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  • richardmitnick 12:18 pm on April 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "We Have a Creativity Problem", , , But the emerging science of implicit bias has revealed that what people say about creativity isn’t necessarily how they feel about it., Creativity is lauded as vital and seen as the lifeblood of great entertainment; innovation; progress and forward-thinking ideas., Creativity means change without the certainty of desirable results., Innovation is aversive in part because it can intensify feelings of uncertainty., People actually have strong associations between the concept of creativity and other negative associations like vomit and poison., People in uncertain circumstances may really need a creative solution and yet have trouble accepting it., People invested in the status quo have plenty of incentive not to change., , Research has found that we actually harbor an aversion to creators and creativity., Social stigma clouds our perceptions of creativity., , The New York Times, We see creativity as noxious and disruptive.   

    From The New York Times: “We Have a Creativity Problem” 

    From The New York Times

    April 16, 2022
    Matt Richtel

    Illustration by Yoshi Sodeoka.

    Creativity is lauded as vital, and seen as the lifeblood of great entertainment, innovation, progress and forward-thinking ideas. Who doesn’t want to be creative or to hire inventive employees?

    But the emerging science of implicit bias has revealed that what people say about creativity isn’t necessarily how they feel about it. Research has found that we actually harbor an aversion to creators and creativity; subconsciously, we see creativity as noxious and disruptive, and as a recent study [Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes] demonstrated, this bias can potentially discourage us from undertaking an innovative project or hiring a creative employee.

    “People actually have strong associations between the concept of creativity and other negative associations like vomit and poison,” said Jack Goncalo, a business professor at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the lead author on the new study. “Agony was another one.”

    Dr. Goncalo has spent a decade studying the underlying factors that motivate and hinder creators. For instance, he and his co-authors have found [APA PsychNet] that in some cases religious belief can limit a person’s creativity, and that creativity can provide a feeling of liberation to people who carry secrets [APA PsychNet].

    He has also explored people’s subconscious views of creativity, and found that innovation is aversive in part because it can intensify feelings of uncertainty.

    In one early study, published in 2012 [aps], Dr. Goncalo divided study subjects into two groups. Members of one group were told that some among them would receive a bonus after the study, but that the selection of the recipients would be made by random lottery and would not be based on their performance. Naturally, this introduced a sense of uncertainty into the group.

    The other group, the control, was not offered the possibility of a bonus, which eliminated the condition of uncertainty.

    The researchers then gave these two groups a series of tasks designed to gauge how they felt about creativity. Two measures were employed; one examined the participants’ explicitly stated views, and a second looked at their subconscious feelings. Did what they stated about creativity reflect what they actually felt?

    This sort of research gets at what is known as implicit bias. It’s the same kind of research, broadly speaking, that can be used to study how people feel about those of different races.

    To explore the subjects’ explicit views, the researchers had them fill out a survey rating their feelings about ideas that were considered “novel,” “inventive” and “original.” The subjects expressed positive associations with these words.

    To get at the subjects’ more hidden feelings, the researchers used a clever computer program known as an Implicit Association Test. It works by measuring a study subject’s reaction time to pairs of ideas presented on a screen.

    For instance, the subjects were presented with the words from the survey that suggested creativity, and their opposites (“practical,” “useful”), alongside words with positive associations (“sunshine,” “laughter,” “heaven,” “peace”) and negative associations (“poison,” “agony,” “hell,” “vomit”).

    This time the researchers found a significant difference in the results: Both groups expressed positive associations with words like “practical” and “useful,” but the group that had been primed to feel uncertain (because members were unsure whether they would receive a bonus) expressed more negative associations with words suggesting creativity.

    The reasons for this implicit bias against creativity can be traced to the fundamentally disruptive nature of novel and original creations. Creativity means change without the certainty of desirable results.

    “We have an implicit belief the status quo is safe,” said Jennifer Mueller, a professor of management at The University of San Diego and a lead author on the 2012 paper about bias against creativity. Dr. Mueller, an expert in creativity science, said that paper arose partly from watching how company managers professed to want creativity and then reflexively rejected new ideas.

    “Leaders will say, ‘We’re innovative,’ and employees say, ‘Here’s an idea,’ and the idea goes nowhere,” Dr. Mueller said. “Then employees are angry.”

    But, she said, the people invested in the status quo have plenty of incentive not to change. “Novel ideas have almost no upside for a middle manager — almost none,” she said. “The goal of a middle manager is meeting metrics of an existing paradigm.”

    That creates another conundrum, the researchers noted, because people in uncertain circumstances may really need a creative solution and yet have trouble accepting it.

    “Our findings imply a deep irony,” the authors noted in the 2012 paper. “Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for and generation of creative ideas, yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most.”

    The more recent paper by Dr. Goncalo and a different team, published in March, explored whether creativity bias might affect the kind of employees that employers might hire.

    This time, they asked two groups of subjects to read passages about a hypothetical job candidate named Michael, who was described as highly innovative and entrepreneurial.

    For one group of readers, Michael had applied his creative instincts and abilities to designing a new running shoe. For the others, Michael had applied his creativity to inventing a new sex toy. The two versions of the story about Michael’s creativity were identical except for the specification of the thing he was creating.

    The two groups were then prompted to answer questions like “How creative is Michael?” and “How much is Michael a conventional thinker versus an innovative thinker?”

    Here, there was a divergence in the responses of the two study groups: The one that learned Michael was a novel thinker about running shoes graded him as more creative than the group that learned he was a novel thinker about sex toys.

    Then, using a test to measure implicit bias — as in the prior study — the researchers looked at whether the study subjects in the two groups actually felt the way they said they had about Michael. On the subconscious level, the two groups saw him as equally creative.

    To the researchers, it suggested that social stigma clouds our perceptions of creativity. “It’s not fair that the inventor of the shoe gets explicitly endorsed as creative and the inventor of the sex toy doesn’t,” Dr. Goncalo said.

    He said he noticed that discomfort with the sex-toy idea showed up among peer reviewers, too. “Even our reviewers said, ‘The experiment is great,’ but they never typed the ‘sex toy,’” Dr. Goncalo said.

    This may not be such a surprise. After all, it could feel dangerous to herald the creativity of someone working in a socially stigmatized field like sex-toy design.

    Melissa Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Yale University and an author of the recent study, said the emerging research on implicit bias in creativity was revealing a powerful, larger finding. “Peoples’ judgments are not captured only by what they say they think,” she said.

    In the end, it also speaks volumes, the researchers say, about who among us gets to be celebrated as creative, and whose work is too stigmatized in its own time to be recognized as a creative contribution.

    For instance, the study notes that Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted prostitutes and drug addicts in the late 19th century, was “embraced in the cabaret scene in Paris but did not achieve widespread acclaim until after his death.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 11:25 am on April 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Battery That Flies", A battery-powered aircraft with no internal combustion has been a goal of engineers ever since the Wright brothers., A plane like Beta’s could be a catalyst for “decentralizing” the hub and spoke system., A plane that could take off and land without a runway and quietly hop from recharging station to recharging station like a large drone., A prototype with four tilting propellers was assembled in eight months., Alia-an experimental electric vertical aircraft built by Beta-an aviation tech start-up., An aircraft with no need for jet fuel and therefore no carbon emissions., , Beta is alone in focusing on cargo and is hoping to win F.A.A. approval in 2024., Beta Technologies, Is the world ready for wingless hovercraft levitating over cities and hotrodding through congested air corridors?, The Alia was made by Beta Technologies., The consensus within the industry is that the F.A.A. which regulates half the world’s aviation activity is several years from certifying urban air mobility., The Federal Aviation Administration has never certified electric propulsion as safe for commercial use., The military applications of a vehicle like the Alia-especially logistics-have gotten attention at the highest levels of the Air Force., The New York Times, With a limit of 250 nautical miles per battery charge the Beta vehicles would land atop solar-powered charging stations made out of shipping containers.   

    From The New York Times: “The Battery That Flies” 

    From The New York Times

    April 16, 2022
    Text: Ben Ryder Howe
    Photographs: Tristan Spinski

    Alia, an experimental electric vertical aircraft built by Beta, an aviation tech start-up, flied over Burlington, Vt., during a test flight in February.

    Kitty Hawk. The invention of the jet engine. And on a frozen Vermont morning, circling above Lake Champlain, the Alia.

    In the mind of Christopher Caputo, a pilot, each moment signals a paradigm shift in aviation.

    “You’re looking at history,” Mr. Caputo said recently, speaking from the cockpit of a plane trailing the Alia at close distance. It had an exotic, almost whimsical shape, like an Alexander Calder sculpture, and it banked and climbed in near silence.

    It is, essentially, a flying battery. And it represented a long-held aviation goal: an aircraft with no need for jet fuel and therefore no carbon emissions, a plane that could take off and land without a runway and quietly hop from recharging station to recharging station, like a large drone.

    The Alia was made by Beta Technologies, where Mr. Caputo is a flight instructor. A five-year-old start-up that is unusual in many respects, the company is the brainchild of Martine Rothblatt, the founder of Sirius XM and pharmaceutical company United Therapeutics, and Kyle Clark, a Harvard University-trained engineer and former professional hockey player. It has a unique mission, focused on cargo rather than passengers. And despite raising a formidable treasure chest in capital, it is based in Burlington, Vt., population 45,000, roughly 2,500 miles from Silicon Valley.

    Alia, the electric vertical aircraft.

    A battery-powered aircraft with no internal combustion has been a goal of engineers ever since the Wright brothers. Larry Page, the Google co-founder, has been funding electric plane start-ups for over a decade. Electric motors have the virtue of being smaller, allowing more of them to be fitted on a plane and making it easier to design systems with vertical lift. However, batteries are heavy, planes need to be light, and for most of the last century, the e-plane was thought to be beyond reach.

    That changed with the extraordinary gains in aviation technology realized since the 1990s.

    Late last year, curious about the potential of so-called green aviation, I flew in a Pipistrel Alpha Electro, a sleek new Slovenian two-seater designed for flight training. The Electro looks and flies like an ordinary light aircraft, but absent the roar of internal combustion, its single propeller makes a sound like beating wings. “Whoa!” I exclaimed when its high-torque engine caused it to practically leap off the runway.

    However, the Electro’s power supply lasts only about an hour. After ours nearly ran out, I wondered how many people would enjoy flying in an electric plane. That take off is fun. But then you do start to worry about the landing.

    Despite the excitement about e-planes, the Federal Aviation Administration has never certified electric propulsion as safe for commercial use. Companies expect that to change in the coming years, but only gradually, as safety concerns are worked out. As that process occurs, new forms of aviation are likely to appear, planes never seen before outside of testing grounds. Those planes will have limitations as to how far and fast they can fly, but they will do things other planes can’t, like hover and take off from “runways in the sky.”

    They will also, perhaps most importantly for an industry dependent on fossil fuels, cut down on commercial aviation’s enormous contribution to climate change, currently calculated as 3 to 4 percent of greenhouse gases globally.

    “It’s gross,” Mr. Clark said. “If we don’t, the consequences are that we’ll destroy the planet.”

    In 2013, Ms. Rothblatt became interested in battery-powered aircraft. United Therapeutics makes human organs, including a kidney grown inside a pig that was attached to a person last fall, the first time such a procedure has been done. Ms. Rothblatt wanted an electric heli-plane “to deliver the organs we are manufacturing in a green way,” she said, and fly them a considerable distance — say, between two mid-Atlantic cities.

    At the time, though, batteries were still too heavy. The longest an electric helicopter had flown was 15 minutes. One group of engineers told her it would take three years of design and development, too long, in her mind, to wait.

    “Every single person told me it was impossible,” Ms. Rothblatt said.

    A grand vision

    Kyle Clark, 42, founder of Beta.

    Kyle Clark flew alone for the first time in 1997 on a plane from Burlington to Erie, Pa. Mr. Clark, then 16, had just been selected by the U.S.A. Hockey national team. “I was the worst player on the ice,” he said, “so I decided to fight all the opposing players.” As a result, “the team named me captain.”

    At 6 feet 7 inches, a self-described physical “freak,” Mr. Clark would go on to a brief professional hockey career as an extremely low-scoring right wing and enforcer. (His LinkedIn page shows him brawling, helmetless, as a member of the Washington Capitals organization.)

    After a stint in Finland’s professional hockey league, he left the sport and received an undergraduate degree in materials science at Harvard University, where he wrote a thesis on a plane piloted like a motorcycle and fueled by alternative energy. It was named the engineering department’s paper of the year.

    He then found himself considering a career on Wall Street, doing something he didn’t want to do away from where he wanted to be: back in Vermont.

    “There’s a brain drain” among engineers from his home state, he said. “People go away to college and come back when they’re 40, because they realize San Francisco or Boston isn’t the cat’s meow.” Returning to Burlington in his mid-20s, Mr. Clark became director of engineering at a company that designed power converters for Tesla.

    In 2017 he attended a conference where Ms. Rothblatt made her pitch for an e-helicopter.

    “There were like 30 people in the room, none of whom excited me,” Ms. Rothblatt recalled. “Then Kyle stood up and said, ‘I’m an electronics and power systems person, and I’m confident we can achieve your specification with a demonstration flight within one to two years.’ Other people were shaking their head. He was probably the youngest guy in the room. So I came up to him during break and said, ‘Where’s your company located?’ And he said, ‘I live in Vermont.’”

    A few weeks later, after a second meeting, Mr. Clark drew a watercolor of his design and sent it to Ms. Rothblatt. Within hours, $1.5 million in seed capital for Beta Technologies had been wired to his bank account.

    “He drew a nice design,” Ms. Rothblatt said.

    A prototype with four tilting propellers was assembled in eight months, with Mr. Clark piloting the vehicle himself. Built in Burlington, the plane had to be flown over Lake Champlain, away from population centers.

    “It was so fun to fly it that we found an excuse to every chance we could,” Mr. Clark told an audience at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2019. Ultimately, though, it turned out to have too complex a design and Mr. Clark threw it out. He created a streamlined prototype modeled after the Arctic tern, a small, slow bird capable of flying uncanny distances without landing.

    Since then, Beta’s work force has grown to over 350 from 30. The company’s headquarters have expanded to several buildings wrapping around the runway at Burlington International Airport, with plans for an additional 40-acre campus.

    The exterior of Beta’s headquarters in Burlington.

    The board is stocked with players in finance and tech, including Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, and John Abele, founder of Boston Scientific. It has $400 million of funding from the government and institutions, including Amazon. But it is not alone in trying to bring something like this — what’s known as a vehicle with “electric vertical takeoff and landing” or eVTOL — to market.

    Propelled by advances in batteries, control systems and high performance motors, more than a dozen well-financed competitors have their own prototypes, nearly all focused on what the industry calls “urban air mobility,” or flying taxis or privately owned flying vehicles. That no major breakthrough has reached consumers in significant numbers yet gives skeptics ammunition, but does not tamp down the optimism within the industry, especially not at Beta.

    Beta is alone in focusing on cargo and is hoping to win F.A.A. approval in 2024. If it succeeds, it believes it will do more than make aviation history.

    In the company’s grand vision, electric cargo planes replace fleets of exhaust-spewing short-haul box trucks currently congesting America’s roads.

    With a limit of 250 nautical miles per battery charge the vehicles would land atop solar-powered charging stations made out of shipping containers, some equipped with showers, bunks and kitchenettes. (The cabinetry is Vermont maple.) Beta also makes a stand-alone charger that “our group is placing at airports all over the country,” said Mr. Clark.

    A plane like Beta’s could be a catalyst for “decentralizing” the hub and spoke system, the company hopes, taking dependence on shipping centers like Louisville and Memphis out of the equation and rebuilding the supply chain.

    “If you think about a path between two cities where there’s no direct air service,” Blain Newton, Beta’s chief operations officer said, “the only way is by taking one connection, two connections.” Alia can change that — especially by increasing access to less populated parts of the country, such as northern Vermont.

    The ambitions are lofty. Bolstering Mr. Newton’s claims, however, UPS has already bought 10 Alias to be delivered in 2024 and signaled its intent to buy 140 more, which it plans to use as “micro-feeders” for time-sensitive deliveries such as medicine.

    Amazon has invested heavily in Beta through its Climate Pledge Fund. Both the Air Force and the Army have signed contracts with the company worth a combined $43 million. And Blade, the commuter helicopter service, perhaps sensing that urban air mobility is not so far off, has reserved the right to buy five Alias, at a price of $4 million to $5 million apiece.

    A collection of aircrafts, spanning time and technologies, sit in the hanger at Beta’s headquarters.

    James Lott, center, guiding Alia’s battery system into position for mounting and connection.

    “The DNA of Vermont”

    Beta’s headquarters at the Burlington Airport — close enough to be seen from the Terminal B waiting area — still have the youthful informality of a start-up. On a December morning in the hangar, Naughty by Nature’s “Feel Me Flow” somehow penetrated the din of whirring propellers and industrial tools. The heavily tattooed Mr. Clark, whose idea of formal wear seems to be rotating his baseball cap forward, pinballed around the hangar, grabbing stray machinery and vaulting up staircases with the agility of a professional athlete.

    Before he joined Beta, Mr. Newton worked in health care. At his job interview, Mr. Clark took him for a helicopter ride.

    “He gave me the controls and said: ‘Your aircraft. Figure it out,’” Mr. Newton recalled, chuckling. “I’d never flown before. I ended up taking a 65 percent pay cut to work for him.”

    On their way back, with Mr. Clark back at the controls, the helicopter flew over Burlington, a city built largely around the University of Vermont and companies known for their progressive bona fides, like Seventh Generation and Ben & Jerry’s. The city is famously left-leaning: Senator Bernie Sanders served four terms as its mayor. It also hosts a number of renewable energy start-ups.

    “Clean energy is built into the DNA of Vermont,” said Russ Scully, a Burlington entrepreneur who raised capital for Beta. The state’s electricity supply is carbon free (thanks in part to higher use of nuclear power than any other state) and Burlington is closer to becoming net zero than almost any municipality in the country. In the Beta parking lot, many cars have charging cables inserted.

    Another local resource: One hundred miles north, near Montreal, is one of the largest aerospace clusters outside Toulouse and Seattle, led by Bombardier, the Canadian business jet-maker, and CAE, the world’s premier manufacturer of flight simulators.

    For Blake Opsahl, a network planner who left Amazon to join Beta, doing so was a no-brainer. “My husband grew up here and we’ve always wanted to to come back,” said Mr. Opsahl, who described an affinity between Beta engineers and Vermonters as “passionate tinkerers.”

    ​​Mr. Newton said: “I don’t want to throw any of our competitors under the bus, but some folks out West are paying huge salaries to attract people, and we’re capturing a lot of high-end aerospace talent for the lifestyle. They said, No, I want to be part of this thing here.”

    Mr. Clark said he was offered opportunities to move the company elsewhere but declined. It has now become one of Burlington’s marquee employers, contributing to a population swelling with high-earning remote workers who left larger cities and brought with them a worsening housing crisis. Burlington may be the kind of small city that Beta aims to serve, but as its success has shown, it is also the kind of city where sudden growth can bring challenges to livability.

    In high school, Mr. Clark began building planes with spare parts from the machine shop his father ran at the University of Vermont. His mother, an artist, burned one in the backyard to prevent him from flying it.

    Like Mr. Newton, many recruits were treated to hair-raising airplane rides. The company has a fleet of aircraft that the communications director, Jake Goldman, calls an “amusement park for aviation fanatics,” including a World War II biplane and the experimental Pipistrel. (“I did not puke,” Mr. Goldman said of his inaugural ride in an aerobatic plane, “but it was touch and go for a while.”)

    The company offers free flying lessons to all its 350 employees, and has more than 20 flight instructors on staff, including Nick Warren, formerly a Marine One pilot for President Barack Obama. The idea is that in order to promote “critical thinking in aviation” it helps to be airborne.

    “It’s very Vermont — instead of just analyzing things on a computer, you actually try them out,” said Lan Vu, a Beta electrical engineer who attended public high school with Mr. Clark.

    Like many of her colleagues, Ms. Vu had worked previously for Mr. Clark, who recruited her. (“You know how good of a talker he is,” she said.)

    She had no prior interest in flying, she said, but “that was one of the things Kyle made sure to talk about when he was pitching me.”

    “And I was like: ‘Yeah, I don’t have that kind of time. I have three kids,’” she said.

    After changing her mind and getting her pilot’s license through the employee program, however, Ms. Vu began competing in aerial acrobatic competitions. As an engineer, she said, flying helps her address safety concerns. “If I’m building this, would I fly it?” said Ms. Vu, who said she considered herself a conservative pilot, although, she admits, “I was kind of surprised how much I enjoyed flying upside down.”

    Mr. Clark, right, giving feedback to a group of his colleagues about equipment handling during a flight simulation.

    The futurist and the test pilot

    Is the world ready for wingless hovercraft levitating over cities and hotrodding through congested air corridors?

    The consensus within the industry is that the F.A.A., which regulates half the world’s aviation activity, is several years from certifying urban air mobility.

    “It’s a big burden of proof to bring new technology to the F.A.A. — appropriately so,” Mr. Clark said. Currently the certification process for a new plane or helicopter takes two to three years on average. For an entirely new type of vehicle, it could be considerably longer. (One conventionally powered aircraft that can take off and land without a runway had its first flight in 2003. It remains uncertified.)

    Ms. Rothblatt has built a career out of the long view. She is a celebrated futurist who has argued passionately for transhumanism, or the belief that human beings will eventually merge with machines and upload consciousness to a digital realm. And she has taken positions on issues such as xenotransplantation — the interchange of organs between species, including humans — considered audacious not long ago, though no longer.

    Yet in certain ways she and Mr. Clark make for unlikely partners. Mr. Clark has a familiar demeanor for a test pilot: exuberant, risk-taking, hyper-confident.

    Ms. Rothblatt, on the other hand, calls herself an exceedingly cautious person, both as a pilot and in general. “I’m an adventurous thinker, but I’m cautious in everything,” she said. She brought up her life experience as an example. Aside from her accomplishments in medicine and aerospace, Ms. Rothblatt is known as a transgender pioneer; when she started Sirius XM and rose to prominence, she hadn’t yet transitioned. “When I changed my sex, it was only after watching presentations by a dozen top surgeons and I was absolutely confident that it would be safe,” she said.

    The dichotomy between the futurist and the test pilot gets to a real issue facing any plane with a battery: Who will fly them?

    According to Dan Patt, a technology analyst, vehicles like the one Beta is building are “very unlikely to make money unless they go unmanned.” Aviation in general faces a pilot shortage, and labor comprises up to a third of operating costs at legacy airlines.

    The question for Beta as a business, said Mr. Patt, who led the development of drones for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is: “What does it take for their model to be competitive with ground transportation?”

    Beta says its vehicles are designed to be “optionally manned” in the future. Yet analysts such as Mr. Patt see unpiloted commercial aviation as even farther from winning F.A.A. approval than the electric plane itself, raising a dilemma:

    “What’s more important, going unmanned first, or do you build the vehicle first? Beta is clearly in the latter camp.”

    Nathan Diller, an Air Force colonel, is not a futurist, but his job is to find and support companies doing forward-thinking, futuristic things.

    The military applications of a vehicle like the Alia — especially logistics — have gotten attention at the highest levels of the Air Force, which has backed Beta and some of its peers through an accelerator called Agility Prime.

    Top, Alia, an experimental electric vertical aircraft built by Beta, during a test flight over Burlington, Vt.

    Last month, for the first time, uniformed Air Force pilots flew an Alia, soaring above Lake Champlain in a plane powered only by a battery.

    Colonel Diller sees this kind of transport as a national security issue, in part because of its potential to reduce fuel consumption, but what seems to intrigue him most is “the democratization of air travel.”

    He grew up flying experimental planes on an organic farm in West Texas, aware of the limits on where a plane can land and who can fly. Looking at a floating sculpture twirling above a lake, he sees a different future for aviation: “Everyone a pilot, everywhere a runway.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 2:14 pm on April 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Scientists Solve an Antarctic Puzzle", As the meltwater flows into crevices it refreezes-expanding and widening the cracks. Eventually such repeated hydrofracturing-as the process is called-can cause the ice shelf to disintegrate., Atmospheric rivers occur when a large stationary zone of high-pressure air meets a low-pressure storm system., Last month a small ice shelf collapsed in East Antarctica which is considered the most stable part of the continent., Researchers have found the collapse of the two ice shelves was most likely triggered by vast plumes of warm air from the Pacific., The amount of heat and moisture that atmospheric rivers transport is higher than it would be without global warming., The disintegration of the Larsen A shelf in 1995 and of the Larsen B shelf in 2002 were preceded by landfall of these plumes-called atmospheric rivers-from the Pacific Ocean., The larger Larsen C shelf which is still mostly intact and at about 17000 square miles is the fourth-largest ice shelf in Antarctica could eventually suffer the same fate as A and B., The New York Times   

    From The New York Times: “Scientists Solve an Antarctic Puzzle” 

    From The New York Times

    April 14, 2022
    Henry Fountain

    Researchers have found the collapse of the two ice shelves was most likely triggered by vast plumes of warm air from the Pacific.

    Satellite images showed the Larsen B Ice Shelf splintering and collapsing from Jan. 31 to April 13, 2002. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

    The rapid collapses of two ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula over the last quarter-century were most likely triggered by the arrival of huge plumes of warm, moisture-laden air that created extreme conditions and destabilized the ice, researchers said Thursday.

    The disintegration of the Larsen A shelf in 1995 and of the Larsen B shelf in 2002 were preceded by landfall of these plumes-called atmospheric rivers-from the Pacific Ocean. They generated extremely warm temperatures over several days that caused surface melting of the ice that led to fracturing, and reduced sea ice cover, allowing ocean swells to flex the ice shelves and further weaken them.

    “We identify atmospheric rivers as a mechanism that can create extreme conditions over the ice shelves of the Antarctic Peninsula and potentially lead to their destabilization,” said Jonathan Wille, a climatologist and meteorologist at The University of Grenoble Alpes [Université Grenoble Alpes](FR) and the lead author of a study describing the research in the journal Communications Earth and Environment.

    While there have been no collapses on the peninsula since 2002, Dr. Wille and his colleagues found that atmospheric rivers also triggered 13 of 21 large iceberg-calving events from 2000 to 2020.

    Dr. Wille said the larger Larsen C shelf, which is still mostly intact and, at about 17,000 square miles, is the fourth-largest ice shelf in Antarctica, could eventually suffer the same fate as A and B.

    “The only reason why melting has not been significant so far is because it’s just farther south compared to the others, therefore colder,” he said. But as the world continues to warm, atmospheric rivers are expected to become more intense. “The Larsen C will now be at risk from the same processes,” he said.

    A rift in the Larsen C Ice Shelf in February 2017. Scientists say the C ice shelf could meet the same fate as A and B.Credit: British Antarctic Survey (UK), via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

    Kyle R. Clem, a researcher at The Victoria University of Wellington (NZ) who was not involved in the study, said the work also showed that other parts of Antarctica that are not warming as fast as the peninsula could eventually be susceptible as well, since the mechanism that the researchers documented is more dependent on warming where the atmospheric river originates.

    “The amount of heat and moisture that atmospheric rivers transport is higher than it would be without global warming,” Dr. Clem said. “So the air mass that slams into Antarctica is much, much warmer. And it’s these episodes of extreme events that lead to ice shelf collapse.”

    “You could get this anywhere in Antarctica,” he said.

    Shelves are floating tongues of ice that serve to hold back most of the ice that covers Antarctica to depths up to nearly 3 miles. When a shelf collapses, the flow of this land ice to the ocean accelerates, increasing the rate of sea level rise.

    While the Antarctic Peninsula ice sheet is relatively small (if it all melted, seas would rise by less than a foot) the collapse of ice shelves elsewhere on the continent could lead to much greater sea level rise over centuries.

    Last month a small ice shelf collapsed in East Antarctica which is considered the most stable part of the continent.

    A satellite image taken over East Antarctica on March 17 shows the largest fragment of the collapsed Conger ice shelf, an iceberg named C-38.Credit: U.S. National Ice Center, via Agence France-Presse —Getty Images

    In the days before, an intense atmospheric river arrived in the region. It led to record high temperatures, but researchers are not yet certain how much of a role it played, if any, in the shelf’s disintegration.

    Atmospheric rivers occur when a large stationary zone of high-pressure air meets a low-pressure storm system. A narrow stream of moist air flows from the confluence of the two.

    In a typical Southern Hemisphere summer, the peninsula gets from one to five of these events, the researchers said. They looked at only the ones that contained the highest volume of water vapor.

    If a river is intense enough, it can lead to several days of surface melting of the ice shelf. As the meltwater flows into crevices it refreezes-expanding and widening the cracks. Eventually such repeated hydrofracturing, as the process is called, can cause the ice shelf to disintegrate.

    The atmospheric river can also spur the process by melting sea ice, or if its associated winds push the sea ice away from the shelf. That allows ocean waves to rock the ice shelf, further stressing it.

    Some large ice shelves in West Antarctica are thinning as a result of melting from underneath by warm ocean water. Catherine Walker, a glaciologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts who was not involved in the study, said that regardless of the long-term trends of warming and thinning, “this paper brings up the important point that very brief weather events can push an ice shelf past its tipping point.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 9:43 am on April 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Toronto- the Quietly Booming Tech Town", A new $100 million complex built by the University of Toronto will house artificial intelligence and biotech companies., D.C., In Toronto U.S.-based companies can also speed the arrival of new tech talent from other countries., The New York Times, , Toronto is home to more tech workers than Chicago; Los Angeles; Seattle and Washington, Toronto is now the third-largest tech hub in North America., Toronto’s tech work force is also growing at a faster clip than any hub in the United States., trailing only New York and Silicon Valley.   

    FromThe New York Times via The University of Toronto (CA): “Toronto- the Quietly Booming Tech Town” 

    FromThe New York Times


    The University of Toronto (CA)

    March 21, 2022
    Cade Metz

    For all the excitement around places like Austin and Miami, the biggest tech expansion has been in Canada’s largest city.

    A new $100 million complex built by the University of Toronto will house artificial intelligence and biotech companies. Credit: Brendan Ko for The New York Times.

    In late February, Microsoft opened four floors of new office space near the top of a 50-story glass tower in downtown Toronto, a block from Scotiabank Arena, home of the Maple Leafs and the Raptors.

    Apple and Amazon were already in towers just down the street, and Google was about to open a new building around the corner. Meta, formerly Facebook, did not yet have an office downtown, but many Toronto start-ups complained that the social media company was driving tech salaries to Silicon Valley levels as it recruited top engineers across the city. During the pandemic, it was hiring anyone willing to work from home.

    A few blocks north, construction workers in yellow vests and hard hats were finishing three floors of new office space for another social media company: Pinterest. Stripe, an American payments company, was opening an office near City Hall, where Klarna, a Scandinavian payments company, had just announced its arrival with a flashy photo op alongside Mayor John Tory.

    As the tech industry continues to expand and communities all over the world compete for tech jobs outside Silicon Valley, many executives, investors and entrepreneurs are promoting warm climes like Austin and Miami as the next big tech hubs. But they are tiny tech communities compared with the new hub growing in the cool air along the shore of Lake Ontario.

    Thanks to years of investment from local universities, government agencies and business leaders and Canada’s liberal immigration policies, Toronto is now the third-largest tech hub in North America. It is home to more tech workers than Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C., trailing only New York and Silicon Valley, according to CBRE, a real estate company that tracks tech hiring.

    Toronto’s tech work force is also growing at a faster clip than any hub in the United States. And unlike many cities, Toronto is likely to have the resources needed to sustain the trend. It is the fourth-largest city in North America — with about three million people in the city and more than six million in the metro area — behind only Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles, and its roots in technology run deep.

    “Everyone points to Miami as the next tech hub because it offers low taxes. But it offers little else from a tech point of view,” Mike Volpi, a partner with the venture capital firm Index Ventures, said on a recent visit to Toronto. “You need anchor companies that can provide a transformative impact. Entrepreneurs come from these companies and start their own.”

    These anchor companies — including the Canadian e-commerce company Shopify as well as the many American giants — have come to Toronto for the researchers and engineers who are already here. But they also believe the talent pool will grow.

    “This is now a place to make a long-term bet — to build connections with the cluster of schools in the area and create a new pipeline for hiring,” said Tristan Jung, a Korean-born computer scientist who grew up in Toronto, spent six years working at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco and recently persuaded the company to build an engineering hub back home in Canada.

    Over the last year, Twitter hired more than 100 engineers in Toronto, tripling its Canadian work force. Household internet names like DoorDash, eBay and Pinterest built similar technology hubs in the city, as did rising artificial intelligence companies like Cerebras, Groq and Recursion Pharmaceuticals.

    This corner of Canada includes two universities known for generating top researchers and engineers: the University of Toronto, a short walk from downtown, and The University of Waterloo (CA), Mr. Jung’s alma mater, roughly an hour away by car or train. In the past, much of this talent migrated to the United States. But engineers and computer scientists trained in and around Toronto increasingly are staying put.

    Or, like Mr. Jung, they are moving back home after years in the United States.

    In Toronto U.S.-based companies can also speed the arrival of new tech talent from other countries — a talent stream that has long been the lifeblood of the American tech industry. As the U.S. immigration system slowed and sputtered under the Trump administration, Canada introduced programs intended to bring skilled workers into a country that is already unusually diverse. Nearly 50 percent of Toronto’s residents were born outside the country, according to the city.

    “It is infinitely easier to bring that kind of talent into Canada,” said Heather Kirkby, chief people officer at Recursion, a company that applies A.I. to drug discovery. “A lot of companies have given up on immigration in the U.S. There are limits to what’s possible.”

    In and around Toronto, local institutions are intent on feeding the tech ecosystem. Ontario recently passed a law that explicitly bars companies from enforcing noncompete clauses in employment contracts, encouraging employees to found their own start-ups. Backed by a $100 million donation from local business leaders, the University of Toronto is building a complex that will house A.I. and biotech companies.

    When discussing the Toronto tech scene, locals inevitably point to Geoffrey Hinton, the University of Toronto professor whose research set in motion the recent boom in artificial intelligence.

    The new University of Toronto facility is expected to be a hub for technology research in Canada. Credit: Brendan Ko for The New York Times.

    In 2012, Dr. Hinton and two of his students published a breakthrough paper involving “neural networks,” a technology that could power everything from self-driving cars to digital assistants to chatbots. Soon, the world’s biggest companies were spending millions — sometimes tens of millions — to hire researchers who specialized in the technology.

    Google paid $44 million for Dr. Hinton, born in Britain, and his two students, both born in the former Soviet Union. For a time, he worked at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters. But he kept his professorship at the university, and in 2016 he opened a Google research lab in downtown Toronto.

    The next year, he joined local entrepreneurs and researchers in founding the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which raised $130 million from government and industry meant to keep top researchers in Toronto, attract talent from other parts of the world and push other companies to open labs in the city.

    The area was already a growing tech hub. As the financial center of Canada, Toronto was home to big banks. Microsoft had operated offices in the suburbs for years. So had computer chip companies like Intel and AMD. Google was running an engineering office near the University of Waterloo.

    A month after Dr. Hinton announced his Google lab, Uber opened a self-driving car lab anchored by another University of Toronto professor: Raquel Urtasun, who had been courted by a who’s who of American autonomous vehicle companies, but she insisted on staying in Toronto.

    “The one thing that was clear for me is that I did not want to go anywhere. The talent is here,” said Dr. Urtasun, who was born in Spain and immigrated to Canada in 2014.

    In 2019, two Canadian researchers who had worked in Google’s Toronto lab, Aidan Gomez and Nick Frosst, created their own artificial intelligence company alongside another entrepreneur, Ivan Zhang. Called Cohere, it specializes in technology that helps machines understand the natural way people write and talk — the most promising breed of A.I. — and Google is now a partner.

    A year later, as Uber’s core ride-hailing business declined during the pandemic, the company jettisoned its self-driving car efforts. And Dr. Urtasun founded a start-up called Waabi.

    Waabi kept most of the same researchers who worked in the Uber lab, with Dr. Urtasun becoming chief executive. It uses the same office on the top floor of a building just west of the university. It is funded in part by Uber. But it is a Canadian company.

    Driven by the pandemic, immigration policy and other forces, many other giants have followed Google and Uber into Toronto or rapidly expanded their existing operations in and around the city. Local venture capitalists like Jordan Jacobs, whose firm Radical Ventures invested in both Cohere and Waabi, believe this will feed the growth of a much larger start-up ecosystem.

    Others are still unsure. The big American companies came to Toronto in part because the cost of the talent was lower. According to the recruitment website Hired, the average annual tech salary in Toronto was 117,000 Canadian dollars in 2020 (only about $90,000 in U.S. dollars), versus $165,000 in Silicon Valley. But many local start-ups are now saying that because demand has suddenly risen, so have salaries, and it has become much harder to hire the talent they need.

    “A situation like this is always good for someone and bad for someone else,” said Liran Belenzon, the Israeli-born chief executive of BenchSci, a biomedical artificial intelligence company he helped found in Toronto in 2016.

    Not all tech projects in Toronto have gone as expected. In 2020, Sidewalk Labs, which was operated by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, backed out of an ambitious plan to digitize an entire neighborhood. The company said uncertainty by the pandemic was the main reason, but it had faced several years of local objections.

    Investment in new Toronto companies is still tiny compared with Silicon Valley. In 2021 and 2022, investors pumped $132 billion into Silicon Valley tech start-ups, according to the research firm Tracxn. In Toronto, that figure was $5.4 billion. But ultimately, it is tech talent that drives a tech hub, said Mr. Volpi, a Bay Area venture capitalist who also invested in Cohere.

    “The money will follow the talent,” he said.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The 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 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 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 12:24 pm on April 4, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "U.N. Panel Warns Stopping Climate Change Is Doable but Time Is Short", , , , The New York Times   

    FromThe New York Times: “U.N. Panel Warns Stopping Climate Change Is Doable but Time Is Short” 

    FromThe New York Times

    April 4, 2022
    Brad Plumer
    Raymond Zhong

    Gas and flares emitted from the oil fields of Umm Qasr port near Iraq’s southern port city of Basra, in February.Credit: Hussein Faleh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

    Nations need to move away much faster from fossil fuels to retain any hope of preventing a perilous future on an overheated planet, according to a major new report on climate change released on Monday, although they have made some progress because of the falling costs of clean energy.

    The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, warns that unless countries drastically accelerate efforts over the next few years to slash their emissions from coal, oil and natural gas, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, will likely be out of reach by the end of this decade.

    That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the dangers of global warming — including worsening floods, droughts, wildfires and ecosystem collapse — grow considerably. Humans have already heated the planet by an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the 19th century, largely by burning fossil fuels for energy.

    But the task is daunting: Holding warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius would require nations to collectively reduce their planet-warming emissions roughly 43 percent by 2030 and to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050s, the report found. By contrast, current policies by governments are only expected to reduce global emissions by a few percentage points this decade. Last year, fossil fuel emissions worldwide rebounded to near-record highs after a brief dip as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The report, which was approved by 195 governments and lays out strategies that countries could pursue to halt global warming, comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused oil and gas prices to skyrocket, diverting political attention from climate change. In the United States and Europe, leaders are focused on shoring up domestic fossil fuel supplies to avoid painful price spikes and energy shortages, even if that means increasing emissions in the short term.

    Yet climate scientists say there is little margin for delay if the world wants to hold global warming to relatively tolerable levels.

    “Every year that you let pass without going for these urgent emissions reductions makes it more and more difficult,” said Jim Skea, an energy researcher at Imperial College London who helped lead the report, which was compiled by 278 experts from 65 countries. “Unless we really do it immediately, it will not be possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.”

    But even if that goal becomes unattainable, scientists said, it will still be worthwhile for countries to slash emissions as quickly as possible to prevent as much warming as they can. Every additional rise in global temperatures increases the perils that people face around the world, such as water scarcity, malnutrition and life-threatening heat waves, the U.N. panel has found.

    “Every fraction of a degree matters,” Dr. Skea said. “Even if we go beyond 1.5, that doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and despair.”

    Scientists say that global warming will largely come to a halt once humans stop adding heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, a concept known as “net zero” emissions. If, for instance, nations reach net zero emissions by the early 2070s, the report says, they could likely stop global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

    The new report contains glimmers of optimism. Over the past decade, many nations have adopted more ambitious climate policies, scaled back plans for new coal plants and expanded their use of renewable energy through subsidies and regulations. Although emissions from fossil fuels are still growing worldwide, the rate of growth slowed in the 2010s, compared with the 2000s, the report said, and humanity now has a much better shot at avoiding some of the worst-case global warming scenarios once widely feared by scientists.

    Wind turbines and a solar farm in Rapshagen, Germany, last year.Credit: Michael Sohn/Associated Press.

    Clean energy technology has advanced far more quickly than expected, the report said. Since 2010, the costs of solar panels and lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles have plunged by 85 percent, while the cost of wind turbines has fallen by more than half.

    Rapidly shifting away from the fossil fuels that have underpinned economies for more than a century will require nations to do much more, however. Over the next decade, governments and companies would need to invest three to six times the roughly $600 billion they currently spend annually on encouraging clean energy and cutting emissions, the report said.

    But the cost of inaction is also substantial, in terms of deaths, displacement and damage. In the United States last year, damages from floods, wildfires, drought and other disasters related to weather and climate totaled approximately $145 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency said that “extremely high” levels of disasters were becoming “the new normal.”

    “Reducing emissions substantially is much less painful than you would think, and probably beneficial in the short term,” said Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, who contributed to the report.

    The new report examines dozens of strategies proposed by scientists and energy experts to help nations make the transition.

    First, countries would need to clean up virtually all of the power plants worldwide that generate electricity for homes and factories. That means relying more on energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal or hydropower. Most of the world’s coal and natural gas plants would either need to shut down or install carbon capture technology that can trap emissions and bury them underground. Such technology has been slow to take off because of its high costs.

    The next step would be to reconfigure transportation, industry and other segments of the global economy to run on clean electricity rather than fossil fuels. Cars powered by gasoline could be replaced with electric vehicles charged by low-carbon grids. Gas-burning furnaces in homes could be swapped out for electric heat pumps. Instead of burning coal, steel mills could shift to electric furnaces that melt scrap.

    At the same time, nations could take steps to reduce their total energy demand. That could entail expanding public transit, upgrading insulation so homes consume less energy, recycling more raw materials and making factories more energy efficient. At the high end, such demand-side policies could help cut emissions in key sectors as much as 40 to 70 percent by 2050, the report notes.

    But many economic activities can’t be easily electrified. Batteries are still too heavy for most airplanes. Many industries, like cement and glass, require extreme heat and currently burn coal or gas. For those emissions, governments and businesses will have to develop new fuels and industrial processes, the report said.

    A fire set by farmers for the deforestation process in the Amazon jungle last year. Credit: Federico Rios for The New York Times.

    Countries will also need to address emissions from deforestation and agriculture, which account for around a fifth of global greenhouse gases. That means dealing with issues like global meat production, which emits methane and carbon dioxide, and is causing rampant deforestation in vital places like the Amazon rainforest.

    Forests and wetlands are powerful natural stores of carbon dioxide, which makes sparing them from destruction a highly effective and economical way to mitigate warming, said Stephanie Roe, a World Wildlife Fund scientist who helped write the report. “I can’t reiterate enough the importance of conserving those ecosystems,” she said.

    Even in the best case, humanity is unlikely to eliminate all of its planet warming emissions, the report warned. So countries will likely also have to devise ways to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year by around midcentury. One strategy could be to plant more trees, although that may not be enough, the report cautioned. Other options include devices that suck carbon out of the air, though these technologies are still immature.

    The report acknowledges the enormous challenges ahead. Winding down coal, oil and gas projects would mean job losses and financial dislocation. Some climate solutions come with major trade-offs: Protecting forests, for instance, leaves less land for growing crops or raising livestock to feed a world population that keeps growing.

    In the developing world, governments still need to expand access to electricity and modern cooking fuels for hundreds of millions of the poorest people, which might only be possible in the short term by burning more fossil fuels. These nations have benefited from advances in renewable energy technology, but efforts to cut emissions deeply have run up against two longstanding issues: high costs and overstretched governments.

    “If technology could solve the problem completely, the problem could have been solved two or three decades ago,” said Wei Shen, a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies, a think tank in Britain, who helped write the report.

    There is strong political will in many developing nations to tackle climate change, said Fatima Denton, director of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa and another author of the report. But greater financial support from wealthy nations is critical, she said, partly as a matter of fairness and historical responsibility: Western countries that got rich by burning fossil fuels are now effectively telling poor nations that they cannot do the same.

    “You’re telling them to leave their resources in the ground, when they have always more or less seen these as the route to more capitalism, more wealth, more prosperity,” Dr. Denton said.

    China’s leader, Xi Jinping, said last year that his country would stop building new coal plants overseas, a major step toward promoting green energy in the developing world. At home, though, China is digging up and burning more coal to keep electricity flowing amid the economic disruptions of the war in Ukraine and the coronavirus pandemic. China is the planet’s top emitter of greenhouse gases.

    Piles of coal in a warehouse in Shanxi Province, a major Chinese coal source. Credit: Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times.

    “It’s unfortunate: These recent crises just demonstrate that if decarbonization happened earlier, then China, as well as other regions, would have been more resilient to some of these shocks,” said Cecilia Han Springer, a China expert at Boston University. “But that means there’s also an opportunity to double down.”

    India’s government has increased energy efficiency in homes and factories, given farmers solar-powered water pumps and helped promote the rapid construction of solar farms. But the country’s state-run electric utilities remain in fragile fiscal health, meaning there is no guarantee that efforts to expand clean energy will be financially sustainable.

    Worldwide, slashing emissions requires overhauling the way governments, businesses and even societies work, said Dr. Denton of the United Nations University. “That’s not an overnight thing, and it comes with some cost, whether we like it or not.”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 11:17 am on April 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Climate Optimism", , , , The New York Times   

    FromThe New York Times: “Climate Optimism” 

    FromThe New York Times

    April 3, 2022
    German Lopez

    We have reason for hope on climate change.

    Children reflected in stagnant water after flooding in South Sudan last year.Credit: Adrienne Surprenant/Associated Press.

    Among the headline-grabbing wildfires, droughts and floods, it is easy to feel disheartened about climate change.

    I felt this myself when a United Nations panel released the latest major report on global warming. It said that humanity was running out of time to avert some of the worst effects of a warming planet. Another report is coming tomorrow. So I called experts to find out whether my sense of doom was warranted.

    To my relief, they pushed back against the notion of despair. The world, they argued, has made real progress on climate change and still has time to act. They said that any declaration of inevitable doom would be a barrier to action, alongside the denialism that Republican lawmakers have historically used to stall climate legislation. Such pushback is part of a budding movement: Activists who challenge climate dread recently took off on TikTok, my colleague Cara Buckley reported.

    “Fear is useful to wake us up and make us pay attention,” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, told me. “But if we don’t know what to do, it paralyzes us.”

    In a climate change-focused survey of young people in 10 countries last year, 75 percent of respondents said the future was frightening. Some people now use therapy to calm their climate anxieties. Some have drastically changed their lives out of fear of a warming planet — even deciding not to have kids.

    Climate change of course presents a huge challenge, threatening the world with more of the extreme weather we have seen over the past few years. And the situation is urgent: To meet President Biden’s climate goals, experts argue, Congress must pass the climate provisions of the Build Back Better Act this year.

    But rather than seeing the climate challenge as overwhelming or hopeless, experts said, we should treat it as a call to action.

    Reasons for hope

    The world has made genuine progress in slowing climate change in recent years. In much of the world, solar and wind power are now cheaper than coal and gas. The cost of batteries has plummeted over the past few decades, making electric vehicles much more accessible. Governments and businesses are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into clean energy.

    Before 2015, the world was expected to warm by about four degrees Celsius by 2100. Today, the world is on track for three degrees Celsius. And if the world’s leaders meet their current commitments, the planet would warm by around two degrees Celsius.

    Pathways of global greenhouse gas emissions

    Note: Warming is relative to the pre-industrial period. Source: Climate Action Tracker. Credit: The New York Times

    That is not enough to declare victory. The standard goal world leaders have embraced to avoid the worst consequences of climate change is to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. Unfortunately, that does look increasingly unreachable, experts said.

    But every drop in degrees matters. One-tenth of a degree may sound like very little, but it could save lives — by preventing more wildfires, droughts, floods and conflicts over dwindling resources.

    And while the best outcome now seems doubtful, so does the worst. Scientists have long worried about runaway warming that generates out-of-control weather, leaves regions uninhabitable and wrecks ecosystems. But projections right now suggest that scenario is unlikely, said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at The Pennsylvania State University.

    Channeling despair

    Experts and advocates want to capture legitimate concerns and funnel them into action. The world’s governments and biggest businesses have set goals to reduce greenhouse emissions in the coming decades, but they will need the public’s help and support.

    One model for this is road safety. Drivers can reduce their chances of crashes by driving carefully, but even the safest can be hit. The U.S. reduced car-crash deaths over several decades by passing sweeping laws and rules that required seatbelts, airbags and collapsible steering wheels; punished drunken driving; built safer roads and more — a collective approach.

    The same type of path can work for climate change, experts said. Cutting individual carbon footprints is less important than systemic changes that governments and companies enact to help people live more sustainably. While individual action helps, it is no match for the impact of entire civilizations that have built their economies around burning carbon sources for energy.

    The need for a sweeping solution can make the problem feel too big and individuals too small, again feeding into despair.

    But experts said that individuals could still make a difference, by playing into a collective approach. You can convince friends and family to take the issue seriously, changing what politicians and policies they support. You can become involved in politics (including at the local level, where many climate policies are carried out). You can actively post about global warming on social media. You can donate money to climate causes.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 12:57 pm on March 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Life’s Preference for Symmetry Is Like ‘A New Law of Nature’", , , , , The New York Times   

    From The New York Times : “Life’s Preference for Symmetry Is Like ‘A New Law of Nature’” 

    From The New York Times

    March 24, 2022
    Kate Golembiewski

    A rendering of a light-harvesting complex from a bacterium. Credit: Iain Johnston.

    Symmetry runs rampant in nature. It’s present wherever mirror images are repeated, like in the right and left halves of elephants or butterflies, or in the repeating patterns of flower petals and starfish arms around a central point. It’s even hiding in the structures of tiny things like proteins and RNA. While asymmetry certainly exists in nature (like how your heart is off to one side in your chest, or how male fiddler crabs have one enlarged claw), symmetrical forms crop up too often in living things to just be random.

    Why does symmetry reign supreme? Biologists aren’t sure — there’s no reason based in natural selection for symmetry’s prevalence in such varied forms of life and their building blocks. Now it seems like a good answer could come from the field of computer science.

    In a paper published this month in PNAS, researchers analyzed thousands of protein complexes and RNA structures as well as a model network of molecules that control how genes switch on and off. They found that evolution tends toward symmetry because the instructions to produce symmetry are easier to embed in genetic code and follow. Symmetry is maybe the most fundamental application of the adage “work smarter, not harder.”

    “People often are quite amazed that evolution can make these incredible structures, and what we’re showing is that it’s actually easier than you might think,” said Ard Louis, a physicist at the University of Oxford (UK) and an author of the study.

    “It’s like we found a new law of nature,” said Chico Camargo, a co-author and a lecturer in computer science at The University of Exeter (UK). “This is beautiful, because it changes how you see the world.”

    Dr. Louis, Dr. Camargo and their colleague Iain Johnston began their exploration of symmetry’s evolutionary origins when Dr. Johnston was working on his Ph.D., running simulations to understand how viruses form their protein shells. The structures that emerged were highly biased toward symmetry, cropping up far more often than pure randomness would allow.

    The researchers were surprised at first, but it made sense — the algorithms to produce simple, repeating patterns are easier to carry out and harder to screw up. Dr. Johnston, now at the University of Bergen in Norway, likens it to telling someone how to tile a floor: It’s easier to give instructions to lay down repeating rows of identical square tiles than explain how to make a complex mosaic.

    Over the next decade, the researchers and their team applied that same concept to basic biological components, looking at how proteins assemble into clusters and how RNA folds.

    “The shapes that appear more often are the simpler ones, or the ones that are less crazy,” Dr. Camargo said.

    Imagining RNA and proteins as little input-output machines that carry out algorithmic genetic instructions explains the tendency toward symmetry in a way that Darwinian “survival of the fittest” hasn’t been able to. Because it’s easier to encode instructions for building simple, symmetrical structures, nature winds up with a disproportionate number of these simpler instruction sets to choose from when it comes to natural selection. That makes evolution a bit like a “biased game with loaded dice,” Dr. Camargo said, producing disproportionate symmetry because of its simplicity.

    While their paper focuses on microscopic structures, the researchers believe that this logic extends to bigger, more complex organisms. “It would make an awful lot of sense if nature could reuse the program to produce a petal rather than have a different program for every one of the 100 petals around the sunflower,” Dr. Johnston said.

    While there’s still a gulf between demonstrating the statistical bias toward microscopic symmetry and explaining the symmetry we see in plants and animals, Holló Gábor, a biologist who studies symmetry at the University of Debrecen in Hungary, says he’s excited by the results of the new paper. “To explain how such an inherent and such a universal feature emerges at all in evolution, in nature, that’s something,” said Dr. Holló, who was not involved with the study.

    Similarly, Luís Seoane, a complex systems researcher at the Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia in Spain, also not involved in the study, praised the work as being “as legit as it gets.”

    “There is a war going on between simplicity and complexity, and we live right at the edge of it,” Dr. Seoane said. The universe tends toward ever-increasing randomness, he added, but these simple, symmetrical building blocks help make sense of that complexity.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 10:12 am on February 6, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Climate Change Enters the Therapy Room", , , , , Psychology and Psychotherapy, The New York Times   

    From The New York Times : “Climate Change Enters the Therapy Room” 

    From The New York Times

    Feb. 6, 2022
    Ellen Barry

    Alina Black, a mother of two in Portland, Ore., sought a therapist who specialized in climate anxiety to address her mounting panics. “I feel like I have developed a phobia to my way of life,” she said.Credit: Mason Trinca for The New York Times.

    It would hit Alina Black in the snack aisle at Trader Joe’s, a wave of guilt and shame that made her skin crawl.

    Something as simple as nuts. They came wrapped in plastic, often in layers of it, that she imagined leaving her house and traveling to a landfill, where it would remain through her lifetime and the lifetime of her children.

    She longed, really longed, to make less of a mark on the earth. But she had also had a baby in diapers, and a full-time job, and a 5-year-old who wanted snacks. At the age of 37, these conflicting forces were slowly closing on her, like a set of jaws.

    In the early-morning hours, after nursing the baby, she would slip down a rabbit hole, scrolling through news reports of droughts, fires, mass extinction. Then she would stare into the dark.

    It was for this reason that, around six months ago, she searched “climate anxiety” and pulled up the name of Thomas J. Doherty, a Portland psychologist who specializes in climate.

    Thomas Doherty in Portland, Ore. He specializes in distress related to climate disaster, or ecopsychology, which was, as he put it, a “woo-woo area” until recently.Credit: Mason Trinca for The New York Times.

    A decade ago, Dr. Doherty and a colleague, Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology at the University of Wooster, published a paper [APA PsycNet] proposing a new idea. They argued that climate change would have a powerful psychological impact — not just on the people bearing the brunt of it, but on people following it through news and research. At the time, the notion was seen as speculative.

    That skepticism is fading. Eco-anxiety, a concept introduced by young activists, has entered a mainstream vocabulary. And professional organizations are hurrying to catch up, exploring approaches to treating anxiety that is both existential and, many would argue, rational.

    Though there is little empirical data on effective treatments, the field is expanding swiftly. The Climate Psychology Alliance provides an online directory of climate-aware therapists; the Good Grief Network, a peer support network modeled on 12-step addiction programs, has spawned more than 50 groups; professional certification programs in climate psychology have begun to appear.

    As for Dr. Doherty, so many people now come to him for this problem that he has built an entire practice around them: an 18-year-old student who sometimes experiences panic attacks so severe that she can’t get out of bed; a 69-year-old glacial geologist who is sometimes overwhelmed with sadness when he looks at his grandchildren; a man in his 50s who erupts in frustration over his friends’ consumption choices, unable to tolerate their chatter about vacations in Tuscany.

    The field’s emergence has met resistance, for various reasons. Therapists have long been trained to keep their own views out of their practices. And many leaders in mental health maintain that anxiety over climate change is no different, clinically, from anxiety caused by other societal threats, like terrorism or school shootings. Some climate activists, meanwhile, are leery of viewing anxiety over climate as dysfunctional thinking — to be soothed or, worse, cured.

    But Ms. Black was not interested in theoretical arguments; she needed help right away.

    She was no Greta Thunberg type, but a busy, sleep-deprived working mom. Two years of wildfires and heat waves in Portland had stirred up something sleeping inside her, a compulsion to prepare for disaster. She found herself up at night, pricing out water purification systems. For her birthday, she asked for a generator.

    She understands how privileged she is; she describes her anxiety as a “luxury problem.” But still: The plastic toys in the bathtub made her anxious. The disposable diapers made her anxious. She began to ask herself, what is the relationship between the diapers and the wildfires?

    “I feel like I have developed a phobia to my way of life,” she said.

    An Idea on the Edge Spreads Out

    Last fall, Ms. Black logged on for her first meeting with Dr. Doherty, who sat, on video, in front of a large, glossy photograph of evergreens.

    At 56, he is one of the most visible authorities on climate in psychotherapy, and he hosts a podcast, Climate Change and Happiness. In his clinical practice, he reaches beyond standard treatments for anxiety, like cognitive behavioral therapy, to more obscure ones, like existential therapy, conceived to help people fight off despair, and ecotherapy, which explores the client’s relationship to the natural world.

    He did not take the usual route to psychology; after graduating from Columbia University (US), he hitchhiked across the country to work on fishing boats in Alaska, then as a whitewater rafting guide — “the whole Jack London thing” — and as a Greenpeace fund-raiser. Entering graduate school in his 30s, he fell in naturally with the discipline of “ecopsychology”.

    At the time, ecopsychology was, as he put it, a “woo-woo area,” with colleagues delving into shamanic rituals and Jungian deep ecology. Dr. Doherty had a more conventional focus, on the physiological effects of anxiety. But he had picked up on an idea that was, at that time, novel: that people could be affected by environmental decay even if they were not physically caught in a disaster.

    Recent research has left little doubt that this is happening. A 10-country survey of 10,000 people aged 16 to 25 published last month in The Lancet found startling rates of pessimism. Forty-five percent of respondents said worry about climate negatively affected their daily life. Three-quarters said they believed “the future is frightening,” and 56 percent said “humanity is doomed.”

    The blow to young people’s confidence appears to be more profound than with previous threats, such as nuclear war, Dr. Clayton said. “We’ve definitely faced big problems before, but climate change is described as an existential threat,” she said. “It undermines people’s sense of security in a basic way.”

    Caitlin Ecklund, 37, a Portland therapist who finished graduate school in 2016, said that nothing in her training — in subjects like buried trauma, family systems, cultural competence and attachment theory — had prepared her to help the young women who began coming to her describing hopelessness and grief over climate. She looks back on those first interactions as “misses.”

    “Climate stuff is really scary, so I went more toward soothing or normalizing,” said Ms. Ecklund, who is part of a group of therapists convened by Dr. Dougherty to discuss approaches to climate. It has meant, she said, “deconstructing some of that formal old-school counseling that has implicitly made things people’s individual problems.”

    “Obviously, it would be nice to be happy.”

    Caroline Wiese, 18, of New York City experienced “multiday panic episodes” over climate data, which interfered with her schoolwork.Credit: Calla Kessler for The New York Times.

    Many of Dr. Doherty’s clients sought him out after finding it difficult to discuss climate with a previous therapist.

    Caroline Wiese, 18, described her previous therapist as “a typical New Yorker who likes to follow politics and would read The New York Times, but also really didn’t know what a Keeling Curve was,” referring to the daily record of carbon dioxide concentration.

    Ms. Wiese had little interest in “Freudian B.S.” She sought out Dr. Doherty for help with a concrete problem: The data she was reading was sending her into “multiday panic episodes” that interfered with her schoolwork.

    In their sessions, she has worked to carefully manage what she reads, something she says she needs to sustain herself for a lifetime of work on climate. “Obviously, it would be nice to be happy,” she said, “but my goal is to more to just be able to function.”

    Frank Granshaw, 69, a retired professor of geology, wanted help hanging on to what he calls “realistic hope.”

    He recalls a morning, years ago, when his granddaughter crawled into his lap and fell asleep, and he found himself overwhelmed with emotion, considering the changes that would occur in her lifetime. These feelings, he said, are simply easier to unpack with a psychologist who is well versed on climate. “I appreciate the fact that he is dealing with emotions that are tied into physical events,” he said.

    As for Ms. Black, she had never quite accepted her previous therapist’s vague reassurances. Once she made an appointment Dr. Doherty, she counted the days. She had a wild hope that he would say something that would simply cause the weight to lift.

    That didn’t happen. Much their first session was devoted to her doomscrolling, especially during the nighttime hours. It felt like a baby step.

    “Do I need to read this 10th article about the climate summit?” she practiced asking herself. “Probably not.”

    Frank Granshaw, a retired glacial geologist in Portland, sees a psychologist who is well versed on the climate. Credit: Mason Trinca for The New York Times.

    A Knot Loosens: “There Will Be Good Days”

    Several sessions came and went before something really happened.

    Ms. Black remembers going into an appointment feeling distraught. She had been listening to radio coverage of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting in Glasgow and heard a scientist interviewed. What she perceived in his voice was flat resignation.

    That summer, Portland had been trapped under a high-pressure system known as a “heat dome,” sending temperatures to 116 degrees. Looking at her own children, terrible images flashed through her head, like a field of fire. She wondered aloud: Were they doomed?

    Dr. Doherty listened quietly. Then he told her, choosing his words carefully, that the rate of climate change suggested by the data was not as swift as what she was envisioning.

    “In the future, even with worst-case scenarios, there will be good days,” he told her, according to his notes. “Disasters will happen in certain places. But, around the world, there will be good days. Your children will also have good days.”

    At this, Ms. Black began to cry.

    She is a contained person — she tends to deflect frightening thoughts with dark humor — so this was unusual. She recalled the exchange later as a threshold moment, the point when the knot in her chest began to loosen.

    “I really trust that when I hear information from him, it’s coming from a deep well of knowledge,” she said. “And that gives me a lot of peace.”

    Dr. Doherty recalled the conversation as “cathartic in a basic way.” It was not unusual, in his practice; many clients harbor dark fears about the future and have no way to express them. “It is a terrible place to be,” he said.

    A big part of his practice is helping people manage guilt over consumption: He takes a critical view of the notion of a climate footprint, a construct he says was created by corporations in order to shift the burden to individuals.

    Ms. Black still tears up remembering a moment when Dr. Doherty told her, “In the future, even with worst-case scenarios, there will be good days.” The conversation was “cathartic in a basic way,” Dr. Doherty recalled.Credit: Mason Trinca for The New York Times.

    He uses elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, like training clients to manage their news intake and look critically at their assumptions.

    He also draws on logotherapy, or existential therapy, a field founded by Viktor E. Frankl, who survived German concentration camps and then wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which described how prisoners in Auschwitz were able to live fulfilling lives.

    “I joke, you know it’s bad when you’ve got to bring out the Viktor Frankl,” he said. “But it’s true. It is exactly right. It is of that scale. It is that consolation: that ultimately I make meaning, even in a meaningless world.”

    At times, over the last few months, Ms. Black could feel some of the stress easing.

    On weekends, she practices walking in the woods with her family without allowing her mind to flicker to the future. Her conversations with Dr. Doherty, she said, had “opened up my aperture to the idea that it’s not really on us as individuals to solve.”

    Sometimes, though, she’s not sure that relief is what she wants. Following the news about the climate feels like an obligation, a burden she is meant to carry, at least until she is confident that elected officials are taking action.

    Her goal is not to be released from her fears about the warming planet, or paralyzed by them, but something in between: She compares it to someone with a fear of flying, who learns to manage their fear well enough to fly.

    “On a very personal level,” she said, “the small victory is not thinking about this all the time.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 3:03 pm on February 5, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Seen From Space-Huge Methane Leaks", , , , , The New York Times   

    From The New York Times : “Seen From Space-Huge Methane Leaks” 

    From The New York Times

    Feb. 4, 2022
    Henry Fountain

    A European satellite reveals sites in the United States, Russia, Central Asia and elsewhere that are “ultra emitters” of methane. That could help fight climate change.

    A flare burning off methane in Watford City, N.D. Credit: Matthew Brown/Associated Press.

    If the world is going to make a dent in emissions of methane, a potent planet-warming gas, targeting the largest emitters would likely be the most cost-effective. But there’s a basic problem: How to find them.

    A new study has shown one way. Using data from a European satellite, researchers have identified sites around the world where large amounts of methane are pouring into the air. Most of these “ultra emitters” are part of the petroleum industry, and are in major oil and gas producing basins in the United States, Russia, Central Asia and other regions.

    “We were not surprised to see leaks,” said Thomas Lauvaux, a researcher at the Laboratory for Sciences of Climate and Environment near Paris and lead author of the study, published in Science. “But these were giant leaks. It’s quite a systemic problem.”

    Among gases released through human activities, methane is more potent in its effect on warming than carbon dioxide, although emissions of it are lower and it breaks down in the atmosphere sooner. Over 20 years it can result in 80 times the warming of the same amount of CO2.

    Because of this, reducing methane emissions has increasingly been seen as a way to more rapidly limit global warming this century.

    “If you do anything to mitigate methane emissions, you will see the impact more quickly,” said Felix Vogel, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada in Toronto who was not involved in the study.

    Among the nearly 400 million tons of human-linked methane emissions every year, oil and gas production is estimated to account for about one-third. And unlike carbon dioxide, which is released when fossil fuels are deliberately burned for energy, much of the methane from oil and gas is either intentionally released or accidentally leaked from wells, pipelines and production facilities.

    “Methane typically is something you don’t want to lose,” Dr. Vogel said. It could be captured and used — for one thing, it’s the main component of natural gas. “So it’s much easier to work toward reducing emissions,” he said.

    Until recently, identifying major emitters of methane has largely been accomplished through remote sensing by airplanes, drones or surface equipment, which can only spot emissions over relatively small areas, usually for relatively short periods. These methods can be revealing — a 2019 New York Times investigation
    using airborne sensors, for example, showed large leaks from facilities in the Permian Basin in West Texas, a major oil and gas producing area.

    Satellites can provide much broader, continuous coverage, but at a lower resolution that makes it difficult to pinpoint emissions sources.

    Dr. Lauvaux and his colleagues found, however, that they could detect extremely large emitters — those releasing more than 25 tons per hour — in data from a sensor aboard a European satellite, Sentinel 5.

    The European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea][Agence spatiale européenn] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation] (EU) Copernicus Sentinel-5P.

    Using data from 2019 and 2020, they located about 1,200 of these ultra emitters, a large portion of them from Russia, Turkmenistan, the United States, the Middle East and Algeria.

    Total emissions from these sites were estimated at about 9 million tons per year. In terms of its potential to warm the planet, that much methane is equivalent to about 275 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is the total carbon footprint of 40 million people, based on the global average per capita.

    The reported amount of methane does not include amounts from some regions, including the Permian Basin and oil-producing areas in Canada and China, where overall emissions were so high it was not possible to distinguish large individual sources. Dr. Lauvaux estimated that if ultra emitters from those regions were included, the annual methane total would be about double.

    That would account for more than 10 percent of methane emissions from the industry as a whole. Requiring companies to repair these major leaks or other problems would likely help reduce emissions more quickly and at lower net cost than detecting and repairing countless thousands of much smaller leaks.

    Even though the researchers were able to detect huge emission plumes, the satellite resolution, about 15 square miles, is not high enough to give the exact location of the source — the specific pump or pipeline section that is leaking, for example.

    So the research points to a need to use multiple methods to detect emissions sources, said Riley Duren, a researcher at The University of Arizona (US) and one of the study authors. Airborne or ground-based sensors could be used to follow up at sites detected by satellites like Sentinel 5.

    There is also soon to be a new generation of methane-detecting satellites with much higher resolution, capable of more precisely pinpointing sources.

    Satellites like Sentinel 5 “act like wide angle lenses on cameras,” Dr. Duren said. “They give good, wide-area global situational awareness of where hot spots are.”

    Dr. Duren is also the chief executive of Carbon Mapper, a public-private partnership behind a project that will use a constellation of satellites. It and another satellite, MethaneSAT, a project of the Environmental Defense Fund, “will act more like a telephoto lens,” he said.

    “We’re going to see dramatic advances in space-based monitoring of methane,” Dr. Duren said. “That’s going to push the detection limits down.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 7:28 pm on January 23, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A New Map of the Sun’s Local Bubble", , , , , , The New York Times   

    From The New York Times : “A New Map of the Sun’s Local Bubble” 

    From The New York Times

    Jan. 20, 2022
    Dennis Overbye

    A view of the center of Milky Way from 2011. Scientists believe a series of supernova explosions 14 million years ago led to the creation of a 1,000-light-year-wide region bereft of the gas and dust needed to form new stars.Credit: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US).

    Just a bit too late for New Year celebrations, astronomers have discovered that the Milky Way galaxy, our home, is, like champagne, full of bubbles.

    As it happens, our solar system is passing through the center of one of these bubbles. Fourteen million years ago, according to the astronomers, a firecracker chain of supernova explosions drove off all the gas and dust from a region roughly 1,000 light-years wide, leaving it bereft of the material needed to produce new generations of stars.

    As a result, all the baby stars in our neighborhood can be found stuck on the edges of this bubble. There, the staccato force of a previous generation of exploding stars has pushed gas clouds together into forms dense enough to collapse under their own ponderous if diffuse gravity and condense enough to ignite, as baby stars. Our sun, 4.5 billion years old, drifts through the middle of this space in a coterie of aged stars.

    “This is really an origin story,” Catherine Zucker said in a news release from The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “For the first time, we can explain how all nearby star formation began.”

    Dr. Zucker, now at The Space Telescope Science Institute (US), led a team that mapped what they call the Local Bubble in remarkable detail. They used data from a number of sources, particularly Gaia, a European spacecraft, that has mapped and measured more than a billion stars, to pinpoint the locations of gas and dust clouds.

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) GAIA satellite.

    Last year, a group of scientists led by João Alves, an astrophysicist at The University of Vienna [Universität Wien](AT) announced the discovery of the Radcliffe Wave, an undulating string of dust and gas clouds 9,000 light-years long that might be the spine of our local arm of the galaxy. One section of the wave now appears to be part of our Local Bubble.

    An artist’s illustration of the Local Bubble with star formation occurring on the bubble’s surface.Credit: Leah Hustak (STScI)/CfA.

    The same group of scientists published their latest findings in Nature, along with an elaborate animated map of the Local Bubble and its highlights.

    New Local Bubble Map. Credit: CfA

    The results, the astronomers write, provide “robust observational support” for a long-held theory that supernova explosions are important in triggering star formation, perhaps by jostling gas and dust clouds into collapsing and starting on the long road to thermonuclear luminosity.

    Astronomers have long recognized the Local Bubble. What is new, said Alyssa Goodman, a member of the team also from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is the observation that all local star forming-regions lie on the Local Bubble’s surface. Researchers previously lacked the tools to map gas and dust clouds in three dimensions. “Thanks to 3-D dust-mapping, now we do,” Dr. Goodman said.

    According to the team’s calculations the Local Bubble began 14 million years ago with a massive supernova, the first of about 15; massive stars died and blew up. Their blast waves cleared out the region. As a result there are now no stars younger than 14 million years in the bubble, Dr. Goodman said.

    The bubble continues to grow at about 4 miles a second. “Still, more supernovae are expected to take place in the near future, like Antares, a red supergiant star near the edge of the bubble that could go any century now,” Dr. Alves said. “So the Local Bubble is not ‘done.’”

    With a score of well-known star-forming regions sitting on the surface of the bubble, the next generation of stars is securely on tap.

    The team plans to go on and map more bubbles in the our Milky Way flute of champagne. There must be more, Dr. Goodman said, because it would be too much of a coincidence for the sun to be smack in the middle of the only one.

    The sun’s presence in this one is nonetheless coincidental, Dr. Alves said. Our star wandered into the region only 5 million years ago, long after most of the action, and will exit about 5 million years from now.

    The motions of the stars are more irregular than commonly portrayed, as they are bumped gravitationally by other stars, clouds and the like, Dr. Alves said.

    “The sun is moving at a significantly different velocity than the average of the stars and gas in the solar neighborhood,” he noted. This would enable it to catch up and pass — or be passed by — the bubble.

    “It was a revelation,” Dr. Goodman said, “how kooky the sun’s path really is compared with a simple circle.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

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