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Archive for the 'Pollution' Category

Tiny But (Possibly) Deadly

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

A nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter. Nanotechnology is the science of controlling matter on the atomic and molecular scale.

Nanotech is where breakthroughs are likely. Forget about just the cancer-detection and other advanced medical tools it’s midwifing and the next-gen consumer electronics such as super-bright displays. On a planet that’s on the cusp of catastrophic climate change, nano-engineered materials have the potential to make a real difference. Imagine solar power cells that are far cheaper and more efficient; batteries that allow for more efficient electric cars; components that make cleaner coal-fired power plants. These and other applications are hardly trivial–they’ll save energy, reduce pollution, and maybe go a little way to making sure Times Square won’t be under water for the next millennium celebration.

That was from Good News: No Nano News. Due to the extremely small size of nano-particles, they can easily move into cells, and as they point out in that article, cross the blood-brain barrier. So while the technology is poised to potentially transform the world in a good way, there are dangers.

Think the government would be out front on this incredibly promising but also potentially deadly technology? Read EPA’s Lousy New Nanotech Program.

Why would the EPA be so lame? U.S. environment scientists report political meddling.

I don’t even use anti-bacterial soap. It’s like plowing up your lawn to get at the weeds. Sure you will kill a few weeds but your lawn is now fertile ground for anything that wants to grow there. There is such a thing as good bacteria. Using anti-bacterial soap is like over using antibiotics, you’ll likely breed something bad. In Too much nanotechnology may be killing beneficial bacteria they talk about silver nanoparticles in socks and dispensed by high tech washing machines may destroy benign bacteria used to remove ammonia from wastewater treatment systems.

I’m pretty sure someday people will infuse themselves with artificial blood just because it makes them feel better. I guess I didn’t expect it to be made of plastic.

Check out this tiny electric car. It’s more like a motorcycle with an extensive cover.

Eric Grohe is an artist who does amazing wall murals. Be sure to look at the ‘before’ pictures.

Electric circuits are made up of resistors, capacitors, and inductors, until now; Scientists Create First Memristor: Missing Fourth Electronic Circuit Element. A memristor’s resistance depends on how much charge flowed through it previously.

Who would have guessed watering your tomatoes with diluted seawater makes them healthier. Since I live far from the ocean, I don’t think I’ll be trying that trick this year.

Frost on spider webs.

This is a strange story about Mazda having to build a facility to destroy thousands of brand new cars.

Finally, check out this stunning interactive 360 degree panorama from the top of Mount Everest.

Strange Days

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I’m having one of those days where I’m trying to do too many things at once; Mind’s Limit Found: 4 Things at Once.

I’m just going to make a short post and try to get to some more complicated things tomorrow. This weekend we watched a National Geographic special entitled Strange Days on Planet Earth. Sorry the link isn’t to the video, only their homepage. If you get a chance to catch it, it covers some distressing environmental problems. I had read there was an enormous amount of floating plastic in the Pacific ocean, but the video of birds starving because their stomachs were full of indigestible plastic was pretty disturbing. Also, the bit on the reefs being destroyed by population growth of people wanting to be near the reefs just strikes you as eating your seed corn.

On a more positive note, Technological Breakthrough In Fight To Cut Greenhouse Gases talks about converting the CO2 from power generation into a useful product.

O.K. I’ve got to run. I’ll leave you with this funny video of why these people had a huge water bill.

Extreme Photography

Friday, April 11th, 2008

There is a picture in my 2D gallery of a Christmas cactus flower. I have a print of it hanging in my living room blown up to just under 3 feet tall. The resolution in the original file is so high I should be able to blow it up to at least 8 feet. That pales in comparison to the images you could produce if you owned some of the gear in this article; The World’s Most Extreme Photography Equipment.

Speaking of cool camera gear, here is a camera from Casio which can shoot an amazing 1,200 frames per second.

Here is a piece about a toxic lake in Montana. The interesting thing is researchers are finding microbes in it which my have useful medical properties.

I have written about Improv Everywhere in this blog before. In their latest stunt, they descend upon a little league baseball game. They slowly keep adding professional baseball touches cumulating in an appearance by the Goodyear blimp.

Video projectors will soon be built into cellphones. Sometimes at twilight, I look at the sky and there are colors you just can’t seem to capture on a camera. If you could, your monitor wouldn’t be able to display them. I can’t imagine what a laser video projector would look like but I wonder if the color spectrum will be wider.

The Pentagon backs plan to beam solar power from space. I can see why this would be something they would like as you could send the power anywhere on earth. You can’t help but think the same technology could be used as a weapon. Remind anyone of a Bond film?

I was going to put this link up a while back but the site went down. It’s all in Spanish so I have no idea what they are saying. Wait for it to load, then type a first and last name in the first two boxes. You don’t need to put anything in the email ones. Then click on the word Visualizar at the bottom. You may want to lower your volume as it was a little loud here. After thinking about it I guess I could do it but I was surprised I hadn’t seen anyone else do something like this before. Here is the link.

Finally, check out these cute polar bear pictures.

Potholes and Marbles

Friday, March 21st, 2008

I missed it, but the other day there was a cosmic blast strong enough to be seen with the naked eye from 7.5 billion light years away. That’s more than halfway across the visible universe!

Many years ago I came up with the idea of using an inkjet printer to print a cake with frosting. We called it the frostjet and everybody pretty much laughed it off as a stupid idea. Of course, now you can get a cake with a picture on it just about anywhere. Here is a video of a device that can place a picture on the foam of a cup of coffee. My thought was, while you are waiting, your coffee is getting cold.

It seems like spring is coming late here in the Midwest, but I suppose I’ve just gotten used to earlier springs. The AP had this article on global warming the other day. I remember reading something a while back about the sun being slow to begin it’s latest cycle which could result in global cooling. I was hoping to find something recent on the subject, but there is one link here, and here.

Speaking of global warming or cooling, anyone who reads my blog knows I feel CO2 causes damage to the environment regardless of whether global warming is real. Here is an article pointing out reducing carbon emissions could help the economy.

Turns out the area of solar panels required to power the U.S. is about the same as the area covered by the interstate system. A company called Solar Roadways is developing a system of photovoltaic solar collectors you can drive on. On one hand it’s hard to imagine it being tough enough to stand up to the rigors of the road. On the other hand, maybe if they built them tough enough we wouldn’t have to deal with all those construction zones. I remember my uncle telling me in Germany they build the roads so much better, they rarely have to repair them.

Speaking of potholes, I need some of these fake potholes to slow down people in the narrow alley next to my house. Be sure to scroll down to the last picture.

I didn’t realize auroras had seasons. Here is an article explaining why they are stronger in the spring and fall.

Apple appears to be getting serious about 3D display hardware. This is the future and we are supposed to have those along with the flying car.

It’s difficult to grasp how computers work without understanding binary. In decimal the number 111 is 1 or ten to the zero, plus 10 or ten to the one, plus 100 or ten to the two. In binary the number 111 is 2 to the zero plus 2 to the one, plus two to the two. So in binary the number 111 is 7 or 1 plus 2, plus 4. Anyway, all this is leading up to is this video of an adding machine which uses marbles to do calculations. The video is at the bottom of the page and this is a pretty good demonstration of how electronic logic works.

One of the blogs I try to catch on a regular basis is Clicked written by Will Femia at MSNBC. The other day he had this link to an animated gif showing how a sewing machine works. I always wondered about that.

Finally, check out how colorful this fish is.

Harrassed by Machines

Monday, March 17th, 2008

We have been waiting for a joyous family event to occur any day now. So, when the phone rang this morning my momentary excitement quickly faded as a machine informed us our car warrantee was about to expire. The irony is, our cars are so old the warrantees expired many years ago. Someone typed in a wrong number and now a machine is nagging us.

As I cleaned up the spam on my blog this morning, my wife asked why anyone would bother to do it. The problem is, it’s not anyone, it’s probably a bot. The comments are moderated and any human would realize such efforts are futile. It reminded me I am paying a small monthly fee for call blocking because some Fax machine kept calling my voice line. I got the number and tried to reverse lookup the call with no luck. The phone company said I could contact the sheriff’s office and file a complaint but I signed up for the blocking service. I wonder if that Fax has given up.

If you are not familiar with bots; check out this article from USA Today. Also, here are two good free software tools to check your machine for spyware. One is called Adaware and the other one is Spybot.

My friend Matt sent me this link and comment on global warming;

Researcher: Basic Greenhouse Equations “Totally Wrong”
Very interesting. Politics is always involved in science.

Also I received this from my friend Dan;

Here are a couple of interesting articles you may want to discuss in your BLOG as a contrasting opinion:


Weather Channel Founder Blasts Network; Claims It Is ‘Telling Us What to Think’

The Founder of The Weather Channel Says Global Warming Is The “Greatest Scam in History”

Also, I found those questions asked to park rangers hilarious!

I find it interesting when the Weather Channel guy says he is not opposed to environmentalism yet seems to be defending the ‘right’ to spew tons of CO2 into the air. As I have mentioned before, it is very clear and measurable CO2 is acidifying the oceans. There really isn’t a ‘debate’ about it. I think this guy has a problem with Al Gore. I also find it strange when people defend pollution. I mean it’s not like it’s good for anything. Hopefully those guys are right and global warming isn’t a problem, but it’s not like we aren’t impacting the oceans and the atmosphere. At best these guys are saying we are changing the atmosphere and the good news is it’s not going to kill us, so far. So who wants to see how far we can push it?

I still think solar energy is going to quickly become so much cheaper than other forms of power people will use it for that reason. It’s a blog for another day but sunlight really has a very high energy density. Also, there is no ‘bottom’ on how cheap solar can get. You can’t sell electricity from coal any cheaper than the coal costs, but sunlight is free. It’s possible you could pay one tenth or one hundredth what you are paying today.

Also, check out this article from Next Energy News on ethanol from non-food sources. Ethanol does give less mileage than gasoline but if it cost $1.20 at the pump and it has a relatively stable price, no one is going to buy it because it’s carbon neutral. They will buy it because it’s a $1.20 a gallon and that price could go down.

One thing organic chemistry taught me is oil is just too valuable to burn. Most of chemical solvents used in modern chemistry, plus pharmaceuticals, and plastics are made from oil. If we ever use it up, it will affect a lot more than just transportation.

According to this raw eggs are good to use on burns. We always have an aloe plant on hand, but I might try the an egg next time just to see if it works.

I ran across this article on foods that are poisonous unless they are prepared properly. I agree with the author; someone must of been awfully hungry or strangely curious to try various cooking methods on food to make it non-poisonous.

These are billed as pictures of frozen waves but in reality I believe they are pictures of a glacier. They are quite stunning none the less.

Arrrg, and shiver me timbers, I wasted a whole lot of time yesterday playing this Flash game where you control a pirate ship. It made me wonder how much Flash is optimized to use video hardware. The game got pretty slow with a lot of cannon balls in the air. I suppose it’s from tracking the particles more than running the graphics.

Also from Dan, this link on the origins of domestic cats, and this video where two guys build a record player out of a bicycle.

Finally, another silly video of a dog named Jerry and his robotic ball throwing playmate.

The ‘Yuk’ Factor

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I’m not really sure what year it was, sometime in the late sixties. I was fishing on a lake in Canada with my family. The sun sparkled on the clear water. It was a beautiful day. Our native guide reached into his bag and pulled out a cup. He dipped the cup into the lake, raised it to his lips, and began to drink. To me, he might as well have pulled a rabbit out of a hat, or a quarter from my nose. I was amazed. “You can drink the water?” I said. He just nodded.

I grew up in northwest Indiana near a lake which was essentially an open sewer. We weren’t supposed to play or swim in it, but it was a lake, and boys will be boys. There was a dam and the spillway was just too tempting for a young kid. One day I cut my toe on a rusty can while wading in the stream below the dam. When my doctor, (who was also my father), found out what had happened he was understandably upset. I remember him spouting a long list of scary sounding diseases that could result from my boyhood lapse of judgment.

We lived on the edge of a swamp which was presumably fairly clean. I spent a great deal of my childhood exploring the many fascinating creatures, and plants inhabiting this diverse ecosystem. The air was full of the dank smell of skunk cabbage. We threw ‘spears’ of milk weed at each other for hours. We knew all the ‘secret places’ you could cross the swamp without getting stuck in the mud.

Many years later, my wife and I did a lot of backpacking in the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York. We initially only used a carbon filter for drinking water. In fact, the clear emerald green streams probably looked cleaner due to acid rain killing off most of the aquatic life. At one point we went fishing south of the Adirondacks. We collected a nice selection of pan fish and took them home to eat. I cleaned them only to see the normally white flesh peppered with dark tumors. Needless to say, we threw them out.

Now when we go camping, we take some pretty sophisticated water purification equipment. Even so, you have got to wonder about eating fish from just about anywhere. According to this article from National Geographic, pesticides, heavy metals, and other airborne contaminates are present in even the most pristine park areas.

Recently there were two items in the news regarding pollution. This one; Industry trying to block smog cleanup is from the AP, and the numbers are interesting. At one point the article mentions the number of premature deaths avoided nationwide by cleaning up the air at 3,800. It also mentioned these are mostly children and the elderly. When I read articles like this, I am struck by the difference between people dying from air pollution and say, the 9/11 attack. If the threat comes from foreigners then no expense is too much. If children and elderly are dying from air pollution, then it’s just the cost of doing business.

Here is another article; AP probe finds drugs in drinking water which was shortly followed by this one; AP water probe prompts Senate hearings. Now this is a serious problem. Long term exposure to even small amounts of chemicals designed to have a physiological effect at low concentration is something which should be looked into. My point here is the difference between the way the media and public react to these stories. The first one is discussed in an almost creepy, casual way i.e. how many children and elderly have to die for us to hold a competitive edge? Where the second one is the immediate holdings of senate hearings is very much a product of human nature. In fact, these medicines are not in our water due to people washing them down the drain. No, they are present because they went though, and were excreted by other people. That’s what I call the ‘Yuk’ factor.

If air pollution came from the flatulence of foreigners instead of the smokestack down the street, I believe the public would react very differently.

EPA has put the annual cost of meeting a 75 parts per billion standard at $9.8 billion. A 70 parts per billion ozone standard would cost $22 billion annually. But the EPA notes that the costs of either could easily be offset or exceeded by reduced health care costs.

It’s really about who pays the bill, the people making money from polluting or children and the elderly. The fact is, we will never be competitive with places like China because they are enduring pollution levels we would never put up with. Also some of the ‘cost’ associated with this goes back into the economy. People who work in pollution control technologies need work too.

As for the kids, maybe they don’t look at nature the way we did. I live in an area surrounded by developments which almost always have a nice pond. Around that pond are always the signs, no fishing, no swimming, no boating. You rarely, if ever, see kids around the edges of these ponds. It makes me wonder if the kids are content with their TVs, and video games. When they hear the frogs at twilight; do they hear the call of the wild?