Science & Nature

Whitebeam – Fionncholl (Sorbus)

Six species of Sorbus are native to Ireland; five of these are whitebeams, and the sixth is rowan (see January 2008 issue of Village magazine). Whitebeam is a small tree which is now quite rare in the wild. Many whitebeam species from Asia and Europe have been planted in towns and parks and along our roadsides. 


Chip and Spin

Following a litany of scandals from overcharging to stolen laptops, Irish Banks recently invested €100m in a security system that fraudsters can easily breach. In March, the Dundrum Shopping Centre was targeted in a spate of ‘skimming' – a form of theft where criminals clone bank cards, capture PIN numbers and empty bank accounts.

Mobile Maharajahs

Forget the iPhone (until an upgraded 3G model is released), Nokia's N95 is streets ahead of its mobile competitors in the overall package it offers: FM radio, MP3 player, bluetooth (to connect with wireless headsets and other devices), 3G (the fastest mobile internet connection), Wifi, a 5 megapixel camera, 8GB storage, Skype, GPS navigation and Tri/Quadband (meaning it's compatible with mobile networks overseas). The latest N95 has a large iPhone–like screen and a similar user interface, but without the iPhone's touch-screen feature.

Mark-up madness

Apart from setting a €50 note alight, one of the easiest ways to burn money these days is to buy gadgets and other electronics over the counter, particularly with the dollar and sterling taking such a hammering. There are plenty of US and UK based online vendors who will undercut retail prices in Ireland, particularly high-street shops whose mark-up pays the rent.

Super-sizing disk space

Researchers in Glasgow University have made a radical development that could significantly increase the amount of data that can be stored in computers, iPods, USB keys and other storage devices. The researchers have reduced the size of a computer switch to the molecular level, five times smaller than existing computer switches, which could increase storage capacity by 150,000 times. This enable 500,000 gigabytes of disc space to be squeezed into a microchip about the size of a €2 coin. Millions of music tracks, videos and other data could be stored on tiny devices.

Willow could save us in the future!

More than a dozen species of willows grow in the wild in Ireland, although not all are native. However, as willows need water for survival and given the possibility of drier conditions due to climate change, some species could be endangered, e.g. Salix phylicifolia (formerly Salix hibernica) the tea-leaved willow or Irish willow.  It is found in Ireland only on the cliffs of Ben Bulben, Co. Sligo and is a relic from the latest Ice Age.

Mobile broadband faces challenges

There has been a huge take-up of mobile broadband since O2, Vodafone and Three brought mobile broadband to the market last year. Using a small plug-ing modem, customers' can now get mobile broadband rates on their laptops and PCs. O2 has sold 45,000 such modems and there were 127,000 mobile broadband customers at the end of 2007 – 14 per cent of the total broadband market, the fastest growing sector in broadband. A new broadband ‘stick' is the latest product.

Unlocking iPhone's illusions

Apple's engineers have created some magnificent features in the iPhone, but it has functional shortcomings. Those who can afford to to buy one should wait for an upgraded version

Skype: Eying up Eircom

Skype, the free internet ‘phone' service, has crossed the rubicon and interfaced with landline and mobile phone networks. With low-cost calls, Skype will challenge the established players in the communications market By Malachy Browne