Money Matters - Simplified


World’s first practical artificial leaf to power homes in poor nations

Scientists claim to have created the world’s first artificial leaf that is not only affordable but also extremely efficient. Scientists believe that the leaf would be the most cost-effective way to power homes in developing nations.

Are Oil Sands Objections Gaining Traction?

Most everyone knows the U.S. imports a large percentage of the oil we use each day. As recently as three decades ago, about 28% of our oil came from other countries, while today that number has climbed closer to 60%. About 200 million barrels of black gold annually come from our neighbor to the north, Canada, which has surpassed Saudi Arabia as our largest supplier.

Enzyme link with aging investigated

Boston -- A U.S. study suggests reactivating an enzyme that protects the tips of chromosomes in cells can reverse premature aging, researchers say.

Studies at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston showed that mice engineered to lack the enzyme, called telomerase, became prematurely decrepit, an article published by the journal Nature reported. When the enzyme was replaced, the mice recovered their health, the researchers said.

Reawakening the enzyme in cells in which it has stopped working might slow normal human aging, Ronald DePinho, a cancer geneticist at the Dana-Farber institute, says.

"This has implications for thinking about telomerase as a serious anti-aging intervention," he says.

Agriculture creates climate worry

Madison, Wis. -- As croplands expand at the expense of native ecosystems such as forests, nature loses capacity to protect the world from climate change, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say ecosystems' capacity to store carbon, the element at the heart of global climate problems, is steadily eroding as growing numbers of natural ecosystems give way to agriculture, a university release said Monday.

The effect is most acute in the tropics, where expanding agriculture often comes at the expense of the tropical forests that act as massive carbon sinks because of their rich diversity and abundance of plant life, researchers say.

Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, dies at 85

Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, has passed away at 85 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the AFP reports.

Winter heating bills expected to rise

Washington -- The U.S. Energy Information Administration said heating bills are expected to rise 3 percent this year over last year, depending somewhat on Mother Nature.

In the South, heating bills from October through March could drop, as winter is expected to be milder than last year in southern states, the agency said in a statement.

In the Northeast, don't forget your overcoat. "Expected colder weather than last winter … will also contribute to more fuel use," the EIA predicted.

EIA Administrator Richard Newell said to expect "the average household spending $986 October through March … an increase of $24 from last winter."

'Stickybot' can walk up a pane of glass

Palo Alto, Calif. -- Scaling vertical surfaces like Spider-Man could one day be a reality as new advances learn to mimic nature's best climbers, researchers say.

Scientists at Stanford University said sticky gloves and shoes are being developed that could allow wearers to stick to and climb up vertical walls, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

Stanford researchers Paul Day and Alan Asbeck have already come up with a new fabric inspired by geckos' feet that allows a small robot with the textile on its feet to climb up smooth surfaces like glass or metal.

Engineers say they hope to "scale up" the design for humans.

Study: Culture affects brain function

Dallas -- The culture in which one grows up can how one's brain is structured and how it works, U.S. scientists say.

Researchers say the collectivist nature of East Asian cultures vs. individualistic Western cultures affects both brain and behavioral development, an Association for Psychological Science release said Tuesday.

Denise C. Park from the University of Texas at Dallas and Chih-Mao Huang from the University of Illinois suggest East Asians tend to process information in a global manner while Westerners tend to focus on individual objects. There are differences between East Asians and Westerners, they say, with respect to attention, categorization, and reasoning.

New clues in human evolution timeline

Ann Arbor, Mich. -- The fossilized remains of a previously unknown primate found in Saudi Arabia could offer new clues to the timeline of human evolution, researchers say.

The discovery could yield evidence of the date of divergence between hominoids and Old Word monkeys, a paper in this week's issue of the journal Nature reported.

The timing of the divergence of hominoids -- apes and humans -- and cercopithecoids -- Old World monkeys -- from a common ancestor is a key topic in human evolution, the paper says.

Genome-based estimates place the split at around 35 to 30 million years ago, but little has been found in the fossil record to improve the estimate of the timing.

Find indicates man moved north earlier

London -- Artifacts recently found in a British river deposit indicate early humans lived in northern Europe more than 780,000 years ago, researchers said.

The discovery, reported in this week's Nature, provides more information about how early humans scattered when they left Africa more than 1.8 million years ago, British researcher Nick Ashton and his colleagues said.