• New magnets to reduce rare-earths dependence on China

    China produces more than 95 percent of the world’s rare Earth elements, and Japan, the United States, and other industrial societies are increasingly anxious about the dependence of important sectors of their economies on Chinese whims; researchers are now working on new types of nanostructured magnets that would use smaller amounts of rare Earth metals than standard magnets; many hurdles remain, but GE Global Research hopes to demonstrate new magnet materials within the next two years

  • Fox shoots man

    A hunter in Belarus shot a fox then tried to kill it with the butt of the rifle; the injured fox resisted, and in the process pulled the trigger on the hunter’s gun, allowing the animal to run off and sending the unnamed man to the hospital with a leg wound

  • Camera better than the human eye

    Researchers developed a curvilinear camera, much like the human eye, with the significant feature of a zoom capability, unlike the human eye; the “eyeball camera” has a 3.5x optical zoom, takes sharp images, is inexpensive to make and is only the size of a nickel; the camera will not be appearing at Best Buy any time soon, but the tunable camera — once optimized — should be useful in many applications, including night-vision surveillance, robotic vision, endoscopic imaging, and consumer electronics

  • U.S. lacks infrastructure to increase use of ethanol fuel

    Scientists at Purdue University say the United States lacks the infrastructure to meet the federal Renewable Fuel Standard with ethanol; researchers say the United States has hit the “blending wall” and lacks the ability to consume more ethanol than what is currently produced; less than 3 percent of vehicles on the road are equipped to handle ethanol fuels and there are only 2,000 pumps; the federal Renewable Fuel Standard requires nearly three times as much renewable fuel to be produced per year by 2022

  • Brisbane under water

    Brisbane, a city of two million and Australia’s third largest, is flooded; roads are inundated, railway lines have been cut, and sewage is spreading into the waters; dozens of suburbs are under three meters of waters, with some factories and homes only visible by their roofs; more than 100,000 properties had their power cut as a precaution against flooding of electricity substations; the worst affected area was the town of Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, where residents described an 8-meter “instant inland tsunami” ripping through the streets on Monday; the flood zone in northern Australia now covers are larger than Germany and France combined

  • World Bank: Coastal cities in Asia face devastating floods

    Thirteen of the twenty largest cities in the world are located on the coast, with more than a third of the world’s population living within 100 miles of a shoreline; a World Bank report finds that Asia’s major coastal cities will experience more devastating floods; damage due to flooding could be as high as 6 percent of regional GDP in 2050; developing cities will be most heavily affected; the report urges the threatened cities immediately to begin developing and implementing long-term plans to harden critical infrastructure to withstand and mitigate the effects of increased flooding

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  • New spacecraft to help break the climate debate gridlock

    NASA plans to settle the climate debate with a fleet of Earth-orbiting spacecraft keeping tabs on the planet’s changing climate; the fleet has two tasks: first: take the total amount of energy coming to Earth from the sun, subtract what gets reflected back or re-radiated from particles in the atmosphere, and see what you have left; if more energy is coming in than going out, it is getting hotter; second: figure out what fraction of these atmospheric particles stems from natural phenomena, such as wind-blown dust and volcanic eruptions, and what is coming from things we can control — our industrial processes, business pursuits, and recreational pass-times

  • Pentagon prohibited from purchasing Chinese solar panels

    Obama signs military appropriations bill that prohibits the Pentagon from purchasing Chinese solar panels; the “Buy American” provision is part of a larger trade dispute with China over subsidies; the Pentagon is investing heavily in solar to reduce its energy consumption and increase fighting effectiveness; the bill is likely to raise costs for the military

  • New glass tops steel in strength, toughness

    Researchers develop glass which is stronger than steel — indeed, the damage-tolerant metallic glass has demonstrated a strength and toughness beyond that of any known material; the new metallic glass is a microalloy featuring palladium, a metal with a high “bulk-to-shear” stiffness ratio that counteracts the intrinsic brittleness of glassy materials

  • Food packaging indicates food freshness

    An estimated 8.3 million tons of household food — most of which could have been eaten — is wasted in the United Kingdom each year because retailers and consumers question whether the food is safe to eat; researchers at Glasgow’s Strathclyde University are developing a plastic indicator that alerts consumers to food that is starting to go off; the new indicator will change color to provide a warning when food is about to lose its freshness

  • Day of drinking recycled water nears

    Aussie researchers show that storm water collected from the aquifer into which urban water flows, after undergoing treatment, had dramatically lower levels of all hazards and contaminants; further supplemental treatment was needed to remove some hazards, though the process shows potential if improvements are made

  • Taiwan wants pigs potty-trained to curb pollution

    The Taiwanese government reports that experiments in potty-training pigs proved successful: a breeder of 10,000 pigs has established special pig “toilets” on the farm; the toilets were smeared with feces and urine to attract the pigs; within weeks, 95 percent of all pig waste was collected in the toilets, making the farm — as well as nearby rivers and fields — much cleaner; additional benefits: the cleaner farm helped reduce illness among the pigs and boosted their fertility by 20 percent

  • Recycled Haitian concrete safe, strong, cheap

    Nearly a year after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, most of the damaged areas of Haiti are still in ruins; researchers find that concrete and other debris in Port-au-Prince could be safely and inexpensively recycled into strong new construction material which meets or exceeds the minimum strength standards used in the United States

  • Twelve research teams to develop persistent-stare, visual-intelligence systems

    The U.S. military anticipates a significant increase in the role of unmanned systems in support of future operations, including jobs like persistent stare; by performing persistent stare, camera-equipped unmanned ground vehicles would take scouts out of harm’s way; these machines’ truly transformative feature will be visual intelligence, enabling these platforms to detect operationally significant activity and report on that activity so warfighters can focus on important events in a timely manner

  • China may need 300 years to reverse desertification

    Huge population pressures, scarce rainfall, and climate change have made China the world’s biggest victim of desertification, a problem that could take 300 years to reverse at the current rate of desertification reversing; 27 percent of China’s total land mass, or about 2.6 million square kilometers (1.04 million square miles), are considered desertified land, while another 18 percent of the nation’s land is eroded by sand