Friday, January 31, 2014 article on snowiest month in Detroit

Detroit just finished its snowiest month ever. At least one Detroiter coped by cross-country skiing down Woodward.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images
January 2013 snowiest month in Detroit history
Yet another Detroit weather record fell this morning.

First, last year was the wettest in Michigan history.  Then, Detroit broke its for January snowfall.  Now, this month is not only the snowiest January in the Motor City's history, but its snowiest month ever recorded.

As of 7:00 A.M., the National Weather Service office in White Lake measured 39.1 inches of snow falling at Metro Airport.  Not only is that 9.5 inches more than the previous record for the month of 29.6 inches set in 1978, but more than half an inch greater than the previous maximum for the most snowfall in a month of 38.4 inches, set 106 years ago in February 1908.
Lots more at the link in the headline, including Flint having its snowiest January on record, Detroit having its sixth coldest January and eighth coldest month ever, and Detroit having its snowiest first two months of a snow season on record.  As if that's not enough, February is usually snowier than January and there are 4-7 inches more coming tomorrow and Sunday.

Also, Record broken for January snowfall in Detroit has been my most popular article ever, with at least 1000 page views and 116 Facebook shares.  It's been among the five most popular science articles on all week long, including two stints at number one.

And that's it for January.  Pressure's off!

Happy Year of the Horse

Mandarin: Gong Xi Fa Cai/Xin Nian Kuai Le

Cantonese: Kung Hei Fat Choi

Hokkien (Fujian/Taiwanese): Kiong Hee Huat Tsai/Sin Ni khòai lok


Simplified Chinese: 恭喜发财 新年快乐

Traditional Chinese: 恭喜發財 新年快樂


Updated from Happy Year of the Snake! and Happy Year of the Dragon! as well as the original Happy Lunar New Year! on LiveJournal.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More energy and the State of the Union

I'm not done with Energy and climate in the State of the Union.  It turns out that being Secretary of Energy singles one out for special treatment during the speech.  Time explains in This Man Will Be Your President If The Worst Happens.
If the unthinkable happens during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will assume the role of President of the United States.

Moniz, the 12th person in the line of succession for the Oval Office, will be protected by Secret Service agents at an undisclosed location as the so-called “designated survivor” while President Barack Obama delivers his address to Congress. Meanwhile, the vice president, members of the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and others will gather at the Capitol to listen to the president’s annual address.

...He’s better liked inside the administration than his predecessor—and last year’s designated survivor—Steven Chu, who was considered by some administration officials to be a political loose cannon.
It just so happens that I have articles about both men, beginning with Virginia Tech's Nobel laureate talks about innovation in modern research world before capacity Burruss audience.
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 14, 2013 – Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and a former United States Secretary of Energy, talked about how to create a research and development environment modeled after the famously successful “Bell Labs” on Friday during the initial Hugh and Ethel Kelly Speaker Series presentation, hosted by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) and the College of Engineering.

Chu said researchers in today's research climate are forced to concentrate on their best ideas, work in small groups, and to collaborate with experts from different fields. In that respect, it reinforces the Bell Laboratories' philosophy to build small research groups containing usually just an investigator, a postdoctoral associate, and a lab technician, and to have active scientists fill the management roles.

"A small group makes you think hard about the most important things to work on, and being forced to share ideas may be a good thing," Chu said. "That's the lemonade from the lemons."
Next, Science Magazine updates its readers with the people around the new Energy Secretary in Obama Names Energy Science Team.
President Barack Obama has added two academic researchers to his new science team at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Obama yesterday announced his intention to nominate chemical engineer Franklin "Lynn" Orr, a professor and administrator at Stanford University in California, to fill the newly created position of undersecretary for science and energy. The same announcement tapped physicist Marc Kastner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge to lead DOE’s Office of Science, which manages a $4.6 billion research portfolio. Last week, the White House picked physicist Ellen Williams, chief scientist at energy giant BP and a former longtime professor at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park, to run DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

If approved by the U.S. Senate, the trio will round out Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s leadership team for DOE’s civilian research programs, which include 10 national laboratories run by the Office of Science.
That's not all.  As I wrote in Unemployment insurance extension and the State of the Union about the speech:
It also reminded me that I have a long backlog of material from the past two months of Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos about healthcare and energy that I need to post here.
Follow over the jump for the energy news from the past three months that I've posted on Daily Kos since Renewable energy news from campuses on the campaign trail.

An interlude about malaria

I interrupt my blogging about the State of the Union to bring news about the most widespread and deadly parasitic disease on the planet, malaria.  For such a dread malady, it turns out that I've mentioned it only three times, with one story in a research new compendium each year.  That's not much for a a disease that infects at least 350 million people each year and kills about one million of them, mostly children in Sub-Saharan Africa.*  Then, I stumbled across two articles about malaria while compiling Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 fourth warmest year) on Daily Kos last Saturday.  I've taken care of my content about malaria for this and next!

First, Tulane University with Researchers use E.coli to make potential malaria vaccine.
A Tulane University researcher has found a way to use E.coli bacteria to cheaply manufacture a once hard-to-produce protein critical to the development of a potential transmission-blocking malaria vaccine.

Nirbhay Kumar, professor and chair of tropical medicine at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, worked with Evelina Angov of the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research to use the common bacteria to create a new process to purify and refold protein CHrPfs25. When tested as a vaccine, the protein produced a 100 percent effective malaria transmission-blocking antibody response in mice using the two most common species of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, according to results to be published in the April issue of the journal Infection and Immunity.

Malaria, which kills nearly 800,000 people every year worldwide, is caused by a microscopic parasite that alternates between human and mosquito hosts at various stages of its lifecycle. Kumar’s vaccine seeks to trigger an immune response in people so they produce antibodies that target a protein the malaria parasite needs to reproduce within a mosquito.
Next, Penn State describes Modernizing malaria research through a new, interdisciplinary approach.
Huck Institutes faculty researcher Manuel Llinás uses cutting-edge techniques in metabolomics and genomics in effort to beat malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite.

Despite a relatively low incidence of malaria in the United States since the 1950s, the disease continues to pose a major threat to nearly half the world's population.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 3.4 billion people in 97 countries live in areas at risk of malaria transmission. In 2012, according to WHO estimates, there were 207 million cases of malaria worldwide resulting in 627,000 deaths.

“The literature on malaria is over a hundred years old,” says Manuel Llinás, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State. “It's a very well-studied disease. It's one of the most classic illnesses of humankind. And yet we currently still have no great ways to actually tackle this thing.”
I now return to the regularly scheduled blogging about the State of the Union.

*Pay attention to what I did there.  Those are all links to stories about malaria written by me during one year for  That's not all.  I wrote a fourth as well: MSU Physician wins AMA Foundation Excellence in Medicine Award.  Now I've made up for lost time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Energy and climate in the State of the Union

In Unemployment insurance extension and the State of the Union, I opened by praising the president.
I watched tonight's State of the Union address and marveled that the entire speech was organized around the conflict between austerity and sustainability, with President Obama consistently coming down on the side of sustainability.  It fits what I've been blogging about here for the past three years, as I've written about every major topic Obama mentioned at least once, some of them, such as energy, education, healthcare, and technological innovation many times.  I felt validated.
His statement on energy is a prime example.  PBS NewsHour has the entire passage in Obama calls for investment in 'fuels of the future'.

In his 2014 State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama pledged his commitment to U.S. energy independence by investing in natural gas and solar energy. He also talked about shifting to a "cleaner energy economy" that will benefit the environment. "Climate change is a fact," he said. "And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did."
PBS has more at its website in Addressing climate change, Obama pledges commitment to clean energy.

Over at Daily Kos, Jed Lewison counted the words and noted how they reflected Obama's priorities.
Three mentions of the word "climate" in the speech. And three mentioning "al Qaeda." Probably the first time there's ever been parity, though climate change is still obviously a  much bigger threat.
I agree with Jed.  Just the same, this was music to my ears.  I'm also not surprised.  As I've mentioned multiple times, but most appropriately last year at this time in Obama loved science in the State of the Union, "President Obama really likes the idea of sustainable development packaged as making America competitive, and his State of the Union address reinforced that meme."  He did it again this year and I'm glad he did.

Unemployment insurance extension and the State of the Union

I watched tonight's State of the Union address and marveled that the entire speech was organized around the conflict between austerity and sustainability, with President Obama consistently coming down on the side of sustainability.  It fits what I've been blogging about here for the past three years, as I've written about every major topic Obama mentioned at least once, some of them, such as energy, education, healthcare, and technological innovation many times.  I felt validated.  It also reminded me that I have a long backlog of material from the past two months of Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos about healthcare and energy that I need to post here.  Before I do that, I have one item that I had given up on, extending unemployment insurance.  I thought that was stalled, if not dead.  I was wrong.

First, here is the video and story from KPBS: Rep. Susan Davis Hopes Congress Extends Long-Term Unemployment Benefits.

San Diego congresswoman Susan Davis spent the morning discussing the impact of the congressional decision to let benefits for long-term unemployment, expire late last year. More than 1.3 million people lost the federal aide in December.
The accompanying article has more.
Davis spoke with San Diegans who had been affected directly by the decision. Eugene Beronilla, 38, was employed in the health care industry until June 2012. He has been struggling since the federal checks stopped coming shortly after Christmas.

“As confidence falls, financial pressures mount, anxiety increases, and we begin to take desperate measures just to survive on a daily basis,” Beronilla said. “Those federal extensions do make a difference, particularly in the case of having stable housing or having to find another place to live.”
I was thinking about posting that yesterday, but decided against it.  Then, the President included the following in his prepared remarks.
I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy.  But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.

Let me tell you why.

Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager.  She put herself through college.  She’d never collected unemployment benefits.  In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home.  A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved.  Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter – the kind I get every day.  “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote.  “I am not dependent on the government…Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society…care about our neighbors…I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love.  Please give us this chance.”

Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance.  They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game.
Thank you, Mr. President, for reminding Congress about doing this.  With luck, they'll do as you ask.  If not, well, the Republicans have just given the Democrats another campaign issue.  You win either way.  I'd prefer the former, as the American people win, too.

I'll have more on the other topics later.  I'm also hoping for material that will make another entry like Obama loved science in the State of the Union easy to write.  May I be so lucky.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

San Diego election news leftovers

I realized that I had two election stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (California Drought Emergency) on Daily Kos that didn't make it into Debate, endorsements, and a poll from KPBS in San Diego because they weren't about the current San Diego Mayoral election.  However, one of the stories involves one of the candidates for Mayor, David Alvarez, and the other mentions a candidate for mayor of another city, Imperial Beach.  They aren't big stories, but in the interest of completeness, here they are.

Following the "if it moves, it leads" policy Open Government Ballot Measure To Go Before San Diego City Council from KPBS comes first.

An open government ballot measure that would require more government records be available publicly will head to the City Council.
The accompanying article has more.
The city's Committee on Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations voted unanimously to forward the ballot measure to the full council. The council will have to decide by the end of January whether to put the measure on the June 3 ballot.

Former City Councilwoman Donna Frye, now president of open government advocacy organization Californians Aware, is sponsoring the measure and spoke in support of it at the committee meeting. She was joined by other open government advocates.

City Councilman and mayoral candidate David Alvarez brought the ballot measure, which would change language in the City Charter to require more public access to government records, to the committee.
I'm all in favor of more open government, so I hope this ballot measure succeeds.

Next, Khari Johnson of reported Environmentalist To Run For Mayor Of Imperial Beach via KPBS
Serge Dedina, an environmentalist, of Imperial Beach announced plans to run for Mayor of Imperial Beach Wednesday.

A Candidate Intention Statement was submitted to City Clerk Jacqueline Hald last week. No other candidates have filed paperwork to state their intention to run for mayor, Hald said.

The 49-year-old former lifeguard grew up surfing in Imperial Beach. In 2000 he co-founded conservation and environmental group WILDCOAST. As a teenager he was appointed to the Youth Advisory Committee by then Mayor Brian Bilbray.

"This is the city I grew up in and where I hope to retire and die someday," he said.
Good luck, Serge.  I hope you succeed, too.  I think there need to be more environmentalists in government, too.

Asian air pollution and other global pollution stories

Two weeks ago, the Daily Mail reported China starts televising the sunrise on giant TV screens because Beijing is so clouded in smog.
The smog has become so thick in Beijing that the city's natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge digital commercial television screens across the city to observe virtual sunrises.

The futuristic screens installed in the Chinese capital usually advertize tourist destinations, but as the season's first wave of extremely dangerous smog hit - residents donned air masks and left their homes to watch the only place where the sun would hail over the horizon that morning.
The article then goes on to describe the terrible smog and the horrible health problems that result from it.  All of that is true, but the hook is baloney, as Quartz pointed out in Westerners are so convinced China is a dystopian hellscape they’ll share anything that confirms it.
When it comes to China stories, people will believe almost anything. Take, for instance, the reports about pollution being so severe in Beijing that residents now watch radiant sunrises broadcast on a huge screen in Tiananmen Square.

So, that never happened. As Tech in Asia flags, the sunrise is a clip from a tourism ad for Shandong province, in China’s northeast; it’s on screen for maybe 10 seconds or so per loop.

But that didn’t prevent a slew of prominent media outlets—including Time, CBS News and the Huffington Post—from running the story, which originated in the UK-based Daily Mail, each taking their own liberties with the truth. The “glorious sunrise was broadcast as part of a patriotic video loop,” explained Time.

How do stories like this happen? One reason is shabby journalism, something for which the Daily Mail is renowned.
That's why The Daily Mail is called The Daily Fail.  Still, it's a striking image, one that I will use when I next lecture on air pollution.  I already have a photo of air pollution in Beijing.  For balance, I'll also tell my students the full story as a cautionary tale about journalism that appeals to their prejudices.

That written, the air pollution from Asia is real and it's affecting the rest of the planet, as Texas A&M explains in Asian Air Pollution Affecting World’s Weather.
Extreme air pollution in Asia is affecting the world’s weather and climate patterns, according to a study by Texas A&M University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory researchers.

Yuan Wang, a former doctoral student at Texas A&M, along with Texas A&M atmospheric sciences professors Renyi Zhang and R. Saravanan, have had their findings published in the current issue of Nature Communications.
Satellite photo shows huge air pollution clouds at far left. Japan is on the right.

Using climate models and data collected about aerosols and meteorology over the past 30 years, the researchers found that air pollution over Asia – much of it coming from China – is impacting global air circulations.

“The models clearly show that pollution originating from Asia has an impact on the upper atmosphere and it appears to make such storms or cyclones even stronger,” Zhang explains.

“This pollution affects cloud formations, precipitation, storm intensity and other factors and eventually impacts climate.  Most likely, pollution from Asia can have important consequences on the weather pattern here over North America.”
There is much more at the link, including the following image.

Let that be a lesson in "Everything is connected to everything else," "There is no away," and "There is no such thing as a free lunch."

Follow over the jump for more stories that illustrate Commoner's Laws as pollution from one place ends up going somewhere else, as well as other stories about what people are doing about pollution elsewhere on the planet, all of them originally included in Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

Too cool for school

I mean that literally.  Today is so cold that a Wind Chill Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service and schools, including the college where I teach, are closed.  I'll have WXYZ tell the story.

First, here's Wind Chill Watch, the weather report from Sunday night describing how cold it will be.

Conditions were bad enough to close some schools yesterday, although the college was open, so I taught.  WXYZ explains why in Tale of two school districts.

I suspect Ypsilanti was facing an unintended consequence of its merger with Willow Run Schools.  There were a lot of country roads and unincorporated subdivisions in the latter, and I bet they're not plowed as well or often as Ann Arbor.

Finally, here's the situation for today, Schools close for extremely low temperatures.

I'm glad I'm staying warm by staying home.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Campaign finance scandal, endorsements, and new poll in San Diego

Time for the next update on San Diego election news since Debate, endorsements, and a poll from KPBS in San Diego.  For once, the lead story isn't the current Mayor's contest.  Instead, it's a campaign finance scandal involving a foreign national funneling money to candidates, which is illegal.  Under the policy of "if it moves, it leads," here's the video about the story from KPBS: San Diego Politicians Return Illegal Campaign Donations.

A former U.S. Attorney said the former San Diego mayoral candidates did not violate any law if they didn't know the source of the money was illegal.
More at the article accompanying the video.
Congressman Juan Vargas said he'll return any money his campaign might have received from a Mexican businessman at the center of a federal campaign finance probe.

Vargas did not confirm that his campaign had in fact received the funds, but a source told KPBS that Vargas is "Candidate 2" listed in a federal complaint unsealed this week.

The complaint said retired San Diego police Detective Ernesto Encinas approached Candidate 2's campaign for federal office in 2012 to offer a contribution on behalf of a foreign national, now confirmed to be Mexican billionaire Jose Susomo Azano Matsura.
Follow over the jump for more on the scandal, other campaign finance news, and the latest in endorsements and polls.

2013 fourth warmest year on record

The lead story for Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 fourth warmest year) at Daily Kos came from the Times of India.

No El Nino, yet 2013 fourth warmest year: US climate agency
By Subodh Varma, TNN | 22 Jan, 2014, 01.34PM IST
NEW DELHI: Last year, 2013, was tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest year since records began in 1880, according to the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For the 37th consecutive year, global temperatures were higher than the 20th century average.

Using the same data but calculating slightly differently, NASA said that 2013 was tied for the seventh warmest year with 2006 and 2009.  The difference between 4th place and 7th place is just two-hundredths of a degree. NASA had the "temperature anomaly" - how much the global temperature deviated from the average - pegged at 0.60°C and NOAA had 0.58°C.

"The long-term trends are very clear, they're not going to disappear, and people should be aware of that," Gavin Schmidt, Deputy Chief at NASA GISS, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
Let this be a reminder that the year just past was one of weather extremes.  Not only did Michigan have the wettest year in its history, and  California have the driest year on record with Governor Brown declaring a drought emergency, Australia had its hottest year ever.   Don't be fooled by Detroit being in the midst of its snowiest January on record or the regional cool anomaly noted by Minnesota Public Radio into thinking that the warming trend is over.  We still live in a 400 ppm world, and extreme weather of all kinds will result, hot and cold.  There is a reason why Floods in Colorado from ABC News and University of Colorado is the most read entry of the past year and the history of this blog so far.  Expect the wild weather to continue. article on voter registration deadline

The deadline to register to vote or update one's address for the February elections in Michigan is Monday, January 27, 2013.
Credits: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Deadline to register for February election is Monday
While the next elections in Michigan are a month away, the deadline to register to vote is tomorrow.

All those who wish to vote on February 25th must be registered to vote by Monday, January 27th.  Michigan residents can find out if they are already registered by filling out the online form at the Secretary of State website.  However, if one has moved to a new city or township, one must re-register.  Also, if one has moved from one residence to another within a city or township, one must update the address.  Normally, that happens when the address on a driver's license is changed at the Secretary of State's office.
In Washtenaw County, residents of Salem Township will be joining others in the Salem-South Lyon Library District in voting on a millage proposal.
More details at the link in the headline.  Also, welcome to the next installment of Save the libraries, save civilization.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

California drought emergency begins to reverberate

It's time for another reminder that while Michigan just had the wettest year in its history and Detroit is in the midst of its snowiest January on record, California is having its driest year ever and its Governor declared a drought emergency.  The implications of that announcement are beginning to reverberate through the state, as shown by these stories from KPBS via Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 fourth warmest year) on Daily Kos.

First, KPBS gives its viewers the big picture in Brown: California Comes Back But Challenged By Drought.

Gov. Jerry Brown has delivered a dual message in his annual address to the Legislature - that a California resurgence is well underway but also is threatened by economic and environmental uncertainties.
Amy Quinton of Capital Public Radio reports on a possible federal response to the drought in California Congressmen Propose Drought Relief Legislation.
After declaring a drought last week, California Governor Jerry Brown only briefly mentioned the drought during his state of the state speech. But several Central Valley Congressmen are calling for more action through federal legislation.

The Republican-backed legislation would allow Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumps to continue to send water to the Central Valley as long as water is available.

Those pumps are sending minimal water to the valley now because of low reservoir levels and river flows, not environmental regulations that protect endangered fish.

The bill would also stop the restoration of the San Joaquin River until 2015.
This is not really helpful, but it does serve the representatives' constituents--at the expense of the environment and other water users.  Stay tuned.  I don't know if this will get past the Senate, let alone President Obama.

Follow over the jump for more news about the drought and people's responses to it.

Deepwater Horizon spill still being studied

The Deepwater Horizon spill happened four years ago, but researchers are still studying the disaster for effects and remedies.  Here are two stories from last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 fourth warmest year) on Daily Kos detailing those efforts.

First, the University of Alabama, Birmingham reports Gulf fish studied for safety following Deepwater Horizon oil spill by Nicole Wyatt on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 examines the ongoing effects.
The worst oil spill in U.S. history occurred when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and damaging a wellhead that led to 4.9 million barrels of oil leaking into the ocean. In the aftermath of this event, one potential hazard was the safety of eating seafood caught from the affected area.

An environmental health science expert in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health worked with colleagues to analyze concentrations of contaminants in fish that were harvested by reef fishermen in the Gulf a year after the Deepwater Horizon blowout. The results are published online in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.

A total of 92 fish samples were obtained from areas open to fishing — primarily near Florida and Texas, as well as some near Louisiana — by members of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance during the period of March 2011 to April 2012. The samples were tested for benzo[a]pyrene-equivalents (BaPEs) — a combined measure of carcinogenic potency across seven polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which occur in significant amounts in oil deposits.
Next, the University of Rhode Island explains how new strategies for cleanup are being devised in URI researchers developing tiny weapons to combat big oil spills.
Engineers, chemists finding success using nanoparticles to clean spills

KINGSTON, R.I. – January 17, 2014 -- More than 47,000 people, 9,700 ships and 127 planes spent months mopping up oil released during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Yet four years later, the tools to fight offshore oil spills remain remarkably rudimentary. Now a team of University of Rhode Island engineering and chemistry professors is demonstrating novel approaches that could change the way oil spills are battled.

The approach the scientists are using relies on nanoparticles, each about 100 times thinner than a human hair. To study how these tiny particles can clean up oil, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative has awarded grants totaling nearly $1.4 million to engineering professors Arijit Bose, Geoffrey Bothun and Vinka Oyanedel-Craver, along with chemistry professor Mindy Levine and Metcalf Institute Executive Director Sunshine Menezes.

“On the downside, the Deepwater Horizon spill happened,” Bothun said. “On the upside, it motivated a lot of engineers and scientists to come up with new ways to fight oil spills.”
Let this be an example of how persistent pollution can be.

Flu news from KPBS and Virginia Tech

In this week's of the flu outbreak, which follows up to Flu update for MLK weekend, there are two stories, one from KPBS, one of the usual suspects, and Virginia Tech.

KPBS: Scripps Hospitals Screening All Visitors For Flu
By Kenny Goldberg
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
More than 1,400 San Diegans have been diagnosed with the flu so far this season. Infectious disease specialists say this year’s strain is especially powerful, and is making even healthy people extremely sick.

Dr. Davis Cracroft, medical director of Scripps Mercy Hospital, said all visitors must be screened to help prevent spreading the flu.
At least 45 people in California have died from the flu so far this season. State health officials said most victims had not received a flu shot.
Virginia Tech: Synthetic population study offers new strategy for controlling epidemics in big cities
BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 23, 2014 – Researchers in the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute are the first to model in detail how transient populations impact the spread of an illness, and how outbreaks such as influenza can be curbed by encouraging healthy behaviors in high-traffic tourist destinations.

Influenza places a huge burden upon society, both physically and economically. It is estimated that influenza costs the United States economy over $87 billion annually.

In a large city like Washington, D.C., with about 50,000 visitors on any given day who stay for just a few days, there is a constant influx of new people who are susceptible to infections. Further, they visit highly populated tourist destinations, where they come into contact with other visitors as well as residents. Disease can spread quickly.

“We built a detailed synthetic population model of Washington, D.C., including transient populations: tourists, business travelers," said Samarth Swarup, an applied computer scientist at the institute. "Our computational model shows that an influenza epidemic can be much worse when we take the impact of transients into account.”
That's it for this week.  Stay tuned for more updates until flu season is over.

Saturday, January 25, 2014 article on record January snowfall

In Corner station moves up only a penny from low for year, noted that "The polar vortex has returned.  I was just out in the cold, but that's the last thing I want to blog about right now."  I found something else to write about, something that's actually newsworthy.

Record broken for January snowfall in Detroit
Detroit broke another weather record for precipitation today.

As if 2013 being the wettest year in Michigan history was not enough, Accuweather reports that last night's snowfall brought the total for January so far to 31.3 inches, while the Detroit Free Press is reporting 31.5 inches so far.  Either total beats the previous record for the month of 29.6 inches set in January 1978 almost two inches.  To add more perspective, the snowfall for this month is about a foot-and-one-half above the January average of 12.5 inches.

Don't get too attached to the current snowfall total.  There are six more days left in the month and the National Weather Service predicts another weather system will bring one to two inches to the area on Sunday.
That's only two days after I wrote article on wettest year in Michigan history.  That's two records in one week.  Wow.

Finally, here's the WXYZ video that inspired me to write this article: Winter Weather Advisory.

I cited the projection for the temperature average in my article.

Finally, stay warm, everyone!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Corner station moves up only a penny from low for year

I got an answer to the LOLcat's question today, at least until next December.  It was the price I reported in Corner station sets new low for year.
Despite all the indicators I mentioned in the previous report that suggested that the overall price would go up, the price dropped below its previous level, as the corner station gave up all of its increase plus another penny to sell regular at $3.18.  That's the lowest price of the year so far and lower than last year at this time, when the corner station dropped to $3.21 and the three stations down the road were exactly where they've been for three weeks at $3.19.

As for next week, Gas Buddy shows that none of the averages I track have dropped, so $3.21-$3.25 is still possible by Saturday.  In fact, I expect prices to rise on Monday.  Check back that night for an update.
That was two weeks ago.  As you might have noticed, I didn't report back the next Monday because prices didn't rise.  They didn't go up the next Monday, either.  In fact, the corner station didn't increase gas prices until today, when they merely matched the rest of the neighborhood outlets at $3.19, the level they've been selling gas since before Christmas, more than a month ago.  About the only thing right about my prediction was the the corner station would increase prices, which was a no brainer.  They almost always increase prices.

So, what happened?  It turns out that the average price went down after the first Polar Vortex cold snap ended.*  The national average floated down from the $3.30 on the 11th to $3.27 on the 21st and is now up a penny to $3.28.  The Detroit mean dropped even more during the same time span, from $3.31 to $3.21, then went up to $3.26 yesterday.  The Michigan trend was even more extreme, falling from $3.39 to $3.23.  No wonder the prices stayed down.  Frankly, had I been paying attention, I'd have been calling for the prices in my immediate vicinity to fall more, possibly to as low as $3.11.  I'd have been wrong about that, too.

As for the future, I still anticipate gas prices following the seasonal pattern and rising.  The price of oil alone should push them up, as Gas Buddy shows that West Texas Intermediate is coming up off a low so far for the year of $92 on the 13th to $97.32 today according to  That site also shows Brent Crude having gone up this week over $108, although it fell today to $107.58, which is still above where it had been most of the month.

Just the same, neighborhood prices are still a dime below where they were last year at this time.  The forecast I made for lower average gas prices I made in A boring ten days in the gas war plus a predicition for 2014 still looks good.

*The polar vortex has returned.  I was just out in the cold, but that's the last thing I want to blog about right now.

Helmet safety and trash talking on a football field

Over at Kunstler's blog, I've been leaving comments about the Super Bowl in response to Kunstler describing football as "mock warfare with mock warriors."  I linked to Hipcrime Vocab on the Super Bowl and Sex sells the Super Bowl in space.  Yes, year old content, but people read them anyway.

That reminded me that I have more items from this week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (California Drought Emergency) to produce another installment in the series that includes Research from BCS Championship universities and Science from the fans in the stands.

First, here's the University of Florida: With playoffs underway, UF researchers offer a safer football helmet.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bone-crushing tackles may make football fans avert their eyes in horror, but Ghatu Subhash studies collisions, impacts and crashes, both on the field and off.

The University of Florida professor needs to do so in order to perfect his design for a safer helmet, which could address the increasing concerns about concussions and other head injuries in sports from Pop Warner to the National Football League when testing is complete.

Subhash and his collaborators have designed a helmet that protects against traumatic brain injury by accounting for the two kinds of force athletes encounter during a football game. Traumatic brain injuries occur 1.7 million times a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 20 percent of those injuries are sports-related, including concussions that can cause long-term damage.
Next, a topic that works for any competitive event, including football, from David Wagner of KPBS: San Diego Researcher Explains Why We Trash-Talk Opponents
When I was in high school, my friends were obsessed with this video game called Counter-Strike. Their arena of battle was a local Internet cafe, Cyber World. Stationed at the rows of networked PCs, they'd spend countless hours shooting each other to bits, always gunning for a fatal head shot.

I was terrible at Counter-Strike. But I kept following my friends back to Cyber World just to witness the game's alarming effect on these people I thought I knew so well. Under the influence of Counter-Strike, my (mostly) well-mannered friends transformed into unbelievably vicious trash-talkers, hurling at each other the most creatively brutal verbal abuse I'd ever heard outside a Quentin Tarantino movie. So many ways to repurpose one four-letter word!

I guess I kept tagging along because I wanted to learn why my friends enjoyed this so much. Never very competitive myself, I wondered why they got such a kick out of deliberately getting under each other's skin.

There's a fascinating paper in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that might have given me my answer finally. Researchers led by UC San Diego behavioral economist Uri Gneezy have shown that competitors tend to deliberately anger their opponents when it will give them an advantage. Maybe my friends didn't like making each other angry as much as they just liked winning.
That deserves a cartoon, just to tie it in closer to the topic.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Earth from space: climate and archeology

I concluded New Year's Day asteroid strike and other space and astronomy news by promising "news about Earth from space."  Here are the stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (California Drought Emergency) on Daily Kos about studying our planet from orbit.  Under the "if it moves, it leads" policy, JPL's video Polar Vortex Behind U.S. Big Chill Explained comes first.

The chilling weather phenomenon that hit much of the U.S. in January is explained by scientist Eric Fetzer using data from NASA's AIRS instrument.
That's not all.  The University of Rhode Island has another story about studying weather and climate from orbit in Emily Serman: Investigating Global Climate Change at NASA.
Climate change threatens everything from the safety of coastal communities to the purity of the air we breathe. To better understand this phenomenon, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration operates an extensive environmental program. Playing a key role in the program are paid interns like University of Rhode Island student Emily Serman (’14).

The civil and environmental engineering student spent four summers interning at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, a hub for the agency’s weather-related research. The first year, she analyzed phytoplankton. During the next three summers, she served on a team studying the behavior of ozone, which protects the Earth from the sun’s rays but can also cause disruptive temperature changes in the atmosphere.

At NASA, Serman calibrated data collection instruments, reviewed reams of data and organized atmospheric observations spanning many years so scientists could identify long-term trends. In later summers, she ran calculations to determine the contours of ozone in the atmosphere’s multiple layers. Finally, she brought it all together in presentations to NASA administrators.

“It was more than just doing calculations on paper,” Serman says. “I saw how it fit into the real world. Plus, when you are at NASA you feel like you’re in a special group of people.”
Follow over the jump for how remote sensing, whether from orbit or just in the air, is aiding archeology. article on wettest year in Michigan history

Michigan and North Dakota had their wettest years ever, while California had its driest.
Credit: NOAA
2013 wettest year in Michigan history
It's official.  Last year was the wettest year on record for Michigan.

According to NOAA's national overview for 2013, which was released on January 21, 2014, the average precipitation in Michigan was the highest in 119 years of record-keeping.  Michigan had 40.12 inches of precipitation, 8.9 inches above average. This beat the previous record wet year of 1985 by 0.64 inch.

Other states setting weather records last year were North Dakota, which also had its wettest year on record, and California, where Governor Jerry Brown recently declared a drought state of emergency after the Golden State's driest year ever.
More at the link, including the locations that set records in Michigan, including a video about the record drought in California.  For what it's worth, the image I used here is not the one I used to illustrate the article, but it's the one I wanted to use.  It just had the wrong format, while I did include had the right one.  That one shows locations that had the highest and lowest temperatures and precipitation, so it still worked.

By the way, this is the second time I've written about record annual precipitation here.  The first was 2011 set rainfall records in Detroit, Michigan, and Ohio, which ended up being the fourth most read entry in the blog's first year.  May this one be so lucky.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Year's Day asteroid strike and other space and astronomy news

In this week's installment, I feature a video from Science at NASA about the last story in A new year in space and other space and astronomy news: ScienceCasts: New Year's Asteroid Strike

The New Year started off with a bang when a small asteroid hit Earth. Infrasound records indicate that the space rock exploded in the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean like 500 tons of TNT.
If it moves, it leads.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the past week's space news.

SciFi is now: follow-ups on 21st Century crimes

It's time to check up on our science fiction times with two stories from KPBS via Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (California Drought Emergency) on Daily Kos.

First, an update on the story I began following in SciFi is now: Revenge porn, a 21st Century crime.

Alleged ‘Revenge Porn’ Website Opertator Pleads Not Guilty
By City News Service and Kelly Wheeler
Originally published January 17, 2014 at 7:28 a.m., updated January 17, 2014 at 3:01 p.m.
A San Diego man accused of posting thousands of explicit photos of women on a so-called "revenge porn" website without their consent, then extorting money from those who wanted the images removed, pleaded not guilty Friday to 31 felony charges of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion.

Kevin Christopher Bollaert, 27, -- who is out of custody on $50,000 bail -- was charged last month by the state Attorney General's Office. Judge David Szumowski scheduled a preliminary hearing for March 17.

In December 2012, Bollaert created a website called "," which allows people to create anonymous, public posts of private explicit photographs without their subjects' permission, according to court documents.
None of this surprises me.  I'll keep my readers posted on this continuing story.

On the other hand, one of the stories I included in 21st Century crime scenes from KPBS appears to be over.

San Diego Traffic Court Dismisses Google Glass Ticket
By City News Service
Thursday, January 16, 2014
In the first traffic case of its kind, a Temecula woman was found not guilty Thursday of watching television via a pair of computerized Google glasses while driving on a San Diego freeway.

Commissioner John Blair found at a hearing in San Diego that Cecilia Abadie was not actively using the Google Glass device when she was stopped.

A speeding ticket also was dismissed due to a lack of evidence.
Score one for Google Glass wearers, although I expect to read more articles like the above in the future.

Flu update for MLK weekend

This has been a lighter week than the one I reported in Flu claiming lives in Michigan and California with three videos and one story.  Under the "if it moves, it leads" policy, the videos from WXYZ come first, beginning with Fighting the flu.

Here's an earlier clip referencing the deaths that the first video mentioned: What to do to prevent yourself from getting the flu.

That first video also mentioned the death toll in California.  On that note, here is KPBS on San Diego flu season death toll rises to 7 by City News Service on Wednesday, January 15, 2014.
Six people died of influenza-related causes in the San Diego region last week, bringing the total for "flu season" to seven, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Thursday.

Each of the victims tested positive for the Pandemic H1N1 strain of influenza and only one of them is known to have had a recent flu shot. They ranged in age from 35 to 80 years old, and all had underlying medical conditions, the HHSA reported.

Last season, 65 flu-related deaths were reported in San Diego County.
Finally, here's another Fighting the flu--again--from earlier today.

I still need to get my flu shot.  The good news is that I'm off from work on Friday.  Time to make an appointment.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

'A Steampunk calculator' and six other sustainable technologies from The Archdruid

I've been so busy with other topics that I haven't posted my two most recent conversations with Greer the Archdruid.  Fortunately, as I noted in Putin the Brony on His Little Pony, readers have enjoyed this topics and my stats are doing well.  Just the same, I think it's time to post the latest one, in which I engage Greer on last Wednesday's Seven Sustainable Technologies.

Greer gave me two openings last week.  The first was one that I had responded to before, about how mainstream thought in particular and mainstream economics in general were ignoring our energy issues as a source of our economic problems.
Plenty of explanations have been proposed for the current era of economic unraveling, but I’d like to suggest that the most important factor is the overall decline in the “energy profit” that makes modern economies possible at all.
That gave me an opportunity to be a good environmentalist and recycle a comment I'd left at Kunstler's blog.
One person who should know better, but completely discounts the idea of resource depletion as an important contributor to the current situation is Paul Krugman.  In a New York Review of Books article, Krugman revealed that he was the research assistant for William Nordhaus’ landmark paper, “The Allocation of Energy Resources.” He “spent long hours immured in Yale’s Geology Library, poring over Bureau of Mines circulars and the like.” If someone with his experience with the economy of energy doesn’t get Peak Oil, then it’s probably hopeless for most economists to comprehend the issue. James Hamilton of UC San Diego is about it. That’s why I use people like Jim Kunstler as one of my examples of ecological economists (he's in a film I show my students; if you were, I'd use you instead), and list Krugman among the conventional economists.
Greer didn't respond to that.  The next part was more fruitful.
Speaking of things I tell my students (I teach environmental science, a field that is full of the "bright green" types that you deride as unrealistic), I really like your list of seven sustainable technologies and plan on including them in my teaching.
As a Crazy Eddie, I happen to be one of those "bright green types."*  Fortunately, Greer doesn't know this. Follow over the jump for what did get his attention.

Twentieth anniversary of Northridge earthquake

As part of the opening to Debate, endorsements, and a poll from KPBS in San Diego, I observed in passing that yesterday (at least here in Michigan) is a holiday.  I made no further mention of the day, which is odd, because I stated in Happy Festivus! that I love holidays, including fake ones.  I realized that I should have posted something about Martin Luther King Day, at least as much as last year, when it was combined with Obama's Inauguration.  Today, I'll mark the occasion by describing my most vivid memory about the holiday, which ironically has nothing to do with the intended meaning of the day.  Instead, it's about experiencing the Northridge earthquake from afar through television, a story I tell my students.

Before our daughter was born, my ex-wife and I had agreed that I would take the second feeding of the night, which means that she was bottle-fed.  After several years, that meant that I was in charge of my daughter's breakfast.  On the morning of MLK Day, my daughter woke me up by saying "Daddy, I'm hungry."  So I got up, prepared her breakfast, sat her down in front of the TV in the basement, and then put one of her favorite Disney tapes, which was either "Sleeping Beauty" or "Cinderella," I forget which.  Just before the tape started running, I saw the announcement on Good Morning America that there had been an earthquake in Los Angeles.  "Yeah, yeah, what else is new," I thought.  Then the movie started and I lay down on the couch to sleep.  After all, it was a holiday, and I didn't have to go to school or work.  When I woke up, Regis and Cathy Lee were not on, as I expected, but news coverage.  I recognized immediately  that this was a bad thing.  The last time I saw news instead of the mid-morning show was when the Challenger exploded.  I grew even more horrified when it was about the earthquake and the location shots were all of places I knew and had been.  There was damage at the university I had attended before I moved,* damage to the apartments my sister had lived in, damage to the mall where I had shopped.  I may have been 2,000 miles and five years away, but it still struck close to home.

I could go on, but I'll let Peter Jennings and the ABC Evening News do the showing instead of me doing the telling in 1/17/94 1st Segment of "ABC World News Tonight" Northridge Quake.

Peter Jennings hopped a plane and made it to Northridge--the scene of the earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1994 at 6.7 magnitude. It caused an estimated $20 billion in damage with reported damage reported up to 85 miles away. The "official" death toll was placed at 57. Thirty three people died immediately or within a few days from injuries sustained in the earthquake, and many died from indirect causes, such as stress-induced cardiac events. Some counts factor in related events such as a man's suicide possibly inspired by the loss of his business in the disaster.
It was worse than I remembered.  Good thing it happened before dawn on a holiday.  As Jennings mentions, the death toll would have been far higher during normal business hours.**

Follow over the jump for more on the anniversary, which ends in California in an hour and a half, from LiveScience.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Debate, endorsements, and a poll from KPBS in San Diego

After two entries using material from California, Why TED Talks won't bring flying cars and Drought emergency declared in California, I'm not ready to return to cold Detroit in my blogging.  Besides, it's a holiday.  To keep myself warm, I'm posting this update to San Diego Mayor's contest heating up, with more news from sunny southern California that was originally posted in the tip jar to Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (California Drought Emergency) on Daily Kos.

Under the blog's "if it moves, it leads" policy, Alvarez, Faulconer Go Negative In First San Diego Mayoral Debate from KPBS comes first.

The two councilmen facing off to become San Diego's next mayor went negative at the first mayoral debate of the run-off election.
More at the accompanying article:
The first debate in the runoff election to pick San Diego’s next mayor was fast and furious, if not necessarily edifying. The KPBS/10News-hosted affair was less a debate and more a recitation of negative talking points. Both candidates hijacked as many questions as possible to point out how the other guy was bought and paid for by special interests.

City Councilman Kevin Faulconer went negative first, reiterating that his colleague and opponent David Alvarez has received nearly $3 million from organized labor, “the same unions that nearly drove this city to bankruptcy,” he said. Faulconer’s other go-to comment seemed to cast himself as immune from outside influence. “I’m independent,” he repeated more than a handful of times.

Alvarez fired back, saying it was Faulconer who was in the pocket of the downtown business elite, “the developers, the big corporations -- those who have enough money to have lobbyists, who have high-paid consultants,” he said. “Not everyday citizens.” Alvarez declared that Faulconer would do whatever his business buddies wanted, keeping powerful interests at the helm of San Diego.
Also, the entire debate is available at the KPBS website.

As for my opinion, if I were living in San Diego, I'd be tempted to write in the name of Interim Mayor Gloria myself.  However, he's already endorsed Alvarez.  Follow over the jump for news on that, early voting, and the latest poll results.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Drought emergency declared in California

The top story in last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (California Drought Emergency) was Governor Brown's declaration of a drought emergency, something I had been anticipating for a month and just mentioned here last week in Drought news from KPBS in California and Drought and polar vortex from KPBS.  Brown said he'd issue one, and he did, as KPBS reported in California Governor Declares Drought State Of Emergency by Tarryn Mento and Associated Press on January 17, 2014.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency Friday morning amid one of California's driest winters on record.

"We are in a unprecedented, very serious situation, and people should pause and reflect on how dependent we are on the rain, on nature and one another," he told a room full of reporters in San Francisco.

Brown called for a collaborative effort to restrain water use, urging Californians to conserve in every way possible.

"I'm also setting in motion easier water transfers so a farmer who really needs water — who's willing to pay for it — can get it from another farmer who doesn't necessarily need it," he said.
That same day, CNN had three reports on the drought and resulting fires.  I'll begin with the one covering the drought emergency, Wildfire threat looms in severe drought.

California's governor declares a state emergency due to a 100-year drought. CNN's Kyung Lah reports.
Follow over the jump for the other two videos and an article describing the federal government's response, which is to declare a disaster area.

Why TED Talks won't bring flying cars

Original here.

Near the end of Discovery News thinks it's the best time ever to be alive, I noted that "I have a contrary view about techno-optimism on tap from TED, of all places."  Now, don't get me wrong; I love TED talks and have used them enough that the blog has a label for them.  I certainly don't agree with the sentiment that TED is evil, which happens to be where I got the graphic for this entry.*  Just the same, TED is not beyond criticism, as a UCSD professor pointed out last year in, ironically, one of the TEDxTalks series: New perspectives - what's wrong with TED talks? Benjamin Bratton at TEDxSanDiego 2013 - Re:Think.

Benjamin Bratton, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at UCSD and Director of The Center for Design and Geopoltics at CALIT2, asks: Why don't the bright futures promised in TED talks come true? Professor Bratton attacks the intellectual viability of TED, calling it placebo politics, middlebrow megachurch infotainment, and the equivalent of right-wing media channels. Does TED falsely present problems as simply puzzles to be solved by rearranging the pieces?
That got the attention of KPBS whose David Wagner reported on both the subject and ironic choice of venue in UC San Diego Professor Slams TED Talks — During His TED Talk.
TED Talks are exclusive, expensive and reach an insane number of viewers online.

They've also provoked a ton of backlash. The conference of "ideas worth spreading" has been called "elitist," "cultish" and "a place where ideas, regardless of their quality, go to seek celebrity." One San Diego academic recently took the anti-TED gospel to those least likely to want to hear it: TED devotees.

"My TED Talk is not about my work, my new book, the usual spiel," UC San Diego visual arts professor Benjamin Bratton said, introducing his self-described "rant."

"It's about TED: what it is and why it doesn't work."
KPBS was not done, as they interviewed Bratton and posted the video last week as UC San Diego Professor Slams TED Talks — During His TED Talk.

One San Diego academic recently took the anti-TED gospel to those least likely to want to hear it: TED devotees.
He definitely has a contrary view, but one that should be taken seriously.  We do need fora other than TED to have serious conversations about technology, economics (not entertainment), and design.  We also need to realize that a better future is going to be hard work and it won't happen without that hard work.  Faith in progress and placebo politics won't cut it.

*I don't agree with that, either, but it did a good job of capturing the essence of the criticism.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Discovery News thinks it's the best time ever to be alive

It looks like it's time for a brief entry.  Fortunately, Discovery News has just the video in It's The Best Time In History To Be Alive and Here's Why.  Good news, everyone!

It's easy to watch the news and get down on our global state of affairs. But the world has made some great strides in improving life for everyone on this planet. Anthony, Laci, and Trace explain why right now is actually the best time in history to be alive.
I have a contrary view about techno-optimism on tap from TED, of all places.  In the meantime, here's to hoping that the DNews Crew is right and that things actually do get better, instead of this really being peak everything with the future getting worse.

First article on 2014 Ann Arbor Mayor contest

Sally Petersen, here seen campaigning for City Council in 2012, announced Wednesday that she was running for Mayor.
Credit: Petersen's campaign website.
Petersen makes four running for Ann Arbor Mayor
Wednesday, Sally Hart Petersen declared her candidacy for Mayor of Ann Arbor.  That makes her the fourth sitting member of City Council to announce that they are running for the seat that John Hieftje will be vacating at the end of the year.

Petersen joins Stephen Kunselman, Christopher Taylor, and Sabra Briere, all Democrats, in seeking their party's nomination for the office in August.  So far, no Republicans or independents have declared their candidacies.

In her press release accompanying her announcement, Petersen said, "I believe I am the best candidate who can lead the city forward to improved economic prosperity, a more collaborative relationship with the University of Michigan, and broader civic engagement.  I believe my combination of leadership experience, skills and interests in the private, public, and non-profit sectors make me uniquely qualified to lead Ann Arbor into its next era of growth and sustainability."
Petersen's announcement came only five days after that of Briere, who just won re-election last November of independent Jeff Hayner to her fourth term on council.

Taylor and Kunselman both announced last year, Taylor in December and Kunselman in September, even before he won re-election to his council seat.  Taylor is in the middle of his third term on council, while Kunselman has just started his fourth.

The candidacies of Petersen and Taylor will leave open seats on City Council.  The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported that Democrat Kirk Westphal, who lost to independent incumbent Jane Lumm for her seat in Ward 2 has pulled petitions to run for the seat Petersen will be leaving vacant.  The online paper also noted that Julie Grand, who lost to Kunselman in last August's Democratic primary, has also pulled petitions to run for the Taylor's seat.
It's only January, and already I have an article about this year's municipal elections.  Looks like it will be an interesting year at all levels of government.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Putin the Brony on His Little Pony

I tried to put together a serious entry and failed.  Instead, I present Vladimir Putin on His Little Pony from JollyJack on DeviantArt.

Yes, Pooty Poot as a Brony.  As if that's not enough to twit Vladimir Putin, the Most Interesting Man in the World, here is the music I decided to listen to when I saw this: "Go West" by the Pet Shop Boys.


In other news, today Crazy Eddie's Motie News passed 250,000 page views.  That's 50,000 page views since the end of August, four-and-one-half months ago.  I'm tempted to post the theme song for this blog, but I'm saving that for another entry.  Also, this blog has a Facebook page.  If you have a Facebook account, please like it.

Real paleo diets

It's time for another installment of Health news from archeology and history.  Today, I explore the latest evidence that bears on the paleo diet, beginning with two articles I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Polar Vortex) on Daily Kos.

First, Fox News, a news source readers of Daily Kos have learned to distrust, lives down to its reputation with The REAL caveman diet: Research shows ancient man mainly ate tiger nuts.
So much for Fred Flintstone’s brontosaurus ribs.

The popular caveman diet claims people will feel more powerful and healthier if they only eat items popular during the Paleolithic, pointing to nuts, berries and red meat. But a new study from Oxford University says meat wasn’t making it for our ancient ancestors: 2.4 million years ago, man survived mainly on “tiger nuts” -- edible grass bulbs still eaten in parts of the world today.
Strictly speaking, these aren't "cavemen."  They aren't even our genus.
To find what cavemen really ate, Macho compared the diet of Paranthropus boisei, nicknamed “Nutcracker Man” because of his big flat molar teeth and powerful jaws, and modern Kenyan baboons. Scientists have debated whether high-fiber foods would have been sufficient nourishment for early man.
Trying to determine what our immediate pre-agriculture ancestors ate from a specialized side branch neither confirms not debunks the Paleo Diet.  Nice attempt at getting readers, Faux Noise, but not an honest description of the importance of the research.

On the other hand, the research described in Past Horizons, Hunter-gatherer diet caused tooth decay is a much better test of the claims of the paleo diet, as it did examine anatomically modern pre-agricultural Homo sapiens.
Research led by Natural History Museum scientists suggests a diet rich in starchy foods may have caused high rates of tooth decay in ancient hunter-gatherers.

The results published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) also suggest tooth decay was more prevalent in earlier societies than previously estimated. The results also suggest that the hunter-gatherer society studied may have developed a more sedentary lifestyle than previously thought, relying on nut harvesting.

Dental disease was thought to have originated with the introduction of farming and changes in food processing around 10,000 years ago. A greater reliance on cultivated plant foods, rich in fermentable carbohydrates, resulted in rotting teeth.

Now, the analysis of 52 adult dentitions from hunter-gatherer skeletons found in a cave in Taforalt, Morocco dating from between 15,000 and 13,700 years ago suggests people suffered tooth decay in much earlier times. Evidence of decay was found in more than half of the teeth that were intact, with only three skeletons showing no sign of cavities.
That particular claim on behalf of the paleo diet fails.  However, advocates might say, "see, eating starches is bad for your teeth."  They're probably right about that one.

As for my opinion of the paleo diet, I'll let Trace Dominguez of Discovery News express it when he answers his own question in Does Science Back Up the Paleo Diet?

Fans of the paleo-diet are very dedicated ones. They report not only looking better, but also feeling better. Trace looks at whether this is just a passing fad, or if it deserves a closer look.
I think it's an effective diet, but it works for the reasons Trace lists--portion and calorie control without actually paying attention to calories by themselves, which makes people feel deprived, and having people eat more healthy foods.*  I'm in favor of all of those.

On the other hand, it's not really a "caveman diet," as our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate grains and legumes, and we aren't our ancestors any more, as many of us have adapted to a diet in which we consume dairy products.  Still, I agree that the modern American diet isn't good for our long-term health, to say nothing of what it does to the planet, and consuming fewer grains and less dairy while eating more fresh fruits and vegetables would be a good thing to do.  On the other hand, eating more lean meat might be good for us, but it's not great for the planet.  That is, unless we start eating more bugsSeriously.

*I say the same thing about the Atkins Diet.  It works for the same reasons.  When I was on it, I didn't feel deprived, as I would if I were concentrating on counting calories.

Chinese to build two Titanic replicas

The first time I wrote about one of the most famous shipwrecks in history, I pointed out the educational merit of the two National Geographic videos I embedded in The Titanic 100 years later.
Other than [James Cameron's] (unfortunately common) misuse of theory for hypothesis, these two clips work very well as an example of how testing a hypothesis using a computer model works. I might just show it to my classes starting next month.
I've shown them to my classes every semester since, including twice this week alone.  Coincidentally, two news items passed before me that touch on this story.  First, Archaeology Magazine published History's 10 Greatest Wrecks... By JAMES P. DELGADO.
The first scientific archaeological excavation of a shipwreck took place just over 50 years ago. Since then, thousands of wrecks have been discovered, each with an important story to tell. Choosing 10 from among them to represent the endeavor of nautical archaeology is a difficult—and subjective—task. But each offers a profile of an age and a window into the lives of its people, as well as evidence of just how clever and innovative our ancestors were as they took to the seas. Through these stories, we also see why archaeologists continue to devote themselves, despite danger and difficulty, to the examination and excavation of wrecks, wherever they might be discovered. From the rudimentary dive equipment of the earliest excavations to the sophisticated remote-sensing and remotely operated technology of today, archaeologists have shown that no site is beyond the reach of our inquiry into the past.
The Titanic is number one.

Even more germane to my using the Titanic in my teaching, I talk about how it's impractical to test hypotheses about the ship sinking by building a replica and sinking that.  It turns out that's exactly what an amusement park in China is planning on doing.  NTDTV reports Chinese Plan Titanic Replica for Universal Love and Responsibility .

A Chinese company announces a 1 billion yuan (US$165 million) project to build a life-sized Titanic replica, complete with a ship-wreck simulation, for a theme park in central China by 2016.
I told my students about this yesterday.  Some of them thought I was kidding.  No, I'm not, and neither are the Chinese, even if they are doing it for entertainment, not science.

This isn't the only connection between China and a new Titanic.  Ten months ago, NTDTV posted Titanic II Will Be Built in China.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. That must be the motto of Australian billionaire Clive Palmer. He's all set to sign the final deal with Jinling Shipyard in Nanjing to begin construction of a new Titanic.

Titanic II will very much resemble the original Titanic, with all similar luxurious amenities. But, according to the Jinling shipyard, Titanic II will be equipped with advanced life-saving and communications systems.
This one I knew about, but as I tell my students, it's not intended to be sunk, even for pretend.