books-to-order goes retail | science and technology news at
abelard's home latest changes & additions at link to document abstracts link to short briefings documents quotations at, with source document where relevant click for abelard's child education zone economics and money zone at - government swindles and how to transfer money on the net latest news headlines at abelard's news and comment zone
socialism, sociology, supporting documents described Loud music and hearing damage Architectural wonders and joys at about abelard and visit abelard's gallery Energy - beyond fossil fuels France zone at - another France

news and comment
science and technology

article archives at abelard's news and comment zone topic archives: science and technology

for previously archived news article pages, visit the news archive page (click on the button above)

New translation, the Magna Carta

site map

This page helpful?
Share it ! Like it !

books-to-order goes retail

Expresso Book Machine. Image credit: On Demand Books
Iimage credit: On Demand Books

“The first Espresso Book Machine ("the EBM") was installed and demonstrated today at the New York Public Library's Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL).”

Large, expensive machinery of this type has been available for many years. As the technology improves and the prices plummet, It looks like this sort of system is coming into the range of libraries and retail bookshops. It should now rapidly move to a situation where you may browse online and order a local print machine to produce a copy which you may pick up without the need for postal services and warehousing.

the web address for the article above is




what is a w.i.g.? a flying ship

Enthusiast’s site for a possible transport form.

  • Small WIG boats are less efficient than big ones and are even more sensitive to weather conditions.
    [WIG is an abbreviation of Wing In Ground-effect]

Wig 'plane boat. Image credit:

“The potential high fuel efficiency of WIG boats will be achieved with very large boats only. Smaller boats must cruise at higher relative heights in order to clear the waves, consequently the fuel efficiency of a small WIG boat will be very similar to that of a regional aircraft. Fortunately the operational cost of WIG boats do not consist of fuel cost only. Other contributions are maintenance, capital, crew and insurance. This is where the real advantage of small WIG boats over short-haul aircraft lies. Due to the marine nature of WIG boats they can be built and maintained much cheaper than aircraft which have to comply with FAA regulations. Also crew training is much less demanding, therefore crew cost will also be less.”

  • WIG boats can fulfill the need for increased speed of marine transport and may thus fill the gap between shipping and aviation.
  • WIG boats achieve high speeds while still maintaining high efficiency, especially when compared to other high speed marine craft.
  • Due to the marine nature of WIG boats their operating cost are low as compared to aircraft.
  • The infrastructural requirements for WIG boats are very low, any existing port is sufficient.
  • Especially in a wavy sea the comfort level in cruise is very high as compared to other high speed marine craft.

On the other hand WIG boats do have their limitations:

  • WIG boats are sensitive to weather conditions such as wave height and wind speed.
  • WIG technology is not mature yet, so initial WIG boats will not be able to fulfill all the promises.
    [Quoted from]

I wouldn’t like to see the media circus if a large passenger version of these flipped over mid-Atlantic.

Link from ‘brimstone’.

related material
On lift to drag ratio.

the web address for the article above is

on empty hives

“[...] if Sherlock Holmes, expert in crime scene deductions, were to turn his attention to predicting crimes rather than solving them, how would he have fared? [...]

“Navigational Hindrances: There was also a misconstrued study on cellphone radiation and its effects on the bees ability to navigate - which turned out to be an over-zealous knee-jerk reaction by The Independent (see more on this here). Some have also mentioned other navigational hindrances such as UV radiation, shifting magnetic fields and even quantum physics.” [with links to more.]

“And, again, when considering the plight of the bee - letís remove our blinders, and look around a little more. How are other creatures (some of them also pollinators, like butterflies and birds) being affected by our pesticides, our mechanisation, and our specialist systems? We focus on the honeybee only because of its direct and immediate threat to our livelihoods, and indeed our food supply - but, thereís a whole other world out there thatís suffering under our (mis)management. Weíre just not paying attention.”

“It is an unfortunate consequence of benign indifference to the precarious nature of an overwhelming reliance on a single species that few alternative actively managed species are currently available for use. And despite evidence of their efficacy as crop pollinators, wild species are not being exploited to any significant extent. While efforts to monitor honey bees are inadequate, efforts to monitor the status of wild pollinators in North America are essentially non existent... There is reliable evidence that some North American pollinator species have gone extinct, become locally extirpated, or have declined in number. At least two bumble bee species, one of which is a crop pollinator, could face imminent extinction, and several other pollinators have declined significantly. For some species, there is no evidence of population decline because their populations have never been monitored over time; there is seldom a historical baseline with which contemporary data can be compared.

“The committee noted that, while systematic, thorough monitoring programs in Europe have revealed dramatic declines in native pollinator abundance and diversity, there are no comparable North American programs [...]” [Quoted from]

With much discussion of varying quality.

marker at

“[...] "If the Americans are looking for an explanation for colony collapse disorder, perhaps they should look at herbicides, pesticides and they should especially think about genetically modified drops," said Stefan Kimmel, a graduate student who co-authored the study last year with Kuhn and other professors... "Itís not my fault if people misinterpret our data." said Kimmel. "Ever since The Independent wrote their article, for which they never called or wrote to us, none of us have been able to do any of our work because all our time has been spent in phone calls and e-mails trying to set things straight. This is a horror story for every researcher to have your study reduced to this. Now we are trying to force things back to normal.” [From Herald Tribune, quoted in]

Another fossil media newspaper - the falsely named ‘Independent’ - tries to spread mis-information, hysteria and panic over one of the many insect pollinators of crops.

marker at

“The speculation about the bees and cellphones heightened when reports that colony collapse disorder had reached Britain and several other European countries. The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs squashed speculation regarding Britain. The mortality rate among bees has been 22 percent so far this year in Britain, compared with 15 percent last year, though the results are not yet significant because only 2,000 colonies have been inspected out of about 25,000, said Abbie Sampson, a senior press officer with the DEFRA.” [Quoted in]

marker at

what is colony collapse disorder?

“IT IS a mystery that would tax the minds of the world's greatest detectives. Across America beekeepers are finding hives abandoned. What appear to be normal, healthy adults suddenly disappear within two days, leaving their queen, their food stores and the young. In the past, a mass exodus would leave the hive to be ransacked by honeybees from neighbouring colonies. This time, not only is the retreat more common, but nearby bees seem strangely reluctant to enter the abandoned hives. There are no dead bodies, but scientists who have studied the corpses of the occasional remaining live adult report that they are ravaged by disease.

“Because the living bees that the scientists were able to study carried almost every virus and parasite known to infect honeybees, researchers are working on the idea that the insects' immune systems have failed. Reducing the body's ability to fight disease allows infection by a host of pathogens. But exactly why this should happen is unclear.”

related material
on bee colony collapse

the web address for the article above is

tech toy, sophisticated engineering

The mystical theme of this watch is the contrast between a ‘deterministic’ mechanism and a ‘random’ mechanism.

Slot-machine integrated into watch.

The Girard Perregaux ‘1945 Jackpot Tourbillon’ is a limited edition watch with one-arm bandit action. It is being introduced this week at the Geneva SIHH show.

The miniaturized mechanical slot machine has 125 random positions and only one jackpot position - three liberty bells. The chime strikes as each wheel stops spinning.

The watch also has a window to allow you to admire the tourbillon mechanism.

1945 Jackpot Tourbillon watch 
without its case, showing the one-arm bandit and the tourbillon mechanisms.
1945 Jackpot Tourbillon watch.   1945 Jackpot Tourbillon watch without its case, showing the one-arm bandit and the tourbillon mechanisms.

The Tourbillon Principle
“The purpose of the tourbillon is to compensate for the effects of gravity on a mechanical watch. When it is in a vertical position, a mechanical watch’s regulating organ - the balance, balance spring and escapement - undergoes imperceptible errors of rate with each oscillation, due to the effects of gravity.

“By housing the regulating mechanism in a cage rotating on its own axis, generally once a minute, a variety of vertical positions results, which compensate for each other, producing a very constant average rate and extreme running precision.

“The first tourbillon with three gold bridges dates from 1889.”

Watch lead from

end note

Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie - International Exhibition of Superior Horology. The 17th edition is being held at Geneva this week, the 16th to 21st April 2007.

the web address for the article above is

deconstructing psychic ‘science’ - the auroran sunset

A true-believer asked a scientist “how do you prove photography to a blind man?”, because obviously, just as with psychic ‘science’, “you can’t know if you have never experienced it directly”. The scientist responded:

“It took me about ten seconds to think of a way to show he was wrong. This is what I said. Give the blind man a camera, a tripod and a remote shutter release. (Ideally the camera is a Polaroid, or a digital with an instant picture facility.) Everyone leaves the room but the blind man. He takes a picture of himself, and holds up a number of fingers (1 to 5) at random. The sighted person comes back into the room, looks at the picture and says "you were holding up X fingers". If he gets the right number, and continues to do so every time this experiment is performed, the blind man will eventually conclude that photography is real.”

The scientist then extended the damning analogy:

“My first question was, if you did this 1,000 times, and the sighted person got the correct number of fingers (say) 225 times out of 1,000 (where pure chance would be 200 times), would the blind man believe that this "anomaly" was proof of photography? Wouldn't he expect nearly 1,000 correct out of 1,000? What if when the controls were tightened, the result was reduced to close to 200 correct - pure chance? What if the sighted person was found to have cheated?

“What if the blind man had to do a drawing and hold it up in front of the camera, instead of his fingers? The sighted person had to write down what he thought the drawing was of, and then a judge got to grade the description based on the photograph of the drawing? Say the blind man drew a circle and the sighted person thought it was a tree, and the judge rated that 7 out of 10 because a tree is roughly circular? Would the blind man be convinced?”

And on and on, with many links to examples of the pseudo-science being mocked. That blog seems to be dedicated to debunking pseudo-science.

the web address for the article above is

new product: twitchers’ delight - handheld birds

  • Handheld Birds PDA from National Geographic Society 850+ North American birds
    • name
    • size
    • colour
    • location
    • habitat
    • voice
    • foraging
    • similar species
  • 1600+ bird images
  • 650- range maps
  • more screen shots from Handheld Birds PDA from National Geographic Society4- hours bird songs and calls
  • eBird checklist for logging sightings
    (download it to your desktop computer and upload to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to participate in their Citizen Science Research Project.)
  • US$500 - “Handheld Birds” PDA - PalmOne Tungsten E2, bundled with software card
  • US$250 - National Geographic bird recognition software card

Over-priced, but I might be tempted with European wild flora in this format.

the web address for the article above is

constructal theory

“Resistances cannot be minimized individually and indiscriminately, because of constraints: space is limited, streams must connect components, and components must fit inside the greater system. Resistances compete against each other. The route to improvements in global performance is by balancing the reductions in the competing resistances. This amounts to spreading the entropy generation rate through the system in an optimal way, so that the total irreversibility is reduced. Optimal spreading is achieved by properly sizing, shaping and positioning the components. Optimal spreading means geometry and geography. In the end, the geometric system-its architecture-emerges as a result of global, integrative optimization.

“This method was developed first for heat flow, with application to the cooling of heat-generating volumes (e.g., packages of electronics) by using concentrated heat sinks and small amounts of high-conductivity insert material. The resulting structures were tree-shaped paths of high-conductivity material. Most fundamental was the geometric form 'tree' deduced from principle. The tree structure unifies the extremely wide class of engineered and natural flows that connect an infinity of points (volume, area) to one or more discrete points (sources, sinks). Natural examples are the river basins and deltas, lungs, vascularized tissues, lightning, botanical trees, and leaves. Manmade flows shaped as trees are found in the cooling systems of electronics packages and windings of electric machines, finned surfaces, regenerative heat exchangers, routes for minimum-time and minimum-cost transportation, and networks for the collection and distribution of electricity, water and sewage. All these examples (fields, really) belong under one theoretical umbrella-constructal theory-as shown in a new book.”

diagrams using constructal theory

An example with several illustrations using the method for heatsink design at IBM.

marker at

Shape and Structure, from Engineering to Nature

by Adrian Bejan

Cambridge University Press, 2000,
ISBN-10: 0521793882
ISBN-13: 978-0521793889

$46.80 [] {advert}

£33.25 [] {advert}

Shape and structure

I may even persuade myself to read the book!

the web address for the article above is

miniaturization breakthrough claimed

“SAN JOSE, California: In duelling announcements, Intel Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. separately say they have solved a puzzle perplexing the semiconductor industry about how to reduce energy loss in microchip transistors as the technology shrinks to the atomic scale.

“Each company said it has devised a way to replace problematic but vital materials in the transistors of computer chips that have begun leaking too much electric current as the circuitry on those chips gets smaller.

“Technology experts said it is the most dramatic overhaul of transistor technology for computer chips since the 1960s and is crucial in allowing semiconductor companies to continue making ever-smaller devices that are also energy-efficient.”

Here (page 2, page 3) is a more technical and thorough article on the Intel breakthrough, along with some explanation of AMD/IBM work. This (page 2), from the same site, gives details of similar AMD/IBM work, along with a clear explanation of the technical jargon:

“Semiconductor lithography is the process of applying materials atop one another in layers, whose product will be an electronic mechanism. Imagine if you were building a marble run by only applying multiple coats of paint atop one another to create the fences and gates. With semiconductors, the materials you use for the layering help channel those electron "marbles" where you want them to go by way of leveraging their insulating characteristics, or what's called their dielectric properties. A better insulator -- one that's more resistant to current -- makes for a better fence in that it can corral electrons into proper channels. Such a material is said to have a high-k dielectric.

“On the opposite end of the scale, IBM is working on a copper-doped compound with a low-k dielectric property, with the intention of reducing capacitance in the trenches or channels in-between the gates.

“"In transistor gate dielectrics, high-k is desirable because it gives high performance with low leakage," explained Intel's Aakre. "In interconnects, low-k is desirable as it leads to faster signal transmission times." ”

High-k makes the fences/gates stronger. Low-k makes the current travel more easily through the wires between the gates. Both property-type materials are neccessary. See the diagram above.

related material
cosmic rays interfere with electronics as miniaturisation progresses

the web address for the article above is

a cure for cancer? - the auroran sunset

“Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.”

The mitochondria - the main engines of cells - in cancer cells are apparently turned off. Mitochondria also “activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct”. The ‘new’ drug turns the mitochondria back on, something that was thought impossible until recently.

Assuming this is for real, there is more good news:

“The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.

“It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.”

As always, there is no such thing as a free lunch:

“DCA can cause pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients, but this may be a price worth paying if it turns out to be effective against all cancers.”

Human cancer patient trials pending...

the web address for the article above is

cure for mad cow disease - the auroran sunset

An interesting description of the creation of prion-free cows:

“Scientists said yesterday that they have used genetic engineering techniques to produce the first cattle that may be biologically incapable of getting mad cow disease.

“The animals, which lack a gene that is crucial to the disease's progression, were not designed for use as food. They were created so that human pharmaceuticals can be made in their blood without the danger that those products might get contaminated with the infectious agent that causes mad cow.”

But was there really any point in the first place?!

“Until December 2003, mad cow disease had never been found in American cattle. That made the pristine U.S. herd an ideal resource for companies that extract blood and other products from cattle for use in human pharmaceuticals.

“Later, two other BSE-infected animals were identified, inspiring Robl and his teammates to develop prion-free cattle.

“But policies enacted in recent years by the Agriculture Department have so reduced the risk of BSE in this country, Robl said (current estimates are that, at most, four to seven cases might be found if all 42 million head of U.S. cattle were to be tested) that it may not be necessary for Hematech to use prion-free cattle as it strives to make potent, disease-killing antibodies in cattle for use in humans with life-threatening infections.”

the web address for the article above is