How the Chernobyl nuclear disaster led this woman to catch a wave

Inna Braverman

With wave power, it all seems pretty straightforward.

Waves come from the wind. Wind power is already a big-time clean-energy source (producing about 2.5 percent of the world’s electricity and growing). Water is 784 times denser than air, providing a lot more energy per cubic meter. Plus, people tend to live near coasts where the waves are: in the United States, for example, more than half the population lives within 50 miles of the ocean and all that potential energy.

It’s not straightforward. Complexities abound, ranging from where to site wave power installations (Offshore? Underwater? Free-floating or anchored?) to how to transmit the power they generate. And while not trivial, that’s the easy part. The hard part has to do with actually harnessing those wind-driven waves.

Wind blows in one direction, a relatively consistent, unidirectional power source, at least in the span of a few seconds. Waves are up and down and back and forth by nature. You can’t just miniaturize a wind turbine, sink it in the drink and fire up a toaster with water-born electrons.

So when Inna Braverman tells you that the company she co-founded — Tel Aviv, Israel-based Eco Wave Power — has come up with a really good way to harness those waves and fire up those toasters, know that it’s a big deal. [more]

Alex Szalay: Big data a big step forward for science

There have been three major eras in the history of science, as Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist and computer scientist Alex Szalay describes it. The first, which lasted for millennia, was empirical, involving mostly the recording of data: Chinese star charts, Leonardo da Vinci’s codices on how turbulent water flows, Tico Brahe’s recording of the motions of planets. The second era, which he calls the theoretical paradigm, launched when Brahe gave his observations to Johannes Kepler, who came up with the laws of planetary motion. [more]

The former president of Estonia: This means (cyber) war!

The Estonians moved a statue; the Russians launched a new form of warfare. Now, a decade later, the man who was president of Estonia at the time proposes a new sort of alliance to counter a threat that has spread far from his Baltic state.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves had been president of Estonia for all of six months in April 2007 when his government moved the “Bronze Soldier” Soviet war memorial from a small park in central Tallinn to a nearby military cemetery. The Russian government responded with a distributed denial of services (DDoS) attack.

At the time, the Estonian defense minister said this: “Not a single NATO defense minister would define a cyber-attack as a clear military action at present. However, this matter needs to be resolved in the near future.”

Ten years later it hasn’t been resolved. Despite a mountain of recent, suspected-and-proven Russian meddling in democratic politics of the United States, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the European Parliament and elsewhere, the question remains. Ilves, who served as Estonian president through 2016 and is now a visiting fellow at Stanford University, says it’s time to do something about it. [more]

This man wants to be the Steve Jobs of robotics

Tomotaka Takahashi and one of his robot creations

Take a close look at your smartphone for a moment.

Unless you’re among the rare Blackberry holdovers or a true clamshell-toting troglodyte, it’s a slab of glass and plastic and/or metal, a plug or two, a couple of camera apertures and a couple of buttons. From the perspectives of design and user interface, your phone is basically the same thing it was years ago.

Considering the gigantic scale of smartphone business, the tight product cycles and the hordes of creative people and engineers working to make the latest and greatest, conventional wisdom says there’s nowhere else to go with smartphone, design-wise. Tomotaka Takahashi would beg to differ. [more]