JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Satellite going AWOL at 28,000km/hr — tracking that Chinese stray machinery

The ESA blog has this trajectory “prediction” (below). Given that the window of reentry stretches across a day and the object in question is doing 28,000 km per hour, we can say for sure this will hit Earth. (Or rather, some small part of the satellite that survives the burning up process will touchdown somewhere). Two weeks ago Roy Spencer predicted it will probably hit “the ocean” and explained why it is so difficult to estimate the actual impact point. It is circling the Earth every 89 minutes.

UPDATE: This was China’s first space station. Launched in 2011. It has two sleeping spots for astronauts, and was visited twice. View this as a mark of the rise of China. Though it also says something that China lost control/contact with it in March 2016. Tiangong-1 is only 8,500 kg. The Russian space station Mir was 120,000kg.

UPDATE #2: 3pm Watch the LIVE track at N2Yo (overloaded) or at SATview or Heavens Above.

UPDATED #3: Narrowing the risk map. Dr Marco Langbroek‏

Aerospace estimate is April 2 at 02:00 UTC ± 7 0:18 UTC ± 2 hours. (Current UTC time is 5:10pm, so seven-ish hours to go, more or less.) USA [...]

And a Happy Easter to you

 

Wishing everyone good health and good times…

Surprise: Australia closed a cheap coal generator and electricity got 85% more expensive

Last year one of our largest coal power plants suddenly closed, with only five months warning, catching the market by surprise and taking out 5% of our cheapest generation. (This kind of improbable anti-free-market feat shows just how screwed our national market is). The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has looked at the effect the closure of Hazelwood had on electricity prices and concluded that closing cheap brown-coal plants and replacing them with black coal and gas will make electricity prices rise. This will come as no surprise to anyone who can count to 100.

Dan Harrison at the ABC reports:

A year on from the closure of the 1600 megawatt-sized plant in the Latrobe Valley, the report from the Australian Energy Regulator found wholesale prices in Victoria were up 85 per cent on 2016.

Because electricity retailers use hedging for wholesale prices, the rise in retail prices is still feeding through. In the wash, the wholesale increase is expected to add 16% to retail prices this financial year compared to last year. After that, through some miracle, the AEMC expects prices to come back down from Exorbitant to Slightly Lower Than Exorbitant in the next two years thanks [...]

Another way to destroy a grid: add a million electric vehicles

New electric vehicles have big fat batteries, which will help solve the problem known as “charge anxiety” (let’s call that the Flat-Bat-Fear).

The new fat-batteries, however, have the small catch that they need two days to trickle charge. Hmm. Then there is the other catch that each slow charger (7kW) is equivalent to adding nearly three houses to the grid. Our Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg predicts there will be one million electric cars on Australian roads by 2030.

You might think this is slow motion train wreck, but we might avoid this if households opt for fast 50kW chargers. In that case we can do the train-wreck at top speed.

Each fast charger will apparently be “like” adding the equivalent of 20, count them, 20 homes.

This is fearmongering obviously — no one is going to want a fast charger when they could leave the car in the garage for 48 hours instead.

New Zealand report claims new generation electric vehicles threaten the power network

Ben Packham, The Australian

New Zealand’s biggest energy distributor, Vector, warned electric vehicle chargers “put a large electrical load on the network”, with even 2.4kW “trickle” chargers adding the equivalent of one additional [...]

Thin sunscreen layer to *save reef from bleaching* for first time in twenty million years

Scientists are suggesting that a thin layer of floating calcium carbonate can cut sunlight over reefs by 30% and save some high value reefs from bleaching.

This should work well on all the reefs that evolved in the last fifty years and which don’t have moving water.

But half of the coral genera around today have been around since the Oligocene (23-34 million years ago) and for most of that time the oceans were warmer. (Lucky human civilization evolved just in time to save all these reefs from extinction.)

Bleaching has probably been going on for millions of years longer than we have been scuba diving with cameras to film it. We only discovered coral bleaching in the 1980s. Not surprisingly, marine life has ways to adapt to heatwaves by chucking out the symbionts that don’t thrive in higher temperatures and replacing them with new inhabitants that do.

Yes, let’s cover our most diverse and important reef systems with an artificial layer that cuts incoming sunlight by a third — What could possibly go wrong?

Ultra-fine film possible saviour for Great Barrier Reef

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Biology say tests of a floating [...]

EarthHour: largest global movement for environment. “Millions participate” and like every carbon scheme, nothing happens

Earthhour is “The Largest Global Movement for the Environment”*

SBS tells us that it started in Australia (sorry), is observed by millions, and now occurs in 187 countries. (Since only one person has to turn off one light to qualify, I want to know which seven countries didn’t?)

To mark Earth Hour this year, WWF asked the public to make a “promise for the planet” – a small step in their own lives to help reduce their environmental footprint – such as refusing plastic cutlery or carrying a reusable coffee cup. While these promises are small individually, WWF stated that “millions of people taking these actions together will have a massive, powerful impact”.

Which day was EarthHour Day in Australia – Spot the difference:

Was this EarthDay?

The Australian National Electricity Grid last weekend.

 

Or this?

The Australian National Electricity Grid last weekend (the other day).

Source: Aneroid 24th March and Aneroid 25th March.

Notice the Earth-saving electricity dip at 8:30pm when millions turn off their lights!

Megagrams of carbon was saved. (Maybe.)

Take it from WWF — this is the sum total effect of all the voters that care about climate change. [...]