margonaut blog archive (2004-2014)


solar cells of the future

Solar Energy is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately production of the solar cells we use today is expensive and partially toxic.

Here's a press release about some exciting new research at Georgia Tech:

Tech Developing Efficient Organic Solar Cell
As the price of energy continues to rise, businesses are looking to renewable energy for cheaper sources of power. Making electricity from the most plentiful of these sources - the sun -can be expensive due to the high price of producing traditional silicon-based solar cells. Enter organic solar cells. Made from cheaper materials, their flexibility and feather-weight construction promise to open up new markets for solar energy, potentially powering everything from Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to iPods and laptop computers.

I'm not too excited about RFID tags, but otherwise this could be a very good development.


is the sky falling?

The Near Earth Object Program is a division of NASA that monitors space for asteroids or other objects that could possibly damage Earth and/or us. They have observed an asteroid that *might* hit Earth in 2029.

Perhaps if the public can be convinced that there's danger, the current administration can re-brand their extremely controversial Strategic Defense Initiative (aka "Star Wars") expenditures as an asteroid protection program? Sounds like the perfect application for that "space-based interceptor" they've been testing.

Sometimes the news feels like a badly written SciFi novel. What a weird story for Christmas.

Scientist: Asteroid Could Hit Earth in 2029
There's a 1-in-300 chance that a recently discovered asteroid, believed to be about 1,300 feet (396 meters) long, could hit Earth in 2029, a NASA scientist said Thursday, but he added that the perceived risk probably will be eliminated once astronomers get more detail about its orbit.

Asteroid has 1-in-60ish chance of Earth hit
An asteroid that has a small chance of hitting Earth in the year 2029 was upgraded to an unprecedented level of risk Friday, Dec. 24. Scientists still stress, however, that odds are further observations will show the space rock won't be on a collision course with the planet.

The risk rating for asteroid 2004 MN4 was raised Friday by NASA and a separate group of researchers in Italy.

Near-Earth Asteroid 2004 MN4 Reaches Highest Score To Date On Hazard Scale
A recently rediscovered 400-meter Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) is predicted to pass near the Earth on 13 April 2029. The flyby distance is uncertain and an Earth impact cannot yet be ruled out. The odds of impact, presently around 1 in 300, are unusual enough to merit special monitoring by astronomers, but should not be of public concern. These odds are likely to change on a day-to-day basis as new data are received. In all likelihood, the possibility of impact will eventually be eliminated as the asteroid continues to be tracked by astronomers around the world.

Filed under: politics, science No Comments

astrology sites

While most scientifically-minded types dismiss astrology, I am the type of person who likes to investigate even the craziest theories personally instead of just being automatically skeptical of everything.

I think most astrology sites are junk, but do find the following sites intriguing:

Free Will Astrololgy
Rob Brezny's genius weekly horoscopes (sign up for his mailing list to get them automatically)
get more specific readings based on your rising sign, etc.

Phil Booth
short daily readings (click on "full story" under the date)

Filed under: miscellaneous No Comments

depression during the holidays

The holiday season can be very stressful. Most families can't live up to a 100% happy holiday due to the dramas of bringing everyone together. It can be especially difficult if Christmas means houseguests, or if there's not enough money to buy enough to fill the black hole of consumer desire for MORE (enough is never enough.) It can be worst of all for those that are alone.

If you feel sad or anxious this holiday season, know that it's NORMAL and will pass. Try and find something good for New Year's Eve, ideally within stumbling distance of somewhere to sleep.

Depression at Christmas
For single people, in particular, Christmas and New Year can be a very isolating time. But even if you're surrounded by family and friends, this time of year can bring more than its fair share of stress, noise, anxiety and squabbles. Add this to long-standing money worries, family conflicts, job problems or bereavement, and it's no wonder calls to helplines about depression and suicide rise by nearly ten per cent during the festive season.

Filed under: diet & health No Comments

there may be s*** in the food, but it’s sterilized!

Here's an interesting email I received from a farmer in response to my article on food irradiation.

He touches on some issues that should be of interest to anyone who eats!

I just discovered your site today and find it interesting; I will pursue it further as I am able.

I did get to read your missive on Food Irradiation, and appreciate the airing of both sides of the argument.ˆä In my own presentations to various groups, I generally do not dwell on the safety issue, as I think you touched on the crux of the matter. In meats, the problem (at least in the US) is inspectors no longer spend time on the cutting floor.ˆ Thanks to HCCAP the packing plant (If they are large enough, more in a minute) now samples its own meat and does the lab test in-house, and the inspectors responsibility is to check that the lab results are within the proper parameters.ˆä So if there is a fecal smear (biggest contamination factor for meats) as the company appointed sampler are you going to sample that as part of the plug taken to send to the lab, or are you going to move on around the carcass a little bit and avoid the fecal smear (and also not showing the contamination on the carcass)?ˆ

In the smaller plants where a small farmer who direct markets like me is going to get his products done, the regulations are enforced by the inspector who is there hounding on the plant workers.ˆä I personally have no problem with the inspector hounding the workers to maintain sanitary conditions/handling practices; It is appropriate for the large plants to also be held to the same standards.

In the case of irradiated fruits/vegetables, the latest and best is to fertilize with sewage sludge.ˆä Regular applications during growing help account for the layers found in the onions that were contaminated and killed a number of people at the Chi-Chi's restaurant chain (who were unfortunate enough to have been the ones to purchase the contaminated product).ˆ Strawberries have been known to be tainted (to the point of causing death) as well.ˆ The industry push (with the collaboration of municipal governments)ˆ behind irradiation is to be able to fertilize with sewage without having to first cleanse it and completely break it down.

Food irradiation treats the symptoms, not the cause.ˆ To argue the merits of food irradiation on the basis of what contamination is caused to the food only bolsters the argument against it. ˆäThe bottom line as to why food irradiation is not needed is we are being sold (supposedly sterilized) crap with our food!

The existing statutes were in place until they were changed under industry lobbying pressure that removes the restrictions only on the large folks while leaving it in place for the small guys to further unbalance the playing field in the quest for profits.ˆä Even in the rough and tumble of free markets the consumers on the sidelines should not have to eat crap with their food, sterilized or not.

Keep up the good work,

Doyle Freeman
Cherry Tree Farms

Filed under: diet & health No Comments

chopping firewood in the rain

A friend of mine asked me via ICQ how things were going "in paradise." I had to laugh. It's beautiful here and I'm finding this place rejuvinating, but it's definitely the rainy season and my lifestyle here is hardly luxurious.

I don't have a car yet, so I have to take an hourly bus to the grocery store and back and can only buy what I can carry. I have to keep the fire going to stay warm, but I'm getting pretty good with the axe! The only places I have to sit are foldup camping chairs (the couch is coming soon hopefully.)

At least I've got the essentials: food, water, firewood, my drums, and high speed Internet...

nofurniture (86k image)

Filed under: miscellaneous 1 Comment

action figures imitate life

I find these The Cubes toys very amusing. I especially like the square heads and the fact that these are really for adults to decorate their own cubes with...

Cubes Set 3: Ted
Things are changing in upper management. There's a new boss in charge: you. That means you control the fate of Ted. Will you make his job satisfying, boring or unbearable? Will he be your lackey, your fall guy or your best pal? It's all up to you, because in this office, you're the boss. Each set has one 2-3/4" posable plastic figure and all the necessary plastic parts to build a classic corporate cube: four walls, desk, chair, file cabinet, in/out box, phone, and computer. Comes with a sticker sheet of decor for your cube, complete with graphs, charts, screens for the computer and pithy office posters. Also includes a job title sticker sheet so you can create a convoluted and meaningless position for your employee.

Filed under: miscellaneous No Comments

sex ed

There is currently a lot of inadequate sex education going on in the United States. Federal government policy is being developed around pseudo-Christian dogma instead of reality.

Sexual ignorance leads to more teen pregnancy, more sexually transmitted disease, and more people getting married too young (any of which can lead to difficulties on the path of life!)

Facts of life turn out to be fiction for millions of US pupils
The curricula are bought by school districts from educational publishers, many with close ties to conservative Christian groups.

Under the philosophy of abstinence-only education, schoolchildren must not be taught about birth control methods or how to have "safe sex", for fear of leading them astray. Instead, they should simply be instructed that any sex outside a monogamous marriage can end their lives and destroy the fabric of society.


future of sex

Here's the latest from Mark Morford if you're not already subscribed to his weekly email list...

America Loves Kinky Sex
Because here's the fabulous thing: no matter what these faux-Christian groups do, no matter how hard they oppress and protest and clamp down, this is a road that leads, despite all dour headlines and sour prognostications otherwise, toward spiritual illumination, toward awareness, toward sexual openness and same-sex marriage and revelatory sodomy and free vibrators for teenage girls and lesbians kissing open mouthed in the streets. In Kentucky. In the daytime. On Sunday.