Daily TIPs: Tree Power, Special Delivery, Dead Zones, & More

Technique Predicts Wi-Fi Dead Zones

A graduate student at Rice University has developed a technique to predict holes in a city’s Wi-Fi coverage. Ars Technica reports that Joshua Robinson found that dead zones could be as small as 10 meters in diameter. He also found that adding more access nodes doesn’t necessarily fill in all the holes.

Broad-Spectrum Vaccine Might Fight Next Pandemic

Public health officials worry that a strain of bird flu or some other version of the influenza virus might mutate so it spreads rapidly among humans who have no resistance. The current method for making flu vaccines takes months and is not always effective against the strain of the virus in circulation. But Technology Review says that scientists have developed a DNA-based vaccine that could protect against a variety of strains, and they hope to begin testing in humans soon.

Google Wants Clean Energy by 2030

Google, which is into everything these days, has released a proposal for getting to clean energy by 2030. On its public policy blog, the company outlines three broad steps it feels should be taken immediately. These are to reduce demand through increased efficiency, develop renewable energy that’s cheaper than coal, and electrify transportation while reinventing the energy grid.

Search Engines Add More Graphics to Results

While Google is out saving the world, other search engine companies are working on developing better search engines. CNET News reviews half a dozen new entries, all of which are trying to make the results better by adding graphics. The reviewer didn’t like a couple of the offerings, but thinks others are definitely worth trying out.

Socialtext Brings Social Networking to Business

A Web 2.0 company called Socialtext, of Palo Alto, CA, is trying to provide businesses with a more grown-up version of popular social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter. For instance, as the New York Times reports, Socialtext Signals is just like Twitter, but for internal company use only, so people can use it to communicate with their colleagues about what they’re working on.

The Cure is in the Mail

Federal officials have a proposal for getting antibiotics to tens of thousands of people in the event of an anthrax terrorist attack—mail them. Since the Post Office has a system for delivering items to the whole population already in place, officials say it makes sense to have them deliver pills in case of an emergency. The Washington Post reports that the mailmen would be asked to volunteer, with the incentive of a guaranteed supply of antibiotics for their families and a police escort on their rounds.

MIT Students Become Tree Pluggers

Chemistry students at MIT have figured out how to get electricity out of trees, enough to power a small sensor, perhaps. As MSNBC explains, the students found that a difference in the acidity level of the tree and the soil creates a small current they can tap into. With some additional equipment, they were able to get 2.4 volts from trees.

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