Google Street View Cars Become Methane Gas Sniffers, Helping Governments Map the Issue

Plus, “Shazam for mosquitoes” could be invaluable in the fight against life-threatening diseases and how one university powered buildings with mayo.

by / June 2017
Colorado State University

Mapping Gas Leaks

A collaboration between environmentalists, scientists and Google is working to locate methane leaks and gauge their severity. Colorado State University researchers outfitted Google Street View cars with laser-based sensors that essentially turn the vehicles into methane gas sniffers. Funded by the Environmental Defense Fund, the cars have hit the streets of Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, mapping gas leaks as they traverse the cities. And last year, the cars mapped hundreds of miles of pipeline in New Jersey, helping the state’s largest utility devise a data-driven replacement plan that officials say will reduce overall methane emissions by 83 percent.

1,250 gallons

When 500 2.5-gallon containers of mayonnaise were compromised by freezing temperatures, staff at Michigan State University added the sandwich staple to the school’s anaerobic digester, which provides power to on-campus buildings. The condiment proved to be a good addition to the system, which thrives on foods high in sugars and fats.

Beyond the Buzz

The annoying buzz of a mosquito’s wings can reveal much more than alerting you that one happens to be flying nearby. Each of the 3,500 species of the insect has a distinctive pitch to its hum — and it’s possible for the insects to be classified from a cellphone recording of that noise. Traditionally traps are set in areas that are the most prone to mosquito-borne diseases and then they’re identified under a microscope. A low-cost, easy-to-use method for surveillance through a mobile-phone based system could lead to a global tracking solution that identifies the location of a malaria-carrying mosquito versus a Zika-carrying one. Called a “Shazam for mosquitoes” by The Atlantic, the tool could be invaluable in the fight against these life-threatening diseases.


The price a Russian hacker charged to send 1 million scam and phishing attack emails through the Kelihos network, which at times included more than 100,000 infected computers. U.S. authorities took down the botnet after hacker Peter Levashov was arrested April 14 in Spain. The network was made up of private computers operating on Windows that were infected with malware, giving Levashov the ability to control them remotely. He sold the network’s services to people who used it to send spam emails advertising fraud schemes like work-at-home scams, as well as stock market manipulation schemes. Levashov has been called “one of the longest operating criminal spam-lords on the Internet.”

See more features from the June 2017 issue.

Elaine Pittman Former Managing Editor

Elaine Pittman worked for Government Technology from 2008 to 2017.

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