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GOOD NEWS #36 - #40--AIDS, Fingerprints, Solar Power, Hydrogen, <$ Insulin

Hello again!

Five more "good news" ideas to expand the possibilities for a promising future.
If you're new to this blog, check out my first two posts, they will introduce you to what you'll find here.  1st post  2nd post

If you missed this announcement...
On March 31, I'm joining my long-time colleague, Debbe Kennedy, at the Global Dialogue Center ONLINE Conference Center for a conversation on INNOVATING in HARD TIMES as part of Debbe's Economic Conversation Series. If you would like to join us ONLINE, here are the links to learn more about our conversation and details to register to attend. No fees.

See web-based invitation to the MARCH 31 Dialogue:
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Scroll down to see my good news ideas #36 through #40...

Joel Barker-- Joel

Joel Barker
futurist, filmmaker, author



-genetic #36 - One Shot to Eliminate AIDS?
AIDS has been the most daunting of infections in the last 50 years (polio before that) and has killed millions of people.  Millions more, worldwide, are carrying the virus like a death sentence. That is why the latest news suggests that there may be a way to completely clear the body of AIDS. Two approaches offer such hope. One comes from Germany where a man with HIV received a bone marrow implant which resulted in the complete clearing of the virus. The donor of the marrow just happened to have two copies of a gene that prevents HIV from invading white cells.

Other researchers are making progress in altering a person's own white cells to teach them to conquer HIV. This is especially good news because the HIV vaccines have not yet lived up to expectationsl. Think about a one time only genetic therapy "shot" instead. What we may be witnessing in two converging trends, the trend toward genetic medicine and the trend toward the end of the HIV scourge.

Google: HIV Gene Therapy, Gero Hutter 

URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081205171007.htm


Fingerprints-sm #37 - Why Fingerprints?
I like puzzles being solved and it looks like "the purpose of fingerprints" has been solved. Of course, for a long time, it was assumed they were there to help pick up things...little traction pads. And that is correct. But now, Sliman Bensmaia of Johns Hopkins University has found another purpose: they help us feel things more accurately like surface texture.

And, more accurately, the finger prints interact with the surface and create specific frequencies of vibrations into the skin. It turns out that the finger print pattern improves the ability to sense texture. Why the swirls?  Because the sensory system only works when the finger motion is 90 degrees to the fingerprint. The swirls allow it to work in any direction. Oh, an unintended consequence of this clever sensing system, turns out to be an identification system which we use to find criminals.

Google: fingerprint vibrations, Sliman Bensmaia

URLS:  http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/40376/title/Fingerprints_filter_the_vibrations_fingers_feel



Powerplastic-sm-gray #38 - Plastic Solar Power
Every weeks there is an energy breakthrough, it seems. And that's good because to solve both climate change and the recession in the USA, we will need new sources of sustainable energy. Konarka, a start-up company, has developed "Power Plastic" a solar cell system that is flexible and light weight. You can roll it up and store it, you can carry the roll some other place and roll it out and start generating electricity.

$145 million in venture capital has already been put into this technology, and if the trends toward solar energy continue, this could be a big hit. The company produces the solar rolls using a converted printing press, so the cost of production is low and the volume of production is easy to expand. The US Army is thinking about solar powered tents with Konarka's Power Plastic on the outside as just one example of use.  It looks like it may be possible to put it on windows so that even as you look out through the transparent solar cell, it is generating power for the building.

If Konarka has any drawback, it is that its process is only 6% efficient at converting sunlight into electricity right now. But it is so cheap that you'll just buy more of it to get the electricity results you want. And, it doesn't last as long as other solar cells. But, again, if it is cheap enough, it won't make a difference for many applications.

Google: Konarka, Power Plastic



Vincent-Crespi-PennStateUPhysics #39 - Cheaper Ways to Produce Hydrogen
Hydrogen is still looked at as the "golden" fuel because when burned it produces water vapor and no pollutants with carbon dioxide in it. The big problem is the energy costs of producing hydrogen.  Until very recently one technique was to use platinum as a catalyst to reduce the amount of energy needed. But platinum is very, very expensive.  Now researchers at the University of Dayton, Ohio have found that carbon nanotubes doped with nitrogen work better than platinum nanoparticles. The importance of nitrogen in the process is a big surprise, but the results are significant: carbon nanotubes are cheap to make and we have LOTS of nitrogen on this planet.

At nearly the same time, Penn State researchers have found a way to dope carbon nanotubes with titanium and produce hydrogen using solar energy. So, we now have two new pathways to cheaper hydrogen. It keeps getting better, doesn't it?

Carbon Nanotube Photo: Vincent-Crespi - Penn State U Physics

Google: nanotubes for hydrogen production

For the U of Dayton research:
http://www.greenoptimistic.com/2009/02/07/nitrogen-doped-carbon-nanotube/   http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/02/nitrogen-doped.html

For Penn State:


Safflower_plant051228 #40 - Cheaper Insulin from Plants
As Diabetes continues to grow as a health problem across the planet, a second problem is also growing: access to inexpensive insulin.  That problem may have been solved by Sembiosys Genetics, a Canadian company. They were able to insert human insulin genes into safflowers, creating the capacity to produce a compound called "pro-insulin." They then used enzymes to convert this into a specific type of insulin that is identical to human insulin. Testing continues to make sure it is compatible. If it is, it creates a significant new way for manufacturing insulin for human use. And, of course, the obvious question is: what else can be made this way?

Photo:  CBCNews.ca

Google: Sembiosys Genetics,  SBS-1000




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