The Robots We’ve Long Imagined Are Finally Here

September 19, 2016

They are wise-cracking companions, able to communicate in more than six million languages. Others are bent on enslaving or destroying humanity, deeming themselves better, more rational caretakers of the Earth in light of our irrational behaviors.

Pilot or garbage man, soldier or slave, hero or villain—robots have played every role imaginable in popular science fiction for nearly a century.

In the 21st century, real-life robots inspired by their fictional counterparts are beginning to take starring roles in everyday life.

If There’s Life on Europa, Robots Like These Will Find It

September 28, 2016

The exploration of Europa begins under the ice in Antarctica.

That’s where a team of researchers, led by the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), has been testing a variety of robotic subs in recent years to learn about what technologies will work best when NASA eventually launches a mission to Jupiter’s icy moon.

“I really want us to go down through the ice on Europa. I want to explore what’s down there,” says Britney Schmidt, assistant professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech and principal investigator for the NASA-funded project called SIMPLE, for Sub-ice Investigation of Marine and Planetary-analog Ecosystems.

Why Are Millions of People Ditching Their Wearable Devices?

October 04, 2016

Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. Others, meanwhile, measure their heartrate on their wrists.

The latter group is growing exponentially, ushering in a multi-billion-dollar wearables market, from watches that count steps and heartbeats to ear buds that monitor a woman’s body temperature to calculate the ideal time to procreate.

Might some of those millions of people be suffering from their own sort of abandonment issues? Are they feeling guilty from giving up or did they just use the tool for a temporary tune-up? These and other questions motivated researchers from the University of Washington to look more deeply at the relationship between self-tracking tech and the human experience with it.

Arctic Grayling May Find It Hard to Go with the Flow Due to Climate Change

It seems that global climate change is becoming predictably more unpredictable every year. That’s especially true in fragile regions like the Arctic where even small changes in temperature or precipitation can have big effects on the ecosystem.

When Mark Urban and his team of biologists arrived in the foothills of Alaska’s Brooks Range last May, for example, they were disconcerted to see tundra green and not the lingering snowfields of winter. The spring thaw had begun unseasonably early. The scientists faced logistical hurdles to hurry to their field sites along the upper Kuparuk River and nearby watersheds where they are studying the effects of climate change on a species of fish called Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus).

Skeeter Science in the Arctic

January 19, 2016

Lauren Culler is having a hard time finding anyone to work with her in Greenland or elsewhere around the Arctic.

Perhaps it’s because scientists – who will travel to the remotest of remote regions, braving the most bruising conditions to unravel almost any mystery – aren’t too keen on facing Culler’s chosen subject of research: the mosquito.

These aren’t your typical skeeters. The bloodsuckers of the far north are infamous for swarms so enormous as to blot out the sky in a Hitchcockian wave of horror. The really scary thing is that scientists know little about the ecology of these insects, even as climate change reorganizes ecosystems in the Arctic, which is warming twice as fast as any place on the planet.

Passing of a Legend: Capt. Pieter J. Lenie dies at age 91

April 19, 2015

He could be implacable and more stubborn than a train of mules. Author Michael Parfit once described him as “autocratic and opinionated, sometimes remote, and master of the long, cold stare named the stink-eye.” A former chief engineer of the research vessel Hero reportedly said, “he was 90 pounds of wet bobcat.”

But those who knew Capt. Pieter J. Lenie – the scientists who depended on him to reach the unreachable and the crew that depended upon him for their lives – the long-serving master of the Hero was, well, a hero.

On March 1, 2015, just after midnight, everyone’s hero, Capt. Pete Lenie, died at the age of 91 in Brevard County, Florida.

Underground Movement: Water Tracks In Antarctica May Be Similar To Phenomenon On Mars

April 12, 2015

There is an underground movement underway in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.

This particular movement doesn’t involve radical political parties or fringe music festivals – though the idea of super salty water moving through the shallow subsurface of continental Antarctica’s largest, ice-free area and playing a major role in its ecology may eventually shake up established orthodoxy.

In that sense, Joe Levy could be seen as a rebel leader. The thin, darkish beard and spectacles, in fact, call to mind one of those young intellectuals who helped foment rebellion in the early decades of the 20th century. Levy’s radicalism, however, has implications that are literally out of this world.

Functional water: science or sorcery?

April 23, 2008

The latest generation of bottled water boasts that it reshuffles the bonds between water molecules for quicker absorption, or adds aloe vera to improve immune system response. Consumers are increasingly opting for these and other types of H20 beverages in containers over old-fashioned tap water, elevating bottled water to second place—behind soft drinks—among marketed beverages.

Cultivating change

April 24, 2008

Economists, CEOs and even a former president of the United States have praised his books, calling his magnum opus, Natural Capitalism (Little, Brown and Co., 1999), the bible for the next industrial revolution. Not bad for an unabashed environmentalist and humanist who since age 20 has dedicated his life to sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment.

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