Archive for category Science

Required Viewing

I ran across this web site the other day while reading about climate change. In my mind, it is required viewing for anyone interested in residing on this planet. Especially check out the sections about Carbon Dioxide Levels and Global Average Temperature, as they speak volumes.


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Ethanol doesn't make a lot of sense…

At least after reading this article it doesn’t seem to. For example:

Corn requires large doses of herbicide and nitrogen fertilizer and can cause more soil erosion than any other crop. And producing corn ethanol consumes just about as much fossil fuel as the ethanol itself replaces. Biodiesel from soybeans fares only slightly better.

Much of what happens in its tanks and pipes is typical of any large distillery–after all, people have been turning grain into alcohol for eons. The corn is ground, mixed with water, and heated; added enzymes convert the starch into sugars. In a fermentation tank, yeast gradually turns the sugars into alcohol, which is sepa- rated from the water by distillation. The leftover, known as distillers’ grains, is fed to the cows, and some of the wastewater, high in nitrogen, is applied to fields as a fertilizer.

The process also gives off large amounts of carbon dioxide, and that’s where ethanol’s green label starts to brown. Most ethanol plants burn natural gas or, increasingly, coal to create the steam that drives the distillation, adding fossil- fuel emissions to the carbon dioxide emitted by the yeast. Growing the corn also requires nitrogen fertilizer, made with natural gas, and heavy use of diesel farm machinery. Some studies of the energy balance of corn ethanol–the amount of fossil energy needed to make ethanol versus the energy it produces–suggest that ethanol is a loser’s game, requiring more carbon-emitting fossil fuel than it displaces. Others give it a slight advantage. But however the accounting is done, corn ethanol is no greenhouse panacea.

I recently finished watching NOVA’s “Saved By the Sun”, and it described a more optimistic means of powering the planet. While solar may not be an ideal solution for several reasons, it certainly has a lot lower impact than ethanol. Did you know that Germany is investing a lot of money and resources in solar energy? Or that Las Vegas is moving toward solar energy? You can watch the program on the PBS website.

Anyway you look at it, this country has to come up with some solution to our energy dependance, and global warming too. My personal favorite candidate has a lot of good things to day on the topic, if anyone would just bother to listen.

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Vote For Pluto

I work with Erik, who has been getting some press recently for creating some signs for his yard. Odd how this stuff happens. The reclassification of Pluto got me to thinking about the past. I had worked with David Levy on a software project many years ago based on his book Skywatching. Levy had a personal relationship with the discoverer of Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh.

I hadn’t thought about all this in quite a while. It is odd how seemingly random events can cause you to remember things that had been forgotten.

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An electric car with promise…

How does a 250 mile battery life, with 0 to 60 time in around 4 seconds sound? Sounds great to me. Check out the details on autobloggreen. The solar option wouldn’t do much here in Oregon 9 months out of the year, but the notion of an energy positive vehicle is still very attractive.

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Esophageal Cancer – Soda link debunked

An article over at Live Science discusses a new study done that compares the diets of people with esophageal cancer with those that don’t. In a nutshell, there isn’t a link between increased esophageal cancer and soda consumption. In fact, there is some evidence of the opposite relationship.

The a good mitigator for this type of cancer might be as close as your local pharmacy. If you have heartburn 2 days or more a week, talk to your doctor about a PPI.

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Weather Related Investigation

With the recent chill in the air — it was 25 degrees Farenheit, I wondered why we get goose-bumps. At the marvelous Wikipedia, I found an answer. It is a vestigial response. Come to think of it, “Vestigial Response” would make a good band name.

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Frame Dragging Confirmed

According to this article at, scientists have evidence of a prediction based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity. This prediction was developed in 1918 and called “frame dragging”. To confirm the prediction the researches bounce lasers of two satellites LAGEOS and LAGEOS 2. Pretty nifty eh?

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The MegaPenny Project

From Hazelware, an interesting look at how to visualize very big numbers The MegaPenny Project

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Science Blog – Waterways polluted with anti-bacterial handsoap toxin

This article from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of public health, mentions a potential environmental issue I’ve never heard before — high levels of triclocarban in public waters.

”It’s somewhat unsettling that we’ve been using this persistent disinfectant for almost half a century at rates approaching 1 million pounds per year and still have essentially no idea of what exactly happens to the compound after we flush it down the drain. Further studies are needed to determine the effect of triclocarban on aquatic life and potential pathways of unwanted human exposure,” said Dr. Halden.

So what are the options for soap? Lisa has convinced me that just “plain soap” isn’t sufficient if you are dealing with raw meat. Maybe we should use it in moderation… hmm.

I found the article over at Science Blog:
Science Blog – Waterways polluted with anti-bacterial handsoap toxin


Teleporting Atoms…

I ran across this blurb about Austrian and US Scientists “teleporting” atoms. Unlike the Star Trek transporter, this technique duplicates quantum state, rather than the matter->energy->matter conversion described in the show. In any result, it is pretty darn cool.

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