« June 2007 | Main | August 2007 »

July 31, 2007

Free Trip to Space

For one lucky winner, compliments of Gillette.

(via GeekPress)

Heinlein fans might remember this book, which starts out with a kid trying to win a free trip to the moon sponsored by a soap company:

Just another "it" we've lived to see. (Keeping in mind that the prize for this particular contest is a sub-orbital flight.) But, hey, we're getting there!

UPDATE: Only for Canadians? Paul Hsieh's thoughts on that: "Bummer."

Indeed.

July 28, 2007

Killing Viruses with Light

I like the sound of this:

Visible light pulses knock out viruses in blood

Viruses lurking in biological samples could be killed off with an intense pulse of visible light, new research shows.

Scientists in the US say the technique seems to have significant advantages over alternative methods, including use of UV irradiation or microwaves, as it kills viruses more effectively and safely.

The technique destroys a virus with a pulse of light from a low-power laser. The pulse produces mechanical vibrations in the virus shell, or capsid, irreversibly damaging and disintegrating it, and so "deactivating" the virus for good. The technique might be used to kill HIV, as well as hepatitis C, say the researchers involved.

This approach is a big improvement over other forms of radiation, which can cause a virus to mutate into even nastier forms, or which can damage nearby healthy cells. The laser light is purple in color, and the blast lasts only 100 femtoseconds. Amazing.

purplelight.jpg

July 27, 2007

Not Knowing What We're Missing

A short and very moving story does more to sum up what we at L2si and The Speculist believe about the crucial, positive role that technology has played, continues to play, and will play in improving the human condition. The story begins

At some point when I was a child, it became apparent that I was a bit different from the other kids. Namely, I couldn’t hear the things they heard.

You'll want to read the rest at the source.

Glenn Reynolds comments:

And yet there are people who think that technology is dehumanizing. They're basically idiots.

Technology is one of the means by which we translate things we have imagined into real aspects of the world around us. There is no more fundamentally human function than that -- turning ideas into reality. For all we know, in the entire universe, that capability is unique to human beings.

Stephen Gordon adds:

Imagine what we - with our normal senses - still miss. Imagine what it will be like when we "wake up."

Not only is technology not dehumanizing, it provides the possibility for us to be more human than we were before -- or at least for "being human" to mean something more than it did before.

July 25, 2007

Fusion Update: Schwarzenegger Says Let's Give it a Try

UPDATE: No he didn't. Thanks, M. Simon.

Interesting energy developments in California:

iecreactor.jpgIn a move sure to impress environmentalists and further cement his Earth friendly image, Governor Schwarzenegger is set to launch a multimillion dollar research effort into a revolutionary new source of clean non-polluting power.

The reactor works by using Quasi-spherical magnetic fields that trap injected energetic electrons to form a spherical negative potential well. Fusion ions trapped in this spherical well focused through central region oscillate across the "core" until they are reacted.

The project is focused on the Inertial Electrostatic Fusion reactor invented by the award winning American physicist Dr. Robert W. Bussard. The Radiation Free Fusion Reactor has the potential to change the whole landscape of energy generation, which is usually a choice between bad and worse options that include Nuclear, Coal and Natural Gas systems.

Way to go, Governor. Although nuclear fission might not be that bad (given developments in reactor technology) and coal is a great fuel if you can just do something about the emissions, we're kind of partial to this idea of waste-free, IEC fusion. Here's hoping there's something there.

July 24, 2007

Electro Biking

I drive from south-suburban Denver up to Boulder a couple of times a week. Whenever I make the drive, I swap my relatively gas-guzzling Jeep for my wife's relatively fuel-efficient Subaru. Lately, I've been thinking that I'd like to trade the Jeep in for something more economical and planet-friendly, but I've also toyed with this crazy idea -- especially now that the weather is nice -- of getting a motorcycle. Depending on the route you take, the drive up skims the edge of the mountains, and seems like it would be a lot of fun to do on a bike.

Of course, even the most gas-guzzling of motorcycles would be huge improvement over the Subaru in terms of fuel economy. And then there's this option:

Advanced battery technologies are enabling a much cleaner alternative to pollution-spewing gas-powered motorcycles and could help promote a larger-scale move toward electric vehicles. Yesterday, an electric scooter with motorcycle-like performance made by Vectrix, based in Newport, RI, was delivered to its first customer. And next year at least two motorcycles powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries will be sold in the United States.

electricmotorcycles.jpg

The thing is, while conventional motorcycles are a big help on the fuel-saving front, they aren't that much help on the save-the-planet front:

Although conventional motorcycles get extraordinary gas mileage--with many getting more than 50 miles per gallon--they emit more pollution than even large SUVs because they aren't equipped with equivalent emissions-control technology. Indeed, with new emissions standards, SUVs are 95 percent cleaner than motorcycles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So while motorcycles could help reduce oil consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions, these gains come at the price of dirtier air. Electric motorcycles eliminate tailpipe emissions, keeping pollution out of the city, and they can be powered with clean sources of electricity. What's more, electricity costs less than gasoline. Vectrix estimates that it will cost riders just a couple of cents a day to operate its scooter.

The fastest of the motorcycles described can do about 65 miles per hour -- which would keep me within the speed limit, I suppose. However, the best range given for any of them is 80 miles,which means I wouldn't be able to handle a round-trip to Boulder. Depending on whether I could find a somewhere in Boulder to plug in -- and how long it takes to recharge -- it could still be doable.

Still, like with the iPhone, this might be a good technology to allow to mature a generation or two before picking one up.

Hat-tip: FuturePundit.

July 20, 2007

Practical Solar Power Draws Closer

How common will solar power be when this technology is widely available...

New Flexible Plastic Solar Panels Are Inexpensive And Easy To Make

Science Daily — Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. "The process is simple," said lead researcher and author Somenath Mitra, PhD, professor and acting chair of NJIT's Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences. "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations."

fakeflower.jpg

Here's a potential win-win for those of us lucky enough to be living the good life here in the suburbs. Print out solar panels in colorful floral shapes, attach fake stems, and "plant" them in your yard. No more watering or mowing grass for that energy-producing patch of ground. I wonder if the HOA will go for it?

July 18, 2007

IEC Fusion for Dummies

I like the heroic score. Apparently this is some old technology -- going back to Tesla -- being repurposed as a possible driver for fusion energy.

Here's a much more thorough explanation from Robert Bussard (yep, the ramjet guy) who is working for a company looking to bring this technology to market. Radiation-free nuclear power! They claim that they'll be in commercial energy production 15 years. Just the other day, a contributor to a futures forum I participate in commented that fusion has been 30 years off for last 50 years. I wonder how long it will be 15 years off?

Add Six Hours to Your Day

Breaking news from 64 years ago, compliments of DIGG Science. The key to adding six hours to your day is simple -- stop wasting so much time sleeping:

Sleep is just a bad habit. So said Socrates and Samuel Johnson, and so for years has thought grey-haired Richard Buckminster Fuller, futurific inventor of the Dymaxion* house (TIME, Aug. 22, 1932), the Dymaxion car and the Dymaxion globe. Fuller made a deliberate attempt to break the sleep habit, with excellent results. Last week he announced his Dymaxion system of sleeping. Two hours of sleep a day, he said firmly, is plenty.

Fuller reasoned that man has a primary store of energy, quickly replenished, and a secondary reserve (second wind) that takes longer to restore. Therefore, he thought, a man should be able to cut his rest periods shorter by relaxing as soon as he has used up his primary energy. Fuller trained himself to take a nap at the first sign of fatigue (Le., when his attention to his work began to wander). These intervals came about every six hours; after a half-hour's nap he was completely refreshed.

So the trick here is that you get two hours of sleep per day, but not all at once. Can a series of half-hour catnaps really provide the same benefits as going an 8-hour stretch? It almost sounds too good to be true, but there appears to be some evidence backing it up. Interesting to note, however, that even Buckminster Fuller had to give up the catnap lifestyle due to job pressures.

I wonder whether research in the intervening years has contradicted or confirmed his ideas about sleep?

July 17, 2007

Seeing With His Ears

Some stories just pretty much speak for themselves:

Amazing kid. Amazing mom, too.

Via Dean Esmay, who comments:

Now ask yourself the question that the newscasters and just about everyone else isn't asking:

Why are researchers and disability advocates not right now studying this kid and his mom's techniques to learn how to do what he can do? Kid's got no eyes but he can play video games and foosball and rollerblade on the goddamned street without assistance. Yes he's a great brilliant kid, and inspiring, but why aren't we scrambling like crazy to figure out what he and his mom have figured out-- and turning it into a training program? I mean, holy cow, just look at what they've accomplished! Study! Learn from them! Even sighted people might benefit. If he can do it so can others probably, right???

Absolutely.

July 16, 2007

Question Answered

Why does anything exist?

The answer is quite simple. It's so we can ask that question.

July 13, 2007

Hot Jupiter! Water in Space!

It looks pretty conclusive:

"We're thrilled to have identified clear signs of water on a planet that is trillions of miles away," said study leader Giovanna Tinetti of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris in France.

Called HD 189733b, the planet belongs to a class of gas giants called "hot Jupiters," which orbit their stars from a distance closer than Mercury is to our sun.

With average temperatures over 1300 degrees Fahrenheit (more than 700 Celsius), it's unlikely that this planet supports any life -- water or no water. Still, if there's water on one planet out there, it's looking more likely that there will be water on others. From the example of our own solar system, we know that some (perhaps most?) planetary systems include both gas giants and little rocky planets. And we know that there are little rocky planets out there, that such bodies are not unique to our own neighborhood. It's a matter of time, now, before we find the first little rocky planet with water, a nice distance from its sun. That will be quite a discovery.

Discovering a new planet used to be a big deal. But now that we've found anywhere between 212 and 247 new planets (depending on whom you ask) and we can only suppose that there are trillions upon trillions of them out there. The recent demotion of one of the original nine was treated as a much more significant news story than the discovery of any of the subsequent 200-plus.

To recapture the imagination of a planet-jaded public, we're going to have to find life out there. We're getting closer to having that capability all the time:

In [a] previous study, the scientists looked for spectral absorption lines created by radiation traveling up from the interior of the planet and passing through layers of cool gas that selectively absorb certain wavelengths of light.

Without a temperature difference, no absorption occurs.

In the new study, the researchers observed HD 189733b as it passed in front of, or "transited," its parent star.

Using Spitzer's infrared camera, the team analyzed light that was emitted from the interior of the parent star and which passed through the planet's atmosphere on its way to Earth.

In this case, absorption occurs because of the temperature difference that exists between the star's atmosphere and that of the planet.

We discovered extrasolar planets by observing the stars they orbit and extrapolating -- when a star wobbles just so, we know that a planet is out there tugging on it. Getting a hint as to what that planet is made of is a big step forward, but we're still figuring out what we can about the planets by looking at the stars. This is like trying to describe the fish based on the way it tugs on the fishing line.

There are a number of initiatives underway that will help us to continue to improve our understanding of extrasolar planets. And one of these days, we'll be able to look at these distant planets directly. Then things are going to really get interesting.

July 12, 2007

Water-Walking Robot

Here's something you don't see every day:

water-walking robot.jpg

Water striders, insects that walk on the surface of the water, may never set foot on land in their lives, and yet they’re not swimmers. Over the past million or so years, this insect—sometimes called a water skater—has optimized its use of surface tension to balance its 0.01-gram body on lakes, ponds, and even oceans.

Researchers Yun Seong Song, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, and Metin Sitti, assistant professor in mechanical engineering, both from Carnegie Mellon University, have recently built a robot that mimics the water strider’s natural abilities. The first water striding robot, with an appearance and design closely resembling its insect counterpart, doesn’t ever break the surface tension of the water, and is highly maneuverable.

Right now, the robot can only do its stuff in water of about 3mm depth. Stay tuned...

(Via GeekPress.)

July 11, 2007

First Look

Big news on the astronomy front:

World’s largest telescope to make first observations Friday

The world’s largest telescope will take its first peek into the heavens this week, ushering the University of Florida into the top ranks of the “big observers,” as one astronomy professor put it.

The Gran Telescopio Canarias, or GTC, under construction in Spain’s Canary Islands for the past seven years, will hold its “first light” opening ceremony Friday.

The roughly $175 million GTC is not yet complete. Only 12 of the 36 mirrors that together will compose its 34.1-foot primary mirror have been installed, Dermott said. The rest are expected to be mounted this year, with the telescope’s grand opening — to be presided over by King Juan Carlos I of Spain — set for next summer. Only after that date will scientific-quality observations begin.

grantelescope.jpg

The Gran Telescopio Canarias while still under construction in 2002

The Crown Prince of Spain will be on hand to take that all-important first peek. He'll be looking at Polaris, so don't expect any big discoveries to result from this initial outing. Right now it looks like we're a little heavy on the ceremony and light on the science, but that will change as more of the mirrors are put in place.

July 10, 2007

Baby Mammoth

Only six months old at the time of her premature demise, this female mammoth may be the best-preserved young mammoth ever found. Other than a missing tail, she appears to be pretty much intact:

babymammoth.jpg

Preserved in Siberian ice for more than 10,000 years, she may provide the means (or at least help to provide the means) to bring the mammoths back. It depends in part on how well her DNA was preserved.

July 09, 2007

Loading the Grid with Our Brakes

Check this out:

Ford Tests A Hybrid Plug-In Car That Produces Power

Now here’s an idea, straight out of Detroit, and it’s bigger than an Expedition: A plug-in hybrid Ford that not only draws electricity from the power grid so its travels use less gasoline, but which also replenishes the grid with its excess energy.

It’s an idea Ford is testing with Southern California Edison Co., the utility that serves power-hungry parts of Southern California.

Imagine it: A legion of drivers, using the friction of their braking to power their homes. That’s what could happen if the idea works, as the batteries charged during driving release their excess onto the power grid.

It holds the promise for new and innovative conservation schemes that might reward drivers for plugging in during peak periods of electricity demand. Let’s hear it for Detroit.

Well, hip hip hooray, and all that , but I have a question -- wouldn't that reserved braking energy do just as much good stored in a battery in the car? What's the big advantage of pushing that power into the home (or back into the grid in general?)

July 08, 2007

The 3-Minute Chilled Beverage

So the problem is, you've got thirsty people on a hot summer afternoon, and nothing to drink but room-temperature beverages. What to do? Sometimes there's a low-tech solution:

Here is how he took beer from 80+ degrees to (seemingly) 40 degrees in about 3 minutes.

1. He took 6 hot beers from my garage and he placed them into a steel pot from the kitchen

2. He tossed in enough ice cubes to completely cover the beer

3. He then filled the pot with water

4. Next, and this is the trick, he tossed in (what must have been) 2 cups of table salt.

5. He took a large wooden spoon and stirred this thing up to be sure the salt dissolved.

6. He placed the concoction into the freezer and in 3 minutes we had ice cold beer.

Frankly, I wish I knew about this little trick years ago. Apparently this works for wine, soda, or anything. The addition of the salt does something that I am admittedly not qualified to explain. If we have any experts that want to weigh in, feel free. I do however know that this works.

Of course, anyone who has ever made ice cream with a hand-crank (or sell-out mechanical) ice cream freezer on a hot summer afternoon already knows that rock salt is key. I've never been quite certain how the salt brings the temperature down, but I assume that it has something to do with the accelerating speed at which the ice is melting.

Ah, here's an explanation:

Rock salt forces the ice surrounding the can of ice cream mix to melt. The "brine solution" or liquid that forms in the wooden bucket absorbs heat from the mix and gradually lowers the temperature of the mix until it begins to freeze. If there were no salt added to the ice, it would melt at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and eventually the ice water and mix would come to equilibrium at 32 degrees. The ice cream mix, however, does not begin to freeze until its temperature falls below 27 degrees. Therefore, in order to freeze the mix, we need a salt concentration, or a ratio of 5 cups of ice to 1 cups of salt. At this concentration, our brine temperature should remain constant at 8 to 12 degrees F. This will give the rapid cooling and freezing that is essential to making smooth creamy ice cream.

So this is a terrific low-tech solution for quick-chilling beverages, but the whole thing breaks down in one place for me. The guy telling the story reports that he would have had more chilled beer, but his refrigerator was full. How could his fridge be full, and yet he has room for a big steel pot with six beers in it in his freezer?

This guy has got to be single. Anyway, another low-tech solution that would also work would be to fill a cooler ahead of time with beverages of choice if you have people coming over on a hot summer afternoon. This requires the ultimate low-tech solution to many of life's problems -- planning ahead.

July 07, 2007

Wind Power is Everywhere

It's here:

Norwegian energy group Norsk Hydro is to place giant floating wind turbines in the North Sea that will provide a reasonable, environmentally-friendly and economically feasible alternative to standard energy generation processes.

“It’s attractive to have windmills out at sea, out of sight of land, away from birds’ migration routes,” said Alexandra Bech Gjoerv, head of Hydro’s New Energy division at a signing ceremony to develop floating wind turbine technology.

And it's here:

A new, 130-megawatt wind power project is to be built in southeastern Turkey. It will more than double the country’s installed wind capacity. The wind park will feature 52 wind turbines built by GE, each rated at 2.5 megawatts. This will be the largest wind power project to date in Turkey. The project’s estimated annual electricity production of 500 million kilowatt-hours will be purchased by independent power consumers. Interest in wind-generated electricity has been increasing in Turkey.

According to the European Wind Energy Association, the country had 84 megawatts of installed wind capacity at the beginning of 2007, an increase of 65 megawatts from the start of 2006.

Approaching Oakland last week on a flight from Denver, I saw a huge wind farm in action out in "fly-over country," probably 100-150 miles east of the bay area. It seemed to go on forever. I know there's worry about windmills ruining the scenery, but when you consider how much of that 2-hour flight is spent over open and untouched land, and how little is spent over developed areas in general, much less wind farms in particular, I think we're going to be okay on the scenery.

Plus, in some really barren areas, wind farms actually contribute to the scenery...

texaswindfarm.jpg

July 05, 2007

Bottled Water: Here's a Thought

Last week's piece (at The Speculist) about the surprising origins of the sushi craze led to an interesting discussion in the comments of the subject of bottled water. Like sushi (only to a much greater extent), bottled water is one of those ubiquitous features of routine daily life that seemed to emerge from nowhere.

At Fast Company, Charles Fishman provides a fascinating overview of the bottled water industry, noting that bottled water is expected to generate $16 billion in revenue in 2007, while "one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water "varieties" from around the globe, not one of which we actually need."

Fishman goes on to provide a fairly balanced (although it's not hard to guess where his biases lie) overview of the industry and its impact, with an interesting case study of Fiji Water. Fiji is one of those places where the locals don't all have access to clean drinking water; Fishman notes that "more than half" of the people living in Fiji don't have reliable access to clean water. Meanwhile, drinkable water from the island's aquifer is bottled and shipped ridiculous distances in order to please the sophisticated water palates of American consumers.

The obvious solution is to close down the plant and redirect the water to the island's inhabitants. But it it's not that simple. Fishman writes:

Of course, the irony of shipping a precious product from a country without reliable water service is hard to avoid. This spring, typhoid from contaminated drinking water swept one of Fiji's islands, sickening dozens of villagers and killing at least one. Fiji Water often quietly supplies emergency drinking water in such cases. The reality is, if Fiji Water weren't tapping its aquifer, the underground water would slide into the Pacific Ocean, somewhere just off the coast. But the corresponding reality is, someone else--the Fijian government, an NGO--could be tapping that supply and sending it through a pipe to villagers who need it. Fiji Water has, in fact, done just that, to some degree--20 water projects in the five nearby villages. Indeed, Roll has reinvested every dollar of profit since 2004 back into the business and the island.

So the success of the bottled water industry can actually play a positive role in helping those who don't have adequate access to clean water. Those government agencies and NGOs that Fishman mentions need to get funded somehow, don't they? Since we in the US all have access to clean drinking water pretty much irrespective of our use of bottled water -- there is a convenience factor there, I realize, as well as at least a perceived distinction in quality between bottled water and tap -- one idea might be for the water bottlers to get together and start a World Water Fund, which they could create by an across-the-board 10% hike in the price of their product.

Bottled water is almost by definition ridiculously over-priced, so how big a deal would that 10% increase be? But that $1.6 billion could go a long way towards helping people in many areas of the world get access to clean water. And that's applying the increase just to the US market -- not to the worldwide $50 billion bottled water market. It wouldn't really make sense to look at the worldwide market -- a lot of people in the world are buying bottled water because they don't have access to clean drinking water; giving them the 10% hike would be adding insult to injury. Making the price hike more or less of a luxury tax makes sense. Even if only the more high-end waters participated-- Poland Springs, Fiji, etc. -- that would still probably pony up half a billion or so per year to improve global drinking water conditions.

Plus, these water bottlers could then add the fact that they are part of the solution to their marketing. Another good project for water bottlers would be for them to lead the way in plastic bottle containment. But that's a topic for another day.

July 04, 2007

Declaration of Singularity

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men human beings sentient beings of human-level or greater intelligence are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life of indefinite duration, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments technologies and economic activity are instituted among men intelligent beings, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed participants. That whenever any form of government civilization becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government civilization, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments cultures long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind intelligent beings are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations government the existing civilization, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce constrain them under the absolute despotism of remaining in the current developmental stage, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government civilization, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies beings ; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government civilization. The history of the present King of Great Britain Post-Industrial Age is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment prevention of an absolute tyranny the further evolution of over these states beings. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

In the face of unrelenting progress, this civilization has continued to harken back to "natural" limitations of development which must never be challenged.

It has promoted and enforced harmful and prejudicial distinctions between human and non-human intelligence.

It has set artificial and arbitrary limits as to duration of lifespan.

It has enforced meaningless distinctions between labor and leisure.

It has equipped despotic governments and enterprises to restrict the means of production and self-expression to a limited few.

It has promoted the creation of artificial boundaries between creative minds.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America all sentient beings of human-level or greater intelligence, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies these beings, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies beings are, and of right ought to be a free and independent states civilization; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown current human civilization, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain Post-Industrial World, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a free and independent states civilization, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, live, interact, create, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states a civilization may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

NOTE: Some have taken this declaration to be a refutation or attack on the original (real) Delcaration of Independence. Not my intention at all. Read the original and compare for yourselves.

July 03, 2007

Taiwan Switching to LED Traffic Lights

We talked about a possible energy-saving light bulb under development a couple of weeks ago. Of course, there are already highly efficient alternatives to standard light bulbs, depending on the use case. Compact fluorescents, for example, are a good way to cut costs on exterior illumination, or lighting areas such as garages, workshops, unfinished basements...some people are even swapping them out in their living rooms and bedrooms.

Another good alternative is the LED. And it looks like the folks in Taiwan have found a good use case for it:

Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has budgeted NT$229 million (US$7.0 million) for the next three years starting in 2008 to change the traffic lights in all counties and cities in Taiwan to LED-based ones, according to the Chinese-language Central News Agency (CNA).

Taiwan's Bureau of Energy, under the MOEA, said Taiwan now has 350,000 traffic lights using LEDs as a lighting source, with the remaining 420,000 traffic lights to also use LED lighting in the next three years for a total savings in power consumption estimated to be 85%, CNA said.

After switching traffic signals to LEDs, MOEA will launch a NT$130 million plan to change street lamps at specific roads or areas to LED-based ones, CNA indicated.

greenlight.jpg

I've been wondering when we would hear more about expanded uses for LEDs. They must be good for something besides panels on electronics devices and Christmas ornaments. Traffic lights may be a good start.

July 02, 2007

Mouse Cells Provide Missing Link

Here's an interesting development:

The discovery of a mouse embryonic stem cell startlingly similar to its human counterpart will likely speed progress toward the regeneration of healthy cells and organ tissue in people, two studies reported Wednesday.

The newly-found "epiblast" stem cells, taken from the inner-most layer of week-old rodent embryos, will provide a better model in testing potential therapies for human diseases and injuries, the researchers said.

"They are a missing link between mouse and human embryonic stem cells," Roger Pedersen, who headed a research team at Cambridge University, told AFP.

Developing treatments at the mouse scale is much, much quicker and more efficient that trying to do it at the human scale -- especially when we're just trying to figure out how things work and what the best way forward will be. Once that best way forward is found, there is still a huge challenge in making what works with mice work with people. This development may help in dealing with that significant challenge.