An inadequate and overly-complex gadget sends the bureau's budget skywards and its practices backwards
While the private sector is making strides toward a paperless office environment, the government appears to be stumbling backward. Last week, the Department of Commerce canceled plans to use handheld devices for door-to-door canvassing during the 2010 census. The devices failed on a surprising number of counts. They could not properly transmit large data files; they did not meet over 400 technical requirements; and they proved too complex for temporary workers to figure out.
What to do with energy-draining server farms? A few creative minds tackle the problem in unlikely ways
While computing power consumption is not at the top of the list of the most egregious energy drains, it is a large enough source on the grid that it warrants creative thinking, especially in the context of server farms. Not only are server clusters a more concentrated power draw than individual computers, but the energy needed to house and cool them is a significant source in and of itself. Two new ideas—one in theory and one in practice—aim to address these questions with novel solutions.
Wolves are fresh off the endangered species list, and officials are wasting no time in culling their populations
Ranchers and conservationists have long been at odds over how to manage the populations of predators at the top of the food chain. Now that wolves have been recently delisted from the Federal Endangered Species Act, state governments in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are wasting no time organizing hunts to reduce the animals' numbers, citing increased attacks on cattle as the reason for the culls. Conservationists are planning to respond with lawsuits against the federal government to attempt to bring the wolves back on the endangered list.
A study of social smokers and addicts reveals a likely genetic culprit
Most of us have friends who are social smokers. They're the ones who don't ever take work breaks under the overhang with the smoking crowd, but come Friday, they're outside the bar having a butt or two as the night wears on. They rarely buy cigarettes because they don't want a whole pack; they're more likely to ask for a smoke from a friend. They never seem to get hooked and can go for weeks without even thinking about it. How do they do it when so many of the rest of us are hopelessly addicted?
As newspapers struggle to breach the print-Web gap, a small community blog succeeds with an innovative approach
Newspapers are still struggling to find their place in a world increasingly overwhelmed by digital media. Readership is down, ad revenues are down, even revenues on the Web editions of many papers are down. Some papers—the Guardian and Telegraph in London, for example—have even experimented with a printable PDF version of their sites in an attempt to reach those who browse online but ultimately want a paper copy in their hands. At this intersection of print and Web comes another concept, one which is proving both popular with its readership and economically successful: the Flying Pickle.
Seattle follows in the steps of eco-friendly San Francisco with a restriction on plastic shopping bags
Seattle is poised to join the ranks of San Francisco and Ireland by imposing restrictions on the use of disposable shopping bags. The City Council vote on the proposal—expected to pass by a wide margin—will occur this summer and would take effect at the start of 2009. While Ireland and San Francisco have banned plastic bags outright, Seattle's proposal will instead impose a twenty-cent fee on every paper or plastic bag used by consumers at the point of sale. (The proposal also bans styrofoam food containers.)
Georgia Tech statisticians use Markov chains for a combined 83 percent accuracy over the past nine tournaments. Who is the computer favorite this year?
In poker, it is well known that playing the odds will net you more wins than losses, but it wont make you a top player. For that, you need an unquantifiable ability to read the other players at the table and decipher their emotional state when they make bets. Just the opposite is proving to be true when it comes to betting on winners in the NCAA tournament. Engineering professors at the Georgia Institute of Technology have demonstrated that statistics accurately inform success in the tournament. Most peoples picks are based largely on emotional inference, they say, which leads to inaccurate choices.
The sophisticated navigation system of the moth keeps it on course despite powerful winds
We can only assume DARPAs cyborg moths will be deployed relatively close to their targets, but we have no real word yet on their potential range. If the military does find the need to release the moths from the rear of operations under the cover of darkness, they would do well to pay attention to research coming out of the United Kingdom on how moths are able to migrate at night.
Could a diesel-producing tree be the key to fuel independence?
Money doesnt grow on trees, so it should stand to reason that diesel fuel wouldnt grow on trees either. And yet the Brazilian Copaifera langsdorfii tree has been quietly producing a natural diesel variant in the tropical rainforest, something weve known about since the seventeenth century. Its only now that farmers in Australia have decided to farm the tree on a large scale in the hopes of having 20,000 living, above-ground fuel wells.
Thanks to a highly sophisticated x-ray machine, scientists can now peer inside fossilized animals without destroying a hair
In an opening scene of Jurassic Park, a scientist with a syringe pierces a translucent glob of amber to extract dinosaur DNA from a prehistoric mosquito. While clearly the stuff of science fiction—no liquid would exist in the fossilized resin, among other things—the study of insects frozen in time this way is very much science fact. And the paleontologists at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, have developed an exceptionally high-tech method for carrying out that study. Theyre able to capture signs of ancient life in amber which is completely opaque.
Despite much scientific evidence to the contrary, talk of a cellphone-cancer link continues to loom large
Eggs used to be in the news all the time. One month they were good for you, the next month, bad. Morning talk shows and television commercials would trot out expert after expert to volley the conflicting health claims back and forth. But while there is a legitimate debate over the cholesterol content of egg yolks and whether that cholesterol is ultimately bad for you or not, the analogous debate getting airtime these days is not much of debate at all: whether cellphones cause brain cancer.
Amidst far-off ideas for alternative fuel sources, the green stuff still proves promising
Earlier this week, we reported on research efforts to produce hydrogen gas for fuel cells through artificial photosynthesis and discovered the technology was still a long way off. Well, how about good old natural photosynthesis? That, too, is a process in its infancy because there are quite a few things we need to manipulate in order to produce enough hydrogen to make it worth our while.
Comcast and BitTorrent partner, but will the ISP giant really stop its traffic-limiting ways?
When DSL and cable first arrived, ISPs abandoned the per-hour dial-up access billing model for unlimited bandwidth at a flat rate fee. Recently, Comcast has come under fire for shaping its traffic (read: blocking) while maintaining its unlimited contract with users. Lawsuits have been threatened and the FCC has been stirred to comment. The issue at hand is the peer-to-peer file sharing networks. While their user bases account for a very small percentage of the total Internet audience, the traffic they generate is said to account for anywhere between 50 and 90 percent of all data.
Researchers say planned expansion of U.S.-Mexico fence may prove an end to jaguars north of the border
The exceedingly rare southwestern jaguar is being further hemmed in along the U.S.-Mexico border as the American government moves to construct 670 new miles of fence this year. The jaguar is a solitary animal with a very large range, two factors working against it in the wake of the construction. Most of the barriers will be built in the low, flat valleys, forcing everything—animals and people—into the high mountain passes. Thought to have been extinct in the United States, they have reappeared in very southern Arizona and New Mexico in the past seven years.
A new study finds migratory birds keep out of the city for reasons less insidious than previously imagined
As our population expands further into the reaches of animal habitats, scientists work to understand how and whether those animals can cope with human urbanization. One of the prevailing assumptions about migratory birds in cities was that they didnt do as well as their rural relatives because the threats were greater—more cats stealing eggs and killing fledglings. That turns out not to be the case, according to the results of a new study published by professors at Ohio State University. The culprit, they found, may be simply that the birds dont like living in cities.