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Comment: earthquakes are not necessarily bad (Score 1) 264

by jrvz (#35348646) Attached to: Arkansas Earthquakes Could Be Man-Made
The notion that pumping water underground causes earthquakes has been around quite a while. What bothers me is the knee-jerk reaction that this is necessarily a bad thing. The choice is not between an earthquake or no earthquake. Rather, it's between an earthquake now, or a bigger earthquake later. Remember that the energy of the earthquake comes from strain in the rocks, which in general is continually building (due to shifting tectonic plates, moving magma, etc.). If it's not released now, then the strain will just build until it's released later - and you get a bigger earthquake.

I will grant there might be a few cases where I'd rather reduce the chances of an earthquake in the short term, even if it made the eventual earthquake worse (say, if I just discovered a weakness in a dam, and will be spending the next two years madly strengthening it). But in general I would rather have more, smaller earthquakes.

Comment: Re:Chemical battery efficiency is quite poor (Score 1) 347

by jrvz (#34996604) Attached to: How Chrysler's Battery-Less Hybrid Minivan Works
Li-ion batteries in laptops and cell phones don't last long, but for automotive use they're using a different electrode (lithium manganese oxide instead of lithium cobalt oxide - see http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=26832) which they think will last a lot longer. I'd like to know when I can get the longer-lasting kind for my laptop. Or would they rather design in a short product life?

The Effect of Internal Bacteria On the Human Body 227

Posted by Soulskill
from the billions-of-allies dept.
meckdevil writes with this excerpt from the Miller-McCune magazine: "In a series of recent findings, researchers describe bacteria that communicate in sophisticated ways, take concerted action, influence human physiology, alter human thinking, bioengineer the environment and control their own evolution. ... The abilities of bacteria are interesting to understand in their own right, and knowing how bacteria function in the biosphere may lead to new sources of energy or ways to degrade toxic chemicals, for example. But emerging evidence on the role of bacteria in human physiology brings the wonder and promise — and the hazards of misunderstanding them — up close and personal. ... Because in a very real sense, bacteria are us. Recent research has shown that gut microbes control or influence nutrient supply to the human host, the development of mature intestinal cells and blood vessels, the stimulation and maturation of the immune system, and blood levels of lipids such as cholesterol. They are, therefore, intimately involved in the bodily functions that tend to be out of kilter in modern society: metabolism, cardiovascular processes and defense against disease. Many researchers are coming to view such diseases as manifestations of imbalance in the ecology of the microbes inhabiting the human body. If further evidence bears this out, medicine is about to undergo a profound paradigm shift, and medical treatment could regularly involve kindness to microbes."

West Virginia Is Geothermically Active 239

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-sell-some-volcano-insurance dept.
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have uncovered the largest geothermal hot spot in the eastern United States. According to a unique collaboration between Google and academic geologists, West Virginia sits atop several hot patches of Earth, some as warm as 200C and as shallow as 5 kilometers. If engineers are able to tap the heat, the state could become a producer of green energy for the region."

Comment: alertness (Score 1) 421

by jrvz (#33492204) Attached to: Ideas For a Great Control Room?
I recommend you find a copy of "The 24 Hour Society" by Martin Moore-Ede and read closely about the nine factors that determine alertness. Then design for them. For example:
  • Refuse to install "subdued lighting", no matter how cool your manager thinks it looks. If somebody complains about washed-out displays, then install brighter displays.
  • Put the processors outside the control room if possible. A steady drone tends to put people to sleep, and it's hard to talk over.
  • Set the temperature a little on the cool side.
  • Another poster wanted restrooms on the same level. I'd say they should certainly be handicapped accessible, but for most of us climbing a flight of stairs now and then is a good way to wake up.

If there's a possibility of a crisis that will call for flat-out effort for days on end, I'd suggest:

  • A place to crash, with cots and showers. It turns out people can get by on only two or three hours/day of sleep, if it's in the form of 20 to 30 minute naps every four hours. (That's in Moore-Ede's book, too.)

+ - language shapes how you think->

Submitted by jrvz
jrvz writes: Benjamin Lee Whorf claimed that your native language restricts what you can think. That has been discredited. However, more recent research finds that languages do influence what you are required to think about. Most of us commonly describe locations relative to ourselves ("to my left", etc.), but a speaker of Guugu Yimithirr would say "to my north". That means it's very important for him to maintain his sense of direction.
Link to Original Source

+ - Manned Asteroid Mission->

Submitted by GigG
GigG writes: Plans for sending humans to visit an asteroid are heating up, with at least one company already scoping out the technological essentials for a deep space expedition within a decade, given the go-ahead.

The asteroid space trek is seen as both scientifically valuable and as a dress rehearsal for a Mars mission, NASA officials have said. It could also hone ideas for planetary defense to guard Earth from a messy head-on clash with a space rock.

Launching a manned asteroid mission by 2025 is NASA's new goal set by President Barack Obama, who announced the plan in April. The deep space mission would serve as a stepping stone to a crewed mission to Mars in the mid-2030s, he said."

Who thinks this is going to happen on anything approaching this schedule?

Link to Original Source

+ - Judge Quashes Subpoena of UVA Research Records->

Submitted by esocid
esocid writes: An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge has set aside a subpoena issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the University of Virginia seeking documents related to the work of climate scientist and former university professor Michael Mann. Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occured in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena failed to state a "reason to believe" that Mann had committed fraud. He also set aside the subpoena without prejudice, meaning Cuccinelli can rewrite it to better explain why he wants to investigate, but seemed skeptical about the underlying claim of fraud. The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005.

"The Court has read with care those pages and understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann's work on the issue of global warming. However, it is not clear what he did was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia," Peatross wrote. The ruling also limited Cuccinelli to asking about only one of the five grants issued, which was the only one using state funds.

Link to Original Source

+ - Meet Apertus, The Open Source HD Movie Camera->

Submitted by osliving
osliving writes: This article takes a tour of the hardware and software behind the innovative Apertus, a real world open source project. Led by Oscar Spierenburg and a team of international developers, the project aims to produce “an affordable community driven free software and open hardware cinematic HD camera for a professional production environment”.
Link to Original Source

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.