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Pumped hydropower is great. This method might be even better.

Two new compressed air storage plants will soon rival the world’s largest non-hydroelectric facilities and hold up to 10 gigawatt hours of energy. But what is advanced compressed air energy storage (A-CAES), exactly, and why is the method about to have a moment?

Compressed air is part of a growingly familiar kind of energy storage: grid-stabilizing batteries. Like Elon Musk’s battery farm in Australia and other energy overflow storage facilities, the goal of a compressed air facility is to take extra energy from times of surplus and feed it back into the grid during peak usage.

Here’s how the A-CAES technology works: Extra energy from the grid runs an air compressor, and the compressed air is stored in the plant. Later, when energy is needed, the compressed air then runs a power-generating turbine. The facility also stores heat from the air to help smooth the turbine process later on.

Tractors that steer themselves are nothing new to Minnesota farmer Doug Nimz. But then four years ago, John Deere brought a whole new kind of machine to his 2,000-acre corn and soybean farm. That tractor could not only steer itself but also didn’t even need a farmer in the cab to operate it.

It turns out the 44,000-pound machine was John Deere’s first fully autonomous tractor, and Nimz was one of the first people in the world to try it out. His farm served as a testing ground that allowed John Deere’s engineers to make continuous changes and improvements over the last few years. On Tuesday, the rest of the world got to see the finished tractor as the centerpiece of the company’s CES 2022 press conference.

“It takes a while to get comfortable because … first of all, you’re just kind of amazed just watching it,” said Nimz, who on a windy October afternoon described himself as “very, very interested” but also a “little suspicious” of autonomous technology before using John Deere’s machine on his farm. “When I actually saw it drive … I said, ‘Well, goll, this is really going to happen. This really will work.’”

Decisions, decisions. All of us are constantly faced with conscious and unconscious choices. Not just about what to wear, what to eat or how to spend a weekend, but about which hand to use when picking up a pencil, or whether to shift our weight in a chair. To make even trivial decisions, our brains sift through a pile of “what ifs” and weigh the hypotheticals. Even for choices that seem automatic—jumping out of the way of a speeding car, for instance—the brain can very quickly extrapolate from past experiences to make predictions and guide behavior.

In a paper published in January 2020, in Cell, a team of researchers in California peered into the brains of rats on the cusp of making a decision and watched their neurons rapidly play out the competing choices available to them. The mechanism they described might underlie not just decision-making, but also animals’ ability to envision more abstract possibilities—something akin to imagination.

The group, led by the neuroscientist Loren Frank of the University of California, San Francisco, investigated the activity of cells in the hippocampus, the seahorse-shaped brain region known to play crucial roles both in navigation and in the storage and retrieval of memories. They gave extra attention to neurons called place cells, nicknamed “the brain’s GPS” because they mentally map an animal’s location as it moves through space.

Sometimes, good things come in small packages. Extremely tiny packages such as a microrobot that can pollinate fields of crops, help rescue people, and so on. Researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are already working on that and they’re making significant progress.

Cambridge scientists have identified a key signal that the fetus uses to control its supply of nutrients from the placenta, revealing a tug-of-war between genes inherited from the father and from the mother. The study, carried out in mice, could help explain why some babies grow poorly in the womb.

As the fetus grows, it needs to communicate its increasing needs for food to the mother. It receives its nourishment via blood vessels in the placenta, a specialized organ that contains cells from both baby and mother.

Between 10% and 15% of babies grow poorly in the womb, often showing reduced growth of blood vessels in the placenta. In humans, these blood vessels expand dramatically between mid and late gestation, reaching a total length of approximately 320 kilometers at term.

Lawns are becoming less and less popular these days. Besides being high-maintenance, they are terrible for the environment. The mono-crop grasses require lots of watering, fertilizing and “herbiciding.” With mounting water shortages around the world, should we really be dumping clean water on non-edible grass?

Naturally, people are looking for alternatives. Some are planting edible gardens, some are planting prairie grasses and flowers for pollinators, and some are planting eco-friendly clover lawns, for a look and feel more similar to a regular lawn.

And now we’ve found another alternative — creeping red thyme. Like clover, the fast-growing cover crop can take over your whole lawn like a carpet.