Daily TIPs: Greener Buildings, Faster Flu Tests, Deadly Voting, & More

DOE Plan Would Cut Emissions from Buildings

The U.S. Department of Energy says that, with proper building techniques and renewable energy installations, a majority of commercial buildings could reach zero emissions of greenhouse gases within 20 years. Now the DOE is kicking in $15 million to give companies access to its scientists and engineers to help achieve that goal, Ars Technica reports. The plans apply both to new buildings and to the retrofitting of existing structures.

Software Tracks Stolen Laptop but Hides Owner

Security experts are always concerned about the theft of laptop computers, which have led to both national security breaches and the theft of private financial information. There’s software available to keep track of where a laptop is, but privacy advocates worry that it can also be used to spy on the laptop’s owner. Now, Technology Review tells us, encryption specialist Tadayoshi Kohno of the University of Washington has developed software that tracks a laptop only after it’s been stolen, thanks to the use of an encryption key that only the rightful owner can unlock.

Click It Before You Tick It

Better buckle up on Election Day. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says traffic deaths tend to go up on Election Day, with an average of 24 more fatalities than on other Tuesdays in October and November. According to the Associated Press, the researchers cited, as possible reasons, people rushing to get to polls before and after work, driving on unfamiliar roads, and being distracted by thoughts of the choice they had to make. (The study did not examine whether despair at the prospect of the wrong guy winning played a role.)

Wind Turbines Not Bad for Birds, Study Finds

Wind turbines do not drive away birds from an area, according to a study by Newcastle University in England. The researchers measured the population density of 23 bird species at different distances from the turbines and found that the machines made no difference, Reuters reports. The one bird that is apparently affected, however, is the pheasant.

U.S. Lags in Broadband Growth

The U.S. has the largest raw number of subscribers to broadband Internet connections, but China will soon surpass it, and Europe has faster growth, according to an analysis by the research firm Point Topic. GigaOm reports that Germany and the United Kingdom have the fastest subscription growth, and about 26 percent of Belgium’s citizen have broadband connections. China, by contrast, hasn’t yet hit 6 percent of its 1.32 billion population.

Google Tells You Where to Vote

Google, which seems to have a hand in everything these days, is hoping to help get out the vote in the presidential election. As the company says on its public policy blog, its U.S. Voter Info Guide is already up and running in Ohio, which has started early voting, allowing people to type in their home address and find out where to register and where to vote. Google hopes to have the information available for all 50 states by the middle of this month.

New Flu Test Speeds Results

If a deadly new strain of flu emerges, public health officials can be right on top of it, now that a faster genetic test for flu strains has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Los Angeles Times reports that the test can identify a strain of the flu within four hours, instead of the four days required by older tests. Between 20 and 30 state laboratories should be ready to perform the test by the end of the year.

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