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May 1, 2018

Twin spacecraft to weigh in on Earth’s changing water

Posted by in categories: climatology, health

A pair of new spacecraft that will observe our planet’s ever-changing water cycle, ice sheets and crust is in final preparations for a California launch no earlier than Saturday, May 19. The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), will take over where the first GRACE mission left off when it completed its 15-year mission in 2017.

GRACE-FO will continue monitoring monthly changes in the distribution of mass within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within the solid Earth itself. These data will provide unique insights into Earth’s changing climate, Earth system processes and even the impacts of some human activities, and will have far-reaching benefits to society, such as improving water resource management.

“Water is critical to every aspect of life on Earth—for health, for agriculture, for maintaining our way of living,” said Michael Watkins, GRACE-FO science lead and director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “You can’t manage it well until you can measure it. GRACE-FO provides a unique way to measure water in many of its phases, allowing us to manage water resources more effectively.”

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May 1, 2018

How to make solar hydrogen year round

Posted by in categories: particle physics, solar power, sustainability

Researchers have built a new dynamic model showing how hydrogen produced with concentrated solar thermal energy can be made more continuously through a novel seasonal control strategy with ceria (CeO2) particles buffering the effect of variation in solar radiation.

A paper, “Dynamic Model of a Continuous Hydrogen Production Plant Based on CeO2 Thermochemical Cycle,” presented at the SolarPACES2017 Annual Conference, proposes using ceria not only as the redox reactant in , but also for heat storage and heat transfer media (or medium) to control the temperatures.

Hydrogen can be produced by splitting water (H2O into H2 and oxygen) at very high temperatures using concentrated solar thermal (CST) — avoiding today’s use of fossil fuels for production. Using mirrors reflecting focused sunlight onto a receiver, CST can generate very high temperatures for thermochemical processes in a solar , up to 2,000°C, and can store solar energy thermally so it can dispatch the energy when needed.

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May 1, 2018

To create safer cities for everyone, we need to avoid security that threatens

Posted by in categories: economics, security, space

The central role of public spaces in the social, cultural, political and economic life of cities makes it crucial that they’re accessible to everyone. One of the most important qualities of accessible public spaces is safety. If people do not feel safe in a public space, they are less likely to use it, let alone linger in it.

Perceptions of are socially produced and socially variable. It is not simply the presence of crime – or “threatening environments” – that contributes to lack of safety or fear.

All sorts of measures are put in place to make public spaces safer, from design to policing. But when we consider the effectiveness of these measures, we always have to ask: whose safety is being prioritised?

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May 1, 2018

Most microplastic harm done at lowest levels of food web, according to analysis

Posted by in category: food

Purdue University scientists led a comprehensive analysis of research concerning the effects of microplastics on aquatic life, with the results showing widely different impacts among different types of animals. Strong negative effects were particularly apparent for small animals, such as larval fish and zooplankton, a source of food for many species, suggesting serious potential consequences that could ripple throughout the food web.

Tomas Höök, an associate professor in Purdue University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and director of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program, led a team that designed a meta-analysis of research related to the effects of microplastics on aquatic life. The analysis, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, used results from 43 other studies that each considered the effects of microplastics on consumption of , growth, reproduction, and/or survival of aquatic . The analysis mathematically calculated one or more effect size(s) for each study, then those effects were combined statistically to understand the big-picture effect on animals. The animals included in this study were all aquatic but ranged from fish to mussels to sea urchins to worms.

The most significant findings included:

Continue reading “Most microplastic harm done at lowest levels of food web, according to analysis” »

May 1, 2018

New Tech Marries the Best of Photonics and Electronics on the Same Silicon Chip

Posted by in categories: computing, materials

A new technique integrates optical components into general purpose chips using standard manufacturing processes and materials. Light carries data faster and generates little heat compared to electronics, which makes it attractive to chipmakers eager to boost device speeds.

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May 1, 2018

US tech ban on ZTE exposes China’s Achilles’ heel

Posted by in category: economics

Even more importantly, it will have wider repercussions on the overall development of China itself. Inevitably, it will hinder the country’s ambition to narrow the technology gap with the developed West.


China’s reliance on key technologies from the West shows it still needs the developed economies much more than they need China.

By Cary Huang

Continue reading “US tech ban on ZTE exposes China’s Achilles’ heel” »

Apr 30, 2018

Blue Origin Is Testing Reusable Rockets. Here’s Why You Rarely See Them

Posted by in categories: innovation, space travel

Rough translation: Blue Origin doesn’t give a damn about SpaceX’s media circus. It’s not trying to outdo competitors with each subsequent project — the company is working on just two rockets (New Shepard and New Glenn) with hopes to launch a manned flight before the end of 2018. Blue Origin is worrying about Blue Origin. That’s it.

It’s a bit too early to tell whether Blue Origin’s strategy is any better than SpaceX’s, or vice versa. Competition is a powerful force for innovation. But with the commercial space industry quickly growing (and SpaceX threatening to monopolize it), it’s easy enough to keep innovating in an effort to one-up the competition, losing sight of the main goal in the process.

One way to judge who wins? Whoever sends humans farther than they’ve ever gone. In that sense, the companies are striving for the same goal in the long term, and those that keep their eyes on the prize might fare best. In her interview with Engadget, Blue Origin’s Dietrich said that the company’s vision of millions of people living and working in space meant that they “are applauding all launch operators that are building new and more capable systems.”

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Apr 30, 2018

Earth’s Terrifying Magnetic Field Reversal Just Got a New Timeline

Posted by in category: futurism

Scientists say the South Atlantic Anomaly, a disturbance in Earth’s magnetic field, doesn’t indicate that it’s about to reverse polarity. By studying past geological scenarios, researchers conclude that the current weirdness in Earth’s magnetic field most likely won’t result in an excursion or even a full reversal.

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Apr 30, 2018

The US lags behind 8 other countries in AI and automation readiness

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

The United States trails key global players in preparing its workers for the upcoming artificial intelligence takeover. It’s time to get to work.

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Apr 30, 2018

Virgin Hyperloop One wants to cut 4-day cargo truck trips to 16 hours

Posted by in category: transportation

Virgin Hyperloop One and trade logistics company DP World have created a new cargo brand “built for an on-demand world.”

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