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THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER
by Fran on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:13:16 AM EST
Planning for Climate Change: Singapore Wants Dutch Dikes - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Singapore has decided not to wait for sea levels to rise, preferring to plan ahead. Elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew said the city-state has contacted experts from the Netherlands for help with dike construction as it prepares for the effects of climate change.

Singapore is worried about rising sea levels. Nobody knows for sure how much sea levels will rise as a result of global warming. But rather than waiting to find out for sure, Singapore has already begun planning. According to a news report in the English-language paper Straits Times, the tiny island nation just off of Malaysia has contacted Dutch experts for help in building protective dikes.

The 663 square kilometer city-state has begun researching such technology, "because by the time the waters have risen (and) we want to start learning, that is too late," former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said according to the paper. "So we have already got in touch with the Dutch, who know how to build dikes."

Lee, who is now part of the cabinet of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said that the Singaporean government has already contacted the Netherlands-based research and consulting firm Delft Hydraulics, though the company on Tuesday was unable to immediately confirm that such an inquiry had been made. The company already enjoys close cooperation with Singapore in other areas including a research center recently established together with the National University of Singapore, according to a company spokeswoman.

by Fran on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:16:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indians make cool £300m in carbon farce

[In] a deal that has angered envi-ronmentalists, the Indian company SRF, which produces refrigeration gases at a sprawling chemical plant in Rajasthan, stands to make a profit of more than £300m from the bizarre arrangement that is supposed to combat climate change.

[The] Indian company has spent just £1.4m in equipment to reduce its emissions, but it will reap a profit of more than 200 times that amount from British investors and others.

It is now using the money it has made to expand production of another greenhouse gas, which is a thousand times more damaging than CO2. Other manufacturers in India and China producing similar products are expected to earn an estimated £3.3 billion over the next six years by cutting emissions at a cost of just £67m.

[The] plant produces a chemical called HCFC-22, which is used for refrigerators and air-condi-tioning systems. A byproduct of its manufacture is a gas called HFC-23 (trifluoromethane) - one of the world's worst greenhouse emissions as it traps large amounts of the sun's heat.

It is relatively cheap to install equipment to destroy the gas and most western producers have voluntarily done so. It is now illegal to let the gas escape into the atmosphere in Britain. This is not so in India.

by das monde on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 01:52:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That loophole in EU regulations has been closed, as far as I know.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 02:57:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which loophole? Lack of byproduct catching equipment in production facilities of exporters to the EU?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 05:23:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'Kryptonite' discovered in mine
Kryptonite is no longer just the stuff of fiction feared by caped superheroes.

A new mineral matching its unique chemistry - as described in the film Superman Returns - has been identified in a mine in Serbia.

According to movie and comic-book storylines, kryptonite is supposed to sap Superman's powers whenever he is exposed to its large green crystals.

The real mineral is white and harmless, says Dr Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum.

"I'm afraid it's not green and it doesn't glow either - although it will react to ultraviolet light by fluorescing a pinkish-orange," he told BBC News.

by Fran on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:17:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The real mineral is white and harmless, says Dr Chris Stanley

All very well saying that when you're not Superman.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 02:07:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect a cover-up.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 06:53:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is this bullshit? The discovered mineral lacks fluorine, but it's still touted as the "real [ahem] thing"?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:21:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Bumfodderless Future? Scientist Dreams of Toilet Paper-Free Era - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

A German physicist at Procter & Gamble is working on a bizarre project -- the gradual elimination of toilet paper as we know it. But first he would like to make the trip to the toilet a little more comfortable.

Siedfried Hustedt in the Procter & Gamble laboratory in Schwalbach, Germany Siegfried Hustedt is often overcome with dread when he is forced to use other people's toilets. The toilet paper he encounters in those bathrooms is almost inevitably colored or white, fluted or spotted. But for all the paper's pleasing appearance, appearance is all it is -- when used, the chintzy material often gets lumpy and decomposes into an unsavory pile of cellulose as "the embossment structure collapses under pressure." Even more dramatic is the excoriated red sore caused by overly rough foliage. Hustedt, 40, can't help but ask himself why so "many people choose to suffer to the last roll."

It would be safe to call Hustedt a toilet paper connoisseur. The experimental physicist works for Procter & Gamble's research center in Schwalbach, Germany, near Frankfurt, where together with his fellow researchers, he is developing the toilet paper of the future. His latest creation is a toilet paper that is soft, removes a good deal and promises sparing use -- factors that have captivated the competition while also satisfying the wishes of consumers.

by Fran on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:22:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the chintzy material often gets lumpy and decomposes into an unsavory pile of cellulose ... Even more dramatic is the excoriated red sore caused by overly rough foliage.

Visitors to Germany, BYOP.*

* Bring Your Own Paper

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 02:13:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gulfnews: Theatre's mock trial puts Blair in dock for Iraq war

London: A London theatre has put British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the dock for waging war in Iraq, staging a mock tribunal where prosecution and defence lawyers question key witnesses.

As scrutiny over Blair's legacy intensifies ahead of his expected resignation in a few weeks, Called to Account examines events leading to Britain's participation in the 2003 US-led invasion that has damaged the leader's popularity.

Based on a courtroom-style debate between lawyers to provide material for the drama, the play raises the question, asked many times before, of whether Blair and his officials deliberately manipulated intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion.

It also focuses on what pressure, if any, they put on the attorney general when he gave legal advice on the war, at what stage Blair agreed to back the use of force in Iraq and whether the aim was regime change and not weapons of mass destruction.

by Fran on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 12:29:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ScienceDaily: Astronomers Find First Habitable Earth-like Planet

Science Daily -- Astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, an exoplanet with a radius only 50% larger than the Earth and capable of having liquid water. Using the ESO 3.6-m telescope, a team of Swiss, French and Portuguese scientists discovered a super-Earth about 5 times the mass of the Earth that orbits a red dwarf, already known to harbour a Neptune-mass planet. The astronomers have also strong evidence for the presence of a third planet with a mass about 8 Earth masses.

This exoplanet - as astronomers call planets around a star other than the Sun -- is the smallest ever found up to now [1] and it completes a full orbit in 13 days. It is 14 times closer to its star than the Earth is from the Sun. However, given that its host star, the red dwarf Gliese 581 [2], is smaller and colder than the Sun -- and thus less luminous -- the planet nevertheless lies in the habitable zone, the region around a star where water could be liquid!

"We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid," explains Stéphane Udry, from the Geneva Observatory (Switzerland) and lead-author of the paper reporting the result. "Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky -- like our Earth -- or covered with oceans," he adds.

"Liquid water is critical to life as we know it," avows Xavier Delfosse, a member of the team from Grenoble University (France). "Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial life. On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X."

The host star, Gliese 581, is among the 100 closest stars to us, located only 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra ("the Scales"). It has a mass of only one third the mass of the Sun. Such red dwarfs are intrinsically at least 50 times fainter than the Sun and are the most common stars in our Galaxy: among the 100 closest stars to the Sun, 80 belong to this class.

"Red dwarfs are ideal targets for the search for low-mass planets where water could be liquid. Because such dwarfs emit less light, the habitable zone is much closer to them than it is around the Sun," emphasizes Xavier Bonfils, a co-worker from Lisbon University. Planets lying in this zone are then more easily detected with the radial-velocity method [3], the most successful in detecting exoplanets.

Two years ago, the same team of astronomers already found a planet around Gliese 581 (see ESO 30/05). With a mass of 15 Earth-masses, i.e. similar to that of Neptune, it orbits its host star in 5.4 days. At the time, the astronomers had already seen hints of another planet. They therefore obtained a new set of measurements and found the new super-Earth, but also clear indications for another one, an 8 Earth-mass planet completing an orbit in 84 days. The planetary system surrounding Gliese 581 contains thus no fewer than 3 planets of 15 Earth masses or less, and as such is a quite remarkable system.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 03:04:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the smallest ever found up to now

Smaller ones have been found around a pulsar, but that one is often forgotten by the optical exo-planet hunters.

Regaring habitability, two further issues beyond temperature:

  • Since this planet orbits beyond a Neptune-sized planet (which could get that close only by spiralling inward from much further out), it must have been exposed to sizeable perturbations, which makes it likely that its orbit is not very circular. Changing radiation input on a 13-day orbit, I wonder what atmospheric features this could drive.

  • A small red dwarf is not only less luminous overall, but its spectra differs, too. At 3250K-> peak luminosity around 900nm, at the wavelengths preferred by our plants it falls off to about a third.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 06:12:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words - very warm, very windy, and very flat.

Not quite a home from home yet. Although finding something so earth-like so close given the limits of technology does suggest there will be more Earth-like objects/planets (ELOs? ELPs?) in the immediate area.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 06:59:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words - very warm, very windy, and very flat.

No, no, no :-) 0-40°C --- not necessarily very warm, I don't get the flat reference, and what I meant isn't necessarily being very windy: there could be brutal wind direction/precipitation changes, maybe even global phase shifts in every orbit, or alternatively (depending on rotation period, axis tilt) there could be stark regional differences, which in turn can drive planet-wide circulation systems. The more interesting if there is water and there is coupling between the atmosphere and oceans, like on Earth but possibly on a grander scale.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:14:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Five times the mass? That's not going to be easy to run around on, even if with a wider diameter. (1.7g?)

0-40°C is an estimate, but I'd guess with water vapour and energy input shading into infra red wavelengths there would be more chance of the latter.

there could be brutal wind direction/precipitation changes, maybe even global phase shifts in every orbit, or alternatively (depending on rotation period, axis tilt) there could be stark regional differences, which in turn can drive planet-wide circulation systems.

Yep - windy. :)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:41:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Astronomers are busy decoding a message received yesterday from the newly discovered planet in the Gliese 581 solar system...

Dear Earth:  As much as we'd like to have you over for drinks & dinner, please excuse the delay in extending an invitation to our newly-aware-of-us neighbors.

Honestly, our reluctance to invite you over for a chat has absolutely nothing to do with the chaos you've wrought of your own neck of the universe, either environmentally or militarily.  Really.  We're just a little, um, busy at the moment.  And the house is just a mess.  We've been having work done on the plumbing, and now they're having to take up the floors.    And it seems that there could be some, um, contagious mold growing behind the radiator, so perhaps it's in your own best interest if you just don't come visit right now.

To be perfectly honest, we were kind of hoping you wouldn't notice we were here for a few more millenia.  But it has nothing to do with you, really.

Signed,
The Gilesians

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 08:08:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OPINION: Robert J. Samuelson - The Upside of Recession? - washingtonpost.com

Hardly anyone likes what happens in a recession. Unemployment rises, production falls, profits weaken, stocks retreat. But the obvious drawbacks blind us to collateral benefits. Downturns check inflation -- it's harder to increase wages and prices -- and low inflation has proved crucial to long-term prosperity. Downturns also punish and deter wasteful speculation. When people begin to believe that an economic boom won't ever end, they start to take foolish risks. Partly, that explains the high-tech and stock bubbles of the late 1990s and, possibly, the recent housing bubble.

Some sort of a recession might also reduce the gargantuan U.S. trade deficit, $836 billion in 2006 (just counting goods). Almost everyone believes that the U.S. and world economies would be healthier if Americans consumed less, imported less, saved more and exported more. The corollary is that Europe, Japan, China and the rest of Asia would rely more on domestic spending -- their own citizens buying more -- and less on exports.

Ideally, this massive switch would occur silently and smoothly. Realistically, the transition might not be so placid. A slowdown in Americans' appetite for imports would involve weaker overall consumer spending, about 70 percent of the U.S. economy. Such a slowdown might also be needed to persuade other countries to stimulate their domestic spending.




The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 03:07:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"The flogging will continue until morale improves."
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:01:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great response. I wrote a  comment, but gave up.

It's actually darkly amusing to see how this Economist find recessions one of the few things that must be real and fundamental. Oil running out? There'll be substitutes. Not enough clean drinking water falling out of the sky? The market will provide...

Recession? All bow ye before the god of the invisible hand and take your punishment without whining...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:34:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, he does have rather an exalted attitude.

I found it interesting that this appeared in the MSM. Now that the media can't cheerlead for the housing bubble (and the trade deficit) without looking totally clueless, they (or at least some of them) are trying to make the consequences palatable.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:47:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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