Archive for February, 2007

Fragrant future beckons for web

February 28, 2007

BBC article on a report predicting that within a decade the net will be able to deliver smells as fast as it does data.

The forecast came in a wide-ranging survey produced by the South Korean government to find out what consumers will want from future technologies. It also predicted that by 2012 batteries in mobile phones will last perhaps two months between recharges.

The experts taking part in the survey said that by 2018 robots will be routinely carrying out surgery.

Shuttle Flight Postponed After Damage From Hail

February 28, 2007

New York Times article on the decision by NASA to postpone next month’s space shuttle launching because of thousands of dings and gouges from a hailstorm.

The hailstorm, which caught the shuttle at the launching pad, caused “the worst damage we have ever seen” to the insulating foam on the shuttle’s external fuel tank, said N. Wayne Hale Jr., the shuttle program manager, in a briefing from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

There were two dozen blemishes on the left wing of the shuttle Atlantis, though preliminary analysis suggests no serious damage.

Conservation may limit global warming

February 28, 2007

Los Angeles Times article on researchers who are supporting carbon taxes, a ban on coal-fired power plants and an end to beachfront construction.

Dramatic worldwide climate changes can no longer be avoided, but there is still time to stave off the worst consequences of global warming, an international research team said Tuesday.

The scientists from 11 countries urged sweeping conservation measures to hold the expected increase in temperatures to no more than an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — less than half the expected increase if emissions of greenhouse gas and soot continue unabated.

Based on two years of study, the scientists called for bold actions, including carbon taxes, a ban on conventional coal-fired power plants and an end to beachfront construction worldwide.

But don’t these recommendations support the notion that global warming alarmists are really anti-growth left-wingers who want to see a curb on capitalism?  More taxes to help end global warming?  Come on.  

Antioxidants don’t mean longer life

February 28, 2007

Antioxidant vitamins taken by tens of millions of people around the world won’t lead to a longer life, according to an analysis of dozens of studies that adds to evidence questioning the value of the popular supplements.

The large review of separate studies on thousands of people found no long-life benefit from vitamins A, E and C and beta carotene and selenium.

However, some experts said it’s too early to toss out all vitamin pills — or the possibility that they may have some health benefits. Others said the study supports the theory that antioxidants work best when they are consumed in food rather than pills.

An estimated 80 million to 160 million people take antioxidants in North America and Europe, about 10 to 20 percent of adults, the study’s authors said.

Cited article:  Associated Press

Automotive X Prize Builds Momentum

February 27, 2007

Popular Mechanics article about how the Automotive X Prize appears to be taking shape. The challenge? To build a viable, production-capable vehicle that can deliver in excess of 100 mpg or its equivalent fuel economy.

“These cars must be production viable in quantities of 10,000 or more as judged by industry experts,” says Goodstein. “We want to prevent the million-dollar fuel-cell car from entering, as well as the technically competent but ugly ‘bubble car.'”

In a recent poll, the X Prize Foundation learned that a whopping 82 percent of those surveyed believed it was overwhelmingly important to develop a 100-mpg car within the next five years. Goodstein admits that this isn’t absolute proof that people want to own super high mileage cars. But it’s certainly significant.

The rules for the Automotive X Prize are still being fine-tuned. But Goodstein says they are about 80 percent finalized. The rules will be released for public comment in April, likely at the New York Auto Show.

Gene therapy shows promise to curb amputation

February 27, 2007

New research suggests that gene therapy is a safe treatment method to explore in patients whose lower limbs are at risk for amputation because of poor circulation caused by blocked blood vessels.

In a Phase I clinical trial, almost half the patients receiving gene therapy reported complete resolution of chronic pain one year after treatment and more than a quarter of patients with chronic wounds experienced complete healing of those ulcers in the same time frame. The results appear online and are scheduled for publication in the March 13 issue of the journal Circulation.

Space blast’s huge debris field

February 27, 2007

BBC article on how the explosion of a Russian rocket stage in space may have created over 1,000 pieces of orbiting debris that could threaten other spacecraft.

The rocket section exploded on 19 February, generating as much debris as the destruction of a satellite by China last month, if not more.

This space wreckage could remain in orbit for years, experts say.  The anti-satellite test conducted by China on 11 January generated 817 confirmed fragments.

Group to create cityscape with human-like robots

February 26, 2007

iRobot 

An ambitious three-year European project called Ubiquitous Networking Robotics in Urban Settings (URUS) wants to create human-like robots that will roam city streets delivering goods and services, and serve as robo-cops to patrol areas for suspicious activity.

URUS will design and develop a robotic cityscape that accommodates wirelessly networked robots that autonomously perform tasks which may be too complex, time-consuming or too expensive to perform by humans.

European ancient cities are becoming difficult places to live due to noise, pollution, lack of quality facilities and security. The average age of people living in large European cities also is growing and in a short period of time there will be a large community of elderly people.

The program’s lead researchers will first demonstrate the networked robot system in a pedestrian area in Barcelona when the project is near completion.  Until then, researchers are working with a European consortium to perfect the technologies.

The project will create 10 unique robots capable of different tasks based on individual motion capabilities and types of sensors on board.  Most of the robots will interact with people, so researchers will design the robots with an intelligent robot head that is capable of human-like expression.

Will we see I Robot’s Sonny in the not-so-distant future?

Cited article:  Face of the Future

UPI Poll: To reach 100, manage your health

February 26, 2007

The legitimate potential for life extension apparently has seeped into the public consciousness.  Twenty percent of Americans think they are going to live into their 90s, according to a recent Zogby/UPI poll, even though the average American lives about 77 years.

The poll also found about 40 percent of Americans think they will live into their 80s, and more than 5 percent believe they will live past the century mark.

Developments in science, as well as new drugs, may also be leading younger adults to increase their expectations of longevity, although there has been no actual increase in healthiness, yet.

2-Year Study of Polar Changes Set to Begin

February 26, 2007

Scientists from more than 60 countries are preparing to fan out around the North and South Poles in an ambitious two-year effort to understand the vital, shifting dynamics of ice, oceans and life at the ends of the earth, according to a New York Times article.

With a budget of about $350 million spread over more than 120 projects, researchers will camp on drifting Arctic Ocean sea ice and trek to largely uncharted Antarctic mountains.

They will use gliding underwater robots, giant icebreaking ships, satellites and other technologies to explore polar climate, biology, geology and ocean chemistry, and they will undertake physics and astronomy studies that can be done only at the poles.

A central goal of the effort — called the International Polar Year despite its two-year timetable — is to clarify the role of greenhouse gases and global warming in the rapid changes that are already occurring at both poles.