Submission + - Solar + Storage incroaching on natural gas in energy production (electrek.co)

Socguy writes: The relentless downward march in cost of both solar + battery storage is poised to displace 10GW worth of natural gas peaker plant electricity production in the USA by 2027. Already we are seeing the net cost of combined solar + batteries cheaper than the equivalent natural gas peaker plant. Some particularly aggressive estimates from major energy companies predict that we may not see another natural gas peaker plant built in the USA after 2020. GE has already responded to the weakness in the gas turbine market by laying off 12,000 workers.

Submission + - Author of BrickerBot Malware Retires. Says He Bricked 10 Million IoT Devices (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The author of BrickerBot, the malware that bricks IoT devices, has announced his retirement in an email to Bleeping Computer, also claiming to have bricked over 10 million devices since he started the "Internet Chemotherapy" project in November 2016. Similar to the authors of the Mirai malware, the BrickerBot developer dumped his malware's source code online, allowing other crooks to profit from his code. The code is said to contain at least one zero-day.

In a farewell message left on hundreds of hacked routers, the BrickerBot author also published a list of incidents (ISP downtimes) he caused, while also admitting he is likely to have drawn the attention of law enforcement agencies.

"There's also only so long that I can keep doing something like this before the government types are able to correlate my likely network routes (I have already been active for far too long to remain safe). For a while now my worst-case scenario hasn't been going to jail, but simply vanishing in the middle of the night as soon as some unpleasant government figures out who I am," the hacker said.

Submission + - Patreon rolls back planned fee changes (patreon.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Recently Patreon announced changing their fee structure to make donors cover payment-processing fees. https://tech.slashdot.org/stor... Responding to the huge pushback from users over the planned changes, they have rolled them back and apologized.

Dear creators, From the bottom of our hearts, we’re truly sorry. Last week’s service fee announcement caused a tough week for you, your patrons, and your teams. We were trying to solve a problem for creators and, in turn, caused more problems for you and your patrons. You’ve spoken loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week, and are currently assessing other options. Our CEO & co-founder, Jack, explains more here:

https://blog.patreon.com/not-r...

Submission + - Robots Are Being Used To Shoo Away Homeless People In San Francisco (qz.com)

An anonymous reader writes: San Francisco's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has been ordered by the city to stop using a robot to patrol the sidewalks outside its office, the San Francisco Business Times reported Dec. 8. The robot, produced by Silicon Valley startup Knightscope, was used to ensure that homeless people didn’t set up camps outside of the nonprofit’s office. It autonomously patrols a set area using a combination of Lidar and other sensors, and can alert security services of potentially criminal activity.

In a particularly dystopian move, it seems that the San Francisco SPCA adorned the robot it was renting with stickers of cute kittens and puppies, according to Business Insider, as it was used to shoo away the homeless from near its office. San Francisco recently voted to cut down on the number of robots that roam the streets of the city, which has seen an influx of small delivery robots in recent years. The city said it would issue the SPCA a fine of $1,000 per day for illegally operating on a public right-of-way if it continued to use the security robot outside its premises, the San Francisco Business Times said.

Submission + - 32 Tesla reached in all superconducting magnet (nationalmaglab.org)

ElGuapo2872 writes: TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Long in the habit of smashing records, the National MagLab just chalked up a new one. On Dec. 8, a ground-breaking superconducting magnet designed and built at the lab reached a magnetic field of 32 teslas (a unit of magnetic field strength), a third stronger than the previous record and more than 3,000 times stronger than a small refrigerator magnet.

The feat is important for the new scientific discoveries it will enable and the even stronger superconducting magnets its technology foreshadows.

Made of a combination of conventional “low-temperature” and novel “high-temperature” superconductors, the “32 T” will allow physicists studying materials to explore how electrons interact with each other and their atomic environment, enabling new devices that will shape our world.

YBCO insert for 32T.
The 32 T’s two YBCO coils before being integrated with the low-temperature outer magnet.

For decades, the world record for a superconducting magnet has inched forward incrementally. This single leap is bigger than all the improvements made over the past 40 years combined.

"This is a transformational step in magnet technology, a true revolution in the making," said MagLab Director Greg Boebinger. “Not only will this state-of-the-art magnet design allow us to offer new experimental techniques here at the lab, but it will boost the power of other scientific tools such as X-rays and neutron scattering around the world.”

It has been a remarkable year for the MagLab, noted Boebinger: The 32 T is the third world-record magnet tested in the past 13 months, following a 41.4-tesla resistive magnet tested last summer and the 36-tesla Series Connected Hybrid magnet that reached full field in November 2016.

“We’re on a roll,” said Boebinger.

The new magnet represents a milestone in high-temperature superconductivity, a phenomenon that made a tremendous stir in the science community when it was first discovered 31 years ago.

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with perfect efficiency (unlike copper, in which electrons encounter lots of friction). So-called “low-temperature” superconductors, discovered a century ago, work only in extremely cold environments and generally stop working inside magnetic fields higher than about 25 teslas. That constraint has limited the strength of superconducting magnets.

But in 1986 scientists discovered the first high-temperature superconductors, which not only work at warmer temperatures but — more importantly for magnet designers and scientists — also keep working in very high magnetic fields.

Three decades later, the new 32-tesla magnet is one of the first major applications to come out of that Nobel Prize-winning discovery.

Installing the 32-telsa magnet.
The 32 T is lowered into its cryostat, which keeps the instrument at a very cold operating temperature.

The 32 T was built using low-temperature superconductors made by industry partner Oxford Instruments and a high-temperature superconductor called YBCO, composed of yttrium, barium, copper and oxygen, made by SuperPower Inc. MagLab scientists and engineers worked for years to develop the tricky material, which is electrically and mechanically completely different than low-temperature superconductors. New techniques had to be developed for insulating, reinforcing and de-energizing the system.

For all its record-breaking impact, the 32 T is just the beginning, said MagLab engineer Huub Weijers, who oversaw its construction.

"We've opened up an enormous new realm," said Weijers. "I don't know what that limit is, but it's beyond 100 teslas. The required materials exist. It's just technology and dollars that are between us and 100 teslas."

As a superconducting magnet, the 32 T features a very stable, homogenous field suitable for sensitive experiments. Combining strength and stability, it offers researchers the best of both worlds.

"The new system, and the magnets that will follow, will give scientists access to insights never before possible," said physicist Laura Greene, the MagLab's chief scientist. "We expect it to break new ground in a variety of research areas. Physicists are especially excited about advances in quantum matter, which features new and technologically important ultra-thin materials, as well as exotic new states of matter in topological materials and complex magnetic materials.”

Eight years in the making, the new instrument is expected to be available to visiting scientists in the next year. As with all magnets at the lab, scientists from across the world can apply to use it to explore new physics, chemistry and biology related to materials, health and energy. Through funding provided by the National Science Foundation and the State of Florida, researchers are able to do their experiments here for free. Scientists interested in learning more about the 32 T’s capabilities or applying to use it should contact DC Field Facility Director Tim Murphy.

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