A proposed trade agreement could authorize border agents to search the contents of laptops and iPods for copyrighted material
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.30.2008 at 11:49 am 19 Comments
As if the security in airports and controls at border crossings weren't slow and intrusive enough, governments around the world are quietly passing laws to allow them to search the contents of your laptop and other electronic devices, like iPods and cellphones. A United States court last month gave border agents carte blanche to hold a laptop for days and even copy its entire contents. The UK government has given its agents authority to search computers at its borders for pornography. But in what may be the most baffling and cumbersome move of all, the US, Canada, UK, and other EU nations are working behind closed doors on a new trade agreement which could turn border agents into the copyright police.
Daredevil diver Michel Fournier's high-altitude helium balloon took off without him
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.28.2008 at 12:21 pm 4 Comments
Michel Fournier's latest attempt at the highest parachute jump record—which was to have taken place this past Memorial Day weekend—has come to an unfortunate end. The $200,000 helium balloon which was to have lifted Fournier and his capsule 130,000 feet into the atmosphere detached unexpectedly as it was inflating and drifted away. The flight and jump was originally to have taken place on Monday, but was postponed due to threatening weather and winds.
International Space Station crews are using a temporary toilet in a docked Soyuz module until help arrives
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.28.2008 at 12:02 pm 3 Comments
Of all of the sophisticated technology powering the International Space Station, nothing brings the frustration of modern living back home to those of us on Earth more than a report of a broken toilet. Only the astronauts can't make an after-work run to the home repair store; they have to devise creative solutions while they wait for Saturday's launch of the space shuttle Discovery to bring them repair parts.
Scientists have found the most extreme single-celled Archaea yet, subsisting on methane nearly three miles below the surface
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.27.2008 at 12:42 pm 3 Comments
The Archaea group of organisms has just gotten a little bigger—and quite a bit deeper. Known to scientists as extremophiles—organisms which live in places inhospitable to other forms of life—the Archaea group is home to many single-celled creatures capable of thriving in environments of exceptional temperature, pressure, and acidity. The latest member has been discovered off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, under 2.8 miles of water and a mile of rock. Previously, the deepest these organisms had been found underground was half as far.
An excess of CO2 is having an unforeseen effect on shelled undersea creatures
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.23.2008 at 10:30 am 8 Comments
Global warming is far and away the symptom at the top of the list of indicators that our planet is overloaded with carbon dioxide. Another important, but less considered consequence of the excess CO2 is the effect it has on the world's oceans. The oceans are a natural carbon dioxide sponge, responsible for maintaining the balance of CO2 in the atmosphere by absorbing a measure of the gas in its water. Currently, it is estimated that the ocean is uptaking nearly one-third of all human-produced CO2, which is slowly lowering its overall pH. Put simply: the oceans are becoming acidic.
As CCD continues for a second year, researchers continue to be stymied by its cause
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.22.2008 at 11:47 am 4 Comments
More discouraging statistics this week from the Apiary Inspectors of America: 36.1 percent of commercially managed beehives in the U.S. have been lost in the past year. While the group only began to track these numbers last year when Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was first appearing, the two years of losses add up to a bleak picture for honeybees. These drops are undoubtedly unsustainable over the long term and the situation is not improving.
The second generation of the $100 laptop emerges—but can it buck the problems which plagued its predecessor?
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.22.2008 at 10:16 am 9 Comments
The XO laptop is back with a new look and a new design, at least in theory. Nicholas Negroponte unveiled photos of the upcoming XO-2 device this week, with an announcement that the revamped computer would be ready for delivery by 2010 and carry a price tag of $75. Gone is the green plastic keyboard, replaced instead with a second touch screen. The device can be opened to function like an electronic book, or it can be rotated to a more traditional laptop configuration, with the new screen assuming the role of virtual keyboard.
A new theory posits massive oil fires led to the dinos' demise
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.21.2008 at 11:57 am 5 Comments
What exactly killed the dinosaurs? One of the most popular theories holds that the extinction event was driven by an asteroid collision. Evidence for the theory can be found in a thin layer of iridium in what's known as the K-T boundary, a (similarly thin) layer of sediment in the ground which marks where the surface of the Earth was 65 million years ago. Iridium is common in asteroids and not common on Earth. Its presence in the sediment would indicate an impact and release of the material. What happened next is still a matter of debate.
Freedom from predators on an unusually isolated island has led to one very giant mouse and one very doomed bird population
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.21.2008 at 10:19 am 14 Comments
Widely recognized as the most important sea bird habitat on Earth, Gough Island is a geographically perfect place for the animals to raise their young. It is one of the most remote places in the South Atlantic, nearly 2000 miles from both Africa and South America and 220 miles from the next nearest island in its archipelago. It is this isolation which has allowed its ecosystem to remain a nearly perfect home for the 22 bird species that seek its shelter in order to breed.
The vast majority of car accidents come seconds after a distraction—and not just of the technical variety
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.15.2008 at 5:53 pm 3 Comments
Nearly 80 percent of all automobile crashes happen within three seconds of the driver having been distracted, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. That's distraction of any kind, from adjusting the radio, to drinking coffee, to using a cellphone; even to having a conversation with the person in the passenger seat. It seems fancy technology isn't necessary to take a driver's mind off the road.