Sunday, January 31, 2010

High speed rail finally coming to the US: A look at the plans (video)

But where’s the LA-to-New York line?

High speed rail plans. Wired

 Image via Wired

Yes, high speed trains are finally coming to the United States. It's been a long time coming, but thanks in part to funding from last years stimulus bill, 13 high speed rail lines may be up and operating as soon as 2025. Yes, in less than fifteen years, you may be able to take a bullet train from San Diego to San Francisco, or from St. Louis to Chicago. It's about time.

Nearly an entire year ago, we first reported on Obama allotting $8 billion for rail funding in his stimulus bill, and some $5 billion more in his budget. Now, working with states, which are often matching those funds, Obama has finally unveiled how he plans on bringing the US up to speed (I refuse to apologize for that pun, btw).

Wired has a must-read feature that goes in depth into the future of American high speed rail, both in its current issue on the stands, and online. It's called Superfast Bullet Trains are Finally Coming to the US, and it's right. The graphic above shows the map of where the planned lines are going. …

High Speed Rail Finally Coming to the US: A Look at the Plans (Video)

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Genetically modified forest planned for U.S. Southeast

Maybe they can relocate Australia’s endangered koalas to these forests.

International Paper Co. and MeadWestvaco Corp. are planning to transform plantation forests of the southeastern United States by replacing native pine with genetically engineered eucalyptus

PINE GONE: Native pine trees could be sent to pasture in place of eucalyptus, pictured here. ISTOCK / MALIKETH

By Paul Voosen

Genetic engineering is coming to the forests.

While the practice of splicing foreign DNA into food crops has become common in corn and soy, few companies or researchers have dared to apply genetic engineering to plants that provide an essential strut of the U.S. economy, trees.

But that will soon change. Two industry giants, International Paper Co. and MeadWestvaco Corp., are planning to transform plantation forests of the southeastern United States by replacing native pine with genetically engineered eucalyptus, a rapidly growing Australian tree that in its conventional strains now dominates the tropical timber industry.

The companies' push into genetically modified trees, led by their joint biotech venture, ArborGen LLC, looks to overcome several hurdles for the first time. Most prominently, they are banking on a controversial gene splice that restricts trees' ability to reproduce, meant to allay fears of bioengineered eucalyptus turning invasive and overtaking native forests.

If such a fertility control technology -- which has come under fire in farming for fear seed firms will exploit it -- is proven effective, it could open the door to many varieties of wild plants, including weedy grasses, to be genetically engineered for use in energy applications like biomass and next-generation biofuels without fear of invasiveness.

The use of such perennial plants -- so named because, unlike annual farm crops, they live and grow for many years -- has long interested business and government, including the Energy Department, which has collaborated with ArborGen. The plants, which include many grasses targeted for cellulosic ethanol, can be harvested when needed and, given their hardiness, grow on marginal land.

Yet many questions remain about the effectiveness of the fertility system used by ArborGen, which, according to leading scientists, has never been rigorously studied in multiyear trials to prove that it can effectively control plants' spread. More research must be conducted before such systems are relied upon to restrict pollen and seed spread, they say.

Despite these calls, ArborGen has been seeking government deregulation of its eucalyptus, which is primarily engineered to resist freezing temperatures, since 2008. If successful, ArborGen would likely revolutionize the timber industry and the Southern landscape by becoming the first company to roll out bioengineered trees on a massive scale, observers say. …

Genetically Modified Forest Planned for U.S. Southeast

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Friday, January 29, 2010

For eighth day, climate activists block bulldozers at West Virginia’s Coal River Mountain

From Climate Progress:

Coal River Treesit

This is a TP repost by Brad Johnson.

Yesterday in Washington, DC, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) exhorted citizens to “get angry about the fact that they’re being killed and our planet is being injured by what’s happening on a daily basis by the way we provide our power and our fuel.” In West Virginia, climate activists are not just getting angry, they’re taking action — blocking the demolition of Coal River Mountain by coal company Massey Energy. The activists, members of the aptly named organization Climate Ground Zero, have been living in trees for over a week to prevent bulldozers from reaching the summit:

High up in the trees near the summit of Coal River Mountain, two activists dangle in the air near a mountaintop removal mine site. Eric Blevins and Amber Nitchman are still preventing the expansion of mining on the summit of Coal River Mountain, a mountain that has the best wind energy (and therefore economic) potential in the area.

Employees of coal baron Don Blankenship, the “scariest polluter in the United States,” have been blasting the tree-sit activists with air horns and flood lights. Following hundreds of phone calls from supporters of the non-violent civil disobedience action, Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) met today with Climate Ground Zero representatives and “asked the activists to scale down their campaign.” …

For eighth day, climate activists block bulldozers at WV’s Coal River Mountain.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Digital quantum batteries also store data

Energy storage and logic, together at last!

Schematic of an array of four vacuum nano tubes (cross section, side view). The cathode (− − −) is a planar. The anode (+ + +) is a nano tip on a flat electrode. The thin curved lines indicate the electric field lines. Image: Alfred W. Hubler

( -- Plasma TVs are notorious for their excessive use of electricity, but the same principle used to produce high definition pictures in the TVs could result in the development of a new type of battery that would save rather than waste energy.

Plasma TVs contain millions of microtubes filled with ionized gas that allows an electrical current to flow through, but physicists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) are developing what they call a "digital quantum battery" that uses billions of even smaller tubes (nanotubes).

By removing the ionized gas from the tiny tubes, the UIUC team, led by Associate Professor Alfred W. Hubler, wants to take advantage of the strong electrical fields to store electricity. When the gas is removed the vacuum inside the nanotubes acts as an insulator to store the electrical field. Professor Hubler says the device could store twice as much electricity as conventional batteries, and it could store digital information at the same time.

The battery is termed the digital quantum battery because it operates on the quantum scale, trapping the strong electrical field generated when negatively charge electrons encircle positively charged protons inside an atom. The device harnesses the most effective way to store energy, which is in the bonds between atoms. (The energy in gasoline and kerosene is held in the same way.)

The battery’s reverse-bias nanotubes are much stronger and smaller than plasma tubes and they contain little or no gas. Hubler said the tubes would be five nanometers long and billions of them would be packed together to provide enough power for most 15 V electronic devices.

Each nanotube could also represent a bit of information (0 or 1, depending on whether the tube is electrically charged or not). This means the device could be used to store digital information like a flash drive. Hubler said a flash drive uses the smallest amount of energy to store the charge, while the UIUC device would aim for the maximum possible amount of energy. …

Digital quantum batteries inspired by plasma TVs

New study finds the poor weather stations have a slight cool bias, not a warm one

Maybe we should call this the “Watts bias.”

… a proper analysis of the impact of these poorly-sited surface stations on the U.S. historical temperature record has now been done by Dr. Matthew Menne and co-authors at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). In a talk at last week’s 90th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. Menne reported the results of their new paper just accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research titled, On the reliability of the U.S. Surface Temperature Record. Dr. Menne’s study split the U.S. surface stations into two categories: good (rating 1 or 2) and bad (ratings 3, 4 or 5). They performed the analysis using both the rating provided by, and from an independent rating provided by NOAA personnel. In general, the NOAA-provided ratings coincided with the ratings given by Of the NOAA-rated stations, only 71 stations fell into the “good” siting category, while 454 fell into the “bad” category. According to the authors, though, “the sites with good exposure, though small in number, are reasonably well distributed across the country and, as shown by Vose and Menne [2004], are of sufficient density to obtain a robust estimate of the CONUS average”. Dr. Menne’s study computed the average daily minimum and maximum temperatures from the good sites and poor sites. The results were surprising. While the poor sites had a slightly warmer average minimum temperature than the good sites (by 0.03°C), the average maximum temperature measured at the poor sites was significantly cooler (by 0.14°C) than the good sites. As a result, overall average temperatures measured at the poor sites were cooler than the good sites. This is the opposite of the conclusion reached by Anthony Watts in his 2009 Heartland Institute publication. …

Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one - Analysis of actual U.S. data disagrees with Anthony Watts' primary conclusion.

Solar thermal beam-down tower

Keep it low to the ground. Video too.

Beam Down project

Masdar City, Abu Dhabi -- Think of this as solar thermal with a bank shot.

Researchers at the Masdar Institute, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Cosmo Oil have begun to test a new/old technology for converting heat from the sun into electricity that could further cut costs.

It works by adding another layer of mirrors to the process. In Masdar’s prototype, ground-based heliostats-i.e. flat mirrors -- concentrate heat from the sun and aim it at a tower. So far, that’s similar to the heliostat architectures promoted by BrightSource Energy and eSolar. But BrightSource and eSolar systems use tanks filled with fluid. When the fluid heats and expands, the pressure can be channeled to turn a turbine. In Masdar’s system, the tower holds another set of mirrors. These mirrors then take the heat from the heliostats and then reflect it to a liquid filled tank on the ground directly under the tower. Operating temperatures for the prototype come to around 500 Celsius, which is lower than BrightSource, higher than others, and improvements will occur. Appropriately, it's called the beam down project.

The extra set of mirrors reduces the efficiency to around 15 to 19 percent. Classic solar thermal systems are 20 plus percent efficient. But with the extra set of mirrors fluids don’t have to be pumped up into a tower, thereby reducing energy and cost, according to Mateo Chiesa, a professor at the Masdar Institute.

The current 10 meter high prototype and accompanying is still that: the liquid filled tanks haven’t even been installed yet. But Chiesa says that it should be capable of generating around 100 kilowatts. Larger versions could generate 10 megawatts or so and a field of these larger towers could then generate 50 to 100 megawatts.

"You don't need a conventional power plant to pump up transfer fluid," he said. "The overall idea is that you are more confined. The whole transfer from the receiver to the working fluid happens on the ground. …

Another Way to do Solar Thermal?

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The first hints of a dinosaur's true colors

An artist's rendition of a single Sinosauropteryx. Jim RobbinsThe Sinosauropteryx was a turkey-sized, flesh-eating dinosaur that scientists believe had primitive feathers and dark rings around its tail. Jim Robbins

by Nell Greenfieldboyce

January 27, 2010
Scientists have found evidence of some of the original coloration of a dinosaur that lived about 125 million years ago, showing that it had rings of orange-brown bristly feathers around its tail.

Fossils have revealed a lot about the lives of dinosaurs, but researchers always used to think that the fossil record couldn't show what color they were. "This was the one point at which we had to give up," says paleontologist Mike Benton at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, who explains that fossils tend to preserve an animal's hard parts, like bones and teeth, and not soft parts like skin.

But feathers are made of tough proteins. "And, in fact, they can survive even in conditions where other internal organs, you know, muscles and guts and brains and so on, will disappear," says Benton.

That created the possibility of learning something about what colors could be found in the primitive feathers of early birds and recently discovered feathered dinosaurs.

"These dark stripes, as far as we can tell, were exclusively ginger, and so this early dinosaur with its long thin tail had ginger and white stripes up the tail," says Benton.

He says they assume the tail must have been completely covered with primitive feathers, with alternating orange-brown and white stripes. The white feathers would not have contained any melanin capsules, which means they would have had less structural strength and would have decayed rather than being preserved in the fossil.

"For the first time ever, we have evidence, we believe fairly watertight evidence, of the original color," says Benton. …

The First Hints Of A Dinosaur's True Colors

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Real-life Avatar: court blocks destruction of indigenous community in Borneo

Iban natives of Sungai Sekabai are shocked after the destruction of their village by the Malaysian authorities; in the center headman Nor anak Nyaway. Picture © BMF / TAHABAS

A court in the Malaysian state of Sarawak has issued an injunction to block the continued destruction of the Iban village of Sungai Sekabai, reports the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), an indigenous rights groups.

Last week Sarawak state police demolished 39 Iban homes in a dramatic escalation of land dispute between the community and a state-backed palm oil developer, Tatau Land Sdn Bhf, which is owned by a holding company controlled by Sarawak's Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, according to the local news service, Bintulu.Org. Authorities said they were serving an eviction order, but a lawyer for the Iban said the order was under appeal. The homes were destroyed without prior notice. …

Real-life Avatar: court blocks destruction of indigenous community in Borneo

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UN scientist refutes Daily Mail claim he said Himalayan glacier error was politically motivated

From Climate Progress:

MEMO TO MEDIA:  Please start doing some damn journalism — like placing a simple phone call to a primary source.   A great many “newspapers” like the Daily Mail are no more reliable than the websites of the anti-science disinformers, like the thoroughly discredited ClimateDepot of Marc Morano.

In an exclusive interview  — “exclusive” in the sense that many of the people smearing Dr. Murari Lal haven’t bothered to ask him whether the original story was accurate — Dr. Lal asserts that the “most vilest allegations” in the Daily Mail story are utterly false. …

“Journalism is not peer review.”  Apparently journalism isn’t much more than the children’s game of telephone these days.  Certainly it doesn’t seem to involve the use of a real telephone.

Lal’s phone number is easy to find online, and I called him myself, even though it was after midnight in India (I hoped he was on travel), but he answered it immediately.

He said these were “the most vilest allegations” and denied that he ever made such assertions.  He said “I didn’t put it [the 2035 claim] in to impress policymakers….  We reported the facts about science as we knew them and as was available in the literature.” …

EXCLUSIVE: UN scientist refutes Daily Mail claim he said Himalayan glacier error was politically motivated - "We reported the facts about science as we knew them.... We were not trying to oversell the science.... The fact is the IPCC has been very conservative."

Monday, January 25, 2010

China, India, Brazil commit to meet Copenhagen Accord deadline

LogoBy Gaurav Singh

Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- China, Brazil, South Africa and India will disclose the voluntary steps the countries will take to help reduce global warming by the Jan. 31 deadline set during negotiations in Copenhagen, India’s environment minister said after talks between the four nations in New Delhi yesterday.

The four will communicate their plans to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by the deadline this weekend, Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, said. He added the countries will work to build support for the global climate accord agreed in December.

Negotiators met in the Danish capital for two weeks of talks through Dec. 19 on curbing global warming. Debate stumbled on aid to developing countries, pollution-reduction goals and how to verify country pledges to cut emissions. Bolivia, Sudan and Venezuela were among countries that opposed the accord, which will serve as a framework for talks this year.

“The value of the Copenhagen Accord lies not as a stand- alone document but as an input into the two-track negotiating process under the UNFCCC, which will culminate in Mexico City in December 2010,” Ramesh said. He spoke at a briefing with Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate negotiator, Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc and South Africa’s Buyelwa Sonjica.

Rich nations should ensure the early distribution of $10 billion pledged at Copenhagen for this year to address climate change in the least developed nations and island states, according to a joint statement issued after yesterday’s meeting between the so-called BASIC states.  …

U.S. surface temperature data are reliable – no bias from station siting

Prominent global warming contrarian’s cherry-picked stations show no deviation from the warming trend.

All USHCN surface temperature stations and cherry-picked stations, 1950-2009. NCDC

Q. What can we say about poor station exposure and its impact on national temperature trends?

A. has examined about 70% of the 1221 stations in NOAA’s Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) (Watts, 2009). According to their web site of early June 2009, they classified 70 USHCN version 2 stations as good or best (class 1 or 2). The criteria used to make that classification is based on NOAA’s Climate Reference Network Site Handbook so the criteria are clear. But, as many different individuals participated in the site evaluations, with varying levels of expertise, the degree of standardization and reproducibility of this process is unknown. However, at the present time this is the only large scale site evaluation information available so we conducted a preliminary analysis.

Two national time series were made using the same homogeneity adjusted data set and the same gridding and area averaging technique used by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center for its annual climate monitoring. One analysis was for the full USHCN version 2 data set. The other used only USHCN version 2 data from the 70 stations that classified as good or best. We would expect some differences simply due to the different area covered: the 70 stations only covered 43% of the country with no stations in, for example, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee or North Carolina. Yet the two time series, shown below as both annual data and smooth data, are remarkably similar. Clearly there is no indication from this analysis that poor station exposure has imparted a bias in the U.S. temperature trends. …

Talking Points related to concerns about whether the U.S. temperature record is reliable [pdf]

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Electric Icarus: NASA designs a one-man stealth plane

Could the Puffin, an electric-powered flying suit, change the way we use the sky in war and peace?

FLYING FANCY: Another design for a single-passenger/pilot aircraft makes the future of transportation look extremely fun and a little bit green. NASA Langley / Analytical Mechanics Associates

By Charles Q. Choi   

A super-quiet, hover-capable aircraft design, NASA's experimental one-man Puffin could show just how much electric propulsion can transform our ideas of flight. It looks like nothing less than a flying suit or a jet pack with a cockpit.

On the ground, the Puffin is designed to stand on its tail, which splits into four legs to help serve as landing gear. As a pilot prepares to take off, flaps on the wings would tilt to deflect air from the 2.3-meter-wide propeller rotors upward, keeping the plane on the ground until it was ready to fly and preventing errant gusts from tipping it over. The Puffin would rise, hover and then lean over to fly horizontally, with the pilot lying prone as if in a glider. When landing, the extending spring legs would support the 3.7-meter-long, 4.1-meter-wingspan craft, which is designed with carbon-fiber composites to weigh in at 135 kilograms, not including 45 kilograms of rechargeable lithium phosphate batteries.

In principle, the Puffin can cruise at 240 kilometers per hour and dash at more than 480 kph. It has no flight ceiling—it is not air-breathing like gas engines are, and thus is not limited by thin air—so it could go up to about 9,150 meters before its energy runs low enough to drive it to descend. With current state-of-the-art batteries, it has a range of just 80 kilometers if cruising, "but many researchers are proposing a tripling of current battery energy densities in the next five to seven years, so we could see a range of 240 to 320 kilometers by 2017," says researcher Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. He and his colleagues will officially unveil the Puffin design on January 20 at an American Helicopter Society meeting in San Francisco. …

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fermi smooths out space

From Bad Astronomy:

This news came out a little while ago but I didn’t cover it at the time, and it’s cool enough that it deserves to be covered. I got it from my friends with NASA’s Fermi satellite outreach group. I used to work on Fermi outreach before the satellite launched and was still called GLAST (Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope), and it was fun trying to come up with lesson plans and educational efforts based on gamma rays (the Hulk came up a lot).

Anyway, one thing Fermi can do is measure the exact time when high-energy gamma rays hit its detectors. Not too long ago, photons from a distant explosion slammed into Fermi, and it found that all these photons arrived essentially simultaneously from the event, irrespective of their energies.

So what? So, Einstein was right. Check it out for yourself:

Fermi smooths out space

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Real birds eye view -- Raptor-mounted camera

Animal lover Steve Leonard explains the secret behind the spectacular footage of birds of prey in flight used in this short video. Take a flight with a Golden Eagle in Scotland with the help of the ultra lightweight animal camera. Great short video from BBC wildlife show Animal Camera.

via Bad Astronomy

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Googlegate and Climategate together at last!!11!!!11!!

The world’s two greatest conspiracies are brought together in a new column in the National Post!  Talk about connecting the dots!1!1!!1!! From DeepClimate:

Lawrence Solomon

Just when you thought commentary on the CRU hacked emails could not get any more absurd, along comes National Post columnist and “environmentalist” Lawrence Solomon to up the ante. Believe it or not, Solomon’s latest over-the-top screed accuses Google of censoring search results to downplay the so-called Climategate scandal. But, as they say in the newspaper biz: “Check a story, lose story”.

Solomon, of course, is best known as the indefatigable writer of serial nonsense in the set of columns known as the Deniers, each one profiling a researcher who supposedly had inconvenient facts to present for the IPCC. The profiles were pretentiously labeled with roman numerals; I think he got up to around Part XXVIII, before moving on to other science-mangling pursuits. Problem was, some of the genuine scientists Solomon misrepresented took umbrage, and one, astrophysicist Nigel Weiss, had to wait months for the Post to retract what he considered a “slanderous fabrication”.

In his recent Full Comment post, Solomon piled one whopper on top of another in an effort to paint Google as an environmentally correct gatekeeper of information, and suggested readers in search of the truth would be much better off with Microsoft’s new search engine Bing. His first example concerned an unexplained scandal of apparently epic proportions. …

National Post’s Lawrence Solomon claims Google censors search results

Can farming save Detroit?

By David Whitford, editor at large, December 29, 2009: 11:37 AM ET

DETROIT (Fortune) -- John Hantz is a wealthy money manager who lives in an older enclave of Detroit where all the houses are grand and not all of them are falling apart. Once a star stockbroker at American Express, he left 13 years ago to found his own firm. Today Hantz Financial Services has 20 offices in Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia, more than 500 employees, and $1.3 billion in assets under management. …

Then one day about a year and a half ago, Hantz had a revelation. "We need scarcity," he thought to himself as he drove past block after unoccupied block. "We can't create opportunities, but we can create scarcity." And that, he says one afternoon in his living room between puffs on an expensive cigar, "is how I got onto this idea of the farm."

Yes, a farm. A large-scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise, wholly contained within the city limits of Detroit. Hantz thinks farming could do his city a lot of good: restore big chunks of tax-delinquent, resource-draining urban blight to pastoral productivity; provide decent jobs with benefits; supply local markets and restaurants with fresh produce; attract tourists from all over the world; and -- most important of all -- stimulate development around the edges as the local land market tilts from stultifying abundance to something more like scarcity and investors move in. Hantz is willing to commit $30 million to the project. He'll start with a pilot program this spring involving up to 50 acres on Detroit's east side. "Out of the gates," he says, "it'll be the largest urban farm in the world." …

Can farming save Detroit?

Sen. James Inhofe: I am Earth's #1 worst enemy

The GOP should adopt this position as a plank in the party platform.

James Inhofe, Earth's worst enemy.  

Photo via Copenhagen

Climate change skeptic James Inhofe, the Republican Senator from Oklahoma, has announced himself to be the planet's #1 worst enemy. I kid you not--his words. This made news late last week, but it somehow slipped through my radar--not sure how, as I usually keep a pretty keen eye out for any and all Inhofe antics. Here's what he said.

Last week, during a series of interviews, Inhofe was asked about his being included at #7 on Rolling Stone's list of "the planet's worst enemies." And what did Inhofe say in response?

According to TPM, Inhofe took this as a slight. "I should have been number one," he told KFAQ radio in Tulsa, "I guess [Warren] Buffet has a lot more money so he went first." And lest anyone think this was a one-off gaffe, an ill-timed slip of the tongue, he went on to repeat the sentiment in another interview. That yes, he wants people to think of him as the #1 enemy of Earth. Again, from TPM: …

Sen. James Inhofe: I am Earth's #1 Worst Enemy

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Floating mega arcology for Boston’s harbor

Get ready Boston, someday you might just have this incredible floating city within a city located in your harbor. The BoA, short for Boston Arcology, is a sustainable mega structure designed by Kevin Schopfer, who also designed the amazing New Orleans Arcology Habitat (NOAH). The BoA will house 15,000 people in hotels, offices, retail spaces, museums, condominiums, and even a new city hall. Built to LEED standards with golden proportions, this amazing building would serve as an expansion of the city without impacting what is already currently built. …

Floating Mega Arcology for Boston’s Harbor

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MIT's food printer: The greenest way to cook?

mit food printer cooking design prototypes photo 

 Images from MIT Fluid Interface Group

Everyone is talking about local food, farmers markets and like, cooking? Who has time for that? And really, is Michael Pollan serious with his Rule #2- "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." Why bother even having an MIT if you are going to think that way?

Make shows us how Marcelo Coelho and Amit Zoran of the Fluid Interfaces Group at MIT propose a much greener, more efficient, waste-free process: Print out your dinner. …

MIT's Food Printer: The Greenest Way To Cook?

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

ABC's Wright latest to mislead on stolen climate emails

I’d expect this from FOX, but ABC?

In a December 9 report, ABC correspondent David Wright advanced misleading claims about the emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, including the claim that the emails show scientists using a "trick to hide the decline in temperatures" and that a scientist called it a "travesty" that they couldn't explain a temporary lack of warming. Wright also misleadingly cropped Jon Stewart's comments on the emails, removing Stewart's statement that "of course" the information contained in the emails doesn't "disprove" global warming.

Wright misleads on email that mentions "trick" "to hide the decline"

Wright: "One of the most damning email exchanges credits Mann with a 'trick' to 'hide the decline' in temperatures." Despite airing Penn State scientist Michael Mann statement, "Imagine somebody going through all of the emails you've ever sent looking for a single word or phrase that could be twisted," Wright reported: "One of the most damning email exchanges credits Mann with a 'trick' to 'hide the decline' in temperatures."

"Decline" refers to unreliable tree-ring data, not actual temperatures. In a November 26 article, The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania, reported that Penn State scientist Michael Mann -- whose "trick" was referenced in Jones' email -- "said his trick, or 'trick of the trade,' for the Nature chart was to combine data from tree-ring measurements, which record world temperatures from 1,000 years ago until 1960, with actual temperature readings for 1961 through 1998" because "scientists have discovered that, for temperatures since 1960, tree rings have not been a reliable indicator." In a November 20 post,'s staff, which is comprised of several working climate scientists, including Mann, similarly stated:

As for the 'decline', it is well known that Keith Briffa's maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the "divergence problem"-see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while 'hiding' is probably a poor choice of words (since it is 'hidden' in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

ABC's Wright latest to mislead on stolen climate emails

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Researchers make breakthrough in transparent spray-on solar

New Energy Technologies–who introduced us to harvesting energy from roadways–has developed transparent solar cells which can be sprayed onto any glass surface.

How? They successfully removed all metals from the solar cell. A huge challenge as the metal component in the cells act as a negative ‘polar contact.’ And they replaced those metals with an eco-friendly compound: one you can see through! …

Researchers Make Breakthrough in Transparent Spray-On Solar

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Fusion breakthrough a magic bullet for energy crisis?

Traditional methods of harnessing energy may not be enough in the future. Photo / Greg Bowker

By Pat Pilcher

Monday, 11 January 2010

…To date, experimental fusion projects have largely been focused on generating intense heat so they can fuse, and containing the super hot gases from this reaction consumes most if not all of the energy being produced by the fusion reaction.

The University of Florida have taken a different tack, by putting hydrogen and boron fuel into an accelerator that fires them towards each other at incredibly high velocities. When the hydrogen and boron 11 atoms smash into each other, they fuse, producing fast moving helium nuclei whose motion is converted into electricity.

This new process is clean, highly efficient and most important of all, simple. The output of the new reactor is electricity with its by-product being the same helium gas used to make voices squeaky and party balloons float, so there's no toxic radioactive waste to dispose of.

Initial calculations also show that this new type of fusion generation could produce clean electricity at similar levels but far more cheaply than oil or coal.

Because the reactor also operates using relatively simple engineering principles (especially compared to the current crop of fusion reactors), commercialising it is likely to involve significantly shorter time-frames than other fusion technologies.

Although technology is still however very experimental and has yet to be fully proven, a feasibility study into this new fusion process has been kicked off, and if it is found to be viable, it could become commercially available in as little as a decade, here's hoping.

Fusion breakthrough a magic bullet for energy crisis?

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Kumbh Mela focuses on global warming

An area of 130 square kilometres (50 square miles) has been set aside to host the five million pilgrims expected to participate in the first of four auspicious bathing dates on January 14.

By Staff Writers
Dehradun, India (AFP) Jan 12, 2010

Hundreds of ash-covered, naked holy men and millions of Hindu pilgrims are making their way to northern India to take part in one of the largest religious gatherings on Earth. …

The Mela marks the only public gathering of the Nagas, many of whom live in remote, spartan conditions in mountains, caves and communes in the Himalayas and other regions of India.

The highest ranked among them will ride in chariots decorated with marigolds and pulled by tractors, while others follow behind, carrying swords, tridents and saffron flags.

Naked and generally covered in a layer of grey ash, they are regarded by devotees as earthly representatives of the gods because of their self-sacrifice and denial of the material world.

Their isolation does not, however, prevent their organising for particular causes and they plan to use the 2010 Kumbh Mela to highlight the issue of global warming.

"Sadhus like us who go up to the higher reaches of the Himalayas to meditate have a clear picture of how bad the situation is," Soham Baba, considered as the head of the Nagas, told reporters recently in Kolkata.

"Pristine lakes and waterfalls that existed till a few years ago have dried up," he said.

"The Kumbh Mela will be the appropriate place to protest," he added. …

Millions gather on the Ganges for mass Hindu festival

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

British police extremist unit in climate hack case

Map of earth temperature. The Climate Change Unit has built up a worldwide reputation

A police unit set up to support forces dealing with extremism in the UK is helping investigate the leaking of climate change data in Norfolk.

In November it was revealed that the computer server at the Climate Change Unit at the University of East Anglia had been hacked and e-mails leaked.

An inquiry was started by Norfolk Police.

Now it has been revealed the force is getting help from the National Domestic Extremism Unit, based in Huntingdon.

A spokesman for the unit said: "At present we have two police officers assisting Norfolk with their investigation, and we have also provided computer forensic expertise.

"While this is not strictly a domestic extremism matter, as a national police unit we had the expertise and resource to assist with this investigation, as well as good background knowledge of climate change issues in relation to criminal investigations."  …

The files stolen from the computer include documents, detailed data and private e-mails exchanged between leading climate scientists.

Norfolk Police said: "The UEA continues to co-operate with the enquiry, however major investigations of this nature are of necessity very detailed and as a consequence can take time to reach a conclusion.”

Extremist unit in climate hack case

Solar cells made through oil-and-water 'self-assembly'

 The approach made a device of 64,000 parts in three minutes. Solar cells made through oil-and-water 'self-assembly' BBC

By Jason Palmer
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

Researchers have demonstrated a simple, cheap way to create self-assembling electronic devices using a property crucial to salad dressings.

It uses the fact that oil- and water-based liquids do not mix, forming devices from components that align along the boundary between the two.

The idea joins a raft of approaches toward self-assembly, but lends itself particularly well to small components.

The work is reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Crucially, it could allow the large-scale assembly of high-quality electronic components on materials of just about any type, in contrast to "inkjet printed" electronics or some previous self-assembly techniques. …

The solar cell that builds itself

Cold snap not a sign of ‘global cooling’

In case you were confused by the latest “cooling period” flap.

David Rose, climate 'journalist'In comments, several readers suggested that I examine a recent report from the U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail that attempts to tie the research of modeller and IPCC author Mojib Latif to the current cold spell in Europe.  Now that Latif has responded to this latest distortion of his views in an interview with the Guardian, I’m happy to oblige.

And, while I’m at it, I’ll also take a look at the short and dubious track record of newly-minted contrarian climate “investigative journalist”  David Rose, whose very first climate change article was an overview of Climategate “research” from Steve McIntyre, with generous assistance from Ross McKitrick.

David Rose’s article in the latest Mail on Sunday gets right to the point:

The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists.

Of course, this is exactly the sort of distortion that Latif has been subjected to before, most recently in the wake of his presentation at the World Climate Conference in Geneva last October, as I noted in my post Anatomy of a lie: How Marc Morano and Lorne Gunter spun Mojib Latif.

Perhaps ruefully reflecting on that sorry experience, Latif has responded to this latest outrageous exaggeration in no uncertain terms in an interview with the Manchester Guardian.

The Mail on Sunday article said that Latif’s research showed that the current cold weather heralds such “a global trend towards cooler weather”.

It said: “The BBC assured viewers that the big chill was was merely short-term ‘weather’ that had nothing to do with ‘climate’, which was still warming. The work of Prof Latif and the other scientists refutes that view.”

Not according to Latif. “They are not related at all,” he said. “What we are experiencing now is a weather phenomenon, while we talked about the mean temperature over the next 10 years. You can’t compare the two.

“The natural variation occurs side by side with the manmade warming. Sometimes it has a cooling effect and can offset this warming and other times it can accelerate it.” [Emphasis added]

The Mail also characterized Latif’s research this way:

He and his colleagues predicted the new cooling trend in a paper published in 2008 and warned of it again at an IPCC conference in Geneva last September.

However, the referenced Keenlyside at al paper projects reduced warming (not cooling) for the coming decade 2010-2020 relative to previous decades, as I explained previously. And as Latif makes clear above, his discussion with Rose was limited to the “mean temperature over the next ten years”. All that is a far cry from a “global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years”. …

Mojib Latif slams Daily Mail

Monday, January 11, 2010

Top French chefs take bluefin tuna off the menu

The move comes as some scientists predict that many of the fish we currently eat will be extinct by 2050.

Olivier Roellinger posing near his restaurant 'La Maison de Bricourt', in Cancale. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR

Over the past few months, a cadre of top French chefs have pledged to keep bluefin tuna and other threatened fish species off the menu, whatever the cost.

With half of the fish eaten in Europe dished up in restaurants, it was high time for the food-loving nation's leading chefs to take a stand, said one of the country's greatest chefs, Olivier Roellinger.

Roellinger, celebrated for his fish and seaweed fare in western Brittany, took bluefin tuna -- aka red tuna -- off the menu five years ago.

Said Roellinger: "We have a responsibility towards all those who are in charge of feeding others, cooks but also mothers and even fathers, and must show them the way. They must be made aware that the sea, this natural larder, is in danger." …

"We chefs have played our part in this catastrophe," chef Gael Orieux said. "People tend to buy fish at the market that they've had at a restaurant. So my logic is to propose other fish that are less under threat, in order to influence consumers in their choices." …

Top French chefs take bluefin tuna off the menu

Canadians say climate change bigger threat than terrorism

A new poll shows that Canadians now see climate change as a larger threat than terrorism, even though their government has largely scaled back efforts to combat climate change. Half of the poll's respondents said that climate change was a 'critical threat', while only a quarter said the same about terrorism.

The number of Canadians viewing climate change as a 'critical threat' dropped 3 percent in the last six years, from 52 percent to 49 percent (close to the polls margin of error of 2.8 percent). However, fears over terrorism plummeted during the same time, dropping from 49 percent in 2004 to 28 percent. It should be noted that part of the poll was conducted prior to attempt by a Nigerian with Al-Qaeda ties to blow up a plane in the US.

Despite concerns about climate change remaining high in Canada, the northern nation's government has faced criticism at home and abroad for doing little to mitigate climate change. The nation is only country to drop out of the Kyoto Treaty. Since 1990 Canada's emissions have risen 26 percent since 1990 (10 percent more than the US, which never signed onto Kyoto).

Many cite the reason for Canada's unwillingness to ambitiously confront climate change as its tar sands industry. The extraction of oil from the tar sands is energy intensive and leaves a carbon footprint that some say is the largest industrial source of carbon emissions in the world: 40 million tons of greenhouse gases every year.

The poll included 1,229 responses and was conducted between December 22, 2009 and January 4th, 2010.

Canadians say climate change bigger threat than terrorism

Architects plan 'amphibious landscape' for New York City

Aerial view of Palisade Bay. Courtesy Palisade Bay Team: Guy Nordenson and Associates, Catherine Seavitt Studio, Architecture Research Office

Published: January 11, 2010

NEW YORK -- What would New York's waterfront look like after a sea level rise of 2 feet or more?

Most officials paint a nightmare scenario -- huge swaths of expensive real estate permanently flooded, with frequent storms and the resultant storm surge routinely forcing mass evacuations every few years. But several architects are now painting a more positive picture, and their visions for a post-climate-change new New York have city planners interested.

This weekend, the public was given its first glimpse of a project a year in the making: a collaboration between the Museum of Modern Art and its affiliate P.S.1, an art exhibition house. The museums have asked five separate architectural teams to come up with plans for transforming the metropolitan area's coastlines after warmer oceans and melting Antarctic ice have raised global sea levels, something many scientists predict is inevitable.

A full exhibit opens at MoMA on March 24, but what the teams are already coming up with has people talking. They envision a city lined with marshes, permeable coastlines, and oyster farms used as wave breaks. To adapt to climate change, the teams are asking New Yorkers to look at things in a more positive light -- namely, as a chance to bring a city famous for blocking out the ocean back to dealing with it.

The idea is to "exploit the problem at hand with new opportunities," P.S.1 director Klaus Biesenbach told an audience at an opening presentation on Saturday. "It's an optimistic gesture."

The architects aren't asked to paint sea level rise as a positive thing, but instead to propose ways for the city to make the city more resilient and to make the best out of a bad situation. The teams acknowledge that if predictions of a rise of 2 feet or more over the next several decades prove correct, large chunks of the city that are now populated will have to be permanently abandoned to the ocean. But allowing the sea to once again creep into city space doesn't necessarily have to be all negative, they say. …

Architects Plan 'Amphibious Landscape' for New York City

Conservative skeptics battle clerics who believe in climate change

"Man comes first. Not animals. Not the planet."

Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission / THE TENNESSEAN By Bob Smietana, The Tennessean

Richard Land is not worried about climate change.

He believes the world is getting hotter. But he has no idea why. And he says trying to reverse climate change would do more harm than good.

"I am an agnostic when it comes to human-induced climate change," said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "It can't be a good thing that we are dumping all of this carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I think we should do all that we can to reduce emissions within reason. But we have to count the human cost."

Land is a leading voice among conservative Christian climate-change skeptics. These skeptics believe claims of catastrophic climate change are a scam, based on bad science and bad theology. They hope to counter religious leaders who believe climate change is a danger. …

Land also believes that many climate scientists see humans as a threat to the planet. He and other skeptics disagree.

"Man comes first," Land said. "Not animals. Not the planet." …

Robert Parham, director of the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics, thinks Land and other skeptics should take another look at the Bible. Parham, who supports climate-change legislation, says that the Bible also has at least two stories about human-caused environmental disasters. The first is when human beings were cast out of the Garden of Eden, he said. The second came during the great flood.

"Fundamentalists who say that human beings cannot alter the environment are not being faithful to their literal reading of the Bible," he said.

Graham Reside, executive director of the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership at Vanderbilt University, wonders if climate skeptics have too small a view of God. …

Conservative skeptics battle clerics who believe in climate change

‘Amazon Chernobyl’: 18 billion gallons of toxic waste dumped in Amazon waters

A film released this week in Britain recounts the 16-year battle by Ecuadorians for damages against Chevron for oil pollution

The film 'Crude' shows the extent of the environmental damage in the Amazon rainforest. AFP / Getty Images

By Esme McAvoy

It's barely eight in the morning and already the dusty oil town of Lago Agrio, on the fringes of the Ecuadorian Amazon, is sweltering. Its name means "sour lake" in Spanish, after the hometown of Texan oil company Texaco – a fitting name for an area of once-pristine rainforest that has been decimated in the pursuit of oil. So severe is the environmental damage here that experts have called it an "Amazon Chernobyl".

But the people of Lago Agrio and its surrounding area have been fighting back. Sixteen years ago, 30,000 Ecuadorians began legal action against the US oil company – now owned by Chevron – they hold responsible. Early this year, from the town's tiny courtroom, a lone judge will deliver a verdict on their class-action case. If the judge rules in favour of the Ecuadorians, Chevron could face damages of $27.3bn (£17bn), making it the biggest environmental lawsuit in history.

This week, while both sides await the verdict, a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the case goes on release in Britain. Called Crude, it is directed by Joe Berlinger, whose movie Metallica: Some Kind of Monster charted the band's travails.

Crude tells a story more complex than even that, and it began when Steve Donziger, a lawyer acting for the Ecuadorians, arrived at the film-maker's office. "The story the lawyer told me was indeed shocking," said Berlinger.

In the words of the film's producers, the claim was "that from the mid-1960s until the early 1990s, Texaco (now Chevron) dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic waste and formation water directly into streams, rivers, and the jungle floor; that nearly 18 millions of crude oil was spilled and leaked from pipelines, that more than 235 billion cubic feet of natural gas was burned into the atmosphere, and that nearly 1,000 unlined toxic waste pits were built throughout the region."

A Chevron spokesperson said: "What is being missed, even by well-intentioned people, is that the responsibility for the lack of potable water, insufficient access to proper health care, and malnutrition now affecting the people of the Oriente lies squarely with the government of Ecuador, which has failed to properly address these serious challenges for decades." The company says there is no increased incidence of cancers in the oil-producing areas, that "poor sanitation" contributes to local health issues, and adds that the film is "long on emotion, short on fact", something Berlinger denies.

Within a few days of Berlinger's trip to Ecuador, he realised that the case was virtually demanding to be made into a film. "I noticed a group of indigenous people sitting by the riverbank, preparing a meal by an open fire using processed tuna fish from a big industrial-sized can that came from another corner of the world. They were eating this canned tuna because the fish that swam in their river, which had fed these proud people for millennia, were dead." …

Who will pay for Amazon's 'Chernobyl'?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Microsoft reveals tricks behind controller-free Project Natal

Project Natal gives Xbox 360 players the ability to manipulate on-screen characters via natural body movements.

Microsoft reveals tricks behind controller-free Project Natal

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Golden Ratio discovered in quantum world: hidden symmetry observed for the first time in solid state matter

The magnetic field is used to tune the chains of spins to a quantum critical state. The resonant modes (“notes”) are detected by scattering neutrons. These scatter with the characteristic frequencies of the spin chains. (Credit: Image courtesy of Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres)

ScienceDaily (Jan. 7, 2010) — Researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB), in cooperation with colleagues from Oxford and Bristol Universities, as well as the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, have for the first time observed a nanoscale symmetry hidden in solid state matter. They have measured the signatures of a symmetry showing the same attributes as the golden ratio famous from art and architecture.

The research team is publishing these findings in the Jan. 8, 2010 issue of the journal Science.

On the atomic scale particles do not behave as we know it in the macro-atomic world. New properties emerge which are the result of an effect known as the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. In order to study these nanoscale quantum effects the researchers have focused on the magnetic material cobalt niobate. It consists of linked magnetic atoms, which form chains just like a very thin bar magnet, but only one atom wide and are a useful model for describing ferromagnetism on the nanoscale in solid state matter.

When applying a magnetic field at right angles to an aligned spin the magnetic chain will transform into a new state called quantum critical, which can be thought of as a quantum version of a fractal pattern. Prof. Alan Tennant, the leader of the Berlin group, explains "The system reaches a quantum uncertain -- or a Schrödinger cat state. This is what we did in our experiments with cobalt niobate. We have tuned the system exactly in order to turn it quantum critical."

By tuning the system and artificially introducing more quantum uncertainty the researchers observed that the chain of atoms acts like a nanoscale guitar string. Dr. Radu Coldea from Oxford University, who is the principal author of the paper and drove the international project from its inception a decade ago until the present, explains: "Here the tension comes from the interaction between spins causing them to magnetically resonate. For these interactions we found a series (scale) of resonant notes: The first two notes show a perfect relationship with each other. Their frequencies (pitch) are in the ratio of 1.618…, which is the golden ratio famous from art and architecture." Radu Coldea is convinced that this is no coincidence. "It reflects a beautiful property of the quantum system -- a hidden symmetry. Actually quite a special one called E8 by mathematicians, and this is its first observation in a material," he explains. …

Golden Ratio Discovered in Quantum World: Hidden Symmetry Observed for the First Time in Solid State Matter

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Scientists say dolphins should be treated as 'non-human persons'

Dolphins have long been recognised as among the most intelligent of animals but many researchers had placed them below chimps

By Jonathan Leake

Dolphins have been declared the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as “non-human persons”.

Studies into dolphin behaviour have highlighted how similar their communications are to those of humans and that they are brighter than chimpanzees. These have been backed up by anatomical research showing that dolphin brains have many key features associated with high intelligence.

The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in this way each year.

“Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size,” said Lori Marino, a zoologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who has used magnetic resonance imaging scans to map the brains of dolphin species and compare them with those of primates.

“The neuroanatomy suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions,” she added. …

Scientists say dolphins should be treated as 'non-human persons'

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Loudness Wars: Why Music Sounds Worse

Loudness graph

December 31, 2009 - As we come to the end of the decade, we turn to one of the more dramatic changes we've heard in music over those 10 years: It seems to have gotten louder.

We're talking about compression here, the dynamic compression that's used a lot in popular music. There's actually another kind of compression going on today — one that allows us to carry hundreds of songs in our iPods. More on that in a minute.

But first, host Robert Siegel talked to Bob Ludwig, a record mastering engineer. For more than 40 years, he's been the final ear in the audio chain for albums running from Jimi Hendrix to Radiohead, from Tony Bennett to Kronos Quartet.

Bob pointed to a YouTube video titled The Loudness War. The video uses Paul McCartney's 1989 song "Figure of Eight" as an example, comparing its original recording with what a modern engineer might do with it.

"It really no longer sounds like a snare drum with a very sharp attack," Ludwig says. "It sounds more like somebody padding on a piece of leather or something like that," Ludwig says. He's referring to the practice of using compressors to squash the music, making the quiet parts louder and the loud parts a little quieter, so it jumps out of your radio or iPod.

Ludwig says the "Loudness War" came to a head last year with the release of Metallica's album Death Magnetic.

"It came out simultaneously to the fans as [a version on] Guitar Hero and the final CD," Ludwig says. "And the Guitar Hero doesn't have all the digital domain compression that the CD had. So the fans were able to hear what it could have been before this compression."

According to Ludwig, 10,000 or more fans signed an online petition to get the band to remix the record.

"That record is so loud that there is an outfit in Europe called ITU [International Telecommunication Union] that now has standardization measurements for long-term loudness," he says. "And that Metallica record is one of the loudest records ever produced." …

The Loudness Wars: Why Music Sounds Worse

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