from the world's big
Princeton scientists find a new way to control nuclear fusion reactions.
- A new study from Princeton physicists successfully uses boron powder to control nuclear reactions in plasma.
- Creating plasma can lead to an unlimited supply of energy.
- The new method is cheaper and less dangerous than previous approaches.
Michio Kaku: Energies of the Future<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="BeOzZrrE" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f6bb4de494da08f079580afca1848370"> <div id="botr_BeOzZrrE_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BeOzZrrE-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/BeOzZrrE-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BeOzZrrE-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> By 2030 the physicist expects that we will have hot fusion reactors.
PPPL physicist Robert Lunsford.
CREDIT: Elle Starkman / PPPL Office of Communications
It's made from Chernobyl water and rye. What could possibly go wrong?
- 33 years later, parts of the exclusion zone may be ready to be reclaimed.
- The beverage similar to Ukrainian vodka will soon be available.
- Raise a glass to the renewable Earth.
What’s it taste like?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2MzExOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDM3MDEwN30.yFSitPrSyLd5s2ZusfW6bRJ9afWulzld8xMiwEZyvSI/img.jpg?width=980" id="65942" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c58f0e773b66be8ddda03adf495dba33" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Chernobyl Spirits Company<p>There's only one bottle of ATOMIK so far, but the company producing it, <a href="https://www.atomikvodka.com" target="_blank">Chernobyl Spirits Company</a>, expects to distill 500 of them by the end of the year. The liquor is said to have a fruity taste and work well in a martini. As a grain spirit, ATOMIK is a bit more flavorful than commercially produced vodka. The company is shooting for a more refined version of <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vdzw53/samagon-is-russian-for-puke-sauce" target="_blank">samagon</a>, a homemade vodka brewed since the 12th century in the villages of Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and Russia, using either potatoes or grains.</p>
Checking the label<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2MzEyNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjQ3NDAxMX0.-dyBXKQ9GbKBWHoKlXtE5x1ZK-htSMMEsyMc2Ksg5G4/img.jpg?width=980" id="0702f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f58f539b598ebb941eff2dca43dd5b37" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Chernobyl Spirits Company<p>The Chernobyl disaster threw into the air upwards of 100 radioactive elements. Some of it, such as highly carcinogenic iodine-131, has a short half-life, and is long gone. Other dangerous isotopes last for far longer and are still present. Strontium-90 and cesium-137 have just about reached their half life date, and so remain at about 50% potency. Others, like plutonium-239, with a half life of 24,000 years, aren't going anywhere. </p><p>Still, swaths of the exclusion zone are much like anywhere else, at least in terms of radioactivity — their plants and animals may still contain genetic surprises. As Smith teold <a href="https://www.iflscience.com/chemistry/what-would-happen-to-you-if-you-lived-in-the-chernobyl-exclusion-zone-today/all/" target="_blank"><em>IFL Science</em></a>, "Natural radiation worldwide varies — if you're living at high altitudes, you get more cosmic radiation. For most of the exclusion zone, the doses that you would get living there are within that range of variability of radiation doses worldwide." Some areas immediately around the ex-power plant remain uninhabitable. The "<a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/drone-flyovers-of-chernobyl-reveal-incredible-radiation-hotspots-in-unprecedented-detail" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Red Forest</a>" is still unsuitable for a picnic, for example. </p><p>The water in ATOMIK is mineral water from a deep aquifer about 10 km south of Chernobyl which the company believes is located too far down to have become contaminated: "We're currently trying to work out exactly how many thousands of years old this water is, but it definitely wasn't anywhere near the surface in 1986." They describe it as being pure and of high quality, similar to the waters of the limestone aquifer beneath the Champagne region in France, as well as the south of England.</p><p>The rye in ATOMIK was harvested from the main exclusion zone and was tested for the presence of radiocaesium. The isotope was present in levels well below the conservative Urainium maximum. The levels of radiostrontium, however, exceeded the legal limit. Nonetheless, when the final grain spirit was tested, no radioactivity at all <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334988042_Distillate_ethanol_production_for_re-use_of_abandoned_lands_-_an_analysis_and_risk_assessment" target="_blank">was found</a> in the beverage.</p>
What's the point?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2MzE0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjEyNDg1NH0.kbcpFwUqUOd9yhvWVMIQzHTvIsJ2VLkYUGgy7VFZkQQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="abd13" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cc01df77ded3b49f91e971dece241f1d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Some current residents of the Chernobyl exclusion zone
Image source: Chernobyl Spirits Company<p>Chernobyl Sprits company has a larger message than simply creating a provocative new refreshment. The want authorities to reconsider the exclusion zone now that so much time has passed since the Chernobyl meltdown:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>More than thirty years after the accident, we believe that what these areas need most is economic development and management of the unique wildlife resource the abandoned areas represent.</em></p>
Russia's state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom denies the allegations.
- The nuclear leak occurred in 2017 and was recorded by scientists in multiple European countries.
- No nation or organization has ever claimed responsibility for the leak, which, while massive, is not believed to have harmed anyone.
- The new study used more than 1,300 measurements to trace the likely source of the leak to the Urals region of Russia, where lies the Mayak nuclear complex.
This figure shows the countries in Europe that detected ruthenium-106.
Masson et al.<p>The study also notes how European countries have established a monitoring network designed to detect radionuclides, due in part to concerns resulting from the <a href="https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/washington-wine" target="_blank">1986 Chernobyl disaster.</a></p><p>"Today most of these European networks are connected to each other via the informal 'Ring of Five' (Ro5) platform for the purpose of rapid exchange of expert information on a laboratory level about airborne radionuclides detected at trace levels," it says. "In October 2017, an unprecedented release of ruthenium-106 into the atmosphere was the subject of numerous detections and exchanges within the Ro5."</p><p>State-owned Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom denied the findings of the recent study.</p><p>"We maintain that there have been no reportable events at any Rosatom-operated plants or facilities," Rosatom said. "Both the national regulator and experts from an independent international inquiry inspected the Mayak facility back in 2017 and found nothing to suggest that the ruthenium-106 isotope originated from this site, nor found any traces of an alleged accident, nor found any evidence of local staff exposure to elevated levels of radioactivity."</p>
A glimpse into what a sustainable, inclusive future will look like.
Which of today's technologies will shape tomorrow's world? A new report compiled by the World Economic Forum reveals some of the breakthrough innovations that are expected to radically impact the global social and economic order.
"From income inequality to climate change, technology will play a critical role in finding solutions to all the challenges our world faces today," says Jeremy Jurgens, Chief Technology Officer at the World Economic Forum. "This year's emerging technologies demonstrate the rapid pace of human innovation and offer a glimpse into what a sustainable, inclusive future will look like."
Making the list involves more than promising major benefits to the world. The emerging technologies must positively disrupt the existing order, be attractive to investors and researchers, and expect to achieve considerable scale within the coming 5 years.
These are the top 10 emerging technologies for 2019:
1. Bioplastics for a circular economy
Less than 15% of the world's plastic is recycled, with the rest incinerated, abandoned or sent to landfill. Biodegradable plastic offers a solution, but lacks the strength of conventional materials. A breakthrough idea promotes the circular economy by using cellulose or lignin from plant waste, which increases material strength without using crops that could otherwise be used for food.
2. Social robots
Today's robots can recognise voices, faces and emotions, interpret speech patterns and gestures, and even make eye contact. Droid friends and assistants are becoming part of everyday life, and are being used increasingly to care of the elderly, educate children and undertake all sorts of tasks in between.
Making the lenses used by mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices smaller has been beyond the capabilities of traditional glass cutting and glass curving techniques. But advances in physics have led to miniaturised, lighter alternatives to established lenses, called metalenses. These tiny, thin, flat lenses could replace existing bulky glass lenses and allow further miniaturization in sensors and medical imaging devices.
4. Disordered proteins as drug targets
"Intrinsically disordered proteins" are proteins that can cause cancer and other diseases. Unlike conventional proteins, they lack a rigid structure so change shape, making them difficult to treat. Now scientists have found a way to prevent their shape-shifting long enough for treatment to take effect, offering new possibilities for patients.
5. Smarter fertilizers
Recent improvements in fertilizers have focused on their ability to slowly release nutrients when needed. However, they still contain ammonia, urea and potash which damage the environment. New fertilizers use more ecologically friendly sources of nitrogen, and microorganisms that improve take-up by plants.
6. Collaborative telepresence
Imagine a video conference where you not only feel like you're in the same room as the other attendees, you can actually feel one another's touch. A mix of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (AR), 5G networks and advanced sensors, mean business people in different locations can physically exchange handshakes, and medical practitioners are able to work remotely with patients as though they are in the same room.
7. Advanced food tracking and packaging
About 600 million people eat contaminated food each year and it's essential to locate the source of an outbreak immediately. What used to take days or even weeks to trace can now be tracked in minutes, using blockchain technology to monitor every step of a food item's progress through the supply chain. Meanwhile, sensors in packaging can indicate when food is about to spoil, reducing the need to waste whole batches once an expiry date is reached.
8. Safer nuclear reactors
Although nuclear power emits no carbon dioxide, reactors come with a safety risk that fuel rods can overheat and, when mixed with water, produce hydrogen, which can then explode. But new fuels are emerging that are much less likely to overheat, and if they do, will produce little or no hydrogen. These new configurations can replace existing fuel rods with little modification.
9. DNA data storage
Our data storage systems use a lot of energy and can't keep up with the vast - and ever-increasing - quantities of data we produce. In less than a century they are set to reach capacity. But breakthrough research is using DNA-based data storage, as a low-energy alternative to computer hard drives, with huge capacity: One estimate suggests all the world's data for a year could be stored on a cube of DNA measuring just a square metre.
10. Utility-scale storage of renewable energy
But storing energy generated by renewables for when there is no sun or wind has been a barrier to increased take-up. Lithium-ion batteries are set to dominate storage technology over the coming decade, and continuing advances should result in batteries that can store up to eight hours of energy – long enough to allow solar-generated power to meet peak evening demand.
It makes no "makes no economic or energy sense."
In November 2018, the Woolsey Fire scorched nearly 100,000 acres of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, destroying forests, fields and more than 1,500 structures, and forcing the evacuation of nearly 300,000 people over 14 days.