Forget Moby Dick’s white whale – a tropical cyclone is by far the most difficult ocean beast to track. This rotating system of clouds and thunderstorms, most commonly known to North Americans as a hurricane once it reaches a certain size and speed, is typically several hundred miles wide with winds as fast as 155 miles per hour.
These vast storms are essentially a physics puzzle, in which the interaction of moisture, wind, air, heat and other elements can trick even the most knowledgeable scientists trying to forecast both the path and intensity of a hurricane. In the last decade, weather models have gotten much better at predicting path and landfall, but they have been less skillful when trying to estimate pressure and maximum wind speeds.
So when the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center recently launched a new hurricane prediction model capable of tracking a storm’s intensity, it was no small feat. Known as COAMPS-TC (Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System-Tropical Cyclone), the model can accurately forecast wind strength one to five days out. This is essential information for fleets and installations that might need to evacuate or protect their facilities—under- or overestimating the strength of a storm can be a costly mistake.
Temporary electronic tattoos could soon help people fly drones with only thought and talk seemingly telepathically without speech over smartphones, researchers say.
Commanding machines using the brain is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In recent years, brain implants have enabled people to control robotics using only their minds, raising the prospect that one day patients could overcome disabilities using bionic limbs or mechanical exoskeletons.
But brain implants are invasive technologies, probably of use only to people in medical need of them. Instead, electrical engineer Todd Coleman at the University of California at San Diego is devising noninvasive means of controlling machines via the mind, techniques virtually everyone might be able to use.
On Jan. 15, 2012, the Kenya Revenue Authority intercepted a 20-foot container holding more than two tons of ivory. Officials estimated that the contraband teeth, worth around $1.15 million, came from a shocking 250 elephants.
Unfortunately, this was no isolated incident; it was just another of the illegal harvests of African elephants and rhinos that have been on a dramatic rise despite a ban on the ivory trade that dates back to 1989. The increase, officials say, is the result of heightened demand in some markets.
“The price of ivory and rhino horn continues to rise by the day, leading to increased poaching of elephants and rhinos,” said William Kiprono, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), during a January press conference.
A KWS report released earlier this month found that Kenyan authorities knew of 384 elephants and 29 rhinos killed by poachers in 2012 compared to 289 elephants and 25 rhinos killed in 2011. Across Africa, reports suggest that more than 1,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos were killed last year alone.