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We’re going to mars!

I don't know if you were paying attention to the Twitters this morning, but NASA started off the morning with an awesome announcement:

We're sending humans to Mars! Watch our #JourneytoMars briefing live today at 12pm ET: http://t.co/6XtjOi1yJo #Orion pic.twitter.com/wrf89sn35A

— NASA (@NASA) December 2, 2014

This is the most exciting announcement out of NASA for an entire generation, the first deep space program since the Apollo missions landed on the moon.

Per NASA.gov:

In the not-too-distant future, astronauts destined to be the first people to walk on Mars will leave Earth aboard an Orion spacecraft. Carried aloft by the tremendous power of a Space Launch System rocket, our explorers will begin their Journey to Mars from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the spirit of humanity with them to the Red Planet.

The first future human mission to Mars and those that follow will require the ingenuity and dedication of an entire generation. It's a journey worth the risks. We take the next step on that journey this Thursday, Dec. 4, with the uncrewed, first flight test of Orion.

Sure, they're projecting 2030-ish before it actually happens, but there is a lot of work to be done between now and then. The only problem I have with any of it is that I will be in my 50s, far too late to train for the trip, so I'll have to decline when NASA shows up at my door asking me to be the commander of the mission.

Today’s fun video: Slamming liberals for fighting science

 

The Daily Show points out that it's not just conservatives who fight science. Liberals can be virulently anti-science, too, just not on the same topics.

Adventure scientists document chilling facts of global warming

ENVIRONMENT – “Chasing Ice,” a fascinating and award-winning National Geographic documentary about adventure-scientist documenting changes in the arctic will be presented by the Idaho Conservation League and other local environmental groups on Monday, 7 p.m., at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint.

Read on for details about the making of this 2012 film, and why local groups are bringing the stunning images to the big screen in North Idaho.

Women, climate change topic of Gonzaga environmental series talk

ENVIRONMENT – Sustainability expert Gloria Flora will be in Spokane this week to discuss how women worldwide are confronting the challenge of climate change.

The free public lecture titled, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat: Women and the Global Response to Climate Change” at 5:30 p.m., Friday (March 22) in the Wolff Auditorium of Gonzaga University's Jepson Center.

The lecture is part of the Gonzaga Environmental Studies Speaker Series — which recently sponsored Dr. Jane Goodall — and is sponsored by the Gonzaga environmental studies, and women’s and gender studies departments.

Read on for more details about Flora and her quest to keep flora and fauna functioning on earth.

Fish extinction greatly accelerated, study shows

CLIMATE CHANGE — Out of sight, out of mind.  Next thing you know, they're extinct.

And it's happening faster than ever to fish species, according to a recent study detailed in a Columbia Basin Bulletin report.

From 1900-2010, freshwater fish species in North America went extinct at a rate 877 times faster than the rate found in the fossil record, while estimates indicate the rate may double between now and 2050, the Bulletin reports.

This new information comes from a U.S. Geological Survey study to be published in the September issue of the journal BioScience.

In the fossil record, one freshwater fish species goes extinct every 3 million years, but North America lost 39 species and 18 subspecies between 1898 and 2006. Based on current trends in threatened and endangered fish species, researchers estimate that an additional 53-86 species of freshwater fish may be extinct by the year 2050.

Since the first assessment of extinct North American freshwater fishes in 1989, the number of extinct fishes increased by 25 percent.

“This study illustrates the value of placing current events into the context of deep geologic time, as rocks preserve an unbiased record of natural rates of processes before human activities began to alter the landscape, the atmosphere, the rivers, and oceans,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt.

Conservatives Lose Trust In Science

Item: Conservatives lose trust in science, study shows: Better educated change the most/Los Angeles Times

More Info: A study released Thursday in the American Sociological Review concludes that trust in science among conservatives and frequent churchgoers has declined precipitously since 1974, when a national survey first asked people how much confidence they had in the scientific community. At that time, conservatives had the highest level of trust in scientists. Confidence in scientists has declined the most among the most educated conservatives.

Question: Is science ever influenced by politics?

Pumping Up

President Barack Obama pumps up a gun designed by Joey Hudy, left, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, to shoot a marshmallow in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington Tuesday, during the White House Science Fair. Obama hosted the second White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Question: Were you a good science student?

Two important new Hanford books

Here are two new books about a crucial and controversial issue in our region:

  •  “Atomic Frontier Days: Hanford and the American West” (University of Washington Press, $24.95), by John M. Findlay and Bruce Hevly. The authors tell the complex and fascinating story of Hanford’s atomic legacy. It was a vast area of sagebrush which was converted overnight during World War II to a super-secret federal bomb-building facility. Our region is still dealing with many Hanford-related issues today – environmental, political and socialOne reviewer has already called it “a must-read for anyone interested and concerned about this nation’s nuclear legacy.” Both authors are history professors at the University of Washington. Findlay specializes in the Northwest and the American West, and Hevly specializes in the history of science and technology. They “offer perspective on today’s controversies,” according to the publisher. It was just released this month and you can find it at local bookstores, online or here. .
  • “Made in Hanford: The Bomb That Changed the World” (Washington State University Press, $22.95) by Hill Williams. Williams, a former science writer for the Seattle Times, is particularly well-suited to this subject. His father was editor of the Pasco Herald during World War II – and one of the few people in on part of the secret. Williams went on to write about Hanford and other nuclear issues for the Seattle Times. He also had access to the personal diaries of one of Hanford’s key figures. The book combines his personal story with detailed scientific and historic research. You should be able to find it at local bookstores and online or at wsupress.wsu.edu.

Luna Wants To Scrap Science Test

Idaho high school students would no longer have to pass a standardized test in science to graduate from high school, under a rule change pushed by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and approved by the state Board of Education yesterday; lawmakers still must sign off on the change, which would take effect with the class of 2013. Luna said it wasn’t an accurate measure of how students are performing in science/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Should the standardized test in science for graduation be scrapped?