A new kind of sponge made of carbon nanotubes can soak up hundreds of times its weight and only grabs oil. The solution to cleaning up oil in the ocean might be the same as cleaning up a spill in your kitchen.
Projects that were designed to help us discover more about the universe often find uses outside the space program. This year, the newest examples are helping us save plane fuel, put out fires faster, and more.
Remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which poured hundreds of millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico in the spring and summer of 2010? It was hard to get a mental grip on the scope of the environmental degradation. Edward Burtynsky turned it into art. Chris Harmon turned it into an alternate-reality meditation on what we could have done with all that oil. And now Google has released a free 3D model of the wreckage of the oil platform itself, which currently lies moldering at the bottom of the Gulf. Out of sight, out of mind? Not anymore.