A launch malfunction sent the Glory satellite crashing into the ocean, almost exactly mimicking the 2009 loss of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory
| March 4, 2011 | 6GLORY FADES: NASA's Glory satellite, seen here atop a Taurus rocket, did not reach orbit. Image: NASA/Randy Beaudoin, VAFB
In the last few years NASA has built and launched two world-class climate satellites, both of which promised invaluable new data on the natural and human influences on Earth's changing climate. Neither of them, however, will ever deliver the data that climate scientists so eagerly expected from them. Both spacecraft, in fact, are at the bottom of the ocean, having succumbed to nearly identical rocket mishaps that prevented them from reaching orbit.
The latest incident occurred in the wee morning hours of March 4, just after the Glory spacecraft lifted off atop a Taurus XL rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. About three minutes into the flight the protective nose cone, or fairing, enshrouding Glory failed to separate from the rocket as commanded, and the entire assembly came tumbling back to Earth. That is just what happened in February 2009, when NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) blasted off on board another Taurus XL rocket and came crashing down in the waters off Antarctica.
"All indications are that the satellite and rocket are in the southern Pacific ocean somewhere," NASA launch director Omar Baez said of Glory in a somber March 4 news conference following the liftoff. Given the comparable launch weights of Glory and the OCO and the similarity of the malfunction, Glory may have ended up in close proximity to its fellow climate satellite. "Physics says it's likely in the same spot or close to it," Baez said.
Glory was to monitor the intensity of solar energy reaching Earth's upper atmosphere and to measure airborne atmospheric particles that affect how much of that energy reaches the surface. Those measurements would have reduced uncertainties in models that project future climate trends and helped to sort out how much climate influence man-made aerosols such as soot and smoke have compared with natural sources such as sea spray and airborne soil particles.
"It would have made important measurements for the understanding of Earth as a system," Mike Luther of NASA Headquarters said in the press conference. Climate modeler Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, writing at the blog RealClimate, called Glory one of the most important satellites in ages. Its ability to not only measure aerosols but to distinguish between different kinds of aerosols would have been unique, Schmidt wrote. "It may seem surprising, but despite many different attempts [so far], almost all remote sensing of aerosols from space is only capable of detecting the total optical depth of all aerosols," he wrote. "Because we can't easily distinguish what's what from space, we don't have good global coverage of exactly how much of the aerosol is anthropogenic, and how much is natural."
At the moment, NASA has no plans for a replacement, says NASA spokesperson Steve Cole. In the case of OCO, NASA was able to fund a replacement mission, now in development for a 2013 launch. "Judging by what happened with OCO two years ago, it will take many months to make a decision as to which path to pursue," Cole says.
Orbital Sciences Corp., which operates the Taurus XL, said that it had made significant changes to the system that triggers the separation of the fairing from the rocket since the 2009 OCO mishap. "We went so far as to completely change out the initiation system, and in the intervening years that system flew three times," Orbital Sciences's executive vice president, Ronald Grabe, said at the news conference. "We went into this flight really feeling that we had nailed the fairing issue."
Luther said that NASA had been comfortable using the Taurus XL again. "We felt going in that we had an acceptable level of risk," he said. "Clearly we missed something." He added that the mishap might affect the launch of the replacement Orbiting Carbon Observatory, OCO 2, which is also scheduled to ride into orbit on a Taurus XL. "We'll have to evaluate the outcome of this investigation and adjust our plans appropriately," Luther said.
A tragedy in space science.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
Stopping desertification with bacteria that turn sand into walls
Jul 24, 2009 01:00 PM | 5
Mangus Larsson has a big idea. The young, Swedish-born architect wants to halt the marching sands of desertification, which threatens the homes and livelihoods of millions across the globe. And he wants to do it with bacteria.
His proposal, presented this week at the TEDGlobal conference in the U.K. (a gathering to promote new ideas), is to create a 6,000-kilometer-long sandstone wall that would bisect Africa east to west at the southern edge of the Sahara.
But it’s not so much a Great Wall-sized construction project as bioengineering writ large. A microorganism called Bacillus pasteurii, which is naturally occurring in wetlands, can turn loose media, such as sand or soils, into rock-solid stone in about a day by creating calcium carbonate.
“The idea is to stop the desert using the desert itself,” Larsson told BBC News.
Larsson’s plan, which has already won environmental accolades and global interest, would entail installing massive balloons filled with the bacteria at the front of moving dunes and popping the balloons once sand had engulfed them. The resulting hard structure could also provide water collection and even shelter, he noted.
The wall would work in tandem with the Great Green Wall, an idea to plant a 15-kilometer-wide swath of trees stretching 7,000 kilometers across the continent to much the same end. China also has plans for a treed wall, which would help stave off stands from the growing Gobi.
In Ethiopia alone, desertification already costs the country at least 10 percent of the agricultural gross domestic product, according to the World Bank, and the costs are only projected to rise with climate change.
“There are many details left to explore in this story: political, practical, ethical, financial,” Larsson told BBC News. “My design is fraught with many challenges… However, it’s a beginning, it’s a vision.”
Image of a dust storm blowing sand across Western Africa courtesy of NASA
Good idea to control desertification. How practical it is has to be worked out.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
1 March 2011
Why Are Americans So Ill-Informed on the Topic of Climate Change?
Scientists and journalists debate why Americans still resist the consensus among research organizations that humans are warming the globe
| February 23, 2011 | 27
Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio
As glaciers melt and island populations migrate from shores to escape rising seas, many scientists remain baffled as to why the research consensus on human-induced climate change remains contentious in the U.S.
The frustration revealed itself during a handful of sessions at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., this past weekend, and it came to a peak during a Friday session, “Science without borders and media unbounded.”
Near the session’s conclusion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel asked a panel of journalists why the media continues to cover anthropogenic climate change as a controversy or debate, when in fact it is a consensus among such organizations as the American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Chemical Society, American Meteorological Association, National Research Council and the national academies of more than two dozen countries.
"You haven't persuaded the public," replied Elizabeth Shogren of National Public Radio. Emanuel immediately countered, smiling and pointing at Shogren, "No, YOU haven't." Scattered applause followed in the audience of mostly scientists, with one heckler saying, "That's right. Kerry said it."
A tone of searching bewilderment was typical of a handful of sessions that dealt with the struggle to motivate Americans on the topic of climate change. Only 35 percent of Americans see climate change as a serious problem, according to a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
It's a given that an organized and well-funded campaign has led efforts to confuse the public regarding the consensus around anthropogenic climate change.
And in the absence of such a campaign, as in South Korea, there is no doubt about the findings of climate science, said Sun-Jin Yun of Seoul National University. All three of the nation's major newspapers—representing conservative, progressive and business perspectives—accept climate change with little unjustified skepticism.
Still, it is hard to explain the intransigence of the U.S. public and policy-makers on the issue.
Explanations: the media, under-education or denialism
Tom Rosensteil of the Project for Excellence in Journalism pointed the finger at the media, focusing on its overall contraction in the past two decades. Shrinking budgets have led to a proliferation of quick, cheap reporting, as well as discussion and commentary formats that rarely provide informative discussions of actual science results.
"What is shrinking is the reportorial component of our culture in which people go out and find things and verify things," he said. Truth has little chance to make itself known in the new narrow and shallow public square.
Poll after poll, and even late night TV, seems to revel in Americans’ ignorance of basic scientific facts, including the fundamentals of physics and biology.
Is this "deficit model" then the reason for our failure to accept climate change? Naomi Oreskes, a University of California, San Diego, science historian rejected that hypothesis that during a session on climate change denialism. "It's quite clear there are many highly educated people who do not accept global warming," she said. Still, scientists "must communicate climate science as clearly and effectively and robustly as we can," she added.
The current political and cultural context drive the nation's denialism around climate change, evolution and vaccines, said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, during a session. Education and scientific literacy and general intelligence levels are not causing the problem.
Meanwhile, most Americans in fact are ignorant of the facts of climate science and even "confuse climate change with the ozone hole," Schmidt remarked. The processes around the latter's disappearance are related to global warming but "how is that a basis for having any sensible conversation?" he asked.
Solutions: Smart talking and media mastery
Surveys show that most people want more information about climate science, Schmidt said, so scientists should engage in public forums such as blogs, question-and-answer sessions and public talks, provided they are not simply stacked with angry debaters.
Scientists must engage with the public and be vigilant against projecting stereotypes of their profession—such as the elitist, arrogant scientist, Schmidt said.
Rosensteil echoed this advice and further urged scientists to bypass the media, who are no longer critical intermediaries for reaching the public given the growth of the blogosphere and the general fragmentation of the industry.
He advised scientists similarly to make sure their points are very clear and to avoid giving climate deniers an opportunity to extract a phrase from ones communications or answers to questions that fits an anti-science theme.
In fact, Thomas Lessl of the University of Georgia called science communications "naïve" and said the entire enterprise of communicating science about climate change needed to be reformed. More information will not help. "Personal knowledge always trumps technical knowledge in public communication," he said.
Some of Rosensteil's advice echoed that as he reminded the audience that interviews are entirely on the record and that they are not conversations.
"One way of doing that is to be like a politician and answer what you want to answer and not answer fully what they have asked," he advised. Also, "if you feel thee question is loaded, give them the answer that you would have given if the question were not loaded."
Schmidt suggested that further public engagement to fill in the gaps in understanding between the soundbites and the scientific literature would be useful, but that there are no guarantees.
Emanuel offered the familiar explanation for why some scientists are allergic to public forums: "There's an attitude in our culture that if we're doing outreach...we may be engaging in a kind of advocacy that is poisonous to science."
Optimism prevailed regarding the role of journalists and scientists in better communicating climate change in the future. There will be more reporting and it will be more accurate in the future, but the current media landscape may be the ultimate decider, Emanuel said.
"Fourth estate reporting will get better," he said. "The fact that we're here today is an indicator of that. At the same time, the availability of the Internet soapbox will ensure that the amount of background noise will go up. I don't see any way of preventing that."
23 February 2011
Investing in greener economy could spur growth: U.N.
Channeling 2 percent, or $1.3 trillion, of global gross domestic product into greening sectors such as construction, energy and fishing could start a move toward a low-carbon world, a report launched on Monday said.
| February 21, 2011 | 3
Investing in greener economy could spur growth: U.N. People stand on the world's largest solar-powered boat in Cancun December 8, 2010. REUTERS/Gerardo Garcia Image:
By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Channeling 2 percent, or $1.3 trillion, of global gross domestic product into greening sectors such as construction, energy and fishing could start a move toward a low-carbon world, a report launched on Monday said.
The investment would expand the global economy at the same rate, if not higher, as under present economic policies, said the report by the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP).
"Investing 2 per cent of global GDP into 10 key sectors can kick-start a transition toward a low-carbon world," the Nairobi-based agency said in a statement.
"The sum, currently amounting to an average of around $1.3 trillion a year and backed by forward-looking national and international policies, would grow the global economy at around the same rate if not higher than those forecast, under current economic models."
UNEP's Executive Director Achim Steiner said in the statement: "With 2.5 billion people living on less than two dollars a day and with more than two billion people being added to the global population by 2050, it is clear that we must continue to develop and grow our economies.
"But this development cannot come at the expense of the very life support systems on land, in the oceans or in our atmosphere."
Agriculture, buildings, energy supply, fisheries, forestry, industry, tourism, transport, waste management and water are sectors that could do with more greening, the report said.
Buildings are the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases because of inefficient heating in offices and homes, according to the study entitled "Toward a Green Economy."
THREEFOLD INCREASE IN RECYCLING
The sector's footprint could nearly double by 2030, or 30 percent of total energy-related carbon dioxide.
The report suggests investing $108 million in the waste sector annually could increase recycling threefold by 2050 and reduce landfill contents by more than 85 percent.
In Brazil, recycling already makes $2 billion a year while avoiding 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, UNEP said.
Greener policies would still grow economies while reducing the ecological footprint by nearly 50 percent in the next 40 years, but some jobs would be lost as a result in sectors such as fisheries, the report said.
Investment in more sustainable productive activities would, however, offsets those job losses by developing sectors such as renewable energy.
Government subsidies in the fishing industry amount to about $27 billion a year and have created excess capacity and depleted fish stocks globally.
Greening agricultural with practices such as efficient use of water or organic nutrients would offer a means of feeding a global population of about 9 billion by 2050 without damaging nature.
Farming practices currently use more than 70 percent of freshwater resources and contribute more than 13 percent of greenhouse gases.
"Governments have a central role in changing laws and policies, and in investing public money in public wealth to make the transition possible. By doing so, they can also unleash the trillions of dollars of private capital in favor of a green economy," said Pavan Sukhdev, head of UNEP's Green Economy Initiative.
(Editing by Andrew Dobbie)
There is worldwide interest to invest in greener economy because of ensuing global warming and the subsequent climate change. World Bank and other Global Agencies can encourage countries like Argentina to go for greener economy which has one of the best Wind regimes in the world. It is estimated that the gross wind potential in Argentina is about 500,000 MW! There are sites with annual average wind velocities of 11 m/s. Many developing countries are rich in natural resources but lack financial resources. Here the co- operation between developed countries and developing countries will foster faster growth of green economies.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP),India26 Years after Bhopal: Are Chemical Plants Any Safer Today?
Since the Union Carbide disaster in India steps have been taken in the U.S. to prevent or minimize catastrophic casualties, but the degree of chemical plant safety, especially in other parts of the world, remains unclear
| February 25, 2011 | 0
NOT BREATHING EASIER: The December 1984 Union Carbide chemical spill in Bhopal, India, killed 2,259 people immediately and caused lifelong health problems and premature death for tens of thousands more. Pictured: survivors and their kin march from Bhopal to Delhi in 2006 demanding completion of the cleaning of the factory site to stop toxic chemicals from continuing to poison groundwater. Image: Courtesy Joe Athialy, Flickr
Dear EarthTalk: December 2010 marked the 26th anniversary of the infamous Bhopal disaster in India when chemical company Union Carbide leaked deadly gases, killing thousands of people. What safeguards are in place today to prevent incidents like this?—Charlene Colchester, via e-mail
Bhopal should have been a wake up call, but it is unclear whether chemical plants around the world are any safer a quarter century after the December 1984 disaster—during which some 40 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide (now part of Dow Chemical), killing 2,259 people immediately and causing lifelong health problems and premature death for tens of thousands more.
In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees chemical and other facilities that deal with hazardous materials, making sure various “process safety” routines are followed so as to “prevent or minimize the catastrophic injury or death that could result from an accidental or purposeful release of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals.” Also, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security instituted its own “Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards” (CFATS) that chemical and other hazardous materials facilities must follow or be shut down.
While this system has worked pretty well in the U.S. so far, some worry that a Bhopal-scale tragedy, whether due to an accident or terrorist attack, could still occur on American soil. For one, water treatment and port facilities are exempt from CFATS altogether, so some of the nation’s largest chemical facilities are not subject to as rigorous standards as they could be. A 2009 bill that passed the House of Representatives but failed to make it through the Senate addressed this and other issues. Supporters are optimistic that the bill in one form or another could resurface in future legislative sessions.
Of course, what happens in industrial facilities abroad is up to the host country to regulate. And while standards are higher than they used to be in many developing countries today, runaway economic growth often means oversight and enforcement are lacking if nonexistent, so dangerous facilities still threaten people and the environment in ways that wouldn’t be tolerated in the United States.
Advocates for corporate responsibility say that companies should be held accountable for accidents with their materials, whether they occur on home soil or elsewhere, arguing that a double standard presently exists that is much too lenient on multinational corporations operating in developing countries. Martin Khor, executive director of The South Centre, a Geneva-based research group, reports that this double standard also seems to apply to compensatory pay-outs. Union Carbide’s settlement for the Bhopal disaster, for example, was only $470 million, or a few thousand dollars per affected family.
If nothing else, the Bhopal disaster certainly raised awareness around the world about the dangers of modern chemicals, especially those used or manufactured in close proximity to people. Hopefully at least some local governments in developing countries have taken heed and stepped up efforts to site potentially hazardous industrial facilities away from both human population centers and environmentally sensitive landscapes. But, unfortunately, without stronger regulations and enforcement around the world, it may be only a matter of time before another highly lethal accident occurs.
The Bhopal disaster is the world's worst industrial catastrophe. It occurred on the night of December 2–3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. A leak of methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals from the plant resulted in the exposure of hundreds of thousands of people. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release(Source: Wikipedia)..
Since 1984, many positive steps worldwide have been made in regards to improvements in process safety and protection of personnel within chemical plants and of people in the surrounding communities.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
25 February 2011
Nobel Laureate: Examine Alternatives to GDP
Nobel laureate John Sulston posited at the AAAS meeting that it may be time to look for alternatives to GDP as measures of well-being. Steve Mirsky reports
| February 25, 2011 | 1
Listen to this Podcast
“I’m pleased that some economists and sociologists are beginning to talk about, for example, alternative measures of human well-being—alternative that is to GDP, on which the world runs.”
So said John Sulston at the AAAS meeting in Washington on February 20th. He won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2002. He talked about connections among population, the environment and economics.
“We know that our current system of economics are incomplete. And so we have for example, when we’re considering food, we have huge wastage. An awful lot of food is thrown away. This you can call a spillover. It doesn’t sort of enter into our economic system because it’s a consequence of running things in a highly competitive way: the free market, global pricing and so on. These things lead to spillovers, which is the wastage of food.
"Now, you can take the view that this doesn’t matter, and that’s what we’ve done in the past, just as we’ve been energy profligate we’ve been food profligate. It does matter if we’re coming up to the limit and we have to calculate how we’re going to stop people starving or indeed give them a better life.”
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
25 February 2011
The truth behind what makes technology's true believers tick
| February 17, 2011 | 0
I’ve been a consumer technology critic for over 10 years. During that time, hate mail has been part of my job every day.
In the early days I thought I understood it. Back then, it was all about Microsoft versus Apple. It was easy to see why people took sides: Apple was the underdog taking on an established giant. It was fun to root for one side or the other.
Today, though, there are fanboys and haters ready to attack every conceivable position in the tech world—“position,” of course, meaning “company or product.” Mention almost any big name, and you’ll hit a raw nerve: iPhone. Android. Kindle. Canon. Nikon. Google. Facebook. And, of course, Apple or Microsoft.
We’re not talking about civil disagreements, either. We’re talking about name-calling, hair-pulling, toxic tantrums, featuring a whole new arsenal of modern-age putdowns (the suffix “-tard” is always popular). It’s gadget hate speech.
At tech conferences, we columnists compare notes on the hostility of our hate mail. Doesn’t matter if you think you’re being evenhanded in the review; someone will flame you for it.
So when the Apple iPad debuted last year, I tried a crazy experiment: I wrote two reviews in the New York Times in a single column, taking opposite positions. One was for the fanboys—all positive. One was for the haters—all negative. Surely, I thought, this would satisfy everyone.
Incredibly, though, the stunt pleased nobody. The anti-Apple bloggers wrote about my “love letter” to the iPad; the fanboy bloggers foamed at the mouth about the “hatchet job” I’d written. Each side ignored half of the review!
Later, I learned that I was witnessing a well-documented cognitive bias: the hostile media effect. It says that people who hold strong opinions about an issue perceive media coverage of that issue to be biased against their opinions, regardless of how neutral the coverage may be. But that phenomenon usually applies in politics, not electronics. That could only mean one thing: that gadget brands have, in fact, become politicized.
What’s going on here? Why do people work themselves into such a lather over their choice of phone, for heaven’s sake?
First, tech companies these days work hard to link their products to style and image. Those colorful, silhouetted dancing iPod ads never mention a single feature—except how cool it makes you. The message seems to be, “You’re not worthy if you don’t buy one”—and suddenly, if someone disses your gadget, they’re also dissing you as a person.
A second factor is that gadgets are expensive, and they quickly become obsolete. You become invested in the superiority of your purchase. People see you using it, judging your choice—so you defend your choice. Insult my gadget? You’re insulting me.
The old Apple underdog phenomenon is still at play, too—but now in reverse. Apple is now the overlord of music players, tablet computers and app phones. Forget the 1997 Apple commercials that encouraged us to “Think different.” Today if you buy Apple, you’re not an iconoclast—you’re a sheep. Those who once would have rooted for Apple the underdog now root against it.
For the same reason, Facebook and Google gain their own hater populations as they grow bigger and more prosperous. Size and success naturally stoke suspicion and cynicism.
But why gadgets? You don’t encounter this degree of rabid partisanship among customers of rival clothing stores, insurance companies or banks, and those are large companies, too. And why now? I mean, you didn’t hear about people in the 1950s flying into name-calling rages over their choice of toaster oven or gangs in the 1980s starting rumbles about brands of hair gel.
Leg pulling is very common in developing countries especially in intellectual rivalry. Often mediocre indulge in criticism of any new thing. First they are not well versed with the product and next they want to see their name in print. There is the famous crab story. Somebody from a developing country was exporting crabs to a developed country with out fixing a lid on the box. The crabs were all in tact at the receiving end. The person from developed country was having all praise for the person who exported the crabs remarking that it was a novel method of packing. The developing country person retorted saying that they are developing country crabs, if one crab tries to climb up the other crabs will pull it down, as such if one person tries to go up in a developing country the other person will pull him down.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
17 February 2011
150 Years Ago: Drudgery of the Needle
Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American
| March 4, 2011 | 1
Food for Climate Skeptics
“The frigid winter now ending may be, unhappily, no fluke. The warming trend that had dominated world climate during most of the years since 1880 appears to have come to an end. Murray Mitchell, Jr., of the U.S. Weather Bureau reported that mean annual temperatures have dropped in both Northern and Southern hemispheres by 0.2 degree Fahrenheit since the early 1940s. In many areas climatic conditions have already returned to those that prevailed in the 1920s. The downturn has allayed fears about the ‘greenhouse effect,’ in which a rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, due to increased use of fossil fuels, was supposed to be trapping more and more solar energy. But the reasons for the cooling are unknown.”
Daytime temperatures had fallen during the 1940s and 1950s as an aerosol haze created by industrial pollution reflected sunlight.
“If a future experiment should demonstrate that antiparticles have a negative gravitational mass, it will deliver a mortal blow to the entire relativistic theory of gravity by disproving the principle of equivalence.
An antiapple might fall up in a true gravitational field, but it could hardly do so in Einstein’s accelerated spaceship. If it did, an outside observer would see it moving at twice the acceleration of the ship, with no force at all acting on it. The discovery of antigravity would thus force upon us a choice between Newton’s law of inertia and Einstein’s equivalence principle. The author earnestly hopes that this will not come to pass. —George Gamow”
Concrete for Construction
“About fifteen years ago serious attempts were made to combine steel and concrete by molding the one into the other in such a way that the resulting product would possess a high resistance not merely to compressive but to bending and tensional stresses. A vast amount of experimental work was done, out of which has sprung our modern reinforced concrete. Not only is concrete found to be available for practically every form of construction [see illustration at left] which hitherto has been built in brick or stone, but it has now invaded the field which was supposed to be peculiarly reserved for iron and steel.”
Atmosphere of Venus
“Venus is nearly as large as the earth and, as it is much nearer the sun, its temperature must be higher than that of the earth. The average temperature is estimated to be about 140 degrees F. Various phenomena appear to indicate that the planet is surrounded by a comparatively dense and cloudy atmosphere which, indeed, is apparently seen as a luminous border, in the transits of Venus over the sun’s disk, which occur once or twice in a century. This dense atmosphere strongly reflects the sun’s rays and thus prevents the surface of the planet from attaining a temperature too elevated for highly organized life. The planet would be regarded as habitable.”
Drudgery of the Needle
“At the present moment some 650,000 females are employed in the United Kingdom as milliners, dressmakers, seamstresses and shirtmakers; and their labor being manual, they are, on an average, the most enslaved, most dependent, and most unhappy of the industrial classes. Half a million sewing machines are much needed amongst them. Their introduction would double their wages. Nor is there any danger that this market for female labor will be overcrowded, at least for several generations. Men must eventually resign the monotonous drudgery of hand-sewing to machines that are wrought or attended to by women. Three fourths of the journeymen and apprentice tailors now in Great Britain—50,000 able-bodied men—could well be spared to man the navy, or engage in some more suitable employment than handling the needle.”
Science through the times. Excellent collection by Scientific American. Good reference.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
16 February 2011
Demons, Entropy, and the Quest for Absolute Zero
A 19th-century thought experiment has turned into a real technique for reaching ultralow temperatures, paving the way to new scientific discoveries as well as to useful applications
| February 28, 2011 | 0
- Traditional methods for cooling gases to close to absolute zero work only with a few of the elements.
- Two novel techniques together can cool down atoms of virtually any element, even some molecules.
- One of the techniques, which appears to break the second law of thermodynamics, is a physical realization of a celebrated 1800s thought experiment called Maxwell’s demon.
- Applications range from studying the properties of elementary particles without expensive accelerators to separating isotopes for their use in medicine and research.
As you read these words, the air’s molecules are zipping around you at 2,000 miles per hour, faster than a speeding bullet, and bombarding you from all sides. Meanwhile the atoms and molecules that make up your body incessantly tumble, vibrate or collide with one another. Nothing in nature is ever perfectly still, and the faster things go, the more energy they carry; the collective energy of atoms and molecules is what we call, and feel as, heat.
Even though total stillness, corresponding to the temperature of absolute zero, is physically impossible, scientists have edged ever closer to that ultimate limit. In such extreme realms, weird quantum effects begin to manifest themselves and to produce new and unusual states of matter. In particular, cooling gaseous clouds of atoms—as opposed to matter in the liquid or solid state—to a small fraction of a degree above absolute zero has enabled researchers to observe matter particles behaving as waves, to create the most precise measuring instruments in history, and to build the most accurate atomic clocks.
Excellent article. In fact low temperature physics (Crayogenecs) opened up new vistas in Physics.
Here is more on the subject:
low-temperature physics, science concerned with the production and maintenance of temperatures much below normal, down to almost absolute zero, and with various phenomena that occur only at such temperatures. The temperature scale used in low-temperature physics is the Kelvin temperature scale, or absolute temperature scale, which is based on the behavior of an idealized gas (see gas laws; kinetic-molecular theory of gases). This may be done in various ways. The simplest way to cool a substance is to bring it into contact with another substance that is already at a low temperature. Ordinary ice, dry ice (solid carbon dioxide), and liquid air may be used successively to cool a substance down to about 80°K (about −190°C). The heat is removed by conduction, passing from the substance to be cooled to the colder substance in contact with it. If the colder substance is a liquefied gas (see liquefaction), considerable heat can be removed as the liquid reverts to its gaseous state, since it will absorb its latent heat of vaporization during the transition. Various liquefied gases can be used in this manner to cool a substance to as low as 4.2°K, the boiling point of liquid helium. If the vapor over the liquid helium is continually pumped away, even lower temperatures, down to less than 1°K, can be achieved because more helium must evaporate to maintain the proper vapor pressure of the liquid helium. Most processes used to reduce the temperature below this level involve the heat energy that is associated with magnetization (see magnetism). Successive magnetization and demagnetization under the proper combination of conditions can lower the temperature to only about a millionth of a degree above absolute zero. Reaching such low temperatures becomes increasingly difficult, as each temperature drop requires finding some kind of energy within the substance and then devising a means of removing this energy. Moreover, according to the third law of thermodynamics, it is theoretically impossible to reduce a substance to absolute zero by any finite number of processes. Superconductivity and superfluidity have traditionally been thought of as phenomena that occur only at temperatures near absolute zero, but by the late 1980s several materials that exhibit superconductivity at temperatures exceeding 100°K had been found.
17 February 2011
Diseases in a Dish: Stem Cells for Drug Discovery
A creative use of stem cells made from adult tissues may hasten drug development for debilitating diseases
| February 16, 2011 | 0
- Still waiting: Stem cells from embryos hold promise for treating incurable conditions; however, investigators have not so far made much progress in deriving therapies from stem cells.
- A new idea: Rather than focusing on treatments, a few researchers think stem cells are better suited—for now—to help screen for drugs and to investigate how different diseases damage the body.
- Creative approach: Until recently, the stem cells needed to pursue this idea were made using embryos. But in 2007 scientists managed to reprogram adult human cells into stem cells.
- Customized stem cells: Researchers are using these reprogrammed cells to re-create various diseases in a petri dish. Then they can test potential drugs against the refashioned tissue samples.
On June 26, 2007, Wendy Chung, director of clinical genetics at Columbia University, drove to the New York City borough of Queens with a delicate request for the Croatian matriarchs of a star-crossed family. She asked the two sisters, one 82 and the other 89, if they would donate some of their skin cells for an ambitious, highly uncertain experiment that, if it succeeded, promised a double payoff. One, it might accelerate the search for treatments for the incurable disease that ran in their family. Two, it might establish a valuable new use for stem cells: unspecialized cells able to give rise to many different kinds of cells in the body. “We had a very nice lunch and literally went back to the house and took the biopsies,” Chung remembers. As they sat around the dining-room table, the elderly sisters were “very happy sticking out their arms,” recalls the daughter of the 82-year-old woman. The younger sister told Chung: “I get it. Go right ahead.”
The sisters suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative and slowly paralyzing nerve disorder that is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the Yankee slugger who was told he had it in 1939 and died two years later. The 89-year-old showed few signs of the disease, whereas her 82-year-old sister had trouble walking and swallowing.
Good article on stem cells for drug discovery.
Here is information on this important development in medicine:
Children’s Hospitals Boston’s science and clinical innovation blog
iPS cells: A promising new platform for drug discovery
“Within five years, likely well before we start treating patients with their own genetically corrected stem cells created from induced pluripotent stem cells, I am expecting to see new drugs discovered using iPS cells enter the clinical pipeline.
Most of us are starting with well-defined disorders that are caused by mutation of a single gene, where we know with certainty the specific cell types and tissues affected by the disease process, and feel fairly confident that we can at least partially recreate that disease in a dish. In such diseases, which include immunodeficiency disorders, sickle cell anemia, and Parkinson disease, the act of differentiating iPS cells from an affected patient allows us a snapshot of the earliest pathological events.
We can then compare the behavior of normal and diseased cells in a petri dish, and screen for drugs that normalize the diseased cells. This strategy, applied to the actual human cells affected by the disease, promises to be much better than animal testing at predicting the efficacy of drugs – and, conversely, their toxicity.
Promising disease areas for drug-screening applications include blood diseases, for which we now have many iPS cell lines, diabetes and retinal disease. Recently, a German team created iPS cells from patients with long-QT syndrome, a condition that can cause heart rhythm problems. This group directed the iPS cells to differentiate into beating cardiac myocytes, and showed that the heart cells showed the same rhythm disturbance in a petri dish as in the patient. Furthermore, they showed that beta-blocker drugs, which are used to treat patients, also protected the cells in the dish. This is an important demonstration that patient-specific iPS cells will be helpful for testing drugs.
By testing drugs on specific cells and tissues created from iPS cells, we can even predict a patient’s individual response to a treatment — realizing the vision of personalized medicine. I expect the explosion of disease-specific iPS cells will greatly speed up drug discovery, beginning with the rare, single-gene diseases but ultimately giving us a new strategy for finding drugs against more complex conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes”.
17 February 2011
From iPhones to SciPhones
Scientists are developing iPhone apps that aid in research and that appeal to "citizen scientists" as well
| February 19, 2011 | 0
Developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdsEye has entries on hundreds of the most frequently seen North American bird species and includes images and bird sounds. It helps to guide avid watchers to birds in their area, based on sightings submitted online to eBird.org, a project of Cornell University and the National Audubon Society. Scientists use these observations to figure out the birds’ range, movements and abundance.
This app depicts 3-D models of compounds that users can manipulate with their fingers via touch screen. These are more than just pretty pictures—the 3-D structure of a molecule is often crucial to its function, so these models help researchers and amateurs see how they work. “You can show colleagues the structure of a protein wherever you want, such as over lunch,” says Columbia University virologist Vincent Racaniello.
This line of apps from Integrity Logic covering 26 U.S. states provides maps with as many as 50 layers of information, including rock types and ages and the location of seismic faults and past earthquakes. Nonscientists find them helpful, too. Mushroom hunters have used the data on forest fires, as some types grow better after fires, says Integrity Logic founder Max Tardiveau.
When did humans and chimps last share a common ancestor? Scan the tree of life to find out using TimeTree. The app, from scientists at the Arizona and Pennsylvania State universities, searches the massive databases at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which hold information on more than 160,000 organisms. TimeTree returns answers on divergence times within seconds, including citations of scientific papers.
Do you want to spot alien invaders? Exotic wildlife such as Burmese pythons and Nile monitors are invading Florida and destroying the ecosystem. To help identify reptiles there, professionals and volunteers can rely on this app, which has photographs of species and data on their features, location, and status as native or exotic.
Want to create your own database of molecules on the fly? With ChemJuice, just drag your finger across the touch screen to draw a chemical bond and tap the screen to delete an atom or bond or change its type. The app can also calculate molecular weight, formula and percent composition by element and e-mail the structure wherever you wish—handy for students and professionals.
Outstanding Innovation. Information at finger touch.
Organic farms win at potato pest control
Why ecological evenness is as important as relative richness.
By Daniel Cressey
A study suggesting that organic agriculture gives better pest control and larger plants than conventional farming is sure to reignite longstanding debates about the merits of organic versus conventional agriculture. It also highlights an often-neglected aspect of biodiversity.
"Organic agriculture promotes more balanced communities of predators," says David Crowder, author of the new study published June 30 in Nature.
"Our study does not tell farmers they should shift to organic agriculture. What our study suggests is that organic agriculture is promoting these more balanced natural enemy communities and they may have better, organic pest control."
Much focus is put on species numbers or 'richness'. But the research by Crowder, an insect ecologist at Washington State University in Pullman, and his colleagues, shows the importance of "evenness"--the relative abundance of different species. Evenness quantifies not just the presence of different species, but whether one is dominant or whether there is an equal distribution of numbers between species.
The team looked at the bugs, nematodes and fungi that attack the hated Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata).
They conducted a meta-analysis of data collected on these denizens of Washington potato fields and found that although organic and conventional farms did not differ markedly in the richness of beetle eaters, the evenness of predators differed "drastically". Organic fields--where only a limited number of man-made chemicals can be used--had far greater evenness than those where pesticides were applied regularly.
Furthermore, the team set up an experimental field in which they manipulated the evenness of predators. Increasing the evenness led to what the researchers call a "powerful trophic cascade," resulting in fewer potato-munching beetles and larger potato plants.
Although the work of Crowder and his group does not address the issue of yields from organic versus conventional farms, their study found that the increased evenness of organic farms compared with that of conventional farms led to 18 percent lower pest densities and 35 percent larger plants. Bigger plants generally mean greater potato yields.
At least as important as what the research says about organic farming is what it says about species evenness.
"Almost all the studies that have been done have looked at the number of species in an ecosystem," says Crowder. "Very few studies have looked at the relative abundance. We think our study is really one of the first to highlight that evenness is also important."
Understanding evenness can be extremely useful to those studying biodiversity, agrees Marc Cadotte, a community ecologist at the University of Toronto at Scarborough. This knowledge can shed light on, for example, the processes maintaining species abundance, and can also be crucial for determining how ecosystems will respond to challenges, such as those posed by climate change.
This paper, says Cadotte, demonstrates that different agricultural practices have distinct effects on evenness, and that manipulating evenness leads to the cascading reactions identified by Crowder and his team.
"Evenness is a critical component of biodiversity," says Cadotte. "Much research has emphasized species richness, maybe at the detriment of studying evenness."
Meanwhile, Crowder says that the next step is to discover what it is about organic agriculture that promotes evenness, and to determine whether this finding also applies in systems other than potato fields.
Farmers can be considered to be growing "certified organic" crops by meeting national standards, including a system plan for growing the crops, proper buffer fields between the organic field and any non-organic fields (preventing non-organic pollen from fertilizing organic crops) and much record keeping of crop information. All crops that are to be sold as organic must be certified.
One common misconception is that organic and natural crops are the same thing. A crop is natural if it is not genetically modified; it may still have been grown using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Organic crops are free from anything synthetic.
13 February 2011
Offshore Wind May Power the Future
Not only are offshore winds stronger but landlubbers have fewer objections to turbines almost invisible from the coast
| October 20, 2008 | 11
October 20, 2008
The waters of the Jersey Shore may soon become home to the nation's first deepwater wind turbines. New Jersey officials recently announced the state would help fund an initiative by Garden State Offshore Energy to build a 350-megawatt wind farm 16 miles (26 kilometers) offshore. The state wants by 2020 many more of these parks, at least 3,000 megawatts worth, or about 13 percent of the state's total electricity needs.
"This is probably the first of many ambitious goals to be set by states," says Greg Watson, a senior advisor on clean energy technology to the governor of Massachusetts. "Three thousand megawatts is significant. With that you're able to offset or even prevent fossil fuel plants from being built."
The federal government is about to open up to wind energy development vast swaths of deep ocean waters, and states and wind park developers are vying to be the first to seize the new frontier. Wind parks in these waters can generate more energy than nearshore and onshore sites, they don't ruin seascape views, and they don't interfere as much with other ocean activities.
New Jersey's plan was prompted, in part, by new federal rules that will greatly expand the territory in which developers can build offshore wind parks. Until now, such projects were only allowed in shallow state waters—those within 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) of shore. The new rules would allow them in federal waters, known as the outer continental shelf, which extend to the edge of U.S. territory about 230 miles (200 nautical miles, or 370 kilometers) out. These are the same waters where the hotly debated oil and gas drilling has been proposed, but the sites are unlikely to overlap, say wind developers.
The U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service, the federal agency with jurisdiction, plans to finalize the rules by the end of the year. The agency says it will lease plots of the shelf to developers of wind parks and other renewable energy projects, such as ocean current and wave-harvesting technologies. States are chipping in on wind park development projects in the hope that the energy from these complexes will feed into state grids and help meet renewable energy requirements.
Some groups say the rules leave too many barriers for developers to overcome. "Are these waters really open?" asks Sean O'Neill, founder of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition. O'Neill says the leases may be prohibitively expensive and the environmental review process too extensive.
Which way the wind blows
But opening up the shelf may be the only way a viable offshore wind industry can develop in this country. Wind projects in state waters are visible from shore and can interfere with shipping routes and recreation. Turbines often have to be smaller and fewer to minimize these impacts, leading to less profitable projects. And prior to the new federal rules, no one knew who was in charge.
These obstacles have delayed, and in some cases nixed, many projects—and so far, not a single offshore wind turbine is operating in the U.S. Organizers of Cape Wind, an offshore wind park to be built more than five miles (eight kilometers) from Cape Cod, Mass., have been battling public opposition and regulatory hurdles for more than seven years.
Leasing the outer continental shelf may solve some of these problems and open a tremendous energy resource. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., estimate that the wind in this territory could generate nearly 1000 gigawatts—a little more than the current U.S. electrical capacity.
There is growing interest in offshore windfarms in Europe and now USA,China,Korea,Taiwan have ambitios plans to set up offshore Wind farms. India has a long coast and it can go in for offshore wind farm,s.
Trends point to a growing importance of the offshore wind energy segment. Most of the highest goals on renewable energy production are based on offshore wind systems, involving large numbers of mega-turbines and large scale resources and investments.
Here is a critical analysis on Offshore Wind farms Offshore Wind: Costly, But Big Benefits,
With serious questions being raised about the costs of the world’s largest planned offshore wind farm, the London Array, and the never-ending saga that has crimped the controversial offshore Cape Wind project in Massachusetts, it’s easy to dismiss offshore wind as being too expensive and ultimately not viable.
After all, in a report on U.S. wind power potential last year, that country’s Department of Energy said the capital cost of offshore projects ranged from $2,400 to $5,000 per kilowatt, while onshore capital costs averaged $1,775 per kW. And a proposed offshore wind farm in Maine is being billed at $5 billion per gigawatt — or a whopping $25 billion.
But there are two big reasons to go offshore, particularly in the U.S: strong winds and location, location, location.
“The capacity factors are much higher, so the wind is actually stronger offshore than onshore,” Tyler Tringas, a wind analyst at New Energy Finance, told us. With more wind power, there’s more electricity that can be generated.
The Ocean Energy Institute — run by energy investment banker and energy adviser Matthew Simmons, as well as physicist George Hart — is banking on what they say are some of the strongest winds in the world in the Gulf of Maine.
“The second argument for offshore wind is that you can put the actual wind farms quite close to large metropolitan centers,” he said. And that could prove to be the linchpin.
Guess which states use the most electricity? The ones that are on the water. In the contiguous U.S., there are 28 states that have a coastal boundary, and they use 78 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration. The DOE report said only six of those coastal states have sufficient onshore wind resources to generate more than 20 percent of their electricity needs.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
13 February 2011
Offshore Wind Power Catches Some Air
New Jersey, Delaware to build first test towers
| June 23, 2009 | 2
The Interior Department today issued first-time "exploratory" leases for wind projects off New Jersey and Delaware, allowing developers to locate data-gathering towers aimed at supporting planned commercial wind farms.
Interior announced four leases for areas ranging from 6 to 18 miles offshore to Bluewater Wind New Jersey Energy LLC; Fishermen's Energy of New Jersey LLC; Deepwater Wind LLC; and Bluewater Wind Delaware LLC.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, proclaiming a "major first step" toward harnessing offshore wind power, announced the leases today in Atlantic City, alongside New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D).
Salazar is one of several Obama administration officials dispatched to highlight President Obama's energy agenda, which Obama himself is expected to address in an early-afternoon news conference.
The administration events include Energy Secretary Steven Chu announcing $8 billion in loans to help the auto industry make advanced, efficient vehicles (see related story). Democrats are also seeking to build support for a sweeping energy and climate bill expected on the House floor later this week.
The wind announcement is one of several recent federal steps on offshore renewable energy. They include resolution of a dispute between Interior's Minerals Management Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over the agencies' roles in regulating development of various offshore renewable energies.
In April, MMS completed final rules on commercial offshore renewable-energy leasing -- policies that must be in place for the developers with the newly issued exploratory leases to construct wind farms in the federal waters.
The exploratory leases are being issued under a Bush-era policy aimed at allowing preliminary work on offshore alternative energy projects while commercial leasing rules were crafted.
"That is a critical first step for any wind project, to be able to measure the wind resource, and I think the efforts to get the rule out and to do the MOU [memorandum of understanding] between FERC and MMS really did lay the ground work for this action," said Laurie Jodziewicz, manager of siting policy for the American Wind Energy Association.
The meteorological towers would collect data on wind speed, intensity and direction. Salazar said that if the projects come to commercial fruition, they would jointly provide 1,500 megawatts of power.
Bluewater Wind -- which is receiving leases off New Jersey and Delaware -- said it plans to begin survey work this summer, build the meteorological towers this winter and begin their ocean operation in the spring of 2010.
Salazar has touted the potential for wind energy along the Atlantic Coast to eventually supply large amounts of electric power (E&ENews PM, April 2).
Yes. USA can set up offshore wind farms on a massive scale since it has large wind potential.Already USA leads the world in wind energy.
13 February 2011
Massive offshore wind-power backbone inspired by marine scientist's model
Oct 12, 2010 06:45 PM | 8
Renewable energy made big national headlines October 12 as a group of investors, including search engine giant Google, announced plans to build a 560-kilometer offshore wind power transmission "backbone" off the U.S. eastern seaboard. The developers of the plan say it will make wind power more economical and enhance the reliability of the existing grid.
The proposed high-voltage direct current (HVDC) cable, dubbed the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC), would run from southern Virginia to northern New Jersey, occupying shallow trenches on the seabed of federal waters some 15-20 miles off the shore. The line would connect with the mainland at four points—southern Virginia, Delaware, and southern and northern New Jersey. And if all goes according to plan, it would have a whopping 6,000-megawatt (MW) capacity—roughly equal to that of five large nuclear reactors and capable of powering some 1.9 million homes.
Trans-Elect, the Maryland-based transmission line company heading up the plan, expects the project to cost $5 billion in total, not including financing and permit fees. It hopes to begin construction in 2013, and estimates the first phase—a $1.8 billion, 240-kilometer stretch—could be completed by 2016. The entire project will not be complete until 2021 at the earliest. Google's initial stake is 37.5 percent of the equity portion of the project.
Certain details of the plan were at least in part inspired by research led by Willett Kempton, a professor of marine science policy at the University of Delaware. In a paper published April 5 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Kempton's group described offshore wind data collected over a five-year period along a 2,500-kilometer stretch of the U.S. eastern seaboard. The researchers used a mathematical model to show that, thanks to ocean wind patterns, a system of turbines placed strategically and wired together could be counted on to produce a steady supply of power—unlike land-based systems which can be hindered by intermittent winds. In an email, Kempton told Scientific American that the AWC developers contacted him several times for information related to the PNAS paper, and also asked him to speak with investors as they analyzed the plan.
Several undersea HVDC cables already exist off the Atlantic Coast for long-distance transport of electricity generated on land. But these lines simply carry electrons from one point to another, with no power-generating inputs in between. In the case of the AWC, generating stations along the line would add electricity to the system, a process that will require newer, more cutting-edge technology, says Kempton.
Practically, the biggest obstacles to the plan's implementation are more administrative than technological, several experts, including Kempton, told The New York Times. For one thing, it will face a complicated permitting process—the same one that took almost a decade for a proposed wind farm in near-shore waters off Cape Cod, Mass, which was finally approved by the Department of Interior in April.
Symbolically, though, the AWC plan is a big step. "This shows that there is confidence that the offshore wind industry is going to take off in the U.S. as it is already in Northern Europe," Kempton says.
Innovative approach. Here is an Energy Island concept proposed by Dominic Michaels which a country like USA can implement to get sustained energy supply from Renewables in an integrated way.
The Energy Island, a joint venture lead by Dominic Michaelis, draws on the broad range of research activities being conducted across the University of Southampton in a number of specialist research groups. A virtual team, collaborating with industry and academics internationally is working towards the goal of a floating energy island capable of delivering gigawatt levels of energy from renewable sources. The modular structure of the Energy Island permits scaling and adaptation to suit a variety of different locations, climates and demands while facilitating economic feasibility through shared infrastructure, volume production and low operating costs. The flexibility of siting offered by a floating platform also offers a critical advantage to the more densely populated countries such as the United Kingdom where obtaining environmentally and socially acceptable locations for the siting of large renewable energy capture installations is a major hurdle for any new development.
At the heart of each island is an ocean thermal energy conversion plant which can create electricity from sea water where the difference between the temperature of the surface water and the deep is 20C or more. The warm sea water is pressurised to transform it into vapour which drives a turbine. The vapour is condensed against a surface cooled by water from the deep, to produce desalinated water. The energy from this technology, which was originally invented in 1881 by a French engineer, would be supplemented by wind turbines and a "power tower" which captures energy from the sun by using mirrors to focus solar rays on a central "furnace".
13 February 2011
Antarctic cooling may help global warming study
Sea temperatures off the Antarctic Peninsula have cooled over the past 12,000 years, according to a study on Wednesday that may help scientists understand the impact of modern global warming on the frozen continent.
| February 9, 2011 | 17
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
OSLO (Reuters) - Sea temperatures off the Antarctic Peninsula have cooled over the past 12,000 years, according to a study on Wednesday that may help scientists understand the impact of modern global warming on the frozen continent.
Scientists want to learn more about Antarctica because even a thaw of the fringes could raise sea levels and swamp low-lying coasts. The continent, discovered only in 1820, contains enough ice to raise world sea levels by 57 meters (187 ft).
"In Antarctic science we have been missing good records of sea surface temperatures near the ice sheet," lead author Amelia Shevenell of University College London and the University of Washington, Seattle, told Reuters.
"We are starting to fill in the gaps," she said of the study in the journal Nature.
The report, based on biological material in sediments, said: "Surface ocean temperatures at the continental margin of the western Antarctic Peninsula cooled by 3-4 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 7.2 F) over the past 12,000 years."
The cooling, caused by shifts in the Earth's orbit around the sun, cut sea temperatures in the area to around zero Celsius in past decades.
The cooling is now being offset by climate change.
The Antarctic Peninsula is warming at a rate of about 3.4 degrees Celsius per century, it said. Several Antarctic ice shelves have retreated in the past 30 years, a trend widely blamed by scientists on human emissions of greenhouse gases.
The U.N. panel of climate experts projected in a 2007 report that seas might rise by 18 to 59 cms (7-24 inches) this century, more if parts of Antarctica or Greenland ice sheets melted. Antarctica's ice is too deep frozen to suffer a big thaw.
Shevenell said it was not possible to work out how far temperatures would have to rise to trigger more ice shelf collapse or wider melting.
Wednesday's study also said the cooler trend was masked by shorter-term swings of between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius, apparently linked in the past 2,000 years to a new, natural influence of tropical Pacific weather patterns.
James Bendle, of the University of Glasgow, wrote in a related article in Nature that the study was a step to help work out the influence of the Pacific weather patterns, which could affect sea level rise if they intensify.
18. anumakonda.jagadeesh 12:40 AM 2/11/11
“The Antarctica cooling controversy relates to questions posed in popular media regarding whether or not current temperature trends in Antarctica cast doubt on global warming. Observations unambiguously show the Antarctic Peninsula to be warming. Trends elsewhere on the continent show both warming and cooling but are smaller and dependent on season, methodology, and timespan over which the trend is computed. Climate models predict that temperature trends due to global warming will be much smaller in Antarctica than in the Arctic, mainly because heat uptake by the Southern Ocean acts to moderate the radiative forcing by greenhouse gases. The depletion of stratospheric ozone also has had a cooling effect, since ozone acts as a greenhouse gas.
Scientific sources and interpretations
According to a NASA press release,
"Across most of the continent and the surrounding Southern Ocean, temperatures climbed... The temperature increases were greater and more widespread in West Antarctica than in East Antarctica, where some areas showed little change or even a cooling trend. This variability in temperature patterns across Antarctica complicates the work of scientists who are trying to understand the relative influence of natural cycles and human-caused climate change in Antarctica."
As a complement to NASA's findings, the British Antarctic Survey, which has undertaken the majority of Britain's scientific research in the area, has the following positions:
- Ice makes polar climate sensitive by introducing a strong positive feedback loop.
- Melting of continental Antarctic ice could contribute to global sea level rise.
- Climate models predict more snowfall than ice melting during the next 50 years, but models are not good enough for them to be confident about the prediction.
- Antarctica seems to be both warming around the edges and cooling at the center at the same time. Thus it is not possible to say whether it is warming or cooling overall.
- There is no evidence for a decline in overall Antarctic sea ice extent.
- The central and southern parts of the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have warmed by nearly 3 °C. The cause is not known.
- Changes have occurred in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica.
Research by Thompson and Solomon (2002,and by Shindell and Schmidt (2004)provide explanations for the observed cooling trend”.(Source: Wikipedia).
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP), IndiaFeature Articles | Technology
X-Ray Vision: NASA's NuSTAR Telescope
Thanks to amazing nested mirrors, NASA's NuSTAR telescope is set to reveal hidden phenomena in the cosmos
| January 26, 2011 | 3
Some of the universe’s most extreme phenomena—black holes, neutron stars and remnants of stellar explosions—emit copious amounts of x-rays. Just as medical x-rays penetrate skin to reveal bone, cosmic versions pierce clouds of gas and dust to reveal hidden objects in our galaxy and beyond.
Until now, no NASA mission has been able to focus high-energy x-rays to make a clear, high-quality image. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), to be launched in early 2012, will be the first. Made up of two mirrors, including the one at the right, plus a detector and an expandable mast, its pictures will be 100 times more sensitive than those of previous missions, with a resolution comparable to that of the human eye.
NASA's NuSTAR telescope will be a great advancement in Space research.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India NASA's NuSTAR telescope will be a great advancement in Space research.
NASA's NuSTAR telescope will be a great advancement in Space Research.
7 February 2011
Mind Out of Body: Controlling Machines with Thought
In an exclusive excerpt from his new book, a pioneering neuroscientist argues that brain-wave control of machines will allow the paralyzed to walk, and portends a future of mind melds and thought downloads
Image: Illustration by Kenn Brown, Mondolithic Studios
· Signals channeled directly from the brain can already control computers and other machines.
· Exoskeletons, full-body prosthetics, will ultimately connect directly to the brain as well.
· Brain-wave control of external prosthetics and computers portends an Age of Machines in which we transfer thoughts as if they were mental telegrams.
Excerpt adapted from Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines—and How It Will Change Our Lives, by Miguel Nicolelis. To be published March 15 by arrangement with Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2011 by Miguel Nicolelis.
Almost every time one of my scientific manuscripts returned from the mandatory peer-review process during the past three decades, I had to cope with the inevitable recommendation that all scraps of speculative thinking about our ability to interface brains and machines should be removed from the papers. More often than not, other neuroscientists who reviewed these papers before publication did not wish to entertain the notion that this research could lend support to more daring scientific dreams in the future. During those painful reckonings, I would fantasize about the day when I could rescue those speculative ideas and liberate them for others to consider and contemplate. Our progress in the laboratory means that the time to tell others has finally arrived.
Thought control machines is now a hot topic for research.
Here is an authoritative opinion on this.
Can we control machines using only our thoughts?
Yes, we can—and someday, the technology that is already driving some video and board games will be put to broader uses…
“Sure,” says Edward Boyden, Benesse Career Development Professor at the MIT Media Lab. “The brain is an electrical device. Electricity is a common language. This is what allows us to interface the brain to electronic devices.”
One way to pick up electrical brain signals involves outfitting a person with Medusa-like headgear, attaching sticky, conductive patches to the scalp and forehead and reading the electrical activity of the brain over time. This method, called electroencephalography or EEG, has been used in medicine for years.
EEGs don’t read thoughts neuron by neuron. Rather, says Boyden, they do so “collectively.” Imagine trying to eavesdrop on a group of people crowded in a room. “If the people are chanting the same thing, you can understand it,” Boyden says, “but if they’re all saying something different, it’s a noisy mess.” Luckily, neurons close together seem to pulse together, chanting out signals as a group. The frequencies of brain waves can reveal abnormal patterns that help doctors diagnose epileptic seizures, coma, or brain death.
Neural prosthetic devices also use the shared language of electronics to control robotic limbs, but through a somewhat more sophisticated interface with the brain. These devices use neural implants consisting of an array of electrodes that are implanted in the brain to monitor a small set of neurons and detect an individual’s intentions to maneuver an object such as a prosthetic limb. Mathematical formulas then decode these brain signals and turn them into instructions that drive the prosthetic device.
Neural prosthetics don’t yet have the kind of dexterity seen in sci-fi movies, nor do mind-reading headsets approach the exquisite control that joysticks and manual controllers provide. The reason, says Boyden, is that we don’t yet understand how the brain codes information. “We have the genome. We know the code and the structure of genes. This allows genetic engineering to be precise,” says Boyden. “That’s where the exciting work in neuroengineering over the next decade is going to be: learning to read and write the neural code.” – Elizabeth Dougherty (MIT Engineering, September 29, 2010).
7 February 2011
February 5, 2011
Did you know you can wear organic as well as eat organic? In fact, organic clothing—spun from natural fibers not grown using harmful chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides—offers many of the same environmental benefits as organic food. The market for these fibers is rapidly growing and they are becoming more readily available to consumers looking for new ways to live sustainably.
A wide variety of fibers are used in organic clothing including organic cotton, wool, hemp, and even flax. Consumers may purchase different fibers for different needs but cotton is unsurprisingly the most popular. Companies such as Nike, Levi Strauss, American Apparel, and even Wal-Mart now offer organic cotton clothing and linens, and they represent some of the biggest global consumers of organic fibers.
These large-scale consumers’ tremendous expansion of the market also encourages more growers to begin producing organic cotton, which in turn helps push these environmentally friendly crops into the mainstream. Indeed, organic cotton production grew 15 percent from 2009 to 2010 to more than 1.1 million bales despite the ongoing financial slump.
The continued growth of organic cotton production is also good news for the environment. Cotton is not only one of the most widely grown crops in the world but also one of the most environmentally unfriendly. The crop accounts for only 2.5 percent of cropland but a staggeringly disproportionate 16 percent of all insecticide purchases are used for cotton production. What’s more, many of the chemicals used to protect cotton crops are known carcinogens, which are bad for workers’ health. Chemicals involved in the production and treatment of cotton may even affect end-users, such as those with multiple chemical sensitivity.
Organic cotton—and other organic textiles that could be substituted for cotton—therefore has the potential to seriously reduce the use of harmful chemical compounds in cotton production worldwide. And while synthetic fibers, if properly produced, can be environmentally friendly, they’re typically energy inefficient and difficult to biodegrade.
At this point, organic textiles tend to have one notable disadvantage: a large price tag. But keep in mind that buying organic helps the environment and also increases demand, which leads growers to produce more and eventually lower the price.
If you’re interested in bolstering the organic textiles movement here are some simple ways you can help:
- Buy clothes and linens made from organic textiles. This is the easiest way to stoke producer interest and increase production.
- If your store doesn’t carry organic textiles ask them if they can start supplying them. Many stores may not be aware of organic textiles or may not know their customers are looking for them. If retailers know the demand exists they will be more likely to supply the goods.
- Petition clothing manufacturers to start using organic textiles. If your favorite clothing company doesn’t make organic clothes tell them you want them to start producing clothes responsibly and in an environmentally friendly manner.
- Spread awareness. Encouraging demand is the best way to convert cotton production to organic methods.
Wearing organic textiles is an exciting and effective way for us to be good environmental stewards. It turns out that being green can be as easy as getting dressed in the morning.
- Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:
Yes awareness in organic farming and cotton fabrics compared to synthetic is growing in developing countries as well.
“Authentic organic fabrics and clothing can help the environment in a number of ways, such as:
• Manufacture of chemicals is not required
• Chemical residues are not entered accidentally into the environment
• Humans and animals are not exposed to chemicals
• When the fabric is finished with chemicals are not returned to the earth in landfill, or enter into recycling process.
Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop. It can take almost a 1/3 pound of synthetic fertilizers to grow one pound of raw cotton in the US, and it takes just under one pound of raw cotton to make one t-shirt”(Source: Wikipedia).
In Philippines, I found fabrics are made from Sisal Agave Fibre) Agave Americana) under the brand name DIP DRY. The specialty of this cloth is water won’t stick to it. One can just dip the dirt shirt in soap water and rinse it. But these fabrics can be used in cold regions only as in hot areas it will be perspiring.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), IndiaHow to Fix the Obesity Crisis
Although science has revealed a lot about metabolic processes that influence our weight, the key to success may lie elsewhere
| January 18, 2011 | 48
Image: Illustration by Bryan Christie
- Modern epidemic: For millennia, not getting enough food was a widespread problem. Nowadays obesity is a global burden that affects one third of Americans. Another third are overweight.
- Obesity is complex: Researchers have developed key insights into its metabolic, genetic and neurological causes. But this work has not amounted to a solution to the public health crisis.
- Behavior focus: Using techniques that have proved effective in treating autism, stuttering and alcoholism may be the most valuable for either losing weight or preventing weight gain.
- Next steps: Behavior studies show that recording calories, exercise and weight; adopting modest goals; and joining a support group increase the chances of success.
Obesity is a national health crisis—that much we know. If current trends continue, it will soon surpass smoking in the U.S. as the biggest single factor in early death, reduced quality of life and added health care costs. A third of adults in the U.S. are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and another third are overweight, with Americans getting fatter every year. Obesity is responsible for more than 160,000 “excess” deaths a year, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The average obese person costs society more than $7,000 a year in lost productivity and added medical treatment, say researchers at George Washington University. Lifetime added medical costs alone for a person 70 pounds or more overweight amount to as much as $30,000, depending on race and gender.
All this lends urgency to the question: Why are extra pounds so difficult to shed and keep off? It doesn’t seem as though it should be so hard. The basic formula for weight loss is simple and widely known: consume fewer calories than you expend. And yet if it really were easy, obesity would not be the nation’s number-one lifestyle-related health concern. For a species that evolved to consume energy-dense foods in an environment where famine was a constant threat, losing weight and staying trimmer in a modern world of plenty fueled by marketing messages and cheap empty calories is, in fact, terrifically difficult. Almost everybody who tries to diet seems to fail in the long run—a review in 2007 by the American Psychological Association of 31 diet studies found that as many as two thirds of dieters end up two years later weighing more than they did before their diet.
Obesity and lean are peculiar. Those who want to put on weight(lean persons) struggle as much stout people to reduce weight. No doubt obesity is genetical and hereditary.
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems. Body mass index (BMI), a measurement which compares weight and height, defines people as overweight (pre-obese) if their BMI is between 25 kg/m2 and 30 kg/m2, and obese when it is greater than 30 kg/m2.
3 February 2011Home Scientific American Magazine February 2011Feature Articles | Space See Inside
Tiny, standardized spacecraft are making orbital experiments affordable to even the smallest research groups
| February 9, 2011 | 2
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, used the standard CubeSat shape and size for their Ions, Neutrals, Electrons, Magnetic Fields project. Image: Photograph by Spencer Lowell
- A standardized technology for satellites is making space missions more affordable and accessible than they have ever been before.
- These one-liter, one-kilogram “CubeSats” are often made of components that are shared among researchers. They can also can piggyback on other missions’ rockets.
- The satellites can take as little as one year to develop and can be linked into networks of space sensors. Most also fall to the surface in a relatively short time, which means they do not add to orbiting space junk.
- Universities, companies, countries and even hobbyists can afford to do serious science missions in fields ranging from atmospheric physics to microgravity experiments
Excellent research by University of California,Berkeley Scientists.
3 February 2011
The Blue Food Revolution
New fish farms out at sea, and cleaner operations along the shore, could provide the world with a rich supply of much needed protein
| February 7, 2011 | 5
Fish raised in offshore pens, such as these yellowtail at Kona Blue Water Farms near Hawaii, could become a more sustainable source of protein for humans than wild fish or beef. Image: Masa Ushioda CoolWaterPhoto.com
Neil Sims tends his rowdy stock like any devoted farmer. But rather than saddling a horse like the Australian sheep drovers he grew up with, Sims dons a snorkel and mask to wrangle his herd: 480,000 silver fish corralled half a mile off the Kona coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.
Tucked discretely below the waves, Sims’s farm is one of 20 operations worldwide that are trying to take advantage of the earth’s last great agricultural frontier: the ocean. Their offshore locations offer a distinct advantage over the thousands of conventional fish farms—flotillas of pens that hug the coastline. Too often old-style coastal farms, scorned as eyesores and ocean polluters, exude enough fish excrement and food scraps to cloud the calm, shallow waters, triggering harmful algal blooms or snuffing out sea life underneath the pens. At offshore sites such as Kona Blue Water Farms, pollution is not an issue, Sims explains. The seven submerged paddocks, each one as big as a high school gymnasium, are anchored within rapid currents that sweep away the waste, which is quickly diluted to harmless levels in the open waters.
- Meat consumption is rising worldwide, but production involves vast amounts of energy, water and emissions. At the same time, wild fisheries are declining. Aquaculture could become the most sustainable source of protein for humans.
- Fish farming already accounts for half of global seafood production. Most of it is done along coastlines, which creates substantial water pollution.
- Large, offshore pens that are anchored to the seafloor are often cleaner. Those farms, other new forms of aquaculture, and practices that clean up coastal operations could expand aquaculture significantly.
- Questions remain about how sustainable and cost-effective the approaches can be.
The approach seems to be attractive.
In my state, Andhra Pradesh, India there was mad rush for Aqua Farms to grow prawns in fresh water. Initially some farmers flourished. Due to some virus the yield reduced. Now only limited number of aqua farms are in operation. What is more some of the fertile lands converted into aqua farms turned saline.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
3 February 2011
News | More Science
Ant Harm: Can Genetic Weapons Roll Back the Expansion of Argentine Ant Supercolonies?
The invasive usurpers from South America have proved difficult to fight with insecticides and other traditional measures. Scientists hope the new genetic information will help
| February 4, 2011 | 3
Image: Alex Wild / © AntWeb.org / CC-BY-SA-3.0
In 1907 Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) arrived in Los Angeles via a cargo ship. Within just a few years of their arrival the six-legged stowaways formed a single, massive colony—known as a supercolony—that stretched through California from south of the Mexico border to San Francisco
A liberal spraying of pesticides in the past century has done nothing to diminish the ants' numbers—L. humile infestations are the most common cause of pest control calls in southern California. The Argentine ant's takeover of coastal California is marked by small shifts in the local, native ecosystem. Populations of the coast horned lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum) have declined sharply in recent years due to the displacement of native ants the lizard depends on for food. Citrus farmers have required increasing quantities of pesticides to cope with rising numbers of aphids, scale insects and other pests that the Argentines actively protect in exchange for the sweet honeydew they produce.
In an effort to better understand and help combat the ants, a group of researchers led by Neil Tsutsui at the University of California, Berkeley, sequenced the genome of L. humile. The results were published January 31 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"An increasingly large number of research groups are focusing on Argentine ants because of their agricultural problems," Tsutsui says. "One of our main goals was just to provide a large resource for the community of scientists that study Argentine ant biology."
Tsutsui and colleagues found an unusually large number of chemical receptor genes that allow the ants to recognize and process different environmental chemical cues. The Argentines have 367 of these genes, compared with 174 in honeybees and 79 in mosquitoes. All ants communicate largely by "smelling" different chemicals in the environment with their antennae. Tsutsui said that identifying both the chemicals and the messages they send, researchers might be able to disrupt the Argentines' normal behavior.
"We know a lot about the behavioral processes that are regulated by these chemicals, and we know a lot about the chemicals themselves, but we don't know much about the missing links in between those two things," Tsutsui says.
Sequencing DNA is one thing; figuring out how to use that knowledge to halt the ants' spread is another. A 2009 paper in Insectes Sociaux found that Argentine ants from California, Europe and Japan formed a global supercolony. Argentines are very territorial in their South American homeland. Neighboring colonies fight each other regularly for food and nest space. These frequent brawls help keep ant numbers in check. But neighboring Argentine ant colonies that invade new locations often live side by side with nary a scuffle, so there is no in-species mechanism to keep populations down.
"If you take ants from any of those locations, they don't fight. They interact as if they are nest mates," says David Holway, an ecologist at the University of California, San Diego. "If you take Argentine ants from some other supercolony, they will fight very aggressively."
Highly adaptable street toughs
These supercolonies, however, are only one aspect of L. humile's success. Tsutsui and colleagues found a cluster of genes that allow the ants to eat a variety of foods. These genes allow the ant to metabolize the toxins frequently found in unfamiliar food. Years of evolution have honed this invader's skill at making itself at home in habitats ranging from Argentina's La Plata Basin to the cement jungles of Los Angeles to the green pastures of California's San Joaquin Valley. Frequent flooding of their native Paraná River selected for ants over time that were adapted to invading disturbed habitat and to easily moving their nests.
4. anumakonda.jagadeesh 04:00 AM 2/5/11
Yes. Ants multiply in large numbers.
Here is an interesting analysis of Ant Supercolonies.
Ant supercolonies invading cities, study finds
March 30, 2010 | NATGEO NEWSWATCH
“It's not only humans that flourish in large settlements. Some ants find urban life so accommodating that their populations explode and they form supercolonies in cities.
"One of the most common house ant species might have been built for living in some of the smallest spaces in a forest, but the ants have found ways to take advantage of the comforts of city living," Purdue University said in a statement today.
Gregory Buczkowski discovered odorous house ants living in supercolonies, creating complex networks entomologists have never seen with the species before now.
Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell Grzegorz Buczkowski, a Purdue University research assistant professor of entomology, found that odorous house ant colonies become larger and more complex as they move from forest to city and act somewhat like an invasive species, the university said.” The ants live about 50 to a colony with one queen in forest settings but explode into supercolonies with more than 6 million workers and 50,000 queens in urban areas," the university explained. "This is a native species that's doing this," said Buczkowski, whose results are published in the early online version of the journal Biological Invasions. "Native ants are not supposed to become invasive. We don't know of any other native ants that are outcompeting other species of native ants like these," Buczkowski said. "Odorous house ants live in hollow acorn shells in the forest. They're called odorous because they have a coconut--or rum-like smell when crushed. They're considered one of the most common house ants, Purdue said.”
Sometimes traditional methods control pests. In Chttoor District, Andhra Pradesh, India in the Groundnut (Peanut) fields the RED HAIRY CATER PILLAR is a big menace. It eats away the leaves. It digs a hole in the field and hides in day time and come out during nights. Local people put CALOTROPIS (Botanical Name: Calotropis Procera, Family Name: Asclepiadaceae, Common Name : Giant Swallow Wort, Milkweed). The Red Hairy cater pillar after eating the leaves further regeneration is controlled. Perhaps the latex in the leaves must be responsible. The Scientists can isolate the active ingredient in the latex and synthesise it. Also they burn tires in the field and the Red Hailyt cater pillar is attracted to the fire and dies.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh, Nellore (AP), IndiaHome Scientific American Magazine February 2011
How Language Shapes Thought
The languages we speak affect our perceptions of the world
| January 20, 2011 | 42
Image: Illustration by Tom Whalen
- People communicate using a multitude of languages that vary considerably in the information they convey.
- Scholars have long wondered whether different languages might impart different cognitive abilities.
- In recent years empirical evidence for this causal relation has emerged, indicating that one’s mother tongue does indeed mold the way one thinks about many aspects of the world, including space and time.
- The latest findings also hint that language is part and parcel of many more aspects of thought than scientists had previously realized.
I am standing next to a five-year old girl in pormpuraaw, a small Aboriginal community on the western edge of Cape York in northern Australia. When I ask her to point north, she points precisely and without hesitation. My compass says she is right. Later, back in a lecture hall at Stanford University, I make the same request of an audience of distinguished scholars—winners of science medals and genius prizes. Some of them have come to this very room to hear lectures for more than 40 years. I ask them to close their eyes (so they don’t cheat) and point north. Many refuse; they do not know the answer. Those who do point take a while to think about it and then aim in all possible directions. I have repeated this exercise at Harvard and Princeton and in Moscow, London and Beijing, always with the same results.
A five-year-old in one culture can do something with ease that eminent scientists in other cultures struggle with. This is a big difference in cognitive ability. What could explain it? The surprising answer, it turns out, may be language.
Excellent observation. Let us look at Cognitive abilities:
What is a Cognitive Ability/ What are Cognitive Abilities? By: Dr. Pascale Michelon, Dec 18 2006 SHARP BRAINS, Market Research Tracking rain,Fitness,Innovation: News,Research,Tech Trends
What is cognition? Cognition has to do with how a person understands and acts in the world. It is a set of abilities, skills or processes that are part of nearly every human action.
Cognitive abilities are the brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex. They have more to do with the mechanisms of how we learn,remember,problem-solve,and pay attention rather than with any actual knowledge. Any task can be broken down into the different conginitive skills or functions needed to complete that task successfully. For instance,answering the telephone involves atleast perception (hearing the ringtone),decision taking(answering or not),motor skill(lifting the receiver),language skills(talking and understanding language),social skills(interpreting tone of voice and interacting properly with another human being).
Cognition as social process
It has been observed since antiquity that language acquisition in human children fails to emerge unless the children are exposed to language. Thus, language acquisition is an example of an emergent behavior. In this case, the individual is made up of a set of mechanisms "expecting" such input from the social world.
In a large systemic perspective, cognition is considered closely related to the social and human organization functioning and constrains. Managerial decision making processes can be erroneous in politics, economy and industry for the reason of different reciprocally dependent socio-cognitive factors. This domain became the field of interest of emergent socio-cognitive engineering.(Source: Wikipedia)
I asked several Engineers, Students whether the modern motor cycle wheel has odd or even spokes. Everybody replied that Even. But when I asked a motorcycle mechanic without hesitation he replied odd. I asked Why? Without hesitation, he replied for balance.
The explanation might be:
Engineers from mavic have proved that odd number of spokes are more aerodynamic, apparently it has something to do with even spokes creating turbulence. Though not sure of the exact benefits from a structural standpoint though, but based on the fact that it takes 3 points to define a plane, a 4th just becomes an unnecessary extra weight, drag, free space real estate.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP),India
6 February 2011
India: Doubling Renewable Energy Capacity Would Have Negligible Impact on Power Tariffs
A study by one of the leading ratings firm in India shows that the cost of doubling the renewable energy generation capacity over the next five years would be negligible.
| July 31, 2010 | 1
By: Mridul Chadha
A study by one of the leading ratings firm in India shows that the cost of doubling the renewable energy generation capacity over the next five years would be negligible.
The Indian government has announced a the National Action Plan on Climate Change according to which the contribution of renewable energy resources to power generation would be increased to 10 percent by 2015 and 15 percent by 2020, as opposed to the current four percent. The main thrust would be on solar and wind energy infrastructure. The state electricity boards are also mandated to increase purchase of power from renewable energy sources by one percent every year.
Infrastructure development for tapping renewable energy sources for power generation is important as India looks to reduce its carbon emission output to offset international pressure for mandatory emission reduction targets and to reduce its dependence on foreign supplies of energy resources.
While the potential of renewable energy sources is very high in India (about 185 GW), there are several hurdles in making the most of this potential. Solar energy has the maximum potential of about 100 GW and is central to India’s renewable energy policy. The government has announced several incentives for the solar energy sector as it intends to achieve the 2022 goal of 20 GW of installed solar capacity. Feed-in tariff schemes, tax holidays for project developers and freedom to make power purchase agreements to increase revenue are some of the incentives offered by the government.
Wind energy resources, although concentrated in about a dozen Indian states, have the largest share in India’s renewable energy basket. Coastal states are the major producers of power from wind energy. Competitive tariff regime vis-a-vis conventional fuels and availability of technology have favored the growth of wind energy infrastructure. However, there remains a wide gap between the installed capacity and the actual power generated due to the inconsistent nature of wind. Therefore, it is required that the more infrastructure is expanded in areas where the wind speeds are more sustainable, that is, offshore regions. However, the Indian government currently has no plans to tap offshore wind resources.
The current incentives being offered by the government are attracting significant investments. Several state-owned as well as private companies are setting up renewable energy-based power plants. With a plethora of financial incentives many companies view clean energy sector as a golden goose for maintaining their balance sheets in a healthy state.
The government has also announced the renewable energy certificates scheme which will kick off in September. State electricity boards would be able to buy these certificates from the project developers of the renewable energy power plants in case state electricity boards fail to achieve their mandated goals. This would further bring financial incentives for the investors.
Taking in account these incentives it seems highly probable that with the active involvement of the government and the investors the projections made in the report could come true.
The incremental impact on power purchase costs pan-India would be about 1.5 paise a unit in 2011 diminishing to 0.1 paisa by 2015. The maximum impact for any state would be 4.2 paise a unit in 2011, which would go down to about 1 paisa by 2015.
The additional cost in buying one MWh (1000 units) of electricity (generated from conventional and renewable energy sources, combined) would be about 32 cents in 2011 and would reduce to two cents by 2015.
There is excellent scope to harness Renewable Energy in India.
High transaction costs and a cumbersome process for eligibility are proving to be a deterrent for the smaller renewable projects to qualify for the CDM, which aims to reduce emission through deployment of cleaner technologies.
As a result of this, only larger renewable projects could go in for CDM while renewable energy projects such as solar, biomass and rice-husk based power generation projects which are smaller in size were left behind.
Typically, the registration, auditing and consultation costs of a single CDM project range between Rs 20-50 lakh, irrespective of the project size. Solar projects are not considered attractive for CDM registration because of high investments and low plant load factors. Recently, carbon firm Gensol Consultants had concluded a Rs 140-crore forward contract on behalf of 68 wind farm operators with the UK-based CF Partners to sell 2.1 million certified emission receipts.
Industry estimates suggest that mitigation from existing renewable energy portfolio is equivalent to around 4-5 per cent of total energy-related emissions in the country.
As far as Wind Energy is concerned no doubt India occupies 5th position in the world after USA,China,Germany and Spain. Wind Energy capacity as of June 2010,USA 36,300 China 33,800 Germany 26,400 Spain 19,500 India 12,100.
Hitherto Depreciation(80%) is given to major Industries only ton set up Renewable Energy projects. In Denmark most of the Wind turbines are owned by WINDMILL CO-OPERATIVES. In India also this concept can be promoted by giving tax concession to Individuals under section 80C to those who invest in Renewable Energy Bonds.
Put the RENEWABLES to WORK: To get inexhaustible
which cannot be
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Wind Energy Expert
China sets 2020 vision for science
Goals include commercialization of research and emphasis on energy, biomedicine and information technology.
| February 1, 2011 | 2
By Jane Qiu
China is betting that an ambitious program of applied research will help to secure its future as an economic superpower. Innovation 2020, unveiled last week by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), maintains support for basic research. But the plan will place a new emphasis on translating the research into technologies that can power economic growth and address pressing national needs such as clean energy, said Bai Chunli, vice-president of the CAS, at the academy's annual conference in Beijing, where the plan was announced.
Innovation 2020 is an extension of the Knowledge Innovation Programme (KIP) launched by the CAS in 1998. Under the KIP, the academy streamlined its often overstaffed and outdated institutes, attracted outstanding Chinese researchers who had trained abroad, and tightened up the way it evaluated project proposals and performance. But the CAS now needs to support new priorities, says Duan Yibing, a policy researcher at the CAS Institute of Policy and Management in Beijing.
China has become a global economic power, and the world's financial crisis has made scientific innovation more important to economic success than ever before, he says. "Things are a lot different now compared to 13 years ago."
Although the budget of Innovation 2020 is yet to be announced, insiders say it will be part of a continuing surge in the nation's science spending (see "Spend, spend, spend"). Indeed, the CAS's expenditure on research and development (R&D) in 2009 was about 20 billion renminbi (US$3 billion), seven times the level in 1998, according to a KIP assessment report also released last week. This year's budget for the National Natural Science Foundation of China will increase by 70 percent, from 10 billion renminbi last year.
Innovation 2020 will kick off with new projects this year in seven key areas, including nuclear fusion and nuclear-waste management; stem cells and regenerative medicine; and calculating the flux of carbon between land, oceans and atmosphere. Other priority areas include materials science, information technology, public health and the environment.
To coordinate resources better and to foster multidisciplinary research, the academy will set up three research centers for space science, clean coal technologies and geoscience monitoring devices. It also plans to build three science parks--in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province, respectively--to accelerate the conversion of basic research into marketable products, especially in renewable energy, information technology and biomedicine.
Pan Jiaofeng, deputy general secretary of the CAS, says the KIP's track record bodes well for the success of the new program. By the CAS's reckoning, in 2009, researchers that it funded published 3.5 times as many papers in journals listed by the Science Citation Index (SCI) as in 1998. Crucially, the number of papers published in the top 1 percent of SCI journals, as judged by their impact factor, was 12 times that in 1998. The CAS also calculates that research and development by the KIP generated an income of 140 billion renminbi and tax revenue of 22 billion renminbi in 2009--respectively 19.5 and 14.5 times the levels in 2000.
But the report acknowledges that there is substantial room for improvement. For example, CAS researchers should aim to become leaders of the international scientific community, and shift their focus away from generating as many papers as possible and towards genuine originality and innovation.
With its emphasis on applied research, the new initiative also "presents a major challenge to the management and organizational capabilities of the academy," says Richard Suttmeier, a science-policy researcher at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He notes that most CAS institutes are focused on academic disciplines and lack the infrastructure needed for commercializing research or directing it towards national needs.
Others think that the emphasis on applied research, national needs and revenue could stifle curiosity-driven research. Without that, says a Shanghai-based researcher who declines to reveal his identity, "it would be very difficult to have genuine innovation."
3. anumakonda.jagadeesh 02:26 AM 2/2/11
Yes. China will achieve it’s science goals. Chinese have already proved their capabilities in Energy Sector.
Could Denmark Be Fossil Fuel Free by 2050?
A new road map from the Danish government suggests how
| October 1, 2010 | 18
FOSSIL FUEL FREE?: The Danish government has laid out an ambitious road map for how the country might wean itself from fossil fuels entirely by 2050, largely by employing alternative energy resources like the wind turbines pictured here on the Danish island of Samso. Image: © David Biello
COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Denmark could become one of the first countries in the world to completely stop using oil, gas and coal by 2050 if it boosts wind production by as much as six times and hikes taxes on fossil fuels tenfold, a government-appointed commission said.
Denmark should increase its wind power capacity to between 10,000 and 18,500 megawatts in 2050 -- most of it by installing offshore turbines -- from the current capacity of slightly more than 3,000 megawatts, the Danish Commission on Climate Change Policy said in its report. At the same time, the country should impose a tax on fossil fuels that would rise from 5 Danish crowns per gigajoule next year to 50 crowns by 2030.
"My government will study the recommendations very closely and will present a road map setting a date for freeing ourselves from fossil fuels," Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said at a conference this week in Copenhagen. "It will be one of the first road maps in the world on how to become fully independent of fossil fuels. A plan for a transition like this will touch every part of society and every corner of politics. We are facing tough choices."
The commission, established in 2008 by the government, was composed of 10 independent experts from universities and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It was tasked with researching how Denmark could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050 and its consumption of fossil fuels from 80 percent of current energy demand to zero.
The commission said renouncing fossil fuels requires "a total conversion of the Danish energy system." That means the change must be gradual, but needs to begin now so that new infrastructure investments can be made as old infrastructure wears out, thus minimizing costs. The commission said 2050 was a realistic target year because most of the necessary technology is already known today and the current power plants will in any case become too old and need to be replaced by then.
The commission said going fossil fuel-free would reduce Denmark's greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent compared with 1990 levels. To achieve a reduction of 80 percent or more would require additional efforts, mainly cutting emissions in agriculture.
Concerns about jobs and debt
"It is possible to achieve, but we must balance a number of priorities such as employment and the debt," the prime minister said at the World Climate Solutions conference. "This can't be achieved today or tomorrow, but I know that we need to get started. We already have one of the most energy-efficient economies in the world. Growth and prosperity are possible without increasing energy consumption. We want to expand the use of green energy on a massive scale, making it the cornerstone of a green economy."
Between 40 and 70 percent of Denmark's energy consumption will need to be met by electricity in 2050, compared with 20 percent today, the commission said. Fluctuating power because of the prevalence of offshore wind means the country will need to install intelligent electricity meters, time-controlled recharging ports for electric cars and heat pumps that would supplement heat storage systems.
International interconnectors will have to be expanded so electricity can be exported easily when the wind blows too much in Denmark and imported when it doesn't. The country already does that now using water reservoirs from hydro power plants in Sweden and Norway as virtual batteries to store excess wind electricity, but will need to do much more of it.
"The challenge is to making these technologies work together to get the energy when it's needed and where it's needed," said Katherine Richardson, the commission's chairwoman.
A network of electric cars powered by batteries that can be easily replaced could also serve as storage for fluctuating wind power. DONG Energy, Denmark's biggest utility and also its biggest carbon dioxide polluter, is working on a pilot program with Better Place to test the concept. By next fall, the first cars and battery replacement stations will operate in Denmark and Israel.
"The report is very much in line with what DONG has decided a couple of years back as our company strategy -- turning away from coal and using wind, biomass and gas," the company's CEO, Anders Eldrup, told the conference. "We share the view that more of society will become electrified."
Renault is building the cars for the Better Place program in Turkey. They will be tested in Israel and Denmark to see how the battery operates in hot and cold climates.
"In the beginning, it will be rather limited numbers," Eldrup said. "The plant can produce 100,000 cars a year, but that won't be the case in the first couple of years. We don't know how many people are going to like the car, so there's a risk. The consumer will decide."
A proposed ban on oil furnaces
DONG is also the world's largest operator of offshore wind turbines, currently building a 400-megawatt farm in Denmark and the 1,000-megawatt London Array behemoth in the United Kingdom with partners E.ON and Masdar. According to Eldrup, Denmark could lift its wind power consumption from 20 percent currently to 50 percent by 2050, as envisioned by the climate change policy commission.
"If we build 200 megawatts each year, that's not impossible to handle," he said. "It's nice to have a target for 2050, but it's not enough. We will have to have short-term milestones. And it will be costly in the short term, but in the long term, fossil fuel is only going to get more and more expensive."
But no amount of wind power will wean Denmark off fossil fuels if energy consumption in homes, offices, transportation and industry doesn't get more efficient, the commission said. Houses with have to be heated to the same temperature using only half the energy used today. Overall, the country must cut energy consumption by 25 percent through efficiency measures.
"We need to use our energy more effectively," Richardson said. "We use over 40 percent more energy that we need."
The report says switching to electric cars would by itself be a huge leap in energy efficiency, but notes that electric vehicles and especially their batteries are still insufficiently developed and cannot yet serve as a valid replacement for gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Some of the efficiency gains will have to be forced on citizens by the government. The commission proposed that the installation of new oil furnaces be banned from 2015. Property owners would be required to pay into an "energy savings account" an amount determined by the size of the building and its energy standard, with buildings receiving the top rating exempt. The money could be used later to help finance renovations.
Taxes on fossil fuels and incentives for biomass
Biomass will become hugely important, both to make biofuels for transportation and to be used in power plants as a backup for wind turbines, the commission said. Biomass and waste incineration could supply as little as 30 percent or as much as 70 percent of Denmark's energy, depending on how prices develop.
"A number of power plants can already use biomass," the report says. "Biomass also has the advantage that it can be stored. This makes biomass a valuable energy source which is likely to be increasingly utilized."
Yet Denmark will not be able to produce all the biomass it will need in 2050.
"Even if most Danish farmland was converted to production of biofuels, it would be far from sufficient to meet the future energy demand in Denmark," the report says. "An energy system based extensively on biomass would become dependent both on considerable imports and on trends in the price of biomass."
To discourage the use of fossil fuels, the commission proposed phasing in a tax that would start at 5 Danish crowns per gigajoule next year. Increasing it to 20 crowns per gigajoule in 2020 would lead to the demise of coal-fired power plants and prompt consumers to replace oil-fired heating furnaces with heat pumps, it said.
Predictably, the business lobby had reservations about new taxes in a country that already has the highest income taxes in the OECD.
"We don't need new taxes that don't create investments," said Ole Krog, vice president at the Confederation of Danish Industry. "The parliament needs to find the right balance between green energy and economic responsibility."
First higher prices, then savings and growth
The commission acknowledged that businesses exposed to international competition could face a serious challenge because of the tax but said that phasing it in would ameliorate the problem. In fact, the authors argued that the tax should rise even higher, to 50 Danish crowns per gigajoule by 2030.
It also recommended a review of current tax breaks given to biomass used in heating and a reconsideration of car taxes and road tolls. The tax break for electric cars should not run out in 2015 as currently planned, but should be limited to 100,000 cars, it said.
How much will all this cost?
Phasing out coal, oil and gas won't cost that much in the long term, but only if the process is begun soon, the commission said. Increased demand for energy will anyway make fossil fuels more expensive just as advances in technology will make renewable energy cheaper. If Denmark doesn't take a long-term approach to eliminating fossil fuels, then when the country finally does have to live up to an international target to reduce CO2 by 80 to 95 percent, it will have to pay dearly for allowances and credits from other countries, the authors said.
At first, Danes will see higher prices on electricity, heating and transportation because of the new taxes and investments. The new taxes would by themselves increase the gasoline price by 8 percent in Denmark in 2020, for example. But gradually higher prices will be offset by savings from efficiency improvements, the authors argued.
"There will be economic growth," Richardson said. "The difference between doing it with or without fossil fuels is about 0.5 percent of gross national product in 2050. That's the cost of insurance to keep money in this country, creating jobs here instead of sending it to a few countries somewhere else in the world to get oil and gas."
The commission said it didn't consider the use of nuclear power because "there is no indication that nuclear power will be economically competitive compared with offshore wind turbines, especially if the cost of storage of waste and decommissioning are included." In addition, nuclear is not well-suited for a system that has other fluctuating energy supplies, as is expected in a system with a large proportion of wind energy, and it would require imports of technology and know-how, as Denmark has no experience operating nuclear plants.
Carbon capture and storage could be applied if it becomes more competitive or if new coal-fired power plants are built before 2050. It could also be used at biomass installations as a supplement if it's decided that even more greenhouse gas reductions are needed, the commission said.
Yes. It may be possible as Denmark is a small country with about 5.5 million population. I worked in Denmark in Renewable Energy and could find the commitment of the people there on harnessing Renewables. There are Wind Farm Co-operativeswhich made wind energy as more people participation.
In combination with changes in the agricultural sector, and including the extra contribution from aviation, the emission of greenhouse gases can be reduced to 10.2 per cent in 2050 compared to 2000 levels. Just the change from a conventional energy system to a renewable energy system provides large socio-economic savings from lower expenses for fuel by making investments in savings, more efficient technologies and renewable energy.
In a referendum Italy voted against nuclear. There are efforts to promote Renewable Energy in Italy in a big way. But the irony is Italy gets sizeable quantity of Electricity from France which is basically a major producer of nuclear energy. In 2009 Italy produced 66 TWh of electricity from renewable resources, with an installed capacity of over 26 GW. Both production and capacity expanded by about 10% from 2008. Wind and solar technologies have contributed most to this strong growth. The most reliable estimates are that Italy must generate around 100 TWh from renewable resources by 2020 in order to adequately contribute to reaching the national targets.
In France also there is good scope to harness Renewables. France faces an energy import dependency close to average EU levels, with the majority of imports being oil. The share of gas, also imported, has been steadily increasing in recent years. Electricity production in France is dominated by nuclear energy which amounts approximately to 78% and hydropower. Renewable sources such as biomass and hydro, participate to a significant extent to the energy mix. However, France is developing policies aimed at a more diversified mix increasing wind and photovoltaic electricity, solar energy for heat and biofuels. France has the second biggest potential in the EU in terms of wind energy and a very good potential in terms of solar and geothermal energy. All Renewable energy sectors have features in 2006 significant growth rates. Despite these growth rates, the share of renewable energy in the energy mix does not increase as energy demand has been growing steadily
The Price of Gas in China
The cult of the car is growing in China, along with its attendant environmental woes
| August 4, 2008 | 11
China, the Olympics, and the Environment As the world's eyes turn to Beijing for the Olympics, China struggles to reconcile its rapid growth with the health of its people and environment August 4, 2008
CITY TRAFFIC: Beijing has transitioned from a city of bicycles to a city of cars, trucks and buses within a decade. Image: David Biello/ © Scientific American
SHANGHAI—Driving in China can be a risky affair. When you are not stopped in the ever more frequent bumper-to-bumper traffic of this bustling port city, care must be taken to avoid drivers making turns, who assume the right of way against oncoming traffic; reversing for missed turns; or executing a U-turn in the middle of a busy road.
Aggressiveness among the Volkswagen Santanas that make up the majority of the taxi fleet here is rewarded and the air is filled with the fumes from thousands of cars. Even though China only has 24 cars for every thousand Chinese (compared to 800 cars for every thousand Americans) the country is on pace to become the world's largest purchaser of automobiles by 2020—and this growing love affair between the Chinese and driving is a risk for the entire planet.
Year after year the Chinese buy more cars; sales grow by about 20 percent per year, up to 8.8 million vehicles in 2007. Although Chinese law mandates that cars get at least 35 miles per gallon fuel efficiency, a level the U.S. fleet won't reach until 2020, a large enough fleet of Chinese cars would forestall efforts to combat climate change or eliminate the other environmental challenges posed by paved roads, suburbanization and all that traffic.
The U.S. may enjoy the world's most extensive highway system at present, but the Chinese are rapidly catching up—from a few paved highways in the 1980s to 2.2 million miles (3.6 million kilometers) of paved roads in 2007. China National Highways and Expressways connect major and minor cities, like the Yu-Li Expressway that connects Chongqing and Wanzhou—and, when completed, beyond to Chengdu in the west and Shanghai in the east. The Chinese will spend $9.3 trillion in the next decade according to investment bank Morgan Stanley, building out its roads and other infrastructure. Gangs of chain-smoking men in safety vests armed with earthmovers and mechanized shovels eat into the hillsides and plains to build yet more roads.
Let's not forget to mention weaning the world off oil, but that is just as much a necessity for China, whose national oil fields are declining, as those of any country. "With regard to petroleum, the world total is limited and the price is very high," says Lai Hun Suen, a professor of sustainable development at Chongqing University and a municipal government official. "We cannot rely on oil."
Gasoline cost between 4.97 and 5.56 yuan per liter (around $2.77 to $3.09 per gallon), depending on the grade, in May, thanks to government subsidies. This artificially low price has cost the largest oil refinery company in the country—and third largest in the world—Sinopec more than 20 billion yuan this year. So the Chinese government raised fuel prices on June 19 by nearly 20 percent.
That hasn't stopped people from driving. "There's too many people driving," one Beijing taxi driver told me. "The only cars that should be allowed on the road are taxicabs and public transportation. [But] everyone wants to drive."
A long-term Chinese love affair with cars—reminiscent of the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s—is blossoming. And there seems to be a growing predilection for gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles, whose sales climbed to 370,000 last year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. "I am quite ashamed because my family has two SUVs," admits one Beijing resident who wouldn't give her name. "My sister bought [one because it is] a sturdy car for her baby and my brother bought [one] to be cool."
And the Chinese middle class has adopted another American habit: living in the suburbs and relying on a car to commute, whether it be in "Orange County" outside Beijing or similar suburbs on the outskirts of every other major city.
In one such suburb outside Chongqing, laborers and domestics sat on the curbsides outside security gates staffed by guards in the best imitation People's Liberation Army outfits, the only touches that would make this community out of place in California or New York. "French" trees lined the gently curving asphalt streets, actually plane trees so-called because they were originally imported by the French into Shanghai, though some of the "villas" here boast palm trees to complete the California feel.
At least one car graces every driveway and dealerships line the arterial road just like in the U.S.: Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Suzuki, Volkswagen. The cars are varied—"buy domestic" does not seem to be a part of Chinese politics to judge by the vehicles preferred by officials—Audi A6s; Buick Excelles and Regals; Chevrolet Epicas; Citroën 88s; Ford Focuses; Honda Accords; Hyundai Elantras; Toyota Prados and Reizs; Volkswagen Jettas, Passats and Santanas; along with a smattering of Great Walls, Geerys and Chang'ans from domestic manufacturers.
Even though the Chinese capital of Beijing has, by fiat, closed factories or moved them to the outskirts of town, eliminated the burning of crop residues in fields, seeded the clouds to produce cleansing rain and planted bulwarks of trees against the encroaching Gobi desert, the city's air is still thick with smog and other pollution. The reason is cars (with an assist from atmospheric conditions and illegal factories in neighboring provinces).
Although there are only roughly three million cars in this city of 16 million, according to government statistics, the vehicles dominate the city's environment—and roughly 1,000 new cars are added every day. Much like Los Angeles, the air does not always move in Beijing and when it doesn't, pollution builds up.
With cooperative weather, the air can be cleaner, as proven by an experiment last year in which 1.3 million cars in the city were banned from driving and pollution levels dropped by 6,400 tons (5,800 metric tons), according to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection. The capital city will go farther in its effort to produce an unpolluted atmosphere for the Olympics: in addition to repeating the car ban, 300,000 trucks and other high emissions vehicles have been banned from the capital's roads until September 20, reducing the total number of trucks allowed to operate to just 4,000, the lowest possible level that will still permit enough goods to be moved. Even the government vehicles with their distinctive white license plates with red characters cannot avoid the ban; 210,000 of them will be similarly sidelined.
Despite these efforts, the air has refused to clear in Beijing and the government may resort to an even more comprehensive ban—90 percent of personal vehicles kept from the roads. Even so, the capital city consistently fails to meet World Health Organization standards for soot, according to a report from Greenpeace.
The Chinese government hopes to avoid an auto-driven environmental apocalypse both by mandating increasing fuel efficiency but also by pushing these domestic vehicle manufacturers for homegrown hybrid, electric and fuel-cell vehicles under its "863" program—deriving its name from its launch back in March 1986. At least 20 prototype hydrogen cars from Shanghai Volkswagen will be at the Olympics. "That's one of the strategies: electric cars, more railways, more subways to replace oil-driven transportation," says CREIA's Li Junfeng. "In no more than five years, China will be the biggest market [for hybrids]."
And foreign manufacturers are using China as a test bed for such advanced technologies. For example, General Motors has opened an automotive energy research center at Tsinghua University in Beijing and introduced its E-Flex concept cars—the Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac Provoq and Opel Flextreme—at the Beijing Auto Show in April. Ultimately, however, these cars will still rely on gasoline and/or electricity—and that electricity in China predominantly comes from polluting coal.
Shanghai, for its part, has put a cap on new car registrations—and mandated that 1,000 hydrogen fuel cell cars be ready for its World Expo in 2010. But that doesn't seem to be helping traffic.
The environmentally-friendly transportation solution for the cities of China is the same as that in the developed world: public transit; whether the blue, gray and yellow double buses zooming down special express lanes or the rapidly expanding subway lines of Beijing and Shanghai.
But even if the Chinese foreswear the car, an impossible prospect, that will still leave the 10 million trucks—and growing—the country needs to move goods from place to place. Such trucks are the primary traffic on most Chinese highways, trundling past signs that read in both Chinese and English "Don't driving when tired" or "Overspeeding prohibition" and groaning under heavy loads precariously held in place with netting and tarps.
"The driver needs more profits," explains environmental official Fan Changwei, of one such overburdened truck that looks like it might tip at any moment. "It's not easy because the price of oil is getting higher and higher." Both economically and environmentally.
12. anumakonda.jagadeesh 08:08 AM 1/29/11
China Subsidizes Electric Cars, But Small Efficient Gas Cars Too
Earlier this year, China announced hefty incentives for purchases of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids: about $8,800 for full battery electrics and $7,300 for plug-in hybrids. That’s a step up from the U.S. subsidy for electric cars, a tax credit worth $7,500 for cars (like the Chevy Volt) with at least 16-kilowatt hours of battery storage. China is providing the incentives to help reach its aggressive goal of 500,000 hybrids and electric cars by 2011.
As we recently reported, more expensive hybrid and electrics face serious economic challenges in the Chinese auto market—which last year became the largest in the world. Even with a $7,350 incentive, the BYD F3DM plug-in hybrid is about $6,000 more than the conventional F3 sedan—which sells for $8,750.
In a tacit acknowledgment that the jump to hybrids and EVs may be a big step for many Chinese car buyers, the government incentives announced today go way beyond hybrids and electric cars. They include 71 different fuel-efficient vehicles.
Whereas new U.S. incentives are based on the size of batteries, China is granting incentives—about $450 per car—to vehicles with an engine capacity of less than 1.6 liters that reduces fuel consumption by at least 20 percent. Sixteen Chinese automakers have cars that qualify. (Although Edmunds reported that some carmakers, even those that were awarded subsidies, weren’t sure about the criteria.)
Back in the U.S.A.
Maybe China’s on to something. While it’s hard to fathom strong U.S.-based incentives purely on small engine size—that’s anathema to our need for speed—wouldn’t it save more oil and reduce more carbon a lot faster to not only offer tax breaks for plug-in cars, but also for the most fuel-efficient gas-powered cars in the largest part of the mainstream market?
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
The Great Green Wall: African Farmers Beat Back Drought and Climate Change with Trees
A quiet, green miracle has been growing in the Sahel
| January 28, 2011 | 7
SAHEL SOLUTION: Allowing trees to grow and shade fields has helped boost yields for farmers across the Sahel--outlined in blue on this map--a possible adaptation to climate change. Image: Map by Robert Simmon, based on GIMMS vegetation data and World Wildlife Fund ecoregions data. Courtesy of NASA
Yacouba Sawadogo was not sure how old he was. With a hatchet slung over his shoulder, he strode through the woods and fields of his farm with an easy grace. But up close his beard was gray, and it turned out he had great-grandchildren, so he had to be at least sixty and perhaps closer to seventy years old. That means he was born well before 1960, the year the country now known as Burkina Faso gained independence from France, which explains why he was never taught to read and write.
Nor did he learn French. He spoke his tribal language, Mòoré, in a deep, unhurried rumble, occasionally punctuating sentences with a brief grunt. Yet despite his illiteracy, Yacouba Sawadogo is a pioneer of the tree-based approach to farming that has transformed the western Sahel over the last twenty years.
"Climate change is a subject I have something to say about," said Sawadogo, who unlike most local farmers had some understanding of the term. Wearing a brown cotton gown, he sat beneath acacia and zizyphus trees that shaded a pen holding guinea fowl. Two cows dozed at his feet; bleats of goats floated through the still late-afternoon air. His farm in northern Burkina Faso was large by local standards—fifty acres—and had been in his family for generations. The rest of his family abandoned it after the terrible droughts of the 1980s, when a 20 percent decline in annual rainfall slashed food production throughout the Sahel, turned vast stretches of savanna into desert, and caused millions of deaths by hunger. For Sawadogo, leaving the farm was unthinkable. "My father is buried here," he said simply. In his mind, the droughts of the 1980s marked the beginning of climate change, and he may be right: scientists are still analyzing when man-made climate change began, some dating its onset to the mid-twentieth century. In any case, Sawadogo said he had been adapting to a hotter, drier climate for twenty years now.
"In the drought years, people found themselves in such a terrible situation they had to think in new ways," said Sawadogo, who prided himself on being an innovator. For example, it was a long-standing practice among local farmers to dig what they called zai—shallow pits that collected and concentrated scarce rainfall onto the roots of crops. Sawadogo increased the size of his zai in hopes of capturing more rainfall. But his most important innovation, he said, was to add manure to the zai during the dry season, a practice his peers derided as wasteful.
Sawadogo's experiments proved out: crop yields duly increased. But the most important result was one he hadn't anticipated: trees began to sprout amid his rows of millet and sorghum, thanks to seeds contained in the manure. As one growing season followed another, it became apparent that the trees—now a few feet high—were further increasing his yields of millet and sorghum while also restoring the degraded soil's vitality. "Since I began this technique of rehabilitating degraded land, my family has enjoyed food security in good years and bad," Sawadogo told me.
Farmers in the western Sahel have achieved a remarkable success by deploying a secret weapon often overlooked in wealthier places: trees. Not planting trees. Growing them. Chris Reij, a Dutch environmental specialist at VU University Amsterdam who has worked on agricultural issues in the Sahel for thirty years, and other scientists who have studied the technique say that mixing trees and crops—a practice they have named "farmer-managed natural regeneration," or FMNR, and that is known generally as agro-forestry—brings a range of benefits. The trees' shade and bulk offer crops relief from the overwhelming heat and gusting winds. "In the past, farmers sometimes had to sow their fields three, four, or five times because wind-blown sand would cover or destroy seedlings," said Reij, a silver-haired Dutchman with the zeal of a missionary. "With trees to buffer the wind and anchor the soil, farmers need sow only once."
By Channel NewsAsia's China Correspondent Glenda Chong | 21 June 2009
SHANGHAI : Gardens are sprouting up on rooftops across Shanghai, as part of an effort to fight climate change.
Research has shown that these rooftop gardens can save energy and reduce pollution.
So, as an incentive, district governments are offering to pay for nearly half the cost of the conversion.
"At first, we were not very confident about setting a goal. But after last year's survey showed that about 20 million square metres of roofs can be turned green, we started adopting different ways to promote green roofs," said Li Li, section chief of The Secretary Office of Shanghai Landscaping Committee.
The government started promoting green roofs at the end of 2003, encouraging government departments, hospitals and schools to convert their rooftops.
But not all roofs can be converted to a garden in the sky.
"It depends on the bearing of the roof. If the bearing is above 60kg, light grass type of greenery can be planted. For rooftop gardens, the bearing should be above 200kg and that also depends on what type of waterproofing is needed etc," said Li Guo Hui, manager of Shanghai Shiyuan Greened of Roof Co.
Most of Shanghai's roofs are tiled without any insulation, which makes the top floors hot in summer and cold in winter.
Research has shown that rooftop gardens can reduce the indoor temperature by 3 to 4 degrees, and this in turns reduces the amount of electricity use for air-conditioning by 20 per cent. This means less greenhouse gas is discharged.
The so-called green blanket also acts to reduce the amount of pollutant particles in the air.
To encourage more such greening efforts, district governments in Shanghai will pay for nearly half the conversion costs.
The Shanghai Greenery Administrative Bureau said there are plans to convert 100,000 square metres of rooftops yearly.
While not spectacular, the effort will add to the city's efforts to fight global warming. - CNA /ls
Something to Chew on: Researchers Look Inside Cow Stomachs for a Leg up on Next-Gen Biofuels
By analyzing samples taken directly from a cow's cellulose-digesting foregut, the authors of a new study elucidated a new catalogue of nearly 30,000 enzymes that could lead to more efficient production of cellulosic biofuel
| January 27, 2011 | 1
The fistulated cow system allows direct access into the animal's foregut, enabling researchers to incubate biomass-containing nylon bags to isolate rumen microbes and genomes participating in biomass deconstruction. Image: courtesy of Jonas L�vaas Gjerstad
You may have heard the proclamation before: The next generation of biofuels will be derived from cellulosic plant material. And, in theory, this makes sense. Whereas ethanol can be produced via the fermentation of simple sugars in food crops such as corn or sugarcane, it would be more economical to make fuel from nonfood sources that are cheaper and more abundant—such as switchgrass, Miscanthus or wood chips. The problem? Today's methods for breaking down cellulose, the fibrous complex sugar that is the main structural component in green plants, are too expensive.
To degrade the tough plant material, engineers use enzymes isolated from organisms, such as termites, that rely on the molecular machines to convert their cellulose-rich meals into simpler, digestible sugars. But the enzymes currently available are not efficient enough to make cellulose-to-fuel conversion worthwhile. "If the industry is going to move forward, it's going to need new enzymes," says Eddy Rubin, the director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute. Rubin and 16 colleagues report in the January 28 issue of Science how they discovered nearly 30,000 new enzyme candidates by analyzing DNA collected from a cow's rumen—the first compartment in the animal's four-section stomach and home to a vast population of microbes equipped with potent enzymes that help digest the grasses their bovine host consumes.
The researchers employed a cow with a surgically placed tube, called a fistula, which allowed them direct access to the rumen. As Rubin explains, "Over millions of years, in exchange for housing in the cows, these organisms have gotten good at paying their rent by providing the host with broken down cellulose—sugars the cow can use as an energy substrate."
To gather rumen microbes so as to analyze their genetic material, the group placed nylon bags filled with switchgrass, the much-hyped next-generation biofuel feedstock, into the cow's rumen via the fistula. Plant-digesting organisms then "glommed on" to the switchgrass, and after 72 hours "we would pull the whole bag of material out and extract the DNA that was adherent to it," Rubin explains. This experimental setup was innovative compared with traditional in vitro methods for isolating enzymes in which microbes are grown in a laboratory incubator—a process that wouldn't have worked for these microbes, Rubin notes. "They're quite happy in the belly of the cow but they are not so happy living in your incubator."
The group then isolated the collected DNA, which (because it came from hundreds of separate organisms) was like "a whole bunch of jigsaw puzzles," Rubin notes. Next, using high-throughput sequencing technology, the researchers "were able to assemble big pieces" from those puzzles.
In all, the project generated almost 270 billion DNA bases—nearly a hundredfold more than are contained in the entire human genome. With the help of extremely powerful computers, the group analyzed this massive pile of data by essentially scanning the puzzle pieces for sequences that resembled genes that code for previously documented "carbohydrate-active" enzymes. Using this analysis, the researchers identified 27,755 genes that were good enough matches to be viable candidates for application toward cellulosic biofuel production.
The researchers then selected 90 of the candidate genes, expressed them to produce the enzymes for which they code, and then applied these molecular machines to cellulosic biofuel feedstocks Miscanthus and switchgrass. More than half of this subset showed the capacity to degrade at least one of the feedstocks, which the study authors say suggests the larger pool of candidates is "highly enriched" with enzymes whose activity could be useful in biofuel production.
Finally, the group checked their computational results against the genome of an actual single-celled organism isolated from the cow's rumen. Although they could not culture the cell in the lab, they could sequence its genome, and the fact that it almost entirely matched up with genomic puzzle pieces they had previously put together was "sort of a proof that the individual genomes we were assembling were authentic," Rubin says.
Rubin says this study should prove valuable to the biofuel industry because it is such an immense addition to the library of known enzymes. "In this one study we've probably doubled the number of [documented] enzymes" relevant to cellulose degradation, he says. Besides the novel enzymes, the database also features whole genomes of previously unstudied organisms that break down plant material but have resisted prior attempts to culture them. Biofuel researchers can now use this information in a similar way that biomedical researchers reference the human genome to accelerate studies of human disease, he says.
The study also shows the usefulness this kind of direct, high-powered analysis of genetic material in samples taken from the environment. Rubin notes that the method, called metagenomics, netted lots of potentially useful information besides that which is relevant to biofuel production. "In this paper we focused on enzymes involved in the breakdown of plant material, but there are all kinds of different activities in this data set," he says. "So it really is a different way of looking at the diversity of functions that exist in nature."
Great Research. Congratulations
Rat eradication program begins in Galapagos Islands
Jan 27, 2011 05:30 PM | 1
The Galápagos National Park Service has launched a project to protect the famous archipelago's endangered species by wiping out introduced, invasive rats. As has been done in other locations, such as Australia's Christmas Island, the Galápagos rats will be targeted with poison bait dropped from helicopters, starting on nine of the chain's small and medium-sized islands.
The project actually got its start in 2008 with a pilot project on North Seymour Island. The poison there was dispersed by hand. The island has now been reported clear of rats.
According to a report from the Canadian Press, "The poisoned bait is contained in light blue cubes that attract rats but are repulsive for the sea lions and birds that also inhabit the islands."
This time around, pilots will use GPS data to disperse the poisoned bait over the entire surface of the islands. The bait will be applied twice, seven days apart, with the goal of killing all of the rats on the islands during that time. The cost for this phase of the project is estimated at just under $1 million.
Once the rats are gone, a few other introduced species (plants and invertebrates) which have a lesser impact on the Galapagos ecosystems will also be targeted, although the methods of this targeting were not made clear.
According to the Galápagos Conservancy, scientists have performed a risk analysis to make sure that the poisoned bait will not affect the native species. Most of the native species, including mockingjays and Charles Darwin's famous finches, would not be likely to consume the poisoned bait, but one species, the Galápagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis), is considered at risk, because it could "capture and feed on rodents that have consumed the bait," according to a prepared release from the Conservancy. To protect them, 20 of the hawks were captured from two islands and will be held in captivity for two months until neither the poison nor the rats pose a risk to the birds.
Three species of introduced rodents, which came to the islands on boats, can be found throughout the Galapagos, including the black rat (Rattus rattus) and Norway rat (R. norvegicus) and, to a lesser degree, the house mouse. They pose threats to tortoises, iguanas and 50 different land and sea birds by eating the eggs of the animals and by carrying parasites and disease.
Ironically, the extinction of a native Galápagos rodent was caused by black rats more than 75 years ago after the rats brought disease and competition for food and living space, according to the Galápagos National Park web site. The last Santa Cruz mouse (Nesoryzomys indefessus) was captured in 1934. Another rodent species, the Santiago mouse (N. swarthi) disappeared in 1906 and was believed to have gone extinct, but it was rediscovered in 1997.
(Another irony: eliminating cats from one island caused the rat population there to explode. Oops.)
The project's manager, Victor Carrion, said it would take 20 years to fully clear the archipelago of invasive rats.
Photo: Rattus rattus by Alex O'Neal via Flickr, Creative Commons License
By: Zachary Shahan
A new report out by the Department of Energy (DOE) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report [PDF], provides us with a few new insights into the national and worldwide wind energy market and growth.
Wind power additions in the U.S. in 2009 were much more than we’ve ever seen. Approximately 10 GW of new capacity (20% more than the previous record set in 2008) were added and $21 billion were invested. Cumulative wind power grew by 40%, despite the financial crisis.
In total, wind power accounted for 39% of all new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2009!
Nonetheless, after four years being in the lead in this category, the U.S. fell behind China in new annual capacity (it is still in the lead in total cumulative capacity — see the quote to follow). China accounted for 36% of the increase in the worldwide market, the U.S. 26%.
“At the end of 2009, cumulative wind power capacity in the United States stood at more than 35,000 MW, ahead of China's 25,853 MW and Germany's 25,813 MW.”
In the U.S., four states passed the 10% wind energy penetration line. Texas, as usual, led the way in wind energy growth and total capacity. Here’s more on on the state differences:
With 2,292 MW installed in 2009 alone, Texas dominated the 28 other states in which new large-scale wind turbines were installed in 2009 (the next highest were Indiana with 905 MW and Iowa with 879 MW). In terms of estimated wind energy supply as a proportion of in-state electricity generation, the front-runners include Iowa (19.7%), South Dakota (13.3%), North Dakota (11.9%), and Minnesota (10.7%). Some utilities are seeing higher percentages of wind energy supply than these state totals, with nine utilities estimated to have in excess of 10% wind energy on their systems.
There is also a ton of wind power in the pipeline waiting to be installed:
At the end of 2009, there were roughly 300 GW of wind power capacity within the transmission interconnection queues administered by independent system operators, regional transmission organizations, and utilities reviewed for this report - nearly nine times the installed wind power capacity. This wind power capacity represented almost 60% of all generating capacity within these queues at that time, and was nearly three times as much capacity as the next-largest resource (natural gas). Most (93%) of this wind power capacity is planned for the Midwest, Mountain, Texas, PJM, SPP, and Northwest regions. Not all of this capacity will ultimately be built as planned, but these data demonstrate the high level of developer interest in wind power.
One more big plus (for the U.S.) is that an increasing percentage of the materials used for building wind power projects is being sourced domestically. “Imports of wind turbines and select components in 2009 are estimated at $4.2 billion, down from $5.4 billion in 2008.”
There are a lot of positive findings for the wind energy industry and wind energy fans in this report. There are complexities as well, though, and things don’t always fit cleanly into a linear line. On some of the complexities and general expectations for the future, the report concludes:
2009 continued a string of record-breaking years for the U.S. wind power industry. Looking ahead, expectations are for a slower year in 2010, due to a combination of the financial crisis, lower wholesale electricity prices, and lower demand for renewable energy. Wind power capacity additions in 2009 were buoyed, in part, by projects that were initially slated to be completed in 2008 but that carried over into 2009 when the PTC was extended, somewhat masking the underlying challenges facing the sector. With the extension of federal incentives through 2012, there is less motivation to complete projects in 2010 (though many projects will likely start construction in 2010 in order to be eligible for the 30% Treasury cash grant). Industry analysts project a range from 5,500 MW to 8,000 MW of wind power capacity likely to be installed in the United States in 2010, a drop of 20-45% compared to the nearly 10,000 MW installed in 2009. After a slower 2010, most predictions show market resurgence in 2011 and 2012, as the Recovery Act programs mature and as financing constraints ease. Beyond 2012, however, the picture is considerably less certain, due to the scheduled expiration of a number of federal policies at the end of that year, including the PTC, the ability to elect a 30% ITC in lieu of the PTC, and the ability to receive the 30% Treasury cash grant for projects that initiated construction by the end of 2010.
Yes. Though USA leads in Wind Energy in the World it is China which is advancing in leaps and bounds.
Here are Wind Energy figures in leading Wind Energy countries:
Wind power Wordwide June 2010
Position Country Total Capacity Added Capacity Total Capacity
June 2010(MW) June 2010(MW) End 2009 (MW)
1 USA 36,300 1,200 35,159
2 China 33,800 7,800 26,010
3 Germany 26,400 660 25,777
4 Spain 19,500 400 19,149
5 India 12,100 1,200 10,925
6 Italy 5,300 450 4,850
7 France 5,000 500 4,521
8 UK 4,600 500 4,092
9 Portugal 3,800 230 3,535
10 Denmark 3,700 190 3,497
Rest of the World 25,500 2,870 21,698
Total 175,000 16,000 159,213
Source: WWWEA 2010
According to Greenpeace International Wind Power has significant role by 2030:
Wind power to provide a fifth of world’s electricity by 2030
Press release - October 12, 2010 ,Greenpeace International
Beijing, 12 October 2010: Wind could meet 12% of global power demand by 2020, and up to 22% by 2030, according to a study published today by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International.
The ‘Global Wind Energy Outlook 2010’ (GWEO 2010) finds that wind power could play a key role in satisfying the world’s increasing power demand, while at the same time achieving major greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The 1,000 GW of wind power capacity projected to be installed by 2020 would save as much as 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. By 2030, a total of 34 billion tons of CO2 would be saved by 2,300 GW of wind power capacity.
Put the WIND to Work: To get inexhaustible,pollution-free
Energy which cannot be misused.
Wind Energy Expert
I-slate: Electronic chalkboards being developed for students in developing nations
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | 7
In many rural areas of India, schoolchildren use chalk to write on handheld, erasable black slate tablets roughly the size of a piece of paper, because their teachers lack the funding or electrical infrastructure for anything more sophisticated. A group of humanitarians and educators are trying to change this by developing a new type of solar-powered LED tablet, called the I-slate, that uses a stylus rather than chalk and features a special chip that uses up to 30 times less electricity than a standard computer chip.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, particularly in an educational setting, the I-slate's brain—its information processing chip—is expected to conserve energy by using probabilistic logic, which provides answers to calculations that are rounded rather than precise. (Most chips rely on Boolean logic in their circuits to ensure computers will perform calculations with the utmost precision). These probabilistic chips aren't lazy; they do just enough work to get the job done.
"It's a system of design that factors in human thinking," where the mind is able to fill in the blanks even when it isn't given all of the information available, Krishna Palem, a Rice University computing professor and head of the I-slate project, said yesterday at a panel discussion in New York City commemorating the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 125th anniversary. As an example,
one of the slides in Palem's presentation included the question, "CAN YOU USTNNDERAD THIS STNECNEE?" The goal is to use the human brain's capacity for interpretation to help in the design of less expensive technology, he added.
Chips in most computers, cell phones and other electronics are made using complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology. But the I-slate (which would be roughly the same size as its chalk counterpart) would use a probabilistic version called probabilistic complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (PCMOS). PCMOS chips are expected to be best suited for applications such as powering the I-slate's display or running streaming video on small screens (such as a cell phone), where picture clarity isn't as important as the message itself.
Palem and his team, which includes doctoral candidate Lakshmi Chakrapani (who helped him develop the system's probabilistic logic), are working with the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Hyderabad, India, to develop a visually based mathematics curriculum that allows children to learn by doing, regardless of their grade level or whether they have a full-time teacher. Rice and IIIT (working with the Indian nonprofit Villages in Development and Learning Foundation) hope to begin testing prototype I-slates within a year in classrooms in southern India's Mahboobnagar District.
No doubt I-slate: Electronic chalkboard idea is good from developed country's point of view. As it often happens the devices developed in developed countries may not take off in develioping countries. Technology is culture specific. Even Simple Box Type Solar Cooker which is more than 50 years old is used by limited number of people in developing countries.
Chalk and black board are still the age old method of imparting class room teaching in schools and colleges.
I-slate can never take off in villages in developing countries being expensive Another major factor is availability of power in remote areas and village schools.
On the other hand, I have a novel idea. Normally the chalk is thrown away even when it is one fifth as it will be difficult to write with it till the end. One can put it in a PEN CAP(Used ones are available)when it is half. This way there will be grip between the fingers and the chalk can be utilised to the maximum extent.
Also in Railway and signals why Red and Green lights and flags used? Red colour has maximum deviation. But the next orange and yellow cannot be distinguished from Red. Hence the next best green was chosen for signals.
In the same way the white board(White Paint) with coloured chalk either green or orange can be used .
Local problems can be best solved by Local people's ingenuity. Our motto should be,MODERNISE THE TRADITIONAL - TRADITIONALISE THE MODERN.
25 January 2011
Animal Instincts: Are Creatures Better Than Us at Computation?
| January 13, 2011 | 10
A number of recent news stories have had a similar kind of message: animals viscerally understand certain mathematical operations better than humans do. Such stories are always interesting in a Sunday-newspaper sort of way, but do the abilities of animals to calculate really exceed those of humans? It may help to examine some of these claims.
In the infamous Monty Hall Problem, named after the television game show, human subjects seem to pale next to pigeons in mathematical reasoning. A guest on the show has to choose among three doors, behind one of which is a prize. The guest states his choice, and the host opens one of the two remaining closed doors, always being careful that it is one behind which there is no prize. Should the guest switch to the remaining closed door? Most people choose to stay with their original choice, which is wrong—switching would increase their chance of winning from 1/3 to 2/3. (There is a 1/3 chance that the guest’s original pick was correct, and that does not change.) Even after playing the game many times, which would afford ample opportunity to observe that switching doubles the chances of winning, most people in a recent study switched only 2/3 of the time. Pigeons did better. After a few tries, the birds learn to switch every time.
They learn, but do they calculate or understand? Not at all. Good empiricists, the pigeons simply follow the evidence. People, on the other hand, overanalyze and get confused.
Bees who seem to find the shortest path connecting many flowers in a meadow provide another example of what appears to be animal perspicacity. Even if the path they follow is optimal (and the only way to find out is to measure all possible paths), they cannot be said to have come up with a general algorithm, a task so complex that it belongs in a class of virtually unsolvable problems called NP-hard. Their path may often be a good approximation of the shortest path, but there is no good reason to think that they will always produce such an approximation, much less the optimal solution for all placements of an indefinite number of flowers.
Similar hyperbole arises in articles about dogs’ alleged ability to do calculus and spiders’ knowledge of geodesics (not to mention octopuses’ knowledge of soccer). Alas, although all these results (except for the last) are of real scientific interest, they are almost always mischaracterized as instances of understanding. By insinuating that animals’ innate instincts are superior to humans’ feeble attempts to mathematize, some of the journalistic accounts betray an anti-intellectual bias. “What good are our dry algorithms, our probability, calculus and geometry,” they seem to ask, “when pigeons, bees, dogs and spiders can do the math without thinking?”
Animal cognition is the title given to the study of the mental capacities of non-human animals. It has developed out of comparative psychology, but has also been strongly influenced by the approach of ethology, behavioral ecology, and evolutionary psychology. The alternative name cognitive ethology is therefore sometimes used; and much of what used to be considered under the title of animal intelligence is now thought of under this heading.
The ability to properly navigate and search through the environment is a critical task for many animals. Research in this area has focused on such diffuse topics as landmark and beacon use by ants and bees, the encoding and use of geometric properties of the environment by pigeons, and the ability of rats to represent a spatial pattern in either radial arm mazes or pole box mazes.
Closely related to tool use is the study of reasoning and problem solving. It has been observed that the manner in which chimpanzees solve problems, such as that of retrieving bananas positioned out of reach, is not through trial-and-error. Instead, they were observed to proceed in a manner that was “unwaveringly purposeful.”
It is clear that animals of quite a range of species are capable of solving a range of problems that are argued to involve abstract reasoning]; modern research has tended to show that the performances of Wolfgang Köhler's chimpanzees, who could achieve spontaneous solutions to problems without training, were by no means unique to that species, and that apparently similar behavior can be found in animals usually thought of as much less intelligent, if appropriate training is given. Causal reasoning has also been observed in rooks and New Caledonian crows.
Some animals are capable of distinguishing between different amounts and rudimentary counting. Elephants have been known to perform simple arithmetic and rhesus monkeys can count. Ants are able to use quantitative values and transmit this information. For instance, ants of several species are able to estimate quite precisely numbers of encounters with members of other colonies on their feeding territories. Young chimpanzees have outperformed human college students in tasks requiring remembering numbers. Pigeons have been shown to outperform humans on the Monty Hall problem, a probability puzzle(Source: Wikipedia)
14 January 2011
Casualties of Climate Change: Sea-level Rises Could Displace Tens of Millions
Shifts in rainfall patterns and shorelines will contribute to mass migrations on a scale never before seen
| January 10, 2011 | 5
The Curse of the Wet: Mozambique's rural population has grappled with increasingly frequent flooding events over the past decade, with some regions suffering from multiple episodes. Image: Mozambique Flood Extents (flooding); Bradfield Lyon IRI/Earth Institute, Columbia University; Rainfall data from Global Precipitation Climatology Center (GPCC) and IRI Data Library (drought)
- Climate change caused by global warming will disrupt the livelihoods of millions of people, prompting many to move from their homelands.
- Here we examine three regions around the world that have already begun to suffer the effects of climate change, leading many to leave.
- Predicting exactly who will move and where they will go to is an impossibility, but leaders can implement policies to help alleviate the inevitable suffering.
Since the beginning of recorded time, climate-forced migrations have reshaped civilization. Four thousand years ago a prolonged drought and the resulting famine in Canaan drove Jacob and his sons to Egypt, setting the stage for the famous exodus led by Moses. Three millennia later a prolonged dry period and lack of grazing lands helped to push Mongol armies out of Central Asia as far west as Europe, where many settled and intermarried. And in the 20th century the American Dust Bowl, an ecological catastrophe precipitated by drought and compounded by bad land-management policies, displaced 3.5 million people from the Midwest.
Today this age-old story has a new twist. We are entering an era marked by rapid changes in climate brought on by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Anticipated changes include higher rainfall variability, greater frequency of extreme events (such as droughts and floods), sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and long-term shifts in temperature and precipitation—any of which can profoundly disrupt the ecosystems that supply our basic needs. In our more densely settled world, people may be forced from their homes in numbers never seen before.
Here is an interesting analysis on the sea level rise and its consequences on habitation.(Source: Climate Institute):
“ One of the most pronounced effects of climate change has been melting of masses of ice around the world. Glaciers and ice sheets are large, slow-moving assemblages of ice that cover about 10% of the world’s land area and exist on every continent except Australia.
Before describing the major factors contributing to climate change, it should be understood that the melting back of sea ice (e.g., in the Arctic and the floating ice shelves) will not directly contribute to sea level rise because this ice is already floating on the ocean (and so already displacing its mass of water). However, the melting back of this ice can lead to indirect contributions on sea level
While there are obviously many challenges to projecting future sea level rise, even a seemingly small increase in sea level can have a dramatic impact on many coastal environments. Over 600 million people live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level, and two-thirds of the world’s cities that have populations over five million are located in these at-risk areas.. With sea level projected to rise at an accelerated rate for at least several centuries, very large numbers of people in vulnerable locations are going to be forced to relocate. If relocation is delayed or populations do not evacuate during times when the areas are inundated by storm surges, very large numbers of environmental refugees are likely to result.
Unfortunately, many of the nations that are most vulnerable to sea level rise do not have the resources to prepare for it. Low-lying coastal regions in developing countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, and China have especially large populations living in at-risk coastal areas such as deltas, where river systems enter the ocean. Both large island nations such as the Philippines and Indonesia and small ones such as Tuvalu and Vanuatu are at severe risk because they do not have enough land at higher elevations to support displaced coastal populations. Another possibility for some island nations is the danger of losing their fresh-water supplies as sea level rise pushes saltwater into their aquifers. For these reasons, those living on several small island nations (including the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific) could be forced to evacuate over the 21st century”.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
10 January 2011
Local Power: Tapping Distributed Energy in 21st-Century Cities
Local energy sources coupled with widespread, inexpensive gadgetry will soon enable cities to become smarter, more sustainable and more self-reliant
Urban Visions: The Future of Cities What will population centers look like in 20 years' time? Innovations in transportation, energy production and technology will have to keep pace with a host of challenges June 15, 2010
CLOSE TO HOME: Hammarby Sjöstad in Sweden is an ambitious test bed of new approaches to energy generation and conservation. Image: Victoria Henriksson
Residents of Hammarby Sjöstad, a district on the south side of Stockholm, Sweden, don't let their waste go to waste. Every building in the district boasts an array of pneumatic tubes, like larger versions of the ones that whooshed checks from cars to bank tellers back in the day. One tube carries combustible waste to a plant where it is burned to make heat and electricity. Another zips food waste and other biomatter away to be composted and made into fertilizer. Yet another takes recyclables to a sorting facility.
Meanwhile, wastewater is taken to a treatment plant, from whence it emerges as biosolids for more compost, biogas for heat and transportation fuel, and pure water to cool a power plant, which also runs on biofuels grown with the biosolids. Looking at a chart of all this is enough to induce dizziness. "In terms of what you can do at the local level for energy efficiency and renewable energy, it's incredible. It's just amazing," says Joan Fitzgerald, author of Emerald Cities (Oxford University Press, 2010).
After they are done district authorities hope Hammarby Sjöstad will produce about half its power independently, a task made easier by the fact that residents, thanks to a broad range of efficiency and conservation measures, will consume half the energy of the average Swede (who already consumes only about 75 percent as much as the average American). These intrepid Swedish urbanites are pushing the envelope on a phenomenon catching on in cities across the developed world: "distributed energy."
Though it takes many forms, distributed energy boils down to two basic strategies: The first is to harvest as much power as possible locally, close to where it is consumed, from small-scale, low-carbon sources. The second is to wring the maximum amount of useful work out of every unit of energy available. The overarching goal is to create resilient, self-reliant cities prepared for the economic and political volatility ahead in the 21st century.
More options than ever are available for local, low-carbon energy. Solar photovoltaic panels are falling steadily in price, and solar power plants are being scaled down to the range of 20 to 30 megawatts—small enough to occupy already developed urban land. Passive solar, the use of direct sunlight for water or space heating, is already a well-developed, low-cost practice. In countries such as Israel and in the cities of Dezhou and Rizhao in China, more than 90 percent of buildings have passive solar water heaters.
Geothermal energy for space and water heating is also well established. Boise, Idaho, has had a business district geothermal heating system since 1983; last year residents voted to expand the network. The U.S. Department of Energy has identified 271 cities within eight kilometers of geothermal resources sufficient to provide useful heat. Many cities that do not have access to solar or geothermal resources, like those in the southeastern U.S., have copious biomass available. And every city in the world produces a waste stream that can be used to make electricity, biogas or, like the Bowerman Landfill in Orange County, Calif., liquid natural gas to fuel transit systems. Natural gas fuel cells are also reaching viability at everything from the household scale to the district level. (For example, there is the recent, much-celebrated Bloom Box.)
At least for the foreseeable future, however, local generation is unlikely to supply the sheer quantity of energy that large fossil-fuel plants now provide, and urban populations are projected to continue expanding. Thus follows the second imperative of distributed energy: to maximize the utility of every bit of energy. By some estimates, more than two thirds of the primary energy that enters the U.S. economy is ultimately wasted. For virtually any urban area, "negawatts"—energy saved through intelligent use of resources—could become the largest source of local energy.
The best way to get more out of energy, by a fairly wide margin, is low-tech and unsexy: density. Living close together offers a number of inherent efficiencies: residents can take public transit, walk or bicycle rather than drive; and urban living spaces, which tend to be more compact than rural or suburban homes, are less energy-intensive to heat and cool.
Another key strategy is to make use of the extraordinary amount of heat that is wasted today. Virtually every industrial process, from smelting coke to generating power, creates heat as a by-product, and the vast majority is simply vented into the air or water. That heat can be used to create power or to warm neighboring buildings. So-called district heating, which uses one source to heat multiple buildings, may be the oldest, cheapest and most widespread distributed energy technology in the world. District heating systems have been in place in New York City, Detroit and Birmingham, Ala., for more than a century, and many other cities are now following their lead, including Portland, Ore. "The upside is competitive rates, green energy, long-run price stability, and reduced capital costs for developers," says Rob Bennett of the Portland Sustainability Institute.
The ultimate way to maximize efficiency, though, remains the most speculative, and that is the use of information technology for ubiquitous awareness and intelligence. Even as prices rise for concrete, steel, oil, coal and water, one commodity gets steadily and inexorably cheaper: computing power. As sensors and microchips become smaller, less expensive and more powerful, they will be integrated not only into the power distribution system (the "smart grid") but into countless appliances, buildings, vehicles and public resources.
The seeds of this approach have been planted in places like Boulder, Colo., and Austin, Tex., which have deployed thousands of smart meters. In its new Pecan Street Project, Austin is building houses wired with communications systems capable of managing the charging and discharging of electric car batteries based on the hour-to-hour cost of electricity. "The communication protocols being developed for the cars will transfer into energy management of every kind at the home level," says Larry Alford, manager of distributed generation at Austin Energy. The effectiveness of intelligent grids will be enhanced by new ways of storing electricity at the building and neighborhood levels. It is energy storage coupled with the smart grid, Alford says, "that enables grid security, grid stability and power quality."
One benefit of energy localism that is difficult to quantify but nonetheless significant is that it engages a city's residents in a more active civic role: People sort their trash, they manage their power consumption, they get involved. "You build it through city pride," Fitzgerald says. "It's a visible thing people feel proud about. Then they're more amenable to doing other things."
In many ways the evolution of centralized energy into distributed energy parallels the evolution of computers from central mainframes to PCs and smart phones, and it may have many of the same democratizing effects. Putting information technology in more hands enabled an explosion of innovation and experimentation. If cities can incubate a new round of innovation, spurred by the dispersion of energy technology, they will leave behind brittle 20th-century energy systems to create new models of resilient, self-reliant and sustainable prosperity.
Yes. Gadgets which can be made locally and which utilise locally available material will help to promote gadgets especially in the renewable energy field. There has to be judicious planning and execution in tapping renewable energy. I was in Lasithi in 1990 where there were 10,000 water pumping windmills at one place. Ironically there were no wind turbines for power generation at that time in Greece! Also every alternative house in Crete Island was having solar water heaters.
Our Centre has been involved in the 3D approach: design, demonstrate and disseminate. We have Vertical and Cylindrical solar water heater, simple solar drier, energy conservation in irrigation pumpsets,micro hydro device for low heads, passive cooling of roof top heat in buildings with clay covers, air-cum water cooler, Multiple uses of gas stoves, hand operated battery charger, pedal operated washing machine etc., These can be fabricated locally with local technicians. We have not taken patents as we want the technology should be available to every one to adopt it.
There is a saying that it is not lack of resources but resourcefulness that forbids development. For example Argentina experiences world's highest winds and estimated potential of 5,00,000 MW.which global industrialists can tap.
In Andhra Pradesh, India there is a place called KOLLERU LAKE where water hyacinth is available in 200 square km for 10 months in a year. Through generation of biogas(with partial mix of animal dung)large turbines can be run to generate electricity. Also Annona Squamosa,Sisal Agave(Agave Americana) can be grown in vacant lands and the by products like annona seed which yields 30 percent oil which finds use in paints and varnishes and as natural insecticide besides the pulp which is rich in Vitamin C can find extensive use. There is a paper mill which runs on Sisal agave in Brazil, there is a steroid HECOGENENIN that can be produced from Sisal agave juice. Fine clothes are made from Sisal Fibre in Philippines under the trade name DIP-DRY (Water won’t stick to the cloth and easy to wash). In Indonesia excellent furniture made from Water hyacinth roots, which are exported and expensive too!.
‘ACT LOCALLY AND EXPORT GLOBALLY’ IS THE MANTRA FOR RURAL PROSPERITY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.
Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives
Nellore 524 002, AP, INDIA
They're Young, and They're Restless: Collegiate Inventors Face Off
While we fret, some college students are busy creating the future
| December 30, 2010 | 6
Reading a newspaper, watching CNN or even just looking around can bring on a feeling of impending doom. But in late October I ran into a few individuals who recharged my batteries. Because they do things like figure out better ways to recharge batteries. They were the 10 teams of finalists in the National Inventors Hall of Fame’s 20th Annual Collegiate Inventors Competition in Alexandria, Va.
I first covered the competition, which awards prizes to the best undergraduate and graduate student inventing teams, back in 2004 [see “The New College Try,” February 2005]. The grand prize winner that year was Ozgur Sahin. When he was 11, he built a mechanical adding machine from his Lego set. He won the 2004 competition for his improved atomic force microscope. (My greatest intellectual achievement to date was figuring out how to set the time on a digital answering machine.)
Of the 2010 efforts, the one I wanted to own immediately was an ingenious device invented by Lehigh University undergrads Michael Harm (whose nickname would be “First Do No” if I had anything to say about it), Gregory Capece and Nicholas Rocha. As freshmen, they were told to come up with a kitchen product that would help elderly people to remain in their homes longer.
Let’s think. A refrigerator with a built-in magnification system so elders can more easily see what’s in back? A table with legs of variable length that automatically levels itself on uneven floors, so that diners aren’t reduced to wedging matchbooks under a leg in a vain attempt to stop the wobble? A countertop TV that reduces anxiety by switching to soothing music whenever it detects a politician scaremongering about nonexistent death panels?
One of the intrepid undergrads, Rocha, instead did a truly novel piece of research to put his team on the right track: he spoke to senior citizens. “I’m from Vero Beach, Florida,” he told the audience at the awards dinner. “Quite a few retirees. I talked to my grandparents and their friends to find out what they had troubles with in the kitchen. And they said, ‘I like to use my blender, my toaster oven, my electric can opener, all sorts of things, and it clutters the counter space to have all that up there at once.’ So they’re constantly plugging and unplugging, which is a pretty big chore for them.” I’m still a far piece from Social Security, but even I sometimes think that ripping three-pronged plugs out of the wall should be an Olympic event.
Guided by the philosophy that a grandmother’s necessity is the mother of invention, the young men came up with a two-part cylinder they call the MPlug. One part plugs into the wall outlet permanently. The other part stays connected to the plug at the end of the cord of the coffeemaker or other appliance. (You’d want a few of this second part of the cylinder, one for each of the other appliances that will be shuttled in and out of the available socket.) Simply bring the two parts close to each other, and, voilà (or a trumpet fanfare if you dislike a word that looks like a string instrument), built-in magnets snap them together. And there’s no preferred orientation, as in a three-prong plug—as long as the two faces are flush, the electronics will complete the circuit.
The kids showed off a prototype, but they say that they need to fine-tune the magnet strength—so that the two parts stay together, but your sainted mum can still easily pry them apart to remove the coffeemaker after breakfast and plug in the blender to start on the postgolf daiquiris.
Other undergrad projects included a surgical sponge that, if accidentally left inside the patient, can harmlessly break down, much as the hopes and dreams of surgeons currently do if their sponge counts come up short. Another was an intelligent drill for teaching novice orthopedic surgeons to zap bone in exactly the right direction. (Present-day practice includes the experienced surgeon touching the far side of the bone and having the newbie aim for that highly trained finger.) The graduate student projects were even more complicated than Sahin’s adding machine. For a complete roundup of the finalists and winners, go to www.invent.org/collegiate. And keep plugging
Yes. College Students and School children as well are taking innovation seriously. I find in the SCHOOL SCIENCE FAIR conducted annually in every district ,very good innovations. Unfortunately they are confined to the exhibion only but not taken further.
In India Innovations are encouraged by National Innovation Foundation,TePP,DSIR;NRDC etc.,Recently the Government of India created an INNOVATION FUND of Rs 1000 crores. These are piecemeal.
A INOVATION FUND may be created by Private Industrial Giants like TATAs,Birlas,Mahindras,Wipro,Infosys,HCL etc., so that Innovators are provided with financial support so that more and more innovations will bear fruition.
Innovation, Creativity and Invention are the pillars of progress and prosperity of Nations.
There are innovators around and let Government and Private Industries and organisations spot them and support them financially so that their innovations will be met with success.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
8th January 2011Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables
Wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world's energy, eliminating all fossil fuels. Here's how
| October 26, 2009 | 165
Urban Visions: The Future of Cities What will population centers look like in 20 years' time? Innovations in transportation, energy production and technology will have to keep pace with a host of challenges June 15, 2010
- Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe.
- The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.
- The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power.
- Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles.
Driving to the Future: Can China--and the World--Afford 2 Billion Cars?
China could have one billion cars by mid-century--but what kind of vehicles will they be?
| January 3, 2011 | 22
CARS WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS: Small cars, like Brilliance's Cross pictured, now make up some 70 percent of Chinese vehicle purchases thanks to government tax breaks on the fuel efficient autos. But their sheer number--the Chinese now own some 200 million vehicles--means ever-increasing oil dependence. Image: © Elizabeth Dorn
· MP3 file Audio The Price of Traffic in China
· MP3 file Audio Electric Cars and Peak Lithium
SHENYANG—Rows of new white minibuses marshal at the entrance to Brilliance Auto's sprawling complex on the outskirts of this industrial city of 4.2 million people in northeastern China. The complex includes assembly shops, dormitories and corporate headquarters, in addition to temporary parking for the company's products. In one cavernous, dimly lit shop, workers in tan overalls with blue highlights repeat over and over the same basic assembly task as a conveyor belt slowly but steadily carries the skeletons of future minibuses from station to station at the pace of the slowest worker. The air is filled with brief blasts of whirring power tools and the smell of ozone and rubber. Everywhere is the logo of Brilliance, a blocky knock-off of the oval symbol of the world's largest automaker Toyota.
The logo is perhaps an homage to the mammoth company whose partnership with Brilliance has helped it to shine, along with additional help from BMW. The Chinese state-owned enterprise now sells some 80,000 "JinBei" and "Granse" minibuses a year—after assimilating Toyota's "Hiace" and "Granvia" minibus models during a previous joint venture, or what the Chinese call technology "digestion."
"At the beginning, we had no ability to develop our own vehicles," says Wang Shiping, Brilliance's vice president of strategy, via a translator. "Now we just purchase engines from Toyota. We have two engine plants but it's the customer's choice: if they like Toyota engines we provide that. If they like domestic we have that."
Much like the U.S. or neighbors Japan and South Korea, China has made automobile manufacturing a focus of its development efforts—naming it a "national pillar industry" in 1994. Brilliance's parent company—Huachen—employs some 35,000 people. And much like Henry Ford introduced an economic model that worked for America—building cars that his workers could afford on the salaries he paid them—the Chinese public has responded, purchasing roughly 14 million vehicles in 2010 and lifting the global fortunes of automakers both domestic and foreign, such as GM, which, for the first time in 2009, sold more cars in China than in the U.S.
At the same time, China has invested heavily in infrastructure to make the country car-friendly: roads, bridges, tunnels—an orgy of construction that happens to double as a stimulus plan. A pristine four-lane toll highway leads out of this northeastern city, empty except for a few trucks and official convoys speeding past in their specially licensed black sedans. But within a few years, the lanes will be crowded with cars and the next cycle of road-building will begin. Beijing started its second ring road in the 1980s and completed its sixth—stretching 187 kilometers around the sprawling capital—in 2009.
Predictable results have followed: traffic jams that stretch for kilometers, sprawling suburbia and rising fuel prices. The vice mayor of Beijing was recently "exiled" to work in Xinjiang province after a debacle of some 30,000 vehicles being registered in a few weeks in December in anticipation of a curb on new auto registry. The Beijing municipal government duly laid out its plan on December 13 to combat the capital's roughly 4.8 million vehicles that have turned the city's roads into sinuous parking lots, including encouraging the use of the new subway system and restricting new vehicle registries to just 240,000 in total next year, roughly one-third of 2010's total. Plus, a haze covers the cities of China—a combination of the smoke of a million coal fires and all the vehicles' exhaust obscuring the skyline with smog's airlight, turning a Beijing sunrise from rosy to peach
100 Percent Renewable? One Danish Island Experiments with Clean Power
One small island in Denmark is technically 100 percent powered by sustainable sources of energy. Could the experiment succeed anywhere else?
| January 19, 2010 | 53
WIND POWER: All told, the wind turbines on Samso supply more power than the residents need--Samso exports 80 million kilowatt-hours of wind-produced electricity annually--thus offsetting some of the island's nonrenewably powered activities, such as its cars, trucks and ferries. Image: © David Biell
TRANEBJERG, Samso, Denmark—It can seem as if the icy, cutting wind off the North Sea never stops blowing on this Danish island in winter, bending back the grass, whipping straight the flags, and setting mammoth wind turbines to their stately spinning. That's good news for Samso's 4,000 or so inhabitants, seeing as they own shares in 20 of the 21 turbines that either tower over the island or rise from the offshore waters of the Kattegat Strait, which connects the Baltic and North seas.
Some people see wind turbines as eyesores or complain about the sound of their whirring blades, but Soren Hermansen, chief proselytizer for the island's renewable energy experiment and director of the Samso Energy Academy, disagrees. "If you own a share in a wind turbine it looks better, it sounds better," he says. "It sounds like money in the bank."
The land-based turbines are 50 meters tall with blades that stretch some 27 meters from end to end. The sea-based turbines are even more massive—63 meters high (not including the spike pounded into the seafloor beneath the waves) with 40-meter blades. A single such turbine can generate roughly eight million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year at a cost of $3 million per turbine (the onshore variety are cheaper, at just over $1 million).
Drawing on a Danish co-operative tradition that stretches back 150 years to raise the cash needed to build and run slaughterhouses and other community facilities, around one in 10 "Samsingers" owns at least a share in one of the turbines, which generates an annual check based on its output and the price of electricity. The turbines also have allowed all 4,000 residents to produce more energy from renewable resources than they consume, thereby eliminating, on balance, their emissions of carbon dioxide.
After all, a massive three-megawatt wind turbine "pays back" the carbon dioxide emitted in its making—mining iron, smelting steel, trucking blades, among other things—in roughly seven months of operation by displacing emissions from fossil fuel–fired power plants, according to Michael Zarin, director of government relations at the Denmark-based wind turbine–maker Vestas Wind Systems. Wind power is now responsible for 100 percent of Samso's electricity needs, 20 percent of all of Denmark's, and has become the largest single type of new electricity generation installed in the U.S. "There's nothing alternative about wind anymore," Zarin notes.
But Samso—an island of some 22 villages that is twice the size of Manhattan—does present an alternative view of the future. "It sounds like we did something extraordinary on this island," Hermansen says of the island's inhabitants who effectively remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than they contribute to it. (An average Dane adds some 10 metric tons of CO2 per year.) "We are just normal people—maybe a little naive, maybe a little egoistic, maybe boring—but this is about how we are going to make our normal life work."
The Samso experiment started in 1997 when an enterprising consultant, Ole Johnsson from Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city, convinced Samso's mayor (and only the mayor) to enter a national competition to become a renewable energy island. "He thought he would go to Copenhagen with a wheelbarrow and come back with money like a Viking," Hermansen says. And although the Danish government did invest nearly $90 million over the next decade, it came with some requirements: energy self-sufficiency employing readily available technology produced in Denmark, plus the need for local matching funds. "From then on, we knew it was a very uphill project," says Hermansen, a failed farmer who became the project's first employee.
The success of Wind Energy in Denmark is mainly duue to WIND FARM CO-OPERATIVES.
Cooperatives – a local and democratic ownership to wind turbines(DANMARKS VINDMOLLEFORENING
One of the characteristics of the Danish wind energy sector is the cooperatives or guilds. Many of the wind turbines erected in the 1980s and early 1990s were and still are owned by local cooperatives/guilds.
Since then, single-person ownership has superseded the importance of the cooperatives and now utilities and large energy companies play an increasing role in the establishment and ownership of wind turbines in Denmark, especially when it comes to large-scale wind farms. However, cooperative ownership is still an important factor, and new legislation from January 2009 is aimed at stimulating the local engagement and ownership in new wind energy projects. The new Danish act on renewable energy imposes an obligation on all new wind energy projects to offer minimum 20 per cent ownership to local people, eg cooperatives.
Advantages of cooperatives
Local acceptance of a wind turbine project is necessary. Public resistance against wind turbines in the landscape has been and still is and one of the largest barriers to the development of wind power.
The experience from a number of wind energy projects in Denmark shows that public involvement in the planning phase and co-ownership increases the acceptance. Adding to this, two private offshore projects shows that cooperative development and ownership is an option also in larger-scale projects. The Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm (40 MW) close to Copenhagen was developed though cooperation between the municipality, an energy company and not least a number of private individuals. Middelgrunden is the world’s largest cooperatively owned wind farm with more than 8000 members of the cooperative. The Samsø project off the east coast of Jutland (23 MW) was developed by a cooperative with local people on the island of Samsø and the municipality as members.
Strengths of a cooperative:
Active and committed members
Dialogue and political contacts with many stakeholders through a widespread network
Large public support
Direct contact to local authorities
Local production and engagement in wind energy projects make sustainable development understandable. Cooperatives engaged in the development and building of local wind turbines is a concrete example of how private people can contribute to the development of an environmentally-friendly and sustainable energy production.
16 January 2011
Floating Wind Turbines Promise Clean Power
Ocean-based wind turbines don't need to be firmly anchored to the seafloor, according to a new study. David Biello reports, with narration by Christie Nicholson
| July 11, 2010 | 15
Strong sea breezes offer one of the best options for generating electricity from the wind. And here's the bonus: since humans like to cluster on the coast, offshore wind tends to reach places that need more electricity.
But building a massive turbine and anchoring it firmly to the seafloor is expensive. So wind power is restricted to shallow seas. Hence, the scarcity of offshore wind turbines around the world—and its complete absence so far from U.S. waters.
Naval architects writing in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy aim to change that. After testing options in a wave tank, they found that floating platforms can support turbines capable of generating five megawatts of power. This is no mean feat considering such turbines are 70 meters tall and have blades the size of a football field.
The architects current platform relies, in essence, on three floating legs—much like a deepwater oil production platform.
But unlike an oil rig, when a wind turbine goes bad, it just adds wreckage to the seafloor, instead of fouling local waters with oil. Perhaps offshore wind is the safer use of coastal resources.
—David Biello, with narration by Christie Nicholson
Here is an ENERGY ISLAND designed by my Friend Dominic Michaelis which supplies Energy on a day round basis:
Could ‘energy islands’ power the future? Floating rig would drill for renewables instead of petroleum , By Michael Schirber Special to LiveScience, LiveScience , updated 11/12/2008 7:00:48 PM ET 2008-11-13T00:00:48
“The ocean harbors abundant energy in the form of wind, waves and sun. All of these could be sampled on something called an Energy Island: a floating rig that drills for renewables instead of petroleum.
The concept is the brainchild of inventor Dominic Michaelis. He was originally unsatisfied with the slow progress in developing ocean thermal energy conversion. "Nothing new was happening with OTEC, so I thought why not bring other marine energy technologies on board?" Michaelis said.
The Energy Island that he and his son have designed would have an OTEC plant at its center, but spread across the 2,000-foot-wide (600-meter-wide) platform would also be wind turbines and solar collectors. Additionally, wave energy converters and sea current turbines would capture energy from water moving around the structure.
One of these hexagonally-shaped islands could generate 250 megawatts (enough power for a small city), Michaelis said. Even more power is possible by mooring together several Energy Islands into a small archipelago that could include greenhouses for food, a small harbor for ships and a hotel for tourists.
Running hot and cold
The principle reason to build an Energy Island is to harvest OTEC.
"The advantage of OTEC over other marine energy technologies is that it's constant, 24 hours a day and all year round," Michaelis told LiveScience.
This is because it is based not on the sun or the wind or the waves, but on the temperature difference between warm water at the sun-heated surface and cold water in the deep, dark ocean.
The biggest temperature differences can be found in tropical seas, where the surface water is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius).
This warm water is drawn in from around the Energy Island and used to evaporate a working fluid, which might be seawater or ammonia. The resulting vapor pushes a turbine that produces electricity.
To condense the vapor back to fluid, cold water at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) is pumped up from a half mile below the surface. This condensation creates a pressure drop that helps suck more vapor through the turbine blades.”
16 January 2011
China to spend $30 bln on water conservation in 2011
The Chinese government is expected to spend about 200 billion yuan ($30.10 billion) on water conservation projects in 2011, a tenth more than in 2010, the state-run China Daily reported on Saturday.
| December 24, 2010 | 1
BEIJING, Dec 25 (Reuters) - The Chinese government is expected to spend about 200 billion yuan ($30.10 billion) on water conservation projects in 2011, a tenth more than in 2010, the state-run China Daily reported on Saturday.
Priority will be given to improving irrigation to ensure grain security and projects to combat drought and floods, the newspaper said.
It cited Water Resources Minister Chen Lei as telling a government meeting that some of the investment would come from a 10 percent levy on income earned from the leasing of land. The newspaper did not elaborate.
Other funds would go towards renovating water supply infrastructure for main agriculture regions and ensuring safe drinking water for 60 million rural people, the newspaper added.
"Over the next 10 years, Chen said he hopes the country can double its current average annual investment in water conservation construction," it said.
The government has invested about 700 billion yuan on water conservation over the past five years, the newspaper said.
Chen Xiwen, director of the central government's rural work leading group who advises top leaders on rural policy, said the government would specifically target water conservation next year because of worry about grain production, it said.
While grain production will rise to 546.4 million tonnes this year, up by 15.6 million tonnes on last year, there are worries about next year's harvest because of natural disasters, which could push up food prices, Chen Xiwen added.
The government is paying close attention to the cost of food after prices rose nearly 12 percent in the year to November, leading overall consumer inflation to a 28-month high of 5.1 percent.
"We have to accelerate the construction of water conservation facilities as one of the key infrastructures the country needs to secure increasing grain production. We must address issues arising from the country's rapid urbanisation, which has consumed land that used to be used for farming," he said.
Chen Xiwen said this month water shortages and the encroachment of urban development on rural land posed challenges for China to extend increases in grain output after seven years of growth. [ID:nTOE6B9033] ($1=6.645 yuan) (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)
- They harvested the rain drop directly. From rooftops, they collected water and stored it in tanks built in their courtyards. From open community lands, they collected the rain and stored it in artificial wells.
- They harvested monsoon runoff by capturing water from swollen streams during the monsoon season and stored it various forms of water bodies.
- They harvested water from flooded rivers
Tankas (small tank) are underground tanks, found traditionally in most Bikaner houses. They are built in the main house or in the courtyard. They were circular holes made in the ground, lined with fine polished lime, in which raiwater was collected. Tankas were often beautifully decorated with tiles, which helped to keep the water cool. The water was used only for drinking. If in any year there was less than normal rainfall and the tankas did not get filled, water from nearby wells and tanks would be obtained to fill the household tankas. In this way, the people of Bikaner were able to meet their water requirements. The tanka system is also to be found in the pilgrim town of Dwarka where it has been in existence for centuries. It continues to be used in residential areas, temples, dharamshalas and hotels.There were excellent water conservation systems that were in vogue in India like Khadin,
2 January 2011
Mexico Adopts Sustainable Water Disinfection in Chiapas
Working with the social investment group FEMSA , the government of Chiapas, Mexico is introducing sustainable disinfection technology to 175 local water systems, in support of the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals partnership to reduce extreme poverty, hunger and disease. The new systems will be installed by MIOX Corp.
| April 11, 2010 | 2
By: Tina Casey
Working with the social investment group FEMSA, the government of Chiapas, Mexico is introducing sustainable disinfection technology to 175 local water systems, in support of the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals partnership to reduce extreme poverty, hunger and disease. The new systems will be installed by MIOX Corp., a water treatment company that specializes in producing disinfection chemicals on site from salt, water and electricity rather than going the conventional route of trucking in supplies of chlorine.
By ditching chlorine shipments, the MIOX system significantly reduces the carbon footprint of transportation and fuel consumption. As for an overall improvement in sustainability, a few tweaks in the system could make an enormous difference.
The Problem with Chlorine
As graphically illustrated by the Graniteville chlorine disaster, chlorine is an extremely dangerous substance to transport and handle, and industries have been scrambling for safer alternatives in the face of stricter regulations. Even the ubiquitous chlorine user Clorox recently announced that it was phasing out rail transportation of chlorine in favor of trucking in a more manageable bleach product to its factories. Chemical price spikes and shortages are also motivating water treatment professionals to search for alternative water disinfection technologies such as ultraviolet light (including zero emission solar power) or kinetic “energy bombs.”
On-Site Disinfectant Production
MIOX’s solution is a technology that uses common raw materials to manufacture disinfectants on site, which avoids the vagaries of the manufactured commodities market. The company estimates that on site generation cuts down the carbon footprint of transportation by about 80%. It also significantly reduces carbon emissions associated with manufacturing and disposing of chlorine containers. The company’s proprietary technology generates two types of disinfectant, hypochlorite and an advanced mixed oxidant, using water, salt and electricity as raw ingredients.
About that Water, Salt and Electricity…
In terms of overall sustainability, the on site production of disinfecting chemicals is a partial solution. At least two elements are needed to complete the circle. One is a more energy efficient water reclamation process, which would help conserve scarce water supplies (new high efficiency technologies for desalinating seawater could also yield supplies of salt). Another element is a low or zero emission source of power, and new advances in low cost solar technology are bringing that closer to reality.
Treatment to control waterborne microbial contaminants by exposure to sunlight in clear vessels that allows the combined germicidal effects of both UV radiation and heat has been developed and put into practice The SODIS system(Solar Disinfection of water) developed by scientists at the Swiss Federal Agency for Environmental Science and Technology(EAWAG) recommends placing PET bottles (usually discarded mineral water/beverage bottles) painted black on one side, aerating (oxygenating) the water by vigorous shaking three fourths water filled bottles and then filling them full and placing them in sunlight for 6 hours. In this method, the water is exposed to UV radiation in sunlight, primarily UV-A and it becomes heated; both effects contribute to the inactivation of water borne microbes. The use of PET bottles requires periodic replacement because of scratches and they become deformed if temperature exceeds 650C. Also dust accumulates on these bottles in the groves (provided for strength). The PET bottle mineral water manufacturers print on the label,’ crush the bottle after use’ in India. Unless cleaned thoroughly everyday, PET bottles turn brown over usage rendering lesser transmission of sunlight.
Microorganisms are heat sensitive. It can be seen that it is not required to boil the water in order to kill 99.9% of the microorganisms. Heating up water to 50 - 60C (122 - 140F) for one hour has the same effect .
The most favorable region for solar disinfection lies between latitudes 150 N/S and 35 0 N/S. These semi-arid regions are characterised by high solar radiation and limited cloud coverage and equator and latitude 15 0 N/S, the scattered radiation in this region is quite high (2500 hours rainfall (3000 hours sunshine per year).The second most favorable region lies between the sunshine per year).
The need for a low-cost, low maintenance and effective disinfection system for providing safe drinking water is paramount, especially for the developing countries.An INNOVATIVE,cost effective Solar Disinfection System has been designed by me.
The innovative solar disinfection system has a wooden frame of length 2 ft,width 1 foot and depth 6 inches with bottom sinusoidal shaped polished stainless steel (curvature slightly larger than standard glass wine bottles, about 5 inches diameter) . On the front is fixed a glass sheet having lifting arrangement with a knob (this glass enclosure will protect the glass bottles from cooling down due to outside wind). There are screws which can be used to keep the contents airtight. On the backside a stand is fixed which will help the unit to be placed according to the latitude of the place for maximum solar insolation.
In this method clear glass bottles (used wine bottles) are utilised instead of PET bottles as the former are easy to clean, lasts longer and are available at a low cost in India. Solar disinfection is more efficient in water containing high levels of oxygen; sunlight produces highly reactive forms of oxygen (oxygen free radicals and hydrogen peroxides) in the water. These reactive forms of oxygen kill the microorganisms. Aeration of water is achieved by shaking the 3/4 water filled bottles for about 20 seconds before they are filled completely.
The unit has an advantage in that the rear reflection stainless steel will pass the light through the bottles a second time, to both increase exposure and eliminate shadowing. This reflection system will increase the light intensity minimum 2 times.
Eradication of coli forms from well water, bore water and waste water has been reported from test results. The results confirm that there is 4-log 10 reduction of coli forms in the waste water after solar disinfection. The experiments were conducted at Kavaraipettai,Tamil Nadu,India.Maximum temperature occurs around 1 pm. Though 6 bottles were used in the system(each of 1 liter capacity),larger units with up to 100 bottles can be designed. The unit destroyed 99.99% of bacterial coli forms both in well water and waste water samples in 5 hours.
The innovative solar disinfection system has the advantages like:
1. The unit is portable,
2. It is cost-effective.
3. It can be fabricated in South India for US $20.
4. The unit incorporates the principle of reflection to increase solar intensity and has protection from wind which results in temperature rise inside the unit,
5. Larger units can be manufactured, Used glass bottles withstand higher temperatures and are available in plenty each for 2 US cents in South India, Since all the materials are available locally, the unit can be manufactured locally with local people.
6. Temperatures above 30C occur in south India for more than 10 months in a year and as such this innovative solar disinfection unit will be a boon in this region.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP), India
2 January 2011
Scientific American 10: Guiding Science for Humanity
Ten researchers, politicians, business executives and philanthropists who have recently demonstrated outstanding commitment to assuring that the benefits of new technologies and knowledge will accrue to humanity
| May 18, 2009 | 19
Image: Courtesy of the White House (Obama)
The ethical and policy ramifications of deploying science and technology in the service of society hold the same importance as the act of invention itself. Getting antiretroviral treatments to HIV/AIDS patients in sub-Saharan Africa. Ensuring that the world’s largest chip manufacturer takes every possible step to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. Lending the currency of one’s celebrity (as well as cold, hard cash) to a global campaign to abolish smoking.
Leadership in these realms requires vision and imagination that transcends mere engineering ingenuity. This year’s Scientific American 10 pays tribute to the exceptional foresight and accomplishment of a select group whose achievements, particularly during the past year, stand out from those of their peers. The 10 winners have demonstrated that establishing a public health program or running a green business requires more than administrative efficiency and good public relations. Bringing creativity to bear in overcoming institutional and bureaucratic impediments to adoption of not just new technology but innovative procedural methods is crucial for improving health care and the environment.
Science and Technology must serve the people at large. Accelerated all-round development in a whole-some manner of vast rural areas requires massive effort and there are many ramifications. Nations can help each other significantly through co-operation and sharing of experience.
There are some problems and aspects which have national or regional over-tones. Also, there are some issues which may not have great significance for the developed countries. Some of the examples are: tropical climate, monsoons, floods; family welfare, nutrition; drinking water, low-cost housing, sanitation, sewage etc. It is also relevant to remember that the developing societies tend to have some basic differences with the developed societies. The value systems of the rural societies of the older civilisations are different from those now pervading the developed societies. These differences need to be recognised and accepted. Relative evaluations on arbitrary criteria and tendencies to impose new value systems can be erroneous and damaging.
It is clear that the developing countries must concern themselves seriously with the development of alternative ways of doing things with regard to value-systems, methodologies,and technologies. Distinctions should be made carefully between what is to be borrowed and what has to be developed indigenously. The reward and award systems need to be deliberately biased infavour of developments which are in the nature of more relevant alternatives.
Whereas the nations may directly interact bilaterally, certain of the requirements can be met best through formal international arrangements. There would need to be agencies for study and analyses of different concepts, methodologies and technologies for rural development and for disseminating information and findings. Some experimentation and pilot-projects at the international level would also be helpful.
Improving the lot of the rural poor is a major task as it involve large populations. Efforts in this direction have been continuing over a considerable period but the progress made so far does not suggest that we are approaching the solution expeditiously. The ultimate blogspot.com objective of the accelerated use of science and technology by the masses is the betterment of their socio-economic condition, or development and improvement in the quality of their life.
2 January 2011