Sci/tech

Why Diatoms could help stop global warming
January 24, 2008 10:57 AM - University of Washington

The shells of diatoms are so heavy that when they die in the oceans they typically sink to watery graves on the seafloor, taking carbon out of the surface waters and locking it into sediments below. Scientists have reported the discovery of whole subsets of genes and proteins that govern how one species of diatom builds its shell. For oceanographers, the work might one day help them understand how thousands of different kinds of diatoms -- and their ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere -- might be affected by something like global climate change. Material scientists involved in the work are interested in the possibilities of manipulating the genes responsible for silica production as a way of fabricating more efficient computer chips.

China, not U.S., to be new driver of world's economy and innovation

A new study of worldwide technological competitiveness suggests China may soon rival the United States as the principal driver of the world’s economy – a position the U.S. has held since the end of World War II. If that happens, it will mark the first time in nearly a century that two nations have competed for leadership as equals. The study’s indicators predict that China will soon pass the United States in the critical ability to develop basic science and technology, turn those developments into products and services – and then market them to the world. Though China is often seen as just a low-cost producer of manufactured goods, the new “High Tech Indicators” study done by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology clearly shows that the Asian powerhouse has much bigger aspirations.

Role Addiction
January 24, 2008 10:12 AM - Abigail Paris, Global Policy Innovations Program

The American Medical Association (AMA) published a report in 2007 reviewing research data on the addictive potential of video games. The report suggests that gaming addiction is likely to be a subset of Internet addiction and may cause negative physical, psychosocial, or behavioral problems. The condition most frequently occurs in players of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). The definitions of Internet addiction and MMORPG addiction are still informal. The term Internet addiction was first used in the 1990s, extending the psychiatric lexicon of addiction to include persons using the Internet to such an extent that it causes "significant social, psychological, and occupational impairment."

Biofuel investments seen good bet with pricey oil
January 24, 2008 10:02 AM - Reuters

Biofuels made from plants and waste will prove an increasingly efficient and cheap substitute for oil in many areas over the coming five years, industry analysts said. As long as crude sells at prices towards $100 per barrel, there will be strong demand for cheaper biofuels and manufacturing technology will improve, Vinod Khosla, founder of venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, told Reuters.

Antarctic Ice Loss Dangerously Fast
January 24, 2008 09:53 AM - ENN

New studies show that the Antarctic ice sheet is melting faster than previously anticipated. If this jump is indicative of a trend due to global warming the entire antarctic ecology could be threatened much sooner than expected.
In a first-of-its-kind study, an international team led by Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the University of California, Irvine, estimated changes in Antarctica's ice mass between 1996 and 2006 and mapped patterns of ice loss on a glacier-by-glacier basis.

Virgin Galactic unveils SpaceShipTwo model
January 23, 2008 02:58 PM - Reuters

Entrepreneur Richard Branson on Wednesday unveiled a model of the spaceship he hopes will be the first to take paying passengers into space on a regular basis as soon as next year. Branson, whose Virgin Galactic is charging $200,000 for a short trip into space, said his SpaceShipTwo will start test flights later this year.

New Evolution in Mice May Explain Infertility Problems in Humans
January 23, 2008 09:08 AM - University of Liverpool

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that field mice have evolved a unique way of ensuring faster fertilisation, a phenomenon which could explain some cases of infertility in humans. The team, in collaboration with Charles University, Prague, found that field mice sacrifice some of their immunity protection in favour of a more rapid fertilisation process. This occurs due to the absence of a protein, called CD46. Present in both animals and humans, it helps protect the body’s cells from attack by its immune system. Over time, field mice have lost the ability to produce this protein, resulting in instability of a cap-like structure, called the acrosome, present over the head of the sperm.

Why are genebanks important?
January 23, 2008 09:01 AM - CGIAR

MEXICO CITY (23 January 2008)—At the end of January, more than 200,000 crop varieties from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East—drawn from vast seed collections maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)—will be shipped to a remote island near the Arctic Circle, where they will be stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), a facility capable of preserving their vitality for thousands of years.

Iceland's hydrogen ship heralds fossil-free future
January 23, 2008 08:28 AM - Reuters

At first glance, the red ship hardly looks like a herald of the future. Even its owner admits the hull needs a coat of paint and the interior some spit and polish. But in a few weeks, the Elding -- Icelandic for "Lightning" -- will be transformed into the world's first hydrogen-equipped commercial vessel, the latest sign that Iceland is pushing hard to become the first nation to break free from the constraints of fossil fuel.

Energy savings in a piece of foam
January 22, 2008 12:33 PM - , Private Landowner Network

Common in many US homes (and perhaps homes in other countries) is the folding attic stair. More akin to a step ladder than a stair, the device, which folds into the ceiling below an attic, is used to gain occasional access to the space to expand storage options or for maintenance of equipment that might be residing there. The opening for the stair is fairly standard at about 2 feet by 5 and is covered when closed by a sheet of thin plywood attached to the ladder and its spring-loaded closing/opening mechanism.

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