23.09.2022
Timber! Energy pylons felled in Dorset as National Grid dumps eyesores for buried cables

The removal of the existing electricity transmission infrastructure, which has been in place since the 1960s, is part of the National Grid’s Visual Impact Provision (VIP) programme. The £166million pilot project, which is based near the villages of Martistown and Winterbourne Abbas, is hoped will transform views of the surrounding Dorset area of outstanding natural beauty. In total, the current undertaking will see the removal of 22 120-feet-tall electricity pylons and a whopping 5.5 miles of overhead power cables, which have been replaced with underground cabling buried at a depth of around three feet.

National Grid senior project manager Paul Hamnett said: “This is the culmination of three year of complex engineering and construction work.”

This effort, he added, “would not have been possible without the dedication and expertise of the site team and the patience of the local community.

“Our goal has always been to enhance this beautiful landscape, and now we’re seeing the fruits of our labour — with the field we used for civil engineering works being reinstated.”

National Grid Electricity Transmission was given dedicated funding to carry out VIP projects in areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks as part of how it is regulated by Ofgem, the utilities firm explained.

Undertaken in collaboration with the firm Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, work on the Dorset VIP project began back in 2015.

Technical workshops were put on for stakeholders and drop-in events from the general public held in the area of outstanding natural beauty.

It was decided that the best solution would be to lay replacement cables underground, as it was felt that either screening or trying to camouflage the transmission towers would not be a sufficient improvement.

Construction work on the replacement power infrastructure began in 2019 following the granting of planning permission the previous year.

The project also incorporated a team of 25 archaeologists whose study of the Dorset site yielded a rich history of human presence in the area that dated back some 6,000 years.

Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership Manager Tom Munro said: “It’s great to see the pylons finally coming down as this ground-breaking engineering project reaches completion.

“The many archaeological discoveries arising from the project have confirmed and enriched our understanding of the South Dorset Ridgeway as an ancient ceremonial landscape of national significance.”

The route, he explained, sports a huge number of scheduled monuments from Neolithic stone circles to Bronze Age barrows and Iron Age hill forts.

Mr Munro added: “We’re looking forward to seeing the landscape afresh, less cluttered by modern infrastructure, with the ancient monuments once again taking centre stage and reminding us of the long story, stretching back into prehistory, of human interaction with the land.”

The Dorset location of the pilot project was selected from hundreds of prospective sites across England and Wales by an independent advisory group.

Other projects being planned are based in the Peak District, Snowdonia, the North Wessex Downs and the Cotswolds.

According to the National Grid, the new power infrastructure called for complex engineering and the use of specialist equipment more commonly employed on mountain slopes.

Morgan Sindall Infrastructure managing director Simon Smith said: “We’re incredibly proud of our teams’ contributions as we work together with National Grid to transform this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, leaving a lasting legacy for the residents and communities in Dorset.

“The project is a great showcase of our approach to innovation, deploying our specialist expertise to overcome the challenges associated with the unique local landscape.”

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  • 2 часа, 43 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Smart meter glitch sends energy bills skyrocketing and households into ‘complete panic’

    Households across the country were left in shock and panic after a glitch in their smart meters following Ofgem’s new price cap update showed that they had used a staggering amount of electricity overnight. It happened after midnight on October 1, which is when Ofgem raised its price cap on household energy bills to £2,500 a year. Before the Government’s intervention in freezing the bills at £2,500 for the next few years, industry regulator Ofgem had raised the price cap to a staggering £3,549 per year, which would thrust millions of families into fuel poverty. Many families who paid for their energy using a prepayment meter were shocked after waking up on Saturday morning to see the new astronomical prices.

    Energy suppliers including Scottish Power, SSE, Eon and Octopus admitted that there were some issues with the smart prepayment meter displays on October 1, warning consumers that it may take about 24 hours to show the correct prices.

    However, many families took to social media to express their concern after waking up to see the staggering energy bills that they had somehow racked up overnight.

    One mum took to a budgeting Facebook page to tell of her “complete panic” after she topped up her meter to find she was still low on credit, according to ChronicleLive.

    She said: “Got up this morning electric on smart meter beeping £4 on there. Put £20 on and beeping still, £4.17 on there. Put another £20 on, still beeping, shows £6.17.

    “Checked and it says standard daily charge £38.27. The only things on are the fridge-freezer. How long can I turn them off without things spoiling? In a complete panic.”

    Meanwhile, another user said: “I hope its just a glitch. Gas is OK, electricity topped up £20 yesterday down to £2.38 already.”

    Another Briton wrote: “I had 19p on my electric and emergency was flashing. I topped up £25.00. It topped up my metre by £2.50!! My new balance is £2.69. That won’t last the weekend and that was my money for electric!”

    This glitch left energy companies trying to calm customers by reassuring them of their smart meter readings and usage, with Scottish Power telling customers via its app: “We’re sorry we are currently experiencing technical difficulties which are impacting how we display the energy consumption information in your account so we have temporarily switched it off.”

    SSE told customers: “We’re writing to let you know that your In-home display will briefly show the wrong daily use amounts when your energy prices change on 1 October. It’s a small issue that will correct itself in 24 hours.”

    One customer said: “Went to bed with 215.00 credit woke up to 20.15 left. Husband switched smart metre off and it corrected itself…”

    This glitch even affected households who paid for energy via direct debit, with some reporting on social media of displays that showing an eye popping usage of tens of thousands of pounds over the weekend.

    One Briton, who received a bill of £40,266.34 through her smart meter, joked that she must be supplying the energy for the whole of Britain.

    For average households, the amount they pay per kilowatt hour of electricity it uses has soared to 34p from the already record 28p that families have been paying since April.

    Meanwhile, under the new price cap, gas prices are going from 7p to 10p per kilowatt hour, putting the energy bills for a typical household at around £2,500 a year.

    Ofgem urged households to take a picture of their meter readings on or around October 1st, adding: “If you’re planning to submit your meter reading by October 1, you can submit it a reasonable time after.”

    Meanwhile, the Charities National Energy Action and the Food Foundation has warned that as a result of the soaring energy bills, the number of households in fuel poverty has increased from 4.5 million a year ago to 6.7 million now.

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  • 2 часа, 43 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Britain on the brink of fresh Covid wave as new variants to bring ‘NHS to its knees’

    As cases of Covid-19 surge across the country, experts have warned that a lack of surveillance has left the country flying “blind” to new variants of the virus, some of which could dodge immunity. They warn that the UK is already at the start of a new “devastating” wave of the virus that has sent the entire country into lockdown for months at a stretch since March 2020. While life has largely returned to normal over the past year following a major vaccination drive, experts warned that there is currently inadequate surveillance of new variants, which when combined with a decrease in testing could hamper the NHS’ ability to tackle a new wave.

    According to early data, new subvariants of Omicron have been “evolving around the immunity” that was built up over the past year through vaccinations and Covid infections.

    Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of the Covid ZOE app, told The Independent, that as the winter approaches, these new “immune-evasive” subvariants could cause the UK “real problems”, particularly with the NHS “already on its knees”.

    Meanwhile, University of Warwick virologist, Professor Lawrence Young, warned that two Omicron subvariants – BA.2.75.2 derived from BA.2, and BQ1.1 derived from BA.5 – had shown evidence of being able to evade immunity from the virus, which was causing concern among the health experts.

    He said: “The biggest concern we’re seeing is that in early data these variants are starting to cause a slight increase in infections. In a way, this was to be expected but it does demonstrate that we’re not out of the woods yet at all with this virus, sadly.”

    He warned that while these new variants were slightly different in how they had evolved to reach the same changes needed to escape the body’s immune system.

    He said: “What we’re finding is the virus is evolving around the immunity that’s been built up through vaccines and countless infections people have had.”

    These warnings come after the latest figures revealed that the UK had a sharp 14 percent rise in Covid cases in the week ending September 17.

    During the latest survey, approximately 1.1 million people had tested positive for the virus, making it the first time testing figures have risen since mid-July, which was when the summer wave had peaked, as the Government began facing calls to bring back pandemic-era restrictions.

    The experts warned that a lack of surveillance around the new subvariants, combined with factors like the lack of free tests, had created conditions for the “perfect storm” of another Covid spike.

    Prof. Young said: “We’ve really taken our eye off the ball with Covid tests. People are going to get various infections over the winter but won’t know what they are because free tests aren’t available – it’s going to be a problem.

    “Another angle is the economic pressure. If people do feel poorly they’re not likely to take time off work. You have a perfect storm here, really, of inadequate surveillance, people not coming forward for vaccination and the economic situation.”

    As cases surge, various institutions like hospitals may return to pandemic-era restrictions like mask mandates, as the NHS Trust ordered visitors to a number of hospitals in Essex to wear face masks.

    Giles Thorpe, the trust’s chief nurse and director of infection prevention and control, said the need to “enhance infection prevention and control measures” was due to a rise in coronavirus cases.

    He said: “That is why we are asking visitors to do their bit again now and help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our hospitals by wearing a surgical face mask when they visit.

    “We appreciate face masks are no longer required in many areas of our day-to-day lives, but our hospitals are not the same as a supermarket or a restaurant.

    “Many of our patients are already extremely unwell and could be at higher risk of serious illness if they pick up COVID-19. If you cannot wear a surgical face mask, we can offer you a visor as an alternative.”

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  • 2 часа, 43 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Elon Musk plans to sell humanoid robots ‘replacing human workers’ in under a decade

    Tech billionaire Elon Musk has said he wants to mass produce Tesla’s AI-powered Optimus humanoid robots, the machines that could one day replace human workers, and sell them for under £18,000 within three to five years. It comes after he unveiled the robot prototypes at Tesla’s office in Palo Alto, California, on Friday. Mr Musk has previously said the robots, which Tesla has reportedly been developing for over a decade, could one day replace human workers in the production line in Tesla factories. The world’s richest man has also said that these Optimus bots could also one day surpass Tesla’s revenue raked in via electric vehicle (EV) sales.

    Mr Musk has said the innovations could help to push Tesla to the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) which the bots are powered by, making the firm more than a company which just manufactures “cool cars”.

    Speaking at the unveiling at Tesla’s AI Day presentation,.Mr Musk said: “There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it.” He later added: “I think Optimus is going to be incredible in five or 10 years, like mind-blowing.”

    and he claimed that the would cost “less than a car”. But currently, the prototypes are not perfect, with plenty more to be done before the robot helpers function to their full potential. Mr Musk said: “There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it. I think Optimus is going to be incredible in five or 10 years, like mind-blowing.”

    The prototype was wheeled on stage and people were then shown a video of the Optimus bot carrying out simple tasks like watering plants, carrying boxes and lifting metal bars.

    Mr Musk has argued that the robots could even lead to a “fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it”. In fact, the Tesla CEO envisions a world in which AI-powered humans could carry out a whole range of tasks to help humans with everyday life, from caring for the elderly to posing as domestic assistants.

    Named after the famous Transformers series, it is expected that the boost will initially perform the more boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around at Tesla factories.

    Speaking at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting last month, Mr Musk said: “It will, I think, turn the whole notion of what’s an economy on its head, at the point at which you have no shortage of labour.”

    At the previous Tesla AI Day last August, Mr Musk said: “In the future, physical work will essentially be a choice. If you want to do it you can, but you won’t need to do it. It has profound implications for the economy, given that the economy at its foundational level is labour.”

    But so far, existing humanoid robots on the market are “missing a brain”, according to Mr Musk, meaning they do not have the ability to solve problems on their own. He claimed his own Optimus robot on the other hand would be an “extremely capable robot” that Tesla hopes to make in the millions.

    For instance, he claimed that his bots will have conversational capabilities and feature safeguards to avoid any wrongdoing by the machine.

    While Mr Musk, who is also CEO of SpaceX, which makes rockets that he wants to one day take humans to Mars on, is optimistic about the potential of his robots, some experts are more sceptical.

    Will Jackson, CEO of robotics company Engineered Arts, told The Verge: “We still have fundamental robotics technology gaps that need to be solved before we will see ‘human level’ anything.

    “Maybe Tesla [has] solved it — if they have, it will be an absolute game changer — however, it feels unlikely as it would be a great leap forward out of nowhere.”

    But Telsa’s exciting announcement has come at what appears to be a difficult moment for Mr Msuk. According to reports, the world’s richest man’s wealth is set to plummet as much as $8 billion (£7.14billion) when US markets open today.

    It is expected to see an eye-watering share price drop of around $54billion (£48billion) from its market cap after Tesla’s delivery numbers were far lower than what analysts expected.

    According to Refinitiv data, the firm was forecast to sell around 359,000 vehicles between July and September this year, but produced over 365,000 and delivered only 343,000. The company blamed the shortfall on the boosted completion of cars towards the end of the quarter.

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  • 2 часа, 43 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Liz Truss to unveil huge North Sea gas boost as UK in desperate bid to slash bills

    The UK is poised to fast-track the approval process for gas fields in the North Sea, as part of a bid to accelerate domestic production of gas. It comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparks fears of energy shortages. Even though Britain does not import much gas from Russia, industry regulator Ofgem has warned that the UK is at “significant risk” of gas shortages”, particularly if Vladimir Putin cuts crucial supplies to mainland Europe. In an effort to boost domestic gas production to stave a cold winter, regulators in the UK will prioritise new gas fields in the North Sea, as a new licensing round is set to be announced later this week.

    Andy Samuel, the outgoing chief executive of the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), said that he would fast-track applications for discoveries of gas reserves in the southern North Sea, as part of a process that would grant over 100 permits in the region, mostly focused on exploration.

    The Government has been scrambling to secure more domestic energy supplies in response to Russia cutting supplies to Europe, which has sent wholesale gas prices skyrocketing.

    Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Samuel noted that “[In] these unusual times, security of supply is a concern,” adding that the NSTA would do “anything we can do to bolster domestic production”.

    However, he warned that the new licenses would make a little dent in the UK’s overall reliance on imports, which experts predict will continue to grow over the next three decades.

    Mr Samuel, who is set to step down from the regulator in December after serving for eight years, added that these permits would likely only make a difference “around the edges”.

    He said that this is because the North Sea was one of the world’s oldest oil and gas production regions in the world, having been first produced in the 1970s.

    He said: “I think it’s unlikely, given it’s a mature basin and the geology is well-known, that we’re suddenly going to have a situation where we are significantly growing production again.”

    This statement is a major blow to Prime Minister Liz Truss’ ambitions to harness further oil and gas reserves from the North Sea, which the Government hopes will slash bills by reducing the reliance on expensive gas imports.

    However, Mr Samuel added the UK could be producing fresh gas supplies in as little as 12 to 18 months from recent discoveries like the Pegasus West field, off the North Yorkshire coast, which would get its licence soon.

    However, production has been falling, with domestic oil and gas plummeting by 17 percent compared to the previous year, extracting about 45 million tonnes of oil and 29 billion cubic metres of gas. According to predictions from the NSTA, this figure will fall to 30 percent by the end of the decade.

    The UK’s push to produce more domestic fossil fuels was slammed by climate activists, who argued that this was incompatible with the country’s legally binding net zero commitments.

    Mr Samuel rejected that notion, noting that new domestic fossil fuel would replace LNG imports from countries like Qatar and the US, which generally emit more greenhouse gas as they are shipped over large distances.

    While North Sea oil and gas reserves are declining steadily, the region is also rich in wind power, which the country is also looking to harness by constructing offshore wind farms, and “floating” offshore wind, which is built deeper out into the ocean, and harnesses stronger winds.

    In August, Hornsea 2, which is officially the world’s largest wind farm, became fully operational, generating power about 55 miles off the coast of Yorkshire.

    The wind farm will now generate enough electricity to power about 1.3 million homes, which is enough to run a city the size of Manchester.

    Britain is making a massive investment in renewable energy, particularly offshore wind power in the North Sea. Renewable energy has gone from 11 percent of the country’s energy mix to 40 percent, with offshore wind making up the bulk of it.

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  • 2 часа, 43 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Truss urged to prevent UK becoming ‘the Dirty Man of Europe’

    The open letter says there is an opportunity to focus on achieving huge benefits for the economy, communities and the Government’s green legacy by delivering “great green goals”.

    It adds: “This Government has made some bold and impressive environmental promises, from net zero, to the legal target to halt the decline of wildlife by 2030, to your pledge to lead a delegation and for the UK to take a leadership role at global COP-15 nature talks in Montreal. These goals are all jeopardised by a deregulatory agenda.”

    The letter was signed by groups with vast numbers of members, including the RSPB, the National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and Wildlife and Countryside Link.

    Dr Richard Benwell, Link chief executive, said: “Destroying nature destroys the fundamentals of health, happiness and prosperity.

    “All the positive promises this Government has made for nature are jeopardised by a deregulatory approach.

    “Scrapping EU environment laws, weakening planning protections and diluting environmental farming reforms could cast this country once again as the Dirty Man of Europe.

    “The irony is that it would not even deliver the business benefits that some politicians hope for.

    “In fact, shaking up well-established green laws would create uncertainty and put our high-standards economy at risk.”

    Over the past few days, the Government has announced the Retained EU Law Bill which green groups believe threatens to revoke hundreds of laws that protect wild places and ensure standards for water quality, pollution and the use of pesticides.

    Campaigners said a new planning and infrastructure bill, as well as investment zones as part of the growth plan, could weaken vital protections for wildlife.

    The Government also launched a review of Environmental Land Management schemes. These were meant to reward farmers for restoring nature, preventing pollution from entering rivers and climateproofing their businesses.

    And a ban on fracking in England has been lifted – despite a lack of evidence that proves the blast mining of gas is safe.

    Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said: “We need powerful new legislation to replace the protections we helped to write for the EU, that recognises the importance of a vibrant natural world to people, the economy and our national identity.”

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  • 2 часа, 43 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Nobel Prize 2022 awarded to Svante Paabo for cracking ‘impossible’ code in human evolution

    Svante Paabo, a Swedish researcher, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work studying human evolution. The Nobel Committee hailed the paleogeneticist for achieving what they said was a seemingly impossible task. Mr Paabo defied odds and cracked the genetic code of one of mankind’s extinct relatives- the Neanderthals. He also made the “sensational discovery” of a previously unknown early human relative known as Denisova. His research helped scientists understand mankind’s evolutionary history, exploring how modern homo sapiens migrated out of Africa around 70,000 years ago.

    This research into the ancient genes has major significance for present-day humans as well, helping researchers understand how our immune system reacts to infections.

    In a press release, the Nobel Prize Committee said: “Pääbo’s seminal research gave rise to an entirely new scientific discipline; paleogenomics.

    “By revealing genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human.”

    Dr Svante Pääbo is a Swedish geneticist specialising in the field of evolutionary genetics and has worked extensively on the genetic code of Neanderthals, which lived between about 130,000 and 40,000 years ago

    He was one of the founders of paleogenetics, a discipline where researchers use the methods of genetics to study early humans and other ancient populations.

    Early in his career, Dr Pääbo became fascinated by the possibility of utilising modern genetic methods to study the DNA of Neanderthals. However, he found that contamination of DNA over thousands of years had made such a method tremendously challenging.

    Thus as a postdoctoral student with Allan Wilson, a pioneer in the field of evolutionary biology, he began to develop methods to study DNA from Neanderthals, a project that took several decades to complete.

    In 1997, Dr Paabo and his colleagues reported their successful sequencing of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA, originating from a specimen found in Feldhofer grotto in the Neander valley.

    In 2010, he accomplished the seemingly impossible and published the first Neanderthal genome sequence. Comparative analyses also proved that the most recent common ancestor of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens lived around 800,000 years ago.

    Following that discovery, Dr Paabo and his team could now investigate the relationship between Neanderthals and modern-day humans from different parts of the world.

    Comparative analyses showed that DNA sequences from Neanderthals were more similar to sequences from contemporary humans originating from Europe or Asia than to contemporary humans originating from Africa.

    This proved that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens interbred during their millennia of coexistence. In modern-day humans of European or Asian descent, approximately 1-4 percent of the genome originates from the Neanderthals.

    In another major discovery in 2008, Dr Paabo and his researchers discovered a 40,000-year-old finger bone in the Denisova cave in the southern part of Siberia.

    The bone contained exceptionally well-preserved DNA, which the researchers studied, and discovered a sequence unique compared to all known sequences from Neanderthals and present-day humans.

    This new species of early human was given the Denisova, and comparisons with sequences from contemporary humans from different parts of the world showed that gene flow had also occurred between the species and Homo sapiens.

    This relationship was first seen in populations in Melanesia and other parts of South East Asia, where individuals carry up to 6 percent Denisova DNA.

    Dr Paabo’s discovered paved way for a new understanding of mankind’s evolutionary history. As during the time homo sapiens migrated out of Africa, the expansion of Homo sapiens outside Africa and their migration east, they not only encountered and interbred with Neanderthals, but also with Denisovans.

    Linda Partridge, Biological Secretary and Vice President of the Royal Society said, “I warmly welcome the news that Svante Pääbo, a Foreign Member of the Royal Society, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

    “Pääbo’s pioneering research has contributed to our understanding of what makes us uniquely human. Not only did he sequence the genome of the Neandertal, allowing for the reconstruction of the recent evolutionary history of our species, but he also discovered a previously unknown hominin group, Denisovans.

    “His findings allowed for the important realisation that Neandertals contributed DNA to present-day humans who live outside Africa.”

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Science Timber! Energy pylons felled in Dorset as National Grid dumps eyesores for buried cables