Tag: Space

The TED Conference On Big Ideas Is Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth IsIs

The big-idea Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference is now backing up its talk on world-changing innovations with big money.

The organizers of the conference known for deep thinking discussions announced Wednesday it has raised $400 million for projects with “the potential to create massive, global change.”

The new initiative known as the Audacious Project will replace the annual $1 million TED prize awards which have been allocated since 2005, with a hefty bump in funding.

TED organizers say the project will fund “collaborative philanthropy for bold ideas” and announced the first awards to organizations working on innovative ideas for health care, justice, agriculture and the environment.

“In some ways, it’s the most ambitious thing TED has ever been involved with,” TED curator Chris Anderson said before taking to the stage to announce the project in Vancouver.

“It’s like trying to recreate what an IPO does, but instead of investing in shares to make money we are investing in dreams to make change.”

Inside TED, they coined the acronym “APO,” for Audacious Project Offering.

Anderson has encouraged TED’s influential community to act on big ideas that win their hearts or minds at annual conferences.

Each year, the project will identify up to five ideas that stand out as “thrillingly bold” with a credible path to execution.

Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, took to the TED stage to help unveil the project, saying it could change millions of lives for the better by turning bold ideas for good into action.

“We must dream alongside and amplify those voices,” she told the TED audience.

TED said pledges for the project came from Skoll Foundation, Virgin Unite, Dalio Foundation, The Bridgespan Group and others.

– Oceans to Heavens –

The slate of those being backed by the project consisted of The Environmental Defense Fund; The Bail Project; GirlTrek; Sightsavers, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

US-based Bail Project will manage a nationwide fund to help people post bond to get out of jail while their guilt or innocence is determined.

The Environmental Defense Fund wants to track methane pollution from space with a network of satellites.

“Cutting methane emissions from the global oil and gas industry is the fastest thing we can do right now to put the brakes on climate change,” said EDF president Fred Krupp.

The Woods Hole institution plans to uncover the secrets of a mysterious layer of ocean some 200 to 1,000 meters (600 to 3,000 feet) deep considered integral to the marine food ecosystem and the earth’s climate.

GirlTrek in the US will train activists to improve the health of black women by getting them walking more.

Sightsavers aims to eliminate trachoma, a treatable disease that can blind people and remains a bane in low-income communities.

“We are in a moment where humans more than ever what to change the future,” Anderson said.

“The money is out there; people want to spend it on good ideas.”

– Daring to dream –

Anyone in the world is free to pitch their dreams online at an audaciousproject.org website with a handful picked annually, according to TED.

“We are looking for projects that are capable of impacting at least millions of lives in some way, or at a planetary scale,” Anderson said.

“Almost the single biggest hope is that this process unlocks dreams that entrepreneurs never dared put forward before.”

Since starting as an intimate gathering on the California coast 34 years ago, TED has grown into a global media platform with a stated devotion to “ideas worth spreading.”

TED has a massive following for its trademark presentations in which speakers strive to give “the talk of their lives” in 18 minutes.

The theme of the annual TED conference this week in Vancouver is “Age of Amazement,” but with a keen eye on unintended consequences.

UC Berkley Develops New Technology To Make Superior Lithium Batteries Cheap As Dirt

Lithium-based batteries use more than 50 percent of all cobalt produced in the world. These batteries are in your cell phone, laptop and maybe even your car. About 50 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo, where it’s largely mined by hand, in some instances by children.  Cobalt is expensive.

But now, a research team led by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, has opened the door to using other metals in lithium-based batteries, and have built cathodes with 50 percent more lithium-storage capacity than conventional materials.

“We’ve opened up a new chemical space for battery technology,” said senior author Gerbrand Ceder, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Berkeley. “For the first time we have a really cheap element that can do a lot of electron exchange in batteries.”

The study will be published in the April 12 edition of the journal Nature. The work was a collaboration between scientists at UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab, Argonne National Lab, MIT and UC Santa Cruz.

In today’s lithium-based batteries, lithium ions are stored in cathodes (the negatively charged electrode), which are layered structures. Cobalt is crucial to maintaining this layered structure. When a battery is charged, lithium ions are pulled from the cathode into the other side of the battery cell, the anode.

The absence of lithium in the cathode leaves a lot of space. Most metal ions would flock into that space, which would cause the cathode to lose its structure. But cobalt is one of the few elements that won’t move around, making it critical to the battery industry.

In 2014, Ceder’s lab discovered a way that cathodes can maintain a high energy density without these layers, a concept called disordered rock salts. The new study shows how manganese can work within this concept, which is a promising step away from cobalt dependence because manganese is found in dirt, making it a cheap element.

“To deal with the resource issue of cobalt, you have to go away from this layeredness in cathodes,” Ceder said. “Disordering cathodes has allowed us to play with a lot more of the periodic table.”

In the new study, Ceder’s lab shows how new technologies can be used to get a lot of capacity from a cathode. Using a process called fluorine doping, the scientists incorporated a large amount of manganese in the cathode. Having more manganese ions with the proper charge allows the cathodes to hold more lithium ions, thus increasing the battery’s capacity.

Other research groups have attempted to fluorine dope cathodes but have not been successful. Ceder says his lab’s work on disordered structures was a big key to their success.

Cathode performance is measured in energy per unit weight, called watt-hours per kilogram. The disordered manganese cathodes approached 1,000 watt-hours per kilogram. Typical lithium-ion cathodes are in the range of 500-700 watt-hours per kilogram.

“In the world of batteries, this is a huge improvement over conventional cathodes,” said lead author Jinhyuk Lee, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Ceder’s lab during the study, and is now a postdoctoral fellow at MIT.

The technology needs to be scaled up and tested more to see if it can be used in applications like laptops or electric vehicles. But Ceder says whether or not this technology actually makes it inside a battery is beside the point; the researchers have opened new possibilities for the design of cathodes, which is even more important.

“You can pretty much use any element in the periodic table now because we’ve shown that cathodes don’t have to be layered,” Ceder said. “Suddenly we have a lot more chemical freedom, and I think that’s where the real excitement is because now we can do exploration of new cathodes.”

Aussies Seek Information About Interstellar Visitor

A telescope in outback Western Australia has been used to listen to a mysterious cigar-shaped object that entered our solar system late last year.

The unusual object – known as ‘Oumuamua – came from another solar system, prompting speculation it could be an alien spacecraft. So astronomers went back through observations from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope to check for radio transmissions coming from the object between the frequencies of 72 and 102 MHz – similar to the frequency range in which FM radio is broadcast.

While they did not find any signs of intelligent life, the research helped expand the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) from distant stars to objects closer to home.

When ‘Oumuamua was first discovered, astronomers thought it was a comet or an asteroid from within the solar system. But after studying its orbit and discovering its long, cylindrical shape, they realised ‘Oumuamua was neither and had come from interstellar space.

Telescopes around the world trained their gaze on the mysterious visitor in an effort to learn as much as possible before it headed back out of the solar system, becoming too faint to observe in detail.

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Steven Tingay, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said the MWA team did not initially set out to find ‘Oumuamua.

“We didn’t set out to observe this object with the MWA but because we can see such a large fraction of the sky at once, when something like this happens, we’re able to go back through the data and analyse it after the fact,” Professor Tingay said.

“If advanced civilizations do exist elsewhere in our galaxy, we can speculate that they might develop the capability to launch spacecraft over interstellar distances and that these spacecraft may use radio waves to communicate. Whilst the possibility of this is extremely low, possibly even zero, as scientists it’s important that we avoid complacency and examine observations and evidence without bias.”

The MWA is located in Western Australia’s remote Murchison region, one of the most radio-quiet areas on the planet and far from human activity and radio interference caused by technology. It is made up of thousands of antennas attached to hundreds of “tiles” that dot the ancient landscape, relentlessly observing the heavens day after day, night after night.

Professor Tingay said the research team was able to look back through all of the MWA’s observations from November, December and early January, when ‘Oumuamua was between 95 million and 590 million kilometres from Earth.

“We found nothing, but as the first object of its class to be discovered, `Oumuamua has given us an interesting opportunity to expand the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence from traditional targets such as stars and galaxies to objects that are much closer to Earth. This also allows for searches for transmitters that are many orders of magnitude less powerful than those that would be detectable from a planet orbiting even the most nearby stars.”

‘Oumuamua was first discovered by the Pan-STARRS project at the University of Hawaii in October. Its name loosely means “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past” in Hawaiian, and is the first known interstellar object to pass through our solar system.

Combining observations from a host of telescopes, scientists have determined that ‘Oumuamua is most likely a cometary fragment that has lost much of its surface water because it was bombarded by cosmic rays on its long journey through interstellar space.

Researchers have now suggested there could be more than 46 million similar interstellar objects crossing the solar system every year. While most of these objects are too far away to study with current technologies, future telescopes such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will enable scientists to understand more about these interstellar interlopers.

“So once the SKA is online,” said Professor Tingay, “we’ll be able to look at large numbers of objects and partially balance out the low probability of a positive detection.”