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Date/Time of Last Update: Wed Nov 30 03:00:31 2022 UTC




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The State of the Transistor in 3 Charts
Sat, 26 Nov 2022 16:00:01 +0000


The most obvious change in transistor technology in the last 75 years has been just how many we can make. Reducing the size of the device has been a titanic effort and a fantastically successful one, as these charts show. But size isn’t the only feature engineers have been improving.


In 1947, there was only one transistor. According to TechInsight’s forecast, the semiconductor industry is on track to produce almost 2 billion trillion (1021) devices this year. That’s more transistors than were cumulatively made in all the years prior to 2017. Behind that barely conceivable number is the continued reduction in the price of a transistor, as engineers have learned to integrate more and more of them into the same area of silicon.


Scaling down transistors in the 2D space of the plane of the silicon has been a smashing success: Transistor density in logic circuits has increased more than 600,000-fold since 1971. Reducing transistor size requires using shorter wavelengths of light, such as extreme ultraviolet, and other lithography tricks to shrink the space between transistor gates and between metal interconnects. Going forward, it’s the third dimension, where transistors will be built atop one another, that counts. This trend is more than a decade old in flash memory, but it’s still in the future for logic (see “Taking Moore’s Law to New Heights.”)


Perhaps the crowning achievement of all this effort is the ability to integrate millions, even billions, of transistors into some of the most complex systems on the planet: CPUs. Here’s a look at some of the high points along the way.

What Transistors Have Become


Besides making them tiny and numerous, engineers have devoted their efforts to enhancing the device’s other qualities. Here is a small sampling of what transistors have become in the last 75 years:


Icon of a series of circles.

Ephemeral:

Researchers in Illinois developed circuits that dissolve in the body using a combination of ultrathin silicon membranes, magnesium conductors, and magnesium oxide insulators. Five minutes in water was enough to turn the first generation to mush. But recently researchers used a more durable version to make temporary cardiac pacemakers that release an anti-inflammatory drug as they disappear.


An icon of lightning bolt over a circle.

Fast:

The first transistor was made for radio frequencies, but there are now devices that operate at about a billion times those frequencies. Engineers in South Korea and Japan reported the invention of an indium gallium arsenide high-electron mobility transistor, or HEMT, that reached a maximum frequency of 738 gigahertz. Seeking raw speed, engineers at Northrop Grumman made a HEMT that passed 1 terahertz.



An icon of an iron with a line underneath.

Flat:

Today’s (and yesterday’s) transistors depend on the semiconducting properties of bulk (3D) materials. Tomorrow’s devices might rely on 2D semiconductors, such as molybdenum disulfide and tungsten disulfide. These transistors might be built in the interconnect layers above a processor’s silicon, researchers say. So 2D semiconductors could help lead to 3D processors.


An icon of a circle with a series of lines on it

Flexible:

The world is not flat, and neither are the places transistors need to operate. Using indium gallium arsenide, engineers in South Korea recently made high-performance logic transistors on plastic that hardly suffered when bent around a radius of just 4 millimeters. And engineers in Illinois and England have made microcontrollers that are both affordable and bendable.



Icon of a eye with a question mark in the center.

Invisible:

When you need to hide your computing in plain sight, turn to transparent transistors. Researchers in Fuzhou, China, recently made a see-through analogue of flash memory using organic semiconductor thin-film transistors. And researchers in Japan and Malaysia produced transparent diamond devices capable of handling more than 1,000 volts.


Icon of a brain made out of square icons

Mnemonic:

NAND flash memory cells can store multiple bits in a single device. Those on the market today store either 3 or 4 bits each. Researchers at Kioxia Corp. built a modified NAND flash cell and dunked it in 77-kelvin liquid nitrogen. A single superchilled transistor could store up to 7 bits of data, or 128 different values.



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Talented:

In 2018, engineers in Canada used an algorithm to generate all the possible unique and functional elementary circuits that can be made using just two metal-oxide field-effect transistors. The number of circuits totaled an astounding 582. Increasing the scope to three transistors netted 56,280 circuits, including several amplifiers previously unknown to engineering.


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Tough:

Some transistors can take otherworldly punishment. NASA Glenn Research Center built 200-transistor silicon carbide ICs and operated them for 60 days in a chamber that simulates the environment on the surface of Venus—460 °C heat, a planetary-probe-crushing 9.3 megapascals of pressure, and the hellish planet’s corrosive atmosphere.

This article appears in the December 2022 print issue as “The State of the Transistor.”


Match ID: 0 Score: 111.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 3 days
qualifiers: 34.29 japan, 34.29 china, 25.71 south korea, 17.14 malaysia

Alibaba founder Jack Ma hiding out in Tokyo, reports say
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:15:25 GMT

Billionaire rarely seen in public since criticising attitude of China’s regulators towards tech firms in 2020

The billionaire Jack Ma has reportedly been hiding out in Tokyo with his family during Beijing’s crackdown on the country’s star tech firms and its most powerful and wealthy business people.

Ma, the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba who until the tech clampdown was China’s richest person, has rarely been seen in public since criticising the attitude of Chinese regulators towards tech companies at a summit in Shanghai two years ago.

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Match ID: 1 Score: 80.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 japan, 40.00 china

Air pollution linked to almost a million stillbirths a year
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:00:52 GMT

First global analysis follows discovery of toxic pollution particles in lungs and brains of foetuses

Almost a million stillbirths a year can be attributed to air pollution, according to the first global study.

The research estimated that almost half of stillbirths could be linked to exposure to pollution particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), mostly produced from the burning of fossil fuels.

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Match ID: 2 Score: 75.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 35.00 india

South Dakota bans TikTok access on state-owned devices citing ties to China
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:41:07 GMT

Governor Kristi Noem’s executive order prohibits employees and contractors from using the app on government gadgets

Kristi Noem, governor of South Dakota, on Tuesday issued an executive order banning state employees and contractors from accessing the video platform TikTok on state-owned devices, citing its ties to China.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. It has been targeted by Republicans who say the Chinese government could access user data such as browsing history and location. US armed forces also have prohibited the app on military devices.

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Match ID: 3 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 singapore

Pentagon warns of China’s plans for dominance in Taiwan and beyond
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:16:49 EST
As part of China's aggressive military buildup, it conducted more ballistic missile tests last year than the rest of the world combined.
Match ID: 4 Score: 60.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

Dow Jones Newswires: China’s factory, construction, service activities contract further
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 01:55:00 GMT
China's official gauges measuring factory, construction and service activities slipped further into contraction in November, weighed by the country's stringent COVID restrictions.
Match ID: 5 Score: 40.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

EXPLAINER: Why are China's COVID rules so strict?
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:46:57 EST
At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China set out its “zero-COVID” measures that were harsh, but not out of line with what many other countries were doing to try and contain the virus
Match ID: 6 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Chinese spaceship with 3 aboard docks with space station
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:30:38 EST
Three Chinese astronauts have docked with their country’s space station, where they will overlap for several days with the three-member crew already onboard and expand the facility to its maximum size
Match ID: 7 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Chinese state TV obscures maskless crowd in World Cup broadcast
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:07:05 EST
The World Cup comes at an awkward time for Beijing’s censorship apparatus, as protesters challenge Chinese President Xi Jinping’s coronavirus policies.
Match ID: 8 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Ros Atkins on... China's crackdown on Covid protests
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:33:47 GMT
The BBC's Ros Atkins looks at how authorities have clamped down on protests against Covid measures.
Match ID: 9 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Shenzhou-15: China sends new crew to Tiangong space station
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:21:48 GMT
The mission will see the first in-orbit crew handover on the new Tiangong space station.
Match ID: 10 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Apple Restricted AirDrop Capabilities in China Ahead of Protests
2022-11-29T22:52:26+00:00
Apple Restricted AirDrop Capabilities in China Ahead of Protests submitted by /u/je97
[link] [comments]

Match ID: 11 Score: 40.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

See what led protesters to a breaking point with China’s ‘zero covid’ policy
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:48:23 EST
In extraordinary scenes, Chinese citizens are demonstrating against lockdowns despite the significant risk of arrest.
Match ID: 12 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

French regulator called on to withdraw licence allowing CGTN to broadcast from London
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 22:33:58 GMT

Chinese state broadcaster transmits from Chiswick studio despite Ofcom revoking UK licence last year

France’s media regulator is under pressure to withdraw a licence that allows the Chinese state broadcaster to beam its programmes across Europe from a studio in west London.

Ofcom revoked the organisation’s licence to transmit in the UK last year but the China Global Television Network (CGTN) was able to continue broadcasting following authorisation from the French authority.

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Match ID: 13 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China again holds firm on ‘zero covid,’ despite the worsening toll
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:00:18 EST
The decision to maintain a policy of border controls, lockdowns and travel restrictions came after two deaths linked to the measures reignited public anger.
Match ID: 14 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

S&P 500 falls third straight day as U.S. stocks end mostly lower Tuesday
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 21:04:30 GMT

U.S. stocks ended mostly lower Tuesday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite booking a third straight day of losses as investors assessed downbeat data on U.S. consumer confidence and China's step toward potentially easing its strict COVID policy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed about flat, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.2% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq dropped 0.6%, according to preliminary data from FactSet. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its U.S. consumer confidence index fell in November to a four-month low amid concerns over a slowing economy and high inflation.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 15 Score: 40.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

‘This feels so much like Hong Kong’: territory’s solidarity with Chinese uprising
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:22:27 GMT

Veterans of Hong Kong’s 2019 protests see echoes in mainland’s anti-Covid anger, but fear a similar outcome

Jack*, a Hongkonger, used to have a grim view of mainland Chinese people, but the protests over anti-Covid restrictions that exploded across China last weekend changed his view.

“Before, I thought they were mostly the arrogant and nationalistic people who just cared only about safeguarding ‘one China’ and the [Communist] party, and who boasted about the superiority of China,” said the 35-year-old IT professional, who did not want to give his real name for fear of repercussions from Beijing.

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Match ID: 16 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Pottery, pastry, beekeeping and bell-ringing could all be ‘human treasures’
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 19:54:43 GMT

Unesco meets this week to consider 56 cultural traditions for ‘living heritage’ status

On the face of it, not much appears to link the French baguette, Georgia’s traditional equestrian games, Cuban light rum, Holy Week in Guatemala, Japan’s ritual furyu-odori dances and the Maghreb hot chilli-pepper paste known as harissa.

But along with Serbia’s šljivovica plum brandy, the oral tradition of camel-calling in Saudi Arabia, Oman and UAE and a central Asian lute called the Rubāb, all could soon be recognised as part of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage.

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Match ID: 17 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 japan

: U.S. oil futures post back-to-back gains
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 19:38:00 GMT

Oil futures settled higher on Tuesday for a second straight session. The potential for new output cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, together known as OPEC+, which meets Sunday, provided support for oil prices Tuesday, said Christin Kelley, senior commodity analyst at Schneider Electric. Also, “growing internal opposition to lockdown measures in China, as well as an increasing push to vaccinate the elderly, are driving speculation of a potential reopening of China’s economy,” she said. “Such measures would help support crude demand for the world’s largest crude importer.” U.S. benchmark WTI crude for January delivery CLF23 rose 96 cents, or 1.2%, to settle at $78.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, prices shook off early losses to finish with a 1.3% gain.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 18 Score: 40.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China covid protests: authorities call for crackdown on ‘hostile forces’
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:58:34 GMT

Streets flooded with police as top security body blames ‘infiltration and sabotage’ for unrest

China has sent university students home and flooded streets with police in an attempt to disperse the most widespread anti-government protests in decades, as the country’s top security body called for a crackdown on “hostile forces”.

In an apparent effort to tackle anger at the zero-Covid policies that originally sparked the protests, authorities also announced plans to step up vaccination of older people.

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Match ID: 19 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Sizewell C ‘confirmed’ again – this time it might be the real deal | Nils Pratley
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:47:31 GMT

Buying out China’s stake was inevitable but the government still has the onerous task of finding committed investors

Another day, another “confirmation” that the government plans to build the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk – surely the “most announced” project in UK infrastructure history. The latest update, though, contained a genuine sign of seriousness: the Chinese are being paid to go away.

China General Nuclear (CGN), a state-backed firm, owned a 20% stake in the fledgling project and had, in effect, a right to subscribe to maintain its holding through the various funding rounds – just as it did at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. In practice, any form of Chinese involvement in Sizewell has been impossible for at least a year.

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Match ID: 20 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Forced Uyghur labor is being used in China's solar panel supply chain, researchers say
2022-11-29T16:53:49+00:00
Forced Uyghur labor is being used in China's solar panel supply chain, researchers say submitted by /u/chrisdh79
[link] [comments]

Match ID: 21 Score: 40.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

U.S. stocks open mixed as investors weigh U.S. housing data, China's COVID policy
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 14:32:27 GMT

U.S. stocks opened mixed as investors weighed comments from Chinese officials that long-term COVID-19 restrictions would be avoided as well as home price data in the U.S. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.2% soon after the opening bell, while the S&P 500 was about flat and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.1%, according to FactSet data, at last check. Home prices fell in September in all 20 top cities in the U.S., according to Case-Schiller index data released Tuesday. Fresh data on consumer confidence will be released at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 22 Score: 40.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China links COVID outbreak to man’s jog through a park; scientists skeptical
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 13:18:20 +0000
The man reportedly infected 39 people in one outdoor jog through a park.
Match ID: 23 Score: 40.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

What is China’s ‘zero covid’ policy and why did it trigger protests?
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 08:07:22 EST
China's "zero covid" restrictions have led to a wave of discontent among its citizens. Here's what to know about the policy.
Match ID: 24 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Coronavirus tally: China to hold media briefing on COVID policy and boost vaccinations for the elderly
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 11:24:18 GMT

Chinese top officials said they will hold a media briefing Tuesday on the country's pandemic-control policies, and pledged that long-term restrictions would be "rectified and avoided." The move comes after a weekend of protests against the zero-COVID policy that has led many people to be forced to stay at home for long periods and derailed the economy. The National Health Commissions said it would boost the effort to vaccinate the elderly and reduce the gap between primary shots and boosters to three months, as Al Jazeera reported. In the U.S., known cases of COVID are rising again with the daily average standing at 41,755 on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, up 6% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was flat at 28,135, while the daily average for deaths is up 6% to 314. Globally, the confirmed case tally rose above 641.8 million on Tuesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins, while the death toll is above 6.63 million with the U.S leading the world with 98.6 million cases and 1,079,477 fatalities.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 25 Score: 40.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Philly’s Reform Prosecutor Reacts to His Impeachment
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 11:00:22 +0000

Pennsylvania lawmakers accused Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner of causing a crime “crisis.”

The post Philly’s Reform Prosecutor Reacts to His Impeachment appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 26 Score: 40.00 source: theintercept.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 japan

Canada won’t compromise values in relations with China, says foreign minister
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 10:55:45 GMT

Exclusive: as the two nations prepare to co-host Cop15, Mélanie Joly discusses Canada’s long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy

Canada will work with China when needed – but challenge it when necessary, the country’s foreign minister said, as the two nations prepare to co-host a major environmental summit despite years of diplomatic tensions.

Speaking to the Guardian after her government released its long-awaited “Indo-Pacific Strategy”, Mélanie Joly said that Canada will “promote and defend” its national interests in a region where nations are jockeying for influence and power.

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Match ID: 27 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China clamps down on ‘zero covid’ protests, loosens some pandemic measures
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 04:59:35 EST
Beijing relaxed some “zero covid” measures while stepping up censorship and making arrests amid more small protests.
Match ID: 28 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China police move to deter zero-Covid demonstrations and trace protesters
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 09:32:37 GMT

One arrested as police reportedly demand information from Beijing protester, while show of force largely prevents fresh demonstrations

Police have been out in force in China to stamp out zero-Covid protests and at least one person was arrested, according to social media videos, after a show of civil disobedience unprecedented since president Xi Jinping assumed power a decade ago.

There were also reports some demonstrators have been interrogated by authorities over the phone after attending the rare street gatherings in cities across the country.

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Match ID: 29 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

What you need to know about China’s covid protests
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 01:21:35 EST
A deadly fire provoked the weekend demonstrations across the country, but protesters’ grievances about China's covid policy run deep.
Match ID: 30 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

How blank sheets of paper became a protest symbol in China
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 20:49:02 EST
As demonstrations flared across China, participants raised white sheets of paper as a symbol — and protest — of government censorship.
Match ID: 31 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Chinese Protesters Warily Tell Xi Jinping, “Don’t Push Me”
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 00:22:31 +0000
The nation’s most defiant public demonstrations in years oppose “zero COVID” policies, but their roots run deeper.
Match ID: 32 Score: 40.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

How China's Covid protests are being silenced
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 22:11:21 GMT
State media are going to great lengths to stop Chinese protests being seen - even overseas.
Match ID: 33 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Five dramatic days of protests across China
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 21:46:02 GMT
After a deadly fire in a locked down building, people are demanding an end to Covid restrictions.
Match ID: 34 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China Covid: How five dramatic days of protests unfolded
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 21:46:02 GMT
After a deadly fire in a locked down building, people are demanding an end to Covid restrictions.
Match ID: 35 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Layoffs Have Gutted Twitter’s Child Safety Team
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 19:33:07 +0000
Just one person remains to enforce the company’s ban on child sexual abuse across Japan and the Asia Pacific region.
Match ID: 36 Score: 40.00 source: www.wired.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 japan

Neuberger wins clearance to manage assets in China for Chinese residents
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 12:39:44 -0500
Neuberger Berman said Monday it became the second global institution to receive final approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to launch a wholly owned, newly established mutual fund business in China. Neuberger Berman will now be allowed to manage local assets for local clients, which has not been allowed previously. BlackRock Inc. was the first to receive approval. Patrick Liu, CEO of Neuberger Berman Fund Management (China) (FMC), said the country's commitment to opening up to high-quality financial services "will bring significant opportunities for local investors." Michelle Wei will become chief investment officer - equities of the FMC.
Match ID: 37 Score: 40.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China protests: Dramatic photos from across the country
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 16:18:45 GMT
Scenes of protest from China, which has seen unprecedented demonstrations against Covid restrictions.
Match ID: 38 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

What is China's zero Covid policy and what are its rules?
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 15:26:38 GMT
Protests have broken out in China over its strict Covid lockdown measures.
Match ID: 39 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

A quick guide to China’s white paper protests
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 13:46:00 GMT
Mass protests against strict Covid curbs have been building for weeks - here's what you need to know.
Match ID: 40 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

People in China: tell us about the zero-Covid policy protests
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 12:30:53 GMT

We would like to speak to people in China about their views on the protests and what daily life is like with Covid restrictions
我们想跟在中国大陆生活的人了解一下他们对抗争的看法及在中国大陆防疫措施下的的日常生活

Protests over China’s Covid restrictions have spread to several cities, with demonstrations in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Wuhan and Guangzhou following a deadly fire in the far west of the country.

We would like to speak to people in China about the situation in their country. Have you or people you know taken part in the protests? What effect do you think they could have? What are your concerns?

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Match ID: 41 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Blank paper becomes the symbol of protests
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 11:11:43 GMT
As China cracks down on protests. demonstrators adopt blank scraps of paper as their calling card.
Match ID: 42 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China Covid: BBC journalist detained by police during protests
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 11:00:32 GMT
Ed Lawrence was beaten and arrested by Shanghai police while covering anti-government rallies.
Match ID: 43 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China Covid protests: Fury and fear of virus puts Xi Jinping in a bind
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 09:55:51 GMT
For three years the patience of one billion Chinese was stretched with lockdowns - now it's snapped.
Match ID: 44 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Chinese police: Delete photos or face arrest
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 09:03:41 GMT
Authorities are stopping anyone taking photos at the Shanghai Covid protest site.
Match ID: 45 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Protests erupt in China over strict zero Covid measures: in pictures
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 03:52:34 GMT

Protesters have taken to the streets in several Chinese cities after a deadly apartment fire in Xinjiang province sparked a national outcry, with many saying Covid restrictions played a part in the disaster

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Match ID: 46 Score: 40.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Morbi bridge collapse: Victims wait for answers month after tragedy
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 01:20:15 GMT
Families of those killed in Morbi last month question why there has been no action against the culprits.
Match ID: 47 Score: 35.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 india

‘It was revelatory for younger Asians’: Monsoon’s Sheila Chandra on her hit Ever So Lonely
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 15:01:28 GMT

In 1982, no-one had ever seen a British Asian teenager in a sari singing Indian music on Top of the Pops – until Chandra appeared, with a raga-influenced single that would inspire musicians for decades

A decade after Bowie’s Starman moment on Top of the Pops, a south Asian teenage girl extended a hand from BBC Television Centre to her own audience of dreamers. It was 1982 and a sari-clad Sheila Chandra was fronting Monsoon, whose debut single Ever So Lonely, an otherworldly confection of tablas and sitars topped by Chandra’s ethereal voice, had hit No 12 in the UK singles chart. Mesmerised second-generation Asians, battling the dynamics of our parents’ cultural values while trying to fit in amid a climate of racial hostility, almost fell off our sofas.

“So many people, especially from the Asian community, have contacted me over the years to tell me how significant it was for them,” says Chandra. “It was revelatory for younger Asians to see one of their own on TV.”

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Match ID: 48 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 india

The Kashmir Files: Israeli director sparks outrage in India over ‘vulgar movie’ remarks
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 14:10:03 GMT

Nadav Lapid, chair of the International film festival India, spoke out against work that critics say is anti-Muslim propaganda

A row has erupted in India after an Israeli director described a controversial film about Kashmir as propaganda and a “vulgar movie”, prompting the Israeli ambassador to issue an apology.

Nadav Lapid, who was chair of this year’s panel of the international film festival of India (IFFI), spoke out against the inclusion of The Kashmir Files at the event.

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Match ID: 49 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 india

Death and the salesman: the 22-year-old selling human bones for a living
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 08:00:21 GMT

Jon Ferry sells old bones used in the teaching of medicine. But the medical bone trade has a murky history of exploitation

In a small, light-filled Bushwick studio space, a brown box rests on a wooden coffee table. Inside is a human head. “Wanna start?” asks Jon Pichaya Ferry, pulling a box cutter out of the pocket of his black skinny jeans.

Inside is a lumpy form wrapped in thin aqua foam, which he tears off to reveal a skull’s mandible. Out comes the rest of the skull; he fits the two parts together and places it on the lid of a coffin in the corner of the room, next to a can of Red Bull.

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Match ID: 50 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 india

Bodies-in-suitcases suspect appears in New Zealand court
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 21:25:20 EST
A woman who was extradited from South Korea this week after the bodies of her two children were found in abandoned suitcases has made her first court appearance in New Zealand
Match ID: 51 Score: 30.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 30.00 south korea

‘The perfect gateway’: are Broadway audiences ready for a K-pop musical?
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 14:56:51 GMT

The first Broadway show celebrating Korean culture hopes to show there’s ‘more to K-pop than just Gangnam Style’

With her ice blond hair, kaleidoscopic costumes and melismatic high notes, the South Korean solo artist MwE (pronounced mu-WEE) looks the part of a bona fide K-pop idol, the model of a hyper-visible cipher. Fellow girl group RTMIS (pronounced Artemis) boasts similarly convincing stage confidence, while boy band F8 (pronounced Fate) approaches the delivery of English and Korean lyrics and kinetic choreography with enough militaristic precision to draw whoops from a crowd of about 600 at New York’s Circle in the Square theater on a recent Wednesday.

The trio are, on one level, the stable of acts meant to introduce a Korean pop label to American audiences in a one-night only concert debut. They are also, in one of many meta moments, the fictional backbone of KPOP, a new musical introducing the chart-dominating genre to Broadway. The eardrum-shaking show, which opened last week after a long pandemic delay, straddles the line between Technicolor bilingual concert and musical theater, blurring Broadway conventions with arena pop adrenaline; four of the 18 cast members, including Luna as MwE, double as real-life K-pop idols.

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Match ID: 52 Score: 30.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 30.00 south korea

A Criminal Ratted Out His Friend to the FBI. Now He's Trying to Make Amends.
Sat, 26 Nov 2022 12:00:23 +0000

The FBI paid a convicted sex offender $90,000 to set up his friend and his friend’s mentally ill buddy in a terrorism sting.

The post A Criminal Ratted Out His Friend to the FBI. Now He’s Trying to Make Amends. appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 53 Score: 30.00 source: theintercept.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 30.00 india

Video Friday: Turkey Sandwich
Fri, 25 Nov 2022 17:13:24 +0000


Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today’s videos!

Happy Thanksgiving, for those who celebrate it. Now spend 10 minutes watching a telepresence robot assemble a turkey sandwich.

[ Sanctuary ]

Ayato Kanada, an assistant professor at Kyushu University, in Japan, wrote in to share “the world’s simplest omnidirectional mobile robot.”

We propose a palm-sized omnidirectional mobile robot with two torus wheels. A single torus wheel is made of an elastic elongated coil spring in which the two ends of the coil connected each other and is driven by a piezoelectric actuator (stator) that can generate 2-degrees-of-freedom (axial and angular) motions. The stator converts its thrust force and torque into longitudinal and meridian motions of the torus wheel, respectively, making the torus work as an omnidirectional wheel on a plane.

[ Paper ]

Thanks, Ayato!

This work, entitled “Virtually turning robotic manipulators into worn devices: opening new horizons for wearable assistive robotics,” proposes a novel hybrid system using a virtually worn robotic arm in augmented reality, and a real robotic manipulator servoed on such a virtual representation. We basically aim at creating the illusion of wearing a robotic system while its weight is fully supported. We believe that this approach could offer a solution to the critical challenge of weight and discomfort caused by robotic sensorimotor extensions—such as supernumerary robotic limbs (SRL), prostheses, or handheld tools—and open new horizons for the development of wearable robotics.

[ Paper ]

Thanks, Nathanaël!

Engineers at Georgia Tech are the first to study the mechanics of springtails, which leap in the water to avoid predators. The researchers learned how the tiny hexapods control their jumps, self-right in midair, and land on their feet in the blink of an eye. The team used the findings to build penny-size jumping robots.

[ Georgia Tech ]

Thanks, Jason!

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) have asked European space industries and research institutions to develop innovative technologies for the exploration of resources on the moon in the framework of the ESA-ESRIC Space Resources Challenge. As part of the challenge, teams of engineers have developed vehicles capable of prospecting for resources in a test-bed simulating the moon’s shaded polar regions. From 5 to 9 September 2022, the final of the ESA-ESRIC Space Resource Challenge took place at the Rockhal in Esch-sur-Alzette. On this occasion, lunar rover prototypes competed on a 1,800-square-meter “lunar” terrain. The winning team will have the opportunity to have their technology implemented on the moon.

[ ESA ]

Thanks, Arne!

If only cobots were as easy to use as this video from Kuka makes it seem.

The Kuka website doesn’t say how much this thing costs, which means it’s almost certainly not something that you impulse buy.

[ Kuka ]

We present the tensegrity aerial vehicle, a design of collision-resilient rotor robots with icosahedron tensegrity structures. With collision resilience and reorientation ability, the tensegrity aerial vehicles can operate in cluttered environments without complex collision-avoidance strategies. These capabilities are validated by a test of an experimental tensegrity aerial vehicle operating with only onboard inertial sensors in a previously unknown forest.

[ HiPeR Lab ]

The robotics research group Brubotics and the polymer-science and physical-chemistry group FYSC of the University of Brussels have together developed self-healing materials that can be scratched, punctured, or completely cut through and heal themselves back together, with the required heat, or even at room temperature.

[ Brubotics ]

Apparently, the World Cup needs more drone footage, because this is kinda neat.

[ DJI ]

Researchers at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms have made significant progress toward creating robots that could build nearly anything, including things much larger than themselves, from vehicles to buildings to larger robots.

[ MIT ]

The researchers from North Carolina State University have recently developed a fast and efficient soft robotic swimmer whose motions resemble a human’s butterfly-stroke style. It can achieve a high average swimming speed of 3.74 body lengths per second, close to five times as fast as the fastest similar soft swimmers, and also a high-power efficiency with a low energy cost.

[ NC State ]

To facilitate sensing and physical interaction in remote and/or constrained environments, high-extension, lightweight robot manipulators are easier to transport and can reach substantially further than traditional serial-chain manipulators. We propose a novel planar 3-degrees-of-freedom manipulator that achieves low weight and high extension through the use of a pair of spooling bistable tapes, commonly used in self-retracting tape measures, which are pinched together to form a reconfigurable revolute joint.

[ Charm Lab ]

SLURP!

[ River Lab ]

This video may encourage you to buy a drone. Or a snowmobile.

[ Skydio ]

Moxie is getting an update for the holidays!

[ Embodied ]

Robotics professor Henny Admoni answers the Internet’s burning questions about robots! How do you program a personality? Can robots pick up a single M&M? Why do we keep making humanoid robots? What is Elon Musk’s goal for the Tesla Optimus robot? Will robots take over my job writing video descriptions...I mean, um, all our jobs? Henny answers all these questions and much more.

[ CMU ]

This GRASP on Robotics talk is from Julie Adams at Oregon State University, on “Towards Adaptive Human-Robot Teams: Workload Estimation.”

The ability for robots, be it a single robot, multiple robots, or a robot swarm, to adapt to the humans with which they are teamed requires algorithms that allow robots to detect human performance in real time. The multidimensional workload algorithm incorporates physiological metrics to estimate overall workload and its components (cognitive, speech, auditory, visual, and physical). The algorithm is sensitive to changes in a human’s individual workload components and overall workload across domains, human-robot teaming relationships (supervisory, peer-based), and individual differences. The algorithm has also been demonstrated to detect shifts in workload in real time in order to adapt the robot’s interaction with the human and autonomously change task responsibilities when the human’s workload is over- or underloaded. Recently, the algorithm was used to analyze post hoc the resulting workload for a single human deploying a heterogeneous robot swarm in an urban environment. Current efforts are focusing on predicting the human’s future workload, recognizing the human’s current tasks, and estimating workload for previously unseen tasks.

[ UPenn ]


Match ID: 54 Score: 28.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 28.57 japan

The U.S.-China Chip Ban, Explained
Mon, 21 Nov 2022 17:28:29 +0000


It has now been over a month since the U.S. Commerce Department issued new rules that clamped down on the export of certain advanced chips—which have military or AI applications—to Chinese customers.

China has yet to respond—but Beijing has multiple options in its arsenal. It’s unlikely, experts say, that the U.S. actions will be the last fighting word in an industry that is becoming more geopolitically sensitive by the day.

This is not the first time that the U.S. government has constrained the flow of chips to its perceived adversaries. Previously, the United States has blocked chip sales to individual Chinese customers. In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, the United States (along with several other countries, including South Korea and Taiwan) placed Russia under a chip embargo.


But none of these prior U.S. chip bans were as broad as the new rules, issued on 7 October. “This announcement is perhaps the most expansive export control in decades,” says Sujai Shivakumar, an analyst at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, in Washington.

The rules prohibit the sale, to Chinese customers, of advanced chips with both high performance (at least 300 trillion operations per second, or 300 teraops) and fast interconnect speed (generally, at least 600 gigabytes per second). Nvidia’s A100, for comparison, is capable of over 600 teraops and matches the 600 Gb/s interconnect speed. Nvidia’s more-impressive H100 can reach nearly 4,000 trillion operations and 900 Gb/s. Both chips, intended for data centers and AI trainers, cannot be sold to Chinese customers under the new rules.

Additionally, the rules restrict the sale of fabrication equipment if it will knowingly be used to make certain classes of advanced logic or memory chips. This includes logic chips produced at nodes of 16 nanometers or less (which the likes of Intel, Samsung, and TSMC have done since the early 2010s); NAND long-term memory integrated circuits with at least 128 layers (the state of the art today); or DRAM short-term memory integrated circuits produced at 18 nanometers or less (which Samsung began making in 2016).

Chinese chipmakers have barely scratched the surface of those numbers. SMIC switched on 14-nm mass production this year, despite facing existing U.S. sanctions. YMTC started shipping 128-layer NAND chips last year.

The rules restrict not just U.S. companies, but citizens and permanent residents as well. U.S. employees at Chinese semiconductor firms have had to pack up. ASML, a Dutch maker of fabrication equipment, has told U.S. employees to stop servicing Chinese customers.

Speaking of Chinese customers, most—including offices, gamers, designers of smaller chips—probably won’t feel the controls. “Most chip trade and chip production in China is unimpacted,” says Christopher Miller, a historian who studies the semiconductor trade at Tufts University.

The controlled sorts of chips instead go into supercomputers and large data centers, and they’re desirable for training and running large machine-learning models. Most of all, the United States hopes to stop Beijing from using chips to enhance its military—and potentially preempt an invasion of Taiwan, where the vast majority of the world’s semiconductors and microprocessors are produced.

In order to seal off one potential bypass, the controls also apply to non-U.S. firms that rely on U.S.-made equipment or software. For instance, Taiwanese or South Korean chipmakers can’t sell Chinese customers advanced chips that are fabricated with U.S.-made technology.

It’s possible to apply to the U.S. government for an exemption from at least some of the restrictions. Taiwanese fab juggernaut TSMC and South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix, for instance, have already acquired temporary exemptions—for a year. “What happens after that is difficult to say,” says Patrick Schröder, a researcher at Chatham House in London. And the Commerce Department has already stated that such licenses will be the exception, not the rule (although Commerce Department undersecretary Alan Estevez suggested that around two-thirds of licenses get approved).

More export controls may be en route. Estevez indicated that the government is considering placing restrictions on technologies in other sensitive fields—specifically mentioning quantum information science and biotechnology, both of which have seen China-based researchers forge major progress in the past decade.

The Chinese government has so far retorted with harsh words and little action. “We don’t know whether their response will be an immediate reaction or whether they have a longer-term approach to dealing with this,” says Shivakumar. “It’s speculation at this point.”

Beijing could work with foreign companies whose revenue in the lucrative Chinese market is now under threat. “I’m really not aware of a particular company that thinks it’s coming out a winner in this,” says Shivakumar. This week, in the eastern city of Hefei, the Chinese government hosted a chipmakers’ conference whose attendees included U.S. firms AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm.

Nvidia has already responded by introducing a China-specific chip, the A800, which appears to be a modified A100 cut down to meet the requirements. Analysts say that Nvidia’s approach could be a model for other companies to keep up Chinese sales.

There may be other tools the Chinese government can exploit. While China may be dependent on foreign semiconductors, foreign electronics manufacturers are in turn dependent on China for rare-earth metals—and China supplies the supermajority of the world’s rare earths.

There is precedent for China curtailing its rare-earth supply for geopolitical leverage. In 2010, a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japanese Coast Guard vessels, triggering an international incident when Japanese authorities arrested the boat’s captain. In response, the Chinese government cut off rare-earth exports to Japan for several months.

Certainly, much of the conversation has focused on the U.S. action and the Chinese reaction. But for third parties, the entire dispute delivers constant reminders of just how tense and volatile the chip supply can be. In the European Union, home to less than 10 percent of the world’s microchips market, the debate has bolstered interest in the prospective European Chips Act, a plan to heavily invest in fabrication in Europe. “For Europe in particular, it’s important not to get caught up in this U.S.-China trade issue,” Schröder says.

“The way in which the semiconductor industry has evolved over the past few decades has predicated on a relatively stable geopolitical order,” says Shivakumar. “Obviously, the ground realities have shifted.”


Match ID: 55 Score: 25.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 8 days
qualifiers: 7.14 china trade, 5.71 japan, 5.71 china, 4.29 south korea, 2.86 taiwan

Tickle Pill Bug Toes With These Haptic Microfingers
Thu, 24 Nov 2022 14:00:00 +0000


All things considered, we humans are kind of big, which is very limiting to how we can comfortably interact with the world. The practical effect of this is that we tend to prioritize things that we can see and touch and otherwise directly experience, even if those things are only a small part of the world in which we live. A recent study conservatively estimates that there are 2.5 million ants for every one human on Earth. And that’s just ants. There are probably something like 7 million different species of terrestrial insects, and humans have only even noticed like 10 percent of them. The result of this disconnect is that when (for example) insect populations around the world start to crater, it takes us much longer to first notice, care, and act.

To give the small scale the attention that it deserves, we need a way of interacting with it. In a paper recently published in Scientific Reports, roboticists from Ritsumeikan University in Japan demonstrate a haptic teleoperation system that connects a human hand on one end with microfingers on the other, letting the user feel what it’s like to give a pill bug a tummy rub.


Three images showing a top view of the microfinger, which is clear with with liquid metal channels running through it, and side views of the microfinger straight and bent. At top, a microfinger showing the pneumatic balloon actuator (PBA) and liquid metal strain gauge. At bottom left, when the PBA is deflated, the microfinger is straight. At bottom right, inflating the PBA causes the finger to bend downwards.

These microfingers are just 12 millimeters long, 3 mm wide, and 490 microns (μm) thick. Inside of each microfinger is a pneumatic balloon actuator, which is just a hollow channel that can be pressurized with air. Since the channel is on the top of the microfinger, when the channel is inflated, it bulges upward, causing the microfinger to bend down. When pressure is reduced, the microfinger returns to its original position. Separate channels in the microfinger are filled with liquid metal, and as the microfinger bends, the channels elongate, thinning out the metal. By measuring the resistance of the metal, you can tell how much the finger is being bent. This combination of actuation and force sensing means that a human-size haptic system can be used as a force feedback interface: As you move your fingers, the microfingers will move, and forces can be transmitted back to you, allowing you to feel what the microfingers feel.

Two images showing a concept drawing of the microfingers interacting with a pill bug, and a human hand enclosed in sensors and actuators. The microfingers (left) can be connected to a haptic feedback and control system for use by a human.

Fans of the golden age of science fiction will recognize this system as a version of Waldo F. Jones' Synchronous Reduplicating Pantograph, although the concept has even deeper roots in sci-fi:

The thought suddenly struck me: I can make micro hands for my little hands. I can make the same gloves for them as I did for my living hands, use the same system to connect them to the handles ten times smaller than my micro arms, and then ... I will have real micro arms, they will chop my movements two hundred times. With these hands I will burst into such a smallness of life that they have only seen, but where no one else has disposed of their own hands. And I got to work.

With their very real and not science fiction system, the researchers were able to successfully determine that pill bugs can exert about 10 micro-Newtons of force through their legs, which is about the same as what has been estimated using other techniques. This is just a proof of concept study, but I’m excited about the potential here, because there is still so much of the world that humans haven’t yet been able to really touch. And besides just insect-scale tickling, there’s a broader practical context here around the development of insect-scale robots. Insects have had insect-scale sensing and mobility and whatnot pretty well figured out for a long time now, and if we’re going to make robots that can do insect-like things, we’re going to do it by learning as much as we can directly from insects themselves.

“With our strain-sensing microfinger, we were able to directly measure the pushing motion and force of the legs and torso of a pill bug—something that has been impossible to achieve previously. We anticipate that our results will lead to further technological development for microfinger-insect interactions, leading to human-environment interactions at much smaller scales.”
—Satoshi Konishi, Ritsumeikan University

I should also be clear that despite the headline, I don’t know if it’s actually possible to tickle a bug. A Google search for “are insects ticklish” turns up one single result, from someone asking this question on the "StonerThoughts" subreddit. There is some suggestion that tickling, or more specifically the kind of tickling that is surprising and can lead to laughter called gargalesis, has evolved in social mammals to promote bonding. The other kind of tickling is called knismesis, which is more of an unpleasant sensation that causes irritation or distress. You know, like the feeling of a bug crawling on you. It seems plausible (to me, anyway) that bugs may experience some kind of knismesis—but I think that someone needs to get in there and do some science, especially now that we have the tools to make it happen.
Match ID: 56 Score: 22.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 22.86 japan

Taiwan 2023 semiconductor output value forecast to grow 6.1% year-on-year
2022-11-30T01:45:19+00:00
Taiwan 2023 semiconductor output value forecast to grow 6.1% year-on-year submitted by /u/Saltedline
[link] [comments]

Match ID: 57 Score: 20.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 taiwan

Singapore lifts gay sex ban but blocks path toward marriage equality
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:42:02 GMT

LGBTQ+ advocates welcome repeal of British colonial-era law while expressing dismay as parliament backs existing definition of marriage

Singapore’s parliament has decriminalised sex between men, but has amended the constitution to effectively block full marriage equality.

The British colonial-era law penalised sex between men with up to two years in jail, although the statute was not actively enforced.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 58 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 singapore

Philippines sees a pandemic boom in child sex abuse
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 00:13:34 GMT
Lockdowns and school closures left children at home with poor parents, desperate to make money.
Match ID: 59 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 philippines

IEEE SIGHT Founder Amarnath Raja Dies at 65
Wed, 23 Nov 2022 19:00:01 +0000


Amarnath Raja

Founder of IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology

Senior member, 65; died 5 September

Raja founded the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT) in 2011. The global network partners with underserved communities and local organizations to leverage technology for sustainable development.


He began his career in 1980 as a management trainee at the National Dairy Development Board, in Anand, India. A year later he joined Milma, a state government marketing cooperative for the dairy industry, in Thiruvananthapuram, as a manager of planning and systems. After 15 years with Milma, he joined IBM in Tokyo as a manager of technology services.

In 2000 he helped found InApp, a company in Palo Alto, Calif., that provides software development services. He served as its CEO and executive chairman until he died.

Raja was the 2011–2012 chair of the IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee. He wanted to find a way to mobilize engineers to apply their expertise to develop sustainable solutions that help their local community. To achieve the goal, in 2011 he founded IEEE SIGHT. Today there are more than 150 SIGHT groups in 50 countries that are working on projects such as sustainable irrigation and photovoltaic systems.

For his efforts, he received the 2015 Larry K. Wilson Transnational Award from IEEE Member and Geographic Activities. The award honors effective efforts to fulfill one or more of the MGA goals and strategic objectives related to transnational activities.

For the past two years, Rajah chaired the IEEE Admission and Advancement Review Panel, which approves applications for new members and elevations to higher membership grades.

He was a member of the International Centre for Free and Open Source Software’s advisory board. The organization was established by the government of Kerala, India, to facilitate the development and distribution of free, open-source software.

Raja also served as one of the directors of the nongovernmental organization Bedroc.in, which was established to continue the disaster rehabilitation work started by him and his team after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1979 from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

Donn S. Terry

Software engineer

Life member, 74; died 14 September

Terry was a computer engineer at Hewlett-Packard in Fort Collins, Colo., for 18 years.

He joined HP in 1978 as a software developer, and he chaired the Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) working group. POSIX is a family of standards specified by the IEEE Computer Society for maintaining compatibility among operating systems. While there, he also developed software for the Motorola 68000 microprocessor.

Terry left HP in 1997 to join Softway Solutions, also in Fort Collins, where he developed tools for Interix, a Unix subsystem of the Windows NT operating system. After Microsoft acquired Softway in 1999, he stayed on as a senior software development engineer at its Seattle location. There he worked on static analysis, a method of computer-program debugging that is done by examining the code without executing the program. He also helped to create SAL, a Microsoft source-code annotation language, which was developed to make code design easier to understand and analyze.

Terry retired in 2014. He loved science fiction, boating, cooking, and spending time with his family, according to his daughter, Kristin.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1970 and a Ph.D. in computer science in 1978, both from the University of Washington in Seattle.

William Sandham

Signal processing engineer

Life senior member, 70; died 25 August

Sandham applied his signal processing expertise to a wide variety of disciplines including medical imaging, biomedical data analysis, and geophysics.

He began his career in 1974 as a physicist at the University of Glasgow. While working there, he pursued a Ph.D. in geophysics. He earned his degree in 1981 at the University of Birmingham in England. He then joined the British National Oil Corp. (now Britoil) as a geophysicist.

In 1986 he left to join the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, as a lecturer in the signal processing department. During his time at the university, he published more than 200 journal papers and five books that addressed blood glucose measurement, electrocardiography data analysis and compression, medical ultrasound, MRI segmentation, prosthetic limb fitting, and sleep apnea detection.

Sandham left the university in 2003 and founded Scotsig, a signal processing consulting and research business, also in Glasgow.

He served on the editorial board of IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems II: Analog and Digital Signal Processing and the EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing.

He was a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and a member of the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

Sandham earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1974 from the University of Glasgow.

Stephen M. Brustoski

Loss-prevention engineer

Life member, 69; died 6 January

For 40 years, Brustoski worked as a loss-prevention engineer for insurance company FM Global. He retired from the company, which was headquartered in Johnston, R.I., in 2014.

He was an elder at his church, CrossPoint Alliance, in Akron, Ohio, where he oversaw administrative work and led Bible studies and prayer meetings. He was an assistant scoutmaster for 12 years, and he enjoyed hiking and traveling the world with his family, according to his wife, Sharon.

Brustoski earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1973 from the University of Akron.

Harry Letaw

President and CEO of Essex Corp.

Life senior member, 96; died 7 May 2020

As president and CEO of Essex Corp., in Columbia, Md., Letaw handled the development and commercialization of optoelectronic and signal processing solutions for defense, intelligence, and commercial customers. He retired in 1995.

He had served in World War II as an aviation engineer for the U.S. Army. After he was discharged, he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, then a master’s degree and Ph.D., all from the University of Florida in Gainesville, in 1949, 1951, and 1952.

After he graduated, he became a postdoctoral assistant at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He left to become a researcher at Raytheon Technologies, an aerospace and defense manufacturer, in Wayland, Mass.

Letaw was a member of the American Physical Society and the Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi honor societies.


Match ID: 60 Score: 15.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 6 days
qualifiers: 15.00 india

India’s First Private Space Rocket Blasts Off
Fri, 18 Nov 2022 17:51:56 +0000


A rocket built by Indian startup Skyroot has become the country’s first privately developed launch vehicle to reach space, following a successful maiden flight earlier today. The suborbital mission is a major milestone for India’s private space industry, say experts, though more needs to be done to nurture the fledgling sector.

The Vikram-S rocket, named after the founder of the Indian space program, Vikram Sarabhai, lifted off from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre, on India’s east coast, at 11:30 a.m. local time (1 a.m. eastern time). It reached a peak altitude of 89.5 kilometers (55.6 miles), crossing the 80-km line that NASA counts as the boundary of space, but falling just short of the 100 km recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

In the longer run, India’s space industry has ambitions of capturing a significant chunk of the global launch market.

Pawan Kumar Chandana, cofounder of the Hyderabad-based startup, says the success of the launch is a major victory for India’s nascent space industry, but the buildup to the mission was nerve-racking. “We were pretty confident on the vehicle, but, as you know, rockets are very notorious for failure,” he says. “Especially in the last 10 seconds of countdown, the heartbeat was racing up. But once the vehicle had crossed the launcher and then went into the stable trajectory, I think that was the moment of celebration.”

At just 6 meters (20 feet) long and weighing only around 550 kilograms (0.6 tonnes), the Vikram-S is not designed for commercial use. Today’s mission, called Prarambh, which means “the beginning” in Sanskrit, was designed to test key technologies that will be used to build the startup’s first orbital rocket, the Vikram I. The rocket will reportedly be capable of lofting as much as 480 kg up to an 500-km altitude and is slated for a maiden launch next October.

man standing in front of a rocket behind him Skyroot cofounder Pawan Kumar Chandana standing in front of the Vikram-S rocket at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, on the east coast of India.Skyroot

In particular, the mission has validated Skyroot’s decision to go with a novel all-carbon fiber structure to cut down on weight, says Chandana. It also allowed the company to test 3D-printed thrusters, which were used for spin stabilization in Vikram-S but will power the upper stages of its later rockets. Perhaps the most valuable lesson, though, says Chandana, was the complexity of interfacing Skyroot's vehicle with ISRO’s launch infrastructure. “You can manufacture the rocket, but launching it is a different ball game,” he says. “That was a great learning experience for us and will really help us accelerate our orbital vehicle.”

Skyroot is one of several Indian space startups looking to capitalize on recent efforts by the Indian government to liberalize its highly regulated space sector. Due to the dual-use nature of space technology, ISRO has historically had a government-sanctioned monopoly on most space activities, says Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, director of the Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology at the Observer Research Foundation think tank, in New Delhi. While major Indian engineering players like Larsen & Toubro and Godrej Aerospace have long supplied ISRO with components and even entire space systems, the relationship has been one of a supplier and vendor, she says.

But in 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a series of reforms to allow private players to build satellites and launch vehicles, carry out launches, and provide space-based services. The government also created the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (InSpace), a new agency designed to act as a link between ISRO and the private sector, and affirmed that private companies would be able to take advantage of ISRO’s facilities.

The first launch of a private rocket from an ISRO spaceport is a major milestone for the Indian space industry, says Rajagopalan. “This step itself is pretty crucial, and it’s encouraging to other companies who are looking at this with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement,” she says. But more needs to be done to realize the government’s promised reforms, she adds. The Space Activities Bill that is designed to enshrine the country’s space policy in legislation has been languishing in draft form for years, and without regulatory clarity, it’s hard for the private sector to justify significant investments. “These are big, bold statements, but these need to be translated into actual policy and regulatory mechanisms,” says Rajagopalan.

Skyroot’s launch undoubtedly signals the growing maturity of India’s space industry, says Saurabh Kapil, associate director in PwC’s space practice. “It’s a critical message to the Indian space ecosystem, that we can do it, we have the necessary skill set, we have those engineering capabilities, we have those manufacturing or industrialization capabilities,” he says.

rocket launching into the sky with fire tail The Vikram-S rocket blasting off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, on the east coast of India.Skyroot

However, crossing this technical milestone is only part of the challenge, he says. The industry also needs to demonstrate a clear market for the kind of launch vehicles that companies like Skyroot are building. While private players are showing interest in launching small satellites for applications like agriculture and infrastructure monitoring, he says, these companies will be able to build sustainable businesses only if they are allowed to compete for more lucrative government and defense-sector contacts.

In the longer run, though, India’s space industry has ambitions of capturing a significant chunk of the global launch market, says Kapil. ISRO has already developed a reputation for both reliability and low cost—its 2014 mission to Mars cost just US $74 million, one-ninth the cost of a NASA Mars mission launched the same week. That is likely to translate to India’s private space industry, too, thanks to a considerably lower cost of skilled labor, land, and materials compared with those of other spacefaring nations, says Kapil. “The optimism is definitely there that because we are low on cost and high on reliability, whoever wants to build and launch small satellites is largely going to come to India,” he says.


Match ID: 61 Score: 10.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china, 5.00 india

Autonomous Vehicles Join the List of US National Security Threats
Mon, 21 Nov 2022 20:51:57 +0000
Lawmakers are growing concerned about a flood of data-hungry cars from China taking over American streets.
Match ID: 62 Score: 5.71 source: www.wired.com age: 8 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

ISS Daily Summary Report – 11/21/2022
Mon, 21 Nov 2022 16:00:30 +0000
Payloads: Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Media Take Part 2: Using a JAXA camcorder, the crew participated in a live interview and recorded a session to discuss several subjects. The JAXA Public Relations Activity (JAXA EPO) includes conducting cultural activities such as writing reports about and filming video of activities aboard the ISS. These tools …
Match ID: 63 Score: 5.71 source: blogs.nasa.gov age: 8 days
qualifiers: 5.71 japan

‘We couldn’t fail them’: how Pakistan’s floods spurred fight at Cop for loss and damage fund
Sun, 20 Nov 2022 16:24:54 GMT

With the deadly devastation fresh in the world’s mind, Pakistan pushed for damage funds with other frontline countries

In early September, after unprecedented rainfall had left a third of Pakistan under water, its climate change minister set out the country’s stall for Cop27. “We are on the frontline and intend to keep loss and damage and adapting to climate catastrophes at the core of our arguments and negotiations. There will be no moving away from that,” Sherry Rehman said.

Pakistan brought that resolve to the negotiations in Sharm el-Sheikh and, as president of the G77 plus China negotiating bloc, succeeded in keeping developing countries united on loss and damage – despite efforts by some rich countries to divide them. Its chief negotiator, Nabeel Munir, a career diplomat, was backed by a team of savvy veteran negotiators who had witnessed the devastation and suffering from the floods, which caused $30bn (£25bn) of damage and economic losses. Every day, Munir repeated the same message: “Loss and damage is not charity, it’s about climate justice.”

Continue reading...
Match ID: 64 Score: 5.71 source: www.theguardian.com age: 9 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

The EV Transition Explained: Battery Challenges
Sat, 19 Nov 2022 19:30:00 +0000


“Energy and information are two basic currencies of organic and social systems,” the economics Nobelist Herb Simon once observed. A new technology that alters the terms on which one or the other of these is available to a system can work on it the most profound changes.”

Electric vehicles at scale alter the terms of both basic currencies concurrently. Reliable, secure supplies of minerals and software are core elements for EVs, which represent a “shift from a fuel-intensive to a material-intensive energy system,” according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). For example, the mineral requirements for an EV’s batteries and electric motors are six times that of an internal-combustion-engine (ICE) vehicle, which can increase the average weight of an EV by 340 kilograms (750 pounds). For something like the Ford Lightning, the weight can be more than twice that amount.

EVs also create a shift from an electromechanical-intensive to an information-intensive vehicle. EVs offer a virtual clean slate from which to accelerate the design of safe, software-defined vehicles, with computing and supporting electronics being the prime enabler of a vehicle’s features, functions, and value. Software also allows for the decoupling of the internal mechanical connections needed in an ICE vehicle, permitting an EV to be controlled remotely or autonomously. An added benefit is that the loss of the ICE power train not only reduces the components a vehicle requires but also frees up space for increased passenger comfort and storage.

The effects of Simon’s profound changes are readily apparent, forcing a 120-year-old industry to fundamentally reinvent itself. EVs require automakers to design new manufacturing processes and build plants to make both EVs and their batteries. Ramping up the battery supply chain is the automakers’ current “most challenging topic,” according to VW chief financial officer Arno Antlitz.

It can take five or more years to get a lithium mine up and going, but operations can start only after it has secured the required permits, a process that itself can take years.

These plants are also very expensive. Ford and its Korean battery supplier SK Innovation are spending US $5.6 billion to produce F-Series EVs and batteries in Stanton, Tenn., for example, while GM is spending $2 billion to produce its new Cadillac Lyriq EVs in Spring Hill, Tenn. As automakers expand their lines of EVs, tens of billions more will need to be invested in both manufacturing and battery plants. It is little wonder that Tesla CEO Elon Musk calls EV factories “gigantic money furnaces.”

Furthermore, Kristin Dziczek a policy analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago adds, there are scores of new global EV competitors actively seeking to replace the legacy automakers. The “simplicity” of EVs in comparison with ICE vehicles allows these disruptors to compete virtually from scratch with legacy automakers, not only in the car market itself but for the material and labor inputs as well.

Batteries and the supply-chain challenge

Another critical question is whether all the planned battery-plant output will support expected EV production demands. For instance, the United States will require 8 million EV batteries annually by 2030 if its target to make EVs half of all new-vehicle sales is met, with that number rising each year after. As IEA executive director Fatih Birol observes, “Today, the data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realizing those ambitions.”

This mismatch worries automakers. GM, Ford, Tesla, and others have moved to secure batteries through 2025, but it could be tricky after that. Rivian Automotive chief executive RJ Scaringe was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that “90 to 95 percent of the (battery) supply chain does not exist,” and that the current semiconductor chip shortage is “a small appetizer to what we are about to feel on battery cells over the next two decades.”

The competition for securing raw materials, along with the increased consumer demand, has caused EV prices to spike. Ford has raised the price of the Lightning $6,000 to $8,500, and CEO Jim Farley bluntly states that in regard to material shortages in the foreseeable future, “I don’t think we should be confident in any other outcomes than an increase in prices.”

Stiff Competition for Engineering Talent


One critical area of resource competition is over the limited supply of software and systems engineers with the mechatronics and robotics expertise needed for EVs. Major automakers have moved aggressively to bring more software and systems-engineering expertise on board, rather than have it reside at their suppliers, as they have traditionally done. Automakers feel that if they’re not in control of the software, they’re not in control of their product.

Volvo’s CEO Jim Rowan stated earlier this year that increasing the computing power in EVs will be harder and more altering of the automotive industry than switching from ICE vehicles to EVs. This means that EV winners and losers will in great part be separated by their “relative strength in their cyberphysical systems engineering,” states Clemson’s Paredis.

Even for the large auto suppliers, the transition to EVs will not be an easy road. For instance, automakers are demanding these suppliers absorb more cost cuts because automakers are finding EVs so expensive to build. Not only do automakers want to bring cutting-edge software expertise in-house, they want greater inside expertise in critical EV supply-chain components, especially batteries.

Automakers, including Tesla, are all scrambling for battery talent, with bidding wars reportedly breaking out to acquire top candidates. With automakers planning to spend more than $13 billion to build at least 13 new EV battery plants in North America within the next five to seven years, experienced management and production-line talent will likely be in extremely short supply. Tesla’s Texas Gigafactory needs some 10,000 workers alone, for example. With at least 60 new battery plants planned to be in operation globally by 2030, and scores needed soon afterward, major battery makers are already highlighting their expected skill shortages.


The underlying reason for the worry: Supplying sufficient raw materials to existing and planned battery plants as well as to the manufacturers of other renewable energy sources and military systems—who are competing for the same materials—has several complications to overcome. Among them is the need for more mines to provide the metals required, which have spiked in price as demand has increased. For example, while demand for lithium is growing rapidly, investment in mines has significantly lagged the investment that has been aimed toward EVs and battery plants. It can take five or more years to get a lithium mine up and going, but operations can start only after it has secured the required permits, a process that itself can take years.

Mining the raw materials, of course, assumes that there is sufficient refining capability to process them, which, outside of China, is limited. This is especially true in the United States, which, according to a Biden Administration special supply-chain investigative report, has “limited raw material production capacity and virtually no processing capacity.” Consequently, the report states, the United States “exports the limited raw materials produced today to foreign markets.” For example, output from the only nickel mine in the United States, the Eagle mine in Minnesota, is sent to Canada for smelting.

“Energy and information are two basic currencies of organic and social systems. A new technology that alters the terms on which one or the other of these is available to a system can work on it the most profound changes.” —Herb Simon

One possible solution is to move away from lithium-ion batteries and nickel metal hydride batteries to other battery chemistries such as lithium-iron phosphate, lithium-ion phosphate, lithium-sulfur, lithium-metal, and sodium-ion, among many others, not to mention solid-state batteries, as a way to alleviate some of the material supply and cost problems. Tesla is moving toward the use of lithium-iron phosphate batteries, as is Ford for some of its vehicles. These batteries are cobalt free, which alleviates several sourcing issues.

Another solution may be recycling both EV batteries as well as the waste and rejects from battery manufacturing, which can run between 5 to 10 percent of production. Effective recycling of EV batteries “has the potential to reduce primary demand compared to total demand in 2040, by approximately 25 percent for lithium, 35 percent for cobalt and nickel, and 55 percent for copper,” according to a report by the University of Sidney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures.



While investments into creating EV battery recycling facilities have started, there is a looming question of whether there will be enough battery factory scrap and other lithium-ion battery waste for them to remain operational while they wait for sufficient numbers of batteries to make them profitable. Lithium-ion battery-pack recycling is very time-consuming and expensive, making mining lithium often cheaper than recycling it, for example. Recycling low or no-cobalt lithium batteries, which is the direction many automakers are taking, may also make it unprofitable to recycle them.

An additional concern is that EV batteries, once no longer useful for propelling the EV, have years of life left in them. They can be refurbished, rebuilt, and reused in EVs, or repurposed into storage devices for homes, businesses, or the grid. Whether it will make economic sense to do either at scale versus recycling them remains to be seen.

Howard Nusbaum, the administrator of the National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program (NSVRP), succinctly puts it, “There is no recycling, and no EV-recycling industry, if there is no economic basis for one.”

In the next article in the series, we will look at whether the grid can handle tens of millions of EVs.


Match ID: 65 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 10 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?
Sat, 19 Nov 2022 16:00:01 +0000


Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

The fundamental technology that these companies rely on is not new: Electroencephalography (EEG) has been around for about a century, and it’s commonly used today in both medicine and neuroscience research. For those applications, the subject may have up to 256 electrodes attached to their scalp with conductive gel to record electrical signals from neurons in different parts of the brain. More electrodes, or “channels,” mean that doctors and scientists can get better spatial resolution in their readouts—they can better tell which neurons are associated with which electrical signals.

What is new is that EEG has recently broken out of clinics and labs and has entered the consumer marketplace. This move has been driven by a new class of “dry” electrodes that can operate without conductive gel, a substantial reduction in the number of electrodes necessary to collect useful data, and advances in artificial intelligence that make it far easier to interpret the data. Some EEG headsets are even available directly to consumers for a few hundred dollars.

While the public may not have gotten the memo, experts say the neurotechnology is mature and ready for commercial applications. “This is not sci-fi,” says James Giordano, chief of neuroethics studies at Georgetown University Medical Center. “This is quite real.”

How InnerEye’s TSA-boosting technology works

InnerEye Security Screening Demo youtu.be

In an office in Herzliya, Israel, Sergey Vaisman sits in front of a computer. He’s relaxed but focused, silent and unmoving, and not at all distracted by the seven-channel EEG headset he’s wearing. On the computer screen, images rapidly appear and disappear, one after another. At a rate of three images per second, it’s just possible to tell that they come from an airport X-ray scanner. It’s essentially impossible to see anything beyond fleeting impressions of ghostly bags and their contents.

“Our brain is an amazing machine,” Vaisman tells us as the stream of images ends. The screen now shows an album of selected X-ray images that were just flagged by Vaisman’s brain, most of which are now revealed to have hidden firearms. No one can knowingly identify and flag firearms among the jumbled contents of bags when three images are flitting by every second, but Vaisman’s brain has no problem doing so behind the scenes, with no action required on his part. The brain processes visual imagery very quickly. According to Vaisman, the decision-making process to determine whether there’s a gun in complex images like these takes just 300 milliseconds.

Brain data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier.

What takes much more time are the cognitive and motor processes that occur after the decision making—planning a response (such as saying something or pushing a button) and then executing that response. If you can skip these planning and execution phases and instead use EEG to directly access the output of the brain’s visual processing and decision-making systems, you can perform image-recognition tasks far faster. The user no longer has to actively think: For an expert, just that fleeting first impression is enough for their brain to make an accurate determination of what’s in the image.

An illustration of a person in front of screens with suitcases above it.  InnerEye’s image-classification system operates at high speed by providing a shortcut to the brain of an expert human. As an expert focuses on a continuous stream of images (from three to 10 images per second, depending on complexity), a commercial EEG system combined with InnerEye’s software can distinguish the characteristic response the expert’s brain produces when it recognizes a target. In this example, the target is a weapon in an X-ray image of a suitcase, representing an airport-security application.Chris Philpot

Vaisman is the vice president of R&D of InnerEye, an Israel-based startup that recently came out of stealth mode. InnerEye uses deep learning to classify EEG signals into responses that indicate “targets” and “nontargets.” Targets can be anything that a trained human brain can recognize. In addition to developing security screening, InnerEye has worked with doctors to detect tumors in medical images, with farmers to identify diseased plants, and with manufacturing experts to spot product defects. For simple cases, InnerEye has found that our brains can handle image recognition at rates of up to 10 images per second. And, Vaisman says, the company’s system produces results just as accurate as a human would when recognizing and tagging images manually—InnerEye is merely using EEG as a shortcut to that person’s brain to drastically speed up the process.

While using the InnerEye technology doesn’t require active decision making, it does require training and focus. Users must be experts at the task, well trained in identifying a given type of target, whether that’s firearms or tumors. They must also pay close attention to what they’re seeing—they can’t just zone out and let images flash past. InnerEye’s system measures focus very accurately, and if the user blinks or stops concentrating momentarily, the system detects it and shows the missed images again.

Can you spot the manufacturing defects?

Examine the sample images below, and then try to spot the target among the nontargets.

Ten images are displayed every second for five seconds on loop. There are three targets.

A pair of black and white images.  The left is labelled "non target" and the right is "target." there is a red circle around a black line on the right image.

A gif of a black and white static image

Can you spot the weapon?

Three images are displayed every second for five seconds on loop. There is one weapon.

A gif of x-rayed pieces of luggage. InnerEye

Having a human brain in the loop is especially important for classifying data that may be open to interpretation. For example, a well-trained image classifier may be able to determine with reasonable accuracy whether an X-ray image of a suitcase shows a gun, but if you want to determine whether that X-ray image shows something else that’s vaguely suspicious, you need human experience. People are capable of detecting something unusual even if they don’t know quite what it is.

“We can see that uncertainty in the brain waves,” says InnerEye founder and chief technology officer Amir Geva. “We know when they aren’t sure.” Humans have a unique ability to recognize and contextualize novelty, a substantial advantage that InnerEye’s system has over AI image classifiers. InnerEye then feeds that nuance back into its AI models. “When a human isn’t sure, we can teach AI systems to be not sure, which is better training than teaching the AI system just one or zero,” says Geva. “There is a need to combine human expertise with AI.” InnerEye’s system enables this combination, as every image can be classified by both computer vision and a human brain.

Using InnerEye’s system is a positive experience for its users, the company claims. “When we start working with new users, the first experience is a bit overwhelming,” Vaisman says. “But in one or two sessions, people get used to it, and they start to like it.” Geva says some users do find it challenging to maintain constant focus throughout a session, which lasts up to 20 minutes, but once they get used to working at three images per second, even two images per second feels “too slow.”

In a security-screening application, three images per second is approximately an order of magnitude faster than an expert can manually achieve. InnerEye says their system allows far fewer humans to handle far more data, with just two human experts redundantly overseeing 15 security scanners at once, supported by an AI image-recognition system that is being trained at the same time, using the output from the humans’ brains.

InnerEye is currently partnering with a handful of airports around the world on pilot projects. And it’s not the only company working to bring neurotech into the workplace.

How Emotiv’s brain-tracking technology works

Workers wearing earbuds sit in an office in front of computers. Emotiv’s MN8 earbuds collect two channels of EEG brain data. The earbuds can also be used for phone calls and music. Emotiv

When it comes to neural monitoring for productivity and well-being in the workplace, the San Francisco–based company Emotiv is leading the charge. Since its founding 11 years ago, Emotiv has released three models of lightweight brain-scanning headsets. Until now the company had mainly sold its hardware to neuroscientists, with a sideline business aimed at developers of brain-controlled apps or games. Emotiv started advertising its technology as an enterprise solution only this year, when it released its fourth model, the MN8 system, which tucks brain-scanning sensors into a pair of discreet Bluetooth earbuds.

Tan Le, Emotiv’s CEO and cofounder, sees neurotech as the next trend in wearables, a way for people to get objective “brain metrics” of mental states, enabling them to track and understand their cognitive and mental well-being. “I think it’s reasonable to imagine that five years from now this [brain tracking] will be quite ubiquitous,” she says. When a company uses the MN8 system, workers get insight into their individual levels of focus and stress, and managers get aggregated and anonymous data about their teams.

The Emotiv Experience

Illustration of head with an earpiece in.  With columns of data on either side. The Emotiv Experience Chris Philpot

Emotiv’s MN8 system uses earbuds to capture two channels of EEG data, from which the company’s proprietary algorithms derive performance metrics for attention and cognitive stress. It’s very difficult to draw conclusions from raw EEG signals [top], especially with only two channels of data. The MN8 system relies on machine-learning models that Emotiv developed using a decade’s worth of data from its earlier headsets, which have more electrodes.

To determine a worker’s level of attention and cognitive stress, the MN8 system uses a variety of analyses. One shown here [middle, bar graphs] reveals increased activity in the low-frequency ranges (theta and alpha) when a worker’s attention is high and cognitive stress is low; when the worker has low attention and high stress, there’s more activity in the higher-frequency ranges (beta and gamma). This analysis and many others feed into the models that present simplified metrics of attention and cognitive stress [bottom] to the worker.

Emotiv launched its enterprise technology into a world that is fiercely debating the future of the workplace. Workers are feuding with their employers about return-to-office plans following the pandemic, and companies are increasingly using “ bossware” to keep tabs on employees—whether staffers or gig workers, working in the office or remotely. Le says Emotiv is aware of these trends and is carefully considering which companies to work with as it debuts its new gear. “The dystopian potential of this technology is not lost on us,” she says. “So we are very cognizant of choosing partners that want to introduce this technology in a responsible way—they have to have a genuine desire to help and empower employees,” she says.

Lee Daniels, a consultant who works for the global real estate services company JLL, has spoken with a lot of C-suite executives lately. “They’re worried,” says Daniels. “There aren’t as many people coming back to the office as originally anticipated—the hybrid model is here to stay, and it’s highly complex.” Executives come to Daniels asking how to manage a hybrid workforce. “This is where the neuroscience comes in,” he says.

Emotiv has partnered with JLL, which has begun to use the MN8 earbuds to help its clients collect “true scientific data,” Daniels says, about workers’ attention, distraction, and stress, and how those factors influence both productivity and well-being. Daniels says JLL is currently helping its clients run short-term experiments using the MN8 system to track workers’ responses to new collaboration tools and various work settings; for example, employers could compare the productivity of in-office and remote workers.

“The dystopian potential of this technology is not lost on us.” —Tan Le, Emotiv CEO

Emotiv CTO Geoff Mackellar believes the new MN8 system will succeed because of its convenient and comfortable form factor: The multipurpose earbuds also let the user listen to music and answer phone calls. The downside of earbuds is that they provide only two channels of brain data. When the company first considered this project, Mackellar says, his engineering team looked at the rich data set they’d collected from Emotiv’s other headsets over the past decade. The company boasts that academics have conducted more than 4,000 studies using Emotiv tech. From that trove of data—from headsets with 5, 14, or 32 channels—Emotiv isolated the data from the two channels the earbuds could pick up. “Obviously, there’s less information in the two sensors, but we were able to extract quite a lot of things that were very relevant,” Mackellar says.

Once the Emotiv engineers had a hardware prototype, they had volunteers wear the earbuds and a 14-channel headset at the same time. By recording data from the two systems in unison, the engineers trained a machine-learning algorithm to identify the signatures of attention and cognitive stress from the relatively sparse MN8 data. The brain signals associated with attention and stress have been well studied, Mackellar says, and are relatively easy to track. Although everyday activities such as talking and moving around also register on EEG, the Emotiv software filters out those artifacts.

The app that’s paired with the MN8 earbuds doesn’t display raw EEG data. Instead, it processes that data and shows workers two simple metrics relating to their individual performance. One squiggly line shows the rise and fall of workers’ attention to their tasks—the degree of focus and the dips that come when they switch tasks or get distracted—while another line represents their cognitive stress. Although short periods of stress can be motivating, too much for too long can erode productivity and well-being. The MN8 system will therefore sometimes suggest that the worker take a break. Workers can run their own experiments to see what kind of break activity best restores their mood and focus—maybe taking a walk, or getting a cup of coffee, or chatting with a colleague.

What neuroethicists think about neurotech in the workplace

While MN8 users can easily access data from their own brains, employers don’t see individual workers’ brain data. Instead, they receive aggregated data to get a sense of a team or department’s attention and stress levels. With that data, companies can see, for example, on which days and at which times of day their workers are most productive, or how a big announcement affects the overall level of worker stress.

Emotiv emphasizes the importance of anonymizing the data to protect individual privacy and prevent people from being promoted or fired based on their brain metrics. “The data belongs to you,” says Emotiv’s Le. “You have to explicitly allow a copy of it to be shared anonymously with your employer.” If a group is too small for real anonymity, Le says, the system will not share that data with employers. She also predicts that the device will be used only if workers opt in, perhaps as part of an employee wellness program that offers discounts on medical insurance in return for using the MN8 system regularly.

However, workers may still be worried that employers will somehow use the data against them. Karen Rommelfanger, founder of the Institute of Neuroethics, shares that concern. “I think there is significant interest from employers” in using such technologies, she says. “I don’t know if there’s significant interest from employees.”

Both she and Georgetown’s Giordano doubt that such tools will become commonplace anytime soon. “I think there will be pushback” from employees on issues such as privacy and worker rights, says Giordano. Even if the technology providers and the companies that deploy the technology take a responsible approach, he expects questions to be raised about who owns the brain data and how it’s used. “Perceived threats must be addressed early and explicitly,” he says.

Giordano says he expects workers in the United States and other western countries to object to routine brain scanning. In China, he says, workers have reportedly been more receptive to experiments with such technologies. He also believes that brain-monitoring devices will really take off first in industrial settings, where a momentary lack of attention can lead to accidents that injure workers and hurt a company’s bottom line. “It will probably work very well under some rubric of occupational safety,” Giordano says. It’s easy to imagine such devices being used by companies involved in trucking, construction, warehouse operations, and the like. Indeed, at least one such product, an EEG headband that measures fatigue, is already on the market for truck drivers and miners.

Giordano says that using brain-tracking devices for safety and wellness programs could be a slippery slope in any workplace setting. Even if a company focuses initially on workers’ well-being, it may soon find other uses for the metrics of productivity and performance that devices like the MN8 provide. “Metrics are meaningless unless those metrics are standardized, and then they very quickly become comparative,” he says.

Rommelfanger adds that no one can foresee how workplace neurotech will play out. “I think most companies creating neurotechnology aren’t prepared for the society that they’re creating,” she says. “They don’t know the possibilities yet.”

This article appears in the December 2022 print issue.


Match ID: 66 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 10 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

China’s Moon Missions Shadow NASA Artemis’s Pace
Wed, 07 Sep 2022 16:56:57 +0000


This past weekend, NASA scrubbed the Artemis I uncrewed mission to the moon and back. Reportedly, the space agency will try again to launch the inaugural moon mission featuring the gargantuan Space Launch System (SLS) at the end of this month or sometime in October. Meanwhile, half a world away, China is progressing on its own step-by-step program to put both robotic and, eventually, crewed spacecraft on the lunar surface and keep pace with NASA-led achievements.

Asia’s rapidly growing space power has already made a number of impressive lunar leaps but will need to build on these in the coming years. Ambitious sample-return missions, landings at the lunar south pole, testing the ability to 3D print using materials from regolith, and finally sending astronauts on a short-term visit to our celestial neighbor are in the cards before the end of the decade.

The next step, expected around 2024, is Chang’e-6: an unprecedented attempt to collect rock samples from the far side of the moon.

The mission will build on two recent major space achievements. In 2019, China became the first country to safely land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, a hemisphere which cannot be seen from Earth—as the moon is tidally locked. The mission was made possible by a relay satellite out beyond the moon at Earth-moon Lagrange point 2, where it can bounce signals between Chang’e-4 and ground stations in China.

Chang’e-5 in 2020 performed the first sampling of lunar material in over four decades. The complex, four-spacecraft mission used an orbiter, lander, ascent vehicle, and return capsule to successfully deliver 1.731 grams of lunar rocks to Earth. The automated rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit of the orbiter and ascent spacecraft was also seen as a test of the technology for getting astronauts off the moon and back to Earth.

Chang’e-6 will again attempt to collect new samples, this time from the South pole-Aitken basin, a massive and ancient impact crater on the far side of the moon. The science return of such a mission could likewise be huge as its rocks have the potential to answer some significant questions about the moon’s geological past, says planetary scientist Katherine Joy of the University of Manchester, in England.

“We think that the basin-formation event was so large that the moon’s mantle could have been excavated from tens of kilometers deep,” says Joy. Fragments of this mantle material originating from deep in the moon would help us to understand how the Moon differentiated early in its history, the nature of its interior, and how volcanism on the far side of the moon is different or similar to that on the nearside.

Chang’e-7, also scheduled for 2024, will look at a different set of questions geared toward lunar resources. It will target the lunar south pole, a region where NASA’s Artemis 3 crewed mission is also looking to land.

The mission will involve a flotilla of spacecraft, including a new relay satellite, an orbiter, lander, rover and a small “hopping” spacecraft designed to inspect permanently shadowed craters which are thought to contain water ice which could be used in the future to provide breathable oxygen, rocket fuel, or drinking water to lunar explorers.

Following this Chang’e-8 is expected to launch around 2027 to test in situ resource utilization and conduct other experiments and technology tests such as oxygen extraction and 3D printing related to building a permanent lunar base—for both robots and crew—in the 2030s, named the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

The upcoming Chang’e-6, 7 and 8 missions are expected to launch on China’s largest current rocket, the Long March 5. But, as with NASA and Artemis, China will need its own megarockets to make human lunar exploration and ultimately, perhaps, crewed lunar bases a reality.

In part in reaction to the achievements of SpaceX, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s main space contractor, is developing a new rocket specifically for launching astronauts beyond low Earth orbit.

The “new generation crew launch vehicle” will essentially bundle three Long March 5 core stages together (which will be no mean feat of engineering) while also improving the performance of its kerosene engines. The result will be a roughly 90-meter-tall rocket resembling a Long March version of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, capable of sending 27 tonnes of payload into translunar injection.

Two launches of the rocket will by 2030, according to leading Chinese space officials, be able to put a pair of astronauts on the moon for a 6-hour stay. Such a mission also requires developing a lunar lander and a new spacecraft capable of keeping astronauts safe in deep space.

For building infrastructure on the moon, China is looking to the future Long March 9, an SLS-class rocket capable of sending 50 tonnes into translunar injection. The project will require CASC to make breakthroughs in a number of areas, including manufacturing new, wider rocket bodies of up to 10 meters in diameter, mastering massive, higher-thrust rocket engines, and building a new launch complex at Wenchang, Hainan island, to handle the monster.

Once again NASA is leading humanity’s journey to the moon, but China’s steady accumulation of capabilities and long-term ambitions means it will likely not be far behind.


Match ID: 67 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 83 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

NASA’s Artemis I Revives the Moonshot
Sun, 28 Aug 2022 13:00:00 +0000



Update 5 Sept.: For now, NASA’s giant Artemis I remains on the ground after two launch attempts scrubbed by a hydrogen leak and a balky engine sensor. Mission managers say Artemis will fly when everything's ready—but haven't yet specified whether that might be in late September or in mid-October.

“When you look at the rocket, it looks almost retro,” said Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA. “Looks like we’re looking back toward the Saturn V. But it’s a totally different, new, highly sophisticated—more sophisticated—rocket, and spacecraft.”

Artemis, powered by the Space Launch System rocket, is America’s first attempt to send astronauts to the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, and technology has taken giant leaps since then. On Artemis I, the first test flight, mission managers say they are taking the SLS, with its uncrewed Orion spacecraft up top, and “stressing it beyond what it is designed for”—the better to ensure safe flights when astronauts make their first landings, currently targeted to begin with Artemis III in 2025.

But Nelson is right: The rocket is retro in many ways, borrowing heavily from the space shuttles America flew for 30 years, and from the Apollo-Saturn V.

Much of Artemis’s hardware is refurbished: Its four main engines, and parts of its two strap-on boosters, all flew before on shuttle missions. The rocket’s apricot color comes from spray-on insulation much like the foam on the shuttle’s external tank. And the large maneuvering engine in Orion’s service module is actually 40 years old—used on 19 space shuttle flights between 1984 and 1992.

“I have a name for missions that use too much new technology—failures.”
—John Casani, NASA

Perhaps more important, the project inherits basic engineering from half a century of spaceflight. Just look at Orion’s crew capsule—a truncated cone, somewhat larger than the Apollo Command Module but conceptually very similar.

Old, of course, does not mean bad. NASA says there is no need to reinvent things engineers got right the first time.

“There are certain fundamental aspects of deep-space exploration that are really independent of money,” says Jim Geffre, Orion vehicle-integration manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “The laws of physics haven’t changed since the 1960s. And capsule shapes happen to be really good for coming back into the atmosphere at Mach 32.”

Roger Launius, who served as NASA’s chief historian from 1990 to 2002 and as a curator at the Smithsonian Institution from then until 2017, tells of a conversation he had with John Casani, a veteran NASA engineer who managed the Voyager, Galileo, and Cassini probes to the outer planets.

“I have a name for missions that use too much new technology,” he recalls Casani saying. “Failures.”

The Artemis I flight is slated for about six weeks. (Apollo 11 lasted eight days.) The ship roughly follows Apollo’s path to the moon’s vicinity, but then puts itself in what NASA calls a distant retrograde orbit. It swoops within 110 kilometers of the lunar surface for a gravity assist, then heads 64,000 km out—taking more than a month but using less fuel than it would in closer orbits. Finally, it comes home, reentering the Earth’s atmosphere at 11 km per second, slowing itself with a heatshield and parachutes, and splashing down in the Pacific not far from San Diego.

If all four, quadruply redundant flight computer modules fail, there is a fifth, entirely separate computer onboard, running different code to get the spacecraft home.

“That extra time in space,” says Geffre, “allows us to operate the systems, give more time in deep space, and all those things that stress it, like radiation and micrometeoroids, thermal environments.”

There are, of course, newer technologies on board. Orion is controlled by two vehicle-management computers, each composed of two flight computer modules (FCMs) to handle guidance, navigation, propulsion, communications, and other systems. The flight control system, Geffre points out, is quad-redundant; if at any point one of the four FCMs disagrees with the others, it will take itself offline and, in a 22-second process, reset itself to make sure its outputs are consistent with the others’. If all four FCMs fail, there is a fifth, entirely separate computer running different code to get the spacecraft home.

Guidance and navigation, too, have advanced since the sextant used on Apollo. Orion uses a star tracker to determine its attitude, imaging stars and comparing them to an onboard database. And an optical navigation camera shoots Earth and the moon so that guidance software can determine their distance and position and keep the spacecraft on course. NASA says it’s there as backup, able to get Orion to a safe splashdown even if all communication with Earth has been lost.

But even those systems aren’t entirely new. Geffre points out that the guidance system’s architecture is derived from the Boeing 787. Computing power in deep space is limited by cosmic radiation, which can corrupt the output of microprocessors beyond the protection of Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field.

Beyond that is the inevitable issue of cost. Artemis is a giant project, years behind schedule, started long before NASA began to buy other launches from companies like SpaceX and Rocket Lab. NASA’s inspector general, Paul Martin, testified to Congress in March that the first four Artemis missions would cost US $4.1 billion each—“a price tag that strikes us as unsustainable.”

Launius, for one, rejects the argument that government is inherently wasteful. “Yes, NASA’s had problems in managing programs in the past. Who hasn’t?” he says. He points out that Blue Origin and SpaceX have had plenty of setbacks of their own—they’re just not obliged to be public about them. “I could go on and on. It’s not a government thing per se and it’s not a NASA thing per se.”

So why return to the moon with—please forgive the pun—such a retro rocket? Partly, say those who watch Artemis closely, because it’s become too big to fail, with so much American money and brainpower invested in it. Partly because it turns NASA’s astronauts outward again, exploring instead of maintaining a space station. Partly because new perspectives could come of it. And partly because China and Russia have ambitions in space that threaten America’s.

“Apollo was a demonstration of technological verisimilitude—to the whole world,” says Launius. “And the whole world knew then, as they know today, that the future belongs to the civilization that can master science and technology.”

Update 7 Sept.: Artemis I has been on launchpad 39B, not 39A as previously reported, at Kennedy Space Center.


Match ID: 68 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 93 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

As China’s Quantum-Encrypting Satellites Shrink, Their Networking Abilities Grow
Thu, 25 Aug 2022 18:37:07 +0000


The orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab has transmitted quantum-encryption keys to four ground stations, researchers reported on 18 August. The same network of ground stations is also able to receive quantum keys from the orbiting Micius satellite, which is in a much higher orbit, using the space station as a repeater. It comes just after the late July launch of Jinan 1, China’s second quantum-encrypting satellite, by the University of Science and Technology of China. USTC told the Xinhua News Agency that the new satellite is one-sixth the mass of its 2016 predecessor.

“The launch is significant,” says physicist Paul Kwiat of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, because it means the team are starting to build, not just plan, a quantum network. USTC researchers did not reply to IEEE Spectrum’s request for comments.

In quantum-key distribution (QKD), the quantum states of a single photon, such as polarization, encode and distribute random information that can be used to encrypt a classical message. Because it is impossible to copy the quantum state without changing it, senders and recipients can verify that their transmission got through without tampering or reading by third parties. In some scenarios it involves sending just one well-described photon at a time, but single photons are difficult to produce, and in this case, researchers used an attenuated laser to send small pulses that might also come out a couple of photons at a time, or not at all.

The USTC research team, led by Jian-Wei Pan, had already established quantum-key distribution from Micius to a single ground station in 2017, not long after the 2016 launch of the satellite. The work that Pan and colleagues reported this month, but which took place in 2018 and 2019, is a necessary step for building a constellation of quantum-encryption-compatible satellites across a range of orbits, to ensure more secure long-distance communications.

Several other research groups have transmitted quantum keys, and others are now building microsatellites for the same purpose. However, the U.S. National Security Agency’s site about QKD lists several technical limitations, such as requiring an initial verification of the counterparty’s identity, the need for special equipment, the cost, and the risk of hardware-based security vulnerabilities. In the absence of fixes, the NSA does not anticipate approving QKD for national security communications.

However, attenuated laser pulses are just one way of implementing QKD. Another is to use quantum entanglement, by which a pair of photons will behave the same way, even at a distance, when someone measures one of their quantum properties. In earlier experiments, Pan and colleagues also reported using quantum entanglement for QKD and mixing satellite and fiber-optic links to establish a mixed-modality QKD network spanning almost 5,000 kilometers.

“A quantum network with entangled nodes is the thing that would be really interesting, enabling distributed quantum computing and sensing, but that’s a hard thing to make. Being able to do QKD is a necessary but not sufficient first step,” Kwiat says. The USTC experiments are a chance to establish many technical abilities, such as the precise control of the pulse duration and direction of the lasers involved, or the ability to accurately transfer and measure the quantum signals to the standard necessary for a more complex quantum network.

That is a step ahead of the many other QKD efforts made so far on laboratory benchtops, over ground-to-ground cables, or aboard balloons or aircraft. “You have to do things very differently if you’re not allowed to fiddle with something once it’s launched into space,” Kwiat says.

The U.S. CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, signed on 9 August, allocated more than US $153 million a year for quantum computing and networks. While that’s unlikely to drive more American work toward an end goal of QKD, Kwiat says, “maybe we do it on the way to these more interesting applications.”


Match ID: 69 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 96 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

U.N. Kills Any Plans to Use Mercury as a Rocket Propellant
Tue, 19 Apr 2022 18:00:01 +0000


A recent United Nations provision has banned the use of mercury in spacecraft propellant. Although no private company has actually used mercury propellant in a launched spacecraft, the possibility was alarming enough—and the dangers extreme enough—that the ban was enacted just a few years after one U.S.-based startup began toying with the idea. Had the company gone through with its intention to sell mercury propellant thrusters to some of the companies building massive satellite constellations over the coming decade, it would have resulted in Earth’s upper atmosphere being laced with mercury.

Mercury is a neurotoxin. It’s also bio-accumulative, which means it’s absorbed by the body at a faster rate than the body can remove it. The most common way to get mercury poisoning is through eating contaminated seafood. “It’s pretty nasty,” says Michael Bender, the international coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG). “Which is why this is one of the very few instances where the governments of the world came together pretty much unanimously and ratified a treaty.”

Bender is referring to the 2013 Minamata Convention on Mercury, a U.N. treaty named for a city in Japan whose residents suffered from mercury poisoning from a nearby chemical factory for decades. Because mercury pollutants easily find their way into the oceans and the atmosphere, it’s virtually impossible for one country to prevent mercury poisoning within its borders. “Mercury—it’s an intercontinental pollutant,” Bender says. “So it required a global treaty.”

Today, the only remaining permitted uses for mercury are in fluorescent lighting and dental amalgams, and even those are being phased out. Mercury is otherwise found as a by-product of other processes, such as the burning of coal. But then a company hit on the idea to use it as a spacecraft propellant.

In 2018, an employee at Apollo Fusion approached the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonprofit that investigates environmental misconduct in the United States. The employee—who has remained anonymous—alleged that the Mountain View, Calif.–based space startup was planning to build and sell thrusters that used mercury propellant to multiple companies building low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.

Four industry insiders ultimately confirmed that Apollo Fusion was building thrusters that utilized mercury propellant. Apollo Fusion, which was acquired by rocket manufacturing startup Astra in June 2021, insisted that the composition of its propellant mixture should be considered confidential information. The company withdrew its plans for a mercury propellant in April 2021. Astra declined to respond to a request for comment for this story.

Apollo Fusion wasn’t the first to consider using mercury as a propellant. NASA originally tested it in the 1960s and 1970s with two Space Electric Propulsion Tests (SERT), one of which was sent into orbit in 1970. Although the tests demonstrated mercury’s effectiveness as a propellant, the same concerns over the element’s toxicity that have seen it banned in many other industries halted its use by the space agency as well.

“I think it just sort of fell off a lot of folks’ radars,” says Kevin Bell, the staff counsel for PEER. “And then somebody just resurrected the research on it and said, ‘Hey, other than the environmental impact, this was a pretty good idea.’ It would give you a competitive advantage in what I imagine is a pretty tight, competitive market.”

That’s presumably why Apollo Fusion was keen on using it in their thrusters. Apollo Fusion as a startup emerged more or less simultaneously with the rise of massive LEO constellations that use hundreds or thousands of satellites in orbits below 2,000 kilometers to provide continual low-latency coverage. Finding a slightly cheaper, more efficient propellant for one large geostationary satellite doesn’t move the needle much. But doing the same for thousands of satellites that need to be replaced every several years? That’s a much more noticeable discount.

Were it not for mercury’s extreme toxicity, it would actually make an extremely attractive propellant. Apollo Fusion wanted to use a type of ion thruster called a Hall-effect thruster. Ion thrusters strip electrons from the atoms that make up a liquid or gaseous propellant, and then an electric field pushes the resultant ions away from the spacecraft, generating a modest thrust in the opposite direction. The physics of rocket engines means that the performance of these engines increases with the mass of the ion that you can accelerate.

Mercury is heavier than either xenon or krypton, the most commonly used propellants, meaning more thrust per expelled ion. It’s also liquid at room temperature, making it efficient to store and use. And it’s cheap—there’s not a lot of competition with anyone looking to buy mercury.

Bender says that ZMWG, alongside PEER, caught wind of Apollo Fusion marketing its mercury-based thrusters to at least three companies deploying LEO constellations—One Web, Planet Labs, and SpaceX. Planet Labs, an Earth-imaging company, has at least 200 CubeSats in low Earth orbit. One Web and SpaceX, both wireless-communication providers, have many more. One Web plans to have nearly 650 satellites in orbit by the end of 2022. SpaceX already has nearly 1,500 active satellites aloft in its Starlink constellation, with an eye toward deploying as many as 30,000 satellites before its constellation is complete. Other constellations, like Amazon’s Kuiper constellation, are also planning to deploy thousands of satellites.

In 2019, a group of researchers in Italy and the United States estimated how much of the mercury used in spacecraft propellant might find its way back into Earth’s atmosphere. They figured that a hypothetical LEO constellation of 2,000 satellites, each carrying 100 kilograms of propellant, would emit 20 tonnes of mercury every year over the course of a 10-year life span. Three quarters of that mercury, the researchers suggested, would eventually wind up in the oceans.

That amounts to 1 percent of global mercury emissions from a constellation only a fraction of the size of the one planned by SpaceX alone. And if multiple constellations adopted the technology, they would represent a significant percentage of global mercury emissions—especially, the researchers warned, as other uses of mercury are phased out as planned in the years ahead.

Fortunately, it’s unlikely that any mercury propellant thrusters will even get off the ground. Prior to the fourth meeting of the Minamata Convention, Canada, the European Union, and Norway highlighted the dangers of mercury propellant, alongside ZMWG. The provision to ban mercury usage in satellites was passed on 26 March 2022.

The question now is enforcement. “Obviously, there aren’t any U.N. peacekeepers going into space to shoot down” mercury-based satellites, says Bell. But the 137 countries, including the United States, who are party to the convention have pledged to adhere to its provisions—including the propellant ban.

The United States is notable in that list because as Bender explains, it did not ratify the Minamata Convention via the U.S. Senate but instead deposited with the U.N. an instrument of acceptance. In a 7 November 2013 statement (about one month after the original Minamata Convention was adopted), the U.S. State Department said the country would be able to fulfill its obligations “under existing legislative and regulatory authority.”

Bender says the difference is “weedy” but that this appears to mean that the U.S. government has agreed to adhere to the Minamata Convention’s provisions because it already has similar laws on the books. Except there is still no existing U.S. law or regulation banning mercury propellant. For Bender, that creates some uncertainty around compliance when the provision goes into force in 2025.

Still, with a U.S. company being the first startup to toy with mercury propellant, it might be ideal to have a stronger U.S. ratification of the Minamata Convention before another company hits on the same idea. “There will always be market incentives to cut corners and do something more dangerously,” Bell says.

Update 19 April 2022: In an email, a spokesperson for Astra stated that the company's propulsion system, the Astra Spacecraft Engine, does not use mercury. The spokesperson also stated that Astra has no plans to use mercury propellant and that the company does not have anything in orbit that uses mercury.

Updated 20 April 2022 to clarify that Apollo Fusion was building thrusters that used mercury, not that they had actually used them.


Match ID: 70 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 224 days
qualifiers: 5.71 japan

Meet the Lunar Gateway’s Robot Caretakers
Thu, 07 Apr 2022 18:40:09 +0000


An integral part of NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the moon this decade is the Lunar Gateway, a space station that will be humanity’s first permanent outpost outside of low Earth orbit. Gateway, a partnership between NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is intended to support operations on the lunar surface while also serving as a staging point for exploration to Mars.

Gateway will be significantly smaller than the International Space Station (ISS), initially consisting of just two modules with additional modules to be added over time. The first pieces of the station to reach lunar orbit will be the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) attached to the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), scheduled to launch together on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in November 2024. The relatively small size of Gateway is possible because the station won’t be crewed most of the time—astronauts may pass through for a few weeks, but the expectation is that Gateway will spend about 11 months out of the year without anyone on board.


This presents some unique challenges for Gateway. On the ISS, astronauts spend a substantial amount of time on station upkeep, but Gateway will have to keep itself functional for extended periods without any direct human assistance.

“The things that the crew does on the International Space Station will need to be handled by Gateway on its own,” explains Julia Badger, Gateway autonomy system manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “There’s also a big difference in the operational paradigm. Right now, ISS has a mission control that’s full time. With Gateway, we’re eventually expecting to have just 8 hours a week of ground operations.” The hundreds of commands that the ISS receives every day to keep it running will still be necessary on Gateway—they’ll just have to come from Gateway itself, rather than from humans back on Earth.

“It’s a new way of thinking compared to ISS. If something breaks on Gateway, we either have to be able to live with it for a certain amount of time, or we’ve got to have the ability to remotely or autonomously fix it.” —Julia Badger, NASA JSC

To make this happen, NASA is developing a vehicle system manager, or VSM, that will act like the omnipresent computer system found on virtually every science-fiction starship. The VSM will autonomously manage all of Gateway’s functionality, taking care of any problems that come up, to the extent that they can be managed with clever software and occasional input from a distant human. “It’s a new way of thinking compared to ISS,” explains Badger. “If something breaks on Gateway, we either have to be able to live with it for a certain amount of time, or we’ve got to have the ability to remotely or autonomously fix it.”

While Gateway itself can be thought of as a robot of sorts, there’s a limited amount that can be reasonably and efficiently done through dedicated automated systems, and NASA had to find a compromise between redundancy and both complexity and mass. For example, there was some discussion about whether Gateway’s hatches should open and close on their own, and NASA ultimately decided to leave the hatches manually operated. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Gateway won’t be able to open its hatches without human assistance; it just means that there will be a need for robotic hands rather than human ones.

“I hope eventually we have robots up there that can open the hatches,” Badger tells us. She explains that Gateway is being designed with potential intravehicular robots (IVRs) in mind, including things like adding visual markers to important locations, placing convenient charging ports around the station interior, and designing the hatches such that the force required to open them is compatible with the capabilities of robotic limbs. Parts of Gateway’s systems may be modular as well, able to be removed and replaced by robots if necessary. “What we’re trying to do,” Badger says, “is make smart choices about Gateway’s design that don’t add a lot of mass but that will make it easier for a robot to work within the station.”

A human-sized white humanoid robot with a golden helmet and visor, in front of a task board on the International Space Station Robonaut at its test station in front of a manipulation task board on the ISS.JSC/NASA

NASA already has a substantial amount of experience with IVR. Robonaut 2, a full-size humanoid robot, spent several years on the International Space Station starting in 2011, learning how to perform tasks that would otherwise have to be done by human astronauts. More recently, a trio of cubical, toaster-size, free-flying robots called Astrobees have taken up residence on the ISS, where they’ve been experimenting with autonomous sensing and navigation. A NASA project called ISAAC (Integrated System for Autonomous and Adaptive Caretaking) is currently exploring how robots like Astrobee could be used for a variety of tasks on Gateway, from monitoring station health to autonomously transferring cargo, although at least in the near term, in Badger’s opinion, “maintenance of Gateway, like using robots that can switch out broken components, is going to be more important than logistics types of tasks.”

Badger believes that a combination of a generalized mobile manipulator like Robonaut 2 and a free flyer like Astrobee make for a good team, and this combination is currently the general concept for Gateway IVR. This is not to say that the intravehicular robots that end up on Gateway will look like the robots that have been working on the ISS, but they’ll be inspired by them, and will leverage all of the experience that NASA has gained with its robots on ISS so far. It might also be useful to have a limited number of specialized robots, Badger says. “For example, if there was a reason to get behind a rack, you may want a snake-type of robot for that.”

A casually dressed astronaut holds a toaster-sized cubical robot on the International Space Station An Astrobee robot (this one is named Bumble) on the ISS.JSC/NASA

While NASA is actively preparing for intravehicular robots on Gateway, such robots do not yet exist, and the agency may not be building these robots itself, instead relying on industry partners to deliver designs that meet NASA’s requirements. At launch, and likely for the first several years at least, Gateway will have to take care of itself without internal robotic assistants. However, one of the goals of Gateway is to operate itself completely autonomously for up to three weeks without any contact with Earth at all, mimicking the three-week solar conjunction between Earth and Mars where the sun blocks any communications between the two planets. “I think that we will get IVR on board,” Badger says. “If we really want Gateway to be able to take care of itself for 21 days, IVR is going to be a very important part of that. And having a robot is absolutely something that I think is going to be necessary as we move on to Mars.”

“Having a robot is absolutely something that I think is going to be necessary as we move on to Mars.” —Julia Badger, NASA JSC

Intravehicular robots are just half of the robotic team that will be necessary to keep Gateway running autonomously long-term. Space stations rely on complex external infrastructure for power, propulsion, thermal control, and much more. Since 2001, the ISS has been home to Canadarm2, a 17.6-meter robotic arm, which is able to move around the station to grasp and manipulate objects while under human control from either inside the station or from the ground.

The Canadian Space Agency, in partnership with space technology company MDA, is developing a new robotic-arm system for Gateway, called Canadarm3, scheduled to launch in 2027. Canadarm3 will include an 8.5-meter-long arm for grappling spacecraft and moving large objects, as well as a smaller, more dexterous robotic arm that can be used for delicate tasks. The smaller arm can even repair the larger arm if necessary. But what really sets Canadarm3 apart from its predecessors is how it’s controlled, according to Daniel Rey, Gateway chief engineer and systems manager at CSA. “One of the very novel things about Canadarm3 is its ability to operate autonomously, without any crew required,” Rey says. This capability relies on a new generation of software and hardware that gives the arm a sense of touch as well as the ability to react to its environment without direct human supervision.

“With Canadarm3, we realize that if we want to get ready for Mars, more autonomy will be required.” —Daniel Rey, CSA

Even though Gateway will be a thousand times farther away from Earth than the ISS, Rey explains that the added distance (about 400,000 kilometers) isn’t what really necessitates Canadarm3’s added autonomy. “Surprisingly, the location of Gateway in its orbit around the moon has a time delay to Earth that is not all that different from the time delay in low Earth orbit when you factor in various ground stations that signals have to pass through,” says Rey. “With Canadarm3, we realize that if we want to get ready for Mars, where that will no longer be the case, more autonomy will be required.”

Canadarm3’s autonomous tasks on Gateway will include external inspection, unloading logistics vehicles, deploying science payloads, and repairing Gateway by swapping damaged components with spares. Rey tells us that there will also be a science logistics airlock, with a moving table that can be used to pass equipment in and out of Gateway. “It’ll be possible to deploy external science, or to bring external systems inside for repair, and for future internal robotic systems to cooperate with Canadarm3. I think that’ll be a really exciting thing to see.”

Even though it’s going to take a couple of extra years for Gateway’s robotic residents to arrive, the station will be operating mostly autonomously (by necessity) as soon as the Power and Propulsion Element and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost begin their journey to lunar orbit in November o2024. Several science payloads will be along for the ride, including heliophysics and space weather experiments.

Gateway itself, though, is arguably the most important experiment of all. Its autonomous systems, whether embodied in internal and external robots or not, will be undergoing continual testing, and Gateway will need to prove itself before we’re ready to trust its technology to take us into deep space. In addition to being able to operate for 21 days without communications, one of Gateway’s eventual requirements is to be able to function for up to three years without any crew visits. This is the level of autonomy and reliability that we’ll need to be prepared for our exploration of Mars, and beyond.


Match ID: 71 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 236 days
qualifiers: 5.71 japan

US blogger’s killers escape on motorbikes from Bangladeshi court
Mon, 21 Nov 2022 12:33:45 GMT

Men on death row for murder of secular writer snatched by bikers who sprayed police with chemical

Two Islamist militants who were on death row in Bangladesh for the killing of a US blogger critical of fundamentalist Islam have made a dramatic escape on motorbikes while being escorted to a court hearing in the capital, Dhaka.

The two men were among those convicted of the murder of Avijit Roy, an American-Bangladeshi writer and blogger who was hacked to death with machetes in the streets of Dhaka in 2015.

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Match ID: 72 Score: 1.43 source: www.theguardian.com age: 8 days
qualifiers: 1.43 bangladesh

Filter efficiency 90.689 (73 matches/784 results)


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Air pollution linked to almost a million stillbirths a year
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:00:52 GMT

First global analysis follows discovery of toxic pollution particles in lungs and brains of foetuses

Almost a million stillbirths a year can be attributed to air pollution, according to the first global study.

The research estimated that almost half of stillbirths could be linked to exposure to pollution particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), mostly produced from the burning of fossil fuels.

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Match ID: 0 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 air pollution, 15.00 toxic

The Future of the Transistor Is Our Future
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:45:32 +0000


This is a guest post in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor. It is adapted from an essay in the July 2022 IEEE Electron Device Society Newsletter. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

On the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor, a device to which I have devoted my entire career, I’d like to answer two questions: Does the world need better transistors? And if so, what will they be like?

I would argue, that yes, we are going to need new transistors, and I think we have some hints today of what they will be like. Whether we’ll have the will and economic ability to make them is the question.

I believe the transistor is and will remain key to grappling with the impacts of global warming. With its potential for societal, economic, and personal upheaval, climate change calls for tools that give us humans orders-of-magnitude more capability.

Semiconductors can raise the abilities of humanity like no other technology. Almost by definition, all technologies increase human abilities. But for most of them, natural resources and energy constrains make orders-of magnitude improvements questionable. Transistor-enabled technology is a unique exception for the following reasons.

  1. As transistors improve, they enable new abilities such as computing and high-speed communication, the Internet, smartphones, memory and storage, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other things no one has thought of yet.
  2. These abilities have wide applications, and they transform all technologies, industries, and sciences.
    a. Semiconductor technology is not nearly as limited in growth by its material and energy usages as other technologies. ICs use relatively small amounts of materials. As a result, they’re being made smaller, and the less materials they use, the faster, more energy efficient, and capable they become.
  3. Theoretically, the energy required for information processing can still be reduced to less than one-thousandth of what is required today . Although we do not yet know exactly how to approach such theoretical efficiency, we know that increasing energy efficiency a thousandfold would not violate physical laws. In contrast, the energy efficiencies of most other technologies, such as motors and lighting, are already at 30 to 80 percent of their theoretical limits.

Transistors: past, present, and future

How we’ll continue to improve transistor technology is relatively clear in the short term, but it gets murkier the farther out you go from today. In the near term, you can glimpse the transistor’s future by looking at its recent past.

The basic planar (2D) MOSFET structure remained unchanged from 1960 until around 2010, when it became impossible to further increase transistor density and decrease the device’s power consumption. My lab at the University of California, Berkeley, saw that point coming more than a decade earlier. We reported the invention of the FinFET, the planar transistor’s successor, in 1999. FinFET, the first 3D MOSFET, changed the flat and wide transistor structure to a tall and narrow one. The benefit is better performance in a smaller footprint, much like the benefit of multistory buildings over single-story ones in a crowded city.

The FinFET is also what’s called a thin-body MOSFET, a concept that continues to guide the development of new devices. It arose from the insight that current will not leak through a transistor within several nanometers of the silicon surface because the surface potential there is well controlled by the gate voltage. FinFETs take this thin-body concept to heart. The device’s body is the vertical silicon fin, which is covered by oxide insulator and gate metal, leaving no silicon outside the range of strong gate control. FinFETs reduced leakage current by orders of magnitude and lowered transistor operating voltage. It also pointed toward the path for further improvement: reducing the body thickness even more.

The fin of the FinFET has become thinner and taller with each new technology node. But this progress has now become too difficult to maintain. So industry is adopting a new 3D thin-body CMOS structure, called gate-all-around (GAA). Here, a stack of ribbons of semiconductor make up the thin body.

Three different configurations of rectangles have blue, yellow, and pink portions. Each evolution of the MOSFET structure has been aimed at producing better control over charge in the silicon by the gate [pink]. Dielectric [yellow] prevents charge from moving from the gate into the silicon body [blue].

The 3D thin-body trend will continue from these 3D transistors to 3D-stacked transistors, 3D monolithic circuits, and multichip packaging. In some cases, this 3D trend has already reached great heights. For instance, the regularity of the charge-trap memory-transistor array allowed NAND flash memory to be the first IC to transition from 2D circuits to 3D circuits. Since the first report of 3D NAND by Toshiba in 2007, the number of stacked layers has grown from 4 to beyond 200.

Monolithic 3D logic ICs will likely start modestly, with stacking the two transistors of a CMOS inverter to reduce all logic gates’ footprints [see “3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights”]. But the number of stacks may grow. Other paths to 3D ICs may employ the transfer or deposition of additional layers of semiconductor films, such as silicon, silicon germanium, or indium gallium arsenide onto a silicon wafer.

The thin-body trend might meet its ultimate endpoint in 2D semiconductors, whose thickness is measured in atoms. Molybdenum disulfide molecules, for example, are both naturally thin and relatively large, forming a 2D semiconductor that may be no more than three atoms wide yet have very good semiconductor properties. In 2016, engineers in California and Texas used a film of the 2D-semiconductor molecule molybdenum disulfide and a carbon nanotube to demonstrate a MOSFET with a critical dimension: a gate length just 1 nanometer across. Even with a gate as short as 1 nm, the transistor leakage current was only 10 nanoamperes per millimeter, comparable with today’s best production transistor.

“The progress of transistor technology has not been even or smooth.”

One can imagine that in the distant future, the entire transistor may be prefabricated as a single molecule. These prefabricated building blocks might be brought to their precise locations in an IC through a process called directed-self-assembly (DSA). To understand DSA, it may be helpful to recall that a COVID virus uses its spikes to find and chemically dock itself onto an exact spot at the surface of particular human cells. In DSA, the docking spots, the “spikes,” and the transistor cargo are all carefully designed and manufactured. The initial docking spots may be created with lithography on a substrate, but additional docking spots may be brought in as cargo in subsequent steps. Some of the cargo may be removed by heat or other means if they are needed only during the fabrication process but not in the final product.

Besides making transistors smaller, we’ll have to keep reducing their power consumption. Here we could see an order-of-magnitude reduction through the use of what are called negative-capacitance field-effect transistors (NCFET). These require the insertion of a nanometer-thin layer of ferroelectric material, such as hafnium zirconium oxide, in the MOSFET’s gate stack. Because the ferroelectric contains its own internal electric field, it takes less energy to switch the device on or off. An additional advantage of the thin ferroelectric is the possible use of the ferroelectric’s capacity to store a bit as the state of its electric field, thereby integrating memory and computing in the same device.

Two smiling men in suits. The man on the left wears a large golden medal around his neck. The author [left] received the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama [right] in 2016. Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Alamy

To some degree the devices I’ve described arose out of existing trends. But future transistors may have very different materials, structures, and operating mechanisms from those of today’s transistor. For example, the nanoelectromechanical switch is a return to the mechanical relays of decades past rather than an extension of the transistor. Rather than relying on the physics of semiconductors, it uses only metals, dielectrics, and the force between closely spaced conductors with different voltages applied to them.

All these examples have been demonstrated with experiments years ago. However, bringing them to production will require much more time and effort than previous breakthroughs in semiconductor technology.

Getting to the future

Will we be able to achieve these feats? Some lessons from the past indicate that we could.

The first lesson is that the progress of transistor technology has not been even or smooth. Around 1980, the rising power consumption per chip reached a painful level. The adoption of CMOS, replacing NMOS and bipolar technologies—and later, the gradual reduction of operation voltage from 5 volts to 1—gave the industry 30 years of more or less straightforward progress. But again, power became an issue. Between 2000 and 2010, the heat generated per square centimeter of IC was projected by thoughtful researchers to soon reach that of the nuclear-reactor core. The adoption of 3D thin-body FinFET and multicore processor architectures averted the crisis and ushered in another period of relatively smooth progress.

The history of transistor technology may be described as climbing one mountain after another. Only when we got to the top of one were we able see the vista beyond and map a route to climb the next taller and steeper mountain.

The second lesson is that the core strength of the semiconductor industry—nanofabrication—is formidable. History proves that, given sufficient time and economic incentives, the industry has been able to turn any idea into reality, as long as that idea does not violate scientific laws.

But will the industry have sufficient time and economic incentives to continue climbing taller and steeper mountains and keep raising humanity’s abilities?

It’s a fair question. Even as the fab industry’s resources grow, the mountains of technology development grow even faster. A time may come when no one fab company can reach the top of the mountain to see the path ahead. What happens then?

The revenue of all semiconductor fabs (both independent and those, like Intel, that are integrated companies) is about one-third of the semiconductor industry revenue. But fabs make up just 2 percent of the combined revenues of the IT, telecommunications, and consumer-electronics industries that semiconductor technology enables. Yet the fab industry bears most of the growing burden of discovering, producing, and marketing new transistors and nanofabrication technologies. That needs to change.

For the industry to survive, the relatively meager resources of the fab industry must be prioritized in favor of fab building and shareholder needs over scientific exploration. While the fab industry is lengthening its research time horizon, it needs others to take on the burden too. Humanity’s long-term problem-solving abilities deserve targeted public support. The industry needs the help of very-long-term exploratory research, publicly funded, in a Bell Labs–like setting or by university researchers with career-long timelines and wider and deeper knowledge in physics, chemistry, biology, and algorithms than corporate research currently allows. This way, humanity will continue to find new transistors and gain the abilities it will need to face the challenges in the centuries ahead.


Match ID: 1 Score: 30.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change, 15.00 carbon

US to spend $250m on cleanup at California’s toxic Salton Sea
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 21:49:11 GMT

Move could help restore drying lake, a former resort destination that has deteriorated into an environmental crisis amid drought

The US government said on Monday it will spend up to $250m over four years to help mitigate an environmental health disaster that has been brewing in California’s Salton Sea for nearly two decades.

The inland lake, which is fed by agricultural runoff and wastewater, has slowly been shrinking, exposing a powdery shoreline laced with arsenic, selenium and DDT. Dust from the drying lake has wafted into surrounding communities, exacerbating pollution and consequently respiratory conditions in one of California’s poorest and most environmentally burdened regions.

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Match ID: 2 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 toxic

Germany agrees 15-year liquid gas supply deal with Qatar
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:55:39 GMT

Racing to wean itself off Russian gas supplies, Germany is set to buy 2m tonnes of liquid gas from Gulf state

German firms have signed a 15-year deal to buy 2m tonnes of liquid gas from Qatar, sending out mixed signals over the priority Germany places on human rights in the Gulf and its commitment to a carbon neutral energy supply.

The deal was announced by state-owned Qatar Energy and deliveries will start from 2026. The gas will be sold by Qatar to the US company ConocoPhillips, which will then deliver it to the LNG terminal in Brunsbüttel, Qatar’s energy minister said in the capital, Doha.

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Match ID: 3 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

The Guardian view on Biden’s ‘Buy America’ strategy: a wake-up call for Europe | Editorial
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:50:30 GMT

Huge subsidies for US-based low-carbon manufacturers are posing big problems for EU leaders

In a slick General Motors advert aired during last year’s Super Bowl, the actor and comedian Will Ferrell took patriotic umbrage at Norway’s ability to sell more electric vehicles per capita than the US. “Norway’s beating us at EVs!”, Ferrell lamented, before promoting GM’s latest battery technology to the watching millions.

Almost two years on, the angst is being felt on the other side of the Atlantic. Following on from President Joe Biden’s “Buy America” rules for infrastructure, his Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will deliver, from January, almost $370bn worth of subsidies and tax breaks to US-based companies involved in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Around $50bn will come in the form of tax credits to persuade Americans to buy electric vehicles made in North America (Canada and Mexico were included in the deal after initially being left out).

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Match ID: 4 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

Only planning reform can fix Britain’s housing crisis | Letters
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:03:41 GMT

Readers on how years of poor Tory leadership mean there is no end in sight to the chronic shortage of homes

John Harris dissects key aspects of the housing “crisis” in a typically thoughtful and powerful way (The Tories are tearing themselves apart over housing – but this is another crisis of their own making, 27 November). But on the way he displays a crucial misunderstanding. There is no presumption in favour of development in the planning system; it’s a presumption in favour of sustainable development – something with which surely no one could disagree? This is an egregious example of the Tory use of sophistry that has made a massive contribution to the issue that Harris so ably describes. Far from being an objective, science-based definition, it is in reality a circular argument that the government inserted in the national planning guidance.

In effect, “sustainable” is what the government, Humpty Dumpty-like, says it is. The assessment of major housing proposals, which so often go to appeal, is comically perfunctory, the overriding criterion being the supply of new housing, however and wherever built. Many people participate in this charade. We have been building in unsustainability – carbon emissions, destruction of habitat, poor health and unaffordability – throughout the last 12 years. The cost of retrofitting will be astronomical. We need the houses we need. Campaigners cannot morally deny that, but development must be based on sound sustainability principles and by applying rigorous tests that are available but are never used effectively.

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Match ID: 5 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

Traces of ancient hurricanes on the seafloor are a warning for coastal areas
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 15:05:24 +0000
Evidence from millennia of Atlantic storms is not good news for the coast.
Match ID: 6 Score: 15.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

Big polluters given almost €100bn in free carbon permits by EU
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 13:00:48 GMT

Free allowances ‘in direct contradiction with the polluter pays principle’, WWF report says

Big polluting industries have been given almost €100bn (£86bn) in free carbon permits by the EU in the last nine years, according to an analysis by the WWF. The free allowances are “in direct contradiction with the polluter pays principle”, the group said.

Free pollution permits worth €98.5bn were given to energy-intensive sectors including steel, cement, chemicals and aviation from 2013-21. This is more than the €88.5bn that the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) charged polluters, mostly coal and gas power stations, for their CO2 emissions.

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Match ID: 7 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

Rolls-Royce successfully tests hydrogen-powered jet engine | Britain's Rolls-Royce said it has successfully run an aircraft engine on hydrogen, a world aviation first that marks a major step towards proving the gas could be key to decarbonising air travel.
2022-11-29T12:42:25+00:00
Rolls-Royce successfully tests hydrogen-powered jet engine | Britain's Rolls-Royce said it has successfully run an aircraft engine on hydrogen, a world aviation first that marks a major step towards proving the gas could be key to decarbonising air travel. submitted by /u/yourSAS
[link] [comments]

Match ID: 8 Score: 15.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

If Labour’s leadership is hobbling internal candidates, is it fit to run a democracy? | Owen Jones
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 12:30:30 GMT

Mounting evidence of dirty tricks against prospective MPs can’t be dismissed as leftwing sour grapes. We were promised a ‘broad church’

Britain will almost certainly have a Labour government in two years’ time: you have the Tories’ unprecedented self-immolation to thank for that. Debating, then, how Rishi Sunak’s successors will govern is a democratic imperative. To some of Keir Starmer’s more zealous supporters, scrutinising the opposition is an act of treachery that simply makes a Tory government more likely. Welcome to “Schrödinger’s left”: where the left of the party is simultaneously so irrelevant and toxic that it must be marginalised, but so powerful it can help determine the result of general elections.

In his pitch for the Labour leadership, Starmer promised that under his watch the party would be a “broad church”, and that he would restore trust in Labour through “unity”. To underline that this wasn’t just empty rhetoric, he said that the selection of Labour candidates “needs to be more democratic and we should end NEC impositions of candidates. Local party members should select their candidates for every election.” To paraphrase Karl Marx, all that is a Starmer promise melts into air: but this particular issue has political consequences that go far beyond internal Labour politics.

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Match ID: 9 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 toxic

The Planet Desperately Needs That UN Plastics Treaty
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 12:00:00 +0000
An agreement can’t magically end the catastrophe of plastic pollution. But it could be a step in the right direction.
Match ID: 10 Score: 15.00 source: www.wired.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

Climate change: Wasted methane gas 'a scandal'
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 17:04:49 GMT
Green Alliance says the high price of gas means fossil fuel companies should be capturing more of their methane emissions
Match ID: 11 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

The Fijian island being strangled by vines
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 00:52:04 GMT

Vanua Levu is being overrun by invasive vines – and the increasing number of natural disasters, brought on by climate change, is only making things worse

In Vanua Levu, the second largest island of Fiji, every contour drips with green. The landscape is impossibly lush and verdant. But upon closer inspection, it’s evident that nearly everything is shrouded in vines.

There are several vine species in Fiji, one of which is the invasive kudzu, introduced by US troops in the second world war as living camouflage for Allied equipment. But, as botanist Judith Sumner, writes: “under tropical Pacific conditions kudzu quickly became an invasive species with a growth rate that aggressively outpaced native Fijian flora.”

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Match ID: 12 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

Neil Young Embraces Imperfection
Sun, 27 Nov 2022 15:23:20 +0000
The singer-songwriter discusses his new album with the theme of climate change, his friendship with Rick Rubin, and recording melodies on his flip phone.
Match ID: 13 Score: 15.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

The Geological Fluke That's Protecting Sea Life in the Galapagos
Sat, 26 Nov 2022 13:00:00 +0000
The islands are in the line of an icy current that provides marine ecosystems refuge amid warming oceans. But the good news might not last for long.
Match ID: 14 Score: 12.86 source: www.wired.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 12.86 climate change

Delving for Joules in the Fusion Mines
Tue, 22 Nov 2022 16:00:00 +0000


The Big Picture features technology through the lens of photographers.

Every month, IEEE Spectrum selects the most stunning technology images recently captured by photographers around the world. We choose images that reflect an important advance, or a trend, or that are just mesmerizing to look at. We feature all images on our site, and one also appears on our monthly print edition.

Enjoy the latest images, and if you have suggestions, leave a comment below.

Shot of Nuclear Fusion


A women using robotic equipment in front of multiple screens.

An old saw regarding the multitude of dashed hopes about fusion energy’s promise goes “Fusion is 30 years away—and it always will be.” After decades of researchers predicting that fusion was just around the corner, a team at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (which hosts the Joint European Torus [JET] plasma physics experiment) did something that suggests scientists are homing in on exactly which corner that is. In February 2022, the JET experimenters induced the single greatest sustained energy pulse ever created by humans. It had twice the energy of the previous record-setting blast, triggered a quarter century earlier. A doubling every 25 years is far behind the pace of the microchip improvements described by Moore’s Law. But that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm over an alternative energy source that could make fossil fuels and their effect on the environment relics of a bygone era. In the foreground of the picture is a trainee learning how to use the systems involved in accomplishing the feat.

Leon Neal/Getty Images


A laser cut rice caked based drone.

Turning Drones into Scones

What has two wings, can reach a person stranded in a disaster zone, and doubles as a source of precious calories when no other food is available? This drone, designed and built by a team of researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), has wings made entirely of laser-cut rice cakes held together with “glue” made from gelatin. The EPFL group says it plans to keep refining the edible aircraft to improve its aeronautics and enhance its nutritional profile.

EPFL


Green laser light illuminates a metasurface that is a hundred times as thin as paper.

Metasurface Weaves Entangled Photons

Creating the quantum mechanical state of entanglement (in which paired atoms influence each other from across vast distances) has heretofore been reminiscent of the story of Noah’s ark. The tried-and-true method for entangling photons (by shining light through a nonlinear crystal) puts them in this state two by two, the way the animals are said to have boarded the ark. The ambition of quantum researchers has been to expand these connections from pairs to parties. And it seems they’ve figured out how to reliably entangle multiple photons in a complicated web, using half-millimeter-thick metasurfaces covered with forests of microscopic pillars. This, say experts, will not only greatly simplify the setup needed for quantum technology but also help support more-complex quantum applications.

Craig Fritz


A large camera within a lab in Chile.

Colossal Camera Coming to Chile

In a world obsessed with miniaturization, it’s almost shocking when, every now and then, a big deal is made of something, er, big. That is certainly the case with the new camera being built for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. When the camera is delivered and set up in May 2023, its 1.57-meter-wide lens will make it the world’s largest device for taking snapshots. The gargantuan point-and-shoot instrument will capture images of a swath of the sky seven times the width of the moon.

Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory


A young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

Bionic Hands Haven’t Fully Grasped Users’ Needs

When we’re carrying out our quotidian activities, most of us rarely stop to think about what marvels of engineering our arms and hands are. But for those who have lost the use of a limb—or, like Britt Young, the woman pictured here, were born without one—there’s hardly ever a day when the challenges of navigating a two-handed world are not in the forefront of their thoughts. In Young’s October 2022 IEEE Spectrum cover story, she discusses these challenges, as well as how the bionic-hand technology intended to come to the rescue falls short of designers’ and users’ expectations.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for Mac Cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof


Match ID: 15 Score: 4.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 7 days
qualifiers: 4.29 carbon

Solar-to-Jet-Fuel System Readies for Takeoff
Wed, 03 Aug 2022 17:00:00 +0000


As climate change edges from crisis to emergency, the aviation sector looks set to miss its 2050 goal of net-zero emissions. In the five years preceding the pandemic, the top four U.S. airlines—American, Delta, Southwest, and United—saw a 15 percent increase in the use of jet fuel. Despite continual improvements in engine efficiencies, that number is projected to keep rising.

A glimmer of hope, however, comes from solar fuels. For the first time, scientists and engineers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich have reported a successful demonstration of an integrated fuel-production plant for solar kerosene. Using concentrated solar energy, they were able to produce kerosene from water vapor and carbon dioxide directly from air. Fuel thus produced is a drop-in alternative to fossil-derived fuels and can be used with existing storage and distribution infrastructures, and engines.

Fuels derived from synthesis gas (or syngas)—an intermediate product that is a specific mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen—is a known alternative to conventional, fossil-derived fuels. Syngas is produced by Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis, in which chemical reactions convert carbon monoxide and water vapor into hydrocarbons. The team of researchers at ETH found that a solar-driven thermochemical method to split water and carbon dioxide using a metal oxide redox cycle can produce renewable syngas. They demonstrated the process in a rooftop solar refinery at the ETH Machine Laboratory in 2019.

Close-up of a spongy looking material Reticulated porous structure made of ceria used in the solar reactor to thermochemically split CO2 and H2O and produce syngas, a specific mixture of H2 and CO.ETH Zurich

The current pilot-scale solar tower plant was set up at the IMDEA Energy Institute in Spain. It scales up the solar reactor of the 2019 experiment by a factor of 10, says Aldo Steinfeld, an engineering professor at ETH who led the study. The fuel plant brings together three subsystems—the solar tower concentrating facility, solar reactor, and gas-to-liquid unit.

First, a heliostat field made of mirrors that rotate to follow the sun concentrates solar irradiation into a reactor mounted on top of the tower. The reactor is a cavity receiver lined with reticulated porous ceramic structures made of ceria (or cerium(IV) oxide). Within the reactor, the concentrated sunlight creates a high-temperature environment of about 1,500 °C which is hot enough to split captured carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere to produce syngas. Finally, the syngas is processed to kerosene in the gas-to-liquid unit. A centralized control room operates the whole system.

Fuel produced using this method closes the fuel carbon cycle as it only produces as much carbon dioxide as has gone into its manufacture. “The present pilot fuel plant is still a demonstration facility for research purposes,” says Steinfeld, “but it is a fully integrated plant and uses a solar-tower configuration at a scale that is relevant for industrial implementation.”

“The solar reactor produced syngas with selectivity, purity, and quality suitable for FT synthesis,” the authors noted in their paper. They also reported good material stability for multiple consecutive cycles. They observed a value of 4.1 percent solar-to-syngas energy efficiency, which Steinfeld says is a record value for thermochemical fuel production, even though better efficiencies are required to make the technology economically competitive.

Schematic of the solar tower fuel plant.  A heliostat field concentrates solar radiation onto a solar reactor mounted on top of the solar tower. The solar reactor cosplits water and carbon dioxide and produces a mixture of molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which in turn is processed to drop-in fuels such as kerosene.ETH Zurich

“The measured value of energy conversion efficiency was obtained without any implementation of heat recovery,” he says. The heat rejected during the redox cycle of the reactor accounted for more than 50 percent of the solar-energy input. “This fraction can be partially recovered via thermocline heat storage. Thermodynamic analyses indicate that sensible heat recovery could potentially boost the energy efficiency to values exceeding 20 percent.”

To do so, more work is needed to optimize the ceramic structures lining the reactor, something the ETH team is actively working on, by looking at 3D-printed structures for improved volumetric radiative absorption. “In addition, alternative material compositions, that is, perovskites or aluminates, may yield improved redox capacity, and consequently higher specific fuel output per mass of redox material,” Steinfeld adds.

The next challenge for the researchers, he says, is the scale-up of their technology for higher solar-radiative power inputs, possibly using an array of solar cavity-receiver modules on top of the solar tower.

To bring solar kerosene into the market, Steinfeld envisages a quota-based system. “Airlines and airports would be required to have a minimum share of sustainable aviation fuels in the total volume of jet fuel that they put in their aircraft,” he says. This is possible as solar kerosene can be mixed with fossil-based kerosene. This would start out small, as little as 1 or 2 percent, which would raise the total fuel costs at first, though minimally—adding “only a few euros to the cost of a typical flight,” as Steinfeld puts it

Meanwhile, rising quotas would lead to investment, and to falling costs, eventually replacing fossil-derived kerosene with solar kerosene. “By the time solar jet fuel reaches 10 to 15 percent of the total jet-fuel volume, we ought to see the costs for solar kerosene nearing those of fossil-derived kerosene,” he adds.

However, we may not have to wait too long for flights to operate solely on solar fuel. A commercial spin-off of Steinfeld’s laboratory, Synhelion, is working on commissioning the first industrial-scale solar fuel plant in 2023. The company has also collaborated with the airline SWISS to conduct a flight solely using its solar kerosene.


Match ID: 16 Score: 4.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 118 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change, 2.14 carbon

The Transistor of 2047: Expert Predictions
Mon, 21 Nov 2022 16:00:01 +0000


The 100th anniversary of the invention of the transistor will happen in 2047. What will transistors be like then? Will they even be the critical computing element they are today? IEEE Spectrum asked experts from around the world for their predictions.


What will transistors be like in 2047?

Expect transistors to be even more varied than they are now, says one expert. Just as processors have evolved from CPUs to include GPUs, network processors, AI accelerators, and other specialized computing chips, transistors will evolve to fit a variety of purposes. “Device technology will become application domain–specific in the same way that computing architecture has become application domain–specific,” says H.-S. Philip Wong, an IEEE Fellow, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, and former vice president of corporate research at TSMC.

Despite the variety, the fundamental operating principle—the field effect that switches transistors on and off—will likely remain the same, suggests Suman Datta, an IEEE Fellow, professor of electrical and computer at Georgia Tech, and director of the multi-university nanotech research center ASCENT. This device will likely have minimum critical dimensions of 1 nanometer or less, enabling device densities of 10 trillion per square centimeter, says Tsu-Jae King Liu, an IEEE Fellow, dean of the college of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of Intel’s board of directors.

"It is safe to assume that the transistor or switch architectures of 2047 have already been demonstrated on a lab scale"—Sri Samavedam

Experts seem to agree that the transistor of 2047 will need new materials and probably a stacked or 3D architecture, expanding on the planned complementary field-effect transistor (CFET, or 3D-stacked CMOS). [For more on the CFET, see "Taking Moore's Law to New Heights."] And the transistor channel, which now runs parallel to the plane of the silicon, may need to become vertical in order to continue to increase in density, says Datta.

AMD senior fellow Richard Schultz, suggests that the main aim in developing these new devices will be power. “The focus will be on reducing power and the need for advanced cooling solutions,” he says. “Significant focus on devices that work at lower voltages is required.”

Will transistors still be the heart of most computing in 25 years?

It’s hard to imagine a world where computing is not done with transistors, but, of course, vacuum tubes were once the digital switch of choice. Startup funding for quantum computing, which does not directly rely on transistors, reached US $1.4 billion in 2021, according to McKinsey & Co.

But advances in quantum computing won’t happen fast enough to challenge the transistor by 2047, experts in electron devices say. “Transistors will remain the most important computing element,” says Sayeef Salahuddin, an IEEE Fellow and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. “Currently, even with an ideal quantum computer, the potential areas of application seem to be rather limited compared to classical computers.”

Sri Samavedam, senior vice president of CMOS technologies at the European chip R&D center Imec, agrees. “Transistors will still be very important computing elements for a majority of the general-purpose compute applications,” says Samavedam. “One cannot ignore the efficiencies realized from decades of continuous optimization of transistors.”

Has the transistor of 2047 already been invented?

Twenty-five years is a long time, but in the world of semiconductor R&D, it’s not that long. “In this industry, it usually takes about 20 years from [demonstrating a concept] to introduction into manufacturing,” says Samavedam. “It is safe to assume that the transistor or switch architectures of 2047 have already been demonstrated on a lab scale” even if the materials involved won’t be exactly the same. King Liu, who demonstrated the modern FinFET about 25 years ago with colleagues at Berkeley, agrees.

But the idea that the transistor of 2047 is already sitting in a lab somewhere isn’t universally shared. Salahuddin, for one, doesn’t think it’s been invented yet. “But just like the FinFET in the 1990s, it is possible to make a reasonable prediction for the geometric structure” of future transistors, he says.

AMD’s Schultz says you can glimpse this structure in proposed 3D-stacked devices made of 2D semiconductors or carbon-based semiconductors. “Device materials that have not yet been invented could also be in scope in this time frame,” he adds.

Will silicon still be the active part of most transistors in 2047?

Experts say that the heart of most devices, the transistor channel region, will still be silicon, or possibly silicon-germanium—which is already making inroads—or germanium. But in 2047 many chips may use semiconductors that are considered exotic today. These could include oxide semiconductors like indium gallium zinc oxide; 2D semiconductors, such as the metal dichalcogenide tungsten disulfide; and one-dimensional semiconductors, such as carbon nanotubes. Or even “others yet to be invented,” says Imec’s Samavedam.

"Transistors will remain the most important computing element"—Sayeef Salahuddin

Silicon-based chips may be integrated in the same package with chips that rely on newer materials, just as processor makers are today integrating chips using different silicon manufacturing technologies into the same package, notes IEEE Fellow Gabriel Loh, a senior fellow at AMD.

Which semiconductor material is at the heart of the device may not even be the central issue in 2047. “The choice of channel material will essentially be dictated by which material is the most compatible with many other materials that form other parts of the device,” says Salahuddin. And we know a lot about integrating materials with silicon.

In 2047, where will transistors be common where they are not found today?

Everywhere. No, seriously. Experts really do expect some amount of intelligence and sensing to creep into every aspect of our lives. That means devices will be attached to our bodies and implanted inside them; embedded in all kinds of infrastructure, including roads, walls, and houses; woven into our clothing; stuck to our food; swaying in the breeze in grain fields; watching just about every step in every supply chain; and doing many other things in places nobody has thought of yet.

Transistors will be “everywhere that needs computation, command and control, communications, data collection, storage and analysis, intelligence, sensing and actuation, interaction with humans, or an entrance portal to the virtual and mixed reality world,” sums up Stanford’s Wong.

This article appears in the December 2022 print issue as “The Transistor of 2047.”


Match ID: 17 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 8 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

‘We couldn’t fail them’: how Pakistan’s floods spurred fight at Cop for loss and damage fund
Sun, 20 Nov 2022 16:24:54 GMT

With the deadly devastation fresh in the world’s mind, Pakistan pushed for damage funds with other frontline countries

In early September, after unprecedented rainfall had left a third of Pakistan under water, its climate change minister set out the country’s stall for Cop27. “We are on the frontline and intend to keep loss and damage and adapting to climate catastrophes at the core of our arguments and negotiations. There will be no moving away from that,” Sherry Rehman said.

Pakistan brought that resolve to the negotiations in Sharm el-Sheikh and, as president of the G77 plus China negotiating bloc, succeeded in keeping developing countries united on loss and damage – despite efforts by some rich countries to divide them. Its chief negotiator, Nabeel Munir, a career diplomat, was backed by a team of savvy veteran negotiators who had witnessed the devastation and suffering from the floods, which caused $30bn (£25bn) of damage and economic losses. Every day, Munir repeated the same message: “Loss and damage is not charity, it’s about climate justice.”

Continue reading...
Match ID: 18 Score: 2.14 source: www.theguardian.com age: 9 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

Climate change: Five key takeaways from COP27
Sun, 20 Nov 2022 11:04:11 GMT
The biggest win on climate since the Paris Agreement in 2015... or the biggest loss?
Match ID: 19 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 9 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

The EV Transition Explained: Battery Challenges
Sat, 19 Nov 2022 19:30:00 +0000


“Energy and information are two basic currencies of organic and social systems,” the economics Nobelist Herb Simon once observed. A new technology that alters the terms on which one or the other of these is available to a system can work on it the most profound changes.”

Electric vehicles at scale alter the terms of both basic currencies concurrently. Reliable, secure supplies of minerals and software are core elements for EVs, which represent a “shift from a fuel-intensive to a material-intensive energy system,” according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). For example, the mineral requirements for an EV’s batteries and electric motors are six times that of an internal-combustion-engine (ICE) vehicle, which can increase the average weight of an EV by 340 kilograms (750 pounds). For something like the Ford Lightning, the weight can be more than twice that amount.

EVs also create a shift from an electromechanical-intensive to an information-intensive vehicle. EVs offer a virtual clean slate from which to accelerate the design of safe, software-defined vehicles, with computing and supporting electronics being the prime enabler of a vehicle’s features, functions, and value. Software also allows for the decoupling of the internal mechanical connections needed in an ICE vehicle, permitting an EV to be controlled remotely or autonomously. An added benefit is that the loss of the ICE power train not only reduces the components a vehicle requires but also frees up space for increased passenger comfort and storage.

The effects of Simon’s profound changes are readily apparent, forcing a 120-year-old industry to fundamentally reinvent itself. EVs require automakers to design new manufacturing processes and build plants to make both EVs and their batteries. Ramping up the battery supply chain is the automakers’ current “most challenging topic,” according to VW chief financial officer Arno Antlitz.

It can take five or more years to get a lithium mine up and going, but operations can start only after it has secured the required permits, a process that itself can take years.

These plants are also very expensive. Ford and its Korean battery supplier SK Innovation are spending US $5.6 billion to produce F-Series EVs and batteries in Stanton, Tenn., for example, while GM is spending $2 billion to produce its new Cadillac Lyriq EVs in Spring Hill, Tenn. As automakers expand their lines of EVs, tens of billions more will need to be invested in both manufacturing and battery plants. It is little wonder that Tesla CEO Elon Musk calls EV factories “gigantic money furnaces.”

Furthermore, Kristin Dziczek a policy analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago adds, there are scores of new global EV competitors actively seeking to replace the legacy automakers. The “simplicity” of EVs in comparison with ICE vehicles allows these disruptors to compete virtually from scratch with legacy automakers, not only in the car market itself but for the material and labor inputs as well.

Batteries and the supply-chain challenge

Another critical question is whether all the planned battery-plant output will support expected EV production demands. For instance, the United States will require 8 million EV batteries annually by 2030 if its target to make EVs half of all new-vehicle sales is met, with that number rising each year after. As IEA executive director Fatih Birol observes, “Today, the data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realizing those ambitions.”

This mismatch worries automakers. GM, Ford, Tesla, and others have moved to secure batteries through 2025, but it could be tricky after that. Rivian Automotive chief executive RJ Scaringe was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that “90 to 95 percent of the (battery) supply chain does not exist,” and that the current semiconductor chip shortage is “a small appetizer to what we are about to feel on battery cells over the next two decades.”

The competition for securing raw materials, along with the increased consumer demand, has caused EV prices to spike. Ford has raised the price of the Lightning $6,000 to $8,500, and CEO Jim Farley bluntly states that in regard to material shortages in the foreseeable future, “I don’t think we should be confident in any other outcomes than an increase in prices.”

Stiff Competition for Engineering Talent


One critical area of resource competition is over the limited supply of software and systems engineers with the mechatronics and robotics expertise needed for EVs. Major automakers have moved aggressively to bring more software and systems-engineering expertise on board, rather than have it reside at their suppliers, as they have traditionally done. Automakers feel that if they’re not in control of the software, they’re not in control of their product.

Volvo’s CEO Jim Rowan stated earlier this year that increasing the computing power in EVs will be harder and more altering of the automotive industry than switching from ICE vehicles to EVs. This means that EV winners and losers will in great part be separated by their “relative strength in their cyberphysical systems engineering,” states Clemson’s Paredis.

Even for the large auto suppliers, the transition to EVs will not be an easy road. For instance, automakers are demanding these suppliers absorb more cost cuts because automakers are finding EVs so expensive to build. Not only do automakers want to bring cutting-edge software expertise in-house, they want greater inside expertise in critical EV supply-chain components, especially batteries.

Automakers, including Tesla, are all scrambling for battery talent, with bidding wars reportedly breaking out to acquire top candidates. With automakers planning to spend more than $13 billion to build at least 13 new EV battery plants in North America within the next five to seven years, experienced management and production-line talent will likely be in extremely short supply. Tesla’s Texas Gigafactory needs some 10,000 workers alone, for example. With at least 60 new battery plants planned to be in operation globally by 2030, and scores needed soon afterward, major battery makers are already highlighting their expected skill shortages.


The underlying reason for the worry: Supplying sufficient raw materials to existing and planned battery plants as well as to the manufacturers of other renewable energy sources and military systems—who are competing for the same materials—has several complications to overcome. Among them is the need for more mines to provide the metals required, which have spiked in price as demand has increased. For example, while demand for lithium is growing rapidly, investment in mines has significantly lagged the investment that has been aimed toward EVs and battery plants. It can take five or more years to get a lithium mine up and going, but operations can start only after it has secured the required permits, a process that itself can take years.

Mining the raw materials, of course, assumes that there is sufficient refining capability to process them, which, outside of China, is limited. This is especially true in the United States, which, according to a Biden Administration special supply-chain investigative report, has “limited raw material production capacity and virtually no processing capacity.” Consequently, the report states, the United States “exports the limited raw materials produced today to foreign markets.” For example, output from the only nickel mine in the United States, the Eagle mine in Minnesota, is sent to Canada for smelting.

“Energy and information are two basic currencies of organic and social systems. A new technology that alters the terms on which one or the other of these is available to a system can work on it the most profound changes.” —Herb Simon

One possible solution is to move away from lithium-ion batteries and nickel metal hydride batteries to other battery chemistries such as lithium-iron phosphate, lithium-ion phosphate, lithium-sulfur, lithium-metal, and sodium-ion, among many others, not to mention solid-state batteries, as a way to alleviate some of the material supply and cost problems. Tesla is moving toward the use of lithium-iron phosphate batteries, as is Ford for some of its vehicles. These batteries are cobalt free, which alleviates several sourcing issues.

Another solution may be recycling both EV batteries as well as the waste and rejects from battery manufacturing, which can run between 5 to 10 percent of production. Effective recycling of EV batteries “has the potential to reduce primary demand compared to total demand in 2040, by approximately 25 percent for lithium, 35 percent for cobalt and nickel, and 55 percent for copper,” according to a report by the University of Sidney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures.



While investments into creating EV battery recycling facilities have started, there is a looming question of whether there will be enough battery factory scrap and other lithium-ion battery waste for them to remain operational while they wait for sufficient numbers of batteries to make them profitable. Lithium-ion battery-pack recycling is very time-consuming and expensive, making mining lithium often cheaper than recycling it, for example. Recycling low or no-cobalt lithium batteries, which is the direction many automakers are taking, may also make it unprofitable to recycle them.

An additional concern is that EV batteries, once no longer useful for propelling the EV, have years of life left in them. They can be refurbished, rebuilt, and reused in EVs, or repurposed into storage devices for homes, businesses, or the grid. Whether it will make economic sense to do either at scale versus recycling them remains to be seen.

Howard Nusbaum, the administrator of the National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program (NSVRP), succinctly puts it, “There is no recycling, and no EV-recycling industry, if there is no economic basis for one.”

In the next article in the series, we will look at whether the grid can handle tens of millions of EVs.


Match ID: 20 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 10 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

Why Your Organization Should Join the IEEE Standards Association
Fri, 18 Nov 2022 19:00:01 +0000


The global business landscape is constantly evolving. Digital transformation— compounded by the challenges of globalization, supply-chain stability, demographic shifts, and climate change—is pressuring companies and government agencies to innovate and safely deploy sustainable technologies.

As digital transformation continues, the pervasive growth of technology increasingly intersects with industry, government, and societal interests. Companies and organizations need access to technologies that can enhance efficiencies, productivity, and competitive advantage.


Governments seek influence over emerging technologies to preserve economic interests, advance global trade, and protect their citizens. Consumers are demanding more transparency regarding organizational motives, practices, and processes.

For those and other reasons, new types of stakeholders are seeking a voice in the technology standardization process.

How organizations benefit from developing standards

The need is evidenced in the membership gains at the IEEE Standards Association. IEEE SA membership for organizations, also known as entity membership, has increased by more than 150 percent in the past six years. Academic institutions, government agencies, and other types of organizations now account for more than 30 percent of the member base.

Entity membership offers the ability to help shape technology development and ensure your organization’s interests are represented in the standards development process. Other benefits include balloting privileges, leadership eligibility, and networking opportunities.

IEEE SA welcomes different types of organizations because they bring varied perspectives and they voice concerns that need to be addressed during the standards development process. Engaging diverse viewpoints from companies of all sizes and types also helps to identify and address changing market needs.

From a geographic standpoint, IEEE SA welcomes participation from all regions of the world. Diverse perspectives and contributions to the development cycle enable innovation to be shared and realized by all stakeholders.

Programs on blockchain, IoT, and other emerging technology

IEEE SA has introduced new industry-engagement programs such as open-source and industry-alliance offerings designed to speed innovation and adoption. In addition, industry participants have access to the full IEEE SA ecosystem of programs and services including technology incubation, pre-standardization work, standards development, and conformity assessment activities. Training and marketing tools support working groups at every stage of the process.

An increasing number of new standards projects from emerging technology areas have created a more robust and diversified portfolio of work. The technologies include artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, quantum computing, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, smart cities, smart factories and online gaming. There is also more participation from the health care, automotive, and financial services sectors.

IEEE SA has grown and evolved its programs to address market needs, but its purpose has not changed. The organization is focused on empowering innovators to raise the world’s standards for the benefit of humanity.

Those innovators might be individuals or organizations looking to make a difference in the world, but it can be accomplished only when we all work together.

Learn more about IEEE SA membership for organizations and how your organization can play a key role in advancing future technologies.


Match ID: 21 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

India’s First Private Space Rocket Blasts Off
Fri, 18 Nov 2022 17:51:56 +0000


A rocket built by Indian startup Skyroot has become the country’s first privately developed launch vehicle to reach space, following a successful maiden flight earlier today. The suborbital mission is a major milestone for India’s private space industry, say experts, though more needs to be done to nurture the fledgling sector.

The Vikram-S rocket, named after the founder of the Indian space program, Vikram Sarabhai, lifted off from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre, on India’s east coast, at 11:30 a.m. local time (1 a.m. eastern time). It reached a peak altitude of 89.5 kilometers (55.6 miles), crossing the 80-km line that NASA counts as the boundary of space, but falling just short of the 100 km recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

In the longer run, India’s space industry has ambitions of capturing a significant chunk of the global launch market.

Pawan Kumar Chandana, cofounder of the Hyderabad-based startup, says the success of the launch is a major victory for India’s nascent space industry, but the buildup to the mission was nerve-racking. “We were pretty confident on the vehicle, but, as you know, rockets are very notorious for failure,” he says. “Especially in the last 10 seconds of countdown, the heartbeat was racing up. But once the vehicle had crossed the launcher and then went into the stable trajectory, I think that was the moment of celebration.”

At just 6 meters (20 feet) long and weighing only around 550 kilograms (0.6 tonnes), the Vikram-S is not designed for commercial use. Today’s mission, called Prarambh, which means “the beginning” in Sanskrit, was designed to test key technologies that will be used to build the startup’s first orbital rocket, the Vikram I. The rocket will reportedly be capable of lofting as much as 480 kg up to an 500-km altitude and is slated for a maiden launch next October.

man standing in front of a rocket behind him Skyroot cofounder Pawan Kumar Chandana standing in front of the Vikram-S rocket at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, on the east coast of India.Skyroot

In particular, the mission has validated Skyroot’s decision to go with a novel all-carbon fiber structure to cut down on weight, says Chandana. It also allowed the company to test 3D-printed thrusters, which were used for spin stabilization in Vikram-S but will power the upper stages of its later rockets. Perhaps the most valuable lesson, though, says Chandana, was the complexity of interfacing Skyroot's vehicle with ISRO’s launch infrastructure. “You can manufacture the rocket, but launching it is a different ball game,” he says. “That was a great learning experience for us and will really help us accelerate our orbital vehicle.”

Skyroot is one of several Indian space startups looking to capitalize on recent efforts by the Indian government to liberalize its highly regulated space sector. Due to the dual-use nature of space technology, ISRO has historically had a government-sanctioned monopoly on most space activities, says Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, director of the Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology at the Observer Research Foundation think tank, in New Delhi. While major Indian engineering players like Larsen & Toubro and Godrej Aerospace have long supplied ISRO with components and even entire space systems, the relationship has been one of a supplier and vendor, she says.

But in 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a series of reforms to allow private players to build satellites and launch vehicles, carry out launches, and provide space-based services. The government also created the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (InSpace), a new agency designed to act as a link between ISRO and the private sector, and affirmed that private companies would be able to take advantage of ISRO’s facilities.

The first launch of a private rocket from an ISRO spaceport is a major milestone for the Indian space industry, says Rajagopalan. “This step itself is pretty crucial, and it’s encouraging to other companies who are looking at this with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement,” she says. But more needs to be done to realize the government’s promised reforms, she adds. The Space Activities Bill that is designed to enshrine the country’s space policy in legislation has been languishing in draft form for years, and without regulatory clarity, it’s hard for the private sector to justify significant investments. “These are big, bold statements, but these need to be translated into actual policy and regulatory mechanisms,” says Rajagopalan.

Skyroot’s launch undoubtedly signals the growing maturity of India’s space industry, says Saurabh Kapil, associate director in PwC’s space practice. “It’s a critical message to the Indian space ecosystem, that we can do it, we have the necessary skill set, we have those engineering capabilities, we have those manufacturing or industrialization capabilities,” he says.

rocket launching into the sky with fire tail The Vikram-S rocket blasting off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, on the east coast of India.Skyroot

However, crossing this technical milestone is only part of the challenge, he says. The industry also needs to demonstrate a clear market for the kind of launch vehicles that companies like Skyroot are building. While private players are showing interest in launching small satellites for applications like agriculture and infrastructure monitoring, he says, these companies will be able to build sustainable businesses only if they are allowed to compete for more lucrative government and defense-sector contacts.

In the longer run, though, India’s space industry has ambitions of capturing a significant chunk of the global launch market, says Kapil. ISRO has already developed a reputation for both reliability and low cost—its 2014 mission to Mars cost just US $74 million, one-ninth the cost of a NASA Mars mission launched the same week. That is likely to translate to India’s private space industry, too, thanks to a considerably lower cost of skilled labor, land, and materials compared with those of other spacefaring nations, says Kapil. “The optimism is definitely there that because we are low on cost and high on reliability, whoever wants to build and launch small satellites is largely going to come to India,” he says.


Match ID: 22 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

COP27: Lack of women at negotiations raises concern
Wed, 16 Nov 2022 01:01:11 GMT
Women barely feature in negotiations in Egypt despite bearing the brunt of climate change.
Match ID: 23 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 14 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

The Infinite Cloud Is a Fantasy
Tue, 15 Nov 2022 14:00:00 +0000
It's all too easy to believe in the illusion of neverending data storage and streaming. But it's destroying the natural world.
Match ID: 24 Score: 2.14 source: www.wired.com age: 14 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

Climate change: Dimming Earth, mustard shortages and other odd side-effects
Sat, 12 Nov 2022 00:51:32 GMT
Changes to our planet's shine is just one of the stranger side effects of rising temperatures.
Match ID: 25 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 18 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

Robotic Falcon Keeps Birds Away From Airports
Sun, 06 Nov 2022 14:00:00 +0000


Collisions with birds are a serious problem for commercial aircraft, costing the industry billions of dollars and killing thousands of animals every year. New research shows that a robotic imitation of a peregrine falcon could be an effective way to keep them out of flight paths.

Worldwide, so-called birdstrikes are estimated to cost the civil aviation industry almost US $1.4 billion annually. Nearby habitats are often deliberately made unattractive to birds, but airports also rely on a variety of deterrents designed to scare them away, such as loud pyrotechnics or speakers that play distress calls from common species.

However, the effectiveness of these approaches tends to decrease over time, as the birds get desensitized by repeated exposure, says Charlotte Hemelrijk, a professor on the faculty of science and engineering at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. Live hawks or blinding lasers are also sometimes used to disperse flocks, she says, but this is controversial as it can harm the animals, and keeping and training falcons is not cheap.

“The birds don’t distinguish [RobotFalcon] from a real falcon, it seems.”
—Charlotte Hemelrijk, University of Groningen

In an effort to find a more practical and lasting solution, Hemelrijk and colleagues designed a robotic peregrine falcon that can be used to chase flocks away from airports. The device is the same size and shape as a real hawk, and its fiberglass and carbon-fiber body has been painted to mimic the markings of its real-life counterpart.

Rather than flapping like a bird, the RobotFalcon relies on two small battery-powered propellers on its wings, which allows it to travel at around 30 miles per hour for up to 15 minutes at a time. A human operator controls the machine remotely from a hawk’s-eye perspective via a camera perched above the robot’s head.

To see how effective the RobotFalcon was at scaring away birds, the researchers tested it against a conventional quadcopter drone over three months of field testing, near the Dutch city of Workum. They also compared their results to 15 years of data collected by the Royal Netherlands Air Force that assessed the effectiveness of conventional deterrence methods such as pyrotechnics and distress calls.

Flock-herding Falcon Drone Patrols Airport Flight Paths youtu.be

In a paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the team showed that the RobotFalcon cleared fields of birds faster and more effectively than the drone. It also kept birds away from fields longer than distress calls, the most effective of the conventional approaches.

There was no evidence of birds getting habituated to the RobotFalcon over three months of testing, says Hemelrijk, and the researchers also found that the birds exhibited behavior patterns associated with escaping from predators much more frequently with the robot than with the drone. “The way of reacting to the RobotFalcon is very similar to the real falcon,” says Hemelrijk. “The birds don’t distinguish it from a real falcon, it seems.”

Other attempts to use hawk-imitating robots to disperse birds have had less promising results, though. Morgan Drabik-Hamshare, a research wildlife biologist at the DoA, and her colleagues published a paper in Scientific Reports last year that described how they pitted a robotic peregrine falcon with flapping wings against a quadcopter and a fixed-wing remote-controlled aircraft.

They found the robotic falcon was the least effective of the three at scaring away turkey vultures, with the quadcopter scaring the most birds off and the remote-controlled plane eliciting the quickest response. “Despite the predator silhouette, the vultures did not perceive the predator UAS [unmanned aircraft system] as a threat,” Drabik-Hamshare wrote in an email.

Zihao Wang, an associate lecturer at the University of Sydney, in Australia, who develops UAS for bird deterrence, says the RobotFalcon does seem to be effective at dispersing flocks. But he points out that its wingspan is nearly twice the diagonal length of the quadcopter it was compared with, which means it creates a much larger silhouette when viewed from the birds’ perspective. This means the birds could be reacting more to its size than its shape, and he would like to see the RobotFalcon compared with a similar size drone in the future.

The unique design also means the robot requires an experienced and specially trained operator, Wang adds, which could make it difficult to roll out widely. A potential solution could be to make the system autonomous, he says, but it’s unclear how easy this would be.

Hemelrijk says automating the RobotFalcon is probably not feasible, both due to strict regulations around the use of autonomous drones near airports as well as the sheer technical complexity. Their current operator is a falconer with significant experience in how hawks target their prey, she says, and creating an autonomous system that could recognize and target bird flocks in a similar way would be highly challenging.

But while the need for skilled operators is a limitation, Hemelrijk points out that most airports already have full-time staff dedicated to bird deterrence, who could be trained. And given the apparent lack of habituation and the ability to chase birds in a specific direction—so that they head away from runways—she thinks the robotic falcon could be a useful addition to their arsenal.


Match ID: 26 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 23 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

NASA, USAID Partnership Strengthens Global Development
Fri, 04 Nov 2022 16:08 EDT
NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) signed an agreement Friday strengthening the collaboration between the two agencies, including efforts that advance the federal response to climate change.
Match ID: 27 Score: 2.14 source: www.nasa.gov age: 25 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

NASA Leaders to Participate in Annual Global Climate Conference
Fri, 04 Nov 2022 14:52 EDT
NASA will participate in the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, which begins Sunday, Nov. 6, and runs through Friday, Nov. 18. The COP27 summit brings together countries from around the world to increase ambition by implementing existing goals and strengthening commitments to solutions th
Match ID: 28 Score: 2.14 source: www.nasa.gov age: 25 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

Cop27: the climate carnage we've faced this year – video
Thu, 03 Nov 2022 11:07:52 GMT

One by one, the grim scenarios climate scientists had outlined for the near future have been overtaken by events: extreme storms, droughts, floods and ice-sheet collapses whose sudden appearances have outstripped researchers’ worst predictions. Catastrophic climate change is happening more rapidly and with greater intensity than their grimmest warnings, it transpires.

With the 2022 global climate summit Cop 27 upon us, the Guardian looks back at how the climate crisis has affected communities around the world since the last meeting in Glasgow in 2021

Continue reading...
Match ID: 29 Score: 2.14 source: www.theguardian.com age: 26 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

How gas is being rebranded as green – video
Thu, 03 Nov 2022 09:05:21 GMT

Is natural gas renewable? Is it a fossil fuel? A casual google search for natural gas gives the impression that these questions are somehow up for debate. And while natural gas has helped reduce carbon emissions as it was widely adopted as a replacement for coal, it is now up against zero-emission energy such as wind and solar. So how did natural gas end up in the same bracket as renewables? Josh Toussaint-Strauss explores the lengths fossil fuel companies have gone to in order to try to convince consumers, voters and lawmakers that natural gas is somehow a clean energy source

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Match ID: 30 Score: 2.14 source: www.theguardian.com age: 26 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

Distilleries, golden eagles … and Macbeth: seven slow adventures in the Scottish Highlands and islands
Mon, 17 Oct 2022 13:32:19 GMT

Go at your own pace as you travel the path less followed – spend a morning foraging for lunch, learn to knit in Shetland or try aurora borealis hunting in Orkney this autumn and winter

Push those pedals on the Isles of Arran and Cumbrae
Get on your bike. Seriously, that’s the best way to see the small – yet accessible – island of Cumbrae, just off the Ayrshire coast near Largs. At only four miles long and two miles wide, anyone can enjoy a gentle cycle around this island. We say “anyone” because it’s completely flat, so there are no excuses, really. Sleep it off in one of Jack’s Alt-Stays’ eco-cabins, opening this autumn and, in return for your booking, the business will plant five trees to offset its carbon footprint.

Across the water on Arran, you can tour the island without pushing any pedals. Jump in one of Mogabout’s 4x4 trucks and be driven through forests and on to deserted beaches before pulling up at the Lagg Distillery for a well-earned dram.

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Match ID: 31 Score: 2.14 source: www.theguardian.com age: 43 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

MOXIE Shows How to Make Oxygen on Mars
Thu, 08 Sep 2022 15:27:59 +0000


Planning for the return journey is an integral part of the preparations for a crewed Mars mission. Astronauts will require a total mass of about 50 tonnes of rocket propellent for the ascent vehicle that will lift them off the planet’s surface, including 31 tonnes of oxygen approximately. The less popular option is for crewed missions to carry the required oxygen themselves. But scientists are optimistic that it could instead be produced from the carbon dioxide–rich Martian atmosphere itself, using a system called MOXIE.

The Mars Oxygen ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilization) Experiment is an 18-kilogram unit housed within the Perseverance rover on Mars. The unit is “the size of a toaster,” adds Jeffrey Hoffman, professor of aerospace engineering at MIT. Its job is to electrochemically break down carbon dioxide collected from the Martian atmosphere into oxygen and carbon monoxide. It also tests the purity of the oxygen.

Between February 2021, when it arrived on Mars aboard the Perseverance, and the end of the year, MOXIE has had several successful test runs. According to a review of the system by Hoffman and colleagues, published in Science Advances, it has demonstrated its ability to produce oxygen during both night and day, when temperatures can vary by over 100 ºC. The generation and purity rates of oxygen also meet requirements to produce rocket propellent and for breathing. The authors assert that a scaled-up version of MOXIE could produce the required oxygen for lift-off as well as for the astronauts to breathe.

Next question: How to power any oxygen-producing factories that NASA can land on Mars? Perhaps via NASA’s Kilopower fission reactors?

MOXIE is a first step toward a much larger and more complex system to support the human exploration of Mars. The researchers estimate a required generation rate of 2 to 3 kilograms per hour, compared with the current MOXIE rate of 6 to 8 grams per hour, to produce enough oxygen for lift-off for a crew arriving 26 months later. “So we’re talking about a system that’s a couple of hundred times bigger than MOXIE,” Hoffman says.

They calculate this rate accounting for eight months to get to Mars, followed by some time to set up the system. “We figure you'd probably have maybe 14 months to make all the oxygen.” Further, he says, the produced oxygen would have to be liquefied to be used a rocket propellant, something the current version of MOXIE doesn’t do.

MOXIE also currently faces several design constraints because, says Hoffman, a former astronaut, “our only ride to Mars was inside the Perseverance rover.” This limited the amount of power available to operate the unit, the amount of heat they could produce, the volume and the mass.

“MOXIE does not work nearly as efficiently as a stand-alone system that was specifically designed would,” says Hoffman. Most of the time, it’s turned off. “Every time we want to make oxygen, we have to heat it up to 800 ºC, so most of the energy goes into heating it up and running the compressor, whereas in a well-designed stand-alone system, most of the energy will go into the actual electrolysis, into actually producing the oxygen.”

However, there are still many kinks to iron out for the scaling-up process. To begin with, any oxygen-producing system will need lots of power. Hoffman thinks nuclear power is the most likely option, maybe NASA’s Kilopower fission reactors. The setup and the cabling would certainly be challenging, he says. “You’re going to have to launch to all of these nuclear reactors, and of course, they’re not going to be in exactly the same place as the [other] units,” he says. "So, robotically, you’re going to have to connect to the electrical cables to bring power to the oxygen-producing unit.”

Then there is the solid oxide electrolysis units, which Hoffman points out are carefully machined systems. Fortunately, the company that makes them, OxEon, has already designed, built, and tested a full-scale unit, a hundred times bigger than the one on MOXIE. “Several of those units would be required to produce oxygen at the quantities that we need,” Hoffman says.

He also adds that at present, there is no redundancy built into MOXIE. If any part fails, the whole system dies. “If you’re counting on a system to produce oxygen for rocket propellant and for breathing, you need very high reliability, which means you’re going to need quite a few redundant units.”

Moreover, the system has to be pretty much autonomous, Hoffman says. “It has to be able to monitor itself, run itself.” For testing purposes, every time MOXIE is powered up, there is plenty of time to plan. A full-scale MOXIE system, though, would have to run continuously, and for that it has to be able to adjust automatically to changes in the Mars atmosphere, which can vary by a factor of two over a year, and between nighttime and daytime temperature differences.


Match ID: 32 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 82 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

Inside the Universe Machine: The Webb Space Telescope’s Staggering Vision
Wed, 06 Jul 2022 13:00:00 +0000


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

“Build something that will absolutely, positively work.” This was the mandate from NASA for designing and building the James Webb Space Telescope—at 6.5 meters wide the largest space telescope in history. Last December, JWST launched famously and successfully to its observing station out beyond the moon. And now according to NASA, as soon as next week, the JWST will at long last begin releasing scientific images and data.

Mark Kahan, on JWST’s product integrity team, recalls NASA’s engineering challenge as a call to arms for a worldwide team of thousands that set out to create one of the most ambitious scientific instruments in human history. Kahan—chief electro-optical systems engineer at Mountain View, Calif.–based Synopsys—and many others in JWST’s “pit crew” (as he calls the team) drew hard lessons from three decades ago, having helped repair another world-class space telescope with a debilitating case of flawed optics. Of course the Hubble Space Telescope is in low Earth orbit, and so a special space-shuttle mission to install corrective optics ( as happened in 1993) was entirely possible.

Not so with the JWST.

The meticulous care NASA demanded of JWST’s designers is all the more a necessity because Webb is well out of reach of repair crews. Its mission is to study the infrared universe, and that requires shielding the telescope and its sensors from both the heat of sunlight and the infrared glow of Earth. A good place to do that without getting too far from Earth is an empty patch of interplanetary space 1.5 million kilometers away (well beyond the moon’s orbit) near a spot physicists call the second Lagrange point, or L2.

The pit crew’s job was “down at the detail level, error checking every critical aspect of the optical design,” says Kahan. Having learned the hard way from Hubble, the crew insisted that every measurement on Webb’s optics be made in at least two different ways that could be checked and cross-checked. Diagnostics were built into the process, Kahan says, so that “you could look at them to see what to kick” to resolve any discrepancies. Their work had to be done on the ground, but their tests had to assess how the telescope would work in deep space at cryogenic temperatures.

Three New Technologies for the Main Mirror

Superficially, Webb follows the design of all large reflecting telescopes. A big mirror collects light from stars, galaxies, nebulae, planets, comets, and other astronomical objects—and then focuses those photons onto a smaller secondary mirror that sends it to a third mirror that then ultimately directs the light to instruments that record images and spectra.

Webb’s 6.5-meter primary mirror is the first segmented mirror to be launched into space. All the optics had to be made on the ground at room temperature but were deployed in space and operated at 30 to 55 degrees above absolute zero. “We had to develop three new technologies” to make it work, says Lee D. Feinberg of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the optical telescope element manager for Webb for the past 20 years.

The longest wavelengths that Hubble has to contend with were 2.5 micrometers, whereas Webb is built to observe infrared light that stretches to 28 μm in wavelength. Compared with Hubble, whose primary mirror is a circle of an area 4.5 square meters, “[Webb’s primary mirror] had to be 25 square meters,” says Feinberg. Webb also “needed segmented mirrors that were lightweight, and its mass was a huge consideration,” he adds. No single-component mirror that could provide the required resolution would have fit on the Ariane 5 rocket that launched JWST. That meant the mirror would have to be made in pieces, assembled, folded, secured to withstand the stress of launch, then unfolded and deployed in space to create a surface that was within tens of nanometers of the shape specified by the designers.

Images of the James Webb Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope to scale, compared to a human figure, who is dwarfed by their size The James Webb Space Telescope [left] and the Hubble Space Telescope side by side—with Hubble’s 2.4-meter-diameter mirror versus Webb’s array of hexagonal mirrors making a 6.5-meter-diameter light-collecting area. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA and the U.S. Air Force, which has its own interests in large lightweight space mirrors for surveillance and focusing laser energy, teamed up to develop the technology. The two agencies narrowed eight submitted proposals down to two approaches for building JWST’s mirrors: one based on low-expansion glass made of a mixture of silicon and titanium dioxides similar to that used in Hubble and the other the light but highly toxic metal beryllium. The most crucial issue came down to how well the materials could withstand temperature changes from room temperature on the ground to around 50 K in space. Beryllium won because it could fully release stress after cooling without changing its shape, and it’s not vulnerable to the cracking that can occur in glass. The final beryllium mirror was a 6.5-meter array of 18 hexagonal beryllium mirrors, each weighing about 20 kilograms. The weight per unit area of JWST’s mirror was only 10 percent of that in Hubble. A 100-nanometer layer of pure gold makes the surface reflect 98 percent of incident light from JWST’s main observing band of 0.6 to 28.5 μm. “Pure silver has slightly higher reflectivity than pure gold, but gold is more robust,” says Feinberg. A thin layer of amorphous silica protects the metal film from surface damage.

In addition, a wavefront-sensing control system keeps mirror segment surfaces aligned to within tens of nanometers. Built on the ground, the system is expected to keep mirror alignment stabilized throughout the telescope’s operational life. A backplane kept at a temperature of 35 K holds all 2.4 tonnes of the telescope and instruments rock-steady to within 32 nm while maintaining them at cryogenic temperatures during observations.

Metal superstructure of cages and supports stands on a giant platform in a warehouse-sized clean-room. A man in a cleanroom suit watches the operations. The JWST backplane, the “spine” that supports the entire hexagonal mirror structure and carries more than 2,400 kg of hardware, is readied for assembly to the rest of the telescope. NASA/Chris Gunn

Hubble’s amazing, long-exposure images of distant galaxies are possible through the use of gyroscopes and reaction wheels. The gyroscopes are used to sense unwanted rotations, and reaction wheels are used to counteract them.

But the gyroscopes used on Hubble have had a bad track record and have had to be replaced repeatedly. Only three of Hubble’s six gyros remain operational today, and NASA has devised plans for operating with one or two gyros at reduced capability. Hubble also includes reaction wheels and magnetic torquers, used to maintain its orientation when needed or to point at different parts of the sky.

Webb uses reaction wheels similarly to turn across the sky, but instead of using mechanical gyros to sense direction, it uses hemispherical resonator gyroscopes, which have no moving parts. Webb also has a small fine-steering mirror in the optical path, which can tilt over an angle of just 5 arc seconds. Those very fine adjustments of the light path into the instruments keep the telescope on target. “It’s a really wonderful way to go,” says Feinberg, adding that it compensates for small amounts of jitter without having to move the whole 6-tonne observatory.

Instruments

Other optics distribute light from the fine-steering mirror among four instruments, two of which can observe simultaneously. Three instruments have sensors that observe wavelengths of 0.6 to 5 μm, which astronomers call the near-infrared. The fourth, called the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), observes what astronomers call the mid-infrared spectrum, from 5 to 28.5 μm. Different instruments are needed because sensors and optics have limited wavelength ranges. (Optical engineers may blanch slightly at astronomers’ definitions of what constitutes the near- and mid-infrared wavelength ranges. These two groups simply have differing conventions for labeling the various regimes of the infrared spectrum.)

Mid-infrared wavelengths are crucial for observing young stars and planetary systems and the earliest galaxies, but they also pose some of the biggest engineering challenges. Namely, everything on Earth and planets out to Jupiter glow in the mid-infrared. So for JWST to observe distant astronomical objects, it must avoid recording extraneous mid-infrared noise from all the various sources inside the solar system. “I have spent my whole career building instruments for wavelengths of 5 μm and longer,” says MIRI instrument scientist Alistair Glasse of the Royal Observatory, in Edinburgh. “We’re always struggling against thermal background.”

Mountaintop telescopes can see the near-infrared, but observing the mid-infrared sky requires telescopes in space. However, the thermal radiation from Earth and its atmosphere can cloud their view, and so can the telescopes themselves unless they are cooled far below room temperature. An ample supply of liquid helium and an orbit far from Earth allowed the Spitzer Space Telescope’s primary observing mission to last for five years, but once the last of the cryogenic fluid evaporated in 2009, its observations were limited to wavelengths shorter than 5 μm.

Webb has an elaborate solar shield to block sunlight, and an orbit 1.5 million km from Earth that can keep the telescope to below 55 K, but that’s not good enough for low-noise observations at wavelengths longer than 5 μm. The near-infrared instruments operate at 40 K to minimize thermal noise. But for observations out to 28.5 μm, MIRI uses a specially developed closed-cycle, helium cryocooler to keep MIRI cooled below 7 K. “We want to have sensitivity limited by the shot noise of astronomical sources,” says Glasse. (Shot noise occurs when optical or electrical signals are so feeble that each photon or electron constitutes a detectable peak.) That will make MIRI 1,000 times as sensitive in the mid-infrared as Spitzer.

Another challenge is the limited transparency of optical materials in the mid-infrared. “We use reflective optics wherever possible,” says Glasse, but they also pose problems, he adds. “Thermal contraction is a big deal,” he says, because the instrument was made at room temperature but is used at 7 K. To keep thermal changes uniform throughout MIRI, they made the whole structure of gold-coated aluminum lest other metals cause warping.

Detectors are another problem. Webb’s near-infrared sensors use mercury cadmium telluride photodetectors with a resolution of 2,048 x 2,048 pixels. This resolution is widely used at wavelengths below 5 μm, but sensing at MIRI’s longer wavelengths required exotic detectors that are limited to offering only 1,024 x 1,024 pixels.

Glasse says commissioning “has gone incredibly well.” Although some stray light has been detected, he says, “we are fully expecting to meet all our science goals.”

NIRCam Aligns the Whole Telescope

The near-infrared detectors and optical materials used for observing at wavelengths shorter than 5 μm are much more mature than those for the mid-infrared, so the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) does double duty by both recording images and aligning all the optics in the whole telescope. That alignment was the trickiest part of building the instrument, says NIRCam principal investigator Marcia Rieke of the University of Arizona.

Alignment means getting all the light collected by the primary mirror to get to the right place in the final image. That’s crucial for Webb, because it has 18 separate segments that have to overlay their images perfectly in the final image, and because all those segments were built on the ground at room temperature but operate at cryogenic temperatures in space at zero gravity. When NASA recorded a test image of a single star after Webb first opened its primary mirror, it showed 18 separate bright spots, one from each segment. When alignment was completed on 11 March, the image from NIRcam showed a single star with six spikes caused by diffraction.

Image of a star with six-pointed spikes caused by diffraction Even when performing instrumental calibration tasks, JWST couldn’t help but showcase its stunning sensitivity to the infrared sky. The central star is what telescope technicians used to align JWST’s mirrors. But notice the distant galaxies and stars that photobombed the image too!NASA/STScI

Building a separate alignment system would have added to both the weight and cost of Webb, Rieke realized, and in the original 1995 plan for the telescope she proposed designing NIRCam so it could align the telescope optics once it was up in space as well as record images. “The only real compromise was that it required NIRCam to have exquisite image quality,” says Rieke, wryly. From a scientific point, she adds, using the instrument to align the telescope optics “is great because you know you’re going to have good image quality and it’s going to be aligned with you.” Alignment might be just a tiny bit off for other instruments. In the end, it took a team at Lockheed Martin to develop the computational tools to account for all the elements of thermal expansion.

Escalating costs and delays had troubled Webb for years. But for Feinberg, “commissioning has been a magical five months.” It began with the sight of sunlight hitting the mirrors. The segmented mirror deployed smoothly, and after the near-infrared cameras cooled, the mirrors focused one star into 18 spots, then aligned them to put the spots on top of each other. “Everything had to work to get it to [focus] that well,” he says. It’s been an intense time, but for Feinberg, a veteran of the Hubble repair mission, commissioning Webb was “a piece of cake.”

NASA announced that between May 23rd and 25th, one segment of the primary mirror had been dinged by a micrometeorite bigger than the agency had expected when it analyzed the potential results of such impacts. “Things do degrade over time,” Feinberg said. But he added that Webb had been engineered to minimize damage, and NASA said the event had not affected Webb’s operation schedule.

Corrections 26-28 July 2022: The story was updated a) to reflect the fact that the Lagrange point L2 where Webb now orbits is not that of the "Earth-moon system" (as the story had originally reported) but rather the Earth-sun system
and b) to correct misstatements in the original posting about Webb's hardware for controlling its orientation.

Corrections 12 Aug. 2022: Alistair Glasse's name was incorrectly spelled in a previous version of this story, as was NIRCam (which we'd spelled as NIRcam); Webb's tertiary mirror (we'd originally reported only its primary and secondary mirrors) was also called out in this version.

This article appears in the September 2022 print issue as “Inside the Universe Machine.”


Match ID: 33 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 146 days
qualifiers: 2.14 toxic

NASA to Industry: Let’s Develop Flight Tech to Reduce Carbon Emissions
Wed, 29 Jun 2022 14:25 EDT
NASA announced Wednesday the agency is seeking partners to develop technologies needed to shape a new generation of lower-emission, single-aisle airliners that passengers could see in airports in the 2030s.
Match ID: 34 Score: 2.14 source: www.nasa.gov age: 153 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

U.N. Kills Any Plans to Use Mercury as a Rocket Propellant
Tue, 19 Apr 2022 18:00:01 +0000


A recent United Nations provision has banned the use of mercury in spacecraft propellant. Although no private company has actually used mercury propellant in a launched spacecraft, the possibility was alarming enough—and the dangers extreme enough—that the ban was enacted just a few years after one U.S.-based startup began toying with the idea. Had the company gone through with its intention to sell mercury propellant thrusters to some of the companies building massive satellite constellations over the coming decade, it would have resulted in Earth’s upper atmosphere being laced with mercury.

Mercury is a neurotoxin. It’s also bio-accumulative, which means it’s absorbed by the body at a faster rate than the body can remove it. The most common way to get mercury poisoning is through eating contaminated seafood. “It’s pretty nasty,” says Michael Bender, the international coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG). “Which is why this is one of the very few instances where the governments of the world came together pretty much unanimously and ratified a treaty.”

Bender is referring to the 2013 Minamata Convention on Mercury, a U.N. treaty named for a city in Japan whose residents suffered from mercury poisoning from a nearby chemical factory for decades. Because mercury pollutants easily find their way into the oceans and the atmosphere, it’s virtually impossible for one country to prevent mercury poisoning within its borders. “Mercury—it’s an intercontinental pollutant,” Bender says. “So it required a global treaty.”

Today, the only remaining permitted uses for mercury are in fluorescent lighting and dental amalgams, and even those are being phased out. Mercury is otherwise found as a by-product of other processes, such as the burning of coal. But then a company hit on the idea to use it as a spacecraft propellant.

In 2018, an employee at Apollo Fusion approached the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a nonprofit that investigates environmental misconduct in the United States. The employee—who has remained anonymous—alleged that the Mountain View, Calif.–based space startup was planning to build and sell thrusters that used mercury propellant to multiple companies building low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.

Four industry insiders ultimately confirmed that Apollo Fusion was building thrusters that utilized mercury propellant. Apollo Fusion, which was acquired by rocket manufacturing startup Astra in June 2021, insisted that the composition of its propellant mixture should be considered confidential information. The company withdrew its plans for a mercury propellant in April 2021. Astra declined to respond to a request for comment for this story.

Apollo Fusion wasn’t the first to consider using mercury as a propellant. NASA originally tested it in the 1960s and 1970s with two Space Electric Propulsion Tests (SERT), one of which was sent into orbit in 1970. Although the tests demonstrated mercury’s effectiveness as a propellant, the same concerns over the element’s toxicity that have seen it banned in many other industries halted its use by the space agency as well.

“I think it just sort of fell off a lot of folks’ radars,” says Kevin Bell, the staff counsel for PEER. “And then somebody just resurrected the research on it and said, ‘Hey, other than the environmental impact, this was a pretty good idea.’ It would give you a competitive advantage in what I imagine is a pretty tight, competitive market.”

That’s presumably why Apollo Fusion was keen on using it in their thrusters. Apollo Fusion as a startup emerged more or less simultaneously with the rise of massive LEO constellations that use hundreds or thousands of satellites in orbits below 2,000 kilometers to provide continual low-latency coverage. Finding a slightly cheaper, more efficient propellant for one large geostationary satellite doesn’t move the needle much. But doing the same for thousands of satellites that need to be replaced every several years? That’s a much more noticeable discount.

Were it not for mercury’s extreme toxicity, it would actually make an extremely attractive propellant. Apollo Fusion wanted to use a type of ion thruster called a Hall-effect thruster. Ion thrusters strip electrons from the atoms that make up a liquid or gaseous propellant, and then an electric field pushes the resultant ions away from the spacecraft, generating a modest thrust in the opposite direction. The physics of rocket engines means that the performance of these engines increases with the mass of the ion that you can accelerate.

Mercury is heavier than either xenon or krypton, the most commonly used propellants, meaning more thrust per expelled ion. It’s also liquid at room temperature, making it efficient to store and use. And it’s cheap—there’s not a lot of competition with anyone looking to buy mercury.

Bender says that ZMWG, alongside PEER, caught wind of Apollo Fusion marketing its mercury-based thrusters to at least three companies deploying LEO constellations—One Web, Planet Labs, and SpaceX. Planet Labs, an Earth-imaging company, has at least 200 CubeSats in low Earth orbit. One Web and SpaceX, both wireless-communication providers, have many more. One Web plans to have nearly 650 satellites in orbit by the end of 2022. SpaceX already has nearly 1,500 active satellites aloft in its Starlink constellation, with an eye toward deploying as many as 30,000 satellites before its constellation is complete. Other constellations, like Amazon’s Kuiper constellation, are also planning to deploy thousands of satellites.

In 2019, a group of researchers in Italy and the United States estimated how much of the mercury used in spacecraft propellant might find its way back into Earth’s atmosphere. They figured that a hypothetical LEO constellation of 2,000 satellites, each carrying 100 kilograms of propellant, would emit 20 tonnes of mercury every year over the course of a 10-year life span. Three quarters of that mercury, the researchers suggested, would eventually wind up in the oceans.

That amounts to 1 percent of global mercury emissions from a constellation only a fraction of the size of the one planned by SpaceX alone. And if multiple constellations adopted the technology, they would represent a significant percentage of global mercury emissions—especially, the researchers warned, as other uses of mercury are phased out as planned in the years ahead.

Fortunately, it’s unlikely that any mercury propellant thrusters will even get off the ground. Prior to the fourth meeting of the Minamata Convention, Canada, the European Union, and Norway highlighted the dangers of mercury propellant, alongside ZMWG. The provision to ban mercury usage in satellites was passed on 26 March 2022.

The question now is enforcement. “Obviously, there aren’t any U.N. peacekeepers going into space to shoot down” mercury-based satellites, says Bell. But the 137 countries, including the United States, who are party to the convention have pledged to adhere to its provisions—including the propellant ban.

The United States is notable in that list because as Bender explains, it did not ratify the Minamata Convention via the U.S. Senate but instead deposited with the U.N. an instrument of acceptance. In a 7 November 2013 statement (about one month after the original Minamata Convention was adopted), the U.S. State Department said the country would be able to fulfill its obligations “under existing legislative and regulatory authority.”

Bender says the difference is “weedy” but that this appears to mean that the U.S. government has agreed to adhere to the Minamata Convention’s provisions because it already has similar laws on the books. Except there is still no existing U.S. law or regulation banning mercury propellant. For Bender, that creates some uncertainty around compliance when the provision goes into force in 2025.

Still, with a U.S. company being the first startup to toy with mercury propellant, it might be ideal to have a stronger U.S. ratification of the Minamata Convention before another company hits on the same idea. “There will always be market incentives to cut corners and do something more dangerously,” Bell says.

Update 19 April 2022: In an email, a spokesperson for Astra stated that the company's propulsion system, the Astra Spacecraft Engine, does not use mercury. The spokesperson also stated that Astra has no plans to use mercury propellant and that the company does not have anything in orbit that uses mercury.

Updated 20 April 2022 to clarify that Apollo Fusion was building thrusters that used mercury, not that they had actually used them.


Match ID: 35 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 224 days
qualifiers: 2.14 toxic

Ahrefs vs SEMrush: Which SEO Tool Should You Use?
Tue, 01 Mar 2022 12:16:00 +0000
semrush vs ahrefs


SEMrush and Ahrefs are among the most popular tools in the SEO industry. Both companies have been in business for years and have thousands of customers per month.

If you're a professional SEO or trying to do digital marketing on your own, at some point you'll likely consider using a tool to help with your efforts. Ahrefs and SEMrush are two names that will likely appear on your shortlist.

In this guide, I'm going to help you learn more about these SEO tools and how to choose the one that's best for your purposes.

What is SEMrush?

semrush

SEMrush is a popular SEO tool with a wide range of features—it's the leading competitor research service for online marketers. SEMrush's SEO Keyword Magic tool offers over 20 billion Google-approved keywords, which are constantly updated and it's the largest keyword database.

The program was developed in 2007 as SeoQuake is a small Firefox extension

Features

  • Most accurate keyword data: Accurate keyword search volume data is crucial for SEO and PPC campaigns by allowing you to identify what keywords are most likely to bring in big sales from ad clicks. SEMrush constantly updates its databases and provides the most accurate data.
  • Largest Keyword database: SEMrush's Keyword Magic Tool now features 20-billion keywords, providing marketers and SEO professionals the largest database of keywords.

  • All SEMrush users receive daily ranking data, mobile volume information, and the option to buy additional keywords by default with no additional payment or add-ons needed
  • Most accurate position tracking tool: This tool provides all subscribers with basic tracking capabilities, making it suitable for SEO professionals. Plus, the Position Tracking tool provides local-level data to everyone who uses the tool.
  • SEO Data Management: SEMrush makes managing your online data easy by allowing you to create visually appealing custom PDF reports, including Branded and White Label reports, report scheduling, and integration with GA, GMB, and GSC.
  • Toxic link monitoring and penalty recovery: With SEMrush, you can make a detailed analysis of toxic backlinks, toxic scores, toxic markers, and outreach to those sites.
  • Content Optimization and Creation Tools: SEMrush offers content optimization and creation tools that let you create SEO-friendly content. Some features include the SEO Writing Assistant, On-Page SEO Check, er/SEO Content Template, Content Audit, Post Tracking, Brand Monitoring.

Ahrefs

ahrefs


Ahrefs is a leading SEO platform that offers a set of tools to grow your search traffic, research your competitors, and monitor your niche. The company was founded in 2010, and it has become a popular choice among SEO tools. Ahrefs has a keyword index of over 10.3 billion keywords and offers accurate and extensive backlink data updated every 15-30 minutes and it is the world's most extensive backlink index database.

Features

  • Backlink alerts data and new keywords: Get an alert when your site is linked to or discussed in blogs, forums, comments, or when new keywords are added to a blog posting about you.
  • Intuitive interface: The intuitive design of the widget helps you see the overall health of your website and search engine ranking at a glance.
  • Site Explorer: The Site Explorer will give you an in-depth look at your site's search traffic.
  • Domain Comparison
  • Reports with charts and graphs
  • JavaScript rendering and a site audit can identify SEO issues.
  • A question explorer that provides well-crafted topic suggestions

Direct Comparisons: Ahrefs vs SEMrush

Now that you know a little more about each tool, let's take a look at how they compare. I'll analyze each tool to see how they differ in interfaces, keyword research resources, rank tracking, and competitor analysis.

User Interface

Ahrefs and SEMrush both offer comprehensive information and quick metrics regarding your website's SEO performance. However, Ahrefs takes a bit more of a hands-on approach to getting your account fully set up, whereas SEMrush's simpler dashboard can give you access to the data you need quickly.

In this section, we provide a brief overview of the elements found on each dashboard and highlight the ease with which you can complete tasks.

AHREFS

ahrefs interface


The Ahrefs dashboard is less cluttered than that of SEMrush, and its primary menu is at the very top of the page, with a search bar designed only for entering URLs.

Additional features of the Ahrefs platform include:

  • You can see analytics from the dashboard, including search engine rankings to domain ratings, referring domains, and backlink
  • Jumping from one tool to another is easy. You can use the Keyword Explorer to find a keyword to target and then directly track your ranking with one click.
  • The website offers a tooltip helper tool that allows you to hover your mouse over something that isn't clear and get an in-depth explanation.

SEMRUSH

semrush domain overview


When you log into the SEMrush Tool, you will find four main modules. These include information about your domains, organic keyword analysis, ad keyword, and site traffic.

You'll also find some other options like

  • A search bar allows you to enter a domain, keyword, or anything else you wish to explore.
  • A menu on the left side of the page provides quick links to relevant information, including marketing insights, projects, keyword analytics, and more.
  • The customer support resources located directly within the dashboard can be used to communicate with the support team or to learn about other resources such as webinars and blogs.
  • Detailed descriptions of every resource offered. This detail is beneficial for new marketers, who are just starting.

WHO WINS?

Both Ahrefs and SEMrush have user-friendly dashboards, but Ahrefs is less cluttered and easier to navigate. On the other hand, SEMrush offers dozens of extra tools, including access to customer support resources.

When deciding on which dashboard to use, consider what you value in the user interface, and test out both.

Rank Tracking

If you're looking to track your website's search engine ranking, rank tracking features can help. You can also use them to monitor your competitors.

Let's take a look at Ahrefs vs. SEMrush to see which tool does a better job.

Ahrefs

ahrefs rank tracking


The Ahrefs Rank Tracker is simpler to use. Just type in the domain name and keywords you want to analyze, and it spits out a report showing you the search engine results page (SERP) ranking for each keyword you enter.

Rank Tracker looks at the ranking performance of keywords and compares them with the top rankings for those keywords. Ahrefs also offers:

You'll see metrics that help you understand your visibility, traffic, average position, and keyword difficulty.

It gives you an idea of whether a keyword would be profitable to target or not.

SEMRUSH

semrush position tracking


SEMRush offers a tool called Position Tracking. This tool is a project tool—you must set it up as a new project. Below are a few of the most popular features of the SEMrush Position Tracking tool:

All subscribers are given regular data updates and mobile search rankings upon subscribing

The platform provides opportunities to track several SERP features, including Local tracking.

Intuitive reports allow you to track statistics for the pages on your website, as well as the keywords used in those pages.

Identify pages that may be competing with each other using the Cannibalization report.

WHO WINS?

Ahrefs is a more user-friendly option. It takes seconds to enter a domain name and keywords. From there, you can quickly decide whether to proceed with that keyword or figure out how to rank better for other keywords.

SEMrush allows you to check your mobile rankings and ranking updates daily, which is something Ahrefs does not offer. SEMrush also offers social media rankings, a tool you won't find within the Ahrefs platform. Both are good which one do you like let me know in the comment.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is closely related to rank tracking, but it's used for deciding which keywords you plan on using for future content rather than those you use now.

When it comes to SEO, keyword research is the most important thing to consider when comparing the two platforms.

AHREFS



The Ahrefs Keyword Explorer provides you with thousands of keyword ideas and filters search results based on the chosen search engine.

Ahrefs supports several features, including:

  • It can search multiple keywords in a single search and analyze them together. At SEMrush, you also have this feature in Keyword Overview.
  • Ahrefs has a variety of keywords for different search engines, including Google, YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, and other search engines.
  • When you click on a keyword, you can see its search volume and keyword difficulty, but also other keywords related to it, which you didn't use.

SEMRUSH



SEMrush's Keyword Magic Tool has over 20 billion keywords for Google. You can type in any keyword you want, and a list of suggested keywords will appear.

The Keyword Magic Tool also lets you to:

  • Show performance metrics by keyword
  • Search results are based on both broad and exact keyword matches.
  • Show data like search volume, trends, keyword difficulty, and CPC.
  • Show the first 100 Google search results for any keyword.
  • Identify SERP Features and Questions related to each keyword
  • SEMrush has released a new Keyword Gap Tool that uncovers potentially useful keyword opportunities for you, including both paid and organic keywords.

WHO WINS?

Both of these tools offer keyword research features and allow users to break down complicated tasks into something that can be understood by beginners and advanced users alike.

If you're interested in keyword suggestions, SEMrush appears to have more keyword suggestions than Ahrefs does. It also continues to add new features, like the Keyword Gap tool and SERP Questions recommendations.

Competitor Analysis

Both platforms offer competitor analysis tools, eliminating the need to come up with keywords off the top of your head. Each tool is useful for finding keywords that will be useful for your competition so you know they will be valuable to you.

AHREFS



Ahrefs' domain comparison tool lets you compare up to five websites (your website and four competitors) side-by-side.it also shows you how your site is ranked against others with metrics such as backlinks, domain ratings, and more.

Use the Competing Domains section to see a list of your most direct competitors, and explore how many keywords matches your competitors have.

To find more information about your competitor, you can look at the Site Explorer and Content Explorer tools and type in their URL instead of yours.

SEMRUSH



SEMrush provides a variety of insights into your competitors' marketing tactics. The platform enables you to research your competitors effectively. It also offers several resources for competitor analysis including:

Traffic Analytics helps you identify where your audience comes from, how they engage with your site, what devices visitors use to view your site, and how your audiences overlap with other websites.

SEMrush's Organic Research examines your website's major competitors and shows their organic search rankings, keywords they are ranking for, and even if they are ranking for any (SERP) features and more.

The Market Explorer search field allows you to type in a domain and lists websites or articles similar to what you entered. Market Explorer also allows users to perform in-depth data analytics on These companies and markets.

WHO WINS?

SEMrush wins here because it has more tools dedicated to competitor analysis than Ahrefs. However, Ahrefs offers a lot of functionality in this area, too. It takes a combination of both tools to gain an advantage over your competition.

Pricing

Ahrefs

  • Lite Monthly: $99/month
  • Standard Monthly: $179/month
  • Annually Lite: $990/year
  • Annually Standard: $1790/year

SEMRUSH

  • Pro Plan: $119.95/month
  • Guru Plan:$229.95/month
  • Business Plan: $449.95/month

Which SEO tool should you choose for digital marketing?

When it comes to keyword data research, you will become confused about which one to choose.

Consider choosing Ahrefs if you

  • Like friendly and clean interface
  • Searching for simple keyword suggestions

  • Want to get more keywords for different search engines like Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Baidu, and more

 

Consider SEMrush if you:

  • Want more marketing and SEO features
  • Need competitor analysis tool
  • Need to keep your backlinks profile clean
  • Looking for more keyword suggestions for Google

Both tools are great. Choose the one which meets your requirements and if you have any experience using either Ahrefs or SEMrush let me know in the comment section which works well for you.

 

 


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