The Moon is something many of us take for granted. It doesn’t really do that much, it just sits up their in space.
When someone talks about the Moon what springs to mind? Werewolves? Cheese? Wallace and Gromit?
Maybe you think of Apollo 11 in 1969 and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting foot on the Moon.
I watched a very interesting BBC documentary recently called Do We Really Need the Moon? It explored how important the Moon has been to the development of life on Earth, and how important it may become in the future of space travel.
The Moon is likely to have been critical to the creation of life on Earth. It is believed that the Moon was formed when another planet crashed into Earth. At this point, the Earth was an uninhabitable, unstable lava wasteland. The collision created millions of pieces of molten rock which were sent into orbit. The biggest of these chunks of liquid rock grouped together (thanks to our old friend gravity) to form a new structure. Eventually all the pieces either became a part of the Moon, joined onto the Earth, or were flung off into space.
This massive collision reset Earth’s chemistry. Over the next 7 million years, it is thought that the Earth cooled, and water vapour condensed to form oceans. Oceans which the Moon controlled. The water nearest the Moon is affected by its gravitational pull more. This means that water recedes in other areas, amassing in the part of the ocean that is closest to the Moon. This is what creates the tides we know today, the same tides that are thought to have helped to create life – around 4 billion years ago.
A picture from the BBC documentary Do We Really Need the Moon? showing how the Moon’s gravity pulls the oceans of the world towards it – creating tides.
So the Moon helped to create life, but that’s not all, it also helps to maintain it. The distance the Moon is away from the Earth, means that the tides are not too extreme. If the Moon were 20 times close than it is today then the Moon’s gravity would be 400 times stronger than it is today. This would create a huge tidal surge that would completely submerge all major cities around the world. At night, London would be underwater, and then a few hours later the waters would recede and flood New York. Evolution would not be able to adapt to changes that happened this quickly, and life on Earth would not exist.
The Moon also protects us in another way. Here is an image of the nearside of the Moon – the side we always see.
Now here is an image of the farside, also known as the dark side of the Moon.
Notice a difference?
The farside is covered in a mass of craters, whilst the nearside is largely unscathed. Every crater on the farside of the Moon is a potential impact that the Moon has prevented for the Earth. Imagine that all meteoroids in space are chunks of iron, and the Moon is a giant magnet. The Moon pulls a lot of this space debris towards it.
Inevitably some meteoroids will collide with Earth, however the Moon does a pretty good job of shielding our planet from a lot of dangerous impacts.
We are pretty lucky really, if the Moon were much closer, or bigger, we wouldn’t be able to survive. Likewise, if it didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be here in the first place.
So next time you see the Moon, spare a thought for how integral it is to life on Earth.
That’s Not It!
Enjoyed this article? Feeling like you want a bit more Moon stuff? Next week I continue to look at the Moon, this time from the perspective of space travel!
A few months ago, I wrote about LHC@home 2.0, which is a project that you can get involved in that allows you to use your spare computing capacity to help ‘crunch’ scientific data from the Large Hadron Collider project.
Rather shamefully, at the time of writing the article, I hadn’t actually taken part in the project, however after buying a new PC, I thought that it was my duty to donate my spare processing power to help science!
I started off by going to the SETI@home website, where I worked out that in order to take part in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) project, I would need to download the ‘BOINC software’ – so I did. When I installed the software I was amazed with the amount of different projects that I was able to partake in.
The BOINC software is effectively a management tool which lets you choose which projects you want to help crunch data for. Then it sets about downloading, analysing and then uploading the data in the background.
There are so many great projects that people can get involved in, from looking for extraterrestrial life and the Higgs particle, to projects providing power to those who are doing vital research into malaria, cancers and other important global diseases, and even trying to work out how and why gravity works!
From finding new medicines to helping university students, there really is something for everyone to get involved in.
If you are worried that it may slow down your computer, then don’t be, you can set how much of your processor BIONIC can use, as well as the amount of hard disk space it can take up, and also how it uses your internet.
The BOINC software comes with an easy to follow interface, and gives you announces of important events and discoveries relating to @home projects.
The BOINC Manager Interface
Think where we would be in terms of scientific advancements, if everyone were to give just 10% of their PC to some of BOINC’s @home projects.
You can make a difference, and you can help science! Please go to the BOINC website to download the software today, and get stated with some of the brilliant projects they have on offer! I personally believe that the following projects are really worth a look at:
Poem@Home – investigating protein structures, how they determine protein function, how they interact with one another, etc.
LHC@home 1.0 – the Large Hadron Collider project – with some extra software, you can also take part in LHC@home 2.0
climateprediction.net – attempting to improve climate modelling, and predict the possible effects of climate change
Einstein@Home – searching through data from the LIGO detectors for evidence of continuous gravitational-wave sources, as well as searching radio telescope data from the Arecibo Observatory for radio pulsars
Cosmology@Home – comparing theoretical models of the universe in order to try to improve future technologies
malariacontrol.net – helping in the fight against malaria, via creating simulations and models of the history of Malaria
SETI@home – analysing data from outer space, to try and find extraterrestrial life
Unfortunately, I now have to give you a warning. Whilst I am sure that the software and projects are all 100% safe to participate in, some organisations would not want you to install them on their computers. You would be perfectly okay to install such projects on your home PC, however I wouldn’t advise that you do it at work or school, as there have been incidences in the past of firms pressing charges against people for increasing their internet usage and filling up there serves by unauthorised software like BOINC.
That aside, I really do urge you to download the BOINC manager today, any start helping science! If this makes the offer any more attractive, most projects have their own screensavers, many of which look pretty cool!
Install it and leave a comment below to let us know how you are getting on 🙂
It’s not often we post on a Sunday. In fact I think this is the first time we ever have. The reason for this post is clearly one of high importance then…
UPDATE: I have since discovered that this is our second post on a Sunday, the first being a warning to potential writers about providing copied content – another (although slightly less) important matter.
Every year (for the past four years) on the 15th of October, there is a global Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the world write about one common problem in the world today, in order to try to raise awareness of a pressing issue.
This year the day have been moved back to the 16th of October (today) as that makes it coincide with World Food Day. Unsurprisingly, this years Blog Action Day theme is on food.
A history of Blog Action Day
The first Blog Action Day was held in 2007. The 2007 theme was the environment. At the time, one of the main global concerns (not that it isn’t even more so now) was regarding the sustainability of our current way of life, and the environmental impact, be it global warming, climate change, ecosystem instability or environmental degradation.
A green coloured globe represents the environment, which is held carefully in someone’s hands – representing how we control the future of our planet
Blog Action Day took off with a bang with around 20,000 blogs taking part, of which, there were around 20 in Technorati’s top 100 blogs – at the time. This proves that from day 1, Blog Action Day had a big influence, giving it a big potential to actually raise awareness and improve things that it petitions for.
2008 saw an equally important matter being raised: poverty. Poverty is a very pressing issue, and is part of the UN’s 8 Millennium Development Goals which it hoped to meet by 2015.
In 2009 the theme changed to climate change. The phrase ‘global warming’ used to be used before we realised that it wasn’t a very good term, as it’s not just warming that is likely to take place.
The world’s climate is so intricate and complex that you couldn’t say that increase in greenhouse gasses via intensive farming of rice, rearing of cows, burning of fossil fuels, cutting down of rainforests etc. would cause global temperatures to rise, as it wouldn’t necessarily do that everywhere, all the time.
Melting ice caps are a symptom linked to climate change
Hence the term climate change was born in order to supersed the term ‘global warming’ in describing the likelihood of an increase in extreme and irregular weather/climate patterns.
In 2010 Blog Action Day moved onto stressing the importance (and scarcity) of water. Currently most people in the developed world use far more water than should really be available to them, if all water supplies were equally divided.
Only 3% of the world’s water is freshwater, of which the majority is ‘locked up’ in the form of ice. This means that less than 0.007% of all the worlds water drinkable and accessible. This matched with an exponentially rising global population is why over 20% of the world’s population don’t have access to safe drinking water, and one in three people around the world have inadequate sanitation.
2011 – Food
Now down to matter in hand – Blog Action Day 2011. As I have already mentioned, today is World Food Day, and Blog Action Day’s focus for this year is food.
World Food Day marks the 1945 foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organization, a UN project aimed at achieving food security for all, as well as making sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality, nutritional food, to lead active healthy lives.
Why should we worry about food?
In the words of Blog Action Day’s website:
“We use food to mark times of celebration and sorrow. Lack of access to food causes devastating famines, whilst too much is causing a generation of new health problems. It can cost the world, or be too cheap for farmers to make a living.
The way we companies produce food and drinks can provide important jobs for communities or be completely destructive to habitats and local food producers. Food can give us energy to get through the day or contain ingredients that gives us allergic reactions.
Food can cooked by highly skilled chefs with inventive flair, or mass produced and delivered with speed at the side of road. It can be incredibly healthy or complete junk and bad for your health. It can taste delicious or be a locals only delicacy.
Food is important to our culture, identity and daily sustenance and the team at Blog Action invite you to join us to talk about food.”
Nobody alive today can live without food for more than a month, and a lack of inadequate amounts/types of food can also kill.
Many people don’t realise it, but the greedy ‘Western’ lifestyle is the main reason for food issues around the world. Developed countries are getting too fat, whilst undeveloped ones are not getting enough food. According to the UN, malnutrition kills a child around the world every 15 seconds. That is heart breaking.
Westerners waste so much food, it is disgusting, even more so because of the fact that there are people who don’t have enough of the right foods (or any food at all for that matter) to eat.
How can you help?
If you want to help on a personal level there are two main things you can do.
Try to source as much of your food as locally as you can. This helps local producers, as well as reduced greenhouse emission and water loss from undeveloped countries who use vast amounts of their scarce water to produce food for us. Some global food purchases can be justified, so try to pay attention to where your food is coming from and what the impact of getting it to you is.
Donate to a crisis. There is currently a famine in Eastern Africa, and charities are there to help, but they need your help, be it through voluntary work or capital donations. I an not listing any charities, as it’s often better to decide yourself which ones to support.
You could also blog about the topic. If you have a blog, I wholeheartedly recommend you help to raise awareness yourself. If you read this a day or two late, don’t worry you missed the date, sill write about it and raise awareness. I missed the day last year, but I still blogged about it.
Blog Action Day suggest some topic areas you might like to discuss, which can be helpful if you are not sure where to start.
Technology Bloggers is supporting Blog Action Day!
If you do decide to write about Blog Action Day, you can register your blog with them, on their official list, so that they know roughly how many blogs took part.