Our modern society here on Earth depends heavily on just a handful of resources. These resources include fossil fuels like oil and coal, as well as raw minerals like copper, lead and zinc. With the rapid advancement of technology and industry worldwide in the last half century or so, our demand for these raw goods has skyrocketed.
This cool infographic lists some of our most widely-used resources, showing how much of each was left in 2010 and where the remaining resources are located.
For the top graph, the longer portion in the middle of each bar predicts the number of years until the resource runs out if it keeps being used at current rates.
However, most resources are being used more each year than the year before, so the shorter outer portion of each bar predicts the number of years left if our demand and production continues to increase. Click the image to see the full size version.
Supergiants are massive stars with huge amounts of energy, which causes them to expand rapidly. However, all stars eventually reach a limit, after which the gravity of the core is no longer able to hold the star together.
The explosion that follows is known as a supernova (or sometimes a hypernova, if it’s big enough). As the outer portions of the star explode off, the core collapses upon itself.
If a star is large enough, the extreme amount of energy produced by this inward collapse forces the star’s core to release high-energy gamma particles. These gamma bursts are the most powerful event so far discovered in the universe. But just how powerful is that?
Well, in just 10 seconds, these gamma ray bursts release more energy than our Earth’s sun will during the entire 10 billion years of its expected lifespan.
On April 19th, in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, the ROTSE-IIIb telescope (owned by Southern Methodist University in Dallas) detected the rare phenomenon in a corner of the sky.
The gamma ray burst, classified as GRB 140419A by NASA’s Gamma-ray Coordinates Network, came from a supernova that happened 12.1 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang (estimated to have occurred 13.8 billion years ago).
Gamma ray burst have only recently been observed. Not only are they at extremely high frequencies, but they also have the shortest wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum, making them more difficult to detect. It wasn’t until the 90s that we created a telescope with the technology to detect gamma radiation.
The discovery was published in Science Daily earlier this month. You can read the full story here.
NOTE: The feature image is an artist rendering of a gamma burst. It is, however, based on detailed scientific study of the event.
Sam Shames is an MIT student who had spent a lot of time dealing with a fairly common problem: he tends to run hot while his mom tends to run cold. Sam realized that there had to be a better way to accommodate them both.
He set about doing research on how our bodies regulate temperature. In one particular paper, he found some key information: the study talked about how locally heating or cooling small areas on our body can have major effects on how cold or hot we feel overall.
The research suggested that any change in temperature faster than 0.1º Celsius per second would produce the perceptual sensation of feeling cooler or warmer. Using this information, Sam and a team of fellow MIT students designed Wristify.
The key is keeping the wearer from getting acclimated to the colder or warmer temperature. Here’s Sam discussing this concept:
“The human body and human skin is not like a thermometer. If I put something cold directly on your body at a constant temperature, the body acclimates and no longer perceives it as cold.”
To avoid this problem, Wristify has a 15 second cycle: 5 seconds on, then 10 seconds off.
By sending these regular shocks of cold or hot temperature into the wrist (they are able to change the temperature by up to 0.4º C per second), the device tricks our mind into thinking we are either cooler or warmer than we actually are.
The device is still very much a prototype, made of $50 worth of various electronics and wires strapped to an old fake Rolex band. The team is extremely excited to take the next step of development, making the device more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.
They are also confident that their idea has the potential to revolutionize how we heat and cool ourselves. As Sam puts it,
“Why heat or cool a building when you could heat or cool a person?”
87% of Americans used air conditioning in 2007. While developing countries like Brazil (11%) and India (2%) used significantly less air conditioning than the U.S. in 2007, it is predicted that by 2025, large emerging countries like these will account for more than a billion new consumers.
Eric Jacqmain is just a creative guy who wanted a death ray. So, he decided to cover a satellite dish with 5,800 tiny mirrors. This is from his video description:
“When properly aligned, it can generate a spot the size of a dime with an intensity of 5000 times normal daylight. This intensity of light is more than enough to melt steel, vaporize aluminum, boil concrete, turn dirt into lava, and obliterate any organic material in an instant.”
The end of the description is both ironically hilarious and moderately worrying at the same time:
“Unfortunately, the R5800 was completely destroyed in a storage shed fire on December 14, 2010, about 8 months after filming this video. It has been replaced by the R23k, which has 23,000 mirrors and a concentration power of 10,000 times daylight.”
Hey, if death rays keep him interested in science then I’m all for it.
It took 1.3 miles of drilling down into the earth for a team from Iceland’s National Energy Authority to hit a renewable energy gold mine: magma.
This is only the second time ever that anyone has drilled down deep enough to hit magma. It will be the first time that this magma is used to generate energy through an enhanced geothermal system (EGS).
The team from the Iceland Deep Drilling Project, as its known, pumped cold water deep into the earth’s rocky crust to break into the magma reservoir, then lined the bottom of the hole with steel, creating an extremely hot, highly pressurized shaft of steam.
At over 840° F, it broke the world record for geothermal heat and power. According to a report from the Energy Authority, the steam could generate up to 36 megawatts/hour.
The average American household uses between 1 and 1.5 kW of electricity, so 36 MW is enough to power anywhere from 27,000 to 36,000 homes.
Tokyo-based company Shimizu intends to do just that.
Japan, with its limited space and extremely dense population, is always trying to figure out new ways to keep up with its ever-growing energy demands. To solve this problem (and potentially energy problems worldwide), Shimizu Corp. wants to lay a 250-mile wide strip of solar panels around the equator of the moon (so that solar energy is being collected no matter where the moon is in its orbital cycle).
According to Shimizu, the proposed “Luna Ring”, as it’s being called, would be able to generate 13,000 terawatts of power to Earth per year, using either lasers or microwave radiation to send the energy to “receiving stations” back on Earth. For perspective, the US generated just 4,100 terawatts of power in 2011.
Shimizu is aiming to start construction in 2035. No word on the budget yet. Here’s a video about the planned project.