What’s the point behind space exploration? How to justify astronomically expensive space missions? There are many who claim that we should, quite literally, keep our feet on the ground and focus on more down-to-earth projects rather than “waste” our energy on achieving the ambitions of visionaries (or narcissistic charlatans) like Elon Musk. Unwittingly, such claims are often made with the use of technologies which can be easily traced back to space programmes. So what is the point behind studying the universe? It can’t be just to admire blue sunsets on Mars (which the Red Planet owes to its thin and dust-filled atmosphere, which diffuses light differently than the atmosphere on Earth).
Neons up in the atmosphere
Auroras, or the polar lights, are magnificent light shows held in the Earth’s atmosphere. The curtains of shimmering light stir the imagination and feature prominently on people’s bucket lists. What causes this remarkable phenomenon and why is it so much more common in the polar regions than in the tropics? Can we ever hope to see it in Poland? What are the colours of the polar lights and why do they die down only to light up again a moment later?
When did people turn their backs on science? What has led to widespread scepticism and a growing tendency to challenge the methods of scientific inquiry? Who is to blame for the situation? The public, who find conspiracy theories more satisfying than scientific facts? Or the scientists, who – focused on ever more complex data, models and charts – have failed to convince the society that we’re all part of the growing civilisation of knowledge? Or is it, perhaps, that scepticism towards science actually stimulates progress? After all, the Greek word “skeptikos” meant someone “inquiring” and “reflective”, who might have well been dissatisfied, but spared no effort to find the truth.
The Arctic is generally associated with a cold, extreme climate. We all know that temperatures up there differ tremendously from those typical of Europe. While in Poland it is not uncommon for summer temperatures to reach 30°C, in Northern Canada they usually hover around 8–10°C. In winter, the Polish norm is about -5°C, while in Greenland even -40°C raises no eyebrows. In recent years, however, the contrast is gradually becoming less striking. Although climate changes affect the entire globe, nowhere are they as dramatic as on its northern outskirts. The Arctic is warming up faster than the rest of the world, which has long caused serious concern among scientists. Let us therefore have a closer look at the underlying mechanism of this phenomenon and its possible consequences.