Thursday, May 8, 2008

We're Number 1! North Americans least green in world

North Americans may talk the green talk, but we're apparently too lazy to walk the walk. The US and Canada came in first and second respectively in a survey which measured the environmental unfriendliness of consumers around the world. The study, conducted for the National Geographic Society, asked people in 14 countries about their lifestyles, including questions on housing, food, and transport, and then gave them a green score on a scale of one to a hundred.

Reasons for the low marks in North America had to do with things like large houses, a preference for driving over public transit, and (not surprisingly in Canada) considerable use of home heating. Developing countries showed a smaller environmental footprint, probably because poverty, which usually involves tiny houses and nonexistent cars, is far less energy-intensive than wealth.

Beside the US and Canada, countries measured in the survey were Brazil, India, China, Mexico, Hungary, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Spain, Japan and France.

via [CBC News]

It's Not a Flying Car - It's a Drivable Airplane

Posted by timothy on Thursday May 08, @01:10PM
from the transcend-potholes dept.
waderoush writes "Aviation enthusiasts have been dreaming of flying cars since the 1940s. But in an old machine shop in Woburn, MA, a team of MIT aero/astro grads is building what could be the first practical airplane that's also certified for highway driving. Angel-funded startup Terrafugia, headed by 2006 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner Carl Dietrich, hopes to have its first full-scale proof-of-concept vehicle ready to show off at July's AirVenture aviation festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin."

It's Not a Flying Car - It's a Drivable Airplane

Posted by timothy on Thursday May 08, @01:10PM
from the transcend-potholes dept.
waderoush writes "Aviation enthusiasts have been dreaming of flying cars since the 1940s. But in an old machine shop in Woburn, MA, a team of MIT aero/astro grads is building what could be the first practical airplane that's also certified for highway driving. Angel-funded startup Terrafugia, headed by 2006 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner Carl Dietrich, hopes to have its first full-scale proof-of-concept vehicle ready to show off at July's AirVenture aviation festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin."

A Scooter With Everything (For Certain Values of Everything)

Posted by timothy on Thursday May 08, @11:51AM
from the next-year-these-will-be-everywhere dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The folks over at Thought Lab have produced an extremely high-density mobile computing platform in a scooter and have been kind enough to teach us all how to make our own! The end result was a rolling system capable of long-distance war driving, GPS navigation, Skype calls on the road, serving as an Internet hot spot or a low-power pir8 radio station, as well as recording your favorite TV program so you don't miss Lost because you are lost. If that's not over the top enough, you can actually drive your scooter to, say, the Grand Canyon, plug in your electric guitar and perform live over the Web at a whim!"

HIPerSpace monitor wall makes a great Grand Theft Auto IV canvas

Rolling around jacking up innocents and tossing Molotov cocktails is pretty enthralling on your vanilla 46-inch HDTV, but can you even imagine the rush of swiping a hot dog, burning out in someone else's whip and then snagging a new pair of kicks on this? Researchers (and gamers, obviously) down at UC San Diego have re-engineered their middleware to enable such masterpieces as this to be played on the big monolithic HIPerSpace screen, and needless to say, we can't imagine much real work getting done with this new functionality coming to light. Head on down to the gallery to see what you're missing -- science, research and 4.0 GPAs are such beautiful things.

id Software Announces Doom 4

Posted by timothy on Thursday May 08, @08:38AM
from the this-time-it's-yours dept.
spoco2 writes "The id Software site has announced that work has begun on the next sequel to their most famous game, Doom. Will they be able to resurrect the series after what many considered to be a serious misstep with Doom 3? Oh... and they're hiring for the team, so maybe you can steer them in the right direction?"

Firefox Vietnamese Language Pack Infected With Trojan

Posted by timothy on Thursday May 08, @09:16AM
from the when-childhood-goes-wrong dept.
An anonymous reader writes " is reporting that the Firefox browser has been unknowingly distributing a trojan with the Firefox Vietnamese language pack. Over 16,000 downloads of the pack occurred since being infected. This highlights a risk on relying on user-submitted Firefox extensions, or a lack of peer-review of the extensions, many of which receive frequent upgrades."

Related Stories

CO2 is poisoning cute Koalas

According to the research of Sydney University's Ian Hume, rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere can turn eucalyptus leaves -- the Koala's favorite food -- into a toxic salad of death. Apparently, the heightened level of carbon dioxide not only saps the nutrients from the leaves that Koalas need to survive, but it also increases production of toxic "anti-nutrients" in the eucalyptus plant. Bummer.

The Koala's eucalyptus diet is notoriously low in nutritional value as it is, and they've adapted to it by sleeping nearly 20 hours a day. Now with strange anti-nutrients blocking the digestion of the few proteins in the leaves, the Koala is faced with any even greater uphill battle. With the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere, Hume expects a steady decline in Koala population over the next 50 years due to a lack of edible eucalyptus leaves. This is obviously bad news for one of Australia's national symbols. At least the kangaroos are mating like rabbits.
Related Link

Green Scorecard for some major businesses

This is a neat score card showing which companies have a green philosophy than others. They are encouraging consumers to use this info to make purchasing decisions. How do your favorite companies rate? BTW, Darden Reastraunts is a holding company for Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, The Capital Grille, and Seasons 52.

Green company pocket guide

PEAK PlasmaBlade electrosurgery scalpel is amazing, disgusting

Okay, so we're not exactly doctors, but we couldn't help but be intrigued by PEAK Surgical's announcement today that its PlasmaBlade electrosurgery scalpel had completed preclinical testing with positive results. Unlike traditional electrosurgery tools like the bovie cutter, the PlasmaBlade operates at low temperatures, using pulsed plasma energy to cut tissue and control bleeding. Then, stupidly, we watched the video. Let's just say now that it no longer matters to us that surgeons using the PEAK PlasmaBlade produce "minimal collateral damage" to tissue and that bleeding was reduced. Sure, it's great for the surgeons, but our eyes? Not going to be the same.

[Via MedGadget]

Read - PEAK PlasmaBlade press release
Watch - PEAK PlasmaBlade demo video (WARNING: not for the squeamish, we mean it!)

NASA Builds a Cheap Standardized Space Probe

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday May 08, @12:34AM
from the now-featuring-walls dept.
TangAddict writes "Dr. Alan Weston, who previously invented bungee jumping, led a team of scientists at NASA Ames Research Center to build a $4 million dollar spacecraft in less than two years. The Modular Common Spacecraft Bus is designed to accept payloads of up to 50kg. and can be used for a variety of missions including a rendezvous with asteroids, orbiting Earth or Mars, and landing on the moon. When NASA officials saw the first flight test, they offered Weston and his team $80 million to use their design for the LADEE mission, which will gather dust and atmosphere samples from the moon in 2011."

DOE Pumps $126.6 Million into Carbon Sequestration

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday May 07, @10:11PM
from the out-of-sight-out-of-mind dept.
RickRussellTX writes "The DOE awarded $126.6 million in grants today to projects that will pump 1 million tons of CO2 into underground caverns at sites in California and Ohio. Environmental groups call carbon sequestration "a scam", claiming that it is too expensive and uncertain to be competitive with non-coal alternatives like wind and solar. I just hope nobody drops a Mentos down the wrong pipe."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

MTI Micro testing feasibility of fuel cells in digicams

The ever-boastful MTI Micro is back again, just days after showing off a fuel cell-powered GPS prototype in Atlanta. This go 'round, the company is announcing a newfound partnership with an elusive Japanese developer of digicams in order to "evaluate the feasibility, development and production" of Mobion products. The love affair will enable the two to work together in evaluating and adapting the aforesaid technology for use in "various precision imaging applications, including digital cameras." Best of all, work is apparently already ongoing, and MTI Micro is expected to deliver prototypes later this month. Going from prototype form to the store shelf, however, will be the hard part.

Global warming to kill off insects

Say goodbye to your ant farm - climate change may prove to be a more powerful pesticide than DDT. New research shows that even relatively minor fluctuations in temperature could have devastating effects on insects, especially in the world's tropical regions.

An article in the Independent quotes Curtis Deutsch, a professor from UCLA who co-authored the study to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as saying that although temperatures are not expected to increase as much in the tropics as at the poles, even a 1C or 2C jump could be fatal for insects already surviving at their edge of their climactic comfort zone.

While that doesn't look like it's all downside, especially for anyone who's been up north during blackfly season, the repercussions could be pretty ugly. Insects in warm climates are key to a healthy environment, pollinating flowers and plants, carrying away organic waste (read: eating crap) and serving as dinner for various birds and animals. If the bugs fail to adapt to a changing climate, the consequences will be felt all the way up the food chain.

Related Link

Does The Brain Control Muscles Or Movements?

ScienceDaily (May 8, 2008) — One of the major scientific questions about the brain is how it can translate the simple intent to perform an action--say, reach for a glass--into the dynamic, coordinated symphony of muscle movements required for that action. The neural instructions for such actions originate in the brain's primary motor cortex, and the puzzle has been whether the neurons in this region encode the details of individual muscle activities or the high-level commands that govern kinetics--the direction and velocity of desired movements.

Read More

Germany says biofuels aren't to blame for food prices

As the debate about biofuels rages on, German ministers are sticking to their guns when it comes to renewable energy targets. Despite pressure from the UN to cut back on crop fuels, Germany's environmental minister Sigmar Gabriel says that Germany should go ahead with its plans to use 10% biofuels by 2020.

According to Gabriel, the spike in food prices is coming from a variety of sources like poor harvests, increased global demand, and huge growth in commodities investment. The real culprit in the global food crunch isn't the growing market for biofuels, he says. Instead, it's speculators that have driven commodity prices to astronomical levels, breaking down the normal relationship between supply and demand. Of course, the same can be said about the price of oil.
Related Link

Iron 'Snow' Helps Maintain Mercury's Magnetic Field, Scientists Say

ScienceDaily (May 8, 2008) — New scientific evidence suggests that deep inside the planet Mercury, iron "snow" forms and falls toward the center of the planet, much like snowflakes form in Earth's atmosphere and fall to the ground.

Read More

Shark-powered surfing

Sharks aren't doing too well. Humans have been using them for food and cosmetics (or just accidentally killing them) for far too long, which has left over 200 shark species in danger of extinction. Even if you're not a big fan of large, scary-looking sea monsters that can slice you open with their teeth, it's important to remember that sharks are a vital part of the ocean's fragile eco-system (not to mention that they make for really awesome nature documentaries!).

So, any attempt to bring attention to this endangered animal is commendable.

However, I'm not sure that's what this guy had in mind. The above video shows some lunatic surfer as he first baits a shark with raw , bleeding meat, and then proceeds to take a ride on his surfboard -- pulled by the flesh-eating fish.

Wow. Just. Wow.

Spawn of climate change: the grolar bear

If grizzly bears keep getting forced further north by the adverse affects of climate change, scientists say that we may see more and more grolar bears - hybrid offspring of the polar bear and the grizzly. (What was wrong with "pizzly"? I think I would have chosen that over "grolar.")

Mixed polar/grizzly bears have already been spotted, namely one which a hunter killed in April 2006. The unfortunate bear, which biologists said must have been a hybrid offspring of a male grizzly and a female polar bear, was confirmed by DNA tests to carry genetic material from both types. The bear was mainly white, with a few fuzzy brown patches. (Next up: a kids' book which explores how the poor grolar bear is an outcast at his school, because he's different...)

Some point out that at least if polar and grizzly bears mate, we won't end up losing polar bear DNA altogether - a serious threat if the ice that supports polar habitats disappears, as it well may. That seems to me to be a major case of straining to see the silver lining...

Related Link

Do you make these 6 common recycling mistakes?

I was given few rules from the company that takes my recycling and didn't know how to avoid common mistakes. I knew that they take a bunch of my recyclable materials including plastics one through seven, cans, and paper products. When I ended up with a sheet of plastic with the number four stamped on it inside the recycle symbol, I plopped it in the bin. After two pickups, the workers seemed to be ignoring my plastic. When I asked during the following visit, the owner of the company told me, "we can take it but it'll just end up in the trash." Apparently, despite the markings, my number four piece of plastic was not recyclable in my area.

It's not just some plastics that end up in the trash after getting picked up from people's homes. Cardboard, metals and other items get tossed regularly. Small measures can be taken on your end to prevent your dutifully sorted recyclables from ending up in the landfill.
  1. Broken glass is difficult to sort and will most likely end up in the trash so it's best to take care of it safely on your end or reuse it.
  2. Food stained paper products are no good! This includes pizza boxes. If the bottom of the box is a greasy, soiled mess but the top cover is pristine, toss the bottom into the trash and recycle the remainder.
  3. Other common paper products that can't be recycled are waxed paper and cardboard, oil soaked paper, carbon paper, sanitary products or tissues, thermal fax paper, stickers and plastic laminated paper, juice boxes, and pet food bags.
  4. Unless told otherwise, you do not have to remove staples from paper or cardboard that is to be recycled.
  5. Remove caps from bottles before recycling as they are often made from a different type of plastic and can contaminate the batch.
  6. Don't bother peeling labels off from metals and glass. The recycling process will due this on its own ... but thanks for the effort!
Related Link

Bald eagle to get bionic beak

Imagine trying to eat a bowl of marbles with one chopstick -- pretty frustrating, right? Welcome to a day in the life of Beauty the bald eagle. The top side of her beak was shot off by some treasonous idiot near Anchorage (what would Stephen Colbert think about that?), where she was later found trying to survive by eating trash at the local landfill. Since then she's been hand fed everyday by Jane Cantwell at her raptor recovery center in Idaho, but that could soon change thanks to the help of a prosthetic beak.

For the last two years, Jane has be rounding up a team of engineers to design a bionic beak so that Beauty can once again eat without assistance. A dentist, veterinarian, and other volunteers are developing a nylon composite replacement to be glued on to what's left of Beauty's disfigured upper beak.

Since the beak won't be strong enough to tear up prey, Beauty can't be released back into the wild, buy she will be able to drink water and eat the food provided at the raptor ranch. Her life expectancy with the new beak is about 50 years -- I had no idea that eagles lived that long. If you like animal recovery stories, you should check out Jonathon's post about the bionic turtle.
Related Link

We had an EATHQUAKE yesterday!

Magnitude 2.0 at 1:30 yesterday afternoon. I was at Wilton Woods and felt it with 3 others who were sitting next to me and heard what I suppose was the building move. How exciting! Here is a map of where they think the Epicenter was as of this morning. They say these happen about every 10 years on average in this section of the country but this is the first one I have felt. It is a little disconcerting that I HEARD the building and the three of us thought it was a clap of thunder. Oh well, I guess alls well that ends well:)

View Larger Map

First Caller-ID Spoofers Punished

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday May 07, @08:14AM
from the what-do-not-call-means dept.
coondoggie plugs a NetworkWorld story that begins, "The first telemarketers charged with transmitting false Caller IDs... to consumers were fined and barred from continuing their schemes by a New Jersey District Court judge.... [T]wo individuals and one corporate defendant have been barred from violating the agency's Telemarketing Sales Rule and its Do Not Call requirements... They were also found liable for $530,000 in damages... [T]he case was the first brought by the Commission alleging the transmission of phony caller ID information or none at all."

Ultrasound Can Drain The Color From Toxic Dyes

ScienceDaily (May 7, 2008) — Brightly colored dyes such as the shimmering Congo Red commonly used in silk clothing manufacture are notoriously difficult to dispose of in an environmentally benign way.

Read More

Not All Fat Created Equal: Certain Body Fat Reduces Insulin Resistance

ScienceDaily (May 7, 2008) — It has long been known that type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity, particularly fat inside the belly. Now, researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center have found that fat from other areas of the body can actually reduce insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity.

Read More

It Might Be True That 'Men Marry Their Mothers'

ScienceDaily (May 7, 2008) — Whether a young man's mother earned a college degree and whether she worked outside the home while he was growing up seems to have an effect years later when he considers his ideal wife, according to a study by University of Iowa sociologist Christine Whelan.

Read More

Earth May Once Have Had Multiple Moons

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday May 07, @05:42AM
from the many-moons-ago dept.
fyc writes "A new study from NASA's Ames Research Center has suggested that the collision of Earth and a Mars-sized object that created the Moon may also have resulted in the creation of tiny moonlets on Earth's Lagrangian points. 'Once captured, the Trojan satellites likely remained in their orbits for up to 100 million years, Lissauer and co-author John Chambers of the Carnegie Institution of Washington say. Then, gravitational tugs from the planets would have triggered changes in the Earth's orbit, ultimately causing the moons to become unmoored and drift away or crash into the Moon or Earth.'" The longest-lasting of such Trojans could have persisted for a billion years. They would have been a few tens of kilometers in diameter and would have appeared in the sky like bright stars.

Tesla coils seen wowing onlookers, cooking hot dogs

Believe it or not, tesla coils are good for more than just creating lighting, protecting one's laptop or cranking out a sweet tune -- and the folks watching a dazzling demonstration at Maker Faire 2008 can attest to that. Apparently a group of prototype (1 / 12 scale, no less) coils were seen sparking up the evening in San Mateo, California, but it wasn't the visual energy or unmistakable hum that caused all that saliva to form in the mouths of onlookers. Oh no, it was the fact that a dozen hot dogs were simultaneously roasted and made ready for safe consumption. Check out a video of the action right after the break.

How Water Forms in Interstellar Space at 10K

Posted by CmdrTaco on Monday May 05, @10:09AM
from the just-drink-a-lot-of-beer dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Water is the most abundant solid material in space. But although astronomers see it on planets, moons, in comets and in interstellar clouds, nobody has been able to show how it forms. In theory, it should form easily when oxygen and atomic hydrogen meet. The problem is that there is not enough of it floating around as gas in interstellar dust clouds. So instead, the thinking is that water must form when atomic hydrogen interacts with frozen solid oxygen on the surface of dust grains in these clouds. Now Japanese astronomers have demonstrated this process for the first time in the lab in conditions that simulate interstellar space. That's cool because all the water in the solar system, including almost every drop you drink on Earth today, must have formed in exactly this way more than 5 billion years ago in a pre-solar dustcloud (abstract)."

Monday, May 5, 2008

100 Email Bouncebacks - Welcome to Backscattering

Posted by timothy on Monday May 05, @05:50AM
from the annoying-as-heck-if-heck-is-like-hell dept.
distefano links to a story on Computerworld, excerpting: "E-mail users are receiving an increasing number of bounceback spam, known as backscatter, and security experts say this kind of spam is growing. The bounceback e-mail messages come in at a trickle, maybe one or two every hour. The subject lines are disquieting: 'Cyails, Vygara nad Levytar,' 'UNSOLICITED BULK EMAIL, apparently from you.' You eye your computer screen; you're nervous. What's going on ? Have you been hacked? Are you some kind of zombie botnet spammer? Nope, you're just getting a little backscatter — bounceback messages from legitimate e-mail servers that have been fooled by the spammers."

The Continuing War Against Microsoft's "Facts" Campaign

Posted by timothy on Monday May 05, @03:31AM
from the sometimes-they-come-back dept.
davidmwilliams writes "I've been rallying against Microsoft's so-called 'Get the Facts' site for the last fortnight in my blog. Rather than give any legitimate comparison facing off Windows Server vs similarly spec'd Linux options, the Microsoft spin doctors opt for bunkum and hogwash with sensational headlines that don't have any substance underneath. Here's the state of play, including an update on my request to Microsoft PR to do something about the blatant lack of integrity displayed. I also go over the latest case study put up by Microsoft: they promise to show why people are choosing Windows Server 2008 over Linux using the City of Uppsala as an example."

Smarter Electric Grid Could Save Power

Posted by timothy on Monday May 05, @12:39AM
from the you-should-return-for-a-refund-if-it-doesn't dept.
Wired has a timely story about putting more of the automated and non-automated decisions behind the use of electrical power into and around households. From the summary: "If the electric grid stops being just a passive supplier of juice, consumers could make choices about how and when to consume power. Power providers and tech companies are working to redesign the grid so you can switch off your house when high demand strains the system, or program your house or appliances to make that move." A similar story is featured right now on PhysOrg, highlighting a particular pilot project involving "smart meters" in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

Solar Images Show Green And Blue Flashes

ScienceDaily (May 5, 2008) — Cerro Paranal, home of ESO's Very Large Telescope, is certainly one of the best astronomical sites on the planet. Stunning images, obtained by ESO staff at Paranal, of the green and blue flashes, as well as of the so-called 'Gegenschein', are real cases in point.

Read More

Electronic Warfare Insects Coming Soon

Posted by timothy on Sunday May 04, @06:11PM
from the sure-makes-me-sleep-better dept.
Mike writes "British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives, and they claim that prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year. A fascinating development to be sure, but who thinks this won't be misused domestically for spying and evidence gathering?" Included in the story is a link to a creepy little (scripted, rendered) demo video of these robots in action.