As spaceborne energy-harvesting schemes go, this one seems faintly possible — an array of curved mirrors directing sunlight toward solar cells, their energy production microwaved down to Earth. It’s so realistic, actually, that NASA is providing funding for a proof-of-concept study.
It is astonishing how soon and unexpectedly flowers appear, when the fields are scarcely tinged with green. Yesterday, for instance, you observed only the radical leaves of some plants; to-day you pluck a flower.
—Henry David Thoreau
In science as in anything else, history and tradition can be powerful teachers. So here's a vivid lesson: Today, flowers and trees are awakening much earlier than they did 150 years ago, and there's proof in the journals of Henry David Thoreau.
Thoreau, best known for authoring "Walden," was a prolific chronicler and admirer of nature. He kept detailed logs describing the first days when a plant or a tree flowered, which are now being used to document the changing face of Concord, Mass., as the earth grows warmer. Boston University botanist Richard Primack and National Park Service scientist Abe Miller-Rushing have spent a decade comparing Thoreau's observations with their own.
Future guys and gals looking for a sweet-smelling bouquet for Valentine's Day might consider the root-beer-scented variety. Or they could opt for a fouler odor, if they want to send a different message. That's all in the coming future, according to Discovery News.
In 1922, Canadian scientists isolated insulin for the first time. Now, over 80 years later, our neighbors to the north are helping diabetics again by devising the cheapest way yet to produce insulin. This advance could significantly reduce the expense of treating the disease, which currently costs the US $132 billion dollars a year.
Toyota's rivals have long complained that the popular Prius hybrid has a less-than-green legacy due to its manufacturing process. Now the car maker has flashed its green thumb by creating two new species of flower that help offset the carbon emissions from the Prius plant in Japan.
The new version of the cherry sage plant can absorb harmful greenhouse gases, such as nitrogen oxide, through its leaves. And Toyota's variant of the gardenia acts as a natural humidifier by creating water vapor in the air, to help cool the factory grounds, reducing the energy required for air conditioners.
Members of the Zosteropidae family are not birds of a feather. White-eyes, sparrow-like songbirds, are the fastest-evolving bird on record. According to a recent genetic analysis of several dozen subspecies by Chris Filardi, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, 80 species have emerged in the past two million years. Among vertebrates, only the cichlid fish evolves faster, probably due to abrupt changes in its geographically confined habitat, a common catalyst for speciation. But white-eyes populate three continents, so Filardi suspects that sexual selection and social behavior drives the birds' speedy diversification, which includes changing plumage and songs.