ambermichelle writes: In 1955, Dr. Leo Steg, the manager of the General Electric Space Sciences Laboratory, predicted that space exploration would lead to improvements in weather forecasting, missiles and lunar colonies. See what else he thought would happen.
ambermichelle writes: Imagine getting up in the morning and seeing the decorations in the halls of your home flutter, shiver and convulse as you walk to the coffee machine. A coating on the walls would lock the carbon dioxide you exhale into carbonate salt and change color as you passed, as if it could “smell and taste” your presence. Such a structure existed, in a limited form, for three months in 2010 at the installation “Hylozoic Ground” at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Architect Philip Beesley and cybernetic engineer Rob Gorbet created a jungle-like environment suffused with protocells – chemical systems made from oil and an alkaline solution – that behave in surprising ways. Rachel Armstrong, the co-director of AVATAR (Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research) specializing in Architecture and Synthetic Biology at the University of Greenwich, London, would like to make these houses commonplace.
ambermichelle writes: Our dreams of commercial space travel are suffused with a sense of wonder: we’re willing to pay hundreds of thousands to visit suborbital space long enough to see the curvature of the Earth and enjoy weightlessness before returning to our origin. But for private space ventures, the ability to take passengers to the edge of space opens up a more conventional, and lucrative, possibility: a 6,800-mile New York-to-Tokyo flight that lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours instead of the 12-14 hours that it takes on today’s long-haul aircraft.
ambermichelle writes: Outer space is a hostile environment for humans, characterized by an airless vacuum, thermal extremes, ionizing radiation and speeding micrometeoroids. Less well-known are the dangers posed by long-term exposure to microgravity or zero-g conditions, which over time severely saps the strength of astronauts’ muscles and bones. Several researchers are working to develop new spacesuit designs that could help counteract these threats as well as avoid some of the familiar drawbacks of current spacesuit models such as bulk, weight and rigidity.
ambermichelle writes: If 2012 is the year that commercial space flight takes off, it’s also the year that we need to start worrying about the climate impact of space flight. But, like space, our knowledge of the subject is largely void, since there’s relatively little private activity in space. However, a 2010 study of the topic in the journal Geophysical Research Letters presented a grim picture: the authors found that 1,000 private launches a year into space could, over a decade, have the same climate change impacts of the entire commercial aircraft fleet.
ambermichelle writes: This summer, London will stage what it has pledged would be the most sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games in history. GE, a London 2012 sponsor and Sustainability Partner, just released the results of a new report that underscore how the experience of hosting the Games can inform the public how we tackle societal challenges—in transportation, energy, infrastructure and healthcare. Prepping for and hosting the Games, in fact, offers a unique, real-life laboratory for testing different approaches to solving big problems. In that sense, the closing ceremony this summer will mark a beginning, not an end, as lessons learned from London’s approach towards building, moving, powering and curing the mini-world of the Games will be applied to the larger world.
The GE report, From Stadium to Street: What Could We Learn from Staging the Games, is based on in-depth interviews with leading experts in relevant specialties, like sustainability, healthcare, energy, construction and architecture, and with technologists and futurologists (that’s right, futurologists!). The report’s authors also gauged public opinion in London and in Rio de Janeiro, the host city of the 2016 Games.
ambermichelle writes: The demise of the Space Shuttle program last year brought plenty of hand-wringing over the future of manned space flight and our ability to do something as simple as getting Tang to the International Space Station. But as veteran space watchers James Oberg and Leonard David both noted, 2012 should be the year commercial space flight really takes off.
Some companies, such as the joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture United Launch Alliance, have been doing commercial launches for five years while others, such as Space Adventures, have been placing wealthy customers in Russian vehicles to create one-of-a-kind tourist experiences. But hot on the heels of these pioneers are companies who are looking to move cargo, satellites, astronauts and tourists at a fraction of the cost of NASA’s missions in a series of innovative vehicles like Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, the Lynx from XCOR Aerospace and SpaceX’s Falcon and Dragon programs. Throw in some wild cards, like Excalibur Almaz, and you’ve got a bona fide space race.
ambermichelle writes: Last week, the European Space Agency released its report on the crash of Russia’s ill-fated Phobos-Grunt probe on Jan. 15. In it, the ESA came to the same conclusion as the other major space players: all pieces of the probe, which was bound for one of Mars’s moons, fell safely into the Pacific Ocean. But this consensus isn’t reasonable at all. Instead, a sound analysis of the data by space debris experts suggests that although most of the debris did plunge into the Pacific Ocean, other debris may have fallen onto regions of Chile and possibly Argentina.
ambermichelle writes: The Global Innovation Barometer, which GE brought to Davos this week, confirmed that crowdsourcing and collaboration have become potent tools for stimulating new ideas. GE ought to know. Its $100 million healthymagination challenge, which seeks to advance early breast cancer diagnostic technology, netted over 500 ideas submitted by thousands of students, researchers, businesses and other innovators. This week, they brought their crowdsourcing abilities to the Sundance Film Festival.
ambermichelle writes: Since the time of Edison, the solution to increased demand for power has been to build more power plants. But not only is it impractical to continue building expensive and unpopular generating capacity, it is increasingly straining antiquated and inefficient electricity grids. Rather than build both capacity and transmission, a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative has proposed an ambitious “third-way” that pushes for the deployment of tens of thousands of megawatts installed on millions of residential and commercial buildings.
ambermichelle writes: Imagine a car that could go 300 miles – that’s Chicago to St. Louis – on battery power. That’s not possible today. “We need batteries that last longer, charge quickly and are inexpensive,” says ecologist Joe Fargione of The Nature Conservancy, an expert on the environmental impacts of biofuels, another transportation fuel alternative. “With that [electrification of cars] would be relatively simple. The rest of the technology is there.”
ambermichelle writes: Grand Ridge, Illinois, population 550, is a small village in the Corn Belt flatlands stretching south and west of Chicago. The weather in Grand Ridge swings just outside the American average. Winters are windy and mostly overcast, while the summer months tend to be calmer and sunnier. All this makes Grand Ridge the perfect place for a new energy project that aligns wind and solar farms to generate a more reliable source of renewable power. The idea is that when the long nights set in and the breeze kicks up, wind power will replace idled solar capacity. The reverse will occur during long and radiant summer days. “We’ve built 30 gigawatts of wind farms so adding solar is a good utilization of assets,” Vic Abate, vice president of GE’s Renewable Energy business told Forbes last week.
ambermichelle writes: In late November 2011, NASA’s Curiosity rover was loaded into an Atlas V rocket and sent on its merry way to Mars. Armed to the teeth with an impressive array of scientific equipment, Curiosity will examine the Martian surface for signs of life. This is not going to be an easy task. Our illustrator looks at the challenges that Curiosity could face.
ambermichelle writes: A couple of years ago, I took part in a land-use seminar in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of the speakers was Michael Dukakis, the state’s former governor and the 1988 Democratic candidate for president. Dukakis’s topic, about which he has been evangelical, was high-speed rail — trains that travel fast enough to compete not just with cars but also, often, with airplanes. Like other proponents, including President Obama, Dukakis spoke of fast trains as a commonsense green solution to some of the country’s energy and emissions problems, as well as a job creator and promoter of economic health.
ambermichelle writes: Ovens can’t text us to say we forgot to turn them off and refrigerators can only bleet gently when they’re left open. But soon, they’ll have the ability to talk to their owners and each other.
The next big thing in the home is dishwashers, refrigerators and water heaters that can communicate with each other and homeowners in real time. These chirping machines – many of which are already in our homes – are equipped with wireless communications that broadcast over a small area, a technology General Electric calls Brillion. But they need a hub for their communications.
That’s where GE’s Nucleus home energy management system comes in. The device connects to all of the appliances in a home, allowing them to talk to one another, saving historical usage patterns and passing messages to users.