12/31/06 - ISU's formula is Invention + Patent = Money
Among the hundreds of patents held by the Iowa State University Research Foundation, the foundation first patented Anderson's lead-free solder in 1996, and repatented it in 2001, the licensing rights from sales have brought in more than $10 million to the foundation, said Kenneth Kirkland, executive director of the foundation. Only two ISU inventions have brought in more money to the foundation, Kirkland said. One involved the fax machine. In 1973, David Nicholas, an electrical engineering graduate student at ISU, invented a way to compress data that made the fax machine what it is today. That patent brought in $36 million in royalty income before the agreements expired in 1997. The No. 2 moneymaker involves the inventions of ISU chemistry professor Edward Yeung. His work resulted in the creation of a company called CombiSep. The business makes machines that use high-voltage and ultraviolet light to quickly identify the chemical composition and properties of samples created by drug and biotechnology companies. All together, the ISU Research Foundation has 355 active patents in its portfolio. The foundation's annual income from royalties can vary widely, Kirkland said. In the most recent five years, it has been as high as $10.9 million and as low as $2.1 million. For the fiscal year ended last June 30, it was $7.2 million. Today, Iowa State's research arm consistently ranks as one of the top research foundations in the country, in terms of numbers of patents issued and the amount of money brought in from licensing and option fees from those patents. The foundation applies for an average of just over 50 patents a year and splits the royalties from license and option agreements as follows: After expenses, one-third goes to the ISU employee who discovered the invention, one-third goes to the employee's department, one-third goes to the foundation. "The more inventions we receive, the more potential we have that something will license out," Kirkland said, and make it big, like lead-free solder. / The Vanguard Sciences Lab Project
12/31/06 - Power Generating Tires
Method for the production of electrical energy utilizing the vibration of vehicle tires. A circular mat with imbedded induction coils is attached to the inside of the tire or outside of the inner wheel. Each induction unit (coil) is made up of three neodymium magnets in a guide tube with the middle magnet suspended by magnetic levitation then surrounded by a coil perpendicular to the tread of the tire. This coil arrangement is connected in either series or parallel dependent on the application. Theory: Road vibrations excite each inductor creating electrical energy. This energy can then be rectified and used to supplement charging of hybrid of fully electric vehicles. This system utilizes the previously wasted energy through vibrations in the tires, wheels and suspension components for power generation.
12/31/06 - DIY centrifuge weapon from 1963 Popular Mechanics
This silent shooter is based on the oldest ballistic principle on record - the one that helped David clobber Goliath with a sling: pick up a missle, spin it to gather force, then let go. WHAM! It will shoot a BB 25 or 30 feet at a muzzle velocity of around 25 feet per second. This may set you thinking of the potential of a centrifugal gun whirled by a gas turbine at, say, 20,000RPM. With an effective swing radius of about 6 inches, you'd get a muzzle velocity of over 5000 feet per second (FPS) - better than a high powered rifle! The spin mechanism is simple and cheap to build. The toy motor is mounted by soldering lugs or bushing (or both) into a hole in the bottom of a cellophane-tape can. The rotor that's spun by the motor shaft consists of a base plate to which is soldered a short tube, bent and slotted to allow free passage of the BB shot. This unit must turn without binding; the pickup spike must pass freely through the end slot. Bevel the opposite end of the tube flush with the top of the can cover. The end of the magazine tube is undercut and bent so the dropping BB enters cleanly into the whirling pickup tube. A large paper clip provides wire for the trigger. Pulling back on it releases one shot while blocking the others. This lets the rotor recover its speed between shots. The recessed target keeps BBS from rolling all over the house and collects them for quick reloading of the magazine. / Pneumatic BB Launcher - The spudsonfire design uses a 'vortex block' to guide the BB's into the barrel by means of the venturi effect. A continuous and plentiful supply of air at 40 PSI of higher is required and the rate of air consumption is quite high.
12/31/06 - Parasites Make Us Dumber or Sexier
"It has long been known that the Toxoplasma gondii parasite alters its host's behavior, but now it seems the way it alters it depends on the sex of the host. From the article: 'A common parasite can increase a women's attractiveness to the opposite sex but also make men more stupid, an Australian researcher says ... Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women. On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls.'"
12/31/06 - Researchers Offer New Analysis on Invisibility Cloaking
(Thanks to Bob Paddock for the headsup on this. - JWD) As reported earlier in Interference Technology’s eNews, David R. Smith a physicist and researcher at Duke University led a team that used a circular cloaking device to bend microwaves around a copper disk making the disk appear invisible. Everything seemed fine when they applied the Helmholtz equation, but problems were encountered when they used Maxwell’s equations, which take the polarization of electromagnetic waves into account. According to Maxwell’s equations, a simple copper disk such as the one Smith used could be cloaked without a problem, but anything that emitted electromagnetic waves would cause the behavior of the cloaking to go seriously awry. In one surprising analysis, Greenleaf’s team concluded that anyone looking out of the cloak would be faced with a mirror in every direction. The researchers also looked at a “blow up" (an unexpected infinite behavior) of the electromagnetic fields they encountered when using Maxwell’s equations.
12/31/06 - Abandoned Software
A treasure trove of old software can be found at VetusWare.com and it's all free. They call it "Abandon Ware," because the producers have either gone out of business or given up supporting it. Much of it is for DOS, though there are are quite a few programs designed to run on early versions of Windows. Abandoned they may be, but there are some real jewels in here. We saw XyWrite, probably the best word processor ever made for desktop computers, and WordPerfect 5.1. This version was so stable and richly featured that it almost put the company out of business. After all, what can you sell to customers who already had the perfect product? We found AmiPro, dBaseIV, and Electronic Arts' wonderful graphics program: "Deluxe Paint." VetusWare also has operating systems for download, so you can put together a computer loaded with some of the best software ever written.
12/31/06 - French Space Agency to put its UFO files online
The archive, which contains around 1600 incidents, will go online in January or February. The identity of those who reported the incidents will be protected for privacy reasons. In May this year, a UFO study, published by the British government, has concluded there is no proof that alien life forms exist. The 400-page report -- "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the U.K." -- was kept secret for six years and was made public only through a Freedom of Information Act from Sheffield Hallam University. The report's unidentified author or authors say they failed to find evidence to support the existence of unidentified flying objects, BBC has informed at the time. The report explains UFO sightings by people in Britain and around the world are the result of "physical, electrical and magnetic phenomena in the atmosphere, mesosphere and ionosphere."
12/31/06 - Fidget Bags - sensory stimulus for the elderly
Unlike the muffs that covered the hands of the elegantly dressed women and girls until well into the 20th century, this one had therapeutic accessories -- such as a stress ball, a strand of ribbons, wooden beads and a satin pocket. Now, the muffs have brand names: TwiddleMuff and the stuffed-animal version, TwiddleCat. Irving's neighbor, Margaret Light, left her human-resources job in May to sell her creations full-time and form her own company, BeauLily, with two other former colleagues. The muffs fill a need for sensory stimulation at a time in life when the senses of hearing and sight aren't as sharp, the company that makes them says. St. Patrick's Residence in Naperville bought two. Each week day at St. Patrick's, group activities are dedicated to a different sense: sight on Mondays, sound on Tuesdays, and so on. To reach the residents' sense of smell, they might bake bread. To appeal to hearing, they might sing old songs. Touch becomes especially keen as other faculties fail, said St. Patrick's Activities Director Patrick Wilkins. By engaging people's senses, he engages their minds, he said. Memories trigger. Conversations start.
12/31/06 - Magnet Therapy Proves Effective ... in Attracting Your Money
Here's a little tip to save you a bundle: Buy a 50-cent refrigerator magnet and glue it to a piece of cloth. This is guaranteed to be as effective in relieving pain as a slick $50 magnet-therapy product. That is, it won't be effective at all. Magnet therapy refers to healing with static magnets, the kind of basic magnet commonly found holding up notes and crayon artwork on a refrigerator. Products include magnetic belts, mattress pads, bracelets, bandages and shoe inserts. It's a $5 billion worldwide business, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Most commercial magnet therapy products are no stronger than a refrigerator magnet, at about 50 gauss. If you're willing to shell out $15 for magnetic shoe inserts, you can try this little test: You'll see that the insole will attract a paperclip. Now cover it with a sock. Hold the insole vertically and you might see the paperclip just barely clinging. Now add about a dozen sheets of paper to simulate the thickness of skin. Not a chance. Commercial magnets typically are not strong enough to penetrate their casing (foam or cloth) and our casing (skin) to have any effect on things they can't affect anyway, like blood. Some manufactures are now offering magnets as strong as 200 gauss to ease this criticism. This change would imply that the stronger magnets are, say, four times more effective at treating pain than weaker magnets, which is yet one more aspect of magnet therapy that hasn't been proven. But as long as the magnet makers are attracting your money, they aren't too concerned.
12/31/06 - Global Warming indications Silenced
It's with this in mind that I pass another another bit of "trend is your friend" news. This time it's about a giant ice shelf collapsing in the Arctic. About 40-square miles of ice according to one report. While you and I could argue till the cows come home about what portion - if any - is attributable to human-caused global warming, and what portion is caused by solar system wide events, in the end it won't matter. USGS a long time ago reported that if most of the glacial ice presently on land melted, sea level would rise more than 250 feet. Not surprisingly, government you'll recall recently cracked down on USGS talking without "official" sanction. Care to connect the dots? Must be getting closer, faster. I won't bore you with a long discussion of timeframes. The National Geographic web site reassuringly reported recently that one scientist figures the increase will be only 20-55 inches higher than they are now - 4 1/2 - feet. Not as reassuring: This is a global tipping point and no one was around for the last "tip."
12/31/06 - FDA Decides Cloned Animals Safe to Eat
"After five years of research, the Food and Drug Administration has decided that meat and milk from cloned animals is safe to eat. From the article: 'The government believes meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day, said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. Meat and milk from the offspring of clones is also safe, the agency concluded. Officials said they did not have enough information to decide whether food from sheep clones is safe. If food from clones is indistinguishable, FDA doesn't have the authority to require labels, Sundlof said. Companies trying to distance themselves from cloning must be careful with their wording, he added.'"
12/31/06 - Bug Killer
Sardarji wanted to make money. After days of thinking he got an excellent idea. He invented a machine to destroy the insects. He put the Ad-on news papers: New invention, you can destroy moths, flies, roaches, insects etc. Send the money and you will get the machine by UPS. Money starts pouring in. Within weeks time many got the heavy package. People opened the package there were two stones. One is large and the other small. Instruction said: Catch the insect keep it on the large stone and hit with the small stone.
12/30/06 - The Snake-Based Earthquake-Detection System
Drawing on a combination of natural instinct and modern technology, the earthquake bureau in Nanning, the capital of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, has developed a snake-based earthquake-detection system. Experts at the bureau monitor nests of snakes at local snake farms via video cameras linked to a broadband Internet connection. The video feed runs 24 hours per day. "Of all the creatures on the earth, snakes are perhaps the most sensitive to earthquakes," Jiang Weisong, director of the bureau, told China Daily. Jiang said snakes could sense a coming earthquake from 120 kilometres away, three to five days before it actually happens. They respond by behaving erratically. "When an earthquake is about to occur, snakes will move out of their nests, even in the cold of winter," Jiang said. "If the earthquake is a big one, the snakes will even smash into walls while trying to escape." Jiang said other animals like dogs and chickens also behave abnormally when an earthquake is about to happen.
12/30/06 - Idea Mining
Today, hundreds of entities handle tech transfer, including private companies, universities and government agencies. The Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center in Wheeling, W.Va., was chartered in 1989 to act as a clearinghouse for the world of available technologies. It's a good place to start for companies interested in pursuing tech transfers. Another good place to look is the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer. In most cases, the originator of the research or invention foots the center's bill, so there's no initial finder's fee incurred by tech transfer recipients, who usually pay annual royalties to license inventions. Tech transfers enable smaller companies to get the benefits of a huge R&D department without actually having one.
12/30/06 - Talking with Plants
Through the voice of a small doll, the device will share what the plant is supposedly 'thinking' when a person strokes it. The "Hanakotoba", or "Communication Flower", consists of a small rod topped with a fairy figurine that can be put inside a potted plant or vase of water. When the owner touches the stem or leaves, a small electric current passes from the rod through a wire to a small doll. The Hanakotoba was meant to tap a female market. "This toy doesn't use a single dirty or aggressive word, unlike Bowlingual," he said. But the plant can still become angry. If the device senses there is insufficient water, the doll says in a shrill voice: "Come on, what are you looking at? Give me more water!"
12/30/06 - Diehard - Program Prevents Crashes and Hacker Attacks
(The site says it works on WIN but I downloaded and it said can't install for win9x such as my winME, so guess its only for XP and Linus. - JWD) Today’s computers have more than 2,000 times as much memory as the machines of yesteryear, yet programmers are still writing code as if memory is in short supply. Not only does this make programs crash annoyingly, but it also can make users vulnerable to hacker attacks. With such problems in mind, Berger created a new program that prevents crashing and makes users safer, he says. Dubbed DieHard, there are versions for programs that run in Windows or Linux. DieHard is available free for non-commercial users at Diehard. DieHard presents several remedies to such problems. First, it takes a compact row of memory buildings and spreads them around in the landscape. It also randomly assigns addresses-a password that has a downtown address in one session may be in the suburbs next time around. And in some versions of the program, DieHard will secretly launch two additional versions of the program the user is running-if a program starts to crash, that buggy version gets shut down and one of the other two is selected to remain open. DieHard can also tell a user the likelihood that they’ll have been affected by a particular bug. These problems wouldn’t arise if programmers were a little less focused on speed and efficiency, which is rarely a problem these days, and more attentive to security issues, says Berger.
12/30/06 - Ancient herbal text leads to potential new anti-bacterial drug
Extracts from the Atun tree effectively control bacteria that can cause diarrhea, as claimed by naturalist Georg Eberhard Rumpf, circa 1650. "Natural products are invaluable sources of healing agents -- consider, for example, that aspirin derived originally from willow bark, and the molecular basis of the anti-cancer chemotherapeutic agent TaxolTM was derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree. So it's not so far-fetched to think that the contributions of an ancient text and insights from traditional medicine really may impact modern public health," explains Brent Bauer, M.D. Rumphius' description of Atun kernels' therapeutic properties is what modern medicine calls "antimotility agents," they stop diarrhea. Writes Rumphius: "... these same kernels ... will halt all kinds of diarrhea, but very suddenly, forcefully and powerfully, so that one should use them with care in dysentery cases, because that illness or affliction should not be halted too quickly; and some considered this medicament a great secret, and relied on it completely."
12/30/06 - Paying Attention Sets Off Symphony of Cell Synchronization
A Northwestern University shows how sustained attention literally makes the world come into sharper focus. Not only do brain cells respond more strongly to stimuli. They also synchronize as if to the cues of a symphony conductor stepping in to control a large set of unruly musicians so that they all play together. Each participant in the study wore a cap with 64 electrodes to record their brain waves. The brain waves fluctuated in sync with flickering stimuli that appeared on a computer screen. At any given time, two target patterns were shown, but subjects were told to pay attention to one and ignore the other. Sometimes the target patterns were fairly dim. At other times they were quite bright. EEG responses from the participants showed more brain activity for brighter stimuli, as expected, but responses also varied depending on attention. The patterns of these brain waves allowed the investigators to obtain a thorough description of how attention altered neural function. “For dynamic stimuli at the focus of attention, the timing of brain activity became more precisely synchronized with the flickering," said Satoru Suzuki, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern and co-author of the study. The results suggest that attention can make a stimulus stand out by making brain responses to the stimulus more coherent. “This doesn't change the stimulus but can make it more effective for guiding our behavior," Grabowecky said.
12/30/06 - 'Virtual power station' ready for June launch
FLEXITRICITY, a "virtual power station" service developed to make better use of idle emergency generators, will launch next June with enough capacity to power up to 5,000 homes. Run by Edinburgh-based Martin Energy, the service will use the electricity capacity of hundreds of diesel generators at factories and depots across the UK, at times when the national grid is not able to satisfy the UK's energy demand. Managing director Alistair Martin said yesterday the company would go live with enough generators on line to add more than 3 megawatts to the national grid at times of extraordinary demand or production loss. The national grid is obliged to have contingencies for underestimating energy consumption or the loss of a major generator. While running large numbers of diesel generators for long periods is not an environmentally friendly, the system reduces the need for large scale projects to provide extra capacity. Martin said the spare generators could be remotely started within minutes, selling the emergency capacity to the grid at premium price. The company estimates the capacity could be called online 70-80 times a year, for as little as a few minutes at a time. A large depot could expect to earn up to £50,000 a year for signing up to the service, he said.
12/30/06 - Wind energy turns out to have a complication: reliability
Wind, almost everybody's best hope for big supplies of clean, affordable electricity, is turning out to have complications. Engineers have cut the cost of electricity derived from wind by about 80 percent in the last 20 years, setting up this renewable technology for a major share of the electricity market. But for all its promise, wind also generates a big problem: Because it is unpredictable and often fails to blow when electricity is most needed, wind is not reliable enough to assure supplies for an electricity grid that must be prepared to deliver power to everybody who wants it - even when it is in greatest demand. In Texas, and most of the United States, the hottest days are the least windy. Without major advances in ways to store large quantities of electricity or big changes in the way regional power grids are organized, wind may run up against its practical limits sooner than expected.
12/30/06 - $160 Universal Ripper, copy any audio or video
Hammacher Schlemmer is hawking a new universal iPOD RIPPER that "converts any type of video or audio, including cassette tapes, vinyl records, television shows, and VHS tapes" and puts it on your iPod -- no PC or Mac required. It comes with all the RCA, S-Video and other cables you need. This device, the first of its kind, converts any type of video or audio, including cassette tapes, vinyl records, television shows, and VHS tapes, directly to an iPod at the touch of a button. The device allows you to preserve your audio and video memories without having to rely on a conversion service or risk long-term damage to the original medium, and no computer or special software is required. The converter plugs into any audio or video device equipped with RCA connections and S-Video (standard on nearly all A/V components) with its included audio/video cables. Simply push the record button, and content is converted to digital MP3 (audio) or MPEG4 (video) format, three hours of 320 x 240 resolution video content takes up approximately 1 GB, and is stored immediately onto an iPod (video iPod required for video content). Data can also be uploaded to a USB flash drive or USB hard drive plugged into the converters USB port; it automatically detects if it has attached an iPod or USB key. Plugs into AC.
12/30/06 - How coal may soon be keeping jets in air
The planes of the future could be flown with liquid fuel made from coal or natural gas. Already the United States Air Force has carried out tests flying a B-52 Stratofor-tress with a coal-based fuel. And JetBlue Airways is supporting a bill in the US Congress that would extend tax credits for alternative fuels, pushing technology to produce jet fuel for the equivalent of $40 (£20.50) a barrel - way below current oil prices. Coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuel is already in use elsewhere, like South Africa, where it meets 30 per cent of transportation fuel needs. In addition to being cheaper than oil, advocates point out that the fuel is environmentally friendlier and would also help America and much of the Western world wean itself off foreign oil imports. "America must reduce its dependence on foreign oil via environmentally sound and proven coal-to-liquid technologies," said JetBlue's founder and chief executive, David Neeleman. "Utilizing our domestic coal reserves is the right way to achieve energy independence." Peabody Energy chief executive Gregory Boyce said of CTL: "Stay tuned, as the sector continues to evolve. "I have heard reports that China can produce oil for $25 per barrel from coal. "We see it more in the $45 range here."
12/30/06 - Use a 9-volt battery as emergency AAAs
If you ever find yourself in a pinch for 1.5vdc batteries, here is an easy hack to temporarily resolve your problem. Armed with a pair of needlenose pliers, you peel open the 9-volt's metal casing. Inside you'll find half a dozen 1.5-volt batteries. Separate the cells and you should be able to use them in place of AAAAs since the length will be the same, though they will be a lot slimmer and not last as long.
12/30/06 - OneDOJ to Offer National Criminal Database to Law Enforcement
"The Washington Post is reporting that the Justice Department is building a massive database, known as 'OneDOJ'. The system allows state and local police officers around the country to search millions of case files from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies. The system already holds approximately 1 million case records and is projected to triple in size over the next three years. The files include investigative reports, criminal-history information, details of offenses, and the names, addresses and other information of criminal suspects or targets. From the article: 'Civil-liberties and privacy advocates say the scale and contents of such a database raise immediate privacy and civil rights concerns, in part because tens of thousands of local police officers could gain access to personal details about people who have not been arrested or charged with crimes. The little-noticed program has been coming together over the past year and a half. It already is in use in pilot projects with local police in Seattle, San Diego and a handful of other areas, officials said.'"
12/29/06 - 2 Stage O/U Mechanical Oscillator up to 12 times more out than in
(Thanks to Robert Nelson of Rex Research for the headsup on this. - JWD) New and technically original idea - hand water pump with a pendulum - provides alleviation of work, because it is enough to move the pendulum occasionally with a little finger to pump the water, instead of large swings. Using the minimum of human strength in comparison to present classic hand water pumps enables efficient application in irrigation of smaller lots, for water-wells and extinguishing fires even by old people and children, which was proved by a large number of interested future consumers during the presentations. During the last few years, Veljko Milkovic did several measurings, which showed the energetic excess, 12 times larger than the input. That means that two-stage oscillations provide around 12 times more than the input. / This inertial drive cart contains everything an anti-gravitational motor needs. As with other models made by Milkovic, there is an inertial force pushing them in one direction. The main part of the model is a physical pendulum which is askew and is moved by gravity. Gravitational field should be replaced with a magnetic field, to enhance the efficiency of the model. Milkovic made a model with two askew pendulums, which oscillate with phases positioned towards one another at an angle of 180°.
12/29/06 - Kite Power
Research and development director Massimo Ippolito, a keen kite surfer and hang glider, spells it out: "Two ribbons of wind completely encircle the Earth; the one in the southern hemisphere is at the latitude of Tierra del Fuego, and the other passes through Europe and the Northern United States." "The altitude of this ribbon goes from 500m to 10 000m, and its breadth from 4000km to 5000km. The power of this wind averages 2 kW per square metre, from which you can deduce that the wind passing over Europe has the force of 100 000 nuclear plants. This enormous renewable energy source prompted us to consider how a series of kites could entrap and exploit it." Enter the Kite Wind Generator (KiteGen) - likened by Wired writer Nicole Martinelli to a "backyard drying rack on steroids". Sequoia prefer to compare their concept to a giant carousel. Anchored solidly to the ground, it's activated by the wind itself, which drags the light and ultra-tough kites out of funnels within the arms and propels them 1000m or more into the sky. The rotating central structure contains automatic winches that release pairs of cables to guide the kites.
As they circle in the air, the vertical rotating axis of the structure activates very large alternators that are geared down to handle the extraordinary force exerted on them. Sequoia estimate that their Kite Wind Generator, working night and day, could produce up to 1 gigawatt of power at a cost of just €1.5 per megawatt hour, or just a fraction of the cost of conventional power in Europe. But it doesn't stop there. A scaled-up version of the KiteGen design, spanning all of 2000m, could theoretically generate 5 gigawatts of energy.
12/29/06 - Tech firm pushes 'free energy' claims
The Dublin-based engineering company Steorn claims it has created a perpetual motion machine that uses a series of weights and magnets to generate "free energy". The system is claimed to break the laws of physics by producing more power than it consumes, and could potentially lead to the development of everlasting batteries. Sean McCarthy, the chief executive of Steorn, told an audience in London that the company had already produced a prototype which ran independently for four weeks. He also claimed to have built another motor using the system which could produce enough energy to power a Porsche car. But despite its assertions, the company has refused to publicly display its technology, and the science community has yet to be convinced by Mr McCarthy's declaration. Many engineers and academics instead believe the claims are part of an elaborate marketing ploy. A panel, whittled down to 12 successful applicants, will begin its examination in the new year and Mr McCarthy said he expected them to report their findings by autumn 2007.
12/29/06 - Time to Decentralize the Power Grid
Rather than look for scapegoats, we would like to propose a positive remedy that could ease the suffering in the event of a future natural or manmade disaster. The solution can be summarized in a word: decentralization. We are currently dependent on a central grid that provides electrical service to one and all. This results in a needless vulnerability that could be greatly ameliorated by smart planning. Since the centrally linked power grid is truthfully our country's secret Achilles' heel, we ought to be thinking more about providing alternate power options and ensuring redundancy for emergencies. The free market alone will not do the job, because it doesn't seem to be in people's private interest to prepare for what probably is not going to affect individuals for long durations. A power outage is an inconvenience, but so is installing a $2,500 generator and learning how to use it. One puts off that sort of thing. Any given community or state, and the country as a whole, needs backup-energy plans. They should provide for energy sources that do not collapse when the normal power grid goes down. In Florida, the state now requires filling stations to have generators. People can then purchase gas products after a hurricane even if the power remains down. Maybe all it would take is a device that would simply provide the small amount of electric power an oil or gas furnace needs to keep going after an emergency. Surely such an invention should come with every new furnace and be available for relatively inexpensive retrofits. Granted, the central grid is a marvel and usually serves us in wondrous ways we don't even notice. The people who operate it deserve appreciation, especially the often-heroic workers called to make repairs after disasters. But we need backup - for individual households, communities, and the whole country.
12/29/06 - IEEE Fellows Give Thumbs Down to Space Elevator
(Finally, people are realizing how STUPID and costly this idea is. Better to use the money on learning to attenuate gravity..it WILL be done eventually to the total astonishment of many, including me having dreams of personal flight using gravity control since the age of 11... - JWD) So will U.S. citizens be shuttled to one of many space elevators in their autonomous, self-driving automobiles in 2025? Apparently not, according to the more than 700 IEEE fellows surveyed. And those weren't the only bubbles the fellows burst, either. Everything from robotic nurses to commercial quantum computing were deemed as "highly unlikely" to appear in the next 50 years.
12/29/06 - Biting the Bullet for Clean Energy
Australian Minister Ian Macfarlane warned consumers electric bills may be increased. I don't think the consumers fully understand the price tag associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions, he told Courier-Mail in an interview. The average customer in Queensland pays between $1300 and $1400 per year. However, the increase Macfarlane expects would increase yearly bills by $500, reported the Daily Telegraph. Macfarlane maintains that to cut emissions from burning coal, Queensland's main source of energy, the production cost would increase from about $35 to nearly $60. Most lawmakers agree with the high target but even heavily subsidized it is still four to five times more expensive than coal or wind energy. While the energy source is free, converting that to electricity is expensive, Macfarlane said, while speaking about solar energy. Solar is too expensive, nuclear has been viewed as too dangerous, but spokesman Kim Carr said that the longer the government waits for a solution, the more money it will cost.
12/29/06 - Euro notes cash in to overtake dollar
The US dollar bill’s standing as the world’s favourite form of cash is being usurped by the five-year-old euro. The value of euro notes in circulation is this month likely to exceed the value of circulating dollar notes, according to calculations by the Financial Times. Converted at Wednesday’s exchange rates, the euro took the lead in October. Although the ECB does not deliberately promote the international use of the euro, it has become popular in official foreign exchange reserves - even if it is far from challenging the dollar’s lead as the most popular reserve currency. Since October the euro has risen strongly against the dollar and this month the value of euro notes has risen to more than €610bn, or in excess of $800bn at the latest exchange rates. / ...More... - The popularity of high-value euro notes might result from their use by criminals, although the ECB does not put too much weight on such factors. “Clearly cash is used by criminals because it is an anonymous instrument," adds Mr Heinonen. “But to say that it would be more difficult to commit a crime if we didn’t have high denomination notes would be to confuse cause and effect. If we didn’t have the higher denominations, criminals would use the lower denominations - or other global currencies, such as the US dollar or Swiss franc." The overseas demand for euro notes is clearer to see. Tourists travelling outside the eurozone are likely to have taken euro notes with them and not brought so many back. The notes have also become popular in European Union member states that hope to one day to join the eurozone. Kosovo and Montenegro have adopted the euro as their national currency, even though they are not yet EU members. In countries such as Russia and beyond, euros have gained acceptance.
12/29/06 - Waste to Energy Pellets
Rialto plans to upgrade its wastewater-treatment plant and add a fuel cell powered by the waste to provide energy to the plant and the park slated to go up next door that will collect biosolids and sludge. The collection facility powered by the fuel cell next door will produce energy pellets that could be sold to cement factories. The city would also make money off fees charged to others who deposit waste at the facility, and it would save money by depositing its waste there for free.
12/28/06 - Vision of life in the middle of the century
Chinese astronauts walk on the moon, the world has splintered into currency blocs after an international exchange rate shock, and even robots have the vote. It sounds like the exaggerated vision - utopian or distopian according to taste - of a parlour futurologist. But these scenarios of what life might be like around the middle of the century have emerged from 270 rigorously researched papers commissioned by the government that together purport to be the world's most extensive look into the future. Horizon scanning papers are individually quite brief but together they cover the entire public policy spectrum. The exercise comes in two parts. The Delta Scan, commissioned from the Institute for the Future in California, covers science and technology. The broader Sigma Scan also looks at social, political, economic and environmental issues. Although the future is not predictable, "government can't just sit back and wait for it to happen", he says. "Government has to identify opportunities and risks at least five to 10 years ahead when making policy. It can then make decisions that might move us from an unfavourable to a favourable scenario."
12/28/06 - Non-Box Architectural Housing
Burst *003 may be the start of a new architectural cult, based around the kit house, that capitalizes on product-design techniques and manufacturing technology to get away from the dumb box, which defines current prefab housing conventions. System’s founders, Jeremy Edmiston and Douglas Gauthier, who met in the master’s program at Columbia University in 1992, purposely set about designing a house that “resists linear logic," as Edmiston puts it, with a self-conscious grin. “Prefab isn’t about saving money," Edmiston says. “It’s about controlling risk." Starting with a basic 1,500-square-foot floor plan that divided the property lengthwise according to activities-public (outdoor), semipublic (living room, kitchen), and private (bedrooms)-the architects played around with profiles, using the modeling program Form Z, to derive a twisting shape that was oriented to exploit year-round sun and wind changes. With the exception of a proposed fireplace for winter use (not built), the house would be environmentally passive, requiring no powered heating or cooling systems. The semipublic rooms receive light and air through a dramatic rear-facing glass facade running the length of the building, and the bedrooms have a clerestory that performs the same function. The orientation of the windows and an overhang was also calculated to cut out direct summer sun but still allow winter sun to warm the interior. Vents in both rear- and front-facing facades were designed to take advantage of cooling afternoon sea breezes in summer, and would be closed off in winter to retain heat.
12/28/06 - Seniors should play video games to keep mentally sharp
Psychology research McMaster University in Hamilton showed senior gamers who spend at least four hours a week playing action video games display an array of skills. Doing battle in Medal of Honor drew out skills such as improved reaction times and good spatial reasoning to a awareness of their surroundings and better short-term memory.
12/28/06 - Biodiesel banned in Texas
Come December 31st, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is set to effectively ban biodiesel in the state's largest markets. The problem, they say, lies with the fuel's nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and their contribution to the formation of ground-level ozone in Texas' eastern counties. According to the TCEQ, biodiesel does not meet the stricter NOx standards recently imposed on diesel and alternative diesel fuels under new regulations. Efforts to clean up the air, led the TCEQ in November 2005 to adopt Texas low emission diesel standards (TxLED) in an effort to reduce pollutants in the state’s smoggiest 110 counties. Texas' biodiesel industry - the largest in the country - suddenly found itself essentially outlawed after the standards went into effect.
12/28/06 - New Solar Power System Package
Bright Light Solar introduces the Remote Home Solar Power System, a package with all the materials needed to install an off-grid system for your home or office. The system includes a 325 Watt solar panel array using branded solar panels with a 25-year manufacturer warranty, 30-foot weatherproof/UV sheathed output cable, 200AH Energy deep cycle sealed solar GEL battery, and Morningstar Prostar 30A charge controller with LED status indicator. With a price tag of about $3,000 USD, this home photovoltaic power system is perfect for the consumer looking to invest only a moderate amount of money in solar.
12/28/06 - Chaos and Your Everyday Traffic Jam
"What causes these mysterious traffic jams that continually appear throughout the day for no reason whatsoever? Is it simply the fact that most people just don't have a clue how to drive? That's very possible, and in reality there are so many variables involved in something like a traffic jam. But is it possible that the entire traffic jam could be both the continuing and end result of a chain reaction set in motion by a single driver who was in too much of a hurry?"
12/28/06 - Space Plane to Offer 2 Hour Flight around the World
"Two hour flights to the other side of the world may seem like a scene from a science fiction movie; but the technology is in place, and a plane that can do just that is currently in development. While it looks like a scene from a flight simulator, the Astrox space plane is the real deal, and the Astrox Corporation says it could revolutionize the transportation industry. Traveling as fast as Mach 25 with at least 30 minutes of space shuttle-like views while in orbit is the highlight of this plane, and The Astrox Corporation, along with their partners, are claiming to have finally overcome their largest problem, mixing fuel."
12/28/06 - Pond Scum for energy
Pond scum, or algae, a plant that for decades has been prized as a possible commodity crop based on its unparalleled ability to photosynthesize solar energy into plant biomass for food. Unlike most plants, algae shares characteristics of bacteria, and its photosynthetic machinery operates much faster in converting inorganic substances into organic matter. And while plants require a lot of fuel to sow and harvest and additional fertilizer and fresh water to nourish, algae can be continuously harvested from closed water-based bioreactors that require little additional replenishment other than inorganic fuel supplied in the form of waste gas. "Right now we're using soybean oil, because canola is more expensive," Dommermuth adds. "Soybeans can give you 50 to 60 gallons of oil an acre compared to 75 to 125 gallons for canola, but algae is almost limitless because it grows so fast, so potentially you could get 10,000 gallons per acre."
12/28/06 - Demos are going to market the term "Bush's War" instead of Iraq War
A flurry of U.S. congressional hearings on Iraq policy have been announced by incoming Democrats, who claim the war belongs to U.S. President George Bush. The Democrats, who won a U.S. House of Representatives majority and a tenuous one in the U.S. Senate, issued plans Tuesday for a series of hearings to examine Bush's policy since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, with hopes of preventing Bush from sending more troops to bolster the 140,000 in Iraq now. In a teleconference, Biden said Congress has limited abilities to change the president's course short of cutting off funding but said Democrats were obliged to examine and bring to light past mistakes. "This is President Bush's war," Biden said. / Rock and Hard place - George Bush is back here in his adopted home state of Texas, rethinking what to do about the war. Rock and a hard spot. Oil rich Sunni Saudi's threatening oil if we pull out, and unwilling to talk to Iran and Syria.
12/27/06 - How to Protect your Invention when Pitching it
To make money from the invention, you must generally license the rights to it to another business, often a manufacturer or distributor. But in pitching the invention to potential licensees, you run the risk of disclosing so much information that the invention might be stolen or no longer protected by law. Horror stories abound of unscrupulous businesses who feign disinterest in the hard work of an inventor, only to turn around and use the inventor's description of her work to steal the invention for themselves--and reap huge profits. So how can you shop your invention around without jeopardizing your rights? If your invention potentially qualifies for a patent, it may be worth your while to file a provisional patent application ($80 for small companies) and obtain "patent pending" status. Most often, this will deter rip-offs. However, if you determine that the invention is probably not patentable, the best way to protect yourself is to have prospective licensees sign a nondisclosure agreement (sometimes called a disclosure agreement or confidentiality agreement) before you disclose any secrets. If someone signs a nondisclosure agreement and later uses your secret without authorization, you can sue for damages. Nondisclosure agreements vary in format. Generally, they contain these important elements: -- What's Confidential. -- Obligations Of The Receiving Party. -- Time Periods. / Disclosing Without An Agreement - It's always safest to get a prospective licensee to sign a nondisclosure agreement, but you may not always be able to convince them to do so. When that happens, you are left in a vulnerable position. If you disclose crucial information without the agreement, you risk losing your rights to the invention. If you don't disclose it, you risk losing a business opportunity. Probably the most important factor to consider is the reputation of the person or company you're dealing with. / Sample Inventor Non-Disclosure Agreements - #1 and #2 and Oodles More!.
12/27/06 - A reason why video games are hard to give up
Kids and adults will stay glued to video games this holiday season because the fun of playing actually is rooted in fulfilling their basic psychological needs. Players reported feeling best when the games produced positive experiences and challenges that connected to what they know in the real world. The research found that games can provide opportunities for achievement, freedom, and even a connection to other players. Those benefits trumped a shallow sense of fun, which doesn't keep players as interested. "It's our contention that the psychological 'pull' of games is largely due to their capacity to engender feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness," says Ryan. The researchers believe that some video games not only motivate further play but "also can be experienced as enhancing psychological wellness, at least short-term," he says. Revenues from video games--even before the latest Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox systems emerged--surpass the money made from Hollywood films annually. A range of demographic groups plays video games, and key to understanding their enjoyment is the motivational pull of the games.
12/27/06 - Lots of Jobs in Renewable Energy
The renewable energy (RE) industry is growing rapidly, and a wide variety of employment opportunities -- from system design and installation to hardware development and engineering -- are opening up on a regular basis. The first step in finding a career in RE is to assess what skills you have, what skills you'd like to learn, and what type of position would be most satisfying. Hands-On Opportunities. While online courses can provide you with a basic understanding of RE, hands-on training is necessary if you want to install systems, either at your own home or professionally. Hands-on workshops can range from two-day workshops (starting at $160) up to two-week-long workshops (starting at $1,500). While weekend workshops give a good overview of the technology, longer workshops will provide more hands-on instruction and more in-depth coverage of the different components.
12/27/06 - The Wave Bubble: A Pocket Sized FM Jammer
The Wave Bubble touts itself as being a "self-tuning, wide-bandwidth" rig that doesn't require a spectrum analyzer, and can "jam many different frequency bands" all in a pocket-friendly enclosure. Powered by an internal Li-ion cell, this bad boy provides self-tuning via "dual PLL," and you can manually enter new frequencies to vex by simply plugging it into your PC's USB port and inputting the data when prompted. It can purportedly provide up to two hours of jamming on dual bands (such as "cellphones") or four hours on single bands such as "cordless phones, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc." Additionally, the output power ranges from 0.1-watts (high bands) to 0.3-watts (low bands), and the handy device sports an approximate range of about 20 feet with "well-tuned antennas." Of course, you aren't apt to find this for sale anywhere considering the fit the FCC would undoubtedly throw, but if you consider yourself a master of the DIY craft, be sure to tag the read link for some in-depth pedagogy.
12/27/06 - Glass Shapes that Make Us Drink More
Beware of the shape of glass you use. It could contribute to you drinking much more than you think. Two studies of 167 people show that both children adults pour and consume more juice when given a short, wide glass compared to those given a tall, narrow glass, but they perceive the opposite to be true. This bias is caused by a visual illusion known as the vertical-horizontal illusion. The tendency we have to focus on heights instead of widths. That’s why, for instance, people say, “Boy, is the St. Louis Arch high," but they never say, “Boy, is it wide," even though the dimensions are identical. When pouring into glasses, we tend to focus on the height of the beverage and basically ignore the width," said Brian Wansink Ph.D., an author on the study (along with Koert van Ittersum, Ph.D.). “That’s why we overpour into wide glasses but think we poured very little." A wide range of people and institutions would like to better control a person’s consumption of a product. Those in the hospitality industry want to decrease costs (via serving size) without decreasing satisfaction. Those in public policy want to decrease waste. Those in health and dietetics fields want to decrease over-consumption. Those on restricted diets want to decrease calories, fat, or sugar intake. If short, wide glasses encourage people to pour more than tall glasses, the selection of glasses has an impact on costs as well as on calories.
12/27/06 - Social Network Users Have Ruined Their Privacy
"'There's little point in worrying about ID cards, RFID tags and spyware when more and more people are throwing away their privacy anyway. And the potential consequences are dire.' I've written an article on the dangers of social networks and how many users seem to forget just how public the information they post can be. This follows a warning sent out by the CS department of Bristol University, advising students that they risk lost job opportunities, getting in trouble with their parents and more, if they don't take care. The warning, however, really applies to all social network users, be they college students or over-zealous blog posters."
12/27/06 - 2nd Largest Oil Field Drying Up Faster
It was an incredible revelation last week that the second largest oil field in the world is exhausted and past its peak output. Yet that is what the Kuwait Oil Company revealed about its Burgan field. The peak output of the Burgan oil field will now be around 1.7 million barrels per day, and not the two million barrels per day forecast for the rest of the field’s 30 to 40 years of life. Engineers had tried to maintain 1.9 million barrels per day but that 1.7 million is the optimum rate. Kuwait will now spend some $3 million a year for the next year to boost output and exports from other fields.
12/27/06 - Will Iraq's Oil Blessing Become a Curse?
When the country with the third largest oil reserves in the world debates the future of its endowment during a time of civil war, people sit up and take notice. The Iraqi government is working on a new hydrocarbons law that will set the course for the country's oil sector and determine where its vast revenues will flow. The consequences for such a law in such a state are huge. Not only could it determine the future shape of the Iraqi federation -- as regional governments battle with Baghdad's central authority over rights to the riches -- but it could put much of Iraqi oil into the hands of foreign oil companies. Governments are legally committing themselves to oil deals that they've negotiated from a position of weakness. And, the contracts typically span decades. Companies argue they need long-term legal security to justify huge investments in risky countries; the current draft recommends 15 to 20 years. Critics say the US is leaning on the IMF and World Bank to push Iraq into signing oil contracts fast, so western firms can secure the oil before Chinese, Indian and Russian firms do.
12/27/06 - Disabling the RFID in the New U.S. Passports?
"Along with the usual Jargonwatch and Wired/Tired articles, the January issue of Wired offers a drastic method for taking care of that RFID chip in your passport. They say it's legal ... if a bit blunt. From the article: 'The best approach? Hammer time. Hitting the chip with a blunt, hard object should disable it. A nonworking RFID doesn't invalidate the passport, so you can still use it.' While this seems a bit extreme, all indications seem to be these chips aren't very secure. How far will you go to protect or disable the RFID chip in your passport? Do you think such a step is necessary? Does anyone have an argument in favor of the technology's implementation here? "
12/27/06 - Pill tricks you into losing Weight
An obesity pill which can help women drop two dress sizes in a year has been hailed by scientists after stunning test results. The drug fools the body's metabolism into staying active, cutting weight by 12 per cent in under a year. For a 12 and a half stone woman, this would mean shedding 21lb - or two dress sizes. The pill, Excalia, is said to work better and faster than existing drugs. Existing anti-obesity pills generally cut weight by five to ten per cent when taken for a year. But men and women taking Excalia for 48 weeks lost 12 per cent of their body weight, it was reported at a conference run by the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, the world's leading scientific obesity research body. Many slimmers find that, after weeks of successfully losing weight, their metabolism slows down and they hit a plateau. With the pounds slower to come off, many lose their resolve and end up piling weight back on. Excalia gets round this by tricking the hypothalamus - the brain's weight and appetite thermostat - into keeping the metabolism running fast. The pill contains two drugs which are already widely used, against epilepsy and smoking, so there is a reduced danger of side-effects emerging in trials. The pills also boost levels of a hormone that stops us getting hungry. Others cautioned against using drugs as a 'quick fix' for a problem which can also be tackled by diet and exercise.
Neville Rigby, of the International Obesity Task Force, said: 'There is no magic bullet. There are products which can help weight loss but people also need to help themselves in terms of diet and activity.'
12/26/06 - Nissan's 'Super Motor'
Nissan has independently developed the Super Motor based on an all-new concept. One motor provides output through two shafts, enabling it to function as both a motor and a generator. The Super Motor can dramatically reduce the size and improve the efficiency of the drive unit compared with the use of two conventional motors. Independent control of the power is obtained from the two shafts. (props to Al Fin)
12/26/06 - Drought, Pandemic and Mountains of Waste
Piles of rubbish clutter the streets of the new urban sprawls. In overloaded hospitals, patients lie in corridors, victims of a pandemic. Water prices have rocketed, and temperatures have nosedived with a premature slowing of the Gulf stream. Welcome to dystopian Britain, a thoroughly miserable snapshot of the country's woes come the middle of the 21st century. Some of the threats are familiar. Climate change is expected to bring more extreme weather, with periods of drought and flash floods. Sea levels will creep up, and the Gulf stream, which boosts the climate of north-western Europe by about 9C, may wane. In the near term more renewable energy, flood barriers and high-precision weather forecasting could help. In the more distant future, scientists may modify the weather, for example by deflecting storms to unpopulated areas. The global shortage of water is expected to have profound effects on Britain. By 2015, half the world's population is predicted to be living in countries that are "water-stressed". Increasing demand during hot, dry summers and large- scale leaks from an ageing pipe network could drive British farms out of business and lead to pressures to use undrinkable or "grey" water wherever possible. Within 10 years or so, however, membranes and sponges based on nanotechnology should be available to desalinate seawater and purify contaminated supplies. Within 10 years Britain will be facing the problem of disposing of its waste mountain. Industrial activity is driving rubbish generation, which is increasing by 3% each year. The vast majority is destined for landfill. Without new means of rubbish disposal, poor "waste nations" paid to import and bury other countries' detritus may arise. Scientific advances could avoid that. The invention of "green chemistry" is expected to reduce toxic industrial waste by finding alternatives to some of the most damaging solvents.
12/26/06 - HyPower H2 Reactor demonstration
On February 28, 2007, HyPower Fuel, Inc. will produce its first webcast demonstration of the operation of its revolutionary electrolyzer technology, the H2 Reactor (H2R). H2 Reactor (H2R) hydrogen system that can produce sufficient hydrogen on board, on demand to power the vehicle using only water. The H2 Reactor uses the process of electrolysis to convert water into a hydrogen/oxygen gas which is then used to power its original internal combustion engine. After extensive technical research and development work with its joint venture partner, HyPower believes that the H2 Reactor's electrolysis process is technologically the most efficient to date with an unprecedented ratio of 1 liter of hydrogen production to an electrical input of 1 watt hour. This is approximately 2 to 2.5 times more efficient than the current state of the competing technology.
12/26/06 - Wartime values to save the planet
David Attenborough, the elder statesman of the natural world, called yesterday for a return to wartime values to save the planet from global warming. He hit out at four-wheel-drives, electrical standby facilities and lights that were left on unnecessarily as he demanded a change in moral and intellectual attitudes towards climate change. He said that even tiny amounts of wasted electricity were immoral because they put "our grandchildren's lives in danger". "I grew up during the war and during the war it was a common value that wasting food was wrong," he told British MPs. "It wasn't that we thought we were going to beat Hitler by eating every bit of gristle of meat, but it was accepted as wrong to waste food. People felt that widely, universally." Such attitudes, Sir David said, should be revived. "There should be a general moral view that wasting energy is wrong," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's a tiny bit or a big bit. It's a general attitude to life. We are putting in hazards for our grandchildren. Everything we do goes up and stays up for 100 years in terms of carbon dioxide. The more it does the hotter it will get."
12/26/06 - Rocket Man video
Yves Rossy from Switzerland is the first person to gain altitude and maintain a stable, horizontal flight thanks to his specially designed aerodynamic carbon foldable wings. This is an amazing video. The dream of flight has dominated man's imagination since time began.
The wings which have a 3 metre span have two kerosene-powered engines attached which propel the passenger.
12/26/06 - Do what you want behind the barn, but don't brew your own soydiesel
So, your neighbor has a soybean extruder to make bean meal for his hogs, and the two of you have been thinking about squeezing the oil out of your beans to make soydiesel and save some money on fuel bills next spring. And all you have to prevent is a farmstead-destroying methanol explosion. As an aside, methanol is not only toxic stuff but highly explosive, and you probably don't want to order a tank truck to make your own B100, because of the threat to your neighborhood. There is more liability than your insurance agent will want you to have in playing with methanol. Soydiesel because it provides a more consistent energy output compared to pure diesel fuel which can vary by 15% due to blending. Biodiesel is a fuel that probably has a place on your operation, from the standpoint of both economy and performance. While the fuel can be made on-farm, it is not recommended because of hazards. If you are purchasing commercial grades of biodiesel, learn about its performance characteristics in cold weather so you won't have a nasty surprise during high expectations this winter. You will see many references for different blends of soydiesel, and the number indicates the percent of soy methyl ester in the petroleum blend.
12/26/06 - Science should put children before the moon
ASTRONAUT Andy Thomas has warned that primary schools are failing to inspire young students to study science and follow in his footsteps. Students getting hands-on experience doing science experiments is not happening because of liability and safety issues," Dr Thomas said in his home town of Adelaide yesterday. "You have to plant the seeds in their minds, usually before they're aged 10 - before the seventh grade." "Maths and science teaching in schools has been diluted," he said. "There has been a huge demand for engineers and scientists, and as a consequence not enough of them are going back into school teaching. "You need to get more scientists teaching, otherwise we're going to end up with a society which has a complex technology but doesn't understand it."
12/26/06 - Australian Water Woes Worsen
(All you Reichians, here is your chance. - JWD) PEOPLE in Melbourne will be banned from washing cars, filling new pools and using sprinklers from New Year's Day under stage-three water restrictions. The bans come as rainfall over water catchments dips to 40 per cent below levels in 1982, the previous recorded low. Rainfall into Melbourne's reservoirs has totalled 5.2mm this month -- just 6 per cent of the usual monthly average of between 84 and 89mm. Under the stage-three plan, residents will be able to water gardens only twice a week, and lawns not at all. Even-numbered households can water on Saturdays and Tuesdays between 6am and 8am or 8pm and 10pm, while odd-numbered households can water on Sundays and Wednesdays. Sprinkler and spray systems will be banned, and automatic drip systems will be restricted to twice a week between midnight and 4am. Drivers will not be allowed to wash their cars at home, and commercial car washes will come under scrutiny for their water efficiency. New pools and spas cannot be filled, and existing pools and spas can only be topped up with a bucket. Mr Thwaites said although the 36.9 per cent trigger point for stage-three restrictions had not yet been reached -- water storages for Melbourne are currently 40 per cent full -- the storage levels were likely to fall below that trigger level next month. "If we don't get any rain then there is a real risk that we can go on to stage four." South West Water managing director Dennis Cavagna said though the restrictions only applied to outdoor-water use, householders must be vigilant inside the home. "We're encouraging people to have four-minute showers. In other words, for your teenagers at home, a one-song shower," he said.
12/26/06 - 10 myths -- and 10 truths -- about atheism
Atheists are often imagined to be intolerant, immoral, depressed, blind to the beauty of nature and dogmatically closed to evidence of the supernatural. Even John Locke, one of the great patriarchs of the Enlightenment, believed that atheism was "not at all to be tolerated" because, he said, "promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist." That was more than 300 years ago. But in the United States today, little seems to have changed. A remarkable 87% of the population claims "never to doubt" the existence of God; fewer than 10% identify themselves as atheists - and their reputation appears to be deteriorating. Given that we know that atheists are often among the most intelligent and scientifically literate people in any society, it seems important to deflate the myths that prevent them from playing a larger role in our national discourse.
12/26/06 - Russian religious sects use cultural events to stupefy teenagers
Russian authorities think it is high time to take measures to toughen control over non-traditional religious organizations. The numerous organizations that declare themselves being churches, centers and other religious formations are widely spread in Russia, and their actual principles absolutely disagree with the clear regulations fixed in their charters. And there is little control over the activity of such organizations. Unfortunately, the authorities pay their attention to religious sects only when these organizations get involved in serious scandals. A huge number of religious organizations sprang up in Russia over the 1990s and the majority of them are sects. Jehovah’s Witnesses, scientologists and munites are the biggest and the most known among them. Many sects use pseudo-Christian or pseudo-Hinduism names as a cover; some of them are an incredible mixture of Christian, Judaism or Muslim creeds. There are from 200 to 300 religious sects in Russia. There are two basic types of sects. The first one consists of sects serving purely religious purposes. Their leaders are mentally diseased people who pathologically seek other people’s notice and worshipping. They suffer from both complexes of inferiority and super-adequateness. On the one hand, such people imagine they are superior to others; they call themselves prophets and even gods. On the other hand, they badly need others to recognize their superiority. And this is why a sect leader is usually treated as something superior, inaccessible and great. The other type of sects is more widely spread and serves material ends only. A man entangled with such a sect has no longer control over himself. He begins to bring his wages, family jewelry and savings to his “spiritual leaders". Then, sect leaders may persuade weak-willed sect members sell their cars and apartments to bring money for further use in the sect. When it is clear that sect members have exhausted their material resources, leaders of such organizations begin to use these people as a free manpower for their own purposes.
12/26/06 - Christmas, fact of the matter
The Christmas police are out in force. I just received a letter from one ordering me to cease and desist writing about Santa during Christmas because it "cheapens the birth of our Savior." There's another letter here somewhere claiming that America is going to hell because a glut of holiday merchandising overshadows the holiest day of the year: Jesus' birthday. If you're a Christmas cop peeved about the heathen trammeling of the Lord's big day, there's a jot and tittle you forgot: The date is off by a good five months.
12/26/06 - Obit - James Brown at 73
(Always a fan. - JWD) One of the major musical influences of the past 50 years, Brown was to rhythm and dance music what Bob Dylan was to lyrics. From Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson, David Bowie to Public Enemy, his rapid-footed dancing, hard-charging beats and heartfelt yet often unintelligible vocals changed the musical landscape. He was one of the first artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with Elvis Presley,
Chuck Berry and other founding fathers. "He was an innovator, he was an emancipator, he was an originator. Rap music, all that stuff came from James Brown," entertainer Little Richard, a longtime friend of Brown's, told MSNBC.
12/25/06 - Is Wind Power for the Birds?
In a recent article, John Flicker, president of the NAS, told the American Wind Energy Association that Audubon "strongly supports wind power as a clean alternative energy source." Research showing prospective effects of climate change on bird populations demonstrated a need for prevention, one approach being renewable energy. The Audubon statement came as a shock to some bird lovers since wind turbines kill between 2,300 and 6,600 birds every year, according to scientists at the Massachusetts Audubon. Since the implementation of wind farms in the 1970s, opponents say that bird and bat deaths, as well as noise pollution, environmental damage and poor aesthetics are not worth the potential benefits. Some even question the effectiveness of wind turbines in general. "Those who argue in favor of wind usually say that they recognize local impact, that work should be done to protect endangered birds, and that wind power's positive impact on global warming trends will ultimately be good for birds," said Eric Rosenbloom, president of National Wind Watch. "That is completely unproven and projected effects of global warming on bird populations are unsubstantiated."
12/25/06 - Brazil's investment in Ethanol makes Sugar Growers very Rich
Brazilians across the country are snapping up new-model "flex" cars that use gasoline or cheaper, sugar-derived ethanol, or a blend of the two. The vast majority of new cars sold in the South American country have flex engines. And with ethanol about half the price of gasoline - itself about 20 percent ethanol - times are remarkably good for sugar-cane growers and refiners of the alternative fuel. Some are vertically integrated, cultivating cane, crushing it and distilling the juice into ethanol. Because of the concentrated wealth - 10 percent of sugar growers control 60 percent of production - and comfortable climate, Ribeirao Preto has been nicknamed the "Brazilian California." Overall, 40 percent of the cars on Brazilian roads use ethanol. "Flex-fuel cars restored consumer confidence, knowing they can choose," Cunari said over a cup of espresso. "If the price of ethanol is good, they'll buy ethanol. If gasoline is cheaper, then gas. If ethanol is 30 or 35 percent cheaper (than gas), everyone will buy it." By no means is ethanol the only reason behind Brazil's hard-won energy independence. This year, Petrobras announced that its P-50 rig in the offshore Campos Basin will help the company top 1.9 million barrels of oil a day, more than Brazil's daily consumption of 1.85 million barrels.
12/25/06 - The Magnetic Gauss Pistol
The gun works by accelerating a projectile through a pair of coils. Is it dangerous? Only indirectly: There is 440V across the capacitor terminals. It is kinda heavy, so you could throw it at someone. The laser sight could cause eye damage. The small parts are a choking hazard. Finally, it has about the same power as a pellet gun, but the projectile is much heavier so it moves a lot slower. All the info you need can be found in the FAQ. / Updated info - Now with plenty of improvements. Aside from building it in black, he's built a new model. He's even hoping to release it as a kit in 2007. The latest version uses a PIC to fire the coils and manages the batteries, uses a pair of IR sensors to time the projectile, laser sighting and improved charging. It's still only slightly more powerful than a CO2 BB gun, but one hell of an engineering challenge. Theoretically, these could be more powerful than traditional firearms, but power limitations keep them repressed like mid-evil peasants.
12/25/06 - Solar Powered cellphone recharges in Sun
Japan's mighty monopoly NTT DoCoMo has developed a tiny, SOLAR-POWERED FLIP PHONE prototype that has regular cell phone goodies on the inside, and solar panels on the outside. This cellphone recharges its internal batteries from sunlight meaning less need for cables, power supplies and looking for an outlet.
12/25/06 - Tracking your kids with Cellphones
"To pinpoint the phone's location, you call up the Web site, enter your password, click 'locate,' and presto: an icon appears on a map -- either a street map or actual satellite photo. In the photo view, you can zoom in enough to see individual buildings. These are existing satellite photos --you won't actually see your child standing there -- but this feature is still creepy and awesome. You can even watch 'bread crumbs' appear on the map as the phone moves around (cost: one talk-time minute apiece). That could be helpful if you're trying to assist someone lost on the road, or in the kinds of emergencies encountered primarily in your nightmares."
12/24/06 - Energy Harvesters use heat, vibration and pressure
There's no free lunch, right? Your mom and dad probably told you as much. So surely we can't extract energy from thin air. Or can we? Actually, the human body, factory machines, radios of various types, and many other things emit energy in the form of heat, vibration, or RF waves. And it's looking increasingly plausible that designers can devise systems that scavenge the stray energy and convert it for use in powering systems-albeit very low-power ones. You won't soon see a mobile handset powered from the ether, but potential realistic applications include portable medical monitors and even home-automation devices. Seiko also briefly sold a wristwatch that was powered by body heat. EnOcean offers a switch that finds use mainly in lighting control, although you could also use it to control powered draperies, fans, or other devices for which you might have a wall switch in a home or office. The baseline product is the ECO 100 module, which the company refers to as an "electrodynamic" harvester. The company bases the module on a coil and a magnet that together convert linear motion into power. More specifically, the action of a person pushing the switch generates a burst of energy, because the actuator changes the flux through the coil. The company previously offered a piezoelectric harvester for the same application but claims that the new design is more efficient. The PTM 200 sells for $10 to $20, depending on volume, and the finished light switch goes for around $50 (one). You can buy the switches for home use from companies such as Ad Hoc Electronics. Ad Hoc's Web site prices the combination of a switch and a receiver module that integrates a relay to switch ac power at about $120 in small quantities. Thermal harvesters take advantage of the Seebeck Effect-the ability of a thermocouple to generate power based on the temperature differential between hot and cold plates. As for other harvesting technologies, Holst is pursuing both piezoelectric- and electrostatic-based vibration harvesters. In both instances, the researchers are focusing on semiconductor-manufacturing techniques to implement the harvesters. In an electrostatic approach, the researchers hope to use MEMS technology and multiple wafers. One wafer will move with respect to the bottom fixed one in the face of vibration and, in doing so, vary capacitance to generate current to a load.
12/24/06 - Full details to make Safe, Clean Biodiesel
(With reference to the earlier 'Bio for All' article, thanks to Marko for the headsup on this site. - JWD) This is a FOOLPROOF way to make biodiesel. No titration is required, and no extra equipment or special equipment -- a thermometer's handy, but NO pH meter! This is a two-stage procedure, acid first-stage, base second-stage. It is based on the highest free fatty acid (FFA) content found in used cooking oil, but it can be used with any waste vegetable/animal oil or fat, whether or not it has a high FFA content. The process increases yields dramatically. Use it as your standard method. To make biodiesel fuel efficiently from used vegetable oils and animal fats we have to avoid one major problem: soap formation. Soap is formed during base-catalyzed transesterification (using lye) when sodium ions combine with free fatty acids present in used (and some virgin) vegetable oils and animal fats. The soaps diminish the yield because they bond the methyl esters to water. The bonded esters get washed out at the washing stage but make water separation more difficult and increase water consumption. This process takes care of the free fatty acids. In one early test I used a mixture of 50% heavily used cooking oil and 50% pork lard. The result was a pure product with absolutely no trace of soap! The biodiesel looked nice, and smelt nice, as if made from virgin oil.
12/24/06 - Robert Calloways Gravity engine page Updated
Some scientists back in the older times said: Bumble bees shouldn't be able to fly, and man will never be able to do so. I have said that new and exciting times were about to happen. I have known for several years that perpetual motion does indeed exist. After some thought, I have decided to release my perpetual motion engine design principle. It has no patent protection because of a law preventing perpetual motion designs from even being accepted for evaluation. But I do have all the proof that it was built and designed by me at my own company. This engine uses no magnets. I use only attraction forces in the form of gravity. This simple design will run until the bearings fail or gravity ceases to exist. The rotation speed is self regulated by gravity itself. Torque and speed are determined by the wheel(s) diameter and the weight of the pendulums.
12/24/06 - BATTELLE debuts Multi-Purpose Fuel Cell Generator
The Multipurpose Electric Power System (MEPS) generates more than five kilowatts of power and is 25 percent more efficient than generators based on traditional internal combustion engine technology. It is targeted toward a variety of military applications initially, with potential for private sector use. “Our MEPS unit is one of the first devices to effectively use fuel cell technology and to showcase all the advantages of fuel cells. This is a power generator that runs quietly, generates very little heat, toxic emissions or odor, produces up to 20 liters of usable water per day, and will never run out of power as long as fuel is available. What’s really exciting is our ability to operate on conventional fuels, thanks to unique technology originating from our Pacific Northwest National Laboratory."
12/24/06 - New tool instantly finds cancer
(Covered this before, but a slightly different version. - JWD) An experimental ultrasound technique that measures how easily breast lumps compress and bounce back could enable doctors to determine instantly whether a woman has cancer or not - without having to do a biopsy. In a small study of 80 women, the technique, called "elastography," distinguished harmless lumps from malignant ones with nearly 100 percent accuracy. Cancerous tumors are firmer than benign ones. Up to 1 million biopsies are performed each year on suspicious breast tissue detected by mammograms and self-exams, but as many as eight out of 10 of these biopsies find that the lumps are benign. Biopsies can cost $200 to $1,000, depending on whether some fluid or an entire lump is removed, and it can take days or weeks to get the results. The cost of elastography is not yet clear, but some experts said the procedure might run $100 to $200. And it can yield results in minutes. When checked against biopsies of women's breast tissue, the ultrasound technique correctly identified 17 out of 17 cancerous tumors, and 105 out of 106 harmless lesions. Ophir describes elastography as a way to measure and picture the elasticity of body tissue. In effect, it is an extension of one of the oldest tools in medicine, palpation, in which a doctor feels the shape and firmness of body tissue. To explain elastography, Ophir likens the body to a box-spring mattress, but "a crazy mattress made out of millions of small springs and each one is a little different. Each is moving around at a different rate, depending on their individual stiffness." Cancerous tumors are like stiff springs. Normal tissue and benign lesions compress more easily.
12/24/06 - Shock Waves can grow new blood vessels in the Heart
A team of Japanese researchers found that blasting the heart with shock waves helps patients grow new blood vessels and increase blood flow. Coronary artery disease -- a leading cause of death in men and women in the United States -- happens when plaque builds up in blood vessels, blocking the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. Medication, angioplasty or bypass surgery can sometimes treat the disease. But when these approaches aren't enough, the only hope is to grow new blood vessels. Gene and cell therapies can also engender new blood vessels, but those procedures require surgery, which is risky for elderly or severely sick patients. During a typical session they hit 20 to 40 different areas of the heart with 200 pulses each. Blood flow increased and symptoms were alleviated in all patients, suggesting the growth of new blood vessels. The researchers used a shock wave generator made especially for the heart. Using its fine adjustments, they could focus waves on a 2-square-millimeter area, and aim them virtually anywhere. "Since we can focus at any point in the heart muscle with our machine, the patients can just lie on the table. They don't need to move," Shimokawa said. Scientists do know that while shock waves can benefit some organs, they can damage others, like the lungs -- a poorly aimed shock wave could cause hemorrhaging. Shimokawa's team uses detailed 3-D images of each patient's heart to figure out where to focus the waves. "That's why the operator should be a cardiologist," Shimokawa said.
12/24/06 - Styrofoam containers on way out
Hoping to get the plastic out of fast food, San Francisco and Oakland are about to ban food establishments from using styrofoam. The cities say it's not a war on fast-food joints, but a common sense step to stem plastics pollution at a time when new biodegradable alternatives are coming to market. Polystyrene foam, better known as styrofoam, is just the start. In Oakland and San Francisco, the new laws not only ban the foam but also encourage food establishments to reduce their use of all plastic in favor of materials that are biodegradable or can be composted, such as SpudWare, the trademark for cutlery made of potato-starch. Paper and cardboard make it under the new rules, as do those traditional Chinese take-out boxes. But new plant-based products made of sugar cane, bamboo and rice pulp and other organic materials, dubbed bio-plastics, are even more environmentally friendly, they say. Already the Oakland A's use biodegradable beverage cups, and at the University of California-Berkeley, dorm residents do take-out in bamboo products. Yahoo and the NUMMI car plant are among a growing number of local companies whose cafeterias use ``bio-plastic'' utensils, bowls and plates made from fermented corn or potato starch mixed with soy oil, or bagasse, a fibrous waste left over from processing sugar cane. Food sellers who don't comply with the new laws could face fines as high as $250 in San Francisco and $500 in Oakland.
12/24/06 - Mice given Wine live longer despite Fat in Diet
Can you have your cake and eat it? Is there a free lunch after all, red wine included? Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging report that a natural substance found in red wine, known as resveratrol, offsets the bad effects of a high-calorie diet in mice and significantly extends their lifespan. Their report, published today in Nature, implies that very large daily doses of resveratrol could offset the unhealthy, high-calorie diet thought to underlie the rising toll of obesity in the United States and elsewhere, should people respond to the drug as mice do. Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes and in red wine and is conjectured to be a partial explanation for the French paradox, the puzzling fact that people in France tend to enjoy a high-fat diet yet suffer less heart disease than Americans. Resveratrol, which increases the activity of enzymes known as sirtuins, prolonged the lifespan of every organism scientists have tested it on, including yeast, worms, fish and fruit flies.
12/24/06 - HotStart for Diesel Engines
Unlike gasoline engines, which are ignited by a spark, diesel engines are ignited by compression, and maintaining a coolant temperature of between 100 degrees and 120 degrees Fahrenheit enables them to start more quickly, says Judge. “Our business used to be crazy in the winter and dead in the summer, but today we’re busy all year," he says. “Our pre-heaters are not a seasonal product. Many businesses today keep their diesel generators in a controlled climate of 68 degrees, and they need those backup generators not only to start, but to provide full power quickly." Diesel engine pre-heaters sold by Hotstart range in price from $30 for a simple pre-heater for a small truck engine to about $30,000 for a patented diesel driven heating system (DDHS) for locomotives. The DDHS is the only pre-heater manufactured by Hotstart that’s not activated by an electrical connection. It was designed to help railroads deal with problems that cold weather causes for long-haul locomotives and switching engines idling in cold weather. An idling locomotive can consume up to four gallons of diesel an hour, says Judge. Hotstart engineers, expanding on an invention the company bought rights to in 1996, eliminated the locomotive’s radiator and developed a heat-exchange arrangement between the big train engine and the three-cylinder DDHS diesel engine. The train’s engine keeps the DDHS hot when the train is running, and the DDHS keeps the locomotive’s essential components warm after the train’s engine is shut off.
12/24/06 - 9/11 Study Reveals How Flashbulb Memories Form
A study of New Yorkers who witnessed the horrors of September 11, 2001, has revealed a brain region that may be responsible for creating what psychologists call "flashbulb memories," remarkable picture-like recollections. The new study suggests that flashbulb memories arise simply when a person witnesses events first hand, not from any special neural process. Those close to the destruction of the World Trade Centre have, on average, more vivid memories of the terrorist attacks than do those who were in other parts of New York City on that day, according to the research by Prof Elizabeth Phelps at New York University. The traditional view of flashbulb memories suggests that these memories have special qualities for a much broader range of individuals. Aside from the amygdala, there were also differences in other memory regions, such as the posterior parahippocampus, she said. "Our findings on 9/11 memories indicate that personal involvement may be critical in producing memories with the characteristic qualities of flashbulb memories," said Sharot. "We think this is because the amygdala, which is known to play a role in enhancing the feeling of remembering for emotional material, is more engaged when these events are experienced first hand."
12/24/06 - Snowmaking
(Wouldn't it be neat to 'tune' the snow from this machine to make identical snow crystals? Then stimulate their resonant frequencies and see what happened. Various chords produce various effects as in Cymatics. - JWD) Actual snowmaking, the mixing of air and water to produce snow, got its start in late 1949. Three aeronautical engineers, Wayne Pierce, Dave Richey, and Art Hunt, of the Tey Manufacturing Company, in Milford, Connecticut, had gone into the ski-manufacturing business, developing, among other things, the first laminated aluminum skis. In December 1949, as New England ski areas suffered yet again, Pierce began wondering if he could make something resembling snow by throwing droplets of water through freezing air. Experimenting with a garden hose, a 10-horsepower compressor, and a spray-gun nozzle, he succeeded. After substantial testing, in which the team produced up to 18 inches of snow a night outside their plant, Pierce applied for a patent in December 1950. It was granted in 1954. Using Larchmont’s pipes and high-volume water pumps, Pierce hooked up a large diesel-powered air compressor and a series of nozzles. The system cost $25,000 to install, and he had it in place for the 1950-51 season. It could develop 3,000 cubic feet per minute of compressed air, pumped through “two miles of four-inch aluminum pipe and a mile of green plastic hose in varying diameters," as a ski magazine put it, crisscrossing Schoenknecht’s nine-tow ski area. Similar systems were also installed at Split Rock Lodge, in White Haven, Pennsylvania, and the following winter at Grossinger’s, in Liberty, New York.
The setups were a publicity coup for the ski areas, but they were far from technically successful. “There were problems we had to resolve with the system design," recalls Phil Tropeano, now 84. For one thing, irrigation systems weren’t designed to work in freezing temperatures, so water tended to back up and freeze in the pipes. Also, air from the compressors would cool as it expanded and freeze up the nozzles. Real snow, the kind that falls from the sky, forms when water vapor in clouds cools to near the freezing point. Once it freezes, nascent snow crystals continue to blow around the cloud, allowing other water molecules to attach to them. When a crystal becomes heavy enough, it falls to earth in the form of a snowflake. Snowmaking is a highly abbreviated version of this process. Water is mechanically atomized, generally by using compressed air, special nozzles, or a combination of the two. The droplets are then flung into the air, where, if it is cold enough, they freeze into tiny pellets of ice, forming something like, if not identical to, natural snow. If compressed air is used, its expansion helps cool the droplets.
12/24/06 - MS = media slut, but CW = corporate whore
In amongst all the usual hatemail I'm still getting from the electromagnetic hypersensitivity anti-phone-mast lobby, I received something this week that triggered, I freely admit, something deep inside me that I could only describe as a feeling. This is very unusual. You might remember Dr Cliff Arnall. He is probably the most prodigious of all producers of bogus "equations": proving that some arbitrary date in mid-January is the most miserable day of the year for Sky Travel; proving that some arbitrary date in mid-June is the happiest day of the year for Walls ice cream; and so on. So these equations are scientifically uninformative, and driven by money. But is there more to it than that? Because in my more extremist puritanical moments, I am of the opinion that these equation stories - which appear with phenomenal frequency, and make up a significant proportion of the total science coverage in the UK - are corrosive, meaningless, empty, bogus nonsense that serve only to caricature and undermine science. "Anyway you can see I am clearly a media slut," he says proudly on his website, in the bit where he lists his media appearances. No, Cliff. A "media slut" is an academic who bends over backwards to get his ideas in the papers. You'll get your cheque from Walls for this article, as you say, but that's because you are a "corporate whore".
12/23/06 - The Phoenix Effect - Death necessary before Regeneration
(In some of the legends I've collected about rejuvenation, they refer to a sloughing off of skin and the excretion of black sludge which is dead and dying tissue. As well, a continual accumulation would result in gigantism such as dinosaurs and 'giants in the earth in those days' according to the Bible and Eastern Indian legends. - JWD) The Forsyth Institute have discovered that some cells have to die for regeneration to occur. The Forsyth team focused their attentions on the frog (Xenopus) tadpole, which is able to re-grow a fully functioning tail and all of its components, including muscle, vasculature, skin, and spinal cord. They found that apoptosis (programmed cell death) appears to play a novel and critical role in regeneration. "Simply put, some cells have to die for regeneration to happen," said team leader Michael Levin. In trying to understand the biophysical controls of regenerative processes, Levin and his co-researchers investigated the dynamics of cell number control in the tadpole's regenerating tail bud. Previous research had shown that one mechanism by which cell number is controlled is by programmed cell death, which has been shown to be involved in the sculpting of growing tissue in a number of developmental systems including heart, limb and craniofacial patterning.
12/23/06 - NASA can't explain why we need a lunar colony
What does the space agency hope to discover on the moon? The reason it built the base. Coming under a presidency whose slogan might be "No Price Too High To Accomplish Nothing," the idea of a permanent, crewed moon base nevertheless takes the cake for preposterousness. Moon-base nonsense may for decades divert NASA resources from the agency's legitimate missions, draining funding from real needs in order to construct human history's silliest white elephant. What's it for? Good luck answering that question. There is scientific research to be done on the moon, but this could be accomplished by automatic probes or occasional astronaut visits at a minute fraction of the cost of a permanent, crewed facility. Astronauts at a moon base will spend almost all their time keeping themselves alive and monitoring automated equipment, the latter task doable from an office building in Houston. Don't we need a moon base to go to Mars? No! When George W. Bush made his Mars-trip speech almost three years ago, he said a moon base should be built to support such a mission. This is gibberish. All concept studies of Mars flight involve an expedition departing from low-Earth orbit and traveling directly to the red planet. Stopping at the moon would require fuel to descend to the lunar surface, then blast off again, which would make any Mars mission hugely more expensive.
12/23/06 - New research could lead to 'invisible' electronics
Imagine a car windshield that displays a map to your destination, military goggles with targets and instructions displayed right before a soldier's eyes or a billboard that doubles as a window. High-performance, transparent transistors could be combined with existing kinds of light display technologies, such as organic light-emitting diodes, liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and electroluminescent displays, which are already used in televisions, desktop and laptop computers and cell phones. To create their thin-film transistors, Marks' group combined films of the inorganic semiconductor indium oxide with a multilayer of self-assembling organic molecules that provides superior insulating properties.
The indium oxide films can be fabricated at room temperature, allowing the transistors to be produced at a low cost. And, in addition to being transparent, the transistors outperform the silicon transistors currently used in LCD screens and perform nearly as well as high-end polysilicon transistors.
12/23/06 - Don't Whistle While You Work
Happy thoughts can stimulate creativity, but for mundane work such as plowing through databases, being cranky or sad may work better. The study is the first to suggest that a positive frame of mind can have opposite effects on productivity depending on the nature of a task. Stress, anxiety, and a bad mood are notorious for narrowing people's attention and making them both think and see only what's right in front of them; for example, a person held at gunpoint usually recalls nothing but the weapon itself. Well-being, on the other hand, is known to broaden people's thinking and make them more creative. But whether a good mood also expands people's attention to visual details was unknown. "Attention can act as a beam of spotlight," says Anderson. A good mood broadens that beam, he says, encompassing more things than we would see otherwise, and in some cases leads to more distractions. But when focused inward, the broader beam yields creativity.
12/23/06 - Scottish Doctors Say "Nay" To Modern Medicine
A new study, appearing in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, found that 60 percent of Scottish doctors prescribe homeopathic or herbal remedies for their patients, with many scripts being written for babies and children under 16.
12/23/06 - Machinery To Harvest Corn Stalks And Leaves
Graduate students Mark Dilts and Ben Schlesser are working to design, build and test machinery that will harvest corn stover -- the stalks, cobs and leaves -- when farmers bring in their grain. The stover could be the source of plant fiber that feeds the next generation of ethanol plants. The researchers ran their latest version of a stover harvester through about 50 acres of corn near Ames this fall. The researchers are developing stover attachments that can be used on standard combines. The result would be an additional cost to farmers of about $10,000 to $15,000 instead of the six figures it would take for a separate combine to harvest stover. The attachments would also allow farmers to harvest grain and stover with one pass through a field. The system the researchers have come up with includes a modified row crop header and corn reel attached to the front of the combine and a chopper and blower attached to the back. The header and reel feed leaves and stalks into the combine so the biomass can be harvested before it touches the ground and is contaminated with soil. The chopper cuts stover into 2-inch pieces. And the blower throws the chopped stover into a wagon.
12/22/06 - The need to make Science Interesting using Hands on Experiments
SCIENCE lessons without hands-on experiments are seen by students as too difficult, boring or irrelevant. A study of Year 10 students by lecturer in science education at the University of New England Terry Lyons found that science classes left them with the impression the subject was a body of knowledge to be memorised rather than an inquiry-based discipline with which to make sense of the world. "Students said that experiments were a highlight of their science class, particularly in junior science," Dr Lyons said. "So any reduction in the number of experiments they can do and the overall amount of practical work is only going to further estrange them from the subject." Science teachers nationwide have reported that experiments are being dropped from classrooms as a result of tight budgets and occupational health and safety laws requiring risk assessments of experiments. Research into teaching science shows that students learn best through hands-on investigations and that they are crucial to maintaining students' interest in the subject. Students also said science was personally irrelevant and boring. Except for medical courses, nearly all universities have dropped science as a prerequisite for entry to science courses. "Universities aren't doing themselves any favours by lowering the standards required to do those courses," Dr Lyons said.
12/22/06 - Preparing for Life in a Warming World
Climate change is upon us, and it's unfolding fast, and the signs point towards it being worse than we expected a decade ago. The changing weather will affect us all, in ways large and small. Any plan which fails now to take into account the possible impacts of climate change fails in fact to be a worthwhile plan at all. Climate change has already begun to wreak havoc in the natural world, and most experts expect it to become a major driver of ecological collapses while limiting our ability to respond effectively to environmental decline caused by other factors. Meanwhile, scientists have begun to refer to the people living in particularly vulnerable places as Environmental Refugees-To-Be, and some people believe we can expect to see 200 million people driven from their homes by the middle of the century. Already, insurance companies are recognizing that buying beachfront property is a bad idea. We need some serious future-building around both what a post-hydrocarbon world would look like, and what kinds of challenges a warming world holds in store for us (and how we might respond). Most of all, we need these new visions and stories now, because a planet in the grip of massive climate change is not an alien world or a fantastic future, it's the planet where we're all going to spend the rest of our lives.
12/22/06 - Magnetic Slingshots for Space
To survive the ride on Launchpoint Technologies’s invention, the payload has to be able to survive a brain-splattering 10,000 Gs. The design calls for a high-speed accelerator that whips a projectile as heavy as 220 pounds around a circular 1.5-mile-radius vacuum tunnel. Powerful electromagnetic motors inside the tunnel will accelerate the unit, strapped to a magnetic sled, in circles until it reaches a velocity of six miles per second and then will eject the projectile from a launch ramp into space. The system is still just an idea on paper, but the U.S. Air Force has awarded Launchpoint a two-year, $500,000 grant to prove it can work. Project leader Jim Fiske, an expert in magnetic levitation, believes that the magnetic forces would counteract the pulverizing G-forces generated by radial acceleration and prevent the sled from touching the tunnel wall. As for the system’s cost, its low power requirements would allow spy micro-satellites to be slung into orbit for $50,000, a small fraction of the current $5-million launch cost.
12/22/06 - Reusing Restaurant heat saves 80%
Toronto-area company called Martin Air Systems, which has developed a system for capturing waste heat from restaurant kitchens and reusing it to help heat the entire restaurant and its incoming municipal water. Jeff Martin, co-founder and president of the company, says early results with a number of SIR Corp. restaurants (Canyon Creek, Jack Astor's, Alice Fazooli's) show up to an 80 per cent reduction in energy use related to building and water heating. On new restaurants, he said the system has a one-year payback, while on retrofits the payback is two to three years, depending on the size of the restaurant and how busy it is.
12/22/06 - At $35.8billion/year, Marijuana is US's biggest cash crop
A tenfold increase in production over the last 25 years. DrugScience.org's Marijuana Production in the United States puts the annual harvest at 10,000 tonnes, worth a cool $35.8bn (£18.4bn). Corn, meanwhile, weighs in at a mere $23bn, with soybeans marking up $17.6bn and hay a paltry $12.2bn. Dope is apparently the "biggest cash crop in 12 states", injecting more into the Georgia economy than peanuts and blowing away tobacco in North and South Carolina, The Guardian reports. Unsurprisingly, the main centre for pot production is California, which supplies $13.8bn worth of weed annually. The principal cause of the boom seems to be drug cartels moving cultivation to the US after increased post-9/11 border security closed traditional smuggling routes from Mexico. They often create plantations in "remote national park land." "Illicit marijuana cultivation provides considerable unreported revenue for growers without corresponding tax obligations to compensate the public for the social and fiscal costs related to [its] use." The logical solution is, Gettman says, to legalise the crop - something which found little favour with the the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He also wants marijuana to be reclassified from its current status as a Schedule 1 drug, a category which includes heroin.
12/22/06 - Paying to ease global-warming guilt
As anxiety over global climate change rises, a growing number of companies and nonprofit groups are offering eco-conscious consumers a chance to compensate the planet for the carbon emissions they generate when they drive, fly, use electricity or heat their homes. So-called "carbon offsets" are becoming increasingly popular, but critics say they are just a way to assuage consumer guilt and do little to combat climate change. At worst, they can encourage consumption and prevent people from making carbon-cutting lifestyle changes, such as driving less, taking public transit and using less electricity. Firms that sell such offsets help consumers calculate how much carbon their activities generate, then pledge to counterbalance the environmental impact by restoring forests, forcing businesses to curb emissions and funding renewable energy such as wind and solar. For example, the Conservation Fund, an Arlington, Va., nonprofit that restores wilderness on unproductive farmland, lets consumers offset their emissions by paying to plant trees. The group has a partnership with online travel company Travelocity that gives travelers the option of making a donation to the fund when they buy plane tickets. It costs about $4 to offset a ton of carbon, and about $80 to offset the 20 tons of carbon the average American generates in one year, said the fund's Chris Fanning. Each tree absorbs more than a ton of carbon over a 100-year life cycle. "It allows people to take personal responsibility and action in their own lives," Fanning said.
12/22/06 - Biofuels eat into China's food stocks
China's biofuel industry is booming thanks to voracious demand for energy to power the country's high-flying economy. Applying modernized versions of ancient chemical processes to convert crops and oils into energy sources, Chinese entrepreneurs have created a profitable "green business" with plenty of room to grow. But worried over surging crop prices, China is now clamping down on the use of corn (maize) and other edible grains for producing biofuel. While it wants to support the growth of alternative energy sources, Beijing says the issue of national food security should take precedence over the country's green agenda. "In China the first thing is to provide food for its 1.3 billion people, and after that, we will support biofuel production," the state-run newspaper People's Daily quoted Wang Xiaobing, an official at the Agriculture Ministry's Crops Cultivation Department, as saying this week. Surging demand for biofuel is now partly blamed for recent price hikes in the food market and for shortages in grain stocks. Wheat prices are at their highest level in a decade, due to poor harvests in key producing countries such as the United States and Australia, while corn prices have surged by up to 20% in local markets. Beijing has begun auctioning some of its wheat reserves to halt the rise in crop prices and prevent panic among the public. Despite predictions that this year would see another bumper harvest, government officials feel compelled to restrict the use of corn for producing biofuel.
12/22/06 - Cooling the planet at the gas roots
In Vermont, activists want to revive an old water mill to generate electricity. In California, so-called locavores are eating only local food, not food shipped by long-haul trucks. They're part of a bottom-up movement to fix global warming and start adjusting to a post-oil world. The "Relocalization Network," for instance, is one of several groupings of activists trying to swear off fossil fuels. The network has 128 local groups so far, mainly in the US, that create communities for a postcarbon world by such actions as Internet-linked car sharing, buying only local foods, walking and biking more often to destinations and, overall, reducing personal consumption. This winter, a group called The Climate Project that came out of Al Gore's movie and book, An Inconvenient Truth, plans to train hundreds of "grass-roots messengers" to speak in their communities about the need for action on global warming. One step above such personal action is an initiative by a few hundred US mayors, launched last year by the Seattle mayor, to turn their cities into models of "acting locally" to reduce carbon dioxide output. Many of these cities have changed building codes to encourage energy efficiency, and are pushing nonautomobile transport, tree planting, rooftop gardens, and biodiesel in city vehicles. Americans are becoming hip to the warning that "we have seen the enemy and he is us." Creating a widespread willingness for a low-carbon lifestyle is essential preparation for what may be strong government action to come.
12/22/06 - How Plug-In Hybrids Will Save the Grid
Critics have warned that the vehicles could put too much pressure on an already strained electrical grid, experts are now arguing that rather than being a strain on the grid, plug-in hybrids may actually help prevent brownouts, cut the cost of electricity, and increase the use of renewable energy. Plug-in hybrids, like today's hybrid cars, can run on either an electric motor or an internal combustion engine. But plug-ins have much larger battery packs and can be recharged by being plugged into the wall, making it possible to rely much more on the electric motor. Although a handful of companies sell conversion kits to change conventional hybrids into plug-ins, the kits add thousands of dollars to the cost of the car (see "Plug-In Hybrids Are on the Way"). This additional cost, which is primarily from the batteries, is one of the reasons the major automakers haven't yet mass produced such vehicles, although they are now developing them. Since utilities have built enough power plants to provide electricity when people are operating their air conditioners at full blast, they have excess generating capacity during off-peak hours. As a result, according to an upcoming report from the Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory (PNNL), a Department of Energy lab, there is enough excess generating capacity during the night and morning to allow more than 80 percent of today's vehicles to make the average daily commute solely using this electricity. If plug-in-hybrid or all-electric-car owners charge their vehicles at these times, the power needed for about 180 million cars could be provided simply by running these plants at full capacity. This could be a boon to utilities, because they'd be able to sell more power without the added cost of building more plants. Ideally, this will translate into lower electricity prices, says Robert Pratt, a scientist at PNNL. It might also help utilities justify the added capital costs of building cleaner coal-burning plants, because they'll be able to recover their investment faster by "selling more electricity with the same set of iron, steel, and concrete," Pratt says.
12/22/06 - Self-Cleaning Toilets
"People say toilets represent the level of development of a country," Najib said in his speech at the launch. "The adequate number of toilets, quality and maintenance of public washrooms are a benchmark of the infrastructural development of a country," he said. The new toilets are air-conditioned and have an automatic seat cleaner that will wash, scrub and dry the pan after every use. It also has a baby change station and seats for children to wait as parents answer the call of nature.
The toilets, which cost one ringgit to use, also flush automatically and have facilities for the disabled.
12/21/06 - You believe what you believe because of where you were born
How has the geography of religion evolved over the centuries, and where has it sparked wars? Our map gives us a brief history of the world's most well-known religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Selected periods of inter-religious bloodshed are also highlighted. Want to see 5,000 years of religion in 90 seconds? Ready, Set, Go! Conclusion: You believe what you believe because of where you were born. (via http://j-walkblog.com/)
12/21/06 - Stomach Bugs may be cause of Obesity
The human gut is home to trillions of helpful microbes that play vital, varying, and largely undocumented roles in digesting the food we eat. Some are better at it than others. New research, reported today in the British journal Nature, suggests that two common classes of digestive bacteria play a previously unsuspected role in determining whether a person gains weight - and how much - from a given quantity of food. Scientists say obese people have a preponderance of microbes in their digestive tract that are very efficient at harvesting energy from food - energy that the body can then burn or store as fat. Lean people have more of a class of microbes that are less efficient at extracting energy.
12/21/06 - Zero Fog Blaster
The Zero Fog Blaster launches 2 to 6 inch diameter non-toxic fog rings that will sail to ten feet and beyond. Easy to use, they are great stress busters and with practice you'll be able to create bigger and better rings. The Zero Blaster uses the same liquid that Hollywood uses in the movies to make special effects fog. Like a snowflake, each fog ring is unique, expanding at its own rate and traveling at its own speed. The Zero Blaster has an elastic diaphram that pushes a burst of air through a small opening. You can launch fog rings holding the Blaster still, but the rings will be smaller and travel a shorter distance. To create the largest fog rings, that will travel up to fourteen feet, follow the directions right here. Each Zero Blaster comes with three ounces of Super Fog-Ring Fluid (cherry scent), enough for more than 25,000 fog rings! Additional refills available as well. Requires 6 AA Batteries, not included.
12/21/06 - Barbed Penetrating Taser uses slap/bite Reflex
Thick clothing can sometimes prevent stun guns from delivering their disabling charge. But the US government has been funding a project by the makers, Taser International of Arizona, to develop a projectile that is better able to deliver a shock through clothing. It will help stun animals with thick fur, too. Existing stun guns fire a projectile with barbed electrodes that impales the target. A shock voltage is then delivered through the electrodes. But the barbs can sometimes get stuck in clothing or fur, which insulates the victim and prevents the device from delivering its shock. The new design fires a projectile with ordinary electrode barbs on the front and an extra electrode on the rear that faces away from the target. Despite some protection from clothing, enough charge should get through the front electrodes to deliver a painful, if not disabling, shock. This initial zap causes the target to grab at the electrode or, in the case of an animal, bite at it. This unfortunate instinct puts the target’s hand or mouth in good electrical contact with the electrode pointing out from the projectile. A powerful shock is then delivered through bare flesh that disables the victim.
12/21/06 - Bouncy backpack seriously lightens the load
(This remind me of a few kung fu movies with Chow Yung Fat and others where they claim if you can run or flap fast enough, you can fly since air has viscosity. - JWD) A backpack that reduces the forces on your body when carrying heavy loads could help prevent injury, allow soldiers to carry more equipment and even speed up the response time of emergency services, its designer claims. When people walk, they tend to raise and lower their bodies by between 5 centimetres and 7 cm with each step. If they are carrying a backpack, the extra load must also be raised by the same amount and this puts extra strain on the body. His new design consists of a frame which a person wears like an ordinary backpack. However, the load is suspended from the frame by elasticated bungee cords which lengthen as the wearer takes a stride, thereby keeping the load at a constant height. “By suspending the load, you knock out 86% of this extra force, making it comfortable to run with a heavy load," says Rome, who has published his results in the journal Nature. The principle is similar to that used by traditional Asian merchants who carry their wares using flexible bamboo poles.
12/21/06 - The power of Authority Figures
Infamous experiments almost 50 years ago discovered that ordinary people-under orders from an authority figure-would deliver apparently lethal electrical shocks to complete strangers. Now scientists are conducting these experiments against computer-generated virtual people, where no real people appear to get hurt. The hope is to better understand why people commit horrific acts against their fellows, such as torture or genocide, while potentially overcoming the ethical concerns against the original experiments. These new findings build off the pioneering work of psychologist Stanley Milgram at Yale University who began his controversial experiments in 1961, months after the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann began. Eichmann, responsible for the mass deportations of Jews, gypsies and others purged during the Nazi reign furthered his notoriety by insisting he was only "following orders" when confronted with his crimes. The Milgram experiment discovered that ordinary people could easily be persuaded to give what they believed to be lethal electrical shocks to randomly chosen strangers, even if it conflicted with their own consciences, if instructed to do so by a perceived authority figure. The stranger was at no time actually hurt. "This opens the door to the systematic use of virtual environments for laboratory style study of situations that are otherwise impossible whether for practical or ethical reasons -- for example, violence associated with football, racial attacks, gang attacks on individuals, and so on," Slater said. "Why do some people participate in such activities even though it is against their nature? The original Milgram experiment helps to explain this, and the exploitation of virtual environments may help to further research into these difficult and pressing questions."
12/21/06 - An Ingenious Water Mover - The Hipporoller
The Hipporoller carries 20 gallons of water, four times the water that one person can carry via a 20 litre bucket (5 gallons weighs nearly 42 pounds or 18.9 kilograms) and it does so without placing undue stress on the neck, arms or spine. The Hippo Water Roller is a barrel-shaped container designed to transport 90 liters (20 gallons) of water. It comprises of a drum with a large screw-on cap and a clip-on steel handle.
The drum is manufactured from UV stabilized Polyethylene and has been designed to withstand typical rural conditions such as uneven footpaths, rocks and even broken bottles. The large opening (135 mm / 5.3 inch diameter) allows for easy filling and cleaning of the interior. The sealed lid ensures hygienic storage of water and the steel handle provides firm control over difficult terrain while pushing or pulling the roller. The innovative design allows water to be placed inside the "wheel" rather than carried above the wheel. The 90kg (200 pound) weight of water is borne on the ground resulting in an effective weight of just 10kg (22 pounds) on level ground. Children and the elderly can easily manage a full roller over most types of terrain. Extensive field tests over many years and various awards have proven the effectiveness of the Hippo Water Roller. Approximately five times the normal amount of water can now be collected in less time with far less effort.
12/21/06 - Minicars judged big safety risks
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is releasing crash test results today for six minicars that find only one - the Nissan Versa - to be safe. The institute said the five other minicars it tested were either marginal or poor in one or two of three categories of safety, including the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Scion xB, Hyundai Accent and Chevrolet Aveo. The group also re-issued test results for a seventh small car, BMW's Mini Cooper, which it said was "marginal" in rear impacts but noted is being replaced early next year with a redesigned model.
The institute said the Versa, which went on sale in July, did a good job in all three of the group's tests, which simulate a frontal impact into a barrier, a side-impact from a pickup truck or SUV and a rear impact by a vehicle of equal weight to the one being tested. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also gave the Versa a good rating. The Mini did well in frontal and side tests but not in the rear impact Mini spokesman Andrew Cutler said, "Consumers need to be aware that this is for a car that is close to six years old ... " The Fit and Yaris also did well in the front and side tests but the Fit was "poor" and the Yaris "marginal" in rear protection. Honda had no comment on the rear impact results.
12/21/06 - They still don't 'get it' - Pentagon Wants $99.7B MORE for Wars
The Pentagon wants the White House to seek another $99.7 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to information provided to The Associated Press. The military's request, if embraced by President Bush and approved by Congress, would boost this year's budget for the wars to about $170 billion. Overall, the war in Iraq has so far cost about $350 billion. Combined with the conflict in Afghanistan and operations against terrorism elsewhere around the world, the cost to taxpayers has exceeded $500 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The additional funds, if approved, would push this year's cost of the war in Iraq about $50 billion over the record set last year. In September, Congress approved an initial $70 billion for the current budget year. Another $9.8 billion is being sought for training and equipping Iraq's and Afghanistan's security forces.
12/21/06 - Applicants line up for empty jobs after Swift plant raid
The line of applicants hoping to fill jobs vacated by undocumented workers taken away by immigration agents at the Swift "&" Co. meat-processing plant earlier this week was out the door Thursday. Like many others who had mixed emotions about the raid, Maxine Hernandez said she was upset that families were torn apart, but believes illegal immigrants should not get work using fake documents.
12/21/06 - With Recession Looming, Bush Tells America To 'Go Shopping More'
Today, President Bush held a news conference where he discussed the "way forward" for the economy in 2007. Renowned Morgan Stanley economist Steven Roach says the the "odds of the U.S. economy tipping into recession are about 40 to 45 per cent." New York Times columnist Paul Krugman notes that "the odds are very good - maybe 2 to 1," that the U.S. will teeter toward a recession in 2007. Bush's solution? "Go shopping more." / US is Insolvent - There is simply no way for our national bills to be paid under current levels of taxation and promised benefits. Our federal deficits alone now total more than 400% of GDP. That is the conclusion of a recent Treasury/OMB report entitled Financial Report of the United States Government that was quietly slipped out on a Friday (12/15/06), deep in the holiday season, with little fanfare.
12/21/06 - Dark meat made White
How can turkey meat lose its dark side? Betti says the process is actually quite simple, similar to that used to produce synthetic crab meat. First, dark meat is minced and put on ice. Water is added and the now mushy meat is put through several extraction processes to separate and remove layers of the two ingredients that make dark meat look and taste different than white; myoglobin, which gives dark meat its characteristic colour, and fat. Dark meat is about six per cent fat compared to 1.5 per cent in breast meat. What's left looks like a meaty milkshake that's the same colour as white meat, with a similar calorie count. Betti describes it as a "protein concentrate," and while you can't slice it, the paste can be used as a base to create foods that have chicken as their main ingredient. "It would be ideal for something like chicken nuggets," said Betti. McDonalds needn't worry about new competition just yet. Betti admits the final product still needs work. "It's a challenge ... right now it tastes more like tofu."
12/20/06 - Hybrid Tricycle boasts Mileage mark
A hybrid tricycle using a Frankenstein-like mix of bicycle parts, electric motors and other digital equipment, all powered by a portable generator installed in the middle of the vehicle. The tricycle is claimed to get more than 100 miles per gallon at 45 mph and has the potential for higher numbers. The foundation of Petty's tricycle is the modified frame from a four-seat, four-wheel bicycle, something that families might use on a beach boardwalk. The front steering portion is a chopped front-half of a BMX bicycle welded to the main frame. Petty purchased an arc welder and taught himself how to weld for this project. Everything else is a hodgepodge of parts, from the plastic chair purchased at Wal-Mart -- balanced upon a couple of spare tires for shock absorption -- to the pair of D.C. electric motors originally meant to power escalators, now powering fat tires from a Schwinn cruiser. Petty replaced the batteries with a gas-powered generator, which offers a more stable flow of electricity and greater circuit-breaker protection. Adding a digital speed control -- the kind used to regulate automated assembly lines -- proved to be the turning point, he said. The device not only synchs the two motors to run at the same speed, but it smoothly delivers electricity to the motors, adding more as the load increases. Without that control, the direct application of electricity fires up the motor instantaneously, and "it rips your wheels off," he said.
12/20/06 - Shorelines may be in greater peril than thought
For a given amount of warming, Rahmstorf says, the rise in sea level "could well be twice as much as was so far expected, based on the last IPCC report". At the top of the range of possible temperature rises estimated by the last IPCC report, the rise could be as great as 140 centimetres by 2100. That would be bad new for cities like London and New York, which lie close to sea level, and would leave them facing an increased risk of devastating storm surges. Even the lowest predicted temperature rises would cause a 50 cm rise, Rahmstorf says. The method relies on actual observations of past changes in sea level, and their correlation with temperature changes, to derive an estimate of the amount of increase expected for a given temperature change. "We should not take this risk," Rahmstorf says. "We should start with very effective emission reduction measures. The global temperature increase should be kept to under 2°C."
12/20/06 - Priority should be Earth, not Moon (or Mars)
NASA’s plan to set up a permanent base on the moon has drawn relatively little attention. But the price tag, if the agency proceeds, is bound to draw a lot. Such a project could easily cost tens of billions of dollars, dwarfing NASA’s annual budget of about $17 billion a year. The international space station, which currently devours a good share of that money, is not an example to inspire optimism. Since 1998, the project has cost about $100 billion, more than twice the original estimate, while producing little of scientific value. Setting our sights on exploring the moon, and eventually Mars, is admirable. But the most urgent claims on U.S. scientific and technological prowess right now are in the fields of energy and the environment, particularly global warming. It makes no sense to throw away billions on space voyages, whose benefits are uncertain, when the challenge of establishing viable energy sources looms so dramatically here at home. Ironically, it was the early moon missions that showed us images of our fragile planet - images that once ranked among space exploration’s most important discoveries. If Americans are to throw billions into research, preserving their own planet ought to be the first priority. If we must try living on the moon, it would make more sense for commercial interests to put up the bulk of the dollars. Meanwhile, sustaining life on Earth demands the work of our best minds. It is too bad that NASA has no counterpart tasked with that important mission.
12/20/06 - Copyright Tool Scans Web For Violations
Attributor Corporation is going to offer clients the ability to scan the web for their own intellectual property. They specifically cite the pending legal actions against companies like YouTube, and wonder about what their attitude will be towards initiatives like this. From the article: "Attributor analyzes the content of clients, who could range from individuals to big media companies, using a technique known as 'digital fingerprinting,' which determines unique and identifying characteristics of content. It uses these digital fingerprints to search its index of the Web for the content. The company claims to be able to spot a customer's content based on the appearance of as little as a few sentences of text or a few seconds of audio or video. It will provide customers with alerts and a dashboard of identified uses of their content on the Web and the context in which it is used. The content owners can then try to negotiate revenue from whoever is using it or request that it be taken down. In some cases, they may decide the content is being used fairly or to acceptable promotional ends. Attributor plans to help automate the interaction between content owners and those using their content on the Web, though it declines to specify how."
12/20/06 - Italy village gets 'sun mirror'
A sun-deprived village in the Italian Alps has come up with a novel solution to fix the problem - by installing a giant mirror. The mirror - an eight-by-five metre (26x16ft) sheet of steel - was placed on a nearby peak to reflect sunlight onto Viganella's main square below. The computer-operated mirror will now be constantly following the sun's path. Viganella's problem is that it was built at the bottom of a very steep-sided Alpine valley, right up against the Swiss border. Viganella Mayor Pierfranco Midali holds the remote control computer as the giant mirror positioned on the hill behind. The mirror is remotely controlled by a computer. The southern side of the valley is so sheer that on 11 November the sun disappears and does not reappear until 2 February. Not a single ray of sunlight falls on Viganella in the weeks in between. "It's like Siberia," one of the village's nearly 200 residents has said. However, the south-facing slopes to the north do get sunshine just a few hundred metres above the village.
So the mirror was mounted on the mountainside to reflect sunlight into the village's main piazza.
12/20/06 - Face Search Engine Raises Privacy Concerns
"Startup Polar Rose is in the news today after announcing it will soon launch a service that uses facial recognition software, along with collaborative input, to identify and find people in photos online. But such technology has serious implications for privacy, according to two UK civil liberties groups. Will people be so keen to put their lives on Flickr once anyone from ID thieves to governments can find out their name, and who they associate with?"
12/20/06 - Inkjet printing with live stem cells: "bio-inks"
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh have successfully directed adult stem cells from mice to develop into bone and muscle cells with the aid of a custom-designed ink-jet printer. They say it's a first step toward better understanding tissue regeneration, which may one day lead to therapies for repairing damaged tissues, as occurs in osteoarthritis.
12/20/06 - Razor light puts hair to sleep
A device that uses light to send hair follicles to sleep, making skin smooth for weeks at a time, without shaving or waxing, is being patented by Philips. Laser light can be used to kill hair follicles by making them so hot that they literally explode. But such destructive "photoepilation" is painful and can also cause skin irritation. Researchers at Philips’ Lab in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, have found that short, weak pulses of near infrared light causes follicles to change from their natural growing state to a dormant state, known as the "telogen phase". The Philips device uses light from a halogen lamp. Pulses lasting 15 milliseconds each are filtered so that only 600-950 nanometre wavelengths reach the follicles below. Moving the device slowly over the skin spreads about 15 joules of light energy onto each square centimetre. A sensor can also be used to automatically adjust treatment intensity to suit different skin and hair types. Three treatment sessions, over the course of two weeks, reduces hair growth by 90%, Philips claims.
12/19/06 - Bio for All
A fuel plant using a technology protocol the inventor calls "high-temperature pressurized" (simply put: a way to cook biofuels at abnormally high temperatures, one that cuts effluence by rendering obsolete the need to "wash" the fuel). Carlstein's company says its reactors -- which supposedly produce high-quality biodiesel with half the energy input needed in conventional plants -- are capable of churning out 45 to 4,500 tons of biodiesel per year, at a purchase cost of about $4,000 to $210,000. His reactors are designed to be built anywhere, "are meant to be made locally, generating synergy between client and manufacturer," he says, adding that he has sold units to wanna-be producers in several countries from Argentina to Spain, Costa Rica to Canada. And his customers are happy, he says, in part because the recipe is so simple. He says folks only need the seed or the oil to get started: "Biodiesel can be made from tree oil crops such as jatropha or the Chinese tallow tree, generating fuel and energy while at the same time we reforest the planet and make use of marginal lands presently not suitable for agriculture."
12/19/06 - Dance Floor generates Power
Marc Almond, 52, an inventor from Altrincham has developed a sprung floor system which transforms movement - jumping, dancing, walking on it - into enough electricity to power a light bulb. Marc, who runs Blitz Jive Ltd, dreamed up the system after watching the amount of energy being generated by a dance class he was taking. He thought it was a waste and decided to go into his garden shed to discover a way it could be put to good use. In tests he said it has been able to power items such as small motors and small screens and anything else that requires three volts. Marc's idea made it to the final of the Powergen EnergyLab competition. This is a nationwide search to find the best green ideas. Marc just missed out on the top prize of £50,000. This was despite wowing a panel of judges in a regional heat by walking and jumping on a 10ft by 10ft section of the flooring, generating enough energy to power 16 light bulbs and then a fan.
12/19/06 - OSCAR - the Open Source Car Design free of patents
The open source movement responsible for software like Linux and the browser Firefox is proving contagious. Now a German entrepreneur is applying the same approach to designing a car. Former BMW employee Markus Merz, who now owns an automobile consulting firm in Dingolfing, Germany, calls his project Oscar, shorthand for Open Source Car.The idea behind open source development is to allow anyone to copy, modify and redistribute ordinarily secret information about a technology without paying royalties to the original developers. The hope is that, unrestrained by patents and other conventional restrictions such as profit margin, marketing and technology, a community of experts will come up with fresh solutions. the car will be about 4 metres long and 2 metres wide, and will have four doors. It will be powered by electricity and have a maximum speed of about 150 kilometres per hour. Participants discuss their ideas on online forums organised into four main topics: integration, which includes design, package and distribution; modules, which includes discussion of the body, engine and safety systems; tools, which includes conversations about computer-aided design tools and simulations; and network, where participants discuss potential partnerships. A group of technicians heads each forum to ensure that the best ideas are moved forward to computer modelling and testing. From there, anyone, including car manufacturers, will be encouraged to build the car. There will be no patents, and no proprietary data.
12/19/06 - Dye-sensitized Nano-structured Solar Cells
Scientists from the University of Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy have announced a new type of solar panel made with the pigment of blueberries. Such Graetzel cells that integrate organic semiconductors could reduce drastically the cost of production of the solar panels, which is one of the main drawbacks of this alternative energy source, by eliminating or producing the need for silicon.* It is more than materials cost, however. A roll-to-roll manufacturing process whereby self-aligning semiconductor solution is printed onto a lightweight, flexible polymide substrate, could result in a significantly lower production cost. Industry experts predict that large scale production to meet demand also will lower the cost per watt. “If the technology keeps evolving steadily, though, it looks like that it will start competing directly with standard energy sources."
12/19/06 - Ornithopter (flapping wings) takes flight
rofessor Emeritus James DeLaurier and a team of students at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies achieved sustained flight by a piloted ornithopter - an airplane with flapping wings that are mechanically operated - something dreamed of by Leonardo da Vinci, among others. The concept of an ornithopter differs from standard fixed-wing aircraft because when flying its wings flap up and down in a manner similar to that of birds in flight. “It’s an ancient dream, achieving flight with flapping wings," said DeLaurier, a professor of aerospace engineering at U of T since 1974, who retired this summer. With the help of his current research team of four students, test pilot Jack Sanderson and a few other volunteers, DeLaurier achieved his lifelong dream of flying a full-scale ornithopter July 8 at Downsview Park. Equipped with a 24-horsepower engine and a model airplane turbo booster, the ornithopter flew for 14 seconds at an average speed of 88 km/h, in the process travelling a third of a kilometre. “It was sustained flight; no one can question that. It received help from the booster jet but the majority of the thrust was from the flapping wings," DeLaurier said. “When it did fly we were pretty happy. I was just hollering with joy." The flight ended due to a stress-related failure in one section of the left wing. The ornithopter’s nose and front wheel were damaged during landing.
12/19/06 - In Granular System, Tiniest Grains Absorb Shocks "Like a Sponge"
A University at Buffalo theoretical physicist who published research in 2001 demonstrating that it someday may be possible to build bridges, buildings and other structures that are nearly blast-proof, now has published results based on computer simulations showing how a shock-absorption system might be constructed to accomplish that goal. The research is relevant not only to questions of shock-absorption in these structures, but also to life-saving improvements in tanks and aircraft carriers, as well as bullet-proof vests and other protective clothing for soldiers, law enforcement officers and even outdoor enthusiasts. In earlier UB research by the same scientists, granular systems composed of individual spheres of gradually reduced size -- a "tapered" chain in a casing -- proved to be capable of efficiently absorbing well over 80 percent of input energy. The main findings of the current research are that it is possible to retain the scalability of the system, reduce its size by a factor of five and make it far more capable of absorbing shock. The key to achieving the results, according to Surajit Sen, Ph.D., UB professor of physics and co-author of both the current work and the 2001 publication, was the use of interstitial grains of the right sizes to control energy propagation through the chain. "It turns out that the shock pulse is more easily managed when tiny interstitial grains are placed between the many progressively shrinking spheres or grains that make up the tapered chain," he said. In the most recent paper, the UB physicists reported that this "decorated, tapered chain" system is capable of absorbing more than 50 percent of the shock that could not be absorbed by previous systems they had simulated. These greater shock absorption capabilities were attributed to the use of tiny, interstitial grains or particles of only about a millimeter that were placed in between each sphere, the "decorated" part of the chain; it turned out that the smaller these grains were, the more shock absorption they could achieve. Because the granular shock-absorbing system is strongly nonlinear, he said, the system allows directed energy transfer and the smaller grains undergo rapid rattling, which helps to efficiently distribute and dissipate the energy.
12/19/06 - 1936 - Lifesaver for "Bleeders" found in Egg White
The curse of the Hapsburgs has been foiled-by egg white.The threat of death is now lifted from the heads of royalty and commoners alike who suffer under this curse, the dangerous, hereditary disease of hemophilia. These men and boys (the disease is transmitted by women but afflicts only males) need no longer lead a timid, hothouse existence for fear a scratch or slight exertion will bring on fatal bleeding.
12/19/06 - New therapy can reduce stage fright
A new psychological therapy that helps musicians manage performance anxiety can also benefit other performers and sportspeople. Performance anxiety, commonly known as stage fright, is a significant problem for many musicians. More than half the university music students surveyed by psychologist Dr Ruth Tarrant reported high levels of anxiety before performing, with anxiety often continuing into the performance itself. Her study focused on performance anxiety among musicians - although the concepts and management of stage fright apply to sport, public speaking, performing arts, or sitting exams. Her approach is based on cognitive-behavioural therapy where people examine their thinking and behaviour and, where appropriate, change any patterns that are having negative effects. An important aspect of Dr Tarrant’s therapy is to assist performers to focus their thoughts on what they needed to do moment by moment as they are performing, rather than thinking about the outcome of the performance. “Unhappy or doubtful thoughts will be linked to negative or unpleasant emotions. If we can change the way we are thinking, we can change the way we are feeling. “During a performance, we need our whole mental capacity available for the process of performing: keeping our minds focused on the process of performing, rather than thinking about the outcome, is likely to result in higher performance standards and enjoyment. This principle applies to any kind of task, performance or social encounter."
12/19/06 - The Rise of Chinese Alternative Energy Companies
China - the most population rich country in the world - is energy poor and it wants to catch up - fast. Other than dirty coal, China has next to no natural resources. And this nation of 1.3 billion people is going to require vast amounts of oil to fuel its vehicles and huge increases in electricity generation to power its new industries. There is no question that China is experiencing the greatest industrialisation in the history of the world. So just what does this resultant energy shortfall offer the alternative energy investor? China's renewable energy law passed earlier this year undoubtedly will lead to a vast mandated increase in the uptake of alternative energy. Yet externalities such as the high price of oil, concerns over energy security, and the enormous pent-up demand of a vast and still poor country count for much more. All of these are driving China unstoppably into an alternative energy investment boom. Expect to see many more IPOs of Chinese alternative energy companies over the next few years. Chinese manufacturing, which has so effectively reduced costs of consumer electronics like DVD and MP3 players, has a real chance to do the same to solar cells, wind turbines, fuel cells and hybrid vehicles. That's why in this business, China is just getting started.
12/19/06 - Liquid Coal touted as Fuel of the Future
The technology of producing a liquid fuel from coal or natural gas is hardly new. The Fischer-Tropsch process was developed by German researchers Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch in 1923 and used by Germany and Japan during the Second World War to produce alternative fuels. Indeed, in 1944, Germany produced 6.5 million tons, or 124,000 barrels a day. And coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuel is already in use elsewhere, like South Africa, where it meets 30 per cent of transportation fuel needs. In addition to being cheaper than oil, advocates point out that the fuel is environmentally friendlier and would also help the United States wean itself of foreign oil imports. The United States is "already behind the curve" when it comes to tapping the vast liquid fuel potential of coal, said John Ward, of natural resources company Headwaters Inc., which builds CTL plants. He said U.S. plants would likely each produce 40,000 barrels of CTL fuel a day, with a typical plant using 8.5 million tons of coal a year. In contrast, China is focused on building plants capable of producing 60,000 barrels of CTL fuel a day, he said.
12/19/06 - 1936 - Spiral organization found in Paraffin Crystals
Spiral organization, so common in plant and animal life and almost universal in nebulae, is a very rare phenomenon in inanimate molecular structures. Preserved in Princeton's museum is a carborundum crystal that has on it a spot the size of a pinhead, which when magnified shows a simple but perfect spiral. Also, in rare cases, the face of a quartz crystal properly etched will show a type of spiral. Spirals in abundance and of rare beauty have recently been discovered by Prof. C.M. Heck of North Carolina State College, and that, too, in common paraffin. Shown on the cover of this week's Science News Letter is one of these spiral crystals as it grew from a solution of paraffin in mineral oil. It is magnified 1,200 diameters and shows each convolution repeating with exactness the exterior outlines of the crystal, a significant element of the discovery. Professor Heck discovered these crystals while researching on the equilibrium conditions shown between solid and liquid compounds of the paraffin chemical series. His findings are proving of much interest to the refiners of oils and gasolines as they show paraffin crystals to be sensitive detectors of foreign materials when in these products. The crystals vary their shape and internal structure markedly. For example, these spirals are found to double and become twin spirals in certain cases, one spiral turning clockwise and the other counter-clockwise in most cases.
No explanation of the spiral formation is given by Professor Heck, though he finds strong indications that all tabular paraffin crystals have a spiral structure that becomes visible only in exaggerated cases. Analysis with polarized light so far has not shown any difference between crystals with visible spirals and those without them.
12/19/06 - ISECOM's Top 10 Real Computer Crimes
"ISECOM, the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies, has just posted their Top 10 Real Computer Crimes for 2007 and Beyond. This list runs the gambit from poorly designed patches to chlamydia! It's entertaining, but also scary, as many of us could fall victim to some or all of them."
12/19/06 - DIY Water/Soda bottle Tripod
DIY site Instructables shows you how to turn nearly any plastic bottle into a tripod (make that monopod) for your camera. All you need is a screw-on bottle cap and a couple of dirt-cheap nuts and bolts, and you can assemble one of these in about five minutes. When you find yourself in need of a tripod, just screw the cap into your camera and onto a full water or pop bottle. Presto! (via lifehacker.com)
12/19/06 - Telephone lie detector claims to catch fibbers
A new telephone lie detector system promises to pick up on tell-tale signs of stress in a caller's voice whenever they tell a fib. Available for free, the Kishkish lie detector can be easily downloaded from the web and used by those who make phone calls over the internet. Scientists have found that frequencies in the human voice are sensitive to honesty, becoming higher when a person is lying. This is because in moments of stress, such as telling a lie, our muscles tighten as our body prepares to flee or fight causing the pitch of our voice to alter. The inventors of the lie detector claim the software mimics police technology by monitoring the stress levels of the person speaking on the phone to judge whether they are telling the truth.
Already 320,000 people have downloaded the lie detector system. Using the infamous example of Bill Clinton's denial about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, the developers show on their website a graph which rises as he utters the lie: 'I did not have sexual relations with that woman.' The software measures stress levels between one and 100, with a green light which shows when stress levels are normal, which then changes to red when they rise to high, allowing the user to gauge whether the other person is lying.
12/18/06 - Hydrogen from Wind
The technology proposes to take clean energy to a new level, using a renewable resource, wind, to make a non-polluting fuel, hydrogen, in one of the nation's first attempts to combine the two energy resources. The concept is simple: Make hydrogen when the wind is blowing, then store the fuel for use whenever it is needed. The science behind the concept is nearly as simple. Electricity from wind turbines is used to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is captured and stored, then used either to generate power or as a high-tech fuel for vehicles. ``Converting wind energy to hydrogen means that it doesn't matter when the wind blows,'' he said, ``since its energy can be stored on site in the form of hydrogen.''
The research project is expected initially to generate only relatively tiny amounts of hydrogen -- about 17 kilograms a day. Each kilogram has roughly the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline. The produced hydrogen will be used to generate small amounts of electricity. In the future, if commercial-scale production can be achieved, scientists say hydrogen's most economical use will be as a vehicle fuel, for either internal-combustion engines or fuel-cell-powered cars. Fuel cells use a chemical process to convert hydrogen to electricity. The added benefit of using hydrogen to power fuel cells is there are no emissions and the only byproduct is water.
12/18/06 - Moon Race from FEAR, not Exploration
New book, 'Dark Side of the Moon' reveals the Apollo program had one primary compelling rationale: beating America’s Cold War archenemy, the Soviet Union, to the Moon. By that metric Apollo was a resounding success, but at what cost besides the billions of dollars spent on the program? Recent efforts by NASA to justify its new lunar base plans, offered a passel of reasons for a lunar facility, from science to commerce to a staging area for future exploration, all with varying degrees of plausibility. It should hardly be surprising that the US overstated the capabilities of the Soviet program, be it from a lack of good intelligence or a need to build up a case for increased funding for NASA. Likening NASA to the invasive kudzu vines that plague the South, he writes, “NASA took over entire communities and sent its tendrils everywhere. Its healthy appearance obscured the fact that it was strangling the American economy." There may yet be a bright future for the Vision for Space Exploration, provided NASA and its supporters can craft a set of reasons for human spaceflight that can rouse that public interest once again.
12/18/06 - The Ettridge Savonius Wind Generator improvement
(I think the improved Savonius shown here might be better. Also interesting is the Yin Yang correlation. - JWD) The problem with the current Savonius type wind turbines is the fact that the blades are only driven by the wind for approximately 120 degrees of one rotation, the remaining 240 degrees, the blades are actually using power, and have to be driven into the wind. The solution that I came up with was to place a shield, or skirt to cover the blades in the area that they normally would need to be driven, and by using overhead air scoops, directed the new air into the tunnel created by the rotor and wind shield. This has the effect that the blades on the rotating turbine are driven for the full 360 degrees, greatly improving low wind speed start up efficiency, and by rotating the skirt and scoops effectively feathering the rotor in high wind speeds. What should be realized is that even if there is no wind present, when a car or automobile is travelling at 60KPH, the wind speed travelling pass or over the top of the automobile is 60 KPH, more than enough to provide a meaningful electric current to recharge batteries, or even provide the source basic electric current to power the vehicles electric motors.
12/18/06 - Fly By Wire
People are always looking for new ways to get a thrill, but let's be honest: there hasn't been much that's come out that has actually looked like a lot of fun since the advent of the bungee cord. Well, move over really long rubber band; there's a new sheriff in town. Fly By Wire is an insane setup in the mountains of New Zealand. It involves a wire strung between two peaks and a little vehicle with a propeller suspended from the center. You then lie down on your stomach in this vehicle and go to town, controlling the throttle and steering as you whip around hundreds of feet in the air. Basically, it looks like the most fun you could ever have while suspended from a wire between two mountains. It's in a remote area, so they transport you out there, which is included in the $96 per person fee they charge for a 25 minute ride.
12/18/06 - Motor powered by sewerage pond
A car running on fuel made from algae grown on human sewage has made its world debut. The 5 per cent blend biodiesel was taken for a road test from Parliament by Energy Minister David Parker and Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons. They took the four-wheel-drive for a spin around central Wellington to assess the new fuel's efficiency. The sewerage pond byproduct performed admirably, the green-brown liquid performing with no discernable difference from normal fuel. The biodiesel was developed by Marlborough company Aquaflow, and is understood to be a world first. Most of the world's bio-diesel comes from specifically grown crops such as rape and soya beans, but the algae fuel can be made from any organic waste. Aquaflow's first batch comes from sewerage ponds, but waste from freezing works and dairy farms are considered other potential bio-diesel well-springs. "It helps clean up the water, but it also provides a fuel source."
12/18/06 - Flatlight, flexible light panels
Ceelite Light Emitting Capacitor (LEC) panels are flexible, paper-thin light bulbs that you can hang on a wall, coming in sizes as large as 3 x 6 feet. Just a millimeter thick, the panels sandwich light-emitting phosphors between layers of electrodes. When an AC voltage is applied, the phosphors light up with a warm white glow, consuming less power than a neon or fluorescent bulb. The panel naturally glows evenly, though you can set them up to dim, glow brighter, or blink like crazy when touched. The panels are already lighting up store windows, dance floors, pillars, and trendy bars.
12/18/06 - Expediency vs Morals in Research
The Army kept the seamier details of famous rocket scientist von Braun's past under wraps. They seem to have been particularly keen that we did not know the rocket scientist had been an honorary officer of the SS, or that thousands of slave workers were murdered at the rocket assembly plant at Nordhausen. It is a reminder that knowledge is never pure. Where science goes, technology follows, and where technology goes the military is not far behind. A substantial part of basic research is funded by governments with an eye on weaponry. It is the rare scientist that at some point in his or her career is not required to ask: "Is this research for the good or harm of humankind?" scientists, like everyone else, must consider -- insofar as they can -- the ethical implications of their work.
It was expedient for Werner von Braun to close his eyes to the murderous conditions in which his rockets were manufactured. It was expedient for the US Army to close its eyes to von Braun's tacit complicity in atrocities. It was expedient for the citizens of Huntsville to close their eyes to the wartime activities of the German scientists and engineers who brought new prosperity to the town. Scientists and engineers are inclined to say: "What politicians and generals do with our work is none of our business." Knowledge may indeed be morally neutral, but its application can be fraught with moral consequence.
12/18/06 - To fix US schools, panel says, start over
What if the solution to American students' stagnant performance levels and the wide achievement gap between white and minority students wasn't more money, smaller schools, or any of the reforms proposed in recent years, but rather a new education system altogether? That's the conclusion of a bipartisan group of scholars and business leaders, school chancellors and education commissioners, and former cabinet secretaries and governors. They declare that America's public education system, designed to meet the needs of 100 years ago when the workplace revolved around an assembly line, is unsuited to today's global marketplace. Already, they warn, many Americans are in danger of falling behind and seeing their standard of living plummet.
12/18/06 - Suing ARM & HAMMER
(This is an interesting lawsuit, definitely read through it. I think it will be thrown out simply because it involves illegal drugs. - JWD) Pro se litigants, plaintiffs' lawyers, and law professors all share the ability to "think outside the box." They come up with novel and creative theories of liability -- ones that courts have never entertained before. Some are crazy. Some are brilliant. And some fall somewhere in between. Summary: Pro se litigant George Allen Ward is suing Arm & Hammer and its corporate parent, Church & Dwight, for $425 million. His theory of liability: failure to warn. The company failed to warn him that if he cooked up THEIR PRODUCT, baking soda, with cocaine, he might end up serving a 200-month prison sentence on crack cocaine charges. This is just the beginning; the whole complaint is genius. It's strangely compelling, and it gets better with every page. Also, we think it might fly in the Ninth Circuit.
12/18/06 - WildCharger Wireless Power
WildCharge plans to push things forward with its WildCharger. The gadget can wirlelessly charge any device - laptop, cell phone, PDA, and the like - that normally demands its own specific charger and tangly cable. It does, ironically, come with its own AC power cord, but it'll be the only one you need. Simply place whatever needs juice on top of it and let induction do its thing. The charger is expected to run between $40 and $100, and if WildCharge delivers on its promise to make this available early next year.
12/18/06 - How to Destroy a Nation from Within
The first step according to Lamm, "turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bicultural country." Secondly said the former statesman, "Invent 'multiculturalism' and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture," making it an "article of faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rates are due solely to prejudice and discrimination by the majority." Thirdly, "celebrate diversity rather than unity," and fourth, "make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population." Fueled by the media and white guilt, programs such as these will only serve to divide the nation and empower those that pull the strings behind the curtain.
12/18/06 - Oregon Winemakers Say Manure in Cow Horns Makes Pinot Great
Rudy Marchesi and his girlfriend spent one Saturday in October stuffing 140 hollow cow horns with manure and burying them on his Oregon vineyard. Marchesi is one of a growing number of Oregon winemakers who have embraced biodynamic farming, an alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Adherents spray their soil with diluted solutions of compost, use horsetail tea to control fungi and pick their grapes during certain phases of the moon and planets. The seemingly bizarre techniques were described by an Austrian philosopher 82 years ago and have caught on among winemakers in Europe, Australia and California. Oregon, which rivals France's Burgundy region for producing some of the world's finest pinot noir, is becoming a hotbed because of the northwestern state's environmental bent. Marchesi said going biodynamic at his Montinore Estate vineyard in Forest Grove helped him tame phylloxera, a sap- sucking aphid that has wiped out vineyards in Europe and California. Usually, the cure is to rip out affected vines. Marchesi just applies compost. ``We've kept vines alive that should have been dead,'' said Marchesi, 56, who went biodynamic in 2003. Biodynamic farming is the invention of Rudolf Steiner, a polymath born in 1861 in Kraljevica, Croatia, then part of the Austrian empire. Steiner wrote on physics, philosophy, math and medicine. A central tenet of biodynamic farming is that tiny amounts of a substance, mixed vigorously into water, can have profound impact. Homeopaths treat humans the same way. To boost his soil's calcium content, Marchesi mixes an ounce of oak-bark compost into a few gallons of water, then sprays his fields. One batch can cover an acre. In the spring, he'll dig up his manure-filled horns, make a diluted tea out of the contents and spray with that. Steiner also believed the moon and planets influenced plant growth through their gravitational pull. Positions of those celestial bodies determine if a certain day is a root day, leaf day, flower day or fruit day. Most biodynamic farmers use a chart to tell them which day is which. Many biodynamic practitioners admit that their methods sound a little nutty. Kevin Chambers, owner of Resonance Vineyard in Carlton, said he was once a skeptic. Now, he's a convert. He has installed a ``field broadcaster'' or ``cosmic pipe'' in his vineyard. Cosmic Pipe It's an 8-foot-high (2.4-meter) piece of 4-inch (10- centimeter) plastic pipe. It has a copper plate on the top and one at the bottom, four feet in the ground. He pours in Steiner's diluted preparations, and the cosmic pipe broadcasts their energy across his vineyard, he said. ``I'm not a crazy man,'' said Chambers, 50, a co-owner of OVS, a tractor and tool retailer in McMinnville. ``I don't run around naked in the full moon.'' He can't prove that the broadcaster works. In the summer of 2005, though, the Willamette Valley was overrun with voles, small burrowing rodents. They ate the bark around the base of grapevines, killing as many as 20 percent in some vineyards. Resonance had damage to two vines. None died. He thinks maybe the cosmic pipe kept the voles at bay.
12/18/06 - 12gb USB drive for $125
It doesn't look like much, but the thing holds a whopping 12 GB of data. It has a flip-out USB plug and has one-button syncing, making data backup a real cinch. The price of $125 isn't too bad.
12/17/06 - Energy from fixed ocean Buoys
A former surfer who grew up in Australia, Taylor, now 72, studied electrical engineering and spent the past 40 years as a small-business owner in the U.S. His most recent invention is a buoy that can convert a wave's up-and-down motion into electricity, which can be carried ashore by undersea cables and fed into the national power grid. The buoys get deployed a mile or so offshore, either individually or linked together in a field of a dozen or more covering 30 acres of the ocean's surface. They are also an environmentalist's dream - barely visible from the beach, drawing on an abundant, renewable energy resource, with little or no impact upon marine life and emitting no gases that contribute to global warming. Researchers at Oregon State University say that only 0.2 percent of the ocean's untapped wave energy could power the entire world. This figure may seem incredible, but water is a very dense medium, about 1,000 times thicker than air, and capable of transmitting immense energy when in motion. What's more, about 60 percent of the world's population lives within 40 miles of a coast. The buoys Taylor plans to install off Oregon in 2007 will generate electricity at rates competitive with that produced by coal - currently the cheapest, most abundant, most commonly used (and dirtiest) source of energy, at about 4.5 cents a kilowatt hour. Future generations of the buoys could conceivably produce power more cheaply than that. The buoys used in the Reedsport, Ore., project will be Taylor's biggest yet - 30 feet wide, weighing 50 tons and capable of generating 150 kilowatts each - but they work the same way. Looking like a typical navigation marker, each buoy houses a massive float that moves up and down like a piston as a wave passes. (As with an iceberg, most of the buoy remains below the water, with only about nine feet projecting above the surface.) The piston's motion drives a generator near the top of the buoy that creates an electric current, which is then piped back to shore via undersea cables. It sounds simple enough, but the key lies in the buoy's sophisticated sensors. No two waves are identical, so sensors measure each wave in the first tenth of a second as it passes, and an onboard computer "tunes" the buoy, adjusting the travel and resistance of the piston mechanism to capture as much of the wave's energy as possible. The system can even automatically lock and unlock the piston, protecting the buoy during storms. OPT holds 28 patents on the technology, with 16 more pending. In July, Ocean Power filed for a federal permit to install a series of power buoys in water 150 feet deep, 2½ miles offshore of Reedsport. Built in sections, the buoy field will initially generate two megawatts that will be added to the power grid of the entire West Coast, but the ultimate goal is 50 megawatts, enough to power about 50,000 homes.
12/17/06 - Nissan Announces Plugin Cars
For the foreseeable future, Nissan believes that the internal combustion
engine will continue to serve as the primary power source for vehicles. Under NGP 2010, Nissan will accelerate development of technologies that deliver improvements to the efficiency of conventional gasoline powertrains. For example, Nissan will develop powertrains that support the development of a "three-liter car"; a car that will travel 100 kilometers using just three
liters of gasoline. This product's launch is targeted at 2010, starting from Japan. Looking ahead, vehicles using electric motors with the power derived from batteries or hydrogen fuel cells will become increasingly important and ultimately may replace the internal combustion engine. Nissan continues to invest substantially into all aspects of electric vehicle technology. Leading that program will be the development of a hybrid vehicle that uses Nissan
original technologies for a FY2010 launch target. In 2007, Nissan will introduce its first hybrid car - the US market Altima sedan - which utilizes a hybrid system developed outside the company. In the early part of the next decade, Nissan will launch the next generation fuel cell vehicle with its own in-house developed stack and a battery-powered electric vehicle. At the same time, Nissan is preparing for a new company to develop, produce and market advanced lithium-ion batteries, a key technological component for all electric powertrains. In addition, it will accelerate development of plug-in hybrid vehicles. "At Nissan we believe that in order to develop vehicles that are truly environmentally friendly, we need to make significant advances in internal combustion technology while working on electrical power sources in parallel," said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Executive Vice President, Research and Development,
Nissan Motor Company.
12/17/06 - Weather due to Electrical Phenomena
"To understand Earth weather, you first have to understand that the Sun’s fusion is not in the core, it’s up at the surface of the Sun. That translates into tremendous electrical energy in the Solar System. The planets, and the comets, and the moons of the Solar System, all are discharging this battery (or capacitor) that’s built-up around the Sun. In the process of discharging this capacitor, the electrical energy is blowing through the Solar System all the time and is, basically, the cause of our weather." Disturbances caused by the Sun, and HIGH levels of solar storm activity have a profound effect and influence on Earth’s weather and geological processes, like earthquake and volcanic activity. • Due to the current effects of HIGH levels of solar electrical activity and the presence of solar electrical storm conditions, and the way this HIGH level of activity interacts with Earth, those on Earth should remain ALERT for increased disturbances in weather, earthquake, and volcanic activity levels.
• In addition to increased and disturbed weather patterns and systems, HIGH levels of solar electrical activity and storminess interact strongly with Earth’s geological processes, and this in turn creates an increased risk for earthquake and volcanic activity, with the possibility for some of this geological activity having the potential to reach extremely strong levels. • REMEMBER: Higher levels of storminess on the Sun in turn create higher levels of electrical activity and storminess, including instability, in Earth’s Ionosphere and Upper Atmosphere, which in turn have a powerful and direct influence on Earth processes like weather, earthquake activity, and volcanic activity.
12/17/06 - Headbump and Libido
(This sounds like something worth investigating. - JWD) An example where a severe shock to the brain apparently caused a change in behaviour. Stephen Tame from Suffolk in the UK is suing his employer for £3.5 million ($6.9 million) after a head injury at work caused his sex drive to spiral out of control. His subsequent infidelity with a member of his church’s congregation, and dabblings with pornography and prostitutes destroyed his marriage. His lawyers also claim his behaviour has become “rude and physically aggressive".
12/17/06 - Handheld device sees more colours than humans
A handheld device sensitive to changes in colour not detectable by the human eye could be used to spot objects hidden by camouflage or foliage. the IRIS system has a greater basic palette, of 32 or more "colours" - bands of the light spectrum. It works by dividing an image into 32 separate snapshots, each containing only the light from one of its 32 spectral bands. This allows it to pick out features that blend into one for a human observer. The 32 snapshots are projected onto a detector side by side, allowing the device to analyse them all simultaneously. "Until now this kind of imaging was achieved by looking at the different spectral bands sequentially in time," says Harvey, "this method is much faster." What IRIS sees can be translated into false colour images to allow a human to make use of its abilities. Two British defence firms, Quinetiq and Selex, are working on handheld versions of the device, Harvey says, which are similar in size to a video camera: "It should be useful in, for example, a situation where they need to know if there are any artificial objects like mines or vehicles hidden in foliage." It can also be used to look for problems with retinal blood flow, such as diabetic retinopathy - a complication of diabetes that can lead to blindness.
12/17/06 - Nano-cables convert light into electricity
The cables are 16 nanometres in diameter and several micrometres long. They resemble the light-harvesting antennae used by some bacteria and transform light into electricity in a similar way to the semiconductors in solar panels, albeit on a much smaller scale. The hollow cables can grow up to several micrometres long. To build them, Fukushita and colleagues created a compound containing hexabenzocoronene (HBC), two carbon-12 chains, and trinitrofluorenone (TNF). They placed the compound in a solution of tetrahydrofuran and bubbled methane vapour though it, causing the compound to self-assemble into hollow cables. The HBC, which sheds electrons when hit by light, formed the inside of the cable wall, and the TNF, which readily accepts electrons, coated the outside of the wall. At the moment, the cables cannot produce usable electricity from sunlight alone, as current does not flow well through the outer layer of TNF. The next step, Fukushita says, is to modify the outer layer, perhaps by attaching carbon-60 molecules (buckyballs), so it acts as a semiconductor and allows more current to flow.
12/17/06 - Can you say Savate?
Feet, rather than fists, are the most dangerous bodily weapon available, reveals research on violent assaults, published in the journal Injury Prevention. The researchers base their findings on an assessment of nearly 25,000 people treated in emergency care in and around Cardiff, Wales between 1999 and 2005. All had sustained injuries during acts of violence.
12/17/06 - New oral pill may end menstrual periods
A new oral contraceptive pill was found to be highly effective in ending menstrual periods, giving another lifestyle choice for women, researchers say after a year-long study.
The pill 'Lybrel' to be launched by global drug manufacturing company Wyeth Pharmaceuticals early next year was tested on 2,134 women between the ages of 18 and 49 who took the low-dose oral contraceptive for a year to 18 months. Although the long-term safety of continuous contraception remains unknown after a month on the pill, 94 percent of the women in the study still experienced uterine bleeding, with or without spotting, reported online edition of health magazine WebMD. The number of bleeding and spotting days per month decreased steadily with increased duration of use of the birth control pill. However, 21 percent of the women in the study were still bleeding after a year on the pill, the study published in the December issue of the journal 'Contraception' said. After a year on the pill, roughly 60 percent of the women in the study experienced no periods and 20 percent had some spotting, it said. Women taking oral contraceptives have what is called withdrawal bleeding during the seven days they are off active hormones. Women on Lybrel however get continuous hormones - without days off the active pills - so they should have little or no uterine bleeding, it said.
12/17/06 - the Care and Feeding of Robots
Instead of sex-bots driving the industry, emotional companions for the aged and depressed may end up being the leading edge of the field of personal robotics. These would not be care-givers in the robot nurse sense; instead, they'd serve as recipients of care provided by the human partner, as it is increasingly clear that the tasks of taking care of someone else can be a way out of the depths of depression. In this scenario, the robot's needs would be appropriate to the capabilities of the human, and the robot may in some cases serve as a health monitoring system, able to alert medical or emergency response personnel if needed. In an interesting counter-point to Turkle's fear of humans building bonds with objects that can not understand pain and death, these robots may well develop abundant, detailed knowledge of their partner's health conditions.
12/17/06 - Sodium channel provides pain pathway
UK scientists have gained insight into the genetics of pain by studying a now-deceased teenage Fakir in Pakistan who could stab himself and perform other seemingly hurtful acts without wincing. After the boy died by jumping off a roof because he wasn't in tune with his own physical limitations, the researchers looked at his extended family and discovered that they too were entirely pain-free. Identifying the genetic mutation that leads to this odd condition could someday lead to new painkillers. From News@Nature: The researchers studied six of his relatives, aged between 4 and 14 years. All had suffered many cuts and bruises, and injuries to lips and tongue caused by biting themselves; several had fractured bones without noticing. This shows the importance of pain for our health and survival, notes Geoffrey Woods of the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, UK, who led the study. "Pain is there for a jolly good reason - it stops us damaging ourselves," he says. For example, the pain from a broken arm or sprained ankle encourages us to rest that body part while it recovers. The children in the study had no such safety check, causing them to be both graceless and reckless. "One girl was continually knocked down in the playground and just didn't mind at all," Woods says... The SCN9A gene encodes a 'sodium channel': one of the structures that allows electrical charge to flow into nerve cells, triggering a signal, the researchers explain. Without this particular type of sodium channel, the brain does not receive any signal that the body has encountered a pain-causing stimulus.
12/17/06 - Printing Crystals
A method for growing organic semiconducting crystals onto a surface could lead to better flexible electronic devices and video displays, researchers claim. The new "block printing" technique can grow individual crystals on top of a surface previously patterned with metal electrodes. This provides a cheaper and simpler way to create circuitry on a surface, the technique's creators say. A polymer "printing block" is first used to stamp out the desired pattern of semiconducting crystals in the form of an "ink" made from a crystal growth agent called octadecyltriethoxysilane. A vapour of organic semiconductor is then passed over the freshly printed material at several hundred degrees Celsius. This causes crystals to grow wherever there are dots of growth agent are deposited, potentially joining up the electrodes to produce working transistors. "This method allows us to grow large arrays of organic single crystals directly onto flexible substrates."
12/17/06 - Be prepared for a Brown Out
One of the best investments I've made is an APC battery back-up (aka Uninterruptible Power Supply) for the main computers and monitors in the house. [...] a UPS will give you about 15 minutes to save everything you're working on and shut down the computer once the power goes out. But I've really found it useful for those power blips where it just goes out for a minute or so. The UPS keeps your computer humming along, and you won't lose any work.
12/16/06 - Diabetes cure in Mice
Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas. "I couldn't believe it," said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more. About two million Canadians suffer from diabetes, 10% of them with Type 1, contributing to 41,000 deaths a year. Insulin replacement therapy is the only treatment of Type 1, and cannot prevent many of the side effects, from heart attacks to kidney failure. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to shift glucose into the cells that need it. In Type 2 diabetes, the insulin that is produced is not used effectively -- something called insulin resistance -- also resulting in poor absorption of glucose. The problems stem partly from inflammation -- and eventual death -- of insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. Suspecting a link between the nerves and diabetes, Dr. Dosch and Dr. Salter used an old experimental trick -- injecting capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot chili peppers, to kill the pancreatic sensory nerves in mice that had an equivalent of Type 1 diabetes. "Then we had the biggest shock of our lives," Dr. Dosch said. Almost immediately, the islets began producing insulin normally "It was a shock ? really out of left field, because nothing in the literature was saying anything about this." It turns out the nerves secrete neuropeptides that are instrumental in the proper functioning of the islets. Further study by the team, which also involved the University of Calgary and the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, found that the nerves in diabetic mice were releasing too little of the neuropeptides, resulting in a "vicious cycle" of stress on the islets. So next they injected the neuropeptide "substance P" in the pancreases of diabetic mice, a demanding task given the tiny size of the rodent organs. The results were dramatic. The islet inflammation cleared up and the diabetes was gone. Some have remained in that state for as long as four months, with just one injection. They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar. The researchers are now setting out to confirm that the connection between sensory nerves and diabetes holds true in humans. If it does, they will see if their treatments have the same effects on people as they did on mice.
12/16/06 - Top 10 Weapons of the Future
1. Autonomous weapons 2. High-energy lasers
3. Space-based weapons 4. Hypersonic aircraft (Scramjet) 5. Active Denial System 6. Nuclear missiles 7. Stun guns (Tasers) 8. High-power microwave weapons (e-bombs) 9. Layered missile defence 10. Information warfare
12/16/06 - Sky Yacht - the Personal Blimp
The $200,000 Personal Blimp from Skyacht Aircraft made its maiden voyage in late October, and although the company calls it a blimp, it's essentially a steerable hot-air balloon. It utilizes hot air in place of helium and is propelled by electric motors. It can hover and steer around objects making it ideal for, amongst other things, eco-tourism, aerial photography and film-making. Though the cost may seem high for a leisure activity, consider that the average helium airship goes for well over $2 million. Plus, Skyacht is saving owners money in other ways--the blimp deflates and can be stored until next use. Translation: none of those irritating hangar rental fees. Unfortunately, these won't be for sale until 2008 at least, and plan on having your pilot's license ready, though which class, exactly, is TBD by the FAA. While some hot air airships exist today, these craft are extremely limited in their abilities. These limits arise because the envelopes (a.k.a. "gas bags") of these ships consist only of fabric with no rigid structural members (i.e. They are "non-rigids".) These designs rely solely upon internal air pressurization (the way a toy balloon does) to retain their shape. This lack of structural rigidity leads to both low airspeed and limited steering. In contrast to completely non-rigid envelope designs, the Personal Blimp has a rigid, but folding, skeleton (much like an umbrella) to allow the envelope to retain its shape without requiring internal air pressurization. The Personal Blimp's rigid but foldable structure also provides hardpoints at strategic locations (e.g. on the tail) for mounting systems such as the engine and propeller. With the engine/propeller mounted on the tail, the Personal Blimp can use vectored thrust for steering. This provides far greater maneuverability, particularly for hovering, than any previous hot air airship.
12/16/06 - Prize offered to tag an asteroid
A $50,000 (£25,000) competition has been launched to find the best way to tag a 400m-wide asteroid. The Apophis space rock is set to make a close pass of Earth in 2029 and scientists would like to confirm that it poses no danger to our world. The Planetary Society will give a prize to the designers of a mission that would allow the huge asteroid's orbit to be tracked with the most precision. Apophis will come closer to Earth in 2029 than the orbits of many communications satellites - but it will not hit the planet, that is clear. The concern centres on the small chance that its orbit could be perturbed enough in the flyby to put the rock on a collision path for its return in 2036.
12/16/06 - The Neural Network Fiasco
The company that wanted to hire M.A. was a small programming firm that developed and maintained software used by the Bureau of Water Management. They were recently awarded a large contract to redo a rather inefficient part of the system and were convinced that implementing a neural network was the way to go. After the initial interview, M.A. told them that a neural network was the wrong tool for the job and that they should use a traditional approach. Management disagreed with his assessment and insisted that he come aboard to help rebuild the system. Had they not offered such a generous salary, he might have recognized this as a first warning sign....read it all at the link.
12/16/06 - Conductive plastic sheet for 'wireless' power
The prototype, which consists of plastic and flexible electronics, can wirelessly supply power to any device that touches its surface. The power sheet, says Takao Someya, professor of engineering at the University of Tokyo, relies on the well-known physical principle of electromagnetic induction, used to charge electric toothbrushes and some RFID tags. However, he says, his system is designed in a way that overcomes the limitations of common induction schemes. Traditional induction systems can only spread small amounts of power over a relatively large area, and fairly large amounts of power can only be supplied to precise locations (such as a toothbrush mount). Someya's power sheets, in contrast, can be large, and they can still supply a large amount of power to gadgets placed near them. This new capability, he says, is enabled by a novel design and by advances in the fabrication of flexible electronics. The power system actually consists of two types of sheets: one sheet senses the position of an object, and the other sheet supplies power to the object's point of contact, but not to the rest of the sheet. "In this way, the system selectively feeds power as high as 30 watts to electronic objects placed upon it," Someya says. The position-sensing sheet relies on two types of flexible electronics. Using a technique similar to silk screening, the researchers printed an array of copper coils 10 millimeters in diameter. In addition, they used a modified inkjet printer to print an array of organic transistors. Both devices are thin and flexible enough to bend with a sheet of plastic. Gadgets would need to be equipped with a coil and special power-harvesting circuitry to use the power pad. As the gadget gets closer to the pad, the electrical resistance of the pad's coils decreases. The array of transistors detects the exact position of the change in resistance and effectively directs the subsequent power flow, which is provided by devices on the second sheet of plastic.
12/16/06 - The Shape of Future Housing
"By around 2080 our relationship with our home might have changed beyond all recognition" Although this rendering of a fairly traditional streetform with two cars in the driveway is pretty recognizable. The end of the commute: Technology leaps could create a commute-free society as more people work from home. The future may also include echoes from the past; local communities, shops, services and even our relationship with our neighbours could play a far greater part in our daily lives. •Houses on stilts •Self heating •Self cooling •Energy self sufficient •Water independent •Plug in cars •Death of DIY •Roof gardens •Flora and fauna.
12/16/06 - Dual Power Refrigeration and Water Generator
SolCool version three, hybrid air conditioning units to Canada and Nigeria. The SolCool V3 comes equipped with a 3/4 hp compressor and larger condensor and a 3X more efficient evaporator coil. The SolCool verion three applications which have expanded dramatically since the introduction of the Aquacell fresh drinking water interface", added Mr. Sutton. The Aquacell bottled water cooler system takes the condensate from the SolCool and turns it into freshly filtered, great tasting drinking water. The two technologies working together create primary and back-up cooling, lighting, and fresh drinking water in an AC, DC, or hybrid AC/DC power source environment. The patented SolCool hybrid solar air conditioning unit is manufactured by GPM, Incorporated in Ft. Worth, Texas.
12/16/06 - True Deficit 3.5 trillion ( $3,500,000,000,000.00 )
(God, what a focused few of us could do with just a TINY FRACTION of this money...change the world, build a completely NEW future for humanity, stop wars over oil, new gravity control and other transport systems for earth and colonizing other planets, recovering deserts, reversing global warming, curing/rejuvenating the body, self-powering overunity devices that work anywhere and all for so little money! - JWD) A report scheduled to be released by the Treasury Department tomorrow is expected to show the true deficit in the Bush administration's 2006 federal budget to be an astounding $3.5 trillion in the red, not $248.2 billion as previously reported. "When we see the Treasury report on Friday we are probably going to find out that the real 2006 federal budget deficit is more like $3.5 trillion." Williams predicts, however, the mainstream media won't report it. "Congress a few years ago mandated that the Treasury had to report one report each year that used GAAP accounting," Williams told WND. "Then, when you figure in all liabilities including Social Security and Medicare, the real 2006 deficit is huge by comparison. What I expect to show up on Friday is a real federal budget deficit of $3.5 trillion or more, not the $248.2 billion earlier reported." "Even worse," Williams continued, "the U.S. Government's negative net worth widened to $49.4 trillion in 2005. For the first time, total government liabilities have topped $50 trillion, and the number is continuing to grow. The United States is bankrupt, whether the Bush administration wants to admit it or not." "The United States is bankrupt," he insisted. "With less than one-tenth of the actual deficit being reported each year, a cumulative negative net worth exceeding $50 trillion has built up in stealth to where the total obligations of the U.S. government are now more than four times our annual gross domestic product.
12/16/06 - How To Live the Good Life Without Oil
You don't need to look far to see that the end of cheap oil is nigh. In 2006 oil prices hit a record high, $77 a barrel in the summer. Analysts blamed the price hikes on damage from the 2005 hurricanes, continued turmoil in the Middle East, and jitters over tightening supplies from Venezuela to Iran. Prices have eased since then, but the relief is probably temporary...The past year looks like the turning point when alternatives to fossil fuels - everything from solar energy, wind turbines, ethanol, and the hybrid car - finally hit the mainstream. "It's hard to argue it's not," says Richard Hamilton, CEO of California biocrops startup Ceres. "We'll look back and say this is the year where people rallied together to start down the irreversible path of becoming less dependent on oil," says Samir Kaul, a partner in venture capital firm Khosla Ventures in Menlo Park, California, which invests in energy and other tech startups. Hamilton and Kaul are cheerleaders for the renewable energy industry, but even hardened policy types see the need for new sources of energy. Around the globe, policy makers have also been seeking greener sources of energy. In 2005 China tied with Germany for the most new investment in renewable energy, pouring $7 billion into millions of rooftop solar heating units, small hydropower stations, and photovoltaics. To be sure, many alternative energy buffs remain skeptical of the long-touted hydrogen economy, which would presumably require a huge (and politically problematic) investment in new infrastructure. But tell that to BMW and GM. In September both companies announced plans for hydrogen-capable cars. The hydrogen would be derived from fossil fuels while researchers explore other methods of production. GM's fuel cell SUV, Sequel, operates with an energy efficiency equivalent to 39 miles per gallon of gasoline. Even the electric car, largely given up for dead, made a comeback this past year. At MIT researchers are working to replace conventional batteries with ultracapacitors, which can be recharged far more quickly and last more than 10 years (see story #92, "Capacitors Could Replace Batteries"). Ultracapacitors, like fuel cells, can take in the unsteady flow of energy from wind turbines or photovoltaic cells and store it so that it is available exactly when needed. Plug-in hybrid cars, says Martinot, might also be part of the solution. They could store a charge from wind energy at night and absorb sunlight hitting their rooftop solar cells if parked during the day.
12/15/06 - SuperMag Generator demonstration in 2007
(I could find NO tech details on this and it has the 'feel' of a Dennis Lee promotion which means a scam...we shall see. It's never good to trust just one source and this one only has a press release, nada mas. - JWD) The "SuperMag" System uses manipulated magnetic fields to generate electricity sufficient to power the needs of a home or office building and eliminates or reduces the need for the home or structure to be reliant on the present electrical grid systems or heating oil for its heat and or electrical needs. The "SuperMag" electrical generator is environmentally perfect, providing clean electrical power for free to the consumer after the initial cost of the purchase and installation of the system. Because of the extraordinary interest in the "SuperMag" system, the first public display of the technology will be at a date to be determined at the SCIA conference in California during 2007. The SCIA (Southern California Investment Association) meets every two months and typically has approximately 200 + brokers, investors, and financing entities in attendance. Following this first public demonstration at the SCIA conference there will be a worldwide press conference held the following day where the media will be invited and for the first time be able to report on the revolutionary breakthrough technology of the "SuperMag" product. The "SuperMag" electrical generation system will be independently tested over the course of a year with a major recognized testing agency being contracted to evaluate the system. / Using two of nature's most powerful natural forces, the north and south magnetic fields within a proprietary and exclusive design, the motor will generate electricity and heat to power a home thus removing the home from reliance on the electrical grid systems and heating oil currently used. As the SuperMag generator is scalable it can be used to power any size structure. This is a unique, innovative and revolutionary environmental product.
12/15/06 - Squid-inspired vortex generators for steering underwater vehicles
Inspired by the sleek and efficient propulsion of squid, jellyfish and other cephalopods, a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher has designed a new generation of compact vortex generators that could make it easier for scientists to maneuver and dock underwater vehicles at low speeds and with greater precision. The vortex thrusters designed by CU-Boulder researchers offer speed with versatility and may enable researchers to explore previously inaccessible places. Currently, many designers are trying to devise better docking systems for underwater vehicles, but Mohseni said he and his collaborators wanted to improve the watercrafts’ actual maneuvering capabilities. “We didn’t want to treat the symptom alone," he said. “We made it our goal to resolve a widespread problem." Mohseni created his new generators after studying the formation of vortex rings, much like those formed by squid and jellyfish to move themselves underwater. Vortex rings are formed when a burst of fluid shoots out of an opening, moving in one direction and spreading out as it curls back. The researcher’s nature-inspired vortex generators could be used in a wide array of applications. One of them, a seeming take-off of technology featured in the sci-fi cult classics “Fantastic Voyage" and “Innerspace," employs tiny capsules that could travel through the human digestive tract to diagnose and treat diseases and disperse medications.
12/15/06 - Snowflakes can look the same
Jon Nelson, a researcher with Ritsumeikan University in Japan, has studied snowflakes for 15 years, and has some interesting insights into their delicate structures. Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike? The old adage that ‘no two snowflakes are alike’ may ring true for larger snowflakes, but it might not hold true for smaller, simpler crystals that fall before they’ve had a chance to fully develop. Regardless, snow crystals have tremendous diversity, partly due to their very high sensitivity to tiny temperature changes as they fall through the clouds. First, the tiny ice crystal becomes hexagonal (six-sided). This shape originates from the chemistry of the water molecule, which consists of two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom. Because of the angle of the water molecule and its hydrogen-bonding, the water molecules in a snowflake chemically bond to each other to form the six-sided flake. The flake eventually sprouts six tiny branches. Each of these branches grows to form side branches in a direction and shape that are influenced by the clustering of water molecules on the ice crystal surfaces.
12/15/06 - Function follows form in Zeolites
A room’s design helps define how people interact inside it, and it’s much the same in the molecular world.
The atomic layout of molecular spaces can provoke very different reactions from chemicals that meet there, in much the way that an intimate bistro and a bustling cafeteria might evoke different interactions among dinners. For decades, chemists have relied on zeolites to catalyze chemical reactions on an industrial scale. They are used to make everything from gasoline and asphalt to laundry detergent and aquarium filters. So useful are zeolites that scientists have sought for decades to improve upon Mother Nature’s ability to make them. In the past 50 years, the catalog of naturally occurring zeolites - there are about 50 of them - has been bolstered to approximately 180 with the addition of synthetic varieties, minerals whose architecture was found to be, much like a building’s, suitable for a particular purpose. Today, Rice University physicist Michael Deem is taking zeolite design into the 21st Century, using a combination of supercomputers at the University of Texas at Austin and disused computing cycles from more than 4,300 idling desktop PCs at Purdue University to painstakingly calculate many conceivable atomic formulations for zeolites. Deem’s zeolite database contained 3.4 million structures in early December, and it’s still growing. By studying the catalog, scientists might find structures that are more efficient, either in terms of energy inputs or in waste byproducts.
12/15/06 - Mint: Don't melt money - Government threatens prison for violators
The U.S. Mint has implemented a rule against melting down pennies and nickels which, at current metal prices, could be worth more as metal than as currency. "We don't want to see our pennies and nickels melted down so a few individuals can take advantage of the American taxpayer. Replacing these coins would be an enormous cost to taxpayers." The new regulations authorize a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment of up to five years, or both, against violators. The rule also bans the exportation of the coins, beyond traveling with $5 worth and shipping up to $100 for legitimate purposes.
12/15/06 - On This Day
15 December. In 1980 members of the Truth Tabernacle Church in Burlington, North Carolina, staged a mock trial, charging 'Satan Claus' on 10 counts, including child abuse, impersonation of St Nicholas, Baal idolatry and falsification of Christ's birthday. He was found guilty and hanged in effigy. In 1989 a huge effigy of Father Christmas was made with conscientious attention to detail for one of Tokyo's largest department stores. The staff were delighted, but got their western festivals confused. Father Christmas was put on the roof and crucified.
12/15/06 - Very High Frequency Radiation Makes Dark Matter Visible
The stars and gas which are seen in galaxies account for only a few percent of the gravitating material in the Universe. Most of the rest has remained stubbornly invisible and is now thought to be made of a new form of matter never yet seen on Earth. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics have discovered, however, that a sufficiently big radio telescope could make a picture of everything that gravitates, rivalling the images made by optical telescopes of everything that shines.
12/15/06 - Economical cooking device invention helps poor families
The invention of the indigenous energy-saving cooking device called Eco-Electro Charcoal (EEC) Stove uses coconut charcoal as a main ingredient and an AC-DC electric or transistorized blower. The EEC stove according to him saves fuel consumption by fifty percent and cooks faster having a cut off cooking time up to 50%. It’s fire hazard-free and environmental friendly as well, considering that the stove uses only charcoal, he added. The innovation Prof. Ediza said was patterned after the concept of the melting device used by bolo-makers of Carigara, Leyte. Applying the existing technology of personally blowing or fanning the burning charcoal in order to maintain its fire blazing effect level, this time, he uses an AC-DC blower using 6-volts electricity or a 12-volt transistorized AC-DC blower used during blackouts. The EEC-stove likewise is made using a recycled & indigenous materials that are easy to find in the local market. The constantly high fire level has resulted to a fast cooking effect thereby cooking a variety of foods in an hour, is just one of the testimonies made by Aling Virgie and Aling Weling, all restaurant owners of Palompon, Leyte. It is reliable, dependable and affordable to use, Mang Ambo, a restaurant owner commented. The EEC stove are made in double burner with tiles, double burner "kalan-type" and single burner and can be bought with the price ranging from P1,500 to P2,500. Prof. Ediza calls their invention as pang-MASA, pro-Filipino and pro-poor.
12/15/06 - Improved Hydrogen Sensor
Scientists are working toward commercialization of a miniature hydrogen gas sensor with improved reliability and response time. Such a device will provide added safety, detection capability and efficiency to a variety of applications industry-wide. Dan Briscoe, says industry is looking for the next level of leak detection technology. Briscoe noted that industry representatives have expressed a desire for a good, cost-effective hydrogen sensor with a quick response time. “To realize the benefits of the emerging hydrogen economy," he says, “the industry requires a small sensor that will operate reliably for a long period of time." AST anticipates marketing the sensors to industries that manufacture, store and use hydrogen in their production process. Briscoe added that the same approach is capable of detecting and measuring other gases as well, including ammonia, methane and carbon monoxide. Research is currently underway to refine those capabilities.
12/15/06 - Climate Change Has Animals Heading for the Hills
Chipmunks, mice and squirrels are heading for the hills, perhaps chased to higher elevations by a changing climate, scientists report. Since the early 1900s, many small mammals in California have shifted their ranges dramatically, mostly to higher elevations. Climate models are showing a relationship between the change in weather and the animal movement, the scientists report. To strengthen their story, Conroy said they'd like to incorporate biological information into the simulations, including an animal's diet, whether it hibernates, and how well it deals with cold weather.
12/14/06 - Adaptive, Self-Optimizing $49.95 Device reduces Power Usage
(A truly Totally Brilliant Invention, the way of the future for devices that will learn and adapt to the load they power for the most efficient, energy saving operation. These should be BUILTIN to all appliances and devices that use motors. - JWD) For fourteen years, Chuck and his partner have quietly been inventing a little micro controller called the "Plug Power Saver." He claims it works on all electric motors from your air conditioner to refrigerators, washing machines to whole house fans. He rigged a one-third horsepower motor to show us the savings. Without the controller, “It's drawing 171 to 180 watts." Plug in the Power Saver and, “It's trying to find the most optimum levels of power consumption. So it's got to learn about what you are using. Yes it is. It actually has a microprocessor in here." After a few seconds, the motor is running strong but using half the electricity. And if you know anything about electricity, you know this motor running normally should be warm to the touch, it isn’t. That seems to show no extra electricity is being lost as heat. Chuck has a patent pending on his invention, a trade mark on the name and a U.L. approval. - ...permalink...
12/14/06 - Gospel of Judas: Did Jesus Ask Judas to Betray Him?
The mystery began to unravel almost 30 years ago, according to a new National Geographic Channel documentary. A farmer looking for treasure in a cave in Egypt instead found a decaying leather-bound book, a codex. “Radio carbon dating of the papyrus from the Gospel of Judas confirms that it’s from the third to the fourth century A.D.," Jull said, “and this supports the authenticity of the Gospel of Judas." So what is in the Gospel of Judas? It is a dialogue that claims to be a conversation between Jesus and Judas in which Jesus asks Judas to betray him. “Judas has the terrible task of taking it upon himself to turn him over to the authorities for this reason," Pagels said. “Now, the Gospel of Judas also has Judas say to Jesus in fear and terror that he has a dream that the other disciples will hate him and will stone him to death, will attack him. “And Jesus says, ‘Yes, in fact, they will think that you are a terrible person because of what you did. This is part of the burden that you bear. But they will be wrong about that.’ So it is an extraordinary transformation of the ordinary understanding of Judas Iscariot." Pagels said the text shows that Christ, in fact, asked Judas to betray him for an undisclosed reason. “The Gospel of Judas does suggest that the betrayal of Jesus is not a reprehensible act, not the act of a traitor, you know, the worst villain in the history of the world, but that it’s a secret mystery between him and Jesus," she said.
12/14/06 - Marijuana Use Not a 'Gateway' To Illicit Drug use
Adolescent marijuana use is not a reliable predictor of later substance abuse, according to clinical trial data published this month in The American Journal of Psychiatry. Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy, tracked the drug use patterns of 214 boys, beginning at ages 10 to 12, for a period of up to twelve years. All of the subjects eventually used either legal or illegal drugs. Researchers found that adolescents who used marijuana prior to using other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, were no more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder than other subjects in the study. The study's findings "call into question the long-held belief that has shaped prevention efforts and governmental policy for six decades," researchers declared in a press release. Investigators said that environmental factors (e.g., a greater exposure to illegal drugs in their neighborhoods) as well as subjects' "proneness to deviancy" were the two characteristics that most commonly predicted substance abuse. A 1999 review by US National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine also disputed the hypothesis that cannabis use is a stepping-stone to other illicit drug use, concluding that pot was not a "gateway drug to the extent that it is a cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse."
12/14/06 - Microsoft Robot Kits
The Microsoft Robotics Studio is a Windows-based development platform that lets software engineers and hobbyists create applications for, you guessed it, robots. Those that know how to code can use languages such as C#, VB.NET, and IronPython to create robotic software. Hobbyists who aren't acquainted with programming languages will find the studio's visual drag-and-drop environment very easy to use and well-documented as well. Robots, although a large part of pop culture, have struggled to find a place in the mainstream hobby market because of their cost and difficult learning curves for development. "Sensors like laser range finders for measuring distance can cost about US$10,000. By the time you include sensors, actuators and processors, it can put the cost of building a robot beyond most people's means," said Trower. He continues, "Probably even more important is the thing I talked about earlier: that fact that software development has just been too hard. So it becomes a world of haves and have-nots. The haves are like the people in the early PC days who had the expertise to build the hardware and the software. Then there is a vast majority of people who would like to use this technology but can't because of the technical challenges." If you don't want to dish out the cash for a robot, the studio comes with a simulation runtime that relies on DirectX for rendering and AGEIA PhysX Technology for physics simulation. It should be interesting to see how this project takes off with the public. Because the Visual Programming Language environment doesn't require users to write any code, it could appeal to varying levels of hobbyists. In terms of languages, the Robotics Studio isn't just limited to a Microsoft umbrella, either. As long as the language supports the Microsoft Robotics Studio services-based architecture, it can be used. The non-commercial release of the Microsoft Robotics Studio can be downloaded from the company's website for free. A commercial license for the studio costs US$399. (via arstechnica.com)
12/14/06 - Plant a tree to save the Earth
A new study says that it depends on where the trees are planted. It cautions that new forests in mid- to high-latitude locations could actually create a net warming. It also confirms the notion that planting more trees in tropical rainforests could help slow global warming worldwide. Forests affect climate in three different ways: they absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help to keep the planet cool; they evaporate water to the atmosphere and increase cloudiness, which also helps keep the planet cool; and they are dark and absorb a lot of sunlight, warming the Earth. Climate change mitigation strategies that promote planting trees have taken only the first effect into account. “Our study shows that tropical forests are very beneficial to the climate because they take up carbon and increase cloudiness, which in turn helps cool the planet" Bala said. But the study concludes that, by the year 2100, forests in mid- and high-latitudes will make some places up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than would have occurred if the forests did not exist. “The darkening of the surface by new forest canopies in the high latitude Boreal regions allows absorption of more sunlight that helps to warm the surface. In fact, planting more trees in high latitudes could be counterproductive from a climate perspective," Bala said. The study finds little or no climate benefit when trees are planted in temperate regions.
12/14/06 - Minus 140 degree Water without Ice
droplets consisting of sulphuric acid and water can be slowly cooled down to-140 degrees Celsius and then heated again without ice formation. The formation of ice is particularly problematic in cryopreservation, as the crystal formation damages cell structures. Bogdan has conducted his experiments by cooling and heating droplets of 0.5-6 µm in diameter. His study focuses on two forms of water: low-density amorphous ice (LDA, or so-called glassy water) and highly viscous water (HVW), which is a liquid phase that LDA melts into. Bogdan reports that HVW is not a new form of water as some scientists believed. Bogdan’s study Reversible Formation of Glassy Water in Slowly cooling Diluted Drops has been published in Journal of Physical Chemistry in June 2006. Bogdan himself applies his observations on the properties of water in cloud research, and he and his colleagues have recently published a study dealing with cirrus clouds (Formation of Low-Temperature Cirrus from H2SO4/H2O Aerosol Droplets, Journal of Physical Chemistry, November 2006). Their study suggests that, unlike previously thought, the cloud crystals in cirrus clouds are not completely solid ice, but are covered with a layer of liquid water and sulphuric acid. The layer effects for instance the reflectivity of the clouds, and therefore the climate. It has also been observed that the rate of ozone loss is higher on liquid than on solid surfaces. The results therefore indicate that the ozone is destroyed in the cirrus clouds faster than conventionally has been thought. (via physorg.com)
12/14/06 - Fired Employee sues IBM for Internet Addiction
By his own admission, James Pacenza was spending too much time in Internet chat rooms, in some of them discussing sex. He goes so far as to call his interest in inappropriate Web sites a form of addiction that stems from the posttraumatic stress disorder he's suffered since returning from Vietnam. Whatever it's called, Pacenza's chat-room habit cost him his job. After 19 years at IBM's East Fishkill plant, Pacenza was fired in May, 2003, after a fellow employee noticed discussion of a sex act on a chat room open on Pacenza's computer. IBM (IBM) maintains that logging onto the Web site was a violation of its business conduct guidelines and a misuse of company property-and that it was well within its rights to terminate Pacenza's employment. Pacenza and his attorney beg to differ. Diederich says there are several steps IBM could have taken, including limiting his Internet use or blocking certain sites. "It's not productive or useful for the employer to unfairly terminate employees," says Diederich. The case presents far-reaching ramifications for how companies deal with workplace Internet use and abuse. For starters, businesses could be compelled to allow medical leave, provide counseling to, or make other accommodations for employees who can't control Internet use, says Brian East, co-chair of the disability rights committee of the National Employment Lawyers' Assn. East says recognizing Internet abuse as an addiction would make it more difficult for employers to fire employees who have a problem. "Assuming it is recognized as an impairment…it is analyzed the same way as alcoholism," says East. (via businessweek.com)
12/14/06 - Google Launches Patent Search
Google has launched a new search engine for finding U.S. patents going back more than 200 years, Google announced on its blog. Google Patent Search uses the same technology behind Google Book Search, with similar ability to perform full-text searches, scroll through pages, and zoom in on text and images. An advanced search feature lets users search by criteria like patent number, inventor and filing date. - Google Patent Search
12/14/06 - 66% Thinks US Spies on its Citizens
The poll also showed that 52 percent of respondents favor congressional hearings on how the Bush administration has handled surveillance, detainees and other terrorism-related issues, compared with 45 percent who are opposed. That question was posed to half of the poll's 1,005-person random sample. Overall, the poll -- which includes questions that have been asked since 2002 and 2003 -- showed a continued skepticism about whether the government is adequately protecting privacy rights as it conducts terrorism-related investigations. Compared with June 2002, for example, almost twice as many respondents say the need to respect privacy outranks the need to investigate terrorist threats. That shift was first evident in polling conducted in January 2006. That sentiment is still a minority view, however: Nearly two-thirds rank investigating threats as more important than guarding against intrusions on personal privacy, down from 79 percent in 2002. Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who is a professor in Georgetown University's Security Studies Program, said the poll results could spell trouble for the FBI and other government agencies as they continue to seek support for expanded anti-terrorism powers granted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "I don't think you can view these polling results in isolation from an overall phenomenon, which is that people are more skeptical of the government's conduct of the war on terrorism," Hoffman said. Sixty-six percent of those questioned said that the FBI and other agencies are "intruding on some Americans' privacy rights" in terrorism investigations, up from 58 percent in September 2003. Thirty percent think the government is not intruding on privacy. Support for intrusive tactics has dropped even more significantly during that time. A bare majority, 51 percent, feel the tactics are justified, down from 63 percent three years ago. (via washingtonpost.com)
12/14/06 - Semen-sensing gel 'could help Aids fight'
Scientists have developed a new form of Aids prevention - a vaginal gel which, sensing the presence of semen, liquefies and releases anti-HIV drugs. By applying the gel internally prior to sex, the University of Utah scientists hope that women in countries worldwide will be empowered by protecting themselves against Aids. "It's a smart molecular condom because we designed this gel to release anti-HIV drugs when the gel comes into contact with semen during intercourse," Patrick Kiser, the assistant professor who led the research, explained. "The ultimate hope for this technology is to protect women and their unborn or nursing children from the Aids virus."
12/13/06 - Sliver Technology - Super-skinny solar cells soak up the sun
The cost of producing solar panels could be sliced by more than 60% thanks to technology being developed by Australian researchers, physicists heard today. The system works by taking a standard solar cell about 1 millimetre thick and cutting it into tiny slices that are just 120 micrometres wide. "Imagine a standard solar cell is a loaf of bread. When you put it out in the sun it generates energy based on its surface area," Blakers says. "Now imagine you cut that loaf up into slices and lay them horizontally. You get a lot more surface area." This technique allows researchers to use much smaller amounts of expensive silicon to generate the same amount of electricity. This can also keep manufacturing costs down, as all the processing steps normally carried out on solar cells are done while the slices are still in the 'loaf'. In recent months, the researchers have achieved efficiencies over 20%, making it the world's most efficient commercial thin-film solar cell. (via abc.net.au)
12/13/06 - Rusty Solar Cells make cheap hydrogen
Researchers have shown that by including small amounts of silicon and cobalt, they can grow nanostructured thin films of iron oxide that convert sunlight into the electrons needed to form hydrogen from water. And the iron oxide films do this more efficiently than ever before with this material. Iron oxide has long been an appealing material for such solar panels, in part because it holds up well in contact with water. But although it can absorb sunlight, the resulting charge carriers could not easily escape the material, so they recombined, canceling each other out before they could split any water. By doping the rust with silicon, the researchers coaxed the material to form cauliflower-like structures with extremely high surface area, ensuring that a large part of the atoms in the material were in contact with the water, or very close to it. That way, holes could easily escape into the water, where they prompt the generation of oxygen gas. The silicon also improves electron conductivity in the material, which is important for generating hydrogen gas at an opposite electrode. The researchers further improved the process by adding cobalt, which acts as a catalyst for the reactions. (via techreview.com)
12/13/06 - Designer Glasses With Microdisplay Unveiled
Lumus-Optical is about to demonstrate eyeglasses featuring twin microdisplays and mini projectors. They will be demoed at CES in January. From the article: "The firm's latest prototype boasts dual 640 x 480 resolution displays as well as two wee projectors on each arm; the Lumus glasses can accept video inputs via an undisclosed connection, and projects an image akin to a '60-inch screen from 10 feet away.' Its Light-guide Optical Element technology allows the imagery to be reflected back on to the lenses so users can view them, all while being transparent enough to allow you to focus on the humans, trees, road block, or board room presentation ahead of you." (via slashdot.org)
12/13/06 - SuperCheap labor in China
The fully-burdened rate of a worker in China is around $1.80 it seems-this is the rate that the employer pays once all the benefits (free food, housing, medical care, day care, etc.) are factored in. At these wages, laborers are cheaper than pick-and-place machines. In the US, you typically pay between $0.05-$0.25 per component placed on a PCB with a pick and place machine in low volume (100’s to 1000’s). I saw several electronics lines where about ten workers are lined up on a bench, bending and stuffing resistors and transistors into a moderately complex circuit board, and hand-dipping them in a solder bath. They crank out about 100 boards per hour; each employee is stuffing about four components, so 400 components per hour at $1.80/hour is $0.0045 per component. Setup and training for the line I saw took about 2-3 hours. So even if you were to run a few hundred boards, this is a very cheap assembly method indeed, as long as you can keep good quality control over the process. (via boingboing.net)
12/13/06 - Night Owls more Creative
(Been one all my life, work all night, sleep til noon. - JWD) Do your best work at night? Take solace as new research suggests that night owls are more likely to be creative thinkers. Scientists can't yet fully explain why evening types appear to be more creative, but they suggest it could be an adaptation to living outside the norm. "Being in a situation which diverges from conventional habit, nocturnal types often experience this situation, may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions," says Professor Marina Giampietro. The researchers also discovered that age didn't curtail creativity. "Our study supports the notion that creative characteristics persist in aged people," the scientists write. A small group of brain cells, called suprachiasmatic nuclei, emit signals to the body that synchronise the time of day. This biological clock runs two hours ahead in morning types and two hours later in evening types. Morning and evening-oriented people may follow other schedules, due to work, school and other demands, but their preferred schedule is more in sync with this internal clock, which may be partly determined by genetics. Van Dongen says that the finding about creativity and evening types is "certainly novel, and one I would not have expected on biological grounds". He suggests that the observed differences in creativity might have to do with the fact that evening people also tend to be more extroverted than morning and intermediate types.
12/13/06 - Wind farms 'failing to generate the predicted amount of electricity'
The first independent study to rate farms according to how much electricity they produce shows that wind farms south of the Scottish border are not generating as much as the Government assumed when it set the target of producing a tenth of Britain's energy from renewables by 2010 and 15 per cent by 2015. Despite millions being spent on wind turbines, the study by the Renewable Energy Foundation shows that England and Wales are not windy enough to allow large turbines to work at the rates claimed for them. The study shows that even wind farms in Cornwall on west-facing coasts, which might be expected to be the most efficient, operated at only 24·1 per cent of capacity on average. Turbines in mid-Wales ran on average at only 23·8 per cent. Those in the Yorkshire Dales ran at 24·9 per cent and Cumbria 25·9 of capacity. The only regions with turbines operating at or above 30 per cent of capacity were in southern Scotland, which averaged 31·5 per cent, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland at 32·9 per cent and offshore (North Hoyle and Scroby Sands on opposite sides of the country), which came in at 32·6 per cent. The report concludes that the most effective place to site the turbines is at sea near major cities where they can harness the greater power of off-shore winds without losing much of the electricity generated in transmission through the National Grid from remote areas such as the north of Scotland. A spokesman for the British Wind Energy Association accused the Renewable Energy Foundation of having an "anti wind agenda" and said it was "deeply suspicious" of the findings.
12/13/06 - Top Ten Funniest Political Quotes Of 2006
12/13/06 - Robotics and 'The Uncanny Valley'
The inspiration for this piece came a couple years ago from a New Yorker article about robotics. In the field, there's a term called "the uncanny valley." Briefly explained: when a person encounters an artificial being, they are more likely to empathize with it if it has distinctly human characteristics. However, if the artificial being is too human, revulsion takes the place of empathy. The Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori termed this sudden dip in empathy the "uncanny valley..." (via boingboing.net)
12/13/06 - Process Tamer for memory Hogs
Windows only: Freeware system tray app ProcessTamer is a lightweight CPU usage monitoring tool that watches your computer for CPU hogs and "tames" them before they freeze up your computer. ProcessTamer does this by changing the priority of applications with wildly escalating CPU usage. If you have an app or two that constantly locks up your computer when you open it or perform a certain operation, ProcessTamer is definitely worth a look. It's Windows only freeware, but to use ProcessTamer without the nag message, you need to give the site an email address in order to get a free license key. (via lifehacker.com)
12/13/06 - America's medical refugees flock to India
Uninsured Americans are sojourning to India to get life-saving surgeries they can't afford back home. These aren't medical tourists looking for a cheap tummy-tuck -- they're medical refugees whose lives will be ruined or ended if they don't get out of the USA. Kathleen Schneiderwind is one patient who was desperate to get rid of the lightning bolts of pain shooting through her spinal cord. But she and her husband lost their health insurance when they retired, and the hip-resurfacing surgery doctors promised would help cost $30,000 in the United States. Schneiderwind and her husband, both in their late 50s, didn't have that kind of money, and the thought of so much debt was scary. So they began searching for alternatives. "We began to look at places outside the United States and traded e-mails with doctors in Turkey and India. It turns out that the doctors in Bombay were both more experienced in this particular surgery and would only charge a fraction of what we were going to have to pay at home," said Barry Schneiderwind by phone as he sat with his wife who was recovering at Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai. Not only has the treatment been first-rate, they say, they have been able to pay for their plane tickets and even get some dental work and a vacation in Goa for $10,000. (via boingboing.net)
12/13/06 - Bill Would Extend Online Obscenity Laws to Blogs, Mailing Lists
"Senator John McCain has proposed a bill to extend federal obscenity reporting guidelines to all forms of internet communications. Those who fail to report according to guidelines could face fines of up to $300,000 for unreported posts to a blog or mailing list. The EFF was quick to slam the proposal, saying that this was the very definition of 'slippery slope', and citing the idea of 'personal common carrier'." From the article: "These types of individuals or businesses would be required to file reports: any Web site with a message board; any chat room; any social-networking site; any e-mail service; any instant-messaging service; any Internet content hosting service; any domain name registration service; any Internet search service; any electronic communication service; and any image or video-sharing service." (from slashdot.org)
12/13/06 - Jews Against Israel
(Interesting view. - JWD) As most are by now aware, Iran has planned and is hosting a purportedly academic conference to discuss whether or not the Holocaust actually took place. Actively involved is the highly controversial Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who insists the affair will allow for an open discussion currently proscribed in many parts of Europe. Ahmadinejad has described the Holocaust as a "myth" and advocated "wiping Israel off the map." Many now see this conference as little more than a conglomeration of Holocaust deniers. Various governments have denounced the event. There is, however, one surprise associated with the seminar: among those present is a delegation of Jews who also want to see the Israeli state ended. These Orthodox Jews do not deny the Holocaust, but rather believe that it should not be used as a pretext for the existence of Israel. Some of these Jews belong to a group called Neturei Karta, which, according to one of their spokesmen, looks for Israel to be "peacefully dissolved." Rabbi Moishe Ayre Friedman has actually praised Ahmadinejad for trying to help "innocent Jewish people" to work toward a "secured future." Some Jews doubtless see these comments/sentiments as, at best naive and, at worst, treacherous. (via omniner.com)
12/12/06 - Electric breakthrough goes commercial
Twenty years after their much ballyhooed discovery, high-tech materials capable of delivering 150 times the electricity of conventional wire are starting to push into the commercial market. They promise to make generators, industrial motors, and even power lines far more efficient as the technology becomes more affordable. Only about a dozen companies worldwide specialize in the technology - high-temperature superconductors (HTS) that can deliver electricity with nearly no resistance to the current. This year, ASC has seen orders soar for its HTS wire. In September, a Korean research institute ordered 22,000 meters of it. Later this month, ASC will send the US Navy in Philadelphia a superconducting motor made with HTS wire for its newest warship - a motor less than half the size and one-third the weight of a copper-based motor. ASC's new SuperVAR machine - which is being shipped to the TVA this month - is more efficient than traditional capacitors at smoothing out power surges and filling the demand for reactive power. The growth of wind power, which generates electricity intermittently depending on the wind, appears to be a hot growth market for superconducting voltage regulators. On the basis of cost per unit of power transmitted, first-generation HTS wire is twice to three times as expensive as copper cable, depending on the application. By 2010, Yurek claims ASC's second-generation wire should have roughly the same price performance as copper.
12/12/06 - Power Plants of the Future
Although it might one day be considered only one small step for a technology with huge potential, on April 22, Earth Day, the Arizona Public Service Company (APS), the largest energy supplier in this southwestern U.S. state, inducted a power plant with one megawatt of power on top of a strip of desert between Phoenix and Tucson. It is hardly a normal power plant, because it receives its power free-of-charge from the sun. Six rows of parabolic mirrors, each approximately 400 meters in length, concentrate the incident solar radiation to generate heat for a steam turbine (see infobox). Since December of 2005, the generator has been supplying enough electricity for 200 households. Parabolic trough power plants rank among the most mature solar thermal technologies for use in generating electricity. Producing one megawatt (MW) of electrical power is child’s play for this type of power plant, because they are capable of producing 50 MW or more. The technology was first put to commercial use back in the middle of the 1980s. Between 1984 and 1991, nine such power plants were built in the Mojave Desert in California, with an initial output of 14 and later 80 MW. In total, they generate 354 MW of power. Even then, SCHOTT was the company that supplied the glass cover tubes for the receivers, on top of which the solar radiation is concentrated by the parabolic mirrors. These same power plants still function perfectly today. With operational up time of more than 98 percent, they produce approximately 800 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year.
12/12/06 - Wireless power: Vibration generator runs remote devices for free
(Wonder if this can be scaled up? - JWD) Wireless sensors and instrumentation are great for remote locations where cabling is not practical, but if there's no wire, how do you get power to the device? Batteries are an obvious choice, but they go flat eventually. Microgenerators offer a means to harvest wasted energy-even vibrations from equipment-to power small devices. Perpetuum has launched its new generation of microgenerators that convert vibrations into useful energy. The PMG17 microgenerator reportedly offers key advantages over the earlier PMG7, including operation at lower vibration levels and across a wider range of frequencies. These units don't put out a huge amount of energy, but enough to power a typical wireless transmitter sending up to 6 kbytes of monitoring data every few minutes, or smaller amounts of data, such as a temperature reading, several times a second. 'This technology is continuing to prove itself following the launch of our first generation microgenerator earlier this year,' says Roy Freeland, CEO. 'This new product allows users to gain valuable data from levels of vibration that are 35% lower than previously possible.' Microgenerators operate best at specific frequencies, so they are tuned to respond to vibrations typically created by 60 Hz induction and synchronous motors commonly used in industrial applications. Units can be installed in any position and require no maintenance. / ...more info... - “There are many sources of vibration. Some of these are widespread and readily available for harvesting. One method is to use a resonator to collect the energy and convert this into electrical power using various electromechanical methods such as a coil and magnets or special materials for example piezoelectric or magnetostrictive that convert vibration energy directly. Perpetuum has developed practical devices that use electro mechanical technologies to produce power easily from commonly available vibration sources and frequencies. Typically a 50mm diameter microgenerator will produce 0.4 mW with 25mg of vibration and up to 5mW with 100mg within a frequency bandwidth of +/-0.2Hz. “ Any 50 or 60Hz AC synchronous motor will normally supply a suitable source of vibration, either directly or from the pump or other device being driven by the motor. The generator itself produces AC typically around 8-20 Volts. The microgenerator is normally supplied with a power conditioning circuit to convert to DC. This is then used to charge a capacitor suitably sized for the application. The power is then drawn down from the capacitor as required. / A resonant strung beam in the PMG7 carries a pair of permanent-magnets comprising many turns of fine wire between the magnets. Vibration sets the magnets in motion, creating an ac potential in the coil. This generated voltage is rectified and charges a capacitor (or supercapacitor), which in turn powers the sensor. The resonant beam is tuned to 50- or 60-Hz vibrations that ac motors produce. The mechanical approach used in the PMG7 provides a wide mechanical bandwidth. Operating half-power bandwidth ratings are typically ~+mn~0.2 Hz for the PMG7-50 and PMG7-60 and ~+mn~0.4 Hz for the PMG7-100 and PMG7-200. These models differ in the maximum center-frequency tuning range of 51, 61, 101, and 121 Hz, respectively. This center frequency can be manually tuned during installation by a screw, with a sensitivity of 1.0 Hz per turn, to maximize power generation.
12/12/06 - Sharks and seaweed inspire green energy
The wave energy system is called “bioWave" and has long, vertical blades that sway back and forth. Dr Finnigan says that it, “Is the only wave energy system that captures a wide swath of incident wave energy without using a large rigid structure. It is also the only such device that absorbs energy over the full water depth and continually self-orients with the wave direction". The blades are attached to an “O-Drive" generator, which uses a single stage reciprocating gear mechanism with a direct-drive synchronous permanent magnet generator and a high-inertia flywheel. In extreme wave conditions, the generator is back driven to ensure that the blades assume a safe position lying flat against the sea bed. Systems are being developed for 500kW, 1000kW and 2000kW capacities. The shark tail machine is called, “bioStream" and mimics the shape and motion characteristics of shark, tuna and mackerel tails, but is a fixed device, designed to be used in a moving stream or tidal flow. In this configuration the propulsion mechanism is reversed and the energy in the passing flow is used to drive the device motion against the resisting torque of the generator. More information from BioPower Systems.
12/12/06 - PML Flightlink Electric Mini-Cooper Conversion
Outwardly, only the oversize wheels protruding from the bodywork distinguish the PML prototype from a standard-issue Mini Cooper. It is those wheels that also separate this prototype from all other electric and hybrid cars available today. PML’s specialty is flat “pancake" brushless electric motors - it makes them for various military, marine, and construction applications - and in the Mini these motors are entirely contained inside the 19-inch wheels. Each wheel contains an identical motor, each rated at 160 horsepower, which makes this an all-wheel-drive 640-horsepower Mini. Top speed is estimated to be in excess of 150 mph, with a 0-to-60 time of 4.5 seconds. The figures are estimated because, as this is written, the PML QED (for “quad electric drive") Mini has not run with electric power; its creators have been too busy drumming up interest at the British International Motor Show and the Electric Vehicle Symposium in Japan. But the company is confident that it has a better solution amid the electric-and-hybrid-vehicle debate. Hub motors are not new, but PML claims its motors have the best power-to-weight ratio in the industry. PML’s motor unit, including the miniature Hi-Pa drive inverter, weighs 53 pounds, and the complete wheel assembly, including the tire, is only 4.4 pounds heavier than a regular Mini’s, so the effect on unsprung weight is small. Under the rear floor, in space liberated by removing the original exhaust system, is a 250cc twin-cylinder four-stroke gasoline kart engine that, when required, will run at constant speed to recharge the batteries. PML expects the electric power will last about four to five hours at an average speed of 50 mph before the gas-powered generator fires up to refill the batteries. Fuel consumption is claimed to be about 65 mpg. The batteries can also be charged from a household electrical supply. This 640-hp Mini exists just to get our attention. According to PML, the Mini cost about $350,000 to build, but the motors and their casings were handmade. Mass-producing the motors and control systems could bring the price down substantially, and only two of the powerful motors would suffice in most applications.
12/12/06 - Solar Energy in Egypt
Before we had hybrid cars we had hybrid power plants. Solar/thermal power relies on heat from two sources, the sun and fossil fuel, to heat a steam boiler which drives a steam turbine which turns an electric generator. These hybrid designed power plants get far more kilowatt-hours (or megawatt-years) per unit of fossil fuel than their conventional counterparts that rely 100% on fossil fuel for their energy input. In the early 1980's a pioneering 354 megawatt powerplant was built in the vast Mojave desert in California. Relying on a gas-fired steam boiler for backup power, this hugely successful powerplant gets most of its heat from water heated in tubes by the sun. Known as solar-concentrator technology, the key to the water getting to boiling temperatures is by using curved mirrors to focus onto the water-carrying tubes many times normal sunlight. Like a leaf heating into flames beneath a magnifying glass, the sun heats the water to boiling in these tubes. The shape of the solar concentrator mirrors is that of a trough, with the length of the trough on a north/south axis. The parabolic curve of the trough is designed to focus all of the sunlight strking the inside of the mirrored trough onto a water-carrying tube that extends above the length of the trough at the focal point of its mirrored surface. The trough rotates from east to west along one easily maintained axis each day. The tube is designed to withstand the high pressure of superheated steam. Parabolic trough solar concentrators used in a commercial scale hybrid power plant didn't break ground again until 2003 in Rajasthan, India, when a 140 megawatt station went on line. This power plant also relies on natural gas to power a backup steam turbine. Now one of the world's sunniest nations, Egypt, has declared a commitment to building commercial scale solar power stations using a hybrid design. Since the 1980's solar thermal technology has developed significantly. For example, the pressurized tubes that carry the super-heated water across the solar focal point of the parabolic troughs are now able to withstand much higher pressure and tolerate the daily extremes in temperature variation much better than the components built 25 years ago. There is no reason solar thermal power plants can't significantly increase the efficiency of fossil fuel power plants. (via ecoworld.com)
12/12/06 - Top 10 Scams of 2006
Targeting the most vulnerable citizens and using increasingly sophisticated tools, most have been able to easily elude law enforcement as they pick their victims' pockets, sometimes even making off with their life savings. Scammers scored at will, generating instant cash using lottery and fake check scams. They capitalized on news events and pop culture to catch consumers off guard, and enlisted all kinds of emerging technology to perfect identity theft. Here then, chosen from the roughly 50,000 consumer complaints we've processed in the past year, are the ConsumerAffairs.com Top Ten Scams of 2006. Scams continued to be big business for criminals in 2006 and relatively risk-free as law enforcement appeared unable to keep up. As a result, consumers increasingly were at the mercy of scammers who use cunning, audacity and emerging technology to stay one step ahead of both their victims and the law. The solution? Keep your wits about you, be skeptical and remember -- trite though it may be -- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Clink on the link to read them all, very informative.
12/12/06 - Future of Home Energy or Another "Green" Farce?
An article from the Christian Science Monitor gives a glowing report of a Micro-CHP (Combined Heating and Power) system for residential use. In addition to heating, the system generates one kilowatt of electrical power. Imagine in the space required for a dishwasher you have a small internal combustion engine that operates on natural gas, coupled to a generator. The engine exhaust is directed through a heat exchanger where waste engine is transferred to your hot water system or for heating your home. Certainly this is an interesting concept and can probably, as claimed, wring 90% of the energy from natural gas. While the Micro-CHP can probably sustain the house at night with no air conditioning and only a few night lights, turning on a hand hair dryer would overtax and shut down a one kilowatt generator.
12/12/06 - U.S. Army Stands to Gain Lightweight Portable Power
The M-25 Land Warrior Soldier Power Generator System (LW SPGS) combines DuPont Fuel Cell's direct methanol technology with SFC's off-the-shelf fuel cell systems, products, and integration expertise. The M-25 LW SPGS consists of SFC's fuel cell system (1.5 lbs/0.7 kg), a hybrid Ultralife Battery Inc. LI-145 battery (2 lbs/1 kg), DuPont Membrane Electrode Assemblies and soldier fuel pouches. The goal of the M-25 LW SPGS is to provide mission-weight savings of up to 80 percent over conventional power sources for long duration missions. If successful, it would have the capability to revolutionize wearable portable power sources in the field, by easily extending soldier mission times to 72 hours and beyond. The M-25 LW SPGS would be able to power a wide range of soldier equipment such as GPS navigation, communications, computers, sensors (unattended ground, buried and others), C4ISR gear, robots, UAVs, etc..
12/12/06 - Hydrogen Boosted Fuel miser on trial
Vision Energy boss Garry Rovin of Queenstown has organised the Hydrogen Challenge to prove the system works. Vehicles range from private cars and RVs through to buses, a digger, a loader, a diesel generator - even a tractor. Vision has invested in United States-developed technology, based on a unit that produces hydrogen, and will launch it internationally from Queenstown next week. Rovin says the patented “hydro-charger" unit can be “retro-fitted to any internal combustion engine to save fuel and reduce carbon emissions".
12/12/06 - The Zero Carbon Home
PHOTOVOLTAIC ELECTRICITY: Cells on the roof converting sunlight to electricity, provide power to the eco-house. Any surplus may be sold to the national grid. WINDOWS: Triple-glazed, floor to ceiling and best when south-facing. Source: Zed Factory WOOD PELLET BURNER: Highly efficient and carbon neutral. One large unit could provide heating for up to 40 houses. RAIN WATER: Water is collected and filtered. Better for use in the washing machine, or toilets than for drinking. WIND TURBINE: A small 'David Cameron' wind turbine on the roof can provide 20 per cent of your electricity. SOLAR THERMAL PANELS: Can provide up to 60 per cent of the hot water. REED BED SEWAGE SYSTEM: Human wastes are filtered slowly through a reed bed, which cleans the water organically. The solid wastes can be removed every ten years and used as fertiliser. WIND COWL VENTILATION: Air is drawn into the house through a large metal hood on the roof, which also expels used air. An exchanger transfers heat from the internal air to the new air coming into the house. SEDUM ROOF: Sedum is a hardy plant with thick leaves and stems. When grown on the roof it adds an extra layer of insulation. CONSTRUCTION: Timber frame, wrapped in a draught-excluding membrane. Super-insulated walls retain heat in winter, and keep house cool in summer. Ideally central heating would not be needed at all. GEOTHERMAL HEATING SYSTEM: Extracts heat from the ground and pipes hot water into the house.
12/11/06 - NASA crushes lunar real estate industry
NASA has confirmed its planned 2020 moon base will not illegally occupy other people's land. A NASA spokesman said: "Property rights on the moon are governed by the United Nations. Those are all just frauds." It transpires the moon comes under the same jurisdiction as international waters. In 2004 the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law aimed to clear up confusion over the legal status of land flogging operations. It said in a statement: "The sellers of such deeds are unable to acquire legal title to their claims. Accordingly, the deeds they sell have no legal value or significance, and convey no recognized rights whatsoever."
12/11/06 - Team engineers muscle, bone cell differentiation with ink-jet printer
A Pittsburgh-based research team has created and used an innovative ink-jet system to print "bio-ink" patterns that direct muscle-derived stem cells from adult mice to differentiate into both muscle cells and bone cells. This report is the first describing a system that can pattern the formation of multiple cell types within the same vessel from a single population of adult stem cells.
12/11/06 - Arsonists adding to Aussie wildfires
WHILE more than 3000 firefighters battled blazes in northeast Victoria and Gippsland, several fires appeared to have been deliberately lit in Melbourne and in the southwest of the state. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks warned that fire bugs would be aggressively prosecuted. "It's just one of the most reprehensible things imaginable at a time when the state is tinderbox dry," he said. "Without any rainfall it's going to be very difficult to control these fires," he said. "The forests are so dry that every time we get a day which is extreme these fires get very active and start spotting and start behaving erratically."
12/11/06 - Power experiment 5km down triggers quake
Swiss engineers halted an experiment to extract geothermal heat from deep below ground after it set off a small earthquake in the nearby city of Basel. The tremor late on Saturday local time measured 3.4 on the Richter scale and caused widespread fear, prompting about 1000 calls to emergency services, but caused no injuries or serious damage, the Swiss news agency SDA said. The $85 million experiment is known as "deep heat mining". It is designed to extract enough super-heated water to drive a power plant providing electricity for 10,000 homes and heat for 2700 others.
12/11/06 - Composting Toilets for Water Crises
Predictions of more-severe droughts and worsening water shortages as the Earth’s climate changes have led to an increased interest in composting toilets. These toilets, once deemed just for “hippies" or for areas without access to municipal sanitation, have evolved into sophisticated machines that many now prefer to conventional toilets. In addition to potentially saving the planet billions of liters of water a day through no-flush or extremely low-flush systems, composting toilets can provide nutrient-rich compost and even fertilizer for crops and other vegetation. Composting toilets store it in an on-site compartment to facilitate natural aerobic decomposition, eventually producing a nutrient-rich compost. When used properly, the systems are odorless and kill any waste-borne pathogens. Some systems separate liquid from solid waste to create a liquid fertilizer in addition to the compost. Typical “low-flush" toilets in the United States and Canada use 6 liters (1.6 gallons) of water per flush, notes Scott Smith, vice president of Canada-based Sancor Industries, which manufactures Envirolet Composting Toilet Systems. Thus, by switching to a no-flush composting toilet, a person can save more than 8,000 liters (2,000 gallons) of water per year, assuming an average flush rate of four times daily. “In 25, 50, 100 years, we probably won’t have…the luxury of using clean water to wash away waste," Smith observes.
12/11/06 - Plastic poisoning oceans
Microscopic particles of plastic are not biodegradable and may be poisoning oceans, fear British scientists. Sturdy and durable plastic is not biodegradable. It only breaks down physically, persisting in the environment for possibly hundreds of years, the researchers said. Thompson estimates there are 300,000 items of plastic per sq km of sea surface and 100,000 per sq km of seabed. So plastic appears to be everywhere in our seas, he said. Thompson and his team set out to find how small these fragments can get. So far they’ve identified plastic particles of around 20 microns - thinner than the diameter of a human hair. In 2004 their groundbreaking study reported finding particles on beaches around Britain. Historical records of samples taken by ships plying routes between Britain and Iceland confirmed that the incidence of particles had been increasing over the years. Scientists are worried that these fragments can get into the food chain. There is the possibility that chemicals could be transferred from plastics to marine organisms, they said. The plastics industry’s response is that much of the research was speculative at this stage. There is very little evidence that this transfer of chemicals is taking place in the wild, they added.
12/11/06 - Libido pill to work on mind, not body
The "little blue pill" Viagra just works on, shall we say, the plumbing-it keeps the blood flowing in the right direction. Now there's a drug in the pipeline that its makers say really will restore lost libido. Pfaus says he's finding that bremelanotide seems to put rats in the mood. Given the peptide, female rats, he says, initiate sex four times more often than those who do not receive it. And bremelanotide's makers are betting it will work the same way on both men and women. "It brings back your libido,"Pfaus said. "It doesn't make it something that it wasn't. It brings it back to where it probably was when you were having good sex." Carl Spana, chief executive officer of Palatin Tech, which holds the patent on bremelanotide, said it activates parts of the brain that are involved in regulating sexual function. He says other products on the market, such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, "work by affecting peripheral blood flow, rather than the nervous system."
12/11/06 - Fridge magnets can kill the weak-hearted
A strong type of magnet used in many new commercial products can interfere with pacemakers and implanted heart devices with deadly consequences. Close contact-within about three cm-with a neodymium magnet is enough to destabilise these life-saving heart devices, Heart Rhythm journal reports. Ordinary iron or ferrite magnets, which are a dull grey colour with a low magnetic strength, are of little concern. Very strong magnets made from neodymium-iron-boron, which are shiny and silver in colour, have only recently become available. But because of their high magnetic field strength and low production costs, they are being used in computer hard drives, headphones and hi-fi speakers, as well as toys, jewellery and even clothes. Researchers at the University Hospital of Zurich tested the effect of neodymium magnets in 70 heart patients-41 with pacemakers and 29 with implantable cardioverter defibrillators. The small 8g magnets tested interfered with all of the patients' devices, regardless of their make or type, when they were in a range of 3cm. The researchers said larger neodymium magnets would be likely to cause interference at greater distances than this. Although the devices worked normally again once the magnet was removed, the authors warned permanent damage might occur with prolonged exposure-if someone were to wear a magnetic name badge, for example. "There is a real danger. These magnets are everywhere. They are in lots of badges, fridge magnets and phones. If you were on a busy bus and someone you are squashed up against had a magnet in their top pocket you could easily come within 3cm of it.
12/11/06 - 1 in 32 U.S. adults in jail, on parole or probation
A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail. According to the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College in London, more people are behind bars in the United States than in any other country. China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners, followed by Russia with 870,000. The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people in the highest, followed by 611 in Russia and 547 for St. Kitts and Nevis. In contrast, the incarceration rates in many Western industrial nations range around 100 per 100,000 people. "The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. We rank first in the world in locking up our fellow citizens," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports alternatives in the war on drugs. "We now imprison more people for drug law violations than all of western Europe, with a much larger population, incarcerates for all offenses." Drug offenders account for about 2 million of the 7 million in prison, on probation or parole, King said, adding that other countries often stress treatment instead of incarceration. Julie Stewart, president of the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, cited the Justice Department report and said drug offenders are clogging the U.S. justice system. "Why are so many people in prison? Blame mandatory sentencing laws and the record number of nonviolent drug offenders subject to them," she said.
12/11/06 - Funding the Spanish American War
If you play your cards right, you can file a Form 8913 to claim a refund from the IRS for the recently lifted excise tax. There will be a standard refund of $30 or an itemized refund provided you have copies of all your phone bills. For the past 108 years, Americans have been paying for the six month, Spanish American War via the general excise tax of 1898. AT&T's general counsel comments, "This is a 19th-century tax on a 21st-century technology. It makes no sense, and it ought to be repealed."
12/11/06 - MADD spends 81 cents per dollar for Administration Costs
People who donate to Mothers Against Drunk Driving are told by the charity that most of the $12 million it raises annually is spent on good works - stopping drunk driving and helping families traumatized by fatal crashes. Most of the high-profile charity's money is spent on fundraising and administration, leaving only about 19 cents of each donor dollar for charitable works. MADD chief executive officer Andrew Murie defends the expenses, saying the paid telemarketers and door-knockers are actually performing good works because they educate the public as they ask for cash. That's a defence Canada's top charity regulator rejects. The MADD story highlights an issue that national opinion polls have shown concerns donors: charities that hire professional fundraisers to do all, or almost all, their fundraising. Fundraisers typically take 70-90 cents of each dollar. That's what is happening at MADD, with the money turned over to the charity then being eaten up by administrative expenses and head office salaries. CEO Andrew Murie would not reveal his salary or that of other staff, saying it is personal information. Volunteers have been seeking an accounting of the $2 million-plus salary and administrative expenses at the charity's Oakville head office.
12/10/06 - Robots, not Men to the Moon
Manned moon flight may appeal to baby boomers, but it makes little scientific sense for most space missions these days. Robots can now perform, or be developed to perform, most of the tasks people would do at a moon station. And even if the world shares the goal of landing astronauts on Mars, this is a roundabout way to achieve it. Why re-create the old technologies for going to the moon when they are of no use to get to Mars? Frank Sinatra recorded the song "Fly Me to the Moon" in 1964, five years before Neil Armstrong got there. These days, it makes more sense to have robots do the flying. Just last week, scientists announced they'd found evidence of water flowing on Mars - a possible harbinger of Martian life. The discoverer of this exciting news? The unmanned Mars Global Surveyor. / Lunar colony to run on moon dust and robots - Simulated moon dust has been used to make a key component of a working solar cell. Four years ago, Alex Freundlich and his colleagues at the University of Houston in Texas came up with the idea of getting robotic rovers to build solar cells entirely out of lunar dust or "regolith" (New Scientist print edition, 24 June 2000). This fine, grey powder is half silicon dioxide, with the remainder made up of a blend of oxides of 12 metals, including aluminium, magnesium and iron. The team reasoned that this mix contains all the elements necessary to build a solar panel, and suggested that robots trundling over the lunar surface could melt regolith, refine it and then lay down a glassy substrate on which solar cells could be deposited. The rover - solar-powered, of course - would leave a trail of solar panels in its wake. The researchers were careful to employ only techniques that would be available to them on the moon. This meant that the solar cells they produced were inefficient. While conventionally produced solar cells convert up to 20% of the energy falling on them, the simulated lunar panels were only 1% efficient. However, this may not matter on the moon, where real estate is virtually unlimited.
12/10/06 - RV Processes Own Fuel on Cross-Country Trip
"Frybrid has realized the dream of Dr. Emmet Brown's Delorean: putting garbage directly into your vehicle, and have it be turned into directly into fuel. This past fall, Frybrid installed a system into a 40' luxury RV that sucked up waste vegetable oil from the back of restaurants, removed the water and filtered it, and then burned the dry and cleaned vegetable oil as fuel. The family drove their converted RV from Seattle to Rhode Island on $47 worth of diesel fuel. Plans are underway for a smaller version of the system to fit in the bed of a pickup truck."
12/10/06 - Small Hydro Making a Comeback?
The Burlington Free Press has in interesting story today on the rebirth of small hydro projects in Vermont. The article focuses on plans to restore an abandoned hydroelectric plant on the Otter Creek River, in Middlebury Vermont. The Holm family, the current owners of the dam, see the dam as an excellent source of clean renewable energy; one that could help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. They hope to bring the power station back on-line in a manner that complements the existing scenic qualities of the dam. Peter Holm believes the dam could produce enough electricity for approximately 1,000 homes without diverting water from the creek's scenic falls. The Otter Creek project is just one example of a growing movement in Vermont to bring small dams back into the energy portfolio. According to the Free Press article, Vermont has over 1,000 small dams, but only 95 of them are currently producing power. While not all of these other dams provide viable alternatives for power production, previous studies indicate that Vermont could generate between 175-440 megawatts of power from refurbished dams. That not an insignificant amount considering the State's recent peak power demands. Vermont's Electric Plan indicates that the demand for electricity in 2004 was under 1,100 MW.
12/10/06 - Easy DIY USB interface
It's based on the PIC 18F4550 processor. If you check out the project, you'll note that not only do they have a nice board to put a SMD PIC onto, they provide everything you need to build a diy version using perfboard. The most expensive component is of course the $10 PIC, but if you're on a budget, that can be mitigated with a request for samples.
12/10/06 - Engineered yeast speeds ethanol production
High ethanol levels are toxic to the yeast that ferments corn and other plant material into ethanol. By manipulating the yeast genome, the researchers have engineered a new strain of yeast that can tolerate elevated levels of both ethanol and glucose, while producing ethanol faster than un-engineered yeast. Fuels such as E85, which is 85 percent ethanol, are becoming common in states where corn is plentiful; however, their use is mainly confined to the Midwest because corn supplies are limited and ethanol production technology is not yet efficient enough. This altered strain produced 50 percent more ethanol during a 21-hour period than normal yeast. The prospect of using this approach to engineer similar tolerance traits in industrial yeast could dramatically impact industrial ethanol production, a multi-step process in which yeast plays a crucial role. First, cornstarch or another polymer of glucose is broken down into single sugar (glucose) molecules by enzymes, then yeast ferments the glucose into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Last year, four billion gallons of ethanol were produced from 1.43 billion bushels of corn grain (including kernels, stalks, leaves, cobs, husks) in the United States, according to the Department of Energy. In comparison, the United States consumed about 140 billion gallons of gasoline.
12/10/06 - Foldaway house from South Africa
The waterproof, 14 square metre dwelling comes with two windows and a wooden door and weighs little more than 800kg, providing the basic requirements for emergency shelter. Made from galvanised metal, it is easily transportable, being just 24 centimetres high when folded, and can be erected by a handful of people in under five minutes. The container-like, modular structures can also be joined to provide accommodation for large families, as well as modified to include insulation and heat extractors.
12/10/06 - Second Amendment Questioned
"Attorneys in Washington, DC question the scope of the Second Amendment in the first case in nearly 70 years, citing that the right to bear arms only applies to 'a well regulated militia.' 'We interpret the Second Amendment in military terms,' said Todd Kim, the District's solicitor general."
12/10/06 - “SKEPTIC’S GUIDE TO DEBUNKING GLOBAL WARMING"
The color glossy 64 page booklet -- previously was only available in hardcopy to the media and policy makers -- includes speeches, graphs, press releases and scientific articles refuting catastrophe climate fears presented by the media, the United Nations, Hollywood and former Vice President turned-foreign-lobbyist Al Gore. The “Skeptic’s Guide" includes a copy of Senator Inhofe’s 50 minute Senate floor speech http://epw.senate.gov/speechitem.cfm?party=rep&id=263759 delivered on September 25, 2006 challenging the media to improve its reporting. The book, which features web links to all supporting documentation, also serves as a handbook to identify the major players in media bias when it comes to poor climate science reporting. The guide presents a reporter’s virtual who’s-who’s of embarrassing and one-sided media coverage, with a focus on such reporters as CBS News “60 Minutes" Scott Pelley, ABC News reporter Bill Blakemore, CNN’s Miles O’Brien, and former NBC Newsman Tom Brokaw. Senator Inhofe’s “Skeptic’s Guide" also includes hard hitting critiques of the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Associated Press, Reuters, the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. Senator Inhofe has challenged the media in a series of speeches and hearings to stop the unfounded hype. Scientific studies that debunk the dire predictions of human-caused global warming have continued to accumulate and many believe the new science is shattering the media-promoted scientific “consensus" on climate alarmism.
12/10/06 - Switchgrass Might Create Ethanol for $1 Per Gallon
Switchgrass can be grown on marginal soils, is useful as wildlife habitat, and requires little use of fertilizers, insecticides or irrigation. “Switchgrass is a native plant of the tall grass prairies. It grows 12 feet tall in one season and produces 10 tons of plant material an acre, more biomass per year than most other plants," said Albert Kausch, a University of Rhode Island plant geneticist on the cutting edge of switchgrass research. “I’m confident my lab can make it produce 20 tons an acre using the tools and personnel we have right now." And because switchgrass is a perennial plant, it doesn’t require replanting year after year. Native switchgrass grown commercially today could produce ethanol for approximately $2.70 per gallon, but by genetically improving a number of plant traits he believes the production price could get as low as $1 per gallon.
12/09/06 - Curing cancer using the North Pole of supermagnets
Humans are electromagnetic as suggested in 1926 by the eminent American surgeon and electromagnetotherapist George Crile in his book "A Bipolar Theory of Living Processes" and in 1983 by the eminent radiologist and cancer researcher Bjorn Nordenstrom in his book "Biological Electric Circuits: Clinical, Experimental and Theoretical Evidence for an additional Circular System". Because of the recent invention of a supermagnet with great strength and a minute size, three breast cancer patients have been cured by a method, which will revolutionize the field of cancer treatment. One of the patients had breast cancer of the metastasis type; that is, the cancer had transplanted into tissue distant from the site of the original cancer. The technique we used strongly indicates that all kinds of cancer can be cured by this method. The super energy permanent magnet we use in our project has a maximum energy of up to 35,000,000 gauss-oersteds. This strength of the supermagnet is the world's record in commercial production, according to the prestigious American Journal "SCIENCE." It is made of iron, boron and neodymium, one of the rare metals. It is brand-named Neomax. The size of the Neomax supermagnet that was used in the cancer project is approximately the size of an American quarter. It is smaller than a Swedish krona. It weights 30 grams, which is approximately 1 ounce. Each one of the women with breast cancer who participated in the project had a supermagnet hanging around her neck for about 4 months, with the north polarity of the magnet directed toward the body. The results indicate that our method can cure all types of cancer. If we had positioned the magnets on the tumor, we would not have known this. But since we hung a supermagnet around the neck of each patient, it indicates the supermagnets influence the whole body. In a book chapter entitled "About Magnets and Their Wonderful Ability to Help in the Cure of All sorts of Diseases" by Paracelsus, he writes, for example, that he found the use of magnets to be of great value for the cure of epilepsy. He recommends that 4 magnets be placed on the stomach and 4 on the back. So far Nordenstrom has treated with electromagnetotherapy 80 patients with breast and lung cancer tumors. His treatment has regressed or killed the tumors in most of the 80 patients. Nordenstrom's treatment of cancer tumors consists of inserting a long needle into the center of a tumor and another needle in normal tissue. The needles are platinum electrodes. The electrode in the tumor is positive and the other negative. Wires are hooked to both electrodes and are connected to a direct electric current processor. The electric current is turned on and is increased in successions from 0 to 10 volts. The treatment has begun. It is important that our method for curing cancer uses only one magnet. Before we started the project, described in this report, we surmised we needed two magnets - one on each side of the tumor. We succeeded in our treatment of cancer with one magnet because a human being is like a magnet.
12/09/06 - Figure of Matching algorithm to improve Solar Cells
Dutch researcher Sioe Yao Kan developed the so-called ‘Figure of Matching’ algorithm to analyse and quantify the matching between these elements from the 'energy chain' at the interfaces between the elements. In an 'interface' it is, for example, possible to match the interaction between a light source and a PV cell. With Kan's algorithm the best combination can be sought between the light source and the solar cell or the solar cell and the battery. For example a device that is only used indoors needs a different type of PV cell than one that is used outdoors in bright sunlight. In addition with correct energy matching devices can store more energy and the stored energy can be used more efficiently. Thanks to Kan's research, industrial designers who want to produce wireless consumer products with solar cells, now have a better insight into how they can match different components from the energy chain for the best energetic result. Kan tested several PV-powered devices such as PV chargers and PDAs. His tests involved the use of simulations generated by the specially-developed computer program PowerQuest. The program calculates the PV capacity necessary for the use of specific devices. It can also do the opposite, namely, if the energy demand is known it can calculate the PV surface required. The program is now being made suitable for use by designers.
12/09/06 - Paper challenges Conservation of Energy law
The law of conservation of energy states that nothing can be created or destroyed: you can’t get something from nothing, or vice-versa, though converting substances between diverse forms is very possible. But the paper claims new stuff may be formed constantly, in one special setting: within black holes or similar objects. The idea, the author adds, is testable and would resolve several mysteries, including why the universe is expanding ever faster. In a note published with the paper, the journal New Astronomy this month indicated it had successfully passed the scrutiny of at least one eminently qualified scholar: co-editor Joseph Silk, head of the University of Oxford, U.K., astrophysics department. That “does make one wonder more" about the work, volunteered Saul Perlmutter of the University of California, Berkeley, one of the acknowledged discoverers of the accelerated cosmic expansion. For the author, Gregor Bayer of Cedar Hill, Texas, the publication was a breakthrough. “It has been a very hard struggle for me to get anything published," he wrote in an email, though he had another paper in print earlier this year. “Fortunately, some good people are beginning to take me seriously." Bayer attributed his troubles to the fact that he doesn’t work for any scientific institution, so other researchers are reluctant to back his theories. Bayer’s paper on energy conservation considers black holes, stupendously dense celestial bodies that pack so much weight into so little space that their gravity overpowers everything nearby, including light rays. Conditions in black holes are thought to mimic in some ways those prevailing at the origin of the universe. Then, scientists believe, all matter was packed into a point; this then exploded in a “Big Bang," spawning the cosmos. If a black hole had an opposite, it would be what physicists call vacuum. In plain terms, that means nothingness, though this word is misleading because some minimal level of activity has been found to unfold even in the emptiest space. Vacuum is ubiquitous. Even in solid objects, there is plenty of room for vacuum, between and inside the atoms. In a black hole, vacuum could also conceivably find lodgings. But there, the cramping might become severe even for a guest of such modest demands-forcing the vacuum, in Bayer’s view, to lead a precarious existence. Within black holes or similar objects, he argues, extreme conditions may inject “instability" into the vacuum, converting parts of it into non-vacuum, or matter. “Matter creation can be said to arise from some new particle interaction which violates energy conservation," he wrote in an email. Bringing back the air-hose analogy, imagine an invisible hose blowing air outward and into the mouth of a second tube. That second pipe would appear as though it were sucking in air-negative pressure.
Negative pressure within legions of black holes would create a gravitational repulsion that permeates the cosmos and pushes it outward relentlessly, Bayer claims. “While matter is being created, there is a gravitational repulsion associated with the energy flow. When the flow stops, only the ordinary gravitational attraction of the created mass remains." All newly minted mass would reside permanently in its home black hole. Matter creation would equate to energy creation because, as Einstein found with the famed equation E=mc2, matter and energy are two forms of the same thing. / ...more info...
12/09/06 - Supermagnets dangerous for kids
At least one U.S. child has died and 19 others have needed surgery since 2003 after swallowing magnets used in toys, the government reported Thursday. Most of those cases were believed to involve tiny but strong "rare earth" magnets that can link together in children's digestive tracts, squeezing and even perforating the intestines, the researchers said. The magnets, made from neodymium iron boron or other compounds, have become common in the U.S. toy market in the past five years because they have become cheaper to produce, said Jonathan Midgett, the study's lead author and an engineering psychologist with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. They are used in building sets, action figures and dolls. "Most people who have never had them in their hands are shocked at how strong these tiny things are," Midgett said. Kenny Sweet, a 20-month-old boy from Redmond, Wash., died in two days after he began complaining of stomach aches and vomiting. An autopsy found nine small magnets stacked together. They had caused a twisting of the bowel and a blood infection.
The magnets had come off a building set belonging to Kenny's 10-year-old brother, according to his family's lawyers. Mega Brands Inc. recalled 3.8 million Magnetix building sets, added warning labels and agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle lawsuits.
12/09/06 - Making Gas from Prairie Grass
Grass can be turned into a liquid fuel or burned in a power plant to make electricity. But it's an expensive process. Corn is the biofuel of choice instead. But ecologist David Tilman at the University of Minnesota says he's found a way to make prairie grasses more attractive than corn. "We actually get more energy from an acre of land growing prairie grasses [and] mixtures of prairie grasses and converting them into ethanol or into synthetic gas and diesel than you would by growing corn and soybeans and converting them into ethanol or biodiesel," he says. Tilman's team grew plots mixing 16 types of prairie grasses, including lupine, turkey foot, blazing star, and prairie clover. The plots with the most varieties produced the most biomass and produced more potential energy than corn and soybeans.
And the multigrass plots did something else. Like all plants, grasses capture and use carbon dioxide from the air. When a plant or a plant-fuel is burned, the CO2 goes back into the air. That's not good if you're worried about climate change. But Tilman's prairie grasses bury much of that CO2 in the soil and in their deep, permanent roots. So a good deal of the CO2 stays in the ground after the harvest. Tilman calls this "carbon-negative" biofuel. It's just the opposite of biofuels from corn and soybeans, which are "carbon-positive." They produce more CO2 than they absorb because it takes more fossil fuel to make them. The Department of Energy says it costs about five times more to make fuel from grasses than it does to make it from corn. But Jackson notes that prairie grasses do have advantages that could help them compete. Unlike corn, for example, they grow happily on poor, sandy soils. At some point, good places to grow corn will get scarce. That's when grasses may start to look a lot greener.
12/09/06 - New Lithium Polymer Battery
Lithium polymer batteries use lithium as an active ingredient. Lithium is a volatile material, but the lithium in these batteries isn't packed into cells as it is in lithium ion batteries. Instead, it is contained in a polymer gel. These gel batteries can't provide the same sort of energy density as lithium ion batteries, but that's now a plus. Manufacturers, and in particular Sony, have pushed the energy density (or capacity) of lithium ion batteries. When an internal short occurs, it can set off a chain reaction and start a fire. Despite their struggles, industrial designers have always liked lithium polymer because gel packs can be squeezed into devices' empty spaces. Lithium polymer has also improved over time. Some manufacturers are using it in phones.
12/09/06 - Ethylene Suggested for Hydrogen Storage
By attaching titanium atoms at opposite ends of an ethylene molecule (four hydrogen atoms bound to a pair of carbon atoms) will result in a very attractive “two for" deal. The addition of the two metal atoms results in a net gain of up to 10 hydrogen molecules that can absorb onto the ethylene-titanium complex, for a total of 20 hydrogen atoms. As important, the engineered material is predicted to release the hydrogen with only a modest amount of heating. The absorbed hydrogen molecules account for about 14 percent of the weight of the titanium-ethylene complex. That’s about double the Department of Energy’s minimum target of 6.5 percent for economically practical storage of hydrogen in a solid state material. Although significant challenges stand in the way, solid state storage is preferred to storing hydrogen as a liquid or compressed gas, both of which require large-volume tanks.
12/09/06 - Text to Sign website
Generate just about any kind of sign you can imagine at TXT 2 PIC, which serves up nearly 250 sign-building tools. The selections range from billboards to Etch-a-Sketch to the Simpsons church sign. Just enter your desired text, tweak a few settings (like font size and color), and click the Generate button (which may be called something else depending on the sign). Once the sign has been generated, you can right-click to save it. Other options include turning it into a refrigerator magnet (around $5) or sending it as an e-card.
12/09/06 - Colour dictates the office mood
Employees have revealed they get depressed when they work in an office that is painted blue. Yellow offices made staff feel happy, energised and more focused on their work. Employees said they felt angrier and more passionate if there was more red than any other colour, while black made them feel "tougher." The research by Konica Minolta also found that grey offices made workers feel "dull." A spokesperson from the company said: "This study shows that it is not just Monday mornings, the rush hour or having to work late that can affect the office environment - colour has a huge impact."
12/09/06 - Hitch a ride with Ridester
The site employs features like personal profiles, feedback ratings, online payments and e-mail and text-message alerts. Although there's no charge to register, list a trip or search trips, the passenger does have to pay the driver in advance for the trip. The driver sets the amount; Ridester handles the transaction and refunds the money if the trip falls through for any reason.
12/09/06 - Soldier Redneck Workarounds
Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo called Silly String, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible. In other cases of battlefield improvisation in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have bolted scrap metal to Humvees in what has come to be known as "Hillybilly Armor." Medics use tampons to plug bullet holes in the wounded until they can be patched up. Also, soldiers put condoms and rubber bands around their rifle muzzles to keep out sand. And troops have welded old bulletproof windshields to the tops of Humvees to give gunners extra protection. They have dubbed it "Pope's glass" - a reference to the barriers that protect the pontiff.
12/08/06 - Intrigue over hydrogen as auto fuel?
Anyone with a brain in his head knew thirty-some years ago that we needed to get away from our growing dependence on imported petroleum. But we kept importing more and more of it, until today more than a third of our fuel comes from overseas - mostly the Middle East. Not only do these imports entangle us in the bloody politics of the Mideast, burning petroleum and other fossil fuels (natural gas, coal) pours carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas: it traps heat and contributes strongly to global warming. As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, so do global temperatures. So why hasn’t somebody developed an efficient way to produce hydrogen fuels to replace gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels in the thirty-some years since the first “energy crisis?" Today, hydrogen is four times more expensive to produce than gasoline., and a single hydrogen-powered car costs almost a million dollars to build. But hydrogen promises to be a clean source of transportation fuel one day. So Chevron and its partners are pursuing cutting-edge technology that produces hydrogen on-site, on-demand. Two demonstration energy stations have already been built, with more on the way. A million dollars to build a hydrogen car? Bushwah! Innovators back in the 1970s converted ordinary autos to hydrogen fuel. It’s no big deal. Producing hydrogen is a problem, though. It takes more energy to get the hydrogen than the stuff will give you back in the form of fuel. Suppose that instead of piping hydrogen cross-country you could produce it inside your car? Fill your fuel tank with water and split the H2O the way nature does, cleanly and quietly. If someone came up with an efficient way to produce hydrogen fuels, would the oil industry try to suppress the invention? Put the question another way: why, in the past thirty years, hasn’t someone come up with an efficient way to produce hydrogen fuel?
12/08/06 - Biofuels through Time
The way most people talk about biofuels, you'd think they were a brand-new invention. But using natural products for fuel is an idea as old as the hills, as this highly selective timeline demonstrates. Mid-1800s: Soap-makers begin to transesterify vegetable oils -- you know, exchanging the alkoxy group of an ester compound by using another alcohol, often catalyzed by the addition of an acid or base. Ahem. Or, for you non organic chemists, breaking down one molecule and building a shiny new one. Transesterification (not to be confused with transvestite Transylvanians) produces methyl and ethyl esters, of which biodiesel will be composed in the following decades. Good, clean fun abounds. 1900: After experimenting with whale oil, the soon-to-be-famous (or at least familiar-sounding) Rudolph Diesel uses peanut oil as fuel when demonstrating his newly invented compression ignition engine at the World's Fair in Paris. Henry Ford and the Model T. 1908: Soon-to-be-famous (and more than familiar-sounding) Henry Ford introduces the Model T, which runs on hemp- and corn-based ethanol. As Ford continues to design automobiles, all are built to run on ethanol. Ford builds an ethanol plant in the Midwest. 1912: In a speech, Diesel says, "The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal-tar products of the present time." We might be getting there, Deez...and more at the link...
12/08/06 - Landmine antenna uses soundwaves for detection
Researchers at MIT in Boston, US, are developing a "torch-like" device that uses sound waves to locate buried landmines from a safe distance. The device fires a tightly-focused beam of very loud sound at the ground, causing it to vibrate. This vibration is then measured using a reflected laser beam, and the signal reveals the telltale disturbances caused by any subsurface mines. The sound frequency employed must be low in order to shake the ground and normally this would mean focusing a beam using large parabolic reflectors. MIT researchers cunningly use a higher frequency signal, which can be focused more easily, to carry a lower frequency tone. As the focused beam hits the ground, the frequencies separate to create powerful, low frequency vibration. The patent application reveals that MIT has already tested the system on anti-personnel mines using a sound source and a laser on a tripod positioned 30 metres away. The resulting vibrations were analysed on a laptop, which quickly produces a map of the area, highlighting hidden mines.
12/08/06 - Spending plan to increase energy bills
UK energy consumers are facing higher gas and electricity bills after industry regulator Ofgem approved plans for higher spending on infrastructure. Ofgem said the firms behind UK gas and electricity distribution can spend £5bn more upgrading their infrastructure. These added costs will be passed on to consumers next year in the form of a £10 rise in the typical gas bill and a £2-£3 increase in electricity bills. Consumer groups have complained that the price increases are unjustified and are threatening to plunge vulnerable people into fuel poverty. Companies have countered that they have little choice but to pass on record commodity prices to consumers.
12/08/06 - Osmotic Energy - using NaCl for power
Osmosis means passage of water from a region of high water concentration (often freshwater) through a semipermeable membrane to a region of low water concentration (often NaCl). The membrane only lets water molecules pass. Salt molecules, sand, silt and other contaminants are prevented to do so. In the osmotic process two solutions with different salt-concentrations are involved (often freshwater and salt-water). A semipermeable membrane, which is an organic filter, separates the solutions. The membrane only lets small molecules like water-molecules pass. The water aspires to decrease the salt-concentration on the side of the membrane that contains most salt. The water therefor streams through the membrane and creates a pressure on the other side. This pressure can be utilised in order to gain energy, for example by using a turbine and a generator. There are several different types of power plants using osmosis (the osmotic process); both land-based plants and plants anchored to the sea floor. The thing the plants we have studied have in common is that osmosis is not directly used to generate power. What the osmosis does is that it creates a flow through the plant and it is that flow that forces the turbine to rotate.
12/08/06 - Old Moonbase Plans revived will cost $100 Billion
(Surely this can be done a LOT CHEAPER and BETTER by privatizing it rather than our bloated, out of control government spending more of our tax money. - JWD) Although it has been 34 years this month since humans have been to the Moon, President Bush's goal of returning by 2020, announced in 2004, seems to be back in NASA's roadmap. NASA and the U.S. government have been planning for lunar colonies since before Neil Armstrong took his "one giant leap for mankind" in 1969, and the recurring dream resurfaced this week with the NASA announcing plans to start work on a Moon base. The plan includes milestones of returning to the Moon by 2020 and setting up residential missions by 2024. The projected cost of the program is over $100 billion.
12/08/06 - More on the New +40% Efficiency Solar Cell Technology
Using concentrated sunlight, Spectrolab demonstrated the ability of a photovoltaic cell to convert 40.7 percent of the sun's energy into electricity. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) verified the milestone. High efficiency multijunction cells have a significant advantage over conventional silicon cells in concentrator systems because fewer solar cells are required to achieve the same power output. "The terrestrial cell we have developed uses the same technology base as our space-based cells. So, once qualified, they can be manufactured in very high volumes with minimal impact to production flow." "These results are particularly encouraging since they were achieved using a new class of metamorphic semiconductor materials, allowing much greater freedom in multijunction cell design for optimal conversion of the solar spectrum," said Dr. Richard R. King, principal investigator of the high efficiency solar cell research and development effort. "The excellent performance of these materials hints at still higher efficiency in future solar cells." Currently, Spectrolab's terrestrial concentrator cells are generating power in a 33-kilowatt full-scale concentrator system in the Australian desert. The company recently signed multi-million dollar contracts for its high efficiency concentrator cells and is anticipating several new contracts in the next few months.
12/08/06 - Renewable Energy Assistance
A company called Mondial Energy Inc., a solar thermal services company is offering a service similar to what SunEdison does for solar PV systems, Mondial will own and operate a solar thermal system at a client's site -- say, a hospital, hotel, apartment building or school -- and then get paid under a 10-year contract for the amount of natural gas or electricity that client saves related to their hot water bill. The customer wins by having a percentage of their water heating come from renewable energy and by being partially shielded by increases in natural gas/electricity prices. Mondial's private shareholders win by getting what Alex Winch, founder and president, describes as a return on investment "greater than" 10 per cent. It's an interesting model, and Winch is attracting much interest. He's got a number of installations in Toronto and is in negotiation for projects in the United States, including a hotel and a casino.
12/08/06 - Media Shows Irrational Hysteria on Global Warming
(Call it what you will, but we are EXPERIENCING anomalous climate changes for whatever reasons. Whether its too much Chicken Little or too much Ostrich Syndrome, its here and we have to deal with it despite polarization into 'sides' and semantics. - JWD) David Deming, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma and an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), testified this morning at a special hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "In 1995, I published a short paper in the academic journal Science. In that study, I reviewed how borehole temperature data recorded a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. The week the article appeared, I was contacted by a reporter for National Public Radio. He offered to interview me, but only if I would state that the warming was due to human activity. When I refused to do so, he hung up on me. "I had another interesting experience around the time my paper in Science was published. I received an astonishing email from a major researcher in the area of climate change. He said, "We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period." "The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of unusually warm weather that began around 1000 AD and persisted until a cold period known as the "Little Ice Age" took hold in the 14th century. ... The existence of the MWP had been recognized in the scientific literature for decades. But now it was a major embarrassment to those maintaining that the 20th century warming was truly anomalous. It had to be "gotten rid of." "There is an overwhelming bias today in the media regarding the issue of global warming. In the past two years, this bias has bloomed into an irrational hysteria. Every natural disaster that occurs is now linked with global warming, no matter how tenuous or impossible the connection. As a result, the public has become vastly misinformed." / The English language is very rich and descriptive. Someone “hiding their head in the sand, like an ostrich" is said to be foolishly ignoring their problem, while hoping it will magically vanish. The ostrich does many things, but hiding its head in the sand is not one of them.
12/08/06 - Global Warming cuts Ocean Food
NASA scientists say global warming is reducing the oceans` primary food supply, posing a threat to fisheries and ecosystems. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration researchers reached that conclusion by comparing nearly a decade of global ocean satellite data with several records of Earth`s changing climate. They found whenever climate temperatures increased, marine plant life in the form of microscopic phytoplankton declined. When climate temperatures lowered, marine plant life became more vigorous or productive.
12/08/06 - IRAQ 'Appease report' puts the Squeeze on Bush
(....AND???..... the problem with this way overdue set of recommendations is what exactly??? - JWD) The Iraq Study Group report delivered to President Bush yesterday contains 79 separate recommendations - but not one that explains how American forces can defeat the terrorist insurgents, only ways to bring the troops home. Meanwhile, as the report was being debated, 10 American troops were killed in Iraq in four separate attacks amid worsening violence. / 10X more violence than reported - In its report on ways to improve the U.S. approach to stabilizing Iraq, the group recommended Wednesday that the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense make changes in the collection of data about violence to provide a more accurate picture. The panel pointed to one day last July when U.S. officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. "Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence," it said. "The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases." It said, for example, that a murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack, and a roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count, either. Also, if the source of a sectarian attack is not determined, that assault is not added to the database of violence incidents. Some U.S. analysts have complained for months that the Pentagon's reports to Congress on conditions in Iraq have undercounted the violent episodes. Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq watcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a November report that the Pentagon omits many low-level incidents and types of civil violence.
12/08/06 - Healing Lasers
Lasers are best known for their ability to cut, but cold laser, that is not capable of inducing thermal changes in the skin tissue have been used for over 30 years in many countries as therapeutic energy devices to bring about favorable biological effects in both animals and humans. Cold laser therapy is the application of laser light over injuries, lesions, burns, pain, inflammation and other disorders to stimulate healing (called bio-stimulation) within those tissues and cells. A laser whose wavelength is more than 600nm can be used for bio-stimulation. Cold lasers can also be used not only to heal the wounds but also finding different applications like: to stop smoking, reduce stress and to assist with weight loss etc. and this therapy is advocated to be safe, painless (without needles) and free of medication and its side effects. A laser with 500 mW or less power is called a cold laser because it does not produce enough thermal output to heat the tissue being treated. A variety of cold lasers are available on the market with different power outputs and different wavelengths. Common diode power outputs include: 5 mW, 30 mW, 50 mW, 100 mW, 200 mW and 500 mW. The higher the power output, generally the shorter the treatment. Tissues naturally contain light sensitive protein strands called chromophores and cytochromes, which have the unique ability of being able to absorb laser light energy and transform it into chemical energy (ATP). The body utilizes this energy to naturally accelerate the healing processes of the body.
12/07/06 - Magnetic whirlpools feed Earth's magnetosphere
(And how do we extract power to do work? Tapping into a difference of potential. - JWD) Giant whirlpools of electrically charged gas, some 40 000 kilometres across, have been witnessed above the Earth by a team of European and American scientists. Using data from ESA's Cluster quartet of spacecraft...
12/07/06 - Using Wind to Extract Fresh Water
Within several years, the Texas Tech researchers hope to erect a 1.5 megawatt turbine that will power a desalination plant capable of supplying water to the town of Seminole, TX, which has about 10,000 residents. A 1.5 megawatt wind turbine, generating full power and supplying electricity to a reverse-osmosis unit, could generate about 1,500 cubic meters of clean water per hour from brackish supplies. (Ocean water is saltier and would yield less fresh water.) Supplies of fresh water around Lubbock, a windy but dry area in west Texas, are running out fast. The vast Ogallala aquifer--which sits under eight Great Plains states--is being exhausted by farms, businesses, and homes far faster than it can be naturally replenished. "We are now looking at a potentially serious water problem in west Texas," says Andy Swift, director of the wind-science engineering center at Texas Tech. "That aquifer is simply being drained faster than it recharges. It could be bled dry within 50 years." Beneath the Ogallala aquifer, there is a brackish aquifer at depths of 1,000 to 2,000 feet that these states may have to tap.
12/07/06 - Internet magazine for Suicide Bombers
A new electronic publication called "Technical Mujahid Magazine" is a kind of PC MAGAZINE FOR SUICIDE BOMBERS and violent Al Qaeda types. The first issue of the magazine covers hacking, the use of GPS for targeting innocent victims, video editing for creating propaganda and recruitment videos online, anonymous web surfing, and other technical subjects that help Islamo-fascists to kill for Allah. A product review of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) slams the encryption software as inadequate for use by Mujahideen. (via therawfeed.com)
12/07/06 - Death to the Gatekeepers
Recently a decision was made to allow people in 12 South American nations to travel from country to country without visas. Much like the efficiencies gained from a similar decision in the European Union, these countries are beginning to realize that life can exist without all the gatekeepers. The gatekeeper chokepoints for society are beginning to erode as people figure out ways to circumvent them. And they are finding great power in these emerging new forms of self-control.
12/07/06 - DIY Flexible, cheap anywhere tripod
All that's required is 3 pieces of stiff wire (you can use wire coat hangers), a 1/4" bolt, and electrical tape. If you liked previously-mentioned Gorillapod, but you're more of a DIY type who doesn't shell our $20+ when you can accomplish similar results with a couple bucks worth of resources you've already got on hand, this Instructable's for you.
12/07/06 - Solar Cell Achieves 40% Efficiency
A breakthrough in solar energy efficiency. From the article: "...with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance." A page linked from Wikipedia's article on solar energy calculates the land area that would need to be covered by solar collectors at 8% efficiency to meet the world's energy needs (using 2003 figures). At 40% efficiency, it looks like a square 265 miles on a side in the American southwest would do it. / The 40.7 percent cell was developed using a unique structure called a multi-junction solar cell. This type of cell achieves a higher efficiency by capturing more of the solar spectrum. In a multi-junction cell, individual cells are made of layers, where each layer captures part of the sunlight passing through the cell. This allows the cell to get more energy from the sun’s light. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.
12/07/06 - Road block pillars rise to stop cars -- video of mishaps
(Seems like there are better ways to stop cars that won't create the horrendous damage these things would do. - JWD) Here's a video of an intersection in Manchester that has metal pillars that lower into the ground to let buses and trucks pass. Some drivers race behind the buses to try to get through the intersection, but the pillars shoot up quickly and hit the cars.
12/07/06 - Understanding Burnout
"New York Magazine has posted a feature story about the growing phenomenon of 'burnout' and the growing interest of both healthcare professionals and even corporate management in this problem. Probably the most surprising thing learned from reading this article is that work load is not the best predictor of burnout. Instead it has more to do with perceived 'return on investment' of effort. So work places are having to learn to adjust the work environment to reduce or prevent burnout. From the article: '"It's kind of like ergonomics," [Christina Maslach] finally says. "It used to be, 'You sit for work? Here's a chair.' But now we design furniture to fit and support the body. And we're doing the same here. The environments themselves have to say, 'We want people to thrive and grow.' There was a shift, finally, in how people understood the question."' NPR's Talk of the Nation also had a recent feature story based on this article."
12/07/06 - The NuScam Bait and Switch
For those who might be interested in a bait and switch scam, where an expired domain name was purchased and inverted (perverted) to the ends of one person, who even stooped to pretending to be the original creator by posting emails in her name. As of September 9th, 2004, the original NuScam site expired and no longer reflects the original purpose nor is it operated by its original creator, Harlan Sanders.
12/06/06 - Turkish Free Energy invention uses magnetic forces
Free energy device which Erke Co. announced as its new invention remains a mystery due to security reasons. However, some other inventions similar to the Erke device can be seen in a website called www.youtube.com . As it appears, the device has a very simple working principle. Magnetic power makes it possible to produce energy without expending energy by push and pull theory. The device is based on the theory 'similar poles repel each other.' When a magnet is placed in a wheel-like surface, the magnetic pull and push theory causes the inner circle to revolve. If one magnet is stronger, the revolving speed of the inner circle is faster. The only thing needed to produce energy is a shaft and a dynamo connected to it. There are other free energy inventors and a video that shows how their devices work which can be found at the youtube.com website.
12/06/06 - Theory of Coupled Oscillations may explain biological mysteries
The theory of coupled oscillators may shed light on problematic ecological questions, such as the number and types of species in an ecosystem. New mathematical studies of the interactions between oscillating biological populations may shed light on some of the toughest questions in ecology, including the number and types of species in an ecosystem. An article by John Vandermeer of the University of Michigan, shows how extensions of established theory suggest that many animal and plant populations oscillate in synchrony because of interactions such as predation and competition. Physicists know that even a weak coupling between oscillating systems can yield synchronized oscillations. It is already clear that coupled oscillating biological populations can give rise to potentially important effects such as “synchronized chaos": the interaction between two weakly competing consumers of a food resource can be transformed by the arrival of a third competitor to provide unpredictable opportunities for the newcomer to invade.
12/06/06 - Electric Switch controls Hydrogen release
Scientists have experimented with ways of storing hydrogen by locking the gas into metal lattices, but metal hydrides only work at temperatures above 300°C and metal organic framework materials only work at liquid nitrogen temperatures (-198°C). Now scientists at the University of Bath have invented a material which stores and releases hydrogen at room temperature, at the flick of a switch, and promises to help make hydrogen power a viable clean technology for the future. "The US Department of the Energy has said that it wants six per cent of the weight of hydrogen storage systems to be hydrogen in order to give new hydrogen powered cars the same kind of mileage per tank of fuel as petrol-based systems. "Our new material works at room temperature and at atmospheric pressure at the flick of a switch. Because it is made from a heavy metal (Rhodium), its weight to fuel ratio is low, 0.1 per cent, but it could certainly fill the time lag between a driver putting their foot on the accelerator and a metal hydride fuel tank getting up to temperature. Having constructed an organo-metallic compound containing six rhodium (a type of metal that is also currently found in catalytic converters in cars) atoms and 12 hydrogen atoms, they began studying the chemical properties of the complex with researchers in Oxford (UK) and Victoria (Canada). They soon realised that the material would absorb two molecules of hydrogen at room temperature and atmospheric pressure - and would release the molecules when a small electric current was applied to the material. "The new material absorbs the hydrogen into its structure and literally bristles with molecules of the gas. At the flick of a switch it rejects the hydrogen, allowing us to turn the supply of the gas on and off as we wish. "The fact that we discovered the material by chance is a fantastic advertisement for the benefits of curiosity driven research.
12/06/06 - Have Camera Phone? Yahoo and Reuters Want Your Photos
Hoping to turn the millions of people with digital cameras and camera phones into photojournalists, Yahoo and Reuters are introducing a new effort to showcase photographs and video of news events submitted by the public. Reuters said that it would also start to distribute some of the submissions next year to the thousands of print, online and broadcast media outlets that subscribe to its news service. Reuters said it hoped to develop a service devoted entirely to user-submitted photographs and video. The project is among the most ambitious efforts in what has become known as citizen journalism, attempts by bloggers, start-up local news sites and by global news organizations like CNN and the BBC to see if readers can also become reporters. Camera phone videos are increasingly making news themselves. Users will not be paid for images displayed on the Yahoo and Reuters sites. But people whose photos or videos are selected for distribution to Reuters clients will receive a payment. Mr. Ahearn said the company had not yet figured out how to structure those payments. The basic payment may be relatively small, but he said Reuters was likely to pay more to people offering exclusive rights to images of major events.
12/06/06 - New lung heating device can help asthma patients
A new tiny heating device that can be inserted inside the lungs with the help of a flexible tube through the mouth or nose can help treat asthma, researchers conducting its trial said. The tiny heater, now under trial at five hospitals in Britain, warms the lungs and airways and can last for more than two years, reported the online edition of Daily Mail. The device gives 10-second blasts of mild heat to the muscles to stop them from contracting. No incision is required. The patient is under conscious sedation with no anaesthesia involved.
The technique, known as bronchial thermoplasty, is for patients with moderate and severe asthma. Exactly how it works is not clear but heat is known to relax muscles and it is thought the heat reduces the amount of muscle around the airway, which in asthma tends to increase and be hypersensitive. Results from a small pilot study suggest it can be highly effective. Two years after their last treatment, the patients were still showing less airway narrowing.
12/06/06 - Science changing religious practices
(This intrigued me as a loose coupling regarding the prerequisite for the 'ashes of the Red Heifer' - Part I and this one as Part II, as used with the Ark of the Covenant and the purification rituals. I think there might be 'hidden but lost science' behind some of these rituals. - JWD) "He has only forbidden you dead meat and blood, and the flesh of swine and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of God." (The Koran, 2:173) Muslim religious law requires, among other things, that an animal must be drained of blood before it is halal - permissible for consumption. Ritual slaughter according to Jewish dietary law - shechita - has the same prescription. Most Muslim slaughterers believe that drainage will only be complete if the throat of the animal is slit without stunning it first, but now Haluk Anil of the University of Bristol, UK, and colleagues have shown that the amount of blood drained from the animal, and the rate of blood loss, is the same regardless of whether or not it is stunned first. Anil's team have already shown that stunning does not affect "bleed-out" in sheep. Now they have done the same thing in cattle. They measured the bleed-out in 13 cattle killed by the tradition Muslim method, and 13 killed in the same way, but having first been stunned by a captive-bolt-pistol blow to the head (Animal Welfare, vol 15, p 325). "Stunning does not impede blood loss, therefore this objection cannot be used any more," says Anil, who is coordinating a European Union project to examine legislation and welfare issues related to religious slaughter, both shechita and halal.
12/06/06 - Preparing for Peak Oil
The Swiss were able to survive -- by electrifying their transportation system and by restricting oil supplies to emergency uses -- an oil supply cutoff in the Second World War. The average American today uses about as much oil as 400 Swiss citizens used in the Second World War. OK, a sobering assessment of oil. The Energy Bulletin yesterday published an article by Dmitry Orlov in his presentation "Closing the 'Collapse Gap": The USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US" that: "The US faces many of the same problems that contributed to the Soviet collapse * Unwinnable wars (Afghanistan, Iraq... Iran?) * Declining oil production (Soviet oil production peaked a couple of years before [the Soviet] collapse * Out of control military budgets * Unsustainable deficits and foreign debt * Balky, unresponsive, corrupt political system, incapable of reform * Delusions of grandeur prevent honest discussion of problems"
12/06/06 - The Melting Beam Weapon
The US Air Force is ready to deploy a non-lethal weapon called the "Active Denial System" that makes your face feel like it is melting, but (usually) produces no lasting harm. People hit with the beam turn around and run away -- something the military calls the "Goodbye Effect." The ADS shoots a beam of millimeter waves, which are longer in wavelength than x-rays but shorter than microwaves -- 94 GHz (= 3 mm wavelength) compared to 2.45 GHz (= 12 cm wavelength) in a standard microwave oven... The beam produces what experimenters call the "Goodbye effect," or "prompt a highly motivated escape behavior." In human tests, most subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none of the subjects could endure more than 5 seconds... In more than 10,000 exposures, there were six cases of blistering and one instance of second-degree burns in a laboratory accident, the documents claim. The ADS was developed in complete secrecy for 10 years at a cost of $40 million. Its existence was revealed in 2001 by news reports, but most details of ADS human testing remain classified. There has been no independent checking of the military's claims. The ADS technology is ready to deploy, and the Army requested ADS-armed Strykers for Iraq last year. But the military is well aware that any adverse publicity could finish the program, and it does not want to risk distressed victims wailing about evil new weapons on CNN.
12/06/06 - How movement lubricates Bone Joints
Taking a cue from machines that gently flex patients’ knees to help them recover faster from joint surgery, bioengineering researchers at UC San Diego have shown that sliding forces applied to cartilage surfaces prompt cells in that tissue to produce molecules that lubricate and protect joints. “We have shown that shear forces on cartilage prompt chondrocyte cells in it to produce proteoglycan 4," said Sah. “This is an important step toward our goal of eventually growing joint tissue for transplantation." Proteoglycan, a name that reflects its protein and polysaccharide components, is a basic building block of connective tissue throughout the body. The chondrocyte cells of cartilage make several forms of proteoglycans, including several that build up in cartilage and contribute to its stiffness. However, proteoglycan-4 is primarily secreted into the joint fluid where it coats and lubricates cartilage surfaces. Unfortunately, the smooth surface of the articular cartilage at the ends of bones located at joints often deteriorates with aging, becoming increasingly roughened and eroded. Those joints become painful and progress to osteoarthritis. Surgeons can replace damaged and diseased joints with artificial joints, but they would like to be able to simply resurface patients’ existing joints with cartilage. The team measured up to a three-fold increase in chondrocytes secreting proteoglycan 4 in continuously flexed joints compared to immobile controls. The flexing motion caused cartilage on the surfaces of opposing bones to slide against each other, creating so-called shear forces.
12/06/06 - The Electro-pulse of Doom that threatens America
"No one has done more than Curt Weldon to warn the nation against the potentially 'catastrophic' threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack . . " "The nightmare scenario is this: A rogue nation like North Korea or a stateless terrorist like Bin Laden gets hold of a nuclear weapon and decides not to drive it into a large city but rather to launch it on a Scud-type missile straight into the atmosphere from a barge off the East Coast," claimed Gaffney. "There is reason to believe the Iranian regime is working toward [an EMP] capability that could destroy America as we know it," wrote Gaffney, again attributing Curt Weldon, last February. "In an instant, the world's superpower could become a candle-powered 19th-century museum," wrote one brilliant theoretician at Slate recently. "The worse news is that EMP weapons don't require a nuclear detonation - there are other ways to achieve the same effect." The news on electromagnetic pulse weapons also goes from bad to worse. Not only do the enemies of freedom have the technology, we apparently do not, with research into electromagnetic artillery shells and such still stumbling along, like it has been for the last fifteen years or so. There is, one suspects, an electromagnetic pulse gap. "US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (ARDEC) is researching high-power microwave (HPM) weapon that could be launched by mortar or artillery piece; previous HPM concepts involved electromagnetic pulse to short-circuit electronics of weapons systems," wrote Jane's Defense Weekly forlornly in a 58-word announcement in August.
12/06/06 - Mind & Body - Walk 10,000 steps, live longer
The Japanese have a proverb which roughly translates to ‘eat 80 per cent live 120 per cent’. Or put 120 percent effort into each task on a stomach which is 80 per cent full. They know what they are talking about. They have the largest percentage of centenarians. There are 28,000 of them in a 127 million population and the number is increasing at an astounding rate of 13 per cent annually. This is in contrast to our 200,000 centenarians in a 1.2 billion. The oldest Japanese centenarian is a proven documented 114. When interviewed, as a group, they all had many theories to explain their longevity: diet, hard work, a regular medicinal quantity of sake and productive stress. All of them kept themselves mentally agile with versions of chess, Soduku and other thought provoking games. Aging is a strange process. It occurs so gradually that we see the subtle changes in others but rarely notice it in ourselves. Doctors too have come up with a formula for healthy aging. This is the 10,000 steps a day plan, which discounts and overrides the other factors. It adds up (depending on the length of the stride) to between 3-4 miles a day. Walking can be intermittent, a measure of the activity all through the day. By strapping on pedometers, scientific studies have shown that most people walk 4,500 steps per day. If their life style is strenuous it my go up to 6,000 steps per day. By avoiding lifts, taking the stairs this increases to 6,500. To really finish the 10,000, most people have to set aside time and walk briskly for 30-40 minutes a day.
12/06/06 - 6 Reasons to return to the Moon
NASA worked with 13 of the world's space agencies to develop a Global Exploration Strategy. The strategy explains why the global community believes we should explore space, how space exploration can benefit life on Earth, and how the moon can play a critical role in our exploration of the solar system. One of the primary activities the global space community pursued in 2006 was to answer the questions, "Why should we return to the Moon?" and "What do we hope to accomplish through lunar exploration?" Six lunar exploration themes evolved from the recent Global Exploration Strategy discussions. NASA engaged the global space community to develop the themes by asking the question, "Why should we return to the Moon?"
From the answers emerged six common areas of interest - six areas of pursuit which, seen through the eyes of the world, define the value of going to the moon. NASA took these six ideas and worked with other space agencies to develop these lunar exploration themes.
12/06/06 - Lunar Outpost by 2020?
NASA unveiled plans yesterday to set up a small and ultimately self-sustaining settlement of astronauts at the south pole of the moon sometime around 2020 -- the first step in an ambitious plan to resume manned exploration of the solar system. The long-awaited proposal envisions initial stays of a week by four-person crews, followed by gradually longer visits until power and other supplies are in place to make a permanent presence possible by 2024. NASA officials declined to put a price tag on what will clearly be an extremely expensive venture. But they said that with help from international partners and perhaps space businesses, the agency would have sufficient funds to undertake the plan without any dramatic infusion of new money. If the project goes ahead as planned, it would return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972. The concept of an outpost would be about the size of the Mall, the next debate was over where to put it, with a focus on either of the moon's poles. "Conditions at the south pole appear to be more moderate and safer," she said. The south pole is almost constantly bathed in light and would be an ideal place to set up solar-power collectors for an electrical system -- a precondition for achieving the kind of "living off the land" that NASA is aiming for. Horowitz also said the polar sites are scientifically exciting because "we don't know as much about the lunar poles as we know about Mars." Officials said the area around the south pole has craters that probably hold volatile gases that could be collected for commercial purposes. Highest on the list of possible resources is helium-3, a form of the gas seldom found on Earth that could be well suited for nuclear power fuel.
12/06/06 - Gas Tax might help small Businesses
In a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 59 percent of respondents nationwide said they would support a gas tax if it would result in less fuel consumption and less global warming. That helps explain why, over the past few months, pundits and politicians, including Alan Greenspan and Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), have again begun pushing for some sort of gas tax. Lugar supports a tax credit for ethanol - a cleaner substitute for gasoline - that would effectively create a $45-a-barrel floor on oil. A gasoline tax of, say, $1 a gallon may reduce consumption, but if it is not designed carefully, simply tacking an extra dollar onto the price of a gallon of gas will hammer budding businesses. That's why a small but growing number of academics, economists and pundits recommend a different kind of tax: a floor that would kick in only when the price of gas falls below a set price - say, $3 or $4 a gallon - and whose proceeds would be returned to the taxpayer through cuts in other taxes. This approach would reduce fossil fuel consumption and imports. But it would do much more, making energy costs more predictable.
12/05/06 - Invention Extends Battery Life in Cars, Trucks, Golf Carts, Boats, etc.
Inventor breaks myth that golf cart batteries die an early death. His BATTERY LIFE SAVER extends battery life two to three fold, by removing lead sulfate, the main reason batteries go bad or golf carts slow down. Van Breemen discovered that a square wave, because it excites all the frequencies of waves above it, would remove lead sulfate from batteries, the chief reason batteries go bad. Golfers turned out to love the SAVER for golf cart slowdown usually means replacing six batteries! Battery companies aren't so fond of Van Breemen, for the myth that batteries die an early death when their energy runs out is broken when people learn that batteries can and should last ten to fifteen years, if lead sulfate is removed from the plates, or better, prevented from forming. That is what BATTERY LIFE SAVER does. It keeps the battery sulfate free. It's a three and a half inches long gizmo, two inches wide and two inches high, that you attach to your battery or battery bank and forget it. It also can be used to recover badly sulfated batteries and it is guaranteed to perform or money back. / ...more info... - Why do you need an auto, car battery life saver? About 80% of lead (sulfuric) acid car or auto batteries fail prematurely because of a buildup on the plates. This buildup causes the car battery to become unusable at approximately one-third of its natural life. The $59.95 BATTERY LIFE SAVER dissolves this buildup, restoring the battery to full capacity. How does it work? Battery Life Saver solves your car battery problem by dissolving the buildup! Using breakthrough square wave technology, BATTERY LIFE SAVER sends a frequency signal to each crystal of the lead sulfate buildup, causing it to convert back into lead and sulfuric acid, dissolving the crystal. This restores the battery to its original condition and allows the electrical charge to be drawn from the battery.
12/05/06 - Human waste used to create green fuel
Scientists at biofuel group Dynamotive say the oil produced from human waste can be used instead of fossil fuels to generate heat and power in diesel engines and boilers. In February 2005 the company opened a commercial-scale plant in Ontario that produces 22,000 tonnes of bio-oil each year from waste wood chips and sells it to local industries. Mr Kingston said more than 100 types of biological waste could be used as feedstock. The company has already commercialised oil production using wood separated from construction waste and coffee bean shells. "We're now looking at dirtier wastes like chicken litter, cow manure and household garbage," he said. The wastes are flash-heated at 400-500C in the absence of oxygen, a technique called pyrolysis, and the resulting carbon-heavy gases condensed into a dark brown, dense oil. Other hot gases are recycled to help heat the process, which makes it about 80% efficient. Such biofuels are considered environmentally benign because the carbon produced when the fuel is burnt was absorbed from the atmosphere by the plants or trees used to make it. The fuels are usually produced through the fermentation of crops or by squeezing oil from seeds.
12/05/06 - Bush seeks funding for Orbital Battle Stations
Each Battle Station would be a fairly large satellite that carried a number, perhaps 40 to 50 infrared guided “kill vehicles." On orders from the ground, the battle station would launch these kill vehicles, roughly about the size of a loaf of bread, at incoming missiles. “The technology," Dolman said, “for a basic orbital interceptor that could hit an ICBM in mid flight has been available to the U.S. for at least two decades. Indeed should the U.S. dedicate itself to a fast track development and deployment of several dozen networked anti-missile satellites, it could have a baseline capability in place within two years." The Bush administration pending request for an orbital battle station will surely touch off a brawl over “space weaponization". "The superpowers would therefore quickly be put on a path toward a never-ending offensive-defensive arms race as each tried to balance its counterpart’s action."
12/05/06 - Recycling Center closes the Recycling Loop
(We should all support efforts like this..would make great Christmas presents and help them out! - JWD) The Glass Refactory, a segment of the Adams-Brown Recycling Program, has been working to recycle glass into art for nearly nine years. The "refactory" produces stamped suncatchers -- its most popular item. The suncatchers can be bought with various stamped designs, or customized to one's liking. The suncatchers can be found "just about anywhere you can imagine," said Copley. They are available in retail locations throughout the country, including the nation's national parks. Businesses purchase the suncatchers for gifts and mementos. The Glass Refactory has more than 200 stock designs, but custom orders are welcome. The "refactory" idea started many years ago when the recycling center made the discovery that the numerous glass bottles and jars it received, were hard to "get rid of," said Copley. The glass was extremely expensive to ship. So, the recycling center decided to make trash into treasure by producing a 100-percent recycled glass product, in-house, to "close the loop." Copley explained that "closing the loop" in recycling terms means to take recycled goods and make them into something that does not enter the recycling loop again. Recycling officials were told they could not use 100-percent recycled bottle glass to make an artistic glass product. Glass blowers also said bottle glass could not be blown -- a traditional glass art technique. So, the recycling center decided to draw molten glass from heat and stamp it with a design instead. Copley said the "refactory" is the only recycling center in the United States which recycles glass bottles. Pangburn is responsible for melting the glass in a oven at approximately 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass stays in the hot oven for roughly three days. The hot glass is then gathered by hand, on a rod, and allowed to partially flow from the rod before being cut off and pressed into a mold. Handling the molten glass is like handling "liquid sand," said Wickerham. The fiery red glass molds easily at first and then hardens into shape. The glass cools quickly, so the molded glass is rapidly moved to an annealer oven to cool gradually, over a 14-hour period, to prevent cracking. The suncatchers are sold in retail shops for $7-10 for small designs and $12-$15 for larger designs. However, the suncatchers can be purchased at the Glass Refactory for a reduced cost and can be bought wholesale. The Glass Refactory, like Adams-Brown Recycling, is a nonprofit organization. "We're the largest nonprofit recycler in Ohio," said Wickerham, "we're pretty much self-supporting."
12/05/06 - List of weapons that don't exist, but should
(If you have a few minutes, check out this hilarious page! - JWD) Throughout history, weapons have been made in many forms. They all have their differences, except for some of them, which are identical. But there's one thing nearly all of them have in common: they're really, really, really boring. The sword? You poke someone and they hopefully get hurt. The gun? You point at someone and they get hurt, or hopefully dead. The bomb? You throw something at someone and they get hurt or maybe even vaporized. Every weapon ever made can be simplified into one of these three categories. That's it. No more weapons in the universe. You'd think the evil geniuses behind these things would have a little more creativity and fun doing their job, but no. They all long for the sweet, painless chicken soup of death and could care less about creativity. This list attempts to describe various weapons that don't exist, but should, or may in an alternate universe.
12/05/06 - Capitalizing on Fat
With procedures costing $15,000 to $30,000, "bariatric surgery is profitable for hospitals. ... The interest is going to be there for developing a pediatric program," Teixeira said. Zitsman said he agrees surgery should not be the first choice. "I tell everyone right upfront that we're not interested in selling operations. This is a program. The surgery is just one piece of it," Zitsman said. "If society would put us out of business, we'd be happy to close." In the procedure, doctors place a silicone band around the top of the stomach to create a pouch that holds just a little food. Patients feel full quickly and stop eating. A handful of hospitals perform the surgery on adolescents, but Morgan Stanley, NYU Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago are the only hospitals approved by the Food and Drug Administration to operate on children as young as 14, Zitsman said. Another hospital - New York University Medical Center - has already performed nearly 90 gastric banding procedures. ($1,350,000 to $2,700,000 raked in so far but 'we're not interested in selling operations'...right... - JWD)
12/05/06 - Protect your idea with A Provisional Patent Application
Most people think they should call a lawyer and patent it right away, but if that lawyer is looking out for your best interests, he or she may tell you to slow down and fill out a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) instead. Less expensive and easier to file than a full (non-provisional) patent application, a provisional application filing buys you time (up to 12 months) to figure out how to market your newest invention and raise much needed capital, while allowing you to claim ownership of the idea as of the date of the filing. Securing a priority filing date is critical because as far as the U.S. government is concerned, ownership rights go to the person who can prove he or she came up with the idea first. Another benefit of filing a PPA is that your invention gains “patent pending" status immediately. Your application will be accepted as long as it contains all the required sections and fees; you do not have to wait for an acceptance or rejection decision at this stage. And unlike non-provisional applications, a PPA is not subject to the Patent Office’s 18 month publication rule. Provisional applications are instead kept confidential. This allows you the option of keeping the details of your invention secret until after a full patent application is filed on it, which can be up to a year following the PPA date. Even on the off chance you realize you’ll need more than a year for testing or other reasons, your invention will remain under wraps by simply allowing the PPA to expire. A lawyer would charge you about $1800 to prepare the paperwork associated with a provisional patent, but there’s a place smart inventors can turn to for help at a fraction of the cost. The nation’s leading online legal service center, LegalZoom.com, can do the job for just $299 - $199 for the application and $100 for the required government filing fee.
12/05/06 - Nike+iPod = Big Brother?
Computer science student T. Scott Saponas from the University of Washington has discovered that it’s possible to track people using the Nike+iPod running and fitness system that works with the iPod nano and 12 different models of Nike shoes. Should we be worried? Tracking systems, using Windows XP computers to mini ‘gumstix’ trackers that could be hidden in trees, a fence or elsewhere. A picture of the gumstix device is available at the report, which shows that it does need an antenna, meaning you’d have to hide it carefully or it could be noticed. Nefarious uses for tracking people included people stalking on others, thieves casing home where Nike+iPod wearing owners live to discover when they had left home, and other bad sounding scenarios. Interestingly, the system could be mapped to a GoogleMaps system, so people could be tracked in real time, and doubly interesting is the fact that Nike+iPod wearers don’t even need to be carrying their iPods with them as the Nike+iPod transmitter, which fits into the sole of compatible Nike shoes, is the transmission device. While the transmitter can be turned off when not in use, this is something the user has to do manually, and few users bother to do this, or so it would seem. As the transmitter has a unique identifier that can be picked up by any iPod (or other tracking device), users can be tracked at a range of 60 feet, which is a much greater distance than most Bluetooth devices. Apple and Nike had no comment to make at the time of the reports hitting the Internet, and are no doubt deciding what their official reaction will be.
12/05/06 - December 10th, Major Celestial Event
Three planets gather among the stars of Scorpius this month, and Venus makes a comeback in the evening sky. Even so, easy views of bright planets are few. As we enter the December installment of the theater of the seasons, it becomes clear that the stars are the real stars of the show. Early risers can watch Mercury, Mars and Jupiter file into the eastern predawn sky. The three planets draw closer until the 10th, when they form a tight grouping just above the horizon about 45 minutes before sunrise. All three will fit in a circle just one degree in diameter, making this the closest trio of naked-eye planets since 1925 and until 2053. That same morning, Saturn will appear beneath a waning moon high in the southwest, next to Regulus, the heart of Leo. As the month progresses, the trio of planets breaks up. Jupiter climbs higher and Mercury drops out of sight while Mars, the dimmest of the three, stays low in the sky.
12/04/06 - Indian student's invention stores gigabytes on paper
An Indian student claimed to store huge chunks of data on simple paper using his invention, Rainbow Technology. In a presentation, the student stored a 45sec video on a 5-by-5cm sheet and afterwards, played it back. Sainul Abideen, student of the MES College of Engineering in Kuttipuram, India, encoded the data using complex geometrical shapes instead of binary representations. These geometrical figures are printed on paper or other substrates such as plastic materials. Then, a special scanner, combined with the appropriate software, reads the codes and retransforms them into binary data.
According to Austrian news agency Pressetext Austria, the student still has to prove his claim that using the method, he can store 450Gbytes on a single sheet of paper. However, he was able to store a 432-page document on a sheet, and he stored a 45sec video and played it back. At present, Abideen is developing a paper or plastic-based card about the size of a SIM card used in cellphones that can store 5Gbytes. The capacity and performance of the storage method depend on several factors including printer and scanner quality, the student said in an interview with Presstext Austria. To obtain a highly compressed data representation, the system uses geometrical patterns as well as colors, thus Abideen named his invention Rainbow Technology. Besides high storage capacity and reliability, the low material costs and the environmental impact are the major benefits of the technology, said Abideen. Furthermore, the student predicted that small "Rainbow" scanners will be integrated in mobile phones or laptops, enabling these devices to read out the stored data. / “Files such as text, images, sounds and video clips are encoded in “rainbow format" as coloured circles, triangles, squares and so on, and printed as dense graphics on paper at a density of 2.7GB per square inch. The paper can then be read through a specially developed scanner and the contents decoded into their original digital format and viewed or played. The encoding and decoding processes have not been revealed. Using this technology an A4 sheet of paper could store 256GB of data. In comparison, a DVD can store 4.7GB of data. The Rainbow technology is feasible because printed text, readable by the human eye is a very wasteful use of the potential capacity of paper to store data. By printing the data encoded in a denser way much higher capacities can be achieved. Paper is, of course, bio-degradable, unlike CDs or DVDs. And sheets of paper also cost a fraction of the cost of a CD or DVD."
12/04/06 - Auto industry should speed fuel economy fixes-expert
While plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells are likely one day to help cut U.S. gasoline consumption, major fuel savings can be achieved now if automakers put existing technologies to work under one hood. Existing fuel-saving technologies used on many cars and trucks already include six-speed automatic transmissions, cylinder deactivation and simply better aerodynamic designing. The cost, he said, would be $500 to $1,200 per vehicle, which Mark claims would be recouped over the life of a car's warranty in fuel savings. And it would, within a decade, cut U.S. oil consumption by 2.3 million barrels per day, or about as much as is imported from Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, Mark said. By 2016, the average fuel use by all new U.S. cars and trucks would rise to 35 miles per gallon from today's 25 mpg, Mark claims, by using existing gas-saving methods on conventional gasoline-driven vehicles.
12/04/06 - Teacher Saves Two-Thirds of his Electricity
The Christian Science Monitor had an article on saving energy at home, reporting on a high school science teacher, Ray Janke, who decided to see what he could do to save on his electric bill. He exchanged incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents, put switches and surge protectors on his electronic equipment to reduce the "phantom load" - the trickle consumption even when electronic equipment is off - and bought energy-efficient appliances. Two things happened: He saw a two-thirds reduction in his electric bill, and he found himself under audit by Mass Electric. The company thought he'd tampered with his meter. "They couldn't believe I was using so little," he says. Twenty-two percent of all energy in the United States is used for residential purposes. (Transportation accounts for 28 percent.) Cutting back on electricity used for lighting (9 percent of residential usage nationwide) presents the quickest savings-to-effort ratio. The EPA estimates that changing only 25 percent of your home's bulbs can cut a lighting bill in half. Incandescent bulbs waste 90 percent of their energy as heat, and compact fluorescents, which can be up to five times more efficient, last years longer as well.
12/04/06 - German sex educators plan spray-on condom
(What next, shrinkwrap? - JWD) German sex educators plan to launch a spray-on condom tailor-made for all sizes. "We're trying to develop the perfect condom for men that's suited to every size of penis," he said. "We're very serious." Krause's team (spraykondom.de) is developing a type of spray can into which the man inserts his penis first. At the push of a button it is then coated in a rubber condom. "It works by spraying on latex from nozzles on all sides," he said. "We call it the '360 degree procedure' -- once round and from top to bottom. It's a bit like a car wash." Krause said the plan is to make the product ready for use in about five seconds. He said it would function more effectively as a contraceptive because it would fit better and not slip.
However, before the new condom can be sold in shops, the firm must ensure that the latex is evenly spread when sprayed, as well as optimize the vulcanization process. The spray can would likely cost some 20 euros ($26) as a one-off purchase. The latex cartridges -- sufficient for up to 20 applications -- would cost roughly 10 euros, he said.
12/04/06 - Honda making Solar Cells
Honda is portraying the plant as a way for the clean car company to reduce CO2 emissions not only by limiting what comes out of a tailpipe but also by developing "environmentally-friendly and sustainable energy technologies. Honda will contribute to the effort to prevent global warming through production and sales of a clean energy source which does not use fossil fuels." I hope this means we're a few steps closer to the day when all Honda cars generate supplemental power through next-generation solar cell on the roof. Honda's next-generation solar cell achieves a major reduction in the amount of energy consumed during the manufacturing process by approximately 50% compared to what is required to produce conventional crystal silicon solar cells. This makes the new solar cell more environmentally-friendly by reducing the amount of CO2 generated even from the production stage.
12/04/06 - Thorium as Uranium Alternative
Norway slowly become aware that it sits on the worlds 4th larges discovered thorium deposit. In Norway, there is now some discussion about using thorium as an alternative to uranium in nuclear power plants. Norway has approx. 180 000 tonnes thorium.
1 tonn thorium contains the same amount as 3 700 000 tonnes coal. The Norwegian capitol of Oslo, would require 700kg thorium to be powered a whole year. Supposedly, thorium reactors are much cleaner and much safer than their uranium counterparts.
12/04/06 - Printing little bitty Buildings
Alchemy Models specializes in architectural rapid prototyping, converting computer models of buildings into physical ones. "For architects, their whole world is visualization," says Braun. "If they show a blueprint drawing, the client looks at them like a deer in headlights. When they can give the client something to hold in their hands, turn around, see how everything is placed, then the client finally gets it." Alchemy uses the Z Corp. Spectrum Z510, which can print in color at 600-dpi resolution. At $49,900, the Spectrum isn't quite priced as a stocking stuffer, but 3-D printing is becoming more affordable every year and over the next 10 years it's likely to follow the same cost curve as color laser printers and other computing devices. The Z Corp. 310 Plus costs a mere $19,900. Z Corp. saw its revenue grow by 50% in 2005, to more than $30 million. Its customers include BMW, Boeing, DaimlerChrysler, Fisher-Price, Ford, NASA, Northrop Grumman, Porsche, Sony, Harvard, MIT, and Yale. Z Corp. is working on what may be the first consumer-facing use of 3-D printing, a Web site called Cosmic Modelz where kids can order 3-D figures they designed using SolidWorks' Cosmic Blob 3-D software. This site was supposed to be operational toward the end of the summer but has been delayed, according to a company spokesperson. While 3-D printing has been used for prototyping products, it is increasingly being used for finished products, says Roger Kelesoglu, director of customer development for Z Corp., who points to architecture and medicine as two fields where this is common. "The first phase in the home manufacturing revolution is that somebody in their garage with a Z Corp. printer can compete with the top visualization, design, and engineering firms."
12/04/06 - New hard drive design to save 70-95% on electricity use
"That's a power savings of from a low of 21% in personal computers/laptops, to a high of up to 48% lower electrical consumption in data centers. "The technology in question replaces the aluminum or glass platter in your hard disk drive with a "platter" made from stainless steel or titanium foil that is 22 microns or 25 microns thick, respectively."
12/04/06 - Franchising Jihad
Researcher Ely Karmon raises the alarming prospect of Hezbollah affiliated groups bringing the Lebanese terrorists' brand of violence to the Americas. While acknowledging that it is too soon to draw clear conclusions about the nature and objectives of these Hezbollah "franchisees," Karmon nonetheless notes that "successful campaigns of proselytism in the heart of poor indigene Indian tribes and populations by both Shi'a and Sunni preachers and activists" have contributed to the growing attraction of Islamist terrorist groups in Latin America. A failed bombing attempt was meant to publicize Venezuelan Hezbollah's existence and its mission to "build an Islamic nation in Venezuela and all the countries of America," under the guidance of "the ideology of the revolutionary Islam of the Imam Khomeini." Hezbollah has had a longstanding and profitable presence in South America. In the largely ungoverned jungles of the tri-border region of where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay intersect, Hezbollah clerics have been active since the mid-1980s, seeking converts as well as recruiting new members and organizing cells among immigrant Muslim communities from the Middle East. In addition, Brazilian, Argentinean, and other Latin American intelligence sources report the existence of special Hezbollah-run weekend camps, where children and teenagers receive weapons and combat training, as well as indoctrination them in the anti-American and anti-Semitic ideologies of the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors. Hezbollah is heavily involved in South America's thriving trade in illegal drugs, cultivating alliances with both drug cartels and narco-terrorist outfits with revolutionary aspirations like the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia. Brazilian security agencies estimate that hundreds of millions in profits are sent annually from Islamist organizations operating in the tri-border region to the Middle East, most of it going to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It appears that the combination of Chávez's anti-Americanism, Iran's well-financed expansion of the umma and Latin American radicalism is forming yet another front for Islamist fascism, this time in nominally Christian South America. Secretary of Defense-designate Robert Gates, a former CIA chief, would do well to insist that this new front for jihad become a priority for the administration's war on terror.
12/04/06 - Water power puts climate in peril
Hydroelectric power plants - hailed as providers of clean energy - could be dangerous contributors to climate change. This is the startling claim of scientists who say that the dams the plants use produce large amounts of methane, one of the most potent causes of global warming. At a meeting of Unesco in Paris this week, scientists from France and Brazil will present evidence to show that organic matter is often trapped in reservoirs when dams are built. This matter then decays with the result that the water emits carbon dioxide and - more importantly - methane, a gas that has 20 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide. This problem is particularly severe in the tropics, add the scientists, who include Philip Fearnside, of the National Institute for Research in the Amazon, in Manaus. He argues in Nature magazine this week that a typical hydroelectric power station will, during the first 10 years of its life, produce four times the amount of carbon that a comparable fossil-fuel plant would emit.
12/04/06 - Agencies line up for plug-in cars
State and local governments are launching programs to see if it's possible to convert their hybrid cars and trucks into plug-in cars. ... The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority recently solicited contract bids for nine plug-ins, said Ray Hull, an official at the agency. If the trial succeeds, the state will try to convert the 535 hybrids it owns into plug-ins. (via thefraserdomain.typepad.com)
12/04/06 - On the road to clean fuels, automakers cover some ground
Electric vehicles, gasoline-electric hybrids, diesels, and flex-fuel and hydrogen-powered cars are inching up the consumer on-ramp at a faster pace, judging from world debuts of 21 alternative-fuel vehicles. "It sort of feels like the early part of the 20th century, when everyone was trying to figure out whether to go with steam or electricity or gasoline," says Gavin Conway, editor in chief of Automobile Magazine. "People are saying, 'Do we go with electric, hybrids, diesel, or what?' " Trying to learn from past false starts, designers are working to better meld consumers' competing demands for environmental friendliness (gas economy, low emissions), sex appeal (power, speed), and practicality (roominess, versatility). Two cars getting early buzz here are BMW's Hydrogen 7, the German automaker's latest alternative-fuel vehicle modified to run on gas and liquid hydrogen, and the Mercedes BlueTec diesel, the first to meet California's air-quality standards, the most stringent in the world. But no single automaker is using enough advanced technologies in one car to increase mileage by the 10 miles per gallon needed to dent US dependence on foreign oil, says Jason Mark of the Union of Concerned Scientists. An average advance of 10 m.p.g. across the US would amount to a savings of 2.3 million barrels of oil a day - the equivalent of current oil imports from the Persian Gulf, he says. But manufacturers must take into account what people will buy, says an industry representative. A vehicle with the kinds of low emissions and fuel efficiency Mr. Mark envisions would have to sacrifice speed, size, acceleration, or design - all the ingredients that excite buyers, says Charles Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
12/03/06 - Toyota's new concept: car or bicycle?
12/03/06 - Cleaning up Diesel's Image with Urea
This week at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, Germany's Volkswagen AG and DaimlerChrysler AG are unveiling several new diesel vehicles clean enough to sell even in California, which has the toughest clean-air standards in the U.S. The vehicles are part of an effort to position modern diesel technology as a fuel-saving rival to gas-electric hybrids. The new models will be branded "Bluetec," an umbrella term for a variety of diesel technologies. "We're convinced that the future of the diesel engine has only just begun with this (Bluetec) technology, especially in North America," said Thomas Weber, head of research and development at DaimlerChrysler. VW and DaimlerChrysler plan to promote the Bluetec diesel cars as both fuel-efficient and fun to drive. Diesel engines offer more of something American drivers love -- torque, what a driver feels when a vehicle accelerates. Diesels have a longer piston stroke than gasoline engines, which produces more torque, and now with turbocharged diesel engines like the ones Volkswagen produces, torque is even more prominent. Some of the new-generation diesels cut emissions further with the injection of an odorless liquid, urea, into a special tank. This releases ammonia, which converts nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas associated with global warming, into harmless emissions. The hitch is that drivers will have to replenish the supply of urea every 10,000 miles. Auto makers say urea tanks can be filled when owners have their oil changed, but environmentalists and the EPA have raised concerns about the issue.
12/03/06 - New device may lead to artificial kidneys
Dialysis filters trap the good stuff (proteins and blood cells) and return it to the body while letting the bad stuff (toxins, excess fluids, and salt) through to be discarded. The trick, Fissell says, is to refine the holes in the filter, which is a type of membrane. The holes need to be the right size, the right shape, and in the right pattern to let blood flow through the filter easily. They must be big enough to allow toxins to pass through the filter but not so big as to allow valuable proteins and blood cells to escape. To trap the good stuff, current filters rely primarily on very small holes that are irregular in shape and are organised chaotically. But small holes means that blood must be forced through the filters with big, powerful pumps. And the chaotic patterns allow high-pressure-causing currents to form. These currents increase the pressure required to force blood through the filter. A better membrane could be driven by a portable, pump. And an ideal membrane would work with normal blood pressure and so could be implanted into the body. Fissell's team is building an easy-flow membrane by etching precise patterns into silicon wafers. Micromachine technologies let the scientists increase the number of pores in a given area and control their shape and pattern.
12/03/06 - FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool
(Here is a perfect market for a flexible, foldable phone shield...a bag that slips over the phone to stop any signal. I want 1% of sales, thanks! - JWD) The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations. The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that the "roving bug" was legal because federal wiretapping law is broad enough to permit eavesdropping even of conversations that take place near a suspect's cell phone. Kaplan's opinion said that the eavesdropping technique "functioned whether the phone was powered on or off." Some handsets can't be fully powered down without removing the battery; for instance, some Nokia models will wake up when turned off if an alarm is set. The U.S. Commerce Department's security office warns that "a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone." An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can "remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call."
12/03/06 - A Spaceport in Ohio?
A new initiative by the state of Ohio and the city of Columbus plans to lure Canadian rocketeers PlanetSpace to launch from an area airport (the former Lockbourne Air Force Base, now called Rickenbacker International Airport). A decision on the incentives could be made by January. From the article: "Such a package could include tax credits, financing programs and training grants amounting to millions of dollars... PlanetSpace's chairman, Indian-American entrepreneur Chirinjeev Kathuria, told MSNBC.com he expected the incentives to amount to 'somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million.'" Five other states have spaceports approved or planned.
12/03/06 - Top 10: The best, worst... and craziest uses of RFID
"This top 10 rounds up what it calls 'the best, worst and craziest' uses of RFID out there - including chipped kids at Legoland, smart pub tables that let you order drinks, smartcards for sports fans, and chipped airline passengers. The craziest use of the tech surely has to be RFID chips for Marks & Spencer suits - you couldn't pay most people to wear one of them." Children: Japanese authorities decided to start chipping schoolchildren in one primary school in Osaka a couple of years ago. The kids' clothes and bags were fitted with RFID tags with readers installed in school gates and other key locations to track the minors' movements. / Hospital in-patients: In an effort to trim clinical errors, hospitals in New York and Germany have been tagging their patients. Visitors to the hospitals are given RFID-chipped wristbands to wear which are scanned by medical personnel to bring up their records and make sure the patients are given the correct dosages of drugs. / Books: The first item-level rollout in Europe has already taken place in Dutch book store BGN. Each of the books in BGN's Almere store is chipped and a second store, in Maastricht, will soon go the same way, allowing the retailer to track each book from its central warehouse to the shop floor. ...more at the link above...(via slashbox.org)
12/03/06 - Maxthon - A Browser that Sticks with You
A new free Web browser is our new favorite. It's called Maxthon. This browser keeps a record of where you've been. When you reopen it, a message asks if you want to start again where you left off in the last session. If you had a dozen Web sites open, they'll all be there again, each with its own tab. The new version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE 7) also has tabbed browsing and a lot of new features, and should be able to hold its overwhelming market share. But there's a lot to like about Maxthon. It has a new free service called Access that allows you to remotely access your home or office computer from another Internet-connected computer. And it uses less memory, saving on system resources. Maxthon looks like IE to the Web sites you visit. This is important because nearly all sites accept a connection with IE, but not necessarily with other Web browsers. You can find Maxthon at Maxthon.com, which notes that so far, 70.6 million people have snapped it up.
12/03/06 - In U.S., fear and distrust of Muslims runs deep
(Interesting response to a hoax...but apples <> oranges...Jews weren't sworn to KILL nonbelievers... - JWD) When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly. The first caller to the station in Washington said that Klein must be "off his rocker." The second congratulated him and added: "Not only do you tattoo them in the middle of their forehead but you ship them out of this country ... they are here to kill us." Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver's licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. "What good is identifying them?" he asked. "You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans." At the end of the one-hour show, rich with arguments on why visual identification of "the threat in our midst" would alleviate the public's fears, Klein revealed that he had staged a hoax. It drew out reactions that are not uncommon in post-9/11 America. "I can't believe any of you are sick enough to have agreed for one second with anything I said," he told his audience on the AM station 630 WMAL (http://www.wmal.com/), which covers Washington, Northern Virginia and Maryland. "For me to suggest to tattoo marks on people's bodies, have them wear armbands, put a crescent moon on their driver's license on their passport or birth certificate is disgusting. It's beyond disgusting. "Because basically what you just did was show me how the German people allowed what happened to the Jews to happen ... We need to separate them, we need to tattoo their arms, we need to make them wear the yellow Star of David, we need to put them in concentration camps, we basically just need to kill them all because they are dangerous."
12/03/06 - Koran used to swear in Muslim US Congressman
Keith Ellison, who will become the first Muslim member of Congress next month, has offended some conservatives with his plan to use the Quran during his ceremonial swearing-in. The decision by Ellison, D-Minn., to use the Muslim holy book for the ceremony instead of the Bible triggered an angry column by Dennis Prager on the Web site Townhall.com this week. Headlined, "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on," Prager argued that using the Quran for the ceremony "undermines American civilization." "Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible," he wrote. "If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."
12/03/06 - Sensing God
One of the most established researchers in this area is Dr Michael Persinger who has stimulated the temporal lobes with weak but shifting magnetic fields (using a modified helmet, pictured) and claims to have induced the experience of a 'sensed presence' in naïve volunteers. Persinger notes that minor temporal lobe disturbances are common throughout the population, and are more common in people with high numbers of paranormal beliefs. Supposedly, a form is the helmet is available for sale over the internet, although as the tag-line of the website is "Neurotheology, Magnetic Brain Stimulation, Deja Vu, Death, God, Sex, Love, and more" it sounds more like a track-listing from a Hawkwind album than a serious piece of research equipment.
12/02/06 - Quantum Dots to double Solar Cell Efficiency
So far, chemist Pam Shapiro's team has created a compound called a "quantum dot" that is made of elements that include copper, indium and selenium. Shapiro said that the quantum dots would be embedded between layers of a solar cell and would absorb energy that is otherwise wasted due to overheating. "These solar cells based on quantum dots aim to make better use of that excess energy," Shapiro said. Chemist Pam Shapiro, her graduate students and her colleagues at the university are working on creating better materials and combining them in new ways that could more than double the efficiency of present solar cells.
12/02/06 - Pyramid Stones Were Poured, Not Quarried
"Times Online is reporting that French and American researchers have discovered that the stones on the higher levels of the great pyramids of Egypt were built with concrete. From the article: 'Until recently it was hard for geologists to distinguish between natural limestone and the kind that would have been made by reconstituting liquefied lime.' They found 'traces of a rapid chemical reaction which did not allow natural crystallization. The reaction would be inexplicable if the stones were quarried, but perfectly comprehensible if one accepts that they were cast like concrete.'"
12/02/06 - GM Works on Plug-In Saturn SUV Hybrid
GM, the nation's No. 1 automaker is working on a hybrid vehicle that plugs into a standard electrical outlet. The plug-in hybrid will be a front-drive version of GM's two-mode hybrid system, which uses two electric motors and a V-8 gasoline engine to boost fuel efficiency. The two-mode system will debut in the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs in 2007, and eventually will be placed in GM's pickup trucks, Clarke said. He said nothing about diesel, which DaimlerChrysler AG is banking on as a cleaner alternative to gasoline engines. Wagoner said that according to the Energy Department the world will need about 70 percent more energy from 2003 to 2030, and oil alone will not be able to handle the increase.
12/02/06 - Volkswagen's sneaky trick to make money
Volkswagen Credit recently sent a letter to its customers, inviting them to skip a payment this month. But the fine print reveals that they will charge you $25 to take them up on their seemingly kind holiday offer. From the letter; "The holidays...time to give thanks, spread joy and shop for the best sales. Now, here's the perfect "gift" to help you stretch your holiday dollar. Volkswagen Credit is offering you the opportunity to 'skip' your December 2006 payment on your current account listed above. [...] Upon receipt of your extension agreement, we will assess your account a $25.00 extension fee, payable on your next due invoice. There is no need to send money at this time. [...] Happy Holidays!"
12/02/06 - Lunch Hour Ultrasonic Liposuction
Vacuuming fat from more than 455,000 patients - and some $1.2 billion out of their wallets - made liposuction the No. 1 cosmetic-surgery procedure in the U.S. in 2005. Like many operations, standard liposuction procedures carry a risk of infection, other complications, and even death. But a startup called LipoSonix hopes to minimize such dangers with a device that can dissolve fatty tissue without penetrating the skin. The device uses high-intensity ultrasound energy, which breaks down the adipose tissue, or fat. A week after the procedure, which takes about an hour and requires no hospitalization, "the body's normal healing response takes over," says LipoSonix CEO Dr. Jens Quistgaard, and the fat cells are reabsorbed and metabolized. Considering the money Americans spend on liposuction, "The potential market for a nonsurgical body-sculpting procedure should be significantly larger," says Ryan Schwarz, managing director at the Carlyle Group. Don't count on the device to make significant inroads into the current obesity epidemic in the U.S., however. Most patients enrolled in the Mexico test have had one to 1.5 pounds of fat removed during each procedure, and Quistgaard says that number isn't likely to change when U.S. trials begin. By comparison, surgical liposuction can remove as much as five pounds of fat. In other words, LipoSonix may help you lose the love handles, but it won't take away that spare tire.
12/02/06 - An ATM for Books at 1 penny a page
(Print on Demand books are interesting but I think the future is in eBooks with portable hand held readers that you can roll up or fold to put in your pocket. Even one day implantable circuits that download directly to your brain, ala Matrix. They will have high density flash memory and builtin WIFI for downloading content at will. - JWD) Buying a book could become as easy as buying a pack of gum. After several years in development, the Espresso - a $50,000 vending machine with a conceivably infinite library - is nearly consumer-ready and will debut in ten to 25 libraries and bookstores in 2007. The New York Public Library is scheduled to receive its machine in February. The company behind the Espresso is called On Demand Books, founded by legendary book editor Jason Epstein, 78, and Dane Neller, 56, but the technology was developed six years ago by Jeff Marsh, who is a technology advisor for New York City-based ODB (ondemandbooks.com). The machine can print, align, mill, glue and bind two books simultaneously in less than seven minutes, including full-color laminated covers. It prints in any language and will even accommodate right-to-left texts by putting the spine on the right. The upper page limit is 550 pages, though by tweaking the page thickness and type size, you could get a copy of War and Peace (albeit tough to read) if you wanted. Neller says that future versions of the machine will accommodate longer works with fewer hassles. Prices for the finished product will vary depending on locations, but the production cost is about a penny per page. Some 2.5 million books are now available - about one million in English and no longer under copyright protection. On Demand accesses the volumes through Google and the Open Content Alliance, among other sources. Neller predicts that within about five years On Demand Books will be able to reproduce every volume ever printed. Epstein says that the larger obstacles are consumer preference - the machine can't make you a latte - and convincing skeptics in the industry. But some early adopters are already sold on the idea. Niko Pfund, a publisher at Oxford University Press, says the evolution away from traditional bookstores is only natural. "For hundreds of years the industry was unchanged," Pfund says. "Then audio came out. Now it's time for digital."
12/02/06 - Xenografts - spare body parts made from Animals
Based in Alachua, Fla., RTI is one of a handful of U.S. companies that produce precision screws, spinal wedges and hundreds of other surgical implants from biologic tissue instead of synthetic materials or metal. As the company's name implies, the implants have regenerative properties, leading to faster healing, less pain and greater range of motion than patients experience from metal or plastic parts. Until now RTI has manufactured allografts, parts made from donated cadavers. But recently RTI unveiled a line of xenografts, or animal-derived implants, from cow tissue. The company's first xenografts were implanted into patients in December 2005. In 2007 the eyes of the medical community will be on RTI as it ramps up distribution of its line of a dozen xenografts and completes its first-year clinical studies. If the results are good, these bovine bits could represent the future of medical implants. RTI mills human tissue into everything from dental implants to bone-graft substitutes. The company's tiniest products, chips that look like newfallen snow, fill bone voids - for example, gaps left by the removal of tumors. Its largest, wedges that resemble hunks of Parmesan cheese, are used to repair large skeletal defects such as fractures. Surgeons use the products as a sort of biologic scaffold; over time they are absorbed into the patient's own bone so seamlessly that even X-rays can't distinguish where bone ends and graft begins. RTI founder Jamie Grooms was one of the first biologists to discover that human tissue could be machine-cut with the same dependability and speed as synthetic implants. For RTI, cow-derived xenografts boast considerable advantages over human-derived allografts. The animals are much easier - and cheaper - to procure than cadavers, and while the average human donor yields 20 to 30 grafts, RTI's technicians can manufacture more than 300 from a single cow. So far, the company's studies show that such grafts are just as biocompatible and safe as those from donated human tissue. They are also stronger and stiffer - although still much more flexible than the top synthetic equivalents made from plastics or metal.
12/02/06 - Ultrasound Could Supplant Biopsies
An experimental ultrasound technique that measures how easily breast lumps compress and bounce back could enable doctors to determine instantly whether a woman has cancer or not without doing a biopsy. In a small study of 80 women, the technique - called "elastography" - distinguished harmless lumps from malignant ones with nearly 100 percent accuracy. If the results hold up in a larger study, elastography could save thousands of women from the waiting, cost, discomfort and anxiety of a biopsy, in which cells are removed from the breast - sometimes with a needle, sometimes with a scalpel - and examined under a microscope. Up to 1 million biopsies are performed each year on suspicious breast tissue detected by mammograms and self-exams, but as many as eight out of 10 of these biopsies find that the lumps are benign. Biopsies can cost $200 to $1,000, depending on whether some fluid or an entire lump is removed, and it can take days or weeks to get the results. The cost of elastography is not yet clear, but some experts said the procedure might run $100 to $200. And it can yield results in minutes. When checked against biopsies of women's breast tissue, the ultrasound technique correctly identified 17 out of 17 cancerous tumors, and 105 out of 106 harmless lesions. The findings were reported at a national radiology meeting in Chicago this week. Ophir describes elastography as a way to measure and picture the elasticity of body tissue. In effect, it is an extension of one of the oldest tools in medicine, palpation, in which a doctor feels the shape and firmness of body tissue. To explain elastography, Ophir likens the body to a box-spring mattress, but "a crazy mattress made out of millions of small springs and each one is a little different. Each is moving around at a different rate, depending on their individual stiffness." Cancerous tumors are like stiff springs. Normal tissue and benign lesions compress more easily. Both traditional ultrasound and elastography use echoes from high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of what is going on inside the body..."It's like finding a marble in Jell-O..."
12/02/06 - FCC Sued to Allow Cell Phone Jammers
"A small company in Florida is trying to take on the FCC in an attempt to make their Cell phone jamming product legal. Their main argument seems to be that the Communications act of 1934 conflicts with the HomeLand Security Act - so the Communications act has to go." From the article: "Local and state law enforcement agencies, which would be the first responders to a terrorist attack here at home, are prohibited by law from obtaining such gear. 'It just doesn't make much sense that the FBI can use this equipment, but that the local and state governments, which the Homeland Security Act has acknowledged as being an important part of combating terrorism, cannot,' said Howard Melamed, chief executive of CellAntenna. 'We give local police guns and other equipment to protect the public, but we can't trust them with cellular-jamming equipment? It doesn't make sense.'"
12/02/06 - Mechanical pump powered by heart cells
Japanese researchers have built a miniature pump that's driven by living cells cultured from a rat's heart muscles. Instead of batteries, the pump is powered by a nutrient bath. Someday, this kind of bio-mechanical pump could be integrated into medical implants or labs-on-a-chip. The main part of the pump is made from a flexible polymer sphere 5 millimetres in diameter. Teflon capillary tubes measuring 400 microns in diameter are inserted into opposite sides of this sphere. A cell-friendly protein coating is then added to the sphere followed by a sheet of pulsing cultured heart cells. After just an hour the cells are firmly attached and begin driving the pump. To test the pump, the researchers placed it in a nutrient medium at human body temperature (37°C). They watched through a microscope as small polystyrene balls contained with a fluid moved through the pump's tubes. The pump operated continuously for six days in testing.
12/02/06 - Civil UAVs Still A Distant Prospect
"The aerospace industry has failed to obtain the radio frequencies that would allow the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in civil airspace, New Scientist reports. It will be 2011 before it can even begin to lobby for space on the radio spectrum. What's more, no national aviation authority in the world will allow civil UAVs without a system for avoiding other aircraft. And no firm has even started development of one. Has the industry cheated us of the benefits of civil UAVs by focussing on the demands of the military?" From the article: "On the brighter side, last week the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization, based in Montreal, Canada, said its navigation experts would meet in early 2007 to consider regulations for UAVs in civil airspace. That could be a step towards internationally agreed rules for how UAVs should operate. Even if the UN body makes rapid progress, however, it will be meaningless unless the industry can obtain the necessary frequencies to control the planes and feed images and other sensor data back to base."
12/01/06 - Turkish Fuelless Motor Weirdness
(I spent a good 2 hours looking through Turkish news sites which load oh so slowly, hoping to find an english translation of a more informative article OR a photo of the machine....no joy...but found this, where I edited out the paranoia junk. - JWD) Today I want to talk about the Erke Dönergeci [a device that the Erke company claims to have invented. This device supposedly generates energy while consuming no fuel]. A friend of ours was saying that 'Erke' is the code name of an approaching coup. Could this Erke thing be designed as a 'motor' for the coup? Could that be? I think this can't be. Erke is a motor, before anything else. It is an invention that has already transcended the boundaries of contemporary civilization. I can't help thinking how a motor not needing any energy input could exist? Physicists, engineers and thermodynamics experts say, 'This is impossible.' Where would it get the energy from? Would it use energy generated by polarization? How is this going to happen? I called a friend of mine who knows these things, who is also an expert on metaphysics. He yelled, 'This is impossible, such a thing could never be!' but he quickly added, 'Unless, he has relations with the jinn [invisible spirits mentioned in the Koran] crowd.' Most certainly, if this motor was the offspring of a marriage between physics and metaphysics, nobody can know about that. If you ask me, this Erke Dönergeç is something similar to the dangerous weapon that would supposedly change the balance of power in the world, mentioned in a Graham Greene novel. In his 'Our Man in Havana,' Greene tells of a vacuum cleaner salesman who starts working as a secret agent and who passes off vacuum cleaner design drawings as the layouts for secret military installations. In the campaign to introduce the mysterious device, many former land forces commanders were available, saying their presence in the meeting was a coincidence. Now back to Yayla, who says Kemalism is regressive instead of producing devices committed to the principles and revolutions of Atatürk. Is he wrong? Kemalism, as usual, arm in arm with militarism, is promoting a fervent totalitarian regime. Kemalism is the Erke Dönergeç of this country. It is not clear what it is. Yet we should never doubt that it functions perfectly and it is supported by the generals. You don't feed it with ideas, democracy or liberties, but it still functions with no fuel. You spend millions for its promotion, but there is nothing to promote. The Erke crowd is keeping it a secret what fuel is needed to start the machine, fearing that spies might found out. But I think, those who live on this land know perfectly well what that machine runs on.
12/01/06 - Air recycler saves Energy
The system provides a closed loop between the air compressor and the air tool by capturing the exhausted air from the tool and returning it to the compressor. This generates more power from less energy. Energy consumption is reduced by nearly 50 per cent and noise levels from between 40 and 80 per cent compared with conventional air tools. The compressor and the power tools will last longer as the closed loop system keeps out moisture, dust, oil and other pollutants. Plus, the work environment is improved because moisture and dust particles are not blown around the shop as with normally exhausted air tools.
12/01/06 - Biofluid-powered batteries
This new battery will be the perfect power source for cheap, disposable healthcare test-kits for various diseases. To make the battery, Lee and his colleagues soaked a piece of paper in a solution of copper chloride and sandwiched it between strips of magnesium and copper. A simple and cheap fabrication process for the paper batteries has been developed which is compatible with the existing plastic laminating technologies or plastic molding technologies. This "sandwich" is then held in place by being laminated, which involves passing the battery unit between a pair of transparent plastic films through a heating roller at 120ºC. The final product has dimensions of 60 mm x 30 mm, and a thickness of just 1 mm (a little bit smaller than a credit card). The reason urine battery works is the same reason lemon batteries work as they are both acidic, i.e. ureic acid and citric acid. Urine contains many ions (electrically charged atoms), which allows the electricity-producing chemical reaction to take place in the urine battery. When a drop of urine is added to the paper through a slit in the plastic, a chemical reaction takes place that produces electricity. Using 0.2 ml of urine, they generated a voltage of around 1.5 V with a corresponding maximum power of 1.5 mW, the same as a standard AA battery, and runs for about 90 minutes. They also found that the battery performances (such as voltage, power or duration) may be designed or adjusted by changing the geometry or materials used. Other bodily fluids, such as tears, blood, and semen, would work easily as well to activate the battery.
12/01/06 - The Cure for the Common Condom
A new invention now being marketed in South Africa hopes to put an end to the unromantic chore of trying to put on a condom during sex. The "Pronto" condom no longer requires you to tear open the wrapper and try to figure out which way is up. Instead, the wrapper is designed as part of the condom; you simply snap it open, grab the two sides to roll the condom down, and then pull the wrapper off. "If you're slow, it'll take you three seconds. You can really do it in one," said inventor Willem van Rensburg, who claimed that the idea came after studies showed that the "struggle factor" was the main reason people don't bother to use condoms.
12/01/06 - Worm Composting Table
To keep your table clean of any leftover, one can either adopt the radical Katazukue way or turn to worms, sowbugs and bacteria for a more sustainable solution. A wriggling and living ecosystem is invited to Amy Young's Digestive Table. After users have discarded food leftovers and shredded paper into the portal at the top, the bacteria and sowbugs begin breaking down the waste and the worms join in to further digest it into a compost that sprinkles out of the bottom of the bag that hangs beneath the table. This compost is used as a fertilizer for plants, such as those at the base of the table. Seeing worms is difficult since the creatures are harmed by white light. They do not mind infra-red, but humans cannot see in that frequency. Therefore, Young has made a cross-section of the activity inside the compost visible using an IR security camera connected to an LCD screen built into the table. On the screen, viewers can see the live movements of the worms and sowbugs inside. The hand-made composting bag is based on a "flow-through" vermicomposting system, designed to make harvesting the worm castings much easier.
12/01/06 - New technology puts hand-held projectors within reach
The global electronic components manufacturer Alps Electric Co., Ltd has been granted an exclusive license to the University’s core patent for a revolutionary holographic video projector technology, developed in the Department of Engineering. The company intends to manufacture miniature projectors based on the University’s patented technology that will be highly energy efficient, will always be in focus and will be extremely robust. These qualities would make them ideal for building into laptops, mobile phones and all manner of devices. The technology works by converting the image to be projected into a phase-only holographic pattern. This pattern is displayed inside the projector on a small, fast, high-definition liquid crystal over silicon (LCOS) panel. A laser is trained on to the panel. The light bouncing off each of the millions of points of the pattern interferes to reconstruct the original picture on a conventional white screen, the office wall or any convenient surface.
12/01/06 - A Brain Chip to Control Paralyzed Limbs
(This reminds me of the Zombie Scorpion experiment where nerve signals were recorded acoustically, the scorpion was killed and the audio signals made the scorpion's body repeat its movements. - JWD) Scientists are now building a device that records brain signals and transmits them to paralyzed muscles, potentially returning muscle control to severely paralyzed patients. In the prosthetic system, which is still in early development, a brain chip records neural signals from the part of the brain that controls movement. The chip then processes those signals, sending precise messages to wires implanted in different muscles of the patient's arm or hand, triggering the paralyzed limb to grab a glass or scratch the nose. "Our ultimate goal is for a person to think and effortlessly move the arm ," says Robert Kirsch , associate director of the Functional Electrical Stimulation Center , at Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Cleveland, OH. In functional electrical stimulation (FES), electrical current is applied to specific nerves or muscles to trigger muscle contractions. When the wearer makes a predesignated motion with his or her head or shoulders, he or she triggers stimulation of certain muscles, enabling the limb to move in a specific way. Devices that can restore hand function and bladder control to some paralysis patients have already been approved by the FDA. In a system Kirsch and his colleagues are testing for people with spinal-cord injuries severe enough to render them paralyzed from the neck down, a pacemaker-like stimulator is surgically implanted in the patient's chest or abdomen, with connecting wires implanted in up to 12 different muscles. Another set of wires records activity in muscles that are under the patient's voluntary control. These signals are then used to trigger activity in the paralyzed muscles.
12/01/06 - Traditional cures meet intellectual property rights
Traditional plant-based cures and therapies should be protected from exploitation by rich companies, and indigenous peoples should be fully involved in decisions about the legal status of generations-old knowledge. These comments, from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), come three days ahead of new discussions hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The goal of the meeting is to come up with an international, legally-binding framework to protect such things as indigenous communities’ rights to the therapeutic properties of plants found in the Amazonian rainforest. Krystyna Swiderska of IIED told New Scientist that the representatives taking part in these discussions do not belong to the indigenous communities, and largely live in developed countries. They are therefore not in the best position to negotiate on their behalf, she says.
12/01/06 - Turn a radio-controlled car into a dust mop
DIY site Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories figured out how to turn an ordinary, inexpensive radio-controlled car into an electrostatic dust mop. Think of it as a Swiffer on wheels--or a poor man's Roomba. The car they chose was a $15 Lamborghini, which requires a bit of disassembly and modification. The overall project looks pretty simple, though I wonder about the choice of a blank printed circuit board as the "mop support plank." It looks cool, but it's not exactly a common item at your local drugstore.
12/01/06 - Who Says Money Can't Buy Friends?
"It looks like some users of popular networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have stooped so low as to actually pay real money for friends. These friends aren't even real believe it or not. You can apparently choose from a selection of 'models' to leave you customized comments to look like you have friends and are popular online. This is unbelievable!"
12/01/06 - Hawking: Man must leave Planet Earth
Mankind will need to venture far beyond planet Earth to ensure the long-term survival of our species, according to the world's best known scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking. The cosmologist said today that space-rockets propelled by the kind of matter/antimatter annihilation technology popularised in Star Trek would be needed to help Homo sapiens colonise hospitable planets orbiting alien stars. "The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet," he said. "Sooner or later, disasters such as an asteroid collision or nuclear war could wipe us all out. But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe. "There isn't anywhere like the Earth in the solar system, so we would have to go to another star. "If we used chemical fuel rockets like the Apollo mission to the moon, the journey to the nearest star would take 50,000 years. This is obviously far too long to be practical, so science fiction has developed the idea of warp drive, which takes you instantly to your destination. Unfortunately, this would violate the scientific law which says that nothing can travel faster than light. "However, we can still within the law, by using matter/antimatter annihilation, and reach speeds just below the speed of light. With that, it would be possible to reach the next star in about six years, though it wouldn't seem so long for those on board."
12/01/06 - Taming the Terahertz
Terahertz waves have been touted as the next big thing for security and communication devices. Researchers can already generate and detect terahertz radiation, but controlling it has proved difficult. More control could mean faster wireless communication and clearer images for security scans. Now U.S. researchers have found a way to control those waves on the fly, using a new class of materials known as metamaterials. "This is the starting point of efficient manipulation of terahertz waves," says Hou-Tong Chen. Also known as T-rays, terahertz waves sit on the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and microwaves, and they exhibit a range of properties that make them particularly attractive. For example, their ability to pass through clothes and yet be reflected by biological tissue offers some of the benefits of X rays without the inherent risks of using ionizing radiation. Similarly, many chemicals have been shown to exhibit unique spectral signatures in the terahertz range. With a frequency range of between 300 and 3,000 gigahertz (0.3 to 3.0 terahertz), T-rays sit on the cusp between traditional light waves and radio waves. So for a device to have an effect on them, it would have to operate in a way that straddles both photonics and electronics. By applying a voltage in a particular way to a standard electronic component known as a Schottky diode, the group was able to make a section of this component resonate, creating an alternating electromagnetic field. Varying the voltage altered the field. The researchers found that these field changes could increase and decrease the amplitude of the terahertz signal.
$5 Alt Science MP3s to listen while working/driving/jogging
No time to sit back and watch videos? Here are 15 interesting presentations you can download for just $5 each and listen to while driving, working, jogging, etc. An easy way to learn some fascinating new things that you will find of use. Easy, cheap and simple, better than eBooks or Videos. Roughly 50MB per MP3.
15 New Alternative Science DVDs & 15 MP3s
An assortment of alternative science videos that provide many insights and inside information from various experimenters. Also MP3s extracted from these DVDs that you can listen to while working or driving. Reference links for these lectures and workshops by Bill Beaty of Amateur Science on the Dark Side of Amateur Science, Peter Lindemann on the World of Free Energy, Norman Wootan on the History of the EV Gray motor, Dan Davidson on Shape Power and Gravity Wave Phenomena, Lee Crock on a Method for Stimulating Energy, Doug Konzen on the Konzen Pulse Motor, George Wiseman on the Water Torch and Jerry Decker on Aether, ZPE and Dielectric Nano Arrays. Your purchase of these products helps support KeelyNet, thanks!
- Source to Buy
Six Ways to Support Keelynet