Apollo 13 & the consequences of Carbon Dioxide: Lessons on avoiding disaster

What’s the connection between a failed moon mission and global Carbon Dioxide levels? I was rewatching Apollo 13 recently, you know the movie with Tom Hanks stating the biggest understatement in history: “Houston we have a problem”. If you haven’t seen it or can’t remember, it’s a fantastic true story about human ingenuity. The year is 1970, it’s NASA’s seventh manned space mission and the 3rd to the moon. Another routine trip. Little did anyone anticipate what was about to unfold. Two days into the mission and more than halfway to the moon, one of the oxygen tanks exploded. (Incidentally, …

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There is no ocean deep inside the earth

  “In what sounds like a chapter from Journey to the Center of the Earth, the chemical makeup of a tiny, extremely rare gemstone has made researchers think there’s a massive water reservoir hundreds of miles under the earth.” -vice.com In the last couple of days newspapers and other media outlets have reported what they’ve been calling “an ocean deep inside the earth”. “What if the outermost layer of the earth was floating on a boundless sea, bigger than all of the ones present on the surface?”(translation mine) writes Laura Berardi on ilFattoQuotidiano, which is normally quite a decent newspaper (though their …

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Maps are all lies – Representing a spherical earth on a flat world map

Is Greenland really bigger than Africa and Australia?  Take a deep breath.  The big map in your high school classroom, the atlas you’ve used to navigate during a road trip and even google maps are all lying to you. They all start with the same big lie, that the earth is flat, two-dimensional, like a pancake. When in fact, as humans have known for a very long time, at least since the time of ancient Greeks, that the earth is spherical (that people thought that the earth was flat at the time of Columbus is a myth). Well, not exactly spherical, …

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Whatever happened to the hole in the ozone layer?

We are all very familiar with global warming, a predicted ecological disaster that we’re still figuring out how to deal with (and also struggling to convince some people of its existence and importance). But if you’re a bit older, you might remember that there was another quite talked-about ecological disaster caused by humans: the depletion of the ozone layer (sometimes people conflate global warming and ozone depletion but they are two different phenomena caused by different types of man-made pollution). Back when I was a bit younger it was big news. UV rays are nothing to be trifled with. So …

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South is North and North is South – Magnetic pole reversal

The world was supposed to end on December 21st, 2012. Or at least, some people thought so. One of the proposed hypotheses was that on that fateful December day the magnetic poles would switch, north would be south and south would be north, and this, somehow, was going to make things very very bad for us humans. Of course, this didn’t happen. Surprisingly, predictions based on the end of a calendar by an ancient civilization that didn’t even know what geology was turned out to be wrong. Strange. That said, geomagnetic reversal is a real phenomenon and poles do swap …

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Methane release in the Arctic could spell disaster?

There are billions of tons of methane gas in the arctic circle. The gas is trapped inside permafrost, the layer of land that remains frozen throughout the year, and inside clathrates, which are physical compounds of methane trapped inside an ice crystal structure. Clathrates are found at the bottom of the sea, the temperature and pressure there keep them stable. The picture above shows methane bubbles trapped in ice at Abraham Lake in Canada. There’s not much snowfall at this lake and that’s why we can see the bare icy surface. The release of methane is not unique to it …

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As ice melts, sea levels can fall

The ice sheets are melting. With global warming practically a certainty, melting ice sheets will cause average sea levels to increase. However, in some parts of the world sea levels will decrease. How?

Controlling the Weather

Come closer and put your tinfoil hat on. I’m going to tell you something crazy. The government is controlling the weather. That’s right, they are. They spray carbon dioxide in clouds to increase the formation of rain. To like, increase the water supply in a region or something equally sinister! And we’re not entirely sure if it works, actually. Well, ehm, but let me tell you, it’s a conspiracy! If you can’t tell, the previous paragraph was sarcastic. Claims that governments are somehow creating hurricanes and using the weather as a weapon are unfounded. The one method used to ‘manipulate’ …

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When coal mines ignite – The city on top of a fire and the door to hell

Centralia, PA When you first reach Centralia, Pennsylvania, it looks like a standard semi-abandoned town. Maybe one that had its major route of through traffic diverted, and slowly died. Then you notice the strange cracks in the roads and the smoke billowing from the ground. Because in fact, Centralia is not your typical abandoned town, it’s an abandoned town on top af a huge fire.