What the World (and Some Celebrities) Are Doing About the Disaster in the Gulf

As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico enters its third month, a variety of efforts to stop the flow of oil have come and gone, all inspiring governments around the globe to review their own energy policies, particularly with regard to off-shore drilling. While global trends showed a shift towards loosening regulation, all that could be about to change. Especially considering some of the people involved in the cleanup.

In perhaps the oddest byproduct of this environmental catastrophe, the media has turned its eye to a number of companies developing cleaning technologies for just this kind of spill. It might have been a fairly dry topic of conversation had it not somehow involved a number of celebrities not normally associated with any aspect of the disaster in the Gulf. One of the more prominent cleaning solutions considered so far has been a centrifugal cleaning system financed by actor Kevin Costner, whose brother is the scientist behind the technology. Already deployed by BP, it’s the just the first cleaning solution financed by mainstream celebrities.

Former NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Drew Bledsoe have also helped to develop Ecosphere, another cleaning technology they are currently pitching to officials in the Gulf.  Does it say something about the likelihood of this kind of disaster that celebrities may have foreseen it? At any rate, the eyes of the world have certainly taken note of the events.

Around the time the Deepwater Horizon was first reported, Canadian officials were already flexing their regulatory muscle when it came to off-shore drilling. This was particularly the case with Chevron, a driller in the Gulf who has been looking to tap off-shore oil in eastern Canada. As part of the deal, Chevron is now required to meet with regulators on a weekly basis in installing their rig.  This after Canadian officials had actually began relaxing regulatory oversight of the oil industry. Having seen the events in the Gulf, Canada has now begun examining its financial cap placed on oil companies in the event of an off-shore spill, following President Obama's recent lead in the United States. With an upcoming audit of drilling taking place in the Arctic, Canada certainly seems to be paying attention to the Gulf.

In most of the world, however, regulation is generally left to the industry itself. While most countries set general standards for safety regarding the oil industry, they don't appear to enforce these regulations all that strictly. As in Canada, that leniency appears to be a more-recent trend for the industry, a trend that could halt in light of recent events in the Gulf. So while the United States may not be alone in how it governs the oil industry, the rest of the world is certainly taking a hint from the BP disaster. At the very least, they’ll have some celebrities prepared to help with the clean-up.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Active ingredient in Roundup found in 95% of studied beers and wines

The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.

Surprising Science
  • U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
  • A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
  • Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
Keep reading Show less

Robot pizza delivery coming later this year from Domino's

The pizza giant Domino's partners with a Silicon Valley startup to start delivering pizza by robots.

Technology & Innovation
  • Domino's partnered with the Silicon Valley startup Nuro to have robot cars deliver pizza.
  • The trial run will begin in Houston later this year.
  • The robots will be half a regular car and will need to be unlocked by a PIN code.

Would you have to tip robots? You might be answering that question sooner than you think as Domino's is about to start using robots for delivering pizza. Later this year a fleet of self-driving robotic vehicles will be spreading the joy of pizza throughout the Houston area for the famous pizza manufacturer, using delivery cars made by the Silicon Valley startup Nuro.

The startup, founded by Google veterans, raised $940 million in February and has already been delivering groceries for Kroger around Houston. Partnering with the pizza juggernaut Domino's, which delivers close to 3 million pizzas a day, is another logical step for the expanding drone car business.

Kevin Vasconi of Domino's explained in a press release that they see these specially-designed robots as "a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey," adding "The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience, and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush, is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing."

How will they work exactly? Nuro explained in its own press release that this "opportunity to use Nuro's autonomous delivery" will be available for some of the customers who order online. Once they opt in, they'll be able to track the car via an app. When the vehicle gets to them, the customers will use a special PIN code to unlock the pizza compartment.

Nuro and its competitors Udelv and Robomart have been focusing specifically on developing such "last-mile product delivery" machines, reports Arstechnica. Their specially-made R1 vehicle is about half the size of a regular passenger car and doesn't offer any room for a driver. This makes it safer and lighter too, with less potential to cause harm in case of an accident. It also sticks to a fairly low speed of under 25 miles an hour and slams on the breaks at the first sign of trouble.

What also helps such robot cars is "geofencing" technology which confines them to a limited area surrounding the store.

For now, the cars are still tracked around the neighborhoods by human-driven vehicles, with monitors to make sure nothing goes haywire. But these "chase cars" should be phased out eventually, an important milestone in the evolution of your robot pizza drivers.

Check out how Nuro's vehicles work: