To Confront Climate Change, the Modern Automobile Must Die

https://www.wired.com/story/germany-proves-cars-must-die

This story originally appeared on The New Republic and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Germany was supposed to be a model for solving global warming. In 2007, the country’s government announced that it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by the year 2020. This was the kind of bold, aggressive climate goal scientists said was needed in all developed countries. If Germany could do it, it would prove the target possible.

So far, Germany has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 27.7 percent—an astonishing achievement for a developed country with a highly developed manufacturing sector. But with a little over a year left to go, despite dedicating $580 billion toward a low-carbon energy system, the country “is likely to fall short of its goals for reducing harmful carbon-dioxide emissions,” Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday. And the reason for that may come down not to any elaborate solar industry plans, but something much simpler: cars.

“At the time they set their goals, they were very ambitious,” Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations’ top climate change official, told Bloomberg. “What happened was that the industry—particularly the car industry—didn’t come along.”

Changing the way we power our homes and businesses is certainly important. But as Germany’s shortfall shows, the only way to achieve these necessary, aggressive emissions reductions to combat global warming is to overhaul the gas-powered automobile and the culture that surrounds it. The only question left is how to do it.

In 2010, a NASA study declared that automobiles were officially the largest net contributor of climate change pollution in the world. “Cars, buses, and trucks release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it,” the study read. “In contrast, the industrial and power sectors release many of the same gases—with a larger contribution to [warming]—but they also emit sulfates and other aerosols that cause cooling by reflecting light and altering clouds.”

In other words, the power generation sector may have emitted the most greenhouse gases in total. But it also released so many sulfates and cooling aerosols that the net impact was less than the automobile industry, according to NASA.

Since then, developed countries have cut back on those cooling aerosols for the purpose of countering regular air pollution, which has likely increased the net climate pollution of the power generation industry. But according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions,” while “in total, the US transportation sector—which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and freight—produces nearly thirty percent of all US global warming emissions … .”

In fact, transportation is now the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States—and it has been for two years, according to an analysis from the Rhodium Group.

There’s a similar pattern happening in Germany. Last year, the country’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased as a whole, “largely thanks to the closure of coal-fired power plants,” according to Reuters. Meanwhile, the transportation industry’s emissions increased by 2.3 percent, “as car ownership expanded and the booming economy meant more heavy vehicles were on the road.” Germany’s transportation sector remains the nation’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but if these trends continue, it will soon become the first.

Clearly, the power generation industry is changing its ways. So why aren’t carmakers following suit?

To American eyes, Germany may look like a public transit paradise. But the country also has a flourishing car culture that began over a hundred years ago and has only grown since then.

Behind Japan and the United States, Germany is the third-largest automobile manufacturer in the world—home to BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, and Volkswagen. These brands, and the economic prosperity they’ve brought to the country, shape Germany’s cultural and political identities. “There is no other industry as important,” Arndt Ellinghorst, the chief of Global Automotive Research at Evercore, told CNN.

A similar phenomenon exists in the United States, where gas-guzzlers symbolize nearly every cliche point of American pride: affluence, capability for individual expression, and personal freedoms. Freedom, in particular, “is not a selling point to be easily dismissed,” Edward Humes wrote in The Atlantic in 2016. “This trusty conveyance, always there, always ready, on no schedule but its owner’s. Buses can’t do that. Trains can’t do that. Even Uber makes riders wait.”

It’s this cultural love of cars—and the political influence of the automotive industry—that has so far prevented the public pressure necessary to provoke widespread change in many developed nations. But say those barriers didn’t exist. How could developed countries tweak their automobile policies to solve climate change?

For Germany to meet emissions targets, “half of the people who now use their cars alone would have to switch to bicycles, public transport, or ride-sharing,” Heinrich Strößenreuther, a Berlin-based consultant for mobility strategies told YaleEnvironment360‘s Christian Schwägerl last fall. That would require drastic policies, like having local governments ban high-emitting cars in populated places like cities. (In fact, Germany’s capital, Stuttgart, is considering it.) It would also require large-scale government investments in public transportation infrastructure: “A new transport system that connects bicycles, buses, trains, and shared cars, all controlled by digital platforms that allow users to move from A to B in the fastest and cheapest way—but without their own car,” Schwägerl said.

One could get away with more modest infrastructure investments if governments required carmakers to make their vehicle fleets more fuel-efficient, thereby burning less petroleum. The problem is that most automakers seek to meet those requirements by developing electric cars. If those cars are charged with electricity from a coal-fired power plant, they create “more emissions than a car that burns petrol,” energy storage expert Dénes Csala pointed out last year. “For such a switch to actually reduce net emissions, the electricity that powers those cars must be renewable.”

The most effective solution would be to combine these policies. Governments would require drastic improvements in fuel efficiency for gas-powered vehicles, while investing in renewable-powered electric car infrastructure. At the same time, cities would overhaul their public transportation systems, adding more bikes, trains, buses and ride-shares. Fewer people would own cars.

At one point, the U.S. was well on its way toward some of these changes. In 2012, President Barack Obama’s administration implemented regulations requiring automakers to nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles by the year 2025. But the Trump administration announced a rollback of those regulations earlier this month. Their intention, they said, is to “Make Cars Great Again.”

The modern cars they’re seeking to preserve, and the way we use them, are far from great. Of course, there’s the climate impact—the trillions in expected economic damage from extreme weather and sea-level rise caused in part by our tailpipes. But 53,000 Americans also die prematurely from vehicle pollution each year, and accidents are among the leading causes of death in the United States. “If US roads were a war zone, they would be the most dangerous battlefield the American military has ever encountered,” Humes wrote. It’s getting more dangerous by the day.

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August 21, 2018 at 07:09AM

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Nvidia’s using AI in chips to make video games even more realistic

https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/611914/nvidias-using-ai-in-chips-to-make-video-games-even-more-realistic/

Nvidia’s using AI in chips to make video games even more realistic

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August 20, 2018 at 05:03PM

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Water Ice Confirmed on the Surface of the Moon for the 1st Time!

https://www.space.com/41554-water-ice-moon-surface-confirmed.html

This image shows the distribution of surface ice at the moon’s south pole (left) and north pole (right), as detected by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument, which flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. Blue represents ice locations, and the gray scale corresponds to surface temperature, with darker gray representing colder areas and lighter shades indicating warmer ones.

Credit: NASA


It’s official: There’s water ice on the surface of the moon.


Researchers have confirmed the presence of the frozen stuff on the ground around the lunar north and south poles, a new study reports. That’s good news for anyone eager to see humanity return to the moon for more than just a flag-planting mission. 


“With enough ice sitting at the surface — within the top few millimeters — water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the moon, and potentially easier to access than the water detected beneath the moon’s surface,” NASA officials wrote in a statement Monday (Aug. 20). [The Search for Water on the Moon in Pictures]


As that statement indicates, scientists already knew that the lunar underground isn’t bone-dry. For example, in 2009, an impactor released by NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) blasted a bunch of water into space after slamming into a permanently shadowed region of Cabeus Crater, which lies near the moon’s south pole.


But it wasn’t clear from the LCROSS data where exactly that excavated ice originally lay — how much gray dirt once sat atop it. And, while several instruments have spotted tantalizing hints of exposed lunar ice over the years, these detections had remained unconfirmed until now.


“Previous observations indirectly found possible signs of surface ice at the lunar south pole, but these could have been explained by other phenomena, such as unusually reflective lunar soil,” NASA officials wrote in the same statement.


Some of those observations were made by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument, which flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. The pioneering Chandrayaan-1 — India’s first moon probe, and the first spacecraft to return compelling evidence of lunar water — studied Earth’s nearest neighbor from orbit from November 2008 through August 2009.


In the new study, a team led by Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii and Brown University took a fresh look at M3 data. They spotted a distinctive signature of water ice in the reflectance spectra gathered by the instrument. [Moon Base Visions: How to Build a Lunar Colony (Images)]


This signature is present at many of the coldest and darkest spots on the lunar surface, within 20 degrees of both poles. There are differences from hemisphere to hemisphere, however. Ice is more abundant in the south, where it’s found principally at the bottoms of permanently shadowed craters; in the north, the stuff is more widely, and thinly, dispersed.


Surface ice on 

the moon

 is patchier and less abundant than that found on other rocky, airless bodies, such as Mercury and the dwarf planet Ceres, the researchers said. Indeed, only about 3.5 percent of lunar “cold traps” appear to boast surface water ice, according to the new study.


Several factors might be responsible for this relative paucity of ice. For one thing, the moon’s axis of rotation may have shifted more frequently over the eons than those of Mercury and Ceres, potentially exposing polar crater floors to sunlight more often, the researchers said. And it’s possible that meteorite impacts have disrupted the moon’s supplies of surface and near-surface ice more dramatically.


The new study was published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

via Space.com https://www.space.com

August 21, 2018 at 07:09AM

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West Texas Vineyards Blasted By Herbicide Drift From Nearby Cotton Fields

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/08/21/638588456/west-texas-vineyards-blasted-by-herbicide-drift-from-nearby-cotton-fields?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=news

The vines at Pheasant Ridge Winery near Lubbock, Texas, were devastated by drift from the herbicide 2,4-D in 2016.

Merrit Kennedy/NPR


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The vines at Pheasant Ridge Winery near Lubbock, Texas, were devastated by drift from the herbicide 2,4-D in 2016.

Merrit Kennedy/NPR

On the High Plains in West Texas, hot winds blast through cotton fields as far as the eye can see.

In the middle of it all is a tiny vineyard.

Andis Applewhite is the owner. She’s an artist whose family has worked this land for a century. They once planted crops more typical of the neighborhood, like cotton and wheat. Applewhite decided to try something different: She put in a couple of acres of cabernet franc grapes.

“It’s fun,” says Applewhite as we stand in her fields. She inspects a vine that is starting to wrap itself around a trellis. “It’s looking like a real grape plant.”

But Applewhite has yet to harvest a crop. Over the past two years, something has caused her vines to twist and wither. And she’s not alone. Grapevines in Texas are being damaged by a seemingly invisible force.

Livelihoods are at stake. Texas is one of the largest wine-producing states. It has more than 400 wineries. The industry says it boosts the state’s economy by some $13 billion annually.

Andis Applewhite’s vineyard near Lockney, Texas, has been hit multiple times by herbicide drift.

Merrit Kennedy/NPR


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Merrit Kennedy/NPR

The damage at Applewhite’s vineyard and elsewhere is likely coming from one of her cotton-growing neighbors. New weedkillers used on the cotton crop are drifting beyond the fields and causing damage elsewhere.

The same herbicides are being used on soy and other crops in the U.S. Some estimates, such as this report published last month from the University of Missouri, suggest that drift this year from one of the herbicides, dicamba, has caused over a million acres of damage to vulnerable crops across the country.

When Applewhite first noticed what was happening, she says, “I was really mad. I wanted to kind of lash out.”

“But then I said, ‘No, I really need to get more information, and this is going to be a process.’ “

Huge changes to cotton

Right down the road from Applewhite is her neighbor Dan Smith. Out in his fields, we can see tiny plants just starting to come up from the soil.

“This cotton has been out of the ground about three weeks, it’s 3 weeks old,” he says.

Smith, 64, has lived on this land for almost his entire life, except for a stint for school and for a term as a young mayor of Lockney, a nearby town. Since he started, he says the cotton business has gone through huge changes.

“Back then, you could farm a smaller amount of land and still make a good living,” he says.

Today, profit margins are thinner. To make that living, farmers like him have to work much larger patches of land. Smith is growing cotton on about 5,000 acres across multiple counties. And to do it, he says, he needs technology, including high-tech weedkillers.

Leaf Damage From Herbicide Drift

Dicamba and 2,4-D have different physical effects on grape leaves. Leaves damaged by dicamba (left) are known to cup, while leaves damaged by 2,4-D tend to fan out at a wider angle from the stem.

His favorite was one called Roundup. “The old Roundup, it’d kill any size weed, anytime, anywhere. It was great,” he says, smiling nostalgically.

This is how Roundup worked: First, he would plant cotton seeds that were genetically modified so the herbicide didn’t bother them. Then he could spray the entire field. The weeds would die, and the cotton would thrive.

This was until 2013, when Roundup suddenly stopped working in this area. The weeds had become resistant.

“The first couple of years, when we got hit with that resistance, it was a nightmare. We didn’t exactly know what to do,” said Smith.

New herbicide products with new rules

Then big agricultural companies started pushing new herbicides.

In 2017, companies such as Monsanto and Dow released new formulations of old chemicals that had been used for decades, called dicamba and 2,4-D, respectively. The products have some chemical similarities and are known as synthetic auxin herbicides. The companies also started selling cotton seeds that had been modified to resist these herbicides.

The problem is that these chemicals are more likely to drift into other fields than the older weedkillers did. That is causing a crisis that has swept across agricultural lands nationwide. Last month, University of Missouri researchers said states have reported more than 600 complaints about damage to soybeans and other kinds of plants.

The crisis has sparked lawsuits. And in Arkansas, a farmer was shot and killed during a drift dispute.

The companies insist that the new herbicides are safe to use according to label requirements. The labels are more elaborate than those on previous chemicals.

“There’s a lot more specific information that the applicator needs to be aware of, and those conditions must be followed very carefully,” says Peter Dotray, a weed science professor at Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University.

Those labels include a lot of rules aimed at preventing drift — things like limiting sprayer boom height and creating buffer zones. Texas requires applicators of these herbicides to get a permit.

Dotray, who sees the new herbicides as important tools for growers, says he personally might be even more cautious than the label requires if there is a sensitive crop nearby. “I’m going to try to manage the risk as best I can, and if I see something close by that is a crop like a vineyard, I’m probably going to try to create an even greater buffer.”

Cotton grower Dan Smith stresses that he goes to great pains to be careful. “Nobody wants to hurt that vineyard,” said Smith.

He’s using a different kind of herbicide in the area near Applewhite’s vineyard, and in other areas, he adds an extra chemical that is supposed to prevent dicamba drift, just to be safe.

“It’s an expense I don’t have to do, but I feel like I better,” Smith says.

Some grape growers think the current regulations may not be enough to protect their vines.

To prevent drift, spraying is only supposed to happen when wind speeds are below 10 mph. Longtime winemaker Bobby Cox says a 10-mph day in blustery West Texas is basically a fairy tale.

“You can’t do it,” he says, laughing uproariously. “Your fairy godmother has to pull out a wand, tap the pumpkin and turn it into a carriage.”

Thirty-year-old vines destroyed

Cox planted his vines more than 30 years ago in an area that is now the heart of the Texas wine grape-growing industry. “Oh, people thought you were flaming nuts,” he says, remembering the early days when he was a pioneering grower.

Despite the challenges, over the years, he built a successful vineyard.

But in 2016, everything changed for Cox. His neighbor sprayed the herbicide 2,4-D — an old formulation of the chemical now used more widely — and it drifted onto his vineyard.

Bobby Cox, who owns a 30-year-old vineyard in Lubbock, Texas, has seen many of his vines destroyed by herbicide drift.

Merrit Kennedy/NPR


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Merrit Kennedy/NPR

The results were devastating. Unlike crops like cotton, which farmers replant each year, it takes years for vines to reach their prime. “It takes so long to make a crop, it sticks with you so long …” he says, trailing off. “You just lost so much.”

Some of his vines still look sick. The leaves are really small and fan out in a strange way. He has seen a major reduction in yields. About 20 percent of Cox’s vines completely died.

As he walks down the long rows, he sighs and reaches down to pull a dry, brown stump out of the ground that can’t be saved.

The next time he’s expecting a full crop is 2020, four years after the damage was done.

‘It’s everywhere’

Many wine growers nearby are also facing drift damage, ranging from light exposure that doesn’t impact the fruit, to total devastation like Cox. And this area grows about 80 percent of the wine grapes in Texas.

Because there’s so much variation in how harmful the damage is, it’s hard to say conclusively how many growers have been impacted.

Pierre Helwi is a viticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He monitors dozens of vineyards around here and is on the lookout for damage. “And I saw it, I would say in 90, 95 percent of the vineyards there. So it’s everywhere.”

Incidents of drift are probably vastly underreported through official channels, based on figures provided by the Texas Department of Agriculture. It says that as of Aug. 8, there have been five dicamba drift complaints and 13 complaints for 2,4-D across all types of crops — not just grapevines.

Perry Cervantes, coordinator for pesticide certification and compliance at the Texas Department of Agriculture, said that given the few complaints, tightening the laws on these chemicals would hard to justify. “As big a state as we are, I don’t see why we would want to put any more regulation on it if we don’t have, you know, proof that we need to.”

And not all winegrowers agree that more regulation is needed for the new herbicides. Katy Jane Seaton, executive director of the High Plains Winegrowers Association, also grows cotton, like many wine grape growers here. She says she does not believe the chemical itself is responsible — it’s about the herbicide’s applicators, she says, and the relationships that they have with their neighbors.

“It’s never the product’s fault,” she says. “Pencils don’t misspell words, guns don’t shoot people and the product isn’t at fault.”

Accountability often elusive

After Cox’s vines were devastated, the Texas Department of Agriculture fined the neighbor $800 for “using herbicide in a manner inconsistent with the label,” according to documents obtained by NPR. Cox is also in the process of working out a settlement with the neighbor.

But for other growers, it can be difficult to hold people accountable for the damage because it’s sometimes impossible to know where the drift came from. Applewhite, the artist, filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Agriculture in 2016 after her vines were damaged.

The outcome of the investigation was vague.

“Our investigation shows that a violation of Texas pesticide laws may have caused or contributed to the effects or activities which led you to file a complaint,” the department says in its closure letter. “We did not, however, find enough evidence to identify the person responsible or to determine that a violation did in fact occur. As a result, the investigation of your complaint has been closed.”

And two days after I left, the damage was back.

“I noticed on new growth, the deformed leaves,” Applewhite says. The vines were suddenly showing signs of new herbicide drift. And her neighboring farmers say they didn’t do it.

“You know, they told me they didn’t spray. So I have to believe them,” she says.

This time, she didn’t see any point in filing a complaint because she doesn’t think it will help the problem. All she can do is keep working on her vines.

via NPR Topics: News https://ift.tt/2m0CM10

August 21, 2018 at 04:13AM

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NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2080 leapfrogs the 1080 Ti for $800

https://www.engadget.com/2018/08/20/nvidia-geforce-rtx-2080/


NVIDIA

NVIDIA has unveiled its new Turing-powered mainstream gaming performance graphics card, the GeForce RTX 2080. As rumored, it’s built using 12-nanometer manufacturing and packs 8GB of cutting-edge GDDR6 memory, offering 14 Gbps speeds, 2944 CUDA cores and a 256-bit memory interface. With those kind of specs, it provides a huge boost over the current GTX 1080, and should even outperform the GTX 1080 Ti.

NVIDIA is offering a “Founder’s Edition” card with much the same specs, but it can be overclocked to 1800 MHz, compared to 1710 Hz for the regular model. Before you start designing your gaming rig, beware that the new cards are power hungry. The flagship RTX 2080 Ti draws 250 watts, while the “regular” RTX 2080 draws a minimum of 215 watts (225 for the Founder’s Edition), using 6-pin and 8-pin header connectors.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story. NVIDIA has broken from its “GTX” naming scheme, with the “R” in RTX standing for “ray-tracing.” NVIDIA’s CEO Jensen Huang went into a lot of detail about it, but in brief, the new system massively accelerates real-time ray-tracing, allowing for realistic lights, shadows and cameras while gaming. We saw the result during some demos featuring soft, life-like shadows and impressive-looking reflections and specular highlights on shiny surfaces.

On top of the usual specs, NVIDIA is touting some other numbers, namely RTX-OPS and Giga Rays that essentially measure the ray-tracing speeds of the cards. The RTX 2080 delivers 8 Giga Rays and 60 trillion RTX OPS, compared to 12 trillion RTX-OPS for the current Titan X card. However, don’t expect those numbers to increase realism unless your favorite game or graphics app is designed for RTX.

If the new GeForce RTX 2080 or 2080 Ti would smash too big a hole in your budget, there’s good news. NVIDIA has unveiled a formidable second tier card, the GeForce RTX 1070, that gives you just about all the performance for quite a bit less money. It also packs 8GB of newfangled 14Gbps GDDR6 memory (more than the rumored 7GB), with 2304 CUDA cores. That should yield performance 40 percent better than the current GTX 1070, and 17 percent above the GTX 1080. As for the new ray-tracing specs, the RTX 2070 can run at 6 Giga Rays and 60 trillion RTX-OPS.

The RTX 2070 will also arrive first in a Founder’s Version that costs a bit extra. However, it does offer a bit better overclocking than the regular model (1710 MHz overclocked compared to 1620 MHz). The RTX 2070 also draws a significant 175 watts of power, compared to 150 watts for the last model. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the laptop versions of the 20-series cards stack up, power consumption-wise.

To show off what you can do with the card, NVIDIA showed off a few games including Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. As you can see in the video above, you get next-gen levels of realism in water reflections, shadows and other details. Again, however, keep in mind that you might not get all those benefits if the game isn’t designed for RTX.

The regular GeForce RTX 1080 will cost $699, and the GeForce RTX 1070 $499, with no shipping dates yet. However, the $799 Founder’s Edition GeForce RTX 2080 arrives on or around September 20th, 2018. The Founder’s Edition GeForce RTX 2070 is priced at $599, with no word on shipping yet. For now, NVIDIA is limiting sales of the RTX 2080 Founder’s Edition to two per customer, so if you have a multi-GPU rig larger than that in mind, you’ll have to wait.

via Engadget http://www.engadget.com

August 20, 2018 at 01:03PM

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Finally, the biggest airplane in the world has some rockets to launch

https://arstechnica.com/?p=1361385

Enlarge /

Meet the Stratolaunch fleet.

Stratolaunch

For the last year or so, Stratolaunch has conducted a number of ground-based tests on the world’s largest aircraft, both inside its gargantuan hangar and on a runway in Mojave, California. If all goes well, the company plans for the aircraft with a 117-meter wingspan to make its maiden flight by the end of this year.

But the aircraft is only a means to an end—sustainably launching rockets into space. Although Stratolaunch appears to have built a fine airplane, questions have lingered for years regarding exactly which rockets will be flown to a cruising altitude, and then released by the airplane. And when you’ve built an aircraft the likes of which have never been seen before, such curiosity is understandable.

On Monday, the company finally provided some additional clarity. Previously, Stratolaunch announced an agreement to launch small Pegasus rockets from the aircraft, but these boosters can only deliver up to 370kg into low-Earth orbit. (And they are so small, their use could not possibly justify the scale of the Stratolaunch plane, with a wingspan 20 meters greater than even the Spruce Goose).

Fortunately, the new rockets announced this week will have significantly more capacity, and they appear be right-sized for this very large, mobile launch platform:

  • Medium Launch Vehicle: A new medium-class air-launch vehicle optimized for short satellite integration timelines, affordable launch, and flexible launch profiles (3.4 ton capacity to LEO).
  • Medium Launch Vehicle – Heavy: A three-core MLV variant with capability to deploy heavier payloads to orbit (6 tons to LEO).
  • Medium Launch Vehicle – Reusable: A fully reusable space plane that enables advanced in-orbit capabilities and cargo return; Initial designs optimized for cargo launch, with a follow-on variant capable of transporting crew.

According to Stratolaunch, the medium launch vehicle is under development, with a maiden launch targeted for 2022. The heavier version of this rocket is undergoing “early development,” and the company is performing a “design study” of the space plane. Earlier, Stratolaunch dubbed this space plane concept “Black Ice.”

“We are excited to share for the first time some details about the development of our own, proprietary Stratolaunch launch vehicles, with which we will offer a flexible launch capability unlike any other,” said Jean Floyd, Chief Executive Officer at Stratolaunch, in a news release. “Whatever the payload, whatever the orbit, getting your satellite into space will soon be as easy as booking an airline flight.”

Stratolaunch released no additional details about these rockets, such as the engines they will use. Even so, the moment feels significant, as Stratolaunch has long been searching for appropriate rockets to be launched from its aircraft. An earlier deal with SpaceX fell through, as well as a deal with Orbital ATK to develop a custom rocket for the aircraft. Now, the company has decided to go in-house and just build its own rockets.

via Ars Technica https://arstechnica.com

August 20, 2018 at 01:22PM

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Pepsi Plans to Buy SodaStream in $3.2 Billion Deal

https://gizmodo.com/pepsico-plans-to-buy-sodastream-in-3-2-billion-deal-1828457945

PepsiCo will buy the Israel-based DIY soda company SodaStream in a deal worth $3.2 billion. The move is widely seen as an effort by Pepsi to prop up its catalog of “healthy” food and drink options as it continues to wage battle against longtime rival Coca-Cola. Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have invested heavily in both healthier and eco-friendly alternatives over the past decade.

The deal between Pepsi and Sodastream still needs to clear cursory regulatory hurdles, but PepsiCo plans to pay $144 cash per SodaStream share in the transaction using cash on hand. According to a press release, the deal has already been approved by the boards of both companies.

“Today marks an important milestone in the SodaStream journey. It is validation of our mission to bring healthy, convenient and environmentally friendly beverage solutions to consumers around the world. We are honored to be chosen as PepsiCo’s beachhead for at home preparation to empower consumers around the world with additional choices,” SodaStream CEO and Director Daniel Birnbaum said in a statement issued this morning.

“I am excited our team will have access to PepsiCo’s vast capabilities and resources to take us to the next level. This is great news for our consumers, employees and retail partners worldwide.”

Will the purchase pay off for Pepsi? Some people aren’t so sure. As Reuters notes, Coca-Cola and Keurig Green Mountain tried to make their own at-home soda system work in 2015 called the Keurig Kold but that project was quickly abandoned. In fact, the Keurig Kold often made the list of worst products of 2015 both for its high price point ($369) and for being both loud and “unreliable.” Soda is already so cheap that the primary draw for DIY products, cost-savings, doesn’t make a lot of sense in 2018.

The keys to Sodastream’s business relies on selling flavor packs that allow consumers to add their own mixes to the carbonated water. But many consumers only buy the SodaStream machines to make fizzy water without adding any flavors. That hasn’t stopped SodaStream from growing tremendously, at least on paper. The company has seen its share price skyrocket since it went public in 2010 and has had a really strong couple of years, jumping 85 percent in the past year alone.

If everything goes smoothly, the deal is expected to close around January of 2019. Whether PepsiCo can escape the curse of the Keurig Kold remains to be seen.

via Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com

August 20, 2018 at 06:45AM

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