Friday, January 4, 2008

&#@^@#$(*(*@#$ GPS

Man follows GPS directions onto train tracks, into dummy hall of fame

Once again proving that "people be stupid," a Bedford Hills, New York man allowed his GPS to navigate him onto train tracks... while a train was approaching. Entering a long line of folks like Cherry Tree Guy and the Narrow Lane Invader, this mentat in question apparently followed directions to "turn right" onto a set of tracks, which he then inexplicably became stuck on. Upon noticing the speeding locomotive heading towards his car, the man jumped out of the vehicle and tried to warn the engineer by waving his arms frantically -- to no avail. The train slammed into the truck at 60 MPH and pushed the vehicle more than 100-feet, damaging 250-feet of track. The man was unharmed, though we understand his ego has filed for divorce.

[Thanks, Dr. Mark]

Driver follows GPS onto pedestrian walkway, into cherry tree

In another example of the evils of computer navigation, a 37-year-old trucker followed his GPS directions to their totally illogical conclusion when he drove his truck down a pedestrian walkway and wedged the delivery vehicle into a cherry tree. The driver, who was looking for a factory to drop off his cargo, blindly followed the female voice of his navigation system, apparently ignoring several no-entry signs and turning onto the walkway in broad daylight. The motorist then attempted to reverse out, damaging two lamp posts, a hedge, and of course the cherry tree, which Swiss workers later had to take a chainsaw to. The tucker was fined 650 Swiss francs (about $540), and his GPS was given a firmware update and a copy of Google Maps.

[Thanks, pork_musket]

GPS leads driver into tight spot, stays wedged for three days

Every few months, we happen upon yet another story involving a motorist who simply believes that their GPS system would never, ever lead them astray. This go 'round, a Czech lorry driver continued down an incredibly narrow lane at the request of his sat nav, and even though his ginormous camion was clearly too large to make it around the 90-degree turn, he threw common sense to the wind and continued onward. Needless to say, his ride ended up wedged so tightly he couldn't reverse his way out, so he decided to set up shop for three whole days rather than calling for "an expensive weekend rescue." Interestingly enough, the fellow managed to acquire food after befriending a couple that lived nearby, and while we're sure he uttered Michael Scott's words in a different tongue, we've little doubt that "the machine knows!" was heard by nearby wildlife shortly before this situation turned sour.

Faith in GPS sends Mercedes downstream

So far, over-dependence on GPS devices has resulted in more inconvenience than actual danger, but things took a turn for the worse earlier this month when a U.K. woman sent her £96k Mercedes SL500 flying into a river, trusting the car's optimistic GPS guidance instead of the road signs warning of impending doom. Matters were made worse as the river was swollen from recent heavy rains, which caused the vehicle to be swept some 200 meters downstream before the woman was able to escape. While she emerged unscathed, the car unfortunately wasn't quite so lucky, remaining stuck in the river for a week after the incident and now believed to be a complete write-off.

[Via The Register]

Motorist has faith in GPS, drives into sandpile

Sure, we're well aware that focusing too intently on that mesmerizing GPS screen can be dangerous, and we've heard a few reports of the Darwin effect doing its best to weed out the unfit-to-drive, but most recently, an 80-year old gentleman apparently thought his nav-equipped Mercedes was of the yet-to-be-released autopilot variety when he failed to take matters into his own hands. The elderly German motorist set out sans a clue of what route(s) he'd be taking to reach his destination, but obviously felt that his trusty navigation unit knew far more about the highways and byways than he did. After blatantly ignoring a prominent "closed for construction" sign, he threw common sense to the wind and put that 4MATIC system to good use by wheeling over "a number of warnings and barricades" in search of his next landmark. A police spokeperson said frankly: "His trip finally ended when he wound up crashing into a pile of sand." The most alarming tidbit may not be the overt reliance on technology or the slightly antiquated maps he was utilizing, but that even his wife found no reason to object to cruising head-on into a sandpile. Two heads are apparently not always better than one.

[Via Fark]

UK drivers trust GPS more than their own eyes

We've heard reports before about the dangers of driving while under the influence of GPS, but it looks like drivers in the UK have taken trust of their navigation units to the extreme. Twice in the space of the last two weeks, we've seen reports of British drivers taking serious risks because they trust the info displayed on the small screen more than what they see through their windshield. In the most recent case, drivers passing through the village of Luckington have found themselves landing in the River Avon, by following a GPS-recommended route that pointed to a bridge that has been closed for a week. Despite warning signs on both sides of the road, and nothing but water straight ahead, local villagers have found themselves pulling an average of two cars a day out of the river for the past week. "When you ask what happened, they say, ‘My sat-nav told me it was this way,'" one resident told The Times. Meanwhile, the village of Crackpot (yes, that's really its name) has had to deal with drivers whose navigation systems have directed them to the edge of a cliff with a hundred-foot drop. So far, there have been no serious injuries, but drivers have found themselves stranded on a rocky path. "It's only a matter of time before something happens," said one resident. Listen, we like GPS as much as the next sense-of-direction-impaired driver. But we also do our best to use our eyes, as well. And if you don't, well, there's a village in England named for you, and it ain't Luckington.

Read - Luckington
Read - Crackpot

Starry Night bed: like sleeping on a pile of money

Sure, your bed is pretty comfortable. you probably even have one of those plush down mattress covers. You may have convinced yourself that you're in the lap of luxury, but according to Leggett & Platt -- you're nowhere close. Enter the Starry Night bed, the be-all-end-all when it comes to breakneck, nosebleed opulence, and unparalleled extravagance. The sleeper not only combines dual, remote-controlled, adjustable mattresses with temperature control and anti-snore technology (whatever that is), but also manages to embed a 1080p HD projector, four subwoofers and tweeters, a 1.5TB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, Media Center integration, WiFi, and an iPod dock. Seriously. All they forgot was to make it not ugly. Showing at CES 2008, and priced from $20,000 to $50,000 (depending on options).

[Via About Projectors]

Scientist Suggests We Explore 'Universe is a VR Simulation' Theory

Posted by Zonk on Friday January 04, @12:44PM
from the what-would-we-do-if-he's-right dept.
holy_calamity writes "A New Zealand physicist has written a paper saying that physicists should seriously explore the possibility the universe is a giant virtual reality simulation. He says that the existence of quantum phenomena could be due to the underlying digital nature of the simulation and also claims his VR hypothesis can explain relativity, the big bang and more. It should be possible to perform experiments to prove the hypothesis too. He reasons that if reality was to do something that information processing cannot, then it cannot be virtual."

Leonardo DiCaprio drops $3,200 on eco-friendly toilet

It's official, going green would be way easier if you were famous and totally loaded. Then you'd be able to drop $3,200 on an eco-friendly toilet like Leonardo DiCaprio. Plus, along with doing your part for the planet, you'd get to play with all the awesome features included with the Toto toilet -- including a seat warmer, automatic flusher, and remove control.

And dudes, check this out -- the seat flips up all by itself whenever you approach it. Nice.

Swedish group deflates SUV tires

A group of climate crusaders in Sweden -- calling themselves the "Indians of the Concrete Jungle" -- have launched a campaign to deflate as many SUV tires as possible. Using pebbles and beans, the vandals vigilantes unscrew the tire cap, insert the object and viola -- one pissed off SUV driver. So far the "Indians" have reported deflating the tires of over 1000 vehicles in the affluent parts of Stockholm. Claiming to be fighting for the survival of the planet, they hope to squelch Sweden's fascination with wasteful 4x4s.

So far, their self-righteous attitude has provoked a national debate and spawned counter-deflation groups like the "Cowboys of the Concrete Jungle," who vow to defend their right to drive the vehicle of their choice -- by whatever means necessary. Hopefully, there will not be any meeting between the two groups, since I'm pretty sure it could get ugly. I know the green movement is pretty intense, but at lest here in the States, the 4x4 culture is downright fanatical.

Fashionable Milan jumps on congestion fee bandwagon

No longer will stretch Hummers carrying dozens of stick-thin models to their catwalks rumble freely through the streets of central Milan. As of January 2, that city has joined London, Stockholm, and Singapore in implementing "congestion fees' for vehicles accessing 8 square kilometres in the city centre. Daily fees range from about $3 to $14, or up to $around $370 for a yearly pass. No worries, though, those scooters that look so cool when Italians ride them but somehow become ridiculous on American streets will still be exempt, along with certain other low-emissions vehicles.

Unhappily, the Times Online reports that the first day of the new system was chaotic, as drivers complained that online and phone payment systems weren't working properly. However, once the glitches are ironed out, the city hopes to pull in about $35 million annually from the program, 2/3 of which they plan to reinvest in public transit.

In London, an anti-congestion fee was initially successful at reducing traffic in the city core, but in the last year delays have returned to pre-implementation levels. However, over $600 million has been raised for public transit funding since 2003.

Related Link

16 states suing as EPA supports automakers over clean air

What part of the word "protection" doesn't Environmental Protection Agency Chairman Stephen Johnson understand? California and 15 other states and several environmental organizations are suing the EPA after the agency refused to grant a waiver allowing California to impose tailpipe emissions limits stricter than federal standards. While the EPA technically has the right to refuse such a waiver, it has never done so in the past and legal experts suggest that its stance in this case won't hold up in court.

The California Clean Car law would require cars sold in the state to have 30% less tailpipe emissions by 2020, a benchmark considerably tougher thant the federal Clean Air Act standard. The rationale for the denial of the waiver is odd, to say the least. The EPA 's Johnson - a Bush appointee - has said that it was to "avoid a confusing patchwork of state laws", which isn't the case and has nothing to do with anything anyway. Johnson also claims that Federal fuel efficiency standards would have the same effect, a statement disputed by California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols, who says that the California law would keep 38 million additional tons of CO2 out of the air between 2009 and 2016 alone. Reports citing EPA insiders have suggested that Johnson is actually responding to pressure from the White House and auto companies, who fear that stricter standards will drive up manufacturing costs.

Other states joining the suit are Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. If you live in one of them, you may feel a small twinge of pride that your legislators have done something useful.

via Wired

Related Link

Organic vending machines in Italy

In an effort to provide fast, healthy food and curb childhood obesity rates, Italy's Lazio region has added organic fruit to their vending machines. For 50 cents to one Euro a piece, you can get organic bananas, apples, pears, and oranges. Regional Agricultural Councilor, Daniela Valentini intends to fill institutional buildings like schools and hospitals with healthy options.

is a region of Italy bordered by Tuscany. Rome is the capitol. With more than more than 2,700 organic producers, Lazio has the highest consumption of organics in the country. They were even represented when 20 Lazio companies made an appearance at Dubai's Middle East Natural and Organic Products Expo. Perhaps Lazio's efforts to provide quick healthy food will spread to this country as well.
Related Link

HydroPak water-activated fuel-cell generator unveiled

While still quite a ways away from our ideal method of drawing power directly from tap water, the new HydroPak generator from Millennium Cell and Horizon Fuel Cell at least trumps those heavy, dirty, traditional models in both cleanliness and efficiency. As we first heard a few months back, this water-activated, fuel cell-based "portable power product" uses $20 disposable cartridges to provide "enough energy to recharge an average notebook computer 8 to 10 times" or "operate low power devices such as portable lights, notebook computers, portable televisions and ad hoc communications networks for more than 14 continuous hours," via AC outlet or dual USB jacks. Also on display at CES alongside the $400 system will be a smaller version called the HydroPak Mini, a prototype device designed to juice up gadgets such as cellphones or gaming systems.

California utility company rides wave power

If you've spent much time at the beach lately, you might have noticed how many of us stare blankly at the constantly moving waters, occasionally drooling at the vastness of the ocean. Apparently, some people are able to get past this vexation and see a raw, untapped resource. That seems to be the case with San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric, the first US utility company to invest in the power generating potential of the oceans.

Teaming up with Vancouver-based hydro-power experts Finavera Renewables, PG&E will be building a "wave park" 2.5 miles off the coast of Eureka, CA. The park will consist of 8 buoys that harness the up and down motion of the water to operate a sort of piston pump system -- sending power via an underwater cable to a PG&E substation.

The immediate effect of the buoys would be rather small, producing 2 megawatts -- enough to power about 1500 homes. Obviously, this experiment isn't going to save the world, but it may generate a significant interest in generating energy from the motion of the ocean. PG&E didn't disclose how much this project would cost -- probably because it would make you sick.
Related Link

2008 forecasted to be in the top ten warmest years

Here's more New Year's predictions for ya; 2008 will be among the top 10 warmest years on record since 1850, according to forecasters at the Met Office and the University of East Anglia.

Why? Does this mean that global warming has finally tapered off? Nope. According to the researchers, 2008 will be slightly cooler than recent years due to other factors, including El Nino and La Nina . The researchers warn that this should not be taken as a sign that global warming is on the wane.

The past ten years from 1998 to 2007 were the hottest decade on record according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
Related Link

Video: Kenguru, specialized electric car for disabled people

The video above is all about the Kenguru, an electric car specifically designed for a wheelchair. Kenguru has a large door at the back that opens by remote control, so a person in a wheelchair can easily enter the car. The Hungarian company Rehab Ltd. designed the Kenguru, which has a 35-mile range and a top speed of 25 miles per hour. The car is free in Hungary for qualified people and is expected to come to the United States for $14,500.

[Source: YouTube]

Microsoft Patents Frustration-Detection System

Posted by Zonk on Friday January 04, @09:12AM
from the would-you-like-to-buy-a-handgun-dave dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Microsoft has patented a frustration-detection help system that would monitor your computer use and biometrics to figure out when you were frustrated. It could then offer to pair you up with someone else doing exactly the same thing who might be able to help you out. Interestingly, they don't appear to use speech recognition to detect abnormal levels of swear words, but that could be due to their past difficulties with speech recognition. 'Physical responses aren't the only things that could trigger this event--taking an abnormally long time to complete a task would do so also--but the biometric aspect is certainly the most unusual. Is this patent a harbinger of a dystopian future where computer users' biorhythms will be monitored to increase efficiency? Unlikely. The idea, which was birthed at Microsoft Research, is simply a more advanced version of user focus group testing that Microsoft (and most other software companies) have been doing for years now.'"

Yapta helped me get cheaper flights

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a free service called Yapta, which stands for "Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant" (get Yapta now, or read my previous post about Yapta). Shortly after I started using Yapta, I bought a couple of plane tickets for a family trip and used it to watch the fares to see if they dropped. My tickets were about $760 each when I paid for them (yep, I know - pricey).

What does Yapta do?

The way Yapta works is that you can tell it what trips you're shopping for, or which tickets you've already bought. From there, Yapta starts monitoring the prices and lets you know when they drop (you can set how far they need to drop before you're notified). If the price drops, most airlines will either give you a refund or issue a travel voucher (depending on their policy) if you contact them before the price goes back up again (you've gotta act fast - those fares change quickly).

Yapta can track fares from the following airlines (currently US-heavy), but they have been adding more to the list:

  • AirTran Airways
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • ATA Airlines
  • Continental
  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Midwest Airlines
  • Ted Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways

Well, did Yapta work?

About a week ago, I got an email from Yapta on my Blackberry saying the fare had dropped, and I was elegible for a voucher from United Airlines for the difference. They even told me where to call and what to say to get my voucher (pretty cool). I called United, and the price had dropped to $601 per ticket so I got vouchers in the amount of $308.

Now that is what I call an amazing personal travel assistant. It's free - what are you waiting for?

Guitar Wizard: Guitar Hero with a real guitar

Nothing ruins a Guitar Hero or Rock Band party faster than that one guy who's constantly asking why everyone doesn't just learn to play a real instrument, but a company called Music Wizard Group is getting ready to change that with a new teaching tool called Guitar Wizard. The package comes with a real Washburn guitar, MIDI pickup and the Guitar Wizard software -- which is the same app used in Mattel's popular I Can Play Guitar toy -- and the company claims players will be rocking out and reading music in just minutes. Of course, since we've been shredding since we were just small change, we'll let the haters get their fret buzz on while we keep jamming with our modded Strat Guitar Hero controllers.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Westinghouse Digital Wireless HDMI HDTV to debut at CES

We didn't have to wait for CES to begin to find out the UWB camp's response to WirelessHD 1.0, Westinghouse and Pulse-Link plan to demo the first "fully-integrated" wireless HDTV Saturday. The Westinghouse Digital Wireless HDMI HDTV should hit the B2B digital signage marketplace in the second quarter, and could see release to consumers by the end of the year. If wired HDMI is just too complicated, Pulse-Link's CWave Wireless HDMI promises 40 foot range with no loss of quality. No word yet on exact price, or what kind of Monster accessories we can expect to enhance our wireless viewing experience, but this seems a lot more tangible than the Philips wireless HDTV technology vaporware from CES '07.

Cocaine Vaccine In the Works

Posted by kdawson on Thursday January 03, @12:15PM
from the runnin-round-my-brain dept.
martyros writes "Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine are performing clinical trials of a vaccine that teaches the immune system to attack cocaine, preventing it from giving a high. The vaccine is made by attaching inactivated cocaine molecules to the outside of inactivated cholera proteins. When the immune system attacks the cholera proteins, it also 'learns' the cocaine molecules as well. The result is that the immune system 'recognizes the potent naked drug when it's ingested. The antibodies bind to the cocaine and prevent it from reaching the brain, where it normally would generate the highs that are so addictive.'" An earlier story from The Star notes that human trials for vaccines against both cocaine and nicotine are well under way.

Airport Profilers Learn to Read Facial Expressions

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday January 03, @07:50AM
from the you-look-guilty dept.
nldavepc writes "There has been a rather scary development in airport security. Airport profilers are watching people's facial expressions for clues of terrorist intent. According to the article,"Travelers at Sea-Tac and dozens of other major airports across America are being scrutinized by teams of TSA behavior-detection officers specially trained to discern the subtlest suspicious behaviors.""

Students sniff poop...for science

Ah, the noble organic farmer -- letting his animals freely roam the pasture, and working the earth in the way nature intended. Sounds perfect, but you might feel differently if you lived down the street -- namely, because farm animals stink.

To ease this potential tension between farmers and their neighbors, one Purdue University professor is measuring the smells produced by barns filled with livestock, and working out methods to make them more palatable for nearby residents.

The best part, is that he's paying grad students to help with the study -- giving them $30 a session to sit around smelling animal excrement. With an olfactometer that he shoves up their noses, the prof is able to test different techniques he's developed for diluting the offensive odors. I can't imagine being so broke that I'd take such a crappy job (pun totally intended), but apparently it's not so bad.

Says one sniffer: "Grad students are kind of poor. I've done worse than this."

Dreams Actually Virtual Reality Threat Simulation?

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday January 02, @01:12PM
from the fighting-the-forces-of-evil-in-your-underwear dept.
Time Slows Down writes "Psychology Today has an interesting story on a new theory of why we dream. Finnish psychologist Antti Revonsuo believes that dreams are a sort of nighttime theater in which our brains screen realistic scenarios simulating emergency situations and providing an arena for safe training. 'The primary function of negative dreams is rehearsal for similar real events, so that threat recognition and avoidance happens faster and more automatically in comparable real situations,' he says. We have 300 to 1,000 threat dreams per year — one to four per night and just under half are aggressive encounters: physical aggression such as fistfights, and nonphysical aggression such as verbal arguments. Faced with actual life-or-death situations — traffic accidents, terrorist attacks, street assaults — people report entering a mode of calm, rapid response, reacting automatically, almost without thinking. Afterward, they often say the episode felt unreal, as if it were all a dream. 'Dreaming is a sensitive system that tries to pay much attention to the threatening cues in our environment,' Revonsuo says. 'Their function is to protect and prepare us.'"

Molten Salt-Based Solar Power Plant

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday January 02, @05:26PM
from the would-you-like-fries-with-that dept.
rcastro0 writes "Hamilton Sundstrand, a division of United Technologies, announced today that it will start to commercialize a new type of solar power plant. A new company called SolarReserve will be created to provide heat-resistant pumps and other equipment, as well as the expertise in handling and storing salt that has been heated to more than 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. According to venture capitalist Vinod Khosla 'Three percent of the land area of Morocco could support all of the electricity for Western Europe.' Molten Salt storage is already used in Nevada's Solar One power plant. Is this the post-hydrocarbon world finally knocking?"

Beer can house: Recycled brew makes for bitchin' bachelor pad

Those of you still recovering from your especially festive New Year's Eve reveling might appreciate this. After what must have been dozens of killer parties, someone took all those empties and constructed a house. A house.

Granted, this probably isn't everyone's dream pad (and I'm sure the neighbors aren't all that excited about what a beer-can house does to their property values), but it's definitely a novel way to keep those cans out of the garbage.

Plus, by the looks of it, the project wasn't too difficult to realize -- so with a few friends, a little determination, and a drinking problem, you can try this at home!

For more inspiration, go here to see some larger images.

[via Ecofriend]
Related Link

Turning dirty diapers into fuel

The diaper debate still looms large for new parents, causing much green guilt for those that use disposables.

But how about if you could transform your baby's dirty disposables into a synthetic diesel fuel? AMEC, of Quebec, Canada, has been working to build a facility near Montreal that will use a process known a pyrolysis to convert diapers to diesel. The process will involve heating up the diapers up to 600C without air, breaking the carbon chains down into the fuels.

One of the challenges with this process that the input is can be so variable, particularly with regular trash. Not so with diapers which are "a very consistent input" according to an engineer on the project.

The initial plan is convert abut 30,000 tons of diapers, or about one-quarter of the diapers that end up in landfills in Quebec yearly.

[Via Ecochild's Play]

The 5 Coolest Hacks of '07

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday January 02, @07:47PM
from the still-no-pencil-hack dept.
ancientribe writes "Nothing was sacred to hackers in '07 — not cars, not truckers, and not even the stock exchange. Dark Reading reviews five hacks that went after everyday things we take for granted even more than our PC's — our car navigation system, a trucker's freight, WiFi connections, iPhone, and (gulp) the electronic financial trading systems that record our stock purchases and other online transactions."

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Paris "about to launch" a cheap rental service featuring 2,000 electric cars

The Times reports, the Mayor of Paris is "about to launch" Bertrand Delanöe, a rental system that includes a whopping 2,000 electric cars. The system is based on Automobiles-en-Libre-Service, which allow subscribers to pick up a car, without booking, at dozens of sites and leave them anywhere in the city. The cost of the system is just a few euros per hour which has gained the scheme the nickname Voiturelib or free car. Two electric cars are being considered: the Blue Car project, a three-seater with 156 mile range and Cleanova which is based on the Renault Kangoo van and was developed by the Dassault aviation firm. The electric car rentals will complement the very popular Parisian bike rental, Vélib.

Plastic recycling is a sham

Our city-wide recycling program only took plastics labeled #1 or #2 which left #3 - #7 destined for the trash can. I was excited when a new recycling program popped up that accepted all plastics and I have dutifully been placing them all in my blue recycling bin. I have recently found out that very little of my waste gets recycled and much of it gets shipped off the third world countries where it is burnt as fuel or simply dumped in a landfill. Imagine the air quality from all of that burning plastic. Yum.

The truth is that only plastics #1 and #2 are easily recycled domestically and even then they have a limited life as a bag or lumber. Plastics #3 - #7 are generally not recyclable with the exception of Recycline's efforts to turn plastic #5 into toothbrushes, razors and kitchen gadgets. The rest gets shipped overseas.
Additionally, if a bale of "good" #1 or #2 plastic gets tainted by a #3 or #4, the whole thing is no good and becomes rubbish. There simply is not enough of a demand in this country for recycled plastics as long as virgin materials are plentiful and less expensive to process.

So, what options do we have as consumers? Many of our readers have said it again and again: waste less. This means making smart choices when bringing anything into our homes. Reuse containers, buy in bulk and if you must buy a new jar, go for glass.
Related Link

California to be altered drastically by climate change

California dreaming could become a lot more surreal in the next few years, if climate change predictions come true. Scientists are predicting that the state which has the widest range of microclimates and ecosystems in the country is also likely to be the most affected by global warming. Already the ski season is getting shorter at California ski resorts as temperatures soar and the snow disappears. While the state can get by without snowboarding, more significant is the fact that the Sierra snowpack provides 35% of California's water supply, which bodes ill for a growing and thirsty population. In Southern California, climate change will mean that movie star's Malibu homes which don't get torched in more frequent wildfires will stand a good chance of being inundated by rising sea levels. If you're not worried about what happens to Mel Gibson's house, consider the possible loss of the California wine country as temperatures and drought make the area unsuitable for vineyards.

Beyond the cost to humans, the potential exists for incaluable losses of marine, plant and animal life in the region. The solution is straightforward, by the way, if not easy - stop global warming.

Housewives are greener than college students

Think that 19-year-old, hemp-wearing, bike-riding, vegan college student is the greenest person in your postal district? Maybe. But chances are that local housewives do more for the planet than most of his classmates.

That's according to a new study by the University of Granada -- which found that those who receive the most education about their environmental impact (like college students), aren't necessarily the ones working hardest to fix the problem. Even when it came down to the simple task of separating glass from other garbage (so it could be recycled), it turned out that housewives were more likely to engage in this eco-friendly habit than their collegiate counterparts.

Apparently a few of those "activists" on campus are too busy going to class, sticking it to the man, and playing Frisbee in the quad to do anything about their carbon footprint. I guess we'll just have to wait until they get a little older, get married, and move to the suburbs -- then the planet will be saved!

New year, new bans: Berlin, Hannover and Cologne banning non-catalysed cars

Starting on the first day of this new year, three German cities (Berlin, Hannover and Cologne, pictured) have applied a complete ban on all vehicles that have no catalysers or DPF (Diesel Particulate Filters) in the city centers. To enter, cars must have a windshied sticker stating the installation of such devices.

German authorities try to keep city centers as clean as possible. The extension of these areas differs (we're speaking about very different cities here) but they include more than the historical city centers. Drivers can purchase identification labels for their vehicles and, in Berlin's case, it's estimated that 80 percent of the city's 1.2 million vehicles already have these labels. For now, Berlin's enforcement will be flexible; it's not until the end of January that drivers without such identificators will be fined. But from then on, the fine is 400 EUR.

Similar plans are currently being applied in cities around Italy (with mixed results). Other cities in Europe are also thinking about similar bans.

[Source: Agencia EFE via El Economista]

Gen Y Hits the Library the Most -- But Not For Books

Posted by timothy on Tuesday January 01, @04:27AM
from the checking-out-cuties dept.
Lucas123 writes "More than half of all Americans visited a library this past year and, of those, most were from Generation Y, the tech-loving young adults aged 18-30 years, according to a recent survey. The reason most cited for visiting their local public archive? Not books. Most were seeking gaming software programs, characters in the Second Life virtual world and online help with homework."
Another way to think about the results: about 47 percent of Americans didn't visit a library even once last year.

Introducing Magnet-Responsive Memory Foam

Posted by timothy on Wednesday January 02, @03:31AM
from the had-this-stuff-in-my-head-for-years dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently reported that two research teams have developed a new porous foam of an alloy that changes shape when exposed to a magnetic field. The NSF states that this new material is able to remember its original shape after it's been deformed by a physical or magnetic force. This polycrystalline nickel-manganese-gallium alloy is potentially cheaper and lighter than other materials currently used in devices ranging from sonar to precision valves. It also could be used to design biomedical pumps without moving parts and even for space applications and automobiles."

Neat little Vid Clip on employee engagment

Cartographers: man is altering the map

Thanks to Magellan and Google Earth, there aren't as many unexplored regions on the earth's surface as there used to be. That being the case, you might think that cartographers would get sick of drawing the same old maps all the time. Not true, due to man's constant tinkering with land and water, geographic features that were at one time considered static are being to change dramatically.

Some of the biggest changes fall under the category of diverting water for agriculture -- i.e. consuming a seemingly unsustainable amount. Rising seas are also beginning to show an effect on areas of Alaska and low-lying islands in the Indian Ocean. Here are the top 4 drastic changes:

  • Lake Chad in N. Africa is 95% smaller than in 1963
  • The Aral Sea has shrunk by 75% since 1967
  • The Dead Sea is 50 feet lower than in 1957
  • The Rio Grande & the Colorado Rivers sometimes dry out and don't reach the ocean