Friday, April 16, 2010

A New Twist on the Hidden Costs of Fast Food

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.

Read the article here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

UW Experts Weigh In on Food Issues

If you've ever thought to yourself, "Michael Pollan makes some interesting and potentially valid points, but who is he to tell us how to eat (or shop, or farm, etc.)?", you are certainly not alone. The most recent issue of Grow, a magazine distributed by UW's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, features twelve ideas for changing the food/farming industry by actual experts. Read mini-articles on topics from food processing and safety, cooking and food production, to farming and crop reform. Check it out here, if you haven't already.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Recycle your Cell

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.

On the Energy Gap and Climate Crisis

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

Can Science and God Co-exist?

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.

This massive project at CERN has raised some interesting concerns, among them that the LHC will create a black hole that could swallow up the earth (like 'Angels & Demons' on steroids). Regardless, the experiment is an interesting one. Click here to read an article by Eben Harrell on about why the LHC experiment is important. Don't worry, Tom Hanks will surely be there to save the day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

COMING SOON: The Man Who Planted Trees

If you're young at heart, like living green and have an extra $20 laying around , this upcoming show at the Overture Center may be right up your alley.

Read more about
"The Man Who Planted Trees".

A killer in the bat cave

In 2006, scientists began tracking a mysterious white fungus that was affecting bats and rapidly reducing bat populations in the U.S. In 2009, the fungus was identified by researchers at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI, and the fungus's corresponding disease was given a name: white nose syndrome. As the WNS epidemic spreads (a WNS-related bat die off was recently confirmed in Canada), there is growing concern among wildlife health experts about the future of bat species.

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).

Continue reading...

Spooky creature endangered by superstition

Call me crazy, but I find these creatures to be adorable. The aye-aye is a tiny mammal that resides in Madagascar. They are friendly and harmless, but because they aren't the most "attractive" things around (see the freakishly long middle finger) locals fear them and consequently kill them on sight. So sad.

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.