It is the near future. You wake in a house warmed by a heat pump that extracts energy from deep below the ground and delivers it to your home. You rise and make yourself a cup of tea – from water boiled on a hydrogen-burning kitchen stove. Then you head to work – in a robot-driven electric car directed by central control network to avoid traffic jams. At midday, you pause for lunch: a sandwich made of meat grown in a laboratory.
National Grid has turned to artificial intelligence to help it maintain the wires and pylons that transmit electricity from power stations to homes and businesses across the UK. The firm has been using six drones for the past two years to help inspect its 7,200 miles of overhead lines around England and Wales. Equipped with high-res still, video and infrared cameras, the drones are deployed to assess the steelwork, wear and corrosion, and faults such as damaged conductors. Artificial Intelligence has various definitions, but in general it means a program that uses data to build a model of some aspect of the world. This model is then used to make informed decisions and predictions about future events.
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.
This month, seven years after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdowns and explosions that blanketed hundreds of square kilometres of northeastern Japan with radioactive debris, government officials and politicians spoke in hopeful terms about Fukushima's prosperous future. Nevertheless, perhaps the single most important element of Fukushima's future remains unspoken: the exclusion zone seems destined to host a repository for Japan's most hazardous nuclear waste. No Japanese government official will admit this, at least not publicly. A secure repository for nuclear waste has remained a long-elusive goal on the archipelago. But, given that Japan possesses approximately 17,000 tonnes of spent fuel from nuclear power operations, such a development is vital.
Steven Pinker is a cognitive psychologist, linguist, and author of Bill Gates' two favorite books. However, his latest – Enlightenment Now – has some serious shortcomings centering on Pinker's misperceptions about climate change polarization. Pinker falls into the trap of'Both Siderism,' acknowledging the Republican Party's science denial, but also wrongly blaming liberals for the policy stalemate, telling Ezra Klein:
World petrol demand will peak within 13 years thanks to the impact of electric cars and more efficient engines, energy experts have predicted. UK-based Wood Mackenzie said it expected the take-up of electric vehicles to cut gasoline demand significantly, particularly beyond 2025 as the battery-powered cars go mainstream. Combined with car manufacturers forced by regulations to produce models that run further on the same amount of oil, a new report by the analysts suggests global gasoline demand is likely to peak by 2030. The UK and France have recently said they will phase out sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. China, the world's biggest car market, is mulling a similar move, which would have a significant impact on oil demand.
Google and a leading nuclear fusion company have developed a new computer algorithm which has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas, the ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology. Tri Alpha Energy, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has raised over $500m (£383m) in investment. It has worked with Google Research to create what they call the Optometrist algorithm. This enables high-powered computation to be combined with human judgement to find new and better solutions to complex problems. Nuclear fusion, in which atoms are combined at extreme temperatures to release huge amounts of energy, is exceptionally complex.
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.