Study: Social separation stops flu spread


PERTH, Australia (UPI) — An Australian study shows flu interventions must be imposed quickly and must be maintained for a relatively long period if they are to be effective.

University of Western Australia Professor George Milne and colleagues said staying at home, closing schools and isolating infected people within the home should reduce infection, but only if they are used in combination, and activated without delay.
The researchers simulated the effect of social-distancing on the spread of a flu virus within a small town, using a software program engineered by university research fellow Joel Kelso.

“Our results suggest a critical role of combined social-distancing measures in the potential control of a future pandemic,” said Milne. “Non-pharmaceutical social-distancing interventions are capable of preventing less-infectious influenza epidemics and of significantly reducing the rate of development and overall burden of the worst epidemics.”

The research investigated the effects, alone and in combination, of workplace non-attendance, school closure, isolating infected family members inside the home and reducing contact within the wider community.

“While such draconian measures seem unlikely to be mandated given their impact on personal freedom, they appear to have a key role to play in delaying the development of a ‘worst case’ influenza epidemic,” Milne said.

The study appears in the journal BMC Public Health.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 9th MAY 2009

UPEK Eikon Fingerprint

USB Drive


Security gurus recommend what they call “three-factor” authentication.” That means requiring users to prove their identity with something they know, (say, a password) something they have (like a physical token) and something they are (such as a fingerprint). A cheap USB stick from UPEK incorporates all three for around $75. The thumb drive uses RSA software to generate a changing password every minute, ensuring the user has the drive in hand.

It also incorporates a fingerprint reader to make sure the tiny gadget hasn’t been stolen.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

Fujitsu Vein-Pattern Recognition


True identity isn’t in your fingertips, argues Fujitsu. It’s in your blood. The company’s newest biometric mouse uses infrared cameras to look beneath your hand’s skin and map its pattern of veins as a substitute for entering a password.


That vein-pattern recognition system is 99.9992% accurate, the company says–far greater than fingerprint systems, which often suffer from dirty sensors or hands and can sometimes be spoofed with copied prints. On a morbid note, even chopping someone’s hand off won’t allow a would-be intruder access: A lack of blood flow would change the hand’s capillary pattern, Fujitsu says.

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

Electronic Stop-Start System



Another way to reduce fuel consumption and emissions is to switch the engine off when a car isn’t moving–in a traffic jam or at a stop light. Bosch offers an electronic stop-start system that turns the engine off when the vehicle is stopped and starts it again when the driver releases the brake. Bosch claims that in urban traffic their stop-start system reduces fuel consumption and CO-2 emissions by 8%. Currently the Bosch system is available on the BMW1 series.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 31 st March 2009

Electric Cars And Plug-in Hybrids



According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, three-quarters of American commuters drive less than 40 miles to and from work. General Motors, which has tinkered for decades with the electric car concept, has a new undertaking for a vehicle that that can travel up to 40 miles on batteries alone. The Chevrolet Volt, scheduled to be available in 2010, is a plug-in hybrid car that has both a rechargeable battery and a small engine.

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

Portable justice to areas in China

rural chinese court

rural chinese court

People gather to audit a trial held by the mobile court at a village in Dagze County, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, March 26, 2009. The court of Dagze County has dispatched the mobile court to villages for years to unload the economic burdens of those who entangled in lawsuits and popularize law knowledge among local residents.[Xinhua]

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 30th March 2009