Sci/Tech briefs

Theory explains global warming

John Sternman, a professor of management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, is devising tools to help political leaders understand the nature of problems plaguing the nation. Recently, Sternman decided to focus his work on the climate in order to make political leaders, such as President Obama, understand the severity of the global warming problem our world faces.

Sternman, in his policy forum paper in a recent issue of the Science magazine, uses the idea of the “Bathtub Effect” to explain the underlying problem behind the greenhouse effect. He explains that the atmosphere is like a bathtub with a partially opened drain. Carbon dioxide from various sources, such as burning fuels, forest fires, and car emissions, is pouring into the bathtub twice as fast as the tub can drain it. The result is a clogged drain that will eventually begin to flood.

Source: The New York Times

Super Bowl ad is featured in 3D

A joint venture between Dreamworks and Pepsi has resulted in the creation of the first ad ever aired in 3D during a Super Bowl game. The commercial promoted Dreamworks Animation’s upcoming movie Monsters vs. Aliens. The ad, which is 90 seconds long, took the creators four and a half years to make. Dreamworks built its own authoring software and hardware for the ad. The movie makers also rigged a video camera that enables the director to move through a virtual scene in real time. This allows the director to decide how to use the z-axis, which adds a third dimension to film, when shooting scenes.


Scientists find Milky Way’s twin galaxy

Astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Spain have been able to view the heart of a nearby galaxy known as NGC 253, or the Sculptor Galaxy. Using an instrument on the Very Large Telescope, astronomers were able to witness clusters of light packed around the core of the galaxy. These observations indicate that a supermassive black hole similar to the one in our galaxy (known as Sagittarius A*) exists. Scientists conclude that the existence of this black hole confirms that the Sculptor Galaxy is in fact a twin of the Milky Way galaxy.

Scientists make car parts from coconuts

A team at Baylor University has discovered a way to use the outer husks of coconuts to make car interiors, floorboards, and trunk liners. The fibers are blended with polypropylene fibers, and are then molded in different shapes. The material has proven to be just as good, if not better, than current materials used to make automotive parts. Walter Bradley, the engineer leading this team, believes that using coconuts as a substitute for the synthetic polyester fibers typically used has the potential to benefit the world at many different levels.

The husks do not burn well or give off toxic fumes, enabling them to pass the tests required for use in automotive parts. In addition, using coconuts would create a huge market for countries like the Philippines, India, and Indonesia, where coconuts are an abundant, renewable resource.

Source: LiveScience