Surfing, the future: 2

The Channel Wire
August 27, 2008

Mozilla Labs has opened its doors again to share its ingenuity with the rest of the Web. Looking for a way to change the way we browse, Mozilla Labs has launched Ubiquity, a visual interface that plugs into Firefox, Mozilla’s open source browser, and may change the way users interact with the Web.

It’s still a little early in Ubiquity’s life to call it a game changer, but there are some promising elements in place.

Writing on the Mozilla Labs blog, Aza Raskin lays out the plan for Mozilla’s Ubiquity. “Today we’re announcing the launch of Ubiquity, a Mozilla Labs experiment into connecting the Web with language in an attempt to find new user interfaces that could make it possible for everyone to do common Web tasks more quickly and easily,” wrote Raskin.

Right now adding a map to an email requires you to go to an online map service, type in an address, copy the link and paste it into the email for the recipient to click on and peruse. Ubiquity changes that approach. By installing Ubiquity on a machine with Firefox, users can open the Ubiquity window, type in the address they are looking for, insert the image into an email message and send it along.

Not satisfied with just the map? Maybe you want to attach a review of the restaurant where a group of friends are meeting up? Ubiquity can search Yelp and attach the review to the same email. Now all the information the recipient needs is on hand and in one message.

Currently, Ubiquity is only compatible with Gmail. And that’s just one example of what Ubiquity can do. Google searches, Wikipedia searches, a calculator function and text translator are just a few of the other functionalities that come built into Ubiquity.

ChannelWeb

Let It Shine, IV

‘Major discovery’ from MIT primed to

unleash solar revolution

Scientists mimic essence of plants’ energy storage system

Anne Trafton, News Office
July 31, 2008

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn’t shine.

Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today’s announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.”

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera’s lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun’s energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan’s new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity — whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Easy, Pickens

T. Boone Pickens is an American original — in a nation known for producing larger-than-life individuals.

I applaud him for his daring, for the breadth of his vision, for the timeliness of his plan.

He is clearly a man of remarkable intelligence — as are George Will and Charles Krauthammer.

None of them seem able to quit emitting CO2. Why can they not see an electric future?

Are they simply too old? Do they enjoy some strange affinity for their fellow fossils?

McCain proposes $300 million car battery contest

Presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain on Monday proposed a $300 million prize to develop a car battery that will “leapfrog” today’s plug-in hybrids.

In an energy policy speech at Fresno State University in California, McCain also called for an overhaul to existing policies that favor domestic ethanol production–one of the biggest differences he has with his expected opponent, Senator Barack Obama.

McCain said that, if elected, his administration would issue a Clean Car Challenge which would give give a $5,000 tax credit to people who purchase “zero-emissions cars.”

There would be a sliding scale so that vehicles, regardless of type, with lower carbon dioxide emissions will have larger tax credits.

His $300 million car battery prize is meant to spur creativity among automakers to make energy-efficient products.

“This is one dollar for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency — and should deliver a power source at 30 percent of the current costs,” he said.