This autonomous firefighting 'bot gets its self-preservation instinct from its (very distant) insect cousins
By Michael DumiakPosted 03.31.2008 at 3:15 pm 6 Comments
Shifting through the mossy undergrowth of Germany's Black Forest, antennae raised and leg joints quietly clicking forward, OLE (pronounced "oh-luh") is a St. Bernard–size bug on the prowl. But this mechanized insect isn't a scavenger—it's a guardian.
Sewage is more than just filth. It’s evidence of our worst habits, everything from caffeine to cocaine, all ingested and flushed down the toilet. Now scientists are using wastewater to drug-test entire cities, and the results are sobering
By Eric HagermanPosted 02.21.2008 at 3:51 pm 16 Comments
Jörg Rieckermann snaps on a pair of purple rubber gloves, picks up a crowbar, and levers a manhole cover out of the way. “Here’s my access to the underworld,” Rieckermann, who speaks with a faint German accent, says as he hoists up a barrel-shaped robot suspended above a stream of raw sewage.
What makes investors do the wrong thing, all together, pretty much all the time?
By Robert Armstrong and Jacob WardPosted 02.19.2008 at 4:54 pm 2 Comments
There's just no nice way to say it: You're stupid with your money. You may fancy yourself a shrewd investor, but if you have normal human instincts—if you stand up and cheer at sporting events, if you follow the crowd toward the exit at the theater—then you have the instincts that make investors alternate between delirious greed and inconsolable fear. Like most of your peers, you are wired to buy high and sell low, and that's why Richard Peterson is about to become one very rich psychiatrist.
Sleek designs, robotic aircraft and next-generation weapons will make the ships of the future the most formidable ever
By Christian DeBenedettiPosted 02.15.2008 at 12:18 pm 5 Comments
It’s hard to tell what kind of wars the future will bring, but one thing is certain: Robots will be doing much of the fighting. In fact, they already are. Last year, aerial drones flew 258,502 hours of missions—up from 27,201 in 2002. Spending on unmanned aircraft systems by the U.S. military is expected to hit $3.76 billion by 2010. Robotic warfare, long the stuff of science fiction, is now a reality.
Want to see a model for successful and rapid environmental action? Don't look to the federal government—check out your own town. Here, our list of the 50 communities that are leading the way. Does yours make the cut?
By Elizabeth Svoboda, with additional reporting by Eric Mika and Saba BerhiePosted 02.08.2008 at 3:54 pm 113 Comments
In the international alliance to fight climate change, the United States is considered the sullen loner. But in the seven years since we rejected Kyoto, changes have begun. Not at the federal level, however. It’s the locals who are making it happen.
During a week of attempting to cloak every aspect of daily life, our correspondent found that in an information age, leaving no trace is nearly impossible
By Catherine PricePosted 02.08.2008 at 12:51 pm 75 Comments
In 2006, David Holtzman decided to do an experiment. Holtzman, a security consultant and former intelligence analyst, was working on a book about privacy, and he wanted to see how much he could find out about himself from sources available to any tenacious stalker. So he did background checks. He pulled his credit file. He looked at Amazon.com transactions and his credit-card and telephone bills. He got his DNA analyzed and kept a log of all the people he called and e-mailed, along with the Web sites he visited.
Environmentalists and everyday air travelers alike are growing increasingly aware of the airline industry's greenhouse-gas problem. As demands for greener air travel grow, will technology come to the rescue of the jumbo jet?
By Dennis GaffneyPosted 02.04.2008 at 5:13 pm 3 Comments
Last summer, more than 1,000 environmentalists in the U.K. staged a weeklong protest in a "Climate Camp" at Heathrow Airport, where about 70 people were arrested. Their immediate purpose was to block a planned expansion of Heathrow, but the protests highlighted a growing complaint in Europe—that the ride to global-warming catastrophe is being fueled not only by coal-fired power plants and SUVs, but also by the ever-rising number of commercial jets. Now governments are starting to listen.
Or at least keep your teeth cavity-free. A growing chorus of medical researchers say our bacteria-killing zealotry is misguided. Instead of fighting bugs, they argue, we should train them to do our bidding and then set them loose in our bodies. The trouble is keeping them there
By Jessica Snyder SachsPosted 01.31.2008 at 1:24 pm 10 Comments
It's a drizzly morning on New York's Upper East Side, and Rockefeller University microbiologist David Thaler is sipping a double espresso amid the retro-hippie pillows and dangling paper stars of Java Girl, a favorite haunt of the neighborhood's brainiac Nobel laureates, aging poets and famous entertainers. Thaler somehow manages to embody all three—a long, graying ponytail curling down the middle of his back, wire-frame glasses askew over expansive brown eyes, and a schnozz to rival an Einstein, Ginsberg or Allen. Thaler is one of the leading cheerleaders for a new field of biotechnology aimed at engineering the bacteria inside us to deliver drugs, destroy tumors, actively fight infection, and even vaccinate against their disease-causing kin.
In our all-digital economy, only the computer knows
By Michael DumiakPosted 01.28.2008 at 6:26 pm 5 Comments
Once upon a time, when banks observed the gold standard, every dollar was backed by an equal amount of metal. Put simply, your money was in the vault. But now cash is all most people ever get to hold, and as the dollar goes digital, the only tangible vestige of your wealth will soon be the computer that keeps track of it. So where is your money today?
Drug lords, millionaire wannabes and the North Korean government have perfected methods for knocking off our most valuable greenback. Now the scientists in charge of making the real dough are fighting back with an unfakeable (for now) $100 bill
By Elizabeth SvobodaPosted 01.24.2008 at 2:41 pm 3 Comments
Every single American bank note is printed at Bureau of Engraving and Printing facilities, with ink and on paper each made, separately, in only one factory in the world. And yet at any given time, there is at least $70 million worth of fake U.S. currency floating around, 75 percent of which is in $100 bills. In large part because of the advent of inexpensive scanners and printers, more and more fake bills are entering circulation: From 1997 to 2007, the amount of passed counterfeit bills nearly doubled, to $64.9 million.