Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

First off, let me say "good riddance" to Zozobra. He had it coming.

In other news, John Hofmeister, the president of Shell Oil, announces that the debate on manmade climate change is over, and that the denialist goon squad (the one that oil companies have funded for decades) turns out to be on the wrong side of history:

"It's a waste of time to debate it," he said. "Policy-makers have a responsibility to address it. The nation needs a public policy. We'll adjust."
Shell will adjust to a protracted period of high gasoline prices? How brave of them. That said, Hofmeister’s concession to reality does contribute to the marginalization of denialists, so let's have a grudging round of feeble applause.

In a similarly tentative way, I’m encouraged by the passage of the Obama-Coburn bill, which will allegedly create a searchable public database to track federal spending. Apart from this laudable aim, its passage represents another humiliating defeat for Ted Stevens (R-AK).

Stevens is in good company. A judge has blocked a gigantic, ill-advised oil-lease sale in Alaska:
Ruling that the Bush administration failed to properly consider the impact of oil development on sensitive wetlands, a U.S. district judge has temporarily blocked an upcoming Alaska oil-lease sale of about 1.7 million acres.
And Deltona, Florida’s attempt at leapfrog development has been slapped down by a county judge:
In a ruling applauded by slow-growth activists across Florida, a judge in Volusia County on Tuesday took the unusual step of knocking down Deltona's annexation of nearly 5,000 acres.
Meanwhile, Nugent Sand Co. will not be allowed to bore a wastewater pipe through a 4,000-year-old sand dune on the shore of Lake Michigan:
The company did not appeal an Aug. 10 Ingham County Circuit Court ruling that supported the state's refusal to permit construction of a 600-foot-long pipeline through a 4,000-year-old dune. Nugent had until last Friday to appeal the court ruling but did not, said Robert McCann, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Advances in environmental forensics may identify the sources of industrial pollution at brownfields, which could speed up the process of cleaning and redevelopment:
By determining scientifically and incontrovertibly who caused an incidence of pollution, environmental forensics will make legal proceedings arising from the Directive quicker, more straightforward, and therefore less expensive. This will remove some obstacles to brownfield development.
Speaking of which, an Australian researcher claims to be able to break down industrial pollutants with ultrasound:
Andrea Sosa Pintos from CSIRO Industrial Physics has shown that toxic and carcinogenic pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), can be decomposed quickly, easily and cheaply using a portable treatment unit. “Chemical analysis of the soil and water after we’ve treated it confirms that more than 90 per cent of pollutants have been destroyed,” she says.
In a related story, there’s a new application for catalysts that enhance the oxidizing power of hydrogen peroxide:
Iron(III) tetraamido macrocyclic ligand (TAML) complexes developed by Terrence J. Collins and his research group at Carnegie Mellon University increase the oxidizing power of hydrogen peroxide under mild conditions, making the inexpensive catalysts useful for many environmental cleanup processes. Some examples include treating pulp and paper processing by-products; reducing sulfur in fuels; deactivating bacterial spores; and degrading trace amounts of bisphenol A, estrogens, and active pharmaceutical ingredients in wastewater.

In a new application, Collins and his coworkers report, TAML catalysts can completely degrade the thiophosphate triester pesticides fenitrothion, parathion, and chlorpyrifos methyl, which are under scrutiny as hormone-disrupting chemicals.
What this portends for the production of explosive peroxides in airplane lavatories is anybody’s guess.

Treehugger reports on an interesting new approach to fiber optic lighting:
An Ohio-based company called Fiberstars has come up with a way to combine lamps with fiber-optics to create lighting systems that consume far less energy than traditional fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. A single 70-watt metal halide lamp combined with fiber optics can provide as much lighting as eight 50-watt incandescent bulbs. Fiber optics also do not contain mercury like fluorescents.
At Cornell, researchers are working on a new type of organic semiconductor that displays electroluminescence and works as a photovoltaic cell:
The device is the first to use an "ionic junction," which researchers say could lead to improved performance. Since organic semiconductors can be made in thin, flexible sheets, they could create displays on cloth or paper.
In the UK, Sainsbury’s supermarket chain is switching from plastic to compostible packaging for many of its products:
It says the scheme, already trialled on some of its organic range, will save 3,550 tonnes of plastic a year. Almost half its organic fruit and vegetables will be in the new packaging this week, and 80% by January.
There’s a new issue of Polar Inertia, but as this is a day consecrated to good news I suggest that you curl up with it tomorrow (in the fetal position, natch). You can follow it up with the Dharma Bums’ Good Planets Are Hard to Find, which compiles remarkable photos sent in by readers.

Today, though, you should treat yourself to the sound of foghorns. Here’s a pleasingly tumultuous recording from the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are some rather clinical samples from San Pedro and Los Angeles Harbor. And here are various foghorn and buoy sounds from the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society. For more adventurous listeners, Computerscientist’s Music from the Ocean comprises “sonification and musical work using data from deep-water ocean buoys.” Listen to samples here.

If you’re looking for something a bit more spontaneous and open-ended, PALAOLA, which is “an autonomous, wind and solar powered observatory located on the Ekström ice shelf,” offers an live streaming audio from the Antarctic Ocean. (I just heard some Weddell seal calls!)

When you’re tired of PALAOA – if you ever are - click here to check in with the INSPIRE VLF radio receiver at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, which provides live streaming audio of ionospheric sounds. I’ve been known to leave it on all night.


Anonymous said...

I'll guess that the TAML catalysts make it possible to use more dilute hydrogen peroxide for the environmental applications, making it more necessary for the terrorists to boil it on their kitchen stove, making it more likely that they will set their building on fire. In short, will make the world even safer from folks mixing up high explosives in airplane lavatories.

But the other side of that is that the report comes out of a university, and professors are frequently much too quick to claim that their complex macrocyclic compound is the answer to...something.


Phila said...

In short, will make the world even safer from folks mixing up high explosives in airplane lavatories.

Obviously, you fail to understand the deadly seriousness of the Islamofascist threat!

But the other side of that is that the report comes out of a university, and professors are frequently much too quick to claim that their complex macrocyclic compound is the answer to...something.

Yeah, I think we've discussed this before, and I agree that a certain number of these "breakthroughs" probably won't materialize.

I try to ignore stories that strike me as impractical or unrealistic (like a recent one about "green" iron production through electrolysis). In the case of Fe-TAML, optimism seems more justifiable (though I note that this was being touted as an alternative for anthrax treatment a few years back...)