The Biodiversity Heritage Library has a wonderful collection of resources about our shared biodiversity online. What is “biodiversity”? Wikipedia explains it as follows:
Biodiversity, a contraction of “biological diversity,” generally refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth. One of the most widely used definitions defines it in terms of the variability within species, between species and between ecosystems. It is a measure of the variety of organisms present in different ecosystems.
The goal of the Biodiversity Heritage Library is to improve “research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community”.
It is a remarkable resource, especially for school projects and for all you science geeks. One of the best parts of the Library is its extensive Flickr collection which has an enormous collection of scans and imagery.
The Library “serves as the foundational literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life” which you can find here. What is the Encyclopedia of Life?
Our knowledge of the many life-forms on Earth – of animals, plants, fungi, protists and bacteria – is scattered around the world in books, journals, databases, websites, specimen collections, and in the minds of people everywhere. Imagine what it would mean if this information could be gathered together and made available to everyone – anywhere – at a moment’s notice.
To increase awareness and understanding of living nature through an Encyclopedia of Life that gathers, generates, and shares knowledge in an open, freely accessible and trusted digital resource.
Between the Library and the EOL, these are wonderful biodiversity resources. Definitely worth bookmarking for all those school projects and personal exploration. I’ve added both sites to our Sources page.
This morning our daughter asked me what happens when lightning strikes an airplane. She is a little afraid of storms and she was concerned about the passengers of airplanes when there are lightning strikes.
Understanding lightning better
Lightning is, at the same time, an awesome and terrifying phenomenon. It seems to affect us on a very primal level. Understanding it better helps us appreciate its awesome beauty while making sure we are safer during lightning storms. I found a great video from SciShow Kids about lightning:
Lightning moves pretty quickly so we don’t always see lightning in more detail. I found this terrific video on Wikipedia (your browser may not play the video if it doesn’t support .ogv formats).
So what happens when lightning strikes an airplane?
The prospect of lightning striking an airplane can be scary. I was fascinated to learn that planes are engineered to handle lightning strikes in an interesting way. Here is a video from the Smithsonian Channel:
If you are interested in reading more about how airplanes are engineered to withstand lightning strikes, also read an article on Scientific American titled “What happens when lightning strikes an airplane?”. Here is an extract from the Scientific American article that answer my daughter’s questions about passengers’ experience of a lightning strike:
Although passengers and crew may see a flash and hear a loud noise if lightning strikes their plane, nothing serious should happen because of the careful lightning protection engineered into the aircraft and its sensitive components. Initially, the lightning will attach to an extremity such as the nose or wing tip. The airplane then flies through the lightning flash, which reattaches itself to the fuselage at other locations while the airplane is in the electric “circuit” between the cloud regions of opposite polarity. The current will travel through the conductive exterior skin and structures of the aircraft and exit off some other extremity, such as the tail. Pilots occasionally report temporary flickering of lights or short-lived interference with instruments.
Thunderstorms are impressive and powerful natural phenomenon and it’s usually a good idea to keep your distance, regardless of your mode of travel. At the same time, it is good to know what even when you are suspended in the air, traveling through a storm, you are probably safe.
Did you know that knowing the size of raindrops in clouds can help meteorologists more accurately predict rainfall? A new joint American and Japanese mission promises to help scientists make even more accurate predictions based on the size of the raindrops in clouds. This next video is a great overview of the mission:
Not all raindrops are created equal. The size of falling raindrops depends on several factors, including where the cloud producing the drops is located on the globe and where the drops originate in the cloud. For the first time, scientists have three-dimensional snapshots of raindrops and snowflakes around the world from space, thanks to the joint NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission. With the new global data on raindrop and snowflake sizes this mission provides, scientists can improve rainfall estimates from satellite data and in numerical weather forecast models, helping us better understand and prepare for extreme weather events.
If you are curious about the spacecraft that is conducting this amazing survey work, here is a helpful explanatory diagram:
Here is a great video that explains how the size of raindrops can help better understand storm behaviour: