Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

Rigorous new research concludes that Republican administrations lead to a preponderance of zombie films, while Democratic administrations correspond with outbreaks of fictional (?) vampirism:

“Democrats, who want to redistribute wealth to 'Main Street,' fear the Wall Street vampires who bleed the nation dry,” Newitz argued, noting that Dracula and his ilk arose from the aristocracy. “Republicans fear a revolt of the poor and disenfranchised, dressed in rags and coming to the White House to eat their brains.”

Or perhaps the bloodsuckers' latest incarnation, as less-threatening undead citizens, reflects a more inclusive politics. “Suddenly,” said Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, “the vampires have become people just like us.”
This is basically a dumbed-down version of Franco Moretti's theory that Frankenstein and Dracula were parables of labor relations that represented the fears of the upper classes and the lower classes, respectively.

At any rate, Obama's appointment of the appalling Ken Salazar to the Interior Department can be seen as a harbinger of this New World Order: since vampires are obliged to follow certain regulations, they menace us up to fifty percent less than zombies. It's morning in America! Or dusk, depending on how you want to look at it.

As long as we're trading in metaphor, we might as well pause to admire this rain-powered umbrella:
[T]he Lightdrops umbrella is constructed from a new type of fabric that harvests kinetic energy. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology revealed just such a microfiber nanogenerator fabric earlier this year this year that when made into a garment like a shirt, “could harness power from its wearer simply walking around or even from a slight breeze…” Unfortunately, the zinc oxide coating in that fabric degrades when wet. Now designer Sang-Kyun Park is reported to be using a similar experimental material known as PDVF.

“As water pours over the surface, potential energy from raindrops slamming onto the conductive membrane called PDVF transforms into electrical energy powering embedded LEDs sending your umbrella ablaze with light,” Yanko Design reports. “The heavier the rain, the brighter the light to help you see your way.”
Ireland's SeaGen turbine is operating at full capacity:
[T]he turbine is now operating at its full capacity of 1.2 MW—the most power produced by a tidal turbine anywhere in the world to date....SeaGen will now move on to operating for up to 22 hours per day, with regular maintenance and further testing being carried out.

The next project to employ SeaGen is a 10.5 MW project off the coast of Anglesey, Wales which should come online in 2011 or 2012.
California has pledged to enact tough new greenhouse gas standards:
The plan commits the state to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 596 million metric tons (business-as-usual) to 427 million metric tons in 2020, or 30% from what would otherwise occur. This is a big deal!

California’s plan did not occur in the dark of night (like some environmental rulemakings we know). A two-year planning process included 250 public hearings and 42,000 written comments from stakeholders representing business, environmental groups, and community activists. The result is a 142-page document that lays out specific targets for cutting carbon in all major sectors of the California economy. Improvements in energy efficiency, fuel standards, and electricity from renewable sources will produce most of the emission reductions.
An Army veteran has been arrested for standing in the way of the border fence:
A 55-year-old Army veteran hunkered down in front of construction crews who were building the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday, halting work for about eight hours before she was arrested.

Judy Ackerman, one of about a dozen people at a peaceful protest east of El Paso on Wednesday, was handcuffed by Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers after several hours of figuring out which authority was responsible for removing her....

"They have this wonderful park here, and the wall is messing it up," said Ackerman, who said she's never been arrested before. "This is life. The river is life. But not the wall; the wall is death."
A new analysis technique may help to prevent illegal logging by tracing the origin of timber:
A researcher is using carbon and oxygen isotopes to track the origin of timber as part of a worldwide effort to develop methods to combat illegal logging.

Dr. Akira Kagawa, a wood scientist with the Forestry & Forest Products Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan, has developed a technique that compares the ratio of various isotopes in tree rings to pinpoint the geographic origin of timber from temperate climates....Kagawa says the new technique is more precise, but notes that it doesn't yet work for tracking tropical timber that lack tree rings. Tropical timber is important because it is the dominant type of wood in the $10-billion-per-year illegal timber trade He says that improving current isotope analysis technique, sampling other isotopes or combining the technique with others used for determining the origin of wood (including DNA and chemical extracts) may hold the key for tropical timber.
Deep-sea coral reefs have been discovered off the coast of Florida:
At depths of nearly 1,300 feet (400 meters), the recently discovered reefs are home to hundreds, if not thousands, of species, according to scientists.

"Just imagine a 200-foot (61-meter) tall eerily white reef looming off the flat, muddy bottom," said John Reed, a senior researcher at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, who led the expedition.

Reed's team, from the Waitt Institute for Discovery, used high-frequency sonar attached to an unusual unmanned submersible—a relatively new technology—to map the ocean floor.

In related news, more than 1,000 new species were found in the Greater Mekong over the last decade:
The findings include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. The report further estimated that thousands of new invertebrate species were also discovered in the 1997-2007 period.

"It doesn't get any better than this," said Stuart Chapman, Director of WWF's Greater Mekong Program. "We thought discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books. This reaffirms the Greater Mekong's place on the world map of conservation priorities."

A strange frog has turned up in Cambodia:
Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of frog in Cambodia. The amphibian is unusual in that is has green blood and turquoise-colored bones, a result of its transparent skin and a pigment that may make the species unpalatable to predators, according to Fauna & Flora International (FFI).

The Samkos bush frog (Chiromantis samkosensis) was discovered along with three other undescribed species of frog — the Cardamom bush frog (Philautus cardamonus), Smith's frog (Rana faber), and the Aural horned frog (Megophrys auralensis) — during surveys of the Cardamom Mountains, a remote range in Cambodia. The research turned up more than 40 amphibian species not previously known to occur in Cambodia.
The Center for Biological Diversity offers ringtones of the calls of endangered species:
[T]he Center is adding the calls of six endangered bird species to the site: Gunnison’s sage grouse, Bell’s vireo, Mexican spotted owl, northern goshawk, peregrine falcon, and tricolored blackbird. The new flock of ringtones also includes an entirely flightless but equally charismatic species: an elephant seal pup. In addition to the newcomers, animals ranging from the pocket-sized American pika to the 40-ton humpback whale are already making their voices heard on the Web site.

The ringtones, which can be downloaded for free, are intended to draw attention to the plight of endangered species while providing a natural alternative to the typical electronic jangle.
You can get them here.

You may recall last year's give-one-get-one promotion for XO laptops. They're doing it again this year, so do what you know you must.
The XO (which features a brilliant fold-flat design) is the only product sold by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), which was founded in 2005 in an effort, “to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each and every one with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning.”
A Finnish company has built a better elevator:
“Buildings account for approximately 40% of the world’s energy needs and elevators can account for up to 10% of a building’s energy consumption,” says Jussi Oijala, SVP, KONE Technology. “Based on this, we see great potential to further reduce the impact of buildings on the environment by offering innovative and energy-efficient solutions to the market.”

KONE has been developing innovative solutions to improve the movement of people in buildings worldwide while decreasing its impact on the environment. Since its commercial launch in 1996, the KONE EcoDisc® hoisting machine has cumulatively saved the electricity production equivalent of a typical power plant. This figure represents avoiding the consumption of 2,000,000 barrels of oil, or the emissions of 100,000 cars driving the earth’s circumference.
A new paper attempts to quantify the benefits of LED lighting:
Innovations in photonics and solid state lighting will lead to trillions of dollars in cost savings, along with a massive reduction in the amount of energy required to light homes and businesses around the globe, the researchers forecast.

A new generation of lighting devices based on light-emitting diodes (LEDs) will supplant the common light bulb in coming years, the paper suggests. In addition to the environmental and cost benefits of LEDs, the technology is expected to enable a wide range of advances in areas as diverse as healthcare, transportation systems, digital displays, and computer networking.
Houston is already switching its traffic signal lights to LEDs.
Houston is poised to become one of a handful of U.S. cities to replace the light bulbs at all 2,381 of its traffic stops with energy-efficient bulbs that could save more than $4 million a year in electricity costs.
Here's the part that's really interesting:
Under state law, local governments can secure contracts without bidding if they involve energy savings measures.
Something further may follow of this masquerade.

Speaking of lighting, this is pretty interesting:
Duke University and United States Army scientists have found that a cheap and nontoxic sunburn and diaper rash preventative can be made to produce brilliant light best suited to the human eye.

Duke adjunct physics professor Henry Everitt, chemistry professor Jie Liu and their graduate student John Foreman have discovered that adding sulfur to ultra-fine powders of commonplace zinc oxide at about 1,000 degrees centigrade allows the preparation to convert invisible ultraviolet light into a remarkably bright and natural form of white light.

They are now probing the solid state chemistry and physics of various combinations of those ingredients to deduce an optimal design for a new kind of illumination. Everitt and Liu have applied for a patent on using the preparations as a light source. "Our target would be to help make solid state lighting with better characteristics than current fluorescent ones," said Everitt, who also works with Foreman at the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.
New York City is reducing its rat infestations via geomapping:
Every garbage can without a lid, every window screen that had been nudged aside just enough to let a rat slip by, grease marks from rat hair along a concrete wall — it all gets noted and pinpointed on the map. "We train our inspectors to see what everyone overlooks," says Corrigan, echoing Sherlock Holmes. "This is a living laboratory. There's probably 100 variations in rat colonies in New York as to how they behave."
Time to wrap things up. Deteriorating Field Recordings: A Photo Slideshow. An astronomical perspective on passage graves., "the comprehensive source for photographs of U.S. nuclear weapons systems." The anti-fascist art of Arthur Szyk. A collection of x-ray tubes. And suitcases from a state hospital attic.

Cylinder Recordings: A Primer. The music of fish and ants. Examples of The Modern Woodcut. Better yet, Ice: A Victorian Romance.

A survey of speculative lunar travel. An imperial palimpsest. Art Deco California (I'm now officially homesick). The life and times of a Victorian microphotographer.

And as tradition dictates, here's a movie for you.

(Image at top: "Robe Street, St Kilda, 1945" by Sidney Nolan.)

1 comment:

chris said...

Happy Hogswatch, phila!
Watched The Hogfather last night and just came across this: