The day when roads will harness solar energy is drawing near

There are some 60 million kilometers (37.3 million miles) of roadways in the world, just sitting there. But adapting these surfaces to do anything besides passively carry traffic has proved difficult and prohibitively expensive.

However, an idea has gained traction in the last few years: embedding solar cells in roads. In 2014, an American couple launched the Solar Roadways project and collected more than $2 million on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Their effort, however, is much farther from reality than the Netherlands-based consortium SolaRoad, which has been operating a 70-meter (230-foot) cycle path that generates enough electricity for one or two households.

Read more on Quartz, published May 15, 2015.

Image by SolaRoad.

Most children are happy no matter what, but materialism catches up eventually

A new survey of 53,000 children across 15 countries reveals that children tend to be happy regardless of the context of their lives. From Nepal to Norway, children between the ages of 10 and 12 say that they are largely satisfied with their lives.

“Children tend to be more optimistic in life,” Elisabeth Backe-Hansen, the Norwegian lead researcher for the Children’s World Survey, told Quartz. Though not surprising, it is reassuring.

But material depravation eventually catches up. Find out how on Quartz, published May 16, 2015.

Image by Yansen Sugiarto under CC-BY-ND

This new synthetic material could get rid of that horrible airplane noise

While airplane noise may not have any long-term effect on a person’s hearing abilities, many find the experience unpleasant. And the reason some of us have to suffer through this is because planes are built to be light.

The ceilings and floors of airplanes use a honeycomb structure, which provides strength without adding much weight. Sadly, this structure is also very effective in letting sound through. So all the unwelcome sounds of jet engines and rotor blades get plugged right in to your ears.

There may now be a solution. Find out on Quartz, published April 28, 2015.

Image by Yun Jing.

The British seem to get less cancer but also survive less than Americans. Why?

In the UK, more than 330,000 cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2011. That compares favorably with the rate of cancer in the US—396 per 100,000 people in the UK vs. 451 per 100,000 in the US.

But even though people in England, where the UK’s largest population is, are less likely to get cancer, five years after diagnosis, only 56% of English cancer patients survive, compared to 65% of American patients.

Find out why on Quartz, published May 5, 2015.

Image by Sam Blackman under CC-BY license.

The US Army is serious about developing invisibility cloaks

Among the superpowers people want, a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak generally comes pretty high on the list. Now even the US Army wants one for its soldiers. They are looking for companies to make them such cloaks in the next 18 months.

Scientific progress has turned many fictions into fact, but true invisibility may be unattainable, Martin Wegener of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany told the New Scientist: “Complete invisibility of macroscopic objects for all visible colors is fundamentally impossible.”

So the army will have to settle for a more workable definition of invisibility instead—perhaps a cloak that remains invisible under certain types of light, for example, making the cloaked soldier appear to be a ghostly image.

Read more on Quartz, published May 8, 2015.

Image by US Army under CC-BY license.

If you are a mosquito magnet, it’s likely your kids will be too

As a kid growing up in India, I remember asking why I got bitten by mosquitoes more than others. To calm down my irritation, I was told that my “blood is sweeter than others.”

That may sound silly, but it’s not completely off-the-mark. Turns out, some people do get bitten more than others, and there are a number of factors that turn them into mosquito magnets.

Read more on Quartz, published May 6, 2015. Also published in Lokmat Times.

Image by khianti under CC-BY-SA license.

How Liberia finally got rid of Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the Ebola outbreak in Libera is over, which means there haven’t been any new cases for the past 42 days. But the country remains on high alert, as new Ebola cases are still being reported in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Stamping out an epidemic of a deadly infectious disease is a great achievement for any country. Liberia’s triumph is more remarkable still given the country’s poor access to healthcare.

Read more on Quartz, published May 9, 2015.

Image by European Commission under CC-BY-ND.