Thursday, August 07, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

First and foremost, the odious Phill Kline has been defeated:

A political newcomer knocked Phill Kline out of the race for Johnson County district attorney Tuesday, defeating the hopes of abortion opponents who had campaigned nationwide.
If Kline has any thought of moving to a country where his beliefs would pose less of an obstacle to professional advancement, he could try Iran...although it, too, is showing signs of creeping liberalism:
Iran's judiciary has decided to scrap the punishment of stoning convicts to death in draft legislation submitted to parliament for approval, the local press reported on Wednesday.
In Illinois, perpetrators of domestic violence will be made to wear a GPS device:
Diane Rosenfeld, a lawyer who worked to add GPS monitoring to Massachusetts state law, told Ms. Magazine that a key aspect of GPS legislation is that it places responsibility for following orders of protection on the offender rather than the victim. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich stated that "with this legislation, we will further help victims of domestic violence by monitoring their abusers whereabouts and aiding law enforcement in tracking violations of a restraining order."
The owners of a meatpacking plant in Postville, IA — which was recently the scene of a brutal roundup of immigrant workers — are being charged for violating child-labor laws:
The state's investigation found dozens of violations from "virtually every aspect of Iowa's child labor laws," said Dave Neil the Iowa Labor Commissioner. Officials also said the scope of the case -- with 57 children involved -- makes it unusually large....

Under Iowa law, it is illegal for children under the age of 18 to work in a meatpacking plant. Neil said he was recommending "that the attorney general's office prosecute these violations to the fullest extent of the law."
The Birkenstock-shod ecofreaks at Maker's Mark have decided to run their distillery on bourbon waste:
The anaerobic digestion facility installed by waste management provider Ecovation will process stillage - the water, grain and yeast waste leftover from making bourbon - and produce a methane and carbon dioxide biogas for use in the distillery's boilers.
I'll drink to that, as soon as my doctor allows me to have alcohol again.

Brazil is talking about restricting ethanol production in one of the world's largest wetlands:
Under the proposal no new ethanol plants will be allowed in the Patanal’s plains and sugar cane planters already in the region will be required to use direct, no-till planting methods, thereby eliminating machinery and agrochemicals from the cultivation process, according to ministry statements.
Australia has turned its largest tropical rainforest into a park:
The forest houses 57 percent of Australia's butterflies and is seen by scientists as a critical refuge for biodiversity against the impact of climate change.
California will launch an interesting experiment in carbon farming:
Long-standing farming practices in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta expose fragile peat soils to wind, rain and cultivation, emit carbon dioxide (CO2) and cause land subsidence (the land actually sinks due to the loss of ground water). Industrial farming has been a disaster to this area, in order to capture or contain the carbon, farmers would “grow” wetlands. In doing so, they would begin to rebuild the Delta’s unique peat soils, take CO2 out of the atmosphere, ease pressure on the Delta’s aging levees and infuse the region with new economic potential.

Carbon-capture farming works as CO2 is taken out of the air by plants such as tules and cattails. As the plants die and decompose, they create new peat soil, building the land surface over time.
The world's smallest snake has been found in Barbados:
"New and interesting species are still being discovered on Caribbean islands, despite the very small amount of natural forests remaining," said Hedges, who christened the miniature brown snake "Leptotyphlops carlae" after his herpetologist wife, Carla Ann Hass.

And researchers in Africa have discovered a huge colony of endangered gorillas:
The world's known population of critically endangered western lowland gorillas has more than doubled following a new census that revealed some 125,000 in the Republic of Congo.

The survey, conducted across conducted in an area of 18,000 square miles of rainforests and swamps by the Wildlife Conservation Society and local researchers, offers new hope for one of the world's most charismatic endangered species.
Incidentally, Greg Pollowitz at Planet Gore mocks the "scientists" — those are his quotes, not mine — who made this discovery while working in this remote and dangerous area, on the grounds that since they previously "botched" these numbers, they might be wrong about...others.

Indeed, no one really knows anything, when you come right down to it, except that Doomsday has been canceled due to lack of interest (and that not voting in favor of offshore drilling raises oil prices).

Pollowitz also recommends getting a more accurate census of polar bears, presumably so that we can know exactly how many of them are threatened by habitat loss, and then ignore that number.

What's that you say? Oh, right...hope blogging.

This is a nice idea:
What if instead of standard streetlights your nighttime walks were brightened by light-laden boughs of luminous leaves? That’s the concept behind Jongoh Lee’s elegant Invisible Streetlight, a solar-powered alternative to those ubiquitous energy-sucking globes posted throughout parks and other public spaces. The lamps are designed to wind around existing branches, seamlessly integrating into their environs to enchanting effect. The design makes a wonderful addition to the current crop of beautiful biomimetic led lamps.

It may be possible to make rubber out of dandelions:
According to new research being done in Ohio, dandelion root sap could be made into a rubber of equal quality to traditional rubber from trees, at a lower cost.
An MIT chemist's discovery may make it easier and cheaper to store solar energy:
Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at MIT, has developed a catalyst that can generate oxygen from a glass of water by splitting water molecules. The reaction frees hydrogen ions to make hydrogen gas. The catalyst, which is easy and cheap to make, could be used to generate vast amounts of hydrogen using sunlight to power the reactions. The hydrogen can then be burned or run through a fuel cell to generate electricity whenever it’s needed, including when the sun isn’t shining.
A compound derived from cyanobacteria that grow on coral reefs may treat cancer:
Many common medications, from pain relievers to cholesterol-reducing statins, stem from natural products that grow on the earth, but there is literally an ocean of compounds yet to be discovered in our seas. Only 14 marine natural products developed are in clinical trials today, Luesch said, and one drug recently approved in Europe is the first-ever marine-derived anticancer agent.

"Marine study is in its infancy," said William Fenical, Ph.D., a distinguished professor of oceanography and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, San Diego. "The ocean is a genetically distinct environment and the single, most diverse source of new molecules to be discovered."
In conclusion: A representation of earth without its surface. A somewhat disturbing, but certainly unique spectacle. Four pieces of strange and wonderful news. A collection of hold-to-light opera cards. And, via Coudal, a reassuring message from The Journal of Urban Typography:

Also: The diabolical imagery and visual curiosities of Alexander Ver Huell. The colors of scenic stones and vintage fez labels. And some paintings by John Haberle.

Newsfilm Online comprises "3,000 hours of UK cinema newsreel and television news content, dating 1910s-2000s" (via The Bioscope). But you may never make it there, thanks to this exquisitely beautiful collection of fruit wrappers.

I'll leave you with some slow-motion footage of lightning (via Neatorama).


(Photo at top via Stuck in Customs.)


chris said...

Great as always, thank you.
I've always been skeptical about the excitement over hydrogen. Stuff makes an awful bang when disturbed, you know.
I'm not alone, Joseph Romm at Gristmill has a close look at Daniel Nocera's work.

Phila said...

I've always been skeptical about the excitement over hydrogen. Stuff makes an awful bang when disturbed, you know.

Yeah, same here, which is why I almost never blog on hydrogen.

I broke down and covered this story mainly because I kept seeing it everywhere (and, I confess, 'cause I was a bit light on stories this week).

Wish I'd read the Romm piece first (or the linked piece closely)...but really, I should've known. Any breakthrough having to do with hydrogen seems to evaporate when you scrutinize it.

xan said...

I like this hydrogen story (while sharing the same skepticism of the notion of using it as a gasoline replacement) because it seems most applicable to small-scale non-moving power needs.

The only thing holding up solar (which this is in the end) is the lack of a storage-and-discharge mechanism. Car batteries are hideous, bulky, short-lived and hardly ecological, containing the amount of lead that they do. The little rechargeable batteries used in decorative solar lights and such don't last more than a season or two. Etc.

The hydrogen plan noted here might be an alternative. Most of the problems with hydrogen itself involve finding some way to store it in a moving vehicle, in quantity sufficient to move said vehicle any useful distance.

Thanks as always for the FHB, you have a hell of a talent for finding this stuff. I have no idea how you do it, I have enough trouble finding news stories about Civil War related subjects. :)

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