Plastic Trash is Filling Our Uninhabited​ Island of Santa Luzia, Cabo Verde

The Barboza Space Center looks at Santa Luzia Island as Mars on Earth.  We are getting ready to explore a variety of science experiment prototypes to simulate a journey to Mars.  Our team was sad to hear about the following news report.  We invite you to share your comments.  E-mail:   Bob Barboza.

The island of Santa Luzia is a nature reserve, is uninhabited and is filled with plastic from various countries.

Santa Luzia invadida por plásticos de 25 países

Plastics from at least 25 countries have invaded the Cape Verdean island of Santa Luzia, the country’s only uninhabited and nature reserve, environmental associations warn, considering that garbage threatens several species on the island.

The alert was launched on the Facebook page of the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA), after two visits to the island under the project “Desertas – sustainable management of the Santa Luzia marine reserve”.

The environmental organization indicated that the first visit to the island of Santa Luzia took place in June, under the project, which is also coordinated by the Cape Verdean Environmental Association Biosphere I and the Cape Verde National Environment Directorate (DNA). a cleaning campaign on the beach.

SPEA reported in the same publication that the researchers returned to the island almost six months later and were “shocked” by the amount of plastic that had accumulated over the period.

According to the Portuguese environmental society, the island could be a paradise, but the plastics brought by the chains are turning it into a nightmare and a dump.

“We decided to go for an hour on the beach and try to find plastics with labels to know where all that garbage came from. To our surprise, there were already plastics from at least 25 different countries, “SPEA said in a publication accompanied by photos of the labels of their respective countries.

In the photos, there are labels from Portugal, Colombia, the Philippines, Uruguay, Ghana, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, the United States, Japan, Greece, Morocco, Malaysia, France or South Africa.

The same Portuguese organization indicated that the beach of Santa Luzia is one of the most important for the reproduction of the big-headed turtle (caretta caretta), in which Cabo Verde has the third largest in the world, and that last year made more than five thousand nests on the island.

“During our walk, we found the parched corpses of two turtle-headed turtles who could not get to the sea because the path was lined with plastics. They died of hunger, thirst, and heat in a plastic car where they were trapped shortly after being born. These bags, nets, ropes, bottles, bottles are a deadly trap for wildlife, “warned Portuguese society.

Therefore, he appealed: “It is not enough to clean the beaches, we must prevent the plastics from going to the sea. Let’s turn this tide. “

The publication is also accompanied by a link from an online petition launched by BirdLife Europe and Central Asia to pressure the European Union to invest in ocean conservation.

The petition already has more than 19 thousand signatures and the goal is to reach 25 thousand.

Plastic and microplastics cause environmental and public health damage and according to the United Nations by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.

Speaking to the Lusa news agency, the president of Biosphere Association I, Tommy Melo, lamented the scenario found in Santa Luzia and said that the organization he runs has been carrying out cleaning campaigns every year, but unfortunately the sea brings more garbage to the island .

“That’s why we have to campaign every year, because of the turtles, to reduce mortality, and protect other species,” said the biologist.

Santa Luzia, of the Barlavento group and located between São Vicente and São Nicolau, is the only uninhabited island of Cape Verde, classified as a natural reserve and used for scientific research, study visits, fishing and environmental tourism.

The Cape Verde Protected Areas page of the Ministry of Environment states that the island and adjacent islands (White and Shallow) “have a unique ecosystem with endemic biodiversity and the presence of world-class species that require protection.




Who is NASA’s Charles Bolden?

Decorated Nasa astronaut Charles Bolden is impressed by the UAE's space programme. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Decorated Nasa astronaut Charles Bolden is impressed by the UAE’s space programme. Chris Whiteoak / The National

April 24, 1990. Space Shuttle Discovery blasts off from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

On board is the Hubble telescope, a project of vital significance that will broaden our understanding of space.

The pilot of the mission was Nasa astronaut Charles Bolden, on the second of his four space flights.

Nearly three decades on, Mr Bolden is still a man on a mission – with his latest trip being to the UAE, a country embarking on bold space adventures of its own.

Mr Bolden has come to the UAE as a space envoy. The initiative was organised by the US Embassy and during his brief stay, he will visit schools, talk to pupils and try to raise even more awareness about the importance of space travel as the UAE seeks to diversify from oil.

In a wide-ranging and exclusive interview with The National in Abu Dhabi, Mr Bolden shared his thoughts on the soaring ambition of the Emirates Mars Mission, why men are being left behind by women in the education stakes and how the Arab world needs to appreciate its historic achievements in science and mathematics.

Now 72, he speaks with an energy and enthusiasm that puts people half his age to shame.

Mr Bolden, also the first African-American Nasa chief and a decorated fighter pilot, turned first to the UAE’s efforts to place its Hope probe into orbit around the Red Planet by 2021.

He said if successful, the move will enhance the world’s understanding of the Martian atmosphere.

“You know how many nations have been successful in reaching Mars? Not very many,” he said. “It is a huge deal for us to have the Emirates Mars Mission reach Mars.”


Read more:

UAE space programme: all you need to know

UAE space chiefs confident Russian rocket will carry the first Emirati astronaut to space despite launch failure

Emirati astronomer collaborates with NYUAD on black holes research


There are currently two orbiters around the planet. Nasa studies the upper atmosphere with one, while India looks at the lower with another.

Hope will look at the middle atmosphere and will complete the picture,” he said. “We could not do that alone.”

The UAE space programme is advancing on several fronts. Along with the Mars mission, the UAE’s first astronaut is scheduled to blast into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket next April, while Khalifa Sat, the first-ever Emirati-designed satellite, will be launched into space from Japan on October 29.

“This is their third satellite,” said Mr Bolden. “How many nations of this size can say they’ve launched three satellites?”

He thinks so highly of the Emirati programme he agreed to serve as adviser to the director general of the UAE Agency.

“In terms of performance, it is among the best young space agencies in the world,” he said.

Human endeavour in space requires many characteristics. Chief among them is courage in the face of adversity – something Mr Bolden knows plenty about. He grew up in segregated South Carolina when the prospect of becoming a fighter pilot, let alone an astronaut would have seemed remote. But he went on to fly 100 missions for the US Navy during the Vietnam War.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces greets Charles Bolden, administrator of the Nasa, at the Ramadan Majlis on Monday. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi
Charles Bolden meets Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed at a Ramadan Majlis in 2016. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi

Reflecting on that divisive conflict, Mr Bolden said he values his wartime experience, but feels people still have not learned the harsh lessons of the past.

“War is not a way to solve problems – war is a lousy way to solve problems. But as bad as it may have been, it demonstrated what can be done when a nation is focused on achieving great things,” he said.

“We went to the moon when we were fighting each other in the streets.”

By 1981, Mr Bolden had made it through the arduous selection process to join the astronaut corps and went on to pilot or command four space flights on the now retired Shuttle programme.

He can still recall picking out the lights of Abu Dhabi and Dubai from space.

“They are like Paris and you can see the structure of towns because where there is good fortune and money, it is very well lit,” he said.

“Seeing the planet from space changes your perspective on the planet. When you see how small and insignificant people are, if Martians came to Earth they might turn around.”

When Mr Bolden was Nasa chief, one of his aims was to improve relations with the Muslim world and highlight the pioneering and historic role played by Arabs in mathematics, science and engineering.

“Appreciation has to start here,” he said.

But he sounds a note of caution for young men, who he warns are being left behind by ambitious women.

“They are hungry.” he said. “They have had to fight to get where they are today. I hope one of the things my visit will do, in addition to keep pushing women to succeed, is to help young boys understand they need to get educated.”

Mr Bolden’s final space flight was in 1994, when he commanded Space Shuttle Discovery. This carried the first Russian cosmonaut to fly on a Space Shuttle. International and commercial collaboration, which the UAE has embraced, is what he predicts will separate successful missions from failures.

“Emiratis should feel proud – you are helping humanity to become more knowledgeable,” he said.


Design A Mars Colony



The Mars Colony Project

Bob Barboza is the founder/director of the Barboza Space Center and the International Kids Talk Radio Science News network in Long Beach, California.  He is working with USA and international high school students to design, build, prototype and exhibit robots, satellites, mobile science labs, rockets and Martian habitats.  He is a member of the Mars Society and he presidents regularly at their annual conventions.  He is forming and training international high school space science “Tiger Teams” in project-based learning.  His projects integrate STEAM++ (science, technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, mathematics, computer languages and foreign languages.  His project is called the “Occupy Mars Learning Adventure.”  We are willing to add our scientists, engineers, educators and citizen scientists to help international high school students to Design the First Human Settlement on Mars.



Mars Settlement Design Contest

Design the First Human Settlement on Mars
Sign up for the Mars Society’s Mars Colony Prize
The Mars Society is holding a special contest called The Mars Colony Prizefor designing the best plan for a Mars colony of 1000 people. There will be a prize of $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second and $2500 for third. In addition, the best 20 papers will be published in a book – “Mars Colonies: Plans for Settling the Red Planet.”
The Mars colony should be self-supporting to the maximum extent possible – i.e. relying on a minimum mass of imports from Earth. In order to make all the things that people need on Earth takes a lot more than 1000 people, so you will need to augment both the amount and diversity of available labor power through the use of robots and artificial intelligence. You will need to be able to both produce essential bulk materials like food, fabrics, steel, glass, and plastics on Mars, and fabricate them into useful structures, so 3-D printing and other advanced fabrication technologies will be essential. The goal is to have the colony be able to produce all the food, clothing, shelter, power, common consumer products, vehicles, and machines for 1000 people, with only the minimum number of key components, such as advanced electronics needing to be imported from Earth
As noted, imports will always be necessary, so you will need to think of useful exports – of either material or intellectual products that the colony could produce and transport or transit back to Earth to pay for them. In the future, it can be expected that the cost of shipping goods from Earth to Mars will be $500/kg and the cost of shipping goods from Mars to Earth will be $200/kg . Under these assumptions, your job is to design an economy, cost it out, and show that after a certain initial investment in time and money, that it can become successful.
In scoring colony designs, points will be allocated on the following basis:
+ 40 points technical design: What systems will be used? How will they work?
+ 30 points economic: How can the colony be made economically successful?
+ 10 points social/cultural: What should Martian society be like? What kinds of schools, arts, sports, and other activities, should there be? How, given a fresh start, can life on Mars be made better than life on Earth?
+ 10 points political/organizational: How should the colony govern itself?
+ 10 points aesthetic: How can the colony be made beautiful?

The contest is open to all people from every country. You can work alone or as part of a team. Each contestant will need to submit a report of no more than 20 pages presenting their plan by no later than March 31, 2019. A downselect will then be made to the top 10 plans, whose authors will be invited to present them in person in front of a panel of judges chosen by the Mars Society at the International Mars Society Convention in southern California in September 2019.
Entrants should file their design plan reports using the Design Submission Formlocated on the Mars Colony Prize website. During submission of their design, entrants will also provide confirmation that they are granting the Mars Society non-exclusive rights to publish their reports and agreeing to accept the decision of the judges as final. Reports should be in PDF form and use 12 point Times typestyle, 1” margins.
To help expose you to some ideas you might want to consider, a number of papers, including preliminary plans for Mars colonies and their necessary subsystems, are available on the research paper archive by selecting “Human Settlement” or “Utilizing Mars Resources” in the Search >> Category dropdown box.
Here is an additional useful reference for Mars Colony contestants. For any questions, please contact:

How can we find future engineers?

How do I get kids excited about engineering?  The Barboza Space Center is on tour helping to get kids excited about STEAM++ (science, technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, mathematics, computer languages, and foreign languages.). You can follow our work at and  We are currently looking for student writers for

Mesa Day.jpgShowcase 2 USC MESA Day.jpgThe U.S. has a shortage of tech workers and it’s up to schools and the upcoming generation of workers to help solve the problem, according to a recent study.

Staffing and consulting firm Randstad North America recently performed a survey among 1,000 11- to 17-year-old students and found there’s a misunderstanding of what STEM jobs are available. That, in turn, is making fewer kids and young adults interested in pursuing the field as a career later in life.

“Over half of the students (52%) say they don’t know anyone with a job in STEM, revealing broad unfamiliarity with STEM skills and misperceptions about where these skills can be applied,” the study says.

For instance, research suggests that as children grow older, they’re less likely to pursue the subjects. In fact, “students 11 to 14 years old are 18 percent more likely than students aged 15 to 17 to consider math one of their favorite subjects.”

Alan Stukalsky, chief digital officer at Randstad North America, tells CNBC Make It that there’s “a lack of education as to what careers are available and what jobs are out there.”

To get the next generation actively seeking jobs in STEM, they need to be shown interesting real-world applications — and it starts in schools, says Stukalsky.

“Young people are self-selecting out of higher STEM education classes because they can’t see how these skills apply to different professions and employers they’re excited about,” he says in a statement.

As of 2016, the U.S. had roughly 3 million more STEM jobs available than it had skilled workers to fill them, according to Randstad data.

Teaching kids about the various real-life applications of STEM helps them determine if it’s a career choice to study. But many don’t realize that they find STEM jobs interesting in the first place.

Stukalsky says that students often describe jobs in STEM as “nerdy, boring and just sitting in front of a computer.” They think STEM jobs mostly mean becoming a mechanical engineer or computer engineer, he says, which aren’t seen as fun.

However, when students are told about STEM jobs such as website animator and video game creator, they become excited, he says.

In fact, 64 percent of students rate creating video games for a living as “very fun,” 54 percent think it would be “very fun” to earn a living working with marine life, and 86 percent say it would be “somewhat fun” to make websites for a career.

According to the survey, 56 percent of the students said knowing how STEM skills relate to the real world would make STEM classes more interesting. Schools “need to take a bigger role in helping,” he says. “It’s about connecting the dots.”

Stukalsky adds that changes to the field must also be inclusive of women. Why? The stereotype that “girls aren’t good at STEM” still exists.

According to the survey, girls are 34 percent more likely than boys to say that STEM jobs are hard to understand. Meanwhile, only 22 percent of young women name technology as one of their favorite subjects in school, compared with 46 percent of boys.

For the future, Stukalsky says it’s vital to teach the next generation about careers in STEM while they’re kids. “If you’re looking to move people into these careers at university age, it’s a bit late,” he says.

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook.

See also:

Millennials are more likely to prefer being fired over text or instant message

Why IBM sends its best employees abroad for four weeks

Top Amazon recruiter reveals how you can score a job at the retail giant


Collecting Soil Sample on Earth and Mars

We need soil samples and chemists to help with simulated Mars project-based learning

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California high school students are working with high school students from the Republic of Cabo Verde on simulated Mars project-based learning.   We are collecting soil sample right here on Earth.   What does it take to analyze a soil sample from Mars?    Help to get our students excited about science.
We need soil samples from Mars.   Students at the Barboza Space Center are asking great questions.
 Contact Bob Barboza at
NASA Mars Rover Fully Analyzes First Soil SamplesIMG_0127.jpg

How would NASA solve this problem?

Scoop marks in the sand at 'Rocknest'This is a view of the third (left) and fourth (right) trenches made by the 1.6-inch-wide (4-centimeter-wide) scoop on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity in October 2012. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
› Full image and caption       › Related video       › Latest images       › Curiosity gallery       › Curiosity videos

Rocknest Wind DriftNASA’s Curiosity Mars rover documented itself in the context of its work site, an area called “Rocknest Wind Drift,” on the 84th Martian day, or sol, of its mission (Oct. 31, 2012). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP
› Full image and caption
› Related video

Sampling of Martian soilsThis collage shows the variety of soils found at landing sites on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
› Full image and caption

PASADENA, Calif. – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyze Martian soil for the first time, and found a complex chemistry within the Martian soil. Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity’s arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover.

Detection of the substances during this early phase of the mission demonstrates the laboratory’s capability to analyze diverse soil and rock samples over the next two years. Scientists also have been verifying the capabilities of the rover’s instruments.

Curiosity is the first Mars rover able to scoop soil into analytical instruments. The specific soil sample came from a drift of windblown dust and sand called “Rocknest.” The site lies in a relatively flat part of Gale Crater still miles away from the rover’s main destination on the slope of a mountain called Mount Sharp. The rover’s laboratory includes the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. SAM used three methods to analyze gases given off from the dusty sand when it was heated in a tiny oven. One class of substances SAM checks for is organic compounds — carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life.

“We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater,” said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Curiosity’s APXS instrument and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover’s arm confirmed Rocknest has chemical-element composition and textural appearance similar to sites visited by earlier NASA Mars rovers Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity.

Curiosity’s team selected Rocknest as the first scooping site because it has fine sand particles suited for scrubbing interior surfaces of the arm’s sample-handling chambers. Sand was vibrated inside the chambers to remove residue from Earth. MAHLI close-up images of Rocknest show a dust-coated crust one or two sand grains thick, covering dark, finer sand.

“Active drifts on Mars look darker on the surface,” said MAHLI Principal Investigator Ken Edgett, of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. “This is an older drift that has had time to be inactive, letting the crust form and dust accumulate on it.”

CheMin’s examination of Rocknest samples found the composition is about half common volcanic minerals and half non-crystalline materials such as glass. SAM added information about ingredients present in much lower concentrations and about ratios of isotopes. Isotopes are different forms of the same element and can provide clues about environmental changes. The water seen by SAM does not mean the drift was wet. Water molecules bound to grains of sand or dust are not unusual, but the quantity seen was higher than anticipated.

SAM tentatively identified the oxygen and chlorine compound perchlorate. This is a reactive chemical previously found in arctic Martian soil by NASA’s Phoenix Lander. Reactions with other chemicals heated in SAM formed chlorinated methane compounds — one-carbon organics that were detected by the instrument. The chlorine is of Martian origin, but it is possible the carbon may be of Earth origin, carried by Curiosity and detected by SAM’s high sensitivity design.

“We used almost every part of our science payload examining this drift,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “The synergies of the instruments and richness of the data sets give us great promise for using them at the mission’s main science destination on Mount Sharp.”

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, a division of Caltech, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, and built Curiosity.

For more information about Curiosity and other Mars missions, visit: .

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: and .

Dwayne Brown Headquarters, Washington

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Nancy Neal Jones
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.


Who wants to study about hurricanes?

cape verde hurricanes

Cape Verde: Where Hurricanes are Born

Cape Verde: Where Hurricanes are Born

For hurricanes which affect the Caribbean, North America, and South America, the biggest impact is from those which originate as weather disturbances in the area of the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa, know as the Cape Verde hurricanes. On the whole, 85% of all hurricanes affecting the Americas come from Africa.

Hurricanes can spawn within the Caribbean but fortunately are generally less powerful because they don’t have as much time over warm water to develop the huge amounts of energy of their African cousins.

Seeds Grow

Between Africa and South America, just north of our planet’s equator (yellow), is a strip of comparatively warm ocean water (orange). Sitting at the Eastern end of that phenomena are the Cape Verde Islands.

These islands experience developing weather from June to November, but especially July through October, with up to 20 days per month of rainfall in September. This happens because the Trade Winds are moving westwards and this is where they encounter that very warm Atlantic Ocean water for the first time.

How a hurricane grows

People talk about how warm water and winds combine to form a hurricane, but many don’t truly understand the mechanism. So let’s look at how it works.

First, you need an existing disturbance in the atmosphere, such as a thunderstorm which are extraordinarily common over Western Africa at this time of year. With just a few more contributing factors it can evolve into a full-fledged tropical depression, and possibly a hurricane.

The main requirement is that ocean water must be at least 78° F (26.5° C) down to a depth of 150 feet (50 meters), scientists estimate. This provides a massive heat sink from which the storm will draw its energy in the form of gaseous water.

Next, it needs to be more than 5° of latitude above the equator. Our planet rotates towards the east, which is why it appears that the Sun (and Moon, and stars) rise in the eastern sky. Right on the Equator there is no effective spin imparted to the air. A weather system must be a minimum of 5° away in order to gain rotation from the turning Earth.

To understand this, it helps to know that the Equator is traveling at about 1,000 miles per hour as the Earth spins. At 45° N latitude (which passes through OR, ID, MT, MN, SD, WI, MI, Ontario, Quebec, ME, NY, VT, NH, and Nova Scotia) the speed is half of that or 500 mph. Someone at either pole is effectively traveling a 0 mph. This “twisting” is known as the Coriolis Effect and without it hurricanes wouldn’t be possible.

It might help to imagine a lump of clay on a surface. If you were to slide your hand along the upper surface, it would begin to roll. Your hand and the table are moving at different “speeds” so the clay adapts by spinning.

Next it requires very low wind-shear in the atmosphere. If you have ever looked at a cloud and observed that it looks as if it were pushed over like a tower of blocks getting ready to fall that is likely due to wind shear. The air above is traveling faster than the air below, and likely in a different direction, so the cloud is “torn apart. You can see this in action with this video.

The next component is plenty of moisture being moved up into the atmosphere. This is the fuel for the hurricane. It results in unstable conditions, the consequence of which is thunderstorms.

Putting it all together

It doesn’t happen often that all the conditions are “just right”. If it did, the results would be continuous hurricanes across our planet.
But, when it does happen it works like this:

  1.  The Trade Winds leave the west coast of Africa, around the Cape Verde Islands at 12° N latitude, and encounter a warm ocean that is throwing untold tons of water up into the atmosphere through evaporation.
  2. Down at ocean-level warm water continues to evaporate and rises, forming Nimbus (storm) clouds. As those clouds form, the gaseous water condenses to liquid releasing its heat, and that adds fuel to the fire. The hot air rises, and more air is drawn in from below to replace it, adding more water, releasing more heat and so on, feeding the giant engine of a hurricane.
  3. The various layers of the atmosphere become harmonious, traveling in roughly the same direction at approximately the same speed. This means that the thunderstorms can dwell in the center of circulation and add more energy. If the wind shear is too great, the thunderstorms dissipate and the hurricane turns back into an ordinary tropical storm.
  4. The Coriolis Effect then starts to amplify the rotation of the air mass, making the southerly portion turn faster, and the northerly portion speeds up in response because the Prevailing Westerlies (blue on the map) are not as fast or strong as the Trade Winds.[ CITATION Sta17 \l 1033 ]
    Since the storm rotates counterclockwise and encounters the eastbound Westerlies along its northern edge, what may be a Category 1 or 2 hurricane overall becomes a Category 4 along that upper border.

Hurricane Sizes

For ease of reference, there is a scale to describe hurricanes. It is called the Saffir-Simpson Scale and references not just the wind speed, but also the likely storm surge. A Category 1 will have winds under 100 mph, which may be reassuring, but if you live near the shore in an area only a couple of feet above the local water level, a surge of 5 feet could cause a lot of damage. If you’re 10 feet above the local water level, a Cat 3 might hit 12 feet during the surge. You had better get those sandbags out, and make sure your pump is working!

What kills a hurricane?

Hurricanes generally fizzle out before they do the level of damage that we’ve seen just recently. As mentioned, wind shear drives the thunderstorm “engines” away from the center of rotation, which is similar to taking the batteries out of a device—it might continue running for a while—but it’s going to get slower and slower until it stops.

Another hurricane killer is dry air. If the Jet Stream dips down and starts feeding it cool dry air it can cause so much turbulence that the whole thing just disintegrates into several smaller, harmless storms. Dry air siphons off the water “fuel” and it fades away.

Landfall is also fatal to hurricanes, for as we’ve seen, they are dependent on incoming water to survive. Take that away and they cannot maintain their thunderstorms and simply fail.

Finally, the ultimate death knell for a hurricane, even if it stays over open water, is the cold North Atlantic water. It simply can’t draw enough water and energy from the frigid waters and dies an ignominious death.

History of Destruction

At the time of writing, hurricane Maria is a Cat 1 hurricane, off the east coast of the United States and headed northeast which is ideal. Meanwhile, Cat 3 hurricane Lee is just a bit southeast of Bermuda and headed northwest, and current predictions have it turning north on Thursday, northeast on Friday, and dissipating by Saturday morning in the mid-north Atlantic. Good news.

This has been an expensive hurricane season in 2017 in terms of lives lost, property and infrastructure damaged, and likely a prolonged recovery time. The island of Barbuda is completely devoid of residents for the first time in 300 years after Irma struck it with all its fury. The island went from beautiful green to completely brown in a matter of hours. Most of the residents are now living on their sister island Antigua.

Barbuda has a GDP of about one billion dollars, but based largely on tourism, and damages exceeding $250,000,000. That is a much tougher problem to solve since they are going to have no tourists for quite a while…

Katrina devastated Louisiana in 2005, and political wrangling left the area struggling for years trying to rebuild. It’s only now more than a decade later that they are getting back to pre-Katrina levels, though areas like the Lower 9th Ward are still struggling.

Texas, and notably Houston, has suffered a massive impact from hurricane Harvey, but have already acquired $15 billion from FEMA to start the rebuilding. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said it was just a down payment on what was to come.

FEMA approved $124 million for individuals and Households for Florida on September 10 in response to the damage caused by two hurricanes Harvey, and Irma. FEMA has more to spend but numbers aren’t readily available.

Puerto Rico suffered significant damage from hurricane Maria as well, even if not to the same extent, but has the advantage of a massive wealthy government to help them with financial support, and rebuilding infrastructure. The island is largely without electricity, and the people are working to get things back in operation. It will take months to restore essential services, but they have a much higher expectation that help will be forthcoming once the political rhetoric is done compared to places like Barbuda.

Climate Change

With this barrage of devastating weather, some of the more outrageous news outlets have been shamelessly blaming Global Warming for all these woes. While it is true that it may have exacerbated it slightly, in truth, Harvey was statistically indistinguishable from of number of earlier hurricanes. These reach back to Hurricane Easy in 1950 with 45 inches of rain, Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979 with 42 inches of rain in just 24 hours (whereas hurricane Harvey took three days to reach that amount), and even Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978 with its 48 inches of rain.

The Takeaway

We’re big fans of reality-based, replicable science around here, and feel free to protest when it is used for the sake of making headlines instead of reflecting the world we live in. This article by Eric Holthaus is a case in point. Harvey is not unique; it is not a once in “500 years” storm (additional hyperbole suggests that it is a “once in a millennium” storm). We’ve had four in this particular area since 1950 (Harvey plus the three mentioned above).

When people seem too smug, and adopt an “I told you so” attitude, you should probably take what they say with a grain of salt. Maybe you could even do a little research on your own. The facts, however speak for themselves. No weather event can be attributed to Global Warming specifically. It may alter it in some way, but there are always more direct local influences on such a complex system.

In science, few people speak of certainties, and you should be suspicious if they do. We speak of probabilities while looking for faults in our examination process. Real scientists don’t mind being wrong because that is how we learn new things.

Works Cited
Britt, R. (2005, May 27). How And Where Hurricanes Form. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from LiveScience:
Iacurci, J. (2017). 85% of U.S. hurricanes come from Africa. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from Nature World News:
Reynolds, A. (2017, September 7). CATO Institute. Retrieved September 23, 2017, from CATO AT LIBERTY:
State Climate Office of North Carolina. (n.d.). Hurricanes – Development. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from State Climate Office of North Carolina: if
Sterling J, S. C. (2017, September 15). CNN. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from
The University of Rhode Island #1. (2015). Hurricane Development: From Birth to Maturity. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from Hurricane Science:
The University of Rhode Island #2. (2015). Hurricane Decay: Demise of a Hurricane. Retrieved Sept 21, 2017, from Hurricane Science:


How can we grow better potatoes for the 2030 Mars mission?


Red Potatoes

Wondering how to grow potatoes? We’re here to help! The taste and the texture of homegrown potatoes are far superior to those of store-bought spuds, especially the early varieties. Here’s how to plant, grow, and harvest potatoes in your garden.


“What I say is that if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
A. A. Milne, English writer (1882–1956)

Potatoes like cool weather and well-drained, loose soil that is about 45 to 55°F (7 to 13°C). In warmer climates, potatoes can be grown as a winter crop.

Folklore offers many “best days” for planting potatoes:

  • Old-timers in New England planted their potato crops when they saw dandelions blooming in the open fields.
  • The Pennsylvania Dutch considered St. Gertrude’s Day (March 17, aka St. Patrick’s Day) to be their official potato-planting day.
  • Many Christians believed that Good Friday is the best day to plant potatoes because the devil holds no power over them at this time.

All of these “best days” suggest an early spring planting! (See more about planting below.)



  • Potatoes can be started 0 to 2 weeks after last spring frost. You may plant earlier, as soon as soil can be worked, but be aware that some crops may be ruined by a frost or wet soil. Find your local frost dates here.
  • However, if have a “late” spring, it’s not too late to plant potatoes through April (depending on where you’re located).  Some folks even plant through June, especially in containers or potato towers.


  • With a hoe or round-point shovel, dig a trench about 6 inches wide and 8 inches deep, tapering the bottom to about 3 inches wide.
  • Potatoes are best grown in rows. Space rows about 3 feet apart.
  • Spread and mix in rotted manure or organic compost in the bottom of the trench before planting. (Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.)
  • In the trench, place a seed potato piece, cut side down, every 12 to 14 inches and cover with 3 to 4 inches of soil.
  • The best starters are seed potatoes from which eyes (buds) protrude. (Do not confuse seed potatoes with potato seeds or grocery produce.) Use a clean, sharp paring knife to cut large potatoes into pieces that are roughly the size of a golf ball, making sure that there are at least 2 eyes on each piece. (Potatoes that are smaller than a hen’s egg should be planted whole.)
  • If you are cutting up potato pieces for planting, do so 1 to 2 days ahead of planting. This will give them the chance to “heal” and form a protective layer over the cut surface, improving both moisture retention and rot resistance.
  • 12 to 16 days after planting, when sprouts appear, use a hoe to gently fill in the trench with another 3 to 4 inches of soil, leaving a few inches of the plants exposed. Repeat in several weeks, leaving the soil mounded up 4 to 5 inches above ground level (this is called “hilling”).
  • After the potato plants have emerged, add organic mulch between the rows to conserve moisture, help with weed control, and cool the soil.




  • Do not allow sunlight to fall on the tubers, which develop under the surface of the soil, or they will turn green.
  • Do the hilling in the morning, when plants are at their tallest. During the heat of the day, plants start drooping.
  • Maintain even moisture, especially from the time when sprouts appear until several weeks after they blossom. The plants need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. If you water too much right after planting and not enough as the potatoes begin to form, the tubers can become misshapen.
  • The last hilling should be done before the potato plants bloom, when the plant is about 6 inches tall. Hoe the dirt up around the base of the plant in order to cover the tubers as well as to support the plant.
  • Hilling keeps the potatoes from getting sunburned, which can cause them to turn green and produce a chemical called solanine. Solanine gives off a bitter taste and is toxic.



  • Potato Scab: Most likely caused by a high soil pH. Remember: Potatoes like acidic soil (do not plant in soil with a pH higher than 5.2). Dust seed potatoes with sulfur before planting. Some readers suggest adding pine straw on top of the potatoes when planting for natural anti-bacterial elements.
  • Colorado potato beetles need to be hand-picked and predatory birds will often eat them. While they’re in the nymph state, they can be controlled with Diatomaceous Earth (food grade) which is a non-toxic way to control pests in the garden. If they continue to be a problem, a few sprays of Spinosad, an organic pesticide, will get rid of the beetles. Always use products at dawn or dusk to avoid harming beneficial insects.
  • Aphids
  • Flea Beetles
  • Early/Late Blight



  • “New potatoes,” which are potatoes that are purposefully harvested early for their smaller size and tender skin, will be ready for harvest 2 to 3 weeks after the plants stop flowering. For mature potatoes, wait 2 to 3 weeks after the foliage has died.
  • New potatoes should not be cured and should be eaten within a few days of harvest, as they will not keep for much longer.
  • Dig potatoes on a dry day. Dig up gently, being careful not to puncture the tubers. Avoid cutting or bruising potato skin. The soil should not be compact, so digging should be easy.
  • If the soil is very wet, let the potatoes air-dry as much as possible before putting them in bags or baskets.
  • For the biggest and best potatoes, harvest only after the plant’s foliage has died back.
  • Cut browning foliage to the ground and wait 10 to 14 days before harvesting to allow the potatoes to develop a thick enough skin. Don’t wait too long, though, or the potatoes may rot.
  • Allow freshly dug potatoes to sit in a dry, cool place (45–60°F/7–15°C) for up to two weeks. This allows their skins to cure, which will help them keep for longer.
  • After curing, make sure you brush off any soil clinging to the potatoes, then store them in a cool, somewhat humid, dark place. The ideal temperature for storage is 38 to 40°F (3 to 4°C).
  • Do not store potatoes with apples; the apples’ ethylene gas will cause potatoes to spoil.
  • Never store potatoes in the refrigerator.
  • Whether you dig your own potatoes or buy them at a store, don’t wash them until right before you use them. Washing potatoes shortens their storage life.
  • Find more tips on getting potatoes ready for the root cellar.

The fruit (metaphorically speaking) of a very happy potato plant!



  • If your garden soil is very rocky, put the seed potato pieces directly on the ground. Sprinkle with a mix of soil and compost. Cover them with straw or leaves, hilling the material up as the potatoes grow.
  • Practice yearly crop rotation.
  • See our video on how to grow potatoes in a trash can, the easiest-ever container garden!
  • Before planning your garden, take a look at our plant companions chart to see which veggies are most compatible with potatoes.
  • Did you know: Potato promoter Antoine Parmentier convinced Marie Antoinette to wear potato blossoms in her hair.
  • Grated potatoes are said to soothe sunburnt skin.



Check out our recipe archives to find potato recipes that range from plain to fancy!