Topics: Battery, Biofuels, Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions and removing them from the atmosphere is critical to the global fight against climate change. Called decarbonization, it is one of the focal points in the nation’s strategy to ensure a bright future for our planet and all who live on it.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has been at the forefront of the quest to decarbonize the U.S. economy for decades.
Argonne scientists are developing new materials for batteries and researching energy-efficient transportation and sustainable fuels. They are expanding carbon-free energy sources like nuclear and renewable power. Argonne researchers are also exploring ways to capture carbon dioxide from the air and from industrial sources, use it to produce chemicals, or store it in the ground.
The ultimate goal? To reduce the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet.
Topics: Alternate Energy, Battery, Biofuels, Climate Change, Global Warming
Cars – and in particular racecars – might seem the villains in a world grappling with climate change. Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Change the World hopes to convince you of exactly the opposite, with science journalist Kit Chapman showing how motorsports not only pioneers new, planet-friendlier machines and materials, but saves lives on and off the track too.
The first part of Chapman’s argument tracks the historical development of cars and competition. His stories show how, from its start, racing has served as a research lab and proving ground for new technologies. The first organized motor races were competitions to encourage innovation, akin to today’s X-Prizes. In 1894 Le Petit Journal offered a purse for the first car to make it from Paris to Rouen, while later races emphasized pure speed or, like the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, endurance. Chapman provides a whirlwind tour through the development of the internal combustion engine-powered car and its damning limitations, including the copious greenhouse-gas emissions and the inability to ever achieve more than 50% thermal efficiency.
He then introduces us to new racing series like Formula E and Extreme E, which have changed electric cars “from an eccentric folly to the undisputed future of the automotive industry”. Chapman highlights the advantages of electric vehicles without glossing over their drawbacks: recycling challenges, the potential for difficult-to-extinguish fires resulting from thermal runaway, and ethical/sustainability issues surrounding the materials used. Throughout this section, he links motorsport advances with “real-life” applications. For example, the same flywheels that enabled Audi’s hybrid racecars to take all three podium spots at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2012 made London buses more energy efficient. Some connections are a little more tenuous than others, but they are uniformly fascinating.
With all due respect to the recently departed former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, she started using the phrase “indispensable nation” after political reporter Sydney Blumenthal coined it. From Foreign Policy Magazine:
In his memoir of the Clinton presidency, The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal elaborated on what the phrase was intended to represent: “Only the United States had the power to guarantee global security: without our presence or support, multilateral endeavors would fail.” Albright, then secretary of state, began using the phrase often, and most prominently in February 1998, while defending the policy of coercive diplomacy against Iraq over its limited cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors when, during an interview on the “Today Show,” she said: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.”
Though politically expedient, and in the parlance of activism, it “chants” well, we’re not indispensable, nor are we exceptional. We allowed the worst of a pandemic to spread by ineptitude and Twitter addiction, science denialism, and conspiracy theory. Since the introduction of cable news and siloes of news consumption, we have citizens that believe in different versions of reality. It puts the “United States” in the realm of the oxymoron.
Now, we’re at this grim milestone. Conservatives live to push buttons, “own the libs,” grift off culture issues, and keep their constituents at high levels of anxiety and anger with right-wing echo chambers to ensure they vote for them to “own the libs.” Progressives think high-minded logic, social media presence, “woke-ness,” diversity, equity, and inclusion by proximity will produce a Star Trek utopia, because of high-minded logic. I purposely made each perspective a grammatical ouroboros. We’re at a grim milestone because our major political parties have wholly different means of evaluating reality, and because compromise is frowned upon: “DINO, RINO.” There are dark, nefarious forces that only the well-connected to Q-drops or Alex Jones can decipher.
431,000 non-farm jobs were added, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.6%. Yet, the 46th president’s approval numbers are in the toilet largely because he isn’t as entertaining as the last spastic, pathologically lying, hand-waving caricature of a mob boss with a dead ferret toupee, a metaphor for a life of hiding hard truths from himself.
We are codependent on being perpetually angry, and not wed to the idea of speaking to our neighbors who might not consume the same media. We thus base our understanding of the world and facts on separate lenses we view reality through.
“The whole idea of a democratic application of skepticism is that everyone should have the essential tools to effectively and constructively evaluate claims to knowledge.”
― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Good Reads
Laura Jackson feels the loss of her husband Charlie like she is missing a part of herself. He died of COVID early in the pandemic, on May 17, 2020, just weeks after the couple celebrated his 50th birthday. Charlie was an Army veteran who served in Iraq during Desert Storm, and Laura finds herself returning to images of war and loss—to those who have lost a limb but still feel its phantom tingle, who unthinkingly reach for a glass of water or try to step out of bed before realizing what has been lost forever. Even now she still turns to find Charlie, eager to share a joy or a disappointment, only to remember with a jolt that there is a missing space where he once was.
“I don’t know that you ever get over it,” says Jackson, who lives in Charlotte, N.C. “Your person who was supposed to be there for life—to have that tragically ripped away has been a huge, huge adjustment to make.”
The U.S. will record one million confirmed deaths from COVID in the next several weeks. This toll is likely an undercount because there are more than 200,000 other excess deaths thatgo beyond typical mortality rates, caused in part by the lingering effects of the disease and the strain of the pandemic. These immense losses are shaping our country—how we live, work, and love, how we play and pray and learn and grow.
“We will see the rippling effects of the pandemic on our society and the way it impacts individuals for generations,” says Nyesha Black, director of demographic research at the University of Alabama. “This is definitely a huge marker in the way we will think about society moving forward—it will be that anchor event.” COVID has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.
These deaths have wide-ranging consequences. The effects on children may be the longest-lasting. In the U.S., an estimated 243,000 children have lost a caregiver to COVID—including 194,000 who lost one or both parents—and the psychological and economic aftershocks can have lifetime negative impacts on their education and career.
Topics: Civilization, International Space Station, Politics, Space Exploration
ALMATY, March 30 (Reuters) – A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts safely landed in Kazakhstan on Wednesday after leaving the International Space Station aboard the same capsule despite heightened antagonism between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine.
The flight — carrying NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov back to Earth — had been closely watched to determine whether escalating strife had spilled over into longtime cooperation in space between the two former Cold War adversaries.
Russian space agency Roscosmos broadcast footage of the landing from the Kazakh steppe and said a group of technical and medical specialists had been dispatched to help the astronauts out of the capsule.
“The crew is feeling good after landing, according to rescuers,” Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Telegram messenger.
Vande Hei, who had completed his second ISS mission, logged a U.S. space-endurance record of 355 consecutive days in orbit, surpassing the previous 340-day record set by astronaut Scott Kelly in 2016, according to NASA.
In case you had not noticed, computers are hot—literally. A laptop can pump out thigh-baking heat, while data centers consume an estimated 200 terawatt-hours each year—comparable to the energy consumption of some medium-sized countries. The carbon footprint of information and communication technologies as a whole is close to that of fuel used in the aviation industry. And as computer circuitry gets ever smaller and more densely packed, it becomes more prone to melting from the energy it dissipates as heat.
Now physicist James Crutchfield of the University of California, Davis, and his graduate student Kyle Ray have proposed a new way to carry out computation that would dissipate only a small fraction of the heat produced by conventional circuits. In fact, their approach, described in a recent preprint paper, could bring heat dissipation below even the theoretical minimum that the laws of physics impose on today’s computers. That could greatly reduce the energy needed to both perform computations and keep circuitry cool. And it could all be done, the researchers say, using microelectronic devices that already exist.
In 1961 physicist Rolf Landauer of IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., showed that conventional computing incurs an unavoidable cost in energy dissipation—basically, in the generation of heat and entropy. That is because a conventional computer has to sometimes erase bits of information in its memory circuits in order to make space for more. Each time a single bit (with the value 1 or 0) is reset, a certain minimum amount of energy is dissipated—which Ray and Crutchfield have christened “the Landauer.” Its value depends on ambient temperature: in your living room, one Landauer would be around 10–21 joule. (For comparison, a lit candle emits on the order of 10 joules of energy per second.)
When a magnetic material is bombarded with short pulses of laser light, it loses its magnetism within femtoseconds (10–15 seconds). The spin, or angular momentum, of the electrons in the material, thus disappears almost instantly. Yet all that angular momentum cannot simply be lost. It must be conserved – somewhere.
Thanks to new ultrafast electron diffraction experiments, researchers at the University of Konstanz in Germany have now found that this “lost” angular momentum is in fact transferred from the electrons to vibrations of the material’s crystal lattice within a few hundred femtoseconds. The finding could have important implications for magnetic data storage and for developments in spintronics, a technology that exploits electron spins to process information without using much power.
In a ferromagnetic material, magnetism occurs because the magnetic moments of the material’s constituent atoms align parallel to each other. The atoms and their electrons then act as elementary electromagnets, and the magnetic fields are produced mainly by the spin of the electrons.
Because an ultrashort laser pulse can rapidly destroy this alignment, some scientists have proposed using such pulses as an off switch for magnetization, thereby enabling ultra-rapid data processing at frequencies approaching those of light. Understanding this ultrafast demagnetization process is thus crucial for developing such applications as well as for better understanding the foundations of magnetism.
Chemotherapy disrupts cancer cells’ ability to reproduce by frustrating cell division and damaging the cells’ DNA. In response to the pharmaceutical onslaught, cancer cells acquire mutations that reduce the therapy’s effectiveness. Compounding the challenge of fighting cancer: Under chemical and other stresses, mutation rates increase.
A team led by Princeton University’s Robert Austin and Chongqing University’s Liyu Liu has developed a novel approach to study—and potentially thwart—cancer cells’ adaptation to chemotherapy. Their cancer cell analogs are wheeled, cylindrical robots about 65 mm in diameter and 60 mm in height (see photo above). Fifty of the robots roll independently of each other over a square table, whose 4.2 × 4.2 m2 surface is covered by 2.7 million LEDs (see photo below). Light from the LEDs serves as the robots’ food. Once a robot has “eaten” the light beneath it, the corresponding LEDs are dimmed until they recover a fixed time later.
The bottom surface of each robot is equipped with four semiconductor-based sensors that can detect the intensities and spatial gradients of the three colors of light emitted by the light table: red, green, and blue (RGB). Each robot’s six-byte genome analog determines how sensitive it is to the three colors. The sensitivity, in turn, determines how readily the robot moves in response to the colors’ intensities and spatial gradients.
Topics: Alternate Energy, Battery, Green Tech, Nanotechnology, Quantum Mechanics
Note: I’m in the semifinals of the 3-Minute Thesis competition, so I decided to focus on my presentation. Wish me luck. This does, however, relate to our need as a species to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible, so things like Ukraine, Crimea, and the dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi are not facilitated by our need for energy and our tolerance for tyrants.
Whether it’s photovoltaics or fusion, sooner or later, human civilization must turn to renewable energies. This is deemed inevitable considering the ever-growing energy demands of humanity and the finite nature of fossil fuels. As such, much research has been pursued in order to develop alternative sources of energy, most of which utilize electricity as the main energy carrier. The extensive R&D in renewables has been accompanied by gradual societal changes as the world adopted new products and devices running on renewables. The most striking change as of recently is the rapid adoption of electric vehicles. While they were hardly seen on the roads even 10 years ago, now millions of electric cars are being sold annually. The electric car market is one of the most rapidly growing sectors, and it helped propel Elon Musk to become the wealthiest man in the world.
Unlike traditional cars which derive energy from the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, electric vehicles rely on batteries as the storage medium for their energy. For a long time, batteries had far lower energy density than those offered by hydrocarbons, which resulted in very low ranges of early electric vehicles. However, gradual improvement in battery technologies eventually allowed the drive ranges of electric cars to be within acceptable levels in comparison to gasoline-burning cars. It is no understatement that the improvement in battery storage technology was one of the main technical bottlenecks which had to be solved in order to kickstart the current electric vehicle revolution.
“The shortage is scaring most NMR spectroscopists,” says Martha Morton, the director of research instrumentation at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Nuclear magnetic resonance instruments and related tools use liquid helium to cool superconducting magnets.
The cornucopia’s history lies in Greek mythology. There are a lot of different stories it might have originated from, but the most common one tells the story of the lightning god, Zeus. As an infant, Zeus was in great danger from his father, Cronus. Zeus was taken to the island of Crete and cared for and nursed by a goat named Amalthea. One day, he accidentally broke off one of her horns, and in order to repay her, he used his powers to ensure that the horn would be a symbol of eternal nourishment, which is where we get the idea that the cornucopia represents abundance.
Russia’s war highlights the fragility of the global food supply — sustained investment is needed to feed the world in a changing climate.
Six boxes of wheat seed sit in our cold store. This is the first time in a decade that my team has not been able to send to Ukraine the improved germplasm we’ve developed as part of the Global Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Texcoco, Mexico. International postal and courier services are suspended. The seed had boosted productivity year on year in the country, which is now being devastated by war.
Our work builds on the legacy of Norman Borlaug, who catalyzed the Green Revolution and staved off famine in South Asia in the 1970s. Thanks to him, I see how a grain of wheat can affect the world.
Among the horrifying humanitarian consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are deeply troubling short-, medium- and long-term disruptions to the global food supply. Ukraine and Russia contribute nearly one-third of all wheat exports (as well as almost one-third of the world’s barley and one-fifth of its corn, providing an estimated 11% of the world’s calories). Lebanon, for instance, gets 80% of its wheat from Ukraine alone.