Melting the Polar Ice – WIF Chicken Little Chronicles

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Things That

Would Happen

if the Polar Ice

Caps Melted

Hey! Ever lie awake at night, thinking about the meaning of life, exactly how much money you’ve got stashed away in your mattress… and then your mind wanders to what’s going on with the polar ice caps? We’re not surprised, there are many people – both sleepy and quite wide awake – who are giving this topic serious thought.

The polar ice caps are already melting, at quite a rapid speed. From 1979 to 2006, Greenland’s ice sheet had an increase of 30% in the melting rate. You can thank this melting for some of the truly odd and extreme weather we’ve seen, all over the world and perhaps right in your backyard. Whether you’ve had three feet of snow when you usually only get a couple of inches at most, or if you’re seeing temps like 100 degrees F when summer is most often in the 80s. The kids may be thrilled for snow days home from school, but the adults know something pretty odd is going on.

Some scientists say this will take 5,000 years to happen. Others estimate we will see the polar ice caps really start to melt by 2030. One thing is for certain: people are starting to sit up and pay attention to this topic, because it is no longer “just” a possibility – it is a strong likelihood to happen one day, whenever that might be.

Yes, we do want you to sleep soundly and regularly. You’ve got to protect all of that cash in your mattress after all! But we thought you should realize a few of the simple things that will happen, should our polar ice caps melt completely.

10. If the Ice Caps and Glaciers Melt, the Oceans Will Rise

No, this is not the typical high tide versus low tide you see when you go to the beach. Consider the oceans getting higher by 216 feet. To give you a sense of the size of that, the Mount Rushmore sculpture in the Black Hills of Keystone, South Dakota, with the four President’s faces sculpted into it is 465 feet high. So George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln would be about nose high in ocean water!

And if you live in a coastal area, well… let’s just say you’ll be much, much more than nose-deep. Say goodbye to that beach house you’ve been saving up for with that money in your mattress, because it’ll go the way of Atlantis.

9. Extreme Weather Will Continue and Get More Severe

If we do lose the ice caps, weather conditions in your area may become quite unpredictable. This is actually history repeating itself. In prehistoric times, harsh weather was one of the top reasons to cause the extinction of many species that used to roam the earth. No, not the guys who wore mullets – think more along the lines of dinosaurs.

Today people have many more resources than people did in centuries past to survive weather that can be extremely cold, hot, windy, or any other type of circumstance that may occur. We are fortunate to live in times with items such as solar energy, batteries, electricity, canned or other pre-packaged foods, medicine that can last for awhile, boats, planes, and other types of vehicles which can navigate over various terrains. But extreme weather still causes hundreds, and even thousands of casualties each year, and it would likely only get worse as the weather gets more extreme and violent.

8. Millions of People in the Arctic Will Have to Relocate

Scientists say that this could happen as early as 2030, which actually isn’t as far off as we might think. Heck, that’s only three World Cups away. Keep in mind this includes everyone who lives in Greenland, Alaska and Siberia. Many of these are coastal communities and they will simply vanish, with no ice there to help protect them from storms.

You could see a situation where upwards of four million people will need to relocate to flee the changing, extreme weather conditions. And that’s not even mentioning all those people on the more southern coasts we alluded to earlier. In short, the world is about to get a lot smarter if the ice caps melt.

7. The Ocean Ecosphere Will Become Unpredictable

Now, Arctic regions are already seeing an increase in the fish that are in the waters. Five Arctic nations have promised to not participate in unregulated fishing in international waters. Scientists say that the photosynthetic plankton that lives out in the ocean will take the place of the algae, which grew on ice.

So fish and sea mammals will have plenty of nutritious food to eat, so that’s good at least. It is expected, in fact, without ice that fish and sea mammal populations could increase by up to 70%. While some of you may be thinking about enjoying the low cost of a seafood meal – a lot more is at stake here.

6. Give Polar Bears a Big Kiss Goodbye

You can do the same for the seals and walruses that call the Arctic home, too. Because without the ice, they are going to starve to death. The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed polar bears as a “threatened” species in 2008. It is estimated that there are 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic in total, with about 2,000 of them actively living on the polar ice. That’s not too many, right?

But we can see that other Arctic animals will quickly be “threatened” or “extinct,” only to be seen in the rare and lucky zoo. So that’s… something, we suppose?

5. Regrowing Polar Ice Goes Way Beyond What Anyone Wants to Do

There may be a few of you responsible citizens who are reading this article and saying, “well, if we’re running out of this, why don’t we create more of it?” The scientists have already pitched that big idea and basically have struck out. The steps needed to limit the ice becoming warm are things that most people and countries simply don’t want to make the efforts to do. They would need to create large forests from land and then use high-tech technology to pull the carbon dioxide out of the air.

That would help to slow down the warming of the polar ice caps. To actually grow the ice caps, countries would need to do so much more. So if they are unwilling to take the steps to slow down the warming, it is clear that they won’t help to grow ice. You can put down your ice cube tray, we know you were really trying to help!

4. Enjoy Miami and Shanghai While They’re Here

As the polar ice caps melt, the beautiful coastal cities we know all around the world are going to change and some may even disappear. The shape of some countries may be quite different hundreds of years from now – than what you see today. Remember that whole “216 feet of rising water” thing we were talking about earlier? Yeah, this is where that comes into play. Most of Florida, New Orleans, and so many other cities around the world would eventually be underwater.

So now is the time to go visit those fantastic places you’ve always wanted to see, especially the ones that have an ocean view. When the polar ice caps melt, these cities may look quite different one day.

3. The Amazon Will be Bursting at the Seams

Admittedly, many today when they hear the word “Amazon” first think of shopping online. But long before you could click a mouse, there was the mighty and impressive Amazon River. If the polar ice caps melt, this river will be changed significantly and permanently.

The massive influx of new water around the world would conceivably flood the Amazon, pushing it well past its capacity. What is rather unique is that it actually would transform into a sea. The Amazon River would then cover quite a bit of Brazil’s landscape.

2. Deserts Would Become Much Larger

All around the globe, you’d see major growth to the world’s deserts. Yes, that means the ice caps melting would make some places even more dry. It sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true. Australia’s desert would cover most of the country.

So living in Australia would become quite different. Remember that some coastal cities in Australia will be lost, too. The southeastern part of Africa would become 100% desert. Terrain will change as the climates change, too.

1. This Isn’t Something Only the Arctic Should Worry About

Most of us would be dealing head-on with the polar ice cap “situation,” as a reality TV star might say. According to the Daily Mail, over 75% of the world’s people live at less than 300 feet above sea level, which sounds okay. It sounds like most of us would be safely out of harms way.

But keep in mind, the level of our oceans is expected to rise by more than 200 feet. Suddenly, if you’re living in Arkansas or Vermont, you may suddenly find yourself sitting on some beachfront property. Better start investing in Missouri farmland now… it could become a tropical paradise before too long!


Melting the Polar Ice –

WIF Chicken Little Chronicles

Leaving Earth – WIF Space Science

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Explore with me

Explore with me

We Shouldn’t Leave

… Quite yet

Humanity has flown people into outer space and landed them on the moon. We live in an age where we could go out and find other places to expand. But there are a few reasons we should continue to stay put, at least for a little while longer.

10. The Financial Cost

Many bundle of US 100 dollars bank notes

While it’s true that we currently have the capability to try to colonize distant worlds, the sheer amount of money that would go into such a venture could be just as astronomical. Some initial estimates point to around $150 billion to colonize Mars, and that’s the optimistic low end of the scale.

It doesn’t seem like that much considering the potential benefits to humanity in the long run, but with just a $120 billion investment we could halve the number of starving people worldwide. Money alone shouldn’t be the primary concern in any matter, but it’s a good representation of where we should invest our time and resources. We’re not  saying we should never colonize the universe, but we should prioritize our needs before we start a new chapter in human evolution.

9. We Still Don’t Know Earth

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The Earth’s surface is over 70% water. The oceans, which were once seen as impossible to traverse as deep space is today, still remain mostly unexplored. Over 95% of the depths have never been seen by human eyes, and with each passing day we discovernew species of marine life which look as alien as aliens can get. Exploring the depths of the ocean could have some great and unexpected scientific benefits.

The ocean is very similar to the emptiness of space. Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh can both attest to the solitude and extreme pressures of the Mariana Trench when they descended into it in 1960. In fact, most space missions require initial water training. Sailing the bottom of the oceans could be a good exercise in learning how to better equip ourselves and survive the emptiness of space, all while discovering the remaining mysteries of our own planet.

8. Unforeseen Risks and Developments

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Nothing comes without risk, but this is especially true when it comes to leaving Earth. Even the smallest overlooked detail can turn into a tragedy, like in the case of theChallenger disaster. If we don’t take risks we’ll never get anything done, but we should take into account the developments made in rocket science on a daily basis. In 2014, a NASA research team confirmed a discovery made in 2006 by a British scientist, Roger Shawyer, where he achieved lift with the use of microwaves instead of rocket propellant. This groundbreaking discovery has turned the scientific community on its head, since it appears to goes against Newton’s third law of thermodynamics.

This new technology is still being tested and was only capable of producing minute amounts of lift, but if feasible it could revolutionize space travel. By not needing fuel, a disaster like Challenger could be avoided, not to mention that spacecraft could be much lighter and therefore carry more materials that would allow them to operate at a greater distance.

7. Measuring Distance With Time

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Almost all scientists will agree  that distance is actually measured with time. Space and time are not two different things, but one and the same. When we want to meet with someone, we always specify both a time and place since mentioning only one will get us nowhere. But humans operate with infinitesimally small numbers compared to what the Universe is used to.

An object moving at the speed of light, like a photon, will experience no time passingwhen traveling millions of light-years. The speed of light is the maximum allowed in the universe, and that photon travels that distance in an instant. What does this have to do with us staying put here on Earth, you ask? We need to consider the huge distances and times the Universe works with.

Let’s take Voyager 1, which is currently traveling at around 60,000 km/hour, and reached deep space after over 35 years of traveling through our Solar System. If it was headed towards the closest star, Proxima Centauri, some 4.3 light-years away, it would take it over 76,000 years to reach it. For perspective, human civilization began only 12,000 years ago. If we would stick around Earth until the highly theoretical Nuclear Pulse Propulsion becomes a reality, we would achieve that distance in just 85 years!

6. Gravity

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You’re currently exerting a gravitational pull on the Andromeda Galaxy some 2.5 million light years away. Gravity is why we’re stuck to the ground, why the moon spins around the Earth and why our Sun and galaxy were created. It also attracts energy in the form of light. This can also be seen when a photon passes near a star, as its trajectory is slightly bent, or when it gets trapped in a black hole and never resurfaces.

Because all living things on Earth have evolved surrounded by our planet’s gravity, our bodies are designed to only work at maximum efficiency if experiencing a standard pull. Astronauts can feel the effects after a period in space. Since our bodies don’t have to do any work while in zero G, muscle mass can diminish at a rate of 5% per week, bone atrophies at 1% per month and the amount of blood in a body drops by 22%. Astronauts have to go through a rigorous physical training program prior to their departure, as well as when they’re up there and during the months they come back to Earth. In some cases, bones will never fully recover.

Colonists going to Mars will face challenges since after a seven month journey in zero G they’ll arrive on a planet with just a third of the Earth’s gravity and will have to build a colony in extremely unforgiving conditions. Keeping in mind that some astronauts are carried away on stretchers after just a couple of months in space, these colonists will be like a bunch of 80 year olds. That’s why NASA is conducting tests on human volunteers who lay in bed at a six degree inverted angle for 70 days to mimic the effect of zero gravity.

5. A.I.

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Seeing what adverse effects the lack of gravity has on the human body, waiting for artificial intelligence doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Robots can aid future colonists by doing the heavy lifting and providing them with vital information. Scientists are developing robots that can fight fires autonomously, robots that can carry heavy loadson even the most treacherous of terrain, and cars that can drive themselves. Then there’s Watson, which is basically an accumulation of all human medical knowledge. All of these inventions could come in handy when colonizing other planets, but it may take some time before they’re totally reliable.

4. Cultural Melting Pot

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Living in a globalized society has caused nationalities and races to blend together and form a unity of both culture and traditions. Take Britain, where 6% of children under the age of five have a mixed ethnic background, compared to only 3% for those between the ages of 20 and 24. Current day traditions and religions exist because of this mixing between different people throughout the ages.

One threat when talking about globalization is genetics. As Europeans first arrived in the Americas and over 90% of the indigenous population died because of disease, so too can a new plague wreak havoc among people who are genetically related. A modern, diverse society will also continue to show us its dark side with cases of discrimination, racism and intolerance, thus bringing us to our next point.

3. The Prime Directive

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Popularized by Star Trek, the Prime Directive dictates that humanity, capable of interstellar travel, will not come in contact, disturb or influence the natural evolution of underdeveloped civilizations found on distant planets. What history and even thepresent day can attest to is that humanity will most certainly not follow the Prime Directive if faced with a technological inferior alien species. What we’re most afraid of in the event of a distant civilization visiting us will most likely be the same thing we would do to others if we were the visitors.

Moreover, if we were to find a planet capable of sustaining lifeforms like us, mere contact with that world would change it beyond recognition. If we were to leave just a single bacterium behind, that organism could multiply and mutate according to its new surroundings, altering that planet’s destiny forever and possibly even killing off already existing life. Finding such a world in the near future is next to impossible given our current level of technological advancement, but the simple idea of what we’re capable of doing to others less developed than ourselves could be enough to make us stick around Earth until we’re mature enough to deal with it.

2. Breaking the Status Quo

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Humanity, despite the many conflicts happening around the globe, is experiencing its most peaceful era in history. Nevertheless, a new colony on a distant planet could bring the current status quo to an end. This future crisis could take decades if not entire generations to develop, but the question of how humanity will react to such a radical change to the modern status quo will always be looming in the background.

1. Taking Responsibility

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History has shown us that many people only begin to change when they absolutely have to, and not a second sooner. It’s also a fact that the climate change Earth is experiencing is man-made, and thus people are turning their attention towards space travel and colonization for a solution. Starting anew is often the easy way out, but by not facing our problems head-on we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes wherever we go.

War, famine, discrimination, pollution and wastefulness are traits humanity should leave behind before starting to think about copying itself on distant worlds. We should make human life on Earth a functioning system that works in equilibrium with its surrounding environment before we decide to colonize other planets.



 

Leaving Earth

WIF Space2-001

– WIF Space Science

Perspective on the Universe – WIF Space Videos

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WIF Space2-001

Video Edition

Video Perspective

on the Universe

As we’ve mentioned a few times before, the fact that we are alive here is astonishing. In order to demonstrate exactly how amazing it is, we’ve rounded up a collection of videos that show our remarkable journey from the Big Bang, to the creation of the solar system, to the formation of the Earth, and finally the rise of humanity.

10. The History of the Universe

According to estimates from astrophysicists, the universe is 13.7 billion years oldand started with the Big Bang. In the first moments after the Big Bang, the universe was almost impossibly tiny. In a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, there was a period known as inflation and the universe grew to the size of an orange. Then three to 20 seconds after the Big Bang, the universe started to cool and expand, and hydrogen and helium, the simplest chemical elements, were born.

380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe became transparent. After 400 million years of darkness, the first stars started lighting up. Then 300 million years later, when the solar system was only 700 million years old, galaxies began to form. Our solar system didn’t form until 9 billion years after the Big Bang. That means that our solar system is actually quite young in the universe, and just for some perspective of how young, please check out the simulation of the creation of the universe posted above.

9. The Known Universe

The video for this entry, from the American Natural History Museum, was created using their Digital Universe Atlas. The atlas is an ongoing project where researchers are mapping out the observable universe, and all the planets and stars are correct to scale. The simulation starts off in the Himalayan mountains and after a short time, Earth disappears into the distance as the simulation pushes us out billions of light years away from Earth.

What is perhaps more amazing than the size of the known universe is that by estimates, we only see four percent of the universe. The rest of the universe is full of mysterious substances called Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Yet, that four percent we do see is unfathomably big, even when we see a simulation of it.

8. The Size of Earth Compared to Other Stars and Suns

For millennia, the Earth was too big to consider traversing even small parts of it. Even with modern air travel, it still takes two days and 19 hours to circumvent it in a plane. But in cosmic terms, the Earth is actually rather small and there are four other planets in our solar system that are much bigger. As seen in the video above from BuzzFeed Blue, five Earths could fit into the ring of Saturn and compared to Jupiter, Earth looks like a marble because Jupiter is 11.2 times the size of Earth. When compared to the sun, the Earth is a barely visible dot because the sun is 109 times larger. But our sun is an insignificant speck compared to an Alpha Scorpii A. star, which is 700 times the diameter of the sun, and that isn’t even the biggest known star. That title belongs to the VY Canis Majoris, which is 1,540 times the size of the sun. If VY Canis Majoris was in the place of our sun, it would extend out past the orbit of Saturn.

What’s even more mind blowing is that stars are tiny compared to galaxies. For example, our galaxy, the Milky Way, is 100,000 light years in diameter, meaning it is about 678 trillion times the size of the sun. And again, that is small in comparison; the IC 1011 galaxy is 6 million light years wide, or 60 times the size of the Milky Way.

7.The Solar System and the Formation of the Earth

Our solar system has at least eight planets and five recognized dwarf planets that orbit a yellow dwarf star. Before our solar system existed, there was a cloud of helium, hydrogen, dust, and then over 4.5 billion years ago, a nearby star exploded in what is called a supernova, which caused the cloud to collapse. Over the course of 100,000 years, the cloud was flattened into a disc.

In the center of the disc, where the molecules are packed tightest, a proto-star developed and it got so hot that it underwent fusion, giving birth to our sun. The heat from the sun turned the dust into rocks and a number of these rocksclumped together, starting the formation of Earth.

6. How Deep is the Ocean

Around 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth first formed under heat and pressure and was bombarded with asteroids, meteors, and comets. It had an atmosphere that was poisonous and too hot for water to remain on the surface. A second atmosphere was made because of constant volcanic eruptions, and gases like methane and carbon dioxide were pumped into the atmosphere.

Then about 4.1 billion years ago, the Earth’s surface started to cool and the surface became rocky, which allowed rainwater to fill the oceans. The oceans are an amazing part of Earth and it is a requirement for life. Have you ever thought about how deep the ocean actually is? The video from BuzzFeed Blue gives an interesting cartoon to give some perspective on just how far down it goes.

5. How Tall is Mount Everest

On the other end of the spectrum from the deepest part of the ocean is the highest land point, which is the peak of Mount Everest, located in the Himalayas. Its creation started over 250 million years ago when the Earth had one continent called Pangaea. At the time, what is now India was in the Southern Hemisphere, attached to what are today Australia, South America, and Africa. After the super continent broke up, India spent millions of years moving towards its present day home in EuroAsia. When India hit the continent, it acted like a bulldozer and it pushed up the mountain range about 60 million years ago.

Mount Everest is 29,035 feet tall, more than 10 times higher than the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. To get an even better idea as to how tall it is, check out the video above. Also, in case you’re wondering what the distance from the lowest depth to the highest mountain peak, it is 65,236 feet, or 12.35 miles.

4. The Migration of Humans

Homo sapiens first appeared about 200,000 years ago and they most likely came from a single point in Africa. Around 130,000 years later, the weather changed because the Earth was in an ice age, and it is believed that the number of humans dwindled to just under 10,000. Luckily for us, the weather got better and human numbers went up.

60,000 years ago, the first group of humans left Africa. They migrated along the North Indian Ocean, through what is now the Middle East, Pakistan, India, and Southeast Asia. 10,000 years after leaving, they reached Australia. A second group left Africa around 50,000 years ago, crossed the Red Sea and then over the next 15,000 years became the populations of the Middle East and Central Asia.

About 40,000 years later, humans migrated to Europe from the Southeast. Then about 20,000 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum, a group of Asian hunters were able to cross a land bridge connecting Asia with North America because ice sheets in the North and South Poles had sucked up water, decreasing sea levels by more than 300 feet. 15,000 years ago, the Asian hunters reached the land surface of North America, and then within 1,000 years they made it all the way to the southern part of South America.

When agriculture was discovered 10,000 years ago, it became a cornerstone of human civilization and the first civilization is believed to have started about 6,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, which is modern day Iraq.

3. Time Lapse From the International Space Station

The discovery of agriculture was a pivotal moment in human history because one farmer could grow food for a group of people, so not everyone was needed for food collection like it was during hunter and gatherer days. This led to a division of labor, which, in turn, led to people being able to do different jobs. Having different jobs led to commerce and since people have never had a history of being fair with each other, this led to the court system and government, which in turn led to religion, and writing. All of this lay the foundation for societies that we live in today.

While humans were an endangered species 130,000 years ago, humans have recovered remarkably. By 1804, there were 1 billion people living on Earth. That population doubled 123 years later in 1927. In 1960, the population reached 3 billion and just 14 years later there were 4 billion people residing on Earth. Then, Earth reached the 5 billion mark in 1987, and surpassed 6 billion in 1999.

When the video above was posted in 2011, the population of the world reached 7 billion people. The video is a time lapse video from the International Space Station that shows both the beauty of the natural Earth, like the Aurora Borealis, and how much of an impact seven billion humans have on the planet.

2. Modern Human Life

One of the amazing things about human life is that we are all individuals with our own thoughts and feelings, yet we all came from the same place. We, and all our ancestors that came before us, were created through the fertilization of an egg from one of billions of sperm. We survived nine months in the womb and were born. We survived infancy and have survived every day until we have gotten to this very point in time.

For a lot of us, and this is especially true the older you get, sometimes it seems that time just flies by. Nothing perhaps represents that more than this video by Frans Hofmeester, who recorded his daughter, Lotte, for 15 seconds every day and then created this video in 2015, when Lotte was 16. It is a perfect metaphor for how quickly our life goes by, even if our lives are short in the cosmic sense.

1. The Future of Humanity

The universe has come a long way in 13.8 billion years. It started off as a tiny speck, then grew to the size of an orange and then expanded to encompass everything we know as existence. It is full of billions of galaxies, and one of those galaxies had a planet with rocky mountains and deep oceans, that was the perfect distance away from a perfect sized star and life developed on it. From that single cell of life, life forms evolved over millions of years, eventually becoming apes, who became homo sapiens and they migrated all over the world. About 10,000 years ago, we started the transition from hunters and gatherers to civilizations and our population has grown steadily since. There are currently 7.4 billion free thinking, emotional beings living on Earth and we all started from the same place. We’ve come so far and yet, there are so many places we have yet to go.

This video features famed silent film star Charlie Chaplin from his first film with sound, The Great Dictator. In it, Chaplin explains the stark beauty of humanity and what we can do when we work together. Because while we’re all individuals, we all come from the same place and all that can be traced back to the microscopic speck at the start of the Big Bang.

Perspective on the Universe

– WIF Space Videos