Monthly Archives: September 2007

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.

Taiwan's missile plan

The island is producing missiles that could strike China. It has already trialled weapons that could hit Shanghai.

It’s logical enough for Taiwan to build up its military, particularly as it’s rival is doing the same.

Some Taiwanese military specialists have argued for decades that Taiwan should develop offensive weapons, including missiles, as a deterrent to the mainland, which has threatened to attack the self-governing island if it moves toward formal independence. The Pentagon estimates that China has deployed 900 missiles across from Taiwan.

The US is against such Taiwanese weapons, which will only fuel tensions between the island’s independence-leaning government and the mainland. Defence experts have also noted that the missiles could be used against financial and economic targets. This might be a bit mad given that China accounts for 22% of Taiwan’s exports and 12% of its imports.

But the Associated Press notes:

Wang Kao-cheng, a defense analyst, said the US could pull the plug on the missile program by withholding sophisticated satellite guidance technology from the Taiwanese military. The program could founder without the technology, he said.

“The US has objected to Taiwan developing mid to long-range missiles, fearing it could embolden the island’s authorities to take more provocative policies toward China,” said Wang, professor of strategic studies of Tamkang University.

I wonder if Taiwan will seek other assistance should the US step up its opposition.

Links of the day

Seven tips for resolving conflicts quickly and peacefully. We all go up against at least one nutjob in our lives, here’s a remarkably common sense guide to dealing with them. (Pick The Brain)

US regrets if women and children killed in Baghdad raid. But they were going after some fellas using a mortar so it’s all right. Collateral damage and all that. (AFP)

Clever uses for dental floss: beyond teeth. I love finding new uses for ordinary things. (Gadling)

Backpacker turns Burma activist via Facebook. I’m a member of his group, to which people are flocking. (Reuters)

Yet more on CNN, Burma and Myanmar. The name you use reflects the stance you’re taking. (James Fallows)

Renovating the biblical psalms. They’re beautiful poems as well as having religious significance. (Slate)

Man, 24, weds 82-year-old bride. “I’ve always like mature ladies.” (BBC)

The county name game

Michael Nugent has translated the meanings of 20 Irish county names:

  • Abounding in Shells
  • Black Pool
  • Fjord of the Flats
  • The Fort
  • Grey Hill-Ridge
  • The Hollow
  • The Marsh
  • The Middle
  • The Oak Grove
  • Oak Tree Church
  • Place of Shrubs
  • The Plain
  • Plain of Ewe Trees
  • Quadruple Lake
  • The River Lud
  • River of Cloaks
  • Solitary Farm
  • Weather Haven
  • The Well of Ara
  • West Central

Which is which? Find out here.