Tracking Water Shortages From Space

Scientists have been using small variations in the Earth's gravity to identify trouble spots around the globe where people are making unsustainable demands on groundwater. 

What's the Latest Development?


Researchers at the University of California are beginning to get a better idea of how much water people across the globe are consuming and from where they are drawing it. Using twin satellites orbiting the Earth that measure gravitational fluctuation, Dr. Jay Famiglietti says the rate of water use in many places, southern California and India among them, is unsustainable. Grace, as the experiment is known, sees "all of the change in ice, all of the change in snow and water storage, all of the surface water, all of the soil moisture, all of the groundwater," Dr. Famiglietti explained.

What's the Big Idea?

What are the causes and consequences of water shortage? Population growth, water contamination and global warming mean that while the demand for water is increasing, the availability of fresh water is decreasing. The consequences have yet to reveal themselves, but are potentially devastating. Aquifers shared by countries hostile to each other, India and Pakistan, for example, could becomes sources of future conflict. In the United States, it means governments must adapt and make difficult decisions about water availability and distribution. 

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Supreme Court to hear 3 cases on LGBT workplace discrimination

In most states, LGBTQ Americans have no legal protections against discrimination in the workplace.

(Photo by Andres Pantoja/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The Supreme Court will decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applies to gay and transgender people.
  • The court, which currently has a probable conservative majority, will likely decide on the cases in 2020.
  • Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws effectively extending the Civil Rights of 1964 to gay and transgender people.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover how to trap mysterious dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less

Afghanistan is the most depressed country on Earth

No, depression is not just a type of "affluenza" — poor people in conflict zones are more likely candidates

Image: Our World in Data / CC BY
Strange Maps
  • Often seen as typical of rich societies, depression is actually more prevalent in poor, conflict-ridden countries
  • More than one in five Afghans is clinically depressed – a sad world record
  • But are North Koreans really the world's 'fourth least depressed' people?
Keep reading Show less