Will we be ready for the 'big one'? 我们准备好迎接“大挑战”了吗？
Today is Asteroid Day, and it's a reminder that as our planet follows its path around the sun, it encounters a lot of stuff. Science tells us that, every day, Earth's atmosphere is hit with roughly 100 tons of dust and particles the size of a grain of sand. And every year, at least 30 small meteors make it through, only to burn up before touching the ground. NASA says it's pretty much guaranteed that at least one of them will be about the size of a car. As time progresses, the likelihood increases that even larger celestial rocks will hit the ground and cause significant damage.
Across the globe, there are plenty of reminders of this in the form of craters, like the one in today's photo. The Acraman crater is a point of impact in South Australia. It's believed to have been created about 590 million years ago when hit by an asteroid with a diameter that could have been as large as 56 miles across. For comparison, the asteroid thought to have killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was 6.2 miles across. NASA says that an asteroid the size of a football field would cause significant damage. One that could really threaten civilization hits every few million years. Hopefully, with Asteroid Day being observed across 78 countries since its inception in 2015, we'll be prepared when the 'big one' shows up.
在热带，陆地与海洋热情相拥 In the tropics, land greets sea warmly
International Day of the Tropics
Only in the tropics do forests grow in salt water. Take this forest of mangrove trees in Phang Nga Bay in southern Thailand, one of the largest and best preserved mangrove forests in the country. Adapted to thrive in coastal marshes and swamps, mangroves can filter saltwater and withstand strong coastal storms. Virtually all mangrove forests and all species of mangrove grow only in the tropical regions of the world. They are protectors of the coastlines, acting as a buffer against storms and floods.
Today and on every June 29, we join the United Nations in marking the International Day of the Tropics, a moment to focus on the unique beauty of this region of the world and the challenges it faces. The tropics are roughly defined as the area above and below the equator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. By 2050, the UN estimates the tropics will be home to most of the humans on Earth, and two-thirds of the world's children. It is also the poorest part of our world and the most vulnerable to global warming.
Phang Nga Bay on the Andaman Sea is one of the most treasured and visited sites in Thailand. The south-facing bay is about 150 square miles in size, and contains numerous limestone islets, tower karsts, cliffs, caves, and lagoons. At its mouth is the tourist mecca of Phuket island. Much of the bay is protected as the Ao Phang Nga National Park, created in 1981 by royal decree. The most famous landmark in the park is probably Ko Tapu, a tall cylindrical rock that is narrower at its base than at its top. It was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie 'The Man with the Golden Gun,' and has since been dubbed 'James Bond Island.' The real star of Phang Nga, however, is the mangrove. Resilient, wondrous, and beautiful, mangroves are an apt metaphor for the tropics they inhabit.
沙海中的绿洲 An oasis in a sea of sand
Tafilalet oasis in Morocco
Tafilalet means 'jug' in the language of the ancient Amazigh people (aka Berbers), and that's surely an appropriate moniker for the largest oasis in Morocco. After the first permanent settlement of the region, Sijilmassa, was founded in 757 CE, Tafilalet became a stopping point for caravans traveling from the Niger River to Tangier on the northern tip of Morocco and the gateway to Europe.
The oasis here at Tafilalet thrives thanks to underground springs and wells, which are supplied by sandstone aquifers that can be hundreds of miles away. Surrounded by the dry sands of the Sahara, the lifegiving waters here at Tafilalet support miles of date palm groves, a major industry in North Africa. Over the centuries, several villages have sprung up in this oasis, some of them with fortified kasbahs like this one, to withstand attacks from invaders.
一望无际的田野 Fragrant fields as far as the eye can see
Lavender fields on the Valensole Plateau in Provence, France
We're sorry. The scratch 'n' sniff option was not ready in time for this photo, so you'll have to imagine the intoxicating fragrance wafting over you…. Today we're in the lavender fields that carpet the Valensole Plateau in Provence, France. A rolling 300 square miles of flowers color the landscape as far as the eye can see. Vincent van Gogh spent time here, and featured lavender in some of his paintings. June is the start of the lavender season, and though it runs till August, peak viewing (and smelling) time varies a little with fluctuations in temperature and rainfall. There are lovely villages that you can meander while visiting the lavender fields, stopping for a pastry or crunchy-soft baguette at an outdoor cafe.
Hot, dry summers and plenty of sun help lavender thrive in the South of France and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. While we think the sight of lavender fields is relaxing in itself, the herb is always in demand for its essential oil, which lends a soothing scent to cosmetics, cleaning products, and even food. Some studies suggest that lavender can improve your sleep, reduce pain and inflammation, and improve anxiety and depression. The powerful plant was also used as an antiseptic in days gone by, as it has antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
地面之下的水中世界 Underwater underground
Cenote near Puerto Aventuras, Mexico
Like a giant block of Swiss cheese, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is riddled with holes called cenotes. Cenotes form when subterranean limestone dissolves, allowing underground water to penetrate. The rock above may cave in, forming a pit and revealing the cool, often crystal-clear water, while other cenotes may remain hidden and unexplored. Cenotes vary in size from very small to several dozen yards across, and recent discoveries have shown that cenotes lead to a series of underground cave systems that can span several miles in length.
In a region with little rainfall and no rivers or streams, the Yucatan's 6,000 cenotes were vital to the many cities of the Mayan civilization that used them as a primary source of fresh water. While some of the peninsula's cenotes have a mix of salt water and fresh water, many of the holes have remarkably clean fresh water that has slowly filtered through rock. The diffuse light that reaches into the underground chambers creates a magical effect. It makes for fantastic swimming and diving opportunities. Many of the larger cenotes feature platforms and ropes to jump off, and they are often located near historically significant Mayan ruins.
“古桥”的新生 The 'Old Bridge,' reborn
Stari Most in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
For 427 years the Mostar Bridge stood strong, despite the belief that its original mortar was composed of egg whites. Truth is, not much is known about the 16th-century construction of this bridge in what is now known as Bosnia and Herzegovina. All that remains in historical records are memories and legends and the name of the bridge's builder, Mimar Hayruddin. He was charged by Suleiman the Magnificent to build an unprecedentedly wide arch, and threatened with death if the structure failed. Hayruddin is said to have been so unsure of his creation that he had made funeral preparations before the scaffolding was removed. Luckily (and much to the builder's probable relief), the arch remained intact. Suspended nearly 80 feet above the Neretva River, the highest point of the bridge's arch rises an additional 39.5 feet. Upon its completion in 1566, it was the widest manmade arch ever built and was compared by one explorer to 'a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies.'
Also known as Stari Most, or 'Old Bridge,' it was finally brought down in November 1993 after being hit by a barrage of shells in a targeted attack during the Bosnian War. Considered a treasure of Bosnian Islamic architecture, its destruction by Croatian forces was condemned around the world. Scholars referred to the act as an attempt at 'killing memory.' Due to its importance in the Mostar region, plans to rebuild the bridge as accurately as possible began at the war's end. The reconstructed bridge was unveiled to the public in 2004. Used for normal daily activities, the bridge also has history as a popular spot for annual diving competitions.
427年来，莫斯塔尔大桥一直屹立不倒，尽管人们相信它最初的砂浆是由蛋白组成的。事实是，关于16世纪在现在被称为波斯尼亚和黑塞哥维那的地方修建这座桥，人们所知不多。历史记录中只剩下记忆和传说，还有大桥建造者米马尔·海鲁丁的名字。宏伟的苏莱曼（Suleiman the Magnium）要求他建造一座空前宽阔的拱门，并威胁说，如果拱门倒塌，他将面临死亡。据说，海鲁丁对自己的创作非常不确定，以至于在拆除脚手架之前，他就已经为葬礼做了准备。幸运的是（建筑商可能松了一口气），拱门仍然完好无损。悬挂在内雷特瓦河上方近80英尺的地方，桥拱的最高点再高出39.5英尺。1566年建成后，这是有史以来建造的最宽的人造拱门，一位探险家将其比作“一座翱翔天空的彩虹拱门”
它也被称为“Stari Most”，或“Old Bridge”，1993年11月，在波斯尼亚战争期间，在一次有针对性的袭击中，它被一连串炮弹击中，最终被拆毁。被认为是波斯尼亚伊斯兰建筑的瑰宝，克罗地亚军队对其的破坏受到全世界的谴责。学者们把这一行为称为试图“扼杀记忆”由于该桥在莫斯塔尔地区的重要性，在战争结束时就开始了尽可能准确地重建该桥的计划。重建后的大桥于2004年向公众公布。该桥用于正常的日常活动，历史上也是年度跳水比赛的热门场地。
地球之肺 The lungs of Earth
World Rainforest Day
Perhaps no other place on Earth plays a more crucial role in sustaining life as we know it than the Amazon rainforest, the largest in the world. The Amazon spans nine countries in South America including Ecuador, where this pristine ecoregion is protected by the Yasuní National Park, shown here. Today is set aside as World Rainforest Day, to remember the vital role of this and other rainforests and to champion efforts to protect them. The world's rainforests are under threat like never before from deforestation driven by agriculture and cattle ranching. Some studies have indicated humans have degraded or destroyed more than half of the world's rainforests. Fewer trees mean warmer temperatures, which increases the risk of drought and wildfire and compounds the damage of deforestation.
The Amazon has been called the lungs of the planet because the estimated 390 billion trees here convert much of the oxygen humans and other animals need to survive. The Amazon also cools our planet by capturing and storing carbon. It is as much the planet's air conditioner as it is its lungs. For that reason, the health of rainforests is crucial to arresting climate change.
The other gift of rainforests, and of the Amazon in particular, is biodiversity. The number of species of plants, animals, and insects in the Amazon is not in the thousands, but in the millions. Scientists estimate half of the planet's biodiversity exists in the Amazon. In fact, many of our modern pharmaceuticals are derived from Amazon plants. That makes the Amazon not just the Earth's lungs and air conditioning, but also its medicine cabinet.
夏季来临 Summer a-rising
The summer solstice, also known as an estival solstice or midsummer, occurs when one of Earth's poles has its maximum tilt toward the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern and Southern). For that hemisphere, the summer solstice is when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky (for areas outside of the tropics) and is the day with the longest period of daylight. Within the Arctic circle (for the northern hemisphere) or the Antarctic circle (for the southern hemisphere), there is continuous daylight around the summer solstice. On the summer solstice, Earth's maximum axial tilt toward the Sun is 23.44°. Likewise, the Sun's declination from the celestial equator is 23.44°.
Since prehistory, the summer solstice has been seen as a significant time of year in many cultures and has been marked by festivals and rituals. Traditionally, in many temperate regions (especially in Europe), the summer solstice is seen as the middle of summer and referred to as "midsummer". Today, however, in some countries and calendars it is seen as the beginning of summer.
这是什么水上魔法？ What waterborne wizardry is this?
International Surfing Day
Of all the tricks humans have taught themselves, few delight and impress more than surfing. A sport, a pastime, an art, a philosophy of life, surfing is as close to magic as a person can perform on the untamed ocean. Today, the sport of wave riding gets its well-earned due with International Surfing Day, a time each year to honor the sport, the lifestyle of surfing, and the ocean itself, whose good health is vital to the sport and so much else. Surfers have a special connection to the ocean and the waves it produces. A surfable wave relies on so much: The winds hundreds or thousands of miles away that produced the energy to set the swells in motion—those swells might take days to arrive at the shoreline; and then the reef or point of land or underwater boulder upon which a swell will break into a perfectly shaped wave. Wind and timing are everything, and devoted surfers know the weather and the shore intimately.
Surfing can be done anywhere waves break, from Iceland to Ireland, Brazil to Senegal. But there are a handful of spots renowned for their waves, such as Hawaii, Tahiti, California, and the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, pictured here. As the sport has evolved, surfers have taken on bigger waves, giants that exceed 50 feet in height at now-famous surf breaks like Jaws, Mavericks, and the latest in Nazare, Portugal.
Surfing is believed to have originated in Polynesia more than 1,500 years ago, most likely in Tahiti and was observed by Westerners as early as the 1700s in Hawaii. Native Hawaiians are credited for creating the sport as we know it today. Duke Kahanamoku, Olympic swimmer, great waterman, and one of Hawaii's earliest celebrities, helped spread surfing's popularity to California and Australia in the early 1900s. Today, surfing is an Olympic sport, has a professional tour for both men and women, and is an integral part of popular culture. But for the lucky souls who know how to ride a wave, it's simply the best way to spend a day at the beach.