November 11, 2005

Renewable Energy and Electricity

Very interesting briefing paper put out February 2005 by the Uranium Information Center Ltd. of Australia.

It talks about various types of renewable energy sources, their costs and their drawbacks. Solar & wind are often discussed as alternatives to replace coal-fired, gas, oil and nuclear power plants but the drawback is that because they're not reliable for most countries, that is, we can't predict the wind output accurately and solar isn't always available, these sources need to be backed up by other conventional power sources (the ones we're trying to get rid of). Because of this, they mention that...
In a March 2004 report Eurelectric and the Federation of Industrial Energy Consumers in Europe pointed out that "Introducing renewable energy unavoidably leads to higher electricity prices. Not only are production costs substantially higher than for conventional energy, but in the case of intermittent energy sources like wind energy, grid extensions and additional balancing and back-up capacity to ensure security of supply imply costs which add considerably to the end price for the final consumer." "Reducing CO2 by promoting renewable energy can thus become extremely expensive for consumers," though both organisations fully support renewables in principle.
That's not to say that we should give up on renewables but we have to be realistic in how much of the grid can actually be replaced by them and be prepared for the additional cost until (or if) renewables become efficient enough or new ones emerge to drop the cost significantly.

November 09, 2005

Hard times for the humble sperm

Ashok Agarwal, at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, US, and colleagues incubated semen from 13 men in a synthetic analogue of vaginal fluid mixed with a 10% concentration of a lubricant for 30 minutes, simulating a typical single use, he says.
Only one lubricant involved in the study, called Pre-Seed, did not impair sperm movement, or motility, compared with a medium of human fluid alone, Agarwal says. Pre-Seed (with which the researchers have no affiliation) left 64% of sperm able to swim. Astroglide, on the other hand, a product often recommended to infertility patients, spared only 2% of sperm.
Coming up next, a new spermicide made from Astroglide!

November 06, 2005

Bird flu: kick-start vaccination or face the consequences

A test vaccine has been produced already for the avian flu but can we make enough of it in time for a global pandemic?
"This virus has done a number on us," says Robert Webster of St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. In August, human trials of the hybrid vaccine showed that each person would require two 90-ìg doses. That equates to enough vaccine worldwide for 75 million people, or around one quarter the US population.
There's a way to boost the number of people who could be vaccinated but the US trials didn't use the method:
The way round this, say vaccine experts, is to boost the power of the shots by combining them with a simple immunity-stimulating chemical called an adjuvant. Norbert Hehme at vaccine maker GlaxoSmithKline in Dresden, Germany, has made a vaccine that can induce full immunity against relatives of the H5 family of bird flu viruses with two doses of just 1.9 ìg each.

Given existing production capacity for H5N1, this would allow 3.5 billion people to be protected. That is as many as could practically be immunised, given other limitations, says David Fedson, founder of the vaccine industry's pandemic task force. But the US trials did not use adjuvant, despite warnings that without it only large doses would work (New Scientist, 26 March, p 10).