Three-fingered iRobot hand points to strong, nimble future machines

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 2, 2013   View Article

A robotic hand strong enough to lift a 50-pound weight yet so nimble it can pluck up keys from a table demonstrates real capabilities of a coming generation of robots that will be at work everywhere, from the battlefield to the construction site.

In a segment of a video compilation that was just released publicly, the three-fingered hand picks up a drill, and uses it to bore a hole through a narrow piece of lumber.

To fight climate change, don’t mention it, study suggests

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 29, 2013   View Article

Shhh! Widespread adoption of energy-efficient technologies such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and electric cars promises to curb the pace of global climate change. But if widespread adoption is the goal, don’t mention the environmental benefits, a new paper suggests.

“There is likely to be a significantly sized group that may not like these environmental messages,” Dena Gromet, a researcher at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the paper’s lead author, told NBC News.

Whey cool: Dairy waste turned into electricity

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 15, 2013   View Article

Get a whiff of this: Milky rinse water flowing from Wisconsin cheese factories will soon be used to generate enough electricity for 3,000 homes, thanks to an innovative solution to a growing wastewater problem.

For years, the milky rinse water was spread on farmland as a low-grade fertilizer, but the practice was curtailed in the face of more stringent environmental regulations to limit runoff pollution, especially in the winter months when spraying on frozen ground was outlawed.

Global warming to open ‘crazy’ shipping routes across Arctic

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 4, 2013   View Article

By the middle of this century, thanks to climate change, anyone with a light icebreaker can spend their Septembers going anywhere they want in the Arctic Ocean, including straight over the North Pole, according to a new study.

Ordinary vessels, which account for more than 99 percent of shipping traffic, could easily navigate the Northern Sea Route along the Russian coastline and, in some years, even find a route through the fabled Northwest Passage.

“That’s kind of crazy and, frankly, a little bit worrisome,” Laurence C. Smith, a geographer and sea ice expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, told NBC News. “It is not like these will be open blue seas and safe or open year round.”

Apple bends to pressure, aims to reduce pollutants in supply chain

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 4, 2013   View Article

Under pressure from environmental groups and other activists, Apple, the maker of iPhones and iPads, has reduced the amount toxic pollutants its suppliers release into the environment, according to a new report.

“They are far from done, but they are definitely in motion,” Linda Greer, head of the health and environment program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a U.S. based environmental group, told 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

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.”

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach