Culture

Flushing Nemo? Pet fish pose ocean threat

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 10, 2013   View Article

Exotic and colorful aquarium fish, such as those made famous by the Disney film “Finding Nemo,” are escaping to the open ocean in real life and disrupting marine ecosystems, according to a new report on the spread of invasive species.

More than 11 million non-native aquarium fish and plants — from tropical fish to seaweed and snails, representing 102 species — are imported annually through the California ports of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the report found.

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.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach