The so-called solution to our eco-woes is quickly proving nearly as troublesome as the issue itself
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.07.2008 at 12:48 pm 14 Comments
Bioplastics, like biofuels, are on the rise as consumers demand alternatives to fossil fuel-based plastics and big business take their wants seriously. Everything from shopping bags to clamshell containers are being reengineered out of bio-based packaging in the hope of finding a truly disposable container; one that, instead of ending up floating in the ocean, will quickly decompose underground. That ideal, as you might expect, is not quite so simple. And already, our two leading alternative bag types are falling short of the hype.
Scientists take another look at how mathematics is learned and stumble upon some provocative findings
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.05.2008 at 2:54 pm 10 Comments
We have all at one point or another learned some variation of a mathematical formula involving trains and their timetables. For example: if a train leaves Boston for New York at 7am and travels at 60mph, will it beat a train leaving Providence at 6am traveling 45mph? The idea behind this kind of "story" problem is to engage a student with a real-world example to which they can relate. The thinking follows that that engagement will solidify the mathematical concept. It's one of those conceits that has hung around for seemingly as long as math has been taught. And it may very well be completely wrong.
By observing the seahorse's unusual sex roles, scientists hope to learn more about how they came to be
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.05.2008 at 2:26 pm 1 Comment
The seahorse is a strange fish. Many of the traits it possesses have evolved in a direction unlike any other family of animals underwater—its bent S-shape; its head at a 90-degree angle to its body; its prehensile tail; and, most curiously, the male's brood pouch. A lab at Texas A&M University led by Adam Jones is currently studying these structures in the hope of understanding how it was that male pregnancy evolved in seahorses and how it affects the traditional sex roles in the fish.
A cheaper and greener way to remove that scourge of urban sidewalks
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.05.2008 at 2:02 pm 1 Comment
If you live in a major metropolitan city, you've perhaps noticed that the sidewalks are covered with black dots the size of quarters. I remember it took me a few months after moving to New York City to figure out that was gum. After it's spit out, it gets stepped on and flattened to the concrete. In no time at all it accumulates the ebony patina of city grime. Sprinkling the sidewalks is easy. Removing the tarred, synthetic rubber is the hard part. If you're talking about one chewed stick in a school hallway, it's a can of solvent and a putty knife away from coming off the floor.
Adobe lifts the licensing fees and opens its powerful program to all developers
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.05.2008 at 1:27 pm 3 Comments
Adobe has announced that it will be lifting licensing fees for Flash to developers working on mobile applications as part of its new Open Screen Project. The goal is to bring more rich content to phones across a standardized platform. Flash is already ubiquitous in Web browsers, so the available content on the net is mature and widespread. Currently, phones use a disparate variety of software to power video and games; rarely has the feedback been overwhelmingly positive about a mobile experience with either kind of media.
Eat lunch at the desk? Your computer may be harboring more germs than a toilet
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.05.2008 at 12:13 pm 3 Comments
We've all heard of the five-second rule when having dropped food on the floor—if you pick it up before five seconds have passed, it's safe to eat. In recent years, scientists have put that folk wisdom to the test and the results fell somewhere in the middle. If bacteria are present on the floor, researchers found that five seconds is plenty of time for it to attach to your food. However, most floors harbor very little bacteria, so unless you're unlucky enough to drop your toast on a tiny patch of e. coli, you'll probably be fine to eat it. If you were to drop that bread on your keyboard, though, that's another story. You'd maybe want to back away slowly and reach for the nearest tongs.
RFID could make missing baggage a thing of the past
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.01.2008 at 3:40 pm 0 Comments
Radio-frequency Identification chips, or RFID, are miniature transponders which emit an identification signal using radiowaves. They can be attached to most anything and are steadily making their way into nearly every corner of our lives, whether for good—the chip in your cat which broadcasts his address if he gets lost—or for the not so good—the RFID chips in our newest passports, which are terribly insecure and emit a plethora of personal data. Most commonly, though, RFID is being used to track our stuff, like the inventory in a grocery store.
Leave your monitor on standby without the eco-guilt
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.01.2008 at 2:01 pm 9 Comments
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.
The monstrous eyes of the colossal squid afford scientists a rare research opportunity
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.01.2008 at 1:16 pm 0 Comments
Researchers in New Zealand have had the rare opportunity to study the world's largest eyes, those from a remarkably well-preserved specimen of a colossal squid. (Lest you think this is hyperbole in reporting: no, in fact, the colossal squid is indeed a different and larger species than the giant squid.) The eyes are the size of soccer balls—the pupils alone measure three inches across—and could very well be the largest ocular organs to have ever existed in the animal kingdom.