In an effort to improve our ability to identify and manage rogue asteroids, NASA and Planetary Resources have announced a partnership. The Asteroid Grand Challenge, a series of NASA-regulated contests, aims to use the agency's resources alongside public expertise to detect potentially earth-threatening asteroids in space, according to NASA.
The asteroid challenge will use existing technology from both Planetary Resources and Zooniverse and rely on crowdsourced detection of harmful asteroids, reports NBC News. These efforts are based on the fact that humans can often be better at pattern recognition than computers.
"By harnessing the public's interest in space and asteroid detection, we can more quickly identify the potential threats, as well as the opportunities," Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources, told NASA.
This isn't the first time NASA has called upon the public for help. In NASA's Tournament Lab and ISS Longeron Challenge, the agency asked more than 600,000 coders to calculate the ideal angle for the solar panels on the International Space Station. The winners took home $30,000 in prizes, reports NBC News.
The first Asteroid Grand Challenge contest is scheduled to open in early 2014.
The greedy shark in question. Photo: Courtesy of Derrick Chaulk
Two men pulled off what was perhaps the most Canadian animal rescue mission of all time this week when they saved a large Greenland shark from choking to death on a moose.
Derrick Chaulk was driving along the coast near Norris Arm North in Newfoundland when he spotted what he believed to be a beached whale. The beached whale turned out to be a shark with a big hunk of moose hide hanging out of its mouth.
Enlisting the aid of another local man, Jeremy Ball, Chaulk was able to extract the moose chunk and push the creature back into the sea from whence it came. "He pulled the rope, and I pushed with my boot," Chaulk told CBC News. "Between the two of us we got him out into deeper water."
The mystery still remains, though, of how exactly the shark came into possession of the moose parts. According to Chaulk, people clean and gut moose near where he found the shark, often throwing the scraps and entrails into the harbor. The shark, he surmised, must have simply come across some irresistible morsels and literally choked on his own greed.
However, Jeffrey Gallant, of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group, believes that although Chaulk and Ball did the right thing by getting the shark back in the water, they would have been better served leaving the moose chunk in its mouth. "When you're man-handling a shark like this and trying to get it back in the water," he told CBC News, "the fact that its mouth was otherwise pre-occupied by chewing on the meat, you reduce the risk yourself of getting bit accidentally."
Safety seemed to be the last thing on Chaulk's mind, though, as he watched the shark head back out to sea. "It was a good feeling to see that shark swim out," he said. "Knowing that you saved his life."
The Eagle Race Arena at Park City Mountain Resort. This resort was ranked the second most environmentally friendly ski resort by Ski Area Citizens' Coalition. Photo: Rudi Riet/Wikimedia
Greenest Ski Areas Ranked
Ski Area Citizens' Coalition releases annual scorecard.
Stevens Pass Ski Area, Washington, is ranked first for installing a solar panel arrays to power the lift station lights, heaters and backup batteries. Approximately a quarter (14 out of 53) of ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains generate alternative energy onsite. In the Cascades, two out of the 12 resorts have solar and wind turbines. And only two out of the 20 resorts in the Sierra Nevadas have such facilities.
“It’s great news at the start [of] a new ski season to see increased alternative energy used at ski resorts,” says Anna Olsen, the lead researcher of the scorecard.
Rounding out the bottom of the list were ski areas planning expansions with gauging the environmental impact or not addressing global climate change. Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park, Washington, received a “D” grade and the lowest score for proposing to expand into the backside of Mount Spokane State Park without preparing an environmental impact statement, which the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission did not require before designating the land.
“A number of resorts expanded their footprint on our public lands degrading our streams and impacting wildlife,” Gavin Feiger, Sierra Nevada Alliance senior program associate said in the report.
See where your favorite resort stands below.
"Soon." Photo: Daniel D. Snyder/Thinkstock
This Week in Animals vs. People: Seaguerillas
The emus invade, a lone bird wages all-out war against humanity, and we say goodbye to a 507-year veteran
Two forces. One planet. Every day human civilization wages a war with nature. At the borders of our world and the wild, warriors spar in glorious combat; bears launch terror raids into quiet suburbias, delinquent children pour gasoline down anthills, and deer bravely throw themselves upon the grills of oncoming trucks. It is, largely, a silent war, fought beneath the front pages of traditional media outlets. Here, Daniel D. Snyder and Stephen Wayne Kasica will document this conflict, preserving it for future generations who will look back and know what happened; who were the heroes and who were the real animals.
Goading your enemy into devoting excessive resources and manpower toward the capture of a single combatant is classic guerilla warfare. If he can occupy animal control for just a few hours, he's won. This bird’s tactics go beyond the physical, too. They’re deeply psychological. Attacking parked cars and rumpling the doormats is only a minor disruption of enemy operations. Pecking at the office windows, on the other hand, is an advanced level of psychological harassment. “We'll walk by and you can hear him pecking on the glass,” said a visibly shattered and sleepless office worker. “I mean, he's got a big beak.”
I don’t think it’s a stretch to call this bird one of the greatest revolutionaries of our time. Not since “Free” Willy the Orca (Editor’s note: We repeatedly explained to him, to no avail, that this was fictional) have we seen such blatant disregard for human authority.
History shows that passive resistance is an extremely devastating tactic in any “war.” Gandhi organized the Salt March, Martin Luther King marched on Washington, and emus from the land downunder marched on Longreach in the spirit of peaceful protest. Like their Salem comrade, these emus fear neither people nor cars. Angus Emmott told the Australian press that these animals are “doing away with their natural cautiousness of man, so they are marching right up into the main street.” But unlike the rogue angry bird of Salem, Australia’s peaceful demonstrators remain peaceful even as their brothers and sisters are slaughtered in the streets. They enter Longreach as Emus, but when they get struck by passing motorists they leave this world as martyrs.
Animals: 2, People: 0
Ming the Clam: Casualty of War Ming the Clam, a 507-year-old bivalve mollusc and possibly the oldest living animal on Earth, was killed by a team of researchers who were, oddly enough, trying to determine exactly how old it was.
Dan: This one was tough. Ming didn’t deserve to go that way. How does one begin to eulogize a clam?
Stephen: It is survived by…nothing.
Dan: I mean, Ming was 507 years old. It saw a lot of breeding seasons. Chased a lot of valve. Assuming that at least a small percentage of its offspring survived Red Lobster’s Clam Fest, the funeral should have been pretty well attended.
Stephen: I wonder if the researchers will eat it. Imagine the pricetag old money will pay for 507-year-old clam chowder.
Dan: How many people can you feed with one clam? The probably body went to the highest bidder. Right now some decrepit old billionaire is leaning over a bowl of chowder, whispering, “I got you,” over and over, alone by his enormous fireplace. It’s more likely they just threw Ming in the trash, though.
Stephen: [Sheds a single tear]
Dan: [Slowly raises a trumpet to his lips and begins playing taps.]
Cape Hatteras, off North Carolina, is where both loggerhead turtles and offshore workers thrive. The turtles use the waters for migration; the workers use them for dredging and energy projects.
But now the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is hearing a proposal to preserve the area for the endangered loggerheads, and workers are becoming concerned over the future of their sea-bound livelihoods.
"It's just an environmental agenda being pushed without a goal," James Reibel, a member of the board of directors for the Commission for Working Watermen, told the PilotOnline.com. "Right now they don't know how many turtles there are. We need to have a goalpost."
The critical-habitat designation along North Carolina's seaboard could entail higher costs and longer schedules for dredging and energy projects, according to John Skvarla, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
On the other hand, Lorna Patrick, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says, "We really believe we're not going to see a difference. We've been doing this so long we believe most of the regulations are in place."
Loggerheads made the endangered species list in 1978 and are considered threatened along the southeastern seaboard by the NMFS. Although the turtles set nesting records this past season along the coast—enough to block access to Hatteras beaches—biologists are more interested in long-term trends, Patrick says.
If the proposal goes through, the loggerhead will join the piping plover, a shorebird, in claiming sections of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and requiring federal permits for certain activities there, potentially costing $150,000 annually.
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