A daily staple in our lives is the cell phone. Whether you use it for calling, texting, gaming, selfies, or social media – it’s always there.
One organization knows the importance of this modern tool and wanted to make sure that deployed soldiers do not feel this void in their lives. Cell Phones for Soldiers is a nonprofit dedicated to getting those serving free communication services.
“One morning before school, my sister Brittany and I were watching the morning news with our parents,” recalls Robbie Bergquist, a co-founder of Cell Phones for Soldiers. “We heard the story of a local soldier returning from Iraq with an almost $8,000 phone bill.”
This news piece slammed the young kids into reality. “Our cousin had recently been deployed and the story really hit home for us,” he remembers, as they eventually had two cousins stationed overseas down the line. “How could a man who was serving his country not be able to call his family for free?”
The two youngsters decided to make a difference. They took all the money they had in their piggy banks, scrounged up extra lunch money and even put on a car wash to send money to the man they saw on TV.
“Our greatest educational voice at that time came from our parents,” Robbie says of starting the program with his sister, when they were just 12 and 13 years old. “They instilled in us that it was important to think of others before we thought of ourselves.”
From that point as kids to this very day, Cell Phones for Soldiers has exponentially grown. With three staff members, thousands of volunteers and over 3,900 recycled cell phone drop off locations, their childhood goal has become a big resource to the military.
“My role with the charity is as co-founder and director,” he tells us, here at VA Home Loan Centers. “Along with my sister Brittany, we travel both nationally and internationally for media appearances, speaking engagements and work with our current and new potential partners to promote Cell Phones For Soldiers so that we can continue to assist military members.”
“Servicemen and women are so humble, and unbelievably appreciative,” Robbie said. His favorite story was of a sailor on board an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic who had received phone cards from the organization so they could call home. “The sailor told us that listening to our story overwhelmed him with emotion, bringing him to leave the room. Worried about being seen crying, the sailor walked outside to gather his emotions and looked around to find many other sailors sharing his feeling.”
Robbie says that shipping costs can be a real struggle for the organization. “We’re always grateful for each and every donated device, but even more delighted when supporters are able to take the extra step and pay for shipping as well.”
Cell Phones for Soldiers is always looking for new evangelists to help spread the word and contribute to the cause. “Supporters can keep up with the latest on Cell Phones For Soldiers by signing up for ournewsletter here.”
“During National Military Appreciation Month, we along with our friends at KIND Snacks are asking for help in thanking our troops and veterans for their sacrifice and bravery,” Robbie states. From this point through May 31st, he asks that those on Twitter use the hashtag #thankskindly and thank the military with the trend topic.
“Robots will then transform the tweets into physical, handwritten notes and we’ll deliver the notes to deserving heroes worldwide,” he continued. You can see how the robots do it here:http://www.kindsnacks.com/thankskindly/.
Brittany and Robbie are both grateful for the chance to thank those who have served. “We have grown up with the opportunity to meet thousands of active duty military members and veterans,” Robbie proclaimed. “We are so proud to have created something that supports them in a small way for all that they do for us.”
Every June, after the rainy season ends in the grassy highlands of southern Peru, the residents of four villages near Huinchiri, at more than 12,000 feet in altitude, come together for a three-day festival. Men, women and children have already spent days in busy preparation: They’ve gathered bushels of long grasses, which they’ve then soaked, pounded, and dried in the sun. These tough fibers have been twisted and braided into narrow cords, which in turn have been woven together to form six heavy cables, each the circumference of a man’s thigh and more than 100 feet long.
Inka road in the upper Amazon Quiyos River valley , REquador 2011 (Jorge Arellano)
Dozens of men heave the long cables over their shoulders and carry them single file to the edge of a deep, rocky canyon. About a hundred feet below flows the Apurímac River. Village elders murmur blessings to Mother Earth and Mother Water, then make ritual offerings by burning coca leaves and sacrificing guinea pigs and sheep.
Shortly after, the villagers set to work linking one side of the canyon to the other. Relying on a bridge they built the same way a year earlier—now sagging from use—they stretch out four new cables, lashing each one to rocks on either side, to form the base of the new 100-foot long bridge. After testing them for strength and tautness, they fasten the remaining two cables above the others to serve as handrails. Villagers lay down sticks and woven grass mats to stabilize, pave and cushion the structure. Webs of dried fiber are quickly woven, joining the handrails to the base. The old bridge is cut; it falls gently into the water.
Paved portion of Inca road, near Colca Canyon (Doug McMains)
At the end of the third day, the new hanging bridge is complete. The leaders of each of the four communities, two from either side of the canyon, walk toward one another and meet in the middle. “Tukuushis!” they exclaim. “We’ve finished!”
Q’eswachaka suspension bridge, Peru 2014 (Doug McMains)
And so it has gone for centuries. The indigenous Quechua communities, descendants of the ancient Inca, have been building and rebuilding this twisted-rope bridge, or Q’eswachaka, in the same way for more than 500 years. It’s a legacy and living link to an ancient past—a bridge not only capable of bearing some 5,000 pounds but also empowered by profound spiritual strength.
Capac Nan, or The Great Road, in Contisuyu,Colca Canyon, Peru 2014 (Doug McMains)
To the Quechua, the bridge is linked to earth and water, both of which are connected to the heavens. Water comes from the sky; the earth distributes it. In their incantations, the elders ask the earth to support the bridge and the water to accept its presence. The rope itself is endowed with powerful symbolism: Legend has it that in ancient times the supreme Inca ruler sent out ropes from his capital in Cusco, and they united all under a peaceful and prosperous reign.
The Inca Road with sidewalls,Colca Canyon Peru 2014 (Doig McMains)
The bridge, says Ramiro Matos, physically and spiritually “embraces one side and the other side.” A Peruvian of Quechua descent, Matos is an expert on the famed Inca Road, of which this Q’eswachaka makes up just one tiny part. He’s been studying it since the 1980s and has published several books on the Inca.
Trailside water fountain,Machu Picchu, Peru 1998 (Wright Water Engineer)
For the past seven years, Matos and his colleagues have traveled throughout the six South American countries where the road runs, compiling an unprecedented ethnography and oral history. Their detailed interviews with more than 50 indigenous people form the core of a major new exhibition, “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire,” at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.
“This show is different from a strict archaeological exhibition,” Matos says. “It’s all about using a contemporary, living culture to understand the past.” Featured front and center, the people of the Inca Road serve as mediators of their own identity. And their living culture makes it clear that “the Inca Road is a living road,” Matos says. “It has energy, a spirit and a people.”
Walking The Capac Nan, Yujuy, Argentine 2005 (Axel E. Neilsen)
Matos is the ideal guide to steer such a complex project. For the past 50 years, he has moved gracefully between worlds—past and present, universities and villages, museums and archaeological sites, South and North America, and English and non-English speakers. “I can connect the contemporary, present Quechua people with their past,” he says.
Numerous museum exhibitions have highlighted Inca wonders, but none to date have focused so ambitiously on the road itself, perhaps because of the political, logistical and conceptual complexities. “Inca gold is easy to describe and display,” Matos explains. Such dazzling objects scarcely need an introduction. “But this is a road,” he continues. “The road is the protagonist, the actor. How do we show that?”
A Woman travels the Inca road on the shore of Lake Titicaca near Pomota, Peru 2006 (Megan Son and Laurent Granier)
The sacred importance of this thoroughfare makes the task daunting. When, more than a hundred years ago, the American explorer Hiram Bingham III came across part of the Inca Road leading to the fabled 15th-century site of Machu Picchu, he saw only the remains of an overgrown physical highway, a rudimentary means of transit. Certainly most roads, whether ancient or modern, exist for the prosaic purpose of aiding commerce, conducting wars, or enabling people to travel to work. We might get our kicks on Route 66 or gasp while rounding the curves on Italy’s Amalfi Coast—but for the most part, when we hit the road, we’re not deriving spiritual strength from the highway itself. We’re just aiming to get somewhere efficiently.
Inca Road through the desert , Jujuy Province Argentina 2006 (Megan Son and Laurent Granier)
Not so the Inca Road. “This roadway has a spirit,” Matos says, “while other roads are empty.” Bolivian Walter Alvarez, a descendant of the Inca, told Matos that the road is alive. “It protects us,” he said. “Passing along the way of our ancestors, we are protected by the Pachamama [Mother Earth]. The Pachamama is life energy, and wisdom.” To this day, Alvarez said, traditional healers make a point of traveling the road on foot. To ride in a vehicle would be inconceivable: The road itself is the source from which the healers absorb their special energy.
“Walking the Inca Trail, we are never tired,” Quechua leader Pedro Sulca explained to Matos in 2009. “The llamas and donkeys that walk the Inca Trail never get tired … because the old path has the blessings of the Inca.”
It has other powers too: “The Inca Trail shortens distances,” said Porfirio Ninahuaman, a Quechua from near the Andean city of Cerro de Pasco in Peru. “The modern road makes them farther.” Matos knows of Bolivian healers who hike the road from Bolivia to Peru’s central highlands, a distance of some 500 miles, in less than two weeks.
“They say our Inka [the Inca king] had the power of the sun, who commanded on earth and all obeyed—people, animals, even rocks and stones,” said Nazario Turpo, an indigenous Quechua living near Cusco. “One day, the Inka, with his golden sling, ordered rocks and pebbles to leave his place, to move in an orderly manner, form walls, and open the great road for the Inca Empire… So was created the Capac Ñan.”
This monumental achievement, this vast ancient highway—known to the Inca, and today in Quechua, as Capac Ñan, commonly translated as the Royal Road but literally as “Road of the Lord”—was the glue that held together the vast Inca Empire, supporting both its expansion and its successful integration into a range of cultures. It was paved with blocks of stone, reinforced with retaining walls, dug into rock faces, and linked by as many as 200 bridges, like the one at Huinchiri, made of woven-grass rope, swaying high above churning rivers. The Inca engineers cut through some of the most diverse and extreme terrain in the world, spanning rain forests, deserts and high mountains.
At its early 16th-century peak, the Inca Empire included between eight million and twelve million people and extended from modern-day Colombia down to Chile and Argentina via Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. The Capac Ñan linked Cusco, the Inca capital and center of its universe, with the rest of the realm, its main route and tributaries radiating in all directions. The largest empire in its day, it also ranked as among the most sophisticated, incorporating a diverse array of chiefdoms, kingdoms and tribes. Unlike other great empires, it used no currency. A powerful army and extraordinary central bureaucracy administered business and ensured that everyone worked—in agriculture until the harvest, and doing public works thereafter. Labor—including work on this great road—was the tax Inca subjects paid. Inca engineers planned and built the road without benefit of wheeled devices, draft animals, a written language, or even metal tools.
The last map of the Inca Road, considered the base map until now, was completed more than three decades ago, in 1984. It shows the road running for 14,378 miles. But the remapping conducted by Matos and an international group of scholars revealed that it actually stretched for nearly 25,000 miles. The new map was completed by Smithsonian cartographers for inclusion in the exhibition. Partly as a result of this work, the Inca Road became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.
Rumi Colca Gateaway,Cusco, Peru 2014 (Doig Mxc Mains)
Before Matos became professionally interested in the road, it was simply a part of his daily life. Born in 1937 in the village of Huancavelica, at an altitude of some 12,000 feet in Peru’s central highlands, Matos grew up speaking Quechua; his family used the road to travel back and forth to the nearest town, some three hours away. “It was my first experience of walking on the Inca Road,” he says, though he didn’t realize it then, simply referring to it as the “Horse Road.” No cars came to Huancavelica until the 1970s. Today his old village is barely recognizable. “There were 300 people then. It’s cosmopolitan now.”
As a student in the 1950s at Lima’s National University of San Marcos, Matos diverged from his path into the legal profession when he realized that he enjoyed history classes far more than studying law. A professor suggested archaeology. He never looked back, going on to become a noted archaeologist, excavating and restoring ancient Andean sites, and a foremost anthropologist, pioneering the use of current native knowledge to understand his people’s past. Along the way, he has become instrumental in creating local museums that safeguard and interpret pre-Inca objects and structures.
Since Matos first came to the United States in 1976, he has held visiting professorships at three American universities, as well as ones in Copenhagen, Tokyo and Bonn. That’s in addition to previous professorial appointments at two Peruvian universities. In Washington, D.C., where he’s lived and worked since 1996, he still embraces his Andean roots, taking part in festivals and other activities with fellow Quechua immigrants. “Speaking Quechua is part of my legacy,” he says.
The Inca road skirting Lake Junin, Peru 2006 (Megan Son and Laurent Granier)
Among the six million Quechua speakers in South America today, many of the old ways remain. “People live in the same houses, the same places, and use the same roads as in the Inca time,” Matos says. “They’re planting the same plants. Their beliefs are still strong.”
But in some cases, the indigenous people Matos and his team interviewed represent the last living link to long-ago days. Seven years ago, Matos and his team interviewed 92-year-old Demetrio Roca, who recalled a 25-mile walk in 1925 with his mother from their village to Cusco, where she was a vendor in the central plaza. They were granted entrance to the sacred city only after they had prayed and engaged in a ritual purification. Roca wept as he spoke of new construction wiping out his community’s last Inca sacred place—destroyed, as it happened, for road expansion.
Nowadays, about 500 communities in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and northwestern Argentina rely on what remains of the road, much of it overgrown or destroyed by earthquakes or landslides. In isolated areas, it remains “the only road for their interactions,” Matos says. While they use it to go to market, it’s always been more than just a means of transport. “For them,” Matos says, “it’s Mother Earth, a companion.” And so they make offerings at sacred sites along the route, praying for safe travels and a speedy return, just as they’ve done for hundreds of years.
That compression of time and space is very much in keeping with the spirit of the museum exhibition, linking past and present—and with the Quechua worldview. Quechua speakers, Matos says, use the same word, pacha, to mean both time and space. “No space without time, no time without space,” he says. “It’s very sophisticated.”
The Quechua have persevered over the years in spite of severe political and environmental threats, including persecution by Shining Path Maoist guerrillas and terrorists in the 1980s. Nowadays the threats to indigenous people come from water scarcity—potentially devastating to agricultural communities—and the environmental effects of exploitation of natural resources, including copper, lead and gold, in the regions they call home.
“To preserve their traditional culture, [the Quechua] need to preserve the environment, especially from water and mining threats,” Matos emphasizes. But education needs to be improved too. “There are schools everywhere,” he says, “but there is no strong pre-Hispanic history. Native communities are not strongly connected with their past. In Cusco, it’s still strong. In other places, no.”
Still, he says, there is greater pride than ever among the Quechua, partly the benefit of vigorous tourism. (Some 8,000 people flocked to Huinchiri to watch the bridge-building ceremony in June last year.) “Now people are feeling proud to speak Quechua,” Matos says. “People are feeling very proud to be descendants of the Inca.” Matos hopes the Inca Road exhibition will help inspire greater commitment to preserving and understanding his people’s past. “Now,” he says, “is the crucial moment.”
This story is from the new travel quarterly, Smithsonian Journeys, which will arrive on newstands July 14.
A burglary suspect broke down in tears in the dock when the judge recognised him as a former schoolmate and said he had been the “best kid” in school.
Arthur Booth appeared in front of judge Mindy Glazer at Miami-Dade bond court charged with burglary.
Booth, 49, was arrested on Monday after being spotted driving a car that matched the description of one allegedly involved in a robbery and failing to stop after a police officer signalled him to.
A police chase followed, resulting in two accidents before he crashed the car.
He fled on foot but was eventually caught and charged with various offences.
When he was taken into court, the judge looked at him for a moment or two and then asked: “Did you go to Nautilus?”
Friends Reunited! Judge Meets Old Pal In Dock
“Oh my goodness,” replied Booth several times, at first with smiles and then breaking down in tears.
“I’m sorry to see you here,” replied Judge Glazer. “I always wondered what happened to you.”
“This was the nicest kid in middle school,” she told the court. “He was the best kid in middle school. I used to play football with him, all the kids, and look what has happened.”
“What’s sad is how old we’ve become,” she continued before finishing the conversation with: “Good luck to you, sir, I hope you are able to come out of this OK and just lead a lawful life.”
The judge set Booth’s bond at $43,000 (£27,500).
It was an emotional reunion in a very odd place. Forty-nine-year-old Arthur Booth was in a Florida court Thursday facing charges for burglary, grand theft and resisting arrest. He broke down when he realized the judge, Mindy Glazer, was a former classmate. Ben Tracy reports.
We rely on magnets every day, but seldom give them a second thought. There are magnets in your credit card, your cellphone, your car, microwave oven and computer – and perhaps also pasted all over your refrigerator.
Probably the last time you thought about a magnet was in a high school science class. But you should realize they’re the unsung heroes of our world. Someone needs to stand up for magnets, and that person is me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a magnet stalker or a magnet groupie. I’m a scientist, and I study magnetism for a living.
Incredibly, magnetism is everywhere in the cosmos: planets, stars, gaseous nebulae, entire galaxies and the overall universe are all magnetic.
What does it mean to say that a heavenly body is magnetic? For a solid body like the Earth, the idea is reasonably simple: the Earth’s core is a giant bar magnet, with north and south poles.
But farther afield, things get weird.
Our entire Milky Way galaxy is also a magnet. Just like for the Earth, the Milky Way’s magnetism is produced by electrical currents. But while the Earth has a molten core to carry these currents, our galaxy’s magnetism is powered by uncounted numbers of electrons, slowly drifting in formation through space.
This fascinating space wallpaper shows the magnetic field of our Milky Way Galaxy as seen by ESA’s Planck satellite. This image was compiled from the first all-sky observations of polarized light emitted by interstellar dust in the Milky Way.
Credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration
The result is a magnet like nothing you’ve ever seen.
First, the Milky Way’s magnetism is unimaginably weak, around a million times weaker than the Earth’s. What’s more, instead of having a single north–south pole, there is seemingly a separate magnet in each spiral armof our galaxy’s glowing pinwheel: different galactic neighborhoods have their own local definitions of north and south.
Cosmic questions about cosmic magnets
My own research has two focuses. First, what do galactic magnets look like? Where are all the north and south poles in our Milky Way, and in the millions of other galaxies scattered throughout the universe?
Second, and more importantly, where did all these magnets come from? How did the first cosmic magnets come into existence billions of years ago, and how have they survived through to the present day?
These questions are not quite as esoteric as they sound.
Faraday rotation is an effect through which light is rotated as it passes through magnetized regions of space. (Swinburne Astronomy Productions / CAASTRO: The ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics)
On the other hand, the answers are elusive. The big challenge is that magnetism is invisible: point a powerful telescope at a cosmic magnet, and you won’t see it. Instead, we use indirect approaches, relying on the fact that background light is subtly changed as it passes through magnetic regions of foreground gas. I think of it as trying to do the ultimate cryptic crossword puzzle, but blindfolded and with your hands tied behind your back.
A magnetic sixth sense
Of course, one can’t spend one’s whole life just thinking about cosmic magnets. Every scientist has a secret unfulfilled ambition: a completely different scientific career that perhaps, if things had been different, they would have pursued instead.
So what’s my secret alternative vocation?
In a parallel universe, I would still be obsessed with magnets. But I would not be an astronomer. Instead I would study “magnetoreception.”
But in recent years, scientists have found that a whole host of other species can sense magnetism. Perhaps the most extraordinary case is that ofmagnetic cows. Using images from Google Earth, researchers have claimed that cows around the world tend to align their bodies with the Earth’s magnetic field whenever they are grazing or resting.
We might have completely tamed magnets for our purposes, so much so that we almost never give them a moment’s thought. But both up in the heavens and down here on the ground, there’s still a huge amount we don’t understand about magnets. Where did magnets come from? How have they shaped the universe? And what roles do they play for life on Earth?
So please don’t overlook magnets. Magnets are marvelous, mysterious and magical, and deserve both your affection and your respect.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Space.com.
The Black Death — the dreaded plague that killed millions of people during the Middle Ages — only reached pandemic status after the bacteria that cause it acquired two pivotal mutations, a new study finds.
With the first of those mutations, ancient strains of plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis) gained the ability to cause pneumonic plague — a respiratory form of the disease that spreads easily when people infected with it sneeze around others, researchers found.
Only later did the plague genome acquire the second mutation, which gave it the ability to cause the fast-killing disease known today as bubonic plague, the researchers said in their study, published online today (June 30) in the journal Nature Communications.
Evolutionarily speaking, plague is a young pathogen, only about 5,000 to 10,000 years old, said Wyndham Lathem, senior author of the new study and an assistant professor of microbiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. [Pictures of a Killer: A Plague Gallery]
Today’s plague bacteria evolved from an older species called Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. These bacteria are still around today, and cause mild gut infections, Lathem said. The researchers wanted to know how today’s plague bacteria, which infect the respiratory system, evolved from these older, gut-infecting relatives, Lathem told Live Science.
The researchers aligned the two genomes, as well of genomes of ancestral plague, and found a key difference: The ancestral strains lacked the gene for a certain protein, called PLA protease.
“If we take the most ancestral [sample] that is known to exist, and we give it the gene for PLA, it can suddenly cause pneumonic plague indistinguishable from modern [Y.]pestis,” Lathem said.
Further analysis of the strains showed that plague acquired the PLA gene sooner than the researchers had previously thought, Lathem said.
What’s more, the researchers found that no additional genetic changes needed to happen in order for the bacteria to cause pneumonic plague. Although the modern strains have other genetic differences from the ancestral strains, those changes are dispensable, meaning “they’re irrelevant,” he said.
However, one more genetic change — a single amino acid mutation in the PLA gene — gave the plague the ability to cause pandemics, the researchers found.
Earlier studies had shown that this amino acid mutation slightly changes the activity of PLA, but that work had been done only in test tubes, Lathem said. In the new research, the researchers tested whether this mutation made a difference in the bacteria’s ability to cause plague in animals, Lathem said.
Fleas that bite rodents infected with the bacteria that cause the plague can transmit the disease to people.
Credit: Janice Haney Carr/CDC
They found that plague bacteria with the amino acid change had the ability to cause the invasive infection associated with bubonic plague today. Before the amino acid mutation, the bacteria would have had a much more difficult time moving into a person’s bloodstream and causing a body-wide infection, the researchers said.
“It turns out that the ancestral variant of PLA reduces the ability of the bacteria to get into the deeper tissues by about 100 times compared to the modern variant,” Lathem said. “This single amino acid change was necessary for Yersinia pestis to cause modern bubonic plague.” [7 Devastating Infectious Diseases]
Before the amino acid change, plague could have caused localized outbreaks. But with the new mutation, it could infect people at a fast and furious pace, causing pandemics, the researchers said.
It’s unclear when the amino acid change happened, but it was sometime before the first reported plague pandemic, which struck the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century A.D., Lathem said.
By understanding the evolution of Yersinia pestis, researchers may be better able to predict how other diseases may change, the researchers said. Moreover, plague still infects about seven people annually in the United States, typically in the semirural areas of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It still endemic here in the United States,” Lathem said. “It’s still circulating out here in the wild.”
June 26, 2015: Algae are complicated. The little plants can be both good and bad.
Single-celled algae called phytoplankton are a main source of food for fish and other aquatic life, and account for half of the photosynthetic activity on Earth—that’s good.
But certain varieties such as some cyanobacteria produce toxins that can harm humans, fish, and other animals. Under certain conditions, algae populations can grow explosively — a spectacle known as an algal bloom, which can cover hundreds of square kilometers. For example, in August 2014, a cyanobacteria outbreak in Lake Erie prompted Toledo, Ohio, officials to ban the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents.
With support from NASA, the EPA has developed an app to track algae that can threaten fresh water supplies.
In the United States alone, freshwater degradation from “bad” algae costs the economy about $64 million a year.
NASA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey are doing something about it. NASA has long used Earth observing satellites to locate algal bloom outbreaks in the ocean. But now, this unique satellite data will be routinely produced in a form that helps US water quality managers monitor our freshwater. Water quality managers will soon, with a peek at their cell phones, have an answer to “how’s the water?”
The four agencies are working on a joint project, sponsored by NASA, to transform satellite data into an indicator of cyanobacteria outbreaks in our freshwater supply.The data will be integrated into an EPA Android smart phone application so environmental officials can see – at a glance – the condition of a specific water body.
“With our app, you can view water quality on the scale of the US, and zoom in to get near-real-time data for a local lake,” explains the EPA’s Blake Schaeffer, Principal Investigator for the project. “When we start pushing this data to smartphone apps, we will have achieved something that’s never been done –provide water quality satellite data like weather data. People will be able to check the amount of ‘algae bloom’ like they would check the temperature.”
Here’s how it works:
A harmful species of cyanobacteria emits chlorophyll and fluorescent light at various points in their life cycles. Landsat and NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) can detect these “ocean color” signals, which reveal the location and abundance of cyanobacteria. The project team will collect this data for freshwater bodies and convert it into a form accessible through web portals and the EPA mobile app. In addition to MODIS, they’ll draw data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3.
With early warning about a developing bloom, officials at water treatment plants will be better able to determine when, where, and how much to treat the water to keep consumers safe. That means unnecessary — and expensive — overtreatment may be avoided. The data will also help park managers alert swimmers, boaters, and other recreational users to hazardous conditions.
Says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: “We’re excited to be putting NASA’s expertise in space and scientific exploration to work protecting public health and safety.”
The project will also help scientists understand why “bad” algae outbreaks occur. By comparing the color data with landcover change data, they’ll learn more about environmental factors that spur algal growth. The result: better forecasts of bloom events. So we’ll know when an algae bloom is safe or harmful
A natural helium leak in Southern California reveals that the Newport-Inglewood fault is deeper than once thought — with a direct line from the Earth’s surface to the planet’s hot, dense mantle.
Scientists have found high levels of helium-3 in oil wells up to 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) deep in Orange County, along a 30-mile (48 kilometers) stretch from Los Angeles’ Westside to Newport Beach. Helium-3 comes only from the Earth’s mantle, the semisolid rock layer beneath the crust.
“The fault, which I don’t think people had anticipated, was deeply connected,” said Jim Boles, a professor emeritus of earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The results have implications for the underground structure of the Los Angeles basin. Geologists believed the area to be underpinned by a low-angle thrust fault, but the Newport-Inglewood fault appears to plunge down deep, Boles told Live Science. [In Photos: Ocean Hidden Deep in Earth’s Mantle]
What the study does not do — despite some breathless media coverage otherwise — is alter earthquake predictions about southern California.
Discovering helium-3 at the Newport-Inglewood fault is undeniably odd. About 30 million years ago, the fault was the site of a subduction zone, a region in which one continental plate is pushing under another, driving a layer of crust down toward the mantle like a conveyer belt. Boles and his colleagues found a layer of a metamorphic rock called blueschist at the bottom of deep wells in the Newport-Inglewood fault zone. The minerals in blueschist form only in very particular conditions in which rock gets pushed deep underground and then rapidly resurfaces, before having time to “cook” under the high temperatures deep in the crust, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. These conditions exist insubduction zones.
Jim Boles collected gas samples from oil wells along the Newport-Inglewood fault, where he found evidence of helium-3.
Credit: Sonia Fernandez
But subduction zones are not typically places where high levels of helium-3 are found, Boles said. Helium anomalies are most often found in spreading centers in the deep ocean, where the Earth’s crust is pulling apart, or in volcanic hotspots such as the Hawaiian islands orYellowstone National Park, where the hot mantle gets close to the Earth’s surface.
The Newport-Inglewood fault “could have had a connection” to the mantle 30 million years ago when it was an active subduction zone, Boles said, “but the fact that the connection looks like it’s still there is pretty interesting.”
What the new findings suggest is that the Newport-Inglewood fault runs deep. A previous hypothesis held that the LA Basin was underpinned by a low-angle thrust fault, but this study contradicts that notion, Boles said. Essentially, the underground structure of the region may be far different than once thought.
Despite scattered news reports linking the new findings to an earlier USGS report that raised the risk of a large quake in the next three decades from about 4.7 percent to 7 percent, the helium discovery at the Newport-Inglewood fault is not cause for panic. The discovery does not speak to the seismicity of the region, Boles said, and a lot more data is needed to even determine the implications of the findings for the area’s geologic structure.
“The only thing you can say is that this fault looks like it’s a more significant fault than people thought in terms of how deep it goes and what it communicates with,” Boles said.