Thursday, August 28, 2008

For some ...

... jail is too good of a sentence.
Results taken from air samples reveal that a body was decomposing in the trunk of a car driven by the mother of missing Florida toddler Caylee Anthony, a local TV station reported.

Detectives with cadaver dogs said in July they detected the smell of human decomposition coming from the trunk of the Pontiac that the mother, Casey Anthony, was driving when police began investigating the dispappearance of her little girl, who was last seen more than two months ago.

The University of Tennessee "Body Farm" conducted the tests on the car's air samples Aug. 10, and on Wednesday their conclusion was released: a human corpse had been decomposing there, according to WESH-2 TV.
Nope, didn't see this one coming. Not at all.*sigh*

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

E. coli outbreak in Oklahoma

Over 42 instances of infections with pathogenic Escherichia coli have been reported in NE Oklahoma recently. Samples have been sent to the CDC, so the strain responsible should be known shortly.

Though it doesn't say specifically, the symptoms sound like this is caused by a enterohemmorhagic (EHEC) strain of E. coli. The strain O157:H7, often referred to as the "Jack in the Box" strain, is an EHEC strain.

Link to the FDA's Bad Bug Book describing the EHEC.

I suppose I could be wrong but ...

... I think it's obvious that this stupid, selfish dimwit killed her daughter.


I hate the Phillies!

... and the Mets bullpen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Food for thought ...

Resetting forgotten passwords and Facebook are linked.

Disease Highlighted: Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer has been in the headlines several times this year. Most recently, Gene Upshaw succumbed to this disease. Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with it a few months ago, and I'm sure quite a few people have heard of the author of The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch (last link is to his CMU webpage). Here is a CMU page devoted to his Last Lecture.

This disease is nasty. It's the fourth largest killer of cancer patients in the US, and only 1 in 5 diagnosed with this cancer survive their first year. This cancer is also genetically linked, so predisposition to this cancer can be inherited.

There are some tests for early detection, which are outlined here, and here.

Q&A: Pancreatic Cancer

Properly terrified means, what?

Pooping yourself? Because if this had happened to me, I imagine that's what I would have done.
The French officials said the plane lost 26,200 feet of altitude in five minutes before the landing, which the pilot requested.
Is it just me, or are a lot of planes falling from the sky lately? All the more reason for me to drive everywhere.
"I think it's fair to say there was muffled consternation in the first few seconds," passenger Pen Hadow told Sky News. "People were clearly suffering with the shock of it, but on the whole ... people had a stiff upper lip about it and they were resigned to their fate. They were properly terrified.

"They thought they were going to meet their maker. And that's not an exaggeration," Hadow added.
Give this guy the Understatement Award of 2008.

Wind Turbines == Bat Killing Machines

Windturbines cause barotrauma in bats.
Ninety percent of the bats they examined after death showed signs of internal hemorrhaging consistent with trauma from the sudden drop in air pressure (a condition known as barotrauma) at turbine blades. Only about half of the bats showed any evidence of direct contact with the blades.
The majority of bats killed at wind turbines are migratory bats that roost in trees, including hoary bats, eastern red bats, and silver-haired bats. While little is known about their population sizes, the researchers said, those deaths could have far-reaching consequences.

Bats typically live for many years, in some cases reaching ages of 30 or more. Most also have just one or two pups at a time, and not necessarily every year. "Slow reproductive rates can limit a population's ability to recover from crashes and thereby increase the risk of endangerment or extinction," said Robert Barclay, also at the University of Calgary, noting that migrating animals tend to be more vulnerable as it is.

All three species of migratory bats killed by wind turbines fly at night, eating thousands of insects—including many crop pests—per day as they go. Therefore, bat losses in one area could have very real effects on ecosystems miles away, along the bats' migration routes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Currently ...


Listening To

Take your tray and shove it!

My goodness, the things people will complain about.
Advocates of the trayless cafeterias say if students can't pile on the food as Bluto did, they might consume fewer calories and keep off those unhealthy pounds often gained in college.

Try telling that to hungry coeds who simply make more trips to the counter.


Convincing the central West Virginia school's nearly 1,400 students, however, could take time.

"I think that's kind of ridiculous," said freshman Rebecca Riffle, who used a legal-size notebook to help carry her plate to a table. "Whenever there's a bunch of people here at one time, it gets crazy. You have people bumping into you, so if you're balancing stuff, you're going to end up dropping something or breaking something."
Umm, Rebecca ... you're going to have to balance a tray anyways. I've seen more food spilled by someone carrying a tray, than I have without. Don't be a ninny.

Food Recall

Canadian Food Recall - 4 dead, 21 others sick from listeriosis.
"Because the onset of symptoms of listeriosis can occur up to 70 days after contaminated food is consumed, it is expected that the number of confirmed and suspected cases will continue to increase over the next several weeks," the Public Health Agency said in its Saturday statement.
A list of the recalled foods can be found here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Open Letter To Russia

Dear Russia,



Tensions are going to be increased because NATO is helping Georgia recover? What about threatening to nuke Poland? What the hell is wrong with these people?

Astronomy Geekage

Ten Ancient Astronomy Sites As Seen From Space.

Will people ever learn?

New Orleans still in danger of being flooded. $14.8 Billion dollars spent on inadequately protecting New Orleans? I wonder how many miles of coastal wetland, an area which would definitely protect New Orleans, you can create using $14.8 Billion dollars?

Interesting ...

... perhaps before we all start complaining about negative campaigning, we can at least see where we've been.
John Adams lived long enough to see his son become president in 1825, but he died before John Quincy Adams lost the presidency to Andrew Jackson in 1828. Fortunately, that meant he didn't have to witness what many historians consider the nastiest contest in American history.

The slurs flew back and forth, with John Quincy Adams being labeled a pimp, and Andrew Jackson's wife getting called a slut.
Was John Adams pimping Andrew Jackson's wife?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Carbon Sequestration ...

... new technique for storing carbon dioxide identified.
In his small-scale reactor, Van Essendelft grinds a serpentine rock mixed with water and acid. The combination of grinding and chemical action (mainly the acid) breaks down serpentine into magnesium and silica, which is essentially sand. He then adds ammonia and pumps CO2 in. The ammonia neutralizes the acid, allowing the CO2 to dissolve and react with magnesium, forming magnesium carbonate.

Magnesium carbonate is similar to chalk and has several applications. For example, Van Essendelft says, it could be used instead of limestone to produce cement.
This would be an interesting means of carbon sequestration for anaerobic digestion (AD) on-farm. You already have a surplus of ammonia from the animal waste, and about 35% of the bio-gas from AD is carbon dioxide.

Tom Coburn (R-OK) says ...

... too many government workers not showing up to work in record numbers.

No word as to whether that includes Congress which is currently on their one month summer vacation through September 7th.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Open Letter to George Lucas


You suck.


PS: Tell Samuel L. Jackson he sucks too.

It's good to be the king ...

... my latest manuscript is out for peer review.

Generally ...

... I'm against the death penalty, but then people like this come along and make me reconsider. At the very least, it makes me willing to make exceptions.

Bless you, num num num ...

... WTF!
"He went into the pond hoping to be blessed when a crocodile attacked him and dragged him into the deep part of the pond,'' Kabir told the Australian Associated Press.

"This is a very unusual incident. Normally, the crocodiles are very friendly and do not harm people.''
The scary part? It's only an unusual incident because the crocodile ate him! What's not unusual is that people are wading into this crocodile infested pond! Mama mia!

Save the Marshes, Save the Planet!

Nope, no saving cute cheerleaders, sorry.

Soil Scientists Restore Coastal Wetlands.
Soil scientists spread material dredged from shipping channels over shore areas to help rebuild marsh areas. Wetlands along the shore protect the land from storm surges, create habitat for wildlife, and the plants that grow in them could sequester three to eight tons of carbon dioxide per acre every year.
Why did New Orleans get it's ass kicked in 2005? The loss of her wetlands, that's why. And it got a lot worse after Katrina hit.

Hey, people ...

... vaccinate your children, damnit.
“When more than 10 percent of a community opts out of vaccinations, it leaves the entire community at risk because germs have a greater chance of causing an epidemic,” said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas, pediatrician who represents the American Academy of Pediatrics.
More from Morbidity and Mortality, a CDC publication (pdf, 36 pages).
During January 1–July 31, 2008, 131 measles cases were reported to CDC from 15 states and the District of Columbia (DC): Illinois (32 cases), New York (27), Washington (19), Arizona (14), California (14), Wisconsin (seven), Hawaii (five), Michigan (four), Arkansas (two), and DC, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (one each). Seven measles outbreaks (i.e., three or more cases linked in time or place) accounted for 106 (81%) of the cases. Fifteen of the patients (11%) were hospitalized, including four children aged
< 15 months. No deaths were reported.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The cost of a tapeworm?

For one man, it could be $100,000.

Though rare, tapeworm infection isn't really a laughing matter. If you're particularly scared about contracting such a disease, you'll need to lay off the sushi ... or baring that, you'll have to watch your poop closely and scan it for proglottids, which are the sections which break off and are excreted and carry up to a million eggs, which of course seek to start the tapeworm "circle of life" all over again.

Is The World Slowly Dying?

ResearchBlogging.orgCNN has an article which reports on a peer reviewed manuscript published in Science which discusses the fact that the world's oceans contain over 400 dead zones. That's not a good thing.

These dead zones are the result of eutrophication, when massive amounts of nutrients are released into an ecosystem. It is particularly bad when that ecosystem happens to be a coastal watershed, stream, river, pond or lake. These nutrients are typically runoff from agricultural lands, into adjacent waterways, which are then flushed into the oceans. Eutrophication is not a "Good Thing" as it typically leads to excessive plant, algae, and/or microbial growth, which in turn effectively chokes off the existing biodiversity in the area. That's bad.

As Diaz and Rosenberg write:
The worldwide distribution of coastal oxygen depletion is associated with major population centers and watersheds that deliver large quantities of nutrients (Fig. 1 and table S1). Most of these systems were not hypoxic when first studied, but it appears that from the middle of the past century, the DO concentrations of many coastal ecosystems have been adversely affected by eutrophication. The observed declines in DO have lagged about 10 years behind the increased use of industrially produced nitrogen fertilizer that began in the late 1940s, with explosive growth in the 1960s to 1970s (4). For marine systems with data from the first half of the 20th century, declines in oxygen concentrations were first observed in the 1950s in the northern Adriatic Sea (5), between the 1940s and 1960s in the northwestern continental shelf of the Black Sea (6), and in the 1980s in the Kattegat (7). Localized declines of DO levels were noted in the Baltic Sea as early as the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that hypoxia became widespread (7). Localized hypoxia had also been observed since the 1930s in the Chesapeake Bay (8) and since the 1970s in the northern Gulf of Mexico (9) and many Scandinavian coastal systems (7). Paleoindicators (foraminifera ratios and organic and inorganic compounds) show that hypoxia had not been a naturally recurring event in these ecosystems (10, 8). The number of dead zones has approximately doubled each decade since the 1960s (fig. S1 and table S1).
DO stands for dissolved oxygen which is the measure of oxygen which is a measure of the level of oxygen saturation in a system. Since a sizeable portion of life relies on oxygen, a poor DO level is an ominous sign. There are several "levels of hypoxia", with about half of the dead zones being annual phenomenon, typically occurring once a year. An additional 25% have multiple hypoxic events each year. Some systems do not experience hypoxic episodes every year (~17% of the dead zones) but still are cause for concern. In all cases, these hypoxic events result in mortality for a portion of the existing organisms within the ecosystem.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

There is hope however. With effective nutrient management, several systems have reduced the dead zones in the surrounding ecosystems. As the authors relate:
The management of nutrients and carbon inputs has virtually eliminated dead zones from several systems, including the Hudson and East Rivers in the United States and the Mersey and Thames Estuaries in England (31, 32). However, in other systems, such as the Chesapeake Bay, the management of nutrient input has not improved DO. Nevertheless, the management of sewage and pulp mill effluents has led to many small-scale reversals in hypoxia (table S1).
There are several ways to help reduce eutrophication, such as building riparian zone buffers around farmland, organic farming, better fertilization practices, as well as sound and effective environmental policy. These steps, and many more, are going to be necessary in order to help the worlds oceans survive and continue to provide us with food and life.

R. J. Diaz, R. Rosenberg (2008). Spreading Dead Zones and Consequences for Marine Ecosystems Science, 321 (5891), 926-929 DOI: 10.1126/science.1156401

So, is it the Democratic National Convention ...

... or the Oscars? Two of my favorite sets of people ... politicians who don't know crap, and actors who think they know more than they do. I guess if any two groups of people deserve each other, it's them ... unfortunately the rest of us "average Joes" have to suffer them gladly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A sobering article ...

... not one I like to think about all that much. The United States is being bought out from underneath us.
We used to measure the economy in terms of GNP, which is the amount of income produced by U.S. citizens. But now we measure it by GDP, the income that is actually produced in America. The distinction becomes important, says Stiglitz, when an increasing proportion of the country is owned abroad. "If you were to look at America Inc. as a company, it's like owning a company and you own a smaller and smaller fraction of it. So the fraction of America Inc. owned by Americans is diminishing," says Stiglitz.

That means that when the economy recovers, there will be less wealth left in the country to reinvest in it. But then returning to the original question--Why is the American yard sale not setting off alarms?--Stiglitz explains that the alternative is even worse. "There isn't an outcry," he says, "because the focus right now is the weakness of the American economy, and anything to keep our economy going is welcome." That's why no one really objected to Citibank's becoming a Middle Eastern--financed bank, because it's better than Citi's becoming a dead bank. "But clearly we're worse off as a country," he says.

It makes sense, really ...

... if you're old enough to die in Iraq, you should be old enough to have a beer if you want. Heck, if you're going to vote in this upcoming election, you might want to have a drink or two before you cast your vote as it is! Of course, this is predicated on the fact that you exercise enough common sense to NOT drink and drive, and possibly text message at the same time (see blog entry immediately below), and that you understand what the word "moderation" means.

Ironically, where I live ... they're currently proposing to lift the blue laws (yes, we still legislate morality where I live) and sell alcohol on Sundays. This means that while 18 year olds can vote for the change, they can't benefit from it. While I can understand the sentiment of MADD, I don't think they're correct. Whatever happened to parents talking to their kids?

Jimminy ...

... yes, you shouldn't text and drive. And while you're at it ... you shouldn't DRINK AND DRIVE EITHER!

Like this reckless, and unfortunately dead, girl.
Authorities say Preuss had been driving drunk and was speeding. But another factor may have contributed to the crash.
Bold emphasis mine.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Waiting for the ...

... other shoe to drop. Sometimes, when I read about the extremely hard times befalling the citizens of the United States, I wonder why I've been spared most of the worst of them. Don't get me wrong, I'm struggling to stay afloat myself sometimes ... but my home is secure and my bills get paid. I can't vacation in the Bahamas this year, or probably the next several, but I'm getting by ... so far. What I don't understand is ... who ever thought it was a good idea to get one of those adjustable rate mortgages?

When I started looking for a house, I figured I'd be more than happy to pay in mortgage form, what I was paying in rent during my postdoc. Matching that number to payments on a 30 year mortgage let me know pretty much the price of house I was looking at. So, I knew that when I started work full-time, even though my salary went up (Yay!) I knew I'd be able to make my payments (I would have had to pay rent anyways right?) but I was pulling in extra money that I could set aside so when things went wrong (plumbing, electrical, painting, roofs, appliances) that money would be there. If I went higher in my payments, it'd have been a wash and when something major hit, I wouldn't have the cash.

Yes, when I started looking my real estate agent took me to some that were over my looking price, but a stern comment and a threat to find someone who would actually work with me was enough to put a halt to that. Eventually we found some nice houses which would fit in my price range and were in a nice part of the city ensuring me (as much as things like that can be ensured) that it wouldn't become a ghetto (I live not to far from a private golf course/country club with two major developments on either side of my development, which is basically comprised of starter homes for middle class individuals like myself).

Anyways, so I sit here and read all this news and I wonder ... how did I avoid this mess? Was it smart planning on my part? I'd like to think that perhaps it was ... but it still leaves me with this uneasy feeling, as if I've missed something and that when it rears its ugly head it'll be too late for me to do anything about it. I guess that's what they call "consumer confidence" (or the lack thereof), eh?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Check it out!

I recently was accepted as a member of the team blog The Alternative Scientist. I recently made my first post there, so check it out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dear Metropolitans ...

... Aaron Heilman sucks this year. Last year, he was lights out, with a 3.03 ERA. This year, it's 5.74. 5.74! Yet, with Billy Wagner down, he's the closer. Sheesh. Wagner can't get back soon enough!

About that contaminant ...

... you know, the Bacillus subtilis contaminant that was found alongside the Bacillus anthracis isolate which was used by the Anthrax Killer?

As other people have noted, B. anthracis is a very clonal organism. What this means is that individual strains are highly similar to each other, there is not a whole lot of diversity. On the other hand, B. subtilis has a high degree of heterogeneity within its genome. What does this mean? It means that B. subtilis is much easier to type (or differentiate) from other strains of B. subtilis.

Yeah, but B. subtilis was a contaminant. What's the big deal? Well, the devil is often in the details. Bruce Ivins worked on B. subtilis. In 2003, Ivins published a paper looking at expression of B. anthracis genes in B. subtilis, and how that effected immune responses in guinea pigs. The link to the paper is above, free of charge as all government publications are considered public domain.

Ok, so what? Well ... since B. subtilis (Bs) has a higher degree of heterogeneity within its genome, it is easier to type. For example: Bs in Lab B, if it didn't receive the strain from Lab A, will most likely hold more differences than Bs in Lab A ... when compared to B. anthracis (Ba) isolates from those two labs. What this means is ... if you have isolates of Ba AND Bs in Lab A, and another set of isolates of Ba and Bs in Lab B, it's easier to type the Bs isolates.

Make sense? So essentially, the FBI probably wasn't as concerned with the Ba in the letters as we might suspect. A goodly portion of the investigation could very well have been focused on the Bs contaminant found in some of the letters. Then, taking multiple Bs isolates from around the world, they probably typed those strains (which would be much easier to do than typing Ba isolates as the Bs isolates have more differences in their genome) to see if Ivins' Bs strain matched the one in the envelopes. I'm not sure if the results have been posted, but I imagine it did. Of course, this probably raises a lot of issues ... like whether or not he gave that Bs strain to anyone ... but it might shed a little more detail on the scientific aspects of this case.

Astronomy Update

Well, the perseid meteor shower wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. I think it was a combination of light pollution, since from my house Perseus was directly over the city I live near, and the fact that I just couldn't stay up past 1 am. Went to the Astronomy Club get together though and got my first taste of a real telescope. Got to see Jupiter in an XT10 Dobsonian. Was able to once again make out the 4 moons and this time, two of the bands. I think I'm in love.

Also got to take in the M13 cluster with a C14 Schmidt-Cassegrain. I also was able to (I think) make out my first constellation, Cassiopeia. When I wasn't staring at Cassiopeia, I was taking in the Summer Triangle. Overall, it was a good night of star gazing. The weather certainly cooperated.

Dear IRS ...

... honestly, if you're going to audit anyone, why not pick one of these folks?
More than 38,000 foreign corporations had no tax liability in 2005 and 1.2 million U.S. companies paid no income tax, the GAO said. Combined, the companies had $2.5 trillion in sales. About 25 percent of the U.S. corporations not paying corporate taxes were considered large corporations, meaning they had at least $250 million in assets or $50 million in receipts.
Or better yet, Congress ... write up a better tax code. I mean come on, $2.5 trillion in sales, and here I am struggling to get by, like every other poor soul I know, and getting squeezed for every dang penny.

Monday, August 11, 2008

If you like shooting stars ...

... tonight is the night. At their peak, the Perseid meteor shower will average a meteor every second. Of course, for best viewing ... wait until after midnight.

I have my second school board meeting tonight, and hopefully it won't run too late so I can get to the local astronomy club party early with the wife and catch a full night of star gazing. Damn, I'm such a geek.

Avoid those vampire bats ...

... they can cause rabies. Well, only vampire bats which have the disease, and certainly not all of them do.
At least 38 Warao Indians have died in remote villages in Venezuela, and medical experts suspect an outbreak of rabies spread by bites from vampire bats.
Rabies is caused by the Rabies virus, a single stranded RNA (ssRNA) virus, from the family Rhabdoviridae. It is typically transferred via bite, since the virus is present in saliva. Symptoms start as flu-like, but then progress into the neurological. Partial paralysis, anxiety, insomnia, abnormal behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, delirium ... all eventually leading to (most often) death within two to ten days after the symptoms start. All in all, infection typically ranges from between two to twelve weeks.

So, what about the foaming-at-the-mouth symptoms? It's known as "hydrophobia". The throat and jaw slowly become paralyzed in rabid animals. The foam is a build-up of saliva which hasn't been swallowed for hours, possibly days. It's not a pretty disease.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Took the advice of Terry and went looking for Jupiter tonight. Went to Sky & Telescopes Sky Chart function, found Jupiter, checked my compass for proper orientation and then stepped outside. Set up my tripod, found what I thought was Jupiter, set my binoculars onto the tripod, aimed and looked. Awesome! Jupiter on the first try! And four of her moons as well. I saw Jupiter! The moons are as follows: On the left of Jupiter, that's Ganymede. Then three, in order of closest to farthest, are Io, Europa, and Callisto. Cool!

I do have a question for anyone who is an astronomy buff though. When viewing Jupiter, I had a red "flare" which emanated from the planet. It was sort of like a halo around the planet (though it was brightest at the top and bottom of the planet) and was clearly a viewing abnormality. Is this to be expected? I'm using Celestron 15 x 70 Skymaster binocs. Thanks for any answers people can provide.

Give me a break ...

... read this entry over at The Intersection and couldn't agree less. Anyways, if this guy has as glass a chin as Mooney does, the comment I placed won't see the light of day ... so I'm posting it here as well.
This appears to be a case where science was moved along by government needs ...

Hardly. The complete genome sequence of Haemophilus influenzae was completed in 1995. The complete genome sequence of Escherichia coli was completed in 1997. The rapid sequencing of bacterial genomes had been on-going for years, a decade even, prior to any FBI/DOJ involvement. So ... while you "suspect" that this might be the case, it hardly makes it so. Most of these processes and analytical methods were already firmly entrenched in the molecular biological field well beforehand.
ETA: The comment was approved. I've also backed out my more "over the top" (read: ad hominem) comments in this entry. I got carried away, let my frustrations with Chris Mooney spill over to someone I didn't know, and posted unprofessionally, so my apologies to Philip H. Just goes to show, cross-blog drama never pays. Hopefully I've learned my lesson.

Astronomy Geekage

Sky & Telescope's - What's Up This Week.

It was friggin cloudy last night so I didn't get to see anything in the night sky, which was a total bummer. But, hopefully the weather will clear up tonight. Why? Well, the Perseid meteor showers begin tonight and run through the weekend and a bit beyond. They peak on the morning of the 12th, and the local astronomy club here is getting together for viewing on the evening of the 11th.

I work with pooh ...

No, not Winnie the Pooh. Pig pooh, cow pooh, and chicken pooh. Fortunately, I don't work with it all the time, but we (I'm using the "royal we" here, as in my support scientists work with it far more often than I do) do on occasion. We have several projects going, mostly revolving around wastewater processing (for elimination of nitrogen, phosphorous, trace metals, pathogens, etc etc) and bioenergy.

In the bioenergy realm, the most currently direct route of pooh to bioenergy is via anaerobic digestion. Here, microorganisms convert the organics in the pooh to methane (see my entries entitled "Bacterial Farts"). That methane is then run through a combustion engine attached to an electric generator, and viola! electricity. Which reminds me, I probably should do an entry on anaerobic digestion. It'll be fun, honest!

At any rate, I haven't really hid my work from my friends, though it's certainly the type of work I wouldn't recommend bringing home (ha ha ha, funny eh?). And I guess that even though I work with pooh, someone has to do it right? Right? Well, at any rate ... speaking with one of my old college buddies, and very good friend, he tipped me off to one of the local power companies in his area which was working with the local farmers to generate electricity from their cow pooh. It's called Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) Cow Power program.

According to CVPS:
Cow Power farms are located all across Vermont. There are currently four farms online and producing electricity in Bridport, Richford, Sheldon and St. Albans. All the farms have well over 500 cows, and produce or are expected to produce between 1.2 and 3.5 million killowatt-hours of electricity a year.
When you consider that the average electrical consumption per household is approximately 10,000 kWh, that means that CVPS Cow Power can provide enough electricity for about 120 to 350 families. At the low end, that's 30 houses for every farm. At the high end that's 85 houses for every farm. With a bit more efficiency (both in generating and using the electricity) we might approach a 1 farm to 100 houses ratio. And that's just on the farms that have ~500 cows. There are concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) which house thousands of animals. Not to mention that these are the systems which only deal with animal waste. Imagine turning human pooh into energy by bringing municipal waste online with our 300 million plus population here in the United States. Remember, everybody poops.

So, kudos to CVPS and their Cow Power program. Hopefully we'll see a lot more of these initiatives in the near future. As we move towards these renewable sources of energy (it's renewable because animals just aren't going to stop pooping), it also frees up our reliance on foreign energy. This biogas could be cleaned up (also known as scrubbing, to remove contaminating gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide) for example and turned into CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) or LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) for vehicle fuel. Or, it could be used to displace NG which we are currently using for electricity production, which could then be diverted to transporation (a la T. Boone Pickens Plan). And another benefit? This doesn't impact our food supplies one bit. Heck, if anything ... it may lead to an increase in animal production!

Economic issues aside, one fact remains. We have a potential source of energy which is barely being utilized. I've listed a couple of success stories, and now it's up to us to demand that the infrastructure be put in place (it's going to cost us, but we've been down this road before) to bring these alternative energy sources online en masse. The sooner we do that, the sooner we become energy independent.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Food Recall

E. coli related food recall.
The label of the products subject to recall bear the establishment number "EST. 20375" inside the USDA mark of inspection and a case code beginning "06238" ink-jet printed on the side of the box

Currently ...

Listening To

Best. Band. Ever.

I can't get onto ResearchBlogging ...

... so the papers I want to review are just sitting here in front of my monitor. Yeah, yeah ... excuses, I know.

Anyways, here is another linkage: The Prokaryotes. Not everyone is going to have access, but if you do ... it's a great eResource.

Chapter 1.1 by Carl Woese is a great introduction. How We Do, Don’t and Should Look at Bacteria and Bacteriology, (.pdf, 21 pages.)

BTW: Everyone who heads over here from Mike the Mad Biologist, welcome!

To hell with the Nanosail* satellite ...

... which was lost when the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket went kablooey. They lost Scotty!


Mexico invades!

Mexican soldiers invade Arizona.
Four Mexican soldiers crossed into Arizona and held a U.S. Border Patrol agent at gunpoint before realizing where they were and returning to Mexico, federal authorities said Wednesday.

The confrontation occurred early Sunday on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, about 85 miles southwest of Tucson, in an area fenced only with barbed wire, said Dove Crawford, a spokeswoman for the Border Patrol.

The soldiers, outfitted in desert camouflage, pointed their rifles at the agent and shouted at him not to move, Crawford said. They lowered their weapons after about four minutes when the agent convinced them of who he was and where they were, she said. The soldiers then retreated into Mexico.
Ok, so it was four of them. Not exactly shock and awe. I bet that border patrol agent crapped his pants.
And "we have no incursions with Canada," he added. "Absolutely none."
Oh, the jokes that could be had with that line.

Heh ...

... how's this Hank? Now, its pretty much a circumstantial case that is made when suggesting that Hank forcing Joba into the starting rotation lead to this tendinitis ... but it's always fun to have a laugh at the expense of the Wankees.

Oh, great.

Israel thinks it can kick Iran's ass. And it no doubt could. They also are ...
... building up its strike capabilities amid growing anxiety over Iran's nuclear ambitions and appears confident that a military attack would cripple Tehran's atomic program, even if it can't destroy it.
Yes, they could no doubt cripple Tehran's atomic program, and then cripple the world economy as well in the process.

Oh joy!

Bunsen Burners

Heh, read this blog entry by microbiologist xx, and all I can say is ... I hear ya.
Whenever I leave the lab last, I am haunted by thoughts like: "Did I turn off my flame? Surely I did. Didn't I? What if it's on? What if I burn the lab down? or the building?" Once this starts there is no way of convincing myself that I did in fact, turn off my flame. So, I get in the car, drive to lab, and check the burner. It is always off. ALWAYS!
As a graduate student, I had that happen several times. Fortunately, I only lived about 4 miles away ... but the short distance didn't do much to alleviate the fact that I had to go back to the lab at 1 am because I just couldn't rest without knowing the absolute truth! I suggested that a webcam focused on the bunsen burner would be a good idea ... seems a bit overkill-ish, but hey ... whatever works right?

Where I work? We don't have bunsen burners. Can't have them. No gas line. Which sucks. Instead, we get to work with those ceramic core "bio-cinerator sterilizers", like this one. Stick a platinum loop in that puppy for 5 to 7 seconds and anything on it is dead. Then, you just need to worry about whether you turned the damn thing off, but if left on ... I don't think it's wreck flammable chaos like a bunsen burner could. We also rely on portable butane bunsen burners, which we refer to as "Danger in a Can". If those are left on ... if they don't give anyone a 3rd degree burn beforehand, they burn out rather rapidly. Not exactly the tradeoffs I gladly accept in place of no gas line at our facility, but it is what it is.

Puppy cuteness

Introducing Maximilian, my Norwegian Elkhound/GSD mix. He's a bit older now, having just turned three* a few weeks ago.

*He's a rescue, so I'm not sure of his exact age.

This is going to go over well ...

... Navy sub leaked radioactivity for two years.
Last week, Navy officials told Japan that the USS Houston, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, had made one port call -- in March -- while leaking the contaminated fluid.

But after reviewing records of the sub, the Navy told Japanese officials Thursday that the Houston had been leaking much longer, since June 2006, and had made port calls to Japanese bases at Sasebo, Yokosuka and Okinawa before the leak was discovered.
Yay, another PR mess for the US!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Currently ...


Listening To

Geothermal candidate?

This place, sounds like a potential candidate for geothermal power.
The area has recorded high temperatures at least five times since 1987, Allen King, a retired geologist with the U.S. Forest Service told the newspaper.

The hot spot is located in steep, rugged terrain a few miles north of the town of Fillmore on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and leased by Seneca Resources Corp.

Officials who are familiar with the patch of land, which is near the large Sespe Oil Field, have come up with a few theories as to why the ground soared to 812 degrees fahrenheit on August 1.

One theory is that natural hydrocarbons, such as oil or gas, are burning deep in the earth and seeping out through cracks in the area, causing the surface to rapidly heat and generate smoke.

Nissan introduces electric car ...

... the EV-01. It carries a 660 pound lithium-ion battery.

Naming Rights

If you're like me ... identifying a new organism/gene is exciting because it means you get to name it. Sometimes, that isn't always the case though.

Just think, today the FDA would've been looking for the source of Smithonella if Dr. Salmon hadn't been such an ass.

Poor Favre ...

... NOT!

He can't seem to get past the "slights" he's endured because of his own retirement?

What a prima donna.

ETA: It's possible he'll be heading off to embroil my favorite team in some unneeded drama, the NY Jets. Lovely.

Astronomy Lesson #1

Lesson #1 - Acclimate your binoculars. Last night was a fairly clear night, so I decided to try out my new binoculars and tripod. So, I set up on my back porch and started viewing. Things were going well for the first couple of minutes and then stars which I had been making out started to fade. Then I couldn't see a damn thing in the sky at all. I thought perhaps I had hit some cloud cover, but when I pulled back from my binoculars all the stars were there. I looked at my binoculars and it seemed as if they were filled with smoke. What happened? Condensation had collected on them. I guess bringing them from the dry, cool 72 degree indoors to the hot, humid 90 degree outdoors was the culprit.

Lesson learned. Though the night wasn't a total loss. I identified my first star. Not the hardest trick in the book, seeing as how it was Vega, the second brightest star in the sky (see picture below, which I didn't take), but hey ... it was the first time I ever truly looked at a Sky Chart and tried to pick out individual stars. I'm waiting on Saturn, though she's only visible around 9 pm, and she's barely over the horizon ... so I'm going to have to wait for awhile.

Monday, August 04, 2008

It is finished ...

... sorta. My latest manuscript has been sent out to the co-authors for review. It still needs a bit of work, but the bulk of the content is there. Hopefully my co-authors can fill in a majority of the blanks and I can handle the rest. From there, it's time to send it off to a journal for peer-review.

Linkage - Electric Vehicles

Global Electric Motors (GEM)

Green Vehicles


Tesla Motors

ZAP Electric Cars

ZENN Motor Company

For those of us truly feeling the pinch of gas, I doubt we'll be able to afford the Tesla, but most of the others are feasible. Especially the NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles). You'll just have to get your city politicians to drop the town/city speed limits to 35 MPH or less.

So ... what technique was it?

FBI claims new DNA technique led them to Anthrax Killer.

I wonder if it was multi-locus sequence typing (MLST), multi-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA), or a mixture of the two, or none of the above.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Small engines and ethanol ...

... do not mix.

Add this to the list of reasons why we should scrap EtOH as a fuel?

Yesterday, it was Exxon ...

... today it's Chevron.
The San Ramon, Calif.-based company said it made $5.98 billion, or $2.90 per share, during the three months ended June 30, versus income of $5.38 billion, or $2.52 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose significantly to $82.9 billion from $56.1 billion a year ago.
And we're still paying over $3.50 a gallon. Aren't you glad?

Sometimes ...

... very strange happenings in the world of infectious diseases can wind up being reported.

Here is a link to the entire letter. "With some hesitation, he told the story." No kidding.

Did the FBI solve the case of ...

... the "Anthrax Mailer"? Perhaps.
The Times said federal investigators moved away from Hatfill and concluded Ivins was the culprit after FBI Director Robert Mueller changed leadership of the investigation in 2006. The new investigators instructed agents to re-examine leads and reconsider potential suspects. In the meantime, investigators made progress in analyzing anthrax powder recovered from letters addressed to two U.S. senators, according to the report.

Besides the five deaths, 17 people were sickened by anthrax that was mailed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the news media in New York and Florida just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The victims included postal workers and others who came into contact with the anthrax.
Inhalation anthrax isn't one of the nicest ways to go. It's caused when an individual inhales spores of the organism Bacillus anthracis*. Over the next sixty days or so, the spores germinate and then the organisms start to go to work. At first, an infected individual will suspect that they have the flu. Fever, chills, sweating, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath ... they're all typical signs.

Then the fun starts. At this point, a lot of ugly stuff can happen in what is known as the "secondary stages" of inhalation anthrax. The organisms can pass through the lung tissue and infect the area between the lungs. The medical term for this is mediastinitis. From this point the organism can spread to the heart, other blood vessels, bone tissue and into the bloodstream. The individual can also develop hemorrhagic meningitis, which is essentially bleeding of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. From there, it's shock ... and essentially the entire body is going to shut down with multiple organ failure. The prognosis isn't good. People who get into the secondary stages have a recovery rate of about 10%. The further into the complications one gets, the less likely they are to survive.

All in all, it's not a good end. If Bruce Ivins was responsible ... well, I guess one could say that he reaped what he sowed.

*Links to information on the bacterium and its diseases can be found at the links. Also here and here as well. The organism has also been sequenced.

Solar eclipse ...

... caught on camera.