This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Faith Lapidus. Today, we will tell about a genetic map of one of the world's
major food crops. We will tell about a car made mostly from renewable materials,
like plants. And, we will tell about an experimental vehicle designed for blind
Scientists have released a genetic map of the potato. The
map is the work of scientists from fourteen countries. The project is called the
Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium.
are one of the world's leading food crops. Breeders currently spend ten to
twelve years developing new kinds of potatoes. Now they will be able to
identify genes for any desired trait, improving quality, nutritional value and
A genome contains information
about every position along chromosomes, the structures that hold genes. Genes
direct the making of proteins which do much of the work in building an
organism, whether a person or a potato.
potato has twelve chromosomes and about eight hundred forty million base pairs.
This is about one-fourth the size of the human genome.
The potato genome shows the order of ninety-five
percent of the genetic material. Most potato varieties carry four separate
copies of their genes. But the researchers did much of their work with a
phureja -- a kind of a potato that has only one copy. Richard Veilleux provided
that variety of potato. He is a professor with the Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University.
biologist Robin Buell of Michigan State University also worked on the genome. She
says it will improve understanding of other crops because potatoes have been
linked to tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
Separately, another team reported completing a genome of the
organism responsible for late blight. That disease can infect potatoes,
tomatoes and other plants. It causes several billion dollars a year in
blight was also the cause of the potato famine in Ireland in the middle of the
eighteen hundreds. Potato shortages were blamed for at least one million
deaths. The food shortages were responsible for many Irish immigrants moving to
the United States.
scientists say that studies based on the new genome may help explain, in the
short-term, why the organism has been so aggressive. And, in the long term,
they say, knowing where different genetic traits may be found on the map could
lead to better plants. It could also reduce the need for chemicals.
Completion of the project was reported
in the journal Nature. Researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology led the work.
in Britain are driving the environmental movement to a whole new level. A team
from the University of Warwick has built what it calls the world's first completely
environmentally friendly Formula Three racing car.
car is made mainly of sustainable and renewable materials, like plants and
vegetables. The structure around the car is made from natural plant fibers and
potatoes. The steering wheel is made from root vegetables like carrots. The
engine uses biofuel made from vegetable oil and waste chocolate.
new race car is extremely fast. The car has a top speed of two hundred fifteen
kilometers an hour. And it can go from zero to ninety-five kilometers an hour
in just two and one half seconds. The race car meets all of the Formula Three
racing requirements except for its biodiesel engine.
car resulted from the efforts of the University of Warwick's Manufacturing
Group and the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Center. They developed
the car because of criticism of the racing industry.
Automobile racing is one of the most widely watched
sports in the world. But it also is considered one of the least friendly to the
environment. Race cars burn a lot of fuel, and create a lot of air pollution.
recent years, the racing industry has taken steps to protect the environment. More
racing companies are now producing cars that use less energy. These cars
produce less pollution than vehicles that depend on traditional fuels, like
year, two American government agencies and an international organization
announced a number of policies for environmentally-friendly racing. They are
known as the Green Racing Protocols.
The two agencies
are the United States Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection
Agency. The organization SAE International represents engineers and technical
experts in the transportation industry. Officials from the American Le Mans Series also were involved in the effort.
American Le Mans Series became the first racing event to use the protocols in
its Green Challenge competition. The race was held in October of last year.
month, the WorldFirst Formula Three racing car was set to run in its first
competitive race at the Formula Three Championship Final at Brands Hatch. It
would have been the first biodiesel-powered car to race at Formula Three.
Current Formula Three rules let only gasoline-powered
cars compete. Officials needed permission from all of the other Formula Three racers
for the biodiesel WorldFirst car to compete. They were unable to contact one of
the drivers, so the WorldFirst car was barred from the event.
In test runs, the WorldFirst car was the
fifth fastest among Formula Three race cars. Supporters are hoping to have the
fuel issue resolved in time to compete next season.
recording is from the nineteen ninety-two movie "Scent of a Woman." In
the film, a blind man, Frank Slade, takes another man, Charlie Simms, for a
fast ride in a Ferrari through the streets of New York City. Charlie gave the
directions while Frank was the driver. For the blind Frank, it was one of the
most exciting things he had ever done.
Americans who are blind experienced a similar thrill. It took place in a
restricted driving area at the University of Maryland, near Washington, DC. This
time, no co-pilots were required. The car provided directions to the blind
Students from Virginia Tech's
Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory designed the Blind Driver Challenge car. The
Virginia Tech team put a laser sensor on the front of the car to look for
activity in nearby areas. The device sends a signal to a computer at the back
of the car. The computer then takes the signal and gives the driver spoken
directions on how to drive the car to avoid an accident.
example, it might say, "Go straight. Now turn two clicks to the right. And
now, turn five clicks to the left." The driver follows the directions and makes
turns based on sounds that the steering wheel makes when it is turned.
special vibrating vest worn by the driver provides information about the vehicle's
speed. There are also sensing devices that stop the engine if the vehicle gets
too close to anything.
test day, all the blind drivers were able to guide the car through the test
area without any problems.
first blind drivers to test the car were employees from the National Federation
of the Blind. One of the drivers found the car's directions to be more exact
and dependable than those from a human passenger. The Virginia Tech team said
the blind drivers performed better than sighted drivers who carried out the
tests with their eyes covered.
members say the new car is the first and only one that gives the blind person
complete control of the vehicle. The team members are excited about the
project's success. They say the new technology offers many possibilities for
other projects to help the blind.
This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by
June Simms and Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next
week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.