Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekly roundup and sustainability news from national commercial sources for the week ending June 11, 2011

So much for my plans.
Part three up later today, then a post for the readers of Clusterfuck Nation.
As you can see that didn't happen. I decided to watch TV with my wife, then played a MMORPG with her. Both of those deserve more attention, but not here. If you really want to know, read my LiveJournal or Dreamwidth accounts. Those activities fit perfectly this month's "Fan" theme for Nablopomo. Consequently, I'm posting part three today, not last night. Hey, I can't be all SRS BZNS all the time!

As for something special for Kunstler's readers, it's not going to happen this week. Not only did I not get around to writing one, but his blog has become more persnickety about links in comments, so I could only post a comment that had a bare link to the blog as a whole, not a formatted link to a particular post. Ah, well, Aimlow Joe and The Leibowitz Society are still going strong as commenters over there, so I'm not worried about being banned as a spammer. For starters, no one is complaining about me in comments; the trolls get all the attention. Second, Leibowitz Society and Aimlow Joe are good company. The first is a serious if eccentric sustainability blogger that I just followed. The second is more of a clown, but still worth reading. I'll review the former in a future post; the latter is worth reading, but not worth reviewing.

That written, I now provide a weekly roundup for the readers coming here from Kunstler's blog.

Three posts comment on sustainablity news from The Oakland Press. In Gas prices back above $4.00/gallon in metro Detroit, I describe the reasons and effects of the midwest's gas prices bucking the national trend of slowly falling prices. Gas is now cheaper, but the economic damage has been done. There's good news in Motie News Brief: GM's Orion plant to go green--good news as long as you like cars. Both of the above were originally supposed to be part of a larger linkspam, but I decided both of those items deserved their own posts. What remained of that planned linkspam were all the sustainability-related poltical posts, which ended up in Linkspam Leftovers: Sustainability News from The Oakland Press for June 6, 2011. All of the topics discussed about scrambling for pieces of a smaller pie, whether it's the rapid dissolution of the city of Pontiac, fights over school budgets, or the process of redistricting.

On a more cheerful note, one of my favorite local news sources is Model D. In Model D Media, fans of Detroit, I let one of the founders describe the outlet's philosophy, which I summarize as "Optimism, but not business as usual," in his own words in a video.

Finally, there are the linkspams of news from major midwestern research universities. Part one, Sustainability news from Michigan's research universities for the week ending June 11, 2011, includes a treasure trove of research and announcements, including one about how anger motivates voters more than fear or hope. Keep that in mind when one is worried about the American people electing corn pone Fascists. Speaking of corn pone Fascists, both Representative Eddie Munster Paul Ryan and Governor Scott Walker made cameos in part two, Sustainability news from midwestern research universities for the week ending June 11, 2011. As you can see, I don't care much for either of them.

With that, it's time for part three of the linkspam. All of the following, along with most of parts one and two, were originally posted to Daily Kos as Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (HIV/AIDS at 30 edition), along with a bunch of science news not related to sustainability.

General Sustainability

Green diary rescue: Is the current bout of extreme weather an expression of climate change?
by Meteor Blades
Green Diary Rescue is a regular Saturday feature at Daily Kos. Inclusion of a particular diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement with it.
Green Diary Rescue is a digest of all the primarily environmental diaries on Daily Kos from the preceding week. If you want to see a good sample of what national progressive activists are writing about the environment and the issues that concern them, this series is a good place to start.

Environment, including science and technology

Discovery News: Madagascar Home to 615 Newly Discovered Species: Photos
June 7, 2011 -- More than 600 new species of animals and plants have been discovered in Madagascar in the past decade, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund.

The discoveries include 385 plants, 42 invertebrates, 17 fish, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles and 41 mammals. Although all of these species are new to science, many are believed to be endangered due to threats ranging from deforestation to illegal wildlife trading.

Explore some of the most fascinating animals discovered in past decade in this slide show.
Madagascar is a biodiversity hot spot that also happens to be threatened. The biologists have known this for at least two decades, so they're describing species there before they're gone. Renowned paleontologist Jack Horner has spent his career trying to reconstruct a dinosaur. He's found fossils with extraordinarily well-preserved blood vessels and soft tissues, but never intact DNA. So, in a new approach, he's taking living descendants of the dinosaur (chickens) and genetically engineering them to reactivate ancestral traits — including teeth, tails, and even hands — to make a "Chickenosaurus".
I don't know if this is really sustainability related, but it is very cool. I'm planning on showing it to my students later this week.

Science News: Go deep, small worm
Discovery in South African mine suggests life can thrive in unexpected places
By Alexandra Witze
Web edition : Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
Tiny worms can live in solid rock up to 3.6 kilometers underground, researchers have found, far deeper than anyone has encountered complex organisms before. The discovery of nematode worms in three South African gold mines underscores that Earth’s biosphere reaches well into subterranean realms. It also suggests habitable environments may exist buried way down on other planets, such as Mars.

Worm specialist Gaetan Borgonie and his colleagues present their findings, which include a new nematode species named after Faust’s devil Mephistopheles, in the June 2 Nature. Nematodes are an incredibly diverse group encompassing numerous intestinal parasites and the widely studied laboratory roundworm C. elegans.
The biosphere extends deeper than we think. Also, very cool.

Purdue University: Record number of cutworms chew through control technologies
June 7, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Multiple species of cutworms are abundant in Indiana cornfields right now, and a Purdue Extension entomologist says Bt traits and seed-applied insecticides are providing only suppression of the insects - not control.

John Obermeyer has received numerous reports of emerging corn that has been damaged by cutworms and he says growers need to be scouting their fields - especially the newly emerging corn - to determine if rescue foliar insecticides are necessary.

"Black cutworm is not the only species of cutworm present and damaging fields," Obermeyer said. "We've received many reports of claybacked cutworm, as well. This species overwinters as a partially grown larva, so it is larger when corn is emerging, as compared with black cutworms, which begin their annual Indiana cycle as eggs in the spring."
This really belongs in yesterday's linkspam, but I missed it. Good thing I trawled through my files again!

Speaking of items I missed yesterday, here's another one.

June 9, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Detroit entrepreneur surprised university engineers here recently, when he invented a heat-treatment that makes steel 7 percent stronger than any steel on record – in less than 10 seconds.

In fact, the steel, now trademarked as Flash Bainite, has tested stronger and more shock-absorbing than the most common titanium alloys used by industry.

Now the entrepreneur is working with researchers at Ohio State University to better understand the science behind the new treatment, called flash processing.

What they’ve discovered may hold the key to making cars and military vehicles lighter, stronger, and more fuel-efficient.
That discovery will help the auto industry become more sustainable, as long as it lasts.

Now back to commercial sources.

Science News: News in Brief: Earth & Environment
June 11, 2011
Climate change brings a thirstier West and thinner polar bears, plus parsing the sun and moon's effects in this week's news
How long could I blog about climate change and not mention polar bears? It was only a matter of time.

Discovery News: Wind Energy Squeezed from Galloping Cables
Analysis by Emad Hanna
Thu Jun 9, 2011 11:48 AM ET
Structural engineers know that a little bit of wind can have dramatic repercussions on large buildings and bridges. One well-known effect known as ‘wake galloping’ causes cables on suspension bridges to oscillate up and down. This phenomenon is observable even at low wind conditions and is the result of one cylindrical cable distorting the path of the wind and causing it to ‘lift’ another cable behind it. The tug of war between the lifting action of the wind and the downwards force of the cable’s weight creates a distinctive ‘gallop.’

A team of scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is hoping to capitalize on wake galloping by using it to generate power. The idea is to build devices that are susceptible to the effect in a controlled way. They've created an oscillating cylinder that is attached to a magnet to create current as it moves up and down.
If developed, this will be nothing more than one of what A. Siegel over on Daily Kos calls "a silver BB." There is no silver bullet solution to our energy problems, not even nuclear.

Think Progress: Do You Live Near One of the Top 25 Dirtiest Coal Plants?
By Energy Interns on Jun 10, 2011 at 1:45 pm
There’s a good chance you do. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, twenty of the top 25 mercury-emitting coal plants are located within 50-100 miles of some of the America’s biggest cities.

There are 600 coal plants in the U.S. These 25 coal plants emit roughly 30% of total mercury pollution in the U.S. electricity sector.
I live near the one in Monroe, Michigan. It's such a landmark that I lecture about it in both Environmental Science and Geology every semester.

Now, time for the transition from science to culture and economy. For that, I have to appeal to archeology and the Internet.

New Scientist (UK): Early Americans helped colonise Easter Island
22:34 06 June 2011 by Michael Marshall
South Americans helped colonise Easter Island centuries before Europeans reached it. Clear genetic evidence has, for the first time, given support to elements of this controversial theory showing that while the remote island was mostly colonised from the west, there was also some influx of people from the Americas.

Easter Island is the easternmost island of Polynesia, the scattering of islands that stretches across the Pacific. It is also one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.

So how did it come to be inhabited in the first place? Genetics, archaeology and linguistics all show that as a whole, Polynesia was colonised from Asia, probably from around Taiwan. The various lines of evidence suggest people began migrating east around 5500 years ago, reached Polynesia 2500 years later, before finally gaining Easter Island after another 1500 years.
What's sustainability-related about this news? Just that it's about Easter Island, which is a notorious example of societal and environmental collapse.

LiveScience: Egyptian Mummies Hold Clues of Ancient Air Pollution
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 03 June 2011 Time: 08:45 AM ET
Ancient Egyptians may have been exposed to air pollution way back when, according to new evidence of particulates in the lungs of 15 mummies, including noblemen and priests.

Particulates, tiny microscopic particles that irritate the lungs, have been linked to a wide array of modern-day illnesses, including heart disease, lung ailments and cancer. The particulates are typically linked to post-industrial activities, such as fossil-fuel burning.

But after hearing of reports of such particulates being found in mummy tissue, Roger Montgomerie, a doctoral student at the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester, decided to take a closer look at mummified lung tissue. His work represents the first attempt to identify and study particulates in multiple Egyptian mummies.
Air pollution has been with us for a long time.

Science News: News in Brief: Social Networks
June 8, 2011
Power networks in Congress, Twitter’s crystal ball and iPhone contagion in news from an MIT workshop

Society, including culture and politics

Mail Tribune: A family's trash has a story of its own
By Paul Fattig
Mail Tribune
The printing on what appeared to have been the bottom of an old pickle jar caught our attention.

"June 9, 1903. Portland, Oregon. Kerr Glass," read the embossed print on the glass turned purple by the sun.

We recently dug the broken remnant out of an old dump we are cleaning up on our Sterling Creek property south of Jacksonville.

Yes, the broken piece is trash. Garbage. Junk.

But it is antique junk, albeit we will never know its story. Whose hands once held the jar? Were the pickles dill or sweet? Like my late great aunt Gladys, did they toss in a hot pepper to allow the pickles to bite back?

The glass offers a tantalizing glimpse of those who once walked our land. Actually, they would have likely been late arrivals, given the fact miners first flocked to Sterling Creek in the early 1850s in search of gold.
Remember, there is no away; everything must go somewhere. Also, archeology is all about examining people's trash. Once trash becomes old enough, it becomes valuable and worth preserving.

Speaking of preservation...

Irish Examiner: Looters target wreckage of German U-boat off Cork
By Dan Buckley
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
TROPHY hunters have targeted the recently discovered German U-boat that sank off Roche’s Point in Cork during the First World War.

The Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating several incidents in which clothes and other personal items belonging to its 27-strong crew were looted from the 49-metre, 400-tonne German vessel UC-42. It sank during a mine-laying operation in 1917. The hull appears to have been damaged by rogue divers attempting to remove a propeller.

The underwater archaeology unit of the Department of Arts and Heritage has received reports of damage to and removal of pieces of the wreck and other objects from the site.
A wreck isn't really trash, but it has been discarded, even if not by its owners' choice.

The Independent (UK): Half of all ancient Aboriginal rock art at risk of being lost
Archaeologists launch campaign to save Australia's indigenous paintings
By Kathy Marks
Saturday, 11 June 2011
Aboriginal elders call the ancient paintings and engravings that dot the landscape their history books.

But while Australia has some of the world's most outstanding and abundant rock art, experts say half of it could disappear over the next 50 years unless it is better protected.

Urban development, mining and vandalism – as well as erosion and other natural processes – are among threats to the art found in rock shelters, often in remote areas. Some sites have already been bulldozed, or had paintings defaced or carved out. Many Aboriginal communities have lost their connection with the art, which their ancestors looked after and retouched over generations.
Art isn't trash, either, but its preservation is about sustaining a culture.


The Guardian (UK): Archaeology dating technique uncovers 'property boom' of 3700 BC
English monuments, including Maiden Castle and Windmill Hill, found to have been built, used and abandoned in single lifetime

A new scientific dating technique has revealed there was a building spree more than 5,500 years ago, when many of the most spectacular monuments in the English landscape, such as Maiden Castle in Dorset and Windmill Hill in Wiltshire, were built, used and abandoned in a single lifetime.

The fashion for the monuments, hilltops enclosed by rings of ditches, known to archaeologists as causewayed enclosures, instead of being the ritual work of generations as had been believed, began on the continent centuries earlier but spread from Kent to Cornwall within 50 years in about 3700 BC.

Alex Bayliss, an archaeologist and dating expert at English Heritage, said: "The dates were not what we expected when we began this project but prehistorians are just going to have to get their heads around it, a lot of what we have been taught in the past is complete bollocks."
More in the next article.

Cardiff University (UK) via New computer dating technology changing the history of Britain
June 7, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier
( -- In a new study called Gathering Time published this month, archaeologists from English Heritage and Cardiff University have been able to create an accurate timeline of the first 700 years of settlement in Britain. Using a newly refined computer and dating system, the researchers have been able to accurately date battle, migrations and construction. This new dating system has changed what was originally believed to have taken place over a time span of 700 years and narrowed it down to less than 100 years.

An example of the new dating technique can be seen with Windmill Hill. Originally it was believed to have been built between 3,700BC and 3,100BC. The new dating technique has narrowed down that time frame to between 3,700BC and 3,640BC.
Like air pollution, it seems that real estate booms and busts have been with us for a long time.

And that's it for this week's linkspam!

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