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The mountains of Pluto are snowcapped, but not for the same reasons as on Earth

The mountains of Pluto are snowcapped, but not for the same reasons as on Earth
At left, the “Cthulhu” region near Pluto’s equator, at right the Alps on Earth. Two identical landscapes created by highly different processes. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute, Thomas Pesquet/ESA

In 2015, the New Horizons space probe discovered spectacular snowcapped mountains on Pluto, which are strikingly similar to mountains on Earth. Such a landscape had never before been observed elsewhere in the Solar System. However, as atmospheric temperatures on our planet decrease at altitude, on Pluto they heat up at altitude as a result of solar radiation.

So where does this ice come from? An international team led by CNRS scientists1 conducted this exploration. They first determined that the “snow” on Pluto’s mountains actually consists of frozen methane, with traces of this gas being present in Pluto’s atmosphere, just like water vapor on Earth. To understand how the same landscape could be produced in such different conditions, they used a climate model for the dwarf planet, which revealed that due to its particular dynamics, Pluto’s atmosphere is rich in gaseous methane at altitudes.

As a result, it is only at the peaks of mountains high enough to reach this enriched zone that the air contains enough methane for it to condense. At lower altitudes the air is too low in methane for ice to form. This research, published in Nature Communications, could also explain why the thick glaciers consisting of methane observed elsewhere on Pluto bristle with spectacular craggy ridges, unlike Earth’s flat glaciers, which consist of water.

The mountains of Pluto are snowcapped, but not for the same reasons as on Earth
On Earth snow condenses at altitude because air dilates during ascending movements, and thus cools (at the rate of 1°C approximately every 100 m). On Pluto, methane ice forms on the peaks of mountains when they are high enough to reach upper atmospheric levels, which are hotter and rich in methane. Credit: Tanguy Bertrand et al.

Explaining glaciers of solid methane and nitrogen on Pluto


More information:
Equatorial mountains on Pluto are covered by methane frosts resulting from a unique atmospheric process. Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18845-3

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The mountains of Pluto are snowcapped, but not for the same reasons as on Earth (2020, October 13)
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Three Reasons Storytelling Is Critical To Success In Data And Analytics

Dr. Velkoski serves as Director, Data Science at the National Association of REALTORS® and Adjunct Professor at DePaul University.

I was first introduced to storytelling in the early 2000s. At the time, I was a student enrolled in undergrad coursework at Lawrence Technological University (LTU), where I became interested, in part, in technical and professional communications. Corinne Stavish, a professional storyteller, lecturer and director of LTU’s technical and professional communications program, was a strong advocate for advancing the theory and practice of storytelling. At the time, I didn’t understand the significance of her teachings. 

Storytelling is the art of narration of stories. A story is an expression of evolution of events in life. At best, a story captures the imagination of the listener, engaging the listener’s emotions and, perhaps, inspiring action.

A number of industry experts have advocated for the use of stories in data and analytics. As such, the overarching theme presented here isn’t novel. More noteworthy, though, are the three reasons that storytelling is critical to success in our function: People don’t want more information. Information alone isn’t meaningful. And lastly, people are not rational. It is for these reasons that data and analytics practitioners should take a closer look at integrating storytelling in our work. 

People Don’t Want More Information

It may seem counterintuitive, particularly for professionals working in the data and analytics space, but people do not want more information. Over the last several decades, especially with the advent of computers and the internet, information has become abundant. It has been argued that information has become so abundant that it has, in many ways, negatively affected understanding.

The same can be said about information as it’s used in a business setting. There is a point at which information no longer adds value to the individual attempting to consume it. More information merely results in information overload, which has the effect of cultivating stress and confusion rather than confidence and understanding. This has a profound effect on decision-making. Storytelling addresses these and other similar issues by adding context to information, allowing the listener to more easily identify and consume information that is relevant to the subject.

Information Alone Isn’t Meaningful 

Big data is, arguably, one of the most overused buzzwords of our time. That’s not to say that data isn’t valuable — few would argue that case — but it’s clear that data alone, even in large quantities, lacks meaning.

Suppose that you worked as the CEO of a retail firm. In addition, suppose that I told you that sales were $1 million in the previous quarter. Conceivably you’d find that information interesting. Nevertheless, without additional context, the figure would, ultimately, be meaningless. What was the figure in the prior period? What figure did we budget? To what degree did our advertising campaign drive the figure? What is our expectation for the figure in next period?

Unless information is attached to a more comprehensive story that allows you to build a deeper understanding of the issue,