/ 17 March 2011

Take Five: Of nuclear worries and nanotechnology

The M&G’s Faranaaz Parker rounds up five odd things you may have missed this week.

Japan’s nuclear worries
Following the destructive 8,9-magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan and the ensuing tsunami that wiped out entire towns, all eyes have now turned to the country’s aging nuclear plants which are in danger of meltdown.

The situation has sparked global concerns about the safety of nuclear power. In Germany, where 25% of power is from nuclear sources, seven nuclear reactors have been temporarily shut down while government reconsiders its nuclear strategy. The Swiss government has also halted decisions on its nuclear programme.

This week shares in renewables rose, while shares in other energy industries fell. And while some believe events at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant will be an enormous setback for the future of nuclear, others think it will have little impact. Of course, only time will tell what the fallout will be.

Girl streams into a bar
People attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival were first to see the internet’s first feature-length film. Girl Walks Into a Bar has since been made available on YouTube. The film features Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson and Heroes‘s Zachary Quinto and was directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, who wrote the screenplay for Snakes on a Plane. Early reviews are mixed but one thing’s for sure, the film breaks hallowed ground for the film industry. It also racked up over a quarter of a million views in the first weekend. If you have the bandwidth and cap for it, you can view the film here.

Netflix to close drama series deal
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that video-streaming and rental company Netflix is about to acquire its first original television series, to be directed by David Fincher (of Seven and Fight Club fame) with Kevin Spacey in the lead role. The series, House of Cards, follows the life of a British politician who wants to prime minister; it is set in the Thatcher era. The paper says the deal could challenge the conventional wisdom that TV always supersedes the web.

Microsoft launches IE9
Also at the SXSW, Microsoft launched the latest iteration of Internet Explorer, IE9. The new browser is more secure than its predecessors and said to rival Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox for speed. It also aims to give users more screen space; as with Chrome and Firefox, the search bar and address bar have been merged but IE9 also puts tabs in the same row. Slim or squashed? You decide. Or just read the ZDNet review.

Nanotech chip for cancer monitoring
Scientists are developing nanotechnology that would allow doctors to track the growth of cancerous tumours in a non-invasive way. A breath-mint sized capsule that allows molecules to flow into itself through a semi-permeable membrane would be inserted into the patient’s body where it would absorb cancer-related molecules. Doctors would then use an MRI scan to detect clusters of these molecules and so find out whether a tumour is growing or shrinking. With more work, scientists hope to develop cheaper, handheld scanners that could also read the capsules.

Faranaaz’s interests span science, technology and development. Read her weekly wrap on the M&G and follow her on Twitter here.