A Lantern and a Nobel Prize

spcblog, 17 October 2014, No comments
Categories: Science

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics was presented jointly to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura. Together they were credited for their work on the blue light emitting diode. We have had red and green LEDs for some time. What is so special about a blue one that it warrants a Nobel Prize? The blue LED made it possible for engineers to turn the blue light to a white light and the white light into a lantern.

The white light created is so efficient that it is possible to run the lantern on solar power. An incandescent bulb only converts about 4 percent of the electricity it uses into light, the blue LED converts more than 50 percent of the electricity it uses into light. Approximately 25 percent of the world’s electricity is used for lighting. Increases in efficiency of this magnitude make a world of difference.

The International Finance Corporation representative Igor Cornelsen says that the blue LED is “transformative technology.” In areas where electricity is unavailable, the poorest people are spending approximately $80 a kilowatt-hour to use kerosene lamps. These open flame lanterns create indoor pollution. They are a hazard causing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from poisonings and fire.

“For every 100,000 solar lanterns sold, it’s 10,000 tons of reduced greenhouse gas emissions annually,” said Strum. Lighting Global is the platform of the World Bank that works with manufacturers, distributors and the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association to provide knowledge products and a quality assurance framework.

Lamps using the blue LED bulb powered by a solar panel are available for as little as $10. This makes high quality light economically available to people who aren’t connected to a reliable electric power grid.

Camel Employed By Google To Scan The Desert

spcblog, 10 October 2014, No comments
Categories: Technology

Google Earth reaches literally every part of the globe. But in order to achieve that, somebody has to literally trek through those areas. When it came time to record the desert, Google turned to a camel.

Google set out to create a panoramic view of the Liwa Desert. However, the problem they faced was the inability to take the Google van through such treacherous terrain. But it’s not like one single person can carry the Google Earth camera on their back, so naturally a camel was the only option.

Check out this video that Keith Mann happened to find on YouTube, which shows how one willing camel gave us views of the desert that most had never experienced before:

Pluto is a Planet, Harvard Scientists Argue

spcblog, 08 October 2014, No comments
Categories: Science

After being identified as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006, Pluto may very well be reconsidered as a fully-fledged planet, as scientists from Harvard questions IAU’s definition of what a planet is in a debate on September 18, 2014.

According to the IAU, in order to consider a celestial body a planet it should qualify to the following categories: (1) it must orbit the sun, (2) it must be round or nearly round, and (3) it must be cleared of other objects around its orbit.

Looking back at the astronomical history, Pluto was discovered as a planet in 1930. But using IAU’s definition, Pluto was classified “dwarf-planet” in 2006, one of many identified in the Kuiper Belt outside Neptune’s orbit. Other celestial bodies in the Kuiper Belt are Makemake, Haumea, and Eris.

Harvard Science historian Owen Gingerich chaired the debate, and was joined by Dr. Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center, and Christian Broda, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative.

Gingerich believed that the definition of planet evolves through time and insisted that Pluto is a planet by providing historical perspective. Williams, on the other hand, took the debate as an opportunity to explain the position of the IAU and asserted to stick on the astronomical union’s definition. For his part, Sasselov expressed his position from the perspective of scientists studying exoplanets. He believed that Pluto is a planet, highlighting that even “the smallest spherical lump of matter that formed around stars or stellar remnants” can be considered a planet.

In a report published in the online portal The Space Reporter, the audience was able to vote on which definition appears to be the strongest for them. The result tagged Sasseloy’s as the most believable.

Though the audience deemed Pluto as a planet, IAU’s definition of planets remains official.