Category Archives: Nature

The Next Trend In Travel Is… Don’t.

By Allison Jane Smith – Bali is in the midst of an ecological crisis. Half of the Indonesian island’s rivers have dried up. Its beaches are eroding. In 2017, officials declared a “garbage emergency” across a six-kilometer stretch of Bali’s coast. At the peak of the clean-up, hundreds of cleaners removed 100 tons of debris from the beaches each day.

The cause? Too many tourists — who just keep coming. This year, the Indonesian tourism ministry hopes Bali attracts 7 million foreign tourists, to an island of only 4 million residents.

Bali is one among many places to feel the ill effects of mass tourism. Thailand closed an entire island because litter and food waste from tourists were destroying the island’s ecosystem.

In Venice, Italy, colossal cruise ships tear straight through the city and affordable Airbnb options push residents out of the housing market.

Across Spain, anti-tourism graffiti can be found in Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Mallorca, declaring “tourism kills,” “tourists go home” and “why call it tourism season if we can’t shoot them?”

When tourism dominates an economy, some governments prioritize tourists over their own citizens. Around the world, people are evicted from their homes to make way for tourism developments.

Globally, displacement for tourism development — including hotels, resorts, airports, and cruise ports — is a growing problem. In India, tens of thousands of indigenous people were illegally evicted from villages inside tiger reserves.

No wonder even those in the business of selling travel are urging tourists to reconsider visiting certain destinations. more>

It Takes a Village to Create Solid Electrolytes

By Kevin Clemens – Presently, commercial lithium ion batteries use a carbon graphite anode electrode and a metal oxide cathode electrode. They are separated by a liquid organic solvent that can pass lithium ions between the electrodes while preventing electrons from making the journey. The organic solvent of the electrolyte is flammable—resulting in a potential for a fire in the event that a lithium ion battery is punctured.

The anode side of a lithium ion battery is made from layers of graphite. Lithium ions are inserted between the material’s layers during charging and are released during discharge. Battery researchers realize that replacing the graphite anode with metallic lithium would allow many more lithium ions to flow during discharge, producing a battery with at least twice the capacity. But during the charging stage of a lithium metal battery, spiky crystalline structures, called dendrites, form on the metal surface. These dendrites can grow through the liquid electrolyte, reaching the cathode and shorting out the battery.

A worldwide search is on for a solid or semi-solid electrolyte that can prevent dendrite growth while allowing the easy passage of lithium ions without conducting electrons. more>

Updates from Siemens

Consolidating 3D Printing Tool Chains to Mitigate Risk in Medical Device Applications
By J Thompson – Use of 3D Printing technology to create medical devices has been widely publicized over the past several years. Most of these stories illustrate the unique ability for 3D Printing (aka Additive Manufacturing / AM) technology to produce highly complex organic shapes.

Despite past success with AM, and very promising growth opportunities, there are significant risks with the current AM practices for workflows in device design and manufacturing. These risks must be recognized and addressed by device makers to fully realize the potential of AM, and avoid failure modes inherent in current practices.

Today, the biggest risks are caused by software “tool chains” in which different, specialized software applications are used sequentially to yield finished devices. A fundamental problem with serial tool chains is rework. What happens when you get off the “happy path”, and issues are discovered in the fourth, fifth, or tenth tool in the chain, and resolution requires a change in the first or second tool in the chain? That typically means serially reworking the entire workflow from the point of change.

This kind of rework should be viewed as expected, normal, necessary, commonplace, and even desirable since it theoretically leads to an improved final result. However, as AM attempts to enter an “industrial” stage of maturity, there are several risks associated a serial tool chain, especially if rework is manual and requires experts to re-do knowledge-intensive rework. more>

How to Save the Human Race

BOOK REVIEW

World Population and Human Values: A New Reality, Authors: Jonas Salk and Jonathan Salk.

By Gabrielle Levy – Until only recently, the whole of human history has been marked by population growth, first gradual and then, in the past two hundred years, a sudden explosion. But in the last decades of the 20th century, population growth began to slow, and eventually, it will plateau or even decline.

The moment at which growth goes from accelerating to decelerating, according to a theory posited by Dr. Salk is called an inflection point – and would be filled with turmoil and conflict, but also opportunity.

Salk characterizes the time before the inflection point as Epoch A, and in that period, people were focused on their own betterment and achievement as necessary to capitalize on the potential for great growth. But going forward, after the inflection point in Epoch B, people will need to be more collaborative and sustainability-oriented. This plays out now in issues like climate change, where the world must work together to combat the issue.

The book has a particular kind of resonance and a particular kind of relevance at this moment in time, because we’re really seeing the pull between two differing value systems, and making decisions as a species about how we’re going to deal with the future. It’s always been a meaningful book, but I think it’s particularly poignant at this moment in time. more>

Updates from Siemens

Case Study
PlySim meets composite structural engineering challenges; results include a 500+ percent improvement in modeling productivity, plus a better blade and a growing business

Siemens – According to RenewableUK, the trade and professional body for the United Kingdom (U.K.) wind and marine renewables industries, the U.K. is the windiest country in Europe – so much so that this free fuel could meet the power needs of the country several times over. RenewableUK notes that there are over 4,000 wind turbines currently operational in the U.K., with a total capacity of 7.391 gigawatts (gw), enough to power over 7 million homes. It is estimated that by 2016, there will be 8 gw of offshore capacity installed, with a total of 18 gw by 2020. However, there are significant engineering challenges associated with such substantial growth that companies such as PlySim, based in Edinburgh, U.K., are already successfully addressing.

PlySim Ltd. (Plysim) is a composite structural engineering consultancy, with heavy focus on finite element analysis (FEA). Its main markets are in the renewables sectors (wind, wave and tidal) as well as marine and civil engineering. Malcolm Wadia, director of PlySim, says, “We work with clients worldwide on the analysis of large complex structures in composite materials, having materials tested if necessary, developing the whole structural design prior to analysis, and providing certification reports and full-scale test specifications for each design, if required. Ultimately, we provide the 2D ply layup and production drawings.” more>

Enlightenment rationality is not enough: we need a new Romanticism | Aeon Ideas

BOOK REVIEW

Enlightenment Now, Author: Steven Pinker.
Modern Prometheus: Editing the Human Genome with Crispr-Cas9, Author: Jim Kozubek.
The Will to Knowledge, Author: Michel Foucault.

By Jim Kozubek – Progress creates the illusion that we are moving toward deeper knowledge when, in fact, imperfect theories constantly lead us astray.

The conflict is relevant in this age of anti-science, with far-Right activists questioning climate change, evolution and other current finds. But is that really bad? Nineteenth-century Romanticism was the first movement to take on the Enlightenment – and we still see its effects in such areas as environmentalism, asceticism and the ethical exercise of conscience.

In our new era of Enlightenment, we need Romanticism again.

With science becoming a brutal game of market forces and patent controls, the skeptics and Romantics among us must weigh in, and we already are. In one study that provides free genome sequencing for newborns, only 7 per cent of parents wanted to take part, suggesting that the public is cautious about how data might be abused by insurers, business and government.

Pinker’s solution to the distortion is investing science with secular humanism, an elastic concept of goodness that plies against financial pressures. But can we depend on technologists for such a benevolent spirit?

Right now, in biotech, only the market rules.

Modern-day Romantics have a right to be concerned about the motives of scientists, if not of science itself. more>

The Failures of Globalism

BOOK REVIEW

Us Vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism, Author: Ian Bremmer.

By Gabrielle Levy – If the six and a half decades that followed the end of World War II were a triumph of globalism, an era of prosperity and peace as the world grew increasingly interconnected, the second decade of the 21st century has seen the rise of a new populism that has pushed back.

Convulsions of anger – at corrupt government elites, at the floods of refugees fleeing sectarian conflict, at the loss of jobs as workers are increasingly replaced by automation and artificial intelligence – culminated in the pair of 2016 events, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, that turned conventional wisdom on its head.

The biggest piece, I think, has already happened. When globalism started, after World War II was over, the United States recognized that we never want to have a flight like that again, so we’ve got to do something about it. We’re going to rebuild our former enemies – the Germans, the Japanese – and we’re going to build the United Nations.

More broadly, as it continues, it’s going to be a lot of opposition to the United States sending troops fighting in other people’s battles, like we’ve seen in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria. It’s going to be a lot less support for immigration into the U.S., unless you’ve got a skill set or a lot of money, and we’re already seeing that start to happen.

And it’s possibly going to lead to more trade disputes, certainly in terms of big technology, where, instead of having one global free market, we end up having much more fragmentation of a marketplace with more strategic sectors.

And some of that is because the United States is not willing to promote free multilateral trade organizations, but some of it is because the Chinese are building an alternative system that has no global free trade at all.

It’s all just going to be linked to Beijing. So when you put that all together, you start to see what the future of this world will look like.

Globalization can turn a virtuous cycle into a vicious one – where globalization improves people’s lives, only to raise their expectations. That, in turn, raises frustrations when those expectations are met.

In China, the growing middle class and the rising wages risk threatening the very economic engine – cheap labor – that made that progress possible. Can developing countries avoid this trap? more>

Updates from GE

Leading The Charge: As Battery Storage Sweeps The World, GE Finds Its Place In The Sun
By Tomas Kellner – The “duck curve” has two distinct peaks — one in the morning and the other after sunset — connected by a sagging belly pulled down by the deluge of renewable energy generated by the millions of solar panels sprinkled across California’s roofs and fields.

On a sunny Sunday, this glut of input could even lead to oversupply, a situation where wholesale energy prices drop so much that producers pay utilities to take their energy.

The problem reverses when the sun sinks into the Pacific. Power producers must quickly crank up their plants – many of them burning gas or coal – to replace those missing solar electrons with 11,000 megawatts to keep the state’s homes and businesses humming.

“The peak for solar power generation is at noon,” says Eric Gebhardt, vice president of strategic technology for GE Power. “What if you could store this energy and release it six hours later when the sun goes down and people come home, start cooking dinner and watch TV?” Gebhardt asks.

That’s precisely the point of GE’s Reservoir, a new grid-scale energy storage system the company unveiled today. The grid has to be perfectly balanced, meaning that power supply and demand match, to prevent it from crashing.

The Reservoir will allow producers to “decouple when energy is produced and when it is consumed,” Gebhardt says. “Without it, if you have too much solar during the day, the only option you have is to curtail production.”

The rise of the electric car unleashed innovation in the battery space, and the spread of solar power has brought costs down 50 percent over the last four years, says Keith Longtin, product breakout leader at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. “You are now getting to a point where energy storage starts to make sense,” he says. more>

Updates from Adobe

Head for the Hills with Kopernikk

By Charles Purdy – A love of the outdoors is plainly evident in Kopernikk’s photography, and he comes by it naturally, having grown up on a farm near the Czech city of Pardubice, which he still calls home—that is, when he’s not on the road for a photography expedition. In fact, it was a 2014 trip to the Czech Republic’s Giant Mountains that set Kopernikk firmly on a path to making his living as a photographer.

He remembers, “In November 2014, my friend Jirka invited me to Špindlerův Mlýn in our Giant Mountains. The weather was so magical—I was like Alice in Wonderland, and I made hundreds and hundreds of photos on my mobile phone…. This day changed everything, and I knew then what I wanted to do with my life. It’s also the reason I have Sitka, my Czechoslovakian Wolfdog—I’ve always loved wolves, and when I started traveling I decided I wanted to have my own ‘wolf’ as a travel buddy.” more>

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Updates from GE

Industrial Medicine: Cell Therapy Scales Up
By Maggie Sieger – Cell therapy is a new way to treat serious diseases like cancer by extracting living cells from a donor or a patient, changing them so they can recognize and attack diseased cells or deliver treatment, and returning them to the patient’s body. But manufacturing the cells is a costly and time-consuming endeavor. A single dose can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make.

That’s because in the more than 900 ongoing regenerative medicine trials worldwide — a 19 percent jump since 2016 — researchers generally manufacture each patient’s dose of bio-engineered cells by hand. The individualized nature of cell therapy makes it not only prohibitively pricey, but also difficult to scale into commercial production.

That hasn’t been a problem while cell therapy was still confined to research labs. But as medical science advances and regulators approve a growing numbers of modified cell therapies for general use, handcrafting doses won’t be enough. “It’s relatively easy to do 15 or 20 doses by hand, but it’s nearly impossible to efficiently make thousands,” says GE Healthcare’s Aaron Dulgar-Tulloch, director of cell therapy research and development at the Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies (CATCT) in Toronto.

One way to speed the process is GE Healthcare’s FlexFactory for cell therapy. Cellular Biomedicine Group Inc. (CBMG) will be the first company to install this closed, semi-automated system for manufacturing bio-engineered cells in its Shanghai plant and use it to create cell therapies to treat various blood and solid tumor cancers. more>