Courtesy bob8son (spiderweb); (graphic by Mark Ryan)This month marks the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. According to this PEW Internet Project website, the ubiquitous system now connecting much of the world was started back in 1989 as a European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) project named ENQUIRE. The internet service, America On Line (AOL), began that same year.
I was an early subscriber to AOL and one of my earliest memories of discovering the power of the web was in the spring of 1991. My brother and I wanted to view the total solar eclipse taking place that July across Hawaii and Mexico and were trying to find flights to either place. The demand was high and remaining flights to Hawaii turned out to be way out of our price range (which was just as well since most eclipse viewers there got clouded out). We considered driving into Mexico from someplace in the southern US but that was predicted to be a nightmare of frozen traffic, so we tried to find flights into Mexico but were having no luck finding anything reasonable on the phone with airline reservationists. So I searched on-line (strictly text-only; no graphics whatsoever) for something in our time and price range and came up with flights to and from the Mexican west coast town of Puerto Vallarta for a very reasonable price. Armed with that information I called the airline directly and guided the reservationist to the specific flights (which she seemed unaware of) and purchased our tickets.
Puerto Vallarta, by the way, was located just on the outside of the predicted edge of totality but we hooked up with an astronomy expedition that bussed us a few kilometers north and into the path of moon's shadow. A very satisfying eclipse watching experience thanks in part to the Internet.
Happy anniversary to the World Wide Web!
PEW Internet Project website
Twenty-five years ago today, during a routine electrical power test at the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station,
"an uncontrollable power surge occurred, sparking two explosions in the reactor and the ejection of deadly radioactive material into the air."
Dozens died from acute radiation syndrome (ARS) and hundreds have died over the last quarter century from chronic exposure to elevated radiations levels.
One (short!) year ago today, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven families lost loved ones on that day, but the social, economic, and environmental damage had only begun.
Courtesy U.S. Coast Gaurd
By April 22, 2010 the $560 million rig sunk, leaving oil spewing from the seabed into the Gulf of Mexico. On the 29th, the state of Louisiana declared a state of emergency due to the threat posed to natural resources, and U.S. President Barack Obama stated that BP was responsible for the cleanup.
Hopeful in those first days, remote underwater vehicles were sent to activate the blowout preventer, but the effort failed. In the following weeks that turned into months, controlled burns, booms, skimmers, and dispersants were used to cleanup oil as efforts to stop the oil flow were underway. The Justice Department launched a criminal and civil investigation, a moratorium on oil drilling was enacted and later rescinded, and the no-fishing zone grew to 37% of American Gulf waters. After 5 months, 8 days, and roughly 5 million barrels of spilled oil, a pressure test finally determined that a relief well had successfully stopped the oil flow. The spill was the world’s largest accidental release of oil into a marine environment.
I was in college when humankind first stepped on the moon. We bought large glossy photos of the event and hung them on our dorm room wall. Monday, July 20, 2009 is going to be a day to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of stepping on the moon.
NASA has a web page of Apollo 40th Anniversary Events and Activities. Newseum.org has a great video showing Apollo 11 events. If your computer and internet are state of the art, here is a cool 360 interactive view of being on the moon.. Wired.com has links to photos, videos, and audios, and TV broadcasts celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing.
I know a lot of you were not even born when this happened but don't worry. We are going to figure out how to do it again, soon!
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson, whom many credit as the inspiration for the modern environmental movement. Her 1962 book Silent Spring warned the world of the dangers of environmental degradation, especially due to the overuse of chemical pesticides. The book stirred millions of people worldwide to take action. In the United States, we saw the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency – all the result of the movement Carson inspired.
Today, our air and water are cleaner thanks to these actions, and dangerous chemicals are more closely regulated. But some people are re-evaluating Carson’s legacy, especially with regards to the pesticide DDT. Carson explained how insects absorbed the poisonous chemical. Birds which ate enough insects often died themselves, or would have trouble hatching eggs. Carson promoted restricting the use of DDT.
However, some of her followers went further, pushing for a total ban of DDT in many countries. Unfortunately, DDT is extremely effective at killing mosquitoes that spread malaria – a disease that kills some one million people each year. Responsible, limited use of DDT could save millions of lives.
Carson’s legacy reminds us not only of the importance of protecting our environment, but also that one person can have a tremendous impact. It also reminds us that even the best ideas can have unintended consequences, and any major changes need to be undertaken in a balanced, rational and flexible manner.
It’s proven to be quite a resilient substance. This year marks 100th anniversary of the creation of the plastic. Can you think of a day in your life that plastic hasn’t played some important part of?
Inventor of the process of making plastic – Leo Baekeland – created the process of developing phenol-formaldehyde polymer resin in 1907. The new material found new uses over the quickly as rayon, cellophane, PVC and polyethylene, to name just a few.
And it’s probably going to be around for a while longer. New coming uses for plastic, things that are still in the development stages, include plastic hemoglobin-like material that can be used in human blood and airplane parts that can change shape depending on the weather and air conditions that a plane is flying through.
With all that development, however, there are still some big challenges. Only about 10 percent of all plastic is recycled, which means a growing supply of plastic wastes that have to be dealt with in a reasonable fashion.
So if you’re looking for a reason to have a party, why not celebrate plastic’s 100th birthday!