Cheap solar energy: A new way of producing solar cells could make energy from the Sun cheaper than coal, gas and oil. The research by a team at Liverpool University has been published in the journal Nature.
27 June 2014
Solar cells convert energy from the Sun into electricity. The researchers have replaced a toxic compound, used to make one type of solar cell, with a chemical that is much cheaper, completely safe and works just as well.
The new compound, magnesium chloride, is used to make tofu and is found in bath salts. It’s also found in sea water, and so costs much less than the poisonous chemical currently used.
Dr Jon Major, who led the research at Liverpool University, believes that the ensuing cost savings have the potential to transform the economics of solar energy.
Dr Jon Major, Liverpool University:
“Potentially you could reduce the cost of making these solar cells overnight. We think that this process could cause a step change in the cost of solar energy and that could really make the difference into making it competitive with fossil fuels.”
More work will need to be done to see if the cost savings found in the lab can work on an industrial scale. But the cost of solar energy has been steadily falling. And many involved in research in the field believe that it’s just a matter of time before it becomes cheaper than coal, gas and oil, and one day replaces fossil fuels entirely.
British jihadists worry authorities: The British authorities are concerned about young British men returning from Syria and Iraq after engaging in the fight for the creation of an Islamic state. The former MI6 director Richard Barrett says security services won’t be able to monitor all of them. According to recent reports, there could be 500 Britons fighting in Syria.
23 June 2014
Belatedly perhaps, the public is being alerted to the scale of the problem facing this country from hundreds of British jihadists returning from a brutal sectarian conflict in Syria and now Iraq.
While many may settle back into a normal life here, the police and the Security Service are bracing themselves for the likelihood that a small, violent minority will become involved in domestic terrorism.
Richard Barrett, who spent years directing counter terrorism, first at MI6, then at the UN, says the authorities here will not be able to keep on top of the problem.
Clearly they’ll have to prioritise and they’ll have to choose those that they think are likely to pose the greatest risk. Beyond that I think they’ll have to rely very much on members of the community and other people expressing their concern and worry about the behaviour of perhaps their returned friend or family member.
Those young British jihadists who have gone out to fight in Syria have often left without telling their parents. Radicalised and indoctrinated by what they see on Internet forums, they sometimes disappear only to re-emerge months later in an extremist video, cradling a Kalashnikov in front of a black flag and urging others to join them.
The young men from Cardiff who recently appeared in a video from Syria are just such an example.
Poaching threatens survival of African elephants: The office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (known as CITES) says rates of elephant poaching and trade in illegal ivory remain very high. In a new report, CITES warns that Africa’s elephants face an immediate threat to their survival because of continued high levels of poaching for their ivory.
16 June 2014
Twenty thousand elephants were illegally killed in Africa last year, the report shows. That figure far exceeds the growth rate of the elephant population. In some regions of Africa elephants are threatened with extinction.
The report also documents a clear increase in the number of large seizures -amounts of over 500kg – of ivory in Africa. For the first time there were more such seizures in Africa than in Asia, an indication, the report suggests, of the involvement of transnational organised crime in the illegal ivory trade.
And while elephant conservationists do believe that increased ivory confiscation is a sign that law enforcement is improving, they also point out that demand for ivory remains very high, and that even in some of the monitored elephant populations, poaching is actually increasing.
Mud-pack for the Taj Mahal: The Taj Mahal, India’s most famous monument, is to be given a mud-pack treatment to clean its white marble walls of yellow stains caused by pollution. It’ll be the fourth time this method has been used to clean the seventeenth-century tomb.
9 June 2014
The white marble domes and minarets of the Taj Mahal were constructed as a monument to love by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan on the death of his favourite wife, nearly four hundred years ago.
In recent years, pollution from factories and a nearby oil refinery have turned its pristine walls yellow. The Archaeological Survey of India began applying mud-packs to clean the monument in the mid-1990s.
It says continuing high levels of pollution means the treatment needs to be applied again soon. The lime-rich clay mask is believed to be based on a recipe used by Indian women to restore the natural glow to their faces.
A thin layer of mud is painted on the marble and left overnight before being brushed off in the morning. The surfaces are then washed down with distilled water to remove polluting chemicals drawn from the stone and the dirt and grease left behind by millions of visitors.
Premier League clubs’ income ‘doubled in seven years’: The English Premier League remains the most lucrative in world football, according to a new survey by consultants Deloitte. It’s calculated that revenues at the 20 Premier League clubs will have grown by 28% over the last season, to 5.4 billion dollars. But high wage costs mean that most of that money will have been paid to the players.
6 June 2014
The wealth of the English Premier League was boosted this season by new domestic television deals, which are expected to generate nearly 6 billion dollars over three years. Commercial revenues, from sponsorship and merchandise sales have been growing rapidly, especially at Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.
However, wage costs have also been increasing. In the 2012 to 2013 season, they accounted for 71 percent of overall income, while the money spent on player transfers grew by nearly a third, to 1.2 billion dollars.
As a result, although the Premier League is the richest in Europe, it is not the most profitable. That title goes to Germany’s Bundesliga, which operates strict cost controls and limits the share of income which can be spent on players’ wages.
Obama to announce new pollution targets for power plants: The US government is due to give details about its plan to cut carbon emissions from fossil fuel power stations. This will be one of the most significant actions to try to reduce global warming in US history.
2 June 2014
The United States produces more greenhouse gases than any country in the world, apart from China. The plan to curb emissions from fossil-fuelled power plants is the most ambitious measure proposed by President Obama in his efforts to tackle climate change.
The details of the plan will be laid out by the Environmental Protection Agency. It will give broad flexibility to states to decide how to meet carbon reduction targets, whether by closing coal-fired power stations and switching to cleaner sources of energy, or by creating cap-and-trade schemes.
Some US media are reporting that by 2030 the government wants a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Business groups and Republicans fiercely oppose the new regulations, and say they’re likely to drive up electricity prices. But for the president the measure is important for his environmental legacy and in order to show global leadership on climate change.
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