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School Chromebooks create a huge amount of e-waste



Back in early 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced classes to go online, school districts were faced with the need to bulk buy low-cost laptops that they could ship home with their students. Quite a few have turned to Chromebooks.

Three years later, the U.S. Public Interest Group Education Foundation concludes in a new report titled Chromebook churn that many of these parties are already starting to break down. This potentially costs counties money; The PIRG estimates that “Doubling the life of a Chromebook could result in $1.8 billion in savings for taxpayers.” It also creates quite a lot of e-waste.

One of the big problems is maintainability. Chromebooks are, on average, more difficult to upgrade and repair than Windows laptops. PIRG found that this is partly because replacement parts are much more difficult to find, especially for items such as screens, hinges and keyboards, which are particularly vulnerable to drops, bumps, jolts and spills from school use.

For example, the researchers found that nearly half of the replacement keyboards listed for the Acer Chromebook were out of stock online, and more than a third cost “$89.99 or more, nearly half the price of a regular $200 Chromebook.” Some IT departments, PIRG reports, are resorting to purchasing extra batches of Chromebooks just because of their components.

“These high costs could force schools to reconsider using Chromebooks as a savings strategy,” the report said.

“These high costs could force schools to reconsider using Chromebooks as a savings strategy.”

Chromebook churn also discusses the Chromebook auto-update expiration date — something that users complains for years.

While Google currently guarantees eight years of automatic updates for Chromebooks, that period officially begins when Google certifies the Chromebook, not when the school actually receives the Chromebook, which can take much longer. The report says that by the time a school has successfully purchased, received, configured, and deployed a fleet of student Chromebooks, the expiration date is typically “four to five years.”

“When the software expires after just a few years of using the device, schools are left with boxes of computers with working components that end up as e-waste, and the need to buy even more Chromebooks,” the newspaper warns.

These short expiration dates also make it harder for schools to resell their devices, meaning some have to pay even more to recycle them.

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The PIRG estimates that “doubling the lifespan of the 31.8 million Chromebooks sold in 2020 could reduce emissions by 4.6 million tons of CO2e, the equivalent of taking 900,000 vehicles out of service in a year.” The group recommends that Google eliminate the automatic update expiration system so that its OEMs produce a “minimum 10% surplus” of replacement parts and that components are better standardized across all Chromebook models.

It also suggests that Google make it easier to unregister Chromebooks from remote control and install remote operating systems (namely Linux), which would make post-AUE resale more attractive. “The choice of operating system is not only a consumer choice, but also increases the resale and reuse value of a laptop for years to come,” the authors write.

Upon receiving the comment, Google spokesman Peter Du issued the following statement: edge:

“We’ve been hard at work with our hardware partners to increase the number of years of warranty support Chromebooks receive, and as of 2020 we’re now providing eight years of automatic updates, up from five years in 2016. We also always work with our device manufacturing partners. Increasingly, devices in various segments are being manufactured using recycled and certified materials that are easier to repair and, over time, manufacturing processes that reduce emissions.

Regular Chromebook software updates add new features and improve device security every four weeks, allowing us to continually improve the software experience while keeping older devices safe and reliable until their hardware limitations make it extremely difficult to roll out updates. ”

The PIRG report is in line with what I’ve been pounding on “green” laptop reviews for years: the greenest gadgets are by far the ones that last the longest.

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EPA to offer first controls on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants



WASHINGTON. The Biden administration is poised to announce limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that could force them to capture pollutants from their smokestacks. This technology is currently used in less than 20 of the country’s 3,400 coal and gas-fired power plants, according to three sources. people who have been informed about the rule.

If implemented, the proposed regulation would be the first time the federal government would limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, which produce about 25 percent of the planet’s warming pollution produced by the United States. This also applies to future plants.

Nearly all coal and gas-fired power plants will have to cut or capture almost all of their carbon dioxide emissions by 2040, according to people familiar with the regulation, who asked not to be named because the rule has not been made public.

The proposed rule is likely to face opposition from fossil fuel producers, power plant operators and their congressional allies. This will likely spark immediate legal action from a group of Republican attorneys general who have already sued the Biden administration to stop other climate policies. A future administration may also loosen regulation.

The regulation proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency is under consideration by the White House Office of Management and Budget and may still be adjusted.

Maria Michalos, spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency, said the agency is “urgently moving to advance standards that protect people and the planet, building on the momentum of President Biden’s Invest in America economic program, including proposals to address carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. ”

This does not require the use of carbon capture equipment, a new and expensive technology; rather, it will set limits on pollution levels that plant operators will have to comply with. They could do this by using a different technology or, in the case of gas plants, by switching to a fuel source such as green hydrogen, which does not release carbon, according to people familiar with the matter. But this regulation could lead to wider adoption of carbon capture technology, people say.

Most of the electricity generated in the United States last year – about 60 percent – was generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The proposal follows two other plans by the Biden administration to drastically reduce tailpipe emissions by accelerating the nation’s transition to electric vehicles and curbing methane leaks from oil and gas wells.

If these three rules are implemented as proposed, they will greatly reduce the warming-causing pollution of the planet generated by the world’s largest economy. Together with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a law that earmarks $370 billion for clean energy programs, they will allow the country to fulfill Mr. Biden’s pledge to cut the country’s emissions by about half by 2030 and stop adding carbon dioxide. into the atmosphere by 2050.

The scientists say this is the action required of all major industrialized countries to prevent global average temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. After that, it will become much more difficult for humanity to cope with the consequences of catastrophic heat, floods, droughts, crop failures and extinction of species. The planet has already warmed by an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius.

Mr. Biden said he was ready to use his executive powers to fight global warming. He recently underlined this point after he faced harsh criticism from environmentalists, especially young climate activists, for his decision last month to approve a massive oil drilling project. on pristine land in Alaska known as Willow.

“We must do more than just acknowledge the climate challenges we face,” Mr. Biden told other world leaders during Thursday’s virtual meeting to discuss climate and energy. “We are determined to strengthen our ambitions and our actions. And yes, we are ready to do the hard work to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

By issuing a climate rule for power plants, Mr. Biden hopes to succeed where his former boss, President Barack Obama, failed. Nearly a decade ago, Mr. Obama attempted sweeping restrictions on pollution from power plants that were first blocked by the Supreme Court and then overturned by President Donald Trump. Last summer, the Supreme Court confirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, but to a limited extent.

But three factors emboldened the Biden administration. First, carbon capture technology has advanced since the Obama administration. Second, when Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act last year, they added language classifying greenhouse gases as pollutants subject to regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. Finally, the new law provides tax incentives for carbon sequestering power plant operators, making the technology more cost-effective.

Instead of creating one limit that all power plants must meet, EPA intends to be flexible, people familiar with the new plan say. He plans to set different targets depending on the size of the plant, whether it operates regularly or intermittently, and whether it is scheduled for decommissioning. Some coal-fired power plants scheduled to close in the next decade may not meet the new standards at all.

Patrick Morrisey, the Republican attorney general of West Virginia, a major coal-producing state, said Friday that he and others are waiting to see Mr. Biden’s plan. “We are very keen to review the new rule proposed by the EPA for power plants and we will be ready to once again lead the fight against federal abuse,” he said in a statement.

Some environmental groups are also critical of carbon capture technology, arguing that it makes more sense to switch to wind, solar and other clean energy sources that don’t pollute in the first place.

Like the proposed rules governing exhaust and methane emissions from oil and gas operations, the rules for power plants will be subject to public comment and are unlikely to be finalized and enforced until next year.

The Biden administration is rushing to implement three proposed regulations before Republicans have a chance to repeal them if they gain control of Congress in 2024. were completed within 60 days of the previous Congress.

The fight against emissions from cars, oil and gas facilities and power plants comes as Mr. Biden prepares to announce his bid for re-election when he needs the young voters who helped him win the White House in 2020.

In a virtual meeting Thursday with leaders of other major economies, Mr. Biden said he would demand $500 million from Congress to fight deforestation in the Amazon. On Friday, he signed an executive order creating the White House Office of Environmental Justice and requires every federal agency to develop plans to address the disproportionate impact of pollution and climate change on minorities and tribal communities.

“Since I became president, I have literally flown over thousands of acres of land burned by wildfire due to environmental changes,” he told environmental activists at a ceremony in the Rose Garden where he signed the order. “I have seen too many settlements reduced to ruins due to the increasingly frequent and ferocious storms. This is an existential threat to our nation and literally the entire world.”

However, electricity companies complain that any policy that forces them to install carbon capture technology would be too expensive, increasing electricity costs for consumers.

A report for 2021 A group of 600 global investors, including BlackRock, State Street Global Advisors and other top U.S. utilities shareholders, said the high costs of carbon capture “make it a risky and potentially expensive decarbonization strategy.”

But some experts say conditions around carbon capture technology are changing.

Once upon a time, many considered this technology useless, but now it has matured. The Biden administration is investing billions in research and demonstration projects to move forward. And while there are only about 40 power plants with equipment in the world, this number is growing, they are working slowly. Calpine Corporation, one of the country’s largest producers of electricity from natural gas, building huge carbon capture and sequestration facilities for their power generators in Deer Park, Texas.

The Inflation Reduction Act offers incentives to speed up adoption. The law increased existing federal tax credits for electric utilities that capture carbon emissions from $85 to $135 per tonne of carbon dioxide, from $30 to $50. This can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for large energy companies.

“Currently, construction in the energy sector is not viable,” said Carrie Jenks, executive director of the environmental and energy law program at Harvard. “But the IRA incentives do drive down the cost and make it cost effective. We see that companies want to build.”

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New planet-finding technique finds worlds we can see directly



When astronomers discovered the first worlds orbiting other stars thirty years ago, they also began to accept what might be called galactic planetary census, counting the number and types of exoplanets in the Milky Way. While it is impossible to carefully study all the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy, a representative sample of them can provide important information. By studying the planetary population of such a sample, researchers hope to learn which worlds are most common and which are rare, and how our own Earth and solar system relate to them.

But there are several different ways to find planets, and each works best on different types of worlds, which can lead to skewed results. The currently dominant methods infer the presence of a planet by looking for its subtle influence on its star, and they are most sensitive to giant planets very close to their stars. The orbital “years” of such worlds are only a few days or weeks, and they do not exist in the solar system. In contrast, direct viewing of planets—so-called direct imaging—needs to distinguish them from the blinding brilliance of a star, which is easiest to do for giant planets on the outskirts of the system. If such orbits revolved around our own Sun, most of these planets would be located far beyond Pluto.

Fortunately, new methods and larger datasets now allow scientists to bridge the gap between these extremes by combining results from multiple planet-searching methods to get a clearer picture of the Milky Way’s true planetary population. A new study published in The science is one of the first successes in this synergistic approach, which gives not only a newfound “in the middle of the road” planet, but also a broader strategy for finding and exploring many others. The largest and brightest of those planets to be discovered could also be good candidates for future direct studies, potentially allowing astronomers to discern their atmosphere and climate.

“When we unite [motion and imagery] together we get all three key properties of a planet — its orbit, its mass, and its atmosphere — so we learn a lot more,” says Thane Curry, planetary researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center and lead author of the study.

catch a star

Curry and colleagues found their new planet, a giant world called HIP 99770 b, by comparing its star motion data collected in 2021 by the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft with similar but less accurate measurements taken in the early 1990s. predecessor of Gaia. , an ESA Hipparcos satellite. Gaia and Hipparcos were intended to map the stars of the Milky Way (not its planets) using a technique called astrometry to accurately track stellar positions, distances, and movements. But astrometry can also reveal planets: a planet orbiting a star can cause a cyclic, very slight shift in the star’s position, oscillating back and forth in the plane of the sky. By determining the size and frequency of this shift, astronomers can determine the mass and orbit of the invisible planet.

The initial discovery of the planet and subsequent photographic observations were only possible thanks to several decades of Gaia-Hipparcos data, which made it possible to detect the long orbit of HIP 99770 b. The unified catalog itself has been in the making for years. After the first release of the Gaia data in 2016, Timothy Brandt, an astronomer at the University of California at Santa Barbara and co-author of the new study, published a list of tens of thousands of stars, reconciled and augmented by earlier Hipparcos data. observations, updating them again in 2021 after the last release of Gaia data. The result was an approximately 25-year window into how these stars moved across the sky.

Several teams have begun deepening a new database of stellar companions, “each in their own way determining exactly what information to consider when choosing a target,” says Caroline Morley, a researcher who studies exoplanet atmospheres at the University of Texas at Austin. part of a new study.

In the case of HIP 99770 b, the Gaia-Hipparcos data showed it to be a gas giant world orbiting its star at a distance slightly greater than Uranus from the Sun—large, bright, and far enough away from its stellar host to be within range of . reach of direct visualization. Subsequent observations with the SCExAO Direct Imaging Instrument on the Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea in Hawaii confirmed these suspicions, revealing the planet as a dot obscured by molecules of water vapor and carbon monoxide. Climate models suggest that the temperature on the planet is between 1300 and 1400 kelvins (1880 to 2060 Fahrenheit). Although HIP 99770 b is clearly unearthly, its overall properties make it a relatively close relative of Earth.

“This is the first [finding from this database] it can actually state, “It’s probably a planetary mass,” says Beth Biller, who was not part of the research team. Biller, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, further noted that the heavy world is in the gray zone between a planet and a brown dwarf, and that some may object to classifying it as a planet. Regardless, “this is definitely the least mass object detected by this method,” she says.

Worth a thousand words

Results like these could help fill in the remaining gaps in the galactic planetary census. In addition to being limited to very large planets in very wide orbits, current direct imaging efforts work best for very young worlds—10 to 100 million years old—and still glowing with the heat left over from their formation. The cumulative result of all these previous polls, according to Biller, was important but still underwhelming. “We found that [hot, young, wide-orbiting] giant planets are quite rare,” she says.

While many stars are expected to have some kind of planet in orbit, direct imaging studies have shown that far fewer stars have giant planets on their edges. Infrared images allow a better understanding of the atmosphere of these worlds, and models give an estimate of their mass. Of the dozens of exoplanets captured by direct images, astronomers have been able to more accurately narrow down the mass of only two using follow-up measurements with indirect planet detection techniques. Part of the problem is the pre-existing preference for observing young planets, which accordingly have young host stars that are much more active than more mature stars and therefore more damaging to stellar measurements of the companion’s mass.

“If you have a directly imaged planet, there is a certain amount of guesswork in confirming its physical properties,” says Brandt. Combining astrometry and direct imaging not only opens the door to detecting more targets; it also eliminates some of that guesswork by revealing the orbit and mass of each new planet, along with its atmosphere.

While Gaia targets two billion stars, Hipparcos has only studied 100,000, all relatively bright and close to Earth. Curry estimates that about a third of the stars studied in the combined catalog have companions, most of which are low-mass. If only one in 100 cataloged stars with satellites has a planet that can be photographed, a new confluence of planet detection methods should greatly increase the total number of worlds that astronomers will soon be able to see directly. The researchers say that by the end of their decade-long study, Gaia will be able to identify up to 100 additional planets as candidates for direct imaging with current instruments — more than four times as many directly imaged worlds as have been identified to date. And it will expand our knowledge of planetary systems beyond the youngest and brightest, perhaps showing more worlds like ours.

“The yield of new discoveries is higher than what we could get if we just did a blind search,” says Curry, “and the information we get is much richer than if we just did direct images.”

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Tiny C. elegan worms feed on weed and cannabis, study finds



In 2016, Sean Lockery was finishing up a week of studying worm eating habits when he decided to do a fun experiment on a Friday afternoon.

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana last year, so Lockery and fellow researchers at the University of Oregon wanted to see how the drug worked on hookworms. They showered microscopic worms with a cannabinoid molecule and placed high-calorie and low-calorie foods next to them.

The worms swarmed toward the high-calorie, bacterial food—Lockery’s decision was tantamount to choosing pizza over oatmeal. V study published on Thursday — the unofficial marijuana holiday on April 20 — Oregon researchers have determined that worms, like humans, become hungry and begin to chew when exposed to cannabis.

“It helps us place ourselves in the animal universe in a new way, enhancing the commonality between humans, with their huge and wonderful brains, and the tiny microscopic worm,” Lockery, professor of biology and neuroscience, told The Washington Post.

Around 1990, Lockery began studying decision-making processes in Caenorhabditis eleganstranslucent nematodes with a simple brain and no circulatory or respiratory systems.

In June 2016, Lockery was researching how C. elegans decides which bacteria to eat when he and his team began planning their weekly fun experiment. When they thought about the possible impact marijuana, the researchers thought, “Well, let’s see what happens,” Lockery said.

“We try to keep a sense of humor about what we do and that keeps us light and creative,” Lockery said. “And this research came in part from that spirit.”

Marijuana, which contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has long been known to induce hunger in humans by raising hunger hormones, activating parts of the brain that control hunger, and raising dopamine levels. Research has also found that rodents crave high-calorie foods after consuming THC.

In their lab in Oregon, the researchers poured a cannabinoid called anandamide about 50 C. elegans. The scientists moved the worms into a T-maze and placed high-calorie food on one side and low-calorie food on the other.

Although C. elegans generally prefer high-calorie foods, they ate more of them after exposure to anandamide and avoided low-calorie foods more than usual. In subsequent experiments, the researchers found that anandamide made neurons more sensitive to odors of high-calorie foods.

“This is the first time chewing gum has been demonstrated in an invertebrate,” Lockery said. “So it’s a big step up from what we currently think of as sort of the limit of the Munch.”

While the Oregon researchers’ study was due to be published last month, Lockery said Current Biology has delayed it until April 20.

Lockery hopes this research will inspire further research into how cannabis affects animals, insects and other organisms. He believes more drugs can be tested on C. elegans to predict how they will affect people.

Lockery is now studying how psychedelics affect the behavior of worms.

“My project from the very beginning was to try to figure out how the whole – albeit tiny – brain works,” Lockery said. “I didn’t really care much about drugs. I never expected this. But I’m grateful for it; it was really fun.”

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