Oct
16
2006


MN Energy Challenge: Website here.

Save money. Save our planet.

I just signed up for the "Minnesota Energy Challenge". By pledging to reduce my energy use in specific ways, I will reduce CO2 emmissions and save dollars. I was given the option of adding my savings to a team of participants. I chose Saint Paul (which is beating Minneapolis 2905 to 2692 tons of CO2 saved). I wish the Science Museum of Minnesota had a team. I think it would be neat to have our staff, members, and visitors demonstrate that they are willing to "become the change they envision"(Ghandi). You can join up on the mnenergychallenge.org website.

The Minnesota Energy Challenge is a statewide initiative, developed by the Center for Energy and Environment" (CEE), to encourage every homeowner, renter, business owner, educator, worship leader, city manager and student to reduce their electricity and energy use. CEE has projected that a 2 percent annual reduction in electricity energy use will eliminate the need to build more coal-fired energy plants in Minnesota.

There is a meeting tonight(Oct. 16)

Minneapolis newscaster, Don Shelby, will be speaking at 7:30 p.m.

  • October 16, 6 - 9 p.m.
  • Hale Elementary School
  • 1220 54th Street E, Minneapolis

In addition to introducing the energy challenge, displays and demonstrations will cover topics such as energy-saving light bulbs, programmable thermostats, energy audits, high-efficiency furnaces, project financing, tax incentives, and preparing the home for the heating season. The first 500 attendees at each fair will receive free light bulbs, and there will be activities for the kids.

Thankyou missgo76 for alerting me about this on the Energista website.

Oct
15
2006

Coral in trouble: photo from NOAA via Wikimedia
Coral in trouble: photo from NOAA via Wikimedia

Oceans appear unhealthy

What if Earth's oceans get so sick they start a chain reaction of death? Zones of death are showing up in the Gulf and off the coast of Oregon. The coral reefs off Madagascar, Australia, and Belize are dying.

More than 90 percent of the earth’s living biomass (weight of living matter) is found in the oceans, and 90 percent of that is made up of single cell and microbial species. ...
There are signs that marine life is failing right at the bottom of the food web as the result of global warming, which could start a series of aggravating feedback effects on climate change. Institute of Science in Society

"Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has had effects in the ocean, where it's causing increased acidity," says director of NSF's biological oceanography program, Phil Taylor, "This increasing acidity has the potential to disrupt the calcifying processes that lead to coral reef development, for example, as well as disrupt those same processes in the microscopic plankton that form the center of the ocean's food web." National Science Foundation

Cacium carbonate depends upon non-acidic ocean

Since the industrial revolution began, ocean pH has dropped by approximately 0.1 units, and it is estimated that it will drop by a further 0.3 - 0.4 units by 2100 as the ocean absorbs more anthropogenic CO2 (Caldeira and Wickett, 2003; Orr et al., 2005) (via Wikipedia). Ocean life which use calcium carbonate find themselves dissolving when their environment is too acidic.

More research needed

In a recent study, scientists discovered several small reefs near Madagascar with corals that appeared to be resilient to rising sea temperatures. These resilient areas could be used to reseed damaged reefs ensuring the continued existence of coral reefs around the world and the marine species that rely upon them for survival.

Coral bleaching should serve as a red flag warning us that we need to understand the complex interactions between changing ocean chemistry and marine ecology. We need to develop research strategies to better understand the long-term vulnerabilities of sensitive marine organisms to these changes.

Oct
14
2006

Kite power: photo by Tobias Jäger from Wikimedia
Kite power: photo by Tobias Jäger from Wikimedia

Kite wind generator idea earns award

Wind is usually stronger and more dependable at high altitudes. High towers are expensive, though. Why not use kites and strong string to capture power from high altitude winds?

This idea of using kites to generate electricity earned a 2006 World Renewable Energy Award.

The main idea of Kite Wind Generator is based on a vertical axis turbine whose blades are the flying airfoils. The plant is able to provide 1 GigaWatth/year, it is 25 metres high, it has a turbine radius of 800 metres and it requests ground wind speed of 3 m/sec to fully operate. The needed area is 4 km2, that is more than 80 times smaller than the area for the equivalent wind farm based on traditional eolic generators. The cost of this machine is around 300 Millions €, including transportation, installation, foundations and connection to the grid. World Renewable Energy Congress.

The way KiteGen works is to have a giant horizontal merry-go-round with kites attached to its perimeter. Sensors and controllers would fly the kites in a way that would spin the generators at its axis.(watch video simulation here).

KiteGen electrity could be 30 X cheaper

Research by Sequoia Automation, the small company near Turin heading the project, estimates that KiteGen could churn out one gigawatt of power at a cost of just 1.5 euros per megawatt hour.

Outstanding questions about such a generator include location and possible bureaucratic headaches over permits for air space. Current speculation is that KiteGen may soar above the former Trino Vercellese nuclear power plant, already a no-fly zone, in the region.

Read more at Wired News.

Oct
14
2006

Today at the Science Museum, the Make-It team made rockets. Kids made short or long rockets. It's fun to watch the kids make rockets. NASA is making a new rocket. It is going to be done in 2014. The design will help protect the people who are going out into space if anything goes wrong with the rocket.

Oct
13
2006

White buffalo: A huge increase in the occurance of white bison has scientists scratching their heads about what's going on with the genetics of the breedCourtesy xxxtoff
White buffalo: A huge increase in the occurance of white bison has scientists scratching their heads about what's going on with the genetics of the breed
Courtesy xxxtoff

What's going on with bison genes these days? Scientists aren't sure but they're checking into the possibilities.

A white bison was extremely rare back in the days before the westward movement of white civilization. At its peak back then, there were 80 million bison roaming the ranges. The presence of a white bison was so unusual, native peoples thought its appearance was a message from the gods.

But in the past dozen years, two dozen white bison calves have been reared in captivity out of a population of around 500,000. The new white bison aren't albinos, but genetic ancestors of those famous rare bison of yore.

Geneticists who know about bison are amazed at the long odds to have so many white creatures coming back, for such a recessive gene to have so much prominence again. And they're zeroing in on some significant factors.

Several possible causes could be hyping the chances of the recessive gene to be present in bison calves: the impact of exposure to radiation, some type of chemical exposure or some natural accident in the process of cell-duplicating DNA.

Another factor may be the result of significant cross-breeding of bison with French Charolais cattle, which are white, to create the hybrid animal that is butchered into "beefalo."

The issue came into more focus this summer when a second white bison was born into the Dave Heider herd near Janesville, Wisc. For years, Native Americans came to his farm to see Miracle, a white bison that was born in 1994. It died two years ago, but then this August another white bison was born of the same herd. That Bison has been named Second Chance. While no DNA testing has been done on the herd, the situation is mystifying as the two white bison come from completely different blood lines.

White bison have been considered so rare and special that it carried high spiritual significance to the Lakota people. And members of the tribe are looking to a spiritual explanation for the significant rise in the numbers of white bison, saying that it signifies a need for people to unify and settle differences.

On the other hand, some native peoples are suspicious of the efforts to breed white bison as being a way to exploit their religious beliefs and practices. Those practices assert that white bison are the sacred spirit of the White Buffalo Calf Woman who first appeared 2,000 years ago during a plague of starvation for the Lakota people.

Caroline Smith and Gretchen Benedix from the Natural History Museum in London are trekking around the Nullabor Desert in western Australia looking meteorites. Follow along on their meteorite blog.

Want to visualize ten dimensions? Watch the flash animation promoting the book, Imagining the Tenth Dimension. You will need to mouse over the the left edge of the box (Navigation) and click the second item.

Joe, from the Energista website, reported on yesterdays Renewable Energy Workshop sponsored by the U of MN Electrical Engineering Department.

Oct
12
2006

Stop bleeding fast: photo by crystal via wikimedia
Stop bleeding fast: photo by crystal via wikimedia

Super quick fix for bleeding.

Last June 4th, I reported that MIT researchers used a self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold to repair severed brain structures in blind rodents and restore their sight. Those same researchers noticed the material's dramatic ability to stop bleeding in the brain and began testing it on a variety of other organs and tissues.

In a study published online October 10 in Nanomedicine the researchers report that the liquid controlled bleeding in rodents within 15 seconds in seven other wound types, including cuts to the spinal cord, liver [view video here] and femoral artery as well as skin punctures.

Platelets not needed

The liquid does not seem to form a conventional blood clot, the group notes. Electron microscopy turned up no sign of the platelets that would normally gather in a clot. The proteins might instead form tangles that act like hair blocking a drain, Ellis-Behnke suggests.
The gel eventually breaks down into amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, that can be used by surrounding cells for tissue repair.

This discovery has created lots of excitement, especially by surgeons. Still, they caution that extensive clinical trials are needed to make sure the materials work properly and are safe. The MIT researchers hope to see those crucial human trials within three to five years.

Read more at: New Scientist Tech and Scientific American

Oct
12
2006

Wobbly planet Earth: Photo courtesy NASA.
Wobbly planet Earth: Photo courtesy NASA.

The extinction of rodents and other mammals have been linked to variations in the Earth’s tilt and orbit, according to new research published in the journal Nature.

Dutch scientists studying 22 million year old rodent fossils in central Spain found that the rise and fall of the mammal species correlated with cooling periods due to changes in the Earth’s behavior. Rodents offer one of the best fossil mammal records and are excellent indicators of seasonal changes because of their short life spans.

"Extinctions in rodent species occur in pulses which are spaced by intervals controlled by astronomical variations and their effects on climate change," Dr Jan van Dam, of the Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said.

The researchers discovered two cycles associated with changes in climate, habitat and food availability are linked to the disappearance of rodent species. One cycle, which lasts 2.4 million years, is linked to variations in the Earth’s orbit. The other 1.2 million year cycle is related to changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis. Both cycles would cool the Earth, allowing the expansion of ice sheets and causing species to adapt or die out.

Right now Earth is in a relatively circular orbit and about 700,000 years away from the next period of axis stability.

"The environment is responsible to what happens to species," said Van Dam. "Biological factors are secondary, according to our results."

However, Larry Ciupik, an astronomer at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium says volcanic activities, plate tectonics and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also contribute to species turnover.

MORE INFO
New Scientist
LiveScience.com