Apr 23, 2009 | 3
If you show up to the New York Academy of Medicine the night of April 27th, you'll hear journalist Tom Maier discuss his new biography of famous sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. (Maier reveals some of what he dug up on the truth behind "gay conversion" therapy in this Perspective for ScientificAmerican.com.)
What you'll see if you look at who sponsored the event, however, is another familiar name: Hugh Hefner.
Apr 16, 2009 | 10
President Obama outlined his vision today for high-speed rail service in the U.S, identifying 10 corridors in heavily populated regions around the country – from the Pacific northwest to the gulf states – for the laying of hundreds of miles of new tracks.
The stimulus bill that passed in February set aside $8 billion for the initiative. The Federal Railroad Administration will begin awarding grants late this summer after a competitive bidding process amongst rail companies.
Proponents of high-speed rail say the system will ease traffic congestion by lessening vehicular and plane travel, cut pollution by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and also create jobs in a down economy. “My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America,” President Obama said today. “High-speed rail is long overdue.”
Apr 16, 2009 | 4
Internet security firm McAfee reports that the 62 trillion junk e-mails sent in 2008 gobbled up enough electricity to power more than 2.4 million homes for a year.
In a study released yesterday, McAfee says that each unsolicited piece of spam – promising you better performance in the sack or begging you to steward the riches of a foreign businessperson, for example – actually contributes 0.3 gram of the carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere of an already-warming planet. The company and consultant partner ICF International reviewed emissions they pegged to spam in 11 countries and averaged those out for the rest of the world.
Apr 15, 2009 | 1
NASA said in a press release this week that twin spacecraft providing long-view, 3-D images of the sun might help provide better warning about solar storms, particularly events called coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
These torrents of ionized gas and magnetic field energy can weigh billions of tons and stretch to many times the size of Earth. When these solar hurricanes come into contact with our planet’s atmosphere, they can damage satellites, interfere with radio communications and cell phones, and knock out power grids on the ground, as they did on March 13, 1989, leaving six million Canadians without power. (Besides wrecking havoc, CMEs also produce dazzling displays known as the aurora borealis or australis, the northern and southern lights.)
Apr 14, 2009 | 3
Scientists and policy makers hoping to adopt a new climate change treaty at this December’s United Nations’ meeting in Copenhagen might have reason to worry about achieving an international accord: A major player, India, home to a sixth of the world’s population, may not be on board with limiting its greenhouse emissions.
"If the question is whether India will take on binding emission reduction commitments, the answer is no. It is morally wrong for us to agree to reduce when 40 percent of Indians do not have access to electricity," said an Indian delegate to the recently concluded U.N. climate conference in Bonn, Germany, according to the Washington Post.
Apr 13, 2009 | 10
Despite an infusion of federal funds, there are reports that General Motors (GM) – the nation's No. 1 and the world's No. 2 automaker is preparing to declare bankruptcy on June 1. GM was leader of the pack for 77 years until 2007 when Toyota surpassed it as the globe's top car seller. Meantime, the company is fielding offers for its king gas-guzzler, the Hummer, which has attracted interested bidders despite its enviro-hostile rep and dismal sales.
Detroit-based GM has received over $13 billion in government support since last year to keep it afloat despite slumping sales, in part due to the firm’s reliance on gas-eating sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks. These vehicles have fallen out of favor in the face of rising oil prices.
The Detroit News reports that GM is mulling declaring bankruptcy and reorganizing in a way that would enable it to retain its most promising Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac brands. That means the electric-gas hybrid Chevy Volt would continue its rollout, even though GM expects to lose money on the first generation of the high-tech vehicle, according to Automotive News.
Apr 9, 2009 | 7
FuelMaker, the Honda-owned, Canada-based manufacturer of natural gas fueling systems for vehicles, went belly-up last week. The company made the only residential natural gas refueling product (called Phill) in the world.
Fortunately for vehicle owners, Honda plans to sell the company’s assets and intellectual property, meaning FuelMaker products, albeit under a different name, are likely to remain available, says Alicia Milner, president of the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance.
FuelMaker was born of automakers’ desire to address the public’s urge to break or at least lessen its addiction to fossil fuels. Car companies have increasingly turned to batteries, hydrogen, and solar power to energize new generations of vehicles. Less conspicuous in this shift to cleaner fuels has been natural gas, far cleaner burning than gasoline, and already the leading alternative fuel source for U.S. commercial fleets, powering about 10 percent of the mass transit buses in the U.S. and 5 percent of those in Canada, Milner says. The monthly consumption of natural gas by domestic vehicles has quadrupled the last decade as more vehicles have taken to the streets, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Apr 9, 2009 | 3
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed current and former national security officials, reports that spies from China, Russia and other countries have hacked into the U.S. electricity grid and installed software that could cause mass outages. According to these same officials, the foreign agents have not sabotaged the grid (yet), but rather want to “map our infrastructure” for possible exploitation in case of a future war.
Sound a bit cloak and dagger?
“It’s all hype and it’s fear-mongering,” says Bruce Schneier, a security technologist who writes a blog and is chief of security at BT, a U.K.-based communications services company. He says odds are those countries have mapped U.S. power grids just as the U.S. has no doubt mapped theirs—but that it's sort of business as usual rather than cause for concern.
Apr 7, 2009 | 1
Where should new solar and wind power facilities go? Seems many of the best potential sites, including rugged, windswept regions in the Rocky Mountains to the sun-baked Mojave Desert, contain swathes of land legally set aside as national parks, or support what remains of an endangered species' dwindling habitat, for example.
Now environmental groups have teamed up with Google to offer the Path to Green Energy map on Google Earth that highlights protected areas to prevent alt-energy developers from clashing with conservationists over where to place solar, wind and geothermal generators.
Apr 7, 2009 | 1
Antarctica’s newly inaugurated Princess Elisabeth Station is the white continent's first research facility that doesn't emit any greenhouse gases, according to the Belgium-based International Polar Foundation that designed and constructed it. The research center, open to scientists from around the globe, is located about 120 miles (200 kilometers) from the coast in Eastern Antarctica, due directly south of Africa’s southern tip. The station will draw power from wind turbines (eight for now, and nine next year) and solar panel arrays rather than from the diesel generators that power most other stations.
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