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     Volume 4 Issue 30 | January 21, 2005 |

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Advancements in Aerodynamics
Flow control techniques and aerodynamic improvements developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology could save the U.S. trucking industry hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel per year. Aerodynamic improvements on truck trailers -- such as rounded corners -- coupled with pneumatic controls for blowing air from slots, help reduce drag and improve fuel economy for heavy trucks. Recent tests done using a full-size tractor-trailer truck show the techniques based on systems originally developed for jet aircraft wings could increase fuel economy by as much as 12 percent. The improvements could also enhance braking and directional control, potentially improving safety for the big vehicles. "Aerodynamically, we have resolved unknowns raised in earlier testing and the next step is to get this into a fleet of trucks for more extensive testing," said Robert Englar, principal research engineer of Georgia Tech Research Institute. The aerodynamic improvements produced by geometry changes involve rounding trailer corners, installing fairings and making other changes that smooth airflow over the boxy trailers. Fuel savings also comes from pneumatic devices that blow air from slots at the rear of the trailer to further improve and prevent separation of air flow.

Use Digital Camera in the Dark
Nanotechnology could make it possible for homes to have "smart" walls responsive to the environment in the room, a digital camera sensitive enough to work in the dark or clothing with the capacity to turn the sun's power into electrical energy. Researchers at the University of Toronto have invented an infrared-sensitive material that could shortly turn these possibilities into realities. "We made particles from semiconductor crystals which were exactly two, three or four nanometres in size. The nanoparticles were so small they remained dispersed in everyday solvents just like the particles in paint," explains Professor Ted Sargent of University of Toronto's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The discovery may also help in the quest for renewable energy sources. Flexible, roller-processed solar cells have the potential to harness the sun's power but efficiency, flexibility and cost are going to determine how that potential becomes practice.

Kids Playing Computer Games Fail in Studies
A new study conducted by leading scientist Professor Robert Winston suggests that children who spend hours playing computer games and watching television are failing to develop the skills to succeed at school. He also added that youngsters are not acquiring the long-term powers of study and application they need in class. This is because the games they play and programmes they watch require only short-term bursts of concentration. The programme surveyed a group of primary school pupils and found one in five had played Grand Theft Auto --- a notorious 18-certificate game where players steal cars, kill people and pick up prostitutes. "Many children who love computer games find it hard to concentrate on the sort of tasks that require slow application and are necessary for school success," he said. Those who spend long periods playing quick-fire, adrenaline-pumping games often lack a long-term attention span, he found. "Digital media may well have some dangers as well as some advantages for children. Modern children are spending three to four hours a day in front of a computer or television screen of some kind, often unsupervised," he added.

'Ultrasound' and Solar Weather Mystery
Astronomers have identified ultrasound-like waves in our sun's atmosphere that could explain some strange aspects of solar weather. An analysis of data from NASA's TRACE spacecraft suggests that the waves could be responsible for the star's unexplained extra heat. The surface of the sun reaches a blistering 6,000 degrees Celsius. The chromosphere or middle solar atmosphere, is even more scorching at 100,000 degrees Celsius, whereas the solar corona is the hottest part of all, with temperatures nearing a million degrees Celsius. Just what causes these wide discrepancies in temperature has intrigued researchers for decades. Craig DeForest of the Southwest Research Institute and his colleagues analysed data from the TRACE ultraviolet telescope and found evidence of waves with a frequency of 100 millihertz, which corresponds to a sound 300 times deeper than the lowest noise audible to the human ear. "These ripples seem to be carrying about one kilowatt of power per square metre on the surface of the sun," says DeForest. "something is releasing energy into the environment and that release has a recognisable sonic signature."

Gambling is Similar to Drug Addiction
A new study published in the journal 'Nature Neuroscience' has indicated that serious gamblers demonstrate a similar pattern of brain activity to people who are addicted to drugs. The researchers from Hamburg, Germany, said that gambling was also a form of addiction. The parts of the brain which are active when people feel rewarded, curbing activity, are less so in those who take drugs or gamble to excess, they said. In the study, the brains of 12 compulsive gamblers and 12 non-gamblers were monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they played a simple card guessing game. Players had to choose one of two facedown cards. If the card came up red, they won one euro. It was found that the ventral striatum, a part of the brain that signals reward, was less active in the pathological gamblers even though both groups won and lost the same amount of money. Reduced activity in the area is recognised as a hallmark of drug addiction. This study is one more piece of the jigsaw that helps give gambling legitimacy as a bona-fide addiction.

Source: Webindia123.com / New Scientist.com / Scientific America.com / BBC.co.uk

Compiled by: Imran H. Khan

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