Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 2007

Evolving election

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I started out favoring John Edwards, but I’m now shifting toward Chris Dodd. As John Cole writes, “Watching Dodd during the debates last night, it became clear that there are bunch of people running for President as Democrats, whereas Dodd is running to lead this country.”

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2007 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Donate a business idea

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I’ve blogged fairly often about Kiva.org, which makes microloans in various countries. And now there’s BusinessIdeaoftheDay.org, which accepts business ideas for developing countries. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2007 at 11:57 am

Posted in Business, Philanthropy

Tiny radio receiver

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I was feeling pretty smug about the D2, which includes an FM radio receiver among its functions, until I read this. I wonder what happens when you put the radio down somewhere—finding it is going to be a pain.

Make way for the real nanopod and make room in the Guinness World Records. A team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley have created the first fully functional radio from a single carbon nanotube, which makes it by several orders of magnitude the smallest radio ever made.

“A single carbon nanotube molecule serves simultaneously as all essential components of a radio — antenna, tunable band-pass filter, amplifier, and demodulator,” said physicist Alex Zettl, who led the invention of the nanotube radio. “Using carrier waves in the commercially relevant 40-400 MHz range and both frequency and amplitude modulation (FM and AM), we were able to demonstrate successful music and voice reception.”

Given that the nanotube radio essentially assembles itself and can be easily tuned to a desired frequency band after fabrication, Zettl believes that nanoradios will be relatively easy to mass-produce. Potential applications, in addition to incredibly tiny radio receivers, include a new generation of wireless communication devices and monitors. Nanotube radio technology could prove especially valuable for biological and medical applications.

The entire radio would easily fit inside a living cell, and this small size allows it to safely interact with biological systems,” Zettl said. “One can envision interfaces with brain or muscle functions, or radio-controlled devices moving through the bloodstream.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2007 at 11:53 am

Posted in Science, Technology

Tagged with

And, speaking of water, how much does the US use?

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Interesting factoids:

2,500 – … [US water usage], in cubic meters per capita, according to Waterfootprint.org.

660,430 – the equivalent in US gallons per person per year. Compare that to 700 cubic meters per year per capita (184,920 gallons) in China and 1150 cubic meters per year per capita (303,798 gallons) in Japan.

According to the site, “The water footprint of a nation shows the total volume of water that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the nation. Since not all goods consumed in one particular country are produced in that country, the water footprint consists of two parts: use of domestic water resources and use of water outside the borders of the country. The water footprint includes both the water withdrawn from surface and groundwater and the use of soil water (in agricultural production).” ::Water Footprint

From that last link, and noting that a country’s use of water can include water outside the country when you consider imports consumed in the country—for example, the coffee consumed in the US requires a substantial amount of water, and this water is counted as part of the US’s water footprint:

  • The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16 thousand litres of water.

  • To produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water.

  • The water footprint of China is about 700 cubic meter per year per capita. Only about 7% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.

  • Japan with a footprint of 1150 cubic meter per year per capita, has about 65% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country.

  • The USA water footprint is 2500 cubic meter per year per capita.

If this topic interests you, here’s a very thorough report (PDF file) on the water usage of various nations.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2007 at 11:26 am

Paying companies to use water

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Via Kevin Drum, this interesting post as we transition to a water-scarce Southwest (and Southeast):

Okay, first the bad news. In last week’s New York Times Magazine, Jon Gertner pointed out that the planet’s heating up, which means less snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain ranges, which means less water in the Colorado River, which means—that’s right—catastrophe for the American Southwest.

Chu noted that even the most optimistic climate models for the second half of this century suggest that 30 to 70 percent of the snowpack will disappear. “There’s a two-thirds chance there will be a disaster,” Chu said, “and that’s in the best scenario.” … A catastrophic reduction in the flow of the Colorado River—which mostly consists of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains—has always served as a kind of thought experiment for water engineers, a risk situation from the outer edge of their practical imaginations.

Some 30 million people depend on that water. A greatly reduced river would wreak chaos in seven states: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. An almost unfathomable legal morass might well result, with farmers suing the federal government; cities suing cities; states suing states; Indian nations suing state officials; and foreign nations (by treaty, Mexico has a small claim on the river) bringing international law to bear on the United States government.

In addition, a lesser Colorado River would almost certainly lead to a considerable amount of economic havoc, as the future water supplies for the West’s industries, agriculture and growing municipalities are threatened. As one prominent Western water official described the possible future to me, if some of the Southwest’s largest reservoirs empty out, the region would experience an apocalypse, “an Armageddon.”

Gertner’s piece is morbidly fascinating, especially his vignettes of the various Western water managers who have become Robert Moses-type figures with unmatched authority. Las Vegas has watched nearby Lake Mead drop to below 50 percent capacity, and Pat Mulroy, the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, now has to figure out how to keep all her casinos quenched: Dig deeper? Lay multimillion-dollar pipelines out to the center of the state and search for groundwater? Ask California to trade some of its freshwater in exchange for a promise to build desalination plants on the coast? Questions, questions.

Still, what’s missing from this picture? As Gertner notes in passing, it’s farming, and not residential areas, that consumes the vast majority of water in the region (90 percent of Colorado’s water goes toward agriculture). You’d think, then, that inefficient agriculture practices would get most of the scrutiny here. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, most irrigated farmland in the area—in California, Colorado, and Wyoming—is watered via flood irrigation, the least efficient method out there. Basically, farmers dig a bunch of trenches and dump water in them. In the short run, it’s cheap and easy; in the long run, it tends to waste water and deplete topsoil.

Subsidies are part of the problem here: Large farms often qualify for taxpayer-subsidized irrigation water, paying as little as 10 percent of the full cost. That, in turn, discourages conservation: “A 1997 study by researchers at Cornell University suggests that more than 50 percent of irrigation water never reaches crops because of losses during pumping and transport.” The subsidies also encourage farmers to grow water-guzzling crops like alfalfa, a crop that sucks up about 20 percent of California’s water but comprises only a tiny part of the economy (it’s mostly used to feed cows). I’d like to see more on the subject, but this seems like a major place to focus on, no?

P.S. And the Southwest isn’t the only place suffering from dwindling water supplies. CJR has a rundown of the havoc caused by droughts in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. (Plus the fact that no one’s really been planning for any of this down there…)

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2007 at 11:02 am

New widget

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I added the calendar widget at the right to make it easier to navigate the blog: click a date to jump to posts for that date.

And I’m blogging jazz musicians around 10:00 a.m. on Saturdays. Just started that recently.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2007 at 10:55 am

Posted in Daily life

Rushing around

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Getting ready for the cleaning ladies. I used Freecycle to pass along my old Creative Nomad Zen Jukebox MP3 player, and feel quite virtuous about it. That player became infeasible for me in part because the display and its writing were too small for aged eyes.

In the meantime, I’m almost ready for the cleaning ladies.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2007 at 10:06 am

Posted in Daily life

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