Next really big solar storm could double its effect on U.S. East Coast


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❝ There’s a layer of 300 million-year-old rock under Interstate 95 that’s capable of killing the lights from Washington to Boston and beyond the next time the sun erupts in all its fury.

…A solar storm is now viewed as enough of a risk in fact that grid operators across North America are working on plans to respond to just such a disturbance. And a draft of a soon-to-be-published U.S. Geological Survey report pinpoints the Eastern Seaboard as one of the areas most in danger.

❝ That’s because this Paleozoic-era rock doesn’t let the energy from a major geomagnetic storm — a once-in-a-100-years kind of event — pass through it but instead acts as a backstop that sends the surge back up above the ground for a second shot at causing mayhem…

Through a stroke of bad luck, the worst of these rocks basically traces the path of I-95 from Richmond, Virginia, to Portland, Maine, passing through Washington, New York and Boston along the way.

Yet another reason I should be happy about leaving the Northeast for the Southwest. Though there’s an extinct volcano across the valley that could be pretty scary under the wrong conditions.

Driverless toaster delivers pizza

❝ In an abandoned lot on the outskirts of Sacramento, R1, a domed gray vehicle half the size of a Toyota Corolla, is practicing driving itself…as other self-driving vehicles do on test courses in Silicon Valley, Detroit, and China. But R1, made by a startup called Nuro, doesn’t need to be as good. It can make a jolting brake if it sees something on the road or cruise untroubled over a small bump — wrinkles that companies building autonomous taxis work tirelessly to remove. Nuro spent less time on this, because its robots aren’t designed to ferry people. “A lot of those problems can be solved when you remove the passenger,” says co-founder Dave Ferguson. “The pizza doesn’t care if you’re going a little slower.”

❝ Almost every company making self-driving cars, including Alphabet’s Waymo, General Motors, and Ford Motor, says the second move will be delivery vehicles. Nuro, whose co-founders spent years on Waymo LLC’s car project when it was still part of Google, is focused on delivery first…

❝ Without human labor costs, Nuro’s robot has a better chance to make on-demand delivery profitable than the string of failed startups that have littered Silicon Valley in recent years…but it will take a little getting used to…for consumers.

RTFA. Poisonally, I can hardly wait for my favorite pizza delivery spot to send one of these to our driveway.

Restoring historic neon signs in New Mexico

❝ There are nine new reasons to rediscover Route 66 in New Mexico. In 2003, nine vintage Route 66 neon signs have been restored to their former brilliance. From the wonderful TeePee Curio Shop sign in Tucumcari, to the wild and crazy neon Rotosphere in Moriarty, to the elegant Lexington Hotel sign in Gallup, the beauty and artistry of classic neon is once again dazzling and delighting Route 66 enthusiasts.

❝ There was a time when Mercury Meteors, Olds Rocket 88s, and the Pontiac Star Chiefs would trek through a galaxy of neon on Route 66. The streets with illuminated with a palette of ruby reds, sapphire blues, and emerald greens that broadcast promises of adventure, discovery, and gratification. Neon cowboys, Indians, sombreros, teepees, cactus, longhorn steers, thunderbirds, swallows, wiener dogs, ponies, and other critters and characters would come out at night to greet visitors. Places with neon lit names like the Bow and Arrow, the Royal Palacio, the Pig Stand, the Lariat, the Oasis, the Arrowhead, the Desert Sun, and the Trails West called out with invitations to stop and experience something unique.

RTFA. Just another reason traveling around our state remains fun. Sign restorations continue as do restorations on any old motel that comes up for sale.