As I write this, I can hear geese and a Belted Kingfisher in the distance and I'm watching a Great Blue Heron sitting over her day-old egg. I'm thousands of miles away from the birds, who reside near Sapsucker Woods pond, outside the Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity at the Cornell Lab for Ornithology. But I've got a front seat on the action, along with 2,500 other lurkers, thanks to the lab's Livestream video link. And if we grow bored, we can switch to Big Red, a Red-tailed Hawk, who is currently laying on her three eggs, protecting them from the wind on an unseasonably cool day in Ithica.
Streaming video links to nesting birds isn't a new craze, but it's a growing one. Last year, an eagle nest cam established by the Raptor Resource Project captivated thousands who sat, staring into their computer screens as a Bald Eagle in Decorah, Iowa, laid and guarded her hatchlings. It was the most popular feed on the Ustream service, reports Wired.com.
And now the show is back on in Decorah. Two eaglets hatched on Tuesday and one more on Wednesday, which you can watch here. Skip to around minute 7 to see the hatchling being fed. This year, the eagles in Decorah are under more advanced surveillance; the cameras use night vision, high definition and panning capabilities. What's next? GoPro cameras strapped to the birds' chests?
There was a time when the ski resort experience was not punctuated by the sound of ringtones and "hey, is my GoPro on?" But those days are gone forever. You may or may not lament this. But our desire to take technology with us when we go outside has led to considerable R&D in the area of energy harvesting and wearable technology.
One result of this is a helmet with an embedded solar panel. It's the result of a breakthrough at Fraunhofer IZM, a German firm that develops new ways to package and produce technologies. In this case, the company found a way to mount small monocrystalline silicon solar cells on a three-dimensional curved surface without significantly losing the cell's efficiency (its ability to generate power from sunlight).
The power is stored in a battery pack that powers headphones and a mic, all of which are integrated into the helmet. The user wears a glove with an integrate display, controls and battery. This links wirelessly to the helmet, and the helmet uses a Bluetooth link to communicate with the user's phone. Yes, we are becoming cyborgs.
Left: Horsetail Falls, 2011. Photo: Joe Azure Right: The Firefall. Photo: National Park Service
The window is closing on a yearly glimpse of a natural phenomena at Yosemite National Park, during which the angle of the sun and the flow of water off the park's Horsetail Falls commingle in such a way that the waterfall glows, as if aflame. On the ground, photographers come from all over the world to freeze the image on their cameras, as in the photo above, left.
But for nearly 100 years, from 1872 until 1968, a flow of actual fire descended off the the park's Glacier Point, a vista point some 3,000 feet above the valley floor, as in the photo above, right.
The Firefall, as it was called, was set each night during summer. Park officials would collect Red Fir tree bark and set a large bonfire at Glacier Point each day. At 9pm, park workers would take long-handled rakes and push the embers off the cliff, to create the illusion of a waterfall of fire. This was all done to the delight of park visitors, who would convene in Curry Village in the valley to view the spectacle.
This spring, Andrew Badenoch plans to launch a 7,000-mile trip from Bellingham, Wash., up to the southern coast of the Arctic Ocean, before looping back. His locomotion will be a fatbike and a small packable raft. The former marketer, who ditched his corporate job to live aboard his sail boat and write, has never done an expedition like this before. But that hasn't stopped around 200 individuals—many of whom don't even know Badenoch—from raising nearly $10,000 $10,500 to support his mission, via Kickstarter.
Whether they're driven by a quest for fame, a search for answers, or a politcal (awareness-raising) objective, major expeditions attract attention and make for good headlines. Oftentimes, corporations sponsor trips, and/or the trips act a fundraising vehicles for nonprofit organisations. Not so for "Fatbikerafting the Arctic," Badenoch's Kickstarter campaign. His benefactors are people who just think his trip sounds interesting, and who want dibs on the things—from a documentary movie to an expedition training guide—that he plans to create once the trip is complete. And Badenoch, by his own admission, is just a guy who wants to prove a point.
Like just about everybody else on the planet who skis or bikes, we've been using GoPros for several years. Naturally, when the company told us they were about to unveil a new one, we were interested. While the HD Hero 2 looks just like the old one, and costs the same amount ($299), GoPro made improvements across the board. Most notable is a faster image processor, which lets you slow down action and shoot in slow-motion (60fps in a respectable 720p and 30fps in 1080p). It also can take higher resolution stills. Whereas the old one could only capture 5 MP stills, the new one now goes up to 11. There's also a cool new feature that allows you to shoot 10 photos a second in "burst" mode. Alternatively, you can also set it to take a single photo every half second to create a time-lapse montage. Also of note: the new lens can now capture full 170 degree wide-angle video and the camera now comes with a mini-HDMI port and a 3.5mm external stereo microphone jack. (Watch the video below to see the results of these improvements.)