The electricity system is experiencing growing pains these days. But it's not only demand for electricity that's expanding — it's the sources of electricity, particularly unpredictable kinds, like wind farms and solar panels.
And grid operators know that we're just at the beginning. States are requiring more renewable power to fight climate change, and it may be the customers who will play a big role in helping grid operators manage these clean, but finicky, sources of power.
Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 2:04 pm
Fortunately for those of us who are suckers for novelty, every year fruits and vegetables seem to come in more bewitching colors, shapes and flavors. Lately, we've been tickled by the cotton candy grape and the vibrant orange Turkish eggplant.
What if — just maybe — we find extra-terrestrial life in the oceans of Europa, a little moon circling Jupiter? If we do, says writer Caspar Henderson, don't expect that oceanic alien to be very big. Or very scary. Or even very visible. Nothing like this ...
The "top predator" on Europa, Henderson reports, is likely to be "a fearsome creature with the mass of one gram." That's three one-hundredths of an ounce.
And whether it's worth paying to avoid all blackouts is a theme that has been on the mind of Steven Weissman, he's a professor of Electricity Law at the University of California, Berkeley. We reached him on this blackout anniversary to learn about how the nation's energy system is structured. Weissman says the grid is really made up of several complex networks.
Ten years ago, a sagging power line hit a tree near Cleveland, tripping some circuit breakers. To compensate, power was rerouted to a nearby line, which began to overheat and sink down into another tree, tripping another circuit. The resulting cascade created a massive blackout in the Northeast U.S., affecting power in eight states and part of Canada.
Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 4:27 pm
Two British scientists are dumping cold water on campaigns to promote urban beekeeping. They say that trying to "help the bees" by setting out more hives is naive and misguided if the bees can't find enough flowers nearby to feed on. You'll just end up with sick and starving bees.
You can thank brainy billionaire Elon Musk's Hyperloop proposal for bringing electro-magnetic-powered transportation and the linear induction motor back into the public consciousness.
The Hyperloop is a system for really-really rapid transit. If built, Musk claims it can carry people about 800 miles per hour, which could get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 30 minutes.
When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn't take long for accusations to start flying. A flurry of initial finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Fort Collins, Colo., which housed the same strain of wheat, developed by Monsanto Corp., for about seven years up until late 2011.
"It's a very curious time in high-energy physics," says Michael Peskin, a researcher at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. On the one hand, researchers have just made the most significant discovery in decades: In July of last year, they announced they had found the Higgs particle at a collider in Switzerland. The Higgs is part of the mechanism that gives mass to everything. It is so fundamental that without it, we wouldn't exist.
Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 6:56 am
It's bad enough to have to be tested for dementia. It's even worse if the test isn't fair. Researchers in Chicago found they needed to update the screening test for a type of early onset dementia so that the measure would more accurately pick up symptoms among a new wave of patients — baby boomers and Gen Xers.
A burst of brain activity just after the heart stops may be the cause of so-called near-death experiences, scientists say.
The insight comes from research involving nine lab rats whose brains were analyzed as they were being euthanized. Researchers discovered what appears to be a momentary increase in electrical activity in the brain associated with consciousness.
Although the experiment relied on animals, the results could apply to humans, too, the researchers say.
It's breathing, he thought. "All of a sudden I see a thing with a heartbeat."
John Nelson is a designer, well known for tracing complex weather patterns or cultural information on maps, so considering what he usually does, this was easy. NASA's Visible Earthteam publishes pictures of our planet every month of the year, so John thought, why not stitch them together, and see what the seasons look like from outer space?
Perhaps you heard that last night, a plucky little drug dealer named Walter White returned to television for his last eight episodes of the award-hoarding Breaking Bad.
But before he began his life of crime, Walter White was a chemistry teacher, and chemistry is what originally made him such a great meth cook. Breaking Bad has always included a lot of science talk, especially in the early days, and the time has come for someone to see whether it holds up.