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Here’s What It’s Like to Fly Into Hurricanes to Get Forecast Data For Science

Here's What It's Like to Fly Into Hurricanes to Get Forecast Data For Science 86

Before he heads to work, Jon Zawislak sometimes pops a ginger pill in his mouth to settle his stomach. He also prefers to stick to bland foods like pretzels and crackers before he gets to the office, because he wouldn’t want to hurl all over his desk.

Zawislak is a Hurricane Hunter.

He spends 8-hour long days soaring 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) in the air, collecting data on the wind, temperature, pressure, humidity, and rain falling inside big storms, where hurricane-force winds top 75 miles per hour (120 kilometres per hour).

While others on the ground are figuring out the best ways to avoid the eyes of these dangerous storms, he flies right into them.

“Aircraft are still the single best platform that we have to measure the state of a storm,” Zawislak told Business Insider.

“When it comes to the windfield, or the central pressure of the storm, that kind of data can only really come from an aircraft, and the instruments on the aeroplane.”

In the past week, he’s travelled through both Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Florence, collecting vital data that the National Hurricane Center uses to upgrade a storm’s category, or better track where it’s headed next.

What an 8 hour workday in the air is like

Hurricane hunting flights have been around for 75 years, ever since British fighter pilots essentially dared a US Colonel to fly directly into a storm during WWII.

Today, Zawislak says there are two critical devices on the Lockheed Martin WP-3D he flies in for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that help inform our National Hurricane Center forcasts.

First, there’s the plane’s on-board radar that measures wind and rain, and then there’s a little device that’s essentially a paper towel roll with a parachute on its back, called a dropsonde.

The dropsonde is a disposable instrument outfitted with a GPS receiver, as well as pressure, temperature and humidity sensors. The throw-away package gets stuffed out a window, and then sucked away from the plane.

Over the course of a typical 8 hour flight, a dropsonde operator might plop 20 of them down into a storm, everywhere from the eye to the very outer rim, to examine how the windfield changes at different locations and heights in the storm.

“It really allows us to profile the atmosphere, which is one of the most important things,” Zawislak said. “So we can see how the wind speed changes with height.”

All this information can dramatically shift how forecasters characterise a storm.

Take Zawislak’s Monday flight into Hurricane Florence, for instance. “It went from what looked like a category 2 hurricane, all the way to a category 4 hurricane, just because we had the aircraft,” he said.

Getting a job as a flying scientist

Zawislak, who holds a PhD in atmospheric science, has been working on both planes and unmanned drones that fly through hurricanes for roughly a decade.

As a Hurricane Field Program Director for NOAA, he is essentially in charge of a plane-sized research lab in the sky. He decides where the flight path will head to collect its best data, and makes sure the instruments on board are getting all the information they will need to answer key research questions in flight.

One of the biggest unanswered questions Zawislak still has about hurricanes is how they get so fierce, so fast. It’s still not well understood how storms organise and gather strength, developing from uneven messes of rain and light wind to powerful, swirling hurricanes that can rip through homes and pummel the shore with water.

It’s an important research question for Zawislak, because if he can better understand why and how the storms are intensifying, forcasts will improve.

Zawislak says he’s “not crazy,” he just wants to learn more about big storms

Zawislak tries to steer clear of greasy foods before he boards the plane, but he says that flying into a storm isn’t always a bumpy ride. In fact, inside the storm it can feel just like a commercial flight, with the seatbelt sign off and all.

The pilots Zawislak flies with (there are three of them in the cockpit) typically try to keep the plane level, for the sake of the instruments, and maintain a height of about 10,000 feet (3,000 metres).

“We have the best pilots, the best engineers, the best mechanics, this is the best-maintained aeroplane you can find,” he said.

Still, the turbulence inside the plane can be unnerving at times, even with a harness on.

“You have flights where you’re in moderate to severe turbulence for two to three hours,” Zawislak said.

Inside the eye of a big storm like Florence, things clear up. At its very inner core, a hurricane is a place of peace, surrounded by violent chaos. Hurricane hunters say it looks like a big stadium, clear and serene.

“It’s much bigger than any stadium you’ve been in,” Zawislak said. When he flew through the eye of Florence, as a category 4 storm, the center was more than 15 miles (24 kilometres) wide, and took four minutes to fly through.

Despite the fact that Zawislak has to muscle his stomach through several long and bumpy rainy joy rides every hurricane season, he still wants you to know that he’s not completely out of his mind for taking this job.

“We’re not crazy” he said, before boarding another flight into tropical storm Isaac.

“We are playing a humongous role in getting the information to the National Hurricane Center, so that they can tell the public how strong the storm is.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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Science & Technology

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear?

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 87

Various sources often talk about civilizations that lived long before us. They all developed, prospered for a while, and then disappeared in an incomprehensible way. 

What is the reason for their decline, we probably will not know. All we can do is admire the remains of stone buildings, over which time has almost no power.

While looking for an answer, we somehow accidentally stumbled upon an interesting saying about the life of Japanese samurai: “A samurai has no goal, but a path.” In the end, the “path of the samurai” ended in what is known – death. The path of any civilization ended in the same way.

If you look at the issue through the prism of a samurai saying, then there is no point in looking for why and how civilization ended its existence. Probably, the process itself and its result are important here. But to whom is it important and what result does it expect?

Mysterious director

Apparently, behind the curtains of this “ancient theater” there is a mysterious “director” who periodically makes necessary adjustments to the history of civilization.

To figure out what’s what, you need to look at current trends in science. Where does a person strive with such an irresistible desire to “play God.” This attracts him and at the same time frightens him, but in no way turns him away from the intended path. Most likely, artificial intelligence (AI) is the purpose of our civilization’s existence.

About 50 years ago it would have seemed nonsense, but to someone, perhaps even now. However, if you trace the last 100 years of the life of our civilization, you get the feeling that most of the discoveries were given to mankind at the same time. A powerful leap has taken place in a hundred years. Why did it happen?

At the beginning of the last century, scientists recognized the existence of fields that have memory and the ability to store and transmit information. It is very likely that such or a similar field can be around the Earth and, more interesting, possess intelligence. Isn’t this the same “Director” hiding behind the screen of the “ancient theater”?

If this is so, then at a certain moment the “Director” gives the selected scientist “access” to certain knowledge (perhaps even in a dream, like Mendeleev), and another scientific breakthrough occurs in the world. Step by step, discovery after discovery, humanity is steadily moving towards the creation of AI. The trend is already well visible.

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 88

AI is probably the next “Babylon”, which will combine all the knowledge, culture and accumulated experience of civilization. In the future, the neural network will enter into a connection with the general information field and leave humanity without knowledge, technology, and even a spoken language. This will be the next decline of civilization. And the “Director” will receive another array of new data (experience) in order to start creating a new civilization.

If someone believes that past civilizations ended in large-scale conflicts, then most likely this is already the consequences of “turning off” AI.

Co-founder of Skype talked about the threat of AI to humanity

One of the creators of the Skype internet call service, Jaan Ta

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 89
Photo: 
© still from the movie “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

llinn, said that the development of artificial intelligence (AI) threatens humanity. According to him, humans face three key threats, but it is AI that should be feared most of all, the expert said. 

Tallinn explained that at the moment, no one can predict what development AI will achieve in the next decades. In addition, the fact that scientists are creating artificial intelligence that can form a new AI without human intervention is also a cause for concern.

In addition, as the co-founder of the popular video calling service noted, the development of synthetic biology also causes concern. According to him, this direction in science allows the creation of artificial DNA sequences and biological systems that may not exist in nature.

Tallinn also drew attention to the fact that he fears we are entering an era of “unknown unknowns”, things that people are not even able to imagine right now.

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Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented

Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented 90
Copyright: © VW

The renowned German car manufacturer announced a new development. This time, engineers have created a unique robot capable of autonomously charging electric vehicles. 

For more than a year, specialists have been developing this project, but only now the concern was ready to demonstrate the first working prototype. The robot is ready to charge electric vehicles and has shown the high efficiency of this process.

It is called the Mobile Charging Robot, and experts have already compared it to the R2-D2 droid from Star Wars, including squeaks and clangs. Indeed, there is a similarity. Before implementing this idea, the engineers decided that robots should be allowed to charge cars parked in large residential complexes.

This will save their owners from leaving in order to find a gas station. Another advantage is that large parking lots and garages do not have to contain several expensive charging points for electric cars. The car company said in a press release that the robot works exclusively autonomously.

It independently controls and interacts with the vehicle being charged. It opens the cover of the charging socket and independently connects the power plug, then disconnects it. The robot looks like a trailer, which is a mobile energy storage.

It is capable of charging multiple electric vehicles at the same time. Despite the fact that the manufacturer confidently praises its concept, experts saw inefficiency in the fact that first it is necessary to charge the robot’s battery, which is then used to recharge electric cars.

Volkswagen Group Components CEO Thomas Schmall noted that creating an efficient charging infrastructure for the cars of the future is an important step in the company’s development.

Its engineers focus on finding solutions to avoid costly do-it-yourself measures. The mobile robot is only part of the concept that will continue to be developed.

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This video will forever change the way you think about time

This video will forever change the way you think about time 91

Business Insider, one of the world’s leading news portals, made a three-minute video that depicted the Earth’s timeline as a journey from Los Angeles to New York.

So, the beginning of the journey is 4.54 billion years ago, when the Earth was formed from the accumulation of gases and stardust. After some time, a significant event occurs – a giant space body crashes into the still not cooled Earth, as a result of which the breakaway part becomes its satellite – the Moon.

Further, the route runs through the mountains of Arizona, formed about 3.95 billion years ago. A few more kilometers to the east and we are at the 3.8 billion year mark. This is where the first evidence of life in the form of replicating molecules appears.

The next “stop” Kansas – 2.7 billion years ago. Cyanobacteria that produce oxygen appeared on Earth. It took the next 200 million years for the atmosphere of our planet to accumulate sufficient reserves of this most important gas.

Halfway through, we reach Pennsylvania. We are separated from it “only” by 660 million years. Life is developing rapidly: the Earth is covered with vegetation, amphibians are evolving. Unusual time travel is coming to an end – to the point “Now”. By the time the dinosaurs become extinct, we finally reach the outskirts of New York.

And where is the most important thing – people? To find out, you need to carve out three minutes and watch the entire video.

Source: Business Insider

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