A vaccine with a 53 percent success rate doesn’t normally call for a celebration. But when that means protecting one in every two African children from a disease that kills a kid every 30 seconds, those odds start looking better. “The impact is tremendous,” says Joe Cohen, inventor of the first malaria vaccine. “We could save hundreds of thousands of kids every year.”
Two thieves could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and possibly years in jail after pulling off one of the highest-profile heists in Arizona history. Their loot: 17 saguaro cacti they uprooted two years ago from Saguaro National Park near Tucson. The 35- to 70-year-old plants each stand five to seven feet tall (saguaros grow to well over 40 feet, but young plants like these are easier to steal) and can fetch $2,000 apiece from landscapers. "We have an active patrol," says the park's chief ranger, Bob Love.
If the Kenya Wildlife Service starts running up its text-messaging charges, it has 44 elephants to blame. Rangers in Kenya have outfitted elephants with cellphone- and GPS-equipped collars that send warning messages when the pachyderms are about to raid farms.
On March 1, the Republic of Ireland becomes the first democratic country in the world to ban the traditional incandescent lightbulb. Stores there will no longer carry the century-old technology, which converts only between 5 and 10 percent of electricity into light, losing the rest as radiant heat. (Compare this with the 40 percent efficiency of compact fluorescent bulbs.) In its place, hardware stores will stock shelves with compact fluorescents, halogens and LEDs.
These three projects will harness natural resources to powerful effect.
This resort town, population 11,000, plans to moor four 260-foot-tall turbines a mile and a half offshore, at a total cost of $40 million. Along with Hull's two existing onshore turbines, wind power could generate 14 megawatts, enough to supply energy to the entire community.
Over the past eight years, the rift between the scientific community and the federal agencies that govern it has deepened. What opportunities will President Barack Obama's administration have to bridge the divide?
E. coli has earned a nasty reputation for upsetting stomachs and killing people. But now scientists at LS9, a start-up in South San Francisco, are putting the bad bug to good use, genetically engineering it to excrete biodiesel. The fuel "burns just like diesel," says Greg Pal, the senior director at LS9 [see Breeding the Oil Bug, about the rise of microbial biofuels].
By next fall, NASA plans to launch its biggest Red Planet rover yet, the $1.8-billion, SUV-size Mars Research Laboratory. Even though the MRL will be able to haul five times as much equipment as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that are already on Mars, a group of Swedish researchers say that they could accomplish far more if accompanied by a squad of helper ’bots. Fredrik Bruhn, the CEO of Ångström Aerospace Corporation, and his colleagues have designed the small inflatable scouts to assist bigger, less mobile rovers in their hunt for signs of microbial life on Mars.
Since the invention of the transistor, silicon semiconductors have been king. But now silicon-based transistors are nearing the limit of their potential. Excess heat and manufacturing hurdles are impeding the development of ever-faster and -smaller processors. Advances in materials and chip design to resist extreme heat and move huge amounts of data, quickly, will be crucial. Experts are exploring three technologies to overcome these challenges: spintronics, graphene and memristors.
The 14-year-long summer on Saturn's southern side is drawing to a close. August 11, 2009, marks the planet's vernal equinox, when Saturn's thin rings line up edge-on with the sun. As this happens, the rings will appear to grow thinner until they completely vanish. Because scattered sunlight won't obscure the view, it's a perfect time for NASA's spacecraft Cassini to answer long-standing questions about Saturn.