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News articles on technology
Mongabay.com news articles on technology in blog format. Updated regularly.
(08/17/2009) In 1515 Leonardo Da Vinci, artist and engineer, invented a mechanical lion that was given as a gift to Francois I, then King of France. The original was lost, but a new model has been crafted in Amboise, France by Renato Boaretto.
Will hydrocarbon biofuels replace gasoline and ethanol?
(08/13/2009) In a Perspectives piece in Science, John R. Regalbuto argues that the world will soon see a revolution in biofuels, but not those made from corn. Instead Regalbuto, program director of Catalysis and Biocatalysis at the National Science Foundation, says that the future of biofuels is in substances that can be converted into hydrocarbons, such as switch grass, woody biomass, corn stover, and even algae.
Northern India’s water is vanishing due to agriculture, human consumption
(08/12/2009) It’s a disaster in the making: a new study by NASA and UC Irvine has found that the groundwater beneath northern India has been vanishing at a rate of a foot per year during the last decade. In total 109 cubic kilometers (26 cubic miles) has been lost in six years time—three times the size of Lake Mead in the United States.
New website consolidates national red lists for endangered species
(08/09/2009) The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has brought together national red lists from around the world for the first time in one location. From the cliff tiger beetle in the United Kingdom (classified as ‘rare’) to the Asian elephant in Sir Lanka (considered ‘vulnerable’) the website (www.nationalredlists.org) brings together data on over 50,000 species from 40 countries.
Research into drugs derived from natural products declining
(07/09/2009) Although the majority of drugs available today have been derived from natural products, research into nature-based pharmaceuticals has declined in recent years due to high development costs and the drug approvals process. However this trend is likely to reverse due to new approaches and technologies, according researchers from the University of Alberta.
Best Buy to sell electric bicycles
(07/06/2009) Best Buy will soon start selling "green" vehicles, reporting the Wall Street Journal.
Saving one of the last tropical dry forests, an interview with Edwina von Gal
(06/29/2009) Often we hear about endangered species—animals or plants on the edge of extinction—however we rarely hear about endangered environments—entire ecosystems that may disappear from Earth due to humankind’s growing footprint. Tropical dry forests are just such an ecosystem: with only 2 percent of the world’s tropical dry forest remaining it is one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. A newly established organization, the Azuero Earth Project, is working not only to preserve some of the world’s last tropical dry forest on the Azuero peninsula in Panama, but also to begin restoration projects hoping to aid both the forest’s viability and the local people. Edwina von Gal, a landscape designer, is one of the founders of the Azuero Earth Project, as well as president of the organization.
Saving tigers by counting feces
(06/24/2009) Scientists have been counting tiger populations for decades, using a variety of methods including camera traps and DNA collected from tissue or blood after darting and sedating the world’s largest cat. However, a new method of surveying tiger populations could change scientists’ ability to non-invasively obtain accurate numbers for tiger populations around the world, according to a study in Biological Conservation.
High-flying kites could power New York
(06/15/2009) A fleet of kites could harvest enough energy from high-altitude winds to power New York, report researchers from the Carnegie Institution and California State University.
Photo: guano stains helps researchers track penguins by satellite
(06/10/2009) Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have uncovered a novel way to locate the world’s largest penguin’s breeding sites, employing satellite imagery they seek out Emperor penguin guano, droppings which show up starkly on the otherwise unsullied white sea ice of Antarctica. Searching for the penguins themselves had proven too difficult, since the birds’ black-and-white coloring allowed them to blend in with the shadows made by the ice. The penguin droppings however are light-brown—a colors that has no other source on sea ice, besides guano.
Congo biochar initiative will reduce poverty, protect forests, slow climate change
(05/19/2009) An initiative using soil carbon enrichment techniques to boost agricultural yields, alleviate poverty, and protect endangered forests in Central Africa was today selected as one of six projects to win funding under the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF). The scientific committee of the CBFF awarded Belgium's Biochar Fund and its Congolese partner ADAPEL €300,000 to implement its biochar concept in 10 villages in the Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The approach improves the fertility of soils through the introduction of "biochar" — charcoal produced from the burning of agricultural residues and waste biomass under reduced oxygen conditions — thereby increasing crop yields and reducing the need to clear forest for slash-and-burn agriculture.
Bioelectricity bests ethanol on two fronts: land use and global warming
(05/07/2009) Yesterday the Obama Administration established a Biofuels Interagency Working Group to oversee implementation of new rules and research regarding biofuels. On the group’s first day of work they would do well to look at a new study in Science Magazine comparing the efficacy of ethanol versus bioelectricity.
Canada and Britain abandon conventional coal
(04/29/2009) In an effort to curb climate change, both Britain and Canada have announced plans to stop building new conventional coal power plants, a move long-advocated by environmentalists. Both nations have turned their sights to the possibility of clean coal, a controversial and still unproven method that has divided environmentalists, scientists, and policy makers.
How satellites are used in conservation
(04/13/2009) In October 2008 scientists with the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew discovered a host of previously unknown species in a remote highland forest in Mozambique. The find was no accident: three years earlier, conservationist Julian Bayliss identified the site—Mount Mabu—using Google Earth, a tool that’s rapidly becoming a critical part of conservation efforts around the world. As the discovery in Mozambique suggests, remote sensing is being used for a bewildering array of applications, from monitoring sea ice to detecting deforestation to tracking wildlife. The number of uses grows as the technology matures and becomes more widely available. Google Earth may represent a critical point, bringing the power of remote sensing to the masses and allowing anyone with an Internet connection to attach data to a geographic representation of Earth.
Replacing natural experiences with technology hurts humans and the natural world
(04/02/2009) What is the difference between a robotic dog and a real one? Or a plasma screen displaying high definition images of natural splendor and a window that looks out an on actual natural scene? According to psychologists from the University of Washington the difference is massive. Writing in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science Dr. Peter Kahn, a developmental psychologist, explores the different effects produced by humans interacting with actual nature and technological nature, i.e. technology meant to represent the natural world in some aspect.
Development of Google Earth a watershed moment for the environment
(03/31/2009) Satellites have long been used to detect and monitor environmental change, but capabilities have vastly improved since the early 1970s when Landsat images were first revealed to the public. Today Google Earth has democratized the availability of satellite imagery, putting high resolution images of the planet within reach of anyone with access to the Internet. In the process, Google Earth has emerged as potent tool for conservation, allowing scientists, activists, and even the general public to create compelling presentations that reach and engage the masses. One of the more prolific developers of Google Earth conservation applications is David Tryse. Neither a scientist nor a formal conservationist, Tryse's concern for the welfare of the planet led him develop a KML for the Zoological Society of London's EDGE of Existence program, an initiative to promote awareness of and generating conservation funding for 100 of the world's rarest species. The KML allows people to surf the planet to see photos of endangered species, information about their habitat, and the threats they face. Tryse has since developed a deforestation tracking application, a KML that highlights hydroelectric threats to Borneo’s rivers, and oil spills and is working on a new tool that will make it even easier for people to create visualizations on Google Earth. Tryse believes the development of Google Earth is a watershed moment for conservation and the environmental movement.
Deforestation maps for Sumatra now available on Google Earth
(03/31/2009) Despite many years of research in conservation biology, precise maps of tropical deforestation that document the global spatial extent of tropical forests destruction are generally not available outside of the scientific community, says David Gaveau a researcher from Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) points out. For nearly seven years, Gaveau has been documenting forest destruction on the entire island of Sumatra since early 1970s using satellite technology, and he has found the way to make his full-resolution maps and scientific results public using Google Earth.
Advancements in satellite technology will help scientists and policy makers map and monitor forest carbon
(03/29/2009) Given that deforestation accounts for nearly one fifth of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, reducing forest clearing and degradation is increasingly seen as an critical component to any framework addressing climate change. By some estimates, a mechanism that compensates countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) could funnel billions of dollars per year towards forest conservation. However the effectiveness of such a mechanism will hinge on the quality of data. Effective mapping and monitoring of forest carbon stores is absolutely key to any mechanism that compensates countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
New technology allows researchers to study mass migrations of fish
(03/26/2009) Employing a new technology, MIT engineers have studied the origins of a mass gathering of hundreds of millions of fish and their subsequent migration. This is the first time a mass migration of animals has been studied from beginning to end, according to their paper published in Science.Until now biologists have depended on theory rather than data from the field, employing computer simulations and experiments in the lab.
Carbon dioxide monitoring satellite crashes immediately after launch
(02/24/2009) The Orbiting Carbon Observatory, a $273 million satellite that would have collected measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth's atmosphere to help better forecast the climate impacts of changes in CO2 levels, crashed about three minutes after launch, reports NASA. Researchers say the accident is a major setback for science.
Universal phone charger to cut e-waste
(02/18/2009) Mobile phone manufacturers will introduce a universal charger for handsets by 2012, reports CNN.
Fit with tiny backpacks, songbirds reveal speed of migration at 311 miles a day
(02/12/2009) Using extra tiny geo-locator backpacks, researchers have tracked songbirds’ seasonal migrations for the first time, according to research published in Science . The researchers discovered that these beloved birds fly faster and further than anyone ever imagined. The data taken from the geo-locators surprised everyone. Stutchbury and her team discovered that during their migrations between Pennsylvania and South America songbirds flew more than 311 miles a day, three times higher than previous estimates.
Google Earth now allows ocean exploration, tracking of sharks
(02/05/2009) Google Earth now allows users to dive beneath the surface of the world's oceans to see coral reefs, trenches, and other marine wonders. The new version, Google Earth 5, includes layers showing locations of shipwrecks and surf spots; routes for ocean expeditions; the movements of GPS-tracked sea animals; and information (including videos and images) about the ocean environment from sources including National Geographic, the Cousteau Society, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Rainforest canopy-penetrating technology gets boost for forest carbon monitoring
(12/04/2008) A tool for monitoring tropical deforestation has gotten a boost from the one of the world's largest supporters of Amazon conservation. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology with a $1.6-million grant to expand and improve its tropical forest monitoring tool known as the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System Lite (CLASLite).
Japanese scientists clone embryo of vanishing 'living fossil'
(11/28/2008) With less than 5,000 Amami rabbits left in Japan, scientists have implanted a cloned embryo of the species into a common rabbit according to a recent entry in the EDGE blog. The scientists hope that the Amami will come to full-term, but warned that the possibility of pregnancy was only 10 percent—not uncommon with other cloned animals.
Brazil to use body-heat sensing technology to find uncontacted Amazon tribes
(11/19/2008) Brazil will use a plane equipped with body-heat sensing technology to locate tribes in the Amazon rainforest, reports the Associated Press.
Discovery may lead to organic acrylic glass made from sugar
(11/16/2008) A new discovery make it possible in the future to manufacture acrylic glass from organic materials including sugars, alcohols or fatty acids.
Brazil to have high resolution imagery for 86% of the Amazon by year end
(10/15/2008) Brazil will have high resolution imagery for 86 percent of its Amazon territory by the end of the year, according to Reuters. The images will help the country protect the Amazon rainforest and prosecute alleged environmental crimes, including illegal logging and agricultural expansion.
U.S. Congress passes legislation to boost solar, wind, and geothermal energy
(09/24/2008) Tuesday the U.S. Senate passed a bill that will extend tax credits on solar power installations through 2016. The House approved the measure Wednesday.
U.S. ignores laws on e-waste disposal
(09/19/2008) U.S. laws for exporting electronic waste (e-waste) are widely ignored, according to a General Accountability Office (GAO) report, which faults the Environmental Protection Agency.
Group takes "venture capital" approach to conservation
(09/16/2008) An innovative group is using a venture capital model to save some of the world's most endangered species, while at the same time working to ensure that local communities benefit from conservation efforts. The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN), an organization based in Los Altos, California, works to protect threatened species by focusing on what it terms "conservation entrepreneurs" -- people who are passionate about saving wildlife and have creative ideas for dong so. After a rigorous review process to identify and select projects that will have the greatest impact on conservation in developing countries, WCN provides the conservationist with fund-raising and back-office support, technology, and access to its network of people and resources.
Big computer makers pitch energy efficiency to sell more services, equipment
(09/09/2008) Tech giants are using high power costs to market new energy efficiency computers to large corporate data centers, reports the Wall Street Journal.
There is enough water for everyone provided it is well-managed and distributed
(08/21/2008) An increasingly-popular view of our future is an exponentially thirsty world where billions lack access to fresh water, leading to widespread famine and wars over water instead of oil. If this sounds like science fiction, the UN has predicted that by 2050 seven billion people will suffer from water scarcity. Putting that number in perspective: today's entire global population is not yet seven billion people.
Google Earth now reveals damage caused by the paper industry
(08/12/2008) A new web site uses Google Maps to provide information on the pulp and paper industry.
Often overlooked, small wild cats are important and in trouble
(08/05/2008) While often over-shadowed by their larger and better-known relatives like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars, small cats are important indicators of the health of an ecosystem, says a leading small cat expert who uses camera traps extensively to document and monitor mammals in the wild. Dr Jim Sanderson, a scientist with the Small Cat Conservation Alliance and Conservation International, is working to save some of the world's rarest cats, including the Andean cat and Guigna of South America and the bay, flat-headed, and marbled cats of Southeast Asia. In the process Sanderson has captured on film some of the planet's least seen animals, including some species that have never before been photographed. He has also found that despite widespread criticism, some corporate entities are effectively protecting remote wilderness areas.
Developing the world's most sophisticated program for mapping endangered species
(08/04/2008) It was big news in April when a comprehensive map of Madagascar's rich and unique biodiversity was unveiled. The project managed to map ranges of 2,315 species across an island larger than France. Such detailed mapping could not have happened without the aid of Steve Phillips. A researcher at AT&T, Phillips developed the software that made such detailed and expansive mapping possible.
Gore launches second campaign... for Earth
(07/17/2008) In a speech Thursday, Al Gore challenged the U.S. to generate 100 percent of its electricity from zero carbon emission sources within 10 years. Speaking at Washington's Constitution Hall, Gore said America's security, environmental and economic crises are all related, and that measures to rein in greenhouse gas emissions will make the U.S. stronger, safer, and cleaner. "The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk," Gore said. "I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously."
Breakthrough in solar energy: ten times more effective solar power may be available in three years
(07/10/2008) The breakthrough scientists have been waiting for to make solar power cheaper, more efficient--and therefore a more effective replacement for traditional energy sources--has been made by a group of MIT researchers.
New Google Earth layer offers insight on global deforestation
(06/15/2008) A new Google Earth KML file presents a geographical account of global deforestation.
Cellulosic biofuels may be viable alternative to gas within 5 years
(06/02/2008) A new institute in the San Francisco Bay Area is seeking to make cellulosic biofuel an economically viable alternative to corn ethanol and gasoline within the next five years. The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a partnership between three national laboratories and three Bay Area universities, was formed in June 2007 after the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the institute a $125 million grant to develop better methods for making liquid biofuels from the natural cellulose in trees and grasses. JBEI researchers expect cellulosic biofuels to yield more energy, produce less greenhouse gases, and have less impact on the environment than other alternatives to gasoline, such as corn ethanol.
High-tech collars to reveal the secretive behvaiors of mountain lions
(05/28/2008) A handful of mountain lions in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California soon will wear high-tech collars as part of a new study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The collars will reveal not only how these animals range within their sprawling territories, but also how they hunt. The scientists aim to figure out ways to minimize conflicts between humans and mountain lions — also known as pumas and cougars.
Next gen biofuels could decimate rainforests
(05/27/2008) Next generation biofuels could decimate tropical forests says a leading ecologist from the University of Minnesota.
Shark-repelling fishing gear in the works
(04/23/2008) Fishing gear that produces an electric field in sea water could help prevent sharks from becoming accidental bycatch, say scientists at NOAA.
Mobile game to help save embattled gorillas in the Congo
(04/16/2008) For mobile users a new mobile game hopes to raise awareness of the plight of the mountain gorilla and funds for their conservation. Silverback takes gamers through eight levels, following the life-span of a gorilla from childhood to adult. The game was originally developed in 2003 by Fauna & Flora International. Ken Banks, creator of www.kiwanja.net, helped develop the game. In 2006 the game was taken off-line where as Banks says it "sat on a virtual shelf, gathering virtual dust". He has now brought the game back in the hope that it will renew interest, and awareness, in the plight of the mountain gorilla.
Indigenous peoples of Congo map their forests with GPS in an effort to save them
(04/13/2008) This week over five hundred villagers in the Democratic Republic of Congo's rainforest will employ GPS technology to map their forests in an effort to preserve their territory from logging companies.
Mutant algae may fuel cars
(04/02/2008) Chemically-modified algae may become key to the production of hydrogen gas which seen by researchers as a next-generation fuel source.
Fire monitoring by satellite becomes key conservation tool
(03/26/2008) Remote sensing is increasingly used as a tool for conservation management. Beyond traditional satellite imagery popularized by Google Earth, new sensing applications are allowing researchers located anywhere in the world to track fires, illegal logging and mining, and deforestation in some of Earth's most isolated regions using a computer or handheld device. The Fire Alert System is one example of an application that is harnessing the power of satellites to deliver key data to conservation managers. Developed by Madagascar's ministry of Environment, the International Resources Group, conservation International using data from the University of Maryland and NASA, the Fire Alert System enables near real-time monitoring of fires anywhere on the island of Madagascar, a hotspot of biological diversity. The system, which sends subscribers regular email alerts on newly-detected burning, will eventually be expanded to include all the world's protected areas, allowing managers to detect not only fires but potentially related activities like road building, logging, and even hunting.
Biomimicry of sea cucumber skin may help stroke treatment
(03/06/2008) Using sea cucumber skin for design inspiration, scientists have developed a new material that may improve treatment for Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal chord injuries. The research is published in the journal Science.
Toyota, GM: Hydrogen fuels cells are not viable
(03/05/2008) Executives from General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor cast doubts yesterday about the viability of hydrogen fuel cells for mass-market production in the near term, reports The Wall Street Journal. The executives said electric cars will be a better way to cut emissions and improve fuel efficiency.
Complete map of world forests to help REDD carbon trading initiative
(02/27/2008) Policymakers, conservationists and scientists have high hopes that REDD, a mechanism for compensating countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, will spur a massive flow of funds to tropical countries, helping preserve rainforests and delivering economic benefits to impoverished rural communities. To date, one of the biggest hurdles for the initiative has been establishing a baseline for deforestation rates -- in order to compensate countries for "avoided deforestation" it first must be known how much forest the country has been losing on a historical basis. Until now, with some notable exceptions, this data was based largely on spotty satellite assessment and surveys of national forestry departments by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.
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