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Europe Edition: Zimbabwe, Emmanuel Macron, Jeff Sessions: Your Wednesday Briefing

In one village, he found a lone Shiite cleric who was trying to help. “I’m trying to talk to people about God, give them peace of mind — that is all I can do,” he said. “And pray. […]

The iconic Schwalbe scooter has been reincarnated as an electric vehicle

This classic scooter from the former country of East Germany is now an e-scooter with a 62-mile range. […]

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Unabridged) – Neil de Grasse Tyson

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Unabridged)
Neil de Grasse Tyson
Genre: Science
Price: $9.95
Publish Date: May 2, 2017 © ? © 2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc. […]

Put Your Feet Where Your Values Are: March For Science

Take out your mobile phone and give it a good look. Curiosity made that. Curiosity coupled with intense concentration, wild imagination, bold hypotheses, and years of experimental toil to validate them. The slim device in your hand encapsulates 500 years of physics. Newtonian mechanics, James Clerk Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism, Einstein’s relativity, Bohr’s atomic theory, Turing’s universal computer, Schrödinger’s quantum wave function, Feynman’s diagram: all these and more streamed into the phone you hold in your hand. And that’s just one branch of science […]

An Appreciation for the Ordinary, Extraordinary Concrete

Concrete is all around us. This is no accident; over the centuries we have used concrete to build our civilization. We use concrete because it is strong, durable, and massive, traits that are necessary if we expect to build things today that can continue to be utilized by future generations. In this way, each generation can build upon, rather than rebuild, the work of the previous generation. That’s what civilization is all about. Today, humans use more concrete than any other material except water, and this prevalence has allowed us to take it for granted. Just imagine what you see when you are in any city across the United States. What are the buildings composed of surrounding you? What’s the surface made of that you’re standing on? The busy roads taking people from place to place, what are they comprised of? For centuries, it has been the foundational material used to create our built world. It is because of this essential resource that people around the world can still take in the beauty of The Pantheon in Rome. Think of the other ruins from so many centuries ago that still populate our world. Concrete has allowed us to connect to those who walked this Earth so long ago. It allows their memories to live on, and for us to share in those magnificent times. The Portland Cement Association has been a widely-recognized authority on the technology, economics, and applications of cement and concrete since 1916. The organization sees its centennial year as an opportunity to celebrate not only the association itself, but also the great progress the industry has made and the role that concrete will continue to have in building a resilient, sustainable world. “We want people to appreciate the pivotal role that concrete has played in building our society,” said James G. Toscas, president and CEO of PCA. “Nearly 100 years ago, PCA’s first chairman remarked that unlike many other human activities, building with cement and concrete adds to the permanent wealth of a community. Today, as we look upon the extensive transportation systems and magnificent cities that we have built since then, and that will continue to serve us today and in the future, we see the truth of those words.” While building with concrete offers measurable benefits, some of its advantages go beyond numbers. “For example, people feel safer in concrete buildings,” remarked Toscas. “Resilient concrete homes resist fire and can withstand storms. They are also solid, quiet, and low-maintenance. People have a sense that the concrete roads and bridges that connect our communities are durable, efficient, and long-lasting.” But what will concrete mean to us in 100 years from now? As mundane as it might seem, concrete is actually a complex, high-tech material. “Research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has greatly expanded our knowledge of this material, from the quantum nano-scale all the way through mega-sized applications,” noted Toscas. “Researchers have now been able to model and measure qualities of concrete that we previously took for granted, such as the greater energy efficiency of concrete roads and buildings. They have also laid the groundwork for further improving the performance and sustainability of concrete construction.” “As long as there is civilization, there will be a need for concrete,” concluded Toscas. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

How the universe began and how humanity will drown: A scientist’s to-do list

How the universe began and how humanity will drown: A scientist’s to-do list

By on 11 Aug 2015commentsShare

No pressure, scientists, but you just got your marching orders for the next 10 years, and, well, you’ve got your work cut out for you:

  1. Understand the origins of the universe (cosmic inflation, the quantum nature of gravity, the nature of everything, etc.)
  2. Figure out how life evolved in the Antarctic over the last 30 million years (seriously, who wants to live there?)
  3. Get a handle on what’s happening with those melting ice sheets that we keep hearing so much about (i.e. just tell us how this is all gonna end, so we can start writing apology letters to the future)

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine just released this little ditty of a to-do list for scientists working on NSF-funded Antarctic and Southern Ocean research. Two of the three initiatives are directly related to climate change and how we and other living things are going to have to adapt to it. It’s certainly reassuring that the powers that be consider these issues as important as answering the age-old questions of where everything came from and what it all means, but at the same time, it pretty much just confirms that we’re totally screwed, right?

Here’s an overview of the priorities from a press release about the report:

The report proposes a major new effort called the Changing Antarctic Ice Sheets Initiative to investigate how much and how fast melting ice sheets will contribute to sea-level rise. The initiative’s components include a multidisciplinary campaign to study the complex interactions among ice, ocean, atmosphere, and climate in key zones of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and a new generation of ice core and marine sediment core studies to better understand past episodes of rapid ice sheet collapse. …

A second strategic research priority is to understand from a genetic standpoint how life adapts to the extreme Antarctic environment. For more than 30 million years, isolated Antarctic ecosystems have evolved to adapt to freezing conditions and dramatic environmental changes, and now must adapt to contemporary pressures such as climate change, ocean acidification, invasive species, and commercial fishing. Sequencing the genomes and transcriptomes of critical populations, ranging from microbes to marine mammals, would reveal the magnitude of their genetic diversity and capacity to adapt to change.

In addition to being a vast natural laboratory, Antarctica has a dry, stable atmosphere that offers an ideal setting for astrophysical observations. The report recommends a next-generation experimental program to observe cosmic microwave background radiation, the “fossil light” from the early universe. This would include an installation of a new set of telescopes at the South Pole, as part of a larger global array, which will allow highly sensitive measurements that could detect signatures of gravitational waves. Such observations might provide evidence that could confirm the theory of cosmic inflation and the quantum nature of gravity, as well as address other enduring questions about the nature of the universe.

Got that, scientists? We’re looking for how the universe started, how life evolved in some of the most extreme environments on Earth, and how the oceans are ultimately going to engulf us all in a merciless end. Talk to you in 10 years.

Source:
Melting Ice Sheets, Genomic Studies, and Deep-Space Observations Are Top Priorities for Next Decade of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research

, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

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Solar Cells From Shrimp Shells

By Don Willlmott Here’s an idea: let’s peel a big pile of shrimp and put the shells outside to rot under the blazing sun. Sounds pretty disgusting, but amazingly enough, those smelly shells are hiding a solar power secret. Some very imaginative researchers the from the School of Engineering and Materials Science at Queen Mary University of London have found a way to use discarded shrimp shells in the manufacturing process for a low-cost solar cell.What’s the trick? Most solar cells today are produced using ruthenium and other expensive metals. The researchers used a process called hydro-thermal carbonization to create carbon quantum dots–miniscule crystals used in semiconductors, lasers and solar cells–out of chitin and chitosan, two chemicals that are present in wonderfully inexpensive shrimp shells.The tiny CQD crystals are used to multiply the energy production of electrons throughout solar devices, and can also trap and convert infrared light to energy. The researchers sprayed the CQDs onto zinc oxide nanorods and ended up with usable solar cells that smell just fine under the hot sun. In this experimental phase, the resulting solar cells aren’t very efficient, but the researchers are undeterred. “New techniques mean that we can produce exciting new materials from organic by-products that are already easily available. Sustainable materials can be both high-tech and low-cost,” said Professor Magdalena Titirici, Professor of Sustainable Materials Technology at QMUL in a statement.Once optimized, the nanostructured solar cells could be used as small chargers in wearable phones, tablets, and smartwatches. They could also be used in semi-transparent films placed over windows. “Once we’ve improved their efficiency, they could be used anywhere that solar cells are used now, particularly to charge the kinds of devices people carry with them every day,” said researcher Dr. Joe Briscoe in a statement.Of course this bit of weird science is really part of a bigger story. It’s critical to find cheaper ways of creating solar panels by using biomaterials and new technologies such as 3D printing. Lowering those costs will help keep the momentum for mass solar adoption going, and this is one particularly inventive step in that direction. Scampi anyone? Visit XPRIZE at xprize.org; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+; and get our newsletter to stay informed. Don Willmott is a New York-based journalist who writes about technology, travel and the environment for a wide variety of publications and websites. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]