California moves to ‘bottle sunlight’

California moves to ‘bottle sunlight’

California moves to ‘bottle sunlight’

An employee walks between solar panals at Solarmine, the first solar photovoltaic facility in California (AFP Photo / David Mcnew)

California is making plans to store solar and wind power in order to incorporate renewable energy into its electricity grid. By “bottling” sunlight, the state hopes to have reliable solar energy at its disposal even during the dark, winter months.

“We can’t just rely on the sunlight. We’ve got to bottle the sunlight,” California Governor Jerry Brown said last month in a speech held at a conference in San Francisco.

The state is pushing for large-scale energy storage that would prevent utility companies from being forced to build additional power plants of transmission to meet its peak demand, Reuters reports.

The Golden State is trying to make renewable energy one-third of its total electricity supply by 2020. The target goal requires the state to store up to 1.3 gigawatts, which is enough for plants to power more than a million US homes.

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On average, California’s grid storage uses about 17 gigawatts of power in the winter, and up to 51 gigawatts during the summer, when use of air conditioners spikes. Since power from sun and wind can be unpredictable, storing renewable energy would allow the state to build a supply that would last through irregular conditions that might affect electricity use.

Steven Minnihan, a Lux Research Analyst, told Reuters that the proposal would have a major impact on the grid storage market, bringing the value of renewable energy installations from $200 million in 2012 to $10.4 billion in 2017.

Some venture capitalists, expecting California to become a pioneer in energy storage, have already invested in storage startups. Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates, venture capitalists Peter Thiel and Vinod Khosla, and companies like General Electric Co and LG Chem have invested in the Golden State’s energy storage initiatives. In the past five years, venture capitalists have spent $2.2 billion on storage.

“Grid scale storage has always been one of the areas that we knew and know will happen. It’s a matter of timing,” Andrew Chung, a partner with Khosla Ventures, told Reuters.

“These are capitalists. They are not doing this as a science experiment,” SunPower Corp Chief Executive Tom Werner said at a meeting with utility executives in San Francisco.

California’s major setback regarding renewable energy storage is the lack of federal funding backing the projects. Many of the state’s current storage projects were paid for with stimulus funds that have been used up, thereby burdening taxpayers with the cost of launching additional projects. Farzad Ghazzagh, an analyst for the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, estimates that installing enough storage to meet California’s 2020 goals would cost $1 billion to $3 billion.

“We all agree, as we sit here today, storage is uneconomic,” Werner said. “But if you go out five years, I wouldn’t bet against it.”

via RT

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Inventor Elon Musk reveals new super-fast ‘Hyperloop’ transport

Inventor Elon Musk reveals new super-fast ‘Hyperloop’ transport

Inventor Elon Musk reveals new super-fast ‘Hyperloop’ transport

Hyperloop passenger capsule version with doors open at the station. (Image from

The billionaire inventor and entrepreneur behind PayPal and SpaceX unveiled details on Monday about a new transportation system that might someday shuttle people around the world quicker than an airplane and at a fraction of the cost.

Elon Musk, the South African-born scientist who also oversees operations of the Tesla electric car, revealed on Monday the most information yet about his Hyperloop project, a transportation system that he previously said could move people from Los Angeles, California to San Francisco in half an hour.

Details about Musk’s most elusive endeavor have been scarce until now, but on Monday he disclosed plans that could help push the project towards becoming a reality sometime soon.

Musk’s presentation of the Hyperloop concept, which came along with futuristic renderings of sleek aluminum passenger pods, would travel in an enclosed environment shielded by steel tubes, mounted on pylons 50 to 100 yards apart at speeds surpassing that of commercial jet liners.

Monday’s reveal included both illustrations and specifications for an initial system to connect the city of Los Angeles to San Francisco.

According to Musk, the proposed pod system could transport passengers as well as vehicles.

“You just drive on, and the pod departs,” Musk toldBloomberg Businessweek in his first interview about the Hyperloop.

Though Hyperloop resembles another long-existing idea called pneumatic tubes, a concept that has been the subject of science fiction lore for decades, Musk says that the Hyperloop represents a middle ground between the complete vacuum environment of pneumatic tubes, instead running at low pressure.

Within the metal tubes passenger pods would travel atop thin skis made out of an alloy called inconel, which has been used on SpaceX vehicles and can withstand both high pressure and heat. At the front of the pods would be air jet inlets, not unlike those found on the Concorde. Air would then be compressed from the nose and sent into the skis. Magnets would also be used on the skis, giving the pods thrust through the use of an electromagnetic pulse.

Musk says that, relative to the environment inside of the metal tubes themselves, pods would be traveling just below the speed of sound, meaning they would not cross the sound barrier and thus not produce a sonic boom.

In revealing technical specifications and the potential cost for the Hyperloop transit system Musk also made pointed criticism at California’s current high-speed rail plans, saying it was neither affordable or terribly fast in comparison to bullet trains operating elsewhere in the world.

If ever constructed, the Hyperloop would travel at upwards of 800 miles-per-hour (966 kmh), far surpassing the capabilities of the high-speed train currently being proposed between LA and San Francisco.

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Inventor Elon Musk reveals new super-fast ‘Hyperloop’ transport

Suggested Hyperloop route map / map courtesy of Google Maps (Image from

Last week, Musk said he started dreaming up Hyperloop when he heard about the high-speed rail being discussed in California and found it “somewhat disappointing.”

It’s actually worse than taking the plane. I get a little sad when things are not getting better in the future,” Musk told fellow entrepreneur Richard Branson during a Google Hangout of the proposed rail system.

On Monday Musk piled on criticism of the proposed California bullet train. “You have to look at what they say it will cost vs. the actual final costs, and I think it’s safe to say you’re talking about a $100 billion-plus train,” Musk said, adding that the train project is also proving to be an impossible tangle of land rights.

For years now, Musk has only offered vague insight as to what the Hyperloop system would consist of. He’s previously said the design will be open source, and “It does involve a tube, but not a vacuum tube.”

You want a transport system that is roughly twice as fast as the next best alternative, that costs less, that is safer, that is not subject to weather and is more convenient,” he said to Branson. “If there were such a thing, I think most people would take it. In fact, it would increase the travel between the city pairs because of the increased convenience.

According to Musk the Hyperloop could be built in California for $6 billion if carrying passengers, or $10 billion for pods that can also ferry vehicles. The entrepreneur believes his concept would ultimately be four times faster than the state’s planned train and come in at one-10th the cost.


Hyperloop passenger transport capsule conceptual design sketch (Image from

As for tickets, Musk believes they would be far more affordable than airfare. In addition, solar arrays attached to the Hyperloop tubes themselves would conceivably make the entire system self-sustaining.

Even after blueprints have finally been revealed this week, however, the man behind the project has indicated he’ll leave the endeavor up to someone else, which would be a marked departure from his existing ventures.

I think I kind of shot myself by ever mentioning the Hyperloop,” he said last week a Tesla earnings call last week. “I don’t have any plans to execute, because I must remain focused on SpaceX and Tesla.”

“I have to focus on core Tesla business and SpaceX business, and that’s more than enough,” added Musk. “If nothing happens for a few years, with that I mean maybe it could make sense to make the halfway path with Tesla involvement,” he said, according to Gizmodo. “But [what] I would say is, you shouldn’t be speculative.”

Martin Archer, a physicist at London’s Imperial College, told the BBC that if anyone is going to be skeptical, they should rethink what Musk has been able to make happen before.

He’s the guy who made electric cars go fast with Tesla, which many people didn’t think would be possible; and he’s the head of SpaceX which is the only commercial rocket builder that has managed to hook up with the International Space Station,” Archer said.

“[Hyperloop] is quite an old science fiction idea but Elon Musk is the sort of man who could make it work,” he added.

via RT

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New 3D map shows large scale structures in the universe 9 billion years ago

New 3D map shows large scale structures in the universe 9 billion years ago

The FastSound project’s 3D map of the large-scale structure of a region in the Universe about 4.7 billion years after the Big Bang. This area covers 2.5 times 3 degrees of the sky, with a radial distance spanning 12-14.5 billion light years in co-moving distance or 8-9.6 billion light years in light travel distance. Credit: NAOJ, SDSS, CFHT.

The FastSound project’s 3D map of the large-scale structure of a region in the Universe about 4.7 billion years after the Big Bang. This area covers 2.5 times 3 degrees of the sky, with a radial distance spanning 12-14.5 billion light years in co-moving distance or 8-9.6 billion light years in light travel distance. Credit: NAOJ, SDSS, CFHT.

I remember seeing the Hubble 3-D IMAX movie in 2010 and literally gasping when the view pulled back from zooming into distant stars and galaxies to show clusters and superclusters of galaxies interwoven like a web, creating the large scale structure of the Universe. In 3-D, the structure looks much like the DNA double helix or a backbone.

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Now, a new project that aims to map the Universe’s structure has looked back in time to create a 3-D map showing a portion of the Universe as it looked nine billion years ago. It shows numerous galaxies and interestingly, already-developed large-scale structure of filaments and voids made from galaxy groups.

The map was created by the FastSound project, which is surveying galaxies in the Universe using the Subaru Telescope’s new Fiber Multi-Object Spectrograph (FMOS). The team doing the work is from Kyoto University, the University of Tokyo and the University of Oxford.

The team said that although they can see that the clustering of galaxies is not as strong back when the Universe was 4.7 billion years old as it is in the present-day Universe, gravitational interaction will eventually result in clustering that grows to the current level.

The new map spans 600 million light years along the angular direction and two billion light years in the radial direction. The team will eventually survey a region totaling about 30 square degrees in the sky and then measure precise distances to about 5,000 galaxies that are more than ten billion light years away.

This is not the first 3-D map of the Universe: the Sloan Digital Sky Survey created one in 2006 with coverage up to five billion light years away, and it was updated just last year, and a video flythough was created, which you can watch above. Also, earlier this year the University of Hawaii created a 3-D video map showing large scale cosmic structure out to 300 million light years.

But the FastSound project hopes to create a 3-D map of the very distant Universe by covering the volume of the Universe farther than ten billion light years away. FMOS is a wide-field spectroscopy system that enables near-infrared spectroscopy of over 100 objects at a time, with an exceptionally wide field of view when combined with the light collecting power of the 8.2 meter primary mirror of the telescope.

The map released today is just the first from FastSound. The final 3-D map of the distant Universe will precisely measure the motion of galaxies and then measure the rate of growth of the large-scale structure as a test of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Although scientists know that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, they do not know why – whether it is from dark energy or whether gravity on cosmological scales may differ from that of general relativity, this mystery is one of the biggest questions in contemporary physics and astronomy. A comparison of the 3D map of the young Universe with the predictions of general relativity could eventually reveal the mechanism for the mysterious acceleration of the Universe.

The team said their 3-D map shown in this release uses a measure of “comoving” distance rather than light travel distance. They explained:

Light travel distance refers to the time that has elapsed from the epoch of the observed distant galaxy to the present, multiplied by the speed of light. Since the speed of light is always constant for any observer, it describes the distance of the path that a photon has traveled. However, the expansion of the Universe increases the length of the path that the photon traveled in the past. Comoving distance, the geometrical distance in the current Universe, takes this effect into account. Therefore, comoving distance is always larger than the corresponding light travel distance.

In the lead image above from FastSound, the colors of the galaxies indicate their star formation rate, i.e., the total mass of stars produced in a galaxy every year. The gradation in background color represents the number density of galaxies; the underlying mass distribution (which is dominated by invisible dark matter that accounts for about 30% of the total energy in the Universe) and how it would look like this if we could see it. The lower part of the figure shows the relative locations of the FastSound and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) regions, indicating that the FastSound project is mapping a more distant Universe than SDSS’s 3D map of the nearby Universe.

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Find out more about FastSound here.

Source: Subaru Telescope

Article by Nancy Atkinson originally posted on Universe Today

Space Colony Art from the 1970s

Space Colony Art from the 1970s

Three space colony summer studies were conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s.

These artistic renderings conducted with scientists from NASA’s Ames Research Center in 1975 at Stanford University, they have artificial gravity, small mountains, rivers, trees, designed for populations from 10,000 to one million!

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Images credit NASA Ames Research Center.

Toroidal Colonies

Population: 10,000


Model of torus colony.


Cutaway view, exposing the interior. Art work: Rick Guidice.


Interior view. Art work: Don Davis.


Construction along the torus rim. Art work: Don Davis.


Exterior view. Art work: Don Davis.

Bernal Spheres

Population: 10,000. The Bernal Sphere is a point design with a spherical living area.


Exterior view. Art work: Rick Guidice.


Cutaway view of Bernal Sphere. Art work: Rick Guidice.


Interior including human powered flight. Art work: Rick Guidice.


Agricultural modules in cutaway view (multiple toroids). Art work: Rick Guidice.


Construction crew at work on the colony. Art work: Don Davis.


Model of a Bernal Sphere.

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Cylindrical Colonies

Population: Over a million.


Exterior view of a double cylinder colony. Art work: Rick Guidice.


Interior view looking out through large windows. Art work: Rick Guidice.


Endcap view with suspension bridge. Art work: Don Davis.


Eclipse of the sun with view of clouds and vegetation. Art work: Don Davis.


Multiple two-cylinder colonies aimed toward the sun.

Supercomputer can only simulate 1% of your brain

Supercomputer can only simulate 1% of your brain

Image © RIKEN

Image © RIKEN

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Researchers from the RIKEN HPCI Program for Computational Life Sciences, by using the full computational power of the Japanese K supercomputer, have carried out the largest general neuronal network simulation to date.

The simulated network only represented 1% of the neuronal network in the brain.

“Using NEST, the team, led by Markus Diesmann in collaboration with Abigail Morrison both now with the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at Jülich, succeeded in simulating a network consisting of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses. To realize this feat, the program recruited 82,944 processors of the K computer.  The process took 40 minutes to complete the simulation of 1 second of neuronal network activity in real, biological, time.”

“If peta-scale computers like the K computer are capable of representing 1% of the network of a human brain today, then we know that simulating the whole brain at the level of the individual nerve cell and its synapses will be possible with exa-scale computers hopefully available within the next decade,” explains Diesmann.

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via cnet

Source: Worldlesstech

The Truth According To Wikipedia

The Truth According To Wikipedia

Google or Wikipedia? Those of us who search online — and who doesn’t? — are getting referred more and more to Wikipedia. For the past two years, this free online “encyclopedia of the people” has been topping the lists of the world’s most popular websites. But do we really know what we’re using? Backlight plunges into the story behind Wikipedia and explores the wonderful world of Web 2.0. Is it a revolution, or pure hype?

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Director IJsbrand van Veelen goes looking for the truth behind Wikipedia. Only five people are employed by the company, and all its activities are financed by donations and subsidies. The online encyclopedia that everyone can contribute to and revise is now even bigger than the illustrious Encyclopedia Britannica. Does this spell the end for traditional institutions of knowledge such as Britannica? And should we applaud this development as progress or mourn it as a loss? How reliable is Wikipedia? Do “the people” really hold the lease on wisdom? And since when do we believe that information should be free for all? In this film, “Wikipedians,” the folks who spend their days writing and editing articles, explain how the online encyclopedia works. In addition, the parties involved discuss Wikipedia’s ethics and quality of content. It quickly becomes clear that there are camps of both believers and critics. Wiki’s Truth introduces us to the main players in the debate: Jimmy Wales (founder and head Wikipedian), Larry Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia, now head of Wiki spin-off Citizendium), Andrew Keen (author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy), Phoebe Ayers (a Wikipedian in California), Ndesanjo Macha (Swahili Wikipedia, digital activist), Tim O’Reilly (CEO of O’Reilly Media, the “inventor” of Web 2.0), Charles Leadbeater (philosopher and author of We Think, about crowdsourcing), and Robert McHenry (former editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia Britannica). Opening is a video by Chris Pirillo.

The questions surrounding Wikipedia lead to a bigger discussion of Web 2.0, a phenomenon in which the user determines the content. Examples include YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and Wikipedia. These sites would appear to provide new freedom and opportunities for undiscovered talent and unheard voices, but just where does the boundary lie between expert and amateur? Who will survive according to the laws of this new “digital Darwinism”? Are equality and truth really reconcilable ideals? And most importantly, has the Internet brought us wisdom and truth, or is it high time for a cultural counterrevolution?

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