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News of the week selected by Impactscool – March 2nd

2 March 2020 | Written by La redazione

Autonomous cars that see through fog and snow

Self-driving cars become more and more precise and safe. At MIT they developed a way to allow autonomous cars to see through the snow thanks to the GPR, Ground Penetrating Radar. Most autonomous vehicles use cameras and LIDAR to understand where they are on the road, but the cameras do not work perfectly in poor visibility conditions and the LIDAR becomes less accurate in bad weather, particularly if snow covers the road. The GPR, through electromagnetic impulses, is able to detect the road surface even if hidden by snow.


The invasion of locusts in Africa

In Central Eastern Africa, a catastrophe is underway which could have serious consequences for entire countries. An invasion of locusts as has not been seen for 70 years has already caused incalculable damage to Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya and is rapidly advancing towards Uganda and Tanzania. We are talking about swarms that on the ground can cover areas as large as Rome, more than 1200 square km. The absolute record is of a swarm of nearly two hundred billion locusts identified in Kenya and which covered an area of ​​40 by 60 kilometers per side. These insects feed voraciously on crops, leaving the population of these areas, where agriculture is already fragile, without food. The reason for these invasions is partly attributable to the climate crisis: the changes in the African monsoon led to an unusual availability of water and the high humidity recorded at the end of 2019, allowed the locusts to reproduce more abundantly than usual. The worst thing is that we are only at the beginning: without interventions it is estimated that by June their number of locusts could grow 500 times.


Europe says enough of the batteries built into smartphones

The production of smartphones has a very high environmental cost (and not only) and every time the battery of our phone leaves us permanently, we rarely replace the battery through the warranty or repairers, with high prices and extended times. Often the most convenient solution for the consumer is to buy a new phone, trashing the old one, even if still fully functional except for the battery. In this way, tons of raw materials with a great economic and environmental cost end up in the garbage. In order to reduce these wastes, the EU wants to force manufacturers to reinsert replaceable batteries in future models. Will manufacturers accept this proposal?


Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician who made history, has died

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson died on Monday at 101. His role was fundamental during the race to space: when the computers were still unable to manage the complex calculations necessary to calculate the launch parameters of the missions, Katherine and the team of African American mathematics with whom she works have carried out all the operations for ensure that the launches were successful. His calculations are due to the successes of the launch of the first American into space, Alan Shepard, and the first in orbit, John Glenn, as well as many of the Apollo missions that brought man to the moon. She also worked on the Space Shuttle program and in 2015 Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom, the highest American honor. The film “The right to count” was taken from his biography. Last year, for his 100th birthday, the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility was inaugurated on his behalf, a facility where the safety of space missions is verified. Godspeed Katherine.

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