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Solar Cell Creates Hydrogen

A replica of the UCLA device, which can produce both electricity and hydrogen
A replica of the UCLA device, which can produce both electricity and hydrogen(Credit: Reed Hutchinson/UCLA)

Hydrogen-powered vehicles are slowly hitting the streets, but although it’s a clean and plentiful fuel source, a lack of infrastructure for mass producing, distributing and storing hydrogen is still a major roadblock. read more

So This is a Feel Good Story?

By: the Common Constitutionalist 

I was looking around the internet for one or more feel good stories as we head into Christmas Eve. So I Googled “Feel Good Stories”. Several headings came up and I thought, okay, I have a lot to do – this will be easier than I thought to find at least one uplifting story to maybe elaborate on for the great newsfollowing day.

So, as we all do, I clicked on one the higher ranking results. The site I chose was entitled “Great News Network – Positive Feel Good News”. I again thought – Wow – this will be easy, anticipating such a story as a family reunited with a military parent or a dog who found his way home, just in time for Christmas, after being lost for 3 months. Maybe I’d find a feeding the hungry story, or even a Christmas miracle. You know, something like that.

What I actually found, advertised as feel good stories, were posts which caused me to literally laugh out loud as I stared at the screen. read more

Storm Damage

Almost one week after superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast with its ferocious force, power was still out to some 2.5 million customers due to  damages, down from 3.5 million on Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office  of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability claimed.

Tthe state with the largest number of outages by far is still New Jersey with 32 percent of customers without power, it said it a report.

And as the lights begin to flicker on in Lower Manhattan, nine percent of customers across the state of New York still do not have power, followed by seven percent in Connecticut.

Artist Konstantin Bokov gets water to boil for drinking from an old fire hrydrant at Rockaway Beach, New York on November 3, 2012. He has no power, and no running waterArtist Konstantin Bokov gets water to boil for drinking  from an old fire hrydrant at Rockaway Beach, New York on November 3, 2012. He  has no power, and no running water
What remains: Julie Traina tries to recover some personal items from the destroyed home of her parents in Staten Island yesterdayJulie Traina tries to recover some  personal items from the destroyed home of her parents in Staten Island
Vigilante justice: A sign is seen outside a home in Long Beach in Long Island on November 2 gives a dire warning to would-be looters  A sign is seen outside a home in Long Beach in Long Island on November 2 gives a dire warning to would-be looters
Under protection: A warning message seen written on a door to keep away looters in a street in Freeport, Long Island as they try to return to normalcy following the hurricane A warning message seen written on a  door to keep away looters in a street in Freeport, Long Island as they try to return to normalcy following the hurricane
Wild west: People walk through the heavily damaged Rockaway neighborhood in Queens where a large section of the iconic boardwalk was washed away People walk through the heavily damaged  Rockaway neighborhood in Queens where a large section of the iconic boardwalk was washed away
The hunger games: Two women look into the window of a flooded deli while searching for food in Coney Island, four days after SandyTwo women look into the window of a  flooded deli while searching for food in Coney Island, four days after Sandy
Aid: A boy watches as members of the U.S. Army National Guard unload food and supplies in the Rockaways section of Queens  A boy watches as members of the U.S. Army National Guard unload food and supplies in the Rockaways section of Queens

This comes as residents of the Rockaways in Queens continued to struggle without power, heat or food for a sixth day as their neighborhood slowly descended into chaos.

‘It’s chaos; it’s pandemonium out here,’ said Chris Damon, who had been waiting for 3.5 hours at the site and had circled the block five times. “It seems like nobody has any answers.”

Added Damon: ‘I feel like a victim of Hurricane Katrina. I never thought it could happen here in New York, but it’s happened.’

With little police presence on the storm-ravaged streets, many residents of the peninsula have been forced to take their protection into their own hands, arming themselves with guns, baseball bats and even bows and arrows to ward off thugs seeking to loot their  homes.

It has been reported that crooks have been disguising themselves as Long Island Power Authority workers and coming by homes on the peninsula in the middle of the night while real utility workers were nowhere to be found.

‘We booby-trapped our door and keep a baseball bat beside our bed,’ Danielle Harris, 34, told the New York Daily News.

The woman added that she has been hearing gunshots likely fired in the nearby housing project for three nights in a row.

Meanwhile, local surfer Keone Singlehurst said that he stockpiled knives, a machete and a bow and arrow.

‘I would take a looter with a bow if a felt threatened I would definitely use it,’ he said. ‘It’s like the wild west. A borderline lawless situation.’

City Councilman James Sanders said he fears that things are going to get even worse.

‘We have an explosive mix here,’ he said.  ‘People will take matters into their own hands.’

Sanders has directed much of his anger and frustration at LIPA, calling on the City Council to investigate the utility for ignoring the Rockaways for so long.

‘LIPA has failed the people of the Rockaways,’ he said. ‘It’s a question of class… serving the richer areas of Long Island and ignoring the Rockaways.’

Barbecue: Collins Wimbish cooks food over a fire in a barrel in the Rockaways neighborhood of Queens Collins Wimbish cooks food over a fire in a  barrel in the Rockaways neighborhood of Queens
Keeping in touch: People charge cell phones at a police generator in RockawaysPeople charge cell phones at a police generator in Rockaways
Destroyed: This Rockaways boardwalk that was pushed off of its pilings by storm surge This Rockaways boardwalk that was pushed off  of its pilings by storm surge
Making do: Large areas of New York outside Manhattan are still without power or functioning stores to buy food and water following Hurricane Sandy Large areas of New York outside Manhattan are still without power or functioning stores to buy food and water following  Hurricane Sandy
Ruins: A silhouetted man walks past a strip of destroyed buildings in Rockaways  A silhouetted man walks past a strip of destroyed  buildings in Rockaways
Reception: A man makes a phone call next to discarded storm garbage in Coney Island FridayA man makes a phone call next to discarded storm garbage in Coney Island Friday

Walter Meyer, 37, told the Daily News that the Rockaways of today bears little resemblance to the peaceful place where he has surfed so many times in the past.

Shooting looters: A toy dog wearing a military helmet sits atop a car holding a sing warning off looters in a resident's driveway in the Rockaways A toy dog wearing a military helmet sits atop a car holding a sing warning off looters in a resident’s driveway in the Rockaways

‘After sunset everyone locks their doors,’ he  said. ‘They’re trying to find whatever weapons they can find. Some people are even using bows and arrows.’

Along with mounting safety concerns,  homeowners in the beachfront community hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, that have left 109 dead, continued to face hunger, complaining that federal officials have left them to fend for themselves.

‘Rockaways always get left over,’ said Meyer. ‘It’s treated like a marginalized land in the city.’

Most of the grocery stores in the area have not reopened since the storm, and the neighborhood has been left cut off from the rest of the city, with no trains or even shuttle buses servicing the residents.

Stranded neighbors largely have been relying on volunteers delivering food, water and other basic necessities while the Red Cross and FEMA were still nowhere in sight.

‘We can’t exist,’ said Ann Manning. ‘We can’t buy milk. We can’t buy cereal. We can’t buy nothing.’

As they scrape around desperately for food and are forced to use their gas to keep warm, many claim they are the forgotten victims of Sandy.

The Borough President of Staten Island called the reaction of Red Cross –  or lack thereof – to the devastation caused by Sandy an ‘absolute  disgrace’.

Destruction: Marina Sverdlov talks to a real estate broker while standing in her flood ravaged home in Staten Island Marina Sverdlov talks to a real estate  broker while standing in her flood ravaged home in Staten Island
No safe harbor: Boats pushed up by Hurricane Sandy lie against residences next to a marina on in Staten Island as a man walks his dogBoats pushed up by Hurricane Sandy lie against residences next to a marina on Staten Island as a man walks his  dog
Bitter: A sign about the marathon and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is displayed in a devastated section of Staten Island yesterday, before the marathon was canceled  A sign about the marathon and New York City  Mayor Michael Bloomberg is displayed in a devastated section of Staten Island, before the marathon was canceled
Relief: People eat soup at a donation and distribution center in the Rockaways, though residents are complaining there is not enough assistance for them People eat soup at a donation and distribution  center in the Rockaways, though residents are complaining there is not enough assistance for them
Survival: Emilio Langilotti of Staten Island carries food from a FEMA and American Red Cross aid and disaster relief station in the boroughEmilio Langilotti of Staten Island carries food from a FEMA and American Red Cross aid and disaster relief station in the borough

James Molinaro went as far as to tell people not to donate to the charity because when push came to shove, the group just didn’t deliver when Staten Island needed them the most.

He’s remained there ever since the hurricane struck and gave his first-hand account of the devastation.

‘It’s so bad here, a lot worse than how its being portrayed by the media.,’  he said.

‘They are finding bodies left and right, elderly people who don’t even watch the news or who knew the storm was coming. I was just with one of my best friends from high school and college, and his house is completely gone.

‘I know this island in and out. To see it completely destroyed is bizarre.

‘I’ve been trying to hit every shelter on Staten Island to do what I can,  just to make people smile. A lot of people know me and know I’m from here.’

‘My advice to the people of Staten Island is  do not donate to the American Red Cross,’ said Mr Molinaro. ‘Let them get their  money elsewhere.’

‘It’s an absolute disgrace in a county that has always responded to disasters all over the world,’ he said.

‘Katrina – we sent them down four trailer loads of food, water and one trailer load of generators. No one’s responding to us.’

Residents are pleading for help as they fear their devastated neighborhoods are being ignored.

In a Coney Island apartment block, where tenants huddle together in one room and human waste spills out of the toilet, tenant Jeffery Francis despairs that help is not getting to Brooklyn faster.

‘We are scavenging for food like animals,’ he  told the New York Daily News. ‘We are in a crisis and no one will help us. Look at us. We are misery. Everyone cares about Manhattan. No one is looking out for us. Nothing.’

At another apartment where power is still out, residents are out of food and praying for help. Albert Miller, 58, told the paper: ‘One person found a sandwich and we split it four ways.’

While power was likely returned to Manhattan’s East and West Villages, Financial District, Chelsea, Chinatown and the Lower East Side by the weekend, according to the power company, Con Edison, outages in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are not expected to be repaired for another week.

Across Staten Island residents are also increasingly frustrated they are being passed over while other parts of  New York and New Jersey receive aid and attention.

Residents were furious the island was being prepared as the starting line for Sunday’s marathon, while hundreds are left hungry and one resident there told CBS station WCBS, ‘We’re gonna die! We’re gonna freeze! We’ve got 90-year-old people without homes in the wake of the superstorm!’

Natvel Pritchard, of Staten Island, told CBS  News, ‘Though people don’t talk about Staten Island much, people are here, a lot of people are hurting, so it’s upsetting.’

Crossings: Alexandra Lopez, 7, looks out the window of the Staten Island Ferry on November 2Alexandra Lopez, 7, looks out the window of  the Staten Island Ferry on November 2
Two worlds: The half of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge attached to Brooklyn is lit while the half attached to Staten Island is dark last night The half of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge  attached to Brooklyn is lit while the half attached to Staten Island is dark last night

Homes across Brooklyn and Coney Island are some of the worst hit in the wake of the superstorm.

Many houses shattered into piles of bricks and splintered planks at Coney Island, while others stand waterlogged and abandoned.

What's left: Mounds of debris can be seen in the massively damaged Rockaway neighborhoodMounds of debris can be seen in the massively damaged Rockaway neighborhood
Damages: Jeff Kulikowski sits on a bench on the boardwalk that was pushed off of its pilings by storm surge in the RockawaysJeff Kulikowski sits on a bench on the boardwalk that was pushed off of its pilings by storm surge in the Rockaways

One gated community at the tip of the island, Seagate, was particularly badly hit, with some houses entirely washed away or flattened.

For power companies, the scale of destruction was unmatched – more widespread than any blizzard or ice storm and worse than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

‘It’s unprecedented: fallen trees, debris, the roads, water, snow. It’s a little bit of everything,’ said Brian Wolff, senior vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a group that lobbies for utilities.

Initially, about 60 million people were without power in 8.2 million homes and businesses.

By Wednesday night, that number had fallen to roughly 44 million people in 6 million households and businesses and today around 3.6 million are without power.

Stacked: Boats piled up on top of one another near Beach Haven Inlet on the New Jersey coastline. Residents outside of New York City believe they are being passed over while aid is directed to ManhattanBoats piled up on top of one another near Beach Haven Inlet on the New Jersey coastline. Residents in New York’s outer boroughs, and elsewhere outside the city, believe they are being passed over while aid is directed to Manhattan
Destruction: Homes in the Sea Gate part of Brooklyn have been ripped apart by the superstormHomes in the Seagate part of Brooklyn have been ripped apart by the superstorm
Ruin: Whole walls and roofs of homes in Sea Gate, Brooklyn, were destroyed by the stormWhole walls and roofs of homes in Seagate,  Brooklyn, were destroyed by the storm
Areas of New York and New Jersey are still without power days after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of America
Attribution: Mail Online

It’s Alive!

by: Sam Shead

Experiments with echoes of Frankenstein suggest electricity could one day be used to regenerate tissue and regrow lost limbs.

Scientists believe electric currents and fields hold the key to major advances in tissue engineering.

In the distant future they may even help people with severed limbs, such as victims of industrial accidents or soldiers, to grow new arms and legs.

 
Electric currents and fields could one day be used to grow tissue for soldiers with severed limbs
Electric currents and fields could one day be used to grow tissue for soldiers with severed limbs

Electrical stimulus has already shown some success in stimulating sensory nerve regrowth in people with damaged spinal cords.

There is also evidence that bio-electric fields play a role in regenerating lost fingertips, especially in children.

But the importance of electricity in wound healing and tissue repair has been largely overlooked because of its association with Victorian quackery and Frankenstein, according to Dr Ann Rajnicek.

‘Electricity is key; its something that has been under-appreciated,’ she said. ‘But people still think of Frankenstein and the Victorian age. Even when you try to sell the idea to a research funding agency, they say ‘oh no, I’m not sure about that’.’

In Mary Shelley’s novel, electricity provides the spark that brings Frankenstein’s monster to life. 

The idea of using electricity for tissue engineering has been dismissed due to the connotations it holds with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel.

 
The creature created by Frankenstein later went on to be called Frankenstein itself
The creature created by Frankenstein later went on to be called Frankenstein itself
 

During the Victorian era, when the novel was written, electricity and its biological effects gripped the public imagination.

Electrical devices were built that were supposed to treat all manner of ills, from depression to kidney disease and impotence.

Macabre stage experiments were also common in which the dead were apparently brought to life using electricity to make limbs jerk or teeth chatter, said Dr Rajnicek.

In a show conducted in Glasgow in 1818, the corpse of a man hung for murder suddenly sat up, causing members of the audience to flee in terror. One man fainted.

Dr Rajnicek’s research at the University of Aberdeen has demonstrated the effect of electricity on flatworms rather than human corpses.

‘We’re using flatworms that multiply asexually by spontaneous fission,’ she said. ‘The worm snaps itself in two like an elastic band so you have one end missing a head and other missing a tail.

Geckos have the ability to regrow their tails with a surplus of stem cells that migrate towards parts of the body that need healing

‘Each half reforms, and this is something that has perplexed scientists for hundreds of years. How does a tail know it needs a head or a head know it needs a tail?

‘We believe the natural electrical field that’s associated with the wounding process acts like a compass to tell cells where to migrate. You get a field that points towards the wound and directs cells there.

‘We’ve also found that there’s a gradient – the electrical field is positive but at the very tip of the head of the worm its much less positive, so the animal has natural electrical polarity. We think the stem cells are being directed to build either a head or tail because one end is more positive and the other end is more negative.’

When a flatworm is cut, electricity leaks out of the wound – and the same thing occurs in all other animals, including humans, said Dr Rajnicek. ‘The skin [is] like a battery,’ she said.

 
Earmouse: Scientists managed to graft a lab grown human-like ear onto the back of a mouse
Earmouse: MIT Scientists managed to graft a lab grown human-like ear onto the back of a mouse in 1995

In animals that regenerate limbs, such as flatworms and amphibians, the leakage produces an electrical potential that causes cells at the ‘stump’ to regress to an embryonic state. They can then mature into different kinds of new regenerated cells.

By reversing the polarity of the electric field at the wound site, Dr Rajnicek was able to produce worms with heads where their tails should be, and vice-versa. Manipulating the field led to worms with two heads or two tails.

The scientists know there is much more to the story because flatworms are not completely simple creatures. They have complex nervous systems with two parallel nerve cords and a brain, eyes, a gut, and around 40 different cell types.

‘We are still at the early stages, but we want to look at the genes that are switched on or off by the presence or absence of this field,’ said Dr Rajnicek, who gave a presentation on her work at the British Science Festival at the University of Aberdeen.

There is evidence that the leakage of electricity from wounds aids healing in humans, she added.

In the 1980s, researchers studied cases of children who regrew the tips of their fingers after having them sliced off in car doors.

They found that younger children healed better, and also leaked the most current from their wounds. When the wounds were sutured and sealed up, it prevented regeneration.

Another case in 2008 involved American Lee Spievak who chopped half an inch off the end of a finger in the propeller of a model aeroplane. The finger tip was lost, but Mr Spievak treated himself with a powder obtained from a tissue engineering lab at the University of Pennsylvania where his brother worked. The media described the regrowth of his finger tip as a ‘medical miracle’.

Mr Spievak put his recovery down to the powder, prepared from pigs bladder cells, which he called “pixie dust”. Dr Rajnicek believes growth factors in the powder may have worked in conjunction with the electrical effect of the open wound.

Covering up open wounds might help prevent infection, but could also hinder recovery, she suggested.

She added that early work had already shown that manipulating electricity can help repair damaged spinal cords.

A team from the University of North Texas improved sensory nerve function in 10 patients using electrical stimulus, although no effect was seen on motor function.

‘We’re not saying electricity is the only thing that matters, but it is one piece of the puzzle that has been neglected,’ said Dr Rajnicek.

Give Me Some Water

I am not a big fan (pardon the pun) of wind turbines but this is pretty cool.

Wind turbines can now provide drinking water in humid climates following a breakthrough by a French engineering firm.

Eole Water modified  typical electricity-generating turbines to allow them to distill drinking water out of the air in a bid to help developing countries solve their water needs.

A prototype in Abu Dhabi already creates 62 liters (16.5 gallons) of water an hour, and Eole hopes to sell turbines generating a thousand liters a day later this year.

Thibault Janin, director of marketing at Eole Water, said: ‘This technology could enable rural areas to become self-sufficient in terms of water supply.
‘As the design and capabilities develop, the next step will be to create turbines that can provide water for small cities or areas with denser populations.’

The turbine works in the same way as the turbines currently seen dotting horizons around the world – and the electricity produced also helps power the water manufacturing process.

Air gets sucked into the nose of the turbine and is directed to a cooling compressor. The humidity is then extracted from the air and condensed and collected.

The water then travels down stainless steel pipes under the forces of gravity into a storage tank, where – with some filtering and purification – it is then ready to drink, wash, or cultivate with.

Mr Janin told CNN that one generator producing 1,000 liters a day is ‘enough to provide water for a village or town of 2,000 to 3,000 people’.

He said communities in Africa and South America, and remote islands in Asia with little access to safe drinking water, would be the types of communities who stood to benefit the most from the technology.

He added: ‘If you think of Indonesia, it has (thousands of) islands and they cannot centralize their water supply … the geographic makeup of the country makes it impossible.

‘This technique could enable them to overcome these problems and make the islands self-sufficient in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.’
But anyone ready to get their checkbook out should note the cost – around $650,000 per turbine. However Janin noted that prices would fall as economies of scale came into play.

He added: ‘We have just started the commercial aspect of this product but the price is not that expensive when you compare it with the long term solution that it gives.’

Eole Water said their priorities in the design were maximum water production, energy independence, low maintenance, logistical flexibility and no environmental impact.

The turbines have a life expectancy of 20 years.

Attribution: Eddie Wrenn