Science & Nature

Twice the speed on Mobile Broadband

In a few months, both Vodafone and Three Mobile are expected to offer mobile broadband download rates of 7.2 Megabits per second (Mb/s), twice as fast as the present download rate.

Space: Wobbly stars

The European astronomers who first discovered a planet beyond our Solar System (just a dozen years ago) have now calculated that fully one-third of all nearby stars may have planets circling them that are not much bigger than our Earth.

Mobile broadband that works

Before long, the download speeds attainable over mobile broadband devices could increase massively. The mobile operator Vodafone, in conjunction with another communications company, is hoping to develop a new technology that will “bundle” broadband channels to give faster speeds.

Honey, I shrunk the iPod!

Apple has added to its collection of miniature MP3 players with the new ‘wallet sized' iPod nano that easily slips inside a wallet pouch. The miniature device is an improvement on previous models in terms of size, image quality and the display size. With up to 8GB of disk space, the nano plays 5 hours of video and 24 hours of audio, allowing you watch TV shows, podcasts and movies while retaining the simple, easy to use iPod layout. In America the new nanos are being sold for $160 in shops – one Villager bought a nano at an airport vending machine.

Pimp my sound system

Bob Dylan strumming in the bedroom, Oasis thrashing through the kitchen and Tom Waits melodising the living room. No, not the ultimate house party, but a neat innovation by Sonos that allows digital music (eg MP3 files) from a single library to be played in multiple rooms at once.

Globalising home computers

In the age of digital photo albums, libraries of MP3s, radio podcasts and movie downloads, a standard PC is hard pushed to keep up with storage demands. Most computers and laptops come with 80GB of disk space, around 50GB of which may be used to stores personal files. A single movie requires upward of 1GB in space. Hence the popularity of external disk drives while have huge storage capacities, allowing important files to be backed up and older files to be archived rather than deleted with each spring clean.

Hurtling homeward

The world's most ambitious space venture came close to disaster last month, in a terrifying incident that went virtually unreported in the mainstream media. For an hour, flight controllers in Moscow and Houston did not know if the crew of this Soyuz capsule was alive or dead, and Korea's first astronaut was not released from hospital until last Wednesday, 15 May, almost a month after the incident.

The undocumented Irish wildlife – the white-toothed shrew

Irish mammal species are few in number compared to the mainland European total or even the British total. So you'd think that we'd know their breed, seed and generation or at least how many of them we have and their distribution around the country. So imagine the amazement of the two post graduate students from UCC and Queen's University who were conducting run of the mill examinations of barn owl pellets last autumn, when they discovered undigested skulls which didn't match any small mammal known to exist in Ireland.

The grass of the sea

The satellite image below shows a large aquamarine-coloured phytoplankton bloom stretching across the west coast of Ireland. Plankton, the most abundant type of life found in the ocean, are microscopic marine plants that drift on or near the surface of the sea. Just like plants on land they employ green-pigmented chlorophyll for photosynthesis — the process of turning sunlight into chemical energy.

Sand Martin (Gabhlán gainimh) - Riparia riparia

A member of the swallow family, the Sand Martin is a widespread summer visitor throughout Ireland.  Like the Swallow and the House Martin, the two other members of its family that breed in Ireland, it spends the northern winter in sub-Saharan Africa, but it nests in a very different location to either of these species: narrow horizontal tunnels which they excavate in sandbanks in coastal areas, at quarries and especially, as the species' scientific name suggests, along riverbanks.