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Don't Miss one of the Most Important Interviews of the Year! [Greg Laden's Blog]

Wed, 03/28/2012 - 11:02am

I will be interviewing Maggie Koerth-Baker this Sunda, April 1st, no fooling.

Maggie Koerth-Baker is the author of the new book, "Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us". Maggie is the science editor and a regular writer at Boing Boing, and hails from the Twin Cities. She was once described as "A lighthouse of reason in a churling ocean of stupidity," which is exactly why we all need to read her book and listen to her interview Sunday, April 1st on Minnesota Atheists Talk Radio.

From the publisher's review of "Before the Lights Go Out":

"Hi, I'm the United States and I'm an oil-oholic."

We have an energy problem. And everybody knows it, even if we can't all agree on what, specifically, the problem is. Rising costs, changing climate, peaking oil, foreign oil, public safety--if the fears are this complicated, then the solutions are bound to be even more confusing. Maggie Koerth-Baker... makes sense out of the madness. Over the next 20 years, we'll be forced to cut 20 quadrillion BTU worth of fossil fuels from our energy budget, by wasting less and investing in alternatives.

To make it work, we'll need to radically change the energy systems that have shaped our lives for 100 years. And the result will be neither business-as-usual, nor a hippie utopia. Koerth-Baker explains what we can do, what we can't do, and why "The Solution" is really a lot of solutions working together...

Please call in or email with questions, listen to the interview live, or pick up the podcast which is usually available later in the day.

The interview is April 1, Sunday, no fooling, 9:00AM Central. We don't know yet if we'll be gathering for a post show brunch at Q-Cumbers, but you can watch this space, or listen to the show live, to find out.

Listen to AM 950 KTNF on Sunday, April 1st, at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio: 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to during the live show.

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Should I put Nitrogen in my Car Tires? [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 03/27/2012 - 9:34am

558px-Electron_shell_007_Nitrogen.svg.pngThere is a spreading belief that if you put Nitrogen (instead of regular air) in your car tires, that you will get better gas mileage. The reasoning behind this may be sound, but the facts on which the reasoning is based are not correct. Therefore, the answer is no, it is not advantageous for the average person to use Nitrogen in their car tires. On even more detailed examination, it maybe that regular air is better than Nitrogen for most people. Nitrogen is in fact used in certain tires, and there may be a good reason for that, though the information I have is probably missing something. In other words, it is all rather complicated. The short answer is, don't bother with the Nitrogen, but there are some interesting details:

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Another Week of GW News, March 25, 2012 [A Few Things Ill Considered]

Mon, 03/26/2012 - 10:25am

Logging the Onset of The Bottleneck Years
This weekly posting is brought to you courtesy of H. E. Taylor. Happy reading, I hope you enjoy this week's Global Warming news roundup

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Don't Miss the Opportunity to March with Astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the National Cherry Blossom Parade! [USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog]

Mon, 03/26/2012 - 10:00am

Thumbnail image for cherry-blossom-parade-washington-dc-2007.jpgAttention Festival Fans! The Festival has been awarded spaces for 18 people to march in the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. We have decided to give our fans the opportunity to win these spaces to march alongside legendary NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the Festival's Mondo Spider and other personalities in the 100th Celebration of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, Saturday April 14, 2012 in Washington, DC!

To win a space in this unforgettable festive event, which this year features Buzz Aldrin as Parade Grand Marshall, Katie Couric as co-host and Alex Trebek as parade route correspondent, we're asking Festival fans to submit their BEST creative entries for science- or STEM-related parade costumes or displays (such as marching with your robot, dressing up as an amoeba...). Winners must be available 8:30 am until 2:00 PM and be ready to show up rain or shine! There is no compensation for your participation in the parade.

The parade will be nationally televised with an estimated audience of 72 million viewers and more than 120,000 spectators on site cheering the parade on as it makes its way down historic Constitution Avenue!
In addition to Aldrin and the Mondo Spider, the Festival's 18 winners will have the chance to meet and march alongside such personalities as Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, "Milli Mole" (the mascot of the American Chemical Society), and Life Technologies' "Dream Gene". Other celebrities participating in the event include Marie Osmond, and U.S. Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Benita Fitzgerald Mosely.

Don't miss the chance to submit your entry for this unique opportunity! Click on the link for more information to apply to be one of the eighteen people to be in our group. The deadline for the contest is April 1, 2012. Once again, we are looking for the BEST costume ideas out there. Please provide an image of your idea when you send in your entry.

Known as the nation's greatest springtime celebration, the Cherry Blossom Parade each year commemorates the arrival of spring in Washington, DC and the incredible gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees bestowed on Washington by Tokyo, Japan in 1912.

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Fact or Friction: Slow Earthquakes [The Weizmann Wave]

Mon, 03/26/2012 - 4:05am

Earthquakes are once again in the news, this time in Mexico. Although it is only the biggest quakes that make international headlines, we might take a minute to contemplate other quakes - the ones you'll never feel. So-called "slow" or "silent" earthquakes slip so softly they don't even show up on regular seismographic equipment.

As the name implies, slow quakes release the energy built up along the fault over hours or even days, as opposed to mere seconds for a fast, shaking quake. So why should we care about what happens in earthquakes that even scientists have barely noticed? For one thing, says the Institute's Dr. Eran Bouchbinder, slow quakes are likely to be a part of the larger seismic picture, possibly releasing stresses from one part of a fault by adding to the stress on another. There is some evidence that certain slow earthquakes might precede the big, fast ones.

Are slow earthquakes really different from fast ones? Bouchbinder thinks that the answer may possibly be: yes. He and his team have developed a new model for sliding friction - friction between two moving plates, for instance - that suggests an explanation for the physics of slow quakes.

Composite satellite image reveals a slow earthquake on the Hayward fault in California (Image: NASA)

Here it is in a tiny nutshell: Earthquakes - of any type - occur when the shear forces pushing the tectonic plates past each other surmount the force of friction that is holding them in place. In a big quake, the frictional interface fails very quickly, releasing huge amounts of energy in a short period of time. The speed of failure is limited by the speed of sound - the very same speed at which waves propagate through the earth's crust, shaking everything above. But the slow quakes seem to be different - the speed of sound may not influence them, says Bouchbinder. The model he and his team propose for movement at frictional interfaces might explain the underlying mechanics without sound wave physics. Instead, it implies that friction and sliding speed have a more complex relationship than previously thought, so that friction might increase at speeds where it was thought to decrease. For more on the model, go to our online article or check out the paper in Geophysical Research Letters.

The new model, by the way, might also help explain the dynamics of other frictional interfaces, e.g. between car tires and roads, or lend insight into nano-mechanics, among other things.

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The Demise of Climate Denialist and Fake Nobel Laureate/British Royal Christopher Monkton [Greg Laden's Blog]

Fri, 03/23/2012 - 2:46pm

Potholer54 has written a letter to Monkton that you will want to read, and he's also made a video that you will want to see. First the letter (from here):

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Earth Day 2012 Finds Kids Ready to Do Their Part, Says Author Seymour Simon [USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog]

Fri, 03/23/2012 - 10:00am

By Larry Bock
Founder and Organizer, USA Science & Engineering Festival

Planet Earth -- that fragile blue marble in space that we call home -- deserves better from all of us, I think we would agree.

And for good reason. With such issues as energy, pollution, conservation and sustainability, and climate becoming rising worldwide concerns, it behooves everyone to do their part to make sure she thrives -- and survives.

NASA astronaut Ron Garan said last year after returning from spending more than five months on the International Space Station situated 250 miles above Earth: "I looked down at this indescribably beautiful fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us and has protected all life from the harshness of space, I couldn't help thinking of the inequity that exists. I couldn't help but think of the people who don't have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, of the social injustice, conflict, and poverty that exist. The stark contrast between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life for many of its inhabitants reaffirmed the belief I share with so many. Each and every one of us on this planet has the responsibility to leave it a little better than we found it."

It is this interconnectedness and the power within all of us to make a difference that comes to mind as we prepare to observe the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day on April 22. Moreover, what is especially refreshing is the growing number of children who are primed and ready to do their part in Earth Day, said Seymour Simon, well-known children's science book author whose array of award-winning works have covered such subjects as ecology, the environment and nature. "You might think that the Earth is so big and the subject so vast that kids would be overwhelmed," said Simon, "but you'd be surprised at what they have to say about it all."

Simon, whom the New York Times called "the dean of the [children's science] field," is among a prestigious lineup of 36 featured authors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who will excite and engage young readers April 28-29, 2012 in Washington, DC at the USA Science & Engineering Festival and Book Fair hosted by Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest celebration of science and engineering.

The Book Fair, with its featured authors and book signings, is designed to demonstrate to kids that the wonders of science are all around them waiting to be discovered. In addition, the fair gives students the chance to meet and hear some of the best-selling science writers in the country, which not only inspires kids to connect with science through reading, but helps build a strong foundation for science motivation in the classroom and for science literacy into adulthood.

As a preview to Earth Day, Simon, in a recent blog titled "Children Are Earth's Powerful Advocates," details just how tuned in kids are to observing this special day and doing their part. He writes:

Earth Day is a topic that comes up often as I travel the country, speaking in schools to thousands of children. Our planet Earth is so big and the subject so vast, that you might think that kids are overwhelmed. "What does this mean to me?" Or, "Why should I bother about Earth Day?" You might think that kids wonder. You might be surprised at what they really do say.

In anticipation of Earth Day last year, I posted an invitation to kids on my blog. I wrote: "How are you contributing to the Billion Acts of Green? Tell us how you are celebrating Earth Day." And I promised to publish each child's writing to inspire other readers to do the same.

We often get a dozen or so responses to one of my blog postings. But this invitation to be a vocal participant and advocate on Earth Day drew almost 300 responses from around the country. Here are some of the promises made by elementary students who have specific strategies for making a difference:

"Our class is going green. We are recycling all our old papers."

"I ride my bike or the bus to school to keep the air cleaner by not using our car."

"My carbon footprint was 13.5 (not so good). To reduce my carbon footprint I will reduce, reuse and recycle."

"My brother and I go out and pick up all the litter that people throw in a creek near us. There are lots of fish and frogs so when we are finished I look back and feel great."

"I love trees and that's why I don't waste paper. I recycle and encourage others to care about our world like a mother would care for her newborn."

"I usually refuse to use plastic silverware and cups."

"I learned that it takes one step at a time and if we start now the Earth will get better sooner. If we don't start.....who will?"

I have a favorite Native American proverb that suggests why we, as adults, should take our lead from the children as we celebrate Earth Day: "Treat the Earth well. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children."

The author of more than 250 highly acclaimed science books (more than seventy-five of which have been named Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children by the National Science Teachers Association), Simon brings his excitement in science to children' at the Festival's Book Fair during his presentation on Saturday, April 28.

Thumbnail image for USESEF_book_fair_logo_border.jpgNo ordinary event, the Book Fair (April 28-29) is part of the Festival's finale Expo weekend celebration scheduled at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Expo -- replete with a bevy of hands-on excitement in science, including 2,000 exhibits and stage demonstrations -- will culminate a month-long series of nationwide activities by the Festival to inspire the next generation of innovators.

In addition to Simon, here is just a sampling of other esteemed featured authors that visitors can expect to hear and meet in the subjects of conservation and sustainability, green technology, climate, nature and energy alone:

  • Loree Griffin Burns, Ph.D., author of such natural world books as: Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion, and Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard.
  • Bruce Degen, noted children's science book author and illustrator, whose latest works include The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge, which was named the 2010 AAAS Science Books & Films Award winner.
  • Physicist-turned-writer Fred Bortz, author of Meltdown! The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future.
  • Paleoecologist and climate science author Curt Stager whose latest book is Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth.
  • Children's author Dia Michels who specializes in writing about mammals and whose latest work includes If My Mom Were A Platypus: Mammal Babies and their Mothers.
  • Joel Achenbach, staff writer for the Washington Post, whose suspense thriller, A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea, is his groundbreaking account of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Being a good steward of the Earth is our challenge. Join us at the Festival for inspiration and insight into what we can do with our children to make a difference!

For more on the Book Fair and its featured authors and appearance schedules:

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Huffpo Science - already slipping into anti-science [denialism blog]

Thu, 03/22/2012 - 12:20pm

Our initial optimism over Huffpo science being a haven for reason in a den of disease-promotion and quackery appears now to be misplaced. It appears the animal rights cranks have made inroads with Bruce Friedrich, a member of PETA and advocate of animal liberation, who has jumped from Huffpo "green" to Huffpo "science". The science gatekeepers at Huffpo have clearly failed.

Writing about "Speciesism: The Movie", he exposes the anti-science ideology of the animal rights movement, and Huffpo science doesn't seem to have noticed:

Every now and then, a movie comes along that is capable of fundamentally changing the worldview of its audience. Speciesism: The Movie, a new documentary by Mark Devries, is that kind of film.

The word "speciesism," which has been popularized by Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer, refers to the assumption that a vast gulf exists between the ethical value of human interests and the ethical value of the interests of other animals. At its extreme, we may see ourselves as the only species that matters morally, and view other animals as existing merely for our use: to eat, to make into clothing, to perform experiments on, to be entertained by in circuses and zoos. Like those who grew up having overt racist beliefs assimilated into their worldview, some degree of speciesism has been so well-assimilated into the worldview of most of us that it does not even appear to be worth questioning.


Devries goes to great lengths to put together a thoughtful and entertaining film--whether commissioning an airplane to fly over factory farms' giant "manure lagoons" with an anti-CAFO Republican from North Carolina, or (somehow) scheming his way into receiving a guided tour of a factory farm.

Along the way, he meets and questions a remarkably broad range of people, including Peter Singer (whom the New Yorker has named "one of the most influential philosophers alive"), Richard Dawkins (the most influential evolutionary biologist of the past century), and Temple Grandin (designer of the animal handling systems used by over half of the slaughterhouses in the United States).

He also speaks with anti-factory farming activists, a man who is dying next to a huge hog farm, a current member of the American Nazi Party, a disability rights activist, a vivisector, quite a few people on the street, and more--all in his quest to thoroughly consider the philosophy that says that bias on the basis of species is unjustifiable. Disclaimer: He also spoke with me.

Above all, Devries confronts some very difficult and uncomfortable questions head-on. For example: How strong are the grounds for believing that humans have special moral worth? How valid are the comparisons between our use of other animals and the slavery of other humans?

My emphasis added. So here we have it on Huffpo science. Believing that our species should be valued over other species is a sin equivalent to racism. Use of other animals is like slavery. Biologists aren't scientists we're "vivisectors". We're all going to hell.

To be clear, biological science without use of animals is impossible. It's not just toxicity testing of drugs either, and we are fully aware of the limitations of our animal models, thankyouverymuch. But from the ground up, the study of life depends on the use of living things. From the cells we harvest for culture (we can't all study wacky immortalized cancer cells you know), to the serum we grow them in, to the antibodies we generate by exposing animals to antigens, to the transgenic animals we use to study genes in vivo, to the model animals that modern surgical techniques and technologies are refined in, biological science is intimately tied to living things. The face transplant I wrote about yesterday? Impossible without prior animal modeling, practice with surgical technique and molecular investigation of immunosuppression. Transplant in general? The earliest investigations of skin grafting and surgical techniques for transplant were honed in animals - with some hefty human experimentation as well. Every major surgical advance, medical advance, and plain basic biological science knowledge comes from our manipulation of the living things around us. But are we in any way noble for our pursuit of knowledge, for yes, explicitly human benefit? No, we're speciesist, we're vivisectors.

Well fine, I admit it. I value human life over that of other species. I've devoted my life to saving human lives, and as a scientist, I've sacrificed animal lives to do so every time I've ordered a polyclonal antibody or bottle of FBS. According to radicals like Friedrich that makes me "vivisector". I'm therefore a monster, like a slaver or murderer.

This is the unexamined ethics and thoughtless smug moral superiority of the animal rights activist. I doubt, when push came to shove they would sacrifice a human for an animal. Or even a large number of animals. Who, after all, swerves to avoid the squirrel and instead hits the kid on the sidewalk? No one. Human life is more valuable to us because we're human and that's OK. It's not wrong to be self-interested or interested in our survival over that of other species. Survival requires a certain amount of self-interest, human survival requires the ingestion of other living things, and agriculture is never going to be cruelty free.

The vegan militia have forgotten that to get their cruelty free vegetables, the land has already been cleared, all competing species have been killed or driven out, those that remain are poisoned (even by organic farmers - they just use "certified organic" methods of pest control or even other animals like ladybugs). We put humans first every time we clear a field, dig a foundation, fence and spray our crops, and burn diesel to harvest and bring them to market. We have said, these resources are ours, we own the land, and all the beetles, voles and deer can go right to hell. Survival is cruel, and will always involve putting ourselves before other species.

The health benefits and technology they enjoy everyday has already been tested and worked out thanks to comparative medicine. It's easy to feel morally superior about eating greens, and denigrating scientists, now that all that messy stuff has been done and the last time you were on a farm it was to pick a pumpkin in 3rd grade so you don't know what actually goes into agriculture, even organic agriculture.

This is not to say I agree with CAFOs, food monoculture, the slimey tactics of Monsanto, or any of the extremes of poor infrastructure, corporate malfeasance and environmental stupidity of our food supply. But lets stop pretending that you become morally superior for eating tofu, all the while you happily ignore the habitat destruction, mass removal of unwanted species, and outright extinctions we've caused in order to create our agricultural dominance.

So let's stop calling the people who are trying to understand, preserve and extend human lives speciesist (read racist) and vivisectors. Life is complicated. Living it without cruelty to something either requires you to be oblivious to our constant impact on the living things around us, or to retreat into some Jainist agrarian fantasy world that will never exist. Isn't it better to have a healthy understanding that human beings survive in competition for limited resources with the species around us? We evolved to the point where we've become adapt at manipulating and controlling the natural world, and rather than being ashamed of it, we should accept it as a gift from our ancestors after eons of struggle.

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Don Shelby Shifts his Base [Greg Laden's Blog]

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 4:33pm

The Walter Cronkite of the Twin Cities, Emmy Award Winning news anchor Don Shelby, retired a couple of years ago and started writing for the excellent local news blog MinnPost. Shelby's articles were always excellent and on point, and he often wrote about climate change related issues that I know are important to people who read this blog. He has also supported the cause of science in public policy in other ways.

Here are three examples of my earlier posts pertaining to Don: Minnesota AGW Denialist Jungbauer Disembowled by Respected News Anchor Don Shelby; Shawn Otto's Book Launch Talk (with Don Shelby); and I am the Angry Left. But if I was in Congress I'd still be polite..

Well, Don has made a stunning career move, announced earlier this afternoon. He will be moving from MinnPost to BringMeTheNews, which is an entirely different kind of thing.

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Why am I not surprised? [Pharyngula]

Sat, 03/17/2012 - 12:45pm

James Inhofe, the ridiculous climate change denier, appeared on the Rachel Maddow show and made a series of ridiculous claims. Among them was the claim that those wacky environmentalists were greatly outspending the entire energy industry on propaganda. Wait, what? The top five oil companies made $1 trillion in profits from 2011 through 2011, and somehow the Sierra Club and George Soros and Michael Moore are able to outspend them? Where did such a patently absurd claim come from?

Inhofe revealed his source: the "very liberal publication", Nature (yes, reality really does have a liberal bias) which cited a researcher who found that the environmental movement was filthy rich.

Propelled by an ultra wealthy donor base and key alliances with corporations and other organizations, the environmental movement appears to have closed the financial gap with its opponents.

One problem: that study has been thoroughly debunked and shown to be the work of a very sloppy researcher. Climate change deniers outspent environmentalists 8:1 in lobbying and donating to candidates (buying the government, in other words) in 2009.

And who was that sloppy shill for the denialists? Why, none other than snake oil salesman Matt Nisbet, who Greg Laden and I debated in 2007, and who butchers puppies for fun (←framing).

I admit to chortling with glee at seeing Nisbet exposed yet again as a tool of the status quo.

If you're really interested, Nisbet has posted his list of excuses for his misleading report. The gist: he picked 45 environmentalist groups and 42 denialist groups (I think we already see a problem in his analysis). The environmental groups were open and revealed all of their expenditures, and were also capped in how much they could spend. The industry groups and right-wing think-tanks were shadier and did not provide figures, so Nisbet "estimated". Industry associations have no caps on how much they can spend in direct lobbying.

I do regret the effort I spent arguing with this sleazeball in the past.

(Also on FtB)

Adam, David (2011) Money not the problem in US climate debate. Nature 19 April 2011.

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Climate Change Fight: Keystone and Subsidies (Bill McKibben) [Greg Laden's Blog]

Fri, 03/16/2012 - 4:49pm
Bill McKibben shares a message with the 350 community about what we've done so far, and the plan for the months ahead. Our next big fight: taking on the billions in subsidies that the fossil fuel industry makes. Read the comments on this post...

One Year After Fukushima, a Startup Named Kurion Continues to Shed Light on What it Means to Live in the Nuclear Age [USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog]

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 10:00am

By Larry Bock
Founder and organizer, USA Science & Engineering Festival
When searching for a prime, real-life example of how science and technology are making a difference in the world right now, my thoughts lately turn to a small but feisty greentech startup that you may never have heard of: Kurion, Inc.

Based in Irvine, CA with 15 employees, this profitable three-year-old company which specializes in nuclear waste cleanup has quietly and effectively been using its technology at the front lines of Fukushima, the site of what is being called one of the largest nuclear disasters in history. Weeks after the unforgettable earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Japan last year which caused emissions of nuclear contaminants to be released into the air from reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Kurion was selected to join a group of multi-billion dollar companies to help clean seawater that was being pumped into the reactors to cool them down.

Within three weeks of first contact, TEPCO authorized Kurion's proposed solution to the challenge. Eight weeks later, Kurion's system had been designed, built, air freighted by three Russian Antonov transports, installed and was fully operational removing more than 99.9% of the seawater radioactivity of greatest concern. Other companies which were awarded contracts by the Japan utility TEPCO to aid in this challenging duty were France's AREVA, Japan's Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy and Toshiba. Of these, only Kurion and AREVA were able to deliver systems in time to prevent the highly contaminated seawater from overflowing the limited available tankage into the ocean and of these only Kurion continues to operate today.

Kurion stands out as the only startup selected -- and for good reason: the firm for a while has been developing a material called "ion specific media" that greatly improves the way cleanup technology is deployed to soak up nuclear particles and as a result shrink the radioactive material down to a small manageable size. The resulting waste stream, an inorganic powder, can further be turned into glass (a standard industry process known as vitrification). Kurion's innovation brings a more modular approach to the vitrification process, so the clean-up technology can be quickly adapted and installed in the contaminated spill site. Add to that Kurion's team composed of nuclear waste industry veterans, and you'll understand why the company was able to enter a direct contractual arrangement with TEPCO.

Since last June, says Kurion's CEO John Raymont, the company's technology has been used as part of what he calls "an unprecedented external reactor water cooling system," designed to replace Fukushima's in-plant reactor water cooling mechanism until the reactor's original nuclear cores can be removed. Bottom line: Kurion's presence at Fukushima is helping to mitigate radiation contamination to humans and the environment, dramatically turning a disastrous situation around.

As the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster past on March 11th, Kurion and the cleanup are perfect examples of how science and technology are making a difference where it matters around the world. In my opinion, it illustrates in realistic terms what it means to be human in the nuclear age -- with all the benefits and risks nuclear power brings.

To help get this message across, we are proud to include Kurion and its representatives as key participants in the upcoming USA Science & Engineering Festival hosted by Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest celebration of science and engineering. The Festival is on a mission to inspire the next generation of innovators by reinvigorating the interest of our nation's youth in science, technology, engineering and math via hands-on presentations with experts that motivate, compel, excite, entertain as well as educate.

Kurion's participation is especially exciting for me for a couple of reasons. As a startup entrepreneur myself before establishing the Festival several years ago, I co-founded or financed the early stage growth of 40 companies in the life and physical sciences from inception, so I know well of the rigors and challenges that Kurion has and continues to experience to further establish itself in the competitive field of technology. Second, at Lux Capital (one of two venture capital firms backing Kurion), I serve as Chairman of Lux's Advisory Board of industry experts where we are all extremely proud of Kurion's success.

Join visitors at the Festival Expo on April 28-29, 2012, in Washington, DC when we take you inside the power of nuclear energy (along with other exciting areas of science and engineering) with such experts as Kurion, the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Massachusetts Lowell Physics Department, and the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider who are all helping to make our co-habitation with nuclear power safer and more beneficial. Here is just a sampling of what you'll discover:

How Kurion is Cleaning Up Fukushima -- From Kurion, learn how they perform remediation on contaminated water and stop the spread of radioactive isotopes at Fukushima and other sites. Kurion experts will also demonstrate how an ion-exchange column works and how they trap dangerous particles using their 3-D vitrification simulator.

Future Implications of the Fukushima Disaster -- Meet and hear Fred Bortz, Ph.D., who is among our Featured Authors at the Expo's Book Fair. A physicist-turned-writer, Bortz (whose science training includes three years in nuclear core design), is the author --among other works -- of the recent book, Meltdown: The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future, which sheds light on the future of nuclear and what the next generation will face in dealing with its development.

Real-Life Applications: From National Defense to Biomedical Photonics -- Learn from these experts: how the U.S. Department of Defense is developing solutions that protect first responders from potential nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological threats; how renowned physicists from the University of Massachusetts Lowell are making life-saving advances in areas ranging from nuclear physics and radiation science to biomedical photonics, and from the American Nuclear Society how to compute your own annual radiation dose.

The Wonders of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) -- Scientists from the ATLAS Experiment at the LHC take you inside the wonders of the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator which was developed over a 10-year period to probe new frontiers in high energy physics including the origins of the universe.

How the DoE is Impacting Climate and Energy Solutions -- Department of Energy scientists from its Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) facility will demonstrate how its measurements are bringing science solutions to the world, including improving climate models, and researchers from the Department's Berkeley National Laboratory will shed light on how they are developing new approaches to energy by studying infinitesimal particles at the sub-atomic level.

Radiation Physics in 3-D -- Enter a 3D virtual treatment room with experts from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine and learn how a radiation treatment accelerator works. See how medical physics and science are used in the radiation treatment of cancer. Participants will get a 3D view of the technological advances used in this cancer treatment.

Nuclear power, the byproduct of our existence in the modern age, is here to stay. Join us at the Festival as we explore how to coexist with it responsibly and safely for the benefit of all. For more on the Festival, visit:

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Why is the Far Side of the Moon Always Far? [The Weizmann Wave]

Mon, 03/12/2012 - 4:35am

The patterns of the dark craters on the near side of the Moon have spurred the imagination of observers from all cultures: Some visualize a woman, others a rabbit, or, like most of us, they see the "Man in the Moon."

Moon_near side (2).jpg
Near side

The explanation as to why we always see the Man in the Moon - that is, why we only see one side - is that tidal forces caused the Moon to slow its spin until it reached the present point. It now takes the same amount of time to rotate around its own axis as it does to revolve around Earth. It is this synchronous rotation that causes the moon to "lock" with Earth, with one hemisphere constantly facing us.

But Prof. Oded Aharonson of the Weizmann Institute's Center for Planetary Science, together with Prof. Peter Goldreich of the California Institute of Technology and Prof. Re'em Sari of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wanted to know whether there is a reason why this particular half of the Moon locked with Earth or if it is pure luck that it didn't turn its "back" on us?

Moon_far side (2).jpg
Far side

Unlike the near side, which is covered in dense craters, the far side is made up of more mountainous regions, and these differences affect the Moon's gravitational energy. Taking this into consideration, the scientists, through careful analysis and simulations, have shown that it is not coincidence but rather, the Moon's geophysical properties that determine its orientation. Their findings have recently been published in Icarus. A more detailed description can also be found on our website:

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Help students change the world by voting on The New Earth Archive's booklist [Tomorrow's Table]

Sat, 03/10/2012 - 7:03pm

The New Earth Archive is a resource network of powerful, inspiring books on climate change, sustainability, social justice, and human nature.The students ask you to vote for up to 15 of your favorite books.

So pleased, Tomorrow's Table made the list!

Whoie Earth Discipline, by Stewart Brand is also on the list and so are many other great books.

Please spread the word. Thanks for your support.

The New Earth Archive was developed by students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and supported by Paul Hawken and other leading public environmental figures.

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The True Steel of the Ancestors [Aardvarchaeology]

Sat, 03/10/2012 - 7:14am

Above-ground atomic explosions and reactor leaks during the past century have produced a pretty funny atmosphere full of exotic heavy isotopes. In radiocarbon calibration this error source is called "bomb radiocarbon". A few years ago it was suggested that a person's age might be determined through looking at the amount of various isotopes in some bodily tissue (was it the eye's lens?) and cross-referencing it with the historic data on spikes and troughs in the abundance of various isotopes.

Now the always readworthy Chris Catling tells the readers of Current Archaeology #265 (April) of another way that our sloppy ways with fissile material impact our lives - our cultural heritage, specifically!"Metal theft doesn't just take place on dry land; law abiding divers have been reporting an increase in theft from the wrecks of HMS Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy, sunk by a U-boat in the North Sea on 22 September 1914 with the loss of 1,459 lives. ... apparently the steel structure of the ships ... [T]he amount of radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere has increased, and these get into steel, making it weakly radioactive when air is blown into the furnace ...

Some forms of scientific and medical equipment (such as Geiger counters and radiation-detecting body scanners) need what is known as "low-background steel", the chief source of which is naval vessels constructed prior to 1945 and protected from contamination by the North Sea ...

(pp. 46-47)

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Launching Weather Balloons in 45-mile-per-hour Winds [Brookhaven Bits & Bytes]

Fri, 03/09/2012 - 10:16am


Brookhaven Lab atmospheric scientist Ernie Lewis with a mini "weather" balloon aboard the Horizon

This guest post was written by Ernie Lewis, an atmospheric scientist at Brookhaven Lab, who is leading a year-long climate study aboard two Horizon Lines cargo ships, the Spirit and Reliance. He recently returned from a preliminary "cruise" from L.A. to Hawaii and back aimed at assessing conditions for deploying instruments aboard the ships during the actual study, dubbed MAGIC, which will run from October 2012 through September 2013.

Hawaii was wonderful, even though I only had a short time in Waikiki Beach (I'm getting no sympathy from my friends at work on this point, so I'm trying a wider audience). Our team of scientists left Los Angeles on MAGIC Leg00a on Saturday, February 11, at 5:30 a.m., along with nearly 1,000 cargo containers aboard the Horizon Spirit. We spent the previous two days installing a meteorological (met) system on the mast and a navigation system to characterize ship motion to aid in determining how to keep one of the radars and other instruments pointed vertically when the ship rolls. Both the met system and the navigation system worked very well for the entire cruise. We arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday, February 15, at 9:30 p.m., after a mostly cloudy and cool trip. Fortunately the seas weren't too rough and there was no seasickness (hurray!).

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CSPI overblows the cancer risk of caramel coloring in soda [denialism blog]

Fri, 03/09/2012 - 8:01am

The safety of soda has been in the news a lot lately. The news even seems bad for diet coke, which hits close to home for me given my diet coke addiction. The worst seems to be this correlative study proposing a link between diet sodas and stroke risk:

The study, which followed more than 2,500 New Yorkers for nine or more years, found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events, including stroke and heart attack, than those who completely eschewed the diet drinks, according to researchers who presented their results today at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

Disturbing news, however, it's still just a correlative finding from the Northern Manhattan studyand until things are studied more rigorously, I probably won't quit my current caffeine source. After all, it can reflect patients who are drinking diet drinks because they are diabetic, a known cardiovascular risk factor not excluded in their analysis.

Now the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has entered the soda fray with a report suggesting the caramel coloring has unacceptably high levels of a carcinogen called 4-methylimidazole.

An independent study commissioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) uncovered 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, in Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi at levels 4.8 times greater than those allowed in beverages in California.

4-MI is a byproduct of the reaction that produces the caramel coloring in brown sodas. The chemical has been found to be carcinogenic in animal studies.

The state of California has banned 4-MI in any amount that could potentially lead to one cancer case in 100,000 people. However the levels found in these 4 leading Cola brands indicated a lifetime risk of 5 cancers out of 100,000, assuming that people drink one soft drink per day. That risk rises to 10 cancers out of 100,000 people who drink only soft drinks containing caramel coloring. .

But what is the evidence this level of 4-MI could pose a health risk?

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Watch James Hansen's TED talk [denialism blog]

Thu, 03/08/2012 - 9:13am

I think it's a nice, succinct description of the problem of climate change from one of the leaders of the field.

On a related note the nation of Kiribati is relocating to Fiji as their island nation is disappearing.

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in Michael Mann's words [Class M]

Thu, 03/08/2012 - 8:36am

Michael Mann, co-author of the "hockey stick" visualization of the last millennium of global warming, has written a book about the trials of sticking to the science in an era when half the country is hostile to reality. Here's the 10-minute synopsis, in the form of an interview:

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