(ABRIDGED) In previous work, two platforms have been developed for testing computer-vision algorithms for robotic planetary exploration (McGuire et al. 2004b,2005; Bartolo et al. 2007). The wearable-computer platform has been tested at geological and astrobiological field sites in Spain (Rivas Vaciamadrid and Riba de Santiuste), and the phone-camera has been tested at a geological field site in Malta. In this work, we (i) apply a Hopfield neural-network algorithm for novelty detection based upon color, (ii) integrate a field-capable digital microscope on the wearable computer platform, (iii) test this novelty detection with the digital microscope at Rivas Vaciamadrid, (iv) develop a Bluetooth communication mode for the phone-camera platform, in order to allow access to a mobile processing computer at the field sites, and (v) test the novelty detection on the Bluetooth-enabled phone-camera connected to a netbook computer at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. This systems engineering and field testing have together allowed us to develop a real-time computer-vision system that is capable, for example, of identifying lichens as novel within a series of images acquired in semi-arid desert environments. We acquired sequences of images of geologic outcrops in Utah and Spain consisting of various rock types and colors to test this algorithm. The algorithm robustly recognized previously-observed units by their color, while requiring only a single image or a few images to learn colors as familiar, demonstrating its fast learning capability.
Between 2006 and 2015, the energy world was turned upside-down by an epic development in the oil industry few had foreseen. From the low point, in 2006, when it imported 60% of its oil, the US became an oil powerhouse – eclipsing both Saudi Arabia and Russia – and by the end of 2015, was the world's largest producer of natural gas. This remarkable transformation was brought about by American entrepreneurs who figured out how to literally force open rocks often more than a mile below the surface of the earth, to produce gas, and then oil. Those rocks – called shale, source rock or tight rock, and once thought to be impermeable – were opened by combining two technologies: horizontal drilling, in which the drill bit can travel more than two miles horizontally, and hydraulic fracturing, in which fluid is pumped into the earth at a high enough pressure to crack open hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, while a so-called proppant, usually sand, holds the rocks open a sliver of an inch so the hydrocarbons can flow. A fracking entrepreneur likens the process to creating hallways in an office building that has none – and then calling a fire drill. In November 2017, US production topped the 10m barrel-a-day record set in 1970, back in the last gasp of the legendary oil boom. This year, it is expected to reach almost 11m barrels a day, according to the US Energy Information Administration. The Marcellus Shale, which stretches through northern Appalachia, could be the second-largest natural gas field in the world, according to geologists at Penn State.
During Chevron Corporation's (NYSE:CVX) Security Analyst meeting on March 8, several big pieces of news came out. A day before the meeting, Chevron issued a press release stating that its 54 billion Gorgon LNG facility in Australia had just started producing LNG (liquefied natural gas) and condensate. After originally estimated to be operational by the end of 2014 for under 30 billion USD, the project was delayed as costs skyrocketed. As the operator with a 47.3% stake, Chevron lost a lot of credibility due to the massive cost of its mishaps, as did its partners ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) (NYSE:RDS.B), who each own 25% of the venture. The first cargo of LNG is expected to be shipped out very soon, potentially marking the beginning of a strong source of growth after all the headaches it took to get here.
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has decided to allow oil exploration in two protected wildlife parks, Virunga and Salonga. The move is strongly opposed by environmental activists, who say drilling would place wildlife at risk and contribute to global warming. Around one-fifth of Virunga national park will be opened to oil drilling. The parks are home to bush elephants, critically endangered mountain gorillas and the bonobo, an endangered ape. Both parks are Unesco World Heritage Sites, with Salonga national park covering 36,000 sq km (13,900 sq miles) of the Congo Basin - the world's second-largest rainforest after the Amazon.
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