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




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Australia politics live: national anti-corruption commission legislation passes unanimously; parliament censures Morrison
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 02:36:50 GMT

The government has passed a key election promise. Follow all the day’s news

Milton Dick also makes these recommendations for things he believes may improve the parliament:

Offensive words or reflections on Members Standing Orders 88 to 90, for example, provide that Members should not use offensive words or cast adverse reflections on Members, but they do not refer specifically to language or behaviour that is sexist or otherwise exclusionary or discriminatory. Revisions to these Standing Orders, so that they explicitly include that this type of conduct is highly disorderly, would be advantageous to the Chair in ruling on such matters.

Education and procedural support

Sanctions against disorder Under Standing Order 94{a), the Speaker may direct a Member to leave the Chamber for one hour if the Member’s conduct is considered disorderly. At times, this direction to leave can be advantageous to a Member or be worn as a ‘badge of honour’.

If a Member’s conduct is grossly disorderly, the Speaker can choose to name the Member in accordance with Standing Order 94{b), but in practice this option is not often used and not used for ordinary offences. It would assist the Speaker to have additional options to sanction a Member for disorderly conduct. For example, choices for increased penalties of time, and/or the introduction of cascading penalties of time for continued disorder, would be a disincentive to Members to be ejected.

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Match ID: 0 Score: 50.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 sanctions, 15.00 energy

Macron to promote nuclear energy in U.S., as industry faces crisis in France
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 12:12:09 EST
As Europe turned away from Russian energy, the French nuclear industry missed its chance to demonstrate the promise President Emmanuel Macron has talked about.
Match ID: 1 Score: 45.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy, 10.00 nuclear

In a Wisconsin Trump County, and Across the U.S., Progressive Health Care Initiatives Coasted Through
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:01:25 +0000

Initiatives to expand health care access and reduce costs won big on election night, rattling for-profit industry lobbyists.

The post In a Wisconsin Trump County, and Across the U.S., Progressive Health Care Initiatives Coasted Through appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 2 Score: 40.00 source: theintercept.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump, 15.00 trump

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

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

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


Match ID: 3 Score: 40.00 source: theintercept.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump, 10.00 nuclear, 5.00 pompeo

Uneasy calm grips Ukraine as West prepares winter aid
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:22:34 EST
An uneasy calm is hanging over Kyiv as residents of the Ukrainian capital prepare for Russian missile attacks aiming to take out more energy infrastructure as winter approaches
Match ID: 4 Score: 35.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy

Ukraine live briefing: U.S. announces aid for Ukraine’s battered energy infrastructure
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:10:06 EST
The United States is expected to announce steps to help Ukraine withstand Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure, as NATO diplomats gather in Romania.
Match ID: 5 Score: 35.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy

U.S. unveils plan to rebuild Ukraine energy grid after Russian assault
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:16:50 EST
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will put $53 million toward helping Ukraine procure transformers, circuit breakers and other hardware.
Match ID: 6 Score: 35.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy

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

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

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

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

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Match ID: 7 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy

Ukraine pleads for help to fix energy grid hit by Russian bomb raids
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:10:39 GMT

European firms urged to donate spare parts after sustained Russian strikes on power plants and substations

Ukraine’s supplies of spare parts for its battered electricity grid are running out amid sustained Russian bombing, and European companies are being asked to urgently donate surplus kit to help the country get through the winter.

There were power cuts lasting 48 hours or more across the country last week after a fresh wave of Russian missile attacks, the latest step in a wave of bombings targeting power plants and substations which route energy around the network.

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Match ID: 8 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy

Onset of winter in Ukraine – a photo essay
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 08:00:22 GMT

After Russian attacks on energy infrastructure, this is expected to be the hardest winter in Ukraine since the second world war

The defining image of the current state of the war in Ukraine – and at the same time a metaphor for the entire country – is the snow-covered rubble of a residential building split in two by a Russian bomb in the town of Borodianka.

Some people who lived in that building have died as a result of the conflict. Others have managed to escape, joining the great exodus of refugees toward Europe. Some are now living in a dormitory on the outskirts of the town, struggling, like millions of other Ukrainians, with the nightmare of what is expected to be the hardest winter in the country’s history since the second world war.

Top left: residents of Borodianka disembark from a bus in a street heavily bombed by Russia. Top right: the rubble of a house in Borodianka. Above: an elderly woman walks by the snow-covered rubble of a residential building in Borodianka

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Match ID: 9 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy

Lobbyist for Saudi Alfalfa Company Desiccating Arizona Was Elected to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 17:24:10 +0000

Thomas Galvin lobbied on behalf of a Saudi company soaking up Arizona’s groundwater. He is now mediating an ongoing water dispute in neighboring Maricopa County.

The post Lobbyist for Saudi Alfalfa Company Desiccating Arizona Was Elected to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 10 Score: 35.00 source: theintercept.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 20.00 russia, 15.00 energy

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes found guilty of seditious conspiracy
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:26:42 GMT

Jury convicts leader of rightwing group which supported Trump’s attempt to overturn 2020 election

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the rightwing Oath Keepers militia, has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, a charge arising from the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump.

Rhodes and co-defendant Kelly Meggs are the first people in nearly three decades to be found guilty of the rarely used civil war-era charge at trial. The trial was the biggest test yet for the US justice department in its efforts to hold accountable those responsible for the attack that shook the foundations of US democracy.

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Match ID: 11 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

White Nationalists Give Mar-a-Lago Restaurant Disappointing One-Star Reviews on Tripadvisor
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 23:30:07 +0000
Neo-Nazis complained that the restaurant had “slow service,” “drab décor,” and “too many ethnic dishes.”
Match ID: 12 Score: 25.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Republican leaders rebuke Trump over dinner with white supremacist
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 23:28:44 GMT

Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy break silence over meeting and say no room in party for antisemitism or white supremacy

The top two Republicans in Congress have broken their silence about Donald Trump’s dinner last week with the rightwing extremist Nick Fuentes, saying the Republican party has no place for antisemitism or white supremacy.

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and Kevin McCarthy, who may become House speaker in January, had not commented previously on the 22 November meeting.

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Match ID: 13 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

McConnell: Anyone meeting with antisemites is ‘unlikely to ever be elected president’
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:24:38 EST
The top two Republicans in Congress condemned former president Donald Trump's dinner with Ye and Nick Fuentes, who have both espoused antisemitic views.
Match ID: 14 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Trump continues to be plagued by legal woes
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:15:13 EST
For Donald Trump, it’s one legal battle after another. Let’s check in on the status of several key investigations involving the former president as he mounts his 2024 campaign to return to the White House.
Match ID: 15 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Nick who? Fox News has barely mentioned the Nick Fuentes-Trump dinner
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:53:51 EST
This is how it tends to work with the right-leaning network.
Match ID: 16 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

McCarthy’s brazen revisionism on the GOP and Nick Fuentes
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 14:54:37 EST
Rep. Kevin McCarthy claimed both Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) have denounced white nationalist Nick Fuentes. In reality, neither has.
Match ID: 17 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Transistors: past, present, and future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Match ID: 18 Score: 25.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy, 10.00 nuclear

Philly DA Larry Krasner: In Midterms, Democrats Went “Republican-Lite” on Crime
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:10:49 +0000

The embattled progressive district attorney said election victories show how Democrats can win big — by leaning into criminal justice reforms.

The post Philly DA Larry Krasner: In Midterms, Democrats Went “Republican-Lite” on Crime appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 19 Score: 25.00 source: theintercept.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Republican officials turn to election rejection
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 10:24:39 EST
Donald Trump's push to reject election results catches on at the county level.
Match ID: 20 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Pence, other Republicans issue rare rebuke of Trump over dinner with Fuentes and Ye
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 21:56:12 EST
Trump's former vice president is the highest-profile Republican to criticize the meal with someone known to espouse antisemitic views.
Match ID: 21 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Trump Says He Did Not Know Identity of Dinner Guest, Owing to White Hood
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 20:34:17 +0000
“I didn’t think it was very smart to be wearing white to dinner with me,” the former President said. “When I eat, a lot of ketchup goes flying.”
Match ID: 22 Score: 25.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Jill Biden’s holiday decorations strike a homier note than Melania Trump’s
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 15:31:00 EST
Homespun touches, including students' self-portraits, handwritten recipe cards and yes, the Bidens' pets, play a starring role in this year's decorations.
Match ID: 23 Score: 25.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

A Special Prosecutor Found Kevin Johnson’s Case Was Tainted by Racism. Missouri Is About to Kill Him Anyway.
Sun, 27 Nov 2022 15:15:12 +0000

Kevin Johnson is facing execution for killing a cop when he was 19. A special prosecutor says his sentence should be vacated.

The post A Special Prosecutor Found Kevin Johnson’s Case Was Tainted by Racism. Missouri Is About to Kill Him Anyway. appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 24 Score: 25.00 source: theintercept.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trump

Bodies-in-suitcases suspect appears in New Zealand court
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 21:25:20 EST
A woman who was extradited from South Korea this week after the bodies of her two children were found in abandoned suitcases has made her first court appearance in New Zealand
Match ID: 25 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 korea

Finland says it must ensure Ukraine wins war against Russia
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:16:18 EST
Finland’s leader says it must give more weapons and support to Ukraine to ensure it wins its war against Russia
Match ID: 26 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Russia-Ukraine war at a glance: what we know on day 280 of the invasion
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:58:55 GMT

Nato doubles down on promise to one day include Ukraine in alliance; supplies to restore Ukraine’s battered electricity grid running low

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Match ID: 27 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Ukraine war: The surrender hotline for Russian soldiers
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:06:16 GMT
The "I Want To Live" project says it is getting up to 100 enquiries a day from invading troops.
Match ID: 28 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Ukraine war: Nato pledges to provide more weapons and fix power grid
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:56:30 GMT
Millions of Ukrainians remain without power and water in freezing temperatures after Russian strikes.
Match ID: 29 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

It took nearly 500 years for researchers to crack Charles V’s secret code
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:48:28 +0000
Holy Roman Emperor wrote of being targeted by Italian mercenary, among other topics.
Match ID: 30 Score: 20.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 italy

Ukrainian refugees and hosts petition UK government for housing support
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:32:09 GMT

More than 4,500 people sign petition asking for help for those struggling to find independent accommodation

Ukrainian refugees and their hosts have delivered a petition to Downing Street signed by more than 4,500 people calling on the government to provide housing support for those struggling or unable to find independent accommodation.

Krish Kandiah, the founder of Sanctuary Foundation, the charity behind the petition, was accompanied by Ukrainian refugees including nine-year-old Danylo from Kyiv, who knocked on 10 Downing Street to deliver the petition on Tuesday.

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Match ID: 31 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Ukraine needs tanks, and the west should supply them. They could finish off Putin and Russia | Frank Ledwidge
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:26:01 GMT

In 1941, Churchill said to the US: ‘give us the tools and we will finish the job’. Zelenskiy is saying the same to us – and we should listen

In a 1941 speech on a Royal Navy ship, Winston Churchill directed his final comments to the US: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” After a significant victory in Kherson, and standing at the gates of Crimea facing a Russian army desperately trying to shore up its ramshackle defences, Ukraine has the troops and morale to defend what it has. However, despite some western assistance, the Ukrainians lack the tools – tanks, missiles and aircraft – to retake their land and impose strategic defeat on the Russians. If the west, and especially the US, is serious about helping to protect Ukraine, decisions on stepping up military assistance need to be made now. If Ukraine is to be able to secure its future after victory – assuming that is what the west truly wants – its forces need to begin to transition to Nato-standard equipment.

The US has not yet declared a political or military objective. However, in April the US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, said he wanted “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine”. Is it the intention of the United States genuinely to support military efforts to return Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders? Or does it instead suit US and western decision-makers to support a long war with Ukrainian forces used as proxies to bleed out Russia’s armed forces? Obviously, these are not at all the same thing. Decisions need to be made very soon about increasing military support, and those decisions will tell us which objective is being pursued.

Frank Ledwidge is a barrister and former military officer who has served in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan

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Match ID: 32 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

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

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

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

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

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Match ID: 33 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 korea

‘Racist’ interview with Pope Francis causes fury in Russia
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 14:54:53 GMT

Francis says Chechen and Buryat minorities in Russia’s army more cruel in Ukraine than other soldiers

Pope Francis has sparked fury in Russia over an interview in which he suggested that Chechen and Buryat members of its armed forces showed more cruelty in Ukraine than ethnic Russian soldiers.

In an interview with the Catholic magazine America published Monday, the pope said that soldiers from Buryatia, where Buddhism is a major religion, and the Muslim-majority Chechnya republic, were “the cruellest” while fighting in Ukraine.

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Match ID: 34 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

From a bunker, an acting mayor keeps her front-line Ukraine town alive
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 07:08:04 EST
Russia has shelled city hall so incessantly that Svitlana Mandrych had to move her office underground, where she answers pleas for help from desperate residents.
Match ID: 35 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Ukraine live briefing: G-7 to discuss assault on Ukraine’s power grid; Zelensky warns citizens to brace for more Russian airstrikes
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 21:09:16 EST
In Brussels Monday, European diplomats will try to move forward with U.S.-backed plans to cap the price of Russian oil after talks last week stalled.
Match ID: 36 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Ukraine war: Chornobaivka airbase, symbol of Russian defeat
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 00:37:33 GMT
Chornobaivka has earned its status as one of the most important battlefields of the war.
Match ID: 37 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

Democratic and Republican Senators Demand Transfer of Gray Eagle Drone to Ukraine
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 16:23:30 +0000

Joe Manchin, Lindsey Graham, and 14 other U.S. senators demand that Biden give Ukraine a top-tier U.S. drone.

The post Democratic and Republican Senators Demand Transfer of Gray Eagle Drone to Ukraine appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 38 Score: 20.00 source: theintercept.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 20.00 russia

The big picture: Bruno Barbey captures life on the road in 1960s Palermo
Sun, 27 Nov 2022 07:00:14 GMT

The Magnum photographer’s image of a family in Sicily recalls Fellini and Visconti in its romantic depiction of everyday Italian life

Bruno Barbey chanced upon this family defying gravity on their dad’s scooter in Palermo in 1963. The French-Moroccan photographer had been travelling in Italy for a couple of years by then, restless for exactly this kind of image, with its seductive mix of humour and authenticity. Has there ever been a better articulation of contrasting roles in the patriarchal family? Father sitting comfortably in his jacket and cap and smiling for the camera, while behind him his possibly pregnant wife sees trouble ahead, as she and their three kids and their big checked bag compete for precarious discomfort.

Barbey, then 22, had gone to Italy to try to find pictures that captured “a national spirit” as the country sought to rediscover the dolce vita in cities still recovering from war. He travelled in an old VW van and in Palermo in particular he located scenes that might have been choreographed for the working-class heroes of the Italian neorealist films, the self-absorbed dreamers of Fellini and Visconti (The Leopard, the latter’s Hollywood epic set in Sicily was released in the same year). Barbey’s camera with its wide angle lens picked up the detail of vigorous crowd scenes among street children and barflies and religious processions. His book, The Italians, now republished, is a time capsule of that already disappearing black-and-white world of priests and mafiosi and nightclub girls and nuns.

Les Italiens (French edition) by Bruno Barbey is republished by delpire & co

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Match ID: 39 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 italy

I Experienced Jack Smith's Zeal Firsthand. Will Trump Get the Same Treatment?
Wed, 23 Nov 2022 16:15:01 +0000

His handling of the ex-president will show whether Smith really is an aggressive prosecutor — or just aggressive against the powerless.

The post I Experienced Jack Smith’s Zeal Firsthand. Will Trump Get the Same Treatment? appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 40 Score: 19.29 source: theintercept.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 10.71 trump, 8.57 russia

Can America’s Aging Leadership Deliver the Future?
Fri, 25 Nov 2022 11:00:00 +0000
The Political Scene’s Washington roundtable discusses whether the United States is a gerontocracy, and what that means for the country’s politics.
Match ID: 41 Score: 17.86 source: www.newyorker.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 17.86 trump

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


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


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


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


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

What Transistors Have Become


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


Icon of a series of circles.

Ephemeral:

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


An icon of lightning bolt over a circle.

Fast:

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



An icon of an iron with a line underneath.

Flat:

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


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

Flexible:

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



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

Invisible:

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


Icon of a brain made out of square icons

Mnemonic:

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



Icon of a circle with a star inside.

Talented:

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


Icon of a shield

Tough:

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

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


Match ID: 42 Score: 17.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 3 days
qualifiers: 17.14 korea

Scott Morrison becomes first former Australian prime minister to be censured by parliament
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 02:39:16 GMT

Former PM claims he would have answered truthfully if asked about any of the secret ministries he held and repeated past defence of arrangements

Scott Morrison has been censured by the House of Representatives after offering fresh defences for his failure to disclose extra ministerial appointments and accusing the government of pursuing the “politics of retribution”.

Morrison told the lower house it was “false” to equate his decision to administer colleagues’ departments with appointments as minister, and claimed if he had been asked he “would have responded truthfully about the arrangements”.

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Match ID: 43 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Dip in Australia’s inflation rate in October raises hopes price rises may have peaked
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 02:37:11 GMT

Headline CPI rate eases from 7.3% to 6.9%, lower than economists’ expectations, but fuel prices still rose as full excise rate returned

Australia’s inflation rate eased in October, helped by smaller increases for food, adding to expectations that the rate of price rises may be nearing their peak.

The headline consumer price index for last month was 6.9%, slowing from the 7.3% pace reported for September, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. Some economists, such as CBA, had predicted the October CPI rate to come in at 7.4%.

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Match ID: 44 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Body of 19-year-old man found in NSW four days after he vanished in flood waters
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 02:12:21 GMT

Death is third this month linked to NSW flooding crisis after Ljubisa ‘Les’ Vugec, 85, and Dianne Smith, 60, died in Eugowra

The body of a young man who went missing while swimming in flood waters in southern New South Wales has been found.

The discovery was made in Balranald about 8.30am on Wednesday as police began a fifth day of searching for signs of the 19-year-old.

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Match ID: 45 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Modern Slavery Is a Global Problem in All Renewable Energy Supply Chains: New Report
2022-11-30T01:47:19+00:00
Modern Slavery Is a Global Problem in All Renewable Energy Supply Chains: New Report submitted by /u/chrisdh79
[link] [comments]

Match ID: 46 Score: 15.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Australia to consider tougher nicotine e-cigarette import and labelling laws to tackle teen vaping
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 01:24:33 GMT

Therapeutic Goods Administration to investigate border control laws, as well as tougher regulation of nicotine products and advertising

The federal government will crackdown on children accessing e-cigarettes, with the regulator to consider key changes including tightening importation rules and tougher labelling laws.

As rates of teenage vaping soar, Australia’s drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will begin public consultation in four areas: changes to importation and border control laws required to stop illegal products entering Australia; pre-market assessments of vapes to create a regulated source of products for pharmacists and doctors to prescribe; labelling, advertising and flavouring of vapes that make them attractive to children; and stronger identification and regulation of nicotine-containing products.

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Match ID: 47 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

‘They’ll swim, they’ll climb trees’: experts hissue warning over snakes on the flood plains
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:45:18 GMT

As flood waters surge into South Australia, ecologists say locals should give fleeing snakes a wide berth

Snakes on the plains will seek shelter in back yards and homes as the flood waters from the eastern states surge down the system into South Australia.

The state’s flood plains and relatively flat topography will slow the advance of the water from New South Wales and Victoria, before it is channelled into the River Murray.

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Match ID: 48 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

UK food price inflation hits new high of 12.4%
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:01:01 GMT

Rise in cost of essentials will hit poorer households, already struggling with higher energy bills, hardest

UK food price inflation hit a new high of 12.4% in November as the price of basics such as eggs, dairy products and coffee shot up.

Fresh foods led the increase in prices – with inflation rising to 14.3% from 13.3% in October – with rises expected to continue into next year according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium trade body, which represents most big retailers, and the market research firm NielsenIQ.

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Match ID: 49 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Online shoppers 'held out' for Cyber Week this year, Salesforce says
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 23:59:42 GMT

Online sales during this year's Cyber Week rose 2% year-over-year to a record $281 billion worldwide, Salesforce said on Tuesday, as customers zeroed in on discounts amid decades-high inflation during the holiday shopping period, which runs from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. The company, which analyzed shopping data from 1.5 billion consumers, said that after "lackluster" deals earlier in the season, retailers poured on the markdowns more aggressively as Cyber Week began. "The data showed a departure from Cyber Weeks in 2020 and 2021, when online shopping was increasingly spread throughout the month of November," Salesforce said in a release. "In comparison, 2022 data show both shoppers and retailers held out for Cyber Week as retailers worked to limit discounts that increased margin pressures and consumers searched for better deals - contributing to the largest spike in U.S. digital sales growth in the last six weeks." While Salesforce noted weakness in the UK and Europe, which are feeling the pain of an energy crisis, Cyber Week sales in the U.S. rose 9% from 2021 to $68 billion.

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

Thurrock council admits disastrous investments caused £500m deficit
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 20:18:58 GMT

Tory-led Essex authority is on brink of bankruptcy and has appealed to government for emergency bailout

A Tory-led council has admitted a series of disastrous investments in risky commercial projects caused it to run up an unprecedented deficit of nearly £500m and brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.

The staggering scale of the catastrophe at Thurrock council in Essex – one of the biggest ever financial disasters in local government – is contained in an internal report made to the council’s cabinet, which reveals it has lost £275m on investments it made in solar energy and other businesses, and has set aside a further £130m this year to pay back investment debts.

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Match ID: 51 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Octopus takeover of Bulb faces delay after rivals seek judicial review
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 18:34:23 GMT

Three companies complain over lack of transparency around deal which could be biggest government bailout since RBS and Lloyds

The takeover of collapsed bailed-out energy supplier Bulb by rival Octopus faces further delays after three rival companies launched judicial review proceedings, arguing that there are “significant concerns” over a possible £1bn government-funded “dowry”.

Octopus agreed to buy Bulb out of a special government-handled administration last month after a year-long process which could cost the taxpayer up to £6.5bn, according to a government estimate.

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Match ID: 52 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Waiting for Superbatteries
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:00:00 +0000


If grain must be dragged to market on an oxcart, how far can it go before the oxen eat up all the cargo? This, in brief, is the problem faced by any transportation system in which the vehicle must carry its own fuel. The key value is the density of energy, expressed with respect to either mass or volume.

The era of large steam-powered ocean liners began during the latter half of the 19th century, when wood was still the world’s dominant fuel. But no liners fired their boilers with wood: There would have been too little space left for passengers and cargo. Soft wood, such as spruce or pine, packs less than 10 megajoules per liter, whereas bituminous coal has 2.5 times as much energy by volume and at least twice as much by mass. By comparison, gasoline has 34 MJ/L and diesel about 38 MJ/L.


But in a world that aspires to leave behind all fuels (except hydrogen or maybe ammonia) and to electrify everything, the preferred measure of stored energy density is watt-hours per liter. By this metric, air-dried wood contains about 3,500 Wh/L, good steam coal around 6,500, gasoline 9,600, aviation kerosene 10,300, and natural gas (methane) merely 9.7—less than 1/1,000 the density of kerosene.


How do batteries compare with the fuels they are to displace? The first practical battery, Gaston Planté’s lead-acid cell introduced in 1859, has gradually improved from less than 60 Wh/L to about 90 Wh/L. The nickel-cadmium battery, invented by Waldemar Jungner in 1899, now frequently stores more than 150 Wh/L, and today’s best mass-manufactured performers are lithium-ion batteries, the first commercial versions of which came out in 1991. The best energy density now commercially available in very large quantities for lithium-ion batteries is at 750 Wh/L, which is widely seen in electric cars. In 2020 Panasonic promised it would reach about 850 Wh/L by 2025 (and do so without the expensive cobalt). Eventually, the company aims to reach a 1,000-Wh/L product.

Over the past 50 years, the highest energy density of mass-produced batteries has roughly quintupled

Claims of new energy-density records for lithium-ion batteries appear regularly. In March 2021, Sion Power announced an 810-Wh/L pouch cell; three months later NanoGraf announced a cylindrical cell with 800 Wh/L. Earlier claims spoke of even loftier energy densities—QuantumScape mentioned a 1,000-Wh/L cell in a December 2020 claim, and Sion Power of a 1,400-Wh/L cell as far back as 2018. But Sion’s cells came from a pilot production line, not from a routine mass-scale operation, and QuantumScape’s claim was based on laboratory tests of single-layer cells, not on any commercially available multilayer products.

The real-world leader seems to be Amprius Technologies of Fremont, Calif.: In February 2022, the company announced the first delivery of batteries rated as high as 1,150 Wh/L, to a maker of a new generation of high-altitude uncrewed aircraft, to be used to relay signals. This is obviously a niche market, orders of magnitude smaller than the potential market for electric vehicles, but it is a welcome confirmation of continuous density gains.

There is a long way to go before batteries rival the energy density of liquid fuels. Over the past 50 years, the highest energy density of mass-produced batteries has roughly quintupled, from less than 150 to more than 700 Wh/L. But even if that trend continues for the next 50 years, we would still see top densities of about 3,500 Wh/L, no more than a third that of kerosene. The wait for superbatteries ready to power intercontinental flight may not be over by even 2070.

This article appears in the December 2022 print issue.


Match ID: 53 Score: 15.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

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

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

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

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

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Match ID: 54 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Ukraine war: Moldova braces for blackouts
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 12:54:48 GMT
Residents say they are already struggling to cope with soaring energy prices and inflation.
Match ID: 55 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Energy bills: 'We cut back but are paying three times as much'
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 08:24:31 GMT
Many households are seeing their energy bills going up despite the power they use going down.
Match ID: 56 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Great Barrier Reef flagged as ‘in danger’ world heritage site. What does this mean?
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 02:48:59 GMT

Scientists have delivered clear advice for the reef. So what did their report say, how might the government respond and what happens next?

The status of the Great Barrier Reef as a globally significant and intact world heritage site is under the spotlight again.

Two UN-backed scientists have today recommended, after a 10-day inspection earlier this year, the world’s biggest coral reef system should be placed on a list of world heritage sites “in danger”.

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Match ID: 57 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Calls for UK ban on pre-payment meter installations made under court warrants
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 00:01:11 GMT

End Fuel Poverty Coalition fears energy suppliers are using warrants to disconnect poorest ‘by the back door’

Campaigners have called for an immediate ban on pre-payment meter (PPM) installations made under court warrants because of fears that energy suppliers are using them to disconnect the poorest, most indebted customers “by the back door”.

Energy firms’ licence conditions protect many vulnerable people from formal disconnection over the winter, but the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said transferring households on to PPMs, which require regular top-ups and charge for energy at a higher rate, often prompted people in debt to “self-disconnect”.

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Match ID: 58 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

The EV Transition Explained: Can the Grid Cope?
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 21:18:46 +0000


There have been vigorous debates pro and con in the United States and elsewhere over whether electric grids can support EVs at scale. The answer is a nuanced “perhaps.” It depends on several factors, including the speed of grid-component modernization, the volume of EV sales, where they occur and when, what kinds of EV charging are being done and when, regulator and political decisions, and critically, economics.

The city of Palo Alto, Calif. is a microcosm of many of the issues involved. Palo Alto boasts the highest adoption rate of EVs in the United States: In 2020, one in six of the town’s 25,000 households owned an EV. Of the 52,000 registered vehicles in the city, 4,500 are EVs, and on workdays, commuters drive another 3,000 to 5,000 EVs to enter the city. Residents can access about 1,000 charging ports spread over 277 public charging stations, with another 3,500 or so charging ports located at residences.

Palo Alto’s government has set a very aggressive Sustainability and Climate Action Plan with a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below the 1990 level by the year 2030. In comparison, the state’s goal is to achieve this amount by 2050. To realize this reduction, Palo Alto must have 80 percent of vehicles within the next eight years registered in (and commuting into) the city be EVs (around 100,000 total). The projected number of charging ports will need to grow to an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 public ports (some 300 being DC fast chargers) and 18,000 to 26,000 residential ports, with most of those being L2-type charging ports.

“There are places even today where we can’t even take one more heat pump without having to rebuild the portion of the system. Or we can’t even have one EV charger go in.” —Tomm Marshall

To meet Palo Alto’s 2030 emission-reduction goals, the city, which owns and operates the electric utility, would like to increase significantly the amount of local renewable energy being used for electricity generation (think rooftop solar) including the ability to use EVs as distributed-energy resources (vehicle-to-grid (V2G) connections). The city has provided incentives for the purchase of both EVs and charging ports, the installation of heat-pump water heaters, and the installation of solar and battery-storage systems.

There are, however, a few potholes that need to be filled to meet the city’s 2030 emission objectives. At a February meeting of Palo Alto’s Utilities Advisory Commission, Tomm Marshall, assistant director of utilities, stated, “There are places even today [in the city] where we can’t even take one more heat pump without having to rebuild the portion of the [electrical distribution] system. Or we can’t even have one EV charger go in.”

Peak loading is the primary concern. Palo Alto’s electrical-distribution system was built for the electric loads of the 1950s and 1960s, when household heating, water, and cooking were running mainly on natural gas. The distribution system does not have the capacity to support EVs and all electric appliances at scale, Marshall suggested. Further, the system was designed for one-way power, not for distributed-renewable-energy devices sending power back into the system.

A big problem is the 3,150 distribution transformers in the city, Marshall indicated. A 2020 electrification-impact study found that without improvements, more than 95 percent of residential transformers would be overloaded if Palo Alto hits its EV and electrical-appliance targets by 2030.

Palo Alto’s electrical-distribution system needs a complete upgrade to allow the utility to balance peak loads.

For instance, Marshall stated, it is not unusual for a 37.5 kilovolt-ampere transformer to support 15 households, as the distribution system was originally designed for each household to draw 2 kilowatts of power. Converting a gas appliance to a heat pump, for example, would draw 4 to 6 kW, while an L2 charger for EVs would be 12 to 14 kW. A cluster of uncoordinated L2 charging could create an excessive peak load that would overload or blow out a transformer, especially when they are toward the end of their lives, which many already are. Without smart meters—that is, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), which will be introduced into Palo Alto in 2024—the utility has little to no household peak load insights.

Palo Alto’s electrical-distribution system needs a complete upgrade to allow the utility to balance peak loads, manage two-way power flows, install the requisite number of EV charging ports and electric appliances to support the city’s emission-reduction goals, and deliver power in a safe, reliable, sustainable, and cybersecure manner. The system also must be able to cope in a multihour-outage situation, where future electrical appliances and EV charging will commence all at once when power is restored, placing a heavy peak load on the distribution system.

A map of EV charging stations in the Palo Alto, CA area PlugShare.comA map of EV charging stations in the Palo Alto, CA area from PlugShare.com

Palo Alto is considering investing US $150 million toward modernizing its distribution system, but that will take two to three years of planning, as well as another three to four years or more to perform all the necessary work, but only if the utility can get the engineering and management staff, which continues to be in short supply there and at other utilities across the country. Further, like other industries, the energy business has become digitized, meaning the skills needed are different from those previously required.

Until it can modernize its distribution network, Marshall conceded that the utility must continue to deal with angry and confused customers who are being encouraged by the city to invest in EVs, charging ports, and electric appliances, only then to be told that they may not be accommodated anytime soon.

Policy runs up against engineering reality

The situation in Palo Alto is not unique. There are some 465 cities in the United States with populations between 50,000 and 100,000 residents, and another 315 that are larger, many facing similar challenges. How many can really support a rapid influx of thousands of new EVs? Phoenix, for example, wants 280,000 EVs plying its streets by 2030, nearly seven times as many as it has currently. Similar mismatches between climate-policy desires and an energy infrastructure incapable of supporting those policies will play out across not only the United States but elsewhere in one form or another over the next two decades as conversion to EVs and electric appliances moves to scale.

As in Palo Alto, it will likely be blown transformers or constantly flickering lights that signal there is an EV charging-load issue. Professor Deepak Divan, the director of the Center for Distributed Energy at Georgia Tech, says his team found that in residential areas “multiple L2 chargers on one distribution transformer can reduce its life from an expected 30 to 40 years to 3 years.” Given that most of the millions of U.S. transformers are approaching the end of their useful lives, replacing transformers soon could be a major and costly headache for utilities, assuming they can get them.

Supplies for distribution transformers are low, and costs have skyrocketed from a range of $3,000 to $4,000 to $20,000 each. Supporting EVs may require larger, heavier transformers, which means many of the 180 million power poles on which these need to sit will need to be replaced to support the additional weight.

Exacerbating the transformer loading problem, Divan says, is that many utilities “have no visibility beyond the substation” into how and when power is being consumed. His team surveyed “twenty-nine utilities for detailed voltage data from their AMI systems, and no one had it.”

This situation is not true universally. Xcel Energy in Minnesota, for example, has already started to upgrade distribution transformers because of potential residential EV electrical-load issues. Xcel president Chris Clark told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that four or five families buying EVs noticeably affects the transformer load in a neighborhood, with a family buying an EV “adding another half of their house.”

Joyce Bodoh, director of energy solutions and clean energy for Virginia’s Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC), a utility distributor in central Virginia, says that “REC leadership is really, really supportive of electrification, energy efficiency, and electric transportation.” However, she adds, “all those things are not a magic wand. You can’t make all three things happen at the same time without a lot of forward thinking and planning.”

Total U.S. Energy Consumption


For nearly 50 years, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been publishing a Sankey diagram of estimated U.S. energy consumption from various generation sources, as shown above. In 2021, the United States consumed 97.3 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) of energy, with the transportation sector using 26.9 quads, 90 percent of it from petroleum. Obviously, as the transportation sector electrifies, electricity generation will need to grow in some reduced proportion of the energy once provided to the transportation section by petroleum, given the higher energy efficiency of EVs.

To achieve the desired reduction in greenhouse gases, renewable-energy generation of electricity will need to replace fossil fuels. The improvements and replacements to the grid’s 8,000 power-generation units and 600,000 circuit miles of AC transmission lines (240,000 circuit miles being high-voltage lines) and 70,000 substations to support increased renewable energy and battery storage is estimated to be more than $2.5 trillion in capital, operations, and maintenance costs by 2035.

In the short term, it is unlikely that EVs will create power shortfalls in the U.S. grid, but the rising number of EVs will test the local grid’s reliability at many of the 3,000 electric-distribution utilities in the United States, which themselves own more than 5.5 million miles of power lines. It is estimated that these utilities need $1 trillion in upgrades by 2035.

As part of this planning effort, Bodoh says that REC has actively been performing “an engineering study that looked at line loss across our systems as well as our transformers, and said, ‘If this transformer got one L2 charger, what would happen? If it got two L2s, what would happen, and so on?’” She adds that REC “is trying to do its due diligence, so we don’t get surprised when a cul-de-sac gets a bunch of L2 chargers and there’s a power outage.”

REC also has hourly energy-use data from which it can find where L2 chargers may be in use because of the load profile of EV charging. However, Bodoh says, REC does not just want to know where the L2 chargers are, but also to encourage its EV-owning customers to charge at nonpeak hours—that is, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. REC has recently set up an EV charging pilot program for 200 EV owners that provides a $7 monthly credit if they do off-peak charging. Whether REC or other utilities can convince enough EV owners of L2 chargers to consistently charge during off-peak hours remains to be seen.

“Multiple L2 chargers on one distribution transformer can reduce its life from an expected 30 to 40 years to 3 years.” —Deepak Divan

Even if EV owner behavior changes, off-peak charging may not fully solve the peak-load problem once EV ownership really ramps up. “Transformers are passively cooled devices,” specifically designed to be cooled at night, says Divan. “When you change the (power) consumption profile by adding several EVs using L2 chargers at night, that transformer is running hot.” The risk of transformer failure from uncoordinated overnight charging may be especially aggravated during times of summer heat waves, an issue that concerns Palo Alto’s utility managers.

There are technical solutions available to help spread EV charging peak loads, but utilities will have to make the investments in better transformers and smart metering systems, as well as get regulatory permission to change electricity-rate structures to encourage off-peak charging. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G), which allows an EV to serve as a storage device to smooth out grid loads, may be another solution, but for most utilities in the United States, this is a long-term option. Numerous issues need to be addressed, such as the updating of millions of household electrical panels and smart meters to accommodate V2G, the creation of agreed-upon national technical standards for the information exchange needed between EVs and local utilities, the development of V2G regulatory policies, and residential and commercial business models, including fair compensation for utilizing an EV’s stored energy.

As energy expert Chris Nelder noted at a National Academy EV workshop, “vehicle-to-grid is not really a thing, at least not yet. I don’t expect it to be for quite some time until we solve a lot of problems at various utility commissions, state by state, rate by rate.”

In the next article in the series, we will look at the complexities of creating an EV charging infrastructure.


Match ID: 59 Score: 15.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Home insulation: How can it cut energy bills?
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 12:17:45 GMT
Better home insulation could save some households hundreds of pounds a year on their energy bills.
Match ID: 60 Score: 15.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

UK households have cut energy consumption by 10%, say suppliers
Sun, 27 Nov 2022 15:30:08 GMT

E.ON reports up to 15% drop as Grant Shapps writes to firms saying customers cutting back on energy use should not face direct debit rise

Britons have cut their gas and electricity use by more than 10% since October in the first evidence of the impact of the energy crisis on household habits, according to two of Britain’s biggest suppliers.

E.ON, Britain’s second-largest supplier, and Telecom Plus, which owns Utility Warehouse, have reported “double-digit” declines in recent weeks.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 61 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

Millions of households will be spending nearly third of income on fuel by spring
Sun, 27 Nov 2022 06:00:13 GMT

Findings come amid mounting evidence that the poorest people in the UK are paying a ‘poverty premium’ for basic services

Millions of households will be paying almost a third of their income in fuel costs this spring, amid warnings that a “black hole in provision” remains for Britain’s poorest families.

The vast majority of households in some vulnerable groups – including some 70% of pensioners – will be spending a tenth or more of their income on fuel from April, when support for energy costs will be reduced.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 62 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 15.00 energy

ISS Daily Summary Report – 11/25/2022
Fri, 25 Nov 2022 16:00:17 +0000
RS Extravehicular Activity (EVA) #56: During preparations for today’s Russian EVA, both the primary and backup cooling pumps on EV1’s Orlan showed unstable behavior. After unsuccessful attempts at troubleshooting, the EVA has been cancelled. The European Robotic Arm (ERA) has been returned to its stowed configuration, and the crew and ground teams are backing out of the …
Match ID: 63 Score: 14.29 source: blogs.nasa.gov age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 russia

Putin’s grip on regional allies loosens again after Armenia snub
Fri, 25 Nov 2022 14:08:46 GMT

Damaging optics of ‘family’ photo at CSTO summit highlights fragility of Russia’s influence in wake of war in Ukraine

Armenia has asked the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to chair peace talks with Azerbaijan in a fresh challenge to Vladimir Putin’s increasingly loose grip on Russia’s regional allies in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

The snub from a traditional ally to Putin, who had hosted an inconsequential meeting of the warring countries’ leaders last month, comes immediately on the back of his disastrous summit with six former Soviet states.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 64 Score: 14.29 source: www.theguardian.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 russia

The Data Guy Who Got the Midterms Right
Thu, 24 Nov 2022 03:43:32 +0000

Tom Bonier of TargetSmart on how Republican polls were able to skew media predictions.

The post The Data Guy Who Got the Midterms Right appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 65 Score: 14.29 source: theintercept.com age: 5 days
qualifiers: 14.29 trump

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


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

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

Enjoy today’s videos!

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

[ Sanctuary ]

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

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

[ Paper ]

Thanks, Ayato!

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

[ Paper ]

Thanks, Nathanaël!

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

[ Georgia Tech ]

Thanks, Jason!

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

[ ESA ]

Thanks, Arne!

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

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

[ Kuka ]

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

[ HiPeR Lab ]

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

[ Brubotics ]

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

[ DJI ]

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

[ MIT ]

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

[ NC State ]

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

[ Charm Lab ]

SLURP!

[ River Lab ]

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

[ Skydio ]

Moxie is getting an update for the holidays!

[ Embodied ]

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

[ CMU ]

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

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

[ UPenn ]


Match ID: 66 Score: 10.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 10.71 energy

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Match ID: 67 Score: 10.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 8 days
qualifiers: 5.00 sanctions, 2.86 russia, 2.86 korea

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

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

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

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

Continue reading...
Match ID: 68 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 nuclear

The James Webb Space Telescope was a Career-Defining Project for Janet Barth
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 19:00:01 +0000


Janet Barth spent most of her career at the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md.—which put her in the middle of some of NASA’s most exciting projects of the past 40 years.

She joined the center as a co-op student and retired in 2014 as chief of its electrical engineering division. She had a hand in Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, launching the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, and developing the James Webb Space Telescope.


About Janet Barth


Employer: Miller Engineering and Research Corp.

Title: Advisory board member

Member grade: Life Fellow

Alma mater: University of Maryland in College Park

Barth, an IEEE Life Fellow, conducted pioneering work in analyzing the effects of cosmic rays and solar radiation on spacecraft observatories. Her tools and techniques are still used today. She also helped develop science requirements for NASA’s Living With a Star program, which studies the sun, magnetospheres, and planetary systems.

For her work, Barth was honored with this year’s IEEE Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award for “leadership of and contributions to the advancement of the design, building, deployment, and operation of capable, robust space systems.”

“I still tear up just thinking about it,” Barth says. “Receiving this award is humbling. Everyone at IEEE and Goddard who I worked with owns a piece of this award.”

From co-op hire to chief of NASA’s EE division

Barth initially attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, to pursue a degree in biology, but she soon realized that it wasn’t a good fit for her. She transferred to the University of Maryland in College Park, and changed her major to applied mathematics.

She was accepted for a co-op position in 1978 at the Goddard center, which is about 9 kilometers from the university. Co-op jobs allow students to work at a company and gain experience while pursuing their degree.

“I was excited about using my analysis and math skills to enable new science at Goddard,” she says. She conducted research on radiation environments and their effects on electronic systems.

Goddard hired her after she graduated as a radiation and hardness assurance engineer. She helped ensure that the electronics and materials in space systems would perform as designed after being exposed to radiation in space.

Because of her expertise in space radiation, George Withbroe, director of the NASA Solar-Terrestrial Physics program (now its Heliophysics Division), asked her in 1999 to help write a funding proposal for a program he wanted to launch—which became Living With a Star. It received US $2 billion from the U.S. Congress and launched in 2001.

During her 12 years with the program, Barth helped write the architecture document, which she says became a seminal publication for the field of heliophysics (the study of the sun and how it influences space). The document outlines the program’s goals and objectives.

In 2001 she was selected to be project manager for a NASA test bed that aimed to understand how spacecraft are affected by their environment. The test bed, which collected data from space to predict how radiation might impact NASA missions, successfully completed its mission in 2020.

Barth reached the next rung on her career ladder in 2002, when she became one of the first female associate branch heads of engineering at Goddard. At the space center’s Flight Data Systems and Radiation Effects Branch, she led a team of engineers who designed flight computers and storage systems. Although it was a steep learning curve for her, she says, she enjoyed it. Three years later, she was heading the branch.

She got another promotion, in 2010, to chief of the electrical engineering division. As the Goddard Engineering Directorate’s first female division chief, she led a team of 270 employees who designed, built, and tested electronics and electrical systems for NASA instruments and spacecraft.

vintage photograph of woman smiling in group of 3 people Barth (left) and Moira Stanton at the 1997 RADiation and its Effects on Components and Systems Conference, held in Cannes, France. Barth and Stanton coauthored a poster paper and received the outstanding poster paper award.Janet Barth

Working on the James Webb Space Telescope

Throughout her career, Barth was involved in the development of the Webb space telescope. Whenever she thought that she was done with the massive project, she says with a laugh, her path would “intersect with Webb again.”

She first encountered the Webb project in the late 1990s, when she was asked to be on the initial study team for the telescope.

She wrote its space-environment specifications. After they were published in 1998, however, the team realized that there were several complex problems to solve with the telescope’s detectors. The Goddard team supported Matt Greenhouse, John C. Mather, and other engineers to work on the tricky issues. Greenhouse is a project scientist for the telescope’s science instrument payload. Mather won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for discoveries supporting the Big Bang model.

The Webb’s detectors absorb photons—light from far-away galaxies, stars, and planets—and convert them into electronic voltages. Barth and her team worked with Greenhouse and Mather to verify that the detectors would work while exposed to the radiation environment at the L2 Lagrangian point, one of the positions in space where human-sent objects tend to stay put.

Years later, when Barth was heading the Flight Data Systems and Radiation Effects branch, she oversaw the development of the telescope’s instrument command and data handling systems. Because of her important role, Barth’s name was written on the telescope’s instrument ICDH flight box.

When she became chief of Goddard’s electrical engineering division, she was assigned to the technical review panel for the telescope.

“At that point,” she says, “we focused on the mechanics of deployment and the risks that came with not being able to fully test it in the environment it would be launched and deployed in.”

She served on that panel until she retired. In 2019, five years after retiring, she joined the Miller Engineering and Research Corp. advisory board. The company, based in Pasadena, Md., manufactures parts for aerospace and aviation organizations.

“I really like the ethics of the company. They service science missions and crewed missions,” Barth says. “I went back to my roots, and that’s been really rewarding.”

The best things about being an IEEE member

Barth and her husband, Douglas, who is also an engineer, joined IEEE in 1989. She says they enjoy belonging to a “unique peer group.” She especially likes attending IEEE conferences, having access to journals, and being able to take continuing education courses and workshops, she says.

“I stay up to date on the advancements in science and engineering,” she says, “and going to conferences keeps me inspired and motivated in what I do.” The networking opportunities are “terrific,” she adds, and she’s been able to meet people from just about all engineering industries.

An active IEEE volunteer for more than 20 years, she is executive chairwoman of the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society’s Radiation Effects Steering Group, and she served as 2013–2014 president of the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society. She also is an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science.

“IEEE has definitely benefited my career,” she says. “There’s no doubt about that.”


Match ID: 69 Score: 10.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org 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: 70 Score: 10.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 249 days
qualifiers: 5.00 sanctions, 2.86 russia, 2.14 energy

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


The Big Picture features technology through the lens of photographers.

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

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

Shot of Nuclear Fusion


A women using robotic equipment in front of multiple screens.

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

Leon Neal/Getty Images


A laser cut rice caked based drone.

Turning Drones into Scones

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

EPFL


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

Metasurface Weaves Entangled Photons

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

Craig Fritz


A large camera within a lab in Chile.

Colossal Camera Coming to Chile

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

Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory


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

Bionic Hands Haven’t Fully Grasped Users’ Needs

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

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


Match ID: 71 Score: 7.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 7 days
qualifiers: 4.29 energy, 2.86 nuclear

In U.S. Military, Sexual Assault Against Men Is Vastly Underreported
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 12:00:17 +0000

An average of 45 male servicemembers are sexually assaulted every day, according to Pentagon statistics. As with women, shame and stigma suppress the truth.

The post In U.S. Military, Sexual Assault Against Men Is Vastly Underreported appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 72 Score: 5.00 source: theintercept.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 5.00 pompeo

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Batteries and the supply-chain challenge

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

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

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

Stiff Competition for Engineering Talent


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


Match ID: 73 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 10 days
qualifiers: 2.86 korea, 2.14 energy

Could Trump's legal issues derail his 2024 presidential bid? – video explainer
Thu, 17 Nov 2022 16:09:08 GMT

Donald Trump has announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, probably sparking another period of tumult in US politics and especially his own political party. His third candidacy comes as he faces intensifying legal troubles, including investigations by the justice department into the removal of hundreds of classified documents from the White House to his Florida estate and into his role in the January 6 attack. But could they derail his bid? The Guardian US politics correspondent Hugo Lowell explains what Trump is facing and whether he still stands a chance

Continue reading...
Match ID: 74 Score: 3.57 source: www.theguardian.com age: 12 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trump

The Twitter Bubble Let Democrats Defy Political Gravity
Thu, 17 Nov 2022 15:15:50 +0000
The midterm elections showed that the far-right's manufactured narrative about trans kids doomed the GOP when they made it policy.
Match ID: 75 Score: 3.57 source: www.wired.com age: 12 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trump

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Match ID: 76 Score: 3.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 82 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy, 1.43 nuclear

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: 77 Score: 3.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 173 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 22:11:24 GMT
Two proposed rules imply that investment managers promote social goals over sound investment analysis — but that’s not what actually happens.
Match ID: 78 Score: 3.57 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 812 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trump

How the Graphical User Interface Was Invented
Sun, 20 Nov 2022 20:00:00 +0000


Mice, windows, icons, and menus: these are the ingredients of computer interfaces designed to be easy to grasp, simplicity itself to use, and straightforward to describe. The mouse is a pointer. Windows divide up the screen. Icons symbolize application programs and data. Menus list choices of action.

But the development of today’s graphical user interface was anything but simple. It took some 30 years of effort by engineers and computer scientists in universities, government laboratories, and corporate research groups, piggybacking on each other’s work, trying new ideas, repeating each other’s mistakes.


This article was first published as “Of Mice and menus: designing the user-friendly interface.” It appeared in the September 1989 issue of IEEE Spectrum. A PDF version is available on IEEE Xplore. The photographs and diagrams appeared in the original print version.


Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, many of the early concepts for windows, menus, icons, and mice were arduously researched at Xerox Corp.’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Palo Alto, Calif. In 1973, PARC developed the prototype Alto, the first of two computers that would prove seminal in this area. More than 1200 Altos were built and tested. From the Alto’s concepts, starting in 1975, Xerox’s System Development Department then developed the Star and introduced it in 1981—the first such user-friendly machine sold to the public.

In 1984, the low-cost Macintosh from Apple Computer Inc., Cupertino, Calif., brought the friendly interface to thousands of personal computer users. During the next five years, the price of RAM chips fell enough to accommodate the huge memory demands of bit-mapped graphics, and the Mac was followed by dozens of similar interfaces for PCs and workstations of all kinds. By now, application programmers are becoming familiar with the idea of manipulating graphic objects.

The Mac’s success during the 1980s spurred Apple Computer to pursue legal action over ownership of many features of the graphical user interface. Suits now being litigated could assign those innovations not to the designers and their companies, but to those who first filed for legal protection on them.

The GUI started with Sketchpad


The grandfather of the graphical user interface was Sketchpad [see photograph]. Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Ivan E. Sutherland built it in 1962 as a Ph.D. thesis at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Mass. Sketchpad users could not only draw points, line segments, and circular arcs on a cathode ray tube (CRT) with a light pen—they could also assign constraints to, and relationships among, whatever they drew.

Arcs could have a specified diameter, lines could be horizontal or vertical, and figures could be built up from combinations of elements and shapes. Figures could be moved, copied, shrunk, expanded, and rotated, with their constraints (shown as onscreen icons) dynamically preserved. At a time when a CRT monitor was a novelty in itself, the idea that users could interactively create objects by drawing on a computer was revolutionary.


Man sitting in front of a round cathode ray display with a white square and triangle on a black background

Moreover, to zoom in on objects, Sutherland wrote the first window-drawing program, which required him to come up with the first clipping algorithm. Clipping is a software routine that calculates which part of a graphic object is to be displayed and displays only that part on the screen. The program must calculate where a line is to be drawn, compare that position to the coordinates of the window in use, and prevent the display of any line segment whose coordinates fall outside the window.

Though films of Sketchpad in operation were widely shown in the computer research community, Sutherland says today that there was little immediate fallout from the project. Running on MIT’s TX-2 mainframe, it demanded too much computing power to be practical for individual use. Many other engineers, however, see Sketchpad’s design and algorithms as a primary influence on an entire generation of research into user interfaces.

The origin of the computer mouse


The light pens used to select areas of the screen by interactive computer systems of the 1950s and 1960s—including Sketchpad—had drawbacks. To do the pointing, the user’s arm had to be lifted up from the table, and after a while that got tiring. Picking up the pen required fumbling around on the table or, if it had a holder, taking the time after making a selection to put it back.

Sensing an object with a light pen was straightforward: the computer displayed spots of light on the screen and interrogated the pen as to whether it sensed a spot, so the program always knew just what was being displayed. Locating the position of the pen on the screen required more sophisticated techniques—like displaying a cross pattern of nine points on the screen, then moving the cross until it centered on the light pen.

In 1964, Douglas Engelbart, a research project leader at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif., tested all the commercially available pointing devices, from the still-popular light pen to a joystick and a Graphicon (a curve-tracing device that used a pen mounted on the arm of a potentiometer). But he felt the selection failed to cover the full spectrum of possible pointing devices, and somehow he should fill in the blanks.

Then he remembered a 1940s college class he had taken that covered the use of a planimeter to calculate area. (A planimeter has two arms, with a wheel on each. The wheels can roll only along their axes; when one of them rolls, the other must slide.)

If a potentiometer were attached to each wheel to monitor its rotation, he thought, a planimeter could be used as a pointing device. Engelbart explained his roughly sketched idea to engineer William English, who with the help of the SRI machine shop built what they quickly dubbed “the mouse.”



This first mouse was big because it used single-turn potentiometers: one rotation of the wheels had to be scaled to move a cursor from one side of the screen to the other. But it was simple to interface with the computer: the processor just read frequent samples of the potentiometer positioning signals through analog-to-digital converters.

The cursor moved by the mouse was easy to locate, since readings from the potentiometer determined the position of the cursor on the screen-unlike the light pen. But programmers for later windowing systems found that the software necessary to determine which object the mouse had selected was more complex than that for the light pen: they had to compare the mouse’s position with that of all the objects displayed onscreen.

The computer mouse gets redesigned—and redesigned again

Engelbart’s group at SRI ran controlled experiments with mice and other pointing devices, and the mouse won hands down. People adapted to it quickly, it was easy to grab, and it stayed where they put it. Still, Engelbart wanted to tinker with it. After experimenting, his group had concluded that the proper ratio of cursor movement to mouse movement was about 2:1, but he wanted to try varying that ratio—decreasing it at slow speeds and raising it at fast speeds—to improve user control of fine movements and speed up larger movements. Some modern mouse-control software incorporates this idea, including that of the Macintosh.

The mouse, still experimental at this stage, did not change until 1971. Several members of Engelbart’s group had moved to the newly established PARC, where many other researchers had seen the SRI mouse and the test report. They decided there was no need to repeat the tests; any experimental systems they designed would use mice.

Said English, “This was my second chance to build a mouse; it was obvious that it should be a lot smaller, and that it should be digital.” Chuck Thacker, then a member of the research staff, advised PARC to hire inventor Jack Hawley to build it.

Hawley decided the mouse should use shaft encoders, which measure position by a series of pulses, instead of potentiometers (both were covered in Engelbart’s 1970 patent), to eliminate the expensive analog-to-digital converters. The basic principle, of one wheel rolling while the other slid, was licensed from SRI.

The ball mouse was the “easiest patent I ever got. It took me five minutes to think of, half an hour to describe to the attorney, and I was done.”
—Ron Rider

In 1972, the mouse changed again. Ron Rider, now vice president of systems architecture at PARC but then a new arrival, said he was using the wheel mouse while an engineer made excuses for its asymmetric operation (one wheel dragging while one turned). “I suggested that they turn a trackball upside down, make it small, and use it as a mouse instead,” Rider told IEEE Spectrum. This device came to be known as the ball mouse. “Easiest patent I ever got,” Rider said. “It took me five minutes to think of, half an hour to describe to the attorney, and I was done.”

Defining terms


Bit map

The pixel pattern that makes up the graphic display on a computer screen.

Clicking

The motion of pressing a mouse button to Initiate an action by software; some actions require double-clicking.

Graphical user interface (GUI)

The combination of windowing displays, menus, icons, and a mouse that is increasingly used on personal computers and workstations.

Icon

An onscreen drawing that represents programs or data.

Menu

A list of command options currently available to the computer user; some stay onscreen, while pop-up or pull-down menus are requested by the user.

Mouse

A device whose motion across a desktop or other surface causes an on-screen cursor to move commensurately; today’s mice move on a ball and have one, two, or three buttons.

Raster display

A cathode ray tube on which Images are displayed as patterns of dots, scanned onto the screen sequentially in a predetermined pattern of lines.

Vector display

A cathode ray tube whose gun scans lines, or vectors, onto the screen phosphor.

Window

An area of a computer display, usually one of several, in which a particular program is executing.


In the PARC ball mouse design, the weight of the mouse is transferred to the ball by a swivel device and on one or two casters at the end of the mouse farthest from the wire “tail.” A prototype was built by Xerox’s Electronics Division in El Segundo, Calif., then redesigned by Hawley. The rolling ball turned two perpendicular shafts, with a drum on the end of each that was coated with alternating stripes of conductive and nonconductive material. As the drum turned, the stripes transmitted electrical impulses through metal wipers.

When Apple Computer decided in 1979 to design a mouse for its Lisa computer, the design mutated yet again. Instead of a metal ball held against the substrate by a swivel, Apple used a rubber ball whose traction depended on the friction of the rubber and the weight of the ball itself. Simple pads on the bottom of the case carried the weight, and optical scanners detected the motion of the internal wheels. The device had loose tolerances and few moving parts, so that it cost perhaps a quarter as much to build as previous ball mice.

How the computer mouse gained and lost buttons

The first, wooden, SRI mouse had only one button, to test the concept. The plastic batch of SRI mice bad three side-by-side buttons—all there was room for, Engelbart said. The first PARC mouse bad a column of three buttons-again, because that best fit the mechanical design. Today, the Apple mouse has one button, while the rest have two or three. The issue is no longer 1950—a standard 6-by-10-cm mouse could now have dozens of buttons—but human factors, and the experts have strong opinions.

Said English, now director of internationalization at Sun Microsystems Inc., Mountain View, Calif.: “Two or three buttons, that’s the debate. Apple made a bad choice when they used only one.” He sees two buttons as the minimum because two functions are basic to selecting an object: pointing to its start, then extending the motion to the end of the object.

William Verplank, a human factors specialist in the group that tested the graphical interface at Xerox from 1978 into the early 1980s, concurred. He told Spectrum that with three buttons, Alto users forgot which button did what. The group’s tests showed that one button was also confusing, because it required actions such as double-clicking to select and then open a file.

“We have agonizing videos of naive users struggling” with these problems, Verplank said. They concluded that for most users, two buttons (as used on the Star) are optimal, if a button means the same thing in every application. English experimented with one-button mice at PARC before concluding they were a bad idea.


“Two or three buttons, that’s the debate. Apple made a bad choice when they used only one.”
—William English


A computer monitor with a chunky white keyboard sitting on a desk

But many interface designers dislike multiple buttons, saying that double-clicking a single button to select an item is easier than remembering which button points and which extends. Larry Tesler, formerly a computer scientist at PARC, brought the one-button mouse to Apple, where he is now vice president of advanced technology. The company’s rationale is that to attract novices to its computers one button was as simple as it could get.

More than two million one-button Apple mice are now in use. The Xerox and Microsoft two-button mice are less common than either Apple’s ubiquitous one-button model or the three-button mice found on technical workstations. Dozens of companies manufacture mice today; most are slightly smaller than a pack of cigarettes, with minor variations in shape.

How windows first came to the computer screen


In 1962, Sketchpad could split its screen horizontally into two independent sections. One section could, for example, give a close-up view of the object in the other section. Researchers call Sketchpad the first example of tiled windows, which are laid out side by side. They differ from overlapping windows, which can be stacked on top of each other, or overlaid, obscuring all or part of the lower layers.

Windows were an obvious means of adding functionality to a small screen. In 1969, Engelbart equipped NLS (as the On-Line System he invented at SRI during the 1960s was known, to distinguish it from the Off-Line System known as FLS) with windows. They split the screen into multiple parts horizontally or vertically, and introduced cross-window editing with a mouse.

By 1972, led by researcher Alan Kay, the Smalltalk programming language group at Xerox PARC had implemented their version of windows. They were working with far different technology from Sutherland or Engelbart: by deciding that their images had to be displayed as dots on the screen, they led a move from vector to raster displays, to make it simple to map the assigned memory location of each of those spots. This was the bit map invented at PARC, and made viable during the 1980s by continual performance improvements in processor logic and memory speed.

Experimenting with bit-map manipulation, Smalltalk researcher Dan Ingalls developed the bit-block transfer procedure, known as BitBlt. The BitBlt software enabled application programs to mix and manipulate rectangular arrays of pixel values in on-screen or off-screen memory, or between the two, combining the pixel values and storing the result in the appropriate bit-map location.

BitBlt made it much easier to write programs to scroll a window (move an image through it), resize (enlarge or contract) it, and drag windows (move them from one location to another on screen). It led Kay to create overlapping windows. They were soon implemented by the Smalltalk group, but made clipping harder.

Some researchers question whether overlapping windows offer more benefits than tiled on the grounds that screens with overlapping windows become so messy the user gets lost.

In a tiling system, explained researcher Peter Deutsch, who worked with the Smalltalk group, the clipping borders are simply horizontal or vertical lines from one screen border to another, and software just tracks the location of those lines. But overlapping windows may appear anywhere on the screen, randomly obscuring bits and pieces of other windows, so that quite irregular regions must be clipped. Thus application software must constantly track which portions of their windows remain visible.

Some researchers still question whether overlapping windows offer more benefits than tiled, at least above a certain screen size, on the grounds that screens with overlapping windows become so messy the user gets lost. Others argue that overlapping windows more closely match users’ work patterns, since no one arranges the papers on their physical desktop in neat horizontal and vertical rows. Among software engineers, however, overlapping windows seem to have won for the user interface world.

So has the cut-and-paste editing model that Larry Tesler developed, first for the Gypsy text editor he wrote at PARC and later for Apple. Charles Irby—who worked on Xerox’s windows and is now vice president of development at Metaphor Computer Systems Inc., Mountain View, Calif.—noted, however, that cut-and-paste worked better for pure text-editing than for moving graphic objects from one application to another.

The origin of the computer menu bar


Menus—functions continuously listed onscreen that could be called into action with key combinations—were commonly used in defense computing by the 1960s. But it was only with the advent of BitBlt and windows that menus could be made to appear as needed and to disappear after use. Combined with a pointing device to indicate a user’s selection, they are now an integral part of the user-friendly interface: users no longer need to refer to manuals or memorize available options.

Instead, the choices can be called up at a moment’s notice whenever needed. And menu design has evolved. Some new systems use nested hierarchies of menus; others offer different menu versions—one with the most commonly used commands for novices, another with all available commands for the experienced user.

Among the first to test menus on demand was PARC researcher William Newman, in a program called Markup. Hard on his heels, the Smalltalk group built in pop-up menus that appeared on screen at the cursor site when the user pressed one of the mouse buttons.

Implementation was on the whole straightforward, recalled Deutsch. The one exception was determining whether the menu or the application should keep track of the information temporarily obscured by the menu. In the Smalltalk 76 version, the popup menu saved and restored the screen bits it overwrote. But in today’s multitasking systems, that would not work, because an application may change those bits without the menu’s knowledge. Such systems add another layer to the operating system: a display manager that tracks what is written where.

The production Xerox Star, in 1981, featured a further advance: a menu bar, essentially a row of words indicating available menus that could be popped up for each window. Human factors engineer Verplank recalled that the bar was at first located at the bottom of its window. But the Star team found users were more likely to associate a bar with the window below it, so it was moved to the top of its window.

Apple simplified things in its Lisa and Macintosh with a single bar placed at the top of the screen. This menu bar relates only to the window in use: the menus could be ‘‘pulled down” from the bar, to appear below it. Designer William D. Atkinson received a patent (assigned to Apple Computer) in August 1984 for this innovation.

One new addition that most user interface pioneers consider an advantage is the tear-off menu, which the user can move to a convenient spot on the screen and “pin” there, always visible for ready access.

Many windowing interfaces now offer command-key or keyboard alternatives for many commands as well. This return to the earliest of user interfaces—key combinations—neatly supplements menus, providing both ease of use for novices and for the less experienced, and speed for those who can type faster than they can point to a menu and click on a selection.

How the computer “icon” got its name


Sketchpad had on-screen graphic objects that represented constraints (for example, a rule that lines be the same length), and the Flex machine built in 1967 at the University of Utah by students Alan Kay and Ed Cheadle had squares that represented programs and data (like today’s computer “folders”). Early work on icons was also done by Bell Northern Research, Ottawa, Canada, stemming from efforts to replace the recently legislated bilingual signs with graphic symbols.

But the concept of the computer “icon” was not formalized until 1975. David Canfield Smith, a computer science graduate student at Stanford University in California, began work on his Ph.D. thesis in 1973. His advisor was PARC’s Kay, who suggested that he look at using the graphics power of the experimental Alto not just to display text, but rather to help people program.

David Canfield Smith took the term icon from the Russian Orthodox church, where an icon is more than an image, because it embodies properties of what it represents.

Smith took the term icon from the Russian Orthodox church, where an icon is more than an image, because it embodies properties of what it represents: a Russian icon of a saint is holy and is to be venerated. Smith’s computer icons contained all the properties of the programs and data represented, and therefore could be linked or acted on as if they were the real thing.

After receiving his Ph.D. in 1975, Smith joined Xerox in 1976 to work on Star development. The first thing he did, he said, was to recast his concept of icons in office terms. “I looked around my office and saw papers, folders, file cabinets, a telephone, and bookshelves, and it was an easy translation to icons,” he said.

Xerox researchers developed, tested, and revised icons for the Star interface for three years before the first version was complete. At first they attempted to make the icons look like a detailed photographic rendering of the object, recalled Irby, who worked on testing and refining the Xerox windows. Trading off label space, legibility, and the number of icons that fit on the screen, they decided to constrain icons to a 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) square of 64 by 64 pixels, or 512 eight-bit bytes.

Then, Verplank recalls, they discovered that because of a background pattern based on two-pixel dots, the right-hand side of the icons appeared jagged. So they increased the width of the icons to 65 pixels, despite an outcry from programmers who liked the neat 16-bit breakdown. But the increase stuck, Verplank said, because they had already decided to store 72 bits per side to allow for white space around each icon.

After settling on a size for the icons, the Star developers tested four sets developed by two graphic designers and two software engineers. They discovered that, for example, resizing may cause problems. They shrunk the icon for a person—a head and shoulders—in order to use several of them to represent a group, only to hear one test subject say the screen resolution made the reduced icon look like a cross above a tombstone. Computer graphics artist Norm Cox, now of Cox & Hall, Dallas, Texas, was finally hired to redesign the icons.

Icon designers today still wrestle with the need to make icons adaptable to the many different system configurations offered by computer makers. Artist Karen Elliott, who has designed icons for Microsoft, Apple, Hewlett-Packard Co., and others, noted that on different systems an icon may be displayed in different colors, several resolutions, and a variety of gray shades, and it may also be inverted (light and dark areas reversed).

In the past few years, another concern has been added to icon designers’ tasks: internationalization. Icons designed in the United States often lack space for translations into languages other than English. Elliott therefore tries to leave space for both the longer words and the vertical orientation of some languages.


A square white macintosh computer with a white keyboard, in a separate image below, computer icons and the text address book, address, addresses

The main rule is to make icons simple, clean, and easily recognizable. Discarded objects are placed in a trash can on the Macintosh. On the NeXT Computer System, from NeXT Inc., Palo Alto, Calif.—the company formed by Apple cofounder Steven Jobs after he left Apple—they are dumped into a Black Hole. Elliott sees NeXT’s black hole as one of the best icons ever designed: ”It is distinct; its roundness stands out from the other, square icons, and this is important on a crowded display. It fits my image of information being sucked away, and it makes it clear that dumping something is serious.

English disagrees vehemently. The black hole “is fundamentally wrong,” he said. “You can dig paper out of a wastebasket, but you can’t dig it out of a black hole.” Another critic called the black hole familiar only to “computer nerds who read mostly science fiction and comics,” not to general users.

With the introduction of the Xerox Star in June 1981, the graphical user interface, as it is known today, arrived on the market. Though not a commercial triumph, the Star generated great interest among computer users, as the Alto before it had within the universe of computer designers.

Even before the Star was introduced, Jobs, then still at Apple, had visited Xerox PARC in November 1979 and asked the Smalltalk researchers dozens of questions about the Alto’s internal design. He later recruited Larry Tesler from Xerox to design the user interface of the Apple Lisa.

With the Lisa and then the Macintosh, introduced in January 1983 and January 1984 respectively, the graphical user interface reached the low-cost, high-volume computer market.

At almost $10,000, buyers deemed the Lisa too expensive for the office market. But aided by prizewinning advertising and its lower price, the Macintosh took the world by storm. Early Macs had only 128K bytes of RAM, which made them slow to respond because it was too little memory for heavy graphic manipulation. Also, the time needed for programmers to learn its Toolbox of graphics routines delayed application packages until well into 1985. But the Mac’s ease of use was indisputable, and it generated interest that spilled over into the MS-DOS world of IBM PCs and clones, as well as Unix-based workstations.

Who owns the graphical user interface?


The widespread acceptance of such interfaces, however, has led to bitter lawsuits to establish exactly who owns what. So far, none of several litigious companies has definitively established that it owns the software that implements windows, icons, or early versions of menus. But the suits continue.

Virtually all the companies that make and sell either wheel or ball mice paid license fees to SRI or to Xerox for their patents. Engelbart recalled that SRI patent attorneys inspected all the early work on the interface, but understood only hardware. After looking at developments like the implementation of windows, they told him that none of it was patentable.

At Xerox, the Star development team proposed 12 patents having to do with the user interface. The company’s patent committee rejected all but two on hardware—one on BitBlt, the other on the Star architecture. At the time, Charles Irby said, it was a good decision. Patenting required full disclosure, and no precedents then existed for winning software patent suits.


A computer screen in blue and white with multiple open windows


Three computer windows with greyscale images on a dark grey background


Computer windows tinted blue on a black background partially obscuring a planet and starfield


The most recent and most publicized suit was filed in March 1988, by Apple, against both Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif. Apple alleges that HP’s New Wave interface, requiring version 2.03 of Microsoft’s Windows program, embodies the copyrighted “audio visual computer display” of the Macintosh without permission; that the displays of Windows 2.03 are illegal copies of the Mac’s audiovisual works; and that Windows 2.03 also exceeds the rights granted in a November 198S agreement in which Microsoft acknowledged that the displays in Windows 1.0 were derivatives of those in Apple’s Lisa and Mac.

In March 1989, U.S. District Judge William W. Schwarzer ruled Microsoft had exceeded the bounds of its license in creating Windows 2.03. Then in July 1989 Schwarzer ruled that all but 11 of the 260 items that Apple cited in its suit were, in fact, acceptable under the 1985 agreement. The larger issue—whether Apple’s copyrights are valid, and whether Microsoft and HP infringed on them—will not now be examined until 1990.

Among those 11 are overlapping windows and movable icons. According to Pamela Samuelson, a noted software intellectual property expert and visiting professor at Emory University Law School, Atlanta, Ga., many experts would regard both as functional features of an interface that cannot be copyrighted, rather than “expressions” of an idea protectable by copyright.

But lawyers for Apple—and for other companies that have filed lawsuits to protect the “look and feel’’ of their screen displays—maintain that if such protection is not granted, companies will lose the economic incentive to market technological innovations. How is Apple to protect its investment in developing the Lisa and Macintosh, they argue, if it cannot license its innovations to companies that want to take advantage of them?

If the Apple-Microsoft case does go to trial on the copyright issues, Samuelson said, the court may have to consider whether Apple can assert copyright protection for overlapping windows-an interface feature on which patents have also been granted. In April 1989, for example, Quarterdeck Office Systems Inc., Santa Monica, Calif., received a patent for a multiple windowing system in its Desq system software, introduced in 1984.

Adding fuel to the legal fire, Xerox said in May 1989 it would ask for license fees from companies that use the graphical user interface. But it is unclear whether Xerox has an adequate claim to either copyright or patent protection for the early graphical interface work done at PARC. Xerox did obtain design patents on later icons, noted human factors engineer Verplank. Meanwhile, both Metaphor and Sun Microsystems have negotiated licenses with Xerox for their own interfaces.

To Probe Further

The September 1989 IEEE Computer contains an article, “The Xerox ‘Star’: A Retrospective,” by Jeff Johnson et al., covering development of the Star. “Designing the Star User Interface,’’ [PDF] by David C. Smith et al., appeared in the April 1982 issue of Byte.

The Sept. 12, 1989, PC Magazine contains six articles on graphical user interfaces for personal computers and workstations. The July 1989 Byte includes ‘‘A Guide to [Graphical User Interfaces),” by Frank Hayes and Nick Baran, which describes 12 current interfaces for workstations and personal computers. “The Interface of Tomorrow, Today,’’ by Howard Reingold, in the July 10, 1989, InfoWorld does the same. “The interface that launched a thousand imitations,” by Richard Rawles, in the March 21, 1989, MacWeek covers the Macintosh interface.

The human factors of user interface design are discussed in The Psychology of Everyday Things, by Donald A. Norman (Basic Books Inc., New York, 1988). The January 1989 IEEE Software contains several articles on methods, techniques, and tools for designing and implementing graphical interfaces. The Way Things Work, by David Macaulay (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1988), contains a detailed drawing of a ball mouse.

The October 1985 IEEE Spectrum covered Xerox PARC’s history in “Research at Xerox PARC: a founder’s assessment,” by George Pake (pp. 54-61) and “Inside the PARC: the ‘information architects,’“ by Tekla Perry and Paul Wallich (pp. 62-75).

William Atkinson received patent no. 4,464,652 for the pulldown menu system on Aug. 8, 1984, and assigned it to Apple. Gary Pope received patent no. 4,823,108, for an improved system for displaying images in “windows” on a computer screen, on April 18, 1989, and assigned it to Quarterdeck Office Systems.

The wheel mouse patent, no. 3,541,541, “X-Y position indicator for a display system,” was issued to Douglas Engelbart on Nov. 17, 1970, and assigned to SRI International. The ball mouse patent, no. 3,835,464, was issued to Ronald Rider on Sept. 10, 1974, and assigned to Xerox.

The first selection device tests to include a mouse are covered in “Display-Selection Techniques for Text Manipulation,” by William English, Douglas Engelbart, and Melvyn Berman, in IEEE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, March 1967.

Sketchpad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System, by Ivan E. Sutherland (Garland Publishing Inc., New York City and London, 1980), reprints his 1963 Ph.D. thesis.










Match ID: 79 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

A Destabilizing Hack-and-Leak Operation Hits Moldova
Sat, 19 Nov 2022 14:00:00 +0000
Plus: Google’s location snooping ends in a $391 million settlement, Russian code sneaks into US government apps, and the World Cup apps set off alarms.
Match ID: 80 Score: 2.86 source: www.wired.com age: 10 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

Russian Software Company Pretending to Be American
2022-11-16T11:03:27Z

Computer code developed by a company called Pushwoosh is in about 8,000 Apple and Google smartphone apps. The company pretends to be American when it is actually Russian.

According to company documents publicly filed in Russia and reviewed by Reuters, Pushwoosh is headquartered in the Siberian town of Novosibirsk, where it is registered as a software company that also carries out data processing. It employs around 40 people and reported revenue of 143,270,000 rubles ($2.4 mln) last year. Pushwoosh is registered with the Russian government to pay taxes in Russia...


Match ID: 81 Score: 2.86 source: www.schneier.com age: 13 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

‘Dark Ships’ Emerge From the Shadows of the Nord Stream Mystery
Fri, 11 Nov 2022 12:00:00 +0000
Satellite monitors discovered two vessels with their trackers turned off in the area of the pipeline prior to the suspected sabotage in September.
Match ID: 82 Score: 2.86 source: www.wired.com age: 18 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

Russia’s Sway Over Criminal Ransomware Gangs Is Coming Into Focus
Thu, 10 Nov 2022 19:40:12 +0000
Questions about the Kremlin’s relationships with these groups remain. But researchers are finally getting some answers.
Match ID: 83 Score: 2.86 source: www.wired.com age: 19 days
qualifiers: 2.86 russia

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Match ID: 84 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 93 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.

This article appears in the September 2022 print issue as “DARPA Reincarnates Soviet-Era Sea Monster.”


Match ID: 85 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 194 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: 86 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 224 days
qualifiers: 2.86 italy

New Records for the Biggest and Smallest AI Computers
Thu, 17 Nov 2022 16:28:08 +0000


The machine-learning consortium MLCommons released the latest set of benchmark results last week, offering a glimpse at the capabilities of new chips and old as they tackled executing lightweight AI on the tiniest systems and training neural networks at both server and supercomputer scales. The benchmark tests saw the debut of new chips from Intel and Nvidia as well as speed boosts from software improvements and predictions that new software will play a role in speeding the new chips in the years after their debut.


Training Servers

Training AI has been a problem that’s driven billions of dollars in investment, and it seems to be paying off. “A few years ago we were talking about training these networks in days or weeks, now we’re talking about minutes,” says Dave Salvator, director of product marketing at Nvidia.

There are eight benchmarks in the MLPerf training suite, but here I’m showing results from just two—image classification and natural-language processing—because although they don’t give a complete picture, they’re illustrative of what’s happening. Not every company puts up benchmark results every time; in the past, systems from Baidu, Google, Graphcore, and Qualcomm have made marks, but none of these were on the most recent list. And there are companies whose goal is to train the very biggest neural networks, such as Cerebras and SambaNova, that have never participated.

Another note about the results I’m showing—they are incomplete. To keep the eye glazing to a minimum, I’ve listed only the fastest system of each configuration. There were already four categories in the main “closed” contest: cloud (self-evident), on premises (systems you could buy and install in-house right now), preview (systems you can buy soon but not now), and R&D (interesting but odd, so I excluded them). I then listed the fastest training result for each category for each configuration—the number of accelerators in a computer. If you want to see the complete list, it’s at the MLCommons website.

A casual glance shows that machine-learning training is still very much Nvidia’s house. It can bring a supercomputer-scale number of GPUs to the party to smash through training problems in mere seconds. Its A100 GPUs have dominated the MLPerf list for several iterations now, and it powers Microsoft’s Azure cloud AI offerings as well as systems large and small from partners including Dell, HPE, and Fujitsu. But even among the A100 gang there’s real competition, particularly between Dell and HPE.

But perhaps more important was Azure’s standing. On image classification, the cloud systems were essentially a match for the best A100 on-premises computers. The results strengthen Microsoft’s case that renting resources in the cloud is as good as buying your own. And that case might might be even stronger soon. This week Nvidia and Microsoft announced a multiyear collaboration that would see the inclusion of Nvidia’s upcoming GPU, the H100, in the Azure cloud.

This was the first peek at training abilities for the H100. And Nivida’s Dave Salvator emphasized how much progress happens—largely due to software improvements—in the years after a new chip comes out. On a per-chip basis, the A100 delivers 2.5 times the average performance today versus its first run at the MLPerf benchmarks in 2020. Compared to A100’s debut scores, H100 delivered 6.7 times the speed. But compared to A100 with today’s software, the gain is only 2.6-fold.

In a way, H100 seems a bit overpowered for the MLPerf benchmarks, tearing through most of them in minutes using a fraction of the A100 hardware needed to match it. And in truth, it is meant for bigger things. “H100 is our solution for the most advanced models where we get into the millions, even billions of hyperparameters,” says Salvator.

Salvator says a lot of the gain is from the H100’s “transformer engine.” Essentially, it’s the intelligent use of low-precision—efficient but less accurate—computations whenever possible. The scheme is particularly designed for neural networks called transformers, of which the natural language processing benchmark BERT is an example. Transformers are in the works for many other machine learning tasks. “Transformer-based networks have been literally transformative to AI,” says Salvator. “It’s a horrible pun.“

Memory is a bottleneck for all sorts of AI, but it’s particularly limiting in BERT and other transformer models. Such neural networks rely on a quality called “attention.” You can think of it as how many words a language processor is aware of at once. It doesn’t scale up well, largely because it leads to a huge increase in writing to system memory. Earlier this year Hazy Research (the name for Chris Re’s lab at Stanford) deployed an algorithm to an Azure cloud system that shaved 10 percent of the training time off Microsoft’s best effort. For this round, Azure and Hazy Research worked together to demonstrate the algorithm—called Flash Attention.

Both the image-classification and natural-language-processing tables show Intel’s competitive position. The company showed results for the Habana Gaudi2, its second generation AI accelerator, and the Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPU, which will be commercially available in the coming months. For the latter, the company was out to prove that you can do a lot of machine-learning training without a GPU.

A setup with 32 CPUs landed well behind a Microsoft Azure cloud-based system with only four GPUs on object recognition, but it still finished in less than an hour and a half, and for natural-language processing, it nearly matched that Azure system. In fact, none of the training took longer than 90 minutes, even on much more modest CPU-only computers.

“This is for customers for whom training is part of the workload, but it’s not the workload,” says Jordan Plawner, an Intel senior director and AI product manager. Intel is reasoning that if a customer is retraining only once a week, whether the work takes 30 minutes or 5 minutes is of too little importance for them to spend on a GPU accelerator they don’t need for the rest of the week.

Habana Gaudi2 is a different story. As the company’s dedicated machine-learning accelerator, the 7-nanometer chip goes up against Nvidia’s A100 (another 7-nm chip) and soon will face the 5-nm H100. In that light, it performed well on certain tests. On image classification, an eight-chip system landed only a couple of minutes behind an eight-chip H100. But the gap was much wider with the H100 at the natural-language-processing task, though it still narrowly bested an equal-size and Hazy-Research-enhanced A100 system.

“We’re not done with Gaudi 2,” says Habana’s Eitan Medina. Like others, Habana is hoping to speed learning by strategically using low-precision computations on certain layers of neural networks. The chip has 8-bit floating-point capabilities, but so far the smallest precision the company has engaged on the chip for MLPerf training purposes is bfloat 16.


Training Supercomputers

MLCommons released results for training high-performance computers—supercomputers and other big systems—at the same time as those for training servers. The HPC benchmarks are not as established and have fewer participants, but they still give a snapshot of how machine learning is done in the supercomputing space and what the goals are. There are three benchmarks: CosmoFlow estimates physical quantities from cosmological image data; DeepCAM spots hurricanes and atmospheric rivers in climate simulation data; and OpenCatalyst predicts the energy levels of molecular configurations.

There are two ways to measure systems on these benchmarks. One is to run a number of instances of the same neural network on the supercomputer, and the other is to just throw a bunch of resources at a single instance of the problem and see how long it takes. The table below is the latter and just for CosmoFlow, because it’s much simpler to read. (Again, feel free to view the whole schemozzle at MLCommons.)

The CosmoFlow results show four supercomputers powered by as many different types of CPU architectures and two types of GPU. Three of the four were accelerated by Nvidia GPUs, but Fugaku, the second most powerful computer in the world, used only its own custom-built processor, the Fujitsu A64FX.

The MLPerf HPC benchmarks came out only the week before Supercomputing 2022, in Dallas, one of the two conferences at which new Top500 rankings of supercomputers are announced.

A separate benchmark for supercomputing AI has also been developed. Instead of training particular neural networks, it solves “a system of linear equations using novel, mixed-precision algorithms that exploit modern hardware.” Although results from the two benchmarks don’t line up, there is overlap between the HPL-MxP list and the CosmoFlow results including: Nvidia’s Selene, Riken’s Fugaku, and Germany’s JUWELS.


Tiny ML systems

The latest addition to the MLPerf effort is a suite of benchmarks designed to test the speed and energy efficiency of microcontrollers and other small chips that execute neural networks that do things like spotting keywords and other low-power, always-on tasks. MLPerf Tiny, as it’s called, is too new for real trends to have emerged in the data. But the results released so far show a couple of standouts. The table here shows the fastest “visual wakewords” results for each type of processor, and shows that Syntiant and Greenwave Technologies have an edge over the competition.


Match ID: 87 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 12 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

What is COP27 and why is it important?
Mon, 07 Nov 2022 13:25:26 GMT
This year's climate summit comes amid spiralling energy costs and diplomatic tensions.
Match ID: 88 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 22 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

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

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

Continue reading...
Match ID: 89 Score: 2.14 source: www.theguardian.com age: 26 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

How to cut your energy bills
Thu, 20 Oct 2022 11:48:32 GMT
Energy bills have gone up, but there are some easy ways households can reduce costs.
Match ID: 90 Score: 2.14 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 40 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq snap 3-session skid as stocks eke out gains
Wed, 24 Aug 2022 16:01:33 -0500
U.S. stocks finished modestly higher Wednesday, with all three major stock benchmarks ending a 3-session skid, as investors picked up shares after a sharp market selloff earlier this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 61 points, or 0.2%, ending near 32,970, while the S&P 500 index closed up 0.3% and the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.4%. Stocks booked modest gains as investors remained focused on the Federal Reserve's inflation fight and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's speech at the Jackson Hole, Wyo. symposium on Friday. Recession worries also were in focus, with pending homes sales falling in July, a sign that rate hikes have been helping cool demand, even through shelter costs, specifically rents, have contributed to high U.S. inflation. Benchmark lending climbed Wednesday, with the 10-year Treasury rate climbing to 3.105% Wednesday, the highest since June 28, according to Dow Jones Market Data based on 3 p.m. Eastern levels. The S&P 500's energy sector helped lead the way higher, up 1.2%, while financial rose 0.5%, according to FactSet
Match ID: 91 Score: 2.14 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 97 days
qualifiers: 2.14 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: 92 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 118 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.

The Two Sides of the Webb Telescope


illustration depicting features of JWST's sunshield

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: 93 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 145 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 sends it to a third mirror that then ultimately directs the light to instruments that record images and spectra.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instruments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIRCam Aligns the Whole Telescope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Match ID: 94 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 146 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Tell us: how are you affected by the cost of living crisis?
Mon, 04 Jul 2022 15:00:44 GMT

We need your help to find out more about the impact of the cost of living emergency in the UK

With energy bills soaring and grocery price inflation reaching 11.6% last month, households across the country are having to adjust their budgets for food, electricity, gas, rent or mortgages, and spending on non-essentials.

Your experiences can help inform our reporting on the ongoing crisis – so if you’re struggling with food or energy costs yourself or your job gives you an insight into the different ways people are affected, we’d like to hear from you.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 95 Score: 2.14 source: www.theguardian.com age: 148 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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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: 96 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 293 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: 97 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 294 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Outside the Box: After underperforming the stock market for years, alternative energy is red hot
Fri, 25 Sep 2020 14:39:17 GMT
Is clean tech finally a viable investment?
Match ID: 98 Score: 2.14 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 795 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Stocks to Watch: Wisconsin Energy, Oracle, GE are stocks to watch
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 12:42:35 GMT
Wisconsin Energy Corp., Oracle Corp., and General Electric Co. may all see active trading after deals, or talk of deals.
Match ID: 99 Score: 2.14 source: www.marketwatch.com age: 3081 days
qualifiers: 2.14 energy

Industrial Functional Safety Training from UL Solutions
Wed, 16 Nov 2022 20:41:08 +0000


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Match ID: 100 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 13 days
qualifiers: 1.43 nuclear

NASA’s DART Mission Aims to Save the World
Fri, 23 Sep 2022 15:52:53 +0000


Armageddon ruined everything. Armageddon—the 1998 movie, not the mythical battlefield—told the story of an asteroid headed straight for Earth, and a bunch of swaggering roughnecks sent in space shuttles to blow it up with a nuclear weapon.

Armageddon is big and noisy and stupid and shameless, and it’s going to be huge at the box office,” wrote Jay Carr of the Boston Globe.

Carr was right—the film was the year’s second biggest hit (after Titanic)—and ever since, scientists have had to explain, patiently, that cluttering space with radioactive debris may not be the best way to protect ourselves. NASA is now trying a slightly less dramatic approach with a robotic mission called DART—short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. On Monday at 7:14 p.m. EDT, if all goes well, the little spacecraft will crash into an asteroid called Dimorphos, about 11 million kilometers from Earth. Dimorphos is about 160 meters across, and orbits a 780-meter asteroid, 65803 Didymos. NASA TV plans to cover it live.

DART’s end will be violent, but not blockbuster-movie-violent. Music won’t swell and girlfriends back on Earth won’t swoon. Mission managers hope the spacecraft, with a mass of about 600 kilograms, hitting at 22,000 km/h, will nudge the asteroid slightly in its orbit, just enough to prove that it’s technologically possible in case a future asteroid has Earth in its crosshairs.

“Maybe once a century or so, there’ll be an asteroid sizeable enough that we’d like to certainly know, ahead of time, if it was going to impact,” says Lindley Johnson, who has the title of planetary defense officer at NASA.

“If you just take a hair off the orbital velocity, you’ve changed the orbit of the asteroid so that what would have been impact three or four years down the road is now a complete miss.”

So take that, Hollywood! If DART succeeds, it will show there are better fuels to protect Earth than testosterone.

The risk of a comet or asteroid that wipes out civilization is really very small, but large enough that policymakers take it seriously. NASA, ordered by the U.S. Congress in 2005 to scan the inner solar system for hazards, has found nearly 900 so-called NEOs—near-Earth objects—at least a kilometer across, more than 95 percent of all in that size range that probably exist. It has plotted their orbits far into the future, and none of them stand more than a fraction of a percent chance of hitting Earth in this millennium.

An infographic showing the orientation of Didymos,  Dimorphos, DART, and LICIACube. The DART spacecraft should crash into the asteroid Dimorphos and slow it in its orbit around the larger asteroid Didymos. The LICIACube cubesat will fly in formation to take images of the impact.Johns Hopkins APL/NASA

But there are smaller NEOs, perhaps 140 meters or more in diameter, too small to end civilization but large enough to cause mass destruction if they hit a populated area. There may be 25,000 that come within 50 million km of Earth’s orbit, and NASA estimates telescopes have only found about 40 percent of them. That’s why scientists want to expand the search for them and have good ways to deal with them if necessary. DART is the first test.

NASA takes pains to say this is a low-risk mission. Didymos and Dimorphos never cross Earth’s orbit, and computer simulations show that no matter where or how hard DART hits, it cannot possibly divert either one enough to put Earth in danger. Scientists want to see if DART can alter Dimorphos’s speed by perhaps a few centimeters per second.

The DART spacecraft, a 1-meter cube with two long solar panels, is elegantly simple, equipped with a telescope called DRACO, hydrazine maneuvering thrusters, a xenon-fueled ion engine and a navigation system called SMART Nav. It was launched by a SpaceX rocket in November. About 4 hours and 90,000 km before the hoped-for impact, SMART Nav will take over control of the spacecraft, using optical images from the telescope. Didymos, the larger object, should be a point of light by then; Dimorphos, the intended target, will probably not appear as more than one pixel until about 50 minutes before impact. DART will send one image per second back to Earth, but the spacecraft is autonomous; signals from the ground, 38 light-seconds away, would be useless for steering as the ship races in.

A golden cubesat with a bright light and lines The DART spacecraft separated from its SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, 55 minutes after liftoff from Vandenberg Space Force Base, in California, 24 November 2021. In this image from the rocket, the spacecraft had not yet unfurled its solar panels.NASA

What’s more, nobody knows the shape or consistency of little Dimorphos. Is it a solid boulder or a loose cluster of rubble? Is it smooth or craggy, round or elongated? “We’re trying to hit the center,” says Evan Smith, the deputy mission systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which is running DART. “We don’t want to overcorrect for some mountain or crater on one side that’s throwing an odd shadow or something.”

So on final approach, DART will cover 800 km without any steering. Thruster firings could blur the last images of Dimorphos’s surface, which scientists want to study. Impact should be imaged from about 50 km away by an Italian-made minisatellite, called LICIACube, which DART released two weeks ago.

“In the minutes following impact, I know everybody is going be high fiving on the engineering side,” said Tom Statler, DART’s program scientist at NASA, “but I’m going be imagining all the cool stuff that is actually going on on the asteroid, with a crater being dug and ejecta being blasted off.”

There is, of course, a possibility that DART will miss, in which case there should be enough fuel on board to allow engineers to go after a backup target. But an advantage of the Didymos-Dimorphos pair is that it should help in calculating how much effect the impact had. Telescopes on Earth (plus the Hubble and Webb space telescopes) may struggle to measure infinitesimal changes in the orbit of Dimorphos around the sun; it should be easier to see how much its orbit around Didymos is affected. The simplest measurement may be of the changing brightness of the double asteroid, as Dimorphos moves in front of or behind its partner, perhaps more quickly or slowly than it did before impact.

“We are moving an asteroid,” said Statler. “We are changing the motion of a natural celestial body in space. Humanity’s never done that before.”


Match ID: 101 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 67 days
qualifiers: 1.43 nuclear

Filter efficiency 86.990 (102 matches/784 results)


********** TRAVEL **********
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Train cancellations: 'Some days I spend more on travel than I earn’
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 00:02:39 GMT
One in every 26 trains has been cancelled this year, which on top of strikes are adding to passengers' woes.
Match ID: 0 Score: 35.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

China again holds firm on ‘zero covid,’ despite the worsening toll
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 17:00:18 EST
The decision to maintain a policy of border controls, lockdowns and travel restrictions came after two deaths linked to the measures reignited public anger.
Match ID: 1 Score: 35.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

‘Never as popular as pie and peas’: Trevor Beales, Hebden Bridge’s lost musical son
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 16:03:18 GMT

Playing folk blues in West Yorkshire in the 70s, Beales looked to the future long before his hometown became trendy. His talent is now being recognised

In the early 1970s, life in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, was dreary, says Christine Beales. “It was dead. Growing up there you just had to get out.”

So she did. Christine lived in Rome between 1972 and 1974; and upon returning began a romance with a young folk singer named Trevor Beales, who had also felt the need to escape. He had been travelling in Europe and America; on the latter trip he carried stacks of demo tapes of music he’d made in the early 1970s to take to record companies. “He always had this strong belief in himself and that it was going to happen,” says Christine. “I loved his drive, zest and enthusiasm.”

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Match ID: 2 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

Orion flies far beyond the Moon, returns an instantly iconic photo
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 13:42:24 +0000
"It’s really hard to articulate what the feeling is."
Match ID: 3 Score: 35.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

Rolls-Royce successfully tests hydrogen-powered jet engine | Britain's Rolls-Royce said it has successfully run an aircraft engine on hydrogen, a world aviation first that marks a major step towards proving the gas could be key to decarbonising air travel.
2022-11-29T12:42:25+00:00
Rolls-Royce successfully tests hydrogen-powered jet engine | Britain's Rolls-Royce said it has successfully run an aircraft engine on hydrogen, a world aviation first that marks a major step towards proving the gas could be key to decarbonising air travel. submitted by /u/yourSAS
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Match ID: 4 Score: 35.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

Why Laax could be Switzerland’s greenest ski town
Tue, 29 Nov 2022 07:00:20 GMT

Wolves and lynx are returning to the mountains around this sustainable ski resort, where solar-powered lifts serve the grand prix runs and snow parks


There’s a sense of healing among the pines and tangled roots. Skulking somewhere in the snowy woodlands is an Alpine ibex, a distinctly Viking-horned goat, once hunted to extinction in Switzerland before being reintroduced a century ago. Hidden in the forest, an endangered black grouse is whistling as it forages for dwarf shrub needles. Fresh fox-print trails wind through stone pine and spruce, though the grey wolf and bat-eared lynx that have begun to return to these mountains are more elusive.

I’m in Laax in Graubünden (70 miles south-east of Zurich), the Swiss Alps’ traditional home of winter sports, but it’s a ski holiday that most people wouldn’t recognise. The down-to-earth resort pitches itself as Switzerland’s most sustainable playground and I’m exploring from on-high on the new Senda dil Dragun (Way of the Dragon) treetop walkway. The raised, mile-long pathway towers 28 metres above the pillowy snow drifts and I keep my eyes peeled, scouting for ghostly predators and their prey. Though there might not be dragons, the woods are home to an ark’s worth of Alpine species, from chamois and mountain hare to marmots and ptarmigan. In the stillness I spy a red deer through a knot of snow-laden pines. The quiet drama is just as nerve-tingling as any black run.

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Match ID: 5 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

Men survive 11 days on rudder of ship travelling from Nigeria to Canary Islands
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 23:02:03 GMT

The three stowaways were rescued by the Spanish Coastguard in Las Palmas on Monday

The Spanish coastguard has rescued three men who stowed away on a tanker that arrived in the Canary Islands from Nigeria by balancing on its rudder just above the waterline.

In a photograph distributed on Twitter by the coastguard on Monday, the three stowaways are shown perched on the rudder of the oil and chemical tanker Alithini II.

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Match ID: 6 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

Artemis: Nasa's Orion capsule breaks distance record
Mon, 28 Nov 2022 22:14:47 GMT
The spacecraft travels further from Earth than any previous vehicle built for astronauts.
Match ID: 7 Score: 35.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

The big picture: Bruno Barbey captures life on the road in 1960s Palermo
Sun, 27 Nov 2022 07:00:14 GMT

The Magnum photographer’s image of a family in Sicily recalls Fellini and Visconti in its romantic depiction of everyday Italian life

Bruno Barbey chanced upon this family defying gravity on their dad’s scooter in Palermo in 1963. The French-Moroccan photographer had been travelling in Italy for a couple of years by then, restless for exactly this kind of image, with its seductive mix of humour and authenticity. Has there ever been a better articulation of contrasting roles in the patriarchal family? Father sitting comfortably in his jacket and cap and smiling for the camera, while behind him his possibly pregnant wife sees trouble ahead, as she and their three kids and their big checked bag compete for precarious discomfort.

Barbey, then 22, had gone to Italy to try to find pictures that captured “a national spirit” as the country sought to rediscover the dolce vita in cities still recovering from war. He travelled in an old VW van and in Palermo in particular he located scenes that might have been choreographed for the working-class heroes of the Italian neorealist films, the self-absorbed dreamers of Fellini and Visconti (The Leopard, the latter’s Hollywood epic set in Sicily was released in the same year). Barbey’s camera with its wide angle lens picked up the detail of vigorous crowd scenes among street children and barflies and religious processions. His book, The Italians, now republished, is a time capsule of that already disappearing black-and-white world of priests and mafiosi and nightclub girls and nuns.

Les Italiens (French edition) by Bruno Barbey is republished by delpire & co

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Match ID: 8 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 35.00 travel(|ing)

Barbados plans to make Tory MP pay reparations for family’s slave past
Sat, 26 Nov 2022 17:16:51 GMT

Richard Drax reported to have visited Caribbean island for meeting on next steps, including plans for former sugar plantation

The government of Barbados is considering plans to make a wealthy Conservative MP the first individual to pay reparations for his ancestor’s pivotal role in slavery.

The Observer understands that Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset, recently travelled to the Caribbean island for a private meeting with the country’s prime minister, Mia Mottley. A report is now before Mottley’s cabinet laying out the next steps, which include legal action in the event that no agreement is reached with Drax.

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Match ID: 9 Score: 30.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 30.00 travel(|ing)

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

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

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


Match ID: 10 Score: 30.00 source: theintercept.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 30.00 travel(|ing)

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


Amarnath Raja

Founder of IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology

Senior member, 65; died 5 September

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donn S. Terry

Software engineer

Life member, 74; died 14 September

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

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

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

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

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

William Sandham

Signal processing engineer

Life senior member, 70; died 25 August

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen M. Brustoski

Loss-prevention engineer

Life member, 69; died 6 January

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

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

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

Harry Letaw

President and CEO of Essex Corp.

Life senior member, 96; died 7 May 2020

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

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

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

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


Match ID: 11 Score: 15.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 6 days
qualifiers: 15.00 travel(|ing)

The Women Behind ENIAC
Mon, 21 Nov 2022 19:00:01 +0000


If you looked at the pictures of those working on the first programmable, general-purpose all-electronic computer, you would assume that J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly were the only ones who had a hand in its development. Invented in 1945, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was built to improve the accuracy of U.S. artillery during World War II. The two men and their team built the hardware. But hidden behind the scenes were six women—Jean Bartik, Kathleen Antonelli, Marlyn Meltzer, Betty Holberton, Frances Spence, and Ruth Teitelbaum—who programmed the computer to calculate artillery trajectories in seconds.

The U.S. Army recruited the women in 1942 to work as so-called human computersmathematicians who did calculations using a mechanical desktop calculator.

For decades, the six women were largely unknown. But thanks to Kathy Kleiman, cofounder of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the world is getting to know the ENIAC programmers’ contributions to computer science. This year Kleiman’s book Proving Ground: The Untold Story of the Six Women Who Programmed the World’s First Modern Computer was published. It delves into the women’s lives and the pioneering work they did. The book follows an award-winning documentary, The Computers: The Remarkable Story of the ENIAC Programmers, which Kleiman helped produce. It premiered at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival and won Best Documentary Short at the 2016 U.N. Association Film Festival.

Kleiman plans to give a presentation next year about the programmers as part of the IEEE Industry Hub Initiative’s Impact Speaker series. The initiative aims to introduce industry professionals and academics to IEEE and its offerings.

Planning for the event, which is scheduled to be held in Silicon Valley, is underway. Details are to be announced before the end of the year.

The Institute spoke with Kleiman, who teaches Internet technology and governance for lawyers at American University, in Washington, D.C., about her mission to publicize the programmers’ contributions. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Image of Kathy Kleiman and her book cover to the right. Kathy Kleiman delves into the ENIAC programmers’ lives and the pioneering work they did in her book Proving Ground: The Untold Story of the Six Women Who Programmed the World’s First Modern Computer.Kathy Kleiman

The Institute: What inspired you to film the documentary?

Kathy Kleiman: The ENIAC was a secret project of the U.S. Army during World War II. It was the first general-purpose, programmable, all-electronic computer—the key to the development of our smartphones, laptops, and tablets today. The ENIAC was a highly experimental computer, with 18,000 vacuums, and some of the leading technologists at the time didn’t think it would work, but it did.

Six months after the war ended, the Army decided to reveal the existence of ENIAC and heavily publicize it. To do so, in February 1946 the Army took a lot of beautiful, formal photos of the computer and the team of engineers that developed it. I found these pictures while researching women in computer science as an undergraduate at Harvard. At the time, I knew of only two women in computer science: Ada Lovelace and then U.S. Navy Capt. Grace Hopper. [Lovelace was the first computer programmer; Hopper co-developed COBOL, one of the earliest standardized computer languages.] But I was sure there were more women programmers throughout history, so I went looking for them and found the images taken of the ENIAC.

The pictures fascinated me because they had both men and women in them. Some of the photos had just women in front of the computer, but they weren’t named in any of the photos’ captions. I tracked them down after I found their identities, and four of six original ENIAC programmers responded. They were in their late 70s at the time, and over the course of many years they told me about their work during World War II and how they were recruited by the U.S. Army to be “human computers.”

Eckert and Mauchly promised the U.S. Army that the ENIAC could calculate artillery trajectories in seconds rather than the hours it took to do the calculations by hand. But after they built the 2.5-meter-tall by 24-meter-long computer, they couldn’t get it to work. Out of approximately 100 human computers working for the U.S. Army during World War II, six women were chosen to write a program for the computer to run differential calculus equations. It was hard because the program was complex, memory was very limited, and the direct programming interface that connected the programmers to the ENIAC was hard to use. But the women succeeded. The trajectory program was a great success. But Bartik, McNulty, Meltzer, Snyder, Spence, and Teitelbaum’s contributions to the technology were never recognized. Leading technologists and the public never knew of their work.

I was inspired by their story and wanted to share it. I raised funds, researched and recorded 20 hours of broadcast-quality oral histories with the ENIAC programmers—which eventually became the documentary. It allows others to see the women telling their story.

“If we open the doors to history, I think it would make it a lot easier to recruit the wonderful people we are trying to urge to enter engineering, computer science, and related fields.”

Why was the accomplishment of the six women important?

Kleiman: The ENIAC is considered by many to have launched the information age.

We generally think of women leaving the factory and farm jobs they held during World War II and giving them back to the men, but after ENIAC was completed, the six women continued to work for the U.S. Army. They helped world-class mathematicians program the ENIAC to complete “hundred-year problems” [problems that would take 100 years to solve by hand]. They also helped teach the next generation of ENIAC programmers, and some went on to create the foundations of modern programming.

What influenced you to continue telling the ENIAC programmers’ story in your book?

Kleiman: After my documentary premiered at the film festival, young women from tech companies who were in the audience came up to me to share why they were excited to learn the programmers’ story. They were excited to learn that women were an integral part of the history of early computing programming, and were inspired by their stories. Young men also came up to me and shared stories of their grandmothers and great-aunts who programmed computers in the 1960s and ’70s and inspired them to explore careers in computer science.

I met more women and men like the ones in Seattle all over the world, so it seemed like a good idea to tell the full story along with its historical context and background information about the lives of the ENIAC programmers, specifically what happened to them after the computer was completed.

What did you find most rewarding about sharing their story?

Kleiman: It was wonderful and rewarding to get to know the ENIAC programmers. They were incredible, wonderful, warm, brilliant, and exceptional people. Talking to the people who created the programming was inspiring and helped me to see that I could work at the cutting edge too. I entered Internet law as one of the first attorneys in the field because of them.

What I enjoy most is that the women’s experiences inspire young people today just as they inspired me when I was an undergraduate.

collage of vintage photographs of six women. Clockwise from top left: Jean Bartik, Kathleen Antonelli, Betty Holberton, Ruth Teitelbaum, Marlyn Meltzer, Frances Spence.Clockwise from top left: The Bartik Family; Bill Mauchly, Priscilla Holberton, Teitelbaum Family, Meltzer Family, Spence Family

Is it important to highlight the contributions made throughout history by women in STEM?

Kleiman: [Actor] Geena Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which works collaboratively with the entertainment industry to dramatically increase the presence of female characters in media. It’s based on the philosophy of “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

That philosophy is both right and wrong. I think you can be what you can’t see, and certainly every pioneer who has ever broken a racial, ethnic, religion, or gender barrier has done so. However, it’s certainly much easier to enter a field if there are role models who look like you. To that end, many computer scientists today are trying to diversify the field. Yet I know from my work in Internet policy and my recent travels across the country for my book tour that many students still feel locked out because of old stereotypes in computing and engineering. By sharing strong stories of pioneers in the fields who are women and people of color, I hope we can open the doors to computing and engineering. I hope history and herstory that is shared make it much easier to recruit young people to join engineering, computer science, and related fields.

Are you planning on writing more books or producing another documentary?

Kleiman: I would like to continue the story of the ENIAC programmers and write about what happened to them after the war ended. I hope that my next book will delve into the 1950s and uncover more about the history of the Universal Automatic Computer, the first modern commercial computer series, and the diverse group of people who built and programmed it.


Match ID: 12 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 8 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

Football fans in Qatar: what is your experience of this World Cup?
Mon, 21 Nov 2022 14:53:00 GMT

If you have travelled to Qatar, we want to hear from you. Are you enjoying the tournament and is it different to what you expected?

A World Cup in November in Qatar is out of the ordinary, but what is it like on the ground? If you have travelled, we want to hear from you. What has your experience been like? Is it similar to other major tournaments you have visited? Is is different to what you were expecting? Has it confounded or reinforced any of your ideas about Qatar or the World Cup?

Share your views and experiences

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Match ID: 13 Score: 5.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 8 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

How the First Transistor Worked
Sun, 20 Nov 2022 16:00:00 +0000


The vacuum-tube triode wasn’t quite 20 years old when physicists began trying to create its successor, and the stakes were huge. Not only had the triode made long-distance telephony and movie sound possible, it was driving the entire enterprise of commercial radio, an industry worth more than a billion dollars in 1929. But vacuum tubes were power-hungry and fragile. If a more rugged, reliable, and efficient alternative to the triode could be found, the rewards would be immense.

The goal was a three-terminal device made out of semiconductors that would accept a low-current signal into an input terminal and use it to control the flow of a larger current flowing between two other terminals, thereby amplifying the original signal. The underlying principle of such a device would be something called the field effect—the ability of electric fields to modulate the electrical conductivity of semiconductor materials. The field effect was already well known in those days, thanks to diodes and related research on semiconductors.


A photo of a cutaway of a point-contact of a transistor.  In the cutaway photo of a point-contact, two thin conductors are visible; these connect to the points that make contact with a tiny slab of germanium. One of these points is the emitter and the other is the collector. A third contact, the base, is attached to the reverse side of the germanium.AT&T ARCHIVES AND HISTORY CENTER

But building such a device had proved an insurmountable challenge to some of the world’s top physicists for more than two decades. Patents for transistor-like devices had been filed starting in 1925, but the first recorded instance of a working transistor was the legendary point-contact device built at AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories in the fall of 1947.

Though the point-contact transistor was the most important invention of the 20th century, there exists, surprisingly, no clear, complete, and authoritative account of how the thing actually worked. Modern, more robust junction and planar transistors rely on the physics in the bulk of a semiconductor, rather than the surface effects exploited in the first transistor. And relatively little attention has been paid to this gap in scholarship.

It was an ungainly looking assemblage of germanium, plastic, and gold foil, all topped by a squiggly spring. Its inventors were a soft-spoken Midwestern theoretician, John Bardeen, and a voluble and “ somewhat volatile” experimentalist, Walter Brattain. Both were working under William Shockley, a relationship that would later prove contentious. In November 1947, Bardeen and Brattain were stymied by a simple problem. In the germanium semiconductor they were using, a surface layer of electrons seemed to be blocking an applied electric field, preventing it from penetrating the semiconductor and modulating the flow of current. No modulation, no signal amplification.


Sometime late in 1947 they hit on a solution. It featured two pieces of barely separated gold foil gently pushed by that squiggly spring into the surface of a small slab of germanium.

Textbooks and popular accounts alike tend to ignore the mechanism of the point-contact transistor in favor of explaining how its more recent descendants operate. Indeed, the current edition of that bible of undergraduate EEs, The Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill, makes no mention of the point-contact transistor at all, glossing over its existence by erroneously stating that the junction transistor was a “Nobel Prize-winning invention in 1947.” But the transistor that was invented in 1947 was the point-contact; the junction transistor was invented by Shockley in 1948.

So it seems appropriate somehow that the most comprehensive explanation of the point-contact transistor is contained within John Bardeen’s lecture for that Nobel Prize, in 1956. Even so, reading it gives you the sense that a few fine details probably eluded even the inventors themselves. “A lot of people were confused by the point-contact transistor,” says Thomas Misa, former director of the Charles Babbage Institute for the History of Science and Technology, at the University of Minnesota.

Textbooks and popular accounts alike tend to ignore the mechanism of the point-contact transistor in favor of explaining how its more recent descendants operate.

A year after Bardeen’s lecture, R. D. Middlebrook, a professor of electrical engineering at Caltech who would go on to do pioneering work in power electronics, wrote: “Because of the three-dimensional nature of the device, theoretical analysis is difficult and the internal operation is, in fact, not yet completely understood.”

Nevertheless, and with the benefit of 75 years of semiconductor theory, here we go. The point-contact transistor was built around a thumb-size slab of n-type germanium, which has an excess of negatively charged electrons. This slab was treated to produce a very thin surface layer that was p-type, meaning it had an excess of positive charges. These positive charges are known as holes. They are actually localized deficiencies of electrons that move among the atoms of the semiconductor very much as a real particle would. An electrically grounded electrode was attached to the bottom of this slab, creating the base of the transistor. The two strips of gold foil touching the surface formed two more electrodes, known as the emitter and the collector.

That’s the setup. In operation, a small positive voltage—just a fraction of a volt—is applied to the emitter, while a much larger negative voltage—4 to 40 volts—is applied to the collector, all with reference to the grounded base. The interface between the p-type layer and the n-type slab created a junction just like the one found in a diode: Essentially, the junction is a barrier that allows current to flow easily in only one direction, toward lower voltage. So current could flow from the positive emitter across the barrier, while no current could flow across that barrier into the collector.

A photo of rows of people sitting in front of microscopes and stacks of transistors. The Western Electric Type-2 point-contact transistor was the first transistor to be manufactured in large quantities, in 1951, at Western Electric’s plant in Allentown, Pa. By 1960, when this photo was taken, the plant had switched to producing junction transistors.AT&T ARCHIVES AND HISTORY CENTER

Now, let’s look at what happens down among the atoms. First, we’ll disconnect the collector and see what happens around the emitter without it. The emitter injects positive charges—holes—into the p-type layer, and they begin moving toward the base. But they don’t make a beeline toward it. The thin layer forces them to spread out laterally for some distance before passing through the barrier into the n-type slab. Think about slowly pouring a small amount of fine powder onto the surface of water. The powder eventually sinks, but first it spreads out in a rough circle.

Now we connect the collector. Even though it can’t draw current by itself through the barrier of the p-n junction, its large negative voltage and pointed shape do result in a concentrated electric field that penetrates the germanium. Because the collector is so close to the emitter, and is also negatively charged, it begins sucking up many of the holes that are spreading out from the emitter. This charge flow results in a concentration of holes near the p-n barrier underneath the collector. This concentration effectively lowers the “height” of the barrier that would otherwise prevent current from flowing between the collector and the base. With the barrier lowered, current starts flowing from the base into the collector—much more current than what the emitter is putting into the transistor.

The amount of current depends on the height of the barrier. Small decreases or increases in the emitter’s voltage cause the barrier to fluctuate up and down, respectively. Thus very small changes in the the emitter current control very large changes at the collector, so voilà! Amplification. (EEs will notice that the functions of base and emitter are reversed compared with those in later transistors, where the base, not the emitter, controls the response of the transistor.)

Ungainly and fragile though it was, it was a semiconductor amplifier, and its progeny would change the world. And its inventors knew it. The fateful day was 16 December 1947, when Brattain hit on the idea of using a plastic triangle belted by a strip of gold foil, with that tiny slit separating the emitter and collector contacts. This configuration gave reliable power gain, and the duo knew then that they had succeeded. In his carpool home that night, Brattain told his companions he’d just done “the most important experiment that I’d ever do in my life” and swore them to secrecy. The taciturn Bardeen, too, couldn’t resist sharing the news. As his wife, Jane, prepared dinner that night, he reportedly said, simply, “We discovered something today.” With their children scampering around the kitchen, she responded, “That’s nice, dear.

It was a transistor, at last, but it was pretty rickety. The inventors later hit on the idea of electrically forming the collector by passing large currents through it during the transistor’s manufacturing. This technique enabled them to get somewhat larger current flows that weren’t so tightly confined within the surface layer. The electrical forming was a bit hit-or-miss, though. “They would just throw out the ones that didn’t work,” Misa notes.

Nevertheless, point-contact transistors went into production at many companies, under license to AT&T, and, in 1951, at AT&T’s own manufacturing arm, Western Electric. They were used in hearing aids, oscillators, telephone-routing gear, in an experimental TV receiver built at RCA, and in the Tradic, the first airborne digital computer, among other systems. In fact, point-contact transistors remained in production until 1966, in part due to their superior speed compared with the alternatives.

The fateful day was 16 December 1947, when Brattain hit on the idea of using a plastic triangle belted by a strip of gold foil…

The Bell Labs group wasn’t alone in its successful pursuit of a transistor. In Aulnay-sous-Bois, a suburb northeast of Paris, two German physicists, Herbert Mataré and Heinrich Welker, were also trying to build a three-terminal semiconductor amplifier. Working for a French subsidiary of Westinghouse, they were following up on very intriguing observations Mataré had made while developing germanium and silicon rectifiers for the German military in 1944. The two succeeded in creating a reliable point-contact transistor in June 1948.

They were astounded, a week or so later, when Bell Labs finally revealed the news of its own transistor, at a press conference on 30 June 1948. Though they were developed completely independently, and in secret, the two devices were more or less identical.

Here the story of the transistor takes a weird turn, breathtaking in its brilliance and also disturbing in its details. Bardeen’s and Brattain’s boss, William Shockley, was furious that his name was not included with Bardeen’s and Brattain’s on the original patent application for the transistor. He was convinced that Bardeen and Brattain had merely spun his theories about using fields in semiconductors into their working device, and had failed to give him sufficient credit. Yet in 1945, Shockley had built a transistor based on those very theories, and it hadn’t worked.

A photo of a man in a jacket placing a transistor in a device. In 1953, RCA engineer Gerald Herzog led a team that designed and built the first "all-transistor" television (although, yes, it had a cathode-ray tube). The team used point-contact transistors produced by RCA under a license from Bell Labs. TRANSISTOR MUSEUM JERRY HERZOG ORAL HISTORY

At the end of December, barely two weeks after the initial success of the point-contact transistor, Shockley traveled to Chicago for the annual meeting of the American Physical Society. On New Year’s Eve, holed up in his hotel room and fueled by a potent mix of jealousy and indignation, he began designing a transistor of his own. In three days he scribbled some 30 pages of notes. By the end of the month, he had the basic design for what would become known as the bipolar junction transistor, or BJT, which would eventually supersede the point-contact transistor and reign as the dominant transistor until the late 1970s.

A photo of a group of transistors With insights gleaned from the Bell Labs work, RCA began developing its own point-contact transistors in 1948. The group included the seven shown here—four of which were used in RCA's experimental, 22-transistor television set built in 1953. These four were the TA153 [top row, second from left], the TA165 [top, far right], the TA156 [bottom row, middle] and the TA172 [bottom, right].TRANSISTOR MUSEUM JONATHAN HOPPE COLLECTION

The BJT was based on Shockley’s conviction that charges could, and should, flow through the bulk semiconductors rather than through a thin layer on their surface. The device consisted of three semiconductor layers, like a sandwich: an emitter, a base in the middle, and a collector. They were alternately doped, so there were two versions: n-type/p-type/n-type, called “NPN,” and p-type/n-type/p-type, called “PNP.”

The BJT relies on essentially the same principles as the point-contact, but it uses two p-n junctions instead of one. When used as an amplifier, a positive voltage applied to the base allows a small current to flow between it and the emitter, which in turn controls a large current between the collector and emitter.

Consider an NPN device. The base is p-type, so it has excess holes. But it is very thin and lightly doped, so there are relatively few holes. A tiny fraction of the electrons flowing in combines with these holes and are removed from circulation, while the vast majority (more than 97 percent) of electrons keep flowing through the thin base and into the collector, setting up a strong current flow.

But those few electrons that do combine with holes must be drained from the base in order to maintain the p-type nature of the base and the strong flow of current through it. That removal of the “trapped” electrons is accomplished by a relatively small flow of current through the base. That trickle of current enables the much stronger flow of current into the collector, and then out of the collector and into the collector circuit. So, in effect, the small base current is controlling the larger collector circuit.

Electric fields come into play, but they do not modulate the current flow, which the early theoreticians thought would have to happen for such a device to function. Here’s the gist: Both of the p-n junctions in a BJT are straddled by depletion regions, in which electrons and holes combine and there are relatively few mobile charge carriers. Voltage applied across the junctions sets up electric fields at each, which push charges across those regions. These fields enable electrons to flow all the way from the emitter, across the base, and into the collector.

In the BJT, “the applied electric fields affect the carrier density, but because that effect is exponential, it only takes a little bit to create a lot of diffusion current,” explains Ioannis “John” Kymissis, chair of the department of electrical engineering at Columbia University.

An illustration of a point-contact transistor. The very first transistors were a type known as point contact, because they relied on metal contacts touching the surface of a semiconductor. They ramped up output current—labeled “Collector current” in the top diagram—by using an applied voltage to overcome a barrier to charge flow. Small changes to the input, or “emitter,” current modulate this barrier, thus controlling the output current.

An illustration of a Bipolar Junction Transistor The bipolar junction transistor accomplishes amplification using much the same principles but with two semiconductor interfaces, or junctions, rather than one. As with the point-contact transistor, an applied voltage overcomes a barrier and enables current flow that is modulated by a smaller input current. In particular, the semiconductor junctions are straddled by depletion regions, across which the charge carriers diffuse under the influence of an electric field.Chris Philpot

The BJT was more rugged and reliable than the point-contact transistor, and those features primed it for greatness. But it took a while for that to become obvious. The BJT was the technology used to make integrated circuits, from the first ones in the early 1960s all the way until the late 1970s, when metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) took over. In fact, it was these field-effect transistors, first the junction field-effect transistor and then MOSFETs, that finally realized the decades-old dream of a three-terminal semiconductor device whose operation was based on the field effect—Shockley’s original ambition.

Such a glorious future could scarcely be imagined in the early 1950s, when AT&T and others were struggling to come up with practical and efficient ways to manufacture the new BJTs. Shockley himself went on to literally put the silicon into Silicon Valley. He moved to Palo Alto and in 1956 founded a company that led the switch from germanium to silicon as the electronic semiconductor of choice. Employees from his company would go on to found Fairchild Semiconductor, and then Intel.

Later in his life, after losing his company because of his terrible management, he became a professor at Stanford and began promulgating ungrounded and unhinged theories about race, genetics, and intelligence. In 1951 Bardeen left Bell Labs to become a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he won a second Nobel Prize for physics, for a theory of superconductivity. (He is the only person to have won two Nobel Prizes in physics.) Brattain stayed at Bell Labs until 1967, when he joined the faculty at Whitman College, in Walla Walla, Wash.

Shockley died a largely friendless pariah in 1989. But his transistor would change the world, though it was still not clear as late as 1953 that the BJT would be the future. In an interview that year, Donald G. Fink, who would go on to help establish the IEEE a decade later, mused, “Is it a pimpled adolescent, now awkward, but promising future vigor? Or has it arrived at maturity, full of languor, surrounded by disappointments?”

It was the former, and all of our lives are so much the better because of it.

This article appears in the December 2022 print issue as “The First Transistor and How it Worked .”


Match ID: 14 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

GO for Artemis I
Tue, 15 Nov 2022 16:28:00 +0100
Image:

‘Twas the day before launch and all across the globe, people await liftoff for Artemis I with hope.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft with its European Service Module, is seen here on Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, on 12 November.

After much anticipation, NASA launch authorities have given the GO for the first opportunity for launch: tomorrow, 16 November with a two-hour launch window starting at 07:04 CET (06:04 GMT, 1:04 local time).

Artemis I is the first mission in a large programme to send astronauts around and on the Moon sustainably. This uncrewed first launch will see the Orion spacecraft travel to the Moon, enter an elongated orbit around our satellite and then return to Earth, powered by the European-built service module that supplies electricity, propulsion, fuel, water and air as well as keeping the spacecraft operating at the right temperature. 

The European Service Modules are made from components supplied by over 20 companies in ten ESA Member States and USA. As the first European Service Module sits atop the SLS rocket on the launchpad, the second is only 8 km away being integrated with the Orion crew capsule for the first crewed mission – Artemis II. The third and fourth European Service Modules – that will power astronauts to a Moon landing – are in production in Bremen, Germany. 

With a 16 November launch, the three-week Artemis I mission would end on 11 December with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The European Service Module detaches from the Orion Crew Module before splashdown and burns up harmlessly in the atmosphere, its job complete after taking Orion to the Moon and back safely. 

Backup Artemis I launch dates include 19 November. Check ESA’s Orion blog for updates and more details. Watch the launch live on ESA Web TV from 15 Nov, 20:30 GMT (21:30 CET) when the rocket fuelling starts, and from 16 November 00:00 GMT/01:00 CET for the launch coverage. 


Match ID: 15 Score: 5.00 source: www.esa.int age: 14 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

Collective Mental Time Travel Can Influence the Future
Wed, 09 Nov 2022 13:00:00 +0000
The way people imagine the past and future of society can sway attitudes and behaviors. How might this be wielded for good?
Match ID: 16 Score: 5.00 source: www.wired.com age: 20 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Match ID: 17 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 23 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

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

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

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

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

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Match ID: 18 Score: 5.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 43 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

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: 19 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 118 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

X-Rays Could Carry Quantum Signals Across the Stars
Mon, 18 Jul 2022 15:07:14 +0000


Quantum signals may possess a number of advantages over regular forms of communication, leading scientists to wonder if humanity was not alone in discovering such benefits. Now a new study suggests that, for hypothetical extraterrestrial civilizations, quantum transmissions using X-rays may be possible across interstellar distances.

Quantum communication relies on a quantum phenomenon known as entanglement. Essentially, two or more particles such as photons that get “linked” via entanglement can, in theory, influence each other instantly no matter how far apart they are.

Entanglement is essential to quantum teleportation, in which data can essentially disappear one place and reappear someplace else. Since this information does not travel across the intervening space, there is no chance the information will be lost.

To accomplish quantum teleportation, one would first entangle two photons. Then, one of the photons—the one to be teleported—is kept at one location while the other is beamed to whatever destination is desired.

Next, the photon at the destination's quantum state—which defines its key characteristics—is analyzed, an act that also destroys its quantum state. Entanglement will lead the destination photon to prove identical to its partner. For all intents and purposes, the photon at the origin point “teleported” to the destination point—no physical matter moved, but the two photons are physically indistinguishable.

And to be clear, quantum teleportation cannot send information faster than the speed of light, because the destination photon must still be transmitted via conventional means.

One weakness of quantum communication is that entanglement is fragile. Still, researchers have successfully transmitted entangled photons that remained stable or “coherent” enough for quantum teleportation across distances as great as 1,400 kilometers.

Such findings led theoretical physicist Arjun Berera at the University of Edinburgh to wonder just how far quantum signals might stay coherent. First, he discovered quantum coherence might survive interstellar distances within our galaxy, and then he and his colleagues found quantum coherence might survive intergalactic distances.

“If photons in Earth’s atmosphere don’t decohere to 100 km, then in interstellar space where the medium is much less dense then our atmosphere, photons won’t decohere up to even the size of the galaxy,” Berera says.

In the new study, the researchers investigated whether and how well quantum communication might survive interstellar distances. Quantum signals might face disruption from a number of factors, such as the gravitational pull of interstellar bodies, they note.

The scientists discovered the best quantum communication channels for interstellar messages are X-rays. Such frequencies are easier to focus and detect across interstellar distances. (NASA has tested deep-space X-ray communication with its XCOM experiment.) The researchers also found that the optical and microwave bands could enable communication across large distances as well, albeit less effectively than X-rays.

Although coherence might survive interstellar distances, Berera does note quantum signals might lose fidelity. “This means the quantum state is sustained, but it can have a phase shift, so although the quantum information is preserved in these states, it has been altered by the effect of gravity.” Therefore, it may “take some work at the receiving end to account for these phase shifts and be able to assess the information contained in the original state.”

Why might an interstellar civilization transmit quantum signals as opposed to regular ones? The researchers note that quantum communication may allow greater data compression and, in some cases, exponentially faster speeds than classical channels. Such a boost in efficiency might prove very useful for civilizations separated by interstellar distances.

“It could be that quantum communication is the main communication mode in an extraterrestrial's world, so they just apply what is at hand to send signals into the cosmos,” Berera says.

The scientists detailed their findings online 28 June in the journal Physical Review D.


Match ID: 20 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 134 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

The Webb Space Telescope’s Profound Data Challenges
Fri, 08 Jul 2022 18:03:45 +0000


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

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.


As previous articles in this series have noted, JWST is parked at Lagrange point L2. It’s a point of gravitational equilibrium located about 1.5 million kilometers beyond Earth on a straight line between the planet and the sun. It’s an ideal location for JWST to observe the universe without obstruction and with minimal orbital adjustments.

Being so far away from Earth, however, means that data has farther to travel to make it back in one piece. It also means the communications subsystem needs to be reliable, because the prospect of a repair mission being sent to address a problem is, for the near term at least, highly unlikely. Given the cost and time involved, says Michael Menzel, the mission systems engineer for JWST, “I would not encourage a rendezvous and servicing mission unless something went wildly wrong.”

According to Menzel, who has worked on JWST in some capacity for over 20 years, the plan has always been to use well-understood K a-band frequencies for the bulky transmissions of scientific data. Specifically, JWST is transmitting data back to Earth on a 25.9-gigahertz channel at up to 28 megabits per second. The Ka-band is a portion of the broader K-band (another portion, the Ku-band, was also considered).

An illustration depicting different Lagrange points and where the Webb Telescope is. The Lagrange points are equilibrium locations where competing gravitational tugs on an object net out to zero. JWST is one of three craft currently occupying L2 (Shown here at an exaggerated distance from Earth). IEEE Spectrum

Both the data-collection and transmission rates of JWST dwarf those of the older Hubble Space Telescope. Compared to Hubble, which is still active and generates 1 to 2 gigabytes of data daily, JWST can produce up to 57 GB each day (although that amount is dependent on what observations are scheduled).

Menzel says he first saw the frequency selection proposals for JWST around 2000, when he was working at Northrop Grumman. He became the mission systems engineer in 2004. “I knew where the risks were in this mission. And I wanted to make sure that we didn’t get any new risks,” he says.

IEEE Spectrum

Besides, K a-band frequencies can transmit more data than X-band (7 to 11.2 GHz) or S-band (2 to 4 GHz), common choices for craft in deep space. A high data rate is a necessity for the scientific work JWST will be undertaking. In addition, according to Carl Hansen, a flight systems engineer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (the science operations center for JWST), a comparable X-band antenna would be so large that the spacecraft would have trouble remaining steady for imaging.

Although the 25.9-GHz K a-band frequency is the telescope’s workhorse communication channel, it also employs two channels in the S-band. One is the 2.09-GHz uplink that ferries future transmission and scientific observation schedules to the telescope at 16 kilobits per second. The other is the 2.27-GHz, 40-kb/s downlink over which the telescope transmits engineering data—including its operational status, systems health, and other information concerning the telescope’s day-to-day activities.

Any scientific data the JWST collects during its lifetime will need to be stored on board, because the spacecraft doesn’t maintain round-the-clock contact with Earth. Data gathered from its scientific instruments, once collected, is stored within the spacecraft’s 68-GB solid-state drive (3 percent is reserved for engineering and telemetry data). Alex Hunter, also a flight systems engineer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, says that by the end of JWST’s 10-year mission life, they expect to be down to about 60 GB because of deep-space radiation and wear and tear.

The onboard storage is enough to collect data for about 24 hours before it runs out of room. Well before that becomes an issue, JWST will have scheduled opportunities to beam that invaluable data to Earth.

JWST will stay connected via the Deep Space Network (DSN)—a resource it shares with the Parker Solar Probe, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, the Voyager probes, and the entire ensemble of Mars rovers and orbiters, to name just a few of the other heavyweights. The DSN consists of three antenna complexes: Canberra, Australia; Madrid, Spain; and Barstow, Calif. JWST needs to share finite antenna time with plenty of other deep-space missions, each with unique communications needs and schedules.

IEEE Spectrum

Sandy Kwan, a DSN systems engineer, says that contact windows with spacecraft are scheduled 12 to 20 weeks in advance. JWST had a greater number of scheduled contact windows during its commissioning phase, as instruments were brought on line, checked, and calibrated. Most of that process required real-time communication with Earth.

All of the communications channels use the Reed-Solomon error-correction protocol—the same error-correction standard as used in DVDs and Blu-ray discs as well as QR codes. The lower data-rate S-band channels use binary phase-shift key modulation—involving phase shifting of a signal’s carrier wave. The K-band channel, however, uses a quadrature phase-shift key modulation. Quadrature phase-shift keying can double a channel’s data rate, at the cost of more complicated transmitters and receivers.

JWST’s communications with Earth incorporate an acknowledgement protocol—only after the JWST gets confirmation that a file has been successfully received will it go ahead and delete its copy of the data to clear up space.

The communications subsystem was assembled along with the rest of the spacecraft bus by Northrop Grumman, using off-the-shelf components sourced from multiple manufacturers.

JWST has had a long and often-delayed development, but its communications system has always been a bedrock for the rest of the project. Keeping at least one system dependable means it’s one less thing to worry about. Menzel can remember, for instance, ideas for laser-based optical systems that were invariably rejected. “I can count at least two times where I had been approached by people who wanted to experiment with optical communications,” says Menzel. “Each time they came to me, I sent them away with the old ‘Thank you, but I don’t need it. And I don’t want it.’”


Match ID: 21 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 144 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

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: 22 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 173 days
qualifiers: 5.00 travel(|ing)

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