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Check Out Astronaut's Epic Photo of Wildfires from Space

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Check Out Astronaut's Epic Photo of Wildfires from Space

Nearly 100 wildfires continue to burn across the drought-stricken West, destroying scores of structures and sparking evacuations of thousands of people. Nearly 30,000 firefighters—the biggest number mobilized in 15 years—are battling the flames and yet it's still not enough.

They are calling for back up, enlisting about 200 active-duty military personnel. Active-duty soldiers, who have been called on to fight 35 wildfires since 1987, will provide back up and free up the more experienced crew members to "handle more complex dangerous fire situations," center spokesman Ken Frederick said. The U.S. Forest Service has already enlisted Canadian fire crews to assist in Idaho and Montana and the agency is considering asking Australia and New Zealand to lend firefighters. 

Needless to say the situation has become very drastic. Experts predicted that this year might be the worst wildfire season yet, and they just might be right. Already more than 7.1 million acres has been burned, which is the first time in 20 years that the area charred has exceeded 7 million acres by this date, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

The wildfires have destroyed hundreds of homes and scorched 1.1 million acres in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada and Colorado, the National Interagency Fire Center told CNN. Alaska alone has seen more than 5 million acres burned and at one point this summer there were more than 300 active fires across the state. Researchers at Climate Central say that Alaska, along with the rest of the West, is entering a new era for wildfires due to climate change.

NASA’s astronaut Kjell Lindgren shared a photo of the massive amounts smoke visible from space:

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This "firenado," or fire tornado, from the Soda Fire near Boise, Idaho shows just how extreme the conditions are there:

"In California alone, more than 11,000 firefighters were mobilized, with the U.S. Forest Service spending more than $100 million each week nationwide," reports TIME. "The agency warns it will have exhausted its annual firefighting budget by the end of the week."

Five states are dealing with more than 10 large wildfires: California is battling 16, Idaho 21, Montana 14, Oregon 11 and Washington 17. A few weeks ago, we highlighted an interactive wildfire map from Climate Central that shows in real-time just how bad the fire situation is in the West.

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Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."

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