By Rena Marie Pacella; Illustrations by Graham MurdochPosted 06.29.2007 at 2:00 am 3 Comments
Where: Gulf of Mexico Cost: $5 billion
The Problem Climate change is warming the oceans. Warm oceans fuel hurricanes, which draw their energy from the heated, moist air at the sea surface. As sea temperatures continue to rise, some scientists warn that tropical storms will intensify.
Morale could use a little boost here at PopSci HQ this evening—our long awaited first office softball game has been postponed due to the approach of inclement weather. Alas, our poor opponents will have to wait another week to face our softball wrath. One good thing has come out of Mother Nature's cruel trick, however: the discovery of the National Weather Service's free Doppler Radar service on Google Earth.
If you ask me, Doppler radar is one of the finer developments of our time. From switching over to the local cable channel that used to show all-radar-all-the-time as a kid to witnessing the news channels' eternal Doppler arms race (New! Doppler Super Hawk Vision 3000!), much ballyhoo has always surrounded our ability to visualize the approach of oncoming storm clouds and prepare ourselves accordingly.
I don't know if it will ever get better than this, though: simply head over to the NWS's special site, choose your region and the type of radar you want (Composite Reflectivity! Storm Relative Motion!) and open the resulting file in Google Earth. Awesome. —John Mahoney
Note to the Reader: For those of you who haven't seen Fantastic Four:
Rise of the Silver Surfer, yet are serious enough about it that you
want even the most trivial plot details kept secret until you actually
watch the movie, what follows will be a bit of a spoiler. (A rough
calculation makes us think there are about three of you out there.)
For the rest of you, don't worry, this little detail won't ruin
So, Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, is sitting in his lab trying to
think of a way to separate an alien from his cosmic surfboard when he
gets an idea. "A tachyon burst!" he exclaims.
Fast-forward a few scenes. A series of devices capable of delivering
said burst are built, one is activated, and the aforementioned alien,
known as the Silver Surfer, is cleanly knocked from his board.
Now, would this really work? Tachyons are theoretical particles
believed to travel faster than the speed of light. Trying to think
about what effect they would have on a liquid-silver alien can be
thoroughly mind-bending—would they send him back in time or even
arrive at their target in the past, thus having no effect whatsoever?
So, we appealed to University of Washington physicist and science
fiction author John G. Cramer, who has the scientific and imaginative
chops to handle such questions.
First, Cramer notes that knocking the surfer off his board would
require a transfer of momentum. And while the momentum of the
hypothetical tachyon beam would be relatively small, there might be
another, more dramatic effect. "The delivery of energy would be much
more efficient than the delivery of momentum," Cramer says, "so it
seems more likely they would blow the Silver Surfer apart rather than
knock him around."
Instead, Cramer proposed another, decidedly less-sexy idea. "I think a
cannonball or an artillery shell would work a lot better."
So, Mr. Fantastic, next time you try to save the world, do it the
old-fashioned way.—Gregory Mone
A Japanese company called SunShine, Ltd., has developed an
Internet-connected device that can warn you of an impending earthquake
as many as 20 seconds before the tremors strike. The
paperback-novel-sized device hooks into Japan's Meteorological
Agency's early warning system, and emits an alarm when an earthquake
occurs. The downside? Some reports suggest that it isn't always
accurate. Not to mention that it won't actually give you a heads-up if
you happen to be near the epicenter, since the shakes will spread
faster than the Meteorological Agency's detection system can spread
the word. Life-saving potential aside, a bit of clever hacking could
turn it into a pretty good party trick.—Gregory Mone
It's good to know that NASA isn't wholly focused on that orbiting
headache known as the International Space Station. The agency is still
searching for answers to the grand questions. Yesterday, NASA
established the new Einstein Probes Office to support several wild
astrophysics missions that fall in the Beyond Einstein Program. Yes,
it's just an administrative move, but we're still happy to see that
programs like LISA, an on again, off again space-based observatory
that will listen for gravity waves that roll out of merging black
holes, are progressing.
Even more exciting are the three finalists (ADEPT, Destiny and SNAP) competing for a slot to solve one of the more perplexing
mysteries in the cosmos, the nature of dark energy, the strange force
that's practically blowing our universe apart.—Gregory Mone
Okay, so you've all heard about the spate of crack addicts, homeless people, freelancers and other layabouts advertising on Craigslist that they'll stand in the iPhone line at the Apple store for $200. But this post marks a new low: linesitters for the line. "Will let you pee for cash"? Somebody just bomb us—we're done for. —Megan Miller
China is moving factories, banning taxis, and even modifying the weather to clean up its dirty air in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics
By Gregory MonePosted 06.28.2007 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
At this time next year, the world's finest athletes will converge in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. They will sprint, leap, and toss their way to gold-that is, if they can get a breath of clean air. China has some of the worst pollution in the world, and bad air kills 400,000 Chinese annually [see "China's Green Evolution." In anticipation of the Olympics, Beijing has launched a massive cleanup. Some 200 factories in the area will be relocated.