Deepsea Minerals Are Coming Soon To A Cell Phone Near You

Rocks mined from the seafloor have been confirmed as a viable source for rare earth metals, and thus a tiny piece of the ocean might soon find its way into a cell phone or computer chipboard near you. The finding, published in the April 2014 issue of Applied Geochemistry, all but guarantees a new round of focus on… » 4/18/14 12:00pm Friday 12:00pm

The Plan to Keep People From Jumping Off the Golden Gate Bridge

More people have committed suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge than on any other structure in the world—someone jumps from the bridge to their death about every two weeks. But those figures could be dramatically reduced if a proposed suicide-prevention barrier is installed later this year, as advocates hope. » 4/17/14 3:20pm Thursday 3:20pm

How San Francisco Sacrificed a Valley in Yosemite for Water and Power

The electricity that powers San Francisco's streetlights, schools, and international airport begins as a torrent of water inside—of all places—the supposed natural sanctuary that is Yosemite National Park. A century ago, a pristine valley was sacrificed so that San Francisco could continue to exist. » 4/16/14 5:20pm 4/16/14 5:20pm

Homeless New Yorkers Are Living Inside the Manhattan Bridge

We've all heard of the lengths to which NYC's homeless have gone to find shelter, from living in abandoned factories to building whole encampments inside subway tunnels. But a report from the New York Post goes one step further, describing how people are now making homes out of small nooks and crannies between the… » 4/14/14 4:40pm 4/14/14 4:40pm

The Infrastructural Mystery at the End of Michael Lewis's Flash Boys

What an awesome way to end a book: literally in the last paragraph, Michael Lewis's excellent Flash Boys drops a weird infrastructural mystery—and this gives away no spoilers—right when you were ready to turn out the light and go to sleep. But there, in the final six sentences, Lewis lights a fire. » 4/13/14 4:00pm 4/13/14 4:00pm

Views of a Dark World: Illuminating Unseen Infrastructure

For a global society highly dependent on complex technical, economic, and political systems, we manage to carry on our daily routines largely unaware of the hard and soft infrastructure—from pipes to policies—on which these systems rest. That is, until unexpected events, so-called black swans, illuminate the previously … » 4/10/14 3:00pm 4/10/14 3:00pm

How Huge Subterranean Grids Could Protect Cities From Earthquakes

French engineers have been experimenting with a technique that could redirect seismic energy away from structures such as cities, dams, and nuclear power plants, sparing them from damage. It involves digging large, cylindrical boreholes into the ground, forming a defensive geometry of lace-like arrays that, researchers … » 4/08/14 6:00pm 4/08/14 6:00pm

The Plan to Demolish SF's Old Bay Bridge Could Be Derailed By Birds

To us, the bridge is a way to get across the water, but to cormorants in San Francisco Bay, the old Bay Bridge is home sweet home. And the 800 protected birds currently nesting there are not very keen on moving to the new Bay Bridge span—despite its shiny $700,000 bird "condos." If Caltrans can't lure the cormorants away … » 4/08/14 5:20pm 4/08/14 5:20pm

A Rare Trip On The Floating Train Yard Of Hudson Harbor

The only two options that freight trains have for accessing the east side of the Hudson River are to cross a bridge in Albany—140 painstaking miles North of New York City—or to ride a rail barge across the Hudson through the highly efficient marine-rail operation run by NYNJ Rail in Jersey City. » 4/06/14 1:00pm 4/06/14 1:00pm

Some Canadian Roads Smell Like French Fries Thanks to Recycled Oil

Fryer oil turns plain old potatoes into delicious french fries. It powers our biodiesel cars. And, now, it's being used to turn the dusty surfaces of rural Canadian roads into stable makeshift asphalt—AND THEY SMELL LIKE FRENCH FRIES. God bless our obsession with that infernally unhealthy liquid. » 4/03/14 3:40pm 4/03/14 3:40pm

Did A "Field of Human Excrement" By The White House Kill A President?

If you remember President William Henry Harrison from U.S. history class at all, then you probably remember him as the poor fellow who died from pneumonia a month after delivering his inaugural address in freezing rain. Except was it really pneumonia after all? A New York Times article suggests a different theory, and… » 4/02/14 5:40pm 4/02/14 5:40pm

Why Locating 911 Calls Is So Hard—And How To Make It Better

You've heard the cautionary tales about dialing 911 on your cell phone. A call about missing children in Illinois gets routed to Canada. A stroke victim in New York is only located after a grueling eight-hour search. Locating 911 calls in 2014 is a byzantine process that involves generating a fake phone number—but a… » 4/02/14 10:00am 4/02/14 10:00am

Some of L.A.'s Most Beautiful Landscapes Are Its Freeways

The vast and looping knots of L.A.'s elaborate freeway system have long inspired an unlikely stew made from equal parts road rage, suffocating air pollution, and an unexpected aesthetic appreciation for their stacked coils and crisp lines. A drivable geometry textbook, the freeways are perhaps the city's real… » 4/02/14 9:40am 4/02/14 9:40am