SciTech Briefs

Global iPod mini shipping delayed

Apple Corp. has delayed the international release date for its new iPod mini music player due to unexpectedly high demand in the United States. Sales of the new, smaller iPod in the U.S. began in February. International sales were slated to begin in April, but have been pushed back to at least July. High demand and pre-orders in the U.S. have eaten up projected production through June.
The company cannot start increasing the number of units produced because of a shortage of hard drives. ?[Apple is] actually consuming just about all the 4 gigabyte, 1 inch drives they [Hitachi Corp.] make. As they make more, we?ll get more,? said Greg Joswiak, Apple?s vice president of hardware product marketing. Hitachi Corp. has said it will boost production to meet demand as soon as it can.

Source: CNN/Money

Robot to harvest underwater trees

A robotic, chainsaw-wielding submarine is now harvesting trees submerged by dammed rivers in British Columbia. The submarine weighs three tons and is about three and a half meters long. An operator on the surface uses high-resolution cameras to identify trees, then attaches and inflates flotation bags to trunks and finally cuts the trunk with a chainsaw. The Triton Logging company developed the robo-submersible, called Sawfish, to replace divers who used to cut the trees by hand. The job is dangerous, slow, and costly for humans.
About 200 million trees stand in lakes created by hydropower dams around the world, and light- and oxygen-poor lakebed conditions cause them to die but not rot. When raised and dried, the underwater wood can make lumber of the same quality as regular trees. ?Provided it?s been in cold, close-to-anaerobic conditions, wood from submerged trees actually can be in very good condition indeed,? said Rorke Bryan, dean of the University of Toronto?s faculty of forestry.

Source: New Scientist

NASA tests X-43 prototype plane

Last Saturday, NASA set the world speed record in the skies over California with its X-43 experimental aircraft, designed to travel at Mach 7, or seven times the speed of sound. The craft, which uses scramjets, reached a top speed of 4785 mph. Scramjets provide extra speed, but do not take effect until Mach 6. The unpiloted plane was the first test of a jet design that could someday propel spacecraft.
The flight started with a B-52 bomber carrying the X-43 from Edwards Air Force Base to cruising altitude. A modified Pegasus rocket provided an extra speed boost before the X-43 was released and its scramjets activated. The X-43 measures 12.1 feet long by 4.9 feet across by 2.0 feet high. A previous attempt to fly the X-43 ended when the launch mechanism failed and the craft was destroyed.

Source: BBC

Mosquito biology defeats malaria

Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) have isolated three mosquito genes that affect the insect?s relationship with the malaria virus so deadly to other animals. Two of the genes, CTL4 and CTLMA2, create proteins that protect the developing malaria virus, while the other, LRIM1, works against the virus.
?These studies are the first to show the power of the mosquito?s immune system and give us some very real options for fighting the disease in the insect before it even has a chance to be passed to a human,? said Fotis Kafatos, one of the EMBL researchers.

Source: Scientific American