Coral reefs

Coral reefs stretch over 280,000 km in tropical areas. The reefs act as a “home,” and also is known as a shelter for many different species. Many people call the coral reef the “rainforests of the sea.”

Coral reefs help out the environment as well as us humans. The reef protects our shores from the impact of waves and from storms. They also help humans in the form of food and/or medicine. They also provide economic wealth to communities from tourism.

The World Meteorological Organization says that the reefs have more than $30 billion (U.S. dollars) in global goods and services.

The past few years, the reefs have seen many global threats increase.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature produced the “Red List of Threatened Species,” which highlights the species that are extinct, critically endangered, or vulnerable.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the most managed reefs in the world. In 2009, a report made by the Australian agency fears the future and that “catastrophic damage to the ecosystem may not be saved.”

The State of Coral Reefs Around the World says that 205 of the world’s coral reefs are destroyed and show no immediate prospect of recovery. Approximately 405 or 16% of the world’s reefs, were seriously damaged in 1998, and are either recovering well or have recovered. 60% of the earth’s coral reefs are threatened by just human activity. For more information about reef recovery statistics, please visit: globalissues.org

Some threats coral faces would be: bleaching (which is when the water temperatures increase), over fishing and over harvesting which disrupt the ecosystem of the reefs, boat anchors and divers can also scar the reef. Another thing is that invasive species, like the lionfish, can also caused a threat. Threats like lawn runoffs, sewage, cities, and farms all feed algae into the ocean, which can cause the reef to be overwhelmed according to  ocean.si.edu.

According to oceanservice.noaa.gov, there are 10 ways you can help protect the coral reefs:

1: Choose sustainable seafood.

2: Conserve water; the less water you use the less runoff and wastewater will find its way back to the ocean

3: Volunteer to help with local beach or a reef cleanup.

4: Corals are already a gift. Don’t give them as presents.

5: If you dive, don’t touch. Coral reefs are alive. Any stirred-up sediment can smother the corals.

6: Practice safe boating. Anchor in a sandy area away from coral and sea grasses so that the anchor chain doesn’t drag and damage nearby corals.

7: Don’t send chemicals into our waterways. Nutrients from excess fertilizer increases algae growth that blocks sunlight to corals.

8: Be a marine debris crusader. Besides picking up your own trash, carry away the trash that others have left behind.

9: Educate yourself about coral reefs and the creatures they support.

10: Long-lasting light bulbs are a bright idea. Light bulbs reduce greenhouse gases.

Coral reefs play a vital role in sustaining the health of our oceans and economy so it is in our best interest to protect them.

Bullet trains

As Japan has just tested the one of the  world’s fastest bullet trains, the ALFA-X, which clocks in at 400 kilometers per hour/249 miles per hour, I thought it would be a good time to revisit bullet trains. How were they invented? How fast are they? Why are they some places but not others?

Bullet trains were originally designed in Japan. The first bullet train that opened for commuter service was the Hikari bullet train which opened October 1, 1964, and ran until 1999. Hideo Shima was the first designer of the bullet train and finished his plans for Japan’s high speed railway in 1959. Japan then built the the train and tracks in just five years, in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

After Japan’s success, countries such as Austria, France, Belgium, Germany, China, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom built similar high speed bullet trains.

The fastest train in the world is the Shanghai Maglev, in China, which can reach speeds of 267 miles per hour. The second fastest train in operation is the Fuxing Hao, also in China, which has gone as fast as 236 miles per hour. The originator of the bullet train, Japan, has the world’s third fastest train, the Shinkansen, which can go 224 miles per hour.

The fastest trains outside of Asia are housed in Italy and both can reach speeds of 220 miles per hour. They’re called the Italo and the Frecciarossa and are made by competing companies.

In America, there are no high speed trains, at least according to world standards. There are trains in America that can reach speeds of 125 miles per hour, which is considered by the U.S. to be a high speed railway, but according to world standards the minimum for a high speed train is 160 miles per hour. California has planned the first high speed railway in the U.S., but it is not planned to be completed until the year 2040.

The world’s first picture of a black hole, and why it matters

Photo via theguardian.com

So, unless you’ve been living a prehistoric, or nomadic life, traversing from cave to cave on a journey for wild boar meat, you probably already know about how a group of astronomers, from something called The Event Horizon Telescope Project, have taken the first ever real, and (somewhat) clear picture of a black hole, from millions light years away, in the galaxy you’ve only heard the name of once known as Messier 87. You see the blurry orange circle, you compare it to its infinitely more interesting looking, not real cgi renditions, and think to yourself, why?

Why does it matter that we just took a picture of an orange circle from far away? Well, my ignorant, yet now thoroughly offended hypothetical reader, there’re lot’s of earth shattering scientific breakthroughs which are the result of this discovery.

Katie Bouman, the main woman behind the image, watching in disbelief at the reveal of the image, via CNN

Well, not only was this photo taken from 50 million light years away
which means, the light we’re seeing in this photo, is from millions, and millions of years ago. And to photograph something so impossibly far away, the team would need a telescope almost the size of planet earth itself, but the Even Horizon team, all came together and connected 8 different telescopes from around the planet, to combine their data to get an accurate image using a technique called interferometry. Which is such obviously a massive breakthrough as it shows that not only is our technology at THIS level, but it will just keep better as the years progress. And who knows what this could possibly lead to, for future generations.

But not only that, but the researchers say that, this whole thing, helps further prove the theory of Relativity, which was first talked about in 1915, by this quite obscure scientist, I dunno if you heard of him, his name was ALBERT FREAKING EINSTEIN, so basically, this means, he predicted that black holes well, exist, and that they have things called event horizons. And there were also tons of equations he came up with, which predict the exact size, and shape, of the black hole, based on its mass, and that’s pretty much what the image revealed. You can read more on this at space.com ( Yeah “space.com” I mean what else would you name it?)

So, if all this isn’t already enough evidence of the extraordinary feat of this black hole, from an entirely different galaxy, millions of light years away, being well, see-able. Then I dunno what to tell you. It might not be super interesting to see a blurry orange circle. But this “blurry orange circle” has extremely extraordinary implications, which will effect the way we view the outward universe for pretty much the rest of time.

And for this, we can thank Katie Bouman, along with many others in the Event Horizon team, but Katie Bouman was a very integral part, as sometime back in 2017, she led the work to create a specific algerithum which was used to generate the picture of the black hole. Before then, Bowman was then a graduate student, earning a PhD in computer science, and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (a.k.a. MIT). And now, according to the guardian, while Katie is as-of-now, a post-doctoral at MIT, and is due to obtain a position as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, she instead prefers to continue her work with the Event Horizon team, as it is her passion, and there is still much to discover, and much to learn, about this wide world we live in.

Oil spills – Part 3 in a multi-part series about the environment

According to Marineinsight.com, an oil spill is when there is a contamination in the ocean due to oil being spilled, because of a accident and/or an error made by a human. Oil spills come in many different sizes. Climateiknterpreter.org reports that there are about 20,000 oil spills each year. These range from being small and quickly contained, to very large and taking a while to contain.

During the Gulf War, in 1991, there were about 240 to 336 million gallons of oil spilt. This happened because Iraq opened the oil wells and pipelines. This is was the largest oil spill, caused on purpose, history has ever seen. This spill affected the coral ecosystem and local fisheries.

Another large oil spill was the Deepwater Horizon plant spill in 2010. As reported by Telegraph.co.uk, this spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico. There were about 210 million gallons of oil that ended up in the ocean. This spill flowed for over three months: April 20, 2010 to July 15, 2010. This became the largest accidental spill in the history of the petroleum industry. This spill killed 11 men that were working on the plant platform, and injured 17 others. The leak was stopped by capping the wellhead after it spilled around 4.9 million barrels of oil – crude to be exact. This meant that about 53,000 barrels escaped each day. This affected the the marine and wildlife habitats, as well as Gulf’s fishing and tourism industry.

If you have a small vessel, there is a checklist to go through to prevent small spills. The first thing would be, tighten bolts on the engine. The bolts can loosen due to shaking while the engine is being used. The next thing would be, replace cracked or worn lines and fittings before they get lose and fall out. There is also a checklist for filling up your vessel. The first thing is to avoid overflows when refueling; you should know what the capacity of your tank and nosing you should leave room for the fuel to expand. The next thing is to use an absorbent pad to catch any drips. For more information about this, please visit: Responde.restoration.noaa.gov

Black holes

Black holes are not just holes floating through space. Black holes are an area with massive amounts of matter squished in tiny areas. Because of all that matter stuck in a tiny area, the gravity that it releases is so strong not even light can escape. And since it even consumes light, that means that you can’t even see them. Scientist observe black holes by the effect on the surrounding area.

Black holes were predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. According to NASA’s website, he predicted, “which showed that when a massive star dies, it leaves behind a small, dense remnant core. If the core’s mass is more than about three times the mass of the Sun, the equations showed, the force of gravity overwhelms all other forces and produces a black hole.” The first black hole was discovered in 1971.

Black holes have many weird properties to them that make them very unique. As was stated earlier, they are invisible, and they also take in all things around and tear them down to their subatomic level. According to a post on NASA’s Universe Forum, black holes also seem to slow down time around them. They are also predicted to release radiation; this radiation is known as Hawking radiation named after Stephen Hawking. Black holes leave this radiation theoretically until they completely evaporate.

Black holes are created when a large star dies. A star dies when it runs out of fuel for nuclear burning, and because of this the star collapses on itself causing a supernova.

After we are left with either a neutron star or a black hole. In order to get a black hole the core needs to be at least 3 times the mass of our sun, thus meaning if our sun went through this process it still wouldn’t make a black hole.

There are 4 main types of black holes which are: supermassive black holes, intermediate mass black hole, stellar black hole, and a micro black hole. The difference between all of these is their solar masses which can range from 5 solar masses all the way to an immeasurable amounts of mass. There is one other type of black hole, which is the most common one, which is characterized by its rotation, which is known as a Kerr black hole.

Endangered animals – Part 2 in a multi-part series about the environment

A red panda (Ailurus fulgens) image taken from: https://www.mindfood.com/article/endangered-animal-day/

Have you ever wondered which animals are and aren’t endangered? The answer to that is very long.

Let’s start with what an endangered animal is before this article gets started. An endangered animal is, according to wonderopolis, an animal that is in danger of going extinct. There are sadly so many animals that are becoming endangered by humans. We are destroying their habitats, and their homes. How do you think you would feel if someone was taking away your home because they needed land to build apartments and cities for themselves?

The list of endangered animals goes on and on. From African wolf dogs, to green turtles, to many more. The list goes on and on, on the World Wildlife website about the different types of animals that are endangered.

The Amur leopard is one of the more critical animals. An Amur leopard is commonly found in a forest in Asia. These leopards are endangered because they are being taken for their gorgeous fur, of which is spotted. For more information about the Amur leopard, please visit: Mnzoo.com or World wildlife.com

Another animal that is in critical danger is the black rhino. A black rhino is going extinct because hunters are hunting them for their horns, which have an ivory color. This ivory color can be sold on the black market. As well as their horns, the rhinos habitat is slowly dwindling away. You can actually help these rhinos. You can raise awareness on World Rhino Day. Just by raising awareness of this issue can cause local donors to donate money for veterinary care. This money can also help to bring education of what hunting is doing to their population. The rhinos populations is already very small. For more information about the black rhino, please visit: Animalplanet.com

The Bornean orangutan is another of the of the more critically endangered animals. These orangutan’s habitat is becoming smaller and smaller due to deforestation and cleaning the land for plantations. The logging of trees is affecting the orangutans because they spend almost all of their time in the trees. Another thing is that the smoke of fires confusing them, which leads to them becoming very susceptible to death because their habitat is being burned down. You can help young infants that have been taking from their mother by adopting a little orangutan. It’s only $65 a year. Please visit Theorangutanproject.org for more information.

Lastly, the Cross River gorilla is critically endangered. There is about 300 individuals that remain. This gorilla is the most endangered African ape as of 2013. These gorillas are endangered because of hunters wanting to hunt and trade their meats. For more information, please visit: Birdlife.org

As you can see, all of these, and other animals, are endangered because of hunters and humans caring more about profits than these poor animals.

Daylight saving time

This year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) fell on March 10, 2019. By moving the clock ahead one hour we are able to make a better use of daylight. During the summer the sunlight is out for a longer amount of time than in the winter. Each country/region has its own time/date to change its time. People who live near the equator don’t have to change their time because in that area there is 12 hours during the day and 12 hours during the night.

According to webexhibits.org there has been a poll made indicating that people in the United States believe that daylight saving is because there is more sunlight in the evenings during the summer. Since there is more sunlight during the evening there is more time to enjoy the long day and to have fun.

Daylight saving may conserve energy, because during daylight saving the energy we use is cut by a very small yet significant amount of energy. About one percent of energy is lost a day, because there is less electricity/lights that are needed during the day. When electricity for light is used, it’s mainly during the night when people are about to sleep, but since evenings have more sunlight, there is a smaller amount of electricity needed to be used.

If you hate daylight saving time, no worries, the end will come on November 3, 2019. After daylight saving time ends, you will be able to move the clock back one hour. Usually, the time changes at 2A.M. whether or not going forward one hour or backwards one hour.

One positive you can get out of daylight saving is having more time to enjoy fun things, and a positive for the end of daylight saving is that you get more sleep.

Pollution in our oceans – Part 1 in a multi-part series about the environment

By Delaney Sis and Na’Riyah Johnson

Have you ever wondered how much plastic is actually in the ocean?

Plastic doesn’t decompose, like other wastes, and according to theoceancleanup.com, there are 5 different offshore areas that have accumulated 1.15 to 2.41 million tons of plastic. These areas of plastic are called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). These patches are the largest accumulated areas ranging from Hawaii and California. The GPGP covers 1.6 million square kilometers. That’s about twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France.  

You may be asking why we should care; well according to the National Ocean Service website, 700 different marine species encounter debris. Sadly, 92% of the debris these species come across are plastic. Only 17% of the debris are on the list of threatened animals. There is 180x more plastic than marine life. Also, marine life can get entangled.

Some ways that debris enter water are from the rain and winds. For example, when you leave a water bottle on the ground and it rains, the rain water will carry it to the sewer, and it ends up in our rivers, streams, and lakes.

Some ways you can help with this issue is by using less plastic, recycling more, and helping with cleaning/volunteering or participating in shore cleanups.

Some other ways that you can help with this issue is by putting trash into designated areas. You can also help by using no plastic straws or plastic cups.

Starbucks was the business that first announced they were moving from plastic straws, to more compostable straws. You may be wondering why, well 4% of the plastic in the ocean is made up of straws. An average person uses 1.6 straw a day. This mean that 25,000 people have stopped using straws. For more information about plastic straws, please visit: https://squareup.com/townsquare/why-plastic-straws-are-being-banned

 

Lunar tetrad

On January 20 and 21, a full moon, Wolf Moon, Supermoon, and a total lunar eclipse took place.

In 2019, there will be 3 solar eclipses and 2 lunar eclipses. On January 20, the first full moon and first lunar eclipse happened.  The lunar eclipse is being called a Blood Moon because the sun Earth and moon line up and the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow making it a reddish color. A NASA scientist said, “The exact color that the moon appears depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the atmosphere” so it can appear more red depending what’s in the atmosphere.

During the Blood Moon, a meteorite hit the moon. It was very unexpected but according to Space.com that’s how the moon gets it craters. 

There are 3 types of lunar eclipses, total, partial, and penumbral. The first lunar eclipse of the year was a total lunar eclipse meaning Earth’s shadow completely covered the moon. A Blood Moon will usually happen  twice every three years. However, it depends on the  number of total lunar eclipses during a year. 

The Wolf Moon was named by some Native American tribes after wolves would howl loudly outside their villages, but this year’s Wolf Moon was also a Supermoon. A Supermoon is a full moon that is at the moon’s closest point to Earth.

There will be 6 eclipses in 2019, depending on where you live. There was a solar eclipse on January 5, and a lunar eclipse on January 20.  There will be a solar eclipse on July 2, and December 26. There’ll be a lunar eclipse on July 16. On November 11, there will be a transit of Mercury, meaning Mercury will directly pass between the Sun and another planet, and Mercury will appear as a black dot moving across the Sun.

Climate change is real?

How many times have you walked outside this winter with only a sweatshirt and jeans on? No winter jacket or coat. Or still have those new pair of Sorel boots in your closet that you were so sure you we’re going to have to wear this winter? If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Temperatures this Minnesota winter have been so mild it almost seems unreal. The snowfalls have been mild, the temperatures have been mild, and the snow seems to barely stay on the ground. Believe it or not, Minnesota is facing the disastrous climate change going on in our world, and the direct effects are becoming prevalent.

Since the 1980’s, scientists have warned us about the disasters our earth was up against if we didn’t start taking better care of it. Big companies like Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, and Gazprom, as well as chemical manufactures, industrial dumpsites, tanneries, and product manufactures are all environmental hazards that are destroying our earth. These companies continue to produce pollutants into our environment, creating oil spills, and putting Co2 emissions into our air. Due to these pollutants, more cases of illnesses, like cancer, are rising and they are causing our earth to heat up.

Antarctica is a continent covered by a of majority of ice, and it is starting to be affected by the heating of our earth. Major ice glaciers are starting to break and melt.

Animals like penguins and polar bears are having a habitat crisis because it’s harder to catch fish. Polar bears are falling into the water and drowning due to thin ice, and fish are starting to migrate.

On top of the effects of animals, the effects on our lakes and oceans are also a risk. As ice glaciers melt, water levels continue to rise. The mixture of saltwater and freshwater is creating a higher buoyancy which is causing floods, hurricanes, and water levels to rise at extreme rates.

Minnesota has been affected by climate change, our lakes are starting to rise and there have been a lot of rainy days this winter season. Just this past month, we have had one of the warmest Minnesota winter days ever, with a record breaking 42 degrees in the beginning of January.