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A new type of "artificial leaf" that only generates one tenth the power of previouse types, but at only one half of one percent of the cost. They're still testing to determine the working lifespan of such a device, but those numbers do wonders for the practicality of the concept.

Followup

Dec. 8th, 2010 11:58 am
zengar: (Default)
As might be expected, in the wake of that story of the discovery of Arsenic based life some doubts about the methodology are surfacing. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
zengar: (Default)
Using Schrodinger's Cat to illustrate points in quantum mechanics is all well and good if your audience is already thinking in something resembling those terms. When used among those of different intellectual backgrounds, however, it does a poor job of informing and frequently provokes replies on the order of "That poor cat!" I wonder why the analogy of a chrysalis isn't used more often for such discussions. Sure, it isn't a particularly close analogy, but it does get the basic idea across without irrelevant digressions into animal cruelty and misuse of radioactive material. ;)

At the start you have a caterpillar and in the end you have a butterfly but in between it is neither. Of course, in this case opening the chrysalis to peek does show you the in-between form rather than one state or the other, but there is enough variation in how long metamorphosis takes that an observer unfamiliar with the particular species wouldn't know how far along the process was at a given point in time.

Okay. Yes, I know, it isn't an accurate analogy at all. I started off by saying so didn't I? But it could get people thinking along the right lines to understand the original thought experiment. Pupae are one of the few naturally occurring situations where an indeterminate state is observable.

Eh, just an idea that popped into my head.
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Researchers investigating mushrooms found growing inside the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor find that fungi may use melanin to generate biologically usable energy from ionizing radiation

If further research proves that this is actually the case and explicates the mechanism by which it functions, then this has some . . . interesting potential. Considering that we have at least managed to approximate the function of chlorophyll, what if we can figure out how to do the same with this? Safer storage of radioactive waste? Radiation shielding that generates power from what it blocks? Possible alternatives to the steam turbines currently used to generate electricity in nuclear reactors?

Even if none of that sci-fi stuff pans out, fungi are such neat organisms that learning more about their bizarre capabilities is always interesting.
zengar: (Default)
A little more ammo for those of us who have to try and talk sense into creationists:
Genome sequencing takes what could have been a strong argument against Macroevolution and turns it into a strong argument for Macroevolution.

Oh, and for anyone wanting to read up on the actual definitions and differences between the terms macroevolution and microevolution, try here.
zengar: (Default)
Well, this has some potential!

Stripped of speculations, exaggerations, hyperbole, etc. what the article says is that two MIT researches have come up with an efficient way to catalyze the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen. This doesn't necessarily accomplish most of the goals that the article mentions, but it certainly does make fuel cells a much more viable form of energy storage. When combined with the new solar concentrators 2008 is shaping up to be a good year for localized solar power.

Edit: I just re-read the article and noticed that it's just a new cheap, nontoxic catalyst for oxygen generation. They're still using platinum for Hydrogen generation, which cuts into how economical this system can be. Still, they're halfway there at least.

Edit²: This article, however, says that the new catalyst is used in the place of platinum. I wonder which one is correct. I heard that this discovery is detailed in the latest issue of Science, I think I'll go see if the library has a copy...
zengar: (Default)
Johnny Chung Lee, a grad student in Human-Computer Interaction, has been developing techniques that are far more likely to change our lives than the usual grad student fare. For example, using a Wii remote for headtracking in desktop VR. Considering that a Wiimote costs about $40 retail, and this only uses a very small selection of it's abilities, we finally have VR that it's cost effective for a hobbyist to develop for. Considering that only comercial equivalents I found sell for $180 or $100, this is noticably more affordable.
zengar: (Default)
But apparently this discovery was made in 1999 and they've finally done enough research on it to announce it. Dinosaur mummy found. And the visualizations change again...

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