Monthly Archives: October 2011

Thanks, Steve

Over the last week and a half, we – like everyone in the tech community – have been thinking a lot about Steve Jobs and his amazing legacy. Since we didn’t post about it on the date we first heard the news, it seems that the date of the memorial service is a fitting date to share our internal commemoration.

Our display case tribute to Steve Jobs' innovation

From a Mac SE to a clickwheel iPod to an original Newton and eMate, we tried to capture most of Apple’s history from 1984 or so to the present day. (Yeah, we know that Steve’s role with the Newton was mainly to kill it, but hey – it was important and inspired by his work nonetheless.) The most impressive thing about this all was that it all came together via about 30 minutes of high-speed IM chatting as the news was rolling in that Wednesday night. By 9:00 the next morning, we had the whole thing assembled. We even managed to put together a one-day Web tribute within a few hours of the news as well. home page – Steve Jobs memorial tribute

It’s been a whirlwind week and a half thinking reflecting on just how much innovation Steve Jobs brought to us all. And it’s been even more inspiring to think about just how much joy he brought along with that innovation. Like many, his lasting work only inspires us more to try and create our own insanely great things, and to remember to always stay hungry and foolish.

Finding Fossil Aquifers on Earth

NASA technology is being used to find fossil aquifers underneath Earth’s driest deserts.  This technology was developed to explore underneath the surface of Mars, to help determine if there might be water on the red planet.  Water is a sign that life might be possible.

Why are they using this technology on Earth?  We know that there is water on Earth; we know that there is life on Earth.

Firstly, it’s the only way that scientists can “see” underground structures.

“This demonstration is a critical first step that will hopefully lead to large-scale mapping of aquifers, not only improving our ability to quantify groundwater processes, but also helping water managers drill more accurately,” said Muhammad Al-Rashed, director of Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research’s Division of Water Resources.

We might have a lot of water on Earth, but it’s not distributed equally.  Knowing the availability of the water supply helps us to use it in a sustainable manner.

Secondly, it’s a good way to study the climactic history of these regions.

“This research will help scientists better understand Earth’s fossil aquifer systems, the approximate number, occurrence and distribution of which remain largely unknown,” said Essam Heggy, research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Much of the evidence for climate change in Earth’s deserts lies beneath the surface and is reflected in its groundwater. By mapping desert aquifers with this technology, we can detect layers deposited by ancient geological processes and trace back paleoclimatic conditions that existed thousands of years ago, when many of today’s deserts were wet.”

Previously, climate research has focused on Earth’s polar regions and forests.  It is important to study those areas, but arid and semi-arid regions make up a big part of the planet, and they should be studied too.

This is a great story that shows how technology developed for one area of research can often be useful for several other fields of science–all of which are highlighted in our High-Adventure Science investigations!

Learn about searching for water on other planets in the High-Adventure Science space investigation, learn about aquifers and water sustainability in the High-Adventure Science water investigation, and learn about using geologic formations to reconstruct previous climates in the High-Adventure Science climate investigation.

Transpire Locally, Cool Globally

As plants grow, they transpire, releasing water into the atmosphere.  During the summer in a city, trees help to cool the immediate surroundings through transpiration.

New research from Carnegie’s Global Ecology department, published last month in Environmental Research Letters, concludes that transpiration has a global effect as well.

How does this happen?  Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, so one might expect that more water vapor in the atmosphere would lead to higher temperatures.

But water vapor also condenses into clouds, which reflect sunlight, resulting in a cooling effect.  The increased transpiration from plants, combined with evaporation from bodies of water, results in lower-level clouds.  Lower clouds tend to reflect more sunlight, hence the cooling effect.

So you can plant trees locally, reap the cooling effect locally, and also help to cool globally!

Learn more about the relationship between clouds and climate in the High-Adventure Science climate investigation.