News on the web

This page is kept updated with articles that I found interesting - something like a news blog. For that reason, updates could be infrequent, not because nothing is happening here but because ... nothing grabbed me out there...

Laser is produced by a living cell

The technique starts by engineering a cell that can produce a light-emitting protein that was first obtained from glowing jellyfish.

Flooding the resulting cells with weak blue light causes them to emit directed, green laser light. The work may have applications in improved microscope imaging and light-based therapies.

Article on BBC. Monday, 13 June 2011 at 23:29

Cleaning Up Radioactive Mess with Blue Goo

A clever technology is helping crews in Japan contain and clean up the contamination caused by the ongoing nuclear disaster there: a blue liquid that hardens into a gel that peels off of surfaces, taking microscopic particles like radiation and other contaminants with it.

Known as DeconGel, Japanese authorities are using it inside and outside the exclusion zone on everything from pavement to buildings. Article on PopSci. Sunday, 29 May 2011 at 09:00

The Art of the Animated GIF

Animated GIFs are like the jazz of the internet: they could only exist, and be created and appreciated, online. Photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg may have finally found a way to elevate the animated GIF to a level approaching fine art, with their "cinemagraphs" - elegant, subtly animated creations that are "something more than a photo but less than a video."

Article on Gawker. Friday, 27 May 2011 at 20:24

Proof That Einstein Got It Right

Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts that massive, spinning objects like Earth should warp space and time around them, as well as drag space and time along as they rotate - as a dipper twirling in a honeypot would spin honey. Francis Everitt talks about how NASA's Gravity Probe-B experiment has just confirmed both predictions.

Article from NPR. Friday, 27 May 2011 at 20:23

USB-stick PC could sell for £15

A miniaturised computer could sell for as little as £15 when it is launched next year by veteran computer games developer David Braben. The device, produced by a new group called Raspberry Pi, is approximately the size of a USB memory stick.

Although the specifications for the device are limited, running open-source software it is able to browse the web and run Office-style applications with relative ease. It also includes 1080p HD video. Braben says he hopes to be distributing the first Raspberry Pi device within the next 12 months, after work has continued to develop the product into a production version.

Article on Telegraph. Friday, 27 May 2011 at 20:23

Ultrafast fibre optics set new speed record

Two separate research groups have just set a world record by sending more than 100 terabits of information per second through a single optical fibre. That's enough to deliver three solid months of HD video- or the contents of 250 double-sided Blu-ray discs.

Such lab results are far beyond today's commercial needs. Total capacity between New York and Washington DC, one of the world's busiest routes, is only a few terabits per second. With bandwidth-hungry video-streaming and social media growing relentlessly, network planners are always searching for ways to expand capacity.

Article on New Scientist. Saturday, 30 April 2011 at 08:44

Dutch To Build Solar Panels Into Their Roads

The Dutch are well known for their ubiquitous bike lanes, to the point where Amsterdam is neck and neck with Copenhagen for the title of most bike-loving capital in Europe. Now, Denmark will have to come up with something big to match the latest plan from the Netherlands - the installation of solar panels in roads, starting with bike lanes.

Called the Solaroad, the project is the brainchild of Dutch research firm TNO. The idea is pretty straightforward: a layer of concrete forms the road itself. A centimeter thick layer of crystalline silicon solar cells is laid on top, and covered by a layer of toughened glass. The energy potential: 50kWh per square meter per year, which can then be used to power street lighting, traffic systems and households.

Article on Tree Hugger. Saturday, 23 April 2011 at 09:01

Rumor that "God Particle" Has Been Detected

A rumor is floating around the physics community that the world's largest atom smasher may have detected a long-sought subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, also known as the "God particle."

The Higgs boson is predicted to exist by prevailing particle-physics theory, which is known as the Standard Model. Physicists think the Higgs bestows mass on all the other particles — but they have yet to confirm its existence.

Article on Live Science. Saturday, 23 April 2011 at 08:57

Lasers May Replace Spark Plugs

The spark plug's days are numbered though thanks to a new breakthrough from some scientists that have found a way to replace the spark with a laser inside the internal combustion engine. According to researchers, the move to lasers from spark plugs will allow cleaner and more efficient vehicles and with the looming increases in mandated fuel economy, the auto industry will need all the help it can get.

Lasers have historically been too large to fit under the hood of a car to be used as ignition sources. Japanese researchers have developed a small multi-beam laser that would be small enough to screw into a cars cylinder head. Just as important as the size being small enough to fit under the hood is the fact that the laser system developed is made from ceramics and can be produced cheaply enough that it can be sold in volume for vehicle use.

Article on Daily Tech. Saturday, 23 April 2011 at 08:54

Glass-Like Solar Cells Set Stage for Power-Producing Windows

Add this to the growing list of promising innovations in solar energy: photovoltaic cells that capture energy from sunlight but without changing the way sunlight appears to the naked human eye. The kicker: you can paint these virtually invisible cells on everyday window panes used in everyday homes and everyday buildings.

Coated onto a pane of standard window glass, a potentially revolutionary photovoltaic technology developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology uses organic molecules to capture the energy of infrared light without blocking the flow of light. The technology may one day turn everyday wind panes into a source of electric power. More importantly, it may be cheap enough for people to actually use these power-producing windows.

Article on Forbes. Sunday, 17 April 2011 at 23:50

Algae May Be The Key to Curing Blindness

A team of researchers at the USC Institute for Genetic Research led by Alan Horsager may have uncovered a key for curing blindness. Using gene therapy, they hope to be able to incorporate a gene from algae into the eyes of blind people. The gene produces photoreceptors in algae, which enables algae to find light sources.

The team hopes that placing the gene in a human eye would cause the eye to produce the same photoreceptor, which would then restore sight to the eye, as most forms of human blindness involve damaged photoreceptors.

Article on Forbes Saturday, 16 April 2011 at 20:36

Richard Leakey on human past and future

Paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey talks about what several generations of fossil finds reveal about human origins, and how modern Homo sapiens are threatening the future of life around the globe. Evolutionary biologist Quentin Atkinson joins to discuss the origins of language, which, like hominids, he's traced to Africa.

Article on NPR. Saturday, 16 April 2011 at 20:30

Hot solar cells the way to water and power

Pumping water through micro-channels on the surface of a solar panel not only makes it more efficient but can also make seawater drinkable.

IBM has developed a hybrid solar panel that incorporates technology originally developed to help cool computer chips. The idea is to use water-filled microchannels to cool the cell - the hot water would then be used in desalination.

In arid areas where power generation is difficult this can solve two problems at once, producing electricity and clean water. Article by New Scientist.

Saturday, 16 April 2011 at 12:11

Baking soda - cure for global warming?

Skyonic has invented a process to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide coming out of smoke stacks, and to mix it with sodium hydroxide to make sodium bicarbonate. The energy required for the reaction is existing waste heat produced by factories.

Apart from cutting down on greenhouse gases, the system also removes 97 percent of the heavy metals, and most of the sulphur and nitrogen compounds emitted by smokestacks. The end product is cleaner than food-grade baking soda, while the byproducts of the chemical process can be sold to industrial users. Thursday, 10 July 2008 at 23:20

Google's cell-phone offering

The world's largest search engine player just announced the creation of the Open Handset Alliance, a group of 34 companies that will create a package of free software that includes everything needed to run a cell phone. The group includes Intel, Motorola, and T-Mobile, and could pose a threat to the dominant position of Symbian and Microsoft.

The open-source package, called Android, will include a Linux-based operating system, a Web browser, and applications such as maps, e-mail, and video-sharing tools. The Open Handset Alliance will provide a toolkit that allows independent programmers to build mobile software and services, and Google will in turn make that third-party software available to users through an online store.

Although Google's concept of a mobile operating system is not new by itself, it gets around the fractured and incompatible choice of platforms currently available, and developers will no longer have to rewrite their application for each platform. Friday, 04 July 2008 at 09:18