Archive for January, 2012

New Calendar Would Add Extra Week to December

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 17, 2012   View Article

Wish you’d had an extra holiday week this year? If a proposed permanent calendar is adopted in the next few years, you’ll get one at the end of 2017.

This “leap week” would occur every five or six years under the proposed Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar.

The occasional extra December week would keep the months in tune with the seasons in a calendar that would otherwise stay the same year after year after year.

Evolution defenders to fight climate skeptics

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 17, 2012   View Article

A national organization best known for its defense of teaching evolution has added climate change to its agenda in a move that highlights a brewing controversy inside the classroom.

Across the country, teachers and schools boards are being pressured to teach that the science of climate change is controversial when, in fact, it is not, according to the National Center for Science Education.

Robot surgeons may get upgraded

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 13, 2012   View Article

Surgical robots named Ravens are flocking to university labs around the U.S. where researchers will be encouraged to hack their software.

This reprogramming could accelerate innovation in surgical robotics, which is stifled due in part to a lock on the market held by the only company with a FDA-approved robot, according to Blake Hannaford, the director of the Biorobotics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Tiny hard drive stores one bit of data with just 12 atoms

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 12, 2012   View Article

Twelve atoms are all that’s required to store a bit of computer code – a 1 or 0, according to a new discovery that probes the limit of classical data storage.

Computer hard drives on the market today use more than a million atoms to store a single bit and more than half a billion to store a byte, which is an eight-bit-long unit of code sufficient to write the letter A, for example.

The new technique uses just 96 atoms per byte, allowing for hard drives that store 100 times more information in the same amount of physical space, according the researchers behind the discovery.

Sunflowers inspire improved solar power plant

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 11, 2012   View Article

The well-tuned geometry of the florets on the face of the sunflower head has inspired an improved layout for mirrors used to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity, according to new research.

The sunflower-inspired layout could reduce the footprint of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants by about 20 percent, which could be a boon for a technology that’s limited, in part, by its massive land requirements.

CSP plants employ arrays of giant mirrors, each the size of half a tennis court, to beam the sun’s rays up to heat a tube of fluid in the top of a tower. This hot fluid drives steam turbines that generate electricity.

Four-atom-wide wire may herald tiny computers

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 10, 2012   View Article

A wire that is just four atoms wide and one atom tall, yet works just as well as the ordinary copper wires running behind your wall, was recently created by an international team of scientists.

The breakthrough brings closer to reality a future where computers smaller than a pinhead are faster and more powerful than some of today’s supercomputers, according to the researchers.

100-year-old whisky highlights art of blending

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: January 9, 2012   View Article

Antarctica-bound explorers would be wise to bring a case or two of Scotch whisky to endure chilly nights. Ernest Shackleton was wise.

In fact, the Scotch he packed for the Nimrod’s 1907 attempt to reach the South Pole was exceptional, according to distillers who sampled and re-created the drink.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach