NewsWatch: The Future -- Gasification of Garbage; Lamp is Robotic Desktop Assistant (Video); Hackers After Your Brain; Indian Grass Cleans Antibiotics from Water; Cloud Computing

Robotic Desktop Assistant, Hackers After Brains, Indian Grass Cleans Antibiotics from Water, Cloud Computing in 2020, Gasification of Garbage in a Good Way

by / June 11, 2010
Sheikh Zayed Road and the International Convention Center in Dubai. By Patrick Boury. Creative Common License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Photo: Some of Dubai's striking architecture. By Patrick Boury. Creative Common License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Gasification of Garbage -- in a Good Way
Plasma Arc gasification (see video) is the process of breaking down matter at the atomic level by exposing it to high temperatures. Gasification isn't combustion or incineration. Those processes result in unpleasant, toxic byproducts. Gasification (click here for large illustration) uses extreme heat, in the form of plasma arcs, to reduce matter to its basic elements. Waste disposal startups in the United States and Japan took notice of a plasma arc technology developed by NASA that produced an arc at temperatures exceeding those on the sun's surface. The resulting byproducts include hydrogen, ethanol, and a slag useful for road construction. In addition to handling current solid waste, landfills can be mined for energy.

Lamp Becomes Robotic Desktop Assistant (Video)
"This is a new form factor for a computer," says the inventor of a robotic desk lamp in Inhabitat. "Most computers that we know of today are prison cells for pixels  -- this robotic interface releases the pixels from the screen." And the LuminAR is smart, put a can of Coke under its watchful eye and it will pull up the Coca-Cola webpage. And this doesn't work only with Coke cans -- LuminAR recognizes a lot of things.

Hackers After Your Brain Next?
Just when you thought it was safe to use your computer, hackers have figured out how to attack everyday items. Your printer, your cellphone -- even the blender in your kitchen -- can be hacked and used against you, according to And in the not-too-distant future, as the medical field makes advances with machine-to-human interfaces, even your own body and brain could be at risk.

Indian Grass: A Weapon Against Antibiotic Resistance
According to research from Michigan Technological University, antibiotics, like many pharmaceuticals, pass through the digestive tract of people or animals largely unchanged. The resulting drug-laden waste from farms and feedlots (or for that matter, apartments and subdivisions) may be treated, but conventional treatment methods don't break down excreted antibiotics. The concentrations are small, but by releasing antibiotics indiscriminately into the environment, scientists fear we are encouraging antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and making it harder to treat deadly infectious diseases, such as drug-resistant tuberculosis. An undergraduate biological sciences student and her professor at Michigan Technological University have conducted a successful study using vetiver grass, a vigorous and noninvasive plant native to India, to clear antibiotics from water.

The Future of Cloud Computing
By 2020, says the Pew Research Center, most people won't do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications such as Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones.