Friday, January 28, 2011

VW confirms it will build hyper-efficient XL1, Autocar gets to drive one


VW confirms it will build 313mpg XL1 diesel, Autocar gets to drive one
Think the Volkswagen XL1 concept is too far out there to ever get built? Tell that to the blokes in Wolfsburg. German source Automobilewoche is reporting that executives Ferdinand Piech and Martin Winterkorn both confirmed that the car will be produced in small numbers, first for Germany and later coming to the US and China. It's powered by a diesel engine with less than one liter of displacement, managing 313mpg combined (that's Imperial, 260mpg using American units) putting out just 48hp and thankfully assisted by a 27hp electric motor. Not much, but enough for the 1,750lb car, which Autocar correspondent Milton Holloway got to drive and said feels "fully sorted" despite an engine that's a bit rattly. It is a diesel, after all.

VW confirms it will build hyper-efficient XL1, Autocar gets to drive one originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Jan 2011 10:27:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink Autoblog Green  |  sourceAutomobilewoche, Autocar  | Email this | Comments


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Future of Wine: We Need New Breeds of Grape


Grapes on the Vine in Mendocino, Calif. Hot Ash via Wikimedia

When news broke last week that archaeologist had unearthed a 6,000-year-old winemaking operation in an Armenian cave, many took it as occasion to pat ourselves on the backs-after all, it's proof that early humans were more civilized than previously thought, evolved creatures that we are. Unfortunately, in the intervening years our grapes haven't evolved much at all, leaving our winemaking varieties-most of which have been developed from a single species-extremely susceptible to disease and pathogens.

The wine produced in that Armenian cave was different than the sauv blancs, pinot noirs, and merlots on offer at the bottle shop today, but the grapes domesticated 5,000 years ago in what is now Turkey weren't so different than the ones found on vineyards across the globe today. Most wines, ranging from the fruity red merlots of California to the sweet white Rieslings of the German Rhine, have been largely developed from the same species of grape: Vitis vinifera vinifera. That limited cross-breeding with other species has kept the lineage of wines pure but has also made for a less-than-hardy biological species, a team of U.S. researchers wrote recently.

A lack of diversity greatly exposes these grapes to pathogens-or even a single pathogen-and has led to increases in the cost of winemaking. In Australia alone, battling a single kind of mildew costs $100 million annually, and the majority of agricultural fungicides deployed in the U.S. are used to protect vineyards. That's costly, both environmentally and financially.

In a worst-case scenario, a particularly nasty pathogen could wipe out a year's crop, giving oenophiles much to lament several years later. The answer, of course, is better controlled interbreeding of grapes and increased genomic mapping of grape species, a practice already undertaken by researchers in the U.S. A collaboration between Cornell and Stanford has already mapped the genomes of 1,000 samples, marking the genes responsible for certain taste characteristics.

The bad news for conservative winemakers is that they will likely have to give up their grapes, many of which have been passed down through generations. But the good news for all of us is that science has simplified the process of engineering grapes that are not only hardier, but tastier. The future of winemaking is genetics, and for the adventurous winemaker that should lead to more varieties and greater diversity in flavor, not to mention the need for fewer pesticides and agricultural pollution. Cheers to that.



Paper batteries recharge from moisture in the air, seemingly defy laws of nature


Paper batteries recharge themselves from the moisture in the air, seemingly defy laws of physics
Some like working with clay, some like carving from stone, others etch out of silicon, but the team at CENIMAT apparently really likes plain 'ol paper. The researchers there proved they could print transistors on the stuff back in 2008, and now they're making paper batteries too. But that's nothing new, others have made mache cells for years. What's exciting here is that these batts charge with water, and they don't need very much of the stuff to juice up. Just 40 percent humidity in the air is enough to regain their potency, a threshold that might put them out of the realm of possibility for self-recharging power for Vegas lights, but something tells us the voltage coming out of this pulp couldn't cope with that kind of strain anyhow.

[Thanks, Manuel]

Paper batteries recharge from moisture in the air, seemingly defy laws of nature originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 25 Jan 2011 15:26:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink   |  sourceExame Informatica  | Email this | Comments


Monday, January 24, 2011

Bloom Electrons' pay-what-you-consume service thinks outside the Box


Bloom Energy's aptly-titled Bloom Box made a splash last year with much hooplah, bringing the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Colin Powell to its unveiling. But while the promise of efficient fuel cell technology is great for the eco-minded and even the long-term penny-pincher, the mid-to-high six-figure upfront cost limits the potential customer base to only the upper echelon of the environmentally conscious. Cue Bloom Electrons -- instead of paying for the Bloom Boxes and owning them outright, you can lease a 2MW installation for no money down and pay only for the electrons you use. A 10-year contract is required, which yes does put your smartphone commitment to shame, but Bloom hopes this Credit Suisse / Silicon Valley Bank-backed plan opens the door for educational institutions and non-profits to join in on the phone. Press release after the break.

Continue reading Bloom Electrons' pay-what-you-consume service thinks outside the Box

Bloom Electrons' pay-what-you-consume service thinks outside the Box originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 24 Jan 2011 10:14:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Audi commissions four US universities to research urban mobility issues


We've seen what other companies have in store for our automotive future, and now Audi's given us a glimpse of what we can expect from its car of tomorrow. The company's Silicon Valley research lab have teamed up with four universities here in the US to develop technologies that will give city drivers the full KITT treatment -- vehicles that recognize the driver (and his or her preferences) and can detect and avoid dangers and traffic delays. Called the Audi Urban Intelligence Assist initiative, each participating university has a specific area of urban mobility research ranging from urban crash analysis to aggregating historical and real-time traffic, parking, and pedestrian data in cities. The schools will also study how best to deliver relevant information to drivers and get them from point A to point B as easily and efficiently as possible. Looks like the groundwork is being laid for a German counterpart to GM's EN-V we test drove in Vegas, and we look forward to the fruits of their labor. Ich bin ein Ingolstädter!

Audi commissions four US universities to research urban mobility issues originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 20 Jan 2011 18:24:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink Green Car Congress  |  sourceAudi USA  | Email this | Comments


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fruit Flies' Neural Networks Solve Distributed Computing Problem Better Than Humans


The burgeoning neural networks of fruit fly pupae solve a distributed computing problem, arranging sensory bristles in a very efficient, effective manner. Scientists who monitored the bristles' growth say they can mimic the flies' method to build more effective communications networks.

It's not the first time we've seen an insect solve a problem that plagues computer scientists — bees can do it, too — but the fruit fly discovery does one better, leading to an algorithm that can be used to develop more efficient computer and wireless networks.

Distributed computing involves several processors working in concert to solve a problem. Some are chosen as leaders, collecting data from the other processors and passing it along. Organizing these networks into efficient processor-leader groups is one of the biggest challenges in computing — but millions of cells in a fly's nervous system do it automatically, organizing themselves so that a small number of cells serve as leaders. It is much better than anything humans have come up with, scientists say: "It is such a simple and intuitive solution, I can't believe we did not think of this 25 years ago," according to co-author Noga Alon, a mathematician and computer scientist at Tel Aviv University and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Fruit fly bristles, which are used for feeling and hearing, develop as nerve cells self-select to become leaders. The cells send chemical signals to their neighboring cells, ensuring that those cells cannot become leaders, too. Using fluorescence microscopy, the researchers watched an entire network form in about three hours.

They developed an algorithm based on the cells' self-selection approach, and say it's particularly effective for adaptive networks where the number and position of each node is not certain, according to Carnegie Mellon University. That could include environmental monitoring sensors, robot swarms and more.

The research is published today in the journal Science.



How Can a Cathedral Built From Trash Look So Beautiful? [Architecture]


How Can a Cathedral Built From Trash Look So Beautiful?The Queen may have Buckingham Palace, Nicholas Cage may own half of Europe's castles, but Don Justo has this beautiful cathedral of trash. He's been building it in Madrid for 50-odd years now, and is almost finished.

In fact, since he left his life as a monk 50 years ago and began building the cathedral (which is modelled on St. Peter's in Italy, along with the White House and other cathedrals and churches), he's built it up to 131-feet high, and just needs to add a roof and a few windows. Most of his building matter came from salvaged materials and junk, which he built up on his own land over 8,000sq/m with his own two hands.

While most countries wouldn't allow such building to take place without permission—especially not by someone lacking the necessary building qualifications—Madrid's council has turned a blind eye to Don Justo's cathedral. He is, however, pursing a permit so that visitors could come and worship in his Cathedral of Trash. [BBC via Inhabitat]

How Can a Cathedral Built From Trash Look So Beautiful?


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Strait Power turbine is water-powered, shark-inspired (video)


Strait Power turbine is water-powered, shark-inspired (video)
The basking shark, with its five foot jaw, is one of the most ferocious looking critters that ever swam the sea. However, it's pretty much harmless, just filtering out tiny bits and leaving idle dippers and their water wings alone. This is what served as the inspiration for Anthony Reale, who turned that gaping maw into Strait Power. It's effectively a double-nozzle that fits around a hydro turbine or two, turning the flow of water into electrical power, boosting the efficiency of the turbine by creating areas of high pressure ahead and low pressure behind, as visualized above. The result was a 40 percent boost in efficiency -- and some soggy jeans, as you can see in the videos below. The first gives a quick overview, the second an uber-detailed discussion of the development from start to finish. Choose your path.

Continue reading Strait Power turbine is water-powered, shark-inspired (video)

Strait Power turbine is water-powered, shark-inspired (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 15 Jan 2011 01:36:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink   |  sourceMichigan Engineering LabLog  | E! mail thi s | Comments


Thursday, January 13, 2011

These Shit-Eating Poo-Gloos Look Like They Came From Outer Space [Sewage]


These Shit-Eating Poo-Gloos Look Like They Came From Outer SpaceApologies if my headline offended anyone, but I'm sure the Poo-Gloos don't mind. After treating sewage in six US states, they're accustomed to the odd crappy insult.

Wastewater Compliance Systems Inc uses them for treating sewage due to their eco-friendliness, affordable nature and fast processing powers. They work in rows, using air to draw water through the domes from the bottom of the lagoons they sit on, and out through the top. While they're known as Poo-Gloos for now, due to the materials they work with, Wastewater Compliance Systems Inc will be renaming them as Bio-Domes so they can be used in other forms of recycling. [Wastewater Compliance Systems Inc via Gizmag]

These Shit-Eating Poo-Gloos Look Like They Came From Outer Space


Drunk scientists pour wine on superconductors and make an incredible discovery [Madscience]


Drunk scientists pour wine on superconductors and make an incredible discoveryWine makes superconductors better at their jobs. And apparently, it makes some scientists better at their jobs too.

Superconductors behave like most metals; they conduct electricity. They do so, however, with a twist. All metal has some resistance to the flow of electricity. But when the temperature drops, superconductors get less and less resistant (and therefore more conductive). When they reach very low temperatures, their resistance drops to zero.

Yoshihiko Takano and other researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan were in the process of creating a certain kind of superconductor by putting a compound in hot water and soaking it for hours. They also soaked the compound in a mixture of water and ethanol. It appears the process was going well, because the scientists decided to have a little party. The party included sake, whisky, various wines, shochu, and beer. At a certain point, the researchers decided to try soaking the compound in the many, many liquors they had on hand and seeing how they compared to the more conventional soaking liquids.

When they tested the resulting materials for superconductivity, they found that the ones soaked in commercial booze came out ahead. About 15 percent of the material became a superconductor for the water mixed with ethanol, and less for the pure water. By comparison, Shochu jacked up conductivity by 23 percent and red wine managed to supercharge over 62 percent of the material. The scientists were pleased, if bemused with their results.

So, a little sip of something turns out to make potential superconductors much better at their jobs. And, perhaps, scientists better at their jobs as well.

Via Cornell.


Monday, January 10, 2011

The Water Vapor Project


This year's IIDA has some pretty interesting entries. For example the Water Vapor Project is an attempt to hydrate the parched desert landscape of Africa. It proposes to build an environment where greenery thrives thanks to the basic principles of water vapor.  Hat tip Designboom!

Designers: Sangwook Park, Sinjeong Lee, Hoyoung Lee & Hyeonju Jo


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Video: MIT Media Lab Prints Out a Sweet-Sounding Flute with a 3-D Printer


As far as things that come out of the MIT Media Lab are concerned, perhaps a flute is among the less impressive. But take into account that the entire fully-functioning acoustic instrument was created via 3-D printer with a minimum of human assembly, and it sounds markedly more impressive.

The flute was created on an Objet Connex500 rapid prototyper, a 3-D printer that can print in multiple materials at the same time. The flute was constructed from a few different materials – a rigid material for the body, a softer one for the mouthpiece, another for sealing the air in at the proper places – during a print run of about 15 hours, during which time the materials were added on one thin layer at a time.

The finished product was in four pieces, which simply had to be rinsed of supporting materials and assembled by hand (the springs were the only element added after printing). It's not a perfect flute just yet – as you'll see in the video below, there is still some fine tuning to be done – but it does produce good acoustic sounds. Moreover, it heralds just how far 3-D printing technology has come over the last couple of decades.



Bacteria Ate All the Methane From the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, New Study Says


Water Collection Scientists deploy a CTD Rosette system from the NOAA ship Pisces for collecting water samples in the Gulf of Mexico. Elizabeth Crapo/NOAA

Following the greatest environmental catastrophe in recent history, the lowest life forms among us have been the biggest heroes. Once again, scientists have found that bacteria ate up the remnants of the the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Within four months of the oil spill, bacterial blooms had removed more than 200,000 metric tons of dissolved methane, returning concentrations to normal background levels.

That was a surprise, because in mid-June, scientists found methane concentrations nearly 100,000 times above normal levels, and learned it was decomposing slowly, suggesting it would take years for the hydrocarbon to dissipate.

"We couldn't have been more wrong. It decomposed rather quickly and was completely consumed within a matter of months," said lead researcher John Kessler, an oceanographer at Texas A&M University, in a news release.

Kessler and colleagues took three cruises aboard the NOAA ship Pisces between Aug. 18 and Oct. 4, collecting 207 separate water samples and measuring their oxygen and methane concentrations. Oxygen drops when bacteria breathe methane, so the researchers say the depleted oxygen levels can only be explained by consumption of the methane.

They also examined the genetic sequences of bacteria in the samples, which suggested a growing population of methane-munching life forms.

Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, was to blame for the spill in the first place - on April 20, a methane bubble surged from the Macondo well up the Deepwater Horizon's drill column, busting several seals as it belched toward the rig. The resulting explosion killed 11 workers and severed the rig from the well, allowing oil to spew forth for 83 days.

As workers attempted to burn, vacuum, sponge and contain the oil, invisible microbial communities were hard at work. Scientists said last August that a previously undiscovered species of bacteria had made quick work of a massive oil plume; apparently methanotrophs, species of methane-munching bacteria, were also feasting on the spill.

Bacteria have evolved to live with the Gulf's naturally occurring oil seeps and high methane concentrations, so it makes sense that they were ready to go to work. Apparently they are more effective than we thought.

As with any controversial study, not everyone was satisfied with the results - Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University, told NPR the team did not account for deep-sea currents that could have carried away the methane. Further studies will shed more light on the findings.



Friday, January 7, 2011

China Is Using a New Method to Mass Produce Healthier Water [Water]


In an effort to produce mass quantities of healthier H2O, Chinese scientists have come up with a new method to change water's chemical composition. It involves making light water.

Natural water has tiny amounts of D2O molecules, deuterium and oxygen, mixed in with the dihydrogen monoxide. Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is an isotope of hydrogen that contains one proton and one neutron. In North America, typical drinking water has a deuterium concentration of about 150 ppm, roughly equivalent to a few drops per every quart.

Water with higher concentrations of D2

O is known as heavy water

, and it is harmful to plants and animals. By contrast, water with hardly any D2

O - or light water - can boost the immune system and benefit plant and animal health, according to several studies. In one study from 2003, plant photosynthesis increased with the use of light water. A study involving mice blasted with ionizing radiation

showed a dramatic difference in survival between mice that drank light water and mice that drank regular water. It is even used as a cancer treatment for humans: In 2008, researchers reported that light water noticeably <a href="
" target="_blank">lengthened

the lifespan of terminal cancer patients.

Given these positive effects, it seems smart to provide greater quantities of light water for public consumption. But it's hard to produce - current methods include electrolysis, distillation, a high-temperature exchange method that uses hydrogen sulfide, and desalination from seawater, according to authors Feng Huang and Changgong Meng of the Department of Chemistry at Dalian University of Technology in China. These methods are either expensive, inefficient or bad for the environment.

The authors propose a new method involving a platinum catalyst, which quickly removes deuterium from water using cold and hot temperatures, according to the American Chemical Society. The result is water with a deuterium concentration of roughly 125 ppm.

The method could be the basis for industrial-scale light water production - and a new way to produce huge quantities of healthier water for the masses.

China Is Using a New Method to Mass Produce Healthier WaterPopular Science is your wormhole to the future. Reporting on what's new and what's next in science and technology, we deliver the future now.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

GM invests $5 million in Powermat, says wireless charging headed to Volt in 2012


GM may have filed for bankruptcy back in 2009, but a lot has changed since then. GM's venture branch now apparently has enough cash in the bank to drop five million on a multi-year commercial deal for Powermat's wireless charging technology. The terms of the deal give GM the option to convert their investment into an equity stake within the first six months and provide GM exclusive use of Powermat's technology for one year in vehicles worldwide. Subsequently, the Volt is slotted to be one of the first vehicles receiving the new tech and a prototype version with charging mats in the front consoles and back seat will be shown this year at CES. However, the automaker is unsure as to what other models will receive Powermat upgrades. Micky Bly, leader of GM's electric car development efforts, stated though that initial tests did not reveal any significant issues with porting the technology into vehicles, leading GM to shoot for launching commercial integrations sometime in 2012. The automaker hasn't forgotten its an investor however and hopes other manufacturers will join the wireless charging bandwagon to help drive down costs after their exclusive buffer ends.

GM invests $5 million in Powermat, says wireless charging headed to Volt in 2012 originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 06 Jan 2011 02:48:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink Yahoo! News  |  sourceReuters  | Email this | Comments


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reprinting on One Paper Only


Typically paper fibers can go through the recycle process five-to-seven times. Not too bad, but since we’re talking about innovation here, how about increasing thas lifespan? The Eco Printer uses specialized ink composed of photographic materials that disappear from UV irradiation. What this means is that non-sensitive documents can be printed, erased, and reprinted increasing the lifecycle of paper. Awesome!

The Eco Printer is a 2010 Red Dot Concept Design winning entry.

Designer: Sharsha Lee for Liteon Technology Corp.


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Lit by Wind


Wind Bulb is a light powered by wind. Winner of the LiteOn Award,  it’s designed for apartment balconies in urban areas. The tiny propellor at the top generates enough power to keep the light on all night. Love the design and the application of renewable energy. Love that it’s easy to install too. No need to run power anywhere.

Designers: WenCheng Hsiao & Jin-Dian Cheng


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A Fungus Is Destroying The World's Bananas [Bananas]


A Fungus Is Destroying The World's BananasTropical Race Four, a soil-born fungus, has been destroying bananas across the world. It kills the plant and makes bananas smell like garbage. That deadly fungus is expected to hit Central America, which is where we get all our bananas from.

There are a thousand types of bananas in the world but only one represents 99% of the banana export market. That'd be the Cavendish banana. Cavendish bananas dominate the export market because they provide farmers "with a high yield of palatable fruit that can endure overseas trip without ripening too quickly or bruising too easily".

One problem, though. By relying solely on the Cavendish banana (and clones of the Cavendish), one disease can wipe out a whole ton o' bananas in one sweeping motion. Tropical Race Four is that disease, and it's already wiped out Cavendish bananas in Asia and Australia with newspapers around the world calling it the "HIV of banana plantations".

The funny thing is the Cavendish banana actually replaced another banana (Gros Michel) in the 1950's because that one got stricken with the Panama disease. History is repeating itself but this time scientists are working feverishly in an attempt to save our banana population. Let's hope they succeed. Read the full story at the New Yorker[New Yorker]

Image Credit: Ian Ransley