Later On

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

Archive for April 9th, 2012

When science and commerce collide

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A couple of stories at Wired Science shows:

First, the pesticide industry is fighting back against findings that bee colony collapse, which has the potential to be an environmental catastrophe, given the extent to which flowering plants depend on bees for reproduction. It’s not clear that the pesticide industry is able to maintain an open mind given the stark conflict of interest, but it is clear that they will go to any lengths to keep selling pesticides regardless of environmental harm—I would say “voluntary guidelines” (which never work) is out of the question here. The link is very much worth the click.

Second, the Supreme Court is taking up the crop-patent case brought by Monsanto, not a firm worthy of trust. Timothy Lee reports for Ars Technica:

Can a farmer commit patent infringement just by planting soybeans he bought on the open market? This week, the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on the question. The Court is pondering an appeals court decision saying that such planting can, in fact, infringe patents.

In 1994, the agricultural giant Monsanto obtained a patent covering a line of “Roundup Ready” crops that had been genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s Roundup pesticides. This genetic modification is hereditary, so future generations of seeds are also “Roundup Ready.” Farmers had only to save a portion of their crop for re-planting the next season, and they wouldn’t need to purchase new seed from Monsanto every year. The company didn’t want to be in the business of making a one-time sale, so when Monsanto sold “Roundup Ready” soybeans to farmers, it required them to sign a licensing agreement promising not to re-plant future generations of seeds.

However, farmers remain free to sell the soybeans they grow in the commodity market, where most are used to feed people or livestock. Roundup Ready soybeans have become extremely popular; they now account for 94 percent of all acres planted in Indiana, for instance. Vernon Bowman, an Indiana farmer, was a customer of Monsanto who realized that Roundup Ready soybeans had become so common in his area that if he simply purchased commodity soybeans from a local grain elevator, the overwhelming majority of those soybeans would be Roundup Ready. Commodity soybeans are significantly cheaper than Monsanto’s soybeans, and they came without the contractual restriction on re-planting.

So Bowman planted (and re-planted) commodity soybeans instead of using Monsanto’s seeds. When Monsanto discovered what Bowman was doing, it sued him for patent infringement.

Patent Protection or Freedom to Farm?

Bowman argued his use of the seeds is covered by patent law’s “exhaustion doctrine.” This doctrine, like copyright law’s first sale doctrine, holds that . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2012 at 12:50 pm

Interesting take on the Titanic disaster

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William Broad reports in the NY Times:

What doomed the Titanic is well known, at least in outline. On a moonless night in the North Atlantic, the liner hit an iceberg and disaster ensued, with 1,500 lives lost.

Hundreds of books, studies and official inquires have addressed the deeper question of how a ship that was so costly and so well built — a ship declared to be unsinkable — could have ended so terribly. The theories vary widely, placing the blame on everything from inept sailors to flawed rivets.

Now, a century after the liner went down in the early hours of April 15, 1912, two new studies argue that rare states of nature played major roles in the catastrophe.

The first says Earth’s nearness to the Moon and the Sun — a proximity not matched in more than 1,000 years — resulted in record tides that help explain why the Titanic encountered so much ice, including the fatal iceberg.

And a second, put forward by a Titanic historian from Britain, contends that the icy waters created ideal conditions for an unusual type of mirage that hid icebergs from lookouts and confused a nearby ship as to the liner’s identity, delaying rescue efforts for hours.

The author, Tim Maltin, said his explanation helps remove the stain of blunder from what he regards as a tragedy. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2012 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

A peachy morning shave

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A very pleasant shave for a sunny Spring morning: HoneybeeSoaps.net makes a host of interesting shave soaps, and Peach is a nice and unusual fragrance in this area. I had a little lather fall-off in the third pass, but it could be because the soap’s not been used for a long time and may have required longer loading than I did. (I finished with a quick, third-pass loading of Floris JF, which I’ll just use tomorrow.)

Quite a good shave with the Merkur Slant holding an aged Swedish Gillette blade, which I’m now replacing. It still did a good job, but I think a fresh blade is now in order.

A good splash of Thayers Peach Witch Hazel + Aloe Vera Astringent, and then (since the Thayers’s fragrances are short-lived, a good spray of Flor No. 89 EDT.

Lots of little tasks have built up. And last night I seem to have eaten some food that I shouldn’t have: three bouts of nausea over the evening, but today feel fine. I suspect that the salad was old and that perhaps some ingredients (local cherry tomatoes?) may have carried some sort of microbe. But today all is well.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2012 at 8:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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