The possibility of using nonfood plants to cheaply and sustainably fuel our vehicles may have just veered into the fast lane.
Scientists report they have successfully genetically engineered bacteria to convert complex carbohydrates in tough grasses directly into ethanol, a type of alcohol that can fuel internal combustion engines.
“Making biofuel from plants is really important because it’s carbon neutral—the same CO2 you put in to grow it comes out when you burn it,” says Janet Westpheling, a University of Georgia genetics professor who led the research. “It’s one of the reasons why the future of energy in this country has to rely at least in part on plants.”
At the heart of the work conducted at UGA and Oak Ridge National Lab, is what Westpheling calls a paradigm shift in approaching a longstanding problem in producing biofuels.
For understanding where an infectious disease is going to spread, it turns out it’s all about the airtime.
Physicists putting modern air travel and the global movement of people at the center of a new mathematical model can accurately predict the propagation of epidemics.
Their work places more weight in “effective distances,” the concept that a metropolitan area connected by international airports can transmit infection to other major cities at similar speeds to closer, less connected towns.
“From the perspective of Frankfurt, Germany, other metropolitan areas such as London, New York or Tokyo are effectively not more distant than geographically close German cities such as Bremen, Leipzig or Kiel,” said Dirk Brockmann, a theoretical physicist who developed the approach at Northwestern University’s Institute on Complex Systems and who now works at Humboldt University Berlin.
The Internet was birthed in good measure by the Pentagon and when history is written about the emergence of self-driving vehicles, the brass will once again deserve significant credit.
Long a Holy Grail for the car industry, autonomous vehicles are a highly prized goal because they offer huge potential compared to traditional consumer autos. They promise to be far safer (human error causes 93 percent of accidents), to ease congestion by making far more efficient use of increasingly crowded roads, and to relieve humans of this surprisingly complex, often enervating, task.
A recent milestone in the journey toward robotic chauffeurs was the 33-mile cruise by a self-driving Cadillac from Cranberry, Pa., to the Pittsburgh International Airport; aboard were U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Barry Schoch, the state’s transportation department chief.