Monthly Archives: March 2008

Stunning Solar Building Will Generate More Power Than It Needs

Stunning Solar Building Will Generate More Power Than It Needs

masdar_exterior.jpg

The Masdar Headquarters building will produce more power than it needs (an energy positive building). In fact, the solar roof (one of the largest in the world) will be constructed first, and it will power the construction of the rest of the building. The video link on this page has a great view of the sun-infused interior.

Researchers Found A Gene That Blocks HIV From Spreading

Researchers Found A Gene That Blocks HIV From Spreading

Finally, our children could have the chance to HIV immunity, due to a team of researchers from the University of Alberta. The team discovered a gene that might be able to block HIV and prevent the AIDS infection, which is called TRIM22, as Stephen Barr, a molecular virologist in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology stated.

Barr also stated that “when we put this gene in cells, it prevents the assembly of the HIV virus. This means the virus cannot get out of the cells to infect other cells, thereby blocking the spread of the virus,” which would offer the person absolute immunity to HIV and the team also prevented the cells from turning on the TRIM22 gene.

Current medicine was only able to stop the reproduction of HIV into the body, without the possibility of eradicating it, but the team has finally found a gene that will do it naturally. Because of HIV’s possiblity to mutate, medications weren’t reliable, being able to evade them, but this gene can solve this issue.

Unlimited Solar Energy from the Ocean?

Unlimited Solar Energy from the Ocean?

In the late 1800’s, the French physicist Jacques Arsene d’Arsonval proposed a method for generating electricity using the sea as a giant solar-energy collector. It is considered that the technology, termed “Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion” (OTEC), may enable the establishment of an efficient energy storage system across the world, supplying enough energy for our entire planet.

OTEC is based on the idea of exploiting the differences in temperature between deep waters and surface waters in order to generate electric power. Shallow ocean waters can heat up to a temperature of 29C in the tropics. Only one kilometer below these warm waters, temperatures are significantly lower, often falling below 5C. These extreme temperature differences are used to operate vapor turbines, which drive generators to produce electricity. Experts estimate that on an average day, 60 million square kilometers of tropical seas absorb an amount of solar radiation that is equal in heat content to about 250 billion barrels of oil. To get a better perspective on these numbers, this actually means that less than 0.001% of this energy converted into electric power would be sufficient to supply over 20 times the electricity consumed daily in the United States.

Stem cells develop new organs in mice

Stem cells develop new organs in mice

University of Tokyo researchers said Wednesday they have succeeded in generating kidneys and pancreases in mice that had been reprogrammed to grow without such organs, by injecting embryonic stem cells from healthy mice into fertilized eggs.

The outcome of the research at the university’s Institute of Medical Science raises hopes for producing human organs from stem cells, in addition to the nerve cells and cardiac muscles already possible.

A potential application of this technique in the future includes reproducing in reprogrammed swine the pancreas of a diabetic patient using stem cells produced from the patient’s skin tissue, they said.

“We have made a step forward in realizing a technique to produce human organs inside the bodies of domestic animals but we need to clear safety and ethics issues from now,” said professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who led the research team.

Virtual child passes mental milestone

Virtual child passes mental milestone

A virtual child controlled by artificially intelligent software has passed a cognitive test regarded as a major milestone in human development. It could lead to smarter computer games able to predict human players’ state of mind.

Children typically master the “false belief test” at age 4 or 5. It tests their ability to realise that the beliefs of others can differ from their own, and from reality.

The creators of the new character – which they called Eddie – say passing the test shows it can reason about the beliefs of others, using a rudimentary “theory of mind”.

“Today’s characters have no genuine autonomy or mental picture of who you are,” researcher Selmer Bringsjord of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, told New Scientist.

He aims to change that with future games and virtual worlds populated by genuinely intelligent computer characters able to predict and understand players actions and motives.

Bringsjord’s colleague Andrew Shilliday adds that their work will have applications outside of gaming. For example, search engines able to reason about the beliefs of a user might allow them to better understand their search queries.

Famed geneticist creating life form that turns CO2 to fuel

Famed geneticist creating life form that turns CO2 to fuel

A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said Thursday he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially world-changing “fourth-generation fuel” project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California.

“We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy,” Venter told an audience that included global warming fighter Al Gore and Google co-founder Larry Page.

“We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock.”

Simple organisms can be genetically re-engineered to produce vaccines or octane-based fuels as waste, according to Venter.

Biofuel alternatives to oil are third-generation. The next step is life forms that feed on CO2 and give off fuel such as methane gas as waste, according to Venter.

“We have 20 million genes which I call the design components of the future,” Venter said. “We are limited here only by our imagination.”

His team is using synthetic chromosomes to modify organisms that already exist, not making new life, he said. Organisms already exist that produce octane, but not in amounts needed to be a fuel supply.

“If they could produce things on the scale we need, this would be a methane planet,” Venter said. “The scale is what is critical; which is why we need to genetically design them.”

‘Miracle mouse’ can grow back lost limbs

‘Miracle mouse’ can grow back lost limbs

SCIENTISTS have created a “miracle mouse” that can regenerate amputated limbs or badly damaged organs, making it able to recover from injuries that would kill or permanently disable normal animals.

The experimental animal is unique among mammals in its ability to regrow its heart, toes, joints and tail.

The researchers have also found that when cells from the test mouse are injected into ordinary mice, they too acquire the ability to regenerate.

The discoveries raise the prospect that humans could one day be given the ability to regenerate lost or damaged organs, opening up a new era in medicine.

Details of the research will be presented next week at a scientific conference on ageing, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, at Cambridge University. Ellen Heber-Katz, professor of immunology at the Wistar Institute, an American biomedical research centre, says that the ability of mice at her laboratory to regenerate appears to be controlled by about a dozen genes.

She is still researching their exact functions, but it seems almost certain that humans have comparable genes.

“We have experimented with amputating or damaging several different organs, such as the heart, toes, tail and ears, and just watched them regrow,” she said. “It is quite remarkable. The only organ that did not grow back was the brain.