Science Saturday – Fracking Explained

Fracking. It’s all over the news lately, and almost everyone I speak to about it hasn’t the faintest idea about what it is and why it’s so controversial. And many of them naively think that it’s the holy grail to cheaper energy and saving themselves a few bob in the long run. The reality is very different.

And so to help you understand firstly what fracking actually is, and secondly why it’s so dangerous, the guys at Kurzgesagt put together a great no-nonsense video which explains everything.

The two things that scare the living daylights out of me about fracking are these.

1. Essentially, oil and gas companies, who only care about profiteering, and have historically a dismal record when it comes to even bothering to think about the environment, have been given unfettered access to pollute the ground we grow crops on and the water we drink. They care not a jot if someone accidentally fucks-up, and given the recent disasters that happened (Gulf Coast oil spill being the biggest of late) nobody went to jail and it boiled down to a question of monetary compensation, but no real changes were ever made either to the engineering used, the safety reviews to be conducted or even if it made sense to continue drilling in such deep wells, given the hazards and safety issues.

2. We are already over populated as a planet, straining to feed the population with our resources. And the next precious resource that will be the cause of wars across the globe will be WATER. So what happens if countries, such as those in the EU or in North America, who today have no issues or worries about their water needs suddenly find themselves without clean safe drinking water, because they let some oil and gas numpty fracking the shit out of the soil below and it’s now all irrevocably polluted? Will we be going to war just to get enough clean water so we can still enjoy a nice cup of tea?

Do yourself a favour, and inform yourself, petition against and fight to get rid of fracking. It’s a short-sighted energy bubble which will have VERY long term detrimental affects for the environment and everyone living in it.


Fracking Glass Half Clean

Oil In Your Rubbish Bin

Oil from plasticThis is SO cool, I was thinking of holding it off for a Science Saturday article…..but I just couldn’t wait!

Almost every western industrialised nation – except perhaps for the USA – has embarked on various forms of large scale recycling initiatives. Glass, paper and tin cans are regularly separated. But nobody has come up with a useful way of recycling plastics. Plastic takes a LOOONG time to decompose. They are not naturally biodegradable, and they consume a lot of space in the worlds rubbish dumps. What’s even worse is that all plastics are made from oil! Think about that for a second. We consume oil for getting us from A to B, in growing and transporting our food and in packaging that food in plastic containers for consumption at a later date. Our food is literally covered in oil.

But Japanese scientist, Akinori Ito, from Blest Corporation, has come up with an amazing, yet simple solution which not only tackles the problem with recycling waste plastic, but could also help resolve our dependence on the ever diminishing fossil fuels. His novel and simple solution is to heat the plastics and melt them back down to their oil based constituents. This oil can then be refined for use in home heating, cooking or for your car and truck.

The weird thing is that I only came across this now (thanks for sharing it Dawn), but the video was made back in 2010. I checked various “hoax checking” sites and they all confirmed its validity. So why is nobody else trying to make bigger versions of his machine? Well, there are larger installations already up and running. But as you can imagine, they are predominantly based in poorer nations who do not have a large oil and gas lobby group which would railroad such a project.

As with anything, you need to put energy into something to get energy back out. The beauty of this is that you could power it via wind or solar power, melting the plastic down and converting it back into oil. You would actually help the planet!

Why our supposed eco-friendly soundbite loving politicians here in Europe haven’t done anything about rolling this across Europe is beyond me. But I would love to get my hands on one of these for myself.

Time Is But A Dimension

An artist and photographer I have long admired, Fong Qi Wei, has come up with a wonderful way of using photography to convey the passage of time.

In his own words he describes that “photography is a medium that is famous for freezing time. The word snapshot suggests that a tiny slice of time is recorded for posterity.”

In a series entitled Time is a Dimension, Wei attempts to convey the passage of time through a series of composite images spanning 2-4 hours, typically at sunrise or sunset (when the skies colour changes most dramatically). He then splices together the numerous photographs into a single image. A collage of time if you will.

Here are just some examples from the series.

time-is-a-dimension-fong-qi-wei_2 time-is-a-dimension-fong-qi-wei-fqw-images-3 time-is-a-dimension-fong-qi-wei-fqw-images-2 time-is-a-dimension-fong-qi-wei

Science Saturday – Four Fundamental Forces Of Physics (Part 2)

Science Saturday - Weak ForceThis week’s Science Saturday continues with Scishow’s Hank picking up where he left off in his four part series on the fundamental forces (or interactions) of physics begins with the weak interaction, which operates at an infinitesimally small scale to cause particle decay….which happens when particles don’t floss properly! Enjoy the second part. And if you missed the first parts, then click here to watch them.

Science Saturday – Four Fundamental Forces Of Physics (Part 1b)

Science Saturday - Strong ForceThis week’s Science Saturday has Scishow’s Hank pick up where he left off in his four part series on the fundamental forces (or interactions) of physics begins with the strong force or strong interaction – which on the small scale holds quarks together to form protons, neutrons and other hadron particles. The strong force is SO strong, that it needed to be broken up into two parts. Enjoy the second part. And if you missed the first part, then click here to watch it.

The Weekly Shop

Food waste in the West has reached unprecedented levels in the last decade. And what’s even worse is the fact that this wastage continues, even inspite of rocketing food prices.

Add to that, the soaring obesity levels across the likes of the USA, UK, Ireland, to name but three, and the amount of corn syrup, preservatives, chemicals and crap in general pumped into our food, along with the never ending encroachment of GM foods in our diet, it’s no wonder that the population in the West is suffering from more food allergies, lower sperm counts, heart and digestive diseases than ever before.

On the flip side, there are nations whose population does not enjoy the excesses and trappings of a corn syrup filled, chemically pumped diet. In fact, they have to eek out an existence on a very basic diet indeed. And they also don’t throw stuff away just because they bought too much in a two-for-one offer down at the Piggly Wiggly or at Tesco and it’s now going off!

To get a glimpse of how other families live, Oxfam published a new photo series, which depicts people from around the globe with one week’s food supply for their families.

Building on an idea that originated with 2005′s Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, the new images are especially well-timed, when reports about half of the world’s food going to waste vie for space with news about rising global food prices. According to a recent article accompanying some of the photos in the UK Independent, “There is deep injustice in the way food is grown and distributed … the world’s poorest people spend 50%-90% of their income on food, compared with just 10%-15% in developed countries.”

Two things that strike me the most. The first is how almost everyone’s food basket consists of locally grown and seasonally dependent food. Unlike, say, the EU, where you can buy strawberries in the middle of winter, in these photo’s, if it wasn’t in season, it’s not on the table.

Secondly, if you look at the shopping basket of someone in the west, there’s loads and loads of pre-cooked, tinned, ready-meal style meals, and practically none of that crap in other the countries. Think about how much salt, sugar, preservatives and chemicals go into making that tin of Campbells soup, or that microwave lasagne!

Food For Thought – Literally!

Shahveller, AzerbaijanOxfam Food Azerbaijan

Mirza Bakhishov, 47, his wife, Zarkhara, 37, and two sons, Khasay, 18 and Elchin, 15, own a small plot of land where they grow cotton and wheat as well as animal feed. “Our small cattle and poultry [are] everything for us. All our income and livelihood is dependent on them,” said Bakhishov.

Vavuniya, Sri LankaOxfam Food Sri Lanka

Selvern, 70, far right, and her daughters have been members of Oxfam’s local dairy cooperative for four years. Her youngest daughter Sukitha, second from right, works at the cooperative and is also trained as a vet. Selvern gets up at 5:30 every morning to help her daughters milk their cows; she sends most of the milk to the co-op with Sukitha and uses the remainder to make cream and ghee for the family.

Mecha, EthiopiaOxfam Food Ethiopia

A week’s food supply for Wubalem Shiferaw, her husband Tsega, and 4-year-old daughter Rekebki includes flour, vegetable oil, and a paste of spices called berbere. Tsega works as a tailor, while Wubalem follows a long local tradition and supplements her income with honey production. An Oxfam-supported cooperative helped Wubalem make the transition to modern beekeeping methods, which produce greater yields.

Yegeghus, ArmeniaOxfam Food Armenia

The Josephyan family from with their weekly food supply, which includes wheat flour, dried split peas, sugar, and cooking oil. The family supplements their diet with eggs laid by their chickens and wild greens from the fields.

Kaftarkhana, TajikistanOxfam Food Tajikistan

BiBi-Faiz Miralieba and her family, from left to right: son Siyoushi, 11, niece Gulnoya Shdova, 14, and children Jomakhon, 6, Shodmon, 9, and Jamila,13. Like many women in rural areas of Tajikistan, Miralieba is now the head of her household as her husband has migrated to Russia to find work.

Gutu, ZimbabweOxfam Food Zimbabwe

Ipaishe Masvingise and her family with their food for the week, which includes grains and groundnuts as well as fruits like pawpaw and oranges. Masvingise, a farmer, said she sells extra grain from her harvests to pay for school fees and medical costs, and to support members of her extended family who don’t own their own land.

London, U.K.Oxfam Food UK

Ian Kerr, 30, with his family and a week’s food supplied by a charity food bank. Ian left his job to become a full-time carer to his disabled son Jay-J, 12. Also pictured are his daughter Lillian, 5, and mother-in-law Linda, 61. Kerr says the family’s favorite food is spaghetti Bolognese, but Lillian says her favorite is Jaffa Cakes.

Original by Anna Kramer at Oxfam America. The photographers are (in order of photos) David Levene (Oxfam), Abir Abdullah (Oxfam), Tom Pietrasik (Oxfam), Abbie Trayler-Smith (Panos), Andy Hall (Oxfam), Annie Bungeroth (Oxfam) and Abbie Trayler-Smith (Oxfam).

Mumford & Sons – Hopeless Wanderer

Mumford & SonsIndie folk Goliath’s Mumford & Sons new video for their song “Hopeless Wanderer” from their album Babel. But the video stars a rather different cameo appearance of the band.

Whilst setup much the same way as you’d expect a Mumford video – sunset, slow motion shots a barn, hay bales lots of abundant lens flares, which help to obscure the crooners’ faces. But once the song switches to the foot stomping, barn dancing folk beat, all hell breaks loose in a hilarious hijinks Mumford hoedown we all love so well, revealing the impersonators’ true identities.

Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Ed Helms and Will Forte are, some would say, remarkably convincing doppelgangers for the band. Whether you’re a fan of the bearded banjo-slinging band or not, you’re sure to have a good laugh.

The hilarious performance from the imposter band mates is what sets the Hopeless Wanderer video apart from others. The actors do a really good job of playing out the real band members idiosyncrasies – from foot stomping to swaying and the ever present Mumford gurn.

It’s great to see the sometimes serious band being able to poke a little bit of fun at themselves.

BTW – I remember when their gigs were still small enough that you could see chat to the band in between songs!