New way to make water into steam from sunlight

Sponge Converts Sunlight Into Steam for Electricity
[Via Discovery News - Top Stories]

A completely new structure heats water and turns it into steam. Continue reading →


If this can be scaled up, it could find some real uses.

Climate change might help some plants but it also helps some plant diseases

Soybean Sky

Climate change provides good growing conditions for charcoal rot in soybeans
[Via Eureka! Science News - Popular science news]

With over 100 diseases that can attack soybean crops, why would charcoal rot rise to the top of the most wanted list? University of Illinois scientists cite the earth’s changing climate as one reason that more research is needed on the fungus that causes charcoal rot.


One of the arguments from denialists is that climate change will not be so bad because plants like carbon dioxide. While this is debatable, what is not often discussed is how much better some plant diseases will do.

Here we have a fungus that likes warm, dry weather. And that also infects 500 other plants, including corn and sorghum, besides soybeans. And it loves salty conditions.

So a resistant plant must be one that is heat-, drought -, and salt-tolerant in order to beat the fungus.

Also, in contrast to other disease, charcoal rot not only kills the plant, it lives off the dead tissue. So, it can thrive living off the leftovers from other pathogens that can only use living plants.

At the moment, no soybean plant is completely immune to this fungus. So these researchers are trying to develop varieties that are able to fight off the fungus.

But those varieties also still need to be highly productive. Not an easy task.

Cold for thee, not for me, thanks to typhoon Neoguri

[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

Record Cold Weather on the Way to U.S.


It’s going to be colder than normal for a lot of people but much warmer than normal in the Pacific NW. So when people in the East start talking about how global warming must not be real, remind them of the West.

As Jeff Masters discusses, this is all due to the huge super typhoon that hit Japan. It once had 155 mph winds.

It essentially is pushing the Arctic air and jet stream along the Pacific north (allowing warm air to move north) which then causes the cold air to push down along the East. 

This all makes it much hotter than normal along the West coast (and in Northern Europe) and colder than normal along the East coast (and Siberia)

So, all the unusual weather is due to the effects of one storm.

Conservatives acknowledge climate change even as they refuse to believe it

 Smoke art - Cubes to smoke

Conservatives Don’t Deny Climate Science Because They’re Ignorant. They Deny It Because of Who They Are. | 
[Via Mother Jones]

For many years, the US National Science Foundation, more recently with the help of the General Social Survey, has asked the public the same true or false question about evolution: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” And for many years, the responses to this question have been dismal. In 2006, 2008, and 2010, for instance, less than half of the public correctly answered “true.”

In 2012, however, the NSF and GSS conducted an experiment to try to better understand why people fare so badly on this evolution question. For half of survey respondents, the words “according to the theory of evolution” were added to the beginning of the statement above. And while only 48 percent gave the correct answer to the unaltered question, an impressive 72 percent correctly answered the new, prefaced version.


This work points up the ability of people to ignore facts if it conflicts with their world views. This is seen when we use the word ‘believe’ when discussing science questions: “Do you believe in evolution?”, etc.

I try to never use the word believe when discussing the facts of science, such as evolution or climate change.

Science is not about belief. It is about acknowledging facts. As this study shows, both conservatives and liberals acknowledge the same facts, even as they assert different beliefs. Liberals got the science wrong also when their beliefs got in the way.

If someone refuses to acknowledge that the world is getting warmer, then they are scientifically illiterate and not really worth having as part of a science discussion.

If they do acknowledge facts, then we can begin to discuss why and what might be done.

The discussion on climate change cannot happen if it starts from what people believe. It will only happen when more conservative leaders acknowledge the world is getting warmer.

Oklahoma has more earthquakes than California – due to fracking

RD-7P Flowing to Flare Boom

[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

Oil Wells Linked to Oklahoma’s Stunning Increase In Earthquakes.


Amazing. Will they have a major earthquake soon? Hard to say but it indicates the worrisome aspects of fracking, over and above environmental spills.

Maybe major earthquakes will get people to stop buring so many fossil fuels.

The greatness of Fargo revealed in a Morton’s Fork

Its forking complicated 

The Shocking ‘Fargo’ Finale: Creator Noah Hawley Breaks Down the Epic Bloodbath -
[Via  The Daily Beast]

Well, there was no wood chipper.

But you betcha that the explosive finale of FX’s Fargo limited series wasn’t lacking in spewed blood, comeuppance, and the kind of understated intensity that’s made the risky adaptation of the Coen Brothers film classic at once menacing and suspenseful, pulpy and fun, and—in turn—cable’s must-watch drama of this past spring.

The high-octane finale featured retribution, surprising acts of heroism, expected deaths in unexpected fashions, and even a snowmobile chase scene. (WARNING: Stop reading here if you have not seen Tuesday night’s Fargo finale. SPOILERS lie ahead.)


There will be spoilers. The TV chow Fargo revealed in the last episode what it was all about.

The final episode was called Morton’s Fork. A Morton’s fork is when you have two choices, both of which lead to poor consequences.

An example would be Chris Christie and the bridge. If he admits he knew about it, he looks guilty of politically bullying those who vote against him in ways that are potentially life-threatening. If he admits he did not know about it, he looks incompetent. Either makes it harder for him as a Presidential candidate.

He had a Morton’s Fork to deal with. Neither course results in a positive for him.

Fargo was full if Forks of Morton, and how these forks were dealt with made the show so great. One example.

When the single father Gus, as a cop, comes across the serial killer Malvo early on, Malvo presents him a choice: Gus can try and take Malvo in, totally unprepared for the chaos that is Malvo and surely die; or, he can let Malvo go and get to see his daughter again, while having to live with being a coward, not suited for being a cop.

He chooses the latter which colors him for the rest of the episodes as he deals with the 60 some odd murders Malvo is involved in over the rest of the season (the size of this murder spree – with every police force from the local police to the FBI being ineptly powerless to stop –  is one of the funny, satirical aspects of the entire series).

However, while having short term negative results, his choice of which fork eventually results in happiness,

Yet, in the end, Gus, no longer a cop, is the only one who can finally deal with Malvo, because he is the only one who is dismissed by Malvo as no threat. Gus is redeemed by the end and happy with his life.

Molly has a Morton’s fork – she can ignore the safety of her unborn daughter, the advice of her husband and get out of the police station to look for Malvo, and die; or, she can stay in the station and not be involved in the arrest of the guy she was instrumental in identifying She chose the latter and, as she said later, got to become police chief.

A positive result eventually and she is happy with her life.

And Lester faces his final Morton’s choice (and he has had a lot of them in the series). He can drive up to the police barricades , give himself up and be sentenced to death or he can try to escape over the thin ice of a lake and die.

We are happy he did not live. There are many more Morton’s forks made by so many characters in the show. Very cool.

Now if I can just figure out who was the fox, who was the rabbit and who was the cabbage?

Believe is not a word to use when discussing science

 Chromosome Fusion 

What to tell Climate-Confused Friends? That You don’t “Believe” in Global Warming
[Via DailyKos]

As global warming comes back to the fore of public discourse, environmentalists wonder how to overcome the polarization (this New Hampshire poll finds global warming to be the most partisan issue, second only to support for Obama) and help the broader public support critically-overdue climate action.

One approach has been to stay away from the crux of polarization – whether one “believes” in anthropogenic global warming or not, and why – and focus on areas of broader and near-bipartisan agreement, like support for renewable energy.

I do not subscribe to that approach. I think we do need to talk to our conservative and/or climate-confused friends about the science. The title “most polarizing issue” is a rapidly-changing “flavor of the day” thing; it comes and goes. I feel the wind is in our backs on this issue (pun semi-intentional), simply because the other position is fast becoming a laughingstock. This is the time to push forward.


‘Believe’ is the wrong word. Belief is not a factor in science. Scientists do not believe in gravity. Or in evolution. Or believe in the creation of a rainbow by the refraction of light. Or the connection between electricity and magnetism. Or that DNA is the blueprint for life.

We do not believe the world is getting warmer.

Scientists ACKNOWLEDGE these things. We acknowledge gravity, evolution, the rainbow, the electric motor and the gene.

We acknowledge that the world is getting warmer.

If someone refuses to acknowledge science and scientific explanations for the natural world around us, they are not interested in reality but in a fantasy of their own making.

And I am not interested in wasting my time talking with them. Acknowledge that evolution has occurred and we can talk about why and how. Acknowledge that the world is warming and we can talk. Don’t and there is no basis for any further communication.

I have more important things to do than to talk with a denier. Cut my nails, take a shower, watch some TV. All much better uses of my time.

Because trying to talk a denier out of their Cargo Cult World is a fool’s errand.


I hate it when scientists are conservative in their models


Doubling of Antarctic ice loss revealed by European satellite | 
[Via Environment |]

Antarctica is shedding 160 billion tonnes a year of ice into the ocean, twice the amount of a few years ago, according to new satellite observations. The ice loss is adding to the rising sea levels driven by climate change and even east Antarctica is now losing ice.

The new revelations follows the announcement last week that the collapse of the western Antarctica ice sheet has already begun and is unstoppable, although it may take many centuries to complete.


When making estimates or creating models, researchers often error on the conservative side. Knowing the conditional nature od science, they would rather be a little right than a lot wrong.

Yet again and again with respect to climate change, we find that they are often much lower with their estimates than reality produces. We see that here.

This new satellite, sent up in 2010, can produce much better data than we have ever had before. And for the entire continent  The amount of ice lost found by the satellite is 100% greater than most of the previous estimates.

The real worrisome thing is that about 13% of the loss has come from East Antarctica. We actually had expected that to see a small increase in ice, not a decrease.

West Antarctica is on an apparent unstoppable collapse which will raise sea levels 6-7 meters. But the huge East Antarctic ice sheet hods a tremendous amount. If it completely melted, sea levels would go up perhaps 60 meters.

This would put Houston completely underwater, Florida would be gone, Philadelphia would be ocean front, Manhattan would be gone, downtown LA would be on the water, San Francisco would be an island, with an inland sound extending from Chico to Fresno.

The Olympic Peninsula would be an island, Seattle would be a small island and Lake Sammamish would be part of Puget Sound. My house would be about half a mile from the new Sound.

Not likely but then, we did not expect the amount of melting seen in West Antarctica. I guess we will know soon.

Changing water use in California through the Sun

The Sun: One Year in One Image 

California drought: Solar desalination plant shows promise 
[Via  - SFGate]

Quietly whirring away in a dusty field in the Central Valley is a shiny solar energy machine that may someday solve many of California’s water problems.

It’s called the WaterFX solar thermal desalination plant, and it has been turning salty, contaminated irrigation runoff into ultra-pure liquid for nearly a year for the Panoche Water and Drainage District. It’s the only solar-driven desalination plant of its kind in the country.

Right now its efforts produce just 14,000 gallons a day. But within a year, WaterFX intends to begin expanding that one small startup plant into a sprawling collection of 36 machines that together can pump out 2 million gallons of purified water daily.

Within about five years, WaterFX company co-founder Aaron Mandell hopes to be processing 10 times that amount throughout the San Joaquin Valley. And here’s the part that gets the farmers who buy his water most excited: His solar desalination plant produces water that costs about a quarter of what more conventionally desalinated water costs: $450 an acre-foot versus $2,000 an acre-foot.


In a wet year, the costs are $300 an acre-foot. And much higher in dry years. If they can accomplish their business plan, they could not only change water usage in the Valley but make a ton of money.

Something to watch for. as this can expand to many other areas, allowing us tio essentially recycle the water we use.

Watch Texas as it deals with climate change in order to gain insights


Warm Texas wind blows green for Mars
[Via BBC News | Science/Nature | World Edition]

Dire climate change warnings in the US begin to hit home


The BBC makes the good point that Texas is so large and diverse that it serves as a simpler microcosm of climate change. in the US. Necasue it will likely seemore of it than any other.

Politicians are screaming and denying but individuals are making their own choices.

Politicians rant about needing to stay on coal while companies are moving green by using wind. All in the same state.

The authoritarian hierarchies encompassing politicians and one set of corporations are using every tool to maintain their unsustainable processes while distributed democracies encompassing individuals and another set of corporations are trying to find sustainable processes.

All in one state. The size of Texas means both these processes have ramifications elsewhere.

As with any dynamic equilibrium,things can change very rapidly over a very short period of time. So keep an eye on Texas.

National Climate Assessment – The government creates a great website.

Very well done.

Neil deGrasse Tyson moderating a debate on selling space

From March 2014. We live on the cusp of an amazing age. It will save us all.

Isaac Asimov discussing global warming and the exact way the world needs to be saved – 25 years ago

An amazing speech that could be given today.  Done without notes.

And it recapitulates almost everything I have been focussed on for some time. Talk about walking in the footsteps of giants!

Oncoming global warming. The amazing benefits of the Cold War. The changing aspects of nation states. National security. 

The sticks that are driving cooperation between nation states. And the carrots.

How the Constitution shows us a path forward. How Westward expansion produced a united country, not one with Southern separatists.

It will be about getting into space and beaming power back to Earth.

We now no longer can simply have one nation state fight another. Because what they do affects us all.

We need to figure out how to deal with the effects of humanity that transcend all national boundaries.

It is well worth watching the whole thing. It will be 45 minutes that could make a difference.

How things have changed – Leave It To Beaver and toilets

Minimalist men WC 

Potty Time
[Via New Urban Legends]

Was Leave It to Beaver the first U.S. network television program ever to show a toilet?


To think that the show was censored and held up simply because it showed that a bathroom (a normally taboo room) had a toilet.

Glad they figured out an adaptive way to route around bureaucratic hierarchies without losing the creativity of the show. 

The next El Nino may be on the way. And it looks like it will be huge

 Super Swells Again

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths: Nose of Massive Kelvin Wave Breaks Surface in Eastern Pacific
[Via robertscribbler]

Monster El Nino

(A monster Kelvin wave, possibly more powerful than the 1997-98 event, is now rushing toward the surface of the Eastern Pacific. Image source: NOAA/ESRL.)

We are observing an extraordinarily powerful Kelvin Wave, one that was likely intensified by factors related to human global warming, traveling across the Pacific. It appears to be an epic event in the making. One that may be hotter and stronger than even the record-shattering 1997-98 El Nino. What this means is that we may well be staring down the throat of a global warming riled monster.


Good times might be over. If this new El Nino is anything close to the one in the late 90s, temperatures could begin rising fast. That first animation is shocking.

There appears to be more heat in this water than was in the huge El Nino of 1997.It was the largest such event in the 20th century. The global temperatures due to that event increased to such hugh levels that it would be almost a decade before the world became that hot again.


This is what happened along the Washington Coast during the 1997 event: huge rises in sea levels making storms much more destructive along the coast.


Sometimes the sea level was almost half a meter higher than normal, with wave heights a full meter higher than normal. It will not be a good year to be along the West Coast.

And while it may break the drought in Texas, it could well bring huge amounts of flooding due to extreme weather events. That it, lots of frog stranglers hitting dry ground and running off instead of penetrating.

The West Coast will get little rain and be much hotter, so the food producing areas of the state will be hard hit. 


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