European law could limit iPod volume

In a bid to prevent millions of people damaging their hearing, the European Commission wants personal music players to default to a "safe" sound level and to warn users if they turn up the volume too high. And newly published research from the US confirms that the danger is real.

The commission has asked Cenelec, the European consumer electronics safety organization, to draw up a technical standard for the safety features. If approved, it could be enforced in the European Union's 27 member states by 2011.

Last year, the EU's scientific committee on emerging health risks said that between 5 and 10 per cent of people who use personal music players habitually set the volume too high, at levels the World Health Organization says are high enough to cause permanent damage if listened to for more than an hour a day for five years. That is potentially 10 million Europeans and many more people worldwide.

It's easy to push up the sound levels on I-pods to damagingly loud levels, especially on busy streets or public transport. Young people in particular are listening to music at high volumes, sometimes for hours each week, and have no idea they can be putting their hearing at risk.

The proposed EU rules would require that music players and cell phones that play music automatically set themselves to a safe sound level when switched on. If the user raises the volume above that level, the display will have to display a warning message.


Follow the virtual line

A company with the unwieldy name of Making Virtual Solid has developed a new way for drivers to follow GPS directions, a virtual line projected onto a car's windshield. The technology, called Virtual Cable, uses existing heads-up-display components and standard GPS navigation systems, but would have to be factory-installed. From videos on the company's site, the system looks very usable, and a big improvement over current route guidance systems. The beauty of Virtual Cable is that it shows route guidance over real streets, as opposed to navigation screens, which show arrows on a map that the driver then has to mentally translate to the view out the windshield. Making Virtual Solid hasn't announced any deals with automakers or OEMs at this date, so it will be at least a few years before we see Virtual Cable projected onto the screen of any production cars.


KLM Makes History with World's First Passenger Flight Fueled By Biofuel

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines made history on Monday, 23 November 2009, by operating the very first passenger flight using a biofuel called biokerosene. The SkyEnergy consortium has also been established, seeing KLM join hands with North Sea Petroleum and Spring Associates.

The consortium will be advised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) with regards to all things ecological.

KLM says it is very careful in the development of biokerosene, following very strict financial, technological and ecological criteria, so as to not jeopardize the food chain, promote deforestation or excessive water consumption. KLM President & CEO Peter Hartman added: “The conservation of biodiversity is, of course, also a precondition. Our cooperation with WWF is both important and inspirational.”

Klm has been involved in research of biokerosene research since 2007, and with the establishment of SkyEnergy they hope to accelerate the development of this technology.

According to KLM's press release: “KLM has been involved in biokerosene research since 2007”. With the establishment of Sky Energy, we are accelerating development and hope to achieve a market breakthrough. Within the consortium, we have clustered expertise and experience in legislation, ecology and technology, as well as the ability to develop biokerosene in an economically viable manner. We are moving forward with great resolve, but cannot do it alone. We need the efforts and support of government, industry and broader society.”

KLM and Air France are also together pursuing what they call an ambitious Climate Action Plan.

Biokerosene is made up of kerosene that is derived from biomass, and is a flammable hydrocarbon liquid.

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