Tag Archives | Environment

Why Elon Musk is probably not freaking out over plunging oil prices

Elon Musk's Twitter Photo.

Elon Musk’s Twitter Photo.

via Quartz:

One of the indirect casualties of tumbling oil prices in recent weeks has been Tesla. Shares in Elon Musk’s electric automaker have sunk by about 25% over the past three months.

Lower gas prices, in theory, eliminate one of the key advantages of owning an electric car: They cost much less to run than normal cars, at least when gas prices are high. So the decline in oil prices is not great news for the company.

On the other hand, there are reasons to not be too alarmed about it. If you can afford to buy a Tesla, the cost of gassing it up is probably not your chief concern. (Its current flagship Model S costs about $70,000, though a “cheaper” new car, the model 3, is expected to cost at least half that when it is released in 2017.)

And don’t forget, Musk himself expressed alarm about the rapid rise in Telsa’s share price earlier this year.

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Turning E-Waste into Light

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

via IEEE Spectrum:

Bangalore-based IBM Research India has a bright idea for keeping discarded lithium laptop batteries out of landfills: repurposing their cells as energy supplies for the powerless. The idea, presented at this weekend’s fifth annual Symposium on Computing for Development (DEV 2014) in San Jose, has passed a small proof-of-principle test run with Bangalore’s working poor.

The IBM researchers used disused lithium batteries to create a new device they dubbed the UrJar—a multilingual monicker uniting the Hindi word urja for energy with jar. Hardware R&D firm Radio Studio, India, built the units. The first phase was tear-down. Radio Studio disassembled laptop batteries to isolate those cells that could still hold several hours’ worth of charge—over 60 percent of cells on average, according to their sampling.

Cells that passed quality control were repackaged in a housing with basic electronics, starting with a charging circuit to limit the rate and level of charge on the lithium cells and thus minimize fire risk.

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The Real Planet of the Apes – The Liberian Island Inhabited by Chimpanzees Formerly Used in Animal Testing

via Oddity Central:

Believe it or not, a real-life Planet of the Apes does exist in an isolated area located deep in the jungles of West Africa. It’s home to dozens of retired laboratory chimpanzees who were at one point used for medical research. These chimps are practically heroes – they’ve managed to survive disease, two civil wars and numerous medical tests and experiments.

The apes are former residents of The Liberian Institute of Biomedical Research (Vilab II) which played a pivotal role in developing treatments for ailments such as Hepatitis during the 1970s. It was shut down in the mid-2000s due to growing pressure from animal rights activists, and the apes were transferred to a remote Liberian island in the middle of Farmington River, to live a life of quiet retirement.

The island – known to locals as ‘Monkey Island’ – is home to over 60 chimps who only allow familiar caretakers to approach its shores.… Read the rest

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The Time Traveler: George Church Plans to Bring Back a Creature That Went Extinct 4,000 Years Ago


via Recode:

The engineers and scientists spilling out of Greater Boston’s world-class universities built the foundations of the modern computing era and amassed the densest cluster of life sciences companies in the world. The region lost some of its most promising startups to Silicon Valley, famously including Facebook. But business is booming — and researchers and entrepreneurs there are aiming far higher than the next social network. This Re/code special series takes a closer look at past, present and future innovation in the region.

On March 15, 2013, genetic engineer George Church stood in the middle of a circular red rug onstage at the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, D.C., describing a detailed plan for bringing a six-ton, 10-foot, fur-covered creature back from the dead.

By splicing genes responsible for traits like thicker hair, subcutaneous fat and curving tusks into the DNA of an Asian elephant, Church hopes to revive the long-extinct woolly mammoth, or at least create a version of the modern elephant that really likes the cold.

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In world first, researchers convert sunlight to electricity with over 40 percent efficiency

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ (CC BY 2.0)

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ (CC BY 2.0)

via Science Daily:

Australia’s solar researchers have converted over 40 percent of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. A key part of the prototype’s design is the use of a custom optical bandpass filter to capture sunlight that is normally wasted by commercial solar cells on towers and convert it to electricity at a higher efficiency than the solar cells themselves ever could.

UNSW Australia’s solar researchers have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported.

The record efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at their outdoor test facility in the United States.

The work was funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and supported by the Australia-US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAPV).

“This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW Scientia Professor and Director of the Advanced Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) Professor Martin Green said.

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After 35 Years I Tried Magic Mushrooms Again—Here’s What Happened

Darron Birgenheier (CC by-sa 2.0)

Darron Birgenheier (CC by-sa 2.0)

via Reset.me:

Though I began researching Acid Test, a book about the revival of research into the use of psychedelic drugs for healing, in 2007, my interest in the subject really began 30 years earlier, when I was a college student at the University of Florida. The UF campus is surrounded by a rural landscape, including thousands of acres of palmetto and pine-studded pasturage used to raise cattle. My friends and I had learned to slip gingerly through barbed wire fencing and, keeping an eye out for shotgun-wielding ranchers, hunt for recently deposited piles of cow dung, from which sometimes sprouted the creamy, brown-tipped caps of psilocybin mushrooms. We plucked the mushrooms with rising excitement, as if we were pulling nuggets of pure gold from a mountain stream instead of fungi from cow shit. We knew the power contained within. Steep them in a pot with tea and drink, and before long we would see the world, and ourselves, from a novel vantage point.

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Why Elon Musk’s Batteries Scare the Hell Out of the Electric Company

Robert Scoble (CC BY 2.0)

Robert Scoble (CC BY 2.0)

via Bloomberg:

Climate: Now or Never

Here’s why something as basic as a battery both thrills and terrifies the U.S. utility industry.

At a sagebrush-strewn industrial park outside of Reno, Nevada, bulldozers are clearing dirt for Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA)’s battery factory, projected to be the world’s largest.

Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, sees the $5 billion facility as a key step toward making electric cars more affordable, while ending reliance on oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At first blush, the push toward more electric cars looks to be positive for utilities struggling with stagnant sales from energy conservation and slow economic growth.

Yet Musk’s so-called gigafactory may soon become an existential threat to the 100-year-old utility business model. The facility will also churn out stationary battery packs that can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store power. Already, a second company led by Musk, SolarCity Corp.

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Altamont at 45: The most dangerous rock concert

Screengrab from a video stream which shows a static photograph of Meredith Hunter shortly before being stabbed to death.

Screengrab from a video stream which shows a static photograph of Meredith Hunter shortly before being stabbed to death.

via BBC:

The Altamont concert, with its notorious murder caught on film, occurred 45 years ago. Many consider it to be the end of the ‘60s, Owen Gleiberman writes.

Forty-five years ago, on 6 December 1969, a free rock concert headlined by The Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway outside San Francisco devolved into a disaster of violence that instantly took on mythical status. Virtually overnight, Altamont became the anti-Woodstock, the rock dream turned nightmare, the official last nail in the coffin of the ’60s. It’s always easy, of course, to overload a single event with symbolism, but it’s hard to deny that Altamont truly was all of those things. Shortly after the Stones began their set, a member of the California Hells Angels – who were loosely hired to police the event – committed a gruesome murder right in front of the stage, stabbing a drugged-out youth named Meredith Hunter several times in the back.

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The Surprising Power of an Electric Eel’s Shock

Doug Letterman (CC BY 2.0)

Doug Letterman (CC BY 2.0)

via The New York Times:

For thousands of years, fishermen knew that certain fish could deliver a painful shock, even though they had no idea how it happened. Only in the late 1700s did naturalists contemplate a bizarre possibility: These fish might release jolts of electricity — the same mysterious substance as in lightning.

That possibility led an Italian physicist named Alessandro Volta in 1800 to build an artificial electric fish. He observed that electric stingrays had dense stacks of muscles, and he wondered if they allowed the animals to store electric charges. To mimic the muscles, he built a stack of metal disks, alternating between copper and zinc.

Volta found that his model could store a huge amount of electricity, which he could unleash as shocks and sparks. Today, much of society runs on updated versions of Volta’s artificial electric fish. We call them batteries.

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The Pentagon wants your advice on tech for the year 2030 time frame

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

via Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence:

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is asking for ideas from the private sector on breakthrough technologies to guide military investment for the next decade and beyond, according to an article by futurist Patrick Tucker Wednesday in Defense One newsletter.

“On Wednesday, Defense Department officials issued a request for information calling on interested parties ‘to identify current and emerging technologies … that could provide significant military advantage to the United States and its partners and allies in the 2030 time frame,’” Tucker said.

It’s part of the Pentagon’s “ambitious plan to develop technology to put the United States decades ahead of rival nations like China and Russia in short period of time.”

The problem: predicting the tech future isn’t as simple as it used to be. “New breakthroughs are copied, innovated against and rendered obsolete as quickly as the Internet spreads to new portions of the globe.

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