Even 15 years after the release of “Good Will Hunting,” there remains something appealing about watching the title character, a mathematically inclined janitor at MIT, scribble the solution to an unsolved mathematics problem on a hallway blackboard. In reality, there are a number of unsolved problems in mathematics, seven of which were designated in 2000 by the Clay Mathematics Institute as “Millennium Prize Problems,” each with a purse of $1,000,000. To date, only one has been solved.
One source of young talent to carry the military’s proposals and technologies into the future will come from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where Lt. Cmdr. John Woods, an oceanography professor, specializes in sea-ice studies. Woods recently launched a polar science program, supported by the academy’s STEM Office, which he hopes will convey to students an understanding of sea-ice dynamics — how ice is thinning and what’s causing it to thin.
Arctic sea ice is already significantly declining in both extent and thickness, and impacts of the decline are evident. New shipping lanes in the Northwest Passage have been passable for ship traffic during summer months for the last two years, and an increasingly accessible Arctic is attracting increased interest. Shipping companies, entrepreneurs, scientists and tourists, however, are not the only ones looking north; militaries around the world, including the U.S. Navy, also have an interest. To that end, the Navy has created a task force and employed a corps of geoscientists to help develop a roadmap for expected future Arctic operations.
In 1918, the Spanish flu spread around the world, claiming between 50 million and 100 million lives — more than 3 percent of the world’s population. The previous fall and winter, La Niña had brought cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures to the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. More recently in 2009, swine flu swept across the planet. Again, the widespread outbreak was preceded by La Niña conditions. This link might be more than coincidental, according to new research, and could lead to improved predictions of future pandemics.
Valery Lukin, director of the Russian Antarctic program, confirmed today that a team of Russian scientists has completed an Antarctic drilling project two decades in the making, according to the Associated Press. The team finished drilling on Feb. 5 through 3.25 kilometers of ice to reach Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial lake in the world.
A mineral assessment milestone confirms world-class resources
Each donning about 10 kilograms of protective gear, including helmets and Kevlar, scientists trudged up the rugged, rocky volcanic terrain of southern Afghanistan, slowing now and then to catch an extra breath of thin air. Some carried guns. Others carried rock hammers.
In 2009, we saw a number of changes on Earth. The average global ocean surface temperature last summer was the warmest on record. Thin seasonal ice has recently replaced thick older ice as the dominant type of ice in the Arctic. And scientists saw that despite a quiet sun with few sunspots, Earth can continue to be bombarded with a high level of solar energy.
Researchers flying over West Antarctica last month were at the right place at the right time, spotting an actively growing rift that they expect will spawn an iceberg about 10 times the size of Manhattan.