ALETSCH GLACIER, Switzerland--Roughly 600 volunteers stripped naked to pose on a shrinking Alpine glacier, hoping to draw attention to the impact of global warming. The Aletsch Glacier, near the Swiss town of Bettmeralp, receded almost 400 feet between 2005 and 2006. Nearly all 1,800 Swiss glaciers are predicted to disappear by 2080. American artist Spencer Tunick, who was commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace to create this living sculpture, is renowned for his provocative work with naked masses in unexpected public settings. This event is part of Greenpeace's campaign to increase awareness of climate change.
FAWNSKIN, Calif.--Raging wildfires in the town of Fawnskin and throughout Southern California left a patchwork of destruction across some 500,000 forested acres, from Simi Valley to San Bernardino to San Diego. Afterward, not much remained of the Valley Oaks Mobile Home Park in Fallbrook, California , midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A few of the 16 or so fires, which stretched from Malibu (left) to the Mexican border, appear to have been caused by arson. Still, the blazes raised questions about the role drought and other aspects of climate change may have played in these devastating events--and about what will happen as the world continues to warm.
The fires, spread by the Santa Ana winds, occurred during the driest year in Southern California history, causing the largest mass evacuation ever in the state.
WIMMELBURG, Germany--Workers more than 300 feet above the ground ready a 2.3-megawatt turbine at a wind farm in eastern Germany, one of many being built throughout Europe. Giant rotary blades wait for installation on the ground below. One such wind turbine produces enough electricity to power 1,800 households.
Wind power will be crucial for Europe to meet its target of generating 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. In the United States, the Nordex Group, which constructed the Wimmelburg wind farm, has just completed its first multi-megawatt wind turbine in Minnesota. An additional 21 turbines at that site are expected to be operational by 2009.
MEYRIN, Switzerland--Last February, the world's largest magnet, weighing 1,920 tons (as much as five jumbo jets), was lowered 300 feet underground and placed within the Compact Muon Solenoid particle detector. The centerpiece of an effort to shed light on the very beginnings of the universe, this detector is part of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which runs in a 17-mile circle through France and Switzerland. The enormous machine may re-create conditions that have not existed since the universe was less than one one-trillionth of a second old; it will hunt for the long-sought Higgs boson, the hypothetical particle that explains why matter has mass.
In a milestone in the LHC's construction, a welder completes a connection between the two main magnet systems, sealing the cryogenic system that will cool the superconductor's magnets to just 1.9 degrees above absolute zero, colder than outer space. Built over 13 years, the collider is undergoing final construction and testing and is expected to switch on in May 2008.
The pale moon Dione appears to balance on Saturn's rings in this nearly edge-on view. Since the July 2004 arrival of NASA's Cassini spacecraft (launched from Earth in October 1997), Saturn and its satellites have been scrutinized as never before. Among the surprises: a mysterious ring of 12-mile-high mountains along the equator of the black-and-white moon Iapetus. The bright flare of color in one of Saturn's rings is an imaging effect created by the sun's reflection and by the sequential exposures taken by Cassini using red, green, and blue spectral filters. Cassini will continue studying Saturn while completing 74 orbits around the planet before its official mission ends in June 2008.