Better Gas Mileage

ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2008) — With the high cost of gasoline and diesel fuel impacting costs for automobiles, trucks, buses and the overall economy, a Temple University physics professor has developed a simple device which could dramatically improve fuel efficiency as much as 20 percent.

According to Rongjia Tao, Chair of Temple's Physics Department, the small device consists of an electrically charged tube that can be attached to the fuel line of a car's engine near the fuel injector. With the use of a power supply from the vehicle's battery, the device creates an electric field that thins fuel, or reduces its viscosity, so that smaller droplets are injected into the engine. That leads to more efficient and cleaner combustion than a standard fuel injector, he says. (Full Story at sd)

There are tons of "gas saving" gadgets on the market. Just about all of them do nothing at best and harm your car at worst. That said, I actually understand the priniciple these guys are working from and could see it working. The only question I have is, what about cars that are already efficient? Would this mainly work on older cars or is this something that would help any vehicle? 

It's Real

Little Shop of Horrors fans may see a resemblance to the bloodthirsty plant from the 1986 movie in the above electron micrograph image.

Drexel University doctoral student Jessica Schiffman won an honorable mention in photography in the 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge for capturing what's actually an array of suckers found on the tentacles of a long-finned squid.

Each sucker--about 400 micrometers wide, or a little smaller than the width of a human hair--is surrounded with "fangs" of chitin, a hard organic material. (via make)

Pretty cool if you ask me.


Bottle Greenhouse

This "Bottle House" created by artist Jasmine Zimmerman is an open-roofed greenhouse made from hundreds of the plastic drink bottles that we use 70 million of everyday. The project will be exhibited in empty lots, rooftops, parks, and vacant buildings in order to spread the word about recycling and reporposing everyday objects in our environment. Pretty cool design that might just be a bit tricky to keep clean. (via make)

This is kind of neat. I mean, I don't know how effective it is, but it sure is better than throwing bottles in a landfill. 

Uh. . . No.


Brain Games

See how quick (and accurate) you are at spotting a break in the pattern. Go here to check out a game that will test your reflexes and wit. . . Come on it's short and pretty easy. 

Maybe He Thought It Was Just a Dance. . .


The Way It Was

Brilliant Birds

Crows seem to be able to use causal reasoning to solve a problem, a feat previously undocumented in any other non-human animal, including chimps.

Alex Taylor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and his team presented six New Caledonian crows with a series of "trap-tube" tests.

A choice morsel of food was placed in a horizontal Perspex tube, which also featured two round holes in the underside, with Perspex traps below.

For most of the tests, one of the holes was sealed, so the food could be dragged across it with a stick and out of the tube to be eaten. The other hole was left open, trapping the food if the crows moved it the wrong way.

Three of the crows solved the task consistently, even after the team modified the appearance of the equipment. This suggested that these crows weren't using arbitrary features – such as the colour of the rim of a hole – to guide their behaviour. Instead they seemed to understand that if they dragged food across a hole, they would lose it. (Full Story at newscientist | via marginalrevolution)

I think that a crow would make a very cool pet. I know there would be issues with it, but I would much, much rather have a crow over a parrot (or a cat). 

Parting Picture

Where GM's Eggs Are

Walk Yourself a Chair


Parting Picture

Big Mac

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) - Talk about a Big Mac attack! Don Gorske says he has eaten 23,000 of the burgers in 36 years.

The Fond du Lac man said he hit the 23,000 milestone last month, continuing a culinary obsession that began May 17, 1972, and is fed by his obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"I enjoy them every day," said Gorske, 54. "I need two to fill me up."

Gorske has kept every burger receipt in a box. He says he was always fascinated with numbers, and watching McDonald's track its number of customers motivated him to track his own consumption.

Despite a diet some would call unhealthy, Gorske says he keeps himself in good shape. He says he's 6-foot-2 and weighs 185 pounds, and walks as many as 10 miles a day. (Full Story at wtop)

I think I remember them showing this guy on "Supersize Me." I can't say I would suggest this diet, but it is his choice to make. . . 

Tea Treatment

ScienceDaily (Sep. 16, 2008) — Drinking chamomile tea daily with meals may 

help prevent the complications of diabetes, which include loss of vision, nerve damage, and kidney damage, researchers in Japan and the United Kingdom are reporting.

The findings could lead to the development of a new chamomile-based drug for type 2 diabetes, which is at epidemic levels in this country and spreading worldwide, they note. Their study appears in the Sept. 10 issue of the ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the new study, Atsushi Kato and colleagues point out that chamomile, also known as manzanilla, has been used for years as a medicinal cure-all to treat a variety of medical problems including stress, colds, and menstrual cramps. Scientists recently proposed that the herbal tea might also be beneficial for fighting diabetes, but the theory hasn't been scientifically tested until now. (Full Story at sd)

I'm glad they found something that can help people. What I don't get, however, is why the focus is always creating a drug that bandaids a problem rather than focusing on the root cause. 


Food Dehydrator

I have always wanted to make a REAL food dehydrator, but all the plans I have found always start out "make a box..." That lets me out! I don't have the patience to make a box, let alone the skills to make it square, then add racks (also square!!) so I came up with a super easy way to make a container that looks like the commercial dehydrators using stacking trays in a cylindrical shape. It took me less than an hour and cost about 20 dollars. I could have scavenged and cut that in half, as I am sure many of you readers can. Read on! (Full Story at instructables)

I'm not sure if this is genius or insanity. For some reason that just looks like a fire waiting to happen, and on the other hand.  .  . I have a strong desire to start building. 

The New Collider

Want to check out the new Large Hadron Collider? Here are some webcams you can check out:


Walmart Not Making You Fatter?

We estimate the impacts of Wal-Mart and warehouse club retailers on height-adjusted body weight and overweight and obesity status, finding robust evidence that non-grocery selling Wal-Marts reduce weight while grocery-selling Wal-Marts and warehouse clubs either reduce weight or have no effect. The effects appear strongest for women, minorities, urban residents, and the poor. We then examine the effects of these retailers on exercise, food and alcohol consumption, smoking, and eating out at restaurants in order to explain the results for weight. Most notably, the evidence suggests that all three types of stores increase consumption of fruits and vegetables while reducing consumption of foods high in fat. This is consistent with the thesis that Wal-Mart increases real incomes through its policy of "Every Day Low Prices," making healthy food more affordable, as opposed to the thesis that cheap food prices make us eat more.

Of course, not everyone likes Wal-Mart. (From marginalrevolution)

Interesting. Not that this settles the whole Walmart debate by a long stretch. 


Pooh Bear

En route to a training camp in Quebec during World War I, Canadian army lieutenant Harry Colebourn bought a bear cub for $20 from a hunter in White River, Ontario.

He named her Winnipeg, after his hometown, and smuggled her to England, where "Winnie" became the mascot of his militia regiment.

Eventually he donated her to the London Zoo, where she became a great favorite of Christopher Robin Milne, the son of a local playwright.

You know the rest. (From futilitycloset)


The American Fortune Cookie

THE instructions on the red wrapper are very explicit: (1) Open the packaging. (2) Use both hands to break open the fortune cookie. (3) Retrieve and read the fortune. (4) Eat the cookie.

In China, such details are necessary, it seems.

“Chinese people don’t know what to do with a fortune cookie,” said Nana Shi, who started an online business last October that is likely the only company currently selling fortune cookies in China. “They don’t know that you have to open it.” (Full Story at nytimes)

I can't say this is all that surprising. One thing I really wish, though, is that we had more authentic restaraunts. I realize they have them in large metro areas, but I wish we had more in general. Yes, I know there is reason they Americanize all the food. It's because that's what Americans will buy/eat. Hopefully the American palette will broaden. I suppose that's the only chance I have of experiencing some truely authentic fair.


ScienceDaily (Sep. 4, 2008) — A new study conducted at a large university finds more than 25 percent of those surveyed reported symptoms of tanning dependence, including symptoms similar to alcohol and drug-addicted individuals.

Suggestively, the study also found those with a tanning dependence tend to be more likely to be thin and smoke cigarettes than others. The study by researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center is published in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior. (Full Story at sd)

This is just odd to me.

Rat Prices

The price of rat meat has quadrupled in Cambodia this year as inflation puts other meat beyond the reach of poor people, officials say.

With consumer price inflation at 37 per cent according to the latest central bank estimate, demand has pushed a kilogram of rat meat up to around 5,000 riel ($1.48).

Spicy field rat dishes with garlic thrown in have become particularly popular at a time when beef costs 20,000 riel a kilogram. (Full Story at abc)

OK. I am officially not complaining about food prices anymore. . . well, at least for the rest of the day.

Wolves Hunting Salmon

Move over, grizzly bears. "Fishing wolves" in coastal British Columbia are also looking to snatch some salmon, and will eat the fish almost exclusively when they are available, new research reveals.

Biologists analyzed years of data from gray wolves' feces to monitor what the animals were eating.

The team found that the coastal predators, like many other wolves, rely on deer most of the time in the spring and summer.

But during several months in the fall, the wolves ignored deer to focus on migrating salmon.(Full Story at nationalgeographic)

Hey, I can't blame them. I love deer meat, but mixing in some salmon sounds about right to me.