Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

WorldChanging discusses the implications of a shift in consumerism from ownership to access, using Netflix as an example:

[B]y not having a store to which I drive to get the videos, the planet is spared the impacts of a retail outlet, as well as all those trips back and forth, each of which uses (though I haven't run the numbers, I'm sure this is true) far more fuel and generates far more pollution than do the daily rounds of the local mail carrier (who is, after all, making the trip anyway).
The article goes on to quote a study which found that:
Downloading 56 minutes of music is more than two and a half times less resource intensive than going to a shop to buy a CD, even if the music is burnt on to a CD-R.
The CD argument is a compelling one, because record labels have to make an advance decision as to how many people will buy a given release, and the result – in most cases – is that far too many CDs get made; even in cases where a release is popular – which is exceedingly rare - additional pressings typically don't factor in the number of copies available in used stores, on Amazon, and so forth.

Thus, the shift to an on-demand system for music and movie distribution makes a lot of sense; those who want an object to handle could simply download and print graphics, and make their own. I’ve always been a fetishist of sound-bearing media – I can spend hours on a site like this, with a puddle of drool collecting in my lap – but nonetheless, a shift away from mass-producing CDs and DVDs does seem both necessary and desirable.

On a related note, as a resolute anti-elitist cursed with fairly elitist tastes, I’ve always been bothered by competitive consumption, in which musical preference becomes the equivalent of the inflatable chest-sacs with which male frigate birds try to overawe each other. Things are changing, though; music that used to be hard to find, and genres that used to appeal only to a handful of self-styled cognoscenti, can now be downloaded easily, by anyone. One result has been a dilution of the cultural capital of music snobs, and I think this is all to the good. I’ll have more to say about this, someday, as it ties into a number of interesting political trends.

Anyway, let’s see what else I have. Cervantes says that green tea actually does seem to have a protective effect against cancer. Of course, you still have to deal with the uncomfortable side effects described by J.S. Le Fanu’s Dr. Hesselius, who theorized that green tea upsets the fluids of the brain, and leaves exposed a surface “on which disembodied spirits may operate.” Still, I think most of us would rather be stalked implacably by a diabolical black monkey than get colon cancer.

There’s a possibility of making artificial corneas from biomimetic hydrogels:
That material may promise a new view for at least 10 million people worldwide who are blind due to damaged or diseased corneas or many millions more who are nearsighted or farsighted due to misshapen corneas.
And Effect Measure offers “modestly good” news on the H5N1 vaccine front (albeit with a number of important caveats):
[T]his vaccine afforded cross protection for the various H5N1 sublineages (clades). This is important as there is doubt that the current killed virus vaccines made against a non-pandemic strain of H5N1 would also protect against one that has mutated to pandemic form. Since we still don't have a pandemic virus to test this vaccine against (fortunately) we don't know if this kind of live virus vaccine would have a better chance to work also against a pandemic strain. but these data suggests it has this potential.
There's word of an advance in the fight against childhood diarrhea, which kills hundreds of thousands annually:
The four-year project, the results of which are now being piloted in four hospitals in India, will offer a means of identifying the two most deadly forms of the disease quickly, cheaply and with little training necessary for practitioners.
Scientists seem to have found a way to stop the predations of invasive and destructive Argentine ants, by making them attack members of their own colony:
Slight alterations in the "recognition" chemicals on the exoskeletons of these closely related pests, these scientists say, could transform "kissing cousins" into mortal enemies, triggering deadly in-fighting within their normally peaceful super colonies, which have numerous queens and can stretch hundreds of miles.
One colony stretches from San Diego to Ukiah, if you can believe that.

Here's a fascinating biomimetic material based on ferns:
Scientists looked to ferns to create a novel energy scavenging device that uses the power of evaporation to move itself -- materials that could provide a method for powering micro and nano devices with just water or heat.
Last, a long-dry portion of the San Joaquin River will have water and salmon once again, thanks to a deal struck between environmentalists and farmers:
Based on a new 20-year, $250-to-$800 million restoration plan, agricultural water diversion from the river will be reduced by an average of 15 percent and the spring chinook salmon run, wiped out by a dam in 1942, will be revived. "The magnitude of this restoration effort … is virtually unprecedented in the American West," says Hal Candee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of 14 green groups that sued the Bureau of Reclamation in 1988.
I don't have much to offer in the way of entertainment this week. (You can blame Blogger, which ate the first draft of this post.) I think the photo above, of startrails around the Southern Pole, should be enough for anyone (you can see an animated version here). Other than that, I have yet another favorite blog, entitled (what is this?). I found it through Things, which also drew my attention to these photos found in the street.

Also, just for the hell of it, here's Arthur Dove's 1924 painting Nature Symbolized:

1 comment:

Ripley said...

Things are changing, though; music that used to be hard to find, and genres that used to appeal only to a handful of self-styled cognoscenti, can now be downloaded easily, by anyone. One result has been a dilution of the cultural capital of music snobs, and I think this is all to the good.

Absolutely - the neat thing for me has been the opportunity to pick up music that I never would have had the courage to spend money on in the store. The ability to buy one track or find a shared-music site allows you to experiment and expand your tastes, without feeling like you've been suckered by a good album cover or review.

NTodd and I were discussing the no-CD side of the argument and while I think that iTunes has the right idea, the DRM aspect of some digital music seems to put us back to square one, as far as backup is concerned. I don't suppose we'll see much progress in that regard, though.