Sunday, May 31, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

If you are my hidden treasure,
if you are my cross, my dampened pain,
if I am Chromodoris kuniei, and you alone my master,

never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

(Photo by doug.deep.)

Friday Hope Blogging

A new study suggests that severely damaged ecosystems can recover in a surprisingly short time:

A recent study by Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies reports that if humans commit to the restoration effort, most ecosystems can recover from very major disruption within decades to half-centuries....

According to the study, researchers compiled information from 240 independent studies conducted since 1910 that examined large, human-scale ecosystems recovery following the termination of both human and naturally imposed disruption.
A plan to log old-growth forests near the Grand Canyon has been halted:
For the second time in a decade, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club have halted a U.S. Forest Service plan to log old-growth forests north of Grand Canyon....

“We are pleased the Forest Service recognizes that they are on the wrong track with this timber sale,” said Stacey Hamburg, Grand Canyon campaign coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “It is time for a project that focuses on restoration, protection of wildlife, and preserving the limited old growth that remains. By reversing its decision the Forest Service now has an opportunity to do that."
It looks as though little or no logging and road-building will be allowed in roadless areas...for now:

Stepping into a major environmental dispute, the Obama administration said Thursday that no new timber-cutting or road project could begin in roadless areas of national forests without the permission of the secretary of agriculture....

Environmental activists and others greeted the directive as a rebuke to the Bush administration, which in effect overturned the Clinton rule in 2005.

Draining rice paddies once a year could allegedly cut their methane emissions by 30 percent:
Global methane emissions from rice paddies could be cut by 30 per cent if fields are drained at least once during the growing season and rice crop waste is applied off-season, according to a study. Methane is a significant contributor to global warming and is produced by certain types of bacteria in oxygen-deprived environments — such as those feeding on the organic waste in water-covered rice paddies.

"Draining allows organic material to decompose aerobically as it is not covered by standing water," says Yan Xiaoyuan of the Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who led the study.
Obama has announced new mileage standards:
Not only could the move potentially kick-start the sputtering U.S. auto industry, while saving the equivalent of some 1.8 billion barrels of oil, it also raises hopes that the Obama Administration will be able to forge a compromise on the tricky matter of a national cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. "It's an enormous breakthrough for national legislation," says Vickie Patton, a senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund. "It ends years of polarization on extraordinarily difficult issues and leaves us with a sense of progress."
The Administration will also hire workers to improve the country's public housing:
The Obama administration unveiled a $4bn (£2.5bn) plan to upgrade public housing for low-income Americans today, as part of an ambitious green job-creation project.

Obama sent the vice-president, Joe Biden, and other senior officials to Denver for a formal announcement of the renovation scheme, which will replace windows, insulation and even light bulbs in ageing and neglected housing stock.

The labour secretary, Hilda Solis, was also expected to announce $500m to train up workers for the new jobs. Of those funds, $50m will be directed to regions that have been hardest hit by the recession – such as the rustbelt state of Michigan where the unemployment rate is now 12%.
POGO discusses a possible plan to reform federal drilling and mining rules:
The Royalty-In-Kind (RIK) program that POGO has long criticized and recommended abolishing may be coming to an end. According to The Hill, the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources committee has crafted a bill to overhaul federal drilling rules that would alter royalty rates, shorten the duration of leases from 10 years to five, and move the leasing function out of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) into an Office of Federal Energy and Minerals Leasing. I haven't seen the legislation yet, but this last proposal would also seem to address POGO's concern that MMS has an inherent conflict of interest since it is charged with both leasing federal lands for drilling and auditing these leases.
New York has tentatively closed Times Square to cars:
If the city judges the closure of these sections a success, it is prepared to go even further and close the entire boulevard to vehicular access. The city plans on creating a truly pedestrian friendly walkway in the heart of the Manhattan theatre district. It will effectively become the biggest change to the makeup of the city, an urban companion to New York’s Central Park.
Although sensible centrists like Thomas Fuller have explained that natural gas is the ideal way to bring electricity to the world's poor, various filthy hippies keep trying to find some sort of practical use for solar power:
In rural regions of the Himalayas, a new lightweight, low cost, portable solar cooker called the SolSource 3-in-1 is poised to transform the health and prosperity of entire villages. The device, which can replace the hazardous traditional biomass-burning stove as a means for cooking and heating the home, can also use its own waste thermal energy to generate enough electricity to light a home at night, charge cell phones and power other small devices. And because the cooker's unique design targets specific local needs and materials, its manufacture and distribution could provide a new economic future for communities in transition from agricultural to manufacturing economies.

The satellite dish-shaped SolSource, developed by US-based nonprofit One Earth Designs, is elegant in its simplicity. Reflective nomadic tent material, stretched across a bamboo frame, concentrates sunlight from a large area inward toward a focal point where the user can place a pot stand for cooking, a thermoelectric device for generating electricity (at a lower cost than a photovoltaic panel), a heat module for heating the home, a solar water disinfector for treating drinking water, or a thermal battery for cooking after dark. These interchangeable parts are each about the size of a laptop computer, and the main platform is easily folded and disassembled for portability.
I kind of like these steel-foil buildings:
Conceived by design/build team Heatherwick Studio, the special cladding system was installed on-site by forming foil-thin steel into structural shapes and then coating the inside with spray foam insulation. The polished and crinkled steel not only provides windowsills and eaves but creates an interesting facade of fragmented reflections of sky, forest, and grass which gives the buildings a striking look that is entirely made up of their surroundings.

This is interesting too:
Employees in a handful of MIT buildings might notice what look like slim, fin-tubed radiators in ceiling cavities. These cooling devices are a relatively recent innovation to make its way to the U.S. market. Called chilled beams, they use water, not air, to remove heat from a room....

The potential energy reduction of using chilled beams instead of a traditional air-conditioning system ranges from 20 percent to 50 percent, depending on the type of system, climate and building.
Israeli farmers are reducing their pesticide use, having noticed that birds eat rodents:
Many farmers are installing nest boxes to encourage the birds, which hunt the crop-damaging rodents.

In Israel, where there is a drive to reduce the use of toxic chemical pesticides, this has been turned into a government-funded national programme. Scientists and conservation charities from Jordan and Palestine have joined the scheme.
An Indonesian beach has been purchased for the benefit of this handsome creature:

"Protecting this beach is just the first step in what will soon be a comprehensive conservation project for the benefit of the maleo," Andayani said.

To commemorate the birds' new refuge, conservationists and local people recently released four maleo chicks.
A new non-toxic hull coating uses "wrinkled topographies" to protect ships from barnacles:
North Carolina State University engineers have created a non-toxic "wrinkled" coating for use on ship hulls that resisted buildup of troublesome barnacles during 18 months of seawater tests, a finding that could ultimately save boat owners millions of dollars in cleaning and fuel costs....

"The results are very promising," Efimenko said. "We are dealing with a very complex phenomenon. Living organisms are very adaptable to the environment, so we need to find their weakness. And this hierarchical wrinkled topography seems to do the trick.
There's word of a new microbicide that works against HIV:
They designed synthetic DNA for producing this molecule and introduced this DNA into plant cells. After regenerating transgenic plants that produce the fusion molecule, they prepared the microbicide from a plant extract made by grinding the leaves.

"This study is nothing short of a breakthrough—not only does it yield a new drug to fight the spread of HIV, but it also shows us how we can produce it on the scale necessary to get it into the hands of those who need it most," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
In other news, Angela at (what is this?) has published a book on artistic printing.
We did what in publishing jargon is sometimes called a "micro-history." Instead of Cod or Salt we chose Artistic Printing, the elaborate style of commercial letterpress printing popular ca. 1870s-1890. We've taken a piece of obscure cultural arcana and tried to reason that, well, it's not so obscure after all— or it shouldn’t be. Artistic printing was popular taste. It drew upon, and helped perpetuate, motifs that show up in other decorative arts of the time. In certain ways the style allowed for, and encouraged, design freedom and experimentation. Artistic printing showcases some of the more adventurous typographic play made to that date and many of the oddest conceptions of page arrangements ever.

You can buy it here, and would be foolish not to. There's a blog to go with it, too.

Furthermore: Bottlecaps! A discussion of Gigapan pictures, with examples. An Eerie Silence. All that remains of Kleindeutschland (via Plep). Vintage slides. Further forays into fluorescence. And odd photos of dioramas from the American Museum of Natural History.

Data sonifications. A 7-year-old explains how to rescue the Mars Rover. Volcanic terrain on Mercury. A monograph on the architecture of evil lairs. Experimental music and films from the Middle Eastern Avant-Garde (1959-2001). And a gorgeous collection of photos by Raymond Meeks.

Kinetic sculptures. Some unsettling potato portraits. Constructivist designs by Varvara Stepanova. And for my dear ancillary spouse, a book of animal-drawing instructions, a Wonder Movie, and a collection of watch-paper prints.

And, of course, a short film.

(Illustration at top: "Seal Point Series #55" by John Walker, 2005.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Immense Good Will

As all good centrists know, extremism in defense of moderation is no vice. If I call Charles Manson a dangerous lunatic, and Squeaky Fromme calls him the new Christ, sensible people will naturally stake out the middle ground while awaiting further evidence.

As Thomas Fuller reminds us, the same logic applies to climate change:

The question before us all today is whether global warming is the major challenge confronting our generation or is it a chimera, a ghost story to be told around a campfire?
Fuller says that we'll know which of these claims is true in thirty years. Which is very judicious of him, God knows. It's ever so balanced and measured and nonpartisan and objective to treat the IPCC reports and The Great Global Warming Swindle as equally plausible interpretations of climate data.

I'm tempted to argue that Fuller is being disingenuous. But according to him, I can't do this without committing a grave sin against Civility. Although we differ strongly on the likelihood that AGW will turn out to be a "ghost story," we must each acknowledge the other's basic honesty and good will.
People are not campaigning for reductions in energy use as a hobby. They do it because they believe the planet is in danger. Scientists do not enter a career with the idea that they will perpetuate a fraud on an unsuspecting public. They are trying to explain the data they find. On the other side, skeptics are not protesting because they like being trashed in the media. They do it because they believe we should be solving other problems. When people of immense good will are calling each other names, there is something badly wrong with the way we are conducting the discussion.
Fair enough. If Lord Monckton's detractors stop calling him a fraud and a fool, and he stops calling them socialist bedwetters, we can all get on with more important admiring the colorful new graph he cobbled together over a bottle or two of Malmsey.

Notice that Fuller doesn't say "skeptics are not protesting because they're bought-and-paid-for industry shills with the ethical sense of a tapeworm." Instead, he tries to disabuse his readers of a nonsensical opinion that none of them actually holds. If I weren't convinced of his immense good will, I'd suspect that he's trying to advance the denialist myth that the mass media have been inhospitable to skeptics, while passing himself off as some sort of modern Socrates.

On the bright side, Fuller supports cap-and-trade, space-based solar panels, raising CAFE standards, improving public transportation, and all sorts of other potentially admirable things. He also wants us "to bring the poorest third of the world's population onto the grid -- converting them from reliance on wood and animal dung for fuel to available electricity powered by natural gas." Apparently, once we've filled the exosphere with solar panels, there'll be none left over for the poor.

Electrifying the developing world with natural gas isn't mere humanitarian busywork, by the way; it's also good PR.
This would...prove that our concerns about climate change do not amount to little more than an exercise in vanity.
The only alternative, I guess, would be to ask the poorest third of the world's population to take our immense good will on faith. And that'd be dumb.

Fuller has a special closing message for skeptics (who, you'll recall, aren't yelling "it's the sun, stupid!" because they enjoy being seen as invincibly ignorant loudmouths).
Above all, to the skeptics I say, first and foremost remain skeptics--there hasn't been enough skepticism on this issue yet, and it sorely needs it.
Arise, take up thy bed, and walk! Just don't accuse people who disagree with you of being "demons or conspirators," when they're far more likely to be garden-variety dingbats and hysterics who'll look ineffably silly in thirty years. As for you dingbats and hysterics, stop calling the skeptics names. After all, their immense good will is a match for your own. At the very least.

We can only hope that from this day forward, climate scientists, erratic British peers, faux-populist Fox News hosts, retired petroleum geologists, and undistinguished economists from conservatarian thinktanks will put aside all the name-calling and conspiracy theories, and meet each other as equals on the field of sober scientific inquiry. What could they possibly have to lose?

(Ad at top via The Guardian.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

I'm insanely busy right now, but I hope to be back next week. Thanks for your patience, meanwhile!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Friday Hope Blogging

Maine is the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage:

"Article I in the Maine Constitution states that 'no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor be denied the equal protection of the laws, nor be denied the enjoyment of that person's civil rights or be discriminated against.'"

"This new law does not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of Church and State," Governor Baldacci said.

"It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine's civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government."
Russian lawmakers have rejected a particularly demented anti-gay bill:
A bill that would have made it a criminal offense for anyone who “openly demonstrated a homosexual way of life and a homosexual orientation” to hold jobs in education or in the army has been defeated.

The legislation would have mandated a sentence of from two to five years. It needed 226 votes to proceed - only 90 deputies voted for it.
Obama's budget eliminates funding for abstinence education:
President Obama’s 2010 budget, which was released today, May 7, 2009, eliminates funding for abstinence only programs and redirects funds to a new Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative....

The elimination of funding for abstinence only programs is a huge victory. Abstinence only programs have no perceivable impact on teen sexual activity - young people who go through these programs are just as sexually active as their peers. Instead, the programs teach inaccurate information about contraception and decrease condom use and other safe sex practices . Further, they often teach a fundamentalist Christian worldview, encourage young people to fit into essentialist and offensive gender roles, and ignore or actively oppose homosexuality . Abstinence only programs waste government funds teaching a belief system rather than scientifically accurate information.
An Alabama school district has stopped segregating its classes by sex:
Back in December of last year, the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project (WRP) and the ACLU of Alabama sent Open Records Act requests to nine school districts in Alabama requesting information about their sex-segregated programs. One district, the St. Clair County School System, asked the ACLU to testify at a Board of Education meeting on April 20. At that meeting, ACLU of Alabama staff attorney Allison Neal outlined how sex-segregated programs inevitably lead to inequality, and may violate Title IX of the Education Amendments, the Equal Education Opportunities Act and the Constitution.

We received a letter from St. Clair yesterday, stating that it would end the single-sex education program at Odenville Middle School and would no longer offer single-sex education at any other school in the district for the 2009-2010 school year.
Duke Energy has pulled out of the National Association Of Manufacturers because of their denialist stance on global warming:
The National Association of Manufacturers is a right-wing trade organization that refuses to address — or even acknowledge — man-made global warming. Last month, it protested the EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, stating that the “clean air laws” are supposed to only focus on “local pollutants.” It has also funded climate change denier groups and heavily lobbied against any efforts to curb emissions.

The organization’s resistance to change is getting to be too much for its members. Today, Bloomberg reports that Duke Energy Corp., which owns utilities in the Southeast and Midwest, announced that it won’t be renewing its membership with NAM, in part because of NAM’s refusal to address global warming
(h/t: AndyMN.)

In related news, Ken Salazar doesn't seem to have figured out that oil shale production is not a very good idea. You can fill him in on the gory details by clicking here.

The Supreme Court has ruled that people who unknowingly use other people's Social Security numbers and identification cards can't be prosecuted for identity theft:
During the Bush Administration, the government prosecuted or threatened to prosecute hundreds of immigrant workers for aggravated identity theft even when there was no evidence that the worker knew that he or she was using false documents that belonged to another person. As the Supreme Court has now held, the government’s view contradicted the plain words of the statute, which requires knowledge.
McDonald's has been forced to make amends to gay customers who were verbally abused at an outlet in Louisville, KY:
With the public and the commission’s eyes on them, McDonald’s finally backed down, agreeing to school its managers on Louisville’s anti-discrimination law and offering Ryan and Teddy $2,000 each, which they accepted. Originally, Ryan and Teddy had only asked for $28, the cost of the meals they and their friends bought on the day they were verbally abused. Would have been much cheaper and easier for them to just apologize and maybe tell their staff not to call paying customers “faggots,” don’t you think?
The president of the health insurance industry's trade group has suggested that insurers may be willing to consider thinking about looking into the possibility of ending the practice of charging women more than men for insurance:
Women tend to pay higher premiums than men for health insurance. Insurers have argued this is because women tend to have higher health costs, particularly during the child-bearing years.
But as the feds scrutinize health care, that disparity has come under the spotlight; earlier this week, Massachusetts Dem John Kerry introduced a bill that would prohibit insurers from charging women more than men.

And testifying in the Senate yesterday, Karen Ignani, the president of the big trade group for health insurers, said she doesn't think gender should factor into women's rates when buying individual policies.
The California tiger salamander is closer to gaining protection:
In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to reconsider critical habitat for the Sonoma County population of the California tiger salamander. In 2005, the Bush administration reduced proposed critical habitat acreage for the species from 74,000 to zero.

“The California tiger salamander in Sonoma County will finally receive the protection it desperately needs to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The designation of zero acres of critical habitat for the salamander was characteristic of the Bush administration’s total disregard for the law and the nation’s wildlife.”
A federal judge has ruled that GM crops shouldn't be planted in US wildlife refuges:
U.S. District Judge Gregory Sleet wrote that the Fish and Wildlife agency erred by failing to conduct environmental studies to determine whether farming with genetically modified crops at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware was compatible with conservation and habitat preservation.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, Sleet wrote, does "not contest that their own biologists determined that these activities posed significant environmental risks to Prime Hook, including biological contamination, increased weed resistance and damage to
The EU Assembly has voted to ban imports of seal products:
The European Parliament voted to ban European Union imports of seal products on Tuesday, a step Canada and Norway have said they will challenge in the world's top trade court.

"This is what the citizens of Europe want," Arlene McCarthy, the British socialist who chairs parliament's internal market committee, told reporters.

The 15 seal species now hunted are not endangered but European politicians demanded action after finding what they said was evidence that many are skinned while still conscious.
There's a growing trend towards siting farmers' markets at hospitals:
We have right now a significant number of farmers who look to the institutional delivery of food as a real mainstay source of income for their families. And, on the economic side, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper, ultimately, to cook a healthy meal at home than it is to spend money on expensive packaged foods and processed foods. So we’ve got the connection to health, economics, and then there’s the obvious connection to the environment.
BLDGBLOG discusses the lost wave motors of California:
Still embedded somewhere in the shores of California, buried by more than a century of sand, are lost hydroelectric machines....Precursors of today's interest in tide power, these were "wave motors" and mechanized basins that turned the coast into a series of timed catchment reservoirs. The landscape itself became a machine.

One of the earliest patents filed for such technology was by Oakland resident Henry Newhouse in 1877. The purpose of his machine was "[t]o utilize the tide for a water-power," his patent text read, as quoted by the San Francisco-based Western Neighborhoods Project, "and preserve a continuous power by means of the arrangement of a reservoir to catch the water at high-tide, and a discharge-basin to let the water out at low tide and shut it out while the tide is rising."
Via Inhabitat, a building made of kitchen sinks.
Reclaimed kitchen sinks serve as the pavilion’s principle facade elements, which are held together with scaffolding, wire and waterproof multiplex boards. The airy structure is open on top to the sky and doesn’t feature any specific amenities inside, which makes it more of a community gathering place than a shelter. The building can also collect rainwater in a tank to water the nearby collective garden.

See also Ghost Power.

The Intertubes may make it easier to track public-health threats like H1N1:
Tapping the Internet - including personal Web searches, news reports, blogs, chat rooms and social networking sites - is fast becoming a way to get a complete, up-to-the-minute view of public health threats, say researchers from the Informatics Program at Children's Hospital Boston (CHIP) in a Perspectives article published Online First by The New England Journal of Medicine on May 7, 2009. In an accompanying sidebar, they describe the use of - a freely available Web site that aggregates, categorizes, filters and displays real-time information on emerging infectious diseases - in tracking the current H1N1 swine flu outbreak.
Michael Savage has been permabanned from the UK:
Michael Alan Weiner, a.k.a. Michael Savage, right-wing talk radio host, for “seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred.” The Home Office also noted that Savage’s “views on immigration, Islam, rape and autism have caused great offence in the US.”
Collages by Mary Emma Hawthorne. The Catacombs of Rome in 3D. The poetry and prose of Jónas Hallgrímsson. Aerial views of North Dakota. And ground-level views of Crazy Embroidery.

The earthly remains of The Jumble Club. Everything you ever wanted to know about The Workhouse (via wood s lot). The Universe is a Haunted House, a photoblog from Estonia. Freeze Frame: Historic Polar Images, 1845-1982 (via Plep.)

30 Ways to Electrocute Yourself (via bre pettis). Nonsense infographics. Photos by Jan von Holleben. Original four-track masters by the Beatles. Ribambelles et Pliages. A collection of scientific illustrations.

And a cartoon, lovingly dedicated to the person it reminds me of.

(Photo at top: "Dark Markings near Theta Ophiuchi" from A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way, Book I by Edward Barnard.)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and Triopha catalinae.

(Photo by Minette Layne.)

Friday Hope Blogging

The Maine Senate has passed a marriage equality bill:

The legislation would repeal Maine’s 12-year-old so-called Defense of Marriage law, which bars same-sex marriage and make marriage gender-neutral. It also states that churches would not be compelled to conduct same-sex weddings if it would be inconsistent with their doctrine.
An arranged marriage between an eight-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man has been annulled by a Saudi judge:
Media reports say an arranged marriage between a Saudi girl aged eight and a man in his 50s has been annulled, in a case attracting worldwide criticism.

The Saudi Gazette says the divorce was agreed in an out-of-court settlement after a judge rejected two attempts to grant the girl a divorce....A new judge was appointed to oversee the case, who issued the annulment after the husband finally gave up his insistence that the marriage had been legal, reports say.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has closed a fishery in the Gulf of Mexico to protect sea turtles:
“Today is a great day for all who believe in protecting vulnerable sea turtles from unnecessary and illegal harm and ensuring their continued survival in the wild,” said Steve Roady, an attorney with Earthjustice. “We commend NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco for setting a new course for NMFS that relies on sound science to manage our oceans for the great benefit of our nation and local communities.”
Ken Salazar has rescinded most of the Bush's anti-ESA regulations:
Utilizing authority granted to him by Congress, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar rescinded a rule passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weakens the Endangered Species Act by exempting thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act. Salazar, however, did not take action to rescind a rule that sharply limits protections for the threatened polar bear despite having authority to rescind this rule as well.

“Secretary Salazar took an important step today toward restoring needed protections for endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, biodiversity program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But he still needs to rescind the special rule for the polar bear, which amounts to a death sentence for the majestic bear because it exempts greenhouse gas emissions from regulation.”
Obama is also taking steps to overturn BushCo's irresponsible mining-waste rules:
The Obama administration on Monday took steps to cancel a Bush-era rule that made it easier for mountaintop mining operations to dump rock, dirt and other waste near streams.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Justice Department would ask a U.S. district court to overturn the rule that went into effect in January, just before President Obama took office.
An important forest restoration project will soon begin in northern Arizona:
Representatives of the Grand Canyon Trust, Arizona Forest Restoration Products, and Center for Biological Diversity today signed a landmark agreement committing mutual support to a plan to safely restore beneficial fires and conserve biological diversity in northern Arizona ponderosa pine forests, the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world.

Following a century of ecological decline and decades of litigation, the agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding between the parties, marks a sea change in southwestern forest politics, focusing industry and conservation groups on a common goal of conserving species and ecosystems in a rapidly warming climate.
The EPA will withdraw the permit for a coal-fired power plant in New Mexico:
The agency’s issuance of a “prevention of significant deterioration” permit to the Desert Rock Energy Company is necessary for the power plant to proceed. Its withdrawal request continues a pattern of federal and state agencies, and power plant companies, delaying or canceling proposed coal-fired power plants around the country as concern grows for their environmental impacts and financial viability. Coal-fired power plants are the single greatest stationary source of carbon dioxide emissions in the nation, and their future has become uncertain as the federal government progresses toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Robotic animals are being deployed to catch poachers:
On a remote U.S. Forest Service road in Arizona a few years ago, the driver of a white minivan slowly rolls to a stop, sticks a rifle out the window, and starts firing at what look to be wild turkeys.

State officers hiding in nearby bushes emerge, running toward the vehicle and shouting: "Game and Fish Department! Cease fire! Put down your weapon!"

The driver speeds off, but is caught a short distance down the dirt road by another officer. The hunter is cited for discharging a weapon from a vehicle—a U.S. $500 fine.

Unbeknownst to the driver, the turkey is actually a robotic decoy designed to catch such outdoor outlaws. Other robots include swimming moose, white-tailed deer and black bear.
The UAE has established its first mountain wildlife reserve:
“Wadi Wurayah is of considerable ecological significance allowing among the rarest species found in the UAE, Arabian Peninsular and the world to survive this harsh climate,” said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director the Emirates Wildlife Society-World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF), which helped with the park creation. “Over the past 3 years, we have revealed the presence of 12 species of mammals, 73 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles and amphibians, and one species of fish and 74 invertebrate families, of which 11 are new species for science.” In addition, 300 species of plants have been discovered in the park.
A palm oil company has withdrawn plans to turn Ivory Coast wetlands into an industrial plantation:
"Palmci has decided to abandon this project in the face of the refusal of certain NGOs to accept the coexistence of environmental preservation and the development of economic activity," the company said in a statement. Palmci claimed that abandonment of the project would lead to the loss of a potential 1,000 new jobs for plantation workers, 300 industrial positions, and an investment of 18 billion CFA francs (€27 million / $36 million).

The company did not cite the recent sharp decline in palm oil prices as a factor. Palm oil prices are down more than 40 percent from their peak in March 2008.
Spain's enormous solar-thermal tower is now operational:
Over the course of the testing period, PS20 surpassed the predicted power output, thus further validating the high potential of power tower technology.
PS20 is the world's second power tower plant in commercial use.
The Sietch Blog discusses the Obama administration's programs for science education. These two are particularly appealing, in my view:
Focused Research in K-12 Science Education Strategies and Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers: will address how students learn about science and technology, evaluating immediate challenges in primary and secondary schools and envisioning science education as it could be in future decades. It will assess what works and why, enable enhanced learning in the K-12 setting on topics relating to clean energy, and consider new and innovative ways to communicate the challenges and promise of clean energy....

Education in Complex Interrelationships: to enable education in computationally-enabled modeling of complex interrelationships among energy systems, environmental and economic impacts, and human factors.These group-funded efforts will be co-located at university high-end computational facilities to foster cyber-enabled learning skills for conducting complex modeling and analysis.
Students at the University of Michigan have come up with a cheap, reliable surgical lamp:
Let’s say you’re in surgery, having a life-saving operation, and the power cuts out. Then imagine it stays out for a few hours, days, or even weeks—a not-infrequent occurrence in countries with crappy infrastructure. A team of engineering graduate and undergraduate students at University of Michigan has a great idea: A surgical lamp for use in developing countries where the power-grid’s unreliability poses serious threats to doctors’ abilities to properly treat patients.

The hook? It’s cheap to make (pie pan, bike brake, LED), and runs on batteries. And since it was designed by engineering folk, it actually works really well, and meets western-grade standards of reliability. It’s currently being tried out in Uganda.
The Irish government has rejected e-voting in favor of paper ballots:
Ireland's decision that it can't bear the continued costs of e-voting is merely the latest in an ongoing string of such decisions, in which states like Ohio and Florida have said that it's just too expensive to limp along with what is, in essence, a failed, poorly planned, large-scale IT infrastructure deployment.
Revere discusses the positive side of the H1N1 outbreak:
There is a tendency to be preoccupied with the latest in fast moving events, but I want to pause for a moment to make a point that has been lost in the discussion: we are witnessing a medical science landmark. Never before have we watched a flu outbreak of global dimensions unfold in real time. Nor have we ever had the opportunity to alter the course of such an outbreak....[W]e are compiling extremely valuable information about the dynamics of influenza disease spread, information that will pay off in future planning and preparedness activities.
European researchers claim to have developed a new interface that will simplify access to digital sound archives:
{T]he system functions go further. “Of course, nobody just wants to find a piece of music. They want to play around with it, too, so we developed a series of tools that allow users to manipulate the sounds in a wide variety of useful ways,” explains Joshua Reiss, coordinator of the Easaier project.

The Easaier system, for example, will allow students to slow down playback without altering the pitch. It will also allow them to separate specific instruments from a piece, and they can play back the piece an octave higher or lower, to hear how that affects it.

What’s more, there are tools that can be used with speech, as well as a novel presentation of multimedia material, such as sound-source separation, equalisation and noise-reduction algorithms, and methods to synchronise video and audio streams in real time.
You're expecting a collection of random links, I suppose? Fine.

Historical documents relating to May Day. An interactive map of library cats. Vintage Expo pavilion brochures (via things). BibliOdyssey surveys The World Around Us.

Details of boats. Images of Finland. Hints on How to Play at Home. And via Plep, a series of reflections in waterdrops.

When Mice Collide. An owl visitation. A collection of Seeds for the South. The Victorian Studio Portrait Photograph Collection. Building the Tyne Bridge. Inside breaking waves.

And just for a change, an animated film.

(Image at top: "Chinese Kite Frame" by Thomas Smillie, circa 1906. Via Luminous Lint.)