Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

The House has passed a bill that reaffirms the illegality of waterboarding and other forms of torture.

The measure, approved by a largely party-line vote of 222 to 199, would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow Army rules adopted last year that explicitly forbid waterboarding. It also would require interrogators to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. The rules, required by Congress for all Defense Department personnel, also ban sexual humiliation, "mock" executions and the use of attack dogs, and prohibit the withholding of food and medical care.
A federal judge has upheld California's right to impose stricter auto standards:
California's first-in-the-nation effort to limit cars' emissions of gases that contribute to global warming took a big step forward Wednesday when a federal judge upheld the state's right to control air pollution and dismissed a challenge by the auto industry.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii of Fresno also was a victory for 16 other states whose laws or regulations on tailpipe emissions were modeled after California's 2002 statute. The 17 states represent nearly half the U.S. population, and their laws would effectively require automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, despite President Bush's rejection of mandatory national standards.
California has also strengthened its restrictions on the use of lead ammunition:
The Condor Preservation Act already requires hunters to use non-lead ammunition for hunting all big game (such as deer, elk, pigs, and bighorn sheep) and shooting coyotes within the condor range in central and southern California, beginning July 1, 2008. The Commission’s new regulations also prohibit lead ammunition for hunting non-game mammals and non-game birds in the condor range. They also prohibit the use of lead .22-caliber and smaller-rimfire cartridges for hunting non-game birds and mammals in the condor range, which had not been forbidden under the Condor Preservation Act.
Houston has won - sort of - its long battle to remove billboards from residential areas:
The City of Houston has come to an agreement with Clear Channel Advertising for the company to remove about 800 billboards from the city -- the result of a citywide plan to clean up the city's "visual clutter" that started more than 20 years ago.
A Japanese architect has come up with an interesting idea for suspended gardens:

I don't know how resilient these gardens are, but it's probably just as well that advances are being made in earthquake detection:
A California earthquake early warning system now being tested accurately predicted the ground shaking in San Francisco a few seconds before the city felt the Oct. 30, 2007, magnitude 5.4 quake near San Jose, according to a statewide team of seismologists.
A bamboo bridge in China can support 8-ton vehicles:
Made from pre-fabricated structural elements, the bridge was erected within a week by a team of eight workers without heavy construction equipment.
AIDG Blog has a post on the Majenn air rotor:
Helium sustains MARS and allows it to ascend to a higher altitude than traditional wind turbines. MARS captures the energy available in the 600 to 1000-foot low level and nocturnal jet streams that exist almost everywhere.
I blogged on this turbine almost exactly two years ago; unfortunately, it's hard to tell from the manufacturer's site whether it's any closer to being commercially available.

A new report claims that increasing broadband access could prevent the release of 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases. I'm a bit skeptical, but I reckon it's worth a look. And if all else fails, we still have the super-earths orbiting Gliese 581.

Thirteen cities have agreed to go dark for an hour on March 29. This brings up some scattered thoughts. I was in New York City during its massive blackout a few years back, and while my impressions may've been colored by my efforts to help a couple of bars on Amsterdam Avenue dispose of their dangerously underchilled beer, it all seemed delightful, from stargazing in Central Park to watching neighbors play Monopoly on their steps by candlelight. The city seemed like a completely different place.

This reminds me of Geoff Managh's observation that climate change is attractive to the extent that it promises us a transformed world, and makes me wonder whether scheduled blackouts, and other forms of privation, could become something people would actually look forward to and build new traditions around. (And that, in turn, reminds me of the little card William Hogarth dutifully saved from the Frost Fair of 1739, which was printed so that "Ages yet to come, May see what Things upon the Ice are done.”)

If I were arranging these blackouts, I'd send out roving gangs to organize impromptu astronomy lessons and magic lantern shows and neighborhood history lessons, and fill the financial districts with fireflies. Even if crisis is unavoidable, there's a lot to be said for rehearsing it as a carnival.

("Carnival Evening" by Henri Rousseau, 1886. Via Some Landscapes.)

Speaking of which, Pruned has a post on cemetery-dwelling in Manila. It's more thought-provoking than positive, perhaps, but it's fascinating reading all the same. And there's something cheering about this picture of a karaoke singer among the tombs:

This is one of the most interesting things I've read in a while:
Using an innovative surgical technique, researchers have rerouted major nerves to give amputees greater control of prosthetic arms — and unwittingly restored the sense of touch and temperature in their "phantom" limbs.

The surgery connects residual arm nerves to a nerve below the pectoral muscle in the chest. The new connection allows nerve growth into the skin of the chest. When certain spots on the chest are touched, the amputee "feels" the sensation in their missing hand.
Perhaps deconstruction really is justice:
Every year, cities across the country spend millions of dollars tearing down condemned houses and hauling away tons of debris to landfills. But progressive engineers and community activists have found a way to reverse that wasteful process. A demolition method called "deconstruction" uses human power instead of the wrecking ball to preserve and reuse everything from floor joists to the kitchen sink.
A desperately poor school in Malawi has a remarkable success rate:
There are 1,531 students, six classrooms, no running water and no light bulbs.

Yet Chiseka has the best academic record in its district by far. Last year all 40 students in the eighth grade passed their exams. And 30 did well enough to qualify for secondary school -- a significant achievement in a country where less than 30 percent of students finish primary school.
AIDG Blog reports on a Chinese school that's impressive for different reasons:

Children attend class at the Dongzhong (literally meaning “in cave”) primary school at a Miao village in Ziyun county, southwest China’s Guizhou province, November 14, 2007. The school is built in a huge, aircraft hangar-sized natural cave, carved out of a mountain over thousands of years by wind, water and seismic shifts.
I wonder if they take middle-aged exchange students?

An inventor at Cornell has apparently come up with a plastic that uses carbon dioxide as a feedstock:
The Cornell University spinoff’s technology centers on a catalyst that converts carbon dioxide into a polymer that could be used to make everyday items such as packaging, cups, and forks. The plastic, which was originally created by Cornell chemist Geoffrey Coates, is also safe and strong enough to be used in medical implants and devices.
Interesting, if true.

MAKE has compiled a list of books on "lost arts," from chainsaw carving to cabaret mechanics for automata. They also alerted me to this wonderful dual-use dinnerware.

The photo at the top is from a stunning collection of HDR photos by Maciej Duczynski (via Coudal). It's lovely in and of itself, but it also reminds me that tulips shall always grow.

Also via Coudal, Golden and Back by Bryan Schutmaat, which made me feel very nostalgic for the many strange mornings I've spent in cheap Southwestern motels.

The Alaska Highway Archives contain some terrific photos, and they've also come up with an odd in-browser game.

The best graphic I've seen this week comes - not surprisingly - from BibliOdyssey; it's a plate from Chemical Atlas or The Chemistry of Familiar Objects by Edward Livingston Youmans (1855).

You can click through BibliOdyssey to view the entire book.

China on Paper has its moments. As does this site on Thomas Telford, the Colossus of Roads.

Living Color is a nice exhibition of color plate books at the Library Company of Philadelphia. I'm particularly taken with the Mongooz:

Last, "A Colour Box" (1935) by Len Lye. (There's a bit of text to get through at the beginning, but don't let that scare you off.)


Anonymous said...

Wonderful as always Phila dear. The thoughts on the Voluntary Blackouts are particularly good. It's interesting to think that if done voluntarily, and have exemptions for the genuinely essential lights needed in cities (traffic signals in particular) it might cause a few to think that maybe the essentials are all we really need all the time.

And i know you prefer to stick to the scientific items of Hopiness, but I thought of you when the story of the Portland Peace Grannies Aquittal started going around. Maybe if you get hard up for material next week.

cheerx &c...xan

olvlzl said...

Friday Hope Blogging is one of the high points of the week.

And if all else fails, we still have the super-earths orbiting Gliese 581.

Imagine how many times you'll hear, "Are we there yet?"

Anonymous said...

My new favorite blog. Thanks.

Granny said...

What a great list.

I borrowed the link to the all purpose flatware for my blog. Thanks for the early morning smile.