Marco Torres, Prevent DiseaseWith a progressively educated population becoming more aware of the inherent dangers of the conventional food supply, urban farming has become hugely popular. However, more people are also becoming aware of contaminated soil and how heavy metals pose potential risks to their food crops. As backyard gardening continues to explode in popularity, we must ask how contaminated is our soil?Many municipalities in many countries are embracing urban agri [...]
Excerpt from eaglecurrent.com NASA is joining in an effort to have an understanding of the presence of a methane hotspot over the 4 corners area of the United States. How severe is the atmospheric feature?A methane hotspot hovering over t...
On a different planet - Nick Curtis imagines a message from 'Martianaut' Maggie Lieu to her parents back at home
Mars Mission, British Martianaut Maggie Lieu’s Log
Day One: Stardate 22/02/2025.
Hello Mission Control.... Just kidding! Hi mum, hi dad, or should I say earthlings!
Well, me and Bruce the Australian Martianaut finally touched down beside the Herschel II Strait on the red planet today, the last of 12 pairs to arrive - though as you know it was touch and go. Ten years of training and research almost went down the drain when Google got hit by a massive retrospective tax bill and had to withdraw all its branded sponsorship from the starship at the last minute:
fortunately Amazon stepped in, on the agreement we install its first matter transference delivery portal (“It’s there before you know it”) here. And rename the ship Bezos 1, of course
The trip was textbook, with both of us uploading videos on how to apply makeup and bake cupcakes in space direct to the Weibo-spex of our crowdsource funders in China - great practice for The Great Martian Bakeoff on BBC 12 next year (subscribers only). The one hairy moment was a near miss with that Virgin Galactic rocket, Beardie IV, that went AWOL five years ago. We were so close we could see Leonardo diCaprio’s little screaming face pressed against his porthole. And Kim Kardashian’s bum pressed against hers - though it’s looking kinda old now and I hoped we’d seen the last of it.
So what can I tell you? When we landed the others threw us a party with full fat milk, rare beef and waffles (the only official space superfoods since it was discovered that kale and quinoa cause impotence). The landscape is pretty barren, just acres of rolling sand and no one in sight, sort of like Greece after it left the Eurozone and the entire population moved to Germany. Or like the so-called Caliphate after Islamic State finally perfected its time machine and managed to transport itself and all its followers back to the 12th century.
The temperature outside is about 20c, so a lot cooler than it is at home since the ice caps melted. There’s water here, but not as much as is now covering Indonesia, Holland and Somerset. The atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide so Juan, the Spanish Martianaut, had to keep his suit on when he went out to smoke. He tried to get us all to buy duty free for him in Mexico City spaceport before we left, now that a pack of cigarettes costs 450 Euros in the shops, and they’ve been camouflaged so you can’t find them.
Maggie Lieu (Guardian)
The construction-droids did a pretty good job building Mars Camp out of the recycled parts of all those closed Tesco Metros. They say we have enough air up here to last 20 years, Earth’s stocks of storable oxygen having increased tenfold when the European Parliament collapsed following the expenses scandal. I still can’t believe that Dasha Putin-Mugabe was claiming for SIX driverless cars while she was EU President, and employing her wife as her accountant. And her being the first transgender Russian lesbian to hold the office, too.
Speaking of politics, how is life in coalition Britain? Who has the upper hand at the moment? UKIP? Scots Nats? The Greens? or those nutters from Cornwall, Mebion Kernow? Or are they underwater now. And how is young Straw doing now Labour is the smallest party in Parliament, after the New New New Conservatives? Hard to believe it’s three years since the last Lib Dem lost her seat.
I gather that some things have improved internationally now that Brian Cox has developed his own time machine at the Wowcher-Hawking Institute in Cambridge, and worked out that the entire world can now transport all its waste products back to the Caliphate in the 12th century.
We can see the Earth from here through the Clinton2020 Telescope that the US president endowed us with after her brief period in office. The joke up here is that she did it to keep a proper eye either on her husband (though he doesn’t get around so much any more, obviously) or on what President Palin is up to. I still can’t believe that she sold Alaska to Russia to pay the compensation bill for the Grand Canyon Fracking Collapse.
Even through the Clinton2020 the Earth looks pretty small, though at times, when the stars are really bright, we can see the Great Wall 2 ring of laser satellites that China has pointed at Russia to discourage any more “accidental” incursions.
Our team up here is like a microcosm of human life on earth. Well, up to a point. As you know the French and Italian Martianauts were expelled from the team before lift-off, because of some scandal or other. We weren’t told if it was financial or sexual but a space bra and a data stick with three million Bitcoins on it were found in the airlock.
The African and Brazilian Martianauts swan around the place as if they PERSONALLY solved the world’s food and energy problems. And the North Korean guy just sits in the corner, muttering into some device up his sleeve and scowling. All the freeze-dried cheese has gone and he’s looking quite fat, if you get my meaning.
I don’t get much time to myself, what with work, the non-denominational Sorry Meetings where we apologise in case we’ve accidently offended someone’s beliefs, and the communal space-pilates sessions (the North Korean guy skips those so he may be in line for a compulsory gastric band, as mandated by the Intergalactic Health Organisation).
I always try and upload the latest Birmingham City Games onto my cortex chip when I feel homesick: I know it's not fashionable, but I think football got better when they replaced the players with robots and the wage bill - and the number of court cases - dropped to zero. I know the electricity bill is massive, but the new Brazilian solar technology should fix that.
Anyway, got to run now. We’re putting together a bid to have the 2036 Olympics up here.
Bye, or as we say on Mars - see you on the dark side.
The vastness of space is so expansive, so inconceivable, that frankly, it makes humanity’s lot in the universe seem pretty tiny and pointless.
Amplifying that sense of insignificance, NASA has released its largest, most detailed image of space ever. Taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, it captures the Andromeda Galaxy, one of our nearest galactic neighbors at a mere 2.5 million light years away.
The full size image is about 60,000 by 22,000 pixels, a total of 1.5 billion pixels. That’s about 1,000 times the resolution of regular high-definition. It is detailed enough that the telescope can resolve individual stars in the 61,000 light year-long slice of galaxy captured by the image—”like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand,” according to NASA. All in all, there are over 100 million stars in the photo. (See video)
And indeed, zooming in on the image does make it look like a close-up of a beach:
The towering dunes on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, may look similar to the sandy hills of Earth's Sahara, but their origins are completely different, researchers say. Instead of forming continuously over time like on Earth, Titans dunes are forged by short, powerful rogue winds.
Reaching heights of more than 300 feet (91 meters), the dunes of Titan present a puzzling mystery: they seem to form in the opposite direction as Titan's steady east-to-west winds. Two new studies suggest that rare bursts of wind blowing westward are responsible for these enormous structures. The findings shed light on the remote satellite that shares many qualities with Earth.
"It was a bear to operate, but Dr. Burr's refurbishment of the facility as a Titan simulator has tamed the beast. It is now an important addition to NASA's arsenal of planetary simulation facilities," John Marshall, of the SETI Institute, and a co-author on the new research, said in the statement.
Titan's dunes are not made of the kind of sand found in deserts on Earth, but a more viscous material. Scientists don't know exactly what it is, only that it is made of hydrogen and carbon — two ingredients that can be used to create a laundry list of different materials on Earth, from methane to paraffin wax. According to Burr, the hydrogen-carbon material may coat particles of water ice. The researchers found that the regular east-to-west winds are not strong enough to shape the viscous material into the massive dune shapes that are observed. Instead, they believe the dunes are shaped by short, rapid bursts of westerly wind. The winds on Titan "occasionally reverse direction and dramatically increase in intensity due to the changing position of the Sun in its sky," the statement said.