Saturday, March 28

e²: the economies of being environmentally conscious

If you don't already know about the PBS series of series, , get with it.

By PBS's description:
is an ongoing PBS series about the economies of being environmentally conscious...with a combination of policy, technology and ingenuity...from energy consumption to building chronicles global efforts to solve pressing ecological challenges
So far, the series have covered architecture and design, energy, and transport; while future series will cover water, food, and cities.

You can access trailers and excerpts from the episodes, as well as the series of Web-exclusive video podcasts that accompany each episode from here. Some full length episodes from the design and energy series can be found here.

Below are the PBS descriptions for the series that have aired:

e² design

e² design is an ongoing PBS series about the pioneers and innovators in the field of sustainable architecture, and how their work is producing solutions to pressing environmental and social challenges. Now entering its third season, the series features compelling stories from around the globe: Beijing to Nova Scotia, Ladakh to New York. Each episode examines the built environment's effects — both ecological, and social — and the design innovations that can reduce buildings' contribution to climate change.

e² design is narrated by Brad Pitt.
There have been three seasons of e² design with six episodes per season.

e² energy

Global in scope and comprised of six 30-minute chapters filmed in HD, e² energy features the engineers, policymakers and innovations that are transforming energy availability and consumption. Each episode covers viable policy and technology alternatives to the fossil fuel culture. Episodes explore: California as a world leader in emissions control; transportation and the need for greater efficiencies; ethanol in Brazil and its future in the United States; distributed solar energy as a means to poverty alleviation in Bangladesh; community wind in Minnesota and its role in regional economic development; and the role of coal and nuclear power in our future energy mix. Solutions-oriented, the series illustrates the trials and trade-offs that any evolution in our global energy system will demand.

e² energy is narrated by Morgan Freeman.

The most recent installment of the e² series – e² transport – examines sustainable transportation alternatives with potentially far-reaching effects. The series introduces a broad range of ideas to address the crises of automobile culture and fossil fuel dependence: from existing technologies, to long-term urban planning, to economic incentives. The six e² transport episodes explore: the transformation of London into a transit-efficient capital thanks to visionary mayoral leadership; Paris’ ambitious public-private VĂ©lib’ bike initiative, which encourages residents to forgo cars for bikes and public transportation; the potential for local food production to lessen the environmental impact of the global food market and – as renowned author Michael Pollan elaborates – build healthier, more sustainable communities; the effort to reduce traffic and pollution in Seoul, Korea by restoring the Chonggyecheon Stream as a center of public life; Portland, Oregon, as a global model of transit-oriented development and urban “livability”; and the efforts made by aerospace corporations, technology firms and administrators to make the aviation industry more efficient.

e² transport is narrated by Brad Pitt.

Thursday, March 26

Ultimate Virtual Reality

People have proposed stay-cations as a way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Well, how about a stay-cation to the moon?

Wet Shoe Physics

It's video day!

Robot Muscles

This is really sweet, stronger than steel but stretchable and so lightweight that it floats around like smoke:

Robot Body Language

I'm not sure I would want my robot to be human-like (especially if it looked like that):

Printable Gadgets

Have you heard of printed light emitters, I hadn't:

Renewable Energy to the Rescue

And we better hope (or pray, if so inclined) it works, because the Obama administration seems to be trusting that it will (from
ASPEN – Shifting the United States to clean-burning renewable fuels has the potential to cut through a thicket of thorny social ills and solve long-standing problems across the entire spectrum of American life, from manufacturing to national security to clean water, the country's top environmental cop said on Wednesday.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson spoke before 150 scientists, lawyers, industry executives, activists and others gathered at this alpine town for a three-day conference on the country's energy future.

She said weaning the country from fossil fuels remains a top priority of the Obama administration because it offers such a broad suite of solutions across all aspects of American life: rewarding innovation, discouraging pollution, investing in jobs and encouraging energy independence.

"It's extraordinary to be at a time where one answer answers so many extraordinary big issues," she said.
Read more...this is my favorite quote:
"If you think climate protection endangers economic growth, wait 'till you see what climate change does."

The Next Generation of Amusement Rides

Rides may soon be adjusted for your liking based on biofeedback:

Thanks to Proposition 8

I detect a bit of sarcasm:

Wednesday, March 25

"Genome Hacking"

We have officially reached Gattaca status - well, not exactly - but according to an article from, we're not far (if you haven't seen Gattaca, and therefore have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to watch it - not just to understand this reference, but because it is unusually accurate, and at the very least insightful - if not prophetic).

What I mean is this: similar to the film, it is now possible to 'hack' another's genome. This highlights a major issue regarding the blossoming field of personal genomics: the right to privacy (other pertinent issues are also discussed in the article - including the accuracy and reliability of info provided by different companies). Check it out:

INTIMATE secrets hidden in your DNA could be stolen without you even realising. By taking a glass from which you have drunk, a "genome hacker" could obtain a comprehensive scan of your genome, revealing DNA variants that help determine your susceptibility to a wide range of diseases, from a common form of blindness to Alzheimer's disease.

That's the disturbing finding of a New Scientist investigation, in which one of us - Michael Reilly - "hacked" the genome of the other - Peter Aldhous - armed with only a credit card, a private email account and a home address.

You might have thought that genome hacking requires specialist skills, and personal access to sophisticated equipment. But in recent years, some companies have started to offer personal genome scans to the public over the internet. Other firms routinely analyse genomes on behalf of scientists involved in human genetics research. In theory, both types of service are vulnerable to abuse by a genome hacker determined to submit someone else's DNA for covert analysis.

Until our investigation, it was not clear whether this would be possible in practice. Could a hacker with no access to a genetics lab take an item carrying another person's DNA and obtain a sample that companies would accept for scanning? Would the sample be of high enough quality to yield accurate results? And would genome analysis companies have procedures in place to identify and refuse suspicious orders?

We decided to find out. Rather like computer security researchers who expose vulnerabilities in software code so that they can be "patched" to guard against malicious hackers, our goal was to uncover vulnerabilities in the way companies offering genome scans operate, so that they can be fixed.

Our investigation uncovered some loopholes that might be closed to help thwart genome thieves. The findings also strengthen the case for additional laws to protect the information contained in the DNA that we all shed continually and leave lying around.

"Just as we have a right to expect that relatives, neighbours, or even strangers can't poke through our medical records without our permission, we should have a right to expect that people can't snoop through our genes," says Kathy Hudson, who heads the Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC. Read more...

Beyond piracy, there is, perhaps, a more pertinent question that will soon require an answer: who is legally entitled to your genetic information - your spouse? your kids? siblings?

When I first contemplated the question, my initial impulse was that no one should be legally entitled to my genome. However, upon further contemplation, my answer changed. Why? Well, considering that you share half of your genes with your children, siblings, and parents - is it not their right to know if you discover that you are at high risk for a certain disease (implying that they too may have a similar risk)? My suggestion would be some kind of middle ground, where relatives would have access only to information about genes that could have potential implications for them as well.

It is an intriguing question to which there is not necessarily a "right" answer. None the less, it is a question that will need to be answered (and probably sooner than you think).

Ghost Bird

I'm not exactly an ornithology buff, but I decided to post this for two reasons: first, Cornell's involvement; and second, the passion/enthusiasm of Mary Scott is somewhat infectious (besides, I already posted about one documentary today, so why not make it a theme.) Check it out:

Water vs. Energy

I posted recently about the trade-off between some biofuels and water (see A Note on Biofuels and Alternative Biofuels). Well here is an article discussing the trade-off between water and energy in general. As the subtitle points out: "Water is needed to generate energy. Energy is needed to deliver water. Both resources are limiting the other - and both may be running short. Is there a way out?" Find out for yourself (from

Water and energy are the two most fundamental ingredients of modern civilization. Without water, people die. Without energy, we cannot grow food, run computers, or power homes, schools or offices. As the world’s population grows in number and affluence, the demands for both resources are increasing faster than ever.

Woefully underappreciated, however, is the reality that each of these precious commodities might soon cripple our use of the other. We consume massive quantities of water to generate energy, and we consume massive quantities of energy to deliver clean water. Many people are concerned about the perils of peak oil—running out of cheap oil. A few are voicing concerns about peak water. But almost no one is addressing the tension between the two: water restrictions are hampering solutions for generating more energy, and energy problems, particularly rising prices, are curtailing efforts to supply more clean water. Read more...

Geoengineering: Controlling The Weather

I found this on The Intersection (a Discovery blog), about a new documentary called "Owning the Weather":

This is a science- and history-rich documentary about climate and weather modification–which we may well be on the verge of. There has been much quackery in this area in the past, but when it comes to combating global warming, so-called geoengineering could wind up being the real thing–and one of our few, albeit undesirable, options.

To that end I want to alert you that Owning the Weather will be premiering on April 3rd at the prestigious Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, NC–more info here.
Check out the trailer. Extremely interesting, and it really gets you thinking: do you really trust humans to control the weather, considering the fact that we still can't even predict it with accuracy? But as the trailer says,
We've always wanted to control the weather.
Now we may have to.

Are You Genetically Predisposed to Being Mugged?

I have talked a little in the past about the interactions between genes and the environment (see Can Your Genes Tell You Who You Are? or Unnatural Selection), and here is a great post on a similar subject discussing heritability of personality traits that may cause us to seek a particular environment over another.

I think this is extremely interesting. I mean, I was aware that some people have a predisposition to violence, but had never thought about predisposition to being a victim of violence - but now that I have, it really does make some sense (From The Wild Side):

Last Monday, Nicholas Hughes, son of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, killed himself. His mother was one of the world’s most famous suicides, and news stories have mentioned the tendency of suicide and depression to run in families. But this tragic inheritance is just part of a more complex story in which our lives are shaped by genes, environment — and unexpected connections between the two.

Much more than depression is partly inherited. Here’s a weirder fact: the genes you get from your parents partly determine your risk of being mugged. So do genes dictate our fate? Of course not — but they do have a say in who we become.

We tend to think of the environment as something that just happens to us, but in fact animals actively seek out surroundings that are compatible with their genetic predispositions. Teenagers in the chess club choose to be exposed to different influences from their hockey-player counterparts. Such differences don’t even have to be voluntary: tall kids may be picked more often for the basketball team and end up better at the game because they have more opportunities to develop their skills.

Certain people are much more likely than others to be exposed to stressful life experiences, including specific traumas like car accidents, industrial injuries or being a crime victim. Some of this variation is traceable to genetics. Read more...

An aside for those of you in Comm 3600:

In class today we discussed this quote from Michel Foucault:

...(T)he body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs.

While professor Joseph was likely trying to invoke discussion regarding the influence of culture/environment on our biology (diet, etc.) - this post illustrates that not only does our environment influence our biology, but that our genetics can influence our environment.

So it goes something like this: the environment (culture, economic class, etc.) into which we are born has influence on our biology, but at a certain age we have the opportunity to decide our environment (at least somewhat) - and the environment we choose is predisposed by our genetics.

Tuesday, March 24

I Want My Info Free and Easy

In these times we have come to expect a certain level of open sharing of information - making it that much more frustrating when something you want is not shared openly.

As a college student, I am constantly doing research for one paper or another. Databases for scholarly journal articles (e.g. CAB abstracts, Web of Science) are great for starting a search, but although the full text is available for some, for many articles (more than half in my experience) it is not. This means you must actually go to the library, find the hard copy, and either photocopy or borrow it - what a pain.

Those of you who predate the internet are probably overwhelmed with sympathy, but the professors at MIT understand. Check it out (from Wired Science):

Scientific publishing might have just reached a tipping point, thanks to a new open access policy at MIT.

Following a more limited open-access mandate at Harvard, the legendary school's faculty voted last week to make all of their papers available for free on the web, the first university-wide policy of its sort.

Hal Abelson, who spearheaded the effort, said that these agreements went beyond providing a repository for papers, they changed the power dynamics between scientific publishers and researchers.

"What's important here is that it's giving the university a formal role in how publications happen," Abelson said. "Some of the faculty said, 'You're calling this an open-access resolution but actually the way to think of it is as a collective bargaining agreement.'"

Many scientists and researchers have pushed for open access policies, but publishers have been reluctant to give up control of the informational resources they have. Big companies like Wiley John & Sons, The Macmillan Publishers' Nature Publishing Group, and Reed Elsevier argue that they provide valuable and expensive peer-review, and that there's no way to ensure quality without the subscription fees that they charge libraries and universities.

But open access advocates say the current scientific publishing paradigm is broken because publishers control the scientific record, not academics.

"Who actually should be controlling the scholarly record?" Abelson asked. "Universities have a mission that has something to do with producing and disseminating knowledge. These publishers, whatever their good intentions may be, have a mission to make money for their stockholders. The system is a little out of whack."

That's a major reason that Congress approved an open access policy for National Institutes of Health-funded research. Under the NIH public access policy, papers are made public twelve months after publication.

The scientific publishing system, which developed long before the internet, doesn't allow for scientific information to be accessed freely like most web content is. This creates data silos within individual publisher's journals and prevents the sharing and data mining of scientific information, open access advocates argue. Read more...

The government is another great source for publicly available information - if you can find it. Luckily, government data should soon be easier to access as well (with your help):

"Economy Trumps Environment"

My friend and colleague, Charles Blow, pointed me to this recent Gallup poll last night. Said the pollsters last Thursday:

For the first time in Gallup’s 25-year history of asking Americans about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a majority of Americans say economic growth should be given the priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

Americans, the Gallup folks found, are also “more inclined now than in past years to favor giving the priority to energy production over the environment.”

None of this is, of course, a complete surprise, given the recession. And it’s worth noting that there are deep partisan divisions among respondents, with Republicans and Independents favoring, to varying degrees, the economy and energy production over the environment, and Democrats in both cases putting the environment first.

The findings come just a few days after another Gallup poll found that more Americans than ever think that the seriousness of global warming is being exaggerated.

“There is little question that the current economic crisis poses a significant challenge for the environmental movement in this country,” wrote Frank Newport of Gallup, in the wake of last week’s survey. The complete analysis is here.

Video of the Transition's First Flight

I posted about this "hybrid" 2 days ago, and just came across this video:

What Is Your Water Footprint?

From Green Inc.:

Last week, delegates from over 100 countries converged in Istanbul for the 5th World Water Forum.

Among the many topics of discussion at the week-long conference, which ended Sunday (World Water Day), was one that has been gaining steam for the last couple of years: “water neutrality.” The idea — conceptually analagous to minding one’s carbon footprint — is that companies ought to be tracking their water footprints as well.

“Water neutrality is a relatively new idea put forward by a small number of corporations to try to address their use of water,” says Peter H. Gleick, a co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute, which is working with the United Nations to develop more robust corporate reporting of water use.

There is little agreement over how water footprints should be measured.

“At its simplest, the idea is that a corporation that is trying to be water neutral will somehow compensate for the water they use in their processing — and on net, not use any excess water,” Mr. Gleick said. “That’s the theory,” he added, “but the practices are going to be more difficult.” Read more...

Monday, March 23

Business Cards the Green Way

Check out the most recent post on my brother-in-law's blog pomomusings:

I really like business cards. I like designing them. I like collecting them. But, what do we do with them? I normally enter the information into Address Book and toss ‘em. So when I heard about Contxts - mobile SMS business cards - I thought it was pretty cool. Contxts asks the question, “Do you really want to be that guy/gal who is handing out chopped up pieces of bleached trees?”

Well, do you?


Go ahead and try it. Text “adamwc” to 50500.

There you go. All of the important details you need. I imagine this would be particularly helpful if you are a speaker or presenter at a conference and you could just end your presentation by telling everyone to text your username to 50500. Great way to give them your information easily and not ever worry about running out of business cards. Anyway - it’s a free service, so give it a whirl and check out Contxts.

And on the topic of business cards, I will add this shameless plug:

If you decide you have to have the real thing (business cards that is), or need any other kind of graphic design - including web design - you should check out Adam's company Cleave Design to see his portfolio (or for your ease I have included links below).

Speeding Things Up

Check it out (from Wired Science):
The world is filled with sluggish spectacles. Watching them would be painful were it not for time-lapse photography, which can make those long stories short and remarkably entertaining.

When a phenomenon happens very slowly, viewing accelerated footage helps scientists take a step back and see the big picture: At higher speeds, things that we regard as fixed take motion — even the dullest scenes spring to life.

Here are Wired Science's picks of the best time-lapse videos of nature at work.
I'm not about to take the time to embed all of them, but here is one of my favorites (number 2 according to their list):

'Earth Hour'

From Green Inc.:

New York City’s nighttime skyline will look as if it’s had a few teeth knocked out this coming Saturday.

The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and several other structures and landmarks in Manhattan will turn off their night lights for an hour on March 28 to bring attention to climate change.

The so-called Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund, will take place from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and will involve a variety of familiar Manhattan sites — Rockefeller Center, 7 World Trade Center and the United Nations headquarters building, to the New York Public Library, and the new Time Warner Center, among others. Read more...

The Nano (no - not the iPod)

Is the introduction of the world's cheapest car (the Nano) really a good thing? As usual - the answer is complicated (from Green Inc.):

People across India have been saving money for months with the goal of purchasing the car, made by Tata Motors, a branch of the Indian conglomerate Tata Group, and which will be priced at about $2,000. For many, it represents a leap, overnight, from the indignity of two-wheeled motor scooters to the relative luxury of four wheels and a roof.

For millions the car has become emblematic of their aspirations, as Vishal Bhatia, a Green Inc. reader in Mumbai, suggested in his comment the last time I posted about the Nano:

“I’m buying it because it gives a sense of freedom,” Mr. Bhatia wrote, “freedom to go to someplace in uncrumpled clothes, with my deodorant still being able to mask my body odor. But above all to see the look in my family’s eyes when they see it in person.”

Environmentalists, however, have decried the Nano and its low-cost imitators as an impending disaster. Find out why...


Here's an interesting approach (from Freakanomics):
A shop owner in England is tackling the litter problem in her neighborhood by marking sweets wrappers and drink bottles with the names of the children buying them. This way, she tells the BBC, she can easily identify and reprimand litter “offenders.” Waste-personalization is hardly a novel ideal; it’s been done before (to Dubner’s delight) with dog poo. Perhaps the best next target is mortgage-backed securities … (HT: Tom A. Kosakowski)

Rise of the Robots: Advances in Artificial Intelligence

Alexander Stoytchev is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State University in Ames who is combining developmental psychology and neuroscience with artificial intelligence and robotic engineering. He and a team of grad students have developed a program that allows robots to learn, the first essential step if artificial intelligence is to become a reality. As Stoytchev explains:
A truly useful personal robot [must have] the ability to learn on its own from interactions with the physical and social environment. It should not rely on a human programmer once it is purchased. It must be trainable.
Here is what they were able to do (from
In one set of experiments, the robot was presented with 36 different objects, including hockey pucks and Tupperware. It could perform five different actions with each one—grasping, pushing, tapping, shaking and dropping—and had to identify and classify them based only on the sounds they made. After just one action the robot had a 72 percent success rate, but its accuracy soared with each successive action, reaching 99.2 percent after all five. The robot had learned to use a perceptual model to recognize and classify objects—and it could rely on this model to estimate how similar two objects were with only the sounds they made to guide it.

Another set of experiments showed the robot could learn to tell whether or not something was a container. The team presented the machine, topped with a 3-D camera, with objects of different shapes. By dropping a small block on each one and then pushing it, the robot learned to classify objects either as containers—those that moved together with the block ["co-moved"] more often when pushed—or as noncontainers. The robot could then use this knowledge to judge whether unfamiliar objects could hold things; in other words, it had learned, roughly, how to discern the unique characteristics of a container. Read more...
Here are some additional articles discussing recent advances in robotics:

Seeing Is Believing

From Earth 3.0:

Preserving the planet includes improving the human condition. See who needs help the most and who can most afford to give it. This slide show reveals the distribution of wealth around the globe, clean technology funding, urban carbon footprints, and the toxic ash fallout from a Tennessee coal plant in December 2008.

View the Slide Show

"Winning the Carbon Game"

From Earth 3.0:

When it comes to perhaps the largest and most complex policy challenge facing the Obama administration—finally slowing the pace of global warming before dangerous changes become unstoppable—the new president stares down a Dickensian paradox. On the one hand, it’s the best of times for dealing with the issue. The Democratic-controlled Congress is itching for action, with environmentalist Californians Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Henry Waxman at the head of key committees. And the problem has risen so much in visibility that many fossil-fuel companies have come to consider the capping of their greenhouse gas emissions a virtual inevitability. They have joined together in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership—a group featuring General Electric, DuPont, General Motors and many other major corporations—which has called for “cap and trade” legislation that would limit and then slowly ratchet down emissions.

Slide Show: Obama's Cabinet

Yet it’s also the worst of times to address global warming. The recession makes the enactment of strong climate protection policies—which are bound to raise the price of energy, at least in the short term—highly vulnerable to attack. Given the state of the economy, global warming simply cannot top the president’s agenda; ideally, though, progress on it would follow a breakneck timeline that some experts are already describing as impossible to meet. Read more...

Sunday, March 22

Happy World Water Day!

From 60 Second Science:
Happy World Water Day! Today is the 16th annual United Nations-sponsored water awareness day. This year's theme "Sharing Waters Sharing Opportunities" aims to up knowledge about all of the bodies of fresh water (263 by the U.N.'s count) that cross – or create – international borders. These can include the usual suspects, such as rivers and lakes, as well as subterranean aquifers that so many rely on for drinking water. Although H20 covers more than 70 percent of the planet's surface, only about 0.3 percent of surface water is in rivers and lakes, and underground aquifers hold about only another 1.6 percent of the earth's water.

More than half of the world's population lives in river basins shared with other countries, according to the U.N., yet only 16 countries (Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, South Africa, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic and Uzbekistan) have signed the group's Convention on Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (an agreement to ensure countries don't hog or harm shared water resources). Per the U.N.'s decision, the agreement won't be ratified until at least 35 nations are officially on board. But some have argued that the convention, which began in discussions back in 1971, doesn't adequately cover new environmental issues or pose a strong enough legal structure to settle potential conflicts. Negotiating the use and conservation of these waters is nothing new, though. People have been making international water treaties for more than 4,500 years (dating at least back to two Sumerian city-states that quibbled over the Tigris River around 2500 B.C.E.).

Today also marks the final day of the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, which is organized and run every three years by the World Water Council, an international nonprofit. In preparation for the forum, the U.N. released its third World Water Development report last week. While the analysis found promise in increasing access to clean drinking water, U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said that the global water "situation is unconscionable… There has been a widespread failure to recognize water's vital role in providing food, energy, sanitation, disaster relief, environmental sustainability and other benefits."

But organizers of World Water Day hope to flood that awareness gap, partly through a host of events, which are happening this week from Anchorage to Australia. But to whom should we be raising our glasses of bubbly (spring water, that is)? The Danube and its tributaries, of course, which earns the claim as the most international watershed by dipping into 18 different countries.

What's Going On?!?!?!

From Thomas Friedman's NYT article titled "Are We Home Alone?":
I ran into an Indian businessman friend last week and he said something to me that really struck a chord: “This is the first time I’ve ever visited the United States when I feel like you’re acting like an immature democracy.”

You know what he meant: We’re in a once-a-century financial crisis, and yet we’ve actually descended into politics worse than usual. There don’t seem to be any adults at the top — nobody acting larger than the moment, nobody being impelled by anything deeper than the last news cycle. Instead, Congress is slapping together punitive tax laws overnight like some Banana Republic, our president is getting in trouble cracking jokes on Jay Leno comparing his bowling skills to a Special Olympian, and the opposition party is behaving as if its only priority is to deflate President Obama’s popularity.

I saw Eric Cantor, a Republican House leader, on CNBC the other day, and the entire interview consisted of him trying to exploit the A.I.G. situation for partisan gain without one constructive thought. I just kept staring at him and thinking: “Do you not have kids? Do you not have a pension that you’re worried about? Do you live in some gated community where all the banks will be O.K., even if our biggest banks go under? Do you think your party automatically wins if the country loses? What are you thinking?”

If you want to guarantee that America becomes a mediocre nation, then just keep vilifying every public figure struggling to find a way out of this crisis who stumbles once — like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner or A.I.G.’s $1-a-year fill-in C.E.O., Ed Liddy — and you’ll ensure that no capable person enlists in government. You will ensure that every bank that has taken public money will try to get rid of it as fast it can, so as not to come under scrutiny, even though that would weaken their balance sheets and make them less able to lend money. And you will ensure that we’ll never get out of this banking crisis, because the solution depends on getting private money funds to team up with the government to buy up toxic assets — and fund managers are growing terrified of any collaboration with government. Read more...(please!)

First Ever Alternative Energy Fed Loan Guarantee

From 60 Second Science:
The Department of Energy (DOE) this week made the first alternative-energy loan guarantee, announcing that Solyndra Inc., a solar energy company based in Fremont, Calif., will receive $535 million. The company – profiled recently by – plans to use the money to ramp up production of its cylindrical, thin-film solar panels that lie flat on rooftops.

The cash won't flow until the loan receives some final legal and financial green lights, according to a DOE press release. The DOE is reviewing dozens of other projects, from nuclear to carbon capture and sequestration, and will likely be issuing more loan guarantees in the coming weeks, the New York Times reports.

Shell Bails on Alternative Energy Research

From 60 Second Science:
International oil giant Shell announced this week that it plans to suspend funding and research into solar and wind alternatives to fossil fuels. Shell also said it does not view hydrogen as a viable energy alternative either, but that it plans to continue its work on biofuels, Reuters reports.

Energy analysts cite the huge drop in oil prices since last summer as the key reason that Shell pulled the plug on renewables research. “It’s not much of a surprise given the current oil price environment,” says Ian Nathan, senior research analyst at Energy Intelligence. "Shell, like any other oil and gas company, has shareholders it’s responsible to, and in an economic downturn, where revenues are under strain, it would seem to make sense for the company to focus its spending on its bread and butter business, which is oil and gas.” Read more...

Now That's a Hybrid

Check out these half-car, half-plane "hybrid crafts." The one above is called the Transition and is being developed by a company called Terrafugia. According to an article in 60 Second Science:
On March 5, the Transition took off on its maiden flight from Plattsburgh International Airport in upstate New York. Though the test craft only reached about 100 feet (30 meters) and stayed aloft less than 40 seconds, the successful flight lets Terrafugia move forward with making a full prototype to test next summer.

“The story here is that this is real,” says retired Air Force Colonel Phil Meteer, chief test pilot for Terrafugia, a former fighter pilot who has now added a flying car to his roster of flown vehicles. “The concept of flying cars has come a long way from when I doodled them as a kid.”
The vehicle below is the Parajet Skycar, which is a 'hybrid-hybrid', as it runs on biofuels. According to the website:
Whether you are searching for environmentally friendly practical transport or new thrills the Parajet Skycar is no longer a dream….... a machine that can drive like a car and fly like an aeroplane, capable of beating congestion for the commuter or providing a low cost method of reaching remote regions only accessible by helicopter.

We are currently building the world’s first flying Parajet Skycar and after rigorous testing will travel from London across the Sahara to Tombouctou for the maiden voyage in Spring 2009. It will be the first high performance, road legal, carbon neutral flying car capable of providing sports and rally car performance on or off the road and light aircraft performance after just a few minutes of wing preparation.
Pretty cool, huh?