mm500: Blast from the Past! No. 54 – Edison vs. Tesla

September 22, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

First day back at work after a bereavement leave, and we’re still not ready for the world of blogging.

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of our favorite electrons. And with over 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, there’s lots to choose from.

I hereby stop apologizing for resuming our observance of the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

Originally posted November 16, 2007, titled “mm195: Edison gets the glory — Tesla won the war.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Every schoolchild, at least of MUDGE‘s generation, knew the name of Thomas Edison, America’s genius inventor. Not nearly so well known today is the reputation of Nikola Tesla, whose alternating current technology offered stiff competition to Edison’s direct current at the time when the nascent electric utilities were battling for the privilege of revolutionizing civilization.

That first battle ground, New York City, finally just yesterday, November 14 2007, after 125 years of service, converted the last direct current electricity service to alternating current.

Can you imagine any industrial artifact built today still being around in the year 2132, 125 years from now? We just don’t think that way any more. Ask the survivors and grieving families of those lost when the I-35 bridge at Minneapolis collapsed this past summer, at the youthful age of 40.

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mm483: Blast from the Past! No. 45

August 29, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

Events, continue to conspire, sapping most of the vigor out of my keyboard, but hey, recycling is IN, right? We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[3]

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, especially since it’s back to school time for millions, originally posted November 1, 2007, and titled “mm182: It’s Chemistry, baby!”

MUDGE’S Musings

Newest member of the L-HC blogroll is The 12 Angry Men Blog, a very much more accomplished, established and widely read (no gimmicks — it’s on merit!) fellow WordPress resident. With their hoped for indulgence, I reference a recent article I found there.

The post in question was particularly timely, as literally just the other day I was thinking about chemistry sets as I perused a wonderful toy catalog seeking out gift ideas for the official grandchildren of MUDGE and his better 7/8. (More below about the catalog and site.)

I distinctly remember musing: a chemistry set — together with a slightly better than toy-like microscope, the source of countless hours of education and entertainment during my own childhood — is it too soon to think about it for my (totally objective evaluation here) genius seven year old grandson?

No chemistry set. In a catalog full of really interesting and educational toys and games.

Angry Political Optimist fit the pieces in place for me, and when I encountered the post today it was a true forehead-slapping moment. Of course (slap!).

What grabbed me originally was the reference to the buzzword of the month, Islamofascism, as noted in this space last week.

But it’s so logical.

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mm473: If only it were actually oil they spew in such quantities

August 19, 2008
© Eline Spek | Dreamstime.com

© Eline Spek | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

How can you tell a Rovian Republican is lying?

His lips are moving.

It’s less than three months to election day, and the Rovian machinery of mis- and disinformation has lurched into gear.

Jerome Corsi’s new No. 1 bestseller is beneath contempt; the Obama campaign seems to have learned from the stricken paralysis that was the Kerry campaign’s reaction to Corsi’s Swift Boat slander, and one can only hope that the Corsi’s latest spurious attacks will be swiftly deflected.

But there’s a lot more going on in the Fantasyland that is the Republican commentariat.

Take oil, for example.

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mm364: Blast from the Past! No. 16

April 30, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our early days, originally posted August 10, 2007.

mm098: Remembering Robert Heinlein

MUDGE’S Musings (begun on the road)

So, here I am back in the sultry Midwest, returned at about midnight the night before last from the sultry east coast and a professional conference.

As frequent reader can tell, the change of routine played havoc with my blogging habits, which, with few exceptions (my son’s marriage in early July, for a happy example) have been fairly regular for the past three months since we began in earnest.

So, let’s pick up where I left off, attempting to piece together an interesting series of articles linked together for me by Arts and Letters Daily blogroll2_thumb , a wonderful site that I am guilty of visiting insufficiently regularly.

__________________________________

BOSTON — Third morning, and last one, here at a conference sponsored by one of our enterprise’s primary IT vendors, IBM Lotus.

Doubt we’ll finish this post until after we’re safely back on our home turf, but we’ll take a stab at getting some of this done before we pack up for the last few sessions.

Boston is a great town for tourists, although in a business conference there is precious little time for tourism, but it’s been fun to walk around, at least a bit, and enjoy life at street level.

This morning, of course, it’s pouring rain, so we’ll confine our observations from the 35th floor hotel room we’re about to vacate. Nice town. Great view.

And for this Midwestern unfortunate, absolutely wonderful seafood. Don’t have a picture of the cioppino I enjoyed at Legal Sea Food Monday night, but I can share the view…

boston01

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mm336: 10 minutes that might change our lives

April 2, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

They don’t call me a curmudgeon for nothing.

The earnest entreaties of persons of the green persuasion (and no, I don’t mean Martians) leave me cold.

Nevertheless.

This video has been out for several months; as vast as the Internet is, it had evaded me until I happened on it the other day.

Spend 10 minutes. It’s an earnest entreaty.

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mm251: Stem cells – Lab harvests from embryos non-destructively

January 12, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Stem cell research is simultaneously a neocon hot button, and one of medical science’s most promising magic bullets.

As a prototypical aging Baby Boomer, yr (justifiably) humble svt has made stem cell research a frequent topic in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©:

Stem Cell Research: Support it now!

mm251: Stem cells – Lab harvests from embryos…
mm230: Stem cells…
mm:221: The dread disease … Old age
mm201: Stemming the tide of ignorance
mm200: Stem cells: Unlike oil… alternative source
mm172: Diabetes: Not so Simple, Simon!
mm171: Maintain your brain!

George III, our presidential protector of evangelical Christian values (and please don’t confuse him with the facts), has stifled medical research based on stem cells, on the grounds that the source of the research material was purported to be aborted fetuses.

Recently, researchers have concentrated on finding less controversial sources for stem cells. The latest breakthrough was reported in Friday’s Washington Post.

washingtonpost

Lab Cites Stem Cell Advance

By Rick Weiss

Washington Post Staff Writer | Friday, January 11, 2008; Page A04

Scientists in Massachusetts said yesterday that they had created several colonies of human embryonic stem cells without harming the embryos from which they were derived, the latest in a series of advances that could speed development of stem-cell-based treatments for a variety of diseases.

In June, scientists in Japan and Wisconsin said they had made cells very similar to embryonic stem cells from adult skin cells, without involving embryos. But that technique so far requires the use of gene-altered viruses that contaminate the cells and limit their biomedical potential.

By contrast, the new work shows for the first time that healthy, normal embryonic stem cells can be cultivated directly from embryos without destroying them.

Of course, the Bush administration is not taking this advance at face value.

But that is not likely, said Story Landis, who heads the National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Task Force, which oversees grants for studies on the medically promising cells.

The embryos Lanza used, which were donated for research, appear not to have been damaged, Landis acknowledged. However, she said, “it is impossible to know definitively” that the embryos were not in some subtle way harmed by the experiment. And “no harm” is the basis of the Bush policy, she said.

The science in question was a technical tour de force:

“It is a technically impressive piece of work,” said Douglas A. Melton of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. “They’ve demonstrated their ability to isolate human embryonic stem cell lines without destruction of the embryos” — something few scientists thought possible just a few years ago.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Lab Cites Stem Cell Advance – washingtonpost.com

Lest we lose site of what all of the shouting is about, Wikipedia has a useful research timeline.

The possibilities for using stem cells to provide breakthrough solutions to what have been incurable, mysterious and tragic diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and diabetes are compelling. And the tragedy has been compounded by the typically ignorant, anti-science stance of the Bush administration.

When will evangelicals wake up and learn that science isn’t the opposite of religion, that the two are not mutually incompatible?

Meanwhile, January 20, 2009 (as this is written, 373 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes, 40 seconds from now) cannot get here soon enough!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the link to Bushtimer.com used above is for clever illustration purposes only and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. It’s an artifact of Sequitur Service©. Deal with it.

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mm233: Corn in the news — and not just in Iowa!

December 26, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

We’ve frequently commented (most recently here) on how often connections can be drawn from disparate news sources. It happened to us again today.

Read over breakfast this depressing story in the best magazine on the planet, The Economist:

economist

The beer crisis | Trouble brewing

Dec 19th 2007 | ST LOUIS | From The Economist print edition

A shortage of hops threatens Christmas

JUST as the festive season gets going, drinkers in America are finding their favourite beer suddenly more expensive or even—horrors!—not available at all. Hit by price increases and shortages, many breweries, particularly the small “craft brewers” and the even smaller microbreweries, are being forced to raise prices, make do with modified recipes or shut off the spigots altogether.

The humble hop, the plant that gives beer its distinctive flavour, is the main problem. Many farmers in the Pacific north-west, where America’s hop production is concentrated, have turned to more profitable lines—especially corn, which can be made into ethanol. The decrease in hop production, put at some 50% over the past decade, has sent prices through the roof. Brian Owens, the brewmaster of the O’Fallon Brewery near St Louis, Missouri, says that the variety he once bought for $3 a pound (0.45kg) now costs five times that. Many smaller breweries cannot find what they need at any price. Industry giants like Anheuser-Busch and Miller are better off, thanks to long-term contracts. But even Anheuser-Busch has been forced to raise prices for its six-packs.

A crisis of tragically epic proportions: beer unavailable, especially the increasingly popular craft or microbrews, or priced higher due to the newly high price of hops and barley.

Yr (justifiably) humble svt is somewhat cavalier about beer, as he doesn’t drink it very often (the carbs, don’t you know), but in tough times (and they seem to be inching toward tough in these parts) one takes solace where one can, and beer is the solace of choice for many. A shortage, or a significantly higher price, could wreak havoc with the social order.

And, what’s the cause of this potential unrest? Corn.

Corn is supplanting hops and barley for many farmers, since the government has made it increasingly attractive to grow corn for ethanol, totally wrongheaded though that is wrongheaded government! Go figure!

See some previous posts on the use of ethanol as fuel: starting here in the earliest days of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, and here, here, here, here.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The beer crisis | Trouble brewing | Economist.com

Ethanol, inefficient as it is as fuel, causing shortages and price increases of one of the major food groups (for many): beer. Talk about the law of unintended consequences…

Thus corn was on my mind when we encountered this article in the NYTimes today. The European Union is once again (still?) grappling with the high intensity issue of the advisability of growing genetically modified corn.

GM foods is a topic we’ve handled quite eloquently (MUDGE’s humility gene must have gotten in the way of an X-ray machine, sorry) in a previous post. But, news is news.

And the Times is quite thorough covering both points of view. Interestingly, there’s actual science supporting both, as opposed to the recent cases where science is called into question on this side of the water and those callers into question can hardly spell the word science (guess the word doesn’t appear in the King James edition) much less accept its findings.

nytimes

Both Sides Cite Science to Address Altered Corn

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL | Published: December 26, 2007

BRUSSELS — A proposal that Europe’s top environment official made last month, to ban the planting of a genetically modified corn strain, sets up a bitter war within the European Union, where politicians have done their best to dance around the issue.

The environmental commissioner, Stavros Dimas, said he had based his decision squarely on scientific studies suggesting that long-term uncertainties and risks remain in planting the so-called Bt corn. But when the full European Commission takes up the matter in the next couple of months, commissioners will have to decide what mix of science, politics and trade to apply. And they will face the ambiguous limits of science when it is applied to public policy.

Europe has embargoed seed and food products grown from genetically engineered plants for a decade; very convenient excuse for protectionist trade barriers. Now the World Trade Organization is pushing the EU for a change in policy. But the EU is pushing back, citing scientific studies counter to those presented in favor of GM food:

Ms. Hilbeck says that company-financed studies do not devote adequate attention to broad ripple effects that modified plants might cause, like changes to bird species or the effect of all farmers planting a single biotechnology crop. She said producers of modified organisms, like Syngenta and Monsanto, have rejected repeated requests to release seeds to researchers like herself to conduct independent studies on their effect on the environment.

The give and take on this is interesting.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Both Sides Cite Science to Address Altered Corn – New York Times

So it’s your scientists vs. my scientists, and because it’s science, there’s room for opposing theories. But the EU’s science has that slightly moldy odor of politics.

As mentioned in the post cited at the top, because of our employment at the time we were close to this debate 10 years ago in the U.S. That battle was hard fought, biotechnology vs. the Monarch butterfly (talk about a public relations nightmare for the suits!), and ultimately won in the U.S. by Big Ag, although as the Times makes clear, the Monarch’s well-being is still closely studied.

In the United States, where almost all crops are now genetically modified, the debate is largely closed.

“I’m not saying there are no more questions to pursue, but whether it’s good or bad to plant Bt corn — I think we’re beyond that,” said Richard L. Hellmich, a plant scientist with the Agriculture Department who is based at Iowa State University. He noted that hundreds of studies had been done and that Bt corn could help “feed the world.”

But the scientific equation may look different in Europe, with its increasing green consciousness and strong agricultural traditions.

And, if you let your farmers start to grow GM foods, it will be more difficult to rationalize the artificial protectionist barriers against other modified crops.

The hungry of the world (and there are so many!) can’t eat paper; unfortunately paper seems to be the chief crop of most of the world’s governments.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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