A robotic Cyberknife to fight cancer

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/31.html#a2400

The Cyberknife is not a real knife. This is a robot radiotherapy machine which works with great accuracy during treatment, thanks to its robotic arm which moves around a patient when he breathes. According to BBC News, the first Cyberknife will be operational in February 2009 in London, UK. But other machines have been installed in more than 15 countries, and have permitted to treat 50,000 patients in the first semester of 2008. And the Cyberknife is more efficient than conventional radiotherapy devices. The current systems require twenty or more short sessions with low-dose radiation. On the contrary, and because it's extremely precise, a Cyberknife can deliver powerful radiation in just three sessions. ...

Human hair to feed plants?

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/30.html#a2399

You all know that agricultural crop production relies on fertilizers, such as composted waste materials. But I bet you wouldn't have thought to add human hair to animal manure to produce better and greener fertilizers. Yet, a study done by Mississippi State University researchers has shown that human hair, 'combined with additional compost, is an additional nutrient source for crops.' Apparently, barbershops and hair salons are selling human hair for a couple of years now -- a fact I didn't know. Anyway, even if human hair can be used to grow some plants, 'further research is necessary to determine whether human hair waste is a viable option as fertilizer for edible crops.' ...

Protecting beer from bacteria

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/29.html#a2398

A Canadian PhD student from the University of Saskatchewan has a mission: saving beer from bacterial contamination. She's a member of 'one of only two labs in the world that studies beer spoilage.' And she jokes about what she's doing: 'It's a good conversation starter. I've gone through so many years of school and I've studied medical microbiology and all this and that -- and now I'm saving beer. (People) tease me about it, but they actually find it quite interesting.' But what she does is no joke, and her research has been sponsored by breweries such as Coors or Miller. ...

Toward opal-based billboards?

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/28.html#a2397

Nature News reports that British and Canadian chemists have developed synthetic opals that can very quickly switch between various colors when a few volts of electricity are applied to them. The developers, who said they're ready to sell the technology today, added that their 'photonic ink' (P-Ink) material could soon be used in electronic books or advertising displays. These modified opals could also be used to build the next generation of flexible solar cells. ...

Batteries to store wind energy

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/27.html#a2396

Scientific American reports that Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-based utility company, has started to test a new technology to store wind energy in batteries. The company is currently trying it in a 1,100 megawatts facility of wind turbines in Southern Minnesota. The company started this effort because 'the wind doesn't always blow and, even worse, it often blows strongest when people aren't using much electricity, like late at night.' It has received a $1 million grant from Minnesota's Renewable Development Fund and the energy plant should be operational in the first quarter of 2009. And if this project is successful, the utility expects to deploy many more energy plants before 2020 to avoid more polluting energy sources. ...

Developing hurricane-proof homes

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/26.html#a2395

Engineers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have developed fiber-based composite materials for low-cost residential coastal housing. Homes built with this material would be able to resist to a hurricane by bending instead of breaking. Other houses could 'simply float on the rising tide of a storm's coastal surge.' This 'green' technology will be tested during the next six months in Bangladesh, where the engineers will weave fibers from jute tree with plastics to form an ultra-strong building material. The research team has already created a similar composite material, but one that relies on glass fibers instead of natural tree fibers. This new material could also be used to build homes in the coastal regions of United States, including parts of Alabama and Louisiana. ...

Sexy objects stimulate our brain

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/25.html#a2394

According to researchers at the University of California at San Diego, visual areas of our brain respond more to valuable objects than other ones. In other words, our brain has stronger reactions when we see a diamond ring than we look at junk. Similarly, our brain vision areas are more excited by a Ferrari than, say, a Tata new Nano car. In this holiday season, I'm sure you've received gifts that excited your brain -- and others that you already want to resell on an auction site. ...

How some vegetables fight breast cancer

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/24.html#a2393

You certainly know that eating vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage can help prevent breast cancer. Until now, the protection mechanism offered by these cruciferous vegetables was unknown. But researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara have found an explanation. Here is a quote from the lead scientist: 'These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates.' Listen to her, run to your grocery store and change the menu of your Christmas meals! ...

Artificial intelligence to detect heart attacks?

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/23.html#a2392

Greek researchers have used online analytical processing (OLAP), a technique usually associated with financial and marketing analysis, to build the foundations for a heart attack calculator. Their model integrates 'lifestyle factors including depression, education, smoking, diet, and obesity, [which all] play a part in the risk of cardiovascular disease.' The research team said that 'their approach works much more quickly than conventional statistical analysis.' According to the leading scientist, 'due to the ease of use of the methodology, a physician has the advantage of easily identifying high-risk patients by simply entering their personal data in the model.' A question remains: will this model be freely available? ...

Is the LED revolution coming?

http://www.primidi.com/2008/12/22.html#a2391

According to two professors at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and smart lighting could save trillions of dollars worldwide in the next ten years. They claim that innovations in photonics and solid state lighting could also lead to 'a massive reduction in the amount of energy required to light homes and businesses around the globe.' Of course, I would be happy to fully agree with the researchers, but these benefits will only be achieved if all of the world's light bulbs are replaced with LEDs. I seriously doubt it can happen. Still, it's certain that a new generation of lighting devices based on LEDs will become available and reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. ...