Archive for June, 2011

Blood-Red Pyramid Tomb Revealed by Tiny Camera

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: June 29, 2011   View Article

Seen for the first time in centuries, a 1,500-year-old tomb comes to light via a tiny camera lowered into a Maya pyramid at Mexico‘s Palenque archaeological site in April. The intact, blood-red funeral chamber offers insight into the ancient city’s early history, experts say.

The tomb was discovered in 1999, though researchers have been unable to get inside due to the precarious structural state of the pyramid above. Any effort to penetrate the tomb could damage the contents within, according to the team, which is affiliated with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Instead, the archaeologists lowered the 1.6-by-2.4-inch (4-by-6-centimeter) camera through a 6-inch-wide (15-centimeter-wide) hole in an upper floor of the pyramid.

Science explodes at African lake

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 28, 2011   View Article

The depths of Africa’s Lake Kivu harbor untold quantities of carbon dioxide and methane gases that could provide abundant electricity to millions of Rwandans and Congolese settling along its shores. But those gases could suddenly release, killing everything in and around the lake.

“Understanding whether you can find scenarios that would lead to something like that, a catastrophic release of gas, is of course important,” Anthony Vodacek, a remote sensing scientist at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, told me on Monday.

Shrimp eyes inspire optical tech

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 27, 2011   View Article

The future of CD and DVD technology may be found in the eyes of peacock mantis shrimp, an international team of engineers recently reported.

The shrimp are one of the few animals in the world that are able to see circularly polarized light, the type of light used to make 3-D movies.

Scientists believe this ability is related to sexual signaling, Roy Caldwell, a biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, told me on Friday.

Grow a new language in your head

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 23, 2011   View Article

For adults, learning a new language is often a long, frustrating process that inevitably ends up in failure. A memory expert and a neuroscientist hope to change that with a new online software package designed to make learning the vocabulary of a foreign language fast, fun and rewarding.

“Really good successful learning needs to be vivid, imaginative and creative. It needs to be active. And if you can make it a bit social, that’s great,” Greg Detre, a neuroscientist and co-founder of Memrise, the online destination to learn foreign words quickly, told me today.

Is Arctic ice thinning?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 22, 2011   View Article

Scientists have long used satellite imagery to illustrate the shrinking extent of the Arctic sea ice. Now they’ve got satellite data that will provide regular updates on whether the ice is getting thinner as well.

The first ice thickness map from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat spacecraft was released Tuesday at an air show in Paris. It was compiled with data collected in January and February.

The map shows, for example, the ice is thickest near the North Pole and off the coasts of Greenland and northeastern Canada. It thins as it stretches out towards Alaska and Russia.

Is the smart grid too smart for us?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 21, 2011   View Article

The Obama administration unveiled a string of new initiatives last week that will pump political muscle and federal dollars into the development of the smart grid. Did you miss the news? You’re not alone. Most of us don’t really know what the smart grid is or care that much about it.

This lack of knowledge about and interest in the smart grid is the biggest impediment to its implementation, the energy consulting firm Black and Veatch found in its annual survey on the electric utility industry.

Materials wizard wins $500,000 prize

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 14, 2011   View Article

The man behind a stretchy heart monitor, an electronic eye camera, and a solar energy technology that is potentially price-competitive with coal has bagged a $500,000 prize for his creative, inventive mind.

John Rogers credits a fortunate upbringing by a physicist dad and poet mom, as well as a team of talented colleagues, for making him one of the most successful midcareer scientists in the country and recipient of this year’s Lemelson-MIT Prize.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach