Month: August 2019

It Comes From Space to Solve our Energy Problems

first_img Citation: It Comes From Space to Solve our Energy Problems (2006, March 11) retrieved 18 August 2019 from Figure 1: Early prototype bioreactor on the roof of the MIT cogeneration plant. Greenfuel has advanced the design and scale since. Cambridge, Mass (photo courtesy of: the Originally inspired by NASA studies into regenerative life-support, the technology incorporates specially shaped tubes of water and site-specific algae at the end of large-scale sources of Carbon Dioxide such as coal-burning plants, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40% and NOx by up to 86%, according to the company.“This is a really big idea.” said GreenFuel founder and MIT Aeronautics Professor Isaac Berzin during a recent interview with Scientific American. While the idea of using algae to clean smoke is not new, GreenFuel has made two breakthroughs that it believes will make the concept viable. First, it developed techniques to tailor algal species to specific sites, increasing efficiency and reducing problems such as die-off that have plagued other attempts. “There are a lot of variables which go into selecting a given strain of algae, from basic environmental factors such as climate and light levels, to power-plant factors like the nature of output gases, to post-processing requirements.” explained Marty Goldenblatt, VP of Sales, in a recent interview with PhysOrg. “We use rapid adaptation devices which allows us to find what set of algae is best for different conditions.”The company has also optimized the algal growth system itself, creating a triangular tubing arrangement which causes rising bubbles of smoke to mix the algae, ensuring all of it has adequate light levels. The geometry also simplifies harvesting, allowing gravity to sweep out heavily grown tubes. “You can think of it as milking a cow.” Berzin has said. Central to GreenFuel’s business proposition, harvested algae can then be converted to bio-diesel, Ethanol, or other products that customers can sell for profit. While captured CO2 and NOx would be re-released in another combustion process, each molecule will have been used more than once, greatly reducing overall emissions.Somewhat ironically, GreenFuel’s founder and MIT Aeronautics Professor Isaac Berzin got the idea to use algae to save the environment here at home while working on a project to help take humans to other worlds. Contracted to develop an advanced life-support system for NASA, Berzin worked with aquatic microbes like algae that could turn carbon dioxide from human breath and other waste sources back into oxygen. He soon realized algae’s ability to capture carbon make it ideal for reducing pollution from pollution-generating plants on Earth.With such promising technology, what impedes full-scale implementation? “Space.” Says Goldenblatt, “Like all solar-based energy we need land over which to expose the algae. This can limit where we deploy.” Another hurtle involves convincing often-conservative utility executives to invest in cutting edge technology.These issues notwithstanding, GreenFuel is pressing forward and gaining steam. They received over $11 million in second round Venture Capitol funding this December and recently moving to a 13,000 square foot facility. Currently, they are in negotiations with the New York State Energy Research Group to conduct analyses and initial tests of power plants in that state.By Matthew Silver, Copyright 2006 This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. GreenFuel Technologies Corporation, a start-up company in Cambridge Massachusetts, wants to use little green algae to cleanse the smoke from polluting smokestacks, converting it back into bio-fuels such as diesel or ethanol.last_img read more

Go park yourself Volvo driverless prototype will obey w video

first_img This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. More information: via Volvo PausePlay% buffered00:0000:00UnmuteMuteDisable captionsEnable captionsSettingsCaptionsDisabledQuality0SpeedNormalCaptionsGo back to previous menuQualityGo back to previous menuSpeedGo back to previous menu0.5×0.75×Normal1.25×1.5×1.75×2×Exit fullscreenEnter fullscreen Explore further © 2013 Toyota, Audi driverless demos will pull up to CES Citation: ‘Go park yourself’: Volvo driverless prototype will obey (w/ video) (2013, June 24) retrieved 18 August 2019 from ( —Conversations about advancements in driverless cars on the road eventually have to pull over to discuss what happens when the cars need to be parked. Interactions with pedestrians and other moving objects are among the self-parking challenges confronting automobile R&D. Volvo is eager to ignite interest in its efforts thus far. They have developed the driverless car that, with the assistance of a smartphone, parks itself in a suitably vacant space. Here’s their concept. The driver drops the vehicle off at a designated drop off zone at the parking lot. The driver uses a mobile phone application to activate “Autonomous Parking.” Pressing a button on that mobile device institutes the command to the vehicle to go park itself; the driver walks away from the car. The vehicle deploys its sensors to navigate to a free parking space. The sensors and cameras scan for pedestrians and vehicles. Once a parking space is found, the vehicle parks there and automatically sends the driver notification that the Volvo has parked safely. “There are so many advantages to autonomous driving, said Toscan Bennett, Volvo vice president, product planning, “it is difficult to list them all.” He said he would with safety, and, after that, environmental benefits. Above all, auto manufacturers realize the attractive sales potential in being able to offer such a feature. As Bennett put it, “Who wouldn’t want a car that drops you at your doorstep and then goes off and parks itself?” Volvo Car Group has developed an ingenious concept for autonomous parking. The concept car finds and parks in an open space by itself, without the driver inside. Interestingly, MIT Technology Review in March this year took a look at self-parking cars and reported how Audi was running an experimental project in Germany which involved drivers who use a parking garage in Ingolstadt. The driver steps out of the car, and lets it drive into the garage to find a parking spot for itself. By pressing a button on a smartphone application, the car obeys in returning to the garage entrance. The garage, said the report, had laser systems that map the environment in 3-D, so that special cars with radar and wireless receivers could make their way through the garage while navigating past other cars, sense an open spot, pull in, and shut off the motor. The report said it would take more time to perfect and implement the technology. Play The procedure is then reversed. (When you need the vehicle you send a command to the phone that you want to pick the vehicle up. The vehicle proceeds to navigate itself through the parking lot to the designated area; you pick it up and drive off.)Volvo said the system is such that existing parking lots could be used, so that investment costs in infrastructure would be lower. Autonomous parking and platooning technologies are in development, said Volvo. But, as of now, Volvo is saying they are the first car manufacturer in the world, according to the video, to show a prototype of a self-parking car that interacts with other road users.last_img read more

Study reveals traits and evolutionary history of carnivorous bats

first_imgA Common Vampire Bat, Desmodus rotundus, feeding on an animal. Showcase of taxidermied animals, Natural History Museum, Vienna. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY 3.0 © 2016 Study in bats and rodents offers insights on how viruses spread across species More information: Sharlene E. Santana et al. Go big or go fish: morphological specializations in carnivorous bats, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0615AbstractSpecialized carnivory is relatively uncommon across mammals, and bats constitute one of the few groups in which this diet has evolved multiple times. While size and morphological adaptations for carnivory have been identified in other taxa, it is unclear what phenotypic traits characterize the relatively recent evolution of carnivory in bats. To address this gap, we apply geometric morphometric and phylogenetic comparative analyses to elucidate which characters are associated with ecological divergence of carnivorous bats from insectivorous ancestors, and if there is morphological convergence among independent origins of carnivory within bats, and with other carnivorous mammals. We find that carnivorous bats are larger and converged to occupy a subset of the insectivorous morphospace, characterized by skull shapes that enhance bite force at relatively wide gapes. Piscivorous bats are morphologically distinct, with cranial shapes that enable high bite force at narrow gapes, which is necessary for processing fish prey. All animal-eating species exhibit positive allometry in rostrum elongation with respect to skull size, which could allow larger bats to take relatively larger prey. The skull shapes of carnivorous bats share similarities with generalized carnivorans, but tend to be more suited for increased bite force production at the expense of gape, when compared with specialized carnivorans.Press release Skulls from an insectivorous bat (top), a carnivorous bat (middle) and a fish-eating bat (bottom). Credit: Sharlene Santana Bats hold a special place among the creatures of the world, at least from the perspective of us humans, throughout history we have been both frightened and mesmerized by their ways. But until now, it has not been clear what sorts of evolutionary changes they have gone through that has allowed some species to become carnivorous—eating such prey as rodents, frogs, birds, lizards and a few even dine on other bats. To learn more about the adaptations that have occurred that allowed for this change in diet, the research pair gained access to 140 bat skulls representing 35 species and proceeded to study them using geometric morphometrics—where spatial landmarks are used to note features independent of the overall size of the object under study.In looking at their data, the researchers discovered that carnivorous bats are on average bigger than non-meat eating bats, and they also tend to have longer snouts, which likely make it easier to take down prey. It would also allow for closing the jaw faster, the researchers noted, a good skill to have when trying to grab an animal that is attempting to flee. The researchers also found that one group of carnivorous bats stood out from the others—those that eat fish. Regardless of location, they all tended to have slightly shorter and wider snouts which typically projected slightly upwards—adaptations that would make it easier to catch and hold onto a slippery wet fish. What the researchers found most striking was the similarity in adaptations—species that had been separated by millions of years of evolution and who lived in vastly different environments, tended to have the same adaptations to allow them to catch and eat other animals. They noted too some similarities between carnivorous bats and other meat eaters, such as bears, dogs and especially weasels, which like the bats, tend to eat animals that are larger than they are. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Journal information: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (—A pair of researchers with the University of Washington has found similarities between different types of carnivorous bats compared to those that are insectivores or those that eat fruit, nectar or of course blood. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Sharlene Santana and Elena Cheung describe their study and analysis of multiple species of bats and what they found by doing so. Citation: Study reveals traits and evolutionary history of carnivorous bats (2016, May 11) retrieved 18 August 2019 from Explore furtherlast_img read more

Testing the advantage of being lefthanded in sports

first_img Journal information: Biology Letters Explore further Credit: CC0 Public Domain (—Sports scientist Florian Loffing with the Institute of Sport Science, University of Oldenburg in Germany has conducted a study regarding the possibility of left-handed athletes having an advantage over their right-handed counterparts. In his paper published in the journal Biology Letters, Loffing describes assembling data on athletes from several sports, analyzed it and found what he describes as a pattern. Citation: Testing the advantage of being left-handed in sports (2017, November 22) retrieved 18 August 2019 from © 2017 Phys.orgcenter_img More information: Florian Loffing. Left-handedness and time pressure in elite interactive ball games, Biology Letters (2017). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0446AbstractAccording to the fighting hypothesis, frequency-dependent selection gives relatively rarer left-handers a competitive edge in duel-like contests and is suggested as one mechanism that ensured the stable maintenance of handedness polymorphism in humans. Overrepresentation of left-handers exclusively in interactive sports seems to support the hypothesis. Here, by referring to data on interactive ball sports, I propose that a left-hander’s advantage is linked to the sports’ underlying time pressure. The prevalence of left-handers listed in elite rankings increased from low (8.7%) to high (30.39%) time pressure sports and a distinct left-hander overrepresentation was only found in the latter (i.e. baseball, cricket and table tennis). This indicates that relative rarity and the interactive nature of a contest are not sufficient per se to evoke a left-hander advantage. Refining the fighting hypothesis is suggested to facilitate prediction and experimental verification of when and why negative frequency-dependent selection may benefit left-handedness. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Some people believe that being left-handed confers an advantage for athletes—they are ranked more often on top athlete lists than statistics would suggest. Only 10 percent of people are left-handed, yet there are many famous left-handed athletes such as Wayne Gretzky, Lou Gehrig, Oscar De La Hoya and Martina Navratilova. Interestingly, it seems that this is an area of research that few have studied. To fill that void, Loffing conducted a study designed to offer more than an opinion on the matter. He collected stats on the top 100 left-handed athletes in six major sports for the period 2009 to 2014: tennis, table tennis, squash, cricket, baseball and badminton. He then compared them to one another based on handedness.After some number crunching, Loffing reports that he found a pattern—in sports where there is a short time constraint, lefties appeared to excel. He found, for example, that just 9 percent of the top 100 players in slower time-response sports, such as squash, were left-handed. In sharp contrast, 30 percent of the top players in sports like baseball (at least for pitchers) were lefties. One sport, table tennis, which is possibly the fastest competitive sport of all, stood out—Loffing reports that 26 percent of the top male players are lefties. In general, he found that sports with short response times like baseball, table tennis and cricket were 2.6 times as likely to have top lefties.In light of his conclusions, Loffing wonders if being lefty offered early humans an advantage—the element of surprise in fights with other humans or even animals might have made a difference. That might explain, he suggests, why left-handedness has not evolved away, pointing out that some prior research by others has shown that there is a higher rate of left-handedness in traditional warlike societies. Shedding light on southpaws: Sports data help confirm theory explaining left-handed minority in general populationlast_img read more

Selfdomesticating mice show changes similar to intentionally domesticated animals

first_img In 2002, a group of researchers embarked on a long-term study of the behavior of common mice and disease transmission. To that end, they trapped several specimens and let them go in a special barn—one with doors small enough to keep out predators. The researchers also offered plenty of food and water, an enticement to stay. Over the next several years, the population of mice grew and the researchers got to study them. Then, in 2006, one of the researchers noticed that the mice had begun developing small patches of white fur, something unknown in the wild. As time passed, more of the mice sported the peculiar white patches. By 2016, the team reports, the number of mice with the white patches had doubled. Curious at the change, the team took a closer look and found that head size had changed, as well—becoming smaller by 3.5 percent on average, mostly due to shorter snouts.The shorter snout was notable because it was a feature also reported by a team that famously conducted a study of captive foxes back in the 1950s in Siberia. The foxes were not deliberately tamed, but the researchers only allowed those with the most tame traits to breed. Over multiple generations, several physical changes occurred, including the development of shorter snouts, curly tails and floppy ears—making the foxes look more like domesticated dogs. A century before, Charles Darwin had named such changes “domestication syndrome.”The results reported by the team in Switzerland suggest that the same type of domestication changes can occur even when the animals domesticate themselves. Currently, the exact mechanism behind such changes is not known, though some in the field have suggested it is likely tied to the neural crest, a group of cells involved in early development. More information: Madeleine Geiger et al. A longitudinal study of phenotypic changes in early domestication of house mice, Royal Society Open Science (2018). DOI: 10.1098/rsos.172099AbstractSimilar phenotypic changes occur across many species as a result of domestication, e.g. in pigmentation and snout size. Experimental studies of domestication have concentrated on intense and directed selection regimes, while conditions that approximate the commensal and indirect interactions with humans have not been explored. We examine long-term data on a free-living population of wild house mice that have been indirectly selected for tameness by regular exposure to humans. In the course of a decade, this mouse population exhibited significantly increased occurrence of white patches of fur and decreased head length. These phenotypic changes fit to the predictions of the ‘domestication syndrome’. Credit: CC0 Public Domain © 2018 This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Journal information: Royal Society Open Sciencecenter_img Explore further Citation: Self-domesticating mice show changes similar to intentionally domesticated animals (2018, March 7) retrieved 18 August 2019 from Russian geneticist repeats dog domestication with foxes in just fifty years A large team of researchers working over a period of 15 years in Switzerland has found that self-domesticating mice tend to evolve in ways similar to some animals that are intentionally domesticated by humans. In their paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the group describes their project and their findings.last_img read more

HMC forms high power committee to monitor work against vectorborne diseases

first_imgKolkata: Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) has formed a high power monitoring committee for better execution of work to check vector-borne diseases.The committee is headed by Mayor Dr Rathin Chakraborty, while commissioner Bijin Krishna is the convenor.The other members of the committee include Bhaskar Bhattacharjee, Member Mayor-in-Council (Health) and senior officials of all the concerned departments.In a bid to ensure checking of vector-borne diseases in all the 66 wards of HMC, the authorities have taken proactive steps and the committee has been formed to make sure that all the necessary tasks are carried out at the right time. Also Read – Heavy rain hits traffic, flightsThere will be at least one meeting of the committee in a week, in which there will be discussions on different related issues. Bhattacharjee said: “The main task of the committee would be to ensure timely completion of all projects and its meeting will be held soon.” It may be mentioned that there are 80,000 health workers of HMC who visit door-to-door on a regular basis and collect information to know if there is anyone who is suffering from high fever. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Merc, 2 B’deshi bystanders killedThe health workers report immediately to the concerned officials, in case they find anyone suffering from any vector-borne disease. The officials take all necessary steps to ensure that no more people from the area suffer from the diseases.At the same time, the civic body has a rapid action team that works to carry out necessary tasks at major institutions. Presence of a separate team to work in these places ensures that the workers who are deployed at respective wards, can continue with their work in a specific place, without getting disturbed. The high level monitoring committee will assess the work that will be undertaken every week and accordingly, necessary decisions will be taken if any changes are required.It may be mentioned that there is a separate committee for each district, headed by the respective district magistrates. But HMC has now formed its own high level monitoring committee, to ensure that residents of its 66 wards do not have to suffer from vector-borne diseases. It may be recalled that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier held a high level meeting at Nabanna over the issue and directed all concerned authorities to take necessary measures in this regard. Accordingly, all the authorities have taken the necessary measures and now, HMC has formed the high level monitoring committee.last_img read more

Matter of pride

first_imgAchyuta Samanta, social activist and reformer from India, was honoured with Isa Award for Service to Humanity, a top civilian award of the Kingdom of Bahrain, on June 3. Samanta received a certificate of appreciation, a gold medal and cash prize from King Hamad of Bahrain.  The honour is in recognition of Samanta’s humanitarian work, said Deputy Premier and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the award, Shaikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa. This award is given every two years to individuals or organisations whose selfless actions produced long-term benefit to the general public, enhanced efforts in finding solutions to humanitarian and social problems and issues, and adopted creative ideas and theories to raise the standard of life. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’Samanta has been working for the uplift of poorest of the poor indigenous community in Odisha for the last two and a half decades. His passion led him to establish Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), a free residential institute for 25,000 tribal children. He also founded KIIT, a group of professional institutes, to make this social enterprise sustainable through a unique and innovative financial model.  The award is named after the Late Amir Shaik Isa Bin Salman-Al Khalifa, former ruler of Bahrain. The recipient of the award is chosen by an expert panel representing each continent chaired by Swede Jan Paulsson, while the board chairman is Deputy Premier Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa. A jury member Mohammed Bensaissa of Marroco put on record, “Dr Samanta is the most worthy candidate, because he has overcome so many obstacles to help the community”.last_img read more

Threeday Chinese film festival in Kolkata

first_imgKolkata: The Chinese consulate in Kolkata, in cooperation with Nandan – the culture hub of Bengal – is set to organize a three-day film festival here. Seven Chinese films, including action-adventure comedy ‘Kung Fu Yoga’, martial arts flick ‘Tai Chi Hero’ and fantasy-drama ‘Rest On Your Shoulder’ will be screened at the festival from August 11 to 13, a statement issued by the consulate said yesterday. “The film fest is part of the on-going effort of the Chinese consulate to increase understanding of China in Kolkata and Eastern India and promote cultural exchanges between the countries,” it said. The tickets for the fest will be available for free at Nandan Complex from today. “After the screening of each film, there will be a short quiz contest and souvenirs will be given to the one who gives the right answer. The consulate will also host a film review session for the audience,” the statement added.last_img read more

Traffic violators beware Offenders can now land in jail for up to

first_imgKolkata: Kolkata Police has lodged First Information Reports (FIRs) against 46 habitual offenders, who have either violated traffic rules or were involved in over-speeding. Most of these offenders have violated traffic rules more than ten times and a handful of them have erred more than 20 times.”In the last two months, we have identified as many as 46 habitual offenders. They had to spend a night behind bars before getting bail from the court the next day. Their licences have been seized and cancelled for a period of three months,” a senior official of Kolkata Police’s traffic department said. Also Read – Rain batters Kolkata, cripples normal lifeKolkata Police has been implementing Section 279 of IPC in the harshest possible way to curb rash driving. Section 279 of IPC under the recent Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill empowers the law enforcers to arrest a person who violates traffic rules or indulges in over-speeding on more than three occasions.Previously, they used to get away by paying fines. The highest punishment under Section 279 of IPC can lead to imprisonment for six months.Kolkata Police has identified these offenders on the basis of speedometers and closed circuit TV cameras installed on a number of roads in the city. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Mercedes car in Kolkata, 2 pedestrians killedIt has been learnt that the department has made a list of around 100 vehicles that have frequently indulged in rash driving or violated traffic rules. The limit for four wheelers on city roads should not be more than 60 km per hour while that for two wheelers should be not more than 50 km per hour.The police have also introduced a system of sending instant SMS for traffic violation to vehicle owners at some important thoroughfares in the city. “We are gathering all possible evidences to ensure that those drivers who turn a blind eye to traffic rules and regulations with hands on the steering are punished as per law,” a traffic department official said.last_img read more

Turning off email app on phone can make an individual happy

first_imgIf reducing stress is on your mind, turning off the e-mail app on your phone can be an easy and inexpensive way to bring happiness back into your life, new research suggests.E-mail can simultaneously be a great communication tool and a source of frustration and stress, the findings showed.In a survey of around 2,000 people, London-based London-based Future Work Centre found that people who automatically receive e-mail on their devices are more likely to report higher levels of e-mail pressure. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’The study also pointed out that checking e-mail earlier in the morning or later at night is associated with higher levels of email pressure. “People who reported higher levels of e-mail pressure also experienced greater interference between work and home – and home and work,” the report said.However, how much e-mail pressure you feel and the extent to which it interferes with your work-life balance may depend on your personality.“Our research shows that e-mail is a double-edged sword. Whilst it can be a valuable communication tool, it is clear that it is a source of stress of frustration for many of us,” said lead author Richard MacKinnon, insight director, Future Work Centre, was quoted as saying by Daily Mail. Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with Netflix“The people who reported it being most useful to them also reported the highest levels of email pressure,” MacKinnon noted.Managers experience significantly higher levels of e-mail pressure when compared to non-managers, the results of the survey showed.“But the habits we develop, the emotional reactions we have to messages and the unwritten organisational etiquette around e-mail, combine into a toxic source of stress which could be negatively impacting our productivity and wellbeing,” MacKinnon said.last_img read more

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