Sorry, I forgot to include the link to the US Drought Monitor in yesterday’s blog post. Here it is. Also here is the Wisconsin image. Notice the severe drought area shrinking, leaving most of our area in moderate drought. With another chance of rain late today and a couple chances next week, hopefully we will see these areas of drought shrink even more. One thing I am hopeful for is full streams, rivers, and reservoirs. So many wetland areas have been so dry over the last few years. It is about time water levels start returning to normal. Maybe this is the year. I am also looking forward to more moisture this year in order to produce a better crop of berries. Blackberry picking has been rough lately. I haven’t seen a bumper crop since 2002.
Other than a slight risk of severe storms this evening, the only threat from mother nature over the next few days will be frost Sunday morning. Temps could even drop below freezing in town. I will be taking my sensitive plants inside.
A couple more news items I was unable to get to yesterday: While all the news in on the repair of Hubble, Herschel and Planck launched on Wednesday without much fanfare. It was a risky launch because both satellites were launched on the same rocket. Could you imagine the disappointment if the rocket crashed. Both of these satellites are important instruments for science, studying the early origins of the universe and galaxies. Another satellite that has begun operation is Kepler. It could bring some very exciting news in coming months as it is searching for extrasolar planets. Here is Kepler’s first image.
Hubble, Kepler, Herschel, and Planck will likely deliver exciting data and new insights over the next few years. The successful launches (and repairs) are a bright spot for space enthusiasts and hopefully dull the pain of hearing that NASA might abandon plans for a moon base. This was not too much of a surprise to me considering the US debt and budget deficit. Human space exploration is fairly low on the budget totem pole right now.
Despite declining space budgets, you’ll be happy to know that scientists have devised several ways to protect the earth from a deadly asteroid strike. The top 6 proposals are listed here. Ultimately, the only way for humans to survive existential threats is to spread out through space. Remaining on the planet earth is a precarious situation for society as a whole.
Lastly in the space category, another Lunar X-Prize competitor I forgot to mention earlier in the week – Astrobiotic. They have much bigger plans than winning the Lunar X-Prize. They plan future exploration elsewhere in the solar system.
I was planning on a big AGW post today, but there is just too much to cover, so it will have to wait until next week. Instead, how about an update on LED lighting. If you remember back to early 2008, I was quite excited to hear about a potential product offering from Polybrite. It was an LED lightbulb that fit in a regular light socket. I titled a blog post about it: “A True Revolution in Lighting”. It would have been a revolution if the price would have come down. I tried to contact the CEO of the company to find out what happened but I got no answer. All I can figure is that they could not find a partner to mass-manufacture the bulb and thus the price ended up too high for the retail market. They wanted to sell the bulb for $15. Instead, you can buy it online for $50. Yikes! No wonder it is not in Menards or Walmart. Despite this failure to deliver by Polybrite, the industry as a whole continues to make advancements.
- LEDs built with a shroud of quantum dots emit light that is much closer to real sunlight. The bulb looks great, but costs about $100. The manufacturers want to get it down to $65, but that is still probably not viable in today’s economy.
- Non-blinking nanocrystals could make for brighter LED lighting.
- Exciton polaritons show promisein making cheaper and more efficient lasers and LEDs.
Have a good weekend. Meteorologist Justin Loew.
Posted under Alternative Energy, Drought, Science, Space
This post was written by jloew on May 15, 2009