A big week in history for exploration of the
innermost planet. On March 16, 1975, our Mariner 10 made its third and final
flyby of Mercury. One day and 36 years later, MESSENGER became the first
spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Next up: ESA’s BepiColumbo, undergoing testing
now, is set to launch for Mercury in 2018.
U.S. and Russian scientists are discussing a
planned revival of the successful Venera program that revealed much about Venus
in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Meanwhile, Japan’s Akatsuki orbiter continues to
study our sister planet.
There are currently five orbiters (Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, MAVEN, ESA’s Mars Express and India’s
Mars Orbiter Mission) and two rovers (Curiosity and Opportunity) exploring
Mars, making it second only to Earth in the number of robotic spacecraft
studying its secrets.
In a little less than six months, our Cassini
orbiter will plunge into Saturn as a spectacular finale to its 19-year mission –
but not before it embarks on a completely new mission into unexplored space
between Saturn and its mighty rings.
Happy belated birthday to Uranus, discovered
on March 13, 1781 by William Herschel. The English astronomer wanted to name
his discovery – the first planet discovered in recorded history – “Georgium
Sidus” after England’s King George III. But he was overruled, and astronomer stuck
with traditional mythological names – creating an opportunity for 263 years of
student jokes at the expense of the ice giant planet’s name.
And there’s one country that can claim a huge share of the credit for it.
Solar power is becoming the world’s cheapest form of new electricity generation, data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) suggests.
According to Bloomberg’s analysis, the cost of solar power in China, India, Brazil and 55 other emerging market economies has dropped to about one third of its price in 2010. This means solar now pips wind as the cheapest form of renewable energy—but is also outperforming coal and gas.
In a note to clients this week, BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich said that solar power had entered “the era of undercutting” fossil fuels.
Bloomberg reports that 2016 has seen remarkable falls in the price of electricity from solar sources, citing a $64 per megawatt-hour contract in India at the tart of the year, and a $29.10 per megawatt-hour deal struck in Chile in August—about 50% the price of electricity produced from coal.
Ethan Zindler, head of U.S. policy analysis at BNEF, attributed much of the downward pressure to China’s massive deployment of solar, and the assistance it had provided to other countries financing their own solar projects.
“Solar investment has gone from nothing—literally nothing—like five years ago to quite a lot,” Zindler said.
When the numbers come in at the end of 2016 the generating capacity of newly installed solar photovoltaics is expected to exceed that of wind for the first time: at 70 gigawatts and 59 gigawatts respectively, according to BNEF projections.
Real life solarpunk: neighborhood microgrid in Brooklyn:
Solar Experiment Lets Neighbors Trade Energy Among Themselves
In a promising experiment in an affluent swath of the borough, dozens of solar-panel arrays spread across rowhouse rooftops are wired into a growing network. Called the Brooklyn Microgrid, the project is signing up residents and businesses to a virtual trading platform that will allow solar-energy producers to sell excess-electricity credits from their systems to buyers in the group, who may live as close as next door.
The project is still in its early stages — it has just 50 participants thus far — but its implications could be far reaching. The idea is to create a kind of virtual, peer-to-peer energy trading system built on blockchain, the database technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Dual-function nanorod LEDs could make multifunctional displays
Cellphones and other devices could soon be controlled with touchless gestures and charge themselves using ambient light, thanks to new LED arrays that can both emit and detect light.
Made of tiny nanorods arrayed in a thin film, the LEDs could enable new interactive functions and multitasking devices. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Dow Electronic Materials in Marlborough, Massachusetts, report the advance in the Feb. 10 issue of the journal Science.
“These LEDs are the beginning of enabling displays to do something completely different, moving well beyond just displaying information to be much more interactive devices,” said Moonsub Shim, a professor of materials science and engineering at the U. of I. and the leader of the study. “That can become the basis for new and interesting designs for a lot of electronics.”
A U of T Engineering innovation could make printing solar cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Dr. Hairen Tan and his team have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alternative solar technology could lead to low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator.
“Economies of scale have greatly reduced the cost of silicon manufacturing,” said Professor Ted Sargent, an expert in emerging solar technologies and the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology. “Perovskite solar cells can enable us to use techniques already established in the printing industry to produce solar cells at very low cost. Potentially, perovskites and silicon cells can be married to improve efficiency further, but only with advances in low-temperature processes.”
It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree - make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details. Otherwise there is nothing for them to hang on to.
When leaves are damaged by intense ultraviolet light, they’re able to repair themselves, constantly producing new cells to replace the damaged ones. If only solar cells could do the same thing, they’d last a lifetime. Luckily, scientists have found a way to replicate that natural process using proteins, bacteria and water. These solar cells can’t compete with silicon cells just yet – it will take decades of research to improve them – but it’s an impressive start that could improve ‘artificial leaf’-type solar cells even further.
So I’ve been binging on solarpunk stuff this morning and something occurred to me. I am behind this 10,000%, but I feel the need to point out that while we strive for sustainable technology, agriculture, architecture, etc., we need to advance eco friendly batteries.
Currently, solar panels work by charging a battery which is used to power whatever you need powered. Those batteries are about as advanced as your cellphone battery, using lead-acid and sulfuric acid, both of which are toxic and corrosive. There have been some experiments done with biodegradable batteries, and eco-friendly options exist, but not at the capacity needed for massive solar panels all over the world. We need to pump more money and attention into that idea, so that all other solar-based technology can be actually sustainable.
If you weren’t already aware, Apple had a keynote yesterday announcing various exciting products and software advancements. But about 20% of the keynote was incredibly important but overshadowed by hype over new products, and that was Apples dedication to leaving the planet better than they found it.
2 years ago Apple made the lofty goal that they wanted to reach 100% renewable energy in 100% of their operations worldwide, and yesterday they shared their progress:
Currently they are at 93% renewable worldwide.
They are at 100% renewable in the U.S. and China.
99% of their paper packaging is used from recycled paper, or pulled from sustainably managed forests.
They’ve saved and reserved 36,000 acres of working forest in the U.S. and are currently working with the World Wildlife Fund to improve the management of 1,000,000 acres of forest in China.
They’ve also created a robotic system called LIAM to ensure as many parts of Apple products are recycled responsibly as possible.
I share this because not many companies out there are as transparent as Apple is around their responsibility to the environment. Although there is so much more progress to be made, we should be challenging more companies to be more open and more bold in their role in protecting our planet. E-mail these companies, call, make it known that change is necessary for everyone.
Kepler-186fis an exoplanet orbiting the Red DwarfKepler-186, about 490 light-years from Earth. It is the first planet with a radius similar to Earth’s to be discovered in the habitable zone of another star. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft detected it using the transit method, along with four additional planets orbiting much closer to the star [all modestly larger than Earth]. Analysis of three years of data was required to find its signal.
Kepler-186 hosts four other planets discovered so far, though Kepler-186 b, c, d, and e [in order of increasing orbital radius] are too close to the star, and are therefore too hot to have liquid water. The four innermost planets are probably tidally locked but Kepler-186f is in a higher orbit, where the star’s tidal effects are much weaker, so there may not have been enough time for its spin to slow down that much. Because of the very slow evolution of red dwarfs, the age of the Kepler-186 system is poorly constrained, although it is likely to be greater than a few billion years. There is an approximately 50% chance it is tidally locked. Since it is closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, it will probably rotate much more slowly than Earth; its day could be weeks or months long.
Kepler-186f is too remote and its star too faint for current telescopes or the next generation of planned telescopes to determine its mass or whether it has an atmosphere.
When fully charged this solar bike has a range of around 43 miles. The motor itself has a max speed of 30mph - which sounds pretty racey for a pushbike, although
15 miles seems like the more conventional speed setting.
Technology doesn’t tend to just disappear: what is the social network of solar punk? How do we order and deliver goods? What do cars and public transport look like? What is our power grid? Are personal and street lights now bioluminent, or are they charged solar pieces? Are cell phones and computers integrated into our brains, updated frequently? What are advances in Wi-Fi technology? Are there people who prefer to go all natural, forgoing implants for suspicion of technology or religious reasons? What do robotics look like in a solar punk society? Are they humanoid, passing as people? Do they have rights? Are robotics used to supplement human bodies, like with functional prosthetic limbs and replacement parts? Or do we slowly eschew robots in favor of technology to grow whole new body parts, to create new organics for ourselves?
Stan Vromance right now. RIGHT. NOW. You don’t even need to listen to them, just take my word for it, they’re amazing! Their single She is out of this world, and their album The Action is perfection from beginning to end, so GO STAN.
Squinting in the sun, sitting at the window?
Chinese designers have figured out how to convert solar window source of free electricity and developed a socket the Socket the Window . On the back of the socket is a solar cell and a vacuum suction cup, through which the device is attached to the glass. Now, on a fine day you can recharge your mobile phone even in the bus.