The Apogee of Evil…

Credit: Erik English.

Topics: Biology, Biosecurity, Civilization, COVID-19, Democracy, Existentialism

Weaponizing a pathogen sounds like something out of an archetype Bond villain, minus the wrapped-up plot twists by the time the credits roll, and the obligatory fawning of a stereotypical bikinied woman over the intrepid MI-6 spy. Real life doesn’t conclude so cleanly. Before every student became accustomed to active shooter drills, my generation ducked under wooden desks to shield themselves from nuclear fallout. Life has always been precarious, as we have always had a segment of society that would “go there.”

On that high note, I will see you on the 29th of November. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pandemics can begin in many ways. A wild animal could infect a hunter, or a farm animal might spread a pathogen to a market worker. Researchers in a lab or in the field could be exposed to viruses and unwittingly pass them to others. Natural spillovers and accidents have been responsible for every historical plague, each of which spread from a single individual to afflict much of humanity. But the devastation from past outbreaks pales in comparison to the catastrophic harm that could be inflicted by malicious individuals intent on causing new pandemics.

Thousands of people can now assemble infectious viruses from a genome sequence and commercially available synthetic DNA, and numerous projects aim to find and publicly identify new viruses that could cause pandemics by characterizing their growth, transmission, and immune evasion capabilities in the laboratory. Once these projects succeed, the world will face a significant new threat: If a single terrorist with the necessary skills were to release a new virus equivalent to SARS-CoV-2, which has claimed 20 million lives worldwide, that person would have killed more people than if they were to detonate a nuclear warhead in a dense city. If they were to release numerous such viruses across multiple travel hubs, the resulting pandemics could not plausibly be contained and would spread much faster than even the most rapidly produced biomedical countermeasures. And if one of those viruses spread as easily as the omicron variant—which rapidly infected millions of people within weeks of being identified—but had the lethality of smallpox, which killed about 30 percent of those infected, the subsequent loss of essential workers could trigger the collapse of food, water, and power distribution networks—and with them, societies.

To avoid this future, societies need to rethink how they can delay pandemic proliferation, detect all exponentially growing biological threats, and defend humanity by preventing infections. A comprehensive set of directions detailing how we can build a world free from catastrophic biological threats is required. That roadmap now exists.

How a deliberate pandemic could crush societies and what to do about it, Kevin Esvelt, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Rule Breakers…

Credit: Matt Harrison Clough (original image at link)

Topics: Entanglement, High Energy Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics

Breaking the rules is exciting, especially if they have been held for a long time. This is true not just in life but also in particle physics. Here the rule I’m thinking of is called “lepton flavor universality,” and it is one of the predictions of our Standard Model of particle physics, which describes all the known fundamental particles and their interactions (except for gravity). For several decades after the invention of the Standard Model, particles seemed to obey this rule.

Things started to change in 2004 when the E821 experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island announced its measurement of a property of the muon—a heavy version of the electron—known as its g-factor. The measurement wasn’t what the Standard Model predicted. Muons and electrons are both parts of a class of particles called leptons (along with a third particle, the tau, as well as the three generations of neutrinos). The rule of lepton flavor universality says that because electrons and muons are charged leptons, they should all interact with other particles in the same way (barring small differences related to the Higgs particle). If they don’t, then they violate lepton flavor universality—and the unexpected g-factor measurement suggested that’s just what was happening.

If particles really were breaking this rule, that would be exciting in its own right and also because physicists believe that the Standard Model can’t be the ultimate theory of nature. The theory doesn’t explain why neutrinos have mass, what makes up the invisible dark matter that seems to dominate the cosmos, or why matter won out over antimatter in the early universe. Therefore, the Standard Model must be merely an approximate description that we will need to supplement by adding new particles and interactions. Physicists have proposed a huge number of such extensions, but at most one of these theories can be correct, and so far none of them has received any direct confirmation. A measured violation of the Standard Model would be a flashlight pointing the way toward this higher theory we seek.

Rule-Breaking Particles Pop Up in Experiments around the World, Andreas Crivellin, Scientific American

OPVs…

V. ALTOUNIAN/SCIENCE

Topics: Alternate Energy, Applied Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, Solar Power

As ultrathin organic solar cells hit new efficiency records, researchers see green energy potential in surprising places.

In November 2021, while the municipal utility in Marburg, Germany, was performing scheduled maintenance on a hot water storage facility, engineers glued 18 solar panels to the outside of the main 10-meter-high cylindrical tank. It’s not the typical home for solar panels, most of which are flat, rigid silicon and glass rectangles arrayed on rooftops or in solar parks. The Marburg facility’s panels, by contrast, are ultrathin organic films made by Heliatek, a German solar company. In the past few years, Heliatek has mounted its flexible panels on the sides of office towers, the curved roofs of bus stops, and even the cylindrical shaft of an 80-meter-tall windmill. The goal: expanding solar power’s reach beyond flat land. “There is a huge market where classical photovoltaics do not work,” says Jan Birnstock, Heliatek’s chief technical officer.

Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) such as Heliatek’s are more than 10 times lighter than silicon panels and in some cases cost just half as much to produce. Some are even transparent, which has architects envisioning solar panels, not just on rooftops, but incorporated into building facades, windows, and even indoor spaces. “We want to change every building into an electricity-generating building,” Birnstock says.

Heliatek’s panels are among the few OPVs in practical use, and they convert about 9% of the energy in sunlight to electricity. But in recent years, researchers around the globe have come up with new materials and designs that, in small, lab-made prototypes, have reached efficiencies of nearly 20%, approaching silicon and alternative inorganic thin-film solar cells, such as those made from a mix of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (CIGS). Unlike silicon crystals and CIGS, where researchers are mostly limited to the few chemical options nature gives them, OPVs allow them to tweak bonds, rearrange atoms, and mix in elements from across the periodic table. Those changes represent knobs chemists can adjust to improve their materials’ ability to absorb sunlight, conduct charges, and resist degradation. OPVs still fall short of those measures. But, “There is an enormous white space for exploration,” says Stephen Forrest, an OPV chemist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Solar Energy Gets Flexible, Robert F. Service, Science Magazine

Takeaways…

Democrats kept the Senate. But Georgia is still important. Ellen Ioanes, Vox

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights, Women’s Rights

First, explanation and apologies: I’m working on a five-year-old laptop, and the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) is no longer supplying parts, or at least that’s what Geek Squad is saying. Early in the climb of Bill Gates to billionaire status, he introduced something that became a model for everything from software to computer chips: every new version of Microsoft Office was no longer compatible with the previous version. Therefore, you had to purchase the new software. It’s easy to translate that to other industries, such that you have to make the OEM richer than the dreams of Avarice. This is not a conspiracy theory. It’s American capitalism as it’s practiced in its current stage.

Here are my takeaways from the 2022 midterms, in no particular order:

I was the 150th vote in the state of North Carolina, and my first cast vote was for Cheri Beasley, former Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, meaning she has held an elected statewide office. She was beaten by Ted Budd, a multimillionaire who opposed the certification of the 2020 election in Congress prior to the insurrection on January 6th. He would also vote for a nationwide ban on abortion procedures, even in the event it threatens the life of the mother. Traveling from Durham, NC, I saw a billboard of her image darkened, as was done with President Barack Obama, and Senator Raphael Warnock (in a runoff with Herschel Walker, who can’t string a sentence together). For Senator Jon Ossoff, they added to his darkened features, the common Jewish trope of a hooked nose. I met her at NC A&T’s homecoming (GHOE – greatest homecoming on Earth) and stated that I hoped to call her Senator-Elect. Alas, with all her qualifications, they picked the Congressman who is known for cheating farmers, paid by big pharma, and a fitting replacement to Senator Richard Burr, who KNEW about the pandemic months before, and did not alert any of his constituents in the state. Instead, he invested in some well-placed insider trading, lining his pockets rather than warning his constituents. In the end, North Carolina is one of the states that seceded from the Union over the issue of slavery. A qualified, accomplished jurist had two major strikes against her: black, and female. The DNC didn’t help her either. The descendants of the slaveowners and the peasants who fought the Civil War on behalf of southern oligarchs haven’t changed their minds.

Stacey Abrams lost to Brian Kemp for the same reasons I mentioned for Cheri Beasley. Arguably, Stacey Abrams’ organization, Fair Fight gave us Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. She too had the dual dilemma of being an African American female. It does not matter the accomplishments of either of these women. It does not matter their pedigree, the fact that they are lawyers. The former Republican representative of Georgia’s 3rd district, Lynn Westmoreland called the first black president and his wife, the first lady “uppity,” both also lawyers and graduates of Harvard and Princeton: Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a conservative Republican from Georgia, let slip today what critics have been saying is the subtext of many of the attacks on Barack Obama: He’s “uppity.” According to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, Westmoreland was discussing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech outside the House chamber today when he veered into his thoughts on Michelle and Barack Obama. “Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mister Obama, Senator Obama, they’re a member of an elitist class individual that thinks that they’re uppity,” Westmoreland said. When a reporter sought clarification on the racially loaded word, Westmoreland replied, “Uppity, yeah.” Georgia GOP Congressman Calls Obama ‘Uppity’, Gregory Smith, Washington Post. There’s a long list of official definitions at the link. However, this succinct one from Urban Dictionary I believe captures the spirit of the southern zeitgeist: “Taking liberties or assuming airs beyond one’s place in a social hierarchy. Assuming equality with someone higher up the social ladder.”

Val Demmings ran with the same handicap in Florida against the least consequential senator in U.S. history. He is quite well-known for not showing up to work, denying the effects of climate change on his state, and flaccid ineffectiveness after the Parkland gun massacre. Despite besting him (in my opinion) in the one and only debate they had, he was re-elected comfortably, shouting the democratic tropes of communism, socialism, and the fact that Val is the complexion that she is, and he is not.

Charlie Crist had the same problem as Terry McAuliffe had in Virginia: he’s a retread candidate for governor, going against the one who’s warring against “woke” Disney, “woke” books and history, “woke” math, “woke” diversity, equity, and inclusion, “woke” climate science, and “woke” empathy to the “tired and poor” in Emma Lazarus’ poem. He won not saying in a debate with Crist whether he would serve a full term as governor, knowing full well he’s got the “woke dies today” koozies for his presidential 2024 campaign. Charlie Crist ran on empathy, and Florida is “better than this.” DeSantis played Orange Julius, stole his act, and made The Atlantic’s Adam Sewer’s essay and book, “The Cruelty is the Point” his modus operandi.

Tim Ryan has the irony of losing to a man who didn’t live in Ohio and specifically spurred the help of the sitting president in his party. It was an uphill battle, but in the end, PAC money and the fact the seat was and is republican now that JD Vance is Senator-elect.

Beto O’Rourke campaigned barnstorming across the state of Texas, visiting every county. He challenged Governor Abbott in a press conference after the Uvalde gun massacre that upended everything we’ve been told about Texas law enforcement as the “gold standard” for active shooter response. Abbot let hundreds of his citizens die in a climate-induced freeze, and inspired refrigerator trucks to deal with the bodies piling up from Covid due to his negligence and refusal to do mask mandates. He took away bodily autonomy from Texas women BEFORE the Supreme Court did it nationally. Abbott won, and Texas lost.

North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas were a part of the Confederacy, and the first act of insurrection was secession from the Union over the issue of slavery. The first “Big Lie” is that it wasn’t slavery when as in each case, their stated reason was the continuation of slavery in the expanding western territories and the supposedly inherent inferiority of African people trapped in involuntary, uncompensated servitude.

The Senate is still in the hands of the Democrats, thanks to an activist Supreme Court. On the conservative side, they all essentially lied to get the jobs: “Roe is settled precedent.” It didn’t help that Samuel Alito FLEW overseas to Italy to take a mocking victory lap. A lot of women, men, and young people were pissed.

Georgia is in a runoff again, largely because that’s how the machinations are designed. Thinking that African Americans would be discouraged, hoodwinked, and threatened into not voting in a second election depresses their numbers for either Dixiecrats, who designed the original voter suppression systems, and conservative republicans, the inheritors of the Southern Strategy.

I’m going to donate to Senator Warnock’s campaign because he is what Georgia and the United States Senate need, NOT a football player demonstrably suffering from traumatic brain injury. In the words of my Fraternity Brother, Jamal Bryant, “They thought we were so slow, that we were so stupid, that we would elect the lowest caricature of a stereotypical broken Black man as opposed to somebody who is educated and erudite and focused.” Herschel is the stereotypical black man who will vote as he’s directed, and do as they say. Herschel is not “uppity,” and can be coached by his equally dumb equivalent, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. The House is on a razor’s edge and could go either way, with narrow margins such that if the Republicans take it, Kevin McCarthy will likely not be Speaker, and Nancy knows that chamber better than anyone, even in the minority. If the Democrats keep the chamber, every model from news outlets and 538 needs to be thrown out the window.

The “red wave” pundits and Fox propaganda expected turned out to be a dribble, or more accurately, a urinary tract infection for the Trumpian fascists: low volume, and painful.

Georgia: “Don’t boo, VOTE!” President Barack Obama

Dinosaurs and Dodos…

Credit: Andrzej Puchta/Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Asteroids, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Civilization, Computer Modeling

The following article, since it simulated the destruction of my hometown, two days after my sixtieth birthday, is a little personal.

*****

On August 16, 2022, an approximately 70-meter asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere. At 2:02:10 P.M. EDT, the space rock exploded eight miles over Winston-Salem, N.C., with the energy of 10 megatons of TNT. The airburst virtually leveled the city and surrounding area. Casualties were in the thousands.

Well, not really. The destruction of Winston-Salem was the storyline of the fourth Planetary Defense Tabletop Exercise, run by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. The exercise was a simulation where academics, scientists, and government officials gathered to practice how the United States would respond to a real planet-threatening asteroid. Held February 23–24, participants were both virtual and in-person, hailing from Washington D.C., the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) campus in Laurel, Md., Raleigh, and Winston-Salem, N.C. The exercise included more than 200 participants from 16 different federal, state, and local organizations. On August 5, the final report came out, and the message was stark: humanity is not yet ready to meet this threat.

On the plus side, the exercise was meant to be hard—practically unwinnable. “We designed it to fall right into the gap in our capabilities,” says Emma Rainey, an APL senior scientist who helped to create the simulation. “The participants could do nothing to prevent the impact.” The main goal was to test the different government and scientific networks that should respond in a real-life planetary defense situation. “We want to see how effective operations and communications are between U.S. government agencies and the other organizations that would be involved, and then identify shortcomings,” says Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA headquarters.

NASA Asteroid Threat Practice Drill Shows We’re Not Ready, Matt Brady, Scientific American

Death by Whataboutism…

MODUS TROLLERANDI PART 2: WHATABOUTISM

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Environment, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

Nikolas Cruz was sentenced in the Parkland Shooting to life without the possibility of parole, torpedoing his request to die by the state executioner.

Alex Jones owes a bucketload of money to the Sandy Hook families who have had to endure his lies by grift of his gullible Internet followers, mocking the verdict in a dual screen that “good luck! Ain’t no more money,” while petitioning the rubes to go to his site.

The January 6th Committee held what was possibly its last hearing yesterday if past precedent favors republicans in the midterms (except for the unforced error of overturning Roe vs Wade, and the promise if given power, they will make it a nationwide ban). If Nancy Pelosi is Speaker after the elections, the committee issued a subpoena to Generalisimo Insurrectionist. He’ll wage a pitched legal battle, raise a lot of money, and hope the other crimes he’s guilty of in New York and Georgia don’t wind him up in a jumpsuit to match his complexion. Women are registering for the midterms in record numbers; the unrest in Iran over the “morality police” is a microcosm of a constituency fed up with octogenarians making rules for them.

The person at the center of the January 6th Committee’s focus has established a cult of personality for his followers and personal convenience for his enablers. Despite the recordings of Kevin McCarthy expressing abject terror, despite his, Mitch McConnell’s, and Lindsey Graham’s castigation of him on the House and Senate floors, they read the political tea leaves, realizing the conspiratorial dragon they benefitted from through Reich Wing talk radio, television, websites is a Frankenstein beyond their control. They hope to ride the crazy wave to “power,” which at this time means a position with little relation to actual governing power, and hope their violent followers don’t retaliate on them if they pick up the wrong salad fork, or select the wrong channel with the remote control.

The person at the center of the January 6th Committee’s focus still deludes himself into that he actually won the 2020 election, still denies the loss, confesses to crimes he committed in real-time, and foments open rebellion and uncivil war if he’s ever held accountable for his brazenly committed, and admitted crimes. He now demands the return of classified documents he magically declassified by telepathy (not a thing), and that the government “planted them.” If you can follow that, there will be a padded cell next to his.

I was not a fan of Seinfeld. The comedy took as its theme the play by William Shakespeare: “Much Ado About Nothing.” Norman Lear comedies like “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” and “One Day at a Time” would often veer into sensitive topics about things like gang violence, rape, racism, and misogyny. Jerry Seinfeld and the cast made a comedy about nothing for ten years. When the final curtain went down on the show, there was “weeping and gnashing of teeth” at my Motorola office in Austin, Texas. Even in syndication where I might see an episode or two, I still don’t get the attraction.

The dark side of much ado about nothing is Whataboutism: nothing matters. It makes one’s sense of history and strategy for the future be temporally bound by business quarters. It explains why we can’t do anything about climate change, George W. Bush summed up the attitude in his thoughts about the future asked by Bob Woodward: “we’ll all be dead.” I used to think he was the worst president in my lifetime until kismet said “hold my beer.” The Republican platform in 2020 was reduced to Seinfeld minimalism, and they don’t have one in 2022, save recycled Gingrich jibberish. Sexually assaulting women; grabbing them by the genitals doesn’t matter. Railing about the sanctity of the unborn never mattered according to Dana Deloach: she just wants power in the Senate, so Herschel Walker can speak word salad about promiscuous bulls all he wants (to the chagrin of Rick Scott and Tom Cotton) as long as they gain the majority. Winning is all that matters, principle never did. There were several hundred mass shootings before Nikolas Cruz. Alex Jones started his grift before the twenty-six victims were in Rigor Mortis. Donald Trump in “Art of the Deal” explained “truthful hyperbole”:

“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”

“I Call It Truthful Hyperbole”: The Most Popular Quotes From Trump’s “The Art of the Deal”, Emily Price, Fast Company, April 4, 2017

In other words, brazen lying.

He played to people’s fantasies that he was a successful businessman, despite six bankruptcies and being in hock up to his eyeballs to Deutsche Bank and the Russian Federation. He saw the reaction to the one and only black president and like a wolf, he pounced. He and his father were charged with violating the Fair Housing Act by the NIXON administration. Orly Taitz is a forgotten name and evidence education does not equate to intelligence. He took over the birther issue, poured kerosene, and lit a match. As Michael Cohen said, he never meant to win the election, it was a publicity stunt, which is why he had nothing he was passionate about to improve people’s lives other than the rich like himself (richer than he since he’s probably not on paper a billionaire). He could have repitched The Apprentice to NBC, still pulled down a check from the network, and still laundered money for Russian oligarchs, but no. Donny got out over his skis, got a taste of real power, and now like an 80s crack addict, can’t get enough of it.

He’s Pookie in [orange] face.

That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts.

It does hurt. It can kill a republic.

On the page where McHenry records the events of the last day of the convention, September 18, 1787, he wrote: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy – A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” Then McHenry added: “The Lady here alluded to was Mrs. Powel of Philada.”

“A republic if you can keep it”: Elizabeth Willing Powel, Benjamin Franklin, and the James McHenry Journal
January 6, 2022, by Josh Levy, Library of Congress

44 “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:44-47

Himalayas…

The Shisper Glacier in April 2018, left, and April 2019, right. The surging ice blocked a river fed by a nearby glacier, forming a new lake. YALE ENVIRONMENT 360 / NASA

Topics: Civilization, Climate Change, Environment, Existentialism, Global Warming

Everything about Earth and the organization of human civilization is about the control of resources.

We’ve come up with arbitrary “rules” about who is worthy of those resources, and how much they can horde, or obtain. Pharaohs, priests, secret societies, and guilds all have “knowledge” they jealously guard, or it may be as simple as caste or color. Every society with billionaires, emperors, kings, oligarchs, potentates, and sheiks all have a designated group to blame for the ills of poor planning and sadistic resource management: indigenous, or imported servants by force, they are the easy go-to designated pariahs. It is a cynical way to get rich, but a poor method of species survival. A resource we all need, from billionaires to pariahs, is potable water to drink. Jackson, Mississippi is a foreshadowing of what we might expect.

This continual differentiation of mankind by caste, color, station, and monetary wealth has brought us to this rolling train wreck catastrophe. Climate refugees occurred in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Climate refugees occurred after the flooding in Pakistan. Climate refugees will occur in the aftermath of future superstorms. Lest we think ourselves immune, we may all be seeking higher ground, leaving homes and businesses for something we could have solved decades ago except for avarice.

The permafrost is melting, and that will release viruses that haven’t seen the light of day for several millennia, and we have no vaccines for what will likely be carried on the wind and zoonotically transferred between animals and humans.

Starships are as real as magic carpets, genies, Yetis, and mermaids.

There is no “planet B,” life, or wealth on a nonfunctional planet.

Warmer air is thinning most of the vast mountain range’s glaciers, known as the Third Pole because they contain so much ice. The melting could have far-reaching consequences for flood risk and for water security for a billion people who rely on meltwater for their survival.

Spring came early this year in the high mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan, a remote border region of Pakistan. Record temperatures in March and April hastened melting of the Shisper Glacier, creating a lake that swelled and, on May 7, burst through an ice dam. A torrent of water and debris flooded the valley below, damaging fields and houses, wrecking two power plants, and washing away parts of the highway and a bridge connecting Pakistan and China.

Pakistan’s climate change minister, Sherry Rehman, tweeted videos of the destruction and highlighted the vulnerability of a region with the largest number of glaciers outside the Earth’s poles. Why were these glaciers losing mass so quickly? Rehman put it succinctly. “High global temperatures,” she said.

Just over a decade ago, relatively little was known about glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, the vast ice mountains that run across Central and South Asia, from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. But a step-up in research in the past 10 years — spurred in part by an embarrassing error in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, which predicted that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 — has led to enormous strides in understanding.

Scientists now have data on almost every glacier in high mountain Asia. They know “how these glaciers have changed not only in area but in mass during the last 20 years,” says Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist with the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He adds, “We also know much more about the processes which govern glacial melt. This information will give policymakers some instruments to really plan for the future.”

As Himalayan Glaciers Melt, a Water Crisis Looms in South Asia, VAISHNAVI CHANDRASHEKHAR, Yale Environment 360

Solar Lilly Pads…

A floating artificial leaf – which generates clean fuel from sunlight and water – on the River Cam near King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, UK. (Courtesy: Virgil Andrei)

Topics: Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Materials Science, Solar Power

Leaf-like devices that are light enough to float on water could be used to generate fuel from solar farms located on open water sources. This avenue hasn’t been explored before, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK who developed them. The new devices are made from thin, flexible substrates and perovskite-based light-absorbing layers. Tests showed that they can produce either hydrogen or syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide) while floating on the River Cam.

Artificial leaves like these are a type of photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) that transforms sunlight into electrical energy or fuel by mimicking some aspects of photosynthesis, such as splitting water into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen. This differs from conventional photovoltaic cells, which convert light directly into electricity.

Because PEC artificial leaves contain both light harvesting and catalysis components in one compact device, they could, in principle, be used to produce fuel from sunlight cheaply and simply. The problem is that current techniques for making them can’t be scaled up. What is more, they are often composed of fragile and heavy bulk materials, which limits their use.

In 2019 a team of researchers led by Erwin Reisner developed an artificial leaf that produced syngas from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. This device contained two light absorbers and catalysts, but it also incorporated a thick glass substrate and coatings to protect against moisture, which made it cumbersome.

Floating artificial leaves could produce solar-generated fuel, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

The Nobel Prize in Economics 2022…

Topics: Economics, Nobel Laureate, Nobel Prize

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2022 was awarded jointly to Ben S. Bernanke, Douglas W. Diamond, and Philip H. Dybvig “for research on banks and financial crises”

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2022. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2022. Mon. 10 Oct 2022. < https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/economic-sciences/2022/summary/ >

The Nobel Peace Prize 2022…

Topics: Democracy, Existentialism, Fascism, Nobel Laureate, Nobel Peace Prize

The 2022 Peace Prize is awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.

The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses, and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.

The Nobel Peace Prize 2022. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2022. Fri. 7 Oct 2022. < https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2022/summary/ >