Of the hundreds of stories I’ve written for newspapers, websites and magazines, here are some of my favorites.
Don’t stop here, though; some of the freshest stuff is at the ‘Innovate’ column in Sierra magazine and my blog on Forbes.
|October 23, 2012
Carlos F. Coimbra knew from the outset that he would have to crack the code of clouds. As an engineering professor new to the University of California’s campus in Merced, he led a successful drive to get 15 percent of the school’s power from an array of solar panels.
But clouds, wandering and capricious, had foiled his efforts on two occasions by casting sudden shadows, forcing the school to rely on conventional power instead. To neutralize the clouds, he would have to track them. Read more…
This story examines an offshoot of the grow-local movement in New York City: farming on rooftops. It goes past the gee-whiz novelty of rooftop farming and compares two models that are competing to feed the Big Apple. One is Brooklyn Grange, a quirky community farm that is seven stories up with soil six feet deep; the second is Gotham Greens, a hydroponic hothouse company that hopes to achieve economies of scale by keeping production high and the visitors out. Which will win? Read more…
It used to be that whenever you flew into a city and looked down, what you saw was a slate of hard, dark roofs soaking up heat and contributing to making the metropolis up to 22 degrees warmer than the countryside. But these days, here and there you can spy a patch of green amid the gray. Here are a few of the most extraordinary roofs blooming across North America. Read more…
|Feb. 15, 2012
Something is killing young salmon in the dams of the Pacific Northwest. Every spring, tens of millions of them swim through the hydroelectric dams of the Columbia River on their way to the ocean, and every year as many as 10 percent emerge bloodied or suffocated. For years, the exact cause remained elusive. Read more…
|Nov. 3, 2011
When early 20th century engineers designed America’s dams, they only imagined a few key uses like boat navigation, capturing water for crops, or creating a great place to catch bass. Nary a thought was given to how desperately future generations might need all the clean hydropower that dams are capable of producing. In fact, of the 80,000 dams in the country, only three percent currently create electricity. Read more…
|Aug. 5, 2011http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ferris/biofuel-plant-wants-to-ea_b_919575.html
A startup is proposing to take millions of gallons of grease from Washington D.C.’s restaurants and turn it into biofuel that would help run the region’s trucks and buses. Read more…
|March 15, 2011
I recently returned from India, where hundreds of millions of people — 45 percent of the rural population — live in villages with no electricity. Many of them are poor and live with the stubborn problems of illiteracy, malnutrition and hardship. Now, however, some development experts and entrepreneurs are beginning to consider these people “energy-poor,” and a world of difference resides in the distinction. Read more…
|Nov. 29, 2010 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ferris/chu-will-america-miss-its_b_789470.html
America is at a “Sputnik moment,” Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said today, and the government’s next moves will determine whether the country leads the global clean-tech race or loses it to China. Read more…
|Dec. 2009 / Jan. 2010
For this assignment, I took on five aggressive martial arts in order to answer one question: If you want to get fit, which martial art is best?
I took classes and one-on-one instruction in Mixed Martial Arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Karate and Krav Maga, with a little Tae Kwon Do for good measure. My personal all-around favorite was Muay Thai, though each art had its own allure. Read more…
|July 15, 2009
YEARS AGO, ONLY trespassers knew the secret of the High Line in New York City. They would steal onto the abandoned viaduct and find something New Yorkers on the street below couldn’t imagine: a wilderness of horsemint and cherry trees hanging among the skyscrapers. Read more…
Captain Charles Moore drives along a concrete channel in Long Beach, California, keeping an eye out for floating trash and chatting up a reporter–yet another one–who wants to know how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch came to be. Moore scans the green water. “Here,” he says, pulling his Toyota Prius onto the shoulder and silencing the reggae on the stereo. Moore, 62, squirms like a teenager through a gap in the chain-link fence and leads the way down the channel bank to where a five-foot-thick crescent of trash has come to rest. Read more…
A convict digs his way out of a prison yard using a “locally sourced” lunch tray; another has “recycled” a toothbrush into a shiv. The ad for Discovery Channel’s new 24-7 eco-living television network offers the tagline “Do time with Planet Green.” Those of you who killed your television years ago may not have noticed, but a green TV wave is crashing over U.S. viewers.
In Meatpaper you learn exactly how Oaxacans consume a goat. They buy it at the market (“a calm animal tastes better”), simmer its jugular blood, and wrap the flesh in maguey leaves before roasting it in the ground. You may find this fascinating or horrifying. The editors of this new quarterly are fine with either reaction.
|December 15, 2007
On a recent Wednesday night the crowd spilled out the door at San Francisco’s Axis Café, where the draw wasn’t a hot band or a talented bartender, but a lecture. On physics.
IN THE MIDST OF A SWIRLING SNOWSTORM at 14,000 feet on Mt. Aconcagua, Argentina, my climbing party encounters the first outpost of penitentes. Jagged and fluted, with sharp and narrow peaks, these formations emerge like a little Manhattan of ice, with skyscrapers as tall as our heads.
|December 21, 2006
I climbed my first Mexican volcano behind Rich, a man with legs so pale I needed sunglasses. Everyone in our party wore long johns, but Rich wore shorts, cotton shorts, and every mountaineer knows that cotton can kill you if the weather gets wet and cold. But Rich didn’t know, or didn’t care. When I look back at the misfortunes that befell that man, I have to wonder why, when we stumble into the unknown, things go right for some and so wrong for others.
Mountain Bikes for Beginners (Camping Life)
If you’re interested in getting in on the fun and excitement of two-wheeled backcountry travel but don’t know where to start, here’s a primer on pedal-powered dirt bikes for the entire family.
|December 17, 2001
Remember when the webcam was all about fun and novelty? College dorm rooms, the panda at the zoo, a nightclub in Majorca … forget about it. Today in America, a webcam needs to pay its way. Today in America, homeland security has become top priority. Combine the profit motive with a national case of the jitters, and one finds a compelling new market for streaming: the surveillance webcam. Soon it will be pointing at you in the convenience store, the school hallway, the counter at the taqueria, the office front door, and, of course, the airport.
|November 26, 2001
It’s time for Steve Craig’s 3:30 appointment with his new doctor. An assistant ushers Craig into a treatment room and gestures to one corner. “And this is Dr. Prescott,” the assistant says. Dr. Pamela Prescott smiles warmly. She is seated in a room at the UC Davis Health System in Sacramento, Calif. Craig, however, is 31 miles away in the town of Auburn, and he sees Prescott’s glasses and white coat on a 17-inch computer monitor that’s propped against the wall. From Craig’s point of view, his new doctor is about the size of a coffee mug. Technology is changing medicine in a thousand ways, but few are poised to transform healthcare delivery like the phenomenon of patients and caregivers talking face-to-face, though geographically distant.
|June 25, 2001
When Sanger Robinson and two friends arrived at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival with a camera and microphone, their chances of making a splash in online entertainment seemed remote indeed. They had to beg for interviews with stars like Matthew Broderick, which they hoped to stream at their just-launched Web site, Netbroadcaster.com. At the time, most of the online buzz at Sundance was about entertainment sites with deep pockets and big plans. “We felt like schmucks,” Robinson recalls. “We were sleeping on a friend’s floor.” Now in 2001, most of those big-name sites — you know who they are — have either died very public deaths or burned through their coffers and gone quietly into the night. But Netbroadcaster, a compendium of streaming entertainment video, is thriving.
|June 1, 2001
In the comic strip FoxTrot, tech-savvy Jason Fox has nothing but scorn for the iFruit, a colorful (and fictional) computer that bears a striking resemblance to some high-profile Apple hardware you might recognize. Fortunately, Jason’s creator, Bill Amend, doesn’t share that disdain — the cartoonist loves his Mac so much, he uses it to produce the strip, which appears in roughly 1,000 newspapers.
|September 1, 2000
We talked to Thomas Dolby — music pioneer, Beatnik.com founder, and Mac enthusiast — to see what the future holds.
|August 2, 2000
We asked Roger Ebert–a staunch Mac user and the influential reviewer of Chicago Sun-Times and Roger Ebert & the Movies fame–about the future of digital and desktop movies and the role they’ll play in your life.
|May 1, 2000
“This Napster thing came completely out of nowhere. We were recording a song for the “Mission: Impossible 2″ soundtrack, and we got word that there were five or six versions — works-in-progress — playing on radio stations, and we weren’t even finished with it. The upside [of the Internet] is that everybody can get ahold of somebody in a f—ing nanosecond. The downside is there are people who are in charge of things from a creative point of view who aren’t done with it yet.”
|January 23, 2000
Man Puts Feet, Arms, Pedals to the Metal (Contra Costa Times)
It is deep inside mile 20 of the bike leg, just as the pain is hitting me hard, that Orchid Girl makes her move.
|October 14, 1999
Feds Hunt Richmond Graft (West County Times)
Scores of FBI agents swept through the city’s highest political circles early Wednesday, interviewing power brokers, politicians and campaign contributors in a far-reaching probe of possible corruption dating back at least eight years.
||August 28, 1997
Mental Patient’s Confession in Slaying Ignored (The Argus)
David Maxwell Panick called 911 to report he had killed his roommate, but no one came.
|May 18, 1997
Fremont Man Jailed for Slavery (The Argus)
A Fremont man was sentenced Friday to a charge never before made in Alameda County, and only rarely in the state of California: slavery.
|December 31, 1996
Siren Yelp Saves Lives (The Argus)
Three Union City residents owe their lives to quick thinking by Officer Ken Holbrook, who used his siren to rouse and his car to rescue them from their burning fourplex early Monday morning.
|November 1, 1994
Sweet Skulls of Death (Streetwise)
Joaquin Gomez stands patiently by his sugar pots, waiting until the brew is hot enough to make his skulls.