CFI Skeptics of Eugene Message Board › Yet another science thread
Renewable Energy Predicted to Boom, Surpass Natural Gas
Within the next three years, renewable power could surpass natural gas as the second most prevalent source of electricity generation globally, behind only coal, according to a new forecast by the International Energy Agency.
Hydropower accounts for about four-fifths of renewable generation and will continue to dominate the world's renewable portfolio into the foreseeable future, according to the IEA's "Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report" for 2013. But the gains made by the sector as a whole come from other sources of clean energy, particularly onshore wind.
Speaking yesterday at the release of the five-year forecast, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said despite a dip in growth during 2012, the renewable energy sector continued to make impressive gains.
"The rapid rate of growth of renewables, at least in the electricity sector, is very much in line with that needed to stay on the trajectory associated with IEA low-carbon energy scenarios," she said.
The challenge to international climate targets, however, has been a simultaneous surge in the growth of fossil fuels. The growth in supply from North American tight oil and gas producers coupled with demand growth in developing countries means that despite technological development and international efforts, the carbon intensity of the global energy supply has barely changed over the past 20 years, van der Hoeven said.
In this context, she said, "the rapid growth of renewables continues to beat expectations and is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak assessment of global progress towards a cleaner and more diversified energy mix."
More than markets at work
While development of new renewable energy technologies continues to be driven by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, demand is accelerating fastest in emerging markets. On its own, China is expected to account for nearly 40 percent of all expected global growth in renewables, followed by Brazil, India and South Africa.
These developments are not simply a response to government-imposed renewable energy mandates. As developing countries lay plans to meet future demand for electricity, renewables offer pollution-free, diversified supply. And in certain countries, the markets themselves have rendered renewables cost-competitive.
In Brazil, Turkey and New Zealand, wind now competes with fossil fuel power plants. In Italy, Spain and Australia, the cost of decentralized solar photovoltaic electricity has dropped below retail electricity prices.
But the entrance of new renewables to the world's electricity mix brings with it its own host of challenges, the report notes. In a number of European markets, high levels of renewables have run up against a lack of flexibility in the power grid. Smarter grids will be needed before new renewable generation can be added, a prospect involving both time and serious financial investment.
And the economic doldrums afflicting Europe have set a few countries on reverse course. Spain, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria have all reversed renewable energy programs or subsidies, actions that "totally destroy investor confidence, potentially for a long time," van der Hoeven said.
Spain had originally promised investors two decades of renewable energy subsidies but is expected to rein in its subsidies by 10 or 20 percent due to the global recession and a lackluster market for European Union carbon credits.
While a dip in growth during 2012 showed that renewable markets are vulnerable to outside conditions, the market segment continued to grow by 8 percent, the IEA report notes.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500
Scientists Trace Memories of Things That Never Happened
By JAMES GORMAN
Published: July 25, 2013
The vagaries of human memory are notorious. A friend insists you were at your 15th class reunion when you know it was your 10th. You distinctly remember that another friend was at your wedding, until she reminds you that you didn’t invite her. Or, more seriously, an eyewitness misidentifies the perpetrator of a terrible crime.
Not only are false, or mistaken, memories common in normal life, but researchers have found it relatively easy to generate false memories of words and images in human subjects. But exactly what goes on in the brain when mistaken memories are formed has remained mysterious.
¶ Now scientists at the Riken-M.I.T. Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have created a false memory in a mouse, providing detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains.
¶ Steve Ramirez, Xu Liu and other scientists, led by Susumu Tonegawa, reported Thursday in the journal Science that they caused mice to remember being shocked in one location, when in reality the electric shock was delivered in a completely different location.
¶ The finding, said Dr. Tonegawa, a Nobel laureate for his work in immunology, and founder of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, of which the center is a part, is yet another cautionary reminder of how unreliable memory can be in mice and humans. It adds to evidence he and others first presented last year in the journal Nature that the physical trace of a specific memory can be identified in a group of brain cells as it forms, and activated later by stimulating those same cells.
¶ Although mice are not people, the basic mechanisms of memory formation in mammals are evolutionarily ancient, said Edvard I. Moser, a neuroscientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who studies spatial memory and navigation and was not part of Dr. Tonegawa’s team.
¶ At this level of brain activity, he said, “the difference between a mouse and a human is quite small.” In both, memories form in an area of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus.
¶ “What I find fascinating about this,” Dr. Moser said, “is that you actually can point to a physical substrate to memory,” what the researchers call an engram. Neuroscientists have long talked about engrams, but Dr. Moser said the recent research is the closest they have gotten to pointing to a spot in the brain and saying, “That is the memory.”
¶ In the research reported Thursday, Dr. Tonegawa’s team first put mice in one environment and let them get used to it and remember it. They identified and chemically labeled the cells in the animals’ brains where that memory was being formed. The mice were not shocked in that environment.
¶ A day later, in a completely different environment, the researchers delivered an electric shock to the mice at the same time that they stimulated the previously identified brain cells to trigger the earlier memory.
¶ On the third day, the mice were reintroduced to the first environment. They froze in fear, a typical and well studied mouse behavior, indicating they remembered being shocked in the first environment, something that never happened. The researchers ran numerous variations of the experiment to confirm that they were in fact seeing the mice acting on a false memory.
¶ The tools of optogenetics, which are transforming neuroscience, were used to locate and chemically label neurons, as well as make them susceptible to activation by blue light transmitted by a fiber optic cable. With these techniques the researchers were able to identify and label which neurons were involved in forming the initial memory of the first environment, and to reactivate the labeled cells a day later with light.
¶ Dr. Tonegawa said that because the mechanisms of memory formation are almost certainly similar in mice and humans, part of the importance of the research is “to make people realize even more than before how unreliable human memory is,” particularly in criminal cases when so much is at stake.
¶ That unreliability, he said, prompts a question about evolution: “Why is our brain made in such a way that we form false memories?”
¶ No one knows, he said, but he wonders if it has to do with the creativity that allows humans to envision possible events and combinations of real and imagined events in great detail. That rich internal experience fuels work in the arts and sciences and other creative activities, he said. “Unless you have that kind of ability, there is no civilization,” he said.
¶ But it could also provide raw material for false memories — a possible “tradeoff for this tremendous benefit.”
Hey there fellow scientific thinkers ( and groupies like "moi"). This is a great link - I probably would love it just for it's BYLINE alone: Where Science Trumps Ideology". The website is current and clever and thought provoking. What more can anyone ask? www.geneticliteracyproject.org