April 18, 2017

Potable water extrated from thin air by MIT engineers

Severe water shortages already affect many regions around the world, and are expected to get much worse as the population grows and the climate heats up. But a new technology developed by scientists at MIT and the University of California at Berkeley could provide a novel way of obtaining clean, fresh water almost anywhere on Earth, by drawing water directly from moisture in the air even in the driest of locations.

Technologies exist for extracting water from very moist air, such as “fog harvesting” systems that have been deployed in a number of coastal locations. And there are very expensive ways of removing moisture from drier air. But the new method is the first that has potential for widespread use in virtually any location, regardless of humidity levels, the researchers say. They have developed a completely passive system that is based on a foam-like material that draws moisture into its pores and is powered entirely by solar heat.

The findings are reported in the journal Science by a team including MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, MIT postdoc Sameer Rao, graduate student Hyunho Kim, research scientists Sungwoo Yang and Shankar Narayanan (currently at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), and alumnus Ari Umans SM ’15. The Berkeley co-authors include graduate student Eugene Kapustin, project scientist Hiroyasu Furukawa, and professor of chemistry Omar Yaghi.

Fog harvesting, which is being used in many countries including Chile and Morocco, requires very moist air, with a relative humidity of 100 percent, explains Wang, who is the Gail E. Kendall Professor at MIT. But such water-saturated air is only common in very limited regions. Another method of obtaining water in dry regions is called dew harvesting, in which a surface is chilled so that water will condense on it, as it does on the outside of a cold glass on a hot summer day, but it “is extremely energy intensive” to keep the surface cool, she says, and even then the method may not work at a relative humidity lower than about 50 percent. The new system does not have these limitations.

For drier air than that, which is commonplace in arid regions around the world, no previous technology provided a practical way of getting water. “There are desert areas around the world with around 20 percent humidity,” where potable water is a pressing need, “but there really hasn’t been a technology available that could fill” that need, Wang says. The new system, by contrast, is “completely passive — all you need is sunlight,” with no need for an outside energy supply and no moving parts.

Imagine a future in which every home has an appliance that pulls all the water the household needs out of the air, even in dry or desert climates, using only the power of the sun.
Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally/UC Berkeley

In fact, the system doesn’t even require sunlight — all it needs is some source of heat, which could even be a wood fire. “There are a lot of places where there is biomass available to burn and where water is scarce,” Rao says.

The key to the new system lies in the porous material itself, which is part of a family of compounds known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). Invented by Yaghi two decades ago, these compounds form a kind of sponge-like configuration with large internal surface areas. By tuning the exact chemical composition of the MOF these surfaces can be made hydrophilic, or water-attracting. The team found that when this material is placed between a top surface that is painted black to absorb solar heat, and a lower surface that is kept at the same temperature as the outside air, water is released from the pores as vapor and is naturally driven by the temperature and concentration difference to drip down as liquid and collect on the cooler lower surface.

Tests showed that one kilogram (just over two pounds) of the material could collect about three quarts of fresh water per day, about enough to supply drinking water for one person, from very dry air with a humidity of just 20 percent. Such systems would only require attention a few times a day to collect the water, open the device to let in fresh air, and begin the next cycle.

What’s more, MOFs can be made by combining many different metals with any of hundreds of organic compounds, yielding a virtually limitless variety of different compositions, which can be “tuned” to meet a particular need. So far more than 20,000 varieties of MOFs have been made.

“By carefully designing this material, we can have surface properties that can absorb water very efficiently at 50 percent humidity, but with a different design, it can work at 30 percent,” says Kim. “By selecting the right materials, we can make it suitable for different conditions. Eventually we can harvest water from the entire spectrum” of water concentrations, he says.

Yaghi, who is the founding director of the Berkeley Global Science Institute, says “One vision for the future is to have water off-grid, where you have a device at home running on ambient solar for delivering water that satisfies the needs of a household. … To me, that will be made possible because of this experiment. I call it personalized water.”

While these initial experiments have proved that the concept can work, the team says there is more work to be done in refining the design and searching for even more effective varieties of MOFs. The present version can collect water up to about 25 percent of its own weight, but with further tuning they think that proportion could be at least doubled.

“Wow, that is an amazing technology,” says Yang Yang, a professor of engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles, who was not involved in this work. “It will have a tremendous scientific and technical impact on renewable and sustainable resources, such as water and solar energy.”

The work was supported in part by ARPA-E, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Via MIT news

10 Tweaks To Your Morning Routine to Transform Your Entire Day

Researchers at the University of Nottingham recently published findings from their exploration of 83 separate studies on energy and self-control. What they found will change the way you start your day.

The researchers found that self-control and energy are not only intricately linked but also finite, daily resources that tire much like a muscle. Even though we don’t always realize it, as the day goes on, we have increased difficulty exerting self-control and focusing on our work. As self-control wears out, we feel tired and find tasks to be more difficult and our mood sours.

This exhaustion of self-control kills your productivity, and it makes the morning hours, when self-control is highest, the most important hours of the day.

But the trick isn’t just to spend your morning hours working; it’s to do the right things in the morning that will make your energy and self-control last as long as possible.

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?'” And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs
The Nottingham research has led me to uncover ways we can break bad habits in the morning and maximize our energy and self-control throughout the day.
Whether you naturally wake up feeling alert and productive or wake up with the brainpower of a zombie, these tips will help you transform your morning routine and set a positive tone that lasts the entire day.

Start with exercise. Researchers at the University of Bristol found that people who exercise during the workday have more energy and a more positive outlook, which are both critical to getting things done. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Exercising first thing in the morning ensures that you’ll have the time for it, and it improves your self-control and energy levels all day long.

But drink some lemon water first. Drinking lemon water as soon as you wake up spikes your energy levels physically and mentally. Lemon water gives you steady, natural energy that lasts the length of the day by improving nutrient absorption in your stomach. You need to drink it first thing in the morning (on an empty stomach) to ensure full absorption. You should also wait 15–30 minutes after drinking it before eating (perfect time to squeeze in some exercise). Lemons are packed with nutrients; they’re chock full of potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. If you’re under 150 pounds, drink the juice of half a lemon (a full lemon if you’re over 150 pounds). Don’t drink the juice without water because it’s hard on your teeth.

No screen time until breakfast. When you dive straight into e-mails, texts, and Facebook, you lose focus and your morning succumbs to the wants and needs of other people. It’s much healthier to take those precious first moments of the day to do something relaxing that sets a calm, positive tone for your day. Jumping right into electronics has the opposite effect—it’s a frantic way to start your day. Exercising, meditating, or even watching the birds out the window are all great ways to start the day.

Eat a real breakfast. Eating anything at all for breakfast puts you ahead of a lot of people. People who eat breakfast are less likely to be obese, they have more stable blood-sugar levels, and they tend to be less hungry over the course of the day. And these are just the statistics for people who eat any breakfast. When you eat a healthy breakfast, the doors to a productive day swing wide open. A healthy breakfast gives you energy, improves your short-term memory, and helps you to concentrate more intensely and for longer periods.

Set goals for the day. Research shows that having concrete goals is correlated with huge increases in confidence and feelings of control. Setting goals specific to the day puts everything into motion. Narrow your goals down to a few achievable ones that can easily be broken down into steps. Vague goals such as “I want to finish writing my article” are counter-productive because they fail to include the “how” of things. The same goal re-phrased in a more functional way would read something like this: “I am going to finish my article by writing each of the three sections, spending no more than an hour on each section.” Now, you have more than simply something you want to achieve—you have a way to achieve it.

Getting your morning started off right at home is important, but it’s only half the battle. If you fail to maintain that tone once you set foot in the office, your morning can lose momentum quickly.

Here’s how you can maintain a productive tone once you hit the office:

First, clean your workspace. Even though it’s a pain to clean right when you get into work, it makes a big difference to your ability to concentrate. A Princeton University study found that people who worked in a clean workspace out-performed those who worked in a cluttered one because clutter pulls your attention away from your work. In fact, the effects of clutter on concentration are not all that different from the effects of multi-tasking.

No e-mail until you've eaten three frogs. “Eating a frog” is the greatest antidote to procrastination, and the most productive people know the importance of biting into this delicacy first thing in the morning. In other words, spend your morning on something that requires a high level of concentration that you don’t want to do, and you’ll get it done in short order. Make a habit of eating three frogs before you check your e-mail because e-mail is a major distraction that enables procrastination and wastes precious mental energy.
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain 

Keep morning meetings on schedule. Meetings are the biggest time waster there is, and they can ruin an otherwise productive morning. People who use their mornings effectively know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so they inform everyone at the onset that they’ll stick to the intended schedule. This sets a limit that motivates everyone to be more focused and efficient. Keep your morning meetings on time, and your entire day will stay on track.

Don’t multitask. Multi-tasking in the morning—when you have lots to do, tons of energy, and it feels like you can do two or three things at once—is tempting, but it sets your whole day back. Research conducted at Stanford University confirmed that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.
But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers (those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance) were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch!
Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus adequately on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

Finally, say no. No is a powerful word that will protect your precious mornings. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them while your mind is fresh. Research conducted at the University of California Berkeley showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Learn to use no, and it will lift your mood as well as your productivity.

Bringing It All Together

The right morning routine can make your day, every day. The trick is to be intentional about your mornings, understanding that a.m. hours are precious and should be handled with care.

Via Original Post written by Dr. Travis Bradberry

April 17, 2017

SpaceX, SpaceVR to send VR camera into space, to bring 'astronaut-like' experience


The virtual reality technology—which lets you escape into another world through a blackout headset—is all set to take you to ‘another world’ of astronauts from the earth.  

A start-up, named Space VR, at present involves itself in sending and creating virtual reality into space. The firm intends to bring back space footage to the general public and distribute it through different channels and make available through a VR headsets including the HTC Vibe and the Oculus Rift.

To launch the VR camera into space, SpaceVR has teamed up with SpaceX. The camera will ride on one of SpaceX’s launches in August to get into low Earth orbit, Mashable reported.

The camera will ride on one of SpaceX’s launches in August to get into low Earth orbit

Once it reaches there, the camera will record two-three hours of 360-degree footage per month over the course of nine months. After completing nine-months, the device will fall back to Earth and burn up during re-entry. However, all the recorded footage by it will then have been transmitted via X and S band microwave radio transmission while the device is in orbit .

As far as the money is concerned, SpaceVR does have a kickstarter. Last year, it raised $1.25 million; the majority of its funding came for China’s Shanda Group.

“I saw what happened to the astronauts after that experience. I saw them as being much better people, much more connected to other people [as a result of] seeing our place in the universe. I realised that once that happens to everyone, we'll fundamentally live in a different world as a species, because we'll all think differently. My goal is to catalyze that [astronaut experience] by sending this VR camera into space so people can really see what it's like,” SpaceVR's CEO, Ryan Holmes told Mashable.

Via DC

April 12, 2017

Nasa and Amazon to live stream conversation in 4K from the ISS

For the first time ever, Earth-bound humans will take part of the glory of outer space via a 4K Ultra HD livestream, courtesy of the NASA and Amazon.

The stream is primarily intended for broadcasters at the NAB Show convention to be held in Las Vegas on 26 April, but regular folks can also tune into the stream here. Nasa will also make the stream available as a recording after the event.

Variety reports that the stream will begin at 10:30 AM PT on 26 April, which would translate to 11:00 PM on 26 April in India.

The stream is actually a demo of Amazon’s Elemental encoding technology as well as the power of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its Content Delivery Network (CDN). Elemental is a next-gen encoding format for compressing high-resolution video content in real-time, and NAB is a broadcaster’s convention, after all.

Nasa is also understandably excited for the technology. The ability to stream in 4K means that Nasa administrators on the ground will be able to better monitor whatever it is they need to in deep space or the ISS.
The stream itself will involve a conversation between astronaut Dr Peggy Whitson on the ISS and AWS Elemental CEO and co-founder Sam Blackman, reports Variety. There will also be a panel discussion with various engineers from Nasa and Amazon as well as people working in the field of AR, VR and broadcasting.

The stream will be available in 4K and HD.

Via: tech2