Wednesday, 19th September 2018
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By Bill Sones and Rich Sones, PhD

Q. Houses and office buildings account for 75% of electricity use in the United States, and windows are a big part of energy loss. How might they also be part of a solution?

A. By turning windows into solar panels, says solar power expert Lance Wheeler, as reported by Robert Service in "Science" magazine. In the past, light absorbing film was embedded in window glass, but it produced a reddish or brown tint that was architecturally unappealing. The new solar window technologies "leave the glass clear while blocking the ultraviolet and infrared radiation that normally leak through it, sometimes delivering unwanted heat."

Key here is a new class of opaque solar cell materials called perovskites, which at 22% efficiency are closing the gap with the 25% of the best silicon cells. Not only are the perovskites cheaper but they can be adjusted to absorb specific frequencies of light. Research is currently underway on several different fronts, such as on demand darkening glass and the harnessing of infrared light. As Wheeler says, "By cutting heat gain while generating power, the windows 'have huge prospects' including the possibility that a large office building could power itself."

Q. Whatever is a dolphin mattress, and does it actually have anything to do with dolphins?

A. It certainly does. When the U.S. Navy began training dolphins for mine-sweeping and retrieval, it encountered a serious problem in transporting them outside an ocean environment. Since dolphins' bodies are adapted for total immersion, having them sustain their own weight caused internal organ damage. Enter the 900T pressure redistribution technology that mimics fluid immersion and prevents any specific areas from bearing too much weight. Now this technology has made the leap to the health care system. The Dolphin 900T analyzes the patient three dimensionally and then "provides the appropriate pressure-to-surface support that eliminates soft tissue strain and bone-to-muscle compression that leads to pressure ulcers in humans." What is good for marine mammals, it turns out, is good for humans as well.

Q. Calling all word lovers: Looking over the following, even you might exclaim, "I didn't know there was a word for that!" Can you define "cynophobia", "pathophobia", "phillumenist" and "virilocal"?

A. The first two words use the Greek root "phobia," meaning "fear".


Letters to the Editor

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    When the latest statistic that waiting times for patients had risen to their highest level yet, there can't have been too many people that were surprised.There are now over 700.000 people on waiting lists with over 50.000 of them children. That so many people are waiting for treatment in one of the most developed economies in the world is truly frightening. Of course you can take into account the underfunding of the health sector during the economic downturn but it still wouldn't fully explain why so ma …

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