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January 23, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #7: 井底之蛙

井底之蛙 - Jing Di Zhi Wa 

Literal Meaning - Well-bottom's Frog (Frog at the bottom of the well)

Figurative Meaning - A Person with a very limited outlook

Story Behind the idiom:

A frog once lived in an abandoned well along the East Sea. Once, the frog saw a turtle at the edge of the well, and it boasted to the turtle "I can jump around in the mud and swim in the water. What a carefree life! Come down here and join me in my paradise!"

The turtle wanted to go into the well, but it was too big for the well-opening. Then it told the frog, "I live in the ocean which is so wide that you cannot tell the sky from the sea, and it is so deep that you cannot see its bottom. Even if there was a flood lasting several years, the water level would not rise. If it did not rain for years, the ocean would not become shallow. Only when you live in such an ocean can you truly enjoy a carefree life!" The frog was stunned.  


January 21, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #5 : 盲人摸象

盲人摸象 - Mang Ren Mo Xiang

Literal Meaning - Blind Men Touch Elephant

Figurative Meaning - Take a part for the whole

A group of blind men gathered around an elephant, trying to find out what the creature looked like. One of them happened to touch one of the tusks, and said: "An elephant is just like a turnip." Another touched one of the elephant's ears, and said, "It is like a big fan." One put his arms around one of the beast's legs, and said: "It is like a column." One who happened to place his hands on the body of the elephant said, "It is like a wall." But the one who got hold of the tail said, "It is like a snake." They then fell to arguing with each other.

This idiom is used to satirize those who know only a part of a thing and not the entirety or essence.  


January 19, 2007

MIT Researchers create 'tiny batteries with viruses'

Writing about web page http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2006/virus-battery.html

Researchers build tiny batteries with viruses

April 7, 2006

MIT scientists have harnessed the construction talents of tiny viruses to build ultra-small "nanowire" structures for use in very thin lithiuvirusm-ion batteries.

By manipulating a few genes inside these viruses, the team was able to coax the organisms to grow and self-assemble into a functional electronic device.

The goal of the work, led by MIT Professors Angela Belcher, Paula Hammond and Yet-Ming Chiang, is to create batteries that cram as much electrical energy into as small or lightweight a package as possible. The batteries they hope to build could range from the size of a grain of rice up to the size of existing hearing aid batteries.

Specifically, they manipulated the genes in a laboratory strain of a common virus, making the microbes collect exotic materials -- cobalt oxide and gold. [...] The viruses then align themselves on the polymer surface to form ultrathin wires. Each virus, and thus the wire, is only 6 nanometers (6 billionths of a meter) in diameter, and 880 nanometers in length.

[...]

Equally important, the reactions needed to create nanowires occur at normal room temperatures and pressures, so there is no need for expensive pressure-cooking technology to get the job done.

"The nanoscale materials we've made supply two to three times the electrical energy for their mass or volume, compared to previous materials," the team reported.

This seems to be one of the most interesting developments in nanotechnology over the past few years, at least from a consumer's point of view. I know that they've been investigating the medicinal purposes of nanotechnology (for example, experiments with bacteriophages in immunology) as well as the possibility of using organic material as computer memory, but this is the first I've heard of nanotech batteries, not to mention successful outcomes.

It's especially exciting for me as a consumer and a consummate gamer  because of the fantastic potential in reducing the weight of portable objects whilst increasing battery life. It could do wonders for the world of portable gaming, for photography, for portable DVD players... the possible applications make me shudder with excitement!

It will be interesting to see what the practical cons of these batteries will be. Any microbiologists/techies want to further enlighten me?


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