Tag Archives: Science & Technology

How to Make a Positive Impact on the Climate

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:

Climate Changes

1. Get involved

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.

2. Be energy efficient

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.

3. Choose renewable power

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.

4. Eat wisely

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.

5. Trim your waste

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.

6. Let polluters pay

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.

7. Fly less

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.

8. Green your commute

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.

9.  Buy Less

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.

10.  Unplug

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.

11:  Shop Online

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.

12.  Carbon Footprint Awareness

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.

Additional Information:

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/top-10-ways-you-can-stop-climate-change/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/10-solutions-for-climate-change/

http://mashable.com/2014/05/15/climate-change-impact/#ILorIHWGeaqw

 

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A Blast from the Past: 1906

Living in the Cyber Age, it’s easy to forget that personal computers only came into existence for the mass market in 1981 (and even then, didn’t become common household items until the early 1990s), with the launch of the IBM Personal Computer (they coined that term, and the shortened “PC”).  We got our first personal computer in 1993, and it had the astounding RAM of 256 MB!

As far as telephones went, I grew up with several:  My grandparents’ farm had a box phone on the wall, with the separate ear piece; then they modernized to a heavy black beast of a rotary phone – the kind you could really slam down if the need arose; in fact, you had to be careful how you set it down when you weren’t upset, because it was so heavy that it might sound like a slam in the receiver!  My family had wireless land-line phones, but the signal was poor if you moved much farther away than a long cable would have allowed.   Remember the impatience of dialling a number on the rotary dial, especially if it contained nines or zeros?  And remember that curly cable that got tangled on itself from being over-stretched?  Cell phones didn’t really come into their own until the late 1990s as a mass-market item; kids today would find that hard to imagine, as they seem to think they’ll fall off the edge of the known universe and die if they leave the house without their cells.

Before Spotify, iTunes or MP3s, and even before CDs were common, cassette tapes and LP (long-play) records were all the rage.  Remember winding cassettes with a pencil?  Now that films like “Guardians of the Galaxy” have highlighted cassettes, this generation thinks they’re a novel gadget, and history begins to repeat itself with the labels of “retro” or “vintage” attached to make “old” sound “cool”!  We had an 8-track player in our car, with a cumbersome disc the size of an old Beta movie cassette case.  My father was always at the cutting edge of technology, and in the late 70s we had a laser disc player; the DVDs were the size of LP records (yet looked just like a CD or DVD of today), and we had films like “Logan’s Run” and “Heaven Can Wait”.  The technology didn’t catch on, so I’ve never known anyone else who had that contraption (an image below shows the size comparison to a modern DVD).  Another gadget we had was a set of picture frames hanging on our living room wall; they were filled with psychedelic lights that reacted to sounds, changing colours as you talked, sang, or watched television.  The topic of TVs is a whole other kettle of fish!  As the way of dinosaurs, cassettes and 8-tracks, CDs are nearly a thing of the past now, with digital clouds; even television stations will struggle to survive in the changing technology with on-demand digital providers becoming more popular.  Here are a few images to stir your nostalgia for stone-age technology:

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With so many changes happening just within a few decades, it’s easy to imagine that a century ago, things were even more different.  I wish I had statistics for Europe, but here are a few US stats for the year 1906 – 110 years ago.  Some of these items came in the form of a chain e-mail several years ago, and I didn’t forward it; even so, I’ve made new friends, I haven’t been hit by a meteorite, and I’ve been perfectly happy, despite the threats that come from breaking such a chain…

  • 18% of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
  • 2 out of every 10 adults were illiterate; only 6% of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  • 90% of all doctors had NO college education; they rather attended “medical schools,” many of which were condemned by the press and the government as sub-standard.
  • A 3-minute call from Denver to New York City cost 11 dollars.
  • A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 per year, a dentist $2,500, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
  • Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California.
  • Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.
  • Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn’t been invented yet.
  • Marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores; pharmacists claimed that, “Heroin clears complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.”
  • More than 95% of all births in the US took place at home.
  • Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • Sugar cost 4 cents per pound; eggs were 14 cents for a dozen; coffee was 15 cents a pound.
  • The American flag had 45 stars: Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska had not yet been admitted into the Union.
  • The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
  • The average life expectancy was 47.
  • The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
  • The average wage in the US was 22 cents per hour.
  • The maximum speed limit for most cities was 10 mph.
  • The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
  • There was no official Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
  • There were about 230 reported murders in the entire US.
  • There were only 8,000 cars in the US, and only 144 miles of paved roads.
  • With a mere 1.4 million people, California was only the 21st-most populous state.
  • The five leading causes of death in the US:
    1. Pneumonia and influenza
    2. Tuberculosis
    3. Diarrhea
    4. Heart Disease
    5. Stroke
  • The top news articles of the time:
    1. Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer, located the Magnetic North Pole.
    2. Ethiopia declared independent in a tripartite pact; the country was divided into British, French, and Italian spheres of influence.
    3. Finland was the first European country to give women the vote.
    4. President Roosevelt sailed to the Panama Canal Zone. It was the first time a U.S. president travelled outside the country while in office.
    5. Reginald Fessenden invented wireless telephony, a means for radio waves to carry signals a significant distance. On December 24, he made the first radio broadcast: a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
    6. In Economy, federal spending was $0.57 billion; unemployment was 1.7%, and the cost of a first-class stamp was 2 cents.
    7. On 18 April, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit San Francisco, California, killing over 3,000. Though many have heard of the famous quake, a less-publicized 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador and Columbia earlier in the year, on 31 January, causing a tsunami.  On 16 August, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake in Valparaíso, Chile left approximately 20,000 dead, while on 18 September, a typhoon and tsunami killed an estimated 10,000 in Hong Kong.  The media all but ignored such events, making the San Fran earthquake the best-known, though it was the least of all these events in the loss of lives. [Note the warning about shooting looters, from the San Fran mayor, in the images below.]
    8. A few famous births in 1906: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4 Feb.); Hans Asperger (18 Feb.); Lou Costello (6 March).

Below are a few ads and gadgets from 1906 (gleaned around Pinterest), for your amusement:

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Not Just A Pretty Face

History is full of fascinating stories; some of them are so strange that they would be tossed onto the sludge pile of any self-respecting publisher if it came across their desk in the form of a novel’s premise.  As Mark Twain so elegantly put it, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”  The proof is in the pudding, as they say, in the following story:

What do the following three things have in common:  A young Jewish woman by the name of Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, born in 1914 in Vienna, Austria; the spread-spectrum technology that enables Wi-Fi, CDMA & Bluetooth; and a Hollywood starlet discovered in Paris by Louis B. Mayer in 1937?  Quite a lot, in fact; because the woman born in Austria was otherwise known as Hedy Lamarr, inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 for developing technology useful for a radio guidance system for torpedoes, the concept behind Bluetooth, Wi-Fi & CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and now used for entertainment and communication around the globe.

Lamarr, who became known as “the most beautiful woman in Europe”, was the only child of a prominent upper-class Jewish family, and her birth name was Hedwig (Hedy is the diminutive form).  At 18, she married Friedrich Mandl, reputed to be the third wealthiest man in Austria and an arms dealer who made a killing during the wars (in both senses of the word), in the proverbial bed with both Mussolini and the Nazis.  Lamarr would attend lavish dinner parties and business meetings with her husband as he networked with scientists and those involved in military technology, and her intelligent mind soaked up the information, nurturing her scientific talents.

Lamarr escaped her controlling and jealous husband by disguising herself as a maid and fleeing to Paris, where she obtained a divorce.  There she met Louis B. Mayer, who was scouting for European film talent; he had her change her surname to Lamarr, in homage to the silent film actress Barbara La Marr.  In 1938 she made her American film debut in “Algiers”, but because of her beauty, she was often typecast as a seductress; to alleviate the boredom, she set up an engineering room in her home and turned to applied sciences and inventing.  With the outbreak of World War II, she wanted to help in the war against the Germans, particularly in improving torpedo technology.  She met a composer, George Antheil, who had been tinkering with automating musical instruments; together they came upon the concept of “frequency hopping”:  Until then, torpedoes guided by radio signals could be jammed and sent off course just by tuning into their broadcasting frequency and causing interference; hopping frequencies would enable torpedoes to reach their target before their signal could be locked down.

Hedy Lamarr - Austrian-Actress-Invents-Control-Device

In classic Hollywood-portrayal style, the US Navy wasn’t interested in a technology developed by a beautiful actress and a musician in some suburban home.  I find the Stars and Stripes article above very telling as to their views of a pretty face actually being smart too; its tone is quite condescending from beginning to end.  The US military didn’t apply the groundbreaking technology for another 20 years, until the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  That same technology serves as the basis for our modern communication technology, enabling many people to use broadband simultaneously without interfering with each other; such situations as portrayed between Doris Day and Rock Hudson in “Pillow Talk” are unthinkable today, and all because of Hedy Lamarr.

So the next time you’re sitting in a café using Wi-Fi next to someone else on their own cell phone, give a wink to the memory of Hedy Lamarr.  May you be inspired to reach beyond the possibilities, and create fiction worth reading even in the distant future!

Hedy Lamarr Quote

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