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    Israel's Election
    What will he do next?
    King Bibi Keeps His Crown
    THE ECONOMIST Jerusalem April 13th, 2019

    AFTER MONTHS of heated campaigning, Israeli voters decided to change very little. With most of the votes counted the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has won a fifth term in office in an election on April 9th. His Likud party tied with Blue and White, a centre-left party led by Benny Gantz, a former army chief. Both had about 27% of the vote. But the right-wing and religious bloc, of which Likud is a part, won a combined 53%.

    That will give it a majority, probably with 64 seats in the 120-member Knesset (parliament), the same number it holds now. With several parties perched close to the 3.25% threshold to enter the Knesset, the results are still fluid. (Two have demanded a recount.) But Mr Gantz does not appear to have a viable coalition, nor a way to stop Mr Netanyahu from forming one.

    Mr Netanyahu had been weakened. His rival rushed on stage to declare victory soon after voting stopped. A historic day, Mr Gantz declared, telling supporters he would form the next government. While he made promises, Mr Netanyahu made phone calls. He received pledges of support from the ultra-Orthodox parties and a far-right grouping, enough to bring him within striking distance of a majority.

    There were no signs of consternation as hundreds of Likud supporters streamed into the basketball arena the party had hired for election night. They had been in similar situations before. When Mr Netanyahu finally took the stage after 2am, most Israeli networks had revised their surveys to show him in the lead. On the screen behind him was the campaign slogan: Netanyahu is in a different league. The crowd was ecstatic. This is a night of great victory, he said. The right-wing bloc will continue to lead Israel for four more years.

    That may be a challengethough not because of politics. Mr Netanyahu has been indicted, pending a hearing, in three corruption cases. Prosecutors accuse him of taking gifts from wealthy businessmen in exchange for favours and offering legal and regulatory help to media giants in order to secure better press coverage. He denies wrongdoing. Strikingly, the allegations did not make him any less popular. On the contrary: Likuds share of the vote increased by three percentage points from 2015. Its projected 35 seats are the most it has won since 2003, when Ariel Sharon led the party.

    In an election that became a referendum on Mr Netanyahu, many Israelis appear to have voted strategically, favouring one of the two main parties in the hope it would be asked to form a government. It was an impressive showing for Mr Gantz, a political newcomer who faced a vicious campaign from his rival. But it came largely at the expense of other centre-left parties. Labour, which built the country and ruled for almost three decades, collapsed. It won less than 5% of vote.

    Other Israelis did not vote at all. Turnout was 68%, about four points lower than in 2015. Parties that cater to Arab citizens received just 328,000 votes, a 26% drop.

    The outcome, and the campaign before it, have deepened Israels divisionsnot only between right and left but also between Jews and Arab Israelis, who are 21% of the population. Mr Netanyahu repeatedly accused his rivals of plotting to form a coalition with Arab parties that oppose the Jewish state. He encouraged an ally to join forces with a far-right Jewish supremacist party. On election day, in what looked like an attempt at voter intimidation, Likud distributed 1,200 cameras to its poll observers in Arab towns.

    In another sign of Likuds rough nationalist tilt, one of the new Knesset members celebrating her election was May Golan, an activist who led the campaign to deport African refugees from Israel. In the past Ms Golan failed to enter the Knesset as a candidate of the racist Jewish Power party. Now she will sit with the ruling party.

    If he forms a right-wing coalition, Mr Netanyahu must pay heed to the demands of at least four other parties. Those representing the Ultra-Orthodox will want to preserve their exemption from the army draft and secure other giveaways on issues of religion and state. His hawkish partners will want him to fulfil a promise, made in the campaigns final days, to start annexing parts of the occupied West Bank. That step would raise profound diplomatic and existential questions for Israel. The American president, Donald Trump, is expected to present his own peace plan soon. The Palestinian leadership, enraged at many of Mr Trumps policies, will almost certainly reject it. Senior Likud members say that will clear the path for annexation.

    Mr Netanyahu, for his part, will be worried about his future. Wing 10 of Israels Maasiyahu jail is designed to hold former prime ministers. His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was imprisoned there for taking bribes. With the election over, Mr Netanyahus lawyers will receive dossiers of evidence to prepare for pre-trial hearings, expected in the coming months. His allies have proposed a bill that would shield a sitting prime minister from prosecution. Some of his prospective coalition partners oppose it. Mr Netanyahu may seek to win their support by making other concessions. If he fails, his fifth term may be a short one.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

  • #2
    The new black arts of manufacturing
    How to knit a sports car with carbon fibre
    Replacing steel and aluminium in the factory

    BERTHA RESIDES on a quiet industrial estate in Bristol, in the west of Britain. The affectionate name has been given to what at first appears to be a giant loom from the Industrial Revolution. And in some ways it is. Bertha (pictured above) is an automated braiding machine. Like a horizontal maypole, ribbons of carbon fibre are drawn from 288 bobbins contained on a pair of huge rings, and passed over and under one another as they are wound tightly around a revolving mould. The final product could be a propeller for an aeroplane, a ships hydrofoil or a set of wheels for a sports car. In fact, Bertha can knit just about any hollow component up to 800mm by ten metres, and do so quickly and accurately by depositing some 300kg of carbon fibre an hour.

    Just as textile production began to be mechanised at the end of the 18th century, creating the modern factory, manufacturing is going through another revolution. This time it is driven by digital processes and new materials, such as carbon-fibre composites. Automated braiders are one of several new systems turning carbon-fibre production from a slow, labour-intensive craft into a mass-manufacturing process that will change many industries.

    Carbon fibre is attractive because it is lightweight and exceptionally strong. The toughest fibres are up to ten times stronger than steel and eight times more so than aluminium, reckons Zoltek, an American carbon-fibre producer. Carbon fibre is also five times lighter than steel and half the weight, or less, of aluminium. Nor does it corrode. In transport industries, where lightweighting is most valuable, carbon fibre allows aircraft and cars to be made lighter and so travel farther on the same amount of fuel or a single charge of their batteries. This will help them meet tougher emissions targets.

    And there are other advantages, too. One is that carbon fibre allows manufacturers to make much larger, more complex parts in one go, says Richard Oldfield, chief executive of the National Composites Centre (NCC), a research laboratory set up by the University of Bristol, and home to Bertha. Instead of making an aircrafts wing or car body by welding, riveting and bolting together hundreds of individual components, these bits can be consolidated into a single carbon-fibre structure. This saves time and materials and allows designers to come up with novel products.
    Hot stuff

    Engineers got interested in carbon fibre in the 1960s. The fibres consist of carbonised polymers, made up of long strings of molecules bound together by the powerful bonds between carbon atoms. The fibres are made by heating a precursor material to around 3,000C in a protective atmosphere of inert gases. The most commonly used precursor is polyacrylonitrile (PAN), which is produced by the petrochemicals industry. Pitch, obtained from coal tar, is sometimes used instead. Once carbonised, the fibres are wound onto bobbins, spun into yarns or formed into tapes. Depending on the final application, they can also be woven into fabric sheets.

    On their own, carbon fibres are brittle and can break easily. But their strength comes in tension (they resist being pulled apart). So, the fibres need to be aligned in such a way to impart their strength by distributing loads throughout a structure. This is done by placing the fibres, tapes or mats onto a mould in the required orientation, creating what is known as a preform. It is a slow process often done by hand. This is now being automated, aided by the fact that the optimal alignment of the fibres is often calculated using sophisticated computer-aided design systems, and the same data can program robots to lay-up the fibres or wind them on braiding machines such as Bertha.

    The preforms then need to be made solid. This is done by impregnating the fibres with a chemically activated resin, which hardens when it is cured. The curing process is usually carried out inside a large oven called an autoclave, which applies heat and pressure to consolidate the structure and force out any air bubbles. It can take hours, sometimes with autoclaves left to run overnight. For a relatively low throughput this might not be a problem. But for higher volumes, especially in carmaking, faster cycle times are needed.

    Various out-of-autoclave curing techniques are starting to be used. One is resin transfer moulding (RTM). This involves placing preforms inside a mould which is then closed. Resin is injected into the mould and heat and pressure applied. Depending on what is being produced, RTM can cut processing times by half or more.
    Fast cars

    McLaren has been making sports cars out of carbon fibre since the British company used the material for the worlds first Formula 1 racing car in 1981. All F1 cars are now made from carbon fibre, and the protection it affords drivers has allowed many to walk away from spectacular crashes. To build its sports cars the company starts with a carbon-fibre MonoCell, a giant tub which forms the main structure of the vehicle.

    The company uses a specialist contractor to make MonoCells, although those for future car models will be produced at a new 50m ($65m) McLaren Composites Technology Centre in Sheffield, Britain. The first of the new cells has just been delivered. Impressively, the large and complicated structures are produced with RTM in one goalthough McLaren is keeping the details secret. I often look at the MonoCell and wonder myself how it is possible to make it, says Claudio Santoni, the centres technical director.

    McLaren says carbon fibre will be essential in keeping weight down in future hybrid and electric models. By 2025 it expects the centre to be making MonoCells for some 6,000 cars a year. As a high-end brand, it is not seeking large volumes. But other carmakers are. One is BMW, which uses a variant of RTM in Leipzig, Germany, to make bodies for more than 130 of its i3 electric cars every day. BMW plans to increase that number substantially.

    Another speedy production process is overmoulding. This combines sheets of carbon fibre with injection-moulded plastic. Injection moulding has long been used to produce plastic parts by extruding a molten polymer into a mould. It is quick and accurate. By combining the two processes, overmoulding allows plastic parts to be selectively reinforced with carbon fibre. Thus strengthened, such parts could be used as car doors, aircraft interiors and in many other products. The NCC reckons an overmoulding system it is working with in Bristol can churn out finished components in just 60 seconds.

    Progress is also being made in reducing the cost of carbon fibre itself. Prices vary according to quality, but industrial-grade carbon fibre is roughly $20 a kilogram, although aerospace versions are more expensive. By comparison, steel used in carmaking is about $1 a kilogram. As carbon fibre is so much lighter and stronger than steel, less material is needed. And the additional cost is also compensated for by product-lifetime savings on fuel and emissions. Nevertheless, cheaper carbon fibre would find greater use in manufacturing.

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee thinks it could cut the cost of industrial-grade carbon fibre by about half with more efficient production processes. According to some estimates, roughly 90% of the energy needed to make things with carbon composites is consumed in producing the fibre itself. Oak Ridge is looking at the use of cheaper alternatives to PAN and low-temperature carbonisation processes.

    The lab also uses chopped-up carbon fibre in large-scale 3D printers to produce structures. It recently employed the system to print moulds for the precast concrete faade of the Domino tower, a new 42-storey building in Brooklyn, New York.

    Chopped carbon fibres can be made from manufacturing offcuts or recycled material. Recycling will become even moreimportant once a greater number of carbon-fibre cars, aircraft, ships, wind turbines and other products reach the end of their working lives. There will be mountains of the black stuff to deal with. Companies are coming up with ways to recover the fibres, usually with heat or chemicals. Sometimes the fibres can be re-spun, but if they are too short they can still be suitable for parts subject to less stress. A combination of lower-cost mass-production techniques and effective carbon-fibre recycling, will lead to a lot more Berthas knitting away furiously.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • #3
      Doubling Their Luck
      How some birds adapt to climate change
      By laying a second clutch of eggs
      THE ECONOMIST April 11th, 2019

      ONE OF THE great concerns that ornithologists have is that climate change will throw the nesting activities of birds out of sync with the availability of food for the raising of chicks. For one species, the pied flycatcher, a new study shows that some of its clan are proving to be remarkably adaptable.

      Upon returning to Europe from their African wintering grounds, the flycatchers time their egg-laying to the short period when juicy caterpillars are most abundant. During the past three decades this caterpillar peak has advanced by three weeks. Pied flycatchers initially had difficulty adjusting, but over time have started laying their eggs earlier to grab the caterpillars. Some, though, are doing a lot more to improve their reproductive chances of success, according to a study in the Journal of Avian Biology led by Christiaan Both of the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands.

      Like most bird species, pied flycatchers have long been thought to lay a single clutch of eggs during the breeding season. This was widely considered to be a trait that does not change. Then, in 2007, a Swiss team led by Pierre-Alain Ravussin began to suspect that clutch numbers were flexible. They discovered a female pied flycatcher that immediately produced a second brood with a new male after raising an early set of chicks. Aware of Dr Ravussins findings, Dr Both wondered whether this was just a single, odd instance or if second broods might be happening on a larger scale driven by the arrival of earlier springs. So, they collaborated to delve into the data to find out.

      The team studied pied-flycatcher populations in the Netherlands and Switzerland that were known to be among the earliest nesting members of the species. In total, they tracked the egg-laying times and hatchling-rearing success of 8,848 breeding pairs in the Netherlands and 1,372 in Switzerland between 1980 and 2018. They found that since 2006, 11 cases of second broods were observed, all of them among the earliest breeders in both populations.

      Further studies ruled out that the birds were making up for a failed first attempt at raising chicks or that the second group of nestlings suffered.

      With no obvious downside to laying a double clutch, Drs Both and Ravussin conclude that the birds are attempting to double their annual reproductive output. While this behaviour is still rare, they argue that if the tendency is driven by heritable genes (which it may well be) then a succession of early springs could make the strategy much more common.

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • #4
        The Cataclysmic Break That (Maybe) Occurred in 1950
        Sixty-nine years ago, a new geological era may have begun on Earth.
        THE ATLANTIC Robinson Meyer Apr 16, 2019

        Here is the hypothesis: Not so long ago, the very nature of planet Earth suffered a devastating rupture. The break was sudden, global, and irreversible. It happened on a Sunday within living memory. Mick Jagger, Meryl Streep, and Caitlyn Jenner were all born before this crack in time. Vladimir Putin, Liam Neeson, and Mr. T were all born after it.

        That idea might soon carry the weight of scientific fact. Later this month, a committee of researchers from around the world will decide whether the Earth sprang into the Anthropocene, a new chapter of its history, in the year 1950. If accepted, this delineation will signal a new reality, that human activities, not natural processes, are now the dominant driver of change on Earths surfacethat carbon pollution, climate change, deforestation, factory farms, mass die-offs, and enormous road networks have made a greater imprint on the planet than any other force in the past 12,000 years.

        Starting next week, the committees 37 members will vote on two questions. First, should the Anthropocene be added as a new epoch to the Geological Time Scale, the standard scientific timeline of Earths 4.5-billion-year history? Second, should the Anthropocene, if it does exist, commence in the middle of the 20th century?

        William Ruddiman, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, is extremely worried about climate change, but he nonetheless hopes the committee votes against both questions. For the past two years, he has lobbied its members to think of the Anthropocene not as a sudden upheaval, but as a gradual change, a slow transformation of the planet that began 5,000 years ago. Where could you possibly pick a single start date in this ever-evolving story? he once asked me in an email.

        Last week, he and 23 other researchers argued the topic at length in the scientific journal Progress in Physical Geography. At stake is a seemingly simple question: When did human influence over the environment reach a tipping point?

        For Jan Zalasiewicz, a professor of geography at the University of Leicester, the answer is clear. Zalasiewicz chairs the Anthropocene Working Group, the committee that will soon vote on the existence of the epoch.

        If you look at the main parameters of the Earth-system metabolism, then things only began to change sharply and dramatically with industrialization, he told me. He believes that the most significant event in humanitys life on the planet is the Great Acceleration, the period of rapid global industrialization that followed the Second World War. As factories and cars spread across the planet, as the United States and U.S.S.R. prepared for the Cold War, carbon pollution soared. So too did methane pollution, the number of extinctions and invasive species, the degree of surface-level radiation, the quantity of plastic in the ocean, and the amount of rock and soil moved around the planet.

        It was the Big Zoom, he said, borrowing a phrase from the journalist Andrew Revkin. There is nothing really comparable to that shift in any other period of Earth history. Even setting carbon pollution aside, he said, the spike in fertilizer use led to the largest jump in surface nitrogen levels in 2.5 billion years. Zalasiewicz hopes the committee will start the Anthropocene in the middle of the 20th century.

        Ruddiman isnt so sure. He believes that humanitys effect on the planet is spread throughout time and is driven primarily by agriculture. Before the year 1750, he argues, humans had already cleared so much forest as to produce 300 billion tons of carbon emissions. Since 1950, deforestation has only led to 75 billion tons of emissions.

        Humans remade the planet in other ways, too. About 12,000 years ago, we drove a huge swath of American mammals, including the giant ground sloth, into extinction. About 11,000 years ago, we entered into unprecedented relationships with crops and some livestock, domesticating them and taming their genome. Between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago, humans began clear-cutting forests to create new agricultural land; they may have transformed much of Europe by doing so. And by about 1,000 years ago, as humans embraced tilling and made rice paddies, they began moving more dirt and rock around the surface of the planet than is moved naturally.

        I dont think its possible to put an exact date on the Anthropocene, Ruddiman told me last week. It goes on continuously for 12,000 years. Theres no obvious break point. Even just the invention of tillingits huge. For that reason, he believes that the committee shouldnt add a capital-A Anthropocene to the geological timeline. Instead, scientists should talk about the lower-a anthropocenea set of profound changes wrought to Earth over the course of millennia, across many different places. They culminate in the biggest anthropocene of all: modern, human-caused climate change.

        It is important to say modern, for Ruddiman believes that humans have already shifted the climate once before. About a decade ago, he proposed whats called the early anthropocene hypothesisa theory that ancient agricultural clear-cutting added so much carbon to the atmosphere that it effectively stopped Arctic glaciers from expanding more than 3,000 years ago. If not for that deforestation, then there would be an additional Greenlands worth of ice in the Canadian Arctic today, he said.

        While Ruddimans hypothesis is not widely accepted, it is taken seriously by the community. And his broader skepticism of codifying a late Anthropocene is shared by several members of the working group. In a separate paper published last week, five members of the committee rejected the idea of the 1950s Anthropocene. Todays scientists are simply too close to the events at hand to place a division in geological time, they argue. We dont yet know how significantly the planets climate will change in the centuries to come: Will the shift be of the same magnitude as what occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago? Will it be equal to the first time that ice seized the surface of Earth, 2.1 million years ago? Or does it signal something far larger, a cataclysm on par with the asteroid impact that ended the dinosaur-dominated Mesozoic Era, 66 million years ago? There is no testable way of knowing at present, they wrote.

        The five authors also point out that the last 12,000 years would be understood as a single geological instant if they had happened millions of years ago. (Indeed, it would be one of the most shocking geological moments in the whole rock record.) And they worry about the sudden divisions that a great split in 1950 would impose on geology. If the Anthropocene is adopted as a formal time division, it will mean that any process that began in 1947 and ended in 1953 would straddle two epochs.

        So far, the committee at large has not seemed to accept these criticisms. In another paper published last week, Zalasiewicz and 16 of his colleagues wrote that any human-induced changes prior to 1950 paled in comparison with those that came after.

        The difference between before and whats happening now its geologically quite dramatic, Zalasiewicz told me. We hadnt realized that at the beginning. In 2009, I didnt know that the Anthropocene would be as clear and sharp as it has been. I thought it might fade away into a fuzzy gradational change. Instead, the committee has accumulated more and more evidence that a new epoch lurched into existence during the mid-20th century, he said.

        Carbon pollution, methane pollution, and world population all spiked after 1950 as they never had before, he argues. Ruddiman told me he doubted some of the committees reconstructions of human population, but appreciated their good-faith effort to respond.

        Population, Carbon, and Methane All Spiked After 1950
        Average values of relative change to (a) global human population, (b) atmospheric CO2 concentration, and (c) CH4 concentration over the past 20,000 years. (Zalasiewicz et al. / Science)

        The idea of the Anthropocene was first proposed by the Nobel-winning chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000. Since then, it has caught on more broadly in culture, even though it is not a formal term in geology. (The musician Grimes is releasing an Anthropocene-themed album later this year.) But it could soon have its day: If the working group accepts its existence, that will clear the way for the International Commission on Stratigraphy and the International Union of Geological Sciences to accept it in full.

        Of the working groups 37 members, 17 members signed their name to Zalasiewiczs paper, and only five signed their name to the more skeptical review. That leaves 15 committee members unaligned in advance of the upcoming vote. Youd think people who served on a committee for years would be more willing to put their name on paper, Ruddiman said. The vote will take place electronically and continue through May. If it succeeds, then the committee will busy itself with the next task: finding evidence in the rock record of the precise moment that humanity pushed Earth into a bewildering new era.

        æ, !

        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp