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Solar Impulse’s U.S. adventures, in photos

Solar Impulse, the world's most advanced solar aircraft, is trekking across the United States. It's already made it from the Bay Area to Phoenix, Ariz. Check out photos from its U.S. flights, and read more about the all-solar plane's journey.

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Solar plane crosses U.S., injects sexiness into the green conversation

Standing beside Solar Impulse -- the world’s most advanced solar aircraft -- in a hangar at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on a recent afternoon, Bertrand Piccard attempted to diagnose humankind’s biggest problem.

We are being bored to death, he opined.

“People talk about protecting the environment and it’s boring,” the 53-year-old Swiss aviator/psychiatrist said. Discussions about climate change are even worse. "Those," he added, "are boring and depressing."

Piccard’s prescription: Make environmentalism inspiring, exciting, and sexy. Not coincidentally, those adjectives are frequently used to describe Solar Impulse itself, the aircraft Piccard piloted 650 miles, from Mountain View, Calif., to Phoenix, Ariz., on May 3, the first of five legs in a coast-to-coast voyage.

Click for a slideshow of Solar Impulse's journey.
Solar Impulse / J. Revillard
Click for a slideshow of Solar Impulse's journey so far.

“We want to motivate people to be pioneers,” said Piccard, stressing the syllable with the intensity of a hypnotist (which he is). “We want to show solutions. To show hopes. We want to show what is possible.”

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The Prius C: Not a swan, but a damn fine duck

The Toyota Prius C.

Cross-posted from The Phoenix Sun.

It’s getting toward sunset and I’m lost, sitting behind the wheel of a cherry-red Prius C prototype, at the bottom of a very steep hill somewhere in the urban wilds of San Diego.

My driving partner, Melissa Hincha-Ownby, looks over and flashes a big grin. In addition to being an auto geek, the MNN blogger is also a mind reader. “Go for it!” she cries.

I do -- jamming the pedal to the metal.

Imagine the smell of burning rubber as we rocket up the hill, the acceleration slamming us back into our seats. Then get your imagination recalibrated.

Read more: Green Cars

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Solar power’s 'nasty little secret' isn’t nasty or secret

Is Burgess a whistle-blower or just a wily businessman?Photo: Steven DepoloCross-posted from The Phoenix Sun. The charges leveled by a solar industry insider recently were deadly serious. "Solar panels do not work that well ... and few know it," revealed Ray Burgess, president and CEO of Solar Power Technologies. Writing in AOL Energy on Oct. 7, Burgess appeared to be a reluctant or even heroic truth-teller, airing the solar industry's dirty laundry with the best of intentions. (Several times while reading the piece, Jerry McGuire's Mission Statement came to mind.) Burgess wrote that "if we who love solar and alternative …

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Will the Camry Hybrid help Toyota get its groove back?

The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid -- can it do magic?Photo: ToyotaThe last three years have been a nightmare for Toyota. A series of massive recalls involving 10 million vehicles, and the attendant bad press, undermined the Japanese automaker's defining trait: a reputation for reliability. Stiff competition from other automakers has eroded Toyota's American market share (from 14.3 percent in 2009 down to 12.8 percent in 2010). Then came the devastating March earthquake and tsunami that interrupted supply chains and slowed or halted much of Japan's manufacturing. Toyota production plummeted by 23 percent in the first half of 2011. Hemorrhaging from …

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Worried about radiation in breast milk? Still best to keep breast-feeding

How can we best protect the wee ones?For survivors of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, there have been so many concerns: access to clean water and food, the need for shelter, the threat of disease. It's the same awful list that accompanies natural disasters around the world -- but with one big difference. In Japan, survivors also face the ongoing threat of radiation released by six reactors at the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear power plant. Under circumstances still not fully understood, the cooling systems at Fukushima lost power after the earthquake and tsunami. Large amounts of radioactive materials were blown hundreds …

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Cloudy with a 99% Chance of No

Scoop: word analysis reveals GOP secret Senate strategy

Eat your heart out, Julian Assange. This is one document WikiLeaks doesn't have: a so-called "word cloud" produced by sophisticated word-frequency-analysis software, only available on the internets. High-ranking sources within an organization you'd recognize if you read its name provided the document below. Using the text of the combined floor speeches made by all Senate Republicans during the last session of the 111th Congress, the secret algorithm -- which gave added statistical weight to utterances by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Insufferable) -- positively correlates word frequency with font size. "By visually comparing words of differing sizes," explained a source with …

Read more: Politics

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They come by night -- bringing light

The solar ninja uprising

Solar ninja weapons.Photo: Osha Gray DavidsonAt precisely 5:30 Wednesday night, a dozen or so black-clad solar ninjas converged on booth 1239 toward the back of the cavernous exhibit hall in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Handing out small black flags and rolls of stickers reading "No on Prop 23!" Lynn Jurich, the mastermind behind what was about to go down, confessed her ambitious plan: "We want this to go viral," she said. "This guerrilla action is going to be just the first of many. The oil and gas industries are united. We need to be, too." "Right on!" cried one …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Reading Maritime

The best books about the deep blue sea, just in time for World Oceans Day

All reading lists are incomplete and arbitrary. This is especially true of a list limited to a dozen works about the ocean, the blue immensity that comprises 71 percent of our planet. So take this list with a grain of sea salt -- and suggest your own favorites in the comments section below. ----------------------------------------------- Log From the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck A nonfiction account of Steinbeck's voyage through the Gulf of California with his friend Ed Ricketts, who was the inspiration for the character "Doc" in Steinbeck's much better known novel Cannery Row.   ----------------------------------------------- Sea Change by …

Read more: Living

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Doubt on a limb

From tobacco to climate change, ‘merchants of doubt’ undermined the science

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world."-- Margaret Mead Because Americans are optimists we tend to see Mead's observation as upbeat and life-affirming (as it was probably intended). Blinkered by optimism, however, we miss the dark flip side of her observation -- that a few fanatics can do immense harm. In their sweeping and comprehensive new book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, historians Naomi Oreskes and Erick M. Conway document how a handful of right-wing ideologues -- all scientists -- …