COVID-19: University students react as government announces ‘travel window’ and mass testing | UK News

University students in England will be able to travel home for Christmas from early December under new government guidance.

The Department for Education has said universities in England should revert to online teaching to allow students to travel home between 3 and 9 December for the festive period.

Universities will be expected to stagger the dates in which students leave during this “travel window” and liaise with other nearby institutions to ensure transport is not overwhelmed.

This guidance hopes to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission as students will be travelling home after the lockdown.

The government has also promised to help universities establish mass testing capacity as well as testing as many students as possible before they return home.

Sky News spoke to university students across the country about this new guidance.

‘These travel corridors are superficial and merely a PR stunt’

Muraad Chaudhry
Muraad says the student travel corridor is ‘merely a PR stunt’

Muraad Chaudhry is a third-year international relations student at SOAS, University of London.

He welcomes the idea – but only in principle.

“The announcement of university travel corridors for many will provide a sense of certainty and opportunity to see their families over the Christmas period,” he told Sky News.

“However, in reality, these travel corridors are superficial and are merely a PR stunt which will make very little to no difference to the spread of the virus in university settings.

“This is due to students mixing in halls of residence regardless of online or in-person teaching methods used.

“Furthermore, the effectiveness of this scheme is dependent on a testing programme.

Muraad added: “However, government ministers have stated that coronavirus tests will be offered to as many students as possible, not all.

‘It’s just not acceptable to politicise when we can go home’

James Taylor
James believes it is ‘not acceptable to politicise’ fee-paying students’ holidays

James Taylor, a student at the University of Gloucestershire, was not happy about being given a set period to return home.

“It’s just not acceptable to politicise when we can go home, the government aren’t the ones paying £9,250 a year,” he said.

“I live in a shared house and people think the same thing, we’re paying for something that we can’t even control, what are we paying for?”

He also questioned the logic behind the plan, saying that “everyone leaving at once is going to be mayhem”.

He added that due to “the evacuation plans” he will struggle to get home within the government’s time frame because it has “ruined my travel plans as I live overseas in Jersey“.

‘It could have been a lot worse’

Jasmine welcomes the idea and says ‘it could have been a lot worse’

Jasmine Jones, a third-year natural sciences student, had planned to stay at university beyond the travel window to complete work.

She told Sky News: “It’s kind of annoying, but I don’t really mind it too much. I’m going to do whatever I can to get home

Read more

Wildlife movements offer window on climate change effects

Stephen Lewis sees a golden eagle flying over Mount Sentinel and feels the whole Arctic Circle exhale.

That eagle might be one he radio-collared while working in Alaska’s Denali National Park. The collar traces the bird’s migration path between the Arctic and the Lower 48 states. That trace entwines with about 50 other eagles the wildlife biologist has collared for his U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study. And that study now joins hundreds of other research projects from around the planet in a new Arctic Animal Movement Archive.

When all those radio-collared eagles, caribou, whales, wolves and other critters get their travels animated on a computer map, it looks like the whole Northern Hemisphere is breathing in and out.

“I have a couple hundred-thousands of location points for eagles,” Lewis, who’s working on a doctorate degree at the University of Montana, told the Missoulian. “With the archive, we have millions of locations. Now you can ask these larger-scale questions and see bigger-scale changes. Over generations of eagles, that really leverages what you can do.”

The Arctic Animal Movement Archive project has 160 co-authors, including Lewis. At the bottom of the list is UM wildlife biologist Mark Hebblewhite.

“The first name on the publication is the lead author of the study,” Hebblewhite explained. “The last author is the research group that led the work.”

What Hebblewhite, Lewis, and their 158 colleagues did was coalesce three decades’ worth of movement studies on 86 different animals from almost every nation with Arctic wildlife research activity. And they broke through the language and methodological boundaries so every study uses the same measuring sticks. Meters or feet, minutes or hours, Mongolian or American, any participating researcher can go to the archive and look for planetary patterns.

The archive goes live as climate researchers find increasing evidence that the Earth’s polar regions are warming almost twice as fast as lower latitudes. When the animal movements overlay climactic shifts over time, the scale of change is profound.

“These climate-induced changes on animal movement are operating right here in Montana,” said Hebblewhite, who last week was hunting elk in a T-shirt during a record-setting November heat wave. “The implications of the study is: This is our future. We need to make policy makers in the south care about impacts in the Arctic. It seems far away, but these are the kinds of changes we’re about to see in Montana in 10 or 20 years.”

A lot of NASA climatic satellite research underpins the Arctic Animal Movement Archive. Study co-author Gil Bohrer of Ohio State University helped link the space agency’s records of change in the Arctic — the places turning green earlier as well as the places going brown for lack of rain and snow — with an international wildlife movement database called MoveBank that he helped found.

“These are all things we can observe from space,” Bohrer said. “NASA has a very good sense of environmental conditions. We wanted to match that with animal movements, and that

Read more

Window opens for Virgin Galactic’s final round of testing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The window for the final round of testing of Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered spacecraft opens later this week as the company inches toward commercial flights.

Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses updated New Mexico lawmakers on the progress during a meeting Monday. He said the space tourism company already has done nine flights from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, including two glide flights by the spaceship.

While the exact date has yet to be determined, the upcoming test will mark the third space flight for Virgin Galactic and the first from New Mexico. Moses called it a big milestone for an idea that was first pitched decades ago.

“New Mexico will join California and Florida as only the third state in the U.S. to host human space flight missions and send people into space,” Moses said.

For the test flight, two pilots will crew the spacecraft and cargo including several research projects will be carried in the cabin. Assuming everything goes well and the engineers sign off, Moses said Virgin Galactic can then move to the next phase, which will involve company mission specialists and engineers being loaded into the passenger cabin. They will evaluate all the hardware, camera settings and which angles will provide the best views.

“This is going to be a life-changing experience for folks and we want to make sure we’re delivering an A+ ride,” he said.

More than 600 customers from around the world have purchased tickets to be launched into the lower fringes of space where they can experience weightlessness and get a view of the Earth below. The suborbital flights are designed to reach an altitude of at least 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) before gliding to a landing.

In addition to those who have put down deposits for a ride with Virgin Galactic, several thousands more have registered their interest online.

The idea to build the spaceport in the New Mexico desert was first hatched years ago by British billionaire Richard Branson and former Gov. Bill Richardson. Branson will be among the first passengers sometime in the first quarter next year.

“He’s probably our biggest fan as well as our biggest critic so who better to help judge that experience than him,” Moses said.

That experience will involve about an hour of climbing to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15 kilometers), with the spacecraft attached to a special jet-powered plane. The craft will then be released and light its rocket engine.

“We climb up to space altitude but gravity wins and pulls us right back down again,” Moses explained.

“We don’t have nearly enough speed to stay in orbit so we just go up and right back down again — about a minute of rocket motor burn, about four minutes of weightlessness and then about 15 minutes to come back and land.”

Moses said passengers will get to see a view of the Earth similar to the first photographs taken of the planet from a V-2 rocket that was

Read more

NREL Advances Thermochromic Window Technologies

Research Developments Create Faster Changes at Lower Temperatures, More Colors

NREL researcher Lance Wheeler holds a perovskite window prototype that can switch between a variety of colors. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
NREL researcher Lance Wheeler holds a perovskite window prototype that can switch between a variety of colors. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL
NREL researcher Lance Wheeler holds a perovskite window prototype that can switch between a variety of colors. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Golden, CO, Oct. 16, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report a breakthrough in developing a next-generation thermochromic window that not only reduces the need for air conditioning but simultaneously generates electricity.

Heat generated by sunlight shining through windows is the single largest contributor to the need for air conditioning and cooling in buildings. Because residential and commercial buildings use 74% of all electricity and 39% of all energy in the United States, the shading effect from tinting windows helps buildings use less energy.

The technology, termed “thermochromic photovoltaic,” allows the window to change color to block glare and reduce unwanted solar heating when the glass gets warm on a hot, sunny day. This color change also leads to the formation of a functioning solar cell that generates on-board power. Thermochromic photovoltaic windows can help buildings turn into energy generators, increasing their contribution to the broader energy grid’s needs. The newest breakthrough now enables myriad colors and a broader range of temperatures that drive the color switch. This increases design flexibility for improving energy efficiency as well as control over building aesthetics that is highly desirable for both architects and end users.

The research builds upon earlier work at NREL into a thermochromic window that darkened as the sun heated its surface. As the window shifted from transparent to tinted, perovskites embedded within the material generated electricity. Perovskites are a crystalline structure shown to have remarkable efficiency at harnessing sunlight.

“A prototype window using the technology could be developed within a year,” said Bryan Rosales, a postdoctoral researcher at NREL and lead author of the paper, “Reversible Multicolor Chromism in Layered Formamidinium Metal Halide Perovskites,” which appears in the journal Nature Communications. His co-authors from NREL are Lance Wheeler, who developed the first thermochromic photovoltaic window, Taylor Allen, David Moore, Kevin Prince, Garry Rumbles, and Laura Schelhas. Other authors are Laura Mundt from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and Colin Wolden from Colorado School of Mines.

The first-generation solar window was able to switch back and forth between transparent and a reddish-brown color, requiring temperatures between 150 degrees and 175 degrees Fahrenheit to trigger the transformation. The latest iteration allows a broad choice of colors and works at 95 degrees to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, a glass temperature easily achieved on a hot day.

By using a different chemical composition and materials, the researchers also were able to rapidly speed up the color transformation. The time was reduced to about seven seconds from the three minutes it took during the proof-of-concept thermochromic photovoltaic window demonstrated in 2017.

The scientists sandwiched a thin perovskite film between

Read more