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.)

1 comment:

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! :)