News Article | August 26, 2016
Before Breitbart, before Trump, Bannon bullied people in Biosphere 2 The Breitbart chief and Trump campaign CEO's sexist bullying was evident in the early days of Biosphere 2 in Arizona, then a quasi “space colonization” and environmental research project. Stephen K. Bannon, who recently took a leave from running Breitbart.com to become Donald Trump’s chief campaign executive, once bullied women in the historic environmental research project known as Biosphere 2. He called a female science researcher who wrote a report about safety concerns a “deluded” “bimbo,” and threatened to “ram it down her (expletive) throat.” He also threatened to “kick her ass.” An item in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram details how Bannon, then an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, was hired by Texas philanthropist Ed Bass to take over Biosphere 2 when things got weird. Biosphere 2 today “serves as a unique large-scale experimental apparatus housing seven model ecosystems with active research by teams of multidisciplinary scientists,” according to the University of Arizona project website. Located near the town of Oracle, Arizona, Biosphere began some 20 years ago as a project where eight participants committed to spending two straight years locked up inside what was basically a 3-acre terrarium. Things did not go as planned. Archival reports from 1993 found in the Star-Telegram archives show that Bannon was hired to take over the project at a point where it losing $12-15 million a year. Bannon was a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who ran a firm based in Los Angeles and New York that specialized in media and entertainment investments. Bannon kicked out the original residents of laboratory as 'dysfunctional,' and rebooted the project from, in his words, a “space colonization” test to a University of Arizona science program. “In the two years Bannon ran Biosphere 2, he also produced and promoted a nuanced documentary on illegal immigration near the Sonora border about 100 miles south,” according to the Star-Telegram report. The Arizona Daily Star has a related item, with original archival reporting from Biosphere's active days in the 1990s. “ Bannon apparently acted the bully around the enclosed mini-world near Oracle,” the paper reports today. Snip: On April 1, 1994, financier Ed Bass, after spilling tens of millions more dollars than expected on the project, moved to take it over from the original management team and partner John Allen. Bannon acted, essentially, as the heavy for Bass, Tucson attorney Larry Hecker recalled when I asked him Thursday. Hecker represented the original management and was away watching the UA basketball team in the Final Four when sheriff’s deputies and federal officers arrived at the Pinal County site to serve legal notice of the ouster that day. Bannon, Hecker said, “was the new sheriff, or dictator.” Bannon’s actions soon ended up as part of a civil suit filed by some of the original Biospherians against the new guard. In court, he admitted speaking angry words that echo some more recent accusations against him. Back then, the Tucson Citizen reported, citing court testimony, he vowed to kick the ass of Abigail Alling, one of the original Biospherians, who returned from Japan to warn those still inside about the takeover. When Alling wrote a statement spelling out her concerns about safety in the Biosphere, he threatened to “ram it down her (expletive) throat.” The court filings say Bannon called Ms. Alling a “self-centered, deluded young woman” and a “bimbo.” Here's a snip from the original Tuscon Citizen report “Manager vowed revenge on Alling, her lawyer says,” by Eric Stern on May 24, 1996. A Biosphere 2 investment banker vowed profanely to take revenge on crew member Abigail Alling, after his takeover failed in November 1993, a lawyer said yesterday in the abuse of process trial against Space Biospheres Ventures. Under questioning by the lawyer, William Walker, the Beverly Hills, Calif., investment banker, Steve Bannon, acknowledged he “vowed to kick (Alling’s) —.’ Bannon said he was hired to stop the $1 million monthly runaway costs of the Biosphere 2 experiment, a $200-million self-contained, closed ecosystem. Bannon resigned in late 1993 after SBV would not accept his proposal to remove top Biosphere 2 managers. But then Ed Bass, the wealthy Texan who funded the project, decided to follow through on Bannon’s proposal on April 1, 1994. Bannon returned as acting chief executive officer of the company, replacing Margret Augustine. This action prompted Alling and another original Biosphere 2 crew member, Mark Van Thillo, to return from a business trip in Japan, break into the system in the middle of the night and warn crew members that new management was incapable of running the project, they have said. Alling and Van Thillo were technical and safety consultants to Biosphere 2. They were fired a few days after the break-in. In the civil trial, they are suing SBV for breach of contract and abuse of process. The trial on criminal charges in the break-in case is pending. Alling also angered Bannon when she was quoted in a Tucson Citizen article comparing the Biosphere 2 safety situation to management mistakes leading up to the space shuttle Challenger explosion of 1986. Bannon said that statement was improper. “I was humiliated,’ he said. In preparation for a grand jury hearing for the criminal charges, Alling claimed she had written a five-page statement about the safety problems with Biosphere 2 after new management took over. Bannon, in turn, threatened to “ram it down her ——- throat,’ Bannon told jurors. This type of animosity tainted Alling’s case, because Bannon aggressively sought criminal prosecution of Alling and Van Thillo, thereby abusing their due process rights, said Walker, Alling’s attorney. Bannon also said he called Alling a “self-centered, deluded young woman’ and a “bimbo.’
News Article | August 31, 2016
New research by scientists at The University of Akron (UA) shows that a nanometer-thin layer of water between two charged surfaces exhibits ice-like tendencies that allow it to withstand pressures of hundreds of atmospheres. The discovery could lead to better ways to minimize friction in a variety of settings. Why water between two surfaces does not always simply squeeze out when placed under severe pressure had never been fully understood. The UA researchers discovered that naturally-occurring charges between two surfaces under intense pressure traps the water, and gives it ice-like qualities. It is this ice-like layer of water — occurring at room temperature — that then lessens the friction between the two surfaces. "For the first time we have a basic understanding of what happens to water under these conditions and why it keeps two surfaces apart," says Professor Ali Dhinojwala. "We had suspected something was happening at the molecular level, and now we have proof." "This discovery could lead to improved designs where low friction surfaces are critically important, such as in biomedical knee implants," says UA graduate student Nishad Dhopatkar. Graduate student Adrian Defante, who was also part of the research team, says, "the newfound properties of water might contribute to the development of more effective antimicrobial coatings, as a thin layer of water could prevent bacterial adhesion." Dhinojwala adds that the research conversely offers insight into how water might be kept away from two surfaces, which could lead to better adhesives in watery environments. The study by Dhinojwala and his team can be found in the current issue of Science Advances.
Researchers at The University of Akron have discovered that a thin layer of water (blue molecules ) between two charged surfaces composed of surfactants (green molecules) --becomes ice-like, lessening the friction between the two surfaces. Credit: The University of Akron New research by scientists at The University of Akron (UA) shows that a nanometer-thin layer of water between two charged surfaces exhibits ice-like tendencies that allow it to withstand pressures of hundreds of atmospheres. The discovery could lead to better ways to minimize friction in a variety of settings. Why water between two surfaces does not always simply squeeze out when placed under severe pressure had never been fully understood. The UA researchers discovered that naturally-occurring charges between two surfaces under intense pressure traps the water, and gives it ice-like qualities. It is this ice-like layer of water—occurring at room temperature—that then lessens the friction between the two surfaces. "For the first time we have a basic understanding of what happens to water under these conditions and why it keeps two surfaces apart," says Professor Ali Dhinojwala. "We had suspected something was happening at the molecular level, and now we have proof." "This discovery could lead to improved designs where low friction surfaces are critically important, such as in biomedical knee implants," says UA graduate student Nishad Dhopatkar. Graduate student Adrian Defante, who was also part of the research team, says "the newfound properties of water might contribute to the development of more effective antimicrobial coatings, as a thin layer of water could prevent bacterial adhesion." Dhinojwala adds that the research conversely offers insight into how water might be kept away from two surfaces, which could lead to better adhesives in watery environments. The study by Dhinojwala and his team can be found in the current issue of Science Advances. More information: N. Dhopatkar et al, Ice-like water supports hydration forces and eases sliding friction, Science Advances (2016). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600763
Volkswagen's old Microbus is getting a major update and could be in a garage near you in around three years. The company unveiled a futuristic battery-powered concept of the bus at the CES gadget show on Tuesday night called the BUDD-e. VW expects it to be able to go a staggering 373 miles on a single charge, far longer than electric vehicles today, due to a more efficient battery technology. The Budd-e has Internet connections to smart home devices and can be charged to 80 percent of its battery capacity in about 15 minutes, VW says. Many charging stations for other electric vehicles now take hours to do the same thing. It also has gesture recognition technology to control the infotainment screen, and the doors can be controlled by voice commands. VW didn't say in its releases if the new Microbus will actually go into production, but said that the BUDD-e "demonstrates what electric mobility could be like by the year 2019." VW Brand CEO Herbert Diess says it's likely that the Budd-e will become a production model. The top executive of the Volkswagen brand says he's optimistic that U.S. Environmental regulators will approve fixes within the coming weeks or months for Diesel engines that cheat on emissions tests. Brand CEO Herbert Diess says the company is having constructive discussions with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. Diess says VW already has received approval to fix 8.5 million cheating cars in Europe. Repairs will start this month and most will be fixed this year. But the U.S. Cars are more problematic because they emit up to 40 times more toxic nitrogen oxide than allowed. Fixes could be complicated and take several years. Diess spoke as the company unveiled a concept of an electric Microbus. VW has admitted cheating on about 500,000 diesel cars in the U.S. by installing software that turns emissions controls on during government tests and turns them off on real roads. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says tiny micro-processors will change the future of sports and art. Krzanich showed off new uses for the giant chip-maker's smallest processors during a keynote speech that formally opened the annual CES gadget show in Las Vegas. He said tiny, wearable computer chips will help athletes and fans track speed and movement, while helping musicians create songs by waving their hands. The Intel chief invited a composer on stage to demonstrate a set of computerized wristbands that track hand gestures and translate them into musical notes. Other guests showed off drones and robots that use Intel's three-dimensional optical scanning technology to navigate around obstacles and recognize familiar objects. Krzanich also announced what he called a significant milestone toward the company's goal of having a workforce that reflects the general population by 2010. He said 43 percent of workers hired at Intel last year were women or minorities. Diversity is a hot issue in the tech industry, where Intel and other major companies have been criticized for not hiring and promoting women, blacks and Latinos. Krzanich announced an ambitious effort to address the problem during his keynote at CES last year. Intel had more than 100,000 workers as of mid-2015; Krzanich didn't provide detailed statistics Tuesday. A startup that harnesses the power of radio waves to charge your mobile devices has come up with an ultra-small transmitter to keep a fitness band topped up with power. Energous Corp. unveiled a mini WattUp transmitter at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. The company says the transmitter, about the size of a USB thumb drive, will deliver less than half a watt of power to a special receiver chip that can be embedded in a wearable device. While that's not enough to charge up a smartphone quickly, Energous says it's great to zap a fitness band full of energy in 10 to 40 minutes. One key benefit: By using wireless charging, Energous says a band can be completely sealed and waterproof because it doesn't need an external charging port. That means not worrying about taking it off in the shower or swimming pool. Because the device sends energy in the near-Wi-Fi band around 5.8 GHz however, it'll need clearance from the Federal Communications Commission, a process that could push the first usable product into late 2016 or early 2017. Dish's Sling TV online-television service is revamping its apps to focus on content rather than individual channels. Among other things, the apps will present movies and TV shows based on what you've watched before, like Netflix does, rather than the traditional way of channel by channel. That could make Sling TV's on-demand library—currently hidden behind multiple taps—easier to discover and watch. The $20-a-month Sling TV service offers more than 20 cable channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, AMC and TNT. Sling TV announced Tuesday that it's adding ESPN3 to the base package, too. ESPN3 is an online channel available to traditional cable and satellite subscribers. For $5 more, customers can get an add-on package such as Spanish-language networks and even more sports. The service has live streams of those channels, along with selected content on demand. You'll need an antenna for over-the-air channels, as those aren't included. Dish is announcing the changes as the CES gadget show in Las Vegas opens Wednesday. ESPN3 and the new, content-centric features will be available by the end of March. Kia is promising to bring a self-driving car to the public by 2030, a decade longer than some companies have promised but perhaps a more realistic time frame. At the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, Kia also says it will introduce a partially autonomous car by 2020. The car will still need a human behind the wheel. The Korean automaker, which is owned by Hyundai, also has received a license from Nevada to test an autonomous Kia Soul electric vehicle on public roads. Tech giant Google has promised to have a self-driving car in the public's hands by 2020, and other automakers have hinted at 2025. But outside experts say the 2020 time frame likely would be limited to small geographic areas because technical, regulatory and legal issues still have to be worked out. Kia is creating a sub-brand for autonomous technologies called Drive Wise. At the CES consumer-electronics show in Las Vegas this week, the company will show off technologies including highway and urban autonomous driving, as well as the ability to follow the vehicle in front of you. Kia also will show off a system that analyzes drivers' faces to make sure they're paying attention to the road. If they aren't, the car will automatically steer to the side of the road and stop. Playing nice with the competition? It's not unheard of at CES. Samsung has unveiled several new products that get along with those from other technology firms. Samsung says its Gear S2 smartwatch will be compatible with Apple's iPhones later this year. Watches using Google's Android Wear already are, though with limited functionality. Samsung also unveiled a 12-inch tablet that attaches to a keyboard. The Galaxy Tab Pro S is aimed at business users and runs Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system, unlike the Android system used in consumer tablets. Samsung says it will be the thinnest and lightest tablet-PC combination on the market. In addition, Samsung's top-end 2016 SUHD TVs will come with a free USB dongle to serve as a smart-home hub and let users to control up to 200 devices from manufacturers from Nest to Philips via their TV. One remote control will also operate boxes from the Xbox One to a Time Warner Cable set-top box to Apple TV. Add to that its Family Hub refrigerator to allow ordering of groceries through its 21.5 inch touch screen. It's clear Samsung is positioning itself to be the center of a fragmented technology landscape. Though the fridge is made in partnership with MasterCard, you can pay with other credit and debit cards like Visa. Hollywood's getting serious about moving beyond those old cardboard 3-D glasses. The 21st Century Fox entertainment conglomerate said Tuesday that it has a deal to buy a minority stake in a leading maker of headwear for virtual reality and augmented reality, Osterhout Design Group. The news comes as a Fox subsidiary plans a CES debut for the virtual-reality version of its hit film, "The Martian," in which Matt Damon plays an Earthling space traveler left behind by his shipmates on the surface of Mars. This version, which lasts 20 minutes or so, will let viewers share some of Damon's adventures in what's been described as an immersive and interactive visual experience. According to published reports, Fox plans to distribute the virtual-reality version for viewing through headsets made by several manufacturers. Other studios are also dabbling in virtual reality. And Fox sees a big future in producing entertainment for the medium. In a statement, Fox executive Jim Gianopulos says the company's preliminary agreement to invest in Osterhout will push films "into the future" and "bring audiences exciting new creative experiences." Fox hasn't disclosed the amount of the investment. Osterhout is known for making stylish, computerized "smart glasses" that can project realistic images in a wearer's field of vision. That's done either by overlaying images on the real world, in what's known as "augmented reality," or in a more immersive "virtual reality" experience that appears to surround the wearer with projected images. It's showing off a new augmented-reality headset, designed for commercial and industrial uses, at this year's CES in Las Vegas. Dish's new set-top box will let viewers record 16 shows at once and watch four videos simultaneously—perfect for Football Sunday. The Hopper 3 will also come with the ability to search recorded content and Netflix at once, so that you'll find the TV show or movie regardless of its source. Cable and satellite TV companies are trying to move beyond bare-bones set-top boxes and digital video recorders, in part to keep customers from fleeing to a rival or dropping TV service completely. Previously, advanced recording and search features required you to buy a TiVo, Roku or other stand-alone device. Although few households will ever need to record 16 shows at once, Dish executive Vivek Khemka says it wanted to create an environment in which the viewer never has to think about whether the box is free to record a show. That was also the thinking behind putting in two terabytes of storage—enough for 500 hours of high-definition video. Dish TV subscribers will be able to get the Hopper 3 starting later this month for $15 a month, on top of regular fees for cable TV services. People will be able to order groceries directly from a new Samsung refrigerator. The Family Hub refrigerator will let users order groceries via an app on the refrigerator's screen. The app's made in partnership with MasterCard, though you can use any debit or credit card to pay. The service initially works with two grocery stores in the New York area: Fresh Direct and ShopRite. Users can choose when they want the groceries delivered. The fee is the same as it would be ordering from a computer—typically a few dollars, plus tip. It will be available in the U.S. starting in May. Besides ordering groceries, the 21.5-inch screen on the fridge will let families display photos, calendars and notes for each other. And from a smartphone, you can check what's inside, as captured by three cameras. You can tell at the supermarket whether you really need more eggs. LG earlier announced a similar peek-inside feature in its fridges. Samsung's smart refrigerator is among the many Internet-connected items being unveiled this week at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. Huawei is unveiling a new smartphone that promises more than two days of charge with normal use and a fast recharge for one day of power in 30 minutes. The new Mate 8 is aimed at business users. It boasts enough power when fully charged to watch 17 hours of high-definition video and 20 hours of Web browsing over a 4G cellular network. The Android device also sports an improved fingerprint scanner that lets you answer calls simply by touching the sensor on the back of the phone. Taking selfies is also enabled by fingerprint touch. Among other features, Huawei says the phone can detect knuckle taps and swipes to do things like crop photos and trim videos. It can also copy long Web pages that scroll over many pages. The phone will start at about 600 euros ($645). It's launching in various countries, but there aren't any current U.S. plans. Kodak wants to put its iconic Super 8 film cameras for video into the hands of young filmmakers. The company is showing off a new version of the 8 millimeter film camera, which was introduced in 1965. It eventually plans to release a range of Super 8 cameras, film development services and related equipment designed for both professionals and amateurs. The launch marks Kodak's first new Super 8 camera in more than 30 years and is a nod to those in the film industry that continue to balk at the push to switch to digital cameras. Kodak is showing off the new camera at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week. Want a craft brewery on your countertop and don't mind waiting a week for the hoppy elixir? PicoBrew hopes to become the Keurig of brewing. At the CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week, the company showed off its $699 appliance that uses pre-mixed recipes costing $20 to $60, including some from brewers Rogue and Dogfish Head. It's not for the home brewers interested in making their own creations, though the company says customers can turn the dial to make the brew more or less bitter or hoppy. And it doesn't involve a basement's worth of space dedicated to the process. The company is shipping its first devices in April to its Kickstarter supporters who have contributed a combined $1.4 million to the project. It's never been easier to find your lost keys. Several companies are showing off tags with wireless technology. You can put one on your keys and call to it with your smartphone. Think of it as dialing your partner's mobile number just so it buzzes from under the couch. Some companies are taking it a step further. TrackR, a company in Santa Barbara, California, unveiled an add-on called Atlas. It plugs into a wall socket and scans a room for any TrackR tags using Bluetooth. It then tells you what room your missing item is in. The company's Jeremy Fish says "most people can find it if you get into the right room, unless you have a warehouse for a room." Chipolo, a company from Ljubljana, Slovenia, added a shaking feature that calls your phone or even takes a selfie (provided you can balance your phone somewhere). And even if your missing item is beyond the 200-foot Bluetooth range, if some other Chipolo user walks by it out in the wild, you'll get notified where it is—without compromising the other user's privacy—so you can go get it. With more home thermostats, lights, locks and appliances linking to the Internet, automakers are working on plans to let you control them from your car. BMW and Ford both announced they're working on in-car apps that let drivers control smart home devices. BMW says it's working on apps that allow drivers to "precondition" their homes by setting the thermostat for the right temperature by the time they arrive home. The company also showed an i3 electric car linked to a home device that monitors routines, sets routes and starts car functions. Ford announced that it's working with Amazon to link cars to its Alexa personal assistant. Later this year, the company will offer a service with voice commands that can start a car from a home or turn off an alarm system and open the garage door as a driver gets close to home. Hands full of groceries? LG has a refrigerator that opens automatically when a person steps on the projection of an image on the floor. Its LG Signature fridge also lets you peek inside without opening the door, saving electricity and maybe keeping you from making a poor decision regarding a late-night snack. One side of its double doors has an opaque glass window. Knocking on the window lights up the inside slightly, enough to glance at your leftovers. And of course, it comes equipped with Wi-Fi enabled sensors so you can track the temperature inside and monitor energy use. Old Mother Hubbard might have known to go to the store to get her dog a bone if she had a sensor from the company Smarter. At the CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week, Smarter is debuting a mat and a camera that can remotely tell a person what's left in one's fridge. Barnaby Sellers with Smarter says the devices will speed up a person's daily routines and make a kitchen smarter without needing to buy a new fridge. The company is also introducing a sound and atmosphere sensor that Sellers says will learn the sounds and environment in a kitchen to alert someone via their smartphone when the dishes might be done or when it might be warm to enough to warrant opening up a window. Each is expected to be sold for $130 to $150 by this summer. At last year's show, Smarter showed off a remote-controlled coffee machine and kettle. HTC is launching the latest version of its virtual-reality headset, Vive. It adds a front-facing camera and revamped controllers to the original prototype system. The headset, called the Vive Pre, also comes with an updated strap and brighter displays. HTC says the front-facing camera lets people do real-world actions like take a seat or find a drink without taking off the headset. HTC says 7,000 units of the prototype will be available to developers. The consumer version of the Vive is expected in April. No information was given on pricing. The announcement comes a day after Oculus said it will start taking orders for its much-hyped Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday. The company, which was bought by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion, has also not said how much it will cost or given a shipping date. If you find buzzing or beeping is an alarming way to wake up, you might enjoy Sensorwake's olfactory alarm clock. The device by the French company emits scents that should get you up gently in about two minutes. The clock, selling for a promotional $89 during CES, diffuses particles contained in packets with dry air to give you a whiff of things like espresso, hot croissants, a lush jungle, chocolate or pepper mint. Two packs last for a total of 60 days and cost about $11. And this important feature is important in cold and flu season: There's a backup alarm if you have a stuffy nose. The limited sight line of your car's rear view mirror may be a thing of the past. BMW showed off the i8 electric car's mirrorless system. Images from three cameras are combined on a display that replaces the interior mirror, giving the driver larger viewing angles and eliminating blind spots. The system analyzes the images and alerts drivers to potential hazards with yellow warning icons. The replacement mirror also has lines showing the car's trajectory when parking. The i3 electric car has a roof-mounted camera replacing its mirror, giving a much wider angle of view. BMW also introduced more gesture controls in the 7 Series luxury car to control infotainment and communication features without touching a screen. Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta have been chosen as the first cities where AT&T's will showcase the potential use of sensors and other Internet-connected technologies to improve municipal services. Under this "smart cities" concept, maintenance crews would be able to remotely detect roads needing repairs, while motorists would be able to view and reserve parking spaces ahead of time. Though some of these capabilities are already available in some cities, officials can better keep tabs on emergencies, such as power outages and heavy traffic, by integrating all aspects of government functions. AT&T says it has formed alliances with Cisco, Deloitte, Ericsson, General Electric, IBM, Intel and Qualcomm to support smart cities. Two of the cities chosen have direct ties to AT&T. Dallas is the company's headquarters, while Atlanta is the hub for its wireless businesses. There's no time frame yet on when AT&T will roll out these services. Call her mom. A small white plastic figure that resembles a Russian nesting doll offers a digital smile while it monitors if people it's watching are taking their pills, drinking enough water or doing any of their daily routines. Silver Mother is being marketed to caretakers and family members wanting to keep an eye on elderly loved ones. Along with alerting caretakers and family, founder Rafi Haladjian says the white "mother hub" will play the sound of running water if a person doesn't drink enough water for the day. It will also call people on the phone to remind them to take their pills. The system is being displayed at the CES show of gadgets in Las Vegas. The hub and four sensors, which can be attached to anything including pill bottles, is sold for $290. Office workers probably assume their boss can peek in on their corporate emails. But knowing—exactly—how long you've been sitting down on the job? That's the purpose of the "connected caster," an innocent-looking, weight-sensitive wheel that can be affixed to the bottom of an office chair. It sends data back to a system that tracks just that. Detroit-based Tome Inc. worked on the product with sleek office furniture designer Humanscale—which, conveniently, makes a line of desks for standing up and working at. Fitbit, a leading maker of fitness trackers, is unveiling a mid-range model with heart-rate monitoring and smartwatch-like functions, such as audio playback control and message notifications. The new Blaze won't have a GPS built-in, but it will be able to use the GPS from a companion smartphone to display pace and distance more accurately. It's a similar approach to the Apple Watch. The Blaze will sit alongside Fitbit's existing Charge HR, which monitors heart rate but has no ability to latch on to the phone's GPS. The Blaze is the first Fitbit model to have a color display. The Blaze will sell for $200 when it comes out in March. Fitbit will also sell alternative frames and bands made of leather or stainless steel. This item has been corrected to remove incorrect reference to Blaze replacing Charge HR. Ford says it will triple the number of autonomous cars in its test fleet as it moves to accelerate development of self-driving cars. At the CES gadget show in Las Vegas Tuesday, the company said it will add 20 Ford Fusion gas-electric hybrid cars to the fleet, giving it 30 to test on roads in California, Michigan and Arizona. The company also announced that it would use the latest laser sensors made by Velodyne in its test vehicles. The 360-degree sensors are smaller and have a longer sensing range than the previous generation. They can fit into a side-view mirror rather than the old laser sensors that were housed in a globe on the roof. Ford CEO Mark Fields says he expects autonomous cars to be in public use in about four years, but they won't be able to drive in all weather conditions. That, he said, is a long way away. Sports clothing maker Under Armour is getting into the gadgets business with a set of wearable devices, headphones and a wireless scale. Though Under Armour isn't first with any of these, it's trying to make it easy on consumers by designing products that connect wirelessly to each other or to its smartphone apps. A new version of its UA Record app seeks to integrate all aspects of your health and fitness—including nutrition, sleep and exercise—though a few features will require a companion app, MapMyRun. The apps are free and will also work with competing devices, such as Fitbit and Garmin watches. Under Armour is offering a starter package, the UA HealthBox, for $400. It includes the scale, a chest strap to monitor heart rate and a fitness band to track steps and sleep. Each item is also sold separately. Beyond that, Under Armour is offering a shoe embedded with a chip to track exercise—even without a smartphone or any other GPS-enabled device for recording distance. The company is also making two headphones, including one that can measure heart rate at the ear. Under Armour partnered with smartphone maker HTC for the HealthBox items and with Harman's JBL business for the headphones. Most of the items will ship Jan. 22; the shoes and heart-rate headphones will come later. BMW board member Klaus Froehlich, right, introduces the BMW i Vision Future Interaction concept car during a news conference at CES Press Day at CES International, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) In this Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 photo, a Sensorwake olfactory alarm is displayed at CES Unveiled, a media preview event for CES International in Las Vegas. The device by the French company emits scents that should get you up gently in about two minutes. The clock, selling for a promotional $89 during CES, diffuses particles contained in packets with dry air to give you a whiff of things like espresso, hot croissants, a lush jungle, chocolate or pepper mint. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) The Technics 50th anniversary limited edition Grand Class SL-1200GAE turntable is on display during a Panasonic news conference at CES Press Day at CES International, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) Yasu Enokido, president of Panasonic AVC Networks Company, holds up a Toughpad FZ-Q1 during a Panasonic news conference at CES Press Day at CES International, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) The Panasonic OLED 4K Pro Studio Master UHD television is on display during a Panasonic news conference at CES Press Day at CES International, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) The Panasonic High-Power Blender is on display during a Panasonic news conference at CES Press Day at CES International, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) Yasu Enokido, president of Panasonic AVC Networks Company, speaks about his company's relationship with Facebook during a Panasonic news conference at CES Press Day at CES International, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
In California, United Airlines (UA) will be using jet biofuels produced by AltAir using Honeywell (HON) UOP technology on up to 150 flights a day out of Los Angeles, the Digest has learned. March 11. A two week, 14-day Los Angeles to San Francisco service will launch United’s jet biofuels plan. After the first two weeks, “pretty much all flights out of LAX will have a component of biofuel,” said a person familiar with the United plan. Flights are expected to begin almost immediately. Depending on the feedstock used, Honeywell Green Jet Fuel can offer a 65 to 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based jet fuel, which helps refiners meet EPA mandates for renewable transportation fuel content. It’s also being delivered at a price comparable to petroleum fuel, marking a major milestone towards the widespread use of renewables fuel. United will purchase up to 15 million gallons of sustainable aviation biofuel from AltAir over a three-year period, with the option to purchase more. In 2013, AltAir and United announced the 15 million gallon deal, saying at the time that they expected to be operating flights in 2014. AltAir Fuels said that it planned to retrofit the idled portions of its Paramount petroleum refinery to produce renewable jet fuel and other products from non-edible oils and agricultural waste. The opening of the AltAir refinery created 150 jobs in Paramount, California. The biofuel is mixed with traditional jet fuel at a 30/70 blend ratio. AltAir can produce enough sustainable bio-jet fuel to power the equivalent of more than 40,000 flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco over the next three years — at its historic 40 million gallons plant. Merging refinery tech with biofuels: The Digest’s 2016 8-Slide Guide to Honeywell’s UOP This is third launch we’ve seen using Honeywell Green Fuel. Last summer, the Disney Transportation bus fleet became one of the first in the country to run on R50, a cleaner renewable diesel (RD) made from used cooking oil and non-consumable food waste. Then, in January the US Navy’s Great Green Fleet sailed on its 2016 mission, using green marine diesel. Now, United takes off with renewable jet fuel — all made using the same technology. “These very public users highlight the fact they the fuels are commercially available, and to have three different modes of jet, marine and road sends a positive message about the technology,” Honeywell UOP renewables czarina Veronica May told The Digest. It’s been a long road, we note. But not as long as, for example, the path to getting lead out of fuels, May noted. “Anyone who’s been in the business knows that changes in fuels take years and decades. When you look back, it took 30 years to remove lead. There was the Clean Air Act in 1970 which set the target, but it wasn’t until 1986 that we had all of the lead removed for road transport, and 1990 for all vehicles, and Europe took another 10 years to get the lead out. We’re 10 years into the Renewable Fuel Standard. and obviously the low oil price is rocking the financial market, but these projects are years in the making, and a blip in the price will slow but not stop the momentum.” May emphasized having the capital and the portfolio of technologies to meet customer needs throughout the commodity price cycle. “One thing that UOP brings to renewable fuels, is that we are able to continue investment year after year. A lot of groups have great ideas but don’t have the funding, so when gasoline prices are high you get a flurry of activity but they can’t can’t sustain it. Renewables are one part of UOP, and the rest helps to support renewables.” We asked May about the low price environment and the era of high oil prices. Noting that in the era of high prices that we saw so much diversion of capital and consumer interest to electrics, natural gas vehicles, and reducing drive miles. Is there a pricing sweet spot, we wondered? “Actually, what you don;t want to see is a lot of volatility. If it would just stay in one range, that would help, because a lot of feedstock prices track the oil price. Another thing that helps is feedstock diversity. Right now we have waste oils, but when camelina and others come along, purpose—grown oilseeds crops, there you start getting a foundation, for real expansion.” “And, it would help if EPA could put out volumes not for a year or two, but for five years, because it takes 3 years to build a project from scratch.” AltAir Paramount is using Honeywell’s UOP Renewable Jet Fuel Process to convert a variety of sustainable feedstocks into Honeywell Green Jet Fuel at the world’s first dedicated commercial-scale renewable jet fuel production facility. The plant, located near the Los Angeles International Airport, has also produced Honeywell Green Diesel, a drop-in replacement for diesel made from petroleum, using the same process technology. AltAir is the second U.S. fuel producer using Honeywell UOP technology to produce renewable fuels, joining Diamond Green Diesel, which is producing renewable diesel in Louisiana The Renewable Jet Fuel Process makes Honeywell Green Jet Fuel as well as Honeywell Green Diesel from a range of sustainable feedstocks such as used cooking oil, inedible corn oil, tallow, camelina, jatropha and algae. The process is compatible with existing hydroprocessing equipment commonly used in today’s refineries, making it ideal for plants that can be converted to produce renewable fuels. Honeywell Green Diesel offers up to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions versus diesel from petroleum. Chemically identical to petroleum diesel, Honeywell Green Diesel can be used in any proportion in existing fuel tanks without infrastructure changes. Unlike biodiesel, Honeywell Green Diesel is a drop-in replacement for traditional diesel. In aircraft, Honeywell Green Jet Fuel can replace as much as 50 percent of the petroleum jet fuel used in flight, without any changes to the aircraft technology, while meeting the current ASTM jet fuel specifications for flight. Depending on the feedstock, Honeywell Green Jet Fuel can offer a 65 to 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based jet fuel. “Production by AltAir and Diamond Green Diesel demonstrates that the vision of producing real fuels from sustainable feedstocks has taken the crucial step from technology demonstration to commercial-scale production,” said Veronica May, vice president and general manager of Honeywell UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business. “Honeywell UOP is committed to continuing to advance its technology to give fuel producers options to use sustainable feedstocks.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Navy’s Great Green Fleet, a carrier strike fleet of ships and aircraft, began using renewable fuel on regular deployments as part of the Navy’s efforts to demonstrate and deploy alternative sources of fuel, reduce energy consumption, decrease reliance on imported oil and significantly increase use of alternative energy. The ships are being powered by a blend of renewable marine diesel from AltAir – made from domestic sources of inedible waste, fats, oils and greases – and petroleum-based marine diesel. For the initial delivery in January 2016, AltAir prepared 1.34 million gallons of F-76 type Naval Distillate Fuel containing 10 percent HRD and 90 percent petroleum-based fuel. In addition to the AltAir partnership utilizing Honeywell UOP technology — last June, United Airlines announced a $30 million direct investment in advanced biofuels developer Fulcrum BioEnergy, obtained an option to invest in five future commercial-scale aviation biofuels plants, and signed offtake agreements for up 90 million gallons of biofuels per year. The offtake contracts are worth an estimated $1.58 billion over the 10-year offtake span, based on the current jet fuel price of $1.76 per gallon, according to Digest calculations. The shift in United’s fuel purchasing represents 3% of its annual fuel consumption, reported by the airline at 3.2 billion gallons in 2013, and comes after Cathay Pacific invested in Fulcrum BioEnergy in 2014 and signed offtake agreements from the company’s first commercial facility, now under development near Reno, Nevada. The five new plants are expected to range in size between 30 and 60 million gallons. US Renewables Group, Waste Management and Rustic Canyon, among others, have also previously invested in Fulcrum BioEnergy, which converts municipal solid waste diverted away from landfills into diesel and jet fuel. Fulcrum’s first commercial facility is expected to open before the end of 2017. Where is the petroleum coming from for that portion of the blend? Tesoro, which in January unveiled its own plan to foster the development of biocrude made from renewable biomass, which can be co-processed in its existing refineries, along with traditional crude oil. T he company has identified three new partners in the process: Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc.: Fulcrum plans to supply biocrude produced from municipal solid waste to Tesoro to process as a feedstock at its Martinez, California Refinery. An estimated 800 barrels of biocrude per day will be produced at Fulcrum’s Sierra BioFuels Plant in Reno, Nevada, which is expected to be operational in early 2018. Virent, Inc.: Tesoro and Virent are working to establish a strategic relationship to support scale-up and commercialization of Virent’s BioForming technology which produces low-carbon, biofuel and chemicals. Ensyn Corporation: Ensyn has applied for a pathway with the California Air Resources Board to co-process its biocrude, produced from tree residue – called Renewable Fuel Oil – in Tesoro’s California refineries. We’ve said it before. These are the golden days of renewable diesel. Offtakers have the interest. The technology works. More feedstock and more capacity, that’s what’s needed. And some of that starts with policy certainty. So, all eyes on Washington DC and other capitals. Even while we sneak a peek at the California coast where the activity is humming.