Archive for August, 2010

Take a deep breath – why the world is running out of helium

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

– Not entirely sure if I’ve written on this subject before.   But, if I had money to invest, I can think of three areas where I’d probably focus myself.   Helium, Lithium and the Norwegian Kroner.

– The first two because they are chemical elements and they have unique properties that nothing else can duplicate and they are here in earth in finite amounts and our demand for them is rising.  And looks strongly like it will continue to rise.

– We know where virtually all of the Helium is on Earth is and, as the article documents, we are not conserving it very well while our need for it looks to continue to rise indefinitely.   A good bet, I’d say.

– Lithium is coming into its own because it is an essential ingredient in the zillions of batteries we are soon going to be needing and using for cars; among other things.   Bolivia has a bunch of it and the world’s major corporation are in a lather to get their hands on it.   And Bolivia’s people’s president, is having the audacity to say that the profits and benefits of mining and selling the stuff should accrue to the Bolivian people (can you imagine?).  The CIA took Allende down for far less cheek than this.   Now they are saying that vast amounts of Lithium have been discovered in Afghanistan.  That should prove interesting.

– And then Norwegian Kroners.  Well, the Norwegians are just about the only ones who’ve had vast oil wealth fall on their head that haven’t rushed out to build the world’s tallest building for the country’s ego or a personal ski-jump for each of their citizens.

– Instead, they’ve created one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds and then had the audacity to invest it ethically.  An investment that is beating a lot of countries investing in crap.   If I was looking for a stable currency to hold, my money would be on the Norwegian Kroner.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

It is the second-lightest element in the Universe, has the lowest boiling-point of any gas and is commonly used through the world to inflate party balloons.

But helium is also a non-renewable resource and the world’s reserves of the precious gas are about to run out, a shortage that is likely to have far-reaching repercussions.

Scientists have warned that the world’s most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle.

The law stipulates that the US National Helium Reserve, which is kept in a disused underground gas field near Amarillo, Texas – by far the biggest store of helium in the world – must all be sold off by 2015, irrespective of the market price.

The experts warn that the world could run out of helium within 25 to 30 years, potentially spelling disaster for hospitals, whose MRI scanners are cooled by the gas in liquid form, and anti-terrorist authorities who rely on helium for their radiation monitors, as well as the millions of children who love to watch their helium-filled balloons float into the sky.

– More…

What Happens When You Die? Evidence Suggests Time Simply Reboots

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

– I’m not at all sure what to think of this piece.   I do know that ‘time’ is one of the most fascinating subjects to think about.   So fundamental to our very existence and so unfathomable.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

What happens when we die? Do we rot into the ground, or do we go to heaven (or hell, if we’ve been bad)? Experiments suggest the answer is simpler than anyone thought. Without the glue of consciousness, time essentially reboots.

The mystery of life and death can’t be examined by visiting the Galapagos or looking through a microscope. It lies deeper. It involves our very selves. We awake in the present. There are stairs below us that we appear to have climbed; there are stairs above us that go upward into the unknown future. But the mind stands at the door by which we entered and gives us the memories by which we go about our day. Everything is ordered and predictable. We’re like cuckoo birds who appear through a door each morning. We fancy there’s a clockwork set in motion at the beginning of time.

But if you remove everything from space, what’s left? Nothing. The same applies for time — you can’t put it in a jar. You can’t see through the bone surrounding your brain (everything you experience is information in your mind). Biocentrism tells us space and time aren’t objects — they’re the mind’s tools for putting everything together.


Four stories on China that paint the future

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

– I’ve been thinking that China’s future is going to be, to a very large extent, our future.   She’s grown so big so fast that the equations of world power have shifted visibly in a mater of  few decades.

– But, she’s hard to predict.  Her power is growing but so is the danger of self-implosion as the tension between the wealth of her cities and the grinding poverty of her rural poor come ever more into conflict.   She’s growing industrially but she’s poisoning the very land and water she stands on to do so.  And, her military power, thanks to the greed of the west and the balance of trade surpluses she’s enjoyed for so long, is growing to world stature while the internal pressures within the vast nation are threatening to tear her apart.

– And all of us watch fascinated as if we are mice watching a cat that hasn’t seen us yet slinking into the room.

So, four stories below that illustrate some of these problems and then a link at the end to all the stories I’ve reported on here on Samadhisoft about China.   Read it all and get a glimpse of all our futures.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


water pollution in china

Beijing’s Desert Storm

US says China’s military has seen secret expansion

all Samadhisoft’s China’ stories

Bike agenda spins cities toward U.N. control, Maes warns

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

– Some of my American friends wonder why I left the US to live in New Zealand.   Well, here’s one reason – the nut cases that are increasingly part of the American political scene.

– This fellow is the Republican party’s candidate for Governor of Colorado – and he thinks bicycle transportation is a UN plot to subvert American values <roll of the eyes>.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

“This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor’s efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes “that’s exactly the attitude they want you to have.”

“This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms,” Maes said.

He added: “These aren’t just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor. These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to.”

Maes said in a later interview that he was referring to Denver’s membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an international association that promotes sustainable development and has attracted the membership of more than 1,200 communities, 600 of which are in the United States.


Madagascar’s forests plundered for rare rosewood

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Rosewood traders turn up in villages on the Masoala peninsula with cash and rice. They want local people to help them find precious rosewood trees in the dense forest, and then to haul the heavy logs out.

The illegal trade is irresistible to poor communities. Local people used to make money from tourists who came to see the lemurs – primates found only in Madagascar.

This was a national industry worth more than $400m (£256m). But last year’s military-sponsored change of government has frightened off all but the most intrepid international travellers.

In March 2009, Marc Ravalomanana was forced into exile and replaced as president by Andry Rajoelina, a 36-year-old former mayor of the capital, Antananarivo.

The international community deemed this a coup and refused to recognise the new regime. Large donors like the World Bank, the European Union and the United States withdrew all but humanitarian aid from President Rajoelina’s government.

This has had a dramatic impact as more than half of Madagascar’s budget had come from international donors.

Illegal logging on the rise

Since the political crisis began, the forests of Madagascar have been plundered. In 2009, loggers took an estimated 100,000 rosewood and ebony trees from the national parks of north-east Madagascar.


Rice yields ‘to fall’ under global warming

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Global warming is set to cut rice yields in Asia, research suggests.

Scientists found that over the last 25 years, the growth in yields has fallen by 10-20% in some locations, as night-time temperatures have risen.

The group of mainly US-based scientists studied records from 227 farms in six important rice-producing countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, India and China.

This is the latest study to suggest that climate change will make it harder to feed the world’s growing population.

In 2004, other researchers found that rice yields in the Philippines were dropping by 10% for every 1C increase in night-time temperature.

That finding, like others, came from experiments on a research station.

The latest data, by contrast, comes from working, fully-irrigated farms that grow “green revolution” crops, and span the rice-growing lands of Asia from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu to the outskirts of Shanghai.

Describing the findings, which are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), lead researcher Jarrod Welch said:

“We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop.”


Nuclear Power ?

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

– A decade ago, people (most people) were pretty clear that the big problem with nuclear power is the waste it generates.   And, the wide consensus was that until we solve that problem, using nuclear power is a no-win strategy.  Yes, we get the power now but we have to do something with the waste – and we really have no good idea what to do with it other than burying it.

– It takes over 10,000 years to begin to cool down.   Essentially, we are burying extremely dangerous stuff that we can only hope does not impact those living here in thousands of years.   I, personally, don’t think we have that right – to put them at great risk.

– If humanity had faced up to its impending energy problems a decade or two ago, we might have had time to build out alternative energy systems to replace oils and gases.   But, we went into denial on the entire issues and now we’re drawing close to the time when the lights really are going to go off if we don’t take action.

– In short, we’ve driven ourselves into the fatal corner wherein nuclear power is the only real option we have – other than letting the light go off.   That’s pretty short term thinking and, unfortunately, those living here on Earth many thousands of years from now, may have to pay a terrible price for our thoughtlessness.

– Here are two stories about nuclear power as it is evolving in the world today:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Chris Huhne says new nuclear plants on track for 2018

Italy: ‘No choice but to return to nuclear power

‘Exorcisms’ performed on Chechen stolen brides

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Dozens of cars were parked outside. Crowds thronged the pavement, desperate to get through the metal gates.

In the courtyard women were filling plastic bottles and jerry cans with water blessed by the imam.

As I took off my shoes, I noticed a marble plaque on the wall:

“There is no illness which Allah cannot cure”.

Inside, huddles of families were camped out on sofas.

There were many tearful faces. Men paced up and down. It might have been an ordinary hospital waiting room until a girl started shrieking and contorting.

A man scooped her up and carried her off into a room off the landing.

Spine-chilling yells came from behind the frosted glass door but nobody turned a hair. Gradually they were stifled by incantations from the Koran.

Most of the patients here are young women and many have suffered breakdowns after being forced into marriage. They are brought to be exorcised and turned into Chechen-style Stepford Wives.

The Centre for Islamic Medicine is an imposing red brick mansion near the centre of Grozny.

It was once the headquarters of the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev – Russia’s number one enemy and the man who masterminded the school hostage siege in Beslan in 2004.

Like many buildings in the Chechen capital, the centre has been expensively renovated.

Two wars for independence from Russia reduced Grozny to rubble.

– More…

‘Shaming’ her in-laws costs 19 year old her nose, ears

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

– This is the sort of story that really makes me angry.   My sense of cross-cultural tolerance just gets run over by my sense of “Let’s just clear the planet of these throwbacks to the 13th century.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“When they cut off my nose and ears, I passed out,” 19-year-old Bibi Aisha of Afghanistan says with chilling candor.

Her beauty is still stunning and her confidence inspiring. It takes a moment for the barbaric act committed against her to register in your mind and sight.

Wearing her patterned scarf and with roughly painted nails she shares her story.

“It felt like there was cold water in my nose, I opened my eyes and I couldn’t even see because of all the blood,” she remembers.

It was an act of Taliban justice for the crime of shaming her husband’s family.

This story began when Aisha was just 8 years old.

Her father had promised her hand in marriage, along with that of her baby sister’s, to another family in a practice called “baad.”

“Baad” in Pashtunwali, the law of the Pashtuns, is a way to settle a dispute between rival families.

At 16, she was handed over to her husband’s father and 10 brothers, who she claims were all members of the Taliban in Oruzgan province. Aisha didn’t even meet her husband because he was off fighting in Pakistan.

“I spent two years with them and became a prisoner,” she says. (Watch more of the interview with Aisha)

Tortured and abused, she couldn’t take it any longer and decided to run away. Two female neighbors promising to help took her to Kandahar province.

But this was just another act of deception.

When they arrived to Kandahar her female companions tried to sell Aisha to another man.

All three women were stopped by the police and imprisoned. Aisha was locked up because she was a runaway. And although running away is not a crime, in places throughout Afghanistan it is treated as one if you are a woman.

A three-year sentence was reduced to five months when President Hamid Karzai pardoned Aisha. But eventually her father-in-law found her and took her back home.

That was the first time she met her husband. He came home from Pakistan to take her to Taliban court for dishonoring his family and bringing them shame.

The court ruled that her nose and ears must be cut off. An act carried out by her husband in the mountains of Oruzgan where they left her to die.

But she survived.

And with the help of an American Provincial Reconstruction Team in Oruzgan and the organization Women for Afghan Women (WAW), she is finally getting the help and protection she needs.

Offers have been pouring in to help Aisha, but there are many more women suffering in silence.


Using idle computer time

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

A lot of today’s computer systems have two and even four processors.   That’s a lot of computing power going to waste that could be doing useful work for someone.

It turns out that there are ways to use this extra computing power.   I’ve been doing it for a decade.  First with the SETI people and then later with the BOINC group.

The other day, one of the programs I contribute computing time to discovered a new and very strange Pulsar.   and

Volunteering your spare computer time doesn’t cost you anything and it might lead to new scientific discoveries, medical cures and who knows what.

Check it out.