reports of fatalities. crews are still looking for people who may be trapped inside. we'll bring you more on this story as it develops. in the meantime, thank you for watching are al jazeera america. i'm del walters. "techknow" is next. about innovations that are going to change lives. we're testing the intersection of hardware and humanity. rax is a neuroscientist. she has the invocation of bamboo and carbon. mar inkta davidson is a biologist specializing in ecologist and evolution. and i'm phil torrez. i'm an entomologist. but i'm over america for a very bad ride. how bad is our air? that's our team.
now let's do some science. >> hi guys welcome back to another week of techknow where we're going to show you some pretty fun innovations in science. i'm here with marita and rachelle. hi, nasa seekers mission, this is a gc-8, loaded with millions of dollars of equipment measuring the air as we're flying through the gulf. it was a pretty incredible experience. let's take a look.
ists 7:30 in the morning and -- it's 7:30 in the morning. and hangar 9 is buzzing with excitement. >> any last questions about what we're going to be doing today? save jet. >> from a distance our plane looks like any other. but close up you can see it's anything but. i'm minutes away from boarding this plain with nasa experimentalists. it is a nasa gc-8, trying to measure the pollution and the atmosphere. it's a three pronged attack. the signs of the tc 8, after the u 2 spy plane. the er 2 application is a sight to see. everything about it has the feeling of a flight to space. the men who fly the plane
undergo special training and wear a pressurized flight soot. several weather probes collect the information and beam it back to earth. >> seated, door closed. >> the men and women are learning more about climate change and the role humans play in it. >> ready for taxi. >> airport bound. >> it's 9:00 a.m., everyone's seated and it's wheels up. on board, it's like a candy shop of technology inside this flying laboratory. they've got all the high tech tools from lasers to spectrometers and canisters and gases everything to measure the chemistry in the sky. the man at the center of it all,
mission director walt kline. why is this mission so important? >> because if we don't do anything about it we're just going to continue on wrecking air. the job of the plain is to conduct the symphony of the science. making sure the scientists are getting what they need, when they want it, how they want it and making sure they get it safely. >> each station, take different readings. the is mission is called seachrs. >> are exposing only the colors of the radar to them. >> on the ground, dozens of scientists monitor the flights in mission control. they can track the flight path through radar. jasmine velapich. >> almost no other plane is
capable of reaching high altitudes. we have remote sensors that allow us to look at the chem composition of the atmosphere, the outfloor of convective activity. we're also interested in looking at the effects of hurricanes. >> even higher up in space a fleet of formation satellites pass over where the planes fly. just took off an hour ago, the scientists went right to work. all sorts of instruments that are doing some really incredible science. wee have several missions for today. one of the few things we're doing is flying over the gulf of mexico, testing the confection of the clouds and the pollution. >> another thing that makes this different: the passengers are in charge. >> we'd like to go to the west of it. >> they tell the crew where they want to do and at what
altitude. sometimes going over the same area several times. >> we can repeatedly fly over it manually and really, really get to know on a micro-level over a broader area of ground what's happening. >> we're flying right into clouds and storms. it's a bumpy ride with lots of turbulence. >> everyone grab their seats for the next few minutes. but there's little puffy clouds around it, it would be great to fly through those. >> the first person to catch our attention is principal investigator jack dibb and he means business. he runs back and fort on his station like a madman. >> it is a especially designed inlet where it's got a small hole that expands to come through the wall of the airplane. >> what are you collecting in there? >> we're collecting any particle that is bigger than about 5
microns. we are measuring the ions that are in those particles,. >> dibb doesn't like what he's finding. >> the results that you guys get does it make you concerned about the future of our climate? >> i'm not hugely optimistic. >> more from dibb's findings later and some of his answers may change your thinking. the seachrs mission flies three times a week and so does many of the experimentalists. the flight is not for everyone. the flight continues. >> gets bumpy. >> i even hit my head when i was trying to get back to my seat. >> there are things that are occurring in the air that you just can't see. we dropped like a rock and then you experience zero gs. >> you know what? people is iting down.
>> two hours into the mission we're currently flying at just 300 feet over the gulf of mexico. at this height we can fly directly over ships and oil rigs to measure the emissions they put on the atmosphere. >> probably the most important part of this mission is dio laser. sayd is mail. this measures gases and gets immediate results. >> take a closer look. purple is the lowest intensity and then it gradual increase of -- gradually increases. red is the highest intensity. we are experiencing even more turbulence and i'm noticing
these machines produce lots of heat and as you can see it's nearly 90° in the cabin. nickola blake's station is in the middle of the plane. she willship her samples back to the lab. >> what are we doing with the atmosphere? >> we are using it like a trash can. >> why are you so pessimistic. >> wow, it looks like you guys hit a ton of turbulence and got bounced around quite a built. >> yes, there was quite a bit of turbulence. where there are storm clouds which is why we -- what we are chasing, there is turbulence. we would hit them from 35 feet to 35,000 feet. >> was it worth hitting your head for? >> i would say it was, from what i remember. it's nice to see science with a little edge to us. what you guys saw us doing is
flying over the gulf getting a lot of really interesting storm cloud data but what's coming up next is we're targeting fracking and doing a little analysis to see what these guys are finding. take a look. >> pitch porpoise and roll for the ms maneuvers. >> okay, i'd like everybody in their seats right now. looks a little bumpy right here. >> we got five hours into today seachrs mission and about 5,000 feet. >> next we're going to head over texas, measuring the methane levels over the fracking fields. >> he gets the measurement of what's over these fields. >> now we're over a fracking
field in texas and right here you can see a really good spike of no 2. >> he looks at the production of ozone. >> why do we need to study fracking more? >> it's still unknown how much greenhouse gases and other gases are being emitted by the fracking fields. >> why is it important to understand the fracking emissions? >> they can contribute to then greenhouse gases, there are studies in the utah and colorado basins. because they are seeing ozone exceedences, we think because of the fracking fields. >> this is the video from the plane's nose cone when it flew over the sierra nevada fields last year. >> the for mald made levels were astronomical. >> you wouldn't want to breathe the air? >> not for very long.
it is really bad, serious pollutant. >> jack dibb rmings collects samples during the seachrs mission. today was different. >> the filters were dark brown. they were easily coded, filthy, there is a lot of organic aerosols. black carbon on the surface is going to contribute to climate change warming. >> on the scale of 1 to 10, 1 being perfect air, 10 being horl horrible, how bad was it? >> the air quality on the rim fire was way higher than probably any urban pollution anywhere on the planet. >> is that a 3 or 4? >> on a scale of 1 is terrible it would be a minus 2 or 3. anybody breathing that air would probably have reduced life expectancy. a slew of
carcinogens. >> the research on this mission will help us understand the atmosphere better and hopefully find ways to keep it cleaner. >> next we'll be testing the confection of the clouds. we'll be flying in a slow vor texas up to 40,000 feet in order to measure how those emissions vary at different heights. >> the results don't always come quickly. >> what are you finding in there? >> hydrocarbon, methane, ethane, benzene toluene. even if we stop make methane today, we would still have a lot of methane. >> contributing to making the temperatures hotter? >> yes, yes, changing the composition of the atmosphere as well. >> sayd
ismail. >> historically is very high. the rate of change is unprecedented. >> why should we care about the levels of co2? >> we are seeing the indication of the forming of the melting of the polar ice caps is one indicator. and figures from now to compared to 20 years ago are slightly higher. >> jack dibb has some eye opening opinions. >> i don't have a rosy outlook on what the state of the world is going to be in 50 or 100 years. there's going to be some progress but i'm not terribly optimistic. >> why are you so pessimistic? >> countries like the u.s. we are potent emitters and not doing much to reduce them. >> dibb says things could get worst. >> these things you read while flying?
>> you definitely see stuff coming from asia, coming halfway across from the u.s. or sometimes halfway across. >> back in the air, after about eight hours of one of the most harrowing flights i've ever been on. the er-2 landing is pretty exciting. >> we're in a chase car as the er 2 gets ready to touchdown. >> access to charlie, 1-7 right for recovery. heavy left wing. >> the chase car is in constant contact with the pilot helping him keep his balance . once the plane stops, the pilot gets out and it's back to the hangar to prep for the next flight. >> welcome back, man. >> thanks. >> it seemed to me that a lot of what the scientists were saying
was projecting some pretty gloomy scenarios for the future. >> grim, even. >> yes. a lot of these guys weren't too optimistic and i think it's probably because they're the ones seeing these results. they're the ones coming up with these analysis he and saying we're not oon a very good path now. they're not seeing the regulations being formed or the policies changing to improve our scenario. >> maybe that's just the kind of message we need, though, if the situation is really that dire. >> yeah. you know they showed some areas that were improving. for instance, things like greenhouse gases. acid rain was much better than it was 20 years ago. there are good things out there but so much work to be done. really it's up to the united states to set a good examples. other countries are setting protocols, that they're not living up to. i think the way to counteract
♪ ♪ >> hi guys, welcome back to techknow. i'm phil torrez. i'm here with marita and rachelle. you went to alabama. >> i did go to alabama, i got to see how the town is using bamboo to revitalize and pull itself up by its boot straps. >> let's check it out. >> deep in the heart of rural alabama. the once thriving town of greensboro is struggling for survival. a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.
work is scarce. the catfish capital is fighting to keep its head above water. >> what was the economy like when you got here? >> about 75% of all the shops in shut down. >> but there's one thing they have plenty of. >> we have a lot of bamboo. if you have a lot of bamboo you have got to have a product to make out of it. >> pam door a big city clothing designers chucked that to become a one woman stimulus plan for greensboro, running the hero foundation and she tapped into the town's unwanted resource to do it. bamboo bicycles aren't exactly a new idea. they've been around since the first one was introduced back in 1894. and now they're really gaining popularity in small bike shops a lot like this
one. but none of them are like the ones you find here at hero bike shop and that's thanks to an industrial designer who took the time to get his hands dirty and develop a new innovative design. like walking through the woods. >> it is. >> university of kansas professor where lance rake knew he could turn the local nuisance into a groundbreaking set of wheels. >> why did we choose this one. >> because it's big enough. we want something with a big diameter, green, maybe three years old seems like the strongest so this is perfect. but it cuts pretty easily. bamboo is just a grass. >> it's some grass. >> it's tougher than my saw right now. >> could i try? >> you might have better luck than i am. there you go.
>> it ate the saw! all right timber! >> you got it? >> yep. >> so where are we headed next with the bamboo? >> it's only about three blocks. >> and this is how the supply chain moves at hero bikes. >> all right? turning left. >> for three weeks, professor rake and a group of students tinkered with prototype bamboo frames finally coming up with a mash-up hybrid called the semester. >> which part makes this completely innovative? >> i think the most innovative part is actually being able to make a composite with having carbon fiber with the bamboo. >> so walk me through what we have here. >> we take our bamboo and split it. and the outside we plane flat and cut angles on the sides. each one of these slats has a bevel on the side.
now, to get the carbon fiber in it, we're using a carbon fiber sleeve. and this is just a piece of bicycle inner tube that's inside. we can put all this together with epoxy resin. the epoxy will hold all of this together. if we inflate the inner tube now, it's going to expand the carbon fiber to blow out the bamboo and make a very, very strong tube. it's a very low-tech way to get at a high-tech solution. >> it's elegant in its simplicity. >> thank you. next we have to pay attention to the thicknesses. >> did you have to consider the skill level of the people you were working with? >> yes, in a couple of different ways. i'm going to have to utilize people who are not bike builders. this is not a factory so much as a studio.
>> did you have experience in building bikes? >> not anything more than riding and tinkering. >> what were your job prospects? >> it was pretty rough. this job has a chance for me to earn a good living. >> pie lab, another hero employment project. >> i was on the welfare program, i have a job now can pay my bills and take care of my kids. >> so it sounds like it really changed your life. >> yes, it worked the best. >> of course you can't do a bike story without a ride. >> here it is. >> thank you! >> yes, it's awesome! i can't believe how smooth this bike is! this is really cool! >> so what did you think? >> well, if you are not careful i'm going to steal it when you are not looking. >> full scale production cranks up the end of the year. the semester bike is about $850
and each bike sold means another job for someone in greensboro. >> what we would like to do is use what's here to create a better future. >> how does that make you feel? >> the thought of coming back here and see the shop filled up with people making these bikes, how rewarding is that? >> wow, so after seeing that, i really want a bamboo bike, and i figure a lot of other people probably do, too. how is it selling? >> if i had figured out how to get one on the plane i probably would have biked here today. >> you could always bike from alabama all the way to california. >> but people love them. >> and bikes are becoming a lot more trendy in a lot of big cities as it's kind of a way around this economy and avoid gas prices by having a cool bike. >> and avoid emissions.
>> how about other than bikes? >> they are looking into furniture with that same hexagonal structure. >> i'm going to buy a bike. >> i'm right there behind you. >> we'll be back here next week with more innovation from the field on techknow. follow our expert contributors on twitter, facebook, google plus and more. is. >> is this is al jazeera america. i'm ricialg. richelle carey. here are the top stories.
u.s. post office iran's presence in the geneva 2 talks because i.t. has been opposed to the regime. halted their uranium enrichment work. lawmakers are announcing new legislation seeking oversight of above ground storage tanks like the ones that leaked in west virginia. nearly 8,000 gallons spilled into one of the state's rivers. investigates are on the state and federal level on the way. explosions at the nutrition plant in omaha, nebraska, 38 employees inside the building and several are still missing. no word yet on any fatalities. today is martin luther king day, marches parades and ceremonies are taking place across the