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Messages - vox_mundi

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1
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: February 27, 2021, 11:29:46 PM »
Perhaps you were hoping for something more like the 2015 saiga antelope die off, or maybe the 1988 North Sea harbor seal dieoff, or the 2019 California sea star wasting disease, or white-nose syndrome in bats.

Sorry to disappoint.

2
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: February 27, 2021, 05:48:40 PM »
That's a stunningly meaningless graph

3
The politics / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: February 27, 2021, 04:13:15 PM »

4
Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: February 27, 2021, 06:28:09 AM »
Colombia's Apiarists Say Avocado Buzz Is Killing Bees
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-colombia-apiarists-avocado-bees.html

Hundreds of hives have been killed off in Colombia in recent years, and some investigations have pointed to fipronil, an insecticide banned for use on crops in Europe and restricted in the United States and China.

It is used to control all manner of insects, including ants and ticks, and has been blamed for several bee massacres around the world.

In Quindio, hive collapse has coincided with the expansion of monoculture in recent decades, according to Faber Sabogal, president of the Asoproabejas beekeepers' organization.

According to the local government, five multinational companies bought large tracts of land in the region between 2016 and 2019 to profit from the growing global appetite for Hass avocados.

Exports skyrocketed from 1.7 tons in 2014 to 44.5 tons in 2019, and this year, Colombia became the largest supplier of the creamy, green delicacy to Europe.

But bees are the collateral damage, becoming contaminated as they buzz through pesticide-treated plantations looking for food, say beekeepers.

"They bring this poison to the hive and kill everyone else," said Salazar.

... Asoproabejas members have videotaped dozens of mass bee die-offs in several regions of Colombia, mainly in the west.

Last year, the state-owned Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) was notified by beekeepers of 256 suspected hive poisonings in Quindio alone.

Some 10 million insects were lost.

ICA regional manager Jorge Garcia said the body examined samples from six apiaries and found that "the fipronil molecule is one of the causes of mortality."

Withdrawing the poison altogether has been difficult "because the companies producing agrochemicals will be affected economically," said Salazar.

Maria Latorre, spokeswoman for Colombia's agrochemical union, said a fipronil ban would provoke "a very negative situation for the productive structure" of the 33 crops that rely on it.

The ICA has denied any link between the expansion of avocado crops in Quindio and the recent decimation of bees.

... "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?".

5
Consequences / Re: Hurricane Season 2021
« on: February 27, 2021, 06:04:40 AM »
Watch 2020’s Hurricane Season Unfold In a Mesmerizing Four-Minute Timelapse
https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/26/22302913/2020-hurricane-season-storms-nasa-timelapse-noaa

This week, NASA released a grim four-minute timelapse of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, a mesmerizing display of last year’s record-breaking string of tropical commotion.



2020’s season “smashed records with an unprecedented 30 named storms, marking the fifth year in a row with above-average hurricane activity,” NASA said in a blog accompanying the video.

The agency’s Scientific Visualization Studio used a complex algorithm to process and merge hordes of data from an array of weather satellites in orbit, combining it with estimates and observations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center and National Hurricane Center.

The product is a fascinating four-minute and 26-second look at last year’s hurricane activity, unfolding in a colorful display of wispy cyclone formations tumbling across the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

... “The bar has been raised,” Brian McNoldy, a senior researcher at the University of Miami’s Marine and Atmospheric Science school, tweeted last week. “When we mention the average number of named storms, hurricanes, & major hurricanes, we’re typically referring to a recent 30-year ‘climate normal’. We’ve been using 1981-2010, but now we have 1991-2020, and the counts have increased by 12-19%.”

Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season was the fifth costliest on record, causing roughly $60 billion in economic damage, according to a report from AccuWeather. The most expensive season on record was in 2017, hitting $306.2 billion in costs.

“Climate normals are updated each decade to keep up with a changing climate,” McNoldy said. “What was normal 50 years ago isn’t normal now.”

Hurricane season, June 1st, 2021, is less than 100 days away.

6
Consequences / Re: Places becoming less livable
« on: February 27, 2021, 01:27:10 AM »
The Louvre Moves Its Treasures as Climate Change Brings More Floods to Paris
https://news.trust.org/item/20210226085732-pyja5



The Paris museum is relocating many artworks not on display to a storage facility in northern France designed to stand up to global warming impacts

... When the River Seine that runs through Paris overflowed this month, officials at the Louvre Museum were relieved some of their most valuable items were safely stored in northern France.

The world's largest and most visited museum, with almost 10 million visitors annually, had already transported some 100,000 at risk art pieces to the new Louvre Conservation Center in Lievin, some 190 km north. The reason? Climate change.

"The current floods show once again how necessary it is to protect our art works from flooding," said Jean-Luc Martinez, Director of the Louvre, which owns about 620,000 artworks, only 35,000 of which are on display in the Parisian former palace.

"Soon this flood danger will - once and for all - be behind us," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

With climate change, scientists say heavy rains that cause flooding are set to become more frequent, threatening riverside gems like the Louvre, Notre Dame cathedral and the Musee d'Orsay - home to the world's greatest Impressionist paintings.

The problem is not unique to Paris. Italy built flood barriers to protect Venice's historic city centre after salty sea water damaged St Mark's Basilica, while London's Tate galleries sit on flood-prone sites. [

"We have a lot of museums whose collections will be affected if they are not stored properly," said Mechtild Rossler, director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, which supports landmark buildings recognised by the U.N. cultural agency.

By mid-2021, Louvre officials hope 250,000 at-risk paintings, sculptures and tapestries - including the Venus de Milo - will be in their new, $120 million home, where they will be safe from floods, heatwaves and other extreme weather.

The Louvre Conservation Center is set to become one of Europe's largest art training and research centres, visited by museum specialists, conservators and academics from around the world, as well as offering art refuge for countries in conflict.



---------------------------------------------

Money Down the Drain: Flood-Prone Miami to Spend Billions Tackling Sea Level Rise
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-flood-prone-miami-billions-tackling-sea.html

The US city of Miami is to invest billions of dollars to tackle its vulnerability to rising sea levels, a reality that already affects the daily lives of residents used to constant flooding.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava said Friday she will protect communities hardest hit by rising sea levels, which eat away at beaches and leave residents particularly vulnerable to flooding during hurricane season.

"We must continue to focus on restoration, preservation and protection of this sacred space," she told a news conference.

"And so we will be together investing billions of dollars... in our infrastructure so that we can lift this community and others that are so affected by sea level rise," she added.

She cited "adaptation action areas" as a first priority to be studied, which would include raising low-lying roads, and waterproofing and converting southern Florida's widely used septic tanks into sewage systems.

The city of Miami Beach—which is part of Miami-Dade County—invested millions of dollars in raising the level of many of its streets in 2016.

7
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: February 26, 2021, 09:31:20 PM »


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The NYPD Deploys a Robot Dog Again
https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2021/2/24/22299140/nypd-boston-dynamics-spot-robot-dog



The cyberpunk dystopia is here! (If you weren’t aware: I’m sorry. You’re living in a cyberpunk dystopia.) The latest sign — aside from corporations controlling many aspects of everyday life, massive widespread wealth inequality, and the recent prominence of bisexual lighting — comes in the form of robot dogs deployed to do jobs human police used to. Yesterday, as the New York Post reports, the NYPD deployed Boston Dynamics’ robot “dog” Spot to a home invasion crime scene in the Bronx.

https://nypost.com/2021/02/23/video-shows-nypds-new-robotic-dog-in-action-in-the-bronx

The video was taken by videographer Daniel Valls, of FreedomNews.tv. You can hear a voice say “that thing is creepy” as the robot prances past the camera. The Post reports that a spokesperson for the NYPD said the robot is in a test phase, presumably to see if it’s actually useful out in the field. (It was equipped with lights and cameras, the spokesperson continued, to ensure that NYPD could see whatever the robot was seeing.)

This isn’t the first time the NYPD has deployed one of Boston Dynamics’ robots. Back in October, the department used another Spot to find a gunman who’d barricaded himself in a building after he’d accidentally shot someone in the head during a parking dispute in Brooklyn. [... these things happen ...]



----------------------------------------------

... Send out the hound!

... Originally, dogs served as the rescuers for firemen. They were given the job of sniffing out the injured or weak. However, in this dystopia, the Hound has been made into a watchdog of society. Like the Furies, the Mechanical Hound has been programmed (by the government) to avenge and punish citizens who break society's rules. The ones who are not loyal to the rules must especially be punished, and the Hound serves as the enforcer of these rules.

- Fahrenheit 451


https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/f/fahrenheit-451/character-analysis/the-mechanical-hound


8
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: February 26, 2021, 09:25:43 PM »
AI Teaches Itself Diplomacy
https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/robotics/artificial-intelligence/ai-learns-diplomacy-gaming

Now that DeepMind has taught AI to master the game of Go—and furthered its advantage in chess—they’ve turned their attention to another board game: Diplomacy. Unlike Go, it is seven-player, it requires a combination of competition and cooperation, and on each turn players make moves simultaneously, so they must reason about what others are reasoning about them, and so on.

“It’s a qualitatively different problem from something like Go or chess,” says Andrea Tacchetti, a computer scientist at DeepMind. In December, Tacchetti and collaborators presented a paper at the NeurIPS conference on their system, which advances the state of the art, and may point the way toward AI systems with real-world diplomatic skills—in negotiating with strategic or commercial partners or simply scheduling your next team meeting.

Diplomacy is a strategy game played on a map of Europe divided into 75 provinces. Players build and mobilize military units to occupy provinces until someone controls a majority of supply centers. Each turn, players write down their moves, which are then executed simultaneously. They can attack or defend against opposing players’ units, or support opposing players’ attacks and defenses, building alliances. In the full version, players can negotiate. DeepMind tackled the simpler No-Press Diplomacy, devoid of explicit communication.

Historically, AI has played Diplomacy using hand-crafted strategies. In 2019, the Montreal research institute Mila beat the field with a system using deep learning. They trained a neural network they called DipNet to imitate humans, based on a dataset of 150,000 human games. DeepMind started with a version of DipNet and refined it using reinforcement learning, a kind of trial-and-error.

Exploring the space of possibility purely through trial-and-error would pose problems, though. They calculated that a 20-move game can be played nearly 1×10^868 ways—yes, that’s 10 with 868 zeroes after it.

So they tweaked their reinforcement-learning algorithm. During training, on each move, they sample likely moves of opponents, calculate the move that works best on average across these scenarios, then train their net to prefer this move. After training, it skips the sampling and just works from what its learning has taught it. “The message of our paper is: we can make reinforcement learning work in such an environment,” Tacchetti says.

In April, Facebook will present a paper at the ICLR conference describing their own work on No-Press Diplomacy. They also built on a human-imitating network similar to DipNet. But instead of adding reinforcement learning, they added search—the techniques of taking extra time to plan ahead and reason about what every player is likely to do next.

Both teams found that their systems were not easily exploitable. Facebook, for example, invited two top human players to each play 35 straight games against SearchBot, probing for weaknesses. The humans won only 6 percent of the time. Both groups also found that their systems didn’t just compete, but also cooperated, sometimes supporting opponents. “They get that in order to win, they have to work with others,” says Yoram Bachrach, from the DeepMind team.

How close are we to AI that can play Diplomacy with “press,” negotiating all the while using natural language?

“For Press Diplomacy, as well as other settings that mix cooperation and competition, you need progress,” Bachrach says, “in terms of theory of mind, how they can communicate with others about their preferences or goals or plans.

-----------------------------------------

Louise Banks : Let's say that I taught them Chess instead of English. Every conversation would be a game. Every idea expressed through opposition, victory, defeat. You see the problem? If all I ever gave you was a hammer...
Colonel Weber : Everything's a nail ...

Arrival - 2016



9
Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: February 26, 2021, 08:38:46 PM »
Pesticide Imidacloprid Threatens Future for Key Pollinator
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-pesticide-imidacloprid-threatens-future-key.html

An insecticide used to control pest infestations on squash and pumpkins significantly hinders the reproduction of ground-nesting bees—valuable pollinators for many food crops, a new University of Guelph study has revealed.

This first-ever study of pesticide impacts on a ground-nesting bee in a real-world context found female hoary squash bees exposed to imidacloprid dug 85 percent fewer nests, collected less pollen from crop flowers and produced 89 percent fewer offspring than unexposed bees.

Chan tested three insecticide treatments: the neonic imidacloprid applied to soil at planting time; the neonic thiamethoxam applied as a seed treatment; and an anthranilic diamide (an emerging non-neonic insecticide) sprayed onto growing plants. A fourth group without insecticides served as a control.


Number of hoary squash bee offspring from nests established by mated female bees in 2017 and 2018.  (Either Admire-imidacloprid, applied to soil at seeding; or Coragen-chlorantraniliprole applied as a foliar spray; or FarMore FI400-thiamethoxam applied as a seed treatment)

... Many species of ground-nesting bees, including the hoary squash bee, are responsible for pollination of numerous fruits, vegetables and oilseed crops in North America, said Chan.

"Solitary ground-nesting bees make up about 70 percent of bee species. It's a really important ecological group and is also really important in crop pollination," she said.

Published recently in Scientific Reports , the study involved three years of monitoring the foraging and nesting behavior of squash bees.

D. Susan Willis Chan et al, Population decline in a ground-nesting solitary squash bee (Eucera pruinosa) following exposure to a neonicotinoid insecticide treated crop (Cucurbita pepo), Scientific Reports (2021)
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-83341-7

10
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: February 26, 2021, 06:01:25 PM »
Seafaring Nightmare: Aerosol Transmission Drove SARS-CoV-2's Spread Aboard Diamond Princess Cruise Ship
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-02-seafaring-nightmare-aerosol-transmission-drove.html

New modeling research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, illustrates not only how SARS-CoV-2 likely spread among passengers and crew, but how the Diamond Princess may serve as an object lesson for "floating incubators" and other built environments and airborne viruses.

Environmental health investigators at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and their collaborators have demonstrated that airborne transmission accounted for more than 50 percent of the disease spread aboard the cruise ship. Inhalation of virus-laden aerosols by passengers and crew occurred during close contact and at longer range, the scientists found.

Writing in the PNAS, Drs. Parham Azimi, Joseph G. Allen and colleagues underscore that it wasn't aerosols alone that fueled a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak that affected hundreds aboard the luxury liner. Other routes of transmission contributed to the contagion, including fomite transmission, the spread of infection through contact with contaminated objects.

... To evaluate the importance of multiple transmission routes of SARS-CoV-2 aboard the cruise ship, the team developed a modeling framework that utilized reams of detailed information from the Diamond Princess outbreak. The Harvard environmental health scientists modeled 21,600 scenarios "to generate a matrix of solutions across a full range of assumptions for eight unknown or uncertain epidemic and mechanistic transmission factors," they wrote in PNAS.

Aerosols smaller than approximately 10 micrometers, which were likely involved in all three modes of transmission—short- long-range and fomite transmission—likely contributed to more than half of the overall disease spread aboard the ship. Both large droplets and small aerosols contributed equally to transmission before passengers were quarantined, while small aerosols dominated transmission afterward.



... The new research by the Harvard team adds new context to a CDC investigation that was conducted aboard the Diamond Princess a few weeks after it docked and passengers had disembarked. CDC scientists clad in hazmat suits boarded the star-crossed vessel and took biological samples as part of their outbreak assessment. There was extensive evidence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA throughout passenger cabins, in hallways and other areas of the massive cruise liner. The inescapable presence of coronavirus RNA suggested explosive spread throughout the ship.

... Yet as detailed as their modeling study is—and it is possibly the most extensive and exhaustive of the Diamond Princess outbreak to date—there are still important questions that have yet to be answered. For one, how long do viral particles remain viable aerially?

"That is one of the biological factors that is very uncertain," Azimi said. "In one of the most widely cited articles about the viability of SARS-CoV-2 [by virologist Neeltje van Doremalen of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] it is estimated that the half-life of SARS-CoV-2 in the air is approximately one hour. This means that it would take about one hour for half of the infectious viruses to lose their viability. After two hours, 75 percent of viruses would lose their viability in indoor air, and so on."

The modeling research by the Harvard-led team emphasizes that fomite transmission apparently played a role on the ship, albeit much smaller than aerosol spread. However, that finding suggests fomite transmission should not be shunted aside as possible risk factor.

"Although the contribution of fomite transmission is low it is still plausible, Azimi said. "It is important to notice that when we use our best estimates of model inputs, calculated from our PNAS paper, in other environments, such as school classrooms, the contribution of fomite transmission is about 5 percent. This contribution is low but it is not zero. Therefore, we do not recommend that people stop washing their hands."





Parham Azimi et al. Mechanistic transmission modeling of COVID-19 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship demonstrates the importance of aerosol transmission, [/I]Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences[/I] (2021)
https://www.pnas.org/content/118/8/e2015482118

11
The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: February 26, 2021, 02:40:00 PM »
What Geologists See When They Look at Perseverance's Landing Site
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-geologists-perseverance-site.html



We've sent the Perseverance rover on a Mars field trip; but if a geologist were along for the ride, what would it look like to them?

NASA chose the Jezero Crater for Perseverance's mission partly because of its geology.  ... Jezero Crater was a lake at one time in its past, possibly twice, according to some research. Scientists who study Jezero say the lake probably formed when there was a period of continual surface runoff. Two incoming watercourses fed the lake, and overflow carved a channel out of the lake.

Perseverance landed near the western side of the crater, near the clearly visible river delta. That river sediment contains ancient clays, which are especially good at trapping and preserving organic matter. If a real live geologist were along for the ride with Perseverance, they would likely head straight for those clays.

The river sediment is piled so high that its edge is like a cliff. Perseverance will traverse along the bottom of that cliff before working its way up and across the delta, hopefully making it to the ancient shoreline. Then, depending on mission length, the rover would climb Jezero's 610 meters (200 ft.) crater rim and explore some of the plains surrounding the crater. Perseverance's prime mission length is about one Mars year (about two Earth years) and NASA thinks that it could complete about half of this traverse during that time.



As the images show, the Jezero Crater lies on the border between different geological areas of different ages. The Terra Sabaea highland region contains rocks from Mars' Palaeozoic (the Noachian: 4.1–3.7 billion years ago). The Isidis impact basin dates from the same time. The Isidis Planitia plain is much younger, dating back to the Hesperian (3.7–3.0 billion years ago) and the Martian Modern (the Amazonian 3.0 billion years to the present day). The result is that rocks and other deposits around Jezero Crater come from each of the three Martian geological epochs. To a geologist, this is a big rocky bonanza.

The nearby Syrtis Major is a volcanic province whose lava flows also date to the Hesperian. The Nili Fossae region is a trough system that was formed by the shocks from the Isidis impact. This is a geologist's dream field trip. If Perseverance can complete its primary mission, it will explore some of the regions outside the Jezero crater

Of particular interest are agglomerate debris called megabreccia that formed during the Isidis impact. They're located west of Jezero in Noachian bedrock, igneous bedrock, and lava flows from Syrtis Major. Megabreccias can be very large, up to a kilometre across, and can hold valuable clues to Mars' early history.



--------------------------------------------


12
Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: February 26, 2021, 11:02:38 AM »
Monarch Butterflies Down 26% In Mexico Wintering Grounds
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-monarch-butterflies-mexico-wintering-grounds.html

The number of monarch butterflies that showed up at their winter resting grounds in central Mexico decreased by about 26% this year, and four times as many trees were lost to illegal logging, drought and other causes, making 2020 a bad year for the butterflies.

The government commission for natural protected areas said the butterflies' population covered only 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres) in 2020, compared to 2.8 hectares (6.9 acres) the previous year and about one-third of the 6.05 hectares (14.95 acres) detected in 2018.

Gloria Tavera, the regional director of Mexico's Commission for National Protected Areas, blamed the drop on "extreme climate conditions," the loss of milkweed habitat in the United States and Canada on which butterflies depend, and deforestation in the butterflies' wintering grounds in Mexico.

Illegal logging in the monarchs wintering rounds rose to almost 13.4 hectares (33 acres), a huge increase from the 0.43 hectare (1 acre) lost to logging last year.

In addition, wind storms, drought and the felling of trees that had fallen victim to pine beetles or disease, caused the loss of another 6.9 hectares (17 acres) in the reserve, bringing the total forest loss in 2020 to 20.65 hectares (51 acres). That compares to an overall loss of about 5 hectares (12.3 acres) from all causes the previous year.

Tavera said the drought was affecting the butterflies themselves, as well as the pine and fir trees where the clump together for warmth.

"The severe drought we are experiencing is having effects," Tavera said. "All the forests in the reserve are under water stress, the forests are dry."

"The butterflies are looking for water on the lower slopes, near the houses," she noted.

Tavera also expressed concern about the sever winter storms in Texas, which the butterflies will have to cross—and feed and lay their eggs—on their way back to their northern summer homes in coming months.

"This is a cause for worry," Tavera said, referring to whether the monarchs will find enough food and habitat after the winter freeze.

... The U.S. group Center for Food Safety called for the monarchs to be granted endangered species protection, noting "the minimum population threshold needed to be out of the danger zone of extinction is six hectares."

Millions of monarchs migrate from the U.S. and Canada each year to forests west of Mexico's capital. The butterflies hit a low of just 0.67 hectares (1.66 acres) in 2013-2014.

Loss of habitat, especially the milkweed where the monarchs lay their eggs, pesticide and herbicide use, as well climate change, all pose threats to the species' migration.

While there was plenty of bad news for the butterflies—very few showed up to some historic wintering sites like Sierra Chincua—there was the welcome news that a new wintering site was discovered nearby, in a mountaintop near the Lagunas de Zempoala protected area, near Mexico City.

13
The politics / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: February 26, 2021, 12:42:13 AM »
60 Fortune 500 Companies Avoided All Federal Income Tax in 2018 Under New Tax Law
https://itep.org/60-fortune-500-companies-avoided-all-federal-income-tax-in-2018-under-new-tax-law/

An in-depth analysis of Fortune 500 companies’ financial filings finds that at least 60 of the nation’s biggest corporations didn’t pay a dime in federal income taxes in 2018 on a collective $79 billion in profits, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said today.

If these companies paid the statutory 21 percent federal tax rate, they would owe $16.4 billion in federal income taxes. Instead, they collectively received $4.3 billion in rebates.

http://www.itep.org/notadime

https://itep.org/corporate-tax-avoidance-in-the-first-year-of-the-trump-tax-law/

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14
The politics / Re: The Collapse Of America
« on: February 26, 2021, 12:39:46 AM »
60 Fortune 500 Companies Avoided All Federal Income Tax in 2018 Under New Tax Law
https://itep.org/60-fortune-500-companies-avoided-all-federal-income-tax-in-2018-under-new-tax-law/

An in-depth analysis of Fortune 500 companies’ financial filings finds that at least 60 of the nation’s biggest corporations didn’t pay a dime in federal income taxes in 2018 on a collective $79 billion in profits, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said today.

If these companies paid the statutory 21 percent federal tax rate, they would owe $16.4 billion in federal income taxes. Instead, they collectively received $4.3 billion in rebates.

http://www.itep.org/notadime

https://itep.org/corporate-tax-avoidance-in-the-first-year-of-the-trump-tax-law/

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15
Antarctica / Re: What's new in Antarctica ?
« on: February 25, 2021, 11:47:18 PM »
Extreme Melt On Antarctica's George VI Ice Shelf
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-extreme-antarctica-george-vi-ice.html

Antarctica's northern George VI Ice Shelf experienced record melting during the 2019-2020 summer season compared to 31 previous summers of dramatically lower melt, a University of Colorado Boulder-led study found. The extreme melt coincided with record-setting stretches when local surface air temperatures were at or above the freezing point.

Banwell and her colleagues documented several multi-day periods with warmer-than-average air temperatures that likely contributed to the exceptional melt of 2019-2020. "Overall, a higher percentage of air temperatures during the 2019-2020 season—33 percent—were at or above zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to any prior season going back to 2007," Banwell said.

The researchers identified periods from late November onwards when temperatures were consistently above the freezing point for up to 90 hours. "When the temperature is above zero degrees Celsius, that limits refreezing and also leads to further melting. Water absorbs more radiation than snow and ice, and that leads to even more melting," Banwell said.

Next, the researchers used satellite imagery to calculate the volume of meltwater on the George VI Ice Shelf, finding that the 2019-2020 melt season had the largest volume of surface meltwater since 2013. Meltwater ponding peaked on January 19, 2020, when satellite images showed 23 percent of the entire study area covered in water, with a total volume of 0.62 km3—equal to about 250,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.


Microwave-radiometer-derived maps of surface and near-surface melt days over the AP



... "The George VI Ice Shelf buttresses the largest volume of upstream grounded ice of any Antarctic Peninsula ice shelf. So if this ice shelf breaks up, ice that rests on land would flow more quickly into the ocean and contribute more to sea level rise than any other ice shelf on the Peninsula," Banwell said.

Alison F. Banwell et al, The 32-year record-high surface melt in 2019/2020 on the northern George VI Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, The Cryosphere (2021)
https://tc.copernicus.org/articles/15/909/2021/

16
The politics / Re: The Collapse Of America
« on: February 25, 2021, 11:16:33 PM »
Southern Exposure: Cold Wreaks Havoc on Aging Waterworks
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-southern-exposure-cold-wreaks-havoc.html

For years, experts have warned of the need to upgrade aging and often-neglected waterworks. Now, after icy weather cracked the region's water mains, froze equipment and left millions without service, it's clear just how much work needs to be done.

Families stood in lines for hours to get drinking water. They boiled it to make it safe to drink or brush their teeth. They scooped up snow and melted it in their bathtubs. Hospitals collected buckets of water to flush toilets.

"You don't realize how much you use water until you don't have it," said Brian Crawford, chief administrative officer for the Willis-Knighton Health System in the northwestern Louisiana city of Shreveport, where water pressure at one hospital only started returning to normal Wednesday. Tanker trucks had supplied it with water since last week.

... "These pipes are, described by the people who jump in the holes to repair them, like peanut brittle," he said. "They'll repair a pipe in one area and just sit back and wait, and sometimes they'll see a break happen almost immediately a few yards away."

The still-unfolding problems have exposed extensive vulnerabilities. Many water systems have decades-old pipes, now fragile and susceptible to breaking. White flight dropped tax revenue in some cities, and a lack of investment has caused problems to become even costlier to fix. Many systems in the South were not built with such low temperatures in mind. But with climate change projected to bring more extreme weather, problems like those seen last week could return.

A 2018 survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated $473 billion was needed over 20 years to maintain and improve water infrastructure. In a 2020 report, the American Society of Civil Engineers said a water main breaks every two minutes on average in the U.S., and described "chronic, long-term and insufficient investment." The report warned that the "nation's public health and the economy will be at risk."

Actually, it's already happening.

The Mississippi capital of Jackson struggled to fix its damaged water grid, with thousands still facing outages. In Memphis, residents in the city of 650,000 have been told for nearly a week to boil water for three minutes if they plan to use it for drinking, cooking or brushing their teeth. Nearly 25,000 Louisianans still had water outages Thursday, and hundreds of thousands more were under boil advisories.

... Monday was the first time in a week that residents could line up for water outside of Madonna Manor, a 13-floor apartment complex for seniors and people with disabilities. People brought laundry pails, bowls, buckets and wastebaskets.

In Texas, more than 2 million remained under boil water notices Wednesday and 40 public water systems are "nonoperational," affecting 25,000 people, state officials said. ... At the height of the problems last week, at least 7 million Texans were told to boil their water.

----------------------------------------

West Side Story - America
https://www.westsidestory.com/america

I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
Ev'rything free in America
For a small fee in America!

... I like the shores of America!
Comfort is yours in America!
Knobs on the doors in America,
Wall-to-wall floors in America!

17
Policy and solutions / Re: Electric cars
« on: February 25, 2021, 10:52:05 PM »
Driverless Bus Hits Streets of Malaga In Southern Spain
https://www.irizar-emobility.com/proyectos/?lang=en
https://techxplore.com/news/2021-02-driverless-bus-streets-malaga-southern.html



A new driverless electric bus has begun operating in the southern Spanish city of Malaga, in a project presented as a first in Europe.

The bus, which began running on Saturday, is equipped with sensors and cameras and links Malaga's port to the city centre on an eight-kilometre (five-mile) loop it does six times a day.

"The bus knows at all times where it is and what is around it," said Rafael Durban Carmona, who heads the southern division of Spanish transport company Avanza that leads the public-private consortium behind the project.

It can "interact with traffic lights," which are also equipped with sensors that alert the bus when they turn red, he told AFP.

The bus uses artificial intelligence to improve its "decisions" based on data recorded along the route.

The 12-metre (39-foot) vehicle, which looks like any other bus, can carry 60 passengers and was developed by Spanish firm Irizar.

Other driverless pilot projects already exist in Europe, but none of them involves a regular-size urban bus that runs on a normal street with other vehicles.

Despite the advanced technology, there is a driver at the wheel to take control if necessary since Spanish law does not currently allow vehicles to operate without a driver.

"We put it in automatic mode and it runs completely autonomously," explains Cristobal Maldonado, the driver.

AUTODRIVE is a European Commission funded programme involving a consortium of more than 40 companies from the automotive world. AutoDrive brings together leading companies, suppliers, manufacturers and research centres from the European semiconductor industry to create a pan-European ecosystem with the critical mass needed to create standards and provide components and sub-systems for driverless vehicles.The results of AutoDrive will significantly contribute to safer and more efficient mobility.

Last month, Singapore launched a self-driving bus trial with passengers booking through an app and the bus taking them around Singapore's Science Park, a high-tech business hub, during off-peak hours.

---------------------------------------

Fast and intelligent vehicle charging infrastructure
https://www.irizar-emobility.com/proyectos/?lang=en


18
Science / Re: Carbon Cycle
« on: February 25, 2021, 10:35:12 PM »
Forests' Long-Term Capacity to Store Carbon is Dropping In Regions With Extreme Annual Fires
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-forests-long-term-capacity-carbon-regions.html

Researchers have analyzed decades' worth of data on the impact of repeated fires on ecosystems across the world. Their results, published today in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, show that repeated fires are driving long-term changes to tree communities and reducing their population sizes.

Savannah ecosystems, and regions with extreme wet or dry seasons were found to be the most sensitive to changes in fire frequency. Trees in regions with moderate climate are more resistant. Repeated fires also cause less damage to tree species with protective traits like thicker bark.

These effects only emerge over the course of several decades: the effect of a single fire is very different from repeated burning over time. The study found that after 50 years, regions with the most extreme annual fires had 72% lower wood area—a surrogate for biomass—with 63% fewer individual trees than in regions that never burned. Such changes to the tree community can reduce the forest's long-term ability to store carbon, but may buffer the effect of future fires.

... Past studies have found that frequent fires reduce levels of nutrients—including nitrogen—in the soil. The new study demonstrates that this can favor slower-growing tree species that have adaptations to help them survive with less nutrients. But these tree species also slow down nutrient cycling in the soil—they hold onto what they have. This can limit the recovery of the forest as a whole by reducing the nutrients available for plant growth after an intense fire.

In the past, the majority of carbon released by wildfires was recaptured as ecosystems regenerated. But the more frequent fires of recent years, driven by changes in climate and land use, don't always allow time for this.

Pellegrini, A.F.A. et al: 'Decadal changes in fire frequencies shift tree communities and functional traits.' Nature Ecology & Evolution, February 2021
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-021-01401-7

19
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: February 25, 2021, 06:32:46 PM »
The Robot Uprising Sucks
https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/24/22299346/irobot-roomba-update-issues-vacuums-fix-several-weeks

Thousands of automated Roomba vacuum cleaners have been acting “drunk” after the latest software update from parent company iRobot, The Verge reported Wednesday. “One user described their robot cleaner as acting “drunk” after the update: spinning itself around and bumping into furniture, cleaning in strange patterns, getting stuck in an empty area, and not being able to make it home to the dock.”

https://twitter.com/AnthonyVirtuoso/status/1363549503907840008

https://www.reddit.com/r/roomba/comments/lprthq/roomba_s9_weird_behaviour_on_version_3108/

https://twitter.com/ArekSarkissian/status/1360318393191137284


... go home Roomba, you're drunk ...

See for yourself. Here’s one example of the disk-shaped bot fumbling uselessly around a fireplace.

https://www.reddit.com/r/roomba/comments/l3mdad/time_lapse_video_of_i7_attempting_to_return_to/

----------------------------------------



----------------------------------------


... get a broom ...

20
Science / Re: AMOC slowdown
« on: February 25, 2021, 06:29:36 PM »
It will be off embargo sometime today.

L. Caesar, G. D. McCarthy, D. J. R. Thornalley, N. Cahill, S. Rahmstorf : Current Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation weakest in last millennium. Nature Geoscience. (2021)
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-021-00699-z

21
Policy and solutions / Re: Ships and boats
« on: February 25, 2021, 05:37:42 PM »
There's always wind/sail

22
Science / Re: AMOC slowdown
« on: February 25, 2021, 05:35:46 PM »
Gulf Stream System At Its Weakest In Over a Millennium
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-gulf-stream-weakest-millennium.html

In more than 1,000 years, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), also known as Gulf Stream System, has not been as weak as in recent decades. This is the result of a new study by scientists from Ireland, Britain and Germany. The researchers compiled so-called proxy data, taken mainly from natural archives like ocean sediments or ice cores, reaching back many hundreds of years to reconstruct the flow history of the AMOC. They found consistent evidence that its slowdown in the 20th century is unprecedented in the past millennium; it is likely linked to human-caused climate change. The giant ocean circulation system is relevant for weather patterns in Europe and regional sea levels in the U.S.; its slowdown is also associated with an observed cold blob in the northern Atlantic.

 ... Previous studies by Rahmstorf and colleagues showed a slowdown of the ocean current of about 15% since the mid-20th century, linking it to human-caused global warming, but a robust picture about its long-term development has up to now been lacking: This is what the researchers provide with their review of results of proxy data studies.

"For the first time, we have combined a range of previous studies and found they provide a consistent picture of the AMOC evolution over the past 1600 years," says Rahmstorf. "The study results suggest that it has been relatively stable until the late 19th century. With the end of the little ice age in about 1850, the ocean currents began to decline, with a second, more drastic decline following since the mid-20th century." Already the 2019 special report on the oceans of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded with medium confidence "that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) has weakened relative to 1850-1900."

... "If we continue to drive global warming, the Gulf Stream System will weaken further—by 34 to 45% by 2100, according to the latest generation of climate models," concludes Rahmstorf. This could bring us dangerously close to the tipping point at which the flow becomes unstable.

In 20 to 30 years, further weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could result in more storms battering the UK, and more intense winters and an increase in damaging heatwaves and droughts across Europe.

A weakened Gulf Stream would also raise sea levels on the Atlantic coast of the US, with potentially disastrous consequences

L. Caesar, G. D. McCarthy, D. J. R. Thornalley, N. Cahill, S. Rahmstorf : Current Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation weakest in last millennium. Nature Geoscience. (2020)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41561-021-00699-z (embargoed)

https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/25/atlantic-ocean-circulation-at-weakest-in-a-millennium-say-scientists

23
The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: February 25, 2021, 12:33:03 AM »


Interactive 4K view of Perseverance’s Mars landing site

24
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: February 25, 2021, 12:31:23 AM »
Moderna S. Africa Variant-Specific Vaccine Ready for Testing: Company
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-02-moderna-africa-variant-specific-vaccine-ready.html

US biotech firm Moderna said Wednesday that doses of its new COVID vaccine candidate aimed at the South African coronavirus variant had been shipped to the US National Institutes of Health for testing.

"We look forward to beginning the clinical study of our variant booster and are grateful for the NIH's continued collaboration to combat this pandemic," said CEO Stephane Bancel.

25
Science / Re: AMOC slowdown
« on: February 24, 2021, 10:52:57 PM »
Possible Irreversible Changes to Sub-Systems Prior to Reaching Climate Change Tipping Points
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-irreversible-sub-systems-prior-climate.html

Recently a pair of researchers with the University of Copenhagen published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing their work looking into the possibility of changes to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and the circumstances that could lead to such changes. In their paper, Johannes Lohmann and Peter Ditlevsen noted that climate models show that irreversible changes to sub-systems such as the AMOC, one of Earth's global sub-systems, can occur prior to a tipping point if changes occur at a fast pace.

They further noted that fresh water pouring into the Atlantic Ocean due to melting ice could result in just such an irreversible change. More recently, an international team of climate scientists has published a Perspectives piece, also in PNAS, outlining the harm that could result if irreversible changes occur prior to tipping points, and also what models suggest will happen if the Earth does start to reach certain tipping points.

... Climate models suggest that under such scenarios, there is no turning back. Once a tipping point is reached, we cannot solve the problem by stopping carbon emissions. More recent research has suggested that there may be some pre-tipping points that could trigger climate changes on a smaller scale but which would still be irreversible. Fresh, cold water entering the North Atlantic, for example, could result in permanent changes to the AMOC. Notably, the AMOC is responsible for the mild temperatures in Europe.

In their paper, the authors of the Perspectives piece describe likely outcomes of different scenarios that could lead to pre-tipping point sub-system changes. They note, for example, that the world's oceans comprise sub-systems. In addition to rising water levels, the world's oceans are experiencing acidification due to carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere. Acidification harms sea life. Additionally, prior research has shown that the upper part of the ocean absorbs heat from the atmosphere at a much higher rate than lower regions. The lower regions are only now beginning to feel the effects of warming, a long-term event that could change the entire underwater ecosystem—a change that would be irreversible.



Christoph Heinze et al. The quiet crossing of ocean tipping points, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021)
https://www.pnas.org/content/118/9/e2008478118


Candidates for high-probability high-impact marine tipping elements that concern warming, deoxygenation, and ocean acidification as well as their impacts.

26
Science / Re: AMOC slowdown
« on: February 24, 2021, 10:38:18 PM »
Record-High Arctic Freshwater Will Flow to Labrador Sea, Affecting Local and Global Oceans
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-record-high-arctic-freshwater-labrador-sea.html



Freshwater is accumulating in the Arctic Ocean.

The Beaufort Sea, which is the largest Arctic Ocean freshwater reservoir, has increased its freshwater content by 40% over the past two decades.
How and where this water will flow into the Atlantic Ocean is important for local and global ocean conditions.

A study from the University of Washington, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that this freshwater travels through the Canadian Archipelago to reach the Labrador Sea, rather than through the wider marine passageways that connect to seas in Northern Europe. The open-access study was published Feb. 23 in Nature Communications.

"The Canadian Archipelago is a major conduit between the Arctic and the North Atlantic," said lead author Jiaxu Zhang, a UW postdoctoral researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies. "In the future, if the winds get weaker and the freshwater gets released, there is a potential for this high amount of water to have a big influence in the Labrador Sea region."

The finding has implications for the Labrador Sea marine environment, since Arctic water tends to be fresher but also rich in nutrients. This pathway also affects larger oceanic currents, namely a conveyor-belt circulation in the Atlantic Ocean in which colder, heavier water sinks in the North Atlantic and comes back along the surface as the Gulf Stream. Fresher, lighter water entering the Labrador Sea could slow that overturning circulation.

Fresher, lighter water floats at the top, and clockwise winds in the Beaufort Sea push that lighter water together to create a dome.

When those winds relax, the dome will flatten and the freshwater gets released into the North Atlantic.



... The volume of freshwater now in the Beaufort Sea is about twice the size of the 1983-1995 case studied, at more than 23,300 cubic kilometers, or more than 5,500 cubic miles. This volume of freshwater released into the North Atlantic could have significant effects. ... "A freshwater release of this size into the subpolar North Atlantic could impact a critical circulation pattern, called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which has a significant influence on Northern Hemisphere climate."

Jiaxu Zhang et al. Labrador Sea freshening linked to Beaufort Gyre freshwater release, Nature Communications (2021)
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21470-3

27
The rest / Re: Systemic Isolation
« on: February 24, 2021, 05:38:00 PM »
World's First Video of a Space-Time Crystal
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-world-video-space-time-crystal.html

A German-Polish research team has succeeded in creating a micrometer-sized space-time crystal consisting of magnons at room temperature. With the help of the scanning transmission X-ray microscope Maxymus at Bessy II at Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin, they were able to film the recurring periodic magnetization structure in a crystal.

Order in space and a periodicity in time

A crystal is a solid whose atoms or molecules are regularly arranged in a particular structure. If one looks at the arrangement with a microscope, one discovers an atom or a molecule always at the same intervals. It is similar with space-time crystals: however, the recurring structure exists not only in space, but also in time. The smallest components are constantly in motion until, after a certain period, they arrange again into the original pattern.


... eat your heart out, Dr Who ...

https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.126.057201

... now, where did I put the sonic screwdriver? ...

28
Antarctica / Re: Ice Apocalypse - MULTIPLE METERS SEA LEVEL RISE
« on: February 24, 2021, 05:36:15 PM »
Possible Irreversible Changes to Sub-Systems Prior to Reaching Climate Change Tipping Points
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-irreversible-sub-systems-prior-climate.html

Recently a pair of researchers with the University of Copenhagen published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing their work looking into the possibility of changes to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and the circumstances that could lead to such changes. In their paper, Johannes Lohmann and Peter Ditlevsen noted that climate models show that irreversible changes to sub-systems such as the AMOC, one of Earth's global sub-systems, can occur prior to a tipping point if changes occur at a fast pace.

They further noted that fresh water pouring into the Atlantic Ocean due to melting ice could result in just such an irreversible change. More recently, an international team of climate scientists has published a Perspectives piece, also in PNAS, outlining the harm that could result if irreversible changes occur prior to tipping points, and also what models suggest will happen if the Earth does start to reach certain tipping points.

... Climate models suggest that under such scenarios, there is no turning back. Once a tipping point is reached, we cannot solve the problem by stopping carbon emissions. More recent research has suggested that there may be some pre-tipping points that could trigger climate changes on a smaller scale but which would still be irreversible. Fresh, cold water entering the North Atlantic, for example, could result in permanent changes to the AMOC. Notably, the AMOC is responsible for the mild temperatures in Europe.

In their paper, the authors of the Perspectives piece describe likely outcomes of different scenarios that could lead to pre-tipping point sub-system changes. They note, for example, that the world's oceans comprise sub-systems. In addition to rising water levels, the world's oceans are experiencing acidification due to carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere. Acidification harms sea life. Additionally, prior research has shown that the upper part of the ocean absorbs heat from the atmosphere at a much higher rate than lower regions. The lower regions are only now beginning to feel the effects of warming, a long-term event that could change the entire underwater ecosystem—a change that would be irreversible.



Christoph Heinze et al. The quiet crossing of ocean tipping points, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021)
https://www.pnas.org/content/118/9/e2008478118


Candidates for high-probability high-impact marine tipping elements that concern warming, deoxygenation, and ocean acidification as well as their impacts.

29
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: February 24, 2021, 05:34:06 PM »
AI Is Killing Choice and Chance—Changing What It Means to Be Human
https://techxplore.com/news/2021-02-ai-choice-chancechanging-human.html

Philosophers from Rousseau to Heidegger to Carl Schmitt have argued that technology is never a neutral tool for achieving human ends. Technological innovations—from the most rudimentary to the most sophisticated – reshape people as they use these innovations to control their environment. Artificial intelligence is a new and powerful tool, and it, too, is altering humanity.

Writing and, later, the printing press made it possible to carefully record history and easily disseminate knowledge, but it eliminated centuries-old traditions of oral storytelling. Ubiquitous digital and phone cameras have changed how people experience and perceive events. Widely available GPS systems have meant that drivers rarely get lost, but a reliance on them has also atrophied their native capacity to orient themselves.

AI is no different.

As AI increasingly shapes the human experience, how does this change what it means to be human? Central to the problem is a person's capacity to make choices, particularly judgments that have moral implications.

AI is being used for wide and rapidly expanding purposes. It is being used to predict which television shows or movies individuals will want to watch based on past preferences and to make decisions about who can borrow money based on past performance and other proxies for the likelihood of repayment. It's being used to detect fraudulent commercial transactions and identify malignant tumors. It's being used for hiring and firing decisions in large chain stores and public school districts. And it's being used in law enforcement—from assessing the chances of recidivism, to police force allocation, to the facial identification of criminal suspects. ... These are areas where algorithmic prescription is replacing human judgment, and so people who might have had the chance to develop practical judgment in these areas no longer will.

Aristotle argued that the capacity for making practical judgments depends on regularly making them – on habit and practice. We see the emergence of machines as substitute judges in a variety of workaday contexts as a potential threat to people learning how to effectively exercise judgment themselves.

Recommendation engines, which are increasingly prevalent intermediaries in people's consumption of culture, may serve to constrain choice and minimize serendipity. By presenting consumers with algorithmically curated choices of what to watch, read, stream and visit next, companies are replacing human taste with machine taste. ... There is some risk that people's options will be constrained by their pasts in a new and unanticipated way—a generalization of the "echo chamber" people are already seeing in social media.

As machine learning algorithms, a common form of "narrow" or "weak" AI, improve and as they train on more extensive data sets, larger parts of everyday life are likely to become utterly predictable. The predictions are going to get better and better, and they will ultimately make common experiences more efficient and more pleasant.

But to the extent that unpredictability is part of how people understand themselves and part of what people like about themselves, humanity is in the process of losing something significant. As they become more and more predictable, the creatures inhabiting the increasingly AI-mediated world will become less and less like us.

-----------------------------------------

Computer Says Go: Taking Orders From an AI Boss
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56023932

For those of us who have seen the Terminator movies rather too often, the thought of a computer, or robot, bossing you around is bound to raise fears that the machines are in danger of taking over.

Yet this ignores the fact that we already spend a lot of time obeying machines, and we don't even think about it, let alone worry.

Jeff Schwartz, a senior partner at business consulting and audit firm Deloitte, and a global adviser on the future of work, points to a simple everyday machine that we all obey unthinkingly.

"A traffic light used to be a job, there used to be a person who would stand there directing the cars," he says. "But very clearly that is now a machine, and it is getting smarter - they are now putting AI into traffic lights [so they can best respond to traffic levels]."

So it seems we are perfectly willing to take orders from a machine in some clearly defined situations.

What has increasingly happened in recent years, however, is that more of us are already being ordered around by computers at work. And experts say that this is only set to increase.

Take taxi firm Uber. There isn't a man or woman in the office giving out the jobs to the drivers. It is done automatically by the company's AI software system.

In the retail sector, Amazon increasingly uses AI systems to direct and monitor staff in its warehouses. This has led to several reports of employees being overworked, accusations that Amazon has repeatedly denied. Amazon says that if the AI notices a worker underperforming, he or she gets additional support and training, which comes from a human.

AI software that both gives work to, and checks on, call centre staff has also been criticised for being too demanding, and unfair.

----------------------------------------------



-----------------------------------------------

Target Acquired: Facial Recognition Drones Use AI to Take the Perfect Picture of You
https://singularityhub.com/2021/02/23/drones-programmed-to-take-the-perfect-picture-of-you-could-be-the-future-of-facial-recognition/



Facial recognition technology has been banned by multiple US cities, including Portland, Boston, and San Francisco. Besides the very real risk of the tech being biased against minorities, the technology also carries with it an uneasy sense that we’re creeping towards a surveillance state.

Despite these concerns, though, work to improve facial recognition tech is still forging ahead, with both private companies and governments looking to harness its potential for military, law enforcement, or profit-seeking applications.

One such company is an Israeli startup called AnyVision Interactive Technologies. AnyVision is looking to kick facial recognition up a notch by employing drones for image capture. A US patent application published earlier this month outlines the company’s system, which sounds like something straight out of a Black Mirror episode.

The drone captures an image of its “target person,” then analyzes the image to figure out how to get a better image; it adjusts its positioning in relation to the target, say by flying a bit lower or centering its angle. It then captures more images, and runs them through a machine learning model to get a “face classification” and a “classification probability score,” essentially trying to identify whether the person being photographed is in fact the person it’s looking for. If the probability score is too low, the system gets routed back to the first step, starting the image capture and refinement process all over again.

If the thought of a drone programmed to move itself around in whatever way necessary to capture the clearest possible picture of your face doesn’t freak you out, you must not have seen much dystopian sci-fi, nor cherish privacy as a basic right. Stationary cameras used for this purpose can at least be ducked under, turned away from, or quickly passed by; but a flying camera running on an algorithm that’s determined to identify its target is a different—and much more invasive—story.

The nightmare scenario is for technology like AnyVision’s to be employed by governments and law enforcement agencies. But the company says this is far from its intent; CEO Avi Golan told Fast Company that the picture-taking drones could be used for things like package delivery (to identify recipients and make sure the right person is getting the right package), or to help track employees for safety purposes in dangerous workplaces like mines. Golan added that there are “many opportunities in the civilian market” where AnyVision’s technology could be useful.

... AnyVision was backed by Microsoft until 2019, when allegations arose that AnyVision’s technology was being used in a military surveillance project that tracked West Bank Palestinians. Microsoft has since not only stopped investing in any startups working on facial recognition tech, it also stopped selling its own version of the technology to law enforcement agencies, with the company’s president vowing not to resume until national laws “grounded in human rights” are in place to govern its use.

What might such laws look like? How would we determine where and when—and on whom—it’s ok to use something like a drone that self-adjusts until it captures an unmistakable image of someone’s face?

... “The basic premise of a free society is that you shouldn’t be subject to tracking by the government without suspicion of wrongdoing. […] face surveillance flips the premise of freedom on its head and you start becoming a society where everyone is tracked no matter what they do all the time.”


30
The rest / Re: SpaceX
« on: February 24, 2021, 04:19:05 PM »
Quote
... Third time lucky?


31
Policy and solutions / Re: Electric cars
« on: February 24, 2021, 10:57:22 AM »
Future of USPS Trucks Is Electric: New Fleet Will Replace, Expand More Than 230K Vehicles
https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/4566631001

The U.S. Postal Service will finally get new high-tech mail delivery trucks.

The agency said Tuesday that it awarded a 10-year multi-billion dollar contract to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense to replace it's aging fleet of vehicles.

The new fleet will replace and expand the existing more than 230,000 vehicles – among them approximately 190,000 delivery trucks – including many that have been in service for 30 years.

The deal calls for the postal service to order between 50,000 to 165,000 new delivery trucks featuring 360-degree cameras, advanced braking, with front- and rear-collision avoidance system that includes visual, audio warning and automatic braking.



The vehicles will also be a combination of battery-electric and internal combustion-powered which will be retrofitted to meet the latest advances in electric vehicle technology.

The first installment will also help create a new assembly plant to build the trucks, the postal service said. The high-tech delivery trucks could begin appearing on mail routes as soon as 2023.

32
Policy and solutions / Re: Electric cars
« on: February 24, 2021, 12:24:30 AM »
Texas Grid Resiliency

There are some intriguing transportation-related options for enhanced grid resilience now becoming available. These are linked to emerging technologies for the electrification of transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, unveiled a fuel-cell-powered-electric transit bus last year that could provide emergency power to a drug store, a supermarket, or some other critical establishment.  It was cost effective for periods up to two weeks compared with leasing a generator.

https://www.transit.dot.gov/research-innovation/bus-exportable-power-supply-beps-system-use-strategy-investigating-use-transit

Report: https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/research-innovation/147716/bus-exportable-power-supply-system-use-strategy-investigating-use-transit-buses-emergency-generators.pdf

Ford made news on 18 February when it asked its dealers to loan out stocks of its new F-150 hybrid truck, versions of which are equipped with generators capable of putting out 7.2 kilowatts

https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/ford-2021-f-150-generators-texas-winter-storm-outage/

---------------------------------------------

Final Report Shows How Transit Buses Can Be Used For Disaster and Emergency Response
Report: https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/research-innovation/147716/bus-exportable-power-supply-system-use-strategy-investigating-use-transit-buses-emergency-generators.pdf

Atlanta, GA, April 2020: The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) partnered with the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics and Hagerty Consulting to investigate and demonstrate a transportable power system that will give hybrid electric buses the capability to act as on-demand, mobile, electrical-power generators.

By adding basic power electronics equipment, referred to as a Bus Exportable Power System (BEPS), both diesel and fuel cell-powered hybrid buses can be transformed into mobile generators and provide a backup power source as needed. As of 2016, there were 8,367 hybrid buses across 178 transit agencies in the U.S. covering the northeast and coastal areas of the country. By using hybrid-electric buses as mobile generators, communities can deploy a powerful, portable, well-maintained, and cost-effective alternative to the traditional generator.


Map demonstrates the locations of transit agencies with hybrid buses

--------------------------------------------

https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/the-smarter-grid/what-texas-freeze-fiasco-tells-us-about-future-of-the-grid

33
Antarctica / Re: Getz Ice Shelf Discussion
« on: February 23, 2021, 09:13:45 PM »
Getz Glaciers On the Run
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-getz-glaciers.html



Using a 25-year record of satellite observations over the Getz region in West Antarctica, scientists have discovered that the pace at which glaciers flow towards the ocean is accelerating. This new research, which includes data from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission and ESA's CryoSat mission, will help determine if these glaciers could collapse in the next few decades and how this would affect future global sea-level rise.

Led by scientists at the University of Leeds in the UK, the new research shows that between 1994 and 2018, all 14 glaciers in Getz accelerated, on average, by almost 25%, with three glaciers accelerating by over 44%.

The results, published today in Nature Communications, also reported that the glaciers lost a total of 315 gigatonnes of ice, adding 0.9 mm to global mean sea level – equivalent to 126 million Olympic swimming pools of water.



... "Using a combination of observations and modeling, we show highly localized patterns of acceleration. For instance, we observe the greatest change in the central region of Getz, with one glacier flowing 391 meters a year faster in 2018 than in 1994. This is a substantial change as it is now flowing at a rate of 669 meters a year, a 59% increase in just two and a half decades," continued Heather.

The research, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and ESA's Science for Society program, reports how the widely reported thinning and acceleration observed in the neighboring Amundsen Sea glaciers, now extends over 1000 km along the West Antarctic coastline into Getz.



Heather L. Selley et al. Widespread increase in dynamic imbalance in the Getz region of Antarctica from 1994 to 2018, Nature Communications (2021).
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21321-1

34
Antarctica / Re: Ice Apocalypse - MULTIPLE METERS SEA LEVEL RISE
« on: February 23, 2021, 09:11:20 PM »
Getz Glaciers On the Run
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-getz-glaciers.html



Using a 25-year record of satellite observations over the Getz region in West Antarctica, scientists have discovered that the pace at which glaciers flow towards the ocean is accelerating. This new research, which includes data from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission and ESA's CryoSat mission, will help determine if these glaciers could collapse in the next few decades and how this would affect future global sea-level rise.

Led by scientists at the University of Leeds in the UK, the new research shows that between 1994 and 2018, all 14 glaciers in Getz accelerated, on average, by almost 25%, with three glaciers accelerating by over 44%.

The results, published today in Nature Communications, also reported that the glaciers lost a total of 315 gigatonnes of ice, adding 0.9 mm to global mean sea level – equivalent to 126 million Olympic swimming pools of water.



... "Using a combination of observations and modeling, we show highly localized patterns of acceleration. For instance, we observe the greatest change in the central region of Getz, with one glacier flowing 391 meters a year faster in 2018 than in 1994. This is a substantial change as it is now flowing at a rate of 669 meters a year, a 59% increase in just two and a half decades," continued Heather.

The research, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and ESA's Science for Society program, reports how the widely reported thinning and acceleration observed in the neighboring Amundsen Sea glaciers, now extends over 1000 km along the West Antarctic coastline into Getz.



Heather L. Selley et al. Widespread increase in dynamic imbalance in the Getz region of Antarctica from 1994 to 2018, Nature Communications (2021).
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21321-1

35
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: February 23, 2021, 06:53:53 PM »
Boston Dynamics’ Robot Dog Is Now Armed—in the Name of Art
https://www.wired.com/story/boston-dynamics-robot-dog-armed-name-art/
https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/22/mschf-mounted-a-remote-control-paintball-gun-to-spot/amp/

Bad robot productions. Some artists have pissed off the company behind the robotic dogs we’ve seen doing human-like things in web videos for the past couple years. The robot in question is affectionately known as “Spot,” and the public relations team from its makers at Boston Dynamics alerted the world to a controversial art project that sort of launched on Monday — but the real show is scheduled for today at 1 p.m. ET.

https://spotsrampage.com/

A group of meme-spinning pranksters now wants to present a more dystopian view of the company's robotic tech. They added a .68-caliber paintball gun to Spot, the company’s doglike machine, and plan to let others control it inside a mocked-up art gallery via the internet later this week.



Why? “Spot is an empathy missile, shaped like man’s best friend and targeted straight at our fight or flight instinct,” the artists write on their site, adding wryly, “When killer robots come to America they will be wrapped in fur, carrying a ball.”

See also: https://screenrant.com/black-mirror-metalhead-inspiration/

--------------------------------------

Future Acres Launches With the Arrival of Crop-Transporting Robot, Carry
https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/23/future-acres-launches-with-the-arrival-of-crop-transporting-robot-carry/


36
The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: February 23, 2021, 05:10:47 PM »
Martian Moons Have a Common Ancestor
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-martian-moons-common-ancestor.html



Mars's two moons, Phobos and Deimos, have puzzled researchers since their discovery in 1877. They are very small: Phobos's diameter of 22 kilometers is 160 times smaller than that of our moon, and Deimos is even smaller, with a diameter of only 12 kilometers.

This led people to suspect that they might in fact be asteroids that were captured in Mars's gravity field. "But that's where the problems started," Bagheri says. Captured objects would be expected to follow an eccentric orbit around the planet, and that orbit would be at a random inclination. In contradiction to this hypothesis, the orbits of the Martian moons are almost circular and move in the equatorial plane of Mars. So, what is the explanation for the current orbits of Phobos and Deimos?

"The idea was to trace the orbits and their changes back into the past," says Amir Khan, a Senior Scientist at the Physics Institute of the University of Zurich and the Institute of Geophysics at ETH Zurich. As it turned out, the orbits of Phobos and Deimos appeared to have crossed in the past. "This means that the moons were very likely in the same place and therefore have the same origin," Khan says. The researchers concluded that a larger celestial body was orbiting Mars back then. This original moon was probably hit by another body and disintegrated as a result. "Phobos and Deimos are the remainders of this lost moon," says Bagheri, who is lead author of the study now published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Using these findings and their refined theory on the tidal effects, the researchers ran hundreds of computer simulations to track the orbits of the moons backward in time until they reached the intersection—the moment Phobos and Deimos were born. Depending on the simulation, this point in time lies between 1 and 2.7 billion years in the past. "The exact time depends on the physical properties of Phobos and Deimos, that is, how porous they are" Bagheri says. A Japanese probe scheduled for launch in 2025 will explore Phobos and return samples to Earth. The researchers expect that these samples will provide the needed details about the interior of the Martian moons that will enable more precise calculations of their origin.

Amirhossein Bagheri et al. Dynamical evidence for Phobos and Deimos as remnants of a disrupted common progenitor, Nature Astronomy (2021).
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-021-01306-2

37
The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: February 23, 2021, 05:00:45 PM »
Ancient Art Reveals Extinct Goose
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-ancient-art-reveals-extinct-goose.html



As a University of Queensland researcher examined a 4600-year-old Egyptian painting last year, a speckled goose caught his eye.

UQ scientist Dr. Anthony Romilio said the strange but beautiful bird was quite unlike modern red-breasted geese (Branta ruficollis), with distinct, bold colors and patterns on its body, face, breast, wings and legs.

"The painting, Meidum Geese, has been admired since its discovery in the 1800s and described as "Egypt's Mona Lisa,'" he said.

"Apparently no-one realized it depicted an unknown species.

"Artistic license could account for the differences with modern geese, but artworks from this site have extremely realistic depictions of other birds and mammals."

Dr. Romilio said no bones from modern red-breasted geese (Branta ruficollis) had been found on any Egyptian archaeological site.

"Curiously, bones of a similar but not identical bird have been found on Crete," he said.

"From a zoological perspective, the Egyptian artwork is the only documentation of this distinctively patterned goose, which appears now to be globally extinct."

Dr. Romilio said Egypt was not always predominantly desert and had "a biodiverse history, rich with extinct species."

Dr. Romilio said the artwork he examined was from the tomb of Nefermaat and Itet at Meidum and was now in Cairo's Museum of Egyptian Antiquities.

A. Romilio. Assessing 'Meidum Geese' species identification with the 'Tobias criteria', Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2021)
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352409X21000468

38
Science / Re: AMOC slowdown
« on: February 22, 2021, 10:06:13 PM »
Unfortunate Timing and Rate of Change May Be Enough to Tip a Climate System
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-unfortunate-climate.html

A model study by Johannes Lohmann and Peter D. Ditlevsen from Physics of Ice, Climate, and Earth, The Niels Bohr Institute, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, now suggests the AMOC, and potentially other climate sub-systems approaching tipping points might tip long before anticipated because of rate-induced tipping. The work, published today in PNAS is part of the TiPES project funded by the EU Horizon 2020.

There is a growing concern among climate scientists that several climatic sub-systems might tip irreversibly and abruptly to a new state if atmospheric CO2-levels are pushed beyond still yet unknown thresholds. These sub-systems include the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, the Amazon rainforest, the Asia-Australian monsoon, the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, and the AMOC.

In addition, it is still uncertain whether rate-induced tipping effects might also occur. These effects manifest themselves as a tipping of the system to a new state even before a theoretical threshold in the external conditions (such as the atmospheric CO2 levels) is reached. In rate-induced tipping, the rate of change—not the amount of change—is the important factor. This is because tipping occurs more readily when the system's conditions change rather quickly.

... The study results clearly showed the characteristics of rate-induced tipping.

Specifically, when the ocean model was subjected to increases in freshwater input to the North Atlantic, which simulated accelerating melt from the Greenland Ice sheet over time scales of 10 to 150 years, the AMOC had a strong tendency to tip to a dormant state before its threshold was reached.

It also appeared that due to the chaotic dynamics of the ocean model, the rate-induced tipping was highly sensitive to minute changes in the initial conditions and the rate of change of meltwater increase. This makes the tipping threshold fuzzy. ... The findings point to fundamental limitations in climate predictability and corroborate the need to limit CO2 emissions in order to stay away from dangerous and unpredictable tipping.

"It is worrying news. Because if this is true, it reduces our safe operating space," says Johannes Lohmann.



Johannes Lohmann el al., "Risk of tipping the overturning circulation due to increasing rates of ice melt," PNAS (2021).
https://www.pnas.org/content/118/9/e2017989118

-----------------------------------------------

39
The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: February 22, 2021, 04:40:16 PM »
NASA will provide an update on its Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars on Feb. 18, in a news briefing Monday (Feb. 22) at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT). You can watch it live courtesy of NASA TV.


40
The politics / Re: The Alt Right
« on: February 22, 2021, 02:42:22 PM »
People With Extremist Views Less Able to Do Complex Mental Tasks, Research Suggests
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/feb/22/people-with-extremist-views-less-able-to-do-complex-mental-tasks-research-suggests

Our brains hold clues for the ideologies we choose to live by, according to research, which has suggested that people who espouse extremist attitudes tend to perform poorly on complex mental tasks.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge sought to evaluate whether cognitive disposition – differences in how information is perceived and processed – sculpt ideological world-views such as political, nationalistic and dogmatic beliefs, beyond the impact of traditional demographic factors like age, race and gender.

The study, built on previous research, included more than 330 US-based participants aged 22 to 63 who were exposed to a battery of tests – 37 neuropsychological tasks and 22 personality surveys – over the course of two weeks.

The tasks were engineered to be neutral, not emotional or political – they involved, for instance, memorising visual shapes. The researchers then used computational modelling to extract information from that data about the participant’s perception and learning, and their ability to engage in complex and strategic mental processing.

Overall, the researchers found that ideological attitudes mirrored cognitive decision-making, according to the study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

“Individuals or brains that struggle to process and plan complex action sequences may be more drawn to extreme ideologies, or authoritarian ideologies that simplify the world.”

A key finding was that people with extremist attitudes tended to think about the world in black and white terms, and struggled with complex tasks that required intricate mental steps, said lead author Dr Leor Zmigrod at Cambridge’s department of psychology.

She said another feature of people with tendencies towards extremism appeared to be that they were not good at regulating their emotions, meaning they were impulsive and tended to seek out emotionally evocative experiences. “And so that kind of helps us understand what kind of individual might be willing to go in and commit violence against innocent others.”

Participants who are prone to dogmatism – stuck in their ways and relatively resistant to credible evidence – actually have a problem with processing evidence even at a perceptual level, the authors found.

... “It’s fascinating, because conservatism is almost a synonym for caution,” she said. “We’re seeing that – at the very basic neuropsychological level – individuals who are politically conservative … simply treat every stimuli that they encounter with caution.”

The “psychological signature” for extremism across the board was a blend of conservative and dogmatic psychologies, the researchers said.

The cognitive and perceptual correlates of ideological attitudes: a data-driven approach
https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2020.0424

41
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: February 21, 2021, 11:01:30 PM »
US Approaches 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths

To illustrate this milestone of half a million deaths, The New York Times published a front-page graphic running the length of the page, with each small point representing a dead American.



The bottom of the column, which represents the deaths of recent months, is particularly dark and almost uniformly black.

42
Consequences / Re: COVID-19
« on: February 21, 2021, 08:01:39 PM »
Mayo Clinic Study Suggests Efficacy of 1st Pfizer, Moderna Shot Increases With Time
https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-study-suggests-efficacy-of-1st-pfizer-moderna-shot-increases-with-time/

The Minnesota-based clinic, in a study of 31,000 people in four US states who received at least one vaccine shot, found the inoculations were 75 percent effective 15 days after the first shot, and around 83% effective 36 days after the first shot; the figure climbs to 89% for people who received both doses



FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are effective per real-world evidence synthesized across a multi-state health system
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.15.21251623v1.full-text


43
Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: February 21, 2021, 07:20:01 PM »
Gas Traders Pleaded for Cash as Texas Cold Upended Their Market
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-21/gas-traders-pleaded-for-cash-as-texas-cold-upended-their-market

The winter storm boosted demand, slashed production and sent prices haywire in a way that even veteran traders had never seen before.

The urgent phone calls came over the holiday weekend: traders of natural gas needed more money, and fast.

Temperatures were starting to plummet across the central U.S. Prices for the heating fuel had skyrocketed 300-fold to levels nobody had thought possible. This would later prove to be the precursor of one of the worst energy crises the nation had seen, plunging millions into darkness for days amid a deadly deep freeze.

But on Saturday, traders in the relatively small and obscure world that is the physical gas market were singularly focused on one very big problem: exchanges were demanding more collateral because of the volatility. The traders had until Tuesday to come up with the cash or else they’d be forced to exit their positions and, in some cases, face potentially catastrophic losses.

The dire situation triggered a frenzy of round-the-clock meetings. One group of traders convened their first Saturday morning conference call since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The public holiday on Monday meant U.S. banks were closed, so -- desperate for money -- some market players turned to European parent companies that could deliver so-called margin payments on their behalf to the exchanges sooner. The cash showed up in different currencies, but it did the trick.

“I’ve been through a lot: The ‘98 and ‘99 power spikes in the Midwest, the California crisis” of 2000-2001, said Cody Moore, head of gas and power trading at Mercuria Energy America. “Nothing was as broadly shocking as this week.” One gas trader said in a message over the weekend his head was “still spinning.” Brian Lavertu, a trader in Texas’ power market, predicted prices were about to go “wild.”

That turned out to be an understatement. In what will go down as one of the most remarkable weeks in power and gas market history, gas soared as high as $1,250 per mmBtu in some locations, electricity in Texas surged to its $9,000-per-megawatt-hour price cap and the state’s grid operator ordered the country’s biggest-ever forced blackout as the cold pushed its system to the brink of total collapse. Winners will emerge -- like Jerry Jones, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Cowboys, whose gas company sold some fuel for high premiums. There will most undoubtedly be losers. And the markets may never be the same.

Spot prices at the Oneok delivery hub in Oklahoma, for example, which had mostly been trading at a small but steady discount to Nymex, moved sharply higher on Wednesday, Feb. 10, to settle at $9. On Thursday they hit $60. By Friday, they briefly surpassed $500, a level previously undreamed of.

Physical gas sales contracts can require the buyer or seller to pledge collateral, such as a letter of credit, a kind of insurance in case bets go awry or if a company has a liquidity issue. Price gains typically mean more collateral, or margin, is needed.

But the spot gas price spikes now being seen were triggering truly outsized demands: According to one trader, a small market participant with a margin requirement of $100,000 saw that balloon to $1 million. Larger companies had to find tens of millions of dollars. Many spot gas trades are conducted via next-day contracts on Intercontinental Exchange Inc., which boosted its margin requirements.

After the market closed Friday, stunned traders scrambled to work out how much additional funds they would need to set aside for the following week. Some trading houses were extremely nervous. An executive at one said he was worried that some counterparties could go bust and leave his firm with positions to fill on the spot market.

Meanwhile key pieces of Texas’ energy infrastructure began to fail. Oil and gas wells stopped producing as liquids froze in pipes. By the night of Sunday, Feb. 14, it was apparent that Ercot, which oversees Texas’ power grid, might have to implement rolling blackouts.

Some traders looking to raise more collateral urgently tapped credit lines, while lenders sprang into action. One bank was able to extend credit facilities by $500 million and have them in place when the markets reopened, according to a person working there. Other lenders also took similar action, according to other people with knowledge of the situation. “Nobody wanted to trade a liquidity event, so they stepped up,” one banker said.

By the morning of Tuesday last week, Texas was plunged into an unprecedented energy crisis, with Ercot unable to restore most of the grid. As markets reopened, some traders liquidated their positions, unable to post the additional margin.

“If you want to play, you’ve got to pay,” said John Kilduff, trader and founding partner at Again Capital. “It’s a mechanism to wring out excessive speculation.”

For those still in the game, the wild ride continued. By Wednesday, spot prices had surged at Henry Hub in Louisiana, the delivery benchmark for Nymex futures, while rates at Oneok touched $1,250.

Working from home, Phillips and his co-workers at Uplift saw orders filled in the Western Rockies at prices as high as $350. “I thought maybe the highest we could get was $20 this week, to be honest,” he said.

... Some of Uplift’s clients were doing everything they could to keep the gas flowing at this point amid the frigid temperatures, using space blankets and portable heaters to stop pipes from freezing. “Some of our producer clients felt morally obligated that the gas was flowing,” Phillips said.

In Oklahoma, Chris Bird’s company Exponent Energy, was using similarly improvised measures, including a propane gas torch, to keep its gas wells from freezing. In just five days, Exponent’s wells in Osage County raked in about $3 million of revenue, compared with around $800,000 for the whole of last year.

As awareness grew of the sky-high cost of gas, outrage grew, even within the gas market. Some observers questioned why fuel was still flowing to liquefied natural gas export terminals when power was still down for millions of Texans.

“What is happening is a disgusting price-gouging that we have not seen since the California energy crisis,” said John Woods, an independent trader, referring to the spot prices. “Texas should ban the export of fuel.”

By late afternoon Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced during a televised address that he had stopped the shipment of gas from the state.

That created a fresh wave of panic in the market. Traders frantically sought clarification on how the order would be enforced. One trader on the West Coast who had been working around the clock lost $1 million within minutes, having earlier bought a gas swap priced at $20 -- essentially betting on continued supply constraints in Texas -- only to see the price fall to $12 immediately after news of Abbott’s order broke.

... While gas prices are almost back to where they started, the full repercussions of the wild ride will likely take a while to emerge. The hasty curbs on Texan exports may jeopardize the perception of how reliable U.S. LNG supplies could be in the future, said Katie Bays, managing director at FiscalNote Markets. Some financial losses in the U.S. market may only emerge toward the end of March, when billing comes due for February. Serious financial damage may end up raising the barriers for entry to the market, which in turn could reduce the amount of competition, said Kilduff at Again Capital.

“We’ll have to see what kind of defaults come to the surface,” he said. “That will dictate who can stay in.”

----------------------------------------------

... Hell; at $1,250 per mmBtu; strap one of these on Ol' Betsy and you got yourself a 'cash cow' ...


44
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: February 21, 2021, 01:13:43 PM »
^ It's a metaphor ...

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

45
The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: February 21, 2021, 03:00:09 AM »


... the Jawas took it; they thought it was discarded scrap. They have a couple of droids to trade, though ...

46
Consequences / Re: Places becoming less livable
« on: February 21, 2021, 12:09:45 AM »
Southern Cities Hit Hard by Storms Face New Crisis: No Water
https://phys.org/news/2021-02-southern-cities-hard-storms-crisis.html

Southern cities slammed by winter storms that left millions without power for days have traded one crisis for another: Busted water pipes ruptured by record-low temperatures created shortages of clean drinking water, shut down the Memphis airport on Friday and left hospitals struggling to maintain sanitary conditions.

In Texas, 7 million people—a quarter of the population of the nation's second-largest state—were under orders to boil tap water before drinking it because low water pressure could have allowed bacteria to seep into the system. A man died at an Abilene health care facility when a lack of water pressure made medical treatment impossible.

About 260,000 homes and businesses in the Tennessee county that includes Memphis were told to boil water because of water main ruptures and pumping station problems. Restaurants that can't do so or don't have bottled water were ordered to close. And water pressure problems prompted Memphis International Airport to cancel all incoming and outgoing Friday flights.

In Jackson, Mississippi, most of the city of about 161,000 had no running water. Crews pumped water to refill city tanks but faced a shortage of chemicals for treatment because icy roads made it difficult for distributors to deliver them, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.

He said the city's water mains are more than 100 years old and not built to handle the freezing weather that hit the city as multiple storms dumped record amounts of snow across the South.

... As of Friday afternoon, more than 1,300 Texas public water systems and 159 counties had reported weather-related operational disruptions affecting more than 14.9 million people, according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokeswoman Tiffany Young.

More than 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters) of water was being trucked Friday to the Texas capital. But Austin's water director, Greg Maszaros, implored residents to minimize the use of home faucets because "there's still a lot of unknowns as we pressurize the system."

In Dallas, David Lopez said the plumbing company he works for received more than 600 calls for service over the last week.

... St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis said it was forced to switch to bottled water and bagged ice for all consumption and that staff and patients were washing with hand sanitizer and no-rinse bathing wipes. All non-urgent surgeries were postponed.

Central Arkansas Water in the Little Rock area asked customers to conserve water to help protect its system as the ground began to warm and pipes thawed. The city of Hot Springs warned Thursday night that its water supply was "critically low" and also asked customers to conserve.

More than 192,000 Louisiana residents—some still struggling to recover from last August's Hurricane Laura—had no water service Friday, according to the state health department. Tens of thousands more remained under boil-water advisories

47
Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: February 20, 2021, 11:40:10 PM »
From No Power to Unaffordable Power: Texas Households Receive Electric Bills as High as $10,000 Due to Snowstorm
https://www.theroot.com/from-no-power-to-unaffordable-power-texas-households-r-1846316158/amp

As the Texas power grid collapsed under a historic winter storm, Jose Del Rio of Haltom City, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, saw the electricity bill on a vacant two-bedroom home he is trying to sell slowly creep up over the past two weeks. Typically, the bill is around $125 to $150 a month, he said. But his account has already been charged about $630 this month — and he still owes another $2,600.

... ”There is no one living in that house. All the lights are off. But I have the heat at 60°F because I don’t want the pipes to freeze.”

When he contacted Griddy, his electric company, they advised him to switch providers, Del Rio said.

Griddy’s prices are controlled by the market, and are therefore vulnerable to sudden swings in demand. With the extreme weather, energy usage has soared, pushing up wholesale power prices to more than $9,000 per megawatt hour — compared to the seasonal average of $50 per megawatt hour.

In the face of the soaring costs, Griddy has been directing consumers to consider temporarily switching electricity providers to save on their bills.

https://www.griddy.com/post/how-to-switch

... When your electric company tells you to switch but there has been a hold on switching for over  a week now. Using as little as possible 1300 sq ft house and this is my bill. . How is this fair. I only paid $1200 for the whole 2020 year 



https://mobile.twitter.com/katandtonyT/status/1362460057447849987

... According to The Hill, one Dallas resident told reporters that he usually pays around $660 in electric bills for his home, guest house and office, but he said his latest power bills exceeded $17,000 due to the storm. Another Dallas family said they saw the electric bill for their three-bedroom house reach close to $10,000 over the span of a few days.

https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/539693-texas-households-face-massive-electricity-bills-some-as-high-as-17k

It’s unclear if Texas laws that protect residents from utility companies that exploit natural disasters for profit extend to folks who are receiving these ridiculously high electric bills due to the recent storm.

------------------------------------------

https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/19/22291426/texas-blackouts-utility-bills-electricity-cost-energy-insecurity

The “heat or eat” dilemma was already a problem before the freeze arrived: 29 percent of residents surveyed by Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute (TEPRI) said they delayed or skipped spending on food in order to pay for energy bills.

Low-income households in Texas already spend about 10 percent of their incomes, on average, on energy, according to TEPRI. That’s compared to 2 percent for homes with higher incomes. Anything above 6 percent is already considered unaffordable, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

And this isn’t limited to Texas. Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 3 households in the US struggled to pay their energy bills, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

-----------------------------------------

... coulda bought a Tesla Powerwall for that ...

... Tesla lists the Powerwall at a cost of $7,000 alone, and puts supporting hardware costs at $1,000, bringing the price of just the Powerwall and its associated components to $8,000 before installation.  As a rough estimate, you can expect the Tesla Powerwall to cost between $9,600 and $15,600 for a full system installation (before incentives). That number includes the battery, an inverter, various other equipment costs, and estimated installation costs.

If you want to install the Powerwall as part of a solar-plus-storage system, battery costs are just one part of the equation. A 5 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system costs anywhere from $9,000 to $15,000 depending on where you live and the type of equipment you choose.

48
Consequences / Re: Pathogens and their impacts
« on: February 20, 2021, 06:31:20 PM »
Russia Reports First Cases of H5N8 Bird Flu in Humans
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-02-russia-case-h5n8-avian-flu.amp
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-20/russia-reports-first-cases-of-h5n8-bird-flu-in-humans-kldwj8sh

Russia said it found the world’s first cases of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza in humans though the virus isn’t yet spreading between people.

Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain have been reported in Russia, Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa in recent months but only in poultry. Other strains – H5N1, H7N9 and H9N2 – have been known to spread to humans.

While the highly contagious strain H5N8 is lethal for birds it has never before been reported to have spread to humans. People can get infected with avian and swine influenza viruses, such as bird flu subtypes A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) and swine flu subtypes such as A(H1N1).

H5N1 in people can cause severe disease and has a 60 percent mortality rate.

Authorities have sent information on the seven cases detected in workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia to the World Health Organization, Anna Popova, the country’s public-health chief, said in televised comments on Saturday.

"So far we can see that the novel agent of the A(H5N8) bird flu is capable of transmission from birds to humans - it crossed the interspecies barrier. Yet as of today, this version of a flu virus is not transmitted from human to human," she said “... But only time will tell how soon future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier,” she said. The discovery of this strain now “gives us all, the whole world, time to prepare for possible mutations and the possibility to react in a timely way and develop test systems and vaccines.”

... There have been 862 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with the H5N1 strain of avian flu including 455 deaths since 2003 in 17 countries, the WHO said in a Dec. 9 report. Six of 14 cases of H5N6 avian flu in humans reported since 2014 were fatal, the WHO said in a post dated Nov. 2016.

“Though human infections with A(H5) viruses are rare and generally occur in individuals exposed to sick or dead infected birds (or their environments), they can lead to severe illness or death in humans,” the WHO said on its website.

https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2021/2/20/russia-reports-first-case-of-human-infection-with-ah5n8-bird-flu

49
Consequences / Re: Weird Weather and anecdotal stories about climate change
« on: February 20, 2021, 06:16:16 PM »
More Than 14 Million Told to Boil Water After Power Failure
https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2021/02/20/biden-declares-major-disaster-in-texas-as-state-struggles-with-fallout-from-power-outages.html

... Millions of Texans have struggled with power outages and more than half the state is experiencing disrupted water service with boil-water notices in effect. More than 14 million people in Texas were told to boil their water as of Friday because parts of the state's water supply might be contaminated.

... Alison Silverstein, an independent energy consultant and former strategic advisor for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, projected that 20 million or more Texans could be forced to boil water.

... Texas refiners had paused roughly a fifth of the country's oil production during the outages and freezing temperatures.

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Frozen Fire Hydrants Hamper Firefighters
https://www.kens5.com/article/news/local/fire-crews-work-to-put-out-massive-apartment-fire-in-north-san-antonio/273-e1bd04c2-78c7-4897-821d-4ae0d5654a5b

Firefighters in San Antonio battled a massive blaze at an apartment complex without the help of hydrants Thursday night. Crews had to bring water to the scene, where fire hydrants were frozen shut.

CBS affiliate KENS-TV showed footage of a fire truck dumping water into a makeshift pool in a parking lot. A different truck would pump water from the pool into hoses.

"There's a hydrant right in front of the building, it's frozen stiff and none of the hydrants out here work, and they're all frozen," Bexar-Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jerry Bialick told WOAI-TV.

Bialick told the station firefighters would use thousands of gallons of water in a matter of minutes.

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Fire Breaks Out in Texas Hotel as Sprinkler System Fails Due to Frozen Pipes
https://abcnews.go.com/amp/US/fire-breaks-texas-hotel-sprinkler-systems-fail-due/story?id=76014008

A massive fire broke out in a hotel in Killeen, Texas, after the building's sprinkler systems failed to work due to frozen pipes.

On Friday night, the Killeen Fire Department arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Killeen to find "fire coming from the roof above the fourth floor of the four-story hotel," according to a statement from the fire department.

Seven agencies responded to the fire and were able to control it just after midnight.

"Firefighting efforts were hindered due to automatic sprinkler system being out of service because of frozen pipes," the fire department said.

The hotel was reportedly at full capacity at the time of the fire, and all 102 of its rooms were in use.

Earlier in the day, the City of Killeen tweeted that it was experiencing water conservation conditions like much of the state due to this week's storms. "We are in Stage 5 water conservation due to extremely limited water supply," the city tweeted.

50
The politics / Re: The Collapse Of America
« on: February 20, 2021, 05:19:08 PM »



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