Aug, 2012

(by Dale Hyde)

India’s Tata Motors is working on a revolutionary new concept car, Airpod concept car. It’s small and futuristic looking like many other models, but unlike those vehicles, this one runs on compressed air. It’s a tiny little three-seater designed for urban driving. The small size also helps the power generated from the engine better propel the car. It holds about 175 liters of air that will take you about 125 miles; Tata reports top speeds of around 50 mph.Writing in The Atlantic Cities, John Metcalfe explains how the Airpod works:

“Sadly, these vehicles do not function by farting out a loud stream of gas that propels them forth. They instead are built with pneumatic motors that use pressurized air to drive pistons. In the case of Tata, a company that’s developing a line of “nano” cars (including this bulletproof dwarf tank), the engines come from Luxembourg firm MDI, which has been tooling around with air automation for more than two decades.

Tata bought the rights to sell MDI’s creations in India five years ago, but the project’s proven difficult to get popping. But in May, the motor giant announced that it had completed the “first phase” of the Airpod, successfully testing out the engines in two vehicles. The Airpod team presumably is now in Phase 2, polishing up on the hardware in advance of a commercial launch.

So what does this auto of the future look like? Following the smartcar trend, it resembles something that stumbled out of Pixar’s Cars. The mid-sized model fits three passengers, although one must face backward like he’s being punished for something, and is streamlined almost to the point of becoming a sphere. Its tank can hold 175 liters of air, which a driver gets either at a specialized fueling station or by activating an onboard electric motor to suck it in. Its makers say that filling er’ up will cost a paltry €1, and that a full tank of air can last for roughly 125 miles. “

Via likecooldvicetheatlanticcities

Aug, 2012


Glowing to Mimic Toxic Beetles

This South American cockroach species has a cool trick, using fluorescent bacteria to glow in this spooky pattern at night. It turns out that they are mimicking the glow of a neighboring toxic beetle, using their little bacterial helpers.

Of course when I saw it, I immediately thought of Eva. Where’s the Wall-E beetle?

(via Discover Magazine)

Aug, 2012

Unfortunately, this would not work. Let’s say there were two books: one labeled A; the other labeled B.

You read book A. Your clone reads book B.

You have the experience of reading book A, but not book B because you haven’t read it. Your clone did. YOU STILL HAVE TO READ BOOK B!

Now, if the two of you were tethered by some kind of link in your consciousness then…

Aug, 2012

Syndicated From New Scientist:

As Arctic summers go, 2012 is on track to be a record breaker. Both the sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet are shrinking to new lows this year.

We reported last week that the Arctic sea ice is melting more than any previous year on record. September 2007 currently holds the record for the lowest extent of Arctic sea ice, at least since satellite records began in 1979, and probably before. The melt made headlines that year, as it opened the fabled Northwest Passage – which runs north of Canada and Alaska. Researchers blamed a combination of long-term climate change and unusual weather patterns.

2007 has become the benchmark for low Arctic ice cover, until now. Ice extent is currently smaller than it was in late August 2007. Based on the latest data from the US National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, it could shrink below the 2007 minimum within days. There’s another few weeks to go before the annual summer minimum is reached and cooling autumn temperatures allow the ice cap to grow back for the winter.

Greenland low, too

The ice sheet that sits on Greenland is also melting at a record pace. A new analysis of satellite data by Marco Tedesco of the City College of New York shows that it has already melted more than any summer since records began. The previous record year was 2010, but this year the ice sheet reached the 2010 minimum on 8 August.

The ice will bounce back once winter sets in, but the record lows are telling indicators that climate change is radically transforming the Arctic.

Aug, 2012

From Scientific American:

Most teachers would agree that it is important that students remember much of what they read. Yet one of the most common sights on high school and college campuses across the land is that of students poring over textbooks, yellow marker in hand, highlighting pertinent passages—which often end up including most of the page. Later in the semester, to prepare for their exams, students hit the textbooks again, rereading the yellow blocks of text.

Studies have shown that highlighting and rereading text is among the least effective ways for students to remember the content of what they have read. A far better technique is for students to quiz themselves. In one study, students who read a text once and then tried to recall it on three occasions scored 50 percent higher on exams than students who read the text and then reread it three times. And yet many teachers persist in encouraging—or at least not discouraging—the techniques that science has proved to fall short.


It is easy to argue that teachers ought to do a better job of keeping up with science, but teaching is already a labor-intensive profession. And it is difficult for the nonspecialist to separate scientific research from the usual flood of quackery and pseudoscience. Peddlers of expensive and supposedly research-based nostrums lobby school districts. Other products that may have scientific validity have not yet been thoroughly tested. For example, theories of mathematical learning suggest that linear (but not circular) board games may boost math preparedness in preschoolers, but the idea needs large-scale testing.

How are educators supposed to know which practices to use? An institution that vets research and summarizes it for educators could solve the problem. Medicine provides a precedent. Practicing physicians do not have the time to keep up with the tens of thousands of research articles published annually that might suggest a change in treatment. Instead they rely on reputable summaries of research, published annually, that draw conclusions as to whether the accumulated evidence merits a change in medical practice. Teachers have nothing like these authoritative reviews. They are on their own.

Link to the rest at Scientific American