Tick Tock goes the Doomsday ClockRead More
Tick tock, tick tock. It is a sound that we have all heard at some point in our life. Be it from a grandfather clock that breaks the silence in a creepy horror film; or signifying an impending deadline; the sound is uniquely associated with one thing. Time.
Perhaps most morbidly epitomised by the villainous Jordan Chase from the TV series Dexter:
“Tick tick tick, that’s the sound of your life running out.”
A morbid metaphor if there ever was one. But this metaphorical expression of time ticking away can be applied to both an individual, or in a sense, the global populous. The latter of which has been immortalised by a special clock that does not obey the rules of time. I am referring of course to the Doomsday Clock.
What is it?
The Doomsday Clock, is exactly what you would expect: it monitors the proximity of the human race to doomsday (cue panicked screaming). Conceived back in 1947, midnight is the theoretical line whereby the human race will reach total annihilation, either by our own hand and nuclear apocalypse or by catastrophes inadvertently caused by our collective actions.
If this all sounds scary, well that is the general point. The Doomsday Clock was conceived as a metaphorical statement designed to stir the public into action. Time on this clock is reset depending on various worldwide events including emerging trends, political upheaval and threatening rhetoric.
The Turners of Time
Is it reassuringly unnerving that this decision is not taken lightly? But, who is in charge of moving the dial?
Originally there was one time-turner, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists editor Eugene Rabinowitch. But following his death in 1973, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board was established to reset the time accordingly. Consisting of scientists and other experts, they bring a deep knowledge of topics such as nuclear technology and climate science to name just the two major issues facing the human race.
There are several scientific impacts that assist scientists in the possible advancement of the Doomsday Clock. The primary topic is climate change, specifically, monitoring global quantities such as sea-level rises, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and differences in temperature. But, as new global threats emerge, the expertise must evolve too. One such example is the rise in antimicrobial resistance and the rising potential of diseases such as Zika and Ebola. All of these factors are considered alongside the political and military issues considered before the Doomsday Clock is set.
Advancing the Clock
Thursday 25th of January 2018 brought with it titles from news organisations, such as the BBC, that the Doomsday Clock has moved forward, closer to midnight. Advancing from two and a half minutes to midnight to just two minutes to midnight, which signifies the closest the clock has ever been to midnight. This milestone has been reached before, in 1953. During that time the world was in the midst of the Cold War with the US and Soviet Union nuclear superpowers vying for power.
Advancing 30 seconds might seem an insignificant amount of time on an ordinary clock. I mean if you have reached this far down it is likely that minutes have already passed. But, as this clock is counting down time to annihilation, every second counts. 2018 marks the second consecutive year that the clock has advanced.
“The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future”
The threat of two nuclear superpowers still exists today, the major difference being the colour of their respective flags. But this advance has been cited on other emerging trends related to disinformation and the spreading misuse of information technology.
Turn Back the Clock
Doom and gloom aside, hope is not lost. Time is advanced easily, but it can also be reversed. For instance, one of the largest jumps came in 1991 when, following the end of the Cold War and period of stability in Eastern Europe, the clock reverted by 11 minutes within 3 years to read 17 minutes to midnight, coincidentally the furthest away from doomsday humanity has achieved.
There is still time to turn back the clock. It is in fact considered as a call to action, as said by President and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dr Rachel Bronson:
“It is urgent that, collectively, we put in the work necessary to produce a 2019 Clock statement that rewinds the Doomsday Clock. Get engaged, get involved, and help create that future. The time is now.”
What do you think about the doomsday clock advance? Let me know on Twitter @JoeAtNotch.
Does the weather affect our mood?Read More
You’re on the way to work, it’s overcast and grey, rain has just started spitting from the sky, how do you feel? How about if you’re on the way to work, the sun shining down, blue skies clear above, would you feel different then? There has been a lot of speculation on the extent that weather can affect our mood and actions, but which lack evidence and which are right as rain?
The effect of sunlight
We are all aware of some of the harmful effects that arise from the sun’s UV rays, such as skin cancer, premature skin ageing and retina damage. Yet most of us would agree that exposure to the sun can make us feel happier and more energised. This is because the sun affects our serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that helps balance our ‘good mood’ . When we are exposed to sunlight our optic nerve perceives this light and then sends signals to our serotonin-producing glands. These then increase the production of serotonin and elevate our mood. Serotonin production is further linked to sunlight because vitamin D helps to maintain high levels of serotonin, and our bodies make vitamin D using the sun’s UV rays . Additionally to serotonin, sunlight also affects our melatonin levels, a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep. When we are exposed to the sun, melatonin secretion decreases and then increases again when the sun goes down . Meaning that when we have more sun exposure we feel more awake and energised, but when there is less sun we can feel tired and lazy . Therefore, serotonin and melatonin have an inverse-proportional relationship that results in us having an awake, happier persona in sunnier weather conditions.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder, often referred to as ‘winter depression’ or ‘winter blues’, is a form of depression that occurs in a seasonal pattern, often when a sufferer experiences a lack of light in the winter time . There is a higher percentage of sufferers in areas where there are fewer hours of sunlight in the winter, such as Scandinavia, North West US and Canada. Symptoms can include feeling tired, depressed and lacking in motivation. These symptoms can be linked to the similar habits that are seen in some animal species during hibernation in the winter months. To assist with the symptoms of SAD doctors recommend light therapy where a lightbox emits bright white light to provide the body and brain with the levels of light it needs .
The affect of temperature
The weather often controls the temperature of the environment that we live, work and play in, so what are the affects of this temperature? Although sunlight energises us through its melatonin effects, too much sun can deviate our body from its optimum temperature, meaning that our bodies have to work hard to cool down and dissipate heat, via perspiring, dilation and radiation. Similarly, when we are too cold our body has to work hard to keep ourselves warm via muscle contractions to shiver and raise our body hairs. These processes require energy, leading us to feel more tired .
Bad weather effects
Most of us would consider rain to be bad weather, but this rain could actually be causing us slight physical discomfort as well as emotionally bringing us down. This is due to the reduction in atmospheric pressure when it rains. The reduction in pressure causes our body fluids to move from our blood vessels to our tissues, leading to reduced mobility . Many patients claim that changes in the weather can influence their chronic pain, but this may be related to the above affects of serotonin and melatonin levels, rather than changes in humidity, heat and atmospheric pressures .
The weather does seem to have an affect on our mood and how we feel, which further impacts many aspects of our lives. Either way, there appears to be lots of good evidence on how to convince your boss that the sunny Barbados office needs a bit more attention.
If you think the weather has an influential effect on your mood tweet me @SarahatNotch
1. http://www.nytimes.com/1981/06/23/science/from-fertility-to-mood-sunlight-found-to-affect- human-biology.html?sec=health&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
6. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/seasonal- affective-disorder-sad/? gclid=EAIaIQobChMIiuG4jb7g1QIVLJPtCh3L0At9EAAYASAAEgJeTfD_BwE#.WZ6rUZOGPVp
8. https://www.bustle.com/articles/113278-6-scientific-ways-weather-affects-your-mood-so-you- can-adapt-your-mind-and-body-through
Climate Change: 2016 Set to be the Warmest Year on RecordRead More
2016 is set to be another hottest year on record, beating the records set in 2015, and 2014 before that. Global temperatures have always fluctuated due to natural factors such as shifts in the earth’s orbit, however, with the ever-increasing population there are now many human factors influencing our climate.
Scientists believe that at the end of past ice ages the planet warmed up by around 4-7 degrees Celsius over the next 5000 years. The warming that we are experiencing today is occurring at a rate approximately eight times faster than ice age warming. This indicates that global warming is not a natural event.
How are humans responsible?
Greenhouse gases and aerosols produced and used by humans have changed the composition of the atmosphere leading to temperature imbalances in the climate system. However, our largest contribution to climate change is the release of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Human effects on the climate are far more significant than most natural influences, such as changes in solar output. However, there is a more powerful natural force that is contributing hugely to the current upward trend in temperatures, El Niño.
El Niño is a natural phenomenon that drives up global temperatures as a consequence of weaker winds across the tropical Pacific. Usually, these ‘trade’ winds will push warmer surface water to the west side of the ocean. This leaves colder water at the eastern side, and subsequently causes a temperature difference between the east and west. Warmer air caused by the accumulation of warm water to the west rises up and can cause wetter, unsettled weather.
El Niño comes into effect when certain conditions result in weaker trade winds. This allows the temperature difference to equalise somewhat across the ocean, with the warmest water now moving away from the west coast. Movement of the warm water results in changes in rain and wind patterns, and causes a knock-on effect on weather that can travel around the globe. The increase in global temperatures is caused by the release of extra heat at the surface of the Pacific – hence El Niño years can be warmer than usual.
For more information about El Niño, watch this video
So El Niño may be partially responsible for the recent increases in temperature, however this is not a long-term effect. To what extent is this increase also linked to greenhouse gases and global warming? Now that El Niño is fading, it is likely that 2017 will in fact be slightly cooler than 2016. Despite this, overall increases in temperature are still expected over a longer time period. So what are we doing to try and minimise global warming?
The Paris Climate Treaty
In December 2015, 195 countries came together to make a treaty with the aim of keeping the long-term global temperature increase to below 2°C. The countries will reconvene every 5 years to review targets and ensure the latest science and technology is being employed. Not only does the treaty address the idea of limiting climate change, but the governments have also agreed to strengthen societies’ abilities to deal with the inevitable impacts of a warmer globe.
A country whose efforts to minimise climate change cannot be overlooked is Bhutan. This year Bhutan is boasting not only a carbon neutral footprint, this small, land-locked country is actually carbon negative! Seventy-two percent of the country is under forest cover, acting as a large carbon sink which, in time, has the potential to offset 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Bhutan’s promise to remain carbon neutral forever gained recognition at the Paris climate treaty in 2015. With a 15-year transitional funding plan and numerous strategies including investing in sustainable transport, subsidising the cost of LED lights and aiming for a paperless government, Bhutan looks set to be the leader in carbon neutral living for the foreseeable future.
Find out more about Bhutan’s plans from this TED talk.
Do you think we can slow down climate change? What are you doing to look after our planet? Let me know at @HelenAtNotch
Growth of Sustainable Tourism in AustraliaRead More
Sustainable tourism can simply be defined as: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts, while addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”.
Tourism in Australia contributes nearly 34 billion Australian dollars to Australia’s GDP, employs over 500,000 people and earns nearly 10 per cent of Australia’s total export earnings. Tourism has always been –and still is- one of the main pillars of the Australian economy. The challenge for Australia is to encourage the development and management of tourism products and services in such a way that they will provide economic and social benefits to local communities and business, at the same time enhancing and protecting the local communities’ natural and cultural assets.
Traditionally, Australia’s natural resources and cultural assets have been a major attraction for local and international tourists, which is the primary reason why Australia is a highly favored tourist destination. So the onus lies in the hands of Australians to protect, conserve and manage these assets for the survival of the tourism industry.
Sustainable Tourism in Australia is surely catching up among locals as we are seeing a large amount of youth actively participating in sustaining the tourism industry. A lot of manpower is required to ensure that the tourism industry works properly and effectively, thus increasing the need for employment. Statistically we can see that when the employment in a country increases, their economy also increase by leaps which in turn improves the GDP thus reducing inflation, recession etc.
This gives us a glimpse of how sustainable tourism not only improves the economy of the Australia as a whole but also improves the social and economic prospects of each individual. Sustainable tourism has helped increase the number of tourists. Tourists are fast becoming green-savvy and they tend to go for packages that minimize their carbon footprint.
In this regard, the National Long Term Tourism Strategy was launched in 2009. It outlined the policy framework that was to guide the tourism sector and was designed to facilitate a better national approach to ensuring a sustainable industry for the future.
As more and more tourists become ‘green-savvy’, most tourism businesses are now engaging in sustainable tourism or at least incorporating aspects of sustainable tourism in their daily operations. Examples of such businesses include; the Esplanade hotel Fremantle, the Novotel Langley Perth, the All Seasons Kargoorlie, the Karijini Eco Retreat, APT Purnululu camp and Hidden Valley Cabins.
The Hidden Valley Cabins are an award-winning Eco resort in Queensland. As part of their daily operations, they are completely solar powered, use energy conservation techniques, apply waste management techniques and promote sustainability as part of their product.
Now there are many other benefits of sustainable tourism like having a clean and green environment. This may sound odd, but it has been proved time and again that when you start appreciating and protecting nature and the environment, the environment takes care of you. This can be seen by trends such as a decrease in operating costs for businesses that undertake initiatives that reduce waste of natural resources. Adopting energy conservation and greener operating models for more sustainable tourism can also help reduce operating costs.Australia has developed a competitive advantage by establishing and promoting sustainable business practices as a point of difference.
Businesses are able to attract and retain valuable staff by adopting policies that meet with employee values and concerns, it encourages investment by investors interested in companies with long-term sustainability plans that minimize future operating risks.
In the long-term, there’s likely to be an increase in profitability. This is achievable by implementing plans now that will create savings in the future.
Sustainable tourism is a fairly new and intriguing concept for most tourists. What Australia has done by engaging in sustainable tourism is to ensure that future generations will be able to get a similar if not identical experience many years from now. The radical changes in operating procedures of the tourism sector are aligned towards achieving this goal.
Still intrigued? Well, grab your Australian visa and book your flight to Australia for a magical experience of sustainable tourism.
This week’s post was a special guest blog from Annabel Taylor.
Could Sponge-Like Properties Be The Key To A Greener Future?Read More
Global warming is a vast and complex issue that needs to be tackled. The climate is changing across our planet, largely due to human impacts. Advances in science and technology are the key to combatting this climate change. The UK has environmental targets to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 % by 2050. The main greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is why the UK has legally binding carbon budgets.
The majority of carbon emissions are from fossil fuel-based power plants. Therefore a promising solution is carbon capture in the power plant’s chimneys. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a technique which removes CO2 from gas and coal power plants and transports it to be stored underground. It has been implemented in four of the world’s power plants. CCS is featured heavily in the governments ‘Carbon Plan’, suggesting that all coal and gas-fired power stations should be fitted with CCS technology. The US government has invested $3.4 billion in CCS technology. Therefore it is important to make the most efficient and economically viable systems for a sustainable future.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) states that CCS could reduce global CO2emissions by 19%, and that fighting climate change could cost 70% more without CCS. However, compressing the CO2 for transport and storage is expensive and energy intensive. CO2 is an important feedstock to make commercially viable products such as bio-oils, fertilizers and fuels. Therefore this idea could be implemented in carbon capture and utilization (CCU).
There are many challenges with carbon capture, such as separating the CO2 from a mixture of gases including oxygen and nitrogen. The material used must also have a tolerance to water vapour and acidic conditions. Excellent CO2 absorbers such as zeolites and metal organic frameworks are very sensitive to water and acid, therefore they are not ideal for use in power plants. However, scientists have discovered a new material, which acts differently to the existing rigid materials, as it swells to absorb CO2, in the same way a sponge absorbs water. It is a hyper-cross-linked polymer made from benzene molecules, which are knitted together to form a porous network. This means that it has a much higher selectivity for CO2 molecules, it is also robust, especially to water but it can even withstand concentrated acid. The CO2 can be removed by pressure changes and therefore can be controlled and easily reused. This technology is still in the early stages of development, but it is an exciting step forward as an economically viable option for carbon capture in the future.
What are your thoughts on this? Tweet me @LucyAtNotch
On The Road To A More Sustainable WorldRead More
As concerns over global warming have grown and supplies of fossil fuels have diminished, the media has increasingly been talking about ‘renewable energy’. More and more emphasis has been put on inventing technologies that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. These new technologies are powered by renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar power, geothermal and hydropower rather than relying on precious supplies of coal, oil and natural gas.
The thought that maybe one day, the need for fossil fuels could be completely eradicated, was hard to imagine a few decades ago. If you were to ask a person in the 1980s what they would expect the world to be like in 20 years, they would probably describe a scene from ‘Back To The Future’, with hover-boards, time machines and self-fitting jackets, and see it as a completely plausible idea. But mention farms dedicated to turbines instead of animals, and dams that can generate enough energy to power a city, and they would look at you as if you were a madman. This is how many people would feel today about entertaining the thought of a future without the need for coal and oil.
So just imagine the surprise of those sceptics as we move one step closer to this form of reality with the idea of roads, pavements, driveways, bike trails and even motorways made entirely out of solar panels. The panels use the heat of the sun to generate enough power to light up the road at night, transporting people safely from one destination to another. They can also melt away the perils of snow and ice and even display warning signs or traffic lines using their embedded LED lights, as well as charging electric vehicles that are in motion on them.
Electrical engineer and inventor of the hexagonal green road solar panels, Scott Brusaw is currently in the process of expanding his company, Solar Roadways, in order to make the idea a reality. This process of expansion was slow at first due to the lack of financial backing as many concerns were raised about the durability of the panels. These concerns were put to rest by the creation of a 108-panelled protocol car park at the company’s headquarters that showed the panels’ abilities to withstand a hefty weight of up to 250,000 pounds. Investors and donations eventually started to appear with the aid of crowd funding platform website ‘Indiegogo‘. Other helpful donation-draws were a Youtube video starring the panels that went viral, with over 14 million views, and mentions on various social media platforms, including mentions from celebrities such as George Takei from ‘Star Trek’. From this publicity, Solar Roadways received donations from over 45,000 people in 50 countries, which well and truly got the company on its feet and noticed.
We are due to hear more from Solar Roadways later on this month as they reach the end of their Phase II contract with Federal Highway Administration.
So, roll on Solar Roadways is what I say, paving the way to a cleaner, greener future! But what do you think? Tweet us @NotchCom
This week’s post was a special guest blog from Eve Blears at Altrincham Girls Grammar School.
Photo credit: http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtm
Reducing Food Waste to Safeguard the FutureRead More
Food waste and loss has been making headlines recently. It is estimated that we discard 1.3bn tonnes of food worldwide each year, about 1/3 of the total food produced. In the Western world, waste equates to between 95kg and 115kg per person. This falls to 6-11kg in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. It is estimated that about half of the food wasted in industrialised regions is perfectly edible. This discarded food could not only help feed many of the hungry people in the world, but also wastes the resources used to grow and process it such as labour, water, land and energy. Most of the food loss occurs during harvesting, processing and distribution, while food waste occurs in purchasing. Many businesses impose strict controls on how food should look (i.e. size and shape), but consumers also have a tendency to buy too much and throw away perfectly edible food.
Additionally, the general perception that food will decompose in landfill is misinformed. Light and air are needed for rotting, neither of which are available in landfill. Food in landfill goes on to produce methane, a gas that contributes to global warming.
So why does this matter? The first implication of food losses is cost – making sure we use the world’s resources to the best of our ability could make big savings worldwide. For example, the average UK family could save between £480 and £680 a year. The world population is also expected to grow by two billion by 2050, emphasising the need for improved food management.
A second implication of waste is sustainability. With deforestation, limited energy and water resources and over-fishing being just some of the major problems facing us, ensuring we use food wisely could protect our environment and resources. When we go abroad, we might visit rainforests, go and discover the region’s specific landscape or go diving. However, currently, over 20% of cultivated land and forests are being degraded. By reducing food loss at all stages from harvesting to consumption, we could protect our environment from further degradation, feed the hungry and make sure future generations enjoy the landscape we enjoy today.