ZeitNews TOP 10 articles in December 2011

10. Nanotech to boost solid state hydrogen storage

Hydrogen has great potential as a clean fuel source for powering our cars and airplanes, but it also poses some big hurdles – namely production, distribution infrastructure and storage. Storing hydrogen in gas or liquid form onboard a vehicle raises difficulties in terms of volume and pressurization – a hydrogen gas tank for a car would need to be around four times larger than current petroleum tanks. Another possible solution is the use of solid state hydrogen and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), along with the University of Glasgow, hope to boost this approach by developing a new storage system using materials modified at the nanoscale that receive and release the hydrogen at a faster rate.

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9. Breakthrough in Converting Heat Waste to Electricity

Researchers at Northwestern University have placed nanocrystals of rock salt into lead telluride, creating a material that can harness electricity from heat-generating items such as vehicle exhaust systems, industrial processes and equipment and sun light more efficiently than scientists have seen in the past.

The material exhibits a high thermoelectric figure of merit that is expected to enable 14 percent of heat waste to electricity, a scientific first. Chemists, physicists and material scientists at Northwestern collaborated to develop the material. The results of the study are published by the journal Nature Chemistry.

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8. Carbon-Scrubbing Artificial Trees for Boston City Streets

Trees naturally filter and clean our air, but in today’s heavily polluted world, it’s just too huge of a task to expect Mother Nature to take care of herself. Taking this into account, designers Mario Caceres and Cristian Canonico have designed a set of beautiful air-filtering trees for the SHIFTboston urban intervention contest. Called TREEPODS, the designs harnesses biomimicry to efficiently emulate the carbon filtration qualities of trees.

The TREEPOD systems are capable of removing carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen using a carbon dioxide removal process called “humidity swing,”. In addition to their air-cleansing abilities, TREEPODS will also include solar energy panels and will harvest kinetic energy through an interactive seesaw that visitors can play with at the TREEPOD’s base. As passersby play on the seesaws they power displays that explain the TREEPODS’ de-carbonization process. Both the solar panels and the kinetic energy station will power the air filtration process, as well as interior lights.

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7. World’s Largest Aquaponics Project Unveiled in UAE

Currently the UAE is estimated to import around 85% of its food which understandably leaves the country open to market fluctuations and supply chain problems. The Baniyas Centre however will be capable of producing a massive 200 tonnes of fish and 300,000heads of lettuce annually, helping to reduce reliance upon importation and to improve food security for the nation.

The fish being cultivated within the system will be the aquaponic best friend, tilapia. According to reports 50,000 juvenile fish have been imported from Holland for the project. Currently the centre is focussing on the production of lettuce although in the future the system will accommodate other produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, even okra.

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6. Living Earth Simulator will simulate the entire world

Described as a “knowledge collider,” and now with a pledge of one billion euros from the European Union, the Living Earth Simulator is a new big data and supercomputing project that will attempt to uncover the underlying sociological and psychological laws that underpin human civilization. In the same way that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider smashes together protons to see what happens, the Living Earth Simulator (LES) will gather knowledge from a Planetary Nervous System (PNS — yes, really) to try to predict societal fluctuations such as political unrest, economic bubbles, disease epidemics, and so on.

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5. Why do people defend unjust, inept, and corrupt systems?

Why do we stick up for a system or institution we live in—a government, company, or marriage—even when anyone else can see it is failing miserably? Why do we resist change even when the system is corrupt or unjust? A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, illuminates the conditions under which we're motivated to defend the status quo—a process called "system justification."

System justification isn't the same as acquiescence, explains Aaron C. Kay, a psychologist at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, who co-authored the paper with University of Waterloo graduate student Justin Friesen. "It's pro-active. When someone comes to justify the status quo, they also come to see it as what should be."

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4. Trillion-frame-per-second video

By using optical equipment in a totally unexpected way, MIT researchers have created an imaging system that makes light look slow.

MIT researchers have created a new imaging system that can acquire visual data at a rate of one trillion exposures per second. That’s fast enough to produce a slow-motion video of a burst of light traveling the length of a one-liter bottle, bouncing off the cap and reflecting back to the bottle’s bottom.

Media Lab postdoc Andreas Velten, one of the system’s developers, calls it the “ultimate” in slow motion: “There’s nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera,” he says.

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3. The deliciously eccentric story of the town growing ALL its own veg

Admittedly, it sounds like the most foolhardy of criminal capers, and one of the cheekiest, too. Outside the police station in the small Victorian mill town of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, there are three large raised flower beds. If you’d visited a few months ago, you’d have found them overflowing with curly kale, carrot plants, lettuces, spring onions — all manner of vegetables and salad leaves.

Today the beds are bare. Why? Because people have been wandering up to the police station forecourt in broad daylight and digging up the vegetables. And what are the cops doing about this brazen theft from right under their noses? Nothing Well, that’s not quite correct.

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2. The earliest stars in the Universe

Matter in the universe after the big bang consisted almost entirely of hydrogen and helium atoms. Only later, after undergoing fusion reactions in the nuclear furnaces of stars, did these light elements transform into all the other (so-called "heavy") elements that are found in the cosmos today. But astronomers know that the process of making stars, at least today, includes important roles for these heavy elements, for example helping the pre-stellar cloud collapse until the first nuclear reactions can ignite. How, then, did the first stars form, and what did subsequent generations of stars look like?

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1. IBM reveals five innovations that will change our lives in the next five years

Today IBM formally unveiled the fifth annual "Next in Five" – a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years: You'll beam up your friends in 3-D, Batteries will breathe air to power our devices, You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet, Your commute will be personalized, and Computers will help energize your city.

The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible.

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The Top 10 most popular articles were selected according to mean view count per day from December 2011.