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Hot Stuff: New Technology Multiplies Solar Efficiency

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There is huge potential in solar power, but our current methods of capturing the sun’s energy are limited as widely used silicon solar cells approach their theoretical limit of 33.7 percent efficiency. Now a Princeton University research team has applied nanotechnology principles to incorporate a design that significantly increases their efficacy.
 
Led by Stephen Chou, the team has made two dramatic improvements: reducing reflectivity and more effectively capturing the light that isn’t reflected. The new solar cell is much thinner and less reflective, capturing many more light waves via a minute mesh, and bouncing off only about 4 percent of direct sunlight. The new design is capable of capturing a large amount of sunlight even when it’s cloudy, producing an 81 percent increase in efficiency even under indirect lighting conditions.
 
 

Cowabunga Dude: All-Natural Boards Bring Sustainability to Surfing

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Surfers count themselves among the most ardent environmentalists. Yet their sport is awash in petrochemicals and carcinogens, from neoprene wetsuits and urethane surfboard leashes to polyurethane boards and epoxy resins.
 
So surfboard shaper Danny Hess is adopting salvaged woods, natural finishes and organic resins to transform how they are made. His boards are built to last, an anomaly in a sport in which enthusiasts’ boards may break once or twice every season. He uses Super Sap, the first U.S. Department of Agriculture BioPreferred Certified liquid epoxy resin, and is experimenting with organic foam and salvaged redwood in seeking to build a truly green surfboard.

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Eco-House: Green Homes Can be a Bargain

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One of the most innovative, energy-efficient houses in the United States has been built in the District of Columbia’s working-class Deanwood neighborhood, which has struggled with foreclosures. The Empowerhouse, a residence that produces all of its own energy, consumes 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a conventional dwelling.

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Sugary Drinks Linked to Heart Disease

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One risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, may be sugary drinks. Analysis of data collected on 42,883 men in the “Health Professionals Follow-Up Study,” published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, linked a daily 12-ounce serving of a sugar-sweetened drink to a 19 percent increase in the relative risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with higher levels of unhealthy triglycerides and C-reactive protein (a byproduct of inflammation), and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
 
Senior study author Frank B. Hu, Ph.D., a physician and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, Massachusetts, cautions that diet sodas are not a good alternative. “Some studies have found a relationship between diet soda and metabolic disease,” he notes.
 

Resveratrol Can Aid Prostate Cancer Treatment

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It’s already known that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and red wine, can improve cardiovascular health and help prevent strokes. Now a University of Missouri School of Medicine (Columbia) researcher has discovered that it can make prostate tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment, increasing the likelihood of a full recovery from all types of prostate cancer, including aggressive tumors.
 

Celebrating Mister In-Between

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by Dorry Bless
 
From the time Norman Vincent Peale’s bestselling book, The Power of Positive Thinking, was published in 1953, through the success of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, mounting attention has been paid to the notion that positive thoughts can be powerful magnets to attract health, wealth and lasting fulfillment. Still, American society as a whole seems addicted to the paradigm of achieving success and finding happiness—and getting there as quickly as possible. As a result, we sometimes attribute fault to or lose patience with those that are mired in life’s “in-between” times.
 
Instead of savoring the unknown when our life is changing, we choose to focus on what we hope is waiting on the other side, rushing through transitional periods because they are the times when we feel confused and uncertain. The in-between is the space where boundaries dissolve and we find ourselves figuratively poised between one steppingstone and the next.

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Flavonoids Protect Men Against Parkinson’s

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Findings published in the journal Neurology add to a growing body of evidence that regular consumption of flavonoids, found in berries, teas, apples and red wines, can positively affect human health. According to new research on 130,000 men and women undertaken by Harvard University, in Boston, and the UK’s University of East Anglia, men that regularly consumed the most flavonoid-rich foods were 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those that ate the least. 
 
No similar protective link was found for women. It is the first human study to show that flavonoids can help protect neurons against diseases of the brain.
 

Sports and Music: A Winning Combination

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Listening to our favorite music, whatever the genre, can increase both our enjoyment of and performance levels in competitive sports participation. Keele University researchers, presenting these findings at the 2012 British Psychological Society annual conference, noted that playing selected tunes reduces perceived exertion levels, plus increases one’s sense of being “in the zone”. The greatest effects were found with music used during structured training sessions. Previous studies showing that motivational music in general boosts performance did not include exploring the effects of listening to one’s favorite music.
 

Garlic May Help Alleviate Cystic Fibrosis

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The American Society for Microbiology reports that by age 18, about 80 percent of patients with cystic fibrosis are chronically infected with the bacterium pseudomonas aeruginosa, which promotes an inflammatory response that destroys lung tissue. The infection frequently leads to serious related health issues. According to collaborative research led by Tim Holm Jakobsen, Ph.D., and Michael Givskov, Ph.D., of the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark, garlic, which acts as a powerful natural antibiotic, could help.
 
The onion-related herb contains ajoene, the major component of a multitude of sulfur-containing compounds, which is produced when garlic is crushed. Ajoene inhibits the expression of 11 key genes controlled by cell-to-cell communication and is regarded as crucial to the ability of the bacterium to cause disease.
 

Walk this Way: Step Up to Barefoot Benefits

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Barefoot walking conjures images of children playing in open fields and families strolling on a beach, yet it can also embrace many other settings as part of a health and fitness routine and lifestyle of optimum wellness. As Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee attest in their new book, Barefoot Walking, “It’s not just physical; it’s soothing on an emotional and spiritual level.”
 
In adults, many muscles in our feet may have weakened and atrophied due to disuse from wearing shoes, which substitute the support and mobility that our bodies’ lower parts were created to provide. Years of wearing tight-fitting shoes or high heels can also hamper bone density and proper alignment of each foot’s 28 bones; produce aches and pains in knees, back and neck; and constrict circulation to legs and feet, a condition compounded by desk jobs.

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