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Electricity from Snow?

Scientists from the United States have developed a technology that allows you to receive electricity from snow. The device can be installed permanently, or attached to a bicycle wheel or shoe sole.

In 2019, it is difficult to surprise anyone with solar or wind power stations, electric energy recovery systems in electric vehicles or wireless charging systems which can recharge a smartphone.

However, researchers from California have gone further and created a technology that allows electricity to be generated directly from the snow. According to Science Alert, Nanotech Energy has developed a device that can generate electricity from contact with snow.

The system became possible due to the triboelectric effect i.e. the creation of an electric charge created by friction generated between certain materials. The smallest particles of snow carry a positive electrical charge, and scientists needed to use a suitable negatively charged material to create electricity. Silicon turned out to be such a material.

The device that the company developed is called a Triboelectric Nanogenerator (TENG). Nanotech Energy printed the main electrode on a 3D printer and used silicon as the triboelectric layer that collects electricity.

It is reported that with the help of such a device it is possible to produce electricity both from simple snowfall as well as by attaching the electrode to vehicles or clothing.

A chemist at the University of California explained that static electricity comes from one material that can attract electrons and another material that can give them away. “In this way, you can create electricity out of thin air.”

True, there’s not so much “electricity from nothing”: TENG can generate an instantaneous electromagnetic energy density of up to 0.2 mW/m2, open circuit voltage up to 8 Volts and current density up to 40 μA/m2. In comparison, for bright room lighting, you need an incandescent lamp with an electromagnetic energy density of 20 W/m2.

Nanotech Energy suggests using TENG as a small weather station for real-time weather monitoring, which will be able to provide information on snowfall speed, rainfall, wind direction, etc. In addition, the device can be something like a fitness bracelet for athletes in winter sports, and help them track the movement of the body and its performance.

However, Science Alert also writes that in the future, TENG could be installed in solar panels and used during snowfalls when solar activity is not so high. Given that about 46 million square kilometers of the Earth’s surface are subject to snowfall every year, this technology has a chance of scale and growth.

Harnessing electricity from snow by the triboelectric effect is not the first such technology of its kind. Previously, researchers also showed devices that can produce electricity from rain, physical movements, friction of car tires, and walking on a wooden surface.

Porsche and Boeing are working on a flying car concept

Porsche automaker and aircraft manufacturer Boeing announce work on a flying car concept. Both companies see this niche as a potential market, particularly in the context of urban air taxis.

Porsche and Boeing have joined forces by signing a memorandum of understanding to address the case of urban flying. The signing took place on October 10th.

Both companies will create a vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) concept, which will lead to a working prototype design. These efforts indicate that the future of transport is soon going to revolutionize and it’s no more a far-fetched idea to make air travel available for everyone as a luxury.

There are other companies inspired by the idea too. The group RATP and Airbus are studying the integration of autonomous flying vehicles in urban transport.

Aerial urban mobility is at the heart of car manufacturers’ concerns. While the Japanese company Hyundai has just announced the creation of a specific division, and the Chinese investing in the German start-up Volocopter in early September, it is the turn of Porsche to position itself. On Thursday, October 10, 2019, the German manufacturer unveiled a collaboration with aircraft manufacturer Boeing to study the development of a flying car.

Porsche requires it to be a luxury vehicle, which would take off and land vertically (VTOL) and use electric motors. A team of international researchers will be set up to analyze the potential of this future market and imagine the first cases of use.

ANTICIPATING ACCELERATION IN 2025

This agreement recalls the one between the Europeans’ Audi and Airbus, who are developing a similar concept. Why such an interest? A study conducted by Porsche in 2018 shows an acceleration in urban air mobility from 2025 because it is faster and more efficient compared to the current terrestrial transport means. This would paradoxically cost more to produce and exploit, while being less flexible in uses.

“Porsche is looking to expand its business by becoming a flagship brand of premium mobility, which could mean, in the longer term, the need to address the third dimension in our travels,” Detlev von Platen said in a statement. “We combine the strengths of two of the leading companies in the sector to position ourselves in a key potential market in the future.”

For his part, Boeing NeXt’s vice president and general manager, Steve Nordlung, said, “Together, Porsche and Boeing can think of innovative technologies and design, to boost the air-to-air urban mobility world”. However, this is not the first attempt that the American aircraft manufacturer has made in this area. Since 2016, Boeing have participated in the Uber Elevate flying taxi project, whose first prototypes will take off during 2020.

There are several of flying car prototypes in the testing phase. Kitty Hawk is perfecting several, and Uber expects to make the Uber Air service a reality very soon.

Humans Produce More CO2 Than Volcanoes

Every year, humanity releases 100 times more carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere than all the volcanoes on the planet together. This is one of the key findings of a study of carbon stocks in the world that the Deep Carbon Observatory has conducted over the past decade. According to Newsweek, scientists have estimated that there are 1.85 billion gigatons of carbon on Earth. It exists in various forms in soil, in gases and in liquids. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans accounts for 1% of the total matter reserves, that is 43,500 gigatons.

“Carbon, the basis of all living forms and an important source of energy for humanity, is moving across the planet from the mantle to the atmosphere. To maintain a stable future, it is imperative that we understand the full carbon cycle”, said Marie Edmondson of the University of Cambridge, who participated in the DCO program.

One of the mechanisms how carbon enters the Earth’s atmosphere is provided by volcanoes. Magma contains dissolved gases, including carbon dioxide. When a volcano erupts, these substances enter the atmosphere.

The DCO team found that every year, due to the activities of people, 40-100 times more carbon dioxide rises into the air than all the volcanoes on the planet. According to scientists, volcanoes and other magmatic processes spew about 300-400 million tons of carbon dioxide. The publication recalls that mass extinctions are associated with the eruption of volcanoes on Earth, in particular the one that happened 252 million years ago. Then 96% of marine species on the planet died.

Atmospheric CO2 exceeded 415 parts per million for the first time in history. Specifically, it has reached 415.26 parts per million according to the records. Remember that the consensus among experts puts the “safe” limit at 350 ppm.

However, as usual when we talk about climate change, the problem is not the concentration, but the trend. To get an idea, when scientists started recording in 1959, the figures were at 315 ppm and most of the growth has occurred in recent years. According to the United States Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), three of the four largest increases in atmospheric CO2 have occurred in the last four years.

Although, in a way, we are getting used to this type of news, put in perspective the figures give vertigo. As Eric Holthaus explained, we humans have never known a world like this. We have to go back many years in time to find similar CO2 concentrations: about three million years according to the most precise models.

And as the World Meteorological Organization pointed out at the end of 2018, “there are no indications of investment in this trend, which is triggering long-term climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and a greater number of phenomena extreme weather”.

Therefore, it is much better understood how it is possible that the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity (IPBES) stated that more than one million species were at risk of extinction due to pollution and climate change.

Human Brain Robots

We have all seen countless movies in which robots take over the world and wipe out humanity, where robots behave like humans and form a whole force to fight against the beings that created them. Most of us didn’t really believe that one day, robots that behave like humans, would actually become real. Until now. Scientists have been able to make tiny human brains and hook them up to robots! For many, it is still unbelievable, but scientists are actually moving closer and closer to creating life in a laboratory.

The steps that have been taken are just the beginning and there is a very long way to go until scientists are able to completely replicate a human brain and successfully implant it into a metal body.

Scientists have been able to come up with ways to make robots behave like humans. They were able to produce organoids which generate brain waves that could show signs of consciousness, and reproduce qualities of the human brain like being capable of sentience (capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively) and of feeling pain, agony and distress.

It all started at the University of California, San Diego lab, of biologist Alysson Muotri, where the scientists used stem cells to grow organoids. These are tiny, self-organized three-dimensional tissue cultures. These organoids were then packed into a box and shipped to space to see how they develop in a zero gravity environment. As said by Muotri, they are most likely ‘replicating like crazy’ in space. It was then observed that the organoids produced were giving off brain waves or complex designs of neural activities. As the organoids matured, it was observed that they showed changes in the brain waves, similar to the changes that take place in the developing brain of a premature baby. This peculiar finding is forcing the scientists to revisit the limitations of lab-grown mini-organs and the ethical issues surrounding them.

To proceed with the experiment, Dr. Muotri hooked the mini brains up onto a spider-shaped robot in order to study the neural activity. The results that he got from this could possibly prove that scientists are now able to generate partially conscious life in a laboratory.

Dr. Muotri emphasized the fact that these are just clusters of replicating brain cells, not actual brains. Another point to state is that the mini brains barely scratch the surface of a human brain’s capabilities. The human brain is immensely complex, whereas the mini-brains are just a simple ball of neurons. But, of course, creating these simple balls of neurons, somewhat similar to the human brain, was also once believed to be an impossible task.

As the scientists agree, there is a long way to go to make human brain robots a success in the world of science and technology. But, this is also a huge landmark and many scientist across the globe are experimenting with and are hopeful that this research will not stop here.

Airships

Traveling by air is the fastest and safest mode of traveling. Today, it has become the most frequently used mode of travel, but long before commercial airplanes flew, the skies were dominated by Airships. Airships, as the name suggests, were tremendous in size and flew passengers locally. In terms of design, they consisted of a huge balloon-like structure which received its lift through gasbags. The gasbags generally contained helium but since it wasn’t cheap and an excessive amount of gas was required to keep the airship in the sky, Helium was later replaced with a much cheaper alternative; hydrogen which was notoriously known for being flammable.

There are three types of Airships, classed by structure – they are rigid airships, semi-rigid airships and non-rigid airships. The non-rigid airships have no structural framework and retain their shape solely by internal pressure. The rigid airships have a structural framework in addition to the gasbags. While the semi-rigid airship combines the structural properties of both rigid and non-rigid airships. Rigid airships were the most frequently used and had a better safety record. First flown by the German General Count Zeppelin, the rigid airships soon received a new name and were all referred to as the Zeppelin.

Developed in 1893, Zeppelin wasn’t commercially flown until the 19th century when a German airline took off carrying passengers in 1910. 4 years later and the airline had already completed more than one thousand flights carrying over ten thousand passengers. By then airships were being used commercially as a mode of travel on a larger scale. Apart from commercial uses, Zeppelins played a crucial role for Germany in World War 1. Used as bombers and deployers, Airships had proved to be useful for both military and commercial travel. This all changed when a German airship carrying 97 onboard abruptly caught fire on May 6th, 1937 in New Jersey, killing almost 37 people. This, along with a number of other incidents, took away people’s faith and marked the end of airships and the beginning of commercial airplanes on a broad scale which were much safer and faster and could fly internationally.

Now, almost 80 years later, airships are almost unheard of. However, a team of Austrian scientists are currently proposing an airship ten times greater than the Hindenburg for the sole purpose of carrying cargo. This new and unique airship will be capable of lifting more than 20,000 tons of cargo across land and sea. Furthermore, wind speeds at high altitudes can easily cross 150+ kilometers. Using this airspeed could allow the airship to travel around the world in just 14 days. As well as carrying cargo much faster than ships on the same route. Of course, the incident of Hindenburg is the first thing that comes to mind when talking about airships and safety. In this in mind, scientists propose to use carbon fiber as a durable framework as well as automating them so even if an incident is met, there is no loss of life.

Water Discovered On Another Planet

The universe we live in is vast beyond our wildest imagination, we know that it is infinite and the planet we live on is the only planet suited for life. But, Earth is just one of billions of planets that thrive in the vast universe.

To believe that Earth is the only planet suited to support life amongst is foolish. For years intellectuals have argued that there may exist a planet with conditions somewhat similar to Earth on which life could bloom but so far we have been unable to find it. Until recently, when a planet that goes by the name K2-18b fell under the sight of NASA’s Kepler telescope.

K2-18b is by far the first planet to be discovered that could potentially host life. Lying in the Goldilocks Zone in the Leo constellation, where liquid water has been found, at an ideal temperature to potentially host living organisms in addition to suitable gases that wrap around the planet. First discovered by NASA in 2015, it is approximately 110 lightyears away and behaves much like the Earth, with a few exceptions. For example; the Earth revolves around the sun while K2-18b revolves around a red dwarf that is much cooler than the Sun and only warms up the planet to 10 degrees Celsius. Orbiting at a distance of 14 miles from the dwarf, the planet is said to complete the orbit in approximately 33 days, compared to Earth which completes one orbit in approximately 365 days.

The most important aspect of determining whether a planet can sustain life or not is by determining if there is water present on the planet. Water compromises about 70% of the Earth, without it, life cannot survive let alone thrive. So, to find a planet that could potentially support life, water is the first priority. 2 years after K2-18b’s discovery, NASA’s sole objective was to search for water on the planet. They found that every time the planet moved in front of the dwarf, the wavelength absorbed by the water dropped. Similarly, as the planet crossed, the wavelength rose. For NASA, this confirmed the presence of water vapors. Further studies show that K2-18b is much bigger than Earth nearly twice the size and has a temperature ranging from 0 to 40 degrees Celsius which is optimal in regards to supporting life. In addition to that, studies show that it may be made up of 50% water.

Knowing that another planet besides Earth exists that can support life is an exciting prospect, but with more than a hundred lightyears between the Earth and its equal, we are not inhabiting it anytime soon. But, maybe one day.