Congo vs. Bonobo

In terms of untapped mineral reserves, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is arguably the richest country in the world, with its estimated $24 trillion worth of natural resources. The DRC is a country of superlatives, with vast reserves of coltan, gold, cassiterite, and tin mined in eastern Congo, and reserves of diamonds, copper, […]

Tilting The Apple Cart

Exciting news was announced Friday, Feb. 13, when the USDA approved two versions of apples genetically engineered to resist enzymatic browning—you know, that unappealing color apples turn after being cut and exposed to oxygen. Developed by small Canadian company Okangan Specialty Fruits (OSF), the new apples are modified versions of the classic Golden Delicious and Granny […]

Cracking The Cod(ex)

The Voynich Manuscript has been called the world’s most mysterious medieval manuscript. It is an illustrated codex made of vellum, carbon-dated to the early 15th century. The manuscript is written in an unknown script and almost every page has a colorful drawing or diagram. Countless cryptographers, linguists, botanists, astronomers and historians have studied its text […]

Nothing Like The Sun

“There is not a single ‘should give’ or ‘guess’ about it. Sun power is now a fact, and is no longer in the ‘beautiful possibility’ stage. It can compete profitably with coal in the true tropics now.”   —Frank Shuman, American engineer and solar energy pioneer, 1913   In 1515, Leonardo da Vinci made sketches of […]

Father Of The Pill

Sixty-two years ago, in a small laboratory in Mexico City, the world changed for chemists, biologists and, most of all, women. That’s when, on Oct. 15, 1951, Carl Djerassi became the first to synthesize the hormone norethindrone, known today as an essential ingredient in the oral contraceptive pill. Djerassi passed away this week at 91 years old. Given […]

Electricity’s Future, Part III: Microgrid

One piece of technology that could have the biggest influence over the electricity market in the coming decades is already in almost every Americans’ pocket. Rechargeable energy storage (in the form of your cell phone’s Li-ion battery in your pocket) is changing a major fundamental aspect of the electric grid: That electricity is perishable and […]

Sexism In Science

About a month ago, The New York Times published a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching piece on Marguerite Perey. Credited with the discovery of radioactive compound francium, she soon after died a gruesome death as a consequence of prolonged exposure to radiation. The piece was in fact written by the great-great-niece of Perey, and praise for the brilliance […]

Notes From Underground

What can possibly compare to the joys, frustrations and, above all, costs of home renovation? How about the discovery of an ancient underground city after knocking down one of your home’s walls? Archaeologists think there may be hundreds of underground cities in Cappadocia (central Turkey), but only six excavated. Our lucky homeowner discovered Derinkuyu (which translates as “deep […]

Web Time

1. Never mind jokes about changing light bulbs. When spiders but their collective mind to it, they can pull down 8-foot long fluorescent light fixtures. In Baltimore, at least.   2. That’s not surprising when we consider spider silk as a prototype for synthetic muscle.   3. In fact, it turns out that the screenwriters […]

Shrinking Generation

The term “power plant” often evokes images of giant nuclear cooling towers or massive fossil fuel smoke stacks reaching skyward. People’s thoughts tend towards massive infrastructure projects that produce energy for entire cities in a single location. As was touched on in Part 1 of this series (The Grid), as the electric industry evolved from […]