"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.
- Want three reasons why that headline is justified? Characters and acting, universe building, and science.
- For those who don't know, "The Expanse" is a series that's run on SyFy and Amazon Prime set about 200 years in the future in a mostly settled solar system with three waring factions: Earth, Mars, and Belters.
- No other show I know of manages to use real science so adeptly in the service of its story and its grand universe building.
Credit: "The Expanse" / Syfy<p>Now, I get it if you don't agree with me. I love "Star Trek" and I thought "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) was amazing and I do adore "The Mandalorian". They are all fun and important and worth watching and thinking about. And maybe you love them more than anything else. But when you sum up the acting, the universe building, and the use of real science where it matters, I think nothing can beat "The Expanse". And with a <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_expanse" target="_blank">Rotten Tomato</a> average rating of 93%, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.</p><p>Best.</p><p>Show.</p><p>Ever. </p>
Their goal is a digital model of the Earth that depicts climate change in all of its complexity.
- The European Union envisions an ambitious digital twin of the Earth to simulate climate change.
- The project is a unique collaboration between Earth science and computer experts.
- The digital twin will allow policymakers to audition expansive geoengineering projects meant to address climate change.
Who are the planet-builders?<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5MDMzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTA0NzY2MH0.yG8KyIXYBtiAQB0_9KJLPFhvOj2ZvpBy04YPffMIEJM/img.jpg?width=980" id="4548e" width="1440" height="833" data-rm-shortcode-id="a67622f9b54d0fa77c5505f9b4c51e59" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Watching time go by on the digital Earth<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5MDMzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTIyNzQ5MX0.NrXxzMuA8NcrcSIaCivN3zRlsc-KgVpYiecDlLKN4Mw/img.jpg?width=980" id="b1bcf" width="1440" height="988" data-rm-shortcode-id="20b5d199d3f30111490b0ec34c56808d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Logan Armstrong/Unsplash<p>The basic idea of the digital twin is that it will allow scientists to observe climate change in motion as it progresses. "If you are planning a two-meter high dike in The Netherlands, for example," says Bauer in an ETH press release, "I can run through the data in my digital twin and check whether the dike will in all likelihood still protect against expected extreme events in 2050."</p><p>Most important will be trying out geo-engineering ideas and seeing how they track over time. The press release specifically notes the value the twin will bring to "strategic planning of fresh water and food supplies or wind farms and solar plants." </p>
Aging models and AI<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5MDM0Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NjM3Njc3Mn0.7Dm8rcv_bcHSvKlxIvaQ3wu3pC3wjKbWeScQ_nQyLlA/img.jpg?width=980" id="be2db" width="1440" height="720" data-rm-shortcode-id="abe34ff694e5da65b14af5f22e7f2275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: ECMWF<p>Capturing the subtleties and intricacies of our planet faithfully in order to model plausible outcomes is going to require an equally complex computer model. Construction of the digital Earth begins with the refinement of current weather models, with a goal of eventually being able to simulate conditions in as small an area as a kilometer. Current models are not nearly as fine-grained, a shortcoming that hampers their ability to make accurate predictions given that the large weather systems are really aggregates of many smaller meteorological systems influencing each other.</p><p>The authors of the paper assert that today's meteorological models fall far short of what's possible, their development having basically become stuck in place about a decade ago. They say that current models take advantage of only about 5 percent of today's available processing power. The solution is the tight collaboration between Earth scientists and computer scientists at the heart of Destination Earth to develop cutting-edge models.</p><p>The twin will also be able to take advantage of rapidly advancing developments in artificial intelligence. Obviously, AI is very good at detecting patterns in large amounts of data. The study anticipates multiple roles for AI here, including the promotion of operational efficiency with new ways of accurately representing physical processes, as well as the development of novel data-compression strategies.</p>
A massive endeavor<p> The team will feed the twin massive amounts of weather data—as well as data regarding human activity—to get the digital planet going and then continually as new data emerge, making the model more and more complex and more and more accurate. </p><p> At full scale, a digital twin of an entire planet would require a suitably massive amount of horsepower. The authors of the study propose a system with 20,000 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphics_processing_unit" target="_blank">GPUs</a> that will require 20 megawatts to run. And since the ultimate goal is to help the Earth and not make things worse, they say they'd like to site its digital twin in an area power from a CO<sup>2</sup>-netural electrical source. </p>
At the height of the first wave, many people took heart from the drop in air pollution resulting from global lockdowns.
Experts agree that the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for years, even after the immediate threat has passed.
Source: Oxfam<h3>5. Immunization has been set back by the pandemic</h3><p>While the world has been focused on fighting coronavirus, deadly diseases have not gone away. But <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/immunization-disruption-covid-19/" target="_blank">efforts to combat them by immunization have taken a back seat</a> to combatting COVID-19, and the results could be serious unless inoculations pick up the pace.</p><p><a href="https://data.unicef.org/resources/immunization-coverage-are-we-losing-ground/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">UNICEF estimates that 80 million children under the age of one could go unvaccinated</a> due to the disruption of immunization programmes. "Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health," <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/22-05-2020-at-least-80-million-children-under-one-at-risk-of-diseases-such-as-diphtheria-measles-and-polio-as-covid-19-disrupts-routine-vaccination-efforts-warn-gavi-who-and-unicef" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General</a>.</p><p>"Disruption to immunization programmes from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles," he adds. <a href="https://data.unicef.org/resources/immunization-coverage-are-we-losing-ground/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">UNICEF agrees</a>: "As we recover from COVID-19, our aim should not be to just make up lost ground, but to break through the long stagnation that has held us back for the last decade."</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Credit: NAOJ<p><em>Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.</em></p>
Interactive globe shows where your hometown was at various stages of Earth's deep geological past.
- If you love travelling, a pandemic like this is not the greatest of times.
- But here's a way to go somewhere else without even leaving the house.
- This interactive tool lets you travel up to 750 million years back in time.
Travels in the fourth dimension<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUyNTI1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjM5NjY5OX0.l5xmIbvn6QtGwzC6zg2GJWWfjc-N4pAHGhaF7JGOWxE/img.jpg?width=980" id="10f9f" width="2700" height="900" data-rm-shortcode-id="065acb24bf5319b260cf7e2918d5d980" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="" />
Image: Ancient Earth Globe, reproduced with kind permission.<p><em>Berlin in deep time. Left to right: in the Neocene Period (20 million years ago), Berlin is on a vast plain that includes what would become the Baltic Sea; in the Devonian (400 million years ago), it's on the southern edge of a turtle-shaped continent; and in the Ordovician (470 million years ago), Berlin is on an island south of what was to become, many millions of years later, the Black Sea.</em></p><p>No matter where in the world you are, the virus continues to be out there somewhere, as keen as ever on making your acquaintance. The best policy remains: avoid contact with others, avoid unnecessary travel. In short: we're all stuck at home a whole lot more than we'd like to. </p><p><span></span>After the better part of a year spent under various forms of lockdowns and other restrictions, many are suffering from an increasingly itchy version of <em>wanderlust</em> – the urge to travel – and it's becoming harder and harder not to scratch. </p><p>Here's an interesting alternative: instead of traveling through space, why not stay put in the first three dimensions and travel through the fourth one instead? It's a trick performed to great acclaim by H.G. Wells in "<a href="http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/35" target="_blank">The Time Machine</a>." <br></p><p>The protagonist in Wells' 1895 novella travels to the terrifying future populated by Eloi and Morlocks and even further forward to the final days of Earth, without having to leave the laboratory attached to his house.</p>
750 million years into the past<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUyNTI2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDI3ODIxOX0.uFiLQ1OVzfnxyYXG2HBVQM69-9vr5JHpGZkU8frgQ2A/img.jpg?width=980" id="39f51" width="2701" height="900" data-rm-shortcode-id="85a1cc7ddf2fbbe689d4da1651a6d15c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image: Ancient Earth Globe, reproduced with kind permission.<p><em>New York City through the ages. Left to right: Early Triassic (240 million years ago), in the middle of a megacontinent opposite future Morocco; Carboniferous (340 million years ago), still coastal, but mirrored – the ocean to the west, the land to the east; Late Ordovician (450 million years ago), near the tip of a very Long Island indeed.</em></p><p>And thanks to the <a href="https://dinosaurpictures.org/ancient-earth" target="_blank">Ancient Earth Globe</a>, you can now travel 750 million years in the other direction, also without leaving your house. You don't even need a lab; just go to the interactive map built by paleontologist Ian Webster. Here's how it works.<br></p><ul><li>Type in the name of your hometown.</li><li>Its coordinates are 'geolocked' onto the globe.</li><li>As you scroll through the past ages of the Earth, the continents shift shape and change place.</li><li>Watch the surroundings of your location modify accordingly. Now you're high up in the mountains. And now you're getting your feet wet in the middle of a nameless ocean. </li></ul>There are several ways to navigate the deep past presented by the Ancient Earth Globe.<ul><li>From the drop-down menu on top, you can pick one of 25 specific times, from zero to 750 million years ago.</li><li>Or pull one of 19 significant events from the menu on the right-hand side: the time of the first dinosaurs or the first flowers, the time of the supercontinents of Pangaea or Pannotia, the Jurassic or Cretaceous era.</li><li>Or you can time-travel casual style, by using the left and right arrows on your keyboard to flip through prehistory. </li></ul>
The map of the world isn't 'fixed'<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUyNTI3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2OTA3ODQzM30.ANPjkSMiQWfrVNsoAE5DeO6nAWrzVrBgaPRR7FyAQ8E/img.jpg?width=980" id="f17d9" width="2700" height="900" data-rm-shortcode-id="d58ab0d96bdb008acd8c3b22790e1a70" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image: Ancient Earth Globe, reproduced with kind permission.<p><em>Time travel in Buenos Aires. Left to right: Late Jurassic (150 million years ago), glued to Southern Africa; Carboniferous (340 million years ago), in the middle of a giant bay; Silurian (430 million years ago), on the north shore of a large continent, facing a Hawaiian-like chain of islands.</em></p><p>The purpose of the Ancient Earth Globe is to provide its users with an appreciation of the dynamic nature of our planet's appearance. The map of the world that we experience as 'fixed' is anything but. The tectonic forces that shift, split and collide entire continents are constantly at work. Except that our lives are too short to really experience the changes they bring about.</p><p>But go back far enough into the past, and what's familiar becomes strange. Dry land transforms into ocean floor. Seaside towns move to the middle of strange continents. Cold climes turn tropical, and vice versa. Imagining such exotic pasts may not be the same as actually going there. But it sure beats watching the news in this Groundhog Day of a year. </p><p><em><br></em></p><p><span></span><em>Images from the Ancient Earth Globe reproduced with kind permission by Ian Webster</em></p><p><em></em><strong>Strange Maps #1052</strong></p><p><strong></strong><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a><em>.</em></p>