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Earth

World's Largest Solar Power Plant Planned For Chernobyl Nuclear Wasteland (electrek.co) 109

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Electrek: Chernobyl, the world's most famous and hazardous nuclear meltdown, is being considered for the world's largest solar power plant. Even though nearly 1,600 square miles of land around Chernobyl has radiation levels too high for human health, Ukraine's ecology minister has said in a recent interview that two U.S. investment firms and four Canadian energy companies have expressed interest in Chernobyl's solar potential. Electrek reports: "According to PVTech, the Ukrainian government is pushing for a 6 month construction cycle. Deploying this amount of solar power within such a time frame would involve significant resources being deployed. The proposed 1GW solar plant, if built today, would be the world's largest. There are several plans for 1GW solar plants in development (Egypt, India, UAE, China, etc) -- but none of them have been completed yet. One financial benefit of the site is that transmission lines for Chernobyl's 4GW nuclear reactor are still in place. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has stated they would be interested in participating in the project, 'so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank's satisfaction.'"
NASA

Class of Large But Very Dim Galaxies Discovered (nature.com) 73

schwit1 writes from a report via Nature: Astronomers have now detected and measured a new class of large but very dim galaxy that previously was not expected to exist. Nature reports: "'[Ultradiffuse]' galaxies came to attention only last year, after Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto in Canada built an array of sensitive telephoto lenses named Dragonfly. The astronomers and their colleagues observed the Coma galaxy cluster 101 megaparsecs (330 million light years) away and detected 47 faint smudges. 'They can't be real,' van Dokkum recalls thinking when he first saw the galaxies on his laptop computer. But their distribution in space matched that of the cluster's other galaxies, indicating that they were true members. Since then, hundreds more of these galaxies have turned up in the Coma cluster and elsewhere. Ultradiffuse galaxies are large like the Milky Way -- which is much bigger than most -- but they glow as dimly as mere dwarf galaxies. It's as though a city as big as London emitted as little light as Kalamazoo, Michigan." More significantly, they have now found that these dim galaxies can be as big and as massive as the biggest bright galaxies, suggesting that there are a lot more stars and mass hidden out there and unseen than anyone had previously predicted.
Power

A Look Inside Tesla's $5 Billion Gigafactory (cnet.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: A joint effort between Tesla and Panasonic, the Gigafactory is a $5 billion project that will create the world's premier battery manufacturing facility. The Gigafactory will not only be physically larger than any other cell-packing plant on the planet, it'll produce more batteries than the entire industry did back in 2013. That's a lot of batteries, enough to meet Tesla's 500,000-per-year manufacturing goals -- and potentially even more. When completed, the factory will cover five million square feet of the desert floor just outside of Reno, Nevada. Right now, the uncompleted but already-operational factory sits on 800,000 square feet. Over the next four years the building will grow and grow again, swelling to its full size while production dials up simultaneously. The roof will be covered in solar panels, with the goal of producing enough electricity to power the entire thing. Tesla is already assembling Powerwall units here, but the first Model 3 battery packs are expected to roll off the line by the middle of next year. From there, Tesla will have to scale quickly to meet the company's Model 3 production goals for 2018. And, once the company does, the cost savings will begin. The "Tesla Gigafactory Tour" video can also be viewed on YouTube via Roadshow.
Australia

Australia Has Moved 1.5 Metres, So It's Updating Its Location For Self-Driving Cars (cnet.com) 125

An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: Australia is changing from "down under" to "down under and across a bit". The country is shifting its longitude and latitude to fix a discrepancy with global satellite navigation systems. Government body Geoscience Australia is updating the Geocentric Datum of Australia, the country's national coordinate system, to bring it in line with international data. The reason Australia is slightly out of whack with global systems is that the country moves about 7 centimetres (2.75 inches) per year due to the shifting of tectonic plates. Since 1994, when the data was last recorded, that's added up to a misalignment of about a metre and a half. While that might not seem like much, various new technology requires location data to be pinpoint accurate. Self-driving cars, for example, must have infinitesimally precise location data to avoid accidents. Drones used for package delivery and driverless farming vehicles also require spot-on information.ABC has more details.
Earth

Study: Astronauts Who Reach Deep Space 'Far More Likely To Die From Heart Disease' (independent.co.uk) 156

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Astronauts who venture into deep space appear to be much more likely to die from heart disease, according to a new study. In another sign that leaving planet Earth is fraught with danger and a potential blow to hopes of establishing a colony on Mars, researchers discovered deep space radiation appears to damage the body's cardiovascular system. They reported that three out of the seven dead Apollo astronauts died as a result of a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke. Although the numbers are small, that rate of 43 percent is four to five times higher than found among astronauts who flew in low Earth orbit or who did not actually go into space, according to a paper in the journal Scientific Reports. In an attempt to test whether the higher numbers of cardiovascular deaths were simply a statistical blip or a genuine sign of the effect of traveling into deep space, the scientists exposed mice to the same type of radiation that the astronauts would have experienced. After six months, which is the equivalent of 20 human years, the mice showed damage to arteries that is known to lead to the development of cardiovascular disease in humans.
Medicine

E-Cigarettes Emit Toxic Vapors, Says Study (upi.com) 304

An anonymous reader quotes a report from UPI: All electronic cigarettes emit harmful chemicals, and levels of those toxic compounds are affected by factors such as temperature, type and age of the device, a new study finds. In laboratory tests, scientists found that the heat-related breakdown of propylene glycol and glycerin -- two solvents found in most e-cigarette liquids -- causes emissions of toxic chemicals such as acrolein, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. All three are either respiratory irritants or carcinogens, the investigators said. The researchers also found that levels of harmful chemicals in e-cigarette vapor increase between the first few puffs and later puffs as the device gets hotter, and with each use of the device.The new study was published July 27 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. "Advocates of e-cigarettes say emissions are much lower than from conventional cigarettes, so you're better off using e-cigarettes," study corresponding author Hugo Destaillats said in a Berkeley news release. "I would say, that may be true for certain users -- for example, long-time smokers that cannot quit -- but the problem is, it doesn't mean that they're healthier. Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy," he explained. The FDA will start regulating e-cigarettes like tobacco on August 8, 2016.
Earth

ULA Interns Launch Record-Breaking 50-Foot Rocket (space.com) 79

schwit1 writes: A team of United Launch Alliance (ULA) interns, working in their spare time, have successfully launched the largest model rocket every built. Space.com reports: "On Sunday (July 24), ULA launched the 50-foot-tall (15.24 meters) Future Heavy rocket out of Fort Carson Army Post, breaking the record for 'the largest sport rocket launched anywhere in the world,' according to a statement from ULA. The Future Heavy is also notable because it was built entirely by company interns and their mentors. 'We like [our interns] to have a very realistic experience,' ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno told Space.com at the Space Symposium meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last April." Calling it a "model rocket" really isn't fair. The thing is big, and really ranks up there with many of the suborbital rockets NASA used to routinely fly out of Wallops Island. [The fact that] ULA has provided support for this effort again suggests that the leadership of Bruno is reshaping the company into a much more innovative and competitive company.
Democrats

Tech Takes Its K-12 CS Education and Immigration Crisis To the DNC (cnet.com) 118

theodp writes: In early 2013, Code.org and FWD.us coincidentally emerged after Microsoft suggested tech's agenda could be furthered by creating a crisis linking U.S. kids' lack of computer science savvy to tech's need for tech worker visas. Three years later, CNET's Marguerite Reardon reports that tech took its K-12 computer science and immigration crisis to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, where representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon called for the federal government to invest in more STEM education and reform immigration policies -- recurring themes the industry hopes to influence in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. "We believe in the importance of high-skilled immigration coupled with investments in education," said Microsoft President Brad Smith, repeating the Microsoft National Talent Strategy. The mini-tech conference also received some coverage in the New Republic, where David Dayen argues that the DNC is one big corporate bride.
Businesses

Tesla and Autopilot Supplier Mobileye Split Up After Fatal Crash (usatoday.com) 127

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Tesla and Mobileye, one of the top suppliers to its Autopilot partial self-driving system, are parting ways in the wake of the May accident that killed an owner of one of its electric Model S sedans. Mobileye is considered a leader in developing the equipment that will be needed for fully self-driving cars. The Israeli tech company will continue to support and maintain current Tesla products, including upgrades that should help the Autopilot system with crash avoidance and to better allow the car to steer itself, said Chairman Amnon Shashua in releasing the company's second-quarter earnings Tuesday. Shashua said moving cars to higher levels of self-driving capability "is a paradigm shift both in terms of function complexity and the need to ensure an extremely high level of safety." He added there is "much at stake" in terms of Mobileye's reputation, and that it is best to end the relationship with Tesla by the end of the year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, meeting with reporters at the company's new battery Gigafactory outside Reno, indicated that Tesla can go forward without Mobileye. "Us parting ways was somewhat inevitable. There's nothing unexpected here from our standpoint," Musk said. "We're committed to autonomy. They'll go their way, and we'll go ours."
Earth

Hyperloop One Announces Opening of Its First Manufacturing Plant (techcrunch.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Hyperloop One is today announcing the opening of its first manufacturing plant. Called Hyperloop One Metalworks, the 105,000 square-foot building in North Las Vegas will be the new professional home of many of the company's 170 employees, including engineers, machinists and welders. These folks will build and test a number of components for the DevLoop, a full-system prototype of the Hyperloop, set for testing in 2017. The project, if successful, promises a half-hour travel time between Stockholm and Helsinki, which is the equivalent of about 300 miles. The company plans to have a working prototype of the Hyperloop by 2017 thanks to this new plant."Hyperloop One Metalworks is the first Hyperloop manufacturing plant in the world," said co-founder and President of Engineering Josh Giegel in a press release. "The ability to have a world-class machine shop in-house gives us an advantage to build rapidly and develop the Hyperloop in real-time."
Medicine

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Funding Leads To New Genetic Findings (yahoo.com) 33

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers are crediting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a fundraiser for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that went viral in 2014, for funding a new study that has possibly identified a common gene that contributes to the nervous system disease. Yahoo reports via Good Morning America: "In a study published in The Nature Genetics Journal, researchers from various institutions, including the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University Medical Center Utrecht, identified the gene NEK1 as a common gene that could have an impact on who develops the disease. Variants of the gene appear to lead to increased risk of developing ALS, according to preliminary findings. Researchers in 11 countries studied 1,000 families in which a family member developed ALS and conducted a genome-wide search for any signs that a gene could be leading to increased ALS risk. After identifying the NEK1 gene, they also analyzed 13,000 individuals who had developed ALS despite no family history and found they had variants in that same gene, again linking that gene with increased ALS risk. Starting in the summer of 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge led to 17 million videos made and $220 million raised, according to the ALS Association -- $115 million of which went to the association."
Government

Florida Regulators OK Plan To Increase Toxins In Water (washingtontimes.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Times: Despite the objection of environmental groups, state environmental regulators voted Tuesday to approve new standards that will increase the amount of cancer-causing toxins allowed in Florida's rivers and streams under a plan the state says will protect more Floridians than current standards. The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 to approve a proposal that would increase the number of regulated chemicals from 54 to 92 allowed in rivers, streams and other sources of drinking water, news media outlets reported. The Miami Herald reports that under the proposal, acceptable levels of toxins will be increased for more than two dozen known carcinogens and decreased for 13 currently regulated chemicals. State officials back the plan because it places new rules on 39 other chemicals that are not currently regulated. The standards still must be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the Scott administration came under withering criticism for pushing the proposal at this time. That's because there are two vacancies on the commission, including one for a commissioner who is supposed to represent the environmental community.
Television

Subscribers Pay 61 Cents Per Hour of Cable, But Only 20 Cents Per Hour of Netflix (allflicks.net) 174

An anonymous reader writes from a math-heavy report via AllFlicks: The folks at AllFlicks decided to crunch some numbers to determine just how much more expensive cable is than Netflix. They answered the question: how much does Netflix cost per hour of content viewed, and how does that compare with cable's figures? AllFlicks reports: "We know from Netflix's own numbers that Netflix's more than 75 million users stream 125 million hours of content every day. So that's (roughly) 100 minutes per user, per day. Using the price of Netflix's most popular plan ($9.99) and a 30-day month, we can say that the average user is paying about 0.33 cents per minute of content, or 20 cents an hour. Not bad! But what about cable? Well, Nielsen tells us that the average American adult cable subscriber watches 2,260 minutes of TV per week (including timeshifted TV). That's equivalent to 5.38 hours per day, or 161.43 hours per 30-day month. Thanks to Leichtman Research, we know that the average American pays $99.10 per month for cable TV. That means that subscribers are paying a whopping 61.4 cents per hour to watch cable TV -- more than three times as much as users pay per hour of Netflix!"
Biotech

'Sister Clones' Of Dolly The Sheep Have Aged Like Any Other Sheep, Study Says (npr.org) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: About four years ago, Kevin Sinclair inherited an army of clones. "Daisy, Debbie, Denise and Diana," says Sinclair, a developmental biologist at the University of Nottingham in England. "'Sister clones' probably best describes them," Sinclair says. "They actually come from the exactly the same batch of cells that Dolly came from." In an article out Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, Sinclair and his colleagues write that the ewes' age, along with their strapping health, might be a reason for people to start feeling more optimistic about what cloning can do. Dolly's life did not turn out as scientists in the cloning field hoped it would. She died young -- 6 1/2 -- with a nasty lung virus. "That was really just bad luck," Sinclair says, and had "nothing to do" with the fact that Dolly was a clone. It was a daunting concept for those in the cloning field, because, says Sinclair, "If you're going to create these animals, they should be normal in every respect. They should be just as healthy as any other animal that's conceived naturally. If that is not the case, then it raises serious ethical and welfare concerns about creating these animals in the first place." But, the good health of the 13 clones in the Nottingham herd suggest better prospects for the procedure. Sinclair and his colleagues evaluated the animals' blood pressure, metabolism, heart function, muscles and joints, looking for signs of premature aging. They even fattened them up (since obesity is a risk factor for metabolic problems including diabetes) and gave them the standard tests to gauge how their bodies would handle glucose and insulin. The results? Normal, normal, normal. "There is nothing to suggest that these animals were anything other than perfectly normal," says Sinclair. They had slight signs of arthritis (Debbie in particular), but not enough to cause problems. "If I put them in with a bunch of other sheep, you would never be able to identify them," he says.
Software

Tesla Model S In Fatal Autopilot Crash Was Going 74 MPH In a 65 Zone, NTSB Says (latimes.com) 601

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: The Tesla car involved in a fatal crash in Florida this spring was in Autopilot mode and going about 10 miles faster than the speed limit, according to safety regulators, who also released a picture of the mangled vehicle. Earlier reports had stated the Tesla Model S struck a big rig while traveling on a divided highway in central Florida, and speculated that the Tesla Autopilot system had failed to intervene in time to prevent the collision. The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Tuesday that confirms some details of the May 7 collision, along with a photo that shows the car with its windshield flattened and most of its roof sheared off. The federal agency also included a photo of the big rig, circling an area on the right side of the tractor-trailer that showed the light damage the truck received from the collision. The 2015 Model S was moving at 74 mph, above the posted 65 mph speed limit, when it struck a 53-foot trailer being pulled by a Freightliner Cascadia truck. Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot driving feature was engaged, the report says.

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