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Topher White: Repurposing Cellphones to Defend the Rain Forest

His networks of solar-powered phones can detect the sounds of illegal logging

6 min read
Topher White: Repurposing Cellphones to Defend the Rain Forest
Photo: Gabriela Hasbun

Topher White halted as he drew near the illegal logging camp. He could hear the chain saw rumbling just over the hill, and he suddenly realized how completely cut off this patch of Sumatra's rain forest really was. For the first time he wondered whether his plan to protect the world's forests using discarded cellphones was perhaps a little foolhardy.

White is not a violent person. Tall and fit, he is more comfortable channeling his restless energy into problems involving equations and code. And yet here he was, on a path he'd started down in 2011. Back then, White and his girlfriend (who's now his wife) were volunteering at an ape sanctuary in Indonesian Borneo, when they stumbled upon loggers illegally cutting a tree into two-by-fours. “We had been walking just 5 minutes from the rangers' station, and yet you couldn't hear the chain saw," White recalls.

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Make IEEE Your Home Base

The association offers networking opportunities and professional development programs

3 min read
group of young people smiling at the camera

These IEEE members connected with each other at this year's IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in London.


The word home evokes a sense of belonging and welcoming. IEEE aims to create a similar feeling by offering services for members at every stage of their career and by building a community among them.

IEEE President and CEO K.J. Ray Liu is committed to making IEEE the professional home for members. As he announced in his March column in The Institute, he’s doing that by “examining ways in which the organization could evolve to best meet the needs of all technical professionals in the years ahead.”

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Home Heating With Hydrogen: Ill-Advised as It Sounds

Several studies reveal serious drawbacks

3 min read
Two white boilers mounted on a wood wall, with pipes and tubes.

An old central heating boiler [left] and a hydrogen boiler inside the Hydrogen Experience Center, in the Netherlands.

Sem van der Wal/ANP/Getty Images

Hydrogen, if it comes from splitting water with renewable electricity, has its role as a climate-friendly energy source. It could help decarbonize challenging sectors like heavy industry, shipping, and aviation.

But hydrogen makes absolutely no sense for heating homes and buildings, according to a new review of several international studies. It is simply much too expensive and inefficient for that purpose, says Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, an energy think tank in Brussels, who authored the commentary published in the journal Joule.

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This Gift Will Help Your Aspiring Engineer Learn Technology

Know someone that is hard to shop for? We have the perfect gift for you.

4 min read