Wednesday, July 27, 2016

West Richland delegate and the Sanders legacy

Our own Kate Moran is highlighted in an article from the DNC floor. She's going to take the Bernie Sanders issues into her political life at the local and regional level. Kudos to her.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Get Me Some Pomegranates

The humble, ugly pomegranate may be just the thing to hold back the biological insults of aging. Intestinal bacteria transform a molecule contained in the fruit into a molecule that enables aging mitochondria to rebuild themselves. Better mitochondria contribute to rejuvenated musculature and even reducing the effects of Parkinson's.

How Hillary Gets Things Done

Those outside her circle can be forgiven for being suspicious since she has been under attack for her entire political career. Yet, she has withstood all of that. Interestingly enough,
those closest to her are unwaveringly loyal. You would think that if she were half as bad as her detractors say, there would be, by now, some disgruntled insider ready to profit from a tell-all expose'. The problem with that scenario is that she is the real deal. She gathers information and listens to people. Then she turns all that data into well-considered action. Like Obama, she may not be a flashy, popular president, but she could very well be one of the best.

The Trump Danger

Historians assess Donald Trump and how he compares to similar historical figures. It isn't pretty.

Osmotic Power

Seawater on one side, fresh water on the the other, and a 3-atom thick membrane between them. The result, electricity. A potential new source of power arises.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Real Meat and Real Leather Without Animals

A Brooklyn startup is doing just that. Modern Meadow grows real leather from skin cells harvested from a real live (and unharmed) calf. They use the skin cells to produce collagen. In the normal tanning process the animal hide has to have hair, muscle, and fat removed to get down the collagen connective tissue from which leather is made. This lab actually grows the collagen without all that other stuff that a living animal needs. The lab-grown collagen is free of blemishes and makes perfectly good leather. They can even fine-tune things like thickness and elasticity to suit the needs of the final consumer. Right now, they are concentrating on leather because it's the most lucrative, but they could do muscle tissue for meat just as well.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

First commercial carbon-capture plant set to open in Switzerland

A commercial carbon capture will open soon.
The firm expects to be opening the plant near Zurich in September or October. The plant will suck carbon dioxide out of the ambient air and sell it to an agricultural company to spur the growth of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.
C02 is already taken out of the air in enclosed spaces like submarines and space capsules. Climeworks will be using a similar process called direct air capture (DAC), in which normal ambient air is pushed through a fibrous sponge-like filter material that has been impregnated with chemicals called amines, derived from ammonia, which bind to C02.


There was once a Black Wall Street

But it was destroyed by a white mob in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. 
The event is seldom mentioned in history books, but it is a big part of black history in America — an event that demonstrates the broader violence perpetrated against black Americans throughout the Jim Crow era.

Big Oil Subsidies

The next time Congress works on budget cuts, they should start cutting with the oil subsidies. Currently 4.5 billion taxpayer dollars go to the oil industry each year in tax breaks that may have been warranted in the past, but the rationale in today's industry is no longer there. Yet, because of intensive lobbying and Citizens United, there is no will in Congress to plug this "Giant" loophole.

Breath test for lung cancer

Lung cancer detection could be as simple as a breath test. Cancer cells give some signature compounds that can be detected in small concentrations.

Deadbeat Trump

Donald Trump has a history of not paying his bills. Many small businesses have failed after doing business with him. I'm sure glad he isn't going to get into public office or anything like that.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Changes in Transportation

And speaking of unexpected changes, could the future of transportation be something completely different than what we expect? How might the transportation landscape change with autonomous cars, full electrification, and distributed sources of energy?

New Model for Evolution

A new model for evolution hypothesizes that cooperation and niche expansion could be another driver for speciation rather than the classical assumption of competition as the driver. This could be an interesting expansion into studying natural systems.

It also raises an interesting idea in my mind. In what other areas should we rethink our assumptions about the role of competition in driving innovation and change? Could this be a different way to think about economic systems? What about studying how enterprises thrive by finding untapped demands and actually creating new markets rather than fighting for a bigger share of an existing market?

Trump Quality

To get an idea of the quality of expertise upon which Trump relies, look at who he enlists as his economic advisers

Larry Kudlow
Kudlow is to economics what William Kristol is to political strategy: if he says something, you know it’s wrong. When he ridiculed “bubbleheads” who thought overvalued real estate could bring down the economy, you should have rushed for the bomb shelters; when he proclaimed Bush a huge success, because a rising stock market is the ultimate verdict on a presidency (unless the president is a Democrat), you should have known that the Bush era would end with epochal collapse. 
Stephen Moore.
In a bid to preserve its journalistic integrity, one newspaper will no longer use him as a resource.

Beyond the empty bombast, don't count on Mr. Trump to be able to build a qualified staff on much of anythin.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Stopping The Outbreak Of Anti-LGBT Laws

A simple act of Congress could stop all these state-by-state anti-LGBT laws. It would save us all the bother of suits and counter-suits to take the issue to the Supreme Court. The Court has already ruled in favor of same-sex marriage for all 50 states based on the equal protection guaranteed in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Based on Obergefell v. Hodges, I can't see how any court should have to go through the exercise of striking down all 100 or more discriminatory statutes which are currently being considered by various state legislatures.

The Abortion Myth

Abortion is much safer than giving birth. It’s also safer than a colonoscopy or getting wisdom teeth removed. When Texas and other throw-back states start requiring clinics and oral surgeons to have hospital-grade facilities, we might begin to think that they have some sense in their heads. But until then...well, here's your sign.

Five Pacific Islands Are Victims of Global Warming

Five of the Solomon Islands are harbingers of the things to come as they vanish beneath the waves. Sadly, the rest of the world moves to do something about far too slowly. Will we be in time for the major cities along our coasts or will they share the same fate?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mercedes Boots Robots From the Production Line

Bloomberg Business reports that Mercedes has found with the many options that go into today's automobiles, automation can't keep up. The flexibility of a well-trained human work force is going to reduce the time it takes to assemble a car from 60 days to 30. It seems possible that eventually a normal customer might be able to have a car built from the tires up to his unique specifications. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

What the 2016 elections mean to the Supreme Court.

Exxon's Amazing Hypocrisy

While denying climate science, Exxon took steps to cope with the coming climate change that they very well knew was coming. And this was back in the 80’s!
Exxon and its affiliates set about “raising the decks of offshore platforms, protecting pipelines from increasing coastal erosion, and designing helipads, pipelines, and roads in a warming and buckling Arctic.” In other words, the company started climate-proofing its facilities to head off a future its own scientists knew was inevitable.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Ultimate in Clean Fuel

Researchers have successfully generated methanol from atmospheric CO2 at a fairly low temperature. Previous method have required high CO2 concentrations and high temperatures. They expect to be able to scale the demonstration up to industrial levels in 5 to 10 years. It can't compete with $30 per barrel oil, but it would be a way to produce a carbon-neutral fuel cycle.

Mama Dragons

Mothers of gay Mormons combat the institutional discrimination of the Church.  Not only are homosexuals not welcome in the Church, but neither are their families. It stuns me that the leadership could think that this is a good thing.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Gun Non-safety.

Some myths die hard.

...statistically, it's more likely that someone with a concealed carry permit will set out to commit mass murder than prevent it. 
a 2014 study from the University of California–San Francisco found that people who owned a gun were three times as likely to kill themselves as non-firearm owners; by comparison, the annual per capita risk of death during a home invasion is 0.0000002 percent. Hell, even toddlers killed more people than terrorists in 2015. Guns are used far more often for killing than for self-defense, despite the fact that some 63 percent of Americans think guns make them safer
Only seven of the 160 of the mass shootings that took place between 2000 and 2013 ended because of some would-be Rambo came to the rescue
More than half (56 percent) were terminated by the shooter who either took his or her own life, simply stopped shooting or fled the scene. Another 26 percent ended in the traditional Hollywood-like fashion with the shooter and law enforcement personnel exchanging gunfire and in nearly all of those situations the shooter ended up either wounded or dead. In 13 percent of the shooting situations, the shooter was successfully disarmed and restrained by unarmed civilians, and in 3 percent of the incidents the shooter was confronted by armed civilians, of whom four were on-duty security guards and one person was just your average "good guy" who happened to be carrying a gun.

Gun Deaths Are Now Outpacing Traffic Deaths In 21 States

I'm glad to know that driving a car is safer than having a firearm. Maybe we need to license gun owners and require them to have appropriate insurance and registration. Just a thought.

Anti-GMO Research and Data

In one's zeal to protect public health, one should be really careful about using bad science. The short-term publicity rarely outweighs the damage done to the credibility of one's position when one plays fast-and-loose with the data.

'BPA-free' plastic has problems

A common substitute for BPA has problems. Given the complex chemical reactions possible with long-chain polymers, we should be cautious about using plastics in our food processing equipment and packaging. Well-behaved things like stainless steel and glass seem so much more attractive.

Boost C-section Babies

It's long been said that C-section babies suffer because they lose out on a good inoculation of gut bacteria. It's amazing how long it's taken for someone to be serious about providing them what they miss. This seems like such an obvious solution.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Key To Halting Alzheimer's?

Brain inflammation has been found to be an accompanying factor of Alzheimer's. A recent study seems to show that the inflammation may be causing the disease.
An overactive immune system can result in chronic inflammation, which previous research has linked to Alzheimer's. These new findings makes it increasingly apparent that inflammation is not a result of Alzheimer's s much as a key driver of the disease.
This could explain why non-medical changes can produce improvements in mental functioning.
The findings also suggest that a diet and lifestyle focused on fighting inflammation could be important in preventing Alzheimer's. The researchers noted, however, that it's too early to make recommendations.
Other members of the scientific community are buzzing about the research, calling it "an exciting discovery" and "encouraging."  

Clays and Bacteria

Certain naturally-occurring clays have antibiotic properties. Certain metallic compounds in them work together to open up the cell wall and then flood in an excess of nutrients that poisons the bacteria. They even work well against antibiotic-resistant strains. This is leading to research into new ways to attack germs that resist our current arsenal of treatments.

More Solar Jobs Than Oil Jobs

We like to think of oil as the job-making behemoth industry in the U.S. Recently,
solar passed oil as a job-making industry.   Note that solar is bigger than oil and gas extraction. When you add in processing and refining, solar is only 2/3 as big. Nonetheless, it is a major player in the energy job picture.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Air Travel and Nuclear Energy

This article compares the mysteries and track record of air travel and nuclear energy. It's an interesting demonstration of the risks we accept as normal and risks we hyperventilate about.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Practical Learning

This article lists 9 things that should be included in a good practical education.

1. How to file your taxes.
2. How to navigate the world of office politics. 
3. How to build credit. 
4. How to be confident in yourself. 
5. How to maintain your car. 
6. How to manage your money. 
7. How to cook. 
8. How to deal with breakups.
9. How to clean. 

SpaceX's Successful Landing

Earlier I reported on the success of Jeff Bezos' Blue Origins booster stage landing and said it was a pretty big deal. I want to make note that now Space-X has done it with a completed orbital launch. This is a bigger deal. In the not too distant future, such booster returns will be routine and the high cost of orbital missions will drop dramatically. Many opportunities and potential problems can be expected with the exponentially cheaper access to space.

Evidence That Strong Gun Laws Work

A new study finds that states with stricter regulations on firearms see a lower rate of shooting deaths. While the CDC is prohibited from studying gun violence statistics in terms of public health and safety, other organizations have been gathering data. States were scored on the strength of their gun laws and instances of accidental shooting, homicides, and suicides involving firearms were counted. This is just a correlation, not a causation. Other factors like poverty and education were not considered.

But the fact of it is that there are variations in the shooting death rates. It certainly makes sense to look into what work to reduce the rate and what can be eliminated that increases that rate.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Future Exploration

Perhaps my grandchildren will live to see a mission to this destination. It's a potential earth-like planet only 14 light-years away. Imagine the possibilities.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reversing Age-related Damage

A common substance that has been used to stain bacteria in microscope slides appears to 
reverse cellular aging. In studies on progeria, methylene blue seems to return affected cells to normal function.

Plant Compound Increases Brain Connections

You can keep the parsley, thyme, and chamomile but bring on the red pepper. A compound found in these herbs improves neuron formation and strengthens the connections between brain cells, new lab research demonstrates. It has the potential to treat schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.

How India’s Nuclear Industry Created A River Of Death

India's nuclear industry operates under the arm of their military. As in the US, the military demands have generated such major problems that it makes it very difficult for the nuclear power industry to thrive.

Crazy Things in China

China is having to do some strange acts to keep its economy going. It can't afford to have the value of its currency rise nor can it afford it to inflate. So what is the solution?

China has been printing money to prevent its currency from going up, and then telling banks they have to sit on this new money to prevent inflation from going up. 
Just crazy. And how long can it last?

Parity for Guns and Abortions

This would be nice to see, but not bloody likely to happen. But it makes sense to me to force gun purchasers to wait a while before they can buy and to require them to watch some good propaganda films. Oh, and don't forget to have only one place in the state where gun can be obtained.

Thinking about ISIS

ISIS is not unique. We have seen groups like this before. And we should be using some of those lessons from the past to deal with the current threat.The territorial occupation is not strongly connected to the clandestine group embedded in the West. Actions in the territorial realm will not have a significant effect on the clandestine activities, regardless of how good it makes us feel. The fighting on the ground is governed by local circumstances and counter-insurgent tactics are what works there. But stopping the clandestine stuff has to be done with good intelligence and police work. Let's not think that either of these approaches affects the other target.

Interesting Tool

It is designed to make it easy for drones to pick up objects, but I think it would be a cool tool to have around even without a drone.

Friday, December 04, 2015

How IUDs Really Work

No, they don't terminate pregnancies. Just like spermicide in a diaphragm, they inhibit the activity of sperm. Perhaps a new day in the prevention of unwanted pregnancy can dawn. 

After all, Planned Parenthood facilities prevent hundreds of thousands more abortions than so-called pro-life activists.

Richland Areva In the Small Reactor Business

Work on small modular reactors comes to Richland. The local AREVA nuclear fuels plant has signed a contract to provide fuel assemblies for Nuscale's SMR. Regardless of the lack of specific government incentives, Richland is on the map as participating in the future of nuclear power.

New Science About Radiation

The regulatory world has always assumed that radiation was bad at any level. Years of studies have failed to prove that. In some cases we found that some low levels of radiation may, in fact, be beneficial. There has been a demand that regulators ease radiation restrictions. With a saner standard we could avoid things like the Fukushima evacuation that led to an estimated 1,600 deaths in an area where there were no immediate deaths and the likelihood of additional cancers will be undetectable. 

In fact radiation from coal ash is much more a hazard that a nuclear power plant.

Reinventing the Wheel

File this under appropriate technology. In developing countries which have poor roads, lives could be greatly enriched if people could get their more of their goods to market than they can carry on their heads. This young man has come up with a promising design for a wheel system than dynamically changes its footprint. It can get wide and fat for the rough, uneven spots or go narrow and tall for the smooth parts.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's A Conspiracy!

Paul Krugman points out that when the Republican wring their hands about how tin hat looney Donald Trump someone needs to remind them that he is a monster they have created by acting as if all allegations have validity as long as they promote the desired agenda. Truthfulness is immaterial.

That Mysterious Star Again

 Following up on a previous post about a mysterious star, it turns out that there is a much more likely possibility, a family of comets. At the sound of hooves think horses, not zebras.

It's a Brave New World

I'm reminded of the Ender series of books by Orson Scott Card or the movie Gattaca. Those were stories and speculations but this is real. With CRISPR we now have gene splicing that can be exact, quick, and easy. While it may open up a whole new front on cures for scores of diseases, it could also become an ethical horror story. Where do you hope such power can lead? What do you fear about it? Could CRISPR be responsible for many future headlines?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Energy From Fossil Fuel Without Carbon Dioxide

This process extracts hydrogen from methane (natural gas) in a clean and efficient manner. It's a form of catalytic cracking similar to what is done when crude oil is refined into things like kerosene, diesel fuel, gasoline, and feedstocks for the chemical industry. Unlike previous methods, there is no carbon dioxide by-product. The by-product instead is solid black carbon which is chemically useful. Rather than catalysts, the method bubble methane through a liquid metal. When the bubbles pop on the surface, carbon is left on the surface of the liquid and hydrogen escapes into the reactor.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Real Story Of Thanksgiving

It seems the history of Thanksgiving involves plague, human trafficking, and assassination. About par for the course when it comes to European settlers and the indigenous inhabitants.