Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

New Hampshire is the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage:

"Today, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities — and respect — under New Hampshire law," Lynch said.
Nevada has legalized domestic partnerships:
The Nevada Assembly voted 28-14 to override Gov. Jim Gibbons' veto of a bill establishing a domestic partnership law in the state.

The vote, coupled with the state Senate's 14-7 override during the weekend, means the bill becomes effective Oct. 1....
Eric Holder has restored the right of immigrants to effective legal counsel:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. yesterday overturned a Bush administration ruling in January that immigrants do not have a constitutional right to effective legal counsel in deportation proceedings.

In vacating the decision his predecessor, Michael B. Mukasey, issued two weeks before President George W. Bush left office, Holder restored one of the most common grounds cited by immigrants for appealing removal orders: that their attorneys were incompetent.
In Boston, a group of citizens is going door to door to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency:
The effort is as much about building community as it is about improving energy efficiency: homeowner hosts provide their volunteers with a meal and even musical entertainment at an end-of-the-day celebration. In its 10-month existence, the group has organized 17 projects — everything from a private residence to a homeless shelter to a church — and HEET-like teams have sprung up in five other Boston-area towns
The port of Long Beach is providing shore power to tankers, which will allow them to turn off their engines while loading and unloading cargo:
Shore power, also known as “cold-ironing,” allows a specially equipped vessel to plug in at berth. The vessel can then draw power for its pumps, communications, ventilation, lighting and other needs from Southern California Edison, instead of its own diesel engines.

Providing shore power to an off-loading oil tanker is the pollution-reducing equivalent of removing 187,000 cars from the road for a day. In a year, shore power will eliminate more than 30 tons of pollution.
The country's largest solar array will be built in Austin, TX:
The array will be owned by San Francisco-based company Gemini Solar Development, which will lease the plant to Austin Energy. 30 megawatts is the amount of power that will be produced by the United States’ largest solar array - enough power for about 5,000 homes, and around double the output of the current largest solar array in the US. The array will be located in a 300 acre site at Webberville, which is owned by Austin Energy, the city’s electric company.
In related news, the largest urban array is planned for a brownfields site in Chicago:
Exelon is arguing for the importance of finding urban locations for renewable energy in order to provide electrical services in urban areas. The project is planning to lease and make use of a 39-acre brownfield owned by the City of Chicago at the West Pullman Industrial Redevelopment Area. This 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) facility, featuring 32,800 solar panels that will produce enough clean energy to fulfill the annual requirements of 1,200 to 1,500 homes, will displace approximately 31.2 million pounds of greenhouse emissions annually (the equivalent of taking more than 2,500 cars off the road or planting more than 3,200 acres of forest).
This is...odd:
Mother Nature has a previously unknown cleaning agent that scrubs away toxic air pollution, scientists have discovered.

What's more, the existence of the still mysterious substance has shaken up decades-long assumptions about our atmosphere's self-cleaning process.
China claims it will tax polluters:
“Collecting environmental taxes from (polluting) companies is one of the directions of China’s tax system reform,” Zhang Lijun, deputy head of the Environmental Protection Ministry, told reporters.

“Several departments are currently working together to develop research on this issue, and when the conditions are right we will launch an environmental taxation system for polluting companies.”
In the US, meanwhile, the Mercury Pollution Reduction act is closer to passing:
On Wednesday, the Mercury Pollution Reduction Act (HR 2190) passed a subcommittee vote that allows it to now be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce committee. The majority of bills die, unsung, in subcommittees. Now the act, which would phase out mercury pollution from chlorine plants within two years of its passage, has a very good fighting chance at becoming law.

In the process, two amendments that would have seriously crippled this important bill were defeated. Olin Corporation, which owns two mercury-polluting plants, fought to have the deadline for mercury phaseout pushed back to 2020. Another amendment would have allowed companies to continue exporting mercury until 2013, when a ban goes into effect, essentially creating a “fire sale” on mercury.
AfriGadget reports on an interesting method of water harvesting:
A unique water harvesting method has been devised in the drought ridden crater of Mt. Suswa, which is dotted with continuously puffing scorching steam vents.

Taking advantage of the steam vents that dot this landscape, local Masai have ingeniously tapped the vents for steam that is condensed on long plastic pipes that drip continuously into drums. The local Masai claim that these vents can fill half a drum (approx 30 lt) per hour (though it seemed very unlikely to us). The water is sweet and apparently it feeds a community of several hundred people and their cattle with fresh and clean water.
The UK is once again graced by beavers:
More than 400 years after they are believed to have been eliminated from the British Isles, beavers have returned to the UK....

Beaver families were captured in Norway last year and quarantined for six months at a centre in Devon. The beaver families were then driven up to Knapdale Forest in Mid-Argyll, Scotland, and introduced into purpose built lodges.

Reportedly, the lodges were constructed of straw and willow, and filled with carrots and turnips. This allowed the beavers to gnaw through and enter the wild at their own pace.
A new antimicrobial agent is allegedly effective against the vaccinia virus, and also strengthens the immune system:
CSA-13 demonstrated effectiveness against vaccinia in three different tests. When CSA-13 and vaccinia virus were directly incubated together, the CSA-13 killed more than 96% of the virus at a 25 micromolar concentration. When CSA-13 was added to cells infected with vaccinia, it both reduced vaccinia virus gene expression and allowed more of the infected cells to survive....

Within their experiments, the researchers found that, in addition to directly killing the virus, CSA-13 also stimulated cells to produce their own antimicrobial proteins, LL-37 and HBD-3. Dr. Howell and colleagues have previously shown that these antimicrobial proteins also exhibit antiviral activity against vaccinia virus.
New research suggests that higher population density promotes innovation and the retention of skills:
Dr Mark Thomas, UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment, says: "When we think of how we came to be the sophisticated creatures we are, we often imagine some sudden critical change, a bit like when the black monolith appears in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In reality, there is no evidence of a big change in our biological makeup when we started behaving in an intelligent way. Our model can explain this even if our mental capacities are the same today as they were when we first originated as a species some 200,000 years ago.

"Ironically, our finding that successful innovation depends less on how smart you are than how connected you are seems as relevant today as it was 90,000 years ago."
Two very early recordings have been unearthed:
Inscribed on soot-blackened paper, the muffled sounds from more than 150 years ago play back like the “wa wa” of an unseen teacher in the Peanuts cartoons. It would be impossible to know that someone was playing the coronet and guitar, although other fragments, from a dramatic speech from Shakespeare’s Othello, might be discerned if you knew the lines by heart in French.

Yet these sound bites and other snippets, unveiled May 29 by historians at the annual meeting of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, are the earliest known recordings. A bunch of wavy lines scratched by a stylus onto fragile paper that had been blackened by smoke from an oil lamp date from 1857. That’s 20 years before Edison invented the phonograph.
You can listen to them here and here.

Undone needlework. More abandoned motels. The Soviet exploration of Venus (I may have linked to this before). The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines (via Coudal). And via things, a heart-quickening gallery of hypnotism ephemera, with an emphasis on the carnivalesque:

Atlas Obscura, yet another digital wunderkammer. The World of 100. Natural quasicrystals. Survey of exhaust pipe structures and kiddie rides. An introduction to Banded Agates, Sonic Hydrodynamics & the BZ Reaction. The crest considered. And, via Dark Roasted Blend, a church half-buried in lava.

Photos by Fred Herzog (via wood s lot). The visualization of randomness, courtesy of Random Walk. The first x-ray film. Ghastly 1950s ads for canned foods. Notes on polarization. And Postcards from Paradise.

Last but not least, here's the strangest cartoon I've seen in quite some time.

(Image at top: "The edge of the Andes Mountains is seen flanked by extensive alluvial fans that form relatively flat surfaces. Straight lines and geometric designs (left center) are the archeologic "Nazca lines" of prehistoric origin." Via GSFC.)


Jazzbumpa said...

Hydroxyl radicals are not mysterious. In fact, they're basic. Also, they don't just float around free-form, like CDS hydrophilic acrobats. Something is missing from that link - like a fundamental knowledge of Chemistry on the part of MS Dell'Amore. Radicals - at least those of the chemical variety, have half-lives measured in micro-seconds, so the whole article is a bit of a mystery to me.

OTOH, I am very fond of beavers.

It took me a couple of tries to get this marriage thing right, so I think everyone who wants to ought to be given a shot at it.

Phila said...

Radicals - at least those of the chemical variety, have half-lives measured in micro-seconds, so the whole article is a bit of a mystery to me.

Yeah, I had no idea what they were trying to say either. There is, as you say, something missing.

chris said...

Fiendishly clever, the Chinese.
I got lost in the Atlas obscura for a while and found this:
Which made me laugh.
Thank you.

grouchomarxist said...

If you're interested in seeing what the church at San Juan Parangaricutiro looked like only a decade after the eruption, you should check out Henry Hathaway's psychological Western Garden of Evil sometime. (Not that there aren't plenty of other good reasons to watch it, like a dynamite performance by Susan Hayward, or that it's graced with the only score Bernard Herrman ever wrote for a full-length Western.)

Anyway, back then, when the lava rock was fairly pristine and not yet extensively colonized by plants, it looked as though something just picked up that old cathedral and plopped it down in a half-congealed lunar landscape.

Then or now, though, it's still a striking image. Thanks for bringing it to us.