The sun is slacking!
Solar cycle 24 has seen very low solar activity thus far, likely the lowest in 100 years.
Solar Cycle 24 is sitting at the lower bound of activity for solar cycles back to 1964, the start of Solar Cycle 19. From here to minimum though, it looks like Solar Cycle 24 will have much lower volatility than the solar cycles that preceded it.
According to Svensmark’s theory, the neutron flux, with its effect on cloud cover and thus the Earth’s albedo, is one of the bigger climate drivers. For Solar Cycle 24, the neutron flux duly turned around and starting rising again in 2015, one year after solar maximum. It is a safe bet that the neutron flux is heading for a record high at solar minimum (+ one year) relative to the instrumental record.
Pluto may see planethood again…
but a bunch of rabble rousing Ort Clouders
are trying to ride its coat-tails
Prepare yourself—the Pluto debate has returned, and people are not going to be able to shut up about it. Pluto might be about to regain its planethood.
It might feel like scientists are jerking you around. A decade ago they all decided that Pluto wasn’t a planet—it was actually a dwarf planet—and now all of a sudden they want to change it back? Maybe you even think that this just goes to show how meaningless it all was to begin with. Planet, dwarf planet—it’s all a made-up system determined by some esoteric group anyway.
But categories do matter, and so do the definitions we use to arrive at those categories. The fact that people (even experts like the scientists at NASA) go back and forth on what definitions we should use doesn’t make them less meaningful. It just means that we’re still learning. That’s what science is all about: we have to be able to adjust our definitions to fit our understanding. And this whole Pluto business is a perfect example.
Graphene membranes can make nuclear industry greener
Graphene could help reduce the energy cost of producing heavy water and decontamination in nuclear power plants by over one hundred times compared with current technologies, University of Manchester research indicates.
The new development could lead to the reduction of CO2 emissions associated with heavy water production by up to a million tonnes each year.
Writing in Nature Communications, a team from the University of Manchester led by Dr. Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo demonstrated fully scalable prototypes of graphene membranes capable of producing heavy water.
The research shows that graphene-based membranes could make the production of heavy water more efficient, leading to greener and cheaper nuclear power.
Producing heavy water which needed by the nuclear industry to generate clean-energy is an expensive process. Because of graphene’s unique material properties it has the potential to effectively separate sub-atomic particles making this process more efficient and cost-effective.
Is this the breakthrough that the future of androids has been waiting for?
New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
These images show light patterns generated by a rhenium-based crystal using a laser method called optical second-harmonic rotational anisotropy. At left, the pattern comes from the atomic lattice of the crystal. At right, the crystal has become a 3-D quantum liquid crystal, showing a drastic departure from the pattern due to the atomic lattice alone.
Credit: Hsieh Lab/Caltech
Physicists at the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech have discovered the first three-dimensional quantum liquid crystal — a new state of matter that may have applications in ultrafast quantum computers of the future.
“We have detected the existence of a fundamentally new state of matter that can be regarded as a quantum analog of a liquid crystal,” says Caltech assistant professor of physics David Hsieh, principal investigator on a new study describing the findings in the April 21 issue of Science. “There are numerous classes of such quantum liquid crystals that can, in principle, exist; therefore, our finding is likely the tip of an iceberg.”
Last Science Blast! We looked at Wind Trees. Here are a few designs for Solar Trees that are being tried in various parts of the world:
Solar panels designed to look like trees are being pioneered today.
These Beautiful ‘Solar Trees’ Can Really Spruce Up Your Property
Would you believe that one of the most common ‘gripes’ about solar energy is that it’s not aesthetically pleasing? What’s not to love about the glimmer of sunlight catching a polycrystalline panel or a row of homes generating clean, renewable energy for their community? Clearly some folks have never seen the billowing emissions from a coal plant I suppose.
Fortunately, there are several new solar-powered structures taking root all around the world which are sure to enchant even the toughest art critics out there. Taking their inspiration from nature itself, these ‘solar trees’ are both regal and renewable. More importantly, they’re often providing the much-needed inspiration we all need to live more sustainable and environmentally-friendly lives.
These are also being used in India.
Other designs (See the same article)
It is always uplifting when science is both gee-wiz-wow cool and beautiful. One such invention is the Wind Tree–a clever use of turbines and art that may make it possible for people to run their own homes off these decorative devices.
Man-made “wind trees” will finally make
it possible to power homes using turbines
Picture a steady breeze blowing through the leaves of a tree. Now imagine these leaves could do more than simply churn in the current of air—what if they could capture the wind and transform it into renewable energy?
Energy from wind is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental and social research institution. This development of wind power has mostly taken place on a large scale, usually by utility companies providing power to a grid of millions of customers. That’s because wind energy is most efficient when it’s capturing very strong winds, more common in remote areas and at heights greater than 50 feet off the ground. Those turbines need to be as tall as a five-story building, and they take up a lot of horizontal room, too—several hundred feet per turbine, in many cases. They also require more maintenance than solar panels.
All of these factors make it challenging to capture wind energy in small amounts. But that hasn’t stopped companies from experimenting in the hopes of one day allowing individual homeowners to capture energy from their own backyards or balconies, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
Last December, two “wind trees”—or arbres à vent—quietly churned in a plaza in Paris, as world leaders met for the historic climate talks at the Le Bourget conference center nearby. Developed by a French company called New Wind, the “trees” had plastic “leaves” painted green, with curves that held dozens of tiny blades soundlessly harnessing the wind no matter which way it blew. Unlike larger industrial turbines, which need winds of over 22 miles per hour to function, the leaves captured energy from wind speeds of less than five mph.