Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pascal's wager on the enviroment

This was a good argument to weigh whether or not you should do something about the environment.

Making energy from dirt

Living Power Systems
While we've been running around trying to figure out how to save the planet, it turns out some scientists have figured out how the planet can save us. And when I say the planet, I mean the ground beneath our feet.

Living Power Systems has developed a commercial microbial fuel cell similar to the plant-powered fuel cell we told you about a fee weeks back. But the Living Power Systems fuel cell runs on dirt. Or rather, it generates electricity from bacteria in dirt.

If you think back to your third grad science class, you'll probably remember that you can generate electricity from a potato or other living material. But you generally get such a small amount of energy that it's not really worth the trouble to harvest it. Living Power Systems' technique is exciting because it actually makes dirt power usable. I'm not saying you'll be able to power your laptop computer with dirt anytime soon, but home lighting and cellphone chargers aren't out of the question.

Microbial Fuel Cell technology will probably be deployed first in developing nations where access to electricity is a bit more inconsistent and unpredictable than in say, New York City. But as the technology gets more and more refined, we could see dirt powered cellphone towers or even homes.

[via Earth2Tech]

Related Story

Your Rights Online: School District Threatens Suit Over Parent's Blog

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday November 07, @05:06AM
from the speech-in-a-deep-freeze dept.
penguin_dance writes "A Texas School District is threatening to sue a parent over what it terms 'libelous material' or other 'legally offensive' postings on her web site and are demanding their removal. Web site owner Sandra Tetley says they're just opinions. The legal firm sending the demand cited 16 items, half posted by Tetley, the rest by anonymous commentators to her blog. The alleged libelous postings 'accuse Superintendent Lynne Cleveland, trustees and administrators of lying, manipulation, falsifying budget numbers, using their positions for "personal gain," violating the Open Meetings Act and spying on employees, among other things.' The problem for the district is that previous courts have ruled that governments can't sue for libel. So now, in a follow-up story, the lawyers say the firm 'would file a suit on behalf of administrators in their official capacities and individual board members. The suit, however, would be funded from the district's budget.' So far, Tetley hasn't backed down, although she said she'll 'consult with her attorneys before deciding what, if anything, to delete.'"

Science: Chefs As Chemists

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday November 06, @08:06PM
from the you-want-agar-agar-with-that dept.
circletimessquare writes "Using ingredients usually relegated to the lower half of the list of ingredients on a Twinkies wrapper, some professional chefs are turning themselves into magicians with food. Ferran AdriĆ  in Spain and Heston Blumenthal in England have been doing this for years, but the New York Times updates us on the ongoing experiments at WD-50 in New York City. Xanthan Gum, agar-agar, and other hydrocolloids are being used to bring strange effects to your food. Think butter that doesn't melt in the oven, foie gras you can tie into knots, and fried mayonnaise."

Science: Astronomers Announce 5-Planet System

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday November 06, @05:35PM
from the looking-for-something-rockier dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Astronomers have detected a record-breaking 5th planet orbiting the star 55 Cancri, 41 light years distant. This planet orbits within the 'habitable zone,' where water could presumably exist, but it's probably another gas giant like Saturn, so any liquid water would have to be on a moon. There's still a big gap between this planet and the outermost planet where no planets have been detected yet, so there could yet be a rocky planet in the system. The lead researcher said he's optimistic that 'continued observations will reveal a rocky planet within five years.'"

Google gas pumps: the savior of lost men

Soon, you will never have to admit that you're lost and suffer the humiliation of asking for directions. Google is expected to announce a partnership today with Gilbarco Veeder-Root, to include Google's mapping service on 3,500 Internet enabled gasoline pumps across the US. The maps will be available on the pump's small screen giving motorists the ability to scroll through local landmarks, hotels, restaurants, and hospitals to the bemusement of the guy waiting behind you. The pump will even print directions. The service is said to be ad-free but will offer coupons which sounds a lot like advertising to us. Look for the gPumps to arrive courtesy of that Encore S rig pictured above.

Gamerator MAME cabinet features 187 games, built-in keg

187 MAME-emulated games, a 24-inch LCD, cupholders and a built-in kegerator? If it was up to us, the Gamerator would be the only piece of furniture in our living room. Yours now for $2K on eBay.

[Via TechDigest]

Are you using Vista?

You may identify with this experience if you have tried. This must have been done by a Unix fan.

Too Funny

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How to make your own Solar Geny for less than $300

This is a pretty old like but looks like it would be fun to try. I might try to see if I can make something to light my walkway etc.

Scientists develop sticky tape inspired by insect feet

Black gaffer tape might be about to get a run for its money as our fix-it of choice -- researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, in collaboration with a team at Carnegie Mellon, are working on a new type of tape that gets its stick from a pattern of microscopic ridges modeled after insect feet. The two teams studied over 300 insects to develop the tape, which can be reused hundreds of times before losing its stickiness then simply washed in soapy water to regain its initial grip. Tests of the tape have enabled a 4-ounce robot to climb walls, and the team says that although it'll never be as cheap or as strong as regular old Scotch, the product they've nicknamed "insect tape" will be reasonably cheap to use around the house. Yeah, but can you build a server out of it?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Anyone like Heros?

Study Suggests Genome Instability Hotspots

Posted by Zonk on Monday November 05, @01:26AM
from the perfect-place-to-splice dept.
Dr. Eggman writes "Ars Technica reports on a new study that suggests not only that certain areas of the mouse genome undergo more changes, but that changes to those areas are more tolerable by the organism than changes in other areas. Recently published in Nature Genetics, the study examined the certain copy number variations of the C57Bl/6 strain in mice that have been diverging for less than 1,000 generations. The results were a surprising number of variations. While the study does not address it, Ars Technica goes on to recount suggestions that genomes evolved to the point where they work well with evolution."

Animal poo powers zoo

If you talk to Chuck Siegel, deputy director of animal management for the Dallas Zoo, he'll tell you that "poo and pee is our bread and butter."

Sounds a little gross, but it's totally true. Animal waste, rather than a useless byproduct, destined to take up space in a landfill somewhere, is instead going to be a source of energy for the zoo. Officials are implementing a plan that would take cardboard, tree limbs, and their never-ending supply of animal poop, and run it through a biogas generator that will help power several buildings.

With a total price tag of around $1 million, it's not exactly cheap. But given the amount of money the facility will save on power, zoo officials estimate that the project will pay for itself within ten years. Holy crap!

Related Link

Ultracapacitors Soon to Replace Many Batteries?

Posted by Zonk on Sunday November 04, @07:46PM
from the zap-zap-zazp dept.
einhverfr writes "According to an article in the IEEE Spectrun, the synergy between batteries and capacitors — two of the sturdiest and oldest components of electrical engineering — has been growing, to the point where ultracapacitors may soon be almost as indispensable to portable electricity as batteries are now. Some researchers expect to soon create capacitors capable of storing 50% as much energy as a lithium ion battery of the same size. Such capacitors could revolutionize many areas possibly from mobile computing (no worries about battery memory), electricity-powered vehicles, and more."

The Dying PC Market

Posted by CmdrTaco on Sunday November 04, @10:06AM
from the netcraft-confirms-nothing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing, as its once-awesome monopoly on processing power is encroached by gadgets such as smart phones that act like pocket-size computers, advanced Internet-connected game consoles, digital video recorders with terabytes of memory NEC's annual PC shipments in Japan shrank 6.2 percent to 2.72 million units in 2006, and the trend is continuing into the first quarter of fiscal 2007 with a 14 percent decline from a year earlier. Sony's PC shipments for Japan shrank 10 percent in 2006 from a year earlier. "The household PC market is losing momentum to other electronics like flat-panel TVs and mobile phones," said Masahiro Katayama, research group head at market survey firm IDC. "Consumers aren't impressed anymore with bigger hard drives or faster processors. That's not as exciting as a bigger TV," Katayama said. "And in Japan, kids now grow up using mobile phones, not PCs. The future of PCs isn't bright.""