environmental applications around the globe. DroneSeed, a company based in Seattle, Wash., is using swarms of off-the-shelf drones to control invasive vegetation with herbicides. The company aims to use drones to identify microhabitat sites ideal for tree planting, deploying biodegradable seedpods, and protecting tree development by limiting invasive vegetation growth. They seek to replant large areas of rough terrain with a fraction of the manpower required to perform the same work on foot.

    Meanwhile, conservationists are protecting vulnerable, threatened, or endangered species using drones. For example, the nonprofit organization Leatherback Trust is tracking leatherback sea turtles via drones, enabling professionals to follow the turtles to locate and observe their nesting sites, rather than painstakingly identifying nests on foot.

    And even more uses abound. For instance, in the wake of recent hurricane disasters in the southern United States, drones were used in search and rescue operations as well as for infrastructure damage assessment [Moore, 2017].

    Notes on Regulations

    As drone use has evolved, so has the regulatory landscape.

    In the United States, regulations distinguish between recreational operations and operations that are commercial and professional in nature, including research efforts [Federal Aviation Administration, 2017]. These regulations specify the necessary training and certification for remote pilots, and they lay out conditions for safe operation.

    Regulations vary among countries and localities; thus, anyone planning to use unmanned aircraft in a research program must review the applicable rules and obtain the required permits and certifications during the project planning stages. Such due diligence should ensure legal and safe data collection.

    Rising to New Heights

    Drones are revolutionizing the research world, industry, and the environment at large. The technology has untold potential for modernizing approaches to time- and energy-intensive tasks while improving documentation and imagery, environmental conservation, and, ultimately, quality of life around the world. When it comes to drones in the geosciences and environment at large, the sky is the limit.

    This work was supported by an award from Gryphon Sensors, LLC; the Syracuse Center of Excellence; and the Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering at Syracuse University. Special thanks for supporting flights and image processing go to Jacqueline Corbett, Ian Joyce, and Peter Cattaneo.


    Brownlow, R., et al. (2016), Methane mole fraction and δ13C above and below the trade wind inversion at Ascension Island in air sampled by aerial robotics, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43(22), 11,893–11,902, https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2016GL071155.

    Di Mauro, B., et al. (2015), Mineral dust impact on snow radiative properties in the European Alps combining ground, UAV, and satellite observations, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 120, 6,080–6,097, https://doi.org/10.1002/2015JD023287.

    Federal Aviation Administration (2017), Small unmanned aircraft systems, Advis. Circ. 107-2, 1 p., U.S. Dep. of Transp., Washington, D. C., https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/AC_107-2_AFS-1_Signed.pdf.

    McGonigle, A. J. S., et al. (2008), Unmanned aerial vehicle measurements of volcanic carbon dioxide fluxes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L06303, https://doi.org/10.1029/2007GL032508.

    Moore, J. (2017), Drones deliver storm response, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc., Frederick, Md., https://www.aopa.org/News-and-Media/All-News/2017/September/18/Drones-deliver-storm-response.

    Nieminski, N. M., and S. A. Graham (2017), Modeling stratigraphic architecture using small unmanned aerial vehicles and photogrammetry: Examples from the Miocene East Coast Basin, New Zealand, J. Sediment. Res., 87(2), 126–132, https://doi.org/10.2110/jsr.2017.5.

    Ore, J.-P., et al. (2015), Autonomous aerial water sampling, J. Field Robotics, 32, 1,095–1,113, https://doi.org/10.1002/rob.21591.

    Rippin, D. M., A. Pomfret, and N. King (2015), High resolution mapping of supra-glacial drainage pathways reveals link between micro-channel drainage density, surface roughness and surface reflectance, Earth Surf. Processes Landforms, 40(10), 1,279–1,290, https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.3719.

    Spence, C., and S. Mengistu (2016), Deployment of an unmanned aerial system to assist in mapping an intermittent stream, Hydrol. Processes, 30, 493–500, https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.10597.

    Vivoni, E. R., et al. (2014), Ecohydrology with unmanned aerial vehicles, Ecosphere, 5(10), 130, https://doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00217.1.

    Author Information

    Christa Kelleher (email: ckellehe@syr.edu), Department of Earth Sciences and Department of Civil Engineering, Syracuse University, N.Y.;
    Christopher A. Scholz, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University, N.Y.;
    Laura Condon, Department of Earth Sciences and Department of Civil Engineering, Syracuse University, N.Y.;
    Marlowe Reardon, Department of Television, Radio, and Film, Syracuse University, N.Y.

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

  • richardmitnick 7:16 pm on October 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Earth Sciences, formamide - common in star-forming regions of space, , Natural nuclear reactor, One possible source of high energy particles on early Earth, Our universal solvent it turns out can be extremely corrosive, , The essential chemical backbones of early life-forming molecules fall apart in water   

    From Many Worlds: “Could High-Energy Radiation Have Played an Important Role in Getting Earth Ready For Life?” 

    NASA NExSS bloc


    Many Words icon

    Many Worlds

    Marc Kaufman

    The fossil remains of a natural nuclear reactor in Oklo, Gabon. It entered a fission state some 2 billion years ago, and so would not have been involved in any origin of life scenario. But is a proof of concept that these natural reactors have existed and some were widespread on earth Earth. It is but one possible source of high energy particles on early Earth. The yellow rock is uranium oxide. (Robert D. Loss, Curtin University, Australia)

    Life on early Earth seems to have begun with a paradox: while life needs water as a solvent, the essential chemical backbones of early life-forming molecules fall apart in water. Our universal solvent, it turns out, can be extremely corrosive.

    Some have pointed to this paradox as a sign that life, or the precursor of life, originated elsewhere and was delivered here via comets or meteorites. Others have looked for solvents that could have the necessary qualities of water without that bond-breaking corrosiveness.

    In recent years the solvent often put forward as the eligible alternative to water is formamide, a clear and moderately irritating liquid consisting of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Unlike water, it does not break down the long-chain molecules needed to form the nucleic acids and proteins that make up life’s key initial instruction manual, RNA. Meanwhile it also converts via other useful reactions into key compounds needed to make nucleic acids in the first place.

    Although formamide is common in star-forming regions of space, scientists have struggled to find pathways for it to be prevalent, or even locally concentrated, on early Earth. In fact, it is hardly present on Earth today except as a synthetic chemical for companies.

    New research presented by Zachary Adam, an earth scientist at Harvard University, and Masashi Aono, a complex systems scientist at Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at Tokyo Institute of Technology, has produced formamide by way of a surprising and reproducible pathway: bombardment with radioactive particles.

    In a room fitted for cobalt-60 testing on the campus of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, a team of researchers gather around the (still covered) cobalt-60 and vials of the chemicals they were testing. The ELSI scientists are (from left) Masashi Aono, James Cleaves, Zachary Adam and Riquin Yi. (Isao Yoda)

    The two and their colleagues exposed a mixture of two chemicals known to have existed on early Earth (hydrogen cyanide and aqueous acetonitrile) to the high-energy particles emitted from a cylinder of cobalt-60, an artificially produced radioactive isotope commonly used in cancer therapy. The result, they report, was the production of substantial amounts of formamide more quickly than earlier attempts by researchers using theoretical models and in laboratory settings.

    It remains unclear whether early Earth had enough radioactive material in the right places to produce the chemical reactions that led to the formation of formamide. And even if the conditions were right, scientists cannot yet conclude that formamide played an important role in the origin of life.

    Still, the new research furthers the evidence of the possible role of alternative solvents and presents a differing picture of the basis of life. Furthermore, it is suggestive of processes that might be at work on other exoplanets as well – where solvents other than water could, with energy supplied by radioactive sources, provide the necessary setting for simple compounds to be transformed into far more complex building blocks.

    “Imagine that water-based life was preceded by completely unique networks of interacting molecules that approximated, but were distinct from and followed different chemical rules, than life as we know it,” said Adam.

    Their work was presented at recent gatherings of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, and the Astrobiology Science Conference.

    The team of Adam and Aono are hardly the first to put forward the formamide hypothesis as a solution to the water paradox, and they are also not the first to posit a role for high-energy, radioactive particles in the origin of life.

    An Italian team led by Rafaelle Saladino of Tuscia University recently proposed formamide as a chemical that would supply necessary elements for life and would avoid the ‘water paradox.’ Since the time that Marie Curie described the phenomenon of radioactivity, scientists have proposed innumerable ways that the emission of particle-shedding atomic nuclei might have played roles, either large or small, in initiating life on Earth.

    Merging the science of formamide and radioactivity, as Adam and Aono have done, is a potentially significant step forward, though one that needs deeper study.

    “If we have formamide as a solvent, those precursor molecules can be kept stable, a kind of cradle to preserve very interesting products,” said Aono, who has moved to Tokyo-based Keio University while remaining a fellow at ELSI.

    Aono and technician Isao Yoda in the radiation room with the cobalt-60 safely tucked away. (Nerissa Escanlar.)

    The experiment with cobalt-60 did not begin as a search for a way to concentrate the production of formamide. Rather, Adam was looking more generally into the effects of gamma rays on a variety of molecules and solvents, while Aono was exploring radioactive sources for a role in the origin of life.

    The two came together somewhat serendipitously at ELSI, an origins-of-life research center created by the Japanese government. ELSI was designed to be a place for scientists from around the world and from many different disciplines to tackle some of the notoriously difficult issues in origins of life research. At ELSI, Adam, who had been unable to secure sites to conduct laboratory tests in the United States, learned from Aono about a sparingly-used (and free) cobalt-60 lab; they promptly began collaborating.

    It is well known that the early Earth was bombarded by high-energy cosmic particles and gamma rays. So is the fact that numerous elements (aluminum-26, iron-60, iodine-129) have existed as radioactive isotopes that can emit radiation for minutes to millennium, and that these isotopes were more common on early Earth than today. Indeed, the three listed above are now extinct on Earth, or nearly extinct, in their natural forms

    Less known is the presence of “natural nuclear reactors” as sites where a high concentration of uranium in the presence of water has led to self-sustaining nuclear fission. Only one such spot has been found —in the Oklo region of the African nation of Gabon — where spent radioactive material was identified at 16 sites separate sites. Scientists ultimately concluded widespread natural nuclear reactions occurred in the region some 2 billion years ago.

    That time frame would mean that the site would have been active well after life had begun on Earth, but it is a potential proof of concept of what could have existed elsewhere long before

    Adam and Aono remain agnostic about where the formamide-producing radioactive particles came from. But they are convinced that it is entirely possible that such reactions took place and helped produce an environment where each of the backbone precursors of RNA could readily be found in close quarters.

    Current scientific thinking about how formamide appeared on Earth focuses on limited arrival via asteroid impacts or through the concentration of the chemical in evaporated water-formamide mixtures in desert-like conditions. Adam acknowledges that the prevailing scientific consensus points to low amounts of formamide on early Earth.

    “We are not trying to argue to the contrary,” he said, “but we are trying to say that it may not matter.”

    If you have a unique place (or places) on the Earth creating significant amounts of formamide over a long period of time through radiolysis, then an opportunity exists for the onset of some unique chemistry that can support the production of essential precursor compounds for life, Adam said.

    “So, the argument then shifts to— how likely was it that this unique place existed? We only need one special location on the entire planet to meet these circumstances,” he said.

    Zachary Adam, an earth scientist in the lab of Andrew Knoll at Harvard University. (Nerissa Escanlar)

    After that, the system set into motion would have the ability to bring together the chemical building blocks of life.

    “That’s the possibility that we look forward to investigating in the coming years,” Adam said.

    James Cleaves, an organic chemist also at ELSI and a co-author of the cobalt-60 paper, said while production of formamide from much simpler compounds represents progress, “there are no silver bullets in origin of life work. We collect facts like these, and then see where they lead.”

    Another member of the cobalt-60 team is Albert Fahrenbach, a former postdoc in the lab of Harvard University’s Nobel laureate Jack Szostak and now an associate principal investigator at ELSI.

    An organic geochemist, Fahrenbach was a late-comer to the project, brought in because Cleaves thought the project could use his expertise.

    “Connecting the origins of life, or precursors chemicals, with radiolysis (or radioactivty) was an active field back in the 70s and 80s,” he said. “Then it pretty much died out and went out of fashion.”

    Fahrenbach said he remains uncertain about any possible role for radiolysis in the origin of life story. But the experiment did intrigue him greatly, it led him to experiment with some of the chemicals formed by the gamma ray blasts, and he says the results have been productive.

    “Without this experiment, I would definitely not be going down some very interesting paths,” he said

    See the full article here .

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    About Many Worlds

    There are many worlds out there waiting to fire your imagination.

    Marc Kaufman is an experienced journalist, having spent three decades at The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of two books on searching for life and planetary habitability. While the “Many Worlds” column is supported by the Lunar Planetary Institute/USRA and informed by NASA’s NExSS initiative, any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

    This site is for everyone interested in the burgeoning field of exoplanet detection and research, from the general public to scientists in the field. It will present columns, news stories and in-depth features, as well as the work of guest writers.

    About NExSS

    The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life. NExSS investigators also strive to put planets into an architectural context — as solar systems built over the eons through dynamical processes and sculpted by stars. Based on our understanding of our own solar system and habitable planet Earth, researchers in the network aim to identify where habitable niches are most likely to occur, which planets are most likely to be habitable. Leveraging current NASA investments in research and missions, NExSS will accelerate the discovery and characterization of other potentially life-bearing worlds in the galaxy, using a systems science approach.
    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.

  • richardmitnick 11:07 am on March 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Earth Sciences,   

    From Rice: “New tool probes deep into minerals and more” 

    Rice U bloc

    Rice University

    March 25, 2016
    David Ruth

    Mike Williams

    Rice University geologist Gelu Costin monitors an experiment at the Electron Probe MicroAnalyzer. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

    Rice University installs sophisticated microprobe for fine analysis of metals, minerals

    Rice Earth scientists have many ways to see deep into the planet, from drilling to seismic models to simulations, and now they have a way to see deep into what comes from the depths.

    The Department of Earth Science brought a powerful new instrument online earlier this year that lets researchers view the fine structures and composition of inorganic samples. The tool has also been of use to local industries and other academic institutions.

    The field emission Electron Probe MicroAnalyzer combines the abilities of an electron microscope and sophisticated spectrometers. Installed at Keith-Wiess Geological Laboratories, it allows for the precise quantitative chemical analysis of samples for almost all of the elements on the periodic table, from beryllium to uranium. New spectroscopic capabilities will allow for the identification of very light elements like lithium in the near future, but analyses are already underway for nitrogen and carbon in crystals and glasses.

    Installation of the new microprobe, a state-of-the-art JEOL JXA 8530F Hyperprobe, drew geologist Gelu Costin to Rice last year.

    EOL JXA 8530F Hyperprobe

    Costin joined the department as a staff scientist to manage the scope, which he said is the only one of its kind at a university in the southwest United States.

    “This is a new invention, field emission on a microprobe,” Costin said.

    The instrument bombards samples of rock or other inorganic materials with electrons focused into a tight beam by a series of electromagnetic lenses. The beam interacts with the sample to reveal nanoscale compositional patterns as small as hundreds of nanometers, while allowing the spectrometers to quantify the object’s constituent elements.

    The probe is fitted with four spectrometers to analyze elements that respond to different wavelengths and an energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer, all of which work in a high-vacuum environment to image and provide fine analysis of samples. Soon the instrument will be fitted with a fifth spectrometer that will allow quantification of trace elements as well.

    “There are not many analytical techniques that allow major- and minor-element chemistry determination down to micron and submicron scales,” said geologist Rajdeep Dasgupta, a Rice professor of Earth sciences whose experimental petrology lab simulates pressures deep in the planet to produce samples of what might be found there. “This new generation of electron microprobe gives the type of spatial resolution required to characterize some of the high-pressure experiments.

    “We can now determine many minor elements, all the major elements and even some of the trace elements in solid phases and quenched glasses from high-pressure experiments,” he said.

    Dasgupta said the instrument expands the range of research the university’s Earth scientists can take on. “In my group we perform experiments to figure out the behavior of minerals and rocks at extreme pressures and how they exchange elements between different phases,” he said. In the past, researchers would take samples to microprobes at Texas A&M and NASA’s Johnson Space Center to analyze them.

    “We weren’t able to tackle projects that required us to do an experiment and analyze it in detail before designing the next step,” he said. “It wasn’t practically feasible to go to another institution to get one sample analyzed. Now we’re taking on more challenging projects, and we are pushing the analytical capabilities.”

    The microprobe is open to all Rice researchers as well as clients from industry and other academic institutions, Costin said. “We’ve already had a few users from outside geology,” he said. “People are coming over from chemistry to study the quality of nanometer-thin silver films deposited on graphite. With our machine, they can easily check the consistency of its thickness because we know that if the composition changes on the surface, the thickness changes as well.

    “People from metallurgy companies around Houston have used our facility to check the microtextures and composition of micron-scaled phases in metallurgical slugs,” he said. “And people working in the repair and testing of metallic tools in the Houston area have come to check the composition of fillings inside microcracks produced during welding. We are open to all varieties of microprobe applications, from geology to planetary, chemistry, material science and more.”

    The Electron Probe MicroAnalyzer uses spectrometers to quantify elements in rocks or other inorganic samples. These wavelength dispersive spectrometry quantitative maps show the distribution of elements in metallurgical slag. Clockwise from top left: a backscattered electron image that shows differences in average atomic weight of the phases, and atomic weight maps of aluminum, carbon and oxygen. Courtesy of the EPMA Laboratory. (Credit: EMPA Laboratory/Rice University)

    A magnetite sample magnified 5,500 times shows fine details that are invisible to the naked eye but can be clearly captured by the new Electron Probe MicroAnalyzer at Rice University. (Credit: EMPA Laboratory/Rice University)

    See the full article here .

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    Rice U campus

    In his 1912 inaugural address, Rice University president Edgar Odell Lovett set forth an ambitious vision for a great research university in Houston, Texas; one dedicated to excellence across the range of human endeavor. With this bold beginning in mind, and with Rice’s centennial approaching, it is time to ask again what we aspire to in a dynamic and shrinking world in which education and the production of knowledge will play an even greater role. What shall our vision be for Rice as we prepare for its second century, and how ought we to advance over the next decade?

    This was the fundamental question posed in the Call to Conversation, a document released to the Rice community in summer 2005. The Call to Conversation asked us to reexamine many aspects of our enterprise, from our fundamental mission and aspirations to the manner in which we define and achieve excellence. It identified the pressures of a constantly changing and increasingly competitive landscape; it asked us to assess honestly Rice’s comparative strengths and weaknesses; and it called on us to define strategic priorities for the future, an effort that will be a focus of the next phase of this process.

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