Earth was buzzed by a giant asteroid this weekend and we didn’t even realize it was coming

April 16, 2018 by  
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Earth just survived a near miss with an asteroid, and we didn’t even know it was coming. Around 1,500 people were injured in the aftermath of the Chelyabinsk meteorite when it exploded over Russia in 2013, and an even larger  asteroid  just buzzed incredibly close to Earth this weekend, according to EarthSky . The Catalina Sky Survey first observed the asteroid – which is the closest large one on record to pass by the planet –  just hours before it tumbled past us at about half the distance of the moon. Asteroid 2018 GE3, according to EarthSky, was around 119,500 miles away from our planet at its closest point — and the Moon is an average of 238,855 miles away. Its diameter was around 157 to 361 feet, and it was hurtling through space at around 66,174 miles per hour. Asteroid 2018 GE3 surprised us, as did the Chelyabinsk meteorite. Related: Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when The Catalina Sky Survey detected the asteroid on Saturday, April 14, and in the early hours of the morning on April 15 on the United States’ East Coast, Asteroid 2018 GE3 passed by our planet. The closest approach happened at around 2:41 AM EDT, according to EarthSky. They cited NASA as saying the asteroid passed closer to our Moon than it did to Earth a few hours later at around 5:59 AM EDT. A preliminary analysis of Asteroid 2018 GE3’s orbit reveals this pass is the closest this asteroid has flown by our planet since around 1930. Was the planet in danger? No, not this time, according to EarthSky. What might have happened if Asteroid 2018 GE3 had indeed hit Earth? The publication said a big portion of rock would have broken up into pieces if it had entered our atmosphere , but some might have made it through to the surface. “…an asteroid this big is capable of causing some regional damage, depending on various factors such as composition, speed, entry angle, and location of impact,” EarthSky said. “It might make you feel better (or worse) to know that asteroids enter Earth’s atmosphere unnoticed on a fairly regular basis.” Via EarthSky and TIME Images via Depositphotos,   Tomruen/Wikimedia Commons  and Deposit Photos

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Earth was buzzed by a giant asteroid this weekend and we didn’t even realize it was coming

Virtual reality helps scientists plot the ideal urban green space

April 16, 2018 by  
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Green spaces offer urban residents the chance to escape the concrete jungle and experience nature’s restorative benefits — if those spaces are well-designed. North Carolina State University researchers found vegetation density can impact a person’s feeling of safety, depending on where green space is located, and immersive virtual reality helped them test perceptions. Virtual reality doesn’t only offer an escape into fantastical images. NC State University researchers employed VR to explore different types of urban green spaces . Researchers captured 360-degree, high-resolution images of a city park and downtown plaza in Raleigh with a robot , and manipulated vegetation to create multiple environments. Related: How virtual reality can help paraplegic patients learn to walk again They discovered virtual visitors to the downtown plaza wanted vegetation to surround them. Doctoral student and landscape architect Payam Tabrizian said in the university’s statement , “In an urban setting, being enclosed by vegetation feels restorative. It can serve as a shield from the urban environment and create a kind of refuge where people can sit and relax for a while. People preferred urban environments that were very green and being enclosed in vegetation didn’t seem to bother them that much.” But the opposite was true in the park . Tabrizian said, “In the neighborhood park setting, people preferred the opposite in terms of vegetation density and arrangement. It seems that people have enough green surrounding them and want to know what’s happening around them. When you enclose them with vegetation, they don’t like it. They feel unsafe.” Immersive virtual reality could assist landscape designers in testing new designs or exploring how they might improve urban green spaces. “As landscape designers, the instinct is to want to make changes, but sometimes leaving things as they are may be the best,” Tabrizian said. “This technology allows us to design a true experiment in which we control the variables, without ever planting or moving a tree .” The Journal of Environmental Psychology published the research online earlier this year. + North Carolina State University + Journal of Environmental Psychology Images via North Carolina State University

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6 solar roads shaking up infrastructure around the world

April 16, 2018 by  
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Roads aren’t just for walking or driving anymore. Solar road or pathway projects around the world are showing that streets can both provide firm footing and generate clean energy . Inhabitat rounded up six projects in places as diverse as China and rural Georgia to highlight potentially game-changing technologies in the solar road sphere. Solar Roadways use modular solar panels covered in tempered glass Scott and Julie Brusaw launched Solar Roadways a few years back with the goal of transforming regular asphalt roads into energy -generating thruways. The Brusaws aimed to use  modular solar panels topped with tempered glass as replacement for standard pavement and, in 2016, celebrated the first public installation  of these panels in their hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho. While they’d also announced plans to bring their solar roads to a section of Route 66 in Missouri, it appears the project fell through. Late last year,  St. Louis Public Radio said the project wouldn’t be moving forward; according to Scott Brusaw, it “dissolved due to a variety of complex red tape factors.” But Solar Roadways is still at work to bring their product to roads and recently shared on Facebook  that they’ve met with interested connections from South Korea, Australia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Austria. Related: This bike lane in Korea is topped with 20 miles of solar panels France opens one-kilometer solar road with 2,880 solar panels In late 2016, France opened what was then the first solar road in the world: a one-kilometer stretch in Tourouvre-au-Perche, built with technology from Colas’ Wattway . The 2,880-panel road was said to generate enough energy to power street lights in the 3,400-person village. Rural Georgia gets a test stretch of Wattway’s solar roads Wattway’s solar roads hit the United States a few months after the road in France. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation installed 538 square feet of the solar road near the Alabama and Georgia border — the first Wattway pilot in America. The solar road was part of the foundation’s project The Ray , an 18-mile living laboratory testing renewable technologies that also includes  bioswales and a solar-powered electric car charging station . Solar panel expressway pops up in China Just a few months ago, a one-kilometer solar road, developed by Qilu Transportation Development Group , opened in Jinan, China . Three layers make up the road: insulation on the bottom, solar panels in the middle, and transparent concrete on top. The solar panels cover around 63,238 square feet in two lanes and one emergency lane, and can generate one million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy every year. In a strange twist , thieves actually took a small portion of the road days after it debuted; since the panels wouldn’t have been worth a lot of money, people speculated they might have wanted to learn the workings of the technology. The road was later repaired. Solar-powered bike path has generated more power than anticipated Solar panels aren’t just for highways. Bike lanes can make great use of them too, if one in Krommenie, Netherlands is any indication. After one year, the SolaRoad solar-paneled bike path  generated 70 kilowatt-hours per square meter, enough power for around three houses – and even more than the designers expected. Sten de Wit of TNO , the research organization behind SolaRoad, said most people don’t even notice the difference between the solar bike path and a regular one. Solar sidewalk helps charge electric cars Sidewalks can benefit from solar panels, too. Platio recently installed a 50-square foot solar sidewalk, created with recycled plastic , that pulls double duty: people can walk across it as it generates clean energy used to charge electric vehicles . Platio installed the 720-watt peak capacity system at a Prologis facility in Budapest — and the process only took one day. When the solar sidewalk isn’t busy charging EVs, energy it generates helps power a nearby office building. Images via Solar Roadways Facebook , Vianney Lecointre on Twitter , The Ray , Qilu Transportation Development Group , SolaRoad Netherlands, and courtesy of Platio

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6 solar roads shaking up infrastructure around the world

Breakthrough device is ‘100% successful’ in protecting swimmers from sharks

April 11, 2018 by  
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Though it may not feel it in some places, summer is just around the corner in the Northern Hemisphere and with warmer weather comes a rise in shark attacks. To protect swimmers and surfers from oceanic predators, scientists in Australia have developed a surfboard with LED lights on the underside that may deter shark attacks. In studying the ways in which sharks see and interact with the world around them, the research team at Macquarie University uncovered a surprisingly simple method to hide the silhouettes of surfers from sharks below that has so far proven to be “100% successful” in trials. “Pure basic research can sometimes lead to unexpected applications and potentially contribute to life-saving technology,” study leader Dr. Nathan Hart told the  Macquarie Lighthouse . “Studying the sensory systems of sharks and what triggers them to attack, and how they might mistake a human for a seal was where it all started,” Hart says. “It’s taken us to the forefront of developing shark deterrents.” Initial testing of the light-up surfboards in South Africa have shown promising results and the research team is now working with the Taronga Zoo, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and a commercial partner to develop a market-ready product. “The designs we have tested have been 100 percent successful in preventing Great white sharks from attacking,” Professor Nathan Hart, associate professor of comparative neurophysiology at Macquarie, said in an interview with The Australian . Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth The well-lit surfboard as shark deterrent was informed by observations of the natural world. “This strategy is a common strategy used by midwater fish, which are trying to avoid predators swimming below them,” Hart told ABC . “Some of these fish have light-emitting organs on their underside, which put out light and help them to camouflage themselves from the light coming from above. Technology and engineering take inspiration from nature, so we’re really trying to use that inspiration that has evolved over many millions of years, and apply that to a very modern problem.” The team expects to continue their research for the next two years before finalizing a product that can be used by the public. Via Australian Broadcasting Corporation Images via Depositphotos and  Macquarie Lighthouse

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Breakthrough device is ‘100% successful’ in protecting swimmers from sharks

MIT’s mind-reading AlterEgo headset can hear what you’re thinking

April 6, 2018 by  
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Have you ever wished you could simply think a command and your computer would respond? That’s the future envisioned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers who created AlterEgo, a wearable system that allows you to converse with a computer without using your voice or movement. According to a video on the project from MIT Media Lab, the ultimate goal of AlterEgo is “to combine humans and computers.” A computing system and wearable device comprise AlterEgo, a futuristic project led by graduate student Arnav Kapur of the Fluid Interfaces group at MIT . Electrodes, a machine learning system, and bone-conduction headphones help get the job done: the electrodes “pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalizations — saying words ‘in your head’ — but are undetectable to the human eye,” according to a MIT News statement. A machine learning system, trained to correspond certain signals with words, receives the signals. The bone-conduction headphones “transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear.” Related: Elon Musk’s latest company aims to make us cyborgs within the next four years The video on AlterEgo shows Kapur experimenting with the device, asking for the time or adding up prices in a grocery store without ever saying a word out loud. While the commands he gives are simple, typically involving a single word or number, the video feels like a scene right out of science fiction. MIT professor Pattie Maes, who is Kapur’s thesis advisor, said in MIT’s statement, “We basically can’t live without our cell phones , our digital devices. But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive. If I want to look something up that’s relevant to a conversation I’m having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I’m with to the phone itself.” Part of the goal for a project like AlterEgo is to allow users to stay in the moment. In a usability study with the prototype wearable interface, the system’s average transcription accuracy was around 92 percent, according to MIT News. Kapur, along with Maes and undergraduate student Shreyas Kapur, wrote a paper on AlterEgo and presented it at the Association for Computing Machinery ‘s ACM Intelligent User Interface conference , which took place last month in Tokyo, Japan. + MIT News Image via Lorrie Lejeune/MIT

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MIT’s mind-reading AlterEgo headset can hear what you’re thinking

SpaceX Falcon 9 just rocketed a harpoon and net into orbit to hunt space junk

April 3, 2018 by  
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Human trash now litters space in the form of broken hardware and spacecrafts circling Earth. But the Surrey Space Center is working on tackling the issue – and they just got a boost from SpaceX . Their RemoveDEBRIS technology demonstrator is hitching a ride aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will hunt space debris using a harpoon and net. Scientists could obtain information on which space junk cleanup strategy works with the RemoveDEBRIS technology demonstrator, which consists of “a main satellite platform that once in orbit will deploy two CubeSats as artificial debris targets to demonstrate some of the technologies,” according to the project page. The platform is packed in specialist boxes ISS astronauts will unpack. The technology will be released outside of the space station via a robotic arm. Harpoon capture, net capture, dragsail, and vision-based navigation are the technologies to be tested on the mission. Related: Airbus wants to harpoon a satellite and bring it back to Earth Principal investigator Guglielmo Aglietti told the BBC experts aren’t yet decided on the best way to clean up space debris , noting the technologies each have their disadvantages and advantages. The project costs around $18 million — the Surrey Space Center described RemoveDEBRIS as low-cost. Aglietti told the BBC, “In my opinion, whether or not there are going to be real missions to remove debris will depend on cost. And I worry that if they are extremely expensive, people will think about other priorities.” The European Commission is providing half of the funding; the partners, including Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited , will provide the other half. SpaceX said the Dragon spacecraft, which is carrying RemoveDEBRIS among other supplies and payloads on Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14, separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage around 10 minutes following liftoff, and will attach to ISS on Wednesday. + RemoveDEBRIS + SpaceX Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14 + SpaceX Dragon Resupply Mission CRS-14 Press Kit Via the BBC Images via Official SpaceX Photos on Flickr and copyright ESA

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SpaceX Falcon 9 just rocketed a harpoon and net into orbit to hunt space junk

‘World’s smallest computer’ could be manufactured for under 10 cents

March 22, 2018 by  
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Need a computer that’s smaller than a single grain of salt ? IBM has got you covered. Mashable reported the company unveiled what they’re calling the world’s smallest computer, that, according to IBM , “packs several hundred thousand transistors into a footprint barely visible to the human eye.” The world’s smallest computer is one-by-one millimeter in size, according to The Verge . IBM says it can have as many as one million transistors and will cost under 10 cents to create. Features include an LED communications unit and photo-detector, static random-access memory (SRAM), and an integrated photovoltaic cell. The photo above is actually a set of 64 motherboards, according to The Verge, each of which contain two of the world’s smallest computers. Below is a solo computer on salt to give you an idea of its small size: Related: IBM creates first-ever artificial neurons that behave like the real thing The miniscule computer is among the IBM Research team’s 5 in 5 technology predictions, which they “believe will fundamentally reshape business and society in the next five years,” according to a blog post from IBM Research head Arvind Krishna. Krishna called the computer a cryptographic anchor, or crypto-anchor — defined in an IBM video as “tamper-proof digital-fingerprints” to be embedded into products to ensure authenticity and detect counterfeit items. The company is showing off their 5 in 5 at the IBM Think 2018 conference. Mashable said testing of the first prototype is still underway, so there’s no word yet on when exactly the world’s smallest computer will be available, although Krishna said cryptographic anchors “will be embedded in everyday objects and devices” in around five years. + Changing the Way the World Works: IBM Research’s “5 in 5” + IBM 5 in 5: Crypto-anchors and blockchain Via Mashable and The Verge Images via IBM and IBM

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‘World’s smallest computer’ could be manufactured for under 10 cents

Scientists create protein-packed mats that fight pollution

March 19, 2018 by  
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Researchers have created a mat composed of active proteins that have the ability to absorb chemical pollution. In a study published in Science , scientists document how they successfully extracted an active protein from a cell without killing the former — a breakthrough that could pave the way to a new class of pollution-fighting technology. “We think we’ve cracked the code for interfacing natural and synthetic systems,” study author and professor at the University of California , Berkeley Ting Xu told Futurity . Previous attempts to remove proteins from their native environments without harming or killing them were marked by limited progress. The research team observed trends in sequences and surfaces before developing a synthetic polymer that is ideal for hosting proteins. “Proteins have very well-defined statistical pattern, so if you can mimic that pattern, then you can marry the synthetic and natural systems, which allows us to make these materials,” study first author  Brian Panganiban told Futurity . The team conducted advanced molecular simulations to ensure their polymer would effectively serve the protein’s needs. Related: Researchers shocked to discover protein that conducts electricity The experiment received funding from the United States Department of Defense, which is specifically interested in the technology’s bio-remediation potential against chemical pollution . The end result is capable of degrading insecticides and weaponized chemicals. Given its effectiveness, this bio-technology may soon be used in war zones and other contaminated areas to clean-up the mess that humanity has made. This technology can also be customized to meet the needs of a particular mess. Xu believes that his team’s approach could be used with other enzymes, which could someday lead to the creation of portable chemistry labs capable of responding effectively in the field to varied environmental challenges. Via Futurity Images via Deposit Photos , Christopher DelRe and Charley Huang/UC Berkeley

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Scientists predict catastrophic loss of forest fauna and flora with existing CO2 emissions

March 19, 2018 by  
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If we don’t do something to slow down carbon emissions, we could lose up to half of all the plant and animal species in the world’s forests. A new report by the World Wildlife Federation shows that a temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius would decimate the flora and fauna of vital ecosystems in Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Australia. Since scientists project that we are likely headed towards a rise of 3.2C, the implications could be disastrous. According to the study, a rise of 3.2C would kill off 60 percent of plant species and 50 percent of animal species in the Amazon . If countries get their act together and limit temperature rise to 2C, we will lose fewer species, but the devastation will still destroy 35 percent of species. Then there’s the grim forecast of a rise of 4.5C, which is what many experts believe we will hit if emissions remain unchanged. In that scenario, we could expect to lose more than 70 percent of reptiles and plants, and 60 percent of mammals and birds. Related: Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces “death spiral” The picture is just as dire in Africa and Australia, but with an additional impact to some species based on tension with human needs. According to the study, competition for resources in Africa, Bangladesh, Madagascar and the Caribbean could devastate animals, such as elephants , even more. “For the Amazon and Guianas, the WWF report is scary as hell. The loss of half or more of the region’s stunning plant diversity would be a biological blow of almost unimaginable severity,” said William Laurence, director at the Center for Tropical Environmental and Sustainable Science. “However, such computer models with all their assumptions and complexities are really ‘scientific cartoons’ giving us only a rough sketch of the future. But even if they’re only half right, these are very frightening cartoons indeed,” he continued. The study was published by the WWF, James Cook University and the University of East Anglia in the journal Climate Change . Via The Guardian Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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Scientists predict catastrophic loss of forest fauna and flora with existing CO2 emissions

Swiss police to replace diesel fleet with 7 Tesla Model X-100Ds

March 19, 2018 by  
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The Swiss police are electrifying! The Basel-Stadt canton announced in a recent press release that they plan to replace their fleet of diesel vehicles with seven Tesla Model X-100D electric vehicles. Although the purchase will be expensive, at about $147,000 a piece, the police are convinced their overall costs will fall. Plus, they expressed concern about reducing their environmental impact . In addition to lower maintenance costs, the police expect the resale value of Tesla vehicles to be greater than that of their existing fleet. And they aren’t concerned with running out of juice while on a high-speed chase. “With a current charge the Tesla drives at least 500 kilometers,” they wrote in their press release. “Vehicles of the alerting patch cover an average of 200 kilometers per day per day.” Related: Dubai police unveil electric hoverbikes Dutch security firm Force Pro have customized the Basel city police’s new vehicles, according to regional daily the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung . Force Pro sales director Theo Karanfantis told the paper cited connectivity and communication as among the Tesla vehicle’s key benefits. “A conventional car brings a police officer from A to B,” he said. “What Basel police are now buying is a laptop on wheels”. Two charging stations will be installed at Kannenfeld and Clara police stations, according to the press release. Lastly, the police said the Tesla X-100D is the only electric vehicle on the market that is capable of meeting their needs. + Basel Police Via The Local Images via Tesla

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