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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! 😄

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News Technology

Drone Wars

Drones

Mauricio loves remote control aircraft. When I bought a model plane for my son he was the first round to see it, he told me how to strengthen the wings, and recounted tales of daredevil antics and crashes in the heart of South America.

Now he wants to get a license to pilot a drone, because now in Italy where he lives you need a license, which is not the case in the USA.

Drone Use and the Law

Drone use is becoming ever more common, but there have been a few pieces in the press about people getting into trouble for drone use.

In October, a European football qualification match was abandoned after a drone carrying inflammatory language on a large tail was flown over the pitch. It’s appearance caused a scuffle between players that got so out of hand that the referee had to lead the players off and later abandon proceedings.

In what I might see as a copycat incident a week later, a man was arrested after a drone was seen flying over Manchester City’s stadium during a game. Read more about these events on the BBC.

This week reports abound of a near miss at Heathrow airport in London involving an unidentified drone. An Airbus carrying 180 people almost collided with the drone that is too small to appear on radar. Police are searching for the pilot. This article describes the event and goes on to explain flying rules in the UK for such machines. The owner of the drone will be in serious trouble when the police catch him, and could face fines of up to half a million pounds.

In a related incident police are investigating reports of drone flights over a nuclear power station. Once again in October but this time in France, police received reports of a series of drone flights over nuclear power stations. The flights were at night, and seem to have been coordinated, and this fact has set a few alarm bells ringing with the French authorities. Were they spies, terrorists, anti nuclear campaigners or just people having a laugh? Who knows? Read more here.

Drone use is becoming ever more common and the trend is bound to increase, but given the problems above this growth is certainly not unproblematic. In a previous post I wrote about privacy implications, and earlier this year Christopher wrote about Amazon’s possible drone delivery service. Find the links here.

On a scientific note NASA are developing a biodegradable drone. It is made from mushroom and cloned paper wasp spit, and the materials used are hailed as possibly offering a new substitute for plastic. If the machine crashes it simply biodegrades leaving no trace, so could be used in sensitive areas without fear of contamination.

Certainly one to look out for.

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News Science Series Space Technology

Sending People and Animals into Space

laika

I watched NASA TV all afternoon today. I wanted to see the launch of the new US Space Agency flagship Orion, but unfortunately technical issues led to it being postponed. They will (and I will) try again tomorrow.

Space Difficulties

This is an interesting launch for one major reason, it is the first test flight of a capsule that will carry people, possibly to Mars, but certainly into outer space. The test is going to send it way out beyond the orbiting space station (3600 miles), into an area that is much more inhospitable.

One issue that is different at that kind of distance is radiation. The radiation level is high, high enough to effect machines let alone humans, and so the test will measure how much the engineers have managed to insulate the capsule from this problem. Incidentally this problem is often cited as evidence that the US moon landings were faked, with critics saying that the astronauts would not have survived the radiation levels if they had actually gone there. But that is another post!

Another thing to be tested is its capacity to withstand the temperatures of re-entry in to the atmosphere. You might recall one of the Space Shuttle missions ending in disaster as it burnt up on re-entry due to faulty tiles on the underbelly.

Now I would like to see a rocket launch, but it is a completely different thing to see one with a capsule carrying people attached. I remember the golden days of space travel, when it was only animals that had the chance of orbit. (I don’t really remember them).

Animals or People?

It is after all a dangerous game going into space. This Wikipedia article lists all of the deaths involving space travel, both on the ground and in the air. 19 people have died during space flight, but another 11 have died in training, and if we think that only 533 people have been into space then the fatality rate is high.

So will they send animals in the capsule to test it out again? I doubt it, but alongside the 500 odd people in space we should not forget our animal friend heroes, some of whom gave their lives for this great mission.

Fruitflies, a pest sometimes and national heroes on other days. Fruitflies were after all the first animals sent into space, way back in 1947. In 1949 they sent a resus monkey up called Albert 2, although he died on re-entry. They did have some sensor data however so it ewas not all in vain. They are little remembered though, unlike Laika the dog. Laika was rescued from the streets of Moscow, trained, and sent on a one way mission into space. It is not known how long she lived, the capsule burned up on re-entry, and I am not sure why she was sent, but a heroic end to a flea ridden mut it was in November 1957. There she is in the photo above.

2 dogs did however make it back in one piece after a quick orbit. In 1960 Belka and Strelka made it back home, and I am sure received the welcome they deserved.

Then there was Ham, a chimpanzee. He was trained to interact with the vessel, pulling levers and feeding himself. He became a celebrity upon his return and there is even a documentary film available about his and his friends’ pioneering lives.

If you would like to know more about animals in space (I bet you can’t wait) check out this link.

I am looking forward to a launch tomorrow, with or without animal passengers.

On a final note follow this link to see a photo reportage about abandoned NASA facilities. The places that launched some of these great missions are now in ruins. Makes you think!

Categories
Science Series Space

The ISS

The International Space Station is amazing. Humanity has a permanently manned space station.

You may think I’m saying that in every article of this series, and I probably am. But that’s because space and our accomplishments are quite frankly brilliant!

Mir

The International Space Station (or ISS) is not the first manned space station. The Russian space station Mir is widely considered the first successful long-term space station. Before the launch of the ISS, Mir was the largest satellite in orbit, and until 2010 when its record was surpassed by the ISS, Mir housed the longest continuous human presence in space; an impressive 10 years.

The Russians were leaders in space station technology, and without their expertise, I would argue the ISS would not be here today.

A Joint Venture

The International Space StationThe ISS is a joint space venture between Russia, the United States, the European Space Agency (the people who put Philae on a comet) Japan, Canada and Brazil.

The station was initially launched in in 1998 and has been continually manned since November 2000. Currently the station’s future is confirmed until 2020. It’s long-term future is to be determined by the relations between its key partners, the US and Russia.

The ISS is constantly being improved and upgraded, and is still being built. Amongst their most recent upgrades, includes the installation of a 3D printer. All the add-ons and upgrades are making the station heavier and heavier, and it now weighs more than 400 tonnes! But don’t worry, it isn’t going to fall from the sky any time soon.

The ISS can be seen from Earth, and if you have a pretty jazzy telescope, then you can view it in pretty remarkable detail. If you want to give it a go, check out NASA’s ISS spotters guide.

ISS as seen from Earth
The ISS as photographed through a telescope on Earth.

You can also track the ISS, and see exactly where above the Earth it is in real time. Check out this site which has a live view of what part of the planet the station is over. You may be surprised just how quickly it is moving!

Next Week

After the Thursday post last week and yesterdays site issues, I’m hoping that next Monday’s post will go without a hitch! See you then.

Categories
Science Series Space

The Size of Space

I’m starting with a fact today; two actually.

FACT

According to astronomer Dr Peter Edwards, if our solar system was a grain of sand, then The Milky Way (our Galaxy) would be 1,000 times the size of Durham Cathedral.

Durham Cathedral from the South
Durham Cathedral

FACT

According to NASA there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in our universe.

Need a more visual representation of that? Well luckily for you, the American Museum of Natural History have spent quite a long time developing a digital universe.

Somewhat mind boggling, isn’t it. Dr Edwards doesn’t think the human mind is really built to understand the enormity of the universe. I think I probably agree with him.

In 2012 the Hubble Space Telescope zoomed in on a seemingly empty area of space. This area of space could be covered up with just a single grain of sand if you were looking at it from Earth. Astronomers didn’t think they would discover much, but if you have a super duper space telescope, why not see what it can find?

This is what that seemingly empty bit of space actually looked like when Hubble zoomed in.

A Hubble Space Telescope picture of millions of galaxy clustersEvery single speck of light you can see is a galaxy. Yes the 100 or so huge ones in the foreground, but also the millions in the background.

Each of those galaxies contains billions of stars. Yes many of them look insignificantly small, but they are very very far away. So the well used fact that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth is actually true. In fact there are many billions more stars in space than there are grains of sand on the Earth. Each star is in solar systems filled with matter – from specs of dust to moons and planets.

The title of this article suggests that I will try to quantify the size of space. This isn’t really possible, so all we can currently do is describe its size relative to other things. If I had to use one word to describe space, I think it would have to be enormous.

A key question surrounding space is: is it infinite?

That is an existential question which I doubt we will ever know the answer to, but never the less it is still an interesting question, which is worth considering.

The theory that the universe is a sphere – like the Earth – is a popular one, and I can understand the logic in this, if you keep going, eventually the universe will loop you back around to where you started. But then my problem with this theory is we can go beyond the Earth. We can travel around the Earth, but space travel proves that we can move in 3 dimensions, straight and sideways on Earth and then upwards into space. If you got to the very edge of the universe, what would happen if you went upwards? If there isn’t an upwards, what is there?

New Scientist states that from all current data, it seems that the known universe has a diameter of about 93 billion light years. That’s pretty big, but by no means infinite. So if this estimate is correct – which is ridiculously unlikely – what comes after that? A big wall with a no entry sign? Just empty space? Another universe? Who knows…

That’s Your Lot

See you next week for the next in the series.

Categories
News Science

NASA is Closed (Temporarily)

Strangely enough I was in the USA last time there was a government shutdown. I was staying in New Orleans and listening to music all day every day.

At some point during the 6 week excursion I decided to go to Houston, to see the Space Station. That very room, seen by millions on TV as Niel Armstrong spoke from the Moon, those rows of presumably computerized desks, where history was made.

It is a long trip from New Orleans, I traveled by Greyhound bus. The land is swampy as you pass through Louisiana, and on to Texas. The road is raised above the water by just a few feet, on bridges that are miles long. It was a long ride, about 350 miles, on a bus, at 50 miles per hour, but it would be worth it, I was sure.

I got off the bus and made my way to the space center. There was a rocket lying on the grass outside, absolutely enormous, a real rocket! My pace quickened as did my heartbeat, I ran to the gate.

Closed.

The Space Center Houston, doorway to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, was closed until further notice due to the partial governmental closure.

Glory Days!
Glory Days!

17 years on it is once more closed. But closing a tourist attraction is one thing, what I hadn’t realized all those years ago was that NASA itself had shut down, and it’s closed today too.

18000 NASA employees, about 97% of the entire workforce, are sitting at home today, unpaid, and without any idea of when their work will resume. All communication from NASA to the public has stopped, Tweet accounts are closed, and they can no longer reply to emails.

Reassuringly though the few people left at work are continuing to monitor the skies for objects that may crash into the International Space Station killing all aboard, and larger objects that may pass close to Earth, Phew!

The astronauts working on the Space Station will continue their work, and mission control will be open to support them. They have plenty of food and water so they should be OK for some time.

Other NASA spacecraft, like the Curiosity Rover on Mars and the New Horizons craft hurtling toward Pluto, will be largely left to their own devices (literally) during the shutdown. I believe parking is cheap on Mars anyway, although maintenance is high.

Mars Rover on Holiday
Mars Rover on Holiday

All of this comes just a month after NASA announced that the Voyager space craft, launched in 1977, has left the solar system. It continues to send back data, (although I am not sure if it will now be piling up like emails after a holiday), and 6 days after the now dormant Mars rover vehicle discovered large amounts of water, meaning that pioneers could extract water from the ground to use for fuel and to drink.

This government shutdown is having a huge but largely unseen effect upon science and technology development, as the organizations that are effected are some of the largest and most advanced in the world, not to mention creating a few disappointed tourists.

Categories
News Science

Asteroid Hunting

Many of you will have seen the video of the meteor that exploded into the atmosphere above Russia last week, and I would just like to offer an overview of the event from a practical scientific prespective.

The meteor was about 15 metres across, and as such too small to detect. As we all saw though a meteor of this size can do extensive damage. It weighed about 7000 metric tonnes, travelling at 18 Km per second and exploded at a height of between 15 and 20 Km. This is pretty close to the ground if you think that an aeroplane flies at about 10Km and we are certainly not dealing with somewhere where nothing happens.

The force of the explosion was about 30 times that of the Hiroshima bomb, a pretty devastating blow by all counts. We should think ourselves lucky that it did not happen over a major city.

Trees blown over after the 1908 impact
Trees blown over after the 1908 meteor impact

In 1908 in Tunguska also in Russia a much larger meteor hit. This one was about the size of the DA14 meteor that flew past Earth later on the same day last week, and it blew trees down over an area of about 2000 square Km. Once again it hit over Siberia so less damage than could have occurred, but if you think that the event of last week over Russia only threw out about 5% of the force of this one than we don’t need much imagination to envisage the possible catastrophe. Several photos are available around the net and I offer one above. There are also plenty of huge craters to see.

NASA have the Near Earth Program, and they have the mission of monitoring the many things that fly close to Earth.

It is not an easy job though as you might imagine, they use ground based telescopes so can only see something that is big enough to reflect enough light, and last week’s hit came directly in line with the sun, so practically impossible to see.

NASA has managed to identify 90% of near Earth asteroids that are more than 1 Km across, and something of this size might threaten life on Earth itself if it hit. There are more than a million near Earth asteroids however that are 20 metres across or more but  very few of these have been identified and mapped.

The B612 Project is hoping to put a telescope into Space before 2018 that will be able to spot something of that size, but until then they will go largely unseen.

Keeping on a related topic last May I put a post up about asteroid mining, and recently the BBC has carried some updates on this project.

It is currently a 2 horse race, but it seems very speculative. And I remember a song about horses of this type.