Fridges could be switched off without owner’s consent to reduce strain on power stations ~ Telegraph
by Melanie Hall
‘White goods such as electric ovens would be affected by the proposals to fit all new appliances with sensors that could shut them down when the UK’s generators struggle to meet demand for power.
The measures proposed by the UK’s National Grid, along with its counterparts in 34 European countries, to install the controversial devices are backed by one of the European Union’s most influential energy bodies.
They are pushing for the move because green energy sources such as wind farms are less predictable than traditional power stations, increasing the risk of blackouts
The proposals are outlined in documents drawn up by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), and has been agreed by the EU-wide body of energy regulators.
The proposals were sent to the European Commission on March 27, and it is set to deliver its verdict on the proposals within three months.’
Bristol Elections 2013: Greens have candidate standing in every seat as their popularity rises ~ This Is Bristol
THE Green Party in Bristol have launched their line up of candidates for the local elections.
The party has seen a rise in popularity in Bristol politics during the last year with Daniella Radice overtaking the Liberal Democrat vote in Bristol West in the mayoral election and Councillor Gus Hoyt being given a place on Bristol mayor George Ferguson’s cabinet.
The Greens have put up a candidate for every seat which is being contested.
by Jessica Shankleman
The government has imposed a minimum price for companies emitting carbon, despite concerns that the measure will drive up energy bills while having a negligible impact on global greenhouse gas emissions.
The new carbon floor price, which came into effect today, will see firms charged £16 per tonne of CO2 for fuels used for power generation this year.
The move is designed to provide a long-term price signal for low-carbon investors and will increase gradually every year to reach the Treasury’s goal of £30 per tonne by the end of the decade, and £70 per tonne in 2030.
But businesses and green groups have consistently warned that in setting a carbon floor price that is significantly higher than in the rest of Europe, the Treasury will simply drive heavy energy users out of the UK, a problem dubbed “carbon leakage”.
According to figures published last week by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), an average energy intensive business will pay £130,000 for the carbon floor price in 2013, rising to £1.1m in 2020.
The EU Emissions Trading System has been in meltdown over the past 12 months, caused by the economic crisis and a surplus of carbon allowances. Prices are currently languishing well below €5 per tonne, compared to a €37.78 high in 2008.
Councils across the UK are refusing to pick up low-energy lightbulbs from homes as they contain toxic mercury, which gives off poisonous vapours.
But confused consumers are putting the new bulbs – classed as hazardous waste – in their dustbins when they burn out, potentially putting the safety of thousands of binmen at risk.
Previously, the public disposed of traditional lightbulbs, used in Britain for 120 years, in a domestic bin.
However, they are being phased out under a European Union ruling and are being replaced with energy-saving bulbs, many of which contain mercury.
Last night UNISON, the union which represents thousands of rubbish collectors across Britain, said it was concerned at the risks binmen are facing.
A spokeswoman said: ‘We are worried as most people do not know these bulbs are not to be put in dustbins. The Government is not doing enough to make people aware of the risks.’
The most common types of low-energy bulbs are known as ‘compact fluorescent lamps’.
A study by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency found that when one of them breaks, it emits levels of toxic vapour up to 20 times higher than the safe guideline limit for an indoor area.
If a bulb is smashed, the UK’s Health Protection Agency advice is for householders to evacuate the room and leave it to ventilate for 15 minutes.
People are also advised to wear protective gloves while wiping the area of the break with a damp cloth and picking up fragments of glass – which should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed.
The advice then states the lightbulb should be taken to a council dump and placed in a special recycling bank because councils do not collect hazardous waste.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed many councils will not collect the bulbs. A spokesman said last night: ‘If a low-energy lightbulb breaks, the mercury contained in it does not pose a health risk to anyone exposed.’
Last week a Mail on Sunday survey revealed the lightbulb market had been thrown into chaos since the traditional bulbs began to be phased out.
We found it was almost impossible to find a direct replacement for old-style lightbulbs from the vast array of bulbs of different shapes and sizes, power and prices now on offer.
Nuclear Energy: Technological Insanity | Interview with Jim Riccio from Greenpeace ~ Breaking the Set
Abby Martin talks to Jim Riccio, Nuclear Policy Analyst at Greenpeace USA, about the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan and why the world continues to pursue nuclear energy given the dangers associated with the technology.
Would you like all of your Facebook friends to sift through your trash? A group of designers from Britain and Germany think that you might. Meet BinCam: a “smart” trash bin that aims to revolutionize the recycling process.
BinCam looks just like your average trash bin, but with a twist: Its upper lid is equipped with a smartphone that snaps a photo every time the lid is shut. The photo is then uploaded to Mechanical Turk, the Amazon-run service that lets freelancers perform laborious tasks for money. In this case, they analyze the photo and decide if your recycling habits conform with the gospel of green living. Eventually, the photo appears on your Facebook page.
You are also assigned points, as in a game, based on how well you are meeting the recycling challenge. The household that earns the most points “wins.” In the words of its young techie creators, BinCam is designed “to increase individuals’ awareness of their food waste and recycling behavior,” in the hope of changing their habits.
BinCam has been made possible by the convergence of two trends that will profoundly reshape the world around us. First, thanks to the proliferation of cheap, powerful sensors, the most commonplace objects can finally understand what we do with them—from umbrellas that know it’s going to rain to shoes that know they’re wearing out—and alert us to potential problems and programmed priorities. These objects are no longer just dumb, passive matter. With some help from crowdsourcing or artificial intelligence, they can be taught to distinguish between responsible and irresponsible behavior (between recycling and throwing stuff away, for example) and then punish or reward us accordingly—in real time.
And because our personal identities are now so firmly pegged to our profiles on social networks such as Facebook and Google our every interaction with such objects can be made “social”—that is, visible to our friends. This visibility, in turn, allows designers to tap into peer pressure: Recycle and impress your friends, or don’t recycle and risk incurring their wrath.
These two features are the essential ingredients of a new breed of so-called smart technologies, which are taking aim at their dumber alternatives. Some of these technologies are already catching on and seem relatively harmless, even if not particularly revolutionary: smart watches that pulsate when you get a new Facebook poke; smart scales that share your weight with your Twitter followers, helping you to stick to a diet; or smart pill bottles that ping you and your doctor to say how much of your prescribed medication remains.
But many smart technologies are heading in another, more disturbing direction. A number of thinkers in Silicon Valley see these technologies as a way not just to give consumers new products that they want but to push them to behave better. Sometimes this will be a nudge; sometimes it will be a shove. But the central idea is clear: social engineering disguised as product engineering.
In 2010, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette told an Australian news program that his company “is really an engineering company, with all these computer scientists that see the world as a completely broken place.” Just last week in Singapore, he restated Google’s notion that the world is a “broken” place whose problems, from traffic jams to inconvenient shopping experiences to excessive energy use, can be solved by technology. The futurist and game designer Jane McGonigal, a favorite of the TED crowd, also likes to talk about how “reality is broken” but can be fixed by making the real world more like a videogame, with points for doing good. From smart cars to smart glasses, “smart” is Silicon Valley’s shorthand for transforming present-day social reality and the hapless souls who inhabit it.
But there is reason to worry about this approaching revolution. As smart technologies become more intrusive, they risk undermining our autonomy by suppressing behaviors that someone somewhere has deemed undesirable. Smart forks inform us that we are eating too fast. Smart toothbrushes urge us to spend more time brushing our teeth. Smart sensors in our cars can tell if we drive too fast or brake too suddenly.
These devices can give us useful feedback, but they can also share everything they know about our habits with institutions whose interests are not identical with our own. Insurance companies already offer significant discounts to drivers who agree to install smart sensors in order to monitor their driving habits. How long will it be before customers can’t get auto insurance without surrendering to such surveillance? And how long will it be before the self-tracking of our health (weight, diet, steps taken in a day) graduates from being a recreational novelty to a virtual requirement?
How can we avoid completely surrendering to the new technology? The key is learning to differentiate between “good smart” and “bad smart.”
Devices that are “good smart” leave us in complete control of the situation and seek to enhance our decision-making by providing more information. For example: An Internet-jacked kettle that alerts us when the national power grid is overloaded (a prototype has been developed by U.K. engineer Chris Adams) doesn’t prevent us from boiling yet another cup of tea, but it does add an extra ethical dimension to that choice. Likewise, a grocery cart that can scan the bar codes of products we put into it, informing us of their nutritional benefits and country of origin, enhances—rather than impoverishes—our autonomy (a prototype has been developed by a group of designers at the Open University, also in the U.K.).
Technologies that are “bad smart,” by contrast, make certain choices and behaviors impossible. Smart gadgets in the latest generation of cars—breathalyzers that can check if we are sober, steering sensors that verify if we are drowsy, facial recognition technologies that confirm we are who we say we are—seek to limit, not to expand, what we can do. This may be an acceptable price to pay in situations where lives are at stake, such as driving, but we must resist any attempt to universalize this logic. The “smart bench”—an art project by designers JooYoun Paek and David Jimison that aims to illustrate the dangers of living in a city that is too smart—cleverly makes this point. Equipped with a timer and sensors, the bench starts tilting after a set time, creating an incline that eventually dumps its occupant. This might appeal to some American mayors, but it is the kind of smart technology that degrades the culture of urbanism—and our dignity.
Projects like BinCam fall somewhere between good smart and bad smart, depending on how they’re executed. The bin doesn’t force us to recycle, but by appealing to our base instincts—Must earn gold bars and rewards! Must compete with other households! Must win and impress friends!—it fails to treat us as autonomous human beings, capable of weighing the options by ourselves. It allows the Mechanical Turk or Facebook to do our thinking for us.
The most worrisome smart-technology projects start from the assumption that designers know precisely how we should behave, so the only problem is finding the right incentive. A truly smart trash bin, by contrast, would make us reflect on our recycling habits and contribute to conscious deliberation—say, by letting us benchmark our usual recycling behavior against other people in our demographic, instead of trying to shame us with point deductions and peer pressure.
There are many contexts in which smart technologies are unambiguously useful and even lifesaving. Smart belts that monitor the balance of the elderly and smart carpets that detect falls seem to fall in this category. The problem with many smart technologies is that their designers, in the quest to root out the imperfections of the human condition, seldom stop to ask how much frustration, failure and regret is required for happiness and achievement to retain any meaning.
It’s great when the things around us run smoothly, but it’s even better when they don’t do so by default. That, after all, is how we gain the space to make decisions—many of them undoubtedly wrongheaded—and, through trial and error, to mature into responsible adults, tolerant of compromise and complexity.
Will those autonomous spaces be preserved in a world replete with smart technologies? Or will that world, to borrow a metaphor from the legal philosopher Ian Kerr, resemble Autopia—a popular Disneyland attraction in which kids drive specially designed little cars that run through an enclosed track? Well, “drive” may not be the right word. Though the kids sit in the driver’s seat and even steer the car sideways, a hidden rail underneath always guides them back to the middle. The Disney carts are impossible to crash. Their so-called “drivers” are not permitted to make any mistakes. Isn’t it telling that one of today’s most eagerly anticipated technologies is a self-driving car, now on its way to being rolled out by Google?
To grasp the intellectual poverty that awaits us in a smart world, look no further than recent blueprints for a “smart kitchen”—an odd but persistent goal of today’s computer scientists, most recently in designs from the University of Washington and Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan.
Once we step into this magic space, we are surrounded by video cameras that recognize whatever ingredients we hold in our hands. Tiny countertop robots inform us that, say, arugula doesn’t go with boiled carrots or that lemon grass tastes awful with chocolate milk. This kitchen might be smart, but it’s also a place where every mistake, every deviation from the master plan, is frowned upon. It’s a world that looks more like a Taylorist factory than a place for culinary innovation. Rest assured that lasagna and sushi weren’t invented by a committee armed with formulas or with “big data” about recent consumer wants.
Creative experimentation propels our culture forward. That our stories of innovation tend to glorify the breakthroughs and edit out all the experimental mistakes doesn’t mean that mistakes play a trivial role. As any artist or scientist knows, without some protected, even sacred space for mistakes, innovation would cease.
With “smart” technology in the ascendant, it will be hard to resist the allure of a frictionless, problem-free future. When Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, says that “people will spend less time trying to get technology to work…because it will just be seamless,” he is not wrong: This is the future we’re headed toward. But not all of us will want to go there.
A more humane smart-design paradigm would happily acknowledge that the task of technology is not to liberate us from problem-solving. Rather, we need to enroll smart technology in helping us with problem-solving. What we want is not a life where friction and frustrations have been carefully designed out, but a life where we can overcome the frictions and frustrations that stand in our way.
Truly smart technologies will remind us that we are not mere automatons who assist big data in asking and answering questions. Unless designers of smart technologies take stock of the complexity and richness of the lived human experience—with its gaps, challenges and conflicts—their inventions will be destined for the SmartBin of history.
Britain’s polluting coal-fired power stations must be kept open to “get us through” dramatic rises in wholesale gas prices over the next seven years – that is the unpalatable opinion of the outgoing head of Ofgem, the energy watchdog. Alistair Buchanan has warned that Britain faces five years of rapidly increasing electricity costs because of rising global gas prices at a time when new sources of energy generation such as renewables and nuclear are not sufficiently developed.
Ministers might need to look at extending the life of some of Britain’s coal-fired power stations unless they could facilitate a “revolution” in energy efficiency, he adds.
Mr Buchanan admitted that his warning on energy prices make him sound like the “grim reaper” but said it was important that consumers had the information they needed to make savings before bills rose: “We want to alert consumers to the fact that around 10 per cent of our (power stations) are coming off-line that could have been running to 2016. There is nothing being actively being built at the moment (and) even if the first new gas plant were to be started now it would not be in operation for four years. Things are going to be very tight in three years’ time.”
Britain currently has around 15 per cent of spare generating capacity but that will fall to below 5 per cent within the next three years. “People have been asking ‘where’s the new nuclear, where’s the clean coal, where’s the carbon capture’. It’s not there and it won’t be there this side of 2020.”
Mr Buchanan, who steps down in June after 10 years in the post, said it was inevitable that prices will rise as supply struggles to keep up with demand: “We’ve got to go shopping around the world for our gas. It’s just horrendous serendipity that just as we have a squeeze on our power and turn to gas, the global markets have a squeeze.”
Mr Buchanan said that part of the problem facing the UK was that environmental commitments to decarbonise the energy sector had been made before the financial crisis.
As a result the cost of capital to build a new generation of green energy has increased considerably and there have also been delays in raising capital.
This means there is now a gap between the point at which the Government is committed to shutting down old power stations and when their replacements will begin working. Combined with a predicted spike in gas prices due to rising demand from countries such as China and temporary restrictions in supply, this will result in significantly higher energy costs.
Mr Buchanan said that to get round this the Government needed to facilitate a “revolution in consumer habits” and encourage people to use programmes like the Green Deal to reduce demand. But he also suggested that the Government could provide incentives to ensure that some coal power stations could be have their life extended.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday gave Congress an ultimatum on climate change: craft a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the dangers of a warming world, or the White House will go it alone.
“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Congress should consider putting a price on climate-warming carbon emissions, Obama said, briefly nodding to his failed, first-term plan to confront climate change. Republican opposition means the president’s best chance to confront the issue will mean flexing executive power.
He vowed to push for more and cheaper solar and wind energy, and pledged to cut red tape to encourage more drilling for domestic natural gas, which he said had driven down fuel prices in the United States.
“But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water,” the president said.
Japan is to start building its ambitious wind farm project off the Fukushima coast in July. The farm is expected to become the world’s largest and produce 1GW of power once completed in 2020.
The power-generating facility will be built 16 kilometers off the coast of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was critically damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The 143 wind turbines, which are to be 200 meters in height, will be built on buoyant steel frames stabilized with ballast and anchored to the continental shelf.
Once completed in 2020, the project will generate 1 gigawatt of renewable electrical power.
The project is part of Japan’s national plan to increase renewable energy resources following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. After the quake, Japan shut down its 54 nuclear reactors, but due to energy shortages it has had to restart two reactors.
We may never have our flying cars, but the future is here. From creating fully functioning artificial leaves to hacking the human brain, science made a lot of breakthroughs this year.
1. QUADRIPLEGIC USES HER MIND TO CONTROL HER ROBOTIC ARM
At the University of Pittsburgh, the neurobiology department worked with 52-year-old Jan Scheuermann over the course of 13 weeks to create a robotic arm controlled only by the power of Scheuermann’s mind.
The team implanted her with two 96-channel intracortical microelectrodes. Placed in the motor cortex, which controls all limb movement, the integration process was faster than anyone expected. On the second day, Jan could use her new arm with a 3-D workspace. By the end of the 13 weeks, she was capable of performing complex tasks with seven-dimensional movement, just like a biological arm.
To date, there have been no negative side effects.
2. DARPA ROBOT CAN TRAVERSE AN OBSTACLE COURSE
Once the robot figures out how to do that without all the wires, humanity is doomed.
DARPA was also hard at work this year making robots to track humans and run as fast as a cheetah, which seems like a great combination with no possibility of horrible side effects.
3. GENETICALLY MODIFIED SILK IS STRONGER THAN STEEL
Photo Courtesy of Indigo Moon Yarns.
At the University of Wyoming, scientists modified a group of silkworms to produce silk that is, weight for weight, stronger than steel. Different groups hope to benefit from the super-strength silk, including stronger sutures for the medical community, a biodegradable alternative to plastics, and even lightweight armor for military purposes.
4. DNA WAS PHOTOGRAPHED FOR THE FIRST TIME
Using an electron microscope, Enzo di Fabrizio and his team at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa snapped the first photos of the famous double helix.
Source: newscientist.com / via: davi296
5. INVISIBILITY CLOAK TECHNOLOGY TOOK A HUGE LEAP FORWARD
British Columbia company HyperStealth Biotechnology showed a functioning prototype of its new fabric to the U.S. and Canadian military this year. The material, called Quantum Stealth, bends light waves around the wearer without the use of batteries, mirrors, or cameras. It blocks the subject from being seen by visual means but also keeps them hidden from thermal scans and infrared.
6. SPRAY-ON SKIN
ReCell by Avita Medical is a medical breakthrough for severe-burn victims. The technology uses a postage stamp–size piece of skin from the patient, leaving the donor site with what looks like a rug burn. Then the sample is mixed with an enzyme harvested from pigs and sprayed back onto the burn site. Each tiny graft expands, covering a space up to the size of a book page within a week. Since the donor skin comes from the patient, the risk of rejection is minimal.
7. JAMES CAMERON REACHED THE DEEPEST KNOWN POINT IN THE OCEAN
Cameron was the first solo human to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench. At 6.8 miles deep, it is perhaps more a more alien place to scientists than some foreign planets are. The 2.5-story “vertical torpedo” sub descended over a period of two and a half hours before taking a variety of samples.
8. STEM CELLS COULD EXTEND HUMAN LIFE BY OVER 100 YEARS
When fast-aging elderly mice with a usual lifespan of 21 days were injected with stem cells from younger mice at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Pittsburgh, the results were staggering. Given the injection approximately four days before they were expected to die, not only did the elderly mice live — they lived threefold their normal lifespan, sticking around for 71 days. In human terms, that would be the equivalent of an 80-year-old living to be 200.
9. 3-D PRINTER CREATES FULL-SIZE HOUSES IN ONE SESSION
The D-Shape printer, created by Enrico Dini, is capable of printing a two-story building, complete with rooms, stairs, pipes, and partitions. Using nothing but sand and an inorganic binding compound, the resulting material has the same durability as reinforced concrete with the look of marble. The building process takes approximately a fourth of the time as traditional buildings, as long as it sticks to rounded structures, and can be built without specialist knowledge or skill sets.
10. SELF-DRIVING CARS ARE LEGAL IN NEVADA, FLORIDA, AND CALIFORNIA
Google started testing its driverless cars in the beginning of 2012, and by May, Nevada was the first state to take the leap in letting them roam free on the roads. With these cars logging over 300,000 autonomous hours so far, the only two accidents involving them happened when they were being manually piloted.
11. VOYAGER I LEAVES THE SOLAR SYSTEM
Launched in 1977, Voyager I is the first manmade object to fly beyond the confines of our solar system and out into the blackness of deep space. It was originally designed to send home images of Saturn and Jupiter, but NASA scientists soon realized eventually the probe would float out into the great unknown. To that end, a recording was placed on Voyager I with sounds ranging from music to whale calls, and greetings in 55 languages.
12. CUSTOM JAW TRANSPLANT CREATED WITH 3-D PRINTER
A custom working jawbone was created for an 83-year-old patient using titanium powder and bioceramic coating. The first of its kind, the successful surgery opens the door for individualized bone replacement and, perhaps one day, the ability to print out new muscles and organs.
13. ROGUE PLANET FLOATING THROUGH SPACE
Until this year, scientists knew planets orbited a star. Then, in came CFBDSIR2149. With four to seven times the mass of Jupiter, it is the first free-floating object to be officially defined as an exoplanet and not a brown dwarf.
14. CHIMERA MONKEYS CREATED FROM MULTIPLE EMBRYOS
While all the donor cells were from rhesus monkeys, the researchers combined up to six distinct embryos into three baby monkeys. According to Dr. Mitalipov, “The cells never fuse, but they stay together and work together to form tissues and organs.” Chimera species are used in order to understand the role specific genes play in embryonic development and may lead to a better understanding of genetic mutation in humans.
15. ARTIFICIAL LEAVES GENERATE ELECTRICITY
Using relatively inexpensive materials, Daniel G. Nocera created the world’s first practical artificial leaf. The self-contained units mimic the process of photosynthesis, but the end result is hydrogen instead of oxygen. The hydrogen can then be captured into fuel cells and used for electricity, even in the most remote locations on Earth.
16. GOOGLE GOGGLES BRING THE INTERNET EVERYWHERE
Almost everyone has seen the video of Google’s vision of the future. With their Goggles, everyday life is overlaid with a HUD (Head’s Up Display). Controlled by a combination of voice control and where the user is looking, the Goggles show pertinent information, surf the web, or call a loved one.
17. THE HIGGS-BOSON PARTICLE WAS DISCOVERED
Over the summer, multinational research center CERN confirmed it had discovered a particle that behaved enough like a Higgs boson to be given the title. For scientists, this meant there could be a Higgs field, similar to an electromagnetic field. In turn, this could lead to the scientists’ ability to interact with mass the same way we currently do with magnetic fields.
18. FLEXIBLE, INEXPENSIVE SOLAR PANELS CHALLENGE FOSSIL FUEL
At half the price of today’s cheapest solar cells, Twin Creeks’ Hyperion uses an ion canon to bombard wafer-thin panels. The result is a commercially viable, mass-produced solar panel that costs around 40 cents per watt.
19. DIAMOND PLANET DISCOVERED
An exoplanet made entirely of diamonds was discovered this year by an international research team. Approximately five times the size of Earth, the small planet had mass similar to that of Jupiter. Scientists believe the short distance from its star coupled with the exoplanet’s mass means the planet, remnants of another star, is mostly crystalline carbon.
20. EYE IMPLANTS GIVE SIGHT TO THE BLIND
Two blind men in the U.K. were fitted with eye implants during an eight-hour surgery with promising results. After years of blindness, both had regained “useful” vision within weeks, picking up the outlines of objects and dreaming in color. Doctors expect continued improvement as their brains rewire themselves for sight.
21. WALES BARCODES DNA OF EVERY FLOWERING PLANT SPECIES IN THE COUNTRY
Photo Courtesy of Virtual Tourist.
Led by the National Botanic Garden’s head of research and conversation, a database of DNA for all 1,143 native species of Wales has been created. With the use of over 5,700 barcodes, plants can now be identified by photos of their seeds, roots, wood, or pollen. The goal is to help researchers track things such as bee migration patterns or how a plant species encroaches on a new area. The hope is to eventually barcode both animal and plant species across the world.
22. FIRST UNMANNED COMMERCIAL SPACE FLIGHT DOCKS WITH THE ISS
SpaceX docked its unmanned cargo craft, the Dragon, with the International Space Station. It marked the first time in history a private company had sent a craft to the station. The robotic arm of the ISS grabbed the capsule in the first of what will be many resupply trips.
23. ULTRA-FLEXIBLE “WILLOW” GLASS WILL ALLOW FOR CURVED ELECTRONIC DEVICES
Created by New York–based developer Corning, the flexible glass prototype was shown off at an industry trade show in Boston. At only 0.05mm thick, it’s as thin as a sheet of paper. Perhaps Sony’s wearable PC concept will actually be possible before 2020.
24. NASA BEGINS USING ROBOTIC EXOSKELETONS
The X1 Robotic Exoskeleton weighs in at 57 lbs. and contains four motorized joints along with six passive ones. With two settings, it can either hinder movement, such as when helping astronauts exercise in space, or aid movement, assisting paraplegics with walking.
25. HUMAN BRAIN IS HACKED
Usenix Security had a team of researchers use off-the-shelf technology to show how vulnerable the human brain really is. With an EEG (electroencephalograph) headset attached to the scalp and software to figure out what the neurons firing are trying to do, it watches for spikes in brain activity when the user recognizes something like one’s ATM PIN number or a child’s face.
26. FIRST PLANET WITH FOUR SUNS DISCOVERED
Discovered by amateur astronomers, the planet closely orbits a pair of stars, which in turn orbit another set of more distant stars. It’s approximately the size of Neptune, so scientists are still trying to work out how the planet has avoided being pulled apart by the gravitational force of that many stars.
27. MICROSOFT PATENTED THE “HOLODECK”
The patent suggests Microsoft wants to take gaming beyond a single screen and turn it into an immersive experience — beaming images all over the room, accounting for things like furniture, and bending the graphics around them to create a seamless environment.
On their journey to become the first pilots of a solar-powered aircraft to circumnavigate the globe, night and day, two Swiss aviation pioneers are planning to fly cross the continental United States in 2013.
An aquatic “bicycle pump” is set to take to the seas and turn wave power into clean electricity after being acquired by green energy company Ecotricity. The Searaser device, which pumps saltwater to an onshore generator, has been tested in prototype and praised by ministers.
Searaser uses the rise and fall of a large float to pressurise water, but unlike other wave power technologies does not generate the electricity in the hostile environment of the ocean. “If you put any device in the sea, it will get engulfed in storms, so it all has to be totally sealed,” said inventor Alvin Smith. “Water and electricity don’t mix – and sea water is particularly corrosive – so most other devices are very expensive to manufacture and maintain.” The technology means the salt water and electricity-generating equipment never meet, and is done routinely in Japan.
The potential wave and tidal power available to the UK is considered enormous by government and could make a significant contribution to replacing coal and gas plants that emit the carbon dioxide that drives global warming. But the challenge of engineering devices that can survive in the hostile marine environment has left the technology lagging behind other renewable energy sources. Only one device, the Marine Current Turbines operation in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, is so far producing a meaningful amount of electricity for the National Grid.
Announcing the purchase of a controlling stake in Searaser, Ecotricity founder, Dale Vince, claimed: “We believe Searaser has the potential to produce electricity at a lower cost than any other type energy, not just other forms of renewable energy but all “conventional” forms of energy too.”
Existing marine technologies, such the Pelamis “wave-snake” have encountered unforseen financial and technical difficulties. But Ecotricity claims “it is not over-ambitious” to expect 200 of the 18 metre-deep Searaser devices to be installed around the UK within five years, generating enough renewable electricity to power 236,000 homes.
Britain’s electricity customers will be paying higher bills by 2020 to cover the costs of expanding renewable energy supplies such as solar and wind, government officials said.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey will allow utilities to triple the renewable energy levy that comes through in household and business power bills to 7.6 billion pounds ($12 billion) by 2020, according to a spokesman at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The change will come in legislation Parliament will consider once the details are published on Nov. 29.
The measures are part of the government’s 110 billion-pound program to replace aging power plants and reduce greenhouse gases. The decision helps provide utilities such as SSE Plc (SSE) and Electricite de France SA certainty over the scale of support the government is willing to grant clean energy, a level of transparency that the industry group RenewableUK has said is necessary to stimulate investment.
“This is a once in a lifetime change to our energy infrastructure, moving away from dependence on fossil fuels,” Davey said on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program. “We are going to see a massive increase in investment in clean energy and in gas and in all parts of the energy infrastructure.”
The deal, announced today by Davey’s office, represents a compromise between the Liberal Democrat and Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives. Cameron’s party, which leads the coalition, has emphasized its concerns about the costs of reducing emissions from electricity generation.
Top Tory Who Earns Thousands from Green Energy Firms Says it is ‘Reasonable’ for Bills to Rise by £2-a-Week to Pay for Wind Farms ~ This Is Money
A green energy strategy to be unveiled next week will treble the costs levied on bills from £2.35billion a year to £7.6billion.
But Mr Yeo insisted it was not a problem. ‘I personally think that a couple of pounds a week – maybe rising to almost £3 a week – is a reasonable price for Britain to achieve a degree of energy security to reduce its total dependence on fossil fuels and to honour its commitments to cut green house gases,’ he told BBC Radio 4.
However Mr Yeo, who earns almost £140,000 from green energy companies, faced criticism from Conservative colleagues.
Climate change will take a back seat to efforts to boost the economy in the near term, but the issue would return to the agenda in the future, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
The president, who won an endorsement from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg late in the presidential campaign because of his support for action on greenhouse gases, said his top priority would be to work to avert the “fiscal cliff.”
His comments appeared to thwart hopes from environmental advocates that the White House would push for inclusion of a carbon tax in a broader package to address the “fiscal cliff.” Administration officials have previously said that it’s up to Republicans to propose a carbon tax, which is unlikely.
Germany’s Nuclear Exit: Dropping Nuclear Power Has Brought Economic and Environmental Benefits ~ Washington’s Blog
We’ve previously documented that nuclear power is expensive and bad for the environment. Investing in nuclear technology crowds out developing clean energy. And people that think that nuclear is necessary to prevent climate change may have fallen prey to propaganda from the nuclear lobby.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just published a special issue providing stunning new evidence to back this up.
As PhysOrg reported yesterday:
A special issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, “The German Nuclear Exit,” shows that the nuclear shutdown and an accompanying move toward renewable energy are already yielding measurable economic and environmental benefits, with one top expert calling the German phase-out a probable game-changer for the nuclear industry worldwide.
Freie Universität Berlin politics professor Miranda Schreuers says the nuclear phase-out and accompanying shift to renewable energy have brought financial benefits to farmers, investors, and small business;
Felix Matthes of the Institute for Applied Ecology in Berlin concludes the phase-out will have only small and temporary effects on electricity prices and the German economy;
Lutz Mez, co-founder of Freie Universitӓt Berlin’s Environmental Policy Research Center, presents what may be the most startling finding of all …. “It has actually decoupled energy from economic growth, with the country’s energy supply and carbon-dioxide emissions dropping from 1990 to 2011, even as its gross domestic product rose by 36 percent.”
Big oil or coal are not the answer. Microgeneration is the key.
John Hayes said that we can “no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities” and added that it “seems extraordinary” they have allowed to spread so much throughout the country.
The energy minister said he had ordered a new analysis of the case for onshore wind power which would form the basis of future government policy, rather than “a bourgeois Left article of faith based on some academic perspective”. The comments sparked speculation that Conservative ministers are planning to drop their support for wind farms — a move which would trigger a major Coalition rift.
Lights are being turned off on motorways and major roads, in town centres and residential streets, and on footpaths and cycle ways, as councils try to save money on energy bills and meet carbon emission targets. The switch-off begins as early as 9pm.
They are making the move despite concerns from safety campaigners and the police that it would lead to an increase in road accidents and crime.
The full extent of the blackout can be disclosed following an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph - which comes on the day that clocks moved back an hour, making it dark earlier in the evening – and found that:
- 3,080 miles of motorways and trunk roads in England are now completely unlit;
- a further 47 miles of motorway now have no lights between midnight and 5am, including one of Britain’s busiest stretches of the M1, between Luton and Milton Keynes;
- out of 134 councils which responded to a survey, 73% said they had switched off or dimmed some lights or were planning to;
- all of England’s 27 county councils have turned off or dimmed street lamps in their areas.
The vast majority of councils have chosen to turn lights off at night, at times when they say there is less need for them, while others have installed lamps which can be dimmed.
Local authorities say the moves helps reduce energy bills, at a time when energy prices are continuing to rise. Several of the big energy companies have unveiled price hikes in recent weeks, including British Gas, npower and EDF Energy – which this week said it was increasing its standard variable prices for gas and electricity customers by 10%.
Some councils expect to save hundreds of thousands of pounds by turning off lights at night or converting them to dimmer switches.
However some councils admit they may not see savings for another four or five years because of the cost of installing new lights, dimmer switches and complex control systems.
And some councils – as well as the Highways Agency, responsible for motorways and major A roads – say that the lights are being turned off to meet “green” targets to cut carbon emissions, by reducing electricity use.
Engineers in London said this week that they’ve developed a new type of synthetic vehicle fuel that’s created out of water and thin air, literally by pulling carbon molecules out of the atmosphere and recycling them.
Speaking to a conference this week put on by the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers, researchers with Air Fuel Synthesis, Ltd. said they’ve successfully married a synthetic fuel production technique that dates back to World War II with modern atmospheric carbon capture and sequestration methods.
The resulting product, they said, works in all current vehicles, can be blended with conventional fuels, and just might be a game changer for human energy and the fight against climate change if it’s ever produced on a large enough scale.
Green party mayoral candidate Daniella Radice has today laid out intentions to help Bristol and the region become self-sufficient in renewable energy in the next two decades.
“Renewable energy self sufficiency for Bristol and the south west is a realistic goal,” said Ms Radice. “A push to harness solar, wind and heat energy on a micro and macro scale to generate all our electricity, would create jobs for local engineers, technicians, architects, and keep millions of pounds in the community that would otherwise be spent importing energy. Bristol has a mass of engineering and renewable energy expertise. This is a natural aim, which marries up the resources available across the south west with our people potential.”
The Green Party’s local manifesto lays out plans to improve home insulation across the city, saving local people money on fuel bills; invest in micro generation schemes including solar, ground-source heat pumps and anaerobic digesters; and work with other local authorities to establish a nation wide network to bulk-buy renewable energy. This strategy would work alongside existing council schemes.
Ms Radice is also keen to boost proposals for large scale renewable energy projects at Avonmouth and in the Bristol channel:
“We need to work on an international stage to attract market leaders in renewable energy generation. Though the city does not have the money to directly fund these large off-site projects, we can work closely with industry and neighbouring authorities to find private and public funding to make best use of our wind and tidal potential.”
Ms Radice’s plans place on emphasis on off shore wind developments, but she is keen also to look into on shore wind, solar and tidal lagoons.
Bristol based renewable energy expert Carla Denyer, is supportive of Daniella Radice’s goals:
“We have an impending energy crisis on our hands in the UK. With old power stations getting ready to close, and fossil fuels that will get more expensive as there are less of them, there is still a very real possibility that the lights will go out. We must avoid that, and Daniella’s policies reflect a uniquely fair and people-centred way of doing it. Communities and regions working together to generate their own renewable energy is the only way to break free from the ‘Big Six’ energy companies, and the false impression of choice between them, as they are all motivated by profit, not people’s well-being.”