Silicon Valley & Technology

Art Rosenfeld, Physicist Who Invented Energy Efficiency, Dies at 90

Physicist Arthur Rosenfeld, who spearheaded breakthroughs in energy efficiency for lighting, refrigerators, televisions and other electronics while working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has died. He was 90. 


Rosenfeld died January 27 at his home in Berkeley, said Lawrence Berkeley National Lab spokeswoman Julie Chao.


Rosenfeld was known to his colleagues as California’s “godfather” of energy efficiency, a field he is credited with creating.

Worked with Nobel Prize winner 

A native of Alabama, he was known for his detailed calculations, but also for his talent in translating the results into terms that could be easily understood.


A particle physicist, he moved to Berkeley in the 1950s to work in the particle physics group of Luis Alvarez, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1968.


A turning point in his career came in 1973 when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declared an oil embargo. Knowing he would have to wait in a long line the next day to buy gas, he decided to calculate how much energy could be saved by turning off unused lights. 


“After 20 minutes of uncovering light switches (and saving 100 gallons for the weekend), I decided that UC Berkeley and its Radiation Laboratory should do something about conservation,” he wrote in a 1999 autobiography of his career, The Art of Energy Efficiency.

Many honors

He received numerous awards and honors, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011, the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement, for the development of energy efficient building technologies.


Gov. Jerry Brown said that during his first term as governor in 1975, Rosenfeld told him that simply by requiring more efficient refrigerators, California could save as much energy as would be produced by the then-proposed Sundesert Nuclear Power plant.


“We adopted Art’s refrigerator standards and many others, did not build the power plant and moved the country to greater energy efficiency,” Brown said in a statement after Rosenfeld’s death was announced. 

Silicon Valley & Technology

Handheld Breath Analyzer Could Diagnose Cancer

We know that preventive care saves lives and money. The idea is that regular doctor visits can help catch diseases early, and avoid expensive emergency room visits. Soon, new technology will allow patients to do some preventive care at home, and send the results to their doctor. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports

Arts & Entertainment

‘White Helmets’ Filmmakers Say Trump Travel Ban Hurts Syrian Subjects

The makers of Oscar-nominated “The White Helmets,” a film about Syria’s rescue workers, said the documentary’s subjects had been directly affected by U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban and that their absence at the Oscars would be a “lost opportunity.”

“The White Helmets,” nominated in the Oscars short subject documentary category, gives a glimpse of the daily lives of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, civilians who volunteer as rescue workers in the war-ravaged country.

The founder of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh, and a young Syrian rescue worker who shot scenes for the documentary are unable to attend the February 26 Oscars ceremony because of Trump’s executive order that bars entry to the United States for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

“We feel even more responsibility and pressure to make sure that the White Helmets’ message is shared with the world if they cannot be here to share it,” the film’s producer, Joanna Natasegara, told Reuters at a luncheon for Oscar nominees in Beverly Hills this week.

The documentary, available on Netflix, aims to convey the “hope, inspiration and collaboration” of the White Helmets amid the years-long civil war, Natasegara said.

The absence of the two White Helmets volunteers at the Oscars prevents them from being recognized and celebrated, director Orlando von Einsiedel said.

“In this particular moment, the voices of Syrians and people from the Middle East are so important to be heard in order to break down misunderstandings and stereotypes,” he said.

Divisive issue

Trump’s temporary travel ban has been a deeply divisive issue across the nation. The president defended the measure as necessary for national security, while critics have challenged the ban as discriminatory against Muslims.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court heard arguments about whether a federal judge was wrong to suspend the temporary travel ban.

The head of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, organizers of the Oscars, noted the “empty chairs” in the room during the luncheon, adding that the United States should not put barriers in the way of artists from around the world.

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in his foreign-language-nominated film “The Salesman,” said last week that they would boycott the Academy Awards to protest Trump’s travel restrictions.

The “White Helmets” filmmakers are already planning a scripted feature-length movie on the Syrian rescue workers, with Oscar-winning actor George Clooney developing the project.

Silicon Valley & Technology

European Space Agency to Help NASA Take Humans Beyond Moon

The European Space Agency says it will contribute key components for a future NASA mission to take humans around the moon within the next few years.

Astronauts haven’t gone beyond a low orbit around Earth since 1972, when NASA ended its Apollo program.

The European Space Agency and aerospace company Airbus have already delivered a propulsion and supply module for an unmanned flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft next year.

The agency said Wednesday that it and Airbus have now agreed with NASA to build a module for a second, manned mission that will fly around the moon as early as 2021.

Orion is eventually intended to expand human exploration to deep-space destinations such as Mars or asteroids.

Science & Health

Atherosclerosis in Young Patients Increases Risk of Early Death

A new study suggests that even small calcium deposits in the arteries of young patients can predict an early heart attack or death within a dozen years.

The study also suggests that it’s easy to spot the trouble and can be a “call to action” for doctors and patients to begin taking preventive action.

The cardiac study conducted at four centers in the U.S. involved 5,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30.

Jeff Carr, a radiologist and cardiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was lead author of the study.

Carr said it appears that any amount of atherosclerosis, or calcium deposits, in the cardiac arteries of young people can dramatically shorten their lives, “even if it’s just one little dot or a very low what’s called a calcium score are at markedly elevated risk.  So if you have any amount of coronary calcium your risk increases over the next 10 to 15 years by about 10 percent.  If you have a lot, your risk increases significantly and your chance of dying over those next years is approximately 22 percent.”

In the study, which began in 1985, 3,300 African American and white young adults received a CT scan, looking for evidence of atherosclerosis.  

The remainder of the participants were followed based on known risk factors for heart attack.

Atherosclerosis was seen on CT in 30 percent of those who were scanned.  The study followed up after 12 years – when doctors noted the high early mortality rate in those with calcium deposits.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

Carr said it’s not necessary to do a heart scan on everyone to project their risk of death from heart attack. He said a clinician can assess a person’s risk of an attack by doing a health profile measuring and weighing a number of risk factors.

“Risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol, even when modestly elevated in early adult life in these people at high risk, may provide opportunity to identify them and treat risk factors more aggressively, and just potentially be able to lower the risk of future heart attacks that we saw over the past 15 years in the cohort [study participants],” Carr said.

Carr said medications to lower high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, weight loss and stopping smoking are proven to be effective in fighting heart disease.  And of course a healthier diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables and less red meat, doesn’t hurt.

Economy & business

US Conservatives Propose Carbon Tax to Fight Climate Change

A group of conservative thinkers led by leaders from the Reagan and Bush administrations have proposed what they are calling a “Conservative Answer to Climate Change.”

The group, including two former U.S. secretaries of state – James Baker and George Shultz – held a press conference Wednesday in Washington to unveil its plan.

Confronting the threat

The plan, available online, opens with a simple admission: “the risks associated with future warmings are so severe that they should be hedged.”

Team members were also willing to openly call out their Republican colleagues for refusing to confront the issue.

“For too long,” the group says, “many  Republicans have looked the other way, forfeiting the policy initiative to those who favor growth-inhibiting command-and-control regulations, and fostering a needless climate divide between the GOP and the scientific, business, military, religious, civic and international mainstream.”

Looking to regain that initiative, the team unveiled its plan which centers around four pillars. The first pillar is an old idea made new again: a carbon tax.

It’s just what it says it is – a tax on planet warming emissions from oil, coal and natural gas.

In this case, the team is suggesting a tax on carbon starting at $40 for roughly every metric ton of emissions.

The second pillar demands that any money made off of that tax be sent directly to U.S. consumers. And they do mean directly, by way of “dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts.”

The third pillar sets out the way we deal with the world. It looks to punish polluters by that same carbon tax on countries that are big polluters. Any money made from that tariff would go directly to American citizens.

And once the plan is in place, the fourth pillar kicks in: An end to “the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions … including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan.”

Devil in the details

It sounds simple. But it is also a tax. The Trump administration and the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate are looking to cut taxes, not raise them. So far, there has been little reaction from Capitol Hill or the White House.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the plan and would only say: “we have nothing to announce on that.”

And some environmental groups, while backing a carbon tax in general, are less excited about the prospect of abandoning the progress made during the last administration.

The Natural Resources Defense Council put out a statement that a carbon tax alone won’t solve the problem.

But whether it succeeds or not, one of the real goals is to give conservatives a chance to get beyond what many see as their history of climate change denial.  “…this is an opportunity to demonstrate the power of the conservative canon by offering a more effective, equitable and popular climate policy based on free markets, smaller government and dividends for all Americans.”

Science & Health

Study: More Screen Time Not So Bad for Children

Until last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that to limit exposure to potentially harmful messages, children and teenagers should engage in no more than two hours of playing video games or watching television per day.  

Psychologist Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University in Florida points to a lack of data backing up the notion that too much screen time is truly harmful. Still, he said, it’s a common public perception.

“There’s always this kind of sense of there being a zero-sum game, that the more time our kids are spending with screens, the less time they’re spending with academics, the more they’re getting exposed to all kinds of antisocial messages or objectionable messages that … we would not like our kids to be exposed to,” he said.

A British study, according to Ferguson, found there was a very small negative effect — about a 1 percent increase — in aggression and depression among kids who engaged in six or more hours of screen time per day.

Ferguson wanted to see whether there was a similar effect among American adolescents. So he and a team of investigators analyzed responses from a survey on risky behaviors given to about 6,000 kids in Florida. Their average age was 16. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the questionnaire.

Data from the 2013 survey found that American children were also fairly resistant to the negative effects of screen consumption.  

Small differences

Among those who played video games, watched TV or worked on a computer up to six hours per day, there was a small increase in delinquency of half of 1 percent, a 1.7 percent increase in depressive symptoms and a 1.2 percent negative impact on school grades.

The researchers saw no increase in risky sex or driving behaviors, the use of illegal substances or eating disorders.

“Kids actually can consume a larger amount of media than we kind of thought in the past, kind of up to six hours per day, without there being any noticeable correlation of problematic behaviors,” Ferguson said.

The findings were published in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly.

The pediatric association no longer recommends a limit on screen time, instead suggesting that parents try to strike a balance with beneficial activities such as getting enough sleep, exercising and doing homework.

Ferguson agrees that those things are important, but goes a step further, saying youngsters should become intimately familiar with screen technology, since it has become an essential part of our everyday lives, from academics to work.

Arts & Entertainment

Diversity to Rock Runway at NY Fashion Week

From faux furs and statement outerwear to floral prints and pants suits for warmer weather, a diversity of styles for all seasons will hit the runway at New York Fashion Week.

Many designers at the semi-annual event, which  begins on Thursday, will preview 2017 fall/winter apparel that will land in stores months from now. But others will follow a trend that started last year and show in-season designs for spring/summer that consumers can snap up immediately.

“We’re also seeing a lot of designers show spring as well with their ‘see now/buy now’ collection,” said Katrina Mitzeliotis, fashion director at celebrity and style website “There is more diversity than ever before in what’s coming down the runway.”

Designers Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford and a few others featured in-season looks at last September’s Fashion Week, months ahead of when the fashion world was accustomed to seeing them.

Look for plenty of mashups, or mixed fabrics that appear to be thrown together with studied casualness, to grace Fashion Week runways this season, said Roseanne Morrison, fashion director of The Doneger Group. She expects plenty of pant suits and outfits with a tailored look, too.

“I am sure a lot of the fabrics will be lighter in weight because most of the designers are addressing seasonless, or ‘see now/buy now’ concept, because nobody is really buying for three months ahead,” she said.

While the idea has picked up steam, Catherine Bennett, senior vice president, managing director of IMG fashion events, cautioned that it is not a business model for everyone.

“It’s really a personal decision for each designer,” she explained. “It’s a great solution for some brands but not for others.”

But diversity may extend beyond the fashions at Fashion Week, which organizers said attracts about 100,000 people and generates $880 million in revenue for New York City.

Last season more than 25 percent of the models in shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan were women of color, according to a study by website.

New York led the way, with 30.3 percent, and that could rise this year. The city’s Fashion Week also featured the most plus-size models in recent history, more women over 50 years old and a slight increase in transgender models, with 10


“We’re seeing diversity more and more in fashion, whether it is race or size,” said Mitzeliotis.

Fashion experts hope the trend will continue and make the shows more inclusive, broadening the appeal of the fashions.

This year IMG, the organizer of Fashion Week, has moved the shows from midtown venues to the SoHo neighborhood of lower Manhattan.

Although some designers will still present their collections at venues in other parts of Manhattan, the bulk of the shows are scheduled for three galleries at Skylight Clarkson Square and the presentation space Industria.