Tesla reached an agreement with Home Depot: It will sell its products

While Elon Musk is preparing for this week’s launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, his other company is also preparing for a launch. Tesla has made a deal with Home Depot to sell both the PowerWall and Tesla’s solar panels at 800 Home Depot locations.

The retail spaces will be Tesla branded and Tesla employees will be on hand to assist with service and sales.

Bloomberg first reported the news after confirming the move with Tesla.

Home Depot has some 2,200 stores across the country, but the 800-store roll out is still the largest retail presence Tesla has ever known for its energy products. They will be put on display, quite literally — Bloomberg reports that the Tesla retail displays will be 12 feet tall and 7 feet wide, and that some locations will have visual demonstrations of the products.

Tesla first unveiled the solar roof in October of 2016. Unlike most after-market solar panels, which don’t offer much by way of aesthetics, Tesla’s solar roof tiles come in four styles that closely resemble current roofing materials.

Tesla also sells solar panels, and both products work with the PowerWall , where energy can be stored after being diffused through the panels/tiles.

The move into Home Depot will be the first true test of mainstream interest in solar energy.

Cell phone radiation or with certain cancers are closely related

New studies from the National Institutes of Health — specifically the National Toxicology Program — find that cell phone radiation is potentially linked with certain forms of cancer, but they’re far from conclusive. The results are complex and the studies have yet to be peer-reviewed, but some of the findings are clearly important enough to warrant public discussion.

An early, partial version of this study teasing these effects appeared in 2016 (in fact, I wrote about it), but these are the full (draft) reports complete with data.

Both papers note that “studies published to date have not demonstrated consistently increased incidences of tumors at any site associate with exposure to cell phone RFR [radio frequency radiation] in rats or mice.” But the researchers felt that “based on the designs of the existing studies, it is difficult to definitively conclude that these negative results clearly indicate that cell phone RFR is not carcinogenic.”

In other words, no one has taken it far enough, or simulated the radio-immersion environment in which we now live, enough to draw conclusions on the cancer front. So this study takes things up a notch, with longer and stronger exposures.

The studies exposed mice and rats to both 900 MHz and 1900 Mhz wavelength radio waves (each frequency being its own experiment) for about 9 hours per day, at various strengths ranging from 1 to 10 watts per kilogram. For comparison, the general limit the FCC imposes for exposure is 0.08 W/kg; the absolute maximum allowed, for the extremities of people with occupational exposures, is 20 W/kg for no longer than 6 minutes. So they were really blasting these mice.

“The levels and duration of exposure to RFR were much greater than what people experience with even the highest level of cell phone use, and exposed the rodents’ whole bodies. So, these findings should not be directly extrapolated to human cell phone usage,” explained NTP senior scientist John Bucher in a news release accompanying the papers. “We note, however, that the tumors we saw in these studies are similar to tumors previously reported in some studies of frequent cell phone users.”

The rodents were examined for various health effects after various durations, from 28 days to 2 years.

Before I state the conclusions, a note on terminology. “Equivocal evidence” is just above “no evidence” on the official scale, meaning “showing a marginal increase of neoplasms that may be test agent related.” In other words, something statistically significant but ultimately still somewhat mysterious. “Some evidence” is above that, meaning a more measurable response, followed by the also self-explanatory “clear evidence.”

At 900 MHz:

Some evidence linking RFR with malignant schwannoma in the hearts of male rats, no evidence for same in female rats. Equivocal evidence linking exposure to malignant brain glioma in females. Other tumors of various types in both sexes “may have been related to cell phone RFR exposure,” meaning the link is unclear or numbers aren’t conclusive. Less serious “nonneoplastic lesions” were more frequent in exposed males and females.

At 1900 MHz:

Equivocal evidence of carcinogenicity in lung, liver and other organ tissues in both male and female mice.

Although I would hesitate to draw any major conclusions from these studies, it seems demonstrated that there is some link here, though the level of radiation was orders of magnitude beyond what a person would ever experience in day to day life. As the researchers point out, however, relatively short-term studies like this one do little to illuminate the potential for harm in long-term exposure, such as babies who have never not been bathed in RF radiation.

An interesting side note is that the radiation-exposed rodents of both types lived significantly longer than their control peers: 28 percent of the original control group survived the full 2 years, while about twice that amount (48-68 percent) survived in the exposed group.

Two explanations are proffered for this strange result: either the radiation somehow suppressed the “chronic progressive nephropathy” that these mice tend to suffer from as they age, or possibly reduced feed intake related to the radiation might have done it. Either way, no one is suggesting that the radiation is somehow salutary to the rodents’ constitutions.

The reports and data run to hundreds of pages, so this is only a quick look by a non-expert. You can look over the full reports and supplemental materials here, but as this is a major study you can also expect replication, analysis and criticism from all quarters soon, including a scheduled external expert review organized by the NTP in March.

Is this the flying taxi of the future? Electric 200mph 16-rotor ‘megadrone’ that can transform into a plane mid-air gets $100 million backing from Toyota and Intel

  • Joby S2 takes off like a helicopter, but once airborne its 12 propellers fold up so it can glide like a plane
  • The aircraft has 16 electric propellers, 12 of which are designed for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)
  • Joby S2 requires five times less energy and travels five times faster than traditional auto transportation 
  • Joby Aviation believes it will cost $20,000 to make each aircraft and due to its fully electric operation, running costs should be a fraction of what a typical helicopter requires

Secretive start-up Joby Aviation has come a step closer to making its flying taxi a reality.

The California-based company, which is building an all-electric flying taxi capable of vertical take-off, has received $100 million (£70 million) in funding from a group of investors led by Toyota and Intel.

The money will be used to develop the firm’s ‘megadrone’ which can reach speeds of 200mph (321kph) powered by lithium nickel cobalt manganese oxide batteries.

The Joby S2 prototype has 16 electric propellers, 12 of which are designed for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), which means no runway is needed.

The aircraft takes off vertically, like a helicopter, before folding away 12 of its propellers so it can glide like a plane once it is airborne.

Joby Aviation’s latest prototype is purportedly able to reach speeds twice as fast as a helicopter, once its propellers are folded away, leaving the cabin with an aerodynamic bullet shape.

According to Bloomberg, powered by electric motors and sophisticated control software, the taxi performs like a cross between a drone and a small plane while ‘making about as much noise as a swarm of superbees.’

The Joby S2 prototype looks like it was designed for James Bond, but this personal plane wants to change the way we travel for vacation, commute to work and run errands.

‘If we can build an aircraft which is quiet, safe, and efficient, and you get door-to-door at five times the speed of ground transport, it will radically change life,’ Joby Aviation CEO and founder JoeBen Bevirt told ReadWrite in an interview in 2015.

‘It will have a transformative effect.’

Bevirt believes thousands of all-electric sky cabs, like the Joby S2, will one day shuttle people around cities, soaring above the gridlocked roads below.

The Joby Aviation CEO says customers will be able to hail a nearby air taxi using a smartphone app, similar to Uber or Lyft, that the company will operate.

Bevirt said he wants every office and residential cul-de-sac to have a landing pad in years to come.

Unfortunately, the Joby Aviation CEO is less clear about when customers will be able to summon an autonomous air taxi to the end of their drive-way.

The latest Joby prototype has 12 large propellers designed to tilt forward and provide the aircraft with balance while it’s flying.

It also has fixed-pitch propellers located on the wingtips and tail fins which help reduce the size of the wing required to fly.

‘By distributing these propellers across the leading edge of the wing, we are able to increase the dynamic pressure over the wing and build an aircraft with a smaller more efficient wing,’ explained Bevirt.

These are also designed for low tip speeds that allow riders to take-off without waking their neighbours.

The aircraft is designed and built in secret by a team of 120 people at an airfield in Santa Cruz.

Joby S2’s range can be boosted by taking-off and landing on a runway, instead of vertically.

The plane can also use ambient winds to put some power back into its batteries while it is on the ground, all because the plane is connected to an electric motor.

The company estimates it can produce the S2 for about $200,000 (£141,000), and due to its fully electric operation, running costs should be a fraction of what a typical helicopter requires.

Facebook may be developing a system to automatically detect how rich or poor you are: Patent reveals how the site could track your socioeconomic status

already knows a lot about us, but it could soon be able to guess your income, if a newly patented technology ever comes to fruition.

The social media giant wants to build a system that collects users’ personal data, such as education, homeownership and internet usage, in order to predict their socioeconomic status.

The patent was filed on July 27, 2016, but was just made public on Thursday.

The filing suggests an algorithm that may help improve Facebook’s targeting capabilities, so that it can serve up more relevant advertisements to users.

A decision tree starts by asking what the user’s age is and, from there, asks a question that would be seemingly relevant to that user’s age group.

In the filing, 20 to 30-year-olds are asked how many internet devices they own, while 30 to 40-year-olds are asked whether or not they own a house.

Other information that’s considered is a person’s travel history, what kinds of devices the user owns, how many internet connected devices they own and what their highest level of education is.

At the bottom of the decision tree, a question asks ‘What is the probability that the user is in the middle class?’

The patent notes that, generally, a user’s socioeconomic group is tied to a user’s income

.

But unsurprisingly, Facebook acknowledges that users might not be comfortable offering up how much they make per year.

‘Online systems often do not have information about the income of users, for example, because the users are typically not inclined to share income information, which may be sensitive information, on online systems,’ the patent states.

So instead, Facebook is side-stepping questions about income and using other personal data to make conclusions on its own.

It not only uses data supplied by users on the platform, but can also refer to ‘actions performed by the user on [Facebook].’

‘By predicting the socioeconomic groups of users, [Facebook] is able to help the third party present sponsored content to the target users,’ according to the patent.

‘Third parties are able to effectively promote their products or services, and the online system can provide a more engaging user experience to users,’ the filing notes.

Facebook would use the decision tree to group users into three classes — working class, middle class or upper class.

It’s unclear if the patent will ever actually be used for user targeting, however.

‘We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as an indication of future plans,’ a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill.

Facebook has already been criticized for knowing too much about its users, with many arguing that it doesn’t respect user privacy.

The firm has filed other patents related to user tracking, including one that described a system meant to detect and respond to users’ emotions, according to CBInsights.

One patent described a technology that would capture images of the user through smartphone or laptop cameras, even when the user isn’t actively using the camera.

It would use that data to monitor how users emotionally react to certain kinds of content.

However, such technology could prove to be technically difficult or, worse, an ‘ethical minefield,’ CBInsights noted.

Alexa can now control your HP printer

HP supports Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant skills.

HP has been working on bringing voice control to its printers, introducing Cortana and Google Assistant skills last year that let users tell their virtual assistants to print a variety of different documents for them. Now, as of this week, Alexa-enabled devices can also connect to HP home printers.

Alexa can follow through on a number of different commands. Users can ask her to print games like sudoku puzzles or bingo cards, their to-do or shopping lists, coloring pages and even graph paper, blank calendars or notebook paper. You can see instructions on how to set up your printer to connect with Alexa here.

The Cortana and Google Assistant skills allow for similar commands, though each assistant has capabilities that the others don’t. For example, you can use the Google Assistant to print your Google Calendar or Alexa to print your Amazon shopping list. The Google Assistant HP skill launched last May while the Cortanta skill became available in October.

Anneliese Olson, HP’s head of home printing, says that connecting printers with voice assistants is convenient and useful though in the future, HP printers will likely be responsive to voice commands on their own. “Integrating voice into the home printer is an undeniably useful application of the technology,” Olson said in a statement. “For busy families, the virtual assistant ecosystem makes a lot of sense and connecting a printer to it is a natural extension within the smart home.”

 

Tesla to start selling its ‘invisible’ solar roof tiles and Powerwall batteries at 800 Home Depot locations in the U.S.

Elon Musk’s futuristic solar roof tiles and at-home energy storage units are about to become mainstream.

Or, at least, that’s what Tesla is hoping, by setting up shop in 800 Home Depot stores across the U.S.

The Tesla-branded kiosks will sell the firm’s solar roof tiles and Powerwall batteries at select Home Depot locations beginning sometime in the first half of this year.

The company is also in discussions with home improvement store Lowe’s about selling the products there, according to Bloomberg, citing sources familiar with the situation.

Home Depot used to have a partnership with Solar City, the alternative energy company acquired by Tesla in 2016 that has since been phased out.

Now, Tesla will have displays that are 12 feet tall and 7 feet wide, promoting the products and, in some cases, demonstrating how they work.

It’s unclear whether Tesla will eventually add kiosks to all of Home Depot’s 2,200 stores.

Home Depot locations in Southern California already have the kiosks, while Las Vegas and Orlando stores are expected to open booths next week, according to USA Today.

The move is likely part of Tesla’s wider effort to attract mainstream consumers.

Tesla’s solar power system costs between $10,000 and $25,000, with batteries costing around $7,000.

The firm already showcases its solar panels at its 110 U.S. stores, USA Today noted.

Tesla started taking $1,000 deposits for the roof tiles in May 2017.

However, it’s taken a while for the solar roof tiles to get off the ground, having only been installed on Tesla employees homes so far.

Musk recently introduced the Powerwall 2, a home battery unit that stores 14 kWh with the aid of solar roof panels developed in conjunction with SolarCity. 

Musk said that the Powerwall 2 has enough power to charge lights, sockets and refrigerator for a standard 4 bedroom home for an entire day.

The Powerwall 2 is an improvement upon the original Powerwall, which has only about half of the storage capacity as the new generation of products.

Scientists discover planets in galaxies beyond the Milky Way for the first time in microlensing breakthrough

Astrophysicists have discovered a population of planets outside of the Milky Way for the first time.

The incredible breakthrough was made possible using a technique known as microlensing, which allowed researchers to spot objects in extragalactic galaxies that are too far to be observed directly.

The findings suggest there may be roughly 2000 planets ranging from moon to Jupiter mass per main-sequence star.

Astrophysicists at the University of Oklahoma used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to find the new population of planets.

Before this, they say no evidence of planets in other galaxies had ever been detected.

The researchers relied on a technique called microlensing, which uses the distortions of light from a background source much like a magnifying glass to see distant objects.

‘We are very excited about this discovery,’ said Xinyu Dai, professor in the Homer L Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy.

‘This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy.

‘These small planets are the best candidate for the signature we observed in this study using the microlensing technique.

‘We analyzed the high frequency of the signature by modelling the data to determine the mass.’

Until now, microlensing has only been used to detect planets in the Milky Way, according to the researchers.

With quasar microlensing, they say it’s possible to see extragalactic planets inside the lens galaxy based on the properties of emission near the event horizon of the supermassive black hole of the background quasar.

And, this can be done with current technology.

‘This is an example of how powerful the techniques of analysis of extragalactic microlensing can be,’ said postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras.

‘This galaxy is located 3.8 billion light years away, and there is not the slightlest chance of observing these planets directly, not even with the best telescope one can imagine in a science fiction scenario.

‘However, we are able to study them, unveil their presence and even have an idea of their masses. This is very cool science.’