Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meet Taga

TagaUrban parents are all too familiar with the hassles of driving and parking in the city. Whether it's taking the kids to school or doing the daily round of errands, using a car isn't good for the environment or your peace of mind.

A new Dutch-Israeli company called Taga has come up with a solution that environmentally conscious families will love. Last fall, the company rolled out its new hybrid stroller-bicycle which it dubbed the Taga.

Four years in the making, and perfectly matched to city life, in a matter of seconds the three-wheeler can be smoothly folded into a new shape. One minute it's a comfortable bike with a child's seat in the front, and the next it's an attractive sturdy stroller. And the driver gets a health-enhancing workout while he or she enjoys the ride.

"A multifunctional urban vehicle for parents, not a bike or a stroller but a whole new concept," is how Taga's Hagai Barak describes this novel form of urban child transport, made chic.

After years of market research, the Taga is perfect for urban living, where people need to move from sidewalks to public transport to shops, with kids in tow, and where parking is scarce.

A winner of a number of prestigious European cycling awards - including the King-Jugend Innovation Award 2008, the Eurobike award and the Red Dot Design Award 2009, Taga should be on sale in the US in 2010.

The Taga team conducted a rigorous survey of parents from the US and Europe, to find out what they most want and need. Guided by responses, the Taga designers in Holland (where some of the major shareholders reside) and Israel meticulously designed the optimal newborn to teen transportation machine that has zero carbon emissions.

While at around $1,800 in the US and EU 1,800 in Europe it's more than double the price of its most serious competitor, the Dutch Bugaboo, the Taga is built to last - from birth through a child's teen years and beyond. It's clearly an easy resell on sites like eBay or Craig's List and is durable enough to be passed along to friends and relatives.

In Europe some people are buying the Taga instead of a second car, and in cities like New York it may replace the car altogether. So far, the Taga is available in 10 European countries, including France, Spain and the UK, where it can be bought in about 20 stores.

With no fuel costs, no parking fees, no carbon dioxide emissions and all the exercise you get while the kids are smiling, the company believes that the Taga will be a strong seller.

While it targets an upscale market, hopefully the Taga will inspire product designers to broaden the transport options for young urbanites.

Source: Israel21c

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Congratulations to Israeli scientist Ada Yonath!

Nobel PrizeZoya and I wanted to take this moment to congratulate Professor Yonath and all of Israel for this exciting turn of events--Professor Yonath is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel prize in Chemistry and the first woman since 1964. Professor Yonath's work offers a great deal of contribution to the development of more effective antibiotics which will have the potential to treat infections that were otherwise drug resistant.

While it's not exactly a matter of being Earth friendly and animal loving, we wanted to take a moment to say mazel tov and to express the hope that science can work with nature to make this world a little healthier and greener.

Btw, Zoya is a bit on the modest side so she'll never admit it but she too is a fellow chemist, complete with her doctorate in chemistry so I know she is especially excited for Professor Yonath.

Read the whole story here, and hope everyone is having a wonderful day!

Till next time,


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oh, How I Hope It’s A Girl!

Vespasian coin and Israeli coin depicting Judean date palmThe Kingdom of Judea was known as the land of Judean date palm just as my home state Illinois is known as the “Land of Lincoln“. Prized for its beauty, shade, and medicinal properties, Judean dates were famous throughout the civilized world. The tree so defined the local economy that Emperor Vespasian celebrated the conquest by minting the "Judaea Capta", a special bronze coin that showed the Jewish state as a weeping woman beneath a date palm. The date growing as a commercial fruit export stopped at the end of 70 CE, when the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. From then, the tradition was lost and Judean date palms became extinct. This symbol of grace and elegance was lost, but not forgotten. It was featured on the 10-shekel coin of the New Israeli Shekel.

In the 1970s, during excavations at Herod the Great's palace on Masada in Israel, two thousand year old Judean date palm seeds were recovered. The cache of seeds was contained in an ancient jar, in very dry conditions sheltered from the elements, which helped preserve the seeds. Radiocarbon dating at the University of Zurich confirmed the age of the seeds at 2000 ±50 years. After their discovery, the seeds were held in storage for 30 years at Bar-Ilan University.

On 25 January 2005, the Jewish festival of Tu Bishvat (Arbor Day), Dr. Elaine Solowey, a specialist in rare and medicinal plants at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies pretreated several of the seeds in a fertilizer and hormone-rich solution. She then planted three of the seeds at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arabah desert of southern Israel. One of the seeds sprouted six weeks later.

The plant has been nicknamed "Methuselah," after the longest-lived person in the Bible. Methuselah is remarkable in being the oldest known tree seed successfully germinated, and also in being the only living representative of the Judean date palm, a tree extinct for over 1800 years.

Researchers say it is still not clear whether the sprout is a male or female – but if it's a "girl", the research team led by Dr. Sarah Sallon at the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center, part of the Hadassah medical organization, says "she" could bear fruit as early as 2010. Methuselah's seeds could then be used to cultivate additional date palm trees.

When compared with three other cultivars of date palm, genetic tests showed the plant to be most closely related to the old Egyptian variety Hayany, 13% of its DNA being different. They may have shared the same wild ancestor.

Dr. Sarah Sallon, the head of the project, wants to see if the ancient tree has any unique medicinal properties no longer found in today's date palm varieties. “The Judean date was used for all kinds of things from fertility, to aphrodisiacs, against infections, against tumors,” she said. “This is all part of the folk story.”