Prices keep falling…US installs record solar capacity

This week, the US Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab released its annual analysis of solar energy in the US. It found that nearly half the generating capacity was installed in the US during 2021 and is poised to dominate future installs. That’s in part because costs have dropped by more than 75 percent since 2010; it’s now often cheaper to build and operate a solar plant than it is to simply buy fuel for an existing natural gas plant…

Five states now receive more than 15 percent of their electricity from solar power, including Massachusetts and Vermont, with California receiving 25 percent of its electricity from the Sun.

Solar’s expansion has largely been driven by falling costs. The DOE estimates that the price of building a solar plant has been dropping by an average of about 10 percent a year, leading to a fall of over 75 percent since 2010. That has left prices averaging about $1.35 for each watt of capacity in 2021. Large-scale plants benefit the most, with projects over 50 megawatts costing about 20 percent less than those under 20 MW.

Say “Amen”…

New Mexico grants funds for prosecutions in ‘Rust’ shooting


Scene of the tragedy

New Mexico has granted funds to pay for possible prosecutions connected to last year’s fatal film-set shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Thursday.

The state Board of Finance greenlit more than $317,000 to cover the cost of investigating potential charges in the shooting on the set of “Rust” outside Santa Fe.

First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies made an emergency request for the funds to go toward a special prosecutor, special investigator, several experts and other personnel.

As many as four people could face charges, according to a copy of the request obtained by the newspaper, though Carmack-Altwies did not say anyone definitely would…

When reached for comment by the newspaper, she declined to say which crew members or cast could face charges. The possible charges her office is looking at range from homicide to violations of state gun statutes.

Not my area of expertise. I’ve had some small accounting over the decades with the discharge of firearms. Never involving injury much less death. Still sounds to me that accidents can happen no matter how much preparation is required, put in place…and that’s the way any prosecution should proceed.

Could be the most important planned collision – ever!


That last moment before impact

This coming Monday, NASA will broadcast its first attempt to modify the orbit of an asteroid, a capability that will be essential if we detect an asteroid that poses a threat of colliding with Earth. The planetary defense effort is focused on a craft called DART, for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which will target a small asteroid called Dimorphos that orbits the larger 65803 Didymos, forming a binary system. If all goes according to plan, DART will direct itself to a head-on collision that slows Dimorphos, altering its orbit around Didymos…

…The planned collision will also be broadcast live on NASA’s YouTube channels. While we’ll know immediately whether the collision occurred as planned, it may take several months before we’re certain that Dimorphos’ orbit was successfully modified…

During its final approach to Didymos, DART will be distant enough that round-trip transmissions will take over a minute. As such, the final approach and targeting of the asteroid will be handled by an on-board navigation system called SMART Nav (Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation)…

As described by Evan Smith, DART’s deputy mission system engineer, the system will shift over to on-board navigation at about four hours before impact, and the SMART Nav will track the larger Didymos and use that for navigation until about 50 minutes before collision, or about a half-hour after it can be resolved. At 2.5 minutes prior to the collision, the ion engine will be shut off, and DART will coast into a collision at about 6 kilometers a second.

And then, if everything goes well, the transmissions will stop.

RTFA for all the geek details about the mission. Thoughts to be examined, resolved after the mission. Whatever time the Big Bang happens, I plan to be watching. Even though there is a small companion craft accompanying DART that will record the final encounter from (what we hope is) a safe distance. Slo-mo replays and all.

A face mask that detects pathogens<10 minutes – calls your cell phone!


Juan Gaertner/Getty

A team of scientists in China have developed a face mask capable of detecting common respiratory viruses including influenza and coronavirus from air droplets or aerosols after being exposed for 10 minutes. The masks…can alert the wearer via their cell phone if pathogens are detected…

“Previous research has shown face mask wearing can reduce the risk of spreading and contracting…disease. So, we wanted to create a mask that can detect the presence of virus in the air and alert the wearer,” said Yin Fang…a material scientist at Shanghai Tongji University.

Their design created a multi-channel sensor using three types of aptamer that can identify the surface proteins of SARS-CoV-2, H5N1, and H1N1…

Once the aptamers bind to the target proteins in the air, the ion-gated transistor amplifies the signal and can alert the wearers via their phones.

More and more novel and new functions are capable of inclusion in either new electronic devices or…as in this case, simply adding a function into an existing system…then, communicated to your existing comm device.

Thoughts on the 2022 MacBook Air

It has been a few months since Apple released the 2022 edition of the 13-inch MacBook Air –arguably the most popular laptop in the Mac line-up. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of interest in the thin-and-skinny laptop. And the reviews came in thick and fast…

…If you are wondering what else I can add to what has already been said, then you are right to assume that: not much…Except, I wanted to see how good (or bad) the new M2-powered MacBook Air would be for me as an “on-the-go” photographer…

My opinion on the design of the laptop isn’t changed — it feels like a skinnier (and, in my opinion, better) version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

However, by losing the iconic shape, Apple has shorn the “Air” line-up of its instant recognizability. For me, Macbook Air signified — practical, smart, and sensible. The new MacBook Air is just another faceless slab of aluminum in an ocean of laptops. Unlike John Gruber and others, I just can’t get over the loss of an iconic design.

And that’s where my criticism of the new laptop ends.

I think losing the old iconic shape has come at a cost — roughly $200. But it does buy you a much better screen, better audio, better webcam, better chip, and a more powerful chip. Dollar for dollar, not only is the Macbook Air 2022 better than its predecessor, it is better by a country mile than its “professional” cousin, the 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro.

At this point, Om launches into a detailed, thoughtful, useful analysis of the newest MacBook Air.

Worthy as ever, Om’s review reflects skills and his long history as a user-friendly geek. His writing style is personal…and what he has to communicate to his readers is productive and to the point. Carry on, reading.

Feds finally ready to tidy up the space junkyard

The Federal Communications Commission has a plan to minimize space junk by requiring low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to be disposed no more than five years after being taken out of service.

A proposal released yesterday by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel would adopt “a first-ever rule requiring non-geostationary satellite operators to deorbit their satellites after the end of their operations to minimize the risk of collisions that would create debris.” It’s scheduled for an FCC vote on September 29. The five-year rule would be legally binding, unlike the current 25-year standard that’s based on a NASA recommendation proposed in the 1990s…

The new rule “would require space station operators planning disposal through uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere to complete disposal as soon as practicable, and no more than five years following the end of mission,” an FCC fact sheet on the draft order said…

Someone’s bound to figure a way to make a buck out of this. Too public to not be tempting.

This modern world…

Two small items passed through my living space, this lunchtime. This was the first. We had quiche for lunch, today. From France. Baked in the oven straight from frozen. There was a time, my comment would have been “who’da thunk it?”

Today? “Delicious as ever!”

Then, I took my seat before the iMac in my study. Picked up the bill for electricity which arrived in the mail, this morning. And…in very few seconds…paid it.

Easy as pie. Or quiche.

I imagine there are a number of folks who wonder why I even find this worth commenting about?

Simple enough. I’m an old geezer and for most of my years, neither of these happenings would have been possible or practical. The change is appreciated.

NASCAR on fire!

Kevin Harvick’s fire-related DNF at Darlington during Sunday night’s Cookout Southern 500 marked the fifth time in recent months that a cockpit fire has impacted a NASCAR Cup Series race.

There have been no injuries, but drivers are increasingly angry and frustrated at the apparent lack of attention by NASCAR and its safety teams.

In the latest incidents, the Ford Mustangs of Harvick and backmarker J.J. Yeley caught fire during the 500-miler. Harvick’s fire was more serious because as a Playoff contender, everything he does is magnified. NBC-TV concentrated on his No. 4 Mustang as it made several fiery laps while green-flag pit stops cycled around. As the fire began to spread, he stopped on the apron and bailed out as safety crews arrived.

“What a disaster without a cause,” he told reporters later. “We didn’t touch the wall. We haven’t touched a car and here we are in the pits with a burning car…

The drivers are concerned for their safety. NASCAR doesn’t seem to be concerned about anything more than how their TV time gets featured on the news,

Fools learned it’s easy to turn a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun

The number of shootings involving automatic weapons in the US has skyrocketed in recent years, suggesting a troubling resurgence in the use of machine guns by criminals, according to an analysis provided exclusively to CNN.

Incidents of machine gun fire have exploded by about 1,400% from 2019 through last year, according to statistics compiled by a gunfire detection company that has acoustic sensors placed in about 130 US cities. Last year alone, ShotSpotter, Inc. detected roughly 5,600 incidents of automatic weapons fire, the analysis showed.

The previously unreported figures add to growing evidence that the widespread availability of inexpensive so-called conversion devices — known as “auto switches” or “auto sears” — capable of transforming semi-automatic weapons into machine guns in a matter of moments are wreaking havoc on American streets.

There has been a corresponding spike in seizures of conversion devices by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in recent years, from fewer than 100 in 2017 to more than 1,500 last year…

Gun laws virtually eliminated automatic weapons from city streets for decades, Chittum said. “But now machine guns are back, and they’re everywhere.”

You might try enforcing gun laws. I realize that’s a simple answer. Truth is often simple.

What is there to say? I not only learned how to do this in the 1950’s…I did so more than once. It was fun. It was exciting. For many of the reasons you might imagine.

After I made a few, I stopped. I don’t know if the dude who showed me how kept at it or not. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to be a possible co-defendant. I didn’t want to be a defendant, either.

The fines were serious. The time in the slammer was serious time. We knew the local coppers could and would bust us…and put us away. We saw it happen to other silly young dudes. More criminal-minded than we ever could be.

That’s all it would take, today, I believe. Enforcing the laws. Further discussion may be needed about why it ain’t so. That isn’t why I posted this. Just saying.