February 2008

There are many good reasons to seek alternatives to foreign oil, but global warming isn’t one of them…

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile — the list goes on and on.

No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously…

…A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C — a value large enough to wipe out nearly all the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year’s time. For all four sources, it’s the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn’t itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.

Let’s hope those factors stop fast. Cold is more damaging than heat. The mean temperature of the planet is about 54 degrees. Humans — and most of the crops and animals we depend on — prefer a temperature closer to 70.

Historically, the warm periods such as the Medieval Climate Optimum were beneficial for civilization. Corresponding cooling events such as the Little Ice Age, though, were uniformly bad news.

Maybe ethanol wasn’t such a hot idea.

Many ‘green’ innovations, like solar and wind power, hybrids, cellulosic biomass, etc. are useful, not because they supposedly fight global warming, but because they’re an improvement over old, inefficient products. They were viable on their own, without the dopey threat of global warming. If the tempuratures go south, so do their profits.

Speaking of going south, Al Gore may no longer be the Left’s Vanilla Jesus.

I hope we’re not going to have to deal with ‘global cooling’ hysterics now. Things change, they always have. We’re living on a ball of rock that’s blasting around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, while spinning at the speed of 1000 mph. The ride is bound to be a little bumpy.


Since the kids left for college, I’ve stopped doing huge weekly shopping trips, reverting to the hunter-gatherer mode, foraging for foods via local restaurants and daily shopping trips. Meals have more variety when I can throw something together or make something up based on what’s fresh today.

There are a lot of great ethnic grocery stores in the area, but for an all-purpose trip, the local Eden Market is a great source.

They had some fresh currants for sale, I remembered that I had half a bottle of Nature Isle Mango sauce and too much sour cream in the fridge, so the recipe was mango chicken with currants

1 onion sliced thin
2 chicken cutlets sliced into bite sized pieces
1 tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
3/4 cup mango hot sauce
splash lime juice
3/4 cup water
sour cream
about 1/4 lb. fresh currants

1. Fry the onion in the olive oil till browned

2. slice the chicken into bite sized pieces. Marinade in about 1/3 cup of mango sauce

3. pull currants from their stems and put into a separate bowl

3. Add ground cardamom, basil, parsley to the oil and stir a bit. Add chicken pieces.

4. Add chicken pieces. Fry till no longer pink. add the rest of the mango hot sauce and bring to a boil. cook till liquid is reduced

5. Use a splash of lime juice and some water to thin sauce and de-stick the pan. Simmer for about 10 minutes, till chicken is done.

6. Stir in sour cream till blended. Then sprinkle the currants on top.

For a really interesting color and texture combination, serve over cooked green bamboo rice

Michael Totten’s latest report from Iraq: Guns in the Desert

ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ – The Humvee slammed to a halt on the desert road between Fallujah and the town of Al Farris. I peered around the driver’s head from the back seat and tried to figure out what was happening.

“Why are we stopping?” I said.

“IED,” Sergeant Guerrero said.

I swallowed and took the lens cap off my camera.

“Where?” I said.

All five Humvees in our convoy had stopped and pulled to the side of the road. None had been hit.

“We think there’s one buried off the road around here.”

Two soldiers, including Sergeant Guerrero, stepped out of the vehicle. “Can I get out, too?” I said. I had no idea how long we would stop or if they would even let me out of the truck.

“Sure,” Sergeant Guerrero said. “You can get out.”

All IEDs are dangerous no matter how much body armor you’re wearing if you’re standing anywhere nearby when they explode. Some create small explosions that are merely intended to harass convoys. Others are formidable anti-tank mines. A smaller number create explosions as big as air strikes and will absolutely destroy you if you’re not inside a heavily armored vehicle…


[Don’t forget – hit the tipjar!]

The future is still in plastics…

A self-repairing plastic “skin” has been developed and tested by US scientists.

The smart type of plastic, which automatically knits together when cracked or broken, could one day be used to make artificial organs.

The material contains microcapsules filled with a special healing agent.

Like human skin, it bleeds and heals itself, offering a potential breakthrough in vital materials used in surgical implants. It could also prove useful for making rocket and spacecraft components, which cannot be repaired once they are in use.

Frozen Grand Central

..with the hope of solving connectivity problems:

Researchers at Harvard University have developed a new method for setting the brain aglow in a rainbow of colors. The technology will allow scientists to generate maps of one of the brain’s last frontiers: the complex tangle of neural circuits that collect, process, and archive information. Such maps could ultimately shed light on the early development of the human brain and on diseases such as autism and schizophrenia, which have been linked to connectivity problems.

“This will be an incredibly powerful tool,” says Elly Nedivi, a neuroscientist at MIT who is not involved in the research. “It will open up huge opportunities in terms of looking at neural connectivity.”…

…When the mice are fed a compound that activates the enzyme, each cell undergoes a random molecular process in which subsets of the color-coding genes are knocked out. The remaining genes produce the three colored fluorescent compounds in different amounts, which combine to form a unique new hue. “We get a wide range of colors–about 100,” says Lichtman. The researchers call the animals “brainbow” mice because of the colorful images they capture of their brains. A new paper describing the process was published today in the journal Nature….

…The ability to paint individual brain cells with such a broad palette will allow neuroscientists to explore neural circuits like never before. Most previous work has focused on larger-scale anatomy or on the function of individual cells, missing out on the detailed wiring in between these two scales. “There’s a whole class of disorders of the nervous system that people suspect are due to defects in the connections between nerve cells, but we don’t have real tools to trace the connections,” says Lichtman. “It would be very useful to look at wiring in animal models of autism spectrum disorder or psychiatric illness.”

When neighboring cells are labeled with the same color, as in previous methods, it’s difficult to discern each cell’s path in the brain. But in this case, neighboring cells are usually different colors, allowing scientists to follow their tangled projections as they branch and synapse throughout the brain. In a proof of principle experiment, the researchers traced all the connections in a small slice of cerebellar tissue, the part of the brain that controls balance and movement. “It will allow scientists to figure out not just what neurons do, but what they do in context of the intact circuit,” says Nedivi. “I’m sure the day the paper comes out, everyone and their mother will be calling them and asking for these mice.”


More on fluorescent protein and other stuff for looking into the brain.

Link thanks to Icon Index Symbol

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