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Sep 9, 2020

Tesla Full Self-Driving Review | Consumer Reports

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, sustainability, transportation

Tesla Motors, the all-electric vehicle manufacturer, is known for building popular EVs such as the Model 3, Model S, and upcoming Cybertruck. Tesla says it is developing the hardware and software necessary to power the world’s first self-driving cars. This software costs Tesla owners an additional $8,000 to purchase what it calls the Full Self-Driving Capability suite of features. But do all the features of the Full Self-Driving Capability package work as promised? We explain each feature’s intended use, and show you how they performed in our tests.

UPDATE: After publishing this video, a viewer alerted CR that there was a mismatch at 5:50 between what we described happened with stop sign control–our tester slamming on the brakes after the car missed the stop sign– and what we showed onscreen–the car slamming on the brakes. CR’s testers did experience both scenarios.

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Sep 9, 2020

Towards a Global Consciousness

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, climatology, futurism, robotics/AI, sustainability

Collective Intelligence to Solve the MegaCrisis

William E. Halal, The TechCast Project, George Washington University


The coronavirus is a stark reminder of the devastating damage that could be inflicted by cyberattacks, superbugs, freak weather and a variety of other threats. These wild cards are in addition to the existential challenge posed by climate change, gross inequality, financial meltdowns, autocratic governments, terrorism and other massive problems collectively called the Global MegaCrisis.

I sense the world is so frightened by recent disasters that people are searching for new solutions. They seem ready to break from the past that is no longer working. Climate change is starting to bite, for instance, and there is a growing consensus that the status quo is no longer sustainable.

I have studied this dilemma for decades, and I think it can be best understood as a transition to the next stage of social evolution. The Knowledge Age that dominated the last two decades is fading into the past as AI automates knowledge, forcing us to move beyond knowledge and develop a global consciousness able to resolve the MegaCrisis.

Yes, I know this is a bold claim, but that is how the shift to a world of knowledge looked 40 years ago. When computers filled rooms, I recall telling people that we were entering a world of personal computers. The typical response was “Why would anyone want a personal computer?”

Just so, today’s post-factual era illustrates how the smart phone, social media, and autocrats like Trump have moved public attention beyond knowledge and into a world of values, emotions and beliefs. Now the challenge is to use these new powers of social media to shape a global consciousness, or face disaster. While this may seem impossible, that is always the case before major upheavals. Nobody thought the USSR would collapse up until its very end.

In fact, the Business Roundtable’s recent announcement that business should move beyond the bottom line to include the interests of all stakeholders is revolutionary. It has now been promulgated by the World Economic Forum and other influential bodies. The gravity of this change is such that business is now being told to help resolve the climate crisis. Larry Fink, who runs the biggest investment firm in the world (Black Rock), directed the companies he owns to help address climate costs in their operations; within days, many firms announced climate plans.

This historic shift in consciousness could make corporations models of cooperation for society at large. In short, I think the world is heading toward some type of historic shift in consciousness, a collective epiphany, a code of global ethics, a spiritual revolution, a political paradigm shift or a new mindset. Without a consciousness based on global unity, cooperation and other essential beliefs, there seems little hope. And with a shift to global consciousness, it all seems possible.


Toward a Global Consciousness

The governing ideas inherited from the industrial past are outdated and heading toward disaster. It is a collapse of today’s reigning “materialist” ideology of Capitalism, economic growth, money, power, self-interest, rationality, knowledge, etc. These values remain valid and useful, of course, but they are now badly limited. Prevailing practices in the US, as the most prominent example, are failing to address the climate crisis, low wage employee welfare, universal health care, women’s rights, political gridlock, aging infrastructure and other social issues that lie beyond sheer economics.

This could become a “Collapse of Capitalism” roughly equivalent to the “Collapse of Communism” in the 1990s, and it stems from the same fatal flaw – failure to adapt to a changing world. Communism could not meet the complex demands of the Information Revolution, and now Capitalism seems to be failing to adapt to a unified globe threatened by pandemics, climate change and the other threats making up the MegaCrisis.

The big question remaining is, “What should be the new vision, values, principles, and policies?” At the risk of appearing pedantic, I integrate what has been learned above and my forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge, to outline five principles of what I consider “global consciousness.”

1. Treat the planet and all life forms as sacred. The Fermi Paradox notes that no other civilizations have been detected after decades of SETI searching. This rarity of life reminds us what a miracle plant Earth really is, and that we are responsible for its well-being.

2. Govern the world as a unified whole. Nations remain the major players in this global order, but they should be lightly governed by some type of global institution like the UN and other international bodies. Individuals should continue to be loyal to their nations and local institutions, but they should also accept their role as global citizens.

3. Collaborate With All Stakeholders. Free enterprise is the basis of society, and the good news is that business is on the verge of becoming cooperative. The Business Roundtable announcement that all stakeholders should be treated equally with investors seems an historic breakthrough. This move to a quasi-democratic form of enterprise could set a new standard for collaborative behavior and human values throughout modern societies. One of the benefits from a tragedy like this crisis may be a loss of faith in the status quo and an urge to cooperate. I see it everywhere, and it is a blessing in disguise emerging out of chaos.

4. Embrace diversity as an asset. Rather than becoming a uniform pallid bureaucracy, a unified world should embrace the wondrous diversity of cultures and individuals. Working across such differences poses a challenge, naturally, but differences are also a source of new knowledge, talents and human energy.

5. Celebrate Community. Any society needs frequent opportunities to gather together in good spirit, enjoy differences and commonalities, and to simply celebrate the glory of life. The World Olympics Games, for instance, are special because they provide a rare feeling of global community. We could witness a flowering of celebratory events over the coming years to nourish the global soul.

Shaping Consciousness

This is only one small study, of course, but I hope it provokes thinking toward a widely held vision for planet Earth at a time of crisis. An historic change in consciousness is hardly done overnight, and the obstacles posed by the status quo are formidable. But the Information Revolution provides a powerful method for shaping consciousness by using the Internet and public media. Think of the explosion of ideas, hatred and forbidden desires released by billions of people blasting into loudspeakers like Facebook and Twitter. Anybody can use the media to shape public opinion instantly, for better or worse.

The task we face is to shape a unified consciousness out of this morass of differences to solve the global crises that loom ahead. Today’s threats to reason is challenging us to counter wrongheaded beliefs and to provide more attractive visions, such as the principles for global consciousness outlined here. I suggest the place to begin is by discussing these ideas as widely as possible, and to shape public opinion roughly along these lines.

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Sep 8, 2020

An Army of Microscopic Robots Is Ready to Patrol Your Body

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, solar power, sustainability

I was so wrong.

Last week, Drs. Marc Miskin*, Itai Cohen, and Paul McEuen at Cornell University spearheaded a collaboration that tackled one of the most pressing problems in microrobotics—getting those robots to move in a controllable manner. They graced us with an army of Pop-Tart-shaped microbots with seriously tricked-out actuators, or motors that allow a robot to move. In this case, the actuators make up the robot’s legs.

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Sep 8, 2020

Physicists nudge atoms within less than a trillionth of a second

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, particle physics, quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

Scientists from Regensburg and Zurich have found a fascinating way to push an atom with controlled forces so quickly that they can choreograph the motion of a single molecule within less than a trillionth of a second. The extremely sharp needle of their unique ultrafast microscope serves as the technical basis: It carefully scans molecules, similar to a record player. Physicists at the University of Regensburg now showed that shining light pulses onto this needle can transform it into an ultrafast “atomic hand.” This allows molecules to be steered—and new technologies can be inspired.

Atoms and are the constituents of virtually all matter that surrounds us. Interacting with each other according to the rules of quantum mechanics, they form complex systems with an infinite variety of functions. To examine , in a cell, or new ways of solar energy harvesting, scientists would love to not only observe individual molecules, but even control them.

Most intuitively, people learn by haptic exploration, such as pushing, pulling, or tapping. Naturally, we are used to macroscopic objects that we can directly touch, squeeze or nudge by exerting forces. Similarly, atoms and molecules interact via forces, but these forces are extreme in multiple respects. First, the forces acting between atoms and molecules occur at extremely small lengths. In fact, these objects are so small that a special length scale has been introduced to measure them: 1 Ångström (1Å = 0.000,000,000,1 m). Second, at the same time, atoms and molecules move and wiggle around extremely fast. In fact, their motion takes place faster than picoseconds (1 ps = 0.000,000,000,001 s). Hence, to directly steer a molecule during its motion, a tool is required to generate ultrafast forces at the atomic scale.

Sep 8, 2020

Plant protein discovery could reduce need for fertilizer

Posted by in categories: chemistry, climatology, nanotechnology, sustainability

Researchers have discovered how a protein in plant roots controls the uptake of minerals and water, a finding which could improve the tolerance of agricultural crops to climate change and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

The research, published in Current Biology, shows that members of the blue copper proteins family, the Uclacyanins are vital in the formation of Casparian strips. These strips are essential structures that control mineral nutrient and water use efficiencies by forming tight seals between cells in plants, blocking nutrients and water leaking between.

This is the first evidence showing the implications of this family in the biosynthesis of lignin, one of the most abundant organic polymers on earth. This study reveals that the required for Casparian strip lignin deposition is highly ordered by forming nano-domains which can have a huge impact on plant nutrition, a finding that could help in the development of crops that are efficient in taking in the nutrients they need.

Sep 7, 2020

Tesla Model 3 owner reaches Mt. Everest’s base camp with zero range anxiety

Posted by in categories: sustainability, transportation

A Tesla Model 3 from China has recently gone where no other Model 3 has gone before. In an epic 5,500 km (3,400-mile) road trip, a white Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor AWD started a long journey from Shenzhen all the way to the base camp of Mt. Everest. What’s more remarkable was that over the long trip, the Tesla owner remarked that he experienced no range anxiety at all, despite his extremely remote destination.

Driving to the base camp of Mt. Everest is no joke, and it is hardly something that is considered relaxing and convenient. Needless to say, any trip that involves one of the highest and most dangerous mountains in the world is not something that is taken lightly. Some who drive to Everest’s base camp even utilize support vehicles just to be on the safe side. The Model 3 owner, for his part, took on the journey alone.

Sep 6, 2020

Japan’s Science Missteps Risk Major Diplomatic Incident In Mauritius Over Wakashio Oil Spill

Posted by in categories: science, sustainability

As Japanese scientists try to claim no Wakashio oil in Mauritian waters despite images, Mauritius sign a major trade deal with China amid growing frustration with Japan. What started as a shipping incident is fast turning into a major diplomatic crisis for Japan.

Sep 6, 2020

Lighting the way for new solar fuels science

Posted by in categories: science, solar power, sustainability

Yale chemists are pushing forward with innovative work to develop tomorrow’s liquid fuels from sunlight.

A quintet of Yale researchers — Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, Nilay Hazari, Patrick Holland, James Mayer, and Hailiang Wang — are among the principal investigators (PI) for the U.S. Department of Energy’s $40 million Center for Hybrid Approaches in Solar Energy to Liquid Fuels (CHASE).

CHASE, which involves six scientific institutions, will be based at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Yale’s portion of the funding is $6.27 million over five years, and will support dozens of graduate student and postdoctoral co-workers on Science Hill and in the Energy Sciences Institute at West Campus.

Sep 6, 2020

California ISO Declares Stage 2 Emergency, Warns of Rotating Blackouts

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

California’s Independent System Operator declared a Stage 2 emergency Saturday, warning residents to expect rotating blackouts and advising them to conserve energy.

Stage 2 means, “The ISO has taken all mitigating action and is no longer able to provide its expected energy requirements.”

The declaration was due to high heat and increased demand, according to CAISO. In addition, CAISO said fires caused a generator and a solar farm to trip offline, highlighting the need for residents to reduce energy use.

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Sep 4, 2020

Correcting anode-free cell failure to enable higher-energy-density batteries

Posted by in categories: chemistry, energy, sustainability, transportation

Batteries with high energy densities could enable the creation of a wider range of electric vehicles, including flying vehicles that can transport humans in urban environments. Past studies predict that to support the operation of vehicles capable of take-off and landing, batteries require energy densities of approximately 400 Wh kg-1 at the cell level, which is approximately 30% higher than the energy density of most existing lithium-ion (Li-ion) cells.

In addition to powering flying vehicles, high-energy (i.e., single units within a battery that convert chemical into ) could increase the distance that electric cars can travel before they need to be charged again. They may also reduce overall fabrication costs for electric vehicles, as similar results could be achieved using fewer but better-performing cells.

Anode-free lithium metal cells are particularly promising for creating batteries with higher energy densities. While they use the same cathode as Li-ion cells, these cells store energy via an electroplated lithium metal instead of a graphite host, and they can have energy densities that are 60% greater than those of Li-ion cells.

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