An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

April 22, 2010

Georgia Legislature: Embarrassing Us in Front of All the Other States, Again

So, there’s a bill before the Georgia legislature right now, banning Georgians from non-consensually implanting microchips in each other. Fair enough, I’d figure that would fall under assault or something, but sure. Forcibly implanting something under someone else’s skin is Not Ok.

A few years ago, some friends of mine were doing a study on bats where they were implanting  subcutaneous RFIDs about the size of a grain of rice into the animals and releasing them. They got drunk one night and decided they should inject themselves with a chip each, to see what it was like for the bats. Apparently, it hurt more than a little, but less than a fuck ton.

Yet no one is currently running around Georgia like a mad animal-shelter worker, tagging residents with their own home addresses in case they get lost (though that might do my brother some good). Nor do they plan to. As near as anyone can tell, the fine ladies and gentlemen of the Georgia state legislature are pushing SB 235 to protect us all from the Mark of the Beast ™, which they seem to think will take the form of a microchip implant (I think they mean an RFID tag, in this century. But who knows).  Despite growing up mostly in the bible belt, I have no real idea of what the hell they’re talking about. I think it has something to do with Satan tagging people to take to hell, or somesuch. I don’t know, my parents are atheists. Form what I’ve pieced together from incoherent billboards and Chick tracts, the Unholy One will kick off the end times with some sort of game of Mafia, where if you get tricked into letting yourself get marked, uh, you lose. For eternity. Until Jesus un-tags you, or you reach base.
But the real question is, why is this matter up for debate in the state legislature? Are they tired of trying to end droughts with prayer? Trying to draw attention away from their massive budget shortfalls, their education cuts, or their refusal to pony up even a little bit of cash for mass transit, even when the federal government is offering to pay for high-speed passenger rail through the state? Getting bad press for trying to sue to stop Georgians from getting healthcare? Probably. But so what if the state falls apart for the next 10, 20, or 50 years? They’re protecting us for eternity. That’s why they can’t be bothered to worry about the trifling details of governing in this world.

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April 23, 2009

Increased CO2 Fuels Poison Ivy Growth: I Guess We Kinda Had This Coming

So, when I first learned about global warming in 3rd grade or so, I figured it just meant that everywhere on Earth would get a little hotter. That was bad enough, since I grew up in the southeastern US where summers were already hot enough to make the backs of your hands sweat, and snow was a rare treat.

Of course, it’s not that simple–”Global Warming” got renamed ‘Global Climate Change” for a reason. Rising sea levels, coral reef bleaching, droughts, unusually cold winter storms, bizarre urban tornadoes–there’s a whole cornucopia of ripple effects, many of which are obvious in hindsight, but weren’t at the top of the common-sense list of things global climate change might do.

Now we can add healthier, itchier poison ivy to the shit list:

…carbon dioxide is, basically, plant food. I’m told that rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere affect different plants in different ways, but poison ivy is definitely one of the winners of global warming. For this unpleasant little weed, more CO2 seems to mean more growth.

…not only is poison ivy growing fat and happy on the spoils of our carbon emissions, but that plants getting more CO2 also produce more, and stronger, levels of urushiol—the toxin that makes the ivy so darned appealing to begin with.

All I have to add is: That fucking sucks.

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December 26, 2008

Bees like drugs too

Filed under: funny,Government and Policy — Tags: , — Ethan @ 4:30 pm

So, apperently, if you give honeybees cocaine, they will go back to their hives and totally bullshit about how great their latest pollen find was, via waggle-dance.

Also, the strongest pot has gotten about 3 times more potent in the last 20 years, but it hasn’t come close to the 30x increase in potency former drug czar John Walters tried to claim in 2002, presumably to scare aging hippies into believing today’s super-weed is a <i>totally different</i> and <i>way more dangerous</i> drug than the ‘reefer’ of which they have fond, blurry memories.

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More Fawning over Political Appointments

Ok, I promise this will be the last one. Probably.

Anyway, the scientific gossip mill (yes, there is one, so stop snickering) has it that Obama will appoint John Holdren as his top scientific adviser. From Wired Science:

Holdren, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and former director of the Woods Hole Research Center, is best-known for his outspoken views on climate change, energy and government.

“The ongoing disruption of the Earth’s climate by man-made greenhouse gases is already well beyond dangerous and is careening toward completely unmanageable,” he wrote in October in Scientific American. “To achieve a better-than-even chance of not exceeding that figure, human emissions must start to decline soon, falling to about half of today’s level by 2050 and further thereafter.”

Lookin’ good. He’s all over environmental policy, and he at least says serious stuff about climate change. Plus, he should have an easier go of it that this poor bastard had under Bush. (also, what is it with presidents picking laser experts for high-level policy jobs? Is it just because lasers are badass, or is there some sort of relevence I’m missing here?

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December 20, 2008

Midnight Regulations: Not just for HHS Anymore

Though Bush had done enough damage with the Amish Busdriver Rule (h/t Rachel Maddow), barring hospitals from booting workers who refuse on religious grounds to to the jobs they were hired to do? Well, there’s more. Cara at Feministe has a whole round-up of other on-the-table changes, including gutting the endangered species act, allowing coal mines to dump into rivers, upping logging, fucking up family medical leave, allowing more domestic spying, and paring back limits on lead and other pollutants.

This is fucking bad, folks.

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December 13, 2008

Good News and Bad News

Bush is trying to tack a loophole onto the Endangered Species Act on his way out the door. Meanwhile, Obama’s (likely) picks for Secretary of Energy, head of the EPA, and the new ‘Energy Czar’ position suggest we’ll be seeing a science-and-reality-ward shift in environmental and energy policy. If anyone out there has a time machine, please go ahead and fast-forward to Jan. 20th before Bush can do any damage.

(And thanks to Rachel Maddow for dubbing the proposed HHS regulation the Amish Busdriver Rule: extending freedom of religion to protect folks who take jobs and then refuse on religious grounds to do tasks central to that job.)

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May 15, 2008

Wind Power, Part One

Wired Science posted Monday about a new Department of Energy report that suggests the US could get 20% of its on-grid electricity from wind power by 2030. The report suggest that as it stands now, wind power and solar thermal power* are the only zero-emission power sources ready to be scaled up in a major way.

Personally, I’m not convinced the current big-power-plant-supports-a-large-area model is worth switching to new energy sources. Demanding that any new technology be able to produce large amounts of power in one spot overshadows technologies that can provide just enough power on the spot. Wind power may be able to do both.

The problem with wind power, traditionally, has been that any turbine large enough to produce significant amounts of power was too heavy to turn at all unless the wind was very, very strong. Using lighter weigh materials for the blades has helped significantly, but I think these guys have the right idea. Basically, they’ve strung together dozens of small turbines in parallel. Each makes a small amount of power, which adds up to some pretty significant voltage. They claim that, in high wind, their rig can blow out a bank of car headlights like flashbulbs. They’ve patented their design, but the Make blog is calling for someone to come up with a homemade version, since the design is basically a bunch of model airplane propellers strung along a pole.

*as opposed to solar photovoltaic power, made with solar panels. I’ve got an upcoming post planned on those two.

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