Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Also, to follow more energy and environment news from the New York Times, check out The Green blog.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
It's hard to imagine a five-story farm in the middle of a city, but if Milwaukee urban farmer Will Allen is behind the idea, anything's possible.
After all, Allen is a world hero, according to an issue of Time magazine that hits newsstands Friday. He's among 100 individuals and small groups picked by Time editors for the annual "Time 100: The World's Most Influential People," which honors ideas, innovations and actions that are "shaping our world."
Friday, April 16, 2010
The fast food industry has been taking quite a bit of heat lately. It isn't difficult to find articles that scrutinize the meager nutritional content of a drive-thru meal. Some studies have even shown that fast food is as addictive as heroin, like this one here. A recent Newsweek article discusses the conditioning that we humans have experienced with fast food labeling. The article asserts that we have learned to associate fast food labels, like the golden arches, Wendy's red hair, the Arby's hat, etc. with convenience and time-saving measures. While this might not seem like the worst thing in the world, if you believe this study, it is another contributor to our culture of "instant gratification". It makes me feel a little like Pavlov's dog, personally.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
If 130 million cell phones are discarded on an annual basis in the U.S. alone, there is a lot to be said for tracking where these phones end up. National Public Radio's Elizabeth Shogren recently featured this topic in an attempt to raise awareness about the issue. Read and/or listen to the story here.
As the comments on the website suggest, there are many reasons to be cautious about who one may give their old phones to and where those phones end up. Whether it's privacy concerns over information stored in old phones or public health issues regarding the dismantling of old phones (by third world youth?), one should know what a third party intends to do with the phone before handing it over.
I just noticed that a friend of mine and fellow Madisonian posted a well-received note on the New York Times - Dot Earth blog, moderated by Andrew Revkin. As usual with blogs, the comments following an original post can be as much or more enlightening than the original post. Not only is this post from good old Madison, it offers an interesting perspective on the "live simply so that others may simply live" bumper-sticker plea.
Have you thought about an energy gap? What about the Knowledge Gap when it comes to climate crisis information? These are concepts that environmental journalists wrestle with and try to overcome in their "on the ground" capacity to provide accurate information about these complex issues.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
While most scientists surely agree that the movie "Angels & Demons" is, by and large, not credible, it did provide a 'sneak peek' at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that is currently in use at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. The LHC, which has finally recovered from a few major setbacks, began proton smashing on March 30, 2010. CERN is attempting to recreate the 'Big Bang' on a much smaller scale by proving the existence of, or lack thereof, the 'God Particle', also known as the Higgs boson.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Read more about "The Man Who Planted Trees".
By Shaoni Bhattacharya
In New Scientist
CORPSE upon corpse they lie, a carpet of emaciated, fungus-ridden carcasses. Where once healthy animals hung in slumber from the cave roof, now there is a mass grave on the floor. It is a scene that is repeated throughout the eastern US, from Vermont to West Virginia. America's bats are in crisis, under threat from a mysterious killer.
The first sign that something was up emerged in February 2006, when a caver photographed hibernating bats with white muzzles at Howe's Cave in Albany, New York state. Soon afterwards bats were observed behaving strangely - waking from hibernation early and in a state of serious starvation. Some even ventured out of their roosts during daylight to search for food. Inside the caverns, the floors were littered with bodies, most with the characteristic fuzzy white mould growing on their noses, ears and wings. So far, about a million bats have succumbed to this fate, an affliction dubbed white nose syndrome (WNS).
To read a bit more about the aye-aye, click here.
Also, here's a brief clip of an aye-aye at the Duke Lemur Center.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Where do all the empty bottles go? Ummm....
Huffington Post's Jason Linkins reports on an attempt by the International Bottled Water Association to pass off an internally produced promotional video as real journalism. Is it true that the IBWA has stopped beating its dog? Get the not-so-straight answers to all the not-so-tough questions, right here.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Fast food, frighteningly slow decay: Mother keeps McDonald's Happy Meal for a whole year... and it STILL hasn't gone off
From Daily Mail UK
Glancing at the two McDonald's Happy Meals pictured here, you may feel they look pretty much identical.
Astonishingly, however, this is the same meal, photographed 12 months apart.
Where any other food might be a mouldy, decomposing mess after a year, the McDonald's meal shows few signs of going off apart from the beef patty shrivelling and the stale burger bun cracking.
In today’s “gross news” category, some female insects might be getting lucky. As an alternative to toxic pesticides, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have created “super-sexed” sterilized male leafhoppers to knock bug boots with females in the wild. Yes, that means that the female bugs will miss out on the joys of motherhood, but if the research proves successful, we may be able to eliminate a lot of the harmful and very ungreen chemicals that we currently use to keep food crops pest free.
From: The Huffington Post
Imagine I was trying to sell you a sandwich. It's shrink wrapped in plastic that may leach toxic chemicals, but don't worry about that. Mine's still healthier than a sandwich you could make at home, what with all those impurities in your fridge. Now, I've got no proof of that, and actually, some people have tested my sandwiches and found that sometimes they have more bad stuff in them than the ones from your own kitchen. But never mind that. Mine's more convenient. Tastes better too. I swear.
So here you go: one plastic-wrapped, waste-producing sandwich that isn't any healthier and doesn't taste any better than the one from your own kitchen. That'll be $10,000, please.Continue reading...
Sunday, March 21, 2010
One way to lure people in and educate them on science topics is to make it fun. And what's fun for scientists? Taking a quiz! The folks at Pew Research have developed an interesting and quick science quiz to measure science knowledge. You can also compare your results with a thousand or so randomly selected others.
Taking a look at this study from the University of Arizona, as reported by Roni Caryn Rabin of the New York Times, one may or may not come away with questions regarding its findings.
The subjects were college students (not uncommon) but the report goes on to mainly highlight a single "happiest" person. Does this article do a good job of explaining both the results of the study and its inherent limitations? Do the results suggested here align with your personal experiences with "deep" vs. "superficial" conversation as related to your own happiness?
Monday, March 15, 2010
I have to admit, I'm prejudiced against robots. I think they're terrible actors.
I know that's not fair. As a bald, white dude who doesn't like to shave very often, I'd hate for people to judge me based on Jason Statham's body of work.
Robots actually have very active off-screen lives as well. Among other things they perform surgeries (fun!), execute military and rescue missions that are far too dangerous for humans (hooray!), and conduct menial manufacturing tasks that used to provide family-supporting income to human workers (boo!). In this film, which was heavily promoted during yesterday's NCAA basketball tournament selection show, Honda suggests that we all cancel our robot insurance policies and give robots a second chance. After all, they're not all Austrian, bodybuilding, good/evil killing machines turned California governors.
(photo: Google images)
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Here is an interesting article featured on NPR about healthier food choices. Encouraging healthier eating is proving to be a complex issue; NPR takes a look at the economic side of the issue:
Bucks for broccoli or cash for carrots? Financial incentives aimed at encouraging healthier choices are catching on from New Zealand to the Philippines. Workplaces in the United States have been offering incentives for weight loss. In a London-based study, dieters got paid when they dropped pounds. Now researchers are interested in understanding how food price manipulations may influence what ends up in mothers' grocery carts. Does increasing the cost of sugary items mean fewer people buy them? Would more people buy veggies if they were more affordable?
To create successful incentives, says Yale behavioral economist Dean Karlan, a policy needs to specifically target the people whose behavior its trying to change. "So in the case of broccoli you'd want to find out who's not eating broccoli and then pay them to eat it," he says. You don't want to necessarily make broccoli cheaper for those who are already buying plenty of it, you want to target those who don't buy enough fruits or vegetables. It could be very tricky to structure such an incentive.
Click here to read the rest of the article
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Who knew that circus culture was so rife with race, gender, animal rights, and other social issues? Check out the blogoshpere's newest trove of circus-related material: Hey Rube Circus, administered by LSC's own Noel Benedetti.
(photo by Harry Atwell from heyrubecircus.com)
Friday, March 12, 2010
Children’s birthday celebrations might soon be even happier, thanks to research that’s trimming the fat and calories from a traditional favorite—cake and frosting. Any subtracting of fat, and its calories, from foods that kids crave is a plus, in light of the nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity.
At the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, food technologist Mukti Singh is working to slim down the fat and calories of cake mixes. She’s doing that by formulating the mixes with FANTESK—microdroplets of trans-fat-free cooking oil, encapsulated in cornstarch or wheat flour.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
While other cities are creating a frenzy around the possibility of being a test spot for the new Google Fiber, Madison held a public meeting. Google Fiber, the company's attempt at high speed internet, would provide a wireless network that runs "100 times faster" than most internet connections. Google, which already has an office in Madison, is considering several U.S. cities to test out the service.
Meanwhile, noted science guy Bill Nye very calmly and politely sticks it to Bill O'Reilly.
(photos courtesy of webomator.com and treehugger.com, respectively)
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Antibacterial drugs were revolutionary when they were introduced in the United States in 1936, virtually eliminating diseases like tuberculosis here and making surgery and childbirth far safer. But now we’re seeing increasing numbers of superbugs that survive antibiotics. One of the best-known — MRSA, a kind of staph infection — kills about 18,000 Americans annually. That’s more than die of AIDS.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Jenny McCarthy has sparked praise and controversy for her popular stance as just another mom taking on the medical system to combat a nebulous disease. Is she a good spokesperson for autism? The disease has no clear cause or single type of effective treatment.
Are McCarthy's methods of raising awareness for an issue like autism good even if the science behind her claims is a little unclear? This TIME magazine story covers the story. Does TIME provide a balanced portrayal of McCarthy and of the disease itself?
Agribusiness is not so happy with author Michael Pollan. (Alia Malley)
When Michael Pollan published “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” in 2006, he became an overnight hero for the sustainable food movement. Now he’s taking on a new role: lightning rod.
Pollan’s scheduled speech Thursday at California Polytechnic has raised the ire of Harris Ranch Beef Company, an industrial-sized feedlot and meat-processing operation based in Selma, Calif. Company chairman David E. Wood, an alumnus of Cal Poly, objected to giving Pollan “an unchallenged forum to promote his stand on conventional agricultural practices” and threatened to withdraw a promised corporate $500,000 donation for a meat-processing facility on campus.
In response to the criticism, Cal Poly reformatted the event. Instead of giving a speech, Pollan will now participate in a panel discussion that will also include Gary Smith, a professor of meat science at Colorado State University, and Myra Goodman, cofounder of organic vegetable company Earthbound Farms.
Until recently, agribusiness had not directly challenged Pollan and other well-known advocates of sustainable agriculture, casting them as impractical elitists. But Pollan’s growing appeal to college students and children – a new young reader’s edition of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is released today – may have spooked conventional producers. Harris Ranch, which operates a large-scale feedlot that accomodates 100,000 head of cattle, for example, believes Pollan’s message must be combated...
More Than 200,000 NGOs, Farmers, Consumers, and Organic Producers Call for USDA to Prohibit Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
The National Organic Coalition (NOC) today announced that more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) critiquing the substance and conclusions of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on Genetically Engineered (GE) Alfalfa. Groups, including NOC, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Organic Consumers Association, Food & Water Watch, CREDO Action and Food Democracy Now, mobilized their communities to help generate the unprecedented number of comments.
In addition, more than 300 public interest organizations, farmers, dairies, retailers and organic food producers from the U.S. and Canada delivered a strongly worded letter to USDA, calling upon it to deny approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, Roundup Ready alfalfa (GE alfalfa). The letter cites the inevitable contamination of organic and non-GE alfalfa hay and seeds and threats to the viability of organic dairies, livestock, and meat and dairy producers as reasons for urging the denial.
Food for thought: Why the outrage over Genetically altered foods? How does this effect third world countries who might benefit from genetically altered crops? How might GE crops impact organic producers and their status as organic producers?
Go Big Read is on facebook, and today they're discussing the First Family's kitchen garden. Hey, if the most powerful family in the world can do it...then anybody...yeah.
Kidding. First Lady Michelle Obama's program that teaches urban kids about food is actually very inspiring, and not all that different from what a variety of programs all over the country are doing.
Become poke buddies with Go Big Read now!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
If you've spent any time in front of the television over the past few months, you may have heard a vaguely familiar voice expounding upon the benefits of healthy, pure, and simple Florida orange juice. Did you know that one 8 oz. glass contains 25% of your recommended daily value of fruits and vegetables? Did you know that all of those "scientists" have not been able to replicate this quality using their "chemistry sets?" Did you know that the voice of Florida orange juice is Tom Selleck?
Check out the official Florida Juice website, read the health claims, and decide for yourself. Don't forget to turn up your speakers in order to hear the soothing sounds of the 'stache.
("Florida what? Whatever, tell them I'll do it." Photo courtesy of Google images)
A Madison non-profit organization is working with local middle schools to help students expand their eating horizons. Thier weekly program, Taste the World, gives students the opportunity prepare and tastes cusines from a wide array of cultures. The program has been a big hit with the students and is becoming more popular in the Madison community.
While I'm very embarrassed that I wasn't aware of this important holiday until now, I will celebrate it with gusto for the rest of the day. Huffington Post is also celebrating with some examples of unfortunate grammar and spelling errors (some funnier than others). Check it out.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
See what Sen. Russ Feingold has to say about last Friday's bipartisan health care summit in Washington D.C.
Then, check out this video of Rep. Paul Ryan's comments at the summit.
(photo courtesy of CBS News, via Google images)