Jul 31, 2010

Science Scene - Synthetic Blood

Perhaps ranking behind only bullets and water, blood is one of those things you really don't want to run out of on the battlefield. But better battlefield medicine mean more soldiers are surviving their injuries, and that puts military blood banks in a bind. But a DARPA program launched in 2008 is coming to fruition, potentially providing medics an endless stream of universally accepted O-negative blood through a process known as blood pharming.

Two years ago, DARPA set a goal of creating a self-contained, synthetic platform that can cultivate red blood cells that can stand up to the violent demands of the battlefield. Through the process of "pharming," or genetically engineering an organism to generate large quantities of a useful substance, the DoD's R&D arm was hoping to end blood shortages on the battlefield for good.

company awarded nearly $2 million to develop this genetically engineered blood product has shipped off the first shipment to the FDA, hoping the regulators will approve it for use in trauma wards everywhere. The biotech company, Arteriocyte, can turn an umbilical cord into 20 units of blood in about three days at a cost of about $5,000 per unit. That's a bit steep, but if the FDA approves the blood product and the company is able to scale the production method, fake blood could be the real deal.

And here's why: most military blood is donated on the ground in the U.S., meaning it has to be shipped under special conditions to faraway war zones, adding expense and time lag to the process. Most blood is at least 21 days old when it reaches far-flung battlefields.

If Arteriocyte can get the cost down, pharmed blood could replace the donated stuff within five years, though the brass may push the FDA to fast-track it if necessary. Hopefully the coming years will see a reduced need for large quantities of battlefield blood, but it's good to know we could churn out a vast supply in a pinch.


Jul 30, 2010

Solar Power, Is it the Key?

Columbus Dispatch, July 20th

From the ground, the 80 acres of solar panels seem to go on forever, arranged in rows like the cornfield that used to be here.   The project was completed last month in Wyandot County, OH. At 12 megawatts, build by American Municipal Power (AMP) of Columbus, it is by far the largest of its kind in Ohio history.

The nonprofit utility said it will build capacity of 300 megawatts in a series of projects across several states and over several years, with plans to break ground on the first segment this year. Marc Gerken, AMP's chief executive, argues that the plan makes sense for the municipal utilities that his company serves. He sees solar power as "peak" capacity, which means it would be relied upon for the hottest months of summer, when power demand is at its highest and the sun is shining brightest. That would cover electricity needs that otherwise would be met by peaking plants, which are typically gas-fired power plants that are used for only brief periods each year.  Another consideration is the possibility of federal environmental rules that would increase the costs of traditional power sources such as coal. If the older sources become more expensive, renewable sources become more attractive, he said.

The country had 429 megawatts of solar power installed last year, according to preliminary figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. Of that total, 85 percent was from small systems installed on homes and businesses. Only 15 percent, or 66 megawatts, was from utility companies.  A lot of announcements don't actually turn out," said Ken Zweibel, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute. He estimates that 300 megawatts of solar power would cost more than $1 billion to build.

The industry has had a series of big projects announced, scheduled to be built in the next five years. The largest is a 550-megawatt project being developed in California for use by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Known as the Topaz Solar Farm, the array will cover about 10 square miles in a part of the country that has some of the country's most- abundant sunlight. The developers hope to be done by 2014.

Three other projects would be 300 megawatts each: two in California and one in New Mexico. Each is scheduled to be complete by 2015, according to the Solar Electric Power Association, another trade group.

To put it in perspective, Cook Nuclear Plant is approximately 2200-megawatts. So to replace our two unit site, it would take 40 square miles of solar arrays.

Why Ohio? Two years ago, Governor Strickland signed Senate Bill 221, a measure that requires utilities to produce 25 percent of their electricity from so-called advanced sources by 2025. Solar power was the only energy source that got its own piece of the pie in the law. Solar must compose 0.5 percent of overall electricity by 2025, which translates to roughly 400 megawatts. Notably, the law applies only to investor-owned utilities, a group that includes American Electric Power, FirstEnergy, Duke Energy and Dayton Power and Light. Rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, such as AMP's clients, are exempt.

So far, AEP has made the largest investment in meeting the requirement. The Columbus-based utility helped develop the Wyandot project and has a contract to buy all the power produced there. AEP now has enough solar capacity to meet the benchmarks for 2010 through 2012. To meet subsequent goals, AEP plans to commission a series of solar arrays that would produce about 12 megawatts each. The next one likely will be announced next year.

Jul 29, 2010

Heuristically Speaking :o)

Heuristics are “rules of thumb,” the quick, common-sense principles people apply to solve a problem or make a decision. They aren’t “rules for living” that you consciously try to apply; rather, they're deeply embedded, often unconscious, rules that you use to make decisions, answer a question, or decide a course of action.  A heuristic is a general way of solving a problem.

Conservativism is sometimes recommended when adjusting our beliefs or methods in light of new information. A well established belief should be overthrown only when one has solid evidence against it. An otherwise reliable method should be changed only when it meets significant failure.  Many people are adverse to taking risks.  Below are some common rules of thumb, could you live with the results?

  • For marketing purposes, elderly consumers think they are 15 years younger than they actually are.
  • When you're playing blackjack, assume that any unseen card is an 8.
  • If your back hurts more when you climb stairs, walk up a hill, or get out of a chair, you need to do extension exercises.
  • If you don't want a cat to jump into your lap, don't make eye contact with it.
  • When ants travel in a straight line, expect rain. When they scatter, expect fair weather.
  • To get the most out of your car, treat it like a favorite cat or dog. [Not sure how a belly rub would have prevented my truck from breaking down last weekend]
  • When the bird and the bird book disagree, believe the bird. [If you can, get a picture, this will give you a chance to truly identify the bird]
  • If your feet are cold, put on your hat.
  • Any gadget that does many things will do none of them as well as a single-purpose device.
  • If you are talking with an American whose legs are crossed and he wiggles his foot at what you say, he either disagrees with what you are saying, or he wants to add to it, or he wants to talk about something else.
  • Recovering an unused physical skill takes one month for each year of layoff.
  • People do not change as they get older. They just become more of what they are already.
  • If you're worried that you don't have any interests, browse in the nonfiction section of a library for five minutes. By then a book will catch your eye.

Can you think of some additional examples?  Here are the ones that come to mind for me immediately (one good and one absolutely not so good :o):
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  • A womans place is in the kitchen.

Jul 28, 2010

Science Scene - Smart Hydrant

Among the companies entering the smart hydrant field, SmartHydrant notes that a smart hydrant can reduce waste by identifying leaks far more quickly and efficiently than current methods permit. Though utilities regularly monitor known trouble spots such as major intersections, a small leak can still go undetected for long periods of time, until it becomes large enough to disrupt water pressure, undermine pavement, or cause a major rupture in the pipe. A smart hydrant can provide daily monitoring across the system. That can also help reduce the utility’s carbon footprint, by helping leak detection crews operate more efficiently. Smart hydrants can also alert utilities to unauthorized hydrant openings.


Jul 27, 2010

Science Scene - Flying Car on Horizon :o)

Late next year, you'll be able to buy your own flying car -- er, "roadable aircraft" -- thanks to a thumbs-up from the Federal Aviation Administration. As long as you have $194,000 and a sport pilot license.

The agency approved the Transition plane-car this week, giving it a Light Sport Aircraft rating. The test prototype has been flying for about a year, but plane-maker Terrafugia will unveil its production-class plane next month at the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual convention in Oshkosh, Wisc.

The Transition drives like a car, uses normal high-octane gasoline, has front-wheel-drive and even comes with airbags. Its fuel economy is about 30 miles per gallon. But unlike your Prius, it can unfold its wings and fly. You'll only need a one-third of a mile strip for a runway, meaning you could conceivably use your own street. It is powered by a rear propeller and flies about 115 miles per hour.

It won't be ideal for cargo trips -- it only holds about 460 pounds, including fuel and passengers -- but for sport pilots on short jaunts, it's a one-vehicle solution.


Jul 26, 2010

Science Scene - Ford Using Soy Foam

Weeding out petroleum-based materials in favor of bio-based alternatives has helped Ford reduce the environmental impacts of its vehicles.

Using foam derived from soy rather than petroleum, for example, has avoided more than six million pounds (2,721 metric tons) of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The company said last week it would expand the use of bio-based foams through nearly all of its vehicle lineup this year -- with an eye on the possibilities of one day using compostable plastics.

Can we one day hope to see the automotive world go totally compostable, removing the use of petroleum-based parts 100 percent?

The potential benefits are compostable plastics are many: reducing the need for foreign oil, boosting the farming community, and reducing emissions and impacts.


Jul 24, 2010

Bucko's Bucks - Is there a price to avoid loneliness?

Scott Rosenbaum has thousands of people available to keep you company -- for a price. But he's no pimp, and his website, RentAFriend.com, is no escort service. Pay $24.95 a month (or $69.95 a year) to become a member, and you get to choose from a vast menu of "friends" with whom you can play Parcheesi, go to the movies, or perhaps use as a fake relative. Almost anything, as long as it doesn't involve sex.

While some may think it sad that people are willing to pay for the most basic human companionship, Rosenbaum views it as an underserved niche and a promising business opportunity. He thinks of his venture as the antidote to dating and sex sites. ""It's about platonic friendship. There's a complete void in that market."

As for the hourly rates, the RentAFriends settle the terms on their own with paid members -- fees generally range from $10 to $150 an hour -- and they keep the cash for services rendered. It's an odd way to make money, but for some RentAFriends it's enjoyable work.

So, while I find it sad that we are resorting to finding and paying for friends, is there anywhere but America that such a service can take off? 

Chess Anyone :o)


Rent-a-Friend Here :o)

Jul 23, 2010

Vegecation - Cumberland Island and Fort Clinch

After leaving New Smyrna, headed up the coast an hour and a half to Jacksonville to visit with friend Lee.  Had a nice day and a half talking about our jobs, and financial strategies for investments (expect to see some future details in Bucko's Bucks). 

On Sunday, we headed to Amelia Island and did a boat tour of the harbor and then a walking tour of Fort Collins. 

The boat tour gave a great history of the origins of shrimp boat fishing, cellulite manufacturing (used in both ice cream and C4 explosives :o), and the history of Cumberland Island [picture to left] (still mostly owned by descendants of the Rockefeller, Ferguson, and Carnegie families), and the secrecy of the Kings Bay naval submarin base just across the channel in Georgia [picuture below, along with a websearch picture].  Cannot get to close to the base or they send out helicopters. 

One of the highlights of the island are the wild horses [in center of picture at right, but hard to see, sorry, only had phone camera], a mix of spanish mounts and clydesdales, that still roam the island (they are not over populated due to the salt and acids in the marsh grass tha limits their life span to 8-10 years).

After the boat tour and lunch, we headed to Fort Clinch (named after an officer of the Second Seminole War), a fort intended to protect the deep channel harbor of Fernandina, Florida [picture from boat at left].  
Fort Clinch started construction in 1847, and was never finished.  There were various attempts to resurrect the construction activities, from the original construction simply as coastline protection [top of bastion gun embattlement to right], to 1861 and Confederate control for Civil War activities, to 1862 and Union control and construction to support the blockade, placed on caretaker status in 1869 and remained so until 1898 when it was occupied during the Spanish-American War, but abandoned afterwards. 

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began restoration during the 1930s, and in 1935, the State of Florida bought 256 acres that included the then-abandoned fort and the surrounding area. Fort Clinch State Park including the fort, opened to the public in 1938. The fort itself was closed to the public during World War II and used as a communications and security post, but re-opened after the war ended.   The park [picture shown to right] opened to the public in 1972 and gets 160,000 visitors per year.

The Park Service has employees that act as Civil War Union Soldiers and only respond to questions in character and with answers as if they were back in the 1860's.  It was very educational, and the more questions that were asked, the more information that was provided. 

All in all, a great history lesson on the Amelia Island area.  I love learning new things about new places.

Jul 22, 2010

Vegecation - Did Not Get Away, Had to Release :o(

Had the opportunity to go Intracoastal fishing while in New Smyrna, FL, and here is a picture of the one that I caught. 

Would you believe that it was one inch to big, and I had to release it (can only keep between 12" and 27", for spawning and growth purposes).  The picture is of a red fish, and it was 28 inches and weighed about 10 pounds.  It put up quite the fight, and I had to move it left, then right, to keep it out of the oyster beds and breaking the line.  I had my fish face on (jaws clinched), and it took about 5 minutes to reel in.

Friend Kimberley caught two trout (filleted and BBQ'd that night, yum), and friend Steve caught an eight incher that had to be released. 

Been a while since I have been fishing for the bigger ones, it was fun.

Jul 21, 2010

Back to the Grind - Hope I do not need one of these

So today, I head back to the office for the first time since 7/8/10.  It has been a great vegecation, but now it is to get back in the saddle, back to the grind, and any other cheesy metaphors that apply [insert here or in comments]. 

I am hoping that in my absence my office has not been relocated, if so, I may need to seek out one of the below units:

The trend to minimize your 'baggage' is not only hot in living quarters these days, but in office space as well. For example, start up business entrepreneurs may not be able to afford permanent or even temporary office space. Tim Vinke, a Dutch interior architect, has just the idea for the space-impaired or nomad entrepreneur. His Kruikantoor mobile office is the perfect answer to a home office or an office on the go.


Jul 9, 2010

Vegecation :o)

Headed out for the annual New Symrna Vegecation. 

We have a time share in New Symrna Beach, Florida (20 minutes south of Daytona, 45 minutes north of Cape Canaveral).  We always get a room that lets us look at the beach as we vegecate. 

This year our great friends Kim and Steve are joining the Vegecation, so the posting and commenting will be sparse.

Catch you on the flip side (returning July 20th to Indiana).

Jul 8, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Faith As Trust :o)

The justifiability of belief that God exists is typically the focal issue in the Philosophy of Religion. Yet the theistic traditions always include a foundational claim about an authoritative source, or sources, of revealed truth. Religious theism is not just believing that God exists; it is believing that God exists and is revealed thus and so (in great historical acts, in prophets, in scriptures, in wisdom handed down, etc.). The reasonableness of theism is therefore as much a matter of the reasonableness of an epistemology of revelation as it is of a metaphysics of perfect being. A sticking point is that a loving God would make his existence clear—but this assumption is open to question. Perhaps God provides only, as it were, ‘secret’ evidence of his existence, purposely overturning the expectations of our ‘cognitive idolatry’ in order to transform our egocentric self-reliance ; or perhaps there may be significant constraints logically inherent in the very possibility of unambiguous divine revelation to finite minds.

It may thus be held that faith as accepting propositional truths as divinely revealed rests on believing in God—and it is this ‘believing in’ which is, fundamentally, the nature of faith. What more is there to believing in God beyond believing that God exists, on this non-reductive view?. To believe in God is to make a practical commitment—the kind involved in trusting God, or, trusting in God. (The root meaning of the Greek pistis, ‘faith’, is ‘trust’.) This, then, is a model of faith as trust—but of trust not simply in the sense of an affective state of confidence, but in the sense of an action. The fiducial model is widely identified as Protestant. Swinburne, for example, calls it the ‘Lutheran’ model, and defines it thus: ‘the person of faith does not merely believe that there is a God (and believe certain propositions about him)—he trusts Him and commits himself to Him’.

Trust involves a venture; so too—it is widely agreed—does faith. So, if faith is trust, the venture of faith might be presumed to be the type of venture implicated in trust. When we trust we commit ourselves to another's control, accepting—and, when necessary, co-operating as ‘patient’—with the decisions of the trustee. Venturing in trust is usually assumed to be essentially risky, making oneself vulnerable to adverse outcomes or betrayal. Accordingly, it seems sensible to hold that one should trust only with good reason. But if, as is plausible, good reason to trust requires sufficient evidence of the trustee's trustworthiness, reasonable trust appears both to have its venturesomeness diminished and, at the same time, to become more difficult to achieve than we normally suppose. If adequate evidence of trustworthiness is not required for reasonable trust, how is reasonable trust different from ‘blind’ trust?

Some philosophers have suggested that the challenges faced by accounts of faith as involving belief beyond the evidence may be avoided by construing theistic commitment as hope. They contrast hope with faith (understood as belief), arguing that a religion of hope is both epistemically and religiously superior to a religion of faith. Other philosophers identify faith with hoping that the claims of faith are true. Hope as such is an attitude rather than an active commitment: a model of faith as hope may thus, more strictly, take faith to be acting in, or from, hope.  I think that many cannot fathom the thought of there being nothing beyond our current existence, that there is no redemption from our daily sins.  My hope is that people will start to live their lives like they mean it, not relying on future forgiveness.


Jul 7, 2010

Science Scene - Robo-Lifeguard

You’re caught by the ocean’s riptide, exhausted and barely keeping your head above water. Then your unlikely hero appears: a four-foot-long talking buoy. It’s EMILY, the robot lifeguard. Grab on, and it can bring you safely back to shore.

This summer, EMILY (for EMergency Integrated Lifesaving lanYard) began patrolling Malibu’s dangerous Zuma Beach. Although lifeguards operate this version by remote control, next year’s model will autonomously save potential drowning victims as reliably as a human. Once a lifeguard tosses EMILY into the surf, its sonar device will scan for the underwater movements associated with swimmers in distress.


Jul 6, 2010

Science Scene - Ribbon Fan

Wow, careful what you ask for.  In our parts recently, we were complaining about the rain and how it did not seem like summer had yet arrived.  The last few days has debunked that theory.  We have  been in the 90's for multiple days now, and we actually broke out the bedroom AC unit yesterday (we do not have central air, so usually have a short period where we use the portable AC units).  That brings us to our Science Scene topic, a new design for a ceiling fan that could preclude the need for AC in some places.  That souuds pretty innovative to me, and could really help with our energy supply issues.

Benjamin McMahon has a patent pending for his ribbon-inspired design/invention that not only looks like a fast, free-flowing ribbon, spinning in suspension, when it's turned on, but his Ribbon Ceiling Fan is actually more efficient than other ceiling fans, perhaps even limiting the need for air conditioning in some environments.

Making use of the geometry of a helical loop, the Ribbon Ceiling Fan's unique blades are able to focus air in a wider circumference from the fan than current blade fans that tend to push air downwards. The Ribbon also recirculates air with more force, while using the same amount of energy as a blade fan. Another positive feature of the Ribbon is that it uses standard fixtures for installation, making it much easier to replace a standard fan.


Grovin Ken :o)

I could not resist.  Growing up, hearing the "Ken" and Barbie jokes, I find it hilarious how Pixar and Toy Story have brought them together.  Thanks Nance for posting this entry last week.

Jul 5, 2010

4th of July Sparks :o)

We had a nice time at SIL Diana's house yesterday.  Snacks, family, brats on the barbie, and lots of backyard fireworks. [actual firework captured on cell phone to the left].  It is fun to watch the little ones (3 years and less) and the middle ones (9-11 years old) enjoy the festivities.

Even found time for a few rounds of Beatles Rock Band and a game of Chess.

Hope you had a great holiday and that the short week goes fast for all and then another weekend :o)

Science Scene - RoboCat

In case you missed this a couple of weeks ago, .....

When Oscar the cat lost both his hind paws in a farming accident, it was feared he'd have to trundle around in one of those wheeled-cat apparatuses. But Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopedic veterinary surgeon in Surrey, pioneered a groundbreaking technique instead, installing weight-bearing bone implants to create a bionic kitty.

Custom-engineered metal implants -- called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (ITAPs) -- are fastened directly to Oscar's little ankle bones, inside his fuzzy little legs. From there they protrude directly through the skin and fur, using a biomimicking design inspired by the way that deer's antlers anchor to bone and then extend out through the skin. Prosthetic paws attach to the ends of the implants and let Oscar walk normally.


Jul 3, 2010

Wine and Coffee Theatre

Starbucks (SBUX), whose massive growth and expansion has halted in recent years, has started experimenting with ways to bring coffee lovers back. It's been trying to attract customers by selling everything from CDs to breakfast sandwiches, and will soon offer free Wi-Fi. And now, in what may be its most daring attempt yet , it's getting into wine and coffee theater.

Starbucks will reopen a testing ground store dubbed "Olive Way" in Seattle's trendy Capital Hill neighborhood, with a menu that offers wine from the Pacific Northwest's vineyards and beer from local craft brewers. In addition, this 2,500-square-foot shop which reopen in the fall, will have espresso machines in the middle and a different decor.

The coffee theater's counters will be narrower to bring customers closer to baristas; the machines will brew one cup at a time to extract deeper flavor from beans; and the menu will be bigger, full of savory foods that pair with coffee, wine and beer, the Associated Press reports.

Many critics complain that Starbucks has lost its unique environment and image and should go back to its roots. This new attempt may help with ambiance, as it offers a warmer environment where customers feel comfortable staying for hours -- as they once did. And it would definitely differentiate Starbucks from other chains. Whether it will jump-start growth is a different matter.

See full article from DailyFinance:

For more on Olive Way, click here

My three favorites, Wine/Beer/Coffee, all in one place - Seattle, here I come :o)

Jul 2, 2010

Science Scene - Auto Bifocals?

PixelOptics, a US-based vision aid manufacturer has now developed a bifocal lens that is able to change its index of refraction with the push of button.

The traditional form of the bifocal consists of two glass pieces, each with a separate index of refraction.

The top of the glasses still function as a typical far-focusing prescription lens, but the bottom half has an electro-active liquid crystal in it. When an electrical current is applied, the lens will change its refraction index, allowing near-focus objects to be easily seen while simultaneously using the properties of science by “freezing”the lens into a particular curve.

The glasses come with three settings – active on, manual on, and manual off, all flipped through easily by the press of a switch located on the side of the glasses. The manual off setting will leave the bottom layer free of current, and it will act like a low-power progressive lens which is useful for activities of daily life.

The true proof of concept comes with the active on mode. When the glasses are turned on, an electrical current is supplied to the business end on an intermittent basis. The glasses will be powered by a rechargeable battery that will regain energy when the bifocals are placed in aspecial cradle. This charging process should take two to three hours and the charge will last for up to five days.

The emPower! is scheduled for a 2010 release in the United States and 2011 in Europe.

With my lagging eyesight, I would get a pair :o)


Jul 1, 2010

Poison Free Ant Elimination :o)

Place uncooked Cream of Wheat or cornmeal on ant nests, and spread is where ants travel.  The ants eat it, then it expands in their stomachs and kills them.  This method is much less expensive than calling an exterminator or using chemicals, and it is safer than using poison.