Monthly Archives: September 2012

Close a 10-mile section of highway – air quality immediately improves by 83%

This weekend scientists were able to measure freeway pollution when a 10-mile section was shut down for construction. The results were surprising. Within minutes of the traffic shut-down, air quality for the region improved by 83%. It also improved by 75% in the surrounding cities and 25% for the 30 miles in every direction.

The findings even shocked the scientists, from UCLA News:

“The air was amazingly clean that weekend,” Suzanne Paulson said. “Our measurements in Santa Monica were almost below what our instruments could detect, and the regional effect was significant. It was a really eye-opening glimpse of what the future could be like if we can move away from combustion engines.”

But just as quickly as the clean air came it was gone. Within a week of cars returning the pollution levels were back to normal. Still, it gives a peek into a future with electric vehicles and much cleaner air.

Read the full article - ‘Carmaheaven’: Closure of 405 in 2011 improved air quality up to 83 percent

 

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A look at raptors – the biology of birds of prey

Raptors are hawks, owls, eagles, falcons, and vultures. They are hunters who prefer to capture their prey alive – swooping out of the sky with fierce claws “made to rip flesh off the bones.” And can come in all sizes, fitting into the palm of your hand or displaying a 9-foot wingspan.

These are a few of the facts pulled from NPR’s – The Biology of Birds of Prey. An interview with raptor specialists and researchers studying the birds in Idaho and saving many from extinction (audio 25-minutes, transcript available). The recovery has been a huge success going from just 22 condors in 1982, to over 400 now.

These condors are not the prettiest animal – looking like remnants of the Dinosaur age – with bald pink faces, black eyes, and a surrounding black mane of hair, like a lion (photo below).

See them in this video:

 

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Recipe for Curry Butternut Squash Soup

After a long summer of iced coffees and frozen fruit drinks, we can finally enjoy hot and savory soups. Fall brings back cozy nights with a comfy blanket, a good book, and a steaming bowl of soup.

The first soup of the season is Butternut Squash Soup – so easy to make and so overwhelmingly…orange.

source: Simply Recipes

 

The rich orange-ness will bring you into Halloween, the proper way. Here is the recipe for Curry Butternut Squash Soup, from Simply Recipes

Ingredients: butternut squash, curry powder, onion, olive oil, & ginger

Cut the squash into small cubes and sauté until brown. In another pot add chopped onions, cook until soft – add curry, ginger, and olive oil, and warm for a minute. Then add the cubed squash bits and simmer for 40 minutes (add water or chicken broth for a liquid base). Once the squash is mushy and tender – purée in a blender.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, chopped cilantro.

 

For more details and portion sizes visit Simply Recipes – Curried Squash Soup.

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The Great New England Vampire Panic

Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897, but years before that novel made vampires famous, New England had its own famous living dead. The stories tell of dead relatives rising from the grave to haunt their family – even drink their blood. Townspeople would become so scared they would have the Mayor and Church approve an exhumation and beheading. And if the heart had blood in it – many freshly buried bodies did – they would burn the heart and the family would eat the ashes.

The cause for all this terror was a Tuberculosis epidemic that made bodies look like – from Smithsonian:

“The emaciated figure strikes one with terror,” reads one 18th-century description, “the forehead covered with drops of sweat; the cheeks painted with a livid crimson, the eyes sunk…the breath offensive, quick and laborious, and the cough so incessant as to scarce allow the wretched sufferer time to tell his complaints.” Indeed, symptoms “progressed in such a way that it seemed like something was draining the life and blood out of somebody.”

For country people in the pre-industrial area – with no scientific explanation – it could seem that someone was “feasting on the living tissue and blood.” Read the full story from Smithsonian Magazine:

The Great New England Vampire Panic

 

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Scientists set out to study Earth’s most forbidding – and Mars-like – locations

If we want to find life on Mars it might help to study the most forbidding places on Earth. And it turns out there are four places so inhospitable – too cold, dry, hot or salty – that match the conditions on Mars. A team of scientists visited these sites to see if life can survive.

The four places are:

  • Chott-el Jerid, a salt pan in Tunisia
  • Atacama desert in Chile
  • Rio Tinto in Southern Spain
  • Deception Island in Antarctica
Deception Island in Antarctica. (source: Astrobiology)

 

From AstroBiology:

“The big questions are: what is life, how can we define it and what are the requirements for supporting life? To understand the results we receive back from missions like Curiosity, we need to have detailed knowledge of similar environments on Earth. In the field campaigns, we have studied ecosystems…found a range of complex chemical processes that allow life to survive in unexpected places.”

The results are helping to guide NASA’s mission to Mars with the rover Curiosity. Hinting at places where life might be found, how cloud cover can help create moisture, and showing that bacteria can survive just below the surface.

More about this research and the results from each site – from AstroBiology Magazine - Mars-Like Places on Earth Provide Insight to Life.

Tesla announces network of free charging stations powered by solar energy

The biggest problem with driving an electric vehicle (EV) is not driving from home to work. It’s the long trips and vacations that scare people – beyond the EV’s range of 75-150 miles per charge. They need a network of charging stations, like gas stations, placed along highway routes for all the popular destinations.

And while the major car manufacturers are content to let governments and utility companies build these – Tesla has announced they will build their own. The company has six in operation in California and plans for twelve by next year. After that, if sales continue to grow, building 100s of them nationwide – allowing you to drive an EV from Los Angeles to New York.

And like all things Elon Musk does – these will be sleek, high technology, sustainable devices. Powered by solar technology, giving a 150 mile charge in 30 minutes, and free for Tesla drivers – while giving energy back to the grid.

For comparison, the standard models on the market offer 16-31 miles for a 30 minute charge.

 

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The top ten female icons of advertising

We’ve got Madge the Manicurist and Rosie the Riveter – plus, the little umbrella girl from Morton’s which goes all the way back to 1914 – from Advertising Age:

This venerable ad icon was originally an afterthought, one of three substitute ideas that agency W. Ayer & Co. pitched in case the company rejected 12 others. But Morton fell in love with the girl from the beginning. The “When It Rains It Pours” campaign made its debut in 1914 became a classic.

 

source: Morton

 

Then there’s the  iconic, Rosie the Riveter:

Rosie was the star of the classic campaign to recruit women to the workforce during World War II. Her image was popularized by Norman Rockwell’s rendition on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943.

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Interesting profile on Elon Musk – a genius billionaire changing the world

It’s not often you read a profile of a man fit for comic books. One whose life so closely resembles a superhero’s that a movie was made about him. In that movie genius billionaire Tony Stark builds a powerful metal suit that can fly, produce unlimited energy, and battle gods. Which nearly describes Elon Musk.

Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration but Musk is flying people into space, building electric cars, running a billion-dollar solar company, and – his latest venture – trying to create a super train that’s “at least twice as fast as a plane, solar powered and leaves right when you arrive.”

Those are some achievements fit for a superhero – and you have to wonder, how can one man do all that? It’s hard to put in words but more comparisons help – from Business Week:

Friends and colleagues describe him as Steve Jobs, John D. Rockefeller, and Howard Hughes rolled into one. “He’s a throwback to when people were doing less incrementalist things,” says Peter Thiel, the tech investor who co-founded PayPal with Musk. “The companies he’s started are executing against a vision measured not in years but in decades.”

I’m not sure what that means, but it definitely makes for an interesting profile – Elon Musk, the 21st Century Industrialist.

 

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Mirror, mirror – which social network is the greatest of them all? — Customer satisfaction ratings

For the third year, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) asked 70,000 people how they feel about the top social media sites. And Google+ and Wikipedia are the winners – from Marketing Land:

  • Google+, Wikipedia – 78 points
  • YouTube – 73
  • Pinterest – 69
  • Twitter – 64
  • Linkedin – 63
  • Facebook – 61

 

source: Marketing Land

 

Apparently, Timeline is still angering folks after all these months. Not to mention Facebook’s privacy issues and ads that are “intrusive, irrelevant, and repetitive.” It may take Facebook a while to climb out of that hole.

Meanwhile, Google+ has yet to anger anybody and has a few bright spots. High ratings were given to the site’s privacy policy, lack of ads, and a “superior mobile experience.”

One thing to keep in mind – these ratings are so poor that only cable, newspapers, and the airlines received worse scores. Ouch. I guess we’re not too satisfied with our social networks.