Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

Given that this is the happiest day of the year, there’s no pressing need for today’s edition of FHB. But just in case you’re in the mood to gild the lily, I have a bunch of stories about cars, engines, and roads.

In Scotland, there’s interesting talk of creating a road energy system:

The system takes advantage of heat absorbed by tarmac, to convert roads and other tarred areas into solar panels. It generates energy to cool buildings and roads in summer and heat them in winter. Other benefits include not having to salt roads in winter, halving maintenance to tarmac and reducing emissions….

The road system works by drilling two boreholes, creating two wells, one hot and one cold. Using the heat-absorption capacity of tarmac, the energy created is stored in aquifers - underground layers of rock - which can be tapped into when required.
Georgia Tech has developed a virtually emission-free combustor:
Georgia Tech researchers have developed a new combustor (the combustion chamber where fuel is burned to power an engine or gas turbine) designed to burn fuel in a wide range of devices with ultra low emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO)….

The device has a simpler design than existing state-of-the-art combustors and could be manufactured and maintained at a much lower cost, making it more affordable in everything from jet engines and power plants to home water heaters.
In related news, Treehugger is excited about something called a Quasiturbine:
The Quasiturbine, is a new concept (patented 10 years ago), that promises to revolutionize the internal combustion engine. It is said to make engines more efficient, quieter and much lighter for the same torque and horsepower abilities. It also promises to make for better compressors and pneumatic motors (refrigeration, heat pumps, stirling engines, steam turbines).
This site offers a fascinating explanation of how quasiturbines work, complete with attractive animations.

DuPont claims to have developed a new bio-polymer for automobile refinishing:
The new coatings—which may be available by 2008—will be made using renewably sourced intermediate ingredients that are biodegradable and virtually non-toxic.
DuPont is the world’s largest supplier of these products, so if this is on the level, it’ll be a fairly big deal.

The same goes for UPS’s new fleet of trucks:
The new system replaces a truck's transmission with hydraulics and that, combined with a low-emission diesel engine, yields a 60 percent to 70 percent saving on fuel use.
In non-automotive news, the situation with the giant panda is not quite as bad as scientists thought. It turns out that there about 3,000 of them; previous estimates put their population at about 1,000.

Also, a new system for conducting virtual clinical trials may reduce the need for animal testing:
[T]hanks to Israeli bio-simulation company, Optimata, drug-developers can now bypass some of the development stages. Using a virtual computerized patient that mimics a human being's biological processes (created by complex mathematical parameters), Optimata can help predict drug toxicity and efficacy well-before drugs are used on animal models (a polite word for saying experimentations on lab rats and monkeys).
This site tells you how different cultures represent the sounds of common animals (Estonian ducks favor the evocative phrase “prääks prääks”). Bat calls aren’t represented, but that oversight is more than made up for by the Pacific Northwest Bat Call Library.

The bioacoustic artist David Dunn has released an amazing new CD called The Sound of Light in Trees: The Acoustic Ecology of Pinyon Pines:
[H]is recordings were often able to identify population booms before pheromone traps, the previously accepted best method. But in addition to simply finding what trees had active bark beetle populations, Dunn found himself captivated by the variety of sounds being made by the little invaders. As he explains in the extensive liner notes (and as explicated in more detail on the associated online material), bark beetles have a complex acoustic repertoire, one that deserves further scrutiny by bark beetle biologists and forest ecologists.
You can listen to samples and view sonograms here. You may also want to have a look at this exhibition by the avant-garde entomologist Irene Moon and friends, or browse through the incredible back-issue archive of Cultural Entomology Digest (I recommend starting with the Butterfly Alphabet).

No comments: