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Jan. 31, 2013 at 7:08 PM
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Gen X mixes online, personal interaction

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Young Generation X adults are just as likely to connect with friends, family and co-workers online as they are in person, a U.S. study indicates.

Researchers at the University of Michigan say adults in their late 30s report they engaged in about 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations in a typical month compared to about 74 electronic contacts through personal emails or social media.

"Given the speed of emerging technologies, it is likely that electronic contacts will continue to grow in the years ahead, eventually exceeding face-to-face interactions," researcher Jon D. Miller said.

"But the young adults in Generation X are currently maintaining a healthy balance between personal and electronic social networking," he said in a university release Thursday.

Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the university's Institute for Social Research.

Studying Gen X social networks is important, he said, because these networks, sometimes referred to as "social capital," are a vital component of the quality of life.

"This is the first generation of Americans to reach adulthood at the beginning of the Electronic Era," Miller said. "So it's understandable that they should show a substantial mix of traditional and electronic networking as they build and maintain the social capital that will help to carry them through their lives."

Simple fences combat airport air pollution

MANCHESTER, England, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Simple blast fences called baffles could act as "virtual chimneys" to improve air quality for people living near airports, British researchers say.

Placed behind a runway where aircraft are taking off, the baffles could funnel emissions from aircraft engines upwards where they can disperse more effectively, reducing the environmental impact on people living nearby, they said.

Researchers from several British universities have created and tested prototype baffles using funding from the country's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

After preliminary wind tunnel testing, an array of three rows of baffles was installed at Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire, an EPSRC release reported Thursday.

The testing proved aircraft exhaust plumes could be made to leave the ground within the airport's boundary fence, researches said.

"Airfield surfaces are typically covered with grass, over which the wind can blow freely," project leader Mike Bennett said. "An array of baffles makes the surface rough in an aerodynamic sense. This sucks the momentum out of the exhaust jet, allowing its natural buoyancy to come into play. By suitably angling the baffles, we can also give the exhaust an upward push, encouraging it to rise away from the ground."

Long-term ground-level nitrogen dioxide concentrations around many major airports in Europe have already exceed the legal limit enforced by the European Union, the researchers said.

The baffles could be a low-cost solution that could be ready soon, Bennett said.

"There's no reason why baffles couldn't start to be installed at airports within two or three years."

Fish stem cells may repair human eyesight

EDMONTON, Alberta, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Zebrafish, often used in genetics studies, may hold the key to repairing damaged retinas and returning eyesight to people, Canadian researchers say.

Scientist at the University of Alberta report a zebrafish's stem cells can selectively regenerate damaged photoreceptor cells.

Geneticists have known for some time that unlike human stem cells, stem cells in zebrafish can replace damaged cells involved in many components of eyesight.

Rods and cones are the most important photoreceptors. Rods provide night vision while cones give a full color view during daylight.

To date almost all success in regenerating photoreceptor cells has been limited to rods, not cones, the researchers said.

What had not been determined, Alberta biologist Ted Allison said, was whether stem cells could be instructed to only replace the cones in a retina, with important implications for human eyesight.

"This is the first time in an animal research model that stem cells have only repaired damaged cones," Allison said. "For people with damaged eyesight repairing the cones is most important because it would restore daytime color vision."

The next research, he said, is to identify the particular gene in the zebrafish genome that activates repair of damaged cones.

Asia leads in Internet data speeds

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- When it comes to Internet speeds, Asia sits both at the very top and the very bottom of the rankings, a survey by a U.S. website monitoring firm says.

Pingdom says while the world's fastest Internet connection speeds can be found in Asia, with Hong Kong offering an impressive 54.1 megabits per second, the continent also has the slowest, with Iran clocking in at just 2.9 Mbps.

Of the globe's top five countries in Internet speed, three of them are found in Asia, a Pingdom.com release said Thursday: China (Hong Kong), South Korea and Japan.

The United States ranks 14th, it said.

If entire continents are ranked instead of countries, Europe has the fastest average Internet speeds at 23 Mbps, followed by the Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand), Asia, North America, South America and Africa.

In the third quarter of 2012, the average worldwide Internet speed was 15.9 Mbps, Pingdom said.

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