Footstep by Footstep

soccer

This solar-powered football pitch in Lagos also uses kinetic energy generated by footballers playing. PHOTO: Edelman PR

There’s a host of ingenious solar projects impacting the developing world. Energy’s role in political, social, and economic development is being highlighted more than before and being energy-smart is the blueprint to a sustainable future. Clean energy is the way forward. And Lagos has an example. In the name of soccer.

Continue reading

Innovating on the Ocean Bed

It's important that mercury pollution be contained at the site of spillage, especially oceans, to prevent it from travelling through the food chain. PHOTO: Wikipedia

It’s important that mercury pollution be contained, especially in oceans, to prevent the chemical from travelling through the food chain. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Mercury is a potent toxin that can accumulate to high concentrations in fish, posing a health risk to people who eat large, predatory marine fish such as swordfish and tuna. In the open ocean, the principal source of mercury is atmospheric deposition from human activities, especially emissions from coal-fired power plants and artisanal gold mining. Mercury concentrations in Hawaiian yellowfin tuna are increasing at a rate of 3.8 percent or more per year, according to a new University of Michigan-led study that suggests rising atmospheric levels of the toxin are to blame. And there’s a ‘fake’ solution at hand.

Continue reading

Here’s How to See a Meal on a Banana Leaf

Eating on a banana leaf goes beyond the food; it's about science, energy, and teachings of yore. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Eating on a banana leaf goes beyond the food; it’s about science, energy, and teachings of yore. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

The rains have ceased and clearer skies bless our days here in Kerala as the calendar turns a page to August. The words are only beginning to be murmured but sadyakasavuand Onam can put the life back in any Keralite’s soul. Food, clothing, and a festival – in translation – who could possibly ask for more! And one thing that binds them all together is how true to the land they stay. The sadya in particular, once you look beyond the fact that it’s an only-hands affair and is best had sitting cross-legged on the floor, is an example of food science, forms of energy, folk teachings, and more.

Continue reading

A 3D Printed Shell for Fred

Fred the tortoise received a 3D printed shell after a horrific fire destroyed his original. PHOTO: 3DPrint

Fred the tortoise received a 3D printed shell after a horrific fire destroyed his original. PHOTO: 3DPrint

This one’s a win for goodwill and technology, a fine example of how how ideas can traverse diverse spaces and change lives. The high cost of human prostheses has long been a challenge for amputees and people born with missing limbs, but 3D printers have begun to change that. Unlike traditional manufacturing, 3D printing can create an object in almost any shape by reading a digital model. Using cheap materials, companies and non-profits can now print simple prosthetic hands and arms for as little as $50. And animals like Grecia and Derby, and now Fred, stand to gain, too.

Continue reading

When Fishermen Turn Scientists

Fishermen in South Devon, UK, have turned their boats into "massive data platforms" for a citizen science study.

A research programme aims to encourage partnerships between commercial fishermen and scientists

Fishermen in South Devon, UK, have turned their boats into “massive data platforms” for a citizen science study. They have become the first commercial fishers to gather data for the Secchi Disk Study, which is gathering data on the state of the oceans’ phytoplankton. To date, there is little scientific information on the health of the tiny marine plants that form the basis of global food chains. The data will also help fishermen manage stocks.

Continue reading

Celebrate Urban Birds

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 8.01.16 AMFor the past year, I have been working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the project Celebrate Urban Birds. Distinct from other citizen science projects the Lab of O. is involved with, such as eBird or FeederWatch, Celebrate Urban Birds (CUBs) stays true to its name and hones in on the celebratory aspect of studying birds: artwork, festivals, education, and other activities promoting community. Of course, there is still data involved. Thousands of forms have been filed—both electronically and physically—containing information on sightings of the sixteen focal species within 10-minute observation periods. These observations, along with notes about sighting location, are the source of data for the project. Participants include the address from which they are looking for birds in the ten minutes, describe the general amount of greenery and pavement in the area (as well as the size of the area itself), and list whether they saw, did not see, or were not sure about each of the sixteen species. This information constitutes a checklist that can be compiled into a larger repository of sightings in various types of green spaces around the country; the CUBs website contains species maps according to the number of observations in the last 90 days, marking where, say, a Brown-headed Cowbird has and has not been seen.

Continue reading

Burning Skies

Many people associate fiery skies over cities with pollution and smog. While these are indeed causes for a red-orange color during sunset and sunrise, they are not exclusively so – any particles in the air, including dust and vapor, can cause Rayleigh scattering. This optical phenomenon is not as complicated as some other forms of light scattering, and is more easily explained.

Continue reading