Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Offshore energy

That exploding oil rig in the Gulf made for a rather awkward Earth Day. With Obama recently lifting the ban on off shore drilling, this event should give us a pause to the potential human and environmental hazards that come with operation of oceanic oil wells. And the situation isn’t looking good either. The slick is currently 80 miles long and 40 miles wide with 42,000 gallons of crude oil leaking a day. Containment efforts have not yet been successful and BP estimates 90 days until the leak can be shut off. The Coast Guard has gone ahead and made the decision to burn the oil. Risky business, this is first time setting fire to an oil slick will be utilized for such a large spill. But the alternative being letting the oil reach land, it may be the best chance to curb the environmental impact.

Is it safe? More than 90% of the oil will be converted to carbon dioxide and water through combustion. But the plume of black smoke generated will contain plenty of toxic chemicals. Crude oil is primarily a nasty mix of hydrocarbons and including many carcinogenic PAHs, and burning of the oil will only result in the formation of pyrogenic contaminants and volatile organic compounds as well. As the plume of smoke is carried into the atmosphere, local weather conditions will be the controlling factor for the human and environmental health impact. This is definitely a news story that you will want to keep your eye on as the situation changes daily.


Anyways, there is some good off-shore energy news. The US has just approved the construction of the first offshore wind farm. Located 14mi off of Massachusetts, the 130 turbine station will generate enough power for 3/4th of Cape Cod, or about 225,000 residents. Energy production could start as soon as 2012.

Wind power is one of the cleanest sources of renewable energy. It requires no fuel to run, releases no emissions and has a minimal environmental impact. Offshore farms are particullaly appealing because their prohibitive set up cost is offset by high energy yields. Because the ocean surface is smooth compared to land, sustained wind speeds are on average much greater. It’s rather disappointing that the US is only now jumping on this. Off shore wind power could potentially be great additions to energy grid in coastal regions (see pic), and for this reason, I wish the Mass. farm great success. Hopefully it will encourage lawmakers to allow construction of additional wind farms around the country (I’m looking at you, Long Island).

Friday, April 23, 2010

James Randi on TED

Despite being 79 when this was recorded two years ago, the ever more gnome-like, James Randi, is as brilliant as always.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Fish Tank - Albino BN Pleco

Another image of one of my favorite fish.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

RIP thesis project

Sorry, for not blogging for a while, I have been tied up in lab running many important controls for an observation I based my thesis on. It did not turn out the way I would have liked..... stupid controls. Sorry I can't say what the western blot below is. Let today mark the tragic death of my thesis project.
PS. My backup idea about a small trend in some other data did not pan out with a larger data set either. Science-2 Me-0.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sarah Palin and the politics of reality

Belched out of the intellectual black hole that is Sarah Palin, comes this breathless bit of populist posturing:

"We should create a competitive climate for investment and for renewables and alternatives that are economical and doable and none of this snake oil science stuff that is based on this global warming, Gore-gate stuff that came down where there was revelation that the scientists, some of these scientists were playing political games."

Emphasis mine.

Damn those elitist scientists!

Palin continues on (see video) by bemoaning America’s current energy woes. But don’t worry! America is going lead the next global energy revolution because we are the leaders in scientific innovation, according to the former governor. Sorry Mrs. Palin, you can’t have it both ways. You cannot extol America’s scientific ingenuity while simultaneously giving a big greasy “fuck you” to the science community, climate researchers or not.

All this does is further sensationalize and distort a non-issue. By referring to climate change as “Gore-gate” only goes to show how little denialists understand the issues on hand. They seek to characterize scientists as cultists affixed on protecting the image of their sacred idol, whether it be Al Gore for climate change or Darwin for evolution. This is not how science works. But it gives denialists and their followers something easy to latch on to, an easy target. It fires them up, like in the video mentioned, hear how her listeners bray at the sheer mention of Gore’s name.

I think Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy said it best:

“the far right in this country have been beating the pulpit to a bloody mess with their distortions and noise-making. They will do or say just about anything to distract people from the real issues. As long as people are scared to death by this noise, they won’t think about issues, they’ll react to them.”

Accompanied in his post is a brilliant segment by Rachel Maddow (reposted below). While it covers many issues that fall outside the realm of science, she does discuss “climategate” and how tortuously it was paraded around by the right - never mind the fact independent investigations found nothing that undermines the scientific backings of climate science.

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And rightfully so, Maddow calls “bull” on these politicians.

Phil again:

“Global warming is real. Evolution is real. Vaccines do not cause autism. Homeopathy doesn’t work. These are facts, and they don’t care whether or not denialists spin, fold, and mutilate them. Until we face up to reality, however, they will spin, fold, and mutilate us.”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Fish Tank - now with more fish!

Seems I've gotten behind on this series since I lost all my fish pictures with my laptop. Now that I've finally found my camera software CD, I bring you, pictures!

First, the oldest fish I currently own, or rather the fish I've had the longest, my cory - Podgy. He has endured all my stupid mistakes as a fishkeeper and has grown quite fat over the year and half since I've gotten him. So maybe I'm doing something right.

Next, an update on my Laetacara curviceps spawn. Well, they're at it again. After losing the first spawn (I'm looking at you, Mr. Moustachfish) they've decided to give it another go.
If you look at the bottom right of the video, you'll see a yellow and black snail amidst the corpses (er...empty shells) of several Malaysian Trumpet Snails. I was being overrun by the MTS, so what cooler way to solve this problem them by getting a snail to eat the other snails.