New freelance writings: Blue New Deal, Moon telescopes, and our struggling economy

In case you missed them, here’s a few pieces I’ve recently written and published in Nautilus magazine, Inside Science, and Voice of San Diego. Thanks as usual to my excellent editors! I’m only posting brief excerpts here, so if you’re interested, please check out the whole thing using the links below.

You can stay more up-to-date if you follow my free newsletter, Ramin’s Space!

Making climate change policy more blue

A new push for attention to coastal communities, marine conservation, and ocean infrastructure.

When meteorologists give names to oceanic storms and hurricanes, they customarily do so in alphabetic order: Arthur is followed by Bertha is followed by Cristobal, and so on, until the year ends and the order resets. By September of 2020, the meteorologists responsible for naming storms coming off the Atlantic Ocean ran out of names and switched to their backup, the Greek alphabet. 

It was one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons ever recorded, and merely the latest in a rising tide of climate-related coastal catastrophes. In just the last few years, shoreline bluffs collapsed in Southern California; Hurricanes Sandy and Harvey devastated Houston and New York; and acidifying waters corroded the shells of Dungeness crabs on the Pacific coast. The 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to harm both wildlife and people, collateral damage of the demand for fossil fuels. And that’s just in the continental United States.

In response to these crises, a coalition of U.S. environmentalists, conservationists, and economists drafted the Ocean Climate Action Plan, informally known as the Blue New Deal—a riff on the Green New Deal, an ambitious set of proposals that invoke the federal New Deal adopted during the Great Depression, and aim to create green jobs while moving the U.S. economy toward sustainable sources of energy. The Green New Deal, however, has a blind spot: coastal economies and marine ecosystems…

[Read the entire piece in Nautilus magazine, published in December.]

Astronomers want to plant telescopes on the moon

The lunar surface offers advantages for infrared and radio astronomy, despite the challenges.

For decades, even before the iconic Hubble telescope took flight, astronomers have been launching spacecraft into orbit in the hopes of avoiding atmospheric effects that blur images taken by telescopes on Earth. But to catch clear signals of some cosmic objects, even those orbits aren’t high enough.

A group of astronomers now make the case for assembling and planting telescopes on the moon. In a series of newly published papers, they argue that our lunar neighbor, especially its far side, makes an excellent place for telescopes in the radio and infrared range. These telescopes could discover and study potentially life-friendly planets outside our solar system and explore the little-understood “dark ages” of the young universe, around a million years after the Big Bang, when the first stars formed.

“This is the time to start discussing projects on the moon. There’s a huge international focus on returning to the moon, and we wanted to make sure that science gets considered as a priority,” said Joseph Silk, a University of Oxford astrophysicist who authored multiple papers in the series…

[Read the entire story in Inside Science, published on 17 December.]

A tale of two local economies

San Diego’s economy is on the cusp of a massive shift: Tech companies are thriving while the hospitality sector remains in a deep depression because of the pandemic.

San Diego’s economy is on the cusp of a massive shift. Biotech and pharmaceutical firms are poised to move into the massive waterfront site being built downtown, while Horton Plaza’s turning into a tech hub and UC San Diego Extension is moving in a few blocks away.

But at the same time, the tourism and hospitality industries — so often identified with San Diego’s brand through its hotels and the Convention Center — has collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands of San Diegans have lost work and the homeless population has grown.

Despite the pandemic, San Diego’s tech startup scene has flourished and some firms have moved here from the Bay Area and Los Angeles. “We certainly have been seeing an upward trend even before COVID, but it seems like it has accelerated a bit. We’ve seen a big growth of tech jobs in the area,” said Elizabeth Lyons, a UC San Diego economist…

[Read the entire story in Voice of San Diego, published on 26 January.]

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