Daily TIPs: Hydrogen Sponge, Coke Contraception, High-Speed Wireless, & More

10/3/08

Millimeter Waves Promise Faster Wireless

While fiberoptic cables can carry data at speeds of 10 gigabits per second, or even higher, the fastest wireless communications top out at a few hundred megabits. But engineers at Battelle, an R&D firm in Columbus, OH, have demonstrated a system that transmits at 10 gigs, based on millimeter waves, which are shorter wavelength versions of microwaves. Technology Review reports that the Battelle team used off-the-shelf components, so their system may actually be practical for real-world use.

Spoofing GPS Could Cause Disasters

Computer scientists from Cornell and Virginia Tech are warning that devices based on global positioning systems can be spoofed, tricked into displaying the wrong information. As the Discovery Channel reports, the consequences could be anything from criminals with tracking bracelets around their ankles being able to hide their location from police, to planes crashing and electrical generators exploding.

Hydrogen Sponge Could Help Power Cars

One of the limiting factors in building automobiles that run on hydrogen fuel cells is how to store the hydrogen gas. New Scientist tells us that researchers in Greece have come up with a material that can absorb and hold much more hydrogen than previous materials. The sponge consists of sheets of graphene—single-atom-thick layers of carbon—separated by pillars made of carbon nanotubes.

Solar Paint Could Generate Electricity

Buildings could become solar power collectors, thanks to a new photovoltaic paint that can be coated onto steel plates. Renewable Energy World says that the Corus Group, an Anglo-Dutch steel manufacturer, is pouring tens of millions of euros into a venture with British university researchers to develop the paint. The paint consists of four layers, an undercoating, a layer of solar cells, an electrolyte, and a protective film.

Fluorescent Bulbs May Reduce Mercury Pollution

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) worry environmentalists because they contain mercury, which can get into the environment if the bulb breaks or is just tossed in the trash. Now a study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology says that, depending on where you live, you may put more mercury into the world by using an ordinary incandescent bulb. The problem is that it takes a lot more energy to light up an old-fashioned fluorescent bulb than a CFL, and if your electricity comes from a coal-fired power plant, burning the extra coal sends more mercury into the atmosphere.

States Upgrade E-Voting for November

In just a few short weeks, the regular folks of Main Street, God bless ‘em, will be choosin’ the next president. In anticipation, states that use electronic voting machines are taking steps to avoid problems that cropped up last time they used the devices, Computerworld reports. Some touch-screen machines, for instance, have been modified so voters receive a printout of their votes. And election officials are making sure they have plenty of paper ballots on hand.

No Condom? Try Diet Coke?

Scientists who demonstrated that Coke and Pepsi make effective spermicides (and for some reason, Diet Coke works best), were the winners of the Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry in the annual awards given out by the Annals of Improbable Research. MSNBC reports that other winners, in an award ceremony that parodies the Nobel Prize, include an economist who showed that expensive fake medicine has a stronger placebo effect than inexpensive fake medicine, and a psychologist who discovered that strippers earn more when they’re ovulating. Or was that undulating?

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