April 11, 2014

    Photo: Getty Images

High-Altitude Wind Turbines Take Flight

Potential to produce enough energy to power the world

Let's go fly a… wind turbine? Like kites, high-altitude wind turbines float in the air while tethered to the ground. What makes these airborne wind energy (AWE) devices different from a kite? They have the potential to generate huge amounts of electricity, according to a study led by the University of Delaware. 

AWE devices convert kinetic energy from wind into electricity. Researchers have pinpointed where in the atmosphere they might best be used. If successful, the turbines will produce several terawatts of electric power a year, according to Phys.org. 

For some perspective, that's enough power to more than meet worldwide demands. Phys.org continues:

Unlike their land-based and offshore counterparts, airborne turbines can reach extreme heights where wind speeds are very fast. They also use less-expensive materials, have fewer visual and audible impacts, and can be adjusted to the precise level at which winds are quickest at any given time. The systems are intended for use in special airspace to avoid interfering with airplanes, and they are not to be deployed during severe weather.

Companies vying for the best commercial patent are planning to get their AWEs up to three kilometers in the sky. Researchers say some of the best places for high-altitude wind farms include the North American Great Plains, areas over the ocean near the equator called Hadley cells, and offshore near the Horn of Africa.

"These areas, which we call 'wind speed maxima,' form much more often and in more regions than we thought," says Cristina Archer, the study's lead author and associate professor at UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. "That was a surprise."

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Refresh and recharge with a new app.     Photo: badmanproduction

New App Fights Jet Lag

Will your iPhone replace Ambien?

Whether returning from a trail running trek through the Italian Dolomites or a hiking journey through the Balkans, jet lag can leave a sour taste after even the best vacations. Now, scientists have found a way for travelers to quickly reset their internal clocks.

A new study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology shows that "the human circadian pacemaker is predicted to be capable of shifting much more rapidly than previously thought, simply by adjusting the timing of the beginning and end of each day." Researchers crunched the numbers on thousands of different sleep schedules and determined that, if effectively regimented, people can speedily reset their clock after a trip or other unusual sleeping schedule.

"Overcoming jet lag is fundamentally a math problem, and we've calculated the optimal way of doing it," says University of Michigan professor and study author Danny Forger.

The findings go beyond an academic paper. The study's researchers have made available a free iPhone app called Entrain that will suggest periods of time that users should spend in light to reset their biological clocks. Thanks to science, anyone with an iPhone now has a free and convenient cure for jet lag.

Avoiding jet lag also has health benefits. In addition to the short-term funks we're all familiar with, prolonged jet lag can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and late-onset diabetes.

Want to put the method to the test? We suggest one of the recipients of our 2014 Travel Awards.

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Small dogs will soon be our masters.     Photo: Facebook

Women Replacing Babies with Dogs

Small canines on the rise as human birthrates drop

In an eerie parallel to the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, human babies are being replaced, not by pod people, but by small dogs. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a strong correlation between the falling number of babies born to women ages 15 to 29 and a large spike in the number of small dogs (no more than 20 pounds) owned by American women.

While birthrates in America have taken a 10 percent tumble since 2007, small-dog ownership is steadily rising and has doubled since 1999. It's not just a coincidence: The same age group that's having fewer children is the very same driving force behind the small-dog movement. An investigation into the phenomenon by business analysis site Quartz suggests that humans are also putting more resources into their small dogs. Premium dog food sales have grown by 170 percent over the past 15 years and now account for more than half of the dog food market.

The New York Post interviewed a number of women on the subject and found that many viewed dogs as a suitable, hassle-free alternative to having a child. "I'd rather have a dog over a kid," declared equities trader Sara Foster, 30. "It's just less work and, honestly, I have more time to go out. You don't have to get a babysitter."

Another woman, Mary Smith, 25, raved about the advantages her French bulldog has over a screaming infant. "He's great, except he snores a lot. He even has his own Instagram," she says. "A dog is easier to transport than a child. It's less final than having a child."

Next up: competitive canine prep schools.

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The surfer (at far left) dunks his head while riding the wave in an attempt to cure his eye condition.     Photo: Courtesy of BMJ Case Reports

Surfer Cures Eye Problem in Huge Wave

No surgery needed

A 61-year-old surfer suffering from an eye condition that was causing him to lose his vision took matters into his own hands last month. On a 30-foot wave in Waimea Bay, Hawaii, the surfer dunked his head at top speed and reportedly washed his eye condition away.

Pterygium, which is often called "surfer's eye," is a common eye condition in people who spend lots of time outdoors. Bands of fibrous growth develop over the outer layers of the eye and can ultimately harm vision and require surgery.

"He momentarily dipped his face into the water while traveling at top speed but was able to recover his balance and continue surfing the wave," explained Dr. Thomas Campbell, who wrote the medical report. "This impressive maneuver resulted in the pterygium being ripped off his eye surface."

The surfer's eye was inflamed for a few days, but it quickly healed and his vision improved. Many doctors are doubtful of the surfer's methods and certainly aren't recommending it to their patients. Dr. Mark Fromer, a New York City–based ophthalmologist and the eye surgeon for the New York Rangers, expressed his concern: 

"I think it's possible he got some sort of blast to the eye that might have torn his conjunctiva. And the blood supply to the pterygium was interrupted, so maybe it died. … But it would take a heck of shot of water to do that. Pretty unlikely this is going to happen to anyone else."

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Seven chimpanzees escaped from their Kansas City Zoo enclosure on Thursday.     Photo: Saddako/Getty Images

7 Chimps Escape Zoo

Using a tree branch

Seven chimpanzees made a break from the Kansas City Zoo on Thursday.  

The primates used a six-foot log to escape their enclosure. They couldn't resist zookeepers with treats, however, and were quickly lured back into the cage.

Apparently the great escape started when one chimpanzee broke off a tree branch and used it to scale a wall to the top of the pen. The leader then cajoled the other chimps to climb out with him.

They didn't get far. Zoo staff blocked all exits with cars and used primate cookies to capture the animals. The whole thing lasted about 90 minutes.

While some guests were kept inside exhibits during the "code red" situation, nobody was hurt—including the chimps.

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See the Ikea colors? It just makes sense.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/KatarinaGondova

Ikea Buys Massive Wind Farm

South of Chicago

Ikea announced the purchase of a 98-megawatt wind farm—its first—in the United States yesterday. That's 380 gigawatt hours of renewable energy a year, enough to produce 165 percent of the electricity consumed by Ikea U.S. The 49-turbine farm in Hoopeston, Illinois, is Ikea's single largest renewable investment and is expected to start spinning by 2015.

Ikea's goal is to produce as much energy as it consumes by 2020. Ikea became the largest retail investor of wind energy in Canada this past November, and it already cranks out 220 gigawatt hours a year back home in Sweden.

Doing it themselves just makes sense to chief sustainability officer Steve Howard. "We own most of our stores, our factories, and the land they are built on," Howard told Forbes. "We have the capital, so why would we rent? It's the same with energy—if we can own our own energy production, why would we not want to do it?"

Google and Lego followed suit, but Ikea's DIY mantra powers their initiative.

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