Monthly Archives: November 2014

Keeping temperature constant: Permafrost

Keeping temperature constant is not only our job. Nature has its own ways. "Permafrost exists where the ground stays at or below 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit) for at least two years in a row. 24 percent of the land in the Northern Hemisphere has permafrost underneath it. So, permafrost makes up 23 million square kilometers (9 million square miles). Large expanses of permafrost occur in Siberia, the Tibetan Plateau, Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and other higher mountain regions. " National Snow & Ice Data Center Wherever civilization is built over Permafrost it's a priority to keep it that way. When it thaws it becomes a hazard which can cause landslides or ground subsidence. The roads become bumpy if not broken and buildings may fall apart. One way to keep it frozen is by drawing the heat from underground and vent it into the air above ground. A very simple device called a thermosyphon is up for the job. No electricity or maintenance required. Nature's stable permafrost not only presents certain conditions for developers. It also has helped scientists by keeping safe samples for years. We want to bring up this amazing story about 'bringing back to life' the 1918 flu virus which caused the most lethal plague in the history of human kind. It spread across the planet during the fall and disappeared by spring. To summarize the story, back in the 1950's Johan Hultin, a young scientist went off to find the virus on a victim buried (and conserved) in permafrost: nature's freezer. He did but he couldn't grow the flu virus. Hultin quit the mission, temporarily. 47 years later (1997) he heard about the initiative of Jeffery Taubenberger. another scientist looking for the virus but from the A.F.I.P.'s tissue repository. The new challenge was he was running out of raw material and that's when the connection was made. Hultin re-appeared to launch the new expedition to find the right samples. On the fourth day, they found the body of an obese woman whose lungs were well preserved. 10 days later they got the virus! This was the first step into a chain of discoveries and studies that 10 years later would led to sequence its code and thus, the relevant conclusions. This method of building flu-virus particles from pure code is a clever application of the approach to understanding life called "reverse genetics" - that is, looking at a gene to figure out its function, rather than the other way around. But it is not one requiring some spectacular insight or technological breakthrough. The method employs fairly routine molecular biology and was developed independently by two different flu teams, one at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, the other at the University of Wisconsin. The whole story is very interesting and you should read it from the New York Times article "Why revive a Deadly Flu Virus?". Other related articles: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-11-18/news/9911180290_1_similar-flu-influenza-1918-virus http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC15547/

Performance meets energy efficiency

It's often believed that performance and energy efficiency are issues that should be balanced in order to achieve a specific result. More and more, in recent years this issue has been addressed to with a different perspective and as a result we see technology break throughs like the BMW i8 sports car: "...the first sports car with the consumption and emission values of a compact car…". We believe the 'new way' of approaching it, instead of suggesting the balance between the two factors, pushes them independently. Performance meets energy efficiency. Unbalanced: Push one to its limits, then push the other. Observe. Repeat. We would like to share an article written by our CEO in which he explains 'our way' and states that with our new technology you don't have to choose between one another. You can have both. Performance meets energy efficiency: they dance, we host. Read the article here.  

Z-SC1 | Science and Beyond