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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Today's La Cucaracha Toon

Underworld: The Intrepid Cave Photography of Robbie Shone

Robbie Shone is a British adventure, cave and travel photographer based out of Austria. His adventures have led him to the remotest areas of China, Papua New Guinea, Borneo, the Alps and Crete where he has photographed the deepest, largest, and longest cave systems ever discovered. These feats involve dangling on a thin rope 650 ft. (200m) above the floor in the world’s deepest natural shaft, exploring the far ends of a 117 mile long cave system, and spending nearly four days continuously underground on shoots.

Collected here are some of his most jaw-dropping shots, many from a 2012 excursion into cave systems in Wulong County, China. You can explore more of his cave photography over on his website. All imagery courtesy the photographer.



320° Licht: A Repurposed 112-Meter High Gas Tank Converted into a Cathedral of Light

German creative studio Urbanscreen have just unveiled ‘320 Licht,’ a massive light projection inside the cathedral-like interior of the 20,000 square meter Gasometer Oberhausen in Germany (the same space that housed Christo’s Big Air Package last year). Urbanscreen utilized both the ceiling and 320 degrees of the interior space of this former gas tank to project a 22-minute loop of digital animation with 21 high-powered Epson projectors.

“This experience is based on the vastness of the Gasometer,” sound designer Jonas Wiese told the Creator’s Project. “We tried to work with that expression to make the space bigger and smaller, to deform it and to change its surface over and over while not exaggerating and overwriting the original effect of the room.” He continues, “the age of the screen is coming to an end, digital interfaces will dissolve and merge into the social space we poetically contribute to this through art.”

320 Licht is part of the exhibition The Appearance of Beauty and will be on view through December 30th, 2014. Watch the included video above from the Creator’s Project to learn more about how it all came together.


XKCD Toon: Free Speech


Map of where nobody lives in USA


We've seen the map of where everyone lives. Now here's the reverse of that by Nik Freeman: where nobody lives in the United States.

A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.

See also Stephen Von Worley's map from a couple years ago, which shows blocks in the US with only one person per square mile.

links at link

High Levels Of Mercury Found In Fish In Remote National Parks

Unhealthily high levels of mercury have been found in fish in national parks in Alaska and the West, proving that even the most remote lakes and streams in the U.S. aren’t immune to mercury pollution.

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service released a report Thursday that found 5 percent of the freshwater fish sampled in 21 western national parks had levels of mercury that were high enough to trigger toxic responses from the fish themselves, potentially endangering their health and lives. In addition, 35 percent of the fish sampled had enough mercury in them to impact the health of some predatory birds, and 68 percent of fish had mercury levels above the recommended amount for “unlimited consumption” by humans.

The researchers said in their report that the levels of mercury in some national parks were alarming because they occurred in small fish — organisms that should have the least amount of mercury in their systems, because the higher fish are on the food chain, the more mercury they’re expected to have.

Zion, Capital Reef, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Lake Clark National Parks all contained sites in which most fish exceeded benchmarks for the protection of human and wildlife health,” the report reads. “This finding is particularly concerning in Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks because the fish from these parks were speckled dace, a small, invertebrate-feeding species, yet their Hg concentrations were as high or higher than those in the largest, long-lived predatory species, such as lake trout.”


Connecticut Takes A Step Closer To Keep Fracking Wastewater Out Of The State

Activists on Wednesday delivered petitions with over 5,600 signatures to Connecticut lawmakers in support of legislation that would ban the disposal or storage of wastewater from fracking anywhere in the state. Supporters of the prohibition warn that Connecticut could become the next dumping ground for waste from Pennsylvania’s over 6,000 gas wells.

On Monday, the legislature’s Judiciary Committee approved the proposed ban, SB 327, by an overwhelming 34-6 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate floor.

If the bill is not passed by both the Senate and the House by the end of the current legislative session, May 7, it will die by default.

Last year, three similar bills to ban fracking waste disposal in the state were introduced. Only two of the bills ever made it out of committee and none ever made it any further in the legislative process.


A Nuclear Power Plant Goes On The Auction Block

In late March, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in southern California hosted a three-day nuclear auction, the first step in a decades-long decommissioning process for the recently shuttered generating station that will cost over $3 billion dollars, account for more than 1,500 jobs lost, and require the replacement of 2.2 gigawatts of power. Forced to close due to the failure of expensive equipment upgrades, the closure of the plant is illustrative of the turning point at which many nuclear power plants in the U.S. find themselves as they confront aging infrastructure, expensive repairs and upgrades, environmental risks, and price competition from natural gas, wind and solar power.

Available to the highest bidder at the auction was everything from overflowing toolboxes to heavy machinery to control panels reminiscent of the one Homer Simpson uses at his job as a nuclear technician. Community members joined seasoned dealers in scouting out turbine heat exchangers, eye-washing stands, and some 2,700 other items for personal use, professional use or resale on the 130-acre site about 50 miles north of San Diego.

SONGS was a powerful community presence long before its guts were sold off and dispersed throughout the region, and it will continue to influence local decision-making for many years to come. The first reactor went into operation in 1968, the decommissioning process will go on for at least two decades, and the radioactive waste will be stored onsite for the foreseeable future. Southern California Edison (SCE), the co-owners of the nuclear plant along with San Diego Gas & Electric Company, organized a Community Engagement Panel to keep residents engaged in the decommissioning process beyond the activity of the auction — there are around 100,000 people living within ten miles of SONGS and nearly nine million within 50 miles.

Around 300 people attended the first meeting held in late March, which was overseen by David Victor, director of the UC-San Diego Laboratory on International Law and Regulation, who was chosen to chair the panel because of his proven leadership abilities and experience bringing together diverse groups of stakeholders.


California Regulators Decide Utilities Can’t Charge Solar-Killing Fees

On Tuesday, California regulators issued a decision that state utilities could not charge certain fees for solar-plus-storage systems in homes and offices, clearing the way for such projects to proceed.

For about a year, California’s big three utilities — Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric, and San Diego Gas And Electric — have been charging customers, be they individuals or businesses, various fees for setting up a solar system on their property that includes battery storage. That includes an $800 interconnection application fee, as well as various other charges that can bring the cost between $1,400 and $3,700. The utilities also insisted such systems go through an extensive review process for, they claimed, safety purposes, and to ensure the systems weren’t just storing power produced by the utilities and then seeking credit for it under California’s net metering rules.

Solar system installers said the hurdles have ground new solar-battery projects to a halt. SolarCity, the biggest solar provider in the US, said that only 12 of the 500 customers that signed up for its solar battery systems have been connected to the grid. Among other efforts, SolarCity has started up a pilot project to provide commercial buildings with both a solar array and battery produced by Tesla Motors.

But Tuesday’s decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) scuttled many of those obstacles. Under CPUC’s proposal, distributed generation systems (usually solar, but not limited to it) that are eligible for net metering, and that are over 10 kilowatts, must keep their storage component under that 10 kilowatt capacity. For smaller systems, there would be no size limit. Systems over 10 kilowatts will also need a separate meter to keep track of the interchange between electricity generation and battery charging. For smaller systems, local data from the net metering system will be used to tease out the energy drawn into the battery. “Trusting the solar-storage system to measure its own give-and-take status against the grid,” as GreenTech Media put it.



Va. Supreme Court rules for U-Va. in global warming FOIA case

Unpublished research by university scientists is exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday, rejecting an attempt by skeptics of global warming to view the work of a prominent climate researcher during his years at the University of Virginia.

The ruling is the latest turn in the FOIA request filed in 2011 by Del. Robert Marshall (R-Prince William) and the American Tradition Institute to obtain research and e-mails of former U-Va. professor Michael Mann.

Mann left the university in 2005 and now works at Penn State University, where he published his book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” about his theories on global warming and those who would deny it. Lawyers for U-Va. turned over about 1,000 documents to Marshall and ATI, led by former EPA attorney David Schnare, but withheld another 12,000 papers and e-mails, saying that work “of a propriety nature” was exempt under the state’s FOIA law.

In 2012, Circuit Judge Paul Sheridan sided with U-Va., saying that Mann’s work was exempt and that the FOIA exemption arose “from the concept of academic freedom and from the interest in protecting research.” Marshall and ATI appealed.


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