Thursday, July 31, 2008

California leads nation with first state-wide trans-fat ban

Starting in 2010, it will be illegal for restaurants in California to serve trans-fats; and by 2011, bakeries need to phase it out, reports the NY Times. Trans-fats boost bad cholesterol, which contributes to a whole range of circulatory complications. California's leading cause of death is coronary heart disease.

Restaurants, bakeries violating the ban face a $25 to $1,000 fine. That's it, yes. Doesn't seem like California is too serious about this. What's $1,000 to a restaurant chain like Taco Bell? More than the profit on a few hundred tacos, of course. But if California really wanted to save their citizens, why not give the law some teeth? For example, three violations and the restaurant owners, or parent franchise, can never do business in the state again.

AIDS infections "rising dramatically in the South"

No, we're not talking about South Africa or South America, we're talking about the South right here in America. According to an MSNBC report, AIDS cases are up 10 percent in the South between 2001 and 2006. Furthermore, although just 36 percent of the nation's population lives in the South, half of the nations AIDS deaths occurred there in 2005.

"AIDS specialists" blamed "economic and cultural factors." For example, lack of access to adequate health care (for example, aids tests), education about the disease and parents refusing to believe their children are sexually active.

Small comet has huge impact 13,000 years ago

A comet just one mile in diameter probably exploded above what is now Canada 13,000 years ago leading to more than a spectacular light show, according to a write up at The Future of Things (via Slashdot).

The initial blast would have created a “massive shock wave” that would have led to a chain reaction of explosions equivalent to atomic bombs exploding. Most of the northern hemisphere, scientists theorize, would have been in flames. The destruction would have wiped out animals including mastodons and vaporized human cultures. What’s more, the event would have “lengthened the Ice Age that should have been coming to an end… disrupting the development of emerging civilizations in Europe and Asia.”

The evidence: “a layer of microscopic diamonds” found at locations across the Northern Hemisphere in the geologic record. These diamonds, experts believe, are the remains of a “carbon rich comet.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How did Earth end up with so much oxygen?

Scientists are still trying to figure out how the earth’s atmosphere ended up so rich in oxygen. Australian scientists recently suggested eroding “supermountains” of epochs past led to our enriched air, reports New Scientist.

The idea: as the mountains “eroded rapidly,” “vast amounts of nutrients” were carried into the oceans. These nutrient blasts would have spurred “explosions of oxygen-producing algae and bacteria.”

The big problem, Harvard geochemist Dick Holland explained to New Scientist, there was no major tectonic event during the “great oxidation” of 2.3 billion years ago.

Previously on Pound360:
How did the Earth end up with so much water?

Surprisingly, science at a loss to fully explain glass

At the atomic level, “glass is indistinguishable from a liquid,” reports the NY Times, alas it’s perfectly solid. And scientists don’t know why that is. One expert told the Times, “It surprises most people that we still don’t understand this… We don’t understand why glass should be a solid and how it forms.”

Typically when a liquid cools it freezes: molecules assume a “neat crystal pattern” and hold still. But with glass, the molecules remain disorganized and continue to move so slowly that they’re “effectively not moving at all.” Glass molecules are stuck in a kind of purgatory, “trapped in a strange state between liquid and solid.”

Who cares? Why should anyone waste their time trying to figure this out? Well, are you afraid of needles? No. Well you probably don’t enjoy them. So you might be interested to know this: “Certain drugs, if they could be made in a stable glass structure instead of a crystalline form, would dissolve more quickly, allowing them to be taken orally instead of being injected.”

Utility aside, Pound360 is simply fascinated by everyday things that science can not fully explain. It’s nice to know there’s still some magic out there.

Pondering The Big One: ‘Hopefully I’ll already be dead’ says scientist

In light of the recent “moderate” shake in Southern Cal, the NBC Nightly News looked back at some major earthquakes that have hit the area, and ahead to the Big One.

Recent quakes include the 1994 Northridge quake that killed 60 and the 1989 Bay Area shaker that killed 63. According to the report, “Earthquake scientists say there’s a 99 percent chance that another quake at least as big as those will strike California in the next thirty years.” The likely target: Southern California.

And it’s not going to be pretty.

“Certainly I’m not looking forward to the day when that major fault goes. Hopefully I’ll already be dead,” said CalTech Geophysicist Thomas Heaton.

The complete report…

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pound360 Offices Survive Los Angeles Quake

The south Hollywood shanty where Pound360’s staff is crowded survived the magnitude 5.4 earthquake that struck the Los Angeles area today. Especially thrilled was our office bookie. In our pool, most bets were on any quake of a magnitude 4.8-or-greater bringing down the decrepit structure.

One Pound360 writer, who was deathly ill today, but drew the shortest straw and had to run up to Subway to grab the office lunch, was next to a construction site in Hollywood when the quake struck. He reported seeing large cargo palates swinging on crane cables and construction workers fleeing for cover.

Downtown, frightened office workers “poured into the streets” and City Hall was evacuated,
reports Reuters.

A 5.4 may seem like a small deal. But the infamous 1994 Northridge quake, which killed 57 in the LA area, was only a 6.7. According to one expert, there’s a 5 percent chance this quake is the opening act for a “larger seismic event.”

Exports at fault for 33 pct of China greenhouse gas

The world is to blame for about 33 percent of China’s greenhouse gas emissions, reports New Scientist. That’s what it takes to create all those exports China is sending around the globe. The top offender: advanced electronics. About 22 percent of “export emissions” are created by manufacturing these devices.

China’s export emissions add up to about 1.7 billion tones of CO2 each year. That’s six percent of all global emissions and the equal to the combined output of Germany, France and the UK. Wow.

In 1987, export emissions accounted for just 12 percent of China’s carbon footprint.

Monday, July 28, 2008

California ports adopt “world’s toughest pollution rules”

A new set of regulations will force ships pulling in-and-out of California ports “to burn low-sulfur diesel instead of the tar-like sludge known as bunker fuel,” reports the LA Times.

This is a really big deal for two reasons. One, this pollution has been killing residents in coastal community by causing respiratory and heart disease. Two, 43 percent of all U.S. imports move through the Southern Cal ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The new regulations should save 3,600 lives over six years, slash some cancer rates by 80 percent and save the State of California $6 billion in health care costs.

Increased cost to the shipping industry: $140 to $360 million per year. Small price to pay, says Pound360.

Alas, the shipping industry is fighting these regulation tooth-and-nail. They Pacific Merchant Shipping Association in particular has been fighting engine emission regulations in court for years.

Passenger jet’s nose cone cave-in remains a mystery

What caused the nose cone on a Northwest Airlines Boeing 757 to collapse mid flight? (For the best shot of the damage, check out coverage at CNN of the incident. Week’s after the incident, there’s still no word from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA ruled out a collision with a bird. One reason, the damage occurred at an altitude “higher than most birds generally fly,”
one expert explained to the New York Times.

It may have been lightning. In February, the nose cone of another plane was “severely damaged” by a lightning strike. But you’d think the pilots would have seen that, wouldn’t you?

Maybe it was some other weather phenomena? Maybe it was something falling from space. Pound360 will continue to cover this.

‘Paracast’ takes you on a sober trip through the supernatural

Pound360 was recently turned onto “The Paracast,” a podcast covering UFOs to ghosts and everything in between. We were originally told about the show last Friday, and by Sunday afternoon we’d listened to about 7 hours (three episodes) of the show.

Yes, we at Pound360 are complete dorks.

Anyhow, The Paracast is well produced, they have great guests, and a regular clip of far out topics. But it’s no Coast-to-Coast with Art Bell. Unlike Bell, co-host Gene Steinberg is pretty hard on his guests. Pound360 doesn’t feel as guilty listening to pod-candy like The Paracast when there’s a healthy dose of skepticism.

Highly recommended are the July 13th episode (with “Life After Death: Some of the Best Evidence” author, Jan W. Vandersance) and a show from June 22nd where Orion Project organizer Dr. Steven Greer and Steinberg nearly come to blows.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Converting cow waste could generate billions of kilowatt hours

Part of the reason the meat industry is so harmful for the environment is the waste livestock produce. Cow manure for example releases brutal greenhouse gasses like nitrous oxide (warms the atmosphere 310-times more than CO2) and methane (21-times the warming power as CO2) as it decomposes. But we could mitigate this impact and give our electrical grid a boost by converting cow waste into energy, according to a report at ScienceDaily.

Via a process called "anaerobic digestion" (think composting), cow manure can be converted into biogas. If you do this with all the cow manure in the country, "the US could produce approximately 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity." Bear in mind, this is 100 billion kilowatts we won't need from burning coal or natural gas, so we're cutting down on CO2 emissions there.

All together, converting cow manure into energy could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 99 million metric tons (four percent of total annual emissions) and provide three percent of our energy.

Report suggests arctic may hold 20 pct of undiscovered oil

A Unites States Geological Survey report, which took four years to complete, suggests one fifth of the worlds "yet-to-be-discovered oil and natural gas reserves" are hidden under the frozen arctic landscape and icy seas, reports the NY Times.

The USGS survey estimates 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 90 billion barrels of oil are up there. That's (kind of not really) enough oil to fuel the planet for three years (if consumption rates stay the same at 86 million barrels a day, which they won't).

Most of the natural gas in the arctic is in Russian territory, but at least a third (30 billion barrels) of oil is off the coast of Alaska.

Another note, the survey considers "undiscovered technically recoverable resources" only. That means they only look at stuff we can retrieve with existing technologies. Who knows, as technologies improve, there may be a way to get more resources out of the region.

What does Pound360 think of all this? Leave it alone! Let's leave the dirty, non-renewable energy in backup reserve, just in case we have trouble coming up with green alternatives. This country needs to do that. We need to set a challenging, crazy (inspirational) date and say, "by this time, less than 10 percent of our energy consumption will come from non-renewable sources."

What if we hit that goal and the resources remain in the arctic? Two things. One, we wit 50 years for oil and gas to get desperately scarce, and then sell what we have to places in the world that still rely on it at a very, very high price. Two, we just leave it there for the civilization that takes our place after an asteroid wipes out life on the planet hundreds of thousands of years in the future.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How much greenhouse gas is your burger creating?

According to a Japanese study, producing a kilo of beef (2.2 pounds) creates more greenhouse than driving for three hours AND simultaneously leaving your lights on at home, reports New Scientist.

That's about 80 pounds of C02. And (
if this source is to be trusted) Americans eat about 65 pounds of beef per year, so that puts about a ton of CO2 in the atmosphere every year.

Sure, you have to get your protein somewhere. So get it from plants. It takes seven pounds of plant protein to make one pound of animal protein (
according to another report at New Scientist). So switching from beef to plant protein would slash CO2 output 85 percent.

If you must have beef, pay more for organic, grass-fed beef. A 2003 Swedish study found this beef "emits 40 per cent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 per cent less energy," according to New Scientist.

A healthy diet could shave 10 pct off your energy footprint

About 20 percent of total US energy consumption goes towards making food. But according to a Cornell University study we could cut that percentage in half if we make smart diet choices, reports New Scientist.

On average, Americans consume 3,747 calories per day, which takes about 528 gallons of oil to produce, or 20 percent of total energy use.

Since it takes about seven pounds of plant protein to make one pound of animal protein, if we all turned into vegetarians, we could cut the energy needed to create our food by a third.

If we stop eating so much junk food, which is "energetically expensive to produce," that would help, too. For example, it takes 2,100 calories of energy to create 12 ounces of soda (which has 0 to 150 calories depending on what you're drinking). And that doesn't even consider the energy it takes to make the can!

A bigger problem is transporting the food. On average, our food travels 1,500 miles. "This requires 1.4 times the energy actually contained in the food."

All in all, going vegetarian, cutting out junk food and eating stuff produced closer to home could cut the energy we use to produce our food in half. That's a 10 percent drop in our energy consumption.

Soy not-so-good for sperm count

Too much of anything is a bad thing. There's a saying Pound360 recalls, "there are no toxic substances, only toxic amounts." Even when it comes to soy.

According to
a BBC report, diets heavy in soy can reduce sperm counts by as much as 41 million per milliliter, or half the normal count. Why? "Plant estrogens in foods such as tofu, soy mince or milk may interfere with hormonal signals." The affect is greater in obese men. This makes sense since high levels of body fat can increase estrogen production.

Soy fanatics, before you get depressed (or celebrate), note that, Asian men (who "eat more soy-based products) do not have fertility problems.

This isn't the first time
red flags have been raised over soy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NASA Scientist Shares Vision for Venus Colony

NASA scientist (and part time science writer) Geoffrey Landis has an idea for colonizing Venus: cloud cities. Landis spoke with the Universe Today blog (and Pound360 was led there by Slashdot).

While the surface of Venus is
pretty much what you think of when you think of Hell, the atmosphere around 50km up is "the most Earth-like environment other than Earth itself, in the solar system." The air pressure there is pretty much the same, but you would need a suit to provide oxygen and protect you from sulfuric acid. Temps are manageable at 0 to 50 degrees Celsius.

So how do we get a city to float in the clouds? Of course, that's a question
we'd need Lando Calrissian to answer (by the way, how did a guy with a name like "Lando" end up running a cloud city?). But we can speculate. NASA's Landis imagines we could use a giant bubble filled with "earth-like atmosphere" which would float atop the much denser low-altitude Venus atmosphere. Sounds like a stretch to Pound360. We'll wait for Calrissian to come up with a plan.

Russia & ESA Preview Next-Gen Manned Spacecraft

The Russian Space Agency and the European Space Agency (Esa) have revealed drawings of a manned spacecraft they've teamed up to build, reports the BBC.

Unfortunately, this capsule looks about as boring as the United States'
Orion spacecraft. Pound360 is surprised we're surprised at how lame spacecraft have become. We should have learned our lesson with cars. Cars used to be awesome in the fifties, sixties, seventies. And as soon as imagination and inspiration were cut from auto company budgets, we end up with the 2008 Yawns and 2008 Double-Yawns you see in car lots across the country now.

If there's anything cool about the Russian-Esa vehicle (which is so-far stuck with the super-lame name "Crew Space Transportation System" or CSTS), it's that it has landing legs and landing rockets! Well, that's not that cool.

The CSTS will replace the
twitchy Soyuz capsules many countries rely on to visit the International Space Station. Also, the CSTS can be used for orbiting the moon, that is if the Russians and Esa can team up to build rockets powerful enough to get there, reports the BBC.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wireless TVs in a year?

"Electronics heavyweights" like Sony, Samsung, Motorola and Sharp are teaming up behind a uniform technology to send high-def video signals from transmitters to television screens, reports MSNBC.

Savvy consumers (super-nerds) can transmit video now using Wi-Fi technology, but it compresses (reduces the quality) of the picture. The new standard, called Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI), supported by the aforementioned "heavyweights" will use more powerful radio signals.

Does this mean your neighbors will be able to dial into your signals and check out what you're watching? Perhaps. But what if you don't want the neighbors to know ho much Entertainment Tonight and America's Funniest Home Videos that you watch? Pound360 bets some type of encryption is also in the works.

Pollution may be cause of mystery croc illness

"Hardened, fatty deposits" are showing up in the tails of dead crocs along the Olifants River in South Africa's Kruger National Park, reports New Scientist. Researchers believe the condition makes it too difficult for the animals to swim, so they drown. Eating rancid fish may lead to the mysterious affliction, but it could be "exposure to pollutants." According to New Scientist, "the Olifants is the most polluted of all the [Kruger National Park's] rivers."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Water once "widespread" on Mars

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has relayed new data showing Mars was once drenched with water, and for hundreds-of-thousands of years, reports the BBC.

Images from the Mars Orbiter show minerals on the "ancient highlands" that only form in water. The same type of minerals also appear in-and-around craters and on the slopes of dormant volcanoes (see image) suggesting evidence of a wet Mars has been hiding just below the surface. And the evidence runs deep, up to 5 kilometers down, suggesting there was a lot of water on the Red Planet.

Mars' wet period probably ran from 4.6 billion to 3.8 billion years ago during the planet's "Noachian period."

(Image courtesy NASA)

Unexplained dolphin suicides reported in UK

Twenty six dolphins beached themselves at the southwestern tip of England this month, and experts don't know why, reports Discover Magazine. Beach goers dragged some of the dolphins back into the water, but they just beached themselves again.

Did Royal Navy depth charges spook the dolphins? Could they have been terrified by a killer whale? Perhaps a parasite "turned them into zombies."

Last fall, 152 dolphins beached themselves along the Iranian coast in a mass suicide that eludes explanation to this day.

Friday, July 18, 2008

How did Earth end up with so much water?

The short answer is, nobody really knows. In the past, Pound360 explored this question when Japanese researchers suggested oxides in the Earths crust reacted with a "thick blanket of hydrogen" surrounding the early earth to create our oceans.

The problem with that is that water in our oceans has the same molecular makeup as water in asteroids (yes, asteroids, not comets). "Molecular makeup," you ask, "isn't water just H20, how can that vary?" Well, a hydrogen molecule can have extra protons and neutrons. In the case water on Earth, much of it has an extra neutron and proton. This type of hydrogen scientists refer to as "heavy hydrogen" or "deuterium."

Worth noting is,
according to a Wikipedia entry, the Earth was formed within the Solar System's "snow line" (which exists about where the Asteroid Belt is). Within the snowline, you're close enough to the sun that water is vaporized. Outside of that line, it's cold enough that water is turned to ice. Of course, if water is vapor, it's tough for a small planet or moon to attract and keep it.

As the Earth formed, much of the water present (yes there was some) was "outgassed" and drifted away in the solar wind. It wasn't until the Earth got much larger that its gravity was capable or retaining the original water which continued to seep from the interior of the Earth via volcanic activity. But that would only account for some of the water we have today.

The Wikipedia entry also acknowledges extraterrestrial sources like asteroids and homemade sources like photosynthesis. Indeed, early life synthesizing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) would have released H20 (and some other stuff).

Another possibility according to the Wikipedia write-up, the massive object that (probably) collided with the Earth 4-point-some-billion-years-ago
creating the Moon may have been an icy planetoid like Jupiter's moon Europa. But Pound360 wonders how that might have happened since this frozen wanderer would have had to drift from beyond the Solar System's "snow line," right? And that means it would have had to escape Jupiter's tremendous pull, which seems to us (in our pretty limited understanding of astrophysics) unlikely.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Astronomers Amazed as Moon Slowly Releases Secrets

As Pound360 mentioned previously, researchers continue to learn from the 842 pounds of lunar rocks retrieved over the course of the Apollo missions that ended 40 years ago. Recently, the NY Times ran a feature on what we've learned and why we're still learning stuff today (the main reason is that research technologies and methods keep advancing).

Among the most important findings from Moon rocks:

  • Meteors, not volcanoes, are primarily responsible for shaping the surface of the Moon.
  • An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. How can the Moon tell us that? "Terrestrial mineral and crystal deposits 65 million years old were similar to those found routinely in lunar ejecta."
  • The Moon is just about as old as the earth, solar system. One rock, what scientists refer to as the "genesis" rock, is almost 4.5 billion years old. The is about 4.54 billion years old. The solar system formed just 4.6 billion years ago. It must have been an amazing 200 million years.
  • Using what we know about the Moon's surface, we predict the age of surfaces on other Moons, planets in the solar system.
In addition to these accepted findings is a more controversial one that may shed light on how life evolved on . According to the Times, "some researchers have suggested" lunar impacts tapered off soon after the Moon formed (about 4.3 billion years ago), only to "resume with a vengeance" 400 million years later. The "cataclysm" would have affected Moon and Earth at a time "when life was just beginning."

Pound360 has some questions. Did the "cataclysm" spark life on this planet? Perhaps in the onslaught of asteroids, comets or whatever, one (or a few) of them carried genetic material (
not an all together crazy idea) or bacteria (another crazy but not so ridiculous idea) at a time when the Earth was first receptive to life (after the planet cooled and oceans formed).

Also, where did the material that made up this cataclysmic shower of material come from? Was there another planet out there in the same space as Mars, and did the two of them collide? There is evidence that Mars was struck by the "
largest impact in the solar system." Perhaps the two planets crashed, Mars survived, and the remnants of the other planet either showered the inner solar system with debris or continue to drift in the space between Mars and Jupiter we call the Asteroid Belt.

As this post developed, Pound360 dug into the origins of the Asteroid Belt and learned at Wikipedia that astronomers in the early nineteenth century postulated the Belt was formed by a shattered planet. (Pound360 figured that was about right, that we're about 200 years behind the science community.) Alas, there are two problems. One, material in the asteroid belt varies too widely in chemical composition to have come from a single planet. Two, the combined mass of the entire asteroid belt is "a small fraction of the mass of the Earth's Moon."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

PoundRant: Skin care beverages? We smell a joke.

So there's a drink out there called Borba. No, not boba, that drink with the great big gell-ball things in them. Borba. It's "skin balance water." On the bottle, it claims to "diminish skin's dryness, sensitivity and roughness" (at least that's what it says on the lychee-flavored bottle that Pound360 tested).

It's expensive, too. The bottle we got was on sale for $2.50 (which, we believe was 50 percent off). It tasted okay. Zero calories. But we didn't notice whether or not our skin was any less dry, sensitive or rough.

Now, we wouldn’t argue that this stuff is useless. We're pretty sure if you drink, say, 10 bottles of Borba a day, there would be an impact on skin health (it's tough to tell because it only says to drink Borba "daily" on the bottle -- but neglects to say how much daily -- to "enhance skin").

To make sure consumers know what they're getting into, the manufacturers of this stuff should be required to say exactly how many bottles a day are required to maintain the advertised results. Yes, a big black sticker that says, "It is required that you drink 10 bottles a day of this stuff to get the advertised result." That way a consumer understands it will take $50 per day (if it actually takes 10 bottles daily to get the result) or $1,500 per month to get the same result that, say, you could get from an $8 bottle of skin moisturizer.

Scientists Stunned by Activity in Ancient Galaxy

Using an all-star lineup of telescopes (Hubble, Spitzer, Keck and others), astronomers studying a very, very distant galaxy are making some surprising findings. First, it's the brightest starburst-class galaxy discovered.

a NASA press release claims at 12.3 billion light-years away it's the most distant galaxy ever found (however, last year, Pound360 heard astronomers had found a galaxy 13 billion light years away… but what's a few hundred million light years at these distances, right?). Since the universe is only 13.7 billion years old, astronomers are observing activity just 1.2 billion years after the Big Bang.

As if all that weren’t enough, this galaxy is cranking out stars like nothing scientists have ever seen: 4,000 per year. Our galaxy only makes 10 stars per year. At the rate of 4,000 stars per year, the distant galaxy would reach the size of "the most massive ones we see today" in just 50 million years (a blink on the cosmic timescale).

The rate of star formation forces us to rethink what we know about how galaxies form. Conventional wisdom suggested galaxies grow by absorbing other, smaller galaxies (or stealing parts of bigger ones). But if galaxies can grow at 4,000 stars per year, they don't need to absorb anything to reach the sizes we're observing out there.

(Image courtesy NASA. And we have no idea what it is. It was in the press release so we thought we'd toss it in.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Govt. Calculation for Value of Life Falls… Again

When considering regulations, the government assigns a value to individual human lives to weigh the costs (how much it will take to enforce a regulation) and benefits (the combined value of all the lives saved). The value of an individual is determined by the EPA, and it’s fallen steadily from around $8 million in 2001 to $6.9 million this year, reports MSNBC.

Pound360 personally feels like a million bucks. Usually does. So we were pretty thrilled to hear we were worth seven-times that! But that’s neither here-nor-there…

Talk about adding insult to injury. Thanks EPA. As if it weren’t bad enough that housing prices are crashing, the stock market is in free fall, gas prices are up and it costs more to buy a sack of groceries.

Could the falling value of an American have anything to do with the falling value of the dollar? Maybe it’s the president who’s been in office since 2000?

"Some environmentalists accuse the Bush administration of changing the value to avoid tougher rules,” reports MSNBC.

The EPA gets their number from economists that “calculate the value based on what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks, and on how much extra employers pay their workers to take on additional risks.”

Here's Why Pears Rot Faster than Apples

Pears and apples seem similar enough. Compared to an orange or banana, pears and apples have a similar texture, taste kind of the same, have the same kind of skin and so on.

So why do pears rot so much faster? The biggest difference between the two, at first glance, is the shape. But that has nothing to do with it. It's all about the microscopic structure the fruits use to move oxygen from skin to core,
according to a report at the BBC.

Using a "giant X-ray machine able to resolve features down to and below a thousandth of a millimeter," researchers found pears use a smooth network of channels whereas apples have "irregular cavities" used to pass oxygen around. Apples have "much less water… to slow the penetration of gas," too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Global Warming Plagues Ocean's Precious Coral

As atmospheric CO2 levels skyrocket, ocean water is warmer (by almost two degrees) and more acidic (30 percent more), and that's killing coral, reports the Nightly News.

According to the report, "One third of corals face extinction by 2050."

So what? Twenty-five percent of ocean species rely on coral for their survival. And one billion people rely on fish as their "primary source of protein."

Check out the video…

Cheney Ordered Climate Testimony Papers Slashed

Let's say you're second in command of the world's most powerful country -- or any country -- and you're given information that greenhouse gas is endangering the health of your citizens. What do you do? Here are some options:
A) Take action to cut greenhouse gasses
B) Ignore the info
C) Have the info manipulated so it doesn't say greenhouse gasses are deadly
Most well-adjusted, normal human beings would select A. But if you're the second most powerful person in the world, and your name is Dick Cheney, you pick C.

Pound360 would like to enact a new law. Anyone that voted for Bush/Cheney must pay double taxes over the next five years. The extra taxes would go towards discounting the taxes of everyone else in the country cleaning up the environment. Anyone that voted for Bush/Cheney twice should pay double taxes for 10 years.

Back to this business of manipulating climate testimony. Former EPA official Jason K. Burnett recently revealed Cheney's office "was deeply involved" in cutting half of Center for Disease Control and Prevention testimony last fall demonstrating climate change is harmful to people's health,
reports ABC News.

According to the CDC, "manmade pollution is warming the Earth" and will both increase the spread of disease and cause injuries from severe weather.

Burnett (a "lifelong Democrat") was told by Cheney's Office to "remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Soyuz Drama Unfolds at Space Station

In April, reentry of a Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts back to Earth from the International Space Station went terribly wrong, and nearly turned catastrophic. "The situation was on a razor's edge," said one Russian official.

That was the second troubled reentry in a row for Soyuz capsules and the third in the previous five years. Why should we care about a Russian space capsule blowing up on reentry? Since NASA is mothballing the shuttle fleet in 2010, Soyuz capsules will be the only way to commute to the Station for anybody from any country until 2015.

Soyuz problems so far have revolved around malfunction explosive bolts, "pyrobolts," which are supposed to separate the Soyuz' "propulsion module" from the "descent capsule." So to get to the bottom of the problem, an "audacious spacewalk is scheduled for Thursday" during which Station commander Sergey Volkov will saw through insulation on a Soyuz and remove an explosive bolt for examination,
reports the NY Times.

The pyrobolt, which packs enough charge to blow somebody's hand off (or a hole in a spacesuit, or perhaps the side of the Space Station), will be placed in a "steel canister strong enough to contain the blast" and taken inside for examination.

Despite the risk, Space Station program officials on Earth said "We are confident that this is a very safe operation."

UPDATE: They got it! Safely.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Methane Hydrate: The Incredible Frozen Fuel

Japan is at the forefront of efforts to mine a frozen form of natural gas called methane hydrate reports CBS News. What’s bizarre is that the frozen stuff actually burns when it’s in ice form. Never mind that it could be a homegrown energy source for a country that’s been desperate for one for centuries. A few months ago, Pound360 blogged on this, but you have to see this…

Life may have emerged surprisingly soon after earth formed

The best evidence we have right now is that life started on earth 3.5 billion years ago. But a new finding suggests it may have started as early as 4.2 billion years ago according to a report at ScienceDaily.

This is pretty surprising to Pound360 considering our best guess is that
the earth is only 4.54 billion years old.

Scientists studying a 4.2 million-year-old diamond discovered in Australia noticed high concentrations of carbon 12, "a feature usually associated with organic life."

Strange Discovery Casts Moon's Accepted Origins in Doubt

Conventional wisdom holds the moon was created when an object the size of Mars collided with the earth more than 4 billion years ago. Material ejected from the impact, the theory goes, would have eventually coalesced into the moon we see today.

(Interesting side note:
a recent theory suggests the moon was accompanied by two mini-moons for a time after the collision.)

However, a new finding "throws at least a little water on the currently favored hypothesis concerning the moon's origin."

According to analysis of tiny pebbles retrieved during the Apollo 15 and 17 missions (yes, they're still pulling findings out of those missions!), the moon's crust contained 260 to 745 parts per million of water, the same amount as the Earth's upper mantle.

So what? Well, any water that may have ended up in the moon should have been vaporized in the collision that formed it. But Pound360 wonders if comets crashing into the primordial moon couldn't have done the trick. Well, that would be a lot of comets, eh? Before you laugh too hard, remember
there are at least 1,500 comets still flying around our solar system.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shasta home to last growing glaciers in U.S.

Thanks to global warming, almost every glacier in the United States is in retreat. Every glacier, that is, except for the ones on Mt. Shasta in Northern California, reports CNN.

The reason: a warming Pacific Ocean has generated more precipitation at Shasta. The increased snowfall has outpaced glacier losses from a 1.8 degree rise in temps at the mountain. But Shasta is alone. The 498 glaciers and ice fields in the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains have been slashed by 50 percent over the last century. In fact, all U.S. glaciers have been shrinking.

How much longer can Shasta hold out? It's going to be difficult. The mountain needs an additional 20 percent bump in precipitation to keep up with the next 1.8 degree increase in temperatures.

If the glaciers hold out for another 50 to 75 years, they'll have another, more serious, issue to worry about. Shasta is almost due for an eruption. For the past 4,000 years, Shasta has erupted once every 250 to 300. The most recent eruption was 200 years ago.

Terrorism Paranoia Reportedly Kills 1,600 After 9/11

According to a (unfortunately) short piece at Discover Magazine, 1,600 people died as a result of terrorism paranoia during 2002. According to the piece…

"In the aftermath of 9/11, many Americans were so afraid of flying that they chose to drive instead. That decision, based on the perceived threat of another airliner hijacking, led to 1,600 casualties in the following year."

This excerpt is part of, what appears to be, a super-short review of Daniel Gardner's book, "The Science of Fear."

What they don't explain is where that 1,600 number comes from. Is that the increase in traffic fatalities? Is that the number of fatalities that came out of the increased traffic on the highway?

Pound360 supposes you have to read the book to find out. What, is Discover Magazine publishing it? Why spare the details? Tell us more! Pound360 ain't book people.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

First Ringed Moon Discovered

NASA's Cassini mission to the Saturn system has uncovered another amazing find: rings around one of the gas giant's moons, reports Discover Magazine.

The moon, Rhea, has puzzled scientists. Not only should a moon not have the gravity needed to sustain rings, but Saturn's gravity should have pulled them away. That is, unless the rings formed recently. "It may be that the debris was kicked off recently enough that Saturn has not yet had a chance to destabilize it."

Cassini has already moved on, but it will be back to gather more data from Rhea in 2010.

Some of Pound360's past coverage of the Cassini mission:
‘Earth-Like’ Moon May Have Underground Ocean
Researchers Describe 'Chaotic' Saturn System
Space Probe Makes Daring Maneuver in Search of Life
Malfunction 'Undermines' Cassini's Bold Maneuver

Next-gen Toyota Prius outfitted with solar panels

You might expect a car company with a successful car line to keep making the same thing over-and-over-and-over until sales crash and magazine headlines ask in bold, red letters, "What went wrong!?" At least, that's what you'd expect from a U.S. car company.

Over in Japan, car maker Toyota, however, is adding something cool to the 2009 Prius: solar panels,
reports CNET's Crave blog (check out a pic of the car at that link, too).

No, the car's wheels won't be powered by the panels (it's not that cool), but the AC will be. Oh, the car will be able to park itself, too. Helps fight global warming. Draws power from the sun. AND parks itself? What a car.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Air Conditioning Vs. Rolled-Down Windows

Slate's Green Lantern confronts the question, "Does it really save gas to roll down your windows instead of flipping on the AC?" The answer is yes.

But the savings are so small, so only the cheapest of cheapskates will roll forgo air conditioning to save money.

Then again, there's the environmental perspective. If everyone shut off the AC and rolled down their windows, the miniscule individual savings would add up to big aggregate savings.

According to Slate, "AC can cut fuel economy by anywhere from 3 percent to 10 percent." When it's really hot outside, the cut can run as deep as 20 percent. In the end, they suggest, "you should save a few gallons of gas over the course of the summer."

If you're interested in conserving, they offer a good rule of thumb: "Keep the windows down while on city streets, then resort to air conditioning when you hit the highway."

Note that, as your speed increases, the drag from open windows makes your engine work harder.

Dried vs. Fresh Fruit

Basically, fresh fruit wins. Of course. Yes, dried fruit packs more fiber and nutrients into a smaller package (the same package, basically, without the water), but a number of nutrients (like iron and vitamin C) are lost in the drying process, reports the NY Times. For example, drying apricots wipes out 75 percent of their iron and 95 percent of their vitamin C.

Monday, July 07, 2008

100 Years Later, Mysterious Tunguska Event Continues to Amaze

What annihilated 830 square miles of forest in Siberia 100 years ago? On the centennial anniversary, there's a bunch of coverage out there of the event: from the NY Times' rambling, boring coverage to Discover magazine's more succinct and fascinating piece and everything in between (here's a piece from Scientific American with lots of pics).

Here are some pretty amazing details from the Discover Magazine piece:

  • The explosion likely occurred four to six miles above the Earth's surface
  • The culprit was probably a meteor less than 100 feet across
  • Moving at 21,000 mph, the rock unleashed a blast 1000-times more powerful than an atom bomb (somewhere between 10 and 15 megatons of TNT)
  • Light from the event was visible as far away as London. And it was more than just a flash. "Londoners could still read their newspapers by the mysterious light in the night sky a day or so later."
  • No extraterrestrial material was ever recovered from the blast zone
  • Some speculate the explosion was caused by "an enormous upwelling of methane gas from beneath the Earth's crust."

Coffee Aroma Reduces Stress in Lab Tests

Pound360 is a bit skeptical of this story since is smacks of new age pseudo-science. But researchers have found the aroma of coffee has a stress-relieving affect on sleep-deprived lab rats, reports WebMD (via CBS).

These are real affects, too. In the rats' brains, activity in 17 genes and protein changes were detected.

We suppose it makes some sense. When you smell something, your nose is picking up particles from the air. So it's possible those particles could make their way into your blood stream and affect the body's chemistry. But if it's that simple, what are the hundreds (thousands?) of other smells we experience over the course of a day doing to our bodies?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Human Waste? Global Warming? China has an Olympic-Size Problem.

A blanket of fluorescent-green algae, two-feet thick in some places, is plaguing part of the Chinese coast where Olympic events are to take place in just six weeks, reports the NBC Nightly News.

The slime is covering about 5,000 square miles, including a third of the Olympic boating race course.

According to the report, this type of algae bloom is "often the result of the discharge of untreated sewage." But of course, the Chinese government has another perspective. "Warmer ocean temperatures," they suggest, "are the cause of this mess."

China has "mobilized" 20,000 people to clean up this mess. By hand. Or sometimes with a rake. Do they get Olympic medals for that?

Check out the report below. You need to see this to fully comprehend it.

Flip-flops ‘Bad for your feet and legs’

An Auburn University study shows wearing flip-flops alters one’s stride, “which can result in problems and pain from the foot up into the hips and lower back,” according to a NY Times report.

This doesn’t mean you should toss your flips, it’s just that they’re “best worn for short periods of time.”

Isn’t that what they’re for anyhow? We at Pound360 don’t understand how people wear flips nonstop, everyday for months at a time.

In fact, we don’t understand is the whole leisure clothing thing. We see people in sweat pants, pajama pants and of course flip-flops all the flippin’ time, especially since this operation is run out of Southern California.

Look, we’re not saying people should wear suit jackets and cuff links. In fact, we don’t even tuck in our shirts. But we do wear normal pants (sometimes with holes in the knees), closed-toe shoes or boots and occasionally a button-up shirt.

Why? Seinfeld summed it up best when George showed up in a pair of sweatpants: "You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world, 'I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.'"

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

1,500 Comets and Counting for One Detector

Forgive us for being nieve, but when we heard a single satellite (NASA's SOHO) has discovered 1,500 comets since 1995, as reported by (via MSNBC), Pound360 was amazed.

One thousand five hundred comets. One satellite. And that's in our solar system alone! We thought there were maybe ten.

Experts believe 85 percent of SOHO's comet finds are the remains of a single, giant comet that disintegrated hundreds of years ago.

(Image courtesy NASA)

Gadget Charges Your Cell Phone While You Dance

Renewable energy firm GotWind has teemed up with mobile phone operator Orange to release a device that charges cell phones with kinetic energy, reports Reuters.

Basically, you strap the device to your arm, plug in your cell phone, start moving and the charging begins. The GotWind/Orange alliance recommends cell phone users dance to charge their handsets. But since Pound360 staffers are big-d Dorks that can't dance, we wonder if we can charge our phones by taking the kinetic chargers for a jog.

Then again, we have a feeling that, to charge a phone, it would take 48 hours of constant running. It's like the calorie thing. Running is hard. But jogging a mile only burns about 350 calories.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Still No Answers in Severed Foot Mystery

Why are severed feet washing up on Canadian coast near Vancouver? They've been washing up for almost a year now -- five total, two in the last month -- but authorities are still struggling to come up with answers reports the Guardian UK.

Could the feet belong to 2004 Asian tsunami victims? Could they be the remains of maritime accident victims? Or are we witnessing the calling card of a serial killer? Pound360 is both fascinated and pretty creeped out by the whole thing.

Four of the feet are right feet. Three are size 12. All are fitted with a running shoe.

Could it just be a strange coincidence? Experts disagree. "This is such a highly improbable situation it begs the question of foul play," said one oceanographer. However, a police spokesperson told the Guardian, "it is a unique situation but that doesn't mean there is a link between them all."

Worms, Parasites 'Draining' 10 mil. Americans

At least 10 million Americans are suffering from worm or parasite infections that do not kill, but drain health and energy, reports Reuters.

Although mortality rates for the infections are zero, "they impact on child development, intellectual development, hearing and sometimes even heart disease," according to one expert.

"It's amazing what we tolerate," said George Washington University's Dr. Peter Hotez. "Occurring among voiceless people… It's an unintended form of racism in a sense."

It makes sense to Pound360 to spend on a problem like this. But we're pretty sure Washington could care less. Perhaps we need to put it in terms they can appreciate.

Dear congressman: Aside from the simple fact that it's the right thing to do for our fellow countrymen, to grant a life free of worms and other parasites, think of the gains in productivity.

Anybody listening?

Pound360 Archive

About Me

My photo
I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.