A dig through the MetroCosm archives... purely for my own indulgence!
This week's 'Cosm revisited' pretty much picked itself. Over on my work blog, I recently posted about an infographic I created for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) that describes a five-year mission to investigate ice loss in Antarctica's glaciers. So it made sense to follow that theme into this blog.
I have actually selected a couple of old MetroCosm articles. The first is an article from February 2013 about the British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI research station. The second, from May 2014, is also about ice loss in Antarctic glaciers – I am only posting the infographic because it covers much of the same ground as the graphic I created for NERC. It is also a lesson in 'looking to see if you have done something similar before' – because I had totally forgotten about this Cosm and it would have saved me some research time on the NERC project!
Now THAT's what I call a mobile home!
The Brunt Ice Shelf is not what you’d call the ideal location to build a manned scientific research station. More than 16,000km from home, this floating shelf of ice sits beneath a hole in the ozone layer, experiences temperatures exceeding -50C; is regularly pummelled by 145kph blizzards and endures winters that, for 50 days of year, blanket the area in 24-hour darkness.
Over the winter, snow accumulates at such a rate that buildings are swiftly buried in a tomb of crushing snow and ice. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the seemingly solid ice on which it is built, is actually a relentless frozen conveyor belt that carries anything on it towards a watery grave.
Despite these overwhelming odds, the British Antarctic Survey have been building scientific research stations on the Brunt Ice Shelf since 1957. Their latest, the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station has just opened for business and is the culmination of almost sixty years of hard lessons and against-the-odds architectural and technological evolution.
Unlike its predecessors, whose countdown to destruction began as soon as they were built, Halley VI is designed with longevity in mind.
Click on the infographic to embiggen.
This article was first published in the Metro Newspaper in May 2013.
For this first 'Cosm revisited' I have chosen an unusually wordy article (most were infographic led with words acting as more of a supporting cast) – mainly because it is covers a subject that I still feel extremely passionate about: the value of curiosity for curiosity's sake.
Humanity is an inherently curious species. From the moment of our birth, we seek to understand ourselves; the world we inhabit and all the space beyond. Curiosity defines us. The need to ask ‘what if?’, ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ liberated us from the limits of an existence driven by survival alone and allowed us to become the first species in the history of the planet to live life for life’s sake. Curiosity made us masters of our fate.
Perhaps the ultimate expression of our curiosity is science. If curiosity is raw instinct, then science is curiosity channeled, focused and refined – curiosity can survive without science, but science can’t survive without curiosity. Remove curiosity from science and you tear out the beating heart from the very thing thing that made us and sustains us.
My MetroCosm science column ran in the Metro Newspaper from 2005, until it's premature demise in 2014.