Fuel your stomach, then fuel your mind with this week's edition of Cocktail Party Science. Listen in as host Chuck Cage talks to writer Amanda Schaffer and PopSci editor Seth Fletcher about how E. coli could become the most alternative fuel of all.
Plus: Should pollution be a sin? How 'bout genetic engineering?
An intrepid editor pits Benz's new entry-level luxury car against the elements. Find out which wins
By Seth FletcherPosted 03.13.2008 at 4:54 pm 2 Comments
Maybe this would have been a good weekend to test a Land Rover. Im staring at a grille-high wall of snow, plowed overnight across the end of the icy Adirondack driveway. On the other side is a snowy country lane, and maybe oncoming traffic—I can only see straight ahead because of the mountainous snowdrifts piled on all sides. Im pretty sure the locals are breaking out the snowmobiles today. I try the safe, slow approach and end up stuck atop an icy little barrier. Fortunately, this 2008 Mercedes C300 sport sedan, which Im driving for my weekend in the country, crawls out easily in reverse. After confirming that I can ram out into the road without hitting anything, I get a running start, plow through the snowdrift, turn hard to the left and brake, skidding onto the road; I can feel the gentle percussion of the antilock brakes as we glide to a soft, abrupt stop.
The agency is set to announce contracts for the program soon.
By Seth FletcherPosted 03.06.2008 at 12:26 pm 10 Comments
The highest-endurance aircraft currently flying is Northrop Grummans Global Hawk UAV, which can stay aloft for up to 40 hours. Now Darpa—which, to its credit, is never short on outlandish ideas—wants to beat that endurance record more than 1,000 times. The goal of Darpa's recently launched Vulture Program is to build a kind of atmospheric satellite that can stay aloft for five years at a time with little or no maintenance.
At the Geneva Auto Show: a biofuel-powered concept for the well-heeled 20-somethings of tomorrow
By Seth FletcherPosted 03.03.2008 at 6:01 pm 0 Comments
As the Saab logo on the hood attests, this is not a Mini Cooper from the future. It's the Swedish automaker's latest concept car—a next-gen compact that runs on a 1.4 liter, E85-capable turbocharged engine paired with an electric hybrid system. It draws on Saabs earlier Aero-X and 9X concepts, and follows on the heels of the Saab 9-4X BioPower crossover concept unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
The free-information guru decides winning a congressional seat this year would be impossible
By Seth FletcherPosted 02.26.2008 at 5:29 pm 0 Comments
That was anticlimactic. A little more than a week after announcing that he was considering running for a recently vacated seat in California's 12th congressional district, tech thinker and Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig announced yesterday on his blog that he wasn't running after all. The reason is simple enough. A pollster showed Lessig that there was "no possible way" for him to win. And it wouldn't be pleasant.
The ultra-high-tech code-cracking weapon? A can of spray duster
By Seth FletcherPosted 02.22.2008 at 6:08 pm 2 Comments
Researchers at Princeton have discovered that with a can of duster and a laptop, it takes only matter of minutes to crack most encryption software, including BitLocker, FileVault, dm-crypt and TrueCrypt. The weak link that makes this ridiculously simple hack possible is the DRAM chip. Heres why: Any time your computer is on, that chip contains the key used to access encrypted data on your hard drive. Once that chip loses power, the bits stored on it are supposed to disappear immediately. But thats not really what happens.
Meet the 10 teams that could get a privately funded rover on the moon
By Seth FletcherPosted 02.21.2008 at 4:29 pm 2 Comments
Today at a press conference at Google's Mountain View, California headquarters, the X Prize Foundation announced the 10 official competitors for its $30 million Google Lunar X Prize. It will not be an easy thing to win. To qualify, a team must land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, rove at least 500 meters, and beam a particular set of video, pictures and data back to earth. Oh, and ideally it will do this within the next four years, because after December 31st 2012, the purse drops to $15 million.
Full destruction of the toxic hydrazine fuel tank remains unconfirmed. Videos of impact and launch inside
By John Mahoney and Seth FletcherPosted 02.21.2008 at 12:30 pm 2 Comments
Last night at approximately 10:26 EST, after a long buildup of preparations, the Navy took the controversial step of shooting down a dead U.S. reconnaissance satellite from its low-Earth orbit. The satellite, which is about the size of a school bus, was destroyed to prevent a potentially hazardous impact with Earth, the military has said. It was moving faster than 17,000 mph at an altitude of 133 nautical miles above the Pacific when a modified SM-3 anti-ballistic missile launched from the USS Lake Erie, a Ticonderoga-class AEGIS missile cruiser, reportedly made impact.
Also identifies his next area of activism: fighting the influence of lobbyists in government
By Seth FletcherPosted 02.20.2008 at 4:53 pm 0 Comments
Creative Commons founder, free information advocate and Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig announced today the formation of an exploratory committee looking in to a potential bid for a U.S. Congress seat. He announced his maybe-decision (with a more finalized announcement coming March 1) today on a new Web site, lessig08.org.