Today In Science 01/18/17

Solar cells
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Energy announced production of solar panels giving nearly twice the efficiency of existing panels. Made by United Solar Systems of Troy, Mich., these amorphous silicon submodule (1 ft2) panels converted 10.2% of solar energy into electricity, as compared to 6% previously possible. This was possible by using new thin-film photovoltaic technology. The company has subsequently produced flexible solar shingles based on thin film photovoltaics that can permit the roofs of ordinary commercial and residential buildings to evolve from simply providing protection from the weather to becoming a source of much-needed electric power

Legionnaire’s disease
Thumbnail – Legionnaire’s disease
In 1977, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, first announced* that they had sufficient laboratory evidence to implicate a bacterium as the cause of Legionnaire’s Disease, now named Legionella pneumophila. An outbreak of this disease in Philadelphia in 1976, largely among people attending a state convention of the American Legion, led to the name “Legionnaires’ Disease.” After the bacterium causing the illness was named, the name of the illness was changed to legionellosis. The scientific paper describing the isolation of the bacterium as published 1 Dec 1977 in The New England Journal of Medicine. [Image: Legionella pneumophila multiplying inside a cultured human lung fibroblast. Multiple intracellular bacilli, including dividing bacilli, are visible in longitudinal and cross section. Transmission electron micrograph.]

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Today is Science 12/02/2016

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established
  In 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established during the administration of President Nixon. Working with strong bipartisan support from Congress, earlier in the year, on 2 Jan 1970, he had been able to sign the National Environmental Policy Act, and significant environmental action was set in motion. Once the EPA was created, the federal government could set the lead to constrain the excessive pollution caused by industries unwilling to clean up their wastes and emissions. All residents of America, whether in towns, suburbs or wilderness areas, would benefit in the decades that followed. Sadly, Republican Presidents after Nixon failed to fully embrace the same vision, and in various ways their support fell short of the greatest possible benefits from EPA’s mission.«
Atomic chain reaction
Thumbnail - Atomic chain reaction
  In 1942, the first self-sustained nuclear chain reaction was demonstrated in Chicago, Illinois. At the University of Chicago, Enrico Fermi and his team achieved the world’s first artificial nuclear chain reaction, in a makeshift lab underneath the University’s football stands at Stagg Field. Work on the experimental pile had begun on 16 Nov 1942. It was a prodigious effort. Physicists and staffers, working around the clock, built a lattice of 57 layers of uranium metal and uranium oxide embedded in graphite blocks. A wooden structure supported the graphite pile. The chain reaction was part of the Manhattan Project, a secret wartime project to develop nuclear weapons, which initiated the modern nuclear age. This was a discovery that changed the world.
China first lunar landing probe launched
  In 2013, China launched the Chang’e-3 lunar probe, carrying the Jade Rabbit rover. The spacecraft headed into orbit and then on to the Moon. This was hoped to become the country’s first extraterrestrial landing craft, and a showcase for China’s rising technological abilities. The lift-off of the Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China’s southwestern Sichuan province was broacast live on the nation’s state television. The robot rover’s mission was to conduct geological surveys and investigate the Moon’s natural resources. Previously, China’s had put their Chang’e-1 into moon orbit (launched 24 Oct 2007) taking images and spectral analyses, and sent three astronauts on a 15 day mission orbitting the Earth (Jun 2013), during which their craft docked with an experimental space lab.« [The local launch time in China was 01:30 am, on 2 Dec 2013, corresponding to 17:30 GMT on 1 Dec in Britain.]
Atomic power station
  In 1957, the first full-scale atomic electric generating station in the U.S. began operation in Shippingport, Pennsylvania -15 years to the day after Fermi’s experiment at the University of Chicago. The plant reached full power 21 days later, generating 60 megawatts of power for Pittsburgh. The Duquesne Light Co. of Pittsburgh built and operated the Shippingport plant on a site it owned on the Ohio River 25 miles away from Pittsburgh. The reactor plant was designed by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in cooperation with the Division of Naval Reactors of the Atomic Energy Commission. President Dwight D. Eisenhower opened it on 26 May 1958, as part of his “Atoms for Peace” program. The Shippingport nuclear powerplant was retired in 1982.