Heat exchanger technology--the cooling machinery that ferries internal heat away from your PC, your computer, your air conditioner, and other appliances--hasn't changed too terribly much for decades. That's led to some limiting problems: For instance, more powerful computer chips can't be run at their full potential because they might overheat.
By Pierce HooverPosted 07.11.2011 at 3:25 pm 2 Comments
As we continue to work our way west toward the Pacific, we move into states with lower population densities, and greater distances between towns. And, as we are learning, a dot on a map doesn’t necessarily indicate even the bare minimum social center with, you know, stores. On more than one occasion, we’ve rolled into a small farm town to find the businesses on Main Street boarded up, and only a smattering of occupied homes in what was once a thriving community.
By Pierce HooverPosted 07.11.2011 at 3:04 pm 3 Comments
In eastern Kansas, our route took us parallel to a major east-west train track for many miles. Long freight trains passed us every few minutes. My son Nash enjoyed the spectacle, and asserted that we were seeing a much more efficient mode of transportation than cars or trucks. He likely formed this opinion after seeing an ad campaign from one of the major rail lines that touted the efficiency of rail transport on a per mile/per ton basis. With hours of free time for discussion while rolling along at 15 mph, we spent some time debating the future of transportation.
By Pierce HooverPosted 07.11.2011 at 2:39 pm 2 Comments
On July 1, we passed the 2,000-mile mark on our cross-country road trip. For many of those miles, we’ve been playing leapfrog with a group of touring cyclists who are also following the trans-America route, which gives us some cause for comparison. Our vehicle does, after all, have a healthy dose of bicycle in its design.
It seems like the Japanese always have the coolest technology--in this case quite literally. The hip new way to stay cool in an increasingly energy-conscious Japan: cooling foam or gel spray-cans that go right on the skin and provide an instant cool down.
For a nation that prides itself on "firsts," America's 2011 is shaping up pretty poorly. Two American firsts will experience their lasts this year: the space shuttles, the first and only reusable space vehicles of their kind, will retire this week, and Fermilab's Tevatron--once the world's most powerful particle collider--will cease smashing in September. While all good things must come to an end, neither of these world-beating technologies has a homegrown successor to pick up where its predecessor left off. With regularity, the "firsts" are happening elsewhere these days.
For those of us who grew up on Big Science--where big projects regularly hit big milestones that were a big deal--these are strange days. I want to see Americans build the first fusion reactor. Actually, I want to see American robots build it, and I want them do it on the moon.
Coal-derived emissions pouring from smokestacks across Asia are--perhaps counterintuitively--responsible for a pause in global warming in the decade following 1998, but that's no real reason to celebrate. The halt in rising temperatures is a result of the large amounts of sulfur in those emissions, which can have a cooling effect on the planet.
The well-publicized failures of cold fusion may have tainted the field's reputation, but physicists have been successfully joining nuclei with hot fusion since 1932. Today, research in hot fusion could lead to a clean energy source free from the drawbacks that dog fission power plants. Fusion power plants cannot melt down; they won't produce long-lived, highly radioactive waste; and fusion fuel cannot be easily weaponized.
As I was soaked with rain, I started to rethink my design
By Pierce HooverPosted 06.30.2011 at 2:38 pm 0 Comments
When you drive cross-country, especially at the relatively slow speed of 15 mph, sooner or later you'll have to deal with some rain. For the first thousand miles of our journey, which carried us through Virginia and Kentucky, we managed to dodge or wait out most of the violent thunderstorms that swept the middle section of the country in June. Our luck ran out in southern Illinois, where we were subjected to 30-plus hours of persistent precipitation ranging from drizzle to deluge.
Today in the Things We Thought We Understood But Really Don’t file, a Northwestern University researcher has upended what was previously thought to be a pretty good understanding of how static electricity works. Static electricity goes beyond the usual theory that it's a simple imbalance of charges caused by the exchange of ions, the researchers’ paper says. Rather, it is the result of an actual transfer of material.