COP28 Host Had Plans to Promote Oil and Gas | Researchers Detected Cicada Emergence With Fiber-Optics

Episode 659,   Dec 01, 2023, 09:00 PM

The United Nations climate summit will happen for the next two weeks in Dubai—a city known for its oil money. And, in 2021, an electronics and communications lab accidentally detected the mass emergence of Brood X with fiber-optic sensors.

COP28 Host Had Plans to Promote Oil and Gas, Documents Show

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, began this week in Dubai. This is an annual event, where leaders and delegates from around the world come together to discuss how to collaboratively reach important milestones for the future of the planet. Goals like slowing the rise of temperatures on Earth will require buy-in from all major players to be successful.

But this week, a document leaked that showed the United Arab Emirates planned something at odds with the event: promotion of the oil and gas industries. This has led to increased skepticism of COP and its goals among both critics and attendees.

Ira is joined by Tim Revell, deputy US editor of New Scientist, to talk about this story. Plus, how a single bitcoin transaction uses enough water to fill a swimming pool, the way nutrients in soil drive biodiversity, and how amino acids could be formed alongside stars.

Researchers Detected Cicada Emergence With Fiber-Optics

If you were in the eastern United States during the summer of 2021, you likely heard the incessant, whirring buzz caused by the mass emergence of Brood X periodical cicadas. That event, which occurs once every 17 years, brought forth countless cicadas to shed their skins, mate, lay eggs, and die. But it turns out their arrival wasn’t just something that you could witness out the lawn or against your car windshield. The sound of their emergence was something that could be detected by fiber-optic cables.

Dr. Sarper Ozharar, a researcher who studies optical networking and sensing at NEC Labs in Princeton, New Jersey, has worked on techniques using fiber-optics to sense the vibrations of things like traffic, sirens, and gunshots. Loud noises produce vibrations that subtly distort optical “backscatter” within a glass fiber-optic cable. Using AI, researchers can decode those vibrations and determine what, and where, a noise may have occurred near the fiber.

In the summer of 2021, Ozharar and colleagues detected an unusual frequency signal in their test data. With the help of entomologist Dr. Jessica Ware of the American Museum of Natural History, they eventually determined that it was the whirring of the cicada swarm. Their find is the topic of a report published this week in the Journal of Insect Science.

Ozharar joins Ira Flatow to talk about how fiber-optic sensing works, and how an electronics and communications lab ended up publishing in an entomology journal.


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