Smelters refine aluminum ore, but not iron ore, with electricity. A new electrolytic process for refining iron ore could save vast amounts of greenhouse gases.
Synopsis: To view neutrinos from distant explosions, astrophysicists have set up thousands of detectors in pure ice at the South Pole. What are neutrinos, and what do these scientists hope to learning from them? Find the article: Chasing Neutrinos at the South Pole Illustration: The Why Files IceCube sees both cosmic rays and neutrinos from [...]
Cheesemaking is older than Homer’s Odyssey, but questions remain. Which bacteria make the best cheese? Must low-fat cheese taste like cardboard? Why is small-producer, “artisan” cheese becoming so popular? Why does one cheese taste different than another.
British archeologists unearthed bones of Richard III, who died in 1485 after a murderous reign. How do bones, isotopes, historic records, DNA and grave goods tell us about the dead?
The first ocean wave energy-capturing device with a permit to connect back to a public power grid will enter the Pacific next month. How much power could the U.S. potentially harness from the waves crashing into its the coastline? According to researchers, wave energy might be one of our best renewable resources.
Classroom Activity Page: Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a high-pressure technique for cracking rocks and allowing natural gas to reach wells. Amid a boom in U.S. natural gas production, industry promises that fracking will bring Americans jobs and low-cost energy for decades. Opponents warn that the drilling-and-fracking process threatens to pollute air, surface water, and most importantly, groundwater. Will these concerns stymie an ongoing boom in natural gas production? Should they?
As a new conversion of soy protein into a meat-like material reaches the market, we also look into meat grown, cell by cell, in lab dishes. Could in vitro meat be in your future, and would that solve ethical, health and environmental problems?
We love accurate weather forecasts, but the weather satellites they rely on are nearing the boneyard. Some replacements have crashed into the ocean, others are in financial limbo. Be very worried about our fragile planet: these satellites also track climate, ice, fire, and the health of forests and ocean!
How do patents work? What is “new, non-obvious and useful”? What will happen after the biggest change in patent law in 60 years?
Native agriculture could be a sophisticated response to a challenging environment. What were the secrets of permaculture, companion cropping and corn farming? Could these techniques contribute to modern farming?
Population growth, climate change and development are all focusing attention on water shortages. Theoretically, water can be recycled forever, but can we possibly clean sewage to make it drinkable? Yes, and a number of projects around the country are doing exactly that. Bottoms up!
New Year’s approaches. A “permanent” calendar could finally answer the annual, “Uh, what day is New Year’s eve this year?” question. This calendar would place each date on a specific day every year, and simplify life for schedulers. But would a permanent calendar be accepted?
A crash course in “sink or swim” teaches computerized robots to adapt to changing circumstances. When taught by “directed evolution,” robots that started without legs learned to walk sooner than robots that started with legs! Can you explain?
The green revolution fed billions, but population keeps rising, water is short and the climate is changing. How will Africans feed themselves despite poor soil and widespread poverty? Could small projects that fit the environment and culture make farmers an engine of prosperity and a big source of food?