Wind power video primer from NSF

July 10, 2011

Part of “Green Revolution,” a series on science and environmental awareness from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This is a quick introduction to wind power, with some good video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

US NSF – Multimedia Gallery – Wind — Green Rev…, posted with vodpod

Fresh from the garden: Bat faced cuphea

July 10, 2011

Bat-faced cuphea in Kathryn's garden

On a pedestal? Kathryn's potted bat-faced cuphea stands out when the mid-morning sun bathes it, but the yard in back still hovers in the shade of the live oak. Horticultural design by Kathryn Knowles; photo by Ed Darrell

Kathryn’s bat faced cuphea (Cuphea llavea) has graced our garden for several years with this particular plant, or its seedlings.  It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds with regularity.

It gets its name because each blossom resembles the face of a tiny bat.

Bat faced cuphea in Kathryn's garden, IMGP5294

Each blossom of bat faced cuphea resembles the face of a bat.


Troops who fought in two wars now protect public against Missouri River flood and nuclear accident

July 10, 2011

Hoax claims died down a bit across the blogosphere, but the Missouri River still floods, and the two Nebraska nuclear power plants on the Missouri still face threats from the flood.

Comes news via the Omaha World-Herald that members of Nebraska’s and Iowa’s Air National Guard — many of them veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan — patrol the levees, helping protect against floods.  Among points of special concern are the nuclear power plants at Fort Calhoun and Cooper.

The military helicopter’s black shadow dances on an engorged Missouri River as the aircraft slowly loops the flood-encircled Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station — the same left-leaning turns the pilot navigated two days prior.

Warrant Officer Boe Searight, 32, with the Nebraska Air National Guard wants the infrared camera mounted under the chopper to record similar flood scenes for levee experts on the ground to compare.

He and his colleague Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Schriner also are looking for new signs of trouble for the flooded plant.

“Keep daily eyes on it and see if anything changes,” says Schriner, 31.

Far below, on mosquito-infested riverbanks, two-person crews with the Nebraska National Guard and Iowa National Guard patrol the Omaha and Council Bluffs levees in mud-caked boots.

Members of the Guard are the front-line levee watchers in an operation that clearly has high stakes: Levees protect about 40,000 people from homelessness in the neighboring river cities — as well as the region’s key airport.

The levee watchers are out there right now — three shifts a day, all week, searching for gopher holes, chasing away sightseers who could fall from the levees, and checking for signs of water seepage.

More than 130 men and women with the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard work each day for flood duty, along with 120 from the Iowa Army and Air National Guard.

The idea is to spot trouble early. Levees don’t always give notice before they rupture, but more often than not they do.

If trouble is spotted, steps can be taken to shore up or boost a weakened levee.

Good to know.  Still no nuclear incident along the lines of the hoax report from the Pakistani outlet alleged to be based on a report from a Russian agency — which is also good news — but no cause for abatement of overall concern.

Sometimes safety preparations work.  Kudos to the Air National Guards, to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, and to the companies who own  the power plants.  May their work continue to pay off in no nuclear incidents.

Idaho Samizdat noted earlier that the bizarre conspiracy theories haven’t borne out as accurate or true in the least:

The flooding situation in Nebraska has been the subject of bizarre conspiracy theories originating in Russia and Pakistan alleging that a meltdown has occurred at Ft. Calhoun and that the government is covering it up.

One U.S. web site, Business Insider, ran with the story as legitimate and set off a huge round of copy cat reports on the Internet.

Reports of a U.S. news blackout are also part of the conspiracy theory even though Nebraska papers such as the Omaha World-Herald and the New York Times have run major stories on measures by the two reactor sites to prevent the flood waters from reaching important infrastructure such as switch yards


Coach the beauty pageant contestants in critical thinking, please

July 10, 2011

Everybody else has to know it, or suffer without it.

Can you tell which of these is the parody?

Is it this one?

Or is it this one?

Stephen Law reports the science geek won the competition — maybe that will be enough to spur other beauty pageant contestants to get hip to reality?

Susana Speier explained what’s going on at Scientific American’s online site:

Last week, self proclaimed “geek,” Miss California, Alyssa Campanella made beauty pageant history…by default. When the interviewer posed a Theory of Evolution question, she was one of only two delegates to use the scientific definition of the word “theory” in her response.

The honey-drenched, colloquial definition that the majority of her competitors clung to was, yes, diplomatic. Miss California, now Miss USA, however, did not aim to please or to appease the 60% of Americans that a 2009 Gallup Poll concluded do not believe in Evolution. Rather than aiming to please or appease an ignorant majority, The future Miss USA delivered a response that supported an empirical evidence based definition of specified phenomena: the scientific definition of the word, “theory.”

Brains is beauty, it seems to me.  We should certainly run our schools as if intelligence and learning are great virtues in themselves.

 

 


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