Environment

Related Tags:

Business Cars Economics green Health Hummer hybrids Innovation News Post recycling save-the-world Science wind-power

7th Seal of the Apocalypse, Cell Phones

One of the latest theories for the mass disappearance of bees recently has to do with cell phones. It is theorized that the radiation given off by cell phones interferes with bees' navigation system making them unable to return to their hive. There is some research to support this as German researchers have found that bees' behaviour changes near power lines. German research has also shown that fucking a chicken is possible, so I don't know how credible it is. So it looks like teenage girls desire to talk non-stop on cell phones will be the dmeise of us all. It seems like there is only one solution, talk to people in person. I know what your saying, that's crazy I can't talk to some one face to face. I don't even remember how that works. It might be hard at first, but I think with practice people will remember how to do it. Don't stand too far away because then you won't be able to hear each other. Also don't stand too close because then you'll be kissing. Lots of people are also making a big deal out of what Albert Einstein said about bees and people not being able to survive with out them. I say whatever. Another brilliant guiy Isaac Asimov said that in the future we'll all be eating food made from bacteria and fungi. So I'm not worried. Who likes bees anyways. They sting and the always ruin your picnic. I say good riddens. Hit the road bees we don't need you anymore. I for one will enjoy my bee free summer.

Why should you care that all the bees are dying?

Recently it has come to my attention that all of the nations bees are seriously threatened. Iaren't bees cute? know, it's hard to believe that it would be a big deal, and in fact, no one has really made a big stink about it yet. But it's important. Why, you might ask? Well, even if you didn't ask, you should probably read on since this topic definitely affects everyone, even if you don't like honey or bees. Most people know that bees are responsible for honey and bee stings but what you may not know is that they are a much more important member of the agricultural community. Bees, especially honey bees, are responsible for the pollination of flowers (you might be saying duh, here but follow me on this one, please), and said pollination causes plants to actually bear fruits as the method of their reproduction. And said fruits are important for not only human nutrition, but also for that of most of the animals we raise as pets and most of the animals that we eat. This topic came to my attention from my grandfather, an almost retired farmer. He brought it up to my mother in this manner. Grandpa: "Hey, The Fidge (that's me, btw) is a biologist, right?" Mom: "you know she is" G: "Well, can she tell me why the lady down the road's bees are almost all dead?" M: "Really? They are almost all dead? Why?" G: " Well, if we knew, we wouldn't be asking The Fidge, would we? Of her 20 hives, only two of them are still alive. All of the other hives are dead. And the other guy down the road, he had 125 hives and now only maybe twenty of them are still alive. They asked me if I knew what was happening, and I said I would ask the Fidge." So, this has become a job for me. Although I am just using the internet to research it, I do plan on calling a visit on these beekeepers to talk to them about their practices, but in the meantime I will fill you in on what the vast spaces of the interweb have to say about this little bee apocalypse. First of all, officials are calling this epidemic Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD for short. (I just would like to point out that everything needs an acronym.) This used to be called Fall Dwindle Disease (FDD) but it was changed b/c it was noticed that this is not due to seasonality, nor can it be ruled to just being a disease. Actually, most experts are baffled to what exactly CCD is. Basically, they can't narrow it down to what is really killing all the bees. For example, according to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences news release on the topic: "Preliminary work has identified several likely factors that could be causing or contributing to CCD," says Dennis van Engelsdorp, acting state apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. "Among them are mites and associated diseases, some unknown pathogenic disease and pesticide contamination or poisoning." That helps narrow it down, doesn't it? So, basically we can't really rule out anything at this point. We don't know what is killing the bees, and we can't decide what it could be, either. Most of the information I am using in my research comes from the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium Web site. In the hives that were researched by MAAREC there was evidence of vampire mites, a small parasite that lives off the "blood" of adult bees, viral infection, stress due to constant relocation of hives for crop pollination, intestinal amoebas, fungal infection, stunted learning and development due to industry chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides), and on and on. You get the point. We have not been able to narrow CCD down to any particular thing, which makes it incredibly difficult to treat the problem. The drastic amount of bees found dead over such a short period of time is what is so scary about the whole thing. A small bee apocalypse, the few surviving bees are all very young adults from what most beekeepers can see. I mean, as I pointed out, the two local cases above have lost an incredible amount of bees from their original numbers, and this is the case all around the country. The rate at which these bees are dying is alarming, especially since we cannot narrow the cause of their mortality down to anything specific. According to Jean-Louis Santini of AFP, "Bee numbers on parts of the east coast and in Texas have fallen by more than 70 percent, while California has seen colonies drop by 30 to 60 percent. It is normal for hives to see populations fall by some 20 percent during the winter, but the sharp loss of bees is causing concern, especially as domestic US bee colonies have been steadily decreasing since 1980." Well, either way, I have not really helped to narrow it down, but I hope you have learned something. Maybe this summer when food is really expensive you will know why, since most of the food we eat comes from the pollination efforts of bees, with only a few crops such as corn and wheat being wind pollinated. And just so you know, this is not something just limited to specific areas. This is affecting not only the US, but parts of Europe as well. This is a big deal, and no one seems to know anything about it. I figured I would end this article with a quote from Albert Einstein. "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man," This may seem a little extremist, but it does bring the point home.

Why Not Put a Wind Turbine on Your Roof?

Wind turbines are cool. The might not be able to replace all the coal power plants in the world, but they're a great example of how old concepts and new technology can be put together like peanut butter and jelly to become a delicious source of power. Mag Wind MW1100They're also a great example of the sort of positive environmentalism that sees efficiency and economic growth as two sides of the same coin. I would go so far as to say that most of the various groups opposing wind farms around the country are really lame. But what if I wanted to join in on the blade-spinning fun, instead of just blathering on and on about it on the Internet? There's a cool-looking rooftop vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) from a company called Mag-Wind that looked really promising when I first saw it late last year. It's compact, doesn't require a tall mast, and it's designed specifically for roofs. Unfortunately, it might not be on the up-and-up. Paul Gipe at Wind-Works.org ran some numbers and he doesn't think the power output they are claiming is possible. There's also some talk of a fake Mag-Wind dealer (not actually authorized by the company) taking a whole bunch of people's money in North Dakota. More interesting discussion can be found at Treehugger. This is unfortunate because I had dreamed up a plan to put one of these guys on top of my roof any then buy a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt. Charging a battery at night is already cheaper than buying gas according to Prius conversions. I'm just the kind of geek who goes out and spends money on sort of thing. Now it is possible that the calculations are off, because no one seems to have been able to make any independent measurements yet. Maybe the assumptions are wrong - for example, when they say 1100 kWh/month in a 13 mph average wind, maybe they are talking about the wind measured in a clear area away from buildings, like you see on the weather report. Because of the "roof effect" the wind actually hitting the turbine would be more than 13 mph. Also, this isn't a completely fictional company, their representatives and distributors have contacted bloggers and other writers here and there. So I guess I'll hold out a little hope and keep an eye out for something to materialize from these guys. In the mean time, anyone have a recommendation for a roof-mounted wind turbine that definitely exists? Maybe the WindCube (man that is cheesy-sounding bad name)? Oh, and here's some footage of various wind turbines in action in Taiwan. Not too exciting, but it shows that some people have working VAWTs up and running. [youtube]n0_lmtfwUYg[/youtube]

How Can a Hummer Be Better for the Environment than a Prius?

Earlier one of our writers stumbled on a report that claimed gas-guzzling Hummers were better for the environment than hybrids like the Toyota Prius. This is one of those great stories that everyone loves - where the conventional wisdom is wrong, and we can all have a good laugh knocking someone or something off it's high horse. This story has been passed furiously around the Internet for a week or so, by email and blog, featured on Digg and Slashdot. It's a good anecdote about unintended consequences and a little boost to Hummer owners who are sometimes criticized for their very conspicuous consumption. It's also pretty much a load of crap. But how can that be? The writer did a bunch of research, and came up with numbers and formulas. Lots of people saw it and voted with a thumbs-up in Reddit or StumbleUpon. Welcome, dear readers, to the world of white papers and press releases. Let's say you had a conclusion you wanted to support, or clients you wanted to flatter. You do a bunch of research, finding information that backs your conclusions. Now what to do with it? You can try presenting it at a conference or submitting it to an academic journal, but then you run a risk. The risk is that peer review will knock it down. The scientific method has a key difference from the method mentioned above - instead of creating a conclusion then finding evidence, you create a hypothesis, gather all the evidence, then form your conclusion. Take this pesky detail and add a dash of scrutiny by experts in the field and you have a pretty good recipe for coming up with useful theories and knowledge. The recipe just won't make the muffins come out exactly the way you want them every time. So what do you do with this research? Put it in a white paper and/or type up and good press release. The term "white paper" used to refer to government policy documents, but now it's often used to mean a report by a company or individual in an industry intended to inform and persuade customers and partners. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, so long as everyone knows that the purpose of the document is often to persuade or sell something, not to impartially report on all the facts. IT workers have become very familiar with the uses of white papers since we are constantly bombarded with them. They are notoriously available to prove nearly any point you want to make. Is Oracle the fastest database system? You can probably find 20 white papers that say so authoritatively and conclusively. Is Oracle bloated and inefficient? Look, there's 20 papers that say so authoritatively and conclusively. They aren't all worthless, because each one might give you some good factual information. It's up to you to find and use what you need without drinking the Kool-Aide. The use of email by lots of people outside the IT realm and recently the hug number of non-IT bloggers has given press releases and white papers some new possibilities. They can be spread around the world in record time and quoted by a 1,000 blog posts as if they were primary sources. Notice that this report on the Prius and Hummer is 450+ pages. How many people, do you think, read all 450 pages? There are a number of problems with this report that make the conclusion that Hummers are green and Priuses are baby- seal-clubbing smog machines hard to swallow. For one thing, it assumes that a Prius will only last 109,000 miles, which is lower than some parts of the warranty in California and similar states, while extending the life of a Hummer H1 to 379,000 miles. Plenty of Priuses have already passed 200,000 miles, often working in taxi fleets. It also mentions the use of Nickel in the batteries and the damage Nickel mining did to Sudbury, Ontario. The batteries are warrantied to 100,000 miles Nickel is recyclable. Sudbury has done a great deal to mitigate past environmental damage and is no longer a wasteland. As the TrueDelta blog points out, the cost of ownership numbers are amazingly high for all the vehicles in the report. If Priuses cost this much to build and operate, we have to assume that Toyota is taking a huge loss on every one sold, and in fact the entire auto industry is grievously undercharging us. There are a number of other problems with the report, but others have already done a pretty good job outlining them. Probably the biggest problem is that the source data is not available for review, since it is considered valuable intellectual property by CNW research. So what's the answer to the question posed in the title? How can a Hummer be better for the environment than a Prius? By using whatever methodology you want, using whatever data you want, and closing your research up from peer review, that's how. And what's the lesson for today? It's certainly not "don't believe everything that you read," because that is glib and cynical without being precise enough to be useful. Here are some thoughts that might be a bit more practical:
  • White papers and press releases are fine, but keep in mind they are often intended persuade you or sell you something.
  • Starting with a conclusion makes research easier, but doesn't validate your conclusion.
  • Digg, email forwards, and 1,000 blogs do not count as peer review.

Prius vs Hummer and How to avoid getting Hacked

I was just browsing around the internet and I happened to stumble upon One Man's Blog and I found some interesting things out that I wanted to share with all of you beautiful people.

The first point of interest is about the environmental friendliness of hybrid cars. As you may or may not know, this is a subject dear to my heart, so I was kinda bummed to learn about this, finding that the way hybrids are produced is overall much worse for the environment then just burning a little more gasoline. Check out the whole blog here.

The next topic, how to avoid getting hacked is something that everyone should read. I know, people never think that they will be the ones to get hacked but it can happen to anyone, as this guy points out. He gives some pretty good advice on how to avoid being hacked by picking better passwords and even links to Microsoft's site that helps you test the strength of your passwords.