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CHEAP HYDROGEN FROM WATER

Hydrogen, say many experts, is the fuel of the future. What’s more, there’s plenty of hydrogen in water, so it should be easy to get, right? Not so. Today, extracting hydrogen from water takes harsh chemicals and costs a lot, but all that could be about to change. A chemist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found a cheap way to get the job done and scientists around the world are very excited.

Daniel Nocera has come up with a catalyst made from cobalt and phosphorus that can split water at room temper­ature. In a July issue of the journal Science Nocera says, “I’m using cheap, earth-abundant materials that you can mass-manufacture. As long as you can charge the surface, you can create the catalyst and it doesn’t get any cheaper than that.”

The technique will also make it possible to store efficiently the energy from photovoltaic cells, thus solving one of the biggest drawbacks to solar energy, producing power when the sun is not shining.

The potential is vast. Splitting the water in a single swimming pool every second would create more than enough energy to power the world. Right now Nocera’s method can only be used on a small scale but experts say commercial scale operations should be possible within a decade.

VIBES KILL VIRUSES

The term “vibrational medicine” has been disparaged by the mainstream allopathic medical establishment, but some­day they may have to take it all back. Scientists at Arizona State University have used vibrations to kill viruses.

The researchers have learned how to calculate the exact resonant frequency and can now use lasers to deliver the appropriate vibration to the virus and literally shake it to pieces. The theory is the same as the one that forces army sergeants to have soldiers fall out before crossing a bridge, thus evading possible destruction of the bridge through the regular beat of troops marching in step.

Because of the complexity of microorganisms, determining the right frequency is difficult, but the scientists have used their technique successfully with simple satellite tobacco necrosis and now will be investigating other viruses. Not only lasers but ultrasound may ultimately used in the coming therapies which promise big improvements over the harsh chemicals currently in vogue, though it is expected to be years before the technique has matured sufficient­ly to make it readily available.

Full Warp Speed Ahead

Whatever Einstein said, we know the Star Trek Enterprise was not limited to the speed of light. As any Trekkie can tell you, Captain Kirk could simply call for warp speed and his faithful ship would quickly move from one side of the galaxy to the other. Great for fiction but not for fact, right? Wrong. Physicists are now talking seriously about faster­than-speed-of-light travel and proposing just how technology might move toward that goal—though, perhaps, at something less than warp speed.

According to Baylor University physicist Gerald Cleaver and his graduate student Richard Obousy, as reported on the web site Space.com, all you need is something called the Alcubierre drive which would expand space-time behind the vehicle while shrinking it in front. The spaceship would then move faster than the speed of light—once believed to be the ultimate speed limit.

It’s all based on string theory and the use of dark matter to manipulate space-time, and it would take a tremendous amount of energy—enough to convert the mass of Jupiter to pure energy, just to propel a 33-foot-cube craft—but what’s a little extra energy when you are going where no man has gone before. It’s just not something you might want to do every day, especially considering where the price of gas seems to be headed.

Stay tuned.

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