Volunteers Wanted

Feel like getting off the world for a while? You’ve got company! As the U.S. News & World Report states, some 12,000 people have applied to become astronauts following a call from NASA for volunteers. It’s the second largest group of would-be spacefarers in the agency’s history.

The hopefuls come from all 50 American states, as well as the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. Those selected will probably travel to the International Space Station and pave the way for exploration of the moon and Mars.

The previous call for recruits drew a record 18,300 candidates, of which 12 were ultimately chosen. This time around NASA tightened its qualifications, requiring a master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math. There are currently 48 active astronauts in the group.

Cultivate Creativity

The Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab identified some guiding principles for cultivating creativity that can be adapted for life under social distancing:

  • Projects: Many projects can be completed using the same tools. Just as children find new ways to construct Legos, employees can find new ways to synthesize ideas.
  • Passion: Encourage co-workers to develop their own ideas for projects that will use their talents and hold their attention.
  • Peers: Creativity flourishes when we connect and communicate. Use remote tools to seek out connections and maintain communication.

Seismic Shifts

COVID-19 made an impact on people all over the world, but curiously, it’s reduced our impact on the planet. The New York Times reports that self-quarantining has had an observable effect on seismic activity beneath city streets.

Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, measured the seismic noise beneath the city after Brussels established a lockdown in mid-March. He found that it had diminished quickly and significantly once Belgians and their cars were off the streets.

Other scientists around the world have followed his lead and detected similar declines. In Great Britain, one seismologist tracking activity from her suburban house observed a 20%–25% reduction in average weekly noise one week after the British commenced their lockdown.

In the center of London, another seismometer recorded a 30% drop. Similarly, noise levels in Los Angeles have declined more than 50% of normal, and the Paris Institute of Earth Physics has detected a 38% drop in average daytime seismic noise in the city. It seems that all our footsteps have more an impact than we realized.

No Phishing Allowed

We have all spent extra hours online over the past few months and you’re probably being extra careful with your personal information. However, determined criminals can “phish” for information.

The Norton website shares these clues to help you spot a scam and keep your data safe:

  • Carefully consider requests for personal information: Government agencies and legitimate organizations won’t ask for your Social Security number, passwords, or other private details via email.
  • Avoid untrustworthy links: You can determine where a link is actually going by hovering your mouse over it and looking at the website address, or the URL. Many times you’ll be able to tell that it’s not a legitimate online destination. On the other hand, some scammers can create very realistic looking destination URLs, so be cautious and delete the link in case of any doubt.
  • Grammatical Mistakes: Errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar are telltale clues of a phishing attempt. Again, delete the message immediately.
  • Generic Greetings: “Dear sir or madam,” or “To whom it may concern,” means that the sender has no idea who you are. That doesn’t mean it is an attempt at phishing, but you should probably take a closer look at the correspondence.
  • Requests for Instant Action: Phishing scams will insist that you respond immediately. Don’t panic; just delete the message.

Ghost Ship Identified

Every 20 years or so, the remains of a 50-foot shipwreck are exposed on a Maine beach in the wake of strong storms, only to be buried again by more harsh weather. It’s a mystery that has frustrated locals wanting to know more about the ghost ship. According to the CNN website, the ship was first spotted in 1958, then reappeared in 1978, 2007, 2013, and 2018. Some pieces of the ship were saved, and now the mystery has been cleared up.

A marine archaeologist sent pieces of the wreck to the Cornell University Tree-Ring Laboratory, where the timber was matched in a tree-ring index to a probable date of 1753. With that data, the archaeologist studied historical records and linked it to a sloop called Defiance, built in 1754 and wrecked near the Maine location in 1769. Defiance sailed out of Salem, Massachusetts, with a cargo of flour, pork, and other goods. Crewed by four men, the ship hit a fierce storm and was forced onto the beach. Although the sloop was a total loss, all four men survived.

The identification is significant because Defiance is one of the few examples of a pre-Revolutionary War ship built in New England. Scientists also hope to use the information to measure the impact of sea level rise and storm activity.