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A Neighborhood of Planets

The nine planets, the Sun and numerous other celestial bodies that make up our Solar System are the inhabitants of a neighborhood that has long amazed human beings - and its delicate balance is what allowed life to flourish on Earth.

A planet is an object that orbits a star and is larger than an asteroid. So far, human civilization has not come across any other set of planets like the Solar System, but outer space is immense…

On Earth, the arrival of cyber-space opened a new door to the knowledge held by people about the celestial neighborhood in which they live. Not only is there abundant information available on the Internet, but one can explore the Solar System and get an idea of its enormity with just a click of the computer mouse.

One important portal is The Nine Planets site, which provides a vast array of information and links for cybernauts to navigate.

Just who are the inhabitants of this celestial neighborhood? Centered around the Sun are nine planets, approximately 80 moons and artificial satellites that orbit the planets, plus millions of asteroids and comets.

The Nine Planets
Solar System Live
NASA: Welcome to the Planets
Spacelinks/Nasa: Our Solar System

Earthly Powers

Geothermic energy is as old as the planet, originating in the high temperatures held within the depths of the Earth. And though its power has been recognized by humans throughout history, the search for new technologies aimed at using its energy more efficiently is an ongoing challenge.

The geothermal energy that lies beneath our feet is manifest in many ways. For example, volcanoes, hot springs, or the furious geysers that shoot hot water into the air.

Humans have been using the Earth's geothermal energy for thousands of years for heat, and even for cooking. But the more sophisticated technologies aimed at maximizing this power began to be developed in the past century.

Geothermal power remains an "energy of the future" even for the Earth's inhabitants at the beginning of the 21st century. We have yet to take great advantage of its potential, but we already know that it is clean, reliable, renewable - and available.

According to the International Geothermal Association, there are some 28 countries utilizing this energy source. For many of these nations, it remains at the experimental stages, but there are others where geothermal energy is an increasingly important source of heat. Iceland is the leader in exploitation of this renewable energy.

Most of the projects using geothermal energy are based on water-pumping devices that take advantage of the Earth's heat to generate electricity. The water is circulated back and reheated over and over again.

But scientists are carrying out intensive research to improve efficiency and to find ways to reach deeper into the Earth to harness the power held by hot magma.

On the Internet, one can find excellent information about geothermal energy and how this "nearly unlimited" energy source works.

Geysers and the Earth's Plumbing Systems
GEO: Geothermal Education Office
U.S. Department of Energy: Geothermal Program
International Geothermal Association
Geothermal Energy around the World - Map
Sandia National Laboratories - U.S.
Geothermal Resources Council

Human Immunodeficiency

The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, was first identified 20 years ago, and has had a major impact on human society. It is the precursor to AIDS, a syndrome famous for its devastating effects, as it leaves death - and often poverty - in its wake.

Since the 1980s, when the first cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) were recorded, the world has learned a great deal about the disease, its causes, ways to slow the virus' multiplication and the key to preventing the spread of the disease: prevention.

Men are indispensable allies for controlling the spread of HIV, say the organizers of World AIDS Day, commemorated around the globe Dec 1. The international theme this year was: "I care… Do you?"

AIDS now exists among populations worldwide. The latest approach to treating the disease is a "cocktail" of medications, and it has proven to very effective. Poor populations tend to have the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence, and they are precisely the ones who cannot afford the expensive medications. Prevention remains a top priority for avoiding infection in the first place.

Scientists at many different institutions continue in their search for a vaccine, but it could be years before they find one that truly works.

The region with highest infection rates is Africa. In some countries of the continent, the disease is devastating entire generations. And beyond the social drama of HIV/AIDS, there is a major economic challenge because the consequences of the disease and strategies for fighting it generate enormous costs for humanity.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the presence of HIV/AIDS varies greatly from country to country. Furthermore, the populations at risk are diverse. Experts agree that these characteristics pose a unique challenge for prevention efforts in the region.

The first step toward prevention in all cases, however, is the same: information. And there is nowhere on Earth that more information on HIV/AIDS can be found than on the Internet.

IPS Special Edition: World AIDS Day - Latin America
UNAIDS: Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS
World Bank: AIDS Economics
WHO: Department of HIV/AIDS
WHO/UNAIDS: HIV Vaccine Initiative
PAHO: AIDS in the Americas
Aegis: Directory of AIDS sites
The Body: AIDS and HIV Information Resource


 

Copyright © 2001 Tierramérica. Todos los Derechos Reservados

 

 

Crédito: NASA
Crédito: NASA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crédito: USNPS/freestockphotos.com
USNPS/freestockphotos.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNAIDS/S. Noorani
UNAIDS/S. Noorani