SciTech Now Episode 409

In this episode of SciTech Now, a look at one ranger helping sea lions; women in space; the massive iceberg that broke free from Antarctica; and teaching children through gaming.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP... THE COMEBACK OF EARTH'S RAREST SEA LIONS We drove them offshore, they've decided to comeback, and that's what's so exciting.

CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN IN THE SPACE INDUSTRY When you're in an environment where it's kind of cruel, you just don't feel respected.

AN ICE SHELF IN ANTARCTICA REACHES A BREAKING POINT The problem is, are there more fractures that are going to happen, that are going to sort of weaken the stability of that ice shelf, and is it going to shed into the sea?

MIDDLE SCHOOL PROBLEM SOLVERS We're helping kids improve on their grades so they can do better in school, but then eventually later in life.

IT'S ALL AHEAD... FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.

HELLO, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

WELCOME TO SCITECH NOW, OUR WEEKLY PROGRAM BRINGING YOU THE LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

LET'S GET STARTED.

AFTER BEING HUNTED OFF OF THE MAINLAND OF NEW ZEALAND CENTURIES AGO, A NEW GENERATION OF THE EARTH'S RAREST SEA LION SPECIES HAS RETURNED.

JIM FYFE, A RANGER WITH THE NEW ZEALAND DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION, IS TASKED WITH WATCHING OVER NEW SEA LION PUPS AND ENSURING THEIR SAFETY.

OUR PARTNER SCIENCE FRIDAY BRINGS US THE STORY.

When they look like their threatening the females, they take a bit of exception, but it's just letting you know that that's his girl you're not going to get anywhere near it.

That's Anookie, a four year old female from the local population.

It's mating season so we might be expecting a pup next year.

The East Coast of the South Island of Zealand the Otago Peninsula with it brings a whole lot of productivity in wildlife: yellow-eyed penguin, royal albatross, and most recently the return of the New Zealand sea lions.

New Zealand sea lions are an endemic sea lion that were once widespread all around New Zealand.

800 or 900 years ago, the New Zealand mainland species was hunted to extinction.

And the only surviving subspecies was down in the south.

They came really really close to extension.

The survival of one individual can make a real difference to a species.

Mum arrived in the late 80's early 90's, as a young, female sea lion.

It may have just been one of those random events that happened in life.

Before Mama arrived, there would have been no breeding on the New Zealand mainland for at least two hundred years and I would say up to three hundred years.

Mum was responsible for bringing seas lions back to the mainland.

This is a species which used to be here.

We drove them off shore.

They've decided to come back.

And that's what's so exciting.

So we now have an opportunity to redress the damage that we did.

We're looking forward to another good season, we had eleven pups last season, this season we're hoping for maybe a dozen.

This is Anookie, a young four year old female.

But this male kept her up here for some time.

This is pretty dangerous because the males holding here in the sufe side.

A number of females will be killed each year being held under water for too long while the males try to mate with them.

That's why i'm a bit worried here, ill just stay and keep on eye on her.

She must be pretty exhausted by now.

It's good to see her sitting up right now with her head out of the water.

And this is part of the breeding process, dangerous as it looks, it's part of the chain of life.

Let's walk along and see if there's any tracks going up into the dunes.

They got a good sense of smell and they're coming up along the coast and trying to sniff out those females.

If a male does find them, they can get held captive by them for a period of time and not be able to get back to their pack.

Obviously, it's a worry for the female sea lions so it's a worry for us.

Look at this, somebody has come through here.

I'll sneak in there and see if I can get an ID on him 6f10007.

The pup is at least a week old, loving the contact with it's mother.

It's an important bonding time for mom and pup, they will be together for the next year, at two years.

They need to be able to recognize the pup from it's calls, from the smell.

She can't afford to be held hostage.

She's got to get back to her pup to feed it.

Two or three days of being held hostage by a male could really compromise the health of the pup.

We try and keep track of where the females are going to have their pups.

The main reason is if they have their pups in an area where there are threats, we can manage the threats that their pup are born into.

A pup was found the other day in open farmland and quite exposed, it doesn't have the protection from the weather that vegetation will provide.

The females are having to go into farmland to hide, going into areas that don't have idea habitat for the pup.

We could easily provide simple shelters and that sort of thing that might assist the survival of pups.

I've got to say that sea lions are now my favorite animal in the world.

They're just a really interesting animal to get to know and to think that we might have even lost that opportunity.

Sea lions are constantly gonna be there to challenge us and be asking the questions, are you big enough for me?

Ainissa Ramirez is a scientist, author, and a self-proclaimed science evangelist.

She is calling for big changes in science education and is the creator of a podcast series called Science Underground.

Here to discuss the topic of women in the space industry is Ms. Ramirez.

So I'm imagining that similar to the challenges women face in almost any STEM field, in this specific subset of science, technology, kind of engineering, they're facing the same thing in the space industry?

Well anecdotally this story could happen in any one of the science fields, but this one we have data.

And you know anecdotes are fine but when you have data, you have something that you can show people and say look the culture is flawed and it needs to be changed.

So this report came out earlier this year.

And about 500 astrophysicists or people in the planetary sciences, women were asked to give a survey online where they could report anonymously about their experiences.

And 90 percent said yes, they've seen sexual harassment or they've seen racist comments or any kind of discriminatory remarks being played, so 90 percent and 50 percent from their bosses.

So we have a culture that is very flawed.

I mean people who are in the leadership are showing behavior that we don't really want to have people continue to mimic.

Are those the kind of events that end up kicking someone out of a promising career saying I don't deal with this.

Well I call it death by a thousand cuts.

I mean think of if you had 100 percent of your energy, and 40 percent of is allotted to just surviving the environment.

You're not as productive.

So that's kind of how this is, you know people would say it's a microaggression or it's a hostile environment where you're not able to do the most to your capacity.

What about seeing themselves in their leadership.

I mean I can't imagine that the space industry right now has a ton of women or people of color near the top?

No, not at all.

I mean it's it's a small percentage of women who actually are in the physical sciences so imagine this imagine that you're a young girl, you love space, you want to be an astronaut or maybe you just want to see the stars, you work tremendously hard, your parents pay a lot of money to go through college, and then you get to graduate school and you're in an environment where it's kind of cruel.

You just don't feel respected.

They'll say that you're not feminine enough or you're not masculine enough or they'll just have some sexual jokes that are just not in that place so that's that's that's dream killing for a lot of people because it's something they want to do for some time.

How did how did you sort through that dream killing as you were on your way up?

Well, I'm a little hard headed so that definitely helped.

I also had some mentors and that's the other thing that it helps.

When I was at Stanford, I met other people who are of color in different departments and so we kind of leaned on each other.

So it's sort of a peer mentoring, it's like oh guess what happened to me.

So having a place where you feel valued and validated definitely helps.

And this is what they're also placing the report that we need some kind of mechanisms for that.

But also we need to get back to the culture, it's not the victims that should be you know emboldening themselves for this environment and we should have a code of conduct and we should have people adhere to it.

And also there should be swift punishment.

There's been many reports of people who are very very senior particularly in astronomy, potential Nobel laureates, who have been notorious for sexual harassment and the university doesn't do anything.

And it's only when it gets in the news, because that's the image is very important to most universities, that something actually happens.

So what are the recommendations of the code of conduct code?

Definitely training where everyone adheres to it as well, but having a code of conduct then you can put people on notice.

It's like okay we don't do these things because maybe it's just very loose.

But if you spell things out and also if punishments are made then people will understand that this is not what I do.

And who did the survey work and we find the report?

Well the survey is from the Geological Survey.

If you check out Double Jeopardy on Google and women, it'll pop right up.

Ainissa Ramirez, Thanks so much.

Dave Mosher is a science reporter who has written for Scientific American, popular mechanics, National Geographic news and Discovery.com.

Throughout his career he has watched humans and robots launch into space, toured a cutting-edge nuclear reactor and flown over the north pole to catch a total solar eclipse.

He joins me now to talk about the massive iceberg that broke free in Antarctica.

Give us a sense of the scale.

The scale is really hard to fathom as a human being because we just live in our own space here.

But imagine walking across Delaware, that's how, that's the surface area, volume wise it could fill up Lake Erie twice and then some.

And it's starting to break into bigger chunks and those trunks are even then still sort of unimaginable in size like you cannot really fathom how big this thing is.

It's enormous.

Suffice it to say.

And pieces of it have been breaking off for a while, been studying it for quite some time?

Yeah.

So the pieces started to break off almost immediately after it began calving, which is around July 10th, July 12th, that's when the satellite images showed us.

Yes, it had indeed broken free from this ice shelf and was now going into the Whitall sea and starting to move north.

But it's kind of stuck there right now.

But even then it's sort of banging and sloshing around and there are some meltwater on the surface that's helping cut and break the iceberg apart further.

So this is going to happen and keep happening and scientists will keep naming these chunks after the main one.

The main iceberg by the way is called iceberg A68.

So it'll be, A68A, A68B, A68B and so on and so forth.

Well I mean there's Larsen has had the ice shelf A and Ice Shelf B, those broke off.

I mean unfortunately this is not slowing down.

Yeah, so this is the main concern about about Larson C.

Most scientists are pretty confident that Larsen C is intact.

It was the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica and now the fifth since this iceberg capped off.

But the problem is are there more fractures they're going to happen that are going to sort of weaken the stability of that ice shelf and is it going to shed into the sea much like larcen A and Larsen B did at the turn of the 2000s.

So that is an act of concern, it's not totally worrisome at this point, but there is a new fracture, which I just learned about that is heading toward a point of stability and this ice ridge kind of keeps a lot of the ice shelves cemented together.

So if the crack reaches there then we could see the rest of the ice shelf go out in a matter of months.

What causes these cracks in the first place?

Most of the time as far as interviews, I've had it's meltwater on the surface.

That melt water is dense, denser than ice and it acts almost like a knife.

It's sort of like pushes its way and pushes apart these ice shelves.

So if you have a warming globe and on average Antarctic temperatures are much higher than the global average that we're seeing, rising temperatures you're going to have a lot of meltwater and that melt water is gonna start cutting through your ice shelf and it's going to start leading to these cracks.

So what's going to happen to this massive iceberg that just broke off.

It's going to melt.

I mean the question is how long will it take to melt: will it take a year, two years, four years, five years.

We don't know, but it's going to start moving north into the southern ocean.

And there are some experts who think it could go all the way to the Falkland Islands, the South Georgia islands, but along the way it's going to start breaking up in little tiny pieces and eventually there will be no main iceberg as we know it.

But just all of its little children melting as smaller pieces.

So is this the type of an iceberg that will impact our global sea level because it's been sitting on top or as a huge chunk of it already been underwater already and it's just now going to take a different form?

It's already sitting in the water.

So it's already displaced the water, sort of like an ice cube in your in your cocktail or your soda, whatever you prefer.

That ice cubes already displaced the liquid.

The problem that climate scientists see is all the ice behind it.

This is about 10 percent of the ice shelf.

So 90 percent of it remains, if that goes in the ocean then we will see a sea level rise maybe a centimeter, maybe two, maybe more than that.

Not totally certain, but that is, that is the concern is what all the ice behind this ice that's part of the glacier that could suddenly go into the ocean.

Dave Mosher, Thanks for joining us.

My pleasure.

Thanks for having me.

What I do is I have a range of clients who usually are looking at security problems or networking problems.

So I spend most of my time looking at people's systems as systems architecture and trying to explain to them the places where they had security where they're filling with security or where their systems are not open a way that would allow them to use.

I am technically a white hat hacker.

It is black hats white hats and gray hats.

Black Hats are obviously the bad guys or bad girls.

Wearing the hat.

And the white hats for the good folks who are trying to protect systems and gray hats or people who are usually white or usually black that might be a little bit in between.

I work with small medium and large companies actually at the moment I have all of those and with the government.

I'm currently working on a darker project with the Defense Department as well as working with.

Individual clients or small.

or... The largest source of actual security problems isn't a technical issue.

It's a process issue.

Most people have security issues because of that prostheses or poor understanding of ther own data or mistakes.

There is plenty of security technology that exists.

That's just not being applied.

Anyone who has been doing security for any number of years I think would not be surprised by the things that we see everyday.

I can't think of a single security incident where I thought.

Wow that that really surprised me.

Usually you look at it and it's kind of like a car wreck where there was ice on the road.

Like.

Yep that was what was going to happen.

But if you look at something really huge like Equifax.

You look at the even the news reports on it like not a deeply technical analysis do you think.

Yes that was a failure of process.

That was a failure of people to do the right thing.

That was people who really did not think through how they would secure their arena.

Security is a really broad topic but if you try to think of it in terms of the physical security in your house you know you always lock your door when you come home.

We're in New York everyone locks their door here.

We're not in Toronto.

So data security is something also similar.

The problem is that most individuals don't have control over their data.

So if you look at Equifax.

Most people don't even know that Equifax had their data.

So people need to be really conscious about who has their data.

Now banks now offer things like two factor authentication so that means that your phone will buzz when you try to login.

That's just something that everyone should be doing automatically.

You know if you've got really important financial or personal data that should be stored in a place where it's secure by like a second factor.

There is no silver bullet in security.

Those of us do a lot of security wind up saying that to people alot.

You can't buy one product or one thing that can make everything secure.

It's a process.

AT THE MILLSTONE TOWNSHIP MIDDLE SCHOOL IN NEW JERSEY, THE FUTURE PROBLEM SOLVERS CLUB HAVE DEVELOPED SOME HELPFUL LEARNING TOOLS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES.

THIS GROUP OF MIDDLE SCHOOLERS CREATED SEVEN DIFFERENT VIDEO GAMES IN EARTH SCIENCE, MATH AND SOCIAL STUDIES TO SUPPLEMENT AFTER SCHOOL LEARNING.

HERE'S THE STORY.

Doing a math lesson at New Road School of parkland students play video games created by other kids.

We're helping kids improve on their grades so they can do better in school but then eventually later in life they're going to have knowledge to be able to get past everything else.

New Road is a private school for students with disabilities.

On this day sixth graders Daniel roarin Eden McGovern watch for the first time as students learn while playing their games.

The boys are part of millstone township middle schools future problem solvers club.

We want to make education a way in which kids can actually look into the problems that exist in their community and say hey I may be 11 12 13 years old but what can I do to make a difference.

The kids thought of all sorts of ideas.

We live in a town where like there's a lot of dear's like crossing the roads we tried to think of a way to stop that.

But overall this is our best idea.

Adrian and Daniel are part of a club that includes these millstone township middle schoolers too.

Together they built original videogames and created others using educational gaming websites says Co-advisor Kevin Norris.

Our goal was to make supplemental material that the kids can use outside of the classroom when they're at home to help them study and reinforce what they're learning.

New roads students completed a survey on how they learn best.

While teachers provided milestone students the topics they were discussing in class the club members use that information to create the games.

So far the milestone students have created seven different video games in three different subjects earth science social studies which covers famous historical figures and math which focuses on basic addition subtraction multiplication.

The middle school students created the game questions and answer options.

The questions were mainly like focused around grade level so what we would have learned in that grade.

We kind of used that and tried to push them further than they could have gone.

For Aiden the project is personal. His sister Molly attends New Road.

It's really fun and really interesting.

Getting to know how these kids get to learn so fast.

Molly mentors other students as they play the video games.

I love helping them learn and I just love seeing their smiling faces every day.

We're hoping that by doing this they really get the best out of them and they will embrace education.

Our students also have problems sometimes with attention span.

So looking for various programs that could address those needs and because of technology which is the way of the future it's engaging to our students it's able to hold their attention and it's what the typical population does so that is where our children are responding and we're seeing gains in their academic skills.

These new road teachers use the video games in their classrooms weekly.

I think it makes it more fun for the students like they I think they motivates them a lot more to want to learn what's the benefit of this.

It's repetition so the concepts help them retain the information better.

These middle schoolers have a lot more work ahead of them.

They're in the process of creating new video games and an educational video that they have been a star at in Parkland for NJTV News.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION, VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM, AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

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UNTIL NEXT TIME I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.