Thursday, October 25, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging


Everything old is new again! AIDG Blog reports on a hyperefficient engine built with existing GM parts:

[H]is conversions consist almost entirely of taking stock GM parts [emphasis] and snapping them together in clever new ways. “They could do all this stuff if they wanted to,” he tells me, slapping on a visor and hunching over an arc welder. “The technology has been there forever. They make 90% of the components I use.”
An African man has built a helicopter from scrap parts:
Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi of the Kano Plains of Nigeria who has built a working helicopter over the last 8 months using scrap aluminum and parts from a Honda Civic, an old Toyota and from the remains of a crashed Boeing 747.
Also from Afrigadget, an interesting version of the horse and buggy:
Fitted with a solar panel that charges a 12 volt battery under the driver’s seat, the “HAPPY” becomes an independent, sustainable source of energy that powers cell phone connectivity, front and rear emergency lights and a small neon tube at night. Add a water filtration system, and the “HAPPY” doubles as a multi functional mobile business unit, that can empower an entrepreneurial owner, to generate income from it as a fresh water outlet, a mobile phone kiosk or a spaza shop – even after dark.
Israel is turning a dump into a recycling-themed park, complete with this scenic arch made of plastic bottles:


The historical and philosophical overtones of this article are a bit disturbing, overall, but I did like the stuff about benches made of crushed soda cans. (See also The City Museum, in downtown St. Louis.)

A more modest approach to recycling involves using old chewing gum to create street receptacles for old chewing gum:
Anna Bullus’s Bubble Gum Bin is made from Gumnetic, a new biodegradable material she developed made from sterilized used chewing gum and bio resin. The bin keeps chewing gum litter from our sidewalks and shoes and when full, the entire container is recycled to make even more bins. How’s that for cradle-to-cradle?
In a very early edition of FHB, I lamented "cases in which 'progress' causes people to abandon a technology before it's perfected," and discussed improvements that were being made to sails, so I was pleased to read Inhabitat's post on the KiteShip:
[C]ompany executives have announced a potential partnership with four shipping companies to build a $2 million, 13,000-square-foot kite to help haul ships as large as 400 feet long.
I was also fascinated, this week, by the recreation of the Great Squirt, an irrigation device depicted in a 1577 tome called The Gardener's Labyrinth:
Using traditional oak carpentry and leather valves and wooden pipes, it was built as closely to Hill's references as possible," he said.

"The machine is essentially a rudimentary" pump in a large oak barrel.

Researchers are investigating the alleged antimicrobial properties of French clay:
French clay that kills several kinds of disease-causing bacteria is at the forefront of new research into age-old, nearly forgotten, but surprisingly potent cures. Among the malevolent bacteria that a French clay has been shown to fight is a "flesh-eating" bug (M. ulcerans) on the rise in Africa and the germ called MRSA, which was blamed for the recent deaths of two children in Virginia and Mississippi.

"There are very compelling reports of clay treating infections, but that's anecdotal evidence, not science," said Lynda Williams, an associate research professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, Tempe. Williams is coordinating three teams of U.S. researchers (at ASU, USGS, and SUNY-Buffalo) studying healing clays under a two-year, $440,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health-National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Her ASU colleague Shelley Haydel is lending her expertise in clinical medicine to perform the microbiological research.
In Montana, a dead stream seems to be coming back to life:
Silver Bow Creek, contaminated for more than a century by tailings and other mine waste, appears to be responding to environmental cleanup.

Recently, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks' employees found populations of live trout in the creek, once considered a dead stream.

The inventory revealed a larger presence of trout — including westslope cutthroat — than has been in Silver Bow Creek for about 120 years, Joel Chavez, who is managing the creek restoration project for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
Scientists have discovered an enormous flock of sociable lapwings:
The RSPB’s Dr Rob Sheldon...said: “This discovery is something we didn’t dare dream of. The sociable lapwing is one of the rarest birds on earth and suddenly it’s been found in these large numbers.

“It shows just how important both Kazakhstan and Turkey have become for the survival of this species. The next step is to protect the bird, both on its breeding grounds and at all the key sites on its migration route.”

And a new population of the critically endangered Iberian lynx has been found in Spain:
It appears that the new population was discovered in previously unsurveyed estates in Castilla - La Mancha (Central Spain). This Iberian community is one of the most sparsely populated of Spain's autonomous communities.

At present, the exact numbers and location of the newly discovered population are being kept confidential, but the population is thought to be made up of both adults and cubs.
WorldChanging discusses hopes for biomimetic solar cells:
As a university write-up of the research says, "Nature produces silica on a scale of gigatons." The sponge's secret is molecular templating, which Morse and colleagues are learning to imitate. Technology Review reported that "Morse and colleagues have made more than 30 types of semiconductor thin films and tested their photovoltaic properties. They are now working to incorporate the semiconductors into functional solar cells."
In other news, Berkeley, CA plans to finance solar panels for thousands of residents:
The City Council will vote Nov. 6 on a plan for the city to finance the cost of solar panels for property owners who agree to pay it back with a 20-year assessment on their property. Over two decades, the taxes would be the same or less than what property owners would save on their electric bills, officials say.
An NYC apartment complex is using ladybugs for pest control:
Some 720,000 [ladybugs] were released by groundskeepers at the complex, which occupies 18 square blocks northeast of First Avenue and East 14th Street. The ladybugs are part of an effort by the complex’s new owners, Tishman Speyer, to move away from using chemical insecticides to protect the plants and grass that cover 40 acres there.
Pittsburg Paints will reportedly offer no VOC paints in 2008:
Aside from being free of carcinogenic volatile organic compounds, the paints are pigmented to echo the growing interest in the ecological and environmental lifestyle choices and themes.
Greg Harman explains why San Antonio’s coal- and nuke-loving CPS Energy “must die”:
A collection of reports released this year argue that a combination of ramped-up efficiency programs, construction of numerous “combined heat and power” facilities, and installation of on-site renewable energy resources would allow the state to avoid building new power plants. Texas could save $73 billion in electric generation costs by spending $50 billion between now and 2023 on such programs, according to the research group. The group also claims the efficiency revolution would even be good for the economy, creating 38,300 jobs.
A high-desert straw-bale building has won LEED gold certification:
Resource- and energy-efficient, the Santa Clarita Transit Maintenance Facility designed by HOK exceeds California Energy Efficiency Standards by more than 40 percent, securing a new standard for straw-bale in high performance building design.
Carmakers are reportedly taking a new look at the electric car:
[T]wo allied car makers, France's Renault SA and Japan's Nissan Motor Co., as well as Honda Motor Co...have expressed skepticism about the economic wisdom of hybrids and are talking up all-electric cars.
This is very interesting:
Dr. Tracey discovered that the vagus nerve speaks directly to the immune system through a neurochemical called acetylcholine. And stimulating the vagus nerve sent commands to the immune system to stop pumping out toxic inflammatory markers. “This was so surprising to us,” said Dr. Tracey, who immediately saw the potential to use vagus stimulation as a way to shut off abnormal immune system responses. He calls this network “the inflammatory reflex.”

Research is now underway to see whether tweaking the brain's acetylcholine system could be a natural way to control the inflammatory response.
In other medical news, a biotech company is producing an anti-malarial drug at an amazingly low price:
Keasling can chemically synthesize artemisinin. He feeds microbes sugar, and the microbes produce the drug....

The result of his work is that the price of artemisinin is dropping - quickly. To take that price drop to market, Keasling partners with Amyris Biotechnologies and OneWorld Health. He does this without patents and without royalties - open-source pharma, if you will.
The UK will offer vaccinations against cervical cancer to every young girl in the country:
Every girl in the UK aged 12 and 13 will be offered a vaccination to help protect them from developing cervical cancer, it was announced today.

The injections, to be rolled out by the Government from the start of the next school year, will protect the girls from human papillomavirus, known as HPV, which causes around 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.
And in Scotland, every child will be given free school meals:
The Child Poverty Action Group hailed the move as a "massive step forward".

John Dickie, head of the campaign group in Scotland, said: "Universal free school meals could make a huge impact in tackling family poverty and improving children's health and ability to learn.
In America, meanwhile, "60% said they would be willing to repeal tax cuts to help pay for a health-care program that insures all Americans." (9/11 changed everything!)

Time has a nice article on Freeplay Energy, a UK company that provides battery-free devices to the developing world.
"It all comes back to the problem of power. There is huge energy poverty in the world, and that energy poverty causes more pollution," says Rory Stear, founder of Freeplay Energy, a London-based company that makes hand-powered radios, lanterns, flashlights and portable generators — ingeniously simple products that provide affordable energy anywhere without requiring disposable batteries.
This is part of Time's massive feature on Heroes of the Environment, which is well worth a look.

The photo at the top is by Carol Golemboski. It's from her series entitled Psychometry, which recycles material from thrift stores and estate sales.

Speaking of recycled material: The Wilhelm Scream, via Effect Measure. And the BibliOdyssey Book, which I hereby command each and every one of you to buy. Now.


Coudal directs me to an astonishing gallery of Japanese manhole covers:



Also: Peter Schoeffer: Printer of Mainz. A plea for help from the Global Electrophonic Fireball Survey. The elusive dog’s nose fungus, "a large perithecial ascomycete." Cycles of Arthropods. And some gorgeous photographs of Prague by Stanko Abadžic.


And last, for CKR, a small collection of scientific illustrations from an Estonian schoolbook (via Things):

18 comments:

olvlzl said...

I use flashlights a lot, enough to have worn out my old, toxic, difficult to dispose of NiCad batteries. I've been using Freeplay Kitos (two for one sale) since last summer and one of them is already paid for.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Phila!

The title on the first illustration is "To the Other Planets!"

And, speaking of Estonia, I've finished reading the book you sent me and may review it. Haunting, not entirely in the seasonal sense.

Thanks for that too.

CKR

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