elon-musk-to-offer-$100m-prize-for-‘best’-tech-to-capture-carbon-dioxide-emissions

Elon Musk to offer $100m prize for ‘best’ tech to capture carbon dioxide emissions

Tesla Inc chief and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk on Thursday took to Twitter to promise a $100 million prize for development of the “best” technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions.

Capturing planet-warming emissions is becoming a critical part of many plans to keep climate change in check, but very little progress has been made on the technology to date, with efforts focused on cutting emissions rather than taking carbon out of the air.

The International Energy Agency said late last year that a sharp rise in the deployment of carbon capture technology was needed if countries are to meet net-zero emissions targets.

“Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology,” Musk wrote in a tweet, followed by a second tweet that promised “Details next week.”

Tesla officials did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.

Musk, who co-founded and sold Internet payments company PayPal Holdings Inc, now leads some of the most futuristic companies in the world.

Besides Tesla, he heads rocket company SpaceX and Neuralink, a startup that is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect the human brain to computers.

Newly-sworn-in US President Joe Biden has pledged to accelerate the development of carbon capture technology as part of his sweeping plan to tackle climate change. On Thursday, he named Jennifer Wilcox, an expert in carbon removal technologies, as the principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy at the US Department of Energy.

bangladesh-to-get-its-first-space-observatory-in-faridpur

Bangladesh to get its first space observatory in Faridpur

The government is all set to build the “Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Space Observatory Centre”, the first of its kind in the country, at Bhanga Upazila of Faridpur. The centre is being set up with all modern facilities for observing the space with telescopes at a cost of Tk 213 crores. The project is expected to get approval from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on January 19.

Eminent writer Professor Zafar Iqbal first brought the idea of setting up a space observatory centre at Bhanga of Faridpur to public attention. He explained that the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricon – three imaginary lines that encircle the Earth from East to West – has an intersection point with the four longitudinal lines that encircle the Earth from North to South at Bhanga Upazila of Faridpur, making the spot an ideal location to set up a space observatory. 

Following his suggestion, the Prime Minister directed the Ministry of Science and Technology to start preparing the project. 

According to the project proposal, the centre will be built on 10 acres of land and will have a 5-storey circular building that will house reflector telescopes. The height of the observatory tower will be kept at 100 metres to commemorate the birth centenary of the father of the nation. 

The project proposal also allots Tk 1 crore 10 lacs for the travel and training of 11 officials abroad. 

The project is scheduled for completion by June 2023.

bangladesh-born-scientist-m-zahid-hasan-to-receive-us-department-of-energy-award

Bangladesh-born scientist M Zahid Hasan to receive US Department of Energy award

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will confer the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award on Bangladesh-born scientist M Zahid Hasan.

He is also Princeton University’s Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics.

The Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award was established in 1959 and honours mid-career US scientists and engineers for exceptional contributions in research and development in support of DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic and energy security of the nation.

M Zahid Hasan is known for his pioneering research on quantum matter exhibiting topological and emergent properties.

The Office of Communications of Princeton University issued a press release in this regard on January 13.

“I am quite honoured and humbled to receive this award, as EO Lawrence was one of my scientific heroes,” Hasan said.

“Lawrence’s invention of the cyclotron led to modern high-energy accelerator technology that I use in my research to explore topological states of quantum matter. I am also very grateful to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory for supporting my research leading to this award.”

Hasan was honoured in the area of condensed matter and materials sciences for “experiments using advanced spin-angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy which led to seminal discoveries of new phases of matter and new fermionic quasiparticles,” according to Princeton University’s press release.

thai-researcher-deems-chicken-feathers-rich-protein-source

Thai researcher deems chicken feathers rich protein source

When Sorawut Kittibanthorn was looking for new types of waste to recycle, the then London-based student was drawn to the millions of tons of chicken feathers being discarded each year. 

Now back in his homeland of Thailand, the 30-year-old is seeking funding to continue his research into how best to convert the nutrient component found in the feathers into a powder that can be transformed into a lean, protein-rich source of edible food. 

“Chicken feather contains protein and if we are able to serve this protein to others in the world, the demand from everyone… will help reduce waste,” Sorawut told Reuters. 

Indeed the potential appears huge, given that Sorawut reckons about 2.3 million tons of feathers are being dumped in Europe alone each year. 

And with generally higher poultry consumption in Asia, he believes there could be up to 30 percent more feather waste that could be exploited in the region. 

Sorawut, who studied for a Masters of Material Futures in London, said the idea still needs to go through other research and development phases. 

But prototypes including his take on chicken nuggets and a steak substitute have received positive reviews from some. 

“You know the texture is very complex and advanced. It’s something you wouldn’t imagine that chicken feathers will be able to improvise into this kind of dish,” said food blogger. 

Cholrapee Asvinvichit, after tucking into “steak” served with gravy, mashed potatoes and a salad. “I really could imagine this (being served) to me in some like, Michelin star (restaurant), or some fine dining experience.” 

Hathairat Rimkeeree, a food sciences professor at Kasesart University, was also pleasantly surprised by the results. 

“I think it does have the potential to become an alternative food source in the future.” 

Plant-based substitutes for meat have been gaining popularity as more people shift towards vegan or vegetarian diets, amid growing concerns about health risks from eating meat, animal welfare and the environmental hazards of intensive animal farming. 

While feather-based foods could not be categorised as vegan or vegetarian, Sorawut feels they should be considered ethical dining. 

“I plan to approach the zero-waste restaurants first because even though these dishes are made from poultry waste, it is still a by-product from animals (we normally consume).”

china-turns-on-nuclear-powered-‘artificial-sun’

China turns on nuclear-powered ‘artificial sun’

China successfully powered up its “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor for the first time, state media reported Friday, marking a great advance in the country’s nuclear power research capabilities.

The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device, and scientists hope that the device can potentially unlock a powerful clean energy source. It uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius, according to the People’s Daily — approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun.

Located in southwestern Sichuan province and completed late last year, the reactor is often called an “artificial sun” on account of the enormous heat and power it produces. “The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a way to solve China’s strategic energy needs, but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy,” said the People’s Daily.

Chinese scientists have been working on developing smaller versions of the nuclear fusion reactor since 2006. They plan to use the device in collaboration with scientists working on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor — the world’s largest nuclear fusion research project based in France, which is expected to be completed in 2025. Fusion is considered the Holy Grail of energy and is what powers our sun.

It merges atomic nuclei to create massive amounts of energy — the opposite of the fission process used in atomic weapons and nuclear power plants, which splits them into fragments. Unlike fission, fusion emits no greenhouse gases and carries less risk of accidents or the theft of atomic material. But achieving fusion is both extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive, with the total cost of ITER estimated at $22.5 billion

massive-puerto-rico-telescope-collapses

Massive Puerto Rico telescope collapses

The massive telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory that had been deteriorating since August collapsed today, officials said, after 57 years of astronomical discoveries.

The radio telescope’s 900-ton instrument platform, suspended by cables 450 feet (137 meters) above a 1,000-foot-wide (305 meters) bowl-shaped reflector dish, fell on Tuesday morning, the U.S. National Science Foundation said. No injuries were reported, it added.

The telescope, one of the largest in the world, had been used by scientists around the world for decades to study distant planets, find potentially hazardous asteroids and hunt for potential signatures of extraterrestrial life.

Two cables supporting the reflector dish had broken since August, causing damage and forcing officials to close the observatory. The NSF, which helped manage the telescope, said in November that efforts to repair the structure would be too dangerous and therefore it would have to be demolished.

“NSF is saddened by this development,” the independent federal agency wrote on Twitter. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”

climate-change-devastated-dinosaurs-not-once,-but-twice

Climate change devastated dinosaurs not once, but twice

Most people know that land-dwelling dinosaurs were wiped out some 66 million years ago when an asteroid roughly twice the diameter of Paris crashed into Earth. If the explosive fireball didn’t get them, the plunge in global temperature on a planet with little or no ice — caused by a blanket of heat-shielding debris in the atmosphere — did.

What most people don’t know is that more than 100 million years earlier, another climate change cataclysm devastated a different set of dinosaur species, with many going extinct. Except for this time, it was global warming rather than global cooling that did them in, with the planet heating up more quickly than the dinos’ capacity to adapt.

Scientists have found evidence of this traumatic event some 179 million years ago in plant fossils in Argentine Patagonia. They also discovered a previously unknown dinosaur. The species, called Bagualia alba, is in the family of massive, long-necked sauropods, the largest animals to walk the Earth. Before the global warming event, sauropods were only one branch of the Sauropodomorpha lineage.

Other dinosaurs in the same group were smaller and lightly built, with some no bigger than a goat, according to a study published Wednesday in the Royal Society. But a series of volcanic eruptions over several million years released huge amounts of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere, warming the planet and transforming the vegetation dinosaurs fed on. The climate went from a temperate, warm and humid with diverse lush vegetation to a strongly seasonal, hot-and-dry regime.

Smaller Sauropodomorpha dinosaurs were unable to cope with the change, but larger sauropods — like the Bagualia alba — thrived. “Sauropods are massive, four-legged animals with long necks,” which meant they could reach the tops of trees, palaeontologist and lead author Diego Pol told AFP. “Their very robust mandibles and spoon-shaped teeth were adapted to feed on all kinds of plants such as conifer trees. “Conifers in the early Jurassic had tough and leathery leaves that would be a challenge for any herbivore. But that gave B. alba an advantage over other Sauropodomorpha dinosaurs, said Pol, head of the science department at the Egidio Feruglio palaeontology museum in Patagonia.

Sauropods’ new diet saw them expanded in size from 10 metres to 40 metres in length, as large digestion chambers were needed to cope. They became the dominant group of herbivores and eventually the largest animals to ever walk the Earth.

arecibo-telescope,-star-of-the-astronomy-world,-to-be-decommissioned

Arecibo telescope, star of the astronomy world, to be decommissioned

The renowned Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico will be dismantled after 57 years of service due to the rupture of cables that have led to the threat of collapse, the US National Science Foundation announced Thursday. Two cables supporting the 900-ton instruments for the telescope above a radio dish 1,000 feet (305 meters) in diameter broke on August 10 and November 6.

Engineers are concerned other cables could also break at any time, making any attempt at repair excessively dangerous. The telescope is one of the largest in the world and has been a tool for many astronomical discoveries.

The foundation “prioritizes the safety of workers, Arecibo Observatory’s staff and visitors, which makes this decision necessary, although unfortunate,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan.

For nearly six decades, the Arecibo Observatory has served as a beacon for breakthrough science and what a partnership with a community can look like. Using the hashtag  “WhatAreciboMeansToMe”, messages of sadness at the news spread on Twitter from both professional and amateur astronomers who have used the telescope for their work in observing the cosmos for decades. “More than a telescope, Arecibo is the reason I am even in astronomy,” local astronomer Kevin Ortiz Ceballos wrote on Twitter.

Karen Masters, an astrophysics professor at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, posted a photo of herself and her baby daughter near the radio dish in 2008 and said she was  “heartbroken and disappointed.”

An action scene from the James Bond film  “GoldenEye” takes place above the telescope, and in the film “Contact” an astronomer played by Jodie Foster uses the observatory in her quest for alien signals. The engineering company that examined the structure concluded that the remaining cables were possibly weaker than expected and recommended controlled demolition, which the foundation accepted.

spacex-launches-four-astronauts-to-iss-on-sunday

SpaceX launches four astronauts to ISS on Sunday

Four astronauts were poised to launch on the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Resilience” to the International Space Station on Sunday, the first of what the US hopes will be many routine missions following a successful test flight in late spring. Three Americans — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker — and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi will blast off at 7:27 pm Sunday (0027 GMT Monday) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In May, SpaceX completed a demonstration mission showing it could take astronauts to the ISS and bring them back safely, thus ending almost a decade of reliance on Russia for rides on its Soyuz rockets. “The history being made this time is we’re launching what we call an operational flight to the International Space Station,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters Friday. The launch will be attended by Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence.

The crew will dock at their destination at around 11:00 pm Monday night (0400 GMT Tuesday), joining two Russians and one American on board the station, and stay for six months. The Crew Dragon earlier this week became the first spacecraft to be certified by NASA since the Space Shuttle nearly 40 years ago. It is a capsule, similar in shape to the spacecraft which preceded Space Shuttle, and its launch vehicle is a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. At the end of its missions, the Crew Dragon deploys parachutes then splashes down in the water, just as in the Apollo era.

NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing after shuttering the checkered Space Shuttle program in 2011, which failed in its main objectives of making space travel affordable and safe. The agency will have spent more than $8 billion on the Commercial Crew program by 2024, with the hope that the private sector can take care of NASA’s needs in  “low Earth orbit” so it is freed up to focus on return missions to the Moon and then on to Mars.

SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, has leapfrogged its much older rival Boeing, whose program has floundered after a failed test of its uncrewed Starliner last year. But SpaceX’s success won’t mean the US will stop hitching rides with Russia altogether, said Bridenstine. “We want to have an exchange of seats where American astronauts can fly on Russian Soyuz rockets and Russian cosmonauts can fly on commercial crew vehicles,” he said, explaining it was necessary in case either program was down for a period of time.

The reality, however, is that space ties between the US and Russia, one of the few bright spots in their bilateral relations, have frayed in recent years, and much remains uncertain. Russia has said it won’t be a partner in the Artemis program to return to the Moon in 2024, claiming the NASA-led mission is too US-centric. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency has also repeatedly mocked SpaceX’s technology, and this summer announced Roscosmos would build rockets that surpass Musk’s. He told a state news agency he was unimpressed with the Crew Dragon’s water landing, calling it  “rather rough” and saying his agency was developing a methane rocket that will be reusable 100 times. But the fact that a national space agency feels moved to compare itself to a company is arguably a validation of NASA’s public-private strategy.

SpaceX’s emergence has also deprived the Roscosmos of a valuable income stream. The cost of round-trips on Russian rockets had been rising and stood at around $85 million per astronaut, according to estimates last year.

Presidential transition

Presidential transitions are always a difficult time for NASA, and the ascension of Joe Biden in January is expected to be no different. The agency has yet to receive from Congress the tens of billions of dollars needed to finalize the Artemis program. Bridenstine has announced that he will step down, in order to let the new president set his own goals for space exploration.

So far, Biden has not commented on the 2024 timeline. Democratic party documents say they support NASA’s Moon and Mars aspirations, but also emphasize elevating the agency’s Earth sciences division to better understand how climate change is affecting our planet. 

ju’s-prof-dr-aa-mamun-among-world’s-top-2-percent-most-cited-scientists

JU’s Prof Dr AA Mamun among world’s top 2 percent most-cited scientists

Dr AA Mamun, a renowned professor of Physics department at Jahangirnagar University, has been selected among the top two percent of the most cited scientists in the world in a journal published by Stanford University based researchers in the US.

Stanford University professor John Ioannidis — a specialist in metascience, or the study of science using scientific methods — worked alongside US-based Kevin W Boyack and the Netherlands-based Jeroen Baas to release the exhaustive list of 1,59,683 scientists in various disciplines.

Each scientist was assigned a weight based on the number of citations of their own research work.

Dr Mamun is among the foremost scientists in the country, with a total 417 publications in prominent research journals across the globe, and has over 12,000 citations, according to a JU press release.

His research interests include the fields of plasma physics, quantum physics, and medical physics.

For his contribution in physics, Dr Mamun was selected as a fellow of the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences in 2019.

He won the Fredric William Basel Research Award from Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation in Germany for his outstanding contribution to physics in 2009, becoming the first scientist to win the prestigious research award.

Dr Mamun earned his PhD from St Andrew’s University in the UK with a Commonwealth Scholarship, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Humboldt University in Germany.

JU Vice-Chancellor Dr Farzana Islam has congratulated Dr Mamun for his remarkable achievement and wished him success in his future endeavours.