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Generating Current From Ocean Swells

The sun rises and sets, and winds come and go -- but the ocean's waves roll all day and all night. That's why harnessing wave energy promises more reliable power than solar cells or windmills, according to engineers Annette von Jouanne and Alan K. Wallace at Oregon State University. They have built a buoy that may prove to be an efficient, nonpolluting generator of electricity.

The mechanism is surprisingly simple. Inside the buoy is a motionless magnet that's anchored to the seabed. Around the magnet is an electrical coil attached to the floating buoy. As the buoy bobs on the waves, the coil moves up and down around the magnet, producing electricity -- from 50 to 200 kilowatts, depending on wave size.

A fleet of such buoys 1 to 2 miles offshore could feed electrical power to coastal towns or factories. Next summer, OSU and the Electric Power Research Institute plan to test the buoys off the coast of Oregon.

The version of the Aibo robot dog that Sony (SNE) introduced last fall, model ERS-7, contains new sensors and software that help it learn. Now, in a "playground experiment" devised by roboticists Fr?d?ric Kaplan and Pierre-Yves Oudeyer at Sony's research lab in Paris, Aibo is helping scientists study how personalities emerge in animals and humans.

The scientists put an Aibo in a playpen with toy balls, or on a mat with objects suspended overhead, similar to the playthings that people hang above baby cribs. For a few hours after being switched on, the Aibo just wiggled its legs and head aimlessly. Then it learned to crawl and walk -- and encountered the playthings. In the case of toy balls, the pet soon started pushing and following them. If there's a hanging bag, Aibo learned to bat it like a boxer.

None of this behavior was preprogrammed. It arose from software that instills generic "curiosity." The robot constantly seeks more complex ways to exercise its senses and appendages. And with Aibo, researchers can always erase its memory and start over.

Proteins in the milk of Australia's marsupials may hold secrets to fighting off deadly pathogens, including antibiotic-resistant staph. Researchers found this out while sequencing the genome of the Tammar wallaby, according to Bruce Kefford, Australia's deputy secretary for primary industries, who reported the discovery at the June Biotechnology Industry Organization conference in Philadelphia. The researchers believe the protein can be synthesized chemically as a drug for humans.

Scientists have long suspected that wallaby and kangaroo milk provides unique protection. After all, the tots survive for six to ten months in their mothers' pouches -- but don't have immune systems for the first three months or so. Other proteins in wallaby milk may yield treatments to jump-start lung development in premature babies or prod bone regrowth in osteoporosis patients.

-- Astronauts may soon get space-grown meals instead of the dehydrated food they now take on missions. That's good, because a six-person crew on a three-year mission to Mars would need to take along 30 tons of food, oxygen, and water -- far too much to blast into earth orbit before heading off to Mars. So chef Alain Ducasse and French food research company GEM have whipped up 20 tasty recipes for the European Space Agency. All the meals can be made from nine key ingredients, including soya and rice, that could be grown on spaceships or in greenhouses on the Red Planet.

-- Drivers who don't react swiftly to warnings from existing anticollision systems in their vehicles could get an assist from new technology developed by Jonas Jansson for his PhD at Sweden's Linkoping University. Initially, a radar sensor warns of an impending crash. If the driver doesn't swerve or take other evasive action, the system's computer slams on the brakes a second before impact. This doesn't avoid the collision, but it could reduce severe injuries and deaths by 5%, Jansson says.

-- Tennis fans at Wimbledon will eat their way through 28,000 kilograms of strawberries -- and some will suffer dire allergic reactions. Biochemists at Lund University in Sweden have pinpointed the allergen, similar to one found in birch pollen. They say those at risk can eat the white variety without any problem.

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