Friday, May 17, 2019

Cloud Seeding Creates Potential for Humans to Control the Weather

The general goal of cloud seeding is to find some way of converting the supercooled droplets of liquid water in a cloud to ice crystals to ultimately increase precipitation, disperse clouds and fog as well as suppress hail and lightning.

In 2008, crowds filled Beijing National Stadium, anxiously awaiting their teams to flood out of the gates at precisely 8:00pm. At the Olympic Opening ceremony, there was no room for any error. Looming just above this magnanimous event was the threat of a thunderstorm.  

The Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau fired 1,104 rain dispersal rockets from 21 sites in the city between 4:00 pm and 11:39pm. This presumably allowed for the ceremony to proceed without any weather disturbances while heavy rain was reported in areas surrounding Beijing.

How did they manage to save the event? The answer – Cloud seeding.

Cloud seeding is essentially dispersing particles into clouds to alter their physical processes happening on a microscale.

A common physical characteristic that is affected is relative humidity (i.e. the ratio of the partial pressure of water vapor in the cloud to the equilibrium vapor pressure of water at the given temperature - when relative humidity is at 100%, precipitation occurs).

Different seeding agents and means of deployment have to be selected depending on the desired effect, the temperature of the cloud as well as a multitude of other factors.

The seeding agents used alter microphysical processes within the cloud, for example by providing additional condensation / ice nuclei or altering relative humidity by introducing hygroscopic particles.

Solid carbon dioxide (dry ice) and silver iodide have proven most effective but only when used in supercooled clouds (i.e. clouds with water droplets at below freezing temperatures), they form nuclei around which the water droplets evaporate. The resulting water vapour deposits into ice crystals. In clouds at temperatures above freezing, calcium chloride particles provide the condensation nucleii around which raindrops form.

Cloud seeding has been used since the 1950s to increase rain and snowfall in the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada and other mountainous areas of the United States. Although there isn’t concrete data on its effectivity, a 2014 study examining two Wyoming mountain ranges found that cloud seeding could increase snowfall by 5 - 15 percent but only when the right conditions were met. Another cloud seeding project in Nevada claims their project increased snowpack by up to 10 percent which they have translated to 80,000 more acre-feet a year of water - enough to sustain about 150,000 households. However, the proposed number for an increase in snowfall is still within the natural variation of storms, leading back to the deduction that there is no concrete data on its effectivity.

There have also been other concerns regarding the safety of this process; some claim that this weather manipulation can amplify drought conditions in one area or increase the risk of floods in another, but due to inconsistent effectivity data, these claims have yet to be proven. The effects on health of the supplementary exposure to silver iodide is also a posed concern, however, scientists found that seeding did in fact add some silver iodide to the surrounding water/soil but far too little to pose a known threat to human health.

There is way too much that is not known about cloud seeding to definitively conclude whether or not the practice should be continued. All we know that it can possibly stop the weather from raining on your next parade.

A mini-biography on Elon Musk

Elon Musk is an individual who has dominated tech news in recent years. He is also known for his eccentric personality and online persona, utilizing Twitter very frequently. So just who is Elon Musk?

Elon Musk was born in South Africa to a family with its roots in Canada and the United States. Musk would go on to study at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, before settling in the United States. Since then, he has co-founded many successful companies such as Paypal and Tesla, Inc., and sits on many boards of directors. Notably, Musk is the founder and CEO for both SpaceX and Tesla, Inc., both of which have been making headlines in recent years for their technological accomplishments.

SpaceX is a company whose goal is to send a human colony to Mars in order to reduce the risk of overpopulation on Earth. They design, manufacture, and launch advanced rockets and spacecraft. Their notable achievements include launching supply rockets to the International Space Station and launching incredible space vehicles such as Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and the Dragon.

Tesla, Inc. is a car and energy manufacturer mostly known for their high-class electric vehicles. These vehicles are created in an effort to minimize global warming through reduced CO2 emissions. Their most famed vehicles include the Model S, Model 3, and Model X. The company is also in the process of creating a semi-trailer truck known as the Tesla Semi. In addition to vehicles, Tesla produces and sells solar panels, solar tiles, and batteries designed for home energy storage. Unlike SpaceX, Tesla, Inc. is a public corporation, traded publicly on the NASDAQ under the ticker TSLA.

In addition, Musk has been known for his philanthropy and environmental governance through his charity, the Musk Foundation, and his push for action on climate change.

For more information, check out the SpaceX website and Tesla, Inc. website

Info sourced from Forbes, SpaceX, Tesla Inc

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Production of Heavy Elements via Collapsars

The gold in your jewelry and the uranium powering nuclear reactors might seem entirely unrelated. However, in a paper published in Nature, two astrophysicists suggest that many of the heavy elements found throughout the universe are created as a result of a collapsar, a rare kind of supernova.

Collapsars occur when a rapidly-rotating, high-mass star collapses into a black hole, causing the outer layers to explode in a supernova. As the star dies, its core undergoes a catastrophic gravitational collapse resulting in the formation of a black hole, leading to the supernova explosion of the outer shell. Then, the remnants of the star fall into orbit around the black hole, creating a vortex of high-energy lighter elements. In this extreme scenario, the conditions are right enough to allow a nuclear process known as the r-process take place, causing many of the heavy elements of the universe to form.

It was previously thought that the majority of elements formed via the r-process were a result of neutron star mergers. Nonetheless, a recent analysis of the galactic abundance of one of these r-process elements, europium, seems to indicate that a different mechanism was supplying the universe with the multitude of heavy elements we see today.

The authors of this study identify collapsars as a likely source. In fact, over 80% of r-process elements could be formed via collapsar-catalyzed nuclear reactions. Although collapsars are much rarer than neutron star mergers, they produce a much greater quantity of these r-process elements, explaining  why they create the majority of heavy elements in the universe.

Read the official research paper here:

Monday, May 13, 2019