GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon

by / April 27, 2007

Nature's Way
In an effort to deliver renewable energy to residential customers, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) struck a deal with waste-to-energy company BioEnergy Solutions, under which the company will deliver up to 3 billion cubic feet of renewable methane gas - enough to supply electricity to approximately 50,000 PG&E customers in central and northern California.

Manure from 3,000 dairy cows will be flushed into covered lagoons that will trap the methane gas produced as the manure decomposes. The gas will be "scrubbed" to remove carbon dioxide and corrosive materials to meet PG&E's industry environmental standards for power plants then delivered to PG&E through the utility's pipeline. -


Potty Mouth
New Mexico is taking the fight against drunk driving into men's restrooms. The state ordered 500 talking urinal cakes that will deliver a recorded message warning against drunk driving to bar and restaurant patrons who make one last pit stop before getting behind the wheel.

The state spent $21 for each talking urinal cake for the pilot, but will ask bars and restaurants to pay for future orders if the idea catches on. The cakes have enough battery power to last approximately three months. - The Associated Press


Aqua Cops
Dozens of dolphins and sea lions trained to detect and apprehend waterborne attackers could be sent to patrol a military base in Washington state.

Dolphins' astonishing sonar abilities make them excellent at patrolling for swimmers and divers. When a Navy dolphin detects a person in the water, the dolphin drops a beacon, which tells a human interception team where to find the suspicious swimmer. Sea lions can carry special cuffs attached to long ropes in their mouths, which they can use to clamp around a person's leg. The individual can then be reeled in for questioning. -

In the Atmosphere

A team of astronomers, led by Carl Grillmair from the Spitzer Science Center and David Charbonneau from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, measured the first spectrum from the atmosphere of HD 189733b, a planet orbiting a distant sun-like star.

"In a sense, we're getting our first sniffs of air from an alien world," said Charbonneau. "And what we found surprised us. Or more accurately, what we didn't find surprised us."

They expected to see water, methane or carbon dioxide, Grillmair said. "But we didn't see any of those. The spectrum was flat, with no molecular fingerprints that we could detect."

Astronomers speculate that these molecules are present but hidden behind a high layer of silicate clouds. - Spitzer Science Center

Photo credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)


Clean Energy
Minnesota is requiring utilities to generate a quarter of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Considering where the state stands now - about half the power produced there is from coal, and only 8 percent from renewable sources - the legislation signed by the governor in February is the most aggressive in the country, analysts say.

The Minnesota law pushes for the use of renewable sources - such as wind, water and solar energy - and cleaner burning fuels.

The law comes as states around the country stake out far-off goals for renewable energy. More than 20 states have some type of renewable requirement or good-faith objective. Colorado

is moving toward a standard of 20 percent by 2020, while New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch challenged lawmakers to adopt a 25 percent requirement by 2025. -


Vital Signs


70 percent of businesses' or noncommercial entities' Web sites are at a serious and immediate risk of being hacked, according to Acunetix. 

EMRs on the Rise

Electronic medical record (EMR) use is growing in public health-care facilities, according to a study by Citrix. When state health executives were asked if they currently use EMRs, the responses were as follows.

In the planning phase   71 percent

Using EMRs    19 percent

Not using/not planning 10 percent


Those in the planning phase were asked how long to deployment:

Two years or more      80 percent

Less than two years     20 percent


One-Stop Shop
Business people who visited, the new one-stop federal compliance Web site for businesses, confirmed the site saves them time and money. Of businesses surveyed, 72 percent said they saved up to 25 hours. Almost half of surveyed businesses reported saving money.


Tweens Online

Though children ages 6 to 11 - also known as "tweens" - tend to play video games during the majority of their time online, doing homework and research is still in the top three activities, according to a survey of U.S. children's online activities in fall 2006.

Played online games            48 percent

Visited favorite Web sites    25 percent

Research/homework            21 percent

Listened to music                19 percent

E-mail                                14 percent

Downloaded music             9.7 percent

Instant messaging              9 percent

Blogs (reading/writing)       5.6 percent

Downloaded software         4.3 percent

Other activities                   18 percent

None of these                     16 percent

Source: Experian Simmons, Feb. 2007