Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

I do 30 December 16, 2009

Filed under: environment,human interference,technology — Radiance @ 1:47 PM
This is a real quick post about a simple but valuable campaign/message that I came across called ‘I do 30’. The ‘I do 30’ campaign was started in Denmark by the bio-innovation company Novozymes, who creates the enzymes that makes it possible to wash your clothes at low temperatures. ‘I do 30’ is about those small climate friendly choices you can make in your everyday life to make a bigger change. Almost all of us wash clothes in hot water of temperature around 60 degrees C.
An environmental social media campaign called ‘I do 30’encourages people across the world to turn down the temperature on their laundry to 30 degrees C in order to save CO2. If you are at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) you will see them move around the streets of Copenhagen with speech bubbles, hoping the ‘I do 30’ statements will reach the leaders of the world. These bubbles have statements from the campaign supporters from around the world saying why “they do 30”.

This weekend, the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, was presented with more than 15,000 supporters of the campaign. And the Danish Crown Prince was also handed over a ‘I do 30’ washing machine. Check out the video and photos. If you want to know more about this campaign and participate, check out their website, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Once of the few environmentally conscious groups that are making good use of the immense power of social media to reach out to people.

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TED Tuesday: Wireless electricity December 8, 2009

Filed under: technology,TED,unconventional — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Eric Giler wants to untangle our wired lives with cable-free electric power. Here, he covers what this sci-fi tech offers, and demos MIT’s breakthrough version, WiTricity — a near-to-market invention that may soon recharge your cell phone, car, pacemaker.

 

TED Tuesday: Visualising data and sound December 1, 2009

Filed under: acoustic,animation,computer,technology,TED — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

JoAnn Kuchera-Morin demos the AlloSphere, a new way to see, hear and interpret scientific data. Dive into the brain, feel electron spin, hear the music of the elements … and detect previously unseen patterns that could lead to new discoveries.

Evan Grant demonstrates the science and art of cymatics, a process for making soundwaves visible. Useful for analyzing complex sounds (like dolphin calls), it also makes complex and beautiful designs.

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Too mundane for space travel? October 22, 2009

Filed under: science,space research,technology — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Who would have thought that a nickel and titanium “memory metal” known as Nitinol, recently popular for use in dental braces, would have been originally developed by NASA for aerospace uses! This new alloy does not crimp when bent and returns to its original shape as teeth shift! But that’s not the only invention that fascinates you with the fact that it was originally invented for space travel. A few days back I came across this article from Radaronline.com that shares with its readers 13 such items that we use in our daily lives which were originally invented for space travel. They range from handheld video cameras to Zen perfume. Check it out!
 

Sunday Spotlight: Social media and Web2.0 October 11, 2009

Filed under: computer,sunday spotlight,technology — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

socialmedialandscapeThis time the Sunday Spotlight is focused on a very different kind of subject. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you will know that I usually focus on science or ecological topics. However, this blog itself and the ease with which I can use it to spread science and eco awareness are products of the social media revolution. Hence I thought of dedicating a blog post to this whole affair that has come to be known as Web2.0.

Media for a long time has been a one way bridge. Various people used the media, TV, radio, cinema, theatre, newspapers, pamphlets and other printed material, as a means of putting forth their ideas, issues, solutions, news etc. However the proportion of “givers” of information has been far less than the “receivers”. And that was probably the power of conventional media. The advent of internet and the social media changed this to a large extent. People are interacting on one-to-one bases and anyone can be the “giver” and the “receiver” of information. Of course, this boon of freedom of expression in true sense comes with a bane of misuse to spread information detrimental to the human race in mere seconds all over the world. So, IMHO, one should take the whole Web2.0 explosion with a pinch of salt.

I am one of those people who try their best to keep abreast of the new developments and trends in social media. Albeit I don’t require doing that professionally I do understand that it is for my own benefit. After starting my blog about a year ago, I’ve especially taken interest in Web2.0 as I could clearly see its wonderful potential in promoting my blog and hence my ideas and passions with millions of people who are internet savvy. Among many other social media platforms, Twitter helped me get my blog posts out there and also make new connections with people from my niche. However, I realised very soon that tweeting and RTing can become a job in itself if not automated. A bit of Google search brought me in contact with a fabulous service called SocialOomph (then known as TweetLater). This service (free version) lets you set a date and time in future for your tweets so you don’t have to be online at some ghastly hour, trying to keep feeding your Twitter. The RSS feed lets you feed your tweets into RSS feed readers of all sorts and lets others subscribe to it. However, the Pro version is the real showstopper (or rather show-runner). This paid service lets you do much more with your tweets and your network. Besides all features of free version, it lets you setup criteria for automatically following and unfollowing fellow tweeters. You can vet this feature if you like or set it in autopilot with SocialOomph. When someone follows you, you can have SocialOomph send them a DM (with your Twitter ID of course) with a welcome message. But what I like best are, bulk upload, recurring tweets and spinning of tweet text. The first one, as name suggests, lets you upload as many tweets as you want in one go. The second lets you set a recurrence frequency for any number of tweets and forget about them for as long as you wish. Spinning tweet text involves you giving as many different versions of a given tweet you like and SocialOomph will randomly chose a version to tweet when you’ve told it to. This is really a great feature because let’s face it, it get boring to see same old tweets recurring every so many days on the same account. People are going to ignore you! So all in all, if you haven’t already done so, I will definitely suggest you try out the Pro SocialOomph for their trial period. I’m sure you’ll want to upgrade for the cheap value that offers so much more freedom to do your real work.

Twitter started as a simple idea of sharing 140 character updates with your friends and family. Of course the end users themselves have evolved it to something much more. It is now a leading platform on web2.0 to stay updated with latest news (e.g.: Iran elections), to promote your product (e.g.: Amazon Kindle), spread the word about your campaign (e.g.: climate change) or even make some money out of your tweets (e.g.: Magpie). Monetisation using web2.0 and social media has become a big obsession with a lot of bloggers or anyone involved in the cyberspace in any capacity. And a lot of services like Chitika, Sponsored tweets, Nuffnang (currently only for Asia-Pacific) have sprung up like mushrooms to provide you ways to make some dough out of your cyber-investment.

Affiliate marketing is another big avenue that many bloggers, including yours truly, have taken in order to make their blogging profitable. Writing was once upon a time considered a talent that came naturally. However, now a lot of cyber-gurus have taken upon themselves to teach others how to write a blog, promote it and monetise it. One such person I myself learn from is Problogger Darren Rowse. I participated in Darren’s 31 days to build a better blog (31DBBB) workshop online and gained tremendously from it. Darren’s own insights on various topics related to blogs, which stem from his own experience of past 5-6 years as a blogger, were definitely the highlight of this workshop. And I loved the little tasks that we were assigned everyday to complete and improve pur blog in the process. These insights and assignments, along with other useful material are now on sale as a book (Click here to view more details). Even though I participated in the workshop I felt this book was worth buying (especially for the price its being offered) as a reference for future. If you’re getting serious about blogging and pursuing it as more than a hobby, I suggest you buy this book.

There have been millions of items written on the topics of social media, web2.0, monetising, affiliate marketing and the likes. This was my little take on the same. I’m still a newbie in this world of web2.0 and I sometimes feel like a kid in a candy shop. There are too many things that I want. But lately I’ve learnt to focus on what my goal is and then trying to look for tools that I’d need. Because it is very easy for the web2.0 to take control and lead you astray if you don’t keep strong hold on the virtual steering wheel.

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TED Tuesday: Engineering and evolution October 6, 2009

Filed under: animals,evolution,nature,technology,TED — Radiance @ 9:00 AM
Insects and animals have evolved some amazing skills — but, as Robert Full notes, many animals are actually over-engineered. The trick is to copy only what’s necessary. He shows how human engineers can learn from animals’ tricks.

 

Packaging: who needs it? October 1, 2009

Filed under: ecology,recycling,technology — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
A guest post generously contributed by Bob Williamson, Founder & Chair, Greenhouse Neutral Foundation. Contact details and details of book ‘ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day The Lights Went Out – Our Future World’ authored by Bob are given at the end of this post.

When going about busy daily lives for most of us in the developed nations, we rarely give much thought to the externalities either upstream, or downstream of our consumer society. Upstream from our individual consumption, we can site the resources used by manufactures; the raw materials, the water they consume, the energy and all the emissions associated with these activities. Downstream we can site not only the costs of collection, but the loss forever of these original consumed resources (all that energy and water) when recycling for reuse doesn’t happen. Downstream are also the environmental time bombs of toxic waste and landfill methane emissions we are leaving for future generations to deal with. The mounting piles of rubbish arriving daily at landfill sites around the world are testament to the profligate ways of our own current consumption and of the desire for ever rising profits by industry and commerce.

Finite resources are used in making and supplying all these goods to us and then almost instantly in the case of packaging, they are discarded to landfill. They take with them vast amounts of externalised consumed resources that are mostly hidden from our view ‘out of site and out of mind’. (example – an aluminium can in the smelting process alone will consume 25.75 litres of water!) See the PPI white paper which reports 37% of greenhouse emissions in the US are attributed to non-food products – “Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices,” this report offers new insight into the impact of products and packaging on climate change.

I have lobbied long and hard for these consumed resources in products and disposable packaging to be brought to the foreground with the hope that we will change our habits with knowledge, to a future that is more in balance with the laws of nature. If we don’t, very soon we will need to live our lives with finite resource extinction. In the book I take a tongue in cheek look at packaging waste and suggest the ‘Unpackaged Movement’.

Here is an excerpt: Now what about that plasma TV, the fridge, or even the electric drill bought at the corner superstore? What exactly are we buying, the product or the packaging? Are we buying the TV, the electric drill or other consumer products, or the cardboard box and cardboard packing, the bubble wrap and the polystyrene foam? I have an idea here. We could start a movement, the Unpackaged Movement! One of my favourite songs from the 1960s got me thinking, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.” Quite appropriate I think, as Arlo got busted for dumping garbage. I downloaded the lyrics off the Web and was going to put them in, but they would have been longer than the book so far, so here’s the gist of what happened and how it might be incorporated into present-day real life. As mentioned, Arlo got busted for dumping Alice and Ray’s (Alice’s husband) garbage, paid the fine of $50, and had to pick up the garbage in the snow. When called up for the draft, they wouldn’t take him because he had a criminal record. He suggested at the end of the song that if you wanted to get out of going to Vietnam, for your psychological evaluation you could walk in and sing a bar of “Alice’s –Restaurant” and walk out. He said if one person did it they would think he was a nut and wouldn’t take him. If two people did it they would think they were both crazy and they wouldn’t take either of them. If three people did it they would think it was an organization. And if fifty people did it they would think it was a movement.

So, here’s the plan: we all unpack our purchases at the store and leave them with the cardboard box and cardboard packing, the bubble wrap, and the polystyrene foam. “Here you go, you can have this, I just want what I came here to buy!” Now if just I did it they would think I was a nut. But if we could get a movement going, The Unpackaged Movement, all the packaging could stay where it belongs, with the person/company who is making the profit and make them responsible for waste that would normally fill our bins. (There is a P.S. here—I’ve put my money where my mouth is on this idea. The look on the guy’s face at the hardware superstore when I dropped in to deliver all their cardboard packaging and plastic back was a picture. “I bought this product at your store last week. But I don’t want the packaging. So you can have it back. Thank you.” I found the whole experience strangely exhilarating. I have some more in the trunk of the car for my next trip out.) End excerpt

There is indeed a PPS to this story since I wrote ‘ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day the Lights Went Out – Our Future World’.

The unpackaged daily life of our family has become very personal.

On one particular occasion we needed a replacement kettle to the one that was designed to last a month outside the warranty period of 12 months. I returned to where we had bought the other Breville stainless steel electric kettle and bought the same model. When unpacked at home on the kitchen counter, my daughter dutifully packed the old one in the box that the new one came in; writing on it ‘PLEASE RECYCLE’ and on my next trip out I called back to the mega electrical store, walked up to the salesman I had seen the day before and said, “Hi.”

He replied “Can I help you sir?” looking at the box in my hand.

I said ‘Yes, I bought a kettle yesterday from you, the very same model I bought 13 months ago from this store. Here is the old one back, packaged up in order for you to send it back to Breville for recycling along with their box and polystyrene packaging. Thank you.”

Handing him the box, I savoured the look on his face, knowing full well of course, that its long journey of return to China would stop at the dumpster at the rear of the store. Still as I said in the book, if we all did it, then we would see a movement and eventually become extended producer responsibility and as it should be; ‘ZERO Waste’ to landfill.

Bob Williamson
Founder & Chair, Greenhouse Neutral Foundation

Author of ‘ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day The Lights Went Out – Our Future World’
Hard cover book or e-book available for $9.99 from http://bit.ly/Q1tAu
Publishers YouTube Author review can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIuk6Jnu9-w
Email BobWilliamson@greenhouseneutralfoundation.org
Alternative email greenhouseneutral@bigpond.com
Website http://www.greenhouseneutral.net/
US Operations Web Address http://www.greenhouseneutralfoundation.org/
Foundation’s YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/GreenhouseNeutral
Foundation’s TV Channel http://zerogreenhouse.isofa.tv/
Blog http://lettersfrom2030.blogspot.com/
Daily Environment News Items http://www.greenhouseneutralfoundation.org/articles/

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