News, Technology

Self-driving cars might generate hundreds of billions in revenue

self-driving simulator

Some people waste hours each day driving their car, time they could have otherwise spent better. You’ll still be trapped on the road in a self-driven car, but the added benefit is that you’ll be free to do other stuff – anything but stare into your windshield non-stop. According to a study made by McKinsey & Company, self-driving cars could generate billions of dollars a year in revenue from mobile internet services and products, even in situations where occupants only save a couple of minutes. Of course, we had it coming. What did you thought people would do with their spare driving time? Surf the internet, of course.

Environment, News

Wind turbines help crops grow better

Iowa State students from the College of Engineering's Summer Program for Enhancing Engineering Development (SPEED) program pose near wind turbines and meteorological towers on an Iowa windfarm. Photo: IOWA EPSCOR

It amazes me when I hear people say they’re against wind turbines because … wait for it… they’re ugly. If you think the same, please get a look at this. Others hate them because they have this misguided impression they’re noisy. Well, modern turbines at least are quieter than a heartbeat. If you really want to make a case against wind turbines, you could argue they’re bad for wildlife and you’d be right. Birds, bats and other winged creatures are sometimes attracted by the turbines or get slashed when these are in the way of their migration patterns. This is why I believe turbines should be built only in those areas where there is minimal interference with wildlife. They’ll always be downsides to any technology or infrastructure development, but when you draw the line we must be objective whether or not the benefits tip the scales. There’s also another added benefit to turbines you likely never heard about: they help crops grow faster and better when they’re placed on farmland.

Biology, Health & Medicine, News

Fighting intestinal worm infections with its own genes

Hookworm is an intestinal parasite most commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical climates of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Hookworm, one of three members of a family of parasites known as the soil-transmitted helminths (STHs), are half-inch long worms that attach themselves to the intestinal wall and feed on human blood. Image: Sabin Vaccine Institute

Parasitic hookworms infect half a billion people worldwide, causing severe health problems like gastrointestinal issues, cognitive impairment and stunted growth in children. As if the challenges weren’t big enough, the parasites are growing resistant to current drugs. Scientists are trying to tackle this by developing new treatments and vaccines based on the worm’s genome. A team of Caltech sequenced the genome of a hookworm species known as Ancylostoma ceylanicum and found the genes that code key proteins involved in infecting hosts. They hope blocking these proteins from being made might save millions from great sorrow and suffering.

Health & Medicine, News

WHO says sugar intake should be halved to cut obesity pandemic

cutting down on sugar

It’s increasingly hard to eat less sugar, as market shelves are filled with sugary products. In the past ten years alone, global sugar intake has risen by ten percent. In what’s not the first and surely not the last appeal of the sort, the Wold Health Organization reports adults and children from the Americas to Western Europe and the Middle East must halve their daily sugar intake to reach acceptable levels. Otherwise the risk of obesity and tooth decay, to name a few, will skyrocket. In terms of daily energy intake, the new guidelines means that people should keep sugar at a maximum of 10% of equivalent energy.

Archaeology, News

Ancient mass grave discovered under a supermarket in Paris

Image: Denis Gliksman/Inrap

You never know what’s hidden in food these days… but you also never know what’s hidden under supermarkets. Organized rows of over 200 skeletons have been found in a communal grave under a Monoprix supermarket in central Paris. The site is thought to be a hospital cemetery dating back to the 1100s. When building constructors encounter archaeological remains (be they human

Animals, Biology, News

“Sparklemuffin” and “Skeletorus” are two new spider species

All photos: Jurgen Otto

It’s not every day that species get such awesome names – but then again, it’s not every day that such awesome spiders are discovered. Two gorgeous new species of spider have been discovered in Australia (where else?), and the researchers who made the discovery decided to give them these memorable names. The species are a part of the jumping spider family,

Environmental Issues, Technology

Company to Start Building Transoceanic Canal in Nicaragua


A private company in Hong Kong known as the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND) has been given the green light to start the $50 billion work on a canal that will connect the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean through Nicaragua. The project, which will be significantly longer than the Panama canal could bring huge economic benefits, saving a lot of time and resources, but it also raises major environmental concerns.

News, Physics, Technology

UC Santa Barbara and Google Scientists create self-correctable quantum device

Mathematical representation of a qubit. Image credits: University of Strathclyde.

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and at Google reported on Wednesday in the journal Nature that they are one step closer to developing a true quantum computer – they have developed a quantum device the art of checking and correcting its own errors.

Climate, News, Oceanography

Arctic ice melting much faster than thought

On July 10, 2011, Don Perovich, of Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, maneuvered through melt ponds collecting optical data along the way to get a sense of the amount of sunlight reflected from sea ice and melt ponds in the Chukchi Sea.
Image credits: NASA.

Using both modern and historic measurements, researchers now have a more extensive view of how the Arctic sea ice has changed in the past few decades, finding that the ice is melting much faster than previously expected. The ice in the central Arctic Ocean thinned 65 percent between 1975 and 2012, from 11.7 feet (3.59 meters) to 4.1 feet (1.25 m).