Rural Utility Agrees to 76M Settlement for Overbilling Ft Knox

first_imgNolin Rural Electric Cooperative agreed to pay $7.6 million to the federal government over charges that it billed the Army for energy-saving projects at Fort Knox, Ky., that should never have been authorized, federal prosecutors said Monday.Prosecutors said the Kentucky utility received $8 million for 20 projects that were touted as saving more than $7 million over a decade but actually were estimated to lose more than $15 million over that period, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader.Prosecutors also cited several incidents in which Nolin charged the Army for projects that had not been approved by listing the costs under unrelated, but authorized, projects.The investigation “uncovered criminal acts and millions of dollars in questionable payments,” acting U.S. Attorney John Kuhn Jr. said. The settlement will produce “an important correction” to ensure future compliance with program requirements, Kuhn added.Since 1996, Fort Knox awarded 108 conservation projects valued at about $270 million to the utility. The DOD Inspector General found through an audit that Fort Knox officials did not properly award and manage projects under the installation’s energy program, according to the story.Meanwhile, Fort Knox’s former energy program manager faces charges related to the overbilling scheme. DOD contractor Gary Meredith worked closely with Nolin and later was hired by the utility as its resource energy manager. Dan Cohen AUTHORlast_img read more

Early universe may have been dominated by bobbing waves

first_imgOscillon simulations show that inflation may have been immediately followed by an oscillon-dominated phase of the early universe. Image credit: Amin, et al. ©2012 American Physical Society (Phys.org) — Localized waves that bob up and down without dissipating their energy, called “oscillons,” may have dominated the early universe shortly after inflation. A collaboration of physicists from MIT, Yale University, and Stanford University has discovered that copious amounts of oscillons arise in simulations based on several realistic inflationary models and could have caused novel gravitational effects in the early universe, although it is unclear whether the effects could be directly observed today. Play Oscillons are localized, time-periodic, extremely long-lived excitations of scalar fields with non-linear interactions. The animation above is a 2D slice through the center of an oscillon. Video credit: Amin, et al. Gravitational effectsThe physicists calculated that an oscillon-dominated universe would affect the density fluctuations that appeared around that time which later led to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets. They found that the abundant oscillons would have enhanced the frequency spectrum of the early inhomogeneities, or primordial power spectrum, on very small scales. This enhancement, in turn, could have possibly led to novel gravitational effects at that time. “When gravity is included, oscillons attract each other, possibly forming bound structures and leading to structure formation not too different than what happens in the contemporary universe (except this happens on a very tiny length scale and very early on in the history of the universe),” Amin said. “In addition, oscillons can merge, fragment or scatter off each other in complex ways when they come close to each other. Another (even more speculative) possibility is that some of these objects could combine and collapse to form primordial black holes, which could then quickly evaporate. All of these possibilities need further work, and will keep us busy.”He added that the presence of oscillons would probably not have had any effect on present-day observations, since oscillons existed on scales much smaller than those that contribute to large-scale structure formation“It is unclear whether these primordial oscillons will have an effect today,” Amin said. “We have not fully understood their implications yet, especially when other particles and gravity is included in the simulations.”Amin and his coauthors are not the only scientists investigating the possible existence of oscillons shortly after inflation. Other researchers, including those at Dartmouth College and the University of Sussex, have also found that oscillons can be produced easily in different early universe processes. But they still have many unanswered questions to investigate.“Some of us are working on trying to understand how robust these oscillons are when new particles are included in the simulations, which can bleed energy from the oscillons,” Amin said. “Some questions we are interested in include: (1) Does the presence of oscillons delay the rate at which the inflation transfers its energy to other particles? (2) How do oscillons clump in the presence of gravity? Do they form clusters? Can they collapse to form primordial black holes? (3) We are also interested in studying what happens during collisions of oscillons. Such interactions will be important to understand the ultimate fate of a collection of oscillons produced in the early universe.” Copyright 2012 Phys.org All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of PhysOrg.com. Could primordial black holes be dark matter? This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. According to the simulations, the oscillons in the early universe would have lived long enough for the universe to grow by a factor of 100 or more, under the assumption that the energy transfer to other particles is suppressed. This period could alter our view of what the universe looked like between the end of inflation and the beginning of radiation domination. “In many models of particle production after inflation, the inflaton rapidly transfers its energy to a turbulent sea of intermediary particles, which eventually decay into the particles we know and love,” Amin said. “Our work shows that, even if the energy transfer to other particles is suppressed, the inflaton can fragment rapidly into localized, coherent structures called oscillons. These oscillons are so ubiquitous that they can dominate the energy density of the universe at that time, which is definitely novel! In terms of altering our basic picture of the early universe, the presence of oscillons increases the clumpiness of the universe on small scales at the end of inflation. Their presence might also alter how the energy from the inflaton is eventually transferred to other particles, and how long it takes to do so. However, to make concrete statements about this and its impact on astrophysics in general, we need to study more realistic models including many more types of particles and gravitational interactions between oscillons.”Amin explained that, although these oscillons would have been much too small to see and very short-lived, the sheer number of them would have enabled them to have a significant impact on the early universe.“In the class of models we have considered, the oscillons are smaller than the Hubble horizon at the time of production,” he said. “The Hubble horizon is a measure of the typical distance light can travel while the universe doubles in size, and can be smaller than the size of an atom. Although small compared to human scales, oscillons are large in the following sense. Oscillons can be thought of as a bag of a large number of inflaton particles. This bag of individual particles can be extremely heavy compared to the heaviest known particles. Although exact numbers of oscillons produced depend on the details of the models used, enough of them can be produced to dominate the energy density of the universe at that time. Their lifetime is a tiny fraction of a second. However, even in this tiny fraction of a second, the universe doubles in size many times over! So as far as this doubling timescale of the universe is concerned, they live extremely long and can have a strong impact on the dynamics within the universe at that time. Regarding whether they move in unison, our simulations show that most of the oscillons do not move much once they are formed (as we mentioned before, they are rather heavy), and the distance between them increases as the universe expands. However, if the gravitational force between them is included, they might clump together to form clusters of oscillons.” Citation: Early universe may have been dominated by bobbing waves (2012, July 24) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2012-07-early-universe-dominated-bobbing.html The physicists have published their paper on the possibility of oscillons existing after inflation in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.As the scientists explain in their paper, oscillons are massive, long-lived excitations of a scalar field that are localized, i.e., they do not dissipate like ripples produced by dropping a pebble in a calm pond. Instead, an oscillon switches between being a hill and a crater, alternately rising above and sinking below the spatially uniform state of the field. In previous experiments, scientists have created oscillons by vertically vibrating a plate with a sufficiently thick layer of granular particles. As long as they’re not disturbed, oscillons will continue to move up and down for hundreds of thousands of oscillations.Oscillon-dominated universeIn the new study, the physicists used simulations to investigate the requirements needed for oscillons to form just after inflation, the period of rapid expansion that occurred from 10-36 to 10-33 seconds after the Big Bang. In a class of inflationary models that include some string models and supergravity-inspired models, the scientists found that inflation is followed by self-resonance that in turn generates large numbers of oscillons. “At the end of inflation, the inflaton (the agent responsible for inflation) is oscillating up and down, in sync throughout the universe,” coauthor Mustafa Amin at MIT told Phys.org, speaking on behalf of his coauthors Richard Easther, Raphael Flauger, and Hal Finkel at Yale University (now at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies, and Argonne National Laboratory, respectively), and Mark Hertzberg at Stanford University.“However, this synchronous, homogeneous state cannot be maintained for long,” he explained. “It is unstable and quickly fragments into an inhomogeneous, clumpy state. The rapid transfer of energy from the synchronous to the clumpy state is what we call self-resonance. We refer to it as self-resonance because the energy is shuttled from the synchronous, homogeneous state to the clumpy state of the inflation field itself. Interestingly, the mathematics describing this transfer of energy is identical to that describing a child pumping a swing. The child’s pumping plays the role of the homogenous, oscillating inflaton whereas the arc of the swing is related to the energy in the clumpy state.” Journal information: Physical Review Letters Explore further PausePlay% buffered00:0000:00UnmuteMuteDisable captionsEnable captionsSettingsCaptionsDisabledQuality0SpeedNormalCaptionsGo back to previous menuQualityGo back to previous menuSpeedGo back to previous menu0.5×0.75×Normal1.25×1.5×1.75×2×Exit fullscreenEnter fullscreen More information: Mustafa A. Amin, et al. “Oscillons after Inflation.” PRL 108, 241302 (2012). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.241302last_img read more

3 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Successful Ecommerce Brands

first_img Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. 4 min read Whether you run a brick-and-mortar business or are thinking of starting a digital-based company, there is much to learn from the success of large ecommerce firms around the world. No matter what the industry, online businesses have shaken up the way people buy and sell, communicate, share and learn in all corners of the globe.Related: 4 Fundamental Strategies for Launching a Successful Ecommerce StartupWhile there is no one single way to guarantee success, ecommerce companies provide a raft of insights into new ways of starting, operating and growing businesses that are built to last. Here are three:1. Turn constraints into innovation.Successful ecommerce companies worldwide know how to turn constraints into innovative ideas. In fact, getting creative in order to solve a problem is often the identifying factor that leads to success, as it opens up whole new markets or completely new ways of doing things.Companies like BuildDirect thrive because they’ve discovered ways to ship large and heavy items in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Netflix, too, disrupted the entertainment industry by swapping out physical products (DVDs and VHS cassettes) in favor of digital ones.For entrepreneurs, there are many benefits to addressing constraints creatively. Before you give up, when you’re faced with your next big business obstacle, spend some time instead looking at the problem in different ways to find an innovative solution ripe for the picking.2. Utilize dataSuccessful ecommerce businesses also spend plenty of time gathering, tracking and utilizing data to come up with new product ideas or service offerings. For instance, food subscription service NatureBox leverages big data to power its snack-recommendation engine to deliver customers products they will truly enjoy.Companies that collect customer information more easily identify effective ways to attract new customers, convince more shoppers to buy or entice clients to repurchase. No matter what type of business you run, it’s important to focus on metrics. The common saying “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” is certainly true, and in this digital age is a key element to running a successful business long-term.There are a number of different indicators to keep a watch on. These include: average daily, monthly and yearly sales, cost per acquisition for each new customer, website and landing-page conversion rates, average order value, customer lifetime value, repeat purchase rate and average number of visits before a purchase is made.You can use all of this information to operate your business more effectively. For example, if you know your conversion rate is low, you can test out multiple strategies to increase it. Alternatively, if your cost of customer acquisition is prohibitively high, you can focus on lower-priced marketing techniques.Keep testing and measuring every element in your business over time and you will be able to radically improve your bottom line.Related: The 4 Elements of a Winning Ecommerce Ad Strategy3. Seek feedback.Another thing popular ecommerce brands do really well is seek feedback from their customers. This is a crucial business practice that all firms should employ, yet many either don’t, or fail to do it well. So, connect with clients on a regular basis to find out what is working well in your business, and where things could be improved. The best time to ask them is immediately after they complete a purchase.Customers who have already spent money with you are more likely to give their opinion because they are invested in helping your company succeed. In fact, many buyers actually love the idea of having a say in co-creating products or services with brands they admire.To gather customer feedback, send out email questionnaires, conduct quick surveys on your website, host polls on social media, call customers, send letters and so on. Questions might include:What is one specific thing we could be doing better?Was there anything in particular — positive or negative — that stood out from your experience shopping with us?What was it that ultimately made you decide to buy from us?What is the number one thing we should never stop doing?Would you recommend us to your friends and family members? If so, why? If not, why not?No matter what type of business or industry you are in, there are plenty of strategies you can emulate from ecommerce concerns in order to improve your own company’s operations and offerings.If you get stuck for ideas at any stage, seek inspiration from some of the biggest ecommerce brands around. Related: The 7 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Launching an Ecommerce Startup Enroll Now for Free This hands-on workshop will give you the tools to authentically connect with an increasingly skeptical online audience. Free Workshop | August 28: Get Better Engagement and Build Trust With Customers Now January 22, 2016last_img read more