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NEWS & TECHNOLOGY

FIELD NOTES Male, Maldives

New islands built
to fight rising seas
Nenad Jaric Dauenhauer and depositing it on shallow reefs that
circle the original lagoon. It is being
WHITE sand circles picked out by the fortified with walls 3 metres above sea
sun in sparkling blue seas are the first level – the highest natural island is only
signs my plane has arrived at the 2.5 metres above the sea.
Maldives, a tropical paradise spread Much of Hulhumale still looks like
over almost 1200 islands. a construction site with mountains
The nation is facing a rise in sea of sand, but, when finished in 2023
levels – a peril that made it a poster it will be able to accommodate about
child for the consequences of climate 130,000 people. Eight new islands WATERFRAME / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

change. Former President Mohamed have already been built, and three
Nasheed even had plans to purchase more are planned.
land elsewhere so the population Reclaiming islands is the real
could relocate should sea level rise solution to challenges thrown up by
make their home uninhabitable. climate change, not leaving the country,
But the mood has changed here. says Shiham Adam, director of the –It’s build or sink for the Maldives–
The new government, under President Maldives Marine Research Centre.
Abdulla Yameen, no longer seeks land “It is possible to reclaim any island,” of Save the Beach organised the “Paths can be cleared in much less
to buy, but is instead determined to says Adam. “All you have to do is bring relocation of some of the corals damaging ways by chiselling, and
resist the rising seas with engineering. the dredgers, suck sand and pump that became threatened during the islands should be reclaimed only
The key to the new strategy is it on the low-lying land in shallow reclamation of Hulhumale, and he when absolutely necessary.”
renting out islands and using the waters. It takes four weeks to build thinks this should be a standard Shaahina Ali from Biodiversity
money to build new ones, through the the island and a couple more to procedure in all similar projects. Education and Awareness also argues
process of land reclamation. People put boulders around to stabilise it. Other reef developments are also for a more sustainable approach. “We
living on smaller, lower-lying islands To survive we just need money.” causing some islands to shrink. “Those understand the need for reclamation
could then be relocated to more Leaders of two NGOs I meet that were damaged by explosions of some islands,” Ali says. “But the
flood-resistant ones when needed. here argue for a slower and more meant for clearing the way for boats government should take care that it is
One of those artificial islands being environmentally sensitive pace. through the reefs are losing the sand,” done with as little damage as possible
built is called Hulhumale, near the One problem with reclamation is says Ahmed. “It is carried by storms, in accord with strict, environmentally
capital Male, which contains the City of that sand pumped onto reefs can waves and streams to the deep waters.” friendly projects.” n
Hope. To build it, a state-owned firm is lead to surrounding corals becoming “This invasive process should be Nenad Jaric Dauenhauer’s trip was
pumping sand from surrounding atolls smothered and dying. Hassan Ahmed avoided as much as possible,” he says. paid for by the Maldives government

Cosmic ruler has changed over time could tell us
whether the effect of dark energy
shells is the same size, we can use
the distance between a central galaxy
BAO distances could be spot on, but
others are off by several per cent, and
could probe is increasing. But our current way of
measuring this relies on assumptions
cluster and galaxy clusters at the edge
of the wave – about 500 million light
there is no way to tell which are which.
Now, Glenn Starkman at Case
dark energy that are difficult to check. years – as a kind of cosmological ruler. Western Reserve University in Ohio
About 30,000 years after the big But it isn’t perfect: as the universe and his colleagues have come up
MEASURING cosmological distances is bang, gravity made normal matter aged, this neat structuring blurred with a ruler that sidesteps the need
tricky if your ruler isn’t up to scratch. A collapse around random dense spots, as gravity and magnetic fields pulled for these assumptions. Instead of
new cosmological standard ruler could but pressure from photons caused galaxies in different directions. So we following the galaxies’ motions, the
help us figure out why the universe it to rebound outwards again. This need to make assumptions about how team measure distance relative to
is expanding at an accelerating rate. cosmic bounce created acoustic galaxies have shifted over time. Some an unmoving mathematical midpoint
This is usually put down to dark waves, called baryon acoustic in the BAOs called the linear point
energy, a mysterious force that seems oscillations (BAO), that expanded “Measurements of cosmic (arxiv.org/abs/1703.01275).
to be pushing the universe apart. outwards in a spherical shape and distances could tell us Starkman says the technique is
Accurate measurements of how the carried normal matter with them. whether the effect of up to four times more accurate than
distance between clusters of galaxies Because each of these spherical dark energy is increasing” existing methods. Matt Reynolds n

12 | NewScientist | 25 March 2017