After a Decade of Declines, Amazon Deforestation Sharply Rises

By Richard Schiffman | April 7, 2015 3:57 pm

In a world that is quickly losing its tropical forests, Brazil was — until recently — the solitary bright spot. Deforestation rates actually declined there by more than three quarters from 2004 to 2011, winning the praises of the world. But in the past half a year, the trend has dramatically reversed, sparking new worries about the future of the world’s largest rainforest.

The pace of forest destruction soared in Brazil from August 2014 through February 2015, according to two different surveys of satellite images. One analysis by the Brazilian space agency INPE reports a 63 percent rise; the other, monthly tallies by the Amazon watchdog group IMAZON, shows deforestation tripling (up 215 percent) in Brazil over the same period a year earlier.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

New Aluminum Battery Takes Just 60 Seconds To Charge

By Carl Engelking | April 7, 2015 12:40 pm

Researchers light up an LED bulb with their aluminum-ion battery prototype. (Credit: Screenshot from YouTube)

Researchers from Stanford University have built a battery that does everything you wish your cell phone’s lithium-ion battery could.

The team announced its aluminum-ion battery prototype Monday in the journal Nature, and it’s a glimmer of hope for every thumb-pounding smartphone addict. The battery can fully charge in about one minute, hold a charge longer than conventional batteries and is safer than lithium-ion batteries. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

Brontosaurus is Back! New Study Finds They Aren’t Apatosaurs After All

By Jon Tennant | April 7, 2015 6:00 am

Specimen YPM 1980, at Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, was first classified as Brontosaurus, then Apatosaurus excelsus, and in the current study is deemed Brontosaurus after all. Photo by Mark Ryan via Flickr

Brontosaurus is one of the most recognizable of all prehistoric beasts, which is even more remarkable when you consider it only ever existed for a fleeting moment in history.

In 1903, only a couple decades after it was discovered, Brontosaurus was demoted. Leading scientists at the time decided that the fossils found in the western U.S. were merely a species within the genus Apatosaurus. Museum specimens were renamed, textbooks were rewritten, and Brontosaurus was relegated to history’s dust heap. Today the iconic dinos don’t even have a Wikipedia page.

But that may all be set to change once again. A new study, taking into account recently discovered specimens, claims to have set the record straight, establishing Brontosaurus as a scientifically valid genus once again.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: dinosaurs

Jumbo Robotic Ants Could Be Factory Workers of the Future

By Carl Engelking | April 6, 2015 12:34 pm
BionicANTS work as a team to move an object. (Courtesy: Festo)

BionicANTS work as a team to move an object. (Courtesy: Festo)

There may come a day when new worker orientations include not just meeting your human coworkers, but also the bionic robots that will help you on the job.

The German robotics company Festo is giving us a glimpse of that future with its networked colony of robotic ants. The bots, about the size of a human hand, are being developed as mini mechanical workers.

The company plans to showcase their new creation this month at the world’s largest industrial technology fair, Hanover Messe.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: robots

Quadruple Amputee Dog Walks Again With Prosthetic Paws

By Carl Engelking | April 3, 2015 1:36 pm

Brutus takes a stride with his custom-fitted prosthetic limbs. (Credit: Colorado State University/John Eisele)

For a 2-year-old Rottweiler named Brutus, having no paws is no problem.

Although just a young pup, Brutus has already lived a tough life: A neglectful owner left him outside in frigid temperatures so long that all four of his paws needed to be amputated due to severe frostbite.

However, thanks to a crowdfunding effort, Brutus was fitted with four prosthetic limbs. He’s just the second dog known to get around on four artificial limbs. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, top posts

Self-Driving Car Completes Landmark Cross-Country Trip

By Carl Engelking | April 3, 2015 12:22 pm

Delphi’s self-driving vehicle makes its way toward heavy Chicago traffic. (Credit: Delphi)

A self-driving vehicle that made its debut at CES 2015 just completed a 9-day road trip across the United States — and it wasn’t made by Google.

The car equipped by Delphi, an automotive technology company headquartered in England, completed a 9-day trip from San Francisco to New York City, logging nearly 3,400 miles and operating under full automation through 99 percent of the trip. It’s the first coast-to-coast automated trip ever completed in the United States. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: transportation

Blind Rats ‘See’ Again With Compass Implant

By Carl Engelking | April 3, 2015 11:01 am


Seeing the world around you doesn’t necessarily require a set of eyeballs, and blind rats have just proven it.

In a recently published study, blind rats fitted with geomagnetic compasses that sent electric signals to their brains quickly learned to navigate a maze just as well as rats with full vision. The results, researchers say, hint at the extraordinary sensory flexibility of the mammalian brain, and could yield devices that could help blind people safely navigate in their environment. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Tiny Bird Makes Epic 1700-Mile Trip Over Open Ocean

By Carl Engelking | April 1, 2015 1:26 pm


A tiny songbird that summers in New England can pull off something even the biggest airline companies can’t: A nonstop flight from Vermont to Puerto Rico.

Every fall the blackpoll warbler embarks on an incredibly dangerous, nonstop flight from New England and eastern Canada to warmer temperatures in the Caribbean. Not only is the flight nonstop, the tiny birds’ course runs entirely over the turbulent waters of the Atlantic Ocean. For more than five decades, scientists believed this epic journey was taking place, and now an international team of biologists has confirmed it’s true. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Simple Facial Scans Reveal How Fast a Person Is Aging

By Carl Engelking | March 31, 2015 1:15 pm

old young faces

Aging is a fact of life, but at the physiological level we don’t all age at the same rate. So how to determine our bodies’ overall wear and tear?

Researchers have found that simple 3-D image scans of people’s faces can determine a person’s “biological age” more reliably than blood samples can. This technology could help doctors assess patients’ risk of age-related diseases and evaluate the efficacy of treatments. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: aging, personal health

Cyclists Shine at Night Courtesy of New Reflective Spray

By Carl Engelking | March 30, 2015 2:02 pm


Riding a bicycle is a great way to get in shape while getting from point A to point B. But it also can be dangerous — especially at night.

In 2012, 45,000 cyclists were injured or killed on roads in the United States, with 29 percent of those injuries occurring from collision with a vehicle. Many times, drivers simply don’t see a bicyclist until it’s too late. That’s why Volvo has come up with a unique way to make cyclists stand out: transparent reflective spray. It’s invisible by day, and potentially life-saving by night. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: materials science

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