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Citizen Scientists Can Now Help Track Light Pollution – The Daily Orbit

May 1, 2013

A new app is shedding some light on light pollution.

Is there life after fire?

Another way to consume caffeine.

And celebrating healthy eyes on today’s Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

There’s a new app in town and it’s providing some light in the darkness. Its name: “Loss of the Night.” What it does? Well, let’s say it sheds light on light pollution. Actually the new app is pretty cool in that it evaluates sky brightness on a global scale, allowing people around the world to collect data on skyglow without the use of expensive equipment. It’s a citizen scientist project that uses models from satellite data to estimate how bright the sky is in certain areas. Light pollution is having an impact on ecosystems and they hope this data will help scientists investigate the correlation with health, biodiversity, energy waste and other factors. Well isn’t that illuminating?

Here’s a burning new find in forest ecology. Though a major cause of plant death and destruction, fire can also be a source of life as some dormant seeds begin to germinate in the aftermath of a raging inferno and scientists now think they know why. Chemicals in the smoke of burning trees called karrikins bind with a protein in plant seeds – KAI2, which causes a chain reaction of signals to other proteins in the seeds, leading to germination at the right place and time after a wildfire. They say periodic forest fires are necessary in mature forests. But that’s not a go-ahead for any arsonists out there. And remember only you can prevent forest fires.

And scientists have confirmed that endangered green sea turtles in Florida are in fact using designated “protected” areas. By tracking mama turtles with satellite tags in Dry Tortugas National Park, researchers were able to follow their travels once nesting season was over. They found that the turtles were using shallow grass beds and degraded coral reefs within the Dry Tortugas National Park and the surrounding areas of the Florida Keys Marine National Sanctuary. They combined satellite telemetry data with an extensive habitat map to find out what habitat exactly these turtles were using in the Park. They say this info will be very helpful to park managers and is vital for understanding whether conservation measures are effective.

As more and more smartwatch rumors are surfacing, people are asking “how exactly are we supposed to interact with such a thing?” Well college students at Carnegie Melon are proposing an answer to that–the ZoomBoard. This special keyboard features one to two levels of zoom to allow watch wearers to tap out messages one letter at a time. To type a single letter, the user taps the keyboard where that key lives. This zooms the keyboard to a level where that key can be easily tapped. A flick to the right enters a space and a flick to the left is backspace. They admit it might not be amazing, but they say it gets the job done. It would be better for me than Siri–she never understands me.

Well, I’m always looking for a new way to get my caffeine and Wrigley chewing gum has given me another. Each stick of the new caffeine gum has 40 milligrams of caffeine and comes in an eight piece pack. But the Center for Science in the Public Interest ain’t having it. They are taking aim at the company for its marketing geared towards adolescents. But Wrigley fired back stating “the gum is intended for adult use only.” Good luck with that one. Caffeine products have been growing in popularity in recent years, and even the FDA says the caffeine explosion is beyond anything they would have envisioned. But personally I’d like to say: “Thank you Wrigley–thank you very very much!” Maybe I can wean myself off of energy drinks. No, I’ll probably just drink espresso while chewing my caffeinated gum.

And May is officially Healthy Vision Month. The CDC’s Vision Health Initiative and Healthy Vision Month are partnering with the National Eye Institute this month to encourage all Americans to make vision health a priority. So go celebrate and get an eye exam!

And that’s all for your Daily Orbit. I should get an eye exam. What’s wrong with these glasses?



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emerald robinson

Emerald Robinson is the host of the Daily Orbit, Red Orbit's daily video news program. Known for her Southern charm and a quick wit, Emerald made her television debut on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless. Since then she has appeared in many feature films and TV programs, including a tour as host of Auto Trader New Car Review for WheelsTV.

Read more about Emerald here ...