Culture

Skip the subway, take a ski lift to work instead

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 7, 2013   View Article

The future of mass transit will come with sweeping views, private cars, and schedule-free travel if a proposed gondola-based system takes off from sketchpads at a design firm, which stands a shot at occurring in fast-growing Texas.

Gondolas are enclosed cabins that dangle from moving wires. They are commonly used to transport skiers and snowboarders up mountains and tourists around amusement parks. Michael McDaniel and his colleagues at Frog, an international design firm, believe the ski lifts can improve transit in big cities.

Be green this holiday without being a Grinch

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 20, 2013   View Article

Have you heard about the great Christmas tree debate? The one where you try to figure out which is worse for the environment, chopping down a perfectly good live fir or shipping a factory-made plastic one all the way from China? Well, the truth is, it’s not that big of a deal. If you’re dreaming of a green Christmas, there’re other issues that take precedence.

“You can have the most leverage elsewhere,” Jean-Sebastian Trudel, founder of Ellipsos, a sustainable development consulting firm in Montreal, Canada, told NBC News.

Can fungi make violins sound like a Stradivarius?

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 11, 2012   View Article

Violin makers of the future may be able to match the sound quality of a Stradivarius thanks to a pair of fungi that get their nutrition from the wood used to make the instruments.

The Swiss researchers and violin makers behind the project explain that ideal wood for violin tone is low density, with a high speed of sound and a high modulus of elasticity, which is a measure of the wood’s resistance to strain.

17-year-old girl builds artificial ‘brain’ to detect breast cancer

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 24, 2012   View Article

An artificial “brain” built by a 17-year-old whiz kid from Florida is able to accurately assess tissue samples for signs of breast cancer, providing more confidence to a minimally invasive procedure.

The cloud-based neural network took top prize in this year’s Google Science Fair.

Inventor of plumbing on a chip wins $500,000 prize

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 4, 2012   View Article

Stephen Quake, a prolific inventor whose application of physics to biology has led to breakthroughs in drug discovery, genome analysis and personalized medicine, has won the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, a prestigious award for outstanding innovators.

“A big part of physics is trying to figure out how to measure things,” Quake, who is a professor of bioengineering and applied physics at Stanford University, told me. “And so I get interested in a biological problem [and] figure out a way to measure it.”

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.

Robots: The gateway to ‘mind-blowing sex’?

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

Robotic sex won’t just blow your mind, it may curb many of society’s ills, says a new paper that envisions Amsterdam’s red light district staffed by androids that perform a full menu of sexual services.

Lap dances and intercourse with robot prostitutes could help combat human trafficking and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases while teaching us to be better lovers, according to the arguments laid out in the May issue of the journal Futures.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach