Salt, Ice to Store Solar Energy



Solar And Wind Energy May Be Nice, But How Can We Store It?

SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, located near Tonopah, Nev., features an array of 10,347 mirrors arranged in a circle 1.75 miles across. A 640-foot-tall tower glows when the sun’s energy is concentrated and directed to the top.


Renewable energy like solar and wind is booming across the country as the costs of production have come down. But the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t blow when we need it to.

This challenge has sparked a technology race to store energy — one that goes beyond your typical battery.

Heat Storage: Molten Salt And A Giant Solar Farm

Batteries are often used to store solar power, but it can be a costly endeavor.

A company called SolarReserve may have found a solution: It built a large solar plant in the Nevada desert that can store heat from the sun and generate electricity for up to 10 hours even after sundown.

You can see the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant from miles away. There’s a 640-foot-tall tower surrounded by 10,347 mirrors. The heliostats, as they’re technically called, are arranged in a circle that is 1.75 miles across. They direct heat from the sun to the top of the tower, which glows white hot.

“This is really the first utility-size project of this type in the world,” says SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith.

Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, stands in the control room of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant. “This is really the first utility-size project of this type in the world,” he says.  Jeff Brady/NPR

He says the key to the plant’s ability to store energy is molten salt. You can’t see this special kind of salt because it’s contained in a system of pipes and insulated storage tanks.

“It actually looks like water. It’s clear — it flows like water,” Smith says.

He says the molten salt has to remain above 450 degrees Fahrenheit to stay liquid. It’s sent up the tower to the glowing tip where it’s heated further. When the salt comes back down, it is 1,050 degrees.

The molten salt is used to make steam to power a generator. The facility can continue to produce electricity for up to 10 hours after the sun goes down. Smith says that flexibility is very important to the local utility.

Billboard-sized mirrors arrayed in a large circle follow the sun as it moves across the sky. The heliostats, as they’re known technically, direct the sun’s energy to the top of a tower.  Jeff Brady/NPR

“That’s the whole concept here is that this facility would operate just like a natural gas, or a coal or nuclear facility — turn us on and off when they want,” he says. “We have energy in storage so that we can generate at night.”

At full capacity, he says, the $997 million plant generates enough electricity to power 75,000 Nevada homes.

There was a problem with the plant briefly last year. During a test, observers recorded a video of birds flying into heat from the mirrors and being incinerated.

The plant is on federal Bureau of Land Management property, and the agency says the company fixed the problem by adjusting where mirrors are pointed at certain times. The BLM says biologists have documented fewer than five bird deaths a month since then.

The group Basin and Range Watch is suing the agency to get more detailed data biologists have collected.

Laura Cunningham, co-founder and executive director of Basin and Range Watch stands near her home in Nevada. Her group has taken legal action against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to learn more details about the number of bird deaths associated with Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant. Jeff Brady/NPR

Executive Director Laura Cunningham says she supports solar. “So we’re in a little bit of an unpopular position of trying to defend solar but then criticizing some solar,” she says. Cunningham says in addition to the bird issue she believes facilities like this should be built closer to where people live and away from wild areas.

Another issue with this plant is cost. The utility NV Energy is buying all the electricity from Crescent Dunes for the next 25 years at 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s much more than the same power would cost from a natural gas plant.

Smith says his company learned a lot from building this first project and he says subsequent plants will be cheaper. That’ll reduce the cost of electricity because once the plant is built, the fuel is free. The ability to store solar power will also add value to the plants.

“We really think we’ve cracked the code here with energy storage and we can take this technology and bring it worldwide,” Smith says.

SolarReserve expects to begin work soon on the company’s second solar plant with heat storage that will be built in South Africa.

Compressed Air: A Cheaper And Longer-Lasting Alternative To Batteries

The challenges of renewable energy are becoming apparent in California, where the state’s ambitious goals are driving a boom in solar power. Earlier this spring, there was so much electricity on the grid that solar companies were told to turn off their production.

To cope with the higher demand for power in the evening, electric utilities are being requiring to add energy storage to the grid, which would store the extra electricity that solar farms generate during the daytime.

One startup — LightSail Energy — experimented with compressed air.

Steve Crane of LightSail Energy in Berkeley, Calif., has developed energy storage technology that compasses air in large tanks, so it can generate electricity when needed.  Lauren Sommer/KQED

“So what you’re looking at really is best described as a giant scuba tank,” says Steve Crane, pointing to a 25-foot tank in the warehouse of his company, LightSail Energy in Berkeley, Calif.

A scuba tank is the inspiration for his technology, which compresses air.

“The electrical energy is hard to hold on to,” Crane says. “Compressed air is relatively easy to store for hours or even days.”

Here’s how it works: When there’s extra electricity, Crane turns on a giant air pump. It fills the tank, compressing the air by 200 times.

Then when electricity is needed, the air is released to drive an electric generator. The hard part has been dealing with all the heat this makes.

“Any air compressor that you use, even a bicycle pump, creates heat,” Crane says. “A bicycle pump will feel warm after you’ve used it for a while.”

Crane’s technology uses water to capture some of the heat, so the energy isn’t lost.

The technology is still in the early stages, but he says it could have an edge over batteries because it’s likely cheaper and lasts longer.

“If you have a laptop or cellphone, you know that after two to three years, you start to see significant deterioration,” he says.

Ice Energy: A Thermal Battery That Brings Down Electricity Demand

Traditionally, batteries store energy in chemical form, but a thermal “battery” uses temperature.

A California-based company is using the concept to build Ice Bear, a thermal energy storage unit that can both reduce energy demand and store energy during the night.

Greg Miller, executive vice president of Ice Energy, poses next to the “Ice Bear,” his company’s invention. The equipment cools down air conditioners in the day and stores energy at night.  Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

An Ice Bear can save up energy in a 450-gallon tank of water, for example, by turning it into ice. That energy is used later on to cool down the building next door during the hottest time of the day and into early evening.

“So essentially what we’re doing is we’re shutting air conditioners off during the day, consuming energy at night and displacing that peak load for the utility company,” says Greg Miller, executive vice president of the company, Ice Energy.

Peak load refers to the time of day or year when we’re using the most electricity. In Fort Collins, Colo., that’s in the summer, between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Ice Bear brings down the total amount of electricity needed during those busy peaks.

In 2014, the company got its first big order from Southern California Edison for 25.6 megawatts of storage, which is around 1,800 Ice Bear units. The California utility won’t disclose how Ice Energy’s thermal storage stacked up to the other companies that also won storage contracts. Ice Energy also has a deal in process on the island of Nantucket, Mass.

In Colorado, there is an important limitation to Ice Bear’s technology. During winter, the demand for air conditioning is low, so there is no need for the Ice Bear’s services. Miller says that during cold months, the unit just sits idle.

The Ice Bear, unlike compressed air or molten salt storage, saves up energy for temperature control but can’t feed electricity back onto the grid.

But when temperatures soar in the summer, the Ice Bear goes to work.

Fastball–How Fast?

The documentary film “Fastball” opens nationwide this weekend, and it’s available On Demand.               _____________________________________________

Bob Feller

‘Fastball’ Documentary Explores Classic Showdown Between Pitcher And Batter

  • The new documentary Fastball explores the classic showdown between pitcher and batter. NPR’s Robert Siegel talks with director Jonathan Hock about his film, and with David Price, a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.


In September 2010, Aroldis Chapman, a rookie relief pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds, made history. A fastball he threw in the eighth inning of a game in San Diego was clocked at 105.1 miles per hour. It was the fastest pitch ever recorded in the major leagues, and it added to a century of lore and legend about the fastball.

TIMOTHY VERSTYNEN: The pitcher is pushing the limits of how fast a ball can go. And that limit is coming close to the limit of how fast a hitter can make a decision. And so you have these two extremes of human performance doing this kind of dance right at the edge of where their biology is constraining them.

SIEGEL: That’s psychologist Timothy Verstynen of Carnegie Mellon University. The science, history and sheer marvel of the game’s fastest pitch are explored in a new documentary called “Fastball.” Jonathan Hock wrote and directed the film and joins us from New York. Welcome to the program, Jonathan.

JONATHAN HOCK: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: And the film features scientists like Verstynen and several players, including left-handed pitcher David Price of the Boston Red Sox who joins us from Fort Meyers, Fla., where his team spends spring training. Welcome to you, David Price.

DAVID PRICE: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: Let’s start, Jonathan, with you. How fast is a great fastball?

HOCK: You know, there are a lot of guys throwing 98, a hundred now, and that used to be blinding speed, and now it’s kind of typical of what’s coming out of the bullpen. But there’s a lot more to it than just speed – release point, movement, late movement, especially

SIEGEL: David Price, there’s a moment in the documentary where we see you striking out a man and throwing a ball, according to the speed gun, 100 miles per hour. What was that like?

PRICE: That was a first for me. I remember that moment very clearly, you know? I was in the bottom of the fifth. You know, my pitch count was at a hundred or higher, so I knew this was – you know, it was probably my last hitter.

I think it was a two-two count, and you know, just threw a good fastball up in the leg. He swung through it. And I just remember walking off the field to the first-base dugout. And I looked up ’cause they had a radar gun reading right there and in Detroit above our dugout, and I saw 100. But that was special.

SIEGEL: When you threw that pitch, could you feel that there was something different about this fastball from a fastball that might be clocked in at 97 miles per hour?

PRICE: No, I didn’t feel any different. You know, I like to kind of play it to golf. You know, a lot of the golfers on the – on tour, you know, they’re not – they’re never swinger a hundred percent. You know, very rarely will they ever really go at a golf ball unless they really need to.

And you know, less is more. And I feel like if I can keep my mechanics in line and just get on top of that baseball, you know, I can still throw the baseball just as hard as if I was to hump up and try and really get after it.

SIEGEL: I want to play a couple of clips from “Fastball,” from the film, that address the question of, say, the difference between a 92-mile-per-hour fastball and a 100-mile-per-hour fastball. First, at one point, the narrator, Kevin Costner, delivers a scientific comparison.

KEVIN COSTNER: If the two pitches were thrown together, when the 100-mile-an-hour pitch reaches home plate, the 92-mile-an-hour pitch would still have 4-and-a-half feet left to travel.

SIEGEL: So that’s the result of serious calculations. Brandon Phillips, the second baseman of the Cincinnati Reds, describes being a batter and looking at the difference between a 92-mile-per-hour pitch and a hundred-mile-per-hour pitch. He describes it a little bit differently.

BRANDON PHILLIPS: When you’re thrown a 92, you can read the Major League logo on the ball. You can see the seams. You can see all that. But when the guy throwing a hundred…

PHILLIPS: ...It look like a golf ball.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) It looks like a golf ball, David Price – back to golf.

PRICE: (Laughter) That definitely makes sense. You know, whenever you see a guy throwing, you know, upper-90s, a lot of people say that the baseball looks about the size of a bb, so I definitely get what he’s saying there.

SIEGEL: One of the questions that you address – the big question that you address in “Fastball,” Jonathan, is who actually threw the fastest fastball. And I was very surprised to learn how different the methods have been for measuring the speed of a fastball. Nowadays we have this radar gun that’s measuring it. But before that, it was a much more random kind of science.

HOCK: Yeah. We sort of took it for granted when we began the project that the, you know, the current timings were just sort of the same as anything that had ever been timed before and when Aroldis Chapman hit 105.1, that was it.

But what we discovered with the help of the scientists from Carnegie Mellon – that the method they used over the years to scientifically time some pitchers, which hadn’t happened that often before the radar gun – but it did happen, and the methods they did use were accurate. But the way they set it up was a little bit lacking.

SIEGEL: In 1939, as the movie shows us, Bob Feller, the great pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, wanted to be timed.

HOCK: Bob Feller was the first pitcher who really wanted to know how fast his fastball went. And he tried many ways of measuring this. And the first one and the most amusing one to watch is – he literally races his fastball against a police motorcycle. They filmed this. It was in Chicago. And you see this cop racing in on a motorcycle, going 86 miles an hour.

And just as he passes Feller, Feller, with his eye on the cop, winds up and lets go of the ball. And Feller’s fastball hits the target before the cop going 86 miles an hour. And then Feller was in his street clothes, you know, with hard-soled shoes, pitching on the street without a mound.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) There’s a scientific consensus in this film that a fastball cannot rise.

HOCK: Yeah. The idea is that when we’re tracking an object in motion, we’re not actually looking directly at the object. We’re looking slightly ahead of it – a tenth, two-tenths of a second ahead of where it goes, and our brain then fills in the missing frames. And when we anticipate a ball going the normal speed – say, 90, 92 – our eye, as a batter, races to the spot where a 92-mile-an-hour pitch will cross home plate, and we swing there.

The hundred-mile-an-hour pitch thrown as a four-seamer, as David describes in the film, with backspin is going to create what they call Magnus force, which creates a slight lift on the ball. It doesn’t actually lift the ball, but the ball won’t fall. So it crosses the plate higher than the batter expects it to, and so his – he’s literally seeing the ball rise because whatever part of his brain is interpreting what his eyes are seeing is actually making the ball rise.

SIEGEL: David, are you persuaded by what Jonathan just said, explaining the – what he would say is the illusion of the rising fastball?

PRICE: I really don’t think the baseball can rise, but if there’s anybody in baseball that could do that, it would be Darren O’Day just from, you know, his arm spot of where he throws and then him still being able to generate, you know, 87, you know, to 90 mile an hour that gives that look of that.

SIEGEL: We’re on the eve of a new Major League Baseball season. Jonathan Hock, David Price, how exciting is that for the two of you?

PRICE: This time of year, you know, before the season gets going is always exciting. And then to be throwing with a new team and a new organization – that’s always exciting as well.

HOCK: For me, the – baseball is the soundtrack of my summers for 50 years now. And there are two kinds of life we live every year. The six months where every night we can turn on the radio and put a ballgame on in the background is – that’s the half of life I prefer.

SIEGEL: Filmmaker Jonathan Hock, whose new document is called “Fastball,” and David Price, whose new team is the Boston Red Sox, thanks to both of you for talking with us.

HOCK: Thank you, Robert.

PRICE: Not a problem, thank you.

SIEGEL: The documentary “Fastball” opens nationwide this weekend, and it’s available On Demand.

Drone-Racing VIDEO

Watch this dizzying first-person view of a pro drone race

By Nick Schwartz
Feb 22, 2016    source

Image result for drone racing photos


The Drone Racing League kicked off its season at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and quickly proved why it sports a visual appeal no other sports league can possibly match.

Some of the world’s most talented pilots gathered in Miami in December for “Level 1,” a challenging course featuring multiple elevation changes and tight turns which served as the first event of the 2016 DRL season. DRL released a traditional broadcast of the heat races on Monday — the official broadcast launch of the season — and it has the usual: an announcer, pilot interviews and plenty of in-air action. But it’s clear that the best way to watch drone races is by riding aboard the machine itself, POV angles of drones zipping through tiny gates and darting around the concourses might leave you nauseous.
How does it all work? The pilots wear goggles that provide them with a video feed from their drone, and they navigate the course by looking for the neon lights placed along the route. Each pilot earns a certain number of points just for passing checkpoints during the race — as it’s difficult just to keep the drone in one piece.
The only way this could be better is if each drone was equipped with a weapon to use against the competition, Mario Kart-style.

driverless car on campus


Self-driving taxis may be heading to a campus near you: Autonomous cars are driving students around a Korean university    source

‘Snuber’ has been navigating Seoul University campus for six months
It works in conjunction with a hailing app created by the university

The Genesis sedan stops at stop signs and at pedestrian crossings

The university has been testing the car to transport disabled students and the technology could be adopted by other universities in the future
PUBLISHED: 03:19 EST, 5 January 2016


The vehicle, called Snuber (pictured), has been navigating the 44,200 square foot (4,109 square metre) campus at Seoul University for the past six months without any accidents. It works in conjunction with a hailing app created by the university that has been compared to Uber

The vehicle, called Snuber (pictured), has been navigating the 44,200 square foot (4,109 square metre) campus at Seoul University for the past six months without any accidents. It works in conjunction with a hailing app created by the university that has been compared to Uber


A South Korean university is testing a sedan that can pick up and transport passengers without a human driver, giving a glimpse into the future of autonomous public transport.


Seo Seung-Woo, director of the Intelligent Vehicle IT Research Center at Seoul National University, said the university has been testing the driverless taxi to transport disabled students around campus.
The sedan has a turret on its roof with devices that scan road conditions. The team also fitted the Genesis model with a camera, laser scanners and other The perfect car for movie buffs! Self-driving Volvo system…
For now, due to regulations banning autonomous vehicles on the roads, a driver is behind the steering wheel and can override the automation in emergency situations.


The Genesis sedan (pictured) has a turret on its roof with devices that scan road conditions as well as a camera, laser scanners and other sensors. The vehicle applies a brake pedal at a red stop sign and at a pedestrian crosswalk, for example, but it is not yet ready for use outside the controlled campus environment

The Genesis sedan  has a turret on its roof with devices that scan road conditions as well as a camera, laser scanners and other sensors. The vehicle applies a brake pedal at a red stop sign and at a pedestrian crosswalk, for example, but it is not yet ready for use outside the controlled campus environment.

The Genesis sedan has a turret on its roof with devices that scan road conditions as well as a camera, laser scanners and other sensors.
For now, due to regulations banning autonomous vehicles on the roads, a driver is behind the steering wheel and can override the automation in emergency situations.
The car can’t travel faster than 18.6mph (30km/h) because of the campus speed limit.
There are no full traffic lights but researchers have programmed Snuber to navigate around other challenges.
For example, the vehicle applies a brake pedal at a red stop sign and at a pedestrian crosswalk.
When another vehicle stops in the middle of the road, the automated sedan will scan the other lanes to detect vehicles traveling from the opposite direction.
If there are no other vehicles, the Snuber moves into the oncoming lane to pass the vehicle.
The car can’t travel faster than 18.6mph (30km/h) because of the speed limit on campus.
There are no full traffic lights but researchers have programmed Snuber to navigate around other challenges.
For example, the vehicle applies a brake pedal at a red stop sign and at a pedestrian crosswalk.
When another vehicle stops in the middle of the road, the automated sedan will scan the other lanes to detect vehicles traveling from the opposite direction.
If there are no other vehicles, the Snuber moves into the oncoming lane to pass the vehicle.
However, it is not yet ready for use outside the relatively controlled campus environment.
‘It will take a huge amount of time and effort,’ said Seo. ‘We need more tests in real traffic conditions.’
He said in early 2020, a driverless car will be running between tollgates on highways.
A door-to-door pickup service using a self-driving car is likely in early 2030, he said.
Companies around the world are betting that automated driving technology will transform public transportation.
In Japan, a company called Robot Taxi plans to offer a full commercial service in 2020.
The Genesis sedan  has a turret on its roof with devices that scan road conditions as well as a camera, laser scanners and other sensors. The vehicle applies a brake pedal at a red stop sign and at a pedestrian crosswalk, for example, but it is not yet ready for use outside the controlled campus environment.
In Greece, driverless buses called CityMobil2 have been tested in real traffic.
General Motors said Monday it is investing $500 million in ride-hailing company Lyft and forming a partnership that could eventually lead to on-demand, self-driving cars.
South Korean companies, however, have been slow to embrace the self-driving technology.
The country’s largest carmaker, Hyundai Motor, said it expects to roll out a fully automated car in 2030, and only this month, Samsung created a team to focus on autonomous driving.
Experts said such services have the potential to change delivery businesses, not only mass transport.

Read more:

Rare Shakespeare Book To Visit Lake County






First Folio
© Shakespeare First Folio, 1623. Folger Shakespeare Library

The Lake County Discovery Museum has been selected as the host site for the state of Illinois for First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, a national traveling exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio, one of the world’s most treasured books. The exhibition will be available to the public February 3–28, 2016. 

The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is touring a First Folio of Shakespeare in 2016 to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.

“It is an honor for Lake County to have been selected as the Illinois host site,” said Katherine Hamilton-Smith, Director of Public Affairs and Development for the Lake County Forest Preserves. “The exhibition will provide an important, once-in-a-lifetime humanities opportunity for our residents, and will bring significant economic impact to the county because of the exhibition’s likely draw of visitors into the county from the Chicago region, downstate Illinois, and southern Wisconsin.”

Many of Shakespeare’s plays, which were written to be performed, were not published during his lifetime. The First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors compiled 36 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. Without it, we would not have 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It.

All 18 appear for the first time in print in the First Folio, and would otherwise have been lost. “The First Folio is the book that gave us Shakespeare. Between its covers we discover his most famous characters—Hamlet, Desdemona, Cordelia, Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet and hundreds of others—speaking words that continue to move and inspire us,” said Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. “Shakespeare tells the human story like no one else. He connects us to each other, to our history, and to themes and ideas that touch us every day. We are delighted that we can share this precious resource with people everywhere, from San Diego, California to Gurabo, Puerto Rico, from Eugene, Oregon to Duluth, Minnesota.”

The Folger Shakespeare Library holds 82 copies of the First Folio, by far the largest collection in the world and more than a third of the 233 known copies in the world today. It is believed that 750 copies were originally printed. The Shakespeare First Folio is one of the most valuable printed books in the world; a First Folio sold for $6.2 million in 2001 at Christie’s and another one for $5.2 million in 2006 in London. It originally sold for one British pound (20 shillings)—about $200 today. When the First Folio arrives in Wauconda, IL, its pages will be opened to the most quoted line from Shakespeare and one of the most quoted lines in the world, “to be or not to be” from Hamlet.

Accompanying the rare book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities.

During the exhibition, the Lake County Discovery Museum is planning numerous programs for the public and families around the First Folio exhibition.

The Lake County Discovery Museum would like to thank all of its Lake County and Chicago area partners including: College of Lake County, Kirk Players, Visit Lake County, Lake Forest College, Loyola University, University of Chicago, University of St. Mary of the Lake, Citadel Players, Wauconda Area Library, Adler Cultural Center, Lake County Regional Office of Education, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Illinois Office of Tourism, Newberry Library, Bristol Renaissance Faire and others, who have pledged assistance with promotion, contribution of programming in their own venues, or expertise in support of the exhibition.

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of Vinton and Sigrid Cerf and the Google Inc. Charitable Giving Fund of Tides Foundation. Sponsorship opportunities of this major exhibition and the Folger’s other Wonder of Will programs commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death are available; learn more at

About the Lake County Discovery Museum: The Lake County Discovery Museum is located on Route 176, just west of Fairfield Road and east of Wauconda in Lakewood Forest Preserve. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm, Sunday from 1 pm to 4:30 pm. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for seniors ages 62 and older and students ages 18 to 25, and $2.50 for youth ages four to 17. Children three years and under are free. On Discount Tuesdays, admission is $3 for adults, free for youth 17 years and under. Admission is always free for Museum members. The Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Follow the Museum on Facebook and Twitter @LakeCoMuseum or visit for updates on First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.

About Folger Shakespeare Library: Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-renowned center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500-1750). The Folger is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K–12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs—theatre, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures and family programs. Learn more at

About Cincinnati Museum Center: Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of only 16 museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation’s 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually. For more information, visit

About the American Library Association: The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. ALA’s Public Programs Office provides leadership, resources, training and networking opportunities that help thousands of librarians nationwide develop and host cultural programs for adult, young adult and family audiences. The mission of the ALA Public Programs Office is to promote cultural programming as an essential part of library service in all types of libraries. Projects include book and film discussion series, literary and cultural programs featuring authors and artists, professional development opportunities and traveling exhibitions. School, public, academic and special libraries nationwide benefit from the office’s programming initiatives. Additional information can be found at

About the National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at


Dam Hackers !


Iranian Hackers Infiltrated New York Dam in 2013

Cyberspies had access to control system of small structure near Rye in 2013, sparking concerns that reached to the White House

Iranian hackers infiltrated the control system of the Bowman Avenue Dam, a small structure used for flood control, near Rye, N.Y., in 2013.PHOTO: JESSE NEIDER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Iranian hackers infiltrated the control system of a small dam less than 20 miles from New York City two years ago, sparking concerns that reached to the White House, according to former and current U.S. officials and experts familiar with the previously undisclosed incident.

The breach came amid attacks by hackers linked to Iran’s government against the websites of U.S. banks, and just a few years after American spies had damaged an Iranian nuclear facility with a sophisticated computer worm called Stuxnet. In October 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called out Iran’s hacking, prompting fears of cyberwar.

The still-classified dam intrusion illustrates a top concern for U.S. officials as they enter an age of digital state-on-state conflict. America’s power grid, factories, pipelines, bridges and dams—all prime targets for digital armies—are sitting largely unprotected on the Internet. And, unlike in a traditional war, it is sometimes difficult to know whether or where an opponent has struck. In the case of the dam hack, federal investigators initially thought the target might have been a much larger dam in Oregon.

Many of the computers controlling industrial systems are old and predate the consumer Internet. In the early digital days, this was touted as a security advantage. But companies, against the advice of hacking gurus, increasingly brought them online in the past decade as a way to add “smarts” to U.S. infrastructure. Often, they are connected directly to office computer networks, which are notoriously easy to breach.

These systems control the flow in pipelines, the movements of drawbridges and water releases from dams. A hacker could theoretically cause an explosion, a flood or a traffic jam.

The U.S. has more than 57,000 industrial-control systems connected to the Internet, more than any other country, according to researchers at Shodan, a search engine that catalogs each machine online. They range from office air-conditioning units to major pipelines and electrical-control systems.

Security experts say companies have done little to protect these systems from would-be hackers.

“Everything is being integrated, which is great, but it’s not very secure,” said Cesar Cerrudo, an Argentine researcher and chief technology officer at IOActive Labs, a security-consulting firm. At a hacker conference last year in Las Vegas, Mr. Cerrudo wowed the audience when he showed how he could manipulate traffic lights in major U.S. cities.

Operators of these systems “don’t think about security,” he said.

The threat of physical damage is real. Last winter, the German government said in a report that hackers broke into the control system at a domestic steel plant and caused “massive” damage to a blast furnace.

The U.S. and other governments use cyberweapons, too. In the early years of PresidentBarack Obama’s term, the U.S. and Israel used a sophisticated computer program to disable centrifuges at Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz, according to former U.S. officials. The virus unintentionally self-replicated and spread to other networks, including systems atChevron Corp. Executives at the oil company said no damage occurred.

The Department of Homeland Security has publicly warned industrial companies since 2011 to be more judicious in how they connect these systems to the Internet. One 2014 missive said the devices are poorly protected, “further increasing the chances of both opportunistic and targeted” hacking attempts.

For the 12 months ended Sept. 30, the department had received and responded to reports of 295 industrial-control-system hacking incidents, up from 245 for fiscal year 2014, according to agency statistics shared with The Wall Street Journal. The problem doesn’t appear to be getting better. In June, the department said a “critical infrastructure asset owner” who suspected a breach hadn’t kept records of devices on its network, hindering the investigation.

Most of the time, the hackers appear to be probing systems to see how they are laid out and where they can get in, investigators familiar with the incidents said.

The incident at the New York dam was a wake-up call for U.S. officials, demonstrating that Iran had greater digital-warfare capability than believed and could inflict real-world damage, according to people familiar with the matter. At a congressional hearing in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called Iranian hackers “motivated and unpredictable cyber actors.” Iranian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The 2013 dam hack highlighted another challenge for America’s digital defenses: the fog of cyberwar. Amid a mix of three-letter agencies, unclear Internet addresses and rules governing domestic surveillance, U.S. officials at first weren’t able to determine where the hackers had infiltrated, three of the people familiar with the incident said.

Hackers are believed to have gained access to the dam through a cellular modem, according to an unclassified Homeland Security summary of the case that doesn’t specify the type of infrastructure by name. Two people familiar with the incident said the summary refers to the Bowman Avenue Dam, a small structure used for flood control near Rye, N.Y.

Investigators said hackers didn’t take control of the dam but probed the system, according to people familiar with the matter.

Homeland Security said it doesn’t comment on specific incidents. Spokesman S.Y. Lee said the department’s “Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team responds to cyber incidents, vulnerabilities and threats” to critical infrastructure across the U.S.

U.S. intelligence agencies noticed the intrusion as they monitored computers they believed were linked to Iranian hackers targeting American firms, according to people familiar with the matter. U.S. officials had linked these hackers to repeated disruptions at consumer-banking websites, including those of Capital One Financial Corp., PNC Financial Services Group and SunTrust BanksInc., the Journal reported at the time.

Intelligence analysts then noticed that one of the machines was crawling the Internet, looking for vulnerable U.S. industrial-control systems. The hackers appeared to be focusing on certain Internet addresses, according to the people.

Analysts at the National Security Agency relayed these addresses to counterparts at Homeland Security, the people said.

Eventually, investigators linked one address to a “Bowman” dam. But there are 31 dams in the U.S. that include the word “Bowman” in their name, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers records.

Officials feared that hackers breached the systems at the Arthur R. Bowman Dam in Oregon, a 245-foot-tall earthen structure that irrigates local agriculture and prevents flooding in Prineville, Ore., population: 9,200. The White House was notified of the discovery, on the belief that it was a new escalation in the ongoing digital conflict with Iran, three people familiar with the incident said.

In response to a request for comment, the White House referred The Wall Street Journal to Homeland Security.

Eventually, the trail led to the Bowman Avenue Dam, the people said, near the village of Rye Brook, N.Y., a 20-foot-tall concrete slab across Blind Brook, about 5 miles from Long Island Sound. It was built in the mid-20th century for ice production, according to municipal documents.

“It’s very, very small,” said Marcus Serrano, the manager of the neighboring larger city of Rye. In 2013, Mr. Serrano said, several FBI agents appeared at city offices and wanted to speak to the city’s information-technology manager about a hacking incident at the dam. “There was very little discussion,” Mr. Serrano said.

Chris Bradbury, administrator for the village of Rye Brook, said, “I couldn’t comment on that.”

The FBI declined to comment.


This story is part of the series  HOLIDAY GUIDE 2015

Hoverboard 101: What you need to know

They’re called hoverboards, or electric scooters. New York City just banned them for safety reasons and they can cost anywhere from $350 to $2,000, so what do you need to know before buying one?WCNC


Ever since Marty McFly zipped around on one inBack to the Future Part II, people have looked forward to the day they could own a hoverboard.

Here we are at the end of 2015 (the year in which that 1989 film was set), and though technically not a hoverboard, self-balancing boards are all the rage this holiday season and give the rider some sense of “hovering” above the ground.

If only, it actually worked like this:

The product, available from several manufacturers, is powered by a lithium battery and operated by leaning in and balancing. But with reports of injuries and a price tag that isn’t friendly for all budgets, the major question this holiday season is — to buy or not to buy?

Here’s a guide to help you navigate the pros and cons, the safety risks and why the hoverboard has become the hottest gift of the holiday season.

Ease on down, ease on down the road: With a little practice and a lot of balance, these hoverboards are fairly easy to use. With a little effort (seriously, lean forward, go forward) you are on your way. As you get more comfortable on your board, it becomes easier to maneuver — it just takes a little practice. (Not to mention this has to be a great core workout!)

You can get one: Though the hoverboard is the hot gift to get, it is also the expensive gift to buy, with most costing $300 to $500, from various manufactuers. So while demand may be high, the price has kept these pretty easy to obtain — either via online retailers or through mall kiosks.

Not smaller than a breadbox, but smaller than a Segway: Self-balancing boards are much more compact than their handle-barred counterpart, the Segway, and they weigh much less. The average weight for these boards is 20 to 25 pounds, and they are small enough to stow away in a locker or a duffle bag for easy transportation.

No bus fare, no problem: Short on bus change? Not going far enough for an Uber? Feeling too lazy to walk? No problem. Grab your hoverboard and go. The self-balancing board can range in speed of up to 10 mph and travel 10 to 15 miles on a charge.

It’s all about the money, money, money: Today’s hoverboards do not come cheap. You are looking at spending upwards of $300 and some can cost as much as $2,000.

Ride over a crack … : If you are not careful, serious injury can occur while riding on your hoverboard. Scroll on down to our safety section for more.

I am smoking! No really, my board is en fuego: Several reviews show some brands of hoverboards have issues with overheating — some even to the point of catching fire. So if you are in warmer climates, you might want to wait until the temps are mild before going out on a long, leisurely ride. An Alabama man recently recorded his board catching fire after riding it a short distance, and in Lafitte, La., a family’s home was destroyed after a charging hoverboard caught fire.

You can’t ride that here: Many businesses and towns are putting limits on where hoverboards can be used. So though you may think it is cool to zip through the mall, mall security may not agree.

Is there a safe way to ride a hoverboard? 

Hoverboards may look like a cool way to glide around the mall or neighborhood, but learning to ride the board isn’t as easy as it looks.

Riding the board successfully requires a person to balance, which requires a lot of core abdominal strength, according to Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

He says the devices are problematic for several reasons.

“If you have a weak core or weak set of abdominal muscles, there is an increased risk of falling forward or backward, which can cause elbow fractures, ankle injuries, wrist fractures and there is a risk for traumatic brain injury or concussion,” Glatter told USA TODAY Network.

So even if things start out smoothly when riding the board, it just takes a moment to end up like this:

California recently passed legislation allowing hoverboards in areas where bicycles are allowed, but other cities, such as New York, have banned the use of the boards on city streets.

The electric boards require riders to steer with their feet and can also cause harm to others if the person isn’t in control of the board.

While celebrities and advertisements for the hoverboards may not show people wearing protection, Glatter said people should protect themselves if they chose to use the boards.

Tips to safely ride a hoverboard: 

•  Wear protection, and not just a helmet. That means you “have” to wear a helmet, pad around the knees, elbows and wrists.  People have broken their tailbones from falling backward off of the hoverboards, so padding the lower back is also a good idea, according to Glatter.

•   Hoverboards probably aren’t a good idea for everyone. When it comes to riding a hoverboard, not all ages are equal. “The elderly should be cautious because of the amount of balance and core abdominal strength required to balance on these devices,” Glatter said.

•   If you are using a hoverboard, avoid crowds unless you feel completely comfortable with the board.

•   When using the board, avoid using cell phones or listening to music. Focus on using the board, so you avoid collisions with cars or people.

•   Parents should use caution when buying the boards for children, especially because of the control needed to operate the board.

So how did the hoverboard become so popular? 

Google searches for “IO Hawk” and “PhunkeeDuck” –– the two biggest players in the hoverboard market –– remained relatively stagnant until earlier this summer when the hoverboard trend started to explode.

Search queries for the two-wheeled machines spiked in May and June, which correlate with a handful of viral social media posts from celebrities and athletes.

IO Hawk saw a surge in searches after pop singer Justin Bieber posted this video of him not-so-gracefully trying out his new toy:

Just two weeks prior, Kendall Jenner posted this tumble to her Instagram account:

Both have since garnered more than 1 million views on the social platform.

Another video, featuring Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith rolling into the lockerroom during June’s NBA Finals, correlated with a spike in searches for PhunkeeDuck.

Since late spring, scores of celebrities and athletes have taken to social media to show off their new toys, including John Legend, Jamie Foxx and Sean Kingston.

Rapper Wiz Khalifa was restrained in late August at Los Angeles International Airportfor reportedly riding his hoverboard and refusing to “ditch the technology everyone will be using in the next 6 months.”

Pop star Joe Jonas was videoed riding his IO Hawk into a pool as early as April during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this spring.

Searches within Google Shopping seem to correlate with the machine’s popularity among celebrities and athletes

Terms for the industries leading products also saw a spike in mid-May, with relative search volume peaking in late July, but dipping again before another uptick a week out from Black Friday.

So, are you in or are you out?



The Hoverboard Mystery: Where Did The Holidays’ Hot Product Come From?

This holiday season, one item has been gathering popularity: Called “hoverboards,” they’re two-wheeled scooters that look like Segways with no handles. Audrey Quinn of Planet Money reports these hoverboards emerged not so much from an inventor but from a manufacturing system.


Check also Skateboarding on Rings

The Sidewinding Circular Skates are a modern hybrid of skates and skateboard.

tiny $5 computer has giant potential

I asked John whether he has seen this little computer.  He said,     Yes.  I have, and I plan a little project around one,  a raspberry-based streaming music server. Pretty amazing stuff.  Pi Zero will play a key role in the way we pull and process data from any endpoint, whether a car or a football or a manufacturing robot.  rjn


The Raspberry Pi Zero is a tiny $5 programmable computer with giant potential
And you thought the $20 Raspberry Pi was crazily cheap.

Steve Ranger
By Steve Ranger | November 26, 2015 — source

The Raspberry Pi Zero: so much smaller than the bill it sells for. Image: Matt Richardson

Raspberry Pi has unveiled its latest device: a tiny programmable computer that sells for a just $5 called the Raspberry Pi Zero.



Raspberry Pi: 11 reasons why it's the perfect small server


Despite its size — a mere 65mm by 30mm by 5mm — the Zero has a core that’s 40 percent faster then the original Pi 1.

“We really don’t think we’re going to get any cheaper than this,” said Eben Upton founder of Raspberry Pi, which has been building Raspberry Pi boards since 2012 with the aim of getting more people interested in programming.

The original Raspberry Pi aimed at putting coding within reach of anyone with $20 to $35 to spend; while Raspberry Pi only expected to sell 10,000 of its original model, more than seven million have now been sold. An even smaller, cheaper device like this could have just as big an impact, especially in terms of fuelling the nascent Internet of Things (IoT).

But Upton said there were still people for whom cost is a barrier to entry.

“Even in the developed world, a programmable computer is a luxury item for a lot of people, and every extra dollar that we ask someone to spend decreases the chance that they’ll choose to get involved,” he said. At the start of this year Raspberry Pi began work on an even cheaper device to help these people take the plunge.

Upton describes the Raspberry Pi Zero, which is made in Wales, a “full-fledged member of the Raspberry Pi family”.

Features include:

A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
1GHz ARM11 core
A micro-SD card slot
A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
Micro-USB sockets for data and power
An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header
Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
An unpopulated composite video header
Raspberry Pi Zero runs Raspbian and applications including Scratch, Minecraft and Sonic Pi. It is available today in the UK from element14, The Pi Hut and Pimoroni, and in the US from Adafruit and in-store at Micro Center.

“We’ve built several tens of thousands of units so far, and are building more, but we expect demand to outstrip supply for the next little while,” said Upton. The Zero is also being given away on the front of each copy of the December issue of The MagPi, the Raspberry Pi magazine.