Huge solar power plants bloom in desert


“Two Southern California utility companies are planning to develop a pair of sun-powered power plants that they claim will dwarf existing solar facilities and could rival fossil-fuel-driven power plants.

“Instead of using panels of photovoltaic cells — solar power’s mainstay technology for decades — Stirling Energy Systems uses 40-foot-tall curved dishes that focus the sun’s energy onto Stirling engines.

“Also called an external heat engine, the Stirling engine is a completely sealed system filled with hydrogen. Its design dates to 1816, and it’s named for its inventor, a Scottish minister named Robert Stirling. The focused solar energy, which can reach 1,350 degrees Fahrenheit, heats the hydrogen, making it expand and drive the engine’s four pistons.

“The first phase of the SoCal Edison project will be to build a 1-megawatt test site using 40 dishes, which should be complete by spring 2007. Construction on the full, 500-megawatt facility is expected to begin in mid-2008, and should take three to four years. Each dish can produce up to 25 kilowatts, and the site will eventually have 20,000 dishes stretching across 4,500 acres of desert.”

click here to read more at “wired.com” | digg story

Vaccine against tooth decay successful in animal tests

“Portuguese scientists said they had developed an experimental vaccine against tooth decay which was successful in laboratory tests on rats and could pave the way for a version that works for humans…

“‘There is still a long road to travel (for a human version). Before that experimental models which are closer to man need to be tested, namely in monkeys, and for that financing is needed,’ she told Lisbon-based TSF radio…

“The three scientists have already patented the vaccine in Portugal and are working on doing so in the United States where they are also seeking funding to further their research, Ferreira said.”

click here to read more at “breitbart.com” | digg story

Barenaked Ladies release album on USB stick

“The Barenaked Ladies are trying out a new method of music delivery: 28 songs, plus video and audio clips and a few live versions, on a 128 mb flash drive. They even say the flash drive is an easy way ‘to share music, videos, pictures and other data’–not the kind of sentiment you’d hear from most bands. The content, including the extras, looks like it will be stuff that’s been at least partlly released before–but it’s still a pretty cool idea, even if the execution could be better.”

click here to read more at “boingboing.net” | digg story

History’s worst software bugs

“Last month automaker Toyota announced a recall of 160,000 of its Prius hybrid vehicles following reports of vehicle warning lights illuminating for no reason, and cars’ gasoline engines stalling unexpectedly. But unlike the large-scale auto recalls of years past, the root of the Prius issue wasn’t a hardware problem — it was a programming error in the smart car’s embedded code. The Prius had a software bug.Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, 9 September 1945 (or 1947).

“With that recall, the Prius joined the ranks of the buggy computer — a club that began in 1945 when engineers found a moth in Panel F, Relay #70 of the Harvard Mark II system. The computer was running a test of its multiplier and adder when the engineers noticed something was wrong. The moth was trapped, removed and taped into the computer’s logbook with the words: ‘first actual case of a bug being found.’

“Sixty years later, computer bugs are still with us, and show no sign of going extinct… But which are the worst?… Here, in chronological order, is the Wired News list of the 10 worst software bugs of all time … so far.”

click here to see the list at “wired.com” | digg story

“On the Effectiveness of Aluminum Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study”

An MIT student study on the protective nature of aluminum foil helmets.

“It has long been suspected that the government has been using satellites to read and control the minds of certain citizens. The use of aluminum helmets has been a common guerrilla tactic against the government’s invasive tactics [1]. Surprisingly, these helmets can in fact help the government spy on citizens by amplifying certain key frequency ranges reserved for government use. In addition, none of the three helmets we analyzed provided significant attenuation to most frequency bands…

“The helmets amplify frequency bands that coincide with those allocated to the US government between 1.2 Ghz and 1.4 Ghz. According to the FCC, These bands are supposedly reserved for ‘radio location’ (ie, GPS), and other communications with satellites. The 2.6 Ghz band coincides with mobile phone technology. Though not affiliated by government, these bands are at the hands of multinational corporations.

“It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings.”

click here to read more at “people.csail.mit.edu” | digg story

Woman crashes into power station, killed by bees

A woman in Johannesburg, South Africa smashed her car into an electricity substation that was home to a massive bee hive. She was killed. Her husband was injured.

From Reuters:
(The hive) was 10 years old and had in excess of a million bees and they just went wild,” said Paul Nel, spokesman for Netcare 911, a private paramedic and ambulance service…

“The people managed to stumble out of the car but they were just overcome by bees,” he said.

Link [BoingBoing]

Mysteriously malfunctioning garage doors

About ten days ago, a mysterious radio signal around Ottawa, Canada began blocking the operation of hundreds of garage door openers. (Background here.) On Thursday, the garage doors began working again. From CBC News:
The powerful radio signal causing the problem stopped transmitting on Thursday afternoon, around the time CBC News contacted the U.S. Embassy to ask if it knew anything about it.

The embassy categorically denies that it had anything to do with it.

The signal was being transmitted at 390 megahertz, a U.S. military frequency used by the Pentagon’s new Land Mobile Radio System. The same frequency is used by garage doors openers, which started to malfunction around the city about almost two weeks ago. A similar problem has popped up around military bases in the States.

Link [BoingBoing]

Handheld laser gun available for purchase

“Oh boy, a Laser Ray Gun is now available for purchase from a company called Information Unlimited. This $1750 handheld shooter comes fully assembled, runs on standard AA batteries, and packs enough focused energy to blast a hole in the ‘hardest of metals.’ A set of Alkalines loads about a hundred-fifty 6,000 Watt shots with a 20 to 30 second recharge lag between blasts. Oh sure, they’ll tell you that the product is intended as an ‘advanced science project’ after digging into the details, and you’ll have to sign the ‘hazardous equipment affidavit’ before purchasing since this is a Class IV (read: highly dangerous) laser. Oh, well, we feel better now.”

click here to read more at “engadget.com” | digg story