The home of the future looks an increasingly attractive place to live this week, after millions of households received the unwelcome news that their energy bills were going up again. Switching supplier is one quick fix to rising bills. But in the long run, industry players say the answers may lie in a coming revolution in how we use energy in our homes, turning them into mini power stations and reducing our reliance on energy companies such as British Gas and EDF. For consumers, cost and convenience will be big factors. For energy firms, there is a chance to rebuild trust and transform themselves from mere suppliers into more profitable service companies.
In April, it was reported that 69-year‑old Tom Patterson, an American who fell gravely ill with an antibiotic-resistant acinetobacter infection, had been brought out of a two-month coma by an injected cocktail of bacteriophages, tiny viruses that specifically attack and kill bacteria. The story is a testament to Patterson's wife (Steffanie Strathdee, a scientist), who searched for alternative therapies when conventional treatments failed, to his physician, Robert Schooley, who used an untested treatment, and to a large band of phage scientists, led by Ryland Young of Texas A&M University and Theron Hamilton of the US Naval Academy. Their long-term, and sometimes unfashionable, research work meant that phages were available in their labs for the rescue attempt. Because a mixed-phage cocktail was used, no one is sure what tipped the balance, but, importantly, it worked. The Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia has dispensed phage therapy for years, but it was little tried in the west until recently.
Images captured by an underwater robot on Saturday showed massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan's destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant. The robot found large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers as thick as 1m on the bottom inside a main structure called the pedestal that sits underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima's Unit 3 reactor, said the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. On Friday, the robot spotted suspected debris of melted fuel for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns and destroyed the plant. The three-day investigation of Unit 3 ended on Saturday. Locating and analysing the fuel debris and damage in each of the plant's three wrecked reactors is crucial for decommissioning the plant. The search for melted fuel in the two other reactors has so far been unsuccessful because of damage and extremely high radiation levels.
John Oliver addressed the topic of coal mining on his show Sunday night, exploring the industry's loss of jobs and the factors that have led to it. "Coal," he began, "basically cocaine for Thomas the Tank Engine. We've heard a lot about coal this past year, particularly from President Trump. In fact, arguably the key reason that we have this cautionary Bible story in the White House was his ability to connect with mining communities during the campaign." Oliver showed clips of Trump galvanizing voters at campaign rallies by promising to bring back coal industry jobs, putting on a hard hat, and doing a mining gesture on stage.