Three years ago today, a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan killed thousands of people. It also triggered the meltdown of reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The cleanup is ongoing and has been problematic, with power failures and leaks of contaminated water. And the technical difficulties involved in closing the facility are compounded by serious labor issues.
The next evolution of science is not happening in a lab, but in a basement in a rural Florida county. Thanks to online crowdsourcing, thousands of non-scientists can visit a site called Notes From Nature and lend a hand to university researchers cataloging their collections, from bark to bugs.
Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 10:48 am
From its earliest days as America's homegrown whiskey elixir, Kentucky bourbon has been traveling on boats.
In fact, boats were a key reason why Kentucky became the king of bourbon. In the late 1700s, trade depended on waterways, and distillers in the state had a big advantage: the Ohio River. They'd load their barrels onto flatboats on the Ohio, which flowed into the Mississippi, taking their golden liquor as far down as New Orleans.
Cash prizes await "citizen scientists" who can improve algorithms that help NASA find and identify asteroids in our solar system, the agency says. A contest to find more asteroids begins next week, in what NASA calls an attempt to crowdsource innovation.
This is Hungerford, a large female snowy owl. Last summer she was just a hatchling — a gray ball of fuzz in the middle of the Arctic tundra. In the fall, newly equipped with adult plumage, she flew thousands of miles south until she reached the coast of Maryland. And this winter, she became an important part of an unprecedented research project.
Every year, Americans send millions of tons of food to the landfill. What if you could use all of those pizza crusts and rotten vegetables to heat your home? That's already happening in one unlikely laboratory: the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn.
Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 10:56 am
We are rarely lost anymore.
In a foreign city or just a drive out of town, our GPS-enabled smartphones pin our positions on digital maps to within a few meters. We are rarely without facts anymore. Any question that has an objective answer — from the last day of the Civil War to the maximum speed of a Boeing 777 — is as close as Google. For a broad class of experience in modern life we have become very used to "knowing." Events a world away may be subject to our opinions, but rarely anymore are they cloaked in an enveloping darkness.
The task of building your very own toy, or robot, or radio can seem daunting for someone without much background in engineering. But a set of color-coded electronic bits that can be magnetically snapped together called littleBits is aiming to make creating your own electronics easy for everyone. It's like Legos, if only Legos could be connected into circuits that light up, move or make music.
"Circuits in seconds," promises the outside of the box.