Friday, November 22, 2019

Local Roots: Farm-in-a-box coming to a distribution center near you

Enlarge / The interior of a TerraFarm.Local Roots reader comments 143 Share this story Eric and Matt could not be more earnest in their quest to feed the world. These two fresh-faced LA boys founded Local Roots four years ago. Their first purchases were broken-down, 40-foot shipping containers—this is apparently easy to do, since it is cheaper for shipping companies to just churn out new ones rather than fix broken ones. Local Roots then upcycles them into modular, shippable, customizable farms, each of which can grow as much produce as five acres of farmland. The idea is to supplement, not supplant, outdoor agriculture. And Ars got a look at one of these "farms" when it was set up in New York City recently. Every aspect of the TerraFarm, as the repurposed shipping containers have been dubbed, has been designed and optimized. The gently pulsing LED lights are purplish—apparently, that’s what lettuce likes—and the solution in which the plants are grown is clean and clear. The "farm" i..

Photosynthesis before oxygen may have kept the early Earth warm

Photosynthesis.Petr Pakandl / WikiCommons reader comments 26 Share this story “The so-called ‘faint young Sun paradox’ has long been a topic of debate because its resolution bears important ramifications for the basic factors structuring climate regulation and the long-term habitability of Earth and Earth-like exoplanets.” So begins Chris Reinhard’s new paper in Nature. Reinhard is a Principal Investigator at the Alternative Earths Team of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, which has a goal of “unraveling the evolving redox state of Earth’s early atmosphere as a guide for exoplanet exploration” and eventual habitability. The paradox at issue is that, three billion-ish years ago, our Sun was about 25-percent dimmer than it is today. Yet geological records suggest that the Earth was even warmer then than it is now. Most solutions to the paradox figure that there must have been high levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Two big questions are related to that, though: which gasses, a..

Hurricane Harvey studies: Yesterday’s 100-year storm is today’s 30-year storm

EnlargeTexas Military Department reader comments 104 Share this story The story explaining the incredible flooding in Houston during Hurricane Harvey has many chapters, ranging from meteorology to the history of groundwater use and development zoning. The chapter on climate change has already had a few pages filled in, thanks to a study quickly published by MIT hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel. This week, two complementary studies flesh the chapter out a little more. Further ReadingHarvey-scale rains could hit Texas 18x more often by the end of the century The first paper comes from a group of scientists who have worked to rapidly analyze a number of extreme weather events over the past few years, including flooding in Europe and Louisiana last year. The general strategy for this type of undertaking is not entirely dissimilar from tracking the home run hitting of steroid-using baseball players. You can’t really know if an individual home run would have occurred sans steroids, but tha..

After firestorm, CDC director says terms like “science-based” are not banned

Enlarge / CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald at the agency's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Getty | Washington Post reader comments 169 Share this story The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fired off a series of tweets Sunday to try to quell fierce backlash from a Friday night report that the Trump administration had banned the agency from using certain terms in budget documents, including “science-based” and “diversity.” “I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC,” Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald‏ tweeted at the top of a thread Sunday morning, which is currently pinned. Instead, several sources have tried to clarify that the language changes were merely suggestions to help make the agency’s budget more palatable to some Republicans and ease its passage. The Friday report that sparked the firestorm was from The Washington Post, which said that the Trump administration had outright prohibited the CDC from usin..

FDA plans crackdown on dangerous homeopathy; homeopaths say: bring it

Enlarge / Homeopathic remedies in a pharmacy.Getty | Peter Macdiarmid reader comments 107 Share this story The Food and Drug Administration on Monday released a draft guidance (PDF) that will boost enforcement of manufacturing, marketing, and safety regulations for homeopathic products. The agency plans to specifically target what it considers high-risk products, such as those known to contain dangerous substances or are intended to be used for treating serious or life-threatening conditions. Homeopaths, meanwhile, told Ars in a relatively subdued statement that they welcome the FDA’s efforts but are “hopeful that this action will not impede access.” Further ReadingFDA: Homeopathic teething gels may have killed 10 babies, sickened 400The FDA’s move follows a string of high-profile safety issues with homeopathic products. That includes a years-long investigation by the agency that linked illnesses in 400 infants and the deaths of 10 babies to improperly manufactured homeopathic teethi..

Unruly Antarctica could change sea-level outlook without much warning

Enlarge / The flow of glaciers into the sea has accelerated in this vulnerable area of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet along the Amundsen Sea.NASA Earth Observatory reader comments 44 Share this story Sea-level rise is one of the more challenging effects of climate change to project. It’s not that the direction of the change is unclear—sea level will rise as the planet warms—but it’s extraordinarily difficult to know when which sections of which glaciers will slide into the sea. Many factors are involved besides temperatures, including ocean currents and the topography of the bedrock below ice sheets. Further ReadingUS government climate report: Climate change is real and our fault As a result, the projections of sea-level rise presented to entities like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been heavily caveated and have changed significantly over time. The 2013 IPCC report, for example, projected considerably higher sea-level rise than the 2007 report, which explain..

New discovery pushes star Kepler-90’s menagerie to eight planets

Enlarge / That's a lot of mouths to feed.NASA/Wendy Stenzel reader comments 37 Share this story If you have an emotional attachment to our Solar System’s distinctions, you may want to look away. We’ve found another star system with eight planets, tying our own mark. Oh, and a Google machine-learning algorithm is responsible for the discovery. This is one of two new exoplanets scraped from the massive archive of data from the Kepler space telescope by NASA’s Andrew Vanderburg and Christopher Shallue of the Google AI team. Planets detected by Kepler show up as slight dips in the brightness of a star—the result of the planet passing in front and blocking some of the light. Some planets are more obvious than others, and the goal here was to turn the algorithm loose on digging through past measurements for weak signals that had been missed. Like all machine learning systems, this one was fed measurements from previously identified exoplanets to work out what differentiates real signa..

NASA is trying to make the Space Launch System rocket more...

Enlarge / Artist concept of the Space Launch System.NASA/MSFC reader comments 222 Share this story NASA has said that one of the strengths of its Space Launch System rocket is that the massive booster, in part, uses legacy hardware. These proven technologies, such as the space shuttle's main engines and the side-mounted rocket boosters, provide the agency with confidence that when it finally flies, the SLS will be reliable. Further ReadingNASA realizes SLS and Orion are too expensive, opens door to competitors However, one problem with legacy hardware, built by traditional contractors such as Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne, is that it's expensive. And while NASA has not released per-flight estimates of the expendable SLS rocket's cost, conservative estimates peg it at $1.5 to $2.5 billion per launch. The cost is so high that it effectively precludes more than one to two SLS launches per year. The space agency recognizes this problem with its rocket, and in the past..

Just 20 percent of e-waste is being recycled

EnlargeUNU/ITU reader comments 124 Share this story Opting to handle your bills online keeps a lot of paper out of the bin, but the devices you use to go online eventually die anyway. If this “e-waste” ends up in a landfill, the energy and materials that went into manufacturing and delivering those devices are lost. And besides being unsustainable, disposal can expose people to hazardous metals and compounds. Apart from a story here and there about a new e-waste recycling project, it’s hard to get an idea of just how much e-waste is getting tossed around the world. A new report from the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union helps paint a picture by providing some global statistics. Altogether, the report estimates that nearly 45 million tons of electronics were thrown out in 2016—and only about 20 percent of it is known to have been recycled. The report puts the value of the raw materials in that 45 million tons of e-waste at about $55 billion ($9 billion from smartph..

The Greatest Leap, Part 1: How the Apollo fire propelled NASA to...

Video shot and edited by Conde Nast Entertainment in cooperation with Ars Technica. Click here for transcript. (video link) Seated in Mission Control, Chris Kraft neared the end of a tedious Friday afternoon as he monitored a seemingly interminable ground test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft. It was January 1967, and communications between frustrated astronauts inside the capsule on its Florida launch pad and the test conductors in Houston sputtered periodically through his headset. His mind drifted. Sudden shouts snapped him to attention. In frantic calls coming from the Apollo cockpit, fear had replaced frustration. Amid the cacophony, Kraft heard the Apollo program’s most capable astronaut, Gus Grissom, exclaim a single word. Read 70 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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