Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

The House has passed a bill that would drive a stake through the black heart of the General Mining Law:

A measure that would amend the General Mining Law of 1872 to establish environmental protections and eliminate land patenting passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo, voted with the 244-166 majority and hailed the legislation for its environmental protections and reclamation requirements on hard-rock mining.
The act would prevent the sale of federal lands to miners, and force them to pay royalties on gross income from mining, which would go to a clean-up fund. (Bush claims he'll veto it, of course.)

Congress also seems to be willing to fund Amtrak:
The Senate passed legislation boosting Amtrak funding, as passenger rail is seen as part of the solution for global warming, traffic congestion and high oil prices....The bill changes the Amtrak debate by setting a goal for the passenger railroad to improve train service rather than to achieve financial self-sufficiency.
A garbage-burning stove could simultaneously reduce pollution in Kenya, and save its trees:
Through trial and error, the developers of the oven used technology that can produce temperatures of up to 930 degrees F., enough to burn many of the hazardous pollutants.

It uses a superheated steel plate inside the incinerator box to vaporize drops of water. The oxygen released then helps burn discarded "sump" oil from vehicles – itself a pollutant in the slums – driving temperatures higher.
A Chinese man claims to have invented a battery-recycling machine:
His machine distills the mercury from the batteries, then separates out the zinc, iron, and manganese for reuse. “Even if the batteries don’t pollute the environment, used batteries should still be recycled for the purpose of reusing resources,” said Wang.

He predicts it would cost roughly 2.5 million RMB (roughly US$350,000) to manufacture his machine on a larger scale.
In the wake of Uganda's ban on plastic bags, citizens are collecting discarded bags and making useful things out of them:
[L]ocal and international NGOs are helping Ugandans in a suburb of the capital city of Kampala to collect plastic bags and turn them into items like baskets, handbags, shoes and roofing tiles. The material would otherwise be left to clog drainage systems, contributing to flooding, or hurt livestock who eat and digest them.

In related news, DIY Life explains how to knit using plastic bags as yarn (link via Red State Green).

In other recycling news, Treehugger reports on a new line of designer clothing made from rejected Goodwill donations, and a UK retailer's attempt to recover "over-loved" sex toys. And Bill McKibben discusses waste-heat recovery:
A few years ago, a predecessor energy-recycling company installed this kind of equipment on the smokestacks of the plant's coke ovens. In 2004, this single steel plant generated roughly the same amount of clean energy as was produced by all of the grid-connected solar collectors throughout the world. Casten's company estimates that recycling waste heat from factories alone could produce 14 percent of the electric power the U.S. now uses. If you took much the same approach to electric generating stations you could, says Casten, conceivably produce the same amount of energy we use now with half the fossil fuel.
ENN has an interesting article on the economics of alternative energy in the Caribbean, which has some of the highest energy prices in the world:
In the Caribbean, PV solar systems are already getting close to the cost of generating electricity from fossil sources because of the intense sunshine and high cost of diesel, Once the production cost of PV solar systems further decreases, they will create savings for their owners. This will likely induce a massive breakthrough.

An even more rewarding source of solar energy in the Caribbean are solar water heaters. They produce abundant hot water and the installed cost can be as low as $800 for a 50 gallon system. In many cases they pay for themselves in two to three years, yet they are far from popular.
In New Delhi, meanwhile, "solar water heating systems are now mandatory for all hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, and commercial buildings."
Each 1,000 residential systems (of 100 L per day capacity) is expected to reduce peak electricity demand by 1 MW, a significant figure for a city whose energy demand is constantly increasing. When all city hospitals and hotels install solar water heating systems, the Power Department expects to reduce demand by 200 MW!
With that in mind, have a look at this.

IBM claims to have found a way to turn semiconductor wafers into solar panels:
The new process uses a specialized pattern removal technique to repurpose scrap semiconductor wafers -- thin discs of silicon material used to imprint patterns that make finished semiconductor chips for computers, mobile phones, video games, and other consumer electronics -- to a form used to manufacture silicon-based solar panels.
American cities are increasingly willing to consider dimming their lights overnight:
The International Dark-Sky Association in Tucson, which promotes better outdoor lighting, is intent on making the Milky Way visible to more people across the USA. It's starting to work.

Cities like Hilton Head Island, S.C.; Harmony, Fla.; and Jackson, Wyo., could soon become dark enough to join Flagstaff, Ariz., as the only dark-sky cities, says David Crawford, co-founder of the association.
The Deccan Herald reaffirms the efficacy of low-tech arsenic filters:
In recent years, about half a million villagers like Majeda have escaped the curse of arsenic-tainted water by using the sono filter.

"I don't know anyone who is using this filter who is still living with arsenic," said Abul Hussam, the inventor of the technology, speaking to AFP by telephone from his home in the eastern US state of Maine.
There's reportedly been a breakthrough in treating the fungal infection responsible for the worldwide die-off of amphibians:
Chloramphenicol, currently used as an eye ointment for humans, may be a lifesaver for the amphibians, they say.

The researchers found frogs bathed in the solution became resistant to the killer disease, chytridiomycosis.
Scientists are recording manatee sounds in hopes of preventing them from being killed and injured by boats:
“We will have a detailed picture,” said Athena Rycyk, a doctoral student at Florida State University working with Nowacek. “We will be able to ask questions like, what does a 20-foot boat traveling 200 meters from a manatee swimming in six feet of water sound like? This can help us determine what, if any, acoustical cues manatees do or do not react to.”
You can listen by clicking here.

Researchers have been trying to figure out whether African villagers could use bee sounds to protect their crops from elephants:
The Oxford team set up concealed loudspeakers in trees where elephants regularly came to find shade.

While the animals rested, researchers played either buzzing sounds recorded at beehives, or a control sound of white noise. The buzzing clearly had the animals concerned. Ninety-four percent of the elephant families left the tree within 80 seconds of hearing bee sounds, nearly half of the time at a run.
This makes me curious about how long, in an era of extinctions, such cues would remain effective after the disappearance of a given animal. But that's a rumination for another, less festive day. Getting back to the story, the fact that elephants would soon become accustomed to the buzzing has led to discussion of beehive fences:
[T]he passage of a hungry elephant would trigger bees to start flying and buzzing, giving the animal cause to turn and not come back.

One experimental set-up involves suspending a chain of hives from stanchions, linked together by wires which would be disturbed by an elephant's leg.
I'm pleased to announce that the world's hottest chile pepper has been discovered:
In replicated tests of Scoville heat units (SHUs), Bhut Jolokia reached one million SHUs, almost double the SHUs of Red Savina, which measured a mere 577,000.
One faction of the Klan is protesting another:
Ken Mier, who described himself as an investigator for the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and the national office of the Ku Klux Klan LLC, said in an e-mail to The Cullman Times that his group is against the tactics of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which held an anti-immigration protest last month in Athens.

"We are opposed to the ignorance and stupidity as displayed by the individuals that thumbed their nose at the area churches by continuing to use racial slurs, threats and avoided Christian deportment," he said.
Or, as the Klansmen on Reno 9/11 would say, "We're not burning a's a T, for 'tolerance'!"

Bruce Schneier alerts me to a fascinating paper on architecture and paranoia:
(In)Security questions the ideas of freedom, security, fear and complacency within the United States, and challenges our nation’s current philosophy that security = freedom. The project’s aim is to invent a new barricade vocabulary that can be applied to each of the existing security checkpoints, creating viable security alternatives while simultaneously maintaining their visibility, and prodding people to ask themselves just how much of their personal freedom they are willing to relinquish in order to assuage their fears.

Four security barricades were conceived. By creating thresholds into and throughout the district, (In)Security sets the tone for the experiences within this walled city. During the design process, archaic and contemporary methods of fortification were researched. Each barricade is an investigation of both fortification and subversion; designing for the defense of each checkpoint, while simultaneously attempting to undermine it's perceived raison d'ĂȘtre through a means of confrontation, provocation, or absurdism.
Here's a description of one such barricade:
A set of five, staggered, steel prongs reaches upward out of a ridged cor-ten plate, meeting pedestrians at face level. The tectonic hybrid of tire spikes and medieval Abbatis castle fortifications, their precise arcs allow for only shallow intrusion into existing street infrastructure. As a vehicle approaches, the prongs retract. A slow, mechanical clanking of a single gear alerts those nearby that the gate is opening. The prongs in turn emerge from the opposite side acting as a lock system, restraining the vehicle for inspection. After the vehicle is cleared for entry, the prongs then retract in the opposite direction allowing, the vehicle access, and resetting themselves to their initial positioning.
A nice idea, I think.

Smart Mobs suggests that you click here to test your vocabulary and provide rice to needy countries. Make of this what you will.

An important pre-Columbian site has been discovered in Puerto Rico:
The archaeologists believe the site in southern Puerto Rico may have belonged to the Taino or pre-Taino people that inhabited the island before European colonization, although other tribes are a possibility. It contains stones etched with ancient petroglyphs that form a large plaza measuring some 130 feet by 160 feet, which could have been used for ball games or ceremonial rites....

The petroglyphs include the carving of a human figure with masculine features and frog legs.
In other archaeological news: vampirism in New England.
"When the grave was opened, JB's skull and thigh bones were found in a skull and crossbones pattern on top of his ribs and vertebrae, which was also rearranged."
I was completely floored, this week, by Brian Dettmer's Book Autopsies, whence comes the photo at top. And Luminous Lint has a marvelous exhibition of the photographs of Homer Sykes, which depict traditional British customs like the Haxey Hood Game:

You'll find plenty of interesting photos and other aesthetic flotsam at Dirty Beloved (via Things). And at Micscape, Richard Howey explores the "crystalline labyrinths" of Vitamin C:

At parenthetically, Angela waxes enthusiastic over color charts. Apropos of which, color mapping "reveals neurons of the CA1 area and their dendrites" in the brain of a mouse.

Also: 1960's Polaroid Pictures of Signs, a flickr set by Roadsidepictures. Photos by migrant workers at The Photo Essay. An amazing collection of Victorian ephemera at The Trade Card Place. Antique audio at Phonozoic. And 24 paintings by Sidney Nolan (including the instructive "Tarred and Feathered," 1946).


Anonymous said...

Phila, bless you for doing this. We all need hope- now, more than ever.

My personal hope is that there will be justice in my lifetime for Little Boots, Big Dick, Rummy et al - and there are several of them (Scooter, Addington, Cunti, Alberto...on an on and on).

But, in the meantime, your offerings are good for our hearts.

Thank you.


chris said...

This intrigues me.
The well-to-do (at least by my standards) are building green.
This particular house has a budget of 250,000. There's a link to a half million dollar desert palace.
Hope springs, etc.
Thanks, Phila.