Leave your monitor on standby without the eco-guilt
There is an element of "why did it take so long?" in reports surfacing of the zero-watt monitor from Fujitsu Siemens. It's a flat panel LCD which contains a relay switch that automatically interrupts the power supply when the video signal from an attached PC subsides. Instead of going into standby when idle and consuming a low voltage, the monitor consumes none at all. When the video signal returns, the relay switches the other way and electricity is returned to power up the monitor.
Silicon Valley’s fabled invention machine shows its latest tech
If technology were a religion, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center would be one of the holiest shrines on any pilgrimage. So much of our modern computer world was invented at this freewheeling innovation lab (and largely given away). Prefer your mouse and point-and-click graphical interface to a UNIX-style command line? Thanks PARC. Think laser prints look better than dot-matrix scrawl? Thanks again.
Some say the glory days have passed. PARC today is a more-focused operation that has to turn quick profits (no more open funding from its owner Xerox). But its still a well-staffed corporate research lab in an era with ever-fewer of those creatures. On Monday, its staff opened the doors to the press to show off the latest gizmos.
A number of power plants in that most progressive of continents take a leap backwards and reintroduces coal
In a slow-motion shock to environmentalists worldwide, European countries are turning back to coal to fire new power plants. At a time when India and China are ramping up production in their outdated coal-burning facilities, the last place anyone expected to see a coal resurgence was in the generally progressive nations of Western Europe. Most turning again to coal are hamstrung by record oil and natural gas prices; Italy and Germany have the added stress of having banned new nuclear plants as an alternative.
A palm-sized turbine provides a recharge on the go
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I've seen hand-held solar chargers before—the Solio immediately comes to mind—but I've yet to see a functional wind-powered hand-held charger. Enter the HYmini. It's palm-sized, comes in three colors, costs 50 bucks, and can charge your gadgets with nothing but a stiff breeze. Well, almost. While it's a welcome idea, on closer inspection, the feature set isn't all we'd like it to be.
Two college students develop an idea that could solve two of the world's major problems: a lack of affordable housing and an overabundance of plastic bottles
People around the world guzzle about 50 billion gallons of bottled water a year, and then toss billions of those plastic bottles into the trash heap instead of the recycling bin. Matt Naples and Peter Zummo think they can take this lemon of a fact and turn it into lemonade—or rather, take those discarded water bottles and turn them into chairs, shelves, or houses for the worlds poor.
More people are buying hybrid cars, but the greener vehicles are still a relative rarity on the road
In 2007, registrations of new hybrid vehicles jumped by 38 percent to 350,289 vehicles, according to a new report from R.L. Polk & Company. Gee, I wonder why? Maybe it's got something to do with rising prices at the pump, or climate change. Or maybe there's something bigger at play.
A modular solar panel system has one eye on aesthetics and the other on pragmatics
We've been talking a lot lately about new designs in solar panel technology. Today's panels divide into two groups: the old-school silicon and glass box and the newly emerging thin film solar sheets, now being offered by several companies. What we haven't yet looked at is how the thin film technology can be used to make a solar installation that isn't staid and wholly utilitarian. Enter Teresita Cochran, a graduate of both Rhode Island School of Design and New York University's Interactive Telecommunication Program.
A unique engine prototype cuts emissions and consumption without sacrificing power
Earlier this month, we told you about an alternative oil for 2-stroke engines made from beef tallow. As you may remember, 2-stroke engines are tiny and powerful, but inefficient and heavy polluters. For years, engineers have tried to combine the efficiency of a 4-stroke engine with the power of a 2-stroke, only to come up short because the technology was simply not yet advanced enough. A team of UK researchers have finally solved that puzzle with a prototype they call the 2/4SIGHT.
What to do with energy-draining server farms? A few creative minds tackle the problem in unlikely ways
While computing power consumption is not at the top of the list of the most egregious energy drains, it is a large enough source on the grid that it warrants creative thinking, especially in the context of server farms. Not only are server clusters a more concentrated power draw than individual computers, but the energy needed to house and cool them is a significant source in and of itself. Two new ideas—one in theory and one in practice—aim to address these questions with novel solutions.
Wolves are fresh off the endangered species list, and officials are wasting no time in culling their populations
Ranchers and conservationists have long been at odds over how to manage the populations of predators at the top of the food chain. Now that wolves have been recently delisted from the Federal Endangered Species Act, state governments in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are wasting no time organizing hunts to reduce the animals' numbers, citing increased attacks on cattle as the reason for the culls. Conservationists are planning to respond with lawsuits against the federal government to attempt to bring the wolves back on the endangered list.
Massive structure off Northern Ireland will start producing electricity later this year
The concept of harvesting the ocean as an energy source is nothing new, but in practice it's rarely utilized. That's beginning to change, though. This week, the first major underwater turbine was installed in Northern Ireland's Strangford Narrows—a body of water known for its fierce currents. SeaGen's twin blades measure 52 feet wide, and instead of intermittent winds, this green electricity generator will rely on the ever-changing tide to produce power for around 1,000 homes. Built by Marine Current Turbines, it will be operational this summer.
Seattle follows in the steps of eco-friendly San Francisco with a restriction on plastic shopping bags
Seattle is poised to join the ranks of San Francisco and Ireland by imposing restrictions on the use of disposable shopping bags. The City Council vote on the proposal—expected to pass by a wide margin—will occur this summer and would take effect at the start of 2009. While Ireland and San Francisco have banned plastic bags outright, Seattle's proposal will instead impose a twenty-cent fee on every paper or plastic bag used by consumers at the point of sale. (The proposal also bans styrofoam food containers.)
Degrading plastics may cause serious toxic risk to ocean dwellers and, eventually, us
Last fall we reported on the growing mess of garbage swirling in the North Pacific Gyre. Its a swath of ocean arguably the size of the continental U.S. where all the plastic refuse from Asia and the western coast of North America ends up when its washed out to sea. Turtles mistake bags for jellyfish and birds mistake floating chips for prey. Animals have been discovered starved to death because the entire contents of their stomachs were plastic fragments. Sail a boat out to the middle of the gyre and the problem is in plain sight. Unfortunately for us, the more severe problem is the one we cant see.
In order to prevent a crop-killing San Diego drought season, neighboring Palo Verde Valley is foregoing its own crops and selling its water for millions
Farmers in Southern California this summer arent planting as much as they usually would. Its not because of a new government subsidy on corn or soybeans. Its because they wont have enough water with which to irrigate their crops. Is this a crisis for the farmers? Actually, its a crisis for San Diego and neighboring municipalities—theyre buying the water for $16.8 million a year from the Palo Verde Valley to help quench their own droughts. In exchange, the farmers are letting 26,000 acres go fallow this season.
Biologist discovers that guns aren't always the best form of protection in the wild
Brigham Young University bear biologist Thomas Smith says that guns aren't necessarily your best option when facing down one of the beasts.
Smith and his team analyzed 20 years worth of incidents in Alaska, and found that the wilderness equivalent of pepper spray effectively deterred bears 92 percent of the time, whereas guns only did the trick one-third less often. (He studied polar bears, too, hence the picture, at left, of an unconscious mother and her cubs. And yes, he did get away before everyone woke up.)