pictures and video from spaaaace!

Backdropped by the blackness of space and the thin line of Earth’s atmosphere, the International Space Station is seen from Space Shuttle Discovery as the two spacecraft begin their relative separation.

By way of NASA Watch, here’s the shuttle flying around the ISS:

Jane Poynter and husband Taber MacCallum, Paragon CEO, are well known experts in the closed biological systems communities, and were themselves experimental subjects within a sealed ecosystem as resident scientists in the famous Biosphere 2 project of the early 90′s. Spending two years living with six others in a 3.2 acre greenhouse type structure in Oracle, Arizona, the largest closed system ever built, they emerged as a couple with a newly created company.

Growing the first plant on another world has enormous symbolic importance as well as important scientific research value for creating self contained lunar outposts and eventual settlements. “Plants have been grown in essentially zero gravity and of course in Earth gravity, but never in fractions of gravity,” said Dr. Volker Kern, Paragon’s Director of NASA Human Spaceflight Programs who conducted plant growth experiments in space on the US Space Shuttle. “Scientifically it will be very interesting to understand the effects of the Moon and one sixth gravity on plant growth.”

No pictures for this one, and all the better, really:

food, animal and wild ideas

There’s nothing new or ground-breaking in this opinion piece, except that it’s written by Thomas Friedman:

Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

Too bad he couldn’t have seen this before it all crashed. It’s not like no one had thought of it before. But what’s done is done, and now the question is whether he takes a productive role in fixing the mess he promoted or just gets a big head because he thinks he’s thunk of something new.

And speaking of ideas from unlikely sources, here’s a Vatican slant on women’s lib:

It sounds like a spoof or just plain condescension, but as our economy comes tumbling down, we should remember how much of the good life is built on technologies we take for granted.

On the other hand, returning to savage nature sounds pretty awesome too:

A chimpanzee at Sweden’s Furuvik Zoo has been observed chipping at concrete to create discs to throw at visitors. He even made weapons at night to throw at visitors when the zoo opens in the morning.

“My initial thought, when I was half awake, was it’s a lunatic ninja coming through the window. It seems about as likely as a kangaroo breaking in,” Beat Ettlin told local media Monday.

And on to the food we eat and how we get it. This promises to be the start of an interesting piece:

This is an interesting story about the disappearing bees. Ever since the global warming connection got scrubbed, no one has really picked up the story again. There’s still no agreement on just what’s happening, but it’s not the novel experience it’s been made out to be. And it still looks like some of the causes are environmental or related to the treatment of the bees:

And finally, I’ve been buying some seeds, and I plan to help my friends dig up their yards for victory gardens. Apparently it’s all the rage:

food, enviro, climate

Stop cutting down the forest or fucking tigers will eat you. No, really:

Haven’t you ever thought there was something a little funny about our obsession with the softest possible toilet paper? It’s one of those metaphor things. Anyway, the NY Times agrees:

More about your food- it’s really worthwhile for the link to the Michael Pollan article from last year:

A dollar will buy 1200 calories of cookies or chips but only 250 calories of carrots. If you don’t have a lot of money, the most rational thing to do is buy junk food to get the most calories for your buck.

Obama’s going to get lots of mileage out of just repealing stupid shit left behind by Bush:

Coolest year since 2000, sure, but still one of the ten warmest since 1880:

swissinfo: Humans are incredibly adaptable. Is there not a way for us to just live with a warming climate?

H.W.: The only problem with global change is that we have enough money in these northern continents to adapt but what will people do in the not-so-developed areas like Africa? They don’t have enough water today and the available water will decrease. In policy, we really have to deal with this situation and help these other countries. If we don’t help with our technology and do not find the best solution we will see huge problems in the future.

Speaking of which…

A report by the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers will next month call for governments to accept that climate change is now inevitable. Strategies must be put in place now to protect our infrastructure from its worst effects, alongside existing efforts to reduce emissions, it will argue.

In a month’s time IMechE will launch its three-pronged plan to a select group of MPs in an urgent bid to start implementing long-term adaptation.

And here’s the report. I haven’t read it yet.

arctic, nukes and food (updated with genuine science!)

The researchers, 26 corn-insect specialists, withheld their names because they feared being cut off from research by the companies. But several of them agreed in interviews to have their names used.

The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes.

This has been coming for a while- good number of enviros are going to be looking at nuclear power as the only way to get off of fossil fuels. As nothing continues to be done on climate change, it’s going to become more palatable as a last-ditch effort.

The one-time opponents of nuclear power, who include the former head of Greenpeace, have told The Independent that they have now changed their minds over atomic energy because of the urgent need to curb emissions of carbon dioxide.

They all take the view that the building of nuclear power stations is now imperative and that to delay the process with time-consuming public inquiries and legal challenges would seriously undermine Britain’s promise to cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

And no matter how safe it becomes, here’s one good reason that it will remain a bad idea:

I’m not going to try to cover the big fights over the melting Arctic that have been happening for the last few weeks. Here’s one good little piece that brings two of the big issues together, and today’s news with an  interesting paragraph:

“We’re beginning to get hints of change in ocean circulation, that’ll have a dramatic impact on the global climate system,” IPY director David Carlson told journalists.

Changes in ocean circulation are one of the big climate predictions to watch out for.  If that’s what they’re really seeing, then it has the potential to set off some large-scale changes that people don’t really expect yet.

And the awesome thing about the Arctic for the true news nerd is that it’s a scientific and environmental story, but it’s also about politics and navies and such:

EDIT: And this, by way of Technoccult:

assorted updates

Let’s start with a quick drive-by update from Minnesota:

Technoccult revisits the corn syrup story:

And there’s video now of a “collision” between the Sea Shepherds and a Japanese whaler. Many less-direct enviros are taking it as clear evidence that the Sea Shepherds rammed the whalers and starting their own little backlash. I think it’s still open to interpretation, but you know what? When I first heard the story, I just assumed they had rammed the Japanese ship. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but that’s what I give them money for. Not to hang banners or write letters, but to actively interfere with the whaling. I know they’ve rammed ships before, and that’s awesome. They were smart enough to stop before it came to anything more intense, and they’ve never killed or injured anyone yet, so I think they’re doing just fine.

You can see the video on Treehugger, which I think tends towards middle-class green consumerism, and Green Daily, which I think is touchy-feely at best. Whatever- it takes all kinds. Too bad they don’t see it that way themselves.

Treehugger frames it as a question for its readers (even if they slant the survey):

Green Daily proceeds directly to moralizing, calling Sea Shepherd a “dangerous pack of sociopaths”:

For what it’s worth, here’s Sea Shepherd’s claim of a successful campaign:

obscuring the truth for a living

You may have caught the Technoccult post I linked to the other day, about mercury being found in high fructose corn syrup. That post received a visit from a PR hack trying to defend the good name of HFCS. Klintron tells us the poster came from Weber Shandwick, apparently the world’s largest PR firm (WS site | CMD Sourcewatch | Wikipedia).

Fortunately, the good folks at Green Daily have given us a guide to just how Weber Shandwick has been telling lies without telling lies on this story:

First off, by stating that it challenges the “relevance and accuracy” of the Environmental Health study, the CRA stops short of declaring the study to be false. This, incidentally, protects the association from litigation, as well as allowing it to claim some small measure of honesty.

And the editor at Natural News seems to have run into these folks before:

A Weber Shandwick representative calls me every time I post an article about HFCS, by the way, usually with demands that I remove the entire article. I’ve invited the Corn Refiners Association to a phone interview to defend their position that HFCS doesn’t cause diabetes or obesity, and to answer questions about whether HFCS is really “natural.” So far, they have declined to be interviewed. It seems they don’t want to face real questions from an honest journalist who refuses to be censored by powerful corporations.

One thing I’ve got to say about the Corn Refiners Association is that they have a well-funded PR machine running around the internet trying to make everybody remove stories that say anything negative about HFCS.

Weber Shandwick lists its HQ as 919 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022. Businessweek lists their address as 640 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10019-6102. Both agree that their phone number is (212)445-8000.

tasty foods

I’ve got an injury that keeps me from getting as much exercise as I’d like right now, so my thinking about health has shifted a little towards what I eat instead. I think I’ll be adding a tag called “food”.

You’ve probably seen the mercury-in-your-corn-syrup story by now (thanks to Technoccult for the link, and be sure to read down into the comments for a fun surprise!) The big deal isn’t so much the mercury, as bad as that may be, but that the FDA let it slide. Now check out the new development in the salmonella-in-your-peanut-butter story (by way of Green Daily)….

Officials at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have been investigating the outbreak of salmonella illness, said yesterday that Peanut Corporation of America found salmonella in internal tests a dozen times in 2007 and 2008 but sold the products anyway, sometimes after getting a negative finding from a different laboratory.

Summary: food safety is breaking down. Time to quit pointing fingers at China, huh?

And don’t miss this one:

The principle seems to be that when plants are nudged to produce as much as possible — whether through lots of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides or through selective breeding — they deliver fewer nutrients. It evidently isn’t just the flavor that’s become diluted in those bland supermarket tomatoes.

This is a fascinating insight. We should reflect that for at least 50 years, the best-funded agricultural researchers are the ones work to maximize yield — that is, gross output per acre. Even now, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is expending hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to increase yields in Africa.