Archive for May, 2012

Hacking the climate could lead to whiter, brighter skies

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 31, 2012   View Article

Pumping a steady stream of sunlight-blocking particles into the stratosphere to fight global climate change would leave us with inescapable hazy and white skies such as those found over big cities, according to new research.

“The skies would be whiter/hazier everywhere, including on weekend getaways to the mountains,” study lead author Ben Kravitz of the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University told me in an email today.

Robot lifeguards hit the beach in time for summer

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 29, 2012   View Article

Just in time for the summer season, so-called robot lifeguards are hitting the beach on both coasts of the U.S.

“E.M.I.L.Y. is a means to assist lifeguards and first responder who respond to drowning victims,” Bob Lautrup, the robot’s co-inventor and president of Hydronalix told me Monday.

Game changers: Lakeside alumni are shifting paradigms

Publication: Lakeside Magazine   Date: May 25, 2012   View Article

Jens Molbak ’80 didn’t fancy himself an innovator while studying for his MBA at Stanford University. He was just tired of lugging a jar of coins every time he moved in his 20s.

“I ended up with an innovative idea and going off and pursuing it,” says the inventor of the Coinstar machines that turn grubby loose change into cash. Along the way, he learned that “innovation is a skill that can be taught … there is a process, a discipline, to go through.”

Classic 1937 steam engine soon to run carbon-free

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 25, 2012   View Article

A steam train built in 1937 is getting a makeover that will turn it into a “higher-speed” locomotive that runs on biocoal, a coal-like fuel made with woody plant material.

When finished, the train will be able chug along existing tracks at speeds up to 130 miles per hour without contributing to the greenhouse gas pollution blamed for global warming.

Army wants rapid development of lighter, stronger armor

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 24, 2012   View Article

The U.S. military is plowing $90 million into a university-led research program to rapidly accelerate the development of lighter and stronger materials to better protect soldiers and vehicles.

The same tools that enable the development of this next generation protective gear could, of course, also be used to develop more lethal weapons – bullets designed to penetrate the toughest materials.

Students help NASA control robots from space

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 16, 2012   View Article

Astronauts on missions to Mars and other worlds will almost certainly bring along a few robot helpers. A team of industrial design students is helping NASA make sure those robots are easy to control from the comfort of a spaceship.

Astronauts aren’t lazy, they are “extremely busy,” Maria Bualat with the Intelligent Robotics Group at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, told me.

Tap other people’s brains to make decisions

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 8, 2012   View Article

Researchers are working on a new software tool that will allow us to tap other people’s brains as we try to make sense of information online.

In the United States, we collectively spend 70 billion hours a year trying to mentally process the data we collect as we surf the Web and try to decide things such as what new gadget to buy or where to go on vacation.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach