Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Future of 1976 is ... Now!

 

Without a crystal ball, Sir Arthur C. Clarke came up with predictions of the future. The British science fiction writer (he wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey after the film, actually), was able with astonishing accuracy, to envision a future of remote work in 1964. In a segment from the BBC Horizon program, Sir Arthur Clarke leads the video with the sentence, “Trying to predict the future is a discouraging, hazardous occupation … ” But the science fiction writer, inventor, and undersea explorer did just that. Here are some of his predictions regarding the world—and in particular, the future of the workplace. Here's the program...

In 1976, he reiterated his views. Watch it!



Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Why We Should All Advocate for Wokeness

Awareness of unfairness in the treatment of others -- the definition of the slang term "woke" -- not only makes the world a better place, it makes all of us better people. By being aware of systemic racism and bigotry, we could build a culture in which the marginalized receive empathy instead of disdain.

Being “woke” is, according to Merriam-Webster, “aware and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”

Originally slang used by Black Americans, the word became part of the national lexicon in the past few years. But its meaning has already changed, and there is a divide in how the word is perceived, a divide that is both political and generational.



We should reflect on Nietzsche's admonishment: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Power theory teaches us that every system develops a subsystem that initially makes rules that are good for the system, but, eventually, that governing subsystem makes rules that are good for itself. George Orwell ended Animal Farm with the disgusting image of pigs imitating their human oppressors.

We can become more "woke" without becoming authoritative. The impulse for humans to mistreat each other is deeply rooted in our history.

The analogy between mistreatment of others and mistreatment of ourselves also applies to Christians and Jews. Many Christians, historically, knew it was wrong to persecute Christians because of their religion, but they missed the analogy to mistreating Jews because of their religion, not because they believed the Old Testament had been replaced or because they blamed Jews for the Crucifixion, but because the “righteous indignation” that Christianity offers in the story of the Crucifixion depends on missing the analogy.

Hate cannot stand up to analogized, contextualized empathy, which is why Critical Race Theorists organized their scholarship around storytelling. Hate requires the obliteration of context. This is well-known to trial lawyers. When juries decide whether to impose the death penalty, defense attorneys present evidence concerning their clients’ difficult childhoods. 

What we see happening with the term “woke” is similar to what happened to the term “political correctness,” from the 1980s and in the 90s by the left. The term was always a bit tongue in cheek, but it was serious in that people wanted to respect diversity, to respect the political differences that exist. However, as soon as people who did not share that ideology started using it, it became pejorative.

Critical Race Theory and antiracism focus on changing formal and informal policy rather than on aiming to identify who not to hate. 

Read more here...

Friday, August 6, 2021

VTOL Electric Personal Aircraft

Tetra Aviation is preparing its Mk-5 eVTOL Aircraft for flight in 2022. The lightweight electric aircraft is designed for single-person use and is crafted from a combination of aluminum and carbon-fiber-reinforced polymers, with the prototype measuring in at prototype measures at 28 feet wide, 20 feet long, and 1,000 pounds, A total of 32 vertical lift rotors across four wings lift the plane, while horizontal thrust propels it forward.




See more over at... their site

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Space Flight using Burt Rutan's Technology!

This is awesome! I remember going to Mojave with Delia, Damon and ex-M to watch the X-Prize (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansari_X_Prize)

The Ansari X Prize was a space competition in which the X Prize Foundation offered a US$10,000,000 prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable crewed spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. It was modeled after early 20th-century aviation prizes, and aimed to spur development of low-cost spaceflight.

Created in May 1996 and initially called just the "X Prize", it was renamed the "Ansari X Prize" on May 6, 2004 following a multimillion-dollar donation from entrepreneurs Anousheh Ansari and Amir Ansari. The prize was won on October 4, 2004, the 47th anniversary of the Sputnik 1 launch, by the Tier One project designed by Burt Rutan and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, using the experimental spaceplane SpaceShipOne. $10 million was awarded to the winner, and more than $100 million was invested in new technologies in pursuit of the prize.
Watch the live flight! And Steven Colbert is hosting! https://www.space.com/virgin-galactic-richard-branson-unity-22-launch-explained



UPDATE - Watch the Virgin Galactic Unity 22 Spaceflight!

 UPDATE - Watch the Flight!

Watch the Richard Branson launching to space aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane...



Saturday, June 26, 2021

Get Ready for Space Tourism! And maybe ballistic flight?

Virgin Galactic received regulatory approval to fly customers into space, moving the fledgling space tourism industry founded by billionaires one step closer to reality.


The Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the company’s existing license to cover customer flights, Virgin Galactic said Friday in a statement, saying the approval was the first of its kind. The company also confirmed that a May 22 test flight performed well against objectives. The approval marks another milestone for an industry that not long ago was the stuff of science fiction. Virgin Galactic, founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson, has been working toward its goal since 2004. Fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos plans his first trip in July, after auctioning a passenger seat for $28 million. The boss tweeted






Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Cat Eyes for Humans

The advent of night vision radically changed warfare. Now materials science has delivered another breakthrough -- a transparent metallic film allowing a viewer to see in the dark could one day turn regular spectacles into night vision googles.


The ultra-thin film, made of a semiconductor called gallium arsenide, could also be used to develop compact and flexible infrared sensors, scientists say. The film was developed by a team of Australian and European researchers, with details published in the magazine. Advanced photonics. It works by converting infrared light, which is normally invisible to humans, into light visible to the human eye.

The study’s first author, Dr. Rocío Camacho Morales of the Australian National University, said the material was hundreds of times thinner than a strand of human hair. Gallium arsenide is arranged in a crystalline structure only several hundred nanometers thick, allowing visible light to pass through.

“The way these night vision goggles work [is] they also capture infrared light, ”said Camacho Morales. “This infrared light turns into electrons and shows [digitally]. In our case, we are not doing this. “

Read more over at The Guardian


Monday, June 21, 2021

The Federal Reserve - Competitor to BitCoin?

As America's Central Bank asks for public comments on issuing its own digital currency, will we see the US become a player in the crypto-currency world? "Technological advances are driving rapid change in the global payments landscape," says a spokesperson for the U.S. federal reserve, the country's central banking system. They announced this week that they're "studying these developments" and exploring ways that the central bank "might refine its role as a core payment services provider and as the issuing authority for U.S. currency."


We read over at Engadget:


"...took a step toward developing a digital currency as it announced plans to publish a research paper on the subject," seeking public comment on its pros and cons for payments, financial inclusion, data privacy, and information security. But the Federal Reserve emphasizes that "before making any decision on whether and how to move forward with a U.S. central bank digital currency," their paper "represents the beginning of what will be a thoughtful and deliberative process" that has more than one possible outcome. "Irrespective of the conclusion we ultimately reach, we expect to play a leading role in developing international standards for central bank digital currencies, engaging actively with central banks in other jurisdictions as well as regulators and supervisors here in the United States throughout that process."


Their announcement notes America's central bank has already been exploring the benefits and risks of issuing a digital currency "for the past several years," but emphasizes they're exploring it "as a complement to, and not a replacement of" current systems. And the Reserve also state pointedly that "To date, cryptocurrencies have not served as a convenient way to make payments, given, among other factors, their swings in value," before the announcement switches its attention to stablecoins pegged to the value of a non-virtual currency. But even there, the interest seems to be as much regulatory as it is monetary. "As stablecoins' use increases, so must our attention to the appropriate regulatory and oversight framework. 


"This includes paying attention to private-sector payments innovators who are currently not within the traditional regulatory arrangements applied to banks, investment firms, and other financial intermediaries."











Thursday, May 13, 2021

Self-Drive Delivery Van from VW in Germany, Coming Soon!

 We read at the Verge,

Volkswagen will start testing its new autonomous vehicles in Germany this summer, the company announced Wednesday. The German automaker’s electric ID Buzz vans will use hardware and software developed by Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based startup that is backed by Ford and VW. The aim is to launch a commercial delivery and micro-transit service in Germany by 2025.

Argo, which has been testing its vehicles in the US with Ford for the last few years, said it would be launching the fifth generation of its automated driving technology with the VW ID Buzz, which is the electric version of the automaker’s iconic microbus. Bryan Salesky, the startup’s founder and CEO, praised the collaborative nature of Argo and Volkswagen’s partnership.

Read more...

 


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

UBI? How about “GBI”?

Guaranteed Basic Income might be a better alternative to Universal Basic income. It is the guaranteeing of an income sufficient enough to cover basic needs. It can be in various forms, such as a negative income tax (NIT), an unconditional basic income (UBI), or even a guaranteed minimum income (GMI).

First proposed by philosophers in the 16th century, the idea of an income delivered directly by the state has been seen in many quarters as a balm for all kinds of social ills. Progressives argue that a guaranteed minimum income has the potential to lift communities out of poverty. Some conservatives and libertarians, meanwhile, see universal basic income as a cost-effective alternative to existing social welfare systems. 

In the United States, proponents of guaranteed income as a matter of economic justice have included the Black Panthers and Martin Luther King Jr., while the libertarian economist Milton Friedman advocated it as a form of negative income tax. Even President Richard Nixon proposed providing cash directly to families, without conditions. His plan—produced after 1,000 economists urged it in an open letter—twice passed the House, but got rejected by the Senate.

Read more... As it turned out, what made the difference wasn't more research but a global pandemic. In the face of the recession caused by the pandemic, relief packages were suddenly seen as necessary to jump-start the American economy. The success of the $1,400 stimulus checks make it more likely now than ever before that that guaranteed income could soon become a permanent fixture of federal policy.






Monday, April 12, 2021

Friendly Helper or BattleBot?

That lovable scamp from Boston Dynamics, the robotic dog Spo, was one of several robots tested by the French army during training sessions at a military school in the northwest of France. This is according to a French source.

It’s not clear what role Spot was playing (neither Shark Robotics nor the École de Saint-Cyr had replied to requests for comment at the time of writing), but Ouest-France suggests it was being used for reconnaissance. The 70lb Spot (31kg) is equipped with cameras and can be remote controlled, with its four legs allowing it to navigate terrain that would challenge wheeled or treaded robots. To date, it’s been used to remotely survey a number of environments, from construction sites to factories and underground mines.




Read more over at Engadget...

Thursday, April 8, 2021

From the Archives... a Sixty Minutes report on Steve Jobs and his biography

Apple Computers, Inc. was founded on April 1, 1976, by college dropouts Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who brought to the new company a vision of changing the way people viewed computers. Jobs and Wozniak wanted to make computers small enough for people to have them in their homes or offices. Simply put, they wanted a computer that was user-friendly.

  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple in 1977, introducing first the Apple I and then the Apple II.
  • Apple went public in 1980 with Jobs the blazing visionary and Wozniak the shy genius executing his vision.
  • Executive John Scully was added in 1983; in 1985, Apple's board of directors ousted the combative Jobs in favor of Scully.
  • Away from Apple, Jobs invested in and developed animation producer Pixar and then founded NeXT to create high-end computers; NeXT eventually led him back to Apple.
  • Jobs returned to Apple in the late 1990s and spent the years until his death in 2011 revamping the company, introducing the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, transforming technology and communication in the process.

On the 45th anniversary of the founding of Apple, a look back at the 2011 profile of Steve Jobs, which aired just weeks after his death. On Oct. 5, 2011, Steve Jobs passed away at the age of 56.2 He had just left the CEO post at Apple, the company he co-founded, for the second time. Jobs was an entrepreneur through and through, and the story of his rise is the story of Apple as a company, along with some very interesting twists.

See it here...

Monday, April 5, 2021

Perseverance Finds Interesting Rock on Martian Surface, Zaps It

The Nasa rover on Mars, Perseverance, found a weird rock that is confounding scientists. The rover’s Twitter account published an image of a weird, pockmarked rock. It has a smooth, greenish appearance and the caption underneath confirms that scientists are stumped. Perseverance zapped the rock with its on-board laser and is trying to learn more about it.

‘While the helicopter is getting ready, I can’t help checking out nearby rocks,’ the rover tweeted in the first person. ‘This odd one has my science team trading lots of hypotheses. ‘It’s about 6 inches (15 cm) long. If you look closely, you might spot the row of laser marks where I zapped it to learn more.’

It can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet (7 meters). In the picture, one can see the tiny indentations on the right side of the rock where the rover’s laser hit it.

Over the course of several years, Perseverance will collect and store up to 30 rock and soil samples that will eventually be returned to Earth where labs will analyze them.

Read the tweet from the robot here...


Saturday, April 3, 2021

lilium VTOL flying taxi

 

German company lilium has unveiled the design of its 7-seater jet which aims to revolutionize regional travel, saving people hours. The aircraft is capable of vertical take-off, quietly, allowing the company to access plenty landing sites and the opportunity to build higher network density, avoiding expensive ground infrastructure.

The aircraft has cruise speed of 175 mph at 10,000 feet and has a range of 155 miles, including reserves. planned to launch operations in 2024, the aircraft features ducted electric vectored thrust (DEVT). This flight system is integrated into the wing flaps -- electric jet engines provide advantages in payload, aerodynamic efficiency and a lower noise profile, while also providing thrust vector control to maneuver the lilium jet through every phase of flight.

Lilium flies with "electric jets", throwing out a non-combustion compression stream of air. The Lilium's ducted fan is an example of a wider class of ducted propulsor. They all work the same way, to accelerate air in one direction so that the reaction force pushes the fan or propeller in the other. If the blade disc were used to provide compression, the device would not be a propulsor but a compressor and would not exit to the free air stream.


Read more here...


Friday, March 26, 2021

Public Service Announcement - Tips for Staying Sane During Trubled Times

 “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” -Charles Swindoll

Stay happy during these difficult times. I’ve practiced “remote relationships” since returning to Ireland in 2017. Here’s a few ways I stay connected, while social distancing:

Meet  up via Google Meet, Zoom or Teams. Besides talking and catching up, there are many virtual board games available on Steam for group interaction. I’ve been lucky to have Settlers of Catan and Talisman games with friends recently... and we really enjoy the camaraderie. 

Pick up the phone and call those you are close with. FaceTime is awesome - see your loved ones, chat for hours, for free!

Write letters — who doesn’t enjoy receiving a letter in the mail?

Text those who you love that you are thinking of them.

I’m lucky — I have a quaran“team” – people in my “bubble” limiting social interaction so we can spend time together.

Play D&D! The ultimate escape!





Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Drones As Research Tools

 We know unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) -- or "drones" -- are great for agricultural surveys or other business applications. But their use in science cannot be undervalued. Work between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Qualcomm Technologies Inc., resulted in the Ingenuity, a helicopter drone that landed on Mars on February 18th, 2021 and is the first autonomous aerial platform operated outside Earth's atmosphere. 

This site describes the UAV:

Ingenuity relies on counter-rotating coaxial rotors about 4 feet in diameter that spin very fast to work in the thin atmosphere. The main computer behind it all is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor that includes a quad-core CPU, a GPU and a 55 megapixel downward facing image signal processor. The computer controls a visual navigation algorithm using Mars surface geographical features tracked with the camera. Surprisingly, the Snapdragon processor aboard Ingenuity is not ruggedized by itself, although JPL has encased the processor to protect against Mar’s low pressure and cold, said Dev Singh, general manager of robotics and drones for Qualcomm in an interview with Fierce Electronics.

In fact, the chip is not much different from other Snapdragon chips used in billions of smartphones, Singh said. Qualcomm first began working with NASA JPL in 2016 on the Ingenuity project.  Qualcomm's flight platform is a multifunctional chip used for drones and robots. 

Back on Earth, drones can be useful in high threat environments. "Due to the difficult accessibility and the high risk of collapse or explosion, the imaging of active volcanoes has so far been a great challenge in volcanology. Researchers around Edgar Zorn from the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ in Potsdam are now presenting the results of a series of repeated survey flights with optical and thermal imaging cameras at the Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala. Drones were used to observe the lava dome, a viscous plug of lava. The researchers were able to show that the lava dome shows movements on two different time scales: slow expansion and growth of the dome and fast extrusion of viscous lava," as published in the journal Scientific Reports.


And specialized underwater drones can be used for ocean research -- the same artificial intelligence that enables aerial drones, such as greater levels of autonomy, can be re-purposed for underwater missions. Autonomy — the ability to take action without direct control -- means drones are more robot and less remote-controlled device. 







Monday, March 8, 2021

When You Read the Word, "Hacker..."

Watch many 1980s films, and you may come across the "hacker" character -- a post-punk, mohawk-sporting teen looking to upgrade test scores or avert world wide nuclear confrontation with the Ruskies. In the decades since, it seems that “hacker” describes cyber criminals more than heroes, an unfortunate trope promulgated by modern media. Often accompanied by stock photos of hoodie-clad thugs hunched over glowing keyboards in darkened rooms, the predominance of associating this label with internet criminals has skyrocketed. As data breaches and cyber attacks litter the front pages of mainstream media, the "white hat" computer expert is lost in the shuffle. Calling scammers, cheats, fraudsters and others "hackers" is counter-productive -- lack of precision means the term becomes diluted.

Promoting the image of hackers as inherently malicious ignores the truth -- corporate America and the U.S. government employ thousands (and there's even more, world-wide) as so-called ethical hackers. These brainiacs help organizations find and remediate security vulnerabilities in their systems. Some businesses offer bug-bounty programs, paying hackers that find and report security flaws. To quote Keren Elazari, security analyst, hackers are “the immune system of the internet.”

We have read the work “hacker” used within the security community to refer to someone skilled in computers and network security. Its use as term for “cyber criminal” alter the perception of the general public. There is a nomenclature to differentiate malicious, illegal penetration and other cyber intrusions (perpetrated by “black hat hackers”). Black hat hackers hate society use technology to exploit people, ruin lives, steal, or incite hatred - they use technology skills to exploit vulnerabilities in software and humans. The ethical hacker is a computer and networking expert who systematically attempts to analyze and penetrate a system on behalf of its owners for the purpose of finding vulnerabilities that a malicious party could potentially exploit. Hackers are the good guys.

Read more over at this place...



Friday, March 5, 2021

Addressing Anonymity with Electronic Currencies

With the surge in online shopping and the need for less contact, electronic payments have increased significantly during this pandemic. We do know that both the Ethereum and Bitcoin blockchains are open and -- while they are theoretically anonymous -- as soon as any crypto account touches a bank account tied to your identity, you are in direct contact with the pool, which could be recording your IP address and associating it to your cryptocurrency account. 

Many might recall that the cryptocurrency industry was initially portrayed as "anonymous digital cash." While experts were quick to point out that this was not exactly the case, Bitcoin (BTC) found initial popularity in darknet markets such as Silk Road, where merchants sold illegal goods ranging from light drugs to, allegedly, hitman services. Founded in 2011, Silk Road thrived for the next two years until the Federal Bureau of Investigation shut it down in 2013. Authorities later revealed that completely free blockchain explorers aided their investigative efforts.

Some cryptocurrencies (such as Zcash and Monero) are explicitly designed to address traceability concerns, incorporating several security mechanisms, including:

Ring Signatures, which allow signed messages to be attributable to “a set of possible signers without revealing which member actually produced the signature” ...

Stealth Addresses, which refer to methods for key management in which public keys are derived separately from private keys for the purpose of obscuring the public keys, and

Confidential Transactions, which use Pedersen commitment schemes to restrict disclosing the amounts transacted to anyone other than the transacting parties.

Some are thinking up ways to successfully implemented privacy-enabling cryptocurrency, so that metadata associated with transactions would be hidden. Online, data flows or the ledger would not reveal relationships among transactions or any information about the transacting parties.

As more central banks consider how to embrace the digital economy, new ideas will flourish. Unlike traditional money, cryptocurrencies aren’t issued by countries or central banks. On the contrary, one of the hallmarks of these products is the lack of regulation and oversight by a central authority. Most US banks have been slow to introduce software that allow peer-to-peer payments for things like splitting the bill on a meal. In some scenarios, central banks could directly issue digital currencies into users’ online wallets without involving banks and other middlemen. Americans could also potentially hold accounts at the Federal Reserve for making transactions using a digital dollar, simplifying the process and lowering the cost of exchanging payments.

See this for more information...

Monday, March 1, 2021

Hydrogen is the Way of the Future - so sayeth James May

James May is high on... hydrogen. He talks about why electric vs hydrogen is an important debate, in this article. May’s piece in The Sunday Times is a review of the Toyota Mirai. But he takes the opportunity to argue for continued investment in hydrogen fuel cell technology — not just for cars but for factories, homes and all power needs.

Many would argue there are a few key things about hydrogen that make it better than batteries: range, refuel time, longer life, recyclability, endurance, energy density. There are cars that have created the range of a typical battery electric car and can charge/re-fuel in three-to-five minutes.

Volkswagen, on the other hand, argues that electric with batteries is better. Here they lay out their position,  and some agree that the direction that most automakers seem to be taking for hydrogen —in the direction of commercial vehicles, if at all — has a future. Many are focused on other applications, such as "heavy-duty transport, aviation, and shipping.



Read more here...



Friday, February 26, 2021

Tracking COVID19 reinfection - with help from Elon Musk

On 15 February, 2021, the paper Discrete SARS-CoV-2 antibody titers track with functional humoral stability was accepted for publication by the prestigious journal Nature — interesting not only for being a large-cohort study on COVID-19 reinfection, but for the presence of one of its coauthors: Elon Reeve Musk.  Elon is listed as one of the co-authors on a paper concerning the tracking of antibodies in people. Antibodies serve as biomarkers of infection. If sustained they can confer long-term immunity. 

For most clinically approved vaccines, binding antibody titers only serve as a surrogate of protection. Instead, the ability of vaccine induced antibodies to neutralize or mediate impact is the main way they confer protection. While evidence points to persistent antibody responses among SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals, cases of re-infection have begun to emerge, calling the protective nature of humoral immunity against this highly infectious pathogen into question. Using community-based surveillance, the study aimed to define the relationship between titers and functional antibody activity to SARS-CoV-2 over time.

Apparently, Musk — concerned in April 2020 with maintaining the schedule for the SpaceX crewed launch in May and wanting to make sure that an outbreak wouldn't set back plans — contacted academic researchers and worked with them to set up an antibody testing research programme. Over 4,000 SpaceX employees volunteered and were provided with periodic free testing at work to look for infection and monitor previously-infected people for reinfection. The programme gave SpaceX an advance heads up about upcoming threats, such as the growing wave in Texas in June, and continues to this day, with a new focus on mutant COVID strains.

The primary results of the study were that past infection provides a strong, although not perfect, barrier to reinfection. The level of antibodies strongly indicate the level of risk of reinfection, which promotes a positive outlook for vaccines, as they tend to result in much higher antibody levels than infection.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Climate Change has Knock-On Impacts that are far-ranging

Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as blizzards, heat waves, and powerful storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change, as we observe changes in temperature, precipitation, storms, floods, and droughts.

Climate change may not cause a particular storm, but resulting rising sea levels can worsen storm surge impact. In 2012, a three meter storm surge from Hurricane Sandy hit New York City at high tide, making the water almost 5 meters higher than average at the tip of Manhattan. Flooding destroyed neighborhoods and beaches in outer boroughs. The sea level in this area is rising by more than an inch each decade -- twice as fast as the global average -- and is predicted to rise 11 to 21 inches by 2050. To prepare, the city is implementing coastal resiliency measures: An innovative project will create more green spaces for city residents as well as a system of flood walls, berms, and retractable barriers for boost storm protection.



Over at the NYT, we read:

One-third of oil production in the nation was halted. Drinking-water systems in Ohio were knocked offline. Road networks nationwide were paralyzed and vaccination efforts in 20 states were disrupted.

The crisis carries a profound warning. As climate change brings more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and other extreme events, it is placing growing stress on the foundations of the country's economy: Its network of roads and railways, drinking-water systems, power plants, electrical grids, industrial waste sites and even homes. Failures in just one sector can set off a domino effect of breakdowns in hard-to-predict ways....

Sewer systems are overflowing more often as powerful rainstorms exceed their design capacity. Coastal homes and highways are collapsing as intensified runoff erodes cliffs. Coal ash, the toxic residue produced by coal-burning plants, is spilling into rivers as floods overwhelm barriers meant to hold it back. Homes once beyond the reach of wildfires are burning in blazes they were never designed to withstand... The vulnerabilities show up in power lines, natural-gas plants, nuclear reactors and myriad other systems. Higher storm surges can knock out coastal power infrastructure. Deeper droughts can reduce water supplies for hydroelectric dams. Severe heat waves can reduce the efficiency of fossil-fuel generators, transmission lines and even solar panels at precisely the moment that demand soars because everyone cranks up their air-conditioners...

Power outages in extreme weather could render hospitals and transportation systems inert when needed most. Crop declines could lead to hunger and higher food prices. More CO2 in the air could make staple crops like barley and soy less nutritious. Occupational hazards such as risk of heatstroke will rise, especially among those who work outside: farmers and construction workers who keep us fed and our infrastructure up to par will be hardest hit. Labor could shift to dawn and dusk, times when more disease-­carrying insects are out. and sleep deprivation from shift work is a known health hazard. Hotter days, more rain, and higher humidity will produce more ticks, which spread infectious diseases like Lyme disease.

We continue to see extreme weather and climate events increasing, and new and stronger evidence confirms that some of these increases are related to human activities that impact the global climate. There has been a sizable upward trend in the number of storms causing large financial and other losses -- and the knock-on effects are wide and varied.


Monday, February 22, 2021

Tesla vs German Car Manufacturers

With Tesla opening a manufacturing facility in Deutschland, and Ford aiming to only sell electrified vehicles in the coming decade, it seems German auto makers are under pressure. 

Seven years ago, Mathias Döpfner was at a ceremony celebrating Tesla founder Elon Musk. Döpfner, the head of German media company Axel Springer, was seated next to a CEO of one of Germany's biggest carmakers, and he turned to him and asked, "Isn't this guy dangerous for you?"

As he later recounted, the CEO shook his head. "These guys in Silicon Valley, they have no clue about engineering, about building really beautiful and great cars," the CEO told him. "So we don't have to worry."

At the time, the value of Tesla's shares was $23 billion, a quarter of that of Germany's largest carmaker, Volkswagen. But times have changed. Tesla's market capitalization has skyrocketed to more than $700 billion, more than three times that of Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW — Germany's three largest automakers — put together.

There have been hiccups: Tesla was ordered to suspend preparations for a car factory in Germany after a successful court injunction by environmentalists in December of 2020. Mercedes-Benz and Audi are introducing electric cars so as to defend dominance of the luxury market.



Over at the NYT, a reporter wrote about another competitor to Tesla -- the p-wagen:

The Taycan, a four-door sedan that Porsche recently let me try out at the Hockenheimring racing complex south of Heidelberg, provides an early example of what the German automakers are capable of. The car, with a starting price a little over $100,000, can blast from zero to 60 miles per hour in well under three seconds.

So, it happens, can the Tesla S. But tests by Car and Driver confirmed Porsche’s assertion that the Taycan can replicate those blastoffs 10 times in a row, unlike the Tesla, which becomes sluggish with repeat use as the battery wears down. Porsche has found a way to maintain explosive acceleration even when the battery is not fully charged.

During an hour of all-out driving on Porsche’s serpentine test track, egged on by a Porsche instructor who encouraged me to probe the car’s limits, the Taycan stayed glued to the asphalt like a roadster and never showed signs of fatigue. I ran out of juice before the car did.

One side-effect, and a positive one, is that Germany is becoming a hub of battery technology.

Read more at NPR...



Monday, January 18, 2021

In the Time of Pandemic, Drone Delivery Lands

 In this time of global pandemic, greater drone adoption is driven not by technological advancement, but by the utility of drones. When major players such as Walmart and Amazon throw their hats in the ring, one can count on fast adoption of new ideas. For example, the retailing giant Walmart has undertaken  drone trials, one to deliver select grocery and household essentials, and another to test delivery of certain health and wellness products. They have expended into drone delivery of at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits, to provide  contactless, testing options. And Amazon inches closer to FAA approval.

We read,

Dire times drive innovation. In this instance, the innovation is not in technology, but in policy. While some argue that drone technology wasn’t mature enough to be trusted at large scale – and cultural questions around privacy, noise and annoyance have hampered the expansion of flights – a societal and governmental shift in evaluating acceptable risk is driving greater implementation. With air travel down nearly 90% and dramatically fewer cars on the road due to shelter-in-place orders, the risks drones might present in the air and on the ground are significantly reduced. Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting to streamline drone use to deliver vital goods, support social distancing and enable essential workers to operate with greater efficiency and efficacy.

Read more here...



The Federal Aviation Administration has approved American Robotics to become the first company to operate smart drones without needing on-site pilots or spotters. American Robotics, an industrial drone developer based out of Massachusetts, will still need a human pilot overseeing each flight’s takeoff remotely, so the process isn’t technically 100% autonomous, as the Verge notes. Still, the decision brings the U.S. one step closer to seeing fully automated commercial drone flights.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Air Mobility is the Key Phrase when it comes to Autonomous Flying Taxi's

As many onlookers congregated, Chinese drone maker Ehang showed off its autonomous air taxi in the US. The all-electric two-seater took flight for five minutes above a test track south of Raleigh, North Carolina

As the world’s leading autonomous aerial vehicle (“AAV”) technology platform company and the UAM industry pioneer, EHang has proprietarily developed a complete suite of intelligent aerial logistics solutions, including the EH216L heavy-lift AAV for short-to-medium-haul aerial transport, the Falcon medium-sized AAV for urban express delivery, the unmanned aircraft systems, take-off and landing control sites and intelligent self-express service machines. With abundant operating experience, service workflow and practical data, EHang made significant contribution to the groundbreaking for the Standard based on its industry expertise and valuable insights. 

EHang is based in Guangzhou, a major city in southern China. Its EHang 216 drone has carried out demo flights in Seoul, and the aircraft has also been recently tested in Canada at a special drone-testing facility in Quebec.

The Verge has more...




Sunday, January 10, 2021

Seditionists Had Unfettered Access to Congressional IT Systems

After Wednesday's invasion by protesters, America's Capitol building is now grappling with "the process of securing the offices and digital systems after hundreds of people had unprecedented access to them," 

Rioters could have bugged congressional offices, exfiltrated data from unlocked computers, or installed malware on exposed devices. In the rush to evacuate the Capitol, some computers were left unlocked and remained accessible by the time rioters arrived. And at least some equipment was stolen; Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon said in a video late Wednesday that intruders took one of his office's laptops off a conference table...

Former Senate sergeant at arms Frank Larkin, who retired as Senate sergeant at arms in 2018, adds that cybersecurity is the next priority after physical security. In spite of this, the mob Wednesday had ample opportunities to steal information or gain device access if they wanted to. And while the Senate and House each build off of their own shared IT framework, ultimately each of the 435 representatives and 100 senators runs their own office with their own systems. This is a boon to security in the sense that it creates segmentation and decentralization; getting access to Nancy Pelosi's emails doesn't help you access the communications of other representatives. But this also means that there aren't necessarily standardized authentication and monitoring schemes in place. Larkin emphasizes that there is a baseline of monitoring that IT staffers will be able to use to audit and assess whether there was suspicious activity on congressional devices. But he concedes that representatives and senators have varying levels of cybersecurity competence and hygiene.
It's also true that potentially exposed data at the Capitol on Wednesday would not have been classified, given that the mob had access only to unclassified networks. But congressional staffers are not subject to Freedom of Information Act obligations and are often much more candid in their communications than other government officials. Security and intelligence experts also emphasize that troves of unclassified information can still reveal sensitive or even classified information when combined... Kelvin Coleman, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, who formerly worked in the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Council... adds, though, that for now the most important thing congressional IT staffers can do is account for which devices were stolen and begin a mass effort to reset passwords, add multifactor authentication to any accounts that don't already have it, wipe and reimage hard drives when practical, and comb monitoring logs for signs of access or exfiltration.

There is more information at Wired.