Solar-Eclipse Glasses On Amazon May Not Meet NASA's Safety Requirements ( 96

For those planning to watch the solar eclipse on August 21st, you're going to want to make sure you have some specialized, ultra-dark glasses to see safely, especially if you're not in the "path of totality." If you're on the hunt for said glasses, please be on the lookout to make sure you buy glasses that meet NASA's safety standards. Quartz is reporting that there are many "fly-by-night manufacturers looking to turn a quick profit by selling subpar and potentially dangerous goods to unsuspecting Americans." From the report: The first stop for most seeking a pair of eclipse glasses is likely to be Amazon, where there are literally thousands of listings for the devices, ranging in materials from cardboard to bronze. I, too, went on Amazon to scout out a pair. I picked more or less at random: I chose a cheap pack of 10 cardboard glasses with five different designs, at least two of which were not garishly jingoistic. About a week after I bought them, I had a thought: Maybe I should double-check to make sure they met safety standards set by the scientific community. Next stop: NASA. NASA, of course, has a website dedicated to the 2017 eclipse, and on it, they have a section dedicated to eclipse-viewing safety. The site says that eclipse-viewing glasses must meet a few basic criteria: Have ISO 12312-2 certification (that is, having been certified as passing a particular set of tests set forth by the International Organization of Standardization); Have the manufacturer's name and address printed somewhere on the product; Not be older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses.

Heavier Rainfall Will Increase Water Pollution In the Future ( 189

An anonymous reader shares a report from National Geographic: If climate change continues to progress, increased precipitation could mean detrimental outcomes for water quality in the United States, a major new study warns. An intensifying water cycle can substantially overload waterways with excess nitrogen runoff -- which could near 20 percent by 2100 -- and increase the likelihood of events that severely impair water quality, according to a new study published by Science. When rainfall washes nitrogen and phosphorus from human activities like agriculture and fossil fuel combustion into rivers and lakes, those waterways are overloaded with nutrients, and a phenomenon called "eutrophication" occurs. This can be dangerous for both people and animals. Toxic algal blooms can develop, as well as harmful low-oxygen dead zones known as hypoxia, which can cause negative impacts on human health, aquatic ecosystems, and the economy. In the new study, researchers predict how climate change might increase eutrophication and threats to water resources by using projections from 21 different climate models, each of which was run for three climate scenarios and two different time periods (near future, 2031-2060, and far-future, 2071-2100).

The Inside Story of the Lily Drone's Collapse ( 139

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Lily Robotics had everything: Two charismatic young founders; millions in funding; and a product that promised to change the world -- or, at the very least, transform photography. But over 60,000 customers are still waiting for their Lily Drones, and the company is now being sued by the San Francisco District Attorney's office for false advertising. As it turns out, Lily Robotics never actually had the right tools to create the product it was selling -- and it all came crashing down. At Backchannel, Jessica Pishko has the untold story of how such a promising company went so wrong.

From the report: "The magic of the Lily Drone was in its concept: It was a product you could unpack and throw -- so easy, Antoine Balaresque, the cofounder and CEO of Lily Robotics, wrote in emails, that even an old person could do it. But translating that idea into a tangible product proved difficult, and the storytelling that made the Lily Drone so tantalizing to consumers ultimately factored into its downfall. In one of his presentations, Balaresque presented a PowerPoint slide with the sentence, 'Humans have a fundamental need to put themselves in the center of stories.' It appeared to be a quote he made up, but the idea that human nature needs stories is fundamental. Stories are how we make sense of our lives. But while a good story can get you funding and acclaim, ultimately it isn't enough."


A New Study Shows the Moon's Interior Could Contain Water ( 69

A new study from Brown University shows the moon might be flowing with more water than we thought, thanks to ancient volcanic deposits. NPR reports: Using satellite data, scientists from Brown University studied layers of rock on the moon that likely formed from large volcanic eruptions, called lunar pyroclastic deposits. The magma created by these eruptions has been carried to the moon's surface from very deep within its interior, the study showed. What's interesting about this new study, though, is that it shows the water is far more than just ice hiding in shadowy areas of the moon. In fact, there are likely pools of water in the moon's mantle, as well. If there's water in the moon's mantle, that suggests that the water was delivered to the moon very early in its formation, before it fully solidified, the study's lead author, Ralph Milliken told Because the magma originally comes from deep within the lunar interior, Milliken explains, "the deep interior of the moon must also contain water."

World's First Floating Wind Farm Emerges Off Coast of Scotland ( 251

AmiMoJo writes: The world's first full-scale floating wind farm has started to take shape off the north-east coast of Scotland. The revolutionary technology will allow wind power to be harvested in waters too deep for the current conventional bottom-standing turbines. The manufacturer hopes to cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the U.S., where waters are deep. The tower, including the blades, stretches to 175m and weighs 11,500 tons. The price of energy from bottom-standing offshore wind farms has plummeted 32% since 2012, and is now four years ahead of the government's expected target. Another big price drop is expected, taking offshore wind to a much lower price than new nuclear power.

Amazon Report Predicts Pet Translation Devices By 2027 ( 143

An anonymous reader writes: Devices that can talk to our pet dogs and cats could be less than 10 years away, according to a report Amazon commissioned that was co-authored by futurist William Higham. "Innovative products that succeed are based around genuine and major consumer needs," Higham wrote, noting the tremendous amounts already spent on our pets, and concluding, "Somebody is going to put this together." Amazon already sells one dubious device that converts human voices into meows using samples from 25 cats, according to the Guardian. (One reviewer who tested the device wrote that "the cat seems puzzled.") But Amazon's report also cites the work of Con Slobodchikoff, a professor emeritus in Northern Arizona University's biology department, who spent 30 years studying the behavior of prairie dogs. Slobodchikoff discovered prairie dogs have different words for colors and for species of predators, and is now already raising money to develop a translation device for pets.
Although Slobodchikoff concedes that "With cats I'm not sure what they'd have to say. A lot of times it might just be 'you idiot, just feed me and leave me alone.'"

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans ( 161

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.


New Research Shows Humans Could Outrun T. Rex 257

bongey writes: T-Rex would have a hard time even catching an average human running, much less Usain Bolt or Jeeps, without shattering their legs into pieces. New research based on simulations that include the load on the bones show that T-Rex would have a hard time running faster than 12 miles per hour (5.4 meters per second) without bones breaking. The new research correlates to speeds calculated from adolescence sized T-Rex dinosaur footprints in 2016, which showed walking speeds to be only 2-5mph, and estimated running speeds 11-18 mph. Gizmodo notes that while T. rex was unable to pursue its prey at high speeds, high speed is a relative term. "For reference, typical humans can sprint anywhere between eight to 15 miles per hour (elite athletes can exceed 20 mph). So to outrun a T. rex, many animals -- or fictional humans -- would still have to run like hell."

The Aurora Borealis May Be Visible Tonight In The Northern US ( 42

An anonymous reader quotes CNN:A geomagnetic storm could bring a spectacular show to skies across the northern United States on Sunday night. The Aurora Borealis phenomenon -- also known as the Northern Lights -- may be visible "as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington State," according to NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center... NOAA said the best viewing times to catch the light show, clouds permitting, will be between 11 p.m. ET Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday, and again between 2 a.m. ET to 5 a.m.

Elon Musk Warns Governors: Regulate AI Before It's 'Too Late' ( 201

turkeydance shared a new article from Recode about Elon Musk: He's been warning people about AI for years, and today called it the "biggest risk we face as a civilization" when he spoke at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island. Musk then called on the government to proactively regulate artificial intelligence before things advance too far... "Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there's a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry," he continued. "It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization"... Musk has even said that his desire to colonize Mars is, in part, a backup plan for if AI takes over on Earth.
Several governors asked Musk how to regulate the emerging AI industry, to which he suggested learning as much as possible about artificial intelligence. Musk also warned that society won't know how to react "until people see robots going down the street killing people... I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it's too late."

Microsoft 'Cuts The Cord' With A Local Power Utility To Pursue Greener Energy ( 62

Frosty Piss summarizes the Seattle Times: Microsoft will bypass Puget Sound Energy to secure carbon-free power on wholesale markets under an agreement with state regulators. In 2015, 60 percent of PSE electricity came from coal and natural-gas plants, according to company statistics. The agreement calls for Microsoft to pay a $23.6 million transition fee to Puget Sound Energy, which the utility will pass on to its Western Washington customers... But the settlement does not address one major financial issue that hangs over PSE and its customers -- how to handle the costs of shutting down coal-fired units in the Colstrip, Montana, power station... State regulators and Puget Sound Energy determined that Microsoft is legally responsible for a share of the Colstrip, Montana coal-fired generating plant costs.

Private Company Plans To Bring Moon Rocks Back To Earth In Three Years ( 66

mi writes: Moon Express, founded in 2010 to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, says it is self-funded to begin bringing kilograms of lunar rocks back to Earth within about three years. "We absolutely intend to make these samples available globally for scientific research, and make them available to collectors as well," said Bob Richards, one of the company's founders, in an interview with Ars. From the report: "The privately held company released plans for a single, modular spacecraft that can be combined to form successively larger and more capable vehicles. Ultimately the company plans to establish a lunar outpost in 2020 and set up commercial operations on the Moon."

Era of 'Biological Annihilation' Is Underway, Scientists Warn ( 359

Tatiana Schlossberg reports via The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternate source): From the common barn swallow to the exotic giraffe, thousands of animal species are in precipitous decline, a sign that an irreversible era of mass extinction is underway, new research finds. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calls the current decline in animal populations a "global epidemic" and part of the "ongoing sixth mass extinction" caused in large measure by human destruction of animal habitats. The previous five extinctions were caused by natural phenomena. Dr. Ceballos emphasized that he and his co-authors, Paul R. Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo, both professors at Stanford University, are not alarmists, but are using scientific data to back up their assertions that significant population decline and possible mass extinction of species all over the world may be imminent, and that both have been underestimated by many other scientists. The study's authors looked at reductions in a species' range -- a result of factors like habitat degradation, pollution and climate change, among others -- and extrapolated from that how many populations have been lost or are in decline, a method that they said is used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They found that about 30 percent of all land vertebrates -- mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians -- are experiencing declines and local population losses. In most parts of the world, mammal populations are losing 70 percent of their members because of habitat loss.

First Object Teleported From Earth To Orbit ( 212

Researchers in China have teleported a photon from the ground to a satellite orbiting more than 500 kilometers above. From a report: Last year, a Long March 2D rocket took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert carrying a satellite called Micius, named after an ancient Chinese philosopher who died in 391 B.C. The rocket placed Micius in a Sun-synchronous orbit so that it passes over the same point on Earth at the same time each day. Micius is a highly sensitive photon receiver that can detect the quantum states of single photons fired from the ground. That's important because it should allow scientists to test the technological building blocks for various quantum feats such as entanglement, cryptography, and teleportation. Today, the Micius team announced the results of its first experiments. The team created the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, in the process smashing the record for the longest distance over which entanglement has been measured. And they've used this quantum network to teleport the first object from the ground to orbit. Teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and point in space and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function.

Only 100 Companies Are Responsible For 71 Percent of Global Emissions, Says Study ( 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report. The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) "pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions," says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute. The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 -- the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established -- can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.

World's Cheapest Energy Source Will Be Renewables Within Three Years ( 474

Morgan Stanley researchers predict renewable energy will become the world's cheapest form of power within three years. An anonymous reader quotes Qz: Renewable energy is simply becoming the cheapest option, fast... "We project that by 2020, renewables will be the cheapest form of new-power generation across the globe," with the exception of a few countries in Southeast Asia, the Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report published Thursday... Globally, the price of solar panels has fallen 50% between 2016 and 2017, they write. And in countries with favorable wind conditions, the costs associated with wind power "can be as low as one-half to one-third that of coal- or natural gas-fired power plants." Innovations in wind-turbine design are allowing for ever-longer wind blades; that boost in efficiency will also increase power output from the wind sector, according to Morgan Stanley.
The researchers also predict America will reach its Paris Climate Accord targets in 2020 -- five years early -- simply because renewables are already becoming the cheapest option for power.

Google's New Startup Heats Your Home With Energy From Your Lawn ( 168

WindBourne shares an article about Google's plans for "an extremely cheap form of HVAC." CNN reports: A new startup called Dandelion, born from the secretive and futuristic lab "X" of Google's parent company Alphabet, says it will offer affordable geothermal heating and cooling systems to homeowners. Existing systems are typically expensive with big upfront installation fees, discouraging homeowners from adopting the technology... Installing the pipes -- called "ground loops" -- under someone's lawn is a traditionally invasive, messy process. It involves using wide drills that dig wells more than 1,000 feet underground. Dandelion's drill is fast and lean, allowing for only one or two deep holes a few inches wide. The system will cost between $20,000 and $25,000, compared to conventional systems priced as high as $60,000.

Geothermal systems are better for the environment because they significantly cut down on carbon dioxide emissions... Buildings are responsible for 39% of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Most of these emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels to provide the building with heating, cooling and lighting, and to power appliances and electrical equipment.

Google has been studying the potential of geothermal energy since 2011. Dandelion will eventually partner with local companies to handle installations -- and is already accepting sign-ups from customers in New York.

Reality Bytes: A Highflying Tech Entrepreneur Crashes Back To Earth ( 64

An anonymous reader shares a WSJ article: Entrepreneur Jia Yueting likes to say that Apple is outdated, China's big technology companies are innovation-killing monopolies and his company, LeEco, is the real industry disrupter. That swagger served Mr. Jia in building an empire that sprawled across seven industries, from online video content to smartphones to electric cars. By having the ambition to take on Apple, Tesla and Netflix all at once, Mr. Jia seemed to embody the boundless promise of the huge China market. And investors responded favorably. Deal makers like HNA Capital and Legend Holdings bought in, as did the city government of tech hub Shenzhen, as well as movie director Zhang Yimou and other celebrities. British sports car maker Aston Martin joined up to develop electric vehicles. The U.S. state of Nevada promised $200 million in incentives for Mr. Jia's electric car venture, Faraday Futures, to build a $1 billion plant there. And LeEco unveiled a $2 billion deal to buy U.S. TV-maker Vizio. Now, most of those deals are dead or struggling and Mr. Jia's dreams are fading away due to a cash crunch and worried creditors (could be paywalled). On Thursday he resigned as chairman of a listed unit of LeEco, Leshi Internet Information & Technology, though he will remain the chairman of the holding company. That move comes after a Shanghai court last week -- at the behest of China Merchants Bank -- froze $181 million worth of his assets and $2 billion in shares over a missed interest payment.

NASA Seeks Nuclear Power For Mars ( 165

New submitter joshtops shares a report from Scientific American: As NASA makes plans to one day send humans to Mars, one of the key technical gaps the agency is working to fill is how to provide enough power on the Red Planet's surface for fuel production, habitats and other equipment. One option: small nuclear fission reactors, which work by splitting uranium atoms to generate heat, which is then converted into electric power. NASA's technology development branch has been funding a project called Kilopower for three years, with the aim of demonstrating the system at the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas. Testing is due to start in September and end in January 2018. The last time NASA tested a fission reactor was during the 1960s' Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power, or SNAP, which developed two types of nuclear power systems. The first system -- radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs -- taps heat released from the natural decay of a radioactive element, such as plutonium. RTGs have powered dozens of space probes over the years, including the Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars. The second technology developed under SNAP was an atom-splitting fission reactor. SNAP-10A was the first -- and so far, only -- U.S. nuclear power plant to operate in space. Launched on April 3, 1965, SNAP-10A operated for 43 days, producing 500 watts of electrical power, before an unrelated equipment failure ended the demonstration. The spacecraft remains in Earth orbit.

Japan's Population Falls At Fastest Rate Since 1968 295

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Japan's population, excluding resident foreigners, fell at the beginning of this year at its fastest pace since comparable figures were kept in 1968, highlighting the demographic challenge to economic growth. As of Jan. 1, the number of Japanese people fell by a record 308,084 from a year earlier to 125,583,658, marking the eighth consecutive year of declines, government data showed Wednesday. The number of births fell 2.9 percent from the previous year ago to 981,202, the lowest since comparable data became available in 1974. People aged 65 or older accounted for 27.2 percent of the total population, the highest ratio on record, while the ratio of those aged 14 or younger fell to a record low of 12.7 percent, the data showed. The number of registered foreign residents increased to 2,323,428, up 6.9 percent from a year earlier, according to the data.

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