Archive for November, 2012

Helicopter parenting? Dad’s homemade drone follows kid to bus stop

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 30, 2012   View Article

Paul Wallich, like any loving dad, dutifully walks his grade-schooler son to the bus stop each morning. He does find the quarter-mile hike to be a drag, occasionally. His solution? He built a camera-equipped drone that helps him fulfill his parental obligation.

It’s those Vermont winters that provided motivation for the project. “If I am walking my kid to the bus stop in December and January, I would really rather not be doing that,” Wallich told NBC News.

3-D printer and moon rocks join up to make repairs in space

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 28, 2012   View Article

When lunar colonists need a new tool or replacement part to fix a broken spacecraft leg, all they’ll need to do is scoop up some moon rocks and feed them into a 3-D printer, suggests a new proof-of-concept study.

The ability to use material already on the moon to build things and fix equipment could save earthlings a bundle of money in fuel costs since they won’t have to haul everything they need to their lunar outposts.

Drought Reaches New Orleans; Hurricane Isaac Could Add Insult to Injury

Publication:   Date: August 24, 2012   View Article

New Orleans may be the victim of a one-two punch as Hurricane Isaac threatens to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico and the ongoing effects of this summer’s drought continue to trickle down to the Delta.

The record temperatures and lack of rain that have devastated crops in America’s heartland upstream also have weakened the once-mighty Mississippi River’s defenses against saltwater intrusion.

Freshwater flowing south from the Mississippi and salty water from the Gulf are constantly arm wrestling for territory in the Mississippi River Delta, where the river dumps into the sea. But as dry weather shrinks the Mississippi, the Gulf is gaining ground, pushing more saltwater inland. At risk is New Orleans’ freshwater supply.

Sewage to help Microsoft serve up web pages

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 20, 2012   View Article

Microbes feasting on raw sewage at a wastewater treatment plant will soon help power the cloud, thanks to a Microsoft project that will use biogas generated by the little bugs to run a data center.

Data centers are typically massive banks of servers that keep the Internet humming along nicely. They handle the flow of digital information when you order a song on iTunes, check your Facebook, send an instant message, or post on Twitter, for example.

Solar trucks provide electricity in Sandy’s wake

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 16, 2012   View Article

In the Sandy-ravaged Rockaway Beach neighborhood of New York, a 10-year-old truck outfitted with 256-square feet of solar panels is a working example of how cities can prepare for superstorms of the future.

The truck, Rolling Sunlight, is one of several mobile solar generators deployed in the region as part of the Solar Sandy coalition of solar companies and nonprofits that have banded together to provide residents and relief workers with electricity.

African girls’ pee-powered generator raises questions

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 8, 2012   View Article

A urine-powered generator presented by a group of school-age girls at an innovation fair in Africa is generating buzz as a world-changing breakthrough, but a reality-check with the expert who invented the contraption at the heart of the technology might flush those expectations down the drain.

The contraption in question is an electrolytic cell that converts urea — the main compound in urine besides water — into nitrogen, water and hydrogen.

Giant inflatable plug could protect subways from floodwaters

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 5, 2012   View Article

A giant inflatable plug that can be filled with 35,000 gallons of water at a moment’s notice could have prevented some of the flooding that crippled New York City’s transit in the wake of Sandy, according to an expert working on the technology.

This isn’t a case of Monday-morning quarterbacking. The technology is still in the lab. But the impact of this month’s superstorm on transit and the possibility that it’s a harbinger of things to come has focused attention on adding the plugs to the disaster-response toolbox.

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