Saturday, 28 March 2015

All renewable countries!

I lot of my posts recently have been about energy but I had to share this link. There are a surprising number of countries which now have zero carbon (or close to) electricity production, from poorer countries like Costa Rica to richer ones like Iceland or Norway. They are a role model for the future:

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The turning point?

Last year, CO2 emissions didn't rise, they stayed the same - this is the first time this has happened in 40 years. I found this announcement very interesting as it might show that the world has reached a turning point. If next year they actually decrease, then we will have reached a turning point in energy consumption.

There are many reasons for this 'stall' in emissions growth. China is investing heavily in renewable energy, in a move away from the coal and oil which has been so polluting their cities.  Europe too is moving to renewables (and nuclear), this may be in part to reduce reliance on imports from Russia and the troubled middle east.

In the UK for example, this push is exaggerated by the declining North Sea reserves and at long last people are seeing past short term oil/gas price fluctuations. Take the recent announcement of plans for several tidal power stations around the UK as an example. Previously, these kinds of projects were dismissed because alternatives were cheaper, and due to marine environment concerns. But now the benefits outweigh the costs in the long term.

The final key point is that, as stated in the BBC report, economic growth can continue without fossil fuels. This is the first time this has been the case since the start of the industrial revolution! As there is an increasing switch to solar, wind and other renewables, jobs will be lost in fossil fuels but created in renewables and they might be starting to balance out.

Now of course the world isn't going carbon neutral for a long time yet, not least because most renewables are not reliable and we'll need either much better batteries/energy storage techniques, or retain a backup supply of fossil fuel powerplants. And then there's aviation. Electric passenger planes are far off but there are interesting developments like Airbus's E-fan and of course, solar impulse.

Overall it's an interesting time! We'll have to see what the result of the 2015 climate change summit is. And then there's nuclear fusion, but that's a whole other article!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Sunday, 1 March 2015

UKSEDS 2015 National Space Conference [Updated]

So this year a mate from uni and myself decided to go on a daytrip to the 2015 UKSEDS National Students Space Conference, at the University of Surrey. UKSEDS, or 'UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space' organise this event annually and have a variety of guest speakers from industry and academia to talk about current research and job prospects in the space sector. We attended on Saturday and had a great time listening to experts in their fields and even getting to meet them.

Topics covered included the challenges of hypersonic air breathing flight, PCL Laboratories, the future of citizen science (by Prof. Chris Lintott of The Sky at Night and Stargazing Live fame), putting the UK back into space, Lunar Mission One and the Rosetta Mission by lead scientist Dr Matt Taylor (video at the bottom of this post).

The first lecture discussed how to move away from staged rocket launches to get into orbit, by using ramjets/scramjets, and the issues that face these technologies (such as the engines melting!). The second was a lecture (complete with David Bowie) about the activities of the PCL company, which manufactures specialised circuitry for space applications. Prof. Lintott's lecture was an entertaining discussion of how the public can be used to sort through big data, like that produced by modern telescopes, and why people rather than code are needed to spot the unexpected. The fourth talk was about how the UK is involved in all aspects of space technology except the actual launch - and why we could have a UK spaceport in the next decade. Lecture number 5 gave an overview of the Lunar Mission One, a proposed robotic mission to the lunar south pole which will be crowd-funded. Finally the keynote speaker was Dr. Matt Taylor on the Rosetta mission to comet 67P - and how it has been a huge scientific success.

Overall it was a interesting day and I recommend going if you're a physics/astronomy/engineering student interested in space, particularly if you're in your final year as it's a great opportunity to mingle with the biggest space sector employers.

Update: Keynote talk by Dr. Matt Taylor on the Rosetta mission: