Category: News Posts

What’s Really Killing King Coal?

Coal’s prices will soon be so noncompetitive that coal-fired power will drop 51 percent by 2040, according to the latest electricity sector forecast.

Coal is dying. Even in China and India and total global greenhouse gas emissions from electrical generation will peak in 2026, according to a bullish report released Thursday by respected independent energy consultants.

“This year’s report suggests that the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable,” said Seb Henbest, lead author of the New Energy Outlook forecast.

The report is published annually by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), an independent energy research firm, and is based on eight months of analysis and extensive market modeling.




Around the world, solar has become a formidable opponent to coal, BNEF said. That’s because the price of solar, which already costs roughly one-fourth of what it did in 2009.

Coal power generation in China has been growing but will reach a peak in 2026, the report says. Already, many planned coal plants are being cancelled.

solar panel

Wind costs are also dropping fast. Offshore wind costs are falling faster than onshore and are expected to skid 71 percent by 2040.

Land-based wind energy, which has already dropped by 30 percent in the last eight years, will continue to fall by 47 percent by 2040, the report says.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Want To Know What Happens When The Lightning Doesn’t Hit The Ground? Watch This!

lightning

Lightning is far more than just a sky-borne phenomenon: Remarkably, it can also form at ground level and shoot upwards.

This upside-down lightning is the subject of a paper published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, in which the strange behavior of these inverted bolts is revealed.




Despite the fact that there are roughly 40-50 lightning strikes somewhere around the world every second, they are surprisingly poorly understood.

Watch the video to know how this upside down lightning works!


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Pass it on: Popular Science

SpaceX Has Launched And Landed Two Falcon 9 Rockets In One Weekend

Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX successfully launched two payloads into orbit over the weekend, and then landed the first-stage booster from each rocket onto one of the company’s drone ships.

Last Friday, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the first telecommunications satellite for the country of Bulgaria from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first stage booster for that rocket which had already been launched, landed, and refurbished once before was successfully maneuvered down for a safe landing on a barge called “Of Course I Still Love You”.




Last Sunday, SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 carrying 10 satellites for Iridium Communications from Vandenberg Air Force Base, located northwest of Los Angeles.

The first stage booster from that rocket was landed on the ship “Just Read the Instructions,” which was floating in the Pacific.

These events marked the fastest turnaround for SpaceX launches from two different sites, according to Spaceflight Now. SpaceX’s continued success with landing and re-using boosters could save the company and its customers millions of dollars.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Google’s Neural Network Is A Multi-Tasking Pro Can Tackle Eight Tasks At One Time

Neural networks have been trained to complete a number of different tasks including generating pickup lines, adding animation to video games, and guiding robots to grab objects.

But for the most part, these systems are limited to doing one task really well. Trying to train a neural network to do an additional task usually makes it much worse at its first.

However, Google just created a system that tackled eight tasks at one time and managed to do all of them pretty well.

The company’s multi-tasking machine learning system called MultiModal was able to learn how to detect objects in images, provide captions, recognize speech, translate between four pairs of languages as well as parse grammar and syntax. And it did all of that simultaneously.





The system was modeled after the human brain. Different components of a situation like visual and sound input are processed in different areas of the brain, but all of that information comes together so a person can comprehend it in its entirety and respond in whatever way is necessary.

Similarly, MultiModal has small sub-networks for audio, images and text that are connected to a central network.

multitasking

The network’s performance wasn’t perfect and isn’t yet on par with those of networks that manage just one of these tasks alone. But there were some interesting outcomes.

The separate tasks didn’t hinder the performance of each other and in some cases they actually improved it.

In a blog post the company said, “It is not only possible to achieve good performance while training jointly on multiple tasks, but on tasks with limited quantities of data, the performance actually improves. To our surprise, this happens even if the tasks come from different domains that would appear to have little in common, e.g., an image recognition task can improve performance on a language task.”

MultiModal is still being developed and Google has open-sourced it as part of its Tensor2Tensor library.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Robots Can Now Flawlessly Iron Clothes

TEO robot

Ironing clothes is not fun. But someone has to do it. Why not get a robot to get it done?

TEO is a robot with a camera and sensors that can do just that. Once you put a clothing item on its ironing board, TEO uses its camera to create a 3D representation of the garment and calculate the wrinkles local descriptor.




The robot takes into account all wrinkles and works the iron to smooth out each crease. TEO measures 1.8 meters tall, weighing at 80 kilograms.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

People Are Turning Ocean Plastic Wastes From Haiti’s Beaches Into Laptop Packaging

One of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers will incorporate recovered marine plastics into packaging for one product line.

Texas-based Dell will begin using recovered HDPE from the marine environment in a tray for its XPS 13 2-in-1 notebook, which is a combination laptop/tablet.

The tray will be made of 25 percent ocean plastics and 75 percent recycled HDPE food packaging obtained via established recovery systems.

“This is the first time my 10-year-old daughter has gotten excited about what I do,” Kevin Brown, chief supply chain officer for Dell, stated in a press release. “This new packaging initiative demonstrates that there are real global business applications for ocean plastics.”

Dell’s commercial-scale pilot program will use an estimated 16,000 pounds of ocean plastics in 2017. It will produce about 300,000 trays.

Ocean plastics use by the company is expected to scale to 20,000 pounds in 2018, according to Dell.

Dell created a web page with details on the pilot project. It also includes a white paper that explores how other companies can incorporate ocean plastics in their supply chains.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

An Area Of Antarctica Larger Than Texas Partially Melted Last Year

Scientists think strong El Niños, like the one that melted so much surface ice in Antarctica last year, will become more common in the future.

An area of Antarctica larger than Texas partially melted last year, a group of international researchers has found.

And while it’s pretty well known ice at both poles has been melting for a while now, this ice is a bit different. In this case, it was surface ice the scientists were monitoring, not sea ice.

The melting was likely caused by a strong El Niño, something scientists expect will become more common as the climate continues to warm.

Normally, strong westerly winds keep El Niño’s warm weather away from the continent, so the melt that it causes isn’t as bad. But one member of the research team said El Niños seem to be winning the “tug of war” between westerly winds and warmer air.

And combining more frequent air driven warming from above and ocean driven melting from below could spell bad news for those living on the coast. The West Antarctic ice sheet has the potential to raise the sea level by over 10 feet if it were to collapse or fracture.

This time the melting didn’t do any permanent damage. But the scientists are worried it could be a sign of things to come.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Coral Reefs Are Showing Signs Of Global Warming Stress But We Can Still Do Something About It

With coral reefs all over the world suffering ongoing bleaching and death at the hands of warming ocean waters from remote coral atolls in the Indian Ocean to Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, the future of these beloved marine ecosystems appears increasingly grim.

But while experts almost universally agree that global warming will continue to shape the future of the world’s corals, some scientists insist that there’s still hope for them.

In a paper out last Wednesday in the Journal Nature, more than a dozen experts from around the world say that coral reefs are likely to undergo major changes as a result of continued global warming and other human activities, like fishing.

But while future coral ecosystems might look a lot different than they do today, from the species they contain to the places they live, they aren’t necessarily doomed. In fact, accepting this transition and helping them through it might be the best and even only way to save them.

Scientist also recommends an updated approach to the research of coral reefs one that focuses increasingly on the cumulative impact of multiple disturbances working together (for instance, warming waters combined with pollution and over-fishing) instead of focusing on one single factor at a time.

With a commitment to active management and an open mind about what the future of coral reefs might look like, scientists say we can now allow ourselves a little more optimism.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

A Tactical 360° Ball Camera That Can Be Thrown Into Danger

A camera startup called Bounce Imaging has just launched the Explorer, a tactical 360° camera that looks like a black softball with lenses scattered across the surface.

The device is designed to help law enforcement scope out risky environments before entering them, capturing a spherical panorama to reveal hidden dangers.

On the outside of the Explorer is a thick rubber covering and six lenses pointed in different directions. There are also powerful 240W white LED lights that illuminate the scene and disorient potential attackers.

After being tossed into a location, the camera snaps several photos per second simultaneously with all six cameras. The images are then stitched together into a spherical panorama in the camera and beamed to an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet on the police officer.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

A Dutch Designer Has Designed A 3D Printed Pedestrian Bridge

Dutch designer Joris Laarman has designed a pedestrian bridge for Amsterdam that will be 3D printed by robots.

The ornate metal structure, which will span a canal in the Dutch city, will be printed in-situ by robotic arms. The location of the bridge will be announced soon and completion is set for 2017.

The versatile six-axis robots which are able to rotate their arms along six different planes of movement will print a load-bearing structure that will support their own weight as they work.

This will allow them to start on one bank of the canal and work their way across to the other side, printing steel as they go.

The project has been developed by MX3D, a technology startup launched by Joris Laarman Lab to investigate ways of printing large, sophisticated structures.

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Pass it on: Popsci