How the ‘Orange Empire’ Became the Land of MegaWarehouses
This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Just a few decades ago, California’s Inland Empire billed itself as “the Orange Empire” for the citrus orchards that fueled its primary industry. Today, many of those groves are gone, and so is the nickname. The landlocked region of 4 million people an hour east of Los Angeles now sprouts more enormous warehouses (a billion square feet of them) than fruit trees.
Forty percent of the nation’s consumer goods—iPhones, sneakers, and everything available from Amazon—spend time sitting on those warehouse shelves after coming off ships at nearby ports, awaiting delivery to stores and homes. What was once a mostly rural region finds itself struggling with a high poverty rate and growing population. Residents are plagued by tremendous traffic and air pollution, which recently earned the region an “F” from the American Lung Association.
Those environmental and health concerns will get much worse, advocates say, if the city of Moreno Valley—a town of 200,000 located in the heart of the Inland Empire—builds the largest warehouse project anywhere in the country.
Tom Thornsley is a 60-year-old urban planner who moved to Moreno Valley in 1998, just as the rural-to-warehouse transformation was beginning. He thought he had chosen wisely, settling in a gray, ranch-style home that sat near a wide-open space zoned for more homes, not warehouses. “I know better than to look at dirt and not check what it would be,” he says.
But after a developer proposed a project in 2012, city officials rezoned that dirt patch next to Thornsley’s house to make it home to one of the world’s largest warehouse complexes.
The World Logistics Center, planned by a company called Highland Fairview, would be the largest such facility in the country, covering 2,610 acres—the size of 700 football fields. It would be more than 25 times bigger than the largest warehouse in the United States, a 98-acre hangar operated in Washington by the airplane manufacturer Boeing.
As a planner, Thornsley doesn’t have a problem with industrial development. He’s worked on commercial buildings since 1989. But the environmental costs of the World Logistics Center are too much for his community, he says, so he’s become a leader in the effort to stop it—an effort that might hinge on next month’s special city council election.
The World Logistics Center, which is now known locally by the acronym “WLC,” has turned Moreno Valley politics into a bloodsport. Community organizers and environmental groups have fought—in both city hall and the courtroom—to protect residents from the pollution it would cause and save protected species like peregrine falcons and California golden eagles that live in the nearby San Jacinto Wildlife Area.
Once built, warehouses don’t pollute the way that factories and power plants do. But a project the size of the WLC would be a magnet for truck traffic, spewing exhaust on 69,000 estimated daily trips in and out of the complex. In a struggling region, though, the lure of jobs has proven difficult to overcome, despite the public health and quality of life concerns.
“That’s why people are pressing so hard now,” Thornsley says, “to get somebody elected who’s not going to be, in essence, another developer’s puppet.”
Southern California’s two ports are among the deepest on the West Coast, allowing massive ships to dock at Los Angeles and Long Beach. More than $360 billion worth of goods from production centers in the Asian Pacific were offloaded there in 2014. Warehouses originally crowded around the ports, until Los Angeles could no longer contain the growth.
Demand for more space at cheaper rates pushed development farther east, and the Inland Empire became the hidden purgatory between production and consumption. Only the Philadelphia area currently has more warehouse space, but projects like the WLC would leave that East Coast hub in the dust. Over the past five years, the logistics industry has delivered a quarter of the new jobs in the region.
But the economic boom carries a heavy environmental toll: Diesel trucks zip along the Inland Empire’s roads, carrying cargo to customers and piping particulates into the air. Winds rushing in from the ocean blow added pollution from LA and Orange County, which accumulates in the basin bounded to the north and east by mountains.
That makes the Inland Empire one of the unhealthiest places to live in the country. Air pollution leads to higher risk of heart disease, asthma, bronchitis, cancer, and more. The South Coast Air Basin—which encompasses parts of Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino, and Los Angeles counties--exceeds federal and state requirements for lead and small particulate matter, which can lodge in the lungs. San Bernardino and Riverside counties, which make up the Inland Empire, ranked first and second, respectively, among the top 25 most ozone-polluted counties in the American Lung Association’s 2016 air quality report.
Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color bear the brunt of this pollution, because they’re often situated near freeways or become sites for warehouses. Moreno Valley’s population is 18 percent African-American and about 54 percent Latino.
In a community where nearly 20 percent of people live in poverty, it’s easy for a big developer to gain support for a project like the World Logistics Center—especially with the promise of 20,000 permanent jobs and $2.5 billion a year added to the local economy. But the downside includes 14,000 added diesel truck trips per day and a 44 percent increase in the city’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions.
Many warehouse jobs are also low wage, temporary, and unsafe. The facilities rack up a plethora of safety violations, according to California health and safety inspectors, and workers report high levels of injury and illness.
Many residents believe “this is the best I can get,” explains Sheheryar Kaaosji, coexecutive director of the Warehouse Workers Resource Center, which advocates for employee rights. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Tom Thornsley, who has decades of experience in urban planning, says development decisions are all about weighing the pros and cons. When a project is proposed, environmental risk assessments let you know how harmful the development could be, which tells you whether it’s worth it and if you can do anything to mitigate the harm.
Ultimately, he says, if a project’s benefits outweigh its problems, “You just decide you can live with it.” In the case of the World Logistics Center, he can’t. An analysis of health impacts prepared for the developer acknowledges the potential for increased incidences of asthma, heart disease, and premature deaths.
Thornsley’s dismay over another warehouse project—for the shoe brand Skechers, which opened in 2011 and brought a net job loss—pushed him to join up with Residents for a Livable Moreno Valley, a community group created to combat rampant warehouse development.
The group has found itself battling a formidable nemesis in the person of Highland Fairview’s charismatic CEO, Iddo Benzeevi. During the protracted WLC fight, Benzeevi has become a folk hero to some Moreno Valley residents. When the city council narrowly approved the project in August 2015, residents swayed by the promise of jobs chanted “Iddo, Iddo, Iddo.”
“They think he walks on water,” Thornsley says. “I honestly couldn’t tell you why they find him to be so adorable.”
In public council meetings ahead of the vote, many residents lauded the project as a game changer for the city. “These are not jobs that are just back and hands, they’re technical jobs, they’re jobs that are going to be able to support a family,” said one woman who has lived in Moreno Valley for more than 30 years.
“Most people recognize Moreno Valley as one of three things: crime, corruption, or unemployment,” says resident Leo Gonzalez in a series of 2015 YouTube videos supporting the WLC. “I believe we have the ability to change all that.”
In addition to currying favor with residents, Benzeevi skillfully navigated California’s arcane political and environmental laws. Thanks to a 2014 California Supreme Court decision involving Walmart, ballot initiatives that garner enough residents’ signatures can escape the state’s Environmental Quality Act review process. Benzeevi took full advantage of that for the WLC.
Meanwhile, Thornsley’s group pushed back. Residents for a Livable Moreno Valley filed lawsuits against the project, which has also faced separate legal challenges from the regional South Coast Air Quality Management District, Riverside County and its transportation commission, and a roster of environmental groups including EarthJustice, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Coalition for Clean Air.
“We already have among the dirtiest air in the nation,” says George Hague, a volunteer for the local Sierra Club chapter. “We keep trying to clean it up, but projects like this put us back.”
Benzeevi disputes this, arguing that the benefits of job creation would outweigh the environmental impacts. “There is no better solution to reducing impacts to the environment than creating jobs where people live while utilizing the best available and viable clean technologies,” Benzeevi told Grist via an email from his public relations department. “This is precisely what the WLC does.”
Benzeevi notes that Moreno Valley is requiring Highland Fairview to ensure that diesel trucks servicing the WLC meet a 2010 federal government standard for clean diesel. To which Hague counters: “They’re cleaner, but they’re not clean.”
With options running out for WLC opponents, the special June 6 city council election to replace a single vacated seat represents a longshot chance to block the megawarehouse project, by putting an opponent on the board who can help overturn previous approvals. The council is now deadlocked 2-2.
The open seat was previously held by Moreno Valley’s new mayor, Yxstian Gutierrez. A supporter of the World Logistics Center, Gutierrez won just under a third of the mayoral vote, but that was enough in a multi-candidate race. Benzeevi spent more than $160,000 to help his campaign.
Highland Fairview is now backing a preferred candidate for Gutierrez’s open council seat, pouring tens of thousands into canvassing for his campaign through the Benzeevi-sponsored Committee for Ethics and Accountability in Government. WLC opponents are pinning their hopes on the three remaining candidates—one in particular has been an outspoken WLC opponent—who face long odds of winning.
Whatever the election outcome, development in the Inland Empire shows no signs of slowing in the short term. But the environmental and health impacts of the logistics industry are starting to spur more awareness of the costs of warehouse growth.
The California Air Resources Board voted in March to relocate its research facility to the Inland Empire’s Riverside County, which could potentially offer a more comprehensive understanding of the region’s poor environmental quality. And a bill in the state assembly is challenging the lack of environmental review in the initiative process—the very rule that allowed Benzeevi to push his megawarehouse project through local government.
“We have such a disengaged citizenry—most of the people don’t understand the connection of the trucks to city hall,” says Kathleen Dale, a retired urban planner with the Residents for a Livable Moreno Valley group. “When you talk to people, this is a concern of theirs, but they’re not expressing it by going to the polls.”Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.
via WIRED https://www.wired.com
May 31, 2017 at 03:33AM
Concord wants to become the Google Docs of contracts
Concord wants to be your all-in-one solution for everything related to contracts. The startup just raised a $3.7 million Series A round from Alven Capital, with existing investors Streamlined Ventures, Bruno Deschamps and Thibault Poutrel also participating.
Many departments rely on contracts to work with clients, suppliers, legal partners and more. But it’s still a tedious process as you often start working on a contract in Word, then send it back and forth with your coworkers and partners before everybody signs it.
There are a few tech products out there making it simpler to manage documents and revisions in the cloud, manage digital signatures and more.
Concord wants to centralize everything related to contract management into one service, and this service is supposed to work for all sorts of teams. Companies like Just Eat have been using it across the board, from the sales team to the HR team.
And it starts with writing new contracts. Concord lets you create and edit contracts directly in your browser. If you want to send it to a coworker, you just share the Concord document. The platform then tracks changes and versions so that everybody across your organization stays on the same page. And those contracts are legally binding.
If you need to get your manager’s approval before sending a contract, you can notify your boss or the CFO of your company directly in Concord. If the client wants to renegotiate some points, you can edit the contract in Concord again.
And once everything is done, Concord archives all your contracts so you keep track of all the contracts you signed with a specific suppliers. Concord integrates with Salesforce, Box and Google Drive.
80,000 companies use the product so far. Most companies will end up paying $25 to $50 per user per month to use Concord. It’s not cheap, but the startup hopes that you’ll never lose a contract in your email inbox again.
via TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com
May 31, 2017 at 03:29AM
A Wild Origin Story For Saturn’s Most Mysterious Moon
Enceladus is having a moment: ever since NASA announced it had all the basic ingredients to support life, people have become interested in the unusual Saturnian moon. In addition to hiding a warm subterranean ocean beneath its crust, Enceladus produces enough energy from its hydrothermal vents that could hypothetically support alien microbes. To add another layer of weirdness to this strange world, new research suggests Enceladus may have tipped over long ago.
After studying information collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, a team of scientists thinks they’ve found evidence that Enceladus’ spin axis—the imaginary line through its north and south poles—has shifted about 55 degrees away from its original axis. According to the researchers, the most likely reason is that a smaller object, like an asteroid, collided with the moon, causing it to reorient. A smash-up has previously been used to explain Enceladus’ unusual “tiger stripes,” geysers of water erupting at the moon’s current south pole. The team’s research was published in April in the journal Icarus.
“The geological activity in this [tiger stripe] terrain is unlikely to have been initiated by internal processes,” the study’s lead author, Radwan Tajeddine, a Cassini imaging team associate at Cornell University, said in a statement. “We think that, in order to drive such a large reorientation of the moon, it’s possible that an impact was behind the formation of this anomalous terrain.”
If Enceladus was indeed walloped by a giant space rock long ago, it would have redistributed the moon’s mass. According to NASA, it would have taken Enceladus over a million years to get its shit together and stabilize—in the meantime, its north and south poles would have shifted greatly in a phenomenon called “true polar wander.” Polar wander, which has also been used to explain the curious equatorial placement of Pluto’s famous heart region, could explain why Enceladus’ north and south poles look so unbelievably different from one another. For one thing, the north pole doesn’t have those hydrothermal vents spewing water vapor.
While Enceladus is still shrouded in icy mysteries, hopefully, cracking a few will help us figure out what this world is hiding. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to find some space narwhals lurking below its surface.
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
May 31, 2017 at 03:18AM
STI finally gets its hands on the Subaru BRZ … but what’s under the hood?
Subaru’s American division is preparing to release a hotter version of the BRZ tuned by STI, its in-house performance division. Fans will need to contain their excitement, because the model isn’t scheduled to make its full debut until June 8.
A teaser image published on the Japanese company’s official Twitter account reveals the BRZ STI receives a massive wing made out of carbon fiber … and it leaves the rest to the imagination. What a tease.
It’s not too far-fetched to speculate the body kit also includes a model-specific bumpers on both ends and side skirts. The BRZ STI Performance concept shown at the 2015 edition of the New York Auto Show previewed one way Subaru could give its only two-door model a muscular, race-inspired look. It even showed up in patent images a few months after its introduction, fueling rumors that it was heading for production sooner or later.
The fact that the spoiler is made out of carbon fiber suggests engineers have put the BRZ on a diet. Chassis tuning is one of the STI’s areas of expertise, so it’s safe to bet the BRZ receives comprehensive brake, suspension, and steering upgrades that make it even sharper to drive. The big questions is whether the go-fast add-ons will be complemented by more grunt.
Currently, the BRZ is only available with a 2.0-liter flat-four engine that makes 205 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 156 pound-feet of torque at 6,400 rpm. Fans have been clamoring for an engine that packs a meaner punch since the BRZ hit the market a couple of years ago, but Subaru has always been reluctant to move forward with the project.
For the sake of speculation: Imagine a feather-light, kitted-out BRZ with the WRX STI’s 305-horsepower turbocharged flat-four. A 100-horsepower bump would definitely warrant an extra-large spoiler like the one prominently featured in Subaru’s teaser shot. Of course, we won’t know for sure until the BRZ STI breaks cover on June 8.
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
May 31, 2017 at 03:06AM
What you should know before using an external hard drive on Xbox One or PS4
Whether you live in a “PlayStation household” or an “Xbox household,” your gaming console is likely one of the most important electronic devices in your home. For some people, the amount of storage space on their console is even more important than the storage space on their other devices, as games are often a huge time investment.
Xbox users have been taking advantage of external drives for some time now, allowing them to expand their storage and back up their content. For PlayStation users, however, delving into external storage is a more novel endeavor. Recent firmware updates have made it so you can finally install an external hard drive on your system with relative ease.
Here is our brief guide for all of your external storage needs — how to choose the right hard drive for your console, how to install your external hard drive, how to troubleshoot, and how to manage your storage. Read on for more information.
Your Xbox One or Xbox One S will connect to an external hard drive via USB 3.0, so long as it has a storage capacity of at least 256 GB. You can use a hard drive with lower specs, but it will only save your media, and it will not work for your games. You can also connect two external drives simultaneously, using a USB 3.0 hub, or use multiple hard drives on one system, swapping them out and using them two at a time.
Choosing your hard drive
How do you pick the right hard drive? This depends on a few factors, such as the amount of money you want to shell out, your gaming setup, and your speed and storage needs. External hard drives come in a variety of flavors, and Xbox is liberal with its requirements, allowing for all sorts of drives, including both HDD and SSD solutions.
What the hell is the difference between SSDs and HDDs anyway? A solid state drive (SSD) stores data on microchips, and there are no moving parts within the drive, hence the name. A hard disk drive, however, uses moving parts to read and write data on a disk. With an SSD, you’re likely going to pay more for less storage space, but faster load times.
As of late 2016, SSDs typically cost between 20 and 50 cents per GB, while HDDs are generally less than 5 cents per GB, Extreme Tech reports. HDDs are better for those who prioritize budget and large amounts of space, while SSDs are better for those who value speed and are willing to shell out cash for something a bit more reliable and high-end. However, keep in mind that your system will operate faster with an SSD, but you may not see the huge difference you’re expecting. You’ll likely see about a 20-percent reduction in load time if you have a good SSD, as opposed to an HDD. But, a game that took 90 seconds to load before is not going to all of a sudden load in a single millisecond. It’s also wise to remember that a hybrid (SSHD) will be “almost as fast” as an SSD, so their value is really in the eye of the user.
Whether to go with an HDD or SSD is not the only thing you have to decide on, either. Some drives come with their own power source — a power cord and an AC adapter — while others rely on power from the console’s USB 3.0 port to operate. If you like a clean setup (without a lot of cords) or you’re looking for something small and portable, these are factors to consider as well. In terms of price, you’ll pay anywhere between $40 and upwards of $300, depending on the type of drive and its specs.
A few of the best Xbox One hard drives you can buy for a decent price:
Installing your Xbox one external hard drive
First, make sure you’ve installed any and all updates to your system. If you have an Xbox-certified hard drive, the system should detect it and it’ll be plug and play for the most part, with the system walking you through the process automatically.
For other hard drives, plug the drive into a USB port and press the Xbox button in the center of your controller to launch the guide. After that, go to Settings > All settings > System > Storage > Manage storage. Under Manage storage, you should see your external hard drive listed. If you don’t see your external drive listed, try the following troubleshooting steps:
Step 1: Remove and reconnect the drive into the same USB port.
Once you see your external hard drive listed, follow the on-screen prompts. Also, name the drive something unique so you’ll be able to recognize it easily. You can rename your hard drive by selecting it and choosing the “rename” option.
Using your external hard drive
To view the contents of your hard drive, visit the Storage menu, select the name of your drive, and choose the View contents option. While your new games will install onto your hard drive automatically using the default setting, you’ll have to move your old games over manually. To do so, go to your console’s My games and apps menu and find games you’d like to move. Alternatively, you can go to the Storage menu and click on your internal hard drive and find the games there.
To move a game, select Manage game, Move all, and choose Move to your external hard drive. Depending on the size of your game and your drive’s specs, this can take anywhere between a few seconds and several minutes to complete. If you want to house a game on both your internal and external drive — say, if you’re copying your content from an Xbox One to an Xbox One S perhaps — you can select Copy all instead of Move all, and the game will copy to your external drive instead of transferring.
Thanks to Sony’s recent firmware update for the PlayStation 4, you no longer have to jump through any hoops to upgrade your storage capacity. Your external hard drive will work with any PS4 model if it’s USB 3.0-compatible, and touts at least 250GB of storage (8TB is the max).
Choosing a hard drive
PlayStation users have similar considerations to Xbox users when picking out an external hard drive — portability, cost, aesthetics, and speed. If you want something faster, with more space, and you don’t want to spend a ton of cash, it’s a good idea to opt for a hybrid model. In PS4 speed tests between SSD and SSHD, the SSHD is typically only a few seconds slower.
If you have an extra internal drive already, it may be a good idea to opt for a USB 3.0 enclosure for around $10 or $20. This will save you a huge chunk of change, and you’ll still get the storage you need.
A few of the best PS4 hard drives you can buy right now for a decent price.
Installing and formatting your external hard drive
Plug your device into a USB port on your PlayStation and go to Settings > Devices > USB storage devices. After you select USB storage devices, you should see your external hard drive listed on the screen. If it’s not listed, and you see a message that says “USB storage is not connected” under the USB storage devices menu, check to make sure you’ve installed all of the latest console updates, and that your USB device is plugged in all the way. If you still can’t see the name of your hard drive on the screen, try a different USB port or a different outlet, if you have a hard drive with a separate power plug.
Once you click the external hard drive, your console is going to prompt you to format your hard drive. Go ahead and format your device as extended storage, and follow the on-screen instructions. Please note that once you complete this step, your PS4 is going to wipe your external hard drive so it can prepare it for use.
Once formatted, your disc games and downloads will install onto your external hard drive by default. If you want to change this, you can do so by selecting Storage under the Settings menu, and changing the install location to your System storage instead of your Extended storage.
Using your external hard drive
Moving PS4 games onto your external hard drive is relatively simple. To do so, go to Settings > Storage > System storage > Applications. Here, you can move one or more games at a time to extended storage.
To copy a game to your hard drive, go to Settings > Application saved data management > Saved data in system storage. Afterward, select Copy to USB storage device, choose what you’d like to copy, and wait for the process to complete.
You can also back up your PS4’s internal HDD to an external drive by going to Settings > System > Backup and restore. You’ll need to confirm which data you’d like to back up, and then name your backup so you can easily identify it.
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
May 31, 2017 at 03:06AM
AMD unleashes its superteam APU with Ryzen and Vega mobile chip
AMD has demoed a melding of its two most exciting technologies in years at Computex 2017: A system on a chip (SOC) that combines a Ryzen processor with a Vega graphics core. Shown working within an AMD-branded laptop, the mobile accelerated processing unit (APU) is said to offer 50 percent more CPU power and 40 percent more graphics power than the last generation hardware from AMD.
Although AMD has struggled for more than a decade to offer true competition for Intel at the top end of the processor market, where it has excelled is in mobile computing. Its APUs have offered affordable computing with decent performance for some time now and it’s looking to expand on that potential with the new generation of Ryzen core APUs later this year.
What’s doubly exciting about this chip, though, is that along with Ryzen’s strong launch earlier this year, Vega is expected to offer truly top-tier graphics performance, so bringing that power to a singular mobile chip has a lot of people on tenterhooks. The showing of the Ryzen/Vega APU-powered laptop at Computex is our first look at such a system, and though we didn’t get any raw performance numbers or tests, it appears to be working rather well.
The slimline laptop was said to have a sub-15mm thickness at its widest and AMD claims the combination of Zen CPU and Vega lead to big gains in graphical and processor performance. It would certainly be enough to give Intel and Nvidia a run for their money in their respective mobile spaces.
What will be interesting to learn more about as we get closer to this hardware’s launch later this year is what the memory allocation for Vega is like. As PCPer points out, it’s unlikely that an on-die Vega core will make use of the second-generation high-bandwidth memory (HBM2) that the more mainstream graphics cards use. It could have a non-system cache, but for now, that’s mere speculation.
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
May 31, 2017 at 03:06AM
Will robots take your job? Website estimates which jobs will be automated
A new website hopes to answer a question in the minds of many people — “Will my job be automated?”
If you’re a priest, podiatrist, dentist, or photographer, you can expect to stay employed, according to the site. If you’re a technical writer, taxi cab driver, or accountant, you might want to start retraining.
Willrobotstakemyjob.com was created by a developer and graphic designer, Mubashar Iqbal and Dimitar Raykov respectively, who’d read a paper by a pair of Oxford economists who set out to predict which jobs were most likely to be automated in the future. Iqbal and Raykov decided to make the results of the paper more accessible.
On the site, users can type an occupation, such as teacher, and select from a list of associated professions, like teacher assistants (56 percent chance of automation), choreographers (0.4 percent), or animal trainers (10 percent). You’re also free to view jobs at random. We did, and found that stonemasons have an 89 percent chance of being automated.
The website also goes a bit deeper, offering additional data on things like projected growth, median salary, and the number of people employed in each role as of 2016.
Iqbal and Raykov collected their data from “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?” — a report published in 2013 by Oxford’s Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne.
“Their methodology seems sound,” Iqbal told Digital Trends, “but with all predictions there is always a margin of error and probably more so with a topic such as this, where the industry and technology is evolving so quickly. If anything their predictions may have been too conservative.”
The site is amusing but should not be seen as the sole source of data on such an important issue. For one thing, Frey and Osborne considered whether certain tasks would be automated, not whether the entire job would fall to robots. And, their paper has yet to be peer reviewed. Maybe most importantly, as technology progresses, the facts surrounding automation constantly change. It’s difficult to say today which tasks will be automated tomorrow.
“Something like this is not going to be 100 percent accurate and I don’t think anyone expects it to be,” Iqbal admits, “but it helps to identify the trends, and lets people see where automation efforts are likely to be focused.”
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
May 31, 2017 at 03:06AM
McLaren’s L1 LM sets another world-class performance benchmark
Nürburgring records are being reset almost as fast as an actual lap of the famous German racetrack. Over the past few months, Lamborghini has claimed the Nürburgring crown with its Huracán LP640-4 Performante with a 6:52.01 lap, only to be usurped by Nio’s all-electric EP9, which managed a 6:45.90 lap. But that record has now fallen as well.
Your new Nürburgring road-car record holder is the McLaren P1 LM, which achieved a fastest lap of 6:43.2 according to Lanzante, the United Kingdom-based firm that created it. You see the P1 LM isn’t a McLaren factory car, it’s a version of the P1 GTR track car modified for street use. That stretches the definition of “road car” just a bit, but there’s no denying the P1 LM put in an impressive performance.
The P1 LM was unveiled at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed, where it set a record for Goodwood’s hillclimb course. For both that run and the Nürburgring record attempt, the P1 LM was piloted by Lanzante test driver Kenny Bräck, whose past accomplishments include an Indianapolis 500 win. After setting the ‘Ring record, the car was driven straight back to the U.K., according to Lanzante.
It was probably only a matter of time before the P1 LM reset the Nürburgring bar. The original McLaren P1 lapped the track in under seven minutes, but McLaren never said how far under. The P1 LM is a much more extreme car, boasting more advanced aerodynamic aids, as well as 986 horsepower, 83 more than the “standard” P1.
The P1 LM started out as the P1 GTR, a special version built by McLaren for track use only. The P1 GTR wasn’t road legal, so Lanzante decided to convert a limited number (just five customer cars, plus one prototype) for people to drive on the street. But the track is still where this car belongs, so it’s not surprising that the P1 LM thrived at the Nürburgring. Lanzante even plans to use the ‘Ring for final tuning of each customer car.
One may ask how lap times at one racetrack are relevant to a car’s overall worth, but the Nürburgring madness shows no signs of abating. While the P1 LM is about as exotic as current supercars get, the Aston Martin Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG Project One are waiting in the wings. Both cars will leverage Formula One technology and engineering, and you can bet both Aston and Mercedes will make a beeline for the Nürburgring with them.
via Digital Trends http://ift.tt/2p4eJdC
May 31, 2017 at 03:06AM
Space-Mutated Bacteria Could Be Bad News For Humans
A new experiment shows that long-term exposure to microgravity affects bacteria at the genetic level—conferring reproductive advantages that persist even after the bacteria is reintroduced to unaffected colonies and normal levels of gravity here on Earth.
For decades, scientists have struggled to understand why certain bacteria appear to thrive in space. New research published in NPJ Microgravity shows that one bacteria, at least, acquires well over a dozen mutations when exposed to space, and that these changes make it better at reproduction. What’s more, these changes appear to stick around for the long term, even after the mutated bacteria is exposed to normal conditions. This is worrisome news for astronauts on long duration missions, who may be exposed to novel and dangerous strains of microorganisms over time.
Evidence from earlier spaceflight has shown that
The mechanics behind these space-borne advantages aren’t entirely clear, prompting scientists from the University of Houston in Texas to test the effects of microgravity on bacteria over a protracted period of time. The researchers, led by biologist Madhan Tirumalai, took a batch of E. coli bacteria and placed them in a special rotating machine that simulates long term exposure to microgravity. The bacteria were allowed to reproduce for 1,000 generations, far longer than previous studies.
These “adapted” cells were then introduced to a colony of normal E. coli bacteria (a control strain), and they performed just fine, producing three times as many colonies as unaffected cells over the same timespan. This effect was observed to linger over time, suggesting the adaptations may be permanent. In related experiments, the microgravity-grown bacteria were allowed to reproduce in normal gravity conditions for up to 30 generations, and then introduced to a control strain. The modified bacteria still managed to maintain over 70 percent of its competitive growth advantage over unmodified bacteria.
The University of Houston scientists performed a genetic analysis on the adapted bacteria, documenting at least 16 different mutations. It’s not clear if these mutations are significant individually, or if they’re working in concert to confer the bacteria a special advantage. What is clear, however, is that these space-based mutations are not arbitrary—they’re effective at boosting reproductive fitness, and they seem to be permanent.
This discovery is problematic on at least two levels. In the future, space-modified bacteria might be returned to Earth and unintentionally let loose, introducing new traits that wouldn’t normally emerge in gravitationally bound conditions. Secondly, tougher bacteria could affect the health of astronauts on long duration missions, such as a journey to Mars. Thankfully, the scientists’ modified bacteria were still susceptible to antibiotics, so we still have that as an option. At least for now.
[NPJ Microgravity via New Scientist]
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
May 31, 2017 at 03:06AM
How Do We Know Black Holes Are Really Holes?
Some Earthlings have the silly tendency to think that if they don’t understand something, it must be fake. That includes our influence on the changing climate, the fact that the Earth is round, and the existence of black holes, massive blobs so dense that not even light can escape their tug.
We know that black holes exist in some form or another, but no one has seen them with their own eyes or a telescope, since they’re either black or shrouded by hot gas from stuff torn apart by their gravity. We also know that galaxies have central massive objects that we assume are supermassive black holes. Scientists think these black holes are dense masses of the smallest possible length, surrounded by a far-out point-of-no-return of warped space from which light can’t escape, based on Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. But assumptions aren’t facts. So a few scientists wanted to prove to themselves that Einstein was right—that black holes really do collapse into single points under their own gravity, and aren’t just super heavy masses that have somehow become dark.
If black holes weren’t single points, but uniform spheres the same radius or larger than the event horizon (the point of no return in space), they should have a surface that stars will occasionally slam into at nearly the speed of light, the study’s first author and University of Texas astrophysics grad student Wenbin Lu told Gizmodo. “We calculated the outcome of such collisions, which would be visible at cosmological distances, billions of light years away,” he said.
A star slamming into a black hole would first turn into a stellar streamer, stretching out as the gravity of the galactic center tears it apart in a “tidal disruption event.” If the black hole’s event horizon was just a solid surface, then scientists should be able to detect a signature emission from the collision that we wouldn’t see if it was just a point-of-no-return in space.
Lu and his advisor combined data on the rate that stars fall into galactic centers, the number of galaxies that met the predefined parameters, and how bright such a collision should be. And they found no evidence for these telltale emissions, according to the paper published recently in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. This provides evidence against the big spheres theory, further bolstering Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
Are there limitations to the study? Hell yeah. This is science, after all.
The paper sets a limit on how big enormous black holes could be, at just a smidgeon larger than the radius of the event horizon. But it does leave a tiny bit of room for uncertainty, in which light would be too faint to be detected here on Earth, thanks to a phenomenon called gravitational redshift. If black holes were giant spheres exactly the same size as an event horizon, there would still be this well of gravity light would have to escape, that could stretch it out beyond the detection methods in the paper.
The researchers also ignored the spin of the black holes, which could change some numbers. And their calculations only work for supermassive black holes, those tens of millions of times the mass of our Sun or greater.
There are other limitations as well. I asked Dr. Grant Tremblay, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, what he thought, and he said it was a good paper. But he also pointed out that “it’s just a thought experiment and back of the envelope calculation.” The scientists made a calculation, noticed we don’t observe it, and said that it adds proof that black holes have event horizons. That’s cool, but it’s sort of like saying that chest pain must be gas because if it were a heart attack, I’d be dead (my words, not Tremblay’s).
Of course, scientists are also trying to spot black holes with an Earth-spanning array of telescope called the Event Horizon Telescope. So keep your eyes open.
But for now, just know that yeah, black holes are real. And if we try to pretend they’re not real, they’re still real. But figuring out what they really are and how they really work will continue to be a challenge.
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
May 31, 2017 at 03:00AM