Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Red LEDs Grow Lettuce 3x Faster and with 60% Less Energy


Red LEDs to Grow Lettuce

by JUSTIN THOMAS on APRIL 14, 2005

0405pess01.jpgApparently red LEDs are 60% more efficient than fluorescent light when growing vegetables hydroponically.

According to IEEE Spectrum Online: Of all the colors of the rainbow, red is lettuce's favorite. Chlorophyll, the electrochemical engine of photosynthesis, runs on red photons. So if you are growing the vegetable indoors in a factory, why waste energy on colors you don't need?

Using a red LED-based growth process developed by Cosmo Plant Co., in Fukuroi, Japan, instead of a fluorescent lighting based one, cuts a factory's electric bill by 60 percent, the company told Agence France Press.

Cosmo's customers uses the technology to produce 7000 heads of lettuce per day all year round in a 10-floor building on just 1000 square meters of space. The lettuce matures more than three times as fast under the LEDs than outdoors. While growing lettuce in an open field is still less costly, growing it inside under LEDs means you don't have to worry about crop-decimating typhoons and other nasty weather. 

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Monday, November 28, 2011

drag2share: Engineered Avian Flu Could Kill Half the World's Humans [Science]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5863078/engineered-avian-flu-could-kill-half-the-worlds-humans

Engineered Avian Flu Could Kill Half the World's HumansThis isn't a movie. It's not a classic Science Fiction book. This is the real story of a scientist who created a virus with the power to litter the Earth with billions of dead bodies.

OK, now breathe. Or maybe don't—the virus is airborne.

In his Netherlands laboratory, virologist Ron Fouchier was experimenting with the avian flu virus to see how it could become even more virulent. (Red flag.) His research involved spreading it throughout a population of ferrets, and he noticed that as the virus reproduced, it adapted to spread even faster. (RED FLAG.) Not worried about ferret flu? Previous research has shown that any strains of influenza that can pass between ferrets can also pass between humans. (RED FLAAAAAAAAAG.) Ten generations later, his efforts had created an airborne strain with the power could kill half the human population. (RED FUCKING FLAG, DUDE!)

Fouchier, who conducted his research at Erasmus Medical Centre admitted that the new strain is "probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make." He presented his work at the influenza conference in Malta this September. Now he wants to publish his study in a scientific journal, so those responsible for responding to bioterrorism can be prepared for the worst case scenario. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Not exactly. The research has set off alarms among colleagues who are urging Fouchier not to publish, for fear the recipe could wind up in the wrong hands. Some question whether the research should have been done in the first place. Fair point!

Typically H5N1 affects birds, but about 10 years ago it emerged in humans, first in Asia, then traveling around the world. Human cases are rare—about 600 total—but they are deadly, killing about half the people infected.

The reason avian flu isn't more common is because it's not an airborne contagion—at least it hasn't been until now. With the un-engineered version, you have to touch something that's been contaminated to get sick. But Fouchier's version is airborne, meaning being in the vicinity of the disease and breathing it in would be enough to contract it. It's as contagious as the human seasonal flu, but much more deadly. And now Fouchier wants to publish how he made it that way.

His fellow bioterrorism experts are thinking that's maybe not the best idea, because then anyone who got their hands on the paper could reproduce Fouchier's results. Microbial geneticist Paul Keim, an anthrax expert and chair of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (which will decide whether Fouchier can publish) told Science Insider:

I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one. I don't think anthrax is scary at all compared to this.

But Fouchier and a handful of other scientists who have performed similar experiments believe publishing would help the scientific community prepare for an H5N1 pandemic. Not publishing, they say, could leave researchers in the dark as to how to respond to an outbreak. But a pandemic made possible in the first place by the publication creates a bit of a chicken and egg question—and that's why the NSAB has an unenviably difficult decision to make.

[Science Insider via Geekosystem and RT]


You can keep up with our Science Editor, Kristen Philipkoski, on Twitter, Facebook, and occasionally Google+

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drag2share: America's Water Pipes Are Failing and We Need to Fix Them...Fast [Water]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5862995/americas-water-pipes-are-failing-and-we-need-to-fix-themfast

America's Water Pipes Are Failing and We Need to Fix Them...FastBy and large, America's water infrastructure is on the cusp of disrepair. Environmentalists and public health officials have been chattering about this for years, but now the problem has become more urgent and we need to overhaul much of it in a hurry.

According to David Lepeska, rotting pipes are responsible for floods, illness affecting millions, and trillion of gallons of water lost due to leakage. But logistical issues aside, the cost of such stripping out over half the nation's water pipes, some of which are over a hundred of years old, comes at a great cost. A cost likely to be passed down to residents.

The EPA estimates that adequately upgrading the nation's water infrastructure would cost between $750 billion and $1 trillion over the next couple decades. Yet with the protracted recession, neither cities nor the federal government have funds to spare. And because water infrastructure is mainly underground and out of sight, political will in Washington remains low. Only about $10 billion of the $787 billion 2009 stimulus package was aimed at water infrastructure. What's more, the federal government's share of water infrastructure spending has plummeted from about 75 percent to about 3 percent in the past 35 years, according to Ken Kirk of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

Lepeska suggests we need pipes that are smart and equipped with tech that will indicate where the water infrastructure is failing, pointing out systems that have already been implemented in cities such as Dallas and Las Vegas. He also calls for the widespread adoption of repair technology which uses robots which require no excavation of land to complete their tasks.

And increased water rates may sound like a burden, but so would the public health disasters that would ensue if nothing is done at all. [Atlantic Ciies]

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

drag2share: Airdrop, Which Harvests Moisture Directly From Desert Air, Wins James Dyson Award

Source: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-11/airdrop-irrigation-system-pulls-moisture-dry-desert-air-wins-dyson-award

Edward Linacre and Airdrop James Dyson Foundation

The James Dyson Award winners for 2011 have been announced, and the grand prize winner is a piece of clever biomimicry that sits so perfectly in our wheelhouse that we couldn't resist the urge to write about it. Edward Linacre of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has tapped the Namib beetle--a desert dwelling species that survives in the most arid conditions on Earth--to create an irrigation system that can pull liquid moisture straight out of dry desert air.

Airdrop, as the system is known, borrows a trick from the Namib beetle, which can live in areas that receive just half an inch of rain per year by harvesting the moisture from the air that condenses on its back during the early morning hours. A hydrophilic skin helps to snare water molecules passing on the breeze, which then accumulate into droplets of consumable liquid water.

Airdrop mimics this idea, though on a larger scale. The self-powering device pumps water into a network of underground pipes, where it cools enough for water to condensate. From there the moisture is delivered to the roots of nearby plants. Linacre's math shows that about 11.5 milliliters can be harvested from every cubic meter of air, and further development could raise that number even higher.

Such a system could provide regular moisture to plants being grown in the world's driest regions. And because it is low cost and self-powered, there's not a lot of investment or maintenance involved in deploying Airdrop. The $14,000 award from Dyson (Linacre's university also gets an additional $14,000) should help speed that along.

This year's runners up included a quickly deployable divider for medical settings that lets healthcare professionals make the most of available space and an aide for the blind that uses a special cane and location-based social networking apps to help the visually impaired locate their friends. All of this year's entries can be seen here.

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drag2share: Revealed! Every Evil Atom of the H1N1 Flu Virus [Science]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5859830/revealed-every-evil-atom-of-the-h1n1-flu-virus

Revealed! Every Evil Atom of the H1N1 Flu VirusThe H1N1 flu pandemic killed 17,000 people across the globe between 2009 and 2010. Pretty terrifying. To prevent that from ever happening again, scientists have created a super-detailed computer model of the killer virus.

Researchers at the Institute of Process Engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences generated the first computational model of H1N1 at the atomic level, reports Popular Science. The Chinese scientists used molecular-dynamics simulations, their Mole-8.5 supercomputer, and 2,200 graphics processors to build the model.

We actually created an 'electronic pet' in the computer, which we can experiment with under many different environments and conditions with a variety of drugs, and we can know every detail of the change in the virion, says Dr. Wei Ge, a professor of chemical engineering at CAS-IPE and a principal in the H1N1 modeling effort, told PopSci via email. Therefore, we believe it could provide a possible way to bridge virology, epidemiology, and drug design on the molecular level.

They can use their nasty little pet to simulate how the virus will behave in various conditions, including when treated with a potential drug. And it can all be done without stepping foot inside a laboratory and risking potential exposure to the bug. The simulation moves relatively slowly now, but they hope to get the speed fast enough that they could create vaccines on the fly as pathogens crop up.

This is definitely one time when a virtual pet is better than the real thing. [Popular Science]

Image: CDC


You can keep up with our Science Editor, Kristen Philipkoski, on Twitter, Facebook, and occasionally Google+

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

drag2share: Philips Beehive Concept Has Urban Farmers Abuzz [Homemod]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5858144/a-beehive-for-the-urban-farmer

Philips Beehive Concept Has Urban Farmers AbuzzUrban beekeeping is reemerging as a popular pastime for city-dwellers but a stack of conventional hive boxes won't generally fit in a third-story apartment. Philips' new urban beehive concept, however, aims to bring a colony to every balcony in your town.

The hive consists of a smart-looking central chamber pre-loaded with honeycomb frames. Bees enter through an entrance above the potted flower and can be observed through the glass partition a la ant farms. The pull cord at the bottom releases smoke to calm the colony while you collect honey. Because filling your home with a few thousand pissed-off poisonous insects is generally not recommended.

Given that bee colonies worldwide are on the decline, a legion of these urban beehives could help stave off the population crash. Plus—free honey, free honey for everybody! [CNET]


You can keep up with Andrew Tarantola, the author of this post, on Twitteror Google+.

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