Technology

Back From the Dead: Why De-Extinction May Save Humanity

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 24, 2014   View Article

If current trends continue, elephants, giraffes, and zebras could go extinct in the not-too-distant future.

Rodents teeming with parasites that carry black plague would fill the void, suggests ongoing research in Africa. If so, the threat to human health could prompt the tantalizingly feasible solution of de-extinction — that is, resurrecting the big animals and releasing them back into the wild.

De-extinction for conservation purposes is a “matter of when, not if,” said Philip Seddon, a zoologist at the University of Otaga in New Zealand. “We need to think very hard about which are the good candidate species.”

Social Media Could Help Save Species on the Verge of Extinction

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 29, 2014   View Article

Dodo, meet Instagram.

Scientists think that the same technology that brought us the selfie could be used to help save some of the thousands of species tottering on the brink of extinction around the world.

While an untold number of butt selfies and pictures of food are posted on social networks daily, people are also snapping images of birds, flowers, and other creatures that can help researchers who keep a close eye on flora and fauna at the tipping point.

Sucking Carbon From Sky May Be Necessary to Cool Planet, UN Says

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 14, 2014   View Article

International efforts to combat global warming are so broken that it’s come to this: hoovering massive amounts of carbon dioxide out of the sky.

A body of scientists convened under the auspices of the United Nations is giving more weight to the idea that vacuuming vast stores of CO2 from the skies and burying it in the ground may be necessary to limit the temperature rise to the internationally agreed safe level of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.

Innovator’s Prosthetic Socket Aids Boston Marathon Victims

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 9, 2014   View Article

A high-tech running shoe is worthless if it is two sizes too small and gives the runner blisters and pressure sores. The same goes for prosthetic limbs, according to David Sengeh, a 26-year-old graduate student from Sierra Leone who was honored Wednesday with an award for his work on an innovative socket that makes prosthetic limbs more comfortable and thus functional for amputees.

“Whether you have a robotic ankle or a wooden peg, if the socket is not functional you wouldn’t use your leg,” he told NBC News, explaining why he has focused his energy on developing next-generation sockets, or interfaces, for prostheses.

Parched California Pours Mega-Millions Into Desalination

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 17, 2014   View Article

Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state.

Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people.

Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water.

Algae converted to crude oil in less than an hour, energy department says

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

The day when planes, trucks and cars are commonly revved up on pond scum may be on the near horizon thanks to a technological advance that continuously turns a stream of concentrated algae into bio-crude oil. From green goo to crude takes less than an hour.

The goo contains about 10 percent to 20 percent algae by weight. The rest is water. This mixture is piped into a high-tech pressure cooker where temperatures hover around 660 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of 3,000 pounds per square inch in order to keep the mixture in a liquid phase.

Google Earth spies unreported fish traps, study reveals

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

Fishing traps known as weirs that jut from coastlines may be snaring six times more fish in the Persian Gulf than what is officially reported, according to a new estimate based, in part, on satellite imagery available through Google Earth.

Scientists turned to the Internet search giant’s mapping tool as a way to cross-check catch data reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization by six countries in the gulf, a region of the world where marine ecosystems are understudied.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach