Money Matters - Simplified


Rural roads may lead to risk-taking

Minneapolis -- American are willing to take more risks on U.S. rural highways than on urban freeways, leading to a higher death toll on such roads, researchers say.

In a survey by University of Minnesota researchers, drivers said they were more relaxed on rural roads and more prone to risk-taking there, a university release said Wednesday.

"Americans are taking unnecessary risks on rural roads," Lee Munnich of UM's Center for Excellence in Rural Safety said. "They're more relaxed and comfortable with risk-taking on the roads where they are most likely to be killed. We have a lot of education to do."

Ice drilling could foretell climate

Boulder, Colo. -- Scientists drilling more than a mile deep into ice in Greenland say their findings could assess the risk of abrupt future climate changes on Earth.

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, as part of an international science team, hit bedrock at 1 1/2 miles deep last week after two summers of drilling, a university release said Monday.

The team recovered ice from the Eemian interglacial period of 115,000 to 130,000 years ago, when temperatures were 3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above today's temperatures.

During the Eemian -- the most recent interglacial period on Earth -- there was substantially less ice on Greenland, and sea levels were more than 15 feet higher than today, the release said.

Study: Culture affects brain function

Dallas -- The culture in which one grows up can how one's brain is structured and how it works, U.S. scientists say.

Researchers say the collectivist nature of East Asian cultures vs. individualistic Western cultures affects both brain and behavioral development, an Association for Psychological Science release said Tuesday.

Denise C. Park from the University of Texas at Dallas and Chih-Mao Huang from the University of Illinois suggest East Asians tend to process information in a global manner while Westerners tend to focus on individual objects. There are differences between East Asians and Westerners, they say, with respect to attention, categorization, and reasoning.

Study: Little help from oceans in warming

Athens, Ga. -- A belief that open water in polar regions created by melting ice can absorb carbon dioxide and lessen global warming may be wrong, U.S. scientists say.

A University of Georgia biochemist led a survey of waters in the Canada Basin from north of Alaska to the North Pole showing its value as a potential carbon dioxide "sink" may be short-lived at best and minor in terms of what the planet will need to avoid future problems, a university release said Tuesday.

Sunspots linked to Venice flooding

Venice, Italy -- If you're planning a trip to Venice, Italy, avoid times of high sunspot activity -- which appear to alter weather patterns and flood the city, scientists say.

Between October and December, Venice is hit with exceptionally high tides called "acqua altas" that seem to follow an 11-year cycle -- just like sunspots -- showing highest tides when sunspots are most abundant, a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres found.

Researchers at the University of Lisbon, Portugal examined hourly observations of sea levels recorded between 1948 and 2008, which showed extreme tides followed peaks in the sunspot cycle.

Researchers report solar energy advance

Palo Alto, Calif. -- Scientists say a new process utilizing both the light and heat of solar radiation could double the efficiency of electricity-generating solar panels.

Stanford University researchers say the technology, called "photon enhanced thermionic emission," could lower the costs of solar energy production to the point where it is competitive with oil as an energy source, a university release said Monday.

Unlike current solar panels, which become less efficient as temperatures rise, panels using the PETE process excel at higher temperatures, the release said.

Mirrors for new orbiting telescope tested

Huntsville, Ala. -- The mirrors for an ambitious new U.S. space telescope are being put through their paces in a test -- at hundreds of degrees below freezing, scientists say.

Six beryllium mirrors intended for the James Webb Space Telescope to be launched in 2014, were subjected to a temperature of minus 415 degrees Fahrenheit meant to bend them into the perfect shape, reported Saturday.

The ultra-cold trial is being performed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The tests will tell scientists how well each mirror will handle changes in
temperature over a range of environments in space, NASA officials said.

U.S. demonstrates translation devices

Washington -- U.S. researchers say they're working on smartphone-based translation programs that could aid American soldiers dealing with civilians in Afghanistan.

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated speech translation devices that could translate between English and Pashto, an official language of Afghanistan, an institute release said Saturday.

Traditionally, the military has used human translators for communicating with non-English speakers in foreign countries, but the job is dangerous and skilled translators often are in short supply, the institute said.

Money-happiness ties depend on definition

Urbana, Ill. -- An Illinois researcher who co-wrote a study on the link between money and happiness said the answer lies in the personal definition of "happiness."

Ed Diener, a retired psychology professor at the University of Illinois who co-wrote the international study with Weiting Ng of the Singapore Institute of Management and James Harter and Raksha Arora of the Gallup Organization, said the research involved more than 136,000 people in 132 countries, representing about 96 percent of the world's population, Canwest News Service reported Frida.

"Money has a large effect on how people evaluate their lives," Diener said. "But the answer to the money-happiness question depends on what one means by happiness."

Video game teaches cell microbiology

Winston-Salem, N.C. -- A video game teaching microbiology proved an unexpected hit with gamers who've played it 1 million times within 10 days of its release, its authors say.

CellCraft, developed by a team of scientists, middle-schoolers and software developers working with Wake Forest University, has been ranked by players in the top 100 best games on free gaming sites, unheard of for a free educational game, a university release said Friday.