May 31, 2011

Prozac ingredient in Great Lakes killing off microbes, including E. coli

"Scientists in Erie, Pennsylvania, have found that minute concentrations of fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac, are killing off microbial populations in the Great Lakes."
 Killing off bacteria might seem like a good thing. "Your immediate thought is, 'well, that's good, because they're not supposed to be there anyways," said Mercyhurst College microbiologist Steve Mauro, whose team found fluoxetine in low doses in water near Lake Erie's beaches. "But what about all the other bacteria that are supposed to be there and part of that ecosystem?"

Treating clean lake water with similar strength doses killed off E. coli and enterococcus bacteria, both of which can cause serious infections in humans.

The fluoxetine found in Lake Erie is at very low levels--about one nanogram per liter of water, Mauro said. "It doesn't appear to be at a level that would be harmful to humans," or invertebrates, for that matter, though Mauro suspects that fluoxetine combined with other chemicals could be having a cumulative effect on the lake's ecosystem.

Prozac Killing E. coli in the Great Lakes (Thanks, Marilyn! via boing)

What we should be upset about - coffee vs gas prices

Fertilizer wastage costs China 52 million tons of grain

If China could divide its available fertilizers better among its provinces, it could produce 52 million tons more grain. This would enable China to tackle its growing demand for food and animal feed within its own borders.

This is the result of a study conducted by Xiaobin Wang of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and the Wageningen UR agrotechnologist Willem Hoogmoed, as reported in this month's Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

In the wealthy eastern part of China, farmers spread more than 180 kilogrammes of nitrogen on each hectare of their land. Excessive amounts of nitrogen cannot be absorbed by the crops; instead, they pollute the and the air. In the poorer western part of China, nitrogen use is below 100 and even 50 kilogrammes per hectare per year. If the eastern provinces were to limit their fertilizer use to 180 kilogrammes per year, the remainder - 1.2 million tons of nitrogen - could go to the poorer agriculture areas. That would result in additional of 52 million tons, Wang calculates.

That would make quite a difference in the global grain market. For comparison, China currently produces about 500 million tons of grain annually, and the European Union produces about 130 million tons. The inefficient use of nitrogen is one of the major limiting factors in in China, writes Wang.

Provided by Wageningen University via

Monitor your home’s power usage on the cheap

HackaHouse - [Paul] was pretty sure that he and his family used a lot of electricity throughout the day . Admittedly, he enjoys his creature comforts, but was wiling to try living a little gre ener. The problem was, he had no idea how much electricity he was using at a given time.

While some power companies offer devices allowing homeowners to monitor their energy usage, [Paul’s] did not. After a bit of research however, he was ready to build a power monitoring system of his own. He found that his meter emits a small infrared pulse every time a watt-hour of electricity is consumed, so his system counts how many flashes occur to measure usage.

The counting circuit is pretty simple consisting of only an AVR, a resistor, a capacitor, and a phototransistor. The data is fed to a computer where the results are graphed with gnuplot.

It’s quite a useful little hack, and undoubtedly far cheaper than purchasing a whole house power monitor.

Japanese Utility Develops Zero-or-Less-CO2 Concrete

Chugoku Electric Power Co. in Japan has developed a new type of concrete, the first of its kind in the world, that produces in effect zero or less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the manufacturing process. It is hardened by absorbing CO2 emitted from a thermal power station. This new type of concrete contains a special additive which hardens concrete by absorbing CO2, and thus substantially reduces the amount of cement used. Thanks to using less cement, cement production-related CO2 emissions can be halved compared to a conventional type. Moreover, the absorption of CO2 can compensate for, or even exceed, the amount of CO2 emitted during the manufacturing process.  Read full at Japan for Sustainability

Germany To End Nuclear Power By 2022

"Germany on Monday announced plans to become the first major industrialized power to shut down all its nuclear plants in the wake of the disaster in Japan, with a phase-out due to be wrapped up by 2022... Monday's decision is effectively a return to the timetable set by the previous Social Democrat-Green coalition government a decade ago. And it is a humbling U-turn for Merkel, who at the end of 2010 decided to extend the lifetime of Germany's 17 reactors by an average of 12 years, which would have kept them open until the mid-2030s."

May 29, 2011

Mining companies under cyber attack 'from everywhere'

MAJOR resources companies are coming under increasing threat of cyber hacking emanating from China and other countries, with outgoing Woodside Petroleum chief executive Don Voelte admitting the group has been attacked "from everywhere"

Mr Voelte that it was wrong to single out China as being the only source of the attacks.

"It comes from everywhere. It comes from eastern Europe; it comes from Russia. Just don't pick on the Chinese; it's everywhere."

"The attacks on companies, and going after IP and other things, is pretty big, so we're all very careful in this space."

Read full from the Australian

Google Invests $55 Million in California's Massive 1,550MW Alta Wind Farm

Boy, you would think Rick Needham would give me a call by now about my gcommunities idea ;-)
Because, "doing what has already been done" seems like a bad way to invest $400 Million or Billion$$$
My idea was free... with a 13month ROI and lifetime EEROI

Google Blog - The site of the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC), which will generate 1,550 megawatts (MW) of energy when complete, making it one of the largest sites in the country for wind energy generation—enough to power 450,000 homes. Renewable energy developer Terra-Gen Power is constructing the site in several phases and we’ll provide $55 million to finance the 102 MW Alta IV project. Citibank, which has underwritten the equity for Alta Projects II-V, is also investing in this project.
google alta wind farm construction photo
We’re always looking for projects that are uniquely positioned to transform our energy sector. As part of the new 4,500 MW Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP), AWEC uses some of the first transmission lines developed specifically to transport renewable energy from remote, resource-rich areas (like the Mojave) to major population centers... With this deal, we’ve now invested more than $400 million in the clean energy sector. We hope AWEC’s success, with its unique deal structure and renewable energy transmission, encourages more financing and development of renewables that will usher in a new energy future.

Google and two unfamiliar sounding business partners have received a key first-approval for construction of a $5bn power transmission project, linking the landward power grid to several wind farms to be built off the US Mid-Atlantic coast. (The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has ruled the project can earn a 12.59% return on equity (ROE) - a bit less than the 13.58% requested.) The partners are Google, Good Energies and Read the full story from a Hugger

Seriously Google Investors...
HAASE - I have great respect for your massive investments in clean energy, but would rather see it continue for the long haul or it is just another "Jimmy Carter Solar Comment"

How well does wind compete against my plan without feed in and subsidies? (hint: in doesn't ;-) 

A organization would prove through actions to our Administration that  we can save our economy, energy and environmental future by "fiscally proving sustainable energy is economically sustainable". And when they want to make decades of energy efforts a reality and financially sustainable.... they will give me a call. "

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein

e-waste infographic - throwing it all away

Wasted food, energy.... lives.

food waste graph image

It is estimated that 40% of the food produced in America is wasted; it amounts to 1400 calories per person every day. According to the EPA, 31 million tons is thrown into landfills. Much of that produces methane as it rots; the gas is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The UK website Next Generation Food estimates that each tonne of food waste is equivalent to 4.2 tonnes of CO2. They conclude that if we simply stopped wasting food, it would be the equivalent of taking a quarter of all the cars in America off the road.

The numbers are extraordinary:food waste USA image

In the US, a report in Plos One at the end of last year found that per capita food waste has progressively increased by 50 percent since 1974 reaching more than 1400 calories per person per day or 150 trillion calories per year. Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption and 300 million barrels of oil per year.

The consumption of water and fossil fuel making food that is thrown out, the 150 trillion calories per year, landfilled, that could have fed people around the world, the statistics just pile up.

It seems that so many of our problems, from energy independence to climate change to world hunger to water, could be significantly mitigated if we could just get control of our food system and stop wasting so much.

See the entire infographic here .

Jessica Alba in support of overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Actress Jessica Alba joins the campaign for safer chemicalsAlong with being part of the upcoming green celebrity baby boom, Jessica Alba is also the celebrity spokeswoman for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families -- and she took her anti-toxin message on the road this week when she joined Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) at media briefing in Washington, D.C. She was there to support an overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which regulates the government's control of chemicals.  

"Like many other moms out there, I try to buy safe products for my family, but that can't be the only solution," NPR quotes Alba as saying. "You can't hire a team of scientists to do your shopping for you. At some point the government has to step in and ensure that chemicals are safe before our children are exposed to them."  Read more

Cancer Now #1 Cause of Death in China, Air Pollution Largely to Blame

China is beginning to see the costs of its rapid march towards industrialization -- the heavy industry, coal-fired power plants, and numerous factories have so saturated the air with pollution that cancer is officially now the number one cause of death. 

Nearly 25% of deaths in China are now attributed to cancer. 
Earlier this year near the release of China’s latest 5-year plan, the New York Times quoted Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s proclamation that “We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs.” Yet while official rhetoric recognizes the importance of preserving the environment and the health of its people, the Chinese government still has a long way to go in bolstering transparency and enforcement of even the existing environmental regulations, not to mention strengthening protection.

If it does not do so, the country’s toxic burden threatens to stall or even reverse the dramatic health gains of the last 60 years, which raised average life expectancy from 45 to 74 years and slashed infant mortality from 122 deaths per 1,000 births down to 20. 

Economic gains could be lost as productivity wanes and massive health bills come due. Ultimately, a sick country can prosper only so long.

Please see full from The Earth Policy Institute

GE Mag Says Natural Gas-Powered Turbines Could Be the Answer

The world needs more green energy.  It has to be reliable, too. How can we bridge the gap? The folks at General Electric's Txchnologist say innovations in natural-gas powered turbines could be the answer to meeting renewable portfolio standards in the U.S. ...Read more from a Hugger

Cleaning Up Japan's Radioactive Mess With Blue Goo

"A clever technology is helping hazmat crews in Japan contain and clean up the contamination caused by the ongoing nuclear disaster there: a blue liquid that hardens into a gel that peels off of surfaces, taking microscopic particles like radiation and other contaminants with it. Known as DeconGel, Japanese authorities are using it inside and outside the exclusion zone on everything from pavement to buildings."

May 28, 2011

GM does something right? Waste to energy

General Motors Thermoelectric Generator This module could capture waste heat in your car's exhaust and convert it to energy, improving fuel economy in a Chevy Suburban by 3 percent. GM

Engineers are making strides toward cars that can use their own waste for energy, testing BMW, Chevrolet and Ford vehicles outfitted with heat-collecting devices that can improve fuel economy.

In most vehicles, around 40 percent of gasoline energy is wasted as heat - you have to burn gas to make the car go, but there's no way to capture the radiant heat of the act of combustion. Exhaust gases can reach 1,300° F. Thermoelectric devices integrated into a car's exhaust system could capture this heat, but it's difficult to design generators that can withstand the huge temperature differential required to produce a current.

Improved devices that use rare earth metals and super-strong alloys could produce a few hundred watts of energy, improving fuel economy by 3 percent, according to initial tests at General Motors.

Technology Review reports on efforts at BSST, a thermoelectric-device maker in California, and at GM's research labs in Michigan. BSST is testing compounds made of hafnium and zirconium, which can withstand the high temperature differential. GM's project is getting out of the lab, where we first saw it last fall, and into a Chevy Suburban. GM's thermoelectric research has centered on skutterudites, cobalt arsenide minerals doped with rare earth elements like ytterbium.

Computer models show the device could generate 350 to 600 watts for city and highway driving, respectively. This equates to a 3 percent improvement in fuel economy, according to GM. That's not great for a system that requires expensive and difficult-to-obtain rare earth metals, but further testing could yield even better mineral formulas with even greater efficiency.

In its first tests this spring, GM sliced out a section of a Suburban's tailpipe and welded in the thermoelectric device, which looks like a muffler. GM scientist Gregory Meisner tells Technology Review the next design would be better integrated into the vehicle's exhaust system, rather than added at the back end.

It could still take a few years for the devices to be integrated into new cars, Meisner said. GM's goal is to achieve 10 percent improvement in fuel economy by 2015 without increasing emissions.

[Technology Review]

UPS's Prototype Plastic Truck UPS

Electric cars might be the future, but for some uses, like the demands of a delivery truck, they just don't have the power or range quite yet. But that doesn't mean giving up and using inefficient materials and construction while waiting for the electric revolution to come. UPS is testing out prototype plastic trucks that reduce the usual truck weight by 1,000 pounds, increase the mileage by up to 40%, and are even more easily serviced.

The trucks are constructed from ABS plastic, a lightweight and rugged material that reduces the weight of these vehicles by around 1,000 pounds, compared to the usual sheet metal. Trucks of this size typically weigh around five tons, depending on the packages being delivered. The plastic body has a few other benefits as well. Painted sheet metal is both heavy (the paint alone can weigh about 100 pounds!) and fragile--a slight dent or nick makes the metal beneath the paint visible, at which point UPS has to service the truck to keep it looking fresh. But this plastic is brown all the way through, so it can suffer dents without looking mangled.

There are a few other thoughtful elements to the new design, like switching all lights (besides headlights, for some reason) to more efficient LEDs, and a nearly modular design that allows for various parts (bumpers, side panels) to be replaced easily, quickly, and cheaply. Those adjustments make the new truck efficient enough that the typical 200-hp engine could be replaced with a sprightly 150-hp engine without losing power.

The important thing here is that this prototype is actually cost-effective, right now. It's not as exciting an advancement as, say, a fleet of hydrogen-powered trucks or cars made of hemp, but unlike a fleet of hydrogen-powered trucks, there's a legitimate chance of immediate adoption. The prototypes are undergoing testing this year, and provided they're found road-worthy, could start hitting the road in 2012.

[via Fast Company]

Mark Zuckerberg's Eating only what he kills...

CNN - "Zuckerberg posted a note to the 847 friends on his private page: "I just killed a pig and a goat."...since he has taken to killing goats, pigs and chickens...this year's is about animals and meat. (Click here to read Zuckerberg's May 4 comment.)
Cool has introduced Zuckerberg to nearby farmers and advised him as he killed his first chicken, pig, and goat. "He cut the throat of the goat with a knife, which is the most kind way to do it," says Cool.

Zuckerberg and his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla, have been cooking what he slaughters, eating what many people would not dare consume. He recently ate a chicken, including the heart and liver, and used the feet to make stock. ... the only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself.

So far, this has been a good experience. I'm eating a lot healthier foods and I've learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals.


COB new debt ceiling 16.7 trillion - What's another pound to an elephant ;-)

Cost Estimate for H.R. 1954, A bill to implement the President's request to increase the statutory limit on the public debt

Haase - Every taxpayer in America already owes more than $128,000 as their share of the $14.2 trillion national debt. Every child born in America today is greeted with more than $46,000 that they owe as their share of the national debt.
This is expected to more than triple by the time they enter the workforce. 
Mortgaging the future of our country and placing this burden on our children and grandchildren is unacceptable. However, that is exactly what we are planing on.

Let’s make sure that the world we leave our children is better than the one today.

Remember who pays for it....

May 27, 2011

Healthy school food improves student performance - Duh...

We've already seen some evidence to suggest that better school food makes kids smarter, but with Jamie Oliver's healthy school lunch program threatened by budget cuts, and similar healthy school food initiatives facing money problems in America too, the timing of this latest piece of research couldn't be more fortuitous. You see it seems that what we feed our children has an impact on how well they perform in school.  

The BBC reports that researchers from the University of West England (UWE) have been analyzing performance in 48 schools before and after they joined an innovative healthy eating program. Measuring school ratings by the Government's inspection body Ofsted, researchers found that a third (36.2%) were judged outstanding by Ofsted, compared with 17.3% before they joined a program called the Food For Life Partnership (FFLP).

Funded through National Lottery money, the FFLP encourages students and teachers to grow, cook and eat good, fresh and sustainably grown food. In addition to improving school performance, the researchers from UWE also found that parents from participating schools reported an increased intake of fruits and vegetables at home too.

Of course it's hard to say whether improved student performance stems from better nutrition, or from the hands-on learning experience of growing, and learning about, real quality food. And to some extent the answer does not matter. It stands to reason that giving our children healthy food and opportunities to learn through gardening is going to make for healthier, happier and smarter kids. But it sure is good to see some evidence to back this up.

Who'd have thought it? - Hugger

China Warns of 'Urgent Problems' Facing Three Gorges Dam

There is risk of geological disaster, the state cabinet admits, as the project is linked to soil erosion, quakes, drought and social upheaval.

In a statement approved by prime minister Wen Jiabao, the state council said the dam had pressing geological, human and ecological problems. The report also acknowledged for the first time the negative impact the dam has had on downstream river transport and water supplies.

...This is not the first warning. Four years ago the state media quoted government experts who said: "There are many new and old hidden ecological and environmental dangers concerning the Three Gorges dam. If preventive measures are not taken the project could lead to a catastrophe."

Last year, site engineers recommended an additional movement of hundreds of thousands of nearby residents and more investment in restoring the ecosystem.

The government has already raised its budget for water treatment plants but opponents of the dam say this is not enough. "The government built a dam but destroyed a river," said Dai Qing, a longtime critic of the project. "No matter how much effort the government makes to ease the risks, it is infinitesimal. The state council is spending more money on the project rather than investigating fully. I cannot see a real willingness to solve the problem."

Read more by Jonathan Watts, The Guardian

May 26, 2011

Chicago's library of the future.

"The University of Chicago's new $81 million Joe and Rika Mansueto Library is being referred to as the library of the future. You enter the library and find there are hardly any books, just a large reading room with computers.

The library's 3.5 million books are stored inside 35,000 bins stacked within 50 foot tall racks in a massive 5-story chamber underneath the library. When you ask for a book an automated retrieval system involving huge, computer-activated robotic cranes finds the book you want, delivers it to the circulation desk, and eventually puts it back underground when you return it."

The age of the personal-shopping library robot is getting closer and closer. - SlashDot

Fukushima To Become Nuclear Dump?

New Bacterium Lives On Caffeine

Everyone always asks me "What's in my Coffee" - Yikes
"A newly-described species of bacterium, Pseudomonas putida has been found to live on pure caffeine. The little jaspers metabolize caffeine into carbon dioxide and ammonia. They were found living in a flower bed on the University of Iowa campus, not in the drain of an espresso machine as one might expect. The paper presenting the research will be presented at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in New Orleans this month where caffeine metabolism will have to contend with the traditional ethanol metabolism." - SlashDot

Asia’s worst drought in 50 years,

FT - Chinese authorities will step up the release of water from the Three Gorges Dam in a bid to tackle a drought in southern China which has put pressure on drinking water, crops, shipping lanes and electricity production in what is traditionally China’s most water-abundant region. A farmer takes water from a dried-up pond to water his vegetable field during a drought in Jiangxi province. Photograph: Stringer Shanghai/Reuters (Courtesy of

The monsoon rains that usually flood southern China’s middle Yangtze river in spring did not come this year, and officials say rainfall in Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang is at its lowest level in more than 50 years.

Guardian: The Yangtze – Asia’s biggest river – is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, forcing an unprecedented release of water from the Three Gorges reservoir. The drought is damaging crops, threatening wildlife and raising doubts about the viability of China’s massive water diversion ambitions.

Between now and 10 June the dam will release 5bn cubic metres of water – equivalent to the volume of Lake Windermere in Britain every day – as engineers sacrifice hydroelectric generation for irrigation, drinking supplies and ecosystem support.

The drastic measure comes amid warnings of power shortages and highlights the severity of the dry spell in the Yangtze delta, which supports 400 million people and 40% of China’s economic activity.

A Chinese farmer shows his drought-stricken fields in Bozhou
From January to April, the worst hit province of Hubei has had 40% less rainfall than the average over the same period since 1961. Shanghai, Jiangsu and Hunan are also severely affected.

More on China's drought:

Australian Energy generators betting on a shale gas future ?

BigGav - The recent (optimistic) EIA report into global shale gas resources has local gas producers wondering if a repeat of the coal seam gas boom may be on the cards in Australia, particularly in South Australia and West Australia. The Australian reports on Santos’ interest in this other form of unconventional gas - Energy generators bet on shale gas future. 
THE hype about shale gas increased yesterday ...which has turned US domestic energy markets on their heads.
The move comes on the back of a report by the US Energy Information Agency that said Australia was sitting on the world's fifth-biggest reserves of shale gas and was ready to become a major producer. A revolution in shale gas technology has turned the US from a net importer of gas to one with a surplus in just the past five years, capping gas prices and dashing a host of planned liquefied natural gas import terminals.
The EIA, which is the US Energy Department's respected statistics and analysis arm, completed a study of global shale gas prospects last month and found Australia was one of the most prospective countries for development. "With geologic and industry conditions resembling those of the US and Canada, the country is poised to commercialise its gas shale resources on a large scale," the EIA said.
Santos is planning to drill in the Cooper Basin, which straddles the South Australia/Queensland border. Beach Energy, which claims it has more prospective shale ground than Santos, has already drilled there and is planning to do a frac test -- where the shale is fractured to release gas -- this quarter.
Gas captured in shale does not flow as easily as conventional gas, which is released from the rocks it is found in by pressure alone. The recent technology breakthroughs of the last decade mean the shale can be fractured underground to release the gas relatively economically.
If the EIA is correct and approximately 385 tcf of gas can be extracted from shale in Australia, this would extend the lifespan of domestic gas production even under a scenario of greatly increased consumption to over a century (thus further undermining any arguments to restrict exports based on resource nationalism - though obviously environmental issues remain, particularly given the experience in the US with unconventional gas extraction).

May 25, 2011

NYT - Risk From Spent Nuclear Reactor Fuel Is Greater in U.S. Than in Japan

“In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree.”

The threat of a catastrophic release of radioactive materials from a spent fuel pool at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant is dwarfed by the risk posed by such pools in the United States, which are typically filled with far more radioactive material, according to a study released on Tuesday by a nonprofit institute.

The report, from the Institute for Policy Studies, recommends that the United States transfer most of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel from pools filled with cooling water to dry sealed steel casks to limit the risk of an accident resulting from an earthquake, terrorism or other event.

“The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future,” the report’s author, Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute, wrote.

Read more at New York Times

India Outsourcing Jobs to U.S.

“I don’t care if you come from Park Avenue or the park bench. If you can do the job, we want you.”
India’s outsourcing giants — faced with rising wages at home — have looked for growth opportunities in the United States. But with Washington crimping visas for visiting Indian workers, some companies such as Aegis are slowly hiring workers in North America, where their largest corporate customers are based.
In this evolution, outsourcing has come home.

Capuana, a manager for Aegis in New York, motivates this U.S. office with dress-down days and the prospect that workers could, one day, earn a stint training call center workers in Goa, India. One of his tasks is to staff 176 cubicles, where workers make or take calls for customers of prescription drug plans or Medicare contracts and enter and verify information. The pay runs $12 to $14 an hour, with bonus checks of up to $730 a month.

Read more at Washington Post

Volcano’s most powerful since 1873

The explosion of the Grimsvotn volcano has raised worries of a repeat of the volcano-related travel chaos that stranded 10 million passengers and cost the air industry an estimated US$1.7-billion in lost revenue last year.

The eruption is the volcano’s most powerful since 1873 and stronger than the volcano that caused trouble last year.

Scott Deveau, National Post

May 24, 2011

Einstein is correct, as usual... Dark Energy confirmed

A team of researchers scanned the sky using WiggleZ Dark Energy survey and found confirming evidence of Dark Energy.

Ouch - LinkedIn profiles being hacked and hijacked...

"A security researcher has demonstrated holes in the way cookies are handled on LinkedIn profiles by hijacking profiles. The session cookies are sent over unsecured HTTP and remain active for up to a year."

Lock up your backdoor and run for your life... Facebook Is Coming for Your Children

Todaydemotivational posters - FACEBOOK - Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told attendees at a recent summit on innovation in education that, “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”
A really, really good way to do that, Zuckerberg said, is to let kids ages 13 and under join Facebook.

Opening up the "cold case" of cold fusion

These read like headlines from the 80's when I was a kid.
A possible scientific breakthrough that holds out the hope of cheap, abundant power...
Cold fusion - discredited and vilified in the past - is back in the news. The potential benefits are great enough that, despite past failures, the technology deserves a fair hearing from the scientific community this time.

In January, two Italian scientists announced they had invented a reactor that fuses nickel and hydrogen nuclei at room temperature, producing copper and throwing off massive amounts of energy in the process. Sergio Focardi and Andrea Rossi demonstrated their tabletop device before a standing-room-only crowd in Bologna, purportedly using 400 watts of power to generate 12,400 watts with no hazardous waste. They told observers that their reactors, small enough to fit in a household closet are able to produce electricity for less than 1 cent per kilowatt hour.

The Italians' reported 31-fold increase in energy from cheap and commonplace ingredients - if genuine - would rank as one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time, deposing oil as king of energy resources. Petroleum-producing regimes in the Middle East now using petro-dollars from the United States and other power-needy nations to fund Islamic extremism across the globe would be put out of business. A nuclear physicist associated with the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Giuseppe Levi, told reporters at the January demonstration that he was convinced the results were accurate. But peer-reviewed journals, exhibiting an abundance of caution, have so far refused to publish the findings.- Washington Times

It is easy to understand why. In 1989, University of Utah chemist Stanley Pons and University of Southampton chemist Martin Fleischmann announced a similar breakthrough in cold fusion. When their results were largely unexplainable and irreproducible, they were shunned by the scientific community. That episode has resulted in scientists looking askance at any claims of success in cold fusion research, complicating the task the Italians face in proving their results are genuine.

The interest on Andrea Rossi's Nickel-Hydrogen Cold Fusion technology is accelerating. However, Rossi says that about 30% of nickel was turned into copper, after 6 months of uninterrupted operation. Kowalski says that "this seems to be impossible because the produced copper isotopes rapidly decay into Ni". . . Rossi says that about 30% of nickel was turned into copper, after 6 months of uninterrupted operation. At first glance this seems to agree with calculations based on simple assumptions. - Journal of Nuclear Physics

Don’t discard the librarians

We know a lot these days; we just don't know where we learned it.
“The source of information you're using, the evaluation of that source, how you use it, how you respect it and cite it – that's all what we call informational literacy,”

The world of librarians was thrown into a tizzy this week – it doesn't take much these days – when the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board announced it will shut its school libraries and dump all but four of its library technicians.

The school board has 1,000 fewer students and needs to cut $10-million, and sees “nostalgic” libraries and librarians as dispensable in a digital age. In the late 1990s, 80 per cent of Ontario's elementary schools had a teacher-librarian; today, only 56 per cent do, despite the statistical fact that active libraries and librarians improve student performance.

“We need to work on teaching 21st-century learning skills,” Cathy Geml, a Windsor school board official, explained, demonstrating her grasp of one of the 21st century's most tread-worn clichés.

That was the tip of the iceberg.
While Windsor defended its slash, top-level librarians attended a symposium at McMaster University in Hamilton on the future of academic libraries. Discussion whirled around the radical proposals of McMaster's university librarian, Jeff Trzeciak. Mr. Trzeciak is the mad dog of research librarians: His deeply digital vision is one in which shrunken libraries are staffed not by librarians, but by information technologists and (much cheaper) post-doctoral students. Those aren't just ideas, either. The University of Denver library recently put 80 per cent of its books in storage.

This is the new mantra in library land. The same day Windsor dropped its bomb, Seth Godin, a well-known blogger and business guru, published a blog that rocked the carrels of the land. “Wikipedia and the huge databanks of information have basically eliminated the library,” Mr. Godin wrote, in the precipitous tone gurus prefer. “Kids … need a library not at all.”

Physical libraries and actual flesh-and-blood librarians seem to be more necessary than ever.

Read more from the Globe & Mail

Trash in our system... Our oceans aren't the only ones in danger.

Surfrider Foundation Australia: Plastic Debris

USA National Debt in Numbers

Grimsvotn Volcano Erupts stronger than the Eyjafjallajokull

Atlantic - Iceland's most active volcano, Grímsvötn, erupted on Saturday for the first time since 2004, hurling a plume of steam and ash nearly 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the sky. People living next to the glacier where the Grímsvötn volcano burst into life were most severely affected, with ash blocking out the daylight and smothering buildings and vehicles.

Iceland also closed its main international airport and canceled domestic flights on Sunday, and aviation officials will be closely monitoring European airspace for the next few days. The outburst is the volcano's most powerful since 1873 -- stronger than the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which caused trouble last year -- but it may not cause the same degree of upheaval. Scientists say the type of ash being spewed out is less easily dispersed and winds have so far been more favorable than during last year's blast. Gathered here are a handful of images taken in the land of fire and ice over the weekend. More photos 23 photos

May 23, 2011

Forget the gas tax - a driving tax may be next

In March CBO issued a report that said such a tax was feasible and had many advantages over a gas tax. "Because highway costs are more directly determined by miles driven than by fuel used, appropriately designed [mileage] taxes can do more to improve the efficiency of road use than fuel taxes can," the report said. - Read more at CNN

Lessons on venting reactor primary containment.

U.S. Was Warned on Vents Before Failure at Japan’s Plant
WASHINGTON — Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers at a reactor in Minnesota warned American regulators about that very problem.

The Importance of Venting, When a Reactor Threatens to Blow Its Stack

When the reactors were designed in the 1960s, the idea was that in the event of an accident, all of the radioactive materials would be bottled up in the primary containment. This was itself a philosophical reversal, in the sense that it was an acknowledgment that it might be impossible to hold everything in.

Pressure to Improve Water Quality in Chicago River

NY Times - In recent days, the federal government and environmental groups have increased the pressure on Chicago’s wastewater treatment agency to stop discharging untreated sewage into the Chicago River during storms and to disinfect the treated sewage that makes up 70 percent of the river’s flow...conservation group American Rivers named the Chicago River one of the “most endangered rivers” in the country, along with rivers at risk from the extraction of coal, natural gas and uranium. On May 11, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ordered state regulators to impose stricter water quality standards on the river or else the agency would step in and do it. And on May 3, environmental groups filed a lawsuit charging that the wastewater agency regularly violates the federal Clean Water Act. 

Another issue is that the Deep Tunnel will not prevent all untreated sewage releases into the river and Lake Michigan, since overflows often happen because of bottlenecks in the network of smaller pipes that lead to the Deep Tunnel.

“You can have infinite storage capacity, but unless you can move enough water quickly enough to the storage area, you’re still going to have problems,” said Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

The E.P.A. and planning and environmental groups say cities should reduce the amount of rainwater flowing into sewer pipes through a range of so-called green infrastructure projects, including permeable pavement that lets water trickle through; sunken medians lined with gravel or plants; green roofs and retention ponds.

The draft consent decree requires the water reclamation district to spend $325,000 on green infrastructure, which critics say is far too little. The federal government has ordered other cities to spend millions on green drainage methods — $42 million in Cleveland alone.

Federal officials and Ms. Young said they could not comment on the consent decree because of ongoing negotiations.

Ann Alexander, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the district is too fixed on traditional solutions. “They don’t believe green infrastructure can really solve problems, they think of it as something dreamed up by hippies,” she said.

Read more from NY Times

Swiss To End Use of Nuclear Power

"Energy minister Doris Leuthard is set to propose Switzerland gradually exits nuclear power, two Swiss newspapers reported on Sunday, citing sources close to the government. The multi-party Swiss government was expected to make an announcement on nuclear policy on Wednesday and may recommend an exit. Switzerland's five nuclear reactors generate about 40 percent of the country's electricity."

May 22, 2011

New Animals Species Discovered 21st Century!

I have such a hard time understanding that every year we choose to loose 1000's of species when we have so many to discover. Why?

Solar losing money because of property taxes - Dah Moment

This is WHY they should be LEASED on buildings roofs and parking lots.
Simple math: roofs + parking lots = millions of acres for FREE prime space for so (a dah moment).

Solar farm near Climax losing money because of property taxes
Producing 225,592 kilowatt hours of electricity in its first year of operation, a solar farm in eastern Kalamazoo County that went online in early 2010 has exceeded expectations. Also exceeding expectations is the property tax, said Sam Field, a Kalamazoo attorney and one of the owners of Kalamazoo Solar.

The $27,689 tax bill for the Charleston Township property means that the owners are losing money, even when being paid a premium price of 45 cents a kilowatt hour by Consumers Energy, he said. “That Michigan property tax burden works out to a cost of 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour,” Field said.
“That amount is more than the retail value of the electricity.”

Hi-Speed Derail in California

California got $3.5 billion in federal money fro tax payers for its high-speed rail project that will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles. So far, they’ve managed to break ground in an effort to connect two central-state communities so small that one of them is unincorporated, for service that will connect fewer people than live in Anaheim.  The project will cost at least $43 billion when it’s done by the most cheery estimates, and that’s only if the state’s High Speed Rail Authority quits drawing more circles around the high desert rather than straight lines between destinations. The Los Angeles Times editorial board, a backer of high-speed rail, says the lesson from the series of failures is that California needs to create another government agency to run high-speed rail.

WTF - General Motors sponsors Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

Well here is an interesting way to spend U.S. Tax dollars???
"In late 2010, General Motors agreed to sponsor a propaganda film celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP made film titled (translated to English) 'The Birth of a Party' or 'The Great Achievement of Founding the Party' is set to premiere all over the Communist nation on June 15 reported China AutoWeb last September." - Washington Times

More GM U.S. Tax payer bailout FAILs
Bail out FAIL - The Deal to Sell GM to China
Bailout bonus: GM becoms a foreign corporation
G.M. destine to fail over and over again
GM Volt FAIL - Will be made in China

Track the demise of the VOLT on this blog.... just search gm, volt

Weak Dollar Responsible for High Gas Prices

The weakening of the dollar since 2008 has added 56.5 cents to the price of gasoline,the congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) has found. The average price of gasoline would be $3.40 per gallon, instead of the current average price nationally of nearly $4, if the dollar hadn't declined, says the Weekly Standard.
  • They blamed the Federal Reserve and its efforts to spur economic growth for the price increase.
  • "Since the Fed launched its program of quantitative easing in late November 2008, the value (trade-weighted) of the U.S. dollar has declined 14 percent," the study calculated.
  • "The declining value of the U.S. dollar has added $17.04 per barrel to the price of oil (Brent Crude)," thus driving up the price of gasoline.

The study used several yardsticks to measure the dollar's effect.

  • For instance, while the price of oil has risen 150 percent in the United States since the end of 2008, it has gone up only 96 percent in Canada.
  • The Canadian dollar's value has strengthened in recent years against the U.S. dollar.

Full text here

Nuclear power’s more probable threat — recurring fires — goes unchecked

Center for Public Integrity: A more likely nuclear nightmare; Despite tsunami and earthquakes, nuclear power’s more probable threat — recurring fires — goes unchecked

The safety plan for any nuclear power plant reads like a doomsday book...
Earthquakes, floods, airplane crashes, mass evacuations, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tornadoes — all are disaster scenarios deemed a risk to reactor safety. The most likely threat, however, involves none of these headline cataclysms.

Fires regularly occur at the 104 U.S. nuclear plants nearly 10 times a year on average. About half the accidents that threaten reactor cores begin with fires that can start from a short circuit in an electric cable, a spark that ignites the oil in a pump, or an explosion in a transformer. Even a small fire could trigger a chain of events that threatens a meltdown, and some have come close.

Just a year ago, a South Carolina nuclear plant suffered two fires in a single day — ironically on the 31st anniversary of the nation’s worst nuclear accident at Three Mile Island . The seven-hour crisis escaped much national notice even though it left half the plant without adequate power or a reliable supply of cooling water for its reactors, a situation worsened by workers’ unfamiliarity with the proper safety response.

Despite growing concerns, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hardly ever issues serious penalties for fires, preferring instead for voluntary compliance and slaps on the wrist, a review by iWatch News found. The South Carolina plant, for instance, received low-level written citations that carried no penalty after the March 2010 fires.

Signs of Ozone Layer Recovery Detected

"22 years of banning CFCs is starting to pay off. Researchers have finally been able to measure a reduction in size of the ozone layer hole, after finding the source of its fluctuations. 'Salby's results reveal a fast decline in ozone levels until the late 1990s, then a slow rebound that closely matches what theoretical calculations had predicted, says David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne, Australia. "It is the sort of result that was expected, but is the first to provide detection of an increase in Antarctic ozone levels," he says.'"

Drill baby drill becomes spill baby spill from Deepwater Horizon

May 21, 2011

Not my last post May 21st - Rapture...CDC zombie apocalypse?? I wake up on May 22nd, I will begin the day like everyday. With the thought of how wonderful the world and its life we have been given. And that in an instant, it can be gone.
It is why we should always treat each other and each day as it could be our last. Because one day, you will be right.
While May 21st may not be the end of days... here are some signs it is coming ;-
I got this in my inbox:

May 21st 2011.
This is a notification to inform you that the world will be ending shortly.
The world will be ending due the following reason: The Rapture.
This has been forecast by Harold Egbert Camping. Despite previously incorrectly
predicting the end of the world (September 1994), we at the End of the World
Notification Service believe his revised date should be taken very seriously.
We advise that you take the short time you have left on Earth to either repent,
spend time with your loved ones or join one of the many Rapture Parties taking
About Mr Camping:
About the parties:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control Advises: Prepare for Zombie Apocalypse????
Sure this is funny... and in bad taste. But at the end an important message about being prepared for a mild emergency.
The following was originally posted on CDC Public Health Matters Blog
There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.
Photo: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Prepared
So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored). On the CDC website are a few items you should include in your kit, for a full list visit the CDC Emergency page.

May 20, 2011

EPA's Lisa Jackson on The Daily Show

Lisa P. Jackson reminds the American people that environmentalism isn't a spectator sport.

The Daily Show - Exclusive - Lisa P. Jackson Extended Interview Pt. 1

FREE - DOE Webinar May 23: Hydrogen Production by PEM Electrolysis—Spotlight on Giner and Proton - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is offering a webinar on Monday, May 23, 2011, from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. (EDT) titled "Hydrogen Production by PEM Electrolysis—Spotlight on Giner and Proton."  Register now to attend this free webinar.

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) electrolysis is commercially available and is an enabling technology for renewable hydrogen production with zero carbon footprint. Electrolysis technologies have been used in large-scale central production plants supporting, for example, the ammonia production industry. On the smaller scale, electrolysis technologies have been used for distributed systems, such as renewable hydrogen filling stations. Water splitting by electrolysis represents an important part of the DOE portfolio of near- to mid-term hydrogen production pathways; however, the high cost of electrolyzer-produced hydrogen remains a barrier to wider adoption. To address this, key research and development efforts are underway to improve cell and stack performance while reducing capital and operational costs. Leaders in these research efforts, Monjid Hamdan of Giner Electrochemical Systems and Kathy Ayers of Proton Onsite, will discuss recent progress, as well as future scenarios for renewable hydrogen production by PEM electrolysis.
Learn more about the webinar.