Posts about France

WindTree – Harnessing Breezes for Electricity

This style of wind power looks cool. The WindTree turns small breezes into electricity. Its production varies with the wind speed and its average output ranges between 1,500 kWh and 2,000 kWh. Peak power is 3,500 kWh.

But I don’t see how it can be effective given the large cost. The WindTree is being offered for installation late in 2017 in the USA and Canada at $67,500 – excluding delivery, installation and taxes (they estimate almost $100,000 total). It really seems to me the prices would have to come down by more than 75% to make any real impact in the market.

An average household in the USA uses 901 kWh per month.

The tree is 36 feet tall and 26 feet in width. The first trees were installed in France in 2015, the company is based in France.

It is good to see us investigating numerous ways to generate clean energy. But unless the price of this drastically reduces over time it doesn’t seem likely to contribute much to our energy needs.

Related: Chart of Wind Power Generation Capacity Globally 2005-2012Capture Wind Energy with a Tethered Turbine (2007)Engineering Floating Wind Farms (2010)Sails for Modern Cargo Ships (2008)

Pepper – A Social Robot from Softbank

Pepper is a social robot developed in France and part of the Japanese conglomerate Softbank.

Pepper robots are at work in retail stores in Asia and Europe as sales associates. The first personal robots have been available in Japan for 2 years now and may be available elsewhere soon.

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Car Powered by Compressed Air

I wrote about cars powered by compressed air back in 2008. Turning such innovative prototypes into products of sustainable businesses is quite difficult.

This new attempt to produce cars powered by compressed air has an innovative design with a joystick instead of a drivers wheel. The AirPod is being developed in France. Compressed air has been used to power trams in France since the 19th century.

The AirPod has a range of 150 to 200 km and a top speed for 80 km per hour. The cost will be about US$10,000.

They claim the cost per mile is about 1/3rd of that for electric vehicles. It is nice that we have engineers around the globe continually working on new uses of technology to provide us better options for living.

I hope such cars can be a success. It does seem to me electric cars seem the more likely large scale success but it is good to have people seeking out innovative solutions.

Related: Compressed Air Powered Car Webcast (2008)Self Driving Cars Have Huge Potential for Benefit to SocietyEngineers Save a Life, With Safe Car DesignToyota Scion iQ (2011)Car Style Mass Transit Mag Lev System (2009)

Ranking Countries by Scientific Publication Citations: USA, UK, Germany…

The SCImago Journal and Country Rank provides journal and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus database. I posted about this previously (in 2014, 2011 and 2008).

The data in the post is based on their data from 1996 through 2013. The web site also lets you look at these ranking by very specific categories. For example biotechnology #1 USA, #2 Germany, #3 UK, #4 Japan, #12 China or human computer interaction #1 USA, #2 Germany, #3 UK #4 Japan, #13 China).

I like looking at data and country comparisons but in doing so it is wise to remember this is the results of a calculation that is interesting but hardly definative. We don’t have the ability to measure the true scientific research output by country.

The table shows the top 6 countries by h-index and then some others I chose to list.

Country h-index 2010
h-index
2007
h-index
% of World
Population
% of World GDP total cites
USA 1,518 1,139 793     4.5%   22.2% 152,984,430
United Kingdom 918 689 465  0.9  3.5 37,450,384
Germany 815 607 408  1.1  5.0  30,644,118
France 742 554 376  0.9  3.8  21,193,343
Canada 725 536 370  0.5  2.4 18,826,873
Japan 635 527 372  1.8  7.8 23,633,462
Additional countries of interest (with 2013 country rank)
16) China 436 279 161  19.2  11.7  14,752,062
19) South Korea 375 258 161    .7  1.7  5,770,844
22) Brazil 342 239 148  2.8  3.0 4,164,813
23) India 341 227 146  17.5  2.6 5,666,045

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Baboons Learn to Recognize Hundreds of Words

The (Monkey) Business Of Recognizing Words by Jon Hamilton

[Jonathan Grainger, researcher, Aix-Marseille University] says a baboon named Dan learned more than 300 words. “Dan’s our star baboon,” he says. “He’s a high-performing individual, basically. He does well in most tasks.”

But here’s the amazing thing: Dan and the other baboons also learned to tell whether a string of letters they’d never seen before was an English word. That’s something first-graders learn to do when they start reading, but scientists had assumed that children were simply sounding out the letters to decide whether they make sense.

Of course, the baboons couldn’t do this because they’re not learning to read a language they already speak. They had to rely on a part of the brain that can tell whether objects fit a known pattern.

Michael Platt, who directs the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, says he was surprised by what the baboons were able to do.

“I was really looking for holes to poke in this study, but it was very difficult to find any because it was really beautifully done,” he says. “And I think the linchpin here was that the baboons, once they had learned the rule, could generalize to new words that they had not seen before.”

Platt says when you think about it, the finding makes sense, given what’s known about human and animal brains. “Brains are always looking for patterns,” he says. “They are always looking to make some statistical pattern analysis of the features and events that are in the environment. And this would just be one of those.”

Platt says that’s a big departure from the idea that reading is a direct extension of spoken language.

One questions I have, is why the experiment done in France tested wether the Baboons could recognize English words?

Related: Brain Reorganizes As It Learns MathBird Brain ExperimentsHow Humans Got So SmartHow Our Brain Resolves Sight

Top Countries for Science and Math Education: Finland, Hong Kong and Korea

The 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)* report has been released. The report examines the science of 15 year olds from 57 countries in math, science and reading. The main focus of PISA 2009 was reading. The survey also updated performance assessments in mathematics and science.

The Asian countries continue to do very well for several reason including tutoring; they have even turned tutors into rock stars earning millions of dollars. The results show that the focus on student achievement in sciences has had an impact in Asia.

The emphasis is on mastering processes, understanding concepts and functioning in various contexts within each assessment area. the PISA 2012 survey will return to mathematics as the major assessment area, PISA 2015 will focus on science.

Results for the Science portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):

  • 1 – Finland – 554
  • 2 – Hong Kong – 549
  • 3 – Japan – 539
  • 4 – Korea – 538
  • 5 – New Zealand – 532
  • 6 – Canada – 529
  • 7 – Estonia – 528
  • 8 – Australia – 527
  • 9 – Netherlands – 522
  • 10 – Taiwan – 520
  • 11 – Germany – 520
  • 14 – United Kingdom – 514
  • 21 – USA – 502 (up from 489 and 29th place in 2006)
  • OECD average – 501
  • 25 – France – 498
  • 46 – Mexico – 416
  • 49 – Brazil – 405

Results for the math portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):
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Marine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in Amber

photo of foraminifer in amber

Marine microorganisms have been found in amber dating from the middle of the Cretaceous period. The fossils were collected in Charente, in France. This completely unexpected discovery will deepen our understanding of these lost marine species as well as providing precious data about the coastal environment of Western France during the Cretaceous. This work was carried out by researchers at the Géosciences Rennes laboratory, together with researchers from the Paléobiodiversité et Paléoenvironnement laboratory in Paris and the Centre de Géochimie de la Surface in Strasbourg.

Amber is a fossil resin with a reputation for preserving even the most minute details of insects and other terrestrial arthropods (spiders, scorpions, mites) that lived in resiniferous trees. The forest-based provenance of amber in theory makes it impossible for marine animals to be trapped in the resin. Nonetheless, researchers from the Géosciences Rennes laboratory have discovered various inclusions of marine plankton in amber from the Mid-Cretaceous (100 to 98 million years ago). These micro-organisms are found in just a few pieces of amber among the thousands that have been studied, but show a remarkable diversity: unicellular algae, mainly diatoms found in large numbers, traces of animal plankton, such as radiolaria and a foraminifer, spiny skeletons of sponges and of echinoderms.

Foraminifera (the photo shows one in Amber) are amoeboid protists with reticulating pseudopods, fine strands of cytoplasm that branch and merge to form a dynamic net.[1] They typically produce a test, or shell, which can have either one or multiple chambers, some becoming quite elaborate in structure.[2] These shells are made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or agglutinated sediment particles. About 275,000 species are recognized, both living and fossil.[citation needed] They are usually less than 1 mm in size.”

Carried out together with researchers at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, the study of diatoms pushed back by 10 to 30 million years the known date for the appearance of certain marine forms of this type of algae. This new information, taken together with recent data on molecular phylogeny, marks a huge advance in our understanding of the complex evolutionary history of diatoms.

The presence of these marine organisms in the amber is an ecological paradox. How did these marine species become stuck and then trapped in the conifers’ resin? The most likely scenario is that the forest producing the amber was very close to the coast, potentially shrouded by plankton-bearing mist or flooded by sea water during storms.

The preservation of marine organisms in amber is an exceptional asset, allowing us to deepen our understanding of these lost species and to have a clear idea about the coastal environment of Western France during the Cretaceous.

press release

Related: Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber2,000 year old living coralBdelloid Rotifers Abandoned Sex 100 Million Years Ago

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008

photos of Harald zur Hausen, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2008 with one half to Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of “human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer” and the other half jointly to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of “human immunodeficiency virus.”

Harald zur Hausen went against current dogma and postulated that oncogenic human papilloma virus (HPV) caused cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women. He realized that HPV-DNA could exist in a non-productive state in the tumours, and should be detectable by specific searches for viral DNA. He found HPV to be a heterogeneous family of viruses. Only some HPV types cause cancer. His discovery has led to characterization of the natural history of HPV infection, an understanding of mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis and the development of prophylactic vaccines against HPV acquisition.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier discovered human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Virus production was identified in lymphocytes from patients with enlarged lymph nodes in early stages of acquired immunodeficiency, and in blood from patients with late stage disease. They characterized this retrovirus as the first known human lentivirus based on its morphological, biochemical and immunological properties. HIV impaired the immune system because of massive virus replication and cell damage to lymphocytes. The discovery was one prerequisite for the current understanding of the biology of the disease and its antiretroviral treatment.

Related: 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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Symptom of America’s Decline in Particle Physics

Land Of Big Science

Probing more deeply than ever before into the stuff of the universe requires some big hardware. It also requires the political will to lavish money on a project that has no predictable practical return, other than prestige and leadership in the branch of science that delivered just about every major technology of the past hundred years.

Those advances came, in large measure, from the United States. The coming decades may be different.

A third of the scientists working at the LHC hail from outside the 20 states that control CERN. America has contributed 1,000 or so researchers, the largest single contingent from any non-CERN nation.

The U.S. contribution amounts to $500 million—barely 5 percent of the bill. The big bucks have come from the Europeans. Germany is picking up 20 percent of the tab, the British are contributing 17 percent, and the French are giving 14 percent.

The most worrying prospect is that scientists from other countries, who used to flock to the United States to be where the action is, are now heading to Europe instead.

This is a point I have made before. The economic benefits of investing in science are real. The economic benefits of having science and engineering centers of excellence in your country are real. That doesn’t mean you automatically gain economic benefit but it is a huge advantage and opportunity if you act intelligently to make it pay off.

Related: Invest in Science for a Strong EconomyDiplomacy and Science ResearchAsia: Rising Stars of Science and EngineeringBrain Drain Benefits to the USA Less Than They Could Beposts on funding science explorationposts on basic researchAt the Heart of All Matter

Best Research University Rankings – 2008

The annual ranking of research Universities are available from Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University. The methodology values publications and faculty awards which provides a better ranking of research (rather than teaching). Results from the 2008 rankings of Top 500 Universities worldwide, country representation of the top schools:

location Top 100 % of World
Population
% of World GDP % of top 500
USA 54     4.6%   27.2%  31.6%
United Kingdom 11  0.9  4.9 8.3
Germany   6  1.3  6.0 8.0
Japan   4  2.0  9.0 6.2
Canada   4  0.5  2.6 4.2
Sweden   4  0.1  0.8 2.2
France   3  0.8  4.6 4.6
Switzerland   3  0.1  0.8 1.6
Australia   3  0.3  1.6 3.0
Netherlands   2  0.2  1.4 2.4
Denmark   2  0.1  0.6 0.8
Finland   1  0.1  0.4 1.2
Norway   1  0.1  0.7 0.8
Israel   1  0.1  0.3 1.2
Russia   1  2.2  2.0 0.4
China  20.5  6.6 6.0
India  17.0  1.9 0.4

There is little change in most of the data from last year, which I think is a good sign, it wouldn’t make much sense to have radical shifts over a year in these rankings. Japan lost 2 schools in the top 100, France lost 1. Denmark (Aarhus University) and Australia (University of Sydney) gained 1. Last year there was a tie so there were 101 schools in the top 100.

The most dramatic data I noticed is China’s number of top 500 schools went from 14 to 30, which made me a bit skeptical of what caused that quick change. Looking more closely last year they reported the China top 500 totals as (China 14, China-Taiwan 6 and China-Hong Kong 5). That still gives them an impressive gain of 5 schools.

Singapore has 1 in the 102-151 range. Taiwan has 1 ranked in the 152-200 range, as do Mexico, Korea and Brazil. China has 9 in the 201-302 range (including 3 in Hong Kong). India has 2 in the 303-401 range.

University of Wisconsin – Madison is 17th again 🙂 My father taught there while I grew up.
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Compressed Air Powered Car Webcast

I posted on a car powered using compressed air previously. Here is a webcast on that car:

More webcasts on the car: Catvolution’s Air Car ride + interview Cyril NegreCATvolution YouTube webcasts

Related: Aptera Prototype (over 230 MPG)Car ElevatorElectric Cars

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