Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

An open-source device called the MultiMachine "can be used in developing countries as a way to create jobs and assist in the fields of agriculture, transportation, education and food preparation. The very making of the machine imparts the skills needed to use it."

If you're interested in building your own, click here.

Malaysia is making rainwater collection systems mandatory for buildings with large roofs:

Under the plan, the harvested water would be used for washing cars, flushing toilets, watering plants, while saving treated water for drinking, cooking and showering.

"It's a sheer waste for treated water to be used to wash cars or water plants," the New Straits Times quoted Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as saying. "When we use treated water for such chores our water bills increase and we are the ones who will lose out."
What queer customs they have in foreign lands!

Which reminds me: here's Bahrain's new World Trade Center, which sports "three 29 meter wind turbines, each supported by a 30-meter bridge spanning between the two towers":

Not to be outdone, Malawi has launched a fertilizer trees project, which will reduce small farmers' need for conventional fertilizers:
This restores nutrients and increases crop productivity — with potential to double or triple harvests. The trees can be interplanted with crops for 1-3 years before being cut and left to decompose, providing fuel and more fertiliser.
And Brazil is offering free Internet access to Amazon tribes:
The environment and communications ministers signed an agreement Thursday with the Forest People's Network to provide an Internet signal by satellite to 150 communities, including many reachable only by riverboat, allowing them to report illegal logging and ranching, request help and coordinate efforts to preserve the forest.
Speaking of which, Cargill has been forced to close an illegal soy export terminal in the Brazilian Amazon. And Peru has created an online biodiversity register:
The measure should ensure Peru's authority over its native genetic heritage, according to a press release from the National Institute for Natural Resources (INRENA), which will run the system.
There's hope for India's endangered Irrawaddy dolphin:
[F]ears of their imminent disappearance appear to have diminished after a 2007 survey showed 135 of the little-known species of short-beaked dolphins in Chilika.
Meanwhile, here in the good old US of A, the National Park Service has scrapped a daft plan to build an armored road on one of Florida's barrier islands:
[T]he road plan violated two NPS Management Policies; one directing that parks allow natural geologic processes to “proceed unimpeded” and another prohibiting placement of facilities in the path of natural hazards, except in emergency situations.
Burger King claims that it'll no longer buy from dairy and meat producers who cage their animals. In related news, a federal judge has ruled that the USDA must allow a Kansas meatpacker to test its cows for BSE:
The department threatened Creekstone with prosecution if it tested all its animals. U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled that the government does not have the authority to regulate the test.
San Francisco is the first US city to ban plastic bags. (If you don't bore easily, you can wade through my turgid analysis of this issue from a couple years back.)

A new form of "optical biopsy" reportedly allows for instant detection of precancerous tissue:
Wax and his former graduate student John Pyhtila reported in the March 2007 issue of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy that their fiber-optic device reliably differentiated between healthy and precancerous digestive tissue taken from the stomach and esophagus of three patients known to have a precancerous form of a condition called Barrett's esophagus. In less than a second, their fa/LCI-enhanced version of an endoscope, instruments used to visualize internal organs, provided the clinical information required for diagnosis.
In other medical news, simply reminding doctors of which antibiotics to prescribe can apparently reduce cases of hospital-acquired Clostridium difficile infections.
[U]se of a pocket-sized laminated card telling doctors which antibiotics to prescribe combined with feedback on antibiotics use and CDI rates led to a significant drop in prescriptions of broad-spectrum agents, and an accompanying fall in CD infections.
In the exciting world of vaporware, there's talk of a biofuel cell that "produces electricity from ordinary air spiked with small amounts of hydrogen."
The cell consists of two electrodes coated with the enzymes placed inside a container of ordinary air with 3 percent added hydrogen.

That is just below the 4 percent danger level at which hydrogen becomes an explosion hazard. The research established for the first time that it is possible to generate electricity from such low levels of hydrogen in air....
An interesting development, if true. But don't look for a commercial model any time soon.

There's also word of a fuel cell that runs on sugar:
Researchers at Saint Louis University in Missouri have developed a fuel cell battery that runs on virtually any sugar source — from soft drinks to tree sap — and has the potential to operate three to four times longer on a single charge than conventional lithium ion batteries, they say.
The photo at top is by Bill Atkinson, from his glorious series of gemstone photos (which I found through Coudal).

You'll find more fascinating photos at Eye of Science, and the historical image collection at the Smithsonian Science Service.

I also recommend Winter on Mars (via Plep), and the constellations at Agence Eureka:

Furthermore and notwithstanding: Henry Dixon's London. BibliOdyssey on the Theatrum Cometicum. A rare video of the great Syrian vocalist Asmahan. A pair of sketchbooks by the Czech artist Tavik Frantisek Simon. And the astonishing watercolors of Charles-Frédéric Soehnée.


Sandy-LA 90034 said...

Oh, wow! I've just had a sumptuous bouffet of images, music and sparkling jewels of ideas -- I'll be coming back for more Friday Hopeful blogging. I needed this, along with the delicious Madeleine at 4Legs Plush Life.

Thank you for a delightful foray into the outer reaches of your interests. It's like taking a tour of a foreign country to me and I've enjoyed the thoughts that occurred to me as I saw things new to my mind.

Phila said...

Thanks, Sandy! I sometimes worry that this feature strays a bit too far into those "outer reaches," so I'm glad you enjoy it.