Later On

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

Archive for October 22nd, 2007

Charming: our garbage floats in a Pacific mass

with 2 comments

Twice the size of Texas. I’m glad I use reusable grocery bags. Do you?

 At the start of the Academy Award-winning movie “American Beauty,” a character videotapes a plastic grocery bag as it drifts into the air, an event he casts as a symbol of life’s unpredictable currents, and declares the romantic moment as a “most beautiful thing.”

To the eyes of an oceanographer, the image is pure catastrophe.

In reality, the rogue bag would float into a sewer, follow the storm drain to the ocean, then make its way to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a heap of debris floating in the Pacific that’s twice the size of Texas, according to marine biologists.

The enormous stew of trash — which consists of 80 percent plastics and weighs some 3.5 million tons, say oceanographers — floats where few people ever travel, in a no-man’s land between San Francisco and Hawaii.

Marcus Eriksen, director of research and education at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, said his group has been monitoring the Garbage Patch for 10 years.

“With the winds blowing in and the currents in the gyre going circular, it’s the perfect environment for trapping,” Eriksen said. “There’s nothing we can do about it now, except do no more harm.”

The patch has been growing, along with ocean debris worldwide, tenfold every decade since the 1950s, said Chris Parry, public education program manager with the California Coastal Commission in San Francisco.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Environment

Tagged with

More denial of drought

leave a comment »

A friend once commented that, in any group trying to make a decision on what to do, one person will inevitably say, “One thing we can do is to do nothing,” and look around with a smug smile as if a pearl of great wisdom had just been placed on the table.

That’s the person who seems to be charge of finding a response to the drought in the Southeast:

It’s not even real grass.

But in the midst of what may be the worst drought ever in North Carolina, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are watering the synthetic turfs used by their field hockey teams.

The International Hockey Federation insists.

The universities are not breaking any rules. But like clockwork, as residents in Durham and Chapel Hill see their plants and lawns wither, the sprinklers go on at the UNC-CH Francis E. Henry Stadium and at Duke’s Williams Field.

Brad Schnurr, a Chapel Hill contractor who does work in Durham, saw the sprinklers go on one afternoon recently at Duke and drove around the block to make sure he was not seeing things.

“Sprinklers aren’t even the right term, they’re like fire hoses,” Schnurr said. “I was like, ‘What is that? What is that?’ I couldn’t believe it.”

The International Hockey Federation requires the college teams to saturate the synthetic turfs before each practice and all games.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, Global warming, Government

Tagged with ,

Ignoring a coming crisis doesn’t seem to work

leave a comment »

Though they sure gave it a good try in Georgia. I don’t see much planning or action in the Southwest on what they will do when the water runs out. I suppose the idea is, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Perhaps people think that water can be created just by passing some legislation. The government has ignored global warming and its likely effects for a long, long time, and now time is running out.

ATLANTA, Oct. 22 — For more than five months, the lake that provides drinking water to almost five million people here has been draining away in a withering drought. Sandy beaches have expanded into flats of orange mud. Tree stumps not seen in half a century have resurfaced. Scientists have warned of impending disaster.

And life has, for the most part, gone on just as before.

The response to the worst drought on record in the Southeast has unfolded in ultra-slow motion. All summer, more than a year after the drought began, fountains blithely sprayed, football fields were watered, prisoners got two showers a day and Coca-Cola’s bottling plants chugged along at full strength. In early October, on an 81-degree day, an outdoor theme park began to manufacture what was intended to be a 1.2-million gallon mountain of snow.

In late September, with Lake Lanier forecast to dip into the dregs of “dead storage” in less than four months, the state imposed a ban on outdoor water use. Gov. Sonny Perdue declared October “Take a Shorter Shower Month.”

On Saturday, he declared a state of emergency for more than half the state and asked for federal assistance, though the state has not yet restricted indoor water use or cut back on major commercial and industrial users, a step that could cause a significant loss of jobs.

These last-minute measures belie a history of inaction in Georgia and across the South when it comes to managing and conserving water, even in the face of rapid growth. Between 1990 and 2000, Georgia’s water use increased by 30 percent. But the state has not yet come up with an estimate of how much water is available during periods of normal rainfall, much less a plan to handle the worst-case scenario of dry faucets.

“We have made it clear to the planners and executive management of this state for years that we may very well be on the verge of a system-wide emergency,” said Mark Crisp, a water expert in the Atlanta office of the engineering firm C. H. Guernsey.

The sense of urgency has been slow to take hold. Last year, a bill to require low-flow water devices be installed in older houses prior to resale died in the Legislature. Most golf courses are classified as “agricultural.” Water permits are still approved on a first-come, first-served basis.

And Georgia is not at the back of the pack; Alabama, where severe drought is more widespread, has not passed legislation calling for a management plan.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 3:36 pm

More secrecy—that directly affects you

leave a comment »

If you travel via commercial airlines. It’s astonishing but clear: the FAA and NASA are more concerned about protecting airline companies than protecting travelers and citizens. The Federal government has its priorities wrong. Making public a true account of the actual problems is their responsibility to the public, and it is the airline companies’ responsibility to fix those problems.

Anxious to avoid upsetting air travelers, NASA is withholding results from an unprecedented national survey of pilots that found safety problems like near collisions and runway interference occur far more frequently than the government previously recognized.

NASA gathered the information under an $8.5 million safety project, through telephone interviews with roughly 24,000 commercial and general aviation pilots over nearly four years. Since ending the interviews at the beginning of 2005 and shutting down the project completely more than one year ago, the space agency has refused to divulge the results publicly.

Just last week, NASA ordered the contractor that conducted the survey to purge all related data from its computers.

The Associated Press learned about the NASA results from one person familiar with the survey who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss them.

A senior NASA official, associate administrator Thomas S. Luedtke, said revealing the findings could damage the public’s confidence in airlines and affect airline profits. Luedtke acknowledged that the survey results “present a comprehensive picture of certain aspects of the U.S. commercial aviation industry.”

The AP sought to obtain the survey data over 14 months under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

“Release of the requested data, which are sensitive and safety-related, could materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey,” Luedtke wrote in a final denial letter to the AP. NASA also cited pilot confidentiality as a reason, although no airlines were identified in the survey, nor were the identities of pilots, all of whom were promised anonymity.

Among other results, the pilots reported at least twice as many bird strikes, near mid-air collisions and runway incursions as other government monitoring systems show, according to a person familiar with the results who was not authorized to discuss them publicly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 2:30 pm

Learning a language: another on-line option

leave a comment »

A commenter points to Live Mocha, yet another free way to learn a language. It has a good list of languages, though the list does not, alas, include Esperanto. Still, it looks like a good bet.

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Education

Tagged with

Coerced confessions weave a tangled web

leave a comment »

Via Kevin Drum, this fascinating post at Psychosound. Notice that the method of extracting information, put under a seal, was simply to threaten the suspect with having his family tortured in Egypt. A terrible transgression of civil rights and good practice, redacted because the FBI is ashamed of what it does. The FBI should not be able to conceal its misdeeds so readily, should it?

… The Federal courts do us a favor in writing their decisions: they write out the events leading up to the lawsuit at great length, really giving us a sense of what happened and why the case is important. A judge who can write well is able to suck the reader into reading the decision and a skilled legal writer can also write out the legal concepts in a way that makes sense to normal people.

… Last week, my eyes lit up when I checked the daily decisions and saw that one case involved a guy who claimed he was forced to confess to a crime that he did not commit. This scenario surfaces from time to time for murders and other crimes, but this case was different because it involved the crime of the century: the 9/11 hijackings which launched this country into a new era.

The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy’s life is worth garbage at that point, but … well, that’s why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy “confesses” and he’s processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.

As I read the opinion I realized it was a 44 page epic, too long for me to print out. I blogged about the opinion while I read it online and then posted the blog as I ate lunch. Then something strange happened: a few minutes after I posted the blog, the opinion vanished from the Court of Appeals website! I had never seen this before, and what made all the more strange was that it involved a coerced confession over 9/11. What the hell was going on?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Government

David Allen on getting organized

leave a comment »

Things I need to learn:

I’m fascinated by the mystery surrounding “getting organized.” The billions of dollars spent on a vast array of tools and information for managing ourselves and our stuff would seem to indicate the widespread belief in a get-it-together Holy Grail somewhere. And the Sirens keep beckoning with a continual parade of techno-magic gizmos that will pull it all together. But the ultimate formula remains elusive. I’m still asked by some of the brightest folks around, “What’s the best way to get organized? How do I create the best system for myself? How do I know what to do with all this stuff?” Lo, they seek but have not found.

But rejoice! I have decided to reveal the (organizing) secret of the ages, right here in The Huffington Post! Rest your weary mind – the time has come to reveal the answer to the meaning of (organized) life. Ready? Here it is: Things need to go where they need to go.

Ah, Grasshopper, you seem dazed with this astounding truth (or simply unimpressed?). Let me explain. When something is “organized” it means simply that it’s where it needs to be. Where is that? In a place that reflects what the thing specifically means to you.

You are disorganized if you need something somewhere that you don’t have it or have something somewhere that you don’t need it. If you have a phone and time, you need to have easily viewable your complete list of phone calls to make. Otherwise you don’t have the information you need, in the format you need, to remind you of what you’ve agreed with yourself you need to be reminded of, when you can do it. If you are trying to prepare a lovely five-course dinner but the kitchen counters are still full of last night’s dishes, you’re not organized. There’s stuff in the way that you don’t need. In either case you’re not organized – at least as much as you could be, from your own perspective.

Try this:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Daily life

Drawbacks of a hydrogen economy

leave a comment »

Hydrogen is a way to transport energy, not a way to create energy: energy is consumed in the creation of hydrogen, and some of that energy is regained when the hydrogen is used as a fuel. Ecogeek points out some of the drawbacks of using hydrogen:

Michael Webber, the Associate Director Centre for International Energy and Environmental Policy, has completed an analysis of the water requirements for a burgeoning hydrogen economy slated to arrive near 2040. Around this time, it is predicted that the annual production of hydrogen would top 60 billion kg. The hydrogen, of course, will be coming from water, and he estimates that 19-69 trillion gallons of water will be needed for electrolysis and for coolant of power plants. Considering that means somewhere between 50-200 billion gallons of water per day, water is looking more and more not to be the inexhaustable resource as it was once touted, not to mention that this needs to be fresh, distilled water… so much for the oceans without energy-intense desalination plants.

To add fuel to the fire, electrolysis is only currently at about 60-70% efficiency. At 100% efficiency, a rate we will never achieve, it takes 40kWh to produce a kilogram of hydrogen. This means between 1134-2754 billion kWh at an efficiency of 75% will be needed to produce the amounts they are predicting.

With local water resources being depleted, water prices skyrocketing and the question of where these billions of kWh will come from, Michael makes a sobering statement in his report:

Each of the energy choices we can make, in terms of fuels and technologies, has its own tradeoffs associated with it. Hydrogen, just like ethanol, wind, solar, or other alternative choices, has many merits, but also has some important impacts to keep in mind, as this paper tries to suggest. I would encourage the continuation of research into hydrogen production as part of a comprehensive basket of approaches that are considered for managing the transition into the green energy era. But, because of some of the unexpected impacts—for example on water resources—it seems premature to determine that hydrogen is the answer we should pursue at the exclusion of other options.

via Physorg

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Technology

Special-interest groups with narrow focus

leave a comment »

James Fallows:

A way to think about the Walt-Mearsheimer book and related controversies:

  • To the (large) extent that the Armenian-American lobby ginned up support for a pointless and destructive resolution condemning sins of the Ottoman Empire, it advanced its own causes at the expense of larger American interests. The people who did this are mainly from one ethnic group (Armenian-American) and of one religion (Christian, notably Armenian Apostolic or Armenian Orthodox).
  • To the (huge and obvious) extent that the Cuban-American lobby has muscled the United States into its small-minded and punitive embargo of Castro’s Cuba these last 45 years, it has advanced its own causes at the expense of larger American interests. The people who have done this are mainly from one ethnic group (Cuban-American) and of one religion (Christian, notably Roman Catholic).
  • To the (ongoing) extent that AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby” — is trying to legitimize a military showdown between the United States and Iran, it is advancing its own causes at the expense of larger American interests. The people who are doing this are not from one ethnic group in the conventional sense but are mainly of one religion (Jewish).

To observe these patterns, and warn against them (including the disastrous consequences of attacking Iran), is not to be anti-Armenian, anti-Orthodox, anti-Cuban, anti-Catholic, or anti-Semitic. Nor is it to deny that members of each lobby claim, and probably believe, that what they’re recommending is best for America too. But in these cases they’re wrong. And noting these groups’ power and potential to distort policy mainly means recognizing that James Madison’s warnings about the invidious effects of “faction”* apply beyond the 18th century in which he wrote.

* Federalist 10: “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 12:23 pm

Tacoma Bridge, the inspiration for Windbelt

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Technology, Video

Windbelts move out

leave a comment »

Remember the Windbelt?: an inexpensive and simple little device that produces enough electricity from a breeze to power a couple of LED lights and a radio? I blogged about it here, and now it’s a company. (Note that the video at the link requires IE Tab if you’re using Firefox.)

Now Shawn Frayne, the inventor, has formed a company to begin manufacturing the Windbelt and bringing electrical power, on a small scale, to the third world.

The WindbeltTM technology was originally conceived in 2004, during a trip to Petite Anse, Haiti. This fishing village near the coast was not connected to an electrical grid, and the only lighting available was diesel-powered or kerosene-based.

Shawn Frayne, a member of a team from MIT and Petite Anse working in the area, recognized that instead of kerosene lamps, white LEDs powered by a very inexpensive wind generator might be able to better light homes and schools in the area. However, when Shawn tried to design this affordable, turbine-based wind generator, he hit a brick wall: turbine technology is too inefficient at these scales to be a viable option.

However, these difficult constraints of cost and local manufacture led to a new invention, the world’s first turbine-less wind generator.

The WindbeltTM fulfilled its original design criteria while demonstrating10x the efficiency of the state-of-the-art in micro-turbine technology on these scales. Now, Humdinger is poised to take this technology and apply it to a wide array of fields, from rural lighting to energy harvesting for wireless sensors in ‘smart buildings’.

More at the link. Very exciting, and a developer kit will be released soon.

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 11:59 am

The English Shaving Company

leave a comment »

I have ordered quite a few things from The English Shaving Company over the years, and their service and products are impeccable.

I particularly like their safety razors. They take a Merkur Classic head, subject it to rigorous QA and extra polishing, and then plate it either with heavy chrome or gold and attach it to a handsome large handle in one of two styles: Chatsworth (long) and Georgian (fat). I have an ivory Georgian and an ivory and a lined Chatsworth, and I really enjoy them. Some look only at the shaving head—Merkur Classic—and think that the Jagger razors are not worth the money. But keep in mind that the handle does make a difference: thus the Merkur Classic, the 1904 Classic, the Long-Handled Classic, the Hefty Classic (“HD”), and the 38C—all with the same head, and yet shavers show a definite preference for one or the other of these. And for me, the additional polishing and the fine handles of the Jagger razors make a difference as well.

In addition, The English Shaving Company has a great variety of shaving brushes, with the Edwin Jagger Best brushes often recommended as the best starter brush for a novice wet-shaver.

They offer a variety of shaving soaps and creams: D.R. Harris, Edwin Jagger, Geo. F. Trumper, and Proraso. And as you explore the site, you’ll find many other shaving niceties: sets, mirrors, stands, bowls, aftershaves, colognes, and what have you.

Note that shipments to the US are not charged the VAT, and in my experience, shipping charges are reasonable and delivery is swift. It’s a site worth bookmarking.

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 11:46 am

Switchgrass decision

leave a comment »

I’ve been reading about switchgrass for a few years now, as a source of ethanol from cellulose. Some have high hopes for it, and now Tennessee has put $70 million into a project that will at least provide good information:

Conservationists consider it wildlife habitat and farmers think its a weed, but if a new pilot cellulosic ethanol plant being built in Tennessee, proves successful, it could soon be the source of fuel to replace up to 30 percent of the gasoline now used in the state.

A $40.7-million research-scale biorefinery is being constructed in an industrial park in the town of Vonore by the University of Tennessee, funded by $70 million in state tax dollars. UT has partnered with Mascoma Corporation of Cambridge, Mass., a pioneer in cellulosic biofuel production, to build and operate the plant.

Once it starts operating the East Tennessee biorefinery will produce cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass, a hardy, perennial, warm-season forage crop that grows in large volume, requires few inputs, and has a high cellulosic content. One acre of switchgrass can produce 500 gallons of ethanol. Corn? Not so much — the heavily hyped and federally subsidized production of ethanol from corn nets far less ethanol per acre.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 11:14 am

Good look at funder for the GOP

leave a comment »

Richard Mellon Scaife funds much of the hard-Right, and now he’s in a divorce, with interesting information spilling out:

Looking for a perfect little weekend vacation this fall? Here’s a travel tip you don’t hear very often: Head to Pittsburgh. Right away.

Seriously, get in the car and read this story later, because when you’re done reading, you’ll wish you’d left 10 minutes ago. There are towns with better vistas, sure, and there are getaways with more sunshine. But only Pittsburgh is the scene of the fabulously tawdry and surpassingly vicious spectacle that is the divorce of Richard Mellon Scaife.

Remember him? The cantankerous, reclusive 75-year-old billionaire who’s spent a sizable chunk of his inherited fortune bankrolling conservative causes and trying to kneecap Democrats? He’s best known for funding efforts to smear then-President Bill Clinton, but more quietly he’s given in excess of $300 million to right-leaning activists, watchdogs and think tanks. Atop his list of favorite donees: the family-values-focused Heritage Foundation, which has published papers with titles such as “Restoring a Culture of Marriage.”

The culture of his own marriage is apparently past restoring. With the legal fight still in the weigh-in phase, the story of Scaife v. Scaife already includes a dog-snatching, an assault, a night in jail and that divorce court perennial, allegations of adultery.

Oh, and there’s the money. Three words, people.

No. Pre. Nup.

Unfathomable but true, when Scaife (rhymes with safe) married his second wife, Margaret “Ritchie” Scaife, in 1991, he neglected to wall off a fortune that Forbes recently valued at $1.3 billion. This, to understate matters, is likely going to cost him, big time. As part of a temporary settlement, 60-year-old Ritchie Scaife is currently cashing an alimony check that at first glance will look like a typo: $725,000 a month. Or about $24,000 a day, seven days a week. As Richard Scaife’s exasperated lawyers put it in a filing, “The temporary order produces an amount so large that just the income from it, invested at 5 percent, is greater each year than the salary of the President of the United States.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 10:57 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, GOP

Feeling good doesn’t fight cancer

leave a comment »

Cancer patients (and some doctors) have believed that a positive attitude can make a difference in the outcome of the disease. It’s not true, unfortunately. However, a positive attitude can make a big difference in the quality of life of the cancer patient and the patient’s family and support group, something worth fighting for. Here’s the research:

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that emotional well-being is not an independent factor affecting the prognosis of patients with head and neck cancers. This study appears in the December 1st issue of CANCER.

“The belief that a patient’s psychological state can impact the course and outcome of their cancer is one that has been prominent among patients and medical professionals, alike,” says James C. Coyne, PhD, Co-Leader, Cancer Control and Outcomes Program, Abramson Cancer Center; Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Penn; and lead author of the study. “This belief leads people to seek psychotherapy in the hopes of promoting survival. While there can be lots of emotional and social benefits of psychotherapy, patients should not seek such experiences solely on the expectation that they are extending their lives.”

Study participants were enrolled in two Radiation Oncology Group clinical trials and completed a baseline measure of quality of life questionnaire which included an Emotional Well-Being subscale. The outcome measure was overall survival. The study sample included 1,093 patients, and of this group, 646 died during the length of the study. With the coupling of this large sample and the uniformity of treatment and quality of care that is required in a clinical trial, this is one of the methodologically strongest studies in this area to-date.

The researchers found that emotional status was not a predictor of survival among this population. Additionally, no effects were observed when the researchers examined interactions between emotional well-being and study protocol, gender, primary cancer site, or stage of cancer. Therefore, the study reports that “this psychologic variable neither affected progression or death directly, nor functioned as a lurking variable.”

“While this study may not end the debate, it does provide the strongest evidence to-date that psychological factors are not independently prognostic in cancer management,” says Dr. Coyne.

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 10:34 am

“Sustainable cement is like vegetarian meatballs”

leave a comment »

Good article at Treehugger. Cement, used to make concrete, is a fundamental part of construction and civil engineering (roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, … ). It’s difficult to see how we could replace it, but its manufacture and use emits a lot of CO2.

That’s what Professor of Engineering Julian Allwood told Elisabeth Rosenthal of the International Herald Tribune. “The big news about cement is that it is the single biggest material source of carbon emissions in the world, and the demand is going up,” …”If demand doubles and the best you can do is to reduce emissions by 30 percent, then emissions still rise very quickly.”

“The cement manufacturers are trying, and have invested millions of dollars in programs like the Sustainable Cement Initiative. They have improved efficiency significantly but are up against the basic chemistry: The chemical reaction that creates cement releases large amounts of CO2 in and of itself. Sixty percent of emissions caused by making cement are from this chemical process alone. The balance is produced from the fuel used in production, which may be mitigated by the use of greener technology. So to “go green,” cement makers try to cut the fuel side of the equation.”

The industry says “Because of our initiatives, emissions are growing slower than they would without the interventions.” But they are still growing like mad. ::International Herald Tribune

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 10:29 am

Pretty cool: stair basket

with 2 comments

It’s very nice to have a place for things to wait. I have the hallway bookcase, on which I put the things I need to take with me when I leave the apartment: packages to mail, books to return to the library, and so on.

I live in a flat, but for those of you who have stairs, this little basket can collect the things you need to take the next time you go upstairs.

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 10:24 am

Posted in Daily life

100 innovation award winners

leave a comment »

For you techy folk: 100 winners selected by R&D Magazine. (The links below are to PDF files, so I hope you’ve downloaded and installed the free PDF reader Foxit.)

The editors of R&D Magazine are proud to announce the winners of the 45th Annual R&D 100 Awards. This annual competition recognizes the best in innovation—on a global scale. Indeed, the products and technologies highlighted on the following pages are among the most innovative ideas from today’s technology powerhouses in academia, government, and industry, worldwide.

Selection of R&D 100 winners is a sophisticated process, lasting nearly a full year and involving a judging panel of almost 50 independent technical experts who lend their expertise in evaluating the details of the product entries compared to other existing products and technologies.

This year’s winners will be honored at a Black Tie Awards Gala in the Grand Ballroom of Chicago’s Navy Pier on Oct. 18. This event is in conjunction with a public exhibition showcasing a sample of this year’s winning technologies.

From analytical instruments to thin-film technology, to environmental sciences to process technologies, the winners of the 2007 R&D 100 Awards will have a definitive impact in research, industry, and daily life.We honor these products and recognize the development teams that have made these technologies possible.

We invite you to join this elite group of scientists and engineers in the 2008 R&D 100 Awards Competition—it’s never too early to enter. Visit for details and to see the more than 6,000 winning organizations from the past 45 years. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!

—The Editors of R&D Magazine
To view a full archive of past R&D 100 winners, visit:

2007 R&D 100 Index of Award Winners

2007 Judges Life Science
Analytical Instruments Materials & Metals
Beam/X-Ray Devices Mechanical Devices
Communications Microscopy/Imaging
Electronic Equipment Process Technology
Energy Safety
Environmental Semiconductor/Vacuum Technology
Exclusives Software
Lab Equipment Thermal

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 10:16 am

Posted in Business, Technology

Which comes first: belief? or analysis?

with one comment

Apparently when you hear a statement you first believe it before you analyze it. If you then take the step of analyzing, you can reject the belief if the analysis proves the statement is unsound:

Our brains also take some surprising shortcuts. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Virginia Tech psychologist Kimberlee Weaver shows that the more easily we recall something the more likely we are to think of it as being true. It’s a useful shortcut since, typically, easily recalled information really is true. But combine this rule with the brain’s tendency to better remember bits of information that are repeated frequently, and we can run into trouble: We’re likely to believe anything we hear repeated frequently enough. At we’ve noted how political spin-masters exploit this tendency ruthlessly, repeating dubious or false claims endlessly until, in the minds of many voters, they become true. Making matters worse, a study by Hebrew University’s Mayo shows that people often forget “denial tags.” Thus many people who hear the phrase “Iraq does not possess WMDs” will remember “Iraq” and “possess WMDs” while forgetting the “does not” part.

The counter to this requires an understanding of how it is that the brain forms beliefs.

In 1641, French philosopher René Descartes suggested that the act of understanding an idea comes first; we accept the idea only after evaluating whether or not it rings true. Thirty-six years later, the Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza offered a very different account of belief formation. Spinoza proposed that understanding and believing happen simultaneously. We might come to reject something we held to be true after considering it more carefully, but belief happens prior to the examination. On Spinoza’s model, the brain forms beliefs automatically. Rejecting a belief requires a conscious act.

Unfortunately, not everyone bothers to examine the ideas they encounter. On the Cartesian model, that failure results in neither belief nor disbelief. But on the Spinozan model we end up with a lot of unexamined (and often false) convictions.

One might rightly wonder how a 17th-century philosophical dispute could possibly be relevant to modern myth-busting. Interestingly, though, Harvard psychologist Daniel T. Gilbert designed a series of experiments aimed specifically at determining whether Descartes or Spinoza got it right. Gilbert’s verdict: Spinoza is the winner. People who fail to carry through the evaluation process are likely to believe whatever statements they read. Gilbert concludes that “[p]eople do have the power to assent, to reject, and to suspend their judgment, but only after they have believed the information to which they have been exposed.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 9:32 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Tagged with

Vegan recipes

leave a comment »

I’ve eaten vegan for a while now and then. With good planning, such a diet can provide sound nutrition and excellent dishes. (Fitday turns out to be extremely useful in such diets, since you can see the cumulative nutritional analysis of the food you eat over a day, a week, etc., and thus spot easily any imbalances.)

A friend asked me this morning for vegan recipes, so I went a Googling and found some useful sites that I’m bookmarking for my own use:  (these look particularly good)
(has a newsletter)

The other resource is, of course, the library. I often have this experience: buy a cookbook that looks wonderful, get it home, go through it, and find no recipes that I like—the recipes are boring, or too complex, or require special equipment, or use two pots, or the like. So I’ve found that when I get cookbook-hunger, the best thing is to hit the library and check out the cookbooks that look good. Then, when they prove unsatisfactory, I just return them. Those that prove to be great, I order from

Written by Leisureguy

22 October 2007 at 9:25 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

%d bloggers like this: