Jefferson’s Mind

Learn from the best and brightest….

Link: Jefferson’s Unstoppable Mind and Yours.

Neuroscience discoveries about unstoppable minds:

1. They see into the future while targeting the moment.
2. They spark curiosity yet cultivate steady alertness.
3. They capitalize on differences yet build on similarities.
4. They grow dendrites and beat the pathology of aging brains.
5. They run from cynics’ cortisol and embrace creativity’s serotonin.

Patrick Henry – Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

A true patriot.

Link: Patrick Henry – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry is perhaps best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, urging legislature to take military action against the encroaching British military force. The House was undecided as to whether to send troops or not, but was leaning toward not committing troops. As Henry stood in Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, he ended his speech with his most famous words: Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

The crowd jumped up and shouted "To Arms! To Arms!".

Early in the Revolutionary War, Henry led militia against Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in defense of some disputed gunpowder, an event known as the Gunpowder Incident. During the war, he served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia, from 1776-79, an office he held again from 1784-86.

On 25 October 1777, Patrick Henry married his second wife, Dorothea Dandridge (1755–1831). From his marriage there were 11 children.

After the Revolution, Henry was an outspoken critic of the United States Constitution and urged against its adoption, arguing it gave the federal government too much power. As a leading Antifederalist, he was instrumental in forcing the adoption of the Bill of Rights to amend the new Constitution. He became a strong opponent of James Madison. By the late 1790s he was a prominent Federalist in support of Washington and Adams. The irony is that most of his followers became Republicans who supported Jefferson’s party. President George Washington offered him the post of Secretary of State in 1795, which he declined. In 1798 President John Adams nominated him special emissary to France, which he had to decline because of failing health.

Watermelon Man

Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center, says eating watermelon has many beneficial health effects, including preventing erectile dysfunction.

More reasons to grow and enjoy watermelon.

Link: Watermelon May Have Viagra-effect.

…scientists say watermelon has ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido.

Dr. Bhimu Patil

“The more we study watermelons, the more we realize just how amazing a fruit it is in providing natural enhancers to the human body,” said Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center in College Station.

“We’ve always known that watermelon is good for you, but the list of its very important healthful benefits grows longer with each study.”

Beneficial ingredients in watermelon and other fruits and vegetables are known as phyto-nutrients, naturally occurring compounds that are bioactive, or able to react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions, Patil said.

In watermelons, these include lycopene, beta carotene and the rising star among its phyto-nutrients – citrulline – whose beneficial functions are now being unraveled. Among them is the ability to relax blood vessels, much like Viagra does.

Scientists know that when watermelon is consumed, citrulline is converted to arginine through certain enzymes. Arginine is an amino acid that works wonders on the heart and circulation system and maintains a good immune system, Patil said.

“The citrulline-arginine relationship helps heart health, the immune system and may prove to be very helpful for those who suffer from obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Patil. “Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it.”

While there are many psychological and physiological problems that can cause impotence, extra nitric oxide could help those who need increased blood flow, which would also help treat angina, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

“Watermelon may not be as organ specific as Viagra,” Patil said, “but it’s a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects.”

The benefits of watermelon don’t end there, he said. Arginine also helps the urea cycle by removing ammonia and other toxic compounds from our bodies.

Citrulline, the precursor to arginine, is found in higher concentrations in the rind of watermelons than the flesh. As the rind is not commonly eaten, two of Patil’s fellow scientists, drs. Steve King and Hae Jeen Bang, are working to breed new varieties with higher concentrations in the flesh.

In addition to the research by Texas A&M, watermelon’s phyto-nutrients are being studied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Lane, Oklahoma.

As an added bonus, these studies have also shown that deep red varieties of watermelon have displaced the tomato as the lycopene king, Patil said. Almost 92 percent of watermelon is water, but the remaining 8 percent is loaded with lycopene, an anti-oxidant that protects the human heart, prostate and skin health.

“Lycopene, which is also found in red grapefruit, was historically thought to exist only in tomatoes,” he said. “But now we know that it’s found in higher concentrations in red watermelon varieties.”

Clean Coal is a Myth

Clean Coal is a nice image used by politicians to win votes in coal producing states. It exists only in the minds of hopeful politicians and marketers of coal and coal-burning plants. Excerpts from Ben Elgin’s article in Business Week magazine are below.

Link: The Dirty Truth About Clean Coal.

With coal-rich swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia critical to the Presidential race, both Barack Obama and John McCain have endorsed the idea that coal is well on its way to becoming a benign energy source.

The catch is that for now—and for years to come—"clean coal" will
remain more a catchphrase than a reality. Despite the eagerness of the
coal and power industries to sanitize their image and the desire of
U.S. politicians to push a healthy-sounding alternative to expensive
foreign oil and natural gas, clean coal is still a misnomer.

Environmental legislation enacted in 1990 forced the operators of
coal-fired power plants to reduce pollutants that cause acid-rain. But
such plants, which provide half of U.S. electricity, are the country’s
biggest source of greenhouse-gas emissions linked to global warming. No
coal plant can control its emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

All the talk relates to the idea of separating CO2
from the coal-burning process and burying it in liquid form so it won’t
contribute to climate change.

Corporations and the federal government have tried for years to
accomplish "carbon capture and sequestration." So far they haven’t had
much luck. The method is widely viewed as being decades away from
commercial viability. Even then, the cost could be prohibitive: by a
conservative estimate, several trillion dollars to switch to clean coal
in the U.S. alone.

Then there are the safety questions. One large, coal-fired plant generates the equivalent of 3 billion barrels of CO2 over a 60-year lifetime. That would require a space the size of a major oil field to contain.

Companies seeking to build dozens of coal-fueled power plants across
the country use the term "clean coal" liberally in trying to persuade
regulators and voters. Power giant Dominion (D)
describes a proposed plant near St. Paul, Va., expected to generate
electricity by 2012, as having "the very latest in clean-coal
technology." What the unbuilt facility actually possesses to address
global warming is a plot of land set aside for CO2-removal
technology—once it is invented and becomes commercially feasible. The
plant design will accommodate the technology, says Jim Martin, a
Dominion vice-president. These steps, he says, "may actually spur more
research on carbon capture and sequestration."

The Presidential candidates will walk a fine line on the issue.
Senators Obama and McCain support legislation to address global
warming. But "coal is rich in some strategic states that are key to
winning the Presidency," notes Eric Burgeson, an energy lobbyist and
former McCain adviser.

In all, some 118 electoral votes are in play in the top 10
coal-producing states—44% of the 270 needed to win the election. That
likely will fuel plenty of speechifying.

Nuclear Energy’s Problems

Nuclear energy is not a viable solution for our energy needs for many reasons. The excerpts below from BusinessWeek.com below describe many of the drawbacks.

Opponents of solar and wind energy complain about government subsidies, but nuclear energy will require massive subsidies and government involvement.

Link: Nuclear’s Tangled Economics.

McCain laid out his vision for 100 new nuclear plants—45 of them to be built by 2030. They would help meet America’s energy needs, and because nukes don’t emit greenhouse gases, they would fight global warming as well. McCain also wants to borrow from the French playbook by reprocessing and reusing spent nuclear fuel and by providing government incentives to get all this done.

But McCain may not want to follow the French example too closely. While France’s
existing 59 atomic plants are relatively trouble-free, its largest nuclear
company, Areva, has run into difficulties building next-generation reactors in
France and Finland. The Finnish project is two years behind schedule and more
than $1.5 billion over budget, while construction of the other plant, in
Normandy, was temporarily halted in late May because of quality concerns. And
while France has the world’s biggest fuel-reprocessing program, it still hasn’t
found a permanent home for a growing pile of highly radioactive waste that’s
left over.

Two years ago, the price of a 1,500-megawatt reactor was pegged at $2 billion to
$3 billion. Now it’s up to $7 billion and rising, as the cost of concrete,
steel, and other materials and labor soars. MidAmerican Energy Holdings (BRK), a gas and electric utility owned by Warren Buffett’s
Berkshire Hathaway (BRK), shelved its own nuke plan earlier this year, saying it no
longer made economic sense. "The country badly needs new nuclear plants to deal
with the climate issue," says John W. Rowe, chief executive officer of Exelon
(EXC), currently the largest nuke operator, and chairman of the
Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade group. "But they are very
expensive, very high-risk projects."

So risky and expensive, in fact, that building new ones won’t happen without
hefty government support. NRG Energy (NRG), Dominion (D), Duke Energy (DUK), and six other companies have already leaped to file
applications to construct and operate new plants largely because of incentives
Congress has put in place. The subsidies include a 1.8 cents tax credit for each
kilowatt hour of electricity produced, which could be worth more than $140
million per reactor per year; a $500 million payout for each of the first two
plants built (and $250 million each for the next four) if there are delays for
reasons outside company control; and a total of $18.5 billion in loan
guarantees. The latter is crucial, since it shifts the risk onto the federal
government, making it possible to raise capital from skittish banks. "Without
the loan guarantees, I think it would be very difficult for the first wave of
plants to move forward," says David W. Crane, CEO of NRG.

Only two companies, Japan Steel Works and France’s Creusot Forge, a unit of
Areva, are capable of forging key reactor parts such as massive pressure
vessels. There are also shortages of contractors with nuclear certification and
of skilled workers—even a lack of potential sites for new reactors. The proposed
plants are all next to existing reactors. Builders of the power plants, utility
executives say, are unwilling to commit to fixed prices and fixed schedules.
Most companies want to be paid their actual costs, including overruns, plus a
reasonable return, says one CEO.

That’s why experts say the much-heralded nuclear "renaissance" will be slow
to flower. "I’m not quite sure the number McCain put out is obtainable," says
Adrian Heymer, senior director for new plant deployment at the Nuclear Energy
Institute. "If there are any hiccups in coming in on time or on budget, it will
be a struggle to go much beyond the first eight or 10 plants." Exelon’s Rowe
adds that the industry can’t grow until the government solves the waste problem,
either by opening a proposed storage site in Nevada, or by setting up surface
storage facilities around the country. And in the long run, to cut the amount of
waste, he says, "it’s very clear that we’ve got to have a fuel-recycling
technology."

The trouble is, separating out plutonium in the spent fuel for reuse is
costly and dangerous, argue critics like Princeton University physicist Frank N.
von Hippel. And in any case, worries over separated plutonium being diverted to
make bombs led the U.S. to ban reprocessing 31 years ago.

Lessons from Neuroscience Discoveries about brain functioning

Keep in mind…

Link: March 2008 HR Magazine: Brain at Work.

  • People need sufficient sleep to integrate learning into longterm memory.
  • Because the brain “shuts off” after a period of time, learning should be
    broken down into bite-size nuggets.
  • Social pain—being rejected or berated—affects the brain the same as physical
    pain.
  • Social fairness and respect give the brain a chemical boost. Unfairness and
    disrespect do the opposite.
  • Stress can cause people to think unclearly.
  • Uncertainty arouses fear circuits and can decrease ability to make
    decisions.
  • Employees need some ownership over situations to better accept changes. Even
    a little choice helps.
  • Engaging people in more active learning techniques improves retention.
  • Employees’ ability to think clearly can be hindered when employers fail to
    meet expectations or create uncertainty in the workplace.

via Brain Based Business

Moratorium on Solar Power Plants on Public Lands Ended

NYTimes.com reports:

The federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

Update: 7/3/2008 …amid concerns from the solar power industry, members of Congress and the general public that the freeze would stymie solar development during a particularly critical time for energy policy, the bureau abruptly reconsidered.

Maybe I’m getting very cynical about our leadership, but this stinks. Have the Saudis and oil/coal companies decided to pulls some well-funded strings in Washington? Bureaucratic slowdown is a time-tested strategy for undercutting the competition, especially in young industries.

At the same time, oil companies are being given unprecedented freedom to drill on public lands.

These new solar power plants must be threatening the fossil fuel industries (oil, coal, and natural gas), who have an army of lobbyists in Washington.

Link: Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects – NYTimes.com.

Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.   

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Holly Gordon, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for Ausra, a solar thermal energy company in Palo Alto, Calif. “The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.”   

Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land in the West is ideal for solar energy, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts.   

Galvanized by the national demand for clean energy development, solar companies have filed more than 130 proposals with the Bureau of Land Management since 2005. They center on the companies’ desires to lease public land to build solar plants and then sell the energy to utilities.

According to the bureau, the applications, which cover more than one million acres, are for projects that have the potential to power more than 20 million homes.