Society: Arts and Science – December 14

Today is International Thanksgiving Day! A day to celebrate your life in a special way…

Swedish and Norwegian committees bestow Nobel Prizes in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. In 1895, the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Edward Lawrie Tatum was born on this date in 1909. He was an American geneticist. He shared half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1958 with George Wells Beadle for showing that genes control individual steps in metabolism. The other half of that year’s award went to Joshua Lederberg. Beadle and Tatum’s key experiments involved exposing the bread mould Neurospora crassa to x-rays, causing mutations. In a series of experiments, they showed that these mutations caused changes in specific enzymes involved in metabolic pathways. These experiments, published in 1941, led them to propose a direct link between genes and enzymatic reactions, known as the “one gene, one enzyme” hypothesis. Tatum went on to study genetics in bacteria. An active area of research in his laboratory was to understand the basis of Tryptophan biosynthesis in Escherichia coli. Later, Tatum and his student Joshua Lederberg showed that E. coli could share genetic information through recombination. Tatum was born in Boulder, Colorado. He attended college at the University of Chicago and received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1934. Starting in 1937, he worked at Stanford University, where he began his collaboration with Beadle. He then moved to Yale University in 1945 where he mentored Lederberg. He returned to Stanford in 1948 and then joined the faculty of Rockefeller Institute in 1957. A heavy cigarette smoker, he died in New York City of heart failure complicated by chronic emphysema.
Nikolay Gennadiyevich Basov was born on this date in 1922. He was a Soviet physicist and educator. For his fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics that led to the development of laser and maser, Basov shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with Alexander Prokhorov and Charles Hard Townes.

More than a hundred years ago, the Republic of China was just getting organised by Mao following the abdication of Emperor Pu Yi. The Scouts had just been formalised by Royal Charter. The Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin had broken away from other socialists and the first issue of Pravda was in planning. The African National Congress had been announced a couple of weeks ago, still waiting for the arrival of Nelson Mandela. The Robert Scott expedition was already lost on its way back from the South Pole. Wow, what a leap year! We have our own problems today and our own accomplishments are ahead of us. Today, we can improve our personal energy situation.

Residential solar power has been within the reach of us for decades. Depending on your location, passive solar devices like correct window selection, have been used by savvy homeowners. Some have been in situations where they could use solar water heating systems. Most of us have thought about photovoltaic solar panels for generating electricity. As our electrical needs continue to grow, we can help ourselves to the watts bouncing away from our homes and businesses. The expense or complete independence runs into tens of thousands of dollars and the savings can take more than a decade to pay back on the investment. However, partial independence is offered if we use government subsidies effectively.

As the cost of living continues to go up, our utilities are a big part of our personal cost of living. Like with so many things for which we need to plan, doing it now will pay us back when we need it most. Reducing our utility costs can be a way to stay in our homes longer and more comfortably. There are even some pundits who calculate that those of us that install residential renewable energy systems will have an income stream in the decades ahead. Under advisement, I recommend that you consider a renewable energy project as a part of your next renovation or repair.

You can start your planning today. On the internet, you will find a plethora of online guides, videos, and e-books if you are do-it-yourself inclined. Because most are sponsored by garage-based renewable energy enthusiasts , these are efforts to create awareness by making the information free. Be careful. Not everyone can teach, not every video or guide tells you everything you need to know. Do your due diligence, do your research, be serious about what you want to achieve. Whether you will do it yourself or contract the work, you can’t expect that the project will be as simple as picking out an appliance and having it delivered. Fortunately, you can expect that your renewable energy project will deliver on its promises for decades. Here are some early considerations for you.

  1. Be honest. How skilled are you at building and installing things? This will affect the quality and efficiency of your installation. Remember that the best installation is at the highest point of your property. How comfortable are you with roofing work? Are equipped to prevent injury to yourself or others?
  2. Check out the instructions from several perspectives. What are you being asked to do? How will those instructions lead to providing you with renewable energy? Each step should lead you to several questions and concerns. Are these questions and concerns answered? Can you get feedback and support from the consultants you use? This will affect how well your system will function.
  3. What is the total cost of ownership? Kits cost significantly less than professionally built systems but will they function at the same efficiency level? Will you need to purchase other parts? Will you need to purchase permits or inspections? What ongoing costs or services are required?

Society: Arts and Science – November 24

Today is International Thanksgiving Day! A day to celebrate your life in a special way…

Swedish and Norwegian committees bestow Nobel Prizes in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. In 1895, the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood CH, PC, QC died on this day in 1958. He, known as Lord Robert Cecil from 1868 to 1923, was a lawyer, politician and diplomat in the United Kingdom. He was one of the architects of the League of Nations and a defender of it, whose service to the organisation saw him awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937.
Lee Tsung-Dao was born on this date in 1926. He is a Chinese-born American physicist, well known for his work on parity violation, the Lee Model, particle physics, relativistic heavy ion (RHIC) physics, nontopological solitons and soliton stars. He holds the rank of University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1953 and from which he retired in 2012. In 1957, Lee, at the age of 30, won the Nobel Prize in Physics with C. N. Yang for their work on the violation of parity law in weak interaction, which Chien-Shiung Wu experimentally verified. Lee was the youngest Nobel laureate after World War II until Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. He is the fourth youngest Nobel laureate in history after W. L. Bragg (who won the prize at 25 with his father W. H. Bragg in 1915), Werner Heisenberg (who won in 1932 also at 30) and Malala Yousafzai. Lee and Yang were the first Chinese laureates. Since he became a naturalised American citizen in 1962, Lee is also the youngest American ever to have won a Nobel Prize.

Society: Arts and Science – October 1

The Nobel Prize is bestowed annually in categories as selected by Swedish and Norwegian committees in recognition of cultural or scientific advances. The 1895 will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes.
Yang Chen-Ning Franklin was born on this date in 1922. He is a Chinese-born American physicist who works on statistical mechanics and particle physics. He and Lee Tsung-dao received the 1957 Nobel prize in physics for their work on parity nonconservation of weak interaction. The two proved experimentally that one of the basic quantum-mechanics laws, the conservation of parity, is violated in the so-called weak nuclear reactions, those nuclear processes that result in the emission of beta or alpha particles.

Darwin and McCallum, LFL and pipelines?

Darwin famously mused that life began in some warm pond. Scientists have found evidence over the last two hundred years that these first biotics were formed about 3.7 billion years ago. The genius who created the National Research Council, Dr. Archibald McCallum, framed the ultimate origin of life question in the 1920s, noting that life continues to mimic the conditions under which it was first able to exist and most importantly, that cells have a concentration of potassium over sodium. Oceans under any models we can construct have always had a higher concentration of sodium over potassium. And so it would seem that life must have started in ponds with a high concentration of potassium. Biochemists have also pointed to the need for energy that is also mimiced in the cell. Some theories point to lightning, others to thermovolcanic vents as the most likely source of energy affecting the ponds as the chemicals were jumpstarted. Studies today have restarted the debate and come to the same conclusions as McCallum who in some way was showing that Darwin had the right idea.
The Lingerie Football League Canada franchise is playing with fire. They are planning to put two teams into Saskatchewan this year. I predict someone is going to die from mosquito distraction or chemical poisoning. The Edmonton Eskimos have had to cancel practices due to overwhelming mosquito attacks. How much worse will it be in Saskatchewan? as environmental forces become more militant about bug control? where the players are wearing modified bikinis? Saskatoon and Regina are listed as possible sites for this season’s schedule whch already includes Vancouver’s BC Angels and the Toronto Triumph. It may lead to someone cornering the market on DEET. But perhaps it will catch on. In 2011, eleven American cities fielded 7 0n 7 LFL teams in a 12 game season and they called it fantasy football.
Pipelines form an important part of many water-cooler conversations in Canada. There are three major initiatives at some stage of development. The Trans Mountain pipeline is currently providing oil to Vancouver ports but at a low capacity. In fact, 2012 saw the first sale of bitumen to China through the Trans Mountain pipeline. Plan are in the works to expand the capacity of the line. A larger pipeline is in the works for the Kitimat harbour, the Northern Gateway pipeline project. Much of the planning has taken place and public consultation is underway in the approval process. The Keystone pipeline approval process has been delayed until after the 2012 presidential debate. All three pipelines are expected to feed American refineries across California and Texas. As alternative energy projects continue, these pipelines are seen as essential to the transition of North American consumers to more fuel efficiency and smaller ecological footprints. The pipelines will also assist the growing BRICK economies.