Tech & Science
Technology and Science news from Boulder, Colorado
Watch Boulder Channel 1 at the Boulder Creek Fest this year, we have 3 separate broadcasts that take place at various times and locations throughout this Memorial Day weekend event, some live, some recorded and lots of things to watch from this and previous years that we have been to this always fun, annual event in Boulder. Sit Back and enjoy the show, and if your up to it, stop by the Boulder Channel 1 booth in media row.
First of all we are not exactly a start up. We are more an old school OG Boulder entrepreneurial company. That is to say Brad Feld and David Cohen didn’t invent the entrepreneurial movement here in Boulder. They joined it in the 90s and capitalized on it. Yes they are modern day Gurus, but Boulder has 100′s of gurus. Boulder’s entreperurship started in the late 1800s during the Colorado Gold rush and it never stopped.
So old timer tech entrepreneurs look at Feld , Cohen and Polis with some bemusement. They’ve seen it all before. This new hippy feel good neo communist business start up scene was really started by Moe Segal and the natural foods biz heads of the 1960s and 70′s. One CU business professor scoffed at the notion of Start Ups. ” Most of it is junk” he said. ” One or 2 out of 100 will be swallowed up by the VCs and make it to market but the other 98 will fail. So this is nothing new and Brad Feld is not that special.” he said.
And this is where I’d like to pick up. So what did we at Boulder Channel 1 do during this years Boulder Start Up Week. ?
We kept working that’s what we did. Part of our work was to send out sales reps to various event s to see where there was an opportunity to make some money by selling our services. What?? yep. We were looking for advertising clients, We were not looking for funding an angel or a VC. But we were looking to deal. We were selling. Overtly and not so overtly. We were looking for one $20,000 client for a year. One advertiser who needed banner ads, video, sm, pr, design, a show series, a web site and who wanted consumers from Boulder to buy their goods. We were on the hunt. We set a goal and went after it. That’s what start Up Week Boulder meant to us. No bullshit. No drinking. No fucking around. No chasing millionaires. Just hard work. Sales.
Did we land anyone. Yep we did. Two. we made $40,000 bucks this week off of Boulder Start Up week from two companies who wanted our services….. who needed our service… and who did not want to be dicked around by a bunch of drunks who are playing at business.
There is a lesson here for those of you who want to be serious business people. ( We have been successfully in business since 1975 here in Boulder. Like everyone else who digs this city, it only keeps getting better) We live in Utopia and we don’t take it for granted. We are truly blessed
What do we do to give back to Boulder?? We have been here for a long long time. We are established and have roots. we give cash to 30 different Boulder charities who help feed and clothe people. We produce videos for free for any non profit. We don’t charge non profits. We mentor homeless techies who need a hand up. We mentor kids of impoverished families.
Jann Scott is the CEO of Channel 1 Networks
Boulder start Up week is developing from an elitist all white college aged “new entrepreneurial vision of neo -com American business run by wine and coffee snobs” to something that the city of Boulder has endorsed and made an official event. In it’s early days BSUW was an invite, register only press censored event. Much of it was low on substance and high on partying. Don’t get us wrong Boulder start Up week is still a week long drinking convention for 20 and early 30 somethings, but it now has to conform to city strict Human rights policies. Read. It is now open to the public, press and the homeless.
Some of the more serious presentations for entrepreneurs are held by Metzger and Associates and the Boulder Chamber who bring in qualified mentors to actually assist aspiring Start Ups. Yet the week is an overt promotion to attract tech companies to Boulder. Look at the schedule of events and much of it partying drinking. Boulder has a huge rep for drinking drugging and partying in the start Up scene and for those looking for that, you won’t be disappointed. Yet, the schedule has tons of events and with a discerning eye you are bound to find something useful.
“What is Boulder Startup Week?
Each May, we throw a 5-day event that showcases the unique startup culture of Boulder. No registration required. You’ll find meetups, coffee shop pow-wows, the largest Ignite in the world, parties, drinks, food, hikes, bike rides, sun, and good people.
Wednesday is the official launch of Boulder Startup Week 2013. People from across the Front Rage will be flocking to Boulder to get a taste of the entrepreneurial culture and what it means to get an idea off the ground.
Here is Boulder start Up week Schedule
Maybe you’re in search of a co-founder. Maybe you need workshops to help your ideas to take shape.
Maybe you just need beer.mWhatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it over the five-day span of this year’s Boulder Startup Week. We’ve created a dang-near definitive go-to guide to help you get the most out of the week. Buckle up and let’s go.
Looking for a gig? There’s an entire listing of who’s hiring.
Need the schedule? You can access each day’s events right here.
Want to attend an event? Each event on the calendar has an Eventbrite link. BE SURE TO REGISTER. Many events are beyond full at this point. While some don’t have max capacities, some do. Be sure to check the Eventbrite link on each event before you just show up.Going to Ignite Boulder on the 15th? It’s sold out. Be glad you scored tickets. If you need tickets, sending out a tweet can sometimes help as can standing in front of the Boulder Theater to snag a spare from people who have already bought tickets and have a spare.Need to get to Boulder Startup Week? Catch the Uber Express Bus. The bus schedule is right here. Buses are running multiple times per day between Denver and Boulder to make it easy.Have you registered to attend Boulder Beta? Well, why not? It’s kinda the big shindig of the whole week. Tickets are $15 and available here.Need to feed? Nearly every day features breakfast and lunch sessions, sponsored by some of the coolest startups in Boulder. Be sure to say thank you as you breeze by and grab that pancake, breakfast burrito, or lunchtime taco-and-beer.For more information, stop by the Boulder Startup Week popuptent on Pearl Street. See you there!
some information was gathered from Erica Napalatono and Boulder Startup website
Lenses shaped like the bulging, bowl-shaped eyes possessed by dragonflies, praying mantises, houseflies and other insects can take exceptionally wide-angle photos without distorting the image.
To create the innovative camera, which also allows for a practically infinite depth of field, the scientists used stretchable electronics and a pliable sheet of microlenses made from a material similar to that used for contact lenses. The researchers described the camera in an article published today in the journal Nature.
Conventional wide-angle lenses, such as fisheyes, distort the images they capture at the periphery, a consequence of the mismatch of light passing through a hemispherically curved surface of the lens only to be captured by the flat surface of the electronic detector.
For the digital camera described in the new study, the researchers were able to create an electronic detector that can be curved into the same hemispherical shape as the lens, eliminating the distortion.
“The most important and most revolutionizing part of this camera is to bend electronics onto a curved surface,” said Jianliang Xiao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at CU-Boulder and co-lead author of the study. “Electronics are all made of silicon, mostly, and silicon is very brittle, so you can’t deform the silicon. Here, by using stretchable electronics we can deform the system; we can put it onto a curved surface.”
Creating a camera inspired by the compound eyes of arthropods — animals with exoskeletons and jointed legs, including all insects as well as scorpions, spiders, lobsters and centipedes, among other creatures — has been a sought-after goal. Compound eyes typically have a lower resolution than the eyes of mammals, but they give arthropods a much larger field of view than mammalian eyes as well as high sensitivity to motion and an infinite depth of field.
Compound eyes consist of a collection of smaller eyes called ommatidia, and each small eye is made up of an independent corneal lens as well as a crystalline cone, which captures the light traveling through the lens. The number of ommatidia determines the resolution and varies widely among arthropods. Dragonflies, for example, have about 28,000 tiny eyes while worker ants have only in the neighborhood of 100.
Imitating the corneal lens-crystalline cone pairings, the camera created by Xiao and his colleagues has 180 miniature lenses, each of which is backed with its own small electronic detector. The number of lenses used in the camera is similar to the number of ommatidia in the compound eyes of fire ants and bark beetles.
The electronics and the lenses are both flat when fabricated, said Xiao, who began working on the project as a postdoctoral researcher in John Roger’s lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This allows the product to be manufactured using conventional systems.
“This is the key to our technology,” Xiao said. “We can fabricate an electronic system that is compatible with current technology. Then we can scale it up.”
The lens sheet and the electronics sheet are integrated together while flat and then molded into a hemispherical shape afterward. Each individual electronic detector and each individual lens do not deform, but the spaces between the detectors and lenses can stretch and allow for the creation of a new 3-D shape. The electronic detectors are all attached with serpentine filament bridges, which are not compromised as the material stretches and bends.
In the pictures taken by the new camera, each lens-detector pairing contributes a single pixel to the image. Moving the electronic detectors directly behind the lenses — instead of having just one detector sitting farther behind a single lens, as in conventional cameras — creates a very short focal length, which allows for the near-infinite depth of field.
The new paper demonstrates that stretchable electronics can be used as the foundation for a distortion-free hemispherical camera, but commercial production of such a camera may still be years away, Xiao said.
The three other co-lead authors of the paper are Young Min Song, Yizhu Xie and Viktor Malyarchuk, all of the University of Illinois. Other co-authors are Ki-Joong Choi, Rak-Hwan Kim and John Rogers, also of Illinois; Inhwa Jung, of Kyung Hee University in Korea; Zhuangjian Liu, of the Institute of High Performance Computing A*star in Singapore; Chaofeng Lu, of Zhejiang University in China and Northwestern University; Rui Li, of Dalian University of Technology in China; Kenneth Crozier, of Harvard University; and Yonggang Huang, of Northwestern University.
The research was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation.
CU news release
The Earth’s climate zones are shifting at an accelerating pace, says a new study led by a scientist at the CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
The acceleration of change means that the species inhabiting each zone have less time to adapt to the climatic changes, said lead author Irina Mahlstein, a CIRES scientist who works at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “The warmer the climate gets, the faster the climate zones are shifting. This could make it harder for plants and animals to adjust.”
The study is the first to look at the accelerating pace of the shifting of climate zones, which are areas of the Earth defined by annual and seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation, as well as temperature and precipitation thresholds of plant species. Over 30 different climate zones are found on Earth; examples include the equatorial monsoonal zone, the polar tundra zone and cold arid desert zone.
“A shift in the climate zone is probably a better measure of ‘reality’ for living systems, more so than changing temperature by a degree or precipitation by a centimeter,” said Mahlstein.
The scientists used climate model simulations and a well-known ecosystem classification scheme to look at the shifts between climate zones over a two-century period, 1900 to 2098. The team found that for an initial 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of warming, about 5 percent of Earth’s land area shifts to a new climate zone.
The models show that the pace of change quickens for the next 3.6 F of warming as an additional 10 percent of the land area shifts to a new climate zone. The paper was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 21.
Certain regions of the globe, such as northern middle and high latitudes, will undergo more changes than other regions, such as the tropics, the scientists found. In the tropics, mountainous regions will experience bigger changes than low-altitude areas.
In the coming century, the findings suggest that frost climates — the coldest climate zone of the planet — will largely decrease. In general, dry regions in different areas of the globe will increase, and a large fraction of land area will change from cool summers to hot summers, according to the study.
The scientists also investigated whether temperature or precipitation had a greater impact on how much of the land area changed zones. “We found that temperature is the main factor, at least through the end of this century,” said Mahlstein.
John Daniel at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory and Susan Solomon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology co-authored the study.
-CU press release
Outstanding winners of international competition, again
Two University of Colorado Boulder undergraduate student teams have been named among the 11 top winners from a field of 5,636 teams that entered the 2013 international Mathematical Contest in Modeling this spring.
Only 375 teams, or 6 percent of those entering the contest, were from the United States. The others were from Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
CU-Boulder had two teams designated as “Outstanding Winners” in 2012 as well, and has had a total of 13 Outstanding Winner designations since 2000.
“I don’t know any other university, from anywhere in the world, that has that track record,” said Anne Dougherty of CU-Boulder’s Department of Applied Mathematics. “This is a testament to our excellent students and exceptionally strong undergraduate program.”
One of the 2013 problems focused on developing an effective, feasible and cost-efficient strategy to meet projected water needs in a given country, while the other challenged students to develop the “ultimate brownie pan” to maximize heat distribution and cooking potential in an oven.
Results of the contest, which took place at the students’ home institutions Jan. 31-Feb. 4, were announced by the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications on April 5.
One of the two CU-Boulder teams designated as an “Outstanding Winner” was comprised of students Gregory McQuie and David Thomas of aerospace engineering sciences, and Yueh-Ya Hsu of applied mathematics. The team also was awarded the Mathematical Association of America Award.
The other “Outstanding Winner” from CU-Boulder included students Christopher Aicher and Tracy Babb of applied mathematics, and Fiona Pigott, who is double-majoring in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics. The team also was presented with the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Award.
Dougherty served as faculty adviser to both teams. Any undergraduate CU-Boulder student was welcome to participate.
A third team of CU-Boulder students entered the contest and was designated a “successful participant.” That team included students Runnan Lou of aerospace engineering, Weiming Zhang of applied mathematics and Xinyu Shen, who is double-majoring in math and physics.
According to the contest rules, the students had 96 hours to decide which of two problems to complete, research their problem, come up with a mathematical model, program a numerical model and write a report.
Official contest results are posted at http://www.comap.com/undergraduate/contests/mcm/contests/2013/results.
CU-Boulder to receive $36 million
The University of Colorado Boulder will receive roughly $36 million from NASA to build and operate a space instrument for a mission led by the University of Central Florida that will study Earth’s upper atmosphere to learn more about the disruptive effects of space weather.
The mission, known as the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, involves imaging Earth’s upper atmosphere from a geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles above the planet. The mission is expected to have a direct impact on the understanding of space weather like geomagnetic storms that alter the temperature and composition of Earth’s atmosphere, which can disrupt communication and navigation satellites, affecting everything from automobile GPS and cell phone coverage to television programming.
The GOLD mission, which is being led by research scientist Richard Eastes of the University of Central Florida, will launch aboard a commercial communications satellite as a “hosted” payload. Such payloads, which are secondary to the satellite’s main objective, represent the most cost-effective way to reach geostationary orbit, said CU-Boulder aerospace engineer Mark Lankton of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, the GOLD project manager.
“LASP is extremely pleased to be working on this mission with Richard Eastes at the University of Central Florida, who we have been collaborating with for seven years,” said Lankton. “This mission is one of the first to involve a science instrument being launched on a communication satellite, which is a terrific idea and exactly the right way to run a quality mission on a smaller budget.”
The LASP instrument, known as an imaging spectrograph, weighs roughly 60 pounds and is about 2 feet long and about 1 foot tall and 1 foot wide – roughly the size of a microwave oven. It will launch aboard a commercial satellite built by SES Government Solutions in McLean, Va. The LASP instrument will be gathering data on Earth’s upper atmosphere in the far ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
“GOLD’s imaging represents a new paradigm for observing the boundary between Earth and space,” said Bill McClintock, the deputy principal investigator on the CU-Boulder spectrograph and a senior research scientist at LASP. “It will revolutionize our understanding of how the sun and the space environment affect our upper atmosphere.”
A geosynchronous orbit is an orbit that completes one revolution in the same amount of time it takes for the Earth to rotate once on its polar axis. “We will be able to view almost a complete hemisphere of the Earth, almost all the time, with this orbit,” said Lankton.
The mission scientists will be looking for the effects of space weather on the upper atmosphere — the ionosphere and thermosphere located roughly 50 miles to 350 miles above Earth – caused by the sun and Earth’s lower atmosphere, said Lankton. “The giant driver is the sun, including geomagnetic storms that can cause bright auroras and the disruption of satellite communications,” he said.
Lankton said the science team also will investigate the effects that atmospheric waves and tides from Earth’s lower atmosphere have on the thermosphere-ionosphere system. The mission will make use of other instruments gathering data on the sun, including LASP’s $42 million Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment flying on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Roughly 40 LASP researchers will be working on the GOLD mission when it is at full strength, including five to 10 students, split about evenly between undergraduates and graduates, said Lankton. Other participants in the GOLD mission include the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, the University of California, Berkeley, Computational Physics Inc. of Springfield, Va., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The GOLD mission is part of NASA’s new Heliospheric Explorer Program designed to provide space observations to study Earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere. The mission is slated for launch in 2017. NASA Explorer missions of opportunity, such as GOLD, are capped at $55 million each.
by CU media relations
A new look at conditions after a Manhattan-sized asteroid slammed into a region of Mexico in the dinosaur days indicates the event could have triggered a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush and tree on Earth and led to the extinction of 80 percent of all Earth’s species, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.
Led by Douglas Robertson of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, the team used models that show the collision would have vaporized huge amounts of rock that were then blown high above Earth’s atmosphere. The re-entering ejected material would have heated the upper atmosphere enough to glow red for several hours at roughly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit — about the temperature of an oven broiler element — killing every living thing not sheltered underground or underwater.
The CU-led team developed an alternate explanation for the fact that there is little charcoal found at the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, boundary some 66 million years ago when the asteroid struck Earth and the cataclysmic fires are believed to have occurred. The CU researchers found that similar studies had corrected their data for changing sedimentation rates. When the charcoal data were corrected for the same changing sedimentation rates they show an excess of charcoal, not a deficiency, Robertson said.
“Our data show the conditions back then are consistent with widespread fires across the planet,” said Robertson, a research scientist at CIRES, which is a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Those conditions resulted in 100 percent extinction rates for about 80 percent of all life on Earth.”
A paper on the subject was published online this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Co-authors on the study include CIRES Interim Director William Lewis, CU Professor Brian Toon of the atmospheric and oceanic sciences department and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and Peter Sheehan of the Milwaukee Public Museum in Wisconsin.
Geological evidence indicates the asteroid collided with Earth about 66 million years ago and carved the Chicxulub crater in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that is more than 110 miles in diameter. In 2010, experts from 33 institutions worldwide issued a report that concluded the impact at Chicxulub triggered mass extinctions, including dinosaurs, at the K-Pg boundary.
The conditions leading to the global firestorm were set up by the vaporization of rock following the impact, which condensed into sand-grain-sized spheres as they rose above the atmosphere. As the ejected material re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, it dumped enough heat in the upper atmosphere to trigger an infrared “heat pulse” so hot it caused the sky to glow red for several hours, even though part of the radiation was blocked from Earth by the falling material, he said.
But there was enough infrared radiation from the upper atmosphere that reached Earth’s surface to create searing conditions that likely ignited tinder, including dead leaves and pine needles. If a person was on Earth back then, it would have been like sitting in a broiler oven for two or three hours, said Robertson.
The amount of energy created by the infrared radiation the day of the asteroid-Earth collision is mind-boggling, said Robertson. “It’s likely that the total amount of infrared heat was equal to a 1 megaton bomb exploding every four miles over the entire Earth.”
A 1-megaton hydrogen bomb has about the same explosive power as 80 Hiroshima-type nuclear bombs, he said. The asteroid-Earth collision is thought to have generated about 100 million megatons of energy, said Robertson.
Some researchers have suggested that a layer of soot found at the K-Pg boundary layer roughly 66 million years ago was created by the impact itself. But Robertson and his colleagues calculated that the amount of soot was too high to have been created during the massive impact event and was consistent with the amount that would be expected from global fires.
Astronomers targeting one of the brightest quasars glowing in the universe some 11 billion years ago say “sideline quasars” likely teamed up with it to heat abundant helium gas billions of years ago, preventing small galaxy formation.
CU-Boulder Professor Michael Shull and Research Associate David Syphers used the Hubble Space Telescope to look at the quasar — the brilliant core of an active galaxy that acted as a “lighthouse” for the observations — to better understand the conditions of the early universe. The scientists studied gaseous material between the telescope and the quasar with a $70 million ultraviolet spectrograph on Hubble designed by a team from CU-Boulder’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy.
During a time known as the “helium reionization era” some 11 billion years ago, blasts of ionizing radiation from black holes believed to be seated in the cores of quasars stripped electrons from primeval helium atoms, said Shull. The initial ionization that charged up the helium gas in the universe is thought to have occurred sometime shortly after the Big Bang.
“We think ‘sideline quasars’ located out of the telescope’s view reionized intergalactic helium gas from different directions, preventing it from gravitationally collapsing and forming new generations of stars,” he said. Shull likened the early universe to a hunk of Swiss cheese, where quasars cleared out zones of neutral helium gas in the intergalactic medium that were then “pierced” by UV observations from the space telescope.
The results of the new study also indicate the helium reionization era of the universe appears to have occurred later than thought, said Shull, a professor in CU-Boulder’s astrophysical and planetary sciences department. “We initially thought the helium reionization era took place about 12 billion years ago,” said Shull. “But now we think it more likely occurred in the 11 to 10 billion-year range, which was a surprise.”
A paper on the subject by Shull and Syphers was published online this week in the Astrophysical Journal.
The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph used for the quasar observations aboard Hubble was designed to probe the evolution of galaxies, stars and intergalactic matter. The COS team is led by CU Professor James Green of CASA and was installed on Hubble by astronauts during its final servicing mission in 2009. COS was built in an industrial partnership between CU and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder.
“While there are likely hundreds of millions of quasars in the universe, there are only a handful you can use for a study like this,” said Shull. Quasars are nuclei in the center of active galaxies that have “gone haywire” because of supermassive black holes that gorged themselves in the cores, he said. “For our purposes, they are just a really bright background light that allows us to see to the edge of the universe, like a headlight shining through fog.”
The universe is thought to have begun with the Big Bang that triggered a fireball of searing plasma that expanded and then become cool neutral gas at about 380,000 years, bringing on the “dark ages” when there was no light from stars or galaxies, said Shull. The dark ages were followed by a period of hydrogen reionization, then the formation of the first galaxies beginning about 13.5 billion years ago. The first galaxies era was followed by the rise of quasars some 2 billion years later, which led to the helium reionization era, he said.
The radiation from the huge quasars heated the gas to 20,000 to 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit in intergalactic realms of the early universe, said Shull. “It is important to understand that if the helium gas is heated during the epoch of galaxy formation, it makes it harder for proto-galaxies to hang on to the bulk of their gas. In a sense, it’s like intergalactic global warming.”
The team is using COS to probe the “fossil record” of gases in the universe, including a structure known as the “cosmic web” believed to be made of long, narrow filaments of galaxies and intergalactic gas separated by enormous voids. Scientists theorize that a single cosmic web filament may stretch for hundreds of millions of light years, an eye-popping number considering that a single light-year is about 5.9 trillion miles.
COS breaks light into its individual components — similar to the way raindrops break sunlight into the colors of the rainbow — and reveals information about the temperature, density, velocity, distance and chemical composition of galaxies, stars and gas clouds.
For the study, Shull and Syphers used 4.5 hours of data from Hubble observations of the quasar, which has a catalog name of HS1700+6416. While some astronomers define quasars as feeding black holes, “We don’t know if these objects feed once, or feed several times,” Shull said. They are thought to survive only a few million years or perhaps a few hundred million years, a brief blink in time compared to the age of the universe, he said.
“Our own Milky Way has a dormant black hole in its center,” said Shull. “Who knows? Maybe our Milky Way used to be a quasar.”
The first quasar, short for “quasi-stellar radio source,” was discovered 50 years ago this month by Caltech astronomer Maarten Schmidt. The quasar he observed, 3C-273, is located roughly 2 billion years from Earth and is 40 times more luminous than an entire galaxy of 100 billion stars. That quasar is receding from Earth at 15 percent of the speed of light, with related winds blowing millions of miles per hour, said Shull.
A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder looking for clues about why Earth did not warm as much as scientists expected between 2000 and 2010 now thinks the culprits are hiding in plain sight — dozens of volcanoes spewing sulfur dioxide.
The study results essentially exonerate Asia, including India and China, two countries that are estimated to have increased their industrial sulfur dioxide emissions by about 60 percent from 2000 to 2010 through coal burning, said lead study author Ryan Neely, who led the research as part of his CU-Boulder doctoral thesis. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide emissions from Earth’s surface eventually rise 12 to 20 miles into the stratospheric aerosol layer of the atmosphere, where chemical reactions create sulfuric acid and water particles that reflect sunlight back to space, cooling the planet.
Neely said previous observations suggest that increases in stratospheric aerosols since 2000 have counterbalanced as much as 25 percent of the warming scientists blame on human greenhouse gas emissions. “This new study indicates it is emissions from small to moderate volcanoes that have been slowing the warming of the planet,” said Neely, a researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a joint venture of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A paper on the subject was published online in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Co-authors include Professors Brian Toon and Jeffrey Thayer from CU-Boulder; Susan Solomon, a former NOAA scientist now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Jean Paul Vernier from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; Catherine Alvarez, Karen Rosenlof and John Daniel from NOAA; and Jason English, Michael Mills and Charles Bardeen from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
The new project was undertaken in part to resolve conflicting results of two recent studies on the origins of the sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere, including a 2009 study led by the late David Hoffman of NOAA indicating aerosol increases in the stratosphere may have come from rising emissions of sulfur dioxide from India and China. In contrast, a 2011 study led by Vernier — who also provided essential observation data for the new GRL study — showed moderate volcanic eruptions play a role in increasing particulates in the stratosphere, Neely said.
The new GRL study also builds on a 2011 study led by Solomon showing stratospheric aerosols offset about a quarter of the greenhouse effect warming on Earth during the past decade, said Neely, also a postdoctoral fellow in NCAR’s Advanced Study Program.
The new study relies on long-term measurements of changes in the stratospheric aerosol layer’s “optical depth,” which is a measure of transparency, said Neely. Since 2000, the optical depth in the stratospheric aerosol layer has increased by about 4 to 7 percent, meaning it is slightly more opaque now than in previous years.
“The biggest implication here is that scientists need to pay more attention to small and moderate volcanic eruptions when trying to understand changes in Earth’s climate,” said Toon of CU-Boulder’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. “But overall these eruptions are not going to counter the greenhouse effect. Emissions of volcanic gases go up and down, helping to cool or heat the planet, while greenhouse gas emissions from human activity just continue to go up.”
The key to the new results was the combined use of two sophisticated computer models, including the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model, or WACCM, Version 3, developed by NCAR and which is widely used around the world by scientists to study the atmosphere. The team coupled WACCM with a second model, the Community Aerosol and Radiation Model for Atmosphere, or CARMA, which allows researchers to calculate properties of specific aerosols and which has been under development by a team led by Toon for the past several decades.
Neely said the team used the Janus supercomputer on campus to conduct seven computer “runs,” each simulating 10 years of atmospheric activity tied to both coal-burning activities in Asia and to emissions by volcanoes around the world. Each run took about a week of computer time using 192 processors, allowing the team to separate coal-burning pollution in Asia from aerosol contributions from moderate, global volcanic eruptions. The project would have taken a single computer processor roughly 25 years to complete, said Neely.
The scientists said 10-year climate data sets like the one gathered for the new study are not long enough to determine climate change trends. “This paper addresses a question of immediate relevance to our understanding of the human impact on climate,” said Neely. “It should interest those examining the sources of decadal climate variability, the global impact of local pollution and the role of volcanoes.”
While small and moderate volcanoes mask some of the human-caused warming of the planet, larger volcanoes can have a much bigger effect, said Toon. When Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991, it emitted millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere that cooled the Earth slightly for the next several years.
The research for the new study was funded in part through a NOAA/ ESRL-CIRES Graduate Fellowship to Neely. The National Science Foundation and NASA also provided funding for the research project. The Janus supercomputer is supported by NSF and CU-Boulder and is a joint effort of CU-Boulder, CU Denver and NCAR.
Boulder County Recognized for its Leadership on Reducing Carbon Pollution and Addressing Climate Change0
Boulder County awarded a 2013 Organizational Leadership Award as part of the annual the Climate Leadership Awards sponsored by EPA and other leading climate change organizations
Boulder County, Colo. – Boulder County is pleased to be among fewer than a handful of local governments recognized for its leadership and innovation around the issue of climate change and clean energy.
Today it was announced by the EPA’s Climate Protection Partnerships Division and its co-sponsors, The Climate Registry (The Registry), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), and the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), that Boulder County is a winner of the 2013 Organizational Leadership Award as part of the annual the Climate Leadership Awards (CLA).
The CLA is a national awards program that recognizes and encourages exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change. Award winners must demonstrate leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in internal operations and throughout the supply chain, as well as integrating climate resilience into their operating strategies.
“We are thrilled to be recognized for the work of our staff and our partners throughout the community who have made it their tireless priority to engage residents of Boulder County in activities and actions that have led to real change on behalf of the environment and reducing our carbon footprint countywide,” said Cindy Domenico, Chair of the Boulder County Commissioners. “Whether it be in the realm of energy efficiency, transportation, Zero Waste, residential and commercial building retrofits, or significant investments in renewable energy options, we’re proud to be on the leading edge of innovation in these areas.”
This year’s awards mark a noteworthy increase in public-sector city and county engagement, a priority effort that Boulder County has championed in collaboration with its municipal partners since the creation of the county’s Sustainability Initiative in 2005.
“It is an honor to receive recognition for the commitment that our past and present County Commissioners and sustainability staff have made to a healthier and more environmentally sustainable place to live,” said Boulder County Sustainability Coordinator, Susie Strife. “This award is a reflection of the hard work, progressive decision making and leadership of Boulder County and the collaborative partnership with all of our municipalities, in particular the Cities of Boulder and Longmont.”
Programs like EnergySmart, Boulder County’s Energy Efficiency service, are helping Boulder County reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings. EnergySmart has helped over 8,600 homes and 2,400 businesses with energy efficiency upgrades.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, EnergySmart is stimulating the local economy with over $16 million in energy efficiency upgrades and advancing the state’s energy independence. EnergySmart is a collaborative partnership throughout Boulder County, and is funded by seed funding from the Department of Energy’s BetterBuildings Program, combined with contributions from the City of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan tax and the City of Longmont.
Other demonstrations of the county’s forward thinking actions include the development of the Climate Change Preparedness Plan, blueprints for action around sustainability and energy efficiency, and the county’s recently completed Transportation Master Plan which identifies programs, services, and facilities that Boulder County will implement to help people get where they need to go in the future in a safe, efficient, and environmentally sensitive manner.
The CLA awards will be presented tonight at the Climate Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
Early next month, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder will begin the painstaking process of interviewing hundreds of undergraduates in an effort to understand why the rates of students switching out of science, technology, engineering and math majors has remained troublingly high over the last couple of decades despite widespread efforts to address the problem.
The five-year, $4.3 million project, undertaken in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, replicates and expands on a study begun by a couple of CU-Boulder researchers two decades ago and published in 1997 as a book. “Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences” has since become a seminal text in the field of STEM education.
“Part of the reason why we’re undertaking this study is that the rates of students switching out of STEM majors has remained so persistent,” said Anne-Barrie Hunter, co-director of Ethnography and Evaluation Research at CU-Boulder and principal investigator for the Colorado research team. “Here we are now, 20 years on, and the rates are still roughly the same. They’re very, very stubborn.”
The study, which is being funded by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is the first to be run out of CU-Boulder’s new Center for STEM Learning.
When the original study began in the early 1990s, the high rates of students leaving STEM majors — between 40 and 60 percent, depending on the discipline — were known, but the reasons for the switching were just conjecture. Some thought that the students who switched didn’t have the necessary ability to succeed in tough science classes, while others blamed teaching assistants with difficult-to-understand accents or the lack of experience of teaching assistants in general.
CU-Boulder researchers Nancy Hewitt and Elaine Seymour set out to determine whether any of the speculation was true by asking those who should know: the students. The pair led a research team that interviewed more than 400 undergraduates, both “switchers” and “persisters.”
“Our evidence didn’t support what they thought,” said Seymour, who is also involved with the new study. “We were really surprised.” As it turned out, “switchers” and “persisters” were equally bright and teaching assistants were often a much-needed lifeline for struggling students. In fact, both sets of students faced the same set of challenges, the largest of which was the way science classes were taught.
“What we discovered was that an incoming interest in the sciences was dissipated over the course of the first two years by the way the courses were taught,” Seymour said. “The teaching in those days was predominantly stand-and-deliver lecturing.”
Since Seymour and Hewitt’s book was published, there has been a nationwide effort to improve the quality of undergraduate science education. “Change is going on all across the country,” Seymour said. “But it may not be sufficient to move the needle.”
For “Talking About Leaving Revisited,” the researchers will interview undergraduates at the seven institutions that hosted the original study to find out if the reasons for switching have changed. But the new study will also go further by interviewing course instructors, observing classroom teaching practices and analyzing the transcripts of students across institutions to look for patterns among switchers and persisters. When the study is concluded, the research team plans to publish another book.
Talking About Leaving Revisited is one of the inaugural grants affiliated with CU-Boulder’s Center for STEM Learning, which was officially formed in December. The center, which was organized over four years with the backing of a $1 million institutional transformation grant from the National Science Foundation, aims to provide an infrastructure that will support the more than 75 existing STEM education programs on campus and allow them to more easily collaborate.
“We will provide a network and support structure designed to catalyze and provide links among these people, ideas, tools and resources,” said physics Professor Noah Finkelstein, one of the people who helped lead the effort to create the new center.
The Center for STEM Learning, which will also strive to be a state, regional and national resource, has three main thrusts: to transform the way STEM classes are delivered, to support research into the best practices for STEM education, and to help recruit the brightest to become STEM teachers.
For more information on the study visit http://wceruw.org/projects/projects.php?project_num=956.
The City of Boulder today released a 38-page report detailing the results of extensive research into the possibility of creating a city-owned and operated electric utility. The evaluation looked at a total of six options for meeting the community’s Energy Future goals. One is a baseline evaluation of staying with Xcel Energy with no change to the way it operates. The other five are options predicated on the city creating its own utility, which would be free from regulations that can limit innovation and customization.
The results show that there are several forms a new utility could take that don’t require trade-offs among the community’s core values. The Boulder community has said it wants cleaner and greener energy with rates and reliability comparable to or better than those provided by Xcel Energy. The community is also seeking more local control and a voice in decision-making, as well as an opportunity to enhance economic vitality by providing a test bed for emerging technology and a low-cost, high-reliability environment in which businesses can thrive.
When Boulder voters approved the continued exploration of a municipal utility in November 2011, they set limiting requirements in the Charter that must be met before City Council could proceed. These included provisions related to rates, revenue sufficiency and reliability, as well as plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase renewable sources of energy.
Under some of the options analyzed, a municipal electric utility would meet the Charter metrics and have a high likelihood of being able to:
· Offer all three major customer classes (residential, commercial and industrial) lower rates than what they would pay Xcel, not just on day one, as required by the Charter, but on average over 20 years;
· Maintain or exceed current levels of system reliability and emergency response, and, if the community chose to, use future investments to enhance dependability;
· Reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent from current levels and exceed the Kyoto Protocol target in year one;
· Obtain 54 percent or more of its electricity from renewable resources; and
· Create a model public electric utility with leading-edge innovations in reliability, energy efficiency, renewable energy, related economic development and customer service.
The report also examines the impact that a variety of stranded cost and acquisition cost rulings could have on rates and revenue requirements over 20 years.
The full memo, with all attachments, is available at www.boulderenergyfuture.com.
Process and Participation
“We are excited to share the results of this detailed analysis with City Council and our community. We believe the findings demonstrate that a municipal utility could be good for consumers, good for Boulder businesses and good for our planet,” said Heather Bailey, executive director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development. “We look forward to an informed conversation over the next couple of month about how best to proceed.”
Bailey said she is especially grateful for the participation of more than 50 community members, many of whom have industry expertise, who donated their time to serve on working groups. These groups helped to ensure that a variety of perspectives was included and that all modeling was based on reasonable assumptions and data.
“This has been a community-wide review process, and this has greatly enhanced the quality and integrity of our report,” Bailey said. “I wish to thank everyone who has played a role in this direct way, as well as the countless members of the public who have shared their thoughts and concerns with me over the past year.”
An Xcel Energy Partnership Alternative?
While the city is committed to exploring ways to achieve “the electric utility of the future,” it has acknowledged that there might be ways to do so short of creating its own utility – in the form of a new partnership with the existing electric provider, Xcel Energy.
In December, the city released a paper that outlined a variety of ideas that could achieve the community’s goals if Xcel Energy is interested. The city has since spoken with officials from the current utility several times, asking them to identify which of the suggestions they would be willing to consider, as well as any innovative approaches the company might like to propose. Xcel officials have said they are open to a dialogue but have not yet come forward with specifics about what ideas they would like to discuss.
The framework for considering how the city should proceed includes the possibility of modeling an Xcel partnership option, when and if additional details become available. There are, in the analysis released today, also at least two options that might be achievable with the participation of a collaborative and willing energy partner.
“What we are looking to do is move beyond a 19th century approach to providing energy and create a forward-looking, innovative and consumer-friendly utility model that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels,” Bailey said. “Xcel Energy has served us for decades, and in many ways, done an admirable job. It is possible they could help us meet our objectives. We would welcome their involvement in a meaningful, timely and transparent discussion.”
Boulder City Council is scheduled to hear a presentation based on this memo and ask questions at a Study Session on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The session will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 8 for Boulder viewers and online at www.boulderchannel8.com. A recording will also be available at the above website for later viewing. There is no opportunity for public comment at study sessions, but they are an excellent way to learn more about a topic and the staff’s work.
City Council will discuss this issue again – and decide whether to move forward with the next steps related to the potential creation of a city electric utility – on April 16. This meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at 1777 Broadway and will include a public hearing.
Opportunities for Public Feedback
Between now and council’s April 16 decision, the city is providing multiple ways for the community to provide input about the analysis and how council might move forward.
As always, council accepts correspondence on any issue of community interest. In addition, there is a comment form available for this specific initiative on the project website.
In addition, the city is offering the following unique opportunities:
· An online questionnaire that will be available at www.bouldercolorado.gov between Feb. 27 and March 27;
· A conference telephone call designed to focus on rates and reliability, two key concerns for the business community, from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 (please register in advance at www.bouldercolorado.gov/energyfuture/businesscall);
· A community open house exploring the pros and cons of each of the modeled options from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, at the West Senior Center, 909 W. Arapahoe Ave.;
· Focused questions and examination of the options on the city’s new digital town hall platform, Inspire Boulder; and
· Presentations, by invitation, from Bailey or other members of the staff team to interested organizations and associations.
All input collected during the next couple of months will be shared with council in advance of the April 16 meeting.
Interdisciplinary thinking bolsters innovation. That’s the concept behind the University of Colorado Boulder’s new nLab, a mobile hub that allows students to develop their entrepreneurial ideas through peer and mentor-based collaboration, sustainability resources and other tools.
The free resource, launched last fall by CU-Boulder’s Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business, is designed to help students campus wide tap into communities beyond their academic spheres. The CU Environmental Center, an nLab partner, offers specialized support to integrate sustainability into student ideas.
The nLab supports cross-campus entrepreneurship curricula, the CU New Venture Challenge business plan competition and individuals who want to explore ideas.
“You don’t have to be a business major to think like an entrepreneur,” said Costa Raptis, a junior in geography at CU-Boulder. “You just have to be driven and have a versatile mind and kind of know what you’re after.”
Raptis, who’s interested in cultural anthropology and marketing, is exploring his idea — a talent agency that operates without a traditional hierarchy — using the nLab. He’s been paired through nLab with an employee-owned solar company for mentorship.
Other student ideas that have been brought to the nLab are a cosmetic line and a job-search website called Startups 2 Students, which matches students with position openings at unique companies.
The nLab includes a website where users can post ideas and browse existing projects. It also hosts weekly co-working sessions on campus and provides a mobile kiosk intended to spark both planned and impromptu meetings, and to serve as a workspace. Faculty also can enlist nLab.
“I’m beginning to use nLab as an additional tool to give my students a safe, welcoming and helpful place to apply course material to ideas of their own and others,” said Eben Johnson, a CU-Boulder lecturer in the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program. “The value of nLab is that it’s for the whole campus. From music to biology, history and finance, great ideas for new products and services are found everywhere.”
Johnson teaches an undergraduate and graduate-level course called Marketing and High-Tech Ventures. Each semester, his students conceptualize new ideas from lithium ion batteries for cell phones to algae nutritional supplements, and nLab will be a resource for such projects, he said.
Other campus supporters of nLab are CU’s Technology Transfer Office; the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship; the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society, or ATLAS; and the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program.
CU-Boulder amphibian study shows how
biodiversity can protect against disease
The richer the assortment of amphibian species living in a pond, the more protection that community of frogs, toads and salamanders has against a parasitic infection that can cause severe deformities, including the growth of extra legs, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.
The findings, published Feb. 14 in the journal Nature, support the idea that greater biodiversity in larger-scale ecosystems, such as forests or grasslands, may also provide greater protection against diseases, including those that attack humans. For example, a larger number of mammal species in an area may curb cases of Lyme disease, while a larger number of bird species may slow the spread of West Nile virus.
“How biodiversity affects the risk of infectious diseases, including those of humans and wildlife, has become an increasingly important question,” said Pieter Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the study. “But as it turns out, solidly testing these linkages with realistic experiments has proven very challenging in most systems.”
Researchers have struggled to design comprehensive studies that could illuminate the possible connection between disease transmission and the number of species living in complex ecosystems. Part of the problem is simply the enormous number of organisms that may need to be sampled and the vast areas over which those organisms may roam.
The new CU-Boulder study overcomes that problem by studying smaller, easier-to-sample ecosystems. Johnson and his team visited hundreds of ponds in California, recording the types of amphibians living there as well as the number of snails infected by the pathogen Ribeiroia ondatrae. Snails are an intermediate host used by the parasite during part of its life cycle.
“One of the great challenges in studying the diversity-disease link has been collecting data from enough replicate systems to differentiate the influence of diversity from background ‘noise,’ ” Johnson said. “By collecting data from hundreds of ponds and thousands of amphibian hosts, our group was able to provide a rigorous test of this hypothesis, which has relevance to a wide range of disease systems.”
Johnson’s team buttressed its field observations both with laboratory tests designed to measure how prone to infection each amphibian species is and by creating pond replicas outside using large plastic tubs stocked with tadpoles that were exposed to a known number of parasites. All of the experiments told the same story, Johnson said. Greater biodiversity reduced the number of successful amphibian infections and the number of deformed frogs.
In all, the CU-Boulder researchers spent three years sampling 345 wetlands and recording malformations — which include missing, misshapen or extra sets of hind legs — caused by parasitic infections in 24,215 amphibians. They also cataloged 17,516 snails. The results showed that ponds with half a dozen amphibian species had a 78 percent reduction in parasite transmission compared to ponds with just one amphibian species. The research team also set up experiments in the lab and outdoors using 40 artificial ponds, each stocked with 60 amphibians and 5,000 parasites.
The reason for the decline in parasitic infections as biodiversity increases is likely related to the fact that ponds add amphibian species in a predictable pattern, with the first species to appear being the most prone to infection and the later species to appear being the least prone. For example, the research team found that in a pond with just one type of amphibian, that amphibian was almost always the Pacific chorus frog, a creature that is able to rapidly reproduce and quickly colonize wetland habitats, but which is also especially vulnerable to infection and parasite-induced deformities.
On the other hand, the California tiger salamander was typically one of the last species to be added to a pond community and also one of the most resistant to parasitic infection. Therefore, in a pond with greater biodiversity, parasites have a higher chance of encountering an amphibian that is resistant to infection, lowering the overall success rate of transmission between infected snails and amphibians.
This same pattern — of less diverse communities being made up of species that are more susceptible to disease infection — may well play out in more complex ecosystems as well, Johnson said. That’s because species that disperse quickly across ecosystems appear to trade off the ability to quickly reproduce with the ability to develop disease resistance.
“This research reaches the surprising conclusion that the entire set of species in a community affects the susceptibility to disease,” said Doug Levey, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, which helped fund the research. “Biodiversity matters.”
The sheer magnitude of the recent study also reinforces the connection between deformed frogs and parasitic infection, Johnson said. Beginning in the mid-1990s reports of frogs with extra, missing or misshapen legs skyrocketed, attracting widespread attention in the media and motivating scientists to try to figure out the cause. Johnson was among the researchers who found evidence of a link between infection with Ribeiroia and frog deformities, though the apparent rise in reports of deformations, and its underlying cause, remains controversial.
While the new study has implications beyond parasitic infections in amphibians, it does not mean that an increase in biodiversity always results in a decrease in disease, Johnson cautioned. Other factors also affect rates of disease transmission. For example, a large number of mosquitoes hatching in a particular year will increase the risk of contracting West Nile virus, even if there has been an increase in the biodiversity of the bird population. Birds act as “reservoir hosts” for West Nile virus, harboring the pathogen indefinitely with no ill effects and passing the pathogen onto mosquitoes.
“Our results indicate that higher diversity reduces the success of pathogens in moving between hosts,” Johnson said. “Nonetheless, if infection pressure is high, for instance in a year with high abundance of vectors, there will still be a significant risk of disease; biodiversity will simply function to dampen transmission success.”
CU-Boulder graduate students Dan Preston and Katie Richgels co-authored the study along with Jason Hoverman, a former postdoctoral researcher in Johnson’s lab who is now an assistant professor at Purdue. The research was funded by NSF, the National Geographic Society and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
To view photos and a video about the research, visit http://freshwatersillustrated.org/link/AmphibianDeformities.