this week

California Bill Seeks to Ban Non-Electric Cars by 2040

A bill has been introduced in California that is intended to ban vehicles powered by fossil fuels, ensuring that only emission-free 'clean' vehicles - primarily electric or hydrogen fuel-cell cars - would be allowed to be registered in the state. The bill has been introduced by Democrat and chairman of the Californian Assembly's budget committee Phil Ting.

Source: Bloomberg

Scientists Develop Solar Cells Thinner Than Human Hair

Scientists in South Korea have created solar photovoltaic cells that are just one micrometer thick, allowing them to be integrated into clothes, bags and glasses, as well as buildings and other surfaces, While each cell only generates small amounts of power, their potential to be ubiquitous makes them a highly promising future technology.

Source: Vox

Tesla to Build Second Massive Battery System in Australia

Tesla has been selected to build a second Powerpack system in Australia after its first, which is currently the most powerful in the world and is designed to support a wind farm near Adelade, proved wildly successful. The second is designed to support a wind farm in Western Australia, and will be smaller than the first but still one of Tesla's biggest battery projects.

Source: Electrek

Quarter of Planet Could Become Desert by 2050

Unless climate change is effectively tackled, over 25% of the Earth's surface will experience significant drought and desertification by 2050, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study looked at how the planet would become increasingly arid if the Paris climate agreement's targets were not met.

Source: Newsweek

Scientists Warn of Digital Dark Age

The fact that we now store much of our records and information exclusively in digital formats may mean that our descendants one day know less about this period of humanity than that of 100 years ago, scientists have warned. Data stored now may not last in a readable format, meaning this period of time may become a mystery to future historians.

Source: PRI

Ice-Diving Drones Embark on Year-Long Mission

A flotilla of autonomous robot submarines is this month being dispatched to the Antarctic to begin a year-long mission to map the bottom of melting ice shelves. The mission will produce unprecedented data about the rate of melting in the region, which will help to create a fare more accurate picture of likely future sea level rise.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC