South Africa’s trek to the start of time

first_img8 October 2010 It will be capable of probing the edges of our universe. It will search for gravitational waves, predicted but never detected. It will be a virtual time machine, enabling scientists to explore the origins of galaxies, stars and planets. And South Africans are at the heart of its development. Allied with eight other African countries, South Africa is competing against Australia (allied with New Zealand) to host the €1.5-billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an instrument 50-100 times more sensitive and 10 000 times faster than any radio imaging telescope yet built. The international SKA consortium is due to announce the winning bid in 2012, with construction likely to start in 2014 and finish by about 2022. The completed telescope will comprise around 3 000 antennas with a combined collecting area of roughly one square kilometre. South Africa plans to locate the core of these in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape – an arid, remote area blessed with exceptionally clear skies and minimal radio interference – with outlying stations in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. The country is no newcomer to major league astronomy. The Northern Cape is already home to one of the world’s largest telescopes, the Southern African Large Telescope or SALT. South Africa also works closely with neighbour Nambia on the HESS gamma ray telescope, and is currently building an 80-dish precursor instrument for the SKA, the Karoo Array Telescope (also known as the MeerKAT), due to be commissioned in 2014/15 as the most sensitive radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. In the process, South African engineers are already working on some of the SKA’s technological building blocks – such as a prototype dish antenna that combines new materials with innovative design processes to meet the SKA’s exacting precision, durability and cost criteria. If awarded to South Africa, the SKA would establish the southern African region as a major international astronomy hub. And the SKA consortium, comprising 55 institutions in 19 countries, is optimistic that the United States will be part of the project. In its latest report to the US National Research Council, released in August, the US Committee for a Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics endorsed the SKA, expressing “unqualified enthusiasm for the science that this facility could deliver and recognition that it represents the long-term future of radio astronomy.” This does not automatically translate into the 40% funding the SKA partners were hoping the US would provide. The committee noted that the SKA schedule and the US funding timetable are out of synch. At the same time, it urged funding for two other projects – HERA (Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array) and NANOGrav (North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves) – that could greatly assist the SKA. Responding to the report, SKA project director Richard Schilizzi said: “We are cautiously optimistic that the US will take part in the SKA.” This article was first published in South Africa Now, a six-page supplement to the Washington Post produced on behalf of Brand South Africa. Download South Africa Now (PDF, 2.12 MB).last_img read more

No vote on community rights in Williams County, yet

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, Ohio State University Extension Agricultural & Resource Law ProgramA proposed county charter for Williams County, Ohio containing language similar to the Lake Erie Bill of Rights may not make it on the November ballot. The Ohio Supreme Court recently refused to compel the Williams County Board of Elections (BOE) to include the charter on the ballot for procedural reasons.The charter would have declared that the people of Williams County have the right to a healthy environment and sustainable community, and that the Michindoh Aquifer and its ecosystem have the right to exist, flourish, evolve, regenerate. Further, the aquifer would have the right of restoration, recovery, and preservation, including the right to be free from interferences such as the extraction, sale, lease, transportation, or distribution of water outside of the aquifer’s boundary.Even though the petition to put the charter on the ballot had enough signatures, the BOE believed that the language of the charter violated Ohio law, and therefore exercised its power to reject the petition and keep it off the ballot. The petitioners appealed the BOE’s decision to the Williams County Court of Common Pleas, and that court agreed with the BOE. Instead of going to the Court of Appeals, the petitioners tried to go directly the Ohio Supreme Court because the BOE will soon print the November ballots. The Ohio Supreme Court said the petitioners should have gone to the Court of Appeals first, and that it will not decide on whether the BOE has to include the charter on the ballot until the petitioners do so.This doesn’t mean the end for the proposed charter, but rather that more court time is in the proposed charter’s future.last_img read more

Kermit Was Right

first_imgPeter:Yes, we admit it; the blog title is a play on words from the oft-quoted Kermit the Frog. But it continually amazes me how many building professionals, companies, and organizations don’t have or clearly state a comprehensive and clear definition of building green. Without one, you risk confusing your staff and your clients. With one, you ensure that everyone is on the same page, from the beginning of and throughout the whole construction process.I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about and researching definitions of building green and the one I like best I found on the EPA Region 3 website a number of years ago:A green building is “…purposefully designed to reduce both the direct and indirect environmental consequences associated with its construction, occupancy, operation, maintenance and eventual decommissioning. Constructing a green building requires the cooperation of everyone involved in the design and building process.”I like this definition for these reasons:1. It starts with design. Too many projects “inject green” well past the design phase, missing some of the most important and cost-effective opportunities for greening the project.2. It addresses every phase of the life of a building. Without attention to each of these phases, we won’t get the reduced environmental impact we seek.3. It emphasizes cooperation. Too often the design folks don’t respect the engineers, the engineers don’t respect the trades. Building is still about people and if they are not working together, you can’t get a high performance building at the end of the day.4. It ends with process. For too many of us in the building industry, green building is all about the products; if we throw in some bamboo flooring or carpet made from soda bottles, we are all set. How we build is just as important as what we build with.Amy:In my search for the perfect definition of Green Building, I came across this in the 2008 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria:“… Green building integrates materials and methods that promote environmental quality, economic vitality and social benefits through design, construction and operation of the built environment.”I like this definition because, like Peter’s example above, it addresses partnerships and cooperation and states a specific process. As a former commercial and residential developer, I am crucially aware that economic vitality is essential to any real estate project, and the integration of green building is increasingly driving the economics of development. But the reason I originally decided to become a developer, and the motivating factor behind why I am with Enterprise Green Communities now, is the latter part of the definition…”social benefits through design, construction and operation of the built environment.” To me, green building is about people. It is the collaborative creation of environmentally responsible, economically beneficial, health-conscious structures for your beneficiaries.Focusing on the beneficiary of your project is essential, especially in the affordable housing sector. I asked a colleague of mine here at Enterprise Green Communities, Yianice Hernandez, to share some of her knowledge of a recent project we have been involved in that is showing measured health benefits as a result of green building practices. I would like to share it with you…Viking TerraceIn early 2010, the results of a three-year evaluation by the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) of residents in a 60-unit substantial rehabilitated project in Worthington, MN. Preliminary data show:• Significant improvements in general adult health, chronic bronchitis, hay fever, sinusitis, and asthma.• Large improvements in children’s general health, children’s respiratory allergies, children’s ear infections, comfort, and safety.For more information on this project, click here.I encourage you to check out the study above and if you would like other examples, feel free to ask me here on the blog.So… in reading our definitions and highlights of green building, what stands out to you? What is your definition and why does it matter so much to you?last_img read more

Minnesota Students Win ‘Race to Zero’ Title

first_imgHousing for a hard-hit part of townThe university team targeted a vacant lot in a section of North Minneapolis that was struck by tornados in 2011 and also affected by the foreclosure crisis a few years earlier, according to a fact sheet distributed by the team. There are many vacant lots in the area where Green Homes North plans to build 100 energy-efficient homes.The house is designed for a 40-foot-wide lot with its long axis aligned east-to-west, to make the most of solar gain. With most Minneapolis house lots running east-to-west, the team said, the design would be well suited to the area.Among the features of the winning design are Energy Star appliances and windows, WaterSense low-flow plumbing fixtures, rainwater storage, LED lights, photovoltaic panels, low-VOC paints and finishes, and concrete made with fly ash.The total finished floor area is 1,696 square feet with another 848 square feet in a lower level that also could be finished. The design includes three bedrooms and 1 1/2 bathroom (plus another in the lower level).Some of the details:Foundation: The slab and footings are insulated to R-10, foundation walls to R-15. Moisture control comes with capillary breaks, a waterproof membrane, perimeter drainage, and a sealed sump.Exterior walls: The 2×4 stud walls are sheathed with Zip System sheathing, insulated between the studs with fiberglass batts, and insulated on the outside with 3 inches of extruded polystyrene insulation, for a total R-value of R-32.Windows: Double-pane, low-e units with a U-factor of 0.27 and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.20.Roof: Vented truss construction with a clerestory; insulated to R-53 with a combination of rigid polyisocyanurate and fiberglass batts.Mechanicals: For combined space and water heating, a Polaris condensing water heater plus a SEER 14 air-source heat pump. Heating and cooling distribution via forced-air ductwork.Whole-house ventilation: Venmar energy-recovery ventilator.Photovoltaic system: Twenty 410-watt PV panels for a total rated capacity of 8.2 kW, with an estimated annual output of 10,337 kWh. With PV, the house has a HERS score of 0.Students estimated that the house would cost $226,797 to build, well within reach for a family of four with a median income of about $64,000. A team of students from the University of Minnesota came up with the winning entry in this year’s Race to Zero competition with a 2,544-square-foot two-story house designed to be affordable as well as energy-efficient.The OptiMN Impact Home was designed specifically for infill lots in North Minneapolis and meets both the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home criteria and a program established by the city of Minneapolis called Green Homes North. The project was a collaboration between the university and Urban Homeworks, a neighborhood development program in Minneapolis.According to the DOE, the aim of the competition, now in its second year, is to produce affordable, zero-energy homes that can be built by mainstream builders. The competition drew 33 teams from 27 different universities in Canada and the U.S., with winners announced last month at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.DOE has posted a full list of entries and details about the houses at its website.last_img read more

Cloud Complexity Clouts Enterprise Customers

first_imgHow complicated is Amazon Web Service’s cloud? So complicated, it had to devote a full conference track to managing cloud resources at last week’s re:Invent conference, including – kid you not – a complete session just  to explain AWS billing. This is just one example that for all the talk about the awesomeness of cloud, its complexity is a very real impediment to adoption by business customers.You’re Doing It WrongThe billing session came as a bit of a shock. I did not actually attend re:Invent, AWS’s first conference, but I happened to be at the same venue in Las Vegas for next event, the CloudStack Collaboration Conference. Somehow or other, over a breakfast meeting with a bunch of rather tired and post-chemical attendees, the topic of AWS came up. It was only natural, given that some of them had been in Vegas the whole week and had attended re:Invent, too.Reaction at the table to the conference track, entitled “Resource Management,” was incredulous and laced with invective. One Apache OpenCloud committer who did not wish to be identified summed it up best: “If you have to have a session on billing, you’re doing it wrong.”It’s a valid argument, because while one should rightfully expect all levels of interest to be addressed at a trade show’s first run, it seems that something like billing for cloud services should be pretty simple and not in need of tutoring. This kind of complexity raises serious questions about the real value of using a public vs. private cloud in the enterprise.Not every session in the track was like this, of course. “Introduction to AWS CloudFormation,” “Introduction to AWS Elastic Beanstalk” and “Cloud Infrastructure and Application Monitoring with Amazon CloudWatch” appeared to be good technical introductions to some of the 21 tools used within the central AWS Management Console.Along with the “Decoding Your AWS Bill,” the “Optimizing Costs with AWS” session also  seemed to focus on figuring out your bill – and driving it as low as possible. Which is a good idea, of course, but why should it be so damn complicated?Perhaps I should have gotten my first clue earlier this year when I covered the new Xervmon service. Xervmon’s singular mission is to analyze your cloud computing and data center use and help you find ways to keep costs in line. The fact that such a start-up even exists should have served as notice enough of the issues enterprises are having with cloud computing.How Complex Does Cloud Need To Be?The problem is, as complex as cloud seems to be, there doesn’t seem to be much progress toware making it more manageable. Cloud computing is often compared with Linux, and indeed there are parallels in how it is being adopted. But even though early iterations of Linux were pretty complicated to install and use, there was always real progress towards ease of use. With cloud, that movement seems glacial.That may be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. There’s the argument that cloud computing is doing very complex things and so therefore should never be too simple to implement – otherwise it would be too easy to screw something up.But IT managers are generally not the type of people who like to feel stupid, and sooner or later cloud computing is going to have to get to the point where those managers can operate these platforms – be they public, private or hybrid – and, more importantly, explain the value and cost benefits to their bosses.Otherwise, cloud adoption will remain as ephemeral as its namesake.Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Related Posts Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of… Tags:#Amazon#cloud computing brian proffittcenter_img Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now IT + Project Management: A Love Affairlast_img read more

Clouds block strawberry colored moon tropics quiet

first_img Recommended for you Related Items:strawberry moon Strawberry Moon a delicious show from Midday today Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsAppProvidenciales, 03 Jun 2015 – And Turks and Caicos’ usually clear skies were covered in clouds last night; blocking most, if not all, from seeing that ‘strawberry moon’. The good news is the tropics remain quiet. Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApplast_img