The Big Picture: It's nearly impossible to imagine making meaningful carbon dioxide reductions without designing safer, cleaner reactors and rolling them out immediately — because no one wants to build more of the reactors we have today.
Where We Are Now: 372 GW
What We Need by 2050: 700 GW
Tech to Watch: Next-generation Nuclear
By Hillary RosnerPosted 06.11.2009 at 6:26 am 3 Comments
The Big Picture: Wind power is all about location — getting turbines where the breeze blows steady and strong. One of the best places for that is far out at sea. And because one of the biggest obstacles to expanding wind power is overcoming the objections of residents who don't want wind farms blocking their views, deepwater wind, which is invisible from shore, has dual appeal.
By Catherine PricePosted 06.11.2009 at 12:30 am 0 Comments
The technology is still experimental, but late last year researchers at Penn State University discovered how to make methane — a main ingredient in natural gas — from the very thing driving climate change: carbon dioxide. The key is microorganisms called methanogens. Engineer Bruce Logan discovered that the organisms produced methane with nothing but water and carbon dioxide when zapped with an electric current. Build a fuel cell around the microbes, and as long as the electricity that feeds into the device comes from a renewable source like wind or solar, the process can provide a carbon-neutral source of combustible fuel.
The Big Picture: Ethanol is the most widely used biofuel today, but it's hardly a panacea to our energy woes. Researchers are scrambling to transform more- efficient organic materials — switchgrass, sugarcane, algae, sewage and even medical waste — into low-emission fuel for both transportation and electricity generation.
By Hillary RosnerPosted 06.11.2009 at 12:21 am 4 Comments
The Big Picture: Conventional hydroelectric power (think of the Hoover Dam) provides 7 percent of the electricity in the U.S. But the only way to increase that number without damming more rivers — which causes widespread ecological damage both above and below the dam — is to use nonconventional hydropower sources that capture energy from the movement of waves, rivers and tides.
Where We Are: 31 GW
What We Need by 2025: 67 GW
Tech to Watch: Hydrokinetic Power
Harnessing the terawatts of energy we get from the sun
By David RobertsPosted 06.11.2009 at 12:10 am 5 Comments
The Big Picture: "Solar power" no longer refers just to chunky photovoltaic panels. A variety of tools for turning sunlight into usable energy — thin-film solar, solar thermal, solar heating, and more — are undergoing a burst of technological acceleration. Whether it's powering an entire housing development or simply heating your house, taken together, their potential is huge
Question submitted by Ward Danekas of Franklin Grove, Ill.
The answer appears to be no. A bird will spend hours tossing a pebble in the air, but it's nearly impossible to discern if it's goofing around or honing its talon-eye coordination. Gordon Burghardt, an expert on animal behavior at the University of Tennessee, defines play as behavior that doesn't seem to have a survival purpose, is rewarding in and of itself, and is performed when an animal is fully fed and stress-free.
When your head hits the pillow, your eyes still function. "But they can only sense light versus dark," says physician Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist who founded SoundSleepSolutions.com, a sleep-information Web site. This explains why a bright light or the sunrise often wakes a person up.
Robots to shuffle your cards, play you in a game of billiards and sink puts from the green
By Andrew RosenblumPosted 06.10.2009 at 7:52 pm 1 Comment
Vegas card dealers make it look easy, but sliding a uniform number of cards to a set number of players turns out to be a tough robotics challenge. As a robotics teacher in Australia, Damien Kee had seen a lot of automated card dealers that were too slow or were unable to reliably control whether cards landed face-up or -down. Using parts from LEGO programmable robotics kits, Kee wrote software that instructs connected components to deal two cards to four locations.
By Mike RigsbyPosted 06.10.2009 at 7:29 pm 8 Comments
You're late for work. As you hustle out the front door, the furthest thing from your mind is the afternoon's dentist appointment that you'd scheduled last week. You'd have probably forgotten all about it — if you hadn't thought ahead by programming a home-built device to give you a voice reminder as you pass it on your way out.