Scientists said on Sunday they had made a nanotech device to strip salt from seawater, paving the way to small-scale or even battery-powered desalination for drought-hit regions and disaster zones.
The tiny prototype is reported on the eve of the UN’s World Water Day, which aims to highlight the worsening problems of access to clean water. Conventional desalination works by forcing water through a membrane to remove molecules of salt. But this process is an energy-gobbler and the membrane is prone to clogging, which means that de-sal plants are inevitably big, expensive, fixed pieces of kit. The new gadget has been given a proof-of-principle test by Jongyoon Han and colleagues of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It works through so-called ion concentration polarisation, which occurs when a current of charged ions is passed through an ion-selective membrane – Read Article
Time – It reads like a spy novel, but in The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State, author Shane Harris lays out the U.S. government’s real-life efforts to see and hear more in the face of growing terrorist threats. He pays particular attention to Total Information Awareness (TIA), a post-9/11 research project spearheaded by John Poindexter, once President Reagan’s National Security Adviser. Harris, a reporter for National Journal, spoke to TIME about Poindexter, the fate of TIA and the state of surveillance in America. He didn’t object, mind you, to being recorded. Read Article
AP ““ Blasts of lava and ash shot out of a volcano in southern Iceland on Monday and small tremors rocked the ground, a surge in activity that raised fears of a larger explosion at the nearby Katla volcano. Scientists say history has proven that when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts, Katla follows “” the only question is how soon. Like earthquakes, predicting the timing of volcanic eruptions is an imprecise science. An eruption at the Katla volcano could be disastrous, however “” both for Iceland and other nations.
Iceland’s Laki volcano erupted in 1783, freeing gases that turned into smog. The smog floated across the Jet Stream, changing weather patterns. Many died from gas poisoning in the British Isles. Crop production fell in western Europe. Famine spread. Some even linked the eruption, which helped fuel famine, to the French Revolution. Painters in the 18th century illustrated fiery sunsets in their works.
Â The winter of 1784 was also one of the longest and coldest on record in North America. New England reported a record stretch of below-zero temperatures and New Jersey reported record snow accumulation. The Mississippi River also reportedly froze in New Orleans – Read Article
Discovery News – The 2010 prognosis for honey bees doesn’t look good, according to Jeff Pettis, Research Leader at the USDA Bee Lab. Although hard data won’t be available until April, preliminary surveys of our nation’s beekeepers suggest that at least as many bee colonies have died off over the winter as they have the last few years — and possibly even more than in years past — thanks to Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD – Read Article
Reuters – Wachovia Bank has agreed to pay $160 million to settle U.S. charges that it failed to stop more than $100 million of Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers’ money being laundered through accounts at the bank, U.S. authorities said on Wednesday. The deferred prosecution agreement announced in Miami, which included a $50 million fine to be paid to the U.S. Treasury, was the largest penalty ever imposed for a violation of the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Jeffrey H. Sloman told reporters. Read Article
Bloomberg – The Federal Reserve Board must disclose documents identifying financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest U.S. government bailout ever, a federal appeals court said. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled today that the Fed must release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. loan program launched primarily after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The ruling upholds a decision of a lower-court judge, who in August ordered that the information be released. Read Article
Daily Telegraph – Children under 14 will be allowed to appear on shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor, after the Government backed away from calls to ban them appearing on reality shows. A new review commissioned by the Government has called for younger children to be given more opportunities. The recommendation is an about-turn by the government who in December said that said young people were often put in “stressful” situations by producers who placed “shock value” before children’s rights. Ministers identified programmes such as Boys and Girls Alone, the Channel 4 show in which a group of 20 children aged eight to 11 were left to their own devices in isolated cottages in Cornwall. The show contained scenes of youngsters fighting and crying. Read article
Telegraph – The People’s Party, the largest group in a five-party coalition, walked out amid disputes over how to cope with the country’s severe problems. Unemployment has now hit 20 per cent and the economy contracted by 18 per cent last year. The People’s Party quit after its action plan failed to get the backing of Valdis Dombrovskis, the Latvian prime minister, who labelled it “populist”. Mr Dombrovskis warned the People’s Party’s departure could cause yet further economic instability. Read Article
LA Times – The CDC says tuberculosis prevalence dropped 11.8% last year, as the World Health Organization reports about 440,000 multi-drug-resistant cases worldwide in 2008, a third of them fatal. Even with tuberculosis cases falling sharply in the United States to historic lows, strains of drug-resistant disease are gaining ground elsewhere in the world. Read Article