Sci/tech

China’s SUV Culture: Flaunting Fat Wallets While Choking on Dirty Air
March 21, 2008 08:48 AM - , Worldwatch Institute

As sport utility vehicles (SUVs) become increasingly unpopular in Europe and the United States, the gas-guzzling wagons are capturing the attention of an expanding class of Chinese consumers: the new rich. The rapid increase in SUV sales in China is the result of a strong push by international automakers to capitalize on the huge Chinese market, using captivating ads to stimulate an individualistic SUV culture. This trend, if left unchecked, will likely only compound the already serious air-quality problems in a country beleaguered by mounting urban air pollution.

Early life on Earth - no predators, plenty of sex
March 21, 2008 12:45 AM - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sexual reproduction may be nearly as old as animal life itself, according to researchers who discovered a new species of organism that lived 540 million years ago. The tube-like creatures called Funisia dorothea anchored themselves in abundant flocks onto the shallow, sandy seabed of what is now the Australian outback.

Nanotechnology makes clean, efficient conductor
March 20, 2008 03:59 PM - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - By crushing a widely used semiconductor into nanoparticles, researchers said on Thursday they have created a compound that could lead to cleaner, more efficient refrigerators, solar power plants and other devices. The crushed material makes it possible to conduct electricity without conducting so much heat, solving a problem that has baffled engineers for 50 years.

X Prize offers $10 mln for fuel-efficient car
March 20, 2008 03:38 PM - Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 60 teams from nine countries have lined up to chase a $10 million prize for making a green supercar that smashes records for fuel efficiency, organizers of the competition said on Thursday, The initial list of teams signed on for the Automotive X Prize competition range from California-based electric car start-up Tesla Motors to Cornell University in New York.

Gas-belching volcanoes may have killed dinosaurs
March 20, 2008 02:04 PM - Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Gas-belching volcanoes may be to blame for a series of mass extinctions over the last 545 million years, including that of the dinosaurs, new evidence suggested on Thursday. A series of eruptions that formed the Deccan Traps in what is now India pumped huge amounts of sulfur into the atmosphere 65 million years ago, with likely devastating repercussions for the Earth's climate, scientists said.

Tiny buckyballs squeeze hydrogen like giant Jupiter
March 20, 2008 10:49 AM - Rice University

HOUSTON, March 20, 2008 -- Hydrogen could be a clean, abundant energy source, but it's difficult to store in bulk. In new research, materials scientists at Rice University have made the surprising discovery that tiny carbon capsules called buckyballs are so strong they can hold volumes of hydrogen nearly as dense as those at the center of Jupiter. The research appears on the March 2008 cover of the American Chemical Society's journal Nano Letters.

Tropical forest changes 'explained by multiple factors'
March 20, 2008 10:43 AM - , SciDevNet

Changes in the growth and species composition of tropical forests cannot be fully explained by global environmental changes, say researchers. Recent studies in the Amazon rainforest have suggested that changes such as the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (see Carbon emissions 'may alter forest growth patterns') and other factors such as nutrient deposition, temperature, drought frequency and irradiance are increasing the productivity and biomass of forests.

Why do birds sing? It's all in the brain
March 19, 2008 02:05 PM - Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Birds start singing in the spring because of a biological response to longer days, researchers said on Wednesday. When birds are exposed to light for longer periods, certain brain cells trigger a series of hormonal reactions telling them to find a mating partner, which they do by singing, a team of Japanese and British researchers reported in the journal Nature.

A Viper Created With Recycled Keyboards
March 19, 2008 09:50 AM - , MetaEfficient

This is a viper made with keys recycled from discarded computer keyboards. It was created by the Korean painter Choi Jung Hyun.

Cutting-edge Computing Helps Discover Origin Of Life On Earth
March 19, 2008 09:38 AM - National Grid Service

Deep ocean hydrothermal vents have long been suggested as possible sources of biological molecules such as RNA and DNA but it was unclear how they could survive the high temperatures and pressures that occur round these vents. Professor Peter Coveney and colleagues at the UCL Centre for Computational Science have used computer simulation to provide insight into the structure and stability of DNA while inserted into layered minerals. Computer simulation techniques have rarely been used to understand the possible chemical pathways to the formation of early biomolecules until now.

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