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Monday, November 21, 2011

DNA Testing is New Liposuction

by Spencer Johnston

DNA is essentially the voluminous instruction manual for the genetic material of animals.  So, it makes sense that skipping to the ending or the good parts could be tempting, confusing and perhaps most importantly, misleading.




Genetic testing is attractive to the field of science as well as individuals for a number of reasons.  For scientists, it's kind of like the holy grail.  Being able to pin down such biologically important information is powerful and would no doubt create instant success for those professionals involved.  Because of the revealing aspects of genetic testing concerning one's present and future health concerns, many individuals yearn for their respective results.

While this all seems very intriguing, the science of DNA testing is a bit more cloudy than clear.  The technology can be very useful to individuals with a greater hereditary risk of certain diseases and health problems, through indications of genetic alterations.  "However, a genetic alteration might only indicate susceptibility to or a high risk of developing a disease, but not the certainty of having it" (Di Pietro, Giuli, Spagnolo).  So, DNA tests can be inaccurate in terms of predicting one's future health concerns, which is the primary reason for their existence.

Because the decision to market the at-home versions has largely been retracted, serious problems have been avoided.  For instance, if such inaccuracies are present in an actual laboratory, without the presence of doctors and medical professionals, the results would close to worthless in terms of accuracy.  "Human error will almost certainly be a contributor
to such undesirable outcomes" (R. Latino).

Ethically speaking, much of the world is strictly divided on the issue of DNA testing.  Personally, I feel as though traditional medicine is perfectly capable of detecting health risks and concerns as long as the respective individual does what's necessary to stay informed about their health.  Personal responsibility is by far the most important factor in lifestyle and related health concerns.  There is perhaps a correlation between those that are unwilling to care for themselves and those who see DNA testing as a feasible alternative to periodical medical checkups; a sort of one time fix-all.

In short, I'm not interested in such technology as a means of understanding my future health concerns.  Human life is a finite, mixed bag of experiences that are unique to all life forms.  While the debate as to whether or not human life is more valuable than that of other animals and living things is as strong as ever among religion, science and human rights arenas, there is no doubt in my mind that there is something special going on inside of each and every one of us.  Because we have the ability to produce outstanding technology is not reason enough to exploit it.  In this way, I would relate DNA testing to fracture drilling.  The decision by private companies and coercing from the FDA have ultimately amounted to the de-utilization of this technology and the downward spiral that would inevitably ensue following its widespread adoption.

Reference:

Di Pietro, M.L., Giuli, A., Spagnolo, A.G.  "Ethical implications of predictive DNA testing
for hereditary breast cancer".  Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.  Rome, Italy. 2004. http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/15/suppl_1/i65.full.pdf

Latino, Robert J.  "Cost & Truths of Human Error".  Hopewell, Virginia.  January, 2008.  http://www.reliability.com/healthcare/articleshcp/jan_08_Cost%20and%20Truths%20of%20Human%20Error.pdf 


image:  www.imaginationstationtoledo.org

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens


Polasek Museum
An essay by Spencer B. Johnston

I had never been to the Polasek Museum, even though I live within a few short blocks of it.  In fact, I drive past its entrance several times a day since I moved to Winter Park, Florida a year ago.  In all that time, I never even noticed the sign!  However, one day that all changed when I was watching television.  An older gentleman appeared on Antiques Roadshow with a pretty impressive bust of a child.  He explained that his parents had been friends with a talented artist named Polasek.  As a gift to the then young boy’s parents, he sculpted a magnificent bust of the young man.  When the art appraiser began to tell about Polasek, he didn’t hesitate to mention the artist’s retirement home of Winter Park, Florida.  It was a natural choice for me to visit the Polasek Museum when I learned of this assignment and I relished in an excuse to get out and enjoy a cultural experience practically in my wife and I’s own backyard.
Upon entering the museum’s meticulously landscaped grounds, I was greeted by a sign informing me that a special gallery was on display featuring local artists’ work.  The event was dubbed The Winter Park Paint Out.  The entire gallery was landscape portraits with acrylics on canvas.  Appropriately enough, the dazzling visual art paid homage entirely to The Polasek Museum’s outer courtyard and I soon discovered that the only thing that could compare to the vibrant colors’ pop inside the building was their inspiration outside.
My favorite of these locally painted pieces included Jackie Schindehette’s “Wasserman Pond”, which depicts familiarly mysterious brush alongside the body of water.  This painting represents a fear of the unknown that I frequently experience on outings to Rock Springs, the beach or virtually anywhere that could have critters lurking around.  Linda Blondheims “Vegetable Garden” contains vibrant colors that aren’t traditionally found in nature (until you walk outside to see the beautiful scene in person).  Elisabeth Farber’s “Park and Morse” is a vision of citizens of Winter Park’s culture, as well as many of our daily downtown traffic commutes.
The visual representation of The Polasek Museum’s outdoor area on canvas is pretty amazing.  But, for me there was nothing like being there and experiencing it first-hand.  Down the winding sidewalks and trails of the lakefront property is a collection of rare and beautiful flowers, plants, cacti and just like the painting, there’s even a real vegetable garden.  It’s unclear to me whether or not this was strictly ornamental or not, but it’s nice to know that if the volunteer staff at the museum ever have to work through lunch, a not-too-bad substitute is only a stone’s throw away.  I was very impressed by many plants I’ve never seen, and I consider myself a plant savvy person.  It seemed really neat to ‘grow’ art, rather than to create it.  I feel like that was a great way to expand by speaking to a broader audience.
Intertwined in flawless landscaping, Polasek’s better known sculptures chicken pox the area, pleasantly blending the worlds of classical style sculpture art and nature.  It became known to me early on that Polasek was a devoted man of God.  When I entered the museum, one of the first things I noticed was a mosaic floor pattern meant to resemble stained glass.  The theme then continued in his sculptures and even in relief sculptures along a garden wall.  These in particular were notably reminders of “The Human Spirit”. 
Many of the artist’s sculptures are made of bronze, which weathers well in my opinion.  Of these, “SVANTOVIT”, (1933) a brute Viking on his distinguished horse, was my favorite.  Others, like “King Under the Sea”, is made entirely of concrete.  Depicting a giant half man, half sea creature, this fountain piece is an intricate part of the Museum’s koi pond.  Agile for his size, the massive figure gently cradles two fish who playfully emit a steady bath of water onto the koi below.  Appropriately, “Man Carving His Own Destiny”, is made of limestone.  George, a volunteer at the Polasek Museum tells me that this was the artist’s lifework.  The use of limestone radiates to me.  From the Pyramids at Giza, to Polasek’s life work, limestone is typically used when the artist or creator wants to convey great importance and permanence.
Although the artist Albin Polasek is no longer gracing Winter Park’s artists’ community with his talented hands and mind, his legacy lives on today.  Through his art, he continues to help shape a community he once called home.  The staff and volunteers at The Polasek Museum have done a magnificent job of keeping up the national historic site.  It is truly a celebration of the human spirit.

The Library of Ancient Alexandria



The Library of Ancient Alexandria
 by Spencer B. Johnston
“The first true research institute in the history of the world.” –Carl Sagan





Spencer Johnston
Western Civilization I
HIS 1101-XTIB
Dr. Robert Kane, Troy University


The Library of Ancient Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria was the apex of intellect during the time of its use in Ancient Hellenistic Egypt.  Built by Ptolemy I Soter in 307 B.C.E., the library was an addition that helped to solidify the advancement of knowledge and education set forth by Alexander the Great.  Alexander knew that the basis for greatness was deeply embedded in education.  In fact, his “personal tutor was Aristotle, one of the most influential philosophers in all of Western thought” (Pollard, 2006).  The will of Alexander the Great came to great fruition in “what was to become [a] great ‘megalopolis’ of the Hellenistic world” (Empereur, 1998).  The achievements of the library’s scholars and patrons are widely considered to be invaluable and are as important today as they were revolutionary in their time of novelty.

            Although the Library of Alexandria was not the first library or collection of scrolls in known history, it has become known among much of the academic world as the “
most famous of the ancient collections of scrolls” (World Book).  Home to over 700,000 writings, the library was a bustling place for people who had a desire to learn, study, write, and perhaps above all- read.  As one would have guessed, the books we know and love today are made in a much different fashion than the scrolls used in Alexandria.  The papyrus reed, which was plentiful along the basin of the Nile in Lower Egypt, was very important to the Greco-Egyptian library's success.  A precursor to the modern use of paper, it is known that the word paper itself is derived from Papyri (Van Minnen, 1995). The papyrus scrolls made storing, transporting and ultimately reading much easier compared to clay tablets used in other regions.  This method of writing was eventually made standard and spread to the rest of the Hellenistic world as well.  Ultimately, the papyrus scroll later evolved into what we know as the modern bound book. 
The library's main function of inducing literacy upon its population seemed to be working quite well.  Up to this point in Greek history, much of its traditions and knowledge had been passed down or taught through speech.  The ability to write and read, allowed one to learn alone, or perhaps more importantly to reference information.  Writing on scrolls also lent to the (somewhat) permanence of information, which in turn fueled, the ultimate:  The spreading of information and thus, knowledge.
An important aspect of the Library of Alexandria is its ability to function as a museum.  Today, we tend to think of a museum as a place to quietly observe precious and valuable art of one form or another.  However, during the time of the library, the term museum was given to a space that would act as a “muse” (University College London, 2003) for scholars, inventors and engineers.  It was the hope of Ptolemy I Soter that the library's museum would grant the ideal environment for Alexandria's greatest minds.  His goal was beginning to become a reality when he finished the museum “in 307 BC” (Scaruffi, 1999).  At this crucial point, much of what was left to accomplish was left to the flourishing community of scholars of Alexandria.
The support given by the statesmen and rulers of Alexandria to the academic arena was certainly at its height following the completion of the library’s museum.  In spite of Alexander the Great’s untimely death in 323 BC (Vrettos, 2001), his grand vision of all that Alexandria could aspire to be was coming to fruition.  Ptolemy I Soter continued to expand “incentives” and “royal support for intellectuals…to provide an endowment” (Watts, 2006) for the growing institution.
Because proper measures had been taken to ensure the patron ship of the library and museum of Alexandria, scholars and researchers took to the great facility like moths to a flame.  This ensured the unique cerebral communal experience that Hellenistic Alexandria experienced.  Many accomplishments by the intellectual and scholarly spheres had been largely limited to isolated events, individuals and times.  In spite of the fact that a large number of great minds, artisans, and creators had indeed preceded the library, they had done so in stride alongside other achievements that demanded as much if not more emphasis, in terms of importance to the majority of their respective populous.  It makes sense that this esteem took time to develop in the ancient world.  A significant part of everyday life was devoted to labor and trade that ensured basic needs being met.  For many, these were the driving forces for which they were compelled to see through.  Similar to woes of people in the world today, the arduous nature of meeting one’s basic needs can be a hindrance to potential intellectual contributions.  Putting it simply, the endowment for scholarship at the Library of Alexandria enabled multi-disciplined researchers and students to devote all of their being to their studies.  Although it would not be firmly footed in the intellectual world until the mid-1940s, it seemed as though Ptolemy Soter I and other important leaders of Alexandria were familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  According to Maslow’s theory, once an individual or society’s basic needs have been met, such as food, water and shelter, we’re then able to strive towards less immediate and more cerebral goals, like those of the researchers at Alexandria.  By assisting the researchers, Ptolemy and others were meeting their basic needs, thus enabling them to realize their true potential.
Although the works of individual scholars at the library of Alexandria were often quite staggering, in terms of importance to the liberal arts movement to precede them, it was the shift of communal focus that was perhaps the most important contribution made during the time.  One would come to this conclusion because furthering the spread of knowledge and practice was extremely evident in the library’s successes.  The most honest value of the practices of the scholars of Alexandria was not to be realized for some time.  Academic glory is sadly, but arguably necessarily delayed, given the rigors of intellectual proving grounds traveled by theories, ideas and studies.  Pillars of modern education are founded in part by the fruits of their labor.
            The scholars of the Library of Alexandria include Euclid-the founder of geometric studies, Eratosthenes-who created modern geography, Herophilus-who studied anatomical medicine, Archimedes-engineer and astronomer, Heron-an engineer and inventor, and finally, Callimachas-“introduced…a library classification system” (Pollard, 2006).  As mentioned before, the large number of scholars who studied and researched at the library is difficult to negotiate.  While, many more are well-known for their contributions to similar disciplines, the names and given areas of expertise offered here perhaps outweigh that of their peers.
Euclid “belonged to the persuasion of and was at home in this philosophy” (Cuomo, 2000).  His masterpiece was titled The Elements, a work that’s usefulness in the discipline of math has sustained for nearly 2500 years.  Euclid’s writings on geometry are not only pertinent in high schools around the world.  In fact, its principles are devout in one of the most important frontiers of our time, harvesting solar energy. ”Geometry is used in surveying and in positioning solar arrays to capture the most sunlight at a given location” (London, 2011).  Ironically, solar cells have also helped to propel math classrooms forward as well.  A great number of calculators utilize the cells, which can augment battery life, or in most cases omits the need for batteries altogether.
Eratosthenes was another mathematical figure of great significance in Alexandria.  He is widely considered “an expert in mathematics and astronomy” (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2003), which ultimately resulted in the culmination of his life’s biggest accomplishment:  the measurement of the circumference of the earth.  Like Euclid, Eratosthenes’ proficiencies in mathematics led to the study of geography.  He has been credited as the first person to use the word geography.  It’s been written that he “relied…on the immense resources available in the Library at Alexandria.” (Wilson, 2006).  Thankfully for future generations of explorers, surveyors, teachers, students, armies, landowners, migrators and travelers, the work of Eratosthenes has been implemented all over the world.  Ultimately, his work has been a breakthrough that continues to aid sectors of multiple disciplines.
Herophilus was a researcher and master teacher of human anatomy, biology and medicine.  Similar to the way we test hypotheses and theories in science today, “The Herophilean school…always remained open to changes in emphasis, to doctrinal shifts, and to radical revisions” (Von Staden, 1989).  One is inclined to believe this demeanor of Herophilus and his school, as this is professional and purely academic approach is likely indicative of his acute intelligence.  He took a great number of cues from his predecessor, Hippocrates, who is regarded as “the father of medicine” (Advameg Inc., 2011).  Today, we owe much of our practical knowledge of medicine and anatomy to the Herophilean School.
Heron, or Hero, as he has become known, was a brilliant inventor.  His life’s work was made up of many very important feats of engineering.  For religious ceremonies and offerings, Heron was commissioned to design the world’s first automatic doors, prophetic automata, and wealth-acquiring, coin-operated machines.  Above all others was “his most famous invention, the aeolipile, the first steam-powered engine” (Britannica Educational Publishing, 2010).  Unfortunately, the potential of the steam engine wasn’t realized until well into the modern industrial revolution.  This has left many scholars puzzled, but still very much in awe of Heron.  One is left to wonder what could have been if Heron had been aware of his steam-powered engine’s capabilities.
Archimedes is one of the most famous figures of the ancient world.  As a student in Alexandria, he studied mathematics, astronomy and engineering.  Archimedes has been credited as coining the phrase, “Eureka!” during a moment of epiphany while working.  Perhaps his most famous feat of engineering was a giant water-lifting device that became known as “the Archimedes screw”.  This device was “used to lift water to higher levels” (Kenyon College), which ultimately aided the development of civil engineering to reach new heights in itself.  Communities and civilizations would look continuously to advancements similar to this to improve their quality of lives indefinitely.  In fact, the Archimedes screw is still used in parts of the modern world.  It remains “a preferred way to irrigate agricultural fields without electrical pumps.” (Business of Patents, 2008-2011).
Callimachus was a poet and another “man of great learning” (Vrettos, 2001).  His literary works are the subject of sustaining study and criticism, contributing greatly to the discipline of language arts.  His poetry has been described as “marvelous and prophetic” (Vrettos, 2001)After establishing a renowned reputation for writing, Callimachus began gathering steam in another scholarly discipline while at the Library of Alexandria; the art of library science.  The organizational skills he developed in the library became a significant addition to the functionality of the facility itself.  Soon, the work of Callimachus’ new found calling resulted in his being named “the father of library science” (Almond, 2004).
The Library of Alexandria was a source of great intellectual achievement and substance.  Without its prolific existence, the accomplishments of the western world would be significantly different and frankly, less colorful.  The cultural tone set by Alexander the Great was one that hailed education, often above all else.  The endowment set forth by his predecessors to the library and its institutions has sustained a domino-effect of important human achievements that remains even today.  The lessons we study in today’s classrooms often led us down a path that ends on the steps of the Library of Alexandria.












Works Cited

Advameg Inc. (2011). Hippocrates. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from Medical Discoveries: http://www.discoveriesinmedicine.com/General-Information-and-Biographies/Hippocrates.html
"Alexandrian Library". World Book Online InfoFinder. World Book, 2011. Web. 15 July 2011.
Almond, B. (2004, June 30). Fondren's Henry explores challenges for new Library of Alexandria . Retrieved July 22, 2011, from Rice University News: http://www.media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=4617&SnI=2
Britannica Educational Publishing. (2010). The 100 Most Influential Inventors of All Time. New York: Britannica Educational Publishing.
Business of Patents. (2008-2011). Archimedes Inventions. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from Business of Patents: http://www.the-business-of-patents.com/archimedes-inventions.html
Channel, T. H. (Director). (2007). Ancient Discoveries: The Library of Alexandria [Motion Picture].
Cuomo, S. (2000). Pappus of Alexandria and the Mathematics of Late Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Empereur, J.-Y. (1998). Alexandria Rediscovered. New York: George Braziller Publishing.
Kenyon College. (n.d.). Archimedes Screw. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from Kenyon College, Physics Department: http://physics.kenyon.edu/EarlyApparatus/Fluids/Archimedes_Screw/Archimedes_Screw.html
London, J. (2011, May 26). Interesting Facts About Euclidean Geometry. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from eHow Family: http://www.ehow.com/info_8494672_interesting-euclidean-geometry.html
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review Magazine Issue 50, pp. 370-396.
PBS (Director). (1980). Cosmos Episode 1: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean [Motion Picture].
Pollard, J. (2006). The Rise and Fall of Alexandria, Birthplace of the Modern Mind. New York: Viking Penguin Publishing.
Scaruffi, P. (1999). A Time-Line of the Ancient Egyptians. Retrieved July 2011, from Scaruffi.com: http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/egyptian.html
University College London. (2003). Hellenistic Egypt: The Alexandria Museum. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from University College London: http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/museum/museum3.html
University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (2003). Eratosthenes, The Philosopher. Retrieved July 2011, from UNLV Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering: http://www.egr.unlv.edu/~larmore/Courses/CSC269/S03/Assignments/philosopher.html
Van Minnen, P. (1995, December 8). Writing in Egypt Under Greek and Roman Rule. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/papyrus/texts/rule.html
Von Staden, H. (1989). Herophilus: The Art of Medicine in Early Alexandria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Vrettos, T. (2001). Alexandria: City of the Western Mind. New York: Free Press Publishing.
Watts, E. J. (2006). City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from University of California Press: http://hdl.handle.net.libproxy.troy.edu/2027/heb.07953.0001.001
Wilson, N. G. (2006). Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece. London: Taylor & Francis Group.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ecomodder Threads

I've been creating some pretty interesting threads about ecomodding, which is sweeping the nation, really.

here they are.

Let me know what you think!

There was another episode of Downsized.  These people are the reason the economy is in the crapper this side of Atlantic.  Their family likes to piss away money on bullshit they don't need.  Ha!  It's funny, though.

Tata Motors and The Environment

Recently, all the buzz has been about Tata Motors.  I'm really happy about the tiny car's successes in India and abroad.  In fact, they're empire, as I like to call it, has spread to much of the European Union's main industrial ports.  Because it's main headquarters and operations are in India, operations with African Nations and Asian Markets are a natural fit for the budding international car company.

Their website discusses commitment to recycling and the environment.  Check it out!  Subaru is also a great Automaker who is committed to the environment.

In addition to being frugal on fuel, the Nano...

Doesn't cost much either.  A high-end model is around US$4500.  Of course, who in the hell knows about importing cars, anymore!


That reminds me of that book I read again,




I'd definitely be interested in buying one if anyone began to import them.  Beautiful, just beautiful, they are!

Yes, the Tata Nano averages 55.5 mpg according to Wikipedia.  These estimates done by agencies are always such bad drivers, too. I find that I can easily get pretty good gas mileage out of my car.

Check it out here:

Fuelly

Fuelly

Fuelly

Enjoy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fixing Your Old Car or Buying a New One

Should you fix that old car or buy a new one?

by Stephen Cole Smith, Automotive Column, Orlando Sentinel
How do you know when it's time to move on? With people, it's tough. And with your car, it isn't much easier.

Accountants might disagree: They'd suggest that it's time to part with the vehicle you're driving when it ceases being an asset and becomes a liability. True, but it can be challenging to know when that happens. Asset on Monday, liability on Tuesday?


Raw video: 'Horrific crash' kills adult, teen near Holden Heights

Sometimes it is that easy. A friend owned an older Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan. One day it stopped running. He was late for a meeting and ignored a light on the dashboard that was trying to alert him to a problem with the cooling system. The engine was fried and would cost $4,500 to repair. The car was worth $5,000.

It had gone from asset to liability in 30 seconds. The unpleasant decision was easy to make: On the outside, the car looked fine, but he had totaled it as surely as if he had crashed into a wall. His Mercedes was sold for parts. The good news: He'll never ignore a warning light again.

Usually, though, it isn't that definitive. Over a year, you may spend $4,500 fixing your $5,000 car, but when it doesn't happen all at once, it can be hard to know when you've reached the point of diminishing returns. Will another $200 fix it for good? Another $500?

The first thing to do is determine a value for your vehicle. You can check Web sites such as Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com) and Edmunds.com, and follow the steps there to determine what your car or truck is worth. You can also check AutoTrader.com, and check asking prices for vehicles like yours. If you know what your vehicle is worth, it's easier to determine how much you might be willing to spend to keep it running.

Then, you have to decide how attached you are. Do you have an emotional connection that can justify spending more on your car than it's worth? It's nothing to be ashamed of if you do — several times I've spent more on a car than I should because I really liked it — just so long as you know you are going above and beyond whatever solid business case you can make for keeping a vehicle that most others might have abandoned.

Next, place a value on reliability. Are there other cars in the family available to drive if yours isn't running? Is mass transit an option? If not, and you must have a vehicle that starts every time you turn the key, then it maybe it's mandatory that you move on to a newer vehicle.

And finally, know what you owe. As the value of new vehicles plummets, thanks to all the incentives being placed on them, the value of your model may drop, too. A study released last week listed dozens of vehicles that actually cost less now than they did a year ago, meaning that if you bought that model then, and have been making payments on it since, you could still owe more than a brand-new one costs now.

In the car business, owing more than your car is worth is called being "upside down," and if that's the case, your only choice may be to hang onto the vehicle until you've finally paid it down to the point where it won't cost you cash to just get rid of it.

"In 15 years in the business," a dealer told me, "I've never, ever seen so many people upside-down on their cars."

So here is your checklist for deciding whether or not it's time to trade:

•What is my vehicle worth?

•What, if anything, do I owe on it?

•How attached am I to it?

•How important to me is day-in, day-out reliability?

•How much am I willing to spend to maintain a car to a satisfactory level?

•If I make the repairs needed, will it actually enhance the value of the car?

Only you know whether the numbers add up in your car's favor, or suggest that it's time to move on.

No hard feelings, OK? We'll always have Paris.

Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smith can be reached at scsmith@orlandosentinel.com, at 407-420-5699, or through his blog at Enginehead.com.
wsfl-car-fix-new-sotry

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Study Shows Green Driving on Rise

Driving America in the right direction

Erin Craig | July 28, 2011

Eco-driving index shows erratic progress, but progress nonetheless.

 
I’ve commented before about a dilemma produced by fuel-efficient cars: they emit less per mile, but also make it less expensive to drive… creating a countervailing incentive to drive more than you might have in a gas guzzler.

Therefore I was happy to discover that the University of Michigan has been tracking and amalgamating the greenhouse gas emissions effects of both the emissions profile of new cars for sale, and the average number of miles driven on a monthly basis. They call the resulting trendline the “Eco-Driving Index.” They’ve been tracking it since 2007, when the EPA revamped its new-car fuel economy calculation methods.
Here’s what the trend looks like:
Driving_stats_420.jpg

All the data is normalized to 2007, so if we were driving exactly the same distance, and new cars emitted exactly the same per mile today as in 2007, the index would be “1.00.”
As you can see, both “miles driven” and “fuel used per distance driven” have dropped, albeit not consistently. Still, drivers who bought a new car in May 2011 would, on average, emit 16% fewer greenhouse gases than drivers who bought new cars in October 2007.

My two conclusions: First, this is great. I’m glad to see that we haven’t gobbled up all our efficiencies by increasing our driving. Second, it’s clear that the bulk of the improvement comes from more efficient cars, not driving less. That’s the lever we have to continually adjust downward at a policy level.

You can find more details on the calculation method here.



Friday, July 29, 2011

Horrendus fungus among us.


So, we've been composting for over two straight years with the same bin.  Everything has gone magnificently.  Recently, our compost bin has taken on a bit of green fungus.  It reminds me of Dog vomit slime mold everyone was talking about years ago.


We're moving, so today was the last day for composting for a minimum of 1 year.  We'll enjoy the time off, but we're not looking forward to changing the trash can liner up to 4x as fast.  "Composting has become second nature", my wife tells me.  I'm glad that she's learned and become accustomed to such an organic way of life from plate back to earth again.

Look for more on our compost experiences of the last two years soon.

Noise Pollution in India


Noise Pollution in India

Although noise pollution is a growing concern to all global dwellers, it’s perhaps a particularly pertinent issue to the people of India.  It’s there, that a population of 1.2 billion3 can’t help but contribute to the country’s growing plague of noise pollution.  Even the few who are advocates against excessive and unnecessary noise are guilty of making sound waves of their own.  This is the current paradox of the Indian people submerged in a sea of sound.   Ironically, the vibrations of contemporary India are a far cry from the delicate mantras of Hinduism’s Brahma or World Soul.  The Aum is meant to entomb harmony and balance through a meshing of all things.  Not surprising, the uncompromising dissonance of our own inventions disrupts the very balance of life’s natural vibrations. 
Noise pollution has somehow become the neo world soul of India.  Perhaps, a sound or multiple sounds to be relished rather than be down upon.  But, human health, wildlife and nature in general disagree.   Distaste for noise is something that people of all walks of life share.  In a recent survey, I discovered that 21 out of 23 of my classmates find noise to be bothersome4.   India’s population is familiar with the concept of noise pollution and its many adverse effects.   Alongside health problems such as insomnia, attention deficit disorder, and hearing loss, noise pollution is also a great source of environmental disturbance.  Wildlife and natural, native habitat and scenery are increasingly lost, which in turn fuels further deforestation as a result of it being of less quality in terms of land equity.
India is getting smaller every year5.  In fact, the Indian plate as it is referred to, is actually decreasing in size by nearly 2 inches per year as it merges with the northern Eurasian plate.  Obviously, a population that experiences such rapid growth, yet is dwindling in terms of land area would begin to show inevitable signs of wear and tear.  To the surprise of many scholars and researchers, the adverse effects of noise pollution have emerged as a first of perhaps many problems the country of India will face as a result of “overpopulation”6. 
Aside from overpopulation, the causes of India’s noise pollution problems are widely varying and often, quite easily overlooked when isolated.  Car alarms, street vendors, musicians, produce trucks, boiling pots, zippy mopeds and crying babies are just a few of the sounds that fill the air on a typical, urban afternoon in New Dehli.  The capital of India, the city is home to roughly fourteen million people, which is nearly the size of the state of Florida alone in terms of population.

Naturally, being exposed to noise pollution for prolonged periods of time has been known to bring about many health problems.  On the forefront of noise-related health problems is insomnia, stress, decreased productivity, and of course, hearing loss or impairment.
Indians are nearly 4 times as likely to suffer from bouts of insomnia than Americans1.   The correlation between health and noise are quite obvious to the large number of people living in India’s largest cities.  Many Indians living in urban areas are largely living in states of uncontrollable chaos and high concentrations of noise pollution.  It is here that the population experiences the adverse effects of noise pollution firsthand. 
Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones feeling the negative effects of noise pollution.  Noise from urban and industrial development eventually drives precious wildlife species from their natural habitats, increasing endangerment and even extinction.  In fact, it may be happening faster than we know.  “Animals communicate in a similar way to humans—by vocalizing”7.  Unfortunately, without proper communicatory ability due to noise, chances of survival for much wildlife in India are drowning in a sea of seemingly meaningless sound.
Like the rest of the world, it may be initially difficult for the Indian people to understand the importance of wildlife conservation and the like.  However, the cyclical nature of India’s soul and prosperity may be at risk as well.  The outcome of noise pollution’s effect on wildlife and nature may be less detectable, because it is to be experienced second-hand and without a doubt, after a great trickling has taken place.  Urban noise, wildlife, nature, tourism, health and economy are all part of a cyclical nature contemplated by Brahmin of Hinduism.

Current efforts and studies show that urban planners in India’s major metropolitan cities could benefit greatly by looking at molds formed by fellow national titans of ingenuity.  In England, for example, city planners and dwellers alike have collectively turned their urban woes into smiles and joy.  They’ve done this through a series of what is referred to as “green spaces”8.  It’s here that citizens “connected to nature, even unconsciously, can make life worth living”8!  Conceptually, England’s isolated efforts and implementation of “green spaces”8 serve as a highly effective tool in combatting urban noise pollution.
India is a vibrant land that offers much to any willing student.  The growing population there is truly an intricate part of this great society.  Unfortunately, the need for technological advancement and sheer ingenuity has superseded the need for existential harmony.  Ironically, it is the very nature of the Indian population that drives the neo-Aum of Today’s Industry in India.  The spirit of the Indian people is a strong one.  Their achievements have long been an example of greatness to their global peers.  For now, it is up to further research and human ingenuity in India’s next great frontier:  noise pollution.



















Works Cited

1.  cover photo of boy and white noise machine courtesy of http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/4/2010/01/white04.jpg
2.  cover photo of traffic jam courtesy of
3.  India.  World Bank. November 28th, 2010.  http://data.worldbank.org/country/india
4.  Audience Analysis on “Lawn Care vs. The Environment”, by Spencer Johnston, SPC 1608, Valencia Community College, Fall 2010.
5.  ESC 1000, Professor Mary Beck, Geology Department, Valencia Community College, summer 2010.
6.  “India”, by Professor Uday Murthy.  Department of Information Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.  http://www.cs.iupui.edu/~umurthy/India/people.html
7.  Sheryl De Vore.  “Noise Affects Wildlife Profoundly, Too”.  Copyright 2004, Cary Grove Countryside, Pioneer Press.
8.  England’s Green Spaces Organization, 2010.
http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/enjoying/places/greenspace/default.aspx


Other Acknowledgement of Area of Study:
“Noise”.  A feature film starring Tim Robbins, 2007.