Green energy could crash the national power grid
Not because of any sort of explosive danger, but because the U.S. power grid is built for the previous century’s sources of energy. The antiquated grid, already a persistent cause for concern for officials, simply may not be prepared for large-scale adoption of alternative sources of power:
Green energy is the least predictable kind. Nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine. A field of solar panels might be cranking out huge amounts of energy one minute and a tiny amount the next if a thick cloud arrives. In many cases, renewable resources exist where transmission lines don’t.
Photo: Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Wow: Typhoon Haiyan overlaid on a map of the United States
Some perspective on the "national calamity" that has struck the Philippines, with a death of at least 10,000 people expected by officials. You can donate to help the victims of the catastrophic storm via the Red Cross here.
CORRECTION: Before this is shared any further, the New Republic’s Nate Cohn has corrected the Red Cross’ image, with some help from Bran Dougherty-Johnson. In the center are the Philippines, with Typhoon Haiyan in the lower right.
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Los Angeles Aqueduct bomber tells his side of the story
One of the men behind the series of aqueduct bombings in 1976, which struck three locations along the vital L.A. aqueduct, has opened up for the first time and recently spoke to reporter Louis Sahagun.
Mark Berry, who was just 17 at the time of the bombings, narrated the events leading up to the detonations:
Berry and his friend, Robert Howe, were caught up in the anger that then hung over the Owens Valley. The environmental damage caused by the Los Angeles Aqueduct, built in the early 1900s to divert much of the water from the region to the growing metropolis 200 miles away, was worsening and Owens Valley residents were exasperated.
"Things got out of hand," Berry recalled.
The friends stole two cases of dynamite and headed to the aqueduct.
Photos: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times Archives
Think L.A. has smog problems? Check out China’s ‘Airpocalypse’
Fueled by coal plants and burning fields, the thick haze has closed schools, clogged traffic and is prompted doctors to warn of widespread respiratory problems.
In Harbin, a city of 12 million world-famous for its wintertime ice festival, the smog was so thick that visibility was reduced to 20 yards. Municipal bus drivers lost their way in the haze. In one case, a morning rush hour bus that left at 5:30 wandered around for three hours before the driver found the route.
Photos: STR / AFP, NASA
October 1, 1890: Yosemite Established as National Park
On this day in 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed a bill into law creating Yosemite National Park. The mountainous region spanning 1,169 square miles of public land in the California Sierra Nevada preserves wilderness, wildlife, and public trust.
Tour all of America’s national parks by visiting Ken Burns’s The National Parks: America’s Best Idea collections.
Photo: Yosemite National Park, California. Photographer: William Henry Jackson, Copyright 1898 (Library of Congress).
Just don’t try to visit today, since Yosemite is one of the many National Parks closed during the government shutdown.
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Rim fire’s legacy burnt into landscape for decades to come
The Rim fire, which is still burning as its secured its legacy as California’s third-largest wildfire in history, so far has burned across nearly 402 square miles. Though the worst of the blaze is over, and officials expect it to be fully extinguished by October, the region’s recovery has barely begun:
Burned chaparral and oak will quickly resprout. But where large patches of trees were killed, ecologists say it could take 30 to 50 years for the forest to reestablish itself in the shrub fields that are the first to grow. If there are more fires in the meantime, the land could permanently convert to chaparral.
Photos: NASA / AFP/Getty Images, Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Cheer up, gloppy blobfish
You may have been voted the world’s ugliest endangered animal. Fine. You may look like a saggy old man who just dropped his ice cream cone. But you’re a winner! And maybe all of that publicity will help save your species.
Photo: Kerryn Parkinson / Australian Museum
The source of the record-breaking Rim fire revealed
The fire that burned 237,341 acres, requiring the efforts of more than 5,100 firefights to combat, all started with a single illegal fire set by a lone hunter, officials believe.
Dismissing an earlier rumor that the fire was sparked in an illegal marijuana farm, the Forest Service said Thursday that the hunter believed to be responsible has been identified, though he has yet to be arrested.
Meanwhile, the fire is currently 80% contained, and the fires aren’t expected to be completely extinguished for two weeks.
Photos: Mike McMillan, U.S. Forest Service / Associated Press, Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
A blast from L.A.’s smoggy past
June 29, 1979: Sera Segal-Alsberg wears mask designed to filter out airborne particles during Los Angeles smog alert. Segal-Alsberg, an artist-instructor, was en route to teach a class at County Museum of Art.
Read more on the smog invasion of 1979 over at Framework.
Photo: Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times
Meet the Hyperloop, the possible future of transportation
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk isn’t exactly one to dream small: Just look at his plan for a so-called Hyperloop transportation system, which would reach speeds of more than 700 mph, has just been officially unveiled.
While a network of tube transports that would make a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco as short as 30 minutes seems ridiculous, remember that Musk is also leading SpaceX, which aims to commercialize space travel.
Said Musk in his unveiling of the Hyperloop:
When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?
As for how the whole thing works:
Hyperloop consists of a low pressure tube with capsules that are transported at both low and high speeds throughout the length of the tube. The capsules are supported on a cushion of air, featuring pressurized air and aerodynamic lift.
The capsules are accelerated via a magnetic linear accelerator affixed at various stations on the low pressure tube with rotors contained in each capsule. Passengers may enter and exit Hyperloop at stations located either at the ends of the tube, or branches along the tube length
All of that said, there are no immediate plans to construct the loop, and that the project is currently “extremely speculative.”
Photo: Tesla Motors
Above, circa Oct. 1, 1980: The towers of Century City peek through the murk at 4:15 p.m. in aerial photo looking toward the northwest.
That day marked a record high in smog for the year, as you can plainly see, not exactly helping alleviate Los Angeles’ smoggy reputation. But luckily, as Julie Cart wrote this year, the smog is declining, partially as a result of more stringent emissions standards.
Photo: George Rose / Los Angeles Times
Can anything save endangered rhino populations?
A startling 90% of Africa’s rhinos live in South Africa, where a new report comissioned by the government finds that anti-poaching efforts have largely failed. Last year, 668 rhinos were killed. So far this year, more than 500 have been poached.
Mavuso Msimang, the country’s resident rhino expert, paints a grim picture for the rhino’s future:
"The data suggest that the banning of legal open trade in rhino horn has not resulted in reduced demand for the horn and has thus not helped the objective of saving the rhino from imminent extinction. Escalation in the slaughter of rhino is proof of this. Consumers simply do not believe that rhino horn has no medicinal value."
So what can be done? The rhino horn trade is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and the South African let loose its own stockpile of horns obtained by rhinos that passed away from natural causes in hopes of sending the price of horns in a freefall.
But that’s not to say that loosening restrictions on the rhino trade will work either, as Msimang’s critics point to South Africa’s rampant corruption as a cause for concern.
Photos: Stephane de Sakutin / AFP/Getty Images, Los Angeles Times
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