Thinnest People Eat the Most Carbohydrates?

A four-nation study of more than 4,000 men and women ages 40 to 59 has produced a stunning conclusion in our Atkins diet-fueled society: The thinnest people on Earth eat the most carbohydrates. Even more alarming, the people who eat the most protein are actually the heaviest.

In the Northwestern study, more than 4,000 people from the United States, Great Britain, Japan, and China wrote in a food diary everything they had eaten during two 24-hour periods. "Lo and behold, what we did find is that without exception, a high complex-carbohydrate, high-fiber, high vegetable-protein diet was associated with low body mass index Van Horn explained. A low body mass index or BMI is a standard measure of healthy weight.

But also notable is this finding: The more animal protein that was consumed, the higher the person’s weight. And the greater risk to his or her health. "I think any diet that recommends increasing the amount of saturated fat poses a risk," said Randal J. Thomas of the Mayo Clinic. "There may be good things about the diet…but any diet that recommends increases in saturated fat could be increasing the risk in the population."

Link: Home & Real Estate

Migrating Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill_craneYesterday (the day after Thankgiving) I heard the wonderful chortling song of migrating sandhill cranes. It took me several moments to see them because they were so high. I would estimate that they were flying at about a thousand feet in altitude. The large flock, about 60 cranes, was catching a thermal to gain altitude before they resumed the southward journey. As the flock wheeled and turned as they spiraled upward, I could see a flash of silverly white from under their wings against a clear blue sky.

I found this description of their exodus from the Baker Sanctuary

In late autumn, Michigan's Sandhills begin an exodus to southeastern Georgia and Florida. Cranes usually take advantage of a northwest tail wind and wait until mid-morning when the sun causes warming thermals to rise, carrying them with the least amount of effort on their southward journey. Flying at speeds up to 50 miles per hour, they can cover nearly 500 miles in one day. Cranes often sail for Sandhill_crane2prolonged periods on set wings, riding the thermals until they are out of view. The bulk of migration takes place nearly a mile above the ground, but there are records of them flying even higher. They usually land before dusk and resume their flight the next day.

This was the first flock of sandhill cranes that I have seen this autumn. I am not outside as often I would like, so I probably have missed the flocks that take hours to pass over that I have seen in the past.

Update: On Sunday, two days later, Ann heard sandhill cranes from inside our home. When we went out, we saw many flocks scattered across the sky. Some flocks were headed south, some were circling on thermals to gain altitude, and several birds were lost (always a few of those in every crowd). The volume of so many sandhill cranes calling at once is incredible (click on this link to hear).

Update (December 3): I heard sandhill cranes today when I went to the mailbox. I finally spotted four flocks (a total of about 200 cranes) flying in V formations high in the flyway. I was only out for a short while so who knows how many flocks have passed by today.

Update (December 17): I was only outside for a short while today, but several hundred sandhill cranes passed over.

Links to sightings

Green chemistry takes root

Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, reports:

A new kind of chemical revolution is brewing, 150 years after the first one transformed modern life with a host of conveniences. This 21st-century revolution — called green chemistry — is a reaction to the environmental and economic costs that often are the dark underbelly of such a transformation.

The fundamental idea of green chemistry is that the designer of a chemical is responsible for considering what will happen to the world after the agent is put in place, says John Warner of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

But by rethinking chemical design from the ground up, green chemists at universities and in private industry are developing new ways to manufacture products that fuel our economy and lifestyles, without the damages that have become all too evident in recent years.

In fact, green chemistry has gone from blackboard conjecture to a multimillion-dollar business in the past 15 years. "Chemical manufacturers are understanding that part of their costs — and therefore subtractions from their bottom line — are waste and environmental disposal," says Mary Ellen Weber of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The stakes are high indeed. Cleaning up chemical messes is growing ever more costly. This fall, the DuPont company agreed to pay up to $600 million in fines and settlement costs over environmental damage caused by production of Teflon and Gore-Tex. General Electric will spend years and tens of millions of dollars to clean up PCBs it discharged into the Hudson River. Other companies face costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up dioxins, perchlorate, mercury and asbestos.

But keeping the planet safe doesn’t have to mean giving up non-stick pans and Gore-Tex. Typically the non-stick coating Teflon is manufactured in water, requiring a particularly nasty chemical called PFOA. But by re-thinking the fundamental way that the molecules making up Teflon are put together, Joseph DeSimone and his colleagues at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill instead found a way to do it in carbon dioxide, the stuff you’d find in tanks at McDonald’s to put the fizz in soda.

Carbon dioxide, it turns out, works so much better as a manufacturing medium for Teflon that no PFOA is required. DuPont has invested $275 million in a plant in North Carolina that makes one form of Teflon using this PFOA-free method, possibly saving a fortune in long-term cleanup

Link: USATODAY.com – Green chemistry takes root.

via Alex Steffen

A Maple in Fall

JapMapleThe Japanese Maple on the west side of our home still had its leaves on November 21 when I took this photo. I remember digging the hole to plant it. The Georgia clay was dense and there were a lot of roots making the task difficult. It was about 3 feet tall when we planted it in late April 1996. We received the little tree as a wedding gift from Chet and Abby.

The young maple didn’t grow much in the first three years — we were concerned that it wasn’t getting enough sunlight because it is surrounded by large trees. But it was establishing a strong root system — now this tree is 15 feet tall! (Lots of lessons there.) This gift could last for many decades, sharing clean air and seasonal colors with its appreciative human neighbors.

How lizards walk on water

The Basilisk lizard runs across the water on two legs. The mystery of how a type of lizard "walks" on water may have been solved, a group of US scientists believe. The basilisk lizard – also known as a Jesus lizard – has a seemingly miraculous ability to scurry across liquid, apparently at odds with the usual laws of physics. Apart from a few types of spider and insect – such as pond skaters that are light enough to avoid piercing the surface tension of the water – the lizard (Basiliscus plumifrons) is the only creature that can perform this mystifying trick. Harvard University’s Dr Tonia Hsieh told the BBC World Service that experiments showed the lizard to be producing massive sideways force to stay upright. "We did expect that we would see that they were producing enough force to run on the top of the water," the researcher in the institution’s department of organismic and evolutionary biology explained. "What we didn’t expect to see was very large medio-lateral forces; forces pretty much to the side of the lizards."

Link: BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | How lizards walk on water.

Note: I think any good whitewater kayaker can relate. When I was kayaking, I would often get blindsided by a wave or current. If I was quick enough, I would hit the surface of the water with the paddle just before I went under and usually I would pop right back up! It saved me from a bruising swim many times.

SunPower’s Solar Cells Designed Into Futuristic “BioHaus” Building

SUNNYVALE, Calif., November 19, 2004 – SunPower Corp., a subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: CY), today announced completion of the first Building Integrated PhotoVoltaic (BIPV) system using its A-300 high efficiency solar cells. The office building, which opened today, is located in Paderborn, Germany, and is being occupied by BioHaus, a manufacturer and distributor of solar-electric modules and inverters. SunPower’s A-300 silicon solar cells—which generate 25-30 percent more power than conventional solar cells—were encapsulated between sheets of glass by Saint Gobain Glass Solar and integrated into the building’s rounded south fa硤e. The building also features solar panels on its southeast and southwest walls and roof. The SunPower glass/glass modules will generate up to 1.8 kW of energy for the building.

Link: SunPower’s Solar Cells Designed Into Futuristic “BioHaus” Building.

via Jamais Cascio

Solar Chimney for California?

From the Alternative Energy Blog:

One of the most popular posts was on a proposed solar chimney in Australia (also known as a Solar Tower). It works using the solar chimney to cover a large greenhouse which covers several square miles. As the hot air rises, it would escape up a 990m tower in the centre of the structure. Wind turbo-generators mounted in the chimney would convert this 50km-an-hour rush of hot air into electricity.

Two things I particularly like about the concept are that, firstly it can run almost continuously not just when the sun is out, and secondly it produces a significant (100MW ) amount of electricity.

Well now that might just be happening. In an intriguing one line press release Californian company SolarMission has agreed to "build, own, maintain, and operate 2,600 megawatts of solar towers. "

Where and when these towers are going to be built is not specified.

Link: Alternative Energy Blog: Solar Chimney for California?.