first_imgAstronomers have detected a star that should not exist.  Current theory cannot explain the composition of a star in the constellation Leo.  This “freakish star,” moreover, is probably not unique.  What is it, exactly, that modern star formation theory does explain? Science Daily reported the reactions by astronomers to this star, named SDSS J102915+172927, found with the Very Large Telescope in Chile. They called the star “primitive” because it has very low abundance of metals – that is (to astronomers) any elements heavier than hydrogen, helium and lithium (the initial elements thought to be formed after the big bang)  The strong spectral line of calcium was detected, but they had to look long and hard to find others.  Space.com posted a video with freakish music to match, showing the star’s location in Leo, headlining, “Star That Should Never Have Existed, Exists.” At New Scientist, Lisa Grossman tried to describe the surprise of finding this star: Imagine you’re an archaeologist. You find what looks like the skeleton of a protohuman. One hand seems to be grasping an object – could it be a clue to how these early beings lived? You scrape off the mud only to find that the object resembles a cellphone. Your sense of shock is akin to how Lorenzo Monaco of the European Southern Observatory in Chile and colleagues must have felt when they examined the elemental composition of an oddball star, prosaically named SDSS J102915+172927. Two major difficulties arise from this star.  Elisabeth Caffau (University of Heidelberg, University of Paris) explained the first: “A widely accepted theory predicts that stars like this, with low mass and extremely low quantities of metals, shouldn’t exist because the clouds of material from which they formed could never have condensed.”  New Scientist said this star has 4.5 millionths the heavy elements found in our sun. The other difficulty is the low abundance of lithium.  “Such an old star should have a composition similar to that of the Universe shortly after the Big Bang, with a few more metals in it,” Science Daily said.  “But the team found that the proportion of lithium in the star was at least fifty times less than expected in the material produced by the Big Bang.”  What happened to it?  Maybe the star ate it.  Another astronomer suggested as much: “It is a mystery how the lithium that formed just after the beginning of the Universe was destroyed in this star.”  This is a blow to the primordial star soup theory, the New Scientist article suggested.  “The first stars are thought to have condensed out of the hot soup left over from the big bang and contained only hydrogen, helium and a trace of lithium,” wrote Grossman.  “They were giants tens of times more massive than the sun, and they quickly exploded as supernovas.”  She added in jest, “Until now, the universe seemed to agree.”  This “impossible star” is smaller than our sun, and if it is primordial from the big bang, “couldn’t form from the same primordial stuff as these early giants” because the gas clouds “would be too hot to squeeze apart into separate clumps.”  It would have taken several generations of stars to go supernova to generate enough carbon and oxygen to act as coolants that would allow condensation into smaller stars.  “According to the theory, this star should not have been able to form,” Grossman commented.  “But it did.” If this were the only star like this, maybe they could consider it a freak.  “The researchers also point out that this freakish star is probably not unique,” the article on Science Daily ended.  No explanation was given, no revised theory offered; just another trip through the looking glass: Caffau said, “We have identified several more candidate stars that might have metal levels similar to, or even lower than, those in SDSS J102915+172927. We are now planning to observe them with the VLT to see if this is the case.” Theories are fun till facts come along and mess them up.  Now watch the theory rescue devices go into action.  One astronomer in the New Scientist article said maybe this star is a piece of a primordial giant star.  Maybe the giant star had a disk of material spinning like an out-of-control merry-go-round, and this star is like one of the children thrown out onto the grass.  Like we said, theories are fun till facts come along and mess them up.  Astronomers must have their fun, facts notwithstanding.  When the rescue devices become so numerous they smother the original theory, they defeat their purpose, even if the rescuers are having lots of fun. Remember that scientific observation is very different than scientific explanation.  After laughing about the primitive star with a cellphone, we are reminded of a funny quote by astronomer Geoffrey Burbidge in 1965, “If stars did not exist, it would be easy to prove that this is what we expect.”  Go look at the stars (picture).  Are you better off with astronomers’ explanations than you were 46 years ago?(Visited 55 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

first_imgMedupi Shabangu is only the third South African in 14 years to receive the prestigious award. (Image: Medupi Shabangu) A South African researcher, one of five scholars from Africa, has been awarded a place in the African Wildlife Foundation’s (AWF) 2010/11 Charlotte Conservation Fellows Programme. Medupi Shabangu, who is working on a master’s degree in Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town, is also one of only three South Africans who have been selected for the programme since its inception in 1996.According to the AWF, each of the five Fellows was selected because of their achievements and exceptional dedication to conservation in Africa.“The programme is doing a good work in Africa to create a fund for African scholars who can become future leaders in conservation enterprises on the continent,” says Shabangu.The Charlotte Conservation Fellows ProgrammeThe programme was established in memory of the American philanthropist and conservationist, Charlotte Kidder Ramsay, who passed away in 1995.The Charlotte Conservation Fellows Programme has played an important role in advancing conservation on the African continent. With upcoming local researchers able to continue their master’s and doctoral research studies in conservation-related fields, Africa is able to expand its skills base of professionals and institutions. In doing so, the continent is better equipped to look after and manage its precious wildlife resources.Through the programme, researchers have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of conservation, improve their qualifications, upgrade their skills and keep up to date with new information and technology related to natural resource management.The AWF supports between three and six Charlotte Fellows every year with scholarships of up to $25 000 (R170 612). The programme has been running for 14 years and to date some 50 students from East, West, Central and Southern Africa have received assistance for their graduate degrees in biology, conservation economics, enterprise development and community conservation.South Africa’s Charlotte FellowMedupi Shabangu says it is a great honour to be selected. “I feel privileged to be counted as one of the Charlotte Fellows on the African continent. This will remain an experience I cherish for the rest of my life,” he says.The work that earned him a Charlotte Fellowship involves investigation into the potential of “transformative community conservation” in the Land Reform and Land Restitution programme in the Kruger National Park (KNP).Shabangu’s research explores some of the most difficult issues in land reform. It looks at both the theoretical and practical ways to reconcile conservation and restoration of land rights to communities who were dispossessed of their land rights in the KNP.According to the Land Research and Action Network (LRAN), land in South Africa is a very complex subject and is one of the country’s most pressing developmental and political issues.Land reform can make a big difference to the lives of the rural poor in terms of income, and is a logical starting point for the redress of past imbalances and inequality. Land reform is also seen as a central component for economic growth in rural areas in particular.Shabangu’s research sets out to test whether restitution claims are a threat to biodiversity conservation, or vice versa. He admits that this is tricky as there are no easy solutions to issues of transformation in South Africa, land reform, conservation, community involvement, rural development and community-based natural resource management.He says it is important to help communities who have lodged claims on land which was historically part of the KNP to effectively manage conservation-based projects.“It is a noble intention to correct the wrongs of the past, but this has to be done sustainably,” says Shabangu.It is important to preserve the KNP, which is not only an important tourism landmark in South Africa, but also a revenue-generator for the economy and is part of the country’s heritage.“We have to strike a balance between conservation, economics and land issues.”His goal is to help communities realise how they can be empowered through sustainable use of natural resources and conservation. “This can help our rural communities leverage enormous capital,” he says.In South Africa, alternative models are needed to resolve land claims in protected areas. “Such land claims have the potential to transform ownership patterns of conservation land and create a role for land claimants in conservation and tourism development,” he says.According to Shabangu, there is great potential for rural communities to establish conservation enterprises in the Park as a main source of revenue. This isn’t only limited to tourist lodges, but extends to other supporting enterprises such as cleaning services or landscaping. “There are numerous entrepreneurs out there who can do these things,” he says.There is always the need to evaluate the ecological footprint of any new enterprise in the park and Shabangu says that the balance between development and the conservation values of the KNP must be maintained at all times.“Natural resources can empower communities in South Africa in a big way and I want to help people see our natural heritage as part of their culture and identity.”Shabangu loves his work and sees it as his calling to continue researching and finding solutions to conservation and empowerment of rural communities.A greater focus on conservation in AfricaShabangu is encouraged by the greater interest in conservation on the African continent. “Our natural heritage is God-given and has to be protected by us,” he says.Protecting Africa’s natural resources also has important implications for the way in which the continent and South Africa can be branded as a tourist destination, adds Shabangu.“We have an abundance of natural resources. No other country has similar diversity, but it is up to us to conserve it and use it sustainably,” he says.Africa’s other winnersThe other four Charlotte Fellows recognised for their hard work in conservation are: Susan Siamundele from Zambia; Edward Amum Didigo from southern Sudan; Lawandi Kanembou from Niger; and Florentin Wendkuuni Compaore from Burkina Faso.Their research ranges from environmental risk management and renewable energies to eco-tourism.South Africa’s Dr Hector Daniel Magome was selected as a Charlotte Fellow in 1996/97 and 1998/99, and was abl;r to complete his PhD studies as a result. His career began in 1986 at the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board, where he was the country’s first black ecologist. He worked there for 10 years. Today he is the executive director of conservation services at the South African National Parks authority (SANParks).He also heads up SANParks’ transfrontier conservation initiatives and is vice chair of the World Commission for Protected Areas in Southern Africa.Magome was a pioneer in helping the government work together with local communities to create economic incentives for conservation. He was also instrumental in transforming South Africa’s National Parks Act to include local people in park management.The only other South African recipient of a Charlotte Fellowship in 1998/99, Ulli Unjinee Poonan, completed her Masters in Geography and Environmental Studies at Wits University.She is regarded as a specialist on land restitution issues concerning national parks and trans-boundary conservation. Poonan began her PhD studies at Wits University in 2004, researching the impact of SANParks’ social ecology unit in the KNP.last_img read more

first_imgThe upshot on range constraintsFor people to overcome range anxiety and feel comfortable buying an electric vehicle, they need to know their needs will be met on all days, including high-energy days. Predicting when this will occur — and in advance when buying a vehicle on how many days this will occur — is something that our model is well-suited for.Our model can, with limited input on travel distance, time and location, predict the probability of exceeding the car’s range, and point to days where drivers need to turn to other, longer-range cars, for example, within households, or even within communities and through commercial car-sharing programs. The results also shed light on the quantity of long-range cars that would be needed at the population level, a gap to be filled by private sector innovation as well as national and local policy.Reasonable financing to help distribute the upfront costs over the car’s lifetime and increasing the opportunities for charging, even if only once daily, would also encourage EV adoption.In all, our analysis shows that current electric vehicles can meet most daily driving needs in the U.S. Improved access to shared, long-range transport, alongside further-advanced batteries and cars and decarbonized electricity, provides a pathway to reaching a largely decarbonized personal vehicle fleet. It’s Time to Plan for Electric Vehicles on the GridThe Downside of Low Gas PricesMinnesota OKs Special Rates for Electric VehiclesPlan for California Vehicle Charging Stations on HoldElectric Vehicles Hit a Pothole in California As Electric Cars Stall, A Move to Greener Trucks and BusesAfter Lithium-Ion, What?Beyond Sprawl: The Solar Suburbs of the FutureRunning Our House on Prius PowerCan We Power Our Car With the Sun?New Life for Old Electric Vehicle Batteries A California Utility Looks for New Answers in Solar Integration Puzzle Jessika E. Trancik is an associate professor in energy studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This column was originally published at The Conversation. To realize this potential, however, the needs of prospective electric vehicle drivers have to be met on all days, even high-energy ones, such as days that require long-distance travel.Two key innovations can enable this. The first is to predict the days on which drivers are likely to exceed the car’s range, which our model is designed to do. And the second is institutional or business-model innovation to provide alternative long-range vehicles on those high-energy days. For example, conventional cars, and eventually low-carbon, long-range alternatives, might show up at a user’s door at the click of a button. This need may last for some time even as battery technology improves and charging infrastructure expands. Vehicle range is not a single numberAn electric vehicle’s range is typically thought of in terms of a fixed number, but the number of miles covered on a single charge changes with factors including driving speed, driving style, and outdoor temperature. To understand the range of a car, we need to look beyond the car itself to how people are behaving.Over the last four years in my research group, we’ve built a model (called “TripEnergy”) of the second-by-second driving behavior of people across the United States, how they are likely to use heating and cooling systems in their cars, and how various electric and conventional vehicles would consume energy if driven in this way.This approach gives us a probabilistic view of electric vehicle range. For example, for the Nissan Leaf, we find that 74 miles is the median range — based on driving patterns, half of the cars on the road in the U.S. would be able to travel this far, and half would not. (A Ford Focus electric performs similarly.) There is a distribution in this range, which demonstrates how widely actual performance can vary. We estimate, for instance, that 5% of 58-mile trips could not be covered on one charge, and 5% of 90-mile trips could. RELATED ARTICLES By JESSIKA TRANCIKElectrifying transportation is one of the most promising ways to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, but so-called range anxiety — concern about being stranded with an uncharged car battery — remains a barrier to electric vehicle adoption. Is range anxiety justified given current cars and charging infrastructure?It’s a question my research group and I addressed in a paper published in Nature Energy, by taking a close look at this problem with a new model.Specifically, we asked: When looking down on the geographic area of the U.S. from a bird’s-eye view, how many personal vehicles on the road daily could be replaced with a low-cost battery electric vehicle (EV), even if daytime charging isn’t available? Our analysis is, to our knowledge, the most expansive yet detailed study to date of how current and future-improved electric vehicle technology measures up to people’s energy-consuming behavior.We found nearly 90% of vehicles on the road could be replaced by a low-cost electric vehicle available on the market today. What’s more, this number is remarkably similar across very different cities, from New York to Houston to Los Angeles. That is, there is a high potential for electrification of cars in both dense and more sprawling cities in the United States. Returns on technology improvementWhat if batteries improve, and allow for longer driving range for the same cost as current-generation lithium ion batteries?The 2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV concept vehicle, which is expected to sell for about $30,000 when it goes into production later this year. (Photo: General Motors)The federal research agency ARPA-E has set a target for batteries to store roughly two times more energy by weight than today’s batteries in electric vehicles. If that technical target is reached, we estimate that the 87% daily adoption potential estimate would rise to 98%, and the gasoline substitution potential would rise from 61% to 88%. The 2017 Chevy Bolt and 2018 Tesla Model 3 are expected to achieve roughly similar increases in potentials at an increased cost compared to today’s Nissan Leaf, though these costs are still close to the average cost of new cars. The Tesla Model S travels even further but costs significantly more.Even with substantial battery improvements, however, other types of powertrain technologies will be needed to cover those days with the highest energy consumption. This need may persist for some time, even with expanded charging infrastructure, due to a small number of very high-energy days. Evaluating electric vehicle technology against driving behaviorWith the TripEnergy model in hand, we asked how many cars on the road could be replaced with a low-cost electric vehicle available today. We considered a case where drivers can charge only once daily: for example, at home overnight. This allowed us to study a situation where only limited changes are needed to existing public charging infrastructure and cars can use power plants that would otherwise sit idle overnight.We found that, given how people are driving across the U.S., 87% of cars on an average day could be replaced with a current-generation, low-cost electric vehicle, with only once-daily charging. This is based on the driving behavior of millions of people across the U.S. across diverse cities and socioeconomic classes.Switching from conventional to electric vehicles for those cars would cut emissions by an estimated 30%, even with today’s fossil fuel-based supply mix. In total, the trips taken by those cars represent roughly 60% of gasoline consumption in the U.S.This large daily adoption potential is remarkably similar across both dense and more sprawling U.S. cities, ranging from 84% to 93%.While it’s true that people behave differently across cities — in how they use public transport, whether they own a car, and how often they drive the cars they own — when they do drive, we found that a similar number of cars in different cities fall within the range provided by a low-cost electric vehicle.last_img read more

first_imgThe Chhatra JD(U), student wing of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumars party, won the president’s post in the Patna University Students Union (PUSU) elections, the results of which were declared in the early hours of of Thursday. Putting up its best-ever performance, the student body of JD(U) also won the treasurer’s post while the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of RSS bagged the other key offices of vice president, general secretary and joint secretary. This is only the second time in the history of Chhatra JD(U) when its candidates have won key posts in PUSU elections. Previously, the student body had won the joint secretarys post in 2012. The PUSU polls this year witnessed fierce campus rivalry between the Chhatra JD(U) and the ABVP, with allegations of JD(U) national vice-president Prashant Kishor meddling in the elections putting the partys relations with its ally BJP under strain. Incidentally, both Mr. Kumar and his deputy Sushil Modi a senior BJP leader had been PUSU leaders.Hailing the victory of Mohit Prakash and Kumar Satyam for the posts of president and treasurer respectively, JD(U) spokesman Neeraj Kumar tweeted “poll results have placed a mirror before those who have become synonymous with lumpenisation of politics. Patna University students have voted in favour of politics that is free from corruption and imbued with the virtues of character and good conduct.” For the other top posts, the ABVP winners are Anjana Singh (vice president), Manikant Mani (general secretary) and Raja Ravi (joint secretary). Polling had taken place for the PUSU elections on Wednesday and counting of votes continued through the night.last_img read more

first_imgThe Gujarat government on Monday canceled all permissions granted to the bankrupt Sterling group promoted by the absconding Sandesara brothers to develop an all-weather port in Dahej.The absconding promoters of the Sterling group – Nitin and Chetan Sandesara – are alleged to have defrauded over ₹ 14,500 crore of public money. Two of their flagships–Sterling Biotech and Sterling SEZ are in bankruptcy tribunals now.Both the brothers are absconding since their names came up in the bank loan scam and money laundering activities and federal agencies began probing them.“Chief minister Vijay Rupani today decided to cancel all the permissions given for building an all-weather berthing port at Dahej to Sterling Ports of Nitin Sandesara,” the chief minister’s office said in a statement on Monday.“Rupani has also directed the Gujarat Maritime Board to recover the amount that the company had to pay as bank guarantees and also to take re-possession of the 84.95 hectares given to the company for developing the port,” the statement added.The Gujarat Maritime Board and a consortium led by Sterling Biotech had entered into an agreement to develop the Dahej port as an all-weather direct berthing port in 2009.Following this, the board had handed over 84.95 hectares to the group in 2010.The Sterling consortium had formed a new company – Sterling Port – to develop the port and had also signed a concession agreement in 2014 with the board.As per the agreement, the company was to invest ₹ 2,500 crore in the first phase and had to deposit 1.5 percent of the equity along with another ₹ 5 crore as performance guarantee with the maritime board.But the company is yet to start any work on the port, government officials said, adding it even failed to deposit ₹ 37.50 crore which it had to pay as bank guarantee to the government.Earlier in the day, the board of directors of the maritime board met and recommended to cancel the contract, they said, adding following this, the Chief Minister ordered cancellation of all the agreements and permissions given to the Sandesara group.The Sandesaras brothers are alleged to have committed bank frauds to the tune of ₹ 14,500 crore of the one by Sterling Biotech alone is around ₹8,100 crore, according to the Enforcement Directorate. The brothers have been absconding since the federal agency CBI registered a bank fraud case against them in 2017.last_img read more

first_imgA drive for good nutrition among pregnant women and children in a southern Assam district has been given a gooseberry candy twist. This follows a report that the targeted groups find the prescribed iron-folic acid tablets repulsive.According to the 2015 National Family Health Survey, 47.2% of the women of reproductive age in Hailakandi were anaemic. The district, thus, has the most anaemic children below 5 years, adolescents and women of reproductive age in Assam.But mothers, pregnant women and children in the district, data reveal, consume only 24.3% of the total iron-folic acid tablets that the district receives and distributes. “The tablets given to these groups are often not consumed as they feel nauseated or have constipation issues. There are also myths that these tablets will kill them or make them incapable of conceiving,” District Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli told The Hindu. Amla, jaggery comboTo get around the problem while launching Poshan Maah, or nutrition month, a few days ago, the district administration decided to produce roundish amla-gur candies with a dose of salt. Nutritionists involved in the campaign said amla, or gooseberry, is rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, while gur, or jaggery, is rich in iron, vital vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system.“The gooseberry candy is a home-made recipe, and is provided alongside iron-folic acid tablets as behavioural change in nutritious eating is a slow process. If women and children avoid the tablet, they can get the required vitamin and mineral inputs through the improvised delicacy of which ingredients are available locally,” Ms. Jalli said. The candy is cost-effective too, she said. Anganwadi workers, supervisors and mothers have been engaged to prepare and distribute the ‘laddoos’ with the ingredients given by the district authorities.“This is a novel initiative that should go a long way in checking anaemia that increases the risk during pregnancy and at childbirth, besides resulting in low birth weight and malnourished children,” Anganwadi worker Labiba Begum Barlaskar said.About 32.5% of the children aged below five in Hailakandi are underweight. The average figure for Assam is 30%.last_img read more