KATMANDU, Nepal — An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest on Friday along a route used to ascend the world’s highest peak, killing at least six Nepalese guides and leaving nine more missing, officials said.
The Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix the ropes for hundreds of climbers when the avalanche hit them just below Camp 2 around 6:30 a.m., said Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal, speaking from the base camp and monitoring the rescue efforts.
Four bodies have been recovered and rescuers were digging two more out of the snow, he said. Nine more Sherpas are unaccounted for and believed to be buried, he said.
Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support guides had gathered at the base camp, gearing up for their final attempt to scale the 29,035-foot peak early next month when weather conditions become favorable. They have been setting up their camps at higher altitudes and fixing routes and ropes on the slopes ahead of the final ascent to the summit in May.
As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help. A helicopter was also sent from Katmandu.
Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Assn. said the area where the avalanche occurred is nicknamed the “popcorn field,” which is just below Camp 2 at 21,000 feet.
Nepal had earlier announced several steps this year to better manage the flow of climbers, minimize congestion and speed up rescue operations. The preparations included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 17,380 feet, where they would stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.
More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds of others have died in the attempt.
By Ryan Schnurr
Special to Frost Illustrated
A few weeks ago, I heard an interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on NPR’s Fresh Air. At one point Tyson, who is black, is asked by the interviewer when it was that he had first realized he had a gift for communicating with people about science (roughly 20:10). Below are a few excerpts from Tyson’s responses in the ensuing dialogue (though the entire interview is worth a listen if you get a chance):
“Yeah, people call it a gift, and that implies you sit there and someone hands it to you. I want to encourage people to…think in terms of ‘Wow, you work hard to succeed at that.’ Because that’s exactly what I do.…
“People say ‘Oh, you’re such a natural.’ That’s what they say, and I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.…
“You mentioned the race thing earlier, generally I never talk about race but you…did. Um, you remember the comparisons between Michael Jordan and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics. When they describe Larry Bird’s very high, obvious talent they say ‘Oh, he’s a student of basketball, and he studies where the ball is and where people…’ and they’d talk about Michael Jordan [and] say ‘Oh, he’s just a natural’…meanwhile he was not a first-round pick out of his college or getting into college. The man worked at it. And so at some point one needs to say ‘Yes, black people who are talented work at what they did to become talented…’”
This is a bit of gold from Tyson, who has clearly excelled—through hard work—in his field of astrophysics as well as communication. He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in New York and hosts an (extraordinary) update of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos this spring on PBS.
In another, earlier interview, Tyson talked a bit more about being a black scientist, recounting a story in which he was asked to comment as an expert on a Fox News show:
“It was 1989. I had never before, in my life—and I believe to this day that that was the first such occasion, ever— But I’d never before in my life seen an interview with a black person on television for expertise that had nothing to do with being black. Holding aside of course interviews with performers and musicians, or athletes, right.…
“And at that point, I realized that one of the last stereotypes that prevailed among people who carry stereotypes is that sort of black people are somehow dumb. There used to be this stereotype that blacks were, like, physically unable, right? …No one is saying blacks don’t have physical ability, that one’s done. Okay.…
“No one talks about ‘smart’ lawyers, they may say ‘a brilliant lawyer’. They’ll talk about a ‘creative’ artist. ‘Smart’ is saved for scientists. It just is. It’s not even really applied to medical doctors. It applies to scientists, in the lab, figuring stuff out that hadn’t been figured out before. So if you had visible examples of this, then whatever is your next encounter with a black person trying to squeegee your windshield at the, at the red light. And if you’re prone to saying ‘Oh these black people, they don’t work, and they’re too dumb’, you’re gonna have to remember that I just told you that earth is safe from the plasma that came from the sun, and so you’re going to have to reconcile this. You’re gonna have to be wondering ‘Well maybe this guy could have been one of those’, but for lack of opportunity, but for lack of institutions with foresight, okay.”
Notice the correlations here with physical ability. Public perception affects decision-making, and Tyson points out that stereotypical black people, at this point, are considered to be physically able—but not smart.
“They” are athletically and musically inclined, and can even excel creatively and physically because of “their” natural abilities. There’s no black caricature for intellect, and none for working really hard.
He also addresses the institutional and ideological barriers that have contributed to (read: created) the absence of minorities in certain social roles.
I’m an educated, straight, white male; an inheritance away from being the protagonist in a Wes Anderson film. And so I grew up believing I could be anything I wanted. That if I worked as hard as I could at something, I could excel.
And significantly, I never felt that any intrinsic aspect of my personhood had anything to do with who I could be or what I could do with my life.
For most of my childhood I wanted to be a baseball player, and I believed that I could. Then I wanted to be an actor, a television anchor, then a filmmaker, then a sociologist, then a writer, then a professor. And, I believed that I could be all of these.
But more than that, I knew that other people believed that I could be these things too. There didn’t seem to be any barriers other than my capacity to perform the tasks associated with each occupation.
As I’ve grown older, I have realized that there are things outside of my control that may affect my chances in some fields or cause me to self-select out of them. I have been frustrated and discouraged when this happens.
But I have never felt like Neil DeGrasse Tyson in 1989, when he realized that he’d never seen someone who looked like him who was an expert on something other than looking like him.
This absence is serious and complicated. But as long as some members of our community are told—explicitly or implicitly—that there are certain roles they cannot occupy, broad declarations of equal opportunity ring hollow.
Karen Smith crushes meteorites with a mortar and pestle in Goddard’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory to prepare them for analysis. Vitamin B3 was found in all eight meteorites analyzed in the study. Credit: Karen Smith
Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis by NASA-funded researchers. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.
"It is always difficult to put a value on the connection between meteorites and the origin of life; for example, earlier work has shown that vitamin B3 could have been produced non-biologically on ancient Earth, but it’s possible that an added source of vitamin B3 could have been helpful," said Karen Smith of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa. "Vitamin B3, also called nicotinic acid or niacin, is a precursor to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is essential to metabolism and likely very ancient in origin." Smith is lead author of a paper on this research, along with co-authors from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., now available online in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.
This is not the first time vitamin B3 has been found in meteorites. In 2001 a team led by Sandra Pizzarello of Arizona State University, in Tempe discovered it along with related molecules called pyridine carboxylic acids in the Tagish Lake meteorite.
In the new work at Goddard’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory, Smith and her team analyzed samples from eight different carbon-rich meteorites, called “CM-2 type carbonaceous chondrites” and found vitamin B3 at levels ranging from about 30 to 600 parts-per-billion. They also found other pyridine carboxylic acids at similar concentrations and, for the first time, found pyridine dicarboxylic acids.
Residue from a laboratory experiment simulating the conditions of interstellar space. The residue contained vitamin B3 (and related compounds) and may help explain meteorite chemistry. Credit: Karen Smith
"We discovered a pattern – less vitamin B3 (and other pyridine carboxylic acids) was found in meteorites that came from asteroids that were more altered by liquid water. One possibility may be that these molecules were destroyed during the prolonged contact with liquid water,” said Smith. “We also performed preliminary laboratory experiments simulating conditions in interstellar space and showed that the synthesis of vitamin B3 and other pyridine carboxylic acids might be possible on ice grains.”
Scientists think the solar system formed when a dense cloud of gas, dust, and ice grains collapsed under its own gravity. Clumps of dust and ice aggregated into comets and asteroids, some of which collided together to form moon-sized objects or planetesimals, and some of those eventually merged to become planets.
Asteroids and comets are considered more or less pristine remnants from our solar system’s formation, and many meteorites are prized samples from asteroids that happen to be conveniently delivered to Earth. However, some asteroids are less pristine than others. Asteroids can be altered shortly after they form by chemical reactions in liquid water. As they grow, asteroids incorporate radioactive material present in the solar system nebula. If enough radioactive material accumulates in an asteroid, the heat produced as it decays will be sufficient to melt ice inside the asteroid. Researchers can determine how much an asteroid was altered by water by examining chemical and mineralogical signatures of water alteration in meteorites from those asteroids.
When asteroids collide with meteoroids or other asteroids, pieces break off and some of them eventually make their way to Earth as meteorites. Although meteorites are valued samples from asteroids, they are rarely recovered immediately after they fall to Earth. This leaves them vulnerable to contamination from terrestrial chemistry and life.
The team doubts the vitamin B3 and other molecules found in their meteorites came from terrestrial life for two reasons. First, the vitamin B3 was found along with its structural isomers – related molecules that have the same chemical formula but whose atoms are attached in a different order. These other molecules aren’t used by life. Non-biological chemistry tends to produce a wide variety of molecules—basically everything permitted by the materials and conditions present—but life makes only the molecules it needs. If contamination from terrestrial life was the source of the vitamin B3 in the meteorites, then only the vitamin should have been found, not the other, related molecules.
Second, the amount of vitamin B3 found was related to how much the parent asteroids had been altered by water. This correlation with conditions on the asteroids would be unlikely if the vitamin came from contamination on Earth.
The team plans to conduct additional interstellar chemistry experiments under more realistic conditions to better understand how vitamin B3 can form on ice grains in space. “We used pyridine-carbon dioxide ice in the initial experiment,” said Smith. “We want to add water ice (the dominant component of interstellar ices) and start from simpler organic precursors (building-block molecules) of vitamin B3 to help verify our result.”
The pressure down there is what makes it so difficult to go see for ourselves. Even the vessel that is being used to find flight MH-370 has a maximum depth of just under 15,000 feet. At that depth, the pressure is mind-blowing. It’s about 6,502 pounds per square inch(psi). For perspective, 10 feet under water is 4.34 pounds per square inch. This of course is not even close to the deepest point in the world, which is Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench. It has a depth of about 36,000 feet(15,526psi)!!
We can see countless millions of miles into the blackness of space, but a three-mile depth in the ocean is testing the very limits of our technology. Never mind finding a missing jet, we’re incapable of establishing even the most basic facts about the ocean floor
Men have played golf on the moon. Images transmitted from the surface of Mars have become utterly commonplace. The Hubble Space Telescope can see 10 billion to 15 billion light-years into the universe.
But a mere three miles under the sea? That’s a true twilight zone.
As the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 demonstrates, at that depth — minuscule compared with the vastness of space — everything is a virtual unknown. A high-tech unmanned underwater submarine, Bluefin-21, has been dispatched four times to look for wreckage from the jet, but the crushing water pressure and impenetrability of this void mean that only its most recent pair of missions were completed. Scrutinizing dust and rock particles on the Red Planet, tens of millions of miles away, is breeze. Understanding what’s on the seafloor of our own planet is not.
About 95% of deep ocean floor remains unmapped, but that’s almost certainly where the most sought after aircraft in history is going to be found. “Our knowledge of the detailed ocean floor is very, very sparse,” Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, tells TIME.
The reason for our ignorance is simple. Virtually all modern communications technology — be it light, radio, X-rays, wi-fi — is a form of electro-magnetic radiation, which seawater just loves to suck up. “The only thing that does travel [underwater] is sound,” says van Sebille, “and that’s why we have to use sonar.”
Sound is formed by mechanical waves and so can penetrate denser mediums such as liquids: but at a three-mile depth, even sonar starts to have problems establishing basic parameters. The waters in which the search for MH 370 is happening, for example, were thought to be between 4,200 and 4,400 m deep, because that’s what it said on the charts that had been drawn up over time by passing ships with sonar capabilities. It turns out those seas are at least 4,500 m deep. We only know that now, because that’s the depth at which Bluefin-21 will automatically resurface — as it did on its maiden foray — when onboard sensors tell it that it’s way, way out of its operating depth. The problems with Bluefin-21, van Sebille says, show us that “even our best maps are really not good here.”
The other issue affecting visibility is the sheer volume of junk in the ocean. Around 5.25 trillion particles of plastic trash presently billow around the planet, say experts, weighing half a million tons. There are five huge garbage patches in the world’s seas, where the swirling of currents makes the mostly plastic debris accumulate. The largest of these is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gyre measuring an estimated 700,000 to 15 million sq km. This refuse gets ingested by plankton, fish, birds and larger marine mammals, imperiling our entire ecosystem.
Flotsam debris has already impeded the hunt for MH 370. Hundreds of suspicious items spotted by satellite have sent aircraft and ships on hugely costly detours to investigate what turned out to be trash. (On Friday, an air and surface search continued, with 12 aircraft and 11 ships scouring an area of some 51,870 sq km about 2,000 km northwest of Perth.) Officials are saying that such efforts are becoming futile.
For all we know, Bluefin-21 could also be confused by the sheer volume of garbage down there. According to a study by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute published last June, based upon 8,000 hours of underwater video, an unbelievable quantity of waste is strewn across the ocean floor. A third of the debris is thought to be plastic — bags, bottles, pellets, crates — but there is also a vast amount of metal trash as well, including many of the 10,000 shipping containers estimated to be lost each year. “I was surprised that we saw so much trash in deeper water,” said Kyra Schlining, lead author on the study. “We don’t usually think of our daily activities as affecting life two miles deep in the ocean.”
The third officer was at the helm of the ferry that capsized off South Korea, investigators said, as divers worked to access the sunken hull.
A total of 270 people - including scores of high school students - remain missing after Wednesday’s disaster.
Twenty-six people are now known to have died and 179 were rescued.
It is not clear why the ferry sank, but experts have suggested it either hit a rock or turned sharply, unbalancing the vessel as cargo shifted.
The vessel - named Sewol - had been travelling from Incheon, in the north-west, to the southern resort island of Jeju. It capsized and sank within a period of two hours, officials said.
A major search and rescue operation has been under way but on Thursday bad weather, poor visibility and strong currents hampered the divers’ search.
On Friday divers were working to access the sunken ship but it was not yet clear if any had managed to enter.
Air was also now being injected into the ship, two reports said, both to help any people trapped inside - though officials have said that survivors are unlikely - and to help refloat the vessel.
Three salvage cranes have also arrived at the scene, to raise the ship or move it to another area with weaker currents.
"We will review the options very carefully, as the salvage operations may hurt survivors trapped inside," Yonhap news agency quoted a coast guard officer as saying.
Meanwhile, investigators have stated that the captain of the ferry, Lee Joon-seok, was not in charge when the ferry ran into trouble.
"It was the third officer who was in command of steering the ship when the accident took place," state prosecutor Park Jae-Eok told journalists.
"Whether or not they took a drastic turnaround… is under investigation," he said.
“This is really a tip-of-the-iceberg discovery,” said study co-author Jason Rowe, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who spent a year analyzing data gathered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope that led to finding the planet known as Kepler-186f. “We can infer that other ones are likely to exist. And that’s going to be the job of future missions to find [them].”
Scientists have discovered the alien planet, Kepler-186f, slightly bigger than Earth, in the habitable zone of its host star, a dim red dwarf star about 490 light-years from Earth, that might have liquid water and the right conditions for life. NASA scientists think that Kepler-186f — the outermost of five planets found to be orbiting the star Kepler-186 — orbits at a distance of 32.5 million miles (52.4 million kilometers), theoretically within the habitable zone for a red dwarf.
The discovery marks a milestone in the quest to find planets that are not just Earth-sized, but truly Earth-like, said Doug Hudgins, NASA’s program scientist for the Kepler mission in Washington.
“Whether we are an extremely rare fluke — a phenomenon that only happens once in a universe — or in a galaxy teeming with life is a very basic question not only of science, but of our existence,” said Dimitar Sasselov, a planetary astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the paper. It’s “the first time in human history we have a good shot at answering that question, and that’s very exciting.”
Researchers think the alien world may be rocky like Earth, but aren’t sure what Kepler-186f’s atmosphere is made of, a key that could help scientists understand if the planet is hospitable to life.
"This is the first definitive Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around another star," Elisa Quintana, of the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Center and the lead author of a new study detailing the findings, said in a statement.
"What we’ve learned, just over the past few years, is that there is a definite transition which occurs around about 1.5 Earth radii," Quintana said in a statement. "What happens there is that for radii between 1.5 and 2 Earth radii, the planet becomes massive enough that it starts to accumulate a very thick hydrogen and helium atmosphere, so it starts to resemble the gas giants of our solar system rather than anything else that we see as terrestrial."
Kepler-186f actually lies at the edge of the Kepler-186 star’s habitable zone, meaning that liquid water on the planet’s surface could freeze, according to study co-author Stephen Kane of San Francisco State University. Because of its position in the outer part of the habitable zone, the planet’s larger size could actually help keep its water liquid, Kane said in a statement. Since it is slightly bigger than Earth, Kepler-186f could have a thicker atmosphere, which would insulate the planet and potentially keep its water in liquid form, Kane added.
"It [Kepler-186f] goes around its star over 130 days, but because its star is a lower mass than our sun, the planet orbits slightly inner of where Mercury orbits in our own solar system," Barclay said. "It’s on the cooler edge of the habitable zone. It’s still well within it, but it receives less energy than Earth receives. So, if you’re on this planet [Kepler-186f], the star would appear dimmer."
Kepler-186f could be too dim for follow-up studies that would probe the planet’s atmosphere. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope — Hubble’s successor, expected to launch to space in 2018 — is designed to image planets around relatively nearby stars; however, the Kepler-186 system might be too far off for the powerful telescope to investigate.
Today’s discovery should add fresh impetus to the search for extraterrestrial life. Astronomers interpreting the Kepler data are able to detect the presence of small, rocky planets, much like our own, around distant stars for the first time — planets that are considered the most likely habitats for extraterrestrial life.
One of the most intriguing results of the Kepler Mission is the discovery of the small size of the planetary candidates. For years the list of known extrasolar planets had been dominated by massive “Hot Jupiters,” comparable to the biggest planet in our solar system.
Such massive worlds are the easiest to find, whereas Earth-sized planets are much more elusive. But Kepler was designed to be sensitive to those smaller worlds, even the temperate, rocky worlds that might be more life friendly. The spacecraft is showing that smaller planets are common — more common, in fact, than their larger brethren. At least that is how things look in the inner regions of planetary systems, where Kepler’s data is currently the strongest.
"There are some Jupiters, there are some Saturns," University of California, Berkeley, astronomer Geoff Marcy said at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). "But there are far more of the smaller and smaller planets going down to about two Earth diameters."
Marcy and his colleagues have used Kepler’s data set to extrapolate how often planets of different sizes appear around stars, taking into account the biases that make Kepler spot some planets while missing others. (For every planet that orbits its star in just such a way that it crosses Kepler’s line of sight, there might be five to 20 other planets that are not so favorably aligned.) The team found that planets of just a few times Earth’s diameter are quite common around stars of the sun’s spectral type. “If you take a sample of G-type main sequence stars, 8 percent of them will have two- to 2.8-Earth-radii planets with orbital periods of less than 50 days,” Marcy said.
Found! First Earth-Size Planet That Could Potentially Support Life
Astronomers have discovered a planet about the size of Earth,
orbiting its star in the zone where oceans of liquid water would be possible.
A study of the newly-found planet indicates it could have an Earth-like atmosphere and water at its surface. The planet Kepler-186f is the fifth planet of the star Kepler-186, 490 light-years away.
The planet has 1.11 times the Earth’s mass. Its radius is 1.1 times that of Earth. Kepler-186f orbits at 32.5 million miles (52.4 million kilometers) from its parent star. Its year is 130 Earth days.
The planet orbits Kepler-186, an M-type dwarf star less than half as massive as the sun. Because the star is cooler than the sun, the planet receives solar energy less intense than that received by Mars in our solar system, despite the fact that Kepler-186f orbits much closer to its star.
I can’t put into words how much I love infographics.
A diver swimming between two tectonic plates - Iceland
Haven’t posted a good atheist video in a while, but in 11 minutes, Sam covers a few things that I would say are most important and influential towards my reasons for non-belief.
Sam Harris destroys catholicism
Kepler-186 and the Solar System
This diagram compares the planets of our inner solar system to Kepler-186, a five-planet star system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The five planets of Kepler-186 orbit an M dwarf, a star that is half the size and mass of the sun.
The Kepler-186 system is home to Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone-a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet’s surface. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zones of other stars and signals a significant step toward finding a world similar to Earth.
The size of Kepler-186f is known to be less ten percent larger than Earth, but its mass and composition are not known. Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130 days, receiving one-third the heat energy that Earth does from the sun. This places the planet near the outer edge of the habitable zone.
The inner four companion planets each measure less than fifty percent the size of Earth. Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186d and Kepler-186, orbit every 4, 7, 13 and 22 days, respectively, making them very hot and inhospitable for life as we know it.
The Kepler space telescope infers the existence of a planet by the amount of starlight blocked when it passes in front of its star. From these data, a planet’s radius, orbital period and the amount of energy recieved from the host star can be determined.
The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to imagine the appearance of these distant worlds.
NASA Ames manages Kepler’s ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with JPL at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes the Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA’s 10th Discovery Mission and is funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.
More information about the Kepler mission is at http://www.nasa.gov/kepler.