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solar power plane

A solar revolution - by Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst

It's a deep-breath moment in the history of technology as Solar Impulse soars to the skies.

Because, pinch yourself, solar power is predicted to become the dominant source of electricity globally by 2050.

The price of solar electric panels fell 70% in recent years and costs are expected to halve again this decade.

And Deutsche Bank forecasts that, based on current fossil fuel prices, solar will produce power as cheaply as gas in two thirds of the world before 2020.

In the UK the solar industry thinks it can compete with wind within 18 months and with gas in the near future. In the USA, solar jobs already outnumber coal jobs.

The solar revolution was sparked by government subsidies, which attracted venture capitalists to fund innovation and created a huge market that Chinese manufacturers are battling to exploit.

The solar boom is a huge help in the battle against climate change, but scientists warn it's not nearly enough. And we must find ways of storing that mighty but capricious power, and making it work with the grid.

http://www.solarimpulse.com/home


 
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keurig waste

Thursday, March 5, 2015

 

Despite bringing joy to millions of coffee-craving people every day, John Sylvan, creator of the Keurig coffee maker, regrets his invention due to the amount of waste it generates.

To this day Sylvan does not understand consumers 'slavish' addiction to the pods, which he finds, "Rather expensive." When Sylvan developed the product, he thought it would mainly be used in offices -- but that hasn't been the case. According to the Atlantic, one in three U.S. homes owns a pod-based coffee machine.

As many as 40 per cent of Canadian homes use them, and the non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste they generate are extremely unpopular among environmentalists. "I don't know why people have them in their house," Sylvan told the CBC, adding that consumers should consider purchasing eco-friendly alternatives. Sylvan worked at Keurig during the 1990s. He thought he Keurig would be a benefit to office dwellers, enabling them to grab a cafe-quality drink without having to venture outside. "That would make it environmentally neutral, because you wouldn't have those Starbucks cups [everywhere]," Sylvan told the CBC. But the popularity of the product negated his intention, quickly morphing into a massive generator of plastic waste. Sylvan left the company in 1997 and sold his ownership to Keurig Green Mountain for $50,000. Today, the company sells billions of plastic K-cups each year, with Canadians spending $95 million in 2014 on single serve coffee products. In 2013, 8.3 billion K-cups were produced. Keurig Green Mountain says it plans to have its cups fully recyclable by 2020, but Sylvan tells the CBC he's skeptical of the plan. "There's other ways to do it, but they're not exploring other ways to do it," he says. "They're going to make those little plastic cups forever, because they can't think outside the box."

PLASTIC COFFEE PODS AND THE ENVIRONMENT: Plastic coffee pods can degrade to form microplastics, which can migrate into waterways and pose a threat to wildlife. While all the components used to create a K-cup are recyclable individually, the product cannot be recycled when combined into a single unit. The cups can take up to 50 years or more to degrade in a landfill.

Sources: The Atlantic | The CBC


 
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anatomy of fear
 


 
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Taken from the documentary "Taking Liberties". http://youtu.be/5jX2Ye9D8Qg

 
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china destroys mountains

The country has been bulldozing hundreds of mountains to make way for new cities but scientists are not happy, saying the consequences of the policy ‘‘have not been thought through’’.

In the past decade, mountains stretching over hundreds of kilometres have been demolished and the soil shovelled into valleys to create flat land, in a practise that has become commonplace in China.
One-fifth of China’s population is estimated to live in mountainous areas and while cities are expanding rapidly, land available for development is in short supply. Local officials think that razing the mountains and selling or leasing the new land will generate billions of yuan and ease pressure on agriculturally or culturally valuable land elsewhere.

While creating land by slicing the tops off mountains has been done before in strip mining, especially in eastern United States, it has never been carried out on a scale as large as that in China and the consequent infill has never been used before for urban construction.

But now, years after the mountain-flattening projects started, three Chinese academics have condemned the campaign, writing in the journal Nature that ‘‘earth-moving on this scale without scientific support is folly’’.

‘‘There has been too little modelling of the costs and benefits of land creation. Inexperience and technical problems delay projects and add costs, and the environment impacts are not being thoroughly considered,’’ Chang'an University researchers Peiyue Li, Hui Qian and Jianhua Wu wrote.

The authors state that local governments in China are prioritising money over the environment.

They write that when air pollution caused by the Lanzhou project became visible in April 2013, work was halted pending an environmental assessment. But it was resumed four weeks later because costs to the local government and contractors were mounting. The assessment still hasn’t been completed.

‘‘Land-creation projects are already causing air and water pollution, soil erosion and geological hazards such as subsidence. They destroy forests and farmlands and endanger wild animals and plants."

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/china-bulldozes-mountains-to-create-land-for-cities-20140606-zs03t.html

 
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fox not monkey meat at walmart

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, has recalled donkey meat sold at some outlets in China after tests showed the product contained the DNA of other animals, the U.S. company said.

The scandal could dent Wal-Mart's reputation for quality in China's $1 trillion food and grocery market where it plans to open 110 new stores in the next few years. China is the largest grocery market in the world and is set to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2016, according to the Institute of Grocery Distribution.

Donkey meat is a popular snack in some areas of China, although it only accounts for a tiny fraction of overall meat consumption. In 2011 China slaughtered 2.4 million donkeys, according to country's livestock industry yearbook.

TRACK RECORD

Wal-Mart, French grocer Carrefour SA, McDonald's Corp and KFC-parent Yum Brands Inc among others, have come under fire before in China over food safety issues, a sensitive topic in a country riddled with scares from a fatal tainted milk scandal to recycled "gutter oil" used for cooking.

 
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qatar exploitation workers

With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil now less than 30 days away, eight workers have died building stadiums for the event. Even one death is a steep price for any sporting event, and this is a black eye for Brazil, which is behind schedule in its preparation. There is also some precedent: Two workers died during construction for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Yet the losses in Brazil and South Africa look minuscule compared with the crisis mounting in Qatar, which is scheduled to host the World Cup in the summer of 2022, despite extremely hot weather. Deaths there could number in the thousands.

In a new segment from ESPN’s (DIS) investigative wing, E:60, reporter Jeremy Schaap travels to Qatar to see the housing where Qatar’s immigrant workers live. The conditions are filthy, cramped, and dangerous. Even without the pressure of the spotlight of the World Cup, hundreds of young men die every year from accidents, suicides, and heart attacks—their bodies shipped back to widows and orphaned children in Nepal, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and other countries that send workers to the tiny emirate.

bedroom of workers
The bedroom of workers' accommodation in the Industrial Area of Doha

Qatar employs a Kafala labor system, which effectively controls the lives of its foreign workers, who make up the majority of the population. (Only about 250,000 of Qatar’s 2 million residents are citizens.) Workers take out loans from “sponsor” companies to cover the cost of travel and housing. These sponsors then control everything about the workers’ lives in Qatar, including the right to leave. As it stands, Kafala will supply the labor force to build either eight or 12 stadiums for the 2022 World Cup.

The Qatar organizing committee reported yesterday that no workers had died building World Cup venues, mostly because construction has not yet begun in earnest. According to the E:60 segment, 184 Nepali workers in Qatar have died in the past year and 680 in the past five years. Currently, 400,000 Nepali workers are in the country. India reports 450 deaths from its emigrants to Qatar in 2012 and 2013. Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), tells Schaap that under the current system more than 4,000 workers will die during World Cup construction, a total she calls “insanely criminal.”

Under pressure from ITUC and other human rights organizations, Qatar announced today that it will amend its labor laws and remove employers’ control over their employees’ exits from the country. It remains to be seen whether the new measures will bring significant change. Burrow calls previous reforms “sham provisions” that rely on self-audits by employers. Nothing short of abolishing Kafala will do. And Burrow contends that Qatar would do it if FIFA President Sepp Blatter made it the price of hosting the World Cup.


 
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facebook information

Abstract

Members of social network platforms often choose to reveal private information, and thus sacrifice some of their privacy, in exchange for the manifold opportunities and amenities offered by such platforms. In this article, we show that the seemingly innocuous combination of knowledge of confirmed contacts between members on the one hand and their email contacts to non-members on the other hand provides enough information to deduce a substantial proportion of relationships between non-members. Using machine learning we achieve an area under the (receiver operating characteristic) curve () of at least for predicting whether two non-members known by the same member are connected or not, even for conservative estimates of the overall proportion of members, and the proportion of members disclosing their contacts.

In other words “Based on realistic assumptions about the percentage of a population that are members of a social network and the probability with which they will upload their e-mail address books, the calculations enabled us to accurately predict 40 percent of the relationships between non-members,” concluded study co-author Dr. Michael Hanselmann of Heidelberg University.

Read the whole article here:   http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0034740#pone-0034740-g001


 
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The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney, is an American diversified multinational mass media corporation headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. It is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue.[4] Disney was founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, and established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into live-action film production, television, and theme parks. The company also operated under the names Walt Disney Studio and Walt Disney Productions. Taking on its current name in 1986, it expanded its existing operations and also started divisions focused upon theater, radio, music, publishing, and online media. In addition, Disney has created new corporate divisions in order to market more mature content than is typically associated with its flagship family-oriented brands.

The company is best known for the products of its film studio, the Walt Disney Studios, which is today one of the largest and best-known studios in Hollywood. Disney also owns and operates the ABC broadcast television network; cable television networks such as Disney Channel, ESPN, A+E Networks, and ABC Family; publishing, merchandising, and theatre divisions; and owns and licenses 14 theme parks around the world. It also has a successful music division. The company has been a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since May 6, 1991. An early and well-known cartoon creation of the company, Mickey Mouse, is a primary symbol of The Walt Disney Company.

CORPORATE HISTORY

After World War II began, box-office profits declined. When the United States entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many of Disney's animators were drafted into the armed forces. The U.S. and Canadian governments commissioned the studio to produce training and propaganda films. By 1942 90% of its 550 employees were working on war-related films.[10] Films such as the feature Victory Through Air Power and the short Education for Death (both 1943) were meant to increase public support for the war effort. Even the studio's characters joined the effort, as Donald Duck appeared in a number of comical propaganda shorts, including the Academy Award-winning Der Fuehrer's Face (1943).

Here is the Movie, enjoy


 
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captain crunch

ABSTRACT: To what extent do cereal spokes-characters make eye contact with
children versus adults, and does their eye contact influence choice?

The shelf placement and eye positioning of 86 cereal spokes-characters were evaluated in ten grocery stores in the Eastern United States. In Study 1, we calculated the average height of cereal boxes on the shelf for adult- versus children-oriented cereals (48 versus 23-in.) and the inflection angle of spokes-characters’ gaze (0.4 versus -9.6 degrees). We found that cereal characters on children- (adult-) oriented cereals make incidental eye contact at children’s (adults’) eye level. In Study 2, we showed that eye contact with cereal spokes-characters increased feelings of trust and connection to the brand, as well as choice of the brand over competitors. Currently, many of the cereals targeted towards children are of the heavily sugared, less healthy variety. One potential application of this finding would be to use eye contact with spokes-characters to promote healthy choices and healthier food consumption.

Read the whole article here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2419182

 


 
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A stunning discovery made at a research station in Antarctica indicates that Albert Einstein was right about the nature of the universe.
The importance of this finding, announced yesterday afternoon at an excited press conference at Harvard University, cannot be overestimated; one leading physicist has gone so far as to describe it as “one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time”.

The announcement confirmed that the Bicep2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation) telescope at the Amundsen-Scott polar base in Antarctica had found conclusive evidence for the existence of gravity waves, colossal ripples in space-time that pervade today’s universe and which were formed when the cosmos was just 10 to the minus 35 seconds old.

If this is confirmed, it will be the final experimental vindication of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It will show once and for all that the notion that our universe began with a colossal explosion of matter and energy 13,978,000,000 years ago – the Big Bang – is correct.

If cosmic inflation, which we need in order to explain several weird facts about our universe, is correct, then this provides strong support for the notion of the “multiverse”; the idea that what we see when we look up at the night sky is but a gnat on the back of the elephant that is the true totality of creation.
The existence of gravity waves is strong evidence that “our” universe may not only exist alongside an infinite number of parallel worlds, but may itself be infinite in extent, containing endless copies of our galaxy – and indeed our world and you and me – located countless trillions of light years apart.

Prof Max Tegmark, a Swedish physicist at MIT, is a leading proponent of the “multiverse” hypothesis, which states that our universe is just a tiny part of a much grander mass of parallel worlds. “It’s a bad day for multiverse sceptics, now that the smoking-gun evidence for inflation has been found,” he said yesterday. “Alex Vilenkin, Andrei Linde, Alan Guth and others have shown that inflation generically predicts a space that is not merely large but infinite, teeming with duplicate copies of our civilisation living out countless variations of our lives far, far away. ”

 

This is exciting stuff, but many questions remain. We still don’t know what happened before the Big Bang, or even if this question makes sense. We do not really know what drove this cosmic inflation, nor if it is related to the mysterious “dark energy” that continues to drive apart the galaxies (albeit more slowly) to this day.


 
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built for collapse

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilization could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena h
ave played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:
"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."

The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:
"Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from "increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput," despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid." In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:
".... appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."

Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."

In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)." The Guardian / By Nafeez Ahmed


 


 
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