Feb 28, 2011

Countdown to World Water Day (the water facts are astounding)

37 gallons of water to make a cup of coffee… 49 gallons of water to make a bag of chips… 400 gallons of water to grow cotton for a t-shirt. The hidden water used to produce the food we eat and the items we consume is incredible. Help us spread the word about these hidden water users through our 30 Days of H20 Campaign.
From Feb. 22 to March 22, The Nature Conservancy will be raising awareness of just how much water we really use in our daily lives through our 30 Days of H20 campaign, culminating in a celebration or World Water Day on March 22.
Tips for Week One
2/22: Unplug electronics. The average US home uses 4-5 gallons of water to generate power.
2/23: Eat healthy. It takes 49 gallons of H20 to make a bag of chips, but 18 to grow an apple.
2/24: Eat cereal. It takes 72 gallons of water to grow two eggs. 22 gallons for cereal w/milk.
2/25: A family of 4 can save 1,700 gallons of water per year by installing low-flow faucets.
2/26: One word: Plastics. It takes 24 gallons of water to make a pound off plastic.
2/27: Recycle! You can save about 3.5 gallons of water just by recycling a pound a paper.

Click Here to see daily information from The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Feb 25, 2011

Only in the Metro and Via the Interwebs :o)

The campaign to buy Detroit a Robocop statue, seemingly halted last week by Mayor Dave Bing’s lack of enthusiasm for the idea, has finally prevailed, thanks to modern society’s greatest force: the benevolence of Internet strangers.
Robocop’s supporters created a page on the fundraising site Kickstarter, with a goal of $50,000 dollars. They’ve now surpassed that amount, thanks in large part to a $25,000 contribution from businessman Pete Hottelet at Omni Consumer Products. Robocop fans may know OCP as the evil megacorporation from the films, but this OCP is real, and manufactures licensed versions of fictional products from entertainment, such as Tru Blood and Stay Puft Marshmallows.
According to the Kickstarter page, the 7-foot iron statue will be designed by Casey V. Westbrook.Imagination Station in Detroit has offered a piece of its property on Roosevelt Park to be Robocop’s new home, where he can look over Detroit for all time.


Feb 23, 2011

Just Keep The Elephants Away :o)

Engineers are always looking for ways to pare down the size of technologies, and apparently that penchant for miniaturization extends to bomb-sniffing canines as well. 

Israeli researchers are trading in their dogs for mice trained in explosive detection, using teams of tiny rodents to keep dangerous materials out of airports.

Researchers say the mice are more sensitive than dogs when it comes to nosing out explosive chemicals, and that tapping that sensitivity is more effective than X-rays and pat downs.

But the mice won't be patrolling the airport on leashes like their canine counterparts. Rather, a team of mice will be housed in a casing about the sized of a full-body scanner, one side of which will contain three concealed cartridges, each containing eight mice. Working in four-hour shifts, the mice simply mill about, sniffing the air that is pumped in from outside.

The mice are trained to respond to the chemical traces of explosives in the air as a threat, prompting them to flee into a side chamber as if eluding a predator. Doing so triggers an alarm. More the one mouse must flee into the side chamber to sound the alarm, cutting down on false positives.

It may sound a bit strange, but these tiny security sentinels have a record that squeaks for itself. The device was tested last year in a Tel Aviv mall containing 1,000 shoppers, 22 of which were carrying mock explosives. The mice went 22 for 22.

Feb 21, 2011

Science Scene - Papier Mache Milk Bottle

Since the average plastic bottle takes 500 years to decompose, more solutions to this rapidly growing landfill crisis are needed, quickly.

An English inventor has come up with a sturdy papier-mache bottle that can be recycled or composted. Local Suffolk dairies are trying it out and now Asda (Walmart) is putting it in some of their stores. So how does it work...

The GreenBottle is made out of papier-mache and has a plastic liner inside to keep the milk fresh. The paper outer shell is compostable and biodegradable. It will break down naturally when disposed of on a compost heap and can be recycled up to seven times. On the compost heap, it will only take a few weeks to decompose.

The inner liner is made of recycled plastic. It can be recycled along with other plastics in the weekly recycling collection. It takes up less than 0.5% of the space of a plastic bottle if dumped in a landfill.

The GreenBottle consumes a third of the energy used to make a plastic bottle and has a carbon footprint that is 48% lower than plastic.


Feb 18, 2011

Science Scene - Micro Wind?

Student with oscillator array

Designers are coming up with approaches that offer smaller scale power generation that do not require open fields, large swept areas, and powerful winds - things that large, spinning blade turbines need - to create electricity. One such project is the Vibro-Wind generator, which has been developed by a team of students at Cornell University.

The test Vibro-Wind generator is made with an array of foam blocks which catch the wind and act as oscillators. It produces electricity with piezoelectric transducers, small devices that emit electrons when stressed by the vibrations from the blocks.

Small and cheap may be a useful alternative for producing wind power, particularly in environments without consistently strong winds that are suited for large turbine installations. Beacuse the Vibro-Wind generator works with buffeting and vibration, it could be more appropriate for urban installations where swirling winds are more usual than the ideal winds needed for typical bladed turbines.


Feb 17, 2011

Shout It Out - Tequila :o)

The latest plant to gain biofuel feedstock status is the same one that fuels our margaritas.  The agave plant, most notably the source of tequila, could also soon be a new source of biofuel.  Researchers have discovered that agave is a very high-yielding source of biofuel and it would cause very little, if any, land use change.

Biofuel could be harvested from the plant as a by-product of tequila production.  Agave plantations that already exist for tequila production, as well as abandoned ones in Mexico, Africa and Australia that were previously used for fiber production and could be reclaimed, would be used to produce the biofuel without any land grab issues.

More testing has to be done to figure out which Agave species can deliver the highest yield and is most tolerant to the semi-arid regions where it would be cultivated, but it seems we'll be hearing more about this soon.


Feb 16, 2011

Philosophical Phun- Discrimination

Discrimination wrongfully imposes relative disadvantages or deprivations on persons based on their membership in some salient social group. But which salient groups count for the purpose of determining whether an act is an act of discrimination? This question is at the heart of many heated political and legal disputes, such as the controversy over gay marriage [not intended to marginalize the extreme racial discrimination that has occurred over centuries in this country]. 

The concept of discrimination picks out a kind of moral wrong that is a function of the salient social group membership of the person wronged: persons are treated as though they had diminished or degraded moral status on account of their group membership, or they are, because of their group membership and the relative disadvantages that they suffer due to that membership, made vulnerable to domination and oppression. But why have such a concept? Why not simply have the concepts of domination, oppression, and degrading treatment, abstracting from whether or not the reasons for such wrongs involve group membership?

Judgments about discrimination can and do reveal genuine wrongs that persons suffer due to their salient group membership and expose actual patterns of disadvantage and deprivation that amount to systemic injustices against the members of certain salient groups. It is not necessary to take account of everything relevant to a phenomenon in order to understand and represent important aspects of it. 

The concept of discrimination provides an explicit way of thinking about a certain kind of wrong that can be found in virtually every society and era. The wrong involves a group-based structure that works in combination with relative deprivations built around the structure. The deprivations are wrongful because they treat persons as having a degraded moral status, but also because the deprivations tend to make members of the group in question vulnerable to domination and oppression at the hands of those who occupy positions of relative advantage. 

We should never treat others as having "degraded moral status."  It is shameful that people can take such a position and look down upon another because of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, religion, or disability.


Feb 15, 2011

High Speed Rail, Do We Have the Vision?

US President Barack Obama wants to build high-speed trains like France's famous TGV around the country to boost US competitiveness and create jobs.
An issue of national economic strategy for the White House, high-speed railways, which are under construction from Latin America to the Middle East and across Asia, are mired in political party rivalry over budgets in the United States.
Two newly elected Republican governors (Ohio and Wisconsin) in the past three months denied crucial federal funds to rail projects, all but killing them, after their Democratic predecessors backed the projects.
President Obama proposed to give 80 percent of Americans -- essentially all the largest urban areas -- access to rapid train transport in 25 years. "To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information -- from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet," he said in his January 25 State of the Union address.
Two weeks later, Vice President Joe Biden -- the administration's biggest rail fan -- spelled out the details of a $53 billion, six-year plan to support a number of rail projects, with $8 billion the first year.  The plan's idea of "high-speed" rail is modest: the main proposals mean boosting existing lines to 200 kilometers per hour (125 mph).
But Biden also proposed ground-up projects for "very high speed" trains like those in Europe, Japan and now China: trains running 350 kph (220 mph) or more, that would require laying entirely new tracks.
Routes are already roughly laid out: improving Amtrak's northeast corridor; linking Los Angeles and San Francisco in California; creating a Chicago-centered system in the industrial upper midwest; and tying Florida's major cities Tampa, Orlando and Miami.
We spend hundreds of billions on other forms of transport. High-speed railways offer the most mobility for money spent.

Feb 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

So here we are, another 2/14, the second most commercialized greeting card holiday (more than a billion valentines sent).  Of course I will give a card to my bride, because I am guilty of not showing her how much I love her each and every day.

So, this year, how about reflecting on the one you love, and take this opportunity to start showing it each and every day, not just once a year.

Feb 9, 2011

Out and About for a Few Days

I am traveling today, Phoenix for two days of meetings, so thought I would leave you with this that I found over at Bob's I Should Be Laughing on Sunday :o)

Feb 8, 2011

CFL Cleanup!

The EPA website offers tips on reducing mercury exposure, with one focus being on "How do you safely clean up a broken compact fluorescent light bulb?"

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revised its guidelines for the mercury-containing bulbs, which are gaining in popularity as incandescents face a Congress-mandated phaseout beginning next year. A compact fluorescent light bulb uses far less energy than a conventional incandescent one, but it contains a small amount of mercury so it needs careful disposal.

CFLs, when they break, "some of the mercury is released as vapor and may pose potential health risks," the EPA said in announcing the guidelines. The agency said manufacturers are working to reduce mercury in CFLS, which average four milligrams per bulb compared with the 500 milligrams contained in an older thermometer.

Accompanying its revised tips, the EPA includes a report by an independent science committee that indicates the tiny amount of vaporized mercury from a single broken bulb is within the safe range for adults. The agency urges American to use CFLs, arguing their energy savings outweigh the potential health hazard, and to check the Earth911 website to find a local place for their proper disposal.

Another energy-efficient alternative to incandescents is the LED (light emitting diodes) bulb, which does not contain mercury and is dimmable. LEDs cost more, however, and are not yet as widely available. 

EPA's website offers a brochure on how to reduce CFL mercury exposure. Here's a summary of its tips: 
1. Before cleanup
Have people and pets leave the room. Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment. Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one. Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulbs.
2. During cleanup
Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder. Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.
3. After cleanup
Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors. For several hours, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off

Feb 7, 2011

Can You Protect Your Border(s)?

It's no secret that Internet book sales and the advent of digital books on dedicated readers like the Amazon Kindle has eaten into the business of book chains such as Borders. Now, it appears that Borders may have reached the final chapter in the tale of its corporate existence, and anyone holding a Borders gift card would be well advised to use it before the company goes belly up.

For the second month in a row, Borders is "delaying" paying its vendors and landlords its monthly debts, to conserve cash. It claims to be working to make new financing arrangements, which includes having publishers accept new terms that they would be highly unlikely to accept. The likely next step? Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing or even a full liquidation of the corporation.

In that eventuality, if you are caught holding an unused Borders gift card, you will likely be left holding the bag. 


Feb 5, 2011

Metallic Glass - tougher than nails :o)

Materials scientists in California have made a special metallic glass with a strength and toughness greater than any known material, using a recipe that could yield a new method for materials fabrication.
The glass, a microalloy made of palladium, has a chemical structure that counteracts the inherent brittleness of glass but maintains its strength. It’s not very dense and it is more lightweight than steel, with comparable heft to an aluminum or titanium alloy.
Some tougher materials exist, but they are less strong; there are stronger materials, but they’re not as tough. To grasp this, you have to define the the difference between strength and toughness. Strength refers to how much force a material can take before it deforms. Toughness explains the energy required to fracture or break something; it describes an object’s ability to absorb energy. Most of the time, these qualities are mutually exclusive. “The holy grail is to get both those properties at the same time,” Ritchie said.

Think of a ceramic mug — it’s pretty strong, maintaining its shape while handling hot and cold temperatures with ease. But it’s not very tough — there’s no give, no bendy quality to stop it from shattering when it falls to the floor. On the other hand, a rubber band is tough, stretching and contorting to wrap itself around your newspaper, your carton of eggs and a myriad other objects. But it’s weak, and it doesn’t take much energy for it to deform and break, snapping back on you with a painful recoil.
Ideal structural materials are both strong and tough; steel is a good example. The new glass has a far better combination of strength and toughness than any steel.

Feb 4, 2011

Go Red Today :o)

Have a heart -“Go Red”.  Today is — a day to wear red, tell women you want them to live and help stop heart disease in our lifetime.  Wear Red today to promote awareness.
Heart disease is still the number one killer of women, taking the life of one in three women each year. Make it a mission to raise awareness.

Feb 3, 2011

75 Years of National Wildlife Federation

DURING THE FIRST WEEK of February 1936, newspaper readers across the nation flipped open to an editorial cartoon featuring an army of hunters, anglers, gardeners, biologists and children storming the nation’s Capitol. At the fore, men armed with fishing rods and shotguns pluck a figure dubbed “Congress” from the Capitol dome.
“I’ve always been sympathetic to conservation,” he squeals.
“Sympathy is not enough,” they cry. “What we want is ACTION.”
To readers of the day, the style was instantly recognizable as that of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jay N. “Ding” Darling. But as readers chuckled, Darling, an ardent conservationist, was leading a real-life crusade in Washington, D.C. On February 3, some 1,500 Americans responded to Darling’s call to attend the first North American Wildlife Conference. From Dust Bowl farmers to big-game hunters, women’s leaguers to Girl Scout leaders, they converged on the Mayflower Hotel. Before they left four days later, they had founded the General Wildlife Federation—renamed “National” two years later—and elected Darling its first president.
Today, NWF remains diverse in its membership and works closely with a network of 46 state and territorial affiliates that, like Darling’s crusaders, span the social and political spectrum. “NWF’s mainstream membership and vibrant grassroots base have always allowed it to reach out beyond the so-called green community to be a formidable force for conservation,” says Jim Lyon, NWF’s vice president for conservation policy.
I love the purpose statement: to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future.  It does not get any simpler than that. I am proud to say that Nutwood Junction, our little corner of the world, is a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

Feb 2, 2011

Bowling Billiards :o)

DIYer Steve Wienecke made what's been called the "world's largest regulation-size pool table". The pool table, which Wienecke built in his backyard, is a life-sized table on which you hurl a bowling ball to break and shoot.
Wienecke calls his creation "Knokkers" and hopes that he can sell the idea to cruise ships, amusement parks and other entertainment venues in the future. Why not? Everyone loves knokkers.
I love bowling, I love pool, I would absolutely play :o)

Feb 1, 2011

Science Scene -Chicago NG Taxi

A Chicago taxi company will begin using a dozen Ford Transit Connect vans that run on natural gas instead of gasoline. Other cities are likely to follow.

Taxi Medallion Management, which is affiliated with Yellow Cab Chicago, bought the small Ford vans as part of its goal to cut its total emissions by 25%. They're due to be delivered in March.

Natural gas is less expensive than gasoline and burns cleaner, giving off up to 90% fewer smog-producing pollutants, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also produces 30% to 40% less greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA's website said. Almost 90% of it is produced in the U.S.

Ford has traditionally been the leading supplier of taxis in the U.S. Its Ford Crown Victoria sedan has been the mainstay of both taxi-fleets and police car fleets. Its sturdy, body-on-frame construction has made it a favorite of fleet customers.

But Ford is phasing out the Crown Victoria, and is trying to meet demand for taxis with the Transit Connect, which won North American Truck of the Year in 2010. The small van, which is built in Turkey, has been popular so far with small businesses like bakeries, flower shops and the like. As a taxi, which has been displayed at auto shows for the last two years, it is much more comfortable than the Crown Vic or most any other sedans, though the step-up height can be challenging for older patrons.

The Transit Connect gets 23 mpg in combined city-highway driving, 21% better than a conventional cab like the Ford Crown Victoria sedan.

This is awesome, now if they would only build an US factory.