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Archive for May, 2009

In which I put my eco-rant in the wrong place

2009/05/31 1 comment

My bad. I don’t always compartmentalize well. So if you are interested in a little rant about reusable bags and tree-planting, feel free to go over here. And if not, well, short version:

Grocery store baggers—if I bring canvas bags to the store, I expect the items I purchase to go in said bags. Without you saying “That’s a waste of bag.” Not using the bags is a waste of bags. Idiot.

Who buys trees from the grocery store? Seriously.

Oh, and where am I supposed to stand on the issue of putting raw meats in plastic and then in my reusable bags? That report put out by the plastics guys (or the oil guys, I don’t remember off-hand) did raise a valid point about the cleanliness of the reusable bags (assuming you never wash them or anything). It’s not a reason to return to plastic, but what is the eco-friendly way to avoid cross-contamination for those of us not particularly interested in the full vegetarian/vegan experience? (And don’t try to convince me—I buy raw meat maybe once a month. Go berate my steak-grilling neighbors instead.)

A Murmuration of Starlings

2009/05/28 Comments off

Video of a huge number of starlings:

Starlings on Otmoor

The sound is educational, but it is just as fascinating without. Stuff like this always reminds me of how little we truly know about the world. And that science is still fun. Oh, and language is still fun—a murmuration of starlings, an armory of armadillos, the chickensploitation. 

via Projectionist

Categories: Science Tags: , ,

Map to the stars

2009/05/27 Comments off

Astronomers have figured out how to use the radio signals from pulsars (at least four, naturally) as an interstellar GPS network. Is there anything pulsars can’t do? Pulsars or super novae. And they can pinpoint your location within roughly a meter. That’s better than a lot of consumer grade units. I hope this isn’t a hoax or faulty math or something. Because this is just cool.

Vela Pulsar

Vela Pulsar

Categories: GIS, Science Tags: , ,

My very educated mother just served us nine… um?

2009/05/27 Comments off

Poor Pluto. Just didn’t get the love.

Still Raw (xkcd)

Still Raw (xkcd)

And now the geeks are out for a little fun. Maybe deGrasse Tyson will share some of his pro-Pluto hate mail. Is there a new mnemonic for the planets? My very educated mother just served us naans? Niacin? That’s a tough one.

Categories: Science Tags: ,

Time to pony up that extra 10 cents a gallon

2009/05/26 Comments off

So far we’ve learned that ethanol drives up corn prices, puts marginal lands into production, damages community institutions (let’s shut down the grain elevator to send our corn straight to the ethanol plant so we can’t change our minds later if the situation changes), uses bunches of water, uses bunches of energy (kind of a three card monty deal where we’ve just hidden the true energy costs), and probably doesn’t do much for pollution. and now, although this really shouldn’t be much of a surprise, ethanol will bork your engine. 

Part of the problem with ethanol has always been transportation and storage. It eats plastic so plastic or plastic lined containers or pipes corrode. So no pipelines. And we knew that it destroys plastic a long while ago. This article from Business Week presents damage to your engine as the new problem with ethanol. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise—if the fuel pump (repeatedly mentioned in the article) is plastic, it will be affected by ethanol. Surprise! And it’s an unpleasant surprise when you’re hit for $1000+ to repair your engine. So EPA, it’s absolutely a brilliant idea to raise the amount of ethanol in the gas to 15%. Why not make bad problems worse? If the government is worried about the disaster that is ethanol infrastructure failures in the Midwest, this won’t help. The build-out was unrealistic for what the land could produce even if we didn’t ever want to eat again, so let them fail. Please start paying attention to the science; the Bush-Cheney years are over. 

On a side note, I started getting a little paranoid earlier today when struggling with a very stiff and poorly wound gas pump line. I get regular gas to avoid the ethanol, but before I could push the button for regular, the freaking hose pushed the plus button. What made me paranoid was the arrangement of the buttons (this is one of the pumps with the square buttons sticking out from the bottom)—regular is furthest from the nozzle so if the hose is a problem, it will hit one of the more expensive grades first (over the winter plus went higher). How obnoxious.

Categories: Technology Tags: , , ,

Is it Towel Day?

2009/05/25 Comments off
of course.

of course.

So we’re adding another “Is it X?” site to the list (see here). They’re multiplying, but perhaps there are only 42? Very appropriate and handy to have a day off to celebrate.

Quote of the week

2009/05/25 Comments off

It’s a proven scientific fact* that anyone who’s painted a placard is unable to admit that they’re wrong.

– Dave Gorman (site)

Because it’s a scientific fact. Clearly.

Categories: Science Tags: