Sunday, January 29, 2006

Magnetic fridge snags innovation prize

The Swiss want to be sure they are recognized for their innovation, so they have started an awards program. This week the "inventors of an environmentally friendly magnetic fridge won top prize where scientists used existing magnetic technology to create a household fridge that does not emit harmful hydro-carbons into the atmosphere. On display was the hydrogen-powered PAC Car II, designed by the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, that smashed a world record by completing the 25-kilometre Shell Eco Marathon on one gram of hydrogen last year. Other innovative designs included an intelligent hearing aid that filters out background noise, a robotic walking aid to help neck injury victims get back on their feet, and a display from the makers of Team Alinghi's America's Cup winning yacht.

Innovation is certainly the buzzward of the 21st Century!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Biobank takes blood for major gene study

Moving back to the brave new world of medicine, an interesting feature in New Scientist starts with, "You might donate blood to help save someone's life. But would you donate your blood, your DNA, and your most intimate medical secrets on a promise that it may help save a life years from now?"

Reporter Andy Coghlan writes, "Half a million people will be expected to do just that in the coming months, with another half a million people to follow, as two huge medical research projects get under way in the UK and US. The British project, called Biobank, is due to start within weeks, after five years of preparation. The American project, announced in 2004 by the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, is still at the planning stage."

Both of the projects will obtain information that will allow scientists to study extensively how our genes and environment interact over the years to cause disease. That could one day lead to new treatments for cancer and heart disease, among other diseases. The article says, "But the projects are not without their critics, who say they could produce misleading results and raise fundamental questions about who should own our medical details and have access to them. These details not only document our medical past, but might also reveal which medical conditions we and our relatives are likely to suffer from in the future."

Despite such misgivings, the organizers of the two projects are banking on finding hundreds of thousands of volunteers for each project. In the US, participants will be given the option of being told about findings that affect their health, such as whether they are unknowingly developing cancer or carrying HIV. Biobank, however, has decided not to give out such information. It states that it does not want volunteers to be penalized by insurance companies.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dark matter and Pioneer's anomaly

This really does not mean anything to me in everyday terms, but it is fun to stretch the mind to fathom some things....

According to a new study examines "galaxy rotation curves without exotic dark matter and seeks to describe a modified Newtonian acceleration law derived from a relativistic modification of Einstein’s gravitational theory. Found in the Astrophysical Journal, the study, “Galaxy Rotation Curves Without Non-Baryonic Dark Matter,” may one day help to explain the Pioneer 10 - 11 spacecraft anomaly. The two space probes, launched in 1972 and 1973 respectively, are now at the edge of the solar system on trajectories that cannot yet be fully explained based on what is known about Newtonian and Einstein gravity.

Don't you find it amazing that a space probe launched in 1972 and in 1973 are still on their way somewhere?

Dig a little in and read the Space Today summary on Pioneer 10 - 11!

Comments from PhysOrg:

"I like the idea that maybe there is no dark matter. I always found objection to placing such importance on a unverifiable theory. If this matter emits absolutely no form of radiation, how can we ever find it? The equations claim that it is necessary, but it is entirely possible that the equations are wrong. However, there is one troublesome issue for me when considering that dark matter may not exist. Without such hidden matter, there is no way that the galaxy will ever collapse back upon itself. It seems that the cyclic nature of the universe, on all levels, demands that the universe collapse upon itself and blow up all over again. The idea that eventually there will be zero energy just doesn't seem right. As the Notorious B.I.G once said "Keep [big] Bangin'"


The Big Bang/Crunch, and zero energy universal "endings" are not the only theories out there that explain possibilities for the nature of the universe. They are the most well known, particularly the former which is taught to schoolchildren as "the way things are", but neither is necessarily true. Consider that with each new discovery in space science, our very timid and grasping understanding of our cosmic environment grows, and several new theories of planet, star and galactic formation spring up frequently....

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pollen transporters on the decline

This is part of my watch on the earth's future.

The prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences press statement says, "In biodiversity hot spots like tropical rainforests, a dearth of pollinators could be putting many species at risk of extinction, according to a new study that includes three University of Pittsburgh researchers. The finding is raising concerns that more may need to be done to protect the Earth's most biologically rich areas.

Concerns include: "As the number of birds, bees, and other pollen transporters declines around the world, competition for their attention is becoming increasingly fierce for plants that need their services for reproduction - to the point where species in the most fertile areas of the world are struggling for survival. 'Pollinators are on the decline globally because of habitat loss and destruction, pesticide use, invasive species, and extinction of vertebrates,' says Tia-Lynn Ashman."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Managing potential nanotechnology risks

Information Week covers a report that says controling the adverse enviromental effects of nanotechnology will be difficult under existing U.S. regulations and may require new laws to manage potential risks, a new study warns.

According to the report released by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the authors acknowledge that little is known about the possible adverse effects of nanotechnology. J. Clarence Davies, nevertheless stressed that a new regulatory regime is needed before nano-devices can be released into the environment. "We know enough to recognize that there needs to be some type of governmental oversight to ensure that public health and safety are not adversely affected," the Project on Emerging Technologies report warns.