Thursday, April 26, 2007

Light Wavelength Analysis Nets Purple Earth

This visualization shows global chlorophyll concentrations. Data taken with the MODIS instrument on NASA’s AQUA spacecraft, between July 1, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2004. Image Credit: NASA.

Light Wavelength Analysis Nets Purple Earth

Researchers here on the Oblate Spheroid, struggle to explain why microbial evidence throughout the Earth is varied yet so stratified.

The answer may come from the fact that the evolution of microbe life on the earth to date has come down to how these organisms were able to convert certain wavelengths of light.

Simpler structures on early Earth were able to absorb and utilize light from the green spectrum of visible light. If this is true, it suggests that the Earth would reflect light from the red and blue spectrums thus yielding a purple Earth.

Further, if this theory holds up, wavelength analysis may give astronomers greater understanding of the evolution of potential life through biomarkers on distant planetary objects.

Lakes in Australia appear purple because they are filled with halobacteria, a microbe that uses retinal to capture the Sun's rays. Image Credit: Cheetham Salt Limited

Excerpts from Life Science -

Early Earth Was Purple, Study Suggests
By Ker Than - LiveScience Staff Writer - originally posted: 10 April 2007

The earliest life on Earth might have been just as purple as it is green today, a scientist claims.

Ancient microbes might have used a molecule other than chlorophyll to harness the Sun’s rays, one that gave the organisms a violet hue.

Chlorophyll, the main photosynthetic pigment of plants, absorbs mainly blue and red wavelengths from the Sun and reflects green ones, and it is this reflected light that gives plants their leafy color. This fact puzzles some biologists because the sun transmits most of its energy in the green part of the visible spectrum.

“Why would chlorophyll have this dip in the area that has the most energy?” said Shil DasSarma, a microbial geneticist at the University of Maryland.

After all, evolution has tweaked the human eye to be most sensitive to green light (which is why images from night-vision goggles are tinted green). So why is photosynthesis not fine-tuned the same way?

Possible answer

DasSarma thinks it is because chlorophyll appeared after another light-sensitive molecule called retinal was already present on early Earth. Retinal, today found in the plum-colored membrane of a photosynthetic microbe called halobacteria, absorbs green light and reflects back red and violet light, the combination of which appears purple.

Primitive microbes that used retinal to harness the sun’s energy might have dominated early Earth, DasSarma said, thus tinting some of the first biological hotspots on the planet a distinctive purple color.

Being latecomers, microbes that used chlorophyll could not compete directly with those utilizing retinal, but they survived by evolving the ability to absorb the very wavelengths retinal did not use, DasSarma said.

“Chlorophyll was forced to make use of the blue and red light, since all the green light was absorbed by the purple membrane-containing organisms,” said William Sparks, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Maryland, who helped DasSarma develop his idea.

The retinal pigment in halobacteria absorbs green light and reflects red and blue light. Chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light and reflects green. Some scientists think this mirror relationship suggests chlorophyll evolved to exploit parts of the spectrum unused by retinal. Image Credit: American Scientist

Chlorophyll more efficient

The researchers speculate that chlorophyll- and retinal-based organisms coexisted for a time. “You can imagine a situation where photosynthesis is going on just beneath a layer of purple membrane-containing organisms,” DasSarma told LiveScience.

But after a while, the researchers say, the balance tipped in favor of chlorophyll because it is more efficient than retinal.

“Chlorophyll may not sample the peak of the solar spectrum, but it makes better use of the light that it does absorb,” Sparks explained.
Also, the process for making retinal is very similar to that of a fatty acid, which many scientists think was one of the key-ingredients for the development of cells.

“Fatty acids were likely needed to form the membranes in the earliest cells,” DasSarma said.

Lastly, halobacteria, a microbe alive today that uses retinal, is not a bacterium at all. It belongs to a group of organisms called archaea, whose lineage stretches back to a time before Earth had an oxygen atmosphere.

Taken together, these different lines of evidence suggest retinal formed earlier than chlorophyll, DasSarma said.
“I’m a little cautious about looking at who’s using which wavelengths of light and making conclusions about how things were like 3 or 4 billion years ago,” said Des Marais, who was not involved in the research.
Implications for astrobiology

If future research validates the purple Earth hypothesis, it would have implications for scientists searching for life on distant worlds, the researchers say.

“We should make sure we don’t lock into ideas that are entirely centered on what we see on Earth,” said DasSarma’s colleague, Neil Reid, also of the STScI.

For example, one biomarker of special interest in astrobiology is the “red edge” produced by plants on Earth. Terrestrial vegetation absorbs most, but not all, of the red light in the visible spectrum. Many scientists have proposed using the small portion of reflected red light as an indicator of life on other planets.
Read All>>

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Chunnel Begets ... The Strunnel!

On the train to France entering the Euro Tunnel (Taken on June 11, 2006 ) - Image Credit: Flickr - mbcrawford

The Chunnel Begets ... The Strunnel!

Russia is proposing to dig a tunnel, a very long tunnel, by which crossing and transporting goods across the Bering Strait to Alaska (and back) can be accomplished without the necessary calculations for weather and/or the limitations of air transport.

Much like the "Channel Tunnel" - The Chunnel ... I supposed one could call it The Strunnel!

The Chunnel, (Euro-Tunnel), Mini-Europe, Bruparck, Brussels (Taken on May 19, 2005) - Image Credit: Flickr - demode

Excerpts from Bloomberg (ht: SlashDot) -

Russia Plans World's Longest Tunnel, a Link to Alaska
By Yuriy Humber and Bradley Cook

April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Russia plans to build the world's longest tunnel, a transport and pipeline link under the Bering Strait to Alaska, as part of a $65 billion project to supply the U.S. with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia.

The project, which Russia is coordinating with the U.S. and Canada, would take 10 to 15 years to complete, Viktor Razbegin, deputy head of industrial research at the Russian Economy Ministry, told reporters in Moscow today. State organizations and private companies in partnership would build and control the route, known as TKM-World Link, he said.

A 6,000-kilometer (3,700-mile) transport corridor from Siberia into the U.S. will feed into the tunnel, which at 64 miles will be more than twice as long as the underwater section of the Channel Tunnel between the U.K. and France, according to the plan. The tunnel would run in three sections to link the two islands in the Bering Strait between Russia and the U.S.

"This will be a business project, not a political one," Maxim Bystrov, deputy head of Russia's agency for special economic zones, said at the media briefing. Russian officials will formally present the plan to the U.S. and Canadian governments next week, Razbegin said.

The Bering Strait tunnel will cost $10 billion to $12 billion, and the rest of the investment will be spent on the entire transport corridor, the plan estimates.

The Chunnel Construction Tour (Taken in August 1989) - Image Credit: Flickr - aplumb
In Alaska, a supporter of the project is former Governor Walter Joseph Hickel, who plans to co-chair a conference on the subject in Moscow next week.

"Governor Hickel has long supported this concept, and he talks about it and writes about it," said Malcolm Roberts, a senior fellow at the Anchorage-based Institute of the North, a research policy group focused on Arctic issues. Hickel governed Alaska from 1966 to 1969 as a Republican and then from 1990 to 1994 as a member of the Independence Party.

Alaska's current officials, however, are preoccupied with other issues, including a plan to develop a pipeline to transport natural gas from the North Slope to the lower 48 U.S. states, Roberts said.

Rail links in Russia and the U.S., where an almost 2,000- kilometer stretch from Angora to Fort Nelson in Canada would continue the route, would cost up to $15 billion, Razbegin said. With cargo traffic of as much as 100 million tons annually expected on the World Link, the investments in the rail section could be repaid in 20 years, he said.

"The transit link is that string on which all our industrial cluster projects could hang," Zubakin said.

Japan, China and Korea have expressed interest in the project, with Japanese companies offering to burrow the tunnel under the Bering Strait for $60 million a kilometer, half the price set down in the project, Razbegin said.
The figures for the project come from a preliminary feasibility study. A full study could be funded from Russia's investment fund, set aside for large infrastructure projects, Bystrov said.

Reference Here>>

Monday, April 16, 2007

BEE Afraid, Be Very Afraid! (UPDATED)

One of the most familiar insects in the world is the Honeybee. This member of the insect order Hymenoptera plays a key role in the human and natural world. More has been written about honeybees than any other species of insect. The human fascination with this insect began thousands of years ago when people discovered what wonderfully tasty stuff honey is! Image Credit: Carl Hayden Bee Research Center

BEE Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

Here is an item that is really troubling, in that, we here on Earth do not know what may get to our human population first - famine (lack of food) or disease (animal flu crossover).

The bee populations throughout the world are in decline. This phenomenon was first observed last autumn, but is being observed in many places throughout the world.

The many theories as to why this is happening include climate change/global warming, chemical pollution, and parasite mites - but the chief cause may end up being our increased radio frequency technology use and density.

Excerpts from the Independent News and Media Limited -

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?
Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees

By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross - Published: 15 April 2007

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The central feature of the bee hive is the honeycomb. This marvel of insect engineering consists of flat vertical panels of six-sided cells made of beeswax. Beeswax is produced from glands on the underside of the abdomens of worker bees when they are between 12 and 15 days old. House bees take the beeswax and form it with their mouths into the honeycomb. The cells within the comb will be used to raise young and to store honey and pollen. Image Credit: Carl Hayden Bee Research Center
The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.
The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".

German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."
Equally alarming, blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today's teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.

Studies in India and the US have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts. And, more prosaically, doctors have identified the condition of "text thumb", a form of RSI from constant texting.

Professor Sir William Stewart, who has headed two official inquiries, warned that children under eight should not use mobiles and made a series of safety recommendations, largely ignored by ministers.

Reference Here>>

Additional resource information HERE.

UPDATED - April 28, 2007:

It turns out that bee experts meeting this week in Washington D.C. have come up with an alternative and more credible answer to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times -

Experts may have found what's bugging the bees
A fungus that hit hives in Europe and Asia may be partly to blame for wiping out colonies across the U.S.
By Jia-Rui Chong and Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writers - April 26, 2007

A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United States, UC San Francisco researchers said Wednesday.

Researchers have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings provide the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.

But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. "We don't want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."

Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country — as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Those researchers have also found two other fungi and half a dozen viruses in the dead bees.

Cox-Foster was one of the organizers of a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Monday and Tuesday where about 60 bee researchers gathered to discuss Colony Collapse Disorder.

"We still haven't ruled out other factors, such as pesticides or inadequate food resources following a drought," she said. "There are lots of stresses that these bees are experiencing," and it may be a combination of factors that is responsible.

Historically, bee losses are not unusual. Weather, pesticide exposures and infestations by pests, such as the Varroa mite, have wiped out significant numbers of colonies in the past, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.

But the current loss appears unprecedented. Beekeepers in 28 states, Canada and Britain have reported large losses.

Dr. Charles Wick of the center had used a new system of genetic analysis to identify pathogens in ground-up bee samples from California. He found several viruses, including members of a recently identified genus called iflaviruses.

It is not known whether these small, RNA-containing viruses, which infect the Varroa mite, are pathogenic to bees.

Skowronski forwarded the samples to DeRisi, who also found evidence of the viruses, along with genetic material from N. ceranae.

"There was a lot of stuff from Nosema, about 25% of the total," Skowronski said. "That meant there was more than there was bee RNA. That leads me to believe that the bee died from that particular pathogen."

If N. ceranae does play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder, there may be some hope for beekeepers.

A closely related parasite called Nosema apis, which also affects bees, can be controlled by the antibiotic fumagillin, and there is some evidence that it will work on N. ceranae as well.
Read All>>

Friday, April 13, 2007

Blue Orb ... Cubed

In this handout from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, (BOCOG) An artist impression of the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, China. The National Aquatics Center hosts swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming duirng the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Image Credit: BOCOG/Getty Images

Blue Orb ... Cubed

The human experience is, at once, no boundaries and at other times is all about boundaries. The way we humans relate to the nature around us is fascinating.

In the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, venues are being constructed that interpret and capture the essence of the very world we live in.

Chinese labourers work at the National Aquatics Center on April 3, 2007 in Beijing, China. The National Aquatics Center hosts swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming duirng the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Image Credit: Guang Niu/Getty Images

This from AP via Yahoo! Sports -

Bird's Nest, Watercube to get test events in 2008
Associated Press - March 21, 2007

BEIJING (AP) -- The Bird's Nest and the Watercube -- the 2008 Beijing Olympics' signature structures -- will get their first tests early next year.

In this handout from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, (BOCOG) An artist impression of the National Aquatics Center (L) and the National Stadium in Beijing, China. The National Aquatics Center hosts swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming duirng the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Image Credit: BOCOG/Getty Images

Twenty-six test events are set for 2007, but none are in the national stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, or the aquatics center, known as the Watercube.

BOCOG vice president Yang Shu'an said Wednesday that 16 additional test events would be held in 2008, but did not specify where each of the competitions would be held.

The first major test event this year is the World Junior Rowing Championships begins Aug. 8 -- one year before the opening of the Games. Baseball, cycling, canoeing, archery and beach volleyball also are among the test events.

"All of these sports are equally important to help us accumulate experience to help us host the Beijing Olympics next year," Yang said. "There will be a big learning curve. For example, the timing and scoring systems. We have to ensure that we test the timing and scoring systems so they will work properly during the Olympics."

In this handout from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, (BOCOG) An artist impression of the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, China. The National Aquatics Center hosts swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming duirng the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Image Credit: BOCOG/Getty Images

BOCOG president Liu Qi said a test to carry the Olympic torch to the summit of Mt. Everest would take place in May.

"Chinese athletes will try to climb Mt. Everest while carrying the torch," Liu said Wednesday in the Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Pao. "It is a first in Olympic history."

Liu said he expected a decision next month about whether the torch relay would pass through Taiwan.

"The mainland is still consulting with the Taiwanese side about the torch relay," he said.

China has offered to allow the torch relay to pass through Taiwan, but officials there have said it is acceptable only if the island is part of the torch's international route.

The two sides split amid civil war almost 60 years ago and the mainland still claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory.

Reference Here>>

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Tick, Tick, Tick, - Indo H5N1 Death Toll To 74

It is now against the law to raise poultry in residential areas in Indonesia. Many wonder how authorities are going to police this new regulation, given that over 30 million families have poultry in their backyard. Image Credit: New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV)

Tick, Tick, Tick, - Indo H5N1 Death Toll To 74

Last month, Indonesia had five deaths tied directly to the Avian bird flu virus (H5N1). This makes this country the deadliest of all countries with deaths from the transference of the flu disease from birds.

It is now only one full week into April and already two deaths have been recorded in this hot spot for bird flu transference activity.

Excerpts from Medical News Today (UK) -

Indonesian Bird Flu Human Death Toll Reaches 74
Avian Flu News - Article Date: 07 Apr 2007 - 8:00 PDT

A 29-year-old man died of H5N1 bird flu infection, Indonesian authorities have confirmed today - the 74th human to die of bird flu infection in the country. The man came from Central Java province. According to authorities, he had been in close contact with infected poultry prior to becoming ill.
Scientists fear that the H5N1 bird flu virus strain will eventually mutate and become easily human transmissible. This has not happened yet. Humans do not catch bird flu from birds easily - it is extremely rare for one person to infect another person.

One way H5N1 could mutate might be by infecting a person who is ill with the normal human flu virus. The bird flu virus would then have the opportunity to exchange genetic information with the human flu virus and acquire its ability to spread easily from human-to-human (become easily human transmissible). If this happened we could be facing a serious (global) flu pandemic.
Reference Here>>

Friday, April 6, 2007

Mobility? - It's A Small Oblate Spheroid

Inn at Craig Farm's phone site - Image Credit: Patrick Conlon

Mobility? - It's A Small Oblate Spheroid

As the mobility age becomes more of age, it was only a matter of time that the visual side, the display side of the web, started to deliver content for the small format screens like the ones found in ones pocket.

The cellphone world is beginning to catch on to the fact that pushing buttons to communicate (texting) is tedious at best, so now it is rapidly becoming automated with camera imagers and codes … but where does that take one?

Generally, to a website that is tailored to a computer screen. Scrolling and adjusting the format just sends one back to pushing buttons and tapping screens. Visually, the process is still a nightmare at best. Text is okay but graphics are all over the map.

The match-up between the site and the screen is just around the corner.

Company efforts are dedicating themselves to mobile sized web development for mobile phone users. At Oblate Spheroid, with nearly 75% of cellphones in the field having web access capability, we say it’s about time that the mobile web becomes right sized.

This from The Wall Street Journal Online –

Mini Web Sites Target Users of Mobile Phones
New Kits Give Firms A Cellular Presence; Boon for Concertgoers?
By AMOL SHARMA - April 5, 2007 - WSJOnline

Johannes Tromp says the Web site for his South Carolina bed-and-breakfast generates good business. But last fall, he found a way to reach even more potential customers: He made a version of the site for cellphones.

Mr. Tromp signed up for a mobile Web address with the newly available suffix "dot-mobi" and used a self-starter kit from a company called Roundpoint Ltd. to build, the mobile site for his Inn at Craig Farm. He says he's gotten a surprisingly good response, with 30 to 40 new calls per month from interested travelers who heard of his inn by accessing the cellphone site.

"For people to find me, I have to make myself available any way I can," says Mr. Tromp, a Dutch native who was general manager of the Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center before moving south for a career in hospitality.

As technology allows consumers to access the Internet with their cellphones, many big companies have launched mobile versions of their Web sites, including big media brands like MTV and ESPN and news sites like USA Today and The Weather Channel. But such projects can be costly and complex and until recently have been out of reach of small businesses.

Now new low-cost tools and services are making it easier to jump onto the mobile Web. Internet registrars such as Inc. and Network Solutions, who have helped millions of small businesses set up traditional dot-com sites, are now also beginning to roll out all-inclusive packages that help companies register and build mobile Web sites. And mobile-content specialists like the United Kingdom's Bango Ltd. have their own mobile kits that help companies get a basic Web presence on cellphones.

One way to promote a musician - Image Credit: Fli Digital

The wireless Internet is just beginning to take shape. Most consumers aren't nearly as comfortable with mobile Web surfing as they are with trolling the Web on PCs. Entering URLs can be difficult on many cellphones, and there's a limited amount of content that is well-formatted for a small screen. Cellphone networks are getting faster but still lag behind landlines significantly in broadband speeds.

Many small companies are planning to build mobile Web sites. Thousands are using dot-mobi domain names, which are administered by mTLD Ltd., whose backers include cellphone companies such as Nokia Corp. and Vodafone Group PLC as well as Internet service providers like those of Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The company, which gets a cut of registration fees, hopes that dot-mobi will become the de facto domain for mobile sites, much like dot-com is for the regular Internet.

Dublin-based mTLD says a separate mobile-specific domain is the only way to assure users that the site they will visit will be designed appropriately for a phone, with minimal graphics and verbiage and a format fit for a tiny screen. It has issued guidelines on how to develop appropriate mobile sites, and plans to charge content developers $250 to $300 to certify that they can build sites within dot-mobi standards.
Dot-mobi isn't the only alternative. Sites that end in dot-com or dot-net can also be designed so they show mobile-specific content when consumers access them through a mobile device. In fact, that is how most major media brands and other companies have built cellphone sites to date.

Internet registrars, who have made a living on small businesses and already offer a variety of tools to help them build basic Web sites, are taking advantage of the new opportunity in mobile.

For example, Harry Boadwee used GoDaddy to set up, a mobile Web site that provides information for travelers such as flight cancellations, weather and car-rental information. Registering the domain for a year cost him $12 . GoDaddy also provided Mr. Boadwee with site-development tools offered through a partnership with mTLD. Mr. Boadwee developed the site himself using those tools.

Network Solutions, which hosts the Web sites of 3.5 million small businesses, plans to begin selling dot-mobi addresses soon, along with a suite of tools with templates to build simple mobile Web sites. The company already has a tool that lets businesses automatically convert their existing Web sites into mobile versions -- stripping out unneeded verbiage and graphics -- but company executives say they encourage companies to build a mobile site from scratch.

In March, Bango rolled out Bango2Go, which offers small businesses hosting and mobile Web development as well as software that lets companies track who is visiting their site and bill customers for purchases. Bango's introductory package is $1,000, plus ongoing maintenance fees that will usually be a few hundred dollars. For bigger companies who want a more elaborate site with more content, the Bango fee is about $5,000.

Bango has already helped huge brands like News Corp. and World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. build their mobile Web portals, but its new product is aimed at smaller players such as Basin Street Records, a small independent music label in New Orleans.

The label's founder, Mark Samuels, is using Bango and Web-site designer Fli Digital Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y., to develop cellphone Web sites for the nine artists he works with, beginning with jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, whose new mobile Web page is Mr. Samuels says mobile sites will give concertgoers the ability to download ringtones or album art or even sign up for newsletters. All a fan needs is access to the mobile Web.
Reference Here>>

(ht: Symblogogy)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Stick-Pin Travel Via Google Maps

Example: Results of Jobe Media's method to create a stick-pin locator map for associated photo galleries of related travels to the longitude and latitude marker (not simple to the layperson, but effective). Image Credit: Google via Jobe Media

Stick-Pin Travel Via Google Maps

Here is a tip for those people who are (or would like to be) organized and need a way to communicate and organize photo galleries.

I suppose it can be used for anything, however, that involves travel to a specific destination and needs to be marked with a locator or virtual "stick-pin"!

Excerpts from Jobe Media –

Jobe’s Gallery - MAP Edition - Instructions
Scott Carmichael

OK, so under much pressure from my friends, I decided to write a little document on this neat map-based gallery addition I made to my site last week.

You can see it live in action
here. Or you can look at this picture of it [above]:

Essentially, it's a map of all the albums I've got pictures for, mapped out all over the world, with little links at the top to zoom into specific areas where there's some detail to be seen. :)

It uses Google Maps API for the map drawing, and otherwise is a pretty simple little site that links into my simple (yet elegant?) photo gallery I made a few weeks before I added the maps.

I had to get the lat/long for all the places I've taken pictures by using If you double click a spot on Google Maps, it'll zoom and center on that spot. Then by copying and pasting the "Link to this page" link, you can see the lat/long of where you double clicked... for some random double click in Montana gives me:,-109.599609&spn=20.043173,40.78125&om=1

There's your latitude and longitude. There'd be many ways to tag my albums with these, but for speed (and potential digg effect), I just chose a flat file, written out like this:

2003_08_11_europe/01_amsterdam 52.372874 4.894753
2003_08_11_europe/02_paris 48.857261 2.344551
2003_08_11_europe/03_toulouse 43.603267 1.442986
2003_08_11_europe/04_carcassonne 43.211682 2.355537
2003_08_11_europe/05_sete 43.40405 3.69175
2003_08_11_europe/06_agde 43.309191 3.473053
.. etc
Basically what's happen here, is that it's reading all the albums in with the lat and long, then the second foreach loop is checking for multiple albums having the same location, and then writing out a little
for the tool tip for when you click on the marker, which has a pre-generated thumbnail and the album title for all albums at that pin. Neat, eh?

This method and site and photo album look best using Firefox!
Reference Here>>

So, each album has a latitude and longitude so it shows up as a stick-pin on a map of the world. When you click a pin, up pops the highlight photo for the albums at that location. Clicking the pin again brings up that album. Makes a great front page to a gallery.

It's a pretty cool technique to place marks here on the Oblate Spheroid.
(ht: SlashDot)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Brazil On Collision Course: Ethanol & Environment

Deforestation in Brazil: This image of the southern Amazon uses satellite data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite collected in 2000 and 2001 to classify the terrain into three separate land surface categories: forest (red), herbaceous (non-woody) vegetation like grasses (green), and bare ground (blue). The Amazon’s numerous rivers appear white. Image Credit:

Brazil On Collision Course: Ethanol & Environment

Ethanol production, "the renewable fuel resource", requires fiber (lots of fibre) and water (lots of water) to become the bio-replacement fuel of the future. If Brazil has its way, it plans to expand its capacity to produce Ethanol by 12 times over the next eighteen years and eclipse all other nations ability to supply the world demand for energy based on something other than petroleum.

This expansion is expected to place additional stresses on the ecosystems that surround the populated portions of Brazil. The decades old practice of slash & burn clear-cutting of the forests may now come full circle to slash & convert putting any vegetation on the production line for Ethanol.

Wither the land is cleared for sugarcane or just being cleared for the fibre due to advances in technology to convert more types of fibre ... rain forests are at a greater risk over the next 20 years.

Excerpts from Tierramérica via Inter Press Service News Agency -

Brazil Aims to Dominate World Ethanol Market
Mario Osava - Tierramérica network (Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Mar 31 (Tierramérica) - Brazil is working towards producing enough ethanol to substitute 10 percent of the gasoline consumed worldwide within 18 years. That would mean increasing its current production of 17.3 billion litres a year by a factor of 12, without sacrificing forests, protected areas or food cultivation.

The government called on a group of experts to study the possibilities and impacts of a sharp increase in fuel alcohol production from sugarcane.

The group led by the Interdisciplinary Group for Energy Planning of Campinas University, and coordinated by physicist Rogério Cerqueira Leite, concluded that Brazil could produce 205 billion litres of ethanol by 2025. A comparable volume will be produced by the rest of the world, predict experts.
Increased ethanol production is essential. The experts' report says there will be a 40-percent hike in output per hectare of sugarcane through a new technology based on hydrolysis. The United States and Brazil agreed to cooperate in developing this approach during the Mar. 8-9 visit by President George W. Bush in Sao Paulo.

Potentially, hydrolysis, which can take advantage of any cellulose material, could double productivity, but the goal was set at 40 percent based on known technologies and because part of the sugarcane waste (pulp and straw) is used in generating electricity, not ethanol, explained Carlos Rossell, a researcher with the group.

Rainforest cleared for maize - Location: Puerto Maldanado - Image Credit:

This technology involves some complicated challenges, such as breaking down very tough plant structures, which will require a great deal of effort to make it viable on an industrial scale, Rossell told Tierramérica.

U.S. and European scientists are farther along in this research and benefit from much bigger investments, but Brazil has the advantage of the immediate availability of the sugarcane, ready to be processed. The others will have to go into the fields to bring in the stalks and other bio-material, mostly from maize, with additional costs, he said.

For the same reason, the expertise that can come from the United States, whose ethanol production is based on corn, doesn't resolve the Brazilian problem. The raw materials are different, the researcher said.

For now, the United States produces a little more ethanol than Brazil does, but production costs are 40 percent higher, according to industry leaders in Brazil. The U.S. tariff barrier of 54 cents on the dollar per gallon (3.8 litres) did not prevent the northern giant from importing 1.6 billion litres of Brazilian fuel alcohol last year, when increased demand drove up maize prices.

In addition to destabilising the international market, increasing maize prices and soybean prices (the former's replacement for animal feed), U.S. ethanol is hardly environmentally efficient.

Each unit of energy used in U.S. ethanol production generates just 1.3 to 1.8 units of renewable energy, while sugarcane reaches a minimum of 8.3 units. As such, U.S.-produced ethanol does little to curb emissions that cause climate change, which, along with high-priced petroleum are the main reasons biofuels are being promoted.

In Brazil, ethanol also faces limitations. Peasant farmer movements and many social activists condemn the growth of agro-energy that hurts food production. Environmentalists fear further expansion of the farm frontier into Amazon forests, especially as land prices increase.

Fuel alcohol production has "negative environmental, social and economic impacts for the communities," it generates few jobs, and "consumes a lot of natural resources -- each litre of ethanol requires 30 litres of water," criticises Temístocles Marcelos, environmental policy director at the labour union CUT.

Virtually all forest clearing, by small farmer and plantation owner alike, is done by fire. Though these fires are intended to burn only limited areas, they frequently escape agricultural plots and pastures and char pristine rainforest. Image Credit:
The experts' study, however, points to the creation of five million new jobs if the ambitious production plan is implemented.
In Sao Paulo state, home to more than half of Brazil's ethanol production, 60 percent of the sugarcane fields are burned in order to facilitate cutting, polluting the air and causing a number of illnesses. The sugarcane industrialists are also accused of subjecting their workers to unhealthy and exhausting work conditions, which, according to reports, have also led to death.
The burns are also legal, and are to be abolished by 2020, he said. The solution would be accelerated if cellulose ethanol production were further advanced, because it uses sugarcane leaves.

Furthermore, ethanol benefits all of humanity by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Its incorporation into Brazil's national energy matrix and its international marketing -- which should be unrelated to that of petroleum -- "depends only on political will," said Ribeiro.
Read All>>

Sunday, April 1, 2007

At Your Carbon-Creating Command

Happy landings: John Travolta's plane collection parked at his home in Florida – Image Credit: This is London Magazine Ltd

At Your Carbon-Creating Command

While traveling abroad by personal jet to London on a movie promotion tour, John Travolta granted an interview with the local press.

John, wanting to look every bit the liberal thinking Hollywood lock-step actor showed that he could carry-the-water for Al Gore and other mono-theorists who believe that human activity is the main component to our present perceived warming nature of Earth's climate change.

What is unfortunate is that John Travolta, the man, loves to fly JETS! He owns five of them and he justifies his flying because he, the man, is a corporation.

Dear John, please give this old, tired Oblate Spheroid a break and be truthful. You make a boatload of money, and you love to fly JETS and that is that ... do not lecture the rest of us who will never see your lifestyle until we, those of us who believe this way, reach heaven.

Excerpts from "This is London" magazine -

With five private jets, Travolta still lectures on global warming
London, Sunday 01.04.07

His serious aviation habit means he is hardly the best person to lecture others on the environment. But John Travolta went ahead and did it anyway.

The 53-year-old actor, a passionate pilot, encouraged his fans to "do their bit" to tackle global warming.

But although he readily admitted: "I fly jets", he failed to mention he actually owns five, along with his own private runway.

Clocking up at least 30,000 flying miles in the past 12 months means he has produced an estimated 800 tons of carbon emissions – nearly 100 times the average Briton's tally.

Travolta made his comments this week at the British premiere of his movie, Wild Hogs.

He spoke of the importance of helping the environment by using "alternative methods of fuel" – after driving down the red carpet on a Harley Davidson.

Travolta, a Scientologist, claimed the solution to global warming could be found in outer space and blamed his hefty flying mileage on the nature of the movie business.

This is your captain: Travolta on tour for Qantas – Image Credit: This is London Magazine Ltd

But his appointment as a "serving ambassador" for the Australian airline Qantas doesn't seem to have much to do with the movies. Nor does a recent, two-month round-the-world flying trip.

"It [global warming] is a very valid issue," Travolta declared. "I'm wondering if we need to think about other planets and dome cities.

"Everyone can do their bit. But I don't know if it's not too late already. We have to think about alternative methods of fuel.

"I'm probably not the best candidate to ask about global warming because I fly jets.

"I use them as a business tool though, as others do. I think it's part of this industry – otherwise I couldn't be here doing this and I wouldn't be here now."
More recently, a gruelling promotional schedule for his two latest projects, Hairspray and Wild Hogs, has seen him fly extensively over the past year.

This includes a country-wide tour of the US and a visit to Canada as well as this week's appearance in Leicester Square.

Such prolific mileage means that, over the past 12 months, he has accumulated around 800 tonnes of carbon emissions.

According to a recent study by the government-funded Carbon Trust, this means he boasts a carbon "footprint" nearly 100 times that of the average Briton, who is responsible for 10.92 tons of Co2, from his flights alone.

One of the world's leading climate change businesses, the Carbon Neutral Company, has written to Travolta, suggesting ways he could reduce these alarming levels.
John Buckley, managing director-of, said: "John Travolta has such a high-profile celebrity status, so what he says carries an extraordinary amount of weight.

"So it is such a shame when someone of his standing is so outspoken about green issues, yet fails to practise what he preaches.

"Unfortunately someone of his standing ends up discrediting the cause itself, because he is saying people should protect the environment on one hand, yet travelling on a private plane on the other.

"Green issues are serious and should be treated as such.

"It is vital for celebrities to toe the line when they speak out in support of it." Reference Here>>

This is just tooooo rich, can't make it up!