At some point during this period, the USA is struck by the most devastating earthquake in its history
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600 mile-long converging plate boundary stretching from northern California to southern British Columbia. The fault causes a major earthquake about once every 300 years. Compared to other fault lines, this is an unusually long return time – resulting in greater stress build-up and stronger subsequent earthquakes. The last major event (a so-called megathrust quake) took place in 1700 and was estimated to have had a magnitude of at least 9.0.
Since then, the movement of the two plates has steadily built up pressure. In the first half of the 21st century, the fault exceeds the vast majority of previous time intervals in recorded history.* During this time, the plates finally slip, resulting in the single most devastating earthquake in United States history.*** It is centred on the state of Oregon, with a duration of several minutes, inflicting deadly damage to major population centres like Portland, Seattle, Olympia and even Vancouver and Victoria. Of course, many structures have been retrofitted and are able to withstand the earthquake, along with the majority of newer buildings. However, years of economic trouble, as well as a general inexperience of large earthquakes, have left many structures vulnerable.
Bridges and highways collapse, while the ground in the Seattle bay area liquefies, dragging buildings underwater. Broken gas mains and power lines spark many fires. The quake generates massive tsunamis,* which inundate coastal communities from California to Alaska. These giant waves are sent racing across the Pacific, causing damage as far away as Hawaii and Japan. Millions are left without power, while emergency responders struggle to adapt to the scale of the disaster. The death toll quickly reaches into the thousands, while the financial cost exceeds $100 billion. Along with the similarly devastating southern California earthquake, this disaster pushes much of the American west coast toward financial ruin.
some point during this period, a major earthquake hits California
had been warning for years that it wasn't a matter of "if"
– but "when" a major earthquake
would strike the Los Angeles basin.* This particular quake is of sufficient magnitude
to cause tens of billions of dollars' worth of economic damage, with much loss of human life. Thousands of buildings
are destroyed and there is widespread damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Latvia joins the eurozone
Latvia officially adopted the euro currency on 1st January 2014, becoming the 18th eurozone country. This was despite a majority (52%) of its people opposing membership, with only 45% in support. Two years previously, many had wondered if the euro would survive. During 2013, however, the currency actually rose 4.5 percent against the dollar, finishing the year at 1.38 to the dollar. An assessment published in June 2013 asserted that Latvia had met all the convergence criteria necessary for euro adoption, which was given final approval by the Economic and Financial Affairs Council the following month.*
The IPCC releases its Fifth Assessment Report
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases the final part of its Fifth Assessment Report, which further discusses the possible future impacts of climate change.*
The first two reports were released in 1990 and 1995, respectively. Both of these highlighted the potential rise in global temperature and the long term effects of greenhouse gases. The second report was particularly strong in clarifying that humans were affecting the climate.
The third report, released in 2001, provided even greater certainty on this and future projected temperatures. Every model presented in the report showed global temperatures and sea levels rising significantly by the end of the 21st century.
The fourth assessment report was released in 2007. This was by far the most alarming to date. New data, along with state-of-the-art computer modelling, showed a global temperature increase as high as 6.4°C (11.5°F) by the end of the 21st century on a "business as usual" scenario.
Even these dire predictions proved to be an underestimate, however, due to an incomplete scientific understanding. They failed to include the amplifying effects of certain feedback mechanisms – such as methane, released from melting permafrost – and dynamic shifts in glacier melt. Another factor being overlooked was the sudden and rapid emergence of China and India. These nations, with their enormous populations, were now becoming industrialised at a phenomenal rate, creating a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 1990, each report from the IPCC has been more certain and more grim. The fifth assessment report continues this trend. By 2014, the next generation of Earth System Models has produced petabytes of new climate data, making available far more information for this document than in earlier reports. The fifth assessment expands on the predictions of the 2007 report – narrowing the range of possible temperature and sea level rises. More is known about how natural processes react to climate change, helping to build a comprehensive view of the future climate. The overall conclusion of the Fifth Assessment Report is that humanity is on a path to self-destruction and is rapidly running out of time.** Despite these warnings, and a broad scientific consensus, much of the public remains sceptical about global warming.*
The European Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) is operational
The Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) is a new system which gives the European Central Bank (ECB) the power to intervene in any bank within the eurozone. Its aim is to reduce financial risk and prevent cross-border contagion. A new permanent rescue fund – the European Stability Mechanism – allows failing banks to be recapitalised directly without adding to a country's sovereign debt. The biggest contributors are Germany (27%), France (20%) and Italy (18%).
The SSM receives a mixed reaction. On the one hand, there are those who welcome the increased regulation, something which was largely absent for years and played a major role in the crisis of 2008. On the other hand, fears are raised over the centralised supervision of so many banks, viewed by many as another step towards a federal European superstate.
This banking union is of particular concern to the UK, which until now has dominated financial services with over half of all investment banking in Europe. With its own separate currency – pound sterling – it lies outside the group of eurozone members and their circle of influence, but within the European Union (EU). It therefore stands to be marginalised when decisions are taken on regulation in the EU as a whole. This triggers a major debate in the UK over the country's role in policymaking, leading to further calls for a referendum on its EU membership.
Scotland votes "no" to independence
Prior to the UK general election of 1997, popular arguments against a Scottish Parliament were that it would create a "slippery slope" to independence, giving the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) a route to power. John Major, Conservative Prime Minister until 1997, famously claimed it would end "1,000 years of British history" (although the Acts of Union uniting the countries were still less than 300 years old at the time). The Labour Party met these criticisms by claiming that devolution would fatally undermine the SNP, and remedy the long-felt desire of Scots for a measure of self-government.
Following the election of Tony Blair and Labour in 1997, a referendum was held in which the Scottish people voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament. This was established by the Scotland Act 1998, which set out its powers as a devolved legislature. The first meeting of the new Parliament took place on 12th May 1999.
In the 2007 parliamentary election the SNP emerged as the largest party but could only form a minority government. Its election manifesto had pledged to hold a referendum on independence in 2010. The draft of a referendum bill was launched to the public, detailing the options and proposals for Scotland's future. Due to opposition from the other main parties, however, the bill was eventually withdrawn after failing to secure enough support.
During the 2011 parliamentary election, the SNP repeated its earlier manifesto pledge. This time, the party won an absolute majority, gaining a mandate to hold an independence referendum. In 2012, the UK government offered to legislate to provide the Scottish Parliament with the specific powers to hold a referendum, providing it was "fair, legal and decisive". This would set terms of reference for the referendum, such as the question(s) asked, the electorate used and the organising body. The Scottish Government then announced that they intended to hold the referendum in autumn 2014. Negotiations continued between the Scottish and UK Governments until October 2012, when an agreement was reached.
Media reports speculated that autumn 2014 was chosen due to the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn – one of the decisive Scottish victories in the wars of independence. However, this was denied by First Minister Alex Salmond.
Salmond had been hoping to fund and build a campaign for a second question on greater devolution, but his efforts ended in failure. The referendum would instead ask a single "yes or no" question on independence.
The main arguments from those in favour of independence were political and economic freedom, allowing Scotland to have full control over its taxes, laws and natural resources. It was thought that being independent from England, Wales and Northern Ireland would give the country a greater presence on the world stage. Scotland could guide its own destiny, shaping its unique values, needs and aspirations while remaining friends with the rest of the UK.
On the other side of the debate, those who favoured maintaining the status quo pointed to the centuries-long economic and political success of the existing union – arguably one of the most stable and prosperous in the world. An independent Scotland would mean greater financial risks and a loss of security, diminishing the Union as a whole, at a time of global uncertainty.
A third viewpoint – known as Devo Plus – advocated for Scotland to have responsibility in raising the taxes it spent while keeping defence, pensions and foreign affairs at UK level.
Polls conducted prior to the referendum consistently favoured a continuation of the Union.*** In 2014, the majority of Scots voted "no" to independence. Scotland would retain its status as part of the United Kingdom, a position it had held since 1707.*
The first gay marriages are held in England and Wales
Civil partnerships had already been permitted in the UK since 2005, following the Civil Partnership Act. This gave rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples that were identical to civil marriage between opposite-sex couples. They were entitled to the same property rights, the same exemption on inheritance tax, the same social security and pension benefits, full life insurance recognition, the ability to get parental responsibility for a partner's children, as well as next of kin rights in hospitals.
This angered some Christian groups concerned that the sanctity of marriage was being threatened. It was criticised by gay rights activists, however, for not going far enough – since the Act stopped short of awarding full marriage status, which they still viewed as a form of discrimination.
The gay rights movement continued to gain momentum. A public consultation was conducted in 2012, aimed at further reform. This was supported by conservative Prime Minister David Cameron as part of a modernising drive included in his party's election manifesto. It was proposed that full marriage rights be granted to gay couples in England and Wales by 2015.* In the end, the agreed date was 29th March 2014,* with Scotland following by early 2015.* Ireland would also follow during the first half of 2015.* However, its neighbour, Northern Ireland, would not.* Including these new additions, over 20 countries around the world recognise gay marriage or have it legalised in some jurisdictions.*
Internet has a greater reach than television
Citizens in developed nations now rely on the Internet more
than any other medium for news coverage. This trend* first became apparent in the early 2000s, when radio was overtaken by
Internet usage. The rapid shift towards web-based information then began
to affect print media, with newspaper sales being heavily impacted.
the trend has continued, with even television now having less reach
when it comes to news reporting. Television and the Internet are in
fact converging together as one. Social media, mobile technologies and
exponential bandwidth improvements have driven much of this change.
Google Glass is launched to the public
Google Glass is an augmented reality head-mounted display, allowing hands-free access to the web.* The product resembles normal eyeglasses where the lens is replaced by a small electronic screen. It provides interaction via natural language voice commands, as well as eye-tracking technology.* A miniature gyroscope can tell the user's position and orientation at all times. On the side frame is audio output, and a touch control pad, while on top is a button for recording photos and videos with a built-in camera. It is available to developers by 2013 and for the general public by 2014.* The design allows for integration of the display into people's day-to-day eyewear. It is light and weighs less than most sunglasses. A prototype unveiled in 2012 received criticism over the potential for Google to insert advertising (its main source of revenue) into the user's field of vision. However, the company denied it would use adverts.
The new World Trade Center is completed
After the terrorist attacks of 2001, then-President George Bush vowed that the World Trade Center complex would be fully rebuilt and the skyline made whole again. A competition was held between several architecture firms to design an iconic new landmark.
By 2010, however, only a single new building – 7 World Trade Center – had been completed, due to acrimonious disputes over money, security and design of the other buildings. The economic downturn had also slowed the project's progress considerably.
The following year, construction picked up, with all of the new buildings underway.* The new complex would be comprised of six towers, designed by five different architects. There would also be a memorial in the form of two square fountains in place of the previous Twin Towers' foundations. These would be located in a park at the centre of the development, along with a museum and visitor center.
The tallest of the new skyscrapers is One World Trade Center, previously called the Freedom Tower. Designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (the same architecture firm behind the Burj Khalifa in Dubai) it stands a symbolic 1,776 ft from base to pinnacle, recalling the year in which the Declaration of Independence was signed. The tower is built with several key safety features including a blast-resistant steel and concrete internal structure, polymer-reinforced glass, chemical and biological filters, widened stairs and a more thorough sprinkler system. It also sets an example for environmentally-friendly design: the roof collects rainwater, to be used for its cooling system and, like all buildings on the site, it is heated by steam, reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
One World Trade Center is completed in 2013, becoming the tallest building in the US and third tallest in the world, before being overtaken by the Shanghai Tower.* The entire complex is finished by 2014.*
The Shanghai Tower is completed
The Shanghai Tower is designed by Gensler and constructed in the Pudong District of Shanghai, China. It is the tallest in a group of three supertall buildings, the others being Jin Mao and the Shanghai World Financial Center. Upon its completion in 2014, it becomes the tallest skyscraper in China and the second tallest in the world, surpassed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The building rises 632 m (2,073 ft) and has 128 stories.
The tower is mixed-use and includes offices, a hotel, retail, entertainment facilities and observation decks. It is organised as nine cylindrical buildings stacked on top of each other and enclosed by the glass façade's inner layer. Between that and the outer layer, which twists as it rises, nine indoor zones provide public space for visitors. Each of these nine areas has its own atrium – featuring gardens, cafes, restaurants and retail space and providing 360° panoramic views of the city. These "sky gardens" cut the time needed for people to travel on the building's elevators and give visitors places to meet, eat and shop. Both layers of the façade are transparent.
Sustainability features heavily in the tower. Its twisting, asymmetrical design reduces wind loads by almost 25% meaning that fewer construction materials are needed. The building's spiralling parapet collects rainwater to be used for air conditioning and central heating systems. Wind turbines generate on-site power.
The building's form is a metaphor for the spirit and philosophy of China. Referencing the spiral as a symbol of the cosmos in Chinese culture, the tower's form symbolises China's connection with the world, space and time. Additionally, its triangular plan relates to the site's harmonious trio of buildings.*
hosts the FIFA World Cup
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is the 20th since the inaugural tournament
in 1930, and the second time that Brazil has hosted the competition.
It becomes the first World Cup to feature goal-line technology.* The
ball now has embedded magnetic strips, which send a signal to the referee
if they cross a sensor in the goal mouth. This is used in combination with a high-speed camera system which can triangulate the ball's exact location.
first solar aircraft to circumnavigate the globe
Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar powered craft being developed by
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. In 2014, it becomes the
first piloted fixed-wing plane to circle the Earth using solar power
has the wingspan of a large airliner, but weighs no more than a saloon
car. It uses 12,000 solar cells on its 64-metre wings to charge batteries
providing energy for 10-horsepower electric motors driving its propellors.
Its average speed is 70kph and it has a maximum altitude of 8,500 metres.*
of the Panama Canal expansion project
famous Panama Canal joins the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean and is a key
conduit for international maritime trade. Its capacity has now been
doubled, with the completion of a major expansion project. Following
eight years of excavation, a third set of locks has been added.
37% of shipping traffic was unable to pass through the canal because
of size, and the volume of shipping that did pass through was expected
to continue a steady rise. Global demand necessitated the construction
of this new, high tech passage.
program includes the construction of new locks in the Atlantic and Pacific,
the excavation of new access channels and the widening of existing channels.
It also includes deepening of the navigation channels in the Gaillard
Cut and Gatún Lake, and the raising of Gatún Lake’s
maximum operating level.
to traffic, the canal as a whole will be able to handle the projected
rise in volume to 2025 and beyond. This mega-project eases numerous
burdens on the shipping industry, as well as creating huge numbers of
jobs among the Panamanian people – generating enough wealth to reduce
poverty in the country by almost 30%. However, critics of the project
contend that there are serious environmental issues.*
28th July 2014 marks exactly 100 years to the day since the outbreak of World War I. No living veterans from that conflict now remain, the last survivor having passed away two years earlier in 2012. Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, experiences a surge in tourism during this time. This city was the location of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination on 28th June 1914, an event that triggered the war a month later.*
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, whose assassination led to WWI.
14 nanometre chips are released
The 14 nanometre process is used for the next generation of computer chips following the 22 nanometre size. Intel had originally planned for these to be released in late 2013, but due to production problems they would be delayed until 2014.* Transistors are now reaching extraordinarily small sizes, prompting fears that Moore's Law will come to an end. However, this trend in computing power will continue for some time to come, thanks to a new generation of materials such as graphene.
first products to use memristor technology are becoming available
theorised in 1971, memristors were described as the "missing link"
in electric circuitry. As a fourth fundamental circuit element, they
would have properties unachievable in the other elements (resistors,
years of research and development, they are now appearing in consumer
products.* Unlike conventional computer
memory, which stores data with electronic on and off switches, memristors
work at the atomic level. These nanoscale devices have a variable resistance,
able to "remember" their resistance when power is off.
them phenomenally faster, denser and more energy efficient than previous
electronics. Mobile phones and countless other gadgets can now benefit
from a vastly improved battery life, speed and memory capacity. Desktop
computers and laptops, meanwhile, can be booted-up almost instantly.
Because of their tiny size, memristors can also be used as microscopic
sensors, gathering a wide range of data from their surroundings.*
benefit of memristors is their reconfigurability. They can be similar
in behaviour to the synapses in brains. This offers the potential to
create electronics more capable of adapting to different situations
and exhibiting a form of learning, which may advance efforts in artificial
intelligence. Further into the future, it may be possible to build human
Worldwide, the market for smart watches has grown from 500,000 in 2013, to over 5 million by the end of 2014. These devices – which function as wearable computers – are the most important new product category in consumer electronics since the iPad.
Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung are among the firms launching a variety of stylish, hi-tech watches, incorporating a myriad of new hardware and software features to boost their appeal to consumers. Among the most popular uses are in health and wellness monitoring, sports and fitness. The market for traditional watches is being disrupted by the added functionality of this new generation.*
pack mules are entering military service
stable, quadruped robots are being deployed in military support roles
now.* These can accompany soldiers in terrain too difficult for conventional
vehicles. They use four legs for movement, allowing them to move across
surfaces that would defeat wheels or treads. They are capable of running
at 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h), while carrying loads up to 340 lb
(150 kg) and climbing slopes with 35 degree inclines. Locomotion,
navigation and balance are controlled by an onboard computer that receives
input from the robot's various sensors, which include a stereo vision system,
laser gyroscopes, joint position and ground contact monitors. These machines
greatly reduce the burden of equipment for soldiers.
Laser guns are in naval use
Following several years of research and development, Solid State Laser (SSL) weapons are now being deployed by the U.S. Navy as a form of short-range defence. These high-powered beams of directed energy can be fired at distances of four miles, hitting targets moving at 300 mph (480 km/h). This exceptionally
accurate system can protect against anti-ship missiles, as well as shooting
down drones and other flying vehicles, or it can be used on small "suicide" boats. It is actually cheaper than conventional projectiles, with a single shot costing under $1, compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to fire a missile. This is extremely useful in a time of budget constraints. The weapons had been scheduled for deployment in 2016,* but were ready two years earlier than planned.** In the next decade, they will evolve into railguns with phenomenal range and power.*
Credit: U.S. Navy
of the International Space Station
The International Space Station is by far the largest man-made structure ever put into
orbit: 110m (360 ft) across, with a mass of 345,000 kg and a living
volume of 1,000 cubic metres. It is maintained in a nearly circular orbit with a minimum mean altitude of 330 km (205 mi) and a maximum of 410 km (255 mi). It travels at an average speed of 27,724 kilometres (17,227 mi) per hour, completing 15 orbits per day. Primary fields of research on board
the vessel include human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical
sciences, astronomy and meteorology. The station had been scheduled for completion in 2012. However, installation of the final two components, the Russian multipurpose laboratory module Nauka and the European Robotic Arm were delayed. Once built, the ISS remains in operation until
The first test flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft
The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle was originally part of NASA's Constellation Program which was cancelled in 2010. However, the design was carried forward as the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion MPCV), as part of NASA's new plans for manned exploration to the Moon, Mars and asteroids.
The first test flight is in 2014.* For this particular mission, the capsule is unmanned. Nevertheless, it reaches a higher altitude than any spacecraft intended for human use since 1973. Orion makes two highly elliptical orbits of the Earth, before re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
This test supports the development of the Space Launch System – a new dedicated rocket, which itself will be tested in 2017. The first manned flight of Orion will occur in the 2020s, depending on Nasa's future funding.*
In 2011, the world's first commercial spaceport opened in the state of New Mexico, USA.* However, it was not until three years later that Virgin Galactic (its anchor tenant) began offering private flights to paying customers. Sir Richard Branson himself would be the first passenger on SpaceShipTwo, along with his two children, in what was billed as "one of the most memorable events on television".* Travelling at Mach 3.4, it reaches a height of nearly 70 miles (112 km) with six minutes of zero-G, before returning safely to Earth. A fleet of five spaceplanes enter commercial service following this successful demonstration, at $200,000 per person.
Photo by MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory
first test launch of the Falcon Heavy
Falcon Heavy is a new rocket
being developed by SpaceX – Space Exploration Technologies Corporation – one of two private companies that NASA has contracted to transport cargo
to the International Space Station.
Designed to lift satellites
or spacecraft into orbit weighing more than 53 tons, or 117,000 pounds, it has over twice the capacity of the Space Shuttle and Delta IV Heavy launcher.
At full power, its thrust is equivalent to fifteen 747's. This makes it the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V which took astronauts to the Moon.
goals include simultaneously lowering the price of orbital spaceflight
and improving reliability, both by a factor of ten, whilst creating
the first fully reusable orbital launch vehicle. Longer term, the company
intends to design an even more powerful rocket, known as a "super
heavy-lift" vehicle. This would have about three times the power
of a Falcon Heavy, or about 50 percent more than the Saturn V – enough
to carry people to Mars.
The Falcon Heavy was originally planned to have its
first demonstration flight in 2013. However, this schedule was subsequently moved to 2014.*
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft
arrives at Mars, to study its atmosphere and climate history.* Its four
primary objectives are:
determine the role that loss of volatiles from the Mars atmosphere to
space has played through time.
2. To determine the current state of the upper atmosphere, ionosphere,
and interactions with the solar wind.
3. To determine current rates of escape of neutral gases and ions
to space and the processes controlling them.
4. To determine the ratios of stable isotopes in the Martian atmosphere.
India's first Mars mission
Joining the MAVEN probe this year is another orbiter, the first Indian mission to Mars.* Launched in November 2013, the probe enters a highly elliptical orbit of 261 x 48,000 mi (421 x 77,000 km) around Mars in September 2014. The 25kg payload includes a colour camera, infrared and thermal analysers, a radiation spectrometer, methane sensor, and a Plasma and Current Experiment. Controversy surrounds the mission, however, in light of foreign aid to alleviate the country's ongoing poverty and social problems.*
Launch of the Sunjammer solar sail
The Sunjammer is a NASA mission intended to demonstrate solar sail technology, a form of propellant-free spacecraft propulsion that allows travel using radiation pressure alone.* This involves a combination of light and high-speed gas particles, ejected from the Sun, pushing large ultra-thin mirrors (or sails) to high speeds.
Solar sails have the potential to offer major advantages over conventional spacecraft. Low weight and a complete lack of fuel means that project costs are reduced. Though initially slow, their constant acceleration means they can build up to extremely high speeds over long time periods. This makes them especially well-suited for deep space missions to the outer planets, or even interstellar space. They could also provide a solution to the problem of space junk in Earth orbit, by catching small fragments of debris, or de-orbiting larger pieces.
The Sunjammer weighs just 31 kg (70 lb) and is the size of a dishwasher, prior to launch. When fully unfurled, however, its sails reach 38 metres (124 ft), covering almost 13,000 square feet, or one-third of an acre. This is 130 times larger than NanoSail-D2, a previous effort by NASA that was deployed in 2011.
Other spacecraft utilising solar sails include the Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun (IKAROS) – a Japanese mission launched in 2010,* with a larger version later in the decade.* By the 2030s, probes with solar sails are reaching hundreds of metres in size.* A few centuries from now, spacecraft the size of entire countries will become possible.*
A comet is passing extremely close to Mars
C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is an Oort cloud comet discovered in January 2013 by the Siding Spring Observatory. Subsequent analysis by NASA's NEO Program indicated that it could pass just 31,000 miles (50,000 km) from the Red Planet's surface: only two-and-a-half times the distance of its outermost moon, Deimos, and roughly the height at which communication satellites orbit Earth.* If the comet were to collide with Mars, it was estimated that a blast equivalent to a billion megatons of TNT would be produced, similar in scale to the impact which drove the dinosaurs extinct.
deploys its lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Rosetta is a probe launched in 2004 by the European Space Agency
and intended to study the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The craft
studies two asteroids, 2867 Steins and 21 Lutetia, before rendezvousing
with the comet in 2014. It then deploys a lander. This uses harpoons to anchor itself to
the surface, and has legs designed to dampen its initial impact. During
its week-long mission, the lander uses a variety of scientific instruments
to examine the surface and internal composition.*
phone calls are made via the Internet now
the majority of homes and workplaces use Voice over Internet Protocol
(VoIP) systems, such as Skype.* These
connections are made via the Internet, rather than traditional phone
lines. The biggest advantage of VoIP is the cost. PC-to-PC phone calls can
be made anywhere in the world, at any time, for free. PC-to-phone connections
usually charge a fee, but are generally much cheaper than standard phone
services with conventional handsets.
advantage is the portability. Phone calls can be made and received from any PC – provided there is a broadband connection – simply
by signing into a personal VoIP account. Phone-to-phone
VoIP is also portable. When you sign up with a VoIP servicer provider,
the Internet phone or adaptor that is used with that service is assigned
a unique number. This 'phone number' remains valid even if your VoIP
service provider is located in England and you are connected to the
Internet in Australia. An Internet phone is small and light enough to
take with you anywhere. It can simply be plugged into any broadband
connection, anywhere in the world, and used to make and receive calls,
just as though you were in your own home or office.
several other features that make VoIP attractive. Higher fidelity (wideband)
audio, video, call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID and
multiple-way calling at no extra charge. Digital data such as pictures,
documents and other files can also be transmitted during calls.
automation in retail environments
operators of retail chains are increasingly being replaced with automated
systems, in order
to save costs and improve efficiency. The customer simply scans
the items themselves, and is prompted via on-screen instructions and
audio to insert their method of payment. In
2009, around 100,000 self-service checkouts were installed worldwide. By
2014, this number has more than quadrupled.*
NATO ends combat operations in Afghanistan
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the U.S. Congress passed legislation authorising the use of military force against those it deemed responsible. Less than a month later, on 7th October 2001 – in what was called "an act of self-defence" – the U.S. government launched military operations in Afghanistan, with support from Britain. This occurred without the authorisation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
On 20th December 2001, with Taliban forces having abandoned the city of Kabul, the UNSC authorised the creation of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This would help the Afghan Interim Authority in maintaining security. Command of the ISAF passed to NATO in August 2003, following the US invasion of Iraq during March of that year.
Mullah Omar, spiritual leader of the Taliban, reorganised the Taliban movement and in 2003 launched insurgency against the Afghan government and ISAF forces. Though vastly outgunned and outnumbered by NATO forces and the Afghan National Army, the Taliban insurgents waged asymmetric warfare with guerrilla raids and ambushes in rural areas, suicide attacks against urban targets, and turncoat killings against coalition forces. The Taliban exploited the weak administration of the Afghan government, among the most corrupt in the world, to reassert influence across many areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan.
By 2004, the war had expanded into neighbouring North-West Pakistan, with Pakistani Army forces clashing with local tribes hosting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. The U.S. military began launching drone attacks in Pakistan to kill leaders of the insurgent groups. In 2006, NATO boosted its troop numbers for operations to "clear and hold" villages and began "nation building" projects to "win hearts and minds". These numbers proved to be insufficient, however, and further increases in support were needed in subsequent years. The war reached its peak in 2010 with over 100 coalition casualties in a single month.
Credit: Nigelj (CC BY-SA 3.0)
As the decade drew to a close, Obama's incoming administration proposed a new strategy. U.S. troop numbers would be increased again by 30,000 – bringing the total to 100,000. A phased withdrawal would then proceed from 2011 to 2014, with Afghan forces gradually assuming responsibility for security. A major turning point was reached on 2nd May 2011, as U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The following year, leaders of NATO countries endorsed an exit strategy for removing their soldiers from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
In the meantime, UN-backed peace talks got underway between the Afghan government and Taliban. Tens of thousands of people had been killed in the war, mostly militants and ordinary civilians. In addition, more than 4,000 ISAF soldiers and civilian contractors as well as over 10,000 Afghan National Security Forces had died. Support among the U.S. public for continued operations in the region had declined substantially.*
Although combat operations were intended to end by 31st December 2014, several thousand training personnel, Special Operations and military assets would remain until 2024, to support Afghanistan's army and police forces, ensuring the country did not fall back into chaos.* Furthermore, $16bn in development aid – closely monitored to avoid corruption or mismanagement – would assist the nation in rebuilding itself.*
1 "By the year 2060, if we have not had an earthquake, we will have exceeded 85 percent of all the known intervals of earthquake recurrence in 10,000 years." – Jay Patton
See Turbidite Event History — Methods and Implications for Holocene Paleoseismicity of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, USGS: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/pp1661f/
Accessed 1st January 2013.
54 "Future Solar Power Sail Demonstrator planned in the late 2010s will involve a large sized solar power sail with a diameter of 50m, and will have integrated ion-propulsion engines."
See Solar Power Sail Demonstrator "IKAROS", JAXA: http://www.jspec.jaxa.jp/e/activity/ikaros.html
Accessed 29th March 2013.