Interesting analysis of Russian reaction to SpaceX’s successful docking and return of it’s CrewDragon spacecraft.
One of the big questions surrounding the first launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft was how the Russians would react. They have held considerable sway in the International Space Station partnership by controlling access to the orbiting laboratory since the 2011 retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle. So far, the Russian response has been one of throwing small bits of shade here and there but trying not to be too obvious about it.
On Sunday, when SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station, the Russian space corporation sequestered cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko in the Russian segment of the station. This was, Roscosmos said, so that Kononenko could take emergency action in case the Dragon became uncontrollable and crashed into the space station.
After the successful docking, Roscosmos tweeted a Russian language congratulation to NASA, but underscored the fact “that flight safety must be above reproach.” An hour later it published a rare tweet in English, sending “its sincere compliments to the colleagues from NASA,” but without the emphasis on vehicle safety. Neither tweet mentioned SpaceX. (Later, Roscosmos said NASA ordered the ship and, therefore, deserved the congratulations.)
Source: Russia’s passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth | Ars Technica
China’s refusal to accept American recycling could lead to a drastic change in consumer habits. Perhaps we will finally have a discussion about our throwaway society.
For decades, we were sending the bulk of our recycling to China—tons and tons of it, sent over on ships to be made into goods such as shoes and bags and new plastic products. But last year, the country restricted imports of certain recyclables, including mixed paper—magazines, office paper, junk mail—and most plastics. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away.
Source: What Happens Now That China Won’t Take U.S. Recycling – The Atlantic
Interesting commentary on Silicon Valley. I was there for a week earlier this winter and it’s kind of a weird place with a touch of Disneyland-like detachment.
I am privileged to live in Silicon Valley. I was born here, I grew up here, and now I work here as a product manager at Google. The weather is lovely, the crime rate is low, and the schools are well funded. The adults have cushy jobs and the kids have endless resources. People feast on $15 sushirritos and $6 Blue Bottle coffees. The streets are filled with Teslas and self-driving cars.
It’s a place of opportunity. Many new graduates, myself included, are making six-figure salaries straight out of college, plus equity, bonuses, and benefits on top of that. I get unlimited free food at work?—?three full meals a day and as many snacks as I want in between. There’s a place to do laundry and get a haircut. There’s even a bowling alley and a bouldering wall.
This is Silicon Valley. Who wouldn’t want to live here?
Source: This Is Silicon Valley – OneZero
This may be the most striking thing I’ve seen in national politics over the last few years (emphasis mine):
Ocasio-Cortez’s star power has undoubtedly contributed to the exposure her committee exchanges have gotten. At age 29, she is the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, and as a democratic socialist who unseated one of the House’s most powerful Democrats, the congresswoman is an object of extraordinary fascination for the media.
One advantage Ocasio-Cortez has over some colleagues is that she consistently attends even the most mundane committee hearings, since she does not spend any of her day calling donors for money. Her online presence is strong enough that she has chosen to rely on it exclusively to raise contributions in smaller increments.
I’ve long wondered how fulfilling it might be to serve in public office, particularly at the Federal level. The horror stories of “call time” really turn me off on the process – the trade-offs are ugly.
But imagine if every member of Congress were freed from the burden of constantly raising money. Imagine how much more effective our representation would be. What AOC does isn’t magic; she just has the kind of following that allows her to bypass the D.C. money game.
It’s possible that bypassing the big media (and big money) game and going to the people via social media is the answer. Other representatives, willing to put themselves out there, might also achieve this level of independence. Or if we as a people were willing to front the cost through public financing of campaigns – expanding the public funding of presidential campaigns to cover all elections to federal office.
Quite possibly ideas like this could save our democracy.
Source: Behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Masterful Interrogation Of Michael Cohen | HuffPost
A good analysis on which mode of transportation is the greenest.
One question we’ve fielded lately with the release of our US airline efficiency ranking is how the fuel efficiency, and therefore carbon intensity, of aircraft compare to other modes of transportation. Vehicles meet a variety of transport needs, in terms of what is transported (people vs. goods), distance traveled (short intercity trips vs. transoceanic transport), and speed (12 mph on a bike vs. Mach 0.85 in a long-haul aircraft). Typically, travelers choose between different transport modes based upon a variety of criteria—cost, speed, comfort, even safety—with carbon footprint generally only a secondary consideration. But, for those relative few who would consider planning a trip with carbon dioxide emissions in mind, here are some preliminary thoughts.
Source: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Counting Carbon | International Council on Clean Transportation
Insects are the most abundant animals on planet Earth. If you were to put them all together into one creepy-crawly mass, they’d outweigh all humanity by a factor of 17.
Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests.
Insects are also superlative for another, disturbing reason: They’re vanishing at a rate faster than mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.
“The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin,” write the authors of an alarming new review in Biological Conservation of the scientific literature on insect populations published in the past 40 years. The state of insect biodiversity, they write, is “dreadful.” And their biomass — the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined — is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent every year.
In all, the researchers conclude that as much as 40 percent of all insect species may be endangered over the next several decades. (Caveat: Most of the data was obtained from studies conducted in Europe and North America.) And around 41 percent of all insect species on record have seen population declines in the past decade.
“We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline … to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction … eight times higher,” the authors write. “It is evident that we are witnessing the largest [insect] extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods.”
Source: Insects are dying off — alarmingly fast – Vox
How many things are you subscribed to right now?
How many news organizations or writers or blogs or podcasts do you pay for every month?
How many do you plan on being subscribed to at this time next year?
The growth of the subscription model has been one of the biggest developments in online journalism in the past few years. In the sports world, where my research is situated, this is most clearly seen by the growth of The Athletic, the subscription-only site that’s expanded into every major pro market in the U.S. and in November received $40 million in venture capital funding.But in 2019, it feels like there’s a bit of a reckoning coming. There’s a subscription-pocalypse looming. And newspapers are going to get hit by it.
Source: The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit » Nieman Journalism Lab
Social networks influence democracy in part because they occupy a large portion of our shared information sphere. Which voices bubble up there — and which are smothered — affect the discussions we have, and the actions that we take as a result. But a tech giant doesn’t need to have a social network to alter our information environment. If Apple is to have its way, all it may need is the iPhone.
It’s easy to see why Apple favors the scheme. It gets a windfall of new revenue at a time when the decline in iPhone sales has made selling additional services a high priority. It gets to bring more high-quality publishers onto its platform, burnishing its reputation as a premium brand. And it gets to talk loudly about how much it loves journalism, as Apple vice president Eddy Cue did when announcing Apple’s acquisition of the subscription news app Texture last year. “We are committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users,” he said at the time.
Source: Apple’s new deal for journalism should send publishers running – The Verge
The United States has over 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that requires disposal. The U.S. commercial power industry alone has generated more waste (nuclear fuel that is “spent” and is no longer efficient at generating power) than any other country—nearly 80,000 metric tons. This spent nuclear fuel, which can pose serious risks to humans and the environment, is enough to fill a football field about 20 meters deep. The U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program has generated spent nuclear fuel as well as high-level radioactive waste and accounts for most of the rest of the total at about 14,000 metric tons, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). For the most part, this waste is stored where it was generated—at 80 sites in 35 states. The amount of waste is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades. However, there is still no disposal site in the United States. After spending decades and billions of dollars to research potential sites for a permanent disposal site, including at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that has a license application pending to authorize construction of a nuclear waste repository, the future prospects for permanent disposal remain unclear.
Source: U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste
On its 60th anniversary, the civilian age of nuclear power in America appears to be almost over. But with the country awash in radioactive waste and plutonium stockpiled for warheads, the task of managing this atomic legacy grows ever more urgent. Opening a long-delayed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is imperative.
President Dwight Eisenhower formally opened America’s first commercial nuclear power station at Shippingport, Pa., near Pittsburgh, on May 26, 1958. He declared it would “put the atom to work for the good of mankind, not his destruction.” His nuclear cheerleader, Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had promised power “too cheap to meter.”
Today, with cheap gas and falling prices for wind and solar energy, nuclear power is often now too expensive to sell. Six plants closed from 2013 to 2017. At least seven more — from the Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey to the Diablo Canyon plant in California — have been earmarked for final shutdown, often years before their operating licenses expire. About a quarter of the nation’s nuclear power plants don’t cover their operating costs, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Source: Opinion | Awash in Radioactive Waste – The New York Times
Callan report can be found here. [PDF]