Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

I'm not sure whether this is good news, a work of speculative fiction, or proof that the end times are nigh:

More than 100 largely Republican municipalities have passed laws to abolish the constitutional rights of corporations, inventing what some critics are calling a "radical" new kind of environmental activism. Led by the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, they are attempting to jumpstart a national movement, with Celdf chapters in at least 23 states actively promoting an agenda of "disobedient lawmaking."

"I understand that state law and federal law is supposed to pre-empt local laws, but federal law tells us we're supposed to have clean air and clean water," the mayor of Tamaqua, Pa., Christian Morrison, told The New York Sun.
As long as we're throwing paradigms out the window...the House has decided that taxpayers should have free access to the research they fund:
In what advocates hailed as a major advance for scientific communication, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved a measure directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide free public online access to agency-funded research findings within 12 months of their publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
There's talk of levying fines on fishing boats whose lines catch seabirds, turtles, and other unfortunate bystanders:
This dual approach, they say, would give fishermen financial incentives to find creative ways to avoid catching noncommercial species, known as by-catch, while providing funds to address more hazardous threats to seabirds and turtles.
Also, three men in Wales claim to have invented a device that transforms car exhaust into fuel:
They have developed a box which they say can be fixed underneath a car in place of the exhaust to trap the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming -- including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide -- and emit mostly water vapor.

The captured gases can be processed to create a biofuel using genetically modified algae.
It's hard not to be skeptical, but if SciAm can give it the benefit of the doubt, I can too. For now.

Florida has passed a law that allows victims of domestic violence to take time off without being fired:
"This law clearly is a step forward for victims of domestic violence," Jay Christiansen, the director of programs for the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples Florida, said. "It creates a framework for how businesses should respond to domestic violence, as well as providing Florida's nearly 120,000 annual victims of intimate partner abuse a few days of needed time to address the safety, legal and medical issues they face as they try to rebuild their lives free from abuse."
Riverside County, CA has ruled against developers who wished to put a golf course in the desert near Joshua Tree National Park:
Representatives from the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission stated that the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan could not move forward with Palmwood in place. This habitat plan — in development for more than 10 years — has been supported by local governments, public agencies, developers and environmentalists alike. It attempts to balance development and wildlife protection in one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States.

“This is a wonderful outcome for a difficult situation, and hopefully it will be sustained,” said Jeff Morgan from the Sierra Club. “Wildlife in the area will be fully protected under the Multi-Species Habitat Plan.”
A federal court has temporarily blocked Shell from drilling for oil in an Arctic whale-migration route.
The Court’s stay stops the drilling plan pending a hearing on the matter scheduled for August 14, 2007. “This is a much-needed respite for the delicate Arctic ecosystem. We are pleased the court is carefully considering the threats the drilling poses to Arctic wildlife and the people who rely upon that wildlife to sustain them,” said Deirdre McDonnell of Earthjustice, attorney for the groups.
Boulder, CO will offer incentives and penalties to prevent the construction of McMansions:
Homeowners willing to sign away their option to someday add additions to their houses would receive a one-time payment as well as lower yearly tax assessments on their homes. The forfeited enlargement rights would then be available for purchase through a specially established market. Residents planning to build or expand homes larger than the recommended thresholds — 7,000 square feet on the plains, 5,000 square feet in the mountains — would be required to purchase additional development rights at prices determined by the market, which might be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per property. has a nice story on Greensboro, NC's Southside revitalization project:
One of the major hurdles to making Southside a vibrant, walkable community was Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, which runs through the center of the neighborhood. The road’s high-speed, suburban geometries were effectively cutting the neighborhood in half, creating an undesirable “dead zone” at the center. Using traffic-calming measures—such as shortening the building setbacks along the road and including on-street parking—the plan reclaims this main street as a grand urban boulevard, with a distinctive, pedestrian-friendly streetscape design that sets Southside apart from the surrounding neighborhoods.
Starbucks has been forced to shut down its colonial outpost in Beijing's Forbidden City:
The controversy over Starbucks at Beijing's 587-year-old Forbidden City has highlighted Chinese sensitivity about cultural symbols and unease over an influx of foreign pop culture.
One commentator complained, "This is not globalization, but an erosion of Chinese culture." He's half right.

Korean scientists claim to have devised a plastic solar cell:
Existing solar cells that use silicon semiconductors cost US$2.30 to generate one watt of electricity, which is three to 10 times higher than the production cost of thermal or hydro power. The new plastic solar cell costs just ten cents per watt.
The NYT has an interesting article on solar thermal power. Nothing new and startling, but a good overview. What's even less shocking is how well solar power suits the bedouin lifestyle.
At the moment everything at the retreat, apart from the air conditioning and one water pump, operates on solar energy. The TV and satellite receiver, lights, computer, phone chargers and refrigerators all run on solar power.

"My main motivation is that I want some peace and quiet. The generator is very noisy, not to mention how much it pollutes the area," says Al Mansouri.
WorldChanging reports on an Israeli charity that allows you to text-message meals to hungry children. They also discuss an Indian company that aims to help homes and businesses achieve zero waste.

An anti-chlamydia vaccine could save the widely infected and declining koala population:
"We've been able to develop the vaccine for koalas as a result of our studies on the development of human chlamydial vaccines done in the mouse model. We have identified several novel vaccine proteins that we hope will protect koalas as well."
CKR alerts me to the sequencing of the mosquito species Aedes aegypti's genome, which will be very useful in fighting dengue fever, yellow fever, and the other diseases it spreads. She also sent me a link entitled Second Life Science; I was skeptical, but it's actually pretty fascinating, particularly when you think about possible applications for education and medicine in the developing world:
Just after lunch on June 12, 2007, I teleported to a place called Genome Island to listen to a seaside talk about making music from a protein's amino acid sequence....This was my first seminar in Second Life, the online world that functions like an Internet chat room placed in a 3-D video game....

Horace has been experimenting with Second Life as a way to teach undergraduate organic chemistry, a topic he says can definitely benefit from 3-D visualization. Several of his students have met on Drexel Island to challenge each other's organic know-how by touching an obelisk, which then flashes a sequence of quiz questions on Newman projections and Lewis dot structures.
I'll probably venture into Second Life eventually. God willing, I'll have a wooden computer by then.

Speaking of computers, a study suggests that leaving PCs on all night costs US businesses $1.7 billion annually.
Let's give those numbers some context: A midsize company with around 10,000 PCs wastes more than $165,000 per year in electricity costs for computers left on overnight, while contributing 1,381 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Giving those same computers a breather every night would have roughly the same effect as taking 2.58 million cars off the road, which is more than the number of autos zipping around the entire state of Maryland.
Of course, we need to weigh the potential savings here against the priceless gift of Freedom, and the fact that Al Gore ate Chilean sea bass the other night, like the appallingly fat man he is.

A new tumor paint may make it easier to distinguish between cancer cells and normal cells:
Current technology, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can distinguish tumors from healthy tissue only if more than 1 million cancer cells are present. But Cy5.5 can identify tumors with as few as 2000 cancer cells, making it 500 times more sensitive than MRI.
The photo at the top is from Accidental Mysteries, an absolutely incredible exhibition of anonymous photographs at Luminous Lint. Skip it at your peril!

You'll also want to ponder the inverted world, a map depicting earth's land as water, and vice versa, and Cincinnati's abandoned subway (both via Coudal.)

Also: The Virtual Gramophone: Canadian Historical Sound Recordings. A discussion of lunar litter and drowned villages at Things. Flickr's collection of cinema architecture.

Underwater Sounds Recorded in Glacier Bay, including the sly insinuating whisper of snowfall. An album of Field Recordings From Minnesota, available for free download courtesy of Wandering Ear. I also recommend Subterranean Salt Echoes, which was recorded "in the Salina Praid salt mine, located in rural Romania," and Winanga-li: Australian Soundscapes.

Last, sixty paintings by Arthur Dove.


Anonymous said...

There was a study done a little while ago that showed that a Second Life avatar, when you factor in power for the servers, monitors, etc., has a greater carbon footprint that an average citizen of Brazil.

Phila said...

There was a study done a little while ago that showed that a Second Life avatar, when you factor in power for the servers, monitors, etc., has a greater carbon footprint that an average citizen of Brazil.

Really? That's amazing. I'll have to try to track that down....

Sandy-LA 90034 said...


In case you haven't seen this one, here's another "Good News" website.

Sandy-LA 90034 said...

Let's see if I can get the link to work: (using Jeffraham's formula):