When companies operate their business solely online, one would think that they have a substantially lower environmental impact than those who conduct business traditionally; however, a study suggests that this is not the case.
A case study on bitcoin operations reveals that bitcoin’s carbon footprint — the world’s most robust cryptocurrency — is so massive to the extent that it can rival the environmental impact caused by Las Vegas or a small country like Sri Lanka. According to the study conducted by Christian Stoll, Lena Klaaßen, Ulrich Gallersdörfer from Technical University of Munich and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bitcoin generates about 22 megatons in CO2 emissions each year.
While it is true that cryptocurrencies supposedly depend on online blockchain technology to process transactions like transferring of funds, and doesn’t have a physical infrastructure that is huge enough to cause such amount of carbon emissions, the researchers said that this validation process uses “vast amounts of electricity,” which causes some severe carbon emissions.
During 2018, according to the study, the computing power required to solve a Bitcoin puzzle increased more than 4-fold until October and heightened electricity consumption accordingly. Speculations about the Bitcoin network’s source of fuel have suggested, among other things, Chinese coal, Icelandic geothermal power, and Venezuelan subsidies. To keep global warming below 2°C—as internationally agreed in Paris COP21—net-zero carbon emissions during the second half of the century are crucial.
Bitcoin mining operations use too much electricity
One area of interest for researchers is the effect of bitcoin mining, the process by which people can earn bitcoins without spending money through painstakingly scavenging for small amounts across the internet. To estimate the electricity consumption, the study authors used IP addresses and hardware data from recent IPO filings. It was determined the annual electricity consumption of Bitcoin, as of November 2018, to be 45.8 TWh and estimate that yearly carbon emissions range from 22.0 to 22.9 MtCO2.
The study revealed that “There is no typical size of cryptocurrency mining operations.” The operations range from college students aiming to earn enough funds to pay for their electric bills, to gamers who leverage their graphics cards whenever they are not playing (as reflected in Nvidia’s volatile sales allocated to crypto), all the way up to large-scale crypto-mining farms. These mining operations have consumed enough electricity around the world to compare with electricity consumption like that of Jordan, a small middle-eastern country.
Regulation on mining operations necessary
According to the discussion presented by the researchers, their study sets up baseline information that would lead to a better understanding of the environmental impacts of cryptocurrencies and serves as a guide for a policymaker to develop climate-positive policies. They said that the results of the study could not be overlooked and should be a basis for policymakers to build balancing regulations.
Furthermore, the results were said to highlight the necessity of cost/benefit trade-offs for blockchain applications in general. While the researchers do not invalidate the benefits of cryptocurrencies, the “current debate is focused on anticipated benefits, and more attention needs to be given to costs.” And as the researchers have been pushing, policymakers should not ignore these results.
“Naturally, there are bigger factors contributing to climate change. However, the carbon footprint is big enough to make it worth discussing the possibility of regulating cryptocurrency mining in regions where power generation is especially carbon-intensive,” one of the authors, Christian Stoll, said in a statement.
“To improve the ecological balance, one possibility might be to link more mining farms to additional renewable generating capacity.”
Tip of the iceberg
Meanwhile, the researchers said that their analysis of carbon footprint of bitcoin is just the “tip of the iceberg” as other cryptocurrencies also carry significant carbon footprints upon their shoulders as well. This highlights the need to regulate cryptocurrency mining operations as it has external impacts – specifically to the environment.
“Bitcoin’s power consumption may only be the tip of the iceberg. Including estimates for three other cryptocurrencies adds 30 TWh to our annual estimate for Bitcoin. If we assume correlation to market capitalization and consider only mineable currencies (unlike second layer tokens or coins with other consensus mechanisms), the remaining 618 currencies could potentially add a power demand over 40 TWh. This more than doubles the power consumption we estimate for Bitcoin,” the study concludes.
Neuralink Will Allow You To Control Things With Your Mind
Neuralink is a 100-man team of researchers that are developing cutting-edge brain implants that will ultimately allow paralyzed patients to perform everyday tasks just by simply thinking about it.
The startup company is another project by Elon Musk, who continuously breaks the ceiling on how technology can be pushed farther. Now, he’s aiming to accomplish tasks such as typing on a computer, scroll through a smartphone, and even send emails through a sensor attached within a person’s brain.
“This is going to sound pretty weird, but ultimately, we will achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” Musk says at a news conference Tuesday night in San Francisco. “This is not a mandatory thing. It is a thing you can choose to have if you want. This is something that I think will be really important on a civilization-level scale.”
The year is literally 2077, like Microsoft’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 featuring Keanu Reeves, where people can now have the option to enhance their physical capabilities technologically. However, we’re not jumping into anything too complex. The idea, for now, is to help paralyzed patients be more adept in everyday life.
Furthermore, Neuralink won’t function as instantly as one would think. “All of this will occur actually quite slowly,” Musk says. “It’s not going to be like suddenly, Neuralink will have this incredible neural lace and start taking over people’s brains. It will take a long time, and you will see it coming.”
How will Neuralink allow people to control things with their mind?
The basic idea of Neuralink is by attaching sensors within a person’s brain, where they can effectively pick up brain signals compared to non-invasive devices. The sensor will then send the message that the brain signals are trying to perform over to the desired device, and voilá, the paralyzed is now casually scrolling through his or her phone’s web pages.
Primarily, the brain sensors are equipped with 3,072 electrodes per array that constantly picks up signals in the brain’s neurons and synapses. The device is called “threads,” according to Neuralink. Furthermore, the “threads” are thinner than a human hair at only one-third of which in width and are barely perceptible with the human eye.
Significantly, “threads” is a breakthrough technology because similar devices have tried to achieve similar results. However, others are far larger compared in size and diameter—requiring more invasive procedures to implant in the brain. As a result, most of these devices are prone to causing more detrimental side effects in a person’s brain function, which made it achieve little success in the past.
Additionally, another key factor that allowed Neuralink to achieve its success is the development of their robotic arm that provides the extreme precision and care needed to implant this extremely small device.
Particularly, the robot is about the size of a barbecue grill, and it uses high-end optics to drill 8mm holes in the skull and then place the wires precisely.
The lenses and computer vision software help the robot avoid hitting blood vessels, reducing damage to the brain and formation of scar tissue. “Because these things are so thin and flexible, the idea is that they move with the tissue instead of tearing the tissue,” says Neuralink researcher Philip Sabes.
When will Neuralink be available for public use?
As of the moment, the device Neuralink has created only been found effective in mice and even primate subjects. In a research paper released on Tuesday evening, Neuralink said it has performed at least 19 surgeries on animals with its robots, and successfully placed the “threads” about 87% of the time.
In the experiment, the test rat was able to move around a large rectangular plastic cage filled with wood shavings and Parmesan cheese. “We definitely need to address the monkey in the room,” Musk says. “This is a sensitive subject. A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain.”
Sabes says the amount of data being gathered from the rat was about ten times greater than what today’s most powerful sensors can collect.
However, Neuralink’s scientists told The New York Times in a briefing on Monday that the company still has a “long way to go” before it can get anywhere near offering commercial service, but as early as now, Neuralink is trying to secure approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in order to allow them to conduct human clinical trials as early as next year.
“We will painlessly laser-drill the holes into the skull, place the threads, plug the hole with the sensor, and then you go home,” Max Hodak, the President and co-founder of Neuralink say. “It’ll basically be an experience like getting Lasik.”
Shortly, the company is eyeing for the technology to help not only the paralyzed but also amputees by attaching the sensor receiver to prosthetics, or it could be used to treat epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and even provide “rich visual feedback to the blind.” They also went as far as to be able to insert new languages into the brain, but then again, the technology is still has a long way to go.
India Chandrayaan-2 Postponed Due To Technical Difficulties
India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission delayed but its historic first landing on the moon will still push through but at a different date
India was set to perform the first step toward its historic first moon landing with it its launch of the Chandrayaan-2 today. However, the move was otherwise postponed due to technical difficulties.
Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to launch at 02:51 local time on Monday (21:21 GMT Sunday) from Sriharikota space station in India’s eastern coast. The launch was stopped minutes at 56:24, only 36 minutes away.
“A technical snag was observed in launch vehicle system at T-56 minute. As a measure of abundant precaution,
#Chandrayaan2 launch has been called off for today,” the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said in a tweet momentarily after media was blocked.
Furthermore, the agency told that the delay was due to an abundance of precaution. ISRO Chief, K Sivan, said this was “the most complex space mission ever to be undertaken by the agency.”
Although a new launch date is set to be announced soon, the 10-minute backup window on Tuesday would seem most likely for the ISRO to opt for the Chandrayaan-2.
So far, India’s Chandrayaan-2 is touted to be the country’s most ambitious space mission to date with its goal of making a soft landing on the moon along with a lander and orbiter aboard its most powerful rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III), which weighs 640 tonnes and stands at 44 meters (144ft).
To achieve such goal, India has devised its hardware and technology that would allow them to explore the moon’s hardly-explored south pole. This serves as an interesting location for space exploration since it was theorized that the craters on that side of the moon are permanently shadowed, which could hold water ice — a vital resource for future space exploration.
Through a team of nearly 1,000 engineers and scientists, the team developed their lander, orbiter, and rover aside from its powerful GSLV Mk-III launcher — a task that the United States is currently developing.
Initially, the ISRO plans to get the Chandrayaan-2 into the moon’s orbit by September by which it will deploy its lander called Vikram, named after Dr. Vikram Sarabhai who was considered as the Father of the Indian space program. Vikram is also designed to function for one lunar day.
After then, it will make a soft landing of its rover, which a 27 kilogram, six-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan that can travel up to 500 meters and leverages solar energy for its functioning.
There will also be the Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter that will be able to communicate with the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) at Byalalu, Karnataka as well as the lander Vikram. The mission life of the Orbiter is one year, and it will be placed in a 100X100 km lunar polar orbit.
Overall, the mission costs about $150 million to complete, which is largely encouraged by the first lunar mission by the ISRO back in 2008 with the Chandrayaan-1.
Though the Chandrayaan-1 did not make a lunar landing, it was able to provide one of the most in-depth probes on the existence of water on the moon’s surface and a first using radars.
If successful, India will join the other three countries who achieved the feat, including the United States, Russia, and China. Furthermore, aside from national pride and achieving a new milestone for the ISRO, successfully completing the unmanned mission will allow the agency for manned flights as early as 2022.
Interestingly and historically, the Chandrayaan-2 is led by women namely Vanitha Muthayya, head of the mission as Project Director, and Ritu Karidhal as the mission director.
Specifically, both women have proved their capabilities in the past. Vanitha has worked with the Chandrayaan-1 with her data-handling expertise and has effective managerial skills. This time, she is overseeing the mission from start to finish. While Karidhal has worked with India’s Mars Orbital Mission in 2013 and will now oversee the spacecraft’s insertion into the lunar orbit.
On the other hand, it is quite interesting since India continues to be a very sexist country whereas they are known to have very misogynist culture. “Women power is powering India’s Moon ambitions,” Dr. Sivan said, adding that at Isro, “women and men are all equal. Only talent matters – not the gender.”
FDA Says That Grain Free Dog Food Linked To Heart Disease
The US Food and Drug Administration recently published a statement that they are looking into particular dog food formulations responsible for potential heart failure in dogs. Furthermore, the report indicated specific brands that reflected the frequency of heart failure.
Although the FDA has been looking into dog food labeled as “grain free” since 2018, the most recent June 2019 statement is the first time that the agency has specified brands that appear to be linked more than others with canine dilated cardiomyopathy.
Reports gathered between January 2014 and April 2019 totaled to 515 reported cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Among the 515, there are 222 proclaimed cases between December 2018 and April 2019.
Notably, the FDA is looking at the connection between the significant presence of grain-free diets amongst those with dogs who experienced fatal heart disease.
“As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen,” the FDA describes.
Furthermore, DCM is recognized as a genetic condition in dogs, typically in large or giant breeds, such as the Doberman pinscher, Great Dane, and the Irish wolfhound. But many of the reported cases were of breeds not previously known to be genetically disposed to the disease, the FDA said.
In particular, the condition started to manifest on much smaller breeds who required less work from the heart—another factor that led the FDA into conducting its research on the grain-free diet.
Grain free dog foods contain a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds (pulses), and/or potatoes in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as primary ingredients.
According to the FDA, there were 16 significant grain free dog food brands linked to DCM in dogs. These brands are ordered by the number of cases linked to them, ranging from highest (67) to lowest (10).
16 Grain Free Dog Food brands linked to DCM cases:
- Taste of the Wild
- Earthborn Holistic
- Blue Buffalo
- Nature’s Domain
- California Natural
- Natural Balance
- Nature’s Variety
- Rachael Ray Nutrish
The FDA received an additional 13 other brands that link to DCM in dogs but were deemed “not significant” since reported cases are low compared to the ones mentioned above.
Furthermore, most of the reports were associated with dry dog food formulations. However, it also includes raw food, semi-moist food, and wet food.
In light of the recent report, the FDA noted that their findings are only “based on reports that included brand information and that some reports named multiple brands” and that the agency needs to conduct more research on the connection between the grain-free diet and dogs’ susceptibility to the potentially fatal heart disease.
“We’re not saying don’t use these brands; we’re just telling pet owners to work directly with their veterinarians because we’re still investigating,” Lindsay Haake, an FDA spokesperson said.
However, ahead of the FDA’s report, some vets have already expressed their sentiment against grain free dog foods.
Knowing there had been studies showing that diet could play a role in the development of heart disease in dogs, Dr. Anna Gelzer, a veterinary cardiologist and an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine states that they’re “making investigations into what each owner was feeding,” via NBC News.
Currently, uncertain reasons are leading to explain why grain free dog food became a trend. Some say that it’s because pet owners believe that it’s a healthier version to feed their furry pets. Gelzer debunked this claim and said that “there’s no scientific reason for going without grain.”
“They are trying to do what they perceive as the right thing for their dogs unless the dog has a documented sensitivity to grains, it’s probably not worth the risk at this point to feed these products,” said Dr. Bruce Kornreich. Kornreich is a veterinary cardiologist in the department of clinical sciences at the Veterinary College of Cornell University and associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center.
“What we don’t know is if [the foods] used in these diets in place of grains are causing the problem,” adds Kornreich. “It’s also possible that could be some kind of toxin.”
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