Writings

Swallows evolve shorter wings to avoid cars, study suggests

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 18, 2013   View Article

Cars and trucks thundering down the road in southwestern Nebraska stand a much lower chance today of smacking a cliff swallow than they did in the 1980s, according to a new study that suggests the birds have evolved shorter wings to pivot away from oncoming traffic.

The adaptation is important for the birds’ survival given that they nest by the thousands under bridges and overpasses there, noted Charles Brown, a biologist at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma who regularly drives those same roads to and from a nearby research station.

Big jump seen in hurricane related storm surges

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 18, 2013   View Article

Massive hurricanes that push piles of seawater city-blocks inland when they howl ashore will increase dramatically as the planet continues to warm, according to a new study.

“It is pretty clear” that climate change must affect hurricane activity “somehow,” Aslak Grinsted, a climate scientist at the University of Copenhagen, told NBC News. “But it is not clear exactly how.”

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.

17-year-old builds protein decoder tool to help cure cancer

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 13, 2013   View Article

A new class of drugs may soon be developed to treat everything from breast and ovarian cancer to tuberculosis, thanks to a 17-year-old’s system for declassifying the interactions between two types of proteins.

Johah Kallenbach, a high school senior at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa., won second place and a $75,000 scholarship Tuesday at the Intel Science Talent Search, an elite science fair, for his development of the computer program.

Whiz kid grows algae under her bed, wins Intel science fair

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 13, 2013   View Article

Sara Volz, 17, from Colorado Springs, Colo., joined the quest for practical alternatives to petroleum-based fuels in the seventh grade. Now a high school senior, she may have found an answer in the oily pond scum growing under her bed.

“I was trying to use guided evolution, so artificial selection, to isolate populations of algae cells with abnormally high oil content,” she told NBC News.

The result is a population of algae that produces so much oil, so efficiently, that it bagged the grand prize Tuesday night in the Intel Science Talent Search, an elite science fair. The prize comes with a $100,000 scholarship.

Warming fastest since dawn of civilization, study shows

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

Temperatures are rising faster today than they have at any point since at least the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, according to a new study.

The finding is based on a global reconstruction of temperature records inferred from ice cores, fossils in ocean sediments and other sources. While previous studies reached similar conclusions, they covered only about 2,000 years. The new reconstruction extends the global record through the Holocene, the most recent geologic epoch.

“Another way to think of it is the period where human civilization was born, created, and developed and then progressed to where we are now,” Shaun Marcott, a climate scientist at Oregon State University who led the study, told NBC News.

Botch-free puncturing device among prize-winning inventions

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 6, 2013   View Article

From botch-free punctures on the operating table to dramatically more energy-efficient lighting and well-watered kitchen gardens, the inventions of three $30,000-prize-winning students aim to make life better for people around the world.

The road to success in innovation, according to the recipients of the annual Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, begins with a profound respect for the power of learning.

“I refuse to stop being curious,” Nikolai Begg, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and winner of the school’s check, told NBC News. “Every single experience you have and every single time you can ask a question … you learn something new.”

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach