A colossal iceberg is breaking off Antarctica right now – and it’s big enough to fill Lake Michigan

July 6, 2017 by  
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A gargantuan iceberg is set to break away from an Antarctic ice shelf within days — or even hours. Initially discovered by UK researchers in 2010, the nascent iceberg has been rapidly calving since 2016. Once the crack in the continent’s Larsen C ice shelf is complete, the resulting iceberg will stretch an astonishing 277 cubic miles, and it’ll be an 620 feet thick. That’s enough mass to fill more than 460 million Olympic-size pools — or nearly all of Lake Michigan . The news was shared in a European Space Agency press release . Europe’s ice-monitoring satellite CryoSat took the most precise measurements to date to determine the iceberg’s thickness. Though a bounty of information has been obtained, researchers still aren’t sure what will happen when the iceberg breaks off. Said Anna Hogg, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds. “It could, in fact, even calve in pieces or break up shortly after. Whole or in pieces, ocean currents could drag it north, even as far as the Falkland Islands .” As a side note, the Falkland Islands lie more than 1,000 miles away from Larsen C. According to Adrian Luckman of Swansea University in the UK, once the iceberg breaks off, the rest of the shelf “will be less stable than it was prior to the rift.” In other words, there is a small chance the natural phenomenon’s formation could cause the entire Larsen C ice shelf to disintegrate and fall into the ocean over time. While some scientists are concerned the development may result in sea levels rising up to four inches, Amanda Fricker, a glaciologist who studies Antarctic ice for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, perceives the shelf breaking off as a natural — and expected — occurrence. In an opinion column for The Guardian , she wrote, “Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia — on cycles that are much longer than a human or satellite lifetime. What looks like an enormous loss is just ordinary housekeeping for this part of Antarctica .” As for now, it is impossible to know when, exactly, the rift will snap. Satellite images show that it is likely to be soon, however. “New Sentinel-1 data today continues to show the rift opening more rapidly. We can’t claim iceberg calving yet, but it won’t be long now,” wrote Martin O’Leary, another glaciologist with Swansea’s Project MIDAS, on Twitter late June. The Sentinel-1’s measurements show that the crack just needs three more miles to cut off the giant iceberg . + European Space Agency Via The Guardian Images via John Sonntag/Nasa , Swansea University

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A colossal iceberg is breaking off Antarctica right now – and it’s big enough to fill Lake Michigan

Make calls with light or radio signals thanks to first battery-free cellphone

July 6, 2017 by  
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Imagine never having to charge your smartphone ever again. We may be one step closer to that battery-free future with new research from University of Washington engineers. They made a phone capable of calling people drawing on light or ambient radio signals. Associate professor Shyam Gollakota said they think it could be the “first functioning cellphone that consumes almost zero power .” No, it’s not magic – the University of Washington’s battery-free cellphone can function on just a few microwatts of power it harvests from RF signals coming from a base station around 31 feet away, or from light via a minute solar cell that’s about the size of a grain of rice. The team constructed their prototype from off-the-shelf components and have already used it to make Skype calls. Related: MIT’s New Battery-Free Chip Captures Energy From Light, Heat, And Vibrations at the Same Time The cellphone prototype is able to run on such low power in part because the team got rid of the step to convert analog signals into digital data – a process that sucks up a lot of power in modern cellphones. Their battery-free phone can make use of small vibrations from the speaker or microphone that come when a person is talking or listening while making a call. According to a university press release, “An antenna connected to those components converts that motion into changes in standard analog radio signal emitted by a cellular base station. This process essentially encodes speech patterns in reflected radio signals in a way that uses almost no power.” The team designed their own base station to receive and transmit radio signals. But that technology could be embedded in cell towers or even Wi-Fi routers in the future. Research associate Vamsi Talla said if every home has a Wi-Fi router – as many already do – “you could get battery-free cellphone coverage everywhere.” The research was recently published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable, and Ubiquitous Technologies . The team plans to keep working on the technology to increase the operating range and encrypt conversations. They also aim to stream video on battery-free cellphones. + Battery Free Phone Via the University of Washington Images via Mark Stone/University of Washington

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Make calls with light or radio signals thanks to first battery-free cellphone

Ontario greenhouses could lose $10M because of new cap-and-trade rules

July 6, 2017 by  
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Ontario , Canada has 2,900 acres of greenhouses that export over $1 billion of cucumbers, tomatoes, and green peppers to the United States. But greenhouse growers are saying they’ll suffer under the province’s new climate action plan. Their industry doesn’t only produce carbon dioxide (CO2) but consumes it as part of plants ‘ photosynthesis process, but unlike in British Columbia and Alberta, Ontario growers won’t receive a rebate for the carbon consumption, which could cost them around $10 million in 2017. In January Ontario put in place cap-and-trade rules in an effort to combat climate change . But greenhouse growers say the rules are unfair to them, since they consume CO2 instead of just emitting it. They’ll be charged $18 per metric ton of carbon. Related: Wind-powered vertical Skyfarms are the future of sustainable agriculture Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers chair George Gilvesy told Financial Post, “We aren’t happy at all. We are using CO2 and the plants need CO2. Cap-and-trade is very bad policy . We are competing against the U.S. and Mexico, who do not have a carbon tax .” What would they prefer instead? A rebate, such as that given to growers in Alberta and British Columbia. Lawmakers in those provinces recognize greenhouses consume CO2 and offer a carbon tax rebate. BC Greenhouse Growers’ Association executive director Linda Delli Santi said British Columbia’s carbon tax used to cost her five-acre greenhouse $50,000 yearly and helped put it out of business. So growers successfully lobbied the government for a rebate. British Columbia’s then finance minister Michael de Jong said at the time, “Greenhouse growers are distinct from most others in that they need carbon dioxide and purposely produce it because it is essential for plant growth.” Ontario environment ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler said the province knows greenhouses will be an important source of local food as the climate changes. He told Financial Post, “Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan has committed up to $115 million to support the retrofit of agricultural facilities, including greenhouses. The investment will help the industry expand the use of innovative technologies and practices to reduce emissions .” Via Financial Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Ontario greenhouses could lose $10M because of new cap-and-trade rules

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