Google's Holiday Gift: Free Wi-Fi
Are you traveling by plane for the holidays and hoping you don't get bored? If you travel with a device that uses wi-fi, this year's gift from Google will come in very handy. Now through January 15, 2010, travelers at 47 airports throughout the United States will enjoy free wi-fi. You can check a dedicated web site for the full list of participating airports.
Google's partners for this venture, aside from the airports, include Time Warner Cable, Boingo Wireless, Advanced Wireless Group, and others too numerous to list. Literally millions of people will be touched by this act of generosity (or shrewd self-promotion, if you prefer). It may have the practical effect of helping to calm the crowds whose flights get delayed by bad weather. Lest you think that no one could possibly match this gift, consider that Google's move follows one by Yahoo that provides free wi-fi in New York's famous Times Square for a full year.
To entice more people to take advantage of the offer, Google is holding a contest to get users to submit photos of themselves using the free wi-fi during the holidays. The search engine giant hasn't yet revealed what the prizes will be. More complete details are available on a dedicated page for the photo contest. Meanwhile, while the wi-fi is free, in the holiday spirit of giving, Google gives you the option when you sign on to donate to one of three different charities via Google Checkout. The charities are Climate Savers Computing, One Economy Corporation or Engineers Without Borders USA. Google says it will match donations up to $250,000.
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Students Compete for Green Energy Startup Money
How do you drive the point home that green energy is the future? How about by sponsoring a competition as part of a �clean energy week� where college students compete for money to fund their ideas for clean energy startups? The Ignite Clean Energy (ICE) competition did just that, with students presenting their business plans in front of a panel of judges at the Massachusetts State House.
The competition winners received not only cash, but in-kind services such as legal advice. First place went to IntAct Labs, which is pursuing several promising leads in the area of bio-energy technologies. Some of their lines of research even combine two kinds of clean energy, such as photoactive proteins that could work as solar cells.
This was not a winner-take-all competition, and there were many promising ideas presented. InnoSepra, the second-place winner, came up with a technology to reduce the cost of separating carbon dioxide from coal0fired plants. Third place went to EGG-Energy, which hopes to bring inexpensive electricity to those living in poor countries. Several contestants won �people's choice� awards, such as Velkless, which hopes to develop flywheels for energy storage, and HydroCoal, whose research is focused on creating a coal-based substitute for natural gas.
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Vatican Thinks ET Might Exist
Putting that uncomfortable business with Galileo behind them, the Vatican has begun to study the possibility that there might, indeed, be life on other planets, and what this implies for the Catholic Church. Reverend Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, said that the questions of life's origins and its existence on other planets �are very suitable and deserve serious consideration.�
His comments were made during a presentation of the results of a five-day conference at which astronomers, physicists, biologists and other experts discussed the possibility of life existing on other planets. The meeting, hosted by the Vatican, focused mainly on the scientific rather than the religious perspective. Nevertheless, some of the scientists were quite open to other views. Chris Impey, an astronomy professor at the University of Arizona, noted that �There is a rich middle ground for dialogue between the practitioners of astrobiology and thos who seek to understand the meaning of our existence in a biological universe.�
The Vatican has been growing more comfortable with science in recent years. For example, earlier this year it held a conference to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's book Origin of the Species, at which those proposing intelligent design and/or similar creationist ideas were snubbed. With hundreds of extra-solar planets having been discovered, the Catholic Church's consideration of extraterrestrials and desire to see them as �part of creation� makes sense. Impley notes that the discovery of alien life may only be a few years away. Funes notes that the discovery of life on other planets would not rule out the existence of God, because �we cannot put limits on God's creative freedom.�
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