Nearly 200 films from 50 countries will be screened in Washington this month as part of the annual Environmental Film Festival. This year’s theme is rivers, those bodies of water that are simultaneously vital for human survival and vulnerable to human progress. “Lost Rivers” takes a look at hidden water networks that flow beneath major cities, while other films take viewers down the Rhine, Amazon, Lena and Yellowstone rivers. Other films include “Lunarcy!,” about people who are obsessed with the moon; “Age of Aluminum,” which explores the health and environmental effects of the metal; and “More Than Honey,” which looks at the collapse of bee colonies and possible solutions. The festival kicks off March 12 with a screening of “Hot Water,” a documentary about the toxic effects of uranium mining in the American West. Many of the screenings are free, and some of the films are also available for viewing online.
A yeti has been spotted roving the Antarctic ice sheet. It doesn’t much resemble the ferocious Abominable Snowman of Tibetan legend, nor the fuzzy white giant with razor-sharp teeth and blue face made famous in the claymation classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” This model rolls across the frozen landscape and, rather than pose a threat to humankind, is making Arctic and Antarctic explorations safer and less expensive. Yeti is a self-guided polar robot that uses ground-penetrating radar to map what lies beneath the ice — often, a crevasse waiting to claim lives and expensive equipment. Yeti’s radar can penetrate down about 15 yards into the ice. The March/April issue of the Journal of Field Robotics describes the vehicles and their deployments in northern Greenland and across 1,031 miles from McMurdo Station in Antarctica to the South Pole. Researchers plan to use the robot’s hazard-mapping abilities to develop algorithms for other machines operating in remote locales, but Yeti is proving useful in other ways as well. The robot was recently used to map ice caves on the slopes of Antarctica’s Mount Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano.