Is FutureGen's future not as bleak as previously thought?
By Seth FletcherPosted 02.15.2008 at 5:00 pm 0 Comments
Are the widespread reports of FutureGens imminent doom greatly exaggerated? Maybe not, but here at AAAS, coal-gasification proponents speak of FutureGen, the Department of Energys $1 billion initiative to make clean coal a reality, as if it were as robust as ever.
Warming oceans could rob the Antarctic waters of their serenely ancient inhabitants
By Seth FletcherPosted 02.15.2008 at 4:51 pm 0 Comments
The waters around Antarctica are an anomaly; they're home to a marine ecosystem straight out of the Paleozoic era (the period spanning from 541 million to 251 million years ago). But global warming is about to change that, according to research presented today at AAAS. The reason for the preponderance of ancient organisms is the cold water: Predators that are capable of breaking the skeletons of their prey—modern fish, sharks, skates, and so on—simply can't live there. In fact, the most vicious predator in the Antarctic marine ecosystem right now is either a big sea star or an acid-oozing worm.
Those waters are warming, though, and possibly faster than the rest of the world's oceans.
A new report highlights the world's most acute needs
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 4:50 pm 4 Comments
A panel convened by the National Academy of Engineering announced today a list of the most important projects in the world—at least, what would be, were we to figure out how to build them. The 14 priorities range from economical solar power—we only need to harness 1/10,000th of the sunlight that hits Earth to satisfy the world's energy needs—to reverse-engineering the brain and universal access to clean water (see the full list after the break). They're also introducing a slick new website to solicit public opinion. What do you think is the most important engineering challenge for the century to come?
By Bjorn CareyPosted 02.15.2008 at 3:03 pm 5 Comments
Apache and Blackberry
During a presentation on the next steps for developing a successor to the Space Shuttle, I was smacked with a crazy set of stats. The Airbus A380, the massive passenger airliner that runs more than $300 million, costs a scant $400 per pound of dry hardware put into the beast. I say scant—by comparison the Space Shuttle costs $21,000 per pound. Even more impressive, at $1,600 per pound, each BlackBerry 8000 series phone costs slightly more than an Apache attack helicopter.
Space luminaries raise skepticism on the industry's sustainability
By Seth FletcherPosted 02.15.2008 at 2:59 pm 2 Comments
For someone who follows far-out entrepreneurial space ventures for a living, its good to soak up some skepticism once in a while. And a heavy dose of skepticism about private-industry space tourism is just what I what I got this morning at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston, during a symposium titled 50 Years of the Space Age: Looking Back, Looking Forward. Looking forward, this group of experts—including Kathy Sullivan of the Battelle Center for Math and Space Policy, Roald Sagdeev of the University of Maryland-College Park, and Alvin Aldrin, son of Buzz Aldrin—sees hard times ahead for space tourism entrepreneurs.
Martian rovers pushed aside to allow massive data transfer from polar lander
By Bjorn CareyPosted 02.15.2008 at 2:48 pm 0 Comments
When NASA's Phoenix lander parachutes from orbit and touches down on the outskirts of Mars' northern polar ice cap on May 25, it will join the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers as NASA's active roster on the planet's surface. And, as is typical of the youngest child, Phoenix will receive the majority of NASA's attention during its mission.
Want science back in the national equation? Get busy, it won't happen without your action
By Nicole DyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 12:28 pm 0 Comments
Funding for the majority of federal science and technology programs in the United States has declined or remained flat during the past seven years. And dont assume that will change with the next administration. Politicians simply dont know jack about science and technology, says former Congressman John Porter, a moderate Republican from Illinois. In fact, fewer than 3 percent of our Congressional representatives have any science background. By comparison, 8 out 9 top officials in China are scientists.
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 12:27 pm 1 Comment
Day 1,464 of the Mars rovers' 90-day mission to Mars (for those of you keeping track), and Steve Squires, the head of science operations for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers is getting us up to date on their latest findings. Most important: serendipity in action. The Spirit rover's right front wheel has broken, so engineers turn the rover around, drive it in reverse, and drag the wheel behind the rover. As it slogs across the planet, it carves a trench. And my, what a trench it carves.
Forget corn; we'll get fuel from all the other stuff, says DOE
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 9:32 am 5 Comments
"Cellulosic ethanol technology is a lot closer to reality than a lot of articles would have you think," said Jacques Beaudry-Losique, manager of the Department of Energy's Biomass Program this morning at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. After some well-publicized studies stated that corn-based biofuels might exacerbate CO2 damage to the environment, focus has shifted to these so-called "second generation" biofuels that use non-food crops such as switchgrass, wood chips or crop residues (e.g. all the parts of the corn plant that are currently wasted after harvest--the stalk, leaves and "cob").