Wet-Marsers Win, But Life Unlikely

first_imgThe discovery of evidence for past water on Mars made Science magazine’s Breakthrough of the Year.1  Most recently, the Spirit rover found goethite, an iron oxide that forms most readily in water, announced a JPL press release Dec. 13.  Although Richard A. Kerr at Science feels this second discovery on the opposite side of Mars from the Opportunity Rover provides a “second chance for life,” he admits it’s a long shot: “Mars was taking a different environmental path [from Earth], one too stressful for any life that might have managed to take hold.  Even at Meridiani [where Opportunity is roving], the most habitable site found so far, the water was acidic, briny, and, at least at the surface, intermittent—not a promising place for life to originate.”Update 09/21/2007: Data from the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter indicates that Mars probably never had much water: see 09/21/2007.1Richard A. Kerr, “On Mars, a Second Chance for Life,” Science, Vol 306, Issue 5704, 2010-2012, 17 December 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5704.2010].Life does not just “originate” any more than a castle will “originate” on an outcrop of marble.  So Mars may have had intermittent, briny, acidic pools of water that stunk.  Sounds like a graveyard for organic chemicals, not a Garden of Eden.(Visited 12 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Don’t be “cowed” by false claims about beef

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Husband and wife environmentalists Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes take to bashing beef and dairy in their new book “Cowed.” Published this year, it attacks animal agriculture on multiple fronts — health and nutrition, food safety and cattle production.The book also makes one of the most outlandish predictions that you’ve ever heard. According to the authors, “If the human population grows another 50%, and everyone starts to eat as much beef as Americans, we will wipe out much of the rest of the animal world.”Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group applauds this statement on the back cover by saying that the authors have mapped the destructive co-migration of earth’s two great conquering herds, humans and cows. You can believe this when you see cows grazing in New York’s Central Park or on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.Nebraska has a lot of cows, 1.88 million, according to the latest statistics, but it also was home this spring to a half million sandhill cranes along the Platte River. The cranes stop to fatten up on corn kernels left behind in farm fields before migrating north again. Nebraska is second in the nation in number of cattle and calves, but they don’t seem to be crowding out the cranes.The Hayes would have you believe that all cattle operations are big, factory farms. Nebraska has 20,000 beef cow operations, the average herd size is 94 head and only 770 are larger than 1,000 head of cattle.Big is always bad to critics of agriculture, even though economies of scale are accepted for most other industries. The complaints about cows in the book have all been heard before. American restaurants served 9 billion hamburgers last year, 3% more than a year earlier. Take that as a vote of confidence in beef.In fact, there is a lot of positive news about beef to reassure consumers. Recreational runners are among the fittest Americans, and Runner’s World magazine includes beef in its nutrition advice and recipes for runners. It cited a review of 76 existing studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found no association between saturated fat and heart disease, a departure from previous thinking. Runner’s World reminded runners that red meat contains iron, zinc and protein and is right for a healthy diet.The authors of “Cowed” connect a virulent form of E. coli bacteria with what they call factory farming, which in their view is a feedlot used to finish cattle. However, the Department of Agriculture says the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 is not affected by the production system. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) samples ground beef and, according to its data, this strain occurs at a rate of less than one quarter of 1%. FSIS says it is rare for the strain to find its way into meat products, and the sale of those products is prohibited. Safe handling and proper cooking also reduce the risk of spreading E. coli or becoming infected.The authors claim they aren’t against eating beef; they just want Americans to eat less. That’s up to consumers who shouldn’t be cowed or misled by critics of America’s livestock industry.last_img read more

Pedaling Our Way Through The Day

first_imgLast May at the National Green Building Conference, while contemplating the fact that it costs at least $200 to get an extension cord to a booth, Peter, Rob, and I had a hare-brained scheme: why not make a bicycle-powered booth? Rob is a bike mechanic from way back, and we’re all fairly good at pedaling. The reasoning was that we could save a bundle, put our money where our mouth is, and even create a marketing gimmick. (Gimmick in a good way, that is).Oddly enough our bosses thought it was a good idea too, so Rob began researching the possibilities — he would build it in his barn, on weekends. As it turns out, it was a lot easier to buy a kit. Which we did. The kit comes with a frame for the bike, a generator and a Black and Decker battery pack/inverter/radio. I don’t know why the radio is included, but someone in some conference room somewhere thought it would be a good idea.The package arrived and Pete set it up at home and tested it. So far so good. We then boxed it up and sent it off to San Francisco for its debut at West Coast Green.On Wednesday we set up our booth, and yesterday, Thursday, the show opened. With a battery fully charged, we figured we’d have an hour or so before we had to jump on. When we got to the booth in the morning, the battery had lost a little bit of its charge, but we figured it was because we forgot to turn off the radio (we shut down the master switch, but didn’t turn the radio power switch off).So Pete jumped on the bike to top off the battery. The problem was that it seemed to take an awful lot of pedaling to top it off. And as the day wore on, we realized that we couldn’t keep ahead of the laptops. Each laptop draws about 30 watts, which we ought to be able to produce quite easily, so we were confused as to what was going on. We were pedaling continuously just to power a single laptop.It turns out that we got a bum battery pack. Worse, it turns out the Black and Decker is an East Coast company and distributors of their stuff are pretty few and far between out here in the West.Remember my walking tour through San Francisco the other day? That was a minor warm-up for the trade show booth. (BTW, here’s a tip: San Francisco has a lot of hills. If you’re going to walk from one side of the city to the other, take this into consideration)After about a hundred phone calls, we located a replacement battery pack at a Home Depot somewhere near Ann Edminster’s house, so all should be great today. I say SHOULD because I haven’t talked to Pete yet and the booth doesn’t open for an hour.I’ll let you know how things turn out.last_img read more

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About the HERS Index

first_imgA lot of home builders and homeowners are getting certified home energy ratings to find out how efficient their homes are. There’s also a lot of buzz about HERS ratings, with builders looking at them as a tool for marketing their homes. The rating process models the energy performance of a home and comes up with, among other results, a number called the HERS Index. But what exactly is this thing called the HERS Index?We could approach that question a lot of different ways. My objective here is to focus on the mechanics — how the HERS Index is defined and how it’s calculated. For greater depth on the mechanics or more on HERS ratings in the broader context, see the links at the end of this article. ResourcesThe ultimate source of info about the HERS Index is the 2006 National Mortgage Industry Home Energy Rating System Standards (pdf).Last year, Martin Holladay wrote about the HERS Index in his Musings of an Energy Nerd column here at Green Building Advisor but looked at it from a different angle: How Is a Home’s HERS Index Calculated?Martin also wrote a thorough article on energy modeling in general that you might want to check out: Energy Modeling Isn’t Very Accurate.RESNET has been pushing hard for builders to adopt the HERS Index as a marketing tool, and I wrote about that a while back: ENERGY STAR Version 3 vs. the HERS Index.Finally, one thing that many people don’t seem to understand is that a HERS rating is just an analysis tool. It’s not a certification program for homes with guidelines and thresholds: A Home Energy Rating Is Not an Award. The HERS Reference HomeOne aspect of the HERS Index that bears further scrutiny is the HERS Reference Home. Here’s what the HERS Standards say about it:“The reference home is the geometric twin of the rated home, configured to a standard set of thermal performance characteristics, from which the energy budget, that is the basis for comparison, is derived.”Basically, the Reference Home is the same size and shape as the rated home and is also in the same location and IECC climate zone. The inputs for insulation R-values, window U-values, HVAC system efficiency, and similar factors are defined in the HERS Standards but are close to what’s in the 2006 IECC.Let me point out a couple of important points about the Reference Home. First, some aspects vary with climate zone, and some are fixed. For example, wall insulation R-values change with location but the window area in the Reference home is always 18% of the conditioned floor area and is spread out equally on south, east, north, and west facing walls. Second, the Reference Home doesn’t have everything that the rated home has. Although a rated home may have photovoltaic modules, for example, the Reference Home will not.The really important thing to know about the HERS Reference Home is that it’s your reference point, hence the name. Yes, the energy code that it’s based on has advanced, but we don’t want to go changing our reference because if we did that, the scale would change. That would be like changing the definition of the mile just because our modes of transport got faster.Likewise, the HERS rater industry in Canada is just getting going and could adopt a different HERS Reference Home. If they want to be able to compare their homes’ HERS Indices to ours in the US, however, they need to keep the same definition of the HERS Reference Home. Otherwise it’s apples and oranges, and CRESNET’s Cross-Border Challenge would be difficult to judge. RELATED ARTICLES How Is a Home’s HERS Index Calculated? Why Is the HERS Reference Home Based on an Outdated Energy Code? Study Finds Huge Variation in California HERS Rating ResultsThe 2015 IECC Recognizes Home Energy RatingsEnergy Modeling Isn’t Very Accurate The basicsHere are the fundamental ideas behind the HERS Index:It’s a linear scale, with 100 meaning the rated home has the same energy use as the HERS Reference Home.The HERS Reference Home is based on definitions in the HERS Standards, with some specifications based on the 2004/2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).The HERS Index includes the energy consumption from heating, cooling, water heating, lights, and some appliances.Each one-point change on the HERS Index scale represents a 1% change in energy efficiency.A HERS Index of 0 means the home has net zero energy use. That is, the home produces as much energy as it uses.The second image below shows the scale for a home with a HERS Index of 65, which would be 35% more efficient than the Reference Home.center_img SummaryThat’s it. A HERS Index is a number that compares how a given home’s energy use to a reference point, which is the HERS Reference Home. Numerically, it’s like golf scores – the lower the number, the better. I’ve seen scores above 200 for really bad houses and a low score of -2 for a net-zero energy home in Tennessee.The equations above show how to calculate it. As they always say, though, the devil’s in the details, so if your intention is to write software to be used as an accredited HERS rating tool, you’ll need to spend a lot of time poring over the HERS Standards. If you’re just looking for the overview with some detail about what goes into calculating a HERS Index, I hope this article gave you what you needed. If not, check out the links below or leave a comment here. The HERS Index equationIf the basic info above isn’t sufficient for you, the HERS Standards would be the ultimate place to go for more details. That’s where the whole process is defined. For example, if you wanted to see the actual equation used to calculate the HERS Index, you could go to page 3-4 in chapter 3. To save you the effort, I’ve pasted a copy of the equation directly from the HERS Standards below (third image).Yes, it’s ugly, ugly, ugly! You could spend a while sorting through all the horribly-named variables, but, since you’re reading this article, you can skip right over that bit of ugliness above (have I mentioned how ugly it is?!) and get the idea behind it from my simplified version of the equation, shown right after RESNET’s version (fourth image).Much better, right? The E stands for energy consumption, WH stands for water heating, and LA stands for lights & (some) appliances. PEfrac needs a separate explanation, which I’ll give you shortly. To be fair, though, there’s still a lot hidden in both versions of the equation you see above. Calculating those four individual components (heating, cooling, water heating, and lights & appliances) involves a whole lot of definitions, specifications, assumptions, and yet more equations. Chapter 3 of the HERS Standards, which contains the technical standards for HERS ratings, is 44 pages long and is constantly being updated, revised, and amended.The HERS Index equation basically compares the energy use of the rated home to the energy use of the HERS Reference Home. If the total of those four components is the same for both the rated and Reference homes, the fraction part of the equation equals 1. Then you multiply it by 100 to get a HERS Index of 100 in that case (assuming PEfrac = 1 for now). If the rated home’s energy use is half of the Reference Home’s energy use, the HERS Index would be 50. If the rated home uses twice as much as the Reference Home, the Index would be 200.Now, what about the PEfrac part? First, the PE stands for ‘Purchased Energy,’ so that gives you some idea of what it does. It’s a multiplier that can reduce the HERS Index for homes that produce some or all of the energy they use over the course of a year. You can see the equation for PEfrac in the fifth image below, again simplified from the HERS Standards to make it more understandable.If a home has no on-site power production (Eproduced = 0), the fraction is just 1 and it has no effect on the HERS Index. If the rated home produces an amount of energy equal to half of what it uses (Eproduced = 0.5 x Eused), PEfrac = 0.5 and it cuts the HERS Index in half. If the rated home produces the same amount of energy over the course of a year as it uses (Eproduced = Eused), PEfrac = 0 and the HERS Index is also 0. That is, it would be a net-zero energy home. If the home produces more energy than it uses (Eproduced > Eused), PEfrac will be negative, and so will the HERS Index. Allison Bailes of Decatur, Georgia, is a RESNET-accredited energy consultant, trainer, and the author of the Energy Vanguard blog.last_img read more

Tarun Gogoi’s acumen helps Congress retain power for 3rd term

first_imgCredited with bringing insurgent group ULFA to the negotiating table and hauling Assam back from the brink of bankruptcy, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has combined administrative and political acumen with his simple demeanour to help Congress retain power for a record consecutive third term.Behind the genial smile and a straight-forward approach of 75-year-old Gogoi, who has also served as a Union Minister and six terms in Lok Sabha, lies a man who means business when it comes to development of Assam.The highlight of Gogoi’s ten-year rule in the past was bringing several militant outfits of the state, including the ULFA, to the negotiating table and ensuring financial stability of the state government.Gogoi had taken over the reins of power for the first time on May 17, 2001, from the Asom Gana Parishad and was faced with the challenge of bringing the state out of the morass of militant violence and financial instability characterised by a huge debt burden, so much so that even government employees were not receiving their salaries on time.Gogoi’s initiative in this direction paid dividends and Congress returned to power for the second consecutive term, albeit with lesser seats and he formed the government in alliance with its coalition partner Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) in 2006.Gogoi’s second term as Chief Minister was a mix of high and low with the multi-crore North Cachar Hills fund diversion case causing embarrassment to Congress. However, he overcame it by bringing several militant organisations like the ULFA, NDFB (Pro-talk group), DHD, UPDS and others to the negotiating table.advertisementPlagued by ill-health in the last year of his second term, Gogoi underwent three complicated heart surgeries–a bypass, aortic valve replacement and enlargement of the aorta procedure– at Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute.He again underwent a surgery for replacing his pace maker just a few weeks before election campaign was scheduled to start this year.On both the occasions, he recovered fast and took charge of both office and election campaign with renewed vigour.Enjoying the confidence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Gogoi’s journey to the state’s top post was scripted with patience and perseverance.Born in the sylvan surroundings of Rangajan Tea Estate to a tea garden doctor Kamleswar Gogoi and his wife Usha Gogoi on April one, 1936, in Upper Assam’s Jorhat district, Gogoi, called ‘Punakon’ fondly by his parents, spent his childhood playing in the sprawling lush green of the tea garden with his siblings and children of the garden labourers.Gogoi’s penchant for politics took roots early in life.Though his father had wanted him to study medicine or engineering he had set his heart on politics and even told his teacher that he wanted to become Prime Minister when he grew up.Motivated by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who visited Jorhat in 1952, Gogoi, then studying in Class X, began participating in various political activities and much to the annoyance of his father and teachers failed to clear his High School Leaving examinations that year. He, however, cleared it the next year as a private candidate.Gogoi plunged into politics as a student of Jagannath Barooah (JB) College in Jorhat and after his graduation, joined the Allahabad University to pursue a law degree. He, however, fell ill and returned to Assam getting his law degree from Gauhati University.An active leader of the Assam unit of Bharat Yuvak Samaj, Gogoi joined Congress in 1963 and since then has been a party loyalist ardently supporting both Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv Gandhi and then Sonia Gandhi.He also served the party as a General Secretary and Joint Secretary in the 1980s, besides heading the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee from 1986-90 and again from 1997 to 2001.His foray into electoral political office began with his election as a member of the Jorhat Municipal Board in 1968 and in 1971 he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time from the Jorhat Parliamentary constituency.Gogoi was a member of the fifth, sixth, seven, ten, twelve and thirteenth Lok Sabha and was the Union Minister of Food Processing with independent charge from 1991 to 1995.An ardent sports lover, Gogoi played golf regularly till recently and keenly follows cricket, football and tennis.He is also fond of reading, gardening, good food and earlier enjoyed shopping for his own clothes and accessories.Married to Dolly Gogoi, a post graduate in Zoology from Gauhati University, in 1972 in Guwahati, the couple has a daughter, Chandrima, an MBA and a son Gaurav who holds a degree in Public Administration from New York University.advertisementGogoi’s family, with his wife choosing to be a housewife and both his children living abroad, have stayed away from politics though his son campaigned for his father in his constituency Titabor. However, the indulgent father claimed his son had no intention of joining politics but was currently visiting Assam to understand his state and people better.- With PTI inputsFor more log on to: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/specials/assembly-elections-2011/last_img read more