Tuesday, February 24, 2009


If you think solar power relies on rooftop panels alone, think again: a whole new crop of innovative gadgets promises to deliver sun-generated energy in all sorts of ways ... even in the dark. Following are seven potential sources for next-generation solar power: Hot roads and parking lots. All those roadways and parking lots shimmering with heat on sunny days could do more than turn your car into a sauna, according to researchers at the Massachusetts-based Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Areas paved with asphalt could heat up water in buried  pipes, providing a ready source of power across the landscape, researchers say. The hot water could be used to heat buildings or could be run through a thermoelectric generator to produce electricity. Such systems could even offer a few advantages over traditional rooftop arrays, the researchers say. One, the pipes would be under roads or parking lots, so they'd be invisible to the public. Two, they'd reduce the "heat island" effect that can make paved urban areas so uncomfortable on hot summer days. And three, they could continue generating energy even after sunset, thanks to asphalt's heat-absorbing powers. Our preliminary results provide a promising proof of concept for what could be a very important future source of renewable, pollution-free energy for our nation," said Rajib Mallick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. "And it has been there all along, right under our feet. Infrared-gathering nanoantennas. Researchers are eyeing plastic sheets embedded with billions of super-microscopic "nanoantennas" as a way to harness the power of the sun and more. The nanoantennas collect infrared radiation -- better known to us as heat -- rather than visible sunlight, which means they could generate energy around the clock, sopping up both ambient heat and waste heat from buildings and electronic devices. The concept is still a long way from becoming a mass-market reality, but it's an idea with huge potential. Every process in our industrial world creates waste heat," said Steven Novack, a physicist with the US Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory. And right now, he added, "It's energy that we just throw away. Water-powered dryers. Among the innovations being tested by students and faculty at the University of Cinncinati's (UC) solar house is a solar-heated dryer closet. Clothes hung in the enclosed closet are dried by hot air rising from pipes at the bottom, which carry water heated by the sun. Even more promising: an adaptor that could enable homeowners to use the heat from water to power a conventional clothes dryer. Use of this adapter would represent a significant cost and energy savings annually and over the life of the dryer," said Anton Harfmann, an associate dean at UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. ;One day, we'd love it if conventional dryers could be sold with our idea as a simple modification Solar-powered bicycle kiosks.Freewheelin, a new national bike-sharing program, lets users check out free bicycles using solar-powered kiosks. The program, developed by Humana Inc. and the cycling group Bikes Belong, is getting a major debut at this summer's Democratic and Republican national conventions in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Light-generating tree "leaves." What a neat concept is this: lighting nighttime pathways with solar-powered, leaf-shaped lights wound around street-side tree branches? Created by South Korean designer Jongoh Lee, the "Invisible Streetlights" are actually solar-powered LED lamps shaped like leaves and easily attached to trees in any quantity.
Solar-charged fuel cells. Tapping the sun's power today carries several disadvantages: you can't do it in the dark, and it's hard (and expensive) to efficiently store solar-generated energy for use when the sun isn't shining. But researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believe they might have found a solution to those drawbacks. Building on the concept of photosynthesis that plants use to tap the sun's power, MIT researchers have developed a way to use solar energy to split water into its components, hydrogen and oxygen. When those two gases are recombined in a fuel cell, they release energy that can be used to generate clean electricity, day or night. This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT researcher Daniel Nocera. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon. Window power. Rather than relying on large and very noticeable solar panels on their roofs, homeowners could one day invisibly tap the sun's power through their windows. Another development by researchers at MIT, window-based solar power would use dye-based solar concentrators on the glass to focus the sun's energy onto photovoltaic cells at the window's edges. Better still, researchers say, the system is simple enough that it could become widely manufactured and available within three years or so.
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Oscar Dress up

Fashion is something that a lot of men steer relatively clear of, allowing the women in their lives to dominate that portion of their lives - if they allow fashion into their lives at all. But everybody seems to have an opinion about what people wear at the Oscars. Who is the best dressed. Who is the worst dressed. Women, men, children all seem to have their likes and dislikes about what looks good or bad on who... So the day after the Academy Awards finds the media saturated with snippets and shorts, stories and articles, exposes and exclusives about the best dressed and the worst dressed, the fashion bombs and the fashion winners, photos, pictures, and videos. You can't turn on an electronic device without Whoopi Goldberg pouncing on you with her leopard-print horror or Sarah Jessica Parker's mannish face emerging above a beautiful gown (and good for her; it distracted from what was above the neck). The Best And Worst Dressed Men At The Academy Awards For the gentlemen who come to the Oscars, a simple black tuxedo usually suffices. But you know that some of the guys have to be creative, so they can't even get that one simple fashion rule down. Take Philip Seymour Hoffman, for example. Great actor. He was dressed all in black, including something that look tike a beret or a tam on his large noggin. The effect? A big guy rolled up in a sofa cover. With a head covering. Atrocious. Oh, and he looked like he slept in it, whatever it was. Esquire agrees. Hoffman was the worst dressed at the Academy Awards. If you are going to go all black, Oscar-nominated Sean Penn ("Milk") had the right look. Graceful cut to his tuxedo. Black shirt. Probably gay approved as well (as it should be, the man looked good enough to win an Oscar). You want to know how it is done, just take a look at Hugh Jackman. Simple traditional black tuxedo. That's the look, guys. Study. Take notes. Actually, take a note. Simple traditional black tuxedo. Got it? Good. Leave it alone. Who else? Dev Patel, the teen star of "Slumdog Millionaire," which took home eight Academy Awards at the 2009 Oscars, including Best Picture. Looking good is important if the camera is going to be on you all night, win or lose.
On the flip side of the same coin, the director of "Slumdog Millionaire," Danny Boyle, looked as if he just rushed over to the Oscars after putting in 12 hours at the office. Open collar, long tie. No.  And ... no. Among the best dressed, according to Esquire, Oscar-nominated Brad Pitt ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), Twilight's Robert Pattinson, Oscar-nominated Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon"), Zac Efron, Oscar-nominated Robert Downey, Jr. ("Tropic Thunder") and Ryan Seacrest. Esquire also mention the above-mentioned Jackman and Patel, plus a risqué Mickey Rourke, a stylish Daniel Craig, and Sean Penn.
The worst? Oscar-nominated Ron Howard (director, "Frost/Nixon"), who needed a shave. Esquire said that John Legend had over-accessorized with a tie clasp. They might not have been so hard on him had they known he wasn't singing his own song at the Oscars (he sang Peter Gabriel's tune from "Wall-E").

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It was just a tie clasp, guys. The Best And Worst Dressed Women At The Academy Awards Women are an entirely different subject when it comes to fashion. There are so many different things that can go wrong with a woman's look that it isn't even funny. It's a mix-and-match nightmare. Get the perfect dress and ruin the look with ugly shoes. Perfect shoes and hair, terrible dress. Perfect clothes, slightly off accessories or hair. That's why women spend so much time choosing and getting into their formal clothes. They're looking for the perfect look. And sometimes they find it. Or think they found it. Although the dress Whoopi Goldberg wore looked terrible on her, she still was not the worst dressed. That dubious honor has to go to Tilda Swinton, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for "Michael Clayton." Her two-toned dress ensemble was an eye-wrenching abomination - with a bunched-up shoulder effect that just looked as if the polyester tightened up. And then there was that ridiculous Snuggie-gone-wild monstrosity that Jessica Biel had on. Huge swathes of cream cloth billowing from a cream dress... Prada? Was that a joke? Perhaps leftovers from the designer's straight-jacket? Who knows? Miley Cyrus looked like she was dressing for a 4-year-old's princess-themed party in her godawful get-up. Walking the red carpet with her pageant wave bordered on the extremely gauche. As for the best dressed, Angelina Jolie was stunning in black. Penelope Cruz was beautiful in her 1950's-style off-white gown. Natalie Portman was beautiful in her tight... what color was that dress, exactly? E! Online reported put "Slumdog Millionaire" beauty Freida Pinto in the worst dressed. And they were right. But some put Kate Winslet's terrible retro-dress in their best-of as well, but the charcoal effect with the severe pulled-back hair just did not work. One expected her to start doing a Gloria Swanson impression when she accepted her Best Actress Award ("The Reader"). Beyonce's gold-and-black attack made her look as if someone had someone had crumpled up black and gold wrapped paper and placed her inside. E! Online agreed, stating that they had had enough of the mermaid dresses. E! Online trashed Amy Adams gown (said it was part of the carpet she was walking on) as well, but loved her necklace. The dress wasn't terrible, but it did nothing for the girl. However, that hideous distraction around her neck made one forget how forgettable the dress actually was. But, really, when it comes right down to it, the women at the Oscars have it a lot rougher than the men. The men are safe as long as they play conservative, go traditional, get a shave and a nice hair trim. For the women, it all depends on the eye of the beholder.

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