Car Fumes and Lightning

January 19, 2009 at 12:05 pm (environment, frightening things)

The New Scientist offers new information about the relationship between car exhaust and lightning strikes, which is best illustrated during the work week when there is the most commuting.

In the south-eastern states, lightning strikes increased with pollution by as much as 25 per cent during the working week. The moist, muggy air in this region creates low-lying clouds with plenty of space to rise and generate the charge needed for an afternoon thunderstorm.

Surprisingly, the effect was not strongest within big cities with high pollution, but in the suburbs and rural areas surrounding them. “There is a misconception that if you get away from cities, you get away from the pollution. Actually, it follows you for hundreds of miles,” says Rosenfeld, who presented the research at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December.

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Some stuff from around.

January 5, 2009 at 8:41 pm (art, environment, music)

Ice instruments by Terje Isungset.

Scientists see others’ thoughts–fuel for anti-surveillance paranoia.

Stitched art by Emily L. Eibel.

Computer-part art.

The environmental terror that is the synthetic beach.

Photos of animals preserved in formalin.

Poodles groomed to look like anything but poodles.

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Photos Of Japanese Highways

December 31, 2008 at 9:54 am (amazing things, art, environment) ()

Take a look at these incredible images of Japanese highways, bridges, and other road-structures. They are mind-blowing, to put it plainly.

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Pictures Of Plankton

December 28, 2008 at 12:13 pm (amazing things, art, environment) (, )

Take a look at these incredible images of plankton. Wow!

They’re part of an exhibition by one Dr. Richard Kirby, based in the UK. The complete group will be on display at aquariums in England next year.

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Peter Gibson’s Street Art

September 23, 2008 at 6:21 pm (art, environment) ()

Via Inhabitat, check out the work of Peter Gibson, A.K.A. Roadsworth, who uses spray paint and wit to point an accusatory yet playful finger at the culture and environment we’ve constructed around cars.

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Fantastic Planet

September 5, 2008 at 5:44 pm (art, environment, movies/video/clips, music) (, )

There’s a great photo gallery of “the most alien-looking place on earth”, Socotra, up at the Dark Roasted Blend. I highly suggest it. How I would love to experience those places in person…

Makes me think of the beautiful animation of the movie Fantastic Planet. The entire thing is available on Youtube, but here’s just the first part, so you can see what I mean:

The rest is just as mesmerizing.

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How To Help People Who Can’t Get Out Of New Orleans

August 31, 2008 at 11:32 am (environment, injustice) ()

Via Shakesville, read this post by brownfemipower about how you can help those who can’t get out of New Orleans.* Per BFP’s post: you can donate to INCITE here, to help low-income women of color and their families, and here is the information about how to help make sure that prisoners are evacuated.

* In case you don’t know, New Orleans is about to get hit by another hurricane, there is a mandatory evacuation, and the city isn’t offering any shelter to people who can’t get out in time (because they don’t have the money).

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Floating Vs. Flying

July 5, 2008 at 5:10 pm (design/gadget lust, environment, neat things) ()

French architect Jean-Marie Massaud is working on an ambitious solution to the problem of increased prices of plane fuel and the carbon dioxide pollution resultant of flying. And his solution is beautiful, if unlikely-sounding.

Though the logistics of building his magical whale-shaped wind-riding zeppelin, named the Manned Cloud, are not clearly defined, the New York Times reports that the necessary technology for the floating airship is underway elsewhere and has been for a while.

But not all projects are as fanciful as Mr. Massaud’s. For example, a French technology start-up, Aerospace Adour Technologies, is working with the French post office to study the feasibility of transporting parcels by dirigible. Also in France, Theolia, a company specializing in renewable energy, is financing a dirigible, and plans a test flight across the Atlantic.

In Germany, Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei, the successor to the operator of the Hindenburg, has had success with a new generation of airship it uses to transport sightseers and scientific payloads.

The trend is not entirely new. Zeppelin-Reederei carried 12,000 passengers on sightseeing tours over southern Germany last year. Aerophile, a French company that revived tethered balloons, which compete with dirigibles as carriers of passengers, advertising and scientific instruments, was founded by two young French engineers in 1993.

There is question about the economic sense and practical possibility of widened airship implementation, and critics of the machines’ dependability. But, Massaud believes, those questions will be answered as the environmental and oil crises worsen.

Check out a picture of the Manned Cloud on Boing Boing.

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On Stewardship And A Just Use Of Power

April 30, 2008 at 3:21 pm (environment, injustice, proclamations) (, , , , )

This is what it comes down to.

For those of us who find ourselves in positions of power, there is exactly one right course. There is only one acceptable use of power. We must protect those who cannot protect themselves. We must help those in need. We must never, never, use our might to harm those weaker than ourselves. This is our unshakable obligation. This is the one just use for strength.

And that is exactly where we have failed as a species. That is why the damage we have done to the biosphere is so wrong. Forget that we have plundered and destroyed the pristine and the beautiful, forget even that we are endangering our own children: the havoc we wreak on the planet is wrong because we chose to use our power in the wrong way. We could have done better, but we didn’t — we chose not to.

We are the stewards of the Earth. This is not because an omniscient creator-god made us so, gave us dominion over the animals, but because it is humandkind, alone among creatures, with the incredible power to change, pollute, pillage, and destroy the world. No one can deny that we posses this power. We are, so far, incredibly powerful. Alone among species, we control our fate, and the fate of all of creation. We can and we do overpower non-human animals. We can and we do destroy ecosystems, contaminate water and air supplies, turn forests into deserts.

This makes us the stewards of the Earth. We must be the stewards of the planet, for the only alternative is to be its oppressors. We can be caretakers or we can be despots.

There is, of course, exactly one right choice. What is the right choice when an adult encounters an infant? What is the right choice when a child plays with a kitten? When one comes upon a person who is badly hurt?

We must be guardians. If we fail in this regard, we have failed as human beings, exactly as parent who kills a child has failed as a father or mother.

Edited to add on: And so power, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Power can be an incredible force for justice, when used that way.

That’s not to say that unjust power imbalances — like say, between genders or races — are ever okay, or can ever be a force of good. But those that are unavoidable, such as the gap between parents and children, or between people and fish, can be very good. I don’t believe we will ever have egalitarianism amongst species, but I don’t believe we have to in order to have liberty and justice for all.

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Bleeding Green: An Update

April 1, 2008 at 4:20 pm (environment, neat things) (, )

Hello there, readers of Our Descent Into Madness. I’m guest blogging today from cloudy, depressing Ohio, and as I’m on the rag my first post is going to be an update of something Daisy and Emily mentioned back in November. Last month I purchased a “Keeper”, which is a small, natural gum rubber (latex) cup to be used as an alternative to tampons. The advertising on the box claims that The Keeper will last up to ten years and save the consumer hundreds of dollars that would otherwise be spent on plastic/paper/cotton-based, non bio-degradable products.

As a green alternative, this is a pretty good choice. The Keeper is sturdy and extremely easy to keep clean. And when compared with its competitors, it comes off looking even better. To name a few other green products on the market right now, the options tend to be either pads or tampons made without the use of chlorine, such as those produced by Seventh Generation, or products which are in fact bio-degradable, such as Britain’s Natracare, although Natracare doesn’t offer a lot of options in the size department.

The Keeper’s main downsides are that it is expensive, and that it can be uncomfortable for the first few uses. It cost me about $35, a few dollars more than its silicone counterpart, known as The Moon Cup. The shape is very different from a tampon; instead of being long and skinny the brim is wide, and has to be folded before the insertion, which is a feeling that needs some getting used to.

Despite this, I am about to embark on my second usage of The Keeper. This will be the first month since I was 12 that does not entail me running to the drug store in a frantic effort to outrace my menstrual flow. Yay!

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