Friday, March 24, 2006

Global Warming Is Rapidly Raising Sea Levels, Studies Warn - National Geographic

John Roachfor National Geographic News
March 23, 2006

Water from melting ice sheets and glaciers is gushing into the world's oceans much faster than previously thought possible, sending scientists scrambling to explain why.

The unexpected deluge is raising global sea levels, which scientists say could eventually submerge island nations, flood cities, and expose millions of coastal residents to destructive storm surges.

By the end of this century the seas may be three feet (one meter) higher than they are today, according to a pair of studies that appear in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.

"After that we'll be committed to multiple more meters of sea level rise that will occur at rates of up to a meter—or three feet—per one hundred years," said Jonathan Overpeck, an earth scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who co-authored the studies.
"And it could go faster," he added.

But scientists don't know if it will. They believe global warming triggered the ice's seaward gallop, but they say the dynamics at play are poorly understood.

"We did not expect that the ice sheets can react to warming on such a short time scale," said Konrad Steffen, a geographer at the University of Colorado at Boulder who has spent the past 15 years monitoring ice sheets in Greenland (map).

Scientists thought ice sheets and glaciers would respond to warming slowly over hundreds of years. The current acceleration could be a short-term adjustment to the warmer temperatures, Steffen said.

"Something dramatic is happening," said Göran Ekström, a seismologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Ekström and colleagues report tomorrow in Science that glacial earthquakes—seaward lurches of glaciers—in Greenland have more than doubled in number since 2002.

Most of the glacial earthquakes occur in July and August, at the height of the Northern Hemisphere's summer melt.

The finding complements a study published in Science last month that found some of Greenland's glaciers have doubled in speed over the past five years, said Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Zwally added that both findings are "alarming" given that Earth has only experienced the full effects of greenhouse gases for about a decade.

"As these changes take place, we're still in the process of learning what happens to the ice. We are discovering new things," he said.

Ancient Rise

About 130,000 years ago, global sea levels were 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) higher than they are today. Scientists have determined this by studying ancient coral reefs that now sit high and dry, and other so-called paleo-climate clues.

The University of Arizona's Overpeck and his colleagues wanted to understand what sort of climate conditions were necessary to create such high sea levels.

Scientists believe that Earth's orbit had shifted slightly at the time, giving the Northern Hemisphere greater exposure to the sun.

When Overpeck's team plugged those orbital conditions into a computer model, they found the Arctic warmed 5º to 8ºF (3º to 5ºC), sufficient to melt enough Arctic ice to explain the sea level rise.

But the researchers also know how much the Greenland ice sheet, which holds most of the Arctic water, melted at the time. When they plug that data into the model, the melt only accounts for 7.2 to 11.2 feet (2.2 to 3.4 meters) of the water rise.

"That means we got a substantial amount [of water] from Antarctica," Overpeck said. "And that is a big discovery."

The finding suggests that, even though the Antarctic itself did not warm, the ocean warming and sea level rise in the Arctic were sufficient to drive melting in Antarctica.

When the team used the same climate model to predict what will happen over the next 140 years from increasing greenhouse gases, they found that by 2100 the Arctic will be at least as warm as it was 130,000 years ago.

But unlike 130,000 years ago, today's atmospheric warming is global.

"So it will be even more conducive to melting parts of the Antarctic ice sheet in the future than it was 130,000 years ago," Overpeck said.

"And indeed that jibes nicely with a lot of observations coming in that suggest parts of the Antarctic ice sheet are already melting."

Irreversible Decline?

According to Zwally, the NASA glaciologist, humans can limit the effects of global warming by acting now to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

But if we continue to pollute at the current pace, he says, by the end of the century the Greenland ice sheet and part of Antarctica could be undergoing irreversible decline.

"Man is doing an experiment with the ice sheets, which is a scientifically interesting experiment, except it is going to have some serious consequences," he said.

"And the longer we wait to do something about climate warming, the more serious it's going to be."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Space probe backs up dark view of the Universe - Nature

Revolutionary news for cosmology:
Only 4% of the universe is made up of atoms!
The rest is made of dark matters and dark energy.
No matter how counter-intuitive it seems to be when we look at the stars... More and more (indirect) evidence back this "dark" view of the universe.


Published online: 17 March 2006; doi:10.1038/news060313-16

Space probe backs up dark view of the Universe
Physicists get their hands on the second round of WMAP data.
Jenny Hogan

Researchers have released the first data in three years from a NASA satellite that is mapping the faint afterglow of the Big Bang. The much anticipated results support the idea that our Universe contains a good chunk of 'dark' material, and fits the theory that it expanded rapidly in its first moments.

The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) was launched in 2001 to study the radiation left behind when the energy of the Big Bang condensed into matter. This happened about 400,000 years after the Universe was born and so the radiation, known as the cosmic microwave background, bears the imprint of the baby Universe's structure.

The results, announced by WMAP principal investigator Charles Bennett on 16 March, support the strange theory that we live in a Universe dominated by invisible dark matter and dark energy, a force that drives space to expand.

"This idea that the universe is 74% dark energy and 22% dark matter is really crazy; it relates to nothing we can measure on Earth," says Sean Carroll, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, Illinois, who is not part of the WMAP team. "Every time we get observations that say 'Yes, the model is still working', we are surprised.

"The project has also revealed the first all-sky maps of the polarization of the microwave background, which provide information about the Universe's first stars and about the rapid expansion of space-time immediately after the Big Bang.

Firmer figures

Results from WMAP's first year in space were unveiled with much fanfare in February 2003. The satellite produced a full-sky map of temperature fluctuations in the background, and astronomers used it to deduce details of the Universe's age, shape and composition. Since then, the WMAP team has been working on an analysis that comprises the original data and two further years of observation.

This analysis has taken a long time to arrive, which made some people suspicious. "People were thinking either 'Boy, this is really hard' or 'They've discovered something amazing'," says Carroll. In fact it has brought few surprises, mostly firming up earlier findings.

The team says, for example, that the age of the Universe (13.7 billion years old) can now be calculated to within 60 million years rather than 200 million. And there are stronger hints than in 2003 that the Universe did indeed inflate rapidly at its birth.

The polarization maps suggest that the first stars switched on around 400 million years after the Universe was created. The microwave background became polarized as it passed through regions of ionized gas, where the stars' intense light had stripped electrons from the interstellar atoms. Knowing about this interaction will make measurements of cosmological quantities more precise, say physicists.

In addition, some confusing data points from the first survey now look like they were an experimental oddity. "There were a couple of glitches in the older data that made us worry and they've gone away," says Carroll. The WMAP team has submitted its results to The Astrophysical Journal.

Gruesome detail

So why did the analysis take so long? "It was gruesome detail day after day," says Bennett. "This was an enormous undertaking, I know people were anxious and wondered why we didn't put it out straight away, but they have no idea."

Lyman Page of Princeton University led the WMAP polarization analysis. He points out that the team had to work out how each source of noise in the measurement was related to every other, and then write the analysis software from scratch.

"I think it took us all a while to even think about this in the right ways," says Page.

Visit our newsblog to read and post comments about this story.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Cassini Finds Signs of Liquid Water on Saturn's Moon

By Tariq Malik
Staff Writer
posted: 09 March 200612:57 pm ET
This story was updated at 2:52 p.m. EST.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have pockets of liquid water lurking beneath its surface, feeding great jets that spew from the satellite and hinting at the possibility of a habitable environment, researchers said Thursday.

Observations from the Cassini spacecraft currently studying Saturn and its myriad moons shows Enceladus, one of the brightest objects in the Solar System, to be a geologist’s dream, with an active plume spewing water and other material spaceward, as well as a hot spot of thermal activity at its south pole.

“This finding has substantially broadened the range of environments in the solar system that might support living organisms, and it doesn't get any more significant than that,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, in an e-mail interview. “I'd say we've just hit the ball right out of the park.”

Porco led one of nine studies of Enceladus, all of which are detailed in this week’s issue of the journal Science, based on Cassini’s observations from three flybys past the moon – each closer than the last – in February, March and July of 2005.

Enceladus’ active nature points toward subsurface water reservoirs beneath its icy exterior, much like that believed to churn just under the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa, researchers said. But unlike Europa, which researchers believe harbors a vast ocean beneath kilometers of thick ice, Enceladus’ water may be just below the surface.

“What’s different here is that pockets of liquid water may no more than tens of meters below the surface,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member and atmospheric scientist at the California Institute of Technology, in a statement.

Plume science

Cassini caught hard evidence of Enceladus’ plume since last year, though scientists were unsure of what powers the jets of particles blowing into space. The moon is only the third other body in the Solar System – Earth, Jupiter’s moon Io and possibly Neptune’s moon Triton are the others – known to have active volcanic processes, researchers said.

Porco’s team found evidence that the jets may erupt from buried pockets of water at temperatures above 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) like a frigid geyser.
The close proximity of water, rock and the south pole’s thermal hot spot puts Enceladus on the list of possible harbors for biological activity, some researchers said.

“You’ve got liquid water, and it’s liquid water interfacing with rock…and there’s energy,” NASA Cassini scientist Candice Hansen-Koharcheck told “We’ve got the very most basic ingredients here, and so that notches it up on the biological potential list.”

Cassini’s instruments could help pin down Enceladus’ liquid water sources in future passes, researchers added.

“If a wet domain exists at the bottom of Enceladus’ icy crust, Cassini may help to confirm it,” writes Jeffrey Kargel, a research scientist with the University of Arizona’s Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, in a related article in Science.

But the spacecraft, Kargel wrote, will not be able to determine whether subsurface water pockets could offer a habitat suitable for living organisms.

“Any life that existed could not be luxuriant and would have to deal with low temperatures, feeble metabolic energy, and perhaps a severe chemical environment,” Kargel wrote. “Nevertheless, we cannot discount the possibility that Enceladus may be life’s distant outpost.”

Other mysteries

Cassini’s Enceladus flybys also answered other questions surrounding the role of the moon’s plume in the near-Saturn environment.

The plume, which a team of researchers led by Hansen-Koharcheck at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California believe may have been erupting continuously for 15 years, appears to replenish Saturn’s E-ring with material and provide the source of oxygen and hydrogen permeating the planet’s neighborhood.

“It’s definitely the water, there’s no doubt about it,” Hansen-Koharcheck said, adding that trace amounts of other materials are also present in the plume.

Cassini deputy project scientist Linda Spilker told that the plume activity on Enceladus is much different from the volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io, where material eventually settles back on the surface once it erupts. Instead, Enceladus spews material directly into space and Saturn’s E-ring.

“If you turned Enceladus off, you would probably turn off the E-ring,” Spilker added.
The plume’s activity appears tied to the thermal hotspot at Enceladus’ south pole, the source of that internal heat remains undetermined.

“We think we can rule out a radioactive related source,” said John Spencer, a Cassini scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, adding that tidal heating from the gravitational pull of nearby Saturn is a more likely culprit.

Cassini’s next chance to take a close look at Enceladus will occur in 2008, when the probe will swing within 220 miles (350 kilometers) of the small moon, though the probe may have a few long-distance views before then, researchers said.

“We’re all going to have to patiently wait,” Hansen-Koharcheck said.

Active Moon of Saturn Excites Astronomers
Puzzling Hot Spot Found on Moon of Saturn
Cassini Finds an Atmosphere on Saturn's Moon Enceladus
Special Report: Cassini’s Mission to Saturn and its Moons

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Stronger Solar Storms Predicted; Blackouts May Result - National Geographic

John Roach for National Geographic News
March 7, 2006

The next 11-year solar storm cycle should be significantly stronger than the current one, which may mean big problems for power grids and GPS systems and other satellite-enabled technology, scientists announced today.

The stronger solar storms could start as early as this year or as late as 2008 and should peak around 2012.

"We predict the next solar cycle will be 30 to 50 percent stronger than the last cycle," said Mausumi Dikpati, a solar scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, yesterday in a telephone briefing with reporters.

The last cycle peaked in 2001.

A new technique enabled the scientists to better predict the severity of the next cycle. The technique, called helioseismology, allows researchers to "see" inside the sun by tracing sound waves reverberating inside the sun—creating a picture of the interior like ultrasound creates a picture of an unborn baby.

"For the first time we can predict the strength of the 11-year solar activity cycle using computer simulations of the sun's physics," Dikpati said.
(See solar-storm images.)

Storms in the Sun

Solar storms are linked to twisted magnetic fields in the sun that suddenly snap and release tremendous amounts of energy. The storms can disrupt satellite communications, cause power outages, and expose astronauts to high amounts of radiation.

Predicting space weather is becoming more important as more people rely on technology that solar storms can disrupt, according to Richard Behnke, director of upper atmosphere research with the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia.

"This prediction of an active solar cycle suggests we are potentially looking at more communication and navigation disruptions, more satellite failures, possible disruption of electric grids and blackouts, more dangerous conditions for astronauts—all these things," Behnke said during the briefing.

Space Weather

Solar storms tend to occur near sunspots, cool regions on the sun's surface that appear as dark blotches. Scientists believe the spots result from concentrated magnetic fields inside the sun.
(See "Sunspot Cycles: Deciphering the Butterfly Pattern.")

The number and intensity of sunspots fluctuates over time, reaching a peak about every 11 years. This 11-year pattern is known as the solar cycle.

Joseph Kunches, chief of the forecast and analysis branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Environment Center in Boulder, equated the space weather forecast to the annual hurricane forecast.

"The kinds of questions that are posed to hurricane forecasters also come to us in terms of space weather," he told reporters.

"When is the next cycle going to start? How strong will it be? When will it quiet down? And compared to, say, the last [cycle in] recent memory, what are the effects going to be?"

Stormy Forecast

The new forecast draws on new understanding of how plasma currents in the sun's interior generate sunspots and the related solar storms. These plasma flows transport, concentrate, and help spread out solar magnetic fields.

Two major plasma flows govern the cycle, the researchers said.

The first, known as the meridional flow pattern, circulates between the sun's equator and its poles over a period of 17 to 22 years and acts like a conveyor belt of sunspots. The flow transports imprints of sunspots that occurred over the previous two sunspot cycles.
This imprint is carried into the interior, where scientists believe the sunspot-producing magnetic fields are generated. New sunspots form based on the imprints created during the most recent cycle.

The second flow results from the sun rotating faster at the equator than it does near the poles. This periodically concentrates the solar magnetic field at the equator, leading to peaks in solar storm activity, the researchers said.

The team expects the next cycle to begin in late 2007 or early 2008, which is about 6 to 12 months later than the cycle would normally start. The researchers' model shows the plasma circulation has slowed down during the current cycle.

David Hathaway, a solar astronomer with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said that models used by him and his colleagues to predict the next solar cycle agree with the greater activity predicted by Dikpati's model.

But Hathaway differs on the timing.

According to Hathaway's team's analysis of past solar cycles, intense cycles are preceded by shorter cycles. This would suggest that the next cycle will start by the end of this year or early next year.

"At this point, we are anxiously awaiting the appearance of those first spots from the new cycle," Hathaway said at the briefing.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

How does nonviolence work? - Wikipedia

The nonviolent approach to social struggle represents a radical departure from conventional thinking about conflict, and yet appeals to a number of common-sense notions.

Among these is the idea that the power of rulers depends on the consent of the populace. Without a bureaucracy, an army or a police force to carry out his or her wishes, the ruler is powerless. Power, nonviolence teaches us, depends on the co-operation of others. Nonviolence undermines the power of rulers through the deliberate withdrawal of this co-operation.

Also of primary significance is the notion that just means are the most likely to lead to just ends. When Gandhi said that, "the means may be likened to the seed, the end to a tree," he expressed the philosophical kernel of what some refer to as prefigurative politics. Proponents of nonviolence reason that the actions we take in the present inevitably re-shape the social order in like form. They would argue, for instance, that it is fundamentally irrational to use violence to achieve a peaceful society.

Some proponents of nonviolence, such as Christian anarchists, advocate respect or love for opponents. It is this principle which is most closely associated with spiritual or religious justifications of nonviolence, as may be seen in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus urges his followers to "love thine enemy," in the Taoist concept of wu-wei, or effortless action, in the philosophy of the martial art Aikido, in the Buddhist principle of metta, or loving-kindness towards all beings, and in the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence toward any being, shared by Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Respect or love for opponents also has a pragmatic justification, in that the technique of separating the deeds from the doers allows for the possibility of the doers changing their behaviour, and perhaps their beliefs. As Martin Luther King said, "Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him." The Christian focus on both non-violence and forgiveness of sin may have found their way into the story of Abel in the Qur'an. Liberal movements within Islam have consequently used this story to promote Islamic ideals of non-violence.

Finally, the notion of Satya, or truth, is central to the Gandhian conception of nonviolence. Gandhi saw truth as something that is multifaceted and unable to be grasped in its entirety by any one individual. We all carry pieces of the truth, he believed, but we need the pieces of others’ truths in order to pursue the greater truth. This led him to a belief in the inherent worth of dialogue with opponents, and a sincere wish to understand their drives and motivations. On a practical level, willingness to listen to another's point of view is largely dependent on reciprocity. In order to be heard by one's opponents, one must also be prepared to listen.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Violentization - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Violentization is a process described by criminologist Lonnie Athens whereby individuals are inured and trained to commit violence. Athens' research suggests individuals' paths to violence almost always involve social conditioning to favor violent resolutions for social situations.

The process Athens described whereby individuals are socialized to prefer violent outcomes, as detailed in Why They Kill, by Richard Rhodes, (Vintage Books, 1999), includes four stages he classified as brutalization, belligerency, violent performance and virulence.

Athens wrote, "Any person who does ultimately complete the virulency stage, and consequently the entire experiential process, will become a dangerous violent criminal. This remains the case regardless of the social class, race, sex or age and intelligence of people, as long as their degree of mental and physical competence is sufficient for them to perform a violent criminal act."

For each stage of Athens posited violentization process, he describes the following methods and circumstances that effect an individuals perception of violence:

->Brutalization: a process where a social group forcibly subjugates an individual.
--->Violent subjugation: an individual is forced into compliance by physical or verbal force, upto and including violence. Coercive violence ends at submission, but retaliatory violence continues regardless submission, ostensibly to gain long-term submission.
--->Personal horrification: an individual is exposed to violent subjugation of someone else close to them. The person begins to suffer inner conflict over guilt associated with helplessness.
--->Violent coaching: a person advises the brutalized individual to depend only on his or her self, encourages defensiveness and that they have a personal responsibility to commit violence. Coaching might include:
----->Vainglorification: violence is glorified through story telling.
----->Ridicule: violence is promoted by derision and belittling.
----->Coercion: threats of violence if the individual does not comply with violent coaching.
--->An individual decides to resist brutalization
--->Overcoming contrary emotions that discourage violence
--->Mitigated commitment to violence such as in response to provocation
--->First mitigated resolution by violence
->Violent performances
--->Confidence building through successful violent acts
--->Provocation rises above mitigated threshold of violent commitment
--->Success in personal revolt against a subjugator leads to increased personal safety
--->Recollection and appreciation of violent performance, often with the assistance of others
--->Gaining a reputation as a violent and potentially dangerous person
--->Personal vainglorification: a person enjoys the violent reputation and fear it provokes
--->Personal resolution to set a lower mitigating threshold for violence

External links
An Interview with Richard Rhodes
Court TV
The Process of Violentization
Retrieved from ""