Technology


I’m adding this here as a reminder to myself. If you want to convert a dictionary in simple JSON format to a dictionary in .NET 4.0, you can’t use the DataContractJsonSerializerSettings that is available in .NET 4.5, so if you don’t want to use a 3rd party source (like JSON.NET), you need to be able to serialize/deserialize it yourself. Fortunately, this is fairly simple for a dictionary as follows:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Runtime.Serialization;

namespace x
{
    [Serializable]
    public class JSONDictionary<T> : Dictionary<string, T>, ISerializable
    {
        protected JSONDictionary(SerializationInfo info, 
                                 StreamingContext context)
        {
            foreach (SerializationEntry value in info)
                Add(value.Name, (T)info.GetValue(value.Name, typeof(T)));
        }

        public override void GetObjectData(SerializationInfo info, 
                                           StreamingContext context)
        {
            foreach (KeyValuePair<string, T> value in this)
                info.AddValue(value.Key, value.Value);
        }
    }
}

Then just use this in place of the dictionary in your serializable object.

[DataContract()]
public class Response
{
    [DataMember(Name = "my_dictionary", IsRequired = true)]
    public JSONDictionary<double> MyDictionary { get; set; }
}

And you’re all set. (Note that I haven’t dealt with dictionary keys of types other than string.)

On the morning of 2 October 2009, one of us (Joan) joined an audience of mostly health professionals and listened as Dr. Diane Harper, the leading international developer of the HPV vaccines, gave a sales pitch for Gardasil.  Gardasil, as you may know, is the new vaccine that is supposed to confer protection against four strains of the sexually transmitted Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

Dr. Harper came to the 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination to prove to us the real benefits of Gardasil. Sadly, her own presentation left me (Joan) and others filled with doubts.  By her own admission, Gardasil has the doctors surrounding me glaring at a poor promise of efficacy as a vaccine married to a high risk of life-threatening side effects…

It is hard to imagine a less compelling case for Gardasil.  First of all, it is highly unlikely that 70% or more of the female population will continue to get routine Gardasil shots and boosters, along with annual PAP smears.  And even if it did, according to Dr. Harper, “after 60 years, the vaccination will [only] have prevented 70% of incidences” of cervical cancer.

But rates of death from cervical cancer are already declining. Let’s do the math. If the 4% annual decline in cervical cancer death continues, in 60 years there will have been a 91.4% decline in cervical cancer death just from current cancer monitoring and treatment. Comparing this rate of decline to Gardasil’s projected “very minimal” reduction in the rate of cervical cancer of only 70 % of incidences in 60 years, it is hard to resist the conclusion that Gardasil does almost nothing for the health of American women…

I left Dr. Harper’s lecture convinced that Gardasil did little to stop cervical cancer, and determined to answer another question that she had largely ducked:  Is this vaccine safe?…

In the clinical studies alone, 23 girls died after receiving either Gardasil or the Aluminum control injection. 15 of the 13,686 girls who received Gardasil died, while 8 died among the 11,004 who received the Aluminum shot. There was only one death among the group that had a saline placebo. What this means is that 1 out of every 912 girls in the Gardasil clinical studies died. The cervical cancer death rate is 1 out of every 40,000 women per year…

Should millions of girls in the United States, many as young as 9, be put at risk, so that sexually active adults can have less “relationship tension” about false positive Hepatitis results? Is the current rate of death, sterility and serious immune dysfunction from Gardasil worth the potential that in 60 years a minimal amount of a cervical disease (that is already decreasing on its own) may perhaps be reduced?…

More… (source)

ScienceDaily (Apr. 9, 2009) — Engineers at Oregon State University have discovered a way to use an ancient life form to create one of the newest technologies for solar energy, in systems that may be surprisingly simple to build compared to existing silicon-based solar cells…

The new system is based on living diatoms, which are extremely small, single-celled algae, which already have shells with the nanostructure that is needed. They are allowed to settle on a transparent conductive glass surface, and then the living organic material is removed, leaving behind the tiny skeletons of the diatoms to form a template.

A biological agent is then used to precipitate soluble titanium into very tiny “nanoparticles” of titanium dioxide, creating a thin film that acts as the semiconductor for the dye-sensitized solar cell device…

“Conventional thin-film, photo-synthesizing dyes also take photons from sunlight and transfer it to titanium dioxide, creating electricity,” Rorrer said. “But in this system the photons bounce around more inside the pores of the diatom shell, making it more efficient.”

The physics of this process, Rorrer said, are not fully understood – but it clearly works…. Nature is the engineer, not high tech tools. This is providing a more efficient, less costly way to produce some of the most advanced materials in the world.

More… (source)

See also: Creation-Evolution Headlines

Thursday, 20 March 2008 – Mass production of electric cars is a step closer with California-based Tesla Motors announcing this week that commercial production of its Roadster had commenced. The Tesla Roadster is a 100 per cent electric vehicle, powered by rechargeable lithium-ion battery cells and can travel an average 350 kilometres (220 miles) per charge.

It’s the first “plug-in” electric vehicle, recharged by drawing power from the standard electricity grid as opposed to a hybrid electric vehicles which require fossil fuels to generate charge. Because its all electric, the car boasts zero emissions of greenhouse gases although in taking power off the grid it will often have indirect emissions with many grids supplying fossil-fuel generated electricity.

The company says it has a waiting list of 900 for the vehicle, including California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and says cars will begin rolling off the production line in late April at the rate of 100 per month for $98,000 each…

Mitsubishi plans to have an all electric mini-car on market next year, Toyota says it will offer a plug-in electric by 2010, GM is developing its Volt electric model while other electric start-ups are planning releases in the next few years…

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HOUSTON, October 29, 2007 – The average price for all types of gasoline is holding steady around $2.95 per gallon nationwide, but the pain at the pump might be short-lived as research from the University of Houston may eliminate one of the biggest hurdles to the wide-scale production of fuel cell-powered vehicles.

Peter Strasser, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, led the research team in discovering a method to make a fuel cell more efficient and less expensive. The initiative is one of four ongoing fuel cell projects in development at the Cullen College of Engineering at UH…

The key to making a fuel cell work is a catalyst, which facilitates the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. The most common, but expensive, catalyst is platinum. Currently, the amount of platinum catalyst required per kilowatt to power a fuel cell engine is about 0.5 to 0.8 grams, or .018 to .028 ounces. At a cost of about $1,500 per ounce, the platinum catalyst alone would cost between $2,300 to $3,700 to operate a small, 100-kilowatt two- or four-door vehicle – a significant cost given that an entire 100-kilowatt gasoline combustion engine costs about $3,000. To make the transition to fuel cell-powered vehicles possible, the automobile industry wants something better and cheaper.

“The automobile companies have been asking for a platinum-based catalyst that is four times more efficient, and, therefore, four times cheaper, than what is currently available,” Strasser said. “That’s the magic number.”

Strasser and his team, which includes Ratndeep Srivastava, a graduate student, Prasanna Mani, a postdoctoral researcher, and Nathan Hahn, a 2007 UH graduate, have met and, seemingly, exceeded this “magic number.” The team created a catalyst that uses less platinum, making it at least four times – and up to six times – more efficient and cheaper than existing catalysts at comparable power levels…

“The automotive cost targets, which were developed several years ago, require that the activity of the available platinum catalysts would need to be increased by a factor of four to six,” Gasteiger said. “The novel catalyst concept developed by Professor Strasser’s group has been demonstrated to provide an enhancement factor of greater than four, and, thereby, are very promising materials to achieve the platinum metals cost targets of typical hydrogen-oxygen automotive fuel cells. This is a very exciting and new development, even though more work is required to assure that the durability of these novel catalysts is equally superior to the current carbon-supported platinum catalysts.”…

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I just thought I’d let anyone interested know about a fairly new add-on for Firefox called Zotero. If you’re anything like me, you probably hate formatting references whenever you’re writing something that requires references. And I’d prefer to add the references wherever I can. Zotero can grab reference information from Amazon.com, online book catalogs, and other places (as well as allowing you to create them manually). Once you have the reference information, you can format the references in any style you want, and export it to RichText, html, etc. In any case, it makes adding references a whole lot easier. The add-on can be found at their main webpage here.

August 23, 2007 (ScienceDaily.com) – Hybrid electric cars need much better batteries–and A123, a plucky Massachusetts startup, says it’s got them.

Although the lithium-ion cells you see in laptops and mobile phones pack twice as much energy per pound as the next-best kind, they haven’t found their way into hybrid cars because they’re worryingly prone to fires. A123, a Watertown, Mass. startup, believes it has solved the problem with a lithium-ion design using a special formulation for the battery’s cathode, or positive plate.

On August 9, General Motors announced that it would use A123’s batteries to turn the Chevrolet Volt, now a concept car, into what is known as a plug-in hybrid. The plug-in constitutes a kind of automotive holy grail because it would give priority to the electric part of the gasoline-electric hybrid. A plug-in would go considerable distances on battery power alone, usually gaining its charge straight from a wall socket and relying on the gasoline engine only as a range extender. Automakers around the world are hot on the trail of the energy-dense batteries such cars would require.

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August 24, 2007 (Cardiff University) – Cardiff scientists exploring the safe storage of hydrogen to power vehicles as an environmentally friendly alternative to petrol have made a promising new discovery.

Having already developed an organic polymer capable of storing 1.7 per cent hydrogen by weight, Professors Neil McKeown from the School of Chemistry together with Peter Budd of the University of Manchester and David Book from the University of Birmingham can now report the creation of an organic polymer able to store around three per cent hydrogen by weight…

In order to make hydrogen a viable alternative to petrol, a material which can store hydrogen at a weight of over six per cent is required. This figure is estimated by the American Department of Energy as the minimum required to make a fuel tank for hydrogen to power a vehicle for 300 miles…

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August 23, 2007 (PhysOrg.com) – Sony today announced the development of a bio battery that generates electricity from carbohydrates (sugar) utilizing enzymes as its catalyst, through the application of power generation principles found in living organisms.

Test cells of this bio battery have achieved power output of 50 mW, currently the world’s highest level for passive-type bio batteries. The output of these test cells is sufficient to power music play back on a memory-type Walkman…

The bio battery does not require mixing, or the convection of glucose solution or air; as it is a passive-type battery, it works simply by supplying sugar solution into the battery unit. The cubic (39 mm along each edge) cell produces 50 mW, representing the world’s highest power output among passive-type bio batteries of comparable volume. By connecting four cubic cells, it is possible to power a memory-type Walkman (NW-E407) together with a pair of passive-type speakers (no external power source). The bio battery casing is made of vegetable-based plastic (polylactate), and designed in the image of a biological cell.

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