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Elon Musk: A thermostat-sized box may one day power your house


Elon Musk: A thermostat-sized box may one day power your house
Published: Sept 18, 2014 7:57 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — It’s easy to get lost in the numbers that swirl around a project as massive as Tesla’s $5 billion gigafactory. But by sitting back and looking outside of the box, the potential ground-level benefits of such an immense factory begin to set in.


What this really means is the massive factory -- which Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk and his first cousin, SolarCity Corp. CEO Lyndon Rive, hinted Wednesday at a private conference may be the first of several perhaps larger plants -- is that an increased level of manufacturing scale will improve the efficiency and affordability of lithium-ion batteries.

That, in turn, will power not just the car, but also the home. In fact, of the 50 gigawatts of battery power Tesla aims to produce through the gigafactory by 2020, 15 gigawatts is expected to be funneled directly towards stationary energy storage systems.


SolarCity and Tesla have for years operated as separate entities, seemingly with a separate focus. But that is starting to change. Musk, in a closed-door interview with the press on Wednesday, said Tesla is using SolarCity’s customers as a base to discover how to make battery packs that are small enough, light enough and powerful enough that they might one day sit comfortably in your garage, a mere four inches from the wall.

Musk didn’t provide specifics on this futuristic vision, but alluded to the fact that home storage might one day fit into a device similar to the size of a Nest thermostat or, perhaps, a flat-screen TV.


"Someday" is Now for Solar and Wind Power, says Lazard

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Large wind and solar power farms have the economics to go toe-to-toe with the cheapest fossil fuel-based power supplies in the United States according to the venerable financial advisory firm Lazard Ltd. Thanks to falling costs and rising efficiency, reports Lazard in an analysis released this week, utility-scale installations of solar panels and wind turbines now produce power at a cost that's competitive with natural gas and coal-fired generating stations—even without subsidies.

The results appear in the eighth annual update of Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (pdf), which compares the combined cost of financing, building, and operating power generating plants using a variety of energy technologies. Lazard projects that new utility-scale solar plants will deliver energy at US $72-86 per megawatt-hour, and wind turbines beat that with a cost of $37-81/MWh.

Those renewable energy options compare well against the cost of the most cost-effective natural gas-fired technology—combined cycle plants—which delivers at a projected $61-127/MWh (depending on whether the plant captures its carbon dioxide emissions). The renewables look even better against coal in Lazard's analysis, which prices new coal-fired generation at $66-171/MWh.

The London-based Financial Times says the message is that renewables are starting to "outshine" gas. The FT quotes George Bilicic, Lazard global head of power, energy & infrastructure, accepting that renewable energy has finally arrived: “We used to say some day solar and wind power would be competitive with conventional generation. Well, now it is some day.”


Read more: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/renewables/someday-is-now-for-solar-wind-power-says-lazard

NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

Source: Associated Press

NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil.

On Tuesday, the space agency announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years.


NASA has set a goal of 2017 for the first launch under the program.


NASA will pay the companies $6.8 billion — $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.6 billion to SpaceX.


Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/nasa-announcing-commercial-crew-winners-25540302

Expect the Unexpected: More 9.0 Megaquakes Are Coming, Study Says

Source: NBC

No one should be surprised if a magnitude-9 megaquake erupts off America's West Coast — or anywhere else around the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire," for that matter.

That's the upshot of a study in October's issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America: Researchers say that computer models of future seismic activity, plus a check of past activity going back thousand of years, suggest most of the Pacific's earthquake zones are capable of generating shocks at least as strong as magnitude 9 every 10,000 years on average.

Seismologists were surprised in 2004 when a magnitude-9.3 quake and tsunami devastated Sumatra and caused more than 200,000 deaths around the Pacific Rim. They were surprised again in 2011 by Japan's 9.0 quake and tsunami, which killed more 15,000 people and touched off a nuclear catastrophe that continues to this day.

In each case, experts didn't think the area where one geological plate is diving beneath another — known as a subduction zone — was capable of generating a quake that strong.


In addition to coming up with the 10,000-year figure for the probability of 9.0 quakes, they estimated that quakes of at least magnitude 8.5 should be expected at least every 250 years, and 8.8 quakes should be expected every 500 years.


Rong and her colleagues compared their figures with the sedimentary record for the Cascadia zone, and came up with estimates that were somewhat different for that area. They said that 9.0 quakes should be expected every 1,000 years for Cascadia, with 9.3 quakes over a 10,000-year period.


Read more: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/expect-unexpected-more-9-0-megaquakes-are-coming-study-says-n203936

Note that those probabilities are per subduction zone, and there are multiple subductions zones, so the total frequency is much higher.

Low Serotonin Levels Don’t Cause Depression


Low Serotonin Levels Don’t Cause Depression
By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

One of the leading myths that unfortunately still circulates about clinical depression is that it’s caused by low serotonin levels in the brain (or a “biochemical imbalance”). This is a myth because countless scientific studies have specifically examined this theory and have come back universally rejecting it.

So let’s put it to rest once and for all — low levels of serotonin in the brain don’t cause depression.

Let’s find out why.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had to debunk this myth. We last did so in 2007 — 7 years ago — pointing out that most people’s (even doctor’s!) belief that low serotonin causes depression is a result of pharmaceutical companies’ successful marketing. It’s a message they repeatedly hammered home, making it one of the most successful marketing messages-turned-into-fact ever done on Madison Avenue.

However, you may be reading this article to get to the punch line: So if low serotonin levels don’t cause depression, what does? Here’s the short answer — researchers still don’t understand what causes depression. We have a lot of theories still in the mix and still being researched, but none of them have resulted in one, conclusive answer.


If a doctor suggests this is the cause of your depression, and all you need is an antidepressant like Prozac, point them to this article. And please take a moment to share this on Facebook and twitter. It’s an widespread myth that dumbs down depression that we need to put to rest once and for all.


Ball Aerospace to Build First Commercial Laser Satellite System


Ball Aerospace to Build First Commercial Laser Satellite System
Posted by Doug Messier on September 15, 2014, at 5:10 am

BOULDER, Colo., September 10, 2014 (Ball Aerospace PR) – Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has been selected by Laser Light™ Communications, LLC (Laser Light™) to be its prime contractor for the first global, all-optical commercial satellite system. As customer demand for bandwidth grows, space-based laser communication provides a new way to move vast amounts of information around the globe efficiently and with greater resiliency.

The Ball Aerospace contract will include a first phase design analysis that will lead to completion of an eight-satellite constellation operating in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). The complete constellation of up to 12 satellites is expected to deliver 6 terabits of data per second with service speeds of 200 gigabits per second, bi-directionally, or nearly 100 times faster than conventional radio downlinks.

While conventional systems require labor-intensive infrastructure and are vulnerable to potential service disruptions, Laser Light™’s system will deliver equivalent bandwidth connections at lower operating costs, with higher speed and reliability. This new optical system will integrate seamlessly with existing ground service networks, offering multiple downlink locations to eliminate slowdowns from network congestion, outages, or weather interruptions.


Could You Win A Trip To Space? New Group Aims To Use Contest Fees To Support Space Groups, Too

Source: Universe Today

A new organization aims to send people to space on private spacecraft while supporting worthy causes on Earth at the same time. Spaceship Earth Grants has launched a contest with a 1-in-50,000 chance for the ultimate ride — a trip into space — and other prizes as well. For example, parabolic flight opportunities will be available for some of the first 5,000 who apply.

“Spaceship Earth Grants is committed to making the space experience accessible to as many people as possible,” the organization wrote on its website. Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin is its president.

“We know that aspects of spaceflight can cause a profound shift in perspective that positively influences the way people behave and impact the world. Alongside, our grants are intended to facilitate that positive impact in the world. Spaceship Earth Grants will award grants to individuals and organizations.”

The first organizations to receive grants will be mostly space advocacy groups: Fragile Oasis, The Overview Institute, The Planetary Society and Project Nominate. The money will come from a portion of the application fee that people pay when participating in the contest. (The fee ranges from $15 to $90 depending on the relative wealth of your country.)


Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/114581/could-you-win-a-trip-to-space-new-group-aims-to-use-contest-fees-to-support-space-groups-too/

Russia tests ICBM as Putin says nuclear deterrent must be maintained

Source: MSN, Reuters

With ties between Moscow and the West frayed by the crisis in Ukraine, Putin also took greater control of a commission that oversees the defence industry and made a new call for Russia to become less reliant on imported Western equipment.

He said NATO was using rhetoric over the Ukraine crisis to "resuscitate itself" and noted that Russia had warned repeatedly that it would have to respond to such moves.

Shortly before he spoke, Russia successfully tested its new submarine-launched Bulava intercontinental missile, a 12-metre- long weapon that can deliver a nuclear strike with up to 100 times the force of the atomic blast that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.


A Bulava missile weighs 36.8 tonnes, can travel 8,000 km (5,000 miles) and hold six to 10 nuclear warheads. Intended to become the cornerstone of Russia's nuclear forces by the end of the decade, its development had been delayed by numerous failed tests.

Russia is slated to spend over 20 trillion roubles ($536.81 billion) on the modernisation of its army, which still largely relies on Soviet-era weapons and arms technologies.


Read more: http://news.msn.com/world/russia-tests-icbm-as-putin-says-nuclear-deterrent-must-be-maintained

Predictions: Winter forecasts vary between NWS, Farmers' Almanac


Predictions: Winter forecasts vary between NWS, Farmers’ Almanac
By Chris Olson on Sep 2, 2014


Last week, predictions of a cold, snowy winter were common after two competing compendiums of folklore and weather knowledge, the Farmers’ Almanac, printed in Lewiston, Maine, and the Old Farmer’s Almanac, printed in Dublin, N.H., both released long-range winter forecasts for the U.S.

The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting “below normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation,” according to the company’s website.

“The most frigid temperatures will be found from the Northern Plains into the Great Lakes,” the website forecast states. The Farmers’ Almanac long-range forecast also calls for near normal precipitation amounts for the Northern Plains.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac forecast for the Upper Midwest region, which includes the east half of North Dakota, calls for winter temperatures, precipitation and snowfall to all be below normal this winter.

But the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center in Maryland is predicting above average temperatures for October 2014 through April 2015, with an equal chance of above or below average precipitation.


Stephen Hawking: Research on the 'God particle' could cause space-time to collapse

Source: Raw Story

In the preface to a new book, Starmus, acclaimed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking writes that the so-called “God particle” could become unstable and cause a “catastrophic vacuum decay” that would lead to the collapse of time and space, The Sunday Times reports.

“The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100bn gigaelectronvolts,” Hawking writes. “This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light.”

“This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.”

The successful discovery of the Higgs particle has led to calls from within the scientific community to create larger, more powerful supercolliders than the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, where scientists discovered the Higgs boson.

Many in the scientific community are upset with Hawking — not because he is incorrect, but because such statements from a scientist of his eminence could dissuade the public from funding experiments like those at Cern in the future.


Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/09/07/stephen-hawking-research-on-the-god-particle-could-cause-space-time-to-collapse/

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