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China

Chinese Scientists Plan Solar Power Station In Space 214

Posted by samzenpus
from the or-you-know-stop-polluting-so-much dept.
knwny points out this lofty proposed power plan in China. "The battle to dispel smog, cut greenhouse gases and solve the energy crisis is moving to space. If news reports are to be believed, Chinese scientists are mulling the construction of a solar power station in a geosynchronous orbit 36,000 kilometres above ground. The electricity generated would be converted to microwaves or lasers and transmitted to a collector on Earth. If realized, it will surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station and be the largest-ever space project."
Earth

Nation's Biggest Nuclear Firm Makes a Play For Carbon Credit Cash 193

Posted by samzenpus
from the cash-grap dept.
tomhath writes with this story that may shake up the nuclear industry. "The biggest player in the beleaguered nuclear power industry wants a place alongside solar, wind and hydroelectric power collecting extra money for producing carbon-free electricity. Exelon Corp., operator of the largest fleet of U.S. nuclear plants, says it could have to close three of them if Illinois rejects the company's pitch to let it recoup more from consumers since the plants do not produce greenhouse gases. Exelon and other around-the-clock plants sometimes take losses when wind turbines produce too much electricity for the system. Under the system, electric suppliers would have to buy credits from carbon-free energy producers. Exelon says the plan would benefit nuclear plants, hydroelectric dams, and other solar and wind projects."
Earth

Experts: Aim of 2 Degrees Climate Goal Insufficient 400

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-cool dept.
An anonymous reader points out that a long held goal of keeping the Earth's average temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius might not be good enough. "A long-held benchmark for limiting global warming is 'utterly inadequate,' a leading U.N. climate scientist declared. Keeping the Earth's average temperature from rising past 2 degrees Celsius – a cap established by studies in the early 1970s – is far too loose a goal, Petra Tschakert, a professor at Penn State University and a lead author of an assessment report for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, said in a commentary published in the journal Climate Change Responses. Already, with an average increase of just 0.8 degrees Celsius, she wrote, 'negative impacts' are 'widespread across the globe.' Tschakert called for lowering the warming target to 1.5 degrees Celsius."
Space

SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies 121

Posted by samzenpus
from the try-this-one dept.
An anonymous reader shares this story that takes a look at some of the advances SpaceX is working on. "Getting a small group of human beings to Mars and back is no easy task, we learned at the recent GPU Technology Conference in San Jose hosted graphics chip and accelerator maker Nvidia. One of the problems with such a mission is that you need a very large and efficient rocket engine to get the amount of material into orbit for the mission, explained Adam Lichtl, who is director of research at SpaceX and who with a team of a few dozen programmers is try to crack the particularly difficult task of better simulating the combustion inside of a rocket engine. You need a large engine to shorten the trip to Mars, too....Not only do you need a lot of stuff to get to Mars and sustain a colony there, but you also need a way to generate fuel on Mars to come back to Earth. All of these factors affect the design of the rocket engine....As if these were not problems enough, there is another really big issue. The computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, software that is used to simulate the movement of fluids and gases and their ignition inside of all kinds of engines is particularly bad at assisting in rocket engine design. 'Methane is a fairly simple hydrocarbon that is perfectly good as a fuel,' Lichtl said. 'The challenge here is to design an engine that works efficiently with such a compound. But rocket engine CFD is hard. Really hard.'"
Earth

Ordnance Survey Releases Mapping Tools 18

Posted by samzenpus
from the map-it dept.
rHBa writes The BBC reports that the UK mapping organization Ordnance Survey has added 4 new products to its open data portfolio: OS Local, Names, Rivers and Roads. Perhaps the most interesting of the free data sets is OS Local which provides a base map to identify "hotspots" such as property pricing, insurance risk, and crime. The OS are not creating a new Google Maps-style service of their own but rather are providing their data for use by other third-party apps and online tools. They expect developers and designers to use the data to enhance their own products and improve the information people can access via the web.
Japan

Japan To Build 250-Mile-Long, Four Storey-High Wall To Stop Tsunamis 197

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-wake-zone dept.
An anonymous reader points out this daunting construction plan in Japan. "Japanese authorities have unveiled plans to build a giant 250-mile long sea barrier to protect its coastline from devastating tsunamis. According to the proposals, the £4.6bn ($6.8bn) barrier would reach 12.5m high in some places – stretching taller than a four storey building. It would be made out of cement – and actually be composed of a chain of smaller sea walls to make construction easier. The plan comes four years after a huge tsunami ravaged Japan's north-eastern coast."
Space

Jupiter Destroyed 'Super-Earths' In Our Early Solar System 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the destroyer-of-worlds dept.
sciencehabit writes: If Jupiter and Saturn hadn't formed where they did—and at the sizes they did—as the disk of dust and gas around our sun coalesced, then our solar system would be a very different and possibly more hostile place, new research suggests (abstract). Computer models reveal that in the solar system's first 3 million years or so, gravitational interactions with Jupiter, Saturn, and the gas in the protoplanetary disk would have driven super-Earth–sized planets closer to the sun and into increasingly elliptical orbits. In such paths, a cascade of collisions would have blasted any orbs present there into ever smaller bits, which in turn would have been slowed by the interplanetary equivalent of atmospheric drag and eventually plunged into the sun. As Jupiter retreated from its closest approach to the sun, it left behind the mostly rocky remnants that later coalesced into our solar system's inner planets, including Earth.
Earth

Better Disaster Shelters than FEMA Trailers (Video) 79

Posted by Roblimo
from the they'd-better-have-internet-routers-built-in dept.
An aerospace engineer and Mississippi native named Michael McDaniel "watched helplessly as Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of people out of their homes and into crowded, poorly equipped 'shelters.'" This scenario led to Michael founding Reaction Housing and the creation of its first product, the Exo (as in exoskeleton) shelter. This company isn't holding its hand out for crowdfunding. It got $1.5 million in seed capital in March, 2014, later got another $10 million, and is now going into mass production of its Exo housing units.

Reaction Housing is not the only attempt to make post-disaster housing better, or at least less expensive, than the infamous FEMA trailers. A charity called ShelterBox in Lakewood Ranch, FL, fills boxes with everything a family or group of up to 10 people needs, including a heavy-duty tent, bedding, and kitchen supplies, in order to survive after a natural disaster. (Here's an interview video I shot in 2010 about ShelterBox.) Exo, ShelterBox or any one of dozens of other emergency housing alternatives are good to have around, ready to go, for the next Katrina, Sandy or Tsunami. High tech? Not necessarily, but technology has obviously made emergency housing faster and easier to erect than the "earthquake shacks" that were built in San Francisco to house people made homeless by the 1906 earthquake.
Australia

World's Largest Asteroid Impacts Found In Central Australia 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the call-bruce-willis dept.
schwit1 writes Scientists doing geothermal research in Australia have discovered evidence of what they think is the largest known impact zone from an meteorite on Earth. The zone is thought to be about 250 miles across, and suggests the bolide split in two pieces each about 6 miles across before impact. The uncertainty is that the evidence for this impact is quite tentative: "The exact date of the impacts remains unclear. The surrounding rocks are 300 to 600 million years old, but evidence of the type left by other meteorite strikes is lacking. For example, a large meteorite strike 66 million years ago sent up a plume of ash which is found as a layer of sediment in rocks around the world. The plume is thought to have led to the extinction of a large proportion of the life on the planet, including many dinosaur species. However, a similar layer has not been found in sediments around 300 million years old, Dr Glikson said. 'It's a mystery – we can't find an extinction event that matches these collisions. I have a suspicion the impact could be older than 300 million years,' he said."
Mars

The First Billion-Pixel Mosaic of Mars 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the worth-a-billion-words dept.
StartsWithABang writes In 2012, Mars Science Laboratory performed the first robotically-controlled soft landing of a vehicle of such incredible mass: nearly half a tonne. A few months later, the rover, Curiosity, took the first ever billion-pixel mosaic from the Red Planet's surface, with breathtaking views of the terrain and alternate views of what the soils would look like were they here on Earth. Now in its third year on Mars, Curiosity is roving the low slopes of its ultimate destination: Mount Sharp.
Earth

In Response to Pollution Spike, Paris Temporarily Halves Traffic By Decree 198

Posted by timothy
from the solomonic-wisdom dept.
As reported by News.com.au, the city of Paris has implemented a harsh (but temporary) measure for drivers, in response to a surge in pollution: banning cars with even-numbered registration plates from the streets. According to the article, City mayor Anne Hidalgo had asked authorities to prevent one in every two cars from taking to the capital’s streets and make all public transport temporarily free in a bid to drive down pollution. Only vehicles with numberplates ending in an odd number will be allowed to drive, though exceptions exist for vehicles like taxis, electric cars and ambulances. ... Public transportation is to be free until at least Monday in Paris and its surrounding towns in an effort to force pollution down by coaxing drivers to give up their cars for a few days. Similar emergency measures were last implemented almost exactly a year ago — on March 17 — during a particularly bad spike in the pollution levels.
Earth

Greenpeace Co-Founder Declares Himself a Climate Change Skeptic 573

Posted by timothy
from the but-that's-unpossible dept.
New submitter PensacolaSlick writes that [Patrick Moore a], co-founder of Greenpeace, and seven-year director of Greenpeace International, with other very pro-environmental credentials, has come out with a brief rationale for why he is "skeptical that humans are the main cause of climate change and that it will be catastrophic in the near future." He argues instead that in a historical context, human activity has saved the planet, declaring that "at 400 parts per million, all our food crops, forests, and natural ecosystems are still on a starvation diet for carbon dioxide." (Consider the source, which according to the New York Times is "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism.") Moore breaks with what might be expected of a Greenpeace founder as well in that he is currently chair of Allow Golden Rice.
Earth

Meet the Carolina Butcher, a 9-Foot Crocodile That Walked On Two Legs 45

Posted by timothy
from the you-too-can-taste-like-chicken dept.
HughPickens.com writes Science News reports on the Carolina Butcher, a giant, bipedal reptile that looked a lot like living crocodiles — except it walked on two legs, not four. Carnufex carolinensis is one of the oldest and largest crocodile ancestors identified to date. Its size and stature also suggest that for a time, the Carolina Butcher (named for its menacing features), was one of the top predators in the part of the supercontinent Pangaea that became North America. Past fossil finds show that cousins of ancient crocodiles were vying with the earliest bipedal dinosaurs, called theropods, for the title of top predator in the southern regions of Pangaea but the Carolina Butcher's reign probably ended 201 million years ago when a mass extinction event wiped out most large, land-based predators, clearing the way for dinosaurs to fully dominate during the Jurassic period. Carnufex is one of the most primitive members of the broad category of reptiles called crocodylomorphs, encompassing the various forms of crocs that have appeared on Earth. "As one of the earliest and oldest crocodylomorphs, Carnufex was a far cry from living crocodiles. It was an agile, terrestrial predator that hunted on land," says Lindsay Zanno. "Carnufex predates the group that living crocodiles belong to." Transported back to the Triassic Period, what would a person experience upon encountering this agile, roughly three metre-long, about 1.5 metre-tall beast with a long skull and blade-like teeth? "Abject terror," says Zanno.
Moon

Giant Lava Tubes Possible On the Moon 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-else-would-the-space-worms-hide dept.
schwit1 writes: New analysis of lunar geology combined with gravity data from GRAIL suggests the Moon could harbor lava tubes several miles wide. "David Blair, a graduate student in Purdue's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, led the study that examined whether empty lava tubes more than 1 kilometer wide could remain structurally stable on the moon. 'We found that if lunar lava tubes existed with a strong arched shape like those on Earth, they would be stable at sizes up to 5,000 meters, or several miles wide, on the moon,' Blair said. 'This wouldn't be possible on Earth, but gravity is much lower on the moon and lunar rock doesn't have to withstand the same weathering and erosion. In theory, huge lava tubes – big enough to easily house a city – could be structurally sound on the moon.'" You can read their paper here (PDF). If this is so, then the possibility of huge colonies on the Moon increases significantly, as it will be much easier to build these colonies inside such lava tubes.
Earth

Some Biodegradable Plastics Don't Live Up To Their Claims 98

Posted by timothy
from the ya-don't-say-or-actually-ya-do dept.
ckwu writes From bread bags to beverage bottles, many plastics now contain additives designed to make the materials biodegradable. But a new study shows that plastics made with such additives do not biodegrade in the environment significantly faster than those without the compounds. Researchers prepared films of commercial plastics with three different types of additives supplied by their manufacturers. The researchers then treated the film samples to mimic disposal of such plastics in a compost pile, a landfill, and soil. After about six months of composting, a year and a half of landfill-like conditions, and three years of soil burial, the plastics with additives did not show any more evidence of biodegradation than plastics without them.
Space

Most Powerful Geomagnetic Storm of Solar Cycle 24 Is Happening 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-colors-in-the-sky dept.
astroengine writes: The most powerful solar storm of the current solar cycle is currently reverberating around the globe. Initially triggered by the impact of a coronal mass ejection (CME) hitting our planet's magnetosphere, a relatively mild geomagnetic storm erupted at around 04:30 UT (12:30 a.m. EDT), but it has since ramped-up to an impressive G4-class geomagnetic storm, priming high latitudes for some bright auroral displays.
Power

Deploying Solar In California's Urban Areas Could Meet Demand Five Times Over 437

Posted by Soulskill
from the full-conversion-mods dept.
Lucas123 writes: About 8% of terrestrial surfaces in California have been developed, ranging from cities and buildings to park spaces. If photovoltaic panels, along with concentrating solar power, were more effectively deployed in and around those areas, it could meet between three and five times what California currently uses for electricity, according to a new study. The study from the Carnegie Institution for Science, found that using small- and utility-scale solar power in and around developed areas could generate up to 15,000 terawatt-hours of energy a year using photovoltaic technology, and 6,000 TWh of energy a year using concentrating solar power technology. "Integrating solar facilities into the urban and suburban environment causes the least amount of land-cover change and the lowest environmental impact," post-doctoral environmental earth scientist Rebecca Hernandez said.
NASA

Politics Is Poisoning NASA's Ability To Do Science 416

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretend-to-be-surprised dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait just published an article about how politics is interfering with NASA's ability to perform vital scientific experiments. As expected when we heard that Ted Cruz would be made head of the committee in charge of NASA's funding, the Texas senator is pushing hard for NASA to stop studying Earth itself. Plait writes, "Over the years, NASA has had to beg and scrape to get the relatively small amount of money it gets—less than half a percent of the national budget—and still manages to do great things with it. Cruz is worried NASA's focus needs to be more on space exploration. Fine. Then give them enough money to do everything in their charter: Explore space, send humans there, and study our planet. Whether you think climate change is real or not—and it is— telling NASA they should turn a blind eye to the environment of our own planet is insanity." He concludes, "[T]he politics of funding a government agency is tying NASA in knots and critically endangering its ability to explore."
NASA

NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-magnets-how-do-they-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."
NASA

Russia Abandons Super-Rocket Designed To Compete With SLS 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-about-it dept.
schwit1 writes Russia has decided to abandon an expensive attempt to build an SLS-like super-rocket and will instead focus on incremental development of its smaller but less costly Angara rocket. "Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA's next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency's Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided on Thursday, March 12." For Russia's space industry, it appears that these budgetary pressures have been a blessing in disguise. Rather than waste billions on an inefficient rocket for which there is no commercial demand — as NASA is doing with SLS (under orders from a wasteful Congress) — they will instead work on further upgrades of Angara, much like SpaceX has done with its Falcon family of rockets. This will cost far less, is very efficient, and provides them a better chance to compete for commercial launches that can help pay for it all. And best of all, it offers them the least costly path to future interplanetary missions, which means they might actually be able to make those missions happen. To quote the article again: "By switching upper stages of the existing Angara from kerosene to the more potent hydrogen fuel, engineers might be able to boost the rocket's payload from current 25 tons to 35 tons for missions to the low Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos, Angara-A5V could be used for piloted missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface." In a sense, the race is now on between Angara-A5V and Falcon Heavy.