Daily TIPs: Hurricane Software, Stem Cell Fights, Animal Dating, & More

9/10/08

Software Could Aid in Hurricane Evacuations

Researchers at MIT are testing new software that uses vast amounts of information to guide officials in planning how and when to evacuate a city if a hurricane is coming. After Katrina, officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency started using software that estimates how long it would take to evacuate a city. But according to Technology Review, the new MIT computer model goes much further, combining information about current weather conditions and projected hurricane paths with data on how many elderly, hospital patients, and tourists have to be moved, and makes recommendations based on those inputs.

White Roofs Could Combat Global Warming

One simple way to counter the warming effects of greenhouse gases would be to paint a certain percentage of roofs white, reflecting sunlight back into space, says a researcher from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Physicist Hashem Akbari told the Climate Change Research Conference that he’s quantified the effect for the first time, and that changing a 1,000-square-foot roof—the average on an American home—from black to white would offset 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The Los Angeles Times reports that, if the world’s hundred largest cities painted their roofs white and replaced asphalt with more reflective concrete, the cooling effect would be massive.

Campaigns Trade Barbs on Stem Cell Research

The public policy debate on what research, if any, to perform with embryonic stem cells is heating up. The New York Times reports that Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden is going on the offensive against a Republican Party platform that opposes any form of such research, even that approved by the Bush administration. The McCain campaign accuses Biden of using the issue to attack vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose youngest son was born with Down syndrome.

Cell Phone Pics Can Help Fight Crime

The New York Police Department has upgraded its 911 emergency system to allow it to accept pictures and video from cell phones or computers, CNET News reports. Now 911 callers can tell dispatchers that they’ve got an image to go with their complaint, and a detective will call back and have them upload the data. The system also allows non-emergency hotlines to get images of other city issues, such as potholes.

YouTube Videos Led to RNC Arrests

Anarchist groups that were raided by police just prior to the Republican National Convention came to the attention of authorities when the groups posted a video suggesting they were planning to disrupt the convention. Ars Technica reports that, according to police affidavits, another video, this one appearing to highlight protest targets, also piqued police interest. Police also targeted a group that uses video to monitor the interaction between police and activists during protests.

Techies Split on Obama vs. McCain

A survey of information technology professionals finds that 43 percent of them think the outcome of the presidential election will affect the decisions their companies make about IT. For instance, the Wall Street Journal says, stricter environmental policies might lead to spending on more energy-efficient systems, while immigration policies will affect their ability to hire foreign workers. Asked who they preferred as president, 28 percent said Obama, 28 percent said McCain, and 22 percent said neither.

Online Dating Could Aid Endangered Species

Biologists worried about some rare species dying out have a new tool to help them match breeding pairs, even in zoos far removed from one another, CNN reports. Taking a cue from online dating services, more than 200 zoos are using a website that contains information on an animal’s sex, age, and weight, and even lets zookeepers add information about an animal’s personality that might help them find the right match. No word on whether the gay penguins in the Central Park Zoo will be allowed to create profiles.

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