The Newest Fuel – Genetically Enhanced Pond Scum

Tasios Melis’s breakthrough came in 1998 when, as a UC Berkeley biochemist, he was tinkering with green algae, trying to coax the plants to convert water into hydrogen. Algae have long been known to produce minuscule amounts of the gas. Trouble is, the enzyme that propels the reaction (hydrogenase) stalls in the presence of oxygen, and – think back to high school bio – plants naturally produce oxygen during photosynthesis.

Melis found he could reprogram photosynthesis and stifle internal oxygen flow by depriving the plant cells of sulfur. Under these conditions, the algae pumped out hydrogen for days at a time – lots of it. Also see Melis Energy.
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Scientists Create Indestructible Sandwich

American military scientists have developed a new battlefield weapon: the indestructible sandwich.

It can survive air drops and rough handling to stay fresh for up to three years, even in tropical conditions. Eventually, it is expected to follow freeze-dried coffee, dehydrated egg and processed cheese from the battlefield on to supermarket shelves.

So far, only pepperoni and barbecued chicken varieties have been developed. Soldiers who have tasted them say they are “acceptable”. Scientists are now working on indestructible pocket pizzas, cream-filled bagels and peanut butter sandwiches.

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Entrepreneurialism and Culture

There is a bifurcation of inventiveness on the planet. A few places do all the entrepreneurial heavy lifting, the rest look on. Consider patents, one measure of a nation”s inventiveness: in 2000, the United States generated 175,983 patents and Israel 2,024–or, respectively, 633 and 355 patents per million people. By contrast, Brazil (in 1999) produced 3,219 patents, or just 19 per million people.

Finland is more entrepreneurial than France. The Chinese satellites of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan are more entrepreneurial than mainland China, which is entrepreneurial only in parts. The United States, India, and Israel are the exemplary entrepreneurial countries.

Why? Biologists sometimes use the word culture as a verb: they speak of culturing micro–organisms in conditions where they will thrive. By extension, how may a people culture entrepreneurialism in technology?

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Artificial Womb Research

Scientists have created prototypes made of cells extracted from women’s bodies. Embryos successfully attached themselves to the walls of these laboratory wombs and began to grow. However, experiments had to be terminated after a few days to comply with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) regulations.

“We hope to create artificial wombs using these techniques in a few years,” said Dr Hung-Ching Liu of Cornell University’s Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility. “Women with damaged uteruses and wombs will be able to have babies.”

The pace of progress in this field has startled experts.

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Virtual Healing

Virtual reality (VR) therapy has helped more than 1,000 people overcome their anxiety, according to Ken Graap, CEO and president of Virtually Better, which designs and markets VR programs in Decatur, Ga. “The idea that we want to produce is the feelings and emotions of the fear and have the person deal with it,” says Graap, who emphasizes that VR is only part of a person’s therapy.

Patients typically go through eight sessions; each lasts about 45 minutes and costs $150.
In the initial sessions, patients talk about their feelings and practice relaxation exercises. Later on they undergo “exposure therapy”—a patient with a fear of flying, for example, uses VR to help re-create what it’s like to be on an airplane. Therapy would end with the patient actually getting on a plane.

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Ski Resort Recycles Sewage into Snow

Officials at an Australian skiing resort are recycling sewage into snow “so clean you could eat it”.

“There are as many as 200,000 visitors to the resort every day during the skiing season and they produce about one million litres of waste water every day,” says David Westphalen, manager at the Mount Buller resort near Melbourne.

“Water is a scarce commodity in Australia so we have developed a system that can take this waste water, clean it and turn it into snow that is indistinguishable from normal snow. I see it as a way to minimise waste,” he says.

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Space Station Expansion Work Begins

One of the most complex ever construction missions at the International Space Station got underway on Thursday with a spacewalk to attach a $790 million truss.

The 13.5-metre, 13-tonne “S-Zero” truss was lifted out of shuttle Atlantis using the ISS’s robot arm, Canadarm2. It was temporarily attached to the top of the station’s Destiny science module at 1347 GMT.

Eight more sections will be added to the S-Zero truss to complete the 109-metre frame, during future shuttle missions. The full frame is designed to hold a 100-metre solar array, which will be used to provide power for the existing laboratories on board the station as well as future scientific modules.

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Titanium – The New Sexy Metal

Denver’s weekly Westword magazine has this article on titanium and the attempts to break it out of its traditional aerospace/defense industry niche, including its growing use in architecture, computers, jewelry, sports, knives, cars, medicine, and other areas. The upside: It’s as strong as steel but weighs half as much, it doesn’t rust, and it’s fairly plentiful. The downside: It’s expensive compared to steel and aluminum and its high melting point makes it difficult to work with under some conditions. Still, it’s nice to see it being used in other applications.
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Study Links Circumcision with Lower Cancer Rates

Women who have sex with circumcised men have lower rates of cervical cancer, and the men themselves are less likely to develop genital warts, researchers report in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

The reason seems to be that circumcised men are less likely to pick up the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is believed responsible for up to 99 percent of cases of cervical cancer, the second leading cancer among women worldwide.

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Electric Shoes Spark San Francisco Airport Scare

An airline passenger with battery-powered shoes caused a brief scare at San Francisco airport on Wednesday, forcing officials to cordon off an area of the departure terminal.
Airport officials said the passenger, who had arrived on a flight from China, set off security alarms as he was screened for a connecting domestic flight.

Silly airport officials. Don’t they know what electricshoes really look like?

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