Scientific American November 2009: On Newsstands Now
The Latest in Science News
Energy: Making clean, renewable power the rule, not the exception · Sustainability: How vertical farming eases the strain on the environment · IT: Will Internet video replace cable TV?
Energy: A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030
Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi outline their plan to shift all of the world's energy production to clean, sustainable technologies - wind, water and solar - by the year 2030. This new infrastructure would necessitate the large-scale construction of solar plants, hydroelectric stations and wind turbines. Yet, the cost to generate and transmit power by such means would still be significantly less than the cost associated with fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Jacobson and Delucchi also discuss how putting this plan into action would require aggressive policies and strong leaders who are willing to champion the cause.
Human Evolution: Rethinking the Hobbits of Indonesia
The 2004 discovery of what would come to be known at Homo floresiensis - nicknamed the hobbit - is still the cause of much controversy among scientists. Kate Wong describes how the bones found in Indonesia have proven difficult to categorize since some physical traits seem more in line with our human ancestors, while others reflect characteristics that are more ape or australopithecine in nature. Some researchers feel that the remains are merely those of a dwarfed descendent of our ancestors, the Homo erectus. The possibility of a more primitive origin would call into question many of the theories currently held on the migration and evolution of the species.
IT: The Everything TV - Will Free Internet Content Spell the End of TV?
Televisions have evolved from the early days of rabbit ears to more recent advancements of cable and satellite providers. Michael Moyer believes that now the TV may be seeing the end of its course as the Internet invades its turf. With the capability of watching exactly what you want when you want, the Internet offers viewers much more flexibility than the cable company. But will customers choose to put down the remote in favor of the wireless keyboard? Or will the relative ease of locating the desired content on the cable menu trump the desire to cut costs by cutting the cable?
Sustainability: The Rise of Vertical Farms
Modern farming brings with it a host of problems for the environment: excessive use and contamination of freshwater, burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, just to name a few. Dickson Despommier discusses how vertical farming could revolutionize how we produce crops by eliminating many if not all of these issues. New techniques that can make it possible to grow crops in the densest of urban areas are discussed, such as drip irrigation, aeroponics - whereby plants are dangled in air that is infused with water vapor and nutrients, eliminating the need for soil - and hydroponics - a method of placing plant roots in soilless troughs which are infused with water and dissolved nutrients.
Other stories in this issue include:
- Burying Climate Change, p.23 - Carbon capture and storage methods reduce greenhouse gases
- Sewage's Cash Crop, p.28 - Phosphorus recycled from wastewater used in slow-release fertilizer
- Ask the Experts, p.30 - Technologies used by the Coast Guard to locate people lost at sea