Daily TIPs: Stones and Rocks and Carbon, Saltwater Farming, Cell Phone Traffic Cop, & More

7/15/08

EBay Case Shows Flaws in Internet Law

A ruling this week that eBay isn’t responsible for ensuring that goods are not counterfeit disappointed Tiffany’s, which brought the suit, but cheered the online auction site. But as a piece in the Wall Street Journal points out, the U.S. judge’s decision comes just two weeks after a judge in France ruled the opposite way. The author says the competing decisions show just how difficult it is for businesses to navigate the law as it applies to the global Internet.

Warming May Lead to More Kidney Stones

We’re used to predictions of rising oceans and dying species, but here’s a new effect of global warming to worry about. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts that warming will cause increased dehydration in people, raising the risks of kidney stones by up to 30 percent. Science News says the study predicts between 1.6 million and 2.2 million new kidney stones between now and 2050.

Scientists Propose Burial at Sea for Carbon

One way to counter global warming may be to inject carbon dioxide into porous volcanic rock on the ocean floor, thus keeping it out of the atmosphere permanently. Science Now reports that scientists at Columbia University have surveyed deep-sea basalt formations for their potential to store carbon. The researchers say there’s an area off the Oregon coast that could hold more than 120 years’ worth of U.S. carbon emissions.

Saltwater Crop Could Provide Food, Fuel

One concern with the Bush administration’s push toward more biofuels is that it’s using up arable land and driving up the price of food crops. The Los Angeles Times brings us the story of a researcher who’s looking for ways to grow crops for both food and fuel in areas with poor soil and a lack of fresh water. The scientist, Carl Hodges, grows a crop called salicornia, which he nourishes with seawater from a manmade canal.

RFID Could Prove a Problem in Hospitals

Hospitals are increasingly using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for such uses as monitoring the freshness of stored blood. But the New York Times reports on a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found some tags could produce electromagnetic interference with other hospital equipment, such as external pacemakers. The study recommends on-site tests before the tags are used in intensive care units or other critical areas.

Traffic Cameras Link to Cell Phones

One way to cut down on energy use and pollution is to reduce the hours commuters spend stuck in traffic jams. The Washington Post’s Post I.T. section reports that a new service is coming to the D.C. area to let drivers receive live video and photos of traffic on their cell phones. The service, which relies on cameras owned by various highway departments, is also available in New York, Houston, Detroit, and Los Angeles. No word on what this says about the danger of driving while watching your cell phone.

New Type of Battery Could Power Future Autos

As part of the push to create more plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, researchers are trying to improve the safety and storage capacity of batteries. Daily Tech tells us that a company called ZPower, of Camarillo, CA, is working on replacing the current lithium-ion batteries with devices made from silver and zinc. A silver-zinc battery could hold about 40 percent more energy than a lithium-ion battery, and is less volatile, the company says.

Agreement Keeps YouTube User IDs Private
The lawsuit brought by Viacom against Google won’t lead to the major invasion of privacy that many privacy advocates feared, now that the two have reached an agreement on how to share data. ComputerWorld reports that Viacom agreed to let Google conceal the user ID and IP addresses of users when it provides data about viewing habits on YouTube, which it bought in 2006. A judge in Viacom’s lawsuit, which alleges that YouTube users infringed on copyrights of movies and television shows owned by Viacom, had ordered Google to turn over all information about who watched videos and what they watched, leading to a public outcry.

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