Wasabi Fire Alarm Awakens You With a Slight Burning Sensation [Fire Alarms]

In this case the burning sensation is “delicious,” not “first degree and could result in your death.” And apparently it really works too, although the advertised “time to awaken” period seems a bit too long for my taste.

Effective over an area of 50 feet, the Wasabi alarm can typically wake people up within two-and-a-half minutes. Update: This is a non-traditional fire alarm, for the deaf community. With that in mind, this could certainly save lives.

Two years ago this alarm was but a concept. Now it’s a $560 (?!?!) reality. [CNET via Technabob]

Amazon Gives In, Will Sell eBooks On Macmillan’s Terms [Amazon]

Amazon has given in to Macmillan, and will switch to a pricing model that sees bestseller and new hardcover releases offered to customers at $12.99 to $14.99. The official statement is as follows:

Dear Customers:

Macmillan, one of the “big six” publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

Thank you for being a customer.

Well, that was quick. [Kindle Community]

More Toxic Natural Gas Spills Reported

For those who continue to think natural gas is a clean energy alternative,  read this story from ProPublica.  Natural gas is a fossil fuel being touted as part of our “green energy future”, along with biofuels;  a nonsensical claim considering that it emits CO2 when burned. In addition to emitting greenhouse gases when it burns, it must be extracted from the ground by various methods, all of which use toxic chemicals, energy and water. Natural gas doesn’t just flow harmlessly out of a tap you can turn on and off. If people knew more about the toxicity of its extraction process and all the spills that occur, I wonder if they would be so ready to embrace something that is so damaging to the environment.  For more information, read about gas drilling’s serious environmental threat here.

(Jan. 27 2010) — As more gas wells are drilled in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, more cases of toxic spills are being reported. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania’s environmental officials fined Pennsylvania-based Atlas Resources after a series of violations at 13 wells, including spills of fracturing fluids and other contaminants onto the ground around the sites. And just last week the agency fined M.R. Dirt, a company that removes waste from drilling sites, $6,000 for spilling more than seven tons of drilling dirt along a public road.

The reports come on the heels of a string of other incidents that have killed fish in one of the state’s most prized recreational lakes and released toxic chemicals into the environment.

The Atlas spills are significant because they are among the latest and because they happened repeatedly during the routine transfer of fluids. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection fined [1] Atlas Resources $85,000 for the offenses, which took place between May and December of 2009. Many of the spills were discovered by DEP inspectors.

The violations [2] (PDF) cited by the DEP include spills of fluids from the hydraulic fracturing [3] process at seven sites, and failure to report a spill at one of those sites. One spill was the result of a faulty pit liner, which is supposed to insulate the ground from hydraulic fracturing fluids after they are pumped out of a well.

Atlas Resources [4] controls more than half a million acres within the Marcellus Shale, the massive gas deposit that stretches from Tennessee to New York. The company, whose total revenue was $787.4 million in 2008, issued a statement acknowledging that it had entered a voluntary settlement with the DEP and saying that each of the incidents had been corrected. An Atlas spokesman declined a request to answer additional questions about the violations, or about the company’s operations in Pennsylvania.

“If you look at this series of violations — it’s not only that there are multiple violations,” said DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys, pointing to the fact that the same three violations were turning up at each site. “This is a pattern, and it’s a problem.”

<p style="padding-left: […]

ExoPC Tablet Looks Familiar, But Similarities End There [Tablets]

The comparisons to another recently revealed tablet are unavoidable, but believe you me the similarities end with the aesthetics. Inside there’s Windows 7, flash support and multitouch. In fact, the more apt comparison is probably “netbook,” as you can see:

There’s the Atom N270 processor, running at 1.6Ghz, for example. And then there’s the 2GB of memory and solid state 32GB drive. Lastly, the replaceable battery on this 8.9-in. multitouch tablet is clocked at a mere four hours, which doesn’t seem that great (saving grace being that is replaceable).

Pricing is set at $599 when it launches in March. Impatient types can buy a non-multitouch prototype for $780 right now. [ExoPC via Engadget]

Realizing the Research Potential of the ISS Once and for All

Scientists say crack HIV/AIDS puzzle for drugs, Reuters

“Scientists say they have solved a crucial puzzle about the AIDS virus after 20 years of research and that their findings could lead to better treatments for HIV. British and U.S. researchers said they had grown a crystal that enabled them to see the structure of an enzyme called integrase, which is found in retroviruses like HIV and is a target for some of the newest HIV medicines. “Despite initially painstakingly slow progress and very many failed attempts, we did not give up and our effort was finally rewarded,” said Peter Cherepanov of Imperial College London, who conducted the research with scientists from Harvard University. The Imperial and Harvard scientists said that having the integrase structure means researchers can begin fully to understand how integrase inhibitor drugs work, how they might be improved, and how to stop HIV developing resistance to them.”

Keith’s note: The next time someone asks you what the value of growing large, perfect protein crystals is in biomedical research (such as those grown on the ISS) refer them to this discovery. I wonder if a zero G-grown crystal would have accelerated their research? Perhaps if NASA dropped (eliminated) the cost, others could utilize this facility more readily?

MSI Budget C-Line Features Core i Series, ATI Radeon Graphics Cards [Laptops]

There’s nothing new coming your way in terms of aesthetics from MSI’s line of “C” laptops, but under the hood we’ve got Core i Series processors. One of these fellas even sports an ATI Radeon HD5470 graphics card.

The full laptop line includes the CX420, CR420 and CR720. The CX420 sports the aforementioned graphics card. Beyond the chipset and the one graphics-card-sporting laptop, this line isn’t all that exciting (e.g. ho-hum 1366 x 768 14-inch display). That said, this is a budget line, and MSI could very well surprise with some competitive pricing (pricing and release date were not made available in the PR). [MSI via Engadget]