Costa Rica’s Turrialba volcano erupted on Tuesday, shooting out rocks and a huge column of ash. (May 21)
Biofuel researchers at UC Berkeley may keep the tobacco industry from going up in smoke. Scientists are engineering tobacco plants to produce oils that can serve as biofuels to power airplanes, cars, trucks and other machines. (May 17)
Astronauts making a rare, hastily planned spacewalk replaced a pump outside the International Space Station on Saturday in hopes of plugging a serious ammonia leak. (May 11)
Scientists in Hawaii have measured carbon dioxide levels higher than 400 parts per million for the first time in three to five million years.
PopSci – In the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency recruited an unusual field agent: a cat. In an hour-long procedure, a veterinary surgeon transformed the furry feline into an elite spy, implanting a microphone in her ear canal and a small radio transmitter at the base of her skull, and weaving a thin wire antenna into her long gray-and-white fur. This was Operation Acoustic Kitty, a top-secret plan to turn a cat into a living, walking surveillance machine. The leaders of the project hoped that by training the feline to go sit near foreign officials, they could eavesdrop on private conversations.
The problem was that cats are not especially trainable—they don’t have the same deep-seated desire to please a human master that dogs do—and the agency’s robo-cat didn’t seem terribly interested in national security. For its first official test, CIA staffers drove Acoustic Kitty to the park and tasked it with capturing the conversation of two men sitting on a bench. Instead, the cat wandered into the street, where it was promptly squashed by a taxi. The program was abandoned; as a heavily redacted CIA memo from the time delicately phrased it, “Our final examination of trained cats… convinced us that the program would not lend itself in a practical sense to our highly specialized needs.” (Those specialized needs, one assumes, include a decidedly unflattened feline.)
Operation Acoustic Kitty, misadventure though it was, was a visionary idea just 50 years before its time. Today, once again, the U .S. government is looking to animal-machine hybrids to safeguard the country and its citizens. In 2006, for example, DARPA zeroed in on insects, asking the nation’s scientists to submit “innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs.”
Nat Geo – You’re looking at a live webcam featuring a bald eagle nest in Washington, D.C. The nest is home to a bald eagle pair and their chicks, which hatched in March 2013. You’ll see the adults bringing fish from the Anacostia River to feed their young. The two chicks are covered with black juvenile feathers—they won’t sport their characteristic white heads until they are four or five years old.
About the Eagles
The nest featured here is about five feet wide and made mostly of sticks. It sits about 80 feet up in a tree on the grounds of the Metropolitan Police Academy. Installing the webcam, provided by National Geographic, was Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier’s idea. She has long been interested in the eagle pair that chose the academy grounds for its home. “It is fitting and exciting that our national bird has made a home on the Metropolitan Police Department’s Academy grounds,” said Lanier. “We look forward to viewing the eagles in their habitat.”
The eagles are thought to be the same pair that has nested in the area for several years, says Craig Koppie, raptor biologist at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay field office in Annapolis, Maryland. Koppie is an advisor on the Earth Conservation Corps eagle restoration project, which also oversees a second bald eagle nest in Washington.
Bald eagle nests usually contain one to three dull-white eggs, and the parents take turns incubating them. Eggs hatch in about five weeks, and hatchlings are covered with soft, fluffy, light-gray feathers. “Generally the female stays on the nest while the father’s job is to bring in the food,” Koppie says. Food for this pair of eagles is generally fish—catfish, shad, or perch—plucked from the Anacostia.
In a speech at the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama called for the continued advancement of scientific and engineering innovations to help tackle the nation’s economic, security, and environmental challenges.
Researchers from McGill University used special goggles which improved vision by forcing the patients’ eyes to work together while playing Tetris.
Classes resumed Wednesday at Lone Star Community College in Cypress, Texas following the stabbing attack that left 14 people injured. Students shared eyewitness accounts of the gruesome sequence of events that riveted the college campus. (April 10)