Across The Pond
I am once again visiting my home country next week and so there'll be a three-week gap between issues while I stuff myself full of British food, see a lot of family and friends, and enjoy trains actually existing.
Sadly it seems I'm not going to wander into the opening of Crossrail this time, but it's at least Real Close Now. I'm also going to be nowhere near the fancy new power pylons, but they do look good, I think!
Make Sure You Avoid The Balrog
I love it when there's a plan to just do something bigger than it's been done before, in the quest to hopefully also make it better. And so we come to this plan from Quaise Energy, a new startup planning to dig a hole 20 kilometres into the Earth's crust - almost twice as far as the deepest hole we've ever dug to date.
What's down there? Well, apart from a lot of rock, there's also a lot of heat, and this is part of a plan to find a more universal source of geothermal energy that could be done anywhere (rather than just in places like Iceland, where there's magma close to the surface).
And, straight out of a James Bond movie, they are going to make this hole using "millimetre wave electromagnetic drilling", which from what I can tell is basically a giant laser. No word yet on how they plan to get a fluid down there, heated up, and returned, but maybe the world's longest pipe will join the world's deepest hole.
Moving All The Farms
There are a lot of potential ways of reducing emissions and helping ease the impact of climate change, but this one was new to me - relocating all the farmland and crop usage throughout the world to places where it makes more sense.
That's not only matching the crops more closely to the soils and sun conditions they prefer, it's also moving them to places that have natural rainfall rather than relying on mechanical irrigation. You can see both a proposed global relocation and a smaller within-each-country relocation in the paper's figure 1, which gives you a good idea of what this might involve.
There's not much mention of how we would relocate all this farmland, what is currently occupying that same space right now, or who would work it, of course, so this is far from a practical plan. But it could be a good basis for governments to form farming subsidy policies, for example.
The Impending Death Of US Trucking?
America is rather heavily reliant on long-haul trucking to move much of its goods around the country - which is a little unfortunate when it's an industry that relies on exploiting its labour and which has a turnover rate of 94 percent after just one year.
This article dives into some of the reasons and the conditions truckers currently face, as well as some of the knock-on effects that might happen (and in some cases, already are). It's a classic tale of a once well-protected and respected job being eroded by anti-union activity and misclassification of employees, among others.
Is there hope in sight? Some, for sure, but a full solution to the issue might rely on the US becoming a more worker-friendly place rather than an employer-friendly place, and that is a transition that seems anything but assured.
I'm Getting An Intense Sense Of Deja-Vu
Remember when the Ever Given got stranded in the Suez Canal, and the world's TVs were covered with footage of a giant ship with EVERGREEN (the company who runs them) written on the side? Well, there's a new one, the ironically named Ever Forward, though fortunately it's not stuck in the canal this time.
Instead, it's stuck in Chesapeake Bay - near Washington, D.C. - and it's merely grounded on underwater terrain rather than also embedded into a canal wall. It's still unclear how it's going to get refloated, however, maybe needing a uniquely large tide as well as some dredging and offloading.
As to how it got there? Well, it certainly looks like they missed a turn and wandered out of the dredged deep-water channel. I suspect all captains of Evergreen ships are going to start really checking their charts now.
I Can See Clearly Now
The James Webb Space Telescope has completed its alignment process, with all the mirrors pointed and contorted just so (there's 132 degrees of freedom in the mirror system), and the first fully aligned image has come back - of the catchily-named star 2MASS J17554042+6551277, which they were using as their reference point.
What I love about the image, though - which you can see in full scale if you click through - is that the JWST can't help but also capture a ton of galaxies at the same time, just hanging out behind the star. This is imaged using NIRCam - there are other instruments to be brought online too, once they've cooled down enough.
Scientists are saying the pictures are better than they could have hoped for, which makes me very happy (considering I can see a little distortion in this one!) Remember, all the big Hubble pictures you've seen are mosaics of lots of smaller pictures - so we'll be able to get some astonishing detail with a similar technique, I imagine.
Building A Mini Magnetosphere
Space. It's big, it's scary, and it's got quite a lot of high energy particles that want to give you cancer. On Earth, and in all low-Earth orbits (like where the ISS is), we have a handy magnetosphere that shields us from all this - but how do we solve it for space missions beyond Earth orbit?
One project trying to do that is the CREW HaT, a new initiative to make a tiny per-spacecraft magnetosphere using electromagnets (and "high temperature superconducting tape", which is apparently a thing we have now). The idea is that a configuration like this would be found on any human-rated spacecraft travelling outside Earth's magnetosphere for a decent length of time.
It's using a Halbach torus arrangement, and is designed to make the field strength inside the crew cabin reasonable (and not have, say, everything metal sticking to the walls). Still early stages, but I look forward to us seeing if we can just make mini magnetic space shields everywhere.
Zapping The Dust Off
Dust accumulation on solar panels is one of their biggest flaws - especially as they are often located in dry, desert-like areas where there's a lot of sun all year around. Washing the panels off is a huge use of water, so what if there was a way of avoiding that?
Well, a new experiment has outlined a way to potentially remove dust using static electricity instead - which is handy, as you tend to have a lot of spare electricity near a solar farm. They charge up the panel and a moving plate, and the dust particles repel each other and basically clean themselves up.
It only works when there's some water in the air to make the dust particles store some charge, but you don't need much - a relative humidity of only 30 percent works, and pretty much every desert in the world is at least that humid.
Giving It More Power
A mere three weeks after disconnecting from the Russian grid, the Ukranian and Moldovan power grids have been successfully tied into the European power grid, and power is now flowing freely between the two.
Pulling this off in a mere three weeks is an incredible achievement, and if I had one, my hat would be off to all involved. Getting the two frequencies close enough, and then joining the grids when they're exactly in phase, is really not that easy to do especially when one side is in a warzone.
As to what happens if you join the grids when they're not in phase? Well, it's unpleasant, let's say. There's a reason DC grid interconnects are rising in popularity, as they don't care about phase at all.
Let's Get Run Over By A Hovercraft
It's rare that you volunteer to get run over by a vehicle, but in this old Australian news clip, intrepid reporter Peter Couchman does just that, lying down on the sand as this (at the time) brand new, exciting vehicle runs over him without even a scratch (though he does get rather wet).
Of course, hovercraft work on air and just smoosh over anything in their way without damaging it, but it's still really quite funny to watch. Plus, it's just nice to see the classic old news editing and framing in full flow.