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Story tips: Fueling up on savings, COVID’s behavior effect, cosmic collisions, seismic and sound, and space-to-ground comms

Transportation — Fueling up on savings Credit: Nathan Armistead/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy Transportation — Fueling up on savings Oak Ridge National…

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Transportation — Fueling up on savings

Credit: Nathan Armistead/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Transportation — Fueling up on savings

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers determined that for every 5 miles per hour that drivers travel over a 50-mph speed limit, fuel economy decreases by 7% and equates to paying an extra 28 cents per gallon at current average U.S. fuel prices.

This finding was released in the updated 2022-23 Fuel Economy Guide, which provides tips to save on fuel. Researchers use data from demonstrations to show impacts on fuel efficiency such as speeding, low tire pressure, neglecting vehicle maintenance or carrying a heavy roof rack.

“Simple adjustments can lead to big impacts,” ORNL’s Stacy Davis said. “Make sure you’re driving the most fuel-efficient vehicle and using the recommended octane. The difference for a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon and one that gets 30 miles per gallon is about 7 cents per mile. That’s a savings of $70 for a 1,000-mile roundtrip.”

Davis also recommended using the guide’s Trip Calculator to estimate fuel expenditures.

Media contact: Jennifer Burke, 865.414.6835, burkejj@ornl.gov

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/MicrosoftTeams-image%20%283%29.png

Caption: The online Fuel Economy Guide, compiled by ORNL researchers, provides simple tips to save at the pump including the Trip Calculator tool to better navigate vehicle choice and estimate mileage. Credit: Storyblocks

 

COVID — Changing behavior

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have empirically quantified the shifts in routine daytime activities, such as getting a morning coffee or takeaway dinner, following safer at home orders during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. These insights, published in the Journal of Transport Geography, could help officials better understand traffic patterns and supplement the response to emergencies or crises. 

Using SafeGraph data of GPS markers at millions of points of interest, the team identified the times when people were most active over 24-hour periods and how those differed from pre-pandemic timetables.

“We saw the largest differences in temporal and geographical behaviors during the morning and evening in 2020. With an increase in remote work and virtual schooling, we can see how people’s activities changed when normal commutes changed,” said ORNL’s Kevin Sparks.

Notably, the sheer size of the datasets being ingested, cataloged, queried and analyzed for research required the team to build a significant compute infrastructure based on scalability and connectivity.

Media contact: Liz Neunsinger, 865.341.0249, neunsingerel@ornl.gov  

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/COVID%20human%20behavior.jpg

Caption: Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers quantified human behaviors during the early days of COVID-19, which could be useful for disaster response or city planning. Credit: Nathan Armistead/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

 

Physics — Cosmic collisions revealed

Scientists are using Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Multicharged Ion Research Facility to simulate the cosmic origin of X-ray emissions resulting when highly charged ions collide with neutral atoms and molecules, such as helium and gaseous hydrogen.

“This facility gives us a new X-ray observational window to peer into otherwise invisible processes found in star-forming galaxies, galaxy clusters, supernova remnants and relativistic jets from black holes,” said ORNL’s Charles Havener.  

Havener and collaborators developed techniques to collide beams of ions with neutral atoms or molecules present in space. They measure X-ray emissions from charge-exchange processes using an X-ray quantum calorimeter developed at the University of Wisconsin with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Its high resolution will enable improved understanding of astrophysical processes.

“In the future, we want to measure X-ray emissions from charge exchange with atomic hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe – but the most challenging measurement in a lab,” Havener said. 

Media contact: Dawn Levy, 865.202.9465, levyd@ornl.gov   

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/2021-P08920.jpg

Caption: Physicist Charles Havener uses the NASA end station at ORNL’s Multicharged Ion Research Facility to simulate the origin of X-ray emissions from space. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

 

Seismic — Feeling it out

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory team developed a novel technique using sensors to monitor seismic and acoustic activity and machine learning to differentiate operational activities at facilities from “noise” in the recorded data.

Using the lab’s High Flux Isotope Reactor as a testbed, the researchers placed remote sensors near the facility and continuously recorded data. Their published results showed they could predict whether the reactor was on or off with 98% accuracy. They could also tell whether seismo-acoustic activity was coming from reactor-specific operations or other sources, such as equipment vibrations from a nearby cooling tower.

“We got creative with the tools, and we were able to tease out the information from that seismic noise a technique that worked well,” ORNL’s Monica Maceira said.

The team’s new approach could be used as a protective measure for sensitive facilities and nonproliferation applications and as a monitoring tool for building structural health.

Media contact: Sara Shoemaker, 865.576.9219, shoemakerms@ornl.gov

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/Seismo%20acoustic%20draft%20v3.jpg

Caption: With seismic and acoustic data recorded by remote sensors near ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor, researchers could predict whether the reactor was on or off with 98% accuracy. Credit: Nathan Armistead/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

 

Communications — Space to ground

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is debuting a small satellite ground station that uses high-performance computing to support automated detection of changes to Earth’s landscape. The new system will reduce the time it takes to collect, process and analyze satellite imagery, saving precious seconds when human life may be at risk.

The HPC-enabled automated change detection and satellite integration can help speed emergency response and relief efforts following crises such as wildfires, natural disasters or sudden population migrations.

Once the system’s installation is complete, expected this summer, satellites across UHF and S Band frequencies will be able to downlink data direct to ORNL’s supercomputing facility for analytics and other tasks.

“We can collect data from one satellite to identify something and then re-task another constellation to look at it from a different perspective,” ORNL’s David Page said of the process to connect satellite constellations.

ORNL is working with private small satellite companies and plans to expand its footprint.

Media contact: Liz Neunsinger, 865.341.0249, neunsingerel@ornl.gov

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/Ground%20station%20satellite%20tip.jpg

Caption: Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers built an Earth-to-space communications system to work with private and government partners with the goal of directly connecting data downlinks to high-performance computing. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy


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Government

China Shortens Travel Quarantine In COVID Zero Shift

China Shortens Travel Quarantine In COVID Zero Shift

China unexpectedly slashed quarantine times for international travelers, to just one…

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China Shortens Travel Quarantine In COVID Zero Shift

China unexpectedly slashed quarantine times for international travelers, to just one week, which suggests Beijing is easing COVID zero policies. The nationwide relaxation of pandemic restrictions led investors to buy Chinese stocks.

Inbound travelers will only quarantine for ten days, down from three weeks, which shows local authorities are easing draconian curbs on travel and economic activity as they worry about slumping economic growth sparked by restrictive COVID zero policies earlier this year that locked down Beijing and Shanghai for months (Shanghai finally lifted its lockdown measures on May 31). 

"This relaxation sends the signal that the economy comes first ... It is a sign of importance of the economy at this point," Li Changmin, Managing Director at Snowball Wealth in Guangzhou, told Bloomberg

At the peak of the COVID outbreak, many residents in China's largest city, Shanghai, were quarantined in their homes for two months, while international travelers were under "hard quarantines" for three weeks. The strict curbs appear to have suppressed the outbreak, but the tradeoff came at the cost of faltering economic growth. 

The announcement of the shorter quarantine period suggests a potentially more optimistic outlook for the Chinese economy. Bullish price action lifted CSI 300 Index by 1%, led by tourism-related stocks (LVMH shares rose as much as 2.5%, Richemont +3.1%, Kering +3%, Moncler +3%). 

"The reduction of travel restrictions will be positive for the luxury sector, and may boost consumer sentiment and confidence following months of lockdowns in China's biggest cities," Barclays analysts Carole Madjo wrote in a note. 

CSI 300 is up 19% from April's low, nearing bull market territory. 

Jane Foley, a strategist at Rabobank in London, commented that "this news suggests that perhaps the authorities will not be as stringent with Covid controls as has been expected." 

"The news also coincides with reports that the PBOC is pledging to keep monetary policy supportive," Foley pointed out, referring to Governor Yi Gang's latest comment. 

She said, "this suggests a potentially more optimistic outlook for the Chinese economy, which is good news generally for commodity exporters such as Australia and all of China's trading partners." 

Even though the move is the right step in the right direction, Joerg Wuttke, head of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, said, "the country cannot open its borders completely due to relatively low vaccination rates ... This, in conjunction with a slow introduction of mRNA vaccines, means that China may have to maintain a restricted immigration policy beyond the summer of 2023." 

Alvin Tan, head of Asia currency strategy in Singapore for RBC Markets, also said shortening quarantine time for inbound visitors shouldn't be a gamechanger, and "there's nothing to say that it won't be raised tomorrow." 

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/28/2022 - 07:38

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Economics

Energy Stocks Are Down, But Remain Top Sector Performer

High-flying energy shares have hit turbulence in recent weeks but remain, by far, the leading performer for US equity sectors so far in 2022, as of yesterday’s…

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High-flying energy shares have hit turbulence in recent weeks but remain, by far, the leading performer for US equity sectors so far in 2022, as of yesterday’s close (June 27), based on a set of ETFs. But with global growth slowing, and recession risk rising, analysts are debating if it’s time to cut and run.

The broad-based correction in stocks has weighed on energy shares lately. Energy Sector SPDR (XLE) has fallen sharply after reaching a record high on June 8. Despite the slide, XLE remains the best-performing sector by a wide margin year to date via a near-36% gain in 2022.

By contrast, the overall US stock market is still in the red via SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), which is down nearly 18% year to date. The worst-performing US sector: Consumer Discretionary Sector SPDR (XLY), which is in the hole by almost 29% this year.

The case for, and against, seeing energy’s recent weakness as a buying opportunity can be filtered through two competing narratives. The bullish view is that the Ukraine war continues to disrupt energy exports from Russia, a major source of oil and gas. As a result, pinched supply will continue to exert upward pressure on prices in a world that struggles to quickly find replacements for lost energy sources. The question is whether growing headwinds from inflation, rising interest rates and other factors will take a toll on global economic growth to the point the energy demand tumbles, driving prices down.

The market seems to be entertaining both possibilities at the moment and is still processing the odds that one or the other scenario prevails, or not. Meanwhile, energy bulls predict that the pullback in oil and gas prices is only a temporary run of weakness in an ongoing bull market for energy.

Goldman Sachs, in particular, remains bullish on energy and advises that the potential for more prices gains in crude oil and other products “is tremendously high right now,” according to Jeffrey Currie, the bank’s global head of commodities research. “The bottom line is the situation across the energy space is incredibly bullish right now. The pullback in prices we would view as a buying opportunity,” he says. “At the core of our bullish view of energy is the underinvestment thesis. And that applies more today than it did two weeks, three weeks ago, because we’ve just seen exodus of money from the space… investment continues to run from the space at a time it should be coming to the space.”

Meanwhile, a bit of historical perspective on momentum for all the sector ETFs listed above reminds that the trend direction remains bearish overall. But contrarians take note: the downside bias is close to the lowest levels since the pandemic first took a hefty bite out of market action back in March 2020 (see chart below). This may or may not be a long-term buying opportunity, but the odds for a bounce, however, temporary, look relatively strong at the moment.


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Economics

Five things you can do to help you have a more positive birth experience

Becoming a parent can be nerve-wracking – but there are many things you can do to feel more in control.

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Don't be afraid to make your preferences clear to your care provider. Syda Productions/ Shutterstock

Whether you’re a first time parent or have had children before, you’re probably willing to try anything to ensure you have the most positive birth experience you can. After all, the kind of birth experience you have can not only affect your own mental health, but can have an affect on parent-child bonding, as well as partner-to-partner relationships for years after giving birth.

It can be confusing to know what to expect or where to turn to for advice, especially as maternity services have changed due to falling staff numbers and the continued impact of COVID-19. But here are a few things you can do yourself as you navigate your maternity care, which may help you have a more positive birth experience:

1. Get educated

Studies have shown that signing up for antenatal classes can help reduce fear, depression and anxiety – both during pregnancy and after birth.

Typically, antenatal classes will help you understand what’s happening to your body during pregnancy and explain the birth process. They may also teach you coping strategies to help relax during labour, alongside guidance on caring for your new baby. Antenatal classes can also be a great way of meeting other parents going through the same thing as you.

Another option is creating a personalised care and support plan, which is offered by most NHS trusts in the UK. This is a tool you can use with your care providers to explore what’s important to you – and discuss what your range of options are, such as your preferred place of birth, or whether you prefer skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after birth.

Understanding what your body’s going through, and making a personalised plan for your birth, may help you feel more prepared and less anxious about what to expect.

2. Know your carers

Being cared for by one nominated midwife, or being assigned to a team of familiar midwives, is shown to be associated with better outcomes for you and your baby – including decreased chance of having a premature labour and lower likelihood of needing interventions (such as birth with the help of forceps). You’re also more likely to be satisfied with your overall experience.

When an allocated midwife is not an option this makes choosing the right birth partners crucial. They can not only offer you reassurance, encouragement and support but can be your advocate, help you try different positions in labour and help provide you with snacks and drinks. Most typically these would be trusted loved ones. But be aware that research shows birth partners may also feel anxious or overwhelmed at taking on this role, and may struggle with seeing a loved one in pain – so it’s important to be realistic about your expectations, and choose the right person. It may be the best birth partner for you is a close friend or relative.

3. Challenge care recommendations if you aren’t happy

There are likely to be many other options available to you – such as where you might give birth, or how you want to be cared for during labour.

During antenatal appointments be sure to pause, think and ask about benefits, risks and alternatives to the care being proposed. Research shows how important choice and personalised care are for expectant parents who want their voices and preferences to be acknowledged, and to receive consistent advice.

Expectant couple speak with female doctor in doctor's office.
Bringing a loved one or partner with you can make it easier to voice any concerns you may have. wavebreakmedia/ Shutterstock

If you have concerns over a suggestion your care providers have made or have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Take your birth partner with you if you prefer, who can empower you to ensure your voice is heard. After all, care providers are duty bound to ensure you make fully informed choices.

4. Don’t always listen to your friends and family

Once people hear you have a baby on the way it seems everyone feels the need, without asking, to tell you the full (and often graphic) details of their own children’s birth.

But it’s perfectly acceptable to politely change the subject if you don’t want to listen, or if hearing these stories makes you nervous or worry. It’s also worth remembering that each person has a different labour and birth, even with their own children – so what was true for someone else is likely not to be the same for you. While it can be helpful for some people to debrief after the birth, it’s okay to avoid hearing this yourself if it makes your nervous, and maybe suggest they speak with a professional about their experience instead of telling you.

5. Visit your preferred place of birth

Many maternity units are now opening up their doors again to tours and informal visits – and those that aren’t are doing this virtually.

Becoming familiar with where you might give birth – even down to where you might park on the day – can help you feel more confident about giving birth. It may also remove some of the unknown, helping you regain a sense of control – which in itself is linked to a more positive birth experience.

For those planning a homebirth, speak to your midwife about how you can improve your space to facilitate the most safe and positive experience. For one of the most important days of your life, visualising where this will take place ahead of time can help you feel more confident and in control.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that no one can predict exactly how your labour and birth journey will go. Even after heeding the above steps – there’s always a chance you may need to consider a plan B, C or even D. But no matter what, remember you’ve done your very best, and you’re not likely to repeat this exact experience the next time.

Claire Parker does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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