Tag Archives: technology

STEM

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM, previously SMET) is an acronym that refers to the academic disciplines of science[note 1], technology, engineeringand mathematics.[1] The term is typically used when addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools to improve competitiveness in science and technology development. It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns and immigration policy.[1] Education emphasizing STEM disciplines is considered to be more beneficial to the student than the previous generation of education standards that emphasizes broad “core” disciplines and social skills instead.

The acronym arose in common use shortly after an interagency meeting on science education held at the US National Science Foundation chaired by the then NSF director Rita Colwell.[citation needed] A director from the Office of Science division of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists, Dr. Peter Faletra, suggested the change from the older acronym SMET to STEM. Dr. Colwell, expressing some dislike for the older acronym, responded by suggesting NSF to institute the change. One of the first NSF projects to use the acronym was STEMTEC, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Teacher Education Collaborative at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which was funded in 1997.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.

Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 2001, and are referred to as the “Marrakesh Accords.” Its first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012.

Habitat destruction

Uploaded on Mar 30, 2010
Murray Gell-Mann, the 2004-2005 Pardee Visiting Professor of Future Studies, argues that global problems cannot be considered in isolation, and he wonders about the best ways to separate environmental issues from those involving population growth.Run time 1:27

Hosted by Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future on September 27, 2005.


News coverage of environmental issues can be difficult, in part, because those who are affected—whether the effect is economic or environmental—routinely exaggerate their claims. Non-governmental organization advocates pull “facts” in one direction; big
business tugs them in another, and sometimes neither leaves the cushy offices in the northwest section of Washington, D.C. Truth resides in a place somewhere in between.


Preventing illness is the best way to get health-care costs down. So why aren’t governments doing more to protect the environment? We’ve long known that environmental factors contribute to disease, especially contamination of air, water, and soil. Scientists are now learning the connection is stronger than we realized.

New research shows that 60 per cent of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans — those that rapidly increase in incidence or geographic range — start with animals, two thirds from wild animals. Lyme disease, West Nile virus, Ebola, SARS, AIDS… these are just a few of the hundreds of epidemics that have spread from animals to people. A study by the International Livestock Research Institute concludes that more than two-million people a year are killed by diseases that originated with wild and domestic animals. Many more become ill.


Habitat destruction is the process in which natural habitat is rendered functionally unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity.[1] Habitat destruction by human activity is mainly for the purpose of harvesting natural resources for industry production andurbanization. Clearing habitats for agriculture is the principal cause of habitat destruction. Other important causes of habitat destruction include miningloggingtrawling and urban sprawl. Habitat destruction is currently ranked as the primary cause of species extinction worldwide.[2] It is a process of natural environmental change that may be caused byhabitat fragmentation, geological processes, climate change[1] or by human activities such as the introduction of invasive species, ecosystem nutrient depletion, and other human activities mentioned below.

The terms “habitat loss” and “habitat reduction” are also used in a wider sense, including loss of habitat from other factors, such as water and noise pollution.

Tropical rainforests have received most of the attention concerning the destruction of habitat. From the approximately 16 million square kilometers of tropical rainforest habitat that originally existed worldwide, less than 9 million square kilometers remain today.[8] The current rate of deforestation is 160,000 square kilometers per year, which equates to a loss of approximately 1% of original forest habitat each year.[10]

Other forest ecosystems have suffered as much or more destruction as tropical rainforestsFarming and logging have severely disturbed at least 94% of temperate broadleaf forests; many old growth forest stands have lost more than 98% of their previous area because of human activities.[8] Tropical deciduous dry forests are easier to clear and burn and are more suitable for agriculture and cattle ranchingthan tropical rainforests; consequently, less than 0.1% of dry forests in Central America’s Pacific Coast and less than 8% in Madagascarremain from their original extents.

Habitat destruction caused by humans includes conversion of land to agricultureurban sprawlinfrastructure development, and other anthropogenic changes to the characteristics of land. Habitat degradation, fragmentation, and pollution are aspects of habitat destruction caused by humans that do not necessarily involve overt destruction of habitat, yet result in habitat collapse. Desertificationdeforestation, and coral reef degradation are specific types of habitat destruction for those areas (desertsforestscoral reefs).

Geist and Lambin (2002) assessed 152 case studies of net losses of tropical forest cover to determine any patterns in the proximate and underlying causes of tropical deforestation. Their results, yielded as percentages of the case studies in which each parameter was a significant factor, provide a quantitative prioritization of which proximate and underlying causes were the most significant. The proximate causes were clustered into broad categories of agricultural expansion (96%), infrastructure expansion (72%), and wood extraction (67%). Therefore, according to this study, forest conversion to agriculture is the main land use change responsible for tropical deforestation. The specific categories reveal further insight into the specific causes of tropical deforestation: transport extension (64%), commercial wood extraction (52%), permanent cultivation (48%), cattle ranching (46%), shifting (slash and burn) cultivation (41%), subsistence agriculture(40%), and fuel wood extraction for domestic use (28%). One result is that shifting cultivation is not the primary cause of deforestation in all world regions, while transport extension (including the construction of new roads) is the largest single proximate factor responsible for deforestation.[16]

Drivers

Nanjing Road in Shanghai

While the above-mentioned activities are the proximal or direct causes of habitat destruction in that they actually destroy habitat, this still does not identify why humans destroy habitat. The forces that cause humans to destroy habitat are known as drivers of habitat destruction.Demographic, economic, sociopolitical, scientific and technological, and cultural drivers all contribute to habitat destruction.[15]

Demographic drivers include the expanding human population; rate of population increase over time; spatial distribution of people in a given area (urban versus rural), ecosystem type, and country; and the combined effects of poverty, age, family planning, gender, and education status of people in certain areas.[15] Most of the exponential human population growth worldwide is occurring in or close tobiodiversity hotspots.[7] This may explain why human population density accounts for 87.9% of the variation in numbers of threatened species across 114 countries, providing indisputable evidence that people play the largest role in decreasing biodiversity.[17] The boom in human population and migration of people into such species-rich regions are making conservation efforts not only more urgent but also more likely to conflict with local human interests.[7] The high local population density in such areas is directly correlated to the poverty status of the local people, most of whom lacking an education and family planning.[16]

From the Geist and Lambin (2002) study described in the previous section, the underlying driving forces were prioritized as follows (with the percent of the 152 cases the factor played a significant role in): economic factors (81%), institutional or policy factors (78%), technological factors (70%), cultural or socio-political factors (66%), and demographic factors (61%). The main economic factors included commercialization and growth of timber markets (68%), which are driven by national and international demands; urban industrial growth (38%); low domestic costs for land, labor, fuel, and timber (32%); and increases in product prices mainly for cash crops (25%). Institutional and policy factors included formal pro-deforestation policies on land development (40%), economic growth including colonization and infrastructure improvement (34%), and subsidies for land-based activities (26%); property rights and land-tenure insecurity (44%); and policy failures such as corruption, lawlessness, or mismanagement (42%). The main technological factor was the poor application of technology in the wood industry (45%), which leads to wasteful logging practices. Within the broad category of cultural and sociopolitical factors are public attitudes and values (63%), individual/household behavior (53%), public unconcern toward forest environments (43%), missing basic values (36%), and unconcern by individuals (32%). Demographic factors were the in-migration of colonizing settlers into sparsely populated forest areas (38%) and growing population density — a result of the first factor — in those areas (25%).

There are also feedbacks and interactions among the proximate and underlying causes of deforestation that can amplify the process. Road construction has the largest feedback effect, because it interacts with—and leads to—the establishment of new settlements and more people, which causes a growth in wood (logging) and food markets.[16] Growth in these markets, in turn, progresses the commercialization of agriculture and logging industries. When these industries become commercialized, they must become more efficient by utilizing larger or more modern machinery that often are worse on the habitat than traditional farming and logging methods. Either way, more land is cleared more rapidly for commercial markets. This common feedback example manifests just how closely related the proximate and underlying causes are to each other.

The rapid expansion of the global human population is increasing the world’s food requirement substantially. Simple logic instructs that more people will require more food. In fact, as the world’s population increases dramatically, agricultural output will need to increase by at least 50%, over the next 30 years.[19] In the past, continually moving to new land and soils provided a boost in food production to appease the global food demand. That easy fix will no longer be available, however, as more than 98% of all land suitable for agriculture is already in use or degraded beyond repair.[20]

The impending global food crisis will be a major source of habitat destruction. Commercial farmers are going to become desperate to produce more food from the same amount of land, so they will use more fertilizers and less concern for the environment to meet the market demand. Others will seek out new land or will convert other land-uses to agriculture. Agricultural intensification will become widespread at the cost of the environment and its inhabitants. Species will be pushed out of their habitat either directly by habitat destruction or indirectly by fragmentation, degradation, or pollution. Any efforts to protect the world’s remaining natural habitat and biodiversity will compete directly with humans’ growing demand for natural resources, especially new agricultural lands.

Μηχανισμός των Αντικυθήρων

More than 21 centuries ago, a mechanism of fabulous ingenuity was created in Greece, a device capable of indicating exactly how the sky would look for decades to come — the position of the moon and sun, lunar phases and even eclipses. But this incredible invention would be drowned in the sea and its secret forgotten for two thousand years.

This video is a tribute from Swiss clock-maker Hublot and film-maker Philippe Nicolet to this device, known as the Antikythera Mechanism, or the world’s “first computer”. The fragments of the Mechanism were discovered in 1901 by sponge divers near the island of Antikythera. It is kept since then at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.

For more than a century, researchers were trying to understand its functions. Since 2005, a pluridisciplinary research team, the “Antikythera Mechanism Research Project”, is studying the Mechanism with the latest high tech available.

The results of this ongoing research has enabled the construction of many models. Amongst them, the unique mechanism of a watch, designed by Hublot as a tribute to the Mechanism, is incorporating the known functions of this mysterious and fascinating ancient Mechanism.

A model of the Antikythera Mechanism, built by the Aristotle University in Greece, together with the mechanism of the watch and this film in 3D are featuring in an exhibition about the Mechanism that is taking place in Paris, at the Musée des Arts et Métiers.

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WHY THEORETICAL PHYSICS

Theoretical physics is a cornerstone of modern quantitative science, on which so much else rests. It is perhaps the highest-impact, lowest-cost area of basic research. The field advances our fundamental understanding of the universe, and seeds the technologies of tomorrow. Solar cells, computers, wireless technologies, diagnostic imaging – they are all rooted in breakthroughs made by theoretical physicists.

Time and again, breakthroughs in our fundamental understanding of how the universe works have led to  transformative technologies, with innumerable benefits to society.

The reason is simple:  since any technology relies on the laws of nature, the better we understand those laws, the more powerful the technologies we can create.

For example, electricity and magnetism were once thought to be unrelated forces. Building largely on the experimental work of Michael Faraday, theorist James Clerk Maxwell discovered electromagnetism – a single, deeper theory that unified these two forces. Faraday and Maxwell’s work eventually led to the development of electric motors, generators, and a safe electric power distribution system (“the grid”), the cleanest and most versatile form of energy the world has ever seen.

As a further example, when Guglielmo Marconi applied Maxwell’s electromagnetism to send the first wireless message between continents, the Communications Age was born, changing our lives with radio, television, smartphones and wireless internet.

By pondering the nature of space and time, Albert Einstein unexpectedly discovered that matter is a concentrated form of energy, which soon led to an understanding of how stars like our Sun work, by a process called fusion. These ideas are currently being applied or contemplated in some of the largest-scale science and engineering projects in human history to harness the power of fusion.

Over the 21st century, these projects may play a role in helping to solve the world’s energy problems, and as a by-product, reducing human impact on the environment and global warming. Even further, Einstein’s deeper understanding of the nature of gravity provided the know-how required to build the Global Positioning System (GPS), a profoundly useful technology across a wide spectrum of human endeavours.

To unravel the mysteries of the atom, theoretical physicists developed quantum theory, which has had innumerable spinoff technologies ranging from the transistor (at the heart of computers and virtually every electronic device on the planet), the laser (used everywhere from home DVD players to fibre optic communication networks spanning the globe), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and other life-saving medical technologies, and many more.

This is how fundamental physics drives innovation. Theoretical physics is always at the root of it. Perhaps no other field of science can have as deep and as broad of an impact on society and how we understand the universe.

Beyond the technologies that may emerge from physics is the intellectual journey of discovery. Scientific research is a global effort, and the pursuit of new knowledge – from theory to experiment – provides a framework in which past lessons and new ideas are transferred throughout a great research chain. This includes the deep understanding that is passed along to new generations of critical thinkers who emerge throughout academia, industry, and all parts of society. These young innovators will go on to apply their own analytical and technical skills – within or outside of the physics research community – and propel human knowledge even further for the understanding and benefit of all.

Google Glass

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An early adopter of Google’s Internet-connected eyeglasses plans to fight a citation for wearing the device while driving in San Diego, saying the technology makes navigation easier than smartphones and GPS devices.

Driver Cecilia Abadie was pulled over for speeding Tuesday evening, when a California Highway Patrol officer noticed she was wearing Google Glass and tacked on a citation usually given to drivers who may be distracted by a video or TV screen.

A challenge to what may be a first-of-its-kind citation could force authorities to re-examine laws and consider how best to regulate evolving gadgetry that will one day become mainstream.

The lightweight eyeglasses, which are not yet widely available to the public, feature a hidden computer and a thumbnail-size transparent display screen above the right eye. Users can scan maps for directions — as well as receive web search results, read email and engage in video chats — without reaching for a phone.

About 10,000 have been distributed so far in the United States to “explorers” like Abadie, and this week Google announced another 30,000 would be available for $1,500 apiece. Abadie, a software developer, got what she describes as the life-changing technology in May.

In an interview Thursday, she said she was not using her Google Glass when she was pulled over for allegedly going about 80 mph in a 65 mph zone on the drive home to Temecula after visiting a friend.

“The Glass was on, but I wasn’t actively using it” to conserve the battery, she said. The device becomes inactive if it’s not asked to perform a task.

Abadie expressed surprise that wearing the glasses while driving would be illegal and said she’s “pretty sure” she will fight the ticket. First, she said, she needs to seek legal counsel. In the flurry of online commentary her traffic stop has generated, several people saying they are attorneys offered their services.

“The law is not clear, the laws are very outdated,” Abadie said, suggesting that navigating with the device could be less distracting than with a GPS unit or phone because drivers don’t have to glance down.

“Maybe Glass is more a solution to the cellphone problem than a problem,” she said.

It’s unclear whether a citation for Google Glass has been issued before. The CHP said it is not sure whether an officer within its own ranks has written one, and an agency spokesman pointed out hundreds of law enforcement agencies in California alone can write traffic tickets.

What is clear, CHP Officer Marc Hale said, is that drivers should not use Google Glass.

“Anything that takes your attention away from the motoring public in front of you is a distraction,” Hale said.

Though Google Glass users can continue looking ahead, by glancing at the screen they still divert attention from the roadway and that can make the headgear dangerous, according to David Strayer, director of the University of Utah’s Center for the Prevention of Distracted Driving.

“Your eyes aren’t looking where they need to look,” said Strayer, who has tried Google Glass (though not behind the wheel). Like Abadie, he noted that the law lags far behind the technology.

Legislators in at least three states — Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia — have introduced bills that would specifically ban driving with Google Glass.

A spokesman for Google did not reply to a request for comment. On its website, Google says this about using the headgear while driving: “Read up and follow the law. Above all, even when you’re following the law, don’t hurt yourself or others by failing to pay attention to the road.”

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Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.