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Happy New Year to the Planet!

I decided to do something new to start the New Year. I translated a podcast from a program called Geopolitics on France Inter written by Anthony Bellanger. You can listen to the original French version here.

I like the text since it is quite optimistic and it summarizes the progresses that we have made over the past 50 years. The world is not perfect yet, but it is indeed a better place.

IrisAO_wishes02

Are there any reasons to wish people a Happy New Year 2015?


I believe there are many and would like to explain why.

First: our health. Never have so many people all over the world been so healthy and well cared for.

It may seem strange to say that when nearly 8,000 people have died of Ebola in West Africa in recent months, and when the epidemic is far from defeated—yet it’s true.

Over the last half century , the infant mortality rate has fallen by two-thirds and the average human lifespan has increased by twenty years and continues to grow. Better yet, the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor countries is narrowing year by year.

Thanks to modern medicine, diseases that decimated entire populations throughout history are almost eradicated. The number of polio cases, for example, has fallen by 99% since 1988.

Between 2000 and 2015, the number of global malaria cases has dropped in half thanks to a global mobilization against the disease. Even AIDS, which appeared only 30 years ago, is now tested for and treated all over the world.

What about hunger and education?

Here, too, things are looking up. Hunger around the world declines annually. Since the early 90s — only 25 ago! — the percentage of undernourished people around the world has fallen by half.

The great famines that killed tens of thousands of people in the 1980s — in Ethiopia, for example —have disappeared. The world is better organized than ever and extremely efficient at delivering emergency medical and food aid when and where it is needed.

On the education front, results are even more impressive: In only 10 years, school enrollment for boys and girls has increased from 84 to 89% in primary grades and 60 to 73% in secondary grades. Around the world, three out of four children go to school until they are at least 14 years old!

We see similar improvements in the area of extreme poverty, which has fallen by 50 percent since 1990. This is unheard of in human history.

What is the source of this improvement?

We all are! Despite what we may hear or say, international institutions — the UN, NGOs and many others —work effectively: they treat, train, vaccinate, feed and intervene anywhere in the world where they are needed.

Even freedom is rising: in the last half century, the number of democratic states has tripled, and half the world’s population now lives under this type of government which — though often imperfect — is a unique achievement in human history.

So yes, one may wish people a Happy New Year, knowing that there will be wars, massacres, and many other disasters but also knowing that we have never been better educated, cared for and nurtured than we are in 2015.

The long, low dune

ESP_038615_1665_1.0xA piece of Mars: A long, low dune covered in long, linear ripples stretches across the scene (600×450 m; 1969×1476 ft). Dark gray areas on the dune show where sand has most recently moved. A small slip face has formed on the southeast side of the dune, but ripples have formed on it, so there haven’t been any recent avalanches here. (ESP_038615_1665, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Wind, wind, impact(!), and then more wind…

ESP_038918_1650_0.437xA piece of Mars: Some time ago, something hit the ground on Mars and made this impact crater, right into a field of ripples. Stuff thrown up during the impact fell back down, burying the ripples with the gray ejecta rays that radiate from the crater. But the wind kept blowing, and in some places you can see where new ripples have formed on top of the ejecta. That’s Mars for you: wind, wind, wind, impact(!), more wind… (HiRISE ESP_038918_1650, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

AGU Fall Meeting 2014: Solar System Small Bodies: Relics of Formation and New Worlds to Explore

Can you believe it is December already!? As usual, it is a busy month with the AGU Fall Conference.  I co-organized a session on small solar system bodies with Padma Yanamandra-Fisher (PSI)  and Julie Castillo (JPL).  We will talk about recent discoveries in this emerging field including the discovery of rings around Chariklo, the understanding of regolith motion on asteroids, the new lander for Hayabusa 2 (MASCOT) and off course adaptive optics observations of asteroids. Below more info. See you there!

Where: Thursday, December 18, 2014 01:40 PM – 03:40 PM
When: Moscone West 3002

Why: The composition and physical properties of Small Solar System Bodies (SSSBs), remnants of the formation of planets, are key to better understand the origins of our solar system and their potential as resources is necessary for robotic and human exploration. Missions such as ESA/Gaia, NASA/OSIRIS-REx, JAXA/Hyabusa-2, NASA/Dawn and NASA/New Horizons, to study asteroids, comets, dwarf planets and TNOs are poised to provide new in situ information. on SSSBs.  Recent remote observations of bright and main belt comets; asteroid Chariklo, with its ring system; asteroid and KBO binaries illustrate that the distinction between comets and asteroids is blurred, providing a new paradigm for such classification. This session welcomes abstracts on the remarkable results bringing information on the internal structure and composition of SSSBs based on space and ground-based data, numerical models, as well as instrument/mission concepts in theprospect of future exploration.

Artistic representation of the triple asteroid system showing the large 270-km asteroid Sylvia surrounded by its two satellites, Romulus and Remus. The differentiated interior of the asteroid is shown through a cutaway diagram. The primary asteroid of the system may have a dense, regularly-shaped core, surrounding by a fluffy or fractured material. The two moons are shown to be strongly elongated, and composed of two lobes, as suggested by the recently observed occultation data by the satellite Romulus. (credits: D. Futselaar & F. Marchis)

Artistic representation of the triple asteroid system showing the large 270-km asteroid Sylvia surrounded by its two satellites, Romulus and Remus. The differentiated interior of the asteroid is shown through a cutaway diagram. The primary asteroid of the system may have a dense, regularly-shaped core, surrounding by a fluffy or fractured material. The two moons are shown to be strongly elongated, and composed of two lobes, as suggested by the recently observed occultation data by the satellite Romulus. (credits: D. Futselaar & F. Marchis)

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Aeolian shoreline

ESP_038799_1590_1.0xA piece of Mars: On the left is a steep slope leading to a hill. On the right are waves – but not waves of water or any other kind of liquid. These are dunes or very large ripples, blown by the wind into intricate patterns. Sharp eyes might spy boulders that have rolled downslope into this “sea” – there’s even a dotted track that one boulder made as it went. Can you find the boulder? (HiRISE ESP_038799_1590, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Inverted crater

ESP_038309_1870_0.501xA piece of Mars: This circular hill is 200 m (~656 ft) across and ~48 m (~160 ft) high. It stands alone on a relatively flat plain. Why is it there? The surface here used to be ~48 m higher than it is now – on that old surface, a crater formed. The crater was filled in by sediment. And then the surrounding terrain was eroded away by the wind (that’s a whole lot of stuff to be removed over time!). What’s left is the old crater fill, but one day it too will be blown away. (HiRISE ESP_038309_1870, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

MAHLI landscapes

0817MH0003250050301497E01I just… felt like putting up a pretty picture from MAHLI, the microscopic imager on Curiosity. This is image 0817MH0003250050301497E01_DXXX, taken Nov. 23, 2014 (sol 817). The camera mainly takes closeup images of rocks, but it’s also good for a quick landscape shot. You can see where the camera was pointing here.

Panda stripe dustslides

ESP_038387_1855_1.0xA piece of Mars: This 600×450 m (1969×1476 ft) scene of a hillside shows new, dark dustslides that slid downhill (to the lower left). Faint stripes of older dustslides are visible, covered by bright dust and small ripples. Thousands of these form every year on Mars, stretching several kilometers downslope – there is nothing quite like this here on Earth! (HiRISE ESP_038387_1855, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Textured gullies

ESP_038389_1105_0.501xA piece of Mars. These are gullies on a martian hillside (upslope is to the upper right). Water may be what forms the channels, carrying soil and rocks downslope. The textured pattern of the lower slope is caused by the wind forming ripples on loose sediment that has been transported partway down the hill. (HiRISE ESP_038389_1105, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Earth and Mars: Twins or Siblings?

The intensive exploration of Mars is yielding a large amount of data about its properties and its past. However, two great enigmas are yet to be explained: what caused this planet to be different from planet Earth? Is there or has there been any biological activity on the Red Planet? Particularly revealing is the comparative study of both planets.

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