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Mobile Phones, Immobile Cars

Until now there have been few good ways for drivers to find out in real time about traffic accidents or rush-hour jams on their routes. Radio traffic reports can be hit-or-miss, and most local governments have been loath to invest in roadside sensors costing $100,000 a mile in order to provide more timely information.

Atlanta's AirSage says it has a way to get the job done. It uses proprietary software algorithms that measure the number, speed, and density of cell-phone signals in cars along the road. The more concentrated the signals, the heavier the traffic volume. In 46 cities in the U.S., AirSage receives a continuous feed of radio-signal data (with the identifying information stripped out) from Sprint (S). It then looks for high signal density and slow vehicle speeds, which indicate a traffic jam.

For now, AirSage is selling its real-time analysis to local governments as well as to radio and TV stations in the 46 markets. But the company might someday provide this data in color-coded maps--marking roads green if traffic is flowing and red where it's congested--to cell phones and car navigation systems. The data could also help reroute traffic in dire storms.

Can Japan's Steel Industry Kick the Coke Habit?

Japan's steel plants spew millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the air every year. So the government is considering plans to spend more than $200 million over the next decade on a new technology to reduce the industry's emissions. As early as next April, Nippon Steel, JFE Steel, Kobe Steel (KBSTY), and others could begin building an experimental blast furnace that uses hydrogen as a catalyst--rather than coke, a coal derivative--to reduce iron oxide to pure iron. That substitution could cut by one-third the amount of carbon dioxide spewed by Japan's steel plants. Traditional coke-reliant blast furnaces are a key reason the steel industry accounts for 13% of Japan's annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Balloons That Get Blood to the Brain

An experimental device called NeuroFlo uses a diversionary tactic to treat strokes: It takes blood that's flowing from the heart to the legs and reroutes it to the brain.

About 85% of strokes occur when a clot or other blockage stops blood flow to the brain. Neurons, starved of oxygen, start dying off, and patients can end up paralyzed or dead.

NeuroFlo, developed by CoAxia in Maple Grove, Minn., is a long, flexible tube with two small balloons on one end. It is inserted into the body's largest artery, which runs through the chest and abdomen before splitting into each leg. Once the catheter is inserted, the balloons are inflated for 45 minutes, blocking blood to the legs and diverting it to the head. The blood avoids the artery obstructed by the stroke, reaching the brain through subsidiary vessels.

In a 2002 trial involving 29 patients, 62% improved after this treatment, even though doctors didn't start it up until 7 1/2 hours after the stroke began, on average. That's more effective than the only drug for stroke, tPA, which must be given in the first three hours. CoAxia is testing its device in a 400-patient trial.

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