Thursday, September 8, 2011

One last chance to view spectacular supernova

If you've got a pair of binoculars, this will be your last chance to view a new supernova that was recently discovered near the Big Dipper, about 21 million light-years away from Earth. Astronomers describe this as the supernova of a generation, adding it is the closest and brightest supernova of this type detected in the last 30 years. When the discovery was reported by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California in late August, scientists excitedly announced that the supernova, dubbed PTF 11kly, was getting brighter by the minute. Although 21 million light-years covers an enormous chunk of space, it's still considered to be a relatively small distance (by astronomical standards.) So don't miss the opportunity. If you've been dilatory, you have one more good chance to check it out as the supernova will reach its brightest display on Sept. 8. More>

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Stellar Explosion in the Big Dipper's Handle

Horst Scott Simon talk with Berkeley Lab's Peter Nugent about the biggest, brightest supernova in a generation and how people can see it from their backyards this week.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Power Plants

It’s been suggested before, but Adam Arkin, head of the synthetic biology and physical biosciences division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, believes advances in plant synthetic biology are “turning a corner that will be transformative” for the energy industry. Synthetic biologists engineer part or a whole cell to create different functions. In this case, scientists have created plant-eating microbes that produce biofuels. More>

Home solar system prices have just modest drop

The price of solar panels has plunged in the last four years. But the price of a complete home solar system hasn't kept pace. "There is a lag," said Galen Barbose, principal scientific engineering associate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who studies solar prices. "You've got these upstream cost reductions that take months to ripple down to the consumer." More>

Marijuana: High on Megawatts

When it comes to wasting megawatts, marijuana is the greatest offender. According to a 2011 study of indoor pot-growing operations, growers in the United States use about $5 billion worth of electricity to power lightbulbs, ventilation fans, dehumidifiers, and other appliances to mimic outdoor growing conditions. That's the output of seven large electrical power plants, or one percent of national electricity consumption, wrote Evan Mills, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who performed the study independently. Smoking a single joint, Mills wrote, is worth two pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. More>