Friday, July 25, 2008

New Technology Can Turn Heat Waste Into Electricity

Scientists have invented a new material that can efficiently convert heat waste in cars, power generators & heat pumps into electricity. The new material is thermoelectric, and can turn heat into energy without any pollution.

read more | digg story

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Playstation 2 component incites African war

By Ben Silverman

Has the video game industry dug up its very own blood diamond?

According to a report by activist site Toward Freedom, for the past decade the search for a rare metal necessary in the manufacturing of Sony's Playstation 2 game console has fueled a brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the center of the conflict is the unrefined metallic ore, coltan. After processing, coltan turns into a powder called tantalum, which is used extensively in a wealth of western electronic devices including cell phones, computers and, of course, game consoles.

Allegedly, the demand for coltan prompted Rwandan military groups and western mining companies to plunder hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the rare metal, often by forcing prisoners-of-war and even children to work in the country's coltan mines.

"Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms," said Ex-British Parliament Member Oona King.

So where's the connection to Sony? According to Toward Freedom, during the 2000 launch of the PS2, the electronics giant was having trouble meeting consumer demand. To pump out more units, Sony required a significant increase in the production of electric capacitors, which are primarily made with tantalum. This helped drive the world price of the powder from $49/pound to a whopping $275/pound, resulting in the frenzied scouring of the Congolese hills known for being ripe with coltan.

Sony has since sworn off using tantalum acquired from the Congo, claiming that current builds of the PS2, PSP and PS3 consoles are sourced from a variety of mines in several different countries.

But according to researcher David Barouski, they're hardly off the hook.

"SONY's PlayStation 2 launch...was a big part of the huge increase in demand for coltan that began in early 1999," he explained. "SONY and other companies like it, have the benefit of plausible deniability, because the coltan ore trades hands so many times from when it is mined to when SONY gets a processed product, that a company often has no idea where the original coltan ore came from, and frankly don't care to know. But statistical analysis shows it to be nearly inconceivable that SONY made all its PlayStations without using Congolese coltan."

Currently, the Playstation 2 is the best-selling video game console of all-time, having sold through over 140 million units.

The Awesome Way To Recycle a Dumpster [pics]

Goldsmith’s design graduate, Oliver Bishop-Young, unveiled two interesting proposals for the re-use of dumpsters (or skips as they’re called in the UK) at the New Designers’ festival earlier this month - but would you have lunch in a dumpster, or more to the point, would you swim in one?

read more | digg story

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Protecting Your ID on Vacation

As you head off to the beach on vacation here are some simple tips to keep your identity safe.

Watch out for pick pockets and purse thieves. This is the most common way identities are stolen.
Take only the private information you need and leave the extra cards at home.
Keep a photocopy of your identification and travel documents in a safe place. Don't forget the back for the 800 numbers to replace credit cards.
Leave your checkbook locked up at the house.
Use a credit card instead of a debit card.
Use ATM machines you recognize to avoid fraudulent ones set up to steal cards. Also make sure there aren't any funny devices that might "skim" your number.
Stop your mail.
Wear your sunscreen.

Arizona Opts Out of Real ID

Arizona has joined 13 other states that have passed laws prohibiting state compliance with the 2005 federal Real ID law. The law requires states to adopt new procedures by 2010 for making driver's licenses "more secure". However, to opposite is more likely to happen. The new licenses will become de facto national identity cards with unique identifier numbers. Now we will all have two numbers to protect.

Stealing Your Identity and House

In a new scam the FBI is following, an identity thief establishes a line of credit in his name based on the equity in the victims property. He then drains the equity in the house dry. In another scam, the thief changes the title over to his name and then sells it to another owner.

The rightful owners don't end up losing their homes but the burden is on them to prove their ownership. It could cost them countless hours and thousands of dollars.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Study: Fuel cell cars still 15 years away at best

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are still 15 years away from becoming a viable business for automakers even if they overcome remaining technical hurdles and the U.S. government provides massive subsidies, a government-funded report said Thursday.

read more | digg story


President George W. Bush looks out at the ocean and dreams of oil beneath the waves. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) look at the ocean and understand how the winds that create those waves can help power the world – cleanly.

Using the same satellite that scans the oceans for wind patterns to aid in weather and climate forecasting, scientists at JPL have been mapping the oceans looking for the best, windiest, locations to build offshore wind farms including deep water possibilities that could employ floating turbines.

Floating turbines are set to become the next big technological challenge in wind energy development. And those challenges are great. Wind turbines are as tall as skyscrapers. Floating, they must be kept nearly vertical even in heavy seas to lessen loads and stresses on blades, towers and generating equipment. On calm days the oceans are still harsh. Corrosive salt water and salty air mean continual corrosion problems with steel components. In the open ocean storms are likely to sink at least a few turbines. Can floating turbines be built and deployed economically enough so that some can be sacrificed? Regular maintenance – which must be done by man – will prove interesting, at least. How strong will stomachs need to be to climb inside 300-foot tall towers that even on windless days will be something less than rock steady? Talk about swaying in the breeze.

Well before StatoilHydro and Siemens launch their first floating offshore wind turbine next year, Siemens is working on a new turbine design for offshore use aimed to cut down on maintenance. The company is testing two prototype, direct drive, gearless turbines similar to those used by German turbine maker Enercon. The long, slow moving blades of a turbine are a good match for a direct drive electric generator which favors high torque over rotational speed. The first 3.6 megawatt device is now erected in Denmark, a second machine is nearly ready for deployment.

The StatoilHydro floating turbine design is a single cylindrical tower – the Spar-buoy – that extends high above the waves and hundreds of feet below it . Atop the tower is a recognizable three bladed turbine. At the bottom of the cylinder – underwater – is ballast, buoyancy and cable anchored to the sea bed to keep the turbine upright.

But the StatoilHydro floating turbine design is not the only idea out there. Inventor Richard Galea of Malta thinks that the tower of a floating turbine should be at the center of a floating ring. The tower and turbine of his patented concept would be mounted in a gimbal-like device at the ring’s center. As waves roll up and down, the gimbal, along with ballasting of the tower and cabling to the bottom, would keep the turbine vertical.

His concept is to be launched as a Technology Offer in CORDIS (Community Research and Development Information Service) a European Union research and development organization.

Drilling for oil and natural gas is still somewhat of a guessing game. Drillers aren’t exactly sure where the reserves are and in what quantity, if they’re there at all. Yet we know with certainty that there’s considerable wind energy just over the horizon, out of sight from oceanfront property owners. The wind is guaranteed. The oil is not. The maps from JPL will prove it. Likely the first floating offshore wind turbine will be generating power long before the first drilling rig strikes it rich on the US continental shelf.

True, today, wind power can’t fuel cars and trucks. But the automobile industry is changing,ready to adapt to plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles. Alternatively, as oil man T. Boone Pickens suggests, more wind power on the grid could displace natural gas now used for power generation freeing up those gas reserves for vehicular fueling.

Instead of using the current oil crisis as an excuse to drill on the nation’s continental shelf, as President Bush has signed off on and wants Congress to do the same, this crisis could be used as the beginning of a sweeping change in energy that could include floating offshore wind turbines.

The JPL’s map research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, was funded by NASA's Earth Science Division, which works to advance the frontiers of scientific discovery about Earth, its climate and its future.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles