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What Could Keep Climate Change From Becoming Catastrophic?
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 11:00:00 +0000
WIRED’s editor in chief weighs the merits and detriments of carbon capture and storage, plus more thoughts on this month’s headlines.
Match ID: 0 Score: 30.00 source: www.wired.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change, 15.00 carbon

Lawmakers in India pass energy conservation bill
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 21:39:33 EDT
The Indian government took another step toward its climate goals by passing a conservation bill through parliament’s lower house, which makes it easier to put a price on carbon emissions and encourages the use of non-fossil fuel sources to generate power across the country
Match ID: 1 Score: 15.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

Trillions of dollars at risk because central banks’ climate models not up to scratch
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 17:30:30 GMT

Climate research finds modelling used cannot predict localised extreme weather, leading to poor estimations of risk

Trillions of dollars may be misallocated to deal with the wrong climate threats around the world because the models used by central banks and regulators aren’t fit for purpose, a leading Australian climate researcher says.

Prof Andy Pitman, director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, said regulators were relying on models that are good at forecasting how average climates will change as the planet warms, but were less likely to be of use for predicting how extreme weather will imperil individual localities such as cities.

The concerns, detailed in a report in the journal Environmental Research: Climate, were underscored by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s release on Monday of its corporate plan 2022-23. Apra plans to “continue to ensure regulated institutions are well-prepared for the risks and opportunities presented by climate change”.

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

Humanity's Biggest Problems Require a Whole New Media Mode
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 12:00:00 +0000
In this era of climate change and crisis, it's time for formats as varied, animal, and leafy as the world they seek to represent.
Match ID: 3 Score: 15.00 source: www.wired.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

This Laser-Firing Truck Could Help Make Hot Cities More Livable
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 11:00:00 +0000
Scientists are driving around in a specialized observatory to better understand how urban heat varies not only block to block, but door to door.
Match ID: 4 Score: 15.00 source: www.wired.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

The Democrats Finally Deliver
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 00:10:41 +0000
The Senate’s passage of a sweeping, if imperfect, climate-change-and-health-care bill is a landmark moment in U.S. policymaking.
Match ID: 5 Score: 15.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

It’s possible no electric vehicles will qualify for the new tax credit
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 22:11:19 +0000
There is no grace period, so credits effectively end once the bill is signed.
Match ID: 6 Score: 15.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 climate change

US Senate passes sweeping climate, tax and healthcare package
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 22:02:37 GMT
The bill seeks to lower the cost of medicines, increase corporate taxes and reduce carbon emissions.
Match ID: 7 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

New EV Prototype Leaves Range Anxiety in the Dust
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 16:13:15 +0000


Not long ago, a 300-mile range seemed like a healthy target for electric cars. More recently, the 520-mile (837-kilometer) Lucid Air became the world’s longest-range EV. But that record may not stand for long.

The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, and its showroom-bound tech, looks to banish range anxiety for good: In April, the sleek prototype sedan completed a 621-mile (1,000-km) trek through the Alps from Mercedes’s Sindelfingen facility to the Côte d’Azur in Cassis, France, with battery juice to spare. It built on that feat in late May, when the prototype covered a world-beating, bladder-busting 747 miles (1,202 km) in a run from Germany to the Formula One circuit in Silverstone, England.

This wasn’t your usual long-distance, college-engineering project, a single-seat death trap made from Kleenex and balsa wood, with no amenities or hope of being certified for use on public roads. Despite modest power, a futuristic teardrop shape, and next-gen tech, the EQXX—developed in just 18 months—is otherwise a familiar, small Mercedes luxury sedan. That includes a dramatic sci-fi display and human-machine interface that spans the full dashboard. To underline real-world intent, Mercedes vows that the EQXX’s power train will reach showrooms by 2024. An initial showroom model, and surely more to come, will be built on the company’s new Mercedes Modular Architecture platform, designed for smaller “entry-luxury” models such as the A-Class and the CLA Coupe. While Mercedes was refining its one-off tech showpiece, it even used a current EQB model as a test mule for the power train.

“The car is an R&D project, but we’re feeding it into the development of our next compact car platform,” says Conrad Sagert, an engineer at Mercedes who is developing electric drive systems.

The engineering team included specialists with the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team, drawing from their well of electric racing experience. Developed in just 18 months, the rear-drive Vision EQXX is powered by a single radial-flux electric motor—developed entirely in-house—fed by a battery pack with just under 100 kilowatt-hours of usable energy. Inside, environmentally conscious materials include trim panels sourced from cacti, mushroom-based seat inserts and bamboo-fiber shag floor mats, all previewing potential use in showroom cars. One thing that won’t reach production by 2024 is the EQXX’s high-silicon battery anode, which Sagert says is closer to four years from showrooms. Such silicon-rich anodes, which can squeeze more range from batteries, are widely expected to be popularized over the next decade.

A 241-horsepower output delivers a reasonable 7-second trip from 0 to 60 miles per hour. But from a feathery (for an electric vehicle) 3,900-pound curb weight to wind-cheating aerodynamics, the carbon-fiber-bodied EQXX is designed for pure efficiency, not winning stoplight races. The Benz sipped electrons at 8.7 miles per kilowatt-hour on its Côte d'Azur run, nearly double the roughly 4.5 kWh of the Lucid (the current high for global EVs) and 7.5 miles per kilowatt-hour on the trip to the United Kingdom. If that electric math still seems esoteric, the England-bound Benz delivered the equivalent of 262 miles per gallon, nearly double the 141 mpg of the industry-leading Tesla Model 3 Standard Range.

A roof panel with 117 solar cells lessens the burden by powering a conventional 12-volt system to run accessories, including lighting, an audio system, and the display screens worthy of Minority Report. On the cloudy April trip to southern France, with plenty of tunnel passages, the panels saved 13 km of range. On the sunnier May drive to the U.K., the solar roof saved 43 km of range.

Roof of a car with solar panels with a beach in the background. The Vision EQXX’s roof panel has 117 solar cells.Mercedes-Benz

Aerodynamics naturally play an essential role, including a tiny frontal area and dramatic Kamm tail whose active rear diffuser extends nearly 8 inches at speeds above 23 mph. The sidewalls of specially designed Bridgestone tires sit flush with the body and 20-inch magnesium wheels, aiding a claimed drag coefficient of 0.17, which exceeds any current production car. Surprisingly for such a slippery design, the EQXX features traditional yet aerodynamic exterior mirrors: Mercedes says the camera-based “mirrors” used on many concept cars drew too much electricity to generate a tangible benefit.

Defying today’s EV norms, the battery and motor are entirely air cooled. Eliminating liquid-cooling circuits, pumps, and fluids set off a spiral of savings in weight and packaging. To cool the battery, a smoothly shaped underbody acts as a heat sink. The design reversed the usual engineering challenge in EVs and internal combustion engine cars alike: The problem was getting heat into the system to bring battery and motor to optimal operating temperature. Active front shutters can open to boost airflow when necessary.

“We don’t get enough waste heat, so we had to insulate the electric motor. It’s still about heat management, but the other way around,” Sagert says.

Add it up and the EQXX transfers a claimed 95 percent of electric energy into forward motion, up from 90 percent for Mercedes’s current models such as the EQS. If that doesn’t sound like much gain to nonengineers, Sagert puts it another way: The EQXX reduces typical EV energy losses by 50 percent.

“We’re always hoping for this magical thing, but it’s really the sum of the details,” Sagert says.

That obsession with tiny details paid off. Based on computer and dynamometer simulations, engineers saw a 1,000-km run as a challenging target, and plotted a Mediterranean road trip to Cassis, France. Instead, the car blew away those conservative projections. Pulling into Cassis, the EQXX had 140 km of remaining range.

“We thought about waving and just driving on, but we weren’t allowed,” Sagert says, not least because Mercedes board member and chief technology officer Markus Schäfer was waiting to greet them. Mercedes then set its sights higher, and chose Silverstone and its Formula One track, ideal for a team meetup.

“We started thinking, can we do a longer run?” Sagert says. “We always wished to visit our colleagues in Formula E, who did so much for the project. But again we thought, ‘This will be really tough.’ ”

To make the runs legit, Mercedes was determined to drive at real-world speeds and conditions, not “hypermile” their way to some illusory record. The car averaged 83 kilometers per hour on its U.K. run, and 87 km/h to Cassis. Test drivers even ran the air conditioning for 8 hours of the two-day, 14 hour-and-30-minute trip to Silverstone, and encountered an autobahn road closure and snarled traffic around London.

The sleek sedan capped off the record-breaking trek with an energy-guzzling flourish: Despite some misgivings, the team handed their precious prototype to a Formula E team driver, Nyck de Vries. The Type-A racer forgot all about efficiency and pushed the car to its limits on the Silverstone F1 circuit, watched by nervous engineers. Where long-distance drivers had relied almost exclusively on regenerative braking (with four adjustable levels) during their runs, de Vries got to test the car’s novel aluminum brake rotors. Those ultralight rotors are possible because the Benz so rarely needs to use its foot-operated mechanical brakes, as telemetry readings from the track showed.

“In three laps, de Vries burned more energy using the mechanical brakes than we did on two entire runs” through Europe, Sagert says. “But it was a good feeling, that this wasn’t some show car, and that you could give it to a race driver and not have it fall apart.”

Some of this prototype tech won’t be feasible on coming production models—a carbon-fiber body, for one, is the stuff of supercars, not small-and-affordable Mercedes. Still, the EQXX offers a tantalizing taste of what’s to come, including all-day range to savor.

“This range anxiety is not a problem anymore,” Sagert says. “If your range isn’t enough today, wait two years, and the step will be big.”


Match ID: 8 Score: 15.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

How Clean Is ‘Clean’ Hydrogen?
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 11:00:00 +0000
Batteries and renewable energy alone can’t decarbonize industries, and recent proposals for a “hydrogen economy” could bridge those gaps.
Match ID: 9 Score: 15.00 source: www.wired.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 carbon

Extreme Heat Is Becoming More Dangerous for Farmworkers
Sat, 06 Aug 2022 12:00:00 +0000
Sweltering temperatures and humidity threaten the health of outdoor laborers, and there are few standards to protect them from working when it’s too hot.
Match ID: 10 Score: 12.86 source: www.wired.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 12.86 climate change

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: 11 Score: 12.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 6 days
qualifiers: 6.43 climate change, 6.43 carbon

Massive Quantities of PFAS Waste Go Unreported to EPA
Fri, 05 Aug 2022 11:00:21 +0000

US Ecology failed to report more than 11 million pounds of PFAS-contaminated waste at its facility in Beatty, Nevada.

The post Massive Quantities of PFAS Waste Go Unreported to EPA appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 12 Score: 10.71 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 10.71 toxic

Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Goal Is a Beacon for Other States
Thu, 04 Aug 2022 18:14:33 +0000


Early in July, Rhode Island’s governor signed legislation mandating that the state acquire 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2033. Among the state’s American peers, there’s no deadline more ambitious.

“Anything more ambitious, and I would start being a little skeptical that it would be attainable,” says Seaver Wang, a climate and energy researcher at the Breakthrough Institute.

It is true that Rhode Island is small. It is also true that the state’s conditions make it riper for such a timeframe than most of the country. But watching this tiny state go about its policy business, analysts say, might show other states how to light their own ways into a renewable future.

Rhode Island’s 2033 deadline comes in the form of a renewable-energy standard, setting a goal that electricity providers must meet by collecting a certain number of certificates. Electricity providers can earn those certificates by generating electricity from renewable sources themselves; alternatively, they can buy certificates from other providers. (Numerous other states have similar standards—Rhode Island’s current standard is actually an upgrade to an older standard—and policy wonks have mooted a national standard.)

Today, it might seem a bit optimistic to pin hopes for renewable energy on a state that still gets 89 percent of its electricity from natural gas. Much of the meager wind power that does exist comes either from other states or from the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm—the first offshore wind farm in the United States—which consists of just five turbines and only came online in 2016.

But Rhode Island plans to fill the gap with as much as 600 megawatts of new wind power. To aid this effort, it has partnered with Ørsted, which could bring a critical mass of turbine expertise from Europe, where the sector is far more advanced. “I think that adds greatly to the likelihood of [Rhode Island’s] success,” says Morgan Higman, a clean-energy researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, D.C.

The policies in the package are, indeed, quite specific to Rhode Island’s position. Not only is it one of the least populous states in the United States, it already has about the lowest per capita energy consumption in the country. Moreover, powering a service-oriented economy, Rhode Island’s grid doesn’t have to accommodate many energy-intensive manufacturing firms. That makes that 2033 goal all the more achievable.

“It’s better to have attainable goals and focus on a diverse portfolio of policies to promote clean energy advancement, rather than sort of rush to meet what is essentially…a bit of a PR goal,” says Wang.

That Rhode Island is going all-in on something this maritime state might have in abundance—offshore wind—offers another lesson. Higman says it’s a good example of using a state’s own potential resources. Moreover, the partnership with Ørsted might help the state harness helpful expertise.

In similar fashion, Texans could choose to double down on that state’s own wind-power portfolio. New Mexico could potentially shape a renewable-energy supply from its bountiful sunlight. Doing this sort of thing, Higman says, “is the fastest way that we see states accelerate renewable-energy deployment.”

Rhode Island’s policy does leave some room for improvement. Its focus on renewables looks past New England’s largest source of carbon-free energy: fission. Just two nuclear power plants (Millstone in Connecticut and Seabrook in New Hampshire) pump out more than a fifth of the region’s electricity. A more inclusive policy might take note and incentivize nuclear power, too.

Perhaps most important, any discussion of energy policy should note that Rhode Island’s grid doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s linked in with the grids of its surrounding states in New England, New York, and beyond. (Indeed, it has repeatedly partnered on setting goals and building new offshore wind power.)

If neighboring states implement similarly aggressive standards without actually building new energy capacity, then there’s a chance that when all the renewable energy certificates are bought out, some states won’t have any renewable energy left.

But analysts are optimistic that Rhode Island can do the job. “Rhode Island does deserve some kudos for this policy,” says Wang.

“It’s really tempting to applaud states for their goals. This is a useful example of where setting a goal is not very meaningful,” adds Higman. “Identifying the means and strategies and technologies to achieve that goal is the most important thing. And Rhode Island has done that.”


Match ID: 13 Score: 8.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 8.57 carbon

Satellite Imagery for Everyone
Sat, 19 Feb 2022 16:00:00 +0000


Every day, satellites circling overhead capture trillions of pixels of high-resolution imagery of the surface below. In the past, this kind of information was mostly reserved for specialists in government or the military. But these days, almost anyone can use it.

That’s because the cost of sending payloads, including imaging satellites, into orbit has dropped drastically. High-resolution satellite images, which used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, now can be had for the price of a cup of coffee.

What’s more, with the recent advances in artificial intelligence, companies can more easily extract the information they need from huge digital data sets, including ones composed of satellite images. Using such images to make business decisions on the fly might seem like science fiction, but it is already happening within some industries.


This image shows are variety of blue and green hues, interwoven in a geometrically intriguing way.

These underwater sand dunes adorn the seafloor between Andros Island and the Exuma islands in the Bahamas. The turquoise to the right reflects a shallow carbonate bank, while the dark blue to the left marks the edge of a local deep called Tongue of the Ocean. This image was captured in April 2020 using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite.

Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory


Here’s a brief overview of how you, too, can access this kind of information and use it to your advantage. But before you’ll be able to do that effectively, you need to learn a little about how modern satellite imagery works.

The orbits of Earth-observation satellites generally fall into one of two categories: GEO and LEO. The former is shorthand for geosynchronous equatorial orbit. GEO satellites are positioned roughly 36,000 kilometers above the equator, where they circle in sync with Earth’s rotation. Viewed from the ground, these satellites appear to be stationary, in the sense that their bearing and elevation remain constant. That’s why GEO is said to be a geostationary orbit.

Such orbits are, of course, great for communications relays—it’s what allows people to mount satellite-TV dishes on their houses in a fixed orientation. But GEO satellites are also appropriate when you want to monitor some region of Earth by capturing images over time. Because the satellites are so high up, the resolution of that imagery is quite coarse, however. So these orbits are primarily used for observation satellites designed to track changing weather conditions over broad areas.

Being stationary with respect to Earth means that GEO satellites are always within range of a downlink station, so they can send data back to Earth in minutes. This allows them to alert people to changes in weather patterns almost in real time. Most of this kind of data is made available for free by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.


This black-and-white image shows a narrow waterway blocked by a large ship. The resolution of the image is sufficient to make out individual shipping containers on its deck, as well as the tugboats arrayed around it.

In March 2021, the container ship Ever Given ran aground, blocking the Suez Canal for six days. This satellite image of the scene, obtained using synthetic-aperture radar, shows the kind resolution that is possible with this technology.

Capella Space


The other option is LEO, which stands for low Earth orbit. Satellites placed in LEO are much closer to the ground, which allows them to obtain higher-resolution images. And the lower you can go, the better the resolution you can get. The company Planet, for example, increased the resolution of its recently completed satellite constellation, SkySat, from 72 centimeters per pixel to just 50 cm—an incredible feat—by lowering the orbits its satellites follow from 500 to 450 km and improving the image processing.

The best commercially available spatial resolution for optical imagery is 25 cm, which means that one pixel represents a 25-by-25-cm area on the ground—roughly the size of your laptop. A handful of companies capture data with 25-cm to 1-meter resolution, which is considered high to very high resolution in this industry. Some of these companies also offer data from 1- to 5-meter resolution, considered medium to high resolution. Finally, several government programs have made optical data available at 10-, 15-, 30-, and 250-meter resolutions for free with open data programs. These include NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat, NASA MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), and ESA Copernicus. This imagery is considered low resolution.

Because the satellites that provide the highest-resolution images are in the lowest orbits, they sense less area at once. To cover the entire planet, a satellite can be placed in a polar orbit, which takes it from pole to pole. As it travels, Earth rotates under it, so on its next pass, it will be above a different part of Earth.

Many of these satellites don’t pass directly over the poles, though. Instead, they are placed in a near-polar orbit that has been specially designed to take advantage of a subtle bit of physics. You see, the spinning Earth bulges outward slightly at the equator. That extra mass causes the orbits of satellites that are not in polar orbits to shift or (technically speaking) to precess. Satellite operators often take advantage of this phenomenon to put a satellite in what’s called a sun-synchronous orbit. Such orbits allow the repeated passes of the satellite over a given spot to take place at the same time of day. Not having the pattern of shadows shift between passes helps the people using these images to detect changes.




It usually takes 24 hours for a satellite in polar orbit to survey the entire surface of Earth. To image the whole world more frequently, satellite companies use multiple satellites, all equipped with the same sensor and following different orbits. In this way, these companies can provide more frequently updated images of a given location. For example, Maxar’s Worldview Legion constellation, launching later this year, includes six satellites.

After a satellite captures some number of images, all that data needs to be sent down to Earth and processed. The time required for that varies.

DigitalGlobe (which Maxar acquired in 2017) recently announced that it had managed to send data from a satellite down to a ground station and then store it in the cloud in less than a minute. That was possible because the image sent back was of the parking lot of the ground station, so the satellite didn’t have to travel between the collection point and where it had to be to do the data “dumping,” as this process is called.

In general, Earth-observation satellites in LEO don’t capture imagery all the time—they do that only when they are above an area of special interest. That’s because these satellites are limited to how much data they can send at one time. Typically, they can transmit data for only 10 minutes or so before they get out of range of a ground station. And they cannot record more data than they’ll have time to dump.

Currently, ground stations are located mostly near the poles, the most visited areas in polar orbits. But we can soon expect distances to the nearest ground station to shorten because both Amazon and Microsoft have announced intentions to build large networks of ground stations located all over the world. As it turns out, hosting the terabytes of satellite data that are collected daily is big business for these companies, which sell their cloud services (Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure) to satellite operators.

For now, if you are looking for imagery of an area far from a ground station, expect a significant delay—maybe hours—between capture and transmission of the data. The data will then have to be processed, which adds yet more time. The fastest providers currently make their data available within 48 hours of capture, but not all can manage that. While it is possible, under ideal weather conditions, for a commercial entity to request a new capture and get the data it needs delivered the same week, such quick turnaround times are still considered cutting edge.


The best commercially available spatial resolution is 25 centimeters for optical imagery, which means that one pixel represents something roughly the size of your laptop.


I’ve been using the word “imagery,” but it’s important to note that satellites do not capture images the same way ordinary cameras do. The optical sensors in satellites are calibrated to measure reflectance over specific bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. This could mean they record how much red, green, and blue light is reflected from different parts of the ground. The satellite operator will then apply a variety of adjustments to correct colors, combine adjacent images, and account for parallax, forming what’s called a true-color composite image, which looks pretty much like what you would expect to get from a good camera floating high in the sky and pointed directly down.

Imaging satellites can also capture data outside of the visible-light spectrum. The near-infrared band is widely used in agriculture, for example, because these images help farmers gauge the health of their crops. This band can also be used to detect soil moisture and a variety of other ground features that would otherwise be hard to determine.

Longer-wavelength “thermal” IR does a good job of penetrating smoke and picking up heat sources, making it useful for wildfire monitoring. And synthetic-aperture radar satellites, which I discuss in greater detail below, are becoming more common because the images they produce aren’t affected by clouds and don’t require the sun for illumination.

You might wonder whether aerial imagery, say, from a drone, wouldn’t work at least as well as satellite data. Sometimes it can. But for many situations, using satellites is the better strategy. Satellites can capture imagery over areas that would be difficult to access otherwise because of their remoteness, for example. Or there could be other sorts of accessibility issues: The area of interest could be in a conflict zone, on private land, or in another place that planes or drones cannot overfly.

So with satellites, organizations can easily monitor the changes taking place at various far-flung locations. Satellite imagery allows pipeline operators, for instance, to quickly identify incursions into their right-of-way zones. The company can then take steps to prevent a disastrous incident, such as someone puncturing a gas pipeline while construction is taking place nearby.


\u200bThis satellite image shows a snow-covered area. A tongue of darker material is draped over the side of a slope, impinging on a nearby developed area with buildings.

This SkySat image shows the effect of a devastating landslide that took place on 30 December 2020. Debris from that landslide destroyed buildings and killed 10 people in the Norwegian village of Ask.

SkySat/Planet



The ability to compare archived imagery with recently acquired data has helped a variety of industries. For example, insurance companies sometimes use satellite data to detect fraudulent claims (“Looks like your house had a damaged roof when you bought it…”). And financial-investment firms use satellite imagery to evaluate such things as retailers’ future profits based on parking-lot fullness or to predict crop prices before farmers report their yields for the season.

Satellite imagery provides a particularly useful way to find or monitor the location of undisclosed features or activities. Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama, for example, uses satellite imagery to locate archaeological sites of interest. 52Impact, a consulting company in the Netherlands, identified undisclosed waste dump sites by training an algorithm to recognize their telltale spectral signature. Satellite imagery has also helped identify illegal fishing activities, fight human trafficking, monitor oil spills, get accurate reporting on COVID-19 deaths, and even investigate Uyghur internment camps in China—all situations where the primary actors couldn’t be trusted to accurately report what’s going on.

Despite these many successes, investigative reporters and nongovernmental organizations aren’t yet using satellite data regularly, perhaps because even the small cost of the imagery is a deterrent. Thankfully, some kinds of low-resolution satellite data can be had for free.

The first place to look for free satellite imagery is the Copernicus Open Access Hub and EarthExplorer. Both offer free access to a wide range of open data. The imagery is lower resolution than what you can purchase, but if the limited resolution meets your needs, why spend money?

If you require medium- or high-resolution data, you might be able to buy it directly from the relevant satellite operator. This field recently went through a period of mergers and acquisitions, leaving only a handful of providers, the big three in the West being Maxar and Planet in the United States and Airbus in Germany. There are also a few large Asian providers, such as SI Imaging Services in South Korea and Twenty First Century Aerospace Technology in Singapore. Most providers have a commercial branch, but they primarily target government buyers. And they often require large minimum purchases, which is unhelpful to companies looking to monitor hundreds of locations or fewer.

Expect the distance to the nearest ground station to shorten because both Amazon and Microsoft have announced intentions to build large networks of ground stations located all over the world.

Fortunately, approaching a satellite operator isn’t the only option. In the past five years, a cottage industry of consultants and local resellers with exclusive deals to service a certain market has sprung up. Aggregators and resellers spend years negotiating contracts with multiple providers so they can offer customers access to data sets at more attractive prices, sometimes for as little as a few dollars per image. Some companies providing geographic information systems—including Esri, L3Harris, and Safe Software—have also negotiated reselling agreements with satellite-image providers.

Traditional resellers are middlemen who will connect you with a salesperson to discuss your needs, obtain quotes from providers on your behalf, and negotiate pricing and priority schedules for image capture and sometimes also for the processing of the data. This is the case for Apollo Mapping, European Space Imaging, Geocento, LandInfo, Satellite Imaging Corp., and many more. The more innovative resellers will give you access to digital platforms where you can check whether an image you need is available from a certain archive and then order it. Examples include LandViewer from EOS and Image Hunter from Apollo Mapping.

More recently, a new crop of aggregators began offering customers the ability to programmatically access Earth-observation data sets. These companies work best for people looking to integrate such data into their own applications or workflows. These include the company I work for, SkyWatch, which provides such a service, called EarthCache. Other examples are UP42 from Airbus and Sentinel Hub from Sinergise.

While you will still need to talk with a sales rep to activate your account—most often to verify you will use the data in ways that fits the company’s terms of service and licensing agreements—once you’ve been granted access to their applications, you will be able to programmatically order archive data from one or multiple providers. SkyWatch is, however, the only aggregator allowing users to programmatically request future data to be collected (“tasking a satellite”).

While satellite imagery is fantastically abundant and easy to access today, two changes are afoot that will expand further what you can do with satellite data: faster revisits and greater use of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR).

This image shows a sprawling compound of dozens of large buildings located in a desert area.

This image shows a race-track shaped structure with a tall chimney in the middle, built in an area where the ground is a distinctly reddish hue. Satellite images have helped to reveal China’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority. About a million Uyghurs (and other ethnic minorities) have been interned in prisons or camps like the one shown here [top], which lies to the east of the city of Ürümqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Another satellite image [bottom] shows the characteristic oval shape of a fixed-chimney Bull’s trench kiln, a type widely used for manufacturing bricks in southern Asia. This one is located in Pakistan’s Punjab province. This design poses environmental concerns because of the sooty air pollution it generates, and such kilns have also been associated with human-rights abuses.Top: CNES/Airbus/Google Earth; Bottom: Maxar Technologies/Google Earth

The first of these developments is not surprising. As more Earth-observation satellites are put into orbit, more images will be taken, more often. So how frequently a given area is imaged by a satellite will increase. Right now, that’s typically two or three times a week. Expect the revisit rate soon to become several times a day. This won’t entirely address the challenge of clouds obscuring what you want to view, but it will help.

The second development is more subtle. Data from the two satellites of the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 SAR mission, available at no cost, has enabled companies to dabble in SAR over the last few years.

With SAR, the satellite beams radio waves down and measures the return signals bouncing off the surface. It does that continually, and clever processing is used to turn that data into images. The use of radio allows these satellites to see through clouds and to collect measurements day and night. Depending on the radar band that’s employed, SAR imagery can be used to judge material properties, moisture content, precise movements, and elevation.

As more companies get familiar with such data sets, there will no doubt be a growing demand for satellite SAR imagery, which has been widely used by the military since the 1970s. But it’s just now starting to appear in commercial products. You can expect those offerings to grow dramatically, though.

Indeed, a large portion of the money being invested in this industry is currently going to fund large SAR constellations, including those of Capella Space, Iceye, Synspective, XpressSAR, and others. The market is going to get crowded fast, which is great news for customers. It means they will be able to obtain high-resolution SAR images of the place they’re interested in, taken every hour (or less), day or night, cloudy or clear.

People will no doubt figure out wonderful new ways to employ this information, so the more folks who have access to it, the better. This is something my colleagues at SkyWatch and I deeply believe, and it’s why we’ve made it our mission to help democratize access to satellite imagery.

One day in the not-so-distant future, Earth-observation satellite data might become as ubiquitous as GPS, another satellite technology first used only by the military. Imagine, for example, being able to take out your phone and say something like, “Show me this morning’s soil-moisture map for Grover’s Corners High; I want to see whether the baseball fields are still soggy.”

This article appears in the March 2022 print issue as “A Boom with a View.”

Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Maxar's Worldview Legion constellation launched last year.


Match ID: 14 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 171 days
qualifiers: 5.71 air pollution, 2.14 carbon

Climate change: More studies needed on possibility of human extinction
Mon, 01 Aug 2022 19:09:08 GMT
New research says it could be "fatally foolish" not to think the unthinkable on climate change.
Match ID: 15 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 8 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

UK's 40C heatwave 'basically impossible' without climate change
Fri, 29 Jul 2022 03:51:01 GMT
Human-caused climate change made the high temperatures last week much more likely, say scientists.
Match ID: 16 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 11 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

Climate change: UK sea level rise speeding up - Met Office
Thu, 28 Jul 2022 09:16:40 GMT
The Met Office's annual look at our climate says higher temperatures are the new normal.
Match ID: 17 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 12 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

The art of cutting carbon - how new technologies can help
Tue, 26 Jul 2022 23:09:05 GMT
With the 'de-printer' specially coated sheets of paper can be used 10 times over.
Match ID: 18 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 14 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

Climate change: How to talk to a denier
Sat, 23 Jul 2022 23:14:38 GMT
Tips about how to engage with people who think climate change is a "hoax".
Match ID: 19 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 17 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

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 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 Alastair 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.


Correction 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.


Match ID: 20 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 34 days
qualifiers: 2.14 toxic

City heat extremes
Wed, 06 Jul 2022 13:30:00 +0200
Land-surface temperature in Milan on 18 June 2022

With air temperatures in excess of 10°C above the average for the time of year in parts of Europe, the United States and Asia, June 2022 has gone down as a record breaker. The fear is that these extreme early-season heatwaves are a taste of what could soon be the norm as climate change continues to take hold. For those in cities, the heat dissipates slower creating ‘urban heat islands’, which make everyday life even more of a struggle.

An instrument, carried on the International Space Station, has captured the recent land-surface temperature extremes for some European cities, including Milan, Paris and Prague.


Match ID: 21 Score: 2.14 source: www.esa.int age: 34 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

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: 22 Score: 2.14 source: www.nasa.gov age: 41 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

NASA, FEMA Release Comprehensive Climate Action Guide
Wed, 08 Jun 2022 12:37 EDT
NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have released a guide which provides resources for adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change.
Match ID: 23 Score: 2.14 source: www.nasa.gov age: 62 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

Why is climate 'doomism' going viral – and who's fighting it?
Sun, 22 May 2022 23:16:59 GMT
Climate "doomers" believe it’s far too late to do anything about climate change - but they're wrong.
Match ID: 24 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 79 days
qualifiers: 2.14 climate change

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: 25 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 112 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.

 

 


Match ID: 26 Score: 2.14 source: www.crunchhype.com age: 161 days
qualifiers: 2.14 toxic

Eviation’s Maiden Flight Could Usher in Electric Aviation Era
Mon, 07 Feb 2022 19:01:19 +0000


The first commercial all-electric passenger plane is just weeks away from its maiden flight, according to its maker Israeli startup Eviation. If successful, the nine-seater Alice aircraft would be the most compelling demonstration yet of the potential for battery-powered flight. But experts say there’s still a long way to go before electric aircraft makes a significant dent in the aviation industry.

The Alice is currently undergoing high-speed taxi tests at Arlington Municipal Airport close to Seattle, says Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay. This involves subjecting all of the plane’s key systems and fail-safe mechanisms to a variety of different scenarios to ensure they are operating as expected before its first flight. The company is five or six good weather days away from completing those tests, says Bar-Yohay, after which the plane should be cleared for takeoff. Initial flights won’t push the aircraft to its limits, but the Alice should ultimately be capable of cruising speeds of 250 knots (463 kilometers per hour) and a maximum range of 440 nautical miles (815 kilometers).

Electric aviation has received considerable attention in recent years as the industry looks to reduce its carbon emissions. And while the Alice won’t be the first all-electric aircraft to take to the skies, Bar-Yohay says it will be the first designed with practical commercial applications in mind. Eviation plans to offer three configurations—a nine-seater commuter model, a six-seater executive model for private jet customers, and a cargo version with a capacity of 12.74 cubic meters. The company has already received advance orders from logistics giant DHL and Massachusetts-based regional airline Cape Air.

“It’s not some sort of proof-of-concept or demonstrator,” says Bar-Yohay. “It’s the first all-electric with a real-life mission, and I think that’s the big differentiator.”

Getting there has required a major engineering effort, says Bar-Yohay, because the requirements for an all-electric plane are very different from those of conventional aircraft. The biggest challenge is weight, thanks to the fact that batteries provide considerably less mileage to the pound compared to energy-dense jet fuels.

That makes slashing the weight of other components a priority and the plane features lightweight composite materials “where no composite has gone before,”’, says Bar-Yohay. The company has also done away with the bulky mechanical systems used to adjust control surfaces on the wings, and replaced them with a much lighter fly-by-wire system that uses electronic actuators controlled via electrical wires.

The company’s engineers have had to deal with a host of other complications too, from having to optimize the aerodynamics to the unique volume and weight requirements dictated by the batteries to integrating brakes designed for much heavier planes. “There is just so much optimization, so many specific things that had to be solved,” says Bar-Yohay. “In some cases, there are just no components out there that do what you need done, which weren’t built for a train, or something like that.”

Despite the huge amount of work that’s gone into it, Bar-Yohay says the Alice will be comparable in price to similar sized turboprop aircraft like the Beechcraft King Air and cheaper than small business jets like the Embraer Phenom 300. And crucially, he adds, the relative simplicity of electrical motors and actuators compared with mechanical control systems and turboprops or jets means maintenance costs will be markedly lower.

Aircraft in the sky with white clouds below it This is a conceptual rendering of Eviation's Alice, the first commercial all-electric passenger plane, in flight.Eviation

Combined with the lower cost of electricity compared to jet fuel, and even accounting for the need to replace batteries every 3,000 flight hours, Eviation expects Alice’s operating costs to be about half those of similar sized aircraft.

But there are question marks over whether the plane has an obvious market, says aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia, managing director at AeroDynamic Advisory. It’s been decades since anyone has built a regional commuter with less than 70 seats, he says, and most business jets typically require more than the 440 nautical mile range the Alice offers. Scaling up to bigger aircraft or larger ranges is also largely out of the company’s hands as it will require substantial breakthroughs in battery technology. “You need to move on to a different battery chemistry,” he says. “There isn’t even a 10-year road map to get there.”

An aircraft like the Alice isn’t meant to be a straight swap for today’s short-haul aircraft though, says Lynette Dray, a research fellow at University College London who studies the decarbonization of aviation. More likely it would be used for short intercity hops or for creating entirely new route networks better suited to its capabilities.

This is exactly what Bar-Yohay envisages, with the Alice’s reduced operating costs opening up new short-haul routes that were previously impractical or uneconomical. It could even make it feasible to replace larger jets with several smaller ones, he says, allowing you to provide more granular regional travel by making use of the thousands of runways around the country currently used only for recreational aviation.

The economics are far from certain though, says Dray, and if the ultimate goal is to decarbonize the aviation sector, it’s important to remember that aircraft are long-lived assets. In that respect, sustainable aviation fuels that can be used by existing aircraft are probably a more promising avenue.

Even if the Alice’s maiden flight goes well, it still faces a long path to commercialization, says Kiruba Haran, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Aviation’s stringent safety requirements mean the company must show it can fly the aircraft for a long period, over and over again without incident, which has yet to be done with an all-electric plane at this scale.

Nonetheless, if the maiden flight goes according to plan it will be a major milestone for electric aviation, says Haran. “It’s exciting, right?” he says. “Anytime we do something more than, or further than, or better than, that’s always good for the industry.”

And while battery-powered electric aircraft may have little chance of disrupting the bulk of commercial aviation in the near-term, Haran says hybrid schemes that use a combination of batteries and conventional fuels (or even hydrogen) to power electric engines could have more immediate impact. The successful deployment of the Alice could go a long way to proving the capabilities of electric propulsion and building momentum behind the technology, says Haran.

“There are still a lot of skeptics out there,” he says. “This kind of flight demo will hopefully help bring those people along.”


Match ID: 27 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 183 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

Spin Me Up, Scotty—Up Into Orbit
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 16:34:49 +0000


At first, the dream of riding a rocket into space was laughed off the stage by critics who said you’d have to carry along fuel that weighed more than the rocket itself. But the advent of booster rockets and better fuels let the dreamers have the last laugh.

Hah, the critics said: To put a kilogram of payload into orbit we just need 98 kilograms of rocket plus rocket fuel.

What a ratio, what a cost. To transport a kilogram of cargo, commercial air freight services typically charge about US $10; spaceflight costs reach $10,000. Sure, you can save money by reusing the booster, as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are trying to do, but it would be so much better if you could dispense with the booster and shoot the payload straight into space.

The first people to think along these lines used cannon launchers, such as those in Project HARP (High Altitude Research Project), in the 1960s. Research support dried up after booster rockets showed their mettle. Another idea was to shoot payloads into orbit along a gigantic electrified ramp, called a railgun, but that technology still faces hurdles of a basic scientific nature, not least the need for massive banks of capacitors to provide the jolt of energy.

Imagine a satellite spinning in a vacuum chamber at many times the speed of sound. The gates of that chamber open up, and the satellite shoots out faster than the air outside can rush back in—creating a sonic boom when it hits the wall of air.

Now SpinLaunch, a company founded in 2015 in Long Beach, Calif., proposes a gentler way to heave satellites into orbit. Rather than shoot the satellite in a gun, SpinLaunch would sling it from the end of a carbon-fiber tether that spins around in a vacuum chamber for as long as an hour before reaching terminal speed. The tether lets go milliseconds before gates in the chamber open up to allow the satellite out.

“Because we’re slowly accelerating the system, we can keep the power demands relatively low,” David Wrenn, vice president for technology, tells IEEE Spectrum. “And as there’s a certain amount of energy stored in the tether itself, you can recapture that through regenerative braking.”

The company reports they've raised about $100 million. Among the backers are the investment arms of Airbus and Google and the Defense Innovation Unit, part of the U.S. Department of Defense.

SpinLaunch began with a lab centrifuge that measures about 12 meters in diameter. In November, a 33-meter version at Space Port America test-launched a payload thousands of meters up. Such a system could loft a small rocket, which would finish the job of reaching orbit. A 100-meter version, now in the planning stage, should be able to handle a 200-kg payload.

Wrenn answers all the obvious questions. How can the tether withstand the g-force when spinning at hypersonic speed? “A carbon-fiber cable with a cross-sectional area of one square inch (6.5 square centimeters) can suspend a mass of 300,000 pounds (136,000 kg),” he says.

How much preparation do you need between shots? Not much, because the chamber doesn’t have to be superclean. If the customer wants to loft a lot of satellites—a likely desideratum, given the trend toward massive constellations of small satellites–the setup could include motors powerful enough to spin up in 30 minutes. “Upwards of 10 launches per day are possible,” Wrenn says.

How tight must the vacuum be? A “rough” vacuum suffices, he says. SpinLaunch maintains the vacuum with a system of airlocks operated by those millisecond-fast gates.

Most parts, including the steel for the vacuum chamber and carbon fiber, are off-the-shelf, but those gates are proprietary. All Wrenn will say is that they’re not made of steel.

So imagine a highly intricate communications satellite, housed in some structure, spinning at many times the speed of sound. The gates open up, the satellite shoots out far faster than the air outside can rush back in. Then the satellite hits the wall of air, creating a sonic boom.

No problem, says Wrenn. Electronic systems have been hurtling from vacuums into air ever since the cannon-launching days of HARP, some 60 years ago. SpinLaunch has done work already on engineering certain satellite components to withstand the ordeal—“deployable solar panels, for example,” he says.

After the online version of this article appeared, several readers objected to the SpinLaunch system, above all to the stress it would put on the liquid-fueled rocket at the end of that carbon-fiber tether.

“The system has to support up to 8,000 gs; most payloads at launch are rated at 6 or 10 gs,” said John Bucknell, a rocket scientist who heads the startup Virtus Solis Technologies, which aims to collect solar energy in space and beam it to earth.

Keith Lostrom, a chip engineer, went even further. “Drop a brick onto an egg—that is a tiny fraction of the damage that SpinLaunch’s centripedal acceleration would do to a liquid-fuel orbital launch rocket,” he wrote, in an emailed message.

Wrenn denies that the g-force is a dealbreaker. For one thing, he argues, the turbopumps in liquid-fuel rockets spin at over 30,000 rotations per minute, subjecting the liquid oxygen and fuel to “much more aggressive conditions than the uniform g-force that SpinLaunch has.”

Besides, he says, finite element analysis and high-g testing in the company’s 12-meter accelerator “has led to confidence it’s not a fundamental issue for us. We’ve already hot-fired our SpinLaunch-compatible upper-stage engine on the test stand.”

SpinLaunch says it will announce the site for its full-scale orbital launcher within the next five months. It will likely be built on a coastline, far from populated areas and regular airplane service. Construction costs would be held down if the machine can be built up the side of a hill. If all goes well, expect to see the first satellite slung into orbit sometime around 2025.

This article was updated on 24 Feb. 2022 to include additional perspectives on the technology.


Match ID: 28 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 200 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

12 Exciting Engineering Milestones to Look for in 2022
Thu, 30 Dec 2021 16:00:00 +0000


Psyche’s Deep-Space Lasers


An illustration of a satellite holding a ray gun in a cartoon style hand. MCKIBILLO

In August, NASA will launch the Psyche mission, sending a deep-space orbiter to a weird metal asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. While the probe’s main purpose is to study Psyche’s origins, it will also carry an experiment that could inform the future of deep-space communications. The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment will test whether lasers can transmit signals beyond lunar orbit. Optical signals, such as those used in undersea fiber-optic cables, can carry more data than radio signals can, but their use in space has been hampered by difficulties in aiming the beams accurately over long distances. DSOC will use a 4-watt infrared laser with a wavelength of 1,550 nanometers (the same used in many optical fibers) to send optical signals at multiple distances during Psyche’s outward journey to the asteroid.


The Great Electric Plane Race


An illustration of a battery with wings and a spinning propeller. MCKIBILLO

For the first time in almost a century, the U.S.-based National Aeronautic Association (NAA) will host a cross-country aircraft race. Unlike the national air races of the 1920s, however, the Pulitzer Electric Aircraft Race, scheduled for 19 May, will include only electric-propulsion aircraft. Both fixed-wing craft and helicopters are eligible. The competition will be limited to 25 contestants, and each aircraft must have an onboard pilot. The course will start in Omaha and end four days later in Manteo, N.C., near the site of the Wright brothers’ first flight. The NAA has stated that the goal of the cross-country, multiday race is to force competitors to confront logistical problems that still plague electric aircraft, like range, battery charging, reliability, and speed.

6-Gigahertz Wi-Fi Goes Mainstream

An illustration of the wifi signal and an arrow near the word \u201c6Ghz.\u201d MCKIBILLO

Wi-Fi is getting a boost with 1,200 megahertz of new spectrum in the 6-gigahertz band, adding a third spectrum band to the more familiar 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The new band is called Wi-Fi 6E because it extends Wi-Fi’s capabilities into the 6-GHz band. As a rule, higher radio frequencies have higher data capacity, but a shorter range. With its higher frequencies, 6-GHz Wi-Fi is expected to find use in heavy traffic environments like offices and public hotspots. The Wi-Fi Alliance introduced a Wi-Fi 6E certification program in January 2021, and the first trickle of 6E routers appeared by the end of the year. In 2022, expect to see a bonanza of Wi-Fi 6E–enabled smartphones.

3-Nanometer Chips Arrive

An illustration of a chip dancing and holding a hat with \u201c3nm\u201d at the center. MCKIBILLO

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) plans to begin producing 3-nanometer semiconductor chips in the second half of 2022. Right now, 5-nm chips are the standard. TSMC will make its 3-nm chips using a tried-and-true semiconductor structure called the FinFET (short for “fin field-effect transistor”). Meanwhile, Samsung and Intel are moving to a different technique for 3 nm called nanosheet. (TSMC is eventually planning to abandon FinFETs.) At one point, TSMC’s sole 3-nm chip customer for 2022 was Apple, for the latter’s iPhone 14, but supply-chain issues have made it less certain that TSMC will be able to produce enough chips—which promise more design flexibility—to fulfill even that order.

Seoul Joins the Metaverse

An illustration of a building MCKIBILLO

After Facebook (now Meta) announced it was hell-bent on making the metaverse real, a host of other tech companies followed suit. Definitions differ, but the basic idea of the metaverse involves merging virtual reality and augmented reality with actual reality. Also jumping on the metaverse bandwagon is the government of the South Korean capital, Seoul, which plans to develop a “metaverse platform” by the end of 2022. To build this first public metaverse, Seoul will invest 3.9 billion won (US $3.3 million). The platform will offer public services and cultural events, beginning with the Metaverse 120 Center, a virtual-reality portal for citizens to address concerns that previously required a trip to city hall. Other planned projects include virtual exhibition halls for school courses and a digital representation of Deoksu Palace. The city expects the project to be complete by 2026.

IBM’s Condors Take Flight

An illustration of a bird made up of squares. MCKIBILLO

In 2022, IBM will debut a new quantum processor—its biggest yet—as a stepping-stone to a 1,000-qubit processor by the end of 2023. This year’s iteration will contain 433 qubits, three times as much as the company’s 127-qubit Eagle processor, which was launched last year. Following the bird theme, the 433- and 1,000-qubit processors will be named Condor. There have been quantum computers with many more qubits; D-Wave Systems, for example, announced a 5,000-qubit computer in 2020. However, D-Wave’s computers are specialized machines for optimization problems. IBM’s Condors aim to be the largest general-purpose quantum processors.

New Dark-Matter Detector

An illustration of two dotted arrow headed lines and two circles with the letter \u201cp\u201d on them. MCKIBILLO

The Forward Search Experiment (FASER) at CERN is slated to switch on in July 2022. The exact date depends on when the Large Hadron Collider is set to renew proton-proton collisions after three years of upgrades and maintenance. FASER will begin a hunt for dark matter and other particles that interact extremely weakly with “normal” matter. CERN, the fundamental physics research center near Geneva, has four main detectors attached to its Large Hadron Collider, but they aren’t well-suited to detecting dark matter. FASER won’t attempt to detect the particles directly; instead, it will search for the more strongly interacting Standard Model particles created when dark matter interacts with something else. The new detector was constructed while the collider was shut down from 2018 to 2021. Located 480 meters “downstream” of the ATLAS detector, FASER will also hunt for neutrinos produced in huge quantities by particle collisions in the LHC loop. The other CERN detectors have so far failed to detect such neutrinos.

Pong Turns 50

An illustration of the pong game with the numbers \u201c6\u201d and \u201c9\u201d on top. MCKIBILLO

Atari changed the course of video games when it released its first game, Pong, in 1972. While not the first video game—or even the first to be presented in an upright, arcade-style cabinet—Pong was the first to be commercially successful. The game was developed by engineer Allan Alcorn and originally assigned to him as a test after he was hired, before he began working on actual projects. However, executives at Atari saw potential in Pong’s simple game play and decided to develop it into a real product. Unlike the countless video games that came after it, the original Pong did not use any code or microprocessors. Instead, it was built from a television and transistor-transistor logic.

The Green Hydrogen Boom

An illustration of a generator with large, circular blades. MCKIBILLO

Utility company Energias de Portugal (EDP), based in Lisbon, is on track to begin operating a 3-megawatt green hydrogen plant in Brazil by the end of the year. Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced in sustainable ways, using solar or wind-powered electrolyzers to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. According to the International Energy Agency, only 0.1 percent of hydrogen is produced this way. The plant will replace an existing coal-fired plant and generate hydrogen—which can be used in fuel cells—using solar photovoltaics. EDP’s roughly US $7.9 million pilot program is just the tip of the green hydrogen iceberg. Enegix Energy has announced plans for a $5.4 billion green hydrogen plant in the same Brazilian state, Ceará, where the EDP plant is being built. The green hydrogen market is predicted to generate a revenue of nearly $10 billion by 2028, according to a November 2021 report by Research Dive.

A Permanent Space Station for China

An illustration of a space station MCKIBILLO

China is scheduled to complete its Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station in 2022. The station, China’s first long-term space habitat, was preceded by the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 stations, which orbited from 2011 to 2018 and 2016 to 2019, respectively. The new station’s core module, the Tianhe, was launched in April 2021. A further 10 missions by the end of 2022 will deliver other components and modules, with construction to be completed in orbit. The final station will have two laboratory modules in addition to the core module. Tiangong will orbit at roughly the same altitude as the International Space Station but will be only about one-fifth the mass of the ISS.

A Cool Form of Energy Storage

An illustration of a lightning bolt in an ice cube. MCKIBILLO

Cryogenic energy-storage company Highview Power will begin operations at its Carrington plant near Manchester, England, this year. Cryogenic energy storage is a long-term method of storing electricity by cooling air until it liquefies (about –196 °C). Crucially, the air is cooled when electricity is cheaper—at night, for example—and then stored until electricity demand peaks. The liquid air is then allowed to boil back into a gas, which drives a turbine to generate electricity. The 50-megawatt/250-megawatt-hour Carrington plant will be Highview Power’s first commercial plant using its cryogenic storage technology, dubbed CRYOBattery. Highview Power has said it plans to build a similar plant in Vermont, although it has not specified a timeline yet.

Carbon-Neutral Cryptocurrency?

An illustration of a coin with stars around it. MCKIBILLO

Seattle-based startup Nori is set to offer a cryptocurrency for carbon removal. Nori will mint 500 million tokens of its Ethereum-based currency (called NORI). Individuals and companies can purchase and trade NORI, and eventually exchange any NORI they own for an equal number of carbon credits. Each carbon credit represents a tonne of carbon dioxide that has already been removed from the atmosphere and stored in the ground. When exchanged in this way, a NORI is retired, making it impossible for owners to try to “double count” carbon credits and therefore seem like they’re offsetting more carbon than they actually have. The startup has acknowledged that Ethereum and other blockchain-based technologies consume an enormous amount of energy, so the carbon it sequesters could conceivably originate in cryptocurrency mining. However, 2022 will also see Ethereum scheduled to switch to a much more energy-efficient method of verifying its blockchain, called proof-of-stake, which Nori will take advantage of when it launches.


Match ID: 29 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 222 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

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News live: China’s ambassador addresses press club after Dutton says Australia must call out Beijing’s ‘bullying’
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 02:44:24 GMT

Xiao Qian’s speech comes as tensions high after officials in Beijing warned Australia to stop criticising its military drills near Taiwan

New South Wales recorded 11,356 new Covid cases in the last reporting period and 30 deaths. There were 2,212 people in hospital and 55 in intensive care.

Bulk-billing statistics dishonest, minister says

The former government was not honest with Australians about the true state of bulk billing in Australia by selectively quoting only this [88%] figure

Primary care is in its worst shape since Medicare began. Across the country we hear stories of Australians not being able to get in to see a bulk-billing doctor, or GPs changing from bulk billing to mixed billing.

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

Gymnastics Australia asked child athletes who reported abuse to sign gag orders before meetings
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 02:14:59 GMT

Governing body’s letter says complainants and families must sign non-disclosure agreement for restorative justice process

Gymnastics Australia has told child gymnasts who made abuse complaints and their families that they must sign non-disclosure agreements if they wish to take part in a restorative justice process.

In a letter sent to the complainants last month, Gymnastics Australia said that, in a bid to “repair relations in the gymnastics community” after the release of a Human Rights Commission investigation that uncovered systematic abuse in the sport, it was holding a series of restorative meetings.

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Match ID: 1 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

Activists lose challenge to NSW laws banning secret filming of animal cruelty
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 01:52:45 GMT

High court rules laws criminalising secretly recorded footage and audio do not impose too great a burden on speech

Animal rights activists have lost a landmark high court case against New South Wales laws criminalising the use of secretly recorded vision from farms and abattoirs, which they said prevented their attempts to blow the whistle on animal cruelty and abuse.

The state, through its Surveillance Devices Act, makes it a criminal offence to use or possess footage or audio that was obtained using a listening device or hidden camera, and gives no public interest exemptions for doing so.

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Match ID: 2 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

Australia retires CovidSafe contact-tracing app that was barely used
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 00:51:09 GMT

Users offered an update of app that ‘removes functionality … so no information is stored or collected’

Australia’s CovidSafe app is being decommissioned because it is no longer being used for Covid-19 contact tracing.

The app cost around $75,000 a month to run and was touted by former prime minister Scott Morrison as an important measure on par with wearing sunscreen.

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

‘This is about striking fear’: China’s Taiwan drills the new normal, analysts say
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 00:30:13 GMT

Show of force by China has eased off, but observers say it will strike ‘fear and a sense of inevitability in Taiwanese hearts and minds’

China’s military drills targeting Taiwan have set a new normal, and are likely to “regularise” similar armed exercises off the coast or even more aggressive action much closer to the island, analysts have said.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been conducting live-fire exercises and other drills in the seas around Taiwan’s main island for almost a week, in a purported response to the controversial visit to Taipei by the US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

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Match ID: 4 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

‘The US let him go free’: release of terrorist who killed unarmed Australian soldiers shows contempt for ally, family says
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 17:30:29 GMT

Exclusive: Father of one of three soldiers slain by Hekmatullah says Australia was ‘sidelined’ in deal between US and Taliban to release terrorist from prison

The family of one of the Australian soldiers killed by rogue Afghan national army sergeant Hekmatullah says Australia was treated with contempt by its closest ally, the US, after it agreed to release the self-professed terrorist from prison.

The Guardian revealed on Monday that the former Afghan national army sergeant, and Taliban plant, Hekmatullah, is again at liberty, and housed under Taliban protection, in the former diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital Kabul.

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Match ID: 5 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

Trillions of dollars at risk because central banks’ climate models not up to scratch
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 17:30:30 GMT

Climate research finds modelling used cannot predict localised extreme weather, leading to poor estimations of risk

Trillions of dollars may be misallocated to deal with the wrong climate threats around the world because the models used by central banks and regulators aren’t fit for purpose, a leading Australian climate researcher says.

Prof Andy Pitman, director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, said regulators were relying on models that are good at forecasting how average climates will change as the planet warms, but were less likely to be of use for predicting how extreme weather will imperil individual localities such as cities.

The concerns, detailed in a report in the journal Environmental Research: Climate, were underscored by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s release on Monday of its corporate plan 2022-23. Apra plans to “continue to ensure regulated institutions are well-prepared for the risks and opportunities presented by climate change”.

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Match ID: 6 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

Taiwan says military drills show China is preparing to invade
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 08:26:07 EDT
The Taiwanese foreign minister accused Beijing of using House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for launching exercises designed to prepare for an attack.
Match ID: 7 Score: 60.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

China used drills to prepare for invasion, Taiwan foreign minister says
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 12:26:53 GMT

Tensions high as Taiwan begins live-fire drills and China continues military exercises it started after US speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei last week

China used its military drills last week to prepare for an invasion of Taiwan, and its anger over US speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit was just an excuse, Taiwan’s foreign minister has said.

The minister, Joseph Wu, addressed the media on Tuesday morning, as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continued with military exercises it began last week, and Taiwan started its own live-fire drills. Wu accused China of “gross violations of international law”.

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Match ID: 8 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

Australia calls for ‘return to calm’ amid Taiwan drills as Beijing demands Canberra ‘respect China’s core interests’
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 09:41:29 GMT

China’s foreign ministry said Australia should ‘respect China’s core interests’ and ‘avoid creating new obstacles for China-Australia ties’

Australia has again called for an end to China’s military drills near Taiwan, and a “return to calm”, as China has demanded that Australia stop interfering in its affairs.

China has been conducting live-fire drills near Taiwan in the wake of a visit from the US house speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Australia does not recognise Taiwan as a country under the One China policy, but maintains unofficial ties. The US recognises the One China policy without agreeing with it.

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Match ID: 9 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

China shifts the military status quo on Taiwan after Pelosi visit
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 00:00:17 EDT
Beijing appears to be accelerating efforts to establish a new normal in its military posture around Taiwan, using the U.S. speaker's visit as an excuse for the escalation.
Match ID: 10 Score: 60.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

China-Taiwan: What we learned from Beijing's drills around the island
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 00:54:39 GMT
Beijing redefines what is "acceptable" even as Taiwanese attitudes appear to be hardening further.
Match ID: 11 Score: 60.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

Taiwan prepares for life underground amid China threat – in pictures
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 06:00:06 GMT

Taiwan is preparing air-raid shelters in underground spaces such as basement car parks, the subway system and subterranean shopping centres as fears of a Chinese attack increase. The capital, Taipei, has more than 4,600 such shelters that can accommodate 12 million people, more than four times its population. Reporting by Yimou Lee and Fabian Hamacher/Reuters

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Match ID: 12 Score: 60.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china, 20.00 taiwan

Progressives on U.S.-China Policy and Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit
Wed, 03 Aug 2022 10:00:44 +0000

Two leading progressive foreign policy voices discuss the House speaker’s decision to visit Taiwan.

The post Progressives on U.S.-China Policy and Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 13 Score: 55.71 source: theintercept.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 17.14 china, 15.00 south china sea, 15.00 india, 8.57 taiwan

China property crisis: Why homeowners stopped paying their mortgages
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 23:23:15 GMT
The country's property sector is struggling with a cash crunch, forcing buyers to take extreme steps.
Match ID: 14 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Issey Miyake, designer known as the prince of pleats, dies at 84
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 16:19:42 EDT
The Japanese fashion designer was famous for his pleated designs and for making Steve Jobs's signature black turtlenecks.
Match ID: 15 Score: 40.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 japan

China’s secretive space plane flies higher and longer than before
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 20:06:51 +0000
So what is it doing up there? Secret, space-y stuff, of course.
Match ID: 16 Score: 40.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

It’s official: US chipmakers will receive billions in grants and tax breaks
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 19:00:04 +0000
The CHIPS and Science Act authorizes subsidies up to $200 billion over 10 years.
Match ID: 17 Score: 40.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Issey Miyake's fashion in pictures
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 15:49:08 GMT
Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake's innovative styles created a global fashion brand.
Match ID: 18 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 japan

CHIPS Act signed into law with $52 billion in semiconductor subsidies
2022-08-09T15:05:36+00:00
CHIPS Act signed into law with $52 billion in semiconductor subsidies submitted by /u/Arpith2019
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Match ID: 19 Score: 40.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Coronavirus tally: Chinese authorities close Tibet's Potala Palace over small COVID outbreak
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 10:19:57 GMT

Chinese authorities have closed Tibet's Potala Palace after a small outbreak of COVID cases in the Himalayan region, the Associated Press reported. The action underscores China's continued adherence to its "zero-COVID" policy, mandating lockdowns, routine testing, quarantines and travel restrictions, even while most other countries have reopened. Meanwhile, more than 80,000 travelers remain stranded on the southern resort island of Hainan under requirements that they consistently test negative for the virus in coming days before being allowed to leave. In the U.S., the daily average for new cases continued its recent decline, but not all data are being captured as many people are testing at home. The average stood at 108,261 on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 16% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 1% at 43,070, while the daily average for deaths is up 10% to 483. Globally, the confirmed case tally rose above 585.4 million on Tuesday, according to data aggregated by Johns 2Hopkins, while the death toll is above 6.42 million with the U.S. leading the world with 92.2 million cases and 1,034,021 deaths.

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: 20 Score: 40.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 40.00 china

China housing crisis: The people living in unfinished apartments
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 23:01:39 GMT
As Chinese developers spiral into debt, people with nowhere else to live have moved into unfinished apartments.
Match ID: 21 Score: 40.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

It’s possible no electric vehicles will qualify for the new tax credit
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 22:11:19 +0000
There is no grace period, so credits effectively end once the bill is signed.
Match ID: 22 Score: 40.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 china

Why Are Only Mothers Miraculous?
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 14:00:00 +0000
Emi Yagi’s “Diary of a Void” uses an office worker’s fake pregnancy to press on broad assumptions about life, vitality, and spirit, and where these qualities can be found.
Match ID: 23 Score: 40.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 40.00 japan

Lawmakers in India pass energy conservation bill
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 21:39:33 EDT
The Indian government took another step toward its climate goals by passing a conservation bill through parliament’s lower house, which makes it easier to put a price on carbon emissions and encourages the use of non-fossil fuel sources to generate power across the country
Match ID: 24 Score: 35.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 india

A Day in the Life of India’s E-Waste Workers.
2022-08-10T00:57:34+00:00
A Day in the Life of India’s E-Waste Workers. submitted by /u/Wooshio
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Match ID: 25 Score: 35.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 india

Laal Singh Chaddha: How Aamir Khan adapted Forrest Gump to Bollywood
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 23:29:15 GMT
The actor's remake of the Hollywood blockbuster is Bollywood's most ambitious adaptation yet.
Match ID: 26 Score: 35.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 india

California, Indiana Students to Hear from Astronauts on Space Station
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 09:35 EDT
Students from California and Indiana, along with staff members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, will have the opportunity this week to hear from astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Match ID: 27 Score: 35.00 source: www.nasa.gov age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 india

Ambulance Rides Still Aren’t Protected From Surprise Billing — and Subscriptions Do Little to Help
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 16:20:43 +0000

As the Biden administration flounders on its pledge to remedy surprise ground ambulance bills, local EMS subscription programs offer shoddy safety nets.

The post Ambulance Rides Still Aren’t Protected From Surprise Billing — and Subscriptions Do Little to Help appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 28 Score: 35.00 source: theintercept.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 india

South Korea: at least eight killed as record rain falls on capital Seoul
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 12:56:53 GMT

Six people remain missing amid fears of further damage with torrential rain forecast in some parts of the country on Wednesday

At least eight people have died in South Korea after record overnight rainfall hammered the capital Seoul, turning streets into rivers, submerging vehicles and inundating metro stations.

Rainfall of more than 100mm an hour was recorded in Seoul, surrounding areas of Gyeonggi province and the port city of Incheon on Monday night, according to the Yonhap news agency. Per-hour precipitation in the Dongjak district surpassed 141.5mm at one point, the heaviest hourly downpour in Seoul for 80 years.

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Match ID: 29 Score: 30.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 30.00 south korea

In photos and videos: Seoul’s dramatic scenes of floods
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 08:50:53 EDT
At least eight people have died after a record amount of rain fell over South Korea on Monday and Tuesday, including in the capital, Seoul, inundating city streets and flooding subway stations.
Match ID: 30 Score: 30.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 30.00 south korea

Massive Quantities of PFAS Waste Go Unreported to EPA
Fri, 05 Aug 2022 11:00:21 +0000

US Ecology failed to report more than 11 million pounds of PFAS-contaminated waste at its facility in Beatty, Nevada.

The post Massive Quantities of PFAS Waste Go Unreported to EPA appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 31 Score: 25.00 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 25.00 india

Inventor of AT&T’s Datakit, the First Virtual Connection Switch, Dies at 85
Thu, 04 Aug 2022 18:00:00 +0000

Alexander “Sandy” Fraser

Developer of the first virtual circuit network switch

Fellow, 85; died 13 June

Fraser developed the Datakit, the first virtual circuit network switch, while working at AT&T Labs in Florham Park, N.J. The telecommunications technology is used by all major U.S. telephone companies.

He invented other pioneering technologies as well, including the file system for the Titan supercomputer (prototype of Atlas 2), cell-based networks (precursor to asynchronous transfer mode), and the Euphony processor, which was one of the first system-on-a-chip microprocessors.

He began his career at Ferranti, an electrical engineering and equipment company in Manchester, England. He left there in 1966 to join the University of Cambridge as an assistant director of research. After three years, he moved to the United States to work for AT&T Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J. While there, he helped develop the Moving Picture Experts Group Advanced Audio Coder, which compresses music signals. First used in Apple’s iTunes program, it now can be found in all smartphones.

Fraser held several leadership positions at the company during his 30 years there. He became director of the Computing Science Research Center in 1982 and five years later was promoted to executive director. In 1994 he became associate vice president for the company’s information science research department. In 1996 he helped establish AT&T Labs in Florham Park. It is the company’s research and development division, of which he was vice president for two years.

He decided to focus more on research and left his position as vice president. AT&T named him chief scientist, and in that position he worked on developing architecture and protocols for a large-scale Internet so that customers could connect to it from their homes.

In 2002 Fraser retired and founded Fraser Research, in Princeton, N.J., where he continued his networking work.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1958 from the University of Bristol, in England. He went on to receive a Ph.D. in computing science in 1969 from Cambridge.

Byung-Gook Park

Vice chair of IEEE Region 10

Fellow, 62; died 20 May

Park was an active IEEE volunteer and was serving as the 2021–2022 vice chair of IEEE Region 10 at the time of his death. He was the 2014–2015 chair of the IEEE Seoul Section.

He was a member of several committees at conferences including the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting, the International Conference on Solid State Devices and Materials, and the International Technical Conference on Circuits/ Systems, Computers, and Communications.

He served as editor of IEEE Electron Device Letters and editor in chief of the Journal of Semiconductor Technology and Science.

From 1990 to 1993, he worked at AT&T Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., before joining Texas Instruments in Dallas. After one year, he left the company and joined Seoul National University as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. He worked at the university at the time of his death.

His research interests included the design and fabrication of neuromorphic devices and circuits, flash memories, and silicon quantum devices.

Park authored or coauthored more than 1,200 research papers. He was granted 107 patents in Korea and 46 U.S. patents.

He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electronics engineering from Seoul National University in 1982 and 1984, respectively, and a Ph.D. in EE in 1990 from Stanford.

David Ellis Hepburn

Past vice chair of IEEE Canada’s Teacher-in-Service Program

Life senior member, 91; died 25 March

Hepburn was a strong proponent of preuniversity education and enjoyed helping shape the next generation of engineers. He was involved with IEEE Canada’s Teacher-in-Service Program, an initiative that aims to improve elementary and secondary school technical education by offering teachers lesson plans and training workshops. He served as vice chair of the program’s committee. He was honored for his contributions with the 2017 IEEE Canada Presidents’ Make-a-Difference Award.

He was an active volunteer for TryEngineering, a website that provides teachers, parents, and students with engineering resources. These include hands-on classroom activities, lesson plans, and information about engineering careers and university programs. He wrote six lessons, which cover transformers, AC and DC motors, magnetism, binary basics, and solar power.

While a student at Staffordshire University, in England, he was an intern at electrical equipment manufacturer English Electric in Stafford. Five years after graduating in 1952, he joined utility company Hydro-Québec in Montreal as a systems design engineer. In 1965 he went to work for consulting firm Acres International in Montreal. His first assignment there was with the design and construction team for the Churchill Falls underground hydroelectric power station, in Labrador, Nfld.

In 1969 he was tasked with helping to build transmission lines in Bangladesh that connected the country’s eastern and western electrical grids. He and his family lived there for two years.

After that, Hepburn continued to work on international projects in countries including Indonesia, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Following his retirement in 1994, he worked as a consultant for organizations including the World Bank and the Canadian International Development Agency. He also volunteered for the Canadian Executive Service Organization, a nonprofit that provides underserved communities worldwide with mentorship, coaching, and training in sectors such as alternative energy, forestry, and manufacturing. He volunteered on projects in Guatemala and Honduras.

Markus Zahn

Professor emeritus at MIT

Life Fellow, 75; died 13 March

Zahn was a professor of electrical engineering for 50 years. He taught at the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1970 and worked there for 10 years before joining MIT, where he spent the remainder of his career.

He researched how electromagnetic fields interact with materials, and he developed a method for magnetically separating oil and water, as well as a system that detects buried dielectric, magnetic, and conducting devices such as land mines.

He was director of MIT’s 6-A program, which provides undergraduate students with mentoring and internship opportunities.

Zahn, who was granted more than 20 U.S. patents, worked as a consultant for Dow, Ford, Texas Instruments, and other companies

He received bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering from MIT.


Match ID: 32 Score: 22.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 17.14 indonesia, 5.71 bangladesh

Baidu’s PaddlePaddle Spins AI up to Industrial Applications
Thu, 04 Aug 2022 14:31:39 +0000


TensorFlow, PyTorch, and Keras: Those three deep-learning frameworks have dominated AI for years even as newer entrants gain steam. But one framework you don’t hear much about in the West is China’s PaddlePaddle, the most popular Chinese framework in the world’s most populous country.

It is an easy-to-use, efficient, flexible, and scalable deep-learning platform, originally developed by Baidu, the Chinese AI giant, to apply deep learning to many of its own products. Today, it is being used by more than 4.77 million developers and 180,000 enterprises globally. While comparable numbers are hard to come by for other frameworks, suffice to say, that’s big.

Baidu recently announced new updates to PaddlePaddle, along with 10 large deep-learning models that span natural-language processing, vision, and computational biology. Among the models is a hundred-billion-parameter natural language processing (NLP) model called ERNIE 3.0 Zeus, a geography-and-language pretrained model called ERNIE-GeoL, and a pretrained model for compound representation learning called HELIX-GEM.

The company has also created three new industry-focused large models—one for the electric power industry, one for banking, and another one for aerospace—by fine-tuning the company’s ERNIE 3.0 Titan model with industry data and expert knowledge in unsupervised learning tasks.

Software frameworks are packages of associated support programs, compilers, code libraries, tool sets, and application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable development of a project or system. Deep-learning frameworks bring together everything needed to design, train, and validate deep neural networks through a high-level programming interface. Without these tools, implementing deep-learning algorithms would take a lot of time because otherwise reusable pieces of code would have to be written from scratch.

Baidu started to develop such tools as early as 2012 within months of Geoffrey Hinton’s deep-learning breakthrough at the ImageNet competition.

In 2013, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, created a framework called Caffe, that supported convolutional neural networks used in computer-vision research. Baidu built on Caffe to develop PaddlePaddle, which supported recurrent neural networks in addition to convolutional neural networks, giving it an advantage in the field of NLP.

The name PaddlePaddle is derived from PArallel Distributed Deep Learning, a reference to the framework’s ability to train models on multiple GPUs.

Google’s open-sourced TensorFlow in 2015 and Baidu open-sourced PaddlePaddle the next year. When Eric Schmidt introduced TensorFlow to China in 2017, it turns out China was ahead of him.

While TensorFlow and Meta’s PyTorch, open-sourced in 2017, remain popular in China, PaddlePaddle is more oriented toward industrial users.

“We dedicated a lot of effort to reducing the barriers to entry for individuals and companies,” said Ma Yanjun, general manager of the AI Technology Ecosystem at Baidu.

PyTorch and TensorFlow require greater deep-learning expertise on the part of users compared to PaddlePaddle, whose toolkits are designed for nonexperts in production environments.

“In China, many of the developers are trying to use AI in their work, but they do not have much AI background,” explained Ma. “So, to increase the use of AI in different industry sectors, we’ve provided PaddlePaddle with a lot of low-threshold toolkits that are easier to use so it can be used by a wider community.”

AI engineers normally don’t know much about industry sectors and industry-sector experts don’t know much about AI. But PaddlePaddle’s easy-to-understand code comes with a wealth of learning materials and tools to help users. It scales easily and has a comprehensive set of APIs to address various needs.

3 people huddle around a robot in a desert environment with small trees and shrubbery These developers used PaddlePaddle for a desert robot to automate the process of tree planting.Baidu

It supports large-scale data training and can train hundreds of machines in parallel. It provides a neural-machine translation system, recommender systems, image classification, sentiment analysis, and semantic role labeling.

Toolkits and libraries are the strong side of PaddlePaddle, Ma said. For example, PaddleSeg can be used for segmentation of images. PaddleDetection can be used for object detection. “We cover the whole pipeline of AI development from data processing to training, to model compression, to the adaptation to different hardware,” said Ma, “and then how to deploy them in different systems, for example, in Windows or in the Linux operating system or on an Intel chip or on an Nvidia chip.”

The platform also hosts toolkits for cutting-edge research purposes, like Paddle Quantum for quantum-computing models and Paddle Graph Learning for graph-learning models.

“That’s why PaddlePaddle is quite popular in China right now,” he said. “Developers are using such toolkits and not just the tool itself.”

Since it was open-sourced, PaddlePaddle has evolved quickly to have better performance and user experience in different industry sectors outside Baidu as well as countries outside China thanks to extensive English-language documentation. Currently, PaddlePaddle offers over 500 algorithms and pretrained models to facilitate the rapid development of industrial applications. Baidu has worked to reduce model size so they can be deployed in real-world applications. Some of the models are very small and fast and can be deployed on a camera or cellphone.

Industrial Applications for PaddlePaddle


  • Transportation companies have been using PaddlePaddle to deploy AI models that monitor traffic lights and improve traffic efficiency.
  • Manufacturing companies are using PaddlePaddle to improve productivity and lower costs.
  • Recycling companies use PaddlePaddle to develop an object-detection models that can identify different types of garbage for a garbage-sorting robot.
  • Shouguang county in Shandong province is deploying AI to monitor the growth of different vegetables, advising farmers the best time to pick and pack them.
  • In Southeast Asia, PaddlePaddle has been used to control AI-powered forest drones for fire prevention.

PaddlePaddle has parameter server technology to train sparse models that can be used in real-time recommender systems and search. But it has also merged models into even larger systems that are used for scenarios that don’t require real-time results, like text generation or image generation.

Baidu sees large, dense models as another way of reducing the barrier to AI adoption because so-called foundation models can be adapted to specific scenarios. Without the foundation model, you need to develop everything from scratch.

Ma said research areas are converging with cross-model learning of different modalities, like speech and vision. He said Baidu is also using knowledge graphs in the deep-learning process. “Previously a deep-learning system dealt with raw texts or raw images without any knowledge input and the system used self-supervised learning to gather rules outside the data,” Ma said. “But now we are seeing knowledge graphs as an input.”


Match ID: 33 Score: 22.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 22.86 china

Protest Hides in Plain Sight in Hong Kong
Thu, 04 Aug 2022 12:00:00 +0000
25 years after the UK handed the city over to China, Hong Kong's suppressed and surveilled people keep freedom alive creatively and furtively.
Match ID: 34 Score: 22.86 source: www.wired.com age: 5 days
qualifiers: 22.86 china

United States returns looted Bronze Age treasures to Cambodia
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 06:46:46 EDT
The 30 looted Cambodian artifacts were sold by antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford and other illegal networks to U.S. museums.
Match ID: 35 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 cambodia

Digging Into the New QD-OLED TVs
Thu, 04 Aug 2022 20:30:00 +0000


Televisions and computer monitors with QD-OLED displays are now on store shelves. The image quality is—as expected—impressive, with amazing black levels, wide viewing angles, a broad color gamut, and high brightness. The products include:

All these products use display panels manufactured by Samsung but have their own unique display assembly, operating system, and electronics.

I took apart a 55-inch Samsung S95B to learn just how these new displays are put together (destroying it in the process). I found an extremely thin OLED backplane that generates blue light with an equally thin QD color-converting structure that completes the optical stack. I used a UV light source, a microscope, and a spectrometer to learn a lot about how these displays work.


rows of green squares alternating with rows of red and blue squares against a black background

A few surprises:

  • The pixel layout is unique. Instead of being evenly arrayed, the green quantum dots form their own line, separate from the blue and red [see photo, above]. (The blue pixels draw their light directly from the OLED panel, the red and green pixels are lit by quantum dots.)
  • The bandwidth of the native QD emission is so narrow (resulting in a very wide color gamut, that is, the range of colors that can be produced, generally a good thing) that some content doesn’t know how to handle it. So the TV “compresses” the gamut in some cases by adding off-primary colors to bring its primary color points in line with more common gamuts. This is especially dramatic with green, where “pure” green actually contains a significant amount of added red and a small amount of added blue.
  • While taking this thing apart was no easy task, and deconstruction cracked the screen, I was surprised at how easily the QD frontplane and the OLED backplane could be separated. It was easier than splitting an Oreo in half. [See video, below.]



As for the name of this technology, Samsung has used the branding OLED, QD Display, and QD-OLED, while Sony is just using OLED. Alienware uses QD-OLED to describe the new tech (as do most in the display industry).

—Peter Palomaki


Story from January 2022 follows:

For more than a decade now, OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays have set the bar for screen quality, albeit at a price. That’s because they produce deep blacks, offer wide viewing angles, and have a broad color range. Meanwhile, QD (quantum dot) technologies have done a lot to improve the color purity and brightness of the more wallet-friendly LCD TVs.

In 2022, these two rival technologies will merge. The name of the resulting hybrid is still evolving, but QD-OLED seems to make sense, so I’ll use it here, although Samsung has begun to call its version of the technology QD Display.

To understand why this combination is so appealing, you have to know the basic principles behind each of these approaches to displaying a moving image.

In an LCD TV, the LED backlight, or at least a big section of it, is on all at once. The picture is created by filtering this light at the many individual pixels. Unfortunately, that filtering process isn’t perfect, and in areas that should appear black some light gets through.

In OLED displays, the red, green, and blue diodes that comprise each pixel emit light and are turned on only when they are needed. So black pixels appear truly black, while bright pixels can be run at full power, allowing unsurpassed levels of contrast.

But there’s a drawback. The colored diodes in an OLED TV degrade over time, causing what’s called “burn-in.” And with these changes happening at different rates for the red, green, and blue diodes, the degradation affects the overall ability of a display to reproduce colors accurately as it ages and also causes “ghost” images to appear where static content is frequently displayed.

Adding QDs into the mix shifts this equation. Quantum dots—nanoparticles of semiconductor material—absorb photons and then use that energy to emit light of a different wavelength. In a QD-OLED display, all the diodes emit blue light. To get red and green, the appropriate diodes are covered with red or green QDs. The result is a paper-thin display with a broad range of colors that remain accurate over time. These screens also have excellent black levels, wide viewing angles, and improved power efficiency over both OLED and LCD displays.

Samsung is the driving force behind the technology, having sunk billions into retrofitting an LCD fab in Tangjeong, South Korea, for making QD-OLED displays While other companies have published articles and demonstrated similar approaches, only

Samsung has committed to manufacturing these displays, which makes sense because it holds all of the required technology in house. Having both the OLED fab and QD expertise under one roof gives Samsung a big leg up on other QD-display manufacturers.,

Samsung first announced QD-OLED plans in 2019, then pushed out the release date a few times. It now seems likely that we will see public demos in early 2022 followed by commercial products later in the year, once the company has geared up for high-volume production. At this point, Samsung can produce a maximum of 30,000 QD-OLED panels a month; these will be used in its own products. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not that much.

Unfortunately, as with any new display technology, there are challenges associated with development and commercialization.

For one, patterning the quantum-dot layers and protecting them is complicated. Unlike QD-enabled LCD displays (commonly referred to as QLED) where red and green QDs are dispersed uniformly in a polymer film, QD-OLED requires the QD layers to be patterned and aligned with the OLEDs behind them. And that’s tricky to do. Samsung is expected to employ inkjet printing, an approach that reduces the waste of QD material.

Another issue is the leakage of blue light through the red and green QD layers. Leakage of only a few percent would have a significant effect on the viewing experience, resulting in washed-out colors. If the red and green QD layers don’t do a good job absorbing all of the blue light impinging on them, an additional blue-blocking layer would be required on top, adding to the cost and complexity.

Another challenge is that blue OLEDs degrade faster than red or green ones do. With all three colors relying on blue OLEDs in a QD-OLED design, this degradation isn’t expected to cause as severe color shifts as with traditional OLED displays, but it does decrease brightness over the life of the display.

Today, OLED TVs are typically the most expensive option on retail shelves. And while the process for making QD-OLED simplifies the OLED layer somewhat (because you need only blue diodes), it does not make the display any less expensive. In fact, due to the large number of quantum dots used, the patterning steps, and the special filtering required, QD-OLED displays are likely to be more expensive than traditional OLED ones—and way more expensive than LCD TVs with quantum-dot color purification. Early adopters may pay about US $5,000 for the first QD-OLED displays when they begin selling later this year. Those buyers will no doubt complain about the prices—while enjoying a viewing experience far better than anything they’ve had before.


Match ID: 36 Score: 17.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 17.14 south korea

Lobbying Blitz Pushed Fertilizer Prices Higher, Fueling Food Inflation
Wed, 03 Aug 2022 22:59:20 +0000

Emails show fertilizer producer Mosaic lobbied heavily for tariffs under Trump, then used them to dominate the market.

The post Lobbying Blitz Pushed Fertilizer Prices Higher, Fueling Food Inflation appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 37 Score: 17.14 source: theintercept.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 17.14 china

The Radical Scope of Tesla’s Data Hoard
Wed, 03 Aug 2022 21:27:27 +0000


You won’t see a single Tesla cruising the glamorous beachfront in Beidaihe, China, this summer. Officials banned Elon Musk’s popular electric cars from the resort for two months while it hosts the Communist Party’s annual retreat, presumably fearing what their built-in cameras might capture and feed back to the United States.

Back in Florida, Tesla recently faced a negligence lawsuit after two young men died in a fiery car crash while driving a Model S belonging to a father of one of the accident victims. As part of its defense, the company submitted a historical speed analysis showing that the car had been driven with a daily top speed averaging over 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers per hour) in the months before the crash. This information was quietly captured by the car and uploaded to Tesla’s servers. (A jury later found Tesla just 1 percent negligent in the case.)

Meanwhile, every recent-model Tesla reportedly records a breadcrumb GPS trail of every trip it makes—and shares it with the company. While this data is supposedly anonymized, experts are skeptical.

Alongside its advances in electric propulsion, Tesla’s innovations in data collection, analysis, and usage are transforming the automotive industry, and society itself, in ways that appear genuinely revolutionary.

“Gateway log” files—periodically uploaded to Tesla—include seatbelt, Autopilot, and cruise-control settings, and whether drivers had their hands on the steering wheel.

In a series of articles (story 2; story 3), IEEE Spectrum is examining exactly what data Tesla vehicles collect, how the company uses them to develop its automated driving systems, and whether owners or the company are in the driver’s seat when it comes to accessing and exploiting that data. There is no evidence that Tesla collects any data beyond what customers agree to in their terms of service—even though opting out of this completely appears to be very difficult.

Almost every new production vehicle has a battery of sensors, including cameras and radars, that capture data about their drivers, other road users, and their surroundings. There is now a worldwide connected car-data industry, trading in anonymized vehicle, driver, and location data aggregated from billions of journeys made in tens of millions of vehicles from all the major automotive equipment manufacturers. But none seem to store that information and send it back to the manufacturer as regularly, or in such volume, or have been doing so for as long, as those made by Tesla.

“As far as we know, Tesla vehicles collect the most amount of data,” says Francis Hoogendijk, a researcher at the Netherlands Forensic Institute who began investigating Tesla’s data systems after fatal crashes in the United States and the Netherlands in 2016.

Spectrum has used expert analyses, NTSB crash investigations, NHTSA reports, and Tesla’s own documents to build up as complete a picture as possible of the data Tesla vehicles collect and what the company does with them.

To start with, Teslas, like over 99 percent of new vehicles, have event data recorders (EDRs). These “black box” recorders are triggered by a crash and collect a scant 5 seconds of information, including speed, acceleration, brake use, steering input, and automatic brake and stability controls, to assist in crash investigations.

But Tesla also makes a permanent record of these data—and many more—on a 4-gigabyte SD or 8-GB microSD card located in the car’s Media Control Unit (MCU) Linux infotainment computer. These time-stamped “gateway log” files also include seatbelt, Autopilot, and cruise-control settings, and whether drivers had their hands on the steering wheel. They are normally recorded at a relatively low resolution, such as 5 hertz, allowing the cards to store months’ or years’ worth of data, even up to the lifetime of the vehicle.

Because the gateway logs use data from cars’ standard control area network (CAN) buses, they can include the unique vehicle identification number, or VIN. However, no evidence suggests these logs could include information from the car’s GPS module, or from its cameras or (for earlier models) radars.

A bar graph labelled Maximum Vehicle Speed by Date - 2018 showing high vehicle speeds over the course of 4 months. In a Florida court, Tesla presented detailed data about the top speeds of a Model S involved in a fatal crash.Car Engineering/Tesla/Southern District of Florida U.S. Courts

When an owner connects a Tesla to a Wi-Fi network—for instance, to download an over-the-air update that adds new features or fixes bugs—the gateway log data is periodically uploaded to Tesla. Judging by Tesla’s use of gateway log data in the Florida lawsuit, Tesla appears to link that data to its originating vehicle and store it permanently. (Tesla did not respond to requests for clarification on this and other issues).

Teslas also have a separate Autopilot Linux computer, which takes inputs from the cars’ cameras to handle driver-assistance functions like cruise control, lane-keeping, and collision warnings. If owners plug their own USB thumb drives into the car, they can make live dashcam recordings, and set up Sentry Mode to record the vehicle’s surroundings when parked. These recordings do not appear to be uploaded to Tesla.

However, there are many occasions in which Tesla vehicles do store images and (in 2016 models onward) videos from the cameras, and then share them with the company. These Autopilot “snapshots” can span several minutes and consist of up to several hundred megabytes of data, according to one engineer and Tesla owner who has studied Tesla’s data-collection process using salvaged vehicles and components, and who tweets using the pseudonym Green.

As well as visual data, the snapshots include high-resolution log data, similar to that captured in the gateway logs but at a much higher frequency—up to 50 Hz for wheel-speed information, notes Hoogendijk.

Snapshots are triggered when the vehicle crashes—as detected by the airbag system deploying—or when certain conditions are met. These can include anything that Tesla engineers want to learn about, such as particular driving behaviors, or specific objects or situations being detected by the Autopilot system. (These matters will be covered in the second installment in our series, to be posted tomorrow.)

GPS location data is always captured for crash events, says Green, and sometimes for other snapshots. Like gateway data, snapshots are uploaded to Tesla when the car connects to Wi-Fi, although those triggered by crashes will also attempt to upload over the car’s 4G cellular connection. Then, Green says, once a snapshot has been successfully uploaded, it is deleted from the Autopilot’s onboard 32-GB storage.

In addition to the snapshots, the Autopilot computer also records a complete trip log every time a mid-2017 or later Tesla is shifted from Park to Drive, says Green. Trip logs include a GPS breadcrumb trail until the car is shifted back into Park and include speeds, road types, and when or whether Autopilot was activated. Green says that trip logs are recorded whether or not Autopilot (or Full Self-Driving) is used. Like the snapshots, trip logs are deleted from the vehicle after being uploaded to Tesla.

But what happens to this treasure trove of data? Tesla has sold about three million vehicles worldwide, the majority of which are phoning home daily. They have provided the company with billions of miles of real-world driving data and GPS tracks, and many millions of photos and videos. What the world’s leading EV automaker is doing with all that data is the subject of our next installment.


Update 5 Aug. 2022: Elon Musk announced this week that Tesla has now sold about three million vehicles worldwide (not two as we had originally reported).


Match ID: 38 Score: 17.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 6 days
qualifiers: 17.14 china

Why No One Cared That Al Qaeda Honcho Zawahiri Got Droned
Tue, 02 Aug 2022 23:02:53 +0000

That Zawahiri’s killing went so quietly suggests that the cultural and political behemoth that was the war on terror had long preceded him into the grave.

The post Why No One Cared That Al Qaeda Honcho Zawahiri Got Droned appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 39 Score: 17.14 source: theintercept.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 11.43 china, 5.71 taiwan

A Suspected Killer’s Fans Are Still Promoting Him Online
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 11:00:00 +0000
After a local politician and two others were gunned down in the Philippines, posts supporting the suspect continue to gain traction on social media.
Match ID: 40 Score: 15.00 source: www.wired.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 philippines

Video Friday: Build a Chair
Fri, 05 Aug 2022 15:44:00 +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.

IEEE CASE 2022: 20–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL
ANA Avatar XPRIZE Finals: 4–5 November 2022, LOS ANGELES
CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today's videos!


This probably counts as hard mode for Ikea chair assembly.

[ Naver Lab ]

As anyone working with robotics knows, it’s mandatory to spend at least 10 percent of your time just mucking about with them because it’s fun, as GITAI illustrates with its new 10-meter robotic arm.

[ GITAI ]

Well, this is probably the weirdest example of domain randomization in simulation for quadrupeds that I’ve ever seen.

[ RSL ]

The RoboCup 2022 was held in Bangkok, Thailand. The final match was between B-Human from Bremen (jerseys in black) and HTWK Robots from Leipzig (jerseys in blue). The video starts with one of our defending robots starting a duel with the opponent. After a short time a pass is made to another robot, which tries to score a goal, but the opponent goalie is able to catch the ball. Afterwards another attacker robot is already waiting at the center circle, to take its chance to score a goal, through all four opponent robots.

[ Team B-Human ]

The mission to return Martian samples back to Earth will see a European 2.5-meter-long robotic arm pick up tubes filled with precious soil from Mars and transfer them to a rocket for a historic interplanetary delivery.

[ ESA ]

I still cannot believe that this is an approach to robotic fruit-picking that actually works.

[ Tevel Aerobotics ]

This video shows the basic performance of the humanoid robot Torobo, which is used as a research platform for JST’s Moonshot R&D program.

[ Tokyo Robotics ]

Volocopter illustrates why I always carry two violins with me everywhere. You know, just in case.

[ Volocopter ]

We address the problem of enabling quadrupedal robots to perform precise shooting skills in the real world using reinforcement learning. Developing algorithms to enable a legged robot to shoot a soccer ball to a given target is a challenging problem that combines robot motion control and planning into one task.

[ Hybrid Robotics ]

I will always love watching Cassie try very, very hard to not fall over, and then fall over. <3

[ Michigan Robotics ]

I don’t think this paper is about teaching bipeds to walk with attitude, but it should be.

[ DLG ]

Modboats are capable of collective swimming in arbitrary configurations! In this video you can see three different configurations of the Modboats swim across our test space and demonstrate their capabilities.

[ ModLab ]

How have we built our autonomous driving technology to navigate the world safely? It comes down to three easy steps: Sense, Solve, and Go. Using a combination of lidar, camera, radar, and compute, the Waymo Driver can visualize the world, calculate what others may do, and proceed smoothly and safely, day and night.

[ Waymo ]

Alan Alda discusses evolutionary robotics with Hod Lipson and Jordan Pollack on Scientific American Frontiers in 1999.

[ Creative Machines Lab ]

Brady Watkins gives us insight into how a big company like Softbank Robotics looks into the robotics market.

[ Robohub ]


Match ID: 41 Score: 14.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 thailand

U.S. Passes Landmark Act to Fund Semiconductor Manufacturing
Fri, 29 Jul 2022 14:53:55 +0000


Legislation aimed at increasing semiconductor manufacturing in the United States has finally passed both houses of Congress, following a multiyear journey that saw many mutations and delays. The CHIPS and Science Act, provides about US $52 billion over 5 years to grow semiconductor manufacturing and authorizes a 25 percent tax credit for new or expanded facilities that make semiconductors or chipmaking equipment. It’s part of a $280 billion package aimed at improving the United States’ ability to compete in future technologies. And it comes amidst efforts by other nations and regions to boost chip manufacturing, an industry increasingly seen as a key to economic and military security.

“This is going to make a huge difference in how the U.S. does innovation,” says Russell T. Harrison, acting managing director of IEEE-USA, who has been involved in the legislation since its beginnings more than two years ago.

The bill’s $52 billion includes $39 billion in grants for new manufacturing, $11 billion for federal semiconductor research programs and workforce development, and $2 billion for Defense Department–related microelectronics activities.

“Twenty-five percent [tax credit] means we’re in it to win.”
—Ian Steff, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce

In addition, the bill directs $200 million over five years to the National Science Foundation to “promote growth of the semiconductor workforce.” The Commerce Department expects the United States will need 90,000 more workers in the semiconductor industry by 2025.

And there’s a further $500 million for “coordinating with foreign government partners to support international information and communications technology security and semiconductor supply-chain activities, including supporting the development and adoption of secure and trusted telecommunications technologies, semiconductors, and other emerging technologies.”

The 25 percent tax credit goes a long way toward making the building of new capacity in the United States comparable with building it offshore, according to Ian Steff, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce, and now a consultant advising Minnesota-based chip foundry Skywater Technology. “Twenty-five percent means we’re in it to win,” he says.

The legislation has been variously sold as an opportunity to create well-paid jobs, a chance to strengthen the semiconductor supply chain following the chip shortage of 2020, and as a national-defense imperative that would lessen the concern that China might strangle the supply of 90 percent of the most advanced logic by attacking Taiwan. It might be all of that.

Big chip manufacturers have been planning to add and expand fabs in anticipation of government incentives. GlobalFoundries is doing a $1 billion addition in Malta, N.Y. TSMC is already building a $12 billion facility in Arizona. And Samsung plans a $17 billion fab outside Austin, while dangling the possibility of nearly $200 billion in the future. Intel was probably the most explicit in its expectations. When it announced a plan for a $20 billion fab complex in Ohio, Keyvan Esfarjani, Intel senior vice president of manufacturing, supply chain, and operations made the strings explicit: “The scope and pace of Intel’s expansion in Ohio...will depend heavily on funding from the CHIPS Act,” he said at the time. The company said its investment could reach $100 billion over ten years with the proper government backing.

Getting this far has been “an effort that has transcended administrations and gotten bipartisan support since its early inception,” says Steff. Still, the legislation was stalled for a long time. The bill that passed in Congress largely appropriates funds for things that were already authorized in a the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, which passed in January of that year.

Within the U.S. semiconductor industry much of the debate fell into what Harrison calls the “normal legislative process.” Companies or industry sectors not covered under the legislation fight to gain inclusion, while those already on the inside fight to keep it exclusive, concerned that the pool of funds will become diluted. Some initial outsiders succeeded: Chip packaging, which has grown increasingly important as advanced processor makers find they cannot get enough computing from a single sliver of silicon, was swiftly added. Efforts to expand the bill beyond its manufacturing scope continued nearly up until the end. According to reports, chip designers whose processors are manufactured by others, including AMD, Nvidia, and Qualcomm, indicated their displeasure that they would not get in on the act.

Finding the balance of who’s in and who’s out meant making the terms broad enough to accomplish the goal of bringing chip manufacturing to the United States “without making it so broad that it becomes mush,” says Harrison. “They have now settled on something a little bigger than they had at first, but it’s focused on chips and their manufacture.”


Match ID: 42 Score: 14.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 5.71 japan, 5.71 china, 2.86 taiwan

The Richer They Get, the More Meat They Eat
Thu, 28 Jul 2022 15:00:00 +0000


“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” the eminent geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973. That goes for the human diet.

We are omnivores, not herbivores. Natural selection has formed us to eat both plant and animal foods and to like doing so. Chimpanzees, the primates that are genetically the closest to us, deliberately hunt, kill, and eat small monkeys, wild pigs, and tortoises, annually consuming 4 to 12 kilograms of meat per capita for the entire population and up to 25 kg per adult male; that is more than in many preindustrial farming societies.


It is well to keep this biological fact in mind when considering outlandish claims about the imminent victory of veganism. We are told that “much of the world is trending towards plant-based eating,” and it is expected that the global demand for that diet will nearly quintuple between 2016 and 2026. Are we in fact seeing a revolutionary change in behavior?

Half a century is surely plenty of time to discern a trend, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has the relevant data. The world’s production of meat and poultry reached about 100 million tonnes in 1970, 233 million tonnes in 2000, and 325 million tonnes in 2020. That represents a tripling since 1970. Even after accounting for the intervening population growth, per capita meat consumption rose by 55 percent during the 50 years. This was as you would expect, because as people get richer they can buy more of the food they really want.

Since 1970, there has been a 55 percent increase in worldwide average per capita meat consumption.

There have been many variations, arising from differences in religion, incomes, and shifting tastes. Of all the populous nations, only Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, and Nigeria continue to eat very little meat. In 2020, average supply rates in India and Bangladesh were still below 5 kg of carcass weight per year, per capita—a bit less than in Ethiopia. But in most of the world’s populous countries per capita meat supply has increased spectacularly during the past 50 years: In Pakistan it has doubled (still only to 16 kg); in Turkey and the Philippines, the rate has more than doubled (in both countries to nearly 40 kg); it has tripled in Egypt (to about 30 kg); Brazil’s supply has more than tripled, to 100 kg; and in China it rose more than sevenfold, from only about 9 to just over 60 kg.

Not surprisingly, meat consumption has changed little in highly carnivorous countries, including Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom, and it has declined a bit in Denmark, France, and Germany. This small decline does constitute a trend, having to do with the avoidance of fatty red meat by many younger consumers, higher intakes of seafood, and the conversion of very small numbers of people to largely vegetarian (if not entirely vegan) diets. This moderation is indeed a welcome shift, because the nutritional benefits of meat are not predicated on consuming it in large amounts.

Yet even in those rich countries in which the consumption of meat has reached new heights, such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States, it has led to no demonstrable ill effects on health. Spain is the best example: Since 1975, its average meat supply has more than doubled, peaking at 120 kg in 2002 before dropping back to today’s 100 kg. This rise in meat demand was accompanied by a decline in deaths from cardiovascular disease.

In 2019, before COVID could affect survival rates, Spain had a life expectancy at birth (for males and females combined) of 84 years. That number is the highest in the European Union—notwithstanding all that carne de cerdo asada, jamon, and chorizo…

This article appears in the August 2022 print issue as “Meat-Eating Is as Human as Apple Pie.”


Match ID: 43 Score: 14.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 12 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china, 5.00 india, 2.14 philippines, 1.43 bangladesh

Satellite Imagery for Everyone
Sat, 19 Feb 2022 16:00:00 +0000


Every day, satellites circling overhead capture trillions of pixels of high-resolution imagery of the surface below. In the past, this kind of information was mostly reserved for specialists in government or the military. But these days, almost anyone can use it.

That’s because the cost of sending payloads, including imaging satellites, into orbit has dropped drastically. High-resolution satellite images, which used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, now can be had for the price of a cup of coffee.

What’s more, with the recent advances in artificial intelligence, companies can more easily extract the information they need from huge digital data sets, including ones composed of satellite images. Using such images to make business decisions on the fly might seem like science fiction, but it is already happening within some industries.


This image shows are variety of blue and green hues, interwoven in a geometrically intriguing way.

These underwater sand dunes adorn the seafloor between Andros Island and the Exuma islands in the Bahamas. The turquoise to the right reflects a shallow carbonate bank, while the dark blue to the left marks the edge of a local deep called Tongue of the Ocean. This image was captured in April 2020 using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite.

Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory


Here’s a brief overview of how you, too, can access this kind of information and use it to your advantage. But before you’ll be able to do that effectively, you need to learn a little about how modern satellite imagery works.

The orbits of Earth-observation satellites generally fall into one of two categories: GEO and LEO. The former is shorthand for geosynchronous equatorial orbit. GEO satellites are positioned roughly 36,000 kilometers above the equator, where they circle in sync with Earth’s rotation. Viewed from the ground, these satellites appear to be stationary, in the sense that their bearing and elevation remain constant. That’s why GEO is said to be a geostationary orbit.

Such orbits are, of course, great for communications relays—it’s what allows people to mount satellite-TV dishes on their houses in a fixed orientation. But GEO satellites are also appropriate when you want to monitor some region of Earth by capturing images over time. Because the satellites are so high up, the resolution of that imagery is quite coarse, however. So these orbits are primarily used for observation satellites designed to track changing weather conditions over broad areas.

Being stationary with respect to Earth means that GEO satellites are always within range of a downlink station, so they can send data back to Earth in minutes. This allows them to alert people to changes in weather patterns almost in real time. Most of this kind of data is made available for free by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.


This black-and-white image shows a narrow waterway blocked by a large ship. The resolution of the image is sufficient to make out individual shipping containers on its deck, as well as the tugboats arrayed around it.

In March 2021, the container ship Ever Given ran aground, blocking the Suez Canal for six days. This satellite image of the scene, obtained using synthetic-aperture radar, shows the kind resolution that is possible with this technology.

Capella Space


The other option is LEO, which stands for low Earth orbit. Satellites placed in LEO are much closer to the ground, which allows them to obtain higher-resolution images. And the lower you can go, the better the resolution you can get. The company Planet, for example, increased the resolution of its recently completed satellite constellation, SkySat, from 72 centimeters per pixel to just 50 cm—an incredible feat—by lowering the orbits its satellites follow from 500 to 450 km and improving the image processing.

The best commercially available spatial resolution for optical imagery is 25 cm, which means that one pixel represents a 25-by-25-cm area on the ground—roughly the size of your laptop. A handful of companies capture data with 25-cm to 1-meter resolution, which is considered high to very high resolution in this industry. Some of these companies also offer data from 1- to 5-meter resolution, considered medium to high resolution. Finally, several government programs have made optical data available at 10-, 15-, 30-, and 250-meter resolutions for free with open data programs. These include NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat, NASA MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), and ESA Copernicus. This imagery is considered low resolution.

Because the satellites that provide the highest-resolution images are in the lowest orbits, they sense less area at once. To cover the entire planet, a satellite can be placed in a polar orbit, which takes it from pole to pole. As it travels, Earth rotates under it, so on its next pass, it will be above a different part of Earth.

Many of these satellites don’t pass directly over the poles, though. Instead, they are placed in a near-polar orbit that has been specially designed to take advantage of a subtle bit of physics. You see, the spinning Earth bulges outward slightly at the equator. That extra mass causes the orbits of satellites that are not in polar orbits to shift or (technically speaking) to precess. Satellite operators often take advantage of this phenomenon to put a satellite in what’s called a sun-synchronous orbit. Such orbits allow the repeated passes of the satellite over a given spot to take place at the same time of day. Not having the pattern of shadows shift between passes helps the people using these images to detect changes.




It usually takes 24 hours for a satellite in polar orbit to survey the entire surface of Earth. To image the whole world more frequently, satellite companies use multiple satellites, all equipped with the same sensor and following different orbits. In this way, these companies can provide more frequently updated images of a given location. For example, Maxar’s Worldview Legion constellation, launching later this year, includes six satellites.

After a satellite captures some number of images, all that data needs to be sent down to Earth and processed. The time required for that varies.

DigitalGlobe (which Maxar acquired in 2017) recently announced that it had managed to send data from a satellite down to a ground station and then store it in the cloud in less than a minute. That was possible because the image sent back was of the parking lot of the ground station, so the satellite didn’t have to travel between the collection point and where it had to be to do the data “dumping,” as this process is called.

In general, Earth-observation satellites in LEO don’t capture imagery all the time—they do that only when they are above an area of special interest. That’s because these satellites are limited to how much data they can send at one time. Typically, they can transmit data for only 10 minutes or so before they get out of range of a ground station. And they cannot record more data than they’ll have time to dump.

Currently, ground stations are located mostly near the poles, the most visited areas in polar orbits. But we can soon expect distances to the nearest ground station to shorten because both Amazon and Microsoft have announced intentions to build large networks of ground stations located all over the world. As it turns out, hosting the terabytes of satellite data that are collected daily is big business for these companies, which sell their cloud services (Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure) to satellite operators.

For now, if you are looking for imagery of an area far from a ground station, expect a significant delay—maybe hours—between capture and transmission of the data. The data will then have to be processed, which adds yet more time. The fastest providers currently make their data available within 48 hours of capture, but not all can manage that. While it is possible, under ideal weather conditions, for a commercial entity to request a new capture and get the data it needs delivered the same week, such quick turnaround times are still considered cutting edge.


The best commercially available spatial resolution is 25 centimeters for optical imagery, which means that one pixel represents something roughly the size of your laptop.


I’ve been using the word “imagery,” but it’s important to note that satellites do not capture images the same way ordinary cameras do. The optical sensors in satellites are calibrated to measure reflectance over specific bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. This could mean they record how much red, green, and blue light is reflected from different parts of the ground. The satellite operator will then apply a variety of adjustments to correct colors, combine adjacent images, and account for parallax, forming what’s called a true-color composite image, which looks pretty much like what you would expect to get from a good camera floating high in the sky and pointed directly down.

Imaging satellites can also capture data outside of the visible-light spectrum. The near-infrared band is widely used in agriculture, for example, because these images help farmers gauge the health of their crops. This band can also be used to detect soil moisture and a variety of other ground features that would otherwise be hard to determine.

Longer-wavelength “thermal” IR does a good job of penetrating smoke and picking up heat sources, making it useful for wildfire monitoring. And synthetic-aperture radar satellites, which I discuss in greater detail below, are becoming more common because the images they produce aren’t affected by clouds and don’t require the sun for illumination.

You might wonder whether aerial imagery, say, from a drone, wouldn’t work at least as well as satellite data. Sometimes it can. But for many situations, using satellites is the better strategy. Satellites can capture imagery over areas that would be difficult to access otherwise because of their remoteness, for example. Or there could be other sorts of accessibility issues: The area of interest could be in a conflict zone, on private land, or in another place that planes or drones cannot overfly.

So with satellites, organizations can easily monitor the changes taking place at various far-flung locations. Satellite imagery allows pipeline operators, for instance, to quickly identify incursions into their right-of-way zones. The company can then take steps to prevent a disastrous incident, such as someone puncturing a gas pipeline while construction is taking place nearby.


\u200bThis satellite image shows a snow-covered area. A tongue of darker material is draped over the side of a slope, impinging on a nearby developed area with buildings.

This SkySat image shows the effect of a devastating landslide that took place on 30 December 2020. Debris from that landslide destroyed buildings and killed 10 people in the Norwegian village of Ask.

SkySat/Planet



The ability to compare archived imagery with recently acquired data has helped a variety of industries. For example, insurance companies sometimes use satellite data to detect fraudulent claims (“Looks like your house had a damaged roof when you bought it…”). And financial-investment firms use satellite imagery to evaluate such things as retailers’ future profits based on parking-lot fullness or to predict crop prices before farmers report their yields for the season.

Satellite imagery provides a particularly useful way to find or monitor the location of undisclosed features or activities. Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama, for example, uses satellite imagery to locate archaeological sites of interest. 52Impact, a consulting company in the Netherlands, identified undisclosed waste dump sites by training an algorithm to recognize their telltale spectral signature. Satellite imagery has also helped identify illegal fishing activities, fight human trafficking, monitor oil spills, get accurate reporting on COVID-19 deaths, and even investigate Uyghur internment camps in China—all situations where the primary actors couldn’t be trusted to accurately report what’s going on.

Despite these many successes, investigative reporters and nongovernmental organizations aren’t yet using satellite data regularly, perhaps because even the small cost of the imagery is a deterrent. Thankfully, some kinds of low-resolution satellite data can be had for free.

The first place to look for free satellite imagery is the Copernicus Open Access Hub and EarthExplorer. Both offer free access to a wide range of open data. The imagery is lower resolution than what you can purchase, but if the limited resolution meets your needs, why spend money?

If you require medium- or high-resolution data, you might be able to buy it directly from the relevant satellite operator. This field recently went through a period of mergers and acquisitions, leaving only a handful of providers, the big three in the West being Maxar and Planet in the United States and Airbus in Germany. There are also a few large Asian providers, such as SI Imaging Services in South Korea and Twenty First Century Aerospace Technology in Singapore. Most providers have a commercial branch, but they primarily target government buyers. And they often require large minimum purchases, which is unhelpful to companies looking to monitor hundreds of locations or fewer.

Expect the distance to the nearest ground station to shorten because both Amazon and Microsoft have announced intentions to build large networks of ground stations located all over the world.

Fortunately, approaching a satellite operator isn’t the only option. In the past five years, a cottage industry of consultants and local resellers with exclusive deals to service a certain market has sprung up. Aggregators and resellers spend years negotiating contracts with multiple providers so they can offer customers access to data sets at more attractive prices, sometimes for as little as a few dollars per image. Some companies providing geographic information systems—including Esri, L3Harris, and Safe Software—have also negotiated reselling agreements with satellite-image providers.

Traditional resellers are middlemen who will connect you with a salesperson to discuss your needs, obtain quotes from providers on your behalf, and negotiate pricing and priority schedules for image capture and sometimes also for the processing of the data. This is the case for Apollo Mapping, European Space Imaging, Geocento, LandInfo, Satellite Imaging Corp., and many more. The more innovative resellers will give you access to digital platforms where you can check whether an image you need is available from a certain archive and then order it. Examples include LandViewer from EOS and Image Hunter from Apollo Mapping.

More recently, a new crop of aggregators began offering customers the ability to programmatically access Earth-observation data sets. These companies work best for people looking to integrate such data into their own applications or workflows. These include the company I work for, SkyWatch, which provides such a service, called EarthCache. Other examples are UP42 from Airbus and Sentinel Hub from Sinergise.

While you will still need to talk with a sales rep to activate your account—most often to verify you will use the data in ways that fits the company’s terms of service and licensing agreements—once you’ve been granted access to their applications, you will be able to programmatically order archive data from one or multiple providers. SkyWatch is, however, the only aggregator allowing users to programmatically request future data to be collected (“tasking a satellite”).

While satellite imagery is fantastically abundant and easy to access today, two changes are afoot that will expand further what you can do with satellite data: faster revisits and greater use of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR).

This image shows a sprawling compound of dozens of large buildings located in a desert area.

This image shows a race-track shaped structure with a tall chimney in the middle, built in an area where the ground is a distinctly reddish hue. Satellite images have helped to reveal China’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority. About a million Uyghurs (and other ethnic minorities) have been interned in prisons or camps like the one shown here [top], which lies to the east of the city of Ürümqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Another satellite image [bottom] shows the characteristic oval shape of a fixed-chimney Bull’s trench kiln, a type widely used for manufacturing bricks in southern Asia. This one is located in Pakistan’s Punjab province. This design poses environmental concerns because of the sooty air pollution it generates, and such kilns have also been associated with human-rights abuses.Top: CNES/Airbus/Google Earth; Bottom: Maxar Technologies/Google Earth

The first of these developments is not surprising. As more Earth-observation satellites are put into orbit, more images will be taken, more often. So how frequently a given area is imaged by a satellite will increase. Right now, that’s typically two or three times a week. Expect the revisit rate soon to become several times a day. This won’t entirely address the challenge of clouds obscuring what you want to view, but it will help.

The second development is more subtle. Data from the two satellites of the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 SAR mission, available at no cost, has enabled companies to dabble in SAR over the last few years.

With SAR, the satellite beams radio waves down and measures the return signals bouncing off the surface. It does that continually, and clever processing is used to turn that data into images. The use of radio allows these satellites to see through clouds and to collect measurements day and night. Depending on the radar band that’s employed, SAR imagery can be used to judge material properties, moisture content, precise movements, and elevation.

As more companies get familiar with such data sets, there will no doubt be a growing demand for satellite SAR imagery, which has been widely used by the military since the 1970s. But it’s just now starting to appear in commercial products. You can expect those offerings to grow dramatically, though.

Indeed, a large portion of the money being invested in this industry is currently going to fund large SAR constellations, including those of Capella Space, Iceye, Synspective, XpressSAR, and others. The market is going to get crowded fast, which is great news for customers. It means they will be able to obtain high-resolution SAR images of the place they’re interested in, taken every hour (or less), day or night, cloudy or clear.

People will no doubt figure out wonderful new ways to employ this information, so the more folks who have access to it, the better. This is something my colleagues at SkyWatch and I deeply believe, and it’s why we’ve made it our mission to help democratize access to satellite imagery.

One day in the not-so-distant future, Earth-observation satellite data might become as ubiquitous as GPS, another satellite technology first used only by the military. Imagine, for example, being able to take out your phone and say something like, “Show me this morning’s soil-moisture map for Grover’s Corners High; I want to see whether the baseball fields are still soggy.”

This article appears in the March 2022 print issue as “A Boom with a View.”

Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Maxar's Worldview Legion constellation launched last year.


Match ID: 44 Score: 12.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 171 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china, 4.29 south korea, 2.86 singapore

12 Exciting Engineering Milestones to Look for in 2022
Thu, 30 Dec 2021 16:00:00 +0000


Psyche’s Deep-Space Lasers


An illustration of a satellite holding a ray gun in a cartoon style hand. MCKIBILLO

In August, NASA will launch the Psyche mission, sending a deep-space orbiter to a weird metal asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. While the probe’s main purpose is to study Psyche’s origins, it will also carry an experiment that could inform the future of deep-space communications. The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment will test whether lasers can transmit signals beyond lunar orbit. Optical signals, such as those used in undersea fiber-optic cables, can carry more data than radio signals can, but their use in space has been hampered by difficulties in aiming the beams accurately over long distances. DSOC will use a 4-watt infrared laser with a wavelength of 1,550 nanometers (the same used in many optical fibers) to send optical signals at multiple distances during Psyche’s outward journey to the asteroid.


The Great Electric Plane Race


An illustration of a battery with wings and a spinning propeller. MCKIBILLO

For the first time in almost a century, the U.S.-based National Aeronautic Association (NAA) will host a cross-country aircraft race. Unlike the national air races of the 1920s, however, the Pulitzer Electric Aircraft Race, scheduled for 19 May, will include only electric-propulsion aircraft. Both fixed-wing craft and helicopters are eligible. The competition will be limited to 25 contestants, and each aircraft must have an onboard pilot. The course will start in Omaha and end four days later in Manteo, N.C., near the site of the Wright brothers’ first flight. The NAA has stated that the goal of the cross-country, multiday race is to force competitors to confront logistical problems that still plague electric aircraft, like range, battery charging, reliability, and speed.

6-Gigahertz Wi-Fi Goes Mainstream

An illustration of the wifi signal and an arrow near the word \u201c6Ghz.\u201d MCKIBILLO

Wi-Fi is getting a boost with 1,200 megahertz of new spectrum in the 6-gigahertz band, adding a third spectrum band to the more familiar 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The new band is called Wi-Fi 6E because it extends Wi-Fi’s capabilities into the 6-GHz band. As a rule, higher radio frequencies have higher data capacity, but a shorter range. With its higher frequencies, 6-GHz Wi-Fi is expected to find use in heavy traffic environments like offices and public hotspots. The Wi-Fi Alliance introduced a Wi-Fi 6E certification program in January 2021, and the first trickle of 6E routers appeared by the end of the year. In 2022, expect to see a bonanza of Wi-Fi 6E–enabled smartphones.

3-Nanometer Chips Arrive

An illustration of a chip dancing and holding a hat with \u201c3nm\u201d at the center. MCKIBILLO

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) plans to begin producing 3-nanometer semiconductor chips in the second half of 2022. Right now, 5-nm chips are the standard. TSMC will make its 3-nm chips using a tried-and-true semiconductor structure called the FinFET (short for “fin field-effect transistor”). Meanwhile, Samsung and Intel are moving to a different technique for 3 nm called nanosheet. (TSMC is eventually planning to abandon FinFETs.) At one point, TSMC’s sole 3-nm chip customer for 2022 was Apple, for the latter’s iPhone 14, but supply-chain issues have made it less certain that TSMC will be able to produce enough chips—which promise more design flexibility—to fulfill even that order.

Seoul Joins the Metaverse

An illustration of a building MCKIBILLO

After Facebook (now Meta) announced it was hell-bent on making the metaverse real, a host of other tech companies followed suit. Definitions differ, but the basic idea of the metaverse involves merging virtual reality and augmented reality with actual reality. Also jumping on the metaverse bandwagon is the government of the South Korean capital, Seoul, which plans to develop a “metaverse platform” by the end of 2022. To build this first public metaverse, Seoul will invest 3.9 billion won (US $3.3 million). The platform will offer public services and cultural events, beginning with the Metaverse 120 Center, a virtual-reality portal for citizens to address concerns that previously required a trip to city hall. Other planned projects include virtual exhibition halls for school courses and a digital representation of Deoksu Palace. The city expects the project to be complete by 2026.

IBM’s Condors Take Flight

An illustration of a bird made up of squares. MCKIBILLO

In 2022, IBM will debut a new quantum processor—its biggest yet—as a stepping-stone to a 1,000-qubit processor by the end of 2023. This year’s iteration will contain 433 qubits, three times as much as the company’s 127-qubit Eagle processor, which was launched last year. Following the bird theme, the 433- and 1,000-qubit processors will be named Condor. There have been quantum computers with many more qubits; D-Wave Systems, for example, announced a 5,000-qubit computer in 2020. However, D-Wave’s computers are specialized machines for optimization problems. IBM’s Condors aim to be the largest general-purpose quantum processors.

New Dark-Matter Detector

An illustration of two dotted arrow headed lines and two circles with the letter \u201cp\u201d on them. MCKIBILLO

The Forward Search Experiment (FASER) at CERN is slated to switch on in July 2022. The exact date depends on when the Large Hadron Collider is set to renew proton-proton collisions after three years of upgrades and maintenance. FASER will begin a hunt for dark matter and other particles that interact extremely weakly with “normal” matter. CERN, the fundamental physics research center near Geneva, has four main detectors attached to its Large Hadron Collider, but they aren’t well-suited to detecting dark matter. FASER won’t attempt to detect the particles directly; instead, it will search for the more strongly interacting Standard Model particles created when dark matter interacts with something else. The new detector was constructed while the collider was shut down from 2018 to 2021. Located 480 meters “downstream” of the ATLAS detector, FASER will also hunt for neutrinos produced in huge quantities by particle collisions in the LHC loop. The other CERN detectors have so far failed to detect such neutrinos.

Pong Turns 50

An illustration of the pong game with the numbers \u201c6\u201d and \u201c9\u201d on top. MCKIBILLO

Atari changed the course of video games when it released its first game, Pong, in 1972. While not the first video game—or even the first to be presented in an upright, arcade-style cabinet—Pong was the first to be commercially successful. The game was developed by engineer Allan Alcorn and originally assigned to him as a test after he was hired, before he began working on actual projects. However, executives at Atari saw potential in Pong’s simple game play and decided to develop it into a real product. Unlike the countless video games that came after it, the original Pong did not use any code or microprocessors. Instead, it was built from a television and transistor-transistor logic.

The Green Hydrogen Boom

An illustration of a generator with large, circular blades. MCKIBILLO

Utility company Energias de Portugal (EDP), based in Lisbon, is on track to begin operating a 3-megawatt green hydrogen plant in Brazil by the end of the year. Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced in sustainable ways, using solar or wind-powered electrolyzers to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. According to the International Energy Agency, only 0.1 percent of hydrogen is produced this way. The plant will replace an existing coal-fired plant and generate hydrogen—which can be used in fuel cells—using solar photovoltaics. EDP’s roughly US $7.9 million pilot program is just the tip of the green hydrogen iceberg. Enegix Energy has announced plans for a $5.4 billion green hydrogen plant in the same Brazilian state, Ceará, where the EDP plant is being built. The green hydrogen market is predicted to generate a revenue of nearly $10 billion by 2028, according to a November 2021 report by Research Dive.

A Permanent Space Station for China

An illustration of a space station MCKIBILLO

China is scheduled to complete its Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station in 2022. The station, China’s first long-term space habitat, was preceded by the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 stations, which orbited from 2011 to 2018 and 2016 to 2019, respectively. The new station’s core module, the Tianhe, was launched in April 2021. A further 10 missions by the end of 2022 will deliver other components and modules, with construction to be completed in orbit. The final station will have two laboratory modules in addition to the core module. Tiangong will orbit at roughly the same altitude as the International Space Station but will be only about one-fifth the mass of the ISS.

A Cool Form of Energy Storage

An illustration of a lightning bolt in an ice cube. MCKIBILLO

Cryogenic energy-storage company Highview Power will begin operations at its Carrington plant near Manchester, England, this year. Cryogenic energy storage is a long-term method of storing electricity by cooling air until it liquefies (about –196 °C). Crucially, the air is cooled when electricity is cheaper—at night, for example—and then stored until electricity demand peaks. The liquid air is then allowed to boil back into a gas, which drives a turbine to generate electricity. The 50-megawatt/250-megawatt-hour Carrington plant will be Highview Power’s first commercial plant using its cryogenic storage technology, dubbed CRYOBattery. Highview Power has said it plans to build a similar plant in Vermont, although it has not specified a timeline yet.

Carbon-Neutral Cryptocurrency?

An illustration of a coin with stars around it. MCKIBILLO

Seattle-based startup Nori is set to offer a cryptocurrency for carbon removal. Nori will mint 500 million tokens of its Ethereum-based currency (called NORI). Individuals and companies can purchase and trade NORI, and eventually exchange any NORI they own for an equal number of carbon credits. Each carbon credit represents a tonne of carbon dioxide that has already been removed from the atmosphere and stored in the ground. When exchanged in this way, a NORI is retired, making it impossible for owners to try to “double count” carbon credits and therefore seem like they’re offsetting more carbon than they actually have. The startup has acknowledged that Ethereum and other blockchain-based technologies consume an enormous amount of energy, so the carbon it sequesters could conceivably originate in cryptocurrency mining. However, 2022 will also see Ethereum scheduled to switch to a much more energy-efficient method of verifying its blockchain, called proof-of-stake, which Nori will take advantage of when it launches.


Match ID: 45 Score: 12.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 222 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china, 4.29 south korea, 2.86 taiwan

Sri Lankan government accused of draconian treatment of protesters
Fri, 05 Aug 2022 08:28:16 GMT

New president Ranil Wickremesinghe is attempting to crush mass protests that forced out predecessor

The Sri Lankan government has been accused of a draconian crackdown on protesters who were involved in toppling Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president, with activists facing intimidation, surveillance and arbitrary arrest.

Dozens of protesters have been detained by the police in recent days as the government, led by the newly appointed president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, tried to crush the mass protest movement that forced Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign in early July.

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Match ID: 46 Score: 10.71 source: www.theguardian.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 10.71 sri lanka

Border Patrol Agents Are Trashing Sikh Asylum-Seekers’ Turbans
Tue, 02 Aug 2022 17:45:44 +0000

“The turban is sacred.” At least 64 Sikh men have had their headwear confiscated and discarded by Yuma’s Border Patrol.

The post Border Patrol Agents Are Trashing Sikh Asylum-Seekers’ Turbans appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 47 Score: 10.00 source: theintercept.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 10.00 india

Third member of Cardiff family dies from ‘poisoning’ in Bangladesh
Sat, 06 Aug 2022 10:35:06 GMT

Death of Samira Islam, 20, follows deaths of Rafiqul, 51, and Mahiqul, 16, during holiday

A woman has become the latest family member of a British family of five on holiday in Bangladesh to die from a suspected poisoning.

Samira Islam, 20, died on Friday after she was discovered unconscious in a locked room by police officers on 26 July. Her father, Rafiqul Islam, 51, a taxi driver, and his 16-year-old son, Mahiqul, also died in the rented flat in the eastern city of Sylhet.

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Match ID: 48 Score: 8.57 source: www.theguardian.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 8.57 bangladesh

What V2G Tells Us About EVs and the Grid
Mon, 01 Aug 2022 18:57:18 +0000


As the number of electric vehicles on the world’s roads explodes, electric utilities are grappling with increasing demand while simultaneously having to stabilize their grids where more intermittent renewable-energy sources like wind and solar are coming online. For utilities looking for ways to store power for later use, all those shiny new EVs might look like rolling batteries that they can not only charge but also draw power from when demand exceeds supply. That’s the promise of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.


While China accounted for about half the 6.75 million EVs sold worldwide in 2021, according to Sweden-based analysts EV Volumes, Europe also showed strong growth. There, sales of EVs as part of the overall automobile market rose from 10 percent in 2020 to 17 percent in 2021, with 2.3 million sold. And it is in Europe where we find one of the largest V2G deployments. Longtime IEEE Spectrum contributor Michael Dumiak, who is based in Germany, ventured over to Utrecht in the Netherlands to report on the city’s ambitious V2G project.

To meet the Dutch government’s mandate for all new cars to be zero-emissions by 2030, municipalities like Utrecht as well as utilities and private-sector partners will have to work together to locate new bidirectional charging stations that won’t overload transformers. When discussing the scope of change in the proverbial pipeline, renewables plus EVs plus grids in need of upgrades to handle the millions of new EVs projected to hit Europe’s roads in the next few years, one Dutch researcher told Dumiak, “Our grid was not designed for this.”

Nor was grid-scale storage top of mind among the pioneers of V2G, at least not at the beginning. In the online-only feature story (coming soon), technology historian Matthew Eisler of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow points out that V2G technology was originally conceived as vehicle-to-home, not vehicle-to-grid.

Eisler’s piece charts the history of V2G and tells the story of the California company AC Propulsion. He documents how engineers Wally Rippel, Alan Cocconi, and Paul Carosa founded AC Propulsion in the early 1990s and produced a two-seater sports car called the Tzero, which featured bidirectional charging capability. As Eisler points out, this feature had been implemented to give drivers the ability, in an emergency, to charge another EV. Now that ability is being extended to the grid, raising a host of new questions.

“And how will batteries with chemistries designed for the EV duty cycle perform in stationary power applications? Will V2G degrade such batteries and reduce their value in transportation? Those questions are far from resolved and yet are key to the success of bidirectional vehicle power,” Eisler writes, adding that many carmakers don’t yet have sufficient incentive to equip their cars for bidirectional power. And even if the auto industry does eventually jump on the bidirectional bandwagon, Eisler says that “it is not yet clear whether batteries designed for the duty cycle of the electric vehicle will prove suitable” for grid storage.

The tensions that exist at the interface of these two massive sectors–power and transportation–threaten to hobble the EV market as Spectrum contributing editor and renowned risk analyst Robert N. Charette noted when I talked to him recently about a series of articles he’s working on that focuses on the risks inherent in mass vehicular electrification.

While engineers are acutely aware of the enormous impediments blocking the road to a cleaner EV future, Charette believes that politicians and government officials have become detached from the expensive realities involved in retooling the electric-power infrastructure to accommodate tens of millions of new EVs. We hope policymakers take heed of Charette’s warnings about the difficulties ahead, which will appear online starting next month.


Match ID: 49 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 8 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

The Unsung Inventor Who Chased the LED Rainbow
Sun, 31 Jul 2022 15:00:00 +0000


Walk through half a football field’s worth of low partitions, filing cabinets, and desks. Note the curved mirrors hanging from the ceiling, the better to view the maze of engineers, technicians, and support staff of the development laboratory. Shrug when you spot the plastic taped over a few of the mirrors to obstruct that view.

Go to the heart of this labyrinth and there find M. George Craford, R&D manager for the optoelectronics division of Hewlett-Packard Co., San Jose, Calif. Sitting in his shirtsleeves at an industrial beige metal desk piled with papers, amid dented bookcases, gym bag in the corner, he does not look like anybody’s definition of a star engineer.

Appearances are deceiving.


This article was first published as “M. George Craford.” It appeared in the February 1995 issue of IEEE Spectrum. A PDF version is available on IEEE Xplore. The photographs appeared in the original print version.


“Take a look around during the next few days,” advised Nick Holonyak Jr., the John Bardeen professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and the creator of the first LEDs. “Every yellow light-emitting diode you see—that’s George’s work.”

Holonyak sees Craford as an iceberg—showing a small tip but leaving an amazing breadth and depth unseen. Indeed, Craford does prove to be full of surprises—the gym bag, for example. He skips lunch for workouts in HP’s basement gym, he said, to get in shape for his next adventure, whatever that might be. His latest was climbing the Grand Teton; others have ranged from parachute jumping to whitewater canoeing.

His biggest adventure, though, has been some 30 years of research into light-emitting diodes.

The call of space

When Craford began his education for a technical career, in the 1950s, LEDs had yet to be invented. It was the adventure of outer space that called to him.

The Iowa farm boy was introduced to science by Illa Podendorf, an author of children’s science books and a family friend who kept the young Craford supplied with texts that suited his interests. He dabbled in astronomy and became a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. He built rockets. He performed chemistry experiments, one time, he recalls with glee, generating an explosion that cracked a window in his home laboratory. When the time came, in 1957, to pick a college and a major, he decided to pursue space science, and selected the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, because space pioneer James Van Allen was a physics professor there.

Vital statistics


Name

Magnus George Craford

Date of birth

Dec. 29, 1938

Birthplace

Sioux City, Iowa

Height

185 cm

Family

Wife, Carol; two adult sons, David and Stephen

Education

BA in physics, University of Iowa, 1961; MS and PhD in physics, University of Illinois, 1963 and 1967

First job

Weeding soybean fields

First electronics job

Analyzing satellite data from space

Patents

About 10

People most respected

Explorer and adventurer Sir Richard Burton, photographer Galen Rowell, Nobel­ Prize winner John Bardeen, LED pioneer Nick Holonyak Jr.

Most recent book read

The Charm School

Favorite book

Day of the Jackal

Favorite periodicals

Scientific American, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Business Week

Favorite music

String quartets

Favorite composers

Mozart, Beethoven

Computer

“I don’t use one”

Favorite TV show

“NYPD Blue”

Favorite food

Thai, Chinese

Favorite restaurant

Dining room at San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton Hotel

Favorite movies

Bridge on the River Kwai, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Lion in Winter

Leisure activity

Hiking, walking, snow skiing, bicycling, tennis, and, most recently, technical mountain climbing.

Car

Sable Wagon (a company car)

Pet peeves

“People that work for me who don’t come to me with little problems, which fester and turn into big ones.”

Organizational membership

IEEE, Society for Information Display

Favorite awards

National Academy of Engineering, IEEE Fellow, IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award; but “everything you do is a team thing, so I have mixed feelings about awards.”


As the space race heated up, Craford’s interest in space science waned, in spite of a summer job analyzing data returned from the first satellites. He had learned a bit about semiconductors, an emerging field, and Van Allen pointed him toward the solid-state physics program at the University of Illinois, where Craford studied first for a master’s degree, then a PhD.

The glowing Dewar

For his doctoral thesis, Craford began investigating tunneling effects in Josephson junctions. He had invested several years in that research when Holonyak, a pioneer in visible lasers and light-emitting diodes, left his position at General Electric Co. and joined the Illinois faculty. Craford met him at a seminar, where Holonyak was ex­plaining his work in LEDs. Recalled Craford: “He had a little LED—just a red speck—and he plunged it into a Dewar of liquid nitrogen, and it lit up the whole flask with a bright red light.”

Entranced, Craford immediately spoke to his thesis adviser about switching, a fairly unusual proposal, since it involved dropping years of work. “My thesis adviser was good about it; he had been spending less time around the lab lately, and Holonyak was building up a group, so he was willing to take me on.”

Craford believes he persuaded the laser pioneer to accept him, the senior man recalls things differently.

Craford’s adviser “was running for U.S. Congress,” Holonyak said, “and he told me, ‘I’ve got this good student, but I’m busy with politics, and everything we do someone publishes ahead of me. I can’t take good care of him. I’d like you to pick him up.”’

However it happened, Craford’s career path was finally set—and the lure of the glowing red Dewar never dimmed.

Holonyak was growing gallium arsenide phosphide and using it successfully to get bright LEDs and lasers. He assigned his new advisee the job of borrowing some high-pressure equipment for experiments with the material. After finding a professor with a pressure chamber he was willing to lend, Craford set up work in the basement of the materials research building. He would carry GaAsP samples from the lab to the materials research basement, cool them in liquid nitrogen, increase the pressure to study the variation of resistivity, and see unexpected effects.

“Just cooling some samples would cause the resistance to go up several times. But add pressure, and they would go up several orders of magnitude,” Craford said. “We couldn’t figure out why.”

Eventually, Craford and a co-worker, Greg Stillman, determined that variations in resistance were related not only to pressure but also to light shining on the samples. “When you cooled a sample and then shone the light on it, the resistance went down—way down—and stayed that way for hours or days as long as the sample was kept at low temperature, an effect called persistent photoconductivity.” Further research showed that it occurred in samples doped with sulfur but not tellurium. Craford and Stillman each had enough material for a thesis and for a paper published in the Physical Review.

The phenomenon seemed to have little practical use, and Craford put it out of his mind, until several years later when researchers at Bell Laboratories found it in gallium aluminum arsenide. “Bell Labs called it the DX Center, which was catchy, studied it intensively, and over time, many papers have been published on it by various groups,” Craford said. Holonyak’s group’s contribution was largely forgotten.

“He doesn’t promote himself,” Holonyak said of Craford, “and sometimes this troubles me about George; I’d like to get him to be more forward about the fact that he has done something.”



Move to Monsanto

After receiving his PhD, Craford had several job offers. The most interesting were from Bell Laboratories and the Monsanto Co. Both were working on LEDs, but Monsanto researchers were focusing on gallium arsenide phosphide, Bell researchers on gallium phosphide. Monsanto’s research operation was less well known than Bell Labs’ and taking the Monsanto job seemed to be a bit of a risk. But Craford, like his hero—adventurer Richard Burton, who spent years seeking the source of the Nile—has little resistance to choosing the less well-trodden path.

Besides, “Gallium phosphide just didn’t seem right,” said Craford, “but who knew?”

In his early days at Monsanto, Craford experimented with both lasers and LEDs. He focused on LEDs full time when it became clear that the defects he and his group were encountering in growing GaAsP on GaAs substrates would not permit fabrication of competitive lasers.

[He] didn’t toot his own horn. “When George [Craford] published the work, he put the names of the guys he had growing crystals and putting the things together ahead of his name.”
—Nick Holonyak

The breakthrough that allowed Craford and his team to go beyond Holonyak’s red LEDs to create very bright orange, yellow, and green LEDs was prompted, ironically, by Bell Labs. A Bell researcher who gave a seminar at Monsanto mentioned the use of nitrogen doping to make indirect semiconductors act more like direct ones. Direct semiconductors are usually better than indirect for LEDs, Craford explained, but the indirect type still has to be used because of band gaps wide enough to give off light in the green, yellow, and orange part of the spectrum. The Bell researcher indicated that the labs had had considerable success with Zn-O doping of gallium phosphide and some success with nitrogen doping of gallium phosphide. Bell Labs, however, had published early experimental work suggesting that nitrogen did not improve GaAsP LEDs.


Man holding panel with 6 by 3 array of LEDs over his head with both hands


Nonetheless, Craford believed in the promise of nitrogen doping rather than the published results. “We decided that we could grow better crystal and the experiment would work for us,” he said.

A small team of people at Monsanto did make it work. Today, some 25 years later, these nitrogen-doped GaAsP LEDs still form a significant proportion—some 5-10 billion—of the 20-30 billion LEDs sold annually in the world today.

“The initial reaction was, ‘Wow, that’s great, but our customers are very happy with red LEDs. Who needs other colors?’”
—George Craford

Again, Holonyak complains, Craford didn’t toot his own horn. “When George published the work, he put the names of the guys he had growing crystals and putting the things together ahead of his name.”

His peers, however, have recognized Craford as the creative force behind yellow LEDs, and he was recently made a member of the National Academy of Engineering to honor this work.

Craford recalls that the new palette of LED colors took some time to catch on. “The initial reaction,” he said, “was, ‘Wow, that’s great, but our customers are very happy with red LEDs. Who needs other colors?’”

Westward ho!

After the LED work was published, a Monsanto reorganization bumped Craford up from the lab bench to manager of advanced technology. One of his first tasks was to select researchers to be laid off. He recalls this as one of the toughest jobs of his life, but subsequently found that he liked management. “You have more variety; you have more things that you are semi-competent in, though you pay the price of becoming a lot less competent in any one thing,” he told IEEE Spectrum.

Soon, in 1974, he was bumped up again to technology director, and moved from Monsanto’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis to its electronics division headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. Craford was responsible for research groups developing technology for three divisions in Palo Alto, St. Louis, and St. Peters, Mo. One dealt with compound semiconductors, another with LEDs, and the third with silicon materials. He held the post until 1979.

Even as a manager, he remained a “scientist to the teeth,” said David Russell, Monsanto’s director of marketing during Craford’s tenure as technology director. “He is a pure intellectual scientist to a fault for an old peddler like me.”

Though always the scientist, Craford also has a reputation for relating well to people. “George is able to express complicated technical issues in a way that all of us can understand,” said James Leising, product development manager for HP’s optoelectronics division.

Leising recalled that when he was production engineering manager, a position that occasionally put him in conflict with the research group, “George and I were always able to work out the conflicts and walk away friends. That wasn’t always the case with others in his position.” One time in particular, Leising recalled, Craford convinced the production group of the need for precise control of its processes by graphically demonstrating the intricacies of the way semiconductor crystals fit upon one another.

As an executive, Craford takes credit for no individual achievements at Monsanto during that time, but said, “I was proud of the fact that, somehow, we managed to be worldwide competitors in all our businesses.” Even so, Monsanto decided to sell off its optoelectronics business and offered Craford a job back in St. Louis, where he would have been in charge of research and development in the company’s silicon business.

Craford thought about this offer long and hard. He liked Monsanto; he had a challenging and important job, complete with a big office, oak furniture, a private conference room, and a full-time administrative assistant. But moving back to St. Louis would end his romance with those tiny semiconductor lights that could make a Dewar glow, and when the time came, he just couldn’t do it.

He did the Silicon Valley walk: across the street to the nearest competitor, in this case, Hewlett-Packard Co.

Instead, he did the Silicon Valley walk: across the street to the nearest competitor, in this case, Hewlett-Packard Co. The only job it could find that would let him work with LEDs was a big step down from technology director—a position as R&D section manager, directing fewer than 20 people. This meant a cut in salary and perks, but Craford took it.

The culture was different, to say the least. No more fancy office and private conference room; at HP Craford gets only “a cubby, a tin desk, and a tin chair.”

And, he told Spectrum, “I love it.”

He found the HP culture to be less political than Monsanto’s, and believes that the lack of closed offices promotes collaboration. At HP, he interacts more with engineers, and there is a greater sense that the whole group is pulling together. It is more open and communicative—it has to be, with most engineers’ desks merely 1.5 meters apart. “I like the whole style of the place,” he declared.

Now he has moved up, to R&D manager of HP’s optoelectronics division, with a larger group of engineers under him. (He still has the cubby and metal desk, however.)

As a manager, Craford sees his role as building teams, and judging which kinds of projects are worth focusing on. “I do a reasonably good job of staying on the path between being too conservative and too blue sky,” he told Spectrum. “It would be a bad thing for an R&D manager to say that every project we’ve done has been successful, because then you’re not taking enough chances; however, we do have to generate enough income for the group on what we sell to stay profitable.”



Said Fred Kish, HP R&D project manager under Craford: “We have embarked upon some new areas of research that, to some people, may have been questionable risks, but George was willing to try.”

Craford walks that path between conservatism and risk in his personal life as well, although some people might not believe it, given his penchant for adventurous sports: skydiving, whitewater canoeing, marathon running, and rock climbing. These are measured risks, according to Craford: ‘‘The Grand Teton is a serious mountain, but my son and I took a rock-climbing course, and we went up with a guy who is an expert, so it seemed like a manageable risk.”

Holonyak recalls an occasion when a piece of crystal officially confined to the Monsanto laboratory was handed to him by Craford on the grounds that an experiment Holonyak was attempting was important. Craford “could have gotten fired for that, but he was willing to gamble.”

“I hope to see the day when LEDs will illuminate not just a Dewar but a room.”
—George Craford

Craford is also known as being an irrepressible asker of questions.

“His methods of asking questions and looking at problems brings people in the group to a higher level of thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving,’’ Kish said.

Holonyak described Craford as “the only man I can tolerate asking me question after question, because he is really trying to understand.”

Craford’s group at HP has done work on a variety of materials over the past 15 years, including gallium aluminum arsenide for high-brightness red LEDs and, more recently, aluminum gallium indium phosphide for high-brightness orange and yellow LEDs.

The latest generation of LEDs, Craford said, could replace incandescent lights in many applications. One use is for exterior lighting on automobiles, where the long life and small size of LEDs permit car designers to combine lower assembly costs with more unusual styling. Traffic signals and large-area display signs are other emerging applications. He is proud that his group’s work has enabled HP to compete with Japanese LED manufacturers and hold its place as one of the largest sellers of visible-light LEDs in the world.

Craford has not stopped loving the magic of LEDs. “Seeing them out and used continues to be fun,” he told Spectrum. “When I went to Japan and saw the LEDs on the Shinkansen [high-speed train), that was a thrill.”

He expects LEDs to go on challenging other forms of lighting and said, “I still hope to see the day when LEDs will illuminate not just a Dewar but a room.”

Editor’s note: George Craford is currently a fellow at Philips LumiLEDs. He got his wish and then some.




Match ID: 50 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 5.71 japan

Long March 5B: Debris from Chinese rocket falls back to Earth
Sun, 31 Jul 2022 12:07:59 GMT
China says most of the rocket fragments burnt during the re-entry over the Sulu Sea.
Match ID: 51 Score: 5.71 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 9 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

The Fall and Rise of Russian Electronic Warfare
Sat, 30 Jul 2022 15:00:01 +0000


A month into Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian troops stumbled upon a nondescript shipping container at an abandoned Russian command post outside Kyiv. They did not know it then, but the branch-covered box left by retreating Russian soldiers was possibly the biggest intelligence coup of the young war.

Inside were the guts of one of Russia’s most sophisticated electronic warfare (EW) systems, the Krasukha-4. First fielded in 2014, the Krasukha-4 is a centerpiece of Russia’s strategic EW complement. Designed primarily to jam airborne or satellite-based fire control radars in the X- and Ku-bands, the Krasukha-4 Is often used alongside the Krasukha-2, which targets lower-frequency S-band search radars. Such radars are used on stalwart U.S. reconnaissance platforms, such as the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) and Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft.

And now Ukraine, including by extension its intelligence partners in NATO, had a Krasukha-4 to dissect and analyze.

That Russian troops would ditch the heart of such a valuable EW system was surprising in March, when Moscow was still making gains across the country and threatening Kyiv. Five months into the war, it is now apparent that Russia’s initial advance was already faltering when the Krasukha-4 was left by the roadside. With highways around Kyiv clogged by armored columns, withdrawing units needed to lighten their load.

The abandoned Krasukha-4 was emblematic of the puzzling failure of Russian EW in the first few months of Russia’s invasion. After nearly a decade of owning the airwaves during a Moscow-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, EW was not decisive when Russia went to war in February. The key questions now are, why was this so, what is next for Russian EW in this oddly anachronistic war, and how might it affect the outcome?

At least three of Russia’s five electronic warfare brigades are engaged in Ukraine. And with more exposure to NATO-supplied radios, experienced Russian EW operators who cut their teeth in Syria are beginning to detect and degrade Ukrainian communications.

Electronic warfare is a pivotal if invisible part of modern warfare. Military forces rely on radios, radars, and infrared detectors to coordinate operations and find the enemy. They use EW to control the spectrum, protecting their own sensing and communications while denying access to the electromagnetic spectrum by enemy troops.

U.S. military doctrine defines EW as comprising electronic attack (EA), electronic protection, and electronic support. The most familiar of these is EA, which includes jamming, where a transmitter overpowers or disrupts the waveform of a hostile radar or radio. For instance, the Russian R-330Zh Zhitel jammer can reportedly shut down—within a radius of tens of kilometers—GPS, satellite communications, and cellphone networks in the VHF and UHF bands. Deception is also part of EA, in which a system substitutes its own signal for an expected radar or radio transmission. For example, Russian forces sent propaganda and fake orders to troops and civilians during the 2014–2022 insurgency in eastern Ukraine by hijacking the local cellular network with the RB-341V Leer-3 system. Using soldier-portable Orlan-10 drones managed by a truck-mounted control system, the Leer-3 can extend its range and impact VHF and UHF communications over wider areas.

Three Russian soldiers climb on a wheeled vehicle supporting an antenna. The Zhitel jamming system can shut down, over tens of kilometers, GPS and satellite communications. This image shows the base of one of the four antennas in a typical setup.informnapalm.org

The converse of electronic attack is electronic support (ES), which is used to passively detect and analyze an opponent’s transmissions. ES is essential for understanding the potential vulnerabilities of an adversary’s radars or radios. Therefore, most Russian EA systems include ES capabilities that allow them to find and quickly characterize potential jamming targets. Using their ES capabilities, most EA systems can also geolocate enemy radio and cellphone transmissions and then pass that information on so that it can be used to direct artillery or rocket fire—with often devastating effects.

A few Russian systems conduct ES exclusively; one example is the Moskva-1, which is a precision HF/VHF receiver that can use the reflections of TV and radio signals to conduct passive coherent location or passive radar operations. Basically, the system picks up the radio waves of commercial TV and radio transmitters in an area, which will reflect off targets like ships or aircraft. By triangulating among multiple sets of received waves, the target can be pinpointed with sufficient accuracy to track it and, if needed, shoot at it.

Key Russian Electronic Warfare Systems Deployed in Ukraine

Electronic Warfare System

Purpose

First Fielded

Notes

1RL257 Krasukha-4 Targets X-band and K u-band radars, particularly on planes, drones, missiles, and low-orbit satellites 2014 Consists of two KamAZ-6350 trucks, one a command post and the other outfitted with sensors
1L269 Krasukha-2 Targets S-band radars, particularly on airborne platforms. Often used paired with the Krasukha-4 2011 Also based on two KamAZ-6350 trucks
RB-341V Leer-3 Disrupts VHF and UHF communications, including cellular communications and military radios, over hundreds of kilometers 2015 Consists of a truck-based command post that works with Orlan-10 drones to extend its range
RH-330Zh Zhitel Jammer; can shut down GPS and satellite communications over a radius of tens of kilometers 2011 Consists of a truck command post and four telescopic-mast phased-array antennas
Murmansk-BN Long-range detection and jamming of HF military radios 2020 Russian sources claim it can jam communications thousands of kilometers away
R-934B VHF/UHF jammer that targets wireless and wired communications 1996 Consists of either a truck or a tracked vehicle and a towed 16-kilowatt generator
SPN-2, 3, 4 X- or K u-band jammers that target airborne radars and air-to-surface guidance-control radars (not available) Consists of a combat-control vehicle and an antenna vehicle
Repellent-1 Antidrone system 2016 Weighs more than 20 tonnes
Moéskva-1 Precision HF/VHF receiver for passive coherent location of enemy ships and planes 2015 Published sources cite a range of up to 400 kilometers
Sources: Wikipedia; Military Factory; Global Defence Technology; U.S. Army; Air Power Australia; U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; Russian Electronic Warfare: The Role of Electronic Warfare in the Russian Armed Forces, Jonas Kjellén, Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), 2018; Defence24

Russia uses specialized electronic-warfare units to conduct its EA and ES operations. In its ground forces, dedicated EW brigades of several hundred soldiers are assigned to the five Russian military districts—West, South, North, Central, and East—to support regional EW operations that include disrupting enemy surveillance radars and satellite communication networks over hundreds of kilometers. EW brigades are equipped with the larger Krasukha-2 and -4, Leer-3, Moskva-1, and Murmansk-BN systems (the latter of which detects and jams HF radios). Each Russian army maneuver brigade also includes an EW company of about 100 personnel that is trained to support local actions within about 50 kilometers using smaller systems, like the R-330Zh Zhitel.

Militaries use electronic protection (EP), also known as electronic countermeasures, to defend against EA and ES. Long considered an afterthought by western forces after the Cold War, EP has risen again to be perhaps the most important aspect of EW as Russia and China field increasingly sophisticated jammers and sensors. EP includes tactics and technologies to shield radio transmissions from being detected or jammed. Typical techniques include using narrow beams or low-power transmissions, as well as advanced waveforms that are resistant to jamming.

Experts have long touted Russia as having some of the most experienced and best-equipped EW units in the world. So in the early days of the 24 February invasion, analysts expected Russian forces to quickly gain control of, and then dominate, the electromagnetic spectrum. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, EW has been a key part of Russian operations in the “gray zone,” the shadowy realm between peace and war, in the Donbas region. Using Leer-3 EW vehicles and Orlan-10 drones, Moscow-backed separatists and mercenaries would jam Ukrainian communications and send propaganda over local mobile-phone networks. When Russian forces were ready to strike, the ground and airborne systems would detect Ukrainian radios and target them with rocket attacks.

But after nearly a decade of rehearsals in eastern Ukraine, when the latest escalation and invasion began in February, Russian EW was a no-show. Ukrainian defenders did not experience the jamming they faced in the Donbas and were not being targeted by drones or ground-based electronic surveillance. Although Russian forces did blow up some broadcast radio and television towers, Ukraine’s leaders continued to reach the outside world unimpeded by Russian EW.

Using counter-drone systems provided by the United States before the invasion, Ukrainian troops have downed hundreds of Russian drones by jamming their GPS signals or possibly by damaging their electronics with high-powered microwave beams.

Russia is gaining the upper hand now, having consolidated control in Ukraine's east and south as the invaded country begins running out of soldiers, weapons, and time. With more defined front lines and better logistics support from their homeland, Russian troops are now using their EW systems to guide artillery and rocket strikes. But instead of being the leading edge of Russia’s offensive, EW is coming into play only after Moscow resorted to siege tactics that call to mind the origins of EW in World War I.

The RF spectrum was a lot less busy then. Commanders used their new radios to coordinate troop movements and direct fire and employed early passive direction-finding equipment to locate or listen to enemy radio transmissions. While communications jamming emerged at the same time, it was not widely employed. Radio operators realized that simply keying their systems could send out a blast of white noise to drown the transmissions of other radios operating at the same frequencies. But this tactic had limited operational value, because it also prevented forces doing the jamming from using the same radio frequencies to communicate. Moreover, warfare happened slowly enough that the victim could simply wait out the jammer.

Thus, World War I EW was exemplified by passive detection of radio transmissions and infrequent, rudimentary jamming. The shift to more sophisticated EW systems and tactics occurred with World War II, when technological advances made airborne radars and jammers practical, better tuners allowed jamming and communicating on separate frequencies, and the increased tempo of warfare gave combatants an incentive to not just jam enemy transmissions but to intercept and exploit them as well.

Consider the Battle of Britain, when the main challenge for German pilots was reaching the right spot to drop their bombs. Germany used a radio-beacon system it called Knickebein (“crooked leg” in English) to guide its bombers to British aircraft factories, which the British countered with fake beacons that they code-named Aspirin. To support British warplanes attacking Germany in 1942, the Royal Air Force (RAF) fielded the GEE hyperbolic radio navigation system that allowed its bomber crews to use transmissions from British ground stations to determine their in-flight positions. Germany countered with jammers that drowned out the GEE transmissions.

The World War II EW competition extended to sensing and communication networks. RAF and U.S. bombers dispensed clouds of metallic chaff called Window that confused German air-defense radars by creating thousands of false radar targets. And they used VHF communication jammers, which the British called Jostle, to interfere with German ground controllers attempting to vector fighters toward allied bombers.

The move-countermove cycle accelerated in response to Soviet military aggressions and advances in the 1950s. Active countermeasures such as jammers or decoys proliferated, thanks to technological advances that enabled EW systems with greater power, wider frequency ranges, and more complex waveforms, and which were small enough to fit aircraft as well as ships.

Later, as Soviet military sensors, surface-to-air missiles, and antiship cruise missiles grew in their sophistication and numbers, the U.S. Department of Defense sought to break out of the radar-versus-electronic-attack competition by leveraging emerging materials, computer simulation, and other technologies. In the years since, the U.S. military has developed multiple generations of stealth aircraft and ships with severely reduced radio-frequency, infrared, acoustic, and visual signatures. Russia followed with its own stealth platforms, albeit more slowly after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

But today, years of underfunded aviation training and maintenance and the rapid introduction by NATO of Stinger shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles have largely grounded Russian jets and helicopters during the Ukraine invasion. So when Russian troops crossed the border, they faced a situation not unlike the armies of World War I.

Without airpower, the Russian assault crawled at the speed of their trucks and tanks. And although they proved effective in the Donbas during the last decade, Russian drones are controlled by line-of-sight radios operating in the Ka- and Ku-bands, which prevented them from straying too far from their operators on the ground. With Russian columns moving along multiple axes into Ukraine and unable to send EW drones well over the horizon, any jamming of Ukrainian forces, some of which were interspersed between Russian formations, would have also taken out Russian radios.

Russian EW units did use Leer-3 units to find Ukrainian fighters via their radio and cellphone transmissions, as they had in the Donbas. But unlike Ukraine’s rural east, the areas around Kyiv are relatively densely populated. With civilian cellphone transmissions mixed in with military communications, Russian ES systems were unable to pinpoint military transmitters and use that information to target Ukrainian troops. Making matters worse for the Russians, Ukrainian forces also began using the NATO Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, or SINCGARS.

Ukrainian troops had trained for a decade with SINCGARS, but the portable VHF combat radios were scarce until the lead-up to the Russian invasion, when the flood of NATO support sent SINCGARS radios to nearly every Ukrainian ground unit. Unlike Ukraine’s previous radios, which were Russian-built and included backdoors for the convenience of Russian intelligence, SINCGARS have built-in encryption. To protect against jamming and interception, SINCGARS automatically hops among frequencies up to 100 times a second across its overall coverage of 30 to 88 megahertz. Because SINCGARS can control signals within 25-kilohertz bands, the user can select among more than 2,000 channels.

As in World War I, the lack of airpower also affected the speed of conflict. The widely circulated videos of Russian armored convoys stuck along the roads around Kyiv were a stark reminder that ground operations can only move as fast as their fuel supply. In World War II and the Cold War, bombing missions and other air operations happened so quickly that even if jamming impacted friendly forces, the effect would be temporary, as the positions of jammers, jamming targets, and bystanders would quickly change. But when Russian forces were trundling toward the urban areas of northern Ukraine, they were going so slowly that they were unable to exploit changing geometries to get their jammers into positions from which they could have substantial effects. At the same time, Russian troops were not sitting still, which prevented them from setting up a large system like the Krasukha-4 to blind NATO radars in the air and in space.

Russian EW is gaining an advantage only now because Moscow’s strategy of quickly taking Kyiv failed, and it shifted to a grinding war of attrition in Ukraine’s south.

So what’s next? The Kremlin’s fortunes have improved now that its soldiers are fighting from Russian-held territory in Ukraine’s east. No longer spread out along multiple lines in suburban areas, invading troops are now able to use EW to support a strategy of incrementally gaining territory by finding Ukrainian positions and overwhelming them with Russia’s roughly 10-to-1 advantage in artillery.

As of this writing, at least three of Russia’s five EW brigades are engaged in Ukraine. And with more exposure to NATO-supplied radios, experienced Russian EW operators who cut their teeth in the last decade of war in Syria are beginning to detect and degrade Ukrainian communications. EW brigades are using the Leer-3’s Orlan-10 drones to detect Ukrainian artillery positions based on their radio emissions, although the encryption and frequency hopping of SINCGARS radios makes them hard to intercept and exploit. Because the front lines are now better defined compared to the early war around Kyiv, Russian forces can assume the detections are from Ukrainian military units and direct artillery and rocket fire against those locations.

side profile of an orlan 10 drone and a LEER-3 Russian military vehicle Russian troops are using Orlan-10 drones [foreground] in conjunction with the Leer-3 electronic-warfare system (which includes the truck in the background) to identify and attack Ukrainian units. iStockphoto

The Krasukha-4, which was too powerful and unwieldy to be useful during the assault on Kyiv, is also making a reappearance. Exploiting Russia’s territorial control in the Donbas, EW brigades are using the Krasukha-4 to jam the radars on such Ukrainian drones as the Bayraktar TB2, and to interfere with their communication links, preventing Ukrainian forces from locating Russian artillery emplacements.

To gain flexibility and mobility leading up to the invasion, the Russian army broke its 2,000-soldier maneuver brigades into smaller battalion tactical groups (BTGs) of 300 to 800 personnel in such a way that each included a portion of the original maneuver brigade’s EW company. Today, BTGs operating in southern and eastern Ukraine are employing shorter-range VHF-UHF electronic attack systems like the R-330Zh Zhitel to disable Ukrainian drones ranging from Bayraktar TB2s to small DJI Mavics by jamming their GPS signals. BTGs are also attacking Ukrainian communications using R-934B VHF and SPR-2 VHF/UHF jammers, with some success. Although Ukrainian soldiers have SINCGARS radios, they still rely on vulnerable cellphones and radios without encryption or frequency hopping when SINCGARS is down or unavailable.

But Ukraine is fighting back against Russia’s spectrum assault. Using counter-drone systems provided by the United States before the invasion, Ukrainian troops have downed hundreds of Russian drones by jamming their GPS signals or possibly by damaging their electronics with high-powered microwave beams, a specific type of EA where electromagnetic energy is used to generate high voltages in sensitive microelectronics that damage transistors and integrated circuits.

Ukrainian forces are also leveraging U.S.-supplied EW systems and training to jam Russian communications. Unlike their Ukrainian counterparts, Russian troops do not have a system like SINCGARS and often rely on cellphones or unencrypted radios to coordinate operations, making them susceptible to Ukrainian geolocation and jamming. In this way, stabilization of the front lines also helps Ukraine’s EW efforts because it allows quick correlation of transmissions to locations. Ukraine’s defenders also exploited a weakness of the large and powerful Russian EW systems—they are easy to find. Using U.S.-supplied ES gear, Ukrainian troops have been able to detect transmissions from systems like the Leer-3 or Krasukha-4 and direct rocket, artillery, and drone counterattacks against the truck-borne Russian systems.

The Ukraine invasion shows EW can change the course of a war, but it’s also showing that the fundamentals still matter. Without airpower or satellite-guided drones, Russia’s army could not get jammers over the horizon to degrade Ukrainian communications and radars in advance of troops moving on Kyiv. Forced to use short-range unmanned aircraft and ground systems, Russian EW brigades operating with BTGs had to worry about interfering with friendly operations and could not distinguish Ukrainian troops from civilians. They also had to stay on the move, reducing the utility of their large multivehicle EW systems. Russian EW is gaining an advantage only now because Moscow’s strategy of quickly taking Kyiv failed, and it shifted to a grinding war of attrition in Ukraine’s south.

So for now, unable to reach over the horizon, Russian EW ground units can jam Ukrainian troops only when they are separated by clearly defined battle lines. They are relying on systems like the Leer-3 to find Ukrainian emissions so Russian artillery can then overwhelm the defenders with volleys of shells and rockets. Russian EW systems like the Krasukha-4 and R-330Zh Zhitel can disable GPS or radars on Ukrainian drones, but it’s not substantially different from shooting down aircraft with guns. And although ES systems like the Moskva-4 could hear signals over the horizon, Russia is running out of the long-range missiles that could exploit such detections.

Perhaps the biggest lesson from Ukraine for EW is that winning the airwaves does not equal winning the war. Russia is on top of the EW war now only because its lighting assault became a pulverizing slog. The situation could quickly flip if Kyiv’s troops, with western support, regain control of Ukraine’s skies, where they could electronically and physically disrupt the management and logistics that keep Russia’s rickety war machine trundling along.


Match ID: 52 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 10 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

You Pay More When Companies Get Hacked
Sat, 30 Jul 2022 13:00:00 +0000
Plus: Google delays the end of cookies (again), EU officials were targeted with Pegasus spyware, and more of the top security news.
Match ID: 53 Score: 5.71 source: www.wired.com age: 10 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

How China Threatens to Splinter the Metaverse
Tue, 19 Jul 2022 12:00:00 +0000
In the future, the metaverse could be split into two: China and the rest of the world.
Match ID: 54 Score: 5.71 source: www.wired.com age: 21 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

Smiling Sam
Mon, 25 Apr 2022 10:03:00 +0200
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ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is all smiles after arriving at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, last week with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins.
Collectively known as Crew-4, the astronauts flew in from Houston, Texas, USA, and are spending the days ahead in quarantine before being launched this week to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom.

“This is getting real,” said Samantha. “It’s very emotional for me, that this final stretch to the launchpad has started with the landing here, on this runway.” Samantha recalled her childhood fascination watching the Space Shuttle launches in the 1980s and her reality now: “I am landing on the Space Shuttle landing facility!”

This is the second long-duration space mission for Samantha who first flew to the orbital outpost in 2014 for her Italian Space Agency ASI-sponsored mission Futura. This year’s ESA space mission, known as Minerva, will officially begin once she reaches the Station.
Samantha will be welcomed to the Space Station by fellow ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and enjoy a short handover in orbit before Matthias returns to Earth as part of Crew-3.
Throughout her mission, Samantha will hold the role of US Orbital Segment (USOS) lead, taking responsibility for all operations within the US, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Space Station. She will support around 35 European and many more international experiments in orbit.

Samantha has the honour of many ‘firsts’ in her spaceflight career. She was the first astronaut to brew a cup of coffee in space.

Her 2014 Futura mission held the record for the longest European space mission, at 199 days, until Thomas Pesquet’s mission Alpha in 2020.

Samantha was also the first astronaut to blog extensively during training and from space. Outpost 42: Earthlings’ guide to the galaxy is a treasure trove of 289 posts about living in space.

For mission Minerva, Samantha continues to trailblaze by being the first ever astronaut on social media platform TikTok, bringing space content and European research to a wider audience. Follow Samantha to go where no TikToker has gone before!

Stay #Cristofoready for launch updates on social media on twitter by following Samantha and ESA Spaceflight.


Match ID: 55 Score: 5.71 source: www.esa.int age: 106 days
qualifiers: 5.71 japan

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: 56 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 112 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: 57 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 124 days
qualifiers: 5.71 japan

Following the Money in the Air-Taxi Craze
Tue, 08 Feb 2022 15:04:00 +0000


When entrepreneur JoeBen Bevirt launched Joby Aviation 12 years ago, it was just one of a slew of offbeat tech projects at his Sproutwerx ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. Today, Joby has more than 1,000 employees and it’s backed by close to US $2 billion in investments, including $400 million from Toyota Motor Corporation along with big infusions from Uber and JetBlue.

Having raked in perhaps 30 percent of all the money invested in electrically-powered vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft so far, Joby is the colossus in an emerging class of startups working on these radical, battery-powered commercial flyers. All told, at least 250 companies worldwide are angling to revolutionize transportation in and around cities with a new category of aviation, called urban air mobility or advanced air mobility. With Joby at the apex, the category’s top seven companies together have hauled in more than $5 billion in funding—a figure that doesn’t include private firms, whose finances haven’t been disclosed.

But with some of these companies pledging to start commercial operations in 2024, there is no clear answer to a fundamental question: Are we on the verge of a stunning revolution in urban transportation, or are we witnessing, as aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia puts it, the “mother of all aerospace bubbles”?

Even by the standards of big-money tech investment, the vision is giddily audacious. During rush hour, the skies over a large city, such as Dubai or Madrid or Los Angeles, would swarm with hundreds, and eventually thousands, of eVTOL “air taxis.” Each would seat between one and perhaps half a dozen passengers, and would, eventually, be autonomous. Hailing a ride would be no more complicated than scheduling a trip on a ride-sharing app.

“We’re going to have to get the consumer used to thinking about flying in a small aircraft without a pilot on board. I have reservations about the general public’s willingness to accept that vision.”
—Laurie Garrow, Georgia Tech

And somehow, the cost would be no greater, either. In a discussion hosted by the Washington Post last July, Bevirt declared, “Our initial price point would be comparable to the cost of a taxi or an Uber, but our target is to move quickly down to the cost of what it costs you to drive your own car. And we believe that's the critical unlock to making this transformative to the world and for people’s daily lives.” Asked to put some dollar figures on his projection, Bevirt said, “Our goal is to launch this service [in 2024] at an average price of around $3 a mile and to move that down below $1 a mile over time.” The cost of an Uber varies by city and time of day, but it’s usually between $1 and $2 per mile, not including fees.

Industry analysts tend to have more restrained expectations. With the notable exception of China, they suggest, limited commercial flights will begin with eVTOL aircraft flown by human pilots, a phase that is expected to last six to eight years at least. Costs will be similar to those of helicopter trips, which tend to be in the range of $6 to $10 per mile or more. Of the 250+ startups in the field, only three—Kittyhawk, Wisk Aero (a joint venture of Kittyhawk and Boeing), and Ehang—plan to go straight to full autonomy without a preliminary phase involving pilots, says Chris Anderson, Chief Operating Officer at Kittyhawk.

To some, the autonomy issue is the heart of whether this entire enterprise can succeed economically. “When you figure in autonomy, you go from $3 a mile to 50 cents a mile,” says Anderson, citing studies done by his company. “You can’t do that with a pilot in the seat.”

Laurie A. Garrow, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, agrees. “For the large-scale vision, autonomy will be critical,” she says. “In order to get to the vision that people have, where this is a ubiquitous mode of transportation with a high market share, the only way to get that is by… eliminating the pilot.” Garrow, a civil engineer who co-directs the university’s Center for Urban and Regional Air Mobility, adds that autonomy presents challenges beyond technology: “We’re going to have to get the consumer used to thinking about flying in a small aircraft without a pilot on board. I have reservations about the general public’s willingness to accept that vision, especially early on.”

“The technical problems are, if not solved, then solvable. The main limiters are laws and regulations.”
—Chris Anderson, COO, Kittyhawk

Some analysts have much more fundamental doubts. Aboulafia, managing director at the consultancy AeroDynamic Advisory, says the figures simply don’t add up. eVTOL startups are counting on mass-manufacturing techniques to reduce the costs of these exotic aircraft, but such techniques have never been applied to producing aircraft on the scale specified in the projections. Even the anticipated lower operating costs, Aboulafia adds, won’t compensate. “If I started a car service here in Washington, D.C., using Rolls Royces, you’d think I was out of my mind, right?,” he asks. “But if I put batteries in those Rolls Royces, would you think I was any less crazy?”

What everyone agrees on is that achieving even a modest amount of success for eVTOLs will require surmounting entire categories of challenges, including regulations and certification, technology development, and the operational considerations of safely flying large numbers of aircraft in a small airspace.

To some, certification will be the highest hurdle. “The technical problems are, if not solved, then solvable,” says Anderson. “The main limiters are laws and regulations.”

There are dozens of aviation certification agencies in the world. But the three most important ones for these new aircraft are the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S., the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). Of the three, the FAA is considered the most challenging, for several reasons. One is that, to deal with eVTOLs, the agency has chosen to adapt its existing certification rules. That gives some observers pause, because the FAA does not have a body of knowledge and experience for certifying aircraft that fly by means of battery systems and electric motors. The EASA, on the other hand, has created an entirely new set of regulations tailored for eVTOL aircraft and related technology, according to Erin Rivera, senior associate for regulatory affairs at Lilium.

To clear an aircraft for commercial flight, the FAA actually requires three certifications: one for the aircraft itself, one for its operations, and one for its manufacturing. For the aircraft, the agency designates different categories, or “parts,” for different kinds of fliers. For eVTOLs (other than multicopters), the applicable category seems to be Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 23, which covers “normal, utility, acrobatic, and commuter category airplanes.” The certification process itself is performance based, meaning that the FAA establishes performance criteria that an aircraft must meet, but does not specify how it must meet them.

Because eVTOLs are so novel, the FAA is expected to lean on industry-developed standards referred to as Means of Compliance (MOC). The proposed MOCs must be acceptable to the FAA. Through a certification scheme known as the “issue paper process,” the applicant begins by submitting what’s known as a G1 proposal, which specifies the applicable certification standards and special conditions that must be met to achieve certification. The FAA reviews and then either approves or rejects the proposal. If it’s rejected, the applicant revises the proposal to address the FAA’s concerns and tries again.

“If very high levels of automation are critical to scaling, that will be very difficult to certify. How do you certify all the algorithms?”
—Matt Metcalfe, Deloitte Consulting

Some participants are wary. When he was the chief executive of drone maker 3D Robotics, Anderson participated in an analogous experiment in which the FAA had pledged to work more closely with industry to expedite certification of drone aircraft such as multicopters. “That was five years ago, and none of the drones have been certified,” Anderson points out. “It was supposed to be agile and streamlined, and it has been anything but.”

Nobody knows how many eVTOL startups have started the certification process with the FAA, although a good guess seems to be one or two dozen. Joby is furthest along in the process, according to Mark Moore, CEO of Whisper Aero, a maker of advanced electric propulsor systems in Crossville, Tenn. The G1 certification proposals are not public, but when the FAA accepts one (presumably Joby’s), it will become available through the U.S. Federal Register for public comment. Observers expect that to happen any day now.

This certification phase of piloted aircraft is fraught with unknowns because of the novelty of the eVTOL craft themselves. But experts say a greater challenge lies ahead, when manufacturers seek to certify the vehicles for autonomous flight. “If very high levels of automation are critical to scaling, that will be very difficult to certify,” says Matt Metcalfe, a managing director in Deloitte Consulting's Future of Mobility and Aviation practice. “That’s a real challenge, because it’s so complicated. How do you certify all the algorithms?”

“It’s a matter of, how do you ensure that autonomous technology is going to be as safe as a pilot?,” says an executive at one of the startups. “How do you certify that it’s always going to be able to do what it says? With true autonomous technology, the system itself can make an undetermined number of decisions, within its programming. And the way the current certification regulations work, is that they want to be able to know the inputs and outcome of every decision that the aircraft system makes. With a fully autonomous system, you can’t do that.”

Perhaps surprisingly, most experts contacted for this story agreed with Kittyhawk's Anderson that the technical challenges of building the aircraft themselves are solvable. Even autonomy—certification challenges aside—is within reach, most say. The Chinese company EHang has already offered fully autonomous, trial flights of its EH216 multicopter to tourists in the northeastern port city of Yantai and is now building a flight hub in its home city of Guangzhou. Wisk, Kittyhawk, Joby, and other companies have collectively conducted thousands of flights that were at least partially autonomous, without a pilot on board.

Experts foresee eVTOLs largely replacing helicopters for niche applications. There’s less agreement on whether middle-class people will ever be routinely whisked around cities for pennies a mile.

A more imposing challenge, and one likely to determine whether the grand vision of urban air mobility comes to pass, is whether municipal and aviation authorities can solve the challenges of integrating large numbers of eVTOLs into the airspace over major cities. Some of these challenges are, like the aircraft themselves, totally new. For example, most viable scenarios require the construction of “vertiports” in and around cities. These would be like mini airports where the eVTOLs would take off and land, be recharged, and take on and discharge passengers. Right now, it’s not clear who would pay for these. “Manufacturers probably won’t have the money to do it,” says Metcalfe at Deloitte.

As Georgia Tech's Garrow sees it, “vertiports may be one of the greatest constraints on scalability of UAM.” Vertiports, she explains, will be the “pinch points,” because at urban facilities, space will likely be limited to accommodating several aircraft at most. And yet at such a facility, room will be needed during rush hours to accommodate dozens of aircraft needing to land, be charged, take on passengers, and take off. “So the scalability of operations at the vertiports, and the amount of land space required to do that, are going to be two major challenges.”

Despite all the challenges, Garrow, Metcalfe, and others are cautiously optimistic that air mobility will eventually become part of the urban fabric in many cities. They foresee an initial period in which the eVTOLs largely replace helicopters in a few niche applications, such as linking downtown transportation depots to airports for those who can afford it, taking tourists on sightseeing tours, and transporting organs and high-risk patients among hospitals. There’s less agreement on whether middle-class people will ever be routinely whisked around cities for pennies a mile. Even some advocates think that’s more than 10 years away, if it happens at all.

If it does happen, a few studies have predicted that travel times and greenhouse-gas and pollutant emissions could all be reduced. A 2020 study published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found a substantial reduction in overall energy use for transportation under “optimistic” scenarios for urban air mobility. And a 2021 study at the University of California, Berkeley, found that in the San Francisco Bay area, overall travel times could be reduced with as few as 10 vertiports. The benefits went up as the number of vertiports increased and as the transfer times at the vertiports went down. But the study also warned that “vertiport scheduling and capacity may become bottlenecks that limit the value of UAM.”

Metacalfe notes that ubiquitous modern conveniences like online shopping have already unleashed tech-based revolutions on a par with the grand vision for UAM. “We tend to look at this through the lens of today,” he says. “And that may be the wrong way to look at it. Ten years ago we never would have thought we’d be getting two or three packages a day. Similarly, the way we move people and goods in the future could be very, very different from the way we do it today.”

This article appears in the March 2022 print issue as “What’s Behind the Air-Taxi Craze.”


Match ID: 58 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 182 days
qualifiers: 5.71 china

Taking Cosmology to the Far Side of the Moon
Wed, 19 Jan 2022 16:08:15 +0000


A team of Chinese researchers are planning to use the moon as a shield to detect otherwise hard-to-observe low frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum and open up a new window on the universe. The Discovering the Sky at the Longest Wavelengths (DSL) mission aims to seek out faint, low-frequency signals from the early cosmos using an array of 10 satellites in lunar orbit. If it launches in 2025 as planned, it will offer one of the very first glimpses of the universe through a new lens.

Nine “sister” spacecraft will make observations of the sky while passing over the far side of the moon, using our 3,474-kilometer-diameter celestial neighbor to block out human-made and other electromagnetic interference. Data collected in this radio-pristine environment will, according to researchers, be gathered by a larger mother spacecraft and transmitted to Earth when the satellites are on the near side of the moon and in view of ground stations.

The mission aims to map the sky and catalog the major sources of long-wavelength signals—the last, largely undiscovered area of the electromagnetic spectrum—according to a paper on the DSL mission by Xuelei Chen and others at the National Astronomical Observatories and the National Space Science Center, two institutions under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“A mission like this being in lunar orbit could make a scientific impact, particularly on cosmic dawn and dark ages science,” says Marc Klein Wolt, managing director of the Radboud Radio Lab in the Netherlands and a member of the Netherlands-China Low Frequency Explorer (NCLE), aboard the Chinese Queqiao relay satellite.

“When you open up a new window on the universe, you’re going to make new discoveries, things that you don’t know about yet—the unknown unknowns.”
—Marc Klein Wolt, Radboud Radio Lab, Netherlands

Detecting the cosmic dark ages (the time before the first stars formed and began to shine) and the cosmic dawn (when the first stars and galaxies formed) requires making observations of frequencies between 10 and 50 megahertz. Signals emitted by hydrogen atoms during these early cosmic eras have been stretched out over cosmic timescales to much longer wavelengths across 13 billion years of travel time. Radio astronomy of this kind is extremely difficult on Earth as the ionosphere interferes with or completely blocks such ultralong wavelengths.

“To measure the 'cosmic dawn' signal, or even the 'dark ages' signal, which is even more difficult, you have to be in a really quiet environment,” Wolt notes.

The satellites could, over time, measure the primordial distributions of hydrogen at several different epochs in the early life of the universe, says Wolt. Learning how the distributions changed and evolved over time and grew into bigger clusters of matter to form stars and galaxies would be an important contribution to astronomy.

Heliophysics, space weather, exoplanets, the interstellar medium, and extragalactic radio sources are just some of the other areas in which DSL’s long-wavelength astronomy could make additional new contributions.

“When you open up a new window on the universe, you're going to make new discoveries, things that you don't know about yet,” says Wolt. “The unknown unknowns.”

Astronomers in the United States and elsewhere have proposed setting up telescopes on the far side of the moon to benefit from the radio quiet to make unprecedented observations. Over billions of years, the Earth’s gravity has slowed the rotation of the moon, making it “tidally locked,” meaning the lunar far side now never faces Earth and is shielded from any electromagnetic noise created by terrestrial sources.

The DSL mission will, however, avoid the much greater cost and complexity of needing to land and set up on the moon, nor will it be required to carry radioisotope heating systems to keep electronics warm during frigid two-week-long lunar nights. On the other hand, being in orbit limits the duration of the observations the satellites can make while shielded by the moon.

Yet there are other benefits, too.

“With the train of satellites, you're able to do interferometry observations, so you combine the measurements of the various instruments together. And as they orbit around the moon, they can cover most of the sky every month,” says Wolt.

The mission presents a number of challenges, such as maintaining the satellites orbiting in a precise configuration. It would also be an early example of using small satellites for space science in deep space.

China previously attempted to test interferometry in lunar orbit with two small satellites that launched along with the Queqiao relay satellite in 2018 to support China’s Chang’e-4 lunar far side landing mission, but one of the spacecraft was lost after the burn to take them from Earth into translunar orbit. This next attempt would be much more ambitious.

The DSL team has recently completed the intensive study into the mission and is now applying for entering the engineering phase, according to Chen, targeting a launch in 2025. While the “dark side of the moon” is a misnomer, the silence (and thus at least radio darkness) on the lunar far side could offer unprecedented insight into cosmic mysteries.

Correction 19 Jan. 2022: A previous version of this post stated the DSL mission was Chinese and European. There was a proposal for a similar Sino-European effort, but another team was ultimately selected. The present mission is a Chinese one.


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