Transcript for NASA Connect - Virtual Earth

[ Music ]

Earth science week encourages
everyone from around the world

to learn more about
how our planet works

and how it's systems interact.

In honor of Earth science week,

this episode of NASA
Connect will introduce you

to Earth system science.

You will learn what a system is,
and how to apply that concept

to learn more about
how the earth works.

You will observe researchers and
scientists using math, science,

and technology to comprehend
the workings of our planet.

In your classroom,
you'll do a cool activity

to help you understand systems.

And, using the instructional
technology activities,

you will explore earthquakes,
Antarctica, and more.

So stay tuned as NASA Connect takes
you on a tour of our virtual Earth.

[ Music ]

[Jennifer] Hi, I'm Jennifer Poli.

And welcome to NASA Connect.

The show that connects you to math,
science, technology, and NASA.

We're here in sunny Virginia
Beach, which is located

in Virginia's Tidewater region.

Now in case you're not familiar
with where Virginia Beach

or Virginia's Tidewater region
is located, let's take a look

at a bird's eye view
of our location.

Virginia Beach this in
the Tidewater region,

located in southeastern Virginia.

Virginia is part of
the United States,

which we all know is
part of North America.

The continent of North
America is one

of the seven continents
on the planet Earth.

Does it appear that we are all
interconnected in some way?

In a global scale, have you
ever wondered how the earth

really works?

Now here, we can see the
ocean, the beach, and the sky.

Not to mention all the people,
animals, and marine life.

They all play important roles in
determining how our planet works.

We can see that the earth is
whole, meaning that everything

on the planet, inside and
out, is interconnected.

Say, do you know the branch
of science that deals

with studying how the earth works?

Well, if you said Earth
science, you're getting warm.

Scientists have established
a new field

of science called
Earth system science.

The earth is a system
of individual parts

that work together
as a complex whole.

Now in order to understand
this concept,

we need to know what a system is.

And we'll get to that in a minute.

But first, throughout the program,

you will be asked several
inquiry based questions.

After the questions
appear on the screen,

your teacher will pause the
program to allow you time to answer

and discuss the questions.

This is your time to explore
and become critical thinkers.

Students, take a few
minutes to answer

and discuss the following

What is a system?

What are some examples of a system?

Choose one system and draw a
picture with its parts labeled.

It's now time to pause the program.

So what if the system?

We use the word system when we want
to describe something that is made

up of different kinds of parts.

These parts join together to
form an interconnected whole.

Was your definition
similar to this one?

Learning to think
systematically is very useful,

because all sorts of
systems around us.

In fact, each of us is
our own complex system.

For example, each of us is made
up of more than 200 kind of cells.

These skin, bone,
blood, gland, nerve,

and muscle cells all join together
to form an incredible system.

An individual human person.

Looking at ourselves as a system
reveals two important features

of systems.

One: each part of a system
can itself be described

as a smaller system or subsystem.

Two: a system can be very
different from its parts.

Let's look at the first feature.

Each part of a system can also
be described as a subsystem.

One of the part of a human
system is the circulatory system.

This system moves blood
throughout your body.

However, the circulatory system
itself is a system with many parts.

The parts of the circulatory
system include the heart, vans,

arteries, and blood cells.

The heart is also a
system that made of parts.

These include muscle cells,
nerve cells, and valves.

You can go even further
and concentrate

on the heart muscle cell.

The heart muscle cell is made of
a cell membrane, cell nucleus,

and many different proteins.

Whew! You could go crazy
breaking down all those systems.

And you know in case
you didn't realize,

we are not the biggest
system around.

The human system is actually
part of the system of life,

which is part of the planet Earth.

And the planet Earth is
part of the solar system.

Are you with me so far?

So you see, each part of a
system can itself be described

as a system.

The second system feature states

that a system can be very
different from its parts.

A school bus is another
example of a system.

A school bus has hundreds of
parts, such as the frame, engine,

wheels, gas tank, and seats.

Individually, none of
these parts will get you

from your home to school and back.

Joined together as an
interconnected whole,

the bus system can take you
back and forth to school.

The school bus has
properties that are different

from the properties of its parts.

No part of the school bus has
the ability to transport you.

Only the bus functioning as a
whole system has these properties.

So, did you come up with some
good examples of systems?

Now that you have an
understanding of what a system is,

how can you apply the concept
of systems to learn more

about how the earth works?

Recall the two features
about systems.

Number one, each part of a
system can itself be described

as a system.

And number two, a system can be
very different from its parts.

Okay guys, I have three
questions I want you to try

and answer before we
continue with the program.

What do you think are the
parts of the Earth system?

How do the parts of the Earth
system you identified work together

to make Earth function as a whole?

How is the Earth system
itself part of larger systems?

Compare your answers to all
three questions with others

in your class or group.

As the teacher pauses the program,

keep in mind the two
features about systems.

How did you do with
those questions?

You know guys, NASA has come
to understand that the only way

to really comprehend the
workings of our planet is

to view the earth
as a whole system.

To learn more about
Earth system science

and have NASA studies
the earth, let's go visit

with Dr. Melody Ann Avery from
NASA Langley Research Center.

[Dr. Avery] Earth system
science is an integration

of many scientific disciplines,
including geology, biology,

chemistry, physics, oceanography,
meteorology, computer science,

and all other sciences that
study life and the earth.

NASA scientists use
modern technologies

to measure key features of our
planet, such as concentrations

of gases in the atmosphere
and the temperature

of the ocean in many locations.

Satellites orbiting our planet
provided enormous amount of data

that scientists use to try to
understand how our planet works

and the changes that are happening.

You know earth science, long
perceived as a minor field compared

to biology and the physical
sciences, is now emerging

as an important field because
of the new ability of humans

to change the balance
of the Earth system.

And students, with Earth
system science you have greater

opportunities to learn
through inquiry,

exploration, and discovery.

Aided by the expanded
use of the Internet

and visualization technology.

I think it's fair to say that
our quality of life depends

on the quality of our earth
scientists, and in the quality

of our citizens knowledge
about the Earth system.

This is because understanding
the land, air, water,

and life of our planet
gives us the knowledge

to best manage the world around us.

For the first time in history,

we can dramatically change the
way the planet works as a whole.

Here are a few questions
for you to think about.

How can we change the way
the planet works as a whole?

What technologies
have humans developed

to make that change possible?

Well, there are so many
people living on the planet

and each person needs
energy like food, water,

heating, and transportation.

All of this energy,
if used carelessly,

can't change the Earth's
climate, deplete its ozone shield,

and dramatically alter the number
and kinds of other organisms

that share our planet.

Students, let's take a look
back at one of the questions

that Jennifer posed to
you earlier in the show.

What do you think are the
parts of the Earth system?

Everything in Earth's system
can be placed into one

of four major subsystems.

Land, air, water, and life.

We call these four
subsystems spheres.

Specifically, they are the
lithosphere or land, atmosphere

or air, hydrosphere or
water, and biosphere or life.

Let's learn a little
bit about each.

Suppose you were to
slice the earth in half

and view its different layers.

What would it look like?

The lithosphere, sometimes
called the geosphere,

contains the hard solid land
of the planet's surface,

called the crust, semisolid layer
underneath the crust called the

mantle, the liquid
layer near the center

of the planet called
the outer core,

and a solid dense center
called the inner core.

The crust is very uneven.

There are high mountain ranges
like the Rockies and Andes,

shown in red, huge plains or flat
areas like those in Texas, Iowa,

and Brazil, shown in green;

and deep valleys along the
ocean floor, shown in blue.

The atmosphere contains
all the air in our system.

It extends from the planet
surface to more than 100 km

above the planet surface.

The atmosphere itself is
composed of a number of layers.

The middle portion of the
atmosphere, the stratosphere,

protect the organisms
of the biosphere

from the sun's ultraviolet

When air temperature in a
lower part of the atmosphere,

the troposphere, changes,
weather occurs.

As air in the lower
atmosphere is heated or cooled,

it moves around the planet.

The result can be as simple
as a breeze or as complex

as a tornado or hurricane.

The hydrosphere contains
all the solid, liquid,

and gaseous water of the planet.

The hydrosphere extends from the
earth's surface downward several

kilometers into the lithosphere,

and upward about 12 km
into the atmosphere.

Solid or frozen water can be
found in the form of glaciers,

ice caps, and icebergs.

This is also called
the cry is fear.

Liquid water can be found in the
form of oceans, rivers, lakes,

streams, and groundwater
beneath the earth's surface.

Gaseous water, water vapor,
can be found in the atmosphere

and also inside your lungs,
where it is key to life.

The final sphere, the biosphere,

contains all the planet's
living things.

This sphere includes all
of the microorganisms,

plants, and animals of Earth.

Within the biosphere, living things
form ecological communities based

on physical surroundings
of an area.

These communities are
referred to as biomes.

Deserts, grasslands, and
tropical rainforests are three

of the many biomes that
exist within the biosphere.

Can you determine what
biome you live in?

Now it is time for
you and your teacher

to discuss Jennifer's question.

How do the parts of the Earth
system you identified work together

to make Earth function as I hold?

Also, now that you compared your
parts list with NASA's list,

how does each sphere work together
to make Earth function as a whole?

This is a great time to pause the
program and discuss these questions

with your peers or teacher.

Students, remember there
is one last question

that Jennifer would like you
to discuss with your teacher.

And that is, how is the
Earth system itself part

of larger systems?

But before you discuss that
question, let's send it back to


[Jennifer] Thanks, Dr. Avery.

Okay guys, let's review.

So far, we introduced
a new approach

to understanding how the
earthworks called Earth

system science.

Next, we define what a system is,

and how the Earth system
is composed of spheres.

Now it's time for you to become
an Earth systems scientist

and apply what you've
learned about systems.

But before we begin the activity,

let's review an important
mathematical standard

called representation.

Representation is central
to the study of mathematics.

Basically, representations help
you communicate your thinking.

Some examples of representations
include drawings, charts, graphs,

symbols, and physical objects.

By creating, comparing, and using
various types of representations,

you can develop a
deeper understanding

of mathematical concepts
and relationships.

Earth system scientists are
constantly looking for patterns

that can help them
understand how the earthworks.

By analyzing data, they can
construct relationships among

numbers and the scientific
principles they are investigating.

Often, scientists will present the
relationships through some form

of visual or graphical

Now that you understand the
importance of representation,

the students at Great
Neck Middle School,

right here in Virginia Beach, will
show you this program's activity.

It involves system diagrams.

[Voices] NASA Connect asked us to
show you this program's activity.

It's an introduction to systems.

You can find the activity
in the educator guide,

which can be downloaded at
the NASA Connect web site.

Here are the main objectives.

Students will be able to one:
model a familiar Earth system

by using standard system symbols.

Number two: evaluate
the global water cycle

by comparing it to a working model.

In the activity, you will be
asked to create a system diagram

or flowchart of one of the Earth
subsystems you identified earlier

in the program.

Here is an example of how
to create a system diagram.

[Teacher] Class, let's model how

to represent soil it
warmed by the sun.

Follow along with me
using your journal.

Students that have
personal digital assistants

or PDAs should use pico map
to draw their system diagram.

The sun is considered the source.

Soil is the destination.

Heat energy flows from
the sun to the soil.

Alas, what factors might affect
how much heat energy is absorbed

by the soil?


[Kyle] Seasons?

[Teacher] Great answer.

Anyone else?


[Abby] Clouds and time of day.

[Teacher] Good answer, Abby.

Seasons, clouds, and time

of day I'll affect how much heat
energy is absorbed by the soil.

Other conditions include land
cover and atmospheric conditions.

Using circles to represent
conditions or factors

that might affect the system,
let's add the three factors.

Seasons, time of day, and clouds.

[Speaker] After your teacher
completes the model example,

you will gain more
experience with system diagrams

by completing a system
diagram or flowchart for one

of your systems be listed
while watching this program.

Students, you are
strongly encouraged

to develop your own
symbols or representation.

Be prepared to write a short
paragraph summarizing your system.

Now you are ready to
take on this challenge

of developing a system diagram
for one of our subsystems.

You will work in groups to
read the technical passage,

the global water cycle, which is
located in the education guide.

To help you visualize
the water cycle,

you can download a great picture

at the United States
geological society web site.

Or you can access a wonderful
animation of the water cycle

at the following web site.

Using your own symbols,
create a system diagram

for the global water cycle as
described in the reading passage.

Students, don't forget to label
your sources and destinations,

and label the direction
of the flow.

Have one or two groups
share their diagrams

and explanations to your class.

Finally, students, you can evaluate
other groups' system diagrams using

the activity specific
scoring tool that can be found

in the educator guide.

[Speaker] Special thanks to
the AI AA, student branch

from George Washington University,

for helping us out
on this activity.

[Speaker] Thanks, we
had a great experience.

And we encourage teachers to
visit our web site to learn more

about the AI AA mentorship
program in your area.

[Jennifer] Thanks, you guys.

And by the way, I
still haven't forgotten

about that third question I
asked you earlier in the program.

How is the Earth system
part of larger systems?

I'll get your answers a
little later in the program.

But first, did you know NASA has
three important mission statements?

They are: to understand and
protect our home planet,

to explore the universe
and search for life,

and to inspire the next generation
of explorers as only NASA can.

So how do these NASA mission
statements apply to the study

of the Earth and beyond?

Well, Dr. J. Marshall
Sheppard from NASA's office

of Earth science has the scoop.

[Dr. Sheppard] Thanks, Jennifer.

The Earth science application
program focuses on applications

of national priority to expand and
accelerate the use of knowledge,

science, and technologies resulting

from the Earth science enterprise
mission of improving predictions

in weather, climate,
and natural hazards.

NASA has identified 12 applications

of national priority
to benefit society.

They are: energy forecasting,
agricultural efficiencies,

carbon management, aviation
safety, homeland security,

community growth management,
disaster preparedness,

public health, coastal management,
biological invasive species,

water management and conservation,
and air quality management.

Essentially NASA operates many
scientific missions in partnership

with public, private,
and academic institutions

to study the Earth
and its subsystems.

Earth system scientists
analyze the data

to learn how the different
subsystems work together

to function as a complete hole.

Then, Federal agencies such
as the Department of Energy,

Federal Aviation Administration,
US Department of Agriculture,

US Geological Survey
Society, National Oceanic

and Atmospheric Administration,
and other agencies use our data

to develop application tools
to help improve the quality

of life here on Earth.

It's important that
we all work together

to ensure our planet is little
before many generations to come.

Here's a question to think about.

Choose four of the 12
applications and try

to determine what Earth subsystem
-- lithosphere, hydrosphere,

biosphere, or atmosphere -- or
subsystems it's associated with.

Then discuss your answers
amongst your peers and teacher.

As the teacher posits the program,

keep in mind how Jennifer
defined what a system is earlier

in the program.

Are you starting to understand
about the concept of systems?

Good. Jennifer mentioned
NASA's mission statement.

The first part is to protect
and understand our home planet.

Data collected by NASA
satellites contribute greatly

to our understanding and
ability to forecast weather,

climate patterns,
and natural hazards.

The second part of NASA's
mission statement is

to explore the universe
and search for life.

Applications developed from
Earth system science data could

potentially be used to study the
other planets in the solar system.

Speaking of our solar system,

I believe that Jennifer hasn't
answered the question regarding how

our Earth is a part
of larger systems.

Hmm. The third part of NASA's
mission statement definitely

applies to you.

To inspire the next
generation of explorers.

Understanding how the earth works

and environmental awareness
are topics that challenge

and excite the youth of today.

Future scientists and
engineers like you to continue

to bring real scientific

in studying our planet.

By the way, do you know what
careers are related to the study

of Earth system science?

Well I created a list of a variety
of applications relating to career.

Let's take a look at them.

Forestry, migration of populations,
water management, agriculture,

such as crop forecasting and
fish catch, health issues,

such as famine or outbreaks
of asthma and other diseases,

technological instrumentation
applications based on satellite

and other types of remote
sensing, and weather forecasting

and weather related events.

Can you match some of
the ideas you thought

of what my applications list?

I bet you didn't realize that there
are a lot of careers associated

with studying the Earth.

And mathematics is a
fundamental skill in all.

The last part of the mission
statement says, as only NASA can.

NASA contributes scientific
research and technology,

which our partners used to
develop innovative approaches

for Earth science
applications worldwide.

It's important to understand how
the Earth functions as a whole

and to meet the needs to
help manage forest fires,

coastal environment, agriculture,
impacts of infectious diseases,

aviation safety, and
hurricane forecasting.

So the next time you watch the news
and hear about hurricanes, floods,

wild fires, earthquakes, or a
volcano erupting, take a moment

and think about how it might
be impacting your local area.

Jennifer, back to you.

[Jennifer] Thanks, Dr. Sheppard.

Hey guys, check out this
really cool Web activity

that should motivate
you to learn more

about the 12 national applications.

Thank you sir.

Going fishing.

Hey. Let's take a look

at two really cool wet
activities developed by space stars

to learn more about two
of the Earth's subsystems:

the lithosphere and
the hydrosphere.

The two Web activities are called
earthquake hunters and Waterworld.

And both activities
can be downloaded

from the NASA Connect web site.

Do you have what it takes
to be an earthquake hunter?

NASA has a very important
satellite system,

called the global earthquake
satellite system or GESS,

that is very concerned
with tectonic activity

on the Earth's surface.

Say, do you know what
tectonic means?

Well, it pertains to the structure
or movement of the Earth's crust.

Now, this activity lets
you step into the shoes

of the scientists studying
information from GESS

by taking a look at the
tectonic activity on Earth.

You will use a geographic
information systems, or GIS,

software tool to allow you to
analyze different types of data.

Explore and investigate
where the majority

of earthquakes took
place in 2002 and 2003.

Were they around large
cities such as Los Angeles?

Tokyo, Japan, or Mexico
City, Mexico?

Do they occur all over the world,
or just in certain locations?

Is there a relationship between
earthquakes and plate boundaries?

It is your job to determine where
the majority of earthquakes occur

around the world, and how
many people do effect.

Can you forecast where the
next earthquakes will occur?

In the second Web
activity, called Waterworld,

students will explore the
continent of Antarctica.

Approximately 90%
of the world's snow

and ice can be found in Antarctica.

But there is more to
this mysterious continent

than just that.

What if all the frozen snow
and ice in Antarctica melted?

Imagine what would happen
if 30,000,000 km of snow

and ice became part
of the hydrosphere.

Students, you will analyze
the map of the world

when the oceans are 5 m, 50 m,
and 73 m above normal sea level.

What area of the world
will be affected

by a 5 m increase sea level?

What about the 50 m increase,
or a total fall of Antarctica?

Will the place where you live
still be above sea level?

The answers to all these questions
are left for you to decide.

Okay guys, now we can
finally get to that question

that hasn't been answered.

How is the Earth system
part of larger systems?

The answer that question
is left up to you.

Your challenge is to
answer the question based

on what you learned
from this program.

Developed a PowerPoint
presentation, write a report,

or even design a piece of artwork.

Students, check out the
Earth system science song

on our web site, developed by
Magic State of the Art and put

at the end of this program.

It might guide you in finding
the answer to your question.

Submit your presentation, report,

or artwork to the
NASA Connect web site.

There's a good chance that
your presentation will be seen

by millions of students
across the country.

We look forward to your submittals.

Well, guys, that wraps up
another episode of NASA Connect.

We'd like to thank everyone who
helped make this program possible.

Got a comment, question,
or suggestion?

Then e-mail them to

Or pick up a pen and mail
them to NASA Connect,

NASA Center for Distance Learning,
NASA Langley Research Center,

Mail stop 400, Hampton, VA 23681.

Teachers, if you would like
a videotape of this program

and the accompanying
educator guide,

check out the NASA
Connect web site.

So until next time,
stay connected to math,

science, technology, and NASA.

Bye from Virginia Beach!

[ Music ]