Fox Bytes 12 – the dangerously hot issue

The Game: The Arctic is in flames

This year’s northern hemisphere summer has broken records, and the outcome has been deadly.

The most visible effect of the scorching heat and unnaturally dry conditions has been the wildfires. Normally this time of the year, TV news carries ongoing coverage of wildfires in California.

This year has been slightly different. Coverage has included reports of numerous wildfires in Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Whilst fires do occur in these countries, this year it was the sheer number and scale of the fires that made them newsworthy.

At one point, the Copernicus Earth observation programme, which monitors fires over Europe, registered 60 fires in Sweden alone. Some were seen within the Arctic Circle, where temperatures reportedly reached 30 degrees Celsius.

Climate change deniers would have you believe such events are normal. They are not. Science across diverse research fields has uncovered clear evidence of the impacts of climate change.

Whereas it’s easy to think of wildfires as the direct result of global warming, they are in fact part of a global shift in climate patterns that have resulted in dramatic weather events such as the wildfires in the Arctic.

Global warming is the mechanism, climate change is the outcome.

The Player: Keeping eyes on the Sun

Space has a new player, and she’s super-smart. She has to be – her life depends on it.

This week the Parker Solar Probe was shot into space to investigate the most dangerous part of our solar system – the Sun’s corona (or ‘crown’), its outer atmosphere.

At the moment, Parker’s hurtling towards her destination at close to 680 000 km/h, and the closer she gets, the more she’s going to need her protective jacket – a 11.5cm-thick carbon-composite sunshield. Behind it sits Parker’s sensitive instruments.

To keep those instruments at a balmy, operable, 30 degrees Celsius, Parker has to think for herself. Using strategically-positioned sensors, she will continually adjust her position so that the shield always points fully towards the Sun. If these sensors see the Sun, Parker will quickly adjust her position.

A fraction of a centimetre out for a matter of seconds, and she’ll fry in an instant.

There’s a catch: she’s solar-powered, so her solar cells need to see the Sun, or, more correctly peek at it. So, Parker has to occasionally allow them just enough exposure to keep her powered, but not so much that the solar cells are destroyed.

And you thought parallel parking was tricky!

The Move: Son swapping boots?

Conscription – compulsory military service – is a hot topic for followers of the English Premier League

Tottenham Hotspurs superstar forward Heung-Min Son is from South Korea, where all men must do 21 months of compulsory military service before their 28th birthday. Unless he is exempted, Son, 26, will be ruled out of the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

He has a chance. He’s been told that if he plays for South Korea in the Asian games starting this week, and they win gold, then he will be exempted. Not bronze, not silver, mind you; only gold.

Son is not alone. Many countries have conscription. Sweden recently reintroduced it, starting January this year, and joins other Baltic states – Norway, Finland, Denmark and Lithuania – with an eye on an increasingly belligerent bully on the block – Russia.

There are some good arguments for conscription – either military service or a civilian, non-combatant alternative. It breaks down barriers such as race, gender and class; it helps create a shared experience for its citizens; and it provides a regular income for those who may otherwise be unemployed.

Can you think of another country that might benefit from conscription?

[These articles originally appeared in Issue 12 of Fox Bytes (you can view it here) in the week of 13 August 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. Fox Bytes is published weekly to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more]