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2015 March

March 25, 2015

Atlantic Ocean Conveyor found to slow down…what does that mean ultimately?

Figure 1 of the article by Rahmstorf et al (2015) shows linear trends of surface temperature for 1901-2013, based on the temperature data of NASA GISS (white indicates insufficient data). Credit: Rahmstorf et al (2015)

Figure 1 of the article by Rahmstorf et al (2015) shows linear trends of surface temperature for 1901-2013, based on the temperature data of NASA GISS (white indicates insufficient data). Credit: Rahmstorf et al (2015)

The Atlantic Oceanic Conveyor (also called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation) is one of the Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Another common name is the Gulf Stream system due to its interaction with the Gulf of Mexico. The warm oceanic current connected to this system help bring tropical moisture toward the Americas from  the equatorial regions near Africa–which is the source of many hurricanes experienced here in the United States and the Caribbean islands. The currents become the Gulf Stream along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada before pushing on to Iceland and the British Isles as the North Atlantic Current which helps to temper climate from the extremes in that region.

Recent oceanographic data has shown some possible anomalies in water temperatures along parts of the system of currents. One possible reason for the cooler temperatures in near eastern Canada and Greenland has been a “slowdown” of the conveyor system due to the melt runoff (fresh water) from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Ocean current measurements and surface measurements have been supplemented by data from several different sources like ice cores, tree rings, coral, and ocean and lake sediments.

What this means ultimately is difficult to pinpoint exactly due to the data types gathered and the lack of long-term current temperature available, however, the situation could have lasting effects:

Disturbing the circulation will likely have a negative effect on the ocean ecosystem, and thereby fisheries and the associated livelihoods of many people in coastal areas. A slowdown also adds to the regional sea-level rise affecting cities like New York and Boston. Finally, temperature changes in that region can also influence weather systems on both sides of the Atlantic, in North America as well as Europe.

–Stefan Rahmsdorf, head author of the paper: Evidence for an exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning (2015).

If you would like to know more about this topic, check out the content links below:

March 20, 2015

A new mission for drones: Disaster relief

Destruction from Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines

By DFID – UK Department for International Development [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Originally posted at

When aid workers arrived after Typhoon Haiyan hit Southeast Asia in 2013, they brought something new to help the areas battered by rain and gale force winds: unmanned aerial drones.

One of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, Typhoon Haiyan left more than 6,000 people dead, and it destroyed vast swaths of roads — making it impossible for aid workers to reach people stranded in remote locations. So a few organizations started using drones to survey the landscape. The images they recorded helped aid workers locate missing persons and also create 2D and 3D maps to help community leaders understand the hardest hit areas.

“One of the big issues for us was to have imagery to look at,” Kate Chapman, executive director of open-source mapping project Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, said during a panel at the South by Southwest festival, which brings together techies, filmmakers and musicians. “Drones can take pictures at a very low cost.”

Typhoon Haiyan marked a milestone for drone use in disaster relief — the first full-scale use of UAVs to help locate victims and chart high-risk areas.

For more, check out this article at

March 18, 2015

USB-C vs. USB 3.1: What’s the difference

usb-c and 3.1

Article originally posted by

With the launch of the Apple MacBook and Google’s Chromebook Pixel, USB-C (also called USB Type-C) and the accompanying USB 3.1 standard are both hitting market somewhat earlier than we initially expected. If you’re curious about the two standards and how they interact, we’ve dusted off and updated our guide to the upcoming technology. The situation is more nuanced than it’s been with previous USB standard updates — USB 3.1 and USB Type-C connectors may be arriving together on the new machines, but they aren’t joined at the hip the way you might think.

For more, go to’s article.


March 12, 2015

IBM’s Watson learns how to cook

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 10.14.15 AM

IBM’s Watson supercomputer now has a food truck making its debut at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas this week. After winning Jeopardy in 2011 against two esteemed champions, Watson’s processing capacity was applied to how to analyze about 35,000 existing recipes and nearly 1,000 flavor compounds in order to make educated guesses on palatable and innovative flavor combinations. The process in the recipe design is simple, put in an ingredient, the type of dish, and a particular region, and Watson will create a bunch of recipes.

For more information, check out this article and associated video from The Verge.

March 5, 2015

Office 2016 for Mac looks and acts like its Windows counterpart (Finally!)

New Office 2016 Icons

Icons for the new Office for Mac 2016. Preview released today via Microsoft’s Office website.

It’s slowly approaching five years since Microsoft first released Office for Mac 2011 in October 2010. While a final version of Office 2016 for Mac isn’t ready just yet, Microsoft is announcing a preview program today for Mac users to get an early look at the company’s work. Microsoft has been doing some great work with Office, bringing it to the iPad, extending it to Dropbox, and even acquiring impressive apps like Acompli to power Office on iOS and Android. Office 2016 for Mac is the latest result of Microsoft’s focus on cross-platform apps, and it finally matches its Windows equivalent.

For more information on the preview program and new features, check out this article from The Verge.

Eiffel Tower takes a green step forward

Eiffel Tower Turbine View

Wind turbine installation on the Eiffel Tower overlooking the Champ de Mars.

The Eiffel Tower is a little greener today after the installation of two new wind turbines along its lower deck. The turbines–installed atop a second-level restaurant–will provide nearly 10,000kWh of power per year or enough power for the tower’s first-floor commercial areas. This is a relatively small step given the Eiffel Tower consumes nearly 6.7GWh per year, but it is good to start somewhere.

The most difficult part of the installation however was the restrictions regarding heavy equipment near the tower which meant contractors had to hoist every piece by hand with a series of ropes and pulleys. Additionally, the installation had to be done at night since the tower is open to the public every day until 11pm.

Not to take away from the silhouette of the tower, the turbines were painted to match the structure. Vibration dampeners were also installed as to not disturb patrons of the restaurant below. The turbines will only produces about 40 dB of sound or about the level of a soft whisper.

For more information on this installation, check out this photo essay from The Verge.

Rethinking the in-car display

Digital SpeedometersUstwo–the studio behind the mobile game, Monument Valley, is rethinking how in-car displays (fuel gauge, speedometer, gear position, etc.) are designed. Currently, many digital readouts or displays resemble their analog counterparts–also known as skeuomorphic design. The screen arrangement used in the initial brainstorm was based on the Mercedes-Benz S Class screen which features a high-definition LCD screen. One primary goal is to incorporate more context into a typical readout including weather conditions, maximum speed limits based on location, and notifications from mobile devices.

For more information and interactive examples of the prototypes, check out ustwo’s blog post.