Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

While there’s been some furious debate lately about the doings at Oak Ridge National Lab, I hope we can all agree that this is a pretty good idea:

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a four-foot wide solar collector that is mounted atop a building to collect sunlight and focus it into bundles of plastic fiber optics. This light is piped into the building, where hybrid fixtures fitted with diffusion rods spread the light in all directions. One solar collector can power up to 12 hybrid fixtures, producing enough light to illuminate 1,000 square feet.
Stirling engines are on the march:
Infinia, a company based in Kennewick, Washington, plans to release a Stirling solar dish about the size of a large satellite TV receiver. Instead of using photovoltaic cells, it will use the sun's heat to generate electricity. Standard solar photovoltaic panels are generally 12 percent to 15 percent efficient at converting light to electricity, though some can go up to 22 percent. Infinia's planned 3-kilowatt Stirling engine will operate at 24 percent efficiency.
Some Bay Area cities are lowering their outrageous permit fees for solar installations; the fees are now merely stupid and counterproductive, instead of corrupt. Still, it’s progress!

Solar-powered ice cream has a nice ring to it. But not as nice as this:
Researchers found that moderate amounts of alcohol – amounts equivalent to a couple of drinks a day for a human – improved the memories of laboratory rats.
Glad tidings indeed. Speaking of which...what was I going to talk about next? Can't seem to recall. Hold on a moment...

There now, thash muxh beterer. You go aheda an read this while I lied own for a munite:
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia can now detect the spread of skin cancer cells through the blood by literally listening to their sound. The unprecedented, minimally invasive technique causes melanoma cells to emit noise, and could let oncologists spot early signs of metastases -- as few as 10 cancer cells in a blood sample -- before they even settle in other organs.
[Insert obligatory joke about Paris Hilton’s album here.]

WorldChanging reports on a new phone-accessible database that helps villagers in Bangladesh drill arsenic-free wells:
To access the database, a user sends a series of short messages to pinpoint their location based on either village name or geographic coordinates. Using data from previously drilled wells in the vicinity, the database calculates the safe start depth for the well at which arsenic concentrations are not likely to be toxic. The database also reports the probability of finding arsenic-free water at a certain depth.
Also from WC, a wonderful story about an Irish town that’s trying to reinvent itself, as the result of a plan devised by local students. If you’ve forgotten what democracy and common sense look like, this story may cheer you up. In a somewhat similar vein, check out this story on the community-wide effects of foreclosures, and what several groups are doing to prevent them.

In last week’s FHB comments, I was promoting radiolarians as an ideal Friday blogging life form. For more details, I direct you to I also recommend a visit to the Micropolitan Museum of Microscopic Art Forms, whence comes this incredible image of “Scaly Hairs of Elaeagnus illuminated with polarised light.”

(Photo at top via Pruned.)


Nanette said...

Ice cream. yum.

Their solution made me think of this past summer and the small, family owned convience stores. All the ones I visited or drove past had their doors open, even when it was in the triple digits, probably because of the AC costs. I have no idea how the Health Dept didn't shut half of them down, but still.

Anyway, I doubt they own the buildings their stores are in, but it would be cool if there was some sort of program (sponsorships, even, like with the ice cream shop) to get places like that and other smaller businesses outfitted with solar panels. Or something.

Of course, it would be rather more neccesary than not to keep an ice cream parlor cool, I guess.

Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia can now detect the spread of skin cancer cells through the blood by literally listening to their sound.

I wonder if that is also how the dogs do it? Or at least in part... I know they are (or at least some of them) supposed to be able to smell cancer and other illnesses and pinpoint the spot, but with their hearing... ,who knows. Well, I'm sur somebody knows, but not me.

Also from WC, a wonderful story about an Irish town that’s trying to reinvent itself, as the result of a plan devised by local students.

Great story... will be interesting to see how much they've done, and how they've refined things over the next 15 (or whatever it was) years.

I remember seeing a news story (or maybe something on PBS, am not sure) of one Eastern European town... I'm pretty sure one that was recovering from war and its attendent destruction. Anyway, they were sort of reordering the way they did things, as a result of what they'd gone through, and also I think to save money - not in a particularly huge way, from what I remember, but some things. Like, instead of using modern farm machinery to farm, they'd use people and animals and simpler machinery - better for the environment, putting people to work and so on, but also apparently with a need to make a connection with the land.

I don't know enough about farming to know if that is something that makes sense or not, but it sounded pretty good to me.

I probably should be sad that I know so little about pop culture that I can't even imagine what Paris Hilton joke would go there... but I'm not!

Interrobang said...

Thanks for linking these articles. I bookmarked the one on the Irish village, because a friend of mine will want to see it as soon as he gets online, and I e-mailed the link to the original ZDNet story about the Stirling engines to another friend of mine, as he's long been interested in building a heat pump for his house using a Stirling engine.

Now I'm off to a pumpkin-carving party! :)