Space-based solar power: How close to reality?

The idea of capturing solar energy in space where the sun never stops shining and beaming it to Earth may seem far-fetched, but such technology is further along than most realize. In early 2018, scientists from the California Institute of Technology announced that they had succeeded in creating a prototype capable of harnessing and transmitting solar energy from space.
Their prototype is a lightweight tile that consists of three main components. Optical reflectors concentrate the sunlight, photovoltaic cells convert the sunlight to electricity, and an integrated circuit converts the electricity to radiofrequency energy that is transmitted through an attached antenna. Many individual tiles could be strung together to form large solar arrays in space. A ground-based microwave receiver on Earth would be used to intercept the incoming radiofrequency energy and convert it back into useable electricity.

A star orbiting a black hole shows Einstein got gravity right — again

A single star, careening around the monster black hole in the center of the Milky Way, has provided astronomers with new proof that Albert Einstein was right about gravity.
More than 100 years ago, Einstein’s general theory of relativity revealed that gravity is the result of matter curving the fabric of spacetime (SN: 10/17/15, p. 16). Now, in a paper published July 26 in Astronomy & Astrophysics, a team of researchers reports the observation of a hallmark of general relativity known as gravitational redshift. The measurement is the first time general relativity has been confirmed in the region near a supermassive black hole.Read more...

Germany’s insects are disappearing ?

           In just 3 decades, insect populations in German nature reserves have plummeted by more than 75%, according to a new study. The reasons for the decline aren’t clear, but the pattern is consistent over a swath of western and northern Germany, from the region around Bonn and Cologne to the countryside south of Berlin. For 27 years, members of the Krefeld Entomological Society near Dusseldorf have monitored flying insect populations—everything from parasitic wasps to hoverflies and wild bees—in dozens of nature reserves. In recent years, they noticed a steep decline in their catch, with biomass dropping by some 82% in the summer when insect populations peak. Their attempts to match the decline with changes in weather, landscapes, and plant coverage—in collaboration with scientists in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom—don’t explain the loss, they report today in PLOS ONE. The scientists speculate that intensive agriculture surrounding the nature reserves has played a role, but they don’t have data on factors such as pesticide use in neighboring fields. The decline is likely having wide-ranging effects on plants and other animals, such as insect-eating birds. The researchers say that better monitoring of these crucial, but overlooked, members of ecosystems is urgently needed. Read more...
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