Critical climate record satellite program at risk after Congress slashes funding

November 6, 2017 by  
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Scientists all over Earth depend on sea ice data from United States military satellites . But one of those satellites recently broke down – and only three aging ones remain. Even worse, the United States Congress  said a new backup probe had to be dismantled because they reportedly didn’t want to pay to keep it in storage. Almost four decades of essential  Arctic and Antarctic sea ice satellite measurements could soon be disrupted. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) puts together a sea ice record used by scientists worldwide with satellite information. That record is at risk, as a new satellite can’t be launched until at least 2023, according to scientists. Related: Total sea ice levels on Earth lower than ever before recorded Satellites have aided scientists in measuring Earth’s dramatically shrinking sea ice. Over the years, America’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) has overseen the building of eight F-series satellites monitoring sea ice, but now just three aging probes, DMSP F16, F17, and F18, are operating. And they’re starting to drift out of their orbits. The satellites have lifespans of up to five years – but these three are over eight, 11, and 14 years old. F19 is the satellite that broke, and should have been replaced with F20, which was being stored by the United States Air Force . But it was dismantled in 2016 after Congress cut funding for the program, according to the Scientific American. The Air Force reportedly spent $518 million on F20. NSIDC satellite remote sensing expert David Gallaher said, “This is like throwing away the medical records of a sick patient. Our world is ailing and we have apparently decided to undermine, quite deliberately, the effectiveness of the records on which its recovery might be based. It is criminal.” Scientific American said a Japanese satellite is collecting sea ice data – but it was designed to last five years and is already five years old. A Chinese satellite might offer an alternative – and experts will discuss options at a December meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Via The Guardian and Scientific American Images via Depositphotos

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Critical climate record satellite program at risk after Congress slashes funding

Stanford’s new accelerator on a chip could revolutionize medical care

October 31, 2017 by  
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Researchers at Stanford University are developing a linear accelerator that is the size of a chip — instead of two miles long — and it could herald a medical breakthrough. Linear accelerators are commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer . However, only a handful have been constructed as they are very expensive to build, maintain and operate. Stanford’s accelerator on a chip could provide every hospital with access to this life-saving technology. Standford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory houses a linear accelerator that measures 3.2 kilometers in length. Because it emits radiation , it’s buried 25 feet under the hills of northern California. Dubbed LINAC, it relies on klystrons to generate high-energy electron beams. At one end of the line, electrons are generated. They are then accelerated to 99.99999 percent of the speed of light and zip down the 2-mile long instrument. The setup is expensive, however – which is why scientists in the same lab are working to create an accelerator small enough to fit in a large shoebox. After receiving a $13.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2015, the “accelerator on a chip” (ACHIP) project was born. When the project launched in 2013, SLAC physicist Joel England said: “Making them much smaller and cheaper would democratize accelerators , potentially making them available to millions of people. We can’t even imagine the creative applications they would find for this technology .” The minuscule device would work similarly to the LINAC. However instead of shooting electrons down a copper vacuum tube, they would be pushed along with microwaves. Engadget reports, “The AoaC will shove electrons through a precisely-engineered silica chip, smaller than a grain of rice, and excite them with laser beams.” Related: Japanese ‘mutant’ chickens are laying eggs with cancer-fighting drugs By adjusting the width of the ridges in the channel, with respect to the wavelength of the laser, the chip’s acceleration gradient could be tuned to a whopping 700 megavolts per meter (MeV/m). That’s ten times what the LINAC can generate. The inexpensive device could replace multimillion-dollar radiotherapy machines in hospitals – and it could be paired with a simple fiber laser power source to “burn out” tumors faster than traditional radiation therapy — and without the need for anesthesia. Said Joel England, SLAC’s lead researcher for this program, “Once you get into a million electron volts or more then you’re sort of in the regime of where you can have practical applications; where something like a medical accelerator is more viable. So typically for cancer treatment, you’re using particles with between one and 20 million electron volts of energy.” He explained in 2013, “We still have a number of challenges before this technology becomes practical for real-world use, but eventually it would substantially reduce the size and cost of future high-energy particle colliders for exploring the world of fundamental particles and forces.” + SLAC Via Engadget Images via Stanford University

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Stanford’s new accelerator on a chip could revolutionize medical care

Airless tires could help Toyota make lighter electric cars

October 30, 2017 by  
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Airless tires could boost performance and cut down the weight of electric cars – and Toyota is interested. The automaker recently unveiled the hydrogen-powered Fine-Comfort Ride concept car fitted with the tires at the Tokyo Motor Show . The Fine-Comfort Ride is about as big as a crossover SUV, but chief engineer Takao Sato said the airless wheels could be used on any electric car. The airless tires on the Fine-Comfort Ride are comprised of a band of rubber around a plastic-aluminum hub, reports Bloomberg . Sumitomo Rubber Industries supplied the tires for Toyota . Sumitomo unveiled their Smart Tyre Concept, which includes the airless component, at the Tokyo Motor Show and said in a press release , “Airless tires contribute to greater safety and peace of mind in transportation by freeing the driver from worries about punctures and the trouble of having to manage tire pressure.” Sumitomo said there’s interest from other Japanese carmakers as well. Related: Michelin unveils airless 3D-printed tires that last virtually forever Sato said, “For automakers, the attraction of airless tires is for electrified vehicles.” At the moment the concept tires still weigh about as much as pneumatic tires, but the technology could develop to trim five kilograms – around 11 pounds – from each tire. That’s around 30 percent of each tire’s weight, and the development could come as early as 2025. Sumitomo airless tire project head Wako Iwamura said he aims to have a commercial product by 2020, according to Bloomberg, and that his tires are already comparable in price with those requiring air. The company has already been testing the tires on golf carts and minicars. Sumitomo also pioneered what they called the world’s first 100 percent fossil resource-free tires using all-natural materials back in 2013, and said since then they’ve been working to create “proprietary biomass materials based on raw materials derived from plants .” Via Bloomberg Images via Toyota

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Leading Stanford climate scientist builds incredible net zero home, complete with Tesla Powerwall

October 30, 2017 by  
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A leading climate scientist — who has dedicated his career to proving the feasibility of transitioning the world off fossil fuels — walks the walk with his personal home. Professor of civil & environmental engineering and director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, Mark Z. Jacobson has built an incredible Net Zero home using energy-efficient features that enable the house to generate all of its own energy from renewable sources . Jacobson is one of the founders of The Solutions Project , an initiative backed by scientific research that aims to show how every state in the USA can transition to 100 percent renewable energy . Using the organization’s ethos and his own research as a guide, Jacobson worked with luxury custom homebuilders, BONE Structure to design and build his ultra-efficient home . Related: This new energy concept from Sweden can make any building net zero Located in Stanford, California, the structure is the epitome of future efficient home design that doesn’t sacrifice on style or comfort. The project’s planning began by creating an ultra-low energy thermal shell that would insulate the home and reduce energy requirements. Next, to generate and conserve energy, the home was equipped with solar panels along with a couple of Tesla Powerwall battery packs for storage. This system meets all of the home’s energy needs, including heating, cooling, plug loads and even transportation charging. Jacobson moved into his Net Zero home last summer and has been monitoring its performance ever since. Not only does his energy system generate enough clean energy to meet his family’s needs, but Jacobson has also been able to sell 67 percent of the clean electricity back to the utility grid. + BONE Structure

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Leading Stanford climate scientist builds incredible net zero home, complete with Tesla Powerwall

Coal barge in London converted into a sophisticated floating home

September 14, 2017 by  
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A 1924 barge in London has been transformed into an amazing floating home . The historic Humber Keel cargo boat now functions as a comfortable two-bedroom home with two baths, open living space and terrace views. The restored houseboat maintains the original woodwork and custom midcentury furnishings. The barge, originally used for transporting steel and coal and working in shallow waters, sits in the Poplar Dock Marina of London . It offers 812 square feet of living space which includes two bedrooms, a large open-plan reception/dining area, modern galley kitchen, and a desk area. Related: Solar-Powered Bauhaus Barge Offers Luxurious Living with a Low Carbon Footprint Much of the original woodwork has been retained throughout the house, including the original Goodin wood burner in the living room. Some of the additions to the interior include a dipped terra cotta pendant light by Hand and Eye Studio London, a Saikai Kaico Japanese enamel kettle, hand-thrown dishes by David Green Ceramics, and the 1960s Greaves and Thomas Egg chair. The house is currently for sale through The Modern House. + The Modern House Via Dwell

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Coal barge in London converted into a sophisticated floating home

Kengo Kuma unveils stunning SUTEKI house for Oregons Street of Dreams

August 2, 2017 by  
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Acclaimed architect Kengo Kuma has crafted a stunning cross-cultural home that combines the best of American modern amenities with traditional Japanese design principles. Located in Oregon’s NW Natural Street of Dreams in Portland, the sustainably built SUTEKI home promotes healthy living with its strong connection to the outdoors in both its use of natural materials and garden surroundings. The master-built home is the first of its kind constructed by Japanese homebuilder, Suteki, in the United States. As with many of Kuma’s architectural projects, nature is a big theme in the SUTEKI home. A natural materials palette used throughout the home shows off sustainably harvested wood , from the soaring Olympia wall built of timber to the regional Alaskan yellow cedar in the louvre walls. Natural stone and tile are also prominently featured. A high level of detail and craftsmanship is seen around the home, especially in the origami-inspired ceiling that creates a feeling of fluidity and movement. To deepen the connection with the outdoors and create a restorative living experience, Kuma incorporated seamless indoor and outdoor living spaces built around nature. Large openings frame views of the outdoors and every view is optimized inside and out. Portland Japanese Garden curator Sadafumi Uchiyama designed the garden and used “borrowed scenery” principles to incorporate the surrounding landscape—a giant oak and sequoia tree, and a stream that runs along the property. Related: Kengo Kuma unveils nature-filled Eco-Luxury Hotel for Paris “My collaboration with Suteki is owed to our shared view of the sublimity of nature,” said Kuma. “Embracing the surroundings, insisting on natural materials, sustainability and transparency creates a space where people can experience nature more completely and intimately.” The placement and orientation of the home contributes to its energy efficiency . The Suteki company plans to build more sustainably built homes in the Portland market in the near future. + Street of Dreams Images by Justin Krug Photography

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The 2,500-year-old bracket that protects China’s Forbidden City against earthquakes

July 27, 2017 by  
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The presence of earthquakes in China has resulted in timber-framing practices that put European design to shame. As early as 500BC, builders in China developed disaster-resistant structures with interlocking flower-shaped brackets called dougong that reduce the impact of earthquakes on buildings. These joints are so effective, they have helped the Forbidden City in Beijing withstand 200 earthquakes in 600 years. Specialist carpenters decided to find out how the Forbidden City has survived so many earthquakes, including the 20th century’s deadliest quake. They constructed a scale model of a structure atop a shake table. To strive for accuracy, they drew on traditional techniques and tools. They then put the structure, a fifth of the size of buildings in the Forbidden City, through simulated earthquakes. The largest earthquake we’ve ever recorded in history had a 9.5 magnitude. But the scale model withstood not only that but a 10.1 magnitude simulated earthquake – and in a video showing the quake, didn’t fall down. Related: Japanese Levitating House System Could Protect Homes From Earthquakes (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.10”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Secrets of China's Forbidden City This will rock your world. Posted by Channel 4 on Thursday, July 20, 2017 Dougong are often found nestled beneath the eaves and roof, and in case of a quake, they transfer roof weight to the supporting columns found on these old buildings. They don’t need nails or glue to hold together. The brackets don’t shake apart easily, but also aren’t so stiff they’ll shatter under pressure. Multiple joints help them remain stable. One of the more mind-boggling aspects of the test was that the columns of the building designed like those in the Forbidden City were freestanding, and weren’t sunken into foundations. They wobbled in a 10.1 magnitude simulated earthquake, but didn’t collapse in the video. Dougong can be glimpsed on palaces and temples , for example, and according to People’s Daily Online was utilized widely during the Spring and Autumn Period in Chinese history, which spans from around 770 to 476 BC. Via Channel 4 and Core77 Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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The 2,500-year-old bracket that protects China’s Forbidden City against earthquakes

This robotic "eel" hunts down the source of water pollution

July 27, 2017 by  
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Lake Geneva’s latest resident—all four feet of it—is neither man nor beast. Dubbed the Envirobot , the critter is a biomimetic robot designed by Swiss researchers to pinpoint the source of pollution in tainted waters. Bereft of fins or propellers, Envirobot slithers through water like an eel, leaving mud and aquatic life undisturbed. Just as stealthily, it uses sensors to gather data from various locations, which it transmits to a remote computer in near-instantaneous fashion. Even for an automaton, Envirobot is uncommonly clever. Besides its capacity to follow a preprogrammed path, it can also make its own decisions, independently sniffing out the origin of the contamination. Related: Fukushima robot finds lava-like deposits thought to be melted nuclear fuel “There are many advantages to using swimming robots,” said Auke Ijspeert, head of biorobotics at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne , in a statement . “They can take measurements and send us data in real-time—much faster than if we had measurement stations set up around the lake.” The serpentine design, which is supported by a series of small electric motors, has several advantages, as well. “Compared with conventional propeller-driven underwater robots, they are less likely to get stuck in algae or branches as they move around,” Ijspeert said. “What’s more, they produce less of a wake, so they don’t disperse pollutants as much.” Funded through a grant from Switzerland’s Nano-Tera program, Envirobot comprises several modules. Some of these contain conductivity and temperature sensors; others have miniaturized biological sensors that harbor bacteria, small crustacean, or fish cells that respond to water toxicity in different ways. The modular tack also makes it easy for engineers to change Envirobot’s composition or vary its length when the occasion calls for it. “The robot can be easily taken apart, transported to a remote water reservoir, for example, and put back together to begin testing,” said Behzad Bayat, another biorobotics scientist at EPFL. Already, Envirobot has taken several dips in Lake Geneva. It recently underwent a test that simulated water pollution by diffusing salt into a tiny area just off the shore, changing the water’s conductivity. The ersatz eel, researchers said, performed swimmingly. Although the ultimate goal is for Envirobot to pick up heavy metals and other pollutants, field tests for the “eel’s” biological components are trickier to carry out. “We obviously can’t contaminate a lake like we do the test water in our lab,” said Jan Roelof van der Meer, project coordinator and head of the department of fundamental microbiology at the University of Lausanne . “For now, we will continue using salt as the contaminant until the robot can easily find the source of the contamination. Then we will add biological sensors to the robot and carry out tests with toxic compounds.” + École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne [Via Techcrunch ]

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This robotic "eel" hunts down the source of water pollution

China claims major energy breakthrough with ‘flammable ice’

May 19, 2017 by  
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China has claimed a major energy breakthrough, but its eco credentials are dubious at best. Researchers say they managed to extract gas from flammable ice in the South China Sea. A frozen mix of natural gas and water known as methane hydrates, the ‘breakthrough’ is expected to revolutionize the future of energy . We’re not sure that’s a good idea. Flammable ice could be our planet’s final great source of carbon-based fuel , according to the BBC. Vast deposits can be found under essentially every ocean. But it’s incredibly difficult to extract gas from flammable ice – in part because it catches fire so easily – a lighter held up next to the ice will do the trick. Related: Japan Successfully Taps ‘Flammable Ice’ as an Energy Source for the First Time Japan so far has led the way in working to mine the potential energy source, but China’s latest efforts could mark a milestone on the path to extracting gas from methane hydrates. Chinese media said the country had succeeded in extracting an average of 16,000 cubic meters of gas per day in the South China Sea. Scientist Praveen Linga of the National University of Singapore told the BBC, “Compared with the results we have seen from Japanese research, the Chinese scientists have managed to extract much more gas in their efforts. So in that sense it is indeed a major step towards making gas extraction from methane hydrates viable.” But Linga warns extraction must be done carefully. Methane could escape from the methane hydrates during extraction, which could harm the planet as methane holds greater potential to affect climate change than carbon dioxide, according to the BBC. It’s hard to tell if flammable ice extraction will fall into the pitfalls of the oil and gas industry, with greed taking precedence over our planet. The BBC also described flammable ice as a very energy intensive source of fuel. Linga says there’s still a long way to go, and he said realistic commercial options might be ready in 2025 at the earliest. Via the BBC Images via William Winters, USGS and U.S. Geological Survey on Flickr

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Scientists may have found evidence for a parallel universe

May 19, 2017 by  
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A parallel universe may not just be a quirk of science fiction anymore; scientists think they may have found evidence for the idea of a universe other than our own. It all has to do with a strange Cold Spot, which researchers haven’t had an easy time explaining; some even suggest it could actually be an optical illusion. But new research reveals something far more bizarre may be going on. NASA first discovered the baffling Cold Spot in 2004. The Cold Spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the Cold Spot was just a trick of the light. Related: ‘Largest-ever’ new map of universe shows 1.2 million galaxies But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the Cold Spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they’ve ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the Cold Spot. Physicist Tom Shanks of the University of Durham said in a statement , “We can’t entirely rule out that the Spot is caused by an unlikely fluctuation explained by the standard model. But if that isn’t the answer, then there are more exotic explanations. Perhaps the most exciting of these is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe.” If more research backs up this new idea, “…then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse – and billions of other universes may exist like our own.” Eight scientists from institutions in the United Kingdom, Chile, Spain, and the United States collaborated on a study recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . Via The Independent , News.com.au , and The Guardian Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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