Science & Technology

A tale of two transportation systems

Two recent news items offer up in pleasingly compact form parables about the choices we face as a society and the trends, both good and bad, that will shape our built and natural environments for decades to come. First, a high-speed rail line in Europe achieved an ambitious emissions reduction target -- three years ahead of schedule. > Eurostar announced… read more →

Solar, solar everywhere

As a native Californian I think solar power is an obvious choice for favorite renewable energy source. Even though solar power is a small part of the world’s renewable portfolio right now, smart policy decisions paired with technological advances will help bring solar forward as an integral part of the green economic recovery. The following are a few highlights of… read more →

Get smart

One of the big emerging trends over the next few decades will be the marriage of information technology and infrastructure. We're going to start seeing a lot more "smart" everything -- smart grids, smart roads, smart factories, smart trains, smart cities, etc. The increasing use of sensors, lightweight communications networks, and sophisticated computer models to anticipate and react to changing… read more →

The electric Exxon

There's nothing hugely new in this week's New York Times Magazine profile of Shai Agassi and his quest to kill the internal combustion engine, but some aspects of his scheme clicked a bit better for me on this reading. Agassi helms Better Place, a start-up that has raised gobs of money and signed tons of partnership deals to set up… read more →

Black carbon emerges as climate villain

Last week, a $6 solar cooker took top prize in a contest for best climate change innovation. It seems the award couldn't have come at a better time. This week brought an increasing amount of scrutiny to the climate chaos wreaked by "black carbon." Black carbon, better known as soot, is produced in large quantities by the cookstoves traditionally used… read more →

Miniature TVs as light bulbs, giant Segways as cars

Everyone loves consumer tech. So here's a post about consumer tech. Don't say we never did anything for you. First up, light bulbs. Incandescents are on the way out, but their replacements so far suffer from notable flaws. LEDs are expensive and underpowered. CFLs work pretty well, but they also contain mercury and have quality problems that undercut some of… read more →

More ways to cut car emissions: reflective glass and paint

Most of the effort to reduce greenhouse gases from cars has focused on improved fuel efficiency, low-carbon fuels, and alternative engine types like hybrids and plug-in vehicles. These approaches will be critical to meeting GHG targets established in California’s landmark global warming solutions law, as well as similar goals proposed in federal legislation. California is taking this work a step… read more →

Solar cooker wins $75,000 prize

The votes are in, and the Kyoto Box solar cooker has claimed the $75,000 prize in the FInancial Times Climate Change Challenge. > The Kyoto Box uses the greenhouse effect to boil and bake. It consists of two boxes, one inside the other, with an acrylic cover, which lets the sun’s power in and traps it. Black paint on the… read more →


A couple weeks back, NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) failed to achieve orbit and crashed into the ocean, having measured...absolutely nothing. The nose cone somehow failed to disengage from the satellite, and the whole thing was too heavy to actually enter orbit. Ugh. I'd have snarkier things to say if I weren't so disappointed by the news. The satellite system… read more →

Is it getting hot in here?

I know that we're trying to be positive and future-focused here, what with posts about clean energy and green technology and air-powered cars -- but global warming is freaking scary. A recent study by two researchers showcases just how dangerous unchecked warming could be (in the interest of disclosure, I took a class from one of these researchers, Dr. Rosamond… read more →
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