Saturday, September 9, 2023

Short Takes – 9-9-23

A Mysterious Lab Is Shutting Down. It’s the End of an Era for Biosecurity. article. Pull quote: “Plum Island Animal Disease Center will soon be decommissioned, to be replaced by a new, billion-dollar facility in the middle of the country. Its closure represents the end of an era — an era in which understanding the secrets of dangerous pathogens required clandestine experimentation, far away from urban population centers. As Plum Island’s facilities have aged, battered by time and the salty sea air, we’ve developed things like HEPA filters, airlocks and moonsuits that allow us to build these labs anywhere. That’s made it hard to justify the exorbitant expenses of an island operation that requires its own power grid, fire department and over a million gallons of diesel every year. Government officials have decided it’d be easier, cheaper, and more efficient to do this work elsewhere. Somewhere less remote.”

FAA orders dozens of changes before next SpaceX Starship launch attempt. article. Pull quote: The agency provided 63 steps SpaceX must take before it allows the company to launch another rocket from its facility near Brownsville, Texas.”

Zinc batteries that offer an alternative to lithium just got a big boost. article. Pull quote: “Today, lithium-ion batteries are the default choice to store energy in devices from laptops to electric vehicles. The cost of these kinds of batteries has plummeted over the past decade, but there’s a growing need for even cheaper options. Solar panels and wind turbines only produce energy intermittently, and to keep an electrical grid powered by these renewable sources humming around the clock, grid operators need ways to store that energy until it is needed. The US grid alone may need between 225 and 460 gigawatts of long-duration energy storage capacity by 2050.”

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