The scale of change in China

Shanghai skyline

In the next 10 years, China is expected to build more than 70 million new homes in what observers are calling an unprecedented housing boom.

Shanghai is China’s largest and most developed city.

This year alone, Shanghai will build towers with more living and working space than all the towers in New York City.

Business Week Online: 10 Wonders of the New China
“China’s current building boom is doing more than sucking up the world’s supply of steel — it’s creating a stage for some of today’s boldest architecture and engineering. Take a tour of the 10 of the most intriguing examples.” via preoccupations

Join all global power lines

Buckminster Fuller postage stampExcited to enjoy him, I joined R. Buckminster Fuller and others for dinner during a futurist’s conference I helped organize at the Marin Community College.

There was only one theme, his very famous question used in his “World Game” workshops:

“How do we make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?”

Walter Cronkite has put his backing behind a proposal to interconnect the electrical energy networks between nations and continents.

“In today’s terms, we might call this a world wide web of electricity – called the GENI Initiative.

Bucky saw this possibility decades before the rest of us.”

via terrawatts

[click pic to USPS postage stamp info]

CJ Fearnley maintains an extensive FAQ for Buckminster Fuller based primarily on the history of the discussions, interests, and needs of the readers of the BITNET mailing list Geodesic and its USENET gateway bit.listserv.geodesic and helps direct the Synergetics Collaborative.


Sometimes I think we’re alone.
Sometimes I think we’re not.
In either case, the thought is staggering.

R. Buckminster Fuller
via A Mindful Life

Greenhouse gas on the dinner table?

Jean-Marc Jancovici, whose website on climate change is readable, chartful with well-documented articles, estimates that roughly one-third of carbon emissions are a result of producing our food.

Plus, agriculture is the main source of the principal non-CO2 greenhouse gases: methane and nitrous oxide.

The U.S. food system consumes ten times more energy than it produces in food energy.

There are 52 transport and process stages in one bottle of ketchup.

Up to 25 percent of car journeys are to get food.

Manufacturing the packaging (wood, paper, steel, aluminium, plastics) accounts for 70-80 percent of the overall emissions of the food industry.

Electricity consumption linked to eating (fridges, freezers, dish-washers, stoves and ovens, not to mention small appliances) represent up to 22 percent of all energy consumed at home.

via culiblog

From plow to plate

Fight Global Warming with Your Knife and Fork

Why fast-food is cheap

From an interview with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

“There’s no question that the way we eat is in large part determined by legislation, the Farm Bill in particular.

There’s a set of rules for the food system, and those rules are written into the Farm Bill. Most of us are unaware of this bill and don’t understand how this whole system works.

The reason that fast-food is so cheap is in large part because we subsidize the growing of corn and soybeans, which are turned into livestock feed very cheaply, and the former into a very cheap sweetener, in the case of high-fructose corn syrup.

So we unwittingly made a set of choices, without any of us really being consulted about how we would eat. It’s no accident that this is a fast-food nation. Policy has a lot to do with it. So if you’re going to change the food system, there is a lot that you, the consumer, can do on your own; but in the end, it will be very important to make changes at the national level.

…I think the people involved don’t want anyone else getting involved. It works really well for them that it’s treated as a parochial piece of legislation only of interest to the senators from Iowa or Nebraska or Illinois.

Part of it starts with calling it the “Farm Bill.” Nobody thinks that farming is their issue. They think it’s a piece of legislation of interest to farmers.

It should be called the “Food Bill” because it really is about how we get our food. People aren’t aware of the impact of this piece of legislation. If they were, they would pay more attention, and there would be a larger political debate around it. I’m hoping this year there will be.”

via Social Design Notes

Medical professionals are too dirty

Doctors and nurses wash their hands one-third to one-half as often as necessary.

Each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, two million Americans acquire an infection while they are in the hospital.

Ninety thousand die of that infection.

“This is, embarrassingly, nothing new:
In 1847, at the age of twenty-eight, the Viennese obstetrician Ignac Semmelweis famously deduced that, by not washing their hands consistently or well enough, doctors were themselves to blame for childbed fever.”

Rising infection rates from superresistant bacteria have become the norm around the world.

Infection-control teams have been created to track down causes and build effective procedures, but staff are not following these new rules.

No part of human skin is spared from bacteria. Bacterial counts on the hands range from five thousand to five million colony-forming units per square centimeter. The hair, underarms, and groin harbor greater concentrations. On the hands, deep skin crevices trap 10 to 20 percent of the flora, making removal difficult, even with scrubbing, and sterilization impossible. The worst place is under the fingernails.

Plain soaps do, at best, a middling job of disinfecting.

Today’s antibacterial soaps contain chemicals such as chlorhexidine to disrupt microbial membranes and proteins.

Even with the right soap, however, proper hand washing requires a strict procedure. First, you must remove your watch, rings, and other jewelry (which are notorious for trapping bacteria). Next, you wet your hands in warm tap water. Dispense the soap and lather all surfaces, including the lower one-third of the arms, for the full duration recommended by the manufacturer (usually fifteen to thirty seconds). Rinse off for thirty full seconds. Dry completely with a clean, disposable towel. Then use the towel to turn the tap of. Repeat after any new contact with a patient.

Almost no one adheres to this procedure. It seems impossible.

Less irritating than soap, alcohol rinses and gels have been in use in Europe for almost two decades but for some reason only recently caught on in the United States.

They take far less time to use — only about fifteen seconds or so to rub a gel over the hands and fingers and let it air-dry.

Update on manufacturing transplants

British scientists are reporting that within 10 years an entirely new heart could be produced from stem cells – a major step towards growing entire organs for transplant.

Doctors could be using artificially grown heart components in transplants such as valves within three years. [story]

Ethanol emissions no better than gas

Flying in the face of current policy, there’s finally been an emissions study of blended fuel.

The head of Environment Canada’s toxic emissions research was quoted as saying,

“Looking at tailpipe emissions,
from a greenhouse gas perspective,
there really isn’t much difference between ethanol and gasoline.”

The study found no statistical difference between the greenhouse gas emissions of regular unleaded fuel and 10 per cent ethanol blended fuel. Although the study found a reduction in carbon monoxide, a pollutant that forms smog, emissions of some other gases, such as hydrocarbons, actually increased under certain conditions.

Others are responding by pointing out that the issue is more than just tailpipe emissions. It’s between the tailpipe and the whole cycle. [story]

The final purpose of a patent

LaserFX neon spiralThomas Jefferson said:

“…receives light without darkening me…”

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself, but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it.

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breath, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

Dogs and quiet trees

Lucky Springer SpanielI have learned to raise my dog
into his best of breeding
and the pinnacle of his name.

Herald men have known this.
Becoming my friend honors this creature
thus he learns more than I can teach.

Along with me is he.
Where he is, must I.

Whispering works.
And hands always.
And barking.
And warm.
And new.
And fun.
And me.

More than what I give, better is
when he’s giving all he knows
and best when he’s inventing more
to revel in his joy.

Who Communicates?
Rudyard Kipling observed
“six honest serving men of learning and intellect:
what, where, who, when, how, and why.”

Dogs, parrots, elephants, and even pigeons have been documented communicating what, where, who, and arguably, how. But they all lack the other two servants, when and why, which is the reason Dr. Fox stops short of recommending a dog’s interaction with its master as an intellectual dialogue. Dogs can be taught to tell who precisely how and where to throw what stick for them to catch. But no dog can communicate why she prefers that stick over another one. Beyond the when, of right now, no dog has ever asked a person to feed it tomorrow. Even the dogged quality of unconditional love, as exemplary an expression of loyalty as exists on Earth, can be explained as an instinctual allegiance to a pack leader transferred to a human master. The science of interspecies communication is in its infancy and saddled with more controversy than it probably deserves.

via 2003 hypergognition

World’s largest crystals

Mexico's crystal cave
“The largest natural crystals on Earth have been discovered in two caves within a silver and zinc mine near Naica, in Chihuahua, Mexico,” a Discovery News article reprinted here tells us.

“Reaching lengths of over 20 feet, the clear, faceted crystals are composed of selenite, a crystalline form of the mineral gypsum.”

via Pruned