This week’s five stories look at:
- Singapore First to Open Vertical Urban Farm
- Bananas May be the New Potatoes of a Warming World
- Drop in Arctic Snow and Implications for the Permafrost
- The Internet Changes How We Respond in a Crisis
- News About New Heavy Launch Rockets from the Public and Private Sector
Singapore First to Open Vertical Urban Farm
Sky Greens has opened the first 3.65-hectare (9 acre) farm on the island of Singapore providing fresh vegetables to local consumers. The farm consists of 120 vertical towers with plans to expand to 300 by next year. Today Singapore can only produce about 7% of its total food requirements because of scarce agricultural land on the island. As a result much of the food consumed by Singaporeans comes from neighbouring Malaysia. Sky Greens uses a system it calls A-Go-Gro. Each vertical system is 9 meters (approximately 30 feet) in height. Currently the farm is growing Chinese Cabbage, Spinach, Lettuce, Xiao Bai Cai, Bayam, Kang Kong, Cai Xin , Gai Lan and Nai Bai. Sky Greens hopes to increase Singapore production by almost 50% to allow the island nation to grow 10% of its total food requirement.
Bananas May be the New Potatoes of a Warming World
For many in the Developing World potatoes may not be an accessible food staple as temperatures rise according to United Nations experts looking at the future of food security. In a report on food security and climate change, the scientists predicted a decline in corn, rice, wheat and potato production. Already many of these crops are stressed in warmer climates so growing them will become even more difficult as temperatures rise. Instead bananas, cassava and cowpeas (also known as black0eyed peas) may become the staple food source for much of the planet. Bananas will migrate to more northerly climes where they will be a good substitute for potatoes. Wheat will disappear from semi-tropical and tropical farms. Rice and soybeans which have enjoyed rapid growth in places like Sub-Saharan Africa may disappear as well to be replaced by cassava (currently grown in many African countries) and cowpeas (seen below).
Drop in Arctic Snow and Implications for the Permafrost
In June this year according to a study appearing in Geophysical Research Letters, the snow cover in the Arctic continued to drop. Since 1980 that snow blanket that remains after spring melt has fallen from 9 million square kilometers to 3 million (from 3.5 million to 1.15 million square miles). In the polar region of the Northern Hemisphere the drop in snow cover has exceeded the drop in sea ice over the same period. What does this mean? Snow radiates sunlight to cool the atmosphere above it. The lack of snow means sunlight energy is absorbed into the ground and consequently the air above gets warmer. It also means that permafrost gets warmed. Warming permafrost (seen crumbling below) means the release of greenhouse gases (mainly methane) from the previously frozen tundra.
The Internet Changes How We Respond in a Crisis
Hurricane Sandy gave Google.org, the non-profit arm of Google, an opportunity to test a new service it calls public alerts. Using Google Maps to pinpoint crises by location, people looking for information were able to receive emergency alerts, find evacuation routes, and shelters to ride out the hurricane. Anyone with an Android phone could receive these alerts in response to searches on Google.com or Google Maps. Google provided a New York City map, webcams and detailed information from NYC Open Data, the city’s web site for software developers. Information from the Red Cross, the National Hurricane Center, NOAA, weather.gov, Storyful and the Naval Research Laboratory appeared in near real-time on Google Maps.
News About New Heavy Launch Rockets from the Public and Private Sector
In the last week news appeared about NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System). The United States is creeping closer to being able to launch large payloads into Earth orbit and beyond in the post-Shuttle era. There are two candidates in the running, one privately operated for profit and the other government sponsored. SpaceX is building the Falcon Heavy, capable of putting 60 ton payloads into orbit). The Falcon Heavy should be ready to fly in late 2013 or early 2014. The SLS has even larger payload capacity capable of placing 77 tons into low-Earth orbit with first launch planned for 2017. The SLS plans an upper stage to increase payload delivery capability to 143 tons by 2022. Unique to the SLS will be a nose-cone fairing with a diameter of 10 meters (30+ feet) creating payload volumes of 1,100 cubic meters (38,846 cubic feet). With large payload volume the united States will be able to put spacecraft capable of inter-planetary travel into orbit.
Once again I thank the thousands of you who continue to drop by each month. It encourages me to write more. If you have a topic that fits within the themes of this blog, and a flare for good writing, then let me know. Guest articles are welcome!
– Len Rosen