All posts by Our Planet

How many great minds does it take to invent a telescope?

On 11 January 1672, the Fellows of the British Royal Society were treated to a demonstration of Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope, which formed images with mirrors rather than with the lenses that had been used since the time of Galileo. Afterward, the fellows hailed Newton as the inventor of this marvelous new instrument, an attribution that sticks to the present. However, this linear historical account obscures a far more interesting, convoluted story. Newton’s claim was immediately challenged on behalf of two other contenders, James Gregory, and Laurent Cassegrain. More confounding, the earliest known concept of using a curved mirror to focus light predated Newton by more than 1,500 years; the final realisation of a practical reflecting telescope post-dated him by more than a half century.

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7 Challenges All Big Cities Will Face in Future

Hong Kong, New York, London, Tokyo, and Paris – all of these cities are quite unique yet same in so many regards. They represent technological, social and infrastructural hubs of what is commonly referred to as a modern human society. No matter what background, professional experience or connections you may or may not have, chances are that something new waits in each of these cities – and that is a problem.

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We can begin an interstellar mission today – and we should

Fifty-five years ago, Yuri Gagarin rocketed into orbit and began to break our bonds to our planet. To mark the occasion, the nonprofit Breakthrough Institute just announced plans to free us from an even more formidable set of bonds and send a fleet of small spacecraft beyond our solar system, off to the stars. News of the ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ plan was met with great enthusiasm, but also with more than a little skepticism. The distance between stars is vast. Our closest neighbour, the Alpha Centauri system, is 4.4 light years away – roughly 25 trillion miles. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, the fastest object ever created by humans, would take 70,000 years to travel that far. Many reporters greeted the Breakthrough Starshot as an idea grounded more in fantasy than in reality.

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Why We Need to Overcome Our Fear of AI

By Morgen Henderson

Futurists and technology advocates, including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates, often warn about the imminent dangers artificial intelligence poses to humanity. Many of these soothsayers ask we harken their cries of existential risk unless we wish to chance an intelligence explosion. They claim such an event, often dubbed the Singularity, could create a superintelligent computer, leading to human enslavement via the likes of Skynet, from the Terminator franchise, or HAL 9000, from Space Odyssey.

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Why We Need to Trust Technology to Fight Climate Change

By Morgen Henderson

Based on the Paris Climate Agreement, more than 6,000 cities, states, and provinces in dozens of countries must drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to save life as we know it. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report foretells an inhospitable Earth unless we achieve this monumental undertaking.

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Environmental Impacts of Saving Energy at Home

With constant reports of record-breaking heat waves, increased hurricane activity, and deadly winter storms caused by climate change, it can seem hopeless to change course as an individual. Dire warnings about climate change can certainly be discouraging, but making an impact all by yourself isn’t impossible. Even if saving the world isn’t your thing, being environmentally conscious also tends to save you quite a bit of cash. So, how can you help the planet by saving energy at home?

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The Artform of Teaching Science in the 21st Century

As a new or perhaps even veteran teacher, it can be tricky finding the right resources to rely on when it comes to certain subjects – particularly, science. As educators, our main goal is to not only teach students new and stimulating things about the world but to better prepare them for the rest of their education career.

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How Cities Will Evolve to Become More Sustainable

Increasing environmental sustainability has become an important topic both on the minds of many individuals and in the media. This is for good reason – recently, studies have starkly illuminated the impact of climate change and the role humans play in increasing global temperatures. With sobering consequences such as drought and more severe weather patterns, an increased number of people have started to consider how they can become more sustainable. In this global shift, many cities are moving to become more sustainable and decrease negative impacts on the environment. Although the level of involvement varies by city and country, an evolution is occurring as cities implement improved infrastructure and policies to become more sustainable.

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What Happens to the “Space Junk” that Falls back to Earth?

In 1908, a flaming meteor fell through the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded above the Stony Tunguska river in the Siberian forest. The result was shocking: 80 million trees over 820 square miles were blown over like toothpicks and mankind began to fear destruction from outer space. A century later, it seems this fear should be focused not on natural objects from the heavens. Rather, a greater danger to man is the man-made debris orbiting the earth. This “space junk” threatens the Earth’s environment in several ways.

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