Category Archives: Nature

Updates from GE

Sea Change: GE’s French Wind Turbine Factory Will Power Germany’s Renewables Revolution
By Tomas Kellner – GE is a relative newcomer to offshore wind. The company explored the field a decade ago and returned to the industry in 2015, when it acquired the energy assets of Alstom, and built its first wind farm in Long Island Sound near Block Island, Rhode Island, last year. As the inaugural offshore wind farm in the United States, the project made a splash even though it holds just five turbines. But Merkur, which will have 66 turbines, is a much bigger beast. “This one is special,” says Pascal Girault, who runs the Saint-Nazaire plant. “Everything is big.”

Girault spent the early part of his career managing supply chains for the car industry, but ramping up production for Merkur is no Sunday drive. Workers in Saint-Nazaire make generators and assemble nacelles for the 6-megawatt GE Haliade turbine. The nacelle is the casing on top of the tower that shelters the generator and other equipment. It includes some 30,000 components.

Adding to the task’s complexity, the composite blades for the machines’ 150-meter-diameter rotors come from GE’s LM Wind Power factory in Spain. The steel segments for the tower are being made in Germany and China. U.S. and European companies supply electronics and mechanical components for the converter and generator. “The scale and the speed of the project are challenging,” Girault says. more> https://goo.gl/GSScqV

These 5 Countries Are Killing It in the Battle Against Climate Change

By Raya Bidshahri – When it comes to climate change, government leaders and politicians must begin to think beyond their term limits and lifetimes. They must ask themselves not how they can serve their voters, but rather how they can contribute to our species’ progress. They must think beyond the short term economic benefits of fossil fuels, and consider the long term costs to our planet.

Climate change is considered one of the greatest threats to our species. If current trends continue, we can expect an increase in frequency of extreme weather events like floods, droughts and heat waves. All of these pose a threat to crops, biodiversity, freshwater supplies and above all, human life.

Here are examples of a few countries leading the way.

Denmark: Considered the most climate-friendly country in the world, Denmark is on the path to be completely independent of fossil fuels by 2050.

China: Home to the world’s biggest solar farm, China is the world’s biggest investor in domestic solar energy and is also expanding its investments in renewable energies overseas.

France: Thanks to the production of nuclear energy, representing 80 percent of nationwide energy production, France has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions.

India: The nation is on the path to becoming the third-largest solar market in the world. Solar power has become cheaper than coal in India.

Sweden: Sweden has passed a law that obliges the government to cut all greenhouse emissions by 2045. With more than half of its energy coming from renewable sources and a very successful recycling program, the country leads many initiatives on climate change. more> https://goo.gl/PPrn3b

What Happens When Quantum Physics Meets Cryptography?


By Paulina Gomez – In today’s world of ever-increasing security threats and breaches, encryption is a common technique used to protect critical information from getting into the wrong hands. In cryptography, encryption is the process of encoding a plaintext message in such a way that only authorized parties can access it. The result of this process is encrypted information, also known as ciphertext. But how is this done exactly? The plaintext message is transformed using an algorithm (or cipher) to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, which is referred to as the key.

Today’s state-of-art secure communications use advanced mathematics to protect in-flight data leveraging highly secure algorithms, such as in Ciena’s WaveLogic Encryption solution. Even though many cryptographic algorithms used today are publicly available, such as the popular Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), they are very difficult to crack in a reasonable amount of time given the computational power of today’s computers. In fact, the keys used in modern cryptography are so large that breaking the AES-256 standard would require “fifty supercomputers that could check a billion billion (1018) AES keys per second [and] would, in theory, require about 3×1051 years.”

The field of Quantum Cryptography is an area of security research and development focused on the introduction of new technologies that will offer more resistance to the computing power of quantum computers. Quantum cryptography draws its strength from the unpredictable nature of photons – the smallest particles in the universe. more> https://goo.gl/FTh77p

Five Things to Know About the Latest Gene Editing Breakthrough

By Ben Panko – In this study, scientists worked with the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system, which is kind of like cut and paste on for genes. It’s based on a naturally occurring immune system found in many bacteria species in which the microbes keep a “hit list” of virus DNA in their genomes so they can recognize future dangerous intruders.

If any of that DNA is present, the bacteria deploys enzymes called Cas (CRISPR-associated proteins), which precisely and efficiently snip out that DNA.

This research was notable for its use of viable embryos, or embryos that could likely develop into a baby if allowed to grow, reports Dina Fine Moran for Scientific American.

This is the first time this has ever happened on U.S. soil, but scientists in China have already been pushing the envelope for years. more> https://goo.gl/oxtpXQ

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Quantum Information: Changing the Rules of the Game

By Carl Miller – In the early 20th century, physicists found things going on at the subatomic level that were very hard to explain. Basic ideas of what it means to be in a “position” and “state” were called into question.

In my everyday life, I can put my car key on the kitchen counter, or I can leave it in my pocket, but I can’t do both. I may forget where I put it afterward, but unless one of my cats got to it, it’s still in one place or the other.

At the subatomic scale, things are … different. A key that behaved according to quantum rules could be both in my pocket and on the counter at the same time. And when I check to see where it is, it would randomly end up in one location or the other. This is the idea of quantum superposition, and it was eventually decided that, as strange as it seems, this concept provides the right way to explain the results of certain experiments.

Going further, two particles can be linked, or “entangled,” in a superposed state, which means that observations of the two will always agree, no matter how far apart they happen to be. more> https://goo.gl/CJp8Za

Updates from GE

Three Reasons Why You Should Invest In Smart Cities Now
By Gary Shapiro – Smart cities are the urban landscapes of the future. Powered by the ubiquitous connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities collect data on a variety of factors – from pollution to traffic – and employ that data to make cities safer and more sustainable.

By 2050, the majority of the world will be living in cities – now is the time to lay the groundwork for smart building and infrastructure.

City rules shape how energy is used and how buildings are designed. As digital infrastructure evolves, the rules that govern it will become only more complex.

It’s no secret that drawing the best and brightest to a company isn’t just a matter of compensation. The workers who will add the most value over the longer term want to live and work in places that offer them affordable, sustainable housing, timely and safe transportation and a clean and pleasant atmosphere. more> https://goo.gl/AkbCZE

Updates from Georgia Tech

Smart Cities
By T.J. Becker – Cities have been around for thousands of years, so urbanization is hardly a new phenomenon — but it’s happening now at an unprecedented pace.

In 1950 about 30 percent of the world’s population lived in cities, a number that shot up to nearly 55 percent by 2016 and is expected to hit 60 percent by 2030, according to United Nations statistics. This dramatic growth brings challenges on a variety of fronts, transforming “smart cities” from a catchy phrase into a critical endeavor.

“Smart cities is a highly complex area, encompassing everything from resiliency and environmental sustainability to wellness and quality of life,” said Elizabeth Mynatt, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) and distinguished professor in the College of Computing, who is co-chairing the new council. “Although Georgia Tech has been working in this area for some time, we’re organizing research so we can be more holistic and have combined impact.”

“Instead of discrete projects, we’re moving into a programmatic approach,” agreed Jennifer Clark, associate professor of public policy and director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation. “Smart cities research touches on everything from computing and engineering to the social sciences. It’s a different way of thinking about technology — not just in the private sector but also the public sector — so we make cities more efficient and economically competitive places.” more> https://goo.gl/DtKr9K

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The Age of Biological Annihilation

By John C. Cannon – The loss of approximately 200 species a century might not seem extreme through the lens of one person’s lifespan, but it’s as much as 100 times faster than historical estimates, according to a 2015 study also led by Ceballos. He explained that under “normal circumstances,” it might have taken as many as 10,000 years for that many animals to vanish.

The researchers discovered that the populations of nearly one-third of these animals in this sample are on the decline. In terms of sheer numbers, the study’s maps show that perhaps half the number of individual animals that once inhabited the Earth with humans are gone—a loss that numbers in the billions.

The team also drilled down into the research on populations of 177 well-studied mammals to see how they have fared since 1900. They found every single one has lost at least 30 percent of its habitat, and around 40 percent of these mammals have lost 80 percent or more of their former ranges. more> https://goo.gl/o4dxkY

Updates from GE

Looking For The Unknown: Artificial Intelligence Is Seeking Cancer Patterns That Have Eluded Humans
By Maggie Sieger – The use of AI in healthcare, which was one of the topics discussed at GE’s recent Minds + Machines conference in Berlin, is a fast-growing field. Scientists are using so-called “deep learning networks,” which weave together hundreds, if not thousands, of data points and process this data with multiple algorithms simultaneously, mimicking the human brain.

When crossing the street, pedestrians take into account dozens of factors, including the number and speed of approaching cars, the condition of the pavement, fellow travelers and even the shoes they are wearing or what they are carrying. Deep learning has the potential to do the same thing – but with even more data points and at speeds unmatched by humans.

They are feeding millions of data points into the cloud, including decades of colorectal data collected by national registries, thousands of MRIs and CT scans, gene panels and biomarkers. The software then looks for patterns, connections and correlations with a speed and detail unmatched by humans.

As AI becomes a more common tool in healthcare, medical schools will have to change how they train physicians to make sure they have the new capabilities, skill sets and methodologies to use AI effectively, more> https://goo.gl/2kME5a

Updates from GE

By Imran Rahman – As we go farther back in Earth’s history, the fossils start to look even weirder. They lack tails, legs, skeletons, eyes…any characteristics that would help us understand where these organisms fit in the tree of life. Under these circumstances, the science of paleontology becomes significantly harder.

Nowhere is this issue more apparent than in the Ediacaran period, which lasted from 635 million to 541 million years ago.

Despite nearly 70 years of careful study, paleontologists have yet to identify key features among them that would allow us to understand how these organisms are related to modern animals. The forms evident among Ediacaran organisms are, for the most part, truly unique – and we are no closer to understanding their place in evolutionary history.

The Ediacaran period marks a pivotal interval in Earth’s history; at its start are the last of the so-called “Snowball Earth” events – episodes lasting millions of years when the entire surface of our planet was covered in ice. more> https://goo.gl/NvHh6q