Archive for 2013

Silver lining? Greenhouse gas could be vast, untapped source of energy

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 23, 2013   View Article

The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and other industrial activities around the world is a vast source of untapped energy, according to new research that describes a proof-of-concept technique to harvest it.

Akin to harvesting energy from the wind, this combination of chemistry and mechanics would generate electricity from the carbon dioxide (CO2) already flowing out of plants. While it wouldn’t destroy the CO2, it would pull far more energy from existing waste gas. It could arguably even enable plants to resist scaling up and becoming more wasteful, just to keep up with demand.

Message from the mud: East Antarctic meltdown could cause massive sea rise

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 21, 2013   View Article

The last time concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide were as high as they are today, big chunks of the seemingly stable East Antarctic ice sheet melted and helped raise global sea levels more than 65 feet higher than they are now, a new study suggests.

Scientists have long known that seas were higher during the Pliocene, a geological epoch that ran from 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago. At the time, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were similar to today’s 400 parts per million (ppm).

“Overall, it was a warmer climate than today, but similar to what we expect to reach by the end of this century,”Carys Cook, a graduate student at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London and the study’s lead author, told NBC News in an email.

CIA said to back study on ways to hack the global climate

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

The U.S. intelligence community is helping to fund a study that is evaluating ways to cool the global climate, including proposals to pump the skies full of sunlight reflecting particles and build machines that vacuum greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

A final report is tentatively scheduled for release in the spring or summer of 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences, which has convened a committee of science and policy experts to study the issue.

Ice-free Arctic may come as soon as 2054, study says

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

Cruise ships and oil tankers may be sailing through ice-free waters of the Arctic as early as 2054, according to a new study that narrows to a handful of years the uncertainty of when this climate-change milestone will occur. Previous studies have pegged it to everywhere between 2015 and 2100.

The implications of an ice-free Arctic range from loss of habitat for polar bears and seals to a surge in extreme weather around the world and an acceleration of global climate change, according to Arctic experts.

It also matters for ships, noted study leader Jiping Liu, an assistant professor in the department of atmospheric and environmental sciences at the State University of New York at Albany. “If the Arctic is totally ice free, you don’t need to go through a specific route, you can go anywhere,” he told NBC News.

Robotic boats have mind of their own on water

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

For all the anxiety and sleep deprivation they caused, the robotic boats plying a Virginia pond this past week might as well as have been carrying nuclear bombs instead of soft-foam projectiles to shoot through hula hoops in a bid for extra points.

“We’re talking Cuban missile crisis stress level,” Andrew Gray, an exhausted and slap-happy graduate student in the Machine Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Florida, told NBC News on Sunday after his team took top prize in the 2013 International Roboboat Competition at a pond at the Founder’s Inn & Spa in Virginia Beach, Va.

As ice melts, life abounds in Antarctic

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

The collapse of a giant ice shelf in Antarctica has proven a bounty for the sea creatures eking out an existence in the once-dark waters, according to new research that highlights just how quickly some marine life can adapt to a warming world.

The Larsen A ice shelf broke up and collapsed in 1995, exposing the permanently dark seafloor to the fruits of sunlight, which fuels the growth of plankton and sea-ice algae at the surface. The plankton and algae drift to the seafloor when they die.

“This unprecedented source of food appears to be triggering important changes in the seabed biota,” Claudio Richter, a marine scientist with the Alfred Wegner Institute in Germany, told NBC News in an email.

Want to love a robot? Let it nurture you, not the other way around

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

When human-like robots are standard home appliances, their owners will have increasingly warm, positive feelings for them if the robots take good care of their owners and require little maintenance, according to a new study.

In the study, participants could help Nao, a human-like robot, calibrate its eyes, or Nao could examine the human’s eye as if it was a concerned doctor and make suggestions to improve vision. After the task, the participants were asked how they felt about the robot.

The researchers found that participants trusted the robot more and were more satisfied with their relationship when they received eye care, for example, rather than gave it. In other words, when it comes to building a relationship with human-like robots, it is better to receive than to give.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach