Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

Off-road vandals have once again failed in their attempt to turn Death Valley's Surprise Canyon into a ORV racetrack:

The Interior Board of Land Appeals has denied yet another attempt by extreme off-road vehicle enthusiasts to gain access to Surprise Canyon, a rare, fragile desert stream in Death Valley National Park. This is the third failed attempt in the past two years by off-roaders to gain motorized access to the creek, which begins in Death Valley National Park and flows through an area of critical environmental concern managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

In the decision released last week, the Board, an agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior, found that the Bureau had properly rejected the application for vehicle use in Surprise Canyon because the applicants didn’t provide details of the proposed access, including measures to protect the environment. The applicants, a group of ORV advocates, purchased fractional interests in a small property within Death Valley National Park for the purpose of gaining motorized access to Surprise Canyon.
It seems to me that the terrain on Phobos would be ideal for off-roaders. I'd definitely support research into a catapult large enough to fling them there.

Revere reports on a promising new refrigerant:
The material, called HCR-188c, is a hydrocarbon blend of common materials (among them ethane, propane, isobutene, normal butane) that have no ozone depleting potential and very little in the way of greenhouse gas type of heat trapping. Even better, appliances require only a quarter the amount as current refrigerants (hydrochlorofluorocarbons, HCFCs, and hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs), costs 20 cents per charge compared to 62 cents, and draw one third less power.
Read the whole thing.

A new cellphone prototype can allegedly monitor water quality:
In the lab of UCLA electrical engineering professor Aydogan Ozcan, a prototype cell phone has been constructed that is capable of monitoring the condition of HIV and malaria patients, as well as testing water quality in undeveloped areas or disaster sites. The innovative imaging technology was invented by Ozcan, a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, and has been miniaturized by researchers in his lab to the point that it can fit in standard cell phones.
WorldChanging has more.

Canada is home to the first solar-powered community in North America.
The system that links the community together is ingenious. It stores the summer months’ excess energy underground for it to be put to use in the extremely cold winter months that Alberta is notorious for. A total of 800 solar panels located on garage roofs throughout the community generate 1.5 megawatts of thermal power during a typical summer day, the project’s organizers say.
Patriotism obliges us to buy plenty of carbon offset offsets in order to humble the pride of these preening foreign zealots.

Speaking of which, you'll be glad to know that after years of griping about the EPA's tyrannical limits on arsenic in drinking water, I've decided to do something about it.

This site will soon be offering small packets of sodium arsenate that you can add to your drinking water in the impregnable privacy of your own home. Like all household pesticides, it's not only harmless but also good for you, according to the scientifically ironclad Arndt-Schulz rule.

And of course, the thought of sticking it to those finger-wagging liberals will make your arsenic-fortified beverages that much more refreshing! The price is $30 an ounce; that's all it costs to make your very own Freedom Water, and prove to the environmental wackos that they're not the boss of you! Watch this space for further details.

Be it known: Germany is building passive houses.
There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace...even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann's new "passive house" and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer.
US anti-whaling activists have chased Japanese whalers out of Australian waters:
Australia has declared an 'economic exclusion zone', known by the letters "EEZ," in waters off the coast of its Antarctic territories, and an Australian court order bans whaling there.

Sea Shepherd has said it is enforcing that order by pursuing Japan's whaling fleet, which is in the area for an annual hunt to kill around 900 whales.
Argentina has created a new coastal marine park:
The park, which became official earlier this month, protects half a million penguins along with several species of rare seabirds and the region's only population of South American fur seals. It is the first protected area in Argentina specifically designed to safeguard not only onshore breeding colonies but also areas of ocean where wildlife feed at sea.
An old underwear factory in Georgia is being turned into a biomass plant:
The plant will produce energy from waste from the local forest industry for non-profit Green Power EMC, a Georgia-based group of utility companies that focus on renewable energy. The waste will be used in a conventional boiler leftover from the underwear factory, which will generate steam that will power a steam-turbine generator. The electricity generated will then be sold to customers of electricity co-ops.
A UK court has acknowledged that straight men and women can be victims of homophobia:
Britain’s Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court ruling that had said a man was not entitled to file a homophobic harassment case against his former employer because he is heterosexual.

Stephen English says he was forced to quit his job at an awning manufacturer because the company refused to stop workers from calling him a faggot and other gay slurs.
A proposal to uphold science standards in Texas schools sounds promising:
The final proposal for the state’s science curriculum pleases scientists and watch groups, who say it will help protect Texas public school classrooms over the next decade from what they call "watered-down science" — specifically during the instruction of evolution.

Much of the concern over earlier versions of the proposed curriculum centered on a requirement that students be able to analyze the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, a phrase which some say is being used by creationists — including some members of the State Board of Education — to subvert the teaching of evolution.
In other news, my pal tacitus voltaire has started a new blog called Jazz Incunabula. I heartily endorse this event and/or product. Apropos of which, The Bioscope informs me that every issue of The Gramophone since 1923 is now available online in a searchable archive. Also via The Bioscope, The Compleat Muybridge.

A time-lapse film of Davis Station, Antarctica taken on January 2, 2009. Vintage kerosene lanterns. And a survey of accidental maps: here's a puddle map in, and of, Australia.

Spiders and bats. Pinhole snapshots by Guillaume Zuili. A soundscape from Roti, Indonesia. And via Plep, The Gertrude and Robert Metcalf Collection of Images of Stained Glass.

And just 'cause I aims to please, here's a short movie for you.

(Illustration at top: "The FĂȘte" by Mary Newcomb, 1976.)


four legs good said...

The science curriculum thing is a sign of hope here. As for a catapult, I dunno, but the rocket fleet will be done sometime soon.

We can use that.

Anonymous said...

That new refrigerant has one problem: it's highly combustible, and if it sprouts a leak, I suspect it could spring forth a very powerful explosion.

One of the commenters on the thread points out that the inventor seems to have calculated an incorrect flash point (and the patent examiners didn't catch it).

We seem to be coming full circle in regard to refrigerants. IIRC, hydrocarbons were used as working fluids early in home refrigeration; they were replaced by ammonia, which is less combustible, but toxic; which was replaced by fluorocarbons, which were nontoxic and nonflammable but damage the ozone layer; which were replaced by chlorofluorocarbons, which were thought to damage the ozone layer less, but turned out to be not so much; and now we're back to hydrocarbons.

I look forward to the next great advance, to ammonia.

And hydrocarbons contribute to global warming in much greater degree than carbon dioxide; I'm not sure how they stack up against the chlorofluorocarbons, but I suspect their effect is similar.

At some point, we just have to take a deep breath and accept that what we're doing will entail some hazard. Or come up with another idea entirely: lessen the need for refrigeration, limit the amount of refrigeration available to individuals by law, or (bright idea!) find a better way to refrigerate. There are some ideas around, like sonic refrigeration.