Archive for January, 2013

Mystery ‘oil sheen’ grows near site of BP Gulf disaster, says researcher

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 31, 2013   View Article

A persistent, mysterious “oil sheen” in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster grew to more than seven-miles long and one-mile wide during a recent stretch of calm seas, based on aerial observations made by a former NASA physicist turned environmental activist.

“We had maybe three or four days (of calm weather) and that’s all it took for the stuff to build up considerably,” Bonny Schumaker, the physicist who now runs the non-profit On Winds of Care, which makes regular flights over regions of the Gulf affected by the 2010 oil spill.

Coming soon: Atomic-scale, 2-D electronics

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 30, 2013   View Article

A world filled with teeny tiny two-dimensional electronic devices is a giant step closer thanks to a pioneering technique to make atom-thick patterns that combine a conductor and an insulator.

Conventional microelectronic devices have three basic parts; a metal to conduct electricity, semiconductor components and an insulator to protect the components from the free-flowing electricity.

Energy use plummets on Super Bowl Sunday, study finds

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 28, 2013   View Article

As millions of Americans huddle around TVs with friends and family this Sunday to watch the Super Bowl, they’ll neglect their laundry, skip vacuuming the carpet and abandon just about anything else that requires electricity, according to a new study. As a result, energy usage will plummet.

During the 2012 Super Bowl, which ranked as the most watched television broadcast in U.S. history with 111.3 million viewers, energy usage dropped 5 percent in the Western U.S. and 3.8 percent in the East, energy software company Opower reported.

Supersonic Ping-Pong gun fires balls at Mach 1.2

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 28, 2013   View Article

Few things capture the attention of physics students like a gun that fires Ping-Pong balls, according to a mechanical engineer who just built one that accelerates the balls to supersonic speeds.

“You can shoot Ping-Pong balls through pop cans and it is great, it is so captivating, it is so compelling that you can get kids’ attention and once you’ve got their attention, you can teach them something,”Mark French, the Purdue University assistant professor who built the gun, told NBC News.

‘Bingo!’ Wasted energy from cities explains a global warming mystery

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 27, 2013   View Article

Heat that escapes into the atmosphere from the energy used to warm homes, drive cars and run factories is altering the jet stream and causing wintertime temperatures to rise in remote, sparsely populated stretches of the Northern Hemisphere, according to a new study.

The finding helps explain a mismatch of up to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) between the observed temperature in some regions and what is produced by models that simulate the global climate. Scientists had attributed the mismatch to natural variability or errors in the models.

The bright side of this winter’s big chill: Fewer mosquitoes this summer

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 24, 2013   View Article

As the bitter cold in the northeastern United States keeps even hardy New Hampshire skiers off the slopes, there’s at least one potential upside to the cold snap: fewer mosquitoes come summer, according to an entomologist riding out the cold in upstate New York.

“Most arthropods have the ability to super-cool themselves in order to survive extreme cold winters in the ranges they’ve become adapted to. However, if unusually cold temperatures strike, it could be below their threshold of tolerance,” Cornell University’s Laura Harrington explained via email to NBC News.

Wind passes record in 2012, but stinker feared in 2013

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 23, 2013   View Article

Government incentives pushed newly-installed wind-generating capacity to a new high in 2012, but the outlook for 2013 is grim, according to an industry analyst.

“The year-end numbers are the ones that make the headlines, so last year was a record year,” Amy Grace, a wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told NBC News

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