The New York Times is taking data centers and those who build them to task today in two different pieces, one of which paints Microsoft as an energy-hungry bully to a small Washington state community. The Times reports that Microsoft wasted millions of watts of energy in December of last year by unnecessarily running huge heating units and threatened to waste millions more if a $210,000 penalty for overestimating its energy use was not rescinded by the local utility.
What is the sexiest job of the 21st century? If you said “data scientist,” you’re probably an editor at Harvard Business Review and probably not anyone else. The HBR has named the emerging practice of sifting through data to find hidden, below-the-surface meaning and otherwise extrapolate underlying knowledge the “sexiest” job of the new century. But while we love Big Data here at PopSci (we dedicated a whole issue to last year), we’re going to have to argue semantics here.
Where electronics are concerned, the future is two-dimensional and very, very thin. One molecule thin, to be exact. That’s not quite as thin as a sheet of graphene, but new research from MIT shows that while one-atom-thick graphene shows exceptional strength and other novel properties, the future of electronics lies with materials like molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) that are a couple of atoms thicker but much, much easier to work with.
The Olympics are over but international competition is still hot and records continue to fall. Just eight short days after a Chinese physics group posted a paper claiming to have achieved quantum teleportation across a record-setting 97 kilometers (just more than 60 miles), a joint Canadian/European team posted another claiming to have teleported a single photon across 143 kilometers (nearly 89 miles).
Researchers at CERN and the world over were already sure they had found the Higgs Boson--five-sigma sure--but in case there were any lingering doubts a new round of results coming out of Geneva further backs the earlier findings. One team there now reports a 5.9 sigma level of certainty that the Higgs exists. That equates to a one-in-550 million chance that the results are incorrect reflections of statistical errors.
Artificial photosynthesis--the idea that we might be able to create energy and other useful thing from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, as plants do--is something of a holy grail for energy and green chemistry researchers. And while some efforts have shown modest potential--MIT’s Nocera Lab, for instance, claims to have created an artificial leaf from stable materials--efficiency is still a problem. That hasn’t stopped consumer electronics giant Panasonic; the company yesterday revealed that it is investing in artificial photosynthesis technology that turns carbon dioxide and sunlight into industrial chemicals.
Your smartphone is probably losing track of time. Most electronics with internal clocks keep them regulated via vibrating crystals (much like a quartz clock) that keep their timekeeping precise. But while far better timekeepers than mechanical clocks, even these crystals can be thrown off their regular frequencies by external factors like humidity or temperature.
Powerful X-ray images are showing for the first time what happens inside a working battery as it discharges power, and it could lead to improvements for a new type of battery that promises better storage capacity at a lower cost.
A great new challenge from InnoCentive, with a nice hefty prize, all centering around improving natural gas operations. Mercury, which as we all know is highly toxic, is present in low concentrations in natural gas. There are lots of methods to remove it, but they could definitely be better--and that's where you come in. If you can figure out a new idea for removing mercury, you'll win $10,000. But hurry up--there are already 54 solvers engaged with the challenge. The deadline for submission is August 19th. Read about it over at InnoCentive.
In California, at the ultra-powerful fusion laboratory of the National Ignition Facility, 192 laser beams have fired simultaneously, blasting their target -- a circle 2 millimeters in diameter -- with 500 trillion watts. That's 1,000 times more than the entire rest of the United States was using at the time. It is the highest-energy laser shot ever fired in real life, although some fictional lasers have exceeded the record.
Safer, smaller nuclear reactors have amassed a powerful cult following
By Alex Pasternack
Posted 07.12.2012 at 11:00 am 16 Comments
PopSci is pleased to present videos created by Motherboard, Vice Media's guide to future culture. Motherboard's original videos that run the gamut from in-depth, investigative reports to profiles of the offbeat forward-thinking characters who are sculpting our bizarre present.
The idea of building small, thorium-based nuclear reactors – thought to be dramatically safer, cheaper, cleaner and terror-proof than our current catalog of reactors – can be shooed away as fringe by some. But the germ of the idea began with some of the country’s greatest scientists, in the U.S. government’s major atomic lab, at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the 1960s.
Small power generators that can harvest energy from ambient sources like heat, vibrations, and light hold a lot of promise across a range of applications, particularly in things like remote monitoring. They can harvest the vibrations imparted by vehicles passing over a bridge to power sensors that monitor the bridge’s structural integrity, for instance, or keep a network of wildfire-detecting sensors working in the remote wilderness, no batteries necessary.
To build a quantum computer, scientists first have to build a working qubit, or quantum bit, that is both controllable and measurable (something that, for few very quantum reasons, is fairly challenging). But a group of Harvard physicists have overcome some key obstacles to turn the impurities in lab-grown diamonds into quantum bits capable of holding information at room temperature for nearly two seconds--an eternity in quantum coherence times.
The incredible innovations, like drone swarms and perpetual flight, bringing aviation into the world of tomorrow. Plus: today's greatest sci-fi writers predict the future, the science behind the summer's biggest blockbusters, a Doctor Who-themed DIY 'bot, the organs you can do without, and much more.