Writings

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

Surprising strategy to fight global warming: Cut down on soot

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 17, 2013   View Article

A quick hit way to slow the pace of global warming may be to tackle soot emissions from things such as diesel cars and coal-burning cookstoves, according to a new study that finds the black carbon these devices emit is the second-biggest contributor to global climate change.

All told, soot has about two-thirds the effect on warming as the best-known greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The findings push methane, which is emitted by everything from belching cattle to fracking operations, from the No. 2 spot.

Warmest springs on record bring earliest flowers

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 16, 2013   View Article

During the exceptionally warm springs of 2010 and 2012, plants bloomed earlier in the eastern U.S. than they have since the American writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau started keeping records near Walden Pond in 1852.

Many plants now flower several weeks earlier than they did in the 19th century, a response linked to increasingly warmer springs due to global climate change.

For example, in Massachusetts, plants are flowering 20 days earlier now than they were during Thoreau’s time. In Wisconsin, where data on flowering dates was recorded by environmentalist and writer Aldo Leopold in the 1930s, flowering dates are, on average, 24 days earlier.

Cold snaps linked to plague, civil unrest

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 14, 2013   View Article

Prolonged cold snaps over the past 1,000 years in Eastern Europe coincided with plague outbreaks, civil unrest and declines in human settlement, according to a new study that also finds the region is warmer now than it has been for the past millennium.

“It is not accurate to say that whenever it is cold you have problems, that is not the case, but there is a tendency,” study leader Ulf Buntgen, a paleoclimatologist at the Swiss Federal Research Institute in Zurich, told NBC News.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach