Archive for March, 2007

New Biofuels Process Promises To Meet All US Transportation Needs

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Science Daily Purdue University chemical engineers have proposed a new environmentally friendly process for producing liquid fuels from plant matter – or biomass – potentially available from agricultural and forest waste, providing all of the fuel needed for “the entire U.S. transportation sector.”

The new approach modifies conventional methods for producing liquid fuels from biomass by adding hydrogen from a “carbon-free” energy source, such as solar or nuclear power, during a step called gasification. Adding hydrogen during this step suppresses the formation of carbon dioxide and increases the efficiency of the process, making it possible to produce three times the volume of biofuels from the same quantity of biomass, said Rakesh Agrawal, Purdue’s Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering.

The researchers are calling their approach a “hybrid hydrogen-carbon process,” or H2CAR.

“Further research is needed to make this a large-scale reality,” Agrawal said. “We could use H2CAR to provide a sustainable fuel supply to meet the needs of the entire U.S. transportation sector – all cars, trucks, trains and airplanes.”


070320 – Tuesday – Multiculturalism – Not!

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

This is going to be a piece some folks are going to find offensive. I’m going to attack the idea of universal multicultural tolerance. And note the word ‘universal’ because I am decidedly not against all cultures other than my own. And, in fact, there are aspects of my own culture that I think the planet would be much better off without.

I am sorry that these ideas may offend some because I don’t like offending people. But, these are things that need to be said. I am most definitely open to alternative view points and I welcome your comments and I will respond to them.

I believe that when people immigrate to a new country, they should make a conscious decision to embrace the culture of that country before they go. If they want the benefits of living in the new country, then they should accept its culture as well. If they don’t like its culture, then they should stay home.

Immigration should be encouraged but it should also be controlled. A country’s culture can absorb a certain number of new members with harm or confusion but there is an upper limit and the government should be sensitive to not cross that limit. If too many people come in at once, the country’s self-identity can become confused and the result is that it can become like a person with multiple personalities.

And when large numbers of people are allowed come in without having made a conscious decision to embrace the culture of their new home, the danger of the nation developing multiple personality disorder is magnified exponentially.

In my opinion, Britain, France and Germany have already crossed this fatal line and may never recover. They have let in too many people from other cultures who have brought their native cultures along lock, stock and barrel and setup cultural enclaves within their new nations. Australia is beginning now to grapple with this problem.

Here’s a quote from an editorial in an Australian newspaper that illustrates my point:

Many Britons are concerned that multicultural policies that have discouraged assimilation have divided their society and created what one commentator called a “voluntary apartheid”. In the age of terrorism, this is a worrisome trend, especially considering that a recent survey of British Muslims suggested 100,000 of them felt the 7/7 attacks were justified and that one in five felt little or no loyalty to Britain.


While tolerance is certainly a positive virtue that should be strived for, it cannot be a cultural suicide pact. A culture that is tolerant of those who are intolerant of its freedoms is ripe for destruction, and bit by bit will see all it values eroded. And radical Islam knows this. Just as an Australian wouldn’t go to Saudi Arabia to wear a bikini on the beach and drink beer in the corner pub, those who see the proper role of women as subservient, anonymous and under cover should not expect a postmodern secular democracy such as Britain or Australia to accommodate these beliefs.

It may be too late for Britain and much of Western Europe to maintain coherent cultures but Australian politicians have been speaking up of late:

Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to [Australian Prime Minister] Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state, and its laws were made by parliament. “If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you“, he said on National Television.

I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia; one the Australian law and another Islamic law, that is false. If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that’s a better option“, Costello said.

If you examine cultural tolerance in many places in the Islamic world, like Saudi Arabia, it is nearly non-existant. They believe their culture is the right one and they are not going to let other cultural practices corrupt theirs. This is their country and they have the right to preserve their culture. Why should they come to our cultures and expect to practice theirs within ours? If cultures are tolerant of each other, then they can and should mix but intolerant cultures should not expect to get the same treatment.

‘Cave entrances’ spotted on Mars

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Scientists studying pictures from Nasa’s Odyssey spacecraft have spotted what they think may be seven caves on the surface of Mars.

The candidate caves are on the flanks of the Arsia Mons volcano and are of sufficient depth their floors mostly cannot be seen through the opening.

Details were presented here at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas.

Temperature data from Mars Odyssey’s Themis instrument support the idea.

The authors say that the possible discovery of caves on the Red Planet is significant.

The caves may be the only natural structures capable of protecting primitive life forms from micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet’s surface.

The spacecraft spotted what seemed to be vertical “skylight” entrances to caves below the surface.

There is a sheer drop of between about 80m and 130m or more to the cave floors below.


Winter warmth breaks all records

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Winter in the Northern Hemisphere this year has been the warmest since records began more than 125 years ago, a US government agency says.

The combined land and ocean surface temperature from December to February was 0.72C (1.3F) above average.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said El Nino, a seasonal warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean, had also contributed to the warmth.

But it did not see the high temperature as evidence of man-made global warming.

The Noaa said that temperatures were continuing to rise by a fifth of a degree every decade. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995.

Weather experts predict that 2007 could be the hottest year on record.


E.U. Raises Bar in Fight Against Global Warming

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

PARIS, March 9 — European Union leaders agreed Friday to take the 27-country bloc beyond the targets of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming, agreeing to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy.

During a sometimes contentious two-day meeting in Brussels, the leaders agreed to cut the gas emissions by at least 20 percent from 1990 levels in the next 13 years. They set binding targets for renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydro power, to supply 20 percent of the union’s power needs and for biofuels to be used in 10 percent of the bloc’s road vehicles by 2020.

European governments have been a major promoter of the Kyoto pact, which attempts to counter trends that are warming the Earth’s climate. The United States and some developing countries have withheld support from the pact, saying it is likely to harm economic growth and is based on inconclusive science.

The agreement in Brussels was reached after months of negotiations within the bloc. Leaders said they hoped the aggressive measures would help persuade some of the world’s biggest polluters, including the United States, China and India, to follow their lead.


Biodiversity ‘fundamental’ to economics

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Germany has put biodiversity, alongside climate change, at the top the agenda for its G8 presidency. In this week’s Green Room, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel says failure to address the loss of species will make the world a poorer place – both naturally and economically.

Some might ask why biodiversity should be an issue on the G8+5 agenda.

Well, there is a clear answer.

The G8 nations, together with the five major emerging economies of China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, use almost three-quarters of the Earth’s biocapacity – the capacity of the world’s ecosystems to produce natural resources and to reduce harmful substances.

The loss of global biological diversity is advancing at an unprecedented pace. Up to 150 species are becoming extinct every day.

As well as their uniqueness and beauty, their specific functions within ecosystems are also irrecoverably lost. The web of life that sustains our global society is getting weaker and weaker.


A Step Toward Fusion Energy

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Science Daily A project by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has come one step closer to making fusion energy possible.


The research team, headed by electrical and computer engineering Professor David Anderson and research assistant John Canik, recently proved that the Helically Symmetric eXperiment (HSX), an odd-looking magnetic plasma chamber called a stellarator, can overcome a major barrier in plasma research, in which stellarators lose too much energy to reach the high temperatures needed for fusion.

Published in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters, the new results show that the unique design of the HSX in fact loses less energy, meaning that fusion in this type of stellarator could be possible.


Three on ice…

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

– Here are three articles which all came out within a day of each other – all on glaciers, sea ice, warming oceans and melting. Melting going on everywhere.

Sea ice - say “bye, bye…”

Antarctic Glaciers’ Sloughing Of Ice Has Scientists at a Loss

Some of the largest glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are moving in unusual ways and are losing increased amounts of ice to the sea, researchers said yesterday.

Although the changes in Greenland appear to be related to global warming, it remains unclear what is causing the glaciers of frigid Antarctica and their “ice streams” to lose ice to the ocean in recent years, the researchers said.


Arctic Sea Ice Decline May Trigger Climate Change Cascade

Science Daily Arctic sea ice that has been dwindling for several decades may have reached a tipping point that could trigger a cascade of climate change reaching into Earth’s temperate regions, says a new University of Colorado at Boulder study.

Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at CU-Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center who led the study synthesizing results from recent research, said the Arctic sea-ice extent trend has been negative in every month since 1979, when concerted satellite record keeping efforts began. The team attributed the loss of ice, about 38,000 square miles annually as measured each September, to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases and strong natural variability in Arctic sea ice.


Warming Oceans Threaten Antarctic Glaciers

Science Daily Scientists have identified four Antarctic glaciers that pose a threat to future sea levels using satellite observations, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Experts from the University of Edinburgh and University College London determined the effect that Antarctica and Greenland were having on global sea level in a comprehensive evaluation of the Earth’s ice sheets. They found that together these two ice-sheets were responsible for a sea level rise of 0.35 millimetres per year over the past decade — representing about 12 per cent of the current global trend.

However, despite recent attention that has focused on the importance of the Greenland ice sheet, the research shows that its glaciers are changing too erratically to establish a trend with confidence. In contrast, four major glaciers in East and West Antarctica were shown to be retreating in unison, raising concerns that global sea level could rapidly rise if the oceans continue to warm.


The power of Riboswitches

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

– If you are interested in molecular biology, there’s a great article in the January 2007 issue of Scientific American entitled, “the Power of Riboswitches”. My degree, from many years ago, is in Microbiology so I find this stuff extremely interesting.

– Decoding how our genomes work is like decoding software that arrived on an alien spacecraft. It is believed that before Earth’s biology became DNA centric, there was an earlier time when it was RNA centric. Here, scientists are describing some of this older RNA functionality that still exists within bacterial cells and, in one case, multicellular genomes.


Discovering relics from a lost world run by RNA molecules may lead to modern tools for fighting disease

By Jeffrey E. Barrick and Ronald R. Breaker

A mystery surrounding the way bacteria manage their vitamins piqued our interest in the fall of 2000. Together with growing evidence in support of a tantalizing theory about the earliest life on earth and our own efforts to build switches from biological molecules, the bacterial conundrum set our laboratory group at Yale University in search of an answer. What we found was a far bigger revelation than we were expecting: it was a new form of cellular self-control based on one of the oldest types of molecule around–ribonucleic acid, or RNA.

Long viewed as mostly a lowly messenger, RNA could have considerable authority, as it turned out, and sophisticated mechanisms for asserting it. Although the workings of this newfound class of RNA molecules that we dubbed riboswitches are still being characterized, it is already clear that they may also provide novel ways of fighting human diseases. Many pathogenic bacteria rely on riboswitches to control aspects of their own fundamental metabolism, for instance.


The Great Global Warming Swindle – 3

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

– This post is about The Great Global Warming Swindle which was broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4 on March 8th, 2007. The broadcast took the view that Global Warming is a lie and it has been creating quite a stir since it was aired.

– To locate related posts on this site, search for the term swindle.

– Here’s another good post on The Great Global Warming Swindle . This one is by John Houghton who chaired the first three IPCC working groups. He rebuts here many of the points raised in the show.

– And, in the interest of being fair, I’ve noted that no one who has written rebuttals to The Great Global Warming Swindle has taken Professor Reiter of Paris to task. I wondered about that and googled a bit to see what I could learn and found very little. Reiter, in the show, made the point that the IPCC claims, that Malaria will spread further as tempertures warm, are bunk. Even though most people don’t know it, Malaria is not a desease limited to the warmer parts of the planet. Indeed, he reminds us, Alaska has some of the worst mosquito problems in the world. In my research, I only found one article that made a tepid rebuttal of Reiter’s points and said they were, perhaps, overstated. In this piece, Houghton acknowledges that, “Professor Reiter who appeared in the programme described how, unfortunately, his expert work on malaria failed to get recognition in the elevant IPCC chapter“.


The Great Global Warming Swindle
Programme directed by Martin Durkin, on Channel 4
on Thursday 8 March 2007

Critique by John Houghton, President, John Ray Initiative

Some background on Martin Durkin can be found on

The programme purported to debunk the science of Global Warming describing its ‘lies’ and an invention of hundreds of scientists around the world who have conspired to mislead governments, and the general public. The most prominent
person in the programme was Lord Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer who is not a scientist and who shows little knowledge of the science but who is party to the creation of a conspiracy theory that questions the motives and integrity
of the world scientific community, especially as represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The material presented was a mixture of truth, half truth and falsehood put together with the sole purpose of discrediting the science of global warming as presented by the main world community of climate scientists and by the IPCC.