Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

Treehugger discusses hot rock energy:

The concept is simple really. Pump water down into the Earth’s core, so it can be super heated by contact with those hot rocks, returning to the surface as steam, which in turn drive turbines to create energy. The water is basically in a close [sic] loop, so after spinning said turbines it’s sent off down into the bowels once more.
In reality, it's a good deal simpler than that, in that no one's actually going to be pumping water "into the earth's core." Here's how it really works.

I've never been a big fan of biodiesel, but this is pretty goddamn interesting:
A tiny chemical reactor that can convert vegetable oil directly into biodiesel could help farmers turn some of their crops into homegrown fuel to operate agricultural equipment instead of relying on costly imported oil...."Distributed energy production means you can use local resources - farmers can produce all the energy they need from what they grow on their own farms," Jovanovic said.
I'm a bit skeptical about that last statement. For one thing, I wonder what amount of acreage would have to be turned over to biodiesel production. Still, it's an amazing device, assuming it's for real. Almost as amazing as solar-powered retinal implants.

In tangentially related news, UK researchers seem to have come up with a biologically based hydrogen fuel cell:
A hydrogen fuel cell that uses enzymes instead of expensive metal catalysts to drive chemical reactions has been developed by UK researchers. Enzyme-powered fuel cells could be smaller, simpler and cheaper to make than conventional ones, the researchers claim. They have already powered a digital watch using their invention.
A new bioplastic seems like it would be a good substitute for Styrofoam clamshell-style packaging in fast-food restaurants:
Yesterday, the first factory dedicated to manufacturing EarthShell´s biodegradable packaging products opened in Missouri....EarthShell is a proprietary composite made from natural limestone and starch from potatoes, wheat or corn. The new packaging poses substantially fewer risks to wildlife than polystyrene foam packaging because it biodegradable when exposed to moisture in nature, physically disintegrates in water when crushed or broken, and can be composted in a commercial facility. EarthShell dinnerware is now being sold in Schnuck Markets in the Midwest and Smart & Final stores on the West Coast and will soon be available in other areas.
Speaking of water and wildlife, Alabama and Mississippi will soon have a bit more of both, and it's not because they're building new golf courses:
An unprecedented marsh gardening project, spanning two states and utilizing the talents of many agencies, is ready to begin this spring.  Headed by Dr. Just Cebrian, Senior Marine Scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, this ambitious “greening of the estuaries” seeks to establish new, or rehabilitate existing, marsh sites.
Meanwhile, up in Oregon, a group of conservatives is agitating for the creation of a protected wilderness area in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest:
"It's unusual to have a bunch of Republicans behind this kind of proposal. What that should tell you is we want this place to stay like it is because that's what's best for our community."

The supporters are generally hunting and fishing enthusiasts who say the proposed Copper-Salmon wilderness area centers on protecting recreational opportunities. "This is to ensure that our children will be able to catch salmon and steelhead and hunt in the area," said Mike Beagle, an Eagle Point Republican who is field coordinator for Trout Unlimited in Oregon and Washington.
Once you get past the shrill rhetoric of these fanatics, it's really a pretty remarkable idea! I’m surprised no one else has thought of it.

Here's another odd way of protecting wood:
Wood for outdoor decks and playground equipment is infused with amorphous glass that turns off bugs without harming them—or the environment.

Wood treated by an innovative and environmentally friendly process called TimberSil will soon be available to builders and consumers for decks, docks, fences, and children’s playground equipment. TimberSil, based on a sodium silicate formula, protects wood in a radically different way than competing products by eliminating the toxic and corrosive side effects associated with conventional arsenic- and copper-based treatments. The new product promises to be gentler to the environment than products based on pesticides.
Last, some heartening news on the antibiotic properties of wallaby milk:
[T]he mother's milk contains a molecule that is 100 times more effective against Gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli than the most potent form of penicillin. The molecule, called AGG01, also kills four types of Gram-positive bacteria and one type of fungus. The work was presented at the US Biotechnology Industry Organization 2006 meeting in Chicago last week.
There you have it. With that out of the way, you have the whole weekend to treat your eyes to this lovely online edition of The Grammar of Ornament (the only single-volume book I've ever spent more than $400 on), and your ears to the mundane marvels of the Phonography Archive.

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