Mohamed Iqbal Pallipurath

IAS Officer Quits, Disturbed Over Anti-democraticRestrictions In J&K

IAS Officer Quits, Says “Disturbed” Over Restrictions In J&K

Kannan Gopinathan, a secretary of key departments in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, was instrumental in transforming a loss-making government electricity distribution firm into a profit-making one

 
 
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Kannan Gopinathan said he has put in his papers to quit the IAS


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Kannan Gopinathan is an IAS officer in Dadra and Nagar Haveli
  2. Fundamental rights of lakhs of people suspended for 20 days, he told NDTV
  3. The 33-year-old officer has received memos on several occasions
 
 

A 33-year-old Indian Administrative Service officer said he has filed his papers to quit the coveted government job. While stating his reasons, IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan said one of them was denial of “fundamental rights” to lakhs of people in Jammu and Kashmir for weeks after special status was scrapped from the state earlier this month.

“…Not that my resignation will cause anything even worth a flutter. But one has one’s own conscience to answer to, I guess,” Mr Gopinathan told NDTV.

Mr Gopinathan, a secretary of key departments in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, was instrumental in transforming a loss-making government electricity distribution firm into a profit-making one.

“In (Jammu and) Kashmir, fundamental rights of lakhs of people have been suspended for 20 days. And many in India seem to be okay with it. This is happening in India in 2019. Article 370 or its abrogation is not the issue, but denying citizens their right to respond to it, is the main issue. They could welcome the move or protest it, that’s their right,” Mr Gopinathan told NDTV, adding this issue “disturbed” him enough to resign.

An IAS officer for seven years, Mr Gopinathan gave his resignation on August 21.

“Even when a former IAS officer was detained from the airport, there was a complete lack of response from civil society. It seems like most in this country are okay with this,” said Mr Gopinathan, referring to how IAS officer-turned-activist Shah Faesal was sent back to Srinagar from Delhi airport while he was about to take a flight abroad.

In Mizoram, the IAS officer encouraged badminton player Pullela Gopichand to open 30 grassroots centres for training children in badminton and a high-altitude centre of excellence for sports while Mr Gopinathan was a collector.

 

Mr Gopinathan said he has received memos over reasons like not applying for the Prime Minister’s excellence awards, which he said he did after getting directions to do so. Another memo asked for a summary of what he did when he had volunteered for flood relief work in Kerala in 2018. Relief workers were surprised to discover that the IAS officer had been volunteering at camps without anyone knowing his official identity.

“These memos were so frivolous and flimsy, they disturbed me. But it’s nothing out of the ordinary in service life. I have been serving in some crucial roles even at a time when I gave my resignation. And I felt there are larger issues that need to be raised,” Mr Gopinathan told NDTV.

In this year’s Lok Sabha election, when Mr Gopinathan was the returning officer, the Chief Electoral Officer had ordered the administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, a Union Territory, to withdraw a controversial notice which he had issued to Mr Gopinathan and sought an explanation from the officer.

Mr Gopinathan, who is also an engineer, is active on social media; he uses the medium to engage, ideate and seek alternate solutions in real-time. Before qualifying for the IAS, he volunteered at a non-profit and gave classes to children in slums. It was during this time that he met his future wife, who he said inspired him to prepare for the civil services.

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On what his plans are, Mr Gopinathan said, “I have no idea about what will I do as of now.”

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The Kashmir Lockdown.

If India is in crisis, it is because good guys like ex-IAS Kannan Gopinathan rather quit

To arrest India’s decline, it is important that the government attract, retain and empower the good guys. Kannan’s leaving is a loss to the government.

 Updated: 27 August, 2019 8:59 am IST
Kannan Gopinathan | File photo | Facebook
Kannan Gopinathan | File photo | Facebook
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Given how difficult it is to enter the Indian Administrative Service, Kannan Gopinathan’s resignation would have captured public attention even if it had not been in protest against the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah government’s clampdown in Jammu & Kashmir, even if he had not previously distinguished himself by anonymously slogging it out doing disaster relief work Kerala in 2018.

To an ordinary person, the act of walking away from something that millions aspire for and only a few hundred get might appear irrational or worse, insane. To cynics who expect public officials to be bent or pliant, Kannan is a naive misfit who would have failed psychometric testing for the job had there been one. To the liberals at the fringes of public discourse, he’s a hero who chose liberty over complicity.


Also read: ‘Disillusioned’ after J&K crisis, IAS officer quits service. Gets trolled as anti-national


A moral dilemma

Kannan brings to sharp focus the moral dilemma of a conscientious public official: What do you do when the government’s policy diverges from your personal convictions on the right thing to do?

In ordinary circumstances, there is the option of recording your dissent, but implementing a lawful decision that you disagree with, to the best of your abilities. Civil servants frequently go through such episodes, and after a while, many choose not to even bother expressing a difference of opinion on file, lest it ruffle powerful feathers.

The dilemma assumes an altogether different level of seriousness when the circumstances are extraordinary. What do you do when you perceive government policy being illegal, unconstitutional or even immoral? The moral dilemma becomes one of trying to change things for the better from the inside, or quitting to fight from the outside.

At a time when the world is looking for simple moral certitudes, it is tempting to declare one or the other position as the right one, and either celebrate IAS officer Kannan as a hero for quitting or denigrate him for being “anti-national” for having the temerity to publicly disagree with the government. Yet, to do so would be a mistake: for while Kannan has made the right choice, it is not necessarily the only right choice. A different person in his shoes could well choose to stay on, and in doing so, wouldn’t necessarily be making a less ethical decision.


Also read: Modi govt clamps down on IAS, its association goes conspicuously silent


An ethical calculus

Giving his reasons for resigning Kannan said that he felt as a civil servant he could no longer pursue his ideals. Referring to the Modi government’s clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir, he told Manorama that “it is the worst social and political situation after the Emergency. The fundamental rights of over 80 lakh people are suspended without even officially declaring an Emergency…I cannot fathom the guilt and regret of not acting on time, when I think about such violation of rights our society is going through.” He is not against the government’s prerogative to abrogate Article 370. Rather, he objects to the de facto suspension of fundamental rights of Indian citizens in Jammu and Kashmir. He does not want history to count him as complicit in an act he considers wrong.

So, he rightly quit. In his ethical calculus, the benefit of fighting from the inside was lower than the costs of suppressing the voice of his conscience.

Yet, a different person in his shoes could have done the right thing by staying in service. Consider.

Every big organisation has good people, bad people and the ones in between. The good do good things, the bad do bad things and the ones in between sometimes do good things and at other times, do bad things. The final outcome is the sum of the resultants of the consequences of the actions of these three types of people. If our cities are safe, our villages livable, our law enforcement trustworthy, and our judiciary dependable, it is to the extent that the actions of the good outweigh the actions of the rest. If we see things are going downhill in the country, it is to a great extent due to the scales tipping against the good people.


Also read: These IAS officers are scripting stories of change across India & making lives better


What a good republic needs

To arrest India’s decline, it is important that the government attract, retain and empower the good guys. Kannan’s leaving, by all accounts, is a loss to the government. Given his track record in Mizoram and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and his volunteering in Kerala, India lost a good administrator. His stated reasons for joining the IAS, his standing up to a political appointee and articulation of his reasons for leaving mark him out as an officer the government of India ought to have fought to retain. It sent him petty show cause notices instead.

India is desperately short of public officials with constitutional morality – people in government who uphold the dignity of their office. Judges stray beyond their mandate and make policy. Legislators stray beyond their mandate and take over administration. Civil servants do the bidding of their political masters, even when the demands are unconstitutional. If the Indian republic is in a crisis today, it is fundamentally because overstepping constitutional dharma is par for the course. Especially at such times, it is in the national interest that conscientious civil servants stay on. They are frontline soldiers in the battle to restore the constitutional health of the republic.

Kannan Gopinathan is right. Others like him who did not resign are also right. There is no universally correct choice. The lesson from Kannan Gopinathan’s resignation is not that everyone should do the same, but that each individual must consciously arrive at their own right answer.

The author is the director of the Takshashila Institution, an independent centre for research and education in public policy. Views are personal. 

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Shouldn’t Kashmir Affect You?

 

“Shouldn’t Kashmir Affect You?”: Kannan Gopinathan On Why He Quit IAS

The former bureaucrat had quit the administrative service on August 21 to protest what he claimed was the denial of fundamental rights to lakhs of people in Jammu and Kashmir.

 
 
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Kannan Gopinathan said life has no meaning without liberty, as is the case in Kashmir.


NEW DELHI: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Ongoing J&K clampdown is meant to prevent deaths, rejects Ex-IAS officer
  2. Life has no meaning to humans without right to liberty: Ex-IAS officer
  3. The 33-year-old bureaucrat had quit administrative service on August 21
 
 

Former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Kannan Gopinathan on Tuesday rejected the centre’s claim that the ongoing clampdown on Kashmir is meant to prevent deaths due to violent reprisals, saying that life holds no meaning to a human being without the right to liberty.

“Life and liberty go together, and that’s the beauty of a constitutional democracy. If they say that they will put you in jail to save your life, would that be acceptable to you? You can argue something like that for a certain period, yes, but this has been going on for three weeks now,” he told NDTV in an exclusive interview.

The 33-year-old bureaucrat had quit the administrative service on August 21 to protest what he claimed was the denial of fundamental rights to lakhs of people in Jammu and Kashmir. “It’s not like my resignation will cause even a flutter, but one has one’s own conscience to answer to,” he had said then.

Jammu and Kashmir was placed under lockdown as a “precautionary measure” earlier this month, when the centre took the surprise step of scrapping the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcating it into two distinct union territories. It also placed many of its political leaders, including another former IAS officer Shah Faesal, under arrest.

Mr Gopinathan said he empathised with the people of Jammu and Kashmir even though he was not personally affected by the government’s clampdown. “Should something affect you personally for you to take a decision?” he asked. “My other question is: when freedom is being curtailed in your own country, when people aren’t being allowed to express themselves freely, shouldn’t it affect you?”

 

The former IAS officer said that while taking a decision like revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood was the government’s legitimate right, people should also have the right to react in a democracy. “The government takes a decision and then shuts down the reaction to that decision, saying that it could be violent… it’s an argument that can be used anywhere,” he added.

Mr Gopinath said journalists should have played a more proactive role in denouncing the Kashmir shutdown. “The media, which is supposed to advocate liberty and freedom of speech, should have said that they must be allowed to speak freely. Whether the government listens to the media is a different matter altogether,” he added.

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He, however, did not elaborate on whether he would follow Shah Faesal’s example and join politics. “Now that I have quit the service, I would like to earn a livelihood by connecting with the public in whichever small way. If I can do that by working at the grassroots level, it would be good. I have not thought beyond that,” Mr Gopinath said.  

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Why do different cultures see the constellations similarly?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Milky_Way_over_Island_Point.jpg

Almost every person throughout the existence of humankind has looked up at the night sky and seen more than just a random scattering of light. Constellations of stars have helped us shape our own ongoing narratives and cultures – creating meaning in the sky above that guides us in our life on the ground below.

Of course, we don’t all see exactly the same night sky – there are subtle differences depending on where we are on the planet, what season it is, and the time of night, all of which are imbued into the meaning we construct about the stars.

But around the world and throughout history, we find remarkably similar constellations defined by disparate cultures, as well as strikingly similar narratives describing the relationships between them.


Read more: Kindred skies: ancient Greeks and Aboriginal Australians saw constellations in common


For example, the constellation Orion is described by the Ancient Greeks as a man pursuing the seven sisters of the Pleiades star cluster.

This same constellation is Baiame in Wiradjuri traditions: a man pursuing the Mulayndynang (Pleiades star cluster).

In the traditions of the Great Victoria Desert, Orion is Nyeeruna, a man chasing the seven Yugarilya sisters.

 

Cultures thoughout the world have perceived Orion (top right) as a man pursuing a group of women – even though in the southern hemisphere he appears the other way up. Erkki Makkonen/Shutterstock

These and other common patterns, as well as the remarkably complex narratives describing them, link the cultures of early Aboriginal Australians and the ancient Greeks, despite them being separated by thousands of years and miles.

Similarly, many cultures in the southern hemisphere identify constellations that are actually made of the dark spaces between the stars, highlighting absence rather than presence. These feature predominantly in the dark dust lanes of the Milky Way.

Across cultures, these again show remarkable consistency. The celestial emu, which is found in Aboriginal traditions across Australia, shares nearly identical views and traditions with the Tupi people of Brazil and Bolivia, who see it as a celestial rhea, another large flightless bird.

Significant differences too

There are also significant differences seen between cultures, although the fundamental roots remain.

The Big Dipper is identified across many northern hemisphere traditions, but for the Alaskan Gwich’in this is merely the tail of the whole-sky constellation Yahdii (The Tailed Man), who “walks” from east to west overnight.

Although we share a fascination with the stars, we have little documented knowledge of how particular constellations were identified by certain cultures. Why and how do we see the same patterns?

Our upcoming research explores the genesis of these different names and different groupings, and the idea that many came about mainly as a result of cultural variations in the perception of natural scenes. Thus an individual’s view of a phenomenon can become the generalised view of a group or culture.

These differences may have endured due to the necessity of communicating these groupings across generations through complex oral traditions.

These oral traditions are often mistakenly compared to the children’s game of Telephone, in which a message is whispered down a line of people, resulting in errors as the information is passed on. In reality, they are far more organised and rigorous, enabling information to be passed on for thousands of years without degradation.

British psychologist Sir Frederic Bartlett realised in the early 20th century that these errors typically reflect a person’s beliefs about missing or uncertain information filtering into the original message. The information passed from one person to another accumulates and ultimately informs an individual’s beliefs about the nature of the world.

In oral cultures – like those of Indigenous Australia – the focus of transmission is on ease of communication and recall.

The outstanding difference is that Aboriginal oral traditions constructed narratives and memory spaces in such a way as to keep the critical information intact through hundreds of generations.

Search for meaning

How this came about and how a thread of meaning endures across individuals, space and time are fascinating questions.

In collaboration with Museums Victoria, our team is exploring how cultural differences in our traditions and stories can come about as a result of very small variations in the nature of perception and understanding in different people, and how this is influenced by both personal belief and geographical location.

Investigating how meaning in the stars is developed and passed on emphasises the fundamental aspects of humanity that we share across cultural bounds, despite differing beliefs, geographical isolation, and location.


Read more: The stories behind Aboriginal star names now recognised by the world’s astronomical body


As part of National Science Week, more than 200 people submitted their own constellation and story in response to a star field projected onto the ceiling of Victoria’s Parliament House; the preliminary data-collection phase in this study.

 

What do you see? Head to https://starstories.space and share your interpretation. Star StoriesAuthor provided

Humanity’s ongoing fascination with the stars has only recently been fuelled by our ability to dream about leaving the planet and visiting them. More fundamentally, they are a reflection and a framework for our life on this planet.

The meaning we find in the night sky seems, ironically, to ground us in the changing world in which we find ourselves. This is as important now as it was 65,000 years ago when people migrated to Australia using the stars.


This article was co-published with Pursuit.

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A Glass Battery That Keeps Getting Better?

A prototype solid-state battery based on lithium and glass faces criticism over claims that its capacity increases over time

Illustration of a battery
Illustration: iStockphoto
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Is there such a thing as a battery whose capacity to store energy increases with age? One respected team of researchers say they have developed just such a technology. Controversy surrounds their claims, however, in part because thermodynamics might seem to demand that a battery only deteriorates over many charge-discharge cycles.

The researchers have a response for that critique and continue to publish peer-reviewed papers about this work. If such claims came from almost any other lab, they might be ignored and shunned by the broader community of battery researchers, the same way physicists turn their noses up at anything that smacks of a perpetual motion machine.

But this lab belongs to one of the most celebrated battery pioneers today—and one of the inventors of the lithium-ion battery itself. John Goodenough, who at 96 continues to research and publish like scientists one-third his age, last year joined with three co-authors in publishing a paper that grabbed headlines. (Spectrum had profiled him and his battery technology the year before, following an initial announcement about his group’s new glass battery.)

Goodenough and collaborators claimed they’d developed a non-flammable lithium battery (whose electrolyte was based on a glass powder) that had twice the energy density of traditional lithium-ion batteries. They also published a graph that showed an increase in capacity over more than 300 charge-discharge cycles. (This increase, however, pales in comparison to the cell’s at least 23,000-cycle lifespan.)

Maria Helena Braga, associate professor and head of the engineering physics department at the University of Porto in Portugal, has been one of Goodenough’s chief collaborators in the spate of recent papers around the glass battery.

“We are complex beings that happen between an entropy increase,” she says about the increased capacity claims—and any alleged violation of thermodynamics. “I don’t know why people make a big thing about this.”

This prototype of a non-flammable lithium-ion battery has an electrolyte based on a glass powder.
Photo: Maria Helena Braga
This prototype of a non-flammable lithium-ion battery has an electrolyte based on a glass powder.

She says their glass electrolyte is a ferroelectric material—a material whose polarization switches back and forth in the presence of an outside field. So charge-discharge cycles are effectively jiggling the electrolyte back and forth and perhaps, over time, finding the ideal configuration of each electromagnetic dipole.

“This is what happens as you are charging and discharging,” Braga says. “You are aligning the ferroelectric dipoles.”

She and collaborators published part of their argument in the journal Materials Theory earlier this year. Another part, she says, is under peer review.

Braga says their group has been working with companies looking to license the battery technology. Because no official announcements have been made, she said she could not reveal who the licensors are or what technology they might be developing with this battery.

She did say that large battery banks that might be spun off from this research stand to not only have higher capacity, but also be substantially lighter than lithium ions. Although, she adds, perhaps the greatest weight savings will come not from comparing one battery cell’s mass with another. “The biggest difference would be that you don’t have to have the same stainless steel bunkers in each of the cells,” she says. 

Sealing off each battery cell from each other—to reduce the risk of runaway fire—would not be necessary with a non-flammable battery. As would any extensive battery management system (BMS) that carefully monitors battery performance in EVs and other technologies that use large banks of batteries.

“The BMS is to control temperatures,” she says. “In our case, we don’t have to have that.” In fact, she adds, up to a point, rising temperatures only increase the electrolyte’s performance.

As for the future of the Goodenough/Braga battery, she projects it will first be used in a commercial product in three years. So circa 2022, if her forecasts are right, you might see an EV-maker or grid battery storage company, or a consumer-electronics manufacturer boast about a new, high-capacity (and non-flammable!) battery.

And if they claim the battery initially even increases its capacity as you charge and discharge it, then you’ll know whether Braga and her collaborators’ argument ultimately won out.

This post was updated on 3 June 2019. 

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3D-Printed Semiconductor Cube Could Convert Waste Heat to Electricity

Here’s how these cubeoids could harness waste heat from steel plants

Image of new 3D technique
Photo: SPECIFIC team – Swansea University
New 3D printed technique for thermoelectrics developed by the SPECIFIC research team.
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From his office at Swansea University in the United Kingdom, associate professor Matthew Carnie has a good view of Tata Steel’s furnace stacks. To some, those chimneys rising over Port Talbot are unsightly. To Carnie, they’re an opportunity. They emit a good portion of the plant’s waste heat, which overall has the same power output as some nuclear plants, says Carnie—around 1,300 megawatts, according to his calculations.

 

With that much potential power waiting to be captured, Carnie and his research team have developed a hybrid, 3D-printed semiconductor material that converts waste heat into electricity. It’s 50 percent more efficient than another inexpensive semiconductor material, lead telluride, that’s screen-printed, and the new material could be assembled cheaply into a device that converts up to 10 percent of heat wherever it’s applied.

 

“Ideally, they could be deployed in areas where there is high-grade waste heat and be used to generate power to help with energy efficiency,” says Carnie. With one-sixth of all energy used by industry in the United Kingdom pouring into the atmosphere as waste heat, the possibilities are big, he says.

 

Carnie, who has expertise in printed photovoltaics, lately has been exploring the field of thermoelectrics. Here, materials like semiconductors and electrical conductors produce a voltage when hot electrons flow from one kind of heated material to another, relatively cooler kind. To date, the most efficient semiconductor material available is tin selenide, made from tin and selenium. Although it holds the record for efficiency of waste-heat conversion, it hasn’t been made into a commercial device.

 

To work with it, Carnie would need the appropriate rigs—ones that could sinter materials with plasma or press them at high pressures and temperatures in excess of several hundred degrees Celsius. Those machines were not in his department’s budget.

 

Carnie wondered if he could transfer some of what he knew from printing photovoltaic materials to thermoelectrics. He asked team member and postdoctoral researcher, Matthew Burton, if they could turn tin selenide into an ink. No one had done that before, and Burton was skeptical. But he made it happen by mixing tin and selenium powder with organic binders and water.

 

Burton then poured the ink into tiny cube-shaped molds about 10 millimeters on each side and dried them in an oven at 120 degrees Celsius. Lastly, he baked the cubeoids at more than 800 degrees K to burn off the organic binders.  

 

Efficiency measurements from the first results were promising, says Carnie. In the field of thermoelectric devices, efficiency is measured by a “figure of merit” number, known as ZT. Anything above 1 ZT is considered very promising. Burton’s first cubes tested at around .5 ZT. After tweaking the amount of binder and the ratios of tin to selenium, Burton was able to achieve 1.7 ZT.

 

“That is a record for thermoelectric material made in this fashion,” says Carnie.

 

Far more research is needed, says Carnie. For starters, they’ve made just one of the two different semiconductor materials needed—the type that holds the hot electrons. They still need to make the “cooler” side, where the electrons flow to. But this fall, Tata Steel is sponsoring a PhD student to help develop the second part, and eventually both materials will be sandwiched between slices of ceramic to make a thermoelectric device.

 

Whether the steel plant eventually adopts such a system will depend on cost, says Carnie. But he’s hopeful. Room-temperature ink is cheap to mix up and if they can move the ink to a nozzle-based system and print it with continuous manufacturing methods, it would be a dramatic improvement, he says.

 

The research was published in Advanced Energy Materials.

Updated 20 June 2018

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New Porous Silicon Battery to be Available Commercially Soon

Startup Aims to Tackle Grid Storage Problem With New Porous Silicon Battery

A Canadian company emerges from stealth mode to provide grid-scale energy storage with its high-density battery tech

Image of Christine Hallquist
Photo: Denial Documentary
Christine Hallquist of Cross Border Power plans to commercialize a porous silicon battery design developed by Washington-based company XNRGI.
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A new Canadian company with roots in Vermont has emerged from stealth mode and has ambitious plans to roll out a new grid-scale battery in the year ahead. The longshot storage technology, targeted at utilities, offers four times the energy density and four times the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries, the company says, and will be available for half the price.

 

The new company’s CEO, a former Democratic nominee for governor of Vermont, founded Cross Border Power in the wake of her electoral loss last November. Within days after the election, she was at her computer and writing a thesis (since posted on her campaign website) that she boldly calls “[The] North American Solution to Climate Change.”

 

One of Christine Hallquist’s planks as gubernatorial candidate was to set the Green Mountain state on a path to obtaining 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. In the final weeks of the election, the Republican Governors Association attacked Hallquist’s campaign by claiming her vision would raise taxes on Vermonters and hike gasoline prices at the pump.

 

Today, she might agree that economics may indeed shape the future of renewable energy—but through low prices, not high ones. “I think we’re at the point, especially with our batteries, that renewables are going to be cheaper than any of the fossil fuels,” she says.

 

Before she ran for governor, Hallquist was CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative where she experienced firsthand the difficulties of transitioning to renewable energy without viable grid-scale storage.

 

Through her new venture, she’s now trying to provide a solution to wind and solar energy’s intermittency. That opportunity emerged after she published her “Solution” paper online, in which she wrote: “Battery storage is the holy grail for extensive deployment of renewables.”

 

A group of Canadian investors and venture capitalists, having followed Hallquist’s gubernatorial run and read her climate change “Solution” position paper, contacted her about a battery technology that was still in stealth mode. The investors, who Hallquist says are themselves still keeping out of the public spotlight, began as a Canadian assortment of venture capitalists and have since expanded to include a number of American financiers as well.

 

The battery they’re touting is made by the Bothell, Wash.-based company XNRGI. According to its website, an XNRGI cell uses existing silicon semiconductor manufacturing technology to engineer a “porous” silicon battery. “Think of a traditional silicon wafer that we use for all of our electronics today,” Hallquist says. “They etch a 20 x 20 micron honeycomb into that silicon to make a porous silicon. They use the same wafer for the anode and the cathode.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lJERwQg2o0?rel=0]

 

The idea behind the XNRGI battery is an unconventional one, depicted in a two-minute explainer video and five-page white paper [PDF] from the company. The etched silicon wafers, which are later coated with lithium and other metals to form anodes and cathodes, contain forests of micro-sized batteries on each silicon wafer. Think of each “micro-battery” as an elongated hollow box with a 20 x 20 micron footprint. The cathode and anode are the top and bottom half of that hollow box, separated by some distance from each other. No individual micro-battery, Hallquist says, contains enough charge current to form substantial dendrites or other structures that could arc the positive and negative ends of the battery.

 

And each 12-inch silicon wafer consists of some 36 million of these vertical “micro-batteries” machined into the wafer’s surface. Which, as the explainer video argues, decreases the charge time of the macro-battery (made up of many micro-batteries) as well as the manufacturing cost of the technology, as it’s based on already scaled-up silicon fabrication processes used in computer chip manufacturing today.

 

Hallquist says the company’s technology is covered by 15 patents (and 12 pending patents) and supported with more than US $80 million investment from private and public sources.

 

According to the company’s white paper, XNRGI has “has already built more than 600 working samples (8 billion micro-batteries) for a wide range of clients.”

 

It was the group’s work at the individual battery cell level, Hallquist says, that convinced her that XNRGI’s battery was “ready for commercialization.” So Hallquist secured exclusive rights to sell and distribute the XNRGI battery technology to the North American power market. (These are rights that her company, Cross Border Power, which is based in Quebec, only finalized last week.)

 

 

Hallquist says the battery banks that Cross Border Power plans to sell to utility companies as soon as next year will be installed in standard computer server racks. One shipping container worth of those racks (totaling 40 racks in all) will offer 4 megawatt-hours of battery storage capacity, she says. Contrast this, she adds, to a comparable set of rack-storage lithium ion batteries which would typically only yield 1 megawatt-hour of storage in a shipping container.

 

Hallquist adds, however, that packing traditional lithium ion cells into a metal shipping container that’s exposed to summer heat can be dangerous, given the problem of thermal runaway. The XNRGI battery, Hallquist says, will not have that problem. “When you use porous silicon, you get about 70 times the surface area compared to a traditional lithium battery… [and] there’s millions of cells in a wafer. It completely eliminates the problem of dendrite formation.” And with no dendrites, the risk of thermal runaway disappears.

 

The last benefit, she says, is the XNRGI cells’ recyclability. “At the end of the life of this product, you bring the wafers back in, you clean the wafer off, you reclaim the lithium and other materials. And it’s essentially brand new. So we’re 100 percent recyclable.”

 

Yet, Hallquist says providing battery storage at utility scale is still not a simple problem. One 4-megawatt shipping container pales in comparison to the 222 gigawatt (GW) capacity that renewables represented in the United States in 2018. And, of course, the amount of renewable energy in the electrical grid is only going up.

 

“It’s a tremendous engineering challenge,” Hallquist says of the battery storage problem. “But I would posit that, of course, we can do it.”

This post was updated on 19 July. 

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How Israel and its partisans work to censor the Internet

How Israel and its partisans work to censor the Internet

How Israel and its partisans work to censor the Internet

 
[facebook url=”https://www.facebook.com/ifamericansknew/videos/10155368454914632/” /]

 

YouTube’s email claimed we had somehow violated their long list of guidelines but did not tell us which one, or how. It simply stated:

“Your video ‘Ahmad Nasser Jarrar’ was flagged for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines. We’ve removed it from YouTube and assigned a Community Guidelines strike, or temporary penalty, to your account.”

Such a penalty is not public and does not terminate the channel.

Three days later, before we’d even had a chance to appeal this strike, YouTube suddenly took down our entire channel. This was done with no additional warnings or explanation.

This violated YouTube’s published policies.

YouTube policies say there is a “three-strike” system by which it warns people of alleged violations three times before terminating a channel. If a channel is eventually terminated, the policies state that YouTube will send an email “detailing the reason for the suspension.”

None of this happened in our case.

We submitted appeals on YouTube’s online form, but received no response. Attempts to find a phone number for YouTube and/or email addresses by which we could communicate with a human being were futile.

YouTube’s power to shut down content without explanation whenever it chooses was acutely apparent. While there are other excellent video hosting sites, YouTube is the largest one, with nearly ten times more views than its closest competitors. It is therefore enormously powerful in shaping which information is available to the public–and which is not.

We spent days working to upload our videos elsewhere, update links to the videos, etc. Finally, having received no response or even acknowledgment of our appeal from YouTube, we decided to write an article about the situation. We emailed YouTube’s press department a list of questions about its process. We have yet to receive any answers.

Finally that evening we received an email with good news:

“After a review of your account, we have confirmed that your YouTube account is not in violation of our Terms of Service. As such, we have unsuspended your account. This means your account is once again active and operational.”

Our channel was visible once more. And YouTube had now officially confirmed that our content doesn’t violate its guidelines.

Ultimately, the YouTube system seems to have worked, in our case. Inappropriate censorship was overruled, perhaps by saner or less biased heads. In fact, we felt that there might at least be one positive result of the situation—additional YouTube employees had viewed our videos and perhaps learned much about Israel-Palestine they had not previously known.

But the whole experience was a wakeup call that YouTube can censor information critical of powerful parties at any time, with no explanation or accountability.

Israeli soldiers paid to “Tweet, Share, Like and more”

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HtFukI_K84?feature=oembed]

 

Israel and partisans of Israel have long had a significant presence on the Internet, working to promote the Israel narrative and block facts about Palestine, the Israel lobby, and other subject matter they wish covered up.

Opinionated proponents of Israel post comments, flag content, accuse critics of “antisemitism,” and disseminate misinformation about Palestine and Palestine solidarity activists. Many of these actions are by individuals acting alone who work independently, voluntarily, and relentlessly.

In addition to these, however, a number of orchestrated, often well-funded projects sponsored by the Israeli government and others have come to light. These projects work to place pro-Israel content throughout the Internet, and to remove information Israel doesn’t wish people to know.

One such Israeli project targeting the Internet came to light when it was lauded in an article by Arutz Sheva, an Israeli news organization headquartered in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

The report described a new project by Israel’s “New Media desk” that focused on YouTube and other social media sites. The article reported that Israeli soldiers were being employed to “Tweet, Share, Like and more.”

The article noted, “It is well known nowadays that what happens on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has great influence on events as they occur on the ground. The Internet, too, is a battleground.” It was “comforting,” the article stated, to learn that the IDF was employing soldiers whose job was specifically to do battle on it.

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The world’s population could stop growing by 2100, UN report finds

 

America’s birth rate has hit its lowest in 32 years. Veuer’s Natasha Abellard has the story. Buzz60

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The world’s population is slowing down and could stop growing — or even begin decreasing — by 2100, according to a United Nations report released Monday.

The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division said that the world population could reach its peak at nearly 11 billion around the end of the century.  

However, division director John Wilmoth said this outcome “is not certain and in the end the peak could come earlier or later, at a lower or higher level of total population.”

The report is a comprehensive overview of global patterns and predictions in the world’s population.

The U.N. also found the world’s population is getting older, with people over the age of 65 being the fastest-growing age group.

One in four people living in Europe and Northern America could be 65 years or older by 2050, the report found. And the number of people age 80 or over is projected to triple globally, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.

 

Sea levels rising: These American cities will soon be under water

2018 marked the first time in history that those over 65 outnumbered children under 5. This is due in part to global life expectancy continuing to rise as fertility rates continue to fall.

The global fertility rate fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 in 2019 and is projected to decline even further to 2.2 in 2050.

 

Slow population growth and a shift to an older demographic could have serious global consequences: Countries may face fiscal pressures when it comes to health care, pensions and social protections for the elderly, Populations Affairs Officer Sara Hertog said.

But there’s still time to prepare.

“Population projections allow societies to anticipate population aging and consider these trends in policies and planning,” Hertog said in an email to USA TODAY.

Contributing: The Associated Press  

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India plans to have its own space station

Manish Singh

India plans to have its own space station in the future and conduct separate missions to study the Sun and Venus, it said on Thursday, as the nation moves to bolster its status as a leader in space technologies and inspire the young minds to take an interest in scientific fields.

India’s space agency said today that it will begin working on its space station following its first manned mission to space, called Gaganyaan (which means “space vehicle” in Sanskrit), in 2022 — just in time to commemorate 75 years of the country’s independence from Britain. The government has sanctioned Rs 10,000 crores ($1.5 billion) for the Gaganyaan mission, it was unveiled today.

“We have to sustain the Gaganyaan program after the launch of the human space mission. In this context, India is planning to have its own space station,” said Dr. Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). ISRO is India’s equivalent to NASA.

“While navigation, communication and Earth observation are going to be the bread and butter for us, it is missions such as Chandrayaan (Sanskrit for “moon vehicle”), Mangalyaan (Sanskrit for “Mars vehicle”) and Gaganyaan that excite the youth, unite the nation and also pave a technological seed for the future.”

“This is our ambition. We want to have a separate space station. We will launch a small module for conducting microgravity experiments,” he said in a press conference. Gaganyaan aims to send a crew of two to three people to space for a period of up to seven days. The spacecraft will be placed in low Earth orbit of 300-400 km (186-248 miles).

The agency will submit to the government after the Gaganyaan mission a detailed report on how it intends to set up the space station. It currently believes it would take five to seven years to conceptualize the space station.

On the sidelines of the announcement, ISRO also unveiled Aditya-L1, a mission to study the Sun’s corona that impacts the change in climate on Earth, for the first half of next year, and a similar mission aimed at Venus, which it plans to conduct over the next few years. “Not only Sun and moon, we hope to reach other planets, like Venus,” he said.

The ambitious announcements come a day after the space agency said it will launch a lunar mission on July 15 this year in an attempt to become only the fourth nation — after the United States, Russia and China — to land on the moon.

That mission, dubbed Chandrayaan-2, involves a lander, an orbiter and a rover that the agency has built itself. India concluded its first mission to the moon in 2008, when it completed more than 3,400 orbits and played an instrumental role in the discovery of water molecules on the moon.

India’s space agency has specialized in low-cost space launches since the early 1960s, when components of rockets were transported by bicycles and assembled by hand. In 2014, it sent a spacecraft to Mars for $74 million, significantly lower than the $671 million the U.S. spent for a Mars mission the same year. In early 2017, the nation launched a flock of 104 satellites into space over the course of 18 minutes, setting a new global record.

Image Credits: ARUN SANKAR/AFP / Getty Images

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