Archive for 2012

Stuck in traffic? Get the right 1 percent of drivers to stay home, says study

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 20, 2012   View Article

If just one percent of drivers from commuter-heavy neighborhoods stayed off the road during rush hour, traffic congestion for everyone else would drop up to 18 percent, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of cellphone data.

The finding provides a convincing incentive for  people in specific neighborhoods to take the bus, carpool or work from home, according to research leader Marta Gonzalez, a civil and environmental engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Be green this holiday without being a Grinch

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 20, 2013   View Article

Have you heard about the great Christmas tree debate? The one where you try to figure out which is worse for the environment, chopping down a perfectly good live fir or shipping a factory-made plastic one all the way from China? Well, the truth is, it’s not that big of a deal. If you’re dreaming of a green Christmas, there’re other issues that take precedence.

“You can have the most leverage elsewhere,” Jean-Sebastian Trudel, founder of Ellipsos, a sustainable development consulting firm in Montreal, Canada, told NBC News.

Window-cleaning robot swipes a chore from to-do list

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 19, 2012   View Article

Move over vacuuming Roomba, here comes something sleeker: a robot with just the right mix of suction and drive to smoothly clean windows.

“We’ve got the robot that does the chore that you need to do but no one enjoys doing,” Nick Savadian, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. arm of Ecovacs Robotics, an Asia-based company, told NBC News.

Laser-cut gingerbread house is perfect … if you don’t taste it

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 18, 2012   View Article

Gingerbread houses are a much-admired and tasty holiday tradition in many parts of the world. Yet until now, no one we know of has tried to improve their design and construction by using lasers. That’s precisely what one engineer with a second-hand laser cutter and some architectural curiosity did. The result is high precision … but you don’t want to eat it.

Johon von Konow, an engineer in Sweden, spends his days developing mobile phone concepts for Sony Ericsson and Huawei. At night, he and his wife, Maria, are always on the lookout for new things to try.

Liquid-metal wire stretches eight times its original length

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 18, 2012   View Article

For those times when you need extra length in your headphones or phone charger, there’re now super-stretchable wires. In the not-too distant future, they could be woven into fabrics – think gym clothes with an embedded heart rate monitor to help you burn off the holiday fat.

The wire “has perfect electrical properties without compromising the mechanical properties at all,” Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University, told NBC News.

The point is, porcupines inspired improved surgical tape

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 10, 2012   View Article

Porcupine quills penetrate the mouths of their would-be attackers with ease and prove extremely difficult to remove. Those qualities are inspiration for a futuristic tape that could help surgeons work faster and ease their patients’ post-operation pain.

“We like to turn to nature for inspiration because evolution is really the best problem solver,” Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the adhesive’s development told NBC News.

Hydrogel remembers its shape – just add water

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 5, 2012   View Article

Scientists have created a shape-remembering material out of synthetic DNA that is eerily reminiscent of T-1000, the liquid metal assassin in the hit sci-fi film Terminator 2.

“It is almost as soft as water and it is still gel. And water you cannot stretch, but this gel can stretch. That is why it is very, very unusual,” Dan Luo, a professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University, told NBC News.

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