Sunday, March 27, 2011

Late Night Motie News Linkspam

The inaugural Late Night Motie News Linkspam proved to be more popular than the post about the census figures for Detroit before that, bucking the trend of lower pageviews throughout the week. Since it seems to have worked, I'll do it again, this time with relevant stories that I posted earlier tonight to Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos. Hey, I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.


Purdue University: Purdue center to seek solutions to enhance global food security
March 24, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University has established the Center for Global Food Security to take up one of the world's most pressing challenges: getting enough food to people who need it the most today and producing enough to meet even greater demand in years to come.

The center, a year in the making, has begun operations at the university's Discovery Park, a $500 million complex of organizations leading large-scale collaborative research efforts on campus.

"We are looking not only at food, agriculture and natural resource solutions for today but also for future generations," said the center's executive director, Gebisa Ejeta, Distinguished Professor of Agronomy and a 2009 World Food Prize laureate. "We must define what our legacy will be."

The issue of food security is a deepening global concern as the need for more food continues to increase with a rapidly growing world population. About 1 billion of the world's nearly 7 billion people suffer from chronic hunger because of economic, social, political and environmental conditions. Scientists project that agriculture will need to double plant and animal production by 2050, producing it more efficiently and safely on less farmland, to meet the needs of a population expected to reach 9 billion people.
This is the second article I've posted on this subject from Purdue University. I'm going to have to pay more attention to their work on the subject.

As for the population figures, I tell my students that we're going to reach that 9 billion if we're lucky. If we're really lucky, we'll hit 9 billion and have a slow controlled decline. If we're not so lucky, we'll hit 9 billion and start to crash. If we're unlucky, we won't get to 9 billion. Somewhere between 7 and 8 billion, we'll stall out and crash. That's the future I'm trying to avoid.

Purdue University: Purdue students create new products from corn and soybeans
March 23, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Teams of Purdue University students who developed a soy-based denture adhesive and a liquid bandage out of corn have won the top prizes in the annual Student Soybean and Corn Innovation Contests.

The awards were announced at a banquet Wednesday night (March 23) at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.

The competition, sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, teaches students how to be innovative entrepreneurs with corn and soybeans.

"The versatility of corn and soybeans is limitless, and these competitions serve as a showcase not only for the potential new uses of crops grown here in Indiana but also for the students who put their time, effort and talent into their projects," said Jane Ade Stevens, executive director for both the corn and soybean checkoff organizations.
The flip side of Purdue's concern with food is that it's very much in the pocket of industrial agriculture, and this article shows that relationship in unapologetic detail. Honestly, I find Michigan State University, where there is a program in organic agriculture that was created by student demand, to have a more progressive perspective, and MSU is also a land-grant agricultural college.


University of Michigan: Unemployment rate and cost of gas predict fuel economy of purchased vehicles
March 23, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Average fuel economy of purchased new vehicles has increased by more than 12 percent since late 2007, due mainly to high unemployment and gas prices, according to a University of Michigan study.

The average fuel economy of purchased new light-duty vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, minivans and SUVs) improved from 20.1 mpg in October 2007 to 22.6 mpg in February 2011—the highest it has ever been.

A new report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute found that the national unemployment rate (currently just below 9 percent) and the price of gasoline (currently above $3.50 a gallon) together account for 83 percent of the variance in the average fuel economy of new cars purchased.
See, people really are responding to price signals!

Speaking of buying cars, it's time to tell another story I tell my students.

Back in 2002, my previous car was getting long in the tooth, so I started thinking about replacing it. My son suggested I buy an Aztek. At first, I liked the idea, as it was a rugged, outdoorsy car, which fit my self-image. Then I looked at the car. I could see all kinds of places for food and drink, storage for camping gear and coolers, and rear seats that folded down to make a bed. I then realized that my son was trying to convince me to buy a party-mobile that he could borrow! I might have actually gone along with this idea, but then I looked at the car's gas mileage--24 highway and 16 city. While gas was cheap then, I knew that, within the lifetime of the next car I would buy, it wouldn't be. I also was living 70 miles from my work. I didn't like the idea of trading in a car that got 40 miles to the gallon on the highway for one that was about half as efficient, especially when I knew I'd be paying a lot more for gas. So, I didn't buy an Aztek.

When I needed to buy a car, I got a Kia instead. It got 32 miles to the gallon, but it was an automatic. I was willing to sacrifice a few miles to the gallon so that my left foot and right hand could rest. Yeah, I'm a sucker for convenience, too.

Purdue University: Purdue, General Atomics team develops lightweight, portable power using hydrogen fuel pellets
March 21, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University researchers have collaborated with scientists at General Atomics to create safe and efficient pellets to power hydrogen fuel cells that can run an array of portable electronic devices.

The technology will be on display in Indianapolis as part of Purdue Day at the Statehouse from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday (March 22) in the Statehouse Rotunda.

The marble-sized fuel pellets, which contain a solid compound that gives off hydrogen when heated, overcome the historic challenges in using hydrogen as a fuel, said P.V. Ramachandran, the Purdue professor of chemistry who led the research.

"Hydrogen gas takes up a lot of space, is unstable and unsafe to transport," Ramachandran said. "We've developed a way to use a very stable and safe compound that can release pure hydrogen gas on demand without any toxic or corrosive byproducts."
Anyone who thinks this is a way to have "hydrogen powered cars" is fooling themselves. Hydrogen is a net energy loser.


University of Wisconsin: New software will help Wisconsin communities redraw their electoral maps
by Bob Mitchell
March 21, 2011

With a few quick, deft movements of mouse and keyboard, Jim Beaudoin reorganized voting in Columbia County.

He collapsed 31 supervisory districts into two big ones, then grabbed a city block here, a rural block there, dragging them from one district to the other to balance the populations. Finally, he zoomed in to do similar surgery on wards and aldermanic districts. With that, he was done.

"I now have the perfect redistricting plan," he says with a smile.

This isn't exactly how things will go next month when Wisconsin's local officials begin the once-a-decade chore of adjusting voting districts. Local staff won't work this fast, or with such a heavy hand. But most of them will be using the same point-and-click, drag-and-drop technology, which Beaudoin, an applications developer with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Applied Population Laboratory and UW-Extension, has spent more than two years creating.
What is this article doing here? It isn't about collapse!

Remember what I wrote in my first post on this blog:

One of the common themes of this blog will be explaining how global, national, and local events and politics are about various factions fighting to maintain their shares of a shrinking pie--one they openly deny is shrinking. Once you recognize that's what's going on, a lot of mystifying events become much more understandable.
Redistricting is one of the prime examples of what I'm talking about, and the most obvious. It's going to be especially true here in Michigan. Expect a lot of posts about redistricting in the near future, some of them as part of my series on the 2010 Census.

That's it for tonight's news.


  1. "Anyone who thinks this is a way to have "hydrogen powered cars" is fooling themselves. Hydrogen is a net energy loser."

    It is however a very efficient energy transport and storage technology. A relatively good way to store solar power and put it in buses and even cars.

  2. Fair enough. I will work as a form of energy storage, which is a problem with solar and wind power. I still maintain that it isn't a replacement for fossil fuels on a mass scale.