Sep 4, 2009
It's not always patents and price tags that keep lifesaving medicines from reaching people living in remote villages in the developing world. When donated medical supplies arrive in countries such as Mozambique, for instance, they are typically distributed to the provinces by national authorities. So far, so good, but to reach the villages themselves, local health workers often have to leave their patients to go pick up the goods. As a result, the drugs and vaccines can sit in waiting rooms indefinitely.
A small Seattle-based non-profit called VillageReach is proving it is possible to help transport medical supplies across those final distances to villages in Mozambique and Malawi that had initially lacked adequate transportation, refrigeration, manpower and other infrastructure to do the job on their own. A combination of technological innovation and entrepreneurial creativity has been key to the effort.
Sep 3, 2009 | 2
In the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel and Clementine's relationship ends so sourly that the couple elects to have their mutual memories swept away via a non-surgical procedure called "targeted memory erasure." No such tool actually exists. Even the most intense therapies can't completely erase troubling or fearful memories in adults. Yet, if two young rats fall in and out of love—or, more likely, have a close encounter with a subway car—permanent memory erasure may actually be possible, previous research has suggested. So, what happens in a growing rodent brain to cause this change?
A new study on mice uncovers some answers that could someday offer a potent target for eliminating the recurrence of bad memories in humans, especially known to those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sep 2, 2009 | 5
Music is known to induce terror and tears, as well as inspire dance. Even basic human speech itself is laced with emotional direction: a musical pattern of long drawn out sounds versus short brief ones can be the difference between calming and exciting a child. Might it then be possible for a composer to manipulate an audience's emotions with some carefully chosen notes?
That was the question posed by David Teie, a composer and cellist in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.. Little did he know that the query would lead him to write shrilly monkey music, and open a new door into animal communication and the evolutionary roots of human speech.
Aug 31, 2009 | 3
Despite the tradition-steeped pageantry this week when many of the world's tennis stars take the court in Queens, N.Y., the athletes' experiences may be quite distant from their predecessors' polite volleys in the championship first contested more than 125 years ago. U.S. Open fans will see players sporting sophisticated shoes and rackets with high-tech strings—and, perhaps unfittingly, also hear barbaric battle cries. (With some players now grunting at more than 100 decibels, they may very well be heard as far as Brooklyn.) To what extent are these changes putting players at a greater advantage? Is tennis going the way of swimming with technology making the difference between love and match?
Aug 27, 2009 | 9
They can be used to press flowers—or as a booster seat, door stop or laptop desk. However, fewer and fewer phone books today are employed as originally intended—to look up telephone numbers. So why are they still regularly dropped at our doorsteps?
The main reason: the law. In most states, phone companies are still required to provide the directories to landline customers, even if the tomes might soon make their way to landfills. In fact, less than 16 percent of adults recycle their old or unwanted phone books, according to a survey conducted by WhitePages, a popular online phone directory. Now, the company is sponsoring a "Ban the Phone Book" initiative to encourage phone book "opt-in" delivery programs, reports Grist. A few of these plans, which require subscribers to actually request the books, have already sprung up in parts of Georgia, Ohio and Florida. (Many more areas offer the less efficient "opt-out" programs.)
Aug 25, 2009 | 4
Twenty percent of watermelons never make it to the picnic table. Rather, one in every five is left to ripen and rot in the field, rejected for even the slightest of cosmetic imperfections. But U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers may have found a way to elevate these outcasts to an even higher calling than the summer BBQ: biofuel production.
"As consumers, we would not choose that [misshapen or blemished] watermelon if we were in the supermarket," says Wayne Fish of the USDA's Agriculture Research Service's South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane, Okla., and lead author of a paper on the fruity biofuels idea published today in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels. "So the growers won't even pick them."
Aug 24, 2009 | 10
The freezer aisle may not be the only place to find your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in the future. In fact, Turtle Soup, Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl and Cake Batter could someday be found on shelves right next to canned soup, peanut butter and cake mix.
The giant multinational company Unilever—owner of Ben & Jerry's, among other ice cream–makers—has been on the hunt for carbon-friendly improvements to its production of the summertime favorite. “We have to look at a really radical solution,” Gavin Neath, Unilever’s senior vice president for sustainability, told the Times of London.
One of the proposed possibilities: ambient ice cream. Now, in addition to upgrading the energy-efficiency of two million chilled cabinets they supply to retailers, the company has taken on the task of perfecting an ice cream that consumers can buy at room temperature, thereby eliminating the energy costs associated with refrigerated transport and storage. Although consumers would bear the costs of freezing the treat, the overall energy used would be reduced. The project is being carried out in Unilever's own laboratories, with help from the Cambridge University, according to the Times.
Aug 24, 2009 | 6
Perhaps it's somehow easier to talk about infectious disease than toilets. But the unfortunate truth is that more children die every year from illnesses caused by poor water and sanitation than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
Bindeshwar Pathak has made it his life's mission to do something about it. Over the last four decades, the Indian doctor has replaced open-air defecation and bucket toilets seen—and smelled—throughout his country, reports the AFP. Last week, he was awarded the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize for his life- and water-saving toilet called the Sulabh, which means "easily available" in Hindi.
Aug 21, 2009 | 5
You've noticed them—people who truly cannot detach psychologically and behaviorally from the worlds of online gaming or social networking. Or perhaps you are one of these people. In any case, these compulsive types now have a way out; the first Internet addiction detox center in the U.S. has opened in Fall City, Wash., just a few miles from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond.
For $14,500—WiFi not included—an addict can spend 45 Internet-abstinent days at the Heavensfield Retreat Center and, hopefully, emerge into the real world free of an obsession with Facebook, online gambling or even text messaging. (A stay at Heavensfield is not covered by insurance, but some scholarships are available.)
The retreat's founders think that Internet addiction is a serious problem, affecting between 6 and 10 percent of the online population. But how do you know if you are an addict? A list of 12 "signs and symptoms" appears on the new reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program's Web page—from a "heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities" to "being dishonest with others" and "physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, [and] carpal tunnel syndrome." According to the site, three or four "yes" responses suggests possible abuse; five or more point to addiction.
Aug 18, 2009 | 1
Seattle voters will decide today if they are willing to pay 20 cents for each disposable bag they carry out of a grocery store—paper or plastic. Many residents of the eco-conscious city already opt for their own reusable cloth shopping bags; could a financial incentive encourage more to follow suit?
Last July, the city approved the tax (or "fee" depending upon whom you ask), which was set to go into affect in January. But opposition—mainly supported by $1.4 million from the American Chemistry Council, the lobbying arm of the plastics industry—has kept the tax at bay, and caused the Seattle City Council to finally put the question to its people.
"This amount of money is about bullying public officials," Rob Gala, a spokesman for Seattle Green Bag Campaign, told the Associated Press. "They're trying to send a message to elected officials across the country who are thinking about similar measures."
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