How and Why U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Falling

Recent data clarify the trends causing emissions to shrink to their lowest level since 1995.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States fell to their lowest level in 17 years in 2012, according to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency. Additional data from the U.S. government show why: the trend is largely the result of a rapid drop in coal-fired electricity, and a corresponding rise in electricity generated by cleaner fuels, especially natural gas.

from New on MIT Technology Review

Norwegian Army using Oculus Rift for tank training [w/video]

Filed under: , ,

Oculus Rift Norwegian Military

Driving an armored personnel carrier in the Norwegian military might become a lot more like playing a video game in the near future. The army there has developed a way for APC drivers to use Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles to make piloting the heavy vehicles significantly easier.

If you aren’t familiar with the tech, the Oculus Rift fulfills many of the promises of virtual reality from 20 years ago. It consists of a set of goggles that are connected to a regular computer, and the user’s head movements are reflected in the software. It was initially pitched as a device to bring a new interactivity to video games, but it found non-gaming uses elsewhere.

In this case, four cameras each with 185 degrees of view have been installed on the exterior of the APC. Software stitches the cameras together into a single image, and it routes to the Oculus Rift goggles that the driver wears. The system provides an unobstructed view all the way around the vehicle, even with the hatch down. The track is even projected forward to know which way the the APC is moving. One of the engineers compares it to driving a tank in the video game series Battlefield, where players can get a bird’s eye view while blowing things up.

The technology isn’t perfect yet, and this is still a test for now. According to one of the majors running the assessment, the goggles are strenuous on the eyes. However, the evaluation cost only a few thousand dollars to setup with off-the-shelf components, rather than hundreds of thousands with conventional, military-quality hardware. The Norwegian military’s goal is to eventually run the Oculus Rift goggles as an operational concept for further examination. Scroll down to see a video of the Rift in action.

Continue reading Norwegian Army using Oculus Rift for tank training [w/video]

Norwegian Army using Oculus Rift for tank training [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 06 May 2014 14:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink | Email this | Comments

from Autoblog

Invention Awards 2014: Charge Gadgets With Your Footsteps

Illustration by Lucas Nene/Sole Power

Each thud of a hiker’s heel releases enough energy to illuminate a light bulb. Rather than waste that power, Matt Stanton, an engineer and avid backpacker, created a shoe insole that stores it as electricity. The device promises to be an improvement over traditional, hefty power packs as well as solar chargers, which work slowly or not at all, depending on the weather.

Stanton worked closely with Hahna Alexander, a fellow Carnegie Mellon University engineering student, over three years to create the SolePower system. Instead of using piezoelectric and other inefficient, bulky methods of generating electricity, the pair shrunk down components similar to those found in hand-cranked flashlights. The result is a near standard–size removable insole that weighs less than five ounces, including a battery pack, and charges electronics via USB.

SolePower’s current version, to be released later this year, requires a lengthy 15-mile walk to charge a smartphone. But Stanton says the company is working toward a design that can charge an iPhone after less than five miles of hiking and withstand about 100 million footsteps of wear and tear. 

How It Works:

1) A drivetrain converts the energy of heel strikes into rotational energy, spinning magnetic rotors.

2) The motion of the rotors induces an electrical current within coils of wire.

3) Electricity travels along a wire and into a lithium-ion polymer battery pack on a wearer’s shoelaces.

Lead inventors: Hahna Alexander, Matt Stanton

Development cost to date: $300,000

Company: Sole Power LLC

Market Maturity: •••••


Click here to see a flat bike helmet, a robotic exoskeleton, and more from our 2014 Invention Awards.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Popular Science.

from Popular Science

The States People Want To Get The Hell Out Of [Infographic]


Gallup is out with a new poll and accompanying map measuring responses to this question: "Regardless of whether you will move, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move to another state, or would you rather remain in your current state?"

Big insights from the geographic misery watch? Illinois residents would rather not be residents, with 50 percent (!) saying they’d move if given the chance; 49 percent of Connecticut residents said the same. On the other end of the spectrum, folks are pretty content in Montana, Hawaii, and Maine, with a relatively slim 23 percent in each state saying they’d like to move on. Here, again via Gallup, is a table of the highest and lowest percentages:


Gallup also measured the percentage of residents who said they think they will leave in the next year, which, as you might expect, broadly reflect the states where people already want to move. When asked why they planned to move, here’s what they said:

Those saying it is at least somewhat likely they will move were asked to say why, in their own words. The biggest factor residents give for planning to move is for work or business reasons — the 50-state average is 31%. This is followed by family or other social reasons (19%), weather or location (11%), and then seeking a better quality of life or change (9%).

You can read more about the poll’s methodology over at Gallup’s site. But only if you feel like moving is the right decision for you at this moment in your life.


from Popular Science

Invention Awards 2014: A Powerful, Portable, And Affordable Robotic Exoskeleton

Titan Arm
Photo by Marius Bugge

Surviving a stroke or debilitating injury is often the start of a very long ordeal. Physical therapy can be slow and strenuous with no guarantee of recovery. Robotic exoskeletons can sometimes provide the support a ravaged body needs to heal—and strength when it can’t—but they typically cost more than a car and must be anchored to a wall and plugged into a socket.

In late 2012, a team of mechanical engineering students at University of Pennsylvania set out to build a portable, affordable exoskeleton. Two semesters of late nights and long weekends later, Elizabeth Beattie, Nicholas McGill, Nick Parrotta, and Nikolay Vladimirov had the Titan Arm: an efficient, lightweight, and surprisingly powerful robotic limb. Its actuator, or electronic muscle, could provide resistance during therapeutic exercises and can augment strength, allowing its wearer to lift an additional 40 pounds with little effort.

To ensure a slimmer frame than other exoskeletons and make Titan Arm easier for patients to use, the team situated its actuator in a backpack instead of in the limb itself. They also milled load-bearing parts out of aluminum to limit weight and power consumption. McGill, the electronics lead, created a software-and-sensor package to track arm movements and wirelessly relay the data. This would allow a patient to use a Titan Arm at home and a therapist to remotely monitor the exercises.

Potential beneficiaries, including stroke victims and an injured snowboarder, have already reached out to the team with encouraging comments. The positive response to their $2,000 prototype has made Titan Arm’s makers eager to push their invention toward a finished product and, to that end, they are now designing a more refined version. “We’ve been looking at 3-D printing to fully customize components, like tailoring a suit,” says Parrotta. 


Lithium-polymer battery packs provide a day’s worth of power.


An electric motor in the backpack winds steel cables to rotate pulleys and induce arm movement. Beattie (left) designed a support system to safely distribute weight across a hip belt, elbow straps, and back plate.


Software reads the positions of magnetic sensors in the steel joints to instruct movement, which the operator controls from a handheld device.

Inventors: Elizabeth Beattie, Nicholas McGill, Nick Parrotta, Nikolay Vladimirov

Development cost to date: $2, 000

Company: N/A

Market Maturity: •••••


Click here to see a flat bike helmet, a thermal radar with omniscient view, and more from our 2014 Invention Awards.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Popular Science.

from Popular Science