Tiger in the spotlight

I'm not planning on running out to buy the newest version of Mac OS X, but the cnet review [LINK] makes it sound pretty nice. Apparently there are still some problems with wireless compatibility with some secure networks, but that will all be dealt with quickly. I'm also looking forward to an update to 10.3.10 (if it comes) that will give me just a little bit of the new good stuff and make me want the full blown 10.4.

save some soybeans for me

Also out of Science this week (see post below), some studies saying that climate change might adversely affect crops are being published. The news article [Inman 2005 (427): 2] sites two studies that test how increased ozone and carbon dioxide might affect soybeans. It seems the ozone slashes soy yield while CO2 boosts the yield, but not as much as previously thought. The article ends with a quote from Julia Slingo, a prominent climate scientist: "These results are very serious ... Food security is much more insecure than we had thought."

it's not all bad news

A story in the NYTimes by James Gorman [LINK] discusses to rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in eastern Arkansas. Apparently this bird has been thought to be extinct for years, and the cause of their extinction was destruction of their habitat. According to the article, people have been looking for this bird for a long time, and liken it to a "holy grail" of birdwatching. The discovery is published in Science Online [LINK]. Only one male has been confirmed, but there is enough habitat to support a small population, and the search for more continues.


Don't freak out

This morning I saw an article [LINK to PolitInfo.com] about replacements for CFCs being "greenhouse gases."

Okay, let's stay calm. First the review: CFCs are chlorofluorocarbons, molecules that contain chlorine, fluorine, and carbon, and were used as refrigerants (and whatnot) for many years. Unfortunately, these long-lived molecules make their way into the stratosphere, where they interact (read destroy) ozone. This is an unambiguously bad thing because that ozone resides in the "ozone layer." The ozone layer is an unambiguously good thing because ozone strongly absorbs ultraviolet light, which damages and mutates living cells. So the OZONE LAYER stops the ULTRAVIOLET RADIATION from giving us SKIN CANCER, but the CFCs destroy the OZONE, allowing harmful radiation to reach the surface. Okay that is the CFC science review. As for the history, basically some chemists (Rowland, Molina, Crutzen) figured out that these molecules do destroy ozone, and linked them to observed "ozone holes," mostly found over Antarctica (but not exclusively). Somehow governments from around the world actually got together and ratified the Montreal Protocol in 1987, strengthened it in London in 1990, and CFCs should be eliminated completely by 2010. They'll still be in the atmosphere and ocean, but slowly they will disappear.

Okay, I won't do a review of the greenhouse effect. Suffice to say that greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation, which essentially trap energy in the atmosphere, warming it. There are six main greenhouse gases (not including water vapor), and the two most important are carbon dioxide (CO_2) and methane (CH_4). The new report says that the replacements for CFCs are also "heat trapping gases." Okay, that is bad news, but the amount of that material must be miniscule compared to carbon dioxide. The response should be an investment in finding more suitable replacements for these materials, and as pointed out by UN Environment Program spokesperson Michael Williams, proper treatment of the currently used materials:

"'What you can do is prevent leaks. You can make sure that when these substances need to be replaced or when the equipment is being thrown out that they are not simply being vented into the atmosphere. That they are destroyed afterwards - contained and destroyed,' he said. 'We also need to have more research on some of the emerging technologies where there could be gases that do not have this problem, where they could be good for both the ozone and the climate change. And, that obviously will be the long-term solution.' "

While this is a problem that should be addressed, we can not lose sight of the big picture. The flux of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere must be reduced before we do irreparable harm to the climate system.


fixed the link color

Okay, SSRD told me a while back to change the color of the links because they were too light. Finally today I did it. All the links should now be approximately black. YAY!!

To help pass the time

I don't think I've blogged this site before, but Earthwatch Radio is an excellent resource for environmental news. It can be a little ecology-centric, but we have to understand how phenomena like global warming and urban sprawl affect wildlife and ecosystems. The really nice thing about the site is that it is available in several formats. It is all on the web for browsing, which you can get to by the above link. The stories are also available on the radio, which I have never listened to, but is neat. They also have short podcasts, which is how I became aware of Earthwatch Radio. That means you can download mp3s of the shows (which are quite short, usually about 2 minutes) and listen to them at your leisure, like on the bus to or from work. Podcasting essentially requires an RSS feed (see Wikipedia) to keep you updated, but also allows RSS readers (like Firefox) to check on updates, making browsing even easier.

Okay, so my rambling aside, there are two points to this post:

1. Earthwatch Radio is kind of interesting, and you might want to check it out.

2. Podcasting is also kind of interesting, and I recommend checking out this phenomenon before you fall too far behind the curve.


I'm moving to Canada

In yet another good decision, the Canadians have struck a deal between the "auto industry" and the government. Apparently they've come to an understanding which will promote less disgusting vehicles [LINK]. Honestly, this sounds really amazingly good, but I don't know from this story exactly what kind of auto industry really exists in Canada. The story makes it seem like an important part of the economy, but I'm not aware of any Canadian cars... but that's just because I haven't moved there yet. I can't wait, but I guess I'll have to buy a jacket.

I see you

I read this story in E-Commerce Times today [LINK] about Google introducing a new feature wherein a search for a location returns not only a nice map (with the possibility of driving directions) but also a satellite picture. At first I thought it might be kind of cool, but not mind-blowing. Seeking just to waste a few minutes, I went and checked it out. Of course, the first place I looked for was my house, and since I'm in the middle of LA, I knew the satellite images would exist. I type in my address, and click on the maps.google.com link that appears [LINK], and then up comes a satellite image of west LA. No surprise. There is, however, a little zoom bar, so I zoom in, and in again. It gets down to about the size of my neighborhood, which isn't too bad. Then I was impressed enough to blog the new feature, and I tried to save the picture. Well, they don't seem to allow that in any obvious way, for which I don't blame them. On a related note, they also tile a copyright in transparent text across the image. In trying to save though, I accidently dragged the picture, and IT MOVED!! Yes, you can drag a little hand cursor around and the map scrolls around, and builds itself when you go beyond the initial area of the search. It is really cool. You can zoom out to the continents and zoom in to neighborhoods (where images are available). Some places have lower resolutions than others, but it's really good in cities. A handy tool that I don't think is implemented yet would be a location grabber, so you can click a spot and get it's address or coordinates or at least zip code or something. That is probably a tough thing to do though, so might take a while.