COAG commits to fire warning



The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has agreed to set up a national telephone emergency warning system to which the Federal Government has committed up to $15 million.


The system, which gained importance after the high death toll of the Victorian fires earlier this year, will send warning alerts — recorded voice and SMS — to people based on the billing address of the subscriber.

It was not technically possible as yet to send alerts depending on the location of people’s mobile phones, according to Prime Minister Rudd, but he said that COAG had committed to undertake research with industry so that it could be done.


The system will be operational by October 2009 according to the COAG communiqué. An open tender process will be held to find a suitable developer. When completed, it will be operated by the State and Territory authorities.

Telstra said it was continuing discussions with the governments and authorities at the states and federal level on the matter.

The government had come under fire [PARDON THE PUN] over the lack of a warning system after it was revealed that a system had already been trialled, but that the government had not managed to work towards putting it into place, reportedly due to its high $20 million price tag.

Another related government tender to build a secure database, which could provide access to the necessary telephone numbers while protecting individuals’ identities, closed this week.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st May 2009

Phthalates found in obese children


NEW YORK (UPI) — A U.S. study suggests endocrine disruptors such as phthalates may play a role in childhood obesity, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine said.

Researchers found children in New York’s East Harlem are three times more likely than other children in the United States to be overweight.
The study determined neighborhood characteristics — including availability of convenience foods — likely play a strong role in the number of obese children. Eighty percent of the children in the study reported purchasing food items from convenience stores at least one time per week, the hospital said in a report released Thursday.

High levels of phthalates and Bisphenol A found in the children’s urine may play a role in obesity by disrupting hormones that regulate growth and development, researchers said. Higher levels of three endocrine disruptors — 2,5 DCP, MBP and MEHHP — were also found.
The levels of DCP, formed in the body from the chemical DCB, were three to 10 times higher than those found in a national sample of children the same age, the report said. The chemical is common in mothballs, room deodorizers and toilet bowl deodorizer cakes.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 22nd April 2009

April 16, 1943

Hallucinogenic effects of LSD discovered


In Basel, Switzerland, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz pharmaceutical research laboratory, accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds. After taking the drug, formally known as lysergic acid diethylamide, Dr. Hoffman was disturbed by unusual sensations and hallucinations. In his notes, he related the experience:

“Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”


After intentionally taking the drug again to confirm that it had caused this strange physical and mental state, Dr. Hoffman published a report announcing his discovery, and so LSD made its entry into the world as a hallucinogenic drug. Widespread use of the so-called “mind-expanding” drug did not begin until the 1960s, when counterculture figures such as Albert M. Hubbard, Timothy Leary, and Ken Kesey publicly expounded on the benefits of using LSD as a recreational drug. The manufacture, sale, possession, and use of LSD, known to cause negative reactions in some of those who take it, were made illegal in the United States in 1965.


Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

How To Save The Biodiesel


Government dithering and high commodity prices make for a tough environment.


BURLINGAME, Calif.–Can the biodiesel industry be saved? It’s remotely possible–but not unless the government steps in to jump-start the besieged market.

Biodiesel, a low-carbon fuel usually made with soy, palm or canola oil, first grabbed the spotlight a few years ago. That was when Congress started promoting the green fuel as a replacement for traditional diesel. Private-equity firms started pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into companies like Seattle’s Imperium Renewables and Green Earth Fuels, of Houston, hoping to get in on the ground floor of a nascent market.

Federal government mandates and tax breaks, driven by the broader goal of fighting pollution and cutting reliance on foreign oil, were supposed to create a mass market, even though biodiesel was often more expensive than regular diesel fuel.

It hasn’t happened. Starting in mid-2007, prices of the canola and soy oils used to make biodiesel soared. That pushed up the cost of the green fuel and wounded producers’ bottom lines. With oil peaking at $147 a barrel last summer, biodiesel still made economic sense for some customers, since regular diesel prices climbed to an average $4.77 a gallon. Biodiesel didn’t look bad by comparison.


But then petroleum prices tanked. That widened the price gap and made the green option uneconomical for even the most die-hard environmentalists. Commodity prices have since come down, but not enough to bridge the gap. The recession has damped demand for energy overall and made it nearly impossible for fledgling clean-fuel ventures, including biodiesel makers, to get credit to expand.

“The market conditions are very, very tough right now,” says Joe Jobe, head of the National Biodiesel Board in Jefferson City, Mo. Of the nation’s 176 biodiesel operators, “it’s very difficult to say how many of them are still operating.”

The industry’s woes illustrate the hazards of building a business around the prices of two volatile, and often unrelated, commodities–in this case, raw vegetable oil and petroleum. They also show that not all green fuels are created equal. Lots of environmentalists have hopped off the biodiesel bandwagon, charging that increased demand for commodities like palm oil will lead to deforestation and, in turn, even more greenhouse-gas emissions from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

Fiddling With The Earth’s




Scientists, including Obama’s science advisor, get tied in knots over geoengineering.

Oil and gas are so deliciously tempting that humans are having no success in slowing down global warming the way scientists agree we should, by going easy at the fossil fuel buffet.

So like surgeons who use liposuction to deal with obesity, scientists are considering ways to deal with the consequences of our unhealthy carbon diet. They are thinking about blowing soot into the stratosphere, hanging sunshades in space and sprinkling the oceans with fertilizer to create blooms of carbon-sucking phytoplankton.

These approaches are aimed at cooling the earth by either allowing less sunlight in or letting more heat bounce back to space by removing heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. The big idea–fighting or reversing atmospheric changes with large-scale tinkering of the earth–is called geoengineering, and it’s tying scientists in knots.

President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, got twisted up himself last week. In his first interview since he was appointed, he mentioned to the Associated Press that he and the administration had discussed geoengineering approaches. Holdren later had to write an e-mail clarifying his position in response to fears that he and the administration were considering planning something specific. They aren’t.

“I said that the approaches that have been surfaced so far seem problematic in terms of both efficacy and side effects, but we have to look at the possibilities and understand them because if we get desperate enough it will be considered,” Holdren wrote.

This highlights why geoengineering is such an extraordinarily touchy scientific subject and why there is such deep ambivalence in the scientific community about it. Almost no one thinks that humans should be trying to change the atmosphere on a global scale. But then again, aren’t we already doing that by removing carbon from the ground in the form of fossil fuels and depositing it in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide on a massive scale? And what if we don’t solve the problem in time?



What complicates things is that the scientists who are most concerned with the pace of global warming and the destruction that might ensue are the ones who are forcing themselves to think about radical solutions. It terrifies them because they know better than anyone that the climate is massively complex and that unintended consequences lurk everywhere.

Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, best known for his work on ozone depletion, has advanced the idea of injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight away from earth. James Lovelock, a hero to early environmentalists who proposed the Gaia hypothesis, has advocated placing long, vertical wave-driven pipes in the ocean that would pump nutrient-rich water to the surface to fertilize algae that would consume carbon dioxide.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

Sugar-Based Biofuels



Madison, Wis.,-based Virent Energy Systems has a low-temperature, low-pressure, catalytic process for turning carbohydrates (sugars) into gasoline, diesel and other fuels. Its 70 employees now make a gallon or so daily. Targeting gasoline as its first fuel, Virent hopes within five years to raise that production to 10 million to 15 million gallons annually. Virent has pulled in more than $30 million in venture funding and has strategic relationships with the likes of Cargill, Honda Motor and Royal Dutch Shell.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 31 st March 2009

Clean Diesel



A diesel engine is 20% to 30% more efficient than a gasoline engine but produces more emissions. BlueTec, the new diesel system from Mercedes-Benz, addresses the matter. In order to meet diesel emission regulations in all 50 states, BlueTec uses two catalytic converters and a urea injection system to remove pollutants from the exhaust. The first catalytic converter traps nitrogen oxide and then moves it to the second converter, which turns it into water and nitrogen

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 31 st March 2009

Reliance looks to NAL for making

carbon fibre



Reliance Industries Ltd is planning to source locally developed technology from state-owned National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) to make carbon fibre. The carbon fibre is a scarce, steel-like material used in building light aircraft. India‘s one of the largest private sector companies by sales would make the carbon fibre at a 4,000-tonne plant in Gujarat, using technology developed at NAL. Carbon fibre is produced from polymers and is used to make composites that are as strong as steel. Vadodara-based Kemrock Industries and Exports Ltd, an export-focussed unit that makes fibre-reinforced plastic composites, is already engaged in building a 400-tonne carbon fibre plant to open in August 2009.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 30th March 2009

DuPont opens integrated knowledge centre in Hyderabad

DuPontDuPont recently opened a 15-acre DuPont Knowledge Center (DKC) in India located in the ICICI Knowledge Park in the Hyderabad’s Genome Valley. It will house a biotechnology centre, materials research centre and global engineering design centre, thus making it the first integrated knowledge centre and sixth major R&D facility outside the US.

DuPont‘s 2007 net sales in Asia Pacific stood at $ 5.18 billion while India showed an average of 25 per cent annual growth rates. DKC brings together basic research, applications development, engineering design, bioinformatics and patent services to serve the Asia Pacific region, a key growth market for the company.

Hyderabad-based DKC is expected to accommodate more than 300 scientists and other employees by 2009. At full capacity, about 600 scientists, engineers and other employees will work at the DKC. DKC research will use the DuPont integrated science approach of creating valuable products and technologies using unique combinations of biology, chemistry, materials science, engineering and other science disciplines to further develop the company‘s application pipeline.

The project took 17 months for realisation after company‘s announcement in 2007 about plans to construct its first research and development  centre in India. Other major DuPont R&D facilities are located in Wilmington, Del.; Shanghai, China; Utsunomiya, Japan; Hsinchu, Taiwan; Wuppertal, Germany and Meyrin, Switzerland.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 30th March 2009

Fruit flies used to study neural circuits in the human brain

fruit fly

fruit fly

PASADENA, Calif. (UPI) — A U.S. biologist says he has used the behavior of fruit flies to study human behavior and, perhaps, develop new treatments for mental illness.


Am I mad

Am I mad

I have an  eye for the ladys though

Professor David Anderson of the California Institute of Technology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator noticed fruit flies subjected to even gentle wind will assume a defensive position, halting flying until the wind ceases.

Anderson and colleagues subsequently discovered the flies’ wind-sensitive neurons exist in the same sensory organ in the flies’ antennae as the neurons that process the sound of the song of a potential mate.

The next challenge was determining how the same organ processed two distinct stimuli, leading to two distinct behavioral responses. The team mounted a fly under a very powerful two-photon microscope and cut a hole in the shell covering the fly’s brain to observe when any neurons were activated by a particular stimulus.

Simultaneously playing recordings of mating sounds and using a fan to make a breeze, the scientists identified the neurons being activated.

“And it was absolutely obvious that neurons in different regions of the brain were being activated by the sound or activated by the wind, and these regions were different, even if we applied the two stimuli simultaneously,” said Anderson



He said the findings have potential application for the treatment of mental illnesses and might target medications to precisely where they are needed, as opposed to treating the brain globally.

The study appears in the journal Nature.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 24th March 2009