Matt Jones

Link Notes 27 April 2020

Drax Power Station. Historically a coal-fired power station, it is in the process to switching over to biomass as it primary fuel source
Drax Power Station. Historically a coal-fired power station, it is in the process to switching over to biomass as it primary fuel source Bryan Hindle · CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Great Biomass Boondoggle

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/10/14/the-great-biomass-boondoggle/

Burning biomass for energy is considered by some as a solution to the climate crisis as it is less carbon intensive that burning fossil fuels. At the time of writing the energy from burning biomass is accounting for about 9% of the electricity available on the UK National Grid.

Most of the biomass burnt is trees from forests in the Europe and the US, but the problem is that while the carbon cycle with biomass is short and therefore considered ‘carbon neutral’, burning wood releases much more carbon into the atmosphere than burning natural gas, and we need forests to absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Meet ‘Spot’: The Robot That Could Help Doctors Remotely Treat COVID-19 Patients

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/24/844770815/meet-spot-the-robot-that-could-help-doctors-remotely-treat-covid-19-patients?t=1587996562393

I’m sure most people are aware of Boston Dynamics’ videos demonstrating the almost unbelievable capabilities of the robots they design and build. Their original BigDog quadruped robot was funded by DARPA for use in the US military, so while their videos are often fun and entertaining, I was alway a bit concerned that they were building a Skynet-style army of robot soldiers.

While thankfully the latest version of the quadruped isn’t being deployed to a battlefield somewhere, and it’s being put to positive use, I am struck by the mundanity of its latest application as a physical avatar for doctors to assess COVID-19 patients.

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