Categories
Charity Environment Search Engines

Ecosia 🌍

What is Ecosia?

Simply put, Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees with its profits.

💻📱 👉 💷💲 👉 🌱🌳

Which Search Engine Does Ecosia Use?

Ecosia is an organisation and search engine in its own right, but its results are powered by Microsoft Bing. Bing itself is carbon neutral and the whole of Microsoft are looking to go green by committing to be carbon negative by 2030.

How Green is Ecosia?

Ecosia recognise the impact the internet has on the environment of our planet. Ecosia runs on renewable energy, meaning your searches aren’t negatively impacting the planet.

“If the internet were a country it would rank #3 in the world in terms of electricity consumption” – Ecosia, 2018

In fact, searching with Ecosia is actually positively impacting the planet, with each search removing CO2 from the atmosphere. How? Because they plant trees with their profits.

As mentioned above, Bing (which powers Ecosia) is carbon neutral, so searching using Ecosia is a win-win from the perspective of your carbon footprint 👣

How Does Ecosia Make Money?

Like Google, Ecosia don’t make money from search results, they make their revenue from the ads that sit alongside the results.

Every time you click on an advert on Ecosia, you contribute to their revenue, which ultimately leads to trees being planted somewhere around the world

Ecosia tree tracker

They have a helpful counter on their search results to show you how many trees you’ve personally contributed towards.

So far they have planted over 100 million trees worldwide, supporting projects in 15 countries.

Why am I Promoting Ecosia?

The reason I wrote this article is because I think Ecosia awesome. They’re an organisation trying really hard to do the right thing and they’re clearly having an impact.

Congrats Ecosia on your success and thank you for what you’re doing for the world 🙏🎉🎊

Ecosia.org 🌍 give it a go 😊

Categories
Media Science Series Technology

Part 2 The Responsible Innovation Circus Rolls into Town

A lighthearted view of Responsible Innovation

Alternative Teaching Methods for Responsible Innovation

There are many ways of presenting complex arguments about ethics, and some interesting examples of theatre in use. The embedded video above was made for the final closing conference of a European Union funded project ROSIE.

The video presents a light-hearted look at the problems faced when trying to introduce the RI concept to small businesses. It was made in character (following the tradition of action theatre in academic use as a teaching tool for ethics) and addresses the problem of the gap found between the language used in RI publications (of all sorts) and that used in the small business world.

It uses a circus metaphor to represent the balancing act prescribed through various EU and Standards documentation related to Responsible Innovation, using the balance metaphor for a high-wire walk and their prescribed goals and approaches as juggling balls.

In making this video I was very much influenced by a US based university professor who uses radio plays, theatre and art in his teaching that he produces himself.

Richard G Epstein

Richard G Epstein works in the Department of Computer Science, West Chester University of PA, where he teaches courses on computer science, software engineering and computer security and ethics.

His university home page provides access to some of his publications, and I would like to have a look at three of them. He produces teaching aids that are extremely entertaining and require no technical understanding.

Artistic Work

The Case Of The Killer Robot is a series of fake newspaper articles that report the story of an accident at work involving an industrial robot and its operator. The early articles are descriptions of the accident but as the work moves on it slides into legal and ethical territory. Who is actually guilty for the malfunctioning of the machine and who should be held legally responsible? One of the programmers is found to have misunderstood a piece of code scrawled on a post-it and his translation error is deemed to have caused the death, so he is charged with manslaughter.

The reporters visit the factory and interview fellow workers, producing articles within which they reveal problems within the organization and managerial team and slander the poor programmer’s personality, all in perfect local journalism hack style. They have expert interviews and uncover both design faults and personal differences between members of the development strategy team.

The issue of responsibility is really brought to the fore, although in a fictional setting the ethical dilemmas faced during the development and working practices involved are laid bare. It makes for a very entertaining and thought provoking read.

The Plays

The second work I recommend is one of the author’s plays entitled The Sunshine Borgs. The play is set in the near future and tells the story of a bitter ex-playwright who has lost his job and seen the demise of human participation in the arts caused by the development of computer programmes that write plays and music for human consumption.

The play investigates the threat that high power “intelligent” computing could pose to human creativity. Robots have taken over as actors, lovers, authors and just about everything else. Pain and suffering, poverty and crime have been all but eradicated but has humanity lost its passion? The play contains a twist that I won’t reveal and the writing style even manages to portray the effect that working in a computer environment can have on language use and thought processes.

The Author describes this work as a comedy but it is too close to the bone to make you really laugh. Questions such as the legal rights of robots and the possibility of charging a human with robot abuse are raised when the main character’s unwanted robot companion commits suicide as a result of the playwright trying to educate a soul into his hated but extremely useful houseguest.


Another of his plays entitled NanoBytes addresses the problem of nanotechnology, an interesting story of the head of a nanotechnologies company and a small mishap regarding molecular sized computers that can be injected into people in order to stop anti-social behaviour. A much shorter read but with some equally interesting twists and an insightful tongue in cheek description of American family and business life.

Categories
Science Technology

Working together against COVID-19

This post was prepared by Anna Pellizzone, a science writer and an independent researcher at the Bassetti Foundation.

Makers

As many of us face lockdown and restricted movement, it is certainly worth thinking about what we ourselves might be able to do from our homes to help in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. There are plenty of initiatives around that are pushing technology into new fields, with 3D printing certainly one of the most prominent technologies.

News of respirator valves produced using 3D printers has spread across the world. Thanks to the meeting of three minds, a journalist (Nunzia Vallini, Giornale di Brescia), a Maker from Milan (Massimo Temporelli, FabLab Milano) and an entrepreneur (Cristian Fracassi from Isinnova), pieces required for the machines used in the Intensive Care Department of Chiari Hospital (Italy) are being produced in the hospital itself.

The “3D Printing Unite for COVID-19” forum is another interesting collaboration. Through the forum, makers from across the world share ideas aimed at responding to the emergency. You can read more about the Chiari story there. This is an open-source initiative headquartered in Ireland which aims to resolve the problem of the shortage of  ventilators, learn more here in Forbes.

And there is plenty more. João Nascimento runs the OpenAir project, with the aim of finding new, fast, open-source and accessible ways to produce much-needed medical equipment. Lots of interesting stuff here too.

If you are the competitive type (and well set up), the UBORA project, has launched the UBORA design competition 2020, with the title “Open source medical technologies for integral management of COVID-19 pandemia and infectious disease outbreaks”.

Play Your Part

You too can play a role though without technical expertise and home technology by participating in Coronaselfcheck, a platform that works to map data on the spread of COVID-19 through a personal self-check. Check out the privacy and descriptions of aims before you make a decision, but everything is anonymous and helps through mapping contagion.

And of course fold.it, a platform many of you will know, where users who play have been able to help researchers to discover new antiviral drugs that might be able to stop the coronavirus. The most promising solutions will be tested at the Institute for Protein Design of the University of Washington. We are all citizen scientists at heart.

Remaining in the area of protein folding, another contribution that we can all make is to offer our own PC’s computational capacity by downloading and running folding@home – similar to BOINC projects.

There is also a lot of open-source software available that allows the sharing of useful research data. Nextstrain is an open-source application that works to track the evolution of viruses and bacteria, while GISAID is a free open-access platform that promotes the sharing of the genetic sequences of virus genomes such as influenza, bird flu and COVID-19.

And finally check out this article from Wired and you will be in self-isolation heaven.

Keep us informed if you find any others please: anticovid19(at)fondazionebassetti.org
Replace the (at) with an @

Let’s all push and show them what we can do if we all work together.

Categories
Festive Fun Science Technology

Some bold predictions for 2030

Hello all!

I’m back!

Just in time to see the year (and decade) out! 😊

I’ve been working on a series on electric vehicles, which I’ll start to publish in the new year. Today though, I’m going to look into the future and make some predictions on what the world will look like 10 years from now.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten” ― Bill Gates

In 2019, 2030 may seem really far away, but today, we’re closer to 2030 than we are to 2009.

Here are three bold predictions I believe stand a very real chance of coming true over the next decade.

95% of Global New Car Sales Will Be Electric

A decade ago, there weren’t any serious electric cars available on the market. If you played golf or delivered milk, you might use a short-range electric vehicle, but if you wanted to drive 400 miles at 70mph, it just wasn’t possible.

In 2012 the Tesla Model S arrived, as did the Supercharger network, which meant you could drive for 250 miles, stop for forty-five minutes on a 72kW charger and then drive another 150 miles, powered 100% by electricity!

This seemed like a breakthrough at the time, although today cars are available with almost 400 miles of range, and charging takes a fraction of the time, with some networks offering speeds of 350kW – juicing up at well over a thousand miles per hour!

Range has been creeping up, charging speeds rapidly improving and prices have dropped significantly. It’s now possible to pick up a second-hand 100-mile range Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf for less than £7,000! Alternatively, the 2020 Renault Zoe will have a 200-mile range and cost around £25,000.

EVs require less maintenance than petrol and diesel-powered cars, and are significantly more efficient and cheaper to run – reducing the total-cost-of-ownership. It’s this, coupled with the push for cleaner air and global climate concerns that lead me to believe that the tipping point for electric cars is coming very soon. By 2025 I believe more than 50% of new car sold in Europe, North America and China will be powered solely by electricity. 🔋⚡🔌🚗

Humans Will Set Foot On Mars

In the 1960s there was a great race for space – with Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon in 1969. Since then, the dash for extraterrestrial exploration has slowed somewhat, which fewer advances and less drive from governments to get into space.

A notable exception is the ISS, which is celebrating 20 years in orbit – having been permanently manned since November 2000.

NASA has plans for a sustained lunar presence from 2028, something that’ll be much easier thanks to booming interest from the private sector. Rocket Lab, SpaceX and Blue Origin all have ambitious space plans, and a proven track-record of success.

Arguably the most iconic moment of the decade for space travel came as private enterprise SpaceX launched of its Falcon Heavy, simultaneously landing two Falcon 9 boosters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0-pfzKbh2k

Mars and Earth are close (in space terms!) every 26 months, meaning roughly every two years, there is an optimal launch window open for a trip to the red planet. The 13th of October 2020 is when the two planets will next be closest, although it’s highly unlikely a manned mission will be launched by then.

The last window of the next decade will the March 2029, which is when I’m guessing the first human will set foot on the red planet – 60 years after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

While the first human to set foot on Mars will probably go straight from Earth, I believe a permanent lunar base will mean that most missions to Mars post-2040 will launch from the Moon, not Earth. This is because it’s likely to be far cheaper to conduct smaller launches from Earth and bigger ones from the Moon – due to the lower gravity.

If the moon has the resources needed for rocket fuel (ice at the poles which can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen) and to make materials – via 3D printing – in future it could become the springboard to space! 🚀

10 Countries Will Be Cashless

More and more transactions are moving online. When you check-out your virtual basket of goods on the internet, you don’t have the option to pay with cash – one example of how notes and coins are less useful than they once were.

Sweden is expected to go cashless in 2023 and in many developed nations, the use of cash as a means of paying for things is dropping. In the UK, cash was king, accounting for 60% of all payments in 2008 and remaining the single most popular way to pay until 2017 – since then debit cards have been the most popular way to pay.

By 2028, UK Finance believes debit cards, direct debits and credit cards will all be more common ways to pay than cash, with cash accounting for only 9% of payments. The drop from 60% to 9% in two decades shows the scale of the decline.

Singapore bus with a contactless payment reader

On a recent visit to Singapore, it struck me just how far ahead it is in terms of payment methods. Everywhere I visited supported some form of virtual payments; from contactless on the MRT and in-app payments for taxis, to online payments for the hotel and card payments at a 7 Eleven.

Mobile banking, cryptocurrencies, online shopping and contactless technology all offer convenience and are alternatives to support a cashless future.

Naturally, in many parts of the world, lack of development and technological literacy, as well as nostalgia, habits and cultural preferences, mean cash will remain on the global stage for a while yet.

I do think around 5% of the world (10 countries) will become cashless in the next decade though – with Singapore and Sweden both likely candidates. 💷💳

Happy New Year! 🎆🎇✨🎉🎊

Thanks for reading and taking an interest in Technology Bloggers, we really do appreciate it 😊

Let me know your thoughts on my predictions and if you’ve got any of your own!

Happy New Year! 😄

Categories
Science Technology

Responsible Innovation in Technology

I would like to open this new season of posts with a series on recent developments in technology development from the perspective of responsible innovation. The idea of responsible innovation (RI) has been around for about 20 years and is easy to understand: Innovation processes can be steered towards certain goals, and the technological products that come to market also.

A Bosch employee controls a deep field robot called “BoniRob” at a field in Renningen near Stuttgart, Germany July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle – RTSL1NO

Examples are easy to find in our everyday lives. We all have a computer that we cannot upgrade because we can’t get into it. Talk of built in life spans, telephones without changeable batteries, systems that are no longer upgraded leading us to have to spend money and dispose of working machines that are full of hazardous materials.

On the other hand the development of open source software and large scale collaboration by experts in related fields seems to demonstrate a different approach. Sharing of data has helped in developing treatment for Eboli, human genome sequencing and across a host of other fields.

If we take a look at these examples it seems that their development processes were slightly different to those we are used to, and this is where the central idea of responsible innovation comes in. The aim was to arrive at a product or conclusion that would help to resolve a pressing problem, and not only to make a profit.

So the underlying idea is that innovation processes should work towards solving what the European Union call the Grand Societal Challenges. There are many of these, but looking after an ageing population, food security, climate action and smart transport technologies are just a few.

In order to promote this approach the European Union have placed the concept within all of their calls for funding until 2021. This means that anyone applying for funds to conduct research has to address the issue and to run their project within these aims. To give you an idea the last 7 years funding budget was of 80 billion Euros, so there is the possibility of pushing real change via this approach.

Part of the idea involves the open publication of data, and any project that is funded receives money to pay for articles to be placed in paid publications on open access or to be freely distributed. Information is power after all, the power to make a profit, with technology companies across the world fighting to be the first to announce their new developments and carefully safeguarding their data and processes. And this is one of the great sticking points, because this approach is inefficient both in terms of development and positive return for society.

Technology develops faster if everyone working in a particular field shares their data. But in a world based on profit how can this sharing come about without leading to loss of possible profit? There are plenty of examples here too though, ASUS collaborate with gaming company Tencent in order to produce a telephone designed with particular specification that will enable its user to make the most of their games.

So why not in other important fields? Data sharing seems to present a wealth of opportunities and advantages.

Next week I will offer an overview of some of the recent publications within this field.

Categories
Environment News Science Technology

The Future of Solar Energy

Sol-Term

Travelling Through Morocco

20 years ago my father retired from work, and to celebrate he gave me and my brothers £1000 each. I went to university and sat next to my buddy Sam, and asked her if she fancied going to spend the money on a holiday. I skateboarded to my favourite travel agents and booked flights to Morocco.

6 weeks, a long road trip. We divided the remaining money into daily allowance, $20 US per day. Not really enough. Well enough to eat, or travel, but not eat and travel. So on days that we travelled we only ate once, and on other days we ate twice. Not a lot though.

Anyway we wanted to go and see the sahara. We went from Casablanca via Radat and Meknes, down through Azru and all the way to Merzuga. It’s quite a thing to see. Then to Ouarzazate.

Now the Marocco of 20 years ago is not the country of today. And we were poor. We did not have enough money to take the national bus lines, we took the local buses, no windows, animals on the roof tied into canvas bags, goats inside. Today Ouarzazate is a world leader in solar energy.

Desert Solar Energy

Morocco wants to become a world leader in solar energy production. The development that is underway and newly online will eventually provide 20% of the country’s energy needs. It will be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world. The mirror technology it uses is different from the photovoltaic panels that we see on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down.

The system uses mirrors to heat an oil, known as heat transfer solution (HTF). Each parabolic mirror is 12 metres high and focussed on a steel pipeline carrying HTF that is warmed to 393C. It then goes into a heat transfer plant, is mixed with water that turns into steam and drives turbines.

In order to operate after dark excess heat is used to turn sand molten, the heat being released overnight allowing the plant to function for a few hours longer, and the plan is that in a couple of years time it will be able to operate 24 hours a day.

Distribution

If Morocco becomes self sufficient through solar wind and hydro, they will look towards exporting. There have been several projects involving laying power lines from North Africa into europe (Libia to italy comes to mind) but as far as I know nothing is currently operational.

For more details check out this article in the Guardian.

Categories
News Science Technology

GM Salmon

salmon

Food Revolution?

The news is out, the revolution has begun. The US Food and drug Administration has passed the first ever GM animal for food consumption, and it is a fish.

This week a company gained a license to sell their new breed of GM salmon. It is modified, although it has genes from a different type of salmon, so not as Frankenstein as some other combinations, but that of course does not mean that this will always be the case. But I don’t want to be a scaremonger, they say it is safe (although that is of course based upon the company’s evidence), and so the choice is yours.

The new food is merely a type of Atlantic salmon injected with a gene from Pacific Chinook salmon to make it grow faster, but critics raise questions about safety, possible cross breeding and whether the general public even wants to eat GM fish. Without being too corny though it does raise questions of floodgates. First a cross salmon, then what comes next?

Oh but we can choose of course whether we want to eat it or not. But that requires information. Will it be labelled as a GM food? Well it won’t in the USA. That is because GM produce is viewed by the administration as being nutritionally equal to non GM, and so does not require labelling. Well to be exact it is voluntary. So if you want to sell it as science, advancement in nutrition, the way forward and futurism, you can label it, but if you want to slide it in unnoticed, then Bob’s the word.

Growth

It is about making it quicker and cheaper. A fish that will grow all year round gets bigger in half the time, so you can eat it earlier. You can farm it in tanks near the city, so it cuts down on various environmental pollutants and practices, but of course creates others.

And where to next? Surely in a few years there will be giant cows that grow to adulthood at twice the speed, and maybe sheep with dreadlocks?

Animal farming for foodstuffs is grizzly enough at is is (was), but now maybe we open another chapter.

I don’t want to put any links in this post, a quick search will find what you need. This is merely a personal opinion post, and I would like to hear others. The photo above is quite telling though, they are supposedly salmon of the same age, but one has been modified. Can you guess which one?

Categories
Environment Internet News Science

World Wide Views on Climate and Energy

world wide views

Public Participation

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I found myself in Brussels in a beautiful Palace. I was at a conference about public participation, and went to a presentation of a very interesting project called World Wide Views on Climate Change and Energy.

The project as the name suggests involved a kind of world wide survey, involving 10 000 people and covering a large portion of the globe. It involved 97 day long debates spread over 76 countries, just to give you an idea, and the incredible thing is that they all happened on the same day. Not only that, but the results were uploaded live, and so could all be seen as they happened, a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest but without Terry Wogan.

The conference was not really about the results of the project, but the methodology and how it was actually conducted. The system has been used twice before, and was designed by the Danish Board of Technology and a host of other National and International organizations. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change were one of the initiators, so as you can see it was a large project.

The Results

The results are aimed at providing policy-makers with world views. The participants were selected in order to represent the make up of each individual country and gathered for a day long experience. They were all shown the same videos, presented with the same written materials and asked the same questions.

Democratic debate and deliberation are central to the project, and it looks like an interesting use of the web to me. Obviously you can pick holes in the methodology if you wish, how representative can 10 000 people be? But I don’t think that was the point of the exercise. It is a large scale global survey of how people feel about climate change and energy transition, and the fact that countries and areas can be compared, as well as other groups taken across the globe, is a really interesting development.

The results are all posted on the website, find them here, there are also user friendly analysis tools for anyone to use.

In the report however an analysis has been done of some of the findings. As a brief outline, we can say that citizens want their governments to act, that action should be on the basis of the individual county’s emissions and wealth, and the private sector should participate.

Citizens are also expected to take part in decision-making and to participate in the process of lowering emissions.

This is an interesting project, and if you have time I highly recommend a look at the website and a play with the figures.

Categories
Environment News Science Technology

Continuity in Renewable Energy

air

Renewable Energy

Here at Technology Bloggers we are all great fans of renewable energy developments, so I was extremely interested in a project that has just received funding on the Northern Irish coast.

As we all know there are problems with wind and tidal electricity generation, not least due to the weather, lack of wind, sun and sea swell being the obvious thoughts. But developers have an interesting proposal that may work towards alleviating some of these problems.

The idea is to use excess power to compress air and store it in huge caverns underground, to then use it to drive turbines when the wind drops. Sounds like a great idea, but of course there are always pros and contras for these things.

The caverns have to be mined, about 1.5 km below ground, and this will be done using a salt water erosion process. Simply put, a bore is drilled down, water pumped in that will circulate as if in a bottle, erode the surrounding rock salt and be washed out of a drain hole into the sea. The salt solution that comes out with then disperse into the wider sea.

When the cavern is ready, wind turbines will be used to force air into them, which can then be released in a controlled manner to turn turbines on days when you couldn’t dry a handkerchief in the back garden.

Environmental Concerns

So it sounds great, but there are of course those who argue that it is not a good idea. What will the impact be of pumping all of this salt solution into the sea? I think everyone concerned realizes that it will kill wildlife over an area, but how big that area might be, how long it will take to recover and how much damage it will do seems to be under debate.

Some locals suggest that it might lead to an industrial wasteland.

More is explained on this BBC report. Once again a new and possibly extremely positive power development brings the many complexities surrounding renewable energy sources. Issues of responsibility loom large, as do issues of public engagement and risk.

One to follow.

Categories
News Science Technology

3D Printing Developments

agridust-material-for-3D-printing

3D Printing

3D printing is great, but it does have its downsides. Take a look at this article for example, it gives some idea of possible applications and uses for the technology.My colleague Christopher wrote that one, and it is a joy to see some young and optimistic blood writing about technology. As an old pessimistic dog however, I cannot overcome my cynical streak. Check out this article that I wrote about possible negative effects upon health related to 3D printing.

Anyway, on a blog with the grandeur of this one there is room for everything, and today I am going to dive into the abyss of optimism!

Now when we think of 3D printing we often think of small plastic models, and we all know that plastic is a problem for the world. It is cheap, does not degrade, you cannot get rid of it, it washes into plastic floating islands and it’s made from oil. But 3D printing offers much more than plastic models today.

Alternative Materials

A Dutch design company plans to use special robots to 3D-print a steel bridge across the Amsterdam Canal. A company called MX3D, which specializes in using robotics to 3D print, and Dutch designer Joris Laaram are behind the project. You see these kids can print with metal, as can the people who supply parts for Boeing, and use is far more common that we might imagine.

But MX3D go one better. They can print metals in position, so not in a lab or workshop but wherever they want, outside, in the open air, or over a canal. So they have robots that can build a bridge on site using 3D printing technology, as they sit on the half constructed bridge.

But that is not the end of it, of course. Printers can also use recycled products to produce artifacts. Plastic is a simple idea, but what about other materials? What about food waste? Well obviously you can.

Food Waste

Italy-based designer Marina Ceccolini is doing some experimenting in the field. Inspired by the rigidness of a dehydrated tangerine peel, the designer began creating her own potential 3D printing material called AgriDust. Ceccolini’s AgriDust is made from foods found in her local landfill: everything from coffee grounds to peanut shells, orange and lemon peels, tomato skins, and bean pods. Held together with potato starch Ceccolini believes that using a paste extruder, the material could be 3D printed into new objects. The 64.5% waste/35.5% binder composition could, the designer proposes, limit the plastic waste generated by 3D printers.

Now Check out this article, it describes everything and includes an interview with the designer.

One thing that comes to mind however is the problem of allergies. Can you make something that contains nuts? I doubt it. But the idea sounds really promising to me. And I certainly look forward to watching the bridge go up, it’s just down the road (or canal) from here.