Magazine Articles Abound

We are so used to printing our own business cards, letterhead, and other personal business communications on our home printers that we forget that just a generation ago it was normal to take those sorts of things to a local print shop.

Now, there is a growing movement numbering in the thousands that print simple replacement parts, devices, and even some increasing complicated machines at home rather than buying them at a hardware store. This sort of decentralized manufacturing on demand could change everything. No more shipping goods from China.

Look in theĀ October issue of the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery for my article about 3D printing.

And, October also brought to print a completely different type of article published in a radically different publication.

Many churches have experienced either good or bad media coverage from time to time, but how do you build a really strong and lasting relationship? That’s the question I set out to answer for an article in the United Church Observer.

The article had me talking to ministers and editors across the country about the give and take between reporter and reportee. One of my favorite stories involved a church about a 30 minute drive from my home that decided to publicize the fact that they hadn’t raised enough money for a Habitat for Humanity build. By being open and honest about their challenges, another local group actually agreed to contribute the remainder needed and the build went ahead.

Unfortunately you won’t find a copy of my article online, but if you sneak into any United Church they will likely have a copy of the October issues still sitting out.


Quick Update on Latest Articles

I’ve been working on some longer term projects of late, but I’ve still had some articles published recently.

Take for instance, my article on a new species of dinosaur found in Canada that is related to every kids’ favorite triceratops albeit with a bunch more horns and bumpy bits on its head. This is a truly weird dinosaur, and you can read about it on National Geographic News’s website.

I also recently wrote a story for the Foundational Questions Institute along with some help from Zeeya Merali. Together we profiled some neat genetic research into genetic sequences that nature may not have found, but which might have important implications because they might actually be more effective. It could also help us understand how a change in a genetic sequence can result in dramatic changes that drive evolution.

Finally, here’s a story that should strike a chord with the more musically inclined. I wrote an article for Innovation Canada describing some research at the University of Waterloo into how the piano works. The big surprise was that it’s not as simple as you might think.

Environmental Trade-offs: Those Cute and Curly Light Bulbs

When we moved from the lake to our new house in the country, one of the first things I did was go around and change over every light bulb in the place to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLS). CFLs look like a Dr. Seussian solution to lighting, but in reality they are taking a big bite out of electricity use. They are very energy efficient, and are a perfect example of real world green technology that is here right now.

They do have one drawback, which is the Whoville sized amounts of mercury that makes those cute little puppies tick (or glow as the case may be). I recently wrote an article for Environmental Health Perspectives about efforts to understand the mercury in CFLS and better ways to capture it in case bulbs break.

Long and the curly of it, open a window and leave the room where the CFL breaks. When you come back pick up everything you can and put it in a glass jar (plastic bags leak mercury), plus try to have kids or pregnant women avoid the room.

Green Tech

Many of the most exciting technologies being developed hope to address the enormous environmental problems we face today. I discuss two of these at Green Living Online, where I am their go-to-guy on science topics.

First, I take a look at new developments in nanotechnology solar panels. Building a solar panel from the atom up, it turns out, is a great way to harness the energy of the sun. It requires less raw materials, is more efficient at deriving power, and oddly enough it is quicker.

Second, I try to understand what the heck rare earth elements are and why they are so important. In essence they are a group of elements that are not found in very high concentrations around the world, so we have to mine dig up a lot of rock to get a little bit of these materials. However, all that work is worth the effort because these little gems are key to a lot of really great devices like new TVs, cell phones, even hybrid batteries.

The only catch is that we aren’t able to find as much of these rare earth elements as we need, leading some experts to think that we are running out. Talk about a major need for recycling.

What, No Mention of Time Travel?!

Well, it’s that time of year when all the science journalists, engineers, and scientists swarm to the world’s largest science conference in the world: the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This year it’s in Boston, MA, home of MIT, Harvard, and the Boston Red Sox.

In one of the sessions at the AAAS, a panel of engineering experts described what kind of cool gadgetry and inventions we can look forward to in the next 100 years. Think cheap solar panels, energy from fusion, virtual reality that’s better than real life, and medicine that can cure any disease.

I write about the report and the session in an online feature article for Cosmos Magazine in Australia.

I think the report is good, but it is also fairly conservative. None of the goals sound like they are beyond present day technology or know-how (maybe just present day economics). I was really hoping for interstellar time traveling androids.