Drilling Deep For Geo-thermal Energy

 MIT spin-off Quaise says it’s going to use hijacked fusion technology to drill the deepest holes in history, unlocking clean, virtually limitless, supercritical geothermal energy that can re-power fossil-fuelled power plants all over the world.

 Everyone knows the Earth’s core is hot, but maybe the scale of it still has the power to surprise. Temperatures in the iron centre of the core are estimated to be around 5,200 °C (9,392 °F), generated by heat from radioactive elements decaying combining with heat that still remains from the very formation of the planet – an event of cataclysmic violence when a swirling cloud of gas and dust was crushed into a ball by its own gravity.

Where there’s access to heat, there’s harvestable geothermal energy. And there’s so much heat below the Earth’s surface, according to Paul Woskov, a senior fusion research engineer at MIT, that tapping just 0.1 percent of it could supply the entire world’s energy needs for more than 20 million years.

The problem is access. Where subterranean heat sources naturally occur close to the surface, easily accessible and close enough to a relevant power grid for economically viable transmission, geothermal becomes a rare example of totally reliable, round-the-clock green power generation. The Sun stops shining, the wind stops blowing, but the rock’s always hot. Of course, these conditions are fairly rare, and as a result, geothermal currently supplies only around 0.3 percent of global energy consumption.

 More Serious Diseases Linked To Viruses

 We are all very familiar now with the way viral infections lead to acute disease. From the flu to COVID-19 and the measles, it is well understood how viruses lead to disease but scientists are only now discovering the broad role viral infections play in the development of other health conditions, often emerging years or even decades after the initial infection.

Several new studies have shed light on links between diseases not previously thought to be related to viral infections. A common childhood viral infection has been linked to the development of bladder cancer in adulthood. An association between hepatitis C and schizophrenia is offering insights into the influence of viral infections on the brain. And strong new evidence is affirming how a prevalent virus may be crucial to the development of multiple sclerosis.

It has been estimated that nearly one in five cancers worldwide are caused by viral infections. Perhaps the most well known viral cancer connection is the link between cervical cancer and HPV (human papillomavirus).

How Covid Changed The Future Of Medical Science

 When Tom Pooley, 21, became the first person to receive an experimental vaccine against plague as part of a medical trial last summer after tests on mice, he was inspired by the thought that his involvement could help to rid the world of one of the most brutal killers in human history.

“They made it quite clear I was the first human to receive it,” says Pooley, a radiotherapy engineering student. “They didn’t dress it up, but they made it clear it was as safe as possible. There are risks, but they are talented people: it’s a big honour to be the first.”

The single-shot, based on the Chadox technology developed by the Oxford Vaccine Group and AstraZeneca, took less than five seconds to painlessly administer, he says. That night, he felt a little unwell, but he was fine within three hours; and the small trial continued apace to combat the centuries-old bacteria threat, which killed 171 in Madagascar as recently as 2017. It uses a weakened, genetically altered version of a common-cold virus from chimpanzees.

 It is just one example of how scientists are increasingly looking at how Covid treatments can help to treat other diseases. Trials are expected to be developed for other similar jabs against dengue, Zika and a whole host of pathogens. Another vaccine study against Ebola is already going to human trials. As Professor Sarah Gilbert, architect of the Oxford Vaccine, has said: “We’ve got the cake and we can put a cherry on top, or we can put some pistachios on top if we want a different vaccine, we just add the last bit and then we’re ready to go.”

The Covid pandemic sparked an unprecedented drive to control a lethal disease whose outbreak led to a near global shutdown to contain its spread. Billions in public and private money were pumped into research like never before in such a short space of time. It’s not something the medical world would have chosen, but the developments of the past two years could not have happened without Covid-19 – the pathogen has served as a giant catalyst ushering in different technologies, data and research that offer insights into other diseases.

This Drone Can Pick Apples

 Even without an ongoing pandemic disrupting supply chains and making it an even bigger challenge to hire seasonal labour, being a farmer is hard work, especially around harvest time. A company called Tevel Aerobatics Technologies believes it’s come up with a better harvesting solution for fruit farmers with the apple drone: beating that other tech company to the punch.

To clear up any misconceptions, it’s not a drone from that company making iPhones and iPads, but a flying tethered quadcopter with an outstretched arm attached that can intelligently target, grab, and pick apples off a tree, before dropping them onto a collection device. The solution is far from the first time that harvesting fruits and vegetables on a farm has been automated through the use of intelligent machinery and even robots, but fruits like apples often benefit from human harvesters who can visually inspect when it’s ripe enough to pick while handling it with the necessary care to not cause bruising or other damage.

Ribbed Skin Reduces Jet Drag And Fuel Use

Zero-emissions airliners are still a long way off, but Lufthansa and BASF have developed a way to improve things right now. AeroShark is an adhesive riblet film that immediately reduces fuel consumption, and therefore emissions, from any aircraft.

Millions of years of evolution moved the ocean’s most feared predators away from perfectly smooth skin. Instead, sharks have very slightly ribbed skin, which reduces drag enough to become an advantage. What works in hydrodynamics often translates well to aerodynamics, so the AeroShark team moved to emulate the texture on the exterior of large aircraft.

The resulting film doesn’t sound like a radical difference; the millions of prism-shaped “riblets” on the AeroShark film’s surface are no more than 50 micrometers (1/20th of a millimeter, 2/1000ths of an inch) high. But that’s enough to make a difference in fuel consumption; international airline Swiss has calculated that if 950 square meters (10,225 sq ft) of this film is applied to a Boeing 777, in specific patterns and aligned with the airflow around the fuselage and engine nascelle surfaces, the reduced drag immediately reduces fuel consumption by 1.1 percent.

Covid Has Accelerated Robot Deployment

Robots have been around for six decades or so. Originally, they were simple devices which did as they were told, working on assembly lines in, well, a robotic manner. They were often kept in cages, like zoo animals, to stop people getting too close. And for similar reasons. They were dangerous. If a mere human being got in the way of a swinging robotic arm, so much the worse for the human.

Since then, they have got vastly more dexterous, mobile and autonomous. They are also more collaborative. There are now over 3m robots working in factories across the planet, according to the International Federation of Robotics, a worldwide industry association. Millions more move goods around warehouses, clean homes, mow lawns and help surgeons conduct operations. Some have also begun delivering goods, both on land and by air.

The pace of automation is likely to accelerate, for two reasons, a panel of robotics experts told the 2022 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), held for the second year running in cyberspace, rather than in Philadelphia, as originally planned. The first reason is that covid-19 has created social changes which look likely to endure. The “Great Resignation”, in which millions around the world have quit their jobs, may in part be a consequence of lockdowns creating new opportunities for home working. These so-called lifestyle choices about which jobs to do, together with creaking supply chains and a boom in e-commerce, have left warehouses and many other businesses struggling to recruit workers.

$4 Solar-Powered Desalination Device Provides Drinking Water For A Family 

Desalination is being explored as a way to solve the shortages of drinking water that plague much of the world, but it has a few issues to iron out. A new design for a solar-powered desalination device prevents the build-up of salt, making for an efficient and affordable system. Just four dollars’ worth of materials should be enough for a device that can provide a family’s daily drinking water.

.Fouling is one of the main problems in desalination systems. As salt and other impurities are being filtered out of water, that material tends to build up on membranes or other surfaces in the device, requiring parts to be regularly cleaned, or worse, replaced. Wicking materials are among the most commonly fouled parts, so for the new project, scientists from MIT and Shanghai Jiao Tong University set out to design a wick-free solar desalination device.

Intended to float on the surface of a body of saltwater, the system is comprised of several layers. A material with 2.5-mm perforations draws water up from the reservoir below, forming a thin layer of water on top. With the help of a dark material that absorbs heat from sunlight, this thin layer of water is heated until it evaporates, so it can then be condensed onto a sloped surface for collection as pure water.

 The salt stays behind in the remaining water, but this is where the team’s new idea kicks in. The holes in the perforated material are just the right size to allow for a natural convective circulation to occur. The warmer water above the material – which is now far more dense with salt – is drawn back down into the colder body of water below. A new layer of water is drawn up to the top of the material and the cycle begins again.

Can Nasal Bacteria Trigger Alzheimer’s Disease?

 Researchers in Australia have found evidence that bacteria that live in the nose can make their way into the brain through nasal cavity nerves, setting off a series of events that could lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The work adds to the growing body of evidence that Alzheimer’s may be initially triggered through viral or bacterial infections.

Chlamydia pneumoniae is a common bacterium that, as its name suggests, is a major cause of pneumonia, as well as a range of other respiratory diseases. But worryingly, it’s also been detected in the brain on occasion, indicating it could cause more insidious issues.

For the new study, researchers at Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology set out to investigate how C. pneumoniae might get into the brain, and whether it could cause damage once there. The team already had an inkling about how this nose-dwelling bug might make the trek.

“Our work has previously shown that several different species of bacteria can rapidly, within 24 hours, enter the central nervous system via peripheral nerves extending between the nasal cavity and the brain,” said Jenny Ekberg, lead author of the study.