Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sydney black outs: its lights shown on global climate change

Major Landmarks including the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor House shut down its lights for 1 hour in the evening in an attempt to raise awareness about Climate Change.

Said GW "Sydney did what?"

The News story

Friday, March 30, 2007

Michael Ware

Journalism, especially covering a war, is always scary. Here is a interview when Andersen Cooper sat down with Michael Ware. Michael Ware has spent 4 years covering the war in Iraq.

Michael Ware, man from Brisbane, spent early part of his Journalism career for TIME and has now joined CNN as the Baghdad correspondent. He now has the reputation for having traveled to insurgent's territories to report their perspective of the war.

Interview parts I II III IV V VI (these are on U-toob. they maybe pulled off eventually.)

An excerpt from one of his pieces:
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sniper is watching these American soldiers. You're looking at the unobstructed view from the sniper team's vehicle.

And they are waiting for their moment, as the soldiers mingle with Iraqi civilians.

"People are around them," warns the sniper's spotter, who seems to be operating the video camera.

"Want me to find another place?"

"No, no," comes the reply. "Give me a moment."

And, then, the soldier falls forward. You hear the sniper's vehicle start, and they slip away.

American casualties this month are tracking at near record numbers. This video is a glimpse into an enduring feature of this war.
A career bio quote from Michael Ware on a radio show:
"I'm actually a lawyer or an attorney by training. But after graduating law school, I only stayed in practice for one year after working in our court of appeal, then fell into journalism, working for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation newspapers in Australia, where I eventually covered the conflict in East Timor. After that, I took a job with Time Magazine in Australia, and then after September 11, I was sent to Afghanistan, where I stayed for over a year. And then as the war in Iraq approached, I entered Iraq through Iran, into the Kurdish North, where I hooked up with U.S. Special Forces, and the Peshmerga militia, and covered the Northern front line. Ever since then, I have essentially been living in Baghdad."

Electric car timeline

Time line for 'Electric Car design' dates back to 1834 when Thomas Davenport invented a car run on non-rechargeable batteries. Thomas Davenport was the first to hold patent on Electric car design. His auto shop where he did this work is still preserved in Forestdale, Vermont.

for the full time line see the Who killed the Electric Car movie page from Sony Classics.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Science with a bang

Boomer has a new approach to teaching, "anything that makes a bang or a noise is good".
One day the cops showed up as a result of a half-baked Boomer stunt. He was testing whether a 1.5-million-volt Tesla coil could shoot a spark across the room. In the process, he cut off all police radio communications for miles.

Boomer’s reaction: “Neat!”
Would you have liked him as your science teacher?

While Shane Totten won the Golden Apple award for teaching.
Students line up in pairs and hold balloons attached to sticks over a candle. The balloons filled with the students’ breath, regular carbon dioxide, make small pops. The balloons filled with hydrogen the students got by combining hydrochloric acid and zinc in a flask pops and creates a small fire ball, eliciting screams from some of the kids in the class.
It’s a lesson on mini-Hindenbergs, complete with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” in the background. --[Excerpt from Naples News]

for your viewing pleasure: What would happen when, at low gravity, balloons filled with water are pinched? NASA has posted some demo videos on this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NASA playing with marbles?

NASA scientist Bill Cooke is shooting marbles and he's playing "keepsies." But, this knowledge will help keep astronauts safe when America returns to the Moon in the next decade. some very interesting stuff on simulating meteors and their impact using fancy marble guns on carefully arranged soil terrains. More here in the NASA pages

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

peek into the abyss?

Will you look up at the clouds or down into the abyss?

Grand Canyon glass skywalk is open for public. BBC Sketch of the design:

convolutions and sum of sums

Let Sk be the sequence of simple sums, that is S1=1, S2 =1+2, Sk =1+2+...+k then
S1 + S2 + ... + Sk = k.1+(k-1).2+(k-2).3+ ... + 2.(k-1)+1.k = the convolution of the sequence {1, ...,k}.

In your spare time you can show that sum of sums equals (n)(n+1)(n+2)/(1.2.3) and sum of sum of sums equals n(n+1)(n+2)(n+3)/( and so on.

1.2.3 = 6. = 24.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Enticing review

The bloodred walls are lined with Ralph Steadman's dark and drippy drawings and Gary Larson's devilish Sunday comics. Vultures perched in tree branches inhabit the restaurant's back wall, watching over any diner unlucky enough to be facing north. But forget impending death by taking comfort in the menu: lemon ricotta hotcakes, buffalo sausage, and homemade jam and peanut butter served with every slice of toast. The unlikely jewel in this crown is the wild rice porridge. Wild. Rice. Porridge. It's a sumptuous mixture of wild rice, blueberries, cranberries, hazelnuts, sweet cream, and pure maple syrup. It's also one of the best reasons to get out of bed since Christmas. - From review of Hell's Kitchen
This is not an endorsement, but I agree with the above review. Only because the review is written so well! Well, Hell's Kitchen is pretty good for a breakfast place.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fibonacci Sums

The Fibonacci series is: F1=1, F2=2, for n=2,3,... Fn+1= Fn + Fn-1. The (n+1)-st number is the sum of n-th and (n-1)-th number in the sequence.

Fibonacci numbers have the property that: the sum of the first n numbers of a sequence is contained in the sequence. Do you know of others?

F1+F2+F3+...+Fn = Fn+2-1

Actually the sequence G1=1, G2=2,for n=2,3,... Gn+1= Gn + ... + G2 + G1 trivially staifies that property. So, Fibonacci sequence is not unique in the above sense. Can you think of a sequence {Hk} such that

H1+H2+H3+...+Hn = Hn+3 - c? for some constant c.

On a tangent: Kolmogorov information complexity speaks of representations that can compress information effectively. Not only does the following set of characters "F1=1, F2=2 Fn+1= Fn + Fn-1" contain the entire Fibonacci sequence, but also the sum of its first n elements.

Search Engine Spoilers

I wanted to search for consumer experiences of a decent dealership in my area. Since, google general search includes all kinds of corporate sites, I looked up something like "subaru decent dealer in my neighborhood nice people" in google blog search. The top 10 results were hijacked by very random corporate spam links from dealerships that want to sell cars, but are not even in my neighborhood! We are told blogs are a democratic medium, and these search results seem to show that blog network is not well connected enough for good regular blogs to trump over cheap sleazy spam.

Maybe google can tweak their engine for blog search to weed out these spammers more effectively.


Monday, March 12, 2007

A Girl Like Me

A Girl like me, a short film by Kiri Davis is a project for an after-school program that won the audience award at the Silverdocs festival and the Diversity Award from Media that Matters festival.

Kiri Davis was on NPR to talk about her project. The title for Kiri Davis' project is drawn up on a video by Bill Cosby called 'A Boy like Me' made in 1972.

New green is coal?

Winona Daily News reports
The latest trend in the green world of ethanol is a surprising one: coal.

Minnesota’s first coal-fired ethanol plant soon will begin operation in Heron Lake, and it won’t be the last. The high price of natural gas is enticing new plant owners to embrace coal power. But while it may make economic sense, the choice of this fossil fuel to make a renewable one has some people shaking their heads. [emphasis added]
look around in your neighborhood to see if this is the trend we want to see? The report offers this comment on the Californian law:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his state’s Legislature have embraced a plan to rate all motor fuels by greenhouse gas emissions over their entire life cycles, from production to transportation to ignition.

Measured that way, ethanol made from plant residue would earn an excellent rating. Ethanol from corn would do moderately well. And corn ethanol made in a coal-fired plant? That would rate poorly — even lower than ordinary gasoline, according to Schwarzenegger’s office.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Having Kids

I recently came across a thoughtful blog by my friend at Thought Raker on "When Should you have a child?" She lays out some very thoughtful reasons suggesting "it is better to have a kid later in your life." After a comment on that blog from someone who is juggling the idea of balancing independence and career with having kids, she has now expanded on the older blog.

On the experience of having kids, there is a very engaging conversation on pregnancy from Whirlpool Family Talk podcast (and this you got to listen to!). Here is the audio:

Saturday, March 10, 2007

U.S Welfare Subsidies and global effects

PBS NOW has a program on the effects U.S subsidies have on global cotton farmers. A few excerpts ...
There are roughly 30,000 cotton-growers in America who receive billions of our U.S. tax dollars every year through government subsidies. ... Ray Offenheiser, president of the anti-poverty organization Oxfam America told NOW, "There is a direct association between these subsidies and the hunger in Africa and the plight of African farmers."
The website also has podcast and a video, with responses from Oxfam and the U.S National Cotton Council.

The community in Vidharba region of Maharashtra is sustained by cotton farming. In recent years it has been plagued by farmer suicides. A number of articles on this topic can be found here and here. On Jan 3, 2006 P.A. Sainath writes in his column "The swelling register of death"
Farm suicides in Vidarbha since November 1 have crossed the 100 mark. There have been 200 since June 2. But the last 100 have occurred in less than two months. A little more than 65 farmers have taken their own lives in December alone.
"Note that the rise in suicides has followed the fall in cotton price," points out Vijay Jawandia, Vidarbha's leading farm activist. "This is no surprise. The government's so-called `relief package' of Rs.1,045 crore for the farmer has not had the slightest impact on the trend."
Question is: Is the world listening?


considering many options, but decided on none. [source: Anonymous]

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Water and Oil do mix

To provide for water in plastic bottles to Americans for one year requires 47 million tonnes of oil, which is equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road. - Container Recycling Institute.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

U.S shortchanged by Ford and GM?

An article today in Guardian Unlimited about Green F1 racing car from Honda had this small bit
in the US, where the transportation department estimates that the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks sold in 2001 was just 24.5mpg, the same as in 1999 and slightly below the 24.7mpg in 2000. The peak was 26.2mpg in 1987. The auto website says Americans have little choice. It says there are now only two vehicle models on sale that have a petrol mileage of at least 40mpg. In 2005, there were five.

By comparison, Europe has 113 models. Adding insult to injury, nearly two-thirds of the 113 highly fuel-efficient car models that are unavailable to American consumers are either made by US companies, such as Ford or GM, or by foreign manufacturers with substantial US operations, such as Volkswagen, Nissan and Toyota.

[emphasis mine]

Monday, March 05, 2007

SUVs and Monster trucks

Reasons for not buying a SUV:
  • The environmental damage is very significant.
  • Even if it buys safety for the owner, in any accident it will inflict greater damage to the family in the other car.
  • The mileage is very low. The CAFE standards has a very interesting history. In 1979 the standards for passenger cars was at 18mpg and and for light trucks at 17mpg. S.U.Vs introduced in the 90's got classified as light trucks and since then the standard has nudged its way up to 21 mpg today. The passenger car standards have increased up to 27 mpg. The low price of oil in U.S helped a surge in market share for S.U.Vs.
Today GM still advertises "at least 30mpg cars" on their website, when most competitors have gone way past that mark and the future looks to 100mpg cars.

U.S. Predicting Steady Increase for Emissions

NY Times article says the U.S predictions for emissions over the next decade will increase at the same rate as last decade. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has come out with a report and have upped the certainty of human involvement to 90%. There are now people trying to confuse the concern of global cooling in the 70s to global warming concern now. To set the record straight: the excessive particulate matter in the atmosphere helps scatter the heat before it reaches the earth and thus causes cooling. This has been addressed using particulate matter regulations since the 70s. However volcanoes continue to play a role in global cooling. This is not to be confused with the excessive amounts of greenhouse gases being pumped in to the atmosphere which causes global warming (unfortunate use of language).

from the NASA website (link to .rtf file):
  • How do volcanoes affect the atmosphere? As volcanoes erupt, they blast huge clouds into the atmosphere. These clouds are made up of particles and gases, including sulfur dioxide. Millions of tons of sulfur dioxide gas can reach the stratosphere from a major volcano. There, the sulfur dioxide converts to tiny persistent sulfuric acid (sulfate) particles, referred to as aerosols.
  • How do volcanic emission influence climatic changes? Global cooling often has been linked with major volcanic eruptions. Sulfate particles reflect energy coming from the sun, preventing the sun's rays from heating Earth thus lowering temperatures in the troposphere, and changing atmospheric circulation patterns.