Daily TIPs: Bandwidth Limits, Lights Out Boston, Where are the Sunspots, & More

9/3/08

Conventions Draw Citizen Journalists

It’s not just the presidential candidates who are taking advantage of new technologies in this year’s campaign. As CNET News tells us, citizen journalists are recording and broadcasting events in unprecedented numbers and formats. While some upload raw footage of protests and arrests to websites, others are using a cell phone application called Foneshow to share media clips from the campaigns.

Candidates Offer Answers on Biomedicine Questions

Barack Obama and John McCain have provided answers to 17 questions related to healthcare and medical research posed by a group promoting healthcare as a higher national priority. Science News reports several similarities in the candidates’ responses to questions from Research! America, of Alexandria, VA. Both believe in funding for the National Institutes of Health, support stem cell research, and let in more foreign workers with medical skills. The site links to the complete set of answers, as well as those from third party candidates such as Ralph Nader and Bob Barr.

Foreign Internet Traffic Bypassing U.S.

An increasing amount of the data flowing through the Internet from other countries is being routed around the United States. The New York Times reports that 70 percent of Internet traffic went through U.S.-based routers a decade ago, but that now it has dropped to about 25 percent. In part, the drop is due to concerns that American intelligence agencies were spying on the traffic, a military advantage the country is now losing.

Internet Hasn’t Hit a Traffic Jam Yet

Cable companies, fearful that the growing demand for bandwidth will soon reach the limit of the Internet’s capacity, are talking about ways to control traffic flow. (Comcast has even said it will place a cap on broadband customers’ monthly usage.) But BusinessWeek says there’s little real evidence of any coming traffic jam. Even though there is some congestion on cable systems, technological advances are allowing massive increases in the data capacities of the network, the magazine says.

Boston Turns Out the Lights to Save Electricity

The City of Boston is starting a two-month trial of a program to turn off the lights in 34 skyscrapers as a way to save energy. The city estimates that turning off all the lights above the 30th floor between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. should cut the amount of electricity used for lighting by about 25 percent, according to the Boston Globe. If the program is deemed successful, it could continue year-round.

Does Lack of Sunspots Presage Global Cooling?

The sunspots that usually roil the surface of the sun, and can cause electromagnetic interference with satellites and power grids, have been virtually absent all year. In August, according to New Scientist, only one sunspot was, well, spotted. Long periods of low sunspot activity have been associated with a cooler climate, but the magazine says it’s too early to tell how long this one will last or what its effects will be.

Flurry of Hurricanes May Be Result of Warming, UN Says

With Hurricane Gustav just past and three tropical storms brewing in the Atlantic, the head of the United Nations Environment Program warns that the heavier hurricane season may be a result of global warming. Of course, no one storm can be attributed to global warming, but Achim Steiner of the UN told Reuters that extreme weather events, including hurricanes in the Atlantic and floods in India, “reflect a pattern of change that is in line with projections” by global climate experts.

Blowing Stuff Up Goes Green

Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are working on a new class of explosive materials that improves on conventional explosives by making them more stable, and is more environmentally friendly to manufacture. Daily Tech says the new explosives are based on a class of compounds called molecular crystals, which normally require toxic, non-organic solvents to process. Researchers discovered a class of organic solvents that could reduce the amount of toxins created during manufacturing of the explosives. Somewhere in here, a Dr. Strangelove joke is eluding me.

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