VIEWS: 9 PAGES: 1 POSTED ON: 4/21/2011
h t t p : / / w w w. t e h r a n t i m e s . c o m / s c i e n c e SCI/TECH 9 TEHRAN TIMES INTERNATIONAL DAILY APRIL 18, 2011 A BlackBerry tablet, but Where solar power can’t ﬂy, Sun’s storm where are the apps? artiﬁcial photosynthesis might season ﬁnally L By David Pogue isten, I’ll be straight with you. I realize that tablets are crazy hot right now, that 2011 is the Year of the An airplane was lifted into the sky by four nearly silent propellers. Its disproportion- heating up iPad Clone and that every company and its brother is After three years in a deep solar rushing one to market. But I’m sorry. I’m not going to review ately broad wings, 208 feet tip to tip, were covered in solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. sleep of historic proportions, the every one of the 85 tablets that will arrive this year; it’s only sun is ﬁnally starting to wake up. April, and I’ve already got Tablet Fatigue. I’m not going to Those PV cells converted sunlight into electricity, powered the plane’s motors, Sunspots — cooler regions review the Electrolux tablet, the Polaroid tablet, the Sunoco fraught with intense magnetic tablet, the Kellogg’s tablet. and charged a battery. The plane ﬂew for 26 hours – its sun-charged battery power- ﬁelds — now regularly dot the The BlackBerry tablet, though, seems worth a look. surface of the sun, and the star The tech world’s been hyperventilating over this thing. It’s ing it through the night. The privately ﬁnanced Swiss plane has unleashed several powerful called the PlayBook, and it’s a seven-inch touch-screen tab- ﬂares in recent months, including let ($500, $600, and $700 for the 16-, 32- and 64-gigabyte – Solar Impulse – is an unprecedented achievement among a series of solar a Feb. 14 blast that was the most models). powerful outburst in more than The iPad, of course, is a 10-incher, but seven has its vir- planes built over the past several decades, but it highlights a serious gap in renewable four years. All signs suggest that tues. It’s much easier to hold with one hand, for example. In the sun has shaken itself out of principle, you ought to be able to slip the PlayBook into the energy. Despite a wingspan almost as wide as its slumber, researchers say. breast pocket of a jacket — but incredibly, the PlayBook is “Finally, we are beginning to about half an inch too wide. Whoever muffed that design that of a Boeing 747, it carried just two pas- sengers and puttered along at just 45 miles see some action,” said Richard spec should be barred from the launch party. Fisher, head of the Heliophysics Still, the PlayBook looks and feels great: hard rubberized per hour. Solar planes probably won’t replace the Division at NASA headquarters back, brilliant, super-responsive multitouch screen, solid in Washington, in a statement. heft (0.9 pounds). world’s ﬂeet of high-speed, fuel-burning Postdoctoral scholar Shane Ardo uses light to produce hydrogen gas (the bubbles) in water at the California jets. Even if electric thrusters capable of In 2008, the sun plunged into Its software is based on an operating system called QNX, Institute of Technology. There, at the Joint Center for Artiﬁcial Photosynthesis, scientists are trying to harness pushing a plane at more than 500 m.p.h. sunlight to generate chemical fuel, speciﬁcally by splitting water to generate hydrogen. its least active state in nearly which Research In Motion, the BlackBerry’s maker, bought a century. Sunspots all but for its industrial stability. (“It runs nuclear power plants,” says existed, the power needed to run them store energy, then why not turn sunlight di- also a problem: Replacing Europe’s liquid would be prohibitive. vanished, solar ﬂares subsided a product manager without a trace of current-events irony.) rectly intoThe challenge will be combining fuels with algae would require 29 million and the star was eerily quiet. Nor is QNX the only other company that lent a hand. Estimates suggest that a fully loaded that hydrogen with carbon dioxide to form tons of fertilizer per year – twice what Eu- 747-400 jet would need around 200 foot- Quiet spells on the sun are Palm and Apple were also involved, although they didn’t hydrocarbons found in diesel or jet fuel. rope currently imports. nothing new. They come along know it. The PlayBook software is crawling with borrowed ball ﬁelds’ worth of state-of-the-art solar It’s chemically possible, but might re- Algae farmers must reduce their costs cells to stay aloft. every 11 years or so, as part of ideas. quire a dozen steps. by 10-fold to produce fuel at competitive the sun’s natural activity cycle. For example, to remove or rearrange apps, you hold If it ﬂew from New York to London by “There are no established commercial prices. Companies need to make money battery, that battery would have to weigh But this latest solar minimum your ﬁnger down on one app icon until all icons begin to processes for doing that,” says Chunshan before they reach that tipping point. OPX is lasted longer than usual, pulse (hello, iPad!). And to close a program, you swipe your a million pounds – roughly 10 times the Song, a chemical engineer at Pennsylva- doing it with microbes that produce acrylic weight of jet fuel that such ﬂights now re- prompting some researchers to ﬁnger upward from the bottom bezel to turn all app windows nia State University in University Park. acid, a chemical used in manufacturing wonder if it would ever end. into “cards,” and then ﬂick one upward off the screen (hello, quire. The plane would have no capacity The venture capital community has paints – and that sells at higher prices than for cargo or passengers. This year has started off Palm Pre!). funded 100 or more companies looking for fuels do. Some algae-farming companies with a bang, as sunspots are There are no buttons on the front at all, and the top edge The enduring problem is that liquid fos- other paths to renewable fuels. are selling higher-priced carotenoids and sil fuels hold far more energy per ounce crackling with activity. Earth- has only On, Play/Pause and volume keys. Instead, you OPX Biotechnologies, a Boulder, Colo. omega-3 fatty acids that are used in foods. orbiting satellites have detected navigate by swiping your ﬁnger from the black border, which than batteries do. start-up, is using genetically engineered Nathan Lewis, a chemist at the Califor- If the world is to switch to renewable en- two so-called X-class solar seems unduly wide, into the screen itself. microbes to turn syn gas, an industrial nia Institute of Technology in Pasadena, ﬂares — the most powerful Swiping upward reveals your app icons (and turns your ergy while maintaining air transport, then waste product containing hydrogen and has built PV cells that split water molecules new ways must be found to produce liquid type — with one erupting on apps into “cards”). Swiping left or right cycles among open carbon monoxide, into heavy hydrocar- to generate hydrogen gas, a fuel. His cells Valentine’s Day, while the multitasking apps. And swiping down reveals an app’s tool- fuels. Researchers have long understood bons that it hopes to reﬁne into jet fuel. convert sunlight into chemical energy 10 to this, but rising fuel prices now command other occurred on March 9, bar, if it has one. Other companies are engineering algae 40 times more efﬁciently than most crops. researchers said. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing beforehand if a the attention of the business community as that churn out oils similar to diesel. The al- “It’s reasonable to say that within our well. Another event on March 7 toolbar exists, so you often swipe futilely and feel silly. Simi- gae can grow in salt water, so arable land ﬁrst ﬁve years we will have working proto- hurled a billion-ton cloud of larly, if app icons completely ﬁll the home screen, you can Aircraft fuel and fresh water aren’t drawn away from types that can be manufactured at scale,” “Aircraft fuel is an expensive product charged particles away from the swipe upward to reveal more — but you won’t know if there food crops. says Mr. Lewis. sun at 5 million mph (8 million are more until you swipe, because no scrollbar appears be- and there is no substitute for it,” says Erik The problem is that algae farming re- The challenge will be combining that hy- Straser, general partner at the venture cap- kph). This blast, known as a forehand to let you know there’s more below the screen. quires energy – for controlling water tem- drogen with carbon dioxide to form hydrocar- coronal mass ejection, wasn’t The PlayBook can show two different things. On the TV, ital ﬁrm Mohr Davidow in Menlo Park, Calif. perature, harvesting cells, and supplying bons found in diesel or jet fuel. It’s chemically One emerging option is artiﬁcial photo- aimed directly at Earth, but it the audience sees your slides; on the PlayBook, you get the concentrated carbon dioxide that algae possible, but might require a dozen steps. did deliver a glancing blow to to see the traditional PowerPoint cheat sheet of notes and synthesis – after all, if fuel is a better way to need to produce high yields. Fertilizer is (Source: The Christian Science Monitor) our planet’s magnetic ﬁeld. slide thumbnails. The PlayBook does two impressive things that its ri- Federal practices hamper study of Gulf dolphin deaths The off-center impact on March 10 supercharged the vals — the iPad and the Android tablets — can only dream BILOXI, Mississippi (Reuters) — A fed- sea animal deaths in Gulf waters. aurora borealis — also known about. eral agency’s practice of returning weak- “We are not able to conduct necrop- as the northern lights — creating The ﬁrst cool feature has to do with loading the tablet ened dolphins to deeper Gulf of Mexico sies on these animals any more either,” magniﬁcent displays as far south with your music, photos and music. Unfortunately, there’s waters is thwarting efforts to probe dolphin Solangi said. “This is all because of the as Wisconsin, Minnesota and no iTunes-like software to do this automatically. You have to deaths after last year’s BP oil spill, scien- BP criminal investigation.” Michigan. drag ﬁles manually from your computer into the PlayBook’s tists said on Saturday. Dolphin testing “That was the fastest coronal folders (Music, Photos and so on). But once you’ve set up The National Oceanic and Atmospher- The U.S. Justice Department is using mass ejection in almost six this process using a USB cable, you can do it thereafter over ic Administration, meanwhile, conﬁrmed dolphin testing in its investigations into the years,” said Angelos Vourlidas Wi-Fi — wirelessly. The PlayBook can even accept such that two dolphins stranded in low tide on 2010 explosion aboard the Deepwater of the Naval Research Lab in wireless transfers when it’s in sleep mode, sitting in your the Louisiana coastline were returned Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers Washington, D.C. “It reminds purse or briefcase across the room. to water deep enough for them to swim and unleashed a torrent of oil that fouled me of a similar series of events Second, there’s a wild, wireless Bluetooth connection away. the shorelines of four states. back in Nov. 1997 that kicked off feature called BlackBerry Bridge. In this setup, the PlayBook “These animals had no signs of external oil and were deemed “I know that everyone thinks they are doing their best but we must Solar Cycle 23, the solar cycle acts as a giant viewing window onto the contents of a Black- healthy and robust,” NOAA spokeswoman Kim Amendola said, add- have answers and help every marine animal we can,” Solangi said. before this one. To me, this Berry phone. Whatever e-mail, calendar, address book and ing that beach releases are a viable option in some circumstances. Fifteen of the 406 dolphins that have washed ashore in the last marks the beginning of Solar instant messages are on the BlackBerry now show up on The “animals were pushed to deeper water by our stranding net- 14 months had oil on their bodies, the oceanographic administration Cycle 24.” the PlayBook’s much roomier screen — a live, encrypted work partner, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and has said. The slow build-up to this two-way link. swam off on their own,” Amendola said. Deepwater Horizon oil was conﬁrmed to be on six bottlenose dol- moment is more than just the (Another advantage of pairing the PlayBook with a Researchers said weakened and stranded dolphins should in- phins, one had an unknown oil and two have not been tested. “watched pot failing to boil,” said BlackBerry: The tablet can get online using the BlackBerry’s stead be rescued and tested. Meanwhile, wildlife biologists contracted by the National Marine Ron Turner, a space weather cellular connection. You don’t have to pay another $15 or Moby Solangi, director for the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies Fisheries Service to document spikes in dolphin mortality and to col- analyst at Analytic Services, Inc. $20 a month for a tethering plan, as you do with iPhones in Mississippi, said returning the dolphins to deeper waters also was lect specimens and tissue samples for the NOAA were quietly or- “It really has been historically and Android phones.) (Source: The New York Times) undermining efforts to determine who is responsible for the rash of dered in late February to keep their ﬁndings conﬁdential. slow.” (Source: Space.com) IRAN BEHDASHT COMPANY SUPPLIER OF Iranian Lawyers Ofﬁce CARDIOVASCULAR EQUIPMENT Arg. Steak-House Let us to be your Legal Adviser Prize Winner in 31st Intl. 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