On Aug. 26, NASA held a media teleconference regarding current predictions on sea level rise, highlighting the risks to coastal populations in low-lying areas, and the inherent problems in creating reliable global models. A panel of experts from NASA's recently-founded Sea Level Change Team tells us that ocean levels are inexorably on the rise, but gaps in our understanding and ability to survey risk regions mean we don't know just how fast the change will take place.
"People need to be prepared for sea level rise, we're going to continue to have sea level rise for decades and probably centuries, it's not going to stop, the question is how fast is it going to be?" states Josh Willis, climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "If you live on a coastline, or you have some economic dependence on a coastline, we have to be prepared for rising seas, it's not a question of how much, but rather when."
The board stated that the rise in ocean levels is coming from three distinct sources. The first is thermal expansion, in which ocean water expands as it is heated, taking up more volume and causing sea levels to rise. This effect has been exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions, of which the ocean absorbs over 90 percent of the resultant heat.
The second source is ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, while the final third is from melting mountain glaciers. Ice sheets and glaciers can be lost from contact with warmer air, the creation of icebergs, or from interaction with warm sea water. It is estimated that the Greenland ice sheet alone has lost around 303 gigatons of mass per year for the last decade.
We are aware of this thanks to a number of scientific instruments wielded by NASA and its partners. A notable contributor to our knowledge has been the Jason 1 & 2 and TOPEX/Poseiden satellites, whose altimeters have allowed for incredibly precise measurements. Simultaneously NASA's GRACE satellite has been observing Earth's gravitational field, taking accurate measurements in order to determine by how much ice sheets and glaciers are shrinking.
In a research article by Dr Fred Goesmann from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany and his colleagues, the team analyzes the composition of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using the COmetary SAmpling and Composition (COSAC) instrument, designed to identify organic compounds in the comet and thus contribute to a deeper understanding of the history of life on Earth.
The instrument collected molecules from 10 km (6.2 miles) above the comet surface, after the initial touchdown, and at the final site. 16 organic compounds were identified, divided into six classes of organic molecules (alcohols, carbonyls, amines, nitriles, amides and isocyanates). Of these, four organic compounds were detected for the first time on a comet (methyl isocyanate, acetone, propionaldehyde and acetamide).
Almost all the compounds detected are potential precursors, products, combinations or by-products of each other, which provides a glimpse of the chemical processes at work in a cometary nucleus, and even in the collapsing Solar Nebula in the very early Solar System.
COSAC identified a large number of nitrogen compounds but no sulfur compounds, contrary to what the ROSINA instrument on board Rosetta had observed. This suggests that the chemical composition varies depending on the area sampled.
A special issue of the journal Science highlights seven new studies that delve into the data that has been collected by ESA’s probe Philae on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The Future of Life Institute has presented an open letter signed by over 1,000 robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) researchers urging the United Nations to impose a ban on the development of weaponized AI with the capability to target and kill without meaningful human intervention. The letter was presented at the 2015 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), and is backed with the endorsements of a number of prominent scientists and industry leaders, including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Noam Chomsky.
To some, armed and autonomous AI could seem a fanciful concept confined to the realm of video games and sci-fi. However, the chilling warning contained within the newly released open letter insists that the technology will be readily available within years, not decades, and that action must be taken now if we are to prevent the birth of a new paradigm of modern warfare.
Consider now the implications of this. According to the open letter, many now consider weaponized AI to be the third revolution in modern warfare, after gunpower and nuclear arms. However, for the previous two there have always been powerful disincentives to utilize the technology. For rifles to be used in the field, you need a soldier to wield the weapon, and this in turn meant putting a soldiers life at risk.
Unbeknownst to many people, our emotions, cognition, behavior, and mental health are influenced by a large number of entities that reside in our bodies while pursuing their own interests, which need not coincide with ours. Such selfish entities include microbes, viruses, foreign human cells, and imprinted genes regulated by viruslike elements. This article provides a broad overview, aimed at a wide readership, of the consequences of our coexistence with these entities. Its aim is to show that we are not unitary individuals in control of ourselves but rather “holobionts” or superorganisms—meant here as collections of human and nonhuman elements that are to varying degrees integrated and, in an incessant struggle, jointly define who we are.
A conversation with the new Google bot can go something like this: Human: What is the purpose of dying? Machine: To have a life. Human: What is the purpose of being intelligent? Machine: To find out what it is. Human: What is the purpose of emotions? Machine: I don’t know.
The sharing economy could bring about the end of capitalism: that’s the provocative claim made by economic journalist Paul Mason, among others. But my ongoing research indicates that there are many possible futures for the sharing economy: it could transform the world of work as we know it – or it could gradually fade from the public eye.
The exact nature and impacts of the sharing economy are still disputed. The organisers of social movements, entrepreneurs, established businesses and politicians all have very different ideas of what the sharing economy is, and what it should become. For example, Share the World’s Resource (a not-for-profit civil organisation) talks about building a sharing economy based on “shared” public services, which are funded by taxation.
Meanwhile, the UK government speaks of building a sharing economy based on online peer-to-peer platforms, which enable citizens to become micro-entrepreneurs by renting out assets such as homes, driveways and pets. So it seems that a diverse range of actors can see their own hopes, fears and values reflected in the sharing economy. But one thing is for sure: online platforms such as Airbnb and Uber have grown from Silicon Valley startups to global corporations, and this trend will probably continue.
Research on the economic, environmental and social impacts of these enterprises is scarce. As a result, there is very little evidence to help us understand how the sharing economy will develop. So I analysed approximately 250 sharing-economy-related articles and reports, which contained contrasting views from advocates and critics. Based on this evidence, I mapped out four possible paths for the sharing economy: and only one of them predicts that the sharing economy will bring capitalism to its knees, as Mason holds.
The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change, the world.
Have you heard about Holacracy? If you’re watching the startup and tech scene, then there’s a pretty good chance you have. Holacracy is a management-free way to run a company. It’s been around for a few years, but it may...Continue reading
Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg thinks that you will soon be able to send emotions directly to your friends.
In a Q&A session held (where else) on Facebook, the 31-year-old billionaire said that in the relatively near future it would be possible to send anything -- including the feedback from our senses -- to friends as easily as we send a picture, video or text today. Such a tool would represent "the ultimate communication technology" Zuckerberg said.
"One day, I believe we'll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You'll be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you like," he said
"In the future video will be even more important than photos. After that, immersive experiences like VR will become the norm. And after that, we'll have the power to share our full sensory and emotional experience with people whenever we'd like."
If you have a job, odds are society benefits from your work, and theoretically, the compensation you receive is how the marketplace values your contribution. All other things being equal, the better you... read more
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