World Science and Weird News

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Freegans - New Food Eaters

A new breed of ethical eaters, who scavenge for food as a reaction against a wasteful society, has emerged. The "freegans" say their philosophy is a way of highlighting how supermarkets dump tonnes of food every year that is still edible. They argue capitalism and mass production exploit workers, animals and the environment.

The term "freeganism" combines free and vegan. It is evident in both Britain and the US, where the "urban foragers" are also known as "dumpster divers". Manchester freegans Paul and Bob said it was a lifestyle choice and they had a network of bins. They have money and could buy food if they wanted, but as a protest against supermarket waste they choose to live a freegan life.

"There's so much waste, it's just unbelievable," said Bob. "While it continues I can't see my freegan lifestyle changing." Their best-ever bin raid yielded 75 bottles of beer and 100 frozen chickens, they told the BBC. 'We found so much food we went out and bought ourselves a big deep freeze and filled it with chickens and meat."

Each item raided from a bin is washed and the packing wiped over with disinfectant. Waste Resources Action Programme figures claim British households throw out 6.7 million tonnes of food each year.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gas - No Laughing Matter

The safety of the common anaesthetic known as laughing gas is under a cloud after a new study linked it to higher rates of pneumonia, wound infections and possibly even heart attacks. The Australian-led research team found patients kept unconscious during surgery with anaesthetics other than nitrous oxide suffered fewer life threatening complications.

Yet nitrous oxide remained "near routine" in surgeries, despite accumulating evidence of its dangerous side-effects, the researchers warned. The trial involved 2000 patients undergoing major surgery in 13 hospitals. Anaesthetists believe the gas is safe where exposure is minimal, such as women in labour.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Breath Holding World Record

It's the record strong, silent blokes say could never be broken by a woman. Tom Sietas has smashed his own world record for holding his breath underwater, breaking the 15-minute barrier on US television overnight. And he didn't say a word as he did it. Sietas remained submerged in an on-set tank for 15min 2sec, beating his previous Guinness world record time by 37 seconds. Sietas, who slows his metabolism with pre-stunt fasts, emerged triumphant - but hungry.

Sietas - a 30-year-old German engineering student whose lungs are 20 per cent larger than average - entered the world of competitive oxygen deprivation when a scuba instructor noticed his ability to hold his breath. He has held 12 world records. Before the feat, Sietas inhaled pure oxygen for 20 minutes. He also holds the world record, at 9min 8sec, for holding his breath underwater without first inhaling oxygen.

A corpse-like stillness is central to his success, as it decreases his need for oxygen. Underwater, he clears his mind. "Let's say I had an argument with my girlfriend, I would get upset, and my heart rate would go up. I really don't think about anything," Sietas said.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Jaywalking In Melbourne

By Rebecca Beisler

Jaywalkers who ignore the little red man save just two minutes and 25 seconds on a three-block walk. An mX test has revealed exactly how much time a pedestrian can save by turning a blind eye to stop signals. It is about the same time it takes to listen to Whatever Makes You Happy by Bernard Fanning or Dancing Shoes by the Arctic Monkeys on your Wed. But police have warned that while the extra couple of minutes may be enough time to grab a coffee or put on your lipstick, it is not worth it.

In a major blitz on pedestrians, police have nabbed almost 600 people this week-for failing to obey traffic lights. Police slapped 136 jaywalkers with a $55 fine and 457 were given a warning. An mX time trial found that a walk from Flinders St station to Melbourne Central takes a pedestrian 11 minutes and 18 seconds when stopping at traffic lights. The same walk, by a jaywalker, takes 8 minutes and 53 seconds.

The total time saved is just under two and a half minutes but Supt Stephen Leane said it is not worth the risk. So far this year 96 pedestrians have been hit by cars, compared with 58 at the same time last year. "That's another 38 people who do not come home in the same condition as they came into the city;" Leane said. Four pedestrians have been killed on the road since January. "It is worth 2.5 minutes?" he said.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


The world's richest corporations and finest minds spend billions trying to solve the problem of carbon emissions, but three fishing buddies in North Wales think they've cracked it. They have developed a box that they say can be fixed underneath a car, in place of the exhaust, to trap the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming - including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide - and emit mostly water vapour.

The gases can be processed to create a biofuel using genetically modified algae. Dubbed "Greenbox", the technology developed by organic chemist Derek Palmer and engineers Ian Houston and John Jones could, they say, be used for cars, buses, trucks and even buildings and heavy industry. The three, who stumbled across the idea while experimenting with carbon dioxide to help boost algae growth for fish farming, have set up a company called Maes Anturio Limited, which translates from Welsh as Field Adventure.

They are seeking extra risk capital either from government or industry. The only emissions they are not sure their box can handle are those from aviation. If the system takes off, drivers with a Greenbox would replace it when they fill up their cars and it would go to a bioreactor to be emptied. The inventors say they have spent nearly $400,000 over two years developing the box. The trio won't show anyone - not even their wives - what's inside the box.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thawing Glaciers

Never mind the horror stories about great chunks of melting ice, it's the little ones you've got to watch. The big threat this century is likely to come from small thawing glaciers, researchers have reported. Even though these glaciers contain just 1 per cent of the water tied up in the great ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, they could account for 60 per cent of an expected rise in the world's sea level by the year 2100.

Much of the concern about rising seas has focused on the big ice sheets that contain a vast majority of the world's ice. The online journal Science Express reports melting glaciers, which are located all over the globe, including in the tropics, could add 10-25cm to world sea levels this century. It doesn't sound much until you consider 100 million people live within lm of sea level, said lead author Mark Meier of the University of Colorado-Boulder.

"If we had almost a foot (of sea-level rise) just due to the small glaciers, add that to the ice sheets and add to that the ocean warming ... then we get a rise we can't ignore," he said. Meier said the huge amounts of ice locked in Greenland and Antarctica held the potential for "some really horrendous sea level rise" - as much as a metre - if they ever melted. That is unlikely to happen this century. "But for the next few generations we think we should not ignore the little glaciers," he said.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Best and Worst Gadgets

They have invaded every corner of our existence, promising a technological utopia of carefree living. But gadgets, it would appear, have also delivered a hi-tech hell that can drive the most passive users into a rage. Researchers probing "the dark side of technology" found people were eager to identify their most hated devices.

High up the list comes the ball mouse, an invention that can seem more efficient at gathering fluff and grime than navigating a computer screen. With the advent of the laser version it has been consigned to history. Automated telemarketing calls drive us to distraction, as do automated phone options, which have taken over the role of the human switchboard. The speed camera becomes public enemy No. l if it snaps you marginally over the limit on an open stretch of road. And from another technological age, the alarm clock still rates highly on many hate lists.

Most said they would welcome an invention that gradually wakes us from our sleep, rather than nerve-shattering bells and beepers. A spokesman for the MSN Tech and Gadgets survey said: "We all love technology. It quells our boredom, makes life easier and inspires us to greatness. "But technology has a dark side ... anyone who has experienced endless paper jams in the office printer or been shocked by a car alarm reacting to a stiff breeze knows this."