By Richard Connor
The University of Southern Denmark on Wednesday announced that its researchers have developed the world's first fully automatic robot capable of carrying out throat swabs for COVID-19.
By Sarah Shakour and Natalie Pierce
COVID-19 has infected nearly 5 million people around the world, and continues to spread rapidly. Although lockdowns are now being eased in some countries, the impacts from this the virus will continue to be felt until a viable solution or vaccine is found. And while the world waits for such a solution, young people are adopting a do-it-ourselves attitude and using emerging technologies to strengthen local relief efforts, often in the some of the hardest-hit and most vulnerable places on the planet.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bb54cf829e5e4414ee63831688d7eb3c"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rh34bldQBCg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="77f149fd23b964a114838aeebf0b1abd"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/savHgQntSQk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>"Young people cannot wait for others to take action on COVID-19. This is our new normal and it is the perfect opportunity to take action with purpose today," said Gonzalez-Silen. </p>
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For much of human history, it's been hard for scientists to learn about remote areas of the Earth that they cannot observe directly.
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By Irina Ivanova
The millions of Americans who are skipping their morning commute and working from home because of the coronavirus have drastically reduced smog over America's largest cities and otherwise benefited the environment. Yet the growing ranks of workers now plying their trade online using tools like Zoom and Slack are taking their own toll.
How Dirty Is the Cloud?<p>Indeed, the digital domain is hardly emissions-free. Manufacturing a smartphone, tablet or computer as well as the network that supports them consumes considerable resources — everything from <a href="https://cms.cbsnews.com/hub/cmsframework/reroute/content_article/56996486-e00f-41e8-ba81-aff54844d68e#link=%7B%22assetType%22:%22article%22,%22uuid%22:%2256996486-e00f-41e8-ba81-aff54844d68e%22,%22slug%22:%22how-clean-energy-demand-could-fuel-conflict-in-congo%22,%22linkText%22:%22mining%20rare%20minerals%22,%22href%22:%22https://cms.cbsnews.com/content/article/56996486-e00f-41e8-ba81-aff54844d68e/version/us%22,%22role%22:%22content_link%22,%22target%22:%22_blank%22,%22edition%22:%22us%22%7D" target="_blank">mining rare minerals</a> to laying undersea cables for high-speed internet. And of course it takes oodles of electricity to power the whole system. Electricity in the U.S. still comes <a href="https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3#link=%7B%22role%22:%22standard%22,%22href%22:%22https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3%22,%22target%22:%22_blank%22,%22absolute%22:%22%22,%22linkText%22:%22overwhelmingly%22%7D" target="_blank">overwhelmingly</a> from generators powered by fossil fuels, not wind or solar.</p><p>"When we're using our cars, we see that we're using gas … But when you use a computer or a smartphone, it is not so obvious that it's also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions," Hugues Ferreboeuf, project director at the Shift Project, a Paris-based think tank, recently told CBS News.</p><p>The Shift Project issued an alarming <a href="https://theshiftproject.org/en/article/lean-ict-our-new-report/#link=%7B%22role%22:%22standard%22,%22href%22:%22https://theshiftproject.org/en/article/lean-ict-our-new-report/%22,%22target%22:%22%22,%22absolute%22:%22%22,%22linkText%22:%22report%22%7D" target="_blank">report</a> last year that found digital technologies' energy demand was growing at an unsustainable rate. "The only chance to keep the [global] temperature increase to 2 degrees is to divide by two the greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years," Ferreboeuf said. "If we want to change things, there is no alternative to us reviewing the way we use digital." </p>
Big Data Gets Bigger<p>The silver lining is that, at least for now, the energy impact of cloud computing remains relatively modest. Over the past decade, data centers — often called the "brains" of the digital world — have massively increased the amount of information they process while increasing energy use only a little. Since 2010, such data crunching has jumped more than fivefold, while energy use rose only about 6%, according to a <a href="https://datacenters.lbl.gov/sites/default/files/Masanet_et_al_Science_2020.full_.pdf#link=%7B%22role%22:%22standard%22,%22href%22:%22https://datacenters.lbl.gov/sites/default/files/Masanet_et_al_Science_2020.full_.pdf%22,%22target%22:%22_blank%22,%22absolute%22:%22%22,%22linkText%22:%22paper%22%7D" target="_blank">paper</a> published this year in Science.</p><p>"We're consuming much more data than we used to for not that much more energy," said Masanet, the paper's lead author. </p><p>Here's why: Data center operators have become much better at heating and cooling their massive buildings, essentially limiting or even eliminating a function that hogged more energy than running the servers themselves. The trend toward larger centers and better servers over the last decade, led by cloud-computing giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, has also helped lower the energy-to-data ratio.</p>
Who Pays for Digital?<p>So has the coronavirus lockdown in the U.S. decreased carbon emissions overall? Scientists are currently exploring that question, and it will likely be months before they can come up with a definitive answer. Yet Masanet has a strong hunch the answer is "yes" — even taking into account the rise in binge streaming.</p><p>"Of course there's more electricity use from being online more, but the savings we get from avoiding our commutes dwarf any increase in electricity," he said. "My instinct is that, yes, electricity use is going up, but the savings we get nationally from avoided travel is much greater."</p>
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By Oscar Schwartz
Microsoft drew widespread praise in January this year after Brad Smith, the company's president, announced their climate "moonshot."
While other corporate giants, such as Amazon and Walmart, were pledging to go carbon neutral, Microsoft vowed to go carbon negative by 2030, meaning they would be removing more carbon from the atmosphere than they produced.
Protecting forests<p>To begin, Microsoft will focus on protecting forests and planting trees to capture carbon. This strategy has long been used to offset emissions, but Microsoft is hoping to improve their outcomes by <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/02/success-of-microsofts-moonshot-climate-pledge-hinges-on-forest-conservation/" target="_blank">using</a> remote-sensing technology to accurately estimate the carbon storage potential of forests to ensure no major deforestation is occurring in their allotments. To achieve these goals, Microsoft will be partnering with Pachama, a Silicon Valley startup that will survey 60,000 hectares of rainforest in the Amazon, plus an additional 20,000 hectares across north-eastern states of the US for the company.</p><p>According to Kesley Perlman, a climate campaigner at the forest conservation NGO Fern, Microsoft's commitment to hi-tech reforestation is encouraging, but she stressed that conservation is a complex, multifaceted process that goes beyond technical issues. "It's not only about how much carbon a forest can hold but also who traditionally uses the forest, how they might be kept out, and how biodiversity will be prioritized," she said.</p>
Biomass energy carbon capture storage<p>Microsoft will initially focus on nature-based solutions to reduce their carbon footprint over the next five or so years. But in order to start drawing more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit by 2030, it will need to shift to technology-based solutions that can scale up and accelerate carbon removal.</p><p>To this end, Microsoft is betting on biomass energy carbon capture storage, otherwise known as BECCS, to transform how energy is generated. Instead of burning coal, a BECCS power plant burns biomass, like wood chips. The carbon produced when burning the biomass is captured before it is released into the atmosphere and then injected at a very high pressure into rock formations deep underground. Not only does this remove carbon from the natural cycle, the biomass absorbs CO2 as it grows.</p><p>A world powered by biofuel, however, raises two looming questions. First, scientists are not yet certain if biomass energy will be carbon neutral.</p><p>The second concern is that the transition from coal to biofuel would require setting aside vast tracts of arable land – some <a href="https://www.fern.org/fileadmin/uploads/fern/Documents/Fern%20BECCS%20briefing_0.pdf" target="_blank">estimates</a> say one to two times the size of India. According to climate campaigner Perlman this would mean that the energy industry would probably have to compete with food production in a world where 10 billion people will need to be fed, while vastly enlarging industrialized plantations and reducing biodiversity. "We would likely see massive land use change and massive private purchases of land, the knock on impacts of which could be quite dangerous," she said.</p>
Direct air capture<p>Perhaps the most futuristic of the technologies outlined in Microsoft's carbon negative plan is <a href="https://carbonengineering.com/our-technology/" target="_blank">direct </a><a href="https://carbonengineering.com/our-technology/" target="_blank">air </a><a href="https://carbonengineering.com/our-technology/" target="_blank">capture</a> (DAC). This involves machines that essentially function like highly efficient artificial trees, drawing existing carbon out of the air and transforming it into non-harmful carbon-based solids or gasses.</p><p>While the image of air-conditioner-like machines sucking carbon out of the air is captivating, capturing CO2 directly from the atmosphere <a href="https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/6/14/17445622/direct-air-capture-air-to-fuels-carbon-dioxide-engineering" target="_blank">requires</a> a lot of energy and is very expensive. In 2011, extracting carbon from the air cost $600 a ton of CO2. In 2018, estimates <a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611369/maybe-we-can-afford-to-suck-cosub2sub-out-of-the-sky-after-all/" target="_blank">brought</a> this down to anywhere between $94 to $232 a ton. But given that Microsoft expects to emit 16m metric tons of carbon this year, if they were to reach carbon zero using only DAC, their bill might cost as much as $3.5bn.</p><p>According to Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft, a large part of the reason why carbon removal remains so expensive is because the markets around these technologies are still immature. The company's strategy over the coming decades is maturing these markets through intensive and directed investment. "We're making a bet on certain technologies that don't exist at the scale or price point we need them to," he said. "But if we want to get them, we need to start investing."<span></span></p><p>The company, he said, already has a model for raising funds internally to support climate innovation. In July 2012, Microsoft became one of the first companies to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/microsoft-internal-carbon-fee" target="_blank">institute</a> an internal carbon price, charging different divisions in the business $15 a metric ton of carbon emitted. The funds raised were then used to pay for sustainability improvements, which helped the company achieve their goal of going carbon neutral.</p><p>Previously, this carbon price only extended over emissions Microsoft was directly responsible for. According to their new plan, in July this year Microsoft will extend this internal carbon price over emissions produced across direct and indirect emissions. The increased revenue raised from the expanded internal carbon tax, along with a $1bn climate innovation fund, will be used to invest in capture and removal technology. "What we're going to do is put this money in the market in a way that is highly additional," Joppa said. "This is how we're going to get nature-based solutions and tech solutions at a price point and scale we need."</p><p>Microsoft's plan for intensive investment in this industry is exciting for those working in the field. Klaus Lackner, a theoretical physicist working on DAC, has been arguing since the 1990s that carbon removal is the only feasible way to stop significant temperature rises. "We've shown that this method is technologically feasible, but nobody has wanted them," he said. "Microsoft have said 'we get it.' It will cost them money, but it will allow the technologies to come online and for the next company to follow their footsteps."</p><p>While the technologies that Microsoft are betting on are still in their nascent stages, in the past few years there has been some encouraging progress in the negative emissions industry. Lackner and Arizona State University recently signed a deal with Silicon Kingdom, an Irish-based company, to manufacture his carbon-suck machines. The plan is to install them on wind and solar farms, and then sell the captured carbon to beverage companies to make carbonated drinks. In the UK, Drax power plant, which was once among Europe's most polluting, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/feb/27/drax-power-plant-to-stop-burning-coal-with-loss-of-230-jobs" target="_blank">transitioned from coal to biofuel</a> this year.</p><p>But many attempts at scaling carbon negative projects have also failed. The Kemper Project in Mississippi, which was billed as America's flagship carbon capture project, was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/02/clean-coal-america-kemper-power-plant" target="_blank">abandoned</a> in 2017 – it was $5bn over budget, three years late and still not operational.</p>
Moral hazard<p>Given the not insignificant risk of failure, some <a href="http://smartstones.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Kevin-Anderson-2016.10.13-the-Trouble-with-Negative-Emissions-Science-2016.pdf" target="_blank">propose</a> that relying on nascent or future technology as a solution to the climate crisis represents a moral hazard – the promise of carbon removal functions as an incentive for governments and major polluters to not change their behavior now.</p><p>According to Chris Adams, a tech worker who organizes an <a href="http://climateaction.tech/" target="_blank">online community</a> of technology professionals agitating for climate action from within the industry, the fact that Microsoft is still partnering with big oil companies demonstrates the moral hazard in action. "They are protecting the fossil fuel industry from changing while the rest of the world will pay most from this gamble if it fails in the long term," he said.</p><p>Adams added that many of the encouraging ideas around carbon reduction in Microsoft's plan have come from internal organizing from concerned employees, but that this mostly goes unacknowledged in Microsoft's official vision. Emphasizing future technology while overlooking activism in the present, Adams said, represents a certain way of approaching problems that is typical of technology companies. "If you have spent the last 10 years amassing influence by approaching most problems with technology it's understandable you see all problems through this lens, particularly if you don't have to have conversations about power," he said.</p><p>When asked about this concern by the Guardian, Microsoft's Joppa responded that in the short term, the energy demands of a growing global population will probably still need a mix of renewable and traditional energy sources. By remaining in discourse with these industries, he said, Microsoft hopes to help them change and transition to a better model in the future. "It's extremely hard to lead if there's no one there to follow," he added.</p><p>As to whether the technology outlined in their plan will scale, he said there is inherent risk, but this is why they call it a "moonshot." "When it comes to our plan it's not like we've got it all figured out," he said. "We're just trying to do what the science says the whole world needs to do. There's really no other choice."</p>
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5G is safe, an international watchdog has assured.
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The shipping industry is coming to grips with its egregious carbon footprint, as it has an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and to the dumping of chemicals into open seas. Already, the global shipping industry contributes about 2 percent of global carbon emissions, about the same as Germany, as the BBC reported.
Imagine painting your home with a special paint that also powers your lights using renewable energy drawn from the air.
The current Air-gen device can power small devices. UMass Amherst / Yao and Lovley labs<p>It was one of Yao's PhD students who discovered the key was moisture.</p><p>"I saw that when the nanowires were contacted with electrodes in a specific way the devices generated a current. I found that that exposure to atmospheric humidity was essential and that protein nanowires adsorbed water, producing a voltage gradient across the device," Xiaomeng Liu said in the press release.</p><p><a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-generate-electricity-out-of-thin-air-with-device-that-runs-on-humidity" target="_blank">Science Alert</a> explained how the device is designed:</p><blockquote>The Air-gen consists of a thin film of the protein nanowires measuring just 7 micrometres thick, positioned between two electrodes, but also exposed to the air.<br><br>Because of that exposure, the nanowire film is able to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adsorption" target="_blank">adsorb</a> water vapour that exists in the atmosphere, enabling the device to generate a continuous electrical current conducted between the two electrodes.</blockquote><p>Currently, 17 of these devices linked together can generate enough electricity to power a cell phone, <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/electric-bacteria-create-currents-out-thin-and-thick-air" target="_blank">Science Magazine explained</a>. While it requires some humidity, it can work in places as dry as the Sahara Desert.</p>
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By Byron Reeves, Nilam Ram and Thomas N. Robinson
There's a lot of talk about digital media. Increasing screen time has created worries about media's impacts on democracy, addiction, depression, relationships, learning, health, privacy and much more. The effects are frequently assumed to be huge, even apocalyptic.
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Big Data, Big Oil: Unveiling the 'Dark Forces' Behind Trump’s 2020 Reelection Campaign With Josh Fox
By Reynard Loki
Josh Fox, the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Gasland, the documentary that started the global anti-fracking movement, is bringing a new message to audiences across the country with The Truth Has Changed, a live theater-based project that sounds the alarm on the right-wing disinformation campaign working to secure President Trump's reelection.
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