SpaceX Speeds Up, Canada Orders A Google Takedown, and “Clean” Coal Fails Again | Vol. 4 / No. 36

SpaceX is launching more and more often, Canada’s Supreme Court is bossing around Google, and another attempt at “clean” coal has bitten the dust because—you guessed it—economics! It’s the news roundup for July 2, 2017!

SpaceX Ramps Up Their Cadence

Elon Musk has been saying for years that as his rocket company gets more experienced, the rate of launches will increase, and it looks like we’re finally starting to see it happen. Last weekend, SpaceX launched two rockets in the space of 48 hours, and now it’s aiming for a third as early as this Sunday. On the afternoon of Friday, June 23, SpaceX launched BulgariaSat-1 from launchpad 39A in Cape Canaveral, sending the communication satellite into orbit aboard a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket (used in January for an Iridium NEXT mission), and landing the first stage again on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You for retrieval and reuse. Then, on the afternoon of Sunday, June 25, the company launched another Iridium NEXT mission from Vanderburg AFB on the California coast, landing the first stage minutes later on the drone ship Just Read The Instructions. It’s the first time two orbital-class rockets were launched from the US within two days of each other since March 1995, when two Lockheed-Martin Atlas rockets delivered payloads to orbit from Florida and California in the same way. And now SpaceX is targeting today, Sunday, July 2 (7:36pm, Cape Canaveral time) for a third launch in ten days. They’re hoping to put the Intelsat 35e up today or tomorrow, depending on the weather. You can read more about the first two launches here at Spaceflight Now, and follow along with the Intelsat launch over at this Reddit thread.


Canada Orders Global Google Takedown

In a news item that flew a little under the radar this week, the Canadian Supreme Court reached a decision that’s going to have some pretty interesting implications in the future. Long story short, there was a company called Datalink Technology Gateways that was apparently screwing another company called Equustek by rebranding its stuff and reselling it worldwide as their own. Equustek asked Google to take down the links to Datalink while the court was deciding what to do, but Google only took down the results as seen on (which, let’s be fair, nobody uses). The British Columbia Supreme Court then ordered Google to take the Datalink links down for everyone worldwide, because, you know, that’s where the harm was allegedly being done, and Google appealed to the Canadian Supreme Court. And this week that court said that Google did have to take them down, worldwide. And there’s not a lot Google can do except comply, since there’s nobody to appeal to. It’s an interesting ruling that could have wide-reaching implications,potentially forcing the search engine to, for example, delist websites that distribute pirated or otherwise stolen content, which is probably why Music Canada thinks it’s a great decision. The EFF has released a statement of concern, condemning the ruling as flawed and troubling, and warning that “issuing an order that would cut off access to information for U.S. users would set a dangerous precedent for online speech.” But the ruling itself responded to these concerns by saying that “this is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values,” and that “we have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.” To me, this reads as a clash of Canadian vs. American values: essentially, the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled here that fencing stolen goods doesn’t count as protected speech, and that since it wouldn’t violate US laws for Google to comply, it has to do so. I’m sure we’ll see more of this in the weeks and months to come, but for now you can read more at The Verge.

Smokestacks, detail of “Coal Power Plant”; Photo: Flickr user eutrophication&hypoxia, CC BY 2.0

“Clean Coal” Plant Gives Up

A supposed “clean coal” plant under construction in Mississippi is giving up its ambitions, and will burn natural gas from now on. The decision comes as the plant’s costs have run nearly $4 billion over its $3.5 billion budget, and concerns about who would pick up the tab—ratepayers or shareholders—began to mount. The plant was originally being designed next to a strip mine of some particularly dirty (in CO2 emissions) coal. The plan was to “gasify” the coal, sequester the CO2, and burn the rest about as cleanly as natural gas, but three years behind schedule the technology still wasn’t working, and the costs were just too high to continue. The plant, which has been burning natural gas in the meantime, will continue to do so from now on, and the plans to use the coal have been scrapped. This is just another nail in the coffin of the myth of “clean coal,” which—although technically feasible—makes little to no economic sense. Despite what certain parties in power may say, coal isn’t coming back, it isn’t even sticking around, and it won’t ever be clean. And that’s not because we can’t do it, it’s because we have no reason to. It’s much too expensive, so we’re going with something cleaner and cheaper. You can read more at the New York Times.

Best of the Rest

And of course, because there’s only so much time I can spend keeping up with the science news each week, here it is, your weekly linkspam 🙂 Enjoy!

That’s all for today, have a great week.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.