Archives for the month of: May, 2013

wind power

From Scientific American: Daryoush Allaei thinks the wind power industry has it all wrong. Rather than turbines high in the sky, he says, it should bring wind to the ground, in concentrated form. “This is the right track. The industry has been on the wrong track.” Allaei’s Invelox “wind delivery system” is a big funnel that captures air at the top, and squeezes it through a turbine at the bottom. Wind entering at 10 MPH ends up as fast as 40 MPH, he says – meaning it’s no longer necessary to go to a hilltop for optimum conditions. According to SheerWind – the company Allaei heads – the funnel can produce 600% more power than a conventional wind device, and with lower installation and maintenance costs.

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cheaper.gasolinex299

From Technology Review: A new material that sorts hydrocarbon molecules by shape could lower the cost of gasoline and also make the fuel safer by reducing the need for certain additives that have been linked to cancer, according to a paper in the next issue of the journal Science. Refiners typically use a material that can sort molecules by size during a key step in the refining process. To achieve a desired octane rating, this step has to be supplemented with energy-intensive distillation steps, or by the use of additives. The new material, which sorts molecules by shape rather than by size, can better differentiate between different types of hydrocarbon molecules, eliminating the distillation steps and the need for octane-enhancing additives.

From The Atlantic: The tech industry is officially out to remodel your kid’s classroom — and it feels like there’s a good chance that it’s going to succeed. After years of more or less resisting the pull of the web, both college and K-12 seem ripe to be remade for the digital age. There’s political buy-in. There’s investor buy-in. There’s, frankly, a pervasive sense that it’s just time. But what exactly will tomorrow’s schools look like after they get a Silicon Valley-style makeover? What exactly are we trying to accomplish pedagogically by integrating computers more deeply into the classroom? And how do we work more science, math, and tech education into our schools?

linkbot-13From GizMag: Though somewhat time consuming and a bit of a brain drain, robot building can also be rewarding and fun. For those just starting out, however, the prospect of simultaneously playing the roles of designer, tinkerer, programmer and troubleshooter in order to breathe life into a pile of wires, motors, plastic and metal might be just a little overwhelming. Linkbots offer a gentler learning curve with a modular platform that starts with a single working unit, and grows into more complex robots by attaching accessories and connecting other units.

From The Washington Post: Guest Writer Arthur H. Camins writes, “A moment after my train pulled to a final stop in Hoboken this morning, another train on my left pulled away provoking the perception that I was rolling forward.  Had I not glanced to my right to see the stationary platform I might have been fooled into thinking I was actually moving. So it is with the current education reform strategies — the illusion of movement without looking around at the evidence. There are two pillars of Department of Education policy:  increased numbers of charter schools and consequential use of standards-based assessment for promotion and employment decisions. Rather than citing evidence of causal connections to substantive changes in educational inequity, supporters claim state and local adoption of these reforms as progress and accuse critics of defending the status quo.”

chicago-popupFrom New York Times: Officials here in the third-largest district in the country voted Wednesday, after an emotional meeting, to close 49 public schools that they said were not being fully used. The decision, passed overwhelmingly by the Chicago Board of Education, came after weeks of contentious public hearings that brought more than 34,000 people out to oppose the school consolidation plan at dozens of meetings across the city. The move, which singled out schools that district officials said had too many empty desks after years of population loss – but that opponents argued unfairly targeted low-income minority communities – makes up the largest group of city schools to be closed at once in recent memory.

From Popular Science: A team of high school students have co-authored a scientific journal paper with their University of Arizona grad student instructor that could have a serious impact on the reliability of climate models. Their work details the impact of shrinkage on dried, fossilized leaves–shrinkage that is often unaccounted for in climate models. By better accounting for this change in leaf size, the students found that researchers could significantly improve the accuracy of their climate models. Climate models are usually a mash-up of all kinds of data collected from various sources, much of which is stored up in the fossil record. And one of those sources is fossilized leaves, which researchers look at to determine what kind of climate reigned in a geographical region at a given point in time. Generally speaking, larger leaves are indicative of warmer, more favorable climates.

Next Generation Science Standards.From Education Week: Well before the Next Generation Science Standards became final last month, teachers in pockets around the country were already exploring the vision for science education espoused by the document and bringing elements of that approach to the classroom. The new standards call for bringing greater depth to K-12 students’ understanding of the subject and asking them to apply knowledge through the practices of scientific inquiry and engineering design, among other elements. “The teachers say they are already changing instruction, changing how they look at content, how they plan for investigations and activities,” said Diane E. Sanna, the director of curriculum and instruction for the 1,900-student Tiverton, R.I., district, where a group of teachers has been engaged in professional development, drawing mainly on the National Research Council framework document that was produced to guide the standards.

From Technology Review: “A small but growing number of people are finding interesting parallels between ecosystems as studied by ecologists (think of a Savanna or the Amazon rain forest or a Coral reef) and tumors.” So begin David Basanta and Alexander Anderson at the Moffitt Cancer Centre in Florida in a fascinating paper describing a new way of thinking about cancer and the way to treat it. They point out that it’s more or less impossible to understand any creature or its behavior without thinking carefully about the environment in which it lives and evolves.  “As convenient as it would be for cancer biologists to study tumor cells in isolation, that makes as much sense as trying to understand frogs without considering that they tend to live near swamps and feast on insects,” say Basanta and Anderson . What would biologists make of a frog’s sticky tongue without knowing how it is used for catching flies, for example?

chrysalis_1From Wired: For the first time, scientists have captured 3D images of caterpillars caught in the process of morphing into butterflies. The traditional method of studying metamorphosis — namely, dissection — is destructive and doesn’t allow researchers to watch the entire process unfold. To watch unobtrusively, researchers at the University of Manchester X-Ray Imaging Facility used high-resolution computed tomography (CT) to capture images of chrysalises over the course of 16 days. They saw major organs develop, and were surprised to find that the trachea and other airways often formed within the first 12 hours of pupation.