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January 2006 Plenum News
Entire Year (minimal, early formats)
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01/07/06 - Rooftop Garden Recycles Water
A new vegetated rooftop recycling system uses plants to filter waste water from washbasins, baths and showers.
The Green Roof Water Recycle System, or GROW, was invented by Chris Shirley-Smith, who founded Water Works UK and who is currently collaborating with scientists at the Imperial College London and Cranfield University to test the invention's effectiveness. "It's a new idea of supplying non-drinking water in an urban environment," said David Butler. Unlike other systems used to treat grey water, the GROW prototype does not require expensive filtration technology or consume energy to function. It is a low-tech solution consisting of a platform about 10 feet by 10 feet that is elevated on one end. Inside, a river of granular material zig-zags back and forth from the elevated end to the low end. Semi-aquatic plants such as water mint, whose roots have disinfectant qualities, as well as yellow flag iris, marsh marigold and the common reed, are rooted into the granular material. Waste water from washbasins, baths, and showers is pumped into the platform and allowed to trickle down through the granular material. As the water seeps through the system, the plant roots take up the dissolved pollutants, leaving behind useable, but non-drinkable water that could be dyed blue with vegetable color to signify its quality and used to flush toilets or to water gardens on the ground. By using GROW, more than half of the water that enters a building or home could be used twice before being flushed into the communal waste management system.
01/07/06 - Nano Solar Cell Paint to produce Energy
IMAGINE IF YOU COULD PAINT the roof of your plant with a nano type of plastic that would create enough alternative energy to heat and cool the facility. While the idea may seem far fetched, it may soon become a reality because of a breakthrough in solar research by a team of scientists from Wake Forest University and New Mexico State University. While traditional solar panels are made of silicon, which is expensive, brittle, and shatters like glass, the team's organic solar cells consist of plastic that is a relatively inexpensive, flexible material that can wrap around structures or can even be applied like paint. Until now, low energy efficiency levels produced by organic solar cells were a drawback. To be effective producers of energy, they must be able to convert 10% of the energy in sunlight to electricity. Typical silicon panels are about 12% energy conversion efficient. That level of energy conversion has been a difficult reach for researchers on organic solar technology, with many of them hitting about 3% to 4%. But the research team garnered a solar energy efficiency level of 5.2%. A cheap, flexible plastic made of a polymer blend would revolutionize the solar market, Curran said.
01/07/06 - I Think You Can, I Believe You Can
What I have tried to do here is to come up with a list of reasons of why most Saudis don’t invent or innovate. I have combined points of view from both Saudis and non-Saudis and here are the results: Education: Our educational system is based on memorization and not on acquiring cognitive abilities. Even in college, I only came across 8 out of 60 subjects that challenged my ability to ‘think outside the box.’ In order to pass the test, all you had to do was memorize the book or the questions and problems set in the previous years. Someone I knew in high school learned Braille (the writing system for the blind) and cheated on exams by reading the underside of the desk with his hand. He is considered a genius but a failure within our educational system. The Business World: Getting a patent is a long and tiring process and I have only one question I’d like answered: Why is it that whenever a Saudi invents something, he files for a patent in the US instead of here? In the end, it all really comes down to incentive. It is said that in Saudi Arabia unless you have the talent to be a singer, poet or a football player, then you are on your own. Try to invent anything and all you get is a few “wows” and “nice words” from friends and family. If you try to get a patent, then God help you. And if you market your invention and it shows a hint of success, then cheap knock-offs from the Far East will soon flood the markets and drown any hopes of profit.
01/07/06 - Europe seeks homegrown power solutions to cut reliance on energy imports
The Russian-Ukraine gas spat, which led to European customers reporting a sharp drop-off in their own gas supplies, is yet another wake-up call after oil prices last year rose above $70 a barrel. Unless it changes its consumption or savings habits, the EU will import almost 70 percent of its energy by 2030 and it will compete for a finite pool of oil and gas with energy-hungry boom economies such as India and China. "As long as we spend more and more on energy, we will be getting more and more dependent," said EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. "We should be looking more at the energy sources we have in the European Union." A quarter of Europe's imported gas comes from Russia, but the nation's dispute with Ukraine raised questions about its reliability as a supplier. If Europe is to lean less on the state-controlled monopoly Gazprom, it will have to buy more from North Africa and the Middle East, build new pipelines - such as the Caspian Sea route via Turkey - and use more liquefied natural gas, which is easier to pump and transport. But these are short-term solutions. A quarter of Europe's imported gas comes from Russia, but the nation's dispute with Ukraine raised questions about its reliability as a supplier. If Europe is to lean less on the state-controlled monopoly Gazprom, it will have to buy more from North Africa and the Middle East, build new pipelines - such as the Caspian Sea route via Turkey - and use more liquefied natural gas, which is easier to pump and transport. But these are short-term solutions.
01/07/06 - Russian Rocket Shoes for 'power walking'
(Reminds me of the 7 League Boots legend. - JWD) Sergei Atanov, a 40-year-old engineering instructor, comes flying down the polished stone hallway wearing a pair of boots that resemble an invention of science fiction, as though his feet had grown bionic appendages that propel him at high speed. Mr. Atanov gambols through the Soviet-era building and picks up his pace in the snowy campus courtyard, showing off the power of the devices strapped to his feet. Every time his foot strikes the ground, the contraption compresses and a tiny explosion of methane fuel goes off inside a cylinder near his ankle. This forces a piston downwards, throwing Mr. Atanov into the air and giving him strides the length of the average car. "You have a feeling like you're flying," Mr. Atanov says, but without much enthusiasm. The engineer has been demonstrating these boots for more than two decades, and he seems tired of the routine. The inventors hoped their devices would help police chase down criminals, give sports enthusiasts a new way of exploring the outdoors and allow postal workers to make deliveries more quickly. Users can run at up to 30 kilometres an hour, but only for five minutes before they have to be refuelled with a syringe. 50 pairs manufactured this year were sold for about $1,500 (U.S.) to gadget enthusiasts in Russia, South Korea, Germany, Slovakia and the United States. Fourteen pairs remain available through the university, but of the 36 pairs shipped out, most have generated complaints or returns by unhappy customers. "From the outset, nearly all the customers complained," Prof. Rudoi says. "But the problem is not with the boots, but with themselves. They didn't know how to run with them." Veteran demonstrators, such as Mr. Atanov, make running with 2.3 kilograms of combustion engine strapped to your feet seem like a graceful affair. But the hazards are obvious from Prof. Rudoi's videos of students trying the devices for the first time: When they fail to lock their knees to absorb the thrust, or lose their balance, the students go sprawling.
01/07/06 - Invention saves up to 40% on heating/cooling systems
Opto Generic Devices Inc. has developed a technology that can reduce the energy use of fans in heating and cooling systems, company spokesman Ethan Durham said. The firm, located in Herkimer County about 16 miles from Cooperstown, has partnered with the Carrier Corp. to market the units nationwide. The 4½-by-5-inch unit, which can fit inside the front panel of a system, uses the small motor on heating and cooling systems to adjust the fan speed to avoid energy spikes, Durham explained. The device can help reduce energy costs by more than 40 percent, according to company officials. Each unit has a payback period averaging three years. The payback period will vary depending on usage and cost of electricity.
01/07/06 - How inventors should protect their work while seeking funding
How do inventors approach investors for backing without giving away their precious, fledgling products? Alan Walker, of Scyence Systems in Hackney, East London, developed a mobile hand washing device for hospitals to prevent the spread of dangerous infection, such as the superbug. He had no funds to build prototypes and took his idea to the NHS. But, he says, they wanted all rights to the design and for him to pay for the development. He was not impressed. Normally, says Carl Rohsler, an intellectual property lawyer, there is a give-and-take agreement. The inventor gives up some of their rights in return for development funds and promotion of the product. They then often receive royalty-style payments. But the first step is to protect the design with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) - preventing people to whom an inventor shows plans from stealing the idea. Mr Walker did right by getting the NHS to sign an NDA and says that if inventors do not take this precaution they could be "bankrupt in about two hours!" Inventors’ websites offer generic NDA templates for around £10. The inventor, Mr Rohsler says, must be careful not to otherwise disclose their idea to anyone unless they have secured a patent. If they tell anyone about their invention without using an NDA, that constitutes a public disclosure - which can make a patent application invalid. "You need to be able to show that all disclosures are confidential," Mr Rohsler says. "Don’t go talking to your local newspaper about your great idea." Patents tend to be limited to one country. So if an inventor gains a patent for a lamp in the UK, there is nothing to stop someone in Germany copying it. To apply in 20 countries, having the application translated into 20 languages, can cost a lot of money.
01/07/06 - Hybrid Claims Found Invalid
(This is an interesting ruling because the inventor combined 'classes' in one patent which negates the patent. - JWD) IPXL alleged that Amazon’s "1-click system" infringed certain claims of its patent. The district court held that one of the asserted claims, which claimed both an apparatus and its method of use, was invalid due to indefiniteness. IPXL appealed, and the Federal Circuit affirmed. The claim in issue was directed to an ATM system and to a method for using it. The Federal Circuit held the claim invalid under § 112 ¶2 because it did not "apprise a person of ordinary skill in the art of its scope." The Court focused on the fact that the combination of the two statutory classes of invention rendered a manufacturer or seller of the claimed apparatus unable to determine, based on the claim, whether it could be found liable for contributory infringement if a buyer or user of the apparatus were to carry out the claimed method of using the apparatus.
01/07/06 - NASA will pay Russian Space Agency $21.8 million per passenger to/from Space Station
(Remember, NASA has a +$16 BILLION a year budget but has to rent transport from FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS, definitely time for private enterprise with this kind of pitiful management. - JWD) Under the deal, Russia also will provide what Mathews described as “a small amount” of cargo space aboard a Progress resupply ship slated to launch to the station later this year and initial Soyuz training for NASA’s Expedition 14 crew member. The agreement also reserves a seat for Williams should he and his cosmonaut crewmate be forced to evacuate the station aboard a Soyuz craft in an emergency. As part of its contribution to the space station program, Russia has set aside Soyuz seats for American astronauts at no charge to the United States since 2000. But that deal essentially expired last October when Russia launched the 11th and final Soyuz called for under an earlier bilateral agreement. Mathews described the new agreement as a short term extension of an existing contract NASA signed with the Russian space agency before the Iran Nonproliferation Act became law in 2000. That act barred NASA from paying Russia for any space station-related goods and services as long as Russia continues to help Iran acquire missiles and other advanced weaponry. The law was amended by the U.S. Congress at the request of the White House in late 2005, clearing the way for NASA buy Soyuz and Progress services from Russia until 2011, when the temporary relief would expire. While NASA has only contracted for six months of services at this point, Mathews said Russia has agreed to honor the $21.8 million per seat price through 2011.
01/07/06 - New hybrids rolled out, but will hot sales continue?
Automakers are rolling out several new hybrids at this year’s North American International Auto Show as hybrid sales continue to grow at a phenomenal pace. But consumers are finding out that hybrids are more expensive and may save less fuel than they thought, which could put the brakes on future hybrid sales. General Motors Corp. is making one of the most visible pushes, introducing two models with different types of hybrid power systems at the show in Detroit. Toyota Motor Corp. will introduce its new hybrid-powered Camry, while Ford Motor Co. will show off a sporty concept vehicle with a diesel-electric hybrid system it says gets up to 65 miles per gallon. Subaru also will have a hybrid concept at the show, which opens to the public Jan. 14. Some industry analysts say these vehicles and others coming to market in 2006 will spur more phenomenal growth for the U.S. hybrid market, which has increased by more than 140 percent in the past year alone. But others wonder if that growth will begin to stall, since hybrid vehicles remain far more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts. GM, which has been criticized in the past by some environmental groups for not offering more hybrids, is promoting the Green Line as a less expensive alternative to hybrids already on the market from Toyota and Ford. The Green Line’s hybrid system adds around $2,000 to the cost of a Saturn Vue, compared to a $3,500 premium or more for other hybrids, and will allow the Green Line to sell for under $23,000. That compares to a starting price of $33,030 for the similarly sized Toyota Highlander hybrid. The Green Line’s system is similar to other gas-electric hybrids in that it saves on gas consumption by shutting off the engine while idling, gives the vehicle a boost of electric power during acceleration and captures electrical energy when the vehicle is braking. GM brought down the price by making a simpler system that doesn’t run on electric power for as long as other hybrids, spokeswoman Susan Garavaglia said.
01/07/06 - Using 'The Power of Nightmares' to control society
Current world leaders, documentarian Adam Curtis asserts, understand one thing extremely well: Fear of a powerful enemy, even a fictitious one, is necessary to control a society. In his extremely partisan, deeply flawed and utterly fascinating dissection of Western politics, Curtis sells his position that Islamic radicals and American neoconservatives spring from virtually identical sources. The three-part BBC documentary also goes far to explain the rise of the unholy triumvirate of Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz, and makes the claim that al-Qaida was pure invention. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, you’ll find holes in Curtis’ thesis - but beyond the cheesy musical cues and sometimes paranoid theories, this may be one of the most important films ever made, an educational and compelling look at the process of global fear-mongering. See it while you can, because with its subversive subject matter, it will never make it to U.S. television - and possibly not to DVD, either.
01/06/06 - DIY Tin Can Stirling Engine
# The engine should run off the heat from a tea light candle, assuming the flame is as intense as an average candle. Light and place the candle under the pressure vessel. After 30 seconds or so, gently spin the crank in the direction in which the displacer rises before the diaphragm. # This engine will rotate at 120 RPM or greater depending on the heat produced by the candle flame. If the flame is too small, the engine will not work. Cooling the top with water or ice may help, just don't let the water get inside the engine. The more water put on top of the vessel, the cooler it will stay and the faster the engine will run. A collar can be built around the displacer rod to keep water out of the vessel and the sides of the vessel top can be built up with a larger collar to make a space for holding water on top of the vessel. # The displacer, pressure vessel, diaphragm, etc. have to be air tight. There should only be minuscule air leakage around the pinhole when the engine operates. You can check it by putting a drop of oil on the pin hole. There should be a few small bubbles formed when the displacer moves up and down. # Minimize all binding and friction using drops of oil. The flywheel should turn freely. Verify that the flywheel is balanced with the displacer connected to the crankshaft and the diaphragm disconnected. The displacer should not hit the top or bottom of the pressure vessel. The diaphragm should not stretch or tighten during operation. It should "pop" in and out.
01/06/06 - Removing LCD burnin
Apple has posted a helpful tutorial for removing image persistence on Apple LCDs (though the basic principle should work for any LCD). 1. Create an all-white screen in a graphics application such as AppleWorks or Photoshop, and save it as a JPEG file. 2. Use this as the image displayed by the screen saver. 3. Turn the display brightness down (but not off) to preserve backlight bulb life. They recommend that you display this white image for as long as the persistent image was displayed. This may not fix things entirely, but it should help remove some of that unsightly burn-in.
01/06/06 - Wiring 'brands' into the brain
It has long been known that humans and animals can learn to associate an irrelevant stimulus with a positive experience, for example the ringing of a bell with food, as in the case of Pavlov’s dogs. And neuroimaging studies have recently implicated two regions buried deep in the brain - the ventral striatum and the ventral midbrain - as having an important role in this learning. Researchers developed a Pavlovian-type association by flashing a geometric shape on a computer screen and giving a squirt of juice into the volunteers’ mouths. However, the volunteers did not realise that they were being conditioned in this way - they were simply told to press a button to indicate on which side of the screen the shape had appeared. The team measured how the volunteers had become conditioned by measuring their anticipation of the juice squirts following an image by measuring the dilation of their pupils. The fMRI scans revealed significant responses reflecting learning in the ventral midbrain and the ventral striatum. Crucially, they found that the strength of the response correlated with the volunteer’s like or dislike of the juice. “Stronger neural responses occur in these regions to a cue that is associated with a more preferred food,” said Doherty. “This shows that when you see a cue that is predictive of a reward, you are able to access information about your subjective preferences.” Doherty says this kind of brain programming may have an evolutionary function in helping humans and animals predict both good and bad experiences in their environment. “For instance, if you learn that a particular fast food outlet gave you food poisoning the last time you ate there - it is going to be in your interest to know not to go there again once you see the sign for that shop in the street,” he says.
01/06/06 - HD recovery utilities: when you can't afford to lose that data
First, you'll have to make sure that your problem isn't related to something else then the hard drive. The failure of your hard disk controller may also be causing this. You could always try to switch your hard drive from IDE1 to IDE2 and see if it fixes your problem. If it's not, remove the hard drive from your system, and bring it with you to a friend's house. If it still doesn't work over there, then you know what the problem is. The only solution to your problem now is to use a file recovery software, like PC Inspector File recovery. This application is completely free, and it works beautifully. It helped me once or twice in the past few years. Don't make yourself any illusion, it's not perfect, and doesn't work all the time (Like any other hard drive recovery utility). Sometimes, hard drive failure cannot be fixed, unless you want to take them to a specialized hard drive recovery shop and pay 1000's of dollars to have your data recovered. To be able to use PC INSPECTOR File Recovery you will need a working Windows System. Never install it on the drive from which you intend to recover data! The software must be installed and run on a second, independent drive. When you are done, the utility is very easy to use. Just let the application extensive HTML tutorial guide you through all the steps. I hope this little hard drive recovery how-to could help you. Hopefully, the application will let you recover your data. Download the FREE Inspector File Recovery program.
01/06/06 - DIY Tesla Coil from the trash
So you still don't believe that people throw away tons of good stuff you can use to have some fun. To prove it to you, I've decided to make a Tesla Coil from only stuff I've found in the garbage. I will include a detailed list of all components used and where/what they came from. I'm not going to go into great detail of how these things work, because at least at this time I don't consider myself much of an expert on the subject. From what I have read, the tesla coil uses resonant conditions to boost say 10,000 volts to a million volts or so. The weird thing is that the output voltage is not really dependent on the coil turn ratio like conventional transformers are. This resonant condition is kinda like pushing a kid on a swing. If you give the kid a little kick at the right moment, e'll go a little higher. The tank circuit of the primary inductor and capacitor resonates at a fixed frequency depending on the inductance and capacitance values. This frequency of oscillation is inversely proportional to the product of the inductance and capacitance. To make things work, our primary side has a large capacitance and a small inductance. To match the same frequency, our secondary has a small capacitance (torroid) and a large inductance (coil). To further complicate the idea, power is fed to the primary coil at the same resonant frequency. The high frequency power is supplied by charging the capacitor until it reaches a voltage sufficient to breakdown air across a spark gap and the spark gap distance is adjusted so that the correct frequency is attained.
01/06/06 - Magnetic Card Emulator
(This shows how people can hack a copy of your credit or ATM card - JWD) Magnetic stripe cards are used for many purposes today, from credit cards to security passes and room keys. This article doesn't intend to explain how to read the contents of a magnetic stripe card. If you're interested in that, see for example Magnetic stripe reader/writer. This article covers emulating magnetic stripe cards for academic purposes such as brute-forcing for an authorized card for a door lock. I have only emulated track 2 of the card, but there's no real obstacles to extending this to track 1 and 3 as well. The solenoid will transfer the pulses from the microprocessor to the magnetic head in the card reader. It needs to be put into the right position to be read. The easiest way to accomplish this is to cut a hole into any old real magnetic stripe card you might have around, and place the solenoid there. According to the iso standard for magnetic stripe cards, track 2 is the area between 0.353" and 0.463" from the edge of the card. You don't need to cut a hole all the way along the card since the magnetic head in the reader is only some quarter of an inch long. The solenoid core can be made from thin magnetic sheet-metal. The card itself is about 0.7mm thick. The solenoid core should preferably be slightly thinner so there's space for two layers of copper wire without the solenoid getting much thicker than the rest of the card. For this test I used a 0.5mm x 3mm x 45mm piece of steel, cut from a can, wrapping about 1m of 0.1mm copper wire onto the ends of that (see figure 2). The data for the stripe of the card is stored inside the PIC microcontroller. The code is prepared for adding more cards, selected using pins RB2 and RB3. Feel free to use the code as a base for your own magnetic card projects, but do give proper credits.
01/05/06 - Top Scientists Validating 'the Force'
The Field tells the story of a group of frontier scientists who discovered that the Zero Point Field - an ocean of subatomic vibrations in the space between things - connects everything in the universe, much like the Force in Star Wars. The Field offers a radically new view of the way our world and our bodies work. The human mind and body are not distinct and separate from their environment, but a packet of pulsating energy constantly interacting with this vast energy sea. The Field creates a picture of an interconnected universe and a new scientific theory which makes sense of ’supernatural ‘phenomena. The Field follows the life and work of physicists who seem to be on the verge of bringing about the same type of revolution that occurred exactly a century ago when quantum theory changed the face of physics forever.
01/05/06 - 5 hours to the Moon
STAR Trek-style flights into space could become reality using a revolutionary form of propulsion, says a report out today. The US military is probing the possibility of Captain Kirk-style “warp speed” using a concept called hyperdrive. It would send craft through a new dimension and let them reach the moon in minutes. A round trip to Mars would take five hours instead of 2½ years, according to scientists. Their idea is to create an intense magnetic field that would produce an anti-gravity force and propel craft faster through space, New Scientist magazine reports. However sceptics say the sci-fi is still a long way from becoming fact.
01/05/06 - New Radar sees through 12 inches of concrete
The new "Radar Scope" will give warfighters searching a building the ability to tell within seconds if someone is in the next room. By simply holding the portable, handheld device up to a wall, users will be able to detect movements as small as breathing, he said. The Radar Scope, developed by DARPA, is expected to be fielded to troops in Iraq as soon as this spring, Baranoski said. The device is likely to be fielded to the squad level, for use by troops going door to door in search of terrorists. The Radar Scope will give warfighters the capability to sense through a foot of concrete and 50 feet beyond that into a room, Baranoski explained. It will bring to the fight what larger, commercially available motion detectors couldn't, he said. Weighing just a pound and a half, the Radar Scope will be about the size of a telephone handset and cost just about $1,000, making it light enough for a soldier to carry and inexpensive enough to be fielded widely. The Radar Scope will be waterproof and rugged, and will run on AA batteries, he said. Proposals are expected this week for the new "Visi Building" technology that's more than a motion detector. It will actually "see" through multiple walls, penetrating entire buildings to show floor plans, locations of occupants and placement of materials such as weapons caches, Baranoski said. "It will give (troops) a lot of opportunity to stake out buildings and really see inside," he said. "It will go a long way in extending their surveillance capabilities." The device is expected to take several years to develop. Ultimately, service members will be able to use it simply by driving or flying by the structure under surveillance.
01/05/06 - 50 Best Firefox Extensions for Power Surfing
There are hundreds of firefox extensions on the web. Which ones do you use? Here is my attempt to collect the 50 best and popular firefox extensions which make your browsing, downloading and navigation in Firefox as easy as possible, while harnessing the full power and features of Firefox. Extensions are small add-ons that add new functionality to Firefox. The list has been classified on the basis of some broad categories.
01/05/06 - Prove Christ exists, judge orders priest
AN ITALIAN judge has ordered a priest to appear in court this month to prove that Jesus Christ existed. The case against Father Enrico Righi has been brought in the town of Viterbo, north of Rome, by Luigi Cascioli, a retired agronomist who once studied for the priesthood but later became a militant atheist.
Signor Cascioli, author of a book called The Fable of Christ, began legal proceedings against Father Righi three years ago after the priest denounced Signor Cascioli in the parish newsletter for questioning Christ’s historical existence. The judge had earlier refused to take up the case, but was overruled last month by the Court of Appeal, which agreed that Signor Cascioli had a reasonable case for his accusation that Father Righi was “abusing popular credulity”. Signor Cascioli’s contention - echoed in numerous atheist books and internet sites - is that there was no reliable evidence that Jesus lived and died in 1st-century Palestine apart from the Gospel accounts, which Christians took on faith. There is therefore no basis for Christianity, he claims. Signor Cascioli’s one-man campaign came to a head at a court hearing last April when he lodged his accusations of “abuse of popular credulity” and “impersonation”, both offences under the Italian penal code. He argued that all claims for the existence of Jesus from sources other than the Bible stem from authors who lived “after the time of the hypothetical Jesus” and were therefore not reliable witnesses. Signor Cascioli maintains that early Christian writers confused Jesus with John of Gamala, an anti-Roman Jewish insurgent in 1st-century Palestine. Church authorities were therefore guilty of “substitution of persons”.
The Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius mention a “Christus” or “Chrestus”, but were writing “well after the life of the purported Jesus” and were relying on hearsay. “If Cascioli does not see the sun in the sky at midday, he cannot sue me because I see it and he does not,” Father Righi said. Signor Cascioli said that the Gospels themselves were full of inconsistencies and did not agree on the names of the 12 apostles. He said that he would withdraw his legal action if Father Righi came up with irrefutable proof of Christ’s existence by the end of the month.
01/05/06 - Pope says terrorism, nihilism and fundamentalism threaten peace
In his homily, the pope said a "shock" of courage and faith in God was necessary to spread peace, and that everyone must work together to combat the threats to it. "It becomes ever more important to work together for peace when confronting the situations of injustice and violence that continue to oppress various parts of the world, those that are the new and most insidious threats to peace: terrorism, nihilism and fanatic fundamentalism," he said. Benedict said individuals and entire populations, international organizations like the United Nations as well as world powers must assume their responsibilities to promote values of justice, solidarity and peace in the world.
01/05/06 - DeTox therapy is a myth
As a nation we spend millions on detox products, especially in the new year following post-Christmas guilt. But scientists are now saying detox remedies are a waste of money and a glass of water and an early night is far more beneficial. "There is a popular notion that we can speed up the elimination process by drinking fancy bottled water or sipping herbal teas, but this is just nonsense. "In fact, many of the detox diets and supplements really aren't that good for you, nor have they been properly tested." Professor Martin Wiseman, visiting professor of human nutrition, University of Southampton, added: "The detox fad - is an example of the capacity of people to believe in and pay for magic despite the lack of any sound evidence.
01/04/06 - Hydrosphere - Ocean Powered 500MW Hydroelectric Generator
Sea Solar Power International of Baltimore, Maryland, a division of the Abell Foundation, is currently evaluating Portland, Oregon resident, Richard M. Dickson’s U.S. patent pending ocean powered hydroelectric generator invention for possible prototyping and eventual production. The invention is a new type of enclosed hydroelectric dam that works off pressure differentials in sea or deep lake water at great depths. Mr. Dickson refers to his invention as a “hydrosphere”, and claims it can generate up to 500 Megawatts of continuous, non-polluting, renewable energy out of sight in oceans or deep lakes. The concept was previously validated by the German firm of Howaldsdeutschewerke (HDW AG) of Kiel, Germany and Florida Hydro, Inc. of Palatka, Florida USA. The "hydrosphere" could eventually become a tremendous source of new electrical energy for the world, benefiting all nations with access to oceans or deep lakes; and dramatically lower the cost of generating electrical power worldwide. This would not only help replace fossil fuel burning power plants, which contribute significantly to global warming; but make electrical power cheap enough to make electrical vehicles extremely practical, thus reducing worldwide dependence upon oil.
01/04/06 - Plasma thruster tested for Mars mission
The HDLT uses solar electricity from the sun to create a magnetic field through which hydrogen is passed to make a beam of plasma, powering ships through space. While the plasma thruster has a fraction of the power of the rockets that launch the space shuttle, it uses far less fuel and gets more thrust as a ratio of the fuel it burns, making it ideal for interplanetary missions. The physics behind the HDLT technology is based on the northern and southern aurorae, natural phenomena that occur when electrified gas released by the Sun hits the magnetic field of the Earth and creates a boundary of two plasma layers. Electrically charged particles pick up energy as they travel through the layers of different electrical properties, thereby creating thrust as they leave the spacecraft. The ANU thruster has the edge on rival technologies as it is simpler and has been proven to work with many propellants including hydrogen, a waste product of human habitation. “The HDLT is a beautiful piece of physics because it is so simple and has an almost infinite lifetime. It doesn’t need any moving parts, any electrodes and is purely based on naturally occurring physical phenomena,” Dr Charles added.
01/04/06 - Americans More Miserable than in Early 1990s
Overall, the number of people reporting at least one significant negative life event increased to 92 percent from 88 percent in 1991, the last time the survey was done. Likewise, the total level of troubles grew by 15 percent. Individual problems were not evenly spread among the population, however. Troubles are greatest among those with low income and less education, younger adults, and families with a high child-to-adult dependency ratio (mostly unmarried mothers). The questions were based on social science research that tracks the impact of negative life events. "Those events are associated with and apparently lead to depression and anxiety as well as physical illnesses, such as heart attacks and increased infections," said study author Tom W. Smith, Director of the General Social Survey. The negative life events, though personal in nature, have ramifications throughout society, research shows. "Essentially, since experiencing more negative events makes individuals less well off, then, in the aggregate, having more individuals suffering more negative events means society is less well-off," Smith said. Research at the state and local level has connected negative life events with problems such as homicide, alcoholism, and suicide.
01/04/06 - Compressed Air Underground Battery for Wind Farms
CAES technology uses off-peak wind turbine generated electricity to pump compressed air into an underground aquifer for use in later generation. The concept of using stored compressed-air energy to help generate electricity is more than 30 years old. Two plants currently exist-an 11-year-old plant in McIntosh, Ala., and a 23-year-old plant in Germany, both with the compressed air stored in caverns created by salt deposits. Wind turbines generate electricity which can flow directly to grid or, alternatively, power the site's air compressor bank. Compressors run at "off peak" times when wind happens to be blowing strongly, but regional electricity demand is low, driving air down into a subterranean cavern of sorts. Compressed air driven underground both dissolves in, and temporarily displaces, groundwater. The horizonatally displaced water is "contained" by surrounding aquitards, however, so the air remains under pressure for extended periods, ready to be let back up the pipes to the surface when needed. When air pressure is reduced, the previously displaced groundwater flows back toward the zone of lowered pressure, which is now under the "dome". This is the "battery-like" part of the design. Air flowing back up the pipes, toward the non-wind turbines, is pre-heated by the combustion of natural gas...Our reading of the design narrative indicates this heating is from in-situ' combustion, not requiring a heat exchanger..., further increasing the air's pressure, prior to it's passing through the turbine blade chambers. The hot compressed air turns the turbine blades just as would flowing water as it passes through a hydroelectric generator. The turbines turn dynamos that generate electricity for the regional grid at peak demand periods.
01/04/06 - Clusterf**k Nation - problems Compounding problems
You can only introduce so much perversity into an economic system before distortions cripple it. From 2001 through 2005, consumer spending and residential construction had together accounted for 90 percent of the total growth in GDP, while over two-fifths of all private sector jobs created since 2001 were in housing-related sectors, such as construction, real estate and mortgage brokering. Much of the money spent did not really exist except as credit -- incomes as yet unearned, hallucinated liquidity, wished-for wealth, all based on the expectation that house values would continue to rise at 10 to 20 percent a year forever. It became a reckless racket, all predicated on sustaining an economy that had lost its other means for generating wealth -- foremost its infrastructure for making things besides suburban houses. What I foresee - If nothing like that happens, the first year of post-peak will express itself in turbulent oil markets. Fear of not getting enough will rule. Futures will be overbought and then dumped or shorted and then overbought again. This will at least increase the violence of the ratcheting effect in the markets. Overall I expect to see $100-a-barrel oil at some point this year. With the cratering of the housing bubble, the US economy has to fall on its ass. The global economy is likely to fall on its ass, too, since so much of it depends on the decisions of Americans to take out exotic loans for buying houses they can't afford. Large numbers of jobs will vanish in construction, remodeling, real estate sales, and the various mortgage rackets -- those things precisely related to the recent gains in GDP. The sheer falloff in new mortgages will send a tsunami through financial markets addicted to continuous supplies of new "money" to preserve the illusion of expansion. In Europe, we are beginning to see some of the first tectonic heavings over energy as Russia jerks poor Ukraine around on their natural gas shipments.....and much, much more at the attached link...
01/04/06 - More on the Patent Epidemic
Teleflex sued KSR, and the companies are now locked in litigation. KSR's defense is simple: U.S. law does not allow patents for inventions that are "obvious." Nothing could be more obvious, KSR says in court filings, than a combination of "preexisting, off-the-shelf components" that each perform "exactly the same function" for which they were originally designed. In essence, KSR's argument is that Teleflex may as well have patented the combination of the refrigerator and the light bulb. Rodger D. Young, Teleflex's attorney, counters: "The fact that Device A and Device B exist does not make it...obvious that they should be put together." In an article in The National Law Journal last month, New York attorney Barry Schindler expressed the current patent-everything-in-sight mentality. Seizing on a recent ruling by a Patent Office administrative board that said method patents don't even need to make use of technology, he advised companies to "now seek U.S. patent rights for any unique business method covering every conceivable business operation, such as methods of billing clients, hiring employees, marketing products or service...or simply obtaining funding." Litigation-driven business decisions can waste resources and money. So can another strategy known as defensive patenting. To ward off claims of infringement from others, companies pump up their own patent portfolios. Cisco has gone from obtaining a few hundred patents annually to around 1,000. "A large part of that investment is to assure that if someone wants to assert patents against us, we will have some countervailing tools," says Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler. It's the patent world's equivalent of mutually assured destruction. Instead of suing, companies agree to license each other their intellectual property. Courts -- and patent examiners -- can't reject an invention as obvious unless they can point to specific references suggesting the elements could be combined. Those references are typically previous patents or technical literature.
01/03/06 - Microsoft recommends using this 'unofficial' patch for their sloppy software
ZDNet is reporting on the latest dire pronouncements about the WMF vulnerability. The problem is so serious that security experts are urging IT firms to use the unofficial patch. Microsoft's current goal is to release the update on Tuesday." From the ZDNet article: "This is a very unusual situation -- we've never done this before. We trust Ilfak, and we know his patch works. We've confirmed the binary does what the source code said it does. We've installed the patch on 500 F-Secure computers, and have recommended all of our customers do the same. The businesses who have installed the patch have said it's highly successful.
Vulnerability in Graphics Rendering Engine Could Allow Remote Code Execution and this
Article with caveats and you can download the patch HERE.
01/03/06 - Nano Dishwasher saves water
This dishwasher loosens food residue from dishes using ultra-fine steam with a water droplet diameter of 1.5 nanometers (one billionth of a meter). It then washes away the residue by spraying high-pressurized water in sequence from nozzles at the top, bottom right and bottom left. As a result of its excellent cleaning ability, the appliance uses only 9.8 liters of water, the least amount of water in the industry, to wash 60 dishes, or dishes for seven people. Compared to washing by hand, it uses less electricity or gas as well as less water, resulting in a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 65 percent. A silver ion coating, which Hitachi adopted for the first time in the industry in 2004, is used to keep the inside sterilized regardless of temperature. Nano-titanium, which has a deodorant effect, is also used to further improve cleanliness.
01/03/06 - Beating CD anti-copy technology for your backups
(An earlier post had several people reporting you could use a black marker to paint the outside rim of a 'protected' CD which would bypass the rootkit protection. This is an AUDIO file only, could not find it as text. - JWD) All Things Considered, December 23, 2005 · Bloggers recently revealed that Sony BMG had hidden invasive software on some of its CDs to protect against unauthorized copying. The software also monitored and controlled how people used music they bought legally -- and could potentially open computers to hackers. But users are finding ways around it.
01/03/06 - Refitting the old PC to run faster with Linux than the new one with Windows
(I'm thinking this could be very cool for JUST WEB BASED ACTIVITIES, specifically browsing and email with another system with all the bells, whistles and huge programs for complex work options. - JWD)NY Newsday is running an article on fixing up your old (and recently replaced) computer with a quick and easy Linux install. Boy, are we gonna fix it. I can almost guarantee you it will run appreciably faster than your new unit. It won’t ever get clogged up with spyware. It will never crash. And it will come with all the software you’ll ever need, and if you need more, you can download it for free. A nice one-day project. The Linux install-of-choice is Damn Small Linux (DSL), a full Linux OS that occupies a tiny 50MB. So rather than throw away your jurassic PC now that you’ve got a shiny new holiday PC, consider reviving it with a little Linux. (via lifehacker.com)
01/03/06 - 50 Free online storage/download sites
A list of 50 similar services that are absolutely free and require no e-mail registration to use. Included in the list are file size limits, download limits and the amount of time the file remains on the server for download.
01/02/06 - U.S. government draws up regulations for commercial space travel
More than 120 pages of proposed rules, released by the government Thursday, regulate the future of space tourism. This don't-forget list touches on everything from passenger medical standards to pre-flight training for the crew. Before taking a trip that literally is out of this world, companies would be required to inform the "space-flight participant" - known in more earthly settings as simply a passenger - of the risks. Passengers also would be required to provide written consent before boarding a vehicle for takeoff. Legislation signed a year ago by President George W. Bush and designed to help the space industry flourish prohibits the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration from issuing safety regulations for passengers and crew for eight years, unless specific design features or operating practices cause a serious or fatal injury. "This means that the FAA has to wait for harm to occur or almost occur before it can impose restrictions, even against foreseeable harm," the proposal states. "Instead, Congress requires that space-flight participants be informed of the risks." Physical exams for passengers are recommended but will not be required, "unless a clear public safety need is identified," the FAA said in the proposed regulations. Passengers also would have to be trained on how to respond during emergencies, including the loss of cabin pressure, fire and smoke, as well as how to leave the vehicle safely.
01/02/06 - 'Diagnosis before symptoms' hope
Scientists are working on a method to enable doctors to identify disease even before symptoms appear. To date, it has not been possible to identify pre-symptomatic infections. But a team at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory found distinct patterns can occur in the immune system in the earliest stages of infection. The intensive care unit was identified as a place where patients were more likely to develop sepsis - a severe illness caused by overwhelming infection of the bloodstream by toxin-producing bacteria which can cause organ failure and death. The scientists looked for a set of possible markers in the immune system associated with the earliest stages of the condition. The study showed that those patients who went on to develop sepsis displayed a distinct immune system pattern according to their age and sex. The work showed that, in principle, one can predict the onset of disease. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has filed a patent on the principle that pre-detection is possible and can be applied to infections acquired naturally, or through work in military, counter-terrorist or public health fields.
01/02/06 - Thought Provoking! What is your Dangerous Idea?
The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true? "Fantastically stimulating...It's like the crack cocaine of the thinking world.... Once you start, you can't stop thinking about that question." - BBC Radio 4
01/02/06 - Hackers Rebel Against Spy Cams
Members of the organization worked out a way to intercept the camera images with an inexpensive, 1-GHz satellite receiver. The signal could then be descrambled using hardware designed to enhance copy-protected video as it's transferred from DVD to VHS tape. The Quintessenz activists then began figuring out how to blind the cameras with balloons, lasers and infrared devices. And, just for fun, the group created an anonymous surveillance system that uses face-recognition software to place a black stripe over the eyes of people whose images are recorded.
01/02/06 - Brian claims verified accurate predictions
(Link courtesy of Smywolf) Over the past year alone I have had over 650 of my dreams come true...yes...over 650. I do not know how nor why they do, but they do! Most dreams seem to come true anywhere from 1 hour to 6 months after I have had the dream, on average about a week. This was very scary at first...but I have learned to live with it...and posting them on this site actually makes dealing with these dreams a lot easier. Each day after work, I update this website with scanned copies of my dream drawings from the previous night. I try and have this completed no later than 5PM EST (GMT-4) everyday. Also, to make this clear, my dream predictions are not just some sort of vague random guessing like so-call psychics forecast, I provide actual time, date and place of most events to come, and this all comes from the many dreams I've had the previous night...some time's I get the translations wrong...but the dream drawings are always correct.
01/02/06 - Beetle Sports Photonic Crystal Coat
(This might be relevant to the 'elyton covers' the late Victor Grebennikov wrote me about with regard to his gravity deflection experiments. - JWD) Why are some coleoptera beetles blue? Because light striking the beetle's external hard parts undergoes destructive interference. Electron microscope pictures of the beetle's scaly cuticle, online at Physics News Graphics, help to explain that each scale is made of alternating layers of pure chitin (high index of refraction) and mixtures of chitin and air (low index of refraction). The resulting structure is a photonic crystal: because of wave interference, light of certain frequencies are excluded. In this case blue light is forbidden from being absorbed by the animal's shell; all blue light is reflected while other frequencies are absorbed in the cuticle, and the creature consequently has a blue appearance. According to Jean Pol Vigneron at the University of Namur in Belgium, lessons learned from the beetle scale's iridescence might be applied to the manufacture of paint, clothes, paper and in simplifying the kinds of windows and windshields that currently employ interference effects. The beetle's optics might also help in designing micro-fabricated displays in which different colors could be obtained through the clever reflection, rather than by emission, of light. See Grebennikov Article on Gravity shielding
01/02/06 - Warning of 'anti-Semitic tsunami'
Globalisation had led some people to wrongly see Israel as the cause of all the world's conflicts, he told BBC Radio 4's Sunday Programme. Holocaust denial and hatred of Jews were circulating widely in best-selling books and prime time TV, he warned.
01/02/06 - Scary paper on anti-semitics, very long, very detailed
(This was sent to my email by a friend who had read the 'What happened to our Beloved United States?' article posted below. My worldviews regarding politics and the complexities behind it all are very primitive and simplistic so I was astounded by this website. Obviously grinding some personal axes and several errors that jump out at you but quite fascinating nonetheless. And with the Iranian president disclaiming the holocaust and insisting that nations who promote it be willing to set aside land as repayment and out of guilt. See Latest rant from Iran Its just way, way too much for me. My world is ideas that lead to experiments that lead to technology that lead to machines to help the world. All this stuff is far beyond my pay scale but some might find it of interest. - JWD)
01/01/06 - New heating system, virtually no monthly costs
Ted Boice of Manchester, the former head building engineer at Franklin Elementary, has invented and constructed a heater that keeps his 1,060-square-foot house toasty-warm with virtually no monthly heating costs. Boice essentially gets a double bang out of his fireplace by using it to superheat water, which also heats the house. Boice's system, which he calls "The Heatalator," is constructed of carefully welded copper and steel pipes. Here's how it works. # A pump connected to a 140-gallon water storage tank sends cool water from the bottom of the tank into 1-inch steel coils that resemble an old-fashioned radiator lying flat. The water-filled coils sit beneath burning wood in Boice's fireplace. # The thermostat, which he's dubbed the "Aquastat," switches on when the water temperature reaches 160 degrees. The hot water then flushes into the top of the 140-gallon tank. At the same time, the circulation pump sends more cool water into the coils, repeating the heating process. The water can stay as hot as 140 to 150 degrees depending on how hot the fire is burning and how long it stays lit. # A pair of fans in the fireplace circulates the fire-heated air throughout the 1,060-square-foot house. Boice built two-ducted fans in the inlets. The fans automatically turn on when the air temperature hits 90 and automatically turn off when it dips below 90 degrees. # On even the coolest days, Boice heats the house around the clock, though a fire is burning at most in two four-hour spans. When the fire isn't burning, the house is warmed by the hot water, which acts like a battery. The 140-gallon tank sits in a utility room in the center of the house and heat radiates from the tank, making the utility room as hot as 90 degrees. # If needed, Boice runs a small room fan to help move the super-heated air from the utility room throughout the house. The Aquastat and the blowing fans insure an indoor temperature between 70 to 75 degrees, whether or not a fire is heating the coils. The conserved hot water heats the retired engineer's home for up to 20 hours. The cost to heat and provide electricity for his home runs about $57 during the coldest months, he said. Unlike a traditional heating system, which draws in cold air from the outside, Boice's Heatalator uses static air, recycled by the fans. This self-sustained recycled air makes for less temperature fluctuation during the cold months. Despite the success of his heating system, Boice said he has no intention of patenting it. "I didn't build it to be a pretty thing, so it probably couldn't be manufactured," Boice said. "But the concept is pretty easy to follow. People could most likely build their own just by looking at pictures of it."
01/01/06 - Best UFO photos of 2005
(Seems like these UFO 'proofs' are always just photos. Blurry, fuzzy photos at that. I often wonder if there is some kind of energy field around them which might fuzz up the light to result in poor photographs. Of all the photos provided on the page, I thought the cylindrical one was the most interesting as it reminded me of a drawing Hal Crawford of Dallas had created of one of Tesla's ideations as well as the vimana type ship as in 'Dweller on Two Planets' from 1886. The propulsion method described in the Dweller book was based on something called the 'night side forces' of Nature. With cryptic comments such as 'night is as pregnant as day' which I always thought referred to a band of frequencies which directly couple with gravity. These forces allowed them to do wonderful things when applied in the form of machinery, from transmutation to healing to gravity control and conversion of said forces to energy they could use to provide heating, communication and motive power. - JWD)
01/01/06 - DIY Funeral Site
(We've seen mausoleums for peoples ashes, conversion of the ashes to carbon which is then pressed into diamonds, mixing the DNA with a living plant like a tree that grows as a memorial, sending the ashes out into space, now some folks just want to go natural and feed the worms. - JWD) A family in St. George, Vt., wants to turn 50 acres of undeveloped land into a natural burial ground for do-it-yourself funerals. One of the people proposing the plan, Lisa Carlson, said families could actually dig a grave or pick a spot to leave cremated remains -- no caskets, no concrete vaults and no embalming. "The idea of a garden park and nature reserve just makes so much sense," she said. The town select board has the final say on what happens to the land. No decision has been made yet, but the board's chair said the land might be better suited for commercial or residential use. Plans for similar natural burial grounds also are being considered in California, Ohio and Wisconsin.
01/01/06 - the Ultimate Holistic Anti-Virus Software
(This sounds a lot like GoBack and System Restore software - JWD) Imagine anti-virus software for handhelds that's less than the size of a typical PowerPoint file, needs no yearly subscription, yet it can protect mobile phones, PDAs, iPods or any other smart devices from not only known viruses but also all future unknown viruses and other malware. Rudra, according to Bhaskar, "is a breakthrough anti-virus technology based on the intention of malicious codes." "This technology not only protects a device from known viruses but also from any unknown malicious codes (malware) which includes viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, keyloggers and hackers. Thus the technology offers a holistic solution." The beauty of this technology, claims Bhaskar, is not only the fact that it is thin and that it can protect a handheld device from virus intrusions through any medium -- including Bluetooth -- "but since the technology protects a device even from future unknown viruses, the need for regular updates -- which increasingly encroaches on the limited memory space of handhelds -- as well as the need for yearly subscription, is removed." Rudra's method is simple: It takes a snapshot of a device in complete detail in its malware-free state and continuously monitors system and file changes. New files, changes in configuration, changes in system control files and changes in critical application program files are all evaluated for potential threats. Any change in the system state that represents a potential threat is immediately acted upon. Such surveillance then not only removes the potential threat but also restores the system to its original malware-free state, thus protecting devices against unknown viruses too. On the other hand, says Bhaskar, Rudra offers a fundamentally different approach to virus and malware protection. "It identifies and removes all viruses from personal computers in their signature-unknown state," said Bhaskar, "and preventing any unauthorized program from executing on a device." "And the handheld version of Rudra would be out by September by when we shall also be in a position to launch versions for Linux and Macintosh-based PCs," said Bhardwaj.
01/01/06 - Question - When does 'sharing' become 'proselytizing'? Won't believers (of all faiths and cults), EVER learn that many CHOOSE to not share their beliefs or even fanaticism? Keep your books and tracts promoting your chosen beliefs, unless you are specifically asked to 'share' them with others. Please keep your beliefs to yourself and your fellow believers. Thank you. - JWD
01/01/06 - Successful liquid fuel-powered Scramjet
The vehicle achieved a world first on Dec. 10 at an altitude of 63,000 feet -- becoming the first air-breathing, liquid hydrocarbon fuel-powered scramjet engine to fly, the Office of Naval Research reported. The approximately 106-inch long, 11-inch diameter, missile-shaped vehicle raced at 5,300 feet per second -- Mach 5.5 -- for 15 seconds before a controlled splashdown into the Atlantic Ocean, the statement said. The overall goal of HyFly is to flight-test key technologies enabling a long range, high-speed cruise missile that can cruise at speeds up to Mach 6.
01/01/06 - U.S. prepares Iran strike
The Bush administration is preparing its NATO allies for a possible military strike against suspected nuclear sites in Iran in the New Year, according to German media reports, reinforcing similar earlier suggestions in the Turkish media. The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel this week quoted "NATO intelligence sources" who claimed that the NATO allies had been informed that the United States is currently investigating all possibilities of bringing the mullah-led regime into line, including military options. The German news agency DDP cited "Western security sources" to claim that CIA Director Porter Goss asked Turkey's premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan to provide political and logistic support for air strikes against Iranian nuclear and military targets. Goss, who visited Ankara and met Erdogan on Dec. 12, was also reported to have to have asked for special cooperation from Turkish intelligence to help prepare and monitor the operation.
01/01/06 - Rain Gardens to reduce pollution
A study posted today on ES&T’s Research ASAP website confirms the effectiveness of rain gardens, an increasingly popular-and aesthetically pleasing-technique for reducing the flow of common pollutants after storms in cities and suburbs. Authors Michael Dietz and John Clausen of the University of Connecticut also show how a simple design modification can enhance rain gardens’ ability to treat the polluted rainwater flowing off roofs. The authors hope that their results will help contribute to the growing acceptance of rain gardens by developers and homeowners. A rain garden, in its simplest form, is a shallow depression in the earth, landscaped with permeable soil and hardy grasses, shrubs, or trees and covered by a thin layer of mulch. Rain gardens collect the storm-water runoff from impervious surfaces, such as roofs and driveways, and allow it to percolate into the ground instead of draining into sewers or waterways. The storm-water runoff from a house roof or a parking lot may not seem like a major threat to water quality. “People think of pollution as something coming from a factory or a sewage treatment plant, dumping directly into a river,” says Dietz. But runoff carries the signature of the urbanized areas through which it flows, including nitrogen and phosphorus compounds from atmospheric deposition and fertilizers, as well as metals, oils, and other particulate matter. The volume and velocity of runoff from a heavy rain can also overwhelm urban sewer systems. According to the U.S. EPA, more than half of the rainwater that falls on a typical city block, one with 75% or more impervious cover, will leave as runoff. To encourage the bacteria in the soil to convert the nitrates into nitrogen gas via the denitrification process, the authors modified the design of their garden to allow water to pool in the bottom. Saturation by water is expected to reduce oxygen levels in the soil, Dietz explains, creating anaerobic conditions favorable for denitrification. The simple modification produced an 18% decrease in total nitrogen levels compared with the control garden.
01/01/06 - Plastic Found in 95% of Dead Birds
Thousands of seabirds are being killed each year after a massive rise in plastics pollution in the North Sea, according to a new report. Studies on the bodies of 600 fulmars washed up on beaches revealed that 95 per cent had plastic litter in their stomachs - with an average of 40 pieces of plastic per bird. One fulmar had 1,600 pieces of plastic in its guts, says the Save the North Sea project, which was set up by volunteers and professional organisations in all countries with North Sea coastlines. Fulmars - gull-like, tube-nosed birds with a massive colony on St Kilda - are affected because they mistake discarded plastic for jellyfish floating on the sea's surface. The south-east area of the North Sea - around the Channel exit to German Bight - is the worst-affected and plastics pollution is not only killing birds but also putting off bathers, contributing to beach clean-up costs and causing fouled propellers and blocked water intakes. Mark Grantham, of the British Trust for Ornithology, said yesterday: "Plastics pollution is a chronic problem in the North Sea. Heaven knows where some of this plastic comes from. They've found everything from balloons to shotgun cartridges in the birds' stomachs. But the commonest is beads of raw plastic before it is formed." Fulmars, which are small albatrosses, have been breeding on St Kilda for centuries. They spread throughout northern Scotland in the 19th century and to England, Ireland and Wales by 1930. Fulmars lead long lives, with many reaching 40 and some even living to 100.
01/01/06 - Personal Note - In a related anecdote, a friend of mine in Dallas had a colonics business. He told me about 20 years ago to NEVER cook food in plastic wrap, that he had many clients who did eat commercially packaged sandwiches and other food items, in the plastic wrapper. That the plastic molecules are superheated by hot vapor from the food and on cooling are ABSORBED into the food. My friend says he frequently pulled out long, stringy pieces of plastic during the colonic session. Since then, I have never eaten any food still in its plastic wrapper, from burritos to sandwiches. Just take it out of the package, wrap a napkin around it or place it on a napkin and cover with another napkin, then heat it. I had noticed food cooked in the plastic wrap tasty like it had chemicals and on cooling would harden up much more than just plain food. - JWD