Writings

Deep-sea Internet to detect tsunamis, spy on smugglers, and discover oil

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

The Internet may soon reach into the depths of the world’s oceans and relay real-time information to smartphones everywhere — about everything from drug-smuggling submarines and the location of untapped oil reserves to the approach of a deadly tsunami.

Arrays of scientific instruments already bob on ocean buoys, hitch rides on sea turtles and lay bolted to seafloors. But they communicate with each other and scientists in myriad and often inefficient ways, explained Tommaso Melodia, an electrical engineer at the University of Buffalo in New York who is leading the development of the deep-sea Internet.

Noise-cancelling window sensor helps you enjoy this silence amid cacophony

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

The cacophony of any city’s hammering jack hammers, beeping buses, and relentlessly yacking citizens can make anyone long for an oasis of silence. Enter the Sono, a futuristic noise-canceling gadget that sticks on the window and turns even the noisiest of rooms into a chill place to think. The pebble-shaped device, a finalist in a prestigious design competition, serves as a reminder of the power of quiet.

“From time to time, I just want to escape the noisy world for a while to reset my mind,” Rudolf Stefanich, an industrial designer who created the Sono device while a graduate student at the University of Vienna in Austria, told NBC News in an email. The gadget was selected as a top-20 finalist for the annual James Dyson Award. The famous designer will hand pick and announce a winner on Nov. 7.

Pummeled kite surfer dreams up new way to harvest wave energy

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 11, 2013   View Article

Samuel Etherington first hit the waves with a board and kite in hand, the waves hit back with a bruising vengeance. But in learning to harness their power for his kitesurfing adrenaline rush, he found inspiration to design a next-generation wave energy harvester. The contraption scored him a coveted finalist spot in an engineering design competition and could serve as a viable alternative source of energy to boot.

“The waves would just roll and smash over you and then you would tumble and try to get back up on the board and try again and try again,” the mechanical design student at Brunel University near London told NBC News about his early days kitesurfing. “That then really physically hit home. There is a lot of power to be had here.”

11-year-old designs a better sandbag, named ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’

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

An 11-year-old boy from Florida has designed a new kind of sandbag to better protect life and property from the ravages of saltwater floods. His invention took top honors at a science fair this week, earning him a $25,000 check and a trip to Costa Rica.

“Living in Florida, I’m keenly aware of hurricanes and saltwater flooding,” the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge grand prize winner Peyton Robertson, who is a sixth grader at the Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., told NBC News.

‘Uncomfortable’ climates to devastate cities within a decade, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 9, 2013   View Article

The world is hurtling toward a stark future where the web of life unravels, human cultures are uprooted, and millions of species go extinct, according to a new study. This doomsday scenario isn’t far off, either: It may start within a decade in parts of Indonesia, and begin playing out over most of the world — including cities across the United States — by mid-century.

What’s more, even a serious effort to stabilize spiraling greenhouse gas emissions will only stave off these changes until around 2069, notes the study from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature. The authors warn that the time is now to prepare for a world where even the coldest of years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past century and a half.

Politicians, activists plead for emissions cuts in wake of climate report

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 27, 2013   View Article

Politicians and activists seized on a major scientific report saying that human activity is “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause of global warming— and used it to prod world leaders toward a global deal to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

“The future we are heading to is not the future we want to leave to our children and grandchildren and future generations,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, told NBC News.

Final verdict coming on Friday: Humans caused global warming

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 26, 2013   View Article

An international panel of scientists is expected to issue a report Friday that dismisses nearly every doubt that human activity has caused temperatures to warm, glaciers to melt, and seas to bulge since the middle of last century. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise precipitously, the report will warn, there will be catastrophic consequences. Whether these strong words will be met with meaningful response is another matter.

The scientists with the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been working behind closed doors in Stockholm, Sweden, this week to hammer out the exact wording of the report, though experts anticipate little departure from the main messages contained in a draft that was leaked to the media in August.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach