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Archives – July, 2010

Earth Is Warming: Past Decade The Hottest

Well, the title says it all and it’s no news- Earth is warming. This past decade our earth has been the warmest and the temperature has been undoubtedly rising- says new report on climate published by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today. 37 indicators of global warming were studied while detailed focus was on 10 key indicators of global warming namely- land surface air temperature, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, tropospheric temperature, ocean heat content, specific humidity, snow cover, sea-ice extent, and glacier mass. Of these 10 indicators, first seven of them are expected to increase in a warming world while rest of them (snow- cover, sea-ice extent and glacier mass) are expected to decrease. And all these indicators are following the trend of warming world confirming that Global Warming is real.

“For the first time, and in a single compelling comparison, the analysis brings together multiple observational records from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The records come from many institutions worldwide. They use data collected from diverse sources, including satellites, weather balloons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys. These independently produced lines of evidence all point to the same conclusion: our planet is warming,” [NOAA]

It’s important to note that climate phenomena has to be studied for long period of time to get some real sense of data. Periodic heating and cooling happens due to various phenomena such as Solar maximum/minimum, ElNino, La Nina etc, but looking at the data for many years and looking at average temperature anomalies (averaged over a decade) compared to a baseline average temperature can give clear picture of changing temperature pattern of the earth. In past 50 years global temperature has increased by 1 degree F and this figure shows the temperature rise pattern.

So where is the heat sink? Measurements show that more than 90% of heat is going to the oceans which partly explains rising sea-level due to expanding Ocean body. Warming of Ocean can have other serious implications. One such report is published in this week’s Nature  where scientists have shown that warm Oceans can be one of the major reason for depletion of phytoplankton, the microscopic organism which accounts for half of the photosynthetic activity on earth and releases 50% of the global Oxygen. As Ocean warms up surface water stays atop and prevents colder nutrient rich water to come up, thereby hindering phytoplankton’s photosynthesis process. Depletion of phytoplanktons implies decrease in number of fish and other species and then you can just imagine the disruption in food chain moving up.

It’s time to rise above petty politics and take some concrete steps in controlling Global Warming. The issue is bigger than any political ideology, any culture any nationality and the world has to reach to a consensus as soon as possible to tackle it. You can read the full report “State of Climate in 2009” and other supplementary documents here.

Picture credit: Flickr user johhlegear | Used under Creative Commons License

Global Warming plots credit: NOAA/ Arndt, D. S., M. O. Baringer, and M. R. Johnson, Eds., 2010: State of the Climate in 2009. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91 (6), S1-S224.

Leave a Comment July 29, 2010

BPA- Another Toxin in Our Foodchain

BisPhenol A or BPA is a controversial organic molecule which is extensively being used in our day to day life in a variety of products and many studies including recent FDA report has shown safety and health concerns. BPA has been in use since 1936, when it was used as synthetic hormone, but now it’s extensively used for making transparent plastic products such as baby bottles, water bottles, dental fillings, lining inside the canned food containers etc. BPA is used as a building block in many of these plastics and linings, which can decompose under certain temperatures or in presence of acids and thus can leech in to the food and enter your food cycle. Even though BPA is not much of hazard in the environment, but when inside the body it can be very harmful, especially to babies, due to it’s hormones mimicking properties. It can cause developmental problems in babies, neurological disorders, reproductive disorders, cancer related risks, diabetes and heart related disorders. There is lot of debate going on about the use of BPA and how to regulate it. Current regulations states that low doses of BPA is not toxic and of course much of the scientific studies backed by the industry says the same. But independent scientific studies reveal opposite results and number of these results have been growing. Recent study showed that even the receipts from grocery stores, ATM machines contain BPA and which can be retained on the skin or even can get absorbed in the skin and can have potential negative health effects. So try not to let these receipts interact with the open food items in your grocery bag and ofcourse wash your hands!

While, more research needs to be done as well as alternatives need to be found out for replacing BPA from our food cycle, we can take our own measures to safeguard ourselves and our loved ones. Since kids and babies are most affected, we should give more attention to what baby products we are using. Look out for BPA free products in ToysRus  and other places including toys, baby bottles, baby formula containers etc. But again, BPA free products might be just a marketing gimmick by the companies as well, so be cautious. For grownups, reduce canned food diets which is not that healthy anyway and that can reduce your exposure to BPA as well.  Here are some of the recommendations from NIH/CDC regarding preventing exposure to BPA:

• Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from repeated use at high temperatures.
• Avoid plastic containers with the #7 on the bottom
• Don’t wash polycarbonate plastic containers in the dishwasher with harsh detergents.
• Reduce your use of canned foods. Eat fresh or frozen foods.
• When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
• Use infant formula bottles that are BPA free and look for toys that are labeled BPA-free.

Since, I am not an expert on BPA nor have read many detailed peer-reviewed research articles, it’s suggested that people who are concerned about this, should read more reports and make their own decisions about how to reduce BPA intake. I will provide here few of the links which can help.

  1. FDA report on BPA in Food
  2. Environmental Working group: Detailed report
  3. Environment Califronia
  4. BiPhenolA Wikipedia
  5. NIH/CDC BPA Factsheet
  6. BPA in store Receipts

Picture credit: Flickr user gozalewis | Used under Creative Commons License

Leave a Comment July 28, 2010

Oxygen Making Friends in Element-ary School

I loved it. If you know school going kids or school teachers, send this video of Oxygen making new friends in Element-ary school, they will like it too.

Creator: Christopher Hendryx as part of his thesis work

2 Comments July 27, 2010

US Energy System

The above interactive illustration of US energy system has been created by Lawrence Livermore National Lab in 2009. Click on the image to see the interactive graphics in action. It’s interesting to see that more than 50% of energy supplied goes to waste, much of which is limited by the thermodynamics  of energy conversion processes, but that doesn’t imply that there is no scope in improving the efficiency. Measurements are in Btu units. 1 Quad = 1 million billion.

( I did not have much time today to write a full post and that explains such a short post. More detailed posts in coming days)

Leave a Comment July 27, 2010

Weekend Video: Problems In The World

This weekend let’s take a look at videos which focuses on some of the major problems we are facing.

The first video is very disturbing and makes you think what a dangerous world we are living in. It’s a 14 minute long video but it’s worth spending time on watching this very informative video. The video titled “1945-1998” created by Isao Hashimoto shows all the nuclear tests done by various countries  from 1945-1998.   2053 tests!! It’s crazy.

About the video by Isao Hashimoto:
“This piece of work is a bird’s eye view of the history by scaling down a month length of time into one second. No letter is used for equal messaging to all viewers without language barrier. The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted. I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world.”

Second video is not that alarming as the previous one, but it focuses on another major problem we are facing- hunger. The video is titled “How to feed the world” and was mainly aimed at kids in the age range of 9-14, but even adults have alot to learn from this simplistic video about the hunger problem in the world. Creator: Denis van Waerebeke

The last video for this weekend explains current credit crisis the world is facing in simplistic manner. It might be little boring for many of us but credit crisis is affecting the whole world and it’s better we understand little bit as to what happened and what caused the  global financial meltdown. Creator: jonathanjarvis.com

1 Comment July 24, 2010

Looming Epidemic: Deadly Asbestos

An epidemic is looming in countries like India, China, Mexico, Brazil and Russia where asbestos, the deadly white fiber,  is being abundantly used for construction purposes. 52 countries, mostly European Union countries, have already banned the usage of asbestos or restricted it’s usage. Asbestos is commercial name given to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals which comes in many types- blue, brown, white etc. While blue and brown asbestos have been universally banned, white asbestos or chrysotile is still being extracted and used. It’s mostly used in construction and heat resistant applications, but owing to serious health hazards caused by the asbestos fiber, most of the countries have banned it. Asbestos can cause various kinds of diseases including lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis etc to name few and is considered a serious health hazard.

But the story is completely different in India, China and Mexico, where the demand and use of asbestos is all time high. Sadly, India is second largest consumption market for asbestos after China and it’s demand has risen by 83% since 2004. It’s not like people are not aware of the harmful effects of the fiber, but since it’s much cheaper than other alternatives, it’s being extensively used for construction purposes. Profit making at the risk of public health, that’s what is going on. Powerful lobbying is another reason for continued use of asbestos in developing countries. Asbestos lobbying is even being  compared similar to powerful tobacco lobbying which was well coordinated and even used bogus scientific results to bolster their claims. Same pattern is seen here as well. There is well coordinated efforts by the asbestos industry and lobbying centers exist in different parts of the the world, especially in India, China and Mexico to strengthen asbestos lobbying and build it’s PR with the government and businesses of these countries. Canada has emerged as the the 5th  largest exporter of asbestos and promoter of asbestos trade; half of it’s export goes to India. Interestingly, Canada doesn’t allow use of the deadly fiber within it’s own territory.

No country has defended chrysotile as vigorously, and for as long, as Canada. When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule banning asbestos in 1989, the government of Canada participated in an industry lawsuit that overturned the rule. When France banned asbestos a decade later, Canada teamed up with Brazil in an unsuccessful World Trade Organization challenge. And when a United Nations chemical review committee recommended in 2008 that chrysotile be listed under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention — a treaty that requires exporters of hazardous substances to use clear labeling and warn importers of any restrictions or bans — Canada, India, and a few other nations kept the recommendation from winning the unanimous support it needed to pass. [Publicintegrity.org]

In the pictures below you can see world’s largest exporters and consumers of asbestos. Also you can see the countries which have completely banned asbestos marked in red.

Despite all damning evidences and scientific studies about harmful effects of asbestos, the asbestos trade is booming and so are asbestos related health issues. India and China are going to be worst hit with this health disaster which is in the making.

Researchers in India have estimated that deaths from asbestos-related cancers could reach one million in developing nations by 2020, while an Australian researcher has predicted five to 10 million deaths from cancers caused by asbestos exposure by 2030.Finnish researchers estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 people will die in China each year by 2035 of asbestos-related ailments. Currently, the death toll from asbestos-related diseases is estimated by the International Labor Organization to be 100,000 worldwide. [AFP]

All the above mentioned facts and statistics are based on a 9-month study conducted on asbestos industry by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and BBC and was published this week. I hope this leads to some positive actions by governments of concerned countries to look deeper into the issue and hopefully ban this deadly fiber. You can read the whole report and findings in detail here. Kudos to journalist Steve Bradshaw and Jim Morris for bringing into light this under-reported topic. For further detailed read on this topic visit following links:

  1. Dangers in the Dust— Public Integrity.org
  2. Inside the global asbestos trade — BBC
  3. Bradshaw interview
  4. CDC NIOSH asbestos page

Picture credit: BBC,  ICIJ, Publicintegrity.org

Leave a Comment July 23, 2010

Asha Cincinnati 5K Run Walk: 24th July- Results

Updates: Thanks all the participants, volunteers and sponsors for making the event a great success!! We will be uploading the pictures of the event in a day or two on Asha Cincinnati website. Results have already been uploaded. You can also find the results here as well:

Asha Run Overall Asha Run Ages Asha Men Run Top 10 Asha Women Run Top 10

Asha Walk Overall Asha Walk Ages Asha Men Walk Top 5 Asha Women Walk Top 5

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If you live in Cincinnati area, please join Asha for Education, Cincinnati chapter in our second Annual 5K Run Walk event to be held tomorrow, July 24th. Join us in raising awareness and funds for education of underprivileged kids in India. Net proceeds will go for support of Asha Cincinnati projects. Let’s Run and Educate… The course of the run can be found here. Online registration has closed now but you can join us tomorrow on the race day itself and participate or contact Steve at 513-777-1080 or Srini at  513-259-6939

Asha Cincinnati is currently supporting two projects- Vasista Mithila Vidyalayam and Rehabilitaion center for Blind Women . We are also in the process of reviewing a new proposal. Here is how we did from 2009 until now in terms of fund raising, funds disbursement and usage of funds:

Leave a Comment July 23, 2010

17 is The Random Number

Well, the reason I asked you guys to post some random number between 1-20 was to see how many of you choose 17 as your random number. It has been observed by many people that when asked to choose a random number between 1-20, people tend to choose 17 more often than any other number. There are many theories which try to explain this but none of them are conclusive. Human minds like to follow patterns, preferences and thereby we are less likely to be good random number generators. When faced with a question of choosing a random number, we tend to look for those numbers which appear to be less common , such as prime numbers. That can probably explain why we pick prime numbers more often as compared to other numbers. So between 1-20, there are 8 of them- 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19. Probably 2 and 5 can be ruled out being too common among all of them. 3,7 and 13 have cultural references. That leaves 11, 17 and 19. Of these three, why we prefer to pick 17 is a mystery.  Maybe because 17 is neither too far away nor too near from the upper limit 20. If you have any other theories, please post it. By the way, if asked to choose a random number between 1-100, most people choose 37 as the random number, making it the most commonly chosen random two-digit number.

In short humans are poor random number generators!

Picture credit: Flickr user sarahbaker

Leave a Comment July 22, 2010

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