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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

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: 2 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: 3 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: 4 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: 5 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: 6 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: 7 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: 8 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: 9 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: 10 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: 11 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: 12 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: 13 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: 14 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: 15 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 12 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: 16 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: 17 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: 18 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: 19 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: 20 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: 21 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: 22 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: 23 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: 24 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: 25 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: 26 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: 27 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: 28 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 222 days
qualifiers: 2.14 carbon

Filter efficiency 96.174 (29 matches/758 results)


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Russia-Ukraine war: what we know on day 168 of the invasion
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 00:39:29 GMT

Zelenskiy vows to ‘liberate’ Crimea as Kyiv denies responsibility for deadly attack on Russian airbase in the annexed peninsula

A Russian airbase deep behind the frontline in Crimea has been damaged by several large explosions, killing at least one person. It was not immediately clear whether it had been targeted by a long-range Ukrainian missile strike. In his nightly address, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, did not discuss who was behind the attacks but vowed to “liberate” Crimea, saying: “This Russian war against Ukraine and against the entire free Europe began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – with its liberation.” An adviser to the president, Mikhail Podolyak, said Ukraine was not taking responsibility for the explosions, suggesting partisans might have been involved.

The head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power firm warned of the “very high” risks from shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the Russian-occupied south and said it was vital Kyiv regains control over the facility in time for winter. Energoatom’s chief, Petro Kotin, told Reuters in an interview that last week’s Russian shelling had damaged three lines that connect the Zaporizhzhia plant to the Ukrainian grid and that Russia wanted to connect the facility to its grid.

Russian forces occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are reorienting the plant’s electricity production to connect to Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, according to Ukrainian operator Energoatom. “To do this, you must first damage the power lines of the plant connected to the Ukrainian energy system. From August 7 to 9, the Russians have already damaged three power lines. At the moment, the plant is operating with only one production line, which is an extremely dangerous way of working,” Energoatom president Petro Kotin told Ukrainian television. The plant, located not far from the Crimean peninsula, has six of Ukraine’s 15 reactors, and is capable of supplying power for four million homes.

The leaders of Estonia and Finland want fellow European countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens, saying they should not be able to take holidays in Europe while the Russian government carries out a war in Ukraine. The Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, wrote on Tuesday on Twitter that “visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right” and that it was “time to end tourism from Russia now”, the Associated Press reported.

US president Joe Biden on Tuesday signed documents endorsing Finland and Sweden’s accession to Nato, the most significant expansion of the military alliance since the 1990s as it responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reports.

The US state department has approved $89m worth of assistance to help Ukraine equip and train 100 teams to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance for a year, Reuters reported.

The total number of grain-carrying ships to leave Ukrainian ports under a UN brokered deal to ease the global food crisis has now reached 12, with the two latest ships which left on Tuesday headed for Istanbul and Turkey.

Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad has been struggling with quotas imposed by the EU for sanctioned goods that it can import across Lithuania from mainland Russia or Belarus, the region’s governor admitted. Lithuania infuriated Moscow in June by banning the land transit of goods such as concrete and steel to Kaliningrad after EU sanctions on them came into force, Reuters reported.

Russia has launched an Iranian satellite from Kazakhstan amid concerns it could be used for battlefield surveillance in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Iran has denied that the Khayyam satellite, which was delivered into orbit onboard a Soyuz rocket launched from Baikonur cosmodrome, would ever be under Russian control. But the Washington Post previously reported that Moscow told Tehran it “plans to use the satellite for several months, or longer, to enhance its surveillance of military targets” in Ukraine, according to two US officials.

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Match ID: 0 Score: 80.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 sanctions, 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy, 10.00 nuclear

Russia suspends US inspections of its nuclear weapons arsenal
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 00:10:44 GMT

Moscow blames Ukraine war sanctions for preventing mutual inspection of its nuclear arms under New Start treaty

Russia has suspended an arrangement that allowed US and Russian inspectors to visit each other’s nuclear weapons sites under the 2010 New Start treaty, in a new blow to arms control.

Mutual inspections had been suspended as a health precaution since the start of the Covid pandemic, but a foreign ministry statement on Monday added another reason Russia is unwilling to restart them. It argued that US sanctions imposed because of the invasion of Ukraine stopped Russian inspectors travelling to the US.

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Match ID: 1 Score: 65.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 sanctions, 20.00 russia, 10.00 nuclear

Oil ends slightly lower in choppy session as Russia cuts pipeline flows
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 18:39:40 GMT

Oil futures ended slightly lower after flipping between gains and losses after Russia halted oil flows along the southern portion of the Druzhba pipeline to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. News reports said the move came after sanctions prevented the payment of a transfer fee. Crude was lifted after the pipeline halt was reported, but saw renewed pressure tied to uncertainty over the oulook for crude demand. West Texas Intermediate crude for September delivery fell 26 cents, or 0.3%, to end at $90.50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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Match ID: 2 Score: 55.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 sanctions, 20.00 russia

Could Trump Go Down Like Al Capone?
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 22:59:25 +0000

Eliot Ness got Al Capone on tax evasion. Merrick Garland may get Donald Trump in a leak investigation.

The post Could Trump Go Down Like Al Capone? appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 3 Score: 45.00 source: theintercept.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump, 20.00 russia

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: 4 Score: 40.71 source: theintercept.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 15.00 sanctions, 10.71 trump, 8.57 russia, 6.43 trump

US blacklisting of Tornado Cash sparks outcry from cryptocurrency industry
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 18:31:14 +0000
Tornado Cash banned over money laundering but has legitimate uses as privacy tool.
Match ID: 5 Score: 35.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 sanctions

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: 6 Score: 34.29 source: theintercept.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 15.00 sanctions, 10.71 trump, 8.57 russia

Russia-Ukraine war live news: Moscow plans to link Zaporzhzhia nuclear plant to Crimea, operator warns
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 05:42:04 GMT

Russian forces to sever power at Europe’s largest nuclear plant to connect it to Crimea in ‘extremely dangerous’ process, Ukraine’s Energoatom warns

The US state department has approved $89m worth of assistance to help Ukraine equip and train 100 teams to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance for a year, officials said in a statement on Tuesday.

The funding is the largest US de-mining program yet in Ukraine, and the official compared Ukraine’s challenge to attempts to disarm unexploded ordnance in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos following the American war of the 1960s and 70s in Southeast Asia.

In seeking to join Nato, Finland and Sweden are making a sacred commitment that an attack against one is an attack against all,” Biden said at the signing as he called the partnership the “indispensable alliance.”

Finland and Sweden’s decision to join Nato is a watershed moment for our Alliance. It will help ensure greater security and stability for our world,” Biden added.

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Match ID: 7 Score: 30.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 10.00 nuclear

Ukraine Live Briefing: Explosions rock Russian air base in Crimea
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 16:25:44 EDT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of "nuclear blackmail" following attacks on Europe's largest nuclear power plant.
Match ID: 8 Score: 30.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 10.00 nuclear

One person killed after Ukraine appears to hit major Russian airbase in Crimea – as it happened
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 18:00:04 GMT

Head of region announces death after attack on base deep inside the occupied Crimean peninsula in what is being seen as a significant strike

Here are some of the latest images to be distributed from Ukraine on the newswires.

Reuters reports that the Turkish defence ministry has said two further grain-carrying ships have sailed from Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port on Tuesday, as part of the deal to unblock Ukrainian sea exports.

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Match ID: 9 Score: 30.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 10.00 nuclear

Ukraine Live Briefing: U.S. to send $1 billion in weapons to Ukraine; U.N. demands access to targeted nuclear plant
Mon, 8 Aug 2022 20:51:48 EDT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky slammed Russia's reported plans to hold referendums and warned that strikes on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant pose enormous risks.
Match ID: 10 Score: 30.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 10.00 nuclear

Russia, Ukraine open to IAEA visit after ‘suicidal’ nuclear plant strike
Mon, 8 Aug 2022 19:34:56 EDT
In the wake of purported strikes targeting Zaporizhzhia, world leaders and experts are calling Russian and Ukrainian forces to declare a military-free zone.
Match ID: 11 Score: 30.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 10.00 nuclear

Trump-backed Michels wins in Wis.; Omar survives close primary in Minn.
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 01:07:34 EDT
The GOP primary in Wisconsin and Democratic race in Minnesota were among several Tuesday contests in four states highlighting internal divisions
Match ID: 12 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Primaries highlights: Trump-backed Michels projected to win Wisconsin GOP gubernatorial primary
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 23:59:01 EDT
Voters in four states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont and Connecticut — are choosing their nominees for November as the primary season enters the final stretch and the matchups for the U.S. Senate are nearly set.
Match ID: 13 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Could Trump investigation stop him running in 2024?
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 02:11:47 GMT
The law against mishandling classified data includes a potential ban on running for office.
Match ID: 14 Score: 25.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Mar-a-Lago: Republican uproar over FBI raid on Trump home
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 01:53:58 GMT
Mike Pence is among those demanding an explanation from the attorney general for the unprecedented move.
Match ID: 15 Score: 25.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Congressman and Trump ally Scott Perry says FBI seized his cellphone
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 01:25:19 GMT

Republican’s phone could be relevant to bid to overturn 2020 election and mishandling of official records

Federal investigators seized the cellphone of the Republican congressman Scott Perry on Tuesday, his office said, suggesting the justice department is examining the communications of a close ally of Donald Trump and person of interest to the House January 6 select committee.

The move by the FBI to take Perry’s phone came a day after federal agents executed a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and seized boxes of documents, though it was not clear whether the two events were connected.

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Match ID: 16 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

U.S. joins other democracies in investigating former leaders
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 21:06:48 EDT
Republican pearl-clutching over the FBI raid on former president Donald Trump’s private golf club residence ignores that it is absolutely normal for healthy democracies to investigate, convict and sometimes jail their former leaders.
Match ID: 17 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Rep. Scott Perry says the FBI seized his phone while he was traveling
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 20:30:09 EDT
FBI agents reportedly seized the cellphone of Trump ally Rep. Scott Perry.
Match ID: 18 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

GOP reacts to Trump search with threats and comparisons to ‘Gestapo’
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 19:41:08 EDT
Some Republicans dismissed concerns about extreme rhetoric.
Match ID: 19 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Mar-a-Lago search appears focused on whether Trump, aides withheld items
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 19:03:37 EDT
The FBI sought a search warrant after Archives officials pressed Trump’s circle to return what they believed was government property, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Match ID: 20 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Biden administration ends Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 21:35:50 GMT

Homeland security says it ended policy requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings hours after judge lifted an order

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that it has ended a Trump-era policy requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in US immigration court, hours after a judge lifted an order, in effect since December, that the so-called Remain in Mexico rule be reinstated.

The timing had been in doubt since the US supreme court ruled on 30 June that the Biden administration could end the policy.

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Match ID: 21 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

How a former Florida political operative broke the Mar-a-Lago FBI story
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 17:26:03 EDT
Peter Schorsch, publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, tweeted the scoop about the FBI's search of Trump's property.
Match ID: 22 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Top House Republican McCarthy threatens to investigate search of Trump’s home – as it happened
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 21:15:21 GMT

Kevin McCarthy says he’ll consider creating special committee to investigate FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home

Barbara McQuade at USA Today explains quite why the FBI and justice department might be concerned about White House documents being left lying around a Trump residence like Mar-a-Lago. It isn’t just a matter of wanting to retain a complete record of Trump’s time in office for the sake of it. She writes:

Mishandling classified information is a serious crime because it puts at risk sources and methods of information relating to national security. If the content of the documents were to end up in the wrong hands, the identity of government sources could become known and their lives put at risk. Or our methods of collecting information, such as technological capabilities, could become known, undermining their utility. You can’t leave boxes lying around when they contain the kinds of government secrets that can get people killed, even if you’re the former president.

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Match ID: 23 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

After the Trump Raid, Silence Is Not an Option for Merrick Garland
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 20:32:40 +0000
The F.B.I. search of Mar-a-Lago will either strengthen or erode public trust in the Justice Department and its leader.
Match ID: 24 Score: 25.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Will an FBI 'raid' supercharge Trump?
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 20:20:00 GMT
As supporters urge him to run for president again, the search on Mar-a-Lago has lit a match for Trump.
Match ID: 25 Score: 25.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

FBI raid of Trump’s estate prompts Republican anger and 2024 speculation
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 20:19:24 GMT

Trump is believed to be pursuing a presidential run in 2024, and many calculate the Mar-a-Lago raid would benefit him politically

Shockwaves spread across America in response to the news that the FBI had searched the private Florida residence of Donald Trump, a dramatic and unprecedented move that prompted threats of retaliation from the former US president and his allies.

It also brought calls for accountability from his opponents and inspired speculation about what it could mean for Trump’s plans to run for the White House again in 2024, as some suggested it may prompt him to announce a candidacy before vital midterm elections in November.

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Match ID: 26 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Republican denial of Trump’s 2020 loss is affixed firmly in concrete
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 16:16:46 EDT
Most Republicans say they like a political leader who denies that Trump lost. Most also say his loss was only due to voter fraud.
Match ID: 27 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago.
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 15:46:41 EDT
Attorney General Merrick Garland is in the middle of a political firestorm after the FBI searched Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf club and home.
Match ID: 28 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Biden White House says it wasn't given heads-up about FBI's raid of Trump's Florida home
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 19:20:54 GMT

President Joe Biden was not aware that the FBI would search former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Florida late Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday. "No one at the White House was given a heads-up," she told reporters during a press briefing.

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Match ID: 29 Score: 25.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Big Takeaways From the FBI's Mar-a-Lago Raid
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 18:51:41 +0000
The fact that a search of Donald Trump's Florida home was even necessary says a lot.
Match ID: 30 Score: 25.00 source: www.wired.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

House can view Trump’s tax records, appeals court rules
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 14:46:38 EDT
Trump has argued that the request for his tax records is politically motivated.
Match ID: 31 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

What the F.B.I. Would Find If They Raided My Safe
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 18:29:45 +0000
A Motorola Razr with the last voice mail my ex-girlfriend Cindy left, twelve hundred dollars in savings bonds, Season 5 of “The Amazing Race,” and other fun things.
Match ID: 32 Score: 25.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Donald Trump has been preparing for this moment for a long time
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 13:54:29 EDT
Sowing doubt about the FBI for years. Fostering a quick-response political culture. Targeting the left, "elites" and "the swamp" as enemies. It's all bearing fruit.
Match ID: 33 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Martin Rowson on the FBI raid of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate – cartoon
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 17:42:24 GMT

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Match ID: 34 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

The Guardian view on the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago: what’s past is prologue | Editorial
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 17:38:56 GMT

The seizure of documents on Monday relates to records of Donald Trump’s presidency, but may help to shape the political future

The FBI’s search of and seizure of documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida is not only dramatic and serious, but unprecedented: no other former president has faced such an action. Yet Mr Trump’s ability to survive and thrive politically on similar moments is also without precedent. Even when damaging evidence emerges, he has walked away largely unscathed in the eyes of his base, while the US itself has been diminished. Nor has he yet experienced legal consequences for his actions in office.

Monday’s search was reportedly part of the ongoing investigation examining his potentially unlawful removal and destruction of White House documents. Accurately recording the actions of a country’s executive is part of democratic accountability. But this investigation will also help to determine the future: first, and most importantly, because upholding standards maintains the difference between honest and transparent systems and dishonest and unaccountable ones, and second, through its electoral impact.

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Match ID: 35 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

What could the Mar-a-Lago search mean for Trump legally?
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 12:38:42 EDT
Some legal experts think Trump could be barred from public office if charged and found guilty of taking classified material to Mar-a-Lago. Others disagree.
Match ID: 36 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

D.C. court rules House committee can get Trump tax returns from IRS
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 16:20:52 GMT

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled on Tuesday that House lawmakers can get former President Donald Trump's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service. "We expect to receive the requested tax returns and audit files immediately," the House Ways and Means Committee said in a tweet. Trump, who has argued for years against releasing his returns, could still appeal. The ruling comes a day after news that the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence.

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Match ID: 37 Score: 25.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

What the F.B.I.’s Raid of Mar-a-Lago Could Mean for Trump
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 15:42:16 +0000
A former federal prosecutor and general counsel for the F.B.I. explains the process and implications of obtaining a search warrant on the home of a former President.
Match ID: 38 Score: 25.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

After Mar-a-Lago search, Fox News, Trump supporters decry ‘abuse’ of power
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 11:18:22 EDT
“Make no mistake,” Fox’s Sean Hannity said, “if you are associated with Donald Trump in any way, you better cross all your i’s and dot all your t’s, because they’re coming for you with the full force of the federal government.”
Match ID: 39 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Daily Cartoon: Tuesday, August 9th
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 14:58:27 +0000
A look at the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago.
Match ID: 40 Score: 25.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Feds Seizing Documents at Mar-a-Lago Unable to Find Trump’s Health-Care Plan
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 14:20:41 +0000
“It’s got to be around here somewhere,” one F.B.I. agent said.
Match ID: 41 Score: 25.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Yet more disgrace for Trump as the FBI raid Mar-a-Lago. Of course, he’s milking it | Marina Hyde
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 12:12:36 GMT

Law enforcement agents searched the 45th president’s mansion – and gave him another reason to run in 2024

Devastating news for the future Trump Presidential Library, already suffering acute supply problems after recent reports that the former US president frequently ripped up presidential papers and clogged toilets with them (home and abroad). Last night, the FBI carried out a raid on Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach mansion in which Trump currently resides, sharing only several of its communal areas with paying Floridians. The raid – or “assault”, as Trump would have it – is thought to be related to his already-proven removal of records from the White House at the end of his administration, but could reasonably be linked to a number of active lawsuits and investigations currently being faced by the 45th president.

Even so, it’s a development that has hit Trump and his family hard. Or opportunely, depending on how you look at it – and more on that later. “These are dark times for our Nation,” began an overnight statement by the former president, talking like a Star Wars opening crawl. Trump went on to say his property was “under siege”, which feels a little histrionic. Surely this was just a harmless law enforcement rally that mildly got out of hand, though not in a way that saw five people end up dead, a gibbet erected on the croquet lawn and small-state golfers barricading themselves into executive restrooms in genuine and rational fear of their lives?

Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist

What Just Happened?! by Marina Hyde is published by Guardian Faber (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

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Match ID: 42 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

The status of key investigations involving Donald Trump
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 08:01:04 EDT
Donald Trump is under investigation by U.S. lawmakers, local district attorneys, a state attorney general and the Justice Department.
Match ID: 43 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Brazilians fear return to dictatorship as ‘deranged’ Bolsonaro trails in polls
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 11:00:27 GMT

Hundreds of thousands sign pro-democracy manifesto amid fears the president will promote Trump-style insurrection against democracy

They were cruel, brutish years. Dissidents languished in torture chambers. Rebels were shot in cold blood. Artists fled abroad.

“It was a time of constant sorrow and fear,” the Brazilian lawyer and former justice minister José Carlos Dias said of the military dictatorship that hijacked his country in 1964 and would rule for more than two decades. “Violence wasn’t just something the torturers enjoyed. It was government policy.”

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Match ID: 44 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

How big are Donald Trump's legal problems?
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 10:12:07 GMT
As he plots his political future, criminal probes and multiple lawsuits could spell trouble.
Match ID: 45 Score: 25.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

The GOP’s inauspicious knee-jerk reaction to the Trump raid
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 06:00:34 EDT
The outcry was notable, given the lack of detail about the raid — and how consumed many once were with controversies concerning document security.
Match ID: 46 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

It took just one weekend for Meta's new AI Chatbot to become racist
2022-08-09T08:24:29+00:00
It took just one weekend for Meta's new AI Chatbot to become racist submitted by /u/mrajoiner
[link] [comments]

Match ID: 47 Score: 25.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

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: 48 Score: 25.00 source: theintercept.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Inside the War Between Trump and His Generals
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 10:00:00 +0000
How Mark Milley and others in the Pentagon handled the national-security threat posed by their own Commander-in-Chief.
Match ID: 49 Score: 25.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

A Trip to the Boundary Waters
Sat, 06 Aug 2022 10:00:00 +0000
A chronicler of urban Chicago seeks solace in Minnesota. Plus, Susan Orlean on Ivana Trump, and Jane Mayer on Ohio’s lurch to the right. How does a swing state go hard red?
Match ID: 50 Score: 21.43 source: www.newyorker.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 21.43 trump

Fast food giant Domino's pulls out of the birthplace of pizza
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 03:19:58 GMT
The fast food giant's pandemic-related exit from Italy was celebrated by some social media users.
Match ID: 51 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 italy

Ukraine war must end with liberation of Crimea – Zelensky
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 02:55:41 GMT
Ukraine's president devotes nightly address to Crimea after explosions rock a Russian airbase there.
Match ID: 52 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Russian airbase on western coast of Crimea damaged in explosions
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 23:36:54 GMT

One person killed in Novofedorivka, 110 miles from frontline, after ‘aviation munitions detonated’ in storage area

A Russian airbase deep behind the frontline in Crimea has been damaged by several large explosions, killing at least one person, although it was not immediately clear whether it had been targeted by a long-range Ukrainian missile strike.

Multiple social media videos showed explosions and clouds emerging from the Saky military base in Novofedorivka on the western coast of Crimea on Tuesday afternoon, prompting questions about how a location more than 100 miles (160km) from the frontline could have been attacked. Later a senior Ukrainian official appeared to claim responsibility, without giving details.

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Match ID: 53 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Deadly Crimea blasts are ‘just the beginning,’ Ukraine warns Russia
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 19:35:03 EDT
Ukraine officials stopped short of claiming credit for the attacks on a base in Russian-controlled territory, which would mark a dramatic escalation in the war.
Match ID: 54 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Ex-inmates reveal details of Russia prison torture scandal
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 23:20:37 GMT
Former prisoners expose how and why rape is being used as a weapon inside Russian jails.
Match ID: 55 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

At least 8 dead in Seoul-area flooding amid record rainfall
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 17:28:24 EDT
About 15 inches of rain hit southwestern Seoul on Monday, according to the Korean Meteorological Administration, and seven people were missing.
Match ID: 56 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 korea

Domino’s leaves Italy, where — surprise — diners prefer local pizza
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 16:04:24 EDT
The company that ran Italian franchises for Domino's said customers favored mom-and-pop pies.
Match ID: 57 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 italy

Ukraine round-up: Blasts in Crimea and travel dispute
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 19:20:16 GMT
Explosions rock a Russian military airfield in Crimea and travel may get yet harder for Russians.
Match ID: 58 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

‘A disturbing wave’: midges threaten tourist trade in Italian town
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 16:31:21 GMT

Takings in Orbetello, Tuscany, down 60% as thousands of midges torment locals and tourists

Authorities in a Tuscan town have urged residents to close their windows and refrain from hanging out washing as they tackle a plague of midges that has been tormenting locals and tourists for weeks.

Restaurants and bar owners in Orbetello, well known for its lagoon and long stretches of sandy beach overlooked by Monte Argentario, say business has been badly hit as customers avoid venturing out for dinner.

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Match ID: 59 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 italy

Kremlin sharply critical of Ukraine’s call for travel ban on Russians
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 11:05:32 EDT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on other countries to ban all Russian travelers to help stop Moscow from annexing any more Ukrainian territory.
Match ID: 60 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Ukraine conflict: Ban Russian visitors, Zelensky urges West
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 14:44:02 GMT
Ukraine's call for a widespread ban has also been supported by Estonia, Latvia and Finland.
Match ID: 61 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Iranian satellite launched by Russia could be used for Ukraine surveillance
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 14:29:17 GMT

Tehran denies Khayyam satellite will be under Russian control, despite reported admission by Moscow

Russia has launched an Iranian satellite from Kazakhstan amid concerns it could be used for battlefield surveillance in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Iran has denied that the Khayyam satellite, which was delivered into orbit onboard a Soyuz rocket launched from Baikonur cosmodrome, would ever be under Russian control.

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Match ID: 62 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

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: 63 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 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: 64 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 korea

Norwegian Cruise Line posts wider-than-expected loss and misses revenue target
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 11:55:00 GMT

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. fell 8.8% in premarket trades Tuesday after it warned it'll post a third-quarter loss and fall short of revenue targets. The company said its second-quarter loss narrowed to $509.3 million, or $1.22 a share, from a loss of $717.8 million, or $1.94 a share, in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted loss was $1.14 a share in the latest quarter. Revenue increased to $1.19 billion from $4.37 million. Wall Street analysts expected Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to lose 88 cents a share on revenue of $1.26 billion, according to FactSet estimates. The company expects third-quarter revenue of $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion, below the Wall Street analyst estimate of $1.88 billion. It also expects to report a third-quarter loss. "As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and current macroeconomic conditions, while the company cannot estimate the impact on its business, financial condition or near- or longer-term financial or operational results with certainty, it will report a net loss," Norwegian Cruise Line said. The company said in May it became the first major cruise operator to complete the relaunch of its entire fleet with all ships in operation. Second-quarter occupancy totaled 65%, in line with its target, the company said.

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: 65 Score: 20.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Bank of England will probably need to raise rates again, says deputy governor
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 08:39:45 GMT

Central bank must tackle inflation pressures that are gaining foothold in UK economy, says Dave Ramsden

The Bank of England will probably have to raise interest rates further from their current 14 year-high to tackle inflationary pressures that are gaining a foothold in Britain’s economy, its deputy governor, Dave Ramsden, has said.

The spread of inflation was showing up in rising British pay and companies’ pricing plans, having originally been triggered by the reopening of the world economy from Covid-19 lockdowns and then by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ramsden said.

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Match ID: 66 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

In Africa, Blinken seeks to beguile, not browbeat, over Russia
Mon, 8 Aug 2022 18:01:52 EDT
The Biden administration's efforts come at a challenging moment, as Russia’s protracted war in Ukraine tests the resolve of even Kyiv’s biggest backers.
Match ID: 67 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Russia’s private military contractor Wagner comes out of the shadows in Ukraine war
Sun, 07 Aug 2022 15:41:55 GMT

Mercenary group does not officially exist but is playing a more public role and openly recruiting in Russia

Three billboards in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg shine a light on what was once one of Russia’s most shadowy organisations, the private military contractor Wagner.

“Motherland, Honour, Blood, Bravery. WAGNER”, one of the posters reads.

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Match ID: 68 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

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: 69 Score: 20.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 11.43 korea, 8.57 energy

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: 70 Score: 20.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 11.43 korea, 8.57 energy

FTX-Backed PACs Expand the Crypto Lobby in Congress
Fri, 05 Aug 2022 13:00:01 +0000

As the young industry flounders, crypto resorts to a method tested by its private-sector predecessors: funding the lawmakers who might regulate it.

The post FTX-Backed PACs Expand the Crypto Lobby in Congress appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 71 Score: 17.86 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 17.86 trump

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: 72 Score: 17.86 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 17.86 trump

Households already in debt as energy bills rise
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 05:44:52 GMT
Six million UK households owe over £200 to energy suppliers, according to a survey.
Match ID: 73 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Britain faces crisis upon crisis, and our leaders are absent. This is how a country falls apart | George Monbiot
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 05:00:43 GMT

Inflation, energy bills and stagnant wages could mean destitution for millions. But Conservative ideology forbids offering answers

Has Boris Johnson ended his holiday? It’s hard to tell. He was never committed to government, even during national emergencies, as his serial absence from Cobra meetings at the beginning of the pandemic revealed. Now, while several national crises converge, he seems to have given up altogether. But his detachment is not just a pathology. It is also a doctrine. Absence is what the party donors paid for.

Whether physically present or not, recent prime ministers and their governments have prepared us for none of the great predicaments we face. They have looked the other way as the water companies failed to commission any new reservoirs since they were privatised in 1989, and allowed astonishing volumes of that precious commodity we call treated drinking water – 2.4bn litres a day on current estimates – to leak away. It’s a carelessness so grand that it feels like a metaphor. Instead of forcing them to stop these leaks, the government has allowed these corporations to pump the rivers dry: the living world, as ever, is the buffer that must absorb failure and greed.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

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Match ID: 74 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Ministers to meet energy giants over cost of living
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 02:15:09 GMT
Nadhim Zahawi and Kwasi Kwarteng will speak to bosses of gas and electricity firms to discuss rising costs.
Match ID: 75 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

The UK’s energy bill crisis – podcast
Wed, 10 Aug 2022 02:00:39 GMT

Big oil companies are making record profits while consumer energy bills soar. We spoke to finance reporter Jasper Jolly to find out why


There’s an emergency growing in the UK. The cost of electricity bills is climbing, and will almost certainly soar even higher as we approach the colder months. As Morgan Wild, head of policy for Citizens Advice, tells Michael Safi, people are increasingly unable to pay, resorting to desperate measures such as borrowing electricity from neighbours.

At the same time, the Guardian’s finance reporter, Jasper Jolly, says oil and gas companies are posting record profits. As the race to decide the next prime minister continues, pressure is mounting on the two candidates to announce a fresh support package for struggling households.

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Match ID: 76 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

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: 77 Score: 15.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

UK energy bills forecast to hit £4,266 a year from January
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 23:00:53 GMT

Government urged to announce more support for struggling households as Ofgem price cap expected to rise again

Annual energy bills are forecast to top £4,200 from January, triggering a warning that Britons face “serious hardship on a massive scale” without government intervention.

The consultancy Cornwall Insight said on Tuesday that it expected the energy price cap to reach £4,266 a year for the first three months of next year.

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Match ID: 78 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Worst blaze in Cuba’s history finally under control at oil depot
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 22:38:21 GMT

Fire destroyed 40% of island’s main fuel storage facility over five days and caused blackouts

Firefighters have finally overcame what officials described as the worst blaze in Cuba’s history that over five days destroyed 40% of the Caribbean island’s main fuel storage facility and caused blackouts.

Raging flames that ravaged a four-tank segment of the Matanzas super tanker port had died down on Tuesday and the towering plumes of thick black smoke streaming from the area were diminished and now mostly gray.

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Match ID: 79 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Truss and Sunak: completely unreliable narrators of their own campaigns
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 21:34:20 GMT

The Tory leadership hopefuls hit the hustings willing to say any old nonsense that might go down well with members

Nice work if you can get it. Boris Johnson has just returned from holiday. Not that it would much matter if he had stayed in Slovenia. Because it’s not as if he’s doing much at home. Thank god we’re not in a cost of living crisis with fuel bills now set to top £4,200. Then we really might be up shit creek while the paddle watched Netflix.

Most prime ministers might have done things rather differently. Seen out their last few weeks in office at No 10 with dignity and go on vacation in September. To protect their legacy if nothing else. But the Convict sees things through the prism of his own narcissism. His legacy has always been about his own self-gratification. So he takes his pleasures where and when he feels like it. He wants it. He takes it. He won’t pay the price. That’s for Lords Brownlow and Bamford: bank-rollers in chief to Team Johnson.

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Match ID: 80 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Raging fire consumes 4th tank at Cuba oil storage facility
Tue, 9 Aug 2022 17:21:10 EDT
Flames have engulfed a fourth tank at an oil storage facility in western Cuba as the raging fire consumes critical fuel supplies on an island facing a growing energy crisis
Match ID: 81 Score: 15.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Liz Truss rejects energy bill help as ‘Gordon Brown economics’
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 20:54:56 GMT

Cost of living crisis dominates latest Tory hustings as foreign secretary rules out tax rise to fund government help

Liz Truss has said she rejects the “Gordon Brown economics” of helping people directly with bills as her rival, Rishi Sunak, warned the British people “will not forgive us” if vulnerable households do not get extra help this winter.

At the latest Conservative hustings, the former chancellor said he would not be prepared to spend sums similar to the help offered earlier this year, and that support should be more targeted. He said: “I don’t think that will be necessary because what we are talking about now … is the extra increase on top of what we thought.

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Match ID: 82 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Market Extra: Don’t be fooled by a drop in U.S. headline inflation. Markets will be attuned to another figure on Wednesday.
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 20:11:00 GMT

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesTraders, investors and economists are all counting on Wednesday’s consumer-price index report to show a decline in the annual headline U.S. inflation rate for July. But there’s another figure buried in the consumer-price index data that has the propensity to jolt markets.It’s called the core year-over-year CPI reading, a measure which strips out volatile food and energy costs. It came in at 5.9% for the 12 months that ended in June, and the consensus view is that it will inch up to 6.1% on a year-over-year basis for July. Gargi Chaudhuri of BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest money manager, sees the core reading coming in even a bit higher, at 6.2%, while a pair of Goldman Sachs analysts are warning that the near-term U.S. inflation picture “is likely to remain uncomfortably high.”Read:Goldman Sachs says it’s too soon for markets to be trading `a full Fed pivot’ A move higher in the annual CPI core rate would be significant because it would be seen as reflecting the true underlying trend of inflation — while also dashing widespread hopes in financial markets over the past month that price gains have peaked. Many traders and investors have generally been clinging to the overall annual headline CPI rate for July, which includes food and energy — and the view that it probably fell to 8.7% or 8.8%, from an almost 41-year high of 9.1% in June, after factoring in recent declines in gas and commodity prices.See: U.S. consumers likely got some relief from sizzling price increases in July but Fed won’t feel any better“The outlook for inflation remains the primary concern for investors,” Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors’ Chief Investment Officer Tony Roth and Chief Economist Luke Tilley wrote in an email on Tuesday. “Persistent inflation is weighing on sentiment for consumers and businesses, yet economic data remains quite mixed and concerns are elevated that aggressive Fed policy could push the U.S. into recession.”“While we still expect inflation to decelerate going forward, some components will remain stubbornly high and complicate the outlook,” they said.Signs of the financial market’s broad-based expectations that inflation is poised to ease are abundant: U.S. stocks have generally rallied from their lows in mid-June, though they finished lower on Tuesday. Meanwhile, medium- and long-term Treasury yields have dropped from their peaks in June — along with break-even rates, according to Tradeweb data. In the round-the-clock currency market, where the dollar remains sensitive to U.S. data surprises, “the market needs to decide whether slowing headline is more important than sticky and strong core,” said TD Securities strategists Oscar Munoz, Mazen Issa, and Gennadiy Goldberg.At Pennsylvania-based Hirtle Callaghan & Co., which oversees about $20 billion in assets, Brad Conger, deputy chief investment officer, said he thinks inflation and the Federal Reserve’s willingness to tackle it are both being underestimated. Conger sees inflation growth pivoting away from goods to services, while noting how hard it is to “wrench” pricing knowledge away once inflation takes hold. “Suppose you work at a firm of 1,000 people,” Conger wrote in an email. “In the month of May, 28 of your colleagues quit and accepted new offers…Your employer grants everyone else the economy-wide average hourly wage increase of 3.6% at an annualized rate. But here’s the rub. The 972 employees who stayed know precisely what the leavers accepted at their new position. It has become their new reserve price of labor. This is how inertia develops in inflation and why it’s so hard to eradicate.”“Rent works the same way,” said the deputy chief investment officer. “A small proportion of new tenant leases show up in the average, but everyone else knows what the new effective rent is.”On Tuesday, all three major stock indexes DJIASPXCOMP closed lower, led by a 1.2% slide in the Nasdaq Composite, with investors reluctant to put on big trades ahead of Wednesday’s CPI data. Meanwhile, the Treasury curve turned more deeply inverted as the spread between 2- and 10-year yields shrank to an intraday low of almost minus 50 basis points, with the 2-year rate BX:TMUBMUSD02Y rising at a faster pace than the 10-year rate BX:TMUBMUSD10Y.

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: 83 Score: 15.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Occidental Petroleum stock surges after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway boosts stake by $390 million
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 19:06:31 GMT

Shares of Occidental Petroleum Corp. rallied 3.6% in afternoon trading Tuesday, enough to pace the S&P 500's energy sector gainers, after the oil and natural gas company disclosed that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. boosted its stake in Occidental to more than 20%. Occidental disclosed in a late-Monday filing that Berkshire Hathaway increased its investment in Occidental by 6.68 million shares, valued at $390.72 million, to 188.37 million shares, or 20.2% of the shares outstanding. At current prices, Berkshire Hathaway's common stock stake is valued at $11.72 billion. The shares were purchased in a series of transactions from Aug. 4 through Aug. 8, at a weighted average price of $58.4763, according to a MarketWatch analysis of filing data. That price is 6.0% below current levels. The purchase further distances Berkshire Hathaway as Occidental's largest shareholder, as the second-largest shareholder is Dodge & Cox at 10.75%, according to FactSet data. Occidental's stock has soared 114.6% year to date, while the SPDR Energy Select Sector ETF has climbed 34.3% and the S&P 500 has shed 13.5%.

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: 84 Score: 15.00 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

UK’s energy crisis response could include winter power cuts
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 18:58:49 GMT

Cold weather and gas shortages could force rationing of electricity to some firms or even households

Businesses and even consumers could face blackouts this winter under government crisis plans as concerns grow over power supplies, it has emerged.

Under the government’s latest “reasonable worst case scenario”, officials believe the UK could experience blackouts for several days in January if cold weather combines with gas shortages to leave the country short of power.

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Match ID: 85 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Government needs a big-bang solution or faces consequences of rising energy bills
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 17:29:15 GMT

New prime minister must drop small state rhetoric and come up with response to impending crisis

Hard though it is to remember, the UK’s energy price cap was originally marketed as a modest measure designed to protect households on expensive variable tariffs from being fleeced. Nobody in early 2019 had the slightest inkling that by the summer of 2022 it would be a key barometer of the UK’s economic health.

Yet here we are – one pandemic and one unfinished war later – on tenterhooks for the latest intelligence on what is likely to happen to household gas and electricity bills this winter.

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Match ID: 86 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Civil disobedience is now the only option on energy bills | Letter
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 17:20:13 GMT

Extreme circumstances call for drastic measures, says Jessamine Ainsworth pensioner, who is worried about what this winter will mean for vulnerable people like her

I am a pensioner with health conditions that make me more susceptible to the cold and I am worried about running into debt while trying to stay warm this coming winter. There will be more deaths than ever in the elderly, disabled and vulnerable groups, and the government is not acting to prevent this.

Not only are ministers not facing up to the economic crisis, but they are not facing up to the problems in the NHS or with global warming. Indeed very little is working successfully in this country.

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Match ID: 87 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Fire spreads at Cuba oil storage facility as fourth tank erupts
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 17:08:03 GMT

The blaze in Matanzas province raises fears that the damaged facility will worsen the island’s energy shortage

Flames have engulfed a fourth tank at an oil storage facility in western Cuba as a raging fire consumes critical fuel supplies on an island grappling with a growing energy crisis.

Firefighters and specialists from Mexico and Venezuela helped fight the blaze in the province of Matanzas with boats, planes and helicopters as they sprayed foam on the containers, a first for crews since broiling temperatures had prevented them from doing so earlier.

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Match ID: 88 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

What is the energy price cap and how high will bills go?
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 16:12:05 GMT
A typical household bill is now predicted to reach £4,000 in January.
Match ID: 89 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Britain isn’t just facing a cost of living crisis: it’s facing a bonanza of corporate greed | Zarah Sultana
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 14:10:08 GMT

Our politicians have opted to protect profits instead of people. Even my own party isn’t doing enough

  • Zarah Sultana is the Labour MP for Coventry South

Every day brings bleaker forecasts of the depths of the cost of living crisis. Last week it was news that the energy price cap was set to rocket to £3,359 from October, and this week an estimate puts it at £4,266 by January. Then the Bank of England announced the biggest interest rate hike in 27 years. This week, another stark warning of the disastrous consequences of this crisis: a report predicting that 35 million people will be in fuel poverty by the end of the year.

Against this truly frightening backdrop, the public are owed solutions from politicians that match the scale of the crisis. But our political class has almost nothing to say. Behind the headlines are real people suffering, powerfully recounted in this paper’s recent Heat or eat diaries: parents who can’t put food on the table, private renters struggling to keep a roof over their heads, elderly people terrified of facing winter with no money to pay the bills. I see this in my constituency, with more and more people coming to me unable to make ends meet.

Zarah Sultana is the Labour MP for Coventry South

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Match ID: 90 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

From energy bills to Brexit: a guide to the Tory leadership race U-turns
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 13:58:15 GMT

Analysis: Conservative contest has featured number of changes and clarifications by Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak

Party leadership races often involve candidates adjusting policies on the hoof, and so tend to have more than the usual share of U-turns. . Here are some highlights.

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Match ID: 91 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Tell us: are you taking part in the Don’t Pay UK campaign?
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 11:00:17 GMT

We’d like to hear about people’s views on plans for a mass non-payment strike amid spiralling energy costs

More than 9o,000 people in the UK have pledged to not pay their energy bills when the regulator raises the energy price cap on 1 October.

The Don’t Pay UK campaign, which says it will only act if one million people join, is gathering steam as analysts forecast that the average household bill will climb beyond £3,300 a year. It is then expected to soar over £4,200 from January.

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Match ID: 92 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Head of CBI urges Boris Johnson to offer immediate help with energy bills
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 09:01:31 GMT

Tony Danker says waiting until after Tory leadership vote is too late for Britons facing ‘terrifying’ price rises

The head of the Confederation of British Industry has called on Boris Johnson to take immediate action to help people with soaring energy bills, warning that putting it off until after the Conservative leadership vote would be too late.

Tony Danker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Johnson “needs to say something to the country to reassure people about what will happen” ahead of Ofgem’s announcement of “terrifying” price rises on 26 August.

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Match ID: 93 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Landmark US climate bill will do more harm than good, groups say
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 09:00:22 GMT

Bill makes concessions to the fossil fuel industry as frontline community groups call on Biden to declare climate emergency

The landmark climate legislation passed by the Senate after months of wrangling and weakening by fossil-fuel friendly Democrats will lead to more harm than good, according to frontline community groups who are calling on Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency.

If signed into law, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) would allocate $369bn to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewable energy sources – a historic amount that scientists estimate will lead to net reductions of 40% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

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Match ID: 94 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Worried about bills this winter? In Truss’s Titanic economics, only the rich will get a life raft | Frances Ryan
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 07:00:20 GMT

With a national catastrophe looming, the Tory leadership candidates have adopted a muscular ‘anti-welfare’ stance

As millions of families get ready to choose between starving and freezing, the biggest question in British politics right now is what government support is going to come in the next few months, and who exactly is going to get help. With Boris Johnson’s “out of office” on, and the current chancellor missing in action, it is left to the Tory leadership candidates to play at governing. On Sunday, the all but guaranteed victor, Liz Truss, announced she would “rush through” her £30bn worth of tax cuts six months earlier than planned, to “tackle the cost of living crisis”.

It doesn’t take an economist to realise that, far from “tackling the cost of living crisis”, introducing tax cuts is a dire way to target support: it just adds more cash to upper middle-class families’ pockets while the very poorest – many of whom pay little or no income tax – don’t benefit. Just look at the details of Truss’s £30bn cut: £19bn of it would go not to struggling families, but to businesses skirting corporation tax rises. Indeed, even Truss’s plan to scrap the national insurance rise would benefit the wealthiest: 85% of the £8bn cost would go to the top half of earners. It is Titanic economics, where the country is sinking and only the rich get a life raft.

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Match ID: 95 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Truss and Sunak still haven’t grasped the magnitude of Britain’s cost of living crisis
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 17:44:20 GMT

Neither has an adequate plan – but a joint announcement of a generous package of help whoever wins would boost confidence

Britain is facing a cost of living crisis this winter more brutal than any in living memory. Annual energy bills for the average household are set to hit £300 a month from October, almost double the current level. Spending power will be sucked out of the economy as millions of households struggle – and fail – to make ends meet. The courts will be clogged up with people prosecuted for falling behind with their payments.

That’s the situation facing the two hopefuls slugging it out to be the country’s next prime minister, yet neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak yet seems to have grasped the magnitude of the problem, in public at least.

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Match ID: 96 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

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: 97 Score: 15.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

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: 98 Score: 15.00 source: www.wired.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Scientific Field Prefixes
Massage: Theoretical (10), Quantum (6), High-energy (2), Computational (1), Marine (1), Astro- (None)
Match ID: 99 Score: 15.00 source: xkcd.com
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

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: 100 Score: 14.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 8.57 energy, 5.71 nuclear

Covert Actions Heighten Ukraine’s Nuclear Peril
Fri, 29 Jul 2022 20:37:32 +0000


In March, when Russia seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant—Europe’s largest—the actions veered dangerously close to nuclear disaster. National Public Radio, in the U.S., analyzed video and photos from the attack and showed, among other too-close calls, that ordnance landed some 75 meters away from a reactor building. Since then, Zaporizhzhia’s grounds have been used to shelter troops, military equipment, and munitions. According to the Ukrainian government, Russia has also fired cruise missiles over two more nuclear power stations.

Yet, recent evidence suggests that a more opaque threat may also be stalking Ukraine’s four nuclear generating stations: a cloak-and-dagger struggle for control of state nuclear energy firm Energoatom, pitting activist nuclear professionals against alleged Russian agents.

It’s an unstable situation that—like Russia’s military actions—increases the risk of accidents that could spread radiation across Europe and threatens Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. Ukraine's 15 reactors generate over half of its electricity. Meanwhile, thanks to Ukraine’s rapid post-invasion synchronization with Europe’s power grid, increasing electricity exports are also helping the embattled nation to finance the war.

But already Ukraine faces the loss of Zaporizhzhia’s power generation, with Russia vowing to hold the surrounding territory indefinitely and rebuilding wrecked transmission lines to reroute the plant's power to occupied Crimea.

A smiling man at a desk in front of a Ukrainian flag Energoatom director of personnel Oleg Boyarintsev is pictured here, having returned to work after detention and questioning by Ukrainian counterintelligence agents. Energoatom

The murky internal battle for Ukraine’s nuclear power popped into sight briefly in late March when a few Ukrainian news outlets and IEEE Spectrum reported that Ukrainian counterintelligence officers had detained and questioned Energoatom director of personnel Oleg Boyarintsev. That cast a shadow over officials across Energoatom that Boyarintsev had appointed.

The conflict quickly slipped back behind the scenes. But Energoatom and its leadership are back in the spotlight. Battle lines have stabilized, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is leading a campaign to out Russian agents. This month Zelenskyy affirmed pervasive infiltration of Ukraine’s state security service, the SBU, which routinely places officials at Energoatom headquarters and its plants.

At the same time, moves by SBU counterintelligence agents, deputies in Ukraine’s parliament, and company officials have heightened concerns about the security and safety of Energoatom’s operations.

SBU spy hunters said they pierced an “extensive agent network” last month allegedly led by Boyarintsev’s longtime political patron and business partner Andriy Derkach, whom the SBU and U.S. intelligence agencies say is a Russian agent.

Then, early this month, Energoatom CEO Petro Kotin stunned a panel of deputies probing Energoatom personnel issues. Asked why Boyarintsev was not present as requested, Kotin told the energy committee he had the day off. Then Kotin gave contradictory answers when asked why he recently dismissed the director of the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant, which lies just under 60 kilometers from Belarus and is the largest still under Ukraine’s control.

A man in sunglasses and a suit Under CEO Petro Kotin, Energoatom has faced repeated accusations of corruption and sliding back toward Russian influence. Ukrinform/Alamy

Kotin said Rivne’s director was suspected of hiding safety violations. At the same time Kotin insisted he was also needed to run the subsidiary racing to start up a recently completed facility to store spent nuclear fuel that was previously sent to Russia. Without the storage facility, Ukraine can’t refuel its reactors, prompting the panel’s chair to note that Kotin assigned an allegedly dodgy official a surprisingly critical mission.

Ukrainian news site Glavcom’s take from the hearing was that Ukraine’s nuclear plants were “in danger,” and that a “hunt for collaborators” was on. The panel’s deputy chairman concurred, posting that “Russian ears are sticking out now from all sides.”

Codename “Veteran”

Energoatom did not respond to IEEE Spectrum’s requests to reach Boyarintsev, Kotin and other officials. But back in March, the firm attacked its loudest critic, Olga Kosharna, a former advisor to Ukraine’s nuclear regulator. Energoatom said it was Kosharna who was under Russian influence and spreading Russian disinformation.

A defamation suit filed by Kosharna against Energoatom will be heard in October according to a Facebook post from her lawyer, who heads the energy-law committee for Ukraine’s bar association.

Kosharna maintains her March 2022 claim that officials planted by Boyarintsev facilitated the Zaporizhzhia plant’s seizure, including a new plant director appointed eight days before the 24 February invasion. In communications with IEEE Spectrum, she extended that allegation to include Alexander Prismitsky, an SBU officer serving as the plant’s deputy director for physical protection, who she said is the subject of an SBU investigation.

“Russia ... attract[ed] its agents into all the spheres! So, our task for today is to detect them all as soon as possible.”
—Margaryta Rayets, Women in Nuclear Ukraine

Boyarintsev did not act alone, according to Kosharna. Andriy Derkach, who the SBU says worked for Russian intelligence under the codename “Veteran,” is suspected of directing Boyarintsev's work at Energoatom. Derkach is a long-serving Ukrainian deputy, a pro-Russian media commentator, and a former Energoatom CEO. His whereabouts since the invasion are unknown.

Derkach gained global notoriety delivering alleged kompromat on U.S. President Joe Biden in 2019. In spite of that, he is widely credited with driving Boyarintsev’s inclusion when Zelenskyy appointed Kotin and a new leadership team in 2020. Why else, ask people like Kosharna and other nuclear professionals, could someone with unsavory associates in organized crime win a job so crucial to Ukraine’s security?

Since Kotin’s team arrived at Energoatom, journalists, activists, and government watchdogs have documented a series of suspicious activities including the dumping of electricity on the market, the illegal dismissal of Energoatom’s independent anti-corruption official, and embezzlement of funds for the long-delayed spent-fuel repository.

Meanwhile, a slide back toward Russian influence is now feared concerning Ukraine’s Russian-designed and mostly Russian-fuelled nuclear plants. Ukrainian security analyst Pavel Kost, who several years ago praised Energoatom as one of the “quiet heroes” of post-Yanukovich Ukraine, last year called out the growing influence of “pro-Russian circles” and “silent sabotage” of crucial projects such as the spent-fuel repository.

It’s no surprise, then, that over half of Ukraine’s parliamentarians called last year for new leadership to improve Energoatom’s operations and assure nuclear safety.

Jeff Merrifield, a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission member and international nuclear consultant, likened the situation facing Ukraine’s nuclear plants to a “multilayer set of chess.” While he declined to address the specific accusations against Energoatom leaders, Merrifield said they “were not entirely surprising” based on some of the “unsavory” activity he’s observed in 20 years of work in both Ukraine and Russia.

Kosharna, meanwhile, is not the only Ukrainian professional asking tough questions. When asked if many nuclear staff in Ukraine are concerned about Russian agents, Women in Nuclear Ukraine founder Margaryta Rayets messaged IEEE Spectrum that, “Russia did its best in terms of lobbying its interests by attracting its agents into all the spheres! So, our task for today is to detect them all as soon as possible.”

Rivne on the edge

The loudest critical voice among engineers and scientists (at least in writing) is Georgiy Balakan, a former top Energoatom engineer who led collaborations with U.S. national labs, Westinghouse Electric, and European agencies to upgrade safety at Ukraine’s plants. Since April he has posted a series of risk assessments, warnings, and questions aimed at securing Ukraine’s nuclear plants against internal and external attack.

On 10 July, Balakan posted a pointed essay titled “How to avoid nuclear ‘Bucha’ at the nuclear power plants of Ukraine?”—a reference to Russian forces’ scorched-earth devastation of Bucha that shocked the world in April. In it he calls for terminating senior plant officials who are past or present SBU officers, a moratorium on dismissing plant directors, and more.

The panel’s deputy chairman concurred, posting that “Russian ears are sticking out now from all sides.”

An accompanying post emphasized the risks facing the Rivne station. Balakan warns that Russia could seize Rivne via an airborne assault, noting increased Russian activity nearby in Belarus and stepped-up airborne training.

Balakan also argued that the attacks on Rivne's director, Pavlo Pavlyshyn, weaken Rivne by demoralizing plant personnel. Energoatom officials scattered from its headquarters when Russian troops and missiles surged over the border in February and March. But Rivne’s embattled director stood his ground, meeting journalists to condemn Russia’s irresponsible attacks on nuclear energy installations and garnering international support.

“From the first days of the war, his steadfast patriotic position united everyone,” agreed the City Council of Varash, Rivne’s satellite city, in a recent appeal to Zelenskyy to stop the plant’s “destabilization.” The letter echoed Balakan’s concerns about a “high probability of an armed attack,” and disputed Kotin’s allegations against Pavlyshyn and the plant’s safety.

Ilona Zayets, a journalist and former Energoatom communications aide, told IEEE Spectrum this week that Kotin and his supporters “need to discredit” Pavlyshyn before he gets to Zelenskyy, because Pavlyshyn has the inside scoop on Energoatom’s troubled projects.

If she’s right, they may be too late. Pavlyshyn posted a video this week suggesting that he’s already working against Kotin: ”Dear curators of my resignation. Your involvement in unlawful actions not in the interests of the Ukrainian state will certainly be exposed.”

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on 29 July 2022 and subsequently unpublished for additional editorial review. Spectrum apologizes for any confusion this story’s publication history may have caused.


Match ID: 101 Score: 11.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 5.00 sanctions, 2.86 russia, 2.14 energy, 1.43 nuclear

Al Qaeda’s Zawahiri Would Have Made a Great American Pundit
Thu, 04 Aug 2022 18:41:34 +0000

Zawahiri’s rhetorical style would have fit right into the U.S. political spectrum.

The post Al Qaeda’s Zawahiri Would Have Made a Great American Pundit appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 102 Score: 11.43 source: theintercept.com age: 5 days
qualifiers: 11.43 russia

EU team submit ‘final text’ at talks to salvage 2015 Iran nuclear deal
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 18:25:31 GMT

Revival of agreement awaits ‘political decisions’ in Tehran and Washington after negotiators in Vienna agree text

The European Union has submitted a “final text” at talks to salvage the 2015 deal aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The revival of the agreement now awaits “political decisions” in Tehran and Washington after negotiators in Vienna agreed the text thrashed out between Iranian and European representatives over the past five days was the final text and could not be amended further.

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Match ID: 103 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 10.00 nuclear

Puzzling Out the Drone War Over Ukraine
Fri, 25 Mar 2022 12:26:23 +0000


In 2014, Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Crimea knew that the sight of Russian drones would soon be followed by a heavy barrage of Russian artillery. During that war, the Russian military integrated drones into tactical missions, using them to hunt for Ukrainian forces, whom they then pounded with artillery and cannon fire. Russian drones weren’t as advanced as those of their Western counterparts, but the Russian military’s integration of drones into its battlefield tactics was second to none.

Eight years later, the Russians are again invading Ukraine. And since the earlier incursion, the Russian military has spent approximately US $9 billion to domestically produce an armada of some 500 drones (a.k.a. unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs). But, astonishingly, three weeks into this invasion, the Russians have not had anywhere near their previous level of success with their drones. There are even signs that in the drone war, the Ukrainians have an edge over the Russians.

How could the drone capabilities of these two militaries have experienced such differing fortunes over the same period? The answer lies in a combination of trade embargoes, tech development, and the rising importance of countermeasures.

Since 2014’s invasion of Crimea, Russia’s drone-development efforts have lagged—during a time of dynamic evolution and development across the UAV industry.

First, some background. Military drones come in a wide variety of sizes, purposes, and capabilities, but they can be grouped into a few categories. On one end of the spectrum are relatively tiny flying bombs, small enough to be carried in a rucksack. On the other end are high-altitude drones, with wingspans up to 25 meters and capable of staying aloft for 30 or 40 hours, of being operated from consoles thousands of kilometers from the battlefield, and of firing air-to-surface missiles with deadly precision. In between are a range of intermediate-size drones used primarily for surveillance and reconnaissance.

Russia’s fleet of drones includes models in each of these categories. However, sanctions imposed after the 2014 invasion of Crimea blocked the Russian military from procuring some key technologies necessary to stay on the cutting edge of drone development, particularly in optics, lightweight composites, and electronics. With relatively limited capabilities of its own in these areas, Russia’s drone development efforts became somewhat sluggish during a time of dynamic evolution and development elsewhere.

Current stalwarts in the Russian arsenal include the Zala Kyb, which is a “loitering munition” that can dive into a target and explode. The most common Russian drones are midsize ones used for surveillance and reconnaissance. These include the Eleron-3SV and the Orlan-10 drones, both of which have been used extensively in Syria and Ukraine. In fact, just last week, an Orlan-10 operator was awarded a military medal for locating a site from which Ukrainian soldiers were ambushing Russian tanks, and also a Ukrainian basing area outside Kyiv containing ten artillery pieces, which were subsequently destroyed. Russia’s only large, missile-firing drone is the Kronshtadt Orion, which is similar to the American MQ-1 Predator and can be used for precision strikes as well as reconnaissance. An Orion was credited with an air strike on a command center in Ukraine in early March 2022.

Meanwhile, since the 2014 Crimea war, when they had no drones at all, the Ukrainians have methodically assembled a modest but highly capable set of drones. The backbone of the fleet, with some 300 units fielded, are the A1-SM Fury and the Leleka-100 reconnaissance drones, both designed and manufactured in Ukraine. The A1-SM Fury entered service in April 2020, and the Leleka-100, in May, 2021.

On offense, the Ukrainian and Russian militaries are closely matched in the drone war. The difference is on defense.

The heavy hitter for Ukraine in this war, though, is the Bayraktar TB2 drone, a combat aerial flyer with a wingspan of 12 meters and an armament of four laser-guided bombs. As of the beginning of March, and after losing two TB2s to Russian-backed separatist forces in Lugansk, Ukraine had a complement of 30 of the drones, which were designed and developed in Turkey. These drones are specifically aimed at destroying tanks and as of 24 March had been credited with destroying 26 vehicles, 10 surface-to-air missile systems, and 3 command posts. Various reports have put the cost of a TB2 at anywhere from $1 million to $10 million. It’s much cheaper than the tens of millions fetched for better-known combat drones, such as the MQ-9 Reaper, the backbone of the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of combat drones.

The Ukrainian arsenal also includes the Tu-141 reconnaissance drones, which are large, high-altitude Soviet-era drones that have had little success in the war. At the small end of the Ukraine drone complement are 100 Switchblade drones, which were donated by the United States as part of the $800 million weapons package announced on 16 March. The Switchblades are loitering munitions similar in size and functionality to the Russian Zala Kyb.

The upshot is that on offense, the Ukrainian and Russian militaries are closely matched in the drone war. The difference is on defense: Ukraine has the advantage when it comes to counter-drone technology. A decade ago, counter-drone technology mostly meant using radar to detect drones and surface-to-air missiles to shoot them down. It quickly proved far too costly and ineffective. Drone technology advanced at a brisk pace over the past decade, so counter-drone technology had to move rapidly to keep up. In Russia, it didn’t. Here, again, the Russian military was hampered by technology embargoes and a domestic industrial base that has been somewhat stagnant and lacking in critical capabilities. For contrast, the combined industrial base of the countries supporting Ukraine in this war is massive and has invested heavily in counter-drone technology.

Russia has deployed electronic warfare systems to counter enemy drones and have likely been using the Borisoglebsk 2 MT-LB and R-330Zh Zhitel systems, which use a combination of jamming and spoofing. These systems fill the air with radio-frequency energy, increasing the noise threshold to such a level that the drone cannot distinguish control signals from the remote pilot. Another standard counterdrone technique is sending false signals to the drone, with the most common being fake (“spoofed”) GPS signals, which disorient the flyer. Jamming and spoofing systems are easy to target because they emit radio-frequency waves at fairly high intensities. In fact, open-source images show that Ukrainian forces have already destroyed three of these Russian counterdrone systems.

The exact systems that have been provided to the Ukrainians is not publicly known, but it’s possible to make an educated guess from among the many systems available.

Additionally, some of the newer drones being used by the Ukrainians include features to withstand such electronic attacks. For example, when one of these drones detects a jamming signal, it switches to frequencies that are not being jammed; if it is still unable to reestablish a connection, the drone operates autonomously with a series of preset maneuvers until a connection can be reestablished.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has access to the wide array of NATO counterdrone technologies. The exact systems that have been provided to the Ukrainians is not publicly known, but it’s possible to make an educated guess from among the many systems available. One of the more powerful ones, from Lockheed Martin, repurposes a solid-state, phased-array radar system developed to spot incoming munitions, to detect and identify a drone. The system then tracks the drone and uses high-energy lasers to shoot it down. Raytheon’s counterdrone portfolio includes similar capabilities along with drone-killing drones and systems capable of beaming high-power microwaves that disrupt the drone’s electronics.

While most major Western defense contractors have some sort of counterdrone system, there has also been significant innovation in the commercial sector, given the mass proliferation of commercial drones. While many of these technologies are aimed at smaller drones, some of the technologies, including acoustic sensing and radio-frequency localization, are effective against larger drones as well. Also, a dozen small companies have developed jamming and spoofing systems specifically aimed at countering modern drones.

Although we don’t know specifically which counterdrone systems are being deployed by the Ukrainians, the images of the destroyed drones tell a compelling story. In the drone war, many of the flyers on both sides have been captured or destroyed on the ground, but more than half were disabled while in flight. The destroyed Ukrainian drones often show tremendous damage, including burn marks and other signs that they were shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile. A logical conclusion is that the Russians’ electronic counterdrone systems were not effective. Meanwhile, the downed Russian drones are typically much more intact, showing relatively minor damage consistent with a precision strike from a laser or electromagnetic pulse. This is exactly what you would expect if the drones had been dispatched by one of the newer Western counterdrone systems.

In the first three weeks of this conflict, Russian drones have failed to achieve the level of success that they did in 2014. The Ukrainians, on the other hand, have logged multiple victories with drone and counterdrone forces assembled in just 8 years. The Russian drones, primarily domestically sourced, have been foiled repeatedly by NATO counterdrone technology. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian drones, such as the TB2s procured from NATO-member Turkey, have had multiple successes against the Russian counterdrone systems.
Match ID: 104 Score: 10.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 137 days
qualifiers: 5.00 sanctions, 2.86 russia, 2.14 energy

Who Actually Owns Tesla’s Data?
Fri, 05 Aug 2022 15:26:58 +0000


On 29 September 2020, a masked man entered a branch of the Wells Fargo bank in Washington, D.C., and handed the teller a note: “This is a robbery. Act calm give me all hundreds.” The teller complied. The man then fled the bank and jumped into a gray Tesla Model S. This was one of three bank robberies the man attempted the same day.

When FBI agents began investigating, they reviewed Washington, D.C.’s District Department of Transportation camera footage, and spotted a Tesla matching the getaway vehicle’s description. The license plate on that car showed that it was registered to Exelorate Enterprises LLC, the parent company of Steer EV—a D.C.-based monthly vehicle-subscription service.

Agents served a subpoena on Steer EV for the renter’s billing and contact details. Steer EV provided those—and also voluntarily supplied historical GPS data for the vehicle. The data showed the car driving between, and parking at, each bank at the time of the heists. The renter was arrested and, in September, sentenced to four years in prison.

“If an entity is collecting, retaining, [and] sharing historical location data on an individualized level, it’s extraordinarily difficult to de-identify that, verging on impossible.”
—John Verdi, Future of Privacy Forum

In this case, the GPS data likely came from a device Steer EV itself installed in the vehicle (neither Steer nor Tesla responded to interview requests). However, according to researchers, Tesla is potentially in a position to provide similar GPS tracks for many of its 3 million customers.

For Teslas built since mid-2017, “every time you drive, it records the whole track of where you drive, the GPS coordinates and certain other metrics for every mile driven,” says Green, a Tesla owner who has reverse engineered the company’s Autopilot data collection. “They say that they are anonymizing the trigger results,” but, he says, “you could probably match everything to a single person if you wanted to.”

Each of these trip logs, and other data “snapshots” captured by the Autopilot system that include images and video, is stripped of its identifying VIN and given a temporary, random ID number when it is uploaded to Tesla, says Green. However, he notes, that temporary ID can persist for days or weeks, connecting all the uploads made during that time.

Black and white photo of a man in a suit looking off into the distance Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla MotorsMark Mahaney/Redux

Given that some trip logs will also likely record journeys between a driver’s home, school, or place of work, guaranteeing complete anonymity is unrealistic, says John Verdi, senior vice president of policy at the Future of Privacy Forum: “If an entity is collecting, retaining, [and] sharing historical location data on an individualized level, it’s extraordinarily difficult to de-identify that, verging on impossible.”

Tesla, like all other automakers, has a policy that spells out what it can and cannot do with the data it gets from customers’ vehicles, including location information. This states that while the company does not sell customer and vehicle data, it can share that data with service providers, business partners, affiliates, some authorized third parties, and government entities according to the law.

Owners can buy a special kit for US $1,400 that allows them to access data on their own car's event data recorder, but this represents just a tiny subset of the data the company collects, and is related only to crashes. Owners living in California and Europe benefit from legislation that means Tesla will provide access to more data generated by their vehicles, although not the Autopilot snapshots and trip logs that are supposedly anonymized.

Once governments realize that a company possesses such a trove of information, it could be only a matter of time before they seek access to it. “If the data exists…and in particular exists in the domain of somebody who’s not the subject of those data, it’s much more likely that a government will eventually get access to them in some way,” says Bryant Walker Smith, an associate professor in the schools of law and engineering at the University of South Carolina.

“Individuals ought to think about their cars more like they think about their cellphones.”
—John Verdi, Future of Privacy Forum

This is not necessarily a terrible thing, Walker says, who suggests that such rich data could unlock valuable insights into which roads or intersections are dangerous. The wealth of data could also surface subtle problems in the vehicles themselves.

In many ways, the data genie is already out of the bottle, according to Verdi. “Individuals ought to think about their cars more like they think about their cellphones,” he says. “The auto industry has a lot to learn from the ways that mobile-phone operating systems handle data permissions…. Both iOS and Android have made great strides in recent years in empowering consumers when it comes to data collection, data disclosure, and data use.”

Tesla permits owners to control some data sharing, including Autopilot and road segment analytics. If they want to opt out of data collection completely, they can ask Tesla to disable the vehicle’s connectivity altogether. However, this would mean losing features such as remote services, Internet radio, voice commands, and Web browser functionality, and even safety-related over-the-air updates.

Green says he is not aware of anyone who has successfully undergone this nuclear option. The only real way to know you’ve prevented data sharing, he says, is to “go to a repair place and ask them to remove the modem out of the car.”

Tesla almost certainly has the biggest empire of customer and vehicle data among automakers. It also appears to be the most aggressive in using that data to develop its automated driving systems, and to protect its reputation in the courts of law and public opinion, even to the detriment of some of its customers.

But while the world’s most valuable automaker dominates the discussion around connected cars, others are not far behind. Elon Musk’s insight—to embrace the data-driven world that our other digital devices already inhabit—is rapidly becoming the industry standard. When our cars become as powerful and convenient as our phones, it is hardly surprising that they suffer the same challenges around surveillance, privacy, and accountability.


Match ID: 105 Score: 7.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 nuclear

St. Louis Voters Keep Cori Bush as Missouri Democrats Choose Anheuser-Busch Heir
Wed, 03 Aug 2022 04:02:25 +0000

Bush’s constituents didn’t show “buyer’s remorse,” but statewide voters rejected populist Lucas Kunce for Trudy Busch Valentine.

The post St. Louis Voters Keep Cori Bush as Missouri Democrats Choose Anheuser-Busch Heir appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 106 Score: 7.14 source: theintercept.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 7.14 trump

AIPAC Defeats Andy Levin, the Most Progressive Jewish Representative
Wed, 03 Aug 2022 03:04:27 +0000

But the Israel lobby couldn't take out Rashida Tlaib.

The post AIPAC Defeats Andy Levin, the Most Progressive Jewish Representative appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 107 Score: 7.14 source: theintercept.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 7.14 trump

Pfizer CEO Complains to Investors About Lower Drug Prices Under Inflation Reduction Act
Wed, 03 Aug 2022 23:07:31 +0000

Chief executive Albert Bourla said Manchin and Schumer were “wrong” to “single out” the pharmaceutical industry in seeking cost savings for the government.

The post Pfizer CEO Complains to Investors About Lower Drug Prices Under Inflation Reduction Act appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 108 Score: 6.43 source: theintercept.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 6.43 energy

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: 109 Score: 6.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 6 days
qualifiers: 6.43 energy

An Attack on Albanian Government Suggests New Iranian Aggression
Thu, 04 Aug 2022 21:30:27 +0000
A Tehran-linked hack of a NATO member marks a significant escalation against the backdrop of US-Iran nuclear talks.
Match ID: 110 Score: 5.71 source: www.wired.com age: 5 days
qualifiers: 5.71 nuclear

2 Refugee Crises—and Their Dark Lessons for the Coming Famine
Tue, 02 Aug 2022 12:00:00 +0000
Disinformation dehumanized one group of refugees as a 'demographic weapon,' even as another was welcomed with open arms.
Match ID: 111 Score: 5.71 source: www.wired.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 5.71 russia

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: 112 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 10 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia, 2.14 energy

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: 113 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 222 days
qualifiers: 2.86 korea, 2.14 energy

Psyche: NASA Mission to a Metal World
Mon, 27 Dec 2021 16:00:00 +0000


When our solar system was very young, there were no planets—only a diffuse disk of gas and dust circled the sun. But within a few million years, that churning cloud of primordial material collapsed under its own gravity to form hundreds, or maybe thousands, of infant planets. Some of those planetesimals, as astronomers call them, grew to be hundreds of kilometers across as they swept up more dust and gas within the swirling solar nebula.

Once they had attained such a size, heat from the decay of the radioactive elements within them became trapped, raising temperatures enough to melt their insides. The denser components of that melt—iron and other metals—settled to the center, leaving lighter silicates to float up toward the surface. These lighter materials eventually cooled to form mantles of silicate rock around heavy metallic cores. In this way, vast amounts of iron and nickel alloys were trapped deep inside these planetesimals, forever hidden from direct scrutiny.

Or were they?


At this time, the solar system was still relatively crowded despite its vast size. And over the next 20 million or so years, many planetesimals crossed paths and collided. Some merged and grew into even larger protoplanets, eventually forming what became the familiar planets we know today.

In each of those protoplanet collisions, the metallic cores were battered and remixed with silicate mantle material, later separating again after being melted by the heat of accretion. Some collisions had enough energy to completely obliterate a protoplanet, leaving behind debris that contributed to the asteroid belt that now exists between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

But a few protoplanets may have escaped either of these fates. Astronomers hypothesize that a series of “hit and run” impacts caused these bodies to lose most of their mantles, leaving behind only a small quantity of silicate rock and a large amount of metal. These materials combined to form a rare kind of world. If this theory is correct, the largest example would be an asteroid called 16 Psyche—named after the Greek goddess of the soul, Psyche, and because it was the 16th member of the asteroid belt to be discovered (in 1852).

This artist\u2019s rendering shows a highly cratered celestial object that is not quite spherical. This artist’s rendering suggests the kind of surface the asteroid 16 Psyche might have.Peter Rubin/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University/NASA

16 Psyche is about as wide as Massachusetts and has metal-like density. This makes it large and dense enough to account for a full 1 percent of the total mass of the asteroid belt. Metal miners of the future may one day stake claims on it.

Psyche is also the name of a NASA mission to visit that asteroid. Led by Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Psyche mission will test astronomers’ theories about planetary-core formation and composition while it explores a world with a landscape unlike any that space probes have visited so far.

This photo shows a woman apparently giving a presentation. Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University leads the Psyche mission’s scientific team.Bill Ingalls/NASA

The Psyche mission is scheduled to launch in August 2022, with the spacecraft reaching its destination more than three years later. What will it find there? Astronomers think we might see enormous surface faults from the contraction of freezing metal, glittering cliffs of green crystalline mantle minerals, frozen flows of sulfur lava, and vast fields of metal shards scattered over the surface from millennia of high-speed impacts. There will no doubt be plenty of surprises, too.

The long journey this space probe must make to reach its destination will be especially demanding. 16 Psyche resides in the outer part of the main asteroid belt, well beyond the orbit of Mars. The probe will begin circling the asteroid in January of 2026 and will study it for nearly two years.

Counterintuitively, arranging for a probe to orbit a small body like an asteroid is harder than orbiting a planet. Big planets have deep gravity wells, which allow spacecraft to enter orbit with a single low-altitude rocket burn. Small bodies have little gravity and provide essentially no gravitational leverage, so the spacecraft’s propulsion system must do all the work.

Astronomers think we might see enormous surface faults, glittering cliffs of green crystalline mantle minerals, frozen flows of sulfur lava, and vast fields of metal shards.

Not long ago, NASA managed this maneuver successfully with its Dawn mission, which sent a probe to orbit the asteroids Vesta and Ceres. The Dawn spacecraft used solar-electric propulsion. Its three highly efficient engines converted electricity from solar arrays into thrust by ionizing a propellant gas and accelerating it though a high-voltage electric field.

When our team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was designing the Psyche probe, we planned to do something similar. The main problem was figuring out how to do it without exceeding the mission’s budget. JPL engineers solved this problem by using what was for the most part existing technology, manufactured by Maxar, a company based in Westminster, Colo. It is one of the world’s largest providers of commercial geosynchronous communication satellites, produced at a division located in Palo Alto, Calif.

The Psyche spacecraft is built on the “chassis” used for those satellites, which includes high-power solar arrays, electric-propulsion thrusters, and associated power and thermal control elements. In many ways, the Psyche spacecraft resembles a standard Maxar communications satellite. But it also hosts JPL’s avionics, flight software, and the many fault-protection systems required for autonomous deep-space operation.

 This photograph shows technicians outfitted in clean-room garb working on a large blocky spacecraft that is suspended from a gantry by cables. Technicians at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory work on the Psyche spacecraft.Maxar

Making this concept work was difficult from the get-go. First, NASA management was rightfully wary of such cost-cutting measures, because the “ faster, better, cheaper” model of missions mounted in the 1990s produced some spectacular failures. Second, using Earth-orbiting systems on the Dawn mission resulted in large cost overruns during the development phase. Finally, many people involved believed (erroneously) that the environment of deep space is very special and that the Psyche spacecraft would thus have to be very different from a communications satellite intended only to orbit Earth.

We and our many NASA colleagues addressed each of these issues by teaming with engineers at Maxar. We kept costs under control by using hardware from the company’s standard product line and by minimizing changes to it. We could do that because the thermal environment in geosynchronous orbit isn’t in fact so different from what the Psyche probe will encounter.

Soon after launch, the Psyche spacecraft will experience the same relatively high solar flux that communications satellites are built for. It will also have to handle the cold of deep space, of course, but Maxar’s satellites must endure similar conditions when they fly through Earth’s shadow, which they do once a day during certain times of the year.

Because they serve as high-power telecommunications relays, Maxar’s satellites must dissipate the many kilowatts of waste heat generated by their microwave power amplifiers. They do this by radiating that heat into space. Radiating lots of heat away would be a major problem for our space probe, though, because in the vicinity of 16 Psyche the flux of light and heat from the sun is one-tenth of that at Earth. So if nothing were done to prevent it, a spacecraft designed for orbiting Earth would soon become too cold to function this far out in the asteroid belt.

Maxar addressed this challenge by installing multilayer thermal blanketing all over the spacecraft, which will help to retain heat. The company also added custom louvers on top of the thermal radiators. These resemble Venetian blinds, closing automatically to trap heat inside when the spacecraft gets too cold. But plenty of other engineering challenges remained, especially with respect to propulsion.

To reduce the mass of propellant needed to reach the asteroid, the Psyche spacecraft will use solar-electric thrusters that accelerate ions to very high velocities—more than six times as high as what can be attained with chemical rockets. In particular, it will use a type of ion thruster known as a Hall thruster.

The photograph on the left shows a luminous ring with a diffuse glow around it. The photograph on the right shows the source of this light, a black cylindrical device bolted to the side of the spacecraft. A Hall thruster, four of which will propel the Psyche spacecraft, produces an eerie blue glow during testing [left]. The unit consists of a ring-shaped anode, which has a diameter similar to that of a dinner plate, and a narrow, cylindrical cathode mounted to one side [right].JPL-Caltech/NASA

Soviet engineers pioneered the use of Hall thrusters in space during the 1970s. And we use four Russian-made Hall thrusters on the Psyche spacecraft for the simple reason that Maxar uses that number to maintain the orbits of their communications satellites.

Hall thrusters employ a clever strategy to accelerate positively charged ions [see sidebar, “How a Hall Thruster Works”]. This is different from what is done in the ion thrusters on the Dawn spacecraft, which used high-voltage grids. Hall thrusters, in contrast, use a combination of electric and magnetic fields to accelerate the ions. While Hall thrusters have a long history of use on satellites, this is the first time they will go on an interplanetary mission.

How a Hall Thruster Works

A Hall thruster uses an electron discharge to create a plasma—a quasi-neutral collection of positive ions and electrons—not unlike what goes on in a fluorescent lamp.

The thruster includes a hollow cathode (negative electrode), placed outside the thruster body, and an anode (positive electrode) positioned inside a ring-shaped discharge chamber. If these electrodes were all there was, the power applied to the thruster would just go into making a current of electrons flowing from cathode to anode, emitting some blue glow along the way. Instead, a Hall thruster applies a radially directed magnetic field across its discharge channel.

The electrons emitted by the cathode are very light and fast. So this magnetic field impedes the flow of electrons to the anode, forcing them instead to go in circular orbits around the center line of the thruster. The positive xenon ions that are generated inside the discharge chamber accelerate toward the cloud of circling electrons, but these ions are too massive to be affected by the weak magnetic field. So they shoot straight out in a beam, sweeping up electrons along the way. The ejection of that material at high speed creates thrust. It’s not much thrust—equal to about the weight of a few quarters—but applied steadily for months on end, it’s enough to get the spacecraft zooming.

We kept costs under control by using hardware from Maxar's standard product line and by minimizing changes to it.

You might think that thrusting around Earth isn’t any different from doing so in deep space. There are, in fact, some big differences. Remember, the power to run the thrusters comes from solar panels, and that power must be used as it is generated—there is no great big battery to store it. So the power available to run the thrusters will diminish markedly as the spacecraft moves away from the sun.

That’s an issue because electric thrusters are usually designed to run best at their maximum power level. It turns out to be pretty easy to throttle them a little, maybe to about half their maximum output. For example, the Hall thrusters Maxar uses on its communications satellites can run at as much as 4.5 kilowatts when the satellite’s orbit needs to be raised. For more routine station keeping, these thrusters run at 3 kW. We needed these thrusters to run at less than 1 kW when the spacecraft neared its destination.

The problem is that efficiency decreases when you do this kind of throttling. In that sense, a Hall thruster is like the engine in your car. But the situation is worse than in a car: The electrical discharge inside a thruster can become unstable if the power is decreased too much. The throttled thruster can even quit firing altogether—like a flameout in a jet engine.

But with some clever engineering, we were able to make modifications to how we run Maxar’s thruster so that it could operate stably at power levels as low as 900 W. We then tested our reengineered thruster in facilities at NASA’s Glenn Research Center and at JPL to prove to ourselves that it would indeed operate reliably for the full six-year Psyche mission.

This CAD drawing shows the major components of the Deep Space Optical Communications system: a cylindrical optical transceiver assembly, a photon-counting camera attached to one side of that assembly, a \u201cfloating\u201d electronics package attached to the base of the unit, and three of the four isolation struts attaching the system to the spacecraft. The Psyche mission will test equipment for sending and receiving data optically. This Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) system must be pointed with great precision and kept isolated from vibration.JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University/NASA

The Psyche probe will venture more than three times as far from the sun as Earth ever does. Generating the 2 kW of power needed to operate the spacecraft and fire its thrusters when it reaches its destination requires an array of solar cells large enough to generate more than 20 kW near Earth. That’s a lot of power as these things go.

Fortunately for NASA, the cost of solar power has dropped dramatically over the past decade. Today, the commercial satellites that beam television and Internet signals across the globe generate these power levels routinely. Their solar-power systems are effective, reliable, and relatively inexpensive. But they are designed to work while circling Earth, not at the outer edges of the asteroid belt.

When the Psyche mission was conceived in 2013, Maxar had successfully flown more than 20 spacecraft with power levels greater than 20 kW. But the company had never built an interplanetary probe. JPL, on the other hand, had years of experience operating equipment in deep space, but it had never built a power system of the size required for the Psyche mission. So JPL and Maxar combined forces.

The challenge here was more complicated than just dealing with the fact that sunlight at 16 Psyche is so dim. The solar cells on the Psyche spacecraft would also have to operate at temperatures much lower than normal. That’s a serious issue because the voltage from such cells rises as they get colder.

When orbiting Earth, Maxar’s solar arrays generate 100 volts. If these same arrays were used near 16 Psyche, they would produce problematically high voltages. While we could have added electronics to reduce the voltage coming out of the array, the new circuitry would be costly to design, build, and test for space. Worse, it would have reduced the efficiency of power generation when the spacecraft is far from the sun, where producing adequate amounts of power will be tough in any case.

Fortunately, Maxar already had a solution. When one of their communications satellites passes into Earth’s shadow, it’s powered by a bank of lithium-ion batteries about the size of what’s found in electric cars. That’s big enough to keep the satellite running while it is in darkness behind Earth, which is never for much longer than an hour. But the voltage from such batteries varies over time—perhaps from as low as 40 V on some satellites when the battery is deeply discharged all the way up to 100 V. To handle that variability, Maxar’s satellites include “discharge converters,” which boost voltage to provide power at a constant 100 V. These converters were flight proven and highly efficient—ideal to repurpose for Psyche.

The key was to rewire the solar array, lowering the voltage it produced in the vicinity of Earth to about 60 V. As the spacecraft moves away from the sun, the voltage will gradually rise as the arrays get colder until it reaches about 100 V at 16 Psyche. Maxar’s discharge converters, normally attached to batteries, are connected to the solar array instead and used to provide the spacecraft with power at a constant 100 V over the entire mission.

This approach incurs some energy losses, but those are greatest when the spacecraft is close to Earth and power is abundantly available. The system will operate at its highest efficiency when the spacecraft nears 16 Psyche, where generating power will be a lot harder. It uses flight-proven hardware and is far more economical than sophisticated systems designed to eke out peak power from a solar array throughout a deep-space mission.

One day the technology being tested may enable you to watch astronauts tromping around the Red Planet in high-definition video.

In addition to the set of scientific instruments that will be used to study the asteroid, the Psyche spacecraft will also be carrying what NASA calls a “technology demonstration” payload. Like so many things at NASA, it goes by an acronym: DSOC, which stands for Deep Space Optical Communications.

DSOC is a laser-based communications system intended to outdo current radio technology by as much as a hundredfold. DSOC will demonstrate its capability by transmitting data at up to 2 megabits per second from beyond the orbit of Mars. One day similar technology may enable you to watch astronauts tromping around the Red Planet in high-definition video.

The DSOC instrument has a “ground segment” and a “flight segment,” each of which includes both a laser transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter for the ground segment, a 7-kW laser, will be installed at JPL’s Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory, located about 60 kilometers northeast of Los Angeles. A sensitive receiver, one capable of counting individual photons, will be attached to the 5.1-meter-wide Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, located a similar distance northeast of San Diego.

This photo shows a dish antenna that is covered by fabric being tested inside a chamber that is lined with material shaped to absorb electromagnetic radiation The Psyche spacecraft’s high-gain radio antenna, shown here being tested at the Maxar's facilities in Palo Alto, Calif., will provide the data communications throughout the mission.Maxar

DSOC’s flight segment, the part on the spacecraft, contains the same type of equipment, but much scaled down: a laser with an average power of 4 watts and a 22-centimeter telescope. The flight segment sounds simple, like something you could cobble together yourself at home. In fact, it’s anything but.

For one, it needs some rather elaborate gear to point it in the right direction. The Psyche spacecraft itself is able to keep DSOC pointed toward Earth to within a couple of milliradians—about a tenth of a degree. Using built-in actuators, DSOC then searches for the laser beacon sent from the ground. After detecting it, the actuators stabilize the pointing of DSOC’s own laser back at Earth with an accuracy measured in microradians.

The flight segment is able to point so steadily in the same direction because it’s housed in a special enclosure that provides thermal and mechanical isolation from the rest of the spacecraft. DSOC also uses a long sun shield to eliminate stray light on its laser receiver, with a deployable aperture cover to ensure that the unit remains clean.

During DSOC operations in space, the spacecraft cannot use its thrusters or gimbal its solar arrays, which would introduce problematic movements. Instead, it will keep its attitude fixed solidly in one direction and will use its star-tracking system to determine what that direction is. The constraints on what the spacecraft can do at these times is not an impediment, though, because DSOC will be used only for tests during the first year of the mission, while traveling to just past the orbit of Mars. When the spacecraft reaches 16 Psyche, it will transmit data back to Earth over a microwave radio link.

Having emerged from nearly a decade of planning, and having traveled for more than three years, the Psyche spacecraft will finally reach its target in early 2026. There will no doubt be plenty of tension in the air when controllers at JPL maneuver the spacecraft into orbit, waiting the many minutes it will take signals to be returned to find out whether all went well in this distant corner of the asteroid belt.

If all goes according to plan, for the following two years this communications-satellite-turned-space-probe will provide scientists with a close-up look at this odd metallic world, having already demonstrated an advanced optical system for high-data-rate communications. These achievements will have been a long time coming for us—but we expect that what is learned will be well worth the many years we’ve put into trying to ensure that this mission is a success.


Match ID: 114 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 225 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia, 2.14 energy

Pentagon Aims to Demo a Nuclear Spacecraft Within 5 Years
Thu, 09 Jun 2022 16:44:41 +0000


In the latest push for nuclear power in space, the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) awarded a contract in May to Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear to advance its nuclear power and propulsion concepts. The company is making a soccer ball–size radioisotope battery it calls EmberCore. The DIU’s goal is to launch the technology into space for demonstration in 2027.

Ultra Safe Nuclear’s system is intended to be lightweight, scalable, and usable as both a propulsion source and a power source. It will be specifically designed to give small-to-medium-size military spacecraft the ability to maneuver nimbly in the space between Earth orbit and the moon. The DIU effort is part of the U.S. military’s recently announced plans to develop a surveillance network in cislunar space.

Besides speedy space maneuvers, the DIU wants to power sensors and communication systems without having to worry about solar panels pointing in the right direction or batteries having enough charge to work at night, says Adam Schilffarth, director of strategy at Ultra Safe Nuclear. “Right now, if you are trying to take radar imagery in Ukraine through cloudy skies,” he says, “current platforms can only take a very short image because they draw so much power.”

Radioisotope power sources are well suited for small, uncrewed spacecraft, adds Christopher Morrison, who is leading EmberCore’s development. Such sources rely on the radioactive decay of an element that produces energy, as opposed to nuclear fission, which involves splitting atomic nuclei in a controlled chain reaction to release energy. Heat produced by radioactive decay is converted into electricity using thermoelectric devices.

Radioisotopes have provided heat and electricity for spacecraft since 1961. The Curiosity and Perseverance rovers on Mars, and deep-space missions including Cassini, New Horizons, and Voyager all use radioisotope batteries that rely on the decay of plutonium-238, which is nonfissile—unlike plutonium-239, which is used in weapons and power reactors.

For EmberCore, Ultra Safe Nuclear has instead turned to medical isotopes such as cobalt-60 that are easier and cheaper to produce. The materials start out inert, and have to be charged with neutrons to become radioactive. The company encapsulates the material in a proprietary ceramic for safety.

Cobalt-60 has a half-life of five years (compared to plutonium-238’s 90 years), which is enough for the cislunar missions that the DOD and NASA are looking at, Morrison says. He says that EmberCore should be able to provide 10 times as much power as a plutonium-238 system, providing over 1 million kilowatt-hours of energy using just a few pounds of fuel. “This is a technology that is in many ways commercially viable and potentially more scalable than plutonium-238,” he says.

One downside of the medical isotopes is that they can produce high-energy X-rays in addition to heat. So Ultra Safe Nuclear wraps the fuel with a radiation-absorbing metal shield. But in the future, the EmberCore system could be designed for scientists to use the X-rays for experiments. “They buy this heater and get an X-ray source for free,” says Schilffarth. “We’ve talked with scientists who right now have to haul pieces of lunar or Martian regolith up to their sensor because the X-ray source is so weak. Now we’re talking about a spotlight that could shine down to do science from a distance.”

Ultra Safe Nuclear’s contract is one of two awarded by the DIU—which aims to speed up the deployment of commercial technology through military use—to develop nuclear power and propulsion for spacecraft. The other contract was awarded to Avalanche Energy, which is making a lunchbox-size fusion device it calls an Orbitron. The device will use electrostatic fields to trap high-speed ions in slowly changing orbits around a negatively charged cathode. Collisions between the ions can result in fusion reactions that produce energetic particles.

Both companies will use nuclear energy to power high-efficiency electric propulsion systems. Electric propulsion technologies such as ion thrusters, which use electromagnetic fields to accelerate ions and generate thrust, are more efficient than chemical rockets, which burn fuel. Solar panels typically power the ion thrusters that satellites use today to change their position and orientation. Schilffarth says that the higher power from EmberCore should give a greater velocity change of 10 kilometers per second in orbit than today’s electric propulsion systems.

Ultra Safe Nuclear is also one of three companies developing nuclear fission thermal propulsion systems for NASA and the Department of Energy. Meanwhile, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking companies to develop a fission-based nuclear thermal rocket engine, with demonstrations expected in 2026.

This article appears in the August 2022 print issue as “Spacecraft to Run on Radioactive Decay.”


Match ID: 115 Score: 3.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 61 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy, 1.43 nuclear

Outside the Box: The Trump administration wants to discourage your 401(k) from including ESG investment options
Tue, 08 Sep 2020 21:11:24 GMT
Two proposed rules imply that investment managers promote social goals over sound investment analysis — but that’s not what actually happens.
Match ID: 116 Score: 3.57 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 700 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trump

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: 117 Score: 2.86 source: theintercept.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 2.86 nuclear

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: 118 Score: 2.86 source: www.wired.com age: 10 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

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: 119 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 12 days
qualifiers: 2.86 italy

How Tor Is Fighting—and Beating—Russian Censorship
Thu, 28 Jul 2022 14:34:27 +0000
Russia has been trying to block the anonymous browser since December—with mixed results.
Match ID: 120 Score: 2.86 source: www.wired.com age: 12 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

Russia to pull out of International Space Station
Tue, 26 Jul 2022 17:40:07 GMT
Moscow says it now wants to build its own station, ending more than 20 years of cooperation with the US.
Match ID: 121 Score: 2.86 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 14 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

'What is stopping us becoming Ukraine 2.0?': The Estonian women preparing for war
Thu, 23 Jun 2022 07:23:29 GMT

In the months since the invasion of Ukraine, Estonians, who share a border with Russia, are increasingly concerned about potential Kremlin aggression. Despite the threat being low, more than 1,000 ordinary women have volunteered to join the Women's Defence Organisation since the conflict began. Car mechanic Mari Klandorf is one. She now spends her weekends training in first aid, guerrilla warfare and firearms and says: 'Russia might not be coming tomorrow, or the next day, but I want to be prepared.' The Guardian's Kyri Evangelou reports.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 122 Score: 2.86 source: www.theguardian.com age: 47 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

Putin's Russia: dictator syndrome and the rise of a 'mafia state' – video
Mon, 20 Jun 2022 11:00:52 GMT

Guardian correspondent Luke Harding chronicles the defining moments in Putin's early presidency that helped turn Russia into a 'mafia state' – from the clampdown on the independent media, to shocking assassinations and the emergence of pro-western democratic movements in neighbouring Georgia and Ukraine

Continue reading...
Match ID: 123 Score: 2.86 source: www.theguardian.com age: 50 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

Frame for Artemis IV
Thu, 02 Jun 2022 16:48:00 +0200
Image:

The fourth European Service Module structure to power astronauts on NASA's Orion spacecraft to the Moon is now complete. The structure is seen here at a Thales Alenia Space site in Turin, Italy.

The module is now on its way to Airbus’ clean rooms in Bremen, Germany where engineers will complete the integration and carry out final tests.

As the powerhouse for the Orion spacecraft, the European Service Module provides propulsion and the consumables astronauts need to stay alive.

Much like the load-bearing frame of a car, this structure forms the basis for all further assembly of the spacecraft, including 11 km of wiring, 33 engines, four tanks to hold over 8000 litres of fuel, water and air for astronauts and the seven-metre ‘x-wing’ solar arrays that provide enough electricity to power two households.

The fourth European Service Module is part of the Artemis IV mission that will begin delivering elements of the Gateway, the next human outpost located in lunar orbit.

This includes the International Habitat, or I-Hab, module, built by Thales Alenia on behalf of ESA. It is a pressurised module that will provide living quarters for astronauts visiting the Gateway and include multiple docking ports for berthing vehicles as well as well other modules.

What’s up with the first three European Service Modules?

The first European Service Module is connected with the Orion spacecraft and awaiting launch for Artemis I later this year. The second European Service Module has been formally transferred to NASA and is completing integration at the Operations and Checkout building at Kennedy Space Center. Meanwhile, the third European Service Module continues to be built up in Bremen.

With four European Service Modules already delivered and in production, ESA is ensuring NASA’s Artemis programme continues to develop a sustainable presence on and around the Moon in international partnership.

The countdown to the Moon starts in Europe with 16 companies in ten countries supplying the components that make up humankind’s next generation spacecraft for exploration. Follow the latest on Orion developments on the blog


Match ID: 124 Score: 2.86 source: www.esa.int age: 68 days
qualifiers: 2.86 italy

Could hydrogen ease Germany's reliance on Russian gas?
Tue, 24 May 2022 10:45:43 GMT
Why hydrogen might be one route for Germany to move away from dependence on Russian imports.
Match ID: 125 Score: 2.86 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 77 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

DARPA Wants a Better, Badder Caspian Sea Monster
Thu, 19 May 2022 19:31:02 +0000


Arguably, the primary job of any military organization is moving enormous amounts of stuff from one place to another as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some of that stuff is weaponry, but the vast majority are things that support that weaponry—fuel, spare parts, personnel, and so on. At the moment, the U.S. military has two options when it comes to transporting large amounts of payload. Option one is boats (a sealift), which are efficient, but also slow and require ports. Option two is planes (an airlift), which are faster by a couple of orders of magnitude, but also expensive and require runways.

To solve this, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to combine traditional sealift and airlift with the Liberty Lifter program, which aims to “design, build, and flight test an affordable, innovative, and disruptive seaplane” that “enables efficient theater-range transport of large payloads at speeds far exceeding existing sea lift platforms.”

DARPA

DARPA is asking for a design like this to take advantage of ground effect, which occurs when an aircraft’s wing deflects air downward and proximity to the ground generates a cushioning effect due to the compression of air between the bottom of the wing and the ground. This boosts lift and lowers drag to yield a substantial overall improvement in efficiency. Ground effect works on both water and land, but you can take advantage of it for only so long on land before your aircraft runs into something. Which is why oceans are the ideal place for these aircraft—or ships, depending on your perspective.

During the late 1980s, the Soviets (and later the Russians) leveraged ground effect in the design of a handful of awesomely bizarre ships and aircraft. There’s the VVA-14, which was also an airplane, along with the vehicle shown in DARPA’s video above, the Lun-class ekranoplan, which operated until the late 1990s. The video clip really does not do this thing justice, so here’s a better picture, taken a couple of years ago:

Oblique overhead view of a huge grey seaplane on the water Instagram

The Lun (only one was ever made) had a wingspan of 44 meters and was powered by eight turbojet engines. It flew about 4 meters above the water at speeds of up to 550 kilometers per hour, and could transport almost 100,000 kilograms of cargo for 2,000 km. It was based on an earlier, even larger prototype (the largest aircraft in the world at the time) that the CIA spotted in satellite images in 1967 and which seems to have seriously freaked them out. It was nicknamed the Caspian Sea Monster, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the West understood what it was and how it worked.

In the mid 1990s, DARPA itself took a serious look at a stupendously large ground-effect vehicle of its own, the Aerocon Dash 1.6 wingship. The concept image below is of a 4.5-million-kg vehicle, 175 meters long with a 100-meter wingspan, powered by 20 (!) jet engines:

A black and white wireframe drawing of a huge streamlined aircraft Wikipedia

With a range of almost 20,000 km at over 700 km/h, the wingship could have carried 3,000 passengers or 1.4 million kg of cargo. By 1994, though, DARPA had decided that the potential billion-dollar project to build a wingship like this was too risky, and canceled the whole thing.

A concept image of a massive grey seaplane skimming over the ocean

Less than 10 years later, Boeing’s Phantom Works started exploring an enormous ground-effect aircraft, the Pelican Ultra Large Transport Aircraft. The Pelican would have been even larger than the Aerocon wingship, with a wingspan of 152 meters and a payload of 1.2 million kg—that’s about 178 shipping containers’ worth. Unlike the wingship, the Pelican would take advantage of ground effect to boost efficiency only in transit above water, but would otherwise use runways like a normal aircraft and be able to reach flight altitudes of 7,500 meters. Operating as a traditional aircraft and with an optimal payload, the Pelican would have a range of about 12,000 km. In ground effect, however, the range would have increased to 18,500 km, illustrating the appeal of designs like these. But Boeing dropped the project in 2005 to focus on lower cost, less risky options.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t at least briefly mention two other massive aircraft: the H-4 Hercules, the cargo seaplane built by Hughes Aircraft Co. in the 1940s, and the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft, which features a twin-fuselage configuration that DARPA seems to be favoring in its concept video for some reason.

From the sound of DARPA’s announcement, they’re looking for something a bit more like the Pelican than the Aerocon Dash or the Lun. DARPA wants the Liberty Lifter to be able to sustain flight out of ground effect if necessary, although it’s expected to spend most of its time over water for efficiency. It won’t use runways on land at all, though, and should be able to stay out on the water for 4 to 6 weeks at a time, operating even in rough seas—a significant challenge for ground-effect aircraft.

DARPA is looking for an operational range of 7,500 km, with a maximum payload of at least 90,000 kg, including the ability to launch and recover amphibious vehicles. The hardest thing DARPA is asking for could be that, unlike most other X-planes, the Liberty Lifter should incorporate a “low cost design and construction philosophy” inspired by the mass-produced Liberty ships of World War II.

With US $15 million to be awarded to up to two Liberty Lifter concepts, DARPA is hoping that at least one of those concepts will pass a system-level critical design review in 2025. If everything goes well after that, the first flight of a full-scale prototype vehicle could happen as early as 2027.


Match ID: 126 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 82 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

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: 127 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 112 days
qualifiers: 2.86 italy

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: 128 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 171 days
qualifiers: 2.86 korea

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: 129 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 8 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

After Going Solar, I Felt the Bliss of Sudden Abundance
Fri, 29 Jul 2022 12:00:00 +0000
My rooftop panels showed me that a world powered by renewables would be an overflowing horn of plenty, with fast, sporty cars and comfy homes.
Match ID: 130 Score: 2.14 source: www.wired.com age: 11 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Turing Award Winner On His Pioneering Algorithms
Wed, 27 Jul 2022 18:00:00 +0000


Jack Dongarra’s dream job growing up was to teach science at a public high school in Chicago.

“I was pretty good in math and science, but I wasn’t a particularly good student,” Dongarra says, laughing.

After he graduated high school, there was only one university he wanted to attend: Chicago State. That’s because, he says, it was known for “churning out teachers.” Chicago State accepted his application, and he decided to major in mathematics.


His physics professor suggested that Dongarra apply for an internship at the Argonne National Laboratory, in Lemont, Ill., a nearby U.S. Department of Energy science and engineering research center. For 16 weeks he worked with a group of researchers designing and developing EISPACK, a package of Fortran routines that compute the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of matrices—calculations common in scientific computing.

Dongarra acknowledges he didn’t have a background in or knowledge of eigenvalues and eigenvectors—or of linear algebra—but he loved what he was doing. The experience at Argonne, he says, was transformative. He had found his passion.

“I thought it was a cool thing to do,” he says, “so I kept pursuing it.”

About Jack Dongarra


Employer: University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Title: Professor emeritus, computer science

Member grade: Life Fellow

Alma mater: Chicago State University

The IEEE Life Fellow has since made pioneering contributions to numerical algorithms and libraries for linear algebra, which allowed software to make good use of high-performance hardware. His open-source software libraries are used in just about every computer, from laptops to the world’s fastest supercomputers.

The libraries include basic linear algebra subprograms (BLAS), the linear-algebra package LAPACK, parallel virtual machines (PVMs), automatically tuned linear algebra software (ATLAS), and the high-performance conjugate gradient (HPCG) benchmark.

For his work, he was honored this year with the 2021 A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery. He received US $1 million as part of the award, which is known as the Nobel Prize of computing.

“When I think about previous Turing Award recipients, I’m humbled to think about what I’ve learned from their books and papers,” Dongarra says. “Their programming languages, theorems, techniques, and standards have helped me develop my algorithms.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be this year’s recipient. The award is a recognition by the computer-science community that the contributions we are making in high-performance computing are important and have an impact in the broader computer-science community and science in general.”

Dongarra didn’t end up teaching science to high school students. Instead, he became a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he taught for 33 years. The university recently named him professor emeritus.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

After graduating from Chicago State in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Dongarra went on to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, also in Chicago. While there he worked one day a week for Argonne with the same team of researchers. After he got his degree in 1973, the lab hired him full time as a researcher.

With encouragement from his colleagues to pursue a Ph.D., he left the lab to study applied mathematics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He honed his knowledge of linear algebra there and began working out algorithms and writing software.

He returned to Argonne after getting his doctorate in 1980 and worked there as a senior scientist until 1989, when he got the opportunity to fulfill his dream of teaching.

He was offered a joint position teaching computer science at the University of Tennessee and conducting research at the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory which, like Argonne, is a Department of Energy facility.

“It was time for me to try out some new things,” he says. “I was ready to try my hand at academia.”

He says Oak Ridge operated in a similar way to Argonne, and the culture there was more or less the same.

“The challenge,” he says, “was becoming a university professor.”

"The Turing Award is a recognition by the computer science community that the contributions we are making in high-performance computing are important, and have an impact in the broader computer science community and science in general.”

University culture is very different from that at a government laboratory, he says, but he quickly fell into the rhythm of the academic setting.

Although he loved teaching, he says, he also was attracted to the opportunity the university gave its instructors to work on technology they are passionate about.

“You follow your own path and course of research,” he says. “I’ve prospered in that environment. I interact with smart people, I have the ability to travel around the world, and I have collaborations going on with people in many countries.

“Academia gives you this freedom to do things and not be constrained by a company’s drive or its motivation. Rather, I get to work on what motivates me. That’s why I’ve stayed in academia for so many years.”

Man with glasses and checkered shirt sitting in front of a Tektronix computer. In 1980, Dongarra worked as a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, in Lemont, Ill.Jack Dongarra

Dongarra founded the university’s Innovative Computing Laboratory, whose mission is to provide tools for high-performance computing to the scientific community. He also directs the school’s Center for Information Technology Research.

He is now a distinguished researcher at Oak Ridge, which he calls “a wonderful place, with its state-of-the-art equipment and the latest computers.”

Software for Supercomputers

It was working in creative environments that led Dongarra to come up with what many describe as world-changing software libraries, which have contributed to the growth of high-performance computing in many areas including artificial intelligence, data analytics, genomics, and health care.

“The libraries we designed have basic components that are needed in many areas of science so that users can draw on those components to help them solve their computational problems,” he says. “That software is portable and efficient. It has all the attributes that we want in terms of being understandable and providing reliable results.”

He’s currently working on creating a software library for the world’s fastest supercomputer, Frontier, which recently was installed at the Oak Ridge lab. It is the first computer that can process more than 1 quintillion operations per second.

Computer-Science Recognition

Dongarra has been an IEEE member for more than 30 years.

“I enjoy interacting with the community,” he says in explaining why he continues to belong. “Also I enjoy reading IEEE Spectrum and journals that are relevant to my specific field.”

He has served as an editor for several IEEE journals including Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Computer Architecture Letters, and IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems.

Dongarra says he’s a big promoter of IEEE meetings and workshops, especially the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis, sponsored by ACM and the IEEE Computer Society, of which he is a member. He’s been attending the event every year since 1988. He has won many awards at the conference for his papers.

“That conference is really a homecoming for the high-performance computing community,” he says, “and IEEE plays a major role.”

IEEE is proud of Dongarra’s contributions to computing and has honored him over the years. In 2008 he received the first IEEE Medal of Excellence in Scalable Computing. He also received the 2020 Computer Pioneer Award, the 2013 ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy Award, the 2011 IEEE Charles Babbage Award and the 2003 Sidney Fernbach Award.

“I’m very happy and proud to be a member of IEEE,” he says. “I think it provides a valuable service to the community.”


Match ID: 131 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 13 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Inside the Universe Machine: The Webb Space Telescope’s Chilly Sun Shield
Thu, 07 Jul 2022 13:48:57 +0000


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

When Apollo astronauts sent back the first pictures of Earth as a disk in space, the poet Archibald MacLeish wrote of it as “that bright loveliness in the eternal cold.” He was not far off. Deep space has a temperature of 2.7 kelvins—just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.

If the James Webb Space Telescope is to work—looking so far out and therefore so far back in time that it can see the first galaxies forming after the big bang—it will have to image objects so faint that they barely stand out from the cold around them. The world will begin finding out how well the observatory works as soon as next week, when JWST is expected to release its first trove of scientific images and spectroscopic data.

So, for argument’s sake, let’s assume all indications so far do in fact point to a successful kickoff of the (hopefully long and storied) scientific data-gathering phase of Webb’s mission. How then did the engineers and designers of this massive telescope ever make it possible to cool the telescope down enough—all at a remove of nearly four times the distance from Earth to the moon—to possibly do its job?

After more than 25 years’ work and technological hurdles beyond counting, the Webb team has launched and stationed its mammoth observatory in solar orbit—and brought its instruments below 40 kelvins (-233 °C), cold enough to see the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago. Remarkably, most of the cooling has been done passively, by shielding the telescope from the sun and letting physics take care of the rest.

“Webb is not just the product of a group of people. It’s not the product of some smart astronomers—Webb is truly the product of our entire world’s capability,” says Keith Parrish, a leader on the Webb team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “Taken as a whole, Webb is truly the result of our entire know-how of how to build complex machines.”

Parrish joined the project in 1997, ultimately becoming its commissioning manager through the years of design, assembly, testing, delay and, finally, launch on 25 December 2021. He says almost everything about it—its shape and location, the materials from which it’s made—was dictated by the need to have an observatory that would survive for years at supercold temperatures.

Photo of clean room with five giant foil-like sheets stacked atop one another, with three scientists in the distance, inspecting the sunshield In this photo, the five-layered JWST sunshield is being unfurled and inspected in a clean room. The layers of coated Kapton E never touch, minimizing the transmission of heat from one layer to the next. Alex Evers/Northrop Grumman

The Webb is an infrared observatory for many reasons, not the least of which is that as the universe expands, the wavelength of light from distant objects is lengthened, causing dramatic redshift. Infrared is also good for seeing through cosmic dust and gas, and for imaging cold things such as comets, Kuiper Belt objects, and perhaps planets orbiting other stars.

But infrared radiation is often best measured as heat, which is why it’s important for the Webb to be so cold. If, like the Hubble Telescope, it were in low Earth orbit, and it had no shielding from the sun, most of its targets would be drowned out by the sun and ground, and by heat in the telescope itself.

“If my signal is heat—and infrared is heat—then what I can’t have is other heat sources that are noise in the system,” says Jim Flynn, the sunshield manager at Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor for the Webb.

So the Webb has been sent to circle a spot in space called L2, 1.5 million kilometers away, opposite the sun, one of the locations known as Lagrange points. These "L" points are where the gravity of Earth and the sun exactly conspire to keep it in a stable and relatively "fixed" orbit with respect to the Earth as it makes its way around its 365.256-day course circling the sun. It’s a good compromise: Earth is distant enough that it doesn’t interfere with observations, but close enough that communication with the spacecraft can be relatively fast. And since the ship isn’t flying from day to night and back on every orbit, its temperature is relatively stable. All it needs is a really, really good sunshade.

“Four [layers of sunshield] would have probably done the job. Five gave us a little bit of an insurance policy. I’d like to say it was way more sophisticated than that, but that’s really not what it was at all.”
—Keith Parrish, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

“The engineering was pushed above and beyond to meet the scientific goals,” says Alexandra Lockwood, a project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the Webb. “It is specifically designed the way that it is because they wanted to do intensive infrared science.”

It makes for an ungainly-looking ship in many renderings, with the telescope assembly, intentionally open to space to prevent heat buildup, attached to its silvery sunshield, about 14 meters wide and 21 meters long, with five layers of insulating film to keep the telescope in almost total darkness.

From its sunlit side the sunshield roughly resembles a kite. The elongated shape, engineers found, would be the most efficient way to keep the Webb’s optics out of the sun. They considered a square or octagon, but the final version covers more area without much more mass.

“It’s no larger than it needs to be to meet the science field-of-view requirements, and that unique kite shape is the result,” says Parrish. “Any larger than it is now, it just makes everything more complex.”

The shield’s five layers are made of Kapton E, a plastic film first developed by DuPont in the 1960s and used for spacecraft insulation and printed circuits. The layers are coated in aluminum and silicon. Each is thinner than a human hair. But engineers say they are, together, very effective in blocking the sun’s heat. The first layer reduces its strength by about an order of magnitude (or 90 percent), the second layer removes another order of magnitude, and so on. The layers never touch, and they’re slightly flared as one gets away from the center of the shield, so that heat will escape out the sides.

The result: Temperatures on the sunny side of the shield approach 360 K (87 °C), but on the dark side they’re below that all-important 40 K (-233 °C). Or, put another way: More than 200 kilowatts of solar energy fall on the first layer, but only 23 milliwatts make it all the way through the fifth.

illustration depicting features of JWST's sunshield STScI/NASA

Why five layers? There was a lot of computer modeling, but it was hard to simulate the shield’s thermal behavior before flight. “Four would have probably done the job. Five gave us a little bit of an insurance policy,” says Parrish. “I’d like to say it was way more sophisticated than that, but that’s really not what it was at all.”

The ability to cool the telescope naturally, first calculated in the 1980s to be possible, was a major advance. It meant the Webb would not have to rely on a heavy, complex cryogenic apparatus, with refrigerants that could leak and shorten the mission. Of its four main scientific instruments, only one, a midinfrared detector called MIRI, needs to be cooled to 6.7 K. It’s chilled by a multistage cryocooler, which pumps cold helium gas through pulse tubes to draw heat away from the instrument’s sensor. It uses the Joule-Thomson effect, reducing the temperature of the helium by making it expand after it’s forced through a 1-millimeter valve. Pressure comes from two pistons—the cryocooler system’s only moving parts—facing opposite directions so their movements will cancel each other out and not disturb observations.

Building the telescope proved immensely complicated; it fell years behind while its budget ballooned toward US $10 billion. The sunshield needed lengthy redesign after testing, when Kapton tore and fasteners came loose.

“We just bit off way more than we could chew,” Parrish says now. “That’s exactly what NASA should be doing. It should be pushing the envelope. The problem is that eventually Webb got too big to fail.”

But it’s finally deployed, sending data, and surprising engineers who expected at least some failures as it began to operate. Keith Parrish, his work done, is moving on to other projects at Goddard.

“I think Webb,” he says, “is just a great product of what it means to be an advanced civilization.”


Update: 26 July 2022: The story was updated to clarify that the gravity at Lagrange point L2 does not "cancel" (as the story had previously stated) but in fact adds to keep an object at L2 orbiting at the precise same orbital period as, in this case, the Earth—i.e. at 365.256 days.


Match ID: 132 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 33 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

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: 133 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 34 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Andrew Ng: Unbiggen AI
Wed, 09 Feb 2022 15:31:12 +0000


Andrew Ng has serious street cred in artificial intelligence. He pioneered the use of graphics processing units (GPUs) to train deep learning models in the late 2000s with his students at Stanford University, cofounded Google Brain in 2011, and then served for three years as chief scientist for Baidu, where he helped build the Chinese tech giant’s AI group. So when he says he has identified the next big shift in artificial intelligence, people listen. And that’s what he told IEEE Spectrum in an exclusive Q&A.


Ng’s current efforts are focused on his company Landing AI, which built a platform called LandingLens to help manufacturers improve visual inspection with computer vision. He has also become something of an evangelist for what he calls the data-centric AI movement, which he says can yield “small data” solutions to big issues in AI, including model efficiency, accuracy, and bias.

Andrew Ng on...

The great advances in deep learning over the past decade or so have been powered by ever-bigger models crunching ever-bigger amounts of data. Some people argue that that’s an unsustainable trajectory. Do you agree that it can’t go on that way?

Andrew Ng: This is a big question. We’ve seen foundation models in NLP [natural language processing]. I’m excited about NLP models getting even bigger, and also about the potential of building foundation models in computer vision. I think there’s lots of signal to still be exploited in video: We have not been able to build foundation models yet for video because of compute bandwidth and the cost of processing video, as opposed to tokenized text. So I think that this engine of scaling up deep learning algorithms, which has been running for something like 15 years now, still has steam in it. Having said that, it only applies to certain problems, and there’s a set of other problems that need small data solutions.

When you say you want a foundation model for computer vision, what do you mean by that?

Ng: This is a term coined by Percy Liang and some of my friends at Stanford to refer to very large models, trained on very large data sets, that can be tuned for specific applications. For example, GPT-3 is an example of a foundation model [for NLP]. Foundation models offer a lot of promise as a new paradigm in developing machine learning applications, but also challenges in terms of making sure that they’re reasonably fair and free from bias, especially if many of us will be building on top of them.

What needs to happen for someone to build a foundation model for video?

Ng: I think there is a scalability problem. The compute power needed to process the large volume of images for video is significant, and I think that’s why foundation models have arisen first in NLP. Many researchers are working on this, and I think we’re seeing early signs of such models being developed in computer vision. But I’m confident that if a semiconductor maker gave us 10 times more processor power, we could easily find 10 times more video to build such models for vision.

Having said that, a lot of what’s happened over the past decade is that deep learning has happened in consumer-facing companies that have large user bases, sometimes billions of users, and therefore very large data sets. While that paradigm of machine learning has driven a lot of economic value in consumer software, I find that that recipe of scale doesn’t work for other industries.

Back to top

It’s funny to hear you say that, because your early work was at a consumer-facing company with millions of users.

Ng: Over a decade ago, when I proposed starting the Google Brain project to use Google’s compute infrastructure to build very large neural networks, it was a controversial step. One very senior person pulled me aside and warned me that starting Google Brain would be bad for my career. I think he felt that the action couldn’t just be in scaling up, and that I should instead focus on architecture innovation.

“In many industries where giant data sets simply don’t exist, I think the focus has to shift from big data to good data. Having 50 thoughtfully engineered examples can be sufficient to explain to the neural network what you want it to learn.”
—Andrew Ng, CEO & Founder, Landing AI

I remember when my students and I published the first NeurIPS workshop paper advocating using CUDA, a platform for processing on GPUs, for deep learning—a different senior person in AI sat me down and said, “CUDA is really complicated to program. As a programming paradigm, this seems like too much work.” I did manage to convince him; the other person I did not convince.

I expect they’re both convinced now.

Ng: I think so, yes.

Over the past year as I’ve been speaking to people about the data-centric AI movement, I’ve been getting flashbacks to when I was speaking to people about deep learning and scalability 10 or 15 years ago. In the past year, I’ve been getting the same mix of “there’s nothing new here” and “this seems like the wrong direction.”

Back to top

How do you define data-centric AI, and why do you consider it a movement?

Ng: Data-centric AI is the discipline of systematically engineering the data needed to successfully build an AI system. For an AI system, you have to implement some algorithm, say a neural network, in code and then train it on your data set. The dominant paradigm over the last decade was to download the data set while you focus on improving the code. Thanks to that paradigm, over the last decade deep learning networks have improved significantly, to the point where for a lot of applications the code—the neural network architecture—is basically a solved problem. So for many practical applications, it’s now more productive to hold the neural network architecture fixed, and instead find ways to improve the data.

When I started speaking about this, there were many practitioners who, completely appropriately, raised their hands and said, “Yes, we’ve been doing this for 20 years.” This is the time to take the things that some individuals have been doing intuitively and make it a systematic engineering discipline.

The data-centric AI movement is much bigger than one company or group of researchers. My collaborators and I organized a data-centric AI workshop at NeurIPS, and I was really delighted at the number of authors and presenters that showed up.

You often talk about companies or institutions that have only a small amount of data to work with. How can data-centric AI help them?

Ng: You hear a lot about vision systems built with millions of images—I once built a face recognition system using 350 million images. Architectures built for hundreds of millions of images don’t work with only 50 images. But it turns out, if you have 50 really good examples, you can build something valuable, like a defect-inspection system. In many industries where giant data sets simply don’t exist, I think the focus has to shift from big data to good data. Having 50 thoughtfully engineered examples can be sufficient to explain to the neural network what you want it to learn.

When you talk about training a model with just 50 images, does that really mean you’re taking an existing model that was trained on a very large data set and fine-tuning it? Or do you mean a brand new model that’s designed to learn only from that small data set?

Ng: Let me describe what Landing AI does. When doing visual inspection for manufacturers, we often use our own flavor of RetinaNet. It is a pretrained model. Having said that, the pretraining is a small piece of the puzzle. What’s a bigger piece of the puzzle is providing tools that enable the manufacturer to pick the right set of images [to use for fine-tuning] and label them in a consistent way. There’s a very practical problem we’ve seen spanning vision, NLP, and speech, where even human annotators don’t agree on the appropriate label. For big data applications, the common response has been: If the data is noisy, let’s just get a lot of data and the algorithm will average over it. But if you can develop tools that flag where the data’s inconsistent and give you a very targeted way to improve the consistency of the data, that turns out to be a more efficient way to get a high-performing system.

“Collecting more data often helps, but if you try to collect more data for everything, that can be a very expensive activity.”
—Andrew Ng

For example, if you have 10,000 images where 30 images are of one class, and those 30 images are labeled inconsistently, one of the things we do is build tools to draw your attention to the subset of data that’s inconsistent. So you can very quickly relabel those images to be more consistent, and this leads to improvement in performance.

Could this focus on high-quality data help with bias in data sets? If you’re able to curate the data more before training?

Ng: Very much so. Many researchers have pointed out that biased data is one factor among many leading to biased systems. There have been many thoughtful efforts to engineer the data. At the NeurIPS workshop, Olga Russakovsky gave a really nice talk on this. At the main NeurIPS conference, I also really enjoyed Mary Gray’s presentation, which touched on how data-centric AI is one piece of the solution, but not the entire solution. New tools like Datasheets for Datasets also seem like an important piece of the puzzle.

One of the powerful tools that data-centric AI gives us is the ability to engineer a subset of the data. Imagine training a machine-learning system and finding that its performance is okay for most of the data set, but its performance is biased for just a subset of the data. If you try to change the whole neural network architecture to improve the performance on just that subset, it’s quite difficult. But if you can engineer a subset of the data you can address the problem in a much more targeted way.

When you talk about engineering the data, what do you mean exactly?

Ng: In AI, data cleaning is important, but the way the data has been cleaned has often been in very manual ways. In computer vision, someone may visualize images through a Jupyter notebook and maybe spot the problem, and maybe fix it. But I’m excited about tools that allow you to have a very large data set, tools that draw your attention quickly and efficiently to the subset of data where, say, the labels are noisy. Or to quickly bring your attention to the one class among 100 classes where it would benefit you to collect more data. Collecting more data often helps, but if you try to collect more data for everything, that can be a very expensive activity.

For example, I once figured out that a speech-recognition system was performing poorly when there was car noise in the background. Knowing that allowed me to collect more data with car noise in the background, rather than trying to collect more data for everything, which would have been expensive and slow.

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What about using synthetic data, is that often a good solution?

Ng: I think synthetic data is an important tool in the tool chest of data-centric AI. At the NeurIPS workshop, Anima Anandkumar gave a great talk that touched on synthetic data. I think there are important uses of synthetic data that go beyond just being a preprocessing step for increasing the data set for a learning algorithm. I’d love to see more tools to let developers use synthetic data generation as part of the closed loop of iterative machine learning development.

Do you mean that synthetic data would allow you to try the model on more data sets?

Ng: Not really. Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re trying to detect defects in a smartphone casing. There are many different types of defects on smartphones. It could be a scratch, a dent, pit marks, discoloration of the material, other types of blemishes. If you train the model and then find through error analysis that it’s doing well overall but it’s performing poorly on pit marks, then synthetic data generation allows you to address the problem in a more targeted way. You could generate more data just for the pit-mark category.

“In the consumer software Internet, we could train a handful of machine-learning models to serve a billion users. In manufacturing, you might have 10,000 manufacturers building 10,000 custom AI models.”
—Andrew Ng

Synthetic data generation is a very powerful tool, but there are many simpler tools that I will often try first. Such as data augmentation, improving labeling consistency, or just asking a factory to collect more data.

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To make these issues more concrete, can you walk me through an example? When a company approaches Landing AI and says it has a problem with visual inspection, how do you onboard them and work toward deployment?

Ng: When a customer approaches us we usually have a conversation about their inspection problem and look at a few images to verify that the problem is feasible with computer vision. Assuming it is, we ask them to upload the data to the LandingLens platform. We often advise them on the methodology of data-centric AI and help them label the data.

One of the foci of Landing AI is to empower manufacturing companies to do the machine learning work themselves. A lot of our work is making sure the software is fast and easy to use. Through the iterative process of machine learning development, we advise customers on things like how to train models on the platform, when and how to improve the labeling of data so the performance of the model improves. Our training and software supports them all the way through deploying the trained model to an edge device in the factory.

How do you deal with changing needs? If products change or lighting conditions change in the factory, can the model keep up?

Ng: It varies by manufacturer. There is data drift in many contexts. But there are some manufacturers that have been running the same manufacturing line for 20 years now with few changes, so they don’t expect changes in the next five years. Those stable environments make things easier. For other manufacturers, we provide tools to flag when there’s a significant data-drift issue. I find it really important to empower manufacturing customers to correct data, retrain, and update the model. Because if something changes and it’s 3 a.m. in the United States, I want them to be able to adapt their learning algorithm right away to maintain operations.

In the consumer software Internet, we could train a handful of machine-learning models to serve a billion users. In manufacturing, you might have 10,000 manufacturers building 10,000 custom AI models. The challenge is, how do you do that without Landing AI having to hire 10,000 machine learning specialists?

So you’re saying that to make it scale, you have to empower customers to do a lot of the training and other work.

Ng: Yes, exactly! This is an industry-wide problem in AI, not just in manufacturing. Look at health care. Every hospital has its own slightly different format for electronic health records. How can every hospital train its own custom AI model? Expecting every hospital’s IT personnel to invent new neural-network architectures is unrealistic. The only way out of this dilemma is to build tools that empower the customers to build their own models by giving them tools to engineer the data and express their domain knowledge. That’s what Landing AI is executing in computer vision, and the field of AI needs other teams to execute this in other domains.

Is there anything else you think it’s important for people to understand about the work you’re doing or the data-centric AI movement?

Ng: In the last decade, the biggest shift in AI was a shift to deep learning. I think it’s quite possible that in this decade the biggest shift will be to data-centric AI. With the maturity of today’s neural network architectures, I think for a lot of the practical applications the bottleneck will be whether we can efficiently get the data we need to develop systems that work well. The data-centric AI movement has tremendous energy and momentum across the whole community. I hope more researchers and developers will jump in and work on it.

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This article appears in the April 2022 print issue as “Andrew Ng, AI Minimalist.”


Match ID: 134 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 181 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

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: 135 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 182 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

How AI Will Change Chip Design
Tue, 08 Feb 2022 14:00:01 +0000


The end of Moore’s Law is looming. Engineers and designers can do only so much to miniaturize transistors and pack as many of them as possible into chips. So they’re turning to other approaches to chip design, incorporating technologies like AI into the process.

Samsung, for instance, is adding AI to its memory chips to enable processing in memory, thereby saving energy and speeding up machine learning. Speaking of speed, Google’s TPU V4 AI chip has doubled its processing power compared with that of its previous version.

But AI holds still more promise and potential for the semiconductor industry. To better understand how AI is set to revolutionize chip design, we spoke with Heather Gorr, senior product manager for MathWorks’ MATLAB platform.

How is AI currently being used to design the next generation of chips?

Heather Gorr: AI is such an important technology because it’s involved in most parts of the cycle, including the design and manufacturing process. There’s a lot of important applications here, even in the general process engineering where we want to optimize things. I think defect detection is a big one at all phases of the process, especially in manufacturing. But even thinking ahead in the design process, [AI now plays a significant role] when you’re designing the light and the sensors and all the different components. There’s a lot of anomaly detection and fault mitigation that you really want to consider.

Portrait of a woman with blonde-red hair smiling at the camera Heather GorrMathWorks

Then, thinking about the logistical modeling that you see in any industry, there is always planned downtime that you want to mitigate; but you also end up having unplanned downtime. So, looking back at that historical data of when you’ve had those moments where maybe it took a bit longer than expected to manufacture something, you can take a look at all of that data and use AI to try to identify the proximate cause or to see something that might jump out even in the processing and design phases. We think of AI oftentimes as a predictive tool, or as a robot doing something, but a lot of times you get a lot of insight from the data through AI.

What are the benefits of using AI for chip design?

Gorr: Historically, we’ve seen a lot of physics-based modeling, which is a very intensive process. We want to do a reduced order model, where instead of solving such a computationally expensive and extensive model, we can do something a little cheaper. You could create a surrogate model, so to speak, of that physics-based model, use the data, and then do your parameter sweeps, your optimizations, your Monte Carlo simulations using the surrogate model. That takes a lot less time computationally than solving the physics-based equations directly. So, we’re seeing that benefit in many ways, including the efficiency and economy that are the results of iterating quickly on the experiments and the simulations that will really help in the design.

So it’s like having a digital twin in a sense?

Gorr: Exactly. That’s pretty much what people are doing, where you have the physical system model and the experimental data. Then, in conjunction, you have this other model that you could tweak and tune and try different parameters and experiments that let sweep through all of those different situations and come up with a better design in the end.

So, it’s going to be more efficient and, as you said, cheaper?

Gorr: Yeah, definitely. Especially in the experimentation and design phases, where you’re trying different things. That’s obviously going to yield dramatic cost savings if you’re actually manufacturing and producing [the chips]. You want to simulate, test, experiment as much as possible without making something using the actual process engineering.

We’ve talked about the benefits. How about the drawbacks?

Gorr: The [AI-based experimental models] tend to not be as accurate as physics-based models. Of course, that’s why you do many simulations and parameter sweeps. But that’s also the benefit of having that digital twin, where you can keep that in mind—it's not going to be as accurate as that precise model that we’ve developed over the years.

Both chip design and manufacturing are system intensive; you have to consider every little part. And that can be really challenging. It's a case where you might have models to predict something and different parts of it, but you still need to bring it all together.

One of the other things to think about too is that you need the data to build the models. You have to incorporate data from all sorts of different sensors and different sorts of teams, and so that heightens the challenge.

How can engineers use AI to better prepare and extract insights from hardware or sensor data?

Gorr: We always think about using AI to predict something or do some robot task, but you can use AI to come up with patterns and pick out things you might not have noticed before on your own. People will use AI when they have high-frequency data coming from many different sensors, and a lot of times it’s useful to explore the frequency domain and things like data synchronization or resampling. Those can be really challenging if you’re not sure where to start.

One of the things I would say is, use the tools that are available. There’s a vast community of people working on these things, and you can find lots of examples [of applications and techniques] on GitHub or MATLAB Central, where people have shared nice examples, even little apps they’ve created. I think many of us are buried in data and just not sure what to do with it, so definitely take advantage of what’s already out there in the community. You can explore and see what makes sense to you, and bring in that balance of domain knowledge and the insight you get from the tools and AI.

What should engineers and designers consider when using AI for chip design?

Gorr: Think through what problems you’re trying to solve or what insights you might hope to find, and try to be clear about that. Consider all of the different components, and document and test each of those different parts. Consider all of the people involved, and explain and hand off in a way that is sensible for the whole team.

How do you think AI will affect chip designers’ jobs?

Gorr: It’s going to free up a lot of human capital for more advanced tasks. We can use AI to reduce waste, to optimize the materials, to optimize the design, but then you still have that human involved whenever it comes to decision-making. I think it’s a great example of people and technology working hand in hand. It’s also an industry where all people involved—even on the manufacturing floor—need to have some level of understanding of what’s happening, so this is a great industry for advancing AI because of how we test things and how we think about them before we put them on the chip.

How do you envision the future of AI and chip design?

Gorr: It's very much dependent on that human element—involving people in the process and having that interpretable model. We can do many things with the mathematical minutiae of modeling, but it comes down to how people are using it, how everybody in the process is understanding and applying it. Communication and involvement of people of all skill levels in the process are going to be really important. We’re going to see less of those superprecise predictions and more transparency of information, sharing, and that digital twin—not only using AI but also using our human knowledge and all of the work that many people have done over the years.


Match ID: 136 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 182 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

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: 137 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 183 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

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: 138 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 200 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Outside the Box: After underperforming the stock market for years, alternative energy is red hot
Fri, 25 Sep 2020 13:39:17 GMT
Is clean tech finally a viable investment?
Match ID: 139 Score: 2.14 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 683 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Stocks to Watch: Wisconsin Energy, Oracle, GE are stocks to watch
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 11:42:35 GMT
Wisconsin Energy Corp., Oracle Corp., and General Electric Co. may all see active trading after deals, or talk of deals.
Match ID: 140 Score: 2.14 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 2969 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

How Flyback Rocket Boosters Got Off the Ground
Mon, 21 Mar 2022 20:27:59 +0000


In the popular conception of a technological breakthrough, a flash of genius is followed quickly by commercial or industrial success, public acclaim, and substantial wealth for a small group of inventors and backers. In the real world, it almost never works out that way.

Advances that seem to appear suddenly are often backed by decades of development. Consider steam engines. Starting in the second quarter of the 19th century they began powering trains, and they soon revolutionized the transportation of people and goods. But steam engines themselves had been invented at the beginning of the 18th century. For 125 years they had been used to pump water out of mines and then to power the mills of the Industrial Revolution.


Lately we’ve become accustomed to seeing rocket boosters return to Earth and then land vertically, on their tails, ready to be serviced and flown again. (Much the same majestic imagery thrilled sci-fi moviegoers in the 1950s.) Today, both SpaceX and Blue Origin are using these techniques, and a third startup, Relativity Space, is on the verge of joining them. Such reusable rocketry is already cutting the cost of access to space and, with other advances yet to come, will help make it possible for humanity to return to the moon and eventually to travel to Mars.

Vertical landings, too, have a long history, with the same ground being plowed many times by multiple research organizations. From 1993 to 1996 a booster named DCX, for Delta Clipper Experimental, took off and landed vertically eight times at White Sands Missile Range. It flew to a height of only 2,500 meters, but it successfully negotiated the very tricky dynamics of landing a vertical cylinder on its end.

The key innovations that made all this possible happened 50 or more years ago. And those in turn built upon the invention a century ago of liquid-fueled rockets that can be throttled up or down by pumping more or less fuel into a combustion chamber.

In August 1954 the Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig, also known as the “flying bedstead,” took off and landed vertically while carrying a pilot. The ungainly contraption had two downward-pointing Rolls-Royce jet engines with nozzles that allowed the pilot to vector the thrust and control the flight. By 1957 another company, Hawker Siddeley, started work on turning this idea into a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fighter jet. It first flew in 1967 and entered service in 1969 as the Harrier Jump Jet, with new Rolls-Royce engines specifically designed for thrust vectoring. Thrust vectoring is a critical component of control for all of today’s reusable rocket boosters.

During the 1960s another rig, also nicknamed the flying bedstead, was developed in the United States for training astronauts to land on the moon. There was a gimbaled rocket engine that always pointed directly downward, providing thrust equal to five-sixths of the vehicle and the pilot’s weight, simulating lunar gravity. The pilot then controlled the thrust and direction of another rocket engine to land the vehicle safely.

It was not all smooth flying. Neil Armstrong first flew the trainer in March 1967, but he was nearly killed in May 1968 when things went awry and he had to use the ejection seat to rocket to safety. The parachute deployed and he hit the ground just 4 seconds later. Rocket-powered vertical descent was harder than it looked.

Vertical rocket landings have a long history, with the same ground being plowed many times by multiple research organizations.

Nevertheless, between 1969 and 1972, Armstrong and then five other astronauts piloted lunar modules to vertical landings on the moon. There were no ejection seats, and these have been the only crewed rocket-powered landings on a spaceflight. All other humans lofted into space have used Earth’s atmosphere to slow down, combining heat shields with either wings or parachutes.

In the early days of Blue Origin, the company returned to the flying-bedstead approach, and its vehicle took off and landed successfully in March 2005. It was powered by four jet engines, once again from Rolls-Royce, bought secondhand from the South African Air Force. Ten years later, in November 2015, Blue Origin’s New Shepard booster reached an altitude of 100 kilometers and then landed vertically. A month later SpaceX had its first successful vertical landing of a Falcon-9 booster.

Today’s reusable, or flyback, boosters also use something called grid fins, those honeycombed panels sticking out perpendicularly from the top of a booster that guide the massive cylinder as it falls through the atmosphere unpowered. The fins have an even longer history, as they have been part of every crewed Soyuz launch since the 1960s. They guide the capsule back to Earth if there’s an abort during the climb to orbit. They were last used in October 2018 when a Soyuz failed at 50 km up. The cosmonaut and astronaut who were aboard landed safely and had a successful launch in another Soyuz five months later.

The next big accomplishment will be crewed vertical landings, 50 years after mankind's last one, on the moon. It will almost certainly happen before this decade is out.

I’m less confident that we’ll see general-purpose quantum computers and abundant electricity from nuclear fusion in that time frame. But I’m pretty sure we’ll eventually get there with both. The arc of technology development is often long. And sometimes, the longer it is, the more revolutionary it is in the end.

This article appears in the April 2022 print issue as “The Long Road to Overnight Success .”


Match ID: 141 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 141 days
qualifiers: 1.43 nuclear

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