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Boffins get first measurements of Jupiter’s stratospheric storms that show ‘unique beast’ dwarfing Earth’s issues • The Register

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Terrifying winds rip across Jupiter’s poles reaching speeds of up to 400 metres per second, or 900 miles an hour, three times faster than the most powerful tornadoes on Earth, according to the first direct measurements of the gas giant’s turbulent stratosphere.

Astronomers refer to these particularly powerful bursts as jets. “Our detection indicates that these jets could behave like a giant vortex with a diameter of up to four times that of Earth, and some 900 kilometres in height,” said Bilal Benmahi, a researcher at the University of Bordeaux and co-author of a paper [PDF] published in Astronomy & Astrophysics detailing the findings.

“A vortex of this size would be a unique meteorological beast in our Solar System,” Thibault Cavalié, a research scientist at Bordeaux Observatory and co-author of the paper, added this week.

Volatile gusts of winds are a well-known feature on the gas giant; massive cyclones like its Great Red Spot are visible. Scientists have previously studied Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, though the latest observations made using Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array focused on its middle atmosphere.

The polar bursts are faster at 400 metres per second, and the gales around its equator are slower at about 167 metres per second (600 kilometres per hour, 370 miles per hour.)

The wind speeds were measured by tracking hydrogen cyanide molecules generated by the impact of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 in 1994. Using the telescope’s spectrometers, the team of researchers could detect tiny changes in the frequency of radiation the molecules emitted. These changes were the result of the winds.

Just like how you can calculate how fast, say, an ambulance is speeding from the pitch of its siren, thanks to the Doppler effect, scientists can calculate the speed of Jupiter’s gusts from the frequency of light emitted from hydrogen cyanide molecules.

Measuring Jupiter’s winds accurately is important for understanding the planet and its moons as a whole, Vincent Hue, a research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute and co-author of the paper, explained to The Register. “Jupiter and its [satellites] constantly exchange materials, like dust, molecules, and charged particles. [It] has an important influence over the system because of its important magnetic field, it is important to characterize it as best as we can.”

Studying its storms and cyclones also give astronomers a better idea of the planet’s magnetic field. “The winds we detected near Jupiter’s aurora are caused by the interaction between Jupiter’s magnetosphere and its ionosphere through a complex coupling. Initially, Jupiter and its magnetosphere exchange angular momentum which creates these very high altitude polar jets. At lower altitudes, in the stratosphere, the winds we have detected are actually a signature of these high altitude polar jets,” he added.

The next step is trying to figure out how these winds moderate the planet’s overall climate and how they might impact the chemical composition of its atmosphere.

What has been happening to the Great Red Spot?

Jupiter’s most famous storm, the Great Red Spot, has been shrinking, though a new study suggests it’ll be around for a while yet.

Us Earthlings have been observing the Red Spot for more than 150 years, and it is certainly shrinking, down from 40,000 kilometres (24,850 miles) in 1879 to about 15,000 kilometres (9,320 miles) according to today’s estimates. A study, published in the American Geophysical Union journal, however, reckons the storm will prevail.

The gas-giant sky watchers believe a series of smaller storms crashing into its most iconic feature has caused bits of its red clouds to disperse, making the spot look smaller. But although these opposing winds, or anticyclones, chip away at its clouds, the larger storm powering the spot swallows up these anticyclones and actually gains energy from them.

“The intense vorticity of the [Great Red Spot], together with its larger size and depth compared to the interacting vortices, guarantees its long lifetime,” said Agustín Sánchez-Lavega, lead author of the paper and a professor of applied physics at the Basque Country University. The rotational power of the cyclone might drop, but the overall energy of the storm increases.

The disruptions in the Great Red Spot are superficial, the researchers argued. On the surface, the storm may appear to be getting weaker yet the depth of the winds hasn’t decreased. ®



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Bitcoin price back above $40,000 after Elon Musk comments | Bitcoin

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The price of bitcoin hit a three-week high on Monday, climbing back above $40,000 after Elon Musk said that Tesla would resume allowing transactions made in the digital currency once crypto mining becomes greener.

The electric car company’s latest change of direction on its acceptance of bitcoin once again highlighted the continuing ability of Tesla’s billionaire chief executive to influence the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

“When there’s confirmation of reasonable (~50%) clean energy usage by miners with positive future trend, Tesla will resume allowing bitcoin transactions,” Musk said in a tweet on Sunday.

The price of one bitcoin climbed to a high of $41,033 (£29,063) on Monday before slipping back to $40,580, still up more than 12% from its price before Musk’s tweet.

Musk, one of the most high-profile proponents of cryptocurrencies, also said that Tesla sold about 10% of its holdings to confirm bitcoin could be liquidated easily without moving the market.

He announced in May that Tesla would no longer accept bitcoin for car purchases, citing long-brewing environmental concerns for a swift reversal in the company’s position on the cryptocurrency. In February, Tesla revealed it had bought $1.5bn of bitcoin and would accept it as a form of payment for cars. But the cryptocurrency’s production is at odds with the company’s mission toward a “zero-emission future”.

Bitcoin fell more than 10% after Musk’s tweet in May. He said that he believed cryptocurrency had a promising future but it could not be at great cost to the environment.

The energy used to produce bitcoin alone is equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of Argentina, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, a tool from researchers at Cambridge University that measures the currency’s energy use.

Bitcoin mining – the process in which a bitcoin is awarded to a computer that solves a complex series of algorithms – is deeply energy-intensive. Because there is a finite number of bitcoins that can be mined – 21m – computers have to solve harder and harder algorithms in order to get bitcoin. The special equipment and intense processing power use a lot of electricity – as much as some entire countries.

The concerns over energy use aside, cryptocurrencies have split opinion among investors and financial regulators for other reasons, including the rollercoaster ride sparked by their frequent swings in price.

Despite bitcoin’s recent rise, it is still trading about a third lower than the record high of $63,000, which it reached in April. A year ago, bitcoin’s value was under $9,500.

Earlier in June, the Central American country of El Salvador became the first in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, as part of its technology-loving president’s proposals to use the cryptocurrency to promote “financial inclusion”, investment and economic development.

However, others remain unconvinced, and cryptocurrencies remain controversial. Global regulators are sceptical, on account of their volatility and vulnerability to theft or hacking.

The Bank of England has previously warned that the rise of digital currencies could set off a flood of withdrawals from high-street banks, risking financial stability and the wider economy, and cautioned that investors risk losing their money.

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According to various measures, bitcoin is undervalued at current prices, said Alexandra Clark, a sales trader at the digital asset broker GlobalBlock, although she added: “Many analysts are still on the fence when it comes to determining whether the digital asset is ready to continue its uptrend.”

Tesla’s decision to sell 10% of its bitcoin holding “has brought about fresh accusations of pumping and dumping by Musk and reiterated the need for an investigation by the SEC [US Securities and Exchange Commission],” Clark said.

The US securities watchdog warned Tesla last year that Musk had twice violated a settlement requiring his tweets and material public communications to be preapproved by company lawyers, the Wall Street Journal reported at the start of June.

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Price-capped broadband on hold for New York State after judge rules telcos would ‘suffer unrecoverable losses’ • The Register

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A new law due to come into force tomorrow that would force broadband providers in New York State to provide net access to low-income households for $15 a month has been put on hold.

A preliminary injunction [PDF] was granted by United States District Judge Denis R Hurley on Friday after a string of trade bodies – including the New York State Telecommunications Association and The Broadband Association – launched the action on behalf of their members.

The ruling notes that telcos and ISPs forced to impose the price caps would “suffer unrecoverable losses increasing with time” and that the “bulk of these losses will stem from lost income.”

“While a telecommunications giant like Verizon may be able to absorb such a loss, others may not: the Champlain Telephone Company, for example, estimates that nearly half [approximately 48 per cent] of [its] existing broadband customers will qualify for discounted rates,’ with each such customer ‘caus[ing] a monetary loss’,” it states.

The legal action also highlighted that not only would telcos lose revenue by offering cut-price access, they would also incur additional costs associated with increased spending on advertising.

In April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put his name to legislation that would force operators in the state to offer $15 a month high-speed internet to low-income families across the state.

The legislation also made it a legal requirement for operators to inform the authorities about their broadband products and prices, and how many had taken up the offers.

In all, it was estimated this change would impact seven million New Yorkers and some 2.7 million households.

At the time, Governor Cuomo said the need for remote access to work, education, and healthcare – which had been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic – had underlined the “need to make sure every household has access to affordable internet.”

“This program – the first of its kind in the nation – will ensure that no New Yorker will have to forego having reliable home internet service and no child’s education will have to suffer due to their economic situation,” he said.

US telcos in the crosshairs of the enforced price cap were quick to challenge the legislation, pointing out, among other things, a temporary $50-a-month discount being offered to households as part of a federal benefit.

In a 19-page lawsuit filed on 30 April, the industry lined up to say that they’re already doing their bit to help close the digital divide including offering cut-price tariffs to people on low incomes.

They also claim that New York is acting beyond its jurisdiction.

“In short, New York has overstepped its regulatory authority,” lawyers acting on behalf of the telcos said in their lawsuit.

Governor Cuomo hit back almost immediately and in a statement on the same day as the 30 April lawsuit said: “I knew giant telecom companies would be upset by our efforts to level the playing field, and right on cue, they’re pushing back. This is nothing more than a transparent attempt by billion-dollar corporations putting profit ahead of creating a more fair and just society.”

Fast-forward to this week and the decision to grant a temporary injunction halting the introduction of the $15-a-month broadband cap has left many wondering what happens next.

In a statement, US Telecom said: “The broadband industry is committed to working with state and federal policymakers on sustainable solutions that will serve the needs of all low-income Americans. While well-intended, the state’s law ignored the $50 monthly broadband discount Congress enacted, as well as the many commitments, programs and offerings that broadband providers have made for low-income consumers.” ®

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Sweden’s Vässla raises $11m for its e-bike rental service

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The company is building a subscription service for its micromobility vehicle, which is a cross between a moped and a traditional e-bike.

Vässla, a Swedish micromobility start-up, has raised $11m in fresh funds to expand during the increasing demand for e-bikes.

The Stockholm-based company initially launched with e-mopeds and is now launching an e-bike with a club-like subscription model.

Vässla Club will target individuals, delivery drivers and businesses like hotels and holiday resorts with a subscription model to access its e-bikes with fleet management features built in for businesses.

The round of funding was led by Swedish investment firm Skabholmen Invest with eEquity contributing to the round.

The company is running trials in the Scandinavian market with further trials pencilled in for Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg and Madrid. It is also planning a UK launch once legislation around e-scooter and other electric micromobility vehicles has been introduced beyond the current trial stages across the country.

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Vässla designed its bikes in-house and describes it as a midway point between a moped and an electric scooter. It has a maximum speed of 25km/hr and battery range of 40km.

The company was founded by chief executive Rickard Bröms over his frustration with commuting and a mission to reduce dependency on privately owned cars.

“The problem with electric pedal bikes is that your morning commute becomes a workout session – you arrive at work or at your important meeting sweaty and tired. It’s really no better than using packed trains or buses,” Bröms said.

The new iteration of its bike is lighter but capable of multiple trips a day, he added.

“The investment, which will help us launch Vässla Club, and expand into other territories, comes at a very exciting time and we are very much looking forward to seeing how the attitudes of the general public towards micromobility will change over the next few years.”

Wilhelm Pettersson, CEO of lead investor Skabholmen Invest, said that it invested in the company as it believes the “future of urban planning will exclude personal cars”.

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