Anti-gravity, Astro-biology, astro-physics, Chemistry, cosmology, Dark Matter, DNA, Futurism, Genetics, GUT-CP, hydrides, hydrino, HydrinoDollars, HydrinoEconomy, Molecular modelling, New elements, particle physics, Philosophy, physics, technology

Israel is going to Moon!… Israeli STEM education (Science, Engineering, Technology & Mathematics)… for kindergarteners!

“Never know… … the first man to step foot on the Moon might just be Jewish!” ;D

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe, contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to understand a little of this mystery every day.” – Albert Einstein

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“STEM? What in the UK?… most kindergarten and nursery teachers in the UK are fucking illiterate mate!… … most UK high school teachers are suicidal”

“Some of you can see where I’m going with this can’t you!” 😀

Science Minister:

‘National pride’ in Israel’s first lunar landing mission

Akunis visits plant building 1st Israeli spacecraft to moon; ‘I’ve no doubt joy of all Israeli citizens will be felt when ship lifts off.’

Science Minister Ophir Akunis, Science Ministry Director-General Ran Bar, and Israel Aerospace Agency Director Avi Blassberger visited the plant where the first Israeli spacecraft to reach the moon is being built.

The project has so far been funded primarily by donations from private individuals, led by philanthropist Maurice Kahn and Dr. Miri and Sheldon Adelson.

Recently, however, the Science Ministry announced government support for the SpaceIL project in the amount of up to NIS 7.5 million.

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Science Minister Ophir Akunis, Science Ministry Director-General Ran Bar, and Israel Aerospace Agency Director Avi Blassberger visited the plant where the first Israeli spacecraft to reach the moon is being built.

The project has so far been funded primarily by donations from private individuals, led by philanthropist Maurice Kahn and Dr. Miri and Sheldon Adelson.

Recently, however, the Science Ministry announced government support for the SpaceIL project in the amount of up to NIS 7.5 million.

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Here’s (almost) everything you need to know about Israel’s Moon lander

An Israeli spacecraft is gearing up for a 2019 Moon mission that features unique partnerships, investigation of the Moon’s origin, and closure for an 11-year-old contest designed to spur commercial lunar activities.

SpaceIL, a privately funded Israeli non-profit, designed and built a four-legged lander that will touch down in Mare Serenitatis, one of the dark, lunar basins visible to the naked eye from Earth. The craft, which weighs less than 200 kilograms without fuel, will send home high-definition pictures and video before hopping to a new landing spot half a kilometer away. If successful, the mission will make Israel the fourth country to soft-land on the Moon, following Russia, the United States, and China.

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The overall purpose of the mission, SpaceIL says, is to inspire more Israelis to pursue STEM careers. Three engineers formed the non-profit in 2011 to compete for the Google Lunar X-Prize, a $30 million contest encouraging privately funded groups to land on the Moon. The first team to land, travel 500 meters and transmit imagery would have earned $20 million. A second-place team would have earned $5 million, and another $5 million was up for grabs through stretch goals like visiting an old Apollo site and contributing to STEM diversity.

Google withdrew the cash prizes in April 2018 when no group was able to meet the contest deadline, which had already been extended from 2017. A few teams, including SpaceIL, pushed on, and despite a brush with bankruptcy at the end of 2017, SpaceIL announced they would be ready to fly at the end of 2018. The launch has since been delayed until the “beginning of 2019,” SpaceIL representatives said in response to emailed questions.

The lander, which is in the process of being named through an online contest, will leave Earth aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida. SpaceIL is one of at least three customers with spacecraft aboard the flight. The primary payload is an Indonesian telecommunications satellite called PSN-6, built by sat-building company SSL. Another undisclosed rider rumored to be a U.S. government satellite.

Rideshare missions are common, but this one is unique because one spacecraft is headed to the Moon while two others will trek to geosynchronous orbit, a region almost 36,000 kilometers above Earth. There, satellites have one-day orbits to match Earth’s rotation, enabling them to linger over the same ground spot.

All three spacecraft will detach from the Falcon 9 into a geosynchronous transfer orbit with a high point, or apogee, of 60,000 kilometers. The SpaceIL lander will orbit Earth three times, raising its orbit until being captured by the Moon’s gravity. The process will take more than two months, and at the Moon, the lander will make two orbits before landing.

In another mission twist, Spaceflight, the company that arranged the rideshare aspect of the Falcon 9 launch, says the undisclosed satellite will remain attached to PSN-6 while both satellites head to geosynchronous orbit. Ryan Olcott, a Spaceflight mission manager, called this arrangement “groundbreaking.”

“We’re really thrilled to develop this relationship with SSL,” Olcott said. “It is a great enabler for a broad category of rideshares that would be much harder or impossible to perform with a single ring below a primary spacecraft.” The company is already offering geosynchronous ridealongs as a dedicated service for future launches.

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SpaceIL lander site
NASA / Goddard / Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter / Jason Davis / The Planetary Society

SpaceIL lander site
SpaceIL’s lander will touch down in Mare Serenitatis, the “Sea of Serenity,” shown as the larger circle. The specific landing site is in the inner circle.

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Another big partner joined the mission in October: NASA announced it would provide SpaceIL with observations from a Moon-orbiting spacecraft, a laser retroreflector for the lander, and communications support during the mission. The partnership was made under the agency’s new Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program, or LDEP, which is part of the Trump administration’s plans to return humans to the surface of the Moon.

As the SpaceIL lander descends to Mare Serenitatis, its engine will stir up the lunar soil, and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, will use its science instruments to look for mercury and hydrogen in the dust plume. LRO has been surveying the Moon from lunar orbit since 2009.

But don’t expect any dramatic pictures of the spacecraft landing like the ones NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured over the years. Stephen Cole, a NASA official at the agency’s office of communications in Washington, D.C., said it’s “very unlikely” LRO will take visible light images of the landing. LRO will, however, take images afterwards to see how the lander’s descent exhaust altered the landing site.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is giving SpaceIL a laser retroreflector array, or LRA, to install on the spacecraft — essentially an array of mirrors that reflect lasers in order to measure distance (LightSail 2 and other Earth-orbiting spacecraft carry similar arrays). There are no immediate plans to use the retroreflector; LRO has a laser altimeter, but the team actually avoids aiming it at retroreflectors left behind by the Apollo astronauts because the return signal could damage the spacecraft. Earth-bound laser stations use the Apollo retroreflectors to measure the distance to the Moon, but the SpaceIL equivalent will be too small for that.

Instead, NASA is providing the retroreflector with the future in mind. Over time, a network of similar reflectors could be built and used for navigation by spacecraft in orbit.

“Each lander that carries an LRA, we can build up a navigational system on the Moon, providing more information to orbiting satellites and future landers, both robotic and human,” said Cole.

NASA is also giving SpaceIL time on the agency’s Deep Space Network, which communicates with beyond-Earth missions via satellite dishes in California, Spain, and Australia. In return, NASA will get a copy of all the data collected by the mission’s single science instrument: a magnetometer to measure “magnetic anomalies” in Mare Serenitatis. The Soviet Union’s Luna 21 mission, which landed in the same region in 1973 and deployed the Lunakhod 2 rover, detected magnetism there.

Photo by: Eliran Avital
SpaceIL lander
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The SpaceIL lander in mid-2018.

Understanding the Moon’s magnetism is key to learning about its origin. While Earth has a global magnetic field caused by the continued churning of liquid metal near the core, the Moon does not. But 3.6 billion years ago, the Moon had a magnetic field just as strong as Earth’s. When new-forming rocks solidify from their melted states, they lock in traces of the ambient magnetic field at the time. By looking at the ages of different regions and the strength of the magnetic field embedded in rocks, scientists can piece together the Moon’s history. The magnetometer data will be archived in NASA’s Planetary Data System.

SpaceIL’s mission control will be located at Israel Aerospace Industries, the country’s government-owned aerospace corporation located southeast of Tel Aviv. The mission, which now has a reported price tag of $95 million, is bankrolled by billionaire investors that include Israeli entrepreneur Morris Kahn, and U.S. business magnate Sheldon Adelson.

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SpaceIL

Education Impact

OUR VISION

SpaceIL aspires to advance the discourse on science and engineering in Israel and to acquaint the young generation with the exciting opportunities in their future, which STEM studies make possible. Through the anticipation and preparation for the historic landing on the moon of an Israeli spacecraft, our non-profit organization motivates students of all ages and sectors – both male and female – to broaden their knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and fosters entrepreneurship, innovation, excellence and leadership. Contemplating ‘the day after’, SpaceIL strives to enhance the quality of education, to close educational gaps in the Israeli society and to provide the graduates of the educational system with the tools they will need in order to thrive in the 21st century.

The SpaceIL moon landing project serves as a source of inspiration and as fertile ground for a long-term impact on the next generation of scientists and engineers in Israel.

THE EDUCATIONAL RATIONALE:

THE FUTURE IS UNKNOWN; THE REQUIRED SKILLS ARE CLEAR

One cannot know with certainty what future the professions will be, but many believe that 80% of them will require knowledge and skills in mathematics and science. However, at present, we, as a society are not prepared for this increased demand for scientific literacy. Even today, Israel is facing a serious shortage of engineers. The number of scientists and engineers in the Israel Defense Forces, the academia and the private sector fall short of the number required to uphold the State of Israel’s technological advantage and to preserve its status as ‘the startup nation’.

From Early Learning to Workforce
The STEM Pipeline in Israel

General Overview and Rationale
According to the World Economic Forum, the world is living its Fourth industrial revolution, which is the combination of cyber-physical systems, Big Data, the Internet of Things, and the Internet of Systems. Alongside great benefits, concerns emerge such as the fact that many jobs and disciplines will disappear and automation, computers and machines will replace workers across many industries, and the gaps between the skills learned and the skills needed is growing. Excellence and literacy in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are considered essential tools for students to measure up to the challenges of the 21st century.
This exponential change will require skills that weren’t given enough weight, if any, in teaching programs at all levels, whether at school, university or work: excellence, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, world experience, critical thinking, etc. In recent years key stakeholders and experts in Israel have been warning about growing shortages:
• In skilled students in the education system, as well as in the higher education system that develops STEM tracks;
• In a skilled workforce capable of fulfilling technology-based positions in the military and in industry in the next 10 years; and
• The limited scientific literacy among the general public.
STEM education has thus recently become the focus of an intensive public discussion and debate that can be gauged from increasing government attention and cross-sector initiatives.
An inter-ministerial committee headed by Israel National Economic Council outlined unequivocally the direct link between science and technology literacy at a young age, quality of high school diplomas, the number of students studying relevant fields in higher education, and the flow of a skilled workforce in knowledge-intensive industries, as well as minimizing the socio-economic gaps.

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Future Scientists – The Centre For the Gifted sand Talented
Odyssey -Academic Studies Programmes in the Sciences

General
The Odyssey Program was inspired and initiated by the late President of the State of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres. The program was developed to nurture a unique scientific-technological group – a new generation of inventors and scientists in Israel who possess both the ability to lead and a sense of social responsibility.

The program includes academic studies in the sciences, alongside work in research laboratories. The participants acquire knowledge, skills and experience coping with complex problems, while accumulating academic credits. The program is implemented in parallel with formal studies and during vacation, the students participate in workshops and full-day intensive seminars.

The program operates through the Maimonides Fund’s Future Scientists Center, as a joint initiative with the Ministry of Education’s Department for Gifted and Talented Students and the National Cyber Bureau within the Prime Minister’s Office. Other partners in the program include the Rashi Foundation, the Jerusalem Foundation, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., SanDisk, Mellanox Technologies, and Keter

Education for Science and Math – STEM Framework

About the Course Background
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe, contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to understand a little of this mystery every day.” – Albert Einstein In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, where global problems require multidisciplinary solutions, where citizens and communities need to be creative and analytical in the way they deal with problem solving, our education processes need to be measured not only by what we know, but also by what we can do with that knowledge and even by our ability to develop and combine this knowledge. It is more important than ever for our children and youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills connected to the 21st century reality, where change is becoming the only constant. In this context, all learners should be prepared to think deeply and critically, to get the knowhow and the skills for creative and analytic thinking so that they have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our world, both today and tomorrow. These are the types of skills that students learn through Science Education using STEM as a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications. While it is almost impossible to list every discipline, some common areas include aerospace, astrophysics, astronomy, biochemistry, biomechanics, chemistry, biomimicry , mathematical biology, nanotechnology, neurobiology, nuclear physics, physics, and robotics, among many, many others. As evidenced by the vast variety of disciplines, it is clear that the Science Education fields affect virtually every component of our everyday lives. This new science education approach is providing the educational system with more tools for quality education, integrating knowledge and methods from different disciplines, using a real synthesis of approaches and principles that should be especially prominent: Interdisciplinary, creativity and Relevance to reality. -The STEAM approach is connecting the dots and providing education with another tool for quality education; integrating knowledge and methods from different disciplines, using a real synthesis of approaches. -In a world where technology has been integrated into our daily lives and in which global problems require multidisciplinary solutions, citizens and communities need to be creative and analytical in the way they deal with problem solving. This educational approach provides the tools for this kind
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of approach. We must give creativity the importance it deserves in order to succeed in a world where change is becoming the only constant. -What separates this approach from traditional science and math education is the blended learning environment and the manner of showing students how the scientific method should be applied to everyday life. It teaches students a different way of thinking and focuses on the real world applications of problem solving. Nowadays we add to STEM an A, for arts. The addition of the arts to the original STEM framework is important as it includes practices such as modelling, developing scientific explanations and engaging in critique, which are often underemphasized in the context of math and science education. The course designed by The Aharon Ofri MASHAV International Educational Training Center is aimed at directors of education departments in education Ministries, Principals and supervisors of primary and secondary schools; Educational staff at schools Training institutions, whose responsibilities involve the allocation of resources and development of educational policies. It is based on the vast experience the Israeli education system has acquired over the years in working towards an educational environment contributive to sustainability and globalization.

STEM Education in Israel: A Case Study

In this chapter, we review the STEM education system in Israel, including historical overview, current reforms and contemporary trends and emphasis. We also describe the research process of the risk management process presented in this Brief, including the Research Methodology (Sect. 3.2.1), Research Participants (Sect. 3.2.2) and Research Tools (Sect. 3.2.3), and the Research Process (Sect. 3.2.4).

Orit Hazzan: Research topics in

Policy of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education

My recent academic – research and practice – work focuses on Policy of STEM Education, including: • Cross-sector collaboration: upscale processes, collective impact, and RPP • Human resources: predictions and professional development • Strategic analysis: SWOT analysis, risk management, and change management
These topics are addressed in my academic work on K-12, academia and industry levels. Within the context of these topics, STEM education processes on the national level (beyond a specific program or initiate) are examined, in order to make a significant change in the Israeli eco-system to sustain Israel’s economic growth and development My work is largely based on my academic background in mathematics, computer science, education, and management and my acquaintance with the Israeli educational system in general and computer science education in particular, with the academia, and with the industry in Israel and its hi-tech sector. In what follows, several examples of my recent research works, projects and activities on these topics are presented.

IATI’s STEM Education Projects

In recent years we have seen a decrease in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in Israel. Fewer students are completing 5 units of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science.

IATI co-leads the project, as our mission is to promote and cultivate the advanced technology industries in Israel and consequently we see great value in promoting STEM education. In order to continue being a Start-Up nation we must strengthen STEM teaching in Israel, and encourage high school students to acquire STEM knowledge.

To bridge this problem IATI is co-leading events to promote STEM Education in Israel, with Government ministries, Educational NGOs and with the High-Tech Companies.,

To find out more about how you can join us for these national efforts, please contact roni@iati,co,il.
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STEM in Israel: The Educational Foundation for ‘Start-Up Nation’

 

Israel launches STEM program for kindergartners

Why did global aerospace giant Lockheed Martin send its chief executive to a Beersheva kindergarten?

Because Lockheed Martin is a major partner in Israel’s first science-technology early education program, thus far serving 100 children. The idea is that it’s never too soon to inculcate the basics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to better prepare the next generation for the job market.

“The future growth of Israel’s economy will require a constant supply of highly trained, highly capable technical talent, which is why advancing STEM education is a critical focus for Lockheed Martin,” said Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chairwoman, president and CEO.

Lockheed, a large U.S. defense contractor based in Washington D.C. with a campus in Sunnyvale, is among several major multinationals that have established offices in Beersheva’s new Gav-Yam Negev Advanced Technologies Park (ATP), primarily housing companies involved in developing cyber technologies.

In 2014, Lockheed signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli government to help advance cyber-education in the Jewish state. Lockheed has since sponsored programs and conferences aimed at helping educators more effectively teach STEM curriculum.

Last year, Lockheed began collaborating with Israel’s Ministry of Education, Ministry of Science and the Rashi Foundation to promote STEM programs for students in kindergarten through high schools.

The new early childhood curriculum was designed to provide 300 hours of science study per year in a stimulating learning environment that allows students to experiment and to experience and develop skills through hands-on creative activities in astronomy, physics, chemistry and robotics.

Over the next three years, classrooms taking part in the project will be equipped with computers, Lego construction kits, robotics experiments and space-related content to encourage a passion for STEM, according to the Rashi Foundation, which leads national projects that bridge educational and social gaps in Israel. The joint initiative is part of the MadaKids program that aims to cultivate future scientists in Israel.

The project is operated by Beit Yatziv, an organization that runs science education programs for some 40,000 elementary school pupils across Israel on behalf of the Rashi Foundation, including a municipal science excellence center in cooperation with the municipality of Beersheva.

“The participating kindergarten teachers received special training at Beit Yatziv that focused on the science behind natural phenomena such as the seasons, astronomy, robotics and more,” said Maya Lugassi Ben-Hemo, head of pedagogy at Beit Yatziv.

In-service training and academic guidance by Kaye College of Education and the pedagogic team of Beit Yatziv will continue through the school year, she added.

Ben-Hemo emphasized that the children won’t lack time to enjoy traditional activities such as coloring and building with blocks. “The science and technology program will be integrated within the regular curriculum of the Ministry of Education for science-oriented kindergartens, which obviously includes play time,” she said.

The goal is for children participating in the program to enter elementary school with a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering and math, and that this model for technological early childhood education will be duplicated across Israel. The program “is intended to serve as a regional learning center” for teachers, other education professionals and parents, Ben-Hemo said.

Lockheed’s Hewson was not the only big name on hand when the science kindergarten was dedicated this past October. Also in attendance were Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, Beersheva Mayor Rubik Danilovitch, Rashi Foundation chairman (and retired general) Gabi Ashkenazi, and other dignitaries from Israel and abroad.

“The significance of the knowledge the children gain in preschool will be felt in years to come, and it will surely be highly valuable on the personal as well as the national level,” Bennett said at the event. “Opening the first science kindergarten in Beersheva sends a clear message — that everyone, everywhere in Israel, should have equal opportunities.”

Ashkenazi said the Rashi Foundation views the promotion of science and technology education from an early age as a major catalyst for strengthening Israeli society and closing educational gaps between the center and periphery of the country.

“The science kindergarten in Beersheva, the capital of the Negev, is an innovative and unique project that will give children an opportunity to cultivate their independent and inquisitive thinking and make an early start on their science education,” Ashkenazi said. “This is the first step on the path that will lead them, and the country, to new achievements in science and advanced technology.”

Desperately seeking STEM: Ministry works to promote cyber-education

Israel signs second agreement with tech firm Lockheed-Martin to encourage more kids to study science and tech

But despite the best efforts of government and industry, statistics show that STEM is still a hard sell. Kids, it appears, are intimidated by math and science, and prefer “easier” subjects. It’s a major problem around the world, including in the US.

“Ninety-seven percent of US high schools do not teach STEM effectively enough to provide students with real-life skills that will enable them to get into advance tech programs in colleges,” and neither kids, parents, nor school boards are demanding those subjects, according to Rick Geritz, one of the world’s foremost experts on cyber-education.

Astro-biology, Chemistry, DNA, Environment, Genetics, GUT-CP, Millsian, Molecular modelling, New elements, technology

Phosphates/Phosphorous…’The Essential Element’, essential to ALL life on Earth (all carbon based life as we understand it)… a little bit of problem here humanity!

“Phosphorous – The name is derived from the Greek ‘phosphoros’, meaning bringer of light.”
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Phosphorous – Royal Society of Chemistry

“Unless something is done, the scarcity of phosphorus will cause problems of a global dimension. As early as 2035 it is calculated that the demand for phosphorus map outpace the supply,” Dr Dana Cordell -Research Director at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.

“Those of you that know me, know I’ve been talking about this subject matter for a number of years (slight diversion from global energy)… Phosphorous! Not only is it essential to securing the global food supply due to the global fertiliser industries over reliance upon it, it’s actually essential to ALL life on Earth, the backbone to DNA…
it is a FINITE resource, that is not being thoughtfully managed or controlled, at some point in the future, humanity will exhaust the planets supply.
Unless we:-
a) source it from elsewhere. i.e. outer space. Recent study suggests all phosphate on Earth actually came from elsewhere in cosmos.
Biocompatible phosphorus could have travelled to Earth on space ice
Lab experiments back up hypothesis that comets and meteorites provided a form of the element compatible with the biochemistry of early life”

b) find a method of synthesising or recreating the phosphate molecule.

No Phosphorous, no life… as simple as!
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We now have a population exceeding 7 billion, set to hit 9 billion by 2030, and not slowing down… unless there is a technological revolution, in our understanding of molecular modelling, synthesising or reproducing organic molecules vital to life and DNA (phosphorous), or sourcing them from elsewhere in the Cosmos (meteorites, planets)… billions of people will potentially starve and die!
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With The Grand Unified Theory Of Classical Physics, a better understanding of molecular and atomic structure… accurate and predictive molecular modelling programs such as Millsian… this sorry arse civilisation may stand half a chance!
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P MONEY! 😀

The Essential Element

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How Phosphorus Scarcity Endangers the World
By Ryan Sim August 10, 2016

Phosphorus: a powdery maroon substance used in producing everything from baking powder to steels to fertilizer. Surprisingly, stocks of phosphorus are declining. The international community faces so many insidious issues that phosphorus scarcity can seem trivial; however, dwindling phosphorus is indeed important to national security. One of the most important substances for global food production, phosphorus is crucial to sustainable population growth. Its scarcity must be addressed by the international community.

Used in many fertilizers, phosphorus enables higher food production from crops, which is important for feeding a rapidly growing world. Phosphorus has contributed to a global surplus of food that has fed millions. Unfortunately, phosphorus, like many other important resources such as water or energy, is limited. There is no replacement for phosphorus, and without its role in fertilizer, millions will go hungry.

Growing Demand

Numerous global trends have caused the demand for phosphorus to increase at an unsustainable rate. Especially in developing regions, rapid population growth has led to increased phosphorus demand, with the rate of fertilizer including phosphorus increasing by over 600 percent from 1950 to 2000. In developed regions, on the other hand, the shift towards a diet of meat and cheese have also increased phosphorus demand, since meat and dairy contain a significant proportion of phosphorus. As a result, countries everywhere face rising demands for phosphorus, which has led to precarious markets.

Recently unfolding events have demonstrated the impacts of phosphorus’ increased demand. In 2008, world food prices skyrocketed, leading to the 2008 global food crisis. While there were many explanations for this phenomenon, ranging from oil price volatility to economic tariffs, the fact that there was a simultaneous rise of in phosphate prices did not go unnoticed. Though at first many were skeptical of a correlation, the international scientific community has strongly supported the relationship between these two trends.

In such scarcity, phosphorus especially impacts farmers from poor regions like India and landlocked regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa. In poor regions, farmers are vulnerable to extreme price changes such as the recent phosphorus price crisis in 2008. In fact, in places such as India and Haiti, many farmers committed suicide while others rioted due to their disrupted livelihoods from the 2008 phosphorus price crisis. In landlocked regions, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, expensive transport as well as government corruption add significantly to phosphorus prices. It is unfortunate, since many of these countries rely upon agriculture for economic growth, further increasing their reliance on phosphate. Many of these countries are also undergoing rapid population growth, which cannot be sustained by such high phosphorus prices.

Shriveling Supply

Though demand is increasing, phosphorus is an extremely rare resource and its supply may not be able to keep up. Phosphate rock is the difficult to extract and slow-forming product of millions of years, much like oil, and cannot be produced artificially. To make matters worse, phosphorus cannot be replaced by any known alternatives. It is uncertain exactly how much time that the international community has before phosphate runs out. However, as phosphate is continuously and increasingly harvested, the ability to easily harvest high-quality phosphorus is reduced. This is a phenomenon known as “peak phosphorus”, since at a certain point of time, phosphorus quality peaks and then is difficult to harvest afterwards. Even now, it takes enormous amounts of energy to obtain the same amounts of phosphate as before. Since phosphorus has a limited and quickly depleting availability and it saps precious energy, more sustainable and efficient methods of phosphorus harvest must be implemented.

It must also be noted how phosphorus can only be found in very specific locations, namely, Morocco, China, Algeria, and South Africa among a few others. As is the case with most resources of significance, when certain countries have a monopoly, it gives them major geopolitical power over other countries who need those imports. For example, the 2008 phosphorus price crisis was spurred in part due to China placing limits on phosphorus exports. This event demonstrates how countries are at the mercy of those who hold such a monopoly and, consequently, the balance of power has significantly been slanted towards them.

Though demand is increasing, phosphorus is an extremely rare resource and its supply may not be able to keep up.

In countries such as Morocco, for instance, phosphorus lies in the Western Sahara, an area that Morocco claims to own; the international community refuses to acknowledge this territorial claim. Regardless of the legitimacy of the Moroccan claim, numerous companies import phosphate rock from this contested area, much to the dismay of neighboring countries. Moreover, the people who occupy the Western Sahara protest against the phosphorus extraction, stating that it violates their sovereignty. Though this may be a singular case, it demonstrates how the extreme need for phosphorus combined with little regulation has created an environment where illegal activity may flourish. Furthermore, the lack of regulation allows more opportunistic powers to enter weaker territories and take their resources, instigating oppression and deeper economic woes.

Phosphorus’ scarcity stems not only from its limited quantities, but it is also wasted during harvests. As much as four-fifths of phosphorus is wasted during production, from the moment it is mined to the final moments of processing. These losses can be minimized through greater efficiency and recycling waste, ensuring more sustainable levels of phosphorus use. Moreover, improving the efficiency of phosphorus extraction reduces phosphorus runoff into streams and oceans, which causes algal blooms that kill aquatic wildlife and hurt tourist industries and the environment. This algal bloom is costly, as well. The estimated annual cost in the United States alone reaches up to as high as $2.2 billion USD. More stringent monitoring of excess phosphorus waste during harvest will decrease phosphorus scarcity and environmental risks.

Preserving Phosphorus

This raises the question–who is responsible for managing phosphorus, whether by following international norms or minimizing excessive waste? The answer, at the moment, is lost in a hectic mass of mining sectors, national governments, and agricultural industries. The trade and production data that exists on phosphorus is incomplete; indeed, the only data available is from the US Geological Survey, but even this data lacks outside verification from other organizations or countries. This is a clear and present problem, especially given that phosphorus is such a critical resource for future food sustainability. All lines involved in the production of phosphorus need to be held to more accountability, and more information regarding the phosphorus production process needs to be revealed to give a better picture of the status quo.

Luckily for the international community, the future is not as grim as it appears. There are a number of institutional changes that can be made to improve regulation and decrease waste. Outreach and advocacy measures, on the macro-level of the United Nations and giant media organizations as well as micro-level of grassroots movements and nonprofit organizations, can raise awareness of the seriousness of phosphorus. As these reforms and changes change the nature of institutions to become more sympathetic to phosphorus sustainability, the best practices and procedures of the international community can be more easily implemented.

One area that should be prioritized in reducing phosphorus is the smarter use of fertilizer. In most cases, farmers are unaware of how much fertilizer they need. For good reason—the amount of fertilizer a farmer may need is highly dependent on environmental conditions such as soil, temperature, and weather patterns. As a result, many farmers in developing countries are not able to accurately gauge their fertilizer requirements, leading to much waste. One example of this case can be found in a China Agriculture Survey on northern Chinese farmers. Since many of these farmers were never taught how much fertilizer they need, they tend to use about half of the fertilizer they put down. Thus, a valuable resource is wasted and becomes an environmental risk to water supplies, just because some people were never educated.

To combat this lack of information, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization is putting together a task force to work together with local and state governments. It hopes to provide accessible information to farmers, emphasizing ideals of conservation and long-term sustainability of phosphorus. This task force is not unprecedented and draws inspiration from past successful initiatives. The University of Wisconsin, in concert with the Wisconsin government, put together a program called the Wisconsin phosphorus index, which helps farmers accurately predict how much phosphorus that they will need. By promoting past sustainable practices that have a track record of success, organizations like the United Nations will hopefully be able to increase awareness amongst local communities.

Another area that can be examined to increase phosphorus supply is recycling waste. In the past, farmers were able to sustain the quality of their soil largely through household waste. Even though animal manure is still widely used, human waste is also a valuable source of phosphorus. Instead of disposing of it as sewage, human waste has potential as an alternative fertilizer. Moreover, many countries across the world are undergoing intensive research to find innovative ways to efficiently recycle waste. It is important that the international scientific community communicates their findings to one another to promote the best long-term phosphorus recycling methods. Additionally, areas that might not be able to afford such advanced levels of technology need to receive assistance from NGOs and the United Nations. Since some of these recycling procedures are difficult to keep up without high development levels, countries must have access to at least rudimentary recycling processes. In this way, countries will be able to extend their current supplies of phosphorus.

Just as important in preserving phosphorus in the long term is having a tangible idea of the global phosphorus supply. As previously mentioned, the US Geological Survey currently gives us the best representation of how much phosphorus is left. However, a more effective way to describe the world phosphorus supply would be through an international organization such as the World Trade Organization. The World Trade Organization should work together with governments to foster the creation of a more comprehensive global database of phosphorus trade and supply. Indeed, this partnership should also yield information of new phosphorus mining areas, since many places need heavier examination by regional governments. Then, markets and research institutions will have more accurate information to act upon, creating a more sustainable phosphorus supply in the long run.

While there are numerous measures that can be implemented in order to promote more long-term phosphorus supply sustainability, they cannot be effective without cultural changes as well. Meat and dairy, for example, take up immense supplies of phosphorus, and yet people are consuming these products at unprecedented levels. Therefore, it is increasingly necessary to promote a plant-based diet to reduce the amount of phosphorus consumption. Other cultural changes can include speaking with local farmers in underdeveloped countries, explaining how phosphorus is an essential and limited resource that needs conservation. With these movements in place, major media outlets and nonprofit organizations should direct the focus of public energy. Of course, this will not be an overnight process, since cultural changes often take many more incremental, subtle steps. However, encouraging such a long-term paradigm shift while putting into place other specific strategies for improvement should maintain phosphorus supplies.

The world’s population is growing at an exponential rate, as technology has dramatically improved the standard of living. On the whole, more people have access to the necessary resources they need to live than ever before. Yet, there are still large swaths of populations who live in poor conditions. There is still work to be done in lifting every person to the basic standard of living that they each deserve. Phosphorus is not a silver bullet that will deliver such people. However, when phosphorus sustainability is considered in the grander scheme of things, it will have enormous benefits to everyone, regardless of where they live. It will improve international security, as those who have more access to phosphorus will not have such a monopoly on power. It will reap benefits for farmers who are able to support their livelihoods through affordable fertilization. And it will reap benefits for every individual, as the markets of phosphorus and agriculture become more stable over time.

Phosphorus is more than simply an element or powdery substance—it represents an opportunity for the international community to help itself and the most marginalized populations. In a vastly changing world, it has become an essential element for change.

How To Live with Phosphorus Scarcity in Soil and Sediment: Lessons from Bacteria

ABSTRACT
Phosphorus (P) plays a fundamental role in the physiology and biochemistry of all living things. Recent evidence indicates that organisms in the oceans can break down and use P forms in different oxidation states (e.g., +5, +3, +1, and −3); however, information is lacking for organisms from soil and sediment. The Cuatro Ciénegas Basin (CCB), Mexico, is an oligotrophic ecosystem with acute P limitation, providing a great opportunity to assess the various strategies that bacteria from soil and sediment use to obtain P. We measured the activities in sediment and soil of different exoenzymes involved in P recycling and evaluated 1,163 bacterial isolates (mainly Bacillus spp.) for their ability to use six different P substrates. DNA turned out to be a preferred substrate, comparable to a more bioavailable P source, potassium phosphate. Phosphodiesterase activity, required for DNA degradation, was observed consistently in the sampled-soil and sediment communities. A capability to use phosphite (PO3 3−) and calcium phosphate was observed mainly in sediment isolates. Phosphonates were used at a lower frequency by both soil and sediment isolates, and phosphonatase activity was detected only in soil communities. Our results revealed that soil and sediment bacteria are able to break down and use P forms in different oxidation states and contribute to ecosystem P cycling. Different strategies for P utilization were distributed between and within the different taxonomic lineages analyzed, suggesting a dynamic movement of P utilization traits among bacteria in microbial communities.

Phosphorus: Essential to Life—Are We Running Out?

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Fertilizing a corn field in Iowa. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Phosphorus, the 11th most common element on earth, is fundamental to all living things. It is essential for the creation of DNA, cell membranes, and for bone and teeth formation in humans. It is vital for food production since it is one of three nutrients (nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) used in commercial fertilizer. Phosphorus cannot be manufactured or destroyed, and there is no substitute or synthetic version of it available. There has been an ongoing debate about whether or not we are running out of phosphorus. Are we approaching peak phosphorus? In other words, are we using it up faster than we can economically extract it?

In fact, phosphorus is a renewable resource and there is plenty of it left on earth. Animals and humans excrete almost 100 percent of the phosphorus they consume in food. In the past, as part of a natural cycle, the phosphorus in manure and waste was returned to the soil to aid in crop production. Today phosphorus is an essential component of commercial fertilizer. Because industrial agriculture moves food around the world for processing and consumption, disrupting the natural cycle that returned phosphorus to the soil via the decomposition of plants, in many areas fertilizer must now be continually applied to enrich the soil’s nutrients.

Most of the phosphorus used in fertilizer comes from phosphate rock, a finite resource formed over millions of years in the earth’s crust. Ninety percent of the world’s mined phosphate rock is used in agriculture and food production, mostly as fertilizer, less as animal feed and food additives. When experts debate peak phosphorus, what they are usually debating is how long the phosphate rock reserves, i.e. the resources that can economically be extracted, will hold out.

Pedro Sanchez, director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center at the Earth Institute, does not believe there is a shortage of phosphorus. “In my long 50-year career, “ he said. “Once every decade, people say we are going to run out of phosphorus. Each time this is disproven. All the most reliable estimates show that we have enough phosphate rock resources to last between 300 and 400 more years.”

In 2010, the International Fertilizer Development Center determined that phosphate rock reserves would last for several centuries. In 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey revised its estimates of phosphate rock reserves from the previous 17.63 billion tons to 71.65 billion tons in accordance with IFDC’s estimates. And, according to Sanchez, new research shows that the amount of phosphorus coming to the surface by tectonic uplift is in the same range as the amounts of phosphate rock we are extracting now.

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Global meat consumption from 1961 to 2009. Photo credit: FAO

The duration of phosphate rock reserves will also be impacted by the decreasing quality of the reserves, the growing global population, increased meat and dairy consumption (which require more fertilized grain for feed), wastage along the food chain, new technologies, deposit discoveries and improvements in agricultural efficiency and the recycling of phosphorus. Moreover, climate change will affect the demand for phosphorus because agriculture will bear the brunt of changing weather patterns. Most experts agree, however, that the quality and accessibility of currently available phosphate rock reserves are declining, and the costs to mine, refine, store and transport them are rising.

Ninety percent of the phosphate rock reserves are located in just five countries: Morocco, China, South Africa, Jordan and the United States. The U.S., which has 25 years of phosphate rock reserves left, imports a substantial amount of phosphate rock from Morocco, which controls up to 85 percent of the remaining phosphate rock reserves. However, many of Morocco’s mines are located in Western Sahara, which Morocco has occupied against international law. Despite the prevalence of phosphorus on earth, only a small percentage of it can be mined because of physical, economic, energy or legal constraints.

In 2008, phosphate rock prices spiked 800 percent because of higher oil prices, increased demand for fertilizer (due to more meat consumption) and biofuels, and a short-term lack of availability of phosphate rock. This led to surging food prices, which hit developing countries particularly hard.

With a world population that is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and require 70 percent more food than we produce today, and a growing global middle class that is consuming more meat and dairy, phosphorus is crucial to global food security. Yet, there are no international organizations or regulations that manage global phosphorus resources. Since global demand for phosphorus rises about 3 percent each year (and may increase as the global middle class grows and consumes more meat), our ability to feed humanity will depend upon how we manage our phosphorus resources.

Unfortunately, most phosphorus is wasted. Only 20 percent of the phosphorus in phosphate rock reaches the food consumed globally. Thirty to 40 percent is lost during mining and processing; 50 percent is wasted in the food chain between farm and fork; and only half of all manure is recycled back into farmland around the world.

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Eutrophication in the Caspian Sea. Photo credit: Jeff Schmaltz, NASA

Most of the wasted phosphorus enters our rivers, lakes and oceans from agricultural or manure runoff or from phosphates in detergent and soda dumped down drains, resulting in eutrophication. This is a serious form of water pollution wherein algae bloom, then die, consuming oxygen and creating a “dead zone” where nothing can live. Over 400 coastal dead zones at the mouths of rivers exist and are expanding at the rate of 10 percent per decade. In the United States alone, economic damage from eutrophication is estimated to be $2.2 billion a year.

As the quality of phosphate rock reserves declines, more energy is necessary to mine and process it. The processing of lower grade phosphate rock also produces more heavy metals such as cadmium and uranium, which are toxic to soil and humans; more energy must be expended to remove them as well. Moreover, increasingly expensive fossil fuels are needed to transport approximately 30 million tons of phosphate rock and fertilizers around the world annually.

Sanchez says that while there is no reason to fear we are running out of phosphorus, we do need to be more efficient about our use of phosphorus, especially to minimize eutrophication. The keys to making our phosphorus resources more sustainable are to reduce demand and find alternate sources. We need to:

 

  • Improve the efficiency of mining
  • Integrate livestock and crop production; in other words, use the manure as fertilizer
  • Make fertilizer application more targeted
  • Prevent soil erosion and agricultural runoff by promoting no-till farming, terracing, contour tilling and the use of windbreaks
  • Eat a plant based diet
  • Reduce food waste from farm to fork
  • Recover phosphorus from human waste
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Cow dung to be used as fertilizer drying in Punjab. Photo credit: Gopal Aggarwal http://gopal1035.blogspot.com

Phosphorus can be reused. According to some studies, there are enough nutrients in one person’s urine to grow 50 to 100 percent of the food needed by another person. NuReSys is a Belgian company whose technology can recover 85 percent of the phosphorus present in wastewater, and turn it into struvite crystals that can be used as a slow fertilizer.

New phosphorus-efficient crops are also being developed. Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute discovered a gene that makes it possible for rice plants to grow bigger roots that absorb more phosphorus. The overexpression of this gene can increase the yield of rice plants when they are grown in phosphorus-poor soil. Rice plants with this gene are not genetically modified, but are being bred with modern techniques; they are expected to be available to farmers in a few years.

A breed of genetically modified Yorkshire pigs, called the Enviropig, has been developed by the University of Guelph in Canada to digest phosphorus from plants more efficiently and excrete less of it. This results in lower costs to feed the pigs and less phosphorus pollution, since pig manure is a major contributor to eutrophication. Last spring, however, the Enviropigs were euthanized after the scientists lost their funding.
The Agriculture and Food Security Center is working on food security in Africa and attempting to eliminate hunger there and throughout the tropics within the next two to three decades.

In the mountains of Tanzania along Lake Manyara, Sanchez’ team has discovered deposits of “minjingu,” high-quality phosphate rock that is cheaper and just as efficient as triple super phosphate (a highly concentrated phosphate-based fertilizer) in terms of yields of corn per hectare.

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Minjingu Mines & Fertilisers Ltd.. Photo credit: IFDC Photography

Minjingu deposits are formed by the excreta and dead bodies of cormorants and other birds that roost and die in the mountains, forming biogenic rock phosphate or guano deposits. Guano, the feces and urine of seabirds (and bats), has a high phosphorus content, and in the past was often used as fertilizer.

Sanchez’ researchers have also discovered a common bush called the Mexican Sunflower that is an efficient phosphorus collector. It grows by the side of the road, fertilized by the excreta dumped there by farmers. The farmers cut it down and use it as green manure, an organic phosphorus fertilizer which helps grow high-quality crops like vegetables.

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Mexican Sunflower. Photo credit: John Tann

The Agriculture and Food Security Center team also helps farmers contain erosion and runoff by encouraging them to keep some vegetative cover, either alive or dead, on the soil year-round. This is done through intercropping, leaving crop residue in the fields, contour planting on slopes or terracing.
“There is no data to support the idea of peak phosphorus,” said Sanchez. “Just fears. New deposits are continually being discovered. We also have more efficient extraction that is getting more phosphate rock out of land-based sediments. And there is an enormous 49-gigaton deposit of phosphorus in the continental shelf from Florida to Maritime Canada that scientists have known about for years. Now there is some experimental extraction going on off the coast of North Carolina.”
Pedro Sanchez, author of Properties and Management of Soils in the Tropics published in 1976, which continues to be a bestseller, is currently working on Tropical Soils Science, an update of his previous work. It will be published by 2015.

 

The Story of Phosphorus:

7 reasons why we need to transform phosphorus use in the global food system

Dr Dana Cordell, Research Principal, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Australia
Read the full article: Life’s Bottleneck: Sustaining the World’s Phosphorus for a Food Secure Future

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1. Phosphorus equals food
Without phosphorus, we can’t produce food. Phosphorus is as essential as water, carbon or oxygen.

Phosphorus is essential for all living matter, including bacteria, plants and animals. We get our phosphorus from the food we eat, which in turn comes from the phosphate fertilizers we apply to crops. Phosphorus fertilizer is essential for modern food production and is the limiting factor in crop yields. Phosphorus is a critical global resource, along side water and energy resources.
Around 90% of the phosphate rock extracted globally is for food production (the remainder is for industrial applications like detergents).

2. Growing food demand, growing phosphorus demand
Nine billion mouths to feed by 2050 with growing appetite for meat and dairy means increasing demand for phosphorus.

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Historical sources of phosphorus fertilizers (1800-2010). Source: Cordell et al The Story of Phosphorus.

Demand for phosphorus is increasing globally, despite a downward trend in developed regions like Western Europe. This is due to an increasing per capita and overall demand for food in developing countries, from increasing population and global trends towards more meat- and dairy-based diets, which are significantly more phosphorus intensive.
The average diet today results in the depletion of around 22.5 kilograms of phosphate rock per person each year (or 3.2 kilograms of P). This is 50 times greater than the 1.2 grams per person per day recommended daily intake of P.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating hunger and achieving food security, means we must change the way we source, use and equitably distribute phosphorus in global food production. Further to market forecasts, there is a ‘silent’ demand from the many farmers with phosphorus-deficient soils who can’t afford fertilizers. The current phosphorus inequity is most evident on the African continent, which is simultaneously home to the world’s largest phosphate rock reserves (over 75% of the global share) and the continent with the lowest phosphorus fertilizer application rates, some of the most phosphorus-deficient soils and the most food insecure region.

3. Finite phosphate: we’ve used up the good stuff
The world’s main source of phosphorus fertilizer – phosphate rock – has taken millions of years to form.

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Phosphate mine in Togo (Photo: A. Pugachevsky)

The majority of the world’s agricultural fields today rely on fertilizers derived from phosphate rock. Phosphate rock is a non-renewable resource that has taken 10-15 million years to form from seabed to soil via tectonic uplift and weathering. Many recent studies indicate that phosphorus demand could outstrip supply this century if no fundamental changes are made to the current trajectory, while others argue we have ‘hundreds’ of years remaining (see Peak Phosphorus).
While oil and other non-renewable natural resources can be substituted with other sources when they peak (like wind, biomass or thermal energy), phosphorus has no substitute in food production.
While there is some uncertainty about the timeline, there is consensus that the quality of remaining phosphate rock is declining. That is, the concentration of P in mined phosphate rock is decreasing and the concentration of unwanted clay particles and heavy metals like cadmium are increasing. The cadmium content of phosphate rock can be very high. This is either considered a harmful concentration for application in agriculture, or, expensive and energy intensive to remove (maximum cadmium concentrations for fertilizers exist in some regions, like Western Europe). Further, remaining phosphate reserves are becoming more difficult to physically access (mining under the sea bed has begun). Extracting the same amount of phosphorus is requiring more energy, is more costly, and is generating more waste and byproducts.
With growing concern about fossil fuel scarcity, we cannot afford to continue the energy intensive process of mining, processing and transporting phosphate rock and fertilizers across the globe. Phosphate rock is one of the most highly traded commodities in the world. Around 30% of energy use in agriculture in the US is from fertilizer production and use.

4. Geopolitical risks: an issue of national security?
All farmers need phosphorus, yet just 5 countries control 88% of the worlds remaining phosphate rock reserves
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Phosphate rock is unevenly distributed across the globe resulting in only a small number of countries controlling the world’s remaining reserves. According to the US Geological Survey in 2015, Morocco, China, Algeria, Syria & South Africa together control 88% of the world’s phosphate. Morocco alone controls 75% of the world’s high-quality reserves, and the Kingdom’s share is expected to increase to 80-90% in the coming decades. The US used to be the world’s largest producer, consumer, importer and exporter, yet now has approximately 20 years of reserves remaining. while China has recently imposed a 135% export tariff to secure domestic fertilizer supply, which has halted most exports.
This means all importing countries – from India to Australia to Europe – are vulnerable to price fluctuations and supply disruptions in producing countries.
Further, the phosphate rock located in Western Sahara is controlled by Morocco. While Morocco claims rightful ownership of the land and phosphates of Western Sahara, this occupation is condemned by the UN and not recognised by any other nation, nor the Saharawi people of Western Sahara, many of whom are living in refugee camps in neigbouring Algeria. Many of Scandinavia’s major banks and pension funds have divested from companies importing ‘conflict phosphates’ from Western Sahara via Morocco.

5. An inefficient global food system
Phosphorus is mis-managed: Four-fifths is lost or wasted in the supply-chain from mine to field to fork
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Phosphorus is scarce not only because it is finite – but because it is mismanaged in the food system. Only one-fifth of the phosphate mined specifically for food production ends up in the food we eat globally. Four-fifths of the phosphorus is lost or wasted during mining and processing, fertilizer production and distribution, fertilizer application on farms, food production and trade, right through to the dinner table. Much of these losses could be avoided through improved practices and efficiency measures, while the remaining waste (banana peels to manure) could be captured for reuse as fertilizer.
Much of the lost phosphorus ends up in our rivers, lakes and oceans where it can cause toxic algal blooms – from the Baltic Sea, to China to the Great Lakes of North America to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Algal blooms can kill fish and other aquatic life, pollute our drinking water and damage our tourism and fishing industries.

6. Cheap fertilizer – a thing of the past for farmers
Farmers need access to phosphorus, yet up to a billion farmers lack access to fertilizer markets.
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Already many of the world’s farmers can’t afford fertilizers. Sub-Saharan African farmers in some landlocked countries can pay 2-5 times more at the farm gate for fertilizers than European farmers, due to high transport costs (road/rail), handling, duties and even corruption.
In 2008, the price of phosphate rock spiked 800%. This led to farmer riots and suicides from India to Haiti.
While demand continues to increase, the cost of mining phosphate rock is increasing due to transport in addition to a decline in quality and greater expense of extraction, refinement and environmental management.
Non-food demand for phosphorus has also increased: the demand for first generation biofuel crops over the past decade increased global demand – and hence price – of phosphate rock.

7. No one is monitoring phosphorus: whose responsibility is it?
There are currently no international or national policies, guidelines or organisations responsible for ensuring long-term availability and accessibility of phosphorus for food production.
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Despite being one of the world’s most critical resources, there are no international organisations like the UN taking responsibility for phosphorus security in the long term. There is no independent, comprehensive and transparent data on the world’s remaining phosphate rock and trade. The US Geological Survey collates data provided directly by companies and countries as a public service, with no way of verifying the source, assumptions and authenticity of the data.
The management of phosphorus is fragmented between many different sectors – from the mining and fertilizer sector where phosphorus is a globally-traded commodity, through to the sanitation sector where phosphorus is a pollutant, wastewater indicator and in some cases a resource to be recovered.
Whose responsibility is long-term governance of phosphorus for food security? the fertilizer industry? Investors? National governments? the UN? Agri-food companies? Food consumers? Sanitation providers?

Further reading:
Cordell D, Turner, A & Chong, J (2015), The hidden cost of phosphate fertilizers: mapping multi-stakeholder supply chain risks and impacts from mine to fork, Global Change, Peace and Security, Special Issue.

Cordell, D. & White, S (2015), Tracking phosphorus security: indicators of phosphorus vulnerability in the global food system, Food Security, Springer, Feb 2015, Vol 7, Issue 2, p.337-350.

Cordell, D. & White, S (2014), Life’s bottleneck: sustaining the world’s phosphorus for a food secure future, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 39:161-188.
Cordell, D. & White, S. Phosphorus security: global non-governance of a critical resource for food security, Edward Elgar Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Politics and Governance, (Eds) Pattberg, P & Fariborz Zelli, F. 2015. In press.

Cordell, D. & Neset, T-S, (2014) Phosphorus vulnerability: A qualitative framework for assessing the vulnerability of national and regional food systems to the multi-dimensional stressors of phosphorus scarcity, Global Environmental Change, 24 (2014) 108–122.

How the great phosphorus shortage could leave us short of food

February 17, 2016 by Charly Faradji, University Of Bristol, And Marissa De Boer, Vu University Amsterdam, The Conversation

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Testing crops in 1940s Tennessee. Credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

You know that greenhouse gases are changing the climate. You probably know drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce, and that we’re living through a mass extinction.

But when did you last worry about phosphorus?

It’s not as well-known as the other issues, but phosphorus depletion is no less significant. After all, we could live without cars or unusual species, but if phosphorus ran out we’d have to live without food.

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for all forms of life. It is a key element in our DNA and all living organisms require daily phosphorus intake to produce energy. It cannot be replaced and there is no synthetic substitute: without phosphorus, there is no life.

Our dependence began in the mid-19th century, after farmers noticed spreading phosphorus-rich guano (bird excrement) on their fields led to impressive improvements in crop yields. Soon after, mines opened up in the US and China to extract phosphate ore – rocks which contain the useful mineral. This triggered the current use of mineral fertilisers and, without this industrial breakthrough, humanity could only produce half the food that it does today.

Fertiliser use has quadrupled over the past half century and will continue rising as the population expands. The growing wealth of developing countries allows people to afford more meat which has a “phosphorus footprint” 50 times higher than most vegetables. This, together with the increasing usage of biofuels, is estimated to double the demand for phosphorus fertilisers by 2050.

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Today phosphorus is also used in pharmaceuticals, personal care products, flame retardants, catalysts for chemical industries, building materials, cleaners, detergents and food preservatives.

Phosphorus is not a renewable resource

Reserves are limited and not equally spread over the planet. The only large mines are located in Morocco, Russia, China and the US. Depending on which scientists you ask, the world’s phosphate rock reserves will last for another 35 to 400 years – though the more optimistic assessments rely on the discovery of new deposits.

It’s a big concern for the EU and other countries without their own reserves, and phosphorus depletion could lead to geopolitical tensions. Back in 2008, when fertiliser prices sharply increased by 600% and directly influenced food prices, there were violent riots in 40 different developing countries.

Phosphorus also harms the environment. Excessive fertiliser use means it leaches from agricultural lands into rivers and eventually the sea, leading to so-called dead zones where most fish can’t survive. Uninhibited algae growth caused by high levels of phosphorus in water has already created more than 400 coastal death zones worldwide. Related human poisoning costs US$2.2 billion dollars annually in the US alone.

With the increasing demand for phosphorus leading to massive social and environmental issues, it’s time we looked towards more sustainable and responsible use.

There is still hope

In the past, the phosphorus cycle was closed: crops were eaten by humans and livestock while their faeces were used as natural fertilisers to grow crops again.

These days, the cycle is broken. Each year 220m tonnes of phosphate rocks are mined, but only a negligible amount makes it back into the soil. Crops are transported to cities and the waste is not returned to the fields but to the sewage system, which mainly ends up in the sea. A cycle has become a linear process.

We could reinvent a modern phosphorus cycle simply by dramatically reducing our consumption. After all, less than a third of the phosphorus in fertilisers is actually taken up by plants; the rest accumulates in the soil or is washed away. To take one example, in the Netherlands there is enough phosphorus in the soil today to supply the country with fertiliser for the next 40 years.

Food wastage is also directly linked to phosphorus overuse. In the most developed countries, 60% of discarded food is edible. We could also make agriculture smarter, optimising the amount of phosphorus used by specially selecting low-fertiliser crops or by giving chickens and pigs a special enzyme that helps them digest phosphorus more efficiently and therefore avoid extensive use of phosphorus-heavy growth supplements.
It takes vast amounts of energy to transform phosphate ore into “elemental phosphorus”, the more reactive and pure form used in other, non-agricultural sectors. Inventing a quicker route from raw rocks to industrially-useful compounds is one of the big challenges facing the future generation. The EU, which only has minimal reserves, is investing in research aimed at saving energy – and phosphorus.

We could also close the phosphorus cycle by recycling it. Sewage, for instance, contains phosphorus yet it is considered waste and is mainly incinerated or released into the sea. The technology to extract this phosphorus and reuse it as fertiliser does exist, but it’s still at an early stage of development.

When considering acute future challenges, people do not often think about phosphorus. However, securing enough food for the world’s population is at least as important as the development of renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gases. To guarantee long-term food security, changes in the way we use phosphorus today are vital.

The world is running out of phosphorus, which threatens global food supply

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A good way to scare yourself is by googling “phosphorus shortage.” Agriculture requires lots of phosphorus for fertilizer, and after it’s spread on crops, most of it gets washed into the ocean, where it is irrecoverable. Without phosphorus, food production will plummet, unless people come up with new ways to grow food.

From the Global And Chinese Phosphate Fertilizer Industry, 2018 Market Research Report:
In 2007, at the current rate of consumption, the supply of phosphorus was estimated to run out in 345 years. However, some scientists thought that a “peak phosphorus” will occur in 30 years and Dana Cordell from Institute for Sustainable Futures said that at “current rates, reserves will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years.”

From The Conversation:
Fertiliser use has quadrupled over the past half century and will continue rising as the population expands. The growing wealth of developing countries allows people to afford more meat which has a “phosphorus footprint” 50 times higher than most vegetables. This, together with the increasing usage of biofuels, is estimated to double the demand for phosphorus fertilisers by 2050.

Today phosphorus is also used in pharmaceuticals, personal care products, flame retardants, catalysts for chemical industries, building materials, cleaners, detergents and food preservatives.

From Critical Shots:
The greatest natural reserves of unmined phosphorus exist in [Morocco]…
According to the USGS, 42% of all phosphorus imported by the United States between 2012-2015 came from Morocco. China beats them out by a tremendous margin in production, but based on the most recent data Morocco and Western Sahara combined are sitting on 50,000,000,000 metric tons of reserves.

From NPR:
GRANTHAM: We’re on a finite planet with finite reserves of phosphorus. And we are mining it and running through the supply. That should make the hair on the back of everybody’s neck bristle.

SMITH: There are widely ranging estimates for just how close we are to the phosphorus cliff. Maybe we’ve got 30 years. Maybe we have 300 years. It’s hard to estimate. This is Jeremy’s take.

GRANTHAM: Whether it’s 42 years, 62 years or 82 years doesn’t really matter. We have to change our way of growing food.

DUFFIN: We’ve known for a while that phosphorus was limited. But the price was cheap, and the problem just seemed so distant, so people were kind of like, meh, we’ll deal with that problem later.

SMITH: Then 2008 happened – the financial crisis. And along with many commodities, phosphate prices spiked, which – because of its use as a fertilizer – made food prices skyrocket. And now everybody’s talking about phosphorus.

NARRATOR: Across the developing world in 2008, hungry people rioted as food supplies ran low and the price of phosphate rock spiked by 800 percent.

GRANTHAM: I would argue that that was a shot across the bows. That was the first warning to planet Earth that we are beginning to run out.

From MIT:
China is a very inefficient consumer of fertilizer: a recent China Agriculture University study found that northern Chinese farmers use about 525 pounds of fertilizer per acre, of which 200 pounds is wasted into the environment. This is six times more fertilizer and 23 times more waste than the average American farmer in the midwest uses and produces (Shwartz, 2009). These phenomena of growth and overuse, coinciding with peak production, will drive prices drastically higher and force a number of changes in the world’s food production and consumption. The potential for catastrophic food shortages and global famine looms without significant systemic changes.

Scarcity of phosphorus threat to global food production

Date: March 17, 2010
Source: Expertanswer
Summary: Phosphorus is just as important to agriculture as water. But a lack of availability and accessibility of phosphorus is an emerging problem that threatens our capacity to feed the global population. Like nitrogen and potassium, it is a nutrient that plants take up from the soil and it is crucial to soil fertility and crop growth.

Phosphorus is just as important to agriculture as water. But a lack of availability and accessibility of phosphorus is an emerging problem that threatens our capacity to feed the global population. Like nitrogen and potassium, it is a nutrient that plants take up from the soil and it is crucial to soil fertility and crop growth.

“Unless something is done, the scarcity of phosphorus will cause problems of a global dimension. As early as 2035 it is calculated that the demand for phosphorus map outpace the supply,” says Dana Cordell, who presented her thesis at the Department of Thematic Studies — Water and Environmental Studies, Linköping University, Sweden on the implications of phosphorus scarcity on global food security.

Phosphorus is extracted from phosphate rock, a non-renewable resource that is used almost exclusively in agriculture. Two thirds of the world’s resources are in China, Morocco, and Western Sahara.

“The demand for phosphorus has increased and prices soared by 800 percent between 2006 and 2008,” says Dana Cordell.

Cordell maintains that the shortage of phosphorus in not simply due to a drop in the availability of phosphate ore. Many of the world’s farmers do not have enough purchasing power to be able to afford and use phosphorus-based fertilizer, which means their soil is becoming depleted. What’s more, phosphorus use in the food system from mine to field to fork is currently so inefficient that only one fifth of the phosphorus in the rock that is mined actually makes its way into our food.

“There is a lack of effective international governance to secure long-term access to phosphorus for food production,” says Dana Cordell, who adds that the way phosphorus resources are handled needs to be improved.

Phosphorus needs to be applied and management in agriculture more efficiently, we need to eat more vegetarian food, and increase efficiency throughout the food chain. At the same time we need to recover and reuse a large part of the phosphorus that exists in crop residues, food waste, manures human faeces and other sources.

“If nothing is done, food production runs the risk of a hard landing in the future, including further fertilizer price increases, increasing environmental effects of pollution, energy and resource consumption, smaller harvests, reduced farmer livelihoods and reduced food security,” says Dana Cordell.

The dissertation is titled The Story of Phosphorus: Sustainability Implications of Global Phosphorus Scarcity for Food Security.

 

Fighting Peak Phosphorus

Eliminating depletion and environmental damage with efficient phosphorus use and reuse.
Earth’s phosphorus is being depleted at an alarming rate. At current consumption levels, we will run out of known phosphorus reserves in around 80 years, but consumption will not stay at current levels. Nearly 90% of phosphorus is used in the global food supply chain, most of it in crop fertilizers. If no action is taken to quell fertilizer use, demand is likely to increase exponentially.
(Prud’Homme, 2010, from Schroder et. al., 2010)
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A simple program of smart demand reduction and increased organic waste recycling, supplemented with mining exploration in probable deposit areas, can delay, if not completely avoid, a peak in phosphorus production for several decades. However, it is imperative to take action now. There was a time when humans operated totally self-sufficient farms, tilling the same land for years by managing waste effectively, by simply making sure that everything that came out of the land eventually went back into it. In such a closed-loop scenario, phosphate would have the capacity to be reused approximately 46 times as food, fuel, fertilizer, and food again [1]. In the fertilizing techniques that dominate today, which involve the annual application of phosphate-enriched chemical mixtures on top of nutrient-starved soil, phosphorus is used exactly once, then swept out to sea. This practice is simply unsustainable. Our ancestors learned the importance of conserving nutrients through necessity: if they could not make the soil yield, they would starve; there were no second chances. The world has a chance, now, to learn this lesson again, before it’s too late.

History

The United States is unique in that it is both a wealthy, industrialized nation at the forefront of technology, and an agricultural powerhouse with the third-largest population in the world. In the 1970s and early 1980s, during the early years of the Green Revolution, the US’s production of food commodities shot up, as did their use of artificial nitrogen-phosphorus fertilizers. The USSR followed a similar agricultural path, and as a result, worldwide phosphorus production grew from about 8 Mt/y in 1960 to over 20 Mt/y at its peak in the mid-1980s. Following this milestone, the world actually entered a period of reduced production and use that lasted until just a few years ago. While some have speculated that peak phosphorus production has already been reached, it seems more likely that the relatively short dip in production was merely the a coincidence of reduced use in the wake of the USSR’s collapse and more efficient practices being adopted by US farmers, while the rest of the world’s food production was still catching up.

The world has caught up. In the past 30 years, the US has gone from the world’s top phosphate consumer to the third largest, and now exports more phosphorus than it consumes (World Bank, 2012). Most of the new phosphorus use has been in India and China, which, together, now account for over 45% of the world’s total consumption . However, the United States’ total food production has not faltered at all in that time; in fact, it has improved significantly . This is due to more efficient farming practices and greater utilization of organic waste, as well as increased awareness of the problem among today’s farmers. The same shift towards efficiency and moderation has occurred among farmers in the EU as well, and it may be extrapolated that this is the natural progression followed by agricultural countries as they mature past rapid expansion to more stable, sustainable production levels. The biggest challenge, then, is not cutting back on phosphorus use in developed countries, but reigning in the growth of demand in rapidly developing ones.

Saving Phosphorus

Mission 2016 proposes a 3-part plan to cut back on global phosphorus consumption, especially in areas with growing demand, increase efforts to recycle phosphorus in human and animal waste, and assess new potential mining zones.

1. Reduce demand through smarter fertilizer use

It is the opinion of Mission 2016 that the single largest problem with phosphorus fertilizer use is overuse. The amount of phosphorous actually required to maintain a farm is highly variable, and depends on factors such as soil conditions, crop type, crop history, geography, and weather patterns. This makes it very difficult for farmers, especially those operating small, independent operations in developing countries, to accurately assess their fertilizer needs, and leads to superfluous application. Excess fertilizer is not only wasteful, it runs off into lakes, rivers, and oceans, where it causes massive, unnatural algae blooms. These photosynthetic microbe colonies cover huge areas of water, then die off, leaving behind sediment that blocks sunlight and destroys the aquatic ecosystems beneath them.

Experienced farmers can learn the most efficient amounts of fertilizer to use through years of experience, which is part of the reason agriculturally mature nations have better fertilizer-to-yield ratios than developing nations. In addition, scientific, quantitative data analysis can be applied to farmland to determine the proper amount of fertilizer to use in a given situation. The Wisconsin phosphorus index is an example of a tool, developed jointly by the government and the University of Wisconsin and optimized for a specific region. It includes SnapPlus, a free software that allows farmers to estimate their optimal fertilization plan from home .

This program will be used as a model for a worldwide campaign, focusing on the fastest-developing, highest consuming nations. For this purpose, a United Nations (UN) task force will be established within the Food and Agriculture Organization, within the Economic and Social Development Department, comprised of approximately 200 agents with agricultural and educational experience with a budget of $30 million per year. The average UN salary is approximately $119,000 per year , and an additional 6 million USD/a will be allocated for transportation, supplies, and expenses. The task force will develop a template, similar to the one developed by the University of Wisconsin, which can be adapted to specific regions around the globe. It will work closely with state and regional governments and agricultural institutions to provide accessible information for all local farmers, even those who do not own or have access to a computer. The force should emphasize the economic, environmental, and long-term benefits of sustainable phosphorus use to its clients. While it will not work directly with farmers, it will aim to instill the ideas of conservation and sustainability into the local bodies responsible for the agricultural health of their communities.

A recent China Agriculture University study found that northern Chinese farmers use about 92 kg of phosphorus fertilizer per acre, of which only 39 kg are removed as crops. This means 53 kg, fully 58% of phosphorus, is not utilized and ultimately lost into the environment (21). As China is the largest phosphorus consumer in the world, with 5.2 Mt consumed in 2009 alone , reducing the country’s phosphorus waste by even half would save the world over 1.5 Mt of phosphorus (3.45 Mt phosphate) per year.

2. Stretch current supplies further through recycling

The primary means by which phosphorus is reintroduced to the environment post-consumption is animal waste. Though manure is still used extensively around the world as fertilizer, human waste that was once returned directly to the soil is now collected in municipal waste facilities and often released to the ocean. Although most of the recoverable nutrients are currently lost, centralized municipal collection facilities offer a means to recycle large quantities of phosphorus with relatively little effort.
Struvite, or magnesium ammonium phosphate, is a hard, clear crystal that occurs naturally when ammonium-producing bacteria break down the urea in urine. It’s the substance that causes kidney stones, and for centuries, it has been the bane of sewage system operators the world over, forming hard, rock-like crystal deposits on the inside of pipes that can build up and block off flow. However, struvite is a benign, non-toxic substance, and it can be used as a rich, slow-release phosphate fertilizer. In fact, struvite outperforms diammonium phosphate (DAP), the most widely-used fertilizer today (15), on a unit-for-unit basis in terms of dry matter production, phosphorus uptake, and extractable residual phosphorus (14). Although struvite is preferable to DAP in most circumstances, in the past, it has only been used for high-value crops due to its higher cost (14).

In the past decade, phosphorus recovery has been the subject of intense research, and there are several new, economical methods by which it can be accomplished, many involving struvite formation. One technique, developed by University of British Columbia professor Don Mavinic, involves a cone-shaped reaction chamber in which small struvite crystals combine with magnesium, ammonium, and the phosphorus in wastewater on its way to a biosolids processor (X). The crystals grow until they are large enough to be collected by a filter and removed. These systems prevent struvite buildup in pipes, prevent phosphorus pollution in water basins, and provide valuable, usable phosphorus fertilizers. A company, Osatra Nutrient Recovery Technologies, Inc., was founded around the technology, and the struvite fertilizer the process creates is marketed as Crystal Green® (X). Another technology involves using charged, molecular “templates” to induce the formation of large crystals in liquid manure (X). Struvite-based methods can recover upwards of 90% of wastewater phosphorus (X,Y). Biological capture is a promising area of research as well, and involves cultivating phosphorus-hungry algae in the phosphate-rich side streams of waste treatment facilities, yielding 60-65% recovery rates (X). A third possible recovery method is through thermochemical treatments, which burn waste sludges to ash and then convert the contained phosphorus to bioavailable forms free from toxic heavy metal loads; this method can feasibly reach 100% recovery (20, X).

As is the case with improving fertilizer efficiency, the European Union, Canada, and the US have led the world in phosphorus recovery. By 2007, 53% of sewage sludges in the EU were already reused in agriculture , and in 2009, Sweden passed legislation to have at least 60% of its total phosphorus streams from wastewater diverted for agricultural use by 2015 (18, X). By 2009, Osatra struvite systems had been installed in Edmonton, Alberta; Portland, Oregon; and York, Pennsylvania, and the company had plans to expand to the UK and the Netherlands. The progress made by these countries is significant, but the greater problems, and potential gains, lie with China, India, and other fast-developing areas. If these areas begin implementing significant amounts of high-quality, renewable phosphate fertilizer into their supply chain early during their agricultural maturation, their demands for imports will not rise nearly as dramatically as they could.

To this end, Mission 2016 will establish a domain of the Open Information Exchange to deal specifically with phosphorus recycling techniques. As established above, there is a plethora of scientific research being done on the subject, although most of it is taking place in Europe. Working in conjunction with the governments and relevant research bodies of the world’s fastest-growing phosphorus consumers, the task force will promote the development of economical, efficient applications of new and cutting-edge recycling technologies that are tailored to specific regions. Its goal will be to reduce their waste and increase their recycling, and it will emphasize the economic potential of such systems: one analysis by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) estimated the potential of phosphorus wastewater recovery in East Asia at more than 625 million USD annually (22). In addition, the Strategic Minerals Association (SMA) of the UN, described in the Protocol section of our solution, will work to draft a treaty between the top phosphorus consumers in the world, currently China, India, the United States, the European Union, and Brazil, to set a target of 50% total phosphorus recovery from wastewater by 2025. The SMA will also provide investment capital in the form of loans to municipal waste processing companies looking to install phosphorus-recycling technology.

However, the most critical applications of waste recycling will be in places that lack access to conventional sources of phosphate fertilizers. Many farmers in sub-saharan Africa simply can’t afford artificial fertilizers, if they can even find them; yet the same SEI study estimated the value of recoverable fertilizers from waste in the region at 800 million USD (22). According to a 2009 study by renowned soil scientist Pedro Sanchez, the average Kenyan farmer uses just 8 kg of phosphorus and 7 kg of nitrogen per hectare, far less than the 14 kg P and 93 kg N used in the US and the staggering 92 kg P and 588 kg N used in China. This is not efficient use, it is insufficient use, and it causes food shortages and starvation. Magnesium waste scrubbing (struvite-forming) technologies would appear to be an easy solution in these cases, too, but kind of infrastructural investment that the technology represents requires a level of maintenance that impoverished areas simply can’t support. Without proper upkeep, the struvite filters can become clogged and dirty, breeding malignant bacteria and doing more harm than good (X).

For poor, underdeveloped communities, better waste-recovery solutions are often low-tech, small-scale affairs. SEI has explored simple, outhouse-style toilets, able to be constructed locally and maintained with minimal skill or effort. The temporary installations will collect waste for a number of years, then transition to compost pits suitable for planting trees. Some variants include a method for collecting and storing urine, which may be used as a fertilizer for greens, onions, maize, and many other crops. The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) has been applying a similar minimalist approach in Nepal, where a simplified struvite extraction reactor of their own development turns urine into a usable, dry powder fertilizer. As of 2010, the process was not totally refined, but it had been met with tremendous local support.

The UN, through the World Food Program (WFP), will fund efforts to implement these technologies in sub-saharan Africa and elsewhere, beginning on a small scale. In 2010, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation pledged 3 million USD in a grant to the EAWAG towards a test sewage-recovery program for sub-saharan African communities (23). The WFP will match that amount to start, to conduct a similar, 4-year pilot program. At the conclusion of the program, or in the middle should it prove extraordinarily successful, the WFP will convene to discuss the results and determine the long-term viability of the technology. It will allocate additional funds for a permanent organ of the WFP dedicated to fertilizer recovery from waste. Hopefully, once the concepts are proven, private charities will appropriate a significant portion of the cost, as they have in the past.

3. Explore new mining areas to determine actual total reserves

According to some peak phosphorus alarmists, the world is running out of viable reserves in the very near future (EU paper). Their estimates often use United States Geological Survey (USGS) data on total world reserves, but each year, USGS estimates change, usually to expand reserves, and sometimes dramatically. The largest discoveries as of late are in Morocco or the Western Sahara, and there is as of yet no definitive world total of high-grade phosphate deposits. By determining the actual amount of phosphorus available, more accurate plans can be made for a sustainable future. Currently, there is far too much uncertainty about how much recoverable phosphate the earth has left.
The USGS has extensive geological resources at their disposal, and they have mapped out the mineral profiles of foreign countries several times in the past. Mission 2016 advises that the World Trade Organization (WTO) facilitate treaties between the US and other countries in which the USGS works with other governments to map geological profiles worldwide, creating a database of areas with potentially tappable mineral reserves. Following this initial study, increasing supply becomes a free market solution, as corporations use this information, conduct follow-up studies, and open new mines. This will be a beneficial situation for all parties involved, and in the end will be good for the world.

Development Policy Review Network. (2011). Phosphorus depletion: the invisible crisis. Retrieved from http://phosphorus.global-connections.nl/
(Development Policy Review Network, 2011)
1. Bundy, L., & Good , L. (2006, January). Development and validation of the wisconsin phosphorus index. Retrieved from http://www.soils.wisc.edu/extension/materials/PI_Validation.pdf
2. European Centre of Employers and Enterprises (ECEE). (2007, July). Phosphates, the only recyclable detergent ingredient. Retrieved from http://www.plancanada.com/More_ALR/phosphorus-recovery2007.pdf
3.The Fertilizer Institute. (2009). Fertilizer use. Retrieved from http://www.tfi.org/statistics/fertilizer-use
4.Krause-Jackson, F., & Varner, B. (2011, September 29). U.s. decries salaries, staffing in new un budget.Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-29/u-s-decries-excessive-salaries-in-new-un-budget.html
5.Petzet , S., & Cornel, P. (2011). Towards a complete recycling of phosphorus in wastewater treatment–options in germany. Water science and technology, 64(1), 29-35. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22053454
6. Prud’Homme, M. (2010). Peak Phosphorus: an issue to be addressed. Fertilizers and Agriculture, International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA). February 2010.
7. Schroder, J. J., Cordell, D., Smit, A. L., & Rosemarin, A. (October 2010). Sustainable use of phosphorous. Plant Research International, Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/natres/pdf/sustainable_use_phosphorus.pdf
8. Shwartz, M. (2009, June 22). Study highlights massive imbalances in global fertilizer use. Stanford News. Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/june24/massive-imbalances-in-global-fertilizer-use-062209.html
9. University of Wisconsin Department of Soil Scienc. (2012).The wisconsin phosphorus index. Retrieved from http://wpindex.soils.wisc.edu/
10. Vaccari, D. A. (2009). Phosphorus: A Loomıng Crisis. Scientific American, 300(6), 54. Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2016/pdf/scientificamerican0609-54.pdf
11. Zhang, W., Chi, R., Huang, X., Xiao, C., & WU , Y. (2009). Bioleaching of soluble phosphorus from rock phosphate containing pyrite with des-induced acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. Springer, doi: 10.1007/s11771−009−0126−z
12. (2010). A rock and a hard place: Peak phosphorus and the threat to our food security. Soil Association, Retrieved from http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=eeGPQJORrkw=&tabid=57
13. (2012). Rock phosphate monthly price – us dollars per metric ton. (2012). [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=rock-phosphate&months=240
14. http://www.soils.wisc.edu/extension/wcmc/2006/pap/Barak.pdf
15. http://www.ipni.net/publication/nss.nsf/0/66D92CC07C016FA7852579AF00766CBD/$FILE/NSS-17%20Diammonium%20Phosphate.pdf
16. World Bank (2012): World Development Indictors (Edition: September 2012). ESDS International, University of Manchester. DOI: IDK MY BFF JILL.
17. Lougheed, T. (2011, July 1). Phosphorus Recovery: New Approaches to Extending the Life Cycle. Environmental Health Perspectives. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222981/
18. http://www.government.se/content/1/c6/06/69/79/80a58d03.pdf
19. http://www2.lwr.kth.se/forskningsprojekt/Polishproject/JPS10s47.pdf
20. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956053X08003310
21. http://oldweb.kbs.msu.edu/images/stories/docs/robertson/Vitousek_et_al_2009_Science_with_response.pdf
22. http://www.ecosanres.org/pdf_files/MDGRep/SustMDG31Auglowres.pdf
23. http://www.eawag.ch/medien/bulletin/20101014/index_EN

 

 

Article, Astro-biology, astro-physics, Dark Matter, Extra-terrestrial, SPECULATION!, UFOs

Aliens and Dark Matter! :D … it’s a Friday! Why not? JUST SPECULATING!

“There seems to be some talk of possible patent infringement of Mills’s technology in regards to Evaco LLC
Startup files patent on energetic heater using “hydrino” reaction as source of power.

“I don’t see this as being a threat to BLP, although industrial espionage and theft is likely to happen in the future (if not already)… Russia, China, Israel, South Korea?
Interestingly enough, the founder of Evaco is backed by the Du Pont family. 😀 (“the cunning, c*****g, shitty little Illuminati, Du Pont ponce family” according to some!)

Anyway… it’s Friday night. I have a glass of whiskey… we’re discussing the possibility of extra-terrestrial lifeforms or intelligences existing within ‘Dark Matter’… purely speculation and conjecture of course!

My thoughts are, such ‘beings’ could well be hiding within ‘dark matter’, and humans are not able to perceive them, either with technology developed or with the senses evolution has equipped us with… unless of course possibly with the pineal gland, which is mysteriously a light sensitive lens… what about whilst under the influence of Ayahuasca? DMT? What if such substances gave human consciousness a glimpse into the realm of dark matter?
Also the UFO phenomena is way stranger and unexplainable than humans can possibly comprehend when you actually look into it… they often seem to materialise and dematerialise at will, can seemingly ‘fly’ through solid objects… as well as defy the current known laws of physics… I would say again, if an advanced species is piloting such crafts… look into dark matter.

Besides, I don’t take the subject too seriously… not as seriously as say… The Knights Malta or The Vatican Jesuits do! ;D

angel

Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?

Alien life could be so advanced it becomes indistinguishable from physics.
By Caleb Scharf (Director Of Astrobiology, Columbia University)

Perhaps Arthur C. Clarke was being uncharacteristically unambitious. He once pointed out that any sufficiently advanced technology is going to be indistinguishable from magic. If you dropped in on a bunch of Paleolithic farmers with your iPhone and a pair of sneakers, you’d undoubtedly seem pretty magical. But the contrast is only middling: The farmers would still recognize you as basically like them, and before long they’d be taking selfies. But what if life has moved so far on that it doesn’t just appear magical, but appears like physics?
After all, if the cosmos holds other life, and if some of that life has evolved beyond our own waypoints of complexity and technology, we should be considering some very extreme possibilities. Today’s futurists and believers in a machine “singularity” predict that life and its technological baggage might end up so beyond our ken that we wouldn’t even realize we were staring at it. That’s quite a claim, yet it would neatly explain why we have yet to see advanced intelligence in the cosmos around us, despite the sheer number of planets it could have arisen on—the so-called Fermi Paradox.
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For example, if machines continue to grow exponentially in speed and sophistication, they will one day be able to decode the staggering complexity of the living world, from its atoms and molecules all the way up to entire planetary biomes. Presumably life doesn’t have to be made of atoms and molecules, but could be assembled from any set of building blocks with the requisite complexity. If so, a civilization could then transcribe itself and its entire physical realm into new forms. Indeed, perhaps our universe is one of the new forms into which some other civilization transcribed its world.
These possibilities might seem wholly untestable, because part of the conceit is that sufficiently advanced life will not just be unrecognizable as such, but will blend completely into the fabric of what we’ve thought of as nature. But viewed through the warped bottom of a beer glass, we can pick out a few cosmic phenomena that—at crazy as it sounds—might fit the requirements.

These possibilities might seem wholly untestable, because part of the conceit is that sufficiently advanced life will not just be unrecognizable as such, but will blend completely into the fabric of what we’ve thought of as nature. But viewed through the warped bottom of a beer glass, we can pick out a few cosmic phenomena that—at crazy as it sounds—might fit the requirements.

For example, only about 5 percent of the mass-energy of the universe consists of ordinary matter: the protons, neutrons, and electrons that we’re composed of. A much larger 27 percent is thought to be unseen, still mysterious stuff. Astronomical evidence for this dark, gravitating matter is convincing, albeit still not without question. Vast halos of dark matter seem to lurk around galaxies, providing mass that helps hold things together via gravity. On even larger scales, the web-like topography traced by luminous gas and stars also hints at unseen mass.

Cosmologists usually assume that dark matter has no microstructure. They think it consists of subatomic particles that interact only via gravity and the weak nuclear force and therefore slump into tenuous, featureless swathes. They have arguments to support this point of view, but of course we don’t really know for sure. Some astronomers, noting subtle mismatches between observations and models, have suggested that dark matter has a richer inner life. At least some component may comprise particles that interact with one another via long-range forces. It may seem dark to us, but have its own version of light that our eyes cannot see.
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In that case, dark matter could contain real complexity, and perhaps it is where all technologically advanced life ends up or where most life has always been. What better way to escape the nasty vagaries of supernova and gamma-ray bursts than to adopt a form that is immune to electromagnetic radiation? Upload your world to the huge amount of real estate on the dark side and be done with it.
If you’re a civilization that has learned how to encode living systems in different substrates, all you need to do is build a normal-matter-to-dark-matter data-transfer system: a dark-matter 3D printer. Perhaps the mismatch of astronomical models and observations is evidence not just of self-interacting dark matter, but of dark matter that is being artificially manipulated.

Or to take this a step further, perhaps the behavior of normal cosmic matter that we attribute to dark matter is brought on by something else altogether: a living state that manipulates luminous matter for its own purposes. Consider that at present we have neither identified the dark-matter particles nor come up with a compelling alternative to our laws of physics that would account for the behavior of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Would an explanation in terms of life be any less plausible than a failure of established laws?

“Part of the fabric of the universe is a product of intelligence.”

The universe does other funky and unexpected stuff. Notably, it began to expand at an accelerated rate about 5 billion years ago. This acceleration is conventionally chalked up to dark energy. But cosmologists don’t know why the cosmic acceleration began when it did. In fact, one explanation with a modicum of traction is that the timing has to do with life—an anthropic argument. The dark energy didn’t become significant until enough time had gone by for life to take hold on Earth. For many cosmologists, that means our universe must be part of a vast multiverse where the strength of dark energy varies from place to place. We live in one of the places suitable for life like us. Elsewhere, dark energy is stronger and blows the universe apart too quickly for cosmic structures to form and life to take root.
But perhaps there is another reason for the timing coincidence: that dark energy is related to the activities of living things. After all, any very early life in the universe would have already experienced 8 billion years of evolutionary time by the time expansion began to accelerate. It’s a stretch, but maybe there’s something about life itself that affects the cosmos, or maybe those well-evolved denizens decided to tinker with the expansion.
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There are even possible motivations for that action. Life absorbs low-entropy energy (such as visible light from the sun), does useful work with that energy, and dumps higher-entropy energy back into the universe as waste heat. But if the surrounding universe ever got too warm—too filled with thermal refuse—things would stagnate. Luckily we live in an expanding and constantly cooling cosmos. What better long-term investment by some hypothetical life 5 billion years ago than to get the universe to cool even faster? To be sure, it may come to rue its decision: Hundreds of billions of years later the accelerating expansion would dilute matter so quickly that civilizations would run out of fresh sources of energy. Also, an accelerating universe does not cool forever, but eventually approaches a floor in temperature.
One idea for the mechanism of an accelerating cosmic expansion is called quintessence, a relative of the Higgs field that permeates the cosmos. Perhaps some clever life 5 billion years ago figured out how to activate that field. How? Beats me, but it’s a thought-provoking idea, and it echoes some of the thinking of cosmologist Freeman Dyson’s famous 1979 paper “Time Without End,” where he looked at life’s ability in the far, far future to act on an astrophysical scale.

Once we start proposing that life could be part of the solution to cosmic mysteries, there’s no end to the fun possibilities. Although dark-matter life is a pretty exotic idea, it’s still conceivable that we might recognize what it is, even capturing it in our labs one day (or being captured by it). We can take a tumble down a different rabbit hole by considering that we don’t recognize advanced life because it forms an integral and unsuspicious part of what we’ve considered to be the natural world.
Life’s desire to avoid trouble points to some options. If it has a choice, life always looks for ways to lower its existential risk. You don’t build your nest on the weakest branch or produce trillions of single-celled clones unless you build in some variation and backup.
Maybe there’s something about life itself that affects the cosmos.
A species can mitigate risk by spreading, decentralizing, and seeding as much real estate as possible. In this context, hyper-advanced life is going to look for ways to get rid of physical locality and to maximize redundancy and flexibility. The quantum realm offers good options. The cosmos is already packed with electromagnetic energy. Today, at any instant, about 400 photons of cosmic microwave radiation are streaming through any cubic centimeter of free space. They collectively have less energy than ordinary particles such as protons and electrons, but vastly outnumber them. That’s a lot of potential data carriers. Furthermore, we could imagine that these photons are cleverly quantum-mechanically entangled to help with error control.
By storing its essential data in photons, life could give itself a distributed backup system. And it could go further, manipulating new photons emitted by stars to dictate how they interact with matter. Fronts of electromagnetic radiation could be reaching across the cosmos to set in motion chains of interstellar or planetary chemistry with exquisite timing, exploiting wave interference and excitation energies in atoms and molecules. The science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem put forward a similar idea, involving neutrinos rather than photons, in the novel His Master’s Voice.

“That’s one way that life could disappear into ordinary physics. But even these ideas skirt the most disquieting extrapolations.”

Toward the end of Carl Sagan’s 1985 science-fiction novel Contact, the protagonist follows the suggestion of an extraterrestrial to study transcendental numbers. After computing to 1020 places, she finds a clearly artificial message embedded in the digits of this fundamental number. In other words, part of the fabric of the universe is a product of intelligence or is perhaps even life itself.
It’s a great mind-bending twist for a book. Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn’t just external. Perhaps it’s already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself, from the root behavior of particles and fields to the phenomena of complexity and emergence.

“In other words, life might not just be in the equations. It might be the equations.”

Caleb Scharf is an astrophysicist, the Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University in New York, and a founder of yhousenyc.org, an institute that studies human and machine consciousness. His latest book is The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities.

aliens

Does Dark Matter Harbor Life?

An invisible civilization could be living right under your nose.
By Lisa Randall
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Even though we know that ordinary matter accounts for only about one-twentieth of the universe’s energy and a sixth of the total energy carried by matter (with dark energy constituting the remaining portion), we nonetheless consider ordinary matter to be the truly important constituent. With the exception of cosmologists, almost everyone’s attention is focused on the ordinary matter component, which you might have thought to be largely insignificant according to the energy accounting.
We of course care more about ordinary matter because we are made of the stuff—as is the tangible world in which we live. But we also pay attention because of the richness of its interactions. Ordinary matter interacts through the electromagnetic, the weak, and the strong nuclear forces—helping the visible matter of our world to form complex, dense systems. Not only stars, but also rocks, oceans, plants, and animals owe their very existence to the nongravitational forces of nature through which ordinary matter interacts. Just as a beer’s small-percentage alcohol content affects carousers far more than the rest of the drink, ordinary matter, though carrying a small percentage of the energy density, influences itself and its surroundings much more noticeably than something that just passes through.

Familiar visible matter can be thought of as the privileged percent—actually more like 15 percent—of matter. In business and politics, the interacting 1 percent dominates decision making and policy, while the remaining 99 percent of the population provides less widely acknowledged infrastructure and support—maintaining buildings, keeping cities operational, and getting food to people’s tables. Similarly, ordinary matter dominates almost everything we notice, whereas dark matter, in its abundance and ubiquity, helped create clusters and galaxies and facilitated star formation, but has only limited influence on our immediate surroundings today.
It seems very odd to assume that all of dark matter is composed of only one type of particle.
For nearby structure, ordinary matter is in charge. It is responsible for the motion of our bodies, the energy sources that drive our economy, the computer screen or paper on which you are reading this, and basically anything else you can think of or care about. If something has measurable interactions, it is worth paying attention to, as it will have far more immediate effects on whatever is around.
In the usual scenario, dark matter lacks this type of interesting influence and structure. The common assumption is that dark matter is the “glue” that holds together galaxies and galaxy clusters, but resides only in amorphous clouds around them. But what if this assumption isn’t true and it is only our prejudice—and ignorance, which is after all the root of most prejudice—that led us down this potentially misleading path?
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Hidden Dark Matter? Warped galaxy clusters could indicate the presence of dark matter.
NASA

The Standard Model contains six types of quarks, three types of charged leptons (including the electron), three species of neutrinos, all the particles responsible for forces, as well as the newly discovered Higgs boson. What if the world of dark matter—if not equally rich—is reasonably wealthy too? In this case, most dark matter interacts only negligibly, but a small component of dark matter would interact under forces reminiscent of those in ordinary matter. The rich and complex structure of the Standard Model’s particles and forces gives rise to many of the world’s interesting phenomena. If dark matter has an interacting component, this fraction might be influential too.

If we were creatures made of dark matter, we would be very wrong to assume that the particles in our ordinary matter sector were all of the same type. Perhaps we ordinary matter people are making a similar mistake. Given the complexity of the Standard Model of particle physics, which describes the most basic components of matter we know of, it seems very odd to assume that all of dark matter is composed of only one type of particle. Why not suppose instead that some fraction of the dark matter experiences its own forces?
In that case, just as ordinary matter consists of different types of particles and these fundamental building blocks interact through different combinations of charges, dark matter would also have different building blocks—and at least one of those distinct new particle types would experience nongravitational interactions. Neutrinos in the Standard Model don’t interact under the strong or electric force yet the six types of quarks do.
No one had allowed for the very simple possibility that although most dark matter doesn’t interact, a small fraction of it might.

In a similar fashion, maybe one type of dark matter particle experiences feeble or no interactions aside from gravity, but a fraction of it—perhaps 5 percent—does. Based on what we’ve seen in the world of ordinary matter, perhaps this scenario is even more likely than the usual assumption of a single very feebly or non-interacting dark matter particle.

People in foreign relations make a mistake when they lump together another country’s cultures—assuming they don’t exhibit the diversity of societies that is evident in our own. Just as a good negotiator doesn’t assume the primacy of one sector of society over another when attempting to place the different cultures on equal footing, an unbiased scientist shouldn’t assume that dark matter isn’t as interesting as ordinary matter and necessarily lacks a diversity of matter similar to our own.

The science writer Corey S. Powell, when reporting on our research in Discover magazine, started his piece by announcing that he was a “light-matter chauvinist”—and pointing out that virtually everyone else is too. By this he meant that we view the type of matter we are familiar with as by far the most significant and therefore the most complex and interesting. It’s the type of belief that you might have thought was upended by the Copernican Revolution. Yet most people persist in assuming that their perspective and their conviction of our importance are in keeping with the external world.
Ordinary matter’s many components have different interactions and contribute to the world in different ways. So too might dark matter have different particles with different behaviors that might influence the universe’s structure in a measurable fashion.

When first studying partially interacting dark matter, I was astonished to find that practically no one had considered the potential fallacy—and hubris—of assuming that only ordinary matter exhibits a diversity of particle types and interactions. A few physicists had tried to analyze models, such as “mirror dark matter,” which features dark matter that mimics everything about ordinary matter. But exemplars such as this one were rather specific and exotic. Their implications were difficult to reconcile with everything we know.

A small community of physicists had studied more general models of interacting dark matter. But even they assumed that all the dark matter was the same and therefore experienced identical forces. No one had allowed for the very simple possibility that although most dark matter doesn’t interact, a small fraction of it might.

You have no idea how cute dark matter life could be—and you almost certainly never will.

One potential reason might be apparent. Most people would expect a new type of dark matter to be irrelevant to most measurable phenomena if the extra component constitutes only a small fraction of the dark matter inventory. Having not even observed the dominant component of dark matter, concerning oneself with a smaller constituent might seem premature.

But when you remember that ordinary matter carries only about 20 percent of the energy of dark matter—yet it’s essentially all that most of us pay attention to—you can see where this logic could be flawed. Matter interacting via stronger nongravitational forces can be more interesting and more influential even than a larger amount of feebly interacting matter.

We’ve seen that this is true for ordinary matter. Ordinary matter is unduly influential given its meager abundance because it collapses into a dense matter disk where stars, planets, the Earth, and even life could form. A charged dark matter component—though not necessarily quite as bountiful—can collapse to form disks like the visible one in the Milky Way too. It might even fragment into starlike objects. This new disklike structure can in principle be observed, and might even prove to be more accessible than the conventional dominant cold dark matter component that is spread more diffusely in an enormous spherical halo.

Once you start thinking along these lines, the possibilities quickly multiply. After all, electromagnetism is only one of several nongravitational forces experienced by Standard Model particles. In addition to the force that binds electrons to nuclei, the Standard Model particles of our world interact via the weak and strong nuclear forces. Still more forces might be present in the world of ordinary matter, but they would have to be extremely weak at accessible energies since so far, no one has observed any sign of them. But even the presence of three nongravitational forces suggests that the interacting dark sector too might experience nongravitational forces other than just dark electromagnetism.

Perhaps nuclear-type forces act on dark particles in addition to the electromagnetic-type one. In this even richer scenario, dark stars could form that undergo nuclear burning to create structures that behave even more similarly to ordinary matter than the dark matter I have so far described. In that case, the dark disk could be populated by dark stars surrounded by dark planets made up of dark atoms. Double-disk dark matter might then have all of the same complexity of ordinary matter.

Partially interacting dark matter certainly makes for fertile ground for speculation and encourages us to consider possibilities we otherwise might not have. Writers and moviegoers especially would find a scenario with such additional forces and consequences in the dark sector very enticing. They would probably even suggest dark life coexisting with our own. In this scenario, rather than the usual animated creatures fighting other animated creatures or on rare occasions cooperating with them, armies of dark matter creatures could march across the screen and monopolize all the action.
But this wouldn’t be too interesting to watch. The problem is that cinematographers would have trouble filming this dark life, which is of course invisible to us—and to them. Even if the dark creatures were there (and maybe they have been) we wouldn’t know.

You have no idea how cute dark matter life could be—and you almost certainly never will.

Though it’s entertaining to speculate about the possibility of dark life, it’s a lot harder to figure out a way to observe it—or even detect its existence in more indirect ways. It’s challenging enough to find life made up of the same stuff we are, though extrasolar planet searches are under way and trying hard. But the evidence for dark life, should it exist, would be far more elusive even than the evidence for ordinary life in distant realms.

“Dark life could in principle be present—even right under our noses.” 

We have only recently finally seen gravity waves from enormous black holes. We stand little to no chance of detecting the gravitational effect of a dark creature, or even an army of dark creatures—no matter how close all of them might be.

Ideally, we would want somehow to communicate with this new sector—or have it correspond with us in some distinctive manner. But if this new life doesn’t experience the same forces that we do, that’s not going to happen. Even though we share gravity, the force exerted by a small object or life-form would almost certainly be too weak to detect. Only very big dark objects, like a disk extending throughout the Milky Way plane, could have visible consequences.

Dark objects or dark life could be very close—but if the dark stuff’s net mass isn’t very big, we wouldn’t have any way to know. Even with the most current technology, or any technology that we can currently imagine, only some very specialized possibilities might be testable. “Shadow life,” exciting as that would be, won’t necessarily have any visible consequences that we would notice, making it a tantalizing possibility but one immune to observations. In fairness, dark life is a tall order. Science-fiction writers may have no problem creating it, but the universe has a lot more obstacles to overcome. Out of all possible chemistries, it’s very unclear how many could sustain life, and even among those that could, we don’t know the type of environments that would be necessary.

Nonetheless, dark life could in principle be present—even right under our noses. But without stronger interactions with the matter of our world, it can be partying or fighting or active or inert and we would never know. But the interesting thing is that if there are interactions in the dark world—whether or not they are associated with life—the effects on structure might ultimately be measured. And then we will learn a great deal more about the dark world.

Lisa Randall is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University, where she studies theoretical particle physics and cosmology. @lirarandall

From the book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall. Copyright @ 2015 by Lisa Randall.aya - Copy

Dark matter may be a manifestation of extremely advanced alien life, researchers suggest

by Mihai Andrei

Our limited understanding of dark matter and the fact that we’re focusing on the wrong things might be preventing us from discovering alien life.

This collage shows NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images of six different galaxy clusters, with the distribution of dark matter colored in blue.

A Cosmic Gorilla
You know that experiment where you’re supposed to count the number of basketball passes, and you’re so focused on the ball that you don’t even see a bear moving through the picture? Researchers believe something similar might be happening on a cosmic scale. We’re so focused on one thing that we’re completely missing the other — and in this case, ‘the other’ might mean alien signals.
Writing in the journal Acta Astronautica, neuropsychologists Gabriel de la Torre and Manuel García, from the University of Cádiz, say that when it comes to detecting alien signals, we might be looking in the wrong direction. They say that we’re looking for aliens that act similarly to us when that might really not be the case.

“When we think of other intelligent beings, we tend to see them from our perceptive and conscience sieve; however we are limited by our sui generis vision of the world, and it’s hard for us to admit it,” says De la Torre, who prefers to avoid the terms ‘extraterrestrial’ or aliens by its Hollywood connotations and uses more generic terms, such as ‘non-terrestrial’.
“What we are trying to do with this differentiation is to contemplate other possibilities,” he says “for example, beings of dimensions that our mind cannot grasp; or intelligences based on dark matter or energy forms, which make up almost 95% of the universe and which we are only beginning to glimpse. There is even the possibility that other universes exist, as the texts of Stephen Hawking and other scientists indicate.”

Hardwired to miss it
In order to test their hypothesis, they had 137 people distinguish aerial photographs with artificial structures (such as buildings or roads) from others with natural elements (such as mountains or rivers). In one of the images, a tiny character disguised as a gorilla was inserted to see if the participants noticed. As expected, participants tended to miss the gorilla. It’s normal because we’re hardwired to miss it — we’re looking for something else. Similarly, if we’re looking for a specific kind of signal, we might completely miss an unrelated type of signal, one we weren’t expecting.
“If we transfer this to the problem of searching for other non-terrestrial intelligences, the question arises about whether our current strategy may result in us not perceiving the gorilla,” stresses the researcher, who insists: “Our traditional conception of space is limited by our brain, and we may have the signs above and be unable to see them. Maybe we’re not looking in the right direction.”
In another example presented in the article, researchers showed participants an apparently geometric structure that can be seen in the images of Occator — an impact crater of the dwarf planet Ceres, famous for its bright spots. Inside the crater appears a strange structure, looking like a square inside a triangle. The point researchers were trying to make is that we sometimes see patterns that just aren’t there, due to the way our brains are wired.
“Our structured mind tells us that this structure looks like a triangle with a square inside, something that theoretically is not possible in Ceres,” says De la Torre, “but maybe we are seeing things where there are none, what in psychology is called pareidolia.”

But the opposite might also be happening, they say. We might have the signal right in front of our eyes, and simply miss it — kind of like a cosmic gorilla effect.

Types of civilizations
We’re not really sure what to expect in terms of potentially advanced alien species, but the most commonly used scale is the Kardashev scale, proposed by Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev. The scale has three main categories, and it focuses on different stages of energy capture and use, which seems to be a vital requirement for an advanced species:
A Type I civilization (a planetary civilization) can use and store all of the energy which reaches its planet from the parent star.
A Type II civilization (a stellar civilization) can harness the total energy of its planet’s parent star and use it on a planet.
A Type III civilization (a galactic civilization) can control energy on the scale of its entire host galaxy.
If you’ll look at it closely, you’ll see that humans aren’t really even on a Type I level yet, so the Kardashev scale has been extended, both upwards and downwards, including:
A Type 0 civilization (humans) that harvests a significant part of its planet energy, just not yet to its full potential.
A Type IV civilization (a universal civilization) that can control energy on the scale of the entire universe. This is already a virtually indestructible civilization. This hypothetical civilization would be able to interact with and harvest dark matter and dark energy.
A type V civilization (a multiversal civilization) — this already steps into the realm of metaphysics and assumes there is more than one universe, and a civilization that’s able to span and populate several universes.
A type VI civilization (deities) that would have the ability to interact with universes outside of time and space, similar in concept to an absolute deity.

Already, it’s becoming quite clear that we don’t even know how to understand very advanced alien civilizations, assuming that they exist. We might be able to understand a Type 0, I, or II civilization, assuming that they do share some similarities with us. But should we come across the higher levels of civilization, would we even realize what we’re looking at? This is what de la Torre and Garcia are asking. For all we know, dark matter and dark energy might hold the traces of such an advanced civilization. Of course, the researchers themselves admit the inherent shortcomings when you’re classifying something you know nothing about.
“We were well aware that the existing classifications are too simplistic and are generally only based on the energy aspect. The fact that we use radio signals does not necessarily mean that other civilizations also use them, or that the use of energy resources and their dependence are the same as we have,” the researchers point out, recalling the theoretical nature of their proposals.
The duo also proposes a different civilization scale, with 3 types. Type 1 is essentially ours, ephemeral, vulnerable to a planetary cataclysm, either natural or self-made. Type 2 is characterized by the longevity of its members, able to explore galaxies and overall much more durable. Type 3, as you’d expect, would be constituted by exotic creatures with eternal or near-eternal life, with an absolute dominion over the universe.
Naturally, this is all a bit speculative. We don’t really know whether we’re looking for the right thing or not, we don’t even know if there is a right thing or not. How likely are we to miss an alien signal, in the case that it exists? Impossible to tell right now. So this study definitely goes a bit ‘out there’, but it poses some intriguing questions.
If anything, the main takeaway is that we should perhaps take a step back and reconsider what alien life might look like. In other words, we shouldn’t only be counting the passes — we should keep an eye out for any gorillas.
Journal Reference: Gabriel G. De la Torre, Manuel A. Garcia. The cosmic gorilla effect or the problem of undetected non terrestrial intelligent signals. Acta Astronautica, 2018; 146: 83 DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2018.02.036

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‘Dark matter’ aliens here on Earth? Could be, scientists say

Dan Satherley

Have we been looking for aliens in the wrong place this whole time?
Researchers are now seriously considering the possibility if they exist, we won’t find evidence in outer space, but right here on Earth – only invisible to the eye.
“When we think of other intelligent beings, we tend to see them from our perceptive and conscience sieve; however we are limited by our unique vision of the world, and it’s hard for us to admit it,” says Gabriel de la Torre of the University of Cadiz in Spain.
He’s proposed rather than looking for radio signals, gamma ray bursts and alien probes, scientists should be looking for signs of ET in dark matter.
Dark matter and energy are believed to make up 95 percent of the universe’s total energy. The stuff we can see is only 5 percent.

It’s not even a certainty that dark matter exists, but without it much of what scientists know about universe doesn’t add up. Scientists believe dark energy is what’s driving the universe apart, and dark matter is what’s holding galaxies together.
They don’t interact with the matter and energy we know of, except through gravity.
“What we are trying to do with this differentiation is to contemplate other possibilities – for example, beings of dimensions that our mind cannot grasp, or intelligences based on dark matter or energy forms, which make up almost 95 percent of the universe and which we are only beginning to glimpse.”

There could be dark matter passing through us right now, and unless we had state-of-the-art scientific instruments to measure it, we wouldn’t even know.
“The fact that we use radio signals does not necessarily mean that other civilizations also use them, or that the use of energy resources and their dependence are the same as we have,” says Dr de la Torre.

Have we been looking for aliens in the wrong place this whole time?
Researchers are now seriously considering the possibility if they exist, we won’t find evidence in outer space, but right here on Earth – only invisible to the eye.
“When we think of other intelligent beings, we tend to see them from our perceptive and conscience sieve; however we are limited by our unique vision of the world, and it’s hard for us to admit it,” says Gabriel de la Torre of the University of Cadiz in Spain.
He’s proposed rather than looking for radio signals, gamma ray bursts and alien probes, scientists should be looking for signs of ET in dark matter.
Dark matter and energy are believed to make up 95 percent of the universe’s total energy. The stuff we can see is only 5 percent.
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It’s not even a certainty that dark matter exists, but without it much of what scientists know about universe doesn’t add up. Scientists believe dark energy is what’s driving the universe apart, and dark matter is what’s holding galaxies together.
They don’t interact with the matter and energy we know of, except through gravity.
“What we are trying to do with this differentiation is to contemplate other possibilities – for example, beings of dimensions that our mind cannot grasp, or intelligences based on dark matter or energy forms, which make up almost 95 percent of the universe and which we are only beginning to glimpse.”
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Astronomers discover galaxy with no dark matter
There could be dark matter passing through us right now, and unless we had state-of-the-art scientific instruments to measure it, we wouldn’t even know.
“The fact that we use radio signals does not necessarily mean that other civilizations also use them, or that the use of energy resources and their dependence are the same as we have,” says Dr de la Torre.

“We can have the signal in front of us and not perceive it or be unable to identify it… In fact, it could have happened in the past or it could be happening right now.”

Gabriel de la Torre’s ideas were published in the latest issue of scientific journal Acta Astronautica.