Sci/tech

The Honda PUYO, Hydrogen and Huggable, Japan Pushes the Envelope
October 23, 2007 04:19 PM - Nick Forland, ENN

PUYO is meant to convey all that is warm and friendly, and put a smile on the face of users and pedestrians. In a world where oil prices are skyrocketing, road rage is on the up and up and cars seem to be designed to accentuate the strength, endurance and killer instinct of a cheetah, the PUYO is a breath of fresh air. Although it seems to be designed by a secret anime department within the Honda R&D confines, the PUYO has a sensibility about it that makes you feel like you could potentially be driving a cloud in a Hayao Miyazaki film.

 

Platinum-rich shell, platinum-poor core
October 23, 2007 11:05 AM - John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Hydrogen fuel cells will power the automobiles of the future; however, they have so far suffered from being insufficiently competitive. At the University of Houston, Texas, USA, a team led by Peter Strasser has now developed a new class of electrocatalyst that could help to improve the capacity of fuel cells. The active phase of the catalyst consists of nanoparticles with a platinum-rich shell and a core made of an alloy of copper, cobalt, and platinum. This catalyst demonstrates the highest activity yet observed for the reduction of oxygen.

Researchers caution against genetic ancestry testing
October 22, 2007 11:33 AM - Yasmin Anwar, UC berkeley

BERKELEY – For many Americans, the potential to track one's DNA to a specific country, region or tribe with a take-home kit is highly alluring. But while the popularity of genetic ancestry testing is rising - particularly among African Americans - the technology is flawed and could spawn unwelcome societal consequences, according to researchers from several institutions nationwide, including the University of California, Berkeley. "Because race has such profound social, political and economic consequences, we should be wary of allowing the concept to be redefined in a way that obscures its historical roots and disconnects from its cultural and socioeconomic context," says the article to be published today (Thursday, Oct. 18) in the journal Science. The article recommends that the American Society of Human Genetics and other genetic and anthropological associations develop policy statements that make clear the limitations and potential dangers of genetic ancestry testing.

Bee Expert: Insecticides, Climate, Malnutrition, Paracites And Microbes Collapsing Bee Colonies
October 22, 2007 11:15 AM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Davis, California - Noted University of California, Davis honey bee specialist Eric Mussen fingered a line-up of prime suspects in the case of  Disappearing Bees. Mussen identified malnutrition, parasitic mites, infectious microbes and insecticide contamination as among the possible culprits. It's a complex issue, he said, but one thing is certain: "It seems unlikely that we will find a specific, new and different reason for why bees are dying."

"One third of our U.S. diet depends on honey bees," Mussen said. "If bees produce fruits and vegetables somewhere else, do we (Americans) want to be as dependent on food as we are on oil?"

Kansas Vetos Coal Power: Health Risks Cited
October 22, 2007 10:57 AM - Bernie Woodall, Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Opponents of coal-fired power plants say they were given a new weapon last week when Kansas became the first state to reject a coal-fired power plant solely on the basis of the health risks created by carbon dioxide emissions.

A dozen states have rejected plans for new coal-fired power, at least in part because of concerns over carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. However, Kansas does not regulate carbon emissions and is believed to be the first state to tie CO2 to health risks and use that as the only stated reason for denying a required air permit, said Bruce Nilles, head of the Sierra Club's national effort to stop new coal plants and retire the dirtiest of existing ones.

Biggest 'small' black hole discovered
October 22, 2007 09:29 AM - Yale University

Discovery of the largest example of a “small” black hole — one formed from the collapse of a single massive star at the end of its lifetime — has led scientists to revaluate of how black holes come into being, according to a report in Nature. “The theory we operated with for the last decade was that single-star black holes are formed from the remnants of massive stars — the more massive the star, the more massive the remnant. But, all of the stellar mass black holes were expected to be in the range of 10 times the mass of the sun or less, since only the core regions of the star would collapse,” said Charles Bailyn, the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Yale, and a member of the research team.

Carmakers Seek Engine of the Future
October 22, 2007 01:38 AM - Marcel Michelson

TOKYO (Reuters) - Oil is getting scarce and the internal combustion engine adds to pollution, therefore the car of the not too distant future needs a new motor. But what?

Delegates at the Nikkei automotive conference here, in the week of the Tokyo Autoshow, reviewed the industry's sputtering progress towards new power systems in the knowledge that if they do not come up with a solution the sector may come to a halt.

"In the long-term, it's very clear that on-road transportation has to decouple from petroleum for both dependency and greenhouse gas emissions reasons, and the pathway for that is electric drive," Michael Milikin, editor of the Green Car Congress publication, told Reuters.

Don't go near the baobab at Nigerian heritage site
October 22, 2007 12:43 AM - Estelle Shirbon

SUKUR, Nigeria (Reuters) - Visitors to Sukur are warned not to approach a certain ancient baobab tree because, villagers say, it turns people into hermaphrodites.

It is an atmospheric introduction to this Nigerian World Heritage Site for the trickle of outsiders who come, but villagers who trek up and down from the remote hillside community are ready for an injection of modernity.

A road would be a start.

Solar cars race from Australia's top to bottom
October 21, 2007 11:41 PM -

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Sun-powered-car enthusiasts from around the world raced into the Australia outback on Sunday at speeds nearing 100 kilometres-per-hour at the start of the World Solar Challenge.

Thousands of onlookers crowded the streets of Darwin in Australia's tropical north for the beginning of the 3,000-km (1,863 mile) race, a biennial event since 1987, gawking at the sleek foil-like vehicles resembling giant microchips.

The only rule over the mostly straightaway course through Australia's "red centre" in temperatures that can exceed 50 degrees Celsius is that the custom-built vehicles run on nothing but the sun.

"The drivers will be sitting on between 90 and 100 kilometres per hour as much as they can, though most are capable of going faster," said race coordinator Chris Selwood.

"But this really is not just about who is the fastest, it's more about energy efficiency and management," he said.

Solar cars race from Australia's top to bottom
October 21, 2007 10:50 PM - James Regan

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Sun-powered-car enthusiasts from around the world raced into the Australia outback on Sunday at speeds nearing 100 kilometres-per-hour at the start of the World Solar Challenge.

Thousands of onlookers crowded the streets of Darwin in Australia's tropical north for the beginning of the 3,000-km (1,863 mile) race, a biennial event since 1987, gawking at the sleek foil-like vehicles resembling giant microchips.

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