TIME campus sexual assault

Columbia University Activist Emma Sulkowicz Is Going to the State of the Union

Campus sexual assault activist will leave her mattress at home

Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who has been carrying her mattress around campus to raise awareness about sexual assault, will accompany Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

As a co-sponsor of the Campus Safety and Accountability Act, Gillibrand says she is pushing for Obama to address campus sexual assault in his speech, especially as he unveils his plan to make two years of community college free for all Americans. “I hope the President will seize this opportunity to shine a national spotlight on the need to flip the incentives that currently reward colleges for sweeping sexual assaults under the rug,” she told the New York Daily News.

Sulkowicz, 22, has been carrying her mattress around campus as part of her senior thesis about campus sexual assault. She says that after she was raped by a classmate in 2012, Columbia failed to punish her attacker. Although two other women also publicly accused the same man of assault, the university found him “not responsible.” Sulkowicz has been carrying her mattress everywhere she goes on campus to call attention to the issue, but she won’t be brining her mattress to the State of the Union.

“The Columbia administration is harboring serial rapists on campus,” Sulkowicz wrote in an op-ed for Time.com. (The university declined to comment in response to the article.) The accused student has also spoken out. He says his encounters with Sulkowicz and the other students were entirely consensual.

TIME India

India’s Tiger Population Has Risen Significantly Since 2008, Say Officials

INDIA-ENVIRONMENT-ANIMAL-TIGER
A Royal Bengal Tiger pauses in a jungle clearing in Kaziranga National Park, some 280 km east of Guwahati, India, In this photograph taken on Dec. 21, 2014 STRDEL—AFP/Getty Images

The surge from 1,411 in 2008 to 2,226 currently comes despite widespread poaching

India’s tiger population has risen dramatically in the past seven years despite widespread poaching, smuggling and diminishing habitats, according to latest figures.

India’s Environment Ministry says that there are now 2,226 tigers nationwide compared with a historic low of 1,411 in 2008, Indian news channel NDTV reported.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said India is now home to about 70% of the world’s tigers.

The news of the big cats’ booming population comes amid reports of a record number of tiger deaths between 2010 and 2014.

The previous tiger census in 2010 had pegged the total number at 1,706.

TIME astronomy

There May Be ‘Super Earths’ at the Edge of Our Solar System

This discovery, if accurate, could completely redraw the map of the Solar System

The reason Pluto was demoted from the ranks of the planets back in 2006 was that astronomers had lately discovered it wasn’t alone out there. A whole assortment of Pluto-like objects is circling out beyond Neptune—too many, said the International Astronomical Union, for schoolchildren to memorize. (Seriously.) So despite a general public outcry that continues today, Pluto was demoted to “dwarf planet,” and the Solar System was left with a tidy eight.

But scientists think planets much bigger than Pluto could be orbiting beyond the reach of our most powerful telescopes. They probably aren’t as big as Saturn and Jupiter—but the unusual orbit of a tiny world called 2012 VP113, discovered last spring, hinted at the presence of something bigger than Earth. And now a pair of papers published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society suggests the evidence is even stronger.

“We have unpublished calculations,” says lead author Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, of the Complutense University of Madrid, “that suggest that there could be two planets with between two and 15 times the mass of the Earth.”

As with last year’s discovery, the evidence for the two planets is indirect. “We would like to emphasize that we have not discovered any new objects,” de la Fuente Marcos says. What they’ve done instead is to look at the orbits of 13 small bodies, including 2012 VP113, that follow elongated orbits in the distant reaches of the solar system.

In particular, they’ve looked at an orbital parameter known, in a quaint throwback to the early days of astronomy, as the “argument of perihelion”—that is, the point at which their tilted orbits cross the plane in which the other planets circle the Sun. What de la Fuente Marcos and his team find is that these points are suspiciously similar for all 13, which implies that the gravity of some massive object or objects, still unseen, is herding them. (It involves the Kozai mechanism, since you’re undoubtedly wondering).

These Super Earths would be located about four times as far away as the outer limit of Pluto’s orbit—and that’s a bit of a problem, since current models of the Solar System’s formation have a tough time putting a big planet out at that distance, especially today. “They may have existed in the past, but at very low probability,” says Ramon Brasser, of the Cote d’Azur Observatory, in France. Brasser also argues that more than half of the objects de la Fuente Marcos and his co-authors cites as evidence come close to Neptune, whose own gravity skews the results.

De la Fuente Marcos disagrees on the second point. “In general,” he says, “these objects are weakly perturbed by Neptune if they are perturbed at all. He agrees on the former, but with a caveat. “If we assume that our models of Solar System formation are correct, the objection is valid. But what if our models are incorrect?”

Even if the models are correct, however and a super Earth can’t be orbiting where de la Fuente Marcos suggests, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing big out there. “It’s possible,” says Brasser, “but the planet would have to be much farther away and much more massive in order to have the same effect. This scenario,” he says, “is currently being investigated.”

But the investigations are still purely indirect. “If large planets do exist,” says de la Fuente Marcos, “these objects must be very dark … and they are very far away from the Sun.” There won’t be a prayer of spotting them until the James Webb Space Telescope, or one of the new giant ground-based telescopes now under construction, is up and running toward the end of this decade.

But for a discovery that could completely redraw the map of the solar system yet again, that’s not too awfully long to wait.

 

 

TIME Environment

A Bad Day for Climate Change Deniers … and the Planet

Deeper, hotter, sicker—and the oceans are only part of it
Deeper, hotter, sicker—and the oceans are only part of it Roc Canals Photography; Getty Images/Flickr Select

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Three new studies offer new proof of how bad the earth's fever has gotten

It’s not often that the climate change deniers get clobbered three times in just two days. But that’s what happened with the release of a trio of new studies that ought to serve as solid body blows to the fading but persistent fiction that human-mediated warming is somehow a hoax. Good news for the forces of reason, however, is bad news for the planet—especially the oceans.

The most straightforward of the three studies was a report from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirming what a lot of people who sweltered through 2014 already suspected: the year is entering the record books as the hottest ever since reliable records started being kept in 1880—and the results weren’t even close.

Average global surface temperature worldwide was 58.24ºF (14.58º C) — surpassing previous records set in 2005 and 2007 — and making 2014 a full 2ºF (1.1ºC) hotter than the average for the entire 20th century. And before you say 2ºF doesn’t seem like much, think about whether you’d prefer to run a fever of 99ºF or 101ºF. The planet is every bit as sensitive to small variations as you are.

“Today’s news is a clear and undeniable warning for all of us that we need to cut climate pollution and prepare for what’s coming,” said Lou Leonard, vice president for climate change at the World Wildlife Fund.

When it concerns the ocean, what’s coming may already be here. A sobering study in Nature looked at sea level rise in both the periods from 1901 to 1990 and from 1993 to 2010 in an attempt to sort out a seeming inconsistency: measurements from 622 tide gauges around the world showed that levels had risen 6 in. (15.24 cm) over the past century, but computer models and other tools put the figure at only 5 in. (12.7 cm). Here too, what seems like a little is actually a lot: a single inch of water spread around all of the planet’s oceans and seas represents two quadrillion gallons of water.

This could have meant good news, since it might have indicated that we’d overestimated the impact of melting glaciers and ice caps. But new computer modeling recalculated the degree of sea level rise over the last century and found that the tide gauges had it right all along, and the only thing that was wrong was that sea levels had risen more slowly than believed in the 90 years that followed 1900, and much faster in the 17 years from 1993 to 2010 — close to three times as fast per year. What does that mean in the long term? Perhaps 3 ft. (0.9 m) greater increase by the end of this century if we keep on the way we’re going.

Finally, according to the journal Science, at the same time sea levels are rising higher, marine life forms are growing sicker, with a “major extinction event” a very real possibility. All through the oceans, the signs of ecosystem breakdown are evident: the death of coral reefs, the collapse of fish stocks, the migration of species from waters that have grown too warm for them to the patches that remain cool enough.

What’s more, the increase in the number of massive container ships crossing the oceans has resulted in a growing number of collisions with whales — encounters in which the animals wind up the losers. Seafloor mining and bottom-trawling nets both plunder fish populations and further damage the environment in which deepwater species can live.

“Humans,” wrote the authors of the Science paper, “have already powerfully changed virtually all major marine ecosystems.”

No part of this bad-news trifecta is likely to change the minds of the rump faction of climate deniers — particularly in Washington. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who is set to assume chairmanship of the committee that oversees science in general and NASA in particular had this to say to CNN about climate change: “The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened.”

He’s wrong on the facts — as the new temperature readings demonstrate — and wrong on his interpretation of the science which shows that the rate of atmospheric warming has indeed slowed a bit in the past decade and a half. The reason for that seeming happy development is not that climate change isn’t real, but that the oceans, for now, are sopping up more heat than anticipated—see, for example, those migrating fish.

Meantime, Cruz’s Oklahoma colleague Senator James Inhofe is set to become chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. This is the same Inhofe who persists in his very vocal belief that climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” and that even if it is true, it might actually be good for the world.

Ultimately, reason will prevail; in the long arc of scientific history it usually does. How much ocean and atmosphere and wildlife we’ll have left when that happens, however, is another matter entirely.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME climate change

2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record

'Climate change is perhaps the major challenge of our generation'

2014 was the hottest year since temperature record keeping began in 1880, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Friday. The average global surface temperature hit 58.24 F (14.58 C), easily surpassing the previous record, set in 2005 and 2010, by 0.07 degrees.

“Climate change is perhaps the major challenge of our generation,” NASA scientist Michael Freilich warned in on a conference call. “Our changing climate presents us with vast opportunities as well as the potential for profound societal impacts.”

Every continent experienced record high temperatures in some area. Alaska, the west coast of the United States, Europe, Australia and Siberia were among the areas that saw particularly intense temperature rises. Other regions, like the U.S. Northeast, saw relatively low temperatures. Overall, the average global land temperature was nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher in 2014 than the average temperature in the 20th century.

Though a temperature rise of a few degrees may seem insignificant, University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd likens the disparity to “the difference between a low-grade fever and one just a few degrees higher that can have an impact on the body.”

“If you are younger than 29-years old, you haven’t lived in a month that was cooler than the 20th century average,” he said in a statement. February 1985 was the last time where average global temperatures for the month were colder than they were for the 20th century on average.

Environmental activists and scientists used the announcement as an opportunity to counter claims that climate change has slowed or stopped in recent years. These claims cite data showing that temperatures have risen at a slower rate since the turn of the century than in past decades.

“Why do we keep getting so many record-warm years?” NASA scientist Dr. Gavin Schmidt asked in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s because the planet is warming. The basic issue is the long-term trend, and it is not going away.”

“Today’s news is a clear and undeniable warning for all of us—nations, businesses, cities, and individuals—that we need to cut climate pollution and prepare for what’s coming,” said Lou Leonard, vice president for climate change at the World Wildlife Fund, in a statement.

Gavin Schmidt described determining the cause of any temperature rise as a “complicated finger printing,” but said that it’s clear that greenhouse gases added to the climate by humans are a major contributor to the warming.

While last year’s record may be alarming in itself, scientists pointed out that long-term trends are equally alarming. Nine out of the ten warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century. “The key thing we’re talking about here is not just 2014, but the long-term trends,” said Schmidt on a conference call. “We may anticipate further record highs into the years to come.”

TIME space

See the SpaceX Rocket Crash Land in Middle of the Ocean

SpaceX Rocket Crash
GIF by Mia Tramz for TIME

“Close but no cigar,” Elon Musk tweeted

SpaceX launched a resupply ship to the International Space Station last week, but it narrowly failed a test to securely navigate the rocket back to earth.

The company founded by Elon Musk believes that a reusable rocket could drastically reduce the costs of space transportation, and as you can see in the GIF above compiled from images that Musk tweeted, they’re very close to finalizing the technology. In the first attempt, the Falcon 9 rocket descended back to floating platform about 200 miles off the Florida coast. But it was a hard landing, and the rocket was largely wrecked.

“Close but no cigar,” Musk tweeted at the time.

 

TIME space

Missing Beagle 2 Mars Lander Spotted on Planet’s Surface

The UK-led Beagle-2 Mars lander, which was transported by ESA's Mars Express mission and was lost on Mars since 2003, on the Red Planet's surface, in a photo released on Jan. 16, 2015.
The UK-led Beagle-2 Mars lander, which was transported by ESA's Mars Express mission and was lost on Mars since 2003, on the Red Planet's surface, in a photo released on Jan. 16, 2015. HIRISE/NASA/EPA

Spacecraft has been lost for ten years

The missing Mars lander Beagle 2 has been found on the surface of the planet after more than a decade, scientists announced Friday, solving the mystery of what happened to its doomed mission.

The robot was supposed to make a soft touchdown on Mars on Christmas Day in 2003 but contact was lost.

New images from planet’s surface show that it made a successful touchdown and was partially deployed, the U.K. Space Agency said in a statement.

However, it will not be possible to recover any data from the device.

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME space

Phantom of the Opera Soprano Sarah Brightman Has Started Space Training

Sarah Brightman
Sarah Brightman at her concert "Dream Haser" on 14th December, 2014 in Taipei, Taiwan, China. TPG—Getty Images

Her vacation will cost $52 million

Now we know why those Broadway lights just weren’t bright enough for Sarah Brightman — she wants to see the stars, up close and personal. The Phantom of the Opera soprano started training in Russia this week to make a 10-day trip to the International Space Station. Her stellar vacation cost her a cool $52 million.

Brightman will be the eighth tourist to travel to the ISS, and the first since NASA retired its shuttles in 2011, leaving Russia’s Soyuz as the sole transporter. If Brightman, who delayed her training due to a cold, is unable to make the trip at the end of her nine-month training period, Japanese entrepreneur Satoshi Takamatsu will take her place.

[Sky News]

TIME Television

Now There’s a Netflix for Science Fans

The service will be available on all Internet devices as well as Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast

Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks is launching a streaming service for science enthusiasts.

The service is called CuriosityStream and hits on March 18, Deadline reports.

Costing $2.99 a month for standard video and $9.99 a month for high-definition viewing, it will provide access to science and nature material from BBC Worldwide, Terra Noa, Japanese channel NHK and France’s ZED. There will also be original programming, including interviews with prominent thinkers.

“For consumers, our aim is to provide the first and best on-demand video streaming destination that aggregates and curates the world’s best factual content,” said Hendricks, who retired from Discovery Communications last May.

[Deadline]

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