March 17, 2022, 1:17 a.m.View more articles
This month on Newsdesk: flowers bloom early, artificial intelligence tracks animals, and a NASA telescope prepares to scan the stars.
Every spring, flowers start to bloom! Following the cold months of winter, brighter days and higher temperatures cause buds to blossom into life. This natural process has been going on without interruption for millions of years. However, from cherry trees in Japan, to Joshua trees in California, plants around the world have recently started flowering weeks earlier than normal.
Flowering plants look pretty, but the consequences of plants blooming earlier could be serious. The pollen, nectar and seeds of flowering plants are an important food resource for many insects and birds. But if plants flower earlier than usual, many species may not be ready to feed on them because they could still be hibernating, or spending late winter and early spring in another location. This disruptive phenomenon is known as an 'ecological mismatch'.
However, if we can reduce climate change, and stop temperatures rising further, natural seasons will be less disrupted, plants will be less likely to flower early, and birds and insects will be able to find enough food.
Wildlife conservationists often use cameras to track the location of different animals. However, it can sometimes take a long time to look through the hours and hours of recordings to find the exact moment that an animal appears on camera.
Now a team of scientists have developed a type of AI, or artificial intelligence, that can automatically detect animals in video footage.
The technology has been tested in the UK, where it has successfully detected deer, squirrels and hedgehogs. And tests are also being carried out in South Africa, where the AI is being used to detect bigger animals, such as giraffes. If further tests prove successful, the technology could allow conservationists to spend less time searching through video footage, and spend more time protecting animals out in the wild!
In December 2021, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was launched. Since then, the giant telescope has traveled a million miles through space. The telescope is currently located in a special cosmic parking spot known as L2. Now that the telescope is in position, a large sun shield protects it from the sun's powerful rays.
Like previous NASA telescopes, James Webb is designed to take photos of deep space. However, before the telescope can start to take photos, engineers need to fine tune its onboard camera equipment. To do this, signals are sent to the telescope via giant radio antennae.
The telescope's powerful cameras should be ready to start taking their first photos this coming summer; images of space that will help us understand the mysteries of the universe better than ever before!
Learn more about climate change by watching the Twig Film The Great Global Warming Debate.