Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

The California Supreme Court has ruled that gay citizens have the same rights as straight ones:

The majority opinion, by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, declared that any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation will from this point on be constitutionally suspect in California in the same way as laws that discriminate by race or gender, making the state's high court the first in the nation to adopt such a stringent standard.

The decision was a bold surprise from a moderately conservative, Republican-dominated court that legal scholars have long dubbed "cautious," and experts said it was likely to influence other courts around the country.
Glenn Greenwald adds:
No rational person can criticize the Court's decision here without having at least a basic understanding of the governing California precedents. Anyone who condemns this ruling without having that understanding will be demonstrating a profound ignorance of -- and contempt for -- how the law works.
Ya don't say. The LA Times article is quick to point out that conservative activists aim to amend the state constitution this November. My prediction: They'll lose. Repeatedly.

Rape kits will soon be available for free, nationwide:
Starting next year across the country, rape victims too afraid or too ashamed to go to police can undergo an emergency-room forensic rape exam, and the evidence gathered will be kept on file in a sealed envelope in case they decide to press charges.

The new federal requirement that states pay for "Jane Doe rape kits" is aimed at removing one of the biggest obstacles to prosecuting rape cases: Some women are so traumatized they don't come forward until it is too late to collect hair, semen or other samples.
Another nail in the coffin of men's rights. (You can't have too many!)

The Supreme Court has inadvertently upheld a ruling that allows South Africans to sue American corporations for aiding and abetting apartheid:
The court couldn't take up an apartheid dispute involving some of the nation's largest companies because too many of the justices had investments or other ties with those corporate giants....

The result is that a lawsuit will go forward accusing dozens of corporations of violating international law by assisting South Africa's former apartheid government. The companies and the Bush administration had asked the court to intervene, arguing that the lawsuit was damaging international relations, threatening to hurt South Africa's economic development and punishing the companies using a fuzzy legal concept.
The BLM has restricted off-road vehicles from 55,000 acres of the Sonoran desert. It's a start.
“The vehicle closure is welcome news, but the Bureau of Land Management should be doing a lot more to protect the national monument,” said Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Off-road vehicles still have unfettered access to over 500 miles of routes and 270,000 acres on the monument. The agency is obligated to protect all of these lands from motorized abuse.”
A large parcel of privately owned California wilderness has been designated for conservation:
At a press conference on a sunny hillside 60 miles north of Los Angeles, the Sierra Club and others unveiled a deal to protect the largest contiguous parcel of land designated for conservation in California history -- 240,000 acres of stunningly diverse landscapes on the privately-owned Tejon Ranch south of Bakersfield. (Think about that: This is 2008 and we're still preserving massive hunks of land -- in Southern California no less!) At 375 square miles, the preserve of desert, woodlands, and grasslands is eight times the size of San Francisco and nearly the size of Los Angeles.
Yet another court has ruled against yet another of the Bush Administration's environmental policies:
In a reversal of the Bush administration’s attempt to accelerate logging for profit in the Sierra Nevada’s national forests, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled May 14th that the U.S. Forest Service likely violated long-standing federal environmental laws when revising the Sierra Nevada Framework, a management plan for all 11 national forests in eastern California.
Subtopia surveys the German Green Belt:
While the "inner German border” that once divided East and West Germany decades ago, stretching 879 miles from the Baltic Sea to the Czech Republic, was a tangled jungle of barbed wire, landmines, booby traps and soldier patrols, it was also, much like the Korean DMZ, a kind of sanctuary for considerable wildlife.

When the Berlin Wall fell German environmentalists fought to protect the long line of no-man’s-land as a Green Belt, connecting it with Europe’s larger green belt that has followed the path of the Iron Curtain from the north of Finland south to the Adriatic Sea.
Read the whole thing.

Endangered scarlet macaws that were born in captivity are reproducing in the wild:
The ZooAve Center for the Rescue of Endangered Species has released 100 of the birds into the wild in the last decade. But biologists didn't spot offspring until last year, said biologist Laura Fournier.

Since then, they have recorded 22 chicks born in the wild, and four more scarlet macaw couples have laid eggs, Fournier said.

The tropics are more biodiverse than previously thought:
Doing DNA analysis on Blepharoneura fruit flies in Latin America, biologists led by Cornell professor Marty Condon found a surprising number of different species occupying separate parts of the same plant. Many of these were "hidden" species, species that were both physically concealed within the plant and species that "hidden" in that they were nearly indistinguishable from other species without genetic analysis. In all the researchers identified 52 different species from 24 different host plants from the cucumber, sampled from an area spanning from Mexico to southern Bolivia and from the Pacific to Atlantic coasts.
A new study suggests that bats could aid in tropical reforestation:
Once agricultural land becomes depleted and is subsequently abandoned, a wave of seed inputs is needed to help foster habitat regeneration. However, a lack of suitable roost sites and resources tends to keep most potential seed dispersers at bay. Attracting bats, which pollinate close to 1000 plant species and disperse their seeds widely via excretion, might then help accelerate the process -- if the right incentives are provided.

To test this hypothesis, a team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute's Detlev Kelm built and installed 45 roosts in two Costa Rican habitats -- one in continuous forest and the other on recently abandoned agricultural land a few miles away. At the same time, they also set up traps to collect bat feces as a measure to quantify seed dispersal. Their findings indicate that 10 bat species quickly colonized the roosts, five of which occupied them permanently in both forested and agricultural habitats. As was expected, seed input around the roosts rose dramatically: The researchers calculated that 69 different seed types, mostly early-successional plant species, were transported to the deforested areas.
Scientists have discovered the microorganisms responsible for consuming undersea methane releases:
The importance of the anaerobic oxidation of methane for the Earth’s climate is known since 1999 and various international research groups work on isolating the responsible microorganisms, so far with little success. Pernthaler and co-workers developed a new molecular technique to selectively separate these microorganisms from their natural complex community, and subsequently sequenced their genome. The findings were exciting: Besides identifying all genes responsible for the anaerobic oxidation of methane, new bacterial partners of this syntrophic association were discovered and the ability to fix N2 could be demonstrated.
Another breakthrough is claimed in solar-cell efficiency:
Hoex was able to achieve the increase in efficiency by depositing an ultra-thin layer (approximately 30 nanometer) of aluminum oxide on the front of a crystalline silicon solar cell. This layer has an unprecedented high level of built-in negative charges, through which the – normally significant – energy losses at the surface are almost entirely eliminated. Of all sunlight falling on these cells, 23.2 per cent is now converted into electrical energy. This was formerly 21.9 per cent, which means a 6 per cent improvement in relative terms.
Four Legs Good alerts me to this charming biomimetic approach to solar power:
Scottish architecture firm ZM Architecture have come up with a brilliant scheme to provide solar power to the city of Glasgow - and do so in a way that is provocative, creative, and aesthetically appealing. The proposal? To design Solar Lily Pads which will float in Glasgow’s River Clyde and soak up the sun’s rays, sending electricity to Glasgow’s grid while also stimulating urban riverfront activity.

Speaking of biomimicry, a new design for wave-power generation mimics the motion of underwater plants:
Biowave mimics the swaying motion of the sea plants found in the ocean bed. The system looks like three buoyant blades which are constantly oscillating to the motion of the sea. As they sway in the tide, electricity is generated. If at any point the system is in danger because of the strong currents, it simply lies in flat until the ocean calms down.
And the fins of humpback whales have inspired a new blade design for turbines:
When biologist Frank Fish spied a figurine of a humpback whale in a Boston gift shop and noticed the pointy bumps along its fins, he said, "That has to be wrong."

But when the shop manager produced a photograph that showed the leading edge of the long fins was indeed serrated like the teeth on a saw, Dr. Fish was intrigued and decided to investigate.

He discovered that these bumps, called tubercles, are this creature's secret weapon, allowing a whale the size of a school bus to make tight turns and capture prey with astonishing agility.

Fish, a biology professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is now using this technology perfected by nature to produce fans with serrated blades that use 20 percent less electricity than traditional models. This finding contradicts conventional designs that strive for the smoothest possible edges.
Rock Port, Missouri, is the first American town to be powered entirely by wind:
"What's interesting is my husband is in the oil business but that's alright, we're thrilled to have wind energy here. As Americans we need to get more independent," Rock Port resident Kim Bunton said.
Here's one of those ideas that seems obvious, now that it's been done:
The SOLo Lounge Table, by Intelligent Forms, is a sleek, chic outdoor table that not only looks fantastic, but comes with a built-in solar panel surface in order to power all of your electronic gadgets!
A company is making biodegradable dishware from fallen leaves:
The fallen leaves, which would traditionally have been burned on the roadside, are collected, sterilized, steamed and pressed into plates. The process uses no chemicals, glues or bonding agents, and over 80% of the water used during the steaming and pressing process is recaptured and recycled.
Cellphones may soon be used to transmit medical imaging:
A team of engineers at the University of California at Berkeley has developed a technique for transmitting medical images via cellphones. This potentially could bring medical imaging to the ‘three-quarters of the world’s population which has no access to ultrasounds, X-rays, magnetic resonance images, and other medical imaging technology.’ The lead researcher said that this new system would make imaging technology inexpensive and accessible in non-industrialized countries.
This is interesting:
A Swiss marine biologist and an Australian quantum physicist have found that a species of shrimp from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, can see a world invisible to all other animals.

Dr Sonja Kleinlogel and Professor Andrew White have shown that mantis shrimp not only have the ability to see colours from the ultraviolet through to the infrared, but have optimal polarisation vision — a first for any animal and a capability that humanity has only achieved in the last decade using fast computer technology.
Now for a mad dash to the finish line. Luminous Lint is working on a "Photographic Full Body Map"; follow the link to help out. Also: The Domestic Soundscape, "a record of ideas concerning the sounds of the home and our relationship to them."

Country Fair Winners and Macrophotography of Soap Bubbles: Is there a connection? The answer may lie in a Japanese caricature map at BibliOdyssey.

The Western Soundscape Archives. An example of Botanical Otology. A glimpse at The Nightside of Japan. Photos by Harry Callahan.

Metallic monsters along a Russian river, and photos by Juliane Eirich, both via Coudal.

Last, a glimpse at the garden.

(Illustration: "Malaysian Flower Cave" by Robert Rauschenberg, 1990.)

1 comment:

pablo said...

Always a pleasure to come here, especially on Fridays.