Dumping all our nuclear waste in a volcano does seem like a neat solution for destroying the roughly 29,000 tons of spent uranium fuel rods stockpiled around the world. But there's a critical standard that a volcano would have to meet to properly dispose of the stuff, explains Charlotte Rowe, a volcano geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. And that standard is heat. The lava would have to not only melt the fuel rods but also strip the uranium of its radioactivity.
Science fiction writers may have to rethink how their starship crews survive travel near or beyond the speed of light. Even the occasional hydrogen atom floating in the interstellar void would become a lethal radiation beam that would kill human crews in mere seconds and destroy a spacecraft's electronics, New Scientist reports.
Producing a biofuel cheap enough to compete at the pump with oil has remained as elusive as a ghost on the walls of Elsinore castle. But this week, two Danish companies announced they had developed enzymes capable of breaking down cellulose into ethanol cheaply enough to produce $2-a-gallon gas.
Much like your four-year-old nephew, RNA can only read three-letter combinations. Called codons, these three DNA-base-pair groups form the phrases that RNA translates into the 21 amino acids that underlie all life. But now, University of Cambridge researcher Jason Chin has engineered more literate RNA, capable of reading codons composed of four base pairs. This expands the possible number of codons from 64 to 320, and opens the door for a whole new line of artificial amino acids.
Until the LHC finally gets up to full speed, Brookhaven National Lab's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) remains the world's most powerful heavy ion smasher. And on Monday, they showed off some of that power by announcing that a recent collision resulted in the hottest matter ever recorded.
Future guys and gals looking for a sweet-smelling bouquet for Valentine's Day might consider the root-beer-scented variety. Or they could opt for a fouler odor, if they want to send a different message. That's all in the coming future, according to Discovery News.
Our prolific future-reviewer Baarbarian has been illustrating our fevered future dreams into reality for several months now--creating a closet-full of fine T-shirts in his wake. This week he's taking a well-deserved breather, so we figured it was a good time to take things a few notches up the meta-chain and round up his excellent work thus far into a review-of-the-week-in-review gallery. Enjoy!
While IBM is primarily known for its information technology products, the company has recently begun expanding into the alternative energy market. So far, that change has mainly taken the form of a new ad campaign. But IBM is now backing those words up with action, by unveiling a groundbreaking solar cell, 40 percent more efficient than any similar cells.
In labs around the world, scientists are working to expand our understanding of the weird, the unexpected, and the potentially dangerous. Their aim is true, yet, many of these boundary-pushing projects carry serious potential for things to go wrong. Horribly wrong.
With the world facing an organ shortage so serious that the majority of potential transplant recipients die while on waiting lists, doctors have looked to similarly sized animal organs as a potential alternative to human donations. Unfortunately, the human body swiftly rejects animal organs. Animal lungs have proven especially problematic, as they stop functioning as soon as they com in contact with human blood.
Now, researchers at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, have used genetically modified pig lungs to successfully pump human blood. Since pig organs are essentially the same size and shape as human organs, this advance could drastically increase the number of lungs available for transplant.