Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Safe Journey to Astronaut Scott Kelly

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Astronaut Scott Kelly, the twin brother of Tucsonan and retired astronaut Mark Kelly, is headed back to earth tonight from nearly a year in space aboard the International Space Station. 

Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell talks about why Kelly's long trip was important:
Given these risks, why fly in space for a year?

Again, I must recall the words of President Kennedy: We pursue these ambitious goals of space flight “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

There is another reason: discovery. Scott has flown so long so we can make huge advancements in our understanding of how long-duration space flight impacts human physiology, something that is essential if we are ever going to travel to more distant destinations, such as Mars.

And because Scott happens to have an identical twin brother — a fellow retired astronaut and my friend, Capt. Mark Kelly — NASA researchers are using Mark as a control subject on Earth while Scott serves as the test subject 250 miles above us to gain even more knowledge about how living in a zero-gravity environment changes us.

One day, an American will walk on Mars. But we will get there only because we chose to do it and because our leaders in Washington decided it was important.

These future missions will show and Scott’s flight has demonstrated the power of American purpose: one person facing the mortal dangers of space for the sake of international cooperation, science and exploration; the resolve to once again test the limits of risk in order to win progress; and a nation marshaling its innovation to realize that victory.

The New York Times rounds up some fun facts about Kelly's trip here.

Meanwhile, National Geographic rounds up 15 of the best photos that Kelly posted on Twitter here.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Creating an Army of Killer Robots Might Not Be Such a Hot Idea

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 10:15 AM


Former Pentagon analyst and Army Ranger Paul Scharre has penned a report warning that creating "autonomous weapons"—or, in more common parlance, killer robots—has a lot of downsides, including the "potential for catastrophic accidents."

The New York Times sums it up:

A new report written by a former Pentagon official who helped establish United States policy on autonomous weapons argues that such weapons could be uncontrollable in real-world environments where they are subject to design failure as well as hacking, spoofing and manipulation by adversaries.

In recent years, low-cost sensors and new artificial intelligence technologies have made it increasingly practical to design weapons systems that make killing decisions without human intervention. The specter of so-called killer robots has touched off an international protest movement and a debate within the United Nations about limiting the development and deployment of such systems.
Did we learn nothing from Terminator? Robocop? Avengers: Age of Ultron? On the other hand, new robot overlords might be a better alternative than President Donald J. Trump.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Don't Miss Tonight's Climate Change Talk

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 2:00 PM

If you want to learn more the health impacts of climate change, head on down to Centennial Hall to see tonight's installment in the UA College of Science spring lecture series, Earth Transformed. Tonight's speaker is Kacey Ernst, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, who will discussing "Climate Change and Human Health: Impacts and Pathways to Resilience." The free talk is at 7 p.m.

The Weekly has a Q&A with Ernst here. And if you can't make it down there, you can see both Ernst and UA College of Science Dean Joaquin Ruiz talking about the lecture series on Zona Politics in the above video.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Zona Politics: Alt Fuels and Climate Change

Posted By on Sun, Feb 14, 2016 at 10:47 AM

February 14th, 2016 from Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel on Vimeo.

On this week's episode of Zona Politics: UA engineering professor Kimberly Ogden talks about making fuel from algae, carbon sequestration and other strategies to combat climate change ahead of her Feb. 29 talk in the UA College of Science spring lecture series.

Then we talk with two authors, Tom Prezelski and Megan Kimble, as part of our ongoing preview of the Tucson Festival of Books.

Watch the show at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on broadcast, DirecTV and Dish. Or listen at 5 p.m. Sunday on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM.

Here's a transcript of the show:

Hello, everyone. I'm Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel, and we're here to talk Zona Politics. Today, we are once again highlighting the U of A College of Science Spring Lecture Series on Climate Change. Joining us in the studio are Dr. Kimberly Ogden, UA professor of chemical and environmental engineering, who has been studying how to turn algae into fuel. Dr. Ogden will discuss "Carbon Sequestration: Can We Afford It" as part of its Spring Lecture Series at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 29, at Centennial Hall. Dr. Ogden, welcome to Zona Politics.

(Ogden) Thank you. Thanks for having me.

(Nintzel) You do a lot of work with biofuels such as algae Tell us a little bit about how that works and where the resource is at this point.

(Ogden) Well, at the University of Arizona, I lead up a program that's collaborative with one of the government labs, specifically Northwest Labs and New Mexico State University and Texas A&M, but the U of A is the lead institution and our goal right now for the research is to understand if we can grow algae or cultivate algae outside, 24-7, 365 days a year to be able to make fuel The Department of Energy is our funding source for that. And WE also if you don't want to make fuel when fuel is only $30 a barrel right now, oil is, and you can also use the algae to make food.

(Nintzel) And how do you make fuel out of algae?

Continue reading »

Friday, February 12, 2016

TED Talk Day at the UA

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 4:15 PM

click image A Facebook promotional image for the TEDxUofA event held on the University of Arizona campus on Feb. 17, 2016. - INNOVATE UA
  • Innovate UA
  • A Facebook promotional image for the TEDxUofA event held on the University of Arizona campus on Feb. 17, 2016.

The Innovate UA program is hosting the first ever TEDxUofALive event, a live-cast of the 2016 TED conference in Vancouver, Canada this week.

The University of Arizona has been issued a licence to broadcast the live talks on Wednesday Feb. 17 across the UA campus.

"What I have noticed about campus, and our culture in general, is that innovation is heavily dominated by technology," said Justin Williams of Innovate UA. "What TED does that is really great, is it's intentionally multidisciplinary so it pulls from fields, in our case, what would be all across campus."

Speakers at the TED conference are separated into sessions. The whole day of events is free but seating is limited so be sure to reserve your spot at the sessions that interest you!

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

We've Got Gravitational Waves!

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM


It's a big day for physics as the existence of Albert Einstein's long-predicted gravitational waves has been confirmed.

The waves, first postulated by Einstein a century ago, are ripples in the fabric of space-time created by the collision of super-massive objects such as black holes.

Gizmodo has a primer on why this is a BFD in the world of physics:

The discovery of gravitational waves confirms an important aspect of the theory of relativity, but it does much more than that. Quite literally, it opens up a new chapter in our exploration of the cosmos, one where electromagnetic radiation is no longer our only tool for “seeing” the universe. As MIT astrophysicist Scott Hughes told Gizmodo in a phone interview, we can use gravitational waves to probe mysterious celestial objects like black holes and neutron stars, which typically no light.

“There’s a lot of rich information encoded in gravitational waves,” he said, noting that the shape of a spacetime ripple can tell us about the size and motion of the object that produced it. “As an astronomer, I try to think about how to go from the ‘sound’ of the waveform that LIGO measures, to the parameters that produce that waveform.”

ASU physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss played a big role in the discovery. ASU has a briefing on why it's a big deal:

Everything shifted this morning.

In the 100th-anniversary year of Einstein’s theory of relativity, scientists announced they have proved it.

Using a stunning display of technological prowess, a group of physicists measured gravitational waves, a ripple in the fabric of space caused by the collision of two immense objects far out in the universe.

The discovery is on par with the invention of the telescope, said Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State University.

“It heralds what I think is the beginning of the new astronomy for the 21st century,” Krauss said. “Gravitational-wave astronomy will be the astronomy of the 21st century. It’s opened a new window on the universe, just like the telescope in some sense or when we first used radio waves to explore the universe.”

Continue reading »

Monday, February 8, 2016

Another Extraordinary Snapshot From Astronaut Scott Kelly

Posted By on Mon, Feb 8, 2016 at 11:30 AM

Astronaut Scott Kelly, who is continuing his year in space aboard the International Space Station, delvers another extraordinary image via his Twitter feed.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Zona Politics: How Will Climate Change Affect the Oceans?

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 3:00 PM

ZonaPol2-4-16Fin_1_1 from Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel on Vimeo.

On this week's episode of Zona Politics: UA professor of geosciences Joellen Russell talks about how climate change is affecting the world's oceans. Then we talk with two writers who will be appearing at this year's Festival of Books: Kathryn Ferguson, author of The Haunting of the Mexican Border, and Margaret Regan, author of Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire. 

You can catch the show at 8 a.m. Sunday morning on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on DirecTV, Dish and broadcast. You can hear it at 5 p.m. Sundays on KXCI, 91.3 FM. And you can watch it online here or at

Here's a transcript of the show:

Hello, everyone. I'm Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel and we're here to talk Zona Politics. Today, we're once again highlighting the UA College of Science spring lecture series on climate change. Joining us in the studio is Joellen Russell, a U. of A. associate professor of geosciences, who specializes in studying the impacts of climate change on the world's oceans. Dr. Russell, welcome to Zona Politics.

(Russell) Thanks for having me.

(Nintzel) So what got you interested in studying the oceans?

Continue reading »

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