Talk about trust!
Talk about trust!
Recently, I came across an interesting piece of history: During the Victorian Age, people were fascinated with nature, excursions, and technology. Microscopes were becoming accessible to the rising middle classes of England, and one man, John Quekett, was fascinated by both microscopes and phytoplankton. He wrote a book called Practical Treastise on the Use of the Microscope, which was a hit among the Victorians, and they began discovering a hidden world of tiny creatures known as plankton and diatoms.
Plankton is what makes the ocean waters green, or aqua-blue – the differences are not only the sand or rock colour of a particular region, but also the density of microscopic life in the water. The denser the population, the lower the visibility. A teaspoon of seawater can contain a million living creatures. Regardless of their size, they underpin the marine foodchain, and indeed, all life on earth: Diatoms, which is the most common type of plankton, number in the trillions (there are over 100,000 known species to date), produce more than 20% of all oxygen on earth, and contribute nearly half of the organic life in the oceans. The shells of dead diatoms can cover the ocean bed as deep as half a mile in places, and they fertilize the Amazon basin to a tune of 27 million tons annually.
The Victorians knew very little of all that; they were at the dawn of discovery, and modern sciences owe a lot to those early intrepid explorers – women and men who braved the weather, cliffs and oceans in (heavy skirts and) leather shoes to discover, explore, and appreciate nature. Not only did they discover it, but they began making beautiful arrangements from the various shapes – they would display their microscopic artwork to friends, much like we might look through someone’s holiday photos today. These were known as Rosette Slides, and there is still one famous artist keeping this art form alive today: Klaus Kemp, known as the Diatomist. Here are just a few of his masterpieces; to see more, just google his name. The two links in this article will take you to two short videos on the topic. Enjoy!
There’s no denying the fact that computers are huge blessings – combined with that little invention called “internet” they’re an unstoppable pair… until they stop, and life comes to a screeching halt.
That happened last week, as our main office computer gave up the ghost, after fighting a long, painful demise. My own laptop, from which I write, has been limping and is in need of repair, but it was our only lifeline to ordering a replacement… done, and three days later, the packages arrived! I’ve spent the better hours of 5 days sorting out things like transfer of emails and contact lists, programmes, updates, software and hardware setups, and patch-jobs to get old programmes to understand the new ones and vice-versa!
Instead of the “old fashioned” desktop computer with a huge processor that either stands on the floor and collects cat hairs and dust bunnies or stands on our desk and collects dust bunnies and cat hairs, we decided to go with a laptop hooked up to a docking station and two screens. Sweet! And yes, I can use both… it’s great when I’ve got research documents open while writing, or doing translations or editing two documents simultaneously. Now, to get my laptop repaired.
It’s amazing how we’ve become so dependent on computers, isn’t’ it? Personal computers didn’t really begin to enter households in any significant way until around 1990; technically, they hit the market in the early ’80’s, but the products were mostly limited to electronics geeks and university libraries. We got our first home computer in 1993, and it had RAM of a whopping 256 MB!! How could anyone ever use THAT much?? Now we’ve passed Gigabytes, and we’re into terabytes (TB, 10004 ), and it won’t be long until we’re into petabytes (PB, 10005), exabytes (EB, 10006 ), zettabytes (ZB, 10007) and yottabytes (YB, 10008). I remember writing business letters in DOS – back before Windows, virtual desktops or virtual wallpaper had even been dreamt of. I remember floppy discs – the latest in technology, now used as drink coasters somewhere in the world, I’m sure. 5-inch floppy discs became passé with the advent of (gasp!) 2-inch version… how could anything that small have so much space on it (1.44 MB). Imagine – back in the advent of computers, there was no Microsoft, no Amazon, no internet, no cloud storage, no dropbox, no websites, no Skype… they were essentially an information processor, with transfer of information only possible through a floppy disc or good ol’ fashioned printouts and photocopies (we won’t even go into the whole issue of the love-hate relationship most secretaries had with the first few generations of photocopiers).
Do you remember cassette tapes? Polaroid cameras? Now music is on a cloud or virtual shelf, and selfies and Instagram have made physical print photos nearly obsolete, except as an art form.
These images show how far we’ve come in less than 40 years. But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Check out these up-and-coming products or concepts that are in the making: Just hover your cursor over each image for more information.
For you Sci-Fi buffs out there, that title will be very familiar, as it is the opening line of the Star Trek manifesto. The novel I’m working on at the moment is just that – Sci-Fi, albeit not Star Trek. It nevertheless takes me into space, and that’s always a fascinating thing! So here are a few fun facts about what lies beyond our atmosphere:
Below are images from APOD – enjoy!
I came across an article recently about a Japanese trend among single women to marry themselves. It reminded me that there are a lot of oddities and quirks that come out of the Land of the Rising Sun; they even have a name for odd inventions: “Chindogu”, meaning “‘un-useless’ or priceless tool”; I think that’s meant in irony, but one never knows, with Japan. For the list below, believe me when I say that I’ve left off hundreds of REALLY bizarre items! Here are a few of the less-weird ideas:
The slide show below illustrates a few of these gadgets or concepts, plus a few others. Enjoy!
Most people know by now that our climate is changing; part of it is a natural cycle, but most of the recent changes are because of mankind’s carelessness and industrial advancements. Intense storms, flooding, drought, fire, avalanches, landslides… and that’s all been within the past week. Looked at as a whole, it might be overwhelming; people know changes need to be made, but what can one person do? Quite a lot, actually – and if everyone begins changing certain habits to a greener alternative, the impact will be felt. For your sake and mine, I’ve pulled together a list of things we can do:
Vote for green policies, support green campaigns and organisations, and get the word out to your friends and family about what they can do to become greener.
Switch off lights; change light bulbs to compact fluorescents or LEDs; wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water, and only when the load is full; hang dry your clothes when you can; keep your thermostat at minimum temperatures, and layer your clothes if you’re cool, or take off layers if you’re hot – don’t freeze your house in the summer, or heat it to the tropics in the winter. Look for energy-efficient labels when buying new appliances. If you’re thinking of moving, consider moving closer to your workplace, or closer to your usual shops – wherever you can to lower fuel consumption or allow alternative transport such as bike or bus.
Ask your utility company to switch your account to clean, renewable power, such as from wind farms, solar power, or earth-heat sources. If it doesn’t offer this option yet, ask it to. The next time you need to buy an appliance, look for the greener brand.
Buy organic and locally grown foods. Avoid processed items. Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain — at least one meat-free meal a day if you’re not already vegetarian — since 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production.
Garbage buried in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass, and donating things like clothes to charity shops. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging. If you do crafts or know anyone who does, upcycle.
Carbon taxes make polluting activities more expensive and green solutions more affordable, allowing energy-efficient businesses and households to save money. If your local government doesn’t have a carbon tax yet, ask your politicians to implement one.
Air travel leaves behind a huge carbon footprint. Before you book your next airline ticket, consider greener options such as buses or trains, or try vacationing closer to home. You can also stay in touch with people by videoconferencing, which saves time as well as travel and accommodation costs.
Transportation causes greenhouse gas emissions, so walk, cycle or take transit whenever you can. You’ll save money and get into better shape! If you can’t go car-free, try carpooling or car sharing, and use the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle possible.
Whether electronic items, or reusable grocery bags, you can reduce your carbon footprint by buying wisely, less often, and energy efficient. Buy local or organic foods when possible; look for fair trade products, which not only give a better wage to the people producing the good but also tend to have cost-efficient transport; buy essentials in bulk to reduce plastic wrapping. Recycle or upcycle that wrapping. Use what you buy – don’t let foods go off, or buy any item around the house unless you need it and will use it. Buy products when possible that are sourced from sustainable programs – wood, paper, etc. Don’t upgrade your cell phone until you must; that little gadget leaves a huge carbon footprint; and when you do upgrade your phone, make sure you recycle it. For every 1 million smartphones recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
Believe it or not, you may be spending more money on electricity to power devices when off than when on. Televisions, stereo equipment, computers, battery chargers and a host of other gadgets and appliances consume more energy when seemingly switched off, so unplug them instead.
If you can’t buy something locally, or bike or walk to the shop, consider online shopping. This is a catch-22, as local shops need your support; but if you have to drive further to find something, look for it online. According to one study, in-store shoppers gave off slightly fewer carbon dioxide emissions than online shoppers at distances shorter than 8.6 miles. For longer distances, online shoppers’ footprints remained relatively stable, while brick-and-mortar shoppers’ emissions skyrocketed, up to 451.4 grams of carbon dioxide per transaction (when travelling more than 62 miles). One UK study showed the average consumer would have to purchase 24 items at the market to make the trip equal to the carbon footprint of just one item ordered online.
What is your carbon footprint? How many slaves do you use? Become aware of what your past habits have done, and it will influence your future choices. Here are a few links to help you figure out how you are impacting the environment:
How big is your environmental footprint? Check out this Footprint Calculator
How many slaves work for you? Take this survey to find out.