Daily TIPs: Porn Decline, Powdered Gas, Open Arms, & More

9/17/08

The Internet is For…Facebook?

More people are using the Internet for social networking than are surfing for porn, says the author of a new book that analyzes the type of Web searches users are doing. Porn, which accounted for 20 percent of searches a decade ago, has dropped to 10 percent, says Bill Trancer, author of “Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why it Matters.” Trancer tells Reuters that analyzing searches can provide insight into how people are communicating and what’s on their minds. Which apparently no longer includes Pamela Anderson videos.

Powdered Methane Could Provide New Energy Source

Methane holds a lot of promise as a fuel source—there’s enough in two deposits off the coast of South Carolina to power the United States for a century—but it’s difficult to store and transport. Now chemists in England have come up with a simple way to turn the natural gas into a sugar-like powder that would be cheaper and easier to store than current methods allow, the Discovery Channel reports. The researchers turned the gas to a powder simply by mixing it with water filled with fine particles of silica.

Should Taxpayers Subsidize the Chevy Volt?

General Motors unveiled its much-hyped hybrid electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, this week and was immediately faced with questions about who was going to pay for it, the Los Angeles Times reports. The auto industry is asking the federal government for $25 billion in low-interest loans to help it move toward higher fuel-efficiency standards. Critics call the loans a bailout.

Open-Source Principles Applied to Prosthetics

Engineers developing better prosthetic hands and arms for amputees are hoping that applying the open-source model from the software industry will spur advances. Scientific American explains that innovations in the field have been rare, because the market for such limbs is small and the cost of development is high. Now a group of engineers in the Shared Design Alliance has started a website, www.openprosthetics.org, to encourage users and engineers to share ideas in a discussion thread entitled “Pimp My Arm.”

Gates Invests in Algae Energy

Bill Gates’ personal investment group, Cascade Investments LLC, has put an undisclosed amount of money into Sapphire Energy, a San Diego-based startup that’s trying to use algae to produce refinery-grade crude oil that can be made into fuel. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company hopes to build a 10,000-barrel-a-day facility, but that there is still widespread skepticism about whether algae can serve as a viable source of fuel. The Journal also already made the pond scum joke.

Homeland Security Can’t Handle Cyber Threats, Group Says

The Department of Homeland Security has done a poor job of handling threats to cybersecurity, so the responsibility should be taken away and given to someone else, a group of experts says. Members of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Congress that the country lacks a coherent strategy for dealing with online attacks from hostile powers, according to PCWorld. A spokesman for the federal Government Accountability Office says the GAO shares the group’s concerns.

Khosla Calls for Pragmatism in Energy

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who invests in a variety of alternative energy startups, says practical steps are what’s needed to combat carbon emissions. Speaking to an alternative energy conference in California, Khosla said people need to embrace whatever technology works and is cheaper than fossil fuels, Seeking Alpha reports. For instance, even if corn-based ethanol drives up food prices, it’s reducing emissions and paving the way for more efficient cellulosic ethanol, he said.

Free Wireless Grows in San Francisco

The effort to provide free WiFi connections for low-income residents of San Francisco is proceeding apace, the city says. Mayor Gavin Newsom and wireless router company Meraki said this week they’re adding wireless coverage to 12 low-income housing projects in the Tenderloin neighborhood, CNET News says. Meraki says about 150,000 of the city’s 860,000 residents are on its network, and it will be a few more years before the entire city is covered.

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.