Light Start – Giant batteries, Joburg power out, extinct viruses, and naming paint


Tesla is building a giant lithium ion battery Down Under…

A few power blackouts in South Australia is all it took for heads to roll and plans to be made to ensure no Aussie in the region need ever worry about their PVR missing Masterchef again. Eskom, are you reading this? Part of the solution comes courtesy of Elon Musk’s company Tesla, which offered to build a giant battery solution in 100 days after the contract is signed or foot the bill itself. The result? A 129MWh lithium ion battery that’s expected to be up and running in time to keep the summer air conditioners around Adelaide humming. Power storage is the secret sauce that could see renewable energy relegate fossil fuels to the landfill of history, and the Aussie initiative could see similar projects spring up elsewhere if it proves successful. If not, we could always go the Chinese route and build panda-shaped arrays of solar panels.

Source: The Guardian

…while Joburg’s set to go dark tonight

City Power has announced that large swathes of Johannesburg will be without power from 10pm on Monday until as late as 6am on Tuesday. “The power interruption is necessary to do essential maintenance work on our network which is part of our program of constantly striving to provide better service,” City Power says in the announcement on its website that also details which areas are expected to be affected (there are too many to list here). It adds that power might come back on at anytime, so you should probably unplug anything that could be affected by a surge, or that you wouldn’t want coming on in the middle of the night. “City Power regrets any inconvenience that may be caused by these interruptions,” the statement continues. That’s okay, the people of South Africa — and not just Johannesburg — regret ever giving Eskom access to our nation’s light switch. Live and learn, eh? Nope, probably not.

Source: City Power

Scientists manage simultaneously awesome and terrifying DIY virus revival

Some revivals are good. Like LCD Soundsystem’s. Others are better off left for dead, like ’80s-style fitness wear. Potentially deadly viruses? Those seem like an obvious contender for the latter category. Except that being able to engineer viruses on demand could also make it easier to create vaccines or combat them in other ways. But the same tech could be used to create a bioweapon. Much like a kitchen knife or a boombox with a Justin Bieber CD in it, this is a tool that can be just as easily used for good or evil. Which is why the scientists that managed to recreate an extinct equine virus are trying to figure out how much of their method to share. The most impressive/scary bit? They did it with DNA they ordered via post. At least we needn’t worry too much about local scientists replicating the act, because what are the odds the SA Post Office would get the DNA to the intact? Well, that’s a relief.

Source: Engadget

Things AI still isn’t good at #7: Naming paint colours

Artificial Intelligence is good at a few things, like setting alarms and reminders or sending garbled, typo-laden dictated messages to friends and family. In fact, the more we think about it, the more AI’s real talent seems to be frustrating humans with its promises of assistance that actually end in you spending way more time trying to get it to understand your request than it would’ve taken to simply do whatever it was you wanted yourself. We can now add naming colours of paint to the list of things AI is pretty rubbish at. One AI fans attempts to train a neural network to name paint colours demonstrated its ineptitude gloriously. It also managed to generate some gems, like “Stoned Blue”, “Mown Poupe” and our personal favourites, “Farty Red” and “Dorky Brown”. At least we still have InspiroBot to remind us of the better applications for AI’s current talents, eh?

Source: Ars Technica


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