By Chadwick MatlinPosted 05.31.2011 at 1:10 pm 2 Comments
The U.S. Forest Service has battled fire with fire for nearly a century, but it wasn't until the past decade that backburning--in which professionals set brush alight before a wildfire does--became an exact science. Wildfire experts call this science prescribed burning, and its practitioners are known as burn bosses. Here are three increasingly precise tools to stop a wildfire cold.
By Joshua SaulPosted 05.20.2011 at 11:03 am 7 Comments
In 2006, Darpa, the Department of Defense's R&D arm, commissioned AeroVironment, a company specializing in remote aircraft, to create an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) small enough to fly through an open window. AeroVironment had already built the 4.5-foot-wingspan Raven, which first saw combat over Afghanistan in 2003, but making a UAV so much smaller took five years and 300 different wing designs.
After a half-century of relative inactivity in the U.S., bedbugs returned in the late 1990s. Nationwide, 95 percent of pest-control companies have treated an infestation in the past year. A decade ago, it was just 22 percent.
By Ryan BradleyPosted 05.12.2011 at 2:44 pm 0 Comments
Humans are not good at delivering drugs. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and pharmacy techs can mix pills up, provide too many or too few, or fail to dispense them quickly enough. In some cases, controlled substances disappear from hospitals, bound for the black market. Medication errors lead to some 1.5 million “preventable drug-related injuries” every year, at a cost of $3.5 billion, a report by the National Academies found. The stakes are highest in trauma units, where lifesaving drugs must be given within the “golden hour”--when medications are most effective.
Today we celebrate five decades of secrets, lies, and half-truths from space agencies
By Jim ObergPosted 04.12.2011 at 10:15 am 2 Comments
On April 12, 1961, the United States awoke to the news of the successful space flight of Russian “cosmonaut” (a recently coined Russian word) Yuri Gagarin. Television broadcasts showed exuberant crowds filling the streets in Moscow before cutting to grim-faced NASA officials. Even if America was a step behind our sworn enemy, a human being had returned from space. It was thrilling.
The plague begins with a fever, weepy eyes and a drippy muzzle. Dysentery and diarrhea follow, and then death by dehydration. Rinderpest sweeps through a herd quickly, and can kill half its animals in a matter of weeks. The loss of thousands or even tens of thousands of cattle can devastate a community. An outbreak in 1889 killed enough of Ethiopia’s livestock that the ensuing famine caused a third of the country to starve to death.
By D.M. LevinePosted 04.05.2011 at 10:59 am 5 Comments
Telematics, a mash-up of telecommunications and informatics, is the science of scanning the world with wireless devices to extract data, sending this data to a computer network, and using the information to do anything from tracking packages to monitoring the highway speed of grocery trucks. UPS relies heavily on telematics, as does GM with its OnStar navigation system. The federal government could do a better job of capitalizing on the science, according to Michael J. Ravnitzky. So he started thinking about one of the largest mobile networks on Earth: the post office.
Pumping a body full of celldestroying chemicals sounds like a bad idea, but that’s what chemotherapy entails. The side effects of intravenous chemo for liver cancer, the third deadliest cancer in men, usually necessitate a four-day hospital stay with each treatment. As doctors try to target the chemicals by injecting high doses into an artery that feeds the tumor, the bloodstream inevitably carries them into the rest of the body. It’s an imprecise and painful process, but a plastic bead called a QuadraSphere could make it less so.
By Paul KvintaPosted 03.23.2011 at 10:17 am 3 Comments
"The animals are telling us things," said Martin Wikelski, hopping out of the cockpit of his Cessna. He had just spent a chilly January morning chasing blackbirds in southern France. "Maybe they're saying, 'the next earthquake will happen this week,' or 'listen, we're telling you where this ebola outbreak is headed. Pay attention.'" The blackbirds hadn't been quite so explicit today, but by tracking data from radio tags temporarily glued to their backs, he had learned their heart rates and how fast they flap their wings.
By D.M. LevinePosted 03.07.2011 at 12:56 pm 0 Comments
On February 10, 2009, a U.S. and a Russian satellite collided 500 miles above Siberia, adding at least 2,000 chunks to the roughly 100 million pieces of debris currently orbiting Earth. These scraps of satellites, abandoned rocket parts, jettisoned fuel and flecks of paint travel between 7,000 and 18,000 miles an hour, colliding with increasing frequency, which could lead to a feedback loop known as the Kessler syndrome.