November 3, 2022

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Posted by orrinj at 9:18 PM


How a sand battery could transform clean energy ( Erika Benke,  3rd November 2022, BBC)

At the end of a winding, tree-lined country road in western Finland, four young engineers believe they have a possible answer to one of green energy's biggest challenges.

The challenge is how to provide a year-round, steady power supply from renewable energy during changing seasons and variable weather conditions. The answer nestling in Vatajankoski power plant, 270 km (168 miles) north-west of Finland's capital, Helsinki, is remarkably simple, abundant and cheap: sand.

The Vatajankoski power plant is home to the world's first commercial-scale sand battery. Fully enclosed in a 7m (23ft)-high steel container, the battery consists of 100 tonnes of low-grade builders' sand, two district heating pipes and a fan. The sand becomes a battery after it is heated up to 600C using electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels in Finland, brought by Vatajankoski, the owners of the power plant.

The renewable energy powers a resistance heater which heats up the air inside the sand. Inside the battery, this hot air is circulated by a fan around the sand through heat exchange pipes.

Hating Progressives doesn't actually stop progress.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Trump's Company Is Now Under Court Supervision (Greg Walters, November 3, 2022, Vice News)

Former President Donald Trump can no longer run his business empire as he pleases without informing New York authorities of his plans, a New York judge ruled on Thursday.

The decision means Trump must notify the judge and New York Attorney General Letitia James before selling or transferring assets, following a warning from James' office that Trump's company appeared to be gearing up to transfer parts of his business empire outside the reach of her $250 million civil lawsuit. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


Virginia's governor set up a tip line to crack down on CRT. Parents used it for other reasons (Alia Wong, Nirvi Shah, Nick Penzenstadler, 11/03/22, USA TODAY)

Complaints about special education violations. Praise for teachers. Concerns about academic rigor and options. 

These are some of the main themes in a sampling of the emails sent to a so-called tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year for parents to report, as he put it, "any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated" and schools are engaging in "inherently divisive practices." The email tip line was part of a larger campaign by the governor to root out the teaching of critical race theory. But few of the tips flag the types of practices Youngkin was describing.

All comedy is conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


Capitol Police cameras caught break-in at Pelosi home, but no one was watching (Aaron C. Davis, Carol D. Leonnig, Marianna Sotomayor and Paul Kane, 11/03/22,  Washington Post)

Inside the command center for the US Capitol Police, a handful of officers were going through their routines early Friday morning, cycling through live feeds from the department's 1,800 cameras used to monitor the nearby Capitol complex as well as some points beyond, when an officer stopped. On a screen showing a darkened street nearly 3,000 miles away, police lights were flashing outside the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, officials say.

The officer in D.C. quickly pulled up additional camera angles from around Pelosi's home and began to backtrack, watching recordings from the minutes before San Francisco police arrived. There, on camera, was a man with a hammer, breaking a glass panel and entering the speaker's home, according to three people familiar with how Capitol Police learned of the break-in and who have been briefed on or viewed the video themselves.

Fear of the panopticon is one of the silliest paranoias--and that's a pretty fierce competition...

Posted by orrinj at 2:47 PM


No lithium? No problem, says Woburn battery startup (Hiawatha Bray, 11/03/22, Boston  Globe)

A small startup in Woburn called Alsym Energy is working on one of the world's biggest problems -- the need for better, cheaper batteries for cars, electric utilities, and even seagoing ships.

Alsym's founders, veteran entrepreneur Mukesh Chatter and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Kripa Varanasi, say they've built a new kind of rechargeable battery that delivers the performance of lithium ion cells at half the cost.

That's largely because the batteries don't contain lithium or cobalt -- scarce and expensive metals mostly controlled by China. And Alsym says they will never burst into flame like lithium batteries, because none of the ingredients are flammable.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Russia will rejoin UN grain corridor (Peter Beaumont, 11/03/22, The Guardian)

The Kremlin has said it will rejoin the UN-administered grain export corridor from Ukraine, after pulling out over the weekend following a drone attack on Russian warships in the port of Sevastopol.

Moscow's humiliating climbdown came two days after a large convoy of ships moved a record amount of grain in defiance of Russia's warnings that it would be unsafe without its participation, and after high-level diplomatic contacts between Turkey - one of the guarantors of the scheme with the UN - and Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Psychedelics show promise in treating depression: study (AFP, November 3, 2022)

For years, scientists have been looking ever more seriously at the therapeutic effect of psychedelics, which are not legal under US federal law. However, despite this renewed interest, large-scale studies are still lacking.

On Wednesday, researchers took an important step to fill this gap.

Their work, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the largest clinical trial ever conducted to evaluate the effect of psilocybin, a psychoactive substance found naturally in  "magic" mushrooms.

A single dose of 25 milligrams reduced symptoms of depression in people for whom several conventional treatments had failed, they showed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


A submerged buoy-like device is harnessing the sea's 'epic amounts of energy in Scottish trial (Anmar Frangoul, 11/03/22, CNBC)

Sea-based trials of a wave energy converter weighing 50 metric tons have produced "highly encouraging results," according to the company behind its development.

On Tuesday, Scotland-based AWS Ocean Energy said the average amount of power its device was able to capture "during a period of moderate wave conditions" came to more than 10 kilowatts, while it also recorded peaks of 80 kW.

In addition, AWS said its Waveswing was able to operate in more challenging conditions, including Force 10 gales.

The piece of kit -- which has been described as a "submerged wave power buoy" -- has a diameter of 4 meters and stands 7 meters tall.

The Waveswing, AWS Ocean Energy says, "reacts to changes in sub-sea water pressure caused by passing waves and converts the resulting motion to electricity via a direct-drive generator." [...]

Neil Kermode, who is EMEC's managing director, said it had been "great to see the Waveswing deploy, survive and operate at our test site this year."

"We know there are epic amounts of energy in the seas around the UK and indeed the world," Kermode went on to add. "It is really rewarding to see a Scottish company make such progress in harvesting this truly sustainable energy."

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


EXCERPT: How Much Control Do Humans Have Over Their Lives, Really?: Kennon M. Sheldon on Free Choice and Intrinsic Motivation (Kennon M. Sheldon, November 3, 2022, LitHub)

Deci had some doubts about this idea. What if he could instead show that people were less motivated the more money they received as a reward? What if money, in some circumstances, actually functioned like a punishment instead of like a reward? By definition, a punishment is any stimulus that reduces the likelihood that the preceding behavior will be repeated. Suppose you smile at someone, and that person frowns back. If you don't smile at that individual anymore, then the frown (the stimulus) is said to have punished your smiling behavior, reducing its likelihood of recurring. Usually, a punishment (like the frown) feels unpleasant, which is why people try to avoid repeating behaviors that brought punishment. Wouldn't it be ironic if money functioned as a punishment for some kinds of behavior?

Deci decided to put his hypothesis to the test and devised an ingenious and subversive set of experiments. He chose to use a type of puzzle that was all the rage at that time, the Soma puzzle. The Soma puzzle consists of seven colorful and irregularly shaped pieces that can fit together to form a cube. Mathematically, it's a simpler version of the Rubik's cube, which came later.

The Rubik's cube, however, twists and turns, and the challenge has to do with arranging the colors, whereas the Soma cube's seven pieces come apart entirely, and the challenge is to put them back together--and not always into a cube. Particular Soma puzzles involve trying to assemble the seven unique pieces into various larger shapes after seeing pictures of those shapes. People naturally enjoyed playing with Soma cubes; it enjoyed great popularity at the time. Deci wondered if he could kill that enjoyment.

Deci randomly assigned each of his study participants to one of two conditions. In the first (neutral control) condition, participants were simply asked to spend a few minutes "trying out some of the puzzles, to see if you like them." After five minutes the experimenter excused himself, supposedly to make copies of a final survey, telling individual participants that while they waited, they could either do some more Soma puzzles or look at some magazines (today, participants would just take out their cellphones!). Many of these participants kept playing with the puzzles during this "free-choice" period. Deci timed them, unbeknownst to them, through a one-way window. And why shouldn't they want to keep going, rather than read a boring magazine? Deci chose the game because of its addictive properties.

In the second experimental condition, participants were instead told at the beginning that they would receive one dollar for each Soma puzzle they correctly solved, for up to five puzzles. This was the only difference between the two conditions: the second group of participants knew they could earn money by solving the puzzles.

And during the free-choice period in this second condition, what happened was exactly what Deci had predicted: participants who knew they could earn money by doing the puzzles spent less time, on average, doing additional puzzles than the participants who had not been told they could earn money, and more time thumbing through magazines. They had been "punished by rewards," as the writer Alfie Kohn later put it. When the time came for them to exercise free choice, they chose not to play anymore.

In interpreting his findings, Deci embraced a radical new idea that was emerging in the 1960s: that behavior can be intrinsically motivated. This means that doing a behavior can be its own reward--it is fun and interesting, and people don't have to be reinforced by external rewards and tokens to do it. Intrinsically motivated behaviors are the things that we choose to do when we get to do what we want: relaxing on the weekend, going on vacation, celebrating Mardi Gras. Today, the concept of intrinsic motivation is almost universally accepted, and it is easily seen even in nonhuman animals (just search for "curious cats" on YouTube). The bigger the brain, the more intrinsic motivation it has--the more it "plays."

No one will miss jobs.