Friday, July 25, 2014

Credit for Lionfish Study Gets Poisonous

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Check out this report from the Miami Herald about the fallout of publicity on a 6th grader's science project.

As many in the higher ed biz know, we often work with high school or younger students on science projects.  They come to us over the summer or have scheduled times to come in to do lab work during the regular semester.

Because they are so young, universities and the media often focus publicity efforts on these students.  They and their results are interesting and give us hope for the future.  It is always wonderful to see these students do good work.  Many of us put in long hours working with these types of students and our undergrad and grad students often help us with the mentorship work.

However, clearly things got out of hand with the lionfish research alluded to in the story.  It appears as if the media picked up on a 6th grader's project that was based on graduate student work already published.  The 6th grader did some follow up work to a detailed study conducted by a graduate student.  Who got the national and international credit?  The 6th grader.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Texas Goes 3600 Miles for Wind

A wind farm in Texas.  Click for photo credit.
Check out this interesting article in the New York Times on Texas' quest for wind energy.  They built 3600 miles of transmission lines from the windy panhandle to the major energy using areas of the state to try to encourage construction of windmills in the region.  And it is working.

Dozens of new windmills are being been built that will account for 7000 megawatts of energy.  The capacity of the transmission line is 18,000 megawatts, so there is room for further development.  Considering that a medium-sized coal burning power plant produces about 500 megawatts, the implications of this wind development project are clear.  The wind plant has the potential to eliminate the need for 36 coal burning power plants.

Of course, there are always challenges with wind.  The biggest, of course, is how to supply energy on non-windy days.  Nevertheless, this is a very big development for the green energy movement.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another Huge Sinkhole in Spring Hill Florida

Spring Hill, Florida continues to be the epicenter of sinkhole activity in Florida.  The area developed rapidly since the 1970's.  Since then, hundreds of sinkholes have formed to cause widespread damage to homes.  The main reason for this situation is the unique underground geology in the area.  A groundwater mixing zone, where fresh and saline water mix to form a more aggressive solution environment for limestone, is nearby.  Plus the bedrock is relatively near the surface which means that the impacts of any solution and subsequent collapse are very evident.

Check out this video below.  Also, if you want to know more about Florida sinkholes, there's this.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Income Inequality on the Decline?

Check out this interesting piece in the New York Times about income inequality.  According to the author, it is on the decline globally.  This is an important finding because income inequality is a theme in much of the emerging discourse on global sustainability.  While the author acknowledges that income inequality is on the rise in places like the U.S., it is dropping throughout much of the developing world. He also states that many nations with income disparities can modify policies, such as improving education, to address the concerns.

The piece is worth a read to get a nuanced and critical view of the discourse on issues of income inequality.  What do you think?  We have certainly seen income inequality rise in the United States and it is of growing concern to many major thinkers.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Life Without a Personal Car in Finland

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Grist has an interesting article on Helsinki's efforts to use driverless cars, smart buses, and hi-tech wizardry to get rid of cars in 10 years.  They are seeking to create a transportation system by which you can have door to door transit service by putting in your starting and end point in an on-line application.  Once that is done, a car shows up to take you to a bus stop or your destination.

I know lots of people in the New York area who already do this--albeit without the driverless cars.  It is pretty easy to live without cars in the New York area.  However, for less dense cities, this approach could be a game changer for reducing cars on the road and for reducing personal debt for car ownership.  Driverless car technology is looking more and more like it will be transformative for our future.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Today I continue my series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks. In this post we go to Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. 

I'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order. If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along. Following the photos, you'll find links to previous On the Brink posts on the National Parks. Check them out to see the beauty of the U.S. National Parks as captured by visitors.

Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Giant Siberian Hole Not End of Times or Aliens

Anytime something strange and unexpected happens on the earth, some claim that it is a sign of the "end of times". Such sentiments are not new or unique.  Feverish fear mongers have been making such claims for centuries. It's been happening as long as there have been apocalyptic religious views that saw the earth ending in some cataclysmic event brought on by the hand of God.  Likewise, UFO adherents find any oddity on earth more evidence for their odd assertions of aliens among us.

Well, today's apocalyptic event is a giant hole in the ground in Siberia.  It looks like some explosion of some type occurred to cause a large crater to form.  While there is some confusion over exactly the processes involved with the formation, it looks to me like a gas explosion over a salt or ice dome.  The landscape is a periglacial environment with tremendous subsurface ice activity.  Geologists know that this ice has some strange properties in that large collections of it will grow to cause elevated bumps in the landscape called pingos.  The pingos act in some ways like salt domes in that they serve as a cap under which gases can build up.  

There has been a great deal of natural gas extraction in the area.  My guess is that there was some form of instability brought about by pressure changes associated with the extraction.  However, who knows?  The evidence is not in yet.  I just know for sure that this is a natural process and not aliens or the end of times as some pseudoscientists have claimed.