Posts about “Science/Technology” Category
Starting in two-and-a-half weeks, broadcast television stations will begin using digital technology to transmit their programs. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says that if your TV is not equipped to carry the new digital signal on June 12th, you’re only going to see fuzz.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: “There are some 200,000 Angelinos who haven’t made the conversion to digital TV. We’re very concerned about that because they’ll lose their ability to see the programming they’re used to seeing.”
It’s not too late to apply for a $40 coupon that’ll help cover the cost of a digital converter box for analog TVs. You can get two per household online at DTV2009.gov.
Anyone who needs a converter box – or needs to figure out how to hook it up to the TV – can talk to experts and check out demonstrations tomorrow at the L.A. Convention Center. The event is scheduled to run from 9 o’clock in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.
Operators of the Web site Craigslist said it will drop its controversial “erotic services” category. That’s in response to law enforcement officials who’d called the ads a front for prostitution. KPCC’s Alex Cohen has the story.
Alex Cohen: “Adult services” will replace the “erotic services” category on Craigslist.org, and the site will charge consenting adults a fee for placing those ads. Employees will also monitor every posting before it appears online. Police agencies had criticized Craigslist for refusing to take those steps before.
Pressure to remove the erotic category followed the recent murder of a masseuse in Boston. The suspect charged in her death, a medical student, told authorities he’d met the woman through Craigslist.
Craigslist’s chief executive said the new arrangement preserves a place “for legal businesses to advertise” and incorporates the concerns of state attorneys general, free speech advocates, and millions of people who use the site.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown said changes on the site help prevent the exploitation of teenagers. He added that Craigslist must continue to ensure that the site does not promote teenage prostitution.
Several hundred scientists and students marched on the UCLA campus today in support of animal experiments for medical research. Many of the protesters said they feared for their safety in recent years after several incidents of intimidation, vandalism, and firebombings that targeted UCLA scientists. Rally organizer psychiatrist David Jentsch addressed marchers. A few weeks ago, animal rights extremists firebombed his car outside his home.
David Jetsch: “We’re all in this together. Whether you participate in animal research or not, we’re all a community of scholars and we’re standing up today to say that that horrible face that comes in the night can’t come anymore.” [People cheer]
Demonstrators against animal research staged a much smaller counter-rally earlier in the day at UCLA. That group included people who oppose and others who support the use of violence to stop scientific experiments on animals.
California’s congressional delegation is getting a visit from outer space this week. A trade group that represents California’s space technology businesses is launching an effort to get more government support. KPCC’s Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde reports.
Kitty Felde: More than $30 billion a year is spent in California on satellites, launch vehicles, and software. Janice Dunn with the California Space Authority says that’s about half of the U.S. space market.
Dunn says her trade group is lobbying the state’s congressional members this week to keep NASA’s budget intact. Dunn says they’ll also ask the State Department to streamline exports of satellites. To keep sensitive technology out of the hands of adversaries, Congress moved licensing from the Commerce Department to State. But, says Dunn…
Janice Dunn: In addition to not helping national security, in fact it’s proving to be a real hindrance to industry.
Felde: Dunn says her group can cite a list of generals who say the State Department export licensing process isn’t working. Dunn says the California Space Authority is also concerned about environmental costs and red tape in the Golden State. And she says the trade group worries that California schools and universities won’t be able to supply the next generation of space engineers and scientists.
In Fontana this weekend, college and high school students from around the country are racing to see who can travel farthest on the least fuel. The Shell Eco-Marathon is an international event, with some ultralight vehicles cruising thousands of miles on just one gallon. The company’s Graeme Sweeney says its roots are American.
Graeme Sweeney: “A couple of U.S. scientists working for Shell decided to have a competition amongst themselves to see who could create a vehicle that could do the best mileage, and the winner did 50 miles to the gallon, which I think probably at the time seemed pretty impressive.”
Along with combustion engines, teams compete with solar and hydrogen power, and in vehicles designed like conventional cars. Winners take home cash prizes of up to $5,000.
Owners of existing businesses in the San Fernando Valley won’t have to change business cards and stationery to reflect a new area code that goes into effect tomorrow. They will have to get used to dialing 11 digits. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario spoke with a pet groomer about the change.
[Barking; “C’mon. Come here. C’mon.”]
Patricia Nazario: Afternoons can get pretty hectic at Heart to Heart in Sylmar as pet owners drop off their beloved companions.
Pavel Vesely: Same as last time?
Ed Gonzalez: Yeah.
Gonzalez: He’s got arthritis…
Nazario: Ed Gonzalez and his poodle-mix Vagabond are among the shop’s most loyal customers. Owner Pavel Vesely says his groomers can condition, cut, and coif 60 dogs on a good day. Vesely says the new dialing rules will take a bite out of the fun of managing the front desk.
Vesely: Really, I don’t use the fax machine over here so I don’t have to reprogram that, but all the customers that I have to call every day to pick up their dogs, I gonna have to be dialing all the extra digits. You know, four extra digits with the one.
Nazario: That’s 1 plus 8-1-8 or 7-4-7, followed by the phone number. Under the new dialing rules, everyone in the San Fernando Valley will have to press 11 digits to make a local call – even to phone the house next door. State utility officials said they had to do it to accommodate the growing demand for cell phones, BlackBerries, and voicemail lines.
- April 17, 2009 4:25 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
While some officials focus on fortifying borders and ports, security analysts point out another potential threat – to this country’s electrical grid. Hackers can break in and leave behind software that, once activated, could cause havoc in sewer, electric, and other infrastructure systems. Homeland security expert Dave McIntyre of Texas A&M University said decentralization makes those systems vulnerable.
Dave McIntyre: “The fact is, there isn’t really a grid, there is a network of arrangements. These are private arrangements. One organization may own power plants, in some places it’s a state or city – in other places a private individual or group.
“Somebody else may own the transmission line. So there really isn’t a grid in the way that somebody controls this, there’s only a set of arrangements and agreements to move power and money back and forth.”
McIntyre spoke with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.” Security advisors to the Obama administration plan next week to present the results of a 60-day review of the problem.
- April 14, 2009 4:10 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
NASA held a dedication ceremony this morning for a new facility in Palmdale. The Dryden Aircraft Operations facility will be home to six aircraft, including the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy) – an airborne observatory that carries an infrared telescope. Facility director Steven Schmidt says its research will focus on two elements.
Steven Schmidt: “One’s looking up and out from the Earth, which SOFIA will do. It will look into the universe. And then the other platforms look down and in on the Earth-type activities.”
Schmidt says that locating the science aircraft in one place will save the government money. He adds that the scientists and their staffs will have easier access to this facility because it’s on public land.
NASA’s Dryden flight research center is located on Edwards Air Force Base. NASA is leasing the Palmdale facility from Los Angeles World Airports.
- April 9, 2009 2:32 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
A group of scientists at UCLA say they’ve formed a new organization to publicly counter opponents of animal research. Some of these opponents have tried to drive home their point with fire bombings, vandalism, and intimidation in several Southland incidents in recent years. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: About a month ago, UCLA psychiatrist David Jentsch awoke before dawn at his Beverly Glen home to find his car engulfed in flames.
David Jentsch: Two days later the Animal Liberation Brigade took responsibility – and threatened to extend their actions to me personally, beyond my property.
Guzman-Lopez: Jentsch conducts experiments on mice and monkeys in the hope he’ll find cures for mental disorders. No animal rights extremists have been charged in connection with the incidents at his home and others. Jentsch says that’s caused many researchers to live in fear.
Jentsch: Nobody, including myself in the past, came out and really made a visible stance. Why? Because you could be next.
Guzman-Lopez: He’s started a group called UCLA Pro-Test. Supporters plan to counter an animal rights rally on campus later this month.
Jerry Vlasak is a Los Angeles physician who defends the extremists’ tactics, serves as their spokesman, and says he doesn’t engage in unlawful actions. He says his side’s argument will carry the day at the rally.
Jerry Vlasak: They’re not likely to get very far because the public will wise up once we offer to debate them. Their literature will be ridiculed once it’s available.
And they’re claiming that they’re going to be doing somewhat of a counter-protest on April 22nd and the word is spreading wide throughout the animal rights community, and it’s really just galvanizing the animal rights community.
Guzman-Lopez: Both agree that society needs a reasoned debate about the benefits of using and killing animals for medical research. They disagree about what might happen when that debate proves fruitless.
A new scientific report from the state’s Climate Action Team outlines some environmental and economic effects of global warming. State Environmental Protection Agency chief Linda Adams says research indicates that California must anticipate and adapt to climate change.
Linda Adams: “Any delay in fighting global warming would be detrimental to our economic stability, costing us billions of dollars and dampening the state’s most important economic sectors. Taking immediate action on climate change is essential to slow the projected weight of global warming.”
The report includes 37 technical papers on subjects from sea level rise to electricity use. Adams says policymakers will use scientific findings to guide California’s decisions. The report is available for public comment on the state’s Web site – at ClimateChange.ca.gov.
Southern California scientists who’ve experienced harassment and intimidation from animal research protestors in the last couple of years hope to fight back in the court of public opinion.
UCLA scientist David Jentsch studies mental disorders using vervet monkeys. He says that hundreds of university colleagues and other supporters are speaking out against the violence against researchers who work with animals. Jentsch said he reached his breaking point on the issue a month ago.
David Jentsch: “On the morning of March the 7th, at about 4 a.m. in the morning, I woke up when I heard my car alarm going off. And I walked to the front windows in my bedroom and looked out and saw the car in my front yard in flames.”
He said a group called the Animal Liberation Brigade took responsibility for destroying his car and threatened to cause him bodily harm. A Woodland Hills trauma surgeon who denies participation in the acts but speaks for the extremists said the acts are morally justifiable.
UCLA’s Jentsch says his group is organizing a rally in support of animal research later this month at UCLA.
L.A. Congressman Henry Waxman today jumped ahead of scientists working on climate change plan. He introduced legislation to cut greenhouse gases just as a panel of scientists began meeting in Washington, D.C. on the same idea. KPCC’s Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde reports.
Kitty Felde: Congress had asked the National Academy of Sciences to help it craft climate change legislation. But Democrat Congressman Henry Waxman of Los Angeles didn’t want to wait.
As scientists and academics gathered for this first climate change summit, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee posted a draft of his proposed legislation on the committee Web site. UCLA Chancellor Emeritus Albert Carnasale – who chairs the National Academy of Sciences project – called the Waxman proposal “progress” that was “pleasing rather than otherwise.”
Albert Carnasale: One of the concerns I do not have is that the challenge of global climate change will be met before our report is completed.
Felde: The Waxman proposal would – among other things – mandate electric utilities get at least a quarter of their energy from solar, wind, and other renewables in 15 years. Waxman also wants to create a cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon emissions.
At 8:30 tomorrow night around the world, thousands of cities have committed to turn off lights to mark Earth Hour – an event that promotes climate change awareness.
Astronomy educator Shelly Bonus says that in Southern California it’ll be a great time to see the stars city lights usually obscure – especially in the western part of the sky.
Shelly Bonus: “You can always tell which is the constellation of Orion by the three stars that mark his belt, and in the middle of Orion’s sword with the lights out you’re probably going to be able to see a faint fuzzy patch of light with your eyes.
“That is the famous Orion nebulae. It’s a cloud of gas and dust and it’s where baby stars are being born right now! It’s magnificent, it couldn’t be more beautiful!”
Southland locations that’ll take part in Earth Hour by turning off their lights include the Griffith Observatory, City Hall, the L.A. Live complex, and the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel.
A recent study suggests that the offspring of people with a history of depression have less brain matter than those without a family history of the disease. Brain scans found, on average, a 28 percent thinning of the right cortex, the outer layer of the brain.
But the people whose brain matter had thinned did not display symptoms of depression. Study author Dr. Bradley Peterson told KPCC’s “AirTalk” that the study’s 131 subjects demonstrated striking results.
Dr. Bradley Peterson: “They were equally divided roughly, close to equally divided between those who are offspring of depressed people versus those who are offspring of people who had no discernible lifetime history of depression. And the effect was so prominent, that we really did see very consistently in the offspring of the depressed.”
People in the study who hadn’t suffered from depression but who displayed right hemisphere brain thinning did experience cognitive problems – including difficulty paying attention, processing, and remembering information. Peterson said the thinning was similar to that found in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
- March 26, 2009 2:55 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
This week, hundreds of people have visited Cal State Northridge’s annual conference on technology for disabled people. In 300 workshops and 140 exhibition booths, participants have discussed and test-driven the latest devices designed to make everyday living more accessible.
Sandy Plotin is with Northridge’s Center on Disability. This year, she says the conference focused on the nation’s 79 million baby boomers – a people who don’t want to lose personal freedoms and the comforts of home as they age.
Sandy Plotin: “It’s about be included and being independent and so, if you have a ‘smart home’ and you have smart technology, then you can continue to use the technology and the everyday living aides you use as you lose cognitive abilities – as you lose physical (dis)abilities, but you’ll be able to remain at home and still have all this technology that will allow you to be independent.”
Next year, the conference is moving to San Diego – Plotin says that city is more accessible to people with disabilities. This year’s conference at the L.A. Airport Marriott ends tomorrow afternoon at 1.
New, portable technologies are leading to disorder in the courts. Judges and attorneys have found out in some recent proceedings that jury members are researching information about trials online, or communicating about proceedings in progress on their cell phones and portable digital devices – all in disregard of court regulations.
Anne Reed, a lawyer and jury consultant who writes the jury blog Deliberations, says many jurors don’t realize they’re breaking the rules when they send Twitter messages from the courtroom.
Anne Reed: “Most of the judges that I talk to have barely any idea what Twitter is. And it, it really points up the generational aspect of this issue. That’s one reason that these problems are coming up, is that lawyers and judges aren’t aware enough on the front end of what it is they need to be looking for to ask the right questions to prevent these problems, instead of pick up after them.”
The proliferation of social networking and freely accessible online information has blurred some people’s perception of what’s private and restricted, Reed told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.” Some court officials maintain that the only way to curb the problem is to confiscate personal electronics from jurors until the end of a trial.
An astronaut who grew up in Southern California may get his opportunity to lift off in Space Shuttle Discovery as soon as Sunday. KPCC’s Debra Baer says the next launch window from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is at 4:43 Sunday afternoon.
Debra Baer: Astronaut Joseph Acaba was born in Inglewood. He grew up in Anaheim and graduated from that city’s Esperanza High School. Acaba is NASA’s first astronaut of Puerto Rican descent.
His job on this 14-day shuttle mission is to install equipment – including solar panels – on the International Space Station. The 41-year-old is scheduled to take two space walks to complete that mission.
The shuttle flight originally was supposed to lift off last month, but problems with its hydrogen fuel valves delayed the launch. One of those valves broke during a flight in November. Discovery was then scheduled to launch last Wednesday, but NASA scrubbed the flight because of a hydrogen leak.
- March 13, 2009 1:46 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
After almost half a century of launches from earth into space, the universe is getting pretty cluttered with debris. That’s one reason the crew of the International Space Station had to shelter in an escape capsule for 10 minutes. A five-inch cluster of space junk hurled a little too close for comfort. Former space shuttle astronaut Tom Jones says humans can’t be too careful out there.
Tom Jones: “We have had space shuttles come back, for example, with a hole blown through one of the thermal radiators that almost pierced one of the cooling lines and would have cut short the shuttle’s mission, had that collision occurred just a few inches from where the impact actually occurred. And on the space station, we’re going to see those solar panels eventually perforated by small BB-size or pea-sized holes from orbital debris.”
Jones told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the only protection from that stuff is layers of aluminum and Kevlar… the same fabric that lines bulletproof vests.
The crew of the International Space Station is taking refuge in an escape capsule because a passing chunk of space debris zoomed a little too close to the station’s living quarters this morning. NASA has determined there are roughly 13,000 objects larger than a softball in space. Donald Kessler, a former senior scientist for the space agency, says it’s also tracking smaller, equally lethal pieces of metal.
Donald Kessler: “We essentially sample the environment every time we bring a spacecraft surface back, and from those we can count the craters on them, and get the chemistry of them from the chemistry of what is melted into the material that they impact, and from those we know that we literally have millions of millimeter-sized particles.”
Kessler told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the average collision velocity is 10 kilometers – about 7 miles – a second. That’s fast enough to damage orbiting spacecraft.
- March 12, 2009 4:16 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche has agreed to buy California-based Genentech for nearly $47 billion. KPCC’s Steve Julian reports.
Steve Julian: Roche will pay $95 per share for the 44 percent of Genentech that Roche doesn’t already own. Its initial bid of $89 per share was rejected by Genentech’s board last July, but the board called on shareholders to accept Roche’s latest offer.
Negotiations took a while because both companies are waiting for study results on the effectiveness of Genentech’s Avastin. The drug is already Genentech’s best selling product and is approved for various types of breast, lung, and colon cancers.
Some analysts say a positive study could increase the value of Genentech’s shares. Roche said the combined company would be the seventh-largest U.S. pharmaceutical and would generate about $17 billion in annual revenues. It’ll be based in California.
A stem cell researcher at UC Irvine says President Obama’s executive order easing restrictions on federal money for embryonic stem cell research will help. Hans Keirstead of UCI’s Reeve-Irvine Research Center says the order helps take the politics out of stem cell research.
Keirstead’s research led to the first federally-approved study of a stem cell therapy in humans. His study helped paralyzed rats walk again. Keirstead says that now, he’s trying to determine how stem cells can help other kinds of spinal cord injuries.
Hans Keirstead: “It’s a different spinal cord cell type; a cell type that is lost in spinal muscular atrophy. It’s also lost in Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS. And it’s also lost in chronic spinal cord injury. So we’re working in the pre-clinical phases now to make sure the product works and is safe.”
Since word spread Friday that the president was going to lift the funding restrictions imposed during the Bush administration, Keirstead says his phone’s been ringing off the hook. He says he’s getting more calls from people with spinal cord injuries who inquire about possible future treatments.
UC Irvine’s stem cell center may benefit, now that President Obama’s eased restrictions on federal money for stem cell research. Hans Keirstead is co-director of UCI’s Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. He says the eight-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research stunted development of the field. Keirstead ran down some of the results.
Hans Keirstead: “…a dearth of laboratories around the nation; mature researchers not getting into the stem cell field; young researchers fearing for their job stability and not getting into the stem cell field. And it’s also resulted in a lack of confidence in the investment community, where a lot of research is actually done, in small biotechs.”
Keirstead says the Obama administration’s executive order reopens the door to develop the stem cell field.
California scientists say the state is well-positioned to take advantage of any new federal dollars for human embryonic stem-cell research. President Obama announced today he’s lifting restrictions on federal backing for that research. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports.
Frank Stoltze: Bob Klein of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine says lifting restrictions on human embryonic stem-cell research will help clear the way for collaboration with British scientists. He says those scientists are using embryonic stem cells to cure blindness in large animals.
Bob Klein: They are successfully curing blindness in these animals, so we would hope to collaborate with them and California institutions, and bring that research to U.S. human clinical trials at a much earlier date, perhaps as early as 2011.
Stoltze: Some conservative Christian groups remain opposed to the use of human embryonic stem cells for research. Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family compares such cells to human beings.
Carrie Gordon Earll: We have prisoners that are going to die anyway. They might make excellent research subjects. But we are not going to conduct experiments on them because they are members of the human family.
Stoltze: California is a leader in stem cell research. The state’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine has provided close to $700 million for stem cell research since voters approved its launch three years ago.
California scientists applauded President Obama’s announcement today that he’s lifting restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. Arnold Kriegstein heads stem cell research at UC San Francisco. He says California already leads the field in this country.
Arnold Kriegstein: “We’ve had training programs in place for over three years now. We have students and fellows and post-docs and junior faculty who’ve been trained specifically in embryonic stem cell research. There are training facilities. We have, in fact, laboratories especially equipped for human embryonic stem cell work. And so we are just perfectly positioned to take advantage of both federal and state dollars now to really move these projects forward.”
Five years ago, California voters approved Proposition 71. It created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The institute so far has provided nearly $700 million for stem cell research. It’s the largest project of its kind in the nation.
President Obama plans, on Monday, to lift federal funding restrictions on stem cell research. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports Southern California biologists are anxiously awaiting the move.
Frank Stoltze: Doctor Jerome Zack is with UCLA’s Broad Stem Cell Research Center. He applauded President Obama’s expected announcement lifting funding restrictions on stem cell research, and told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that UCLA could really use the money.
Jerome Zack: For brain type research, spinal cord injury. Others, including myself, are looking into how these cells can turn into blood cells where we could treat diseases like HIV or hemophilia, or some other diseases of the blood system. Others are looking at how these stem cells might be used to repair defects to the heart. So, there’s many diseases that can be looked at and much work being done here at UCLA.
Stoltze: For the last seven years, the Bush Administration refused to fund human embryo stem cell research, agreeing with conservative religious groups who believe using human embryos is immoral.
Biologists in Southern California say they’re looking forward to Monday’s announcement by President Obama that he’ll lift funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research. Jerome Zack is with the Broad Stem Cell Research Center at UCLA.
Jerome Zack: “Well, it’s actually very exciting because the availability of federal funding is what can move research forward much, much quicker. So the fact that this money would now be available for research on additional stem cell lines would really help galvanize things.”
Zack spoke to KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.” Scientists believe stem cells obtained from early human embryos are capable of becoming any type of tissue in the body, and researching them could lead to insights into many diseases. Many conservative religious groups oppose federal funding of research involving human embryo cells.They believe destroying human embryos is immoral.
Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “You can see a lot just by watching.” KPCC’s Nick Roman says scientists at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are going to test that piece of wisdom beginning tonight.
Nick Roman: That’s when the Kepler mission launches into orbit from Cape Canaveral. The Kepler spacecraft will carry a telescope that’ll spend the next three-and-a-half years trained on the same section of the universe near the constellation Cygnus.
The telescope will ignore billions of stars in its field of vision, and keep watch on 100,000 that might have planets with some of Earth’s characteristics: Not too big so they’re gas giants like Jupiter, not too close to their stars so they’re barren like Mercury.
To spot planets, the telescope will look for change in the light from the stars. If the light changes, it means a planet has passed in front. Studying the light closely might reveal whether that planet has liquid water. Where there’s water, there might be life.
Of the 100,000 stars Kepler will watch, scientists guess less than one percent will have promising planets. It doesn’t sound like much… but that’s several hundred places that just might sustain life.
- March 6, 2009 4:45 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Nevada Senator Harry Reid is proposing that the federal government designate special power lines to carry renewable energy from remote places. KPCC’s Molly Peterson has the story.
Molly Peterson: Solar, wind, and geothermal power are plentiful in the West’s vast open spaces. But transmission lines don’t always reach the mountains and deserts.
Senator Reid’s proposal would boost development of renewable energy sources by easing the process of connecting them to the grid. That means the federal government would claim authority over where these lines go and who will pay for them.
For a dozen or more years, federal authorities have been strengthening their claim over power lines. Then an energy bill four years ago sped up that trend with designated national interest electric transmission corridors.
Biodiversity activists, and conservationists for deserts and mountains, have challenged those corridors in court. But Reid’s case is bolstered by the president’s interest in a national smart grid.
Green transmission corridors would benefit the developers of large solar arrays planned in Reid’s state of Nevada. In California, they could help spin wind projects along in the Tehachapi mountains and heat up geothermal and solar in inland deserts.
The Cassini spacecraft that’s been studying Saturn and its moons for four years has apparently solved a small mystery. It’s spotted a tiny moon inside one of Saturn’s outer rings. KPCC’s Nick Roman says that explains where the ring came from.
Nick Roman: The tiny moon – or “moonlet” – is circling Saturn inside the planet’s very faint, very thin G ring. The moonlet measures only about a third of a mile across.
The Cassini spacecraft snapped three photos in October that captured the moonlet moving in the same arc as the G ring. Cassini scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory – along with research teams in Europe – now think the moonlet is the reason for the G ring.
Their theory is that over eons, material blasted from its surface collected itself into a thin ring around Saturn. The planet’s other dusty rings are all associated with one of Saturn’s 60 or so moons. Scientists couldn’t figure out why a moon wasn’t linked to the G ring. Now they know one is.
The discovery of this moonlet marks the third time Cassini’s spotted a moon inside a Saturn ring. Cassini’s study of the G ring isn’t done. Scientists think more moonlets are hiding inside the G ring. They’re looking for them now.
- March 3, 2009 5:02 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Two scientists who figured out links between human activity and climate change have won an award from USC. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more on the recipients of this year’s Tyler Environmental Prize.
Cheryl Devall: The winners detected warnings – and warming – in polar ice caps and the upper atmosphere. Ram Ramanathan of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography was one of the first climate scientists to demonstrate the effects of ozone on greenhouse gases.
He correctly predicted in 1980 that climate-changing carbon dioxide would be detectable in the upper atmosphere by the year 2000. Richard Alley of Penn State studied ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. In those frozen specimens he found evidence that the planet has withstood extreme climate change before and probably will again.
Ramanathan and Alley helped write reports for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore two years ago. Winners of the Tyler Environmental Prize receive gold medals, $200,000, and the opportunity to explain their research in a public lecture at USC next month.
At Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, success and failure are never far apart. That’s evident today. One group of scientists was stunned by the launch failure of an important environmental satellite. But another group is celebrating NASA’s decision last week to send an orbiter to Europa – one of Jupiter’s moons.
Bob Pappalardo – JPL’s lead scientist for the mission – spoke with KPCC’s “AirTalk.” He says Europa is one of two Jovian moons that might support life.
Bob Pappalardo: “As these moons orbit around Jupiter, they get a little closer and a little farther as they orbit around. And this means the moons stretch and compress again as they orbit around. And that generates heat, like bending a paperclip back and forth generates heat.”
There’s enough heat so a cold ocean can flow deep below the surface ice. JPL’s Bob Pappalardo says the mission to Europa will look for life in that freezing water.
Pappalardo: “In part what we want to do with this mission is understand, really, how thick is that ice? And are there thin spots, are there places where there’s water within the icy shell that might be places that could be habitable?”
Those questions will remain unanswered for years. The mission won’t be launched until 2020 – and the trip to Europa will take six years.
- February 24, 2009 4:27 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
NASA and environmental scientists are trying to figure out what to do now that an important research satellite has crashed in the ocean near Antarctica. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory was to measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and answer nagging questions about global warming.
But minutes after this morning’s launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the shroud covering the satellite failed to break loose – and the satellite fell back to Earth.
Caltech’s Paul Wennberg studies geology and planetary science. He watched the launch, and he told KPCC’s “AirTalk” that the failure is a giant blow to environmental research.
Paul Wennberg: “There’s certainly some of us who have been involved since the get-go, but perhaps it’s a fraction of what we do. But there are a handful of individuals who really, this was their day, their night, their weekend job, and it’s really devastating. And well, we hope that we have an opportunity to do this again.”
A Japanese satellite launched last month is also measuring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Caltech’s Paul Wennberg says scientists in the U.S. will try to use that data for the studies they’d planned.
A special federal court ruled today that vaccines do not cause autism. More than 5,000 families had filed claims seeking compensation for their children’s autism, on the grounds that it was caused by vaccinations for measles or other diseases.
NPR science correspondent John Hamilton has covered this issue for many years. He told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the government presented a much stronger case.
John Hamilton: “The arguments put forth by the government were very persuasive – they involved large numbers of people in very highly controlled scientific experiments and epidemiological studies, of which there have been many.
“And, on the other hand, the plaintiffs often were individual pediatrician, who said ‘well in my clinical judgment I think the vaccine could have caused this,’ and so it did not seem like a close contest.”
One of the judges on the special court said the families seeking compensation were “the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical understanding” of autism. The families’ lawyers said they may appeal today’s ruling.
A special federal court today dealt a major blow to those who claim that routine childhood vaccinations cause autism. The U.S. Court of Claims ruled against three families seeking compensation for their children’s autism.
One of the “special masters” sitting on the court called the families’ evidence “weak, contradictory, and unpersuasive.” NPR Science Correspondent John Hamilton says researchers have come to the same conclusion for years.
John Hamilton: “It is pretty uniform. Every time they have done a study that looked at populations where you compare kids who got vaccines with kids who didn’t both in this country and in other countries, you find the same thing, that there is no difference in the rate of autism among the kids who got vaccinated and the kids who didn’t. And that makes a pretty convincing case that the vaccines are not causing autism.”
Hamilton spoke with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.” The ruling is unlikely to persuade those who are convinced of a link between vaccinations and autism. Lawyers for the families say they may appeal.
The Los Angeles Unified School District officially announced today that it’s expanding an innovative solar panel installation training program. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: L.A. Unified wants enough solar panels on school roofs in three years to produce 50 megawatts of electricity – enough to power tens of thousands of homes. It’ll have to hire contractors with experienced installers.
There aren’t enough experienced workers to fill the need now, so the school district’s expanding its certification courses from one center in Lincoln Heights to others in South L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. Guy Mehula, head of L.A. Unified’s Facilities Division, says new schools built with voter-approved bond money are all wired to use solar energy.
Guy Mehula: We have actually made a conscious effort in our bond program to build 130 new schools, but to make sure we’re reinvesting back into the community and making sure that those dollars are going back to our local labor force, and means jobs for us here in L.A.
Guzman-Lopez: About 90 adults, a small portion of them high school students, are enrolled in the solar panel training program. Officials predict that hundreds will want to train for the well-paid jobs.
LINK: East Los Angeles Skills Center - current location for Photovoltaic Installer Certification Preparation program
A couple hours after midnight tonight, a Delta rocket will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Santa Barbara. KPCC’s Nick Roman says there’s a story behind the weather satellite on board.
Nick Roman: The satellite is N-Prime. NASA will launch it. NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, will manage it. They’re the government’s weather guys.
N-Prime will join four other satellites that circle the Earth 14 times a day in polar orbit. They track weather conditions and collect data on climate change.
N-Prime was supposed to go up almost a year ago, but five years ago, Lockheed-Martin technicians dropped it on the floor of their Northern California assembly plant. They had to repair about three-quarters of the satellite’s components… and the accident investigation report was not kind to Lockheed-Martin.
We’ll know in a few hours if they got the repair job right. N-Prime is the last in a 50-year series of U.S. weather satellites for civilian use. The Pentagon launched and managed its own weather satellites.
In development now are satellites for civilian and military use. The aim is to save some money. The first launch of one of those weather satellites comes up in four years.
A new study out of UC Irvine could someday help doctors pinpoint women likely to suffer from postpartum depression. KPCC’s Susan Valot explains.
Susan Valot: UC Irvine researchers studied 100 women during their pregnancies and after delivery. Sixteen developed postpartum depression symptoms. A dozen of those women had shown higher levels of a hormone produced by the placenta about 25 weeks into pregnancy.
The hormone is one of the body’s ways of dealing with stress, such as the stress of giving birth. But other factors can trigger production in some women. Too much of the hormone means a woman is more likely to suffer depression after giving birth.
Researchers say the discovery could help doctors identify and treat women for postpartum depression long before they show symptoms.
This week marks some of the greatest triumphs - and worst tragedies - in the half-century of the U.S. space program. KPCC’s Nick Roman has the rundown.
Nick Roman: The last week of January is a bad time for NASA. On the 27th, three of the space agency’s Apollo astronauts died in a launch pad fire in 1967. The incident crushed engineers at the old North American Rockwell plant in Downey. They built the command module that burned.
The 28th is the anniversary of the Challenger explosion. Twenty-three years ago, the giant fuel tank on the space shuttle blew up 73 seconds after liftoff. The eight astronauts were killed.
Two Ranger probes that were supposed to snap pictures of the Moon failed in the last week of January. The one in 1962 missed the Moon. The one in ‘64 hit the Moon - but sent no pictures. Turns out the cameras on board were fried just after launch.
But it’s not all bad. The Mars rover Opportunity knocked on the Red Planet’s door five years ago yesterday. Now it’s rolling on its way to explore a huge Martian crater. And there’s Explorer 1 - America’s first satellite. The Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena built it. Saturday is the 51st anniversary of the day NASA sent it into orbit.
A California biotech firm has announced it will perform the world’s first study of a treatment based on human embryonic stem cells. The Geron Corporation received federal approval this week for the clinical trials. This summer, the company plans to begin the trials on a group of spinal cord injury patients.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine helped pay for the research that led to the new treatment. Its president, Dr. Alan Trounson, spoke on KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
Dr. Alan Trounson: “We should see this as a beginning and a very important beginning, because these are safety trials that the Geron company are doing, and I think this is a very important mark in the history of this new medicine. So a beginning, and I think we can expect, you know, many more trials to come forward.”
UC Irvine scientists developed the stem cell therapy and used it successfully on paralyzed rats. The Geron Corporation, based in Menlo Park, says it has selected up to seven medical centers around the country to participate in the human clinical trials.
A California biotech company says that within a few months it plans to start the world’s first study of a treatment based on human embryonic stem cells. The treatment developed at UC Irvine allowed paralyzed rats to walk again.
Peter Kiernam, who chairs the board of directors of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, said the study offers hope to people with spinal cord injuries. He praised this state’s early efforts to promote stem cell research.
Peter Kiernam: “California’s been great. They’ve been really the leading edge of, of advocacy and spending and research. And we owe a great debt to the people of California because they were really a big part of the impetus for making this happen.”
Kiernam spoke on KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has been consulting with scientists about U.S. ocean policy this week. Linwood Pendleton of the Coastal Ocean Values Center is one of several Californians attending a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland this week. He says some of the discussion there has focused on the role oceans play in the country’s economy.
Linwood Pendleton: “The ocean is this infrastructure that links so much of what’s going on in all parts of the country, whether it’s pollutants that run down the Mississippi from way up into the heartland, or overbuilding on the coast, or overfishing on the Outer Continental Shelf.”
Leaders of a federal ocean initiative plan to make recommendations to the next president based on the meeting – and on recent science.
Some of the greatest model airplane flyers have flocked to Ontario this weekend for the 11th Annual Academy of Model Aeronautics Expo. KPCC’s Inland Empire reporter Steven Cuevas says they’ll fill the skies with the latest in miniature aeronautics.
Steven Cuevas: In the old days, the noise of model planes - and their unpredictable flight patterns - relegated pilots to isolated parks and fields. These days, model aircraft rely on electric motors. That means planes are quieter and pollute less than their gas-fueled ancestors.
Today’s “electrics” are also faster, weigh less - and are more precise in flight. That enables young pilots like Nick Maxwell to pull off some pretty crazy moves.
The 19-year-old is famous on the model flying circuit for his crash-defying stunts. He’ll be showing off those moves this weekend in Ontario. If you can’t make it check out some of his work on the AMA Web site.
[Sound of electric helicopter]
The AMA Expo will also feature remote control trains, boats, and rockets. The 11th Annual Academy of Model Aeronautics Expo will soar through Sunday at the Ontario Convention Center.
American astronomers launched a year long celebration of their science last night [TUE] in Long Beach. The International Year of Astronomy is meant to raise public awareness of astronomy, and of the importance of dark skies to the science.
John Mason of the South Downs Planetarium in Chichester, England says Southern California’s bright lights aren’t too bright.
John Mason: “Yesterday evening we went out, and there was Venus and Mercury and Jupiter placed across the ocean. So even though you’ve got a lot of light pollution in the cities, outside the cities it struck me that your air was actually clearer.”
Mason’s one of about 2500 members of the American Astronomy Society at the academic conference. It continues through tomorrow.
- January 7, 2009 12:02 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Thousands of serious stargazers are in Long Beach this week for a conference of the American Association of Astronomers. This year’s the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope and as a result, the International Year of Astronomy.
Doug Isbell co-chairs the U.S. effort this year. He’s trying to interest more people in the science of the skies.
Doug Isbell: “Astronomy is like every science, it’s based on evidence. It’s based on repeatable experiments. And the idea is that no one person knows everything, and we should go out and try to understand what we see in the natural world and test it out and try to make better measurements, and challenge ourselves and our theories, and figure out what’s our past and what’s our fate.”
Isbell says American astronomers want to raise awareness of nighttime light pollution and distribute a low-cost telescope to kids, two of the International Year’s big goals.
- January 7, 2009 11:55 AM
- Categories: Science/Technology
A force potentially more powerful than climate change may have wiped out many species 13,000 years ago. That’s the premise of an article in the journal Science - it posits that a comet might have been the culprit. Article co-author and UC Santa Barbara earth scientist James Kennett told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the comets delivered tiny diamond crystals along with destruction.
James Kennett: “The neat thing about this – you can actually see them. You can quantify them. You can verify that that diamond is by the various kinds of tests we have.
“Diamonds have a very distinct fingerprint. When you run them through - this is called an electron defraction method - and the fingerprint is unique to diamonds. There can’t be anything else.”
The controversial theory goes that these nano-diamonds are the product of a comet that broke into fragments, turning the sky ablaze. Scientists claim that the presence of these diamonds in sediment layers throughout North America bolsters their argument.
- January 5, 2009 3:33 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Thousands of stargazers are clustering in Long Beach Sunday for the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports that the organization’s focused on getting a better look at the sky.
Molly Peterson: This is the international year of astronomy; the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first recorded gaze through a telescope.
This weekend in Long Beach, astronomers are highlighting one of their priorities for the international year of astronomy: dark skies. Dark skies activists will work to raise awareness this year about the effects of artificial lighting that obscures all but the brightest celestial objects.
Light pollution can also disrupt ecosystems and interfere with animals’ biological clocks… not to mention those of humans.
The astronomical society’s other projects include interesting more women in the field, placing low-cost “Galileoscopes” into the hands of more amateurs, and raising the public profile of the science that directs us toward the stars.
Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is celebrating a milestone in space history tomorrow: It’s the fifth anniversary of the landing of the rover Spirit landed on Mars. Its twin Opportunity reaches the five-year mark later this month. Together, they’ve raked and rolled through the Martian dust, and they’ve uncovered evidence that water once flowed on the Red Planet.
John Callas is the rovers’ project manager at JPL. He told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that Martian dust has been a constant problem.
John Callas: “The challenge we are facing with the rovers, especially with Spirit, is dust is accumulating on the solar rays. In the case of Spirit, almost three quarters of the solar rays are blocked by dust, so we are only getting about 25% of the performance for Spirit because of the excessive dust. We are hoping that wind will come along and blow some of it off, but we can still proceed with the limited power that we do have.”
Spirit doesn’t move about anymore. It’s had a stuck wheel for a couple of years. Opportunity is off on a seven-mile journey to Endeavour Crater. The rovers were supposed to run for only 90 days, but JPL scientists are still assigning them tasks after five years.
- January 2, 2009 5:06 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
There’s hardly been any time to make news this New Year – and some developments during the year just past will extend their influence into the decades ahead.
One of them is September’s launch of the Large Hadron particle collider in Switzerland. Corey Powell, editor-in-chief of Discover magazine, said the giant machine is designed to address some major cosmic questions.
Corey Powell: “Why does matter have mass? Like why when you sit down in your chair, do you have weight? We actually don’t know the answer to that, but we might figure it out from this experiment.
“What are the different things the universe is made of? Some of it is clearly ordinary matter, like the stuff that we’re made of; some of it is invisible stuff that we only can detect indirectly.”
Powell told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the collider ranked number two on his magazine’s list of the top 100 science and technology stories of the year gone by. Number one was the dawn of the post-oil era in auto travel.
- January 2, 2009 1:27 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Forget the North Pole. One UC Irvine scientist is spending his holiday season in the South Pole. KPCC’s Susan Valot says he’s studying gases trapped in ice.
Susan Valot: UC Irvine chemist Murat Aydin and three other scientists are drilling holes into the icy surface buried below the snow in Antarctica. They’re collecting samples of air from below that ice layer. They’ll then bring it back to UCI to study it.
The scientists want to see how levels of various gases - like propane and butane - have changed over time. Aydin says understanding that will help scientists predict what will happen in the future and will help them understand how to respond to climate change.
The holidays offer an opportunity to hear from faraway friends and relatives. KPCC’s Nick Roman says it’s the same for the scientists at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Nick Roman: They heard from Cassini, the spacecraft swooping and sailing around Saturn’s moons. This week, it swept past Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system. Titan has a dense atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane. It’s a fascinating place, and it’s why Cassini has flown by Titan 49 times.
This visit allowed it to map a portion of Titan, and to pick up some topographical info about the hills and mountains that lead down to Ontario Lacus, a big methane lake near Titan’s south pole. They’re trying to learn how that liquid methane flows.
JPL scientists also heard from Jason 2. Actually, they’ve been talking to the satellite since it was launched into low Earth orbit in June. It’s the successor to Jason 1, which spent years studying the oceans. It showed the sea level is rising about an inch and a third every year. That rate is speeding up, and scientists think it’s a sign of climate change.
Engineers have finished calibrating Jason 2, and the satellite’s measurements are now available just days after they were collected.
- December 26, 2008 3:31 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
California has a reputation as a place that’s prone to earthquakes and wildfires. But a new study has found that the more spectacular disasters aren’t as deadly as things such as heat waves or cold snaps.
Susan Cutter led the study. She’s a disaster geographer at the University of South Carolina.
Susan Cutter: “It confirmed what as researchers we had suspected, and that is that it’s not these catastrophic single large events, like the Northridge earthquake or Hurricane Katrina, that drive the patterns of mortality.”
The study found that between 1970 and 2004, heat and drought accounted for nearly 20 percent of the deaths from natural hazards. Earthquakes, wildfires, and hurricanes caused less than five percent. The study is in the International Journal of Health Geographics.
A UCLA doctor who’s also an expert on health care reform says there’s only one way to get more value from medical care: change what you value. KPCC’s Nick Roman explains.
Nick Roman: A neurologist like Dr. Marc Nuwer should know how to get into your head – and he does in a couple of new medical journal articles. He says we have the most expensive medical care in the world because we want it.
Americans prize choice. We resist limiting care. If doctors can treat very ill patients aggressively to the last, they should. Nuwer says that’s why our health care costs so much. But he says a third of its costs are tied up in paperwork. And 10 percent goes for “defensive medicine” – tests with little value except to show the doctor tried everything in case there’s a lawsuit.
Doctors don’t think enough about the cost of tests or prescriptions. And Nuwer says we spend a lot of money to treat the very sick at the very end of their lives. As for a solution: UCLA’s Dr. Marc Nuwer says we should think about what we value in medical care – and pay more attention to the cost of what we value. His articles are in the journal “Neurology.”
Ask a politician what he’s thankful for on Thanksgiving Day and you’re likely to get a political answer.
Eric Garcetti: “My name is Eric Garcetti, I’m the president of the Los Angeles City Council. I’m thankful for a new president, one who lived here in Los Angeles, one who understands our cities, and one who’s going to be sworn in on a historic day – January 20, 2009!”
Eric Garcetti represents L.A’s 13th council district.
The U.S. Geological Survey will be keeping close watch on the rain forecast for this week. The agency plans to use radar to monitor areas of Santa Barbara County that burned in recent wildfires. Sue Cannon is a research geologist for the Survey. She explained what researchers hope to learn.
Sue Cannon: “There are areas within the terrain that always get rain. If it’s going to rain, there may be specific valleys or high peaks that always get hit by a storm. So this helps us from a warning point of view, that we can narrow down which areas within a fire are more prone to debris flow production.”
The areas Cannon and other plan to monitor include the area north of Goleta where the Gap Fire burned, and Montecito, where this month’s Tea Fire started. Last year, the agency used radar to monitor burn areas in Malibu and Ventura County.
There’s a chance of rain tonight, but the National Weather Service says the most significant rainfall should begin tomorrow night. Some foothill and mountains areas of L.A. County could get three to four inches. That raises the possibility of landslides in areas that were recently burned by wildfire.
Sue Cannon is a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. She says it’s not just the amount of rainfall that’s a concern.
Sue Cannon: “It’s how intense it falls that really triggers the debris flow. So if three to four inches is spread over many days we’ll be fine. But if it comes in a short burst – we need to really be worried.”
Homeowners and volunteers have been filling sandbags in areas that were recently burned, including Sylmar and Yorba Linda.
The U.S. Geological Survey will be using radar to monitor the areas that were burned in Santa Barbara County. That will help researchers figure out which parts of that terrain are most prone to mudslides.
A pair of storms are heading our way, arriving as early as Tuesday night. That could cause mudslides in burn areas. But the rain isn’t likely to do much to alleviate our four-year drought. More from KPCC’s Special Correspondent Kitty Felde.
Kitty Felde: It’s been a dry year. Southern California’s had less than a half an inch of rain since March. JPL’s Bill Patzert says blame the jet stream that’s pushed any potential rain storms up to the Pacific Northwest. And why the cooler than normal summer?
Bill Patzert: The ocean waters are very, very cool between here and Hawaii, so this summer we had unusually strong onshore breezes.
Felde: Patzert says that changed this fall when high pressure systems camped out over Nevada, sending us scorching temperatures - turning our autumn into summer.
Patzert: And occasionally these devil winds that surge out of the canyons in the high deserts and fuel these big fires.
Felde: Patzert says our drier than normal pattern could last a while longer. A drought in the 1950s and ’60s lasted nearly 20 years. Historically, the region has experienced droughts that last more than half a century.
- November 24, 2008 12:32 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Last weekend, there were Santa Ana winds and triple digit temperatures. Next week? Get ready for rain. JPL Climatologist Bill Patzert says there’s a pair of storms heading our way.
Bill Patzert: “It’s one arriving Tuesday night into Wednesday. And then there’s a second storm right behind it that should be coming in on Friday. We haven’t seen a storm like this in eight months. These two storms - if they do materialize - would certainly be welcome.”
Since March, we’ve had less than half an inch of rain in Southern California. These storms may not help that much, says Patzert. They might dump most of their moisture further up the coast.
- November 21, 2008 5:25 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Air Force Week officially took off Friday in Hollywood… and special events are planned all week at various venues including Tinseltown, Pasadena, Canyon Country, and Long Beach. Dennis Long, president of “Wings Over Long Beach,” says mentors and counselors will be available for young people interested in joining the Force or working in aviation and aerospace.
Dennis Long: “We’ve brought in the colleges, universities, trade schools, technical institutions that can provide them with the preparation to be ready when those opportunities come before them.”
Long says this weekend, kids interested in becoming pilots can actually sit in the cockpit of a miniature F-16 jet fighter and zip down the runway at Long Beach airport without taking off. A B-52 bomber, giant C-17, and other planes will be on display. For more information, go to AirForceWeekLosAngeles.com.
This just in from Mars today. The Phoenix Lander is probably kaput. KPCC’s Special Correspondent Kitty Felde has the story.
Kitty Felde: NASA’s Phoenix Lander has been exploring the polar region of Mars for five months. But about two weeks ago, a freak dust storm blotted out enough of the sun that the solar panels couldn’t recharge the Lander’s batteries.
Barry Goldstein, project manager at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, says Phoenix stopped communicating with Earth – and with the orbiters around the red planet – more than a week ago.
Barry Goldstein: We believe based on that and the fact that the dust level at our landing site is significantly high, that the possibilities of regaining contact with the vehicle are extremely low, and so we basically believe Phoenix has ended its operational phase.
Felde: NASA scientists are pleased with the Lander’s performance. It discovered ice at the landing site, took more than 25,000 pictures, and found clues that indicate liquid water existed on the red planet. NASA will continue to try to contact the Phoenix Lander through the end of the month.
- November 10, 2008 3:15 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
It’s hot and dry in southern California this week, so if you want to find someplace wet and cold… try Mars. KPCC’s Special Correspondent Kitty Felde offers this climate report.
Kitty Felde: NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been scouting for evidence of water as it zips around the red planet. It’s discovered evidence of hydrated silica, otherwise known as opal. Scientists believe cold acidic water helped form the opaline silica found in and around what are now dry river channels.
That means there was water on Mars a billion years later than scientists earlier believed, allowing more time and more places that could support life in what appears to be a hostile environment. But present day Mars is a hostile environment for the man-made explorers on the planet’s surface.
NASA engineers are shutting down some of the Phoenix Lander’s instruments and heaters to conserve energy and extend its life. The Phoenix was only built to last 90 days on Mars. It just completed its fifth month on the red planet.
- October 28, 2008 4:28 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
A group founded by filmmaker Steven Spielberg has begun a 5-year, $10 million effort to digitize the videotaped testimonies of thousands of Holocaust survivors. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has more.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The Shoah Foundation’s primary focus has been the preservation and dissemination of survivors’ stories, says the group’s Sam Gustman.
Sam Gustman: From 1994 through 2000, we collected 52,000 interviews from Holocaust survivors and witnesses in 56 countries around the world, and in 32 different languages.
Guzman-Lopez: They’re stories of death and survival during Nazi Germany’s effort to exterminate Europe’s Jews. The foundation had recorded survivors’ voices and faces on analog videotape that degrades over time.
Converting those 235,000 videotapes to digital files is a massive job, even with the purchase of two $1 million machines to automate the conversion. Gustman says the work’s necessary to fulfill the foundation’s educational efforts. The Shoah Foundation is already making lower-quality digital versions available, at a charge, to institutions around the world.
Researchers at UC Riverside just got a million dollar grant to do something millions of kids do in backyards every day: dig for worms. KPCC’s Steven Cuevas more.
Steven Cuevas: The grant from the National Science Foundation will get the three-year project off the ground. Maybe not “off the ground,” because UC Riverside researchers will be digging around to identify and catalog a type of worm called a “nematode.”
Scientists say there are millions of different kinds of nematodes, but they’ve only identified about 26,000 species. And because they’re transparent, a lot of nematodes can only be seen with a microscope. But even though they’re small, some nematodes can cause big trouble.
They can ruin crops and spread disease in humans. Head researcher Paul De Ley says Southern California is a good place to start such research, because the diverse region is home to a rich variety of nematodes. He says digging up and studying some of these “invisible” worms will help us protect our fields, and our health.
A new scientific study out of Sweden indicates a heightened risk of brain cancer for children and teens who use cell phones. The report follows years of mixed results from similar studies on animals and human cells. Myra Rosenfeld, a neuro-oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, told KPCC’s AirTalk that while she doubts the conclusiveness of the latest study, it’s prudent to limit young peoples’ exposure to the phones.
Myra Rosenfeld:“It’s not unreasonable to use caution because there could be health risks that we don’t know about. I don’t think that they are cancer. But not knowing, it is a relatively new technology, it’s not unreasonable to use some simple precautions when using a cell phone.”
She said those precautions include using a hands-free earpiece to distance the phone’s antenna from the user’s head.
A new study on the safety of cell phone use is giving parents cause for worry. The Swedish report indicated that children and teens who use cell phones are five times more likely than other kids to develop brain cancer. David Carpenter teaches environmental health sciences at the State University of New York. He told KPCC’s AirTalk that a child’s development factors into the potential for risk.
David Carpenter: “There’s very strong evidence that the electromagnetic radiation from a cell phone does penetrate a child’s brain.”
Some neuroscientists dispute the validity of the Swedish study. They claim that prolonged exposure to cell phones is no more harmful than proximity to televisions or microwave ovens.
Researchers with support from the National Science Foundation say they’ve found a new way to make fuels from plant waste. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports on the recipe for green gasoline to power passenger jets, SUV’s, and every kind of engine in between.
Molly Peterson: Popular alternative fuels – ethanol’s the best example – turn sugar into alcohol-based fuel. So far, most scientists have based that recipe on simple sugar, like that found in corn. Chemists have cooked up fuel from switchgrass or other plants, but it’s made of more complicated sugars, so the fuel’s more expensive.
Now academic researchers and a small company called Virent in Wisconsin say they’ve found a cheaper way to use the complex sugars in agricultural waste and plants. Sugary water made with plant waste goes in one end of their process, passes over a patented catalyst that pulls the oxygen out of the soup, and leaves the carbon and hydrogen behind.
What comes out is a gasoline made of cellulose, the fibery stuff that usually gets thrown away. The process isn’t new, but the catalyst is. So’s the patent, announced last week – about the same time the online version of Science published the research. Virent says its next goal is to ramp up production and build a full-sized plant near a lot of biomass, like sugar cane fields, within five years.
The Martian rover “Opportunity” is on the move on the Red Planet. It’s left Victoria Crater, where it’s stayed for two years, and it’s headed to a much bigger crater. KPCC’s Nick Roman has the rover’s itinerary.
Nick Roman: It’s driving to Endeavour Crater, 14 miles in diameter. Victoria Crater, where “Opportunity” spent two years, is only a half-mile wide. Endeavour Crater is a seven-mile trip. That might take you about, oh, seven minutes. It’ll take “Opportunity” about two years. The rover only covers about 110 yards a day.
On the plus side… The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is aiming its high-resolution cameras along the path. It’s looking for smooth Martian terrain that’ll save time and wear-and-tear on the rover.
Even with that help, “Opportunity” might not make it. The twin rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity” were supposed to last 90 days. Instead, they’ve been on the Red Planet enduring daily temperature swings of 180 degrees for almost five years. Now the scientists are trying to nurse “Opportunity” through its longest trip ever.
Even if it doesn’t make it, there are tons of interesting rocks along the way. It’s always smart to take the scenic route.
Water managers for the city of Los Angeles are pushing a new blueprint for a sustainable water supply. At a meeting in Van Nuys with neighborhood leaders today, the General Manager of the Department of Water and Power, David Nahai, said L.A. needs to recycle and treat more wastewater to keep up with growing demand.
David Nahai: “There is no pristine water supply anymore. Water is the most managed consumer product there is. Even our water that comes down from the aqueduct, it has to be cleaned. It’s the same thing with recycled water.”
L.A. recycles about one percent of its water now. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s goal is to increase that to six percent. Nahai said that developing wastewater recycling projects like those in Orange County could help Los Angeles do the job.
A University of Southern California film student was stabbed to death near the campus early this morning. Within hours, USC officials had notified tens of thousands of students and employees of the homicide, using a year-old text message notification system. David Carlisle of USC’s Department of Public Safety says the system was used after July’s earthquake and to warn of a chemical spill. But he says this was the first time used in a case like this.
David Carlisle: “The death of a student in these circumstances is a rare and extraordinary event. And many people would hear rumors of what occurred, rumors would fly, parents would be unnecessarily upset. We felt that it was important to let the campus community know because this is such a rare occurrence here.”
Carlisle says a campus-wide e-mail followed the text. But he says the priority was the text message because students don’t pay as much attention to e-mails. The LAPD hasn’t announced any arrests in the death.
UC Irvine is launching a new institute that will study how people with little money use what money they have. Maybe that sounds pointless, but KPCC’s Nick Roman says there’s a very important point to the research.
Nick Roman: UCI’s new Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion will study how the world’s “last billion,” the poorest of the poor, spend and save money. The aim is to help the “last billion” do something they’ve never done before: use banks to grow their money, and grow out of poverty.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is paying for the research center. Its focus will be on developing financial products for poor people, like “M-banking.” That stands for “mobile banking.” In parts of the world, there aren’t many banks, but there are lots of cell phones.
In Africa, the telecommunications firm Safaricom offers an M-banking service to transfer money securely by text message. The new institute at UCI will study it. Irvine anthropologist Bill Maurer is the institute’s founding director. He says M-banking has exploded thanks to computer and phone innovations, but there’s been little research into how people actually use it. That’s his job now.
It’s easy, starting today, to tip off the Los Angeles Police Department about crimes with a text message. To use the “text to tip” system, a cell phone user sends a text message to the numbers on the keypad that spell the word “CRIMES.” Police Captain Joel Justice says the sender must also begin the message with the letters “LAPD.”
Joel Justice: “The tipster will immediately receive a message back stating that if this is an emergency to call 911, along with an alias. That alias allows us to communicate with the tipster to get additional information should they choose to do so.”
The alias also allows the tipster to remain anonymous. The LAPD’s using a similar system to handle tips via e-mail.
A new study finds that a chemical widely used in baby bottles and other plastics carries a high risk of heart and liver disease. KPCC’s Molly Peterson says this research on people confirms earlier tests on animals.
Molly Peterson: A group of British doctors looked at a chemical called BPA. Sunglasses, plastic bottles, and DVD’s contain BPA; it’s widespread in people, too. The federal Centers for Disease Control report that 93 percent of Americans have some amount of it in their blood.
Most earlier studies had focused on rodents; this is the first large-scale study of how humans respond to higher levels of the chemical. People who had the highest levels of BPA in their blood were twice as likely to risk heart and liver disease as people who had just a little, the study found.
The research is published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s timed to coincide with a federal Food and Drug Administration hearing about BPA. Federal regulators stand by their position that present rules about BPA levels that don’t ban the chemical are good enough to protect consumers.
The world’s largest particle collider passed its first test this morning. Scientists successfully sent a beam of protons clockwise around the full length of the Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile underground ring near Geneva, Switzerland. Then they sent a beam counterclockwise.
Scientists hope to collide two beams into each other, with the goal of recreating conditions a split second after the Big Bang. Julian Bunn is a scientist in Caltech’s Center for Advanced Computing Research.
Julian Bunn: “It’s certainly the first time since the Big Bang that these conditions have been recreated on the Earth. We believe that by recreating those conditions, we’re able to get a much better understanding of what’s going on.”
Bunn told KPCC’s AirTalk that scientists hope the experiment will teach them more about the source of dark matter and provide a better understanding of the physical world. Scientists hope to begin collisions in the next couple months.
- September 10, 2008 12:15 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Philanthropists, lawmakers, and doctors broke ground today on the first stem cell research center in the state. The facility at USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles is the first of 12 to be built in California. Carmen Puliafito is dean of the university’s Keck School of Medicine.
Carmen Puliafito: “The reason that stem cell research is so exciting to us in the medical field is that certain diseases, such as cardiac failure, Parkinson’s Disease, macular degeneration, provide unique opportunities where we can use stem cells to regenerate some of the body’s parts that may be broken or worn out.”
Voters approved the creation of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine four years ago. The initiative authorized $3 billion to set up stem cell research centers throughout the state.
UCLA professor Kleinrock to receive National Medal of Science for major role in creating the Internet
Debate who invented the internet all you want – the National Science Foundation is recognizing a UCLA computer science professor who played a major role. Leonard Kleinrock will receive the National Medal of Science.
His computer was one of the first nodes on the Internet – indeed, Kleinrock sent one of the very first e-mails. He told KPCC’s Patt Morrison that about 29 years ago, he knew the Internet would be ubiquitous when it grew up.
Leonard Kleinrock: “Anybody with any device could get on at any location. And it would be invisible. What I missed was that my 99-year-old mother would be on the Internet, and she was until she passed away a year ago. I missed the social side of it.”
Kleinrock gets credit for developing the mathematical theory of data networks. He’ll pick up the National Medal of Science, the country’s highest honor in its field, at a White House ceremony on September 29th.
- August 26, 2008 3:23 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
The Mars Phoenix Lander finishes its first mission tomorrow. But KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski says it’s not coming back to Earth just yet.
Brooke Binkowski: The Phoenix touched down on Mars May 25th. The mission was supposed to end after 90 sols, or Martian days; they’re slightly longer than Earth days. Now, Phoenix is staying for another mission because its exploration is going so well.
The spacecraft, led by a science team through NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, will continue its mission through next month. During that last phase of the mission it’s digging deeper than ever. The Phoenix is scooping out and testing soil from a 7-inch deep trench on the surface of the Red Planet.
- August 26, 2008 9:40 AM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Neuroscientists and brain surgeons are converging in Westwood this week. KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski has more about what’s up.
Brooke Binkowski: It’s the annual World Congress of the International Brain Mapping and Intraoperative Surgical Planning Society. UCLA’s Nanosystems Institute is hosting the conference. It will focus on finding new technologies to improve brain mapping and spinal work.
The forum, now in its fifth year, brings scientists and neurosurgeons from all over the world to discuss and share medical advances and ideas. The agenda will include medical issues related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – especially veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
- August 25, 2008 12:22 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
When he gets around to signing bills again, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will have to decide whether to enact a ban on text-messaging while driving. Pam Larson of Long Beach is behind the Sacramento bill. But she wonders how police would enforce it.
Pam Larson: “How are they going to notice the difference between, apparently there’s no law as far as I know, of looking, or dialing your phone, versus text messaging. So I think that’s kind of funny. But, uh, yeah it’s common sense, you know, safety. Your mind should be on the road, not on texting your friends.”
Last month, a new law banned driving while talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device. The law also forbids teen drivers from text messaging while driving.
Drivers face too many distractions. That’s the reasoning behind a bill in Sacramento that would ban motorists from text messaging while they drive. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez gauged reaction in the Southland.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The bill’s a good idea, says Dennis Hutton of Valencia.
Dennis Hutton: I think text messaging while you’re driving is crazy. I mean you’re going to cause an accident. You’re going to hurt yourself and probably some other people. If you’re going to do it you ought to do it in really gridlock traffic. When you’re just driving along and you’re texting it’s pretty dangerous.
Guzman-Lopez: Have you ever tried it?
Hutton: Of course, of course I do!
Guzman-Lopez: San Jose Senator Joe Simitian’s behind the ban on texting while driving. The bill’s passed both houses in the state legislature. It’s headed to Governor Schwarzenegger for his signature or veto.
Sixteen years ago, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Yucca Valley. Three hours later, a magnitude 6.5 quake shook up Big Bear. Seismologists worried that the quakes might trigger a much bigger one on the San Andreas Fault. That didn’t happen. KPCC’s Special Correspondent Kitty Felde examines just how close last month’s Chino Hills quake was to California’s most famous fault.
Kitty Felde: The Chino Hills quake occurred where a trio of faults merges. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey says they’re the Whittier fault, the Chino Fault, and the Elsinore Fault.
Lucy Jones: The Elsinore is part of the San Andreas system. It’s parallel to the San Andreas and has about one-sixth the rate of motion that the San Andreas has.
Felde: The rest of the San Andreas lies about 50 miles to the east. On November 18th, the USGS and emergency teams across the region will participate in the Great Southern California Shakeout, a massive earthquake drill that’ll simulate the response to a major jolt on the San Andreas.
Jones says the Chino Hills quake released 1 percent of the energy of the Northridge quake. Northridge carried only 2 percent of the energy of the quake seismologists expect someday on the San Andreas.
Scientists discount the notion of earthquake weather. But the idea of “earthquake season” hasn’t quite gone away. KPCC’s Special Correspondent Kitty Felde sat down with seismologist Lucy Jones for a look into her crystal ball.
Kitty Felde: The Chino Hills quake late last month was the first earthquake for many people in the Southland.
Lucy Jones: We haven’t had a damaging earthquake in L.A. for the last 15 years, since Northridge happened. By comparison, the decade before Northridge, we had a damaging earthquake almost every year.
Felde: Lucy Jones is a quake expert with the U.S. Geological Survey. She says the pattern could just be random fluctuation. Or it could mean more shaking ahead.
Jones: Between Landers and Northridge, there was a lot of energy removed from the crust by the occurrence of those two earthquakes. And it relaxed a bit. And the rate of all earthquakes large and small went down after those two earthquakes.
Felde: Seismic activity has picked up in the last couple of years, with swarms of small quakes in the Imperial Valley and the San Bernardino mountains. Jones says she and her colleagues will have to study a year of data before they’ll know whether we’ve returned to the higher rate of quakes we saw back in the 1980s.
Not all cholesterol is created equal. And a new study shows heart patients pay more attention to “bad” cholesterol than they do “good” cholesterol. KPCC’s Susan Valot reports.
Susan Valot: UC Irvine researchers looked at nearly 3,000 patients in a government health tracking survey a few years ago. They found nearly 40 percent of patients with heart disease got their levels of “bad” cholesterol, or LDL-C, under control, often by using anti-cholesterol drugs.
But the researchers say only 17 percent had a handle on all types of lipids in the blood, including “good” cholesterol and triglycerides. In case you didn’t pay attention at the doctor’s office, lipids are fatty substances, both good and bad. Too many of the bad ones can put you at risk for heart disease and other problems. The UCI researchers say doctors nationwide aggressively use drugs to get down those bad cholesterol levels.
But many heart patients apparently aren’t eating right, exercising, and using other therapies to control the other cholesterol and lipid levels. The study appears in the “American Heart Journal.”
Martian soil may not be as friendly to life as scientists believed just a few months ago. Details from KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski.
Brooke Binkowski: Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena say the Phoenix spacecraft has found high levels of what could be perchlorate. On Earth, chemists mix that substance into explosives. The state of California also limited dry cleaners’ use of perchlorate after scientists linked it to thyroid problems in humans.
That means the soil of Mars is far less Earth-like than it appeared in May, when the Phoenix Lander first touched down there. The chemicals in Martian dirt could hinder the development of life there.
But the substance may not come from the planet itself – JPL scientists are investigating whether the Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft might have delivered the perchlorate to the planet’s surface.
- August 4, 2008 6:29 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Architects and engineers are patting themselves on the back. Last week’s Chino Hills quake caused very little structural damage. A seismologist says stronger building codes aren’t the only reason Southern California was relatively unscathed by the 5.4 quake. KPCC’s Special Correspondent Kitty Felde explains.
Kitty Felde: Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey says seismologists have studied enough quakes over the years to be pretty sure of ground motions. So the Chino Hills quake behaved in a predictable manner.
Lucy Jones: It happened quite deep, probably about 14 kilometers or about nine miles down. That’s deep for California. It’s shallow for some other parts of the world. And because of that, everyone is at least nine miles away from the earthquake. Even if you’re directly on top of it, the waves have to travel through nine miles of rocks to get to you.
Felde: Jones says that’s why there was so little damage.
Jones: Now, if this earthquake had been, say at three miles depth, I think we would have seen significantly more damage, even with the modern buildings in that area.
Felde: The 1994 Northridge quake was 11 miles deep. But Jones says the damage was so heavy and widespread in comparison to Chino Hills because of Northridge’s intensity; the difference between a 6.7 magnitude quake and a 5.4.
Seismologists think they’ve pinpointed exactly which fault ruptured in Tuesday’s earthquake. It’s not really a “fault” but an area of seismic activity known as the Yorba Linda trend. It was one of three likely candidates that caused the Chino Hills quake. KPCC’s Special Correspondent Kitty Felde reports that one those faults runs right next to some beautiful new homes.
Kitty Felde: Initially, seismologists suspected the Whittier fault in the Chino Hills quake. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey happened to be at a meeting near the epicenter, so of course she stopped by to take a look at the Whittier fault.
Lucy Jones: The magnitude tells you about the size of the fault. And a 5.4, the fault’s gonna be two to three miles across. If it’s then nine miles deep, you’re a long way aways from the surface. So it was unlikely that we’d see anything at the surface, but I couldn’t give up the chance to go and check.
Felde: She didn’t see any surface cracks, but she did see new homes set back from the fault line. That’s because of a state law passed after the 1971 Sylmar quake. The Alquist-Priolo Act requires a setback for developments of new homes on any fault that’s been active the last 10,000 years. Jones says developers used this setback for horse trails and pocket parks. For homes built before the law, sellers must disclose fault line information to buyers.
Water on Mars has been seen, but not touched… until now. The Phoenix Mars Lander has confirmed earlier observations from orbit that there is ice in the soil of the Red Planet. The lander’s robotic arm placed some frozen soil in its Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. Deputy project scientist Deborah Bass told KPCC that TEGA then heated the sample, and studied the vapors it produced with an instrument called a mass spectrometer.
Deborah Bass: The way a mass spectrometer works is similar to the way we parse information in your mouth, so you can distinguish between different chemicals by tasting them when you eat something.
Bass’s team is trying to find out whether the ice on Mars ever thaws enough to be available for life to form.
Link: NASA/JPL Press Release
- July 31, 2008 4:06 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
The earthquake yesterday caused only minor damage, but engineering experts say that won’t necessarily be the case with a stronger earthquake. John Wallace teaches civil and environmental engineering at UCLA.
John Wallace: I think everyone gets a sense, “Oh, we had a 5.4 earthquake,” and I hear a lot of listeners going “Oh, that was a big earthquake.” Well, it wasn’t a big earthquake. It’s good that the buildings did as well as they did, but that’s what we expect. Things could be different in the real big earthquake.”
Wallace told KPCC’s AirTalk that the intensity and duration of shaking during yesterday’s earthquake was relatively small – and that buildings behave different during a stronger earthquake.
A solar-powered car that’s gone around the world stopped at Caltech today. Swiss native Louis Palmer, who’s billed himself as a solar pioneer, designed the “solar taxi.” He’s been driving his “solar taxi” for more than a year to promote alternative energy.
Louis Palmer: “As I get invited, I go from one city to another, I meet the press, I meet the media, I meet the universities, like now Caltech. And I’m spreading my message. I’m having presentations. I just take their attention for one or two minutes and tell them hey, an electric car can even go around the world. So it’s easy! You can go shopping with this car! The technology’s here. So, the technology’s invented. The problem is it’s not being implemented. It’s not being used.”
Palmer admits his “solar taxi” is a little pricey to drive. Its batteries sell for $15,000 apiece. Palmer’s trip is aimed at appealing to manufacturers who could bring down the battery cost with mass production.
Mars wasn’t always covered by rocks and red dust. KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski says a pair of studies indicate the once upon a time, the Red Planet was a wonderland of water.
Brooke Binkowski: Scientists say data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals that the highlands covering about half of Mars are made of clay silicates buried beneath volcanic lava. Those minerals can only form where there’s water. That leads them to conclude that eons ago, oceans splashed and rivers flowed on Mars.
Scientists looking over other data from the Reconnaissance Orbiter say Mars stayed wet for a long, long time. A system of river channels eroded canyons out of the highlands and emptied into crater lakes. Researchers say the diversity of minerals in the clay and the shapes carved out of it means water showed up around four billion years ago and stuck around for perhaps millions of years. Water that stuck around that long might have nurtured life.
Scientists are now trying to find landing sites where the water was so future Mars missions can look for it.
- July 16, 2008 5:51 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
It’s not just hot air. Alternative energy researchers say wind power could be more viable than ever, thanks to help from atmospheric scientists. KPCC’s Brooke Binkowski reports.
Brooke Binkowski: NASA scientists have been crafting wind maps for almost a decade. The charts could help determine which areas on and near the ocean are most likely to work for wind power. Jet Propulsion Lab scientists in Pasadena say it’s relatively easy to harness wind and generate electricity. They say they’re entertaining the possibility of using wind-farms that float in the open ocean; new technology’s making that a workable option. Ocean wind farms are less environmentally invasive than land-based ones, and airstreams are stronger and more constant on the open sea without mountains to block them. Jet Propulsion Lab technologists say wind could eventually provide up to 15% of the world’s energy.