- Nissan’s Fully Electric Concept Car Is Able to Travel Nearly 400 Miles on One Charge
- A New Battery Built by Samsung Uses Graphene to Charge Five Times Faster
- An Alternative Form of Therapy Lets You Swim With Dolphins in Virtual Reality
- A Programmable Smart Button Can Do Just About Anything
- Bitcoin Rose More Than 1,300 Percent This Year. Is This a Bitcoin Bubble?
- Gravity-Powered Device Brings Light to Regions Without Electricity
- The UAE Released a VR Tour of the First City on Mars
- We Just Discovered 72 New Galaxies, Which Means Trillions of New Alien Worlds
- Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens Announce New Partnership to Build an Electric Airplane
- Do We Live in a Multiverse?
- The Remarkable Physics of a Dyson Sphere
- Exploding Binary Stars Will Light up the Sky in 2022
- At One End of the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline, There Is a Scene You Must See to Believe
- New Drug Delivery Device Treats Glaucoma from Within the Eye
- SpaceX Just Raised Another $100 Million to Fund Our Journey Off World
- NASA is Launching Microbes into Space to Better Treat Astronauts
- MIT Scientists Created a New Method of Turning CO2 into Fuel
- New Artificial Muscles Lift 1000 Times Their Own Weight
Posted: 29 Nov 2017 09:43 AM PST
This is Nissan’s latest all-electric crossover concept.
The post Nissan’s Fully Electric Concept Car Is Able to Travel Nearly 400 Miles on One Charge appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 29 Nov 2017 09:28 AM PST
The Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) has developed new battery material, made from a “graphene ball,” which could potentially deliver charging speeds five times faster than today’s lithium ion batteries. Samsung announced the new material in a press release this past Wednesday, November 28.
But just how fast is this new material? Well, in theory, this graphene ball material only needs about 12 minutes to achieve a hundred percent charge. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this breakthrough material comes from graphene. The 2D-material has long been regarded as a wonder material because of its combination of unique properties. Graphene, among other things, is strong, durable, and highly conductive.
SAIT researchers, led by Son In-hyuk, developed a mechanism that allows for graphene to be mass synthesized into a 3D popcorn-like form using silica (SiO2). The graphene ball, in this technique, is applied to both the anode protective layers and the cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries.
The post A New Battery Built by Samsung Uses Graphene to Charge Five Times Faster appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 29 Nov 2017 09:09 AM PST
Users are typically placed in swimming pools for full immersion.
The post An Alternative Form of Therapy Lets You Swim With Dolphins in Virtual Reality appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 29 Nov 2017 08:54 AM PST
Trigger any of your smart devices with the press of a finger.
The post A Programmable Smart Button Can Do Just About Anything appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 29 Nov 2017 08:26 AM PST
On the Rise
Bitcoin is continuing to break records as we near the end of 2017. At the time of writing, its price is $10,726.45 – up a whopping 1,345 percent from its value as of this time last year, $742.01.
The cryptocurrency broke the $10,000 barrier on November 28, becoming one of the world’s 30 largest currencies of any kind. Its value then rose by another $1,000 in just one day, before dropping back down again as the market responded.
Bitcoin certainly seems to be on the up-and-up, and in recent months we’ve seen various analysts backtrack on earlier predictions that the currency would have already faltered. That being said, there’s still ample reason to exercise caution when it comes to buying in.
For the moment, it seems to be a great time to be a Bitcoin investor. However, the future of the cryptocurrency is still mired in uncertainty. The cryptocurrency’s rise has been marked with calls for more regulation, predictions of its failure, and even hacking scandals, leaving some wondering if the Bitcoin bubble is threatening to burst.
A recent report indicated another new issue: that the average amount of electricity used to mine Bitcoin surpassed the usage of over 150 countries. This is something that must be addressed as the coin becomes increasingly popular, as the energy used is essentially wasted.
The environmental aspect of Bitcoin mining may come into play as international governments seek to regulate the cryptocurrency. In Australia, there has already been talk of the country’s reserve bank adopting the coin officially, and there are reportedly plans to submit a bill to the US congress that would help protect investor’s rights.
This is to say nothing of the technological threats to the coin – the computing power of quantum systems could cause major problems for blockchain in its current form.
Bitcoin’s value is on the rise and shows no signs of stopping, but it’s difficult to predict what the future holds.
Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.
The post Bitcoin Rose More Than 1,300 Percent This Year. Is This a Bitcoin Bubble? appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 29 Nov 2017 08:20 AM PST
GravityLight relies on a 26.5 pound weight attached to a bead string.
The post Gravity-Powered Device Brings Light to Regions Without Electricity appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 29 Nov 2017 07:43 AM PST
You’ve reached Mars, and the first stop on your tour of the red planet is a small hangar, done up in chrome and brown and rust. Here, you are welcomed by a holographic emissary before departing in your hovering spherical craft: “On behalf of the United Government of Mars, I would like to welcome you to your second home.”
Outside, massive, insectile robot excavators pound away at the dusty red-brown soil to form roads and dig the foundations of new buildings. In no time, a red dome appears on the horizon: the City of Wisdom, humanity’s first settlement on Mars. Complete with laboratories, a University, green spaces, flowing architecture, and 600,000 permanent residents, this is Mars 2117 — the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) vision for the future of our nearest planetary neighbor — and you can explore it yourself in full virtual reality.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, announced earlier this year that the Emirates would lead an effort to establish the first international settlement on Mars by 2117. The country plans to work with scientists from around the globe to develop technology that makes traveling to and living on Mars possible. In September, the Dubai Media Office announced their plan to build a simulated Mars colony in the Emirati desert to develop the food, energy, and water systems that could support future settlers of the Red Planet.
If all goes according to plan, the UAE plans to send their first probe to Mars by 2021. In doing so, they join a tight race to put the first boots in the planet’s red dust. That race includes the United States’ NASA, aerospace technology giants SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, the Chinese government, and private ventures like Mars One.
Until those boots touch down, we’ll just have to explore the City of Wisdom and wait.
The post The UAE Released a VR Tour of the First City on Mars appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 29 Nov 2017 03:05 AM PST
Astronomers just discovered 72 never-before-seen galaxies using the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile as part of the deepest spectroscopic survey ever conducted.
These galaxies are all located in a relatively small area of space known as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). Over the last decade, this area has been the target of a wealth of observation, but it wasn’t until scientists were able to look at it using MUSE that these 72 galaxies became visible. This is because these galaxies are Lyman-alpha emitters, meaning they only shine brightly in one color of light.
Unlike the other telescopes used to study the HUDF, MUSE uses spectroscopy to break light into its component colors. “This allows us to measure the distance, colors, and other properties of all the galaxies we can see — including some that are invisible to Hubble itself," Roland Bacon of Lyon Centre for Astrophysics Research (CRAL), who led the MUSE HUDF Survey team, noted in a news release.
In addition to revealing these 72 new galaxies, the MUSE survey also led to the collection of extremely detailed spectroscopic measurements for 1,600 total galaxies. Using other ground-based telescopes, astronomers were previously only able to provide such precise measurements for roughly one-tenth that many galaxies.
The Odds in Our Favor
Already, the dataset produced by the MUSE survey has resulted in 10 new scientific papers, all of which will be published in a special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics. They range in topic from how stars formed in the early universe to how materials flow in and out of galaxies.
Perhaps most exciting of all, however, is what this data means for our search for extraterrestrial life.
NASA estimates that the Milky Way is home to between 100 billion and 400 billion stars. If the eight planets in our Solar System represent the average, it means that our galaxy could house anywhere from 800 billion to 3.2 trillion planets.
If each of the 72 newly discovered galaxies boasts the low-end estimate of 100 billion stars and the same average for planets per Solar System, our hunt for extraterrestrial life could now include an additional 57.6 trillion planets.
As our view of space improves, so will our chances of finding life beyond Earth. Several forthcoming advances in telescope technology will additionally support us expanding on the MUSE survey by providing a better look at the galaxies it uncovered.
“Future coordinated observations with the James Webb Space Telescope shall help us to understand these galaxies,” Bacon told Futurism. The highly anticipated telescope is excepted to launch in 2019, so scientists won’t have to wait long to make use of this technology. Once launched, it will allow astronomers to analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets in far greater detail than they’ve ever been able to, and they could use that ability to hunt for life within these newly discovered galaxies.
If the JWST doesn’t turn up any signs of life, however, the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST) might. That device is expected to have a resolution five to 10 times better than the JWST’s, making it powerful enough to detect biosignatures in the spectra of exoplanets.
Ultimately, if finding extraterrestrial life is a numbers game, humanity’s odds just went way up thanks to the MUSE survey.
The post We Just Discovered 72 New Galaxies, Which Means Trillions of New Alien Worlds appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 03:04 PM PST
From Electric Cars to Electric Planes
Electric cars and electric buses gaining ground both in terms of innovation and acceptance by the public as being the future of transportation. Models are currently being developed, tested, and rolled out around the world. These events are clear signs that EVs are well on their way to become a common sight on the road — and both companies and consumers will be better for it.
One form of transportation that has yet to see the same amount of progress is airplanes, though that isn’t to say there aren’t any projects focused on bringing the idea of electric aircraft to the skies. The problem is, passengers can’t ride in an electric plane as easily as they can an electric car. At least, not yet.
In October, Boeing recently purchased electric aircraft company Aurora Flight Sciences, signaling its commitment to electric transportation. Likewise, Startup company Zunum Aero — which has been backed by Boeing in the past — hopes to have its hybrid-electric airliner in operation by 2022.
Now, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and German automation company Siemens have announced a partnership to undertake a project that would convert a plane to utilize electric propulsion. The trio has dubbed the project “E-Fan X,” which involves gradually replacing the BAe 146 airliner’s gas turbines with two-megawatt electric motors.
In a statement, Airbus' Chief Technology Officer Paul Eremenko explained how the E-Fan X is actually the culmination of work that’s been done on previous electric plane projects.
"The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” said Eremenko. “The lessons we learned from a long history of electric flight demonstrators, starting with the Cri-Cri, including the e-Genius, E-Star, and culminating most recently with the E-Fan 1.2, as well as the fruits of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration with Siemens, will pave the way to a hybrid single-aisle commercial aircraft that is safe, efficient, and cost-effective. We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation."
Contributions and Competition
The three companies will each be in charge of separate parts of the project. Airbus will oversee the aircraft’s overall integration, which includes the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, as well as integration with flight controls. Rolls-Royce will provide the turbo-shaft engine, two-megawatt generator, and power electronics, and Siemens will provide the two-megawatt electric motors, power electronic control unit, DC/DC converter, and power distribution system.
"The E-Fan X enables us to build on our wealth of electrical expertise to revolutionize flight and welcome in the third generation of aviation,” said Paul Stein, Chief Technology Officer at Rolls-Royce. “This is an exciting time for us as this technological advancement will result in Rolls-Royce creating the world's most powerful flying generator.”
The E-Fan X is expected to take off after “a comprehensive ground test campaign” in 2020 — 2 years before the aforementioned Zunum Aero. When it debuts, it may have competition with the Eviation Aircraft, which is capable of transporting 9 passengers across 600 miles on a single charge.
There’s also Airbus’ own flying electric taxi, which is set to fly in 2018, and the environmentally-friendly airplanes NASA has invested $43 million into. That said, the agency’s commercial airplanes aren’t expected to hit the skies until around 2026.
The post Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens Announce New Partnership to Build an Electric Airplane appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 02:11 PM PST
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 01:52 PM PST
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 01:43 PM PST
Stellar collisions are an amazingly rare thing. According to our best estimates, such events only occur in our galaxy (within globular clusters) once every 10,000 years. It's only been recently, thanks to ongoing improvements in instrumentation and technology, that astronomers have been able to observe such mergers taking place. As of yet, no one has ever witnessed this phenomena in action – but that may be about to change!
According to study from a team of researchers from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a binary star system that will likely merge and explode in 2022. This is an historic find, since it will allow astronomers to witness a stellar merger and explosion for the first time in history. What's more, they claim, this explosion will be visible with the naked-eye to observers here on Earth.
The findings were presented at the 229th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). In a presentation titled "A Precise Prediction of a Stellar Merger and Red Nova Outburst", Professor Lawrence Molnar and his team shared findings that indicate how this binary pair will merge in about six years time. This event, they claim, will cause an outburst of light so bright that it will become the brightest object in the night sky.
This binary star system, which is known as KIC 9832227, is one that Prof. Molnar and his colleagues – which includes students from the Apache Point Observatory and the University of Wyoming – have been monitoring since 2013. His interest in the star was piqued during a conference in 2013 when Karen Kinemuchi (an astronomers with the Apache Point Observatory) presented findings about brightness changes in the star.
This led to questions about the nature of this star system – specifically, whether it was a pulsar or a binary pair. After conducting their own observations using the Calvin observatory, Prof. Molnar and his colleagues concluded that the star was a contact binary – a class of binary star where the two stars are close enough to share an atmosphere. This brought to mind similar research in the past about another binary star system known as V1309 Scorpii.
This binary pair also had a shared atmosphere; and over time, their orbital period kept decreasing until (in 2008) they unexpectedly collided and exploded. Believing that KIC 9832227 would undergo a similar fate, they began conducting tests to see if the star system was exhibiting the same behavior. The first step was to make spectroscopic observations to see if their observations could be explained by the presence of a companion star.
The next step was to measure the pair's orbital period, to see it was in fact getting shorter over time – which would indicate that the stars were moving closer to each other. By 2015, Prof. Molnar and his team determined that the stars would eventually collide, resulting in a kind of stellar explosion known as a "Red Nova". Initially, they estimated this would take place between 2018 and 2020, but have since placed the date at 2022.
In addition, they predict that the burst of light it will cause will be bright enough to be seen from Earth. The star will be visible as part of the constellation Cygnus, and it appear as an addition star in the familiar Northern Cross star pattern (see above). This is an historic case, since no astronomer has ever been able to accurately predict when and where a stellar collision would take place in the past.
What's more, this discovery is immensely significant because it represents a break with the traditional discovery process. Not only have small research institutions and universities not been the ones to take the lead on these sorts of discoveries in the past, but student-and-teacher teams have also not been the ones who got to make them. As Molnar explained it:
Over the course of the year, Molnar and his colleagues will be monitoring KIC 9832227 carefully, and in multiple wavelengths. This will be done with the help of the NROA's Very Large Array (VLA), NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility at Mauna Kea, and the ESA's XMM-Newton spacecraft. These observatories will study the star's radio, infrared and X-ray emissions, respectively.
Molnar also expects that amateur astronomers will be able to monitor the pair's orbital timing and variations in brightness. And if he and his team's predictions are correct, every student and stargazer in the northern hemisphere – not to mention people who just happen to be out for a walk – will be privy to the amazing light show. This is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, so stay tuned for more information.
Interestingly enough, this historic discovery is also the subject of a documentary film. Titled "Luminous", the documentary – which is directed by Sam Smartt, a Calvin professor of communication arts and sciences – chronicles the process that led Prof. Molnar and his team to make this unprecedented discovery. The documentary will also include footage of the Red Nova as it happens in 2022, and is expected to be released sometime in 2023.
The post Exploding Binary Stars Will Light up the Sky in 2022 appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 01:27 PM PST
Nebraska regulators on Monday approved Keystone XL, a 1,180-mile-long (1,900-kilometer) extension of the existing Keystone Pipeline operated by TransCanada Corp.
But the 3-2 vote in favor of expanding the pipeline followed a leak of 210,000 gallons of oil just days before. That oil gushed from a section of Keystone in South Dakota before TransCanada cut off the flow.
Plans for Keystone XLcall for the pipeline to begin in Alberta’s oil sands, sometimes called tar sands, and end at holding tanks in Patoka, Illinois, as well as points in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.
Former President Barack Obama canceled the Keystone XL pipeline in November 2015 with an executive order that said it would neither help lower gas prices nor create that many jobs. He also cited the pipeline’s long-term contribution to climate change — possibly more than 22 billion metric tons of carbon pollution, according to Scientific American.
“If we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground,” Obama said.
The XL segment already is partially built, and may ultimately cost entrepreneurs more than $10 billion. Upon completion, it would move larger volumes of oil in less time by shortening the route and burying larger-diameter pipes.
Proponents of the pipeline say it will lessen dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs. But environmental groups and many Americans — especially Native Americans — remain furious about the project. Beyond the risk of spills like the one this week, the project’s steep environmental costs also include the potential industrialization of 54,000 square miles of Alberta wilderness.
“The scale and severity of what’s happening in Alberta will make your spine tingle,” Robert Johnson, a former Business Insider correspondent, wrote after flying over the Canadian oil sands in May 2012.
Keep scrolling to see an updated version of Johnson’s photo essay, which shows the effects of Canadian oil mining — a process in which oil-laden sand is dug from the ground, the fuel separated out, and the land converted back into use for wild plants and animals. Today that process makes up about 50% of the Keystone XL pipeline’s oil, while less-visible “in situ” pumping generates the rest.
This story was originally published on March 24, 2017. It has been updated with new information.
To get a look at the oil sand mines, we rented this Cessna 172, which the pilot was allowed to bring down to 1,000 feet. Through the open window we could see what really goes on in one of the most controversial places on the planet.
The Alberta oil sands are spread across more than 54,000 square miles, but we’re taking a look at just a small part of it. The red line is an approximate outline of the entire deposit — the green is where we were flying.
Thousands flock here to make real money in the oil sands, where creating synthetic crude begins in the strip mine. This is how the oil sands have been harvested since 1967.
Only two companies worked the sands in 1998. In May 2012 there were more than 10 times that number.
That’s because in the late ’90s, oil prices rose, the Canadian government restructured its royalty system, and new technology caused a huge boom.
From small companies to conglomerates like Shell, each outfit starts off the same way.
First they cut down all the trees.
Then they scrape away the shallow layer of leafy, peaty topsoil called muskeg.
Trucks and shovels move in to scoop up the oil sand. This shovel is electric and scoops up 90 tons in one load. It takes about 2.5 tons of sand to produce one barrel of oil.
The Cat 797 dump trucks are the largest in the world and can haul 1 million pounds in a single load — more weight than a fully loaded Boeing 747 airplane.
They’re so large people say they can drive over a Ford F-150 like it’s a ‘speed bump.’ This shot of one inside a mechanic’s shop shows what they mean.
The dump trucks are everywhere out here, carrying chunks of compacted oil sand…
… Often across bridges like these, which are supposed to be the strongest in the world.
Crushing plants like this break up the chunks into a fine mixture that can be transported along the conveyor belts below.
The conveyors take the sand to be conditioned — the first step in separating it from the oil.
Conditioning mixes the oil sand with water to create a slurry, in which oil begins to separate from the sand.
The slurry is then piped to containers where it separates into three parts: Oil froth on top; sand on the bottom; and oil, sand, clay, and water in the middle.
The sand and water mixture in the middle is pumped to open storage areas called tailings ponds.
The ponds are vast and some look more like lakes.
Most ponds are coated in a sheen of oil that can be deadly to waterfowl, like ducks and geese, that land on its surface.
Scarecrows like this are all over the ponds to help keep birds away.
The ponds are used to clarify the oil-water slurry. Solids slowly sink to the bottom, chemicals and oil float to the top.
The surface chemicals are skimmed off with floating lines like those used in oil spills.
To give an idea of the size: That dump truck passing the pond is 50 feet long.
This is what one pond looks like on the ground.
And this is what the surface material looks like up-close.
After the surface water is skimmed, it’s relatively free of sediment and chemicals, and is pumped from one pond to another. This clarified water is supposed to provide 90 percent of what the oil companies need to start all over again.
The solids left behind will be used to reclaim the land as the operation moves on.
As the sand finally dries, it turns white. Sound cannons boom in these areas to scare birds away, especially after a 2010 incident where hundreds of ducks landed on a roadside pond and died.
Oil companies are required to return the land to its original condition and this reclaimed section, populated with Wood Bison, is not far from the pond.
It looks a lot different on this side.
The petroleum industry is also working to limit surface mining and increase its share of “in situ” production of oil, which drills wells into hard-to-reach deposits, blasts them with steam, and pumps oil products to the surface.
About 20% of Alberta’s oil sand deposits can be reached with surface mining. The other 80% is ripe for the in situ method, which has a less visible footprint compared to mining. The split in method of production today is about 50/50.
So far, only a small portion of Alberta’s oil sands are developed. And Canada requires any mining operation to reclaim the area. But there are costs to expanding in situ production.
In situ extraction still impacts wildlife, such as caribou herds, and it takes more energy — and generates more greenhouse gases — to extract oil compared to mining.
Critics also say restoring a piece of developed land to its native boreal forest condition, like this, is not realistic.
With the mining method, the crude oil is pulled from the sand and shuttled to an ‘upgrader’ like Suncor’s here on the Athabasca River — one of the sites where the oil from the sands is converted into synthetic crude.
This is done by heating the raw oil, called bitumen, in a process called coking. Smoke from the process hovers about the whole area and a smell that fills the cockpit of the plane.
Here are some small piles of coke.
And here’s one very immense pile of coke waiting to be used or sold as fuel for smelting iron.
After it’s coked, the oil is “cracked” to break the heavy parts down into lighter, more desirable petroleum products. What’s left after cracking gets sent to towers like this. Inside they’re hotter at the top than the bottom, forcing dense material down and lighter petroleum products up.
Then everything is exposed to hot, high-pressure gas that removes even more impurities like sulfur.
The sulfur would normally then be sold. But a glut in the sulfur market in May 2012 kept prices low, so mountains of it grew.
Once the oil is “upgraded” it goes to a storage tank, like this one that was under construction.
This is Syncrude’s Mildred Lake plant along Route 63.
Route 63 is a deadly stretch of road. A family of seven died the day I arrived in Alberta, and their memorial is right across from Syncrude by the side of the road. After taking this photo, Syncrude security arrived and told me to leave.
Just north of the memorial sit these two machines, which some companies used in mining until 2006. A dragline is on the left, and a gray bucketwheel on the right.
Spectacularly immense, this bucketwheel is the largest crawling machine in existence.
That fence post in front of the wheel is about six-feet-tall. The bucket teeth that dug into the sand were very effective, but when the bucketwheel broke down, mining stopped — so they were phased out in favor of the shovels and trucks.
Fleets of trucks work the sands. That way, if one breaks down another can simply takes its place. But at $5 to $6 million apiece, they are not cheap.
And they go through tires pretty quickly. The ones for the big dump trucks run about $45,000 apiece.
At 13 feet wide and 12,000 pounds each, 797 tires are a burden to dispose of — so they’re put to use wherever they can be. Here they make a security fence.
To keep vehicles from getting bogged down in the mud, these wooden boards are often laid down.
But they’re not always practical, so a nearby gravel mine pumps out stone to layer the roads.
The gravel mine produces its own uniquely colored pools of water.
But they don’t compare to the deep orange of this oil sand pit we passed in the plane moments later.
The companies out here all have their own landfills, even though city officials are building a state-of-the-art incinerator as part of their modernization effort.
Most oil workers live in housing like this and are bused in to the compound from their homes in Fort McMurray.
The average dump truck driver working the mines makes about $55 an hour plus overtime. The average family income here is around $190,000 a year.
That kind of money prompts many people to settle down and stay far longer than they planned. (This is where the pilot lives with his parents.)
But locals said they’d like to see more transparency and updates on what is being found and what to watch out for. As you can imagine, the people who live here are very concerned about pollution — this site was fined $275,000 for contaminating the Athabasca River in 2011.
The provincial government tests the area waters constantly.
Overall, the oil sands, with up to 2 trillion barrels of oil in the ground, is a complex place.
And despite how you feel about the environmental impact oil companies may have on the world…
… They’re not likely to go anywhere while there is still oil left to collect — with or without the Keystone XL pipeline.
The post At One End of the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline, There Is a Scene You Must See to Believe appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 12:34 PM PST
From the Inside
A new drug delivery system could be a crucial development in the fight against glaucoma. The disease currently affects more than 60 million people around the world, making it the second-leading cause of blindness, behind cataracts. That number is expected to increase to 76 million by 2020 and even further to nearly 112 million by 2040, according to a study published by the American Academy of Opthalmology.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. If the disease is caught early and treated effectively, a patient can avoid such deleterious effects as vision loss or complete blindness. However, the most common way to treat glaucoma requires a strict regiment of medicated eye drops. This may be difficult for many patients to diligently adhere to, leaving room for the disease to progress into its degenerative stages.
The new drug delivery device is implanted into a patient’s eye where it gradually releases an anti-glaucoma drug over the course of six months until it completely dissolves. The device is composed of two layers of biodegradable film with a layer of medication “sandwiched” between. Traditional eye-drop treatments only allow small amounts of the drug to be delivered to the desired location, with the rest draining into the patient’s bloodstream to be filtered out of the body. The implant ensures the maximum amount of medication is delivered to most effective areas. The implant was developed in the lab of Dr. Tejal Desai, chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the University of California San Fransico’s Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine.
Dr. Desai’s lab focuses on discovering new ways to effectively administer drugs using micro- and nanofabrication techniques. Her lab is working on ways to deliver drugs in a variety of different ways including better oral drug delivery, delivering drugs through membranes in the intestines, and even ways of getting medication directly to the sources of bone or bone marrow infections. The research for the glaucoma treatment can be found in the Journal of Controlled Release.
Dr. Desai’s is not the only research team working on ways to better treat glaucoma. Earlier in November 2017, a team of researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of Toronto discovered a new way to treat the disease.
Using a category of molecules called lipoxins, known to have anti-inflammatory properties, may also play a role in neuroprotection. Injecting these molecules in rodents saw the progression of the disease halted.
Much more research will be needed to prove if these treatments will be safe and effective in humans. The new drug delivery device being developed by Dr. Desai’s lab has shown promise in initial tests. Any complications seen in test animals implanted with the device were rare and minor.
Desai says the "[n]ext steps will involve scaling up, developing device fabrication procedures that comply with current good manufacturing practices, and testing the device in larger animals, before moving on to clinical trials."
The march toward FDA approval for the device is a long one. It is difficult to predict just when we can expect this treatment to be available for use. However, this is an important development that has to potential to protect millions of eyes around the world.
The post New Drug Delivery Device Treats Glaucoma from Within the Eye appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 12:18 PM PST
2017 has already been an exciting, momentum-building year for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and now, the company has something else to add to their list of achievements: a significant injection of funding. Based on a new filing, SpaceX raised $100 million by selling shares, adding to the roughly $350 million raised in August.
On November 27, the company filed an amended update to their August round of funding with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This latest SEC update brings SpaceX’s total fundraising for this round to just under $450 million, and the company itself is now valued at $21.5 billion.
SpaceX spokesperson James Gleeson provided a statement to TechCrunch: “This filing simply discloses that SpaceX received an additional $100 million of investment as part of the last funding round which was disclosed earlier this summer."
Putting That Money to Use
The fact that SpaceX raised $100 million just months after raising $350 million might seem like they now have enough to ease any financial concerns, but the company has no shortage of projects that could all benefit from the additional money.
One of the most chronologically significant is the launch of their Falcon Heavy rocket. The company expects to conduct a test fire on the rocket in mid-December, with another test fire to follow shortly after, if necessary.
Other ambitious projects include the BFR rocket, which Musk believes could transport people to any part of the world in 60 minutes and, eventually, to Mars. Then, of course, they also have the rest of that ambitious plan to colonize Mars to work through — the first planned cargo mission for that is currently set for 2022.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep the rocket maker busy, SpaceX also has their Raptor prototype rocket engine to scale up and perfect, and the company wants to launch more than 4,000 satellites into space to create a high-speed, global internet network.
The space industry is financially demanding, and with all of these projects in the works simultaneously — and CEO Elon Musk always taking on more challenges— $450 million might not stretch so far, so SpaceX will likely go through more rounds of funding in the future.
The post SpaceX Just Raised Another $100 Million to Fund Our Journey Off World appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 12:08 PM PST
NASA Wants Spacebound Bacteria
NASA is sending samples of bacteria into low-Earth orbit in order to research methods of keeping astronauts healthy while they’re far away from home. The E. coli Anti-Microbial Satellite (EcAMSat) is set to investigate how well antibiotics can combat the bacteria while in space.
It’s thought that E. coli and other similar bacteria might be subject to stress when put under the conditions of microgravity. This would trigger their defense systems, making it more difficult for antibiotics to fight them off, not unlike the way that bacteria on Earth develop a resistance to such treatments – as such, this research might help improve our ability to produce such medicine for terrestrial use, also.
“If we find resistance is higher in microgravity, we can do something, because we’ll know the gene responsible for it, and be able to design countermeasures,” said A. C. Matin, the principal investigator on the EcAMSat project at Stanford University in California, according to a report from Space Daily. “If we are serious about the exploration of space, we need to know how human vital systems are influenced by microgravity.”
Healthcare for Astronauts
As astronauts go on longer missions to more distant destinations – for instance, the oft-touted hypothetical mission to Mars – it’s going to become increasingly important that they can have access to medicine off-world. EcAMSat will contribute to that capability.
The strains of E. coli that are being used as part of the project are responsible for urinary tract infections, which are among the various different ailments that can potentially affect astronauts in space. The results of the study will give mission planners more information about the proper dosage of medicine required to combat an infection.
EcAMSat is autonomous, and will operate independently once ground controllers and crew on the International Space Station collaborate to send it into orbit. Students at Santa Clara University will be tasked with monitoring its activity, handling mission operations, and receiving data.
The dormant E. coli will be awakened via a fluid packed with nutrients, as the temperature of their containers is adjusted to that of the human body. The samples will then be administered with different dosages of antibiotics. Two types of E. coli are set to be compared, one that bears a naturally occurring gene that helps it resist antibiotics, and another which does not.
The bacteria will be mixed with a blue dye that turns a deeper shade of pink depending on how many cells remain active and viable. If it remains blue, it means that the antibiotic dosage has killed off most of the cells. The experiment is set to last for 150 hours, at which point the data will be transmitted down to Earth via radio.
While the main priority is this research into the effectiveness of antibiotics in space, a successful voyage will also help demonstrate the capabilities of the tiny satellite, which is approximately the size of a shoebox.
“Though EcAMSat will only fly this once, many of its components may embark on a different mission: life detection in the solar system,” said Tony Ricco, Ames’ chief technologist for the mission, in a report published by NASA. “Using sensors and the microfluidics technology from EcAMSat, NASA is developing the technology needed to look for life on moons such as Enceladus and Europa – ocean worlds covered by icy crusts.”
The post NASA is Launching Microbes into Space to Better Treat Astronauts appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 11:22 AM PST
Waste Not, Want Not
Researchers at MIT have created a new method of turning carbon dioxide emissions from power plants into a useful product. The resulting substance could be used as fuel for cars, trucks, and planes, as well as chemical feedstock with a large variety of applications.
MIT postdoc Xiao-Yu Wu developed the new membrane-based system alongside Ahmed Ghoniem, the Ronald C. Crane professor of mechanical engineering. The membrane itself is made from a compound of lanthanum, calcium, and iron oxide. It works by allowing oxygen from carbon dioxide to pass through while leaving carbon monoxide on the other side.
The scientists behind the project report that the membrane is 100 percent selective when it comes to oxygen. The separation process is driven by extremely high temperatures, with a high of 990 degrees Celsius.
It’s crucial that the oxygen that separates off from the carbon monoxide continues to flow through the membrane until it has reached the other side. This could be accomplished using a vacuum, but that technique would require a great deal of energy. Instead, a stream of fuel — such as hydrogen or methane — will be employed, as these substances are easily oxidized and don’t require a pressure difference to ferry the oxygen atoms through the membrane.
The resulting carbon monoxide can either be used as a fuel in its own right, or combined with hydrogen, water, or a mixture of the two to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels. It can also be used to create chemicals like methanol, syngas, and more.
The heat required for the process could be supplied by solar energy or waste heat — some of which may be contributed by the power plant itself. In basic terms, the technique allows for that energy to be stored in chemical fuel form.
This is similar to the carbon capture projects being pursued by various groups all over the world. It’s no secret that we can’t maintain our current levels of carbon emissions, so something needs to be done to address the problem.
This particular technique harbors a great deal of potential: not only does it address carbon emissions, it provides a built-in method for paying for its set-up costs. Its creators have suggested that natural gas power plants could use the system in a manner that splits incoming gas into two streams: one that would be burned to generate electricity alongside its carbon dioxide production, and another that would work with the membrane to produce the oxygen-reacting fuel source. Such an implementation would allow the plant to yield syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) as a secondary revenue stream.
The next step will be an investigation into the best way to go about increasing the rate of oxygen flow across the membrane. Attempts are also being made to integrate the membrane into working reactors and to pair those reactors with the fuel production mechanism.The heat required for the process could be supplied by solar energy or waste heat — some of which may be contributed by the power plant itself.
The post MIT Scientists Created a New Method of Turning CO2 into Fuel appeared first on Futurism.
Posted: 28 Nov 2017 10:47 AM PST
Artificial Origami Skeletons
Humans have soft muscles and rigid skeletons, and when exerted in optimal sync they have the potential to lift a fairly impressive amount of weight. But a new technique, created by humans, that uses soft muscles and rigid skeletons allows a device to lift 1,000 times its own weight. This is a major development because, while soft robotics have exhibited promise with dexterity and human-like motion, they have typically lacked sufficient strength.
In a new paper published in the journal PNAS, scientists from MIT CSAIL and Harvard's Wyss Institute show how soft robotics can retain immense strength with the help of rigid origami skeletons. Professor Daniela Rus, CSAIL director and lead author of the paper, said in an interview with The Verge, “Soft robots have so much potential, but up until now, one of the limitations has been payloads. [They're] very safe, very gentle, but not good for lifting heavy objects. This new approach allows us to make strong and soft robots."
Obviously, this technology could be used within warehouses and the manual labor sector where the ability to lift heavy objects with an increased dexterity are a must. But robotics with applications in this field of labor consequently have many other applications in a variety of other fields. Currently, scientists are exploring the use of soft robotics in fields ranging from marine research to the creation of autonomous, soft robots. This wide range of applications will only continue to grow as the technology advances, and this new research will allow the tech to be pushed further than ever before.
Decades ago, people envisioned a future in which robots ruled, completing superhuman tasks with chrome exteriors. And recently, soft robotics changed that notion, only held back by their lack of strength. This bold foray into strong, soft robotics could truly allow for the next phase of robotics to ensue.
The post New Artificial Muscles Lift 1000 Times Their Own Weight appeared first on Futurism.
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