Category Archives: Science

Hydrogen from algae

Not just any algae, I’ll have you know. Mutant algae.

Algae produce hydrogen during photosynthesis, and that element provides a lot of energy — one kilogramme of hydrogen is the equivalent of a gallon of petrol.

Professor Anastasios Melis of the University of California has engineered a species that makes better use of sunlight than those found in nature — increasing the hydrogen created by a factor of three.

Melis and his colleagues are designing algae that have less chlorophyll so that they absorb less sunlight. That means more light penetrates into the deeper algae layers, and eventually, more cells use the sunlight to make hydrogen… During normal photosynthesis, algae focus on using the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose, releasing oxygen in the process. Only about 3 to 5 percent of photosynthesis leads to hydrogen. Melis estimates that, if the entire capacity of the photosynthesis of the algae could be directed toward hydrogen production, 80 kilograms of hydrogen could be produced commercially per acre per day.

Melis’s team is working toward 50% capacity, though it will be five years at least before proper commercial applications become reality. At 50%, the cost of producing the hydrogen would be $2.80 (€1.96), on a par with the cost of producing petrol.

With algae as a renewable energy source, it could be a huge breakthrough in weaning ourselves off oil. Fingers and toes crossed that this one works out.

Links of the day

PC users still prefer XP to Vista. For some reason The Daily Telegraph doesn’t realise XP and Vista are two versions of Windows.

Giuliani’s advisor Peter King: “Too many mosques in this country”. Another idiotic quote by a gobshite politician. (Crooks and Liars)

Making carbon markets work. It could be an effective way of limiting climate change from CO2 emissions. (Scientific American)

A child’s guide to Iran-US relations. The article makes one or two suspect claims but it’s a good backgrounder. (Scholars and Rogues)

Diabetes breath test may be possible. Every little bit helps. (CNet)

Swedish game show hostess vomits live on air. Only to get back on her seat and finish working. What a pro! (

This makes me feel better

From CNet:

The ability to identify the absolute pitch of musical notes, looks to be the product of a small number of genes

Well thank science for that. Here was I thinking I was just useless when it came to identifying notes; now my failures at working out guitar chords just by listening to the song are explained away nicely.

Although perfect pitch appears to be a genetic trait, early exposure to music or musical training appears to influence its development in those with the right DNA.

The study tested 2,213 individuals, recruited via advertisements and a Web site, and 981 of them were categorized as having perfect pitch. The study found that about as many women as men have perfect pitch–47 percent and 53 percent, respectively–and that those with perfect pitch tend to err on the sharp side as they get older.

Links, zwo, drei, vier

So here we are. Iraq’s government has a bleak future, according to the latest intelligence reports, while Iran is facing attack by the US (see the article below this one) and a community comes to terms with an 11-year-old being shot by a teenager on a BMX. Our tiny planet would appear to be a globe filled with despair and misery. But not so.

Another point of view: Bill Dornan takes a deliciously wry look at preserving the Earth with Hunting, nuking and swishing: a guide to saving the planet. (A Foolish Interruption)

Changing their minds: French banking giant BNP Paribas is to unblock three of its investment funds, whose suspension this month sparked turmoil on global stock markets. At last! Solid good news in the markets! If only the head of Countrywide hadn’t talked about the US economy heading for recession… (AFP, MSNBC)

A novel defence: A counterterrorism detective has been fired despite claiming he only failed a drugs test because his wife made him marijuana-spiked meatballs.  Give the man top marks for creativity! (Taunton Gazette)

Why didn’t I think of this? Your guide to building a laser spy microphone on a tight budget. (

Idiots: Agents of the Transport Security Administration confiscate a man’s pudding but overlook the 4-inch blade Swiss army knife in his backpack. (

Because it must be done: Infiltrate the kingdom of Los Disneys on a mission to destroy the cryogenically frozen head of Walt Disney. Although he wasn’t actually frozen after his death. (

Life, but not as we know it: The soil on Mars may contain microbial life, according to a new interpretation of data first collected more than 30 years ago. (CNN/Reuters)

All hail our photosynthetic saviours: Making fuel out of algae is one of those ideas that everyone loves but it’s fairly difficult. (CNet)

A return to more conventional blogging at the weekend.