Signs of progress

WHERE the internet has yet to take firm root, people plump for the next-best thing. In many emerging markets this means text messaging. Customers have embraced the short message service (SMS) not just to communicate with each other, but also to get weather forecasts, bus schedules and traffic information, or to vote in television talent shows. Authorities use it for public announcements. Companies text targeted advertising. India even has a rudimentary SMS-based social network.

The reason texting isn’t even more popular in such places has to do with the fact that—despite indignant claims in some quarters that texting is killing literacy—texters must be able to read and write. Continue reading

SpainExplores_2

Ocean exploration, from empire to empirical

Creatures in chloroform, musty maps, and navigation by brass instruments. That was ocean exploration 18th-century style. Nowadays it’s satellite links, mandatory life vests on deck, and flow cytometers measuring minute lifeforms from the murk below – a very different kettle of fish.

The España Explora. Malaspina 2010 exhibition juxtaposes two Spanish expeditions launched over 200 years apart: between 1789 and 1794, commander Alessandro Malaspina led Spain’s imperial survey of its global holdings. In 2010, the Spanish government launched the high-tech Malaspina expedition, an oceanographic venture far removed from anything the commander would be able to recognise.
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Phase-changing materials in trial to preserve vaccines

Insulating materials that could fit inside icepacks to transport and store vaccines more effectively are about to enter field trials in Vietnam.

The novel materials make use of the phase change — the point at which solids melt or liquids turn to solids — to keep the vaccines within a limited temperature range and prevent them from spoiling because of temperature variations.

If successful, the new vaccine carriers could be produced in India for use around the world, according to Shawn McGuire, an engineer at the global non-governmental organisation Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH). Continue reading

Europe’s research plan starts to take shape

Teresa Riera Madurell, member of the European Parliament from Spain, was appointed last month as the rapporteur responsible for establishing Horizon 2020, the next European Union (EU) research-funding programme that will run during 2014–20. The former computer scientist leads five other parliamentary rapporteurs who, over the next year, will craft four legislative documents that will dictate the structure of Horizon 2020 and related European research initiatives. She tells Nature how she hopes the programme will develop.

The full Q&A is on Nature News [html] [pdf]

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