Mining asteroids might seem like the stuff of science fiction, but there are companies and a few governments already working hard to make it real. This should not be surprising: compared with the breathtaking bridges that engineers build on Earth, asteroid-mining is a simple, small-scale operation requiring only modest technological advances. If anything is lacking, it is the imagination to see how plausible it has become. I am afraid only that it might not arrive soon enough to address the urgent resource challenges that the world is facing right now.
The eastern United States experienced a very severe winter storm last week, which caused damaging winds, heavy snow and the highest tide on record for Boston. Meteorologists call this type of storm a “bomb cyclone”, or simply a “bomb”. But what is it?
The further development of a method to turn coal into electricity without polluting now allows the process to run for eight months of continuous use in the lab. The technique could be a valuable stop-gap while renewables improve.
In Antarctica, a fleet of seven drones will embark on a year-long mission under the ice. If they survive, the data they collect could drastically improve predictions of future ice melting and sea level rises.
In September 2017, a new iceberg calved from Pine Island Glacier—one of the main outlets where the West Antarctic Ice Sheet flows into the ocean. Just weeks later, the berg named B-44 shattered into more than 20 fragments. On December 15, 2017, the Landsat 8 Earth-orbitng satellite took this image of the broken berg. An area of relatively warm water, known as a polyna, has kept the water ice free between the iceberg chunks and the glacier front. The polynya’s warm water could have caused the rapid breakup of B-44.
New smart window technology, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US, is showing great potential. Apart from keeping heat out of buildings, this smart window could also work as a solar panel and convert sunlight into energy.
Mount Agung in Bali has been thrusting ash thousands of feet into the sky for almost two weeks. Lava is burbling at the volcano’s peak. Indonesian authorities have ordered evacuations around Agung, while tourists are stranded at the closed airport. The volcano’s flanks are bulging from magma trying to push its way out, and earthquake frequency has been increasing.
When it comes to technology and the environment, it often seems like it’s “one step forward, two steps back.” Basically, sometimes the new and innovative technologies that are intended correct for one set of problems inevitably lead to new ones. This appears to be the case with the transition to solid-state lighting technology, aka. the “lighting revolution”.