Sunday, December 30, 2007
Civic Lighting Idea Grows To Bear Solar Fruit
Plant an idea and watch the green grow through technology and design.
This last fall in Milan, Italy and Vienna, Austria, a new design in street and plaza lighting was installed with great success. A grouping of arching beams that look a little like futuristic tree branches are topped with solar cells and LED lights and use storage batteries to hold power are designed by Ross Lovegrove, a British designer, who said that they are not only efficient but also attractive and bring a sense of "nature into a gray city environment".
Solar cell "tree" tops that grab power from the sun. Image Credit: Gerhard Koller (MAK)
Artemide, an Italian lighting design systems company, and Sharp Solar, a German company known for being the world's largest producer of photovoltaic (PV) cells, joined forces to turn the design into reality.
Someday soon, these “solar trees” could well be the main form of street lighting in Europe … and maybe, the rest of the civic/commons use spaces on this Oblate Spheroid.
Close up of branches on a solar tree in Vienna. Image Credit: Gerhard Koller (MAK)
This excerpted from RenewableEnergyAccess.com website -
Introducing the Solar Tree
by Jane Burgermeister, European Correspondent, RenewableEnergyAccess.com - December 21, 2007
The streets of Europe could soon be lit by solar energy due to the fact that a solar tree prototype recently passed a key test phase.
The solar trees went on display for four weeks in October on a busy street — the Ringstrasse — in Vienna, Austria. They were able to provide enough light during the night-time even when the sun did not show for as much as four days in a row.
"The solar cells on the tree were able to store enough electricity in spite of receiving no direct solar light for days at a time because of the clouds. They showed that solar trees really are a practical form of street lighting," Christina Werner from Cultural Project Management (Kulturelles Projektmanagement, Vienna) told RenewableEnergyAccess.com.
She said that the City of Vienna was now in the process of deciding whether to install more solar trees.
Putting solar powered LED light systems on trees would cut down on the carbon emissions and also slash the bills of local authorities, she said.
Street lighting consumed 10 percent of all the electricity used in Europe in 2006 or 2,000 billion KWh, and resulted in carbon emissions of 2,900 million ton.
The use of more energy-efficient lighting in the Austrian city of Graz, with a population of almost 300,000 saved the city 524,000 KWh of electricity and 67,200 euros [US $96,800] in 2005.
"Not just trees but other objects could be decorated with solar cells and so keep streets well lit at night time," she said.
The branches of the solar tree were decorated with 10 solar lamps, each one comprising 36 solar cells; they also had rechargeable batteries and electronic systems.
A sensor was used to measure the amount of light in the atmosphere and trigger the solar lamps to go on automatically at sunset and off at sunrise.
The tree's lights went on for the first time in Vienna on October 8, 2007 at 11:00 pm. They are now on display outside the La Scala opera house in Milan.
The idea came from Peter Noever, the Director of the Austrian Museum for Applied Arts in Vienna (Österreichisches Museum fuer angewandte Kunst).
Ross Lovegrove and Sharp are now working on the design study for a car that is powered by solar energy.
Sharp solar had a production volume of 434 megawatts in 2006 and a world market share of 17 percent. It produces PV cells in a factory in Katsuragi, Japan.
Most of Sharp's modules are used for solar energy systems on roofs, but the company believes that solar cells could soon be used in all areas of everyday life from clothes to satellites.
A suggestion to Artemide, the Italian lighting design systems company ... use PowerSheet by Nanosolar instead of standard manufactured silicon solar cells. The PowerSheet was the Popular Science - 2007 Innovation Of The Year!
Friday, December 28, 2007
Pyramid Find In Central Mexico City Changes Site Date
Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of an 800-year-old Aztec pyramid in the heart of the Mexican capital that could show the ancient city is at least a century older than previously thought.
This find was uncovered just last month and additional skeletal evidence on the site will give clues to the society and culture of the Aztec civilization.
The Aztecs who are credited with inventing chocolate, ruled an empire stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and encompassing much of modern-day central Mexico.
This excerpted from Reuters via the Courier Mail (Austrailia)
Ancient Aztec pyramid found in heart of Mexico City
By Miguel Angel Gutierrez in Mexico - December 28, 2007 12:46pm
Mexican archaeologists found the ruins, which are about 11 metres high, in the central Tlatelolco area, once a major religious and political centre for the Aztec elite.
Since the discovery of another pyramid 15 years ago, historians have thought Tlatelolco was founded by the Aztecs in 1325, the same year as the nearby twin city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. The Spanish razed Tenochtitlan in 1521 to found Mexico City, conquering the Aztecs.
"We have found the stairs of this, much older, pyramid. The (Aztec) timeline is going to need to be revised," archaeologist Patricia Ledesma said at the site on today.
Tlatelolco, visited by thousands of tourists for its pre-Hispanic ruins and colonial-era Spanish church and convent, is also infamous for the 1968 massacre of leftist students by state security forces there, days before Mexico hosted the Olympic Games.
Ms Ledesma and the archaeological group's coordinator, Salvador Guilliem, said they will continue to dig and study the area next year to get a better idea of the pyramid's size and age.
The archaeologists also have detected a sculpture that could be of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc, or of the god of the sky and earth Tezcatlipoca.
Some of the five skulls discovered are seen in the "Plaza de las Tres Culturas", or the plaza of the three cultures, in the central Tlatelolco area of Mexico City December 27, 2007. A team of researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered an 800 year-old pyramid in the main temple of the religious and political centre of Tlatelolco, known to have been inhabited by the Mexicas, the Aztec's most powerful group. They also found, a few metres from the pyramid, a living complex in the city and the five skulls dating back to the year 1431. Image Credit: REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO)
In addition, the dig has turned up five skulls and a series of rooms near the pyramid that could date from 1431.
"What we hope to find soon should tell us much more about the society of Tlatelolco," said Ms Ledesma.
Mexico City is littered with pre-Hispanic ruins. In August, archaeologists in the city's crime-ridden Iztapalapa district unearthed what they believe may be the main pyramid of Tenochtitlan.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Tracking Santa The NORAD Way Christmas 2007
Christmas is a time we come together to celebrate forces that are beyond our own experience. On December 25, the birth of the son of God is the source of the excuse for additional forces we know are beyond our own experience to come to life.
The one force that creates the most wonder and awe is the force of Santa Claus and his amazing journey around the world as he drives his Reindeer powered Sleigh. The Sleigh, loaded with gifts, stops at every home throughout the world where Santa knows people believe in giving and the amazing grace of God and his power.
Santa is even known to stop and leave a gift where some people are not even aware they actually believe in him and/or God’s power because he knows what resides deep in all people who wish for a better world but have not found a conscious way to its understanding.
Technology and the internet were made for times like these.
This from the How Stuff Works website -
How Santa's Sleigh Works
by John Fuller – How Stuff Works
On Christmas Eve, millions of children around the world will settle uneasily into bed, hardly able to contain themselves. What vision could possibly dance through their heads, turning them into twitchy, restless insomniacs for just one night? Is it the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" or the sugarplums from Clement Clarke Moore's poem "The Night Before Christmas"? Can sugarplums really do such a thing?
Chances are the children are thinking about toys, Santa Claus and his team of reindeer -- if the children have been nice this year, jolly old St. Nick should be landing his sleigh on their roofs sometime late in the night.
science and technology.
Everyone has their own traditional image of Santa's sleigh, but could there be more to it than just a sled and a team of reindeer? Although no one may ever know for sure just how Santa operates, we at HowStuffWorks have what we think are the most logical explanations for how the big guy accomplishes all that he does:
Sure, demystifying Santa's modus operandi puts us at risk of getting nothing but coal in our stockings this year, but it's all for the noble pursuit of yuletide knowledge. After all, have you ever wondered how Santa's sleigh flies? What about the reindeer? And how does Santa fit all of those presents into one bag? In the next section, we'll look at the possible technology behind Santa's sleigh.
Rustic on the outside and state-of-the-art on the inside, Santa's sleigh would have to be a marvel in engineering. These are the main parts of the sleigh that would be needed to get Santa across the world in one night.
The Sleigh's Interior
The front of the sleigh's dashboard would be dominated by Santa's own GPS navigator -- the elves would map out millions of destinations before Christmas Eve, just to make sure Santa doesn't miss anyone. The device would also have a built-in Naughty-or-Nice sensor that keeps Santa updated on children's activities. This is important, as even the most minor of naughty deeds committed within the last few hours of Dec. 24 can determine whether or not a child receives a shiny lump of coal.
A speedometer on the far left of the dashboard would allow Santa to monitor his flying speeds. On the far right would be a radio communicator -- Mrs. Claus sends broadcasts, and the elves update Santa with weather reports and toy inventory.
For in-flight entertainment, we'd like to the think that the elves would have installed an iPod dock -- perhaps even a red-and-green iPod, which would come with enough memory to play Christmas songs for the entire year through. There would also be a hot cocoa dispenser in the middle of the console, and fuel for the reindeer (in the form of carrots) in a compartment located on the left side of the sleigh.
Transdimensional Present Compartment (The Bag)
Ever wonder how Santa fits all of those presents into one bag? Think of a transdimensional present compartment in the form of a traditional gift sack, which would act as a portal between the sleigh and the North Pole. However, we'd also like to think that Santa may have harnessed the power of nanotechnology and found a way to miniaturize millions of presents into one large bag. But this information remains unconfirmed.
The Stardust Antimatter Propulsion Unit
What is antimatter? Is it some kind of magical substance Santa uses to power his sleigh?
Antimatter is the opposite of regular matter -- the mirror image of normal particles that make up everything we can see or touch. The big draw to antimatter is the amount of energy it helps create. When antimatter and matter come into contact, they annihilate each other -- breaking apart into tons of smaller particles -- and 100 percent of their masses convert into energy.
Although antimatter propulsion rockets are mainly used in science-fiction shows to allow spaceships to travel at warp speed, the possibility of designing one is very real -- NASA is currently developing one that would get us to Mars within a matter of weeks. [source: NASA]
Santa's would have to be way ahead of the game, however, and we'd like to imagine that he has his own custom Stardust Antimatter Rocket. It would be small enough to install in the back of his sleigh and fast enough to deliver every present to all good children across the globe. Of course, if the rocket ever malfunctions, the reindeer would be there to back Santa up.
Track Santa Claus across the globe as he performs his amazing task and journey -
Santa maintains a huge list of children who have been good throughout the year. The list even includes addresses, ZIP codes and postal codes. The list, of course, gets bigger each year by virtue of the world's increasing population. This year's population right now is 6,634,570,959!
Santa has had to adapt over the years to having less and less time to deliver his toys. If one were to assume he works in the realm of standard time, as we know it, clearly he would have perhaps two to three ten-thousandths of a second to deliver his toys to each child's home he visits!
The fact that Santa Claus is more than 15 centuries old and does not appear to age is our biggest clue that he does not work within time, as we know it. His Christmas Eve trip may seem to take around 24 hours, but to Santa it could be that it lasts days, weeks or months in standard time. Santa would not want to rush the important job of bringing Christmas happiness to a child, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions on a different time and space continuum.
We believe, based on historical data and more than 50 years of NORAD tracking information, that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world.
Santa Claus is known by many names, but his first recorded name was Saint Nicholas. Historians claim that the history of Santa starts with the tradition of Saint Nicholas, a 4th Century Christian priest who lived in the Middle East in an area of present day Turkey.
Saint Nicholas became famous throughout the world for his kindness in giving gifts to others who were less fortunate. Typically, he placed gifts of gold down people's chimneys - sometimes into stockings. It may be that the Santa we know and love emerged from the legacy of Saint Nicholas. Clearly, Santa's basic approach to gift giving is strikingly similar to that of Saint Nicholas. What we know from history is that the tradition of Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas merged.
Could they be the same person? Only Santa Claus can tell us for sure.
Long before the Wright brothers flew the first airplane or the Montgolfier brothers flew the first hot air balloon, Santa knew he had to find a way to travel quickly from house to house at great speed. We know from our Santa Cam images that Santa's choice for quick transportation was a herd of flying reindeer. Of course, to this day, detailed information on these reindeer remains a mystery. We do know, however, that Santa somehow found a way to get the reindeer to help him with his worldwide mission of gift giving. A veil of sweet mystery hides the rest.
Virginia's letter, written in December 1897, is the most famous example of a child wanting to know about Santa.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
THEMIS Mission’s Three Discoveries On Earth’s Light Display
NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission is the official name given our government’s effort to better understand space weather around our Oblate Spheroid.
Aurora Borealis, named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for north wind, Boreas, have long been the curiosity of people who have witnessed the magnificent sky light display either from the ground or pressed against the glass of an airline window as they fly over the (northern) polar route on their way to Europe.
On Tuesday, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco, THEMIS reported on their observations of the more bizarre and fascinating visual phenomenon known as the Northern Lights.
This visualization shows the 20 THEMIS ground station locations. These ground stations will assist the THEMIS satellite constellation in measuring the Aurora Borealis over North America. Each ground station has an all-sky imaging white-light auroral camera and a magnetometer. The ground stations' radial coverage (blue circles) is rendered at 540km (335 miles). An artist's conception of an aurora is added to the visualization for context (red and green stripes). Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
A fleet of NASA spacecraft, launched less than eight months ago, has made three important discoveries about spectacular eruptions of Northern Lights called "substorms" and the source of their power.
This excerpted from CNN -
Northern Lights energy source discovered
By CNN.com via Associated Press - updated 10:22 a.m. EST, Thu December 13, 2007
Scientists think they have discovered the energy source of auroras borealis, the spectacular color displays seen in the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
New data from NASA's Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, found the energy comes from a stream of charged particles from the sun flowing like a current through twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting Earth's upper atmosphere to the sun.
The energy is then abruptly released in the form of a shimmering display of lights, said principal investigator Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California at Los Angeles.
To scientists' surprise, the geomagnetic storm powering the auroras raced 400 miles in a minute across the sky. Angelopoulos estimated the storm's power was equal to the energy released by a magnitude 5.5 earthquake.
"Nature was very kind to us," Angelopoulos said.
Although researchers have suspected the existence of wound-up bundles of magnetic fields that provide energy for the auroras, the phenomenon was not confirmed until May, when the satellites became the first to map their structure some 40,000 miles above the Earth's surface.
Scientists hope the satellites will record a geomagnetic storm next year and end the debate about when the storms are triggered.
Northern Lights as seen in Finland. The Finnish name for the lights (revontulet) comes from a Sami, or Lapp, legend whereby the tail of a fox running along snow-covered fells strikes the snow drifts, sending a trail of sparks into the sky. Revontulet literally means "foxfire". Image Credit: Emagine UK Ltd
This excerpted from the THEMIS Mission website –
The discoveries began on March 23, when a substorm erupted over Alaska and Canada, producing vivid auroras for more than two hours. A network of ground cameras organized to support THEMIS photographed the display from below while the satellites measured particles and fields from above.
“The substorm behaved quite unexpectedly," says Vassilis Angelopoulos, the mission's principal investigator at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The auroras surged westward twice as fast as anyone thought possible, crossing 15 degrees of longitude in less than one minute. The storm traversed an entire polar time zone, or 400 miles, in 60 seconds flat.”
Photographs taken by ground cameras and NASA's Polar satellite (also supporting the THEMIS mission) revealed a series of staccato outbursts each lasting about 10 minutes. Angelopoulos said that some of the bursts died out while others reinforced each other and went on to become major onsets.
Where does all that energy come from? THEMIS may have found the answer.
"The satellites have found evidence of magnetic ropes connecting Earth's upper atmosphere directly to the sun," said David Sibeck, project scientist for the mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We believe that solar wind particles flow in along these ropes, providing energy for geomagnetic storms and auroras."
A magnetic rope is a twisted bundle of magnetic fields organized much like the twisted hemp of a mariner's rope. Spacecraft have detected hints of these ropes before, but a single spacecraft was insufficient to map their 3D structure. THEMIS' five identical micro-satellites were able to perform the feat.
"THEMIS encountered its first magnetic rope on May 20," said Sibeck. "It was very large, about as wide as Earth, and located approximately 40,000 miles (70,000 km) above Earth's surface in a region called the magnetopause." The magnetopause is where the solar wind and Earth's magnetic field meet and push against one another like sumo wrestlers locked in combat. There, the rope formed and unraveled in just a few minutes, providing a brief but significant conduit for solar wind energy.
THEMIS also has observed a number of small explosions in Earth's magnetic bow shock. "The bow shock is like the bow wave in front of a boat," explained Sibeck. "It is where the solar wind first feels the effects of Earth's magnetic field. Sometimes a burst of electrical current within the solar wind will hit the bow shock and—Bang! We get an explosion."
The THEMIS satellites are equipped with instruments that measure ions, electrons and electromagnetic radiation in space. The satellites will line up along the sun-Earth line next February to perform their key measurements.
Researchers expect to observe, for the first time, the origin of substorm onsets in space and learn more about their evolution. Scientists from the US, Canada, Western Europe, Russia and Japan are contributing to the scientific investigation over the next two years.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Gaps In Saturn’s Rings Formed By Flying Saucer Moons
When one looks at Saturn, one is struck at how incredibly different it is to our Oblate Spheroid. It is truly spherical and it has a plate of material circling around it at it's equator. The plate, called rings, contains two very unique moons that are shaped like flying saucers.
The exploring satellite, Cassini, recently has given us clues as to how these moons were formed through its cameras.
The fact that the moons, Pan and Atlas are found in the gaps of the rings may give a clue to their unusual “flying saucer” shape.
This excerpted from the New Scientist -
Saturn's 'flying saucer' moons built of ring material
19:00 06 December 2007 - NewScientist.com news service, Maggie McKee
Saturn's moons Pan and Atlas may have formed in two stages - their cores may be remnants of the breakup of a large icy body early in the solar system's history and their ridges may have formed later, as the cores swept up material from Saturn's rings. The scenario might explain why the ridges appear smooth and the polar regions rough.
Two of Saturn's small moons look eerily like flying saucers, new observations by the Cassini spacecraft reveal. The moons, which lie within the giant planet's rings, may have come by their strange shape by gradually accumulating ring particles in a ridge around their equators.
Both moons have a flattened shape, being wider than they are tall. But their uncanny resemblance to UFOs only became clear recently, when Cassini viewed them with its powerful cameras.
The images revealed that the smooth ridges girdling the moons' equators lie in the same plane as Saturn's rings and are also as thick as the vertical distance that the moons appear to travel as they move through the rings.
An animation shows how Saturn's moons Pan and Atlas grew by sweeping up particles from Saturn's rings. Animation Video Credit: Courtesy of CEA/ANIMEA
Now, scientists led by Sébastien Charnoz of the University of Paris in France have run computer simulations suggesting that these ridges are made of material swept up from Saturn's rings.
The origin of the planet's famous rings is still a mystery. But one theory suggests that early in the solar system, one or more large, icy bodies broke up near the planet, creating detritus that then settled into flat rings.
If that is so, Pan and Atlas's cores may have been fragments of this breakup. After the rings flattened into a plane, ring particles may have fallen onto the moons, building up equatorial ridges. The ridges "could be considered as 'fossilised' accretion discs that once may have surrounded Pan and Atlas", the researchers write in the journal Science.
The process probably stopped long ago, since the moons' current orbits are thought to prevent the tenuous material still remaining around them to settle onto their surfaces.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Remote Alaska Town Named Cabbie Capital Of America
Judged to have the most active cab drivers per capita, Bethel, Alaska, is the largest community in western Alaska and the 9th largest in the state. With a population estimated to be 5,800, Bethel currently has 93 active cab drivers to move the population around for their daily errands.
The Great Circle Route – For the taxi drivers of Bethel Alaska, which has the greatest concentration of cab drivers in the United States, life is just one big loop (10 miles) that connects their most frequent stops. Image Credit: LAT – Digital image from Google Earth
This Excerpted from the Los Angeles Times, Column One -
America's taxi capital: Bethel, Alaska
By Tomas Alex Tizon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer - November 30, 2007
A tiny, round-faced woman stands in a field of ice, a solitary figure in the tundra, waiting for a ride. From one hand dangles several plastic grocery bags. With her free hand, she flicks a finger as if inscribing a single scratch in the air, an almost imperceptible gesture.
A taxicab appears from a cloud of mist. It is an old, white Chevy, so splattered with mud there is hardly any white to see. On the roof glows a green sign that reads "Kusko."
“Hello, dear," the driver says.
"I'd like to go home," says Lucy Daniel, folding herself in the back seat among her bags.
Daniel, 65, a Yupik Eskimo who grew up riding dog sleds and paddling seal-skin kayaks along the Bering coast, now takes a cab everywhere she goes:
To work or to church or, like this afternoon, to the general store to pick up supplies, and then back to her house. Or whenever she goes ice-fishing for pike at her favorite spot along the Kuskokwim River east of here. She tells the driver: "I need 45 minutes." At the appointed time, the driver returns to get Daniel and her gear and, typically, one or two pike as long as a small woman's leg. The fish go in the trunk.
It's because of residents like Daniel that this remote village in southwest Alaska has become the unlikely taxicab capital of the United States.
Bethel only has about 10 miles of paved roads, which means there are about nine cabdrivers per paved mile. Dirt roads, branching off the arterials, add another 20 miles. These side streets, pockmarked by pond-sized depressions, are sometimes negotiable, sometimes not.
The taxi drivers spend most of their time on the paved roads, which form a loop connecting the most popular destinations: two general stores, the post office, the hospital and the airport.
FARE VIEW: Alla Tinker is one of the 93 cabbies in Bethel, Alaska, population 5,800. Image Credit: Greg Lincoln / For The Times
"That's what I do: go in circles," says Bilal Selmani, the cabdriver who has picked up Daniel. Everyone calls him Lincoln. "Every hour, every day, every month. Round and round. Thirty years."
The taxis come in all makes and models, all colors and conditions, from brand new to barely legal. By the end of the day, they all end up looking uniformly Alaskan, that is, covered in a film of silt, slightly beat up but more or less functional.
Taxis rumble day and night, through fog and storm and minus-40 degree cold. In the process, cabdrivers weave themselves into the lives of residents to a degree unique in Alaska, or perhaps anywhere. The longtime drivers know everyone in town by face, first name or address. They know most everyone's stories.
The majority of riders are Yupik Eskimos. The taxi drivers -- most of them Albanian or Korean immigrants -- have their own tales, spanning continents and oceans but ending here, in a spot on the American frontier that most Americans have never seen or heard of.
Lincoln stops in front of a small square house in a subdivision of small square houses called Tundra Ridge. Daniel eases out, hands him seven one-dollar bills for the 5-minute drive. The flat rate is $5 per passenger in town, $7 per passenger to the outskirts.
Daniel moved to "the city" in 1971 because, she says, "there was nothing for me in Tuntutuliak."
With her five children grown and her husband gone, Daniel spends her mornings working in a school cafeteria. She never learned to drive because, she says, "big machines scare me."
In any case, she can't afford a car, and even if she could buy a junker, she can't afford to have it transported to Bethel. It would cost $2,000 to $4,000 by barge or plane.
Bethel, 40 miles inland from the Bering Sea and 400 miles west of Anchorage, is the hub for 56 Yupik villages that sprinkle the tundra like flakes of dried seaweed. A traditionally nomadic people, the Yupiks, like Daniel, began living in fixed villages such as Bethel only in the last 50 to 100 years.
They come to Bethel to work. It's also the primary reason outsiders come here. Bethel, the governmental and commercial center of the region, is a no-frills working town, where people draw wages in construction, freight, government administration and air travel. Then there are the taxis.
For Lincoln, the path to the American dream led from a farming town in eastern Albania, where he was born, to Connecticut and finally here. "I ask friend, 'Where can I make money fast?' He tells me, 'Alaska.' I drive eight days to Anchorage." A friend in Anchorage told him he could make a killing driving cab in the bush.
Lincoln, 53, has been a taxi driver in Bethel since 1977. He is short and stocky, with deep-set eyes and a prominent Roman nose. When he first arrived on the tundra, he had a long, black beard. One of his earliest customers, a native, marveled: "You look like Abraham Lincoln."
From then on, Bilal Selmani went by the name of the nation's 16th president. Most villagers don't know his real name.
During his first 25 years of driving taxi, Lincoln worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, nine months of the year. He would spend three months with family in Albania. Although his earnings might seem meager to many Americans, they represented a bounty for farmers in Albania. Word spread of his good fortune, and soon other Albanians trekked to Bethel to drive in circles for cash.
Between the late 1970s and early '90s, Albanians dominated the taxi business. Today, more than 100 townspeople claim Albanian ancestry.
Toward the end of his shift, Lincoln parks in front of the AC (Alaska Commercial) store, the same one where he picked up Daniel earlier in the day. It was quiet when he picked her up. Now the parking lot buzzes with people and cars. Most of the cars are taxis, and most of the drivers are Korean.
He gestures toward a couple of Koreans sharing a smoke between their cabs.
"Sixteen, 17 years ago, one or two Koreans," Lincoln says. "Now. Look. They take over."
"Mos-quito," the man says.
Yun Lee, 58, is describing what he hates most about Bethel. "Snow, not bad. Cold, OK. Mos-quito, big problem."
Lee has been driving cab here for about 1 1/2 years. Before that, he lived in Torrance for six months, and before that he had spent his entire life near Seoul. In Torrance he saw an ad in one of the Korean-language newspapers. The ad said something to the effect of Big Money, Big Adventure -- Come to Alaska!
Lee answered the ad and he has been driving loops on the tundra ever since. He has since learned that the first Korean cabdriver in Bethel started in the early 1990s.
Now Korean immigrants, who number between 100 and 130, own four of the five cab companies and all but three of Bethel's 12 restaurants. They're also buying up hotels and small businesses. The only video-rental store is Korean-owned.
Lee lives in a small apartment with other Korean cabbies. He works seven days a week. Work and sleep make up the totality of his existence.
Getting stiffed is part of the job. It happens once or twice a month, Lee says. Fortunately the village is small enough that sooner or later Lee will run into the two again, and he will ask for his fare. It's not like he can afford to give rides away.
After paying his overhead -- gas, dispatcher fees, insurance -- he is lucky to make $200 a day. In a place like Bethel, where consumer goods can cost double what they are worth in the Lower 48, a couple of hundred dollars doesn't go very far.
But the Koreans here are famous for scrimping and saving, and after a few years of driving, many take their cash and go home, though a few stay and invest in a business.
There are 16 female cabdrivers in town, most of them Koreans with limited English skills.
CABBIE: Alla Tinker, a lifelong Bethel, Alaska, area resident, is one of the few Yupik taxi drivers in town. The mother of two wants nothing more than to get out: “One more year of this. Then I’m gone.” Image Credit: Greg Lincoln / For The Times
Which is just as well, says Alla Tinker, because they don't want to understand much of what their male customers say.
"I've had guys pay me to drive them around town all night just so they could hang out with me.
"What can I say? They're men."
The Koreans and Albanians tolerate each other. Still, the Albanians envy the Koreans for their success and their seeming aloofness. The Koreans tend to stay among themselves. The Albanians can be clannish too.
The Yupiks, who have publicly welcomed each group, privately grumble about both: the Koreans for being curt, the Albanians blustery.
Tinker hears it from all sides. She is one of the few Yupik taxi drivers in the village. She is friends with all the Albanian drivers, but the company she drives for is owned by a Korean.
"One more year of this," she says. "Then I'm gone."
Her plan is to drive as many hours as she can, save as much money as possible, and then move to Anchorage, a real city, with tall buildings and universities and restaurants and movie theaters.
But more than anything else, she says, she is looking forward to getting in a car, stepping hard on the gas and driving, for once not in an endless loop, but straight, past the city limits, past everything familiar, to wherever the road leads.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Popular Science - 2007 Innovation Of The Year
PowerSheet is “green”, aluminum silver, and inked all over and comes in as Popular Science’s 2007 Innovation Of The Year.
The PowerSheet represents a new way capturing energy from the sun. What makes the PowerSheet a real innovation is that the manufacturing process does not use the expensive and limiting method of using silicon on which to generate electricity. Basically, Nanosolar, a Silicon Valley based company, was able to sandwich thin layers of paint that has the property to convert light to electricity, in aluminum sheets and deliver solar conversion at a fraction of the cost of traditional solar panels.
Image Credit: Nanosolar
PowerSheet says it all in its name. The new “sandwiched sheet” material can be made into roofing materials, window coatings, and other exterior wraps that will have the ability to grab power from the sun. The technology breakthrough moves the cost from about $3 per watt of energy for traditional silicon solar cells, $1 per watt for coal, to as little as 30 cents a watt for the Nanosolar PowerSheet.
How It Works
This excerpted and edited from Popular Science Magazine -
The New Dawn of Solar
By MICHAEL MOYER – Popular Science - 11-22-2007
Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, thin as a layer of paint, that takes light and converts it to electricity.
Consider solar-powered buildings stretching not just across sunny Southern California, but through China and India and Kenya as well, because even in those countries, going solar will be cheaper than burning coal. That’s the promise of thin-film solar cells: solar power that’s ubiquitous because it’s cheap. The basic technology has been around for decades, but this year, Silicon Valley–based Nanosolar created the manufacturing technology that could make that promise a reality.
Accelerated lifetime testing is possible through specialized equipment that performs many –40°C to +85°C heat cycles per day, that exposes solar cells to intense UV light, and that exposes them to intense humidity. This has made it possible for us to study potential degradation mechanisms at accelerated time scale during product development. Image Credit: Nanosolar
The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute.
Cost has always been one of solar’s biggest problems. Traditional solar cells require silicon, and silicon is an expensive commodity (exacerbated currently by a global silicon shortage). What’s more, says Peter Harrop, chairman of electronics consulting firm IDTechEx, “it has to be put on glass, so it’s heavy, dangerous, expensive to ship and expensive to install because it has to be mounted.” And up to 70 percent of the silicon gets wasted in the manufacturing process. That means even the cheapest solar panels cost about $3 per watt of energy they go on to produce. To compete with coal, that figure has to shrink to just $1 per watt.
Printing is by far the simplest, highest-yield, and most capital-efficient technique for depositing thin films. Printing is extremely fast; the equipment involved is easy to use and maintain; and it works in plain air (no vacuum chamber required). Another key advantage of a printable CIGS ink is that one can print it just where one wants it to be, achieving high materials utilization of the semiconductor material. Image Credit: Nanosolar
Nanosolar’s cells use no silicon, and the company’s manufacturing process allows it to create cells that are as efficient as most commercial cells for as little as 30 cents a watt. “You’re talking about printing rolls of the stuff—printing it on the roofs of 18-wheeler trailers, printing it on garages, printing it wherever you want it,” says Dan Kammen, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. “It really is quite a big deal in terms of altering the way we think about solar and in inherently altering the economics of solar.”
Highlight 2007: Parallel construction of factories in California and Germany commences. The product specification is finalized in close collaboration with leading customers. Image Credit: Nanosolar
In San Jose, Nanosolar has built what will soon be the world’s largest solar-panel manufacturing facility.
Right now, the biggest question for Nanosolar is not if its products can work, but rather if it can make enough of them. California, for instance, recently launched the Million Solar Roofs initiative, which will provide tax breaks and rebates to encourage the installation of 100,000 solar roofs per year, every year, for 10 consecutive years (the state currently has 30,000 solar roofs). The company is ready for the solar boom. “Most important,” Harrop says, “Nanosolar is putting down factories instead of blathering to the press and doing endless experiments. These guys are getting on with it, and that is impressive.”
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
8 Foot Long Scorpion Found To Live In The Sea
BUGS, BUGS, BUGS! Ancient life here on the Oblate Spheroid was quite a different proposition.
In a press release from The Royal Society, London, scientists excavating a site in Germany have uncovered a fossil that comes from a scorpion that lived in the oceans.
The fossil was of a claw that is believed to have once belonged to a scorpion that measured approximately eight feet long. The scientists believe that given the oxygen levels that were prevalent here on Earth 390 million years ago, all insects were much larger.
If human life had been here at this time, bugs would think that WE were the pests and that they needed to control us. Terminix would have a decidedly different mission statement.
This item from The Royal Society, London – Science News -
Giant scorpion claw discovered
Press Release - The Royal Society, London - 21 Nov 2007
Nowadays arthropods such as spiders and crabs are considered to be small animals but the discovery of a 390 million year old giant fossil claw, published today in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, shows that they were much bigger than previously thought.
The claw - found in Germany from a sea scorpion (eurypterid) Jaekelopterus rhananine - is 46cm long. This would mean that the scorpion's body was 2.5 metres long making it the largest arthropod ever to have evolved.
Dr Simon Braddy, University of Bristol said, "This is an amazing discovery. We have known for some time that the fossil record yields monster millipedes, super-sized scorpions, colossal cockroaches, and jumbo dragonflies, but we never realised, until now, just how big some of these ancient creepy-crawlies were.
Arthropods have segmented bodies, jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton for example insects, spiders and crabs. Gigantism normally occurs because of high oxygen levels in the atmosphere but it can also result from other factors such as responses to predators, courtship behaviours and competition.
Dr Braddy continues: "There is no simple single explanation. It is more likely that some ancient arthropods were big because there was little competition from the vertebrates, as we see today. If the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere suddenly increased, it doesn't mean all the bugs would get bigger."
This excerpted and edited from Associated Press via Yahoo! –
Scientists find fossil of enormous bug
By THOMAS WAGNER, London, Associated Press Writer – 11-21-2007 – 5:00 AM PT
The study, published online Tuesday in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters, means that before this sea scorpion became extinct it was much longer than today's average man is tall.
Prof. Jeorg W. Schneider, a paleontologist at Freiberg Mining Academy in southeastern Germany, said the study provides valuable new information about "the last of the giant scorpions."
Schneider, who was not involved in the study, said these scorpions "were dominant for millions of years because they didn't have natural enemies. Eventually they were wiped out by large fish with jaws and teeth."
Braddy's partner paleontologist Markus Poschmann found the claw fossil several years ago in a quarry near Prum, Germany, that probably had once been an ancient estuary or swamp.
"I was loosening pieces of rock with a hammer and chisel when I suddenly realized there was a dark patch of organic matter on a freshly removed slab. After some cleaning I could identify this as a small part of a large claw," said Poschmann, another author of the study.
"Although I did not know if it was more complete or not, I decided to try and get it out. The pieces had to be cleaned separately, dried, and then glued back together. It was then put into a white plaster jacket to stabilize it," he said.
Eurypterids, or ancient sea scorpions, are believed to be the extinct aquatic ancestors of today's scorpions and possibly all arachnids, a class of joint-legged, invertebrate animals, including spiders, scorpions, mites and ticks.
Braddy said the sea scorpions also were cannibals that fought and ate one other, so it helped to be as big as they could be.
"The competition between this scorpion and its prey was probably like a nuclear standoff, an effort to have the biggest weapon," he said. "Hundreds of millions of years ago, these sea scorpions had the upper hand over vertebrates — backboned animals like ourselves."
But the next time you swat a fly, or squish a spider at home, Braddy said, try to "think about the insects that lived long ago. You wouldn't want to swat one of those."
Additional Article Here>>
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Suck It Up! – Nigersaurus taqueti Breaks The Rules
Life forms here, found on the Oblate Spheroid, at times, become really baffling.
Out on the Saharan desert landscape in Niger, Paleontologist, Dr. Paul Sereno and his colleagues dug up bones that, at first blush, did not seem to make any sense. The teeth were lined up in a straight row at the very front of the jaw. The jaw itself, had a very unusual shape, in that it was the opposite of most jaw shapes (most shapes are narrow at the front and widen toward the back to provide chewing leverage).
Inside the bizarre jaws of Nigersaurus. Image Credit: M. Hettwer - Project Exploration
The broad front part of the jawbone structure along with the unique structure and placement of the teeth, it was deduced, were perfectly suited for sucking, straining, and grinding potential food substances (ie. vacuum-like) before having the digestible material hit the stomach.
The Nigersaurus taqueti went on display November 15, 2007 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington D.C. and will remain there until March 2008.
DESERT WASTELAND - The discovery site is located in the sandy Ténéré Desert in the Sahara; 110 million years ago, it was a lush environment with broad rivers. Image Credit: M. Hettwer - Project Exploration
This excerpted from AP via YAHOO! -
Dinosaur found with vacuum-cleaner mouth
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer – Washington, D.C. – 11-16-2007
A dinosaur with a strange jaw designed to hoover-up food grazed in what is now the Sahara Desert 110 million years ago. Remains of the creature that "flabbergasted" paleontologist Paul Sereno went on display Thursday at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society.
"The biggest eureka moment was when I was sitting at the desk with this jaw," he [Sereno] said. "I was sitting down just looking at it and saw a groove and ... realized that all the teeth were up front."
It's not normally a good idea to have all the teeth in the front of the jaw — hundreds in this case.
Sure, "it's great for nipping," Sereno said, "but that's not where you want do your food processing."
"That was an amazing moment, we knew we had something no one had ever seen before," Sereno recalled.
While Nigersaurus' mouth is shaped like the wide intake slot of a vacuum, it has something lacking in most cleaners — hundreds of tiny, sharp teeth to grind up its food.
The 30-foot-long Nigersaurus had a feather-light skull held close to the ground to graze like an ancient cow. Sereno described it as a younger cousin of the North American dinosaur Diplodicus.
Its broad muzzle contained more than 50 columns of teeth lined up tightly along the front edge of its jaw. Behind each tooth more were lined up as replacements when one broke off.
A computer-generated endocast of Nigersaurus' brain was created by CT scanning the well-preserved brain case. Image Credit: Project Exploration
Using CT scans the researchers were able study the inside of the animal's skull where the orientation of canals in the organ that helps keep balance disclosed the habitual low pose of the head, they reported.
The dinosaur's anatomy and lifestyle were to be detailed in the Nov. 21 issue of PLoS ONE, the online journal from the Public Library of Science, and in the December issue of National Geographic magazine.
The research was partly funded by National Geographic where, Sereno said, "you can see the hideous jaw elements in person."
Thursday, November 15, 2007
SPACE CHICKEN - Revisited One Year Later
Kentucky Fried Chicken in a PR inspired marketing effort, decided that it was time to lay down a "first" that no other company can claim. KFC fashioned a company logo on the desert floor outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. A full color logo (made with tiles) that is large enough to be seen from space.
Image Credit: KFC
World's largest logo here on the Oblate Spheroid!
This from Reuters -
KFC targets extraterrestrials with huge logo
Reuters - Tue Nov 14, 2006 2:48pm ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - From space, extraterrestrials and astronauts can look back to earth and see The Great Wall of China -- and KFC's Colonel Sanders.
The KFC Corp. on Tuesday launched a rebranding campaign with an 87,500 square-foot image of Colonel Sanders in the Nevada desert which the company says makes Kentucky Fried Chicken the world's first brand visible from space.
"If there are extraterrestrials in outer space, KFC wants to become their restaurant of choice," KFC President Gregg Dedrick said in a statement.
The logo consists of 65,000 one-foot by one-foot painted tile pieces that were assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
"If we hear back from a life form in space today - whether NASA astronauts or a signal from some life form on Mars - we'll send up some Original Recipe Chicken," said Dedrick.
The logo also depicts an updated version of KFC icon Colonel Sanders who wears his signature string tie but with a red apron instead of his classic white double-breasted suit.
The logo was built at the remote Area 51 desert near Rachel, Nevada, which KFC said was known as the UFO capital of the world and famous for its association with UFO conspiracy theories.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
IBM Blue Gene Times Three – On The Road To “Petaflop”
Yesterday, IBM announced that its experimental high-speed computer located at the Livermore Labs in northern California just passed by the world’s fastest calculation processing mark. IBM was able to clobber the speed of processing mark, not by just a little margin … but by three times faster than any other manufactures computer.
Blue Gene Logo - Image Credit: IBM Corporation
The current speed of calculation measurement is called a “teraflop” and this is defined as - (tera FLoating point OPerations per second) One trillion floating point operations per second. To visualize what this means is a little like … well, one can’t! IBM was able to calculate at a speed of teraflop times 478 or 478 trillion calculations per second.
What is probably more amazing, engineers at IBM feel that they will be able to more than double the speed of calculation and processing mark announced today sometime next year. That speed milestone will be measured as a “petaflop” which is defined as - One Quadrillion Floating Point Operations Per Second.
To be honest, we at Oblate Spheroid don’t even know how many zeros a “QUADRILLION” has but we know it has to be way fast.
This announcement and materials were found through The News Market -
IBM Blue Gene Shatters Record as World's Fastest Computer
IBM Corporation Press Release – 12-NOV-2007
IBM’s Blue Gene/L supercomputer is once again the fastest computer in the world, a record it has held for the past four years. The official TOP 500 Supercomputers list, released Nov. 12, reports the machine is now three times faster than its competitors with 478 trillion calculations per second, or 478 “teraflops.”
The Blue Gene/L is housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. IBM has a record 232 supercomputers on the TOP 500 list, the vast majority built with commodity style, PC microprocessors.
The computer maker also outlined its plans to next year achieve a computing milestone known as a “petaflop” – the ability to process 1,000 trillion calculations per second.
Blue Gene is an IBM Research project dedicated to exploring the frontiers in supercomputing: in computer architecture, in the software required to program and control massively parallel systems, and in the use of computation to advance our understanding of important biological processes such as protein folding.
And this from IBM –
Blue Gene – About This Project
Last updated 27 Jun 2007
The full Blue Gene/L machine was designed and built in collaboration with the Department of Energy's NNSA/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and has a peak speed of 360 Teraflops.
Blue Gene systems occupy the #1 (Blue Gene/L) and #4 (Blue Gene Watson) positions in the TOP500 supercomputer list announced in June 2007 and a total of 4 of the top 10. IBM now offers a Blue Gene Solution.
IBM and its collaborators are currently exploring a growing list of applications including hydrodynamics, quantum chemistry, molecular dynamics, climate modeling and financial modeling.
Additional Photo And Information Materials
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
From LA, it’s just a short four hour drive across the desert with the “FM 98&99 - The Highway Stations" filling in on the background while we, at Oblate Spheroid press across the winding road to Las Vegas. Starting Wednesday, and continuing through to Friday, a “First Ever” tradeshow catering to individuals and businesses that tie at least some of their efforts to the process of communication and commerce through the computer and the internet.
Featured exhibiting enterprises include weblog advertising agencies, news source aggregators, web-metrics analysis companies, digital to analog (and back) publishers, broadcasting/podcasting audio and video enterprises, search engine and front page information tools businesses, virus security protection companies, investment opportunity enterprises, special interest blog communities, communications associations, application software developers, employment agencies, transportation companies, and website development entrepreneurs.
Beginning Wednesday, a one day conference entitled Executive & Entrepreneur Conference – followed Thursday and Friday by blogworld & New Media EXPO will highlight all that the this brave new digital communications world has to offer.
The Executive & Entrepreneur Conference will host sessions that will explore subjects from “The Importance of Blogging & New Media In Your Organization/Strategic Marketing” to Search Engine Optimization: Best Practices, and includes “Going Global with New Media”.
blogworld& New Media EXPO conference continue with two more days of sessions on “Citizen Journalism & Mainstream Media” to “Smart Ways To Monetize Your Blog”, and includes “The Cult of Blogging” featuring radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt and Blog Entrepreneur, Arianna Huffington.
Surrounding activities include a private pre-release movie premiere of Grace Hill Media’s “Kite Runner” with a question and answer session with the star of the movie moderated by respected movie critic and radio talk show host, Michael Medved.
This from Grace Hill Media -
Image Credit: ecj via Grace Hill Media
And a major sponsor pajama party at “The Joint” at the Hard Rock Hotel!
This from Pajamas Media -
Posted At Pajamas Media 11-07-2007
On Thursday and Friday, bloggers and blog readers will assemble at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the first annual Blog World Expo. In addition to the non-stop panels, a “Pajama Party” will be held Thursday night at the Hard Rock Hotel. Among the Pajamahadeen on hand: Glenn Reynolds, Roger L. Simon, Rick Moran, Stephen Green, Ed Driscoll and Aaron Hanscom.
Read more about the festivities, prizes, and (yes) showgirls…
TRUEVIEW EVENTS - Murder Mystery days, Murder Mystery dinners, Murder Mystery teambuilding events. Film Making days, Advert making days, Treasure Hunts, and many more teambuilding activities. Image Credit: Trueview Events in association with Pajamas Media
It’s Vegas, after all, and when in Rome…
Showgirls wearing Pajamas Media sashes. At the Pajamas Media booth, comic Evan Sayet will be holding forth as the “White House Press Secretary” twice a day. Visitors to the booth get a free Pajamas Media sleep mask. And those who are bold enough to hold their own Press Conference have a chance to win an iPod!
The point of all of this is to allow the people who participate in this relatively new pursuit of weblog-ing and associated world wide web activity to come together as a community and share in this like minded effort to mix/mingle and communicate. It's kind'a like a "Woodstock for Wordsmiths" ...