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07/31/06 - Keep losing my connection from the rainstorm problem last week and its driving me nuts having to redial every 3-5 back to TelMex to have them check it out...again... - JWD

07/31/06 - Noise can make you smarter
Wired Magazine interviews Bart Kosko, author of Noise, a book that argues that adding noise to our signals can actually make them clearer. Can background music make you smarter? The more you can concentrate with background noise, the more it strengthens the brain. Isaac Asimov used to set his typewriter up in stores and other loud places to work. His claim was that you get really good at writing when you’re in a crowd. You want to be energized by that background noise, rather than distracted.

07/31/06 - India plans massive Solar Array and 'mining' Helium 3 for energy
The solar array would have a five km by 10 km Photovoltaic Array fitted on a satellite in space that would deliver sun power from space to earth through SPS network. As it would be impossible to hurl such a huge system from earth in one go, it would be built in phases in space itself. A one km wide antenna on the earth, which would transfer power into high-tension lines, would trap the solar energy from satellites. Production of the same amount of energy on earth would need 130 sq km of space besides a huge quantity of fossil or nuclear fuel. Building such huge antenna was possible, though the biggest antenna India had built so far had a diameter of 14 metres. Advanced technology developed in the world during the past 30 years had really given hope that a solar array of such huge size could be made possible, he said. The cost of putting material in space, however, would have to be reduced for the project's success. At present every kilo of material transported to outer space would cost $25,000 to 30,000. The SPS could be made a cost-effective pollution-free energy source for the coming centuries. Helium-3, derived from a mixture of helium and deuterium in reactors built on the moon, could prove an extremely potent, non-polluting, non-radioactive energy source that could solve the energy shortage forever. One million tonnes of H-3 was enough to power earth for 1000 years. Just 25 tonnes of H-3 transported through a single voyage by a space shuttle could supply power to both the U.S. and India for one full year. One kg of H-3 burnt with 0.67 kg of deuterium gave about 19 MW of power. Though just one tonne of H-3 was expected to cost $4 billion in today's calculations, tapping this source of energy could become a reality in view of the advancements being made in space science, according to Dr. Shankara.

07/30/06 - Homebrew Self-guiding lawnmower
Tom Read's just an ordinary guy, who like millions of Americans has a lawn that needs cutting. "It's just a mower I found along the side of the road and fixed up (laughter) No large investment." Just a few modifications which allow this 39 year old machinist to sit on his porch, and mow his lawn at the same time? "It's a self-propelled lawnmower that I have on a 75-foot cable with a spool in the middle with a piece of 4-inch PVC pipe, which is staked to the ground. He runs the cable back to the mower, starts it up, ties down the self-propel handle and away we go. "And it starts going around in a circle and each time it goes around it pulls itself in about 14 inches and winds itself around the spool." Though he came with this 3 years ago, it wasn't till this year that Tom found a way to stop the thing. "It took me a bit on that one till I thought, ooh know what I can do!" He used a light spring to reverse the safety so that when the angle on the cable is just right it combines with the weight of the mower.... "And when it gets to the middle it shuts itself off." He has no plans to patent it and make millions.

07/30/06 - Disease Sniffer to non-invasively ferret out early disease
Theoretically, using existing technology, we should be able to build a "disease sniffer," to detect cancer and other diseases by simply sniffing the air around the patient. This air is then analyzed for certain chemical elements which directly indicate the metabolism of various diseases. You might ask, "How can a disease sniffer work? You can't smell disease in a person, can you?" But of course you can. The answer is actually quite simple -- you can smell disease in people, around people and on people. You can smell it from the gases emanating from their skin and from the gases they exhale from their lungs as well. Their respiration gives you a good clue about their level of overall health. How does this work? First of all, the skin actually does emit gas. A human being's skin breathes. The skin is the largest organ on your body, and it must breathe in order for you to live. In doing so, it emits gases that are circulating in the blood supply. Let's say, for example, you have too much carbon dioxide in your blood, or too much nitrogen, or even too much oxygen. Any of these gases, and of course many others, are going to be primarily exhaled through your lungs, but they're also going to be partially exhaled out of your skin as this blood is circulated to your skin cells and the skin begins to exchange chemistry with the surrounding air. The skin can absorb chemicals and water, it can also exhale chemicals, and it is this exhalation of chemistry that allows this invention to work. What the invention does, quite simply, is sniff the air around a person and subject it to chemical analysis to determine what chemicals are emanating from this individual. It then compares that chemical profile with a known list of diseases to determine what diseases the person is most likely to be suffering from, and from there, that patient would be asked to participate in more precise testing in order to confirm the diagnosis. This disease-sniffer technology would only be used as a simple, low-cost, non-invasive, first line of defense detection device. The cost to use it would be only a few cents per person. It's non-invasive, it's completely painless and it only takes a few seconds, so it would be an ideal item to use for mass disease detection on large populations. This invention, the disease sniffer, is based on available technology, a chromatographic analysis of the air around the person's body and the correlation of the chemicals found in that air with various diseases -- most notably, cancer. This device could be put together and sold right now, and it would not be difficult to scientifically correlate the chemicals in the air around a person with the diseases he or she might be suffering from. So why doesn't such a device exist? Well the answer is because, for some bizarre reason, conventional medicine doesn't believe that you can "smell cancer" on a person, even though dogs have been trained to do exactly that. Besides, mammography is wildly profitable, and the makers of mammography equipment give huge donations to non-profit cancer institutions, where they exert tremendous influence. And they, of course, don't want to see any new technology come along that makes their existing equipment less valuable. That is, unless they invent the new technology themselves.

07/30/06 - 60 minute Pop-Up Housing for emergency shelter
(I LOVE THIS COMPANY AND PRODUCT! - JWD) Aquentium, Inc., services are uniquely suited to meet the "Global Disaster Relief Housing " needs of most countries. The company's disaster relief housing structures for hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, and floods housing system allows for quick and secure disaster relief in a simple, safe, easy to use and 60 minute re-deployable instant house structure format. The entire structure is fully assembled and shipped within a container, ready to be installed upon deployment. Their muti-use structures can be remotely located or re-located in time sensitive situations. The patented invention utilizes a 20 foot or 40 foot container that once fully deployed expands into a 450 foot - 900 foot house complete with electricity and plumbing. The deployable model unit includes a two bedroom with shower, kitchen appliances, and a living room. They are also developing many new areas of de-re-deployable containerized structures (both permanent and temporary); modular, site-built, and kit structures for all applications including first-response, military,commercial, municipal, retail and disaster relief; drinking water systems, non-chemical based sanitation systems; bio-diesel, solar and wind-powered electricity renewable energy, and insulated panels. Also in conjunctions with several global universities the are collaborating on the worlds first " "AUTONOMUS HOUSE" by 2010.

07/30/06 - Cool Breeze Shirt for the heat
It is the ultimate way to beat the heatwave - a shirt with its own air-conditioning system built in. As temperatures soar above 30C (86F), it wafts a refreshing breeze around its wearer, whether in the street or an office. And the record-breaking hot weather this summer has sparked UK companies' interest in the Japanese invention. It works by helping the body's own cooling system. Normally, sweat is produced and evaporates, causing a cooling effect. Clothes interfere with this process by trapping the droplets. But the shirt, invented by former Sony technician Hiroshi Ichigaya, produces a layer of circulating air which enhances sweat evaporation. Two fans at the back pump fresh air around the wearer and out through the neck and sleeve ends. Moisture can also pass through the cloth. The 4in diameter fans are powered by AA batteries, which last for several hours, or by plugging into a computer using a USB cable. The electrical parts can be removed for washing. The only drawback is the balloon effect caused by the air flow. It's surprisingly light and the fans are unobtrusive but anything that restricts the air flow limits effectiveness, so you can't wear a rucksack. And you need to hold your arms so the air can go out through the sleeves. However, sweat dries immediately, except for a few patches, and the breeze to the neck and chin is particularly pleasant. At home, I can work without the air-conditioning unit on for the first time in weeks.

07/30/06 - 'No right to privacy'
The average American business traveler now has less legal rights than Islamic terrorists. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled on Monday that "border police may conduct random searches of laptops without search warrants or probable cause." Instead of being outraged by the White House's flagrant disregard for the Constitution it is supposed to honor, this week Congress is rushing to pass laws that make the Bush administration's crimes totally legal. It's as if Congress made burglary legal in 1974 rather than start impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. Across the country, cops are arresting and jailing people for taking pictures with cell-phone cameras. "Today in the U.S., the executive branch claims the power to arrest a citizen on its own initiative and hold the citizen indefinitely," says Reagan Administration assistant treasury secretary Paul Craig Roberts. "Thus, Americans are no longer protected from arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention."

07/30/06 - Supercavitation for blinding underwater speeds
Like a lot of other bizarre ideas, the supersonic sub came out of the cold war. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union had relatively slow, bumbling torpedoes that left its subs at a serious disadvantage. Rather than push conventional torpedo technology a bit further, the Soviets decided to try to leapfrog the Americans with a radical solution. Any object, no matter how streamlined, suffers resistance as it moves through a fluid. One source of drag is skin friction, the force required to shear the thin layer of fluid lying against the moving body's surface. This happens in air too, but water, being about a thousand times as dense as air, generates a thousand times as much drag. What's more, the power needed to overcome drag is proportional to the cube of an object's speed. So each incremental improvement in propulsion technology produces only a meagre increase in speed. In the early 1960s, Mikhail Merkulov at the Hydrodynamics Institute in Kiev realised that the solution lay in a phenomenon called cavitation. It was a daring idea, because naval architects usually see cavitation as a menace, rather than something that works to their advantage. When a body moves rapidly through a fluid, the pressure at various points on the body--at trailing edges, for example--is reduced, explains Rudra Pratap, a dynamicist who works on supercavitating bodies at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. The faster the body moves, the lower the pressure becomes. "When the pressure reduces enough to equal the vapour pressure of the fluid, the liquid state is no longer sustainable," says Pratap. With not enough pressure to hold them together, the liquid molecules vaporise and form cavities, or bubbles, causing pitting and erosion. But supercavitation is a different matter. Under certain conditions, a single bubble or supercavity can be formed, enveloping the moving object almost completely. For a start, the body has to be going pretty fast--at least 180 kilometres an hour, or 50 metres per second. An unpowered projectile, with a carefully designed flat nose and fired from an underwater gun, broke the sound barrier in water. That's nearly 5400 kilometres per hour--or 1.5 kilometres per second. Lacking any onboard power to sustain its motion, the shell slowed rapidly, but this was still a vivid demonstration of the speeds that supercavitation makes possible. Already they aren't very far off the 2.5 kilometre-per-second speed record for conventional munitions in air, and NUWC scientists have calculated that their supercavitating projectiles should be able to match or even surpass this.

07/29/06 - No moving parts, no compression Hydrogen Separation Process
FuelCell Energy, Inc. (NasdaqNM:FCEL), has developed a cost-efficient system to separate pure hydrogen from a gas mixture that then can be sold as fuel for hydrogen vehicles or industrial uses. Unlike other means of separating hydrogen, which rely on compression, the company's proprietary EHS technology has no moving parts. FCEL anticipates that their process to be significantly more reliable and efficient than conventional methods and to save up to one-half of the energy required when compared to conventional compression based-methods of hydrogen separation. A subscale prototype EHS unit is currently operating at the University of Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center. The subscale EHS system currently produces 1200 liters per hour of pure hydrogen. FCEL claims that its EHS system is the most promising way of meeting the targets set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to lower the price of hydrogen to be competitive with the cost of gasoline. Currently hydrogen is three to four times as expensive to produce as gasoline according to the DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy statistics. Whether it be used for generating hydrogen for an energy station or for an industrial customer, being able to produce hydrogen onsite through EHS would eliminate the complex issues involved with transporting and storing hydrogen.

07/29/06 - How much gas is wasted idling in traffic?
One researcher has worked out how much of the earth's ancient natural resources it took to make the gallons you're guzzling. Incredibly, University of Massachusetts Boston ecologist Jeffrey Dukes estimated that it took more than a hundred tons of fossilized plant matter - close to the typical 104-ton payload of the Space Shuttle - to make a single gallon of the gas. "It's an enormous amount of ancient plant matter that went into every single gallon of gasoline that we burn today," says Dukes. The problem is, we're blowing through our cache way too fast. We've burned "the amount of fossil fuel that would have come from all the plants on Earth for 13,300 years" in less than 300 years. Scary, considering that these deposits - 83 percent of which Dukes says power the world - are finite. "We've got this bank account of solar energy that we're drawing on like crazy," he says. "And we don't really know how big the account is. We don't know how much we're spending, how fast we're spending and when we're going to run out. There are going to be some real consequences of running out... so, when you're sitting there pumping gas, it might be good to think about what future generations are going to do when… it's no longer feasible to use these fossil fuels because of environmental consequences [like global warming]. How are we going to get around then?"

07/29/06 - Smooth a scratched DVD with Pledge
(Earlier reports said you could use toothpaste to remove scratches on CD/DVDs. - JWD) Last night at a critical point in the movie, iDVD stopped short and said, "Error reading disc. It may be scratched or dirty." Rats! A thorough wiping and several more tries yielded the same result. On close inspection, the disc was indeed scratched. This past MacGyver tip suggested using toothpaste to fix the disc, but I wasn't sure I had the right toothpaste (Mentadent.) Commenter cenoxo had said: Spray a little Pledge furniture polish onto the scratched CD, then gently wipe it all off with a soft micropore cloth (the kind used for eyeglasses). Just like on furniture, the clear wax should fill in the scratches and make the CD playable. Spray a little Pledge furniture polish onto the scratched CD, then gently wipe it all off with a soft micropore cloth (the kind used for eyeglasses). Just like on furniture, the clear wax should fill in the scratches and make the CD playable. Genius! (And a little more intuitive than toothpaste.) A spritz and a rub got iDVD happily spinning away again.

07/29/06 - BioFuel Energy
If biofuels are the energy of the future, they're going to have to come from something other than what's being used now. Whether you are fueling your vehicles with something refined from oil, extracted as biofuel from plants, or harnessed from the sun using photovoltaic cells, you have to use energy to make that energy. But, if you can't make more energy than you put in, and do so more cheaply than competing energy sources, then that fuel isn't likely headed into widespread commercial production anytime soon. "When we make a biofuel," says University of Minnesota Professor of Ecology David Tilman, using corn as an example, "we have to spend energy growing the crops, so we have to fertilize the corn, we have to plow the land, we have to till it, harvest the crop, dry it, haul it to a processing factory. That takes a lot of energy. And then, we have to convert the corn into energy, which also takes a lot of energy." Biodiesel from soy is far better at it than ethanol from corn. The study found that ethanol from corn produces 25 percent more energy than was used to create it, while biodiesel from soybeans produces 93 percent more. However, neither has the ability to replace gasoline as a major fuel source because we need the crops to both feed us and to feed livestock. Additionally, says Tilman, "If we use all of our corn and all of our soybeans just to make biofuels, we'll only be meeting about ten percent of our national transportation gasoline and diesel demand." Tilman and Hill's study also looked at the environmental costs of the two fuels. Again, the study found that growing soybeans fares better than corn. Soybeans generate a smaller impact than corn in terms of using nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide pollution. While both fuels reduce greenhouse emissions, ethanol produces 12 percent fewer emissions while biodiesel from soybeans produces 41 percent fewer emissions.

07/29/06 - Clean sticky CD's with baby shampoo
If you've got a CD or DVD that feels slimy or sticky, try this tip from technology blogger Amit Agarwal: If the DVD surface feels sticky or greasy, mix some baby shampoo in lukewarm water and use cotton or soft cloth to gently rub the CD surface with this solution. Make sure the CD is completely dry (no water drops) before putting it back in the jewel case. If the DVD surface feels sticky or greasy, mix some baby shampoo in lukewarm water and use cotton or soft cloth to gently rub the CD surface with this solution. Make sure the CD is completely dry (no water drops) before putting it back in the jewel case. This actually really works; you can also use plain old liquid dish soap if you have nothing else on hand.

07/29/06 - Spray-on Skin Relieves Emotional Trauma For Child Burn Victims
A study has shown most children reported an improvement in the appearance of their scars and were happier when they used the product, called Microskin. The new liquid spray-on skin technology, which binds to the topmost layer of skin, is a world first Australian invention. It is waterproof and sweat-resistant, with one application lasting three to four days. "Eighty percent of children felt happier or 'mostly' happier, as well as more confident, when they had Microskin covering their scars," Ms Swannell said. Twenty children, with an average age of twelve years were involved in the study. The vast majority of children indicated they enjoyed social outings more when wearing Microskin. Most children could not feel Microskin on their skin. The study also showed that use of the product lead to improvements in how the patient's family functioned. "Children with burns can experience emotional difficulties as a result of physical disfigurement. This product can help alleviate these difficulties and help with a patient's overall recovery and rehabilitation," he said.

07/29/06 - Shoot Sulphur into the air to battle Global Warming?
The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. It also releases sulfur that cools the planet by reflecting solar radiation away from Earth. Injecting sulfur into the second atmospheric layer closest to Earth would reflect more sunlight back to space and offset greenhouse gas warming, according to Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego. Crutzen suggests carrying sulfur into the atmosphere via balloons and using artillery guns to release it, where the particles would stay for up to two years. The results could be seen in six months. Nature does something like this naturally. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in1991, millions of tons of sulfur was injected into the atmosphere, enhancing reflectivity and cooling the Earth’s surface by an average of 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit in the year following the eruption.

07/29/06 - Has Orwell's '1984' Come 22 Years Later?
"This weekend my mother bought a grille lighter, something like this butane lighter. The self-scanner at Kroger's locked itself up and paged a clerk, who had to enter our drivers license numbers into her kiosk before we could continue. Last week my girlfriend bought four peaches. An alert came up stating that peaches were a restricted item and she had to identify herself before being able to purchase such a decidedly high quantity of the dangerous fruit. My video games spy on me, reporting the applications I run, the websites I visit, the accounts of the people I IM. My ISP is being strong-armed into a two-year archive of each action I take online under the guise of catching pedophiles, the companies I trust to free information are my enemies, the people looking out for me are being watched. As if that weren't enough, my own computer spies on me daily, my bank has been compromised, my phone is tapped--has been for years--and my phone company is A-OK with it. What's a guy that doesn't even consider himself paranoid to think of the current state of affairs?" The sad state of affairs is that Big Brother probably became a quiet part of our lives a lot earlier. The big question now is: how much worse can it get?

07/29/06 - Writing new laws to skip responsibility under older ones
An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts. Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment. "The military has lived with" the Geneva Conventions provisions "for 50 years and applied them to every conflict, even against irregular forces. Why are we suddenly afraid now about the vagueness of its terms?" asked Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch. Since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, hundreds of service members deployed to Iraq have been accused by the Army of mistreating detainees, and at least 35 detainees have died in military or CIA custody, according to a tally kept by Human Rights First. The military has asserted these were all aberrant acts by troops ignoring their orders.

07/28/06 - String Ribbon Solar cells more efficient
Evergreen Solar (NASDAQ: ESLR), manufacturer of solar products using its String Ribbon(TM) wafer technology, said today that it has landed its largest sales agreement to date, a $200 million deal to SunEdison, LLC, a Baltimore company that sells solar-generated power. In the String Ribbon technique, two high temperature strings are pulled vertically through a shallow silicon melt, and the molten silicon spans and freezes between the strings (diagram left). The process is continuous: long strings are unwound from spools; the melt is replenished; and the silicon ribbon is cut to length for further processing, without interrupting growth. This advantage in material efficiency means String Ribbon yields over twice as many solar cells per pound of silicon as conventional methods. Additionally, the resulting distinctive shape of the solar cell allows for a high packing density.

07/28/06 - Spyware Disguises Itself as Firefox Extension
"The antivirus specialists at McAfee have warned of a Trojan that disguises itself as a Firefox extension. The trojan installs itself as a Firefox extension, presenting itself as a legitimate existing extension called numberedlinks. It then begins intercepting passwords and credit card numbers entered into the browser, which it then sends to an external server. The most dangerous part of the issue is that it records itself directly into the Firefox configuration data, avoiding the regular installation and confirmation process."

07/28/06 - NmG (No more Gas) electric cars for $24,000
The NmG is the nation's only all-electric, highway-legal vehicle that can hit 70 mph and costs less than $25,000, said Dana Myers, founder and president of Myers Motors. The NmG is a fully enclosed for all weather driving, single passenger vehicle with two front wheels and a single drive wheel in the rear. Charging takes four to six hours. It costs about 2 cents a mile for the electricity used to charge the batteries. Most people drive fewer than 12 miles to work, so the NmG can be useful for commuters. It also can be driven in a high-occupancy-vehicle lane. While it drives like a car with a low center of gravity, the NmG is considered by the U.S. Department of Transportation to be a motorcycle. Myers calls it a PEV, or Personal Electric Vehicle, since it transports only the driver and the labels “car” and “motorcycle” do not fit perfectly. Meyers commented that shrinking oil supplies and high gas prices, along with public concerns about global warming, will contribute to his eye-catching car's success. A down payment reservation is $1,000, balance of purchase price is $23,900. Order information can be found on the web here. Myers said he is trying to drop the price of his vehicles below $20,000. Myers has sold 10 or 11 NmGs to customers in Columbus and Cleveland, Wisconsin, Florida, California and New York.

07/28/06 - Chemical In Many Air Fresheners May Reduce Lung Function
New research shows that a chemical compound found in many air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, mothballs and other deodorizing products, may be harmful to the lungs. Human population studies at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, found that exposure to a volatile organic compound (VOC), called 1,4 dichlorobenzene (1,4 DCB) may cause modest reductions in lung function.

07/28/06 - Rubber Sidewalks
More than sixty cities around the US, including New York and Washington DC, have installed some rubber sidewalks made from recycled tires. The material is manufactured by Rubbersidewalks Inc. From the Associated Press: Since 2001, Rubbersidewalks has been grinding thousands of old tires into crumbs, adding chemical binders and baking the material into sidewalk sections that weigh less than 11 pounds a square foot, or a quarter of the weight of concrete. The panels are available in two shades of gray and a terra cotta orange. Many of the squares have been installed in areas where damage from tree roots, weather and snow removal have required sidewalk replacement or major repairs every three years, said Lindsay Smith, founder and president of Rubbersidewalks. Rubber sidewalks are expected to last at least seven years, Smith said... The panels are firmer than a running track or a rubberized playground, but far more resilient than concrete.

07/28/06 - Earth defenseless from greenhouse gases, aliens, robot invaders
NASA officials removed the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet" from their mission statement over political pressure from global warming naysayers, says one NASA scientist: That statement was repeatedly cited last winter by NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who said he was being threatened by political appointees for speaking about the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions. But NASA officials told The New York Times the elimination of the phrase that was used by Hansen was "pure coincidence."

07/28/06 - Heating and Cooling from the Sun
Harnessing the heating - and cooling - powers of the sun from Imagine heat radiating from the walls of your home on a cold winter night, or the glass in your home's windows emitting cool temperatures on a scorching summer afternoon. Now imagine these systems operating on an endless supply of affordable energy - the sun. Three years ago a team of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers began developing an "intelligent" heating and cooling system that made these seemingly too-good-to-be-true scenarios a possibility. Developed by Steven Van Dessel, assistant professor of architecture at Rensselaer, the patented Active Building Envelope (ABE) system uses a photovoltaic (PV) system to collect and convert sunlight into electricity. That power is then delivered to a series of thermoelectric (TE) heat-pumps that are integrated into a building envelope (the walls,windows, and roof). Depending on the direction of the electric current supplied to the TE heat-pump system, the sun's energy can actively be used to make the inside space warmer or cooler. An energy storage mechanism is also integrated to collect extra energy for use when little or no sunlight is available.

07/28/06 - Fuel Cell cars most likely to take off in China first
If ever fuel-cell cars are going to hit the mass market, it's going to happen first in China and expand globally from there. From my point of view, that's a simple fact of life. An article in the Boston Globe talks about a recent deal between Shanghai Fuel Cell Powertrain Co. and Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems to supply fuel-cell stacks for a 100-car demonstration fleet owned by the Shanghai Municipal Government. "The Shanghai government hopes to have its 100 fuel-cell cars operating by the end of 2007. Those models mark the first phase of the plan to put 1,000 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on Shanghai's roads by 2010, with 10,000 operating by 2012," according to the article. "That kind of aggressiveness in the development and deployment of hydrogen fuel-cell cars and trucks could make China a world leader in hydrogen fuel-cell technology, Ballard officials said."

07/28/06 - Can 'Small-Mart' Replace Wal-Mart?
What would the world be like without Wal-Mart? It's not a simple answer. For those who love the $312-billion-a-year behemoth retailer, the answer will likely touch on the 1.8 million jobs it provides as well as the company's low prices, which make life's necessities and luxuries more accessible to those with limited incomes (a large part of Wal-Mart's 176 million weekly customers). For Wal-Mart haters, the answer will likely refer to the "externalities" of those low prices -- the environmental degradation caused by sourcing cheap goods, the public services (food stamps, welfare) required by low-paid employees unable to make ends meet, and the poor labor conditions under which many of its suppliers' products are made -- that aren't covered by the prices of goods sold in the stores. Love it or hate it, a world without Wal-Mart would be a different place. But what would replace it? Small-Mart, perhaps? That, at least, is the foundation of Michael Shuman's new book, The Small-Mart Revolution. "Small-Mart" refers to locally owned businesses that are, in aggregate, more reliable generators of good jobs, economic growth, tax dollars, community wealth, charitable contributions, social stability, and political participation, according to Shuman.

07/28/06 - Corn plastic may not be as green as you might think
..PLA is said to decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a “controlled composting environment” in fewer than 90 days. What’s a controlled composting environment? Not your backyard bin, pit or tumbling barrel. It’s a large facility where compost-essentially, plant scraps being digested by microbes into fertilizer-reaches 140 degrees for ten consecutive days. So, yes, as PLA advocates say, corn plastic is “biodegradable.” But in reality very few consumers have access to the sort of composting facilities that can make that happen. (PLA manufacturer) NatureWorks has identified 113 such facilities nationwide-some handle industrial food-processing waste or yard trimmings, others are college or prison operations-but only about a quarter of them accept residential foodscraps collected by municipalities... Wild Oats accepts used PLA containers in half of its 80 stores. “We mix the PLA with produce and scraps from our juice bars and deliver it to an industrial composting facility,” says the company’s Tuitele. But at the Wild Oats stores that don’t take back PLA, customers are on their own, and they can’t be blamed if they feel deceived by PLA containers stamped “compostable.” (The president of compost research lab Woods End, Will) Brinton, who has done extensive testing of PLA, says such containers are “unchanged” after six months in a home composting operation. For that reason, he considers the Wild Oats stamp, and their in-store signage touting PLA’s compostability, to be false advertising.

07/28/06 - Write on Water
A circular tank developed by Mitsui Engineering in Japan called AMOEBA (Advanced Multiple Organized Experimental Basin), allows users to "write" letters on "stationary waves" of water. This remarkable display device consists of fifty water-wave generators surrounding a cylindrical tank 5 feet wide and a foot deep. The wave generators move vertically to produce cylindrical waves. These "pixels" are about 4 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches in height; these form lines and shapes. The AMOEBA device can form all of the roman alphabet, as well as some kanji characters. It takes about 15 seconds to produce each character, according to, and the wave generator's maker will sell units to amusement parks in a science-entertainmnet package that combines sound, lighting, and water fountains.

07/28/06 - Printkey direct to printer
PrintKey allows you to execute the Print Screen command with just one push of a button. Ordinarily, if you hit the Print Screen button, your images will go to a graphics program (and not instantly to the printer). PrintKey does away with all that, effectively cutting out the middleman. You can also do some very bare-bones editing, including a grayscale function, image rotation, size change, and a bit of color scheme tweaking. PrintKey is a free download, Windows only. (via

07/28/06 - Hydrogen powered Scooter
A hydrogen-powered scooter has been created as a working prototype by a student at Delft University of Technology. It currently runs on a lithium ion battery, due to permitting regulations surrounding the development of hydrogen-powered engines, but the design is ready to roll following the unsnarling of permitting processes. According to the press release: The scooter has an electric in-wheel motor that derives its power from a (Li-)ion battery. This battery (primarily when the scooter is stationary) is charged by a compact fuel-cell system, which derives its energy from hydrogen (from a tank) and oxygen (from the air). The battery moreover stores up energy when the scooter brakes...Apart from being environmentally friendly, the Fhybrid performs better than regular petrol powered scooters during test drives. The Fhybrid has a top speed of 65 km/ph, accelerates faster than regular scooters and can travel approximately 200 km on a full tank of hydrogen.

07/27/06 - Electricity to accelerate healing
IT MAY sound like something out of Frankenstein, but electric currents applied to the skin could potentially speed up wound healing. Ironically, though the phenomenon was reported 150 years ago by the German physiologist Emil Du Bois-Reymond, it has been ignored ever since. Now Josef Penninger of the Austrian Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna and Min Zhao of the University of Aberdeen, UK, have demonstrated that natural electric fields and currents in tissue play a vital role in orchestrating the wound-healing process by attracting repair cells to damaged areas. Cells and tissues essentially function as chemical batteries, with positively charged potassium ions and negatively charged chloride ions flowing across membranes. This creates electric field patterns all over the body. When tissue is wounded this disrupts the battery, effectively short-circuiting it. Penninger and his colleagues realised that it is the resulting altered fields that attract and guide repair cells to the damaged area. The researchers grew layers of mouse cells and larger tissues, such as corneas, in the lab. After "wounding" these tissues, they applied varying electric fields to them, and found they could accelerate or completely halt the healing process depending on the orientation and strength of the field (Nature, vol 442, p 457). "For many years there have been anecdotal reports of the effects of electrical currents on wound healing," he says. "This paper not only demonstrates the effects of electrical currents on cellular migration to wound defects, it also provides a mechanistic understanding of how such signals alter cell behaviour."

07/27/06 - Spaceport to be built in Texas
The 2200 residents of Van Horn, Texas, US, seem to be embracing the idea of having a spaceport in their backyard. Blue Origin, a company headed by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, has applied to build a launch site for its planned New Shepard space rocket about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Van Horn. A prototype of the rocket could make up to 10 suborbital test flights in 2006. And the rocket - which would take off and land vertically - could be ready to take passengers to the edge of space and back by as early as 2010. The region already sees a fair amount of tourists who visit the nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Big Bend National Park. But a spaceport could bring even more tourists - and their dollars - to the area. The assessment shows that at least three tourists could fly on the rocket, which would consist of a propulsion module with a crew capsule on top. Tourists would experience a flight lasting nearly 10 minutes. The rocket would fire its engines for two minutes, then coast to an altitude of 99,060 metres. Should something go wrong during launch, the crew capsule could detach from the propulsion module and parachute back to Earth. But if the launch was successful, the rocket would then fall back to Earth. It would restart its engines at an altitude of several hundred metres, when it was less than 15 seconds from landing. The company aims to have its rocket make a precision, vertical landing on a concrete pad 6.1 kilometres (3.8 miles) away from the launch pad. It also says it could make about one suborbital launch per week depending on market demand.

07/27/06 - Claim of solution to Bessler's self-running wheel (again not built)
(Thanks to Jean-Paul Pilard for this interesting link. - JWD) (Systran translation- the problem of Bessler is very simple. It made without the knowledge, the first heat pump, the first movement hot air, and the noisiest metronome. The dissymmetry of the wheel rests on the fact that the time of relaxation is longer than the time of compression. It was the first converter of ambient heat in autonomous mechanical energy. At its time, it could not understand, Newton reigned as an absolute Master. Himself thought of controlling gravity. Everyone broke out during century to dig but at the bad place. The unit was composed of 6 or 8 tubes acted in pairs according to the models. The tubes were composed of a mass dimensioned, other a closed tube, in which a ball was locked up. The tube swivelled on itself in the first dial high left or right, according to the direction of rotation. The fixed mass being heavier than the ball, this one actuated the tube during a complete rotation. The combined movement of the wheel and the tube which swivels on itself, led to have a time of expenssion longer than the time of compression. Thus when the tube with finished its revolution and that it is blocked by a hook, the ball did not fall down yet at the bottom of the tube. This resulted in having one moment of force higher than the image of the tube acted in pairs. This imbalance involves the wheel, until a new tube takes the relay. Today it is of course possible to create power stations, using ambient energy, much more powerful and especially less noisy.

07/27/06 - Who killed my electric car?
I drive an electric car. Not a hybrid -- a gasoline-powered car that gets some help from an electric motor -- but a full electric vehicle. I plug it in at night and can drive 100 miles the next day and go faster than 80 mph on the highway. So don't think "golf cart"; these cars have power and pick-up. While you won't see many electric cars on the road, they've been around longer than you might think.My current electric vehicle, a Toyota RAV4 EV, also was discontinued a few years ago. This car costs me the equivalent of 60 cents a gallon to run. I never need to get a tune-up, change spark plugs or add water to the batteries or oil to the motor. The only maintenance for the first 150,000 miles is to rotate my tires. This car is quiet, fast and emission free. I plug it in every night at home, and it charges on off-peak energy. Even if it were getting power solely from electricity derived from coal -- a common criticism of electric cars -- my vehicle uses 50 percent less carbon dioxide than a 24 mpg gas car (for a summary of more than 30 studies on the emissions of electric cars, hybrids and plug in hybrids, go to When I have to get new batteries, which I expect I'll will be when my car is 10 years old, the old ones will be over 90 percent recyclable. The concern I hear most often about electric vehicles is their range. Well, at 100 miles per charge, my electric vehicle fulfills 98 percent of my driving needs, and I live in a city where everything seems to be 40 minutes away.

07/27/06 - Tesla fact as Fiction?
In 1905 physics genius Nikola Tesla submitted his US patent 787,412 which describes “The Art of Transmitting Electrical Energy Through the Natural Mediums”, and includes a design for a series of worldwide generators. It is beyond doubt this patent led to the construction of the “Omega” network of radio transmitters erected around the world between 1963 and 1982, officially for the purpose of global navigation, though navigation is the least important function of the Omega network. Tesla was eloquently misleading in some of his patents and this is probably the ultimate example. Although until recently Omega did offer very-low-frequency navigational services they were only a secondary function: a “security cover” for the network’s real purpose of subtly manipulating the resonant frequency of the earth itself, and the resonant frequency of the earth-to-ionospheric gap. Anyone able to manipulate resonant frequencies between five and fifteen cycles per second, to three decimal places of accuracy, can influence every dynamic electromagnetic activity on the face of the earth and beyond, including global weather patterns, human thought and thus human behaviour. Put simply, Omega is the most powerful integrated global strike and C3i (Command, Control, Communications intelligence) network ever constructed. "... three requirements are essential to the establishment of the resonating condition... The earth's diameter passing through the pole should be an odd multiple of the quarter wave length - that is, of the ratio between the velocity of light, and four times the frequency of the currents... the frequency [of the transmitter] should be smaller than twenty thousand cycles per second ... "The most essential requirement is that irrespective of frequency the wave or wave-train should continue for a certain period of time, which I have estimated to be not less than one-twelfth or probably 0.08484 of a second and which is taken in passing to and returning from the region diametrically opposite the pole over the earth's surface with a mean velocity of about 471,240 kilometres per second [292,822 miles per second, a velocity equal to one and a half times the "official" speed of light]."

07/27/06 - Genesis and the future space hotel
Only a few space tourists will be content with a short ride into orbit followed by a uncomfortable stay inside a cramped spaceplane or capsule. They will want at least a semblance of the kinds of comforts available on the cheapest package vacation. Therefore the “space hotel” is the minimum system needed to give the industry a chance to grow beyond just a limited number of hardy adventurers. A space hotel will be the one place where tourists will be able to relax and enjoy themselves without suffering from the embarrassments and claustrophobia that are inevitable when someone with minimal training flies into orbit in a capsule or small vehicle. Aside from the thrill of just being there, the main attraction for most people will be looking down at the fantastic spectacle of our ever-changing planet. This means that any space hotel will have to have a number of fairly large windows. Yet, as spacecraft designers have discovered, windows are a vulnerable point. Last year, for example, there was a problem with one of the windows on the International Space Station. In order to make sure that their future space hotels’ windows will not be a constant source of problems, Bigelow Aerospace decided that they would incorporate windows into their test module right from the start. Even though the thickness of the module’s skin is less than half of the skin of a full scale space hotel, putting a window into it is a good way of gaining experience and insuring that the design, especially the seals, are genuinely spaceworthy. The Genesis designers installed a camera on the inside that does nothing but monitor the window. Instruments on board include dosimeters, microphones, and interior cameras that will, on future missions, record the weightless antics of items that the public will be send up via Bigelow’s “Fly Your Stuff” program. It will be interesting to see if this catches on; in any case, it’s an indication that the company is looking to generate some cash flow even before it has its first paying hotel guest.

07/27/06 - Memory chip threat to hard discs
Hailed as "the most significant memory invention of the decade", magnetoresistive random-access memory or Mram could one day overthrow hard discs and flash memory. What would be lovely is a type of memory which is both fast to write, and non-volatile. So, along comes something called magnetoresistive random access memory or Mram. Put simply, Mram stores data magnetically, in the same way a hard drive does. This makes it non-volatile. It is also very quick, and does not wear out over time. So it seems to have the advantages of both RAM and flash, with none of the disadvantages.

07/27/06 - Oil: We're addicted
A century ago, petroleum - what we call oil - was just an obscure commodity; today it is almost as vital to human existence as water. Oil transports us, powers our machines, warms us and lights us. It clothes us, wraps our food and encases our computers. It gives us medicines, cosmetics, CDs and car tyres. Even those things that are not made from oil are often made with oil, with the energy it gives. Life without oil, in fact, would be so different that it is frightening to contemplate. We are addicted, and it is no comfortable addiction. Like other drugs, oil comes with a baggage of greed, crime and filth. Worse, it is smothering the planet. The recent increase in the oil price will, in itself, make available extra oil. That happens from both directions. The higher price will make it worth recovering parcels of orphaned oil from, say, old and depleted fields in the North Sea, which were too expensive to extract when the price was $20 a barrel. Higher prices also cause involuntary conservation as people choose to use less fuel or businesses move into less energy-intensive industries. The oil shock of the 1970s reduced demand and brought on extra supply with the result that the price fell to $10 in 1986. It is possible that some mechanism will be discovered to break the link between energy use and prosperity. It is also possible that the most desperate oil addicts, like ordinary junkies, will take to thieving. In embracing petroleum so comprehensively in the 20th century, humanity confounded freedom with mobility and may end up without either.

07/27/06 - What’s the value of space?
One of the long-running challenges faced by proponents of space exploration has been finding compelling reasons to sell such efforts-particularly big-ticket government programs-to the general public. This is a challenge in large part because, at least in the United States, there are few coherent attitudes about space. The prevailing attitude, though, might best be classified as apathy: most people pay little attention to space on a day-to-day basis-and have little reason to do so. “I still don’t see the value in it,” one person said. “What is our true goal?” asked another. “What is the purpose of exploring new worlds?” asked a third person. The most successful commercial space applications, like direct-to-home TV and satellite radio, have been successful not because they’re space-based, but because they provide a service that is better and/or less expensive than competing options. While these companies may occasionally use space imagery in their advertising (usually in the form of a satellite in orbit), that’s not the message that wins over consumers. People sign up for DirectTV because they can get a better deal than from their cable company. “By and large, the public is disconnected from everything in their lives that is brought to them by space,” said Brett Alexander, vice president of government affairs for Transformational Space Corporation (t/Space). “Their use of ATMs, the credit card at the gas station, the weather service, GPS, all of those things, don’t say ‘space’ to them, nor do I think they should say ‘space’.” He noted that the value provided by space is like the value provided by the Internet: people don’t care how they get Internet access so long as it works and allows them to do what they want online. The public, Alexander added, identifies space primarily with human spaceflight programs, and secondarily with robotic science missions.

07/26/06 - Electromagnetic space travel for bugs?
(Could this technique be scaled up for space transport? - JWD) Life on planets such as Earth or Mars could have been seeded by electrically charged microbes from space, suggests a new study. Tom Dehel calculated the effect of electric fields at various levels in the atmosphere on a bacterium that was carrying an electric charge. He showed that such bacteria could easily be ejected from the Earth's gravitational field by the same kind of electromagnetic fields that generate auroras. And these fields occur every day, unlike the extraordinarily large surface impacts needed to eject interplanetary meteorites. Charged microbes could also be propelled outwards from a planet at high speed by “magnetospheric plasmoids” - independent structures of plasma and magnetic fields that can be swept away from the Earth’s magnetosphere. Hitching rides on these structures could accelerate microbes to speeds capable of taking them out of the solar system and on to the planets of other stars.

07/26/06 - Underpaid, overworked and ageing faster
AS if being bottom of the social pile isn't bad enough, it now seems that it also makes the body's cells age prematurely. People from lower socio-economic groups are more likely to die earlier than people in non-manual jobs from heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Unhealthy habits such as lack of exercise, excess weight, smoking and poor diet account for around a third of these deaths. Now, a study on white blood cells from 1552 female twins suggests that cells from women with more menial jobs age faster, even after taking these factors into account. On average, their cells were seven years "older" than those from women of the same chronological age with non-manual jobs. To estimate cell ageing, Tim Spector of St Thomas' Hospital in London and his colleagues measured the lengths of telomeres, the repeating DNA motifs that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres grow shorter each time a cell divides, so the shorter the telomeres in a cell, the more times it has divided, and the more stress it is likely to have been under. They found that telomeres were on average 140 DNA base pairs shorter in manual workers than in non-manual workers of the same age. Since around 20 base pairs of telomere DNA are lost on average each year, this makes the cells from the manual workers about seven years older. "The greater psychological stress of being in a low social class, with more people above you in the food chain and less control over your life, is the unseen hand that might mean more stress at cellular level," he says. "Oxidative stress does make telomeres shorten." He expects to see the same effect in men.

07/26/06 - There's a change in rain around desert cities
Urban areas with high concentrations of buildings, roads and other artificial surface soak up heat, lead to warmer surrounding temperatures, and create "urban heat-islands." This increased heat may promote rising air and alter the weather around cities. Human activities such as land use, additional aerosols and irrigation in these arid urban environments also affect the entire water cycle as well. Although the urban heat-island effect has been known to affect large cities such as Atlanta and Houston, effects on arid cities such as Phoenix, Ariz. and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia were relatively unknown. These cities both experienced explosive population growth. "We think that human activities, such as changing the landscape, can affect the flow of the winds associated with the U.S. southwest's monsoon and rising air and building storms on the east side of mountains," said Shepherd. The weather in Phoenix, in fact, is affected by both, and that can change where the rains fall. Cities in arid areas or desert cities have shown great growth only in the last 30-50 years because of new methods of irrigation and ways to obtain water for daily use. Cities tend to be one to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (.56 to 5.6 Celsius) warmer than surrounding areas. Shepherd had access to a unique 108-year-old data record for Phoenix, and for the first time confirmed a significant change in rainfall took place in certain areas of the city from the late 1890s to the present. Understanding rainfall changes in arid cities is very important. One United Nations estimate projects that 60 to 70 percent of all people will live in cities by 2025, and many of the fastest-growing areas for city growth are in arid areas. "The results showed us just how sensitive the water cycle can be to human-induced changes, even under arid or drought conditions," Shepherd said. These findings have real implications for water resource management, agricultural efficiency and urban planning.

07/26/06 - Heat may be key to cancer therapy
Researchers believe they have found out why so many men with testicular cancer survive against the odds. Experts at John Hopkins University say the cells are super-sensitive to body heat making them more vulnerable. And heat therapy may be used to combat other cancers they write in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The testes are a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body as sperm are sensitive to heat and tend to die when they are placed at the normal body temperature of 37C. Several pieces of evidence suggest that testicular cancer cells may also have this sensitivity to heat, making them more amenable to treatment, a phenomenon they term the 'Lance Armstrong effect'. So, when the cells spread to other areas of the body, they may be weakened by higher temperatures, becoming more susceptible to chemotherapy or radiotherapy than other types of cancer. Professor Getzenberg said heat, or hyperthermia, is a very old form of cancer therapy but in order to make it a successful it needs to be targeted specifically at cancer cells. "Some groups are doing localised heating of tumours but the real advance would be to move this into people with systemic disease. These are not big golf ball size tumours they're small tumours that you can't really see."

07/26/06 - Ethanol's Promise Isn't False
The July 2 op-ed by James Jordan and James Powell, "The False Hope of Biofuels," painted a bleak portrait of the potential for corn-based ethanol as a long-term solution for meeting our future transportation fuel needs. But although their piece contained various statistics and metrics that appeared to be credible, the article overlooked other important factors that contribute to ethanol's chances of becoming a viable, long-term alternative fuel solution. Although production costs are commonly used to determine ethanol's benefits, those figures can be misleading in long-term forecasts because technological advances will continue to increase the efficiency of converting feedstock materials into ethanol, contributing to lower production costs. Further, while corn and corn stover are two of many different types of feedstocks used to produce ethanol, converting them into fuel is comparatively inefficient and costly. Cellulosic ethanol, however, can be made from a greater variety of feedstocks -- virtually any plant matter or municipal waste -- and its production is highly efficient and cost-effective. Studies have shown that costs associated with the entire production chain and use of cellulosic ethanol can be equal to, or even less than, that of gasoline. The notion of biofuel crop farms encroaching on farmlands used to grow food is an aging argument that has become less of a concern. Ethanol feedstocks such as switchgrass can be planted and harvested very quickly, yielding numerous crop cycles each year and thus greatly reducing the amount of land needed for growth. Many biofuel advocates and agriculture analysts believe the farming of biofuel crops will invigorate and benefit farmers in Midwestern states, as well as contribute to the sustainable development of some of the poorest countries in the world if they choose to farm ethanol feedstocks. Ethanol is in a prime position to become the alternative fuel of choice for transportation.

07/26/06 - Hydrogen Farms promise limitless power
PLANS are under way to grow the fuel of the future in "hydrogen farms" in Wales. With the world starting to panic over rocketing temperatures and oil prices, hydrogen has a simple, seductive appeal. Hydrogen promises limitless energy with no pollution, drinkable water being the only emission from its use. But the barrier to a hydrogen economy is production because, to release hydrogen from water, an electric charge is necessary and most electricity is produced by fossil fuels. But now the Carmarthenshire Energy Agency is embarking on a joint project with Ireland to produce hydrogen from trees in a series of farms in West Wales. The Wales and Ireland Rural Hydrogen Energy Project aims to release hydrogen contained in fast-growing willow trees. Hydrogen from renewable resources like trees can be obtained by the use of microbes to break down the willow into methane and hydrogen gas. Or, alternatively, willow can be used to fuel electricity to produce hydrogen, the growing crops "paying back" the atmosphere for any carbon dioxide produced in electricity production. Another possibility includes the use of solar power to release hydrogen into its useful molecular form as a gas. "The Hydrogen Farm concept was identified as part of the Objective One-funded 'Hydrogen Wales' project and it provides an ideal route for the development of research performed in Wales into technologies which can provide social and economic benefit to rural areas. "It will also address national and international issues such as security of energy supply and global climate change." The hydrogen would power cars and other vehicles through the use of fuel cells.

07/26/06 - Growing plants upside down
Having just spent several weeks fashioning - and fixing, and re-fixing - a homemade trellis for my tomato garden, the Topsy Turvy upside down tomato planter absolutely blew my mind. TIME magazine named it as one of the best inventions of 2005: No longer will you have to cage, stake or weed your tomato plants or battle cutworms and other ruinous critters to put fresh tomatoes on the table. The Topsy-Turvy planter allows you to grow beefsteaks, cherries or any other variety upside down on your balcony or deck. Simply fill the bag with potting soil, add a young seedling--almost any vine-growing fruit or vegetable will do--and let the leafy part hang out. No longer will you have to cage, stake or weed your tomato plants or battle cutworms and other ruinous critters to put fresh tomatoes on the table. The Topsy-Turvy planter allows you to grow beefsteaks, cherries or any other variety upside down on your balcony or deck. Simply fill the bag with potting soil, add a young seedling--almost any vine-growing fruit or vegetable will do--and let the leafy part hang out. At under 20 bucks... (via

07/25/06 - State Offers Incentive for Home Solar-Power Units
Solar pioneers who have been feeding electricity into the Northwest power grid have until July 31 to apply for retroactive incentives under the state's newest alternative-energy law. The law provides a payment of 15 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity that backyard producers have sent into the grid. "People will get their money," he said, "but only if they know to apply for it, and then apply for it now." By comparison, Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light charge about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour as a basic rate, then boost the rate to about 8 cents per kilowatt-hour. Under the new program, utility companies will take a tax credit for the money they pay to small electrical producers. The new program also will allow those who adopt alternative-energy systems for their roofs and backyards to justify their investments sooner than before. Until now, a $20,000 photovoltaic system needed several decades to realize a "payback" date. Beginning Aug. 1, backyard producers of the future will be able to earn kilowatt-hour money if they install equipment manufactured in this state. To help that along, the new law offers tax incentives to manufacturers. Already on the state's books are laws forgiving the state sales tax on the purchase and installation of alternative-energy equipment and a law that requires "net metering" of independently produced energy. "Net metering" is when energy produced on one's roof spins the meter backward. "Money talks," Poulsen said. "When people try to decide whether or not to install a system in their home, these payments should make a difference. They are the most progressive renewable incentives ever passed in America and the model that made Japan and Germany the world's leaders in renewable energy."

07/25/06 - Lithium coated Fullerene to hold more hydrogen
“We need an energy source that is abundant, cost effective and renewable, burns clean and does not pollute,” he said. “Today, approximately 75 percent of the oil currently available is used for transportation alone. Any solution to the energy crisis has to take into account the amount of energy we spend on transportation.” Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and considered an ideal energy carrier. When hydrogen burns, it produces only water and thus, does not pollute the atmosphere. For this reason, it is considered an ideal alternative when discussing theoretical alternatives to fossil fuels. In the Journal of the American Chemical Society, published online July 6, Jena and his team describe the theoretical composition of a material - a lithium-coated buckyball - that may have the potential to serve as a storage vessel for hydrogen atoms. A buckyball is a soccer ball-shaped nanoparticle containing 60 carbon atoms. Essentially, the lithium buckyballs absorb the hydrogen, which means that one lithium atom can store five hydrogen molecules. According to Jena, the theoretical buckyball, which was designed using computer modeling, has 12 lithium atoms and can store 60 hydrogen molecules. “The biggest hurdle in a hydrogen economy is to find materials to store hydrogen,” Jena said. “The storage materials in question need to have the ability to store hydrogen and allow us to take it out, which means the system must be reversible and operate under moderate temperatures and pressures.”

07/25/06 - Claim of free energy 'patent'
What has been described as "The missing Tesla Patent" has been posted on the web site. The Fluxite patent has not been filed with any patent office. In general it describes a method and apparatus that wobbles a high strength magnetic field using low voltage Tesla Coils. According to the inventor, a person that has numerous core patent applications both granted and pending, "the United States Patent Office rejects all patents applications that claim to produce excess electricity, thus making its allowance impossible anyway."

07/25/06 - Implanting False Memories
Implanting false memories of a bad experience with alcohol could prevent people abusing alcohol later, a Canadian researcher has said. Participants' memories were manipulated by telling them that a computer had generated a personal profile based on a questionnaire about past eating and drinking habits. They were told they had become sick on rum in the past and they were asked to elaborate on that experience. About a quarter of the participants became more confident they had actually been sick on rum. "Between 30 and 40% increased their confidence for the item in comparison to a control group," he says. When asked to rate how much they liked rum they rated it less than before their memories were manipulated.Manipulating memory could also be used to prevent overeating, Bernstein saud. But prior bad experiences don't create an aversion to all foods and drinks, only those with a distinct or unusual flavour.

07/25/06 - Something going on with Bubble Fusion?
"Purdue University launched an investigation last March into the questionable research behavior and actions by Prof. Rusi Taleyarkhan following his controversial claims of achieving bubble fusion. The investigation has completed but the results are being kept secret. The alleged behavior is remeniscent of another tabletop fusion incident from a number of years back. Coincidentally, Purdue University has just secured Federal money to open up a new energy center. A more cynical person than I might suggest that there is a connection between the two."

07/25/06 - 100 Degrees F, get used to it
Britain experienced its hottest July day on record last week and forecasters say more is to come as climate change tightens its grip on the country. Global warming experts claim that by 2050 temperatures will regularly top 40C and warn that our health and infrastructure will be unable to cope.

07/25/06 - China to test its 'artificial sun'
The first plasma discharge from China's experimental advanced superconducting research center -- the so-called "artificial sun" -- is set to occur next month. The discharge, expected about Aug. 15, will be conducted at Science Island in Hefei, in east China's Anhui Province, the Peoples Daily reported Monday. Scientists told the newspaper a successful test will mean the world's first nuclear fusion device of its kind will be ready to go into actual operation, the newspaper said. But Chinese researchers involved in the project say any radiation will cease once the test is completed. The experiment will take place in a structure made of reinforced concrete, with five-foot-thick walls and a three-foot-thick roof.

07/24/06 - Prodigy service in this area of Mexico has been glitchy since Saturday. I don't know what the problem is but it keeps disconnecting on me so this is all I could get on tonight. It's worked fine for 5 years now so just a glitch possibly due to the stormy weather. Will check into it manana at the phone company. - JWD

07/24/06 - Artificial pump replicates the heart's dual-chamber action
(This might be useful for other pump designs. - JWD) A Hawke's Bay man has dazzled the medical world with the first artificial pump to actually replicate the heart's dual-chamber action. The revolutionary device, designed to offer life-saving support to people in end-stage heart failure, could be on the market within 10 years. The bi-ventricular assistance device, or Bi-VAD, has been designed to sit underneath the patient's diaphragm, drawing blood from the left and right ventricles of the diseased heart and pumping it around the body. The pump could transform the outlook for thousands of people around the world who die each year as a result of end-stage heart failure. It would allow them to live relatively normal lives while waiting for a transplant. At present, patients with the condition were treated with drugs, or hooked up to cumbersome machines that pump their blood for them. In some cases, single-ventricular pumps were implanted, but there were drawbacks, Mr Gaddum explained. "At the moment current implantable heart pumps focus heavily on supporting the left ventricle, as this side provides the highest workload, pumping blood to the whole body," he said. The left ventricle was the largest and most muscular chamber of the heart, but implanting a pump that only worked the left side of the heart could cause the right ventricle to fail as it became overworked. "But studies have found a need for right-heart support in a significant number of patients to help maintain blood flow through the lungs after the left-heart alone has suffered from heart attack." Mr Gaddum's pump is unique, featuring two hydraulic pumps which work together, in much the same way as the ventricles of a healthy heart. The BiVad unit would be powered by a single internal battery and two external wireless battery packs.

07/24/06 - DIY Tazer Gloves
(This reminds me of a shocking ring device described in an old Electonics Illustrated article. The user wore rubber soled shoes and was brought to the zapping potential, but anyone he touched with the ring on his finger, via a handshake or flat palm, received a shock. - JWD) From simple everyday parts you can make this glove which has two modes. Mode 1 is a constant output of slightly over 300 v. while Mode 2 takes a few seconds to charge, but gives off a much more painful shock. All that voltage from a simple AA battery. Operation: To get the constant voltage, just turn on the main power switch, the indicator LED should illuminate and a steady supply of voltage will be supplied to the fingers. To charge it flip the other switch and push the button, you should hear the same high pitched charging noise that a disposable camera would make when it is charging. In a few seconds the capacitor should be fully charged and the fingertips will pack quite a punch.

07/24/06 - Lack of sleep saps men's brain power
Sharing your bed could actually make you stupid if you are a man - at least temporarily. Even without having sex, bed sharing disturbs sleep quality, say Gerhard Kloesch and colleagues from the University of Vienna, Austria. The team recruited eight unmarried, childless couples, and used questionnaires and a wrist activity monitor, an "actigraph", to assess sleep patterns after 10 nights together and 10 apart. Men and women fared differently. While men thought they slept better with a partner, and women believed they didn't, actually both sexes had more disturbed sleep, even when they did not have sex. Lack of sleep led to increased stress hormone levels in men, and reduced their ability to perform simple cognitive tests the next day. However, the women apparently slept more deeply when they did sleep, since they claimed to be more refreshed than their sleep time suggested. Their stress levels and mental scores did not suffer to the same extent.

07/24/06 - Near Frictionless Windmills from China
There's been a big splash about newly-invented maglev wind turbines in Worldwatch's blog and Treehugger (for those that read Chinese, the original article was in Xinhua News). No, they won't be levitating off the ground, and no, they won't be frictionless, but they may be significantly more efficient than existing windmills. Here's the scoop, with some technical introduction and details you won't find in the articles others have written about it.

07/24/06 - Science may bring back Neanderthals
RESEARCHERS are planning to reconstruct the genome of Neanderthals, the archaic human species that occupied Europe from 300,000 years ago until 30,000 years ago before being displaced by modern humans. Recovery of the Neanderthal genome, in whole or in part, would be invaluable for reconstructing many events in human prehistory and evolution. It would help address such questions as whether Neanderthals and humans interbred, whether the archaic humans had an articulate form of language, how the Neanderthal brain was constructed, if they had light or dark skin, and how big the Neanderthal population was. One of the most important results that researchers are hoping for is to discover, from a three-way comparison between chimp, human and Neanderthal DNA, which genes have made humans human. If Dr Paabo and 454 Life Sciences succeed in reconstructing the entire Neanderthal genome, it might, in principle, be possible to bring the species back from extinction by inserting the Neanderthal genome into a human egg and having volunteers bear Neanderthal infants. This might be the best way of finding out what each Neanderthal gene does. Scientists are quick to point out the technical and ethical problems in such a venture.

07/23/06 - Big tests for fuel cells coming in 2007
Next year fuel cells could take a significant step forward, according to a CEO of one of the leading manufacturers of the technology. In 2007, the U.S. military will conduct field tests of hybrid power systems, which combine lithium ion batteries and methanol fuel cells, Peng Lim, CEO of MTI Micro Fuel Cells, said during an interview here Tuesday. The hybrid power systems will be squeezed into portable radar and other devices and will be tried out in remote sensors that pick up vibrations, sounds or movement in the field and radio the data back to headquarters. In hybrid systems, the small lithium ion battery provides peak power while the fuel cell recharges the battery or runs the equipment when less power is required to run it. Fuel cells harvest the energy from chemical reactions and then provide that energy (in the form of electrons) to devices. "Fuel cells will be there to refill your tank, and your tank will be lithium ion batteries," Lim said. "We will complement lithium ion. Over the next 10 years we could be a replacement." Overall, fuel cells can provide more power in a limited space of volume than lithium ion batteries, say fuel cell advocates. Lithium ion batteries in the lab can provide 0.4 to 0.5 watt/hours per cubic centimeter and about 0.25 watt/hours per cubic centimeter in everyday products, according to MTI. (A watt/hour is a measure of how much electricity will be produced over an hour.) A cubic centimeter of methanol can provide 1.3 watt/hours. The methanol has to be contained in a fuel cell, of course. Thus, if the fuel cell housing--a plastic and metal device with a membrane that converts methanol into water, carbon dioxide and electrons--is 20 cubic centimeters and it holds 10 cubic centimeters of methanol, the resulting fuel cell will perform as well as 30 cubic centimeters of a lithium ion battery. Manufacturers, though, can get a better ratio between methanol and the actual physical fuel cell itself than that, Lim said, resulting in more energy per cubic centimeter.

07/23/06 - Technical presentation on ethanol fuel
I saw Vinod Khosla give a very similar speech this month. It's technical, but technical solutions are supposed to be technical. Now that I've heard the speech twice, this is actually starting to sound like a rational plan to me. It might, conceivably, actually work. It can't stop us from getting slammed with a series of city-wrecking Katrinas, but it might avert a scenario that's all Katrina, all the time. Choices: 1) Feed mid-east terrorism or mid-west farmers?, 2) Import expensive gasoline or use cheaper ethanol?, 3) Create farm jobs or mid-east oil tycoons?, 4) Fossil fuels or green fuels?, 5) ANWR oil rigs or "prairie grass" fields?, and 6) Gasoline cars or cars with fuel choices?

07/23/06 - the Misyar Contract - Marriage Lite in Saudi Arabia
Khaled and Zeinab are among thousands of people who choose misyar in this ultraconservative Islamic kingdom where contact between unrelated men and women is forbidden and extramarital sex regarded as a grave sin. Misyar also offers an alternative to cash-strapped men who want to avoid lavish weddings but would like a relationship, without incurring the wrath of the morality police. Under misyar, the husband is not financially responsible for his wife, and the marriage often ends in divorce. Misyar is allowed under Sunni Islam and it is legal in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. But it is traditionally frowned upon and the fact that it leaves the wife financially vulnerable has angered many women's activists and intellectuals. "Misyar reduces marriage to sexual intercourse," said Hatoun al-Fassi, a female Saudi historian. "For clerics to allow it is shameful for our religion." In regular marriages in Saudi Arabia, men must pay for expensive ceremonies, huge dowries and a home. If the couple divorce, he must pay alimony and child support. So misyar appeals to men of reduced means, as well as men looking for a flexible arrangement -- the husband can walk away from a misyar and can marry other women without informing his first wife. Wealthy Muslims sometimes contract misyar when on holiday to allow them to have sexual relations without breaching the tenets of their faith. A misyar is often one of the only options for older spinsters, divorcees and widows who often struggle to find husbands in a society where they are stigmatised.

07/23/06 - Gravity Hill pulls the curious to Oak Grove
Joey Harris, a 29-year-old man from Birmingham, tossed a golf ball down Gravity Hill Road. It bounced twice and rolled with the momentum toward Alabama 280. It crawled to a stop. "Look!" said Jim Steadman, a 56-year-old coworker at Aflac Insurance. "Look at that. It is rolling uphill. That is crazy." Sure enough, the ball turned and rolled a few feet before stopping apparently slightly higher uphill. The two were heading back from a business meeting and figured they would do some experimenting on the hill in this tiny Talladega County town that sits just up the road from Sylacauga. The hill is moderately famous among locals and a must-see attraction for any out-of-towner who hears about it. The road appears to rise from its intersection, peak, and then head downhill to a half-dozen or so homes. Randy Sayers, who has lived on the road for three decades, said he regularly sees cars sitting near the intersection at what appears to be the bottom, then shifting into neutral and sliding backward. "It's just an optical illusion," Steadman said. "The old-timers say that it's the minerals, the iron in the soil, that pulls the automobile up the hill." That may seem like an odd assertion, but Oak Grove has a history of moving objects doing the unexpected. For example, the town is the site of the first known incident of an object from space hitting a person. On Nov. 30, 1954, a meteorite crashed through the home of Ann Hodges, who was asleep. It bounced off a radio console and bruised her side. No one's done any official scientific testing -- at least nothing more formal than the golf-ball test. That could ruin a good story.

07/23/06 - Printing Solar Cells for cheap power
Today, the lion's share of solar cells are based on crystalline silicon, which is about three to five times too costly to compete with grid electricity, Zweibel says. Nanosolar's technology involves a thin film of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (CIGS) that absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity. The basic technology has been around for decades, but it has proven difficult to produce it reliably and cheaply. Nanosolar has developed a way to make these cells using a printing technology similar to the kind used to print newspapers, rather than expensive vacuum-based methods.

07/23/06 - Conspiracies deflect responsibility
It’s quite good fun coming up with theories about who REALLY runs the world, who’s just faked their death and is hiding on a desert island, and what’s been put in your food to control your thoughts. But if you take this stuff too seriously, you are probably borderline mentally unwell. I am not simply hurling insults at people who’s views I don’t agree with, but rather making a statement on the probable causes of conspiracy theories. It is no coincidence that people who smoke a lot of marijuana, or take other paranoia-inducing drugs tend to be big followers of conspiracy theories. These people are not clinically insane, or mentally ill, but they are showing symptoms. Conspiracy theorists make headway by recounting circumstantial evidence. As well as making for fun conversation pieces, what believing in conspiracy theories does for those who believe in them is actually quite profound: It hands control of your world to someone else. By believing that the forces that control the world are unknowable and beyond our control, we remove any responsibility for them ourselves. How can we feel like a failure, or gulity over something we have done, when a) it was someone else’s fault, and b) I will never be able to do anything about it, because this person is so powerful that (s)he is untouchable. If you are happy to live in a world that you cannot control, and that buffers you from pillar to post, then please continue to believe in conspiracy theories. However, if you want to take control of your life, and rid yourself of that feeling of impotency you have grown so used to, then start taking some of the painful truths of the world on face value.

07/23/06 - Cheap Ethanol from Biomass
Producing ethanol fuel from biomass is attractive for a number of reasons. At a time of soaring gas prices and worries over the long-term availability of foreign oil, the domestic supply of raw materials for making biofuels appears nearly unlimited. Meanwhile, the amount of carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere annually by burning fossil fuels is projected to rise worldwide from about 24 billion metric tons in 2002 to 33 billion metric tons in 2015. Burning a gallon of ethanol, on the other hand, adds little to the total carbon in the atmosphere, since the carbon dioxide given off in the process is roughly equal to the amount absorbed by the plants used to produce the next gallon. Processing ethanol from cellulose -- wheat and rice straw, switchgrass, paper pulp, agricultural waste products like corn cobs and leaves -- has the potential to squeeze at least twice as much fuel from the same area of land, because so much more biomass is available per acre. Moreover, such an approach would use feedstocks that are otherwise essentially worthless. Converting cellulose to ethanol involves two fundamental steps: breaking the long chains of cellulose molecules into glucose and other sugars, and fermenting those sugars into ethanol.

07/23/06 - Why AV software doesn't work
"ZDNet Australia has a writeup about why AV apps don't work. The reason given is because the malware authors are writing code that will get around the signatures of the application by testing their code on the most popular anti-virus software before release."

07/23/06 - Lockheed Martin designing tiny "maple seed" spy plane
Designed for release from a hover craft, and similar to the propeller-like maple seed, the one-bladed NAV should rotate in flight while a camera on board provides a "stable forward view and transmit images back to a small, hand-held display. The NAV should be equipped with a chemical rocket to power it 1,100 yards, yet it should weigh only 0.07 ounces."

07/22/06 - Blazing fast: infrared barbecues are red hot
When Bill Best began experimenting with radiant heat energy back in the 1950s, he had no idea he would one day change how you and I grill our steaks. The founder of Thermal Engineering Corp. (TEC) of Columbia, S.C., was thinking more of helping auto makers find a faster way to cure the paint on their cars. So in 1961, when he invented a neat technology for generating infrared heat, TEC largely ignored the home market. It was only when the company's patent expired in 2000 that others jumped at the opportunity to apply Best's invention to backyard barbecuing. Infrared grilling is now the fastest growing form of barbecue technology, although it's still confined to the luxury end of the market. One-third of the high-end grills sold today have at least one infrared burner, industry experts say, and they predict that in 10 years 60% of all barbecues will be exclusively infrared. Why the excitement? Because according to the hype, infrared lets you grill a steak in half the time of an ordinary barbecue. Afficionados say you can prepare an entire barbecue- from the moment you turn the switch to the moment you slide the finished meat onto a platter - in 15 minutes or less. So what is infrared cooking anyway? Despite what many people think, it's not radioactivity. It's not even particularly unusual. Infrared is merely one form of electromagnetic energy, much like visible light or radio waves. The infrared energy of the sun warms your skin every day. The infrared energy from glowing charcoal is what cooks food on a traditional barbecue. Infrared barbecues create the same form of energy by using burning gas to heat ceramic burners through thousands of microscopic flame ports. The ceramic burners absorb the heat, then glow and emit infrared energy, which cooks food with the same intense, dry heat that charcoal does. But unlike charcoal barbies, an infrared model heats up in five minutes or less, doesn't add ash to your food and distributes its heat with absolute regularity.

07/22/06 - Energy from the Sea using Thermodynamics
In the tropics, the oceans store an immense amount of energy from the sun. The band of surface water within 10º of the equator basks around at 80º F., while cold regions 3,000 ft. below are around 40º F. [OTEC] uses this thermal gradient, like the hot and cold terminals of a gas turbine, to generate electricity. The essence of the system is the circulation of a fluid such as ammonia or propane. Where it comes near the warm water it is brought to a boil and so expands; where it comes near the cold, it liquefies once again. In the course of its circulation from one place to another, it drives a power-generating turbine. A typical closed-loop system would include two exchangers (evaporator and condenser), a turbine, and a generator. Ship designs and structures used for offshore oil platforms have blazed the trail for the physical platform on which OTEC will be mounted. A general design goal is to isolate the platform as much as possible from the influence of the ocean surface, where the interaction of wind and wave can induce violent platform motions. A leading candidate is a large spar buoy configuration, with most of the platform mass several hundred feet underwater and a relatively small surfacepiercing mast for access; this would also give warning to marine traffic. The OTEC system, with power cabled to shore, is necessarily fixed in place. Both steel and concrete are considered as possible platform construction materials. In the 1990s, 250-kilowatt test facilities in Hawaii's tropical waters demonstrated OTEC's feasibility. For a plant to be commercially viable in the United States, however, it would have to produce between 50 and 100 megawatts. The first step would be a prototype plant of a few megawatts. Ultimately, Vega believes, not only would a commercial-scale OTEC plant be viable, but it could operate at six to eight cents per kilowatt-hour, making it competitive with other renewable energy sources and even with fossil-fuel plants. But for now, the oceans remain untapped.

07/22/06 - Change your XP boot screen
Tech help guy Jake Ludington has a great tutorial on how to customize the bootup screen of your PC if you're sick of looking at the Windows logo. The trickery involves the freeware app BootSkin. Ludington even goes into how to replace the Windows logo with your own image using software called ResourceHacker, and how to mess with the BIOS bootup appearance. Handy way to "rebrand" your computer to your heart's content, though admittedly not a timesaver. (via

07/22/06 - Power Outages highlight the need for Autonomous home power systems
(It becomes ever more obvious that we must do something to get off the grid system by generating our power needs locally, ideally in each home or better yet, in each appliance with a form of 'perpetual battery.' - JWD) St. Louis - Another day of severe storms knocked out electricity for tens of thousands of additional residents, but brought along a cold front that was welcome relief for those waiting for power to be restored. A strong thunderstorm rolled through the region Friday, two days after one of the worst storms in recent memory caused more than 500,000 Ameren Corp. customers to lose power. - No end in sight for NY power blackouts - The damage to a utility's underground network in the borough of Queens is greater than imagined - a twist in the six-day power outage that could mean electricity won't be back until early in the week, the mayor said Saturday. Consolidated Edison CEO Kevin Burke apologized to customers for the inconvenience and attributed the outages to an unprecedented failure of multiple power lines. "It was really a very extraordinary event, something that I've never seen before," Burke said. "I don't know right now what has happened." The problem began with failures on a series of feeder cables, circuits that carry 27,000 volts and power entire neighborhoods, he said. The cables are designed to compensate for failures - if one goes down, others pick up the load. On Monday, 10 feeder cables were out of service. Lower-voltage cables also were damaged, apparently by carrying larger than normal amounts of current, Burke said.

07/22/06 - Getting rid of XP services that slow your system
Web site TechTree has a pretty comprehensive guide to which default services you can do without on a clean install of Windows XP. But what is a service, you ask? Each service in Windows is essentially... an application that stays running in the back doing its job when required. Now each service takes up some memory, which isn't good if your system has a low amount of memory (like 256MB or less). Fortunately, not all of the default services are required by all users, so you can turn some of them off to free up some memory. Each service in Windows is essentially... an application that stays running in the back doing its job when required. Now each service takes up some memory, which isn't good if your system has a low amount of memory (like 256MB or less). Fortunately, not all of the default services are required by all users, so you can turn some of them off to free up some memory. Whether you've got a computer at home that's low on RAM-juice or you just want to streamline your power PC, this guide lets you know all the unnecessary crap you can do without. I'd recommend reading the purpose of each service before disabling every listed item willy-nilly, but you may be able to free up a significant chunk of RAM with the right tweaks.

07/22/06 - Assign a custom icon to your flash drive
If you use multiple thumb drives on a regular basis, the TipMonkies weblog has an easy way to automatically assign a custom icon to each one when it's plugged into your PC. Simply find an .ico file you want to use (favicons from websites work nicely).... name your .ico file autorun.ico and put it in the root of your drive then create a text file called autorun.inf in the root of the drive and put this inside it: [autorun, then icon=autorun.ico - This works especially well for Quicklaunch USB workspaces or for anyone who carries their life on a thumb drive. (via

07/22/06 - Company offers tourists chance to walk in space
A company that blasted the first space tourists into orbit is offering future clients the chance to do a space walk. Space Adventures say the optional excursion will cost $15m (£8m) on top of the $20m cost for the flight. For that, private space explorers will get a 1.5 hour accompanied extra-vehicular-activity (EVA) outside the International Space Station (ISS). The EVA would lengthen a stay on the ISS from 10 days to between 16 and 18 and would require additional training. All flights to the ISS are on board Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Training for the flight takes six months at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia. Private space explorers hoping to complete a spacewalk will also have to undergo an additional 190 hours of training including underwater EVA simulations, spacesuit training and altitude chamber training sessions. Space adventures says the amount of training is less than a typical astronaut. Space walkers will be accompanied by a Russian cosmonaut.

07/22/06 - Judge rules cancer victim must undergo orthodox treatment
A judge ruled Friday that a 16-year-old boy fighting to use alternative treatment for his cancer must report to a hospital by Tuesday and accept treatment that doctors deem necessary, the family's attorney said. The judge also found Starchild Abraham Cherrix's parents were neglectful for allowing him to pursue alternative treatment of a sugar-free, organic diet and herbal supplements supervised by a clinic in Mexico, lawyer John Stepanovich said. After three months of chemotherapy last year made him nauseated and weak, Abraham rejected doctors' recommendations to go through a second round when he learned early this year that his Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes, was active again. A social worker then asked a judge to require the teen to continue conventional treatment. In May, the judge issued a temporary order finding Abraham's parents neglectful and awarding partial custody to the county, with Abraham continuing to live at home with his four siblings.

07/21/06 - Redneck Cookout
(A bit late for July 4th family cookout but look what you can do with aluminum foil and an unbridled imagination! - JWD) The SOLAR DEATH RAY 3000 is a giant dish that focuses the awesome rays of the sun, which can then be harnessed for cooking processed meat products.

07/21/06 - Add nanotubes and stir -- with the right force
(I knew a guy a few years ago who claimed he could apply the output of a Tesla coil that applied various 'frequency' patterns and amplitudes into cooling materials (metal or whatever) which would completely change their properties, so this caught my eye. - JWD) Polymer scientists at NIST have shown how the amount of force applied while mixing carbon nanotube suspensions influences the way the tiny cylinders ultimately disperse and orient themselves, which largely dictates the properties of the resultant materials. NIST researchers have mapped the relationship between stirring force and nanotube arrangement, an advance key to the processing of new nanocomposite materials. Images show the evolution from solid-like nanotube networks (a) to macroscopically shear banded fluids (b) to small isolated nanotube aggregates (c) to individually dispersed and aligned carbon nanotubes (d). The results, published in Physical Review Letters, have implications for researchers and companies developing new, advanced composite materials with carbon nanotubes.

07/21/06 - CGI to bring back or replace real-life actors?
(Remember the superbly prophetic movie 'Looker' where actors were digitally reproduced, then they died in 'accidents' because they could be forever recreated as necessary? - JWD) Dead actors Christopher Reeve and Bruce Lee may be digitally RESURRECTED by Korean Science-Technology Minister Kim Woo-sik, who has been granted some $15.7 million by the Korean government to create life-like digital versions of famous actors that can replace real actors in future movies. The idea is that movies of the future will star totally CGI "actors" that will be indistinguishable from the real thing. Already computer-generated versions of living actors replace their flesh-and-blood counterparts in movies such as "The Matrix" and "Superman Returns."

07/21/06 - All Energy for Europe Could Come from Concentrating Solar Power
"Every year, each square kilometer of desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts worldwide, this is nearly a thousand times the entire current energy consumption of the world." "We can tap in to this energy by using mirrors to concentrate sunlight and create heat. The heat may be used to raise steam and drive a generator in the conventional way. This kind of concentrating solar power (CSP) -- which is very different from the better-known photovoltaic solar panels -- has been producing electricity successfully in California for nearly 20 years," he added. "The cost of collecting solar thermal energy equivalent to one barrel of oil is about US$50 right now (already less than the current world price of oil) and is likely to come down to around US$20 in future. Contrary to what is commonly supposed, it is entirely feasible and cost-effective to transmit solar electricity over long distances," explained Trieb.

07/21/06 - Idaho’s First Hydrogen Plant Open for Business
(I love this hybrid thing of using wind or other forces to generate electricity which in turns makes hydrogen as an option for storing energy to be used as you need it. - JWD) It’s a curious sort of alchemy, really. Regular tap water goes in. Pure hydrogen gas comes out. A new company called Synthetic Energy is staking a claim on what it hopes is a growing market for hydrogen. Its first customer is a Boise-based gas distributor that used to truck its hydrogen all the way from Vancouver, Washington. Hydrogen is still far from being a mass market fuel. For one thing, it takes lots of expensive electricity to produce. So the Ketchum, Idaho-based startup uses wind to get about 25-percent of the electricity it needs to power the process… A key innovation in renewable energy. The company says the future for this lighter-than-air gas is sky high. Demand is likely to grow among semiconductor producers and fuel cell users.

07/21/06 - Efficiency - the 'Un-Coal'
There is a low-tech way to sequester carbon dioxide: don't dig up so much coal and oil in the first place. Princeton University's Carbon Mitigation Initiative concludes that using the most efficient building technologies for commercial and residential buildings could avert as much carbon dioxide as is produced by 800 one-gigawatt coal power plants. Doubling automotive efficiency -- possible with existing technology -- would achieve the same. Do both and you've canceled out the emissions of 1,600 coal power plants -- more than all the coal plants proposed globally today. Clearly, even partial deployment would yield enormous benefits. Only 14 percent of federal tax credits and funding for energy-related activities go to efforts to increase efficiency and reduce consumption, even though the benefits would be the same or better in terms of cost, and the measures would prevent -- rather than add to -- carbon dioxide and other emissions. Consider what's possible with lighting alone. Half of U.S. electricity comes from coal. Two-thirds of U.S. electricity is consumed in commercial and residential buildings. In commercial buildings, 35 percent of electricity goes to lighting (the figure is 20 percent for homes). Selkowitz says that with an aggressive effort, lighting consumption in commercial buildings could readily be cut -- by half -- through better designs, more-efficient light sources, and smart sensor and control systems. That strategy alone, fully deployed, would replace 40 one-gigawatt coal plants. Just three small U.S. Energy Department-funded R&D programs that produced technologies now widely deployed -- electronic ballasts for fluorescent lamps, efficient refrigerator compressors, and low-emissivity (low-E) coatings for windows -- have achieved cumulative energy savings of $30 billion. Despite this lesson -- to say nothing of the climate-change issue -- the White House wants to cut efficiency efforts further.

07/21/06 - Ford Begins Production of V-10 Hydrogen-Fueled Engines
Ford has kicked off production of its dedicated hydrogen-fueled 6.8-liter V-10 engines, making it the first automaker in the world to do so. The engine is based on the same modular engine series that powers many Ford products, but is specially prepared to burn hydrogen as a fuel. The supercharged V-10 engine will power Ford’s E-450 hydrogen fueled shuttle buses. The buses are scheduled to be delivered to fleet customers later this year, first in Florida and then in other locations across North America. The hydrogen V-10 produces 235 hp (175 kW) of power and 310 lb-ft (420 Nm) of torque. Ford is also conducting research into next-generation hydrogen internal combustion engines, including features such as direct injection to enhance power and fuel economy. At the 2006 North American International Auto Show, Ford displayed the Super Chief Concept, which demonstrated Tri-Flex technology, which allows a vehicle to run on hydrogen, E-85 ethanol or gasoline. Ford partner Mazda recently delivered its RX-8 Hydrogen RE to its first two corporate customers. These vehicles, equipped with a rotary engine, feature a dual-fuel system that allows the driver to select either hydrogen or gasoline with the flick of a switch. Additionally, the company also has a fleet of 30 hydrogen-powered Focus fuel cell vehicles on the road as part of a worldwide, seven-city program to conduct real world testing of fuel cell technology. The 30-car fleet has accumulated more than 240,000 miles since its inception.

07/21/06 - Bose Einstein Condensate as a Super sensitive Magnetometer
(Could this be the device in the Frank Scully UFO book that was claimed to allow seeing and counting magnetic field lines? It was called a 'Tenescope' and I've never been able to track it down. - JWD) A group at the University of Heidelberg has used a BEC to measure the minute variations in the magnetic field on a material's surface. When suspended microns above a sample, the BEC distributes itself in such a way that 'the density of atoms in the BEC ... can be converted [directly] into a map of the fields at the sample surface ... The field sensitivity achieved thereby is at the level of magnetic fields of nanotesla strength ... with a spatial resolution of only 3 microns.' While other devices have better field sensitivity or spatial resolution, 'the Heidelberg device has a region of the sensitivity-vs-resolution space all to itself.' With the unprecedented level of sensitivity and resolution provided by this new type of magnetometer, we will be better able to characterize the behavior of surfaces and design better materials."

07/21/06 - Catalytic Method for Oil Shale Recovery for $20/Barrel
With oil prices hovering around $70 a barrel, Israel is looking for ways to reduce its near-total dependence on energy imports. It's pondering the use of the nation's huge reserves of oil shale-a dark, crumbly rock loaded with hydrocarbons-located in the central and southern parts of the country. Thanks to a technical breakthrough, it should be possible to extract fuel oil from the shale for less than $20 a barrel. That could allow Israel eventually to cut its crude imports by up to one-third. Past attempts to extract liquid oil from shale weren't economically feasible: The process cost upwards of $50 per barrel at a time when oil was selling for less than half that. Now, the tables have turned. A Russian-born Israeli immigrant named Moshe Gvirtz developed a technique in the 1990s to squeeze oil from shale by mixing the rock with a residue from conventional oil refining and putting it through a catalytic process. The dramatically improved results, coupled with soaring crude prices, have inverted the economics of oil shale. That could help not just Israel but dozens of other countries, including the U.S., that are rich in shale reserves. How does it work? Older technologies squeezed oil out of shale by putting the crushed rock under enormous pressure at high temperatures. But the process developed by Gvirtz costs far less. The shale is mixed and coated with bitumen, a remnant of normal oil refining, then put through a catalytic converter under relatively low pressure. The output is synthetic oil that can be refined into gasoline and other products.

07/21/06 - Novel nano-etched cavity makes leds 7 times brighter
Researchers at NIST have made semiconductor light-emitting diodes (LEDs) more than seven times brighter by etching nanoscale grooves in a surrounding cavity to guide scattered light in one direction. Semiconductor LEDs are used increasingly in displays and many other applications, in part because they can efficiently produce light across a broad spectrum, from near-infrared to the ultraviolet. However, they typically emit only about two percent of the light in the desired direction: perpendicular to the diode surface. Far more light skims uselessly below the surface of the LED, because of the extreme mismatch in refraction between air and the semiconductor. The NIST nanostructured cavity boosts useful LED emission to about 41 percent and may be cheaper and more effective for some applications than conventional post-processing LED shaping and packaging methods that attempt to redirect light. The novel nanostructure, which may have applications in areas such as in biomedical imaging where LED brightness is crucial, is described in the July 17 issue of Applied Physics Letters.

07/20/06 - Recycling a waste of effort and time?
IN MY SALAD days to be labelled green would mean that you were deemed (dusts off old school thesaurus) gullible, ignorant, immature, inexpert, naive, starry-eyed, unworldly and wet behind the ears. Today many wear the green label with pride, as a sign of grown-up wisdom. this week the first person to be prosecuted for failing to recycle her household rubbish was cleared. Magistrates in Exeter ruled that there was insufficient evidence that Donna Challice, a mother of three, had put rotting food in the green recycling bin intended for cans, paper, plastic and glass. The council complained that they should not have to find “direct evidence of an individual contaminating a recycling bin”, and demanded that the law be changed to make it easier to hand out £1,000 fines for unproven offences, no doubt on recycled paper. This little case puts the bin-lid on the mixture of the absurd and the authoritarian in many green policies. Domestic recycling is a load of rubbish, a messy waste of our most precious resource - time. It is far too small-scale to make any real difference to big issues of waste disposal. The only result of these compulsory recycling policies is to sort people into two imaginary piles - the pious and the polluters. But what seems truly outrageous is the idea that so-called renewables, such as wind power and burning biofuels, could provide enough green energy to meet a fifth of the UK’s rising needs. That would surely not be realistic even if all of Britain’s hills and coastlines were covered with giant wind turbines, and the fields of this green and pleasant land were filled with garish yellow rape that makes it look as if some superhuman graffiti artist has run riot with a spray can. Only the gullible could believe that such eco-illogical ideas are a step forwards. Domestic recycling laws would bring back drudgery that should have been abolished with the invention of the municipal dustbin. Renewable energy means reversing history by spreading out energy production across the country again, instead of concentrating it in efficient power stations. And restricting air travel means trying to return the worldly-wise masses to a state of village idiocy. To see this garbage passed off as the progressive alternative is enough to make some of us feel green with nausea.

07/20/06 - UV reducing Krill food sources in the AntArtic
The ozone layer, 24km above Earth, acts as a shield against ultraviolet radiation. Thinning of ozone over Antarctica allows significantly more UV light to reach the ocean and damage DNA. Two types of UV light are implicated in skin cancers in humans: UVA light is responsible for the deadly skin cancer melanoma, while UVB exposure causes sunburn and less deadly cancers. But UVB is known to create oxidative stress in plants and animals. New Scientist magazine reported yesterday that an analysis of east Antarctic waters had shown that higher levels of UVB light can significantly reduce phytoplankton blooms. These microscopic plant cells at the base of the food chain provide food for zooplankton, tiny marine animals that include shrimp-like crustaceans called krill. Zooplankton, in turn, are eaten by more than 50 species of seabirds and by fish and marine mammals ranging from sardines to whales. "If you have a substantial reduction in the amount of plant material, that's going to have all sorts of knock-on effects for the rest of the food web," said Andrew Davidson, of the Australian Antarctic Division. When ozone levels thinned, letting more UV light through to the sea surface, chlorophyll accumulation fell. This was the first time anyone had tracked changes in chlorophyll levels in the ocean and linked them to ozone levels. Antarctic krill populations have fallen by 80 per cent since the 1970s -- a drop attributed to warmer temperatures.

07/20/06 - Geodesic Domes in the 21st century
According to the Buckminster Fuller Institute, domes are among the most efficient and strongest structures in the world. "Fuller discovered that if a spherical structure was created from triangles, it would have unparalleled strength," the site states. "The sphere uses the 'doing more with less' principle in that it encloses the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area, thus saving on materials and cost….The spherical structure of a dome is one of the most efficient interior atmospheres for human dwellings because air and energy are allowed to circulate without obstruction. This enables heating and cooling to occur naturally." Practically speaking, Deliverance told me, people buy domes because they're sturdy, inexpensive and an efficient use of space. Many of the sales made by the company--it sells frames, covers and kits that can be used by people to build their own dome homes--are to individuals wanting to live in them. Thus, the 16-foot and 30-foot models are very popular. Many companies also want to use the structures for corporate events, she said. Pacific Domes sells and rents a significant number of 44-footers, and the occasional 60-footer. But, Deliverance said, there is no known limit to just how big a geodesic dome can be.

07/20/06 - Fringe Ideas for controlling global warming
In the past few decades, a handful of scientists have come up with big, futuristic ways to fight global warming: Build sunshades in orbit to cool the planet. Tinker with clouds to make them reflect more sunlight back into space. Trick oceans into soaking up more heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Their proposals were relegated to the fringes of climate science. Few journals would publish them. Few government agencies would pay for feasibility studies. Environmentalists and mainstream scientists said the focus should have been on reducing greenhouse gases and preventing global warming in the first place. But now, in a major reversal, some of the world's most prominent scientists say the proposals deserve a serious look because of growing concerns about global warming. The plans and proposed studies are part of a controversial field known as geoengineering, which means rearranging the earth's environment on a large scale to suit human needs and promote habitability. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist, will detail his arguments in favor of geoengineering studies in the August issue of the journal Climatic Change. Roger Angel outlined a plan to put into orbit small lenses that would bend sunlight away from earth - trillions of lenses, he now calculates, each about two feet, or more than a half meter, wide, extraordinarily thin and weighing little more than a butterfly. The laureate, Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, has offered a paper which examines the risks and benefits of trying to cool the planet by injecting sulfur into the stratosphere. Some scientists noted that the earth reflected about 30 percent of incoming sunlight back into space and absorbed the rest. Slight increases of reflectivity, they reasoned, could easily counteract heat-trapping gases, thereby cooling the planet. Broecker of Columbia proposed doing so by lacing the stratosphere with tons of sulfur dioxide, as erupting volcanoes occasionally do. The injections, he calculated in the '80s, would require a fleet of hundreds of jumbo jets and, as a byproduct, would increase acid rain.

07/20/06 - Vibrating Plate to enhance excercise and build strength
A new excercise machine called the Power Plate has been dubbed the 'miracle' machine. The new exercise machine removes the need to actually work out. Manufacturers claim that the vibrating platform offers the same benefits of an hour-long sweaty gym workout in just 15 minutes with the machine burning the calories for you. But the "miracle" machine doesn't come cheap - at £6,995 it costs far more than the average annual gym membership. A smaller version at John Lewis for £2,599 is currently the store's fastest selling fitness product, with one a day being snapped up, despite its princely price tag. And in Harrods, around 20 machines are sold every weekend. The plate works by giving the body muscles a high speed workout, as the vibrations make them contract and relax up to 50 times a second. It may feel like standing on a spin dryer, but celebrities including Jonathan Ross, Colin Montgomerie, Sadie Frost and Donatella Versace are all fans. The machine is also being used by several premiership football teams, including Manchester United and the German team trained with it during the World Cup. Originally developed by Russian scientist Vladimir Nazarov, whole vibration training was used to prevent astronauts' muscles and bones wasting when they were in space. Later, Russian ballet dancers discovered that vibration could aid the healing of their injuries by increasing their muscular strength. Dutch Olympic trainer Guus van der Meer used this research in 1999 to develop the machine for the health and fitness sector. In addition to increasing strength and toning the body, makers boast that it can improve blood flow and reduce cellulite if used for 15 minutes, three times a week. Instead of jogging or power walking, users are instructed to do gentle exercises like squats or stretches on the platform. Suitable for all ages and fitness levels, it is now being made available in gyms across the UK and has been recommended for osteoporosis and arthritis sufferers as it puts no strain on the joints. A spokesman said: "Power Plate offers the benefits of regular exercise - a toned body, better flexibility, improved circulation which helps reduce the appearance of cellulite, increased stamina and improved fitness and well-being."

07/20/06 - GPS dart harpoons and tracks speeding car
Los Angeles, car capital of the country, is notorious for its epic police chases. O.J.-style pursuits may make for exciting TV, but the fatality statistics are sobering: Police chases kill, on average, one Californian every week. Now the Virginia-based company StarChase has proposed a safer way to catch fast- moving crooks-shoot GPS homing devices like darts and stick them to the back of fleeing vehicles. Instead of a frantic pursuit, an officer eases off the chase and lets police headquarters track the suspect by computer. Police can then move in for a calmer arrest. The StarChase system, which the Los Angeles Police Department will test this fall, consists of a laser-guided launcher and a miniaturized GPS tag complete with a radio transmitter and a blob of gummy adhesive. Once stuck to its target, the tag begins transmitting coordinates to a server through an encrypted cellular network. Computers superimpose the GPS data over a map that allows dispatchers to track the vehicle’s every move.

07/20/06 - Experiments versus Deductions
The British scientist, Herbert Dingle, for many years wrote the entry for the Encyclopedia Brittanica on Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity before recanting. Then, in his book, Science at the Crossroads, he related the difficulties he encountered after he realized that Einstein's version of the theory of relativity didn't make sense. He wrote, “The equations [Einstein or Lorentz as the need arose] worked, so the 'experimenters' became convinced that the theory, whatever it was, must be right. The superior minds acknowledged that they did not understand it, but the majority could not rise to that height. Nothing is more powerful in producing the illusion that one understands something that one does not, than constant repetition of the words used to express it, and the lesser minds deceived themselves by supposing that terms like 'dilation of time' had a self-evident meaning, and regarded with contempt those stupid enough to imagine that they required explanation. Anyone who cares to examine the literature from 1920 to the present day, even if he has not had personal experience of the development, can see the gradual growth of dogmatic acceptance of the theory and contempt for its critics, right up to the extreme form exhibited today by those who learnt it from those who learnt it from those who failed to understand it at the beginning.” Mathematics is an indispensable and powerful tool where it has been demonstrated that it applies to a real world experience. However, it is inappropriate and, as Dingle points out, potentially dangerous, to give credence to deductions arising purely from the language of mathematics. The problem is that mathematicians now dominate physics and it is fashionable for them to follow Einstein's example, with fame going to those with the most fantastic notions that defy experience and common sense. So we have the Big Bang, dark matter, black holes, cosmic strings, wormholes in space, time travel, and so on and on. It has driven practically minded students from the subject. There is an old Disney cartoon where the scientist is portrayed with eyes closed, rocking backwards in his chair and sucking on a pipe, which at intervals emits a smoke-cloud of mathematical symbols. Much of modern physics is a smoke-screen of Disneyesque fantasy. Inappropriate mathematical models are routinely used to describe the universe. Yet the physicists hand us the ash from their pipes as if it were gold dust. If only they would use the ashtrays provided.

07/19/06 - Why the Electric Vehicle Died, and More Importantly, Can It Be Revived?
The years between 1898 and 1912 were the high point of electric vehicles in America. Electrics had many advantages over their competitors in the early 1900s. They did not have the vibration, smell, and noise associated with gasoline cars. The electrics did not require gear changing, the most difficult part of driving gasoline cars. There are several reasons why the internal combustion engine won over electric and steam power. The simplistic answer often given is the invention of the electric starter by Charles "Boss" Kettering, which first appeared on the 1912 Cadillac. In reality, it was the advent of the cheap gasoline-powered car, most notably Henry Ford's Model T and the establishment of an infrastructure to keep them running. In the early 1900's, electricity was still a novelty and usually only the wealthy could afford electricity in their homes. It was also expensive compared to gasoline electricity - about 20 cents per kW-hr versus 5 cents for a gallon of gasoline. Electric power plants were not standardized. Some generated DC power as favored by Edison, while others generated AC electricity as advocated by Tesla and Westinghouse. Furthermore, there was no standard DC voltage and yet no standard AC frequency. Also AC to DC rectifiers needed to charge batteries from AC power were still in their infancy and expensive. Much of rural America would not be electrified until the 1930s and even as late as 1945. Unlike gasoline cars that could travel virtually anywhere, electrics were pretty much confined to urban areas. By 1905, gasoline was readily available, albeit still from general stores, carriage shops, smithies and liveries. By 1920, the gasoline pumps could be found throughout the country. Further, limiting the electrics popularity was their high cost, range that did not improve to match that of the gasoline car, and relatively low top speed The range between recharges of only 30-50 miles, and in winter when batteries lost about 40 percent of their capacity. Also the poor roads of the day, frequently no more than cartpaths shared with horse-drawn vehicles, turned to mud fields in bad weather. Electric cars, with their heavy batteries, were at a great disadvantage when they had to pulled out of the mud. Another factor could have been the fact that because advertising for electric cars targeted women, men may have considered them a `woman's car.'"

07/19/06 - Blame Big Business for High Gas Prices
This past week, the average price for a gallon of gasoline rose above $3 for the first time since the brief post-Katrina spike. On cue, politicians, journalists, and liberal agitators are crying "price gouging," and telling us we need federal policy to guide us towards a petroleum-free world. The problem is not corporate "price gouging" and the solution is not new subsidies or regulations. The corporate misbehavior causing high gas prices is what I call "subsidy suckling" and "regulatory robber-baronry." The solution, as Ronald Reagan would tell us, is for government to get out of the way. Ethanol mandates, both new and old (federal oxygenate mandates have been increasing demand for ethanol for years), drive up the price of gasoline. This is bad news for drivers, but good news for ethanol makers. The number one ethanol maker in the U.S. is agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). ADM's former chairman, Dwayne Andreas, was one of the most generous political donors to both parties -- $4 million by some accounts. Adding to the crunch, ADM has recently forecast that there may not be enough ethanol in the U.S. to fulfill the federal mandate. A shortage on a mandatory product is probably the surest formula for sending prices sky-high. So this is real price-gouging: Big businesses have convinced government to require that we use their product. In 1992, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) was considering strict new regulations of refiners. Specifically, the state was considering mandating a new summertime reformulated gasoline (RFG). Although this would clearly add to the cost of its business, refiner Unocal was working with the regulators, suggesting ways to reduce hydrocarbon emissions. Shortly after CARB issued its rules, mandating a method for reducing hydrocarbons, Unocal made a surprise announcement: the company had patented precisely the method the state had mandated. This left other refiners with two options in the summer time: stop selling gasoline into California, or pay Unocal for the right to use their "invention." After a series of lawsuits, the other oil companies, including Exxon, Chevron, and Shell, were forced to pay 5.75 cents per gallon sold to Unocal. The ethanol mandates and clean air rules I describe here are more the rule than the exception. The government regulates an industry in the name of saving the planet, and ends up aiding big business at the expense of consumers, entrepreneurs, workers, and taxpayers.

07/19/06 - Researchers find economical way of producing water purifing material
Zeolit is a kind of spongy material that can absorb hard metals, ions and harmful organic substances. The material has a special structure that has been applied to many important fields including petroleum refineries, oil filtration, health care, and environmental protection. To produce one gram of zeolit, he and his colleagues had to study tonnes of clay. They used organic substances to destroy the old structure of clay and crystallise it into zeolit's structure. Zeolit imported from Thailand and Indonesia, used for treating water in shrimp ponds, usually costs VND5mil per tonne. When zeolit is produced in Vietnam, the price decreases to VND2mil. But the high quality of zeolit produced in Quang Binh is what made it famous. People in the southern province of Ben Tre used to import zeolit to treat dirty water in shrimp ponds, which was killing many shrimp. Hearing about the zeolit from Quang Binh, they tried it and realised how useful it was. As estimated, a production line with 3,000 tonnes of zeolit per year can meet 0.5% of domestic demand, which makes an annual profit of VND5bil. The success of the invention has contributed to using natural resources efficiently, in which cheap material is converted into a valuable product. Another application of zeolit is to be used as an assistant fertiliser to improve soil quality. Normally, plants absorb a maximum 50-60% of fertiliser, while the remainder is swept away or destroyed. Fertiliser additives can be used to make fertiliser more productive. Fertiliser additives also makes soil spongier and wetter. The result helped to allow a 20-40% reduction of fertiliser use, which saves about VND300,000 to 600,000 per hectare. A substance containing zeolit mixed with animal food can improve animal digestion, economise the amount of food they consume, and increase their resistance to disease.

07/19/06 - Growing bones & tissue with electricity
A technique that uses electrical current to engineer human tissue could one day be used in the treatment of bone marrow diseases such as leukaemia. The technology, pioneered at Manchester University, uses electric fields to build up layers of cells to gradually form tissue and the researchers behind the project believe it could lead to the creation of artificial bone marrow in a laboratory. People with bone marrow diseases typically lack fully functioning haematons. Early results have led to the creation of haematon tissue, which is around 200 microns thick. Key to the development has been the use of extremely small custom-built electrodes that are created using a technique known as photolithography. These micro-electrodes - about 30-300 microns in size - are made by etching channels into glass slides in the same way semiconductor devices are etched into silicon. The cells are grown specially in suspension and then put into a buffer solution before being introduced between the electrodes. An electric field is then created between the electrodes by introducing small AC current through them. As the cells collect in different areas between the electrodes researchers have found that they can manipulate the way in which they build up to form tissue. ‘Any cell in the vicinity of the electrodes is attracted towards them as well as in the space between them,’ said Markx. ‘By switching the electric field between the different electrodes and changing it from low to high you can create a number of different effects on the tissue cells. You can play around with the frequency and voltage and build up the cells in different ways.’

07/19/06 - Honda uses ice-chiller to cool workers
Keeping Honda Motor Co.'s facility in this western Ohio village cool during a heat wave without breaking the bank is as simple as freezing water. The Japanese automaker makes ice at night and then melts it during the day to cool the 1 million-square-foot complex of buildings, where vehicles are designed. Honda says the ice-chiller system saves on electricity costs by reducing power use during peak hours, while requiring less water than its old system. Honda's ice pit, which sits under the floor of the power plant that serves the complex, is 20 yards long, about 9 yards wide and about 8 feet deep. A spider's web of white pipes snake through the spotlessly clean power plant, and the only sound is the metallic hum of a condenser. Despite the ice-making system in its bowels, the plant is a comfortable 72 degrees. The ice-making begins about midnight, when two 450-ton chillers - giant metal tanks that look like massive drug capsules - kick on. The chillers cool a salt water solution in the ice pit down to 22 degrees and circulate it through a series of coils. The water begins freezing on the coils and then at the surface. When the process is complete, about eight hours later, a 1-inch-thick sheet of ice has formed on the top of the pit. When workers arrive in the morning at the plant, located about 35 miles northwest of Columbus, the icy solution is used to chill the air that circulates through the buildings, cooling workers and heat-generating computer systems. "What's cool about it is that it's using ice as the coolant as opposed to any sort of Freon," said Elaine Barnes, executive director of the Cleveland Green Building Coalition, referring to the ozone-depleting gas often used in conventional air-conditioning systems. "It is a very clean and environmentally friendly source of air. It's a very efficient system."

07/19/06 - Riptides thrive near man-made structures
Rip tides, or rip currents as they are also called, are channels of surface water -- often very strong -- that flow away from the shore, The Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times reported Tuesday. The National Weather Service said rip currents extend from the shoreline and past the line of breaking waves and can occur at any beach, even without breaking waves. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Assistant Professor Philippe Tissot studied rip currents along the South Texas coast, focusing on the effects of manmade structures such as piers and jetties. "(Manmade structures) create a break in the symmetry of the shoreline," Tissot said. "The breaking of symmetry makes it easier for rip currents to form around manmade structures."

07/19/06 - Video games to lose weight and get in shape
Sweating off pounds and playing video games used to be mutually exclusive. Not anymore. With the invention of games like Dance Dance Revolution, Eye Toy and Yourself Fitness, you now can game and exercise at the same time.To lose weight gaming, you have move consistently for 20 minutes, four to six times a week, Vela said. Many of the video games only last about five or 10 minutes, which burns calories does not produce aerobic benefits. Short games can be used for weight loss if you play them repeatedly. Having a DDR party where people hop on and off the dance mat after short breaks, provides good calories burning exercise - even though it’s not continuous. “It a lot more effective if people do it for 20 minutes straight,” Vela said, although anything that gets us off the couch burns calories and promotes fitness. In August, a new type of DDR will emerge - Dance Factory, where gamers can dance to any CD they pop into their PlayStation2, from cumbia to calypso, rap to reggaeton. The game makes up dance routines to any music. Since Dance Factory participants can choose the music they dance to, they are less likely to get bored. People often quit exercise programs out of boredom, but the wide variety of music and moves might lessen the boredom. Other games, like Yourself Fitness, rely less on dancing and gaming and more on working out. Yourself Fitness uses a virtual personal trainer, Maya, to guide you through a personalized routine. Each workout, which varies in length from 15 minutes to an hour, is different and Maya encourages you throughout the program. Fitness tests monitor progress, and since the workout gets progressively more difficult, each workout presents a challenge. The program offers weight loss, strength training, core and cardiovascular workouts. You can choose the kind of workout and the duration of the exercise you want to do. The program also offers a “Meditation Garden,” where Maya leads you through yoga routines. When you begin Yourself Fitness, Maya asks you to take a fitness test, and then bases your workouts on that test.

07/19/06 - Computer 'reads' & interprets facial expressions
Professor Peter Robinson has developed a "mind-reading" computer that can interpret reactions and feelings by analyzing a person's facial movements. The computer uses a camera to capture people's facial expressions and then applies sophisticated pattern-matching technology to recognize emotions ranging from confusion to concentration. The potential applications go well beyond an interesting experiment. Automakers, online retailers, and teachers are interested in the potential commercial and educational benefits of the mind-reading computer, which could enable the use of more personalized and adaptive products, services, and learning experiences. It could even be a boon to people with autism or Asperger syndrome, by helping them interpret the emotions of others. "The computer is 85% accurate when analyzing data provided by actors," Robinson said while unveiling the computer at the Royal Society in London in early July. At present, the machine is only correct 65% of the time when evaluating the emotions of regular people in real world situations. Robinson and his team plan to improve this figure by creating a database of everyday events that the computer can interpret. The key to the computer's swami-like powers is its ability to identify 24 facial feature movementss-from an raised eyebrow to a furrowed brow-that, when combined, allow it to identify a person's mood.

07/19/06 - 7 pyramids found with new invention
Tens of scientists from different countries explore a place in Sevastopol, where seven ancient pyramids are presumably hidden underground. Archeological dig is underway. Sevastopol researcher Vitaly Gokh found the whereabouts of pyramids with the help of his unique patented invention, which lets to define any substances underground. For several years he has made a search of minerals and water. Detailed analysis of one of the found constructions showed not natural, but artificial character of its creation. “We found extremely strong formation, which includes animal protein, gypsum, liquid glass, gravel. It is a man-caused pyramid, which radiates specific energy in certain periods, “Vitaly Gokh narrated. Ihor Kotelyanets, aid of the head of Sevastopol national university of nuclear energy and industry, together with enthusiasts decided to confirm or refute the discovery. More than 20 commissions, including international ones, have visited the place recently. The majority of scientists consider that underground pyramids of Sevastopol confirm the guess of American scientists about that 65 million years ago an ancient civilization died out because of fall of giant meteorite. - Patent #RU2272305 - METHOD FOR PROSPECTING MINERAL RESOURCES - "method is based on movement of combined transmitter and receiver of electromagnetic radiation along direct axis above area of possible position of mineral resources, selection of electromagnetic radiation frequency equal to resonance frequency of target mineral resources, direction of electromagnetic radiation from transmitter at fixed angle to earth surface. On basis of distance between points of beginning and end of numeric fixing of electromagnetic radiation at a right angle of its direction relatively to earth surface, width of mineral resource deposit is estimated along movement trajectory. On basis of distance from point of beginning of numeric fixing of electromagnetic radiation for direction of radiation at a right angle to earth surface, depth of lower boundary of deposit is estimated. On basis of distance from point of end of numeric fixing of electromagnetic radiation at direction of radiation at an obtuse angle to earth surface to point of beginning of numeric fixing of electromagnetic radiation for direction of radiation at a right angle to earth surface, depth of upper boundary of deposit is estimated." (no diagram shown)

07/18/06 - Plasma bubble Radiation Shield
A bubble of plasma could shield astronauts from radiation during long journeys through space, researchers are suggesting. If the idea proves viable, it means heavy metal protective panels could be replaced by a plasma shield of just a few grams. Thick metal shielding could absorb the rays, but the extra weight that would need to be launched into space might make this an impractical approach. the problem could be solved with just a few grams of hydrogen in the form of a plasma surrounding the spacecraft. NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) recently awarded Slough's team $75,000 to explore the feasibility of the idea. The details still need to be worked out, but the basic approach is clear. A high voltage device on the spacecraft would tear the hydrogen into its constituent protons and electrons. This plasma would then be spewed out into space, creating a cloud around the spacecraft. There would need to be a wire mesh outside the spacecraft and enclosing the plasma cloud. Electricity supplied to the mesh would keep an electrical current running in the plasma cloud and help confined it near the spacecraft. The plasma's magnetic field would be a powerful deflector of cosmic rays, equivalent to aluminium shielding several inches thick, Slough says. The larger the cloud, the better it will deflect cosmic rays. But a larger cloud requires a bigger wire cage to contain it, and would therefore increase the mass of the spacecraft. The researchers are now examining this trade-off to determine the optimum size of the plasma bubble. As a rough estimate, Slough says the cloud might need to be about 100 metres across. At that size, the mesh would have to be stowed for launch and deployed once the craft reached in space. The wire mesh would need to be made of superconducting material and it would need to be able to operate at relatively high temperatures, since it would be heated by sunlight. This sort of superconducting wire is available commercially, Slough says.

07/18/06 - Lubricating Memory
Researchers have helped to smooth the way for memory chips that are 10 to 100 times denser than today's devices, by developing a way to cut down on friction at the nanoscale. Liquid lubricants do not work at the nano scale; as a result, tiny mechanical devices can wear out too fast to be practical. Now physicists at the University of Basel in Switzerland have developed a dry "lubrication" method that uses tiny vibrations to keep parts from wearing out. The method, described in the current issue of Science, could be particularly useful for a new class of memory devices, pioneered by IBM with its Millipede technology, which uses thousands of atomic force microscope tips to physically "write" bits to a surface by making divots in a polymer substrate and later reading them. The "nano lube" could also find uses with tiny rotating mirrors that might serve as optical routers in communications and mechanical switches, replacing transistors in computer processors, so cutting power consumption.

07/18/06 - Designer trees will thrive in cities
Trees have it rough in any modern metropolis. They have to withstand compacted acidic soils, road salt, and low hanging utility wires, to name just a few challenges. Yet nowhere are trees more needed than in cities. Trees improve urban life not only by providing natural beauty and shade but also by taking up carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. They also reduce greenhouse gases and storm-water runoff and cut down on summer energy needs, said Andrew Hillman, the forester for Ithaca, where he oversees 14,000 trees. In an effort to improve the survival chances of urban trees, scientists have developed a cloning technique that allows oaks to develop their own root system rather than having growers painstakingly use the grafting method, which involves propagation by joining plant parts. The new method could develop trees that are easy to establish at nurseries and transplant to cities such as New York.Oaks generally don't root from cuttings. "Smaller-sized trees require less long-term maintenance and do not interfere with power lines. We believe these new, extremely vigorous hybrids have excellent potential as the ultimate street trees and for backyard landscaping." About 200 combinations of oak were started at Cornell. Some of them are now six feet tall. The university is also growing maple clones that were crossed with a shorter, drought-tolerant Chinese variety that can be used in city settings.

07/18/06 - Biodiesel Edges Out Ethanol
University of Minnesota researchers have taken a stand in the long-running debate over whether ethanol from corn requires more fossil fuel energy to produce than it delivers. Their answer? It delivers 25 percent more energy than is used (mostly fossil fuel) in producing it, though much of that 25 percent energy dividend comes from the production of an ethanol byproduct, animal feed. But the net energy gain is much higher -- 93 percent -- from biodiesel fuel derived from soybeans. And alternative crops such as switchgrass or mixed prairie grasses, which can grow on marginal land with minimal input of fossil fuel derived fertilizers and pesticides, offer the best hope for the future, according to the researchers. A major challenge is getting enough feedstock for the biofuels. Already, 14.3 percent of corn grown in the United States is converted to ethanol, replacing just 1.72 percent of gasoline usage. Even if all the remaining corn were converted to ethanol, the total ethanol would only offset 12 percent of gasoline. The entire soybean crop would replace a much smaller proportion of transportation fuels -- only 6 percent of current diesel usage, which itself amounts to a tiny fraction of gasoline usage.

07/18/06 - LRAD - focused high intensity sound
LRAD, or Long-Range Acoustic Device, [was designed] for military use as a hailing and warning device, Putnam said. The disk-shaped transmitter can emit an ear-splitting warning noise akin to a fire alarm as well as jackhammer-like pulses that can travel nearly two-thirds of a mile. At the limit of its range, the sound produced by the LRAD, is roughly 95 decibels - equivalent to standing a few feet away from a speeding subway train or chain saw.

07/18/06 - Virtual Reality test for Telepathy
Dr Toby Howard said: "This system has been designed to overcome the many pitfalls evident in previous studies which could easily be manipulated by participants to produce an effect which looks like telepathy but is not. "By creating a virtual environment we are creating a completely objective environment which makes it impossible for participants to leave signals or even unconscious clues as to which object they have chosen."

07/18/06 - Super Bright light to study micro structures
New Year 2007 will see the arrival of a light brighter than anything in the known universe at a field in Oxfordshire, southern England. But this is no Spielbergesque alien visitation. A GBP250m machine will be switched on, which is designed to help scientists peer in more detail than ever before at the fine structure of cells. The Diamond synchrotron's predecessor had a hand in everything from designing the anti-cancer drug Herceptin to improving chocolate manufacture and working out whether Beethoven was poisoned. But because Diamond is a million times brighter it will allow scientists to look at tiny structure in much more detail. Diamond is a particle accelerator, which boosts packets of 10m electrons to close to the speed of light and whizzes them round a magnetic ring over half kilometre in circumference. As they spin they give off electro-magnetic radiation such as visible light, x-rays and infra-red radiation. Scientists use these beams of radiation to home in on the details of tiny structures. Dr Josep Sule-Suso, a cancer specialist, plans to use Diamond to study the way lung cancer cells react to drugs. He is using Diamond's predecessor to bombard individual cells with infra-red light and watches how the light they absorb changes. The absorption changes are caused by chemical changes in the cells. "It has huge potential," said Dr Sule-Suso. He envisages being able to screen samples from patients for tumours that have yet to show symptoms or to examine tissue after chemotherapy to check whether the cancer has been destroyed. The great advantage of Diamond is that it will allow researchers to look at the structure of awkward proteins, which span the outer coat of living cells, the membrane. These proteins are often what invaders such as viruses use to enter the cell and understanding how this happens can be vital to designing a vaccine.

07/17/06 - Invention will cut emissions from Power Plants
Mechanical engineer Tony Archer has developed a device to reduce emissions and fuel consumption in power station turbines and has set up a company, Power Generation Technology, to commercialise his invention. Mr Archer, who has more than 30 years' experience in the power and petrochemical sectors, said the Chinese government was also interested in the device for its 10,000 power stations, a contract he estimates would be worth £45bn to Power Generation Technology. He said: "I actually hope we deal with smaller contracts before that. Although we wouldn't turn it down, we would have to install a much larger supply chain to be able to do it." There are other deals worth at least £200m in the Middle East. Power Generation Technology has signed an agreement with NEL Power, which is delivering power station survey, inspection and servicing provisions. A power station operating eight 200 megawatt gas turbines, fitted with the device - known as Power Plus - could save up to £150m in fuel every year as well as generate extra revenue of up to £80m through increased megawatt production. Mr Archer said: "If every power station in the world had a Power Plus unit then the first massive step in solving global warming would have been taken.

07/17/06 - Twin friction-tricks grease nano-wheels
Two tricks that could eliminate friction on the nanoscale have been revealed by physicists in Canada, Switzerland and the US. One of the techniques involves subtly vibrating nano components to move surfaces apart. The other uses electric charges to reduce friction between contacting surfaces. Efforts to develop nanoscale mechanical machines will prove futile unless the debilitating effects of friction can be overcome on this scale. Lubricants normally used to ease friction inside larger machinery simply do not work at the micro or nano scale. The first method reduced friction between the tip of an atomic force microscope and a flat salt crystal surface by vibrating the silicon tip 56,000 times per second. These vibrations reduced friction 100-fold and also eliminated any noticeable wear on the salt surface. Socoliuc says this could prevent nano-devices from becoming locked together through "stiction", or friction between two static surfaces. The second method was the discovery they could vary friction levels by simply altering the voltages. By making nanomachines from semiconducting components and altering applied voltages, they hope to alter the frictional forces experienced at will.

07/17/06 - Galileo's Gravity Drop Experiment made easy
Legend has it that Galileo dropped two balls with different weights off the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to prove they would land at the same time. So for the past five years, teacher George Cox has been developing what he calls "Galileo's Gravity Drop," a contraption that allows two objects of differing masses to be dropped simultaneously -- something Galileo himself never truly figured out how to do. When he started out as a science teacher 35 years ago, he would drop a shot (used in the shot put) and a softball out of a second-story window. "We had to stop because the custodian was getting after us for putting divots in the ground," he said. He then moved on, and began standing on a step ladder, with two balls on a ruler that he would quickly flip over. That didn't work either, he said. "It was never a clean release," he said. So after many variations and five years of tinkering, Cox finally got the apparatus the way he wanted it. It is made of wood, with a cutout in the base plate where two balls hang attached to pins on a slide. A second slide is held back by a rubber band and the trigger pin. When the pin is released, the second slide rapidly launches into the first, pushing it away from the cutout, and both balls then drop at the same time. The apparatus comes with three steel balls and one aluminum ball. There are two small steel balls, which are the control experiment, as they have the same size and density. The main experiment uses the large aluminum and steel balls. They are the same size, but with a different density. The steel ball's mass is about three times the mass of its aluminum counterpart. Most students believed the heavier ball would reach the ground first. But when they do the experiment, they see and begin to understand what Galileo figured out centuries ago: that absent wind resistance, all falling objects accelerate at the same rate, independent of their mass. One of the best parts of the experiment is that it can quickly be reset and tried again, he said. "In order for an experiment to be of value, it has to be repeatable," he said. Cox said that in recent years people have discovered that you can't hold two differing weighted objects and release them at the same time, due to muscle fatigue and other factors that make a person only think they are releasing both at once.

07/17/06 - Biodiesel beats ethanol in biofuel battle
Both ethanol biofuel, made from corn, and biodiesel, made from soybeans, have been touted as alternative fuels that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. But making these fuels takes a lot of oil - to make and run farm machinery, to produce pesticides and fertilisers, and to process the harvest into fuel. Some sceptics have argued that the emissions produced are so high that using biofuels may not reduce overall emissions at all. To test whether these two biofuels are viable, David Tilman, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, US, and his colleagues calculated the total environmental costs of their production. When all these costs are factored in, corn-based ethanol does indeed reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but only by about 12% compared to gasoline, they found. In contrast, biodiesel reduces emissions by 41% over diesel fuel, largely because it does not need distillation to be processed into fuel. Also, far fewer fertilisers and pesticides are used in growing soybeans, giving biodiesel a further edge in reducing environmental impact. A better solution in the long run, Tilman suggests, is to produce ethanol from non-food sources such as prairie grasses and woody plants. Such "cellulosic" ethanol may offer much greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

07/17/06 - Portable IV drip eases recovery & mobility
A Tauranga industrial designer is on the verge of achieving international recognition for an innovative intravenous pump that is worn like jewellery on the arm. Matt Backler, 26, has designed a lightweight device that feeds medication or fluids into the patient through a catheter on the upper arm while performing blood analysis from a second site on the forearm - transmitting the information wirelessly to a medical centre. Gone is the cumbersome IV bag hanging from a tall pole, wheeled around the wards by the patient. Mr Backler's device - called N-One, making use of medical jargon for the first nurse involved in a patient's treatment - is stuck to the arm using medical adhesive, staying in place while the patient performs normal arms functions - even in the shower. "It removes the whole idea of having a lot of strapping and support for the IV," says Mr Backler. "It's not as expensive as a standard infusion pump - the technology has been cut down. It can be used in hospitals, rehab and elderly care homes. "This design has the potential to go right round the world." In true Star Trek style, N-One pumps in the medication or fluids while transmitting blood analysis data back to a monitoring station every two hours - enabling recovering patients to leave hospital perhaps four days earlier to recuperate in the comfort of their own home. The module on the upper arm has two storage pods, each capable of delivering the same, or different, medication or fluids. The process of prepping the patient for an IV feed remains exactly the same. Mr Backler has redesigned the catheter to fit his device. "It also overcomes people's fear of needles, because they can't see the needle."

07/17/06 - Lots of Cash Spent on Mythical Fountains of Youth
Every book, powder or pill that promises a fountain of youth-skin that doesn't age, organs that keep putting out, an immune system that never weakens, a mind forever sharp-is just plain wrong: misguided, naively optimistic or outright deceptive. Leonard Hayflick, an anatomy professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a cult hero to serious scientists in the field of aging, summed up the debate neatly for me a little while ago: "There is no intervention that has been proven to slow, stop or reverse aging. Period." Aging is not a process that can be reversed, Hayflick said. Aging is an accumulation of damage at the molecular level over the years, an inadvertent byproduct of a fixed program of growth and development. Damage happens. Young bodies goof up as often and randomly as old bodies. A winding protein molecule might fold the wrong way; a section of DNA might not replicate correctly, regardless of whether you are five or 50. When this damage builds up, then you got troubles. A young body can repair itself more efficiently and keep damage to a minimum. This is because the repair mechanism itself-like eyes, ears or any other part of the body-hasn't had time to be compromised by molecular damage. We can, through exercise, recuperate loss of vitality and physical capability due to inactivity, but not the kind due to aging. Walter Bortz of Stanford University Medical School, past president of the American Geriatric Society, says our incorrect concept of aging is better described as disuse. He describes "disuse" as a leg in a cast. The leg shrivels, weakens and looks old, but it didn't really "age." With exercise, the old-looking, old-functioning leg can become vital and active again. But it can't get "younger." Bortz said that the minimal damage accumulated at the molecular level resulting in a decline in overall physical ability is only about 0.5 percent per year after about age 30.

07/17/06 - Arousing qualities of celery easily substitute Viagra
Modern dieticians seem to have read that short story by O. Henry. Montaignaque, Atkinson, and Shelton - all recommend the use of celery, be it in the raw or cooked. The vegetarians extol the plant’s properties. I came across a book on a celery-based diet in one of the Moscow book stores. Celery in the book was referred to as a cure-all for any disease. In the works of Hippocrates celery is prescribed as a remedy for soothing disturbed nerves. Marquise de Pompadour, a mistress of Louis XV, would drink a cup of hot chocolate spiced with celery and amber prior to a romantic rendezvous with the king. Giovanni Jacopo Casanova also included celery in his diet. The plant was believed to act as a powerful erotic stimulant. A celery-based diet is also recommended for the patients diagnosed with obesity, gout, allergic hay fever; different kinds of dermatitis, ulcer; chronic constipation, and painful menstruation. Celery has the highest selenium content, which is required for the synthesis of iodine-containing hormones of the thyroid gland. Selenium enables normal development of the ovum. For an invigorating celery drink, add a tablespoon of grated celery root in a tall glass of tomato juice. Add a generous amount of chipped ice. The fresh root celery is best served when mixed with carrot and apple. It can be stewed as a buttered puree. The stalked celery can be served both raw and cooked. It can be cooked like any other vegetable i.e. fried, stewed, steamed, and grilled.

07/17/06 - Fuel or Food?
"At present, bio-fuels are hyped as the savior to the coming peak oil energy crisis. Advocates for green technologies are promoting the ability to convert grain stocks into both ethanol and bio-diesel as an alternative to petroleum. Despite the promise, arguments are surfacing that too much faith is put into alternative fuel. Specifically, counterpoints include: * energy conversion factors for grains * energy needs exceed the capacity of produced grain * large scale grain farming will leech the soil of nutrients. While those three factors are a difficult hurdle to overcome, another challenge has arisen regarding fuel to food ratios. To put it simply, the world does not produce enough grains to sustain humanity on a balanced diet now. When energy demands drive the price of grain upward and supplies shift from feed to refinement, it will become increasingly difficult for the poor to afford rising food prices. Will Earth's demand for energy incur a deeper divide between the motorized and impoverished societies?"

07/17/06 - Mikhail Gorbachev says USA has ‘disease worse than AIDS’
“You have caught a disease that is worse than AIDS. It is called the complex of the winner,” the ex-president of the USSR said in an interview with ABC television channel. The former Soviet leader accused the USA of dictating its lifestyle to the rest of the world. “We will be making mistakes, so what ? Do not put any obstacles in our way! Do you really think that you are smarter than we are? You want to organize the US style of democracy in Russia. This will not work,” the former Soviet president said. Mikhail Gorbachev said previously in an interview with The Times that he had urged Western countries not to interfere in Russia’s home policies. According to Gorbachev, the Western countries use double standards in their relations with Russia and act quite hypocritical at this point.

07/17/06 - Paint-On' Antenna Paves Way For High-Altitude Airships
"Paint-on" antennas, designed to establish new high-altitude communications and surveillance platforms, successfully transmitted voice and data links as well as teleconferencing capabilities during test flights in the Nevada desert June 21 on board a SA-60 spherical airship. The experiment provided the first opportunity to test and evaluate the electrical, electromagnetic and mechanical properties of the "paint-on" antenna technology during an actual flight. “This new technology can be used to assist with hurricane disaster relief, provide enhanced security of ports and borders, perform science observation missions and improve military communications.” High altitude airships can be used for both defense and homeland security purposes including surveillance of battlefields and domestic borders and ports. The airships are intended to serve as economical station-keeping communications and/or ground-sensing platforms that will augment both ground-based and more expensive satellite systems. The airships will operate well above commercial air traffic and the jet stream and beyond the range of most ground-to-air missiles. In addition to communications, the “paint-on” antennas are a key enabling technology to achieve the high altitudes necessary for Department of Defense and Homeland Security persistent surveillance missions of the nation's coastal waters, land borders, urban areas and critical infrastructure.

07/17/06 - Lab Grown Hamburger
A U.S. scientist has developed a process to grow cow cells into full-size hamburger overnight but he can't get anyone to invest in the process. Vladimir Mironov, a biology researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the process involves taking immature cells that develop into skeletal muscles from cows -- or pigs, or chickens, or turkeys -- and fusing them to a protein that, with the help of steroids, grows into big hunks of meat, The Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier reported. The newspaper said the process isn't exactly cloning, but more like cattle farming through chemistry. "In business, who pays to make a product nobody wants to buy?" Mironov asked. "You show this technology and say, 'Do you want to try the meat?' and they all say, 'No.'" But Mironov says the long-term benefits of the technology could outweigh the negative public perception. He told the newspaper: "It's not Frankenstein meat. It's like hydroponic tomatoes."

07/17/06 - Thin Film Solar Scandal
Quick rundown: Thin-film solar cells supplied by Shenzhen Topray and sold in some big box stores and online are consistently poor quality. For example, Shenzhen Topray modules rated for 15 watts have been shown to have an average initial performance of 9.6 watts and an average final performance of 6.8 watts compared to ICP Solar's 15 watt module which has an average initial performance of 17.8 watts and average final performance of 14.2 watts [1]. A big danger here is that consumers may be turned off of photovoltaics all-together if they consistently come across a module with bad performance.

07/17/06 - Free Speech or Religious Intimidation?
"What are the bounds of acceptable free speech? That question arises again as the FBI pledges to investigate a video featured on that showed two men shooting a Qu'ran with a rifle and then throwing it down at the door of an Islamic center. The Council on American-Islamic Relations say the video could constitute a civil rights violation and have compared it to burning a cross. Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director for the Council, argues that 'the perpetrators went beyond the limits of free speech by taking part in an overt act of religious intimidation.' The video appeared on MySpace last month and has since been taken down."

07/17/06 - Googling Malware infected Sites
By taking advantage of Google's binary search capability, Websense has created new software tools that can sniff out malware using the popular search engine. Websense researchers Googled for strings that were used in known malware like the Bagel and Mytob worms and have uncovered about 2,000 malicious Web sites over the past month, according to Dan Hubbard, senior director of security and research with Websense.

07/16/06 - The Vanadium Battery: Ultimate Storage Solution
A new mass energy storage technology is on the cusp of entering mainstream society. The Japanese are currently using it on a grand scale, the Canadians have comprehensively evaluated it and soon Australians will have the opportunity to replace their old lead-acid batteries with a Vanadium Redox Battery alternative. There are no emissions, no disposal issues, no loss of charge, the construction materials are 'green' and the battery can be charged and discharged simultaneously. So, is the Vanadium Battery as good as it sounds and more importantly, is it the solution to our energy storage problems? Quite simply...Yes. The potential of this system can be easily summed up in one word: 100% recharge/discharge. It has been possible for quite some time to successfully gather energy through a variety of renewable energy sources, in particular solar and wind. The main problem however, which is also true for fossil fuel energy generation, is the storage of the energy. Lead-acid batteries aren't too efficient. In order to obtain the most cycles possible (300-1500), the batteries are designed to only use 10% of their storage capacity - that's like only being able to use your iPod for one hour instead of the battery's 10 hour capacity. If more energy is sucked out of them, the amount of times they can be recharged and discharged is drastically shortened. Large scale power companies also have a little problem with storage. Vanadium metal used in batteries can store energy indefinitely. On top of all that, it is possible to use 100% of the stored energy without any side effects. The number of times the Vanadium Battery can be recharged/discharged is also a tad worrying for other battery makers (over 10,000 plus cycles). If you decide one day that you need a little more storage capacity, perhaps for that air-conditioner or hairdryer (for the uninitiated, the banes of lead-acid batteries), no worries, just get bigger storage tanks to hold more Vanadium and all of a sudden you have storage to spare. Try that with a lead-acid battery system. Vanadium Batteries have profound implications for normal households that don't have an alternative energy system supplying power to their house. As Japan is demonstrating, the amount of energy that their power stations produce can be cut by 1/3 simply by storing their previously dumped excess nightly energy into huge Vanadium Batteries. This form of load-levelling can be utilised by every power station throughout the world.

07/16/06 - Items of note with Vanadium batteries
Liquid electricity pumped as the fuel of the future. The technology may eventually allow electric cars to be refuelled at future versions of today's petrol stations, doing away with the need to routinely replace bulky batteries or spend hours recharging them from power mains. The new battery stores power in tanks of vanadium sulphate dissolved in sulphuric acid. Found in Western Australia, vanadium is a metal used to make stainless steel. Dr Jacques explained that when a vanadium battery runs down, the owner merely has to drain the discharged liquid and refill the tank. "You can think of electric cars, forklifts and airport tugs," he said. "Once you run out of electricity, you would pull into a filling station and pump in fresh liquid." They would be cheaper over their life cycle, lasting five to seven years. With lead-acid you would be lucky to get two years," he said. Today's lead acid batteries, commonly used to start cars, store energy in solid electrodes while the vanadium redox battery stores energy in a liquid electrolyte solution of vanadium pentoxide dissolved in sulphuric acid. The electrolyte can be charged or discharged by pumping it through the battery stack and either supplying electric power to the stack or taking power from the stack. It can also be recharged by having the spent electrolyte pumped out and a fresh charge of electrolyte pumped in. The spent electrolyte can then be recharged in another battery with electricity from the mains or from renewable energy sources. This raises the opportunity for the establishment of refuelling stations so that electric vehicles could exchange their electrolyte and then continue on their way with no more delay than if refuelling with petrol or diesel. The vanadium battery has its capacity stored in two electrolytes which are pumped (or here: let to flow) into a cell unit. In the charged state the electrolytes are V(+5) and V(+2) salts, which change to V(+4) and V(+3) salts respectively during the discharge process. A typical concentration of the vanadium salts is 2 M; in addition the solutions contain sulfuric acid (ca 1 M). The electrolytes are separated in the cell by an ion-selective membrane. Another source page. The electrodes are made from two kinds of graphite: one solid piece for the support and one porous where most of the discharge and charge reactions will take place. The discharge is done intermittently: the cell compartments are filled with charged electrolytes which are discharged to a low (preset) cell voltage. Then the discharged electrolytes are exchanged with fresh electrolytes for the next discharge period. The charging is done by the same procedure after the discharge of the electrolytes in the containers above the cell, and the wheel has been turned 180o. This construction allows the whole assembly to rotate, thats why the name - "the vanadium wheel". Inside the tanks long pieces of plexiglass are inserted and behind them are light bulbs arranged. Thus a thin film of the electrolyte is obtained and the light is transmitted through this film. This was made to be able to see the colours of the electrolytes typically for each state of oxidation: Vanadium(II) sulphate = violet, vanadium(III) sulphate = aqua green, vanadium(IV) sulphate = blue and vanadium (V) sulphate = yellow. The technique to build vanadium cells is simple. The electrodes are made as bipolar graphite electrodes in plastic frames which are clamped together with the membranes. All is assembled in dry conditions, formation is not necessary, no pasting, no drying. Just fill up with electrolyte and off you go!

07/16/06 - Electromagnetic Catapult to replace Steam powered Catapult
George DiBiase is best known for his invention of low-pressure steam-powered catapults, which became the Navy standard after the launch of the USS Abraham Lincoln in 1989. Navy officials say the low-pressure launch system's easier energy requirements effectively double the life of ship nuclear reactors, saving about $1 billion over the lifetime of each ship. In 2000, DiBiase's engineers detected an increase in the number of defective parts showing up in their systems, and he instituted the "Flight Safe" program to increase quality standards. That program has saved about $52 million in the last five years, Navy officials said. In recent years DiBiase promoted the innovative electromagnetic aircraft launch concept, which aims to replace steam catapults with a rail gun-like system that accelerates aircraft to takeoff speed. Dubbed EMALS (Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System), its first test model is under construction at the Lakehurst test site.

07/16/06 - NanoCase program to explore Casimir Force
The Casimir force is a mysterious interaction between objects that arises directly from the quantum properties of the so-called ‘void'. Within classical Physics the void is a simple absence of all matter and energy while quantum theory tells us that in fact it is a seething mass of quantum particles that constantly appear into and disappear from our observable universe. This gives the void an unimaginably large energy density. "The research will help to overcome a fundamental problem of all nano-machines, that is, machines whose individual components are the size of molecules, which is that at this size everything is ‘sticky' and any components that come into contact stick together. If a method can be found to transmit force across a small gap without contact, then it may be possible to construct nano-machines that work freely without gumming up. "In a sense the actual value of the zero-point energy is not important because everything we know about is on top of it. According to quantum field theory every particle is an excitation (a wave) of an underlying field (for example the electromagnetic field) in the void and it is only the energy of the wave itself that we can detect. "A useful analogy is to consider our observable universe as a mass of waves on top of an ocean, whose depth is immaterial. Our senses and all our instruments can only directly detect the waves so it seems that trying to probe whatever lies beneath, the void itself, is hopeless. Not quite so. There are subtle effects of the zero-point energy that do lead to detectable phenomena in our observable universe. "Detecting the Casimir force however is not easy as it only becomes significant if the mirrors approach to within less that 1 micrometre (about a fiftieth the width of a human hair). Producing sufficiently parallel surfaces to the precision required has had to wait for the emergence of the tools of nanotechnology to make accurate measurements of the force."

07/16/06 - Super Capacitor Energy Storage Devices
A company named Maxwell Technologies ( in San Diego has developed a full line of energy storage devices that operate as super capacitors. Their line ranges from 5 farads to 2500 farads. Each device is rated at 2.5 volts. One of their more popular 10 farad devices can light a red LED for over an hour. The energy storage density of these devices is about 3 watt-hours per kilogram and about 84 watt-hours per cubic foot. Their goal is push the technology to about 15 watt-hours per kilogram over the next few years. But, to be practical for electric vehicles, they will need to exceed 100 watt-hours per kilogram.

07/16/06 - Neuroscientists find God in mushrooms
A universal mystical experience with life-changing effects can be produced by the hallucinogen contained in magic mushrooms, scientists claimed yesterday. They say that there is no difference between drug-induced mystical experiences and the spontaneous religious ones that believers have reported for centuries. They are "descriptively identical". The drug psilocybin is the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, which grow wild in Wales and were openly sold in London markets until a change in the law last year. In more than 60 per cent of cases the experience qualified as a "full mystical experience" based on established psychological scales, the researchers say. Some likened it to the importance of the birth of their first child or the death of a parent. The effects lasted for at least two months. Eight out of 10 of the volunteers reported moderately or greatly increased wellbeing or life satisfaction. Relatives, friends and colleagues confirmed the changes.

07/16/06 - Careers in Sustainable Energy
As demand for renewable energy increases, research and development is required to optimise existing technologies and invent new ones. "Universities, government labs, and even traditional energy technology services providers such as General Electric and General Motors are investing in sustainable technologies at unprecedented levels." The people who do that work are scientists and engineers, so that ought to be good news for job-seeking scientists. But in the world of scientific careers, things are rarely simple. What does it really mean in terms of job opportunities for early career scientists and engineers? Garman could hardly be more enthusiastic: "Given the necessity that we strive toward sustainability, and given that necessity is the mother of invention, there has been no better time for a young researcher to choose this field. The work is sure to be enormously satisfying and important." Companies appear to be hiring vigorously in some sectors, but it isn't clear how many of those jobs are actually going to scientists and engineers. In some fields--hydrogen technology, for instance--scientists are finding plenty of opportunities, whereas in others--such as wind--most of the jobs appear to be going to engineers and other technical and nontechnical types.

07/15/06 - Microbes that collect Gold
Researchers in Australia have uncovered evidence that a tiny microbe may have the Midas touch of Greek legend, capable of turning dust to gold. Findings reported in the July 14 issue of the US based magazine Science suggest a bacteria known as Ralstonia Metallidurans may play a key role in forming gold nuggets and grains. A group of scientists led by German-born researcher Frank Reith collected gold grains from two Australian mines more than 3,000 kilometres apart, and discovered that 80 per cent of the grains had the bacteria living on them. "What we found out suggests that bacteria can accumulate this gold," Reith told the associated press in a telephone interview from his Australian office on Friday. Reith said Ralstonia Metallidurans act as microscopic soil scrubbers, soaking up heavy metals in their dissolved form and converting them into less toxic, solid forms. "Heavy metals are toxic, not only to us but also to micro organisms, in elevated concentrations," he said. "Many scientists have questioned the possible microbial role in forming gold, maintaining instead that gold grains were either remnants of larger pieces or formed through chemical processes. Reith said his findings provide the strongest evidence yet that bacteria could play a key role in creating solid gold, although the exact mechanism is not yet known.

07/15/06 - Would a $1 billion prize create the 100-mpg car?
WHAT would happen if the United States were to offer a $1-billion prize for the first American automaker to sell 60,000 midsized sedans that could travel 100 miles on one gallon of gasoline? It wouldn't be a panacea for our energy problems, but it would stimulate the development of viable technologies to reduce oil consumption while we develop alternatives to petroleum. Competition for a prestigious prize is far more likely to get results than government programs aimed at anticipating and funding "winners." Although occasionally effective, federal subsidies are paid before an industry proves it can achieve what it set out to do, and all too often such subsidies are given to the politically influential, not the meritorious. But prize money is paid out only when the goal is achieved.

07/15/06 - Goji Juice Believed To Be Fountain of Youth
Goji, a tiny red berry known to Chinese herbalists for thousands of years, has become the newest craze in man's quest for the mythical fountain of youth. The berry is used in China, Tibet and India because residents believe it helps regulate blood pressure, prevent cancer, balance blood sugar levels and protect bodies from premature aging.

07/15/06 - DIY Solar power sources using off the shelf parts
Affordable solar power using auto parts could make this electricity source far more available. Constructing and deploying large photovoltaic panels to generate electricity remains expensive. Now two groups at MIT are working on alternative approaches to solar-based electricity that could significantly cut costs -- and put the ability to harvest electricity from the sun into the hands of villagers in poor countries and backyard tinkerers alike. During a stint in the Peace Corps in Lesotho in southern Africa, Matthew Orosz, an MIT graduate student advised by Harold Hemond, professor of civil and environmental engineering, learned that reflective parabolic troughs can bake bread. Now he plans to use these same contraptions to bring power to parts of Africa baked in sun but starved for electricity. His solar generators, cobbled together from auto parts and plumbing supplies, can easily be built in a backyard. The basic design of Orosz's solar generator system is simple: a parabolic trough (taking up 15 square meters in this case) focuses light on a pipe containing motor oil. The oil circulates through a heat exchanger, turning a refrigerant into steam, which drives a turbine that, in turn, drives a generator. The refrigerant is then cooled in two stages. The first stage recovers heat to make hot water or, in one design, to power an absorption process chiller, like the propane-powered refrigerators in RVs. The solar-generated heat would replace or augment the propane flame used in these devices. The second stage cools the refrigerant further, which improves the efficiency of the system, Orosz says. This stage will probably use cool groundwater pumped to the surface using power from the generator. The water can then be stored in a reservoir for drinking water. The design uses readily available parts and tools. For example, both the feed pump and steam turbine are actually power-steering pumps used in cars and trucks. To generate electricity, the team uses an alternator, which is not as efficient as an ordinary generator, but comes already designed to charge a battery, which reduces some of the complexity of the system. And, like power-steering pumps, alternators, including less-expensive reconditioned ones, are easy to come by. As a result, the complete system for generating one kilowatt of electricity and 10 kilowatts of heat, including a battery for storing the power generated, can be built for a couple thousand dollars, Orosz says, which is less than half the cost of one kilowatt of photovoltaic panels. The inexpensive system uses heat from a solar concentrator to drive a type of turbine originally patented by Nicola Tesla. Rather than making complex, difficult-to-manufacture bladed turbines, Sun turned to the Tesla turbine, which consists of simpler flat disks stacked like records on a central shaft. The disks are carefully spaced to allow steam to flow between them. As the steam flows, friction between the steam and the surface of the disks causes them to rotate. "Once I have rotational shaft work, I can couple it to almost anything -- an air pump, compressor, fan, mixer, grinder, sewing machine, refrigeration compressor, and, to power those very few things that are truly electric in nature, an electric generator." She calculates that this system, which she says is simple enough for an eight-year old to make, can produce cheap power.

07/15/06 - On Civilization & the 'potential' of Free Energy -
"Wherever there is civilization, the first idea today is: 'There must be customs barriers around everything, taxes on everything.' As soon as one builds a little home, he is immediately taxed, or punished. If he improves his little house, more taxes; or he is punished again. He who allows his house to decay need not pay higher taxes and thus is not punished. We are punished only if we want to become more civilized. If one has a fortune while living frugally, he must pay higher taxes, that is, he is punished for his diligence and thrift. Thus, the entire system of so-called civilization has become a robber knight system which exploits people. And this is no less evil than that of any medieval robber knight, or that of the slave owner in the days of slavery. Will this change? Yes, certainly. And only through the use of free energy. This spirit of the discoverer and of the inventor breaks all chains and all borders, and frees mankind from all monopolies and syndicates. Since we will establish direct contact with all other peoples, the traffic among all people will become simpler and faster, and understanding between one man and another will deepen friendly relations among peoples eliminating the dangers of warfare, which usually are conjured up by incitement by a class of men without heart who are greedy and overly ambitious." - P.H. Matthey 1932

07/14/06 - Peak Shaving experiment using Battery Networks
Zebra sodium-nickel-chloride batteries are being used as part of an energy-storage system for demonstrating utility-scale loading shifting. Halton Hills Hydro will use the system to store energy at night when it's cheap and dispatch it back into the grid during daytime peaks when market spot prices are at their highest. It's only a small system -- 100 kilowatt-hours -- but can be easily scaled up beyond 1 megawatt-hours, the company claims. On top of peaking shaving and load levelling, the system could also be used for grid stability and to ease transmission bottlenecks so that infrastructure investments can be deferred. Coupled with wind turbines, it could bring "hardness" to wind energy output. Halton Hills Hydro and its partners -- including battery expert BET Services Inc. of Mississauga -- have a grander vision of proving that the Swiss-made Zebra batteries can be used economically for a number of applications if volume production can be achieved. As you'll note in the story, Swiss company MES-DEA only produces about 2,000 of the batteries a year, even though the technology itself has been around since the 1970s.

07/14/06 - Antarctica at risk over oil
Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari told a conference of Antarctic experts in Hobart the polar continent would need greater protection to save it from exploitation by increasingly desperate oil-hungry nations. Dr Bakhtiari, a former senior adviser for the National Iranian Oil Co in Tehran, has predicted the world's oil production rate will peak this year at 81 billion barrels per day (bpd) and will decline to roughly 55 million bpd by 2020, pitching oil prices to "stratospheric levels". With only 900 billion barrels of the Earth's oil reserves left to produce, Dr Bakhtiari warned desperate oil-producing nations might set their sights on Antarctica - the "final frontier" for oil exploration - for continued supply. "I hope it will not happen because that would create enormous difficulties but when you have the enormous price increase that I can foresee ... governments and companies will want to find oil anywhere," he said. Dr Bakhtiari said the Arctic was once thought safe from mining but exploration began there 12 years ago. "There is now only one frontier province left (for oil exploration) and that is Antarctica," he said. Antarctica is protected from mineral exploration under the Madrid Protocol, which bans mining, but Dr Bakhtiari said mankind's addiction to oil would pressure governments to carry out further exploration. The prohibition could be changed at any time if all 28 signatory countries agree. "In the next 14 years, if my predictions are correct, one third of today's oil supply will be gone," Dr Bakhtiari said.

07/14/06 - Industrious Kid
K.S. Ganesh Ram, an eighth standard student at St. Paul's School in J.P. Nagar, has developed many household appliances, some of them scaled down models, using plastic blocks with tiny electrical motors. His latest "invention" is a 2-kg washing machine using 250 watt of power, which he designed to help his mother. "I worked one hour everyday for a month and used an old exhaust fan motor and wooden handles for blades inside the washing machine. Today, I wash my uniform using this machine," said Ganesh Ram, who is thrilled with his effort. So is his mother. The model of a house which he had designed using blocks was used by an engineer to design a house in the area, said his mother. He has also designed a water purifier using old water cans. "Ganesh Ram uses scrap material for designing working models, so it is not a financial burden for us," said his mother. He is also good in his studies and is creative in developing models from plastic blocks, said his aunt Chandra. Ganesh Ram's other inventions include a video game (which he designed using plastic blocks and wipers from mixer grinder) and a unique rope-producing machine using broken cricket stumps and an old motor of an exhaust fan. "I saw people making ropes manually and the idea of producing a rope-making machine came to my mind," said Ganesh Ram. He is now working on a remote controlled car model that runs with the help of a battery. "My next plan is to make a fully automatic washing machine for my mother to help her wash all our clothes," he said.

07/14/06 - Busy People Live Longer
Elderly people who load the dishwasher, climb stairs or just keep moving are bound to live longer than their sedentary counterparts, a study said on Tuesday. The study of 302 people aged 70 to 82 found those who engaged in more physical activity -not necessarily formal exercise - were much less likely to die than those who did not move as much. "The message here is that for older adults, any movement is better than no movement and that this can come from usual daily activities," said study author Todd Manini of the U.S. National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Maryland. Instead of relying on the word of the study subjects about their activities, they were given specially formulated water to drink that allowed researchers to measure levels of carbon dioxide emitted in their urine. Carbon dioxide is released during physical activity. The people in the highest activity group were more likely to work for pay, not just volunteer occasionally, and also climbed two or more flights of stairs per day, said the study, which was published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

07/14/06 - Levitating Car patent

A Filipino, who until recently was based in Cebu, had been granted a patent in the United States for his magnetic levitation car invention. Jose Guardo Jr., of Maglev Vision Corp. Space Car Technologies in Shanghai, China, was granted a US patent for the invention last June 13. Guardo said his US patent (number 7,059,252) gives him exclusive rights over all the components of his invention, including the spin stabilized magnetic levitation of permanent magnets, and magnetic-electromagnetic rotary propulsion system of a magnetically levitated vehicle. Guardo’s invention involves a car without wheels that is able to move on a magnetic track, which provides an opposing force (repulsion) to the magnets attached to the vehicle, causing the levitation. The horizontal movement of the car is done by rotating the magnets at the bottom of the vehicle. Guardo said his invention does away with rubber wheels, does not require electricity, lessens dependence on oil and fuel, and reduces pollution. Guardo said he patterned his invention after the maglev (spinning) top of American inventor Roy Harrigan.

07/14/06 - USA could be going Bankrupt
The United States is heading for bankruptcy, according to an extraordinary paper published by one of the key members of the country's central bank. A ballooning budget deficit and a pensions and welfare timebomb could send the economic superpower into insolvency, according to research by Professor Laurence Kotlikoff for the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, a leading constituent of the US Federal Reserve. Prof Kotlikoff said that, by some measures, the US is already bankrupt. "To paraphrase the Oxford English Dictionary, is the United States at the end of its resources, exhausted, stripped bare, destitute, bereft, wanting in property, or wrecked in consequence of failure to pay its creditors," he asked. According to his central analysis, "the US government is, indeed, bankrupt, insofar as it will be unable to pay its creditors, who, in this context, are current and future generations to whom it has explicitly or implicitly promised future net payments of various kinds''. Prof Kotlikoff, who teaches at Boston University, says: "The proper way to consider a country's solvency is to examine the lifetime fiscal burdens facing current and future generations. If these burdens exceed the resources of those generations, get close to doing so, or simply get so high as to preclude their full collection, the country's policy will be unsustainable and can constitute or lead to national bankruptcy.

07/13/06 - Technology and Politics as Metaphor
One of this year's favorites of that crowd -- "Who Killed the Electric Car?" -- is released to the general public this week. In it, Chris Paine, its director and producer and an enthusiastic former General Motors EV1 (Electric Vehicle 1) driver, posits that pressure by the oil companies, fear of losing their parts business by automakers and cold feet by state and federal lawmakers and regulators murdered a workable, affordable electric car with available technology that would meet the driving needs of "90%" of the American public. Of course! It just couldn't be economics or physics were the reasons that auto and battery makers here and in Japan, Korea and the European Union couldn't come up with a viable electric vehicle. The electric car hasn't been "killed." It still exists. AC Propulsion, for example, will take your existing vehicle, buck up the suspension, put in battery packs, and give you a vehicle that goes 75 miles on a charge for $45,000 to $65,000. Now, if you are Ed Begley Jr., one of the stars in Paine's film, you might opine: "What more can anyone ask?" Especially if you could get CARB, the feds and the motor car companies to pick up half the actual cost. Then you might lease an EV for the $30,000 to $40,000 cost of the nickel metal hydride battery pack needed to run it for about 100 miles as Paine, Begley, Jay Leno, Tom Hanks and others featured in Paine's flick did. But, first, like them, you would need to be rich -- or something else. "Would you drive around in a car that offered 50-mile range?" asked an EV engineer interviewed by Charles J. Murray, in "Out of Juice! Nation's charge toward electric cars stalls" for Design News for Mechanical and Design Engineers in October of 1998. "The people who buy electric vehicles have too much money."

07/13/06 - World 'hotter, richer more crowded'
THE world is getting hotter and using more fossil fuels as people get richer and the population surges towards the 6.5 billion mark. The Worldwatch Institute report on the state of the globe found the amount of greenhouse gases working their way into the atmosphere is at an all-time high, with the world consuming more oil and coal. However, there are signs dependence on fossil fuels may be ebbing with big increases in ethanol, solar and wind energy. There are now 6.45 billion people on the planet, an increase of 74 million over 2004. Those people used 3.8 billion tons (tons) of oil, or 83.3 million barrels a day, an increase of 1.3 per cent over 2004. Coal use rose 6.3 per cent to 2.8 billion tons of oil equivalent, while natural gas use rose 3.3 per cent to 2.4 billion tons of oil equivalent. There were 45.6 million passenger cars built (up 3.2 per cent), an extra 18.5 million light trucks constructed (up 2.8 per cent), and another 101 million bicycles were made (up nine per cent). The world now has more than 603 million cars, and 220 million light trucks, on its roads. However, Worldwatch found a strong increase in alternative energy fuels. Ethanol production soared 19 per cent to 36.5 billion litres. Solar power is now the world's fastest growing energy source, with photovoltaic cell production up 45 per cent to 1700 megawatts during 2005. There are now 125 million square metres of solar heating installed. Wind power capacity increased 24 per cent to 59,600 megawatts last year. In the United States, there are now enough wind turbines to meet the needs of 2.3 million households. The report also found major problems confronting the world. The average temperature in 2005 was 14.6 degrees Celsius, which it said is the warmest year ever recorded on the Earth's surface. Five of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. Carbon dioxide concentration reached 379.6 parts per million, an increase of 0.6 per cent over the record amount in 2004. The 2005 increase is the largest ever recorded. And carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning increased 4.5 per cent to a record 7.6 billion tons.

07/13/06 - Inflatable Spacecraft Beams Back Images
An unmanned, inflatable spacecraft launched by a Las Vegas real estate mogul has beamed back the first images since it slipped into orbit and expanded itself. Genesis I was healthy with functional onboard computers, solar panels, battery power and pressure systems, said company founder Robert Bigelow. "All systems are operating," Bigelow said in a brief statement posted on his Web site. Bigelow, owner of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has lofty dreams of building an expandable orbital outpost by 2015 to be made up of several Genesis-like satellites tied together. Seven hours after entering orbit, mission controllers confirmed the watermelon-shaped craft, which measured 14 feet long and 4 feet wide at launch, successfully inflated to twice that width.

07/13/06 - Suspended Animation Tests Successful
"Wired News reports that suspended animation tests have been successfully carried out with pigs. From the article: 'Long the domain of transhumanist nut-jobs, cryogenic suspension may be just two years away from clinical trials on humans (presuming someone can solve the sticky ethical problems).'" The pig that was the subject of the article was kept in suspended animation for two hours, and Duggan and his team have successfully suspended hundreds of pigs for an hour at a time. It's still a far cry from a spaceship filled with sleep pods, but would be just the ticket for doctors who need to buy extra time to save lives.

07/13/06 - Transparent Propane Tank
(Living in Mexico, most people use propane to heat the water for their included, so this would be way cool if they had it on the welding cylinder size tanks we use. Would give you an idea of the level though you can tap the tank or measure for the edge of the cold spot which is where the level is. - JWD) This is a long time coming -- a propane cylinder with clear walls so you can see how much juice you've got left.

07/12/06 - 'Electron Economy' bodes an Early Retirement for The Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Ulf Bossel at the Lucerne Fuel Cell Forum, which is a very highly respected technical fuel cell conference, announced the more efficient "electron economy", which, for vehicles, is twice as efficient as the hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is quite energy intensive. If you drive 35km per day in a fuel cell car, that car will consume roughly 6000kWh/year. This is equivalent to the per capita electricity consumption in Germany. If you drive 35km per day in a battery car, that car will require 3000kWh/year, the per capita electricity consumption of Poland. There is not much doubt that northern North America (US and Canada) can afford to use hydrogen, and could do so with only small efficiency increases, considering that Canada uses 16000kWh/person/year and the US consumes 12000kWh/person/year. But the worry is the other 95% of the world that lives outside of North America. One thing is for certain, a battery car or a fuel cell car cannot come close to the 200,000+ miles that a diesel engine can drive, and so for every 1 diesel car built, we would have to build at least 2 battery or fuel cell vehicles.

07/12/06 - Seeing your pain to Control your pain
Learning to consciously alter brain activity through MRI feedback could help control pain and other disorders. Until a few years ago, selective control of brain activity was just a provocative idea. But a new version of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has, for the first time, made brain activity visible in real time. Both healthy subjects and chronic-pain patients could learn to control brain activity -- and pain -- using real-time fMRI. "There are potentially dozens of diseases of the brain and nervous system caused by an inappropriate level of brain activation in different areas," says deCharms. He cautions that fMRI feedback is not yet ready for clinical use -- he and Mackey are still confirming their results in long-term clinical trials. But even as he refines the use of the technique for treating pain, deCharms is now testing it in patients with anxiety disorders. And other scientists are running or planning pilot studies of fMRI feedback to treat depression, stroke, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder.

07/12/06 - Do Price Ceilings On Energy work?
Gasoline price ceilings are prevalent in third-world and developing countries. When the U.S. government set maximum prices for gasoline in 1973 and 1979, dealers sold gas on a first-come-first-served basis, and drivers got a little taste of what life was like for people in the Soviet Union: they had to wait in long lines to buy gas. The true price of gas, which included both the cash paid and the time spent waiting in line, was often higher than if prices were not controlled at all. At one time in 1979, for example, the U.S. government fixed the price of gasoline at about $1.00 per gallon. If the market price would have been $1.20, a driver who bought ten gallons apparently saved $.20 per gallon, or $2.00. But if the driver had to line up for thirty minutes to buy gas, and if her time was worth $8.00 per hour, the real cost to her was $10.00 for the gas and $4.00 for the time, an overall cost of $1.40 per gallon. Some gas, of course, was held for friends, long-time customers, the politically well-connected, or those who were willing to pay a little cash on the side. Next with China (from an August 2005 NYT article): Dozens of service stations in Southeastern China, notably in cities near Hong Kong, abruptly ran out of fuel this week just as officials in Beijing were debating requests from domestic oil companies to charge more for diesel and gasoline. The shortages have produced long lines of angry motorists at service stations and have disrupted some freight shipments, as trucks do not have the diesel to make trips. And most recently with Hawaii, which implemented gasoline price ceilings in September 2005 but ditched the idea in May 2006: The island state whose drivers pay the highest pump prices in the nation has given up on price caps after an eight-month, first-in-the-nation experiment. Some complained that the restrictions actually led to higher prices, because oil companies knew they could charge up to the maximum allowed. And guess what? After only 10 days of the price ceiling in New Brunswick: A distributor who supplies gas to 25 stations in the northwestern part of the province has stopped shipping fuel, claiming the government's new gasoline price regulation regime is putting him out of business....answer for the question of 'Do price ceilings work?' -

07/12/06 - 20 Inspectors Refuse GPS Phones, Get Fired
(I remember back in my hometown there were many who worked for the city in various capacities, free to roam at will in city vehicls, who would spend hours in cafes drinking coffee, shopping at WalMart or the grocery store for personal items, at home for nap or afternoon delight, etc. Not much was ever said about this tremendous waste of time. Now it can be somewhat tracked, after all, they ARE getting paid with our tax money. - JWD) The Massachusetts public safety commissioner yesterday SUSPENDED 20 building and engineering inspectors who refused to carry GPS tracking phones, saying the phones would invade their privacy. Only two inspectors accepted the phones.

07/12/06 - One dose of radiation causes 30 percent spongy bone loss in mice
Mice receiving just one therapeutic dose of radiation lost as much as 39 percent of the spongy portion of inner bone, reducing the inner bone's weight bearing connections by up to 64 percent and leaving it more vulnerable to fracture. The Journal of Applied Physiology study has implications for patients receiving radiation therapy and astronauts on long space flights. The mice suffered the loss of trabecular bone, the spongy area of bone inside the dense outer area.

07/12/06 - Tesla born 150 years ago
10 July 2006 marks what would be the 150th birthday of the great inventor Nikola Tesla. For those who could make it, Tesla is immortalized as a statue at Niagara, New York depicting the master of lighting; a Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia; and he is featured on the Serbian 100 dinar banknote. For those who cannot reach such exotic locales, later this year a movie by Christopher Nolan (who really should be working on a follow up to "Batman Begins") will depict David Bowie as the good Mr Tesla. Tesla invented radio and alternating current, set the world's record for man-made ligthning and could make the pigeons of Central Park do his bidding.

07/12/06 - Free RipIt program for new anticopy codes
RipIt4Me is a freeware utility that helps you backup your copy protected DVDs. Recently released DVDs are now very often equipped with stronger copy protections - such as ARccOS™ and RipGuard DVD. Programs like DVD Shrink or DVD Decrypter cannot handle these types of discs. With the help of RipIt4Me, ripping these DVDs will be a very easy task. The program is fully automated and the wizard will guide you through all the necessary steps involved. If you prefer, there is also a true "1-Click" mode that will perform all the involved steps automatically for you. (via

07/12/06 - The Canary Project to document Global Warming
Images: "Two views of the Pasterze Glacier, Austria, 2005. The left image is an area of glacial runoff, much of which was covered by ice merely 10 years ago; the right image is of ice at the source of the glacier." Through The Canary Project, photographer Susannah Sayler and a team of researchers, writers and designers are collecting photographs that document global warming and displaying them on and offline. This month, images from the project will appear on the sides of buses in Denver, for the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art's "Creative Acts That Matter" exhibit. Link to more images from The Canary Project, including some of the bus images.

07/11/06 - Promoting Biofuels - sobering facts, follow the subsidies
Using the ethanol industry's own highly optimistic assumptions about energetics and crop yield, two top U.S. scientists demonstrate that corn-starch ethanol is a losing proposition as a replacement for petroleum, and that cellulosic ethanol, although providing more potential fodder for the distillery, still falls short in volume and energetics. The entire U.S. corn crop, they show, would provide only 3.7 percent of our present transportation fuel needs, and the entire U.S. cropland would produce only 15 percent of our needs-by the most optimistic of assumptions. And this option would leave us without domestic food production capability, for human or animal use! The bankrupt notion of fueling our present or future transportation energy needs with modern-day biomass as a substitute for dwindling supplies of ancient, stored biomass in the form of petroleum has been clearly laid out without mentioning the red herrings of global warming, security from foreign oil, or propping up the American farmer. Despite such signs of sanity, the ethanol mania is raging through the country. The financial news service Bloomberg called biofuels investing a "frenzy" that is sweeping up venture capital money. What's behind the biofuels mania? Are these successful companies investing in a golden opportunity, riding the wave of the future of American energy policy-or are they as blinded by greed and market hype as Issac Newton, who, in the South Seas Bubble, lost his shirt? The most important Federal legislation in this regard extends the tax credit on ethanol, now 51 cents per gallon, through 2010. Another important Federal incentive to encourage "small" producers of ethanol-producing less than 60 million gallons per year-is the updated Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), which allows a 10-cent a gallon credit for up to 15 million gallons produced. Several farm belt states have legislated more such credits. To assure a guaranteed market for the product, the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates that 4 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel must be mixed into transportation fuels in 2006, and that 7.5 billion must be used by 2012. The RFS will be enforced and implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency. Given the number of subsidies for the biofuels industries, and the enormous amount of hype coming from Washington, D.C., and the state capitals on the endless potential for biofuels to free America from foreign oil, runaway gasoline prices, and global warming, it is no wonder that speculators expect to make a killing.

07/11/06 - The Energy of Empty Space != Zero
"Lawrence Krauss (well known physicist and author of the science of Star Trek) invited a group of 21 cosmologists, experimentalists, theorists, and particle physicists and cosmologists. Stephen Hawking came; three Nobel laureates, Gerard 'tHooft, David Gross, Frank Wilczek etc. He wrote about the conclusions of this session in Edge, in short: "there appears to be energy of empty space that isn't zero! This flies in the face of all conventional wisdom in theoretical particle physics. It is the most profound shift in thinking, perhaps the most profound puzzle, in the latter half of the 20th century. And it may be the first half of the 21st century, or maybe go all the way to the 22nd century. Because, unfortunately, I happen to think we won't be able to rely on experiment to resolve this problem."" We've got this weird antigravity in the universe, which is making the expansion of the universe accelerate. Now: if you plug in the equations of general relativity, the only thing that can 'anti-gravitate' is the energy of nothing. Now: this has been a problem in physics since I've been a graduate student. It was such a severe problem we never talked about it. When you apply quantum mechanics and special relativity, empty space inevitably has energy. The problem is, way too much energy. It has 120 orders of magnitude more energy than is contained in everything we see! we know empty space isn't empty, because it's full of these virtual particles that pop in and out of existence, and we know that because if you try and calculate the energy level in a hydrogen atom, and you don't include those virtual particles, you get a wrong answer. One of the greatest developments in physics in the 20th century was to realize that when you incorporate special relativity in quantum mechanics you have virtual particles that can pop in and out of existence, and they change the nature of a hydrogen atom, because a hydrogen atom isn't just a proton and electron. That's the wrong picture, because every now and then you have an electron positron pair that pops into existence. And the electron is going to want to hang around near the proton because it's oppositely charged, the positron is going to be pushed out to the outskirts of the atom, and while they're there they change the charged distribution in the atom in a very small, but calculable, way. Feynman and others calculated that effect, which allows us to get agreement between theory and observation at the level of nine decimal places. It's the best prediction in all of science. (via

07/11/06 - What happened to June?
The National Weather Service filed a missing month report for June. Anybody see it? “We didn't have June,” said Ivory Small, Science and Operations Officer at the National Weather Service's Rancho Bernardo office. “We went straight from winter into summer.”

07/11/06 - UK Patent Office goes Digital
The Patent Office has made the jump to fully electronic processing of patents with the launch of a system for filing applications electronically. The office says the change is "one of the most far-reaching changes to the processing of patents in the UK for over 100 years". According to the Patent Office, the new Patents Electronic Casefile System (PECS) will mean all new applications submitted on paper will be immediately scanned into the computer and processed electronically. Patents grant inventors rights - for a limited period of time - that stop others from making or using an invention without permission. Inventors are now able to file their applications online rather than having to submit paper documents. Although it is not currently possible to view existing patents online, the Patent Office says that the new system will allow it to offer this feature to the public by April next year. The new system will include correspondence and other documents, as well as the patent application itself.

07/11/06 - China calls new space rocket engine a success
China has successfully tested a new rocket engine to power the country's ambitious program of manned space flights and moon landings, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday. Tests of the liquid hydrogen- and kerosene-fuelled engine were a "complete success", a spokesperson from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation told Xinhua. With maximum propulsion of 120 tonnes, the new engine is three times more powerful than those currently used by China's Long March rockets. The engine will propel a new-generation rocket able to sling heavy satellites and moon exploration equipment into orbit, experts told Xinhua. The report did not say when the new rocket engine would go into service.

07/11/06 - Hydrogen wasteful way to store energy
Hydrogen, the ultimate clean fuel, may not be very suitable as a conduit of renewable energy because it is wasteful and there are better alternatives, scientists said last week. The drawback is that hydrogen must first be produced, requiring a primary energy source, and this is where scientists see major obstacles. When environmentally friendly wind electricity is used to generate hydrogen, only one-quarter of the energy generated by the wind turbine is eventually used to move a car. The rest is lost during transport and energy conversion, said Ulf Bossel of the European Fuel Cell Forum, which held its annual fuel cell conference in Lucerne, Switzerland, last week. "With hydrogen energy you only have 25 per cent efficiency to turn wind power to [car] wheel power," he said. It's much more efficient to transport that electricity directly into a car battery, via the grid, and use 90 per cent of its power." Today's economy is based on fuels and cars will need some liquid fuel for long journeys, rather than recharging batteries every few hundred kilometres. Even when this liquid energy is made from biomass, it makes sense to turn it into a biodiesel rather than hydrogen, said Wim van Swaaij, professor of thermo-chemical conversion at Netherlands' Twente University. Biofuels are easy to handle, like today's fuels. Hydrogen, in its pure form, needs to be stored under high pressure which also consumes energy. Biofuels themselves contain hydrogen but in a much more stable form. Bossel also said that producing hydrogen, either through electrolysis using nuclear or renewable electricity, or refined from biomass or fossil fuels, requires massive amounts of water. One kilogram of hydrogen requires nine litres of water.

07/11/06 - GM Spray May Eliminate Dental Visits
A single dental treatment that involves spraying genetically-modified bacteria into a patient's mouth could cut the risk of cavities by up to 90 per cent, according to new research.

07/11/06 - Heinken's failed "brick bottles"
(What a brilliant idea! In Mexico alone, beer consumption would rebuild nations! Would that all soda manufacturers also come up with a packaging standard that copied this! - JWD) 'In the 1950s, Alfred Heineken had a square beer bottle designed which could stack, to be used as bricks in developing countries. This provided good insulation, and excellent reuse of materials. Unfortunately the "World Beer" project didn't take off.' A 10' x 10' shack would take approximately 1000 bottles to build, but the Jamaican tourist industry would likely supply plenty. In addition, glass (and air) are good insulators, though the humid and hot Jamaican climate may not require insulation per se. A unique feature was that the short bottle neck would fit into a depression in the bottom of each bottle. Ultimately though, the idea was either (according to different accounts) voted down by the Heineken board, or vetoed by the bottle companies and the customers. Not much information is available on the World Bottle today, but there have been other attempts to make interlocking "bottle bricks", even of plastic.

07/11/06 - UK hospital uses manuka honey to fight superbug
A British hospital is importing manuka honey in bulk from New Zealand to use on mouth and throat cancer patients after surgery. Doctors at Christie Hospital in Didsbury, Manchester, said they hoped it would reduce the patients' chances of contracting methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and help to lessen inflammation. The MRSA "superbug" has developed antibiotic resistance, first to penicillin since 1947, and later to methicillin and related anti-staphylococcal drugs. It was first discovered in Britain in 1961 and is now widespread. Biochemist Peter Molan, of Hamilton, has spent two decades researching the capability of some manuka honey strains to battle a range of bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella and helicobacter, as well as actively promote wound healing, even in antibiotic-resistant infections such as MRSA. The anti-bacterial properties of ordinary honey - due to hydrogen peroxide produced by a glucose enzyme - have been known to traditional healers for centuries, but other "bio-active" compounds in some strains of manuka honey are found only in New Zealand and Australia.

07/11/06 - The end of cowboy diplomacy & has WWIII slipped up on us?
The shift under way in Bush's foreign policy is bigger and more seismic than a change of wardrobe or a modulation of tone. Bush came to office pledging to focus on domestic issues and pursue a "humble" foreign policy that would avoid the entanglements of the Bill Clinton years. But in the span of four years, the administration has been forced to rethink the doctrine by which it hoped to remake the world. Bush's response to the North Korean missile test was revealing: Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action. "There's a move, even by Cheney, toward the Kissingerian approach of focusing entirely on vital interests," says a presidential adviser. "It's a more focused foreign policy that is driven by realism and less by ideology." / It's WWIII, and U.S. is out of ideas - Last week's headlines prove the point: North Korea fires missiles, Iran talks of nukes again, Iraq carnage continues, Israel invades Gaza, England observes one-year anniversary of subway bombing. And, oh, yes, the feds stop a plot to blow up tunnels under the Hudson River. World War III has begun. It's not perfectly clear when it started. Perhaps it was after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended. Perhaps it was the first bombing of the World Trade Center, in 1993. What is clear is that this war has a long fuse and, while we are not in the full-scale combat phase that marked World Wars I and II, we seem to be heading there. The feeling that the wheels are coming off the world has only one recent comparison, the time when America's head-butt with communism sprouted hot spots from Cuba to Vietnam. Yet ultimately the policy of mutual assured destruction worked because American and Soviet leaders didn't want their countries hit by nuclear bombs. Such rational thinking is quaint next to the ravings of North Korean nut Kim Jong Il and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They both seem to be dying to die - and set the world on fire. And don't forget Osama Bin Laden's declaration that it is the duty of every Muslim to acquire a "Muslim bomb." Is there any doubt he would use it if he had it?

07/11/06 - Time to call the Sudarshan Disc
(Target ONLY the bad leaders. - JWD) Periodically the world becomes infested with men who have lost their direction towards unification with the Godhood. When this occurs, and the numbers of these men are such that they begin to drag down the rest of struggling humanity, Rama was said to release the Sudarshan Disc. The Disc went forth to seek out these "miscreants" who have forsaken the path, to bring about their destruction. On the successful destruction of such people, the Disc returned to Rama to await its next call to action. The devotee told us that modern man was wasteful and negligent in the dispensation of his weapons of war and destruction when compared to the abilities of the masters of Vedic technologies. Modern weapons are sent forth without regard for innocent people who have nothing to do with the anger which brought about the problem in the first place. As a result, many innocent people are needlessly destroyed. The Vedas speak of a technology which provided for specific and precise direction of those destructive energies towards a singular target. By directing such a weapon toward a leader or leaders of an aggressive country, nothing which was not included in the original target would be damaged. Thus, due to its specificity, the Vedic system was much to be preferred.

07/10/06 - New solar power much cheaper than oil, says report
“Every year, each square kilometre of desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5m barrels of oil,” said the study’s project manager, Dr Franz Trieb. “Multiplying by the area of deserts world-wide, this is nearly a thousand times the entire current energy consumption of the world.” "We can tap in to this energy by using mirrors to concentrate sunlight and create heat. The heat may be used to raise steam and drive a generator in the conventional way. “This kind of ‘concentrating solar power’ (CSP) - which is very different from the better-known photovoltaic ‘solar panels’ - has been producing electricity successfully in California for nearly twenty years. "The cost of collecting solar thermal energy equivalent to one barrel of oil is about $50 (€39) right now - already less than the current world price of oil. This is likely to come down to around $20 (€15.61) in future.”

07/10/06 - the Door to Door 3 minute response time Taxibus
(Wonder what the price is per km/mile for this service? On a recent trip to Texas, I paid $50 for a Yellow Cab ride of about 8 miles in Dallas, then another $30 for a 5 mile trip to pick up my rental car, total ripoff! - JWD) What do you get when you combine the convenience of a door-to-door taxi ride, the environmental benefits of mass-transit, the intelligence of satellite technology and the speed of cellular communication? Taxibus. The UK company, Intelligent Grouping Transportation (IGT), has created a model for urban transportation that aims to take the best from a number of existing transit and communication modes and make something superior. The Taxibus functions like a taxi, in that you call for it when you are ready for a ride, and it picks you up at your door. IGT promises that their system would guarantee 3-minute rapid response based upon computerized itineraries in each taxibus that instantaneously updates upon each new ride request. The computers also have GPS technology that directs drivers to their destination and adjusts continuously to accomodate new circumstances.

07/10/06 - Maglev Windmill Breakthrough
Chinese developers unveiled the world’s first full-permanent magnetic levitation (Maglev) wind power generator at the Wind Power Asia Exhibition 2006 held June 28 in Beijing, according to Xinhua News. The Maglev generator is expected to boost wind energy generating capacity by as much as 20 percent over traditional wind turbines. This would effectively cut the operational expenses of wind farms by up to half, keeping the overall cost of wind power under 0.4 yuan ($US 5 cents), according to Guokun Li, the chief scientific developer of the new technology. Further, the Maglev is able to utilize winds with starting speeds as low as 1.5 meters per second (m/s), and cut-in speeds of 3 m/s, the chief of Zhongke Energy was quoted as saying at the exhibition. When compared with the operational hours of existing wind turbines, the new technology will add an additional 1,000 hours of operation annually to wind power plants in areas with an average wind speed of 3 m/s.

07/10/06 - Technology for parents to spy on kids
(What a way to build paranoia and distrust in kids and parents. - JWD) Another company, Alltrack USA, offers a service that e-mails or calls parents if the car they're monitoring exceeds a certain speed or leaves a defined geographic area. DriveCam, which now installs cameras in fleet vehicles, plans to offer a monthly service to parents and teens next year that will let them watch video clips of their driving and receive coaching from driving experts. CarChip-type devices differ from the "black boxes," or event data recorders, installed by manufacturers in many cars to record speed and other data in the seconds before a crash. A California law that limits access to that data does not apply to the types of accessories parents are using.

07/10/06 - Managing your Reputation
As you go through life, you acquire a reputation. Do you pay your bills on time? How do you treat library books? Do you forget to return money you've borrowed? This reputation affects your ability to gain access to things and services. In the future, with spimes and smart objects as actors in a world of ubiquitous information, your objects could be rented to anyone at any time. Gaining access to those objects could be as simple as having a great reputation. Dave Chiu and Didier Hillhorst have developed an interesting concept of what they call Reputation Management Service. Interesting because it gives a glimpse of what tomorrow could bring but I also find it rather frightening (and not just because I never ever pay my bills on time). RentAThing enables negotiation for access by addressing risk. A series of transaction mechanisms and interactions leverage trust and reputation to enable a variety of scenarios involving access to objects and services. Instead of silos of reputation, with various services, companies, and individuals developing isolated reputations, RentAThing provides a centralized means of managing and developing a single reputation: your reputation. Those with a consistently good reputation would gain access to discounts, special services and deals as 'preferred customers', not because they spend more but because they are reliable, responsible and have a track record for integrity.

07/10/06 - A Riot of Rockets
This week may see something far more relevant to the future of space travel than the aging space shuttle: the launch of a prototype piece of a future orbiting hotel. It comes amid an expected flurry of private launches of small, innovative, and reusable rockets that will make 2006 a watershed year for privately financed rockets. Taken together, these expected launches could usher in an era of relatively inexpensive space travel. Conceived as an add-on module for the International Space Station, Las Vegas hotelier Robert Bigelow is planning his first test flight of a subscale version of an inflatable space station module, scheduled to take place by July 14 at a launch pad in Russia. But the Bigelow launch is only the first in a series of expected private launches. Some of the loudest roars will be heard this fall in New Mexico, at the X Prize Cup. The challenge includes a $2.5 million prize for demonstrating a rocket's ability to take off and land vertically, and move sideways while aloft. Fifty teams have registered for the contest and two are considered almost certain to compete: Armadillo Aerospace of Texas, which was a competitor for the original X Prize, and startup Masten Space Systems of Mojave, CA.

07/10/06 - Question for readers
Is there a flash memory camera that takes sequential stills or a short video (perhaps 30 minutes or so) with an extensible camera head? The camera 'eye' itself would be small and with an X,Y mount that can be clipped or attached easily. I'm thinking of something you could wear on your body or clip to the inside of your car which would let you trigger and record 'headsup' events. Perhaps at a spy shop? This would be a very handy thing to keep available. A sure thing to piss off a rotten cop or 'security' person is for them to have a camera pointed at them, but something like this would be very useful and allow people to more easily document abuses. Play their game 'at the moment', but make them pay later. The sooner people start STANDING UP against the rotten ones, the better. I've had run-ins with several bad cops with an attitude, but I also know many, MANY more policemen who are good guys just out to protect the public without 'copping' an attitude, who try to help where they can and treat people like they want to be treated. If you have any links for such an off the shelf product please email me, thanks! - JWD

07/10/06 - Overzealous Tin Badge employees overstepping their job duties
My friend Phil and I were going through a metal detector on the way out of Highbury & Islington tube on Friday evening around 8.30pm, on our way to a gig. Phil, who has a degree in physics, said to me in a low voice that the metal detector was a "piece of shit that wouldn't stop anyone". Obviously, someone was listening, as all of a sudden, half a dozen policemen jumped on him and hustled him over to the corner of the tube station, where he was detained for about 20 minutes for the grave crime of swearing in public, and fined £80 for the privilege. For swearing! On the tube! If it's such a crime, then I owe them about a million pounds, as swearing on and at the tube is the only way to deal with the pain of having to travel on the dratted thing every day. The police were fucking rude, too, and treated Phil like he was a hardened criminal - they were really aggressive, and clearly wanted him to lose his temper so they could charge him with something worse. They said repeatedly he was very close to being arrested. For the terrible crime of swearing and calling their machine a piece of shit - which, as a physics graduate, he actually knows about. Phil co-operated fully and gave them every piece of ID you could think of, and allowed them to search his bag, but that wasn't enough for them - they just had to keep on firing questions. I got really upset and started crying through rage, frustration and fear. I also asked them very politely if this was the UK or the People's Republic of China. They then told me I was very close to being arrested, too. Also need a site like this; - policing the police, for those few renegade employees abusing their jobs and acting in the name of Homeland Security enforcement to carry out abuses and rights infringements/denials without fear of reprimand or legal reprisals.

07/09/06 - Need water? With AquaMagic, you just add air
Utah-based AquaMagic is in the midst of its “Hurricane Zone” tour, during which it is showing off its new HP120- DRU, a portable water generator able to make pure drinking water out of air. AquaMagic has been developing the technology for some time, “but we focused on this (portable) size when we saw what was happening to the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” said David Richards, in charge of marketing and innovation for AquaMagic. The machine is powered by a diesel generator that can produce up to 120 gallons of drinking water per day by converting air into water. The mobile unit is being pitched as more efficient and cost-effective than traditional methods of supplying water in the wake of a disaster, such as trucking in bottled water. Using condensation techniques and its patent-pending AquaFlash technology, the HP120 can get 10 gallons of water for every gallon of diesel fuel it uses, according to John Tompkins, an engineer who works with Richards in Longmont. “You can pull in 10 truckloads of water, or you can bring in one truckload of fuel and get 10 truckloads worth of water,” Tompkins said. Local biologist Brent Cannell, who works with Richards and Tompkins as a consultant, has been key to making the water that comes out of the HP120 more pure than bottled water, Richards said.

07/09/06 - Pythoness of Delphi a vaporhead glue sniffer?
Long before focus groups and computer modeling came into vogue, a woman (actually a succession of women) known as the Oracle of Delphi was the arbiter of choice for politicians and military planners in ancient Greece. No carnival fortune-teller, she was consulted on important matters of state, from questions of inheritance and taxation to issues of crime, government and war. The Delphic Oracle and her prophecies were extensively documented in classical texts, and so modern scholars have a pretty good idea of who she was and how she did her work. For nine months of the year, from March through November, the Pythias, a priestess of Apollo, conducted audiences in the temple of the god in Delphi. Seated on a three-legged stool in a holy chamber, she entertained the questions of petitioners. Then, after taking a few breaths of a sweet-smelling gas, or pneuma, which rose from a fissure below her, she would pronounce, normally in verse. As Greece declined and the centuries passed, the temple, shrines, and statues of Delphi fell into disrepair-desecrated by Christian zealots, ransacked by armies, tumbled by earthquakes, buried by landslides. By the late nineteenth century, stories of the Oracle had taken on the flavor of legend. Then, in 1892, archaeologists unearthed the remains of Apollo’ s temple on the hillsides of Mount Parnassus, under the small village of Kastri. As the dig progressed, most of the ancient descriptions were verified: the temple and its inner chamber slowly emerged. Archaeologists even found a marble slab on which the Oracle’ s seat may have rested, and a rounded stone, called the omphalos (“navel”), which represented Delphi’ s place at the center of the world. What was missing, however, was the cleft that emitted pneuma, the mysterious substance that made the seeress see. An analysis of ancient gases trapped in porous rocks at the Delphic spring, along with samples of the water that flows there now, showed that among the gases the Oracle might have breathed was the sweet-smelling and intoxicating gas ethylene. De Boer and Hale even enlisted a toxicologist named Henry A. Spiller to administer low doses of ethylene to several human subjects, to determine whether it might induce the trancelike behavior attributed to the Oracle. It did. So is that all there is? Was the great Oracle “as much glue sniffer as guru,” as one journal has put it? Broad, usually a hard-nosed reporter, thinks not. In the penultimate chapter, he suggests that ethylene just might be a gateway to a world beyond scientific reductionism.

07/09/06 - Will the future be worse than our nightmares?
There is a fear that nanotechnology, genetics and cybernetics are leading us towards a point where the human race would become obsolete. A point where these technologies would have a life beyond their masters will -- they would be able to self-replicate and self-develop without human interference. Then we would become peripheral to their development, he argued, and they would dispose of us. Simple evolutionary theory: the Hell scenario. "The optimistic view for those who subscribe to the Hell scenario is that we destroy all human life within 25 years," says Joel Garreau, author of Radical Evolution, which explores different visions of the future. "The pessimistic one is we destroy all life." While NBC weapons were isolated in the hands of certain governments, and access to them depended, not only on know-how, but complex technology and raw materials that could be to a degree controlled and restricted by non-proliferation treaties. G.R.I.N. are already largely in the hands of the private sector, as ubiquitous and uncontrollable as information is in the information age: the property of anyone with a lab, money, a web connection and a few PhD-level minds. Their development is occurring in secret, in largely unregulated environments, and decisions about what is ethical or proper are taken by whoever holds the purse strings. It's not necessarily even that that these technologies will fall into the hands of evil people, but that scientists working in an academic bubble, without ethical scrutiny and pursuing research for its own merits may accidentally create something truly appalling, something that might escape beyond the safety of a lab. Or be picked up and used as a weapon by somebody else with genuinely wicked intention. What effect will it have on politics when the wealthy no longer need the poor? When the powerful no longer need the weak? When perceptions of human value have been radically altered by self-enhancement? You only have to look back sixty years to find a time when eugenic theories and ideas of racial superiority were mainstream, and they still lurk on the fringes of society. To dispute the potential for another Nazi-like revival is to defy the evidence of history.

07/09/06 - New research reveals people ‘born lucky’
Around 2000 members of the New Zealand public took part in the online study, submitting their birthdate and rating the degree to which they were lucky or unlucky. The results show that those born in the summer months (September - February) considered themselves luckier than winter-borns (March - August). 68% of people born in December considered themselves lucky, making it the luckiest month - this figure dropped to just 47% in the unluckiest month, April. “These results are very exciting”, commented Professor Wiseman, “it suggests that the temperature around the time of a person’s birth has a small but real effect on their personality. The effect might be due to changes in how some parents interact with their babies during summer and winter, but we won’t know for certain until we have conducted additional research”. The experiment follows a similar British study conducted by Professor Wiseman in 2004. In this previous work, those born in the British summer months (March - August) rated themselves as luckier than winter borns (September - February).

07/09/06 - Ripoff artists use pre-approved, no interest Credit Cards
South San Francisco resident Michael Wisper was shocked when he opened his mail the other day. He'd received a pre-approved, no-interest credit card from something called CCA in Las Vegas. "I don't know who these people are and never requested this card," Wisper told me, and he asked if I knew anything about the issuer. "We've got stacks and stacks of complaints about this company," said Sylvia Campbell, president of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Nevada. "They're one of the top contenders on our list of companies that we wish would go someplace else." Campbell said no fewer than 720 complaints about CCA, otherwise known as Capital Credit Alliance, have been received since 2003. Twenty complaints were submitted by consumers nationwide last month alone. In May, the New York Consumer Protection Board issued a warning about CCA, which it said also goes by the name CCS, as in Consumer Credit Services. "These cards appear to be no-interest credit cards, offering consumers a credit limit between $6,500 and $8,000," said Teresa Santiago, the board's executive director. "But you learn the truth in the fine print." And that print is indeed fine. Wisper's CCA mailing, which he shared with me, includes six pages of dense, virtually unreadable legalese that few consumers would want or be able to wade through. But if you do, you discover that CCA's First National card isn't in fact a normal credit card in the sense that you can use it to make purchases anywhere you please. Rather, the card can be used only to buy things from CCA's own catalog of merchandise, which the Better Business Bureau's Campbell said is similar to a Sears or JC Penney catalog but with more-expensive goods. The card comes with a $199.99 activation fee, which will be deducted from your checking account if you don't cancel the card within two weeks of calling to activate it via an automated process. There's also an annual fee of $198 the first year and $99 for all subsequent years, and what the contract says are "2 great annual benefits" costing $99.99 each.

07/09/06 - Sails coming back for higher efficiency
SkySails' system consists of an enormous towing kite and navigation software that can map the best route between two points for maximum wind efficiency. In development for more than four years, the system costs from roughly $380,000 to $3.2 million, depending on the size of the ship it's pulling. SkySails claims it will save one third of fuel costs. The sail systems are meant as a retrofit technology that can work with any cargo ship as well as yachts of more than 79 feet. Ships can use their engines to begin and end voyages and use sail power in lieu of engines for the middle portion. Use both, and you go even faster.

07/09/06 - One a day AIDS pill
(About a year ago, a researcher friend told us, on the QT, of a new discovery in Asia of a single pill, costing $10 that CURED AIDS in 24 hours. We have been awaiting news release with details and hoped this was it, alas, it is not. - JWD) The pill, which combines three drugs made by two companies, would be a milestone in improving the simplicity of treatment for the disease, experts say. It should make it easier for people to take their medicine regularly, which is important for keeping the virus that causes the disease in check. Only a decade ago, when cocktails of AIDS drugs were first used, patients often had to take two or three dozen pills a day, some with food, some without, some so frequently patients had to get up in the middle of the night. Since then, the regimens have been whittled down to as few as two pills a day, and now, one. The new drug is a combination of drugs already on the market - Sustiva sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Truvada, sold by Gilead Sciences. Truvada is a combination of two Gilead drugs, Viread and Emtriva. The new salmon-colored pill is about 1,500 milligrams, the size of a large vitamin pill, and some people might find it difficult to swallow. Bristol-Myers and Gilead say they will make the new pill available at a sharply reduced price for developing nations, but details are still being worked out. They are negotiating with Merck & Company, which sells efavirenz in those countries under the name stocrin. Dr. Cohen, who is an adviser to Gilead, Bristol-Myers and other drug manufacturers, said there was already some concern among AIDS experts that having a once-a-day treatment would make people lose their fear of H.I.V. "We still want people to respect that prevention of the disease is better than treatment," he said.

07/09/06 - Can Air power a Bus?
A patent is pending for an air motor that Dickerson hopes eventually to apply to KART's fleet of diesel-run buses. The design differs from other air motor concepts that have periodically debuted. "I started toying with the idea of running this engine off hydrogen," he said. "The hardest part was finding a reliable source of hydrogen." Internet searches led him to the idea of using compressed air instead. A year and a half later, a prototype is nearly half done. "This little air motor will weigh 45 pounds," he said. Although the prototype is scalable, meaning it can be replicated on a larger scale to fit into a KART bus, a discovery led him to realize the invention's limits. "The other thing I encountered early on in this process is distance," he said. People use personal vehicles for errands, road trips and other outings whose mileage is almost always an unknown. Air motors last for a specified number of miles, making them impractical for mass-market automobiles. "It's ideal for a transit bus because their routes are mapped," Dickerson said. "You know how many miles you're going, so you know how many (air) tanks to put in." When buses come back to the bus barn, instead of filling up with diesel, they could be hooked up to a hose and supplied with air through an air chuck. An intake nozzle already exists in the buses for air suspension and air brakes. "You just plug it in and fill up your tank," he said. "No more fuel, no more exhaust, and it wouldn't be powered by a lot of batteries." Each KART bus that travels the Ketchum-Sun Valley route logs approximately 250 miles per day, Crawford said. That service costs approximately $50,000 a year in fuel.

07/08/06 - The Sky's No Limit
By an accident of upbringing, and then by dint of a long sojourn in the tropics, I have become a Steppenwolf. A Steppenwolf enters into civil society, is peaceable, but always sees himself as someone apart. He has no wish to destroy civilisation, but finds it faulty. Such is my disposition. Science fiction can sketch possible scenarios, yet we need institutions that can plan ahead. Democracies are deficient in this regard; the vision of our politicians is necessarily confined, in the main, to the next five years and an oncoming general election, whereas a dictator such as Stalin could plan years ahead, towards the death of the Aral Sea. In this respect, Nasa, so often criticised, is much to be praised. There, men and women learn to work on projects that will come to fruition years ahead, probably after they have retired or died.

07/08/06 - Solitons Could Power Molecular Electronics, Artificial Muscles
(Thanks to Bert Pool for the headsup. - JWD) The name "soliton" is short for "solitary wave." Though scientists often treat particles such as electrons as waves, soliton waves are different. Ordinary electron waves spread out and diminish over time, and soliton waves don't. "It's like when you make a ripple in water -- it quickly spreads and disappears," Li said. "But a soliton is a strange kind of object. Once it is made, it maintains its character for a long time. "A new study now suggests that solitons have intricate internal structures. Scientists may one day use this information to put the particles to work in molecular electronics and artificial muscles, said Ju Li, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State University. Li explained that each soliton is made up of an electron surrounded by other particles called phonons. Just as a photon is a particle of light energy, a phonon is a particle of vibrational energy. The new study suggests that the electron inside a soliton can attain different energy states, just like the electron in a hydrogen atom. "While we know that such internal electronic structures exist in all atoms, this is the first time anyone has shown that such structures exist in a soliton," Li said. The soliton's quantum mechanical properties -- including these newly discovered energy states -- are important because they affect how the particle carries a charge through organic materials such as conducting polymers at the molecular level. Because polymer chains tend to bend and twist as solitons pass through them, scientists have wondered whether solitons could be used to power artificial muscles for high-tech robots and devices to aid human mobility. Such muscles would be made of organic polymers, and flex in response to light or electrochemical stimulation. "If fully understood, solitons may also be harnessed to drive molecular motors in nanotechnology," Li said.

07/08/06 - Geometric maps reveal hidden beauty of music
In these maps, a single point corresponds to a chord. The scheme is constructed so that a point representing a chord with the notes C and G has a position next to combinations of nearby notes on the scale, such as the chord containing the slightly higher-pitched “sharp” notes C# and G#. The shorter the distance from one point in the map to another, the better the chord transition sounds to the ear. So, for example, only a short step exists between points representing two musical intervals known as the “perfect fourth” and “perfect fifth” - a standard transition that pervades all types of Western music, even rock. Short steps can exist between less conventionally linked chords. The non-standard chord progressions of the E minor piano prelude, written by the 19th century composer Frederick Chopin, move along very short lines in these maps. Music theorists have previously struggled to explain why the succession of chords he used sounded so pleasant. By contrast, a much longer distance - and a much more jarring transition - exists between two close notes at the low end of the scale to a close pair at the high end. Because non-Euclidean geometry has been widely accepted for more than a century, Tymoczko is surprised that no one has already discovered this method. “In some sense this should have been found 100 years ago,” he says. The number of dimensions needed to express the chord progressions correspond with the number of notes in the chord. So a piece of music with three-note chords is shown in three dimensions, whereas one with four-note chords is represented in four dimensions.

07/08/06 - Fueled by dreams
A truck that travels an extra 100 miles from hydrogen injection and a belt buckle that doubles as a solar lighter are two inventions Joe Santos thinks will help save the environment and lives. With gas prices rising, Santos decided to use his two years of research about hydrogen fuel to improve his mileage, if only slightly. A few weeks ago, Santos rigged his 2000 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup to separate purified water mixed with sodium hydroxide into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity. The hydrogen, injected into the air going to the engine, adds about four extra miles for every gallon of gas while he's driving down the highway, he said. On a full tank, Santos said he gets about an extra 100 miles. Beneath the hood, the truck has a reservoir that holds just less than a gallon of the water and sodium dioxide mixture. An electric current runs through the container, allowing the hydrogen atoms to break from the oxygen atoms. After three weeks of driving, Santos still hasn't needed to refill the reservoir. "I never thought water could be a fuel because you can't burn it," he said. "But when you separate the oxygen, you can." The engine add-on, which Santos calls an electrolyzer, cost about $40, with the stainless steel fittings being the most expensive component. Santos filled a test tube with hydrogen from his engine and ignited it with a cigarette lighter. The tube combusted with a yellow flash and a quiet pop.

07/08/06 - Not everyone wants Long Life
Brad Partridge, a PhD student at the University of Queensland, set out to find what people thought about extending life. He found that people were more concerned with quality than quantity. "Contrary to what many in the scientific community have been saying, people are actually much more concerned about the quality of life rather than the length of it," Mr Partridge said. "There's been a tendency to just assume that of course everyone will be unconditionally interested in living longer, that they'll want it out of selfishness, but that's really not the case." There were concerns about overpopulation if everyone lived to 150, and many people said they would want access to euthanasia. "They're thinking 'if I'm going to live on for ages and ages I might just decide I've had enough'," Mr Partridge said. Older people assumed the young would be more interested in living longer, and younger people assumed the same about the elderly, but both groups were equally apprehensive.

07/08/06 - Breathing Helium to detect Lung Damage
A new test devised by University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists starts with smokers breathing in a liter of the harmless gas, mixed with nitrogen, through a straw and finishes with an MRI that can detect how far the gas has penetrated into the tiny air cavities of the lungs. "Our technique is potentially more sensitive than established [imaging] techniques," Fain said. "This is the first time structural changes have been shown in the lungs of asymptomatic smokers." Smoking is the most common cause of emphysema, and cigarettes can contribute to the onset of asthma and bronchitis. With emphysema, the lung's alveoli-the tiny sacs where oxygen goes into the blood stream and carbon dioxide comes out-break down. Previous work using helium with MRIs showed that the gas moved more freely in the lungs of patients with emphysema. The approach could be useful for non-smokers too, as everyone's lung structure breaks down over time as a result of aging. But smoking and other environmental processes speed up the breakdown considerably.

07/07/06 - New Diesel alternative in New Zealand
Rising fuel prices have prompted Tauranga entrepreneurs Tristin Walker and Logan Fisher to develop an alternative diesel - for a fraction of the cost. The Te Puna friends have developed a bio-fuel using recycled vegetable oil - one they say burns cleaner, runs smoother and is available in the Bay. So on went the thinking caps and into the shed the friends went with litres of used vegetable oil - and out they came with the finished product and company Bio-Fuel Direct at the end of March. "We experimented with a lot of different ways of doing things until we got it right." It's been far from easy for the men who source the vital ingredient from local restaurants. The oil is pumped into two large holding tanks and strained to get rid of all the solids. It's then boiled to 120C to get rid of the water and run through more filters. Organic chemicals are then added and, in the final stage, it all goes through 10-nicron filters. But it was not until part way through the invention process that the pair truly understood the long-term possibilities of what they were developing. "We thought we might as well try and make a living out of it." They have their own factory set up in a container in their backyard, where they spend their days perfecting the mixture, which is pumped out at 99 cents a litre - about 80 per cent of the cost of standard diesel. "It's heaps better for your engine, it burns cleaner and it's 96 per cent better for the environment than standard diesel, it drives a lot smoother and there's no need to convert your vehicle." The idea of running cars on vegetable oil is as old as the diesel engine itself. German inventor Rudolph Diesel, who patented his namesake engine in the 1890s, built some that ran on peanut oil. "That was the convincer - that's how we knew it was going to work all along." There is one down side, however, this being the desire to fill your stomach each time you jump behind the wheel. "The smell, it reminds you of cooking and you find yourself getting rather hungry."

07/07/06 - Robot Rickshaw
"I loved to play with robots. The cleverer they became, the deeper the emotional link I felt to them. Later, I began to call them my sons." The wire, metal, screws and nails he used came from rubbish sites, or sometimes used parts from farm machinery. In the late '70s, Wu got a job at a farm machinery factory, and the small income helped him turn used sewing machine parts and some steel wire into his first robot. "Until now, I don't know the theory of physics, but I knew that electricity can drive motors and power can be transferred to the robot's hands and legs with levers and wires," Wu said. After his first robot turned out to be "disabled," Wu continued to experiment. In 1982, the first movable robot, Wu Laoda (the first son of the Wu), was born. Another video shows Wu Laoda as a coarse combination of steel wires and sticks without head and skin. He was destroyed in a fire seven years ago. Last month, Wu made the headlines again for a new invention, a robot able to pull a rickshaw one step every three or four seconds. Sitting in the rickshaw, Wu said he has no plans to start a robot business. "I can invent robots able to carry a sedan chair, and next I will make robots of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. "There are so many good things in life, and they become the basis for my robots."

07/07/06 - Paper Muscles
Researchers at Inha University in South Korea have demonstrated that cellulose, the main ingredient in paper, can bend in response to electricity. The treated cellulose is lightweight, inexpensive, and has low power requirements, compared with similar electrically active materials. The Korean researchers are now working with NASA to develop insect-sized, wirelessly powered flying vehicles with flapping paper wings. The researchers, led by Jaehwan Kim, associate professor at the university, made the electrically active cellulose by dissolving paper pulp, forming it into sheets, and coating it with a layer of gold as an electrode. Some areas of the cellulose film are highly ordered, while in other areas, the cellulose strands are tangled like spaghetti. The movement of ions through the paper -- and the movement of cellulose strands themselves, which have negative and positively charged ends -- causes the paper to bend in response to an electrical current. The bending is driven by the ordered regions, but free space in disordered regions allows ions to flow more freely and adds to the paper's ability to deform. Materials that move in response to electrical current are called piezoelectrics. Kim's cellulose is one of a new class of these materials, called electroactive polymers, that have generated excitement in the scientific community for their potential uses in many areas: artificial muscles, chemical sensors, visual displays, the moving parts of robots, and batteries. "The value of electrically active paper is that it's lightweight and has a high deflection [movement] at low voltage" compared to traditional electroactive polymers, says Sang Choi, senior research scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center. When a small voltage is applied to Kim's paper, it can move a relatively large distance; for instance, in experiments, the tip of a 30-millimeter-long strip of electroactive paper was displaced 4.2 millimeters. Indeed, the strength of the electric field required to move the tip of the paper to its maximum displacement is one to two orders of magnitude less than is required by other electroactive polymers. And the paper can change shape quickly, moving back and forth as fast as once every 0.06 seconds. NASA's Choi is interested in Kim's material because, compared with conventional piezoelectrics and other electroactive polymers, it is very lightweight and requires very little power. Together, Choi and Kim are designing a small flying vehicle with cellulose wings powered by ambient microwaves.

07/07/06 - V-phone - computer and phone in key device
V-phone is Vonage Holdings Corp.'s key-chain device that plugs into any USB port on any Windows-based computer to provide instant Internet calling to and from your number. The $40 stick really just a USB drive pre-loaded with Vonage software and your account ID couldn't be much easier to use. Upon inserting the V-Phone into the USB port, the software boots automatically in most cases, displaying an a small orange window with number pad. Depending on the computer, it took anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds to complete this instant setup, which includes online authentication between the device and Vonage's servers. If the dialing window failed to appear, usually all that was needed was a click on the orange "V" icon in the system tray or a quick trip to "My Computer" to click the drive with the V-Phone. Only in one instance, on my office computer, the application encountered a conflict with the Windows operating system that required a slightly unnerving fix that involved renaming drives, the AP reports. The device comes with its own jack for standard cell-phone earphones, a set of which Vonage includes in the package. This jack is a big plus, as it means you don't need to find the separate sound and audio ports on a computer, and in the case of a desktop machine, you needn't unplug the speakers to plug in your earphones.

07/07/06 - RFID Lets Parents Tag, Release Kids At Parks
A new RFID-and-kiosk system called SafeTzone lets overprotective parents TAG AND RELEASE their children at amusement parks. The system also serves as an on-site debit card, so parents can give their kids money without, you know, giving them money. Here's how it works: Each member of the family gets a smart card attached to a wrist band. Parents use their credit card to determine how much money is loaded onto each cards. Then the kids are set free. Sensors all over the park track everyone at all times. When any member of the family swipes their card, they're showed the current location of all other family members.

07/07/06 - Firefighters battle blazes with new tools
Moisture levels are below average in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, and Wyoming, and much of the Great Plains from Oklahoma to North Dakota is experiencing drought as well. In all, one-fourth of the US is facing moderate-to-extreme drought conditions, which brings the threat of fire. Wildfire detection and management have gone through a renaissance of sorts in recent years, experts say. Rotating digital cameras are replacing human lookouts posted in lonely mountain towers. Satellites, computers, remote automated weather stations, and lightning strike detectors are among the new tools used to monitor, map, and model fires. Most wildfires are caused by lightning in summer thunderstorms. A big part of the danger comes with suburbs pushing farther into the wildland-urban interface where homes are surrounded by trees and shrubs that can fuel fires.

07/07/06 - Redneck Railroad
Entrepreneurial railway hackers in Cambodia have built "bamboo trains" powered by electric motors that ply the abandoned rails of the nation's decrepit rail system. With only one scheduled train per week, these jerry-rigged trains are an easy way to move people and cargo around the Cambodian countryside. A tiny electric generator engine provides the power, and the passenger accommodation is a bamboo platform that rests on top of two sets of wheels. A dried-grass mat to sit on counts as a luxury. It would be a white-knuckle ride - if there were actually anything to hold on to. The bamboo trains reach about 40km/h (25mph), with the track just a couple of inches below the passengers. Warped and broken rails make for a bone-shaking journey... Low fares add to the appeal, but the service is not without its quirks. There is only one track - so if two trains meet, the one with the lightest load has to be taken off the rails so the other can pass.

07/07/06 - New Sensors Can Smell Money
A new nanotech sensor can SMELL the ink used on paper money. The technology was developed by the University of Michigan and sponsored by U.S. border security officials.

07/06/06 - Energia do mar: Economist relata projecto da Póvoa do Varzim
(I've covered this one before but it didn't mention the 'jerky fashion' that causes current spikes that can be collected from the slow movement of waves. - JWD) The new device, called the Snapper, increases efficiency still further. Electrical generators tend to work most efficiently when a small force is applied at high speed-which is just the opposite of what wave power provides, says Ed Spooner, a consultant engineer based near Durham, in England, who invented the Snapper. His invention works much like a typical linear generator, in which a magnet is moved up and down inside coils of wire, inducing electrical currents in the process. But there is a crucial difference: alongside the coils are a second set of magnets of alternating polarity. These prevent the central magnet from moving up and down smoothly. Instead, magnetic forces repeatedly halt its motion, so that it moves up and down in a jerky fashion. The resulting series of short, rapid movements is more suitable for generating electricity than a slow, smooth movement. Early tests suggest that it could be as much as ten times more efficient than existing wave generators. Having spent years floundering in the water, could wave power finally be ready to make a splash?

07/06/06 - Cure for fat kids
From America comes a new idea for getting their current generation of junior couch potatoes fit - adding weights to their toys. A study by a team from Indiana State University found that kids whose toys had small steel blocks glued inside them had "significant increases in heart rate, oxygen uptake and energy expenditure". Well, natch. But you know how competitive American moms can be. Only a matter of time before we get: "Come on Timmy, take your steroids like a good boy and show daddy how many Lego blocks you can lift..."

07/06/06 - Alternative fuel-producing model using wheat flour
Living in a county rich with oil, Bob Candee thinks he may have the answer to the nation's energy problems. This Richey farmer believes wheat flour can be used as an alternative source of fuel. Candee has had the idea to use flour, or grain dust, as an energy source for nearly 40 years. Now, he has a patent pending on this alternative to power an internal combustion engine. “The fuel particles when combined with the proper amount of air can be atomized into a combustible substance,” he explained. “The resulting combustion will power a special made piston engine with a large bore. A gas vapor is used only for the ignition enhancer as the power comes from the fuel air mixture. The fuel is plain old wheat flour.” Grain dust is a highly flammable substance. Candee said he was inspired to get going on his idea when the grain elevator at Circle, Mont., burned. In fact, grain dust is responsible for as many as 10 grain-elevator explosions a year in the U.S. Although he said “plain old wheat flour” could be used as fuel, Candee further explained to The Prairie Star the flour would actually have to be processed to another degree of fineness than what can be purchased at the local grocery store. Candee said the grain dust would be 99 percent perpetual in creating electricity. He also believes it could run an engine 300 miles to the gallon, or 10 miles per cup of fumes. Currently working on an engine that would run on this fuel, Candee is secretive about the details. However, he did say he would like to set it up on an electrical generator and that the engine would require an inner air heater as this is important to ignite the grain dust. Candee said it is possible to test his theory by placing flour in a six-inch by six-inch cardboard box, shaking it up and then putting a match in it. “That doesn't really prove anything other than what we know - that it is highly explosive,” he added.

07/06/06 - CO2 driven ocean acidity killing ocean life
There's no longer much question, Kleypas emphasized, that increased atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide -- one of the main greenhouse gases driving climate change -- is also causing the world's oceans to become more acidic. The acidification of the oceans, she said, could be what is already killing so many coral reefs across the planet. "Coral reefs are like the rain forests of the ocean," noted co-author Chris Langdon, a coral expert at the University of Miami. Acidification of seawater undermines the skeletal structures of coral, Langdon said, which in turn undermines this basic marine ecosystem and harms other species that have evolved to depend upon it. Chris Sabine, Feely's colleague at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, said that the oceans tend to absorb over time the increased emissions of CO{-2} we've been putting out for the past 200 years or so since the industrial revolution began. So far, Sabine said, the oceans have absorbed about 118 million tons of CO{-2}, or maybe a third of the fossil fuel emissions. But the absorption in seawater causes a chemical reaction, producing carbonic acid. This, in turn, reduces the amount of calcium carbonate in the ocean -- which turns out to be a chemical widely used by marine life. "We're basically generating acid in the ocean," Sabine said. As acid levels rise in the surface waters, Feeley said, many species of plankton and other creatures at the base of the marine food chain can't develop properly because of the acid-caused decline in calcium carbonate.

07/06/06 - Why US feels the heat to keep its shuttles flying
When the space shuttle Discovery docks with the International Space Station Thursday, some of the loudest cheers will be overseas. That's because the shuttle is the only vehicle able to deliver key components of the station over the next four years. Its success will determine whether the station becomes a fully functional international laboratory - or a useless, partially built curiosity circling Earth. It may also determine whether the United States remains a player in future international efforts in manned spaceflight. "The US already is saying to our international partners: Look, give us a little time and we'll come up with a suggested program for cooperation on exploring space and sending humans beyond Earth orbit," says Dr. Williamson. "We will not be credible in that unless we can at least make the attempt to carry out obligations under agreements" such as those governing the space station.

07/06/06 - Heat Alleviates Pain
It was discovered heat was capable of "deactivating" the pain at a molecular level, in a similar way to common painkillers. "The pain of colic, cystitis and period pain is caused by a temporary reduction in blood flow to, or over-distension of hollow organs such as the bowel or uterus, causing local tissue damage and activating pain receptors," Dr King said. "The heat doesn't just provide comfort and have a placebo effect; it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work." The team found receptors react once heat over 40C is applied to the skin near where the internal pain is occurring. The heat receptors in turn block the effect of chemical messengers that cause pain to be detected by the body. "The problem with heat is that it can only provide temporary relief," Dr King said.

07/06/06 - Cyborgs now possible
THE technology that enables artificial limbs to be directly attached to a human skeleton has been developed. The concept of growing skin tissue around metal, a staple of science fiction films such as The Terminator, was realised by researchers at University College London. It paves the way for significant advances in the technology of artificial limbs, including the use of bionic limbs controlled robotically by nerve impulses. Early trials of the technology are being carried out on a group of patients, including two people who lost arms in the London bombings on July 7 last year.

07/06/06 - Self-Powered Silicon Laser Chips
To get the lasing effect, both Jalali and Intel used an external laser and fired it into the silicon, where the energy of the light beam interacted with the material to produce new light. Hitting the silicon with high-intensity laser light causes the silicon to generate unwanted electrons, though, which in turn can absorb the photons being produced, undermining the laser effect. "The material becomes like a sponge, soaking up the light," says Jalali. Intel addressed the problem by attaching an electrical diode and running a current across the chip to essentially "vacuum up" the electrons. But that required about one watt of electrical power -- enough to run a million transistors on the chip. The current running through the chip also produced waste heat that could cause the chip to stop functioning. Jalali wondered what would happen if he reversed the voltage bias of the power from the diode, which would reverse the electrical field within the silicon. The result: the reversed bias still swept out the stray electrons, but it did so without consuming that watt of power. In much the same way that a solar cell generates electricity when struck by photons in sunlight, the extra electrons in silicon lasers are released when two photons from the laser combine within the silicon. Jalali's device scoops up the free electrons and uses them to run transistors on the chip. Around two-thirds of the optical power that was lost to generating electrons can be recovered and put to use, Jalali says. Instead of using up one watt of power in the electron cleanup and generating extra heat, his method produces several milliwatts of power.

07/05/06 - Electricity From MBM (meat & bone meal)
After BSE hit, meat and bone meal became worthless, says Terry Fonstad, a professor of Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering. The rendering industry, left with a by-product that now cost them money to dispose of safely, is actively exploring new uses of meat and bone meal. Fonstad believes the energy potential of meat and bone meal is very real. It has about three-quarters of the heating value of coal, although it does have a high ash content because of the bone meal. "What do we do with coal?" he asks. "We gasify it to produce a syngas -- a gas made up of hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide -- which we use as a fuel to turn a turbine to produce hot water and electricity." Fonstad realized that, if there was a way to add some value to meat and bone meal by turning it into a feed source for a small gasification unit, every rendering facility in Western Canada could acquire one. He estimates that 50% of the material that escapes from these rendering plants is steam, 25% is tallow and the remaining 25% is bone that has no value. If renderers could reduce the 25% that is bone to 3% -- just the ash -- it would solve many problems. "They wouldn't have to haul the meal to a central location for safe disposal; they could derive a lot of energy -- electricity and hot water -- from it; and they could reduce the volume of waste that needed disposal from 25% to three%."

07/05/06 - Humble Water as aid to enormous memory devices
The ferroelectric effect is where electrical poles are induced by applying an electrical field. The orientation of the poles can be flipped to encode data. Until now, a big problem for ferroelectric memory was the stability of the data because of problems dampening charges forming on the surface of the ferroelectric material. A team from Drexel and Pennsylvania universities says the answer unexpectedly comes from humble water*. They used barium titanium oxide nanowires 100,000 times finer than a human hair as the ferroelectric material. Hydroxl ions found in the wet stuff surrounded the wires, stabilising the orientation of the poles. The water-based method is more reliable than traditional metal electrode stabilisation. Research leader Dr Jonathan Spanier said: “It is astonishing to see that molecules enable a wire having a diameter equivalent to fewer than 10 atoms to act as a stable and switchable dipole memory element.” The potential of the effect for data storage has long been recognised, but the team says this new breakthrough makes the prospect more realistic. A cubic centimetre of ferroelectric memory could hold as much as 12.8m GB of data, they reckon. As well as unimaginably huge hard drive capacity, the technology offers the possiblity of RAM as fast as current silicon, that is not wiped when the computer is off. The next challenge is to find reliable ways of assembling the nanowires in packed arrays.

07/05/06 - Garlic vodka treats diabetes and cancer
Garlic is rich with allicin - the substance that literally eats up pathogenic microbes in the body. Garlic neutralizes so-called free molecules, the source of long-lasting infectious processes. In addition, it fights dysentery and bile duct illnesses. Professor Mirelman recommended a dose of 10-15 grams of garlic should be taken with food daily. A close relative of garlic, onion, can harm the mucous membrane of the stomach and produce burning pain in it. However, garlic can be taken even by patients suffering from stomach ulcer. Stomach enzymes quickly neutralize the irritating quality of garlic, and the burning is felt only in the mouth. Garlic is like a chemical laboratory. It contains ethereal and fatty oils, glycoside allicin, B and C vitamins, carbohydrate, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, chlorine, iodine, lysozyme, biologically active phytoncides and many other microelements. One bulb of garlic is capable of reducing blood pressure, normalizes metabolism and helps remove excessive cholesterol. The vegetable is therefore used to treat primary hypertension and atherosclerosis. In Tibetan medicine, garlic is known as a tonic and prophylactic medicinal substance against quite a number of infectious diseases. Garlic vodka still enjoys popularity in Russia. There are many recipes of this “anti-flu beverage”, but it mainly comes to several cloves of garlic added to a mixture of vermouth, vodka, gin and brandy. The drink should be stirred up twice a day and infused for not less than 21 days. People do not drink glasses or garlic vodka, though. They only take 10 or 15 drops of it two times a day. This miraculous vegetable treats malignant growths of stomach, mammary glands, rectum and gall bladder. Sulphides kill staphylococcus, dysentery bacillus, harmful fungi, resolves platelets and blood clots. Garlic therapy can be successfully used for cataract, arthritis, diabetes, coronary arteries, heart disturbances, stenocardia, etc. Garlic can also help get rid of toothache, warts, pimples and furuncles. Garlic therapy has only one side effect - the unbearable smell. This minor discomfort can be eased with parsley roots.

07/05/06 - Vortex Switches
Prosandeev and his colleagues study piezoelectric compounds, materials that change shape in an electric field, or create an electric field when they change shape. Such materials, currently used in medical ultrasound and naval sonar, appear to lose these properties at the nanoscale because they lose their polarization. The researchers decided to calculate the possibility of switching the direction of the vortex, which would open up the possibility of using these nanoscale materials in switches, sensors and other devices. “We use very complex but extremely close to nature computations,” Prosandeev said. The researchers looked at what would happen if they used an inhomogeneous electric field arising, for example, from two different charges located away from the nanodot. They found that the charges directed the vortex of the nanodot: when the charges were moved, the vortex moved, and when they swapped the two charges, the vortex adopted an opposite direction. This vortex can be used to influence the change from electrical to mechanical energy and back, which is what drives piezoelectric compounds at the macro scale, Prosandeev said.

07/05/06 - Supercaps vs Batteries
NessCap is one of about 10 makers of ultracapacitors, devices that can store so much charge that they are beginning to blur the functional distinction between the capacitor and the battery. And according to some experts, nobody does it better than NessCap, which offers a unit rated at an impressive 5000 farads at 2.7 volts in a package a little bigger than a half-liter soda bottle. NessCap's capacitors "perform as well as or better than any others we've ever tested, in terms of energy and power density," says Marshall Miller, a research engineer at the University of California at Davis, where he specializes in testing advanced capacitors and other devices. On paper, anyway, the idea is not far-fetched. In comparison with batteries, ultracapacitors can put out much more power for a given weight, can be charged in seconds rather than hours, and can function at more extreme temperatures. They're also more efficient, and they last much longer-in tests at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, in Idaho Falls, upwards of 500 000 charge-discharge cycles have been recorded. Automotive traction batteries, for comparison, have much shorter lifetimes, particularly if they are discharged deeply. So what will it take for ultracapacitors to find a home under the hood? First, they've got to be a lot cheaper. Today, at roughly $9500 per kilowatthour, ultracapacitors are too expensive by a factor of five, at least, for cost-conscious carmakers. Second, automotive engineers would like to see the devices store more energy (as opposed to power) per unit weight, which would let the devices take over more of the energy-storage burden from batteries in future vehicles.

07/04/06 - Why is Ford Backing Away from Hybrid Commitment?
David Roberts at Gristmill may have well summed up all of our responses to the news that Ford Motor Co. is moving away from recent "keen interests" in hybrid technology, and choosing to focus on "flex-fuel" vehicles: WTF? During the taping of the most recent theWatt Podcast today, host Ben Kenney came across a line in the New York Times' article on this development that may hold the key: "Car companies receive a credit for each vehicle they produce that is capable of running on ethanol or a similar bio-fuel." Did you know that? We certainly didn't. It turns out that Alternative Motor Fuels Act of 1988, which was renewed as the Alternative Fueled Vehicles Rule of 2004, does just that. According to the US Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center, these laws create an incentive for auto makers to build cars capable of using alternative fuels by "[giving] a credit of up to 1.2 mpg toward an automobile manufacturer's average fuel economy which helps it avoid penalties of the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards." While Ford denies this credit played a role in its decision, it is clear that cars running on biofuels automatically raise the company's corporate average fuel economy. While hybrids would help here, too, almost any car in Ford's fleet can be made a flex-fuel model with relatively simple modifications, while hybrids would require major new investment in the manufacturer's infrastructure.

07/04/06 - New Study to measure ZPE Casimir force
The study aims to delve into a ‘void’ or empty space in which atoms move, which has a large intrinsic energy density known as zero-point energy. The Casimir force is a mysterious interaction between objects that arises directly from the quantum properties of the so-called ‘void’. Within classical Physics the void is a simple absence of all matter and energy while quantum theory tells us that in fact it is a seething mass of quantum particles that constantly appear into and disappear from our observable universe. This gives the void an unimaginably large energy density. The research team carrying out this work has received a grant of 800,000€ from the European framework 6 NEST (New and Emerging Science and Technology) programme to lead a consortium from three countries (UK, France and Sweden). The programme, entitled Nanocase, will use the ultra-high vacuum Atomic Force Microscope installed in the Physics and Astronomy Department to make very high precision Casimir force measurements in non-simple cavities and assess the utility of the force in providing a method for contactless transmission in nano-machines. “The research will help to overcome a fundamental problem of all nano-machines, that is, machines whose individual components are the size of molecules, which is that at this size everything is ‘sticky’ and any components that come into contact stick together. If a method can be found to transmit force across a small gap without contact, then it may be possible to construct nano-machines that work freely without gumming up. ”Such machines are the stuff of science fiction at present and a long way off but possible uses include the ability to rebuild damaged human cells at the molecular level. “In a sense the actual value of the zero-point energy is not important because everything we know about is on top of it. According to quantum field theory every particle is an excitation (a wave) of an underlying field (for example the electromagnetic field) in the void and it is only the energy of the wave itself that we can detect. ”A useful analogy is to consider our observable universe as a mass of waves on top of an ocean, whose depth is immaterial. Our senses and all our instruments can only directly detect the waves so it seems that trying to probe whatever lies beneath, the void itself, is hopeless. Not quite so. There are subtle effects of the zero-point energy that do lead to detectable phenomena in our observable universe. “An example is a force, predicted in 1948 by the Dutch physicist, Hendrik Casimir, that arises from the zero-point energy. If you place two mirrors facing each other in empty space they produce a disturbance in the quantum fluctuations that results in a pressure pushing the mirrors together. ”Detecting the Casimir force however is not easy as it only becomes significant if the mirrors approach to within less that 1 micrometre (about a fiftieth the width of a human hair). Producing sufficiently parallel surfaces to the precision required has had to wait for the emergence of the tools of nanotechnology to make accurate measurements of the force."

07/04/06 - Quantum Fuel Saver mixes Hydrogen with Gas
It's called the Aqua Quantum Fuel Saver, “and it's been four years in the making,” Cook told the News-Gazette in a recent interview at his Pine Ridge Road home. However, Cook admits that his fuel saver, which uses water to power an automobile engine by converting the water into hydrogen as you drive your vehicle, didn't happen overnight. Cook's prototype was an old fruit jar. “The first one I ever built was made out of an old fruit jar,” he said, “and we simply called it a ‘Hillbilly Gas Saver.'” Described as a novelty, Cook said that while his very first gas saver worked, it wasn't very efficient. With the assistance of his step-son, Charles Wayne Fox, Cook later built a gas saver device made out of plastic that could be sold. The downside to that design, he explained, “was that you had to stop and fill it up with water every 40 miles or so.” Cook's current design, the Aqua Quantum Fuel Saver, is a stainless steel unit that comes complete with both a large tank and pump. “And it's automatic,” Cook said, “so you won't have to stop and fill it up.” Cook said that he has a patent on his fuel saver design. So here's how it all works. Cook said the Aqua Quantum Fuel Saver supplies hydrogen and oxygen to a vehicle's air intake, “thus enriching the intake air stream in the air cleaner duct.” He explained that the hydrogen and oxygen then pass through the intake manifold into the combustion chambers, where they are consumed during combustion. The on-board computer, which monitors various functions of the engine through sensors, reduces the amount of gasoline supplied to the engine and increases gas mileage. According to Cook, installing the fuel saver on your vehicle can “improve your gas mileage 20 to 30 percent, and possibly more.” He said that converting the water to hydrogen becomes just another job done by the vehicle's existing electrical system, “and a little water can go a long way.” Getting to the science of it, Cook explained that one cubic foot of water contains about 1,376 cubic feet of hydrogen gas and 680 cubic feet of oxygen, “which is over 2,000 cubic feet of gas.” Cook said, however, that he is only trying to “assist the gas with the hydrogen,” not make the vehicle run solely on hydrogen power. Although, he admits that one day he would like to develop a car powered entirely by hydrogen. But that is a dream that's on down the road. “There's no danger,” he claims, “to you personally or your vehicle.” For those interested in Cook's fuel saver, the devices, he said, are sold locally at Shelby's Wheel and Tire, and at his residence, 732 Pine Ridge Road.

07/04/06 - Jap Nap Tickler to wake you up
A Japanese man, Kozo Samizo has come up with solution to stop sleep-deprived people from dozing off at inappropriate times. The device, called the 'nap alarm', is fixed to an ear, buzzes the moment the wearer's head nods forward. The buzzing causes a ticklish sensation, thereby casting out the alpha waves which cause sleepiness. Few Japanese sleep more than six hours a night and it is common to see whole rows of office workers fast asleep on commuter trains. Japanese politicians are notorious for sleeping in parliament, while "salary men" frequently doze during interminable meetings in offices where long hours are the norm. Samizo invented the device worth 9 pound, after he dozed off while driving and crashed into a stationary car. "It is highly effective but the sensation makes you giggle as well," the Telegraph quoted him as saying. The device was initially used by taxi and truck drivers, but it has proved an unexpected hit with the wider population. Sales of the vibrating alarm, which resembles a hearing aid, now outstrip production.

07/04/06 - Cellphone detects too much to drink
The South Korean manufacturer LG is introducing the LP4100, the moby with a built-in breathalyser, to Western markets after having already sold 200,000 units at home. Its aim is to stop you driving when you've had too much to drink. You blow into a small spot on the phone and, if you've had too much to drink, it issues a warning and shows a weaving car hitting traffic cones. Ace. But even better is one of its other functions -you can programme it so that, on certain nights and after a certain time, it will not you allow you to call certain people in your phone book. Think ex-partner. Or even your boss when you're so sloshed you've forgotten you were supposed to be off sick...

07/04/06 - Wave energy causes surfers rift
Some surfers are concerned that the machines will take energy from the waves and reduce wave heights. They also fear it would put at risk the surfing industry, which is worth an estimated £64m a year to the region. The row has erupted over plans for a £20m Wave Hub - a seafloor "socket" which will connect wave energy machines to the mainland. The proposed power station, to become operational in 2008, will involve up to 20 sets of machines, with pumps, pistons and turbines, about 10 miles (16km) out to sea off St Ives Bay, generating electricity for 14,000 homes. The machines will be placed across a three-mile (5km) stretch, but because of the angle of the swell, could affect the 20-mile (32km) coastline from St Ives to Newquay. John Baxendale, a chartered physicist and engineer who runs a surf forecasting agency, said it could ruin the coastline's renowned surfing. He told BBC News: "It is fairly obvious to me that any barrage of energy extraction would create a wave shadow because it would remove the energy from the surf. "It will not just affect the height, it will also affect the quality of the surf. "Surfers voting for this are like turkeys voting for Christmas."

07/04/06 - Ultrasound to treat war wounds
The US military plans a portable device that uses focused sound waves to treat troops bleeding internally from wounds sustained on the battlefield. Ultrasound can seal ruptured blood vessels deep within the body without the need for risky surgery. The lightweight device has to be designed so that soldiers can operate it with minimal training. Blood loss from wounds to the extremities is regarded as a major, preventable cause of battlefield death. The device would first use ultrasound imaging technology, in particular "Doppler ultrasound", to locate internal bleeding. This employs a physical phenomenon known as the Doppler effect to look for a characteristic signature of bleeding vessels. It would then deliver a focused beam of high-powered ultrasound to those sites in order to cauterise the damaged vessels. "High-intensity focused ultrasound is already used in a number of areas such as cancer treatment, fibroid treatment, and in breaking up kidney stones, so the technology is available today. The unique part is to combine that with imaging ultrasound and to automate the procedure." Ultrasound stops bleeding partly by heating the damaged area and partly through mechanical effects. The heating produced when this energy is absorbed prompts an insoluble protein called fibrin to precipitate from blood, forming a network of fibres that promotes clotting and plugs the wound. Heating also denatures the blood vessel's connective tissue (collagen) which helps form mechanical plugs and thermally "welds" tissue. One mechanical effect is called streaming; the high intensity beam pushes blood away from the injury, either back into the vessel itself or to the sides. In addition, the pressure changes induced by ultrasound lead to the formation of bubbles in the blood - an effect known as cavitation. This in turn may lead to the formation of free radicals - highly reactive charged molecules - which accelerate the clotting process.

07/04/06 - $1.5 million Magnetic Floating Bed
This magnetic floating bed, I submit, may be among the coolest things we’ve ever covered. Designed by Dutchman Janjaap Ruijssenaars, it’s got enough magnets to keep 900 kilograms (1,984 pounds) floating in the air. To make sure that the bed doesn’t float away should it become windy (or “interesting,” wink wink), it’s tethered to the walls by four cables. Technically, the magnetic floating bed is for sale, but at a price of 1.2 million euros ($1.53 million), you’re not likely to find it in your local mattress store.

07/04/06 - Aircraft Exhaust Clouds Cause Warming Climate
Global Warming UK scientists have found that clouds caused by aircraft exhaust, warm the climate. Night flights have a stronger effect than day flights. Already, flight schemes have been altered to reduce the amount of night flights above the test site.

07/03/06 - Light Emitting Ceramics for new lighting technology
Firefly Lighting Innovations will be marketing what are known as light emitting ceramic devices, or LECDs, built by a West Virginia company that holds the patent. The technology is called electroceramescent lighting -- literally, using ceramics to get light from electricity. It's a kind of artificial light, another improvement on the idea of fire on a stick. Incandescent bulbs have been around since the mid-1800s. They're cheap and convenient, but they waste a lot of energy; 90 percent of what goes in is converted to heat, as anyone who has touched a lit bulb knows. Fluorescent bulbs are more energy-efficient, but they're fragile and expensive, and while they last longer than incandescents, they still have a fairly limited life span. LEDs -- light emitting diodes -- are a recent addition to the lighting family. They last for years (and years), consume much less electricity than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, are pretty darned tough, and give off very little heat. You'll find them in flashlights, traffic signals and the rear lights of trucks and buses. But LEDs are expensive and small. While perfect in places they can be clustered, they're too expensive to cover a large surface such as a road sign. Firefly's LECDs are made by coating something -- a stainless steel panel, for example -- with four liquid layers. They're then baked at 1,700 degrees, much like firing a clay pot in a kiln. And there's no limit, other than the size of the oven, to what can be made into a "bulb." As Ron Graf, the company's director of sales and marketing said, "If we took a paintbrush and we painted a surface, it would light." That light is a soft, green glow, so it's not something you'll see used in a flashlight or anything that requires bright, concentrated light. But for larger surfaces such as signs, emergency lights or automobile dashes, it's ideal. An LECD light also works well for road signs. Its even glow is much more visible in rain, fog and smoke than the many points of light that would come from conventional sources. Another advantage: power consumption, or the lack of it. "It runs on one-tenth the energy consumption of a regular light bulb," Graf said. It uses so little power that a road sign can be made with it and powered by a solar panel charging a battery. Because there's no size limit to an LECD, "You can basically light a whole wall or ceiling or floor," according to Graf. Yes, a floor. The finish, which he described as similar to the coating on a stove or refrigerator, is tough enough to walk on. "It's ceramic, so you can imagine how durable it is," he said. It's also long-lasting. An LECD can stay lit for 100,000 hours -- more than 11 years continuously.

07/03/06 - Chinese develop high-efficient wind power generator
A new type of wind power generator that can operate in low winds is one of the star attractions at the Third Asian Wind Energy Exhibition being held here this week. A breeze of just over 5 kms an hour is sufficient to start the machine, which means it can operate for many more hours than traditional wind turbines, said Zeng Zhiyong, president of the Zhongke Hengyuan Energy Technology which developed the turbine with the help of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou. It will be particularly helpful to people living in remote areas out of reach of existing power grids. Statistics show there are still more than 70 million people in China living without electricity. Li Guokun, chief scientist for the turbine project, said government tests show the new technology can produce 20 percent more electricity than traditional wind turbines. Zhongke Hengyuan is currently planning to manufacture the turbines which can be made to produce from 300 watts to 20 kilowatts.

07/03/06 - Butanol - the superior biofuel
Is Butanol the answer to the world's energy needs? BP and Dupont have recently teamed up to develop Butanol using biomass as a base, instead of petroleum. They’re claiming bio-butanol is cheaper, burns cleaner and will power any car. BP and DuPont have announced plans to start selling butanol. Now if butanol sounds a lot like ethanol, it is. They are chemically related. But butanol delivers more miles to the gallon, it's not corrosive like ethanol and it can be burned in gasoline engines without modifications. Right now butanol costs more than gasoline but there are new processes that could make it much cheaper, and that's what BP and DuPont seem to be counting on. Butanol is currently produced from petroleum, specifically from either propaline or ethaline. DuPont is looking to do it biologically. Doing it from biomass sources, either corn stalks and husks or corn or sugar beets, something along those lines. It's through a simple fermentative process that's actually been around for quite some time. This was done commercially back in the early 1900's through the 1950's to produce not only butanol but other solvents as well- acetone, ethanol and other byproduct organic acids and such. Biobutanol is produced by a fermentation the same way that ethanol is produced by a fermentation. You just simply use different organisms. For ethanol you're using a yeast, butanol is produced using a bacteria. Butanol has a higher energy content than ethanol, pretty close to gasoline maybe 85 or 90 percent. So, you don't get into the lost fuel mileage issue that you do potentially with ethanol. 10,000 miles on Butanol - Butanol, the other alternative fuel, goes across the USA for the first time! ‘92’ Buick goes Cross-Country fueled by 100% Butanol. Butanol replaces gasoline 100%. An unmodified ‘92’ Buick is running across the nation on 100% Butanol. We have over 1,500 miles on the Buick which has shown gas mileage to be 20-22 mpg. When tested at the Ohio ‘E’ Check facility in Springfield, the vehicle was well below Ohio standards. It measured 5.5 ppm (parts per million) hydrocarbons (111.0 allowable) [95% reduction], 0.0% carbon monoxide (0.61% for the standard) [total reduction], 484.7 ppm oxides of nitrogen (773.0 allowable) [37% reduction] and 14.72% carbon dioxide. The Company expects to collect similar information during the cross country trip.

07/03/06 - Veterinarians demand official rejection of homeopathy
Many vets are aghast that unproven homeopathic treatments are routinely prescribed to animals (New Scientist, 10 December 2005, p 8). The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London, however, seems unsure of its stance. New Scientist has learned that the RCVS decided back in February to quietly remove a list of vets that offer homeopathic treatments from its official published register of licensed veterinary practitioners. Vets who believe it is against animals' best interests to undergo unproven treatments say pets should only be given orthodox medicines, and that the RCVS's list withdrawal is not enough. They add that details of homeopathic vets remain available on its website. Forty vets have written to the college demanding it reject homeopathy. "The college retains the view that if people want homeopathic treatment for their animals it's better done by a registered veterinary surgeon."

07/03/06 - Using Seismic waves to increase Oil Flow
The seismic shaking could enhance the permeability of underground rocks and potentially be harnessed to help extract oil from natural reservoirs, scientists reported on Wednesday. According to a research team from the University of California, the rocks' permeability governs how fluid flows through, whether it is water or oil, so this has practical implications for oil extraction. The monitoring includes records of fluctuating groundwater levels, which fluctuate in response to tidal effects similar to oceanic tides. In this case, the gravitational effects of the Moon on the solid Earth squeeze and stretch the rocks in the crust, forcing water in and out of the wells from the surrounding rocks. The speed of the response of the groundwater in a well depends on the permeability of the surrounding rocks. Thus, the researchers took the response time as an index of permeability. When the researchers analyzed the data in relation to earthquakes, they saw a striking correlation -- the water's response to tidal forces became more sensitive after a temblor. That means the permeability of the rocks increased. After an earthquake, the rock surrounding the wells became as much as three times more permeable to groundwater, the researchers found. Furthermore, the size of the increase in permeability was proportional to the peak amplitude of the temblor. The changes were transient, with permeability returning to the original level within a few months after an earthquake. The oil industry might be able to exploit this phenomenon by using different devices, such as vibroseis trucks, to send seismic waves into the ground, the researchers indicated. Vibroseis truck, which can vibrate at a particular frequency for a prolonged period, is currently used as "man-made epicenter" for seismic imaging studies. "If we understood the physics of the permeability enhancement well enough, the vibrations could be tuned to increase the flow of oil," Brodsky said.

07/03/06 - Changing light bulbs beats global warming (and cuts bills)
The simple use of current technology could have a dramatic impact on global warming, if only we would adopt it. The low-energy light bulb and other efficient lighting systems could prevent a cumulative total of 16 billion tons of carbon from being added to the world's atmosphere over the next 25 years, according to a report by the International Energy Agency. Compact Fluorescent lights (CFL) - * An 11-Watt CFL bulb (equivalent to an ordinary 60W bulb) costs £2.41 to run per year. * Energy-saving bulbs last on average 12 times longer than ordinary light bulbs, with a life span of around six years. * They cost about £3.50. * Each bulb can reduce your electricity bill by up to £10 a year. * They generate up to 70 per cent less heat. ORDINARY (incandescent) LIGHT BULBS - * An ordinary 60W bulb costs up to £13.14 in electricity bills per year. * The average life span is between 750 and 1000 hours, which gives round five months of use. * An ordinary bulb costs around 50p. * In most houses lighting accounts for approximately 15 per cent of the electricity bill. * If every American home switched their five most-used light fittings to energy-saving bulbs, they would save $6bn (£3.2bn) and reduce greenhouse gases by nearly half a million tons. * 90 per cent of the energy goes into generating heat.

07/03/06 - Brain Birth to determine when Intelligent Life begins
What exactly do we mean when we use the word "person"? To some, even this hollow ball of cells that forms a few days after a human egg is fertilised counts as a person. To them, this microscopic ball is a tiny human being who deserves the same rights as any other - including, most fundamental of all, the right to life. At the heart of the furore lies a long dispute about the status of the human blastocyst, the early embryo that has yet to implant itself in the wall of the uterus. I believe that it is appropriate to accord a gradually increasing moral status to the embryo or foetus, tempered by the recognition that if there is some "threshold of personhood", there will always be argument about where it lies. Although a human embryo has only just begun to develop, it is deserving of our respect because it has the potential to become a person, in the right circumstances. However, just because a blastocyst has this potential that does not mean that it is a person, just as a young girl who wants to study medicine is not a qualified doctor. The main reason why I do not regard a blastocyst as a person is that it has no mental life. In an adult person there are around a hundred billion synapses, the connections between nerve cells. In effect, we are groping for the idea of what some call "brain birth", the mirror image of "brain death". This is all very logical and coherent, but I suspect that most people would regard an elderly relative who had lost their mind to Alzheimer's as still being a person. For many, the same would go for individuals who are "brain-dead" - anencephalic infants, who lack part or all of the brain, or individuals in a persistent vegetative state. And by the same token I would have an equally conservative view of personhood at the start of human life. Where, precisely, I cannot say. But of this I am certain - the clutch of one or two hundred cells that makes up a blastocyst is not a person. No feelings or sentience will stir within the blastocyst without a functioning nervous system. It is only at around 14 days, when it consists of several thousand cells and is still no bigger than the full stop at the end of this sentence, that an embryo develops the so-called primitive streak, the first glimmer of the machinery of thought.

07/03/06 - More Wag the Dog Evidence - Spies wanted AT&T before 9/11
The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court. ``The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11,'' plaintiff's lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. ``This undermines that assertion.'' The lawsuit is related to an alleged NSA program to record and store data on calls placed by subscribers.

07/03/06 - Team claims they found Noahs' Ark with evidence
A 14-man crew that included evangelical apologist Josh McDowell says it returned from a trek to a mountain in Iran with possible evidence of the remains of Noah's Ark. The group, led by explorer Bob Cornuke, found an unusual object perched on a slope 13,120 feet above sea level. The team returned with video footage of a large black formation, about 400 feet long - the length of the ark, according to the Bible - that looks like rock but bears the image of hundreds of massive, wooden, hand-hewn beams. Bonnema observed: "These beams not only look like petrified wood, they are so impressive that they look like real wood - this is an amazing discovery that may be the oldest shipwreck in recorded history." The team said one piece of the blackened rock is "cut" at 90-degree angle. Even more intriguing, they said, some of the wood-like rocks tested this week proved to be petrified wood. It's noteworthy, they pointed out, that the Bible recounts Noah sealed his ark with pitch, a black substance. When the retrieved pieces were cut open, a marine fossil was discovered. In the area around the object, the team found thousands of fossilized sea shells, and Cornuke brought back a one-inch thick rock slab replete with fossilized clams. With the discovery of wood splinters and broken pottery at the remote 15,300-foot level, the team says it also found evidence that ancients considered it an important worship site for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

07/02/06 - Invention designed to clear particulate matter from air
The invention sends hydrogen peroxide mixed with water into the air in a fog form. Cundliffe’s theory is that this mixture will spread across the valley, grab onto particulate matter floating in the air, and drop it down to the ground. “It falls to the ground so you don’t have to breathe it in - it’s inert and becomes just dust,” she says. Cundliffe says the stack could be placed in an upwind area, approximately 100 feet up from the valley bottom. With full operations - about six hours of fogging for two weeks every day, it would clean the valley within about a 10 mile radius. “On a bad day, when the air quality is poor, you can start it up and run it for a few hours, and let the natural cleansers go to work,” she says. Cundliffe currently has a patent pending on the invention.

07/02/06 - Anonymous Online Publication - Fad or Trend?
"Across the web, stories abound regarding censorship and persecution of those who publish content online that may be offensive or conflicting toward certain governments or ideals. It almost seems that you can't attach your name to anything without being heavily scrutinized for the opinions you express. Lately though, I've begun to see several communities that promote an atmosphere of anonymity to protect their users and facilitate open communication on tough subjects. PostSecret is one of the most popular of these sites, allowing a one-way publication medium for visitors to vent their frustrations, similar to Group Hug. However, both of these sites are one-way mediums, and do not provide for anonymous interaction of users. Is anonymous blogging and publication a brief fad, or a serious, growing trend?"

07/02/06 - Barney Fife lives - 'Nip it in the Bud' with Eyes in the sky to fight bushfires
The system can detect minute temperature differences and create detailed photographs of any point on Earth every 90 minutes. This would allow firefighters to extinguish spot fires before they become infernos and provide detailed data on wind changes and fire movements to firefighters on the ground. The German consortium behind the $310 million Ausbird project said it could also be used to track small boats, allowing the monitoring and interception of suspicious vessels approaching Australia's vast coastline. The system relies on using solar-powered camera-carrying miniature satellites that can be launched cheaply from India or Kazakhstan and can detect 2C differences in temperature. Mr Sheehan said he believed it could cut the need for costly aircraft coastal patrols and be used to direct water bombers or fire trucks to snuff out spot fires as they developed in the bushfire season. The system can detect a 12sqm fire during the day and a 4sqm fire at night. A detailed economic study of the proposal has begun and a decision on whether to proceed in Australia is expected in October.

07/02/06 - Patent wording critical to Success
An appeal of a summary judgment of noninfringement, the CAFC considered the meaning of the claim term “fuel injection system component.” On four occasions, the specification refers to to “this invention” as relating to a “fuel filter.” And, the specification does not indicate that a fuel filter is merely a preferred embodiment. Consequently, the CAFC concluded that the patentee limited the scope of the patent claims to require a fuel filter.

07/02/06 - Biological Ethanol & Hydrogen
According to the U.S. Department of Energy approximately 80 percent of all human-caused carbon dioxide emissions currently come from fossil fuel combustion. The DOE also estimates that world carbon dioxide emissions are projected to rise from 6.1 billion metric tons carbon equivalent in 1999 to 7.9 billion metric tons per year in 2010 and to 9.9 billion metric tons in 2020. This continued consumption of fossil fuels is ample evidence that there is a growing need to eliminate carbon dioxide output into the environment and if possible capture back some of the carbon dioxide associated with global warming. The Biological Energy group is developing and using biological pathways and microbial metabolism to produce new fuels with higher energy output in an environmentally sound fashion. The team uses microbes, microbial genomics, microbial pathways, and plants as potential solutions to carbon sequestration and clean energy production. Current projects include: development of better understanding and reengineering of the photosynthetic pathway to divert the sun’s energy into more hydrogen production as well as reengineering cellulase pathways in certain bacterial to produce ethanol.

07/02/06 - Making your own Batteries
As an experiment in making a environmentally friendly DIY battery, I built a lemon battery using a fresh lemon (electrolyte), a galvanized (zinc coated) nail and a 3" length of 12 gauge solid copper wire left over from a wiring job. The zinc gives up electrons to the copper, and gets "eaten" up by the process. Four lemons in series lit up one of my mega bright 10mm White LED's, another string of four paralleled provided more current. An article titled Build Your Own Battery (.doc file - safe) suggests a nicely laid out lab experiment that tests the differences in electrolyte concentrations. With the info on different galvanic materials, one could test a variety of electrodes as well and come up with a recycled material battery at virtually no cost, and environment friendly, as these are recycled materials. Sea water, if available, salt water (made from commercial or "found" salt), and other electrolytes (potato, apple, banana, orange, etc.) are possible.

07/02/06 - Drug from milk thistle destroys lung cancer in mice
Mice induced with lung cancer and then treated with the thistle component, silibinin, had fewer large lung tumours than did untreated mice. It seemed to reduce the number of blood vessels that provide nutrients to the tumours and allow them to grow.

07/02/06 - Novel Connection Found Between Biological Clock And Cancer
Dartmouth Medical School geneticists have discovered that DNA damage resets the cellular circadian clock, suggesting links among circadian timing, the cycle of cell division, and the propensity for cancer. "The notion that the clock regulates DNA-damage input and that mutation can affect the clock as well as the cell cycle is novel," says Jay Dunlap, professor and chair of genetics at DMS. "It suggests a fundamental connection among circadian timing, cell cycle progress, and potentially the origins of some cancers." One gene (period-4) was identified over 25 years ago by a mutation that affects two clock properties, shortening the circadian period and altering temperature compensation. For this study, the researchers cloned the gene based on its position in the genome, and found it was an important cell cycle regulator. When they eliminated the gene from the genome, the clock was normal, indicating that the mutation interfered in some way with the clock, rather than supplying something that the clock normally needs to run. The clock normally modulates expression of this gene that encodes an important cell cycle regulator, and that cell cycle regulator in turn affects not only the cell cycle but also the clock. Recent evidence in mammalian cells shows that other cell cycle regulators physically interact with clock proteins. Loss of at least one clock protein (mammalian period-2) is known to increase cancer susceptibility. The coordination of the clock and cell division through cell cycle checkpoints, supports the clock's "integral role in basic cell biology," conclude the researchers."

07/02/06 - Diabetes ages by 15 years
The study of 379,000 people with diabetes and more than nine million without it found diabetics fall into the high-risk category for cardiovascular disease 15 years before non-diabetics. Published in The Lancet, it also found diabetics are up to four times more likely to have cardiovascular disease. Researchers at Toronto Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found diabetic men went from moderate to high risk of heart attack, stroke and death about age 48, and women about age 54. But when they included cardiovascular procedures such as bypass surgery in the analysis, the transition took place at 41 for men with diabetes and 48 for women. Diabetics under the age of 40 had only a low-to-moderate risk of cardiovascular disease.

07/01/06 - Superconducting SuperGrid for electrical power and hydrogen fuel
(These guys are completely missing the future here...the answer will be AUTONOMOUS in house power sources without need of any grid, ideally in the form of 'perpetual batteries' in each appliance that extract energy from aether/zpe or some other ambient form. - JWD) With the Super-Grid, we need to move tens of gigawatts over hundreds of kilometers, with perfect conductors being a perfect fit. Although superconducting materials were discovered in 1911 and were fashioned into experimental devices decades ago, it is only quite recently that the refrigeration needed to keep them ultracold has become simple enough for industrial use. All demonstrations of superconducting cables so far have used AC power, even though only DC electricity can travel without resistance. Even so, at the frequencies used on the current grid, superconductors offer about one two-hundredth the electrical resistance of copper at the same temperature. The Super-Cable we have designed includes a pair of DC superconducting wires, one at plus 50,000 volts, the other at minus 50,000 volts, and both carrying 50,000 amps--a current far higher than any conventional wire could sustain. Such a cable could transmit about five gigawatts for several hundred kilometers at nearly zero resistance and line loss. (Today about a tenth of all electrical energy produced by power plants is lost during transmission.) A five-gigawatt Super-Cable is certainly technically feasible. Its scale would rival the 3.1-gigawatt Pacific Intertie, an existing 500-kilovolt DC overhead line that moves power between northern Oregon and southern California. Just four Super-Cables would provide sufficient capacity to transmit all the power generated by the giant Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric facility in China. Because a Super-Cable would use hydrogen as its cryogenic coolant, it would transport energy in chemical as well as electrical form. Next-generation nuclear plants can produce either electricity or hydrogen with almost equal thermal efficiency. So the operators of nuclear clusters could continually adjust the proportions of electricity and "hydricity" that they pump into the Super-Grid to keep up with the electricity demand while maintaining a flow of hydrogen sufficient to keep the wires superconducting.

07/01/06 - Dr. Dean Radin on seeing the Future
It's that unconscious "knowing what's to come" that has been demonstrated in the laboratory by Dr. Dean Radin's work at Boundary Institute. Essentially, Radin showed that in a laboratory setting, humans actually reacted to emotionally charged pictures as much as 5-6 seconds before the pictures were shown to them. We also know that humans can pick up warnings of future events long before they occur. Sometimes its days, other times its centuries. In the short-term-got-it-right department, one of the best examples is David Booth, who had a precognitive dream about the 1979 airliner crash at Chicago. But what's less widely appreciated is that Booth was not alone in sensing this disaster ahead of time. Wikipedia reports that "Actress Lindsay Wagner, TV's "Bionic Woman," was scheduled to fly on the ill-fated plane, but she felt uneasy about it just prior to boarding. So Wagner -- who believes in premonitions -- decided to skip the flight, a decision that saved her life." From the .PDF document; "This paper reviews four classes of experimental evidence for time-reversed effects in human experience, examples of phenomena discussed in conventional scientific disciplines that bear a resemblance to time-reversed effects, and a new experiment that distinguishes between information flowing forwards vs. backwards in time. One implication of the cumulative evidence is that time-reversed effects permeate all aspects of human behavior. Another is that experiments in all scientific disciplines may be vulnerable to time-reversed influences, including studies based on gold-standard techniques like double-blind, randomized protocols. A third implication is that teleology, once taboo in science, deserves to be seriously reconsidered as another form of causation."

07/01/06 - Pumping Alloy
In a Texas laboratory, a toy mechanical arm just the length of an index finger perches, folded up, at the edge of an empty glass bowl. A young man in a lab coat squirts a volatile fluid, methanol, into the bowl. Moments later, the arm jerks and then hesitantly reaches forward. Although clumsy and slow, the gesture is a remarkable one never previously achieved in any lab: The arm moves when parts of its structure contract in response to reactions triggered by local chemical fuel-much as our own limbs do. The toy arm's sinews, made of wire, respond to the methanol because they're coated with a fine film of platinum nanoparticles. This unique design enables the wires both to harness chemical energy and to carry out the motion, says the leader of the project, Ray H. Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas. That two-in-one capability could become a new design principle for scientists as they create humanlike machines. "It could transform the way complex mechanical systems are built," says John D.W. Madden of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. These advances may eventually lead to major improvements in prosthetic limbs and to robots that can carry out tasks ranging from repairing spaceships to assisting people in their everyday lives.

07/01/06 - Long-lived magnetic fluctuations in a crystal
(Think of Floyd Sweet, Hendershot and Hamels' 'butterfly effect' for starters. - JWD) German scientists measured for the first time long-lived coordinated magnetic fluctuations in a magnetic material using a new neutron beam technique. One of the most familiar magnetic materials is magnetized iron. The properties of magnetic materials such as iron, which are also known as ferromagnets, are familiar to many. The magnetic atoms in such materials possess an internal angular momentum called spin deriving from their electrons. These spins can be considered to act as tiny bar magnets. In a ferromagnet, all of the spins point in the same direction. Once such a material has been exposed to a magnetic field, it behaves as a magnetized object. A closely related class of materials is that of the antiferromagnets, in which half of the spins point in the opposite direction. Consequently, though the same number of magnetic moments is present as in a ferromagnet, these materials do not become magnetized by application of a magnetic field. In a spin-wave excitation, the spins may be considered to precess around cones (shown here in blue). In the experiment reported here, the lifetime of long-lived spin waves was measured over a broad range of momenta.

07/01/06 - Environment-friendly motorbike introduced at nat'l tricycle confab
A MOTORCYCLE powered by electricity is now here in the country. This is another alternative to the escalating cost of oil. Dubbed as the motorcycle of the future, this motorcycle is environment-friendly, as it does not emit harmful substances. This invention of the electric motorcycle can help reduce dependence on imported oil and will likewise provide cheaper and more environment-friendly alternative to fossil fuel. Introduced at the First National Conference on Tricycle Transportation Development at Grand Hotel in this city, was the vehicle that is only a few days old from Thailand and is called Hawk Electric Motorcycle by Takohama Motors. But more than all this, it is easily affordable at P45,000 only ($848.10 USD). Allain Alcala, marketing manager of Serrotma Trading, said the unit has a maximum speed of 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph). When one of Alcala's men switched on the ignition key, the engine of the motorcycle is not noisy, no smoke emissions and the body is really futuristically designed fit to be called the motorcycle of the future. Alcala said that once the battery is fully charged, the electric motorcycle can run up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) and is easy to recharge.

07/01/06 - Scientists Confirm Folk Remedy Repels Mosquitoes
A traditional folk remedy, known among people in Mississippi’s hill country for at least a century, may provide some relief without all the worries of DEET and other harsh chemicals. The National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi have isolated compounds in the American beautyberry plant, Callicarpa americana, that may keep chomping insects away. “My grandfather would cut branches with the leaves still on them and crush the leaves, then he and his brothers would stick the branches between the harness and the horse to keep deerflies, horseflies and mosquitoes away,” said Charles T. Bryson, an ARS botanist in Stoneville, Miss. “I was a small child, maybe 7 or 8 years old, when he told me about the plant the first time. For almost 40 years, I’ve grabbed a handful of leaves, crushed them and rubbed them on my skin with the same results.” Bryson told his supervisor about the folklore repellent, and in 2004 the USDA-ARS at the UM natural products research center began investigating the beautyberry plant as a potential natural insect repellent. Charles Cantrell, an ARS chemist in Oxford, and Jerry Klun, an ARS entomologist in Beltsville, Md., confirmed that the natural remedy wards off biting insects, such as ticks, ants and mosquitoes: “I’ve rubbed the leaves on my arms, and it works,” Cantrell said.

07/01/06 - Oscillating pattern in nanoparticle crystallization
Oscillating chemical reactions. These occur when reaction products periodically and repeatedly change. Their behaviour is of importance to many fields of study - including chaos research. That is because these reaction systems are always complex and far away from thermodynamic equilibrium. One particularly well-known example is the "Belousov-Zhabotinsky" reaction. In it, a coloured indicator is used to make the reaction products of a coupled redox reaction visible. They typically take on the pattern of concentric circles, spreading out, for example, across a petri dish. Researchers from Potsdam have now proven that these oscillating reactions can also apply to multi-phase systems, and even to the self-organisation processes of nanoparticles. What is central is that in a multi-phase reaction system, it is possible to formulate either an autocatalyic or autoinhibiting reaction step. This leads an oscillating system to be constructed, and ultimately a pattern to be formed. The researchers used a newly synthesized polymer to create the typical concentric circle pattern, via controlled barium carbonate crystallisation (see image). Such patterns correspond quite well to the calculations in a simulation. The researchers also were able to formulate a complex coupled reaction system including crystallisation, complexation, and precipitation reactions and identify the autocatalytic formation of a complex between barium and the polymer. Notably, the elongated crystalline structures which made up the circular pattern are themselves created by superstructures of nanoparticles, which are themselves created by self-organisation (see image). In this way, Max Planck researchers have shown for the first time that the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction does not just take place in a solution, but also in multi-phase systems, and in nanoparticle self-organisation. This discovery is not only important to research into reactions far away from thermodynamic equilibrium. It can also help explain biological pattern formation. One example of biological self-organisation is mussel shell patterns. They are created via controlled crystallisation, just like the model systems of the researchers in Potsdam used. Interestingly, these patterns also mathematically duplicate reaction-diffusion systems exactly.

$5 Alt Science MP3s to listen while working/driving/jogging
KeelyNetNo 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. - Source

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


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