Daily TIPs: Science Answers, Face Transplants, Nasty Nitrogen, & More

9/2/08

Obama Answers Science Quiz

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has responded to 14 questions about science and technology policy, posed by a group that had been calling on candidates to debate science issues. Wired summarizes his answers, which include a promise to increase funding for basic research and to lift the Bush administration’s restrictions on stem-cell research. Republican candidate John McCain has said he will answer the same questions, but has not yet done so.

Candidates Track Voters Online

In an effort to identify more potential voters, both the Obama and McCain campaigns are engaging in online behavioral research, trying to target voters, donors, and volunteers by their individual interests. BusinessWeek says that neither campaign will discuss its strategy in detail, but that the effort is sophisticated enough in its tracking to raise concerns among privacy advocates.

Follow the Campaign on Twitter

If round-the-clock cable channels and blogs that cover both the ideological and credibility spectrum aren’t enough, now voters can keep up with the presidential campaign by follow what others say about the candidates on Twitter. TechCrunch reports that Stephen Taylor, a Canadian blogger and political analyst, has put together a website and a Facebook application called govtweets. The site scrolls a constant update of any tweets mentioning the names of the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Why You Should Hate Metered Broadband

The bloggers over at GigaOm really don’t like the idea that Internet service providers plan to place caps on how much data their customers can transmit, such as Comcast’s announcement that it will cut off any user who goes over 250 gigabytes in a month. GigaOm offers its list of “10 Things To Know and Hate About Metered Broadband,” including the possibility of a negative effect on innovation and the lack of software to track usage.

Multiple Tissue Transplants See Growing Success

Transplants involving multiple types of human tissue, such as hands and faces, are seeing increased success and could transform treatments for people who have lost limbs and other body parts. The Los Angeles Times reports that such surgeries, impossible just a decade ago, are growing in popularity. The downside is that they’re still risky and expensive, and may possibly shorten the life of recipients.

Company Plans 8 Geothermal Plants

Geothermal energy, which relies on heat harvested from the Earth’s crust, may turn out to be profitable for at least one company. Raser Technologies, of Provo, UT, has nearly finished a plant that it says will be providing electricity to 9,000 homes in Anaheim, CA, by the end of the year. Daily Tech reports that the company expects to complete seven more plants next year.

Forget Carbon, What About the Nitrogen?

Attempts to cut carbon emissions into the atmosphere by doing things like growing more corn for use in biofuels may be ignoring other factors that contribute to global warming, scientists warn. Growing more biomass generally involves using more nitrogen-based fertilizer, and that can lead to the production of more nitrogen trifluoride, which is about 17,000 times as potent as carbon dioxide when it comes to warming the atmosphere. The New York Times reports that several scientists who study nitrogen are urging that it be used more sensibly.

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