July 14th, 2017

Surging Heat May Limit Aircraft Takeoffs


Rising temperatures due to global warming will make it harder for many aircraft around the world to take off in coming decades, says a new study. During the hottest parts of the day, 10 to 30 percent of fully loaded planes may have to remove some fuel, cargo or passengers, or else wait for cooler hours to fly, the study concludes. The study, which is the first such global analysis, appears today in the journal Climatic Change. "Our results suggest that weight restriction may impose a non-trivial cost on airline and impact aviation operations around the world," said lead author Ethan Coffel, a Columbia University PhD. student. The authors estimate that if globe-warming emission continue unabated, fuel capacities and payload weights will have to be reduced by as much as 4 percent on the hottest days for some aircraft. If the world somehow manages to sharply reduce carbon emissions soon, such reductions may amount to as little as 0.5 percent, they say. Either figure is significant in an industry that operates on thin profit margins. For an average aircraft operating today, a 4 percent weight reduction would mean roughly 12 or 13 fewer passengers on an average 160-seat craft.

This does not count the major logistical and economic effects of delays and cancellations that can instantly ripple from one air hub to another.

Kemo D. 7

The Lost Map of Columbus


For several centuries scholars have been searching for the lost map of Christopher Columbus. The map is referred to by Colum­bus’ contemporaries, and by the historian Las Casas, as one he used to navigate by to the New World. In 1929 a map was discovered in the former Imperial Palace (The Seraglio) in Constantinople, authored by a Turkish admiral of the 16th Century, Piri Reis. In the inscriptions written on this map the author states that the western part, showing the American coasts, was copied from a map that had been in the possession of Christopher Columbus, but which had fallen into the hands of Piri Reis with the booty seized from eight Spanish ships captured by him in a battle off the coast of Valencia in 1501 or 1508.

The Piri Reis map attracted the attention of President Kemal Ataturk, and of the American Secretary of State, Henry Stimson, who, in 1932, asked the Turkish Government for a color facsimile of the map, and for a search of Turkish archives and collections to see if the lost map of Columbus might not be found. The facsimile of the map now hangs in the Map Division of the Library of Congress, but the original Piri Reis worked from— Columbus’ own map (or a copy of it)—was never found. The reason that this map has remained so long undiscovered appears to be, simply, that it is very different from the other contemporary maps and is not at all what scholars would expect to find in a map of Columbus.

It is not a map Columbus himself made, but one he found in the Old World...

Kemo D. 7

Planet X


Last year, the existence of an unknown planet in our Solar system was announced. However, this hypothesis was subsequently called into question as biases in the observational data were detected. Now Spanish astronomers have used a novel technique to analyse the orbits of the so-called extreme trans-Neptunian objects and, once again, they point out that there is something perturbing them: a planet located at a distance between 300 to 400 times the Earth-Sun separation. Scientists continue to argue about the existence of a ninth planet within our Solar System. At the beginning of 2016, researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech, USA) announced that they had evidence of the existence of this object, located at an average distance of 700 AU or astronomical units (700 times the Earth-Sun separation) and with a mass ten times that of Earth. Their calculations were motivated by the peculiar distribution of the orbits found for the trans-Neptunian objects (TNO) of the Kuiper belt, which apparently revealed the presence of a Planet Nine or X in the confines of the Solar System.

However, scientists from the Canadian-French-Hawaiian project OSSOS detected biases in their own observations of the orbits of the TNOs, which had been systematically directed towards the same regions of the sky, and considered that other groups, including the Caltech group, may be experiencing the same issues. According to these scientists, it is not necessary to propose the existence of a massive perturber (a Planet Nine) to explain these observations, as these are compatible with a random distribution of orbits. Now, however, two astronomers from the Complutense University of Madrid have applied a new technique, less exposed to observational bias, to study a special type of trans-Neptunian objects: the extreme ones (ETNOs, located at average distances greater than 150 AU and that never cross Neptune's orbit).

For the first time, the distances from their nodes to the Sun have been analysed, and the results, published in the journal 'MNRAS: Letters', once again indicate that there is a planet beyond Pluto.

Kemo D. 7

Lasting Images


The International Space Station (ISS) is circling some 240 miles above the surface of Earth and filming our planet from space. The largest man-made satellite is currently orbiting the Earth and providing a glimpse into the wonders of outer space, streamed live over the internet. The spectacular feed from the ISS gives people on Earth a chance to see the incredible views that astronauts admire in space.