Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Shortly after school started this year, Thiells Elementary School teacher Amy Becker was working with her fourth-grade students on their map skills when one child asked why she wasn't mentioning the fifth ocean.
Fifth ocean? All the maps, the globe and the textbooks mention four oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic.
"So we researched it," Becker said. "There really is a fifth ocean. They pulled it up on the Internet. We're not actively teaching it in our curriculum, so it was really cool for the children to learn about this."
In the spring of 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization, based in Monaco, designated all the water below 60 degrees south latitude the Southern Ocean. The ocean surrounds Antarctica wholly, and used to be shown as the place where the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans met at the bottom of the world.
Since then, cartographers and others, including the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Geological Survey, have debated whether the Southern Ocean should, in fact, become part of the lexicon.
Some European countries don't recognize it, and the most recent query to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names doesn't specify whether the new ocean has been accepted. The board's approval is necessary before the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration places the name on its charts. So far, the name isn't there.
And they're not the only ones unsure.
"We went back and forth on it," said Terry Donovan, a cartographer with Replogle Globes, which about two years ago began adding the Southern Ocean - in parentheses to designate its optional status - to the more detailed globes it manufactures.
"It's gaining more acceptance," he said.
In the classroom, the Southern (sometimes Antarctic) Ocean is a hit-or-miss proposition. Steven Forman, an assistant principal at Ramapo High School and a former social studies teacher, said the textbooks don't mention it but a map he looked at did.
"It's discussed in our environmental science classes, where they talk about the ecosystem that's down there," he said.
Forman said he thought the IHO decided to rename the water around the Antarctic continent as a way to better describe the area when discussing international fishing and hunting treaties. Scientists have been spending more time studying the bottom of the world because of global warming worries, he said. They found the currents, fish and plant life there seem to be part of a separate ecosystem from that of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, which would argue for a separate ocean designation.
Ed Martin, chief of the customer affairs branch of the National Services Division of the Office of Coast Survey, a division of the NOAA, said information about the Southern Ocean appears to be available online for those who know to look for it, but it's been slow to trickle onto the printed page.
"People think nowadays that putting something up on the Internet means it gets to everybody, but that's not true," he said. "How do you get it to the books and students? That's a good question."
Becker said her class researched everything they could find on the Southern Ocean and ended up linking map reading, Internet research, discussion and writing to explain what it was.
"When I go to my social studies curriculum meeting, I'll bring all my research with me and we can start including it in our curriculum," she said. "Everything has to be updated."
Reach Randi Weiner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 845-578-2468.
The £3.6bn Large Hadron Collider will be out of action for around two months after magnets over-heated, a spokesman for the project said today.
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) said damage to the huge project below Switzerland, discovered yesterday, was worse than it first thought.
The collider, which was designed to send particles around a 16 mile circuit in a bid to unravel some of the secrets of the universe, was shut down to allow an investigation to take place.
Spokesman James Gillies said early indications were that there was a fault in an 'electrical inter-connection' between two magnets.
Scientists work on part of the Large Hadron Collider which some feared would threaten the end of the world. The machine is now out of order for two months
The fault led to a leak of helium into the tunnel and the team's in-house fire brigade turned out.
'That was standard procedure,' Mr Gillies said.
He played down the fault, which happened nine days after the machine was started.
'These kind of teething problems happen with particle colliders,' he said.
'It will take a couple of months to fix it because we operate at a very low temperature and we will have to warm the magnets up to room temperature, fix the fault, then cool them back down again.
The huge magnets of the world's most powerful particle accelerator over heated to put it out of action for two months
'The warm-up and cool-down will each take a couple of weeks.'
The cost of the damage caused was not yet known.
'An investigation is underway and as soon as we have the full details, we will release them," added Mr Gillies.
The collider requires temperatures just above absolute zero to allow particles to be steered around the circuit.
But as a result of the fault, the temperature of the magnets rose by around 100C.
Before it was started up last week, some scientists expressed fears that colliding particles could cause black holes to appear, though those concerns were strongly refuted.
Scientists at the University of Melbourne have discovered the relics of a 650 million year-old reef in the Australian Outback. The reef is 10 times higher than the modern Great Barrier Reef and predates the evolution of animal life by at least 40 million years. It could also offer valuable information about climate change.
The reef is located in the Flinders Ranges of southeastern Australia (pictured here). When the reef was submerged, these mountains formed Australia’s eastern seaboard. Since then, tectonic and natural forces have combined to expose a section of the reef around 20 km (12.4 miles) wide. Despite its size and relative proximity to Whyalla, South Australia’s third most populous city, the reef remained hidden to science until this week.
The discovery is of tremendous scientific value in understanding the origins of modern life. Little is known about life before around 542 million years ago–the end of the Precambrian age–since discoveries of fossils this old are rare. To put the reef’s age in perspective, it predates the first known fish by about 150 million years and the first mammals by about 450 million years. The reef itself, the only one of its age ever discovered, is not composed of coral like today’s reefs. Most of the reef is made of layers of non-living stromatolite accretion formed by previously unknown unicellular organisms.
Jonathan Giddings, one of the researchers studying the reef, says it could offer new insights into the formation of early animals.
“The organisms that build the majority of the reefs are previously undescribed and may help us to understand the evolution of early multicellular life,” said Giddings. “It could prove that life took more complex forms much earlier in history than we previously thought.”
The find could also hold information for climate scientists. The reef formed very gradually over a period of 5 million to 10 million years. During this same time span, the planet was relatively warm. Even in the absence of plant life on land, earth’s climate was what we might consider tropical. This warm spell came between two epochs of intense cold, when scientists believe ice existed even at the equator. The reef might therefore have recorded information about extreme climate variations, which would be valuable in today’s studies of climate change.
Researchers say that more information about the reef’s discovery will be made available later this week at the Selwyn Symposium at the University of Melbourne.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that straddles the Switzerland-France border was beset by an unfortunate equipment failure Friday, September 19—just nine short days after it first hurled particles around its 16.6 mile (27km) track. Scientists with the European Center for Nuclear Research, popularly known as CERN, acknowledged the severity of the damage will delay research at the particle accelerator for a minimum of two months.
LHC operators were putting the most recently installed electrical circuits through their final paces late Friday morning when they noticed a helium leak between the Alice and CMS detectors. Liquid helium supercools the accelerator's magnets to 1.9 degrees Kelvin, a temperature just above absolute zero. Lacking coolant, about 100 magnets warmed by 100 K, prompting scientists to shut down the LHC. The leak also compromised the vacuum within the collider's tubes. The costly damage may also prevent scientists from completing any high-energy collisions this year as the facility shuts down for the winter to save power.
Physicists hope the LHC will help them find the Higgs boson, a particle thought to give mass to matter. They see the Higgs as a missing link, the only particle predicted by the Standard Model that has not been discovered.
Repairs to the damaged sector are still a ways off, as scientists will have to warm the equipment well above operating temperatures—a controlled process that will take weeks. Likewise, after the damage is mended, the affected sector has to be cooled over many weeks.
CERN says faulty wiring is likely the cause of the damage. The tremendous current normally used by the accelerator likely melted a bad connection between two magnets, sparking subsequent failures.
This isn’t the LHC's first setback. Over the weekend of September 13 and 14, workers replaced a malfunctioning 30-ton electrical transformer. To perform the transplant, scientists warmed the tunnel, and then spent most of the following week cooling it down again.
Such mishaps, CERN says, are part-and-parcel of firing up the largest particle accelerator in the world. The LHC is seven times more powerful than the reigning champion, Fermilab's Tevatron outside Chicago. While the first tests at the LHC were low power loops, scientists had planned on completing high-energy collisions as early as October of this year. This most recent incident may push the first exciting experiments into next year.
Yet while the LHC is down, physicists at Fermilab will have more time to continue their quest for information about the Higgs boson particle. Even though the Tevatron is likely not powerful enough to find the Higgs, the Fermilab accelerator is still in the race, with physicists looking to end its storied career with a bang before its 2010 decommissioning.
This past summer we saw yet another hot story reverberate around the Denialosphere. Supposedly the ships logs of Lord Nelson and Captain Cook cast doubt upon the truth of anthropogenic climate change (eg “Captain Cook and Lord Nelson’s logs indicate 1730’s global warming wasn’t man made“, “Lord Nelson and Captain Cook’s shiplogs question climate change theories“).
Total nonsense of course, as has been explained at DeSmogBlog “UK Scientist Dismayed by Media Misrepresentation” and Bad Science “Don’t let the facts spoil a good story“. Just another example how the Deniers lie and distort to further their agenda. But there are two interesting things about this and earlier examples of Denier spin.
In the first place, it is spin. Some small kernal of fact is distorted and mutated until it emerges appearing to say the opposite of what it originally said. Rarely do the Deniers seem to make things up out of thin air. Whether this is so that they can argue that their’s is a plausible interpretation of the facts or a subconscious attempt to retain some small shred of integrity by pretending that what they do is not lying cannot be known.
The second interesting thing is how the strategy and tactics of the Climate Change Deniers is identical to those of the Evolution Deniers. This excellent little video by potholer54 “Creationist Junk Debunked #1 - Introduction“
could just as easily be talking about Climate Deniers. It is well worth watching for understanding both Evolution and Climate Change Denier methods, and because it is fun.
One reason for the similar approach is that in at least some cases it is the same people (eg Roy Spencer). Of far greater concern is that this approach actually works, and you need something when you have no facts or evidence.
Advocates of so-called Intelligent Design (Evolution Denial) have been gaining ground pushing their anti-science nonsense into science classrooms. This summer Louisiana passed a law that effectively puts it on the curriculum. Other States are considering doing so as well.
So while some may laugh when they see the Denier nonsense being posted around the internet, the fact is that it must be taken seriously because it is dangerous. The Deniers continue to enjoy too much success in confusing the public about climate science and that is a threat to every living thing on the planet.
by Ransom Riggs
Sleeping with the fishes is getting a lot harder these days. And not because the FBI finally has the mob on the run, either — rather, because noise levels in the world’s oceans are lately reaching staggering levels, in some areas doubling each decade. Whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are finding their feeding and mating patterns disrupted, and some of the noise — like that produced by high-energy military sonar systems — have been linked to outright death in some species of whales.It’s not so much that the noise we humans produce underwater is greater than what we produce on land, but that creatures of the sea are so much more sensitive to it. Baleen whales emit low-frequency calls that can travel a thousand miles in water — an essential kind of long-distance calling plan for an animal whose kind are far more sparsely distributed than before commercial whaling took hold. Other kinds of whales and dolphins use high-frequency clicks to locate prey, and sound is important to all marine mammals “in ways that are clearly important to their survival, though not completely understood,” according to the BBC.
And it’s not just high-energy sonar from naval operations that’s drowning them out — the engines and propellers of large ships, whose movements across the open ocean are mostly unrestricted, can be a major problem, as well as the seismic blasts associated with offshore drilling operations (drill, Willy, drill!).
Some companies and the Navy have voluntarily turned down the noise (after pressure from the International Fund for Animal Welfare), but the IFAW says it’s not enough: “Humanity is literally drowning out marine mammals,” says its director, Robbie Marsland. “While nobody knows the precise consequences for specific animals, unless the international community takes preventive measures we are likely to discover only too late the terrible damage we’re causing.”
Here’s a sad little video about the effect of sonar on whales:Original here
Nasa researchers have dropped 90 ducks into holes in Greenland's fastest moving glacier, the Jakobshavn Glacier in Baffin Bay, between Greenland and Canada.
The toys have each been labelled with the words "science experiment" and "reward" in three languages, along with an e-mail address.
If they are found scientists will be able to track how the water moves through the ice and provide information about the movement of glaciers. Scientists are still unsure about why glaciers speed up in summer and head towards the sea.
One theory is that the summer sun melts ice on top of the glacier's surface, creating pools that flow into tubular holes in the glacier called moulins.
These moulins carry some water to the bottom of the glacier, where it acts as a lubricant to speed the movement of ice toward the coast.
The Jakobshavn Glacier is believed to be the source of the iceberg that sank the Titanic in 1912 and is important to researchers because it discharges nearly 7 per cent of all the ice coming off Greenland.
Alberto Behar of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California said none of the ducks had been reported yet.
"We haven't heard back but it may take some time until somebody actually finds it and decides to send us an e-mail that they have found it," he said.
"These are places that are quite remote so there aren't people walking around."