Category Archives: Science

Today’s Earth Day

So today’s Earth Day. What did you do to save the planet?

I took the bus.

OK, I’m just bragging. Being a stay-at-home/work-at-home dad I don’t normally go anywhere, so taking the bus actually increased my carbon footprint/energy usage/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Oops.

Using Rainwater and Sewage for Power

While this summer Minnesota apparently had the worst drought since 1988 (Not that I noticed–it just meant I didn’t have to mow the grass as often), September and October have had three to four times the normal amount of rain. It has rained almost every day in October. We’re beyond raining cats and dogs.

So one night a few weeks ago I was lying awake in my bed listening to the rain splatter on my roof and pour out of my gutters. And an idea came to me–if we harness rivers and waterfalls and build dams to create hydroelectric power, why couldn’t we do the same and generate electricity from the rain that falls from the sky?

Continue reading Using Rainwater and Sewage for Power

The World’s Most Polluted River

2007_06_07pollutedriver.jpgYou could just call it the river of garbage–check out the incredibly polluted Citarum River in Indonesia, clogged with the garbage and waste of more than 9 million people and 500 factories. That picture is a guy in a boat in the river–you can’t even see the water.

Bono has said that poverty is a justice issue, and I think this kind of pollution is likewise a justice issue. (link via

Jerry Falwell Thinks Global Warming is a Hoax

Apparently Jerry Falwell gave a sermon entitled “The Myth of Global Warming” and then backed up the sermon by saying God will take care of any environmental problems we have:

Falwell said the Bible teaches that God will maintain the Earth until Jesus returns, so Christians should be responsible environmentalists, but not what he calls … quote … “first-class nuts.”

Dr. Falwell, the feeling is mutual.

Continue reading Jerry Falwell Thinks Global Warming is a Hoax

Smog in Minnesota?

We’ve been having air quality alerts in the Twin Cities for the past several days. I don’t entirely understand it, but it has something to do with the weather not blowing our smog away like it usually does. Something to do with the temperature, the wind, etc.

So let me get this straight: The air quality in the Twin Cities is normally so bad that we’d be having pollution warnings all the time? Our only saving grace is that the weather blows our dangerous, polluted air somewhere else? Yikes.

There can only be so much diffusion of polluted air to “somewhere” else before we’re all staying indoors. Seems to me we should be thinking about ways to cut down on the pollution, rather than just hoping the weather will save our neck.

Bunsen & Beaker Named Top Scientists

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and BeakerThe Muppets’ Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker trounced Dr. Spock from Star Trek, Dr. Emmett Brown from Back to the Future and Q from James Bond to be voted Britain’s favorite screen scientists. The explosive pair won by a 2-to-1 margin, defeating Spock in second place and The Doctor from Dr. Who.

“They are accessible, humorous and occasionally blow each other up,” said Roland Jackson, of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA).

“They’re the kind of scientists you would like to be but never quite dared to,” said Alan Slater, a scientist at the University of Exeter in southwestern England.

Men are from Mars

A view from NASA's Mars Rover, SpiritOf course during the State of the Union address that I just so eloquently blabbered about, I was reading about Mars. As you probably know, U.S. President George W. Bush gave this sweeping vision for a manned-mission to Mars. He basically proposed junking current NASA missions that involve things like the lame-o space station (what does that thing do anyway?) and robotic exploration, in favor of expensive, dangerous, and headline-grabbing adventurous manned exploration.

It’s a pretty bold vision, it costs a lot of money, and who knows if it’s going to happen. But either way you come down on the issue, I find it incredibly fascinating to think about.

Time gives an overview of the proposed mission, including an overview of how possible moon missions fit in, how Bush plans to pay for it, and an opinion piece about why we shouldn’t go to Mars.

The whole Mars discussion has prompted all sorts of out-there thinking, including proponents of a one-way mission to Mars and thoughts about what we might do on Mars (like use plutonium to heat the atmosphere to more human-friendly temperatures).

Despite how out-there it might be, I love all the sci-fi theorizing. What would a colony on Mars look like? What would they do? Is it just a bunch of boring scientific experiments, or would they actually be mining minerals and things of use. Would Mars become a scientific mecca, or another example of humans mucking up nature (or would our pollution efforts finally meet their match — a planet so inhospitable a little bit of carbon monoxide won’t make any difference)?

It’s especially interesting to compare all the challenges and dangers of space exploration to early exploration on our own planet. Sure, Arctic expeditions are dangerous, but at least you don’t have to bring your own oxygen.

Christian Environmentalism

Last night I mentioned a new ad campaign attempting to link religion and environmentalism, What Would Jesus Drive? It’s a slick idea, and about time. In my experience the church has been pretty anti-environment. Christians often mistrust tree-huggers as whacked out new-agers who care more about plants and animals than people.

But those fundamentalist ideas are dying. A casual poll of my youth group shows that pollution and environmental problems are seen as the biggest issues in the world today. The next generation cares about the planet, and it’s about time we returned to Biblical values. Psalm 104 reads like any nature writing from the 20th century: “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work,” (Psalm 104: 10-13, NRSV).

Environmentalism is also getting another boost, from nationalism as well as from simple human compassion. I’m eager to see if in the next 50 years or so we’re forced into caring about the environment or if it’s more of a gradual shift that comes about because people want it to. It’s a lot harder to say you love your grandchildren and have gone the route of the first option.