Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

While Kristin Gerencher sits and broods over the apotropaic consumption of the "worried well," yet another study demonstrates that organic farming is better for everyone than conventional farming:

Writing in the March 6 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) , Stanford University graduate student Sasha Kramer and her colleagues found that fertilizing apple trees with synthetic chemicals produced more adverse environmental effects than feeding them with organic manure or alfalfa.
And in Indiana, farmers have realized a host of benefits from no-till farming, which "leaves crop residue in the field from harvest through planting":
The residue reduces soil erosion by water and wind. Sediment runoff from farm fields, construction sites and other bare land is the nation's leading water pollutant...."You get a blanket (of crop residue) on top of the soil that keeps the wind from picking the soil up and blowing it around, and the roots from last year also hold the soil," Hotmire said. "Cost-wise, no-till is not as expensive, because you're not running equipment over the ground as many times."

In addition to being less expensive, "no-till has improved our yields because it is better for the soil," said Randolph County farmer David Jennings, who grows corn and beans on 1,500 acres with his father. No-till farming also reduces the emission of greenhouse gas.
Speaking of which, Volvo is switching a second assembly plant to 100% renewable energy. Also, from Treehugger comes word of a strange new adaptation of the Stirling engine, which produces hydrogen instead of electricity:
The CR5 is a stack of rings made of a reactive ferrite material, consisting of iron oxide mixed with a metal oxide such as cobalt, magnesium, or nickel oxide. Every other ring rotates in opposite directions. Concentrated solar heat is reflected through a small hole onto one side of the stack of rings. The side of the rings in the sunlit area is hot, while the other side is relatively cold. As the rotating rings pass each other in between these regions, the hot rings heat up the cooler rings, and the colder rings cool down the hot rings. This arrangement results in a conservation of heat entering the system, limiting the energy input required from the sunlight.

Steam runs by the rings on the cooler side causing a chemical reaction to take place, allowing the ferrite material to grab oxygen out of the water, leaving the hydrogen. The hydrogen is then pumped out and compressed for use.
Will it really work? Who knows? Who cares? All I know is, I love Stirling engines!

The deranged sprawl advocate and con artist Gale Norton is resigning from the Department of the Interior, possibly as the result of her implication in the Abramoff scandal. This means that the Endangered Species Act has one less implacable foe in government. Republicans, of course, hate the ESA because it works, as demonstrated by the ongoing comeback of the gray wolf. As Grist reports,
New wolf numbers released this afternoon from U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming now host an estimated 1,020 wolves, a stunning 21 percent increase in just a single year. Since reintroduction in the mid-1990s, gray wolf numbers have grown at an astonishing pace, faster even than the most optimistic prognostications.
Here's another comeback story, this time about wetlands in Arizona:
What has impressed city officials is how rapidly the area went back to nature....Dozens if not hundreds of species find homes in the cottonwood, willow and mesquite trees, the bulrushes and reeds in the ponds and on the water. Dozens of these are water birds: ducks, geese, kingfishers, rails, ibises and spoonbills. Others are raptors, including vultures, hawks, owls and ospreys. Finally, you will find the desert natives, sparrows, woodpeckers and hummingbirds, even roadrunners.
In medical news, there are three interesting developments in the battle against antibiotic resistance. In one approach, scientists are modifying gram-negative bacteria to make them susceptible to existing drugs:
After their genetic modifications, E. coli was killed with just a fraction of the antibiotic dose typically needed. It was 512 times more susceptible to Rifampin, 256 times more vulnerable to Novobiocin, and eight times more susceptible to Bacitracin, suggesting doses could be dramatically cut and still be effective....
Another approach is photodynamic therapy, which exploits the absorption of light-sensitive drugs by target organisms. The drugs are activated with a laser, killing the organism without affecting neighboring cells:
Researchers found that the bacteria S. mutans, as well as fungal organisms of the genus Candida, cultured from HIV patients, were highly susceptible to killing with minimal doses of PDT, both in laboratory dishes and on biofilms grown on denture material....

"PDT may provide an adjunct to current antibiotic treatment or an alternative where antibiotics no longer are working. This may be vital for patients undergoing cancer therapy, HIV patients who demonstrate resistance to antibiotics and the elderly with persistent oral infections."
Last, researchers have synthesized the antiobiotic nisin:
Scientists have made nisin, a natural antibiotic used for more than 40 years to preserve food, in a test tube for the first time using nature's toolbox. They also identified the structure of the enzyme that makes nisin and gives it its unique biological power.
In somewhat related news, researchers are hoping to replace mosquito populations with a breed that will not transmit dengue fever:
Researchers have successfully created a genetically engineered mosquito that shows a high level of resistance against the most prevalent type of dengue fever virus, providing a powerful weapon against a disease that infects 50 million people each year.
This world is adorned in diverse ways, decorated with rare ornaments. For instance, Chemistry in Art is a virtual exhibition of artwork based on chemistry. The following photo shows an environmental art installation by Brigitte Hitschler, which uses natural chemical reactions occurring at a potash slagheap to power a field of light-emitting diodes.


The rest of the artists are worth a look, too. But for sheer pornographic pleasure, it's hard to beat A Small Collection of Books on Colour. Here's a plate from Thought Forms (1905), by Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater:


Recommended soundtrack: Bizarre Features of Saturn's Radio Emissions.

4 comments:

ntodd said...

That Saturn radio emission stuff is cool! Sounds like something out of Forbidden Planet...

Speechless said...

I believe I detect a natural budding and blooming in your post Phila, nothing of the hot house variety, nothing forced, but just actual good news, genuine reasons not to throw in the towel.

I always want to thank you for snark-free sincereity (mostly) of your hope postings. It's interesting that my father, a dear man now nearly 90, has always given voice to hope. In my youth I found it all too Panglossian, but as I've aged, and the reasons to despair have grown clearer, his clear eyed assessments of why one can have hope have become quite a comfort.

Your efforts have a similar way of bouying me up-- prgamatic reasons to hope are very compelling!

So keep up the fine work! It feels like Spring must be upon us! Though of course you Californian's probably don't get much Spring...

roger said...

here is more evidence, at least inferentially, that organically grown food is better for us.

and thanks again for your friday posting. the other days too. you must spend a lot of time reading the internet.

isabelita said...

Norton may be out, but you knkw this lot will have some one at least as bad or worse to fill that spot. Oh, say, that Pombo shithead from California...