Friday, May 30, 2008

Mind getting slow? That's (Probably) a Good Thing.

As Pound360 gets older, we find it more-and-more difficult to make it through magazine articles in one consistent read. We have to read, and re-read paragraphs. Often, we jump back-and-forth in the piece to connect the dots. We used to think our brains were falling apart as we aged. But it could be just the opposite according to neurology book "Progress in Brain Research," reports the NY Times.

According to the article, "the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit." It's the classic definition of wisdom. As we age, "the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place."

Of course, this isn't always the case. Thirteen percent of Americans over the age of 65 get Alzheimer's, so their brains are actually falling apart.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Your Body is a Bacteria Circus, and That's a Good Thing

Bacteria play such a critical role in our body that some microbiologists recommend humans should be classified as "superorganisms," reports the NY Times.

From breaking down food in our guts to creating oil that keeps our skin soft, bacteria do a lot to keep us healthy. And there are a lot of them in and on us. According to the Times report, bacterial cells outnumber human cells 10-to-1 in the body.

Take a look at your inner elbow. Right there you've got at least six species of bacteria with a population density of one million per square centimeter. Quite a party.

China Takes Hard Stance on Plastic Bags

One of the advantages of a centralized government is decisive action when a serious problem comes up. Take plastic bags, for example. They're costly in terms of petroleum. They pile up on sidewalks and parks. They're a menace. Here in the US, the Federal government hasn't done anything Pound360 is aware of to confront the problem. Some cities, like San Francisco have banned them. But entire countries like Ireland and Bangladesh have already done so. And this week, Scientific American reports China will follow suit. What is the US waiting for?

In China, they crank through 3 billion plastic bags a day. That adds up to 37 million barrels of oil each year. Calling this a "great waste of natural resources," China will ban the manufacture of plastic bags starting in June. Also, it will be illegal for shopkeepers to give away plastic bags for free. So it's not an outright ban, but a great first step. And more than the US government is willing to do.

Sorry folks, there are some solutions the market will simply not come up with. That's the problem with capitalism. We only conserve when it saves us money. We only care about the environment as long as gas is around $4 per gallon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Theory Suggests Earth Had Three Moons

Planetary scientists at NASA and the Carnegie institute believe the Earth once had three moons, according to a report at Cosmos Magazine.

The extra two moons would have been small, about 100km across and appear as two "extremely bright stars" at 10 and 2 o'clock around the moon we see today. Think of a giant Mickey Mouse icon in the night sky.

According to the leading theory, the moon was created when a mars-sized proto-planet collided with the Earth 4.4 million years ago. While a lot of debris would have been circling the Earth after this cataclysm, the small moonlets or "Trojans" in question here would have stuck around for a few hundred million years.

Eventually, the Trojans (named after similar bodies circling Jupiter) would have disintegrated and fallen into the moon. This would explain some of the freshest craters on the moon.

Google Takes on Coal, Sinks Millions into Solar

America's favorite search engine has a plan to beat coal codenamed REaccording to the program's webpage. Interestingly enough, "a clean and green energy future" seems like an afterthought to saving money. Perhaps that's the strategy in this "strategic initiative." Appeal to people's pocketbooks. Force them to clean the environment despite of themselves. Pound360 digs it.

Recently Google invested $130 million in a "solar thermal" energy startup called eSolar,
reports Wired. They build a system where mirrors focus sunlight on water, the water turns to steam, and it drives turbines that crank out electricity. Although their technology has been around for decades, it's only recently heating the cost sweet spot as the price of building coal or natural gas power plants rise.

eSolar isn't the only solar thermal company gaining, um, steam. Governemnts and private investors have poured billions into solar thermals around the world, according to the Wired report. Abu Dhabi's invested $1.2 billion in a company called Torresol. Arizona Public Utilities inked a $4 billion deal with solar thermal Ausra. Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado each require that 15-20 percent of power comes from solar.

In other renewable-energy-showing-promise news,
Pound360 recently blogged about a government study showing wind power may provide up to 20 percent of US power by 2030.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Astronomers ‘Baffled’ by Millisecond Pulsar

Researchers are perplexed at the moment as they study a pulsar spinning at 465 rounds-per-second. But the unconscionable speed of its rotation isn’t the odd part. It’s the fact that it’s orbiting a star like our own in an elongated orbit. Given what we know about pulsars, this shouldn’t be happening, reports Reuters.

Typically, pulsars in binary systems circle other dying stars, white dwarves. And they do so in a circular orbit.

One possibility is that there’s a third star, perhaps a neutron star or a white dwarf that scientists haven’t detected yet. But Pound360 wonders...

Pulsars are neutron stars with incredibly powerful magnetic fields. The field is so strong the star “channels lighthouse-like beams of light and radio waves.” These things usually spin at 10-20 rounds-per-second, but they speed up as they attract matter from space. When they start spinning hundreds-of-times-per-second they’re known as millisecond pulsars.

So we know this thing is old. What if the star this baffling millisecond pulsar circles was actually created by it?

We know that when a star explodes (goes supernova), the core collapses into a neutron star. So, what if a new star was formed in the supernova cloud? Is it possible that its mass could have outweighed the pulsar at the core of the cloud, and pulled it into its orbit?

We find this possibility completely fascinating.

Also, let us go on record as saying we understand how big of a bunch of nerds/geeks/dorks this makes us.

Undersea ‘City’ Discovered

South of the New Zeland coast, on the peak of an underwater mountain scientists have discovered a massive “city” of brittle-stars, reports New Scientist. There are “tens of millions” of them.

In nature, tens of millions of defenseless creatures usually spells one thing: buffet. And it should not last long before predators move in and clean house. But as it turns out, there’s a “circumpolar current flowing over and around the seamount” that both feeds and protects the brittle stars. The current brings food particles within a tentacles reach, and is so strong that it “sweeps away” predators.

Monday, May 19, 2008

LA Looks at Recycling Sewage for Tap Water

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is working on a water conservation plan that includes “cleansing sewage for drinking water,” reports the LA Times. This isn’t going to be easy to get by the voters in LA. A similar plan was killed in the 90s.

Pound360, based in LA, could care less if water coming out of the tap is recycled sewage. Isn’t all water sewage if you go back far enough?

One reason people go crazy over issues like this is (the press) printing stuff like “cleansing sewage for drinking water.” We understand they have papers to sell. But come on. Drinking water? How many people actually drink tap water anymore? How many in LA?

Besides, according to a chart at drinktap.org, 20 percent of tap water is used for showers/baths, 22 percent is used for washing clothes, and the plurality of it (27 percent) is used by toilets. In the end, just 16 percent is used by “faucets.” And how much of that is washing hands, washing dishes or something else other than drinking? In the end, we’d bet around 2 percent of tap water is actually drank. Does anyone have a chart on that?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Vatican Paper: "The Extraterrestrial is My Brother"

In an interview with the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano (that's a newspaper), Vatican Observatory director, Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes said, "How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere… Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation."

The interview was
reported by the AP.

Pound360 is cool with that. When the first alien arrives, we'd high-five (or six, eight, or whatever) the first creature to come hobbling down the boarding ramp. But we can't imagine there's widespread support in the church for Rev. Gabriel's statement.

Remember, in 1633, the church put Galileo on trial for daring to suggest the Earth revolved around the sun. Found guilty, poor Galileo was forced to "recant his theory," reported Reuters.

If you think that's ancient history, totally irrelevant. Consider that it took the church 349 years to apologize. Pope John Paul II called the ruling against Galileo an error in 1992.

You've Got to See this Flying Machine…

The first thing Pound360 thought when we saw this killer flying machine was, wow that looks like something out of our GI Joe action figure collection from 1987. And few things thrill us more than seeing our childhood toys come to life.

What we have here is pretty much a jet-powered set of person-sized wings. With one of these things strapped on, you can fly up to 185 MPH.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Spectacular Needle in a Stack of Needles

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has recently returned one amazing shot of a supernova, just 140 years after the explosion occurred. (Supernova is what we call a star after it explodes near the end of its lifecycle.) The exploded star, dubbed G1.9+03, is located in the constellation Sagittarius about 25,000 light years from earth.

First, let's check out the stack from which this shot was plucked. Below you'll see a wide shot of space. The densest cluster of stars (upper right) is the center of our galaxy. The square highlights where G1.9+.03 is located. Pound360 would like to note how incredible it is that we can find anything in this wonderful mess…


Next, we have the actual explosion. It seems still, quiet. But this explosion is expanding at 35 million miles per hour (about 5 percent the speed of light). According to a NASA press release, this is "an unprecedented expansion speed for a supernova remnant." Also, the G1.9+0.3 explosion "has generated the most energetic electrons ever seen in a supernova remnant."


(Photos courtesy NASA)

PoundRant: Tired of Being Tired? Go to Bed.

At CNN.com the other day, Pound360 saw an ad which asked, "Tired of Being Tired?" Below that line was a picture of Lance Armstrong jogging and a bottle of some energy drink superimposed next to him.

Look, if you're tired of being tired -- if you're tired so often that you're sick of it -- there's only one real solution: sleep more. An energy drink isn't much help. Try this instead. Sit down, prioritize the things in your life (from food to sport, movies to sleep), and figure out what means most to you, okay?

Sleep affects pretty much everything, so it should be high on your list (probably in front of eating).

Look, energy drinks as a solution to chronic fatigue makes about as much sense as buying a bigger belt because you're tired of being fat. That's not a solution. That's madness.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wind Power May Slash C02 Output 35% in 12 Years

According to a government study, wind could provide up to 20 percent of US power by 2030, reports Wired. This would cut CO2 output in this country by 35 percent (since it replaces coal burning and natural gas) and water consumption by 4 trillion gallons.

It won't be free. The Department of Energy study projects costs at $6 per person to build new wind turbines and the infrastructure needed to make this work.

The problem with wind is its inconsistency. According to Wired, "four gigawatts of wind power isn't the same as four gigawatts of coal because the wind isn't always blowing, reducing average watt ouput."

Satellite Data Cheaper than Sending Text Messages

Look, Pound360 doesn't want to get into a protracted argument about profit margins, market forces and all that, but let's face it, cell phone companies gouge us. Especially when it comes to text messages. According to a British researcher, $.10 per text is the equivalent of $749 per megabyte, reports Popular Mechanics. Satellite data by comparison costs $12 per megabyte to retrieve.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Company Launches Brew-Your-Own Ethanol Machine

A company called E-Fuel just released the $10,000 "MicroFueler", a machine that brews 35 gallons of ethanol per week for as low as $1 per gallon. This according to a report at Reuters. All you have to do is feed it sugar (10-14 pounds to make a single gallon, according to an NY Times report on the story). No, sugar's not free (about $.20 per pound, according to the Times). But E-fuel is working on distributing surplus supplies of "inedible sugar" (which costs about 2.5 cents per pound) to MicroFueler owners for cheap.

Check out
this picture of the MicroFueler at the CNET.co.uk. Is it just Pound360, or does this adorable little machine seem like a giant Easy Bake oven for people that absolutely must prove they're the greenest family on the block?

E-fuel's goal is to "break the traditional ethanol system." Their competitive advantage (over traditional ethanol refineries) is using "special fine filters" to separate water from fuel. Most ethanol plants must distil the water, a costly process. Oh, they
sidestep the whole insanity of using corn for fuel, too.

One major problem of note for would-be MicroFueler buyers: According to the Times article, it's illegal in the United States to fuel a car with pure ethanol (unless you're driving a Formula One racer or, go figure, a tractor).

Gallery of Galactic Oddities

The longer we stare into the heavens, the more mysterious and astonishing it becomes. Over at DiscoveryMagazine.com, they've collected images and illustrations of some of the most recent amazements in a tidy little gallery.

Some of this stuff you've read about at Pound360. For example,
a star so cool it doesn't glow. Or a comet that briefly "erupted" to a diameter greater than that of the Sun. But some of the items at DiscoverMagazin.com came as a surprise to us. For example, a galaxy that spins in the same direction its arms are pointed and a galaxy that doesn't contain any dark matter. Also, you'll meet the largest black hole discovered yet (it weighs in at 18 billion times the mass of our sun) and the smallest black hole on record (a mere 3.8-times the sun's mass).

Friday, May 09, 2008

A New Crisis Looms, This One's Pretty Dirty

You're probably sick of hearing about all the crises plaguing the earth right now. There's an energy crisis, pollution crisis, food crisis and so on. Well, there's a new one to check out. This one's pretty dirty. In fact, it's dirt itself. Dirt crisis? Seriously.

The food crisis. You know about that. It's pretty bad. Here it is, 2008, (almost) forty years after man landed on the moon, eighty years after the invention (er, mass-marketing) of sliced bread and 120 years since the light bulb was invented and people are still rioting, dying in fights over food. Part of the problem is the soil we grow crops in, reports MSNBC.

It seems the high-yield super-crops science has given us are so powerful they're sucking soil dry of all their nutrients. It's bad enough that in parts of Africa crop yields are being slashed from a potential of 9,000 pounds per acre to an actual harvest of just 500 pounds. According to a World Resources Institute study, about 20 percent of the world's cropland is affected by soil degradation. It's bad enough that, according to the study, "poor quality has cut [crop] production by about one-sixth."

Fertilizing fields is one answer. But we at Pound360 wonder how sustainable that is.

Pine Beetle Joins Humans in Warming the Globe

Human beings aren't the only species working towards a hotter planet, the recent pine beetle infestation that's devastating North American forests are a big contributor as well. This according to a report at the Independent UK.

Trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it, simply put, as wood. But when something comes along and kills trees (in this case, pine beetles), that carbon is released back into the atmosphere as the trees decompose, or worse, as they burn in forest fires.

Humans aren't off the hook. Blame milder winters, driven by manmade climate change, for the severity of our pine beetle problem here. Milder winters mean bigger pine beetle populations.

This is what scientist mean when they talk about the snowball-effect in global warming. Once the first domino tips, they keep falling, and falling.

According to the Telegraph article, 7.5 percent of Canada's carbon emissions are caused by the pine beetle disaster. Over the next 12 years, this problem will send 990 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Speaking of snowball-effect, the Independent added that, as oceans warm, they are less capable of absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. Oceans absorb about a quarter of the CO2 we humans crank out each year.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Energy Crunch: Algae May be the Answer

On a recent edition of Australia's Science Show, they looked at how researchers are working on a cost-effective way to squeeze hydrogen out of algae. In massive quantities, this process can power entire cities.

Here's how it works.

Typically when plants convert sunlight into energy, they release oxygen. Basically, they use the sun's radiation to split water (H2O or hydrogen dioxide) into its elemental pieces hydrogen and oxygen. Normally, plants combines the hydrogen with CO2 (a greenhouse gas) to create the energy they need to survive.

Now, if you deplete algae of sulfur, they modify this process so instead of combining hydrogen with CO2, they combine oxygen with CO2 to get the energy they need. In that case, Hydrogen is the byproduct.

This is a win-win since the algae pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere and it also creates a renewable energy source.

Algae can be cultivated in "square box-type bio-reactors" anyplace they fit (for example, on non-arable land so it doesn’t interfere with the food supply). These bio-reactors are big, up to a square kilometer each. And it would take 33 of them to power the city of Queensland (population 4.2 million) for a year.

Here's the problem.

Currently the conversion efficiency of the algae-hydrogen process is just 1 percent (in other words, one percent of the sun's energy gets converted into hydrogen). If this is going to be a commercially viable process, the efficiency level needs to reach 7 percent.

The Simple, Utterly Perplexing Mystery of Magnets

How does a magnet work? Here's the best answer science has: it just does. This according to a recent write-up at DiscoverMagazine.com.

Legend has it that Albert Einstein's scientific curiosity was first inspired by gazing at a compass (which is driven by magnetes). He said this was the first time he realized there was "something behind things, something deeply hidden." He would go on to find many of the hidden stuff behind things. But magnetism was a puzzle he never solved.

According to the Discover piece, "nobody knows how a magnet can move a piece of metal without touching it." The author refers to this as "embarrassing" for modern physics. And how. Despite the gap in knowledge, marvels the article, "nobody seems to care."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Better Living through Dreaming

If you've read up at all on sleep studies, you're probably confused about what you're supposed to do. Last year, Pound360 posted on how sleeping in on the weekends (disrupting your regular sleep patterns) can make you feel jet lagged on Monday when you return to normal.

But a recent article at Scientific American seems to contradict this.

First, why sleep at all? According to the SciAm piece, a lack of sleep can lead to "a foggy brain, worsened vision, impaired driving, and trouble remembering." Prolonged sleeplessness (years of it) can lead to obesity and heart disease. Unfortunately, "most Americans suffer from chronic deprivation."

What to do when you're falling behind on sleep? Don't try to earn it all back in one "extended snooze marathon." Instead, try "tacking on an extra hour or two of sleep a night" until you're refreshed. Be patient. It can take "months" to get back to normal.

Normal is basically going to sleep when you're tired and waking up without an alarm clock, reports Scientific American.

That's so funny. Oh. So terribly funny. But we at Pound360 are too tired to laugh. We live in a world with schedules and tons of obligations. It sucks. We're prepared to die an early death because of it. Or at lease suffer a life of brain fog, fuzzy vision, impaired driving and poor memory.

Anyway, here's another interesting takeaway from the SciAm piece. "A 2003 study in the journal Sleep found that the more tired we get, the less tired we feel."

BBC Sticking to Finger Re-Growth Story

Recently, Pound360 blogged on the strange story of a hobby store worker who managed to grow back a finger after it was severed by the propeller of a model plane. The hobby store guy, Lee Spievak, said he used "pixie dust" (actually an experimental substance from his brother who conveniently works for a company in the "field of regenerative medicine) to grow back the finger.

The London Times cried foul as the "claims had not been substantiated by any kind of scientific publication." Pound360 for one agrees. Mr. Spievak is either lying or dreadfully confused.

But the BBC is sticking with this. In the most recent report on the matter, the BBC is framing this as a "'natural' miracle." Come on people. Let it go.

If you
check out the video of this story at the BBC, you'll notice Mr. Spievak is a seemingly kind, trustworthy old man. But his story falls apart when he describes the accident. Referring to the severed finger part he says, "we don't know where the piece went." Hm. It's not like he dropped a penny, right? How could you lose it?

Pound360 suspects the man suffered a very, very minor injury (if any at all). And for any of a thousand reasons, he simply has exaggerated the truth.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Controversy Erupts Over Miraculous 'Pixie Dust'

When someone loses an arm, leg, ear or finger, it's supposed to be gone forever. But the BBC reported a hobby store worker, Lee Spievak, was able to regrow his finger tip after it was severed in a model plane accident.

Spievak claims to have used "pixie dust" sent to him by his brother, Alan, who "was working in the field of regenerative medicine," read the BBC article. Thanks to the dust, Spievak's finger was miraculously restored completely, including full sensation and finger prints.

The pixie dust is actually an "extra cellular matrix" culled from the bladder of pigs. It sounds like something out of a witch's recipe book, doesn't it?

Well that may be exactly where it belongs.

According to the London Times, the BBC is "backtracking" on the story. As it turns out, "the claims had not been substantiated by any kind of scientific publication." Not only that, the injury Spievak suffered were superficial. "Such injuries are renowned for self-healing," reported the Times. The icing on the cake, Lee Spievak's brother Stephen is the "chief scientist" for Acell, a biotech company.

A final suspicious element of the story, "exactly the same claims had been published in American media outlets in February 2007 - again featuring Lee Spievak."

Public relations stunt or medical breakthrough? Pound360 suspects the former.

The Biggest Squid Caught Probably Just a Kid

In recent weeks, the biggest squid ever caught has captured imaginations and hundreds of headlines. The monster, caught by fishermen off Antarctica, is 33 feet long and weighs over 1000 pounds. It also has the largest eyes of any creature on earth and "tentacles tipped with up to 25 rotating hooks that can swivel 360 degrees," reported TIME.

Researchers expect to find this giant to be as strange on the inside as
other squid: three hearts, blue (copper-based) blood, a tongue covered in barbs and "an espophagus which drains through the middle of its doughnut-shaped brain."

This is a rare find. While legends of giant squid stretch back for centuries, the first recorded sighting was in 1925. Since then, TIME reports, just a "handful" have been recovered. And so far, a male has not been found. (Could these creatures behave like black widows?)

Most intriguing of all, the latest specimen only has a 42mm beak. Since beaks as big as 49mm have been found in the stomach's of sperm whales, there are much bigger squid out there waiting to be discovered.

Natural Crop Beats GM Competitor

A few years ago, farmers noticed their genetically modified (GM) crops weren't producing as much as they recall their natural crops from years past. So the University of Kansas set out to study the matter and found GM crops produced 10 percent smaller yields. This according to a report at the Independent UK.

When testing soy beans, the study showed Monsanto's GM crop produced 70 bushels of grain per acre, while natural crops produced 77.

Researchers dug in and found the GM didn't seem to be absorbing manganese, an element crucial to plants.

Previous research by the University of Nebraska found natural soya out-yielded Monsanto's GM stock by 6-11 percent.

Nature wins this round. But humans are getting their revenge by wiping out elephants in the congo and achieving breakthroughs in the development of artificial intelligence.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Low Levels of Ocean Oxygen Threatens Marine Life

As the globe warms, so do the oceans. Unfortunately, warmer water holds less oxygen. That's bad for marine life. According to a New Scientist report, the drop in ocean oxygen "could massively deplete marine life and fish stocks."

The alarm was triggered this week following a German study that showed oxygen depletion was affecting deep ocean waters. Their findings were based on data stretching back to the 1960s.

It's tough to be a fish these days. As if oxygen depletion weren't bad enough. People are doing a pretty good job of wiping them out. Last November,
the Washington Post reported on an international study that predicted if our current fishing practices continue, "the world will run out of seafood by 2048."

Study Shows Thunderstorm Activity Highest at Mid-Week

It sounds like an old wives' tale, but it's true: rain and thunderstorms are "bigger, more intense, and more frequent in the middle of the week than on weekends."

The answer? Pollution of course. According to Environmental Protection Agency numbers, "particulate emissions peak in the middle of the workweek." More particles in the air mean more stuff for moisture to coalesce upon, thus more rain.

A Stunning Look at Sand, Humble Sand

We at Pound360 are firm believers that, given the right perspective, anything can be beautiful. Isn't that what, say, a great photographer is? Somebody with an eye to spot and capture the extraordinary in everyday life?

Anyway,
over at DiscoverMagazine.com, they have a fascinating gallery showing sand (yes, boring old sand like the stuff at the beach) at the microscopic level, where every grain is "a tiny work of art."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Congo Civil War's Biggest Loser: Elephants

During the decade-long Congo Civil War, the country's elephant population has crashed from 70,000 to about 350. In just the last month, 14 elephant carcasses have turned up in the Virunga National Park, stripped for meat and ivory.

This pace is unusual. Said one conservationist, "we've been taken by surprise by the intensity of the killings."

Virunga is the same park where gorillas were being executed around this same time last year. That incident pretty much infuriated Pound360,
check out our rant here.

Four poachers are in custody. They deserve life in prison. Since 1996, 120 park rangers have been killed defending Virunga's biodiversity.

Computer Breakthrough May Power Next-Gen Artificial Intelligence

Hewlett-Packard researchers have created a working "memristor," that's a super-tiny "electrical resistor with memory properties," reports the NY Times.

What's incredible about this chip is it breaks the binary barrier. Computer processors have been limited to story data in 1s and 0s, but the memristor (pretty lame name) can store a "vast array of intermediate values," which "allows them to function like biological synapses and makes them ideal for many artificial intelligence applications."

Memristors were predicted in 1971 by University of California electrical engineer, Leon Chua. Pound360 wonders whether or not the honorable Mr. Chua has kids. If so, we hope for their sake the mother named them.

The initial crop of working memristors are about 15 namometers in size, but they may shrink to four nanometers in time. That's pretty small, people. For reference, an atom is about .1 nonometers.

Will we see memristor-charged robots in the home anytime soon? Well, the good news is that "they can be made in the same kinds of semiconductor factories that the chip industry now uses." However, they're still pretty slow. Slower than conventional memory chips.

Typical Car's Engines Only Utilize 15% of Energy in Gas

Part of the problem with gas engines is how inefficient they are. According to a report at CNN, just 15 percent of the energy in gas "makes its way to the wheels." That's due to imperfect engine timing, spacing and other factors.

Also, many of a car's systems (steering, air conditioning for example) are powered by hydraulic systems that draw their energy from the engine. By "electrifying" these systems, fuel efficiency could be raised 10 percent.

Of course, the problem with all improving the precision of a gas engine and electrifying a cars systems is the cost. Even if an auto company had the courage to toss out an expensive, super-efficient vehicle, there's no guarantee enough people will buy it to keep shareholders happy.

The good news is some manufacturers are pushing ahead with innovations. Lookout for this acronym: HCCI. It stands for "homogenous charged compression ignition." It's a gas engine design that mimics diesels. According to CNN, "several car companies" are working on this. It should improve fuel efficiency by about 15 percent.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

An Inconvenient Climate Model

A German team of researchers has come up with a 10-year climate forecast and the news couldn't be worse for continuing efforts to conserve energy and come up with renewable energy innovations. According to the model, as reported by the NY Times, Europe and North America is set to cool over the next ten years due to shifting ocean currents.

Climate prediction, any forecasting for that matter, is not an exact science. But the same model which the ten-year outlook is based on was able to "reasonably replicate climate patterns" when applied to previous decades.

Researchers warn the cooling phase is merely a "pause in warming," but how can they expect anybody to take that seriously? We live in a world where all that matters is the next quarter's bottom line. If the climate starts cooling, it will be the perfect excuse to maintain our obsession with cheap, quick, dirty and non-renewable energy sources.

Pound360 Archive

About Me

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.