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het is vandaag vrijdag 17 januari 2020 22:59:49

Nieuwsarchief van afgelopen Donderdag 16 Januari 2020, 18:17:13

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Weersverwachtingen voor Ashburn
Actueel weerbericht -
Vanavond en vannacht neemt de bewolking toe, en tegen de ochtend gaat het regenen. De middagtemperaturen blijven in eerste instantie hoog voor de tijd van het jaar. Vanaf zondag blijft het een aantal dagen droog met temperaturen rond normaal voor de tijd van het jaar en in de nachten lichte vorst.Vanavond en vannacht wordt de bewolking dikker. Aan het einde van de nacht of in de vroege ochtend gaat het in het westen af en toe regenen. Het wordt niet veel kouder dan een graad of 7. De wind waait uit het zuiden en is in het binnenland matig, aan zee en op het IJsselmeer (vrij) krachtig.Morgen is het eerst bewolkt en een gebied met regen trekt oostwaarts over het land. In de middag klaart het van het westen uit wat op, maar er kan nog wel een bui vallen. De middagtemperatuur komt uit op 9 graden. De wind draait naar het zuidwesten en is matig, aan de kust nu en dan vrij krachtig.De dagen daarna wordt het droger en zonniger. Op zaterdag kan nog een bui vallen. Verder koelt het vooral ’s nachts af. Op veel plaatsen is kans op lichte vorst. Vanaf woensdag wordt het weer zachter en wisselvalliger. - Thu, 16 Jan 2020 17:45:00 +00:00

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20 items in de category Businessinsider.com_-_Tech in donderdag     De links 1 t/m 20.
 
World: Businessinsider.com - Tech: [ Geolocation ]   (Laatste update: donderdag 16 januari 2020 23:33:06)
  • VOICE ASSISTANTS IN HEALTHCARE: An inside look at 3 emerging voice use cases healthcare providers can deploy to cut costs, build loyalty, and drive revenue

    5d540e66cd97843704229bac 960 710Voice is making waves across industries, but the transformative power of the technology is now at a tipping point in healthcare. The opportunity for voice in healthcare is pegged to mount as the global health virtual assistant market is expected to reach $3.5 billion in 2025. 

    US healthcare providers' interest in voice tech is being catalyzed by recent technological breakthroughs growing the tech's potential to transform legacy operations.

    Voice tech boasts five distinct advantages that heighten its disruption potential in healthcare and the tech is being optimized for the healthcare sphere, which is increasing the visibility of voice in health and opening the door for voice assistants to perform more sensitive and complex healthcare actions. There are also several pain points within healthcare that up the pressure on providers to tap into the voice opportunity. 

    In this report, Business Insider Intelligence outlines the voice opportunity in healthcare and explores the drivers propelling voice adoption in the healthcare realm. We then examine three of the highest-value voice use cases in healthcare — clinical documentation, remote care, and clinical support — and provide examples of early moving health systems and health tech companies implementing voice in each application. 

    Here are some of the key takeaways from the report: 

    • Health systems that deploy voice tech to facilitate clinical documentation can reduce physicians' administrative burden, increase patient volume and billable revenue, and eliminate transcription costs.
    • By leveraging voice to increase touchpoints with patients outside the clinic, healthcare organizations can open the opportunity to shrink costs associated with poor medication adherence and slash value-based care (VBC) penalties stemming from preventable readmissions.
    • Healthcare providers can reform diagnostics and better position themselves to deliver preventative medicine by deploying voice technology that can pinpoint diseases based on patients' speech characteristics.

    In full, the report:

    • Explores why and how voice is disrupting healthcare. 
    • Details the three key applications where US health systems can apply voice technology. 
    • Offers evidence on how voice assistants provide value in each of the selected voice use cases. 

    Want to learn more about the fast-moving world of digital health? Here's how to get access:

    1. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now
    2. Sign up for Digital Health Pro , Business Insider Intelligence's expert product suite keeping you up-to-date on the people, technologies, trends, and companies shaping the future of healthcare, delivered to your inbox 6x a week. >>Get Started
    3. Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >>Learn More Now
    4. Current subscribers can read the reporthere.

    Join the conversation about this story »


    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 17:04:00 -0500
  • 15 photos show a US nuclear missile silo that for decades was ready to strike the Soviet Union at a moment's notice

    2019 02 02T215644Z_18594522_RC1218FFA6D0_RTRMADP_3_USA NUCLEAR RUSSIA.JPG

    • Visitors to the Titan missile museum in Arizona can sit at the now decommissioned controls of the intercontinental ballistic missile once built to attack Russia with devastating nuclear force.
    • The Titan II at this facility had a pre-set destination of "target 2" — a location that remains secret — and would have struck with a force 250 times that of both the US bombs used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    SAHUARITA, ARIZ. — The Titan II missile museum here is one of 54 former Titan II missile silos across the US, but it's the only one where tourists can go underground, sit at the controls, and take a look at the real, 103-foot-long Cold War-era nuclear Titan II missile once built to attack Russia with nuclear warheads.

    The 147-foot-deep silo is open to the public and is located just outside Tucson, Arizona. Read on for a look at this chilling artifact of the Cold War.

    From the outside, the Titan II missile museum doesn't look like much just a small building housing the gift shop, a few dopplers outside, and a dust-colored steel mound covering the missile underneath.



    But, after a short introductory video inside the main building, visitors embark on a guided tour in the control room and the hidden silo itself, which reaches 147 feet underground.



    When the silo was operational, personnel on duty descended into the control room through the access portal and into the entrapment area, where they had to confirm their clearance to access the site using a code spoken through a telephone like the one below.



    Four crew members were on duty at all times in the silo. Each crew member served a 24-hour shift, and no crew member could be left alone during the shift because of the classified activity at the site.



    The 24-hour clock in the control room was set to Zulu, or Greenwich Mean Time, and had to be rewound manually every eight days. It's still ticking for visitors.



    The control room, where crew members awaited a phone call from the National Command Authority telling them to launch the Titan II missile, looks exactly as it did when the site was commissioned in 1963.



    The facility, one of 18 in the Tucson area and 54 total in the US, became operational in 1963, and was deactivated in 1982 during then-President Ronald Reagan's effort to upgrade the US's nuclear weapons. The other facilities were in the areas surrounding Little Rock, Arkansas, and McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas.



    The control room is separated from the outer wall of the facility by 11 inches of highly engineered shock absorbers so that in the event of a nuclear blast or some other type of explosion, the crew members in the control room wouldn't even spill their coffee, according to tour guide Jim Sprigg.



    The missile itself was launched from the control room by two crew members simultaneously turning their launch keys at their control stations. Fifty-eight seconds after the keys were turned, the missile would launch, "and no human could stop it," Sprigg said.



    At the Sahuarita facility, the missile's destination was Target 2 and none of the crew members knew where that was. The information is still classified to this day.



    The Titan II would reach its target destination 30 to 35 minutes after it was launched. Powered by 43,000 pounds of thrust, the missile had a yield of nine megatons about 250 times the yield of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.



    This drawer held the launch keys for the missile, and the locks on either side of the drawer were considered classified equipment.



    Target 2 was designated as a ground burst, meaning the Titan II at Sahuarita was intended to destroy a facility underground by concentrating its explosive force downward. Its hypergolic propellants nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine ignited only when they combined, creating a fast and reliable detonation.



    Several scenes from Star Trek: First Contact were filmed here at the museum. It's one of only two such museums in the US the other being the Minuteman Missile Silo in South Dakota.



    The crew on duty inspected the missile silo facilities top to bottom each day a process that could take three to four hours.




    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 15:26:01 -0500
  • Scientists found a new way to get 'forever chemicals' linked to cancer out of our water. They're in the bloodstreams of 99% of Americans.

    PFAS plasma reactor

    More than 70 years ago, a group of chemicals known as PFAS promised to make people's lives easier and more efficient. The category of chemicals — whose full name is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — was developed in the 1940s to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. That made them ideal coatings for food packaging, paper plates, and cookware. 

    They were also used as firefighting foam for military training exercises and emergency responses starting in the 1970s.

    But since then, scientists have uncovered links between PFAS and cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, and developmental issues.

    Today, the chemicals are in the bloodstreams of 99% of Americans, The Intercept reported. They've been found at more than 700 sites across 49 US states, according to EWG.

    PFAS can linger in water and air for thousands of years, so consuming or inhaling them means they could stay in the body for life — hence their nickname, "forever chemicals."

    But a group of researchers at Clarkson University in New York is developing a way to destroy PFAS in water. Together with the US Air Force, the team is using machines called plasma reactors to sever the chemicals' carbon-fluorine bonds — the same bonds that make them virtually indestructible in the environment. 

    The technology applies only to PFAS in groundwater. (The researchers are working on a separate project to remove PFAS from soil.) But it could eventually be cheaper than the current water-filtration process.

    Scientists are splitting PFAS molecules apart

    The Air Force began using a new firefighting foam that doesn't contain PFAS in July 2018, but it still has to contend with the legacy of the old one. The chemicals have gotten into the groundwater at numerous Air Force bases across the US, forcing the military to spend more than $2.2 billion to clean up PFAS-contaminated sites, according to a report on the Environmental Protection Agency's website. 

    That's why the Air Force is looking for a cheaper way to clean contaminated water.

    Clarkson plasma reactor

    To test their technology, the Clarkson researchers built a 20-foot-long mobile trailer that holds two plasma reactors. For two weeks in September, they pumped PFAS-contaminated groundwater from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio into the reactors.

    Argon gas at the bottom of the reactors carries the PFAS molecules to the surface. The researchers then use high-voltage electrodes to generate plasma, an ionized gas made of free-roaming electrons and positive ions. 

    The plasma zaps the water's surface, where it spreads across like fire, hitting the PFAS molecules and splitting them apart. Once the carbon and fluorine molecules have been separated, the PFAS compound is effectively destroyed. 

    Clarkson researcher.JPG

    Selma Mededovic, the principal researcher overseeing the project, said treating a single gallon of water this way takes one minute.

    That's far slower than one of the standard methods for removing PFAS: adding carbon to contaminated water. With that approach, the chemicals stick to carbon, allowing clean water to be filtered out. Hundreds of gallons of water per minute can be treated this way, but Mededovic said the spent carbon needed to be incinerated afterward.

    That incineration process costs about $3 to $4 per gallon of contaminated water, she said. Her plasma method, by contrast, is at least 40% cheaper (though the estimate does not include the cost of the reactors).

    Mededovic said she would have a better sense of how much the reactors cost once the first commercial prototype is built. She expects it to be operational by the end of this year.  

    In the meantime, her team is ramping up the technology to treat 15 gallons of contaminated water per minute. Eventually, they hope to treat about 200 gallons per minute.  

    "We are working on scaling up our process to be competitive to carbon," Mededovic said. 

    The EPA doesn't have a legal limit for PFAS in water

    The Clarkson team's plasma reactor reduces PFAS concentrations in water well below the EPA's general limit for drinking-water contaminants: 70 parts per trillion.

    But environmental groups have expressed concern that the limit is too high when it comes to PFAS. (The nonprofit Environmental Working Group endorses a limit of one part per trillion). 

    The EPA pledged to develop national drinking-water regulations for PFAS by the end of 2019, but the deadline came and went.

    On Friday, the US House of Representatives passed a group of measures that would require the EPA to set that guideline. The measures would also label PFAS as "hazardous substances," which would allow the EPA to require industrial manufacturers to clean them up. 

    The Trump administration has threatened to veto the measures, however, calling them "problematic and unreasonable" and a "litigation risk."

    But Mededovic said even scientific innovations like hers aren't enough without regulations.

    "Elevated levels of PFAS have been found in many public and private water sources, and we need to regulate these compounds," she said. "Companies need to be accountable for what they're producing and releasing."

    SEE ALSO: A scientist who worked at a company that's being sued over dumping 'forever chemicals' warns the toxins 'stay in your blood and don't leave'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A molecular biologist warns chemicals in plastic can seep into food and lead to major health effects like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes


    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 15:24:00 -0500
  • A controversial Nike sneaker worn by 2 record-breaking marathon champions is at risk of being banned. A decision may come within weeks.

    Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder, crosses the finish line during his attempt to run a marathon in under two hours in Vienna, Austria, October 12, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

    The man and woman who hold the world records for fastest marathon have something in common: They both compete in Nike Vaporfly shoes.

    Eliud Kipchoge, who broke the record at the 2018 Berlin marathon, donned a Vaporfly prototype for that race and again in October when he ran the first sub-2-hour marathon ever. Brigid Kosgei beat the previous world record by 81 seconds when she finished the 2019 Chicago marathon in 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 4 seconds.

    Both independent and Nike-sponsored studies have showed that the shoes increase athletes' energetic efficiency by 4% or more. 

    But some runners and experts say the footwear confers an unfair advantage.

    World Athletics, which governs most international track and field events, formed a working group of athletes, scientists, and legal experts to review the shoe and its technology last fall. The organization's decision about whether or not to ban or regulate Vaporflys could come within weeks.

    Nicole Jefferies, head of communications for World Athletics, told Business Insider in an email on Wednesday that the group "is still deliberating at this point, but we hope to be able to make an announcement at the end of this month."

    The controversy comes down to 'unfair assistance or advantage'

    NYC marathon 2019

    World Athletics' current rules say running shoes can't confer any "unfair assistance or advantage" and have to be "reasonably available" to everyone. But the organization doesn't define those standards more specifically. According to Jefferies, the working group is also reviewing the wording of the rule.

    The group hasn't issued its decision yet, despite some recent news stories suggesting a ban is imminent.

    Once it does makes a recommendation, then the World Athletics Council (the organization's primary decision-making body) will discuss that suggestion and make a decision, likely by February.

    The challenge, World Athletics said last year, is finding "the right balance in the technical rules between encouraging the development and use of new technologies in athletics and the preservation of the fundamental characteristics of the sport: accessibility, universality and fairness."

    NYC marathon winner 2019

    Vaporflys help runners lose less energy per step

    The secret to Nike's technology is in the sole.

    In addition to protecting our legs from the impact of striking the ground, running shoes store and release energy to propel us forward. The midsole acts like a spring, compressing when a runner lands, storing the energy from that foot strike, and expanding again to return that stored energy into the ground to push them forward.

    Not all of that stored energy gets returned with each footfall, though — some dissipates as heat. But the Vaporfly soles fuse together a foam layer and carbon-fiber plate in order to minimize that lost energy. This helps runners get the most forward push for each stride; in other words, they can run faster for the same energy expenditure. 

    kipchoge marathon vienna

    A February 2019 study conducted independently of Nike found that the Vaporfly shoes improved an athlete's running economy by 4.2% compared to Adidas Adizero Adios 3 shoes.

    "The runner runs the race, but the shoe enables him or her to run it faster for the same effort or ability," Geoff Burns, a kinesiology researcher and pro-runner, previously told Business Insider. "So for two athletes of equal ability on race day, the one with the shoes is going to beat the one without the shoes."

    What a ban or rule might look like — and what Nike could do about it

    Many runners sponsored by other shoe companies would like to see World Athletics issue rules about Nike Vaporflys. Sara Hall, an Asics-sponsored runner, told Outside Online last year that because of the shoes, "it's hard to really just celebrate performances at face value right now."

    "I think it would help to have some limits, just like other sports have, like swimming, or triathlon, or cycling," she added. "They all have limits of the gear. So I think that would help create more of an even playing field."

    nike vaporfly

    According to Burns, one option could be to limit how thick a shoe's midsole can be. Current Vaporfly models have 1.4-inch-thick soles, whereas midsoles of other racing shoes generally hover around 1 inch, Burns noted in a paper published in October

    "As we allow that height limit to go greater and greater, more and more of that energy recycling is being done by the shoe, so the performances are less and less human," he said.

    So Burns suggested capping the thickness at 1 inch — a change he thinks "would define the space on a runner that can be a 'shoe' and allow companies to innovate within that space."

    Kipchoge 2016 rio marathon

    If World Athletics doesn't rule in Nike's favor, the company could appeal the decision through the Court of Arbitration for Sport. That independent institution settles sports-related disputes, but it's notoriously slow to do so; the court's website says "ordinary procedure lasts between 6 and 12 months."

    So even if World Athletics announces a ban at the end of January and Nike appeals immediately, the court's 6-month turnaround would mean a decision probably wouldn't come before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics start. During that time, the shoes would remain prohibited. So Kipchoge, who plans to defend his gold medal this summer, would not be allowed to race in his preferred Vaporflys.

    SEE ALSO: Nike's controversial Vaporfly shoes are helping runners set new records, but some think it's 'technology doping.' Here's how they work.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Silicon Valley’s ultimate status symbol is the sneaker here are the rare, expensive, and goofy sneakers worn by the top tech CEOs


    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 14:36:00 -0500
  • Buzzy health startup Oscar is making a big bet on a crucial change to how you get your healthcare. The CEO shared how he thinks that will happen.

    Oscar Health CEO Mario Schlosser

    • Oscar Health CEO Mario Schlosser thinks a big shift is coming in how Americans get their health insurance.
    • Schlosser thinks that over time, fewer people will get their health insurance through their jobs. 
    • "I do think this will over time lead to a gradual then sudden disappearance of the employer market," Schlosser said on Monday during a presentation at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.
    • Oscar sells insurance on the individual exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act to small businesses and to seniors via Medicare Advantage plans. The company on Monday announced a partnership with Cigna to expand small-business insurance sales.
    • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

    Oscar Health CEO Mario Schlosser is keeping an eye out for a fundamental change in how Americans get healthcare. 

    For many Americans, their employers are the ones picking up the tab for their healthcare. More than half of the nonelderly population is covered by an employer-sponsored healthcare plan. Schlosser doesn't think that's always going to be the case. 

    "I do think this will over time lead to a gradual then sudden disappearance of the employer market," Schlosser said on Monday during a presentation at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

    He pointed to the introduction of the Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement that allows employers to provide workers with pretax dollars they can use to go out and buy health plans on the individual exchanges or Medicare, rather than paying for group health plans. 

    Never miss out on healthcare news. Subscribe to Dispensed, our weekly newsletter on pharma, biotech, and healthcare.

    Unraveling employer-provided health insurance

    Ideally, that could increase the number of people buying health insurance on the Affordable Care Act's markets, making plans more affordable, he said. But it'll take some initial employers to pave the way and convince other companies that it's a feasible way to provide health coverage, he said. 

    "There's just so little logic for employers to be in the insurance markets that they've been in for the last 80 years," Schlosser told Business Insider in an interview on the sidelines of the conference. "That logic's going to eventually unravel."

    Changing the way Americans get their healthcare isn't an easy task, even as employers are spending more on health-insurance premiums than ever. Companies are reluctant to make big changes to the insurance that they give their workers.

    "I think there's a system in place that employs millions of people that for millions of people works really well. That's the employer-funded healthcare system," Progyny CEO David Schlanger, whose company works with self-insured employers to provide fertility benefits, told Business Insider.

    Oscar expanded significantly for 2020

    Oscar sells insurance on the individual exchanges set up by the ACA to small businesses and to seniors through Medicare Advantage plans. The company had 235,371 members as of September 30, slightly more than the company had in 2018.

    In 2020, the company expects to have 400,000 members and make $2 billion in gross premium revenue, Schlosser told investors on Monday. 

    That's in part because of the new markets it has entered in 2020. It offers private Medicare Advantage plans to seniors in New York and Houston. The company is also selling Obamacare plans in 12 new markets for this year, including in four new states.

    Read more: $3.2 billion health-insurance startup Oscar Health just revealed plans to offer a new kind of coverage in 2 cities

    Oscar has raised more than $1 billion from investors enticed by its promise of a new tech-driven approach to health insurance. In August 2018, it raised $375 million from Google's parent company, Alphabet.

    Oscar's health-plan collaboration with Cigna

    During the presentation, Schlosser said Oscar and the health insurer Cigna would be joining forces to offer health plans to small businesses. The companies plan to identify four markets to enter by the end of 2020. 

    "This will let us go faster to more markets," Schlosser said.

    He cited issues Oscar has had in the past in the small-employer market, such as the challenges of building networks of doctors and hospitals. For instance, if an employer based in New York had a few employees who lived in Connecticut, where Oscar doesn't have a network, it couldn't offer the plan to those employees.

    Eventually, the plan is to use the relationship with Cigna to offer small-business coverage nationally, Schlosser said.

    "I think we can become one of the dominant small-group players," he said. 

    The Cigna partnership helps demonstrate that Oscar's tech is modular enough that the company might be able to sell parts of it to different users, Schlosser said.

    "We're still building all this stuff for ourselves," Schlosser said. "The first client is still Oscar."

    For Cigna, working with Oscar helps the insurance giant sell to small companies with fewer than 50 employees. Cigna hadn't previously targeted those companies, an executive said.

    "What this does is bring a fully insured choice to that one to 50 small-group marketplace," Julie McCarter, the vice president of product solutions at Cigna, told Business Insider. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 13:04:00 -0500
  • Microsoft's newest 'moonshot' would make it carbon negative by 2030 – and eventually remove all of the carbon it has emitted since it was founded in 1975 from the environment (MSFT)

    Brad Smith Microsoft

    • Microsoft announced a plan on Thursday to become carbon negative by 2030 — meaning that it will remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits.
    • The company's ultimate goal is to remove from the environment by 2050 all of the carbon the company has emitted since it was founded in 1975.
    • Brad Smith, the company's president, released a plan that includes converting to renewable energy sources, focusing on using electric vehicles, and expanding an internal carbon tax.
    • Microsoft will also launch $1 billion fund to finance carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies over the next four years.
    • Climate change has become a workplace issue for technology companies as employees call for greater measures to reduce their impact.
    • This article is part of the Better Capitalism series, which tracks the ways companies and individuals are rethinking the economy and role of business in society.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Microsoft announced a plan on Thursday to become carbon negative by 2030 — meaning that it will remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits. The company's ultimate goal is to remove from the environment by 2050 all of the carbon the company has emitted since it was founded in 1975.

    The plan, unveiled by Microsoft President Brad Smith on Thursday, includes a converting to renewable energy sources, focusing on using electric vehicles, expanding an internal carbon tax, and launching a $1 billion fund to finance carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies over the next four years.

    Smith at a pre-briefing of the news earlier this week spoke about the initiative not only as a means to reduce and remove Microsoft's carbon emissions, but to "take one step that will bring more of the business community into conversation about this issue" and help the larger public understand how carbon offsetting works.

    "This is a bold bet — a moonshot — for Microsoft," Smith said in announcing his plan. "And it will need to become a moonshot for the world."

    Microsoft plans to remove more carbon than it emits by 2030 and by 2050 remove all of the carbon Microsoft has emitted directly, or through electrical consumption, since it was founded in 1975. Microsoft will publish a report on its progress annually. 

    The plan

    The company wants to remove carbon through building a portfolio each year of negative emissions technologies, which could include creating and replacing forests, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in soil, and other means to capture and store carbon. 

    Microsoft has a detailed plan including shifting to 100 percent renewable energy sources for its data centers and buildings by 2025, using electric vehicles for its global campus operations by 2030 and pursuing green building certification for its campus overhauls at its Redmond, Washington, headquarters and in Silicon Valley.

    Microsoft plans to cut emissions in half by 2030 – both its direct emissions and through its supply and value chain – in an effort funded by the expansion of Microsoft's internal carbon fee.

    Right now, Microsoft divisions pay a $15 fee toward sustainability efforts for each metric ton of carbon they emitted either directly or through electrical consumption.

    Smith said Microsoft will expand the fee to include carbon emitted through its supply chain, calculating things like the carbon emitted by manufacturing the products it buys or producing the materials it uses in buildings.

    The company also plans carbon reduction an explicit part of its procurement process when it selects suppliers beginning next summer.

    The $1 billion fund

    As part of the plan, Microsoft will launch a new $1 billion fund to "accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies."

    Microsoft plans to invest $1 billion over the next four years through a mix of project and debt finance – essentially loans – as well as equity investments.

    Microsoft will evaluate investments based on criteria including whether the investment has the prospect of driving meaningful decarbonization, and whether a technology Microsoft can use to address its own "climate debt," as Smith called it, and emissions.

    Climate change becomes a workplace issue

    Meanwhile, climate change has become a contentious workplace issue for technology companies as employees call for greater measures to reduce their impact.

    Amazon employees who criticized the company's work with oil and gas companies, for example, recently said the company threatened to fire them for speaking out. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday called climate change deniers "unreasonable" and the company has said it has been supportive of climate change policies.

    Microsoft since at least 2016 has tried to position itself as a leader in technology industry ethics – an effort led largely by Smith, who in his Microsoft biography mentions that the New York Times called him "a de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large."

    SEE ALSO: Ray Dalio says that everybody is missing the key metric for saving America's economy from inequality productivity

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 12:30:00 -0500
  • Elon Musk keeps traveling to Texas to work on SpaceX's new Starship rocket. A local thinks the CEO now uses a historic home as a crash pad — take a look inside.

    spacex starship mk1 mark 1 steel test model boca chica south texas sunset flickr 48954138902_e9ae0d1a65_o

    • SpaceX is working feverishly to develop Starship, a new rocket system that may stand 39 stories tall, be fully reusable, and revolutionize humanity's access to space.
    • Company founder Elon Musk regularly travels to the Starship development site in Boca Chica, Texas. He has stayed there for days at a time to work long late hours on prototypes alongside SpaceX staff.
    • Lodging is tricky, though: The nearest hotel is at least a 30-minute drive away in Brownsville, Texas, and his high public profile poses a security risk.
    • However, SpaceX is purchasing homes in the area, and a local is convinced Musk has been staying in an historic A-frame-style home that Business Insider photographed in April.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    Making it cheap to get humans and their stuff to and from space is no easy undertaking. But Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, is rushing to do just that at the southern tip of Texas and may be crashing in a historic A-frame home to catch what rest he can between long slogs of work.

    Musk has been working late on an unprecedented rocket system called Starship. If realized, the final vehicle would be made of steel, stand 387 feet tall, and be fully reusable. Since most rockets today fall into the ocean after one use, Starship's reusability positions it to replace all other systems by slashing the cost of launching to space by more than 90%.

    According to Musk, Starship would be even cheaper to operate per flight than SpaceX's own partly reusable Falcon 9 rockets. Where Falcon 9 costs the company tens of millions of dollars to fly up to 25 tons of payload, Starship might cost just $2 million to launch up to 100 tons, Musk said in November.

    Such a system could deploy hundreds of SpaceX's next-generation Starlink internet satellites, heave gigantic telescopes into space for NASA, and ferry dozens of passengers into orbit at once. But Musk's big "aspirational" goals for Starship include sending the first cargo to Mars in 2022, launching the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a crew of artists around the moon in 2023, and rocketing the first crewed mission to Mars in 2024.

    "I think we could potentially see people fly next year," Musk said in September while unveiling a Starship prototype in Boca Chica, Texas, where SpaceX is building out a private launch site and basing its development program.

    Musk now travels to South Texas at least monthly, according to social-media posts by Musk and others, for hands-on work toward launching the first Starship prototype, which he said might fly as soon as February or March.

    During a visit in late December, Musk tweeted he was "up all night" working on the "most difficult part" of Starship's steel structure: the domed ends of 30-foot-wide propellant tanks. (Such a dome failed during a pressurization test weeks earlier, sending it flying hundreds of feet into the air and across a state highway.)

    People who live in the area — and whom SpaceX is trying to buy out— find it hard to ignore Musk's presence, given his heavy security detail and onlookers who flock to their remote and formerly sleepy retiree-age beach community.

    At least one resident, whose identity Business Insider has verified but who asked not to be named because of ongoing property-sale negotiations with SpaceX, said Musk almost certainly now crashes in an A-frame-style house that SpaceX recently acquired.

    "It's perfect," the resident said, adding that the house is not only the nicest of about 30 homes in the area but also the only place that's "secluded and security-controlled."

    Here's a look inside the home, which also has a special historic significance to the Boca Chica area.

    SEE ALSO: How Elon Musk's 'UFO on a stick' devices may turn SpaceX internet subscribers into the Starlink satellite network's secret weapon

    DON'T MISS: Inside the 'awkward,' 'tense,' and 'heated' private meeting between Elon Musk and Texans whom SpaceX is trying to buy out to fully realize its vision to reach Mars

    SpaceX's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, is a lonely 30-minute drive east of Brownsville down Highway 4.



    The spit of land at the end, called Boca Chica by locals, is remote, relatively uninhabited, and close to the ocean, making it an attractive area to launch big rockets. SpaceX got permission to break ground on a private launch site in summer 2014.

    Source: Business Insider



    But SpaceX precariously placed its launch site in and around Boca Chica Village, where dozens of residents still live.

    Source: Business Insider



    Some of their homes sit within 2 miles of the launch site. A former NASA space-shuttle-program director previously told Business Insider that this was "cutting it too close."

    Source: Business Insider



    A handful of residents sold their homes to SpaceX even before the company arrived, though many of their neighbors waited to see what would happen. The site was relatively inactive until late 2018, when SpaceX began building Starship prototypes.

    Source: Business Insider



    Soon enough, SpaceX was test-firing rocket ships. One test in July inadvertently started an uncontrolled brush fire across dozens of acres of a nearby wildlife preserve. A couple months later, the company made every homeowner a buyout offer: three times a base appraisal for their properties.

    Sources: Business Insider (1, 2)



    Frank Pearce, an immigration attorney who lives in Dallas, was one of the first residents to take SpaceX's offer. His history with the unusual A-frame house and guesthouse dates back more than 12 years.



    Pearce's former property is close to SpaceX's expanding Starship project at the southwestern edge of town. Boca Chica Village sits just northeast of SpaceX's work yard.



    SpaceX has purchased many homes in the area and bunks some of its workers in them. It uses others as storage sites and machine shops.



    The A-frame property sits far away from those homes that line a boulevard and the dozens of part- and full-time residents still in the village.



    In an interview months before he sold his property to SpaceX, Pearce told Business Insider that the buildings he bought were "shacks" that were "falling apart."



    But he saw the property's potential as a secluded beachside getaway. Pearce said he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating the site into a comfortable retreat.



    He didn't have much of a choice, though: Cameron County doesn't permit the construction of new residential buildings in the area. "You had to rehab anything that was here," he said.



    The property also has a notable history. In the 1950s and '60s, John Kaputa, a Chicago radio DJ and investor, set out to build a community for Polish Americans called Kennedy Shores. Pearce's A-frames were the models.

    Source: Texas State Historical Association



    There was even a hotel built, but Hurricane Beulah in 1967 flooded the area with a storm surge, fouling the water system. The community Kaputa envisioned never panned out and was renamed Kopernik Shores and later Boca Chica Village. (Fresh water is now trucked in.)

    Source: Texas State Historical Association



    The A-frames survived Beulah, eventually ending up in the hands of Pearce and now SpaceX. As is customary for the company, SpaceX renamed a street on its new site "Rocket Road."



    The street curves past the A-frame houses and toward SpaceX's main gate.



    In fact, the main gate of the work yard is just a short walk away from Pearce's former property.



    It's similarly close to Stargate, a launch control center built by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to support SpaceX activities and research opportunities.



    Inside, the main house's sloped ceiling is spacious.



    Several small bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen are on the ground floor.



    The kitchen is decked out with modern appliances ...



    ... and plenty of beach kitsch.



    That's because Boca Chica Beach, an untamed and publicly accessible strip of land, is just 2 miles away.



    The kitchen and living room lead out to a small patio.



    A spiral staircase winds up to the loft floor.



    It's bright, clean, and roomy up there.



    Around the corner is the master bedroom, which faces a secluded bay behind the property. After selling, Pearce said it wouldn't surprise him if Musk used the home. "I would have brought the king of England in and let him sleep there," Pearce said.



    The loft looks down into the living room, which has a wood-burning stove for cold nights.



    A balcony looks east with a view of SpaceX's work yard and, a couple of miles away, the launch pad.



    Pearce wired cameras all over the premises for extra security but mainly for when he was gone for months. "I used to be able to go out in the backyard and shoot my little pistol," he said. "I could also go up on the balcony in my underwear, and I never worried about it."



    But then SpaceX arrived, bringing a constant stream of equipment, construction, and people into the area. Pearce said for a time, he envisioned renting out his property to spaceflight fans as the "Rocket Road Bed and Breakfast."



    The guesthouse is smaller and less refined, taking on more of a log-cabin vibe.



    It has a foosball table, games, movies, and other amenities. Pearce recently told Business Insider he took only a small box of things, leaving pretty much everything else to SpaceX: TVs, appliances, bedding, and even silverware.



    As a courtesy, Pearce also built a stone walkway between the main and guest houses right before he left. "I turned the keys over to SpaceX security on December 22," Pearce told Business Insider in an email. "Although I had until December 31st, they really wanted it as soon as possible I assume for the CEO's visit the next week."



    And almost as soon as Pearce moved out, the anonymous resident said, Musk arrived in the area for Starship prototyping work and the lights went on in Pearce's house. "It's the only place he could stay," the resident said.



    Despite the planned transformation of the Boca Chica site into a Mars spaceport, Pearce said SpaceX told him the company had no intention of bulldozing his old place. "Out of all the deals they made, I think they like mine the most," Pearce said. "You can wake up, have a cup of coffee, and within a couple hundred yards, go to the Stargate center or meet with your buddies and converse about Mars."



    SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider for this story. Company representatives in past years have routinely declined to comment on the whereabouts of executives.

    Have a story or information to share? Send Dave Mosher an email at dmosher+tips@businessinsider.com or consider more secure communication options listed here.

    This story was been updated with new images and information shortly after publication.




    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 11:52:44 -0500
  • A gut-wrenching photo of a dead turtle stuck in fishing line puts the plastic problem in stark relief. The image won a prestigious award.

    Ocean Art Underwater Conservation1_Shane_Gross_Victim

    The open mouth and empty eyes in the jarring image above belong to a dead Pacific green sea turtle.

    From the photo, it's not hard to determine its cause of death: A metal hook tied to plastic fishing line remains caught in the turtle's jaw.

    The image, which photographer Shane Gross took while diving in Eleuthera, Bahamas, recently won an award in the annual Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition. It took first place in a newly created category: conservation.

    "My dive buddy came to me in tears talking about a poor turtle that was already long dead, tangled in fishing line," Gross wrote in his contest entry. "She didn't have time to remove the line, so she told me where it was and I went back. I didn't want any scavengers to also become entangled. I took my camera because images like this can become warnings for the future."

    Hundreds of thousands of pounds of fishing gear sit discarded in the ocean — part of a larger epidemic of plastic pollution. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean annually. Approximately 165 million tons of plastic are currently there already, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

    Plastic 'ghost gear' can haunt the ocean

    Thousands of photographers across 78 countries submitted their work to the underwater photo contest. Runner-up photos in the conservation category offered other perspectives from the front lines of the plastics crisis: an anglerfish struggling against a dense plastic net, and a reef manta ray attempting to filter feed on plastic particles (below).

    Underwater Conservation3_Brooke Lori_Pyke _Plastic Soup

    Gross' image, however, stood out to the judges because of its emotional impact.

    Plastic pieces in the ocean range in size from microplastics just 1 millimeter across to plastic bottles and straws. All of these bits of garbage can pose dangers to marine life, but large discarded fishing equipment, sometimes called "ghost gear," is particularly deadly.

    According to a United Nations report, approximately 640,000 tons of ghost gear enters the ocean every year. That's the equivalent of about 50,000 double-decker buses. 

    A beach polluted with plastic litter at Kuta, Bali, Indonesia. There was plastic as far as you can see, at the beach and swimming in the water

    Researchers have also found that the rate at which sea creatures get tangled in plastic increased 10-fold between 2000 and 2016. Of that total, discarded nets and fishing lines caused 55% of the entanglements; plastic bags caused 10%; and the rest came from nylon, string, and other plastics.

    Turtles that get trapped in fishing nets often can't get to the surface to breathe, which can lead to them to drown.

    Green sea turtles like the one in Gross' photograph are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In most countries, hunting and killing them are prohibited.

    "We don't want any other turtles, or any creatures, to become doomed to the same unfortunate fate: drowned and wasted thanks to our negligence," Gross wrote.

    SEE ALSO: 32 award-winning underwater photos reveal a troupe of tiny seahorses, a hot-pink sea slug, and fish living in beer bottles

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    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 11:44:00 -0500
  • CVS-Aetna will offer low-cost care for members using CVS Health services

    Select Aetna health plan members who use CVS Health services, like those offered in its HealthHub locations, can look forward to "zero" cost and "low copay" treatment options, according to statements made by CVS CEO Larry Merlo at this year's JPMorgan Chase Healthcare conference.

    Three Companies Have Grown To Control Over Two Thirds Of The US Pharmacy Market

    This announcement aligns with other recent moves CVS has taken to more closely integrate its retail pharmacy business with Aetna — the US' third largest health insurer by membership — after their $70 billion merger in late 2018. 

    Key to the success of CVS-Aetna's new plans will be the expansion of CVS' HealthHub retail clinics, which are set to become a central pillar of CVS' growth and innovation strategies.

    A surge in foot traffic to HealthHubs from Aetna members could help drive revenue growth in CVS' lagging retail pharmacy business. CVS rolled out its first HealthHub locations in Houston, TX in early 2019, vowing to launch 600 new HealthHubs by the end of 2020 and 1,500 by end of year 2021.

    HealthHubs differ from traditional CVS pharmacies by placing a greater emphasis on health, boasting walk-in clinics and care concierge teams, for example — which has brought about increased store traffic, and stronger front-store margins, Merlo recently told CNBC's Jim Cramer.

    And CVS' retail pharmacy business could use the help: It was the worst-performing segment of CVS' business in Q3 2019, with revenue inching up a mere 2.9% annually. But the segment could see stronger growth if CVS successfully herds Aetna members toward its one-stop-shop HealthHub locations, where they can receive in-person care for general ailments, access routine medical services, and pick up their meds.

    And offering convenient, comprehensive in-person health services could help the pharmacy chain ward off competition from digital pharmacy upstarts and better appeal to millennials. Despite controlling nearly 30% of the total US pharmacy market as of 2017, CVS ranked dead last among brick-and-mortar pharmacy chains when it comes to customer satisfaction, per a 2019 JD Power report.

    And unhappy consumers could spell trouble for CVS, as they could jump ship to any of the upstarts racing into the retail pharmacy realm, like NYC-based Capsule, an e-pharmacy startup that bagged $200 million in funding back in September to scale its no-cost, same-day medication delivery service nationwide.

    But doubling down on its  HealthHub stores — which Merlo said will cover 80% of what a primary care doctor is capable of treating — could help keep customers within the CVS Health ecosystem, while placing a new focus on easily accessible retail clinics may also help CVS capture new millennial customers: Nearly 25% of US millennials say they've gone five or more years without seeing a primary care doctor — and over 30% cite inconvenience as the primary reason why, according to a 2019 Harmony Healthcare IT survey.

    The CVS-Aetna merger is part of a growing trend of consolidation we've observed among large US insurers, providers, and pharmacies — but these firms will need to be careful not to draw antitrust scrutiny in their pursuit of vertical integration. Health insurer Cigna shelled out $67 billion to purchase the US' second largest pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) Express Scripts in 2018.

    And less than a year later, CVS followed suit with its own gargantuan deal to merge with Aetna: The result of that tie-up is that CVS now controls the third largest US health insurance company, the second largest pharmacy chain in the US, and the country's largest PBM in CVS Caremark, per data from Open Markets Institute.

    In other words, one company (CVS) is doing business with itself across three fronts: It's the insurance company, the pharmacy dispensing medication to its members, and the middleman responsible for negotiating between the two so that customers get the best rates. But I (Zach) have doubts about how long these massive healthcare organizations can continue to skirt antitrust concerns, as it will likely become increasingly difficult for independent pharmacies and providers to compete, and federal lawmakers are beginning to raise questions around some of healthcare's megadeals.

    Want to read more stories like this one? Here's how to get access:

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    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:30:00 -0500
  • 'I owe the American people an apology': A former healthcare executive says he's sorry for devising the biggest argument against Medicare for All

    Medicare for All rally, protest

    • Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive and now pro-Medicare for All activist, apologized for his role in designing the biggest argument against industry reform in a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday.
    • He was referring to the idea of choice, or put another way, the freedom of Americans to pick their own health insurance plans and which doctors they want to see.
    • The activist called it "a PR concoction," one filling him with "everlasting regret."
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    A former executive at a prominent health insurance company had one thing to say recently: I'm sorry.

    Wendell Potter, once a vice president for corporate communications at Cigna and now a pro-universal healthcare activist, laid out his apology in the New York Times on Tuesday for crafting one of the biggest arguments used against the creation of a single-payer system in the United States.

    He was referring to the idea of choice, or put another way, the freedom of Americans to pick their own health insurance plans and which doctors they want to see.

    It's a common argument the health industry employs to oppose any attempt to change the system. Most recently, its spearheaded a multimillion dollar effort to throttle proposals for Medicare for All, which would enroll everyone in the US onto a government insurance plan and virtually eliminate the private insurance sector.

    "When the candidates discuss health care, you're bound to hear some of them talk about consumer 'choice,'" Potter wrote, referring to the Democratic primary field. "If the nation adopts systemic health reform, this idea goes, it would restrict the ability of Americans to choose their plans or doctors, or have a say in their care.

    He called it "a good little talking point," effective at casting any reform proposal expanding the government's role in healthcare as drastically damaging.

    But Potter said that defense was ultimately "a P.R. concoction," and one that filled him with "everlasting regret."

    "Those of us in the insurance industry constantly hustled to prevent significant reforms because changes threatened to eat into our companies' enormous profits," Potter wrote.

    Potter resigned his position at Cigna in 2008. And he testified to Congress a year later about the practices of an industry that "flouts regulations" and "makes promises they have no intention of keeping." He's since become a leading reform advocate.

    The activist said in the Times op-ed that healthcare executives were well aware their insurance often severely limited the ability of Americans to personally decide how they accessed and received medical care, unless they wanted to pay huge sums of money out of their own pockets.

    "But those of us who held senior positions for the big insurers knew that one of the huge vulnerabilities of the system is its lack of choice," Potter said. "In the current system, Americans cannot, in fact, pick their own doctors, specialists or hospitals — at least, not without incurring huge 'out of network' bills."

    The "choice" talking point, Potter wrote, polled well in focus groups that insurers set up to test their messaging against reform plans, leading them to adopt it.

    Now he is shocked to see an argument that he had a hand in engineering used among Democrats battling to claim their party's nomination to face off against President Trump in the 2020 election — and Potter says the insurers likely see it as a huge victory for them.

    "What's different now is that it's the Democrats parroting the misleading 'choice' talking point — and even using it as a weapon against one another," Potter wrote. "Back in my days working in insurance P.R., this would have stunned me. It's why I believe my former colleagues are celebrating today."

    One of the biggest divides among Democratic candidates is on health reform.

    The progressive wing of the party, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, largely supports enacting Medicare for All. So does Sen. Elizabeth Warren, though she's tempered her rhetoric backing it in the last few months after rolling out her own universal healthcare plan and drawing criticism for its hefty $20.5 trillion price tag.

    Moderates like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are pushing to create an optional government insurance plan for Americans instead. They've argued that a single-payer system could kick millions of Americans off their private insurance and restrict their ability to manage their care — echoing the line of attack used by the healthcare industry.

    Potter had a warning for voters as they head to the polls in this year's election.

    "My advice to voters is that if politicians tell you they oppose reforming the health care system because they want to preserve your 'choice' as a consumer, they don't know what they're talking about or they're willfully ignoring the truth," Potter wrote in the op-ed. "Either way, the insurance industry is delighted. I would know."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A big-money investor in juggernauts like Facebook and Netflix breaks down the '3rd wave' firms that are leading the next round of tech disruption


    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:22:04 -0500
  • Nike's controversial Vaporfly shoes are helping runners set new records, but some think it's 'technology doping.' Here's how they work.

    nyc marathon winner skitched

    • The winner of the 2019 New York marathon, Geoffrey Kamworor, and the world marathon record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, both wear Nike Vaporfly shoes.
    • Research suggests Vaporflys give runners more energetic efficiency because the shoes' foam-and-carbon sole structure ensures less energy is lost with each step.
    • One researcher thinks World Athletics, which governs most international track and field events, should regulate the thickness of shoes' midsoles to avoid any unfair advantages.
    • World Athletics told Business Insider that it hopes to make an announcement at the end of this month regarding a possible ban on the shoe technology.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    The winner of the 2019 New York City marathon and the fastest marathoner in the world share a few things in common: They're both from Kenya, they train together, and they wear Nike Vaporfly running shoes.

    Geoffrey Kamworor wore the shoes on November 3, when he finished the New York marathon in 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 13 seconds. Eliud Kipchoge, who holds the world marathon record, donned a Vaporfly prototype in October when he ran the first sub-2-hour marathon ever.

    But some runners and researchers think the footwear confers an unfair advantage. Both independent and Nike-sponsored studies have confirmed that the shoes increase athletes' energetic efficiency by 4% or more, which yields significant dividends in marathon-length distances. The shoes' foam and carbon-fiber sole is designed to ensure that less energy is lost in each footfall.

    World Athletics, which governs most international track and field events (it was formerly known as the International Association of Athletics Federations), formed a working group to review the shoe and its technology last fall.

    Now, a decision from the group could come within weeks.

    NYC marathon 2019

    Nicole Jefferies, head of communications for World Athletics, told Business Insider in an email on Wednesday that the group "is still deliberating at this point, but we hope to be able to make an announcement at the end of this month."

    "Any change to the rule must be approved by the World Athletics Council, so no decision has been made yet," she added.

    The Nike Vaporfly sole helps runners lose less energy per step

    Jake Riley, an American runner who finished ninth in the 2019 Chicago marathon, has said the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes feel like "running on trampolines."

    The secret is in the sole, which is designed to help runners get the most forward push for each stride — in other words, run faster for the same energy expenditure. The soles consist of a foam layer and carbon-fiber plate fused together.

    In addition to protecting our legs from the impact of striking the ground, running shoes store and release energy to propel us forward. The midsole acts like a spring, compressing when a runner lands, storing the energy from that foot strike, and expanding again to return that stored energy into the ground to push them forward.

    Not all of that stored energy gets returned with each footfall, though — some dissipates as heat. But the Vaporfly's design minimizes that of lost energy, giving the runner more bang for the buck.

    "The runner runs the race, but the shoe enables him or her to run it faster for the same effort or ability," Geoff Burns, a kinesiology researcher and pro-runner, told Business Insider in an email. "So for two athletes of equal ability on race day, the one with the shoes is going to beat the one without the shoes."

    Traditional running shoes generally use ethylene vinyl-acetate foam, which returns about 65% of the energy you put into it, according to Burns. The Vaporfly, by contrast, uses a new type of foam called Pebax, which is about 87% efficient. (The patent is owned by a French chemical company called Arkema.) The addition of the carbon-fiber plate helps the Pebax foam compress and expand quickly.

    "Otherwise it would be like a marshmallow," Burns added.

    Kyle Barnes, a movement scientist who authored a study about the Vaporfly shoes in February, told Business Insider that the carbon-fiber plate is curved under the front of the shoes, which also makes a big difference. That curvature, he said, helps quickly rock a runner from their heels to their toes as they land and push off again.

    "As soon as you put the shoes on, you have this 'Aha!' moment in which you know these are different than anything you've put on before," Barnes said. "I have several pairs."

    Over 26.2 miles, 4% more efficiency is a lot

    Barnes' February 2019 study, which he conducted independently of Nike, found that the Vaporfly shoes improved an athlete's running economy by 4.2% compared to Adidas Adizero Adios 3 shoes.

    Another independent study looked at early Vaporfly models in November 2017 and reached the same conclusion: "The prototype shoes lowered the energetic cost of running by 4% on average," the researchers wrote.

    Over marathon-length distances, 4% can mean a lot — a person running a 2-hour-10-minute marathon would see a 3.5-minute improvement in speed. For athletes like Kamworor and Riley, that could be the difference between setting a world record and falling short.

    The authors of the 2017 study even predicted at the time that "with these shoes, top athletes could run substantially faster and achieve the first sub-2-hour marathon."

    Two years later, that prediction came true.

    In October, Kipchoge completed the Ineos 1:59 Challenge marathon in Vienna — an event arranged specifically for him to attempt a sub-two-hour marathon — in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 40 seconds.

    kipchoge marathon vienna

    Kipchoge was wearing a prototype of the Nike Vaporfly, called AlphaFly, which hasn't hit the market yet. The phalanx of pace-setters that kept him on track were also wearing Vaporflys.

    The Nike Vaporfly has already taken over the marathon world

    Kipchoge's sub-2-hour marathon didn't set a new world record according to World Athletics rules, but he did break the world marathon record in Berlin in 2018 — when he also wore Vaporflys.

    In September, when Kamworor set the record for fastest half-marathon (58 minutes and 1 second), he was also in Vaporflys.

    In fact, the $250 neon shoes (they come in bright green, pink, and orange) have been involved in nearly every major running milestone for the last three years. In 2019, runners wearing Vaporflys claimed 31 out of the 36 male and female podium spots in the six biggest marathons around the world. The three medalists in the men's marathon at the 2016 Summer Olympics all wore a Vaporfly prototype.

    In the 2019 Chicago marathon, the top 10 male finishers were wearing the shoes, too. And female runner Brigid Kosgei, who broke the world record in the 2019 Chicago race with a time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 4 seconds, wore Vaporflys to accomplish that feat.

    In fact, according to The New York Times, the five fastest marathon times ever recorded were all achieved by male runners wearing Nike Vaporfly shoes.

    Chicago Marathon - Chicago, Illinois, United States - October 13, 2019.  Kenya's Brigid Kosgei celebrates setting a new world record to win the women's marathon.  REUTERS/Mike Segar

    "It's hard to know what we're actually watching in some respects — is it the technology, or the athletes?" Barnes said. "I know you have to be an exceptional human being to come close to these achievements, but the jumps we're seeing is the technology."

    'Technology doping'

    World Athletics hasn't made any move to ban or regulate the sneakers, despite some recent news stories suggesting a ban is imminent. Currently, the rules say shoes can't confer an "unfair assistance or advantage" and have to be "reasonably available" to everyone. But the organization doesn't define those standards more specifically. According to Jefferies, the working group assessing the Vaporfly tech is also reviewing the wording around the rule.

    Barnes compared the Vaporfly trend to the swimming races at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in which competitors set 25 world records. That year, 98% of the Olympic field was wearing Speedo's LZR Racer swimsuit, a full-body sleeve of polyurethane designed to mimic shark skin.

    "They called it 'technology doping,'" Barnes said. "Even non-Speedo athletes had to switch and wear the suit or there was no chance of them competing. We're not quite at that point yet with the Vaporflys, but close."

    In 2009, the International Swimming Federation banned all full-body polyurethane suits, including the LZR.

    But when asked last year whether the Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes confer an advantage, Kamworor said, "I don't think that the shoe is a factor."

    "Provided that you are prepared, that you are training hard, you can run with any kind of shoe. So the shoe is not a disadvantage to other people," he said in a press conference.

    Kipchoge 2016 rio marathon

    Still, Burns and Barnes both said they don't think the recent running records, as well as Kipchoge's sub-2-hour marathon, would have been possible in different footwear.

    Nor does Mary Wittenberg, the former New York Road Runners president.

    "I actually think we're going to have asterisks on all the results that are like AV and BV — Before Vaporfly," she told The Wall Street Journal before the 2019 New York marathon.

    Should the IAAF regulate running shoes?

    Many runners sponsored by other shoe companies would like to see World Athletics lay down additional rules about shoes. Sara Hall, an Asics-sponsored runner and Ryan Hall's wife, told Outside Online last year that because of the shoes, "it's hard to really just celebrate performances at face value right now."

    "I think it would help to have some limits, just like other sports have, like swimming, or triathlon, or cycling," she added. "They all have limits of the gear. So I think that would help create more of an even playing field."

    According to Burns, one option for World Athletics could be to limit how thick a shoe's midsole can be — he proposed this in an October paper.

    "As we allow that height limit to go greater and greater, more and more of that energy recycling is being done by the shoe, so the performances are less and less human," he said.

    Current Vaporfly models have 1.4 inch-thick soles, whereas midsoles of other racing shoes generally hover around 1 inch, Burns noted. So in his paper, he suggested capping thickness at 1 inch.

    That "would define the space on a runner that can be a 'shoe' and allow companies to innovate within that space," Burns said.

    Such a rule would disqualify Vaporflys.

    "I think we need to draw a line," Burns said. " If I got to draw the line, I would draw it so as to preserve the performances of the past 40 years at the cost of the last three years."

    SEE ALSO: The winner of the New York City Marathon and the fastest marathoner in the world have one thing in common: Both wear the same controversial shoes

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: What happens to your body during an ultramarathon


    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 09:56:00 -0500
  • US green energy investment climbed to record highs in 2019 — despite the Trump administration's stance on climate change

    solar panels us

    • The US renewable energy industry saw a 28% spending increase in 2019, ignoring the Trump administration's views on climate change to reach a new investment record, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
    • The sector took in $55.5 billion in investment last year, beating out Europe and taking second place to China.
    • The spending was bolstered by wind and solar firms rushing to earn federal tax credits before the government scales them back, Bloomberg reported.
    • Global renewable investment gained 1% in 2019, but remained well under BNEF's estimates for spending needed to adhere to the Paris climate agreement's warming goal of 2 degrees Celsius.
    • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

    The US renewable energy sector saw a 28% spending increase through 2019, ignoring the Trump administration's views on climate change to reach a new investment record, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

    The sector saw $55.5 billion of investment last year, beating out Europe and landing second to China. The spending was boosted by wind and solar firms looking to qualify for federal tax credits before the government scales them back in 2020, Bloomberg reported.

    "It's notable that in the third year of the Trump presidency, which has not been particularly supportive of renewables, US clean energy investment set a new record by a country mile," Ethan Zindler, head of Americas for BNEF, said.

    Brazil featured a similar phenomenon in 2019. Green energy investment soared 74% through the year, rebuking climate-skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro, according to BNEF.

    Global investment in green energy reached $282.2 billion in 2019, up about 1% from the year prior but falling below the level seen in 2017. China kept its top spot despite seeing investment fall 8%. Europe sank to third place, posting a 7% decrease in green energy spending.

    The global investment figure is a crucial indicator for measuring progress in the effort to curb climate change. Though the metric posted a moderate gain in 2019, it remains well below levels needed to adhere to the Paris climate agreement, according to BNEF. The accord targets a global temperature increase of less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial revolution.

    To reach such a goal, global renewable energy investment needed to hit $580 billion each year between 2017 and 2020, according a 2017 BNEF study. The 2019 figure sits at roughly half that amount.

    Though the Trump administration chose not to join the Paris climate agreement, numerous state governments have pushed forward with plans to reach the 2-degree-Celsius goal.

    The record-high US spending arrives as the effects of global climate change compound. Earth's oceans were the warmest they've been since research began in the 1950s, according to a study published January 13 in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. The record-high temperatures capped the hottest decade on record.

    Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

    Beyond Meat tumbles the most since October after 'priced in' potential drives an analyst downgrade

    Bitcoin is on its best start-of-year streak since 2012

    A Wall Street firm names 9 stocks that look like big winners as earnings get underway — and 9 more that could be headed for a plunge

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A big-money investor in juggernauts like Facebook and Netflix breaks down the '3rd wave' firms that are leading the next round of tech disruption


    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 09:14:17 -0500
  • An avian apocalypse has arrived in North America. Birdsong could become a rare sound.

    Reuters best wildlife animal images of 2015 Sparrows

    If you live in the US or Canada, stick your head out the window and listen closely. Don't hear any birds? That's not a coincidence.

    Across North America, bird populations are declining precipitously. Three billion birds have disappeared on the continent since 1970, according to a September study— a 29% decline in the total number of birds.

    "Most people won't notice that most of their backyard birds have gone, slowly but surely, over the last 50-year period," Michael Parr, a co-author of that study and president of the American Bird Conservancy, previously told Business Insider.

    Sea birds, too, are dying. 

    Between 2015 and 2016, nearly 1 million common murres died at sea and washed ashore on beaches between California and Alaska. It was the largest mass die-off of seabirds in recorded history.

    dead murres

    According to a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, that unprecedented die-off was caused by increased competition in the wake of a marine heat wave in the Pacific known as "the blob."

    It's the latest evidence of an insidious avian apocalypse.

    "We're in the midst of a crisis," Chad Wilsey, the National Audubon Society 's chief interim science officer, told Business Insider.

    'A bird emergency'

    Baltimore Oriole by Ryan Schain, Macaulay Library at Cornell Lab of Ornithology 41874221

    As the planet warms and people convert more wild land into farmable pastures, North America's skies are emptying.

    About 90% of the 3 billion birds that have disappeared belonged to 12 families, including sparrows, warblers, finches, and swallows, the September study found. The biggest factor driving their deaths is habitat loss: Much of the birds' breeding and nesting grounds are being transformed into fallow fields as agricultural development expands.

    "We expected to see continuing declines of threatened species. But for the first time, the results also showed pervasive losses among common birds across all habitats, including backyard birds," Kenneth Rosenberg, the lead author of that study, said in a press release at the time.

    The Audubon Society predicted in 2014 that by 2080, 314 North American bird species would be pushed out of 50% of their habitat range. A more recent Audubon report published in October suggested that Arctic and forest birds are the most at risk because their preferred habitats are the smallest to begin with.

    That report, which was based on 140 million individual bird observations, also found that 389 of 604 North American bird species are at risk of extinction due to the consequences of climate change: rising temperatures, rising seas, and more extreme weather like droughts and heat waves.

    State birds like the Minnesota common loon, New Jersey goldfinch, and California quail topped the Audubon's list of birds with shrinking habitats. 

    common loon

    "It's a bird emergency," David Yarnold, CEO and president of Audubon, said in a release.

    If you're curious about which birds in your particular area are threatened, the Audubon Society offers an interactive app that allows users type in their zip code and view all the vulnerable species based on various global-warming scenarios.

    "It's a way to make this existential crisis more relatable," Wilsey said.

    Unprecedented seabird die-offs

    Seabirds face a slightly different climate threat: marine heat waves.

    That's the term for precipitous spikes in sea-surface temperatures. This abnormally warm water speeds up the metabolism of large predatory fish like salmon and cod, which prey on forage fish like herring. Those are the same fish murres eat.

    So after the blob hit in 2015, "those large predatory fish got hungrier — they needed more calories per day to survive," Julia Parrish, a co-author of the PLOS ONE study, told Business Insider.

    Parrish said this "effectively dialed up the competition between large fish and murres." The murres didn't come out on top. 

    Although other seabird populations also dropped, "the common murre die-off was by far the largest any way you measure it," Parrish said.

    murre

    Climate change makes marine heat waves worse because the ocean absorbs 93% of the extra heat greenhouse gases trap on Earth. Parrish said atmospheric scientists anticipate more heatwaves hitting the same area of the Pacific in the future. 

    'The global biodiversity crisis has come to America's backyard'

    Many researchers think the world is in the middle of a sixth mass extinction — the sixth time in the history of life on Earth that global fauna has experienced a major collapse in numbers.

    According to the United Nations, up to 1 million species face a risk of extinction.

    North America's 3 billion missing birds are "absolutely part of the sixth mass extinction trend," Rosenberg said.

    Parr said birds are an obvious way in which this "global biodiversity crisis has come to America's backyard."

    FILE - This April 14, 2019 file photo shows a western meadowlark in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. According to a study released on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, North America's skies are lonelier and quieter as nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds soar in the air than in 1970. Some of the most common and recognizable birds are taking the biggest hits, even though they are not near disappearing yet. The population of eastern meadowlarks has shriveled by more than three-quarters with the western meadowlark nearly as hard hit. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

    Birds' disappearance impacts more than just the US' 41 million backyard birders. (According to a US Fish and Wildlife survey, the country's bird watching industry is worth more than $100 billion.) Common birds also help control insect populations and spread plant seeds.

    "Birds actually are the 'canaries in the coal mine,' giving us an indication that fundamental environmental changes are happening," David O'Neill, Audubon's chief conservation officer, wrote in October. "We may not notice day to day if our average global temperature is rising, but we will notice that there are not as many American Goldfinches as there used to be."

    How to save the birds

    Sanderling by Andy Eckerson, Macaulay Library at Cornell Lab of Ornithology 83166281.JPG

    The Audubon Society has called for the US to reach net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

    "By stabilizing carbon emissions and holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, 76% of vulnerable species will be better off, and nearly 150 species would no longer be vulnerable to extinction," the most recent Audubon report noted.Barn Swallow by Karen Hogan, Macaulay Library at Cornell Lab of Ornithology 164502631

    Similarly, the UN released a proposal on Monday that calls for one-third of the Earth to be designated as national parks, marine sanctuaries, and other protected areas by 2030 in order to stop a sixth mass extinction.

    "It's crucial we protect places that birds need now and in the future," Yarnold said.

    SEE ALSO: North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds in the last 50 years another sign that we're in the middle of a 6th mass extinction

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These birds create amazing black 'clouds' in the sky


    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 08:33:00 -0500
  • The Japanese billionaire flying to the moon with SpaceX is holding a reality TV competition to find a girlfriend — here's what it's like to apply

    Yusaku Maezawa twitter giveaway

    • Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is the first person booked to fly round the moon with Elon Musk's space firm SpaceX in 2023.
    • Maezawa announced on Sunday he's looking for a "female partner" to accompany him, and he will find this special someone through the medium of a reality TV show.
    • We submitted an application, and documented the process.
    • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

    In September 2018 it was announced Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa would be SpaceX's first space tourist, and had booked tickets to fly round the moon in 2023.

    Maezawa is a Japanese entrepreneur and the founder of online fashion firm Zozo. According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, he has a current net worth of $3.6 billion. He resigned as CEO in September 2019 after selling a 30% stake in the company.

    On Sunday Maezawa announced he's holding a reality TV competition to help him find a lifelong romantic partner who will accompany him on his journey round the moon.

    The search for his life partner will be made into a series by Japanese streaming site Abema TV in what it describes as a "serious matchmaking documentary," and prospective candidates can apply via a website.

    The deadline for applications is January 17, and so far 20,000 people have already applied.

    Here's how you apply to be Maezawa's space companion:

    Yusaku Maezawa tweeted the link to the application page to his 7.2 million followers on Sunday.

     



    This link takes you to this webpage explaining what Maezawa's looking for in applicants.

    Here's the link.



    The billionaire has a short, but quite specific list of attributes he's looking for in a space partner. The candidates will go through a three-month process before he decides on the winner.

    Maezawa says he's looking for women over the age of 20 with "bright" personalities. They'd also have to be willing to go through the three-month process before he makes up his mind.



    The page also contains an open letter from Maezawa explaining his reasoning for looking for love on reality TV.

    Maezawa reflects on his rise to fame and fortune, and says that now he has resigned as CEO of fashion retail giant Zozo, he's looking to change his way of life.

    "I'm sure I've been able to acquire my share of money, social status, and fame along the way. But now I'm restarting my life. I'm 44 now. As feelings of loneliness and emptiness slowly begin to surge upon me, there's one thing that I think about: Continuing to love one woman," he writes.

    Maezawa says that when Abema TV initially approached him for the program he was initially struck by feelings of "embarrassment and pride," and his first instinct was to reject the idea, but he came around.



    Once you hit the "click here to apply" button, you're taken to this Google form.



    After submitting some basic info (name, place of birth etc), Maezawa wants to know a few professional and contact details. He doesn't ask for salary details.



    Then the form tries to get more of a sense of personality, asking for the candidate's "hobbies," "special skill," and "selling points."



    Next, applicants have to share a photo, either by linking to a public social media account or emailing the network with a photo attached.



    Now comes the million (or more accurately multibillion) dollar question: applicants have to say what they think of Yusaku Maezawa.



    Finally comes a section called "free entry fields," which appears to be a space where applicants can write anything else they feel is important to tell the program makers, followed by a disclaimer.



    The disclaimer seems to outline requirements from Abema, the streaming service which will air the program. Among other things, the agreement states that applicants can't be gangsters.

    When we applied, there was no confirmation that our application had been submitted, nor was there a confirmation emails.

    Applicants apparently have to wait and see if they're in with a chance. 



    After the original application site went live, the Japanese language version added a "love diagnostic test," which applicants can use to test whether they would be compatible with Maezawa.

    Applicants are encouraged to take the test if they're having doubts about whether to apply to "Full Moon Lovers."



    The test is multiple choice, and comprises of ten questions.

    Questions include: "If you rode in a private jet where would you go," "What is your favorite dish," and "If Maezawa farted in front of you what would you say?"



    The test gives you a compatibility ranking, and if you score highly a smiling photo of Maezawa comes up.



    A more equivocal score will bring up a less happy-looking Maezawa.




    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 08:04:00 -0500
  • Private investors poured $10.5 billion into clean energy in 2019. These are the top funds making bets on the industry.

    bill gates

    • Venture capital and private equity investors flooded clean energy with $10.5 billion in 2019, according to a new report by BloombergNEF. It's the largest annual investment since 2010. 
    • Business Insider highlighted the 10 most active venture capital and private equity investors, based on the number of deals that closed in 2019, using data from BloombergNEF. 
    • The list shows that oil and gas giants are among the most active private investors, alongside the Bill Gates-led investor coalition, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. 
    • Click here to subscribe to Power Line, Business Insider's weekly clean-energy newsletter.
    • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

    Private investment in clean energy is continuing to climb, with venture capital and private equity funding in the sector reaching $10.5 billion in 2019, according to a new report by the research firm BloombergNEF (BNEF). 

    That's the largest annual investment in clean energy since 2010 and more than two times higher than the decade low of $4.1 billion in 2013.

    "We're seeing a resurgence in the last two years," Tom Blum, a member of Clean Energy Venture Group, told Business Insider late last year. "Renewables, which had been plodding along steadily, are taking a huge upturn." 

    VC & PE clean energy investment

    Data from PitchBook show a similar trend: VCs flooded the clean-tech industry with nearly $10 billion in 2019, which is the second-highest investment sum in a decade.

    The largest clean-energy investors of 2019 include well-known giants like T. Rowe Price, Amazon, and BlackRock. They were all involved in a $1.3 billion PE deal with the electric vehicle (EV) company Rivian Automotive in December. 

    None of the top 20 clean-energy investors, by capital, were involved in more than two deals, according to BNEF. Business Insider looked, instead, at VC and PE investors that were most active, based on the number of deals they financed or co-financed that closed in 2019.

    Here are the most active clean energy VC and PE investors, ranked from fewest to most deals in 2019. 

    Note: "Clean energy" refers to "renewable energy excluding large hydro-electric projects, but including equity-raising by companies in smart grid, digital energy, energy storage, and electric vehicles," per a BNEF spokesperson. 

    IP Group 3 deals

    Deals: 3

    Investment: $22.6 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    IP Group is a London-based VC firm that invests in a wide range of startups — many of which have spun out of universities — to develop intellectual-property-based companies. Clean-tech startups make up a small portion of its portfolio of more than 50 companies. 

    "We back teams and technologies with the potential to put a dent in climate change," the company says on its website. 

    Among the companies in its portfolio is fusion energy startup First Light Fusion; carbon capture startup C-capture; and "smart" hot-water tank company, Mixergy. 



    Equinor 3 deals

    Deals: 3

    Investment: $29.7 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    Formerly known as Statoil, Norway-based Equinor is among the oil giants to recently veer towards clean energy.

    In April 2019, the firm agreed to align its strategy with the Paris climate agreement. It's also trying to take a leading role in the US renewable industry, after announcing plans to build an 816-megawatt offshore wind farm in New York to supply energy to New York City.

    Through its $200 million corporate venture arm, Equinor Energy Ventures, Equinor has invested in a suite of new-energy startups including the solar-cell technology company Oxford PV; EV-infrastructure company ChargePoint; and Mainspring (formerly known as Etagen), which manufactures a linear generator.



    BP 3 deals

    Deals: 3

    Investment: $50.5 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    BP has been a relatively large player in the renewable industry, owning half of Europe's largest solar developer, Lightsource BP. The company is also among a trove of recent oil giants that have agreed to link bonuses for thousands of its employees to targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. 

    Through its $500 million corporate venture arm, BP has invested in companies including cement-tech startup Solidia Technologies and Fulcrum BioEnergy, a billion-dollar company that turns waste into fuel. 



    Total  4 deals

    Deals: 4

    Investment: $10.7 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    Total is the seventh-largest oil and gas company in the world and considered a leader in renewable energy among the giants. In October 2019, the company announced that it would dedicate its $400 million venture fund to ushering in a low-carbon economy. 

    Total's corporate venture arm, Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures, has 31 startups in its portfolio including Solidia Technologies; the smart-thermometer maker Tado; and SparkMeter, a startup that makes smart meter technology.

    Total also contributes to the Demeter Partners fund, listed below, and Powerhouse, a prominent innovation and venture firm focused on clean tech and mobility. 



    Demeter Partners 4 deals

    Deals: 4

    Investment: $15.6 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    Founded in 2005, Demeter is a Paris-based investment firm with over $1 billion in assets, according to PitchBook, dedicated to the "energy and ecological transition." 

    Demeter invests in mostly European startups that are working on everything from green hydrogen, in the case of Ergosup, to floating wind turbines, per the firm's investment in the company Ideol. 



    Breakthrough Energy Ventures 4 deals

    Deals: 4

    Investment: $17.8 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) is a $1 billion fund led by an impressive coalition of investors including Bill Gates, Virgin's Richard Branson, and Michael Bloomberg, making it the largest venture capital fund ever closed in renewable energy, according to the research firm Preqin.

    BEV has 21 companies in its portfolio including some of the buzziest early-stage energy startups, such as fusion energy company Commonwealth Fusion Systems; cement-tech startup CarbonCure; QuantumScape, a secretive battery company; and Sierra Energy, which is trying to commercialize waste-to-fuel technology. 

    Read more:Meet Sierra Energy, a Bill Gates-backed company that wants to turn your trash into fuel



    Mitsui 4 deals

    Deals: 5

    Investment: $34.2 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    Based in Japan, Mitsui is one of the world's largest trading and investment companies with a portfolio that spans energy and resources, healthcare, machinery, and infrastructure.

    Mitsui Global Investment, the venture arm of Mitsui, has $300 million in assets, according to PitchBook. It has funded clean-energy startups including carbon-capture company LanzaTech and e-bus maker Proterra. 

    In 2018, Mitsui also invested $350 million in G2VP, a large venture capital firm, which spun out of Kleiner Perkins' Green Growth Fund. 



    Macquarie 6 deals

    Deals: 6

    Investment: $27 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    Macquarie is a global finance firm with $380 billion in assets under management, as of September 2019. Largely through its new clean-energy investment arm, Green Investment Group (GIG), the firm has committed or arranged more than $25 billion for green energy infrastructure.

    Macquarie invests heavily in large-scale infrastructure projects like wind energy; for example,  it now supports nearly half of Britain's offshore wind capacity "in operation or construction," according to a company progress report,

    But Macquarie has also backed a handful of clean-energy startups including Form Energy, a secretive energy-storage company, and Sunfolding, a startup that developed a technology to track and monitor solar power.



    Energy Impact Partners 6 deals

    Deals: 6

    Investment: $53 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    Energy Impact Partners (EIP) is one of the largest alternative-energy investment firms, with $1.2 billion under management.

    According to the market research form Preqin, it closed the fourth largest venture capital fund in renewable energy in 2017, amounting to $531 million. Unlike many other firms, EIP is a utility-led fund, with backing from National Grid, Southern Company, Xcel Energy, and other large utilities. 

    The firm has 24 energy startups in its portfolio. These include digital utility Arcadia, smart thermostat-maker Ecobee, and Internet of Things (IoT) platform provider Particle.



    Royal Dutch Shell 9 deals

    Investment: $19.7 million in 2019, according to BNEF

    According to BloombergNEF, Royal Dutch Shell was the most active clean energy investor in 2019, closing nine deals. The European company is considered a leader in renewables among energy giants, with plans to invest $6 billion in green energy projects between 2016 and the end of 2020. Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that the company is "at risk of falling short" on those plans. 

    The company's venture arm, Shell Ventures, has invested in more than a dozen clean-energy startups including the smart sensor company Sense, digital-energy platform developer Innowatts, and solar heat company GlassPoint Solar.




    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 07:00:00 -0500
  • A 17-year-old intern at NASA discovered a new planet on his 3rd day on the job

    Wolf Cukier, the 17-year-old NASA intern new planet

    • A 17-year-old intern at NASA discovered a new planet on his third day on the job.
    • Wolf Cukier, then a junior in high school, was interning at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland when he made the discovery.
    • The planet, since named TOI 1338 b, is the first circumbinary planet to ever have been found at the agency. This means the planet orbits two stars instead of one.
    • See Business Insider's homepage for more stories.;

    Seventeen-year-old Wolf Cukier was on the third day of his internship at NASA when he discovered a new planet previously unknown to scientists.

    According to NASA, the planet is the agency's first discovery of a "circuminary planet" meaning it orbits two stars instead of one.

    The planet which has been named TOI 1338 b is almost seven times bigger than Earth, and is located 1,300 light years away in a constellation called Pictor.

    Cukier joined NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a summer intern after finishing his junior year at Scarsdale High School in New York State.

    He had been on a project searching for planets orbiting two stars, and tasked with examining the brightness and dimming through a NASA satellite telescope, a sign that could be an indication of a new planet, he told NBC New York.

    "About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338," Cukier said in a statement published by NASA.

    "At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet."

    Cukier, a Star Wars fan, said the way stars appear on TOI 1338 b would be similar to Luke Skywalker's home of Tatooine, according to the BBC.

    "It would also have a double sunset," he said.

    luke skywalker tatooine

    Cukier is now back at high school, but told the BBC he hopes to go to college to study physics and astrophysics.

    "From there, a career in space research is appealing," he said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The Marvel movies pay incredible attention to the physics of Captain America's shield


    Thu, 16 Jan 2020 05:59:01 -0500
  • THE DIGITAL THERAPEUTICS EXPLAINER: How digital treatments could be a $9 billion opportunity by 2025

    A new class of medicine — digital therapeutics (DTx) — has emerged, offering a novel means of treating the swelling number of patients with chronic diseases and keeping associated costs down.

    dtx providers

    Digital therapeutics deliver evidence-based therapies via software — often in the form of consumer-facing mobile health apps — that replace or complement the existing treatment of a disease. They diverge from the broader digital health market in that they must be approved by regulatory bodies — and displaying proof-of-concept is at the core of their model.

    DTx vendors leverage their tech to treat chronic conditions, which gobble up the lion's share of the US' healthcare spending: Business Insider Intelligence estimates that the US shelled out up to $3.3 trillion on chronic disease in 2018. The surging prevalence of chronic conditions combined with their sky-high price tags is fueling fast growth in the global DTx market, which is poised to expand 21% annually to hit nearly $9 billion by 2025. 

    The sea change sparked by the advent of digital medicines threatens to reshape the entire healthcare value chain. Because drugs interact with nearly every healthcare stakeholder, DTx solutions are leading a variety of players to carve out room for digital solutions: Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are creating logs for DTx as they would drugs, insurers are linking their members up with digital solutions in an effort to mitigate spending, and entrenched pharma and medtech companies are tying up with DTx vendors to dip into new revenue streams.

    Those that choose not to get on the DTx bandwagon might miss out on a massive opportunity — and we think laggard drugmakers and medical device makers that don't jump at the chance of linking up with DTx providers could put themselves at risk of losing market share to new competitors. 

    In this report, Business Insider Intelligence will explore the drivers lighting a fire under the DTx market, identify the leading DTx market players, and unpack the varied ways vendors reach their intended audiences. We will also assess both the opportunities and risks DTx companies and their products pose to payers, pharmaceutical companies, and medtech firms. Finally, we will forecast what we expect to see next in the DTX space and outline the barriers holding DTx firms back to help stakeholders navigate the crowding field and develop strategies to capture a piece of the DTx pie.

    The companies mentioned in this report are: 23andMe, 2morrow, Inc., Advocate Health Care, Akili Interactive, Apple, Aptar Pharma, Aurora Health Care, Bayer, Better Therapeutics, Big Health, Biofourmis, Blue Shield of California, Cambia Health Solutions, Cigna, Click Therapeutics, Cognoa, CVS Caremark, DarioHealth, Dexcom, Diabeto, Eli Lilly, ExpressScripts, Glooko, Happify Health, Health2Sync, Kaia Health, Lark Health, Livongo, MedRhythms, myStrength, mySugr, Noom, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Omada Health, Omron, One Drop, Otsuka, Pear Therapeutics, Propeller Health, Proteus Digital Health, ResMed, Retrofit, Roche, Sanofi, Teva Pharmaceutical, Teladoc, UnitedHealth Group, Vida Health, Virta Health, Voluntis, Walgreens, Walmart, and Welldoc.

    Here are some key takeaways from the report: 

    • Digital therapeutics are shaking up the healthcare value chain: The digital therapeutics market is set to triple in size over the next six years, blossoming into a $9 billion opportunity — and Business Insider Intelligence predicts consumer adoption of the digital treatments will grow more than 10-fold by 2023. 
    • Payers should stock portfolios with digital therapeutics to shore up on drug spending, curb their sizable share of chronic disease costs, keep patients healthy, and woo employer contracts. 
    • Proactive pharmaceutical firms and medical device makers can benefit from DTx's proliferation through tie-ups with vendors that give the incumbents access to piles of real-time data as well as the possibility to expand revenue opportunities through commercializing new products and programs — but sluggish drug- and device makers risk waving goodbye to consumers opting for digital solutions. 
    • We expect to see heightened activity in the space over the next several years, but hurdles to growth remain, including winning over doctors and consumers as well as paltry reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

    In full, the report: 

    • Provides a roadmap to the digital therapeutics market and explains how companies developing digital drug alternatives are transforming healthcare. 
    • Identifies key players operating in the space. 
    • Explores how digital therapeutics stand to benefit — and threaten — entrenched players, like payers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device makers. 
    • Considers what the future of digital therapeutics looks like and what still stands in the way of their proliferation.  

    Want to learn more about the fast-moving world of digital health? Here's how to get access:

    1. Purchase and download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now
    2. Sign up for Digital Health Pro, Business Insider Intelligence's expert product suite keeping you up-to-date on the people, technologies, trends, and companies shaping the future of healthcare, delivered to your inbox 6x a week. >>Get Started
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    4. Current subscribers can read the report here.

    Join the conversation about this story »


    Wed, 15 Jan 2020 17:00:00 -0500
  • The US saw 14 billion-dollar disasters in 2019 — the world's second-hottest year ever

    global temperatures 2015-2019

    Last year was the second-warmest the world has ever seen.

    Major natural disasters, many related to rising global temperatures, cost $45 billion in direct losses in the US alone.

    Those are the findings of a joint report about the 2019 global climate that NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released on Wednesday. The data shows that last year's record temperatures were second only to 2016's.

    "The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record," Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in a press release. "Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before."

    The cause is well established: Fossil fuels contain high concentrations of carbon, so when we burn them for energy, they release carbon dioxide gas (CO2) into the atmosphere. That gas traps the sun's heat, raising average temperatures across the globe.

    "It doesn't really matter which way you cut it," Schmidt said in a press conference. "The fact is that the planet is warming."

    14 disasters in the US caused over $1 billion in damage each

    arkansas river flood

    In addition to global temperatures, NOAA tracks weather and climate events that result in over $1 billion in losses. The agency calls these "billion-dollar disasters."

    In 2019, the US saw 14 of these events, at a total cost of $45 billion.

    Floods were the most expensive, accounting for $20 billion of that total. The damage primarily came from three flooding events along the basins of the Missouri River, Mississippi River, and Arkansas River.

    All three of those billion-dollar floods were triggered by heavy rainfall.

    Across the US, 2019 was the second-wettest year on record.

    "A warmer atmosphere is a thirstier atmosphere," Deke Arndt, NOAA's chief of global monitoring, said in the press conference.

    rainfall diner en blanc

    That's because warmer air can carry more moisture. In dry areas, that means warmer air sucks more moisture out of the soil, drying out vegetation and raising the risk of wildfires. In wetter areas like New England, it means that warm weather systems hold — and dump — more rain.

    "We are definitely seeing trends in the instances of big rain," Arndt said. "We're seeing the largest events getting larger. We're also seeing the larger events more responsible for a larger portion of the annual rainfall budget."

    Other billion-dollar disasters last year included Tropical Storm Imelda, Hurricane Dorian, and wildfires across California and Alaska.

    Wildfires raged across Alaska in the state's warmest year ever

    alaska fires

    The high US temperatures were most pronounced in Alaska, which saw its hottest year ever.

    Climate scientists had previously observed that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world; but the new data suggests that could be a severe underestimate.

    "It looks like it's now much closer to three times as fast," Schmidt said. "Eventually that will happen in the Antarctic as well."

    Amid the hot, dry conditions, unprecedented wildfires spread across the Arctic circle in 2019. Alaska's Department of Natural Resources had to extend the state's fire season by a month as hundreds of blazes continued raging past the normal expiration date. 

    alaska wildfire

    Some blazes even broke out within the Anchorage city limits. The city declared an "extreme drought" in August 2019 for the first time in the two-decade history of the US Drought Monitor.

    "I've been here 40 years, and this is the most extreme fire condition here that I can remember," John See, a wildfire expert at the Anchorage Fire Department, told Reuters.

    In June alone, Arctic wildfires released 50 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — the equivalent of Sweden's total annual emissions. That's more carbon than Arctic fires released during every June from 2010 to 2018 combined, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). The July wildfires released another 79 megatons of CO2.

    The group said these were the longest-lived Arctic wildfires ever recorded.

    alaska wildfire

    Fires in Alaska and Siberia also deposited soot on the Greenland ice sheet, which darkened the surface and caused it to absorb more heat, contributing to its record melting over the summer.

    The 2020s will probably be even warmer

    NASA and NOAA scientists sometimes model what the climate would look like without human activity, using computer simulations to remove the effects of fossil fuels, agriculture, and forest clear-cutting. 

    "When we do that and we estimate what temperature patterns would be just because of those [natural forces], we end up with a massive discrepancy," Schmidt said. "That tells us that the natural forcings are not capable of explaining the trends that we've seen since the 19th century."

    In the next decade, these climate trends are expected to get worse

    carbon emissions

    Even if all countries stick to the voluntary goals set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the world would still emit the equivalent of 52 to 58 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030. (This is measured as an "equivalent" in order to factor in other greenhouse gases, like methane, which is 84 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.)

    So far, most countries are not on track anyway.

    "It would be almost certain that the decade will be warmer than the previous, almost certain that we will break at least one annual record in the process," Arndt said.

    SEE ALSO: Painfully slow hurricanes, deadly heat, and cities without water: What the climate crisis will look like in the next 10 years, according to experts

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's why Hurricane Dorian stalled and pummeled the Bahamas for over 24 hours


    Wed, 15 Jan 2020 15:59:00 -0500
  • Photos of the abandoned Fukushima exclusion zone show wild animals thriving, despite lingering radiation

    Fukushima wild boar

    • The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is considered the second-worst nuclear accident in history.
    • According to a new study, animal populations are thriving in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone, which was abandoned after the accident.
    • The animals are multiplying in the absence of humans, despite the lingering presence of radiation.
    • Visit Businessinsider.com for more stories.

    The villages outside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan are relatively quiet. In the town of Ōkuma, elderly men walk the streets searching for trash or fallen branches to pick up. Residents buy newspapers and snacks at the local convenience store.

    But in some nearby communities, humans still aren't allowed back. 

    Almost nine years ago, on March 11, 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami caused three nuclear meltdowns and multiple hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima power plant. The incident forced 150,000 people to evacuate across a 440-square-mile area. 

    Although many neighborhoods remain empty today, wild animals like boar, snow monkeys, and red foxes seem to be thriving, even in the presence of lingering radiation. 

    For a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, researchers observed more than 20 species on camera over the course of 120 days from May 2016 to February 2017.

    "Our results represent the first evidence that numerous species of wildlife are now abundant throughout the Fukushima Evacuation Zone, despite the presence of radiological contamination," James Beasley, a wildlife biologist who co-authored the study, said in a press release. 

    Here's what the researchers saw.

    SEE ALSO: Haunting photos reveal what nuclear-disaster ghost towns look like years after being abandoned

    The Fukushima disaster is considered the world's second-worst nuclear accident, behind Chernobyl.

    Only two disasters have ever been designated "level 7" nuclear accidents — the classification used by the International Atomic Energy Agency for major events with widespread health and environmental effects. The 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine was one; Fukushima was the other.

    The latter released plumes of radioactive material into the air, putting residents at risk of developing some forms of cancer if they stayed in the area.  



    Some of the evacuation orders have been lifted, but only about 5% of the original population has chosen to return.

    In early 2019, Japanese authorities determined that radiation levels in parts of Ōkuma (a town that had about 10,000 residents at the time of the Fukushima disaster) were low enough for people to return.

    The government has also partially lifted the evacuation orders in Namie, allowing around 21,000 former residents to reoccupy certain areas of the town if they want to. But only about 1,000 people have moved back.

    Some former residents remain skeptical about safety, while others find it too painful to live among the demolished homes and empty school buildings. 



    A team of researchers from Fukushima University and the University of Georgia divided the current evacuation zone into three parts.

    On the map above, beige represents areas that were not evacuated and are currently occupied. Radiation there never surpassed normal background levels.

    Green represents areas in which people were evacuated but allowed to return starting in 2016, after remediation efforts were complete.

    Red indicates zones the Japanese government has labeled as "difficult-to-return." Radiation levels measured there have been high enough to cause skin cancer, so humans are unlikely to be allowed back for several more years.



    The researchers used that information to study how wild animals are faring in Fukushima.

    They snapped more than 267,000 photos of wildlife there, using cameras stationed at 106 locations. 



    For the most part, the animals stuck to their normal behaviors.

    Nocturnal raccoons were active at night, for example, while diurnal pheasants were active during the day.



    The analysis showed that wild boars were three to four times more likely to be found in the deserted zone than in the areas occupied by humans.

    The boars were spotted more than 46,000 times, making them the most abundant species observed in the disaster region. More than half of the sightings took place in the "difficult-to-return" zone where humans aren't allowed. 

    In Fukushima's abandoned towns, wile boars roam the streets, forage for food, and tear apart dilapidated homes. They seem to have multiplied fast since humans left, the researchers wrote. (Wild boars have one of the highest reproductive rates of all large mammals.)

    Some residents of the occupied zones hunt the boars to restrict their population growth. They've also reported that the boars no longer seem scared of humans. 

    "They stare squarely at us as if saying, 'What in the world are you doing?'" Shoichiro Sakamoto, a resident of the town Tomioka, told Reuters. "It's like our town has fallen under wild boars' control."



    Japanese serow goat-like mammals with long legs like antelope seem to prefer the inhabited zone.

    The animals typically avoid areas with lots of humans, but the researchers suspect that the serow are steering clear of the wild boar.

    Another possible explanation is that the serow had trouble surviving in the abandoned zones, where radiation is higher. 



    Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) preferred the restricted zones.

    Red foxes, by contrast, were somewhat evenly distributed across all three zones. 



    The researchers didn't test the animals for radiation, but they think many received significant doses based on where they were spotted.

    Research has shown that radiation from the Fukushima disaster contributed to DNA damage in earthworms, barn swallows, mice, and wild boar. Scientists also think radioactive contaminants may be interfering with the reproduction of goshawks, a type of raptor. 

    But in general, animal populations appear to be growing. 

    A similar situation has arisen in Chernobyl, where scientists believe a lack of humans has given rise to a diverse wildlife community.




    Wed, 15 Jan 2020 15:36:00 -0500
  • A second planet might orbit the closest star to the sun, and astronomers think it's a super-Earth

    proxima c exoplanet super earth

    The closest star to the sun might have a second planet in its orbit.

    Proxima Centauri is our nearest neighboring star; it's just 4.2 light-years away. It has one planet that astronomers know of, a potentially habitable world called Proxima b.

    But in a new study, researchers from Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics report that they have observed changes in the star's activity that indicate it could have another planet. They dubbed the world Proxima c in their paper, which was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

    The potential new planet seems to be a super-Earth — the term for a planet with a mass larger than Earth but significantly smaller than the ice giant Neptune.

    "Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to the sun, and this detection would make it the closest planetary system to us," astronomer Mario Damasso, the paper's lead author, told Business Insider in an email.

    Proxima c (if it exists) is probably not habitable — given its distance from its star, the planet is probably freezing or shrouded in a suffocating hydrogen-helium atmosphere. But its proximity to us could offer a unique opportunity to study another star system.

    Proxima c could be a super-Earth in an unexpected place

    exoplanets extrasolar earth like planets illustration spitzer_ssc2008 05a_2000

    If it's real, Proxima c should not exist where it is.

    Astronomers think super-Earths form around the "snowline": the closest distance to a star where water can become ice. That's because icy solids accumulate in that region when a star system is in its infancy, helping to form planets.

    Proxima c is far beyond that snowline, though, so its existence could challenge that theory.

    snowline star planetary system

    Then again, researchers still aren't sure whether planet exists at all.

    The team discovered Proxima c using a technique called radial velocity. It works like this: Planets tug slightly on their stars as they orbit. When the star's position moves, even in this small way, it changes the colors of its light. If those changes are cyclical, that suggests the cause is an orbiting planet.

    radial velocity exoplanet detection method

    Damasso's team identified this type of cyclical change in Proxima Centauri's light, and determined that it is unrelated to the movements of the planet Proxima b.

    That suggested the presence of another planet, though Damasso said the researchers still "cannot discard the possibility that the signal is actually due to the activity of the star."

    So the team hopes to find more clues in data from the Gaia space telescope.

    Help from Gaia and James Webb

    Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way

    The Gaia telescope launched in December 2013 with the ambitious goal of making a 3D map of the galaxy.

    "Gaia is still observing, and we calculated in its final data release there will be enough data to confirm or disprove the existence of Proxima c," Fabio Del Sordo, a co-author of the paper and an astrophysicist at the University of Crete in Greece, told Business Insider via email.

    The next release of Gaia's data is planned for this summer, followed by another in 2021. The timeline for the full data release has not yet been announced.

    While Damasso and Del Sordo wait for that, they're working with another team to scan photos of Proxima Centauri in search of signs of a second orbiting planet.

    "Direct imaging may give results in a shorter time, but it cannot give a definitive answer," Del Sordo said. "In other words, if we will not see anything in the image, it doesn't necessarily mean Proxima c does not exist."

    Another telescope, NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), could help researchers answer these questions, too.

    James Webb telescope

    The telescope is slated to launch in March 2021, equipped with a 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror and new infrared technology to make it sensitive to longer wavelengths of infrared light.

    That could help astronomers study nearby stars and, specifically, Proxima c, in great detail.

    "It will surely be a target for JWST, but since the planet is likely very cold, we do not know if JWST will be able to detect it," Del Sordo said.

    Even if James Webb can't spot Proxima c, its neighboring planet, Proxima b, will be a prime target.

    SEE ALSO: 2020 will be a groundbreaking year in space. Here are the biggest upcoming rocket missions, meteor showers, eclipses, and more.

    DON'T MISS: We're likely to find alien life in the next decade, scientists say. Here's where NASA plans to look in our solar system and beyond.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This planetary scientist has a new idea for why we haven't heard from aliens yet


    Wed, 15 Jan 2020 14:00:00 -0500

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