Ammon News, Panorama

The artificial glacier growing in the desert

[7/22/2017 2:24:22 PM]

AMMONNEWS - In the far north of India, a cold mountain desert is the stunning backdrop to an unprecedented icy structure. This is a land of extremes, where rainfall is scarce and temperatures range wildly from torrid to far below freezing. The locals say it's the only place in the world where a man, sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade, can suffer sunstroke and frostbite at the same time. It's the Ladakh region -- meaning "land of high passes" -- sandwiched between two of the world's tallest mountain ranges, the Himalayas and the Kunlun. Rainfall is rare here. Water, essential for irrigating the farmlands that are the lifeblood of the local population, mostly comes from melting snow and ice. But climate change is making this land even drier, leaving farmers without water in the crucial planting months of April and May, right before the glaciers start to melt in the summer sun. One man's solution to the problem? Make more glaciers. The "Ice Stupa" In 2014 a local mechanical engineer, Sonam Wangchuk, set out to solve the water crisis of the Ladakh. The natural glaciers are shrinking due to rising global temperatures. For that reason, they provide far less water in early spring but then release a lot in the summer heat, shrinking even more. Wangchuk had a simple idea: he wanted to balance this natural deficit by collecting water from melting snow and ice in the cold months, which would normally go to waste, and store it until spring, just when farmers need it the most. "I once saw ice under a bridge in May and understood that it's the sun that makes the ice melt, not ambient temperature," he told CNN. "I realized that ice can last a long time, even at low altitudes." He then build a two-story prototype of an "ice stupa", a cone of ice that he named after the traditional mound-like sacred monuments that are found throughout Asia. Why a cone? The ice stupa is created using no power or pumps, only physics: "the ingredients are a downstream, an upstream and a gradient," says Wangchuk. First, a pipe is laid underground, connecting a stream of water and the location where the ice stupa is required, usually next to a village. The water must come from a higher altitude, usually around 60 meters or more. Because a fluid in a system always wants to maintain its level, water from 60 meters upstream will spray 60 meters into the air out of the downstream pipe, creating a fountain. The freezing air temperature does the rest, immediately crystallizing the water droplets into ice that falls right below, forming a cone. "A cone is very easy to make with ice, because any dripping naturally forms a cone underneath -- icicles are inverted cones," says Wangchuk. But a cone has more desirable properties: "It has minimal exposed surface area for the volume of water it contains." That means it melts very slowly: the prototype, 20 feet tall and containing 150,000 liters of water, lasted from winter until mid-May, just when water is needed for irrigation, while all the surrounding ice on the ground had gone by the end of March. Last ice standing The revolutionary aspect of the ice stupa is that it works even at low altitude and in very warm temperatures. It's not the first type of artificial glacier in the area, but previous endeavors were only attempted above 13,000 feet (or 4,000 meters) by freezing waters in large canals which required shade and a lot of maintenance, and were located too far away from the fields to be practical. Instead, the conical shape of the ice stupa can withstand even direct sunlight and it can sit right were the water is required. However, they are not maintenance-free: "Currently they need a lot of manual intervention: the fountains can freeze when the pipes ice up, things like that," says Wangchuk. He hopes that soon, by refining the technology, the stupas will become more reliable. That's why he's going to start testing in Peru this summer, taking advantage of an extra winter in the southern hemisphere. "We are at a stage similar to motor cars in the 1950s, when drivers had to often open the bonnet and fix things. Nowadays the driver doesn't even know what's inside the bonnet, we are moving towards that," he says. "In the meantime, we can grow trees where trees would never grow because the land was too dry." A crowdfunding effort How much does it cost to build an ice stupa? Because of the piping infrastructure required, the initial investment can be steep. Wangchuck estimated he would need around $125,000 to build his first full-scale version, which could reach 80 feet in height and provide irrigation to about 10 hectares of land: "It was too radical for any government to support, but I knew the people of the world would back it," he says. He decided to crowdfund the project, asking people for contributions through Indiegogo, a popular crowdfunding platform. The campaign was successful and piqued the interest of the local institutions: "Now that the idea has been proven, the Ladhaki government is incorporating it its development plans." The ice stupa also netted Wangchuk a Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2016, which carried a 100,000 Swiss Franc prize (around $105,000). But Wangchuk also dreams of turning the stupas into tourist attractions, by building ice bars and ice hotels inside them: "It will be an exclusive experience for people who are willing to pay for it, and the money will support the water for the farmers eliminating the shortage in the spring, which is what every farmer fears," he says. This might sound a bit like mixing the sacred and the profane, but Wangchuk thinks the ice stupa itself is a bridge between different cultures. "We wanted to integrate traditional practices and beliefs with innovative technology, because climate change cannot be handled by engineering alone," he says. "We have to join forces." *CNN

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NASA releases new images of raging storm on Jupiter

[7/13/2017 5:23:36 PM]

AMMONNEWS - NASA on Wednesday released a series of stunning images of a raging storm on Jupiter, known as the Great Red Spot, snapped earlier this week as an unmanned probe zipped by. The US space agency’s Juno spacecraft flew over the storm late Monday, offering humanity’s closest look yet at the iconic feature of our solar system’s largest planet. “For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now we have the best pictures ever.” Scientists hope to learn more about what drives the storm, and Bolton said it would take some time to analyze the data captured by Juno’s eight instruments as it passed over the tempest a height of 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers). The Great Red Spot measured 10,159 miles (16,350 kilometers) wide on April 3 of this year, which is 1.3 times the size of the Earth. It has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. Juno launched in 2011 and began orbiting Jupiter last year. Its next flyby is planned for early September. “These highly-anticipated images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are the ‘perfect storm’ of art and science,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science. “We are pleased to share the beauty and excitement of space science with everyone.” *AFP

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King Abdullah University Hospital doctors perform rare surgery

[7/13/2017 5:18:46 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Jordanian doctors at the King Abdullah University Hospital recently conducted a rare heart surgery on a 22-year-old Syrian refugee, according to a US journal. The American Journal for the Treatment of Blood Vascular Diseases Interventional Radiology recently published news of a medical achievement by the King Abdullah University Hospital and recorded it as a “rare medical case”, Surgeon Khaled Alawneh told The Jordan Times on Thursday. The journal, which is internationally accredited and specialised in the vascular field, considered the medical procedure as an “advanced international achievement”. Alawneh, who works at the hospital, said that the patient was admitted as an emergency case, “regardless of insurance and nationality”. The operation was an endovascular repair of a delayed pseudoaneurysm of the right subclavian artery, caused by a gunshot injury that was associated with significant right brachial panplexopathy, the doctor explained. Surgical repair is reportedly associated with a high mortality rate and is considered technically challenging, said the surgeon. Alawneh stressed that the surgery was successful, recording a “unique achievement” for the hospital’s staff without any major side effects, noting that the patient has “recovered from all of the symptoms”. Established in 1994 as the largest medical institution in the north of the country, serving approximately one million inhabitants from the northern and other governorates, King Abdullah University Hospital is a teaching hospital affiliated with the Jordan University of Science and Technology, according to the hospital’s website.

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Tower of human skulls casts new light on Aztecs

[7/2/2017 5:12:06 PM]

AMMONNEWS - A tower of human skulls unearthed beneath the heart of Mexico City has raised new questions about the culture of sacrifice in the Aztec Empire after crania of women and children surfaced among the hundreds embedded in the forbidding structure. Archaeologists have found more than 650 skulls caked in lime and thousands of fragments in the cylindrical edifice near the site of the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, which later became Mexico City. Historians relate how the severed heads of captured warriors adorned tzompantli, or skull racks, found in a number of Mesoamerican cultures before the Spanish conquest. But the archaeological dig in the bowels of old Mexico City that began in 2015 suggests that picture was not complete. "We were expecting just men, obviously young men, as warriors would be, and the thing about the women and children is that you'd think they wouldn't be going to war," said Rodrigo Bolanos, a biological anthropologist investigating the find. "Something is happening that we have no record of, and this is really new, a first in the Huey Tzompantli," he added. Raul Barrera, one of the archaeologists working at the site alongside the huge Metropolitan Cathedral built over the Templo Mayor, said the skulls would have been set in the tower after they had stood on public display on the tzompantli. Roughly six meters in diameter, the tower stood on the corner of the chapel of Huitzilopochtli, Aztec god of the sun, war and human sacrifice. Its base has yet to be unearthed. There was no doubt that the tower was one of the skull edifices mentioned by Andres de Tapia, a Spanish soldier who accompanied Cortes in the 1521 conquest of Mexico, Barrera said. In his account of the campaign, de Tapia said he counted tens of thousands of skulls at what became known as the Huey Tzompantli. Barrera said 676 skulls had so far been found, and that the number would rise as excavations went on. The Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples performed ritualistic human sacrifices as offerings to the sun. *Reuters

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Plane crashes on US freeway and bursts into flames

[7/1/2017 11:07:55 AM]

AMMONNEWS - A small plane crash-landed on a freeway in Orange County, California, on Friday morning, critically injuring two people on board and snarling traffic on a major north-south artery through the area, authorities said. The fiery crash was captured on cell-phone video by a driver and broadcast on local KABC-TV. It showed the twin-engine Cessna 310 as it passed low over the northbound side of the San Diego (405) freeway in southern California before slamming into the ground on the southbound lanes. The aircraft, which appeared to be rapidly losing power, is seen leveling out slightly before hitting the ground and bursting into flames about 1,000 feet from a runway at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the pilot declared an emergency shortly after taking off from John Wayne airport and was trying to return there when the plane crashed at about 9:35 a.m. local time. Captain Larry Kurtz of the Orange County Fire Authority told KABC that the plane clipped a car on the freeway immediately before crashing, but the occupants of the vehicle were not hurt. Televised images showed the wreckage resting in the southbound lanes of the freeway immediately adjacent to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, covered in fire-retardant foam and surrounded by police and firefighters. The freeway, the main north-south route through southern Orange County, was shut in both directions for about an hour before the northbound side and one southbound lane were reopened. Still, traffic remained backed up for miles in both directions some two hours after the incident. Arrivals were halted at the airport for about 45 minutes after the crash, and officials there advised travelers to arrive several hours early for flights. An Orange County sheriff's spokesman said that two people, identified only as a male and female, had been pulled from the wreckage of the plane and were being taken to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. The plane was still on the freeway several hours after the crash and investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration and John Wayne Airport were said to be en route to the scene. *Reuters

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Baby on board: Indian gives birth at 35,000 feet

[6/19/2017 7:42:05 PM]

AMMONNEWS - An Indian woman gave birth to a baby boy on an international commercial flight as it flew at 35,000 feet, the airline said on Monday. The unnamed woman, in her 20s, went into premature labour on Sunday's Jet Airways flight between Damman in Saudi Arabia and Kochi in the southern Indian state of Kerala. “The guest delivered a baby boy at 35,000 feet,” Jet Airways said in a statement, adding that a paramedic on board and airline staff helped with the delivery. The Boeing 737 flight, which had 162 passengers on board, was diverted to Mumbai where the woman and her newborn were rushed to a hospital near the airport. An official at Mumbai’s Holy Spirit hospital told AFP on Monday that both the mother and baby boy were doing well. The woman was believed to have been around 32 weeks pregnant when she gave birth. Jet Airways said it was the first time a baby had been born on one of its flights and that it had given him free travel for life on the airline. In August last year a woman gave birth on a flight from the United Arab Emirates to the Philippines. The plane made an emergency landing in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad so the mother and newborn could receive medical attention before continuing their journey to Manila. *AFP

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Romania to ban wild animals in circuses

[6/13/2017 6:37:00 PM]

AMMONNEWS - Tigers, lions, bears and other wild animals will be banned from circuses in Romania after the country’s parliament passed a bill on Tuesday in a move welcomed by animal rights groups. Any animal “born in captivity or captured in the wild”, regardless of how tame they are, will not be allowed to be used in public shows, the bill states. Circuses will have 18 months to comply with the law and transfer animals to reserves or zoos. “No tiger, lion, bear or elephant will suffer any more in Romania for the amusement of people,” Magor Csibi, director of WWF Romania, said in a statement. “Our society is evolving.” President Klaus Iohannis must sign the bill into law before it comes into effect. Circus owners could face criminal charges -- and a one year prison sentence -- if they fail to comply with the new rules. Circuses will still be authorized to use some animals though, such as dolphins and exotic birds, in certain situations. The decision in parliament comes after 11 animals, including two tigers, were killed in a fire in January at a building housing animals for Romania’s Globus Circus in Bucharest. Following the incident, a public campaign to ban the use of trained animals in circuses -- which garnered more than 60,000 signatures -- also put pressure on the authorities to act. Six EU countries have already implemented bans on circuses that use wild animals, while about 15 other countries have partial restrictions. *AFP

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