Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sleeping With Swine Flu

"If this turns out to be swine flu, would you still sleep with me or would you sleep on the couch?" My wife had come home from work looking like death warmed over, with barely enough energy to finish her dinner. She'd heard rumors of students and teachers coming down with H1N1 at the school where she works, but nothing had been confirmed. I dismissed her question at the time, saying we'd take it as it comes, and though it wasn't yet 8 o'clock, I started coaxing her toward bed.   

A story I wrote in today's Boston Globe Magazine charts my thought process later in the evening as I weigh whether or not I should join Rachel in bed and why, if one of us is to be banished to the couch, she assumes it would be me.

Rachel and I are regular readers of the "Coupling" stories written by local writers on the back page of each week's Sunday magazine.  I didn't figure I'd ever have anything to contribute, but when I got to thinking about the swine flu question she'd posed to me, it seemed like such an obvious fit I just had to submit it. Click Here to Read More..

Vacuum Tube Solar Hot Water Comes to Cambridge

One of the first home improvements Rachel and I made when we purchased our condo here in Cambridge this spring was a solar hot water installation on our rooftop.

The system we had put in uses vacuum tubes, a newer, more efficient type of solar collector than the black box flat panels of old. As a writer covering energy and the environment in Cambridge and China, I'd spent the past three years tracing this new and exotic technology back to the factories and cities in China where they are surprisingly commonplace. 

I first read about the tubes three years ago in a story in the Boston Globe. A family in Newbury, MA was using a massive installation to provide hot water and heat for their giant barn of a house.  A photo that went with the story showed their installation covered in frost on a cold winter day. Somehow, despite the cold, the tubes were still kicking out 120 to 160 degree water.
Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, November 21, 2009

DOE Bets $150 Million on Clean Tech

If you had $150 million to spend on boundary-busting energy research, where would you put the cash? The US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has committed that amount with one lofty aim: to transform the planet's energy future: But which technologies are its best bets?
To find the answers, check out a story I wrote this week in New Scientist.
This was an interesting story to write in that the Department of Energy had just dolled out millions of dollars for projects so risky that most were expected to fail, yet even if a few succeeded, they could have a transformative effect on the planet's energy future.
What made the story more interesting is the vast majority of recipients, from industry giants to little known start up companies, had such a strong financial interest in keeping their projects under wraps that few would divulge what they were working on, even after they received secured funding.
Click Here to Read More..

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gore At Harvard

Former US Vice President Al Gore wasn't quite ready to give up telling inconvenient truths as he discussed his latest book Our Choice: A plan to solve the global climate crisis at Harvard this weekend.

Gore took the stage to a standing ovation before a capacity crowd at the First Parrish Church Meetinghouse in Harvard Square on 7 November to discuss his compilation of "all of the most effective solutions that are available now and that together will solve this crisis".
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Out of Guangxi

Check out the story I wrote for New Scientist this week on what Chinese paleontologists believe to be a 110,000 yr old human jaw bone (see photo on right).

If their claims about the fossil they found in China's southern Guangxi province prove true, it would raise some interesting questions about human origins.

Specifically it could challenge the widely held belief that modern humans are the direct descendents of Homo sapiens that migrated out of Africa around 100,000 years ago.

Click Here to Read More..