How to build a Nuclear Power Plant

 

Nuke Crew

new site claims to offer a guide to building an entire nuclear power plant, from the reactor vessels to the Homer Simpson-esque control panels.

“We only just launched and in the last two weeks we’ve been flooded with inbound interest from individual engineers, industrial partners, and even international developers,” said Bret Kugelmass, managing director of the nonprofit Energy Impact Center, which created the open source designs in a new interview with Digital Trends.

Climate Crisis

The goal, Kugelmass told Digital Trends, is to provide startups, engineering firms, and other stakeholders a cache of resources to develop new energy resources, with a goal of decarbonizing the global economy by 2040.

To that end, he told the site, his group interviewed more than a thousand experts over the course of two years and visited nuclear sites in 15 countries.

Long View

In much of the world, construction on new nuclear plants has fallen off in the wake of disasters like Fukushima and Chernobyl.

But advocates say new developments would make new plants much safer, and Kugelmass told Digital Trends that the effort has already been met with an outpouring of interest.

He also praised “attention we’ve been receiving from National Laboratories around the world, who are eager to build upon the precedent of the early U.S. nuclear industry when scientific institutions aided private industry in a rapid scale-up of nuclear energy.”

READ MORE: Someone just uploaded open-source nuclear power plant blueprints to the web [Digital Trends]
More on nuclear power: Experts Are Horrified by the Military’s Portable Nuclear Reactor

Student Discovers 17 Planets

 

Planet Party

By combing through data collected by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, University of British Columbia astronomy PhD candidate Michelle Kunimoto discovered evidence of an impressive 17 new exoplanets — including a roughly Earth-sized world found in the “habitable zone,” the region around a star where liquid water could exist.

“This planet is about a thousand light years away, so we’re not getting there anytime soon!” Kunimoto said in a statement. “But this is a really exciting find, since there have only been 15 small, confirmed planets in the Habitable Zone found in Kepler data so far.”

Transit Method

Kunimoto used the “transit method” to find the planets, one of the most widely used planet-hunting methods.

“Every time a planet passes in front of a star, it blocks a portion of that star’s light and causes a temporary decrease in the star’s brightness,” she explained. “By finding these dips, known as transits, you can start to piece together information about the planet, such as its size and how long it takes to orbit.”

Stay Tuned

The Earth-like planet is about 1.5 times the size of our own planet, and has an orbit just larger than Mercury’s. But it only gets about a third of the light that Earth gets from the Sun.

Kunimoto and her PhD. supervisor Jaymie Matthews are excited to find more planets in the habitable zone.

“How many Earth-like planets are there? Stay tuned,” said Matthews.

READ MORE:Astronomy student discovers 17 new planets, including Earth-sized world [University of British Columbia]
More on exoplanets: Astronomers Conclude Massive Exoplanet Could Host Life

New Battery Tech

 

Altered Carbon

A team of researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology have announced a new carbon-silicon material that they say could more than double the driving range of electric vehicles — and enable fast charging to more than 80 percent capacity in just five minutes.

Current-day EVs generally use graphite anode batteries, which tend to provide shorter range compared to their gas-guzzling brethren, according to the researchers. Silicon anodes, on the other hand, have ten times the capacity — but are much worse at holding their capacity over time.

Frying Batteries

The team, led by Hun-Gi Jung, came up with a way to keep these silicon anodes stable by using “a simple thermal process used for frying food,” according to a statement, which involves the use of water, oil, and starch.

The results were impressive: they say the new battery has four times the capacity of its graphite anode counterparts and remained stable over 500 cycles. Thanks to carbon present in their silicon anode, the silicon didn’t expand either, which is a common problem with the tech.

“We were able to develop carbon-silicon composite materials using common, everyday materials and simple mixing and thermal processes with no reactors,” Jung said in the statement, noting that their new composites perform so well, they’re “highly likely to be commercialized and mass-produced.”

READ MORE: Researchers develop high-capacity EV battery materials that double driving range [National Research Council of Science & Technology]

More on batteries: This “Quantum Battery” Never Loses Its Charge

You can be a NASA Moon Astronaut

 

Taking Names

NASA is officially accepting applications for astronauts to travel to the Moon as part of its Artemis mission. You can send in your own application, if you think you have what it takes, between March 2 and 31.

“We’re celebrating our 20th year of continuous presence aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit this year, and we’re on the verge of sending the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Job Requirements

If you make the cut, you might soon be traveling to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon or Boeing Starliner spacecraft developed as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Candidates will have to show proof of a master’s degree in a STEM field and “two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft,” according to NASA.

Résumé Booster

In the longer term, NASA is hoping to send humans to the Moon’s surface using its Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft as soon as 2024. To get to Mars, you’ll have to wait until the mid-2030s.

“For the handful of highly talented women and men we will hire to join our diverse astronaut corps, it’s an incredible time in human spaceflight to be an astronaut,” he added.

READ MORE: Explorers Wanted: NASA to Hire More Artemis Generation Astronauts [NASA]
More on astronauts: NASA Astronaut Sets Space Record, Says She’ll Miss Microgravity

Epic Selfie In Space

 

Space Selfie

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir recently shared what might be one of the coolest selfies ever via her Twitter account.
Since September 2019, Meir has been a member of the International Space Station crew. In January, she ventured out of the ISS for a pair of spacewalks — and managed to snap a couple of out-of-this-world self-portraits, while floating in space.

Big Smile

According to Meir’s tweet, she used a Nikon D5 with a 28 millimeter lens in a protective case to capture both pictures.

One of the photos is done in traditional selfie style, with Meir pointing the camera directly at her smiling face while the Earth can be seen in the reflection of her helmet.

For the other photo, she snapped a pic of her reflection by using one of the ISS’s solar panels as an ad hoc mirror. In that one, the curve of the Earth can be seen behind Meir.



Fine, visor up this time – but at least the magnificent Earth still makes an appearance too. All (and other photos) made possible with a Nikon D5 with a 28 mm lens in a protective housing (visible in center of 2nd photo). SelfieSunday

Still Badass

Meir isn’t the first astronaut to take a space selfie. That would be Buzz Aldrin, who snapped his own photo while spacewalking outside the Gemini 12 mission in 1966.

More than 50 years may have passed since Aldrin took that iconic photo — but it’s still hard to imagine a more badass setting for a selfie than space.

Read More: 
NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir Took a Space Selfie, Capturing her Reflection in the Space Station [Universe Today]

More on Meir:
Piece of Astronaut’s Spacesuit Falls off During Spacewalk

How Big Space Really Is

 

Zooming Out

A new website called “The Size of Space” illustrates how incomprehensibly vast the cosmos are.

As you scroll to the side, the site takes you on a journey from the size of an astronaut all the way up to the entire observable universe. As the scale ramps up, from spacecraft to moons to planets and onward, the smaller objects become tiny dots before vanishing altogether.

Close Up

Neal Agarwal, the coder behind The Size of Space who’s also built pages like “Grandpa’s Art Show” and “Share This Page,” used some of the best visualizations for each of the objects — a rotating Earth based on satellite imagery, for example.

That means that most of the black holes are simply hand-drawn circles mixed in among the colorful images of distant galaxies and supernovas. Except, that is, for the giant black hole M87*, which was imaged earlier this year.

More on space visualizations: NASA’s New Black Hole Simulation Will Completely Melt Your Brain

Astronauts are getting CLOTS

 

According to a shocking report by NASA scientists, blood flow can stop and even reverse in the upper bodies of astronauts.

The study could have some major implications about prolonged trips through deep space, as we’re still trying to nail down the exact effects of spending long periods in microgravity.

The study looked at periodic ultrasound tests of 11 healthy astronauts who staffed the International Space Station.

The results were alarming: blood flow had either stagnated or reversed in the left internal jugular vein, a major blood vessel on the side of the neck, in seven crew members. The tests also found a clot and a partial clot in two of the crew members after their return to Earth.

A paper of the study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open on Wednesday.

“This was an unexpected finding,” Michael Stenger, senior author and manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, told NBC News. “We did not expect to see stasis and reverse flow. That is very abnormal. On Earth, you would immediately suspect a massive blockage or a tumor or something like that.”

And that could have some very serious effects on astronauts’ health.

“If you get a clot in the internal jugular vein, the clot could travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism — that’s very dangerous,” professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University Andrew Feinberg told NBC./blockquote>

Caterpillars on the Moon

 

Space Prospector

Iconic construction vehicle company Caterpillar is working with NASA to build machines that could excavate and mine the lunar surface.

The goal is to determine whether it makes sense to send autonomous or remote-controlled construction equipment to the Moon, according to CNBC, to gather rocks, dust, and water that NASA could use as raw materials for its planned lunar outpost.

Self-Driving Shovel

NASA and Caterpillar have long collaborated on robotics projects, CNBC reports. But it’s the company’s autonomous capabilities — unusual for the construction vehicle market — that make it a standout candidate to build lunar infrastructure.

“There are many synergies between what NASA needs to meet exploration goals and Caterpillar technologies used every day on Earth,” NASA spokesperson Clare Skelly told CNBC.

Hazardous Workplace

Though Caterpillar’s resource industries division president, Denise Johnson, wouldn’t confirm any tangible lunar mission plans to CNBC, the idea of using at least semi-autonomous vehicles on the Moon is to cut down on how much dangerous construction work astronauts would have to do themselves.

“Customers are finding it difficult to operate in those remote locations, getting personnel in and out in a consistent way, which drives the value proposition,” Johnson told CNBC, specifically referring to using autonomous tech in hazardous areas on Earth. “The application of the technology becomes a necessity to make it work from a value-add perspective.”

READ MORE: Caterpillar’s autonomous vehicles may be used by NASA to mine the moon and build a lunar base [CNBC]
More on the Moon: NASA’s Plan for a Lunar Outpost Just Leaked

Livestreaming Human Autopsies

 

A bloody online video shows a doctor slicing into a human cadaver’s scalp, peeling back the skin, cutting open the skull with a brutally whining saw, and removing its brain. He holds the brain up for the camera to see, all the while explaining the process to a live online audience.

The cadaver’s face was covered by a towel, so by the end of the stream all the audience could see was a closeup of the inside of a skull that was so empty it no longer seemed like part of a human. The Twitch-style comments section was teeming with viewers sharing thoughts and questions.

“Nice trick to do that with the cut,” said one as the doctor sliced away.

The archived recording of a January 2019 livestream was posted to the website Autopsy.Online, a gruesome educational project run by the Autopsy Center of Chicago. The center was founded by autopsy pathologist Ben Margolis, the doctor who performed the brain removal.

Margolis offers clients — usually family members of the deceased who want answers or closure — the distinctly 21-century option to have their loved ones’ autopsies recorded or broadcast live. And many, he says, are taking him up on the offer.

Livestreaming the process of cutting into and dissecting a dead body may sound grisly or voyeuristic — almost like a snuff film or the unsettling wave of pimple-popping videos that flooded the internet a few years ago. But Margolis, who’s also an accomplished orchestral musician and improv performer, sees his services as an empowering tool for families of the recently deceased. Not only to provide useful information in the face of a tragic event, but also to help them come to terms with their loss.

“Families come to us for closure, for grief, to find out what happened,” Margolis told Futurism.

Margolis founded the Autopsy Center of Chicago in 2010. Archiving autopsies through photographs or video recordings is a common practice — there are years of gory videos (you’ve been warned!) on YouTube. But it wasn’t until January 2017 that Margolis performed his first live broadcast, strapping a GoPro camera to his head and giving viewers a first-person vantage point on the procedure as he explained each step on Facebook Live.

“Other autopsy videos basically plant a camera a few feet away from the case and it’s sort of a still perspective,” Margolis told Futurism, “and the person’s working away — you don’t know where to look.”

Margolis says that more immersive approach isn’t just a good sell to current or future doctors, but also more comprehensive for the casual, science-curious viewer, though sometimes he does use a stationary camera instead.

“Here it’s really directed,” he said. “You know the ‘Blair Witch Project’ — that live video — it’s kind of like you’re in it.”

While the livestreams are an engaging project, Margolis puts even more effort into his edited videos, which he turns into educational resources. To get the Autopsy Center of Chicago videos out there, Margolis created an app and is still building out his Autopsy.Online platform, which is full of annotated autopsy recordings.

Margolis’ ultimate goal is to complete a virtual “body map” where viewers can click on a body part and watch a video clip of that particular organ being removed and examined — a resource he says is particularly valuable for students who don’t have hands-on access to cadavers.

The platform also has a separate page for livestreams, parts of which are later edited into the shorter clips. Prior to launching his own app and platform, Margolis streamed on Facebook, which meant his audience was much larger and broader than the people who now pay for his content.

When it comes to the comments that pop up on his livestreams, Margolis says they’re largely positive. Sometimes, trolls will mock people for asking questions about what they’re seeing or share gross, occasionally sexually-explicit thoughts. But most people engage with the material in a constructive way.

“It’s not macabre, it’s the human body,” Margolis said. “We all have one, and it’s interesting.”

Most jarring for some viewers, Margolis told Futurism, is coming to terms with the fact that they’re looking at a dead body that was once a living person with thoughts and feelings. On one stream, Margolis was removing a cadaver’s brain when someone commented “Is that person dead?”

“That’s part of it: how do you talk about death? I’ve made an effort to be sensitive,” Margolis said, explaining that he’s banned people for making fun of others who asked questions, even if the answer seems obvious to some. “If you’re asking a question, there’s no issue. How wonderful that you can ask! If you’re ready to know what dead is, then teach. Help someone know, build a positive attitude.”

But the community response raises an important issue: how do you respect the deceased and their relatives while also putting meaningful content out there? Margolis says once he had 1 million people watching a livestream on Facebook at once — a lot of eyes casually observing the cut-open body of someone’s dead family member.

“The primary concerns with livestreaming autopsies are making sure that you are respecting the wishes and the privacy of the decedent and his or her family,” Baylor College of Medicine bioethicist Amy McGuire told Futurism, “and that you are treating the body with respect.”

Other bioethicists shared similar concerns — especially in regards to respecting the privacy of the deceased and their family members.

“It seems like a lot would depend on the purpose of the autopsy and whether the identity of the subject was going to be disclosed,” Mark Aulisio, chair of the bioethics department at Case Western Reserve University, told Futurism. Margolis keeps the names and identifiable characteristics of corpses under wraps. “If identifying information is not going to be disclosed, then professional and respectful comportment would be the main issue of concern,” Aulisio said.

Margolis takes pains to preserve the anonymity of cadavers. Before he begins recording, he covers up the deceased’s face in addition to any identifiable markings like tattoos or body tags. He also never discloses the person’s age or other personal details.

“We need to set it up in a way that’s ethical and empowers the family,” Margolis told Futurism.

McGuire saw those anonymizing steps as a positive sign, but also noted that as an ethicist she would want to make sure people were only using the videos for educational purposes.

New York University bioethicist Brendan Parent was most concerned about how clients are being approached about livestreaming or recording.

“Autopsy usually happens when we are suspicious about cause of death, which often involves private or sensitive life stories,” Parent told Futurism. “Even though this group is taking measures to prevent display of identifiable features and getting consent from family members, it’s unlikely any of the people whose bodies are being used conceived of this possible post-mortem state.”

Parent noted that Margolis’ practice is working on setting up a way for people to donate their bodies as part of their wills — similarly to how medical schools acquire cadavers to use as educational tools — saying that that would be a step in the right direction.

Margolis told Futurism that he spends upwards of an hour getting to know family members who approach him for autopsies before he considers bringing up the possibility of a video recording or livestream. In his consent forms, there are separate boxes asking for permission to take photos, video recordings, livestreams, or allow students into the room. If a client hesitates or seems uncomfortable after Margolis brings up the option to record to stream the autopsy, he says that he immediately backs down.

Even then, Margolis won’t bring up videos or streams at all if the deceased is a child or if the case involves an active criminal investigation, like for a suspected homicide.

But for those who agree to have their loved one’s autopsy recorded or streamed, Margolis says he sees the gesture as a gift and a way to build a legacy, akin to donating an organ or donating one’s body to science.

“What happens in the hospital is they get cut off, they get cut off from their relationships. If there’s some way to give life to that world again, to participate, it makes such a difference,” Margolis said. “It’s like organ donation, they want their loved ones to live on, to make a difference. Anything for the death not to be in vain is wonderful for them.”

He’s done cases where the autopsy reveals genetic medical conditions or helps determine whether living relatives might inherit conditions like Alzheimer’s. Armed with that information, those people can then go on to ask better questions and more effectively advocate for themselves when navigating the healthcare system.

“Autopsy is always for the living,” Margolis said.

The End of The World as we know it

 

Growing Divide

As jobs are automated out of existence, the division between the very wealthy and the very poor will grow — and any notion of a comfortable middle class will vanish.
That’s according to Roey Tzezana, a future studies researcher at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, according to Haaretz. That stands in contrast to the common argument that new jobs will emerge as others vanish, painting a grim picture for the workforce and global economy.

Survival Wages

Tzezana argues that the jobs that tend to survive automation are lower-paying, according to Haaretz, meaning that as companies generate increased wealth, almost none of it ends up in the pockets of workers. Instead, more people are stuck living paycheck to paycheck, even if unemployment rates are technically low.
“This figure is the end of the world for the average people,” Tzezana said, speaking about the growing gap between labor productivity and wages. “It reflects a rather depressing picture: The state and the economy are advancing by storm — but the workers are almost not benefitting from this progress and are left behind. It is almost a catastrophe.”
The end result? A society defined by pockets of extreme wealth but otherwise dominated by people who barely have enough to get by.

READ MORE: Futurist Sees ‘The End of the World as We Know It for Average Person’ [Haaretz]
More on automation: Globally, Most Workers Think Robots Couldn’t Handle Their Jobs

If Earth Collided with a Black Hole

 

Worlds Collide

A new online tool calculates just how much cosmic destruction a run-in between the Earth and a black hole would cause.
The aptly-named Black Hole Collision Calculator determines how much a black hole would expand and the amount of energy it would release if it absorbed the Earth — or any other object, since the calculator is totally customizable, Space.com reports.
 

Big Kaboom

Particle physicist Álvaro Díez created the tool, which is hosted on the calculator database project Omni Calculator. Based on his calculations, a black hole swallowing the Earth would release some 55 quintillion times the planet’s annual energy consumption.
But even that destructive event would be a light snack for a supermassive black hole — its event horizon would only expand by a hundredth of a trillionth of a percent, per the calculator.
The main flaw with the calculator? The artistic rendering of a black hole obliterating the Earth that pops up next to the results doesn’t change to match any increasingly goofy collisions.
 

READ MORE: See What a Black Hole Would Do to Earth with Online ‘Collision Calculator’ [Space.com]
More on cosmic annihilation:Two Supermassive Black Holes Are on a Devastating Crash Course
 

Smallest Dwarf Planet in Solar System

 

Moving On Up

The asteroid Hygiea just got a promotion.

Using European Southern Observatory’s SPHERE instrument at the Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers were able to get their most detailed look yet at Hygiea, an object in the asteroid belt.

And based on what they saw, they think the asteroid deserves reclassification as a dwarf planet — making it the smallest one yet identified in the entire solar system.

Four For Four

To be classified as a dwarf planet, an object must meet four requirements: it must be spherical, it must orbit the Sun, it can’t be a moon — and it must not have cleared the neighborhood around itself, which would make it a proper planet.

Astronomers already knew that Hygiea met the latter three requirements, and the new VLT data allowed them to confirm the first.

“Thanks to the unique capability of the SPHERE instrument on the VLT, which is one of the most powerful imaging systems in the world, we could resolve Hygiea’s shape, which turns out to be nearly spherical,” lead researcher Pierre Vernazza said in a news release. “Thanks to these images, Hygiea may be reclassified as a dwarf planet, so far the smallest in the Solar System.”

READ MORE: ESO Telescope Reveals What Could be the Smallest Dwarf Planet Yet in the Solar System [European Southern Observatory]
More on dwarf planets: Astronomers Just Found a Dwarf Planet Three Times As Far Away As Pluto