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Toronto's Lights Are Turning Greener

The world's tallest freestanding structure, Toronto's CN Tower, is now more eco-friendly. Its illumination comes from light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which turn electricity directly into light, cutting energy use by 60% from the tower's previous lights. This is just one part of a plan Toronto announced on July 11 to install LEDs all across the city, from parking garages to parks, to save energy and reduce carbon emissions. To fight climate change, "cities have to lead by example," says Mayor David Miller. In fact, Toronto is following the lead of LED pioneer Raleigh, N.C.

Many in the auto industry are betting that lithium ion batteries will be the next power source for hybrid cars. But a Caterpillar (CAT) spin-off is wagering it can transform today's lead acid batteries instead. Firefly Energy's invention produces a current pretty much the same way that Gaston Plant?'s first rechargeable battery did in 1859. The difference is that its power cells contain plates of a carbon graphite foam rather than lead. This means the product is 30% smaller and 20% lighter than typical auto batteries. It can also be recharged many more times and has longer up time. Although the product costs twice as much as lead acid batteries, it could sell for just 20% to 25% the price of a lithium or nickel battery, says Firefly CEO Edward Williams.

The act of walking up a slope and down again on two legs is a marvel of engineering. The brain, muscles, and joints must work in perfect harmony, constantly adjusting the angle of the knees, the flexing of muscles, and the balance of the torso. Now, researchers from Germany's University of G??ttingen have figured out how to get a two-legged robot to perform this feat.

Building on their earlier creation, a foot-tall walking robot called RunBot, they designed a hill-climbing version with an infrared eye that can detect a slope and adjust its gait on the spot. The scientists, led by Florentin W??rg??tter, organized RunBot's walking controls into a hierarchy: Movement reflexes are driven by sensors, which are regulated by control circuits. These, in turn, are governed by a neural network attached to the infrared eye.

At its first attempt to climb a slope, the RunBot fell backward. But just like a child, it learned from its failures, and eventually conquered the hill.

-- The Great Pumpkin may offer salvation to diabetics. Pumpkins are a known source of antioxidants--but that's not all. The giant fruit also contains a molecule that seems to help the pancreas regenerate insulin-producing cells destroyed by diabetes. When scientists at East China Normal University in Shanghai fed diabetic rats pumpkin extract for 30 days, levels of insulin in their blood returned almost to normal, as did the number of insulin-producing cells.

-- The U.S. medical Establishment regularly bemoans the fact that less than 10% of eligible patients enroll in clinical trials, slowing down the development of new drugs and procedures. Could doctors be to blame? A new survey by Thomson CenterWatch (TOC) found that only 14% of trial participants learned of their study through their doctor; 56% found out about a trial through the media or the Internet. Of the 620 trial participants surveyed, 64% said they did not get any information about trials from their doctor, and only 24% consulted with a specialist or family doctor before deciding to enroll.

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