The 2017 US bushfire season is off to alarming start, with thousands of individual fires having scorched through two million acres since the start of the year. That's nearly 10 times more land burned than what's typically seen at this stage of the season — and a troubling sign of things to come.
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Back in June, after installing a new lithium-ion battery into its ape-inspired RoboSimian and plugging it into charge, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had their lunches cut short when the battery suddenly exploded in a spectacular fireball that completely torched the bot.
An out-of-control bushfire ripping through California's central coast is expected to get worse before it gets better. On Saturday, California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) announced that the so-called Soberanes fire, which has already burned an area larger than San Francisco, could quadruple in size and rage for another month.
One more horrific prediction has come to pass for California's drought-ravaged forests. According to the US Forest Service, trees are dying at an even more astonishing rate than they were last summer (Australia's winter), creating fuel for what will almost certainly be the worst wildfire season in memory.
On the list of things you're not advised to do in closed quarters with a limited oxygen supply, lighting a fire definitely ranks high. But this week, NASA did exactly that: The agency intentionally ignited a "large scale fire" aboard a spacecraft.
It had all the elements of a catastrophe: A truck hit an electrical pole in the bone-dry canyons outside LA, exploding a transformer. Winds were brisk with temperatures above 32C. Despite that, the 500-acre blaze that looked particularly scary has only damaged three structures, reportedly because local residents had take the right precautions to protect themselves from bushfire.
A new observation tower will be built in Dubai, and it's already being billed as an "architectural wonder that will be as great as Burj Khalifa and Eiffel Tower". That's great, but what I really want to know is this: Will it catch on fire?
If drones aren't chasing firefighters away from a fire, then they're probably close enough that the delicate plastic and sensitive sensors are slowly melting. Fire and drones are basically a terrible combination in every way, unless they're a tool being used by firefighters to map out a burning building.
After three separate instances of drones grounding firefighting efforts, a Southern California county is getting serious about finding and punishing their operators. San Bernardino County Supervisors have offered a $US75,000 reward which they hope will entice people to come forward with information about the quadcopters in question.