Roland Piquepaille writes: "The Cyberknife is not a real knife. This is a robot radiotherapy machine which works with great accuracy during treatment, thanks to its robotic arm which moves around a patient when he breathes. According to BBC News, the first Cyberknife will be operational in February 2009 in London, UK. But other machines have been installed in more than 15 countries, and have permitted to treat 50,000 patients in the first semester of 2008. And the Cyberknife is more efficient than conventional radiotherapy devices. The current systems require twenty or more short sessions with low-dose radiation. On the contrary, and because it's extremely precise, a Cyberknife can deliver powerful radiation in just three sessions. Read more for additional details and references."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "You all know that agricultural crop production relies on fertilizers, such as composted waste materials. But I bet you wouldn't have thought to add human hair to animal manure to produce better and greener fertilizers. Yet, a study done by Mississippi State University researchers has shown that human hair, 'combined with additional compost, is an additional nutrient source for crops.' Apparently, barbershops and hair salons are selling human hair for a couple of years now — a fact I didn't know. Anyway, even if human hair can be used to grow some plants, 'further research is necessary to determine whether human hair waste is a viable option as fertilizer for edible crops.' Read more for additional details and references."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "A Canadian PhD student from the University of Saskatchewan has a mission: saving beer from bacterial contamination. She's a member of 'one of only two labs in the world that studies beer spoilage.' And she jokes about what she's doing: 'It's a good conversation starter. I've gone through so many years of school and I've studied medical microbiology and all this and that — and now I'm saving beer. (People) tease me about it, but they actually find it quite interesting.' But what she does is no joke, and her research has been sponsored by breweries such as Coors or Miller. Read more for additional references and a photo of the beer saviour."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "Scientific American reports that Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-based utility company, has started to test a new technology to store wind energy in batteries. The company is currently trying it in a 1,100 megawatts facility of wind turbines in Southern Minnesota. The company started this effort because 'the wind doesn't always blow and, even worse, it often blows strongest when people aren't using much electricity, like late at night.' It has received a $1 million grant from Minnesota's Renewable Development Fund and the energy plant should be operational in the first quarter of 2009. And if this project is successful, the utility expects to deploy many more energy plants before 2020 to avoid more polluting energy sources. Read more for additional details and pictures of the batteries used to store wind energy."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "Engineers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have developed fiber-based composite materials for low-cost residential coastal housing. Homes built with this material would be able to resist to a hurricane by bending instead of breaking. Other houses could 'simply float on the rising tide of a storm's coastal surge.' This 'green' technology will be tested during the next six months in Bangladesh, where the engineers will weave fibers from jute tree with plastics to form an ultra-strong building material. The research team has already created a similar composite material, but one that relies on glass fibers instead of natural tree fibers. This new material could also be used to build homes in the coastal regions of United States, including parts of Alabama and Louisiana. Read more for additional details and pictures of the fiber-based composite material used to develop future hurricane-proof homes."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "According to researchers at the University of California at San Diego, visual areas of our brain respond more to valuable objects than other ones. In other words, our brain has stronger reactions when we see a diamond ring than we look at junk. Similarly, our brain vision areas are more excited by a Ferrari than, say, a Tata new Nano car. In this holiday season, I'm sure you've received gifts that excited your brain — and others that you already want to resell on an auction site. Read more for additional details, references and a picture of hot spots showing our brain's neural activity when we're excited."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "You certainly know that eating vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage can help prevent breast cancer. Until now, the protection mechanism offered by these cruciferous vegetables was unknown. But researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara have found an explanation. Here is a quote from the lead scientist: 'These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates.' Listen to her, run to your grocery store and change the menu of your Christmas meals! Read more for additional details and references."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "Greek researchers have used online analytical processing (OLAP), a technique usually associated with financial and marketing analysis, to build the foundations for a heart attack calculator. Their model integrates 'lifestyle factors including depression, education, smoking, diet, and obesity, [which all] play a part in the risk of cardiovascular disease.' The research team said that 'their approach works much more quickly than conventional statistical analysis.' According to the leading scientist, 'due to the ease of use of the methodology, a physician has the advantage of easily identifying high-risk patients by simply entering their personal data in the model.' A question remains: will this model be freely available? Read more for additional details and references."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "According to two professors at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and smart lighting could save trillions of dollars worldwide in the next ten years. They claim that innovations in photonics and solid state lighting could also lead to 'a massive reduction in the amount of energy required to light homes and businesses around the globe.' Of course, I would be happy to fully agree with the researchers, but these benefits will only be achieved if all of the world's light bulbs are replaced with LEDs. I seriously doubt it can happen. Still, it's certain that a new generation of lighting devices based on LEDs will become available and reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. Read more for additional references and pictures showing the efficiency of various lighting technologies and how white light can be created by using several LEDs"
Roland Piquepaille writes: "An international team of researchers has started to collect imaging data on the Soufriere Hills Volcano in Montserrat which erupts regularly since 1995. They're using the equivalent of a CAT scan to understand its internal structure and how and when it erupts. Several years ago, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the CALIPSO project ('Caribbean Andesitic Lava Island Precision Seismo-geodetic Observatory'). The new experiment is dubbed SEA-CALIPSO ('Seismic Experiment with Air-gun source') and 'will use air guns and a string of sensors off the back of a research ship combined with sensors on land to try to image the magma chamber.' Early results are surprising, as said one of the leading scientists: 'The interesting thing is that much more magma is erupting than appears represented by the subsiding bowl.' Read more for many additional references and for an aerial photo of the erupting volcano on Montserrat taken two days ago."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "According to Scientific American in this short article, the U.S. Army has developed a new blast-protection adhesive tape. This X-FLEX tape would be used to coat the interior sides of exterior walls in order to absorb the shock of a blast, protecting the occupants from flying concrete and metal turned into projectiles. Of course, such a material could also be used to protect civilians. After the Mumbai attacks last month, the hotel industry might be interested in such a protection for its customers. Read more for additional details."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "Because transistors will inevitably stop to shrink in size in the future, European researchers are studying atomic-scale computing. According to ICT Results, this would allow computer processes to be carried out in a single molecule. 'In theory, atomic-scale computing could put computers more powerful than today's supercomputers in everyone's pocket.' So far, the EU-funded team has already designed a simple logic gate with 30 atoms that perform the same task as 14 transistors. The project coordinator said: 'Atomic-scale computing researchers today are in much the same position as transistor inventors were before 1947. No one knows where this will lead.' So don't expect to use a computer based on molecular components anytime soon. Read more for additional details and a picture showing the various interconnections studied by the Pico-Inside project going from atomic level to millimeter scale."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "The title of this Seattle Weekly article is so good that I'm using it for this post. In fact, the newspaper revisits the different contracts that Cray Inc. has signed with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in 2008. It says that with this $30 million commitment, Cray Inc. is helping the DoD to 'test its newest bulletproof vests, gauge the accuracy of modern missiles, and even forecast the weather on battlefields.' These contracts, which were unveiled in February 2008, concern the delivery of four XT5 massively parallel, blade-style supercomputers. One of these supercomputers is already having an upgrade: the Army Research Laboratory Major Shared Resource Center (ARL MSRC) has increased its computing capability from 100 to 200 teraflops. Read more for additional details."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "MIT researchers think that flying robots could be used to improve weather forecasts and to give people more time to prepare for the worst in case of an emergency. 'With more time for advanced planning, farmers could bring in their crop before a big storm hits. Airlines could adjust their flight schedules further in advance, reducing the impact on customers,' said one of the engineers. And the team leader added that improving weather forecasting could also save lives because 'people do get killed in these storms.' Read more for additional details."