Posted by: shoji | June 29, 2008

Vegan farming [CNN.com]

I’m all for the organic farm movement (just wish the prices could be better). There’s a slow conversion to seeing nature as a cycle rather than a linear, industrial process. (For a great read on this, grab a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan)

I recently read about “vegan farming” on CNN.com. It appears that some farmers are espousing the vegan ideal (i.e., no animal products) as a safer alternative to farming. I wonder what Michael Pollan and others would think about the vegan process. One message which I’ve grasped from the organic movement is that our industrial farming methods have replaced the cycles of nature into an assembly line. The advantage of cycles is that “waste” from one process is fuel for another– in fact, there is no waste. By contrast, despite the efficiencies of an assembly line, waste will be generated.

My concern about vegan farming is that animals are an important part of the natural cycle. Animal “waste” is a great fertilizer, for example. Animals (e.g., bees) are necessary for pollination, as another example. With all due respect to the vegan lifestyle: human beings are omnivores.

(Your comments are welcome! I’ll post all comments that are not spam, though I may edit language. I will note any changes.)

Vegan farming takes organic to next level – CNN.com
Now, Bustos said he has found an even safer method — vegan organic farming without any animal fertilizers or byproducts.

Much like certified organic farmers, veganic farmers use no synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified ingredients.

Veganic farmers take it to another level by not using any manures or slaughterhouse byproducts. They don’t even use organically approved pesticides.

Posted by: shoji | June 24, 2008

Carbon linguistics (NYT)

I love the writing of Verlyn Klinkenborg. Below is an excerpt from today’s NYT about “Carbon Footprint”: he says it much better than I, so please click through and read it.

Editorial Observer – Some Doubts Upon Entering a New Carboniferous Era – Editorial – NYTimes.com
The swiftness of this change in consciousness — and the linguistic change that goes with it — is staggering. And a little worrying. For one, it is vastly easier to find new words than it is to overturn old habits, and all too easy to mistake the ubiquity of the new carbon-speak for substantive change. Carbon footprinting — the act of calculating the size of your carbon footprint — is still a rough-and-ready business. There is every likelihood of better environmental indexes down the road, better ways to measure the scale of individual, civic and corporate environmental guilt.

Posted by: shoji | June 24, 2008

Kinetically powered bra

Necessity is the mother of invention.

With high gas prices and guilt about green, Adrienne So has an idea for the engineers to tackle. (Sorry, no photos for this post.)

Harnessing the untapped power of breast motion. – By Adrienne So – Slate Magazine
Still, if someone were to engineer a kinetically powered bra, even one that isn’t quite as comfortable as the old-fashioned kind, I’d be intrigued—and I might just start looking at my breasts in a different light. Maybe it’s not very sexy to see breasts as a pair of batteries, but oil prices are so high, people are jogging to work. It may be time for breasts to start pulling their own weight.

Posted by: shoji | June 17, 2008

A side-splitting tale : Nature News

Ground-breaking research here– funded by the condom maker and not the Feds (the bigger problem is getting people to use them).

A side-splitting tale : Nature News
“Just about the only thing that humans aren’t strong enough to break, that is also thin and flexible enough, is parachute nylon — but that’s porous,” comments White. He hopes that the research will help in the design of condoms that can better withstand eruptions.

“Given the importance of condoms in stopping sexually transmitted infections as well as unwanted pregnancy, research to understand and then eliminate breakages is vital,” says Lisa Power, head of policy at the Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV charity in London, UK. “The safer we can make them, the happier a lot of people will be.”

Posted by: shoji | June 17, 2008

Stat of the day

Perception vs. reality– Stat of the day:

“Lightning kills more people than sharks.”

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Science — Great white lies
On average, fewer than six people worldwide die each year from all types of shark attacks. In contrast, approximately 500 people are killed each year by elephants; 50,000 to 100,000 by venomous snake bites. Lightning kills more people each year than do sharks.

Posted by: shoji | June 17, 2008

Whales inspire better blade designs | csmonitor.com

WhalePower, a company based in Toronto, takes its inspiration from the whale. The fins of a humpback whale have noticeable bumps on the leading edge– until recently, no one asked the obvious question: “What are they doing there?”

Contrary to prevailing designs and aerodynamic theories, it turns out that the little bumps offer an edge (sorry, bad pun) for the whale.

WhalePower is exploiting nature’s design by adapting wind turbine and other fans to include the bumps. Such changes could lead to a large increase in efficiency, reduction of noise, etc., compared to conventional designs. This could be applied to cooling fans in computers to turbines of wind farms.

Whales inspire better blade designs | csmonitor.com
Fish, a biology professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is now using this technology perfected by nature to produce fans with serrated blades that use 20 percent less electricity than traditional models. This finding contradicts conventional designs that strive for the smoothest possible edges.

Posted by: shoji | May 27, 2008

Toyota Hybrid: the bus/train kind

I saw Jesse James on Monster Garage build a car-train monster.

Here, Toyota shows its monster capabilities by creating a bus/light-rail hybrid. It provides flexibility of bus transit (to use public roads) in areas where rail doesn’t reach; while allowing the efficiency of a train where rail exists.

Via Wired.

Posted by: shoji | May 22, 2008

Bay State Bike Week

Last week was Bay State Bike Week.

As I transition to being a bike commuter, I heard about the 50,000-Mile [Bicycle] Commuter Challenge and pledged my ~4 mile/day ride to/from the Alewife T-stop. In brief, the idea was to get many people to commute during bike week a certain number of miles.

Turns out that 50K miles was a low-ball goal, and >100K miles were pledged by bicycle commuters throughout Massachusetts. Of course, who knows how many miles were actually ridden…. but the Alewife T-stop is packed with bicycles in the morning, and the T is adding more bicycle racks in the near future.

Luck was on my side, and I was randomly selected as a finalist to potentially win a new Fuji Commuter Bicycle. And they were going to make the selection at a Happy Hour event at Flat Top Johnny’s in Kendall Sq.

Long story short: I didn’t win the Fuji Bicycle. (But I recently bought a great bicycle, the Breezer Uptown8, so I can’t be too disappointed. I’ll be writing a review of the Uptown8 soon.) However, I did win one of the door prize raffles: thank you very much, REI!

The prize consisted of two bags stuffed with goodies. The small, black messenger bag on the left has the 2008 Bike Week logo on it, which reads “Kick Gas”.

Inside:

Kick Gas T-shirt; Bike Map of Boston; stickers; mini Clif Bar; mini bungee cords; and a nice OnGuard bicycle lock (not for heavy-duty applications, but just right for cruising around town and getting a quick ice cream cone).

The Eagle Creek Bag had an embroidered REI on the cloth side. Inside:

“Get Dirty” REI Volunteer shirt (not cotton); weatherproof outer shell/jacket; water bottles (because one isn’t enough); and tire irons (because one set isn’t enough). I was quite happy about the shirt and jacket– until I realized they are both women’s cut. Ugh! Useless for me… but they fit my wife just fine.

(Though the arm-pit zips on the jacket don’t unzip and all the retail tags are missing… perhaps there’s a reason why it was a “gift”?)

Posted by: shoji | May 22, 2008

Ocular Trauma Due to a Water-Bottle Cap (NEJM)

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.

This girl was lucky her vision was saved. Apparently there’s a new “game” identified by these docs where adolescents are shooting off bottle tops– you can probably find videos on Break.com or YouTube.

NEJM — Ocular Trauma Due to a Water-Bottle Cap — Figure 1
A 14-year-old girl presented with a traumatic injury to the right eye from a water-bottle cap, caused by the increasingly popular adolescent activity of twisting and crushing an empty plastic water bottle, with the cap loosened, until the cap flies off because of increased pressure…The source of this patient’s injury — a water-bottle cap ejected under pressure — warrants attention because of the increasing incidence of this activity among adolescents and other school-aged children.

Posted by: shoji | May 22, 2008

Scooters & Motorcycles compared to Autos

There’s definitely a mile-per-gallon advantage of riding a scooter or motorcycle for commuting. Now, with record gas prices, people are making the switch to motorized-two-wheelers based on simple economics.

According to the MarketWatch article below, scooter and motorcycles are not governed under the same environmental emissions standards as autos (including SUVs). Although scooters and motorcycles are using much less fuel (thus having a lower carbon footprint), I wonder what the other emissions are (nitrogen and sulfur oxides?) and the impact of the “other emissions”.

If anyone knows or can point me to a reliable source, then please comment. I’ll look around the web (always reliable– sarcasm) and try to follow up on this topic.

Born to Be … Fuel-Efficient – MarketWatch
Scooters have to meet the same emissions standards as motorcycles. While the federal government tightened those standards in 2004, they are still not as stringent as the standards for cars. The Environmental Protection Agency says even the typical sport-utility vehicle is 95% cleaner than the typical motorcycle.

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