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Outernet Would Provide Free Basic Wi-Fi To All – On Science

February 18, 2014

How about some free global Wi-Fi!

The psychology behind Internet trolls.

Predicting a volcanic eruption.

And smarter grocery shopping. Coming up today…On Science!

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

And let there be free Wi-Fi to the world! So apparently that could happen. An organization called Media Development Investment Fund plans to offer free global Wi-Fi from outer space. Here’s how it would work. They’re calling this project “Outernet” and it would involve a constellation of inexpensive, small satellites in Low Orbit Earth that will be receiving data streams from a network of ground stations. From them, people can access basic levels of news, information and entertainment. The organization believes that having access to the knowledge on the Internet is a human right. You think so too? Well, they’re accepting donations, which will be 100% tax-deductible. Media Development Investment Fund for President!

Speaking of the Internet, why can’t people adhere to the old saying “if you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all.” On any webpage you visit you will most likely find negative and ugly comments, people just love to say ugly things! So Canadian psychologists took a look at this behavior in a paper called “Trolls Just Want to Have Fun.” – trolls being the negative commenters. Through a survey, they found that trolls most often showed signs of “sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism,” behaviors often referred to as the “Dark Tetrad.” What researchers are not sure of is if they were sadists and psychopaths before the Internet, or if the Internet turned them into one.

[ rumbling ] What’s that? A volcano! A dormant volcano can quickly become active again according to new research by UC Davis and Oregon State University. They may now have new information that will lead to new eruption forecasting. Looking at Mount Hood in Oregon they found that the magma located about three miles below the surface has been near-solid for thousands of years. However, they also found that it takes a very short period – as little as a few months – for the magma to liquefy. This can happen if magma from closer to the Earth’s crust rises and warms the solid magma or even if temperatures rise just slightly. They likened the near-solid magma to peanut butter in a jar in the fridge – it’s not really going anywhere. While they say Mount Hood has liquid magma only about 10% of the time, meaning it is mostly dormant, researchers say that the presence of liquid magma at all means there’s an eruption in the forecast.

And from hot to cold, will this winter ever be over? Here on the East Coast of the U.S., winter has not been kind to us this year. Researchers say they know why. A new study from Rutgers University indicates that the unusually chilly temperatures in the Midwest and southeastern US are due to a slowing in the high-altitude polar jet stream which is driving cold polar air to the south. But why? You probably guessed it – climate change. Researchers said that the warming of Arctic air now means there is less of a temperature difference when polar air hits air from lower latitudes. They say the jet stream is driven by the temperature contrast and since now there’s not much of a “contrast,” weather patterns are changing. Researchers continued by saying “we can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently.” Noooo!!! That’s not what I wanted to hear!

But here’s a bright spot in today’s show! There is a new revolutionizing way we can grocery shop through lighting! Philips is developing an LED in-store lighting system that communicates with shoppers via a downloadable smartphone app. You take what you’re looking for and put that in the app and it uses the visual lights’ communications to plot a route for you through the grocery store to find all the ingredients that you need. Plus it will send you any related special offers and make some suggestions for additional recipes. How cool is that? I hate trying to search blindly for items in the grocery store. Phillips plans to pilot the system with an unspecified number of retailers, but no word on when. I sure hope it’s coming to a grocery store near me!

And that’s what’s cool…On Science.



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