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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS WEEKLY

Technology: New Developments in Earthquake Warnings

Earthquake alert systems were in the news last week. NASA scientists say a possible correlation between electrical disturbances in the atmosphere and impending earthquakes could lead to a space-based early warning system. But some scientists remain "deeply skeptical" about the basic premise.

Meanwhile, a new earthquake early warning system in Japan has gotten off to a rocky start. The system was designed to give two-minute warnings of approaching shock waves, but either missed or was late in sounding the alarm over recent quakes.

In other technology news, scientists have inserted a small piece of DNA into a living bacterial cell, creating a microbial computer to solve a mathematical sorting problem. The study was published in the Journal of Biological Engineering.

Technology giants say they could provide much faster wireless Internet access via unused bandwidth between TV channels. But media leaders are concerned that using those buffers for cell phone and Internet traffic could cause problems for TV signals when they go digital next year.

A preliminary study found that a device that sucks blood clots out of the coronary arteries of heart patients prior to angioplasty reduces the one-year death rate by nearly half. The new devices are already being used in many large medical centers.

Experts say new factories that process quartz into polysilicon will end a shortage of the raw material for solar panels. As a result, the price of solar panels could drop by as much as a third by 2010, which is good news for a promising energy alternative that remains expensive.


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PODCAST & VIDEO: Engineering Around Extreme Events

Extreme events, such as super floods and hurricanes, are becoming more common, so civil engineers are trying to adapt civil infrastructure such as bridges to these unpredictable and sometimes devastating meteorological events. Engineer Ana Barros discusses how engineering can prepare us for extreme weather events, but also how changing climate and population conditions can affect the ability of infrastructure to hold up over time.

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