Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

Lots of gadgetry in the news this week. Ecos Lifelink is a “mobile, portable structure which provides water purification, electricity and even wireless internet access - all through the power of the wind and the sun.”

The design of the two 20 foot modules make the Ecos LifeLink system easily portable to disaster relief sites and to provide water and electricity to remote locations. The portable wireless satellite system provides internet connectivity which allows for voice over IP and VSAT communication reaching a 30 mile range, while providing 16 kW of power and water filtration that provides 30 gallons per a minute making the most contaminated water sources comply with World Health Organization standards.
(Via Inhabitat.)

Rumor has it that a strange new device dramatically reduces the energy consumption of refrigerators:
It is made of wax, is barely three inches across and comes in any colour you like, as long as it's black. And it could save more greenhouse gas emissions than taxes on gas guzzling cars, low energy light bulbs and wind turbines on houses combined. It is the e-cube, and it is coming soon to a fridge near you.

Invented by British engineers, the £25 gadget significantly reduces the amount of energy used by fridges and freezers, which are estimated to consume about a fifth of all domestic electricity in the UK. If one was fitted to each of the 87 million refrigeration units in Britain, carbon dioxide emissions would fall by more than 2 million tonnes a year.
A battery-free hydraulic-hybrid system utilizing nitrogen gas will soon be tested in UPS trucks:
When you press the brakes, the wheels drive a pump that compresses nitrogen gas, which is inexpensive and inert. When you accelerate again, that compressed gas runs the pump in reverse to help power the vehicle.
Inhabitat reports that Wal-Mart has launched a sustainable design competition:
In partnership with The Green Electronics Council’s EPEAT program, Walmart will co-develop a standards scorecard that will evaluate products for energy efficiency, durability, upgradability, end-of-life, packaging, and use of innovative (less toxic) materials....The winner’s product will be carried in Wal-Mart stores throughout the nation.
Also from Inhabitat, micro wind turbines:
Unlike large-scale wind turbines, Motorwave’s micro-wind turbines are light, compact (25 cm rotor diameter), and can generate power with wind speeds as low as 2 meters/second.
New technology is fine, but I’m more gratified to learn that simple, inexpensive biosand filters actually do reduce the incidence of waterborne disease:
“These kinds of filters have been used in the developing world since the 1990s, but there was only anecdotal evidence that they actually improved health,” said Christine Stauber, a UNC doctoral candidate who helped direct the project in the Dominican Republic. “It was really exciting to collect scientific evidence in an objective study that showed the filters actually worked….”

International Aid, a non-profit humanitarian healthcare agency, cited the UNC study while announcing a major safe water initiative that focuses on the distribution and use of a filter that uses the gravel and sand technology, but is housed in a plastic, rather than concrete container. The new filter weighs about 15 pounds, compared to about 300 pounds for the concrete filters.
Speaking of clean drinking water, the Tap Project recently invited NYC restaurant customers to pay one dollar for the glasses of water they usually get for free. Each dollar goes to UNICEF, and provides 40 liters of clean water. A heartening number of restaurants participated. It’s a great idea, and I hope it'll catch on elsewhere.

Anil Gupta’s Honey Bee Network “collects and disseminates traditional knowledge and helps facilitate and spread grassroots innovation throughout India and elsewhere.” WorldChanging describes a recent lecture by Gupta, and spotlights such inventions as the bicycle hoe and the pedal-operated washing machine.

A study of a remote Amazon tribe recently found that parents who understand traditional plant lore have healthier children than those who don’t, “independent of other factors such as education, market participation or acculturation.”

In the aftermath of a telemedicine conference in Botswana, a number of pilot projects are being proposed for sub-Saharan Africa:
These demonstration projects will be used to inform and to help develop a framework for extending eHealth, which should be considered as part of the European Union Strategy for Africa commitment to utilise Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to enhance interconnectivity in Africa.
In other telemedicine news, a Basque researcher has devised an interactive digital television system, which may be convertible for use on mobile devices.

4,000 acres of public land near Fallon, Nevada have been closed to off-road vehicles to protect a rare butterfly:
“The closure is a good first step toward protecting the Sand Mountain blue butterfly, which exists nowhere else in the world,” said Lisa Belenky, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
WorldChanging discusses the growing public and private interest in zero-waste practices, and “and the ‘total makeover of the global economy’ that will be required in order to obliterate the concept of throwing things away. Well worth reading in full.

There are several interesting stories on mapping this week. First off, the European Space Agency is mapping sea surface temperatures around the Galapagos and Coco Island as part of its effort to protect biodiversity:
Maps of the sea surface temperature around Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean are being produced daily and are available online in full resolution in near-real time as part of the Medspiration project, an ESA-funded effort to represent the most reliable temperature of the seas on a global basis.
You can view the maps here.

It seems that DNA analysis can aid anti-poaching efforts by identifying the source of ivory:
Wasser's team used DNA analysis to determine the origins of a 6.5-ton illegal ivory shipment (representing 3,000–6,500 poached elephants) confiscated in Singapore in 2002. By examining the tusks and taking random DNA samples to track genetic differences, they were able to prove that the ivory came from a small area in and around Zambia, and not from a variety of locations as was initially assumed. This ability to pinpoint the origin of confiscated ivory is considered critical to future elephant conservation efforts.
Biologists have created a global map of estimated plant biodiversity:
"This allowed us to estimate the richness of yet unsurveyed parts of the world," says Jetz. "The global map of estimated plant species richness highlights areas of particular concern for conservation and provides much needed assistance in gauging the likely impact of climate change on the services plants provide to humans. It may also help to pinpoint areas that deserve further attention for the discovery of plants or drugs yet unknown to humanity."
An interesting article on allelopathy discusses the possibility of making herbicides from the chemicals that certain plants produce as a defense against other plants.
Fujii and other agricultural scientists have been working aggressively to identify the defensive chemicals. Some of the researchers look to cultivate plant varieties that naturally keep weeds at bay, while others are scouting for bodyguards that will protect a high-valued crop from nutrient- and light-robbing bullies.
Seismic tests off the coast of Vancouver have been defunded by the Canadian government:
Environmental groups praised the decision, saying the loud seismic blasting planned by Canadian and U.S. scientists, using massive air guns, had posed an unacceptable risk to animals living in or migrating through the testing area.
Pruned has some astonishing photos of the giant crystal caves of Naica. Go thou and seek 'em out.

Andy Lomas’s Images of Aggregation are formed by computer-generated accretion.
Influenced by the work of D'Arcy Thompson, Alan Turing and Ernst Haeckel, they study how intricate forms of plant and coral like structures can be created by digital simulation of flow and deposition.
It's worth a look.

Recent finds at Coudal include a wonderful historical photoblog called Shorpy - whence came the beautiful snow scene at the top of this post - and The Silent The Complete, which surveys “modern ruins in Finland.”

I'm also enraptured with WikiSky, “an annotated map of outer space.”

Meanwhile, Moon River alerts us to Shawn Lani’s Landfall, Szymon Szczesniak’s amazing views of Egypt, and Guillermo Kuitca's Anselm Kieferesque map-on-mattress.

Last, a few leftover links, offered without comment:

Cookery Books in Special Collections.

African-Americans in the WPA Collection.

Archival Artifacts: A Series of Mini Exhibits Based on Curious Items.

John Barleycorn Must Die: The War Against Drink in Arkansas.

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