Archive for: May, 2006

>Joining Hexane; Erudition # 2

May 31 2006 Published by under Chemistry, Energy

>Chemists have found a way to reuse "leftover" small carbon chains from the processing of hydrocarbon fuels like diesel and ethanol from corn or sugar cane.

A series of catalyzed reactions can reconstitute hexane
into usuable hydrocarbon fuel

Diesel in particular is a mix of nine to twenty-carbon chains (linear carbon chains are commonly refered to as alkanes), and during the processing of the fuel, a number of small chains (six-carbon hexane or four-carbon butane) can turn up, unable to be further processed.

But the recent find has found ways to take two hexane molecules and join them in a series of relatively simple catalyzed reactions, creating a ten-carbon alkane (decane) and a and two-carbon alkane (ethane), both of which can be used as fuel; decane in diesel, and ethane for home heating.

3 responses so far


May 27 2006 Published by under Site News

>I will be in an internet-free zone for the next four days.

Be back Tuesday.

Thanks for reading.

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>American Lawns: An Extension of Your Carpet?

May 27 2006 Published by under Animals, Conservation, Environment, Links, [Politics]

>If I have to see another white middle-aged actor stroking "his" lawn, I'm going to (insert drastic measure here)!

Ortho's latest pesticide claims it will kill over 100 specific insect types on contact.

The problem is, there are a lot of invertebrates that keep a natural lawn in great shape. So how can the pesticide differentiate between the pests and the helpers?

It can't.

Without these organisms, our plants would die. Worms aerate and fertilize the soil, diazotrophs fix nitrogen for plants absorption, bees and beetles spread pollen from flower to flower, and termites (yes, termites) redistribute nutrients from dead plant material back into the ecosystem.

So, natural soil depends on these "pests."

In fact, the entire world depends on the activities of invertebrates. They are the ancient ones; we depend on them, not the other way around.

We are here because they have been here, for hundreds of millions of years.

But don't take my word for it. Take his:

I want to know why lawns have to be so pristine and free of variation. Our aesthetic tastes value pattern and variety above all, so why the vast ocean of non-native invasive grasses?

To waste water?

To cut biodiversity?

To dump excess artificial fertilizers into streams, contributing to the eutrophication of our rivers, lakes and bays (the Chesapeake, for example)?

To display a primitive prowess to others in the ability to control the environment?

Is it a control issue?

Or is it a display of affluence, a show of expendable income?

Does the green of your lawn represent the green in your wallet?

2 responses so far

>On a Highway to Hell

May 27 2006 Published by under Philosophy, Religion

>Well, I'm headed for eternal damnation according to This Holy Test.

Knowing that you are guilty of breaking God's commandments, do you think you would go to Heaven or Hell


Let's see... umm... I want to go to... Heaven!


While it may seem that God's goodness will cause Him to overlook your sins, the opposite is actually true. Perhaps the following illustration will add some clarity: Imagine you're standing before a judge, guilty of multiple crimes. The judge is about to pass sentence when he asks, "Do you have anything to say for yourself?" You stand up, look the judge in the eye and say, "Yes Your Honor, I believe that you're a good man... and because you're good, you will let me go." The judge will probably say something like, "Well, you're right about one thing... I am a good man. And it's because I'm good that I'm going to see that you are punished for your crimes." The very thing you are counting on to save you on the Day of Judgment -- namely God's goodness -- is going to be the very thing that will see to it that justice is done. Because God is so good He will make sure that every murderer, rapist and thief receives justice... but He won't stop there. He will also make sure every liar, blasphemer, and adulterer is punished. While this is something that is extremely tragic and far from God's ultimate desire for any person, the Bible is clear that the place of punishment for those who do not turn from their sins is Hell.

Does the fact that you're headed for Hell concern you?


Man, Yahweh is a spiteful guy.

Nah, not really. I'd rather be tortured perpetually than condemned to worshiping God for eternity. Boring!

Anyway, I'll have plenty of friends there. And I'm sure I'll run into the founding hypocrite of NEEDGOD.COM while riding a particularly uncomfortable fire geyser.

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>Erudition #1

May 25 2006 Published by under Links

>Today's Erudition:

Lessons from the past: Biotic recoveries from mass extinctions (pdf)

This is one of a series of papers from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discussing the future of evolution. It's a nice review of the current understanding of the aftermath of mass extinctions.

extensive knowledge acquired chiefly from books:
profound, recondite, or bookish learning

One response so far

>My EditorShip #2

May 25 2006 Published by under Editing, Publishing

>We just signed on with College Publisher (CP), a company that specifically creates and designs college newspaper websites, especially when the newspaper's staff is limited (like at The Bottom Line). They provide a fully navigable website, smartly designed, user friendly, and all we have to do is place five ads on the site itself, and run their ads in the print version. That's the only catch.

CP publishes major university newspapers such as

Boston University's The Daily Free Press

Brown University's The Brown Daily Herald

University of Notre Dame The Observer

and Harvard University's The Harvard Independent.

I think we'll be in good hands; their sites look great, and on top of it all, it makes our Webmaster's job much easier. All you need to do is sign in, edit and cut and paste.

We faxed off the application yesterday, and should be hearing back from them in a couple weeks.

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>The Effects of Global Climate Change on Antarctica

May 24 2006 Published by under Animals, Climatology, Conservation, Environment, Links

>While polar bears drown in the north from melting ice, the entire marine ecosystem of Antarctica is in real danger of collapsing.

As the following video explains (from the Via Antarctica podcast series), the temperature in the Antarctic has risen by three degrees Centigrade in 25 years, which is causing the sea ice to melt. Sea ice is responsible for insulating the foundation organisms of the Antarctic marine ecosystem, diatoms and algae.

No more sea ice - no more diatoms & algae - no more krill - no more Adele penguins.

Sorry, your browser doesn't support the embedding of multimedia.

Update (5/25): According to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the sea ice has decreased around Antarctica from about 12 to 20 percent in the past 50 years.

This is not only affecting the Adele penguins, as I said before, but is also disturbing the breeding patterns of other sea birds that roost in the area.

6 responses so far

>My Independent Education: A Summer Reading List

May 23 2006 Published by under Books, Links, Religion

>The final day of obligation has passed. I am now free to enjoy my summer sans forced education. I thought I would make a list of books and papers that I want to read this summer, and hopefully you can leave me a list of your summer reading plans.

So, here goes:

I started this about mid-semester, so first of all I want to finish A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. It's not the complexity that is attractive about this book, but the volume of research the man had to do. As he states in the forward, he knew virtually nothing about science, not even "the difference between a proton and a protein."

I bought Richard Fortey's Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth a year ago or so, just never got around to reading it.

Bodanis is one of my favorite authors of all time. Electric Universe and E=MC^2 were lucid, elegant explanations of complicated science. This is the only book I have not read by Bodanis (he is releasing a new book in October of this year, called Passionate Minds).

E. O. Wilson is one of the great naturalists of our time. The Future of Life is sure to be another strong book from Wilson as he preaches to the choir; the only people that read books about conservation are already conservationists, unfortunately.

Love him or hate him, Richard Dawkins writes a damn good book about evolution. He can be a harsh critic of western religion, but perhaps it is time that western religion needs a critic to cut through the fanaticism.

We just finished watching Dawkins' documentary on religion - The Root of All Evil? (the link will take you to another post where you can download the 2-part series) - in which he analyzes the dangers of religion. I don't entirely agree with the guy, but he does make some excellent points.

Other summer reads:

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: Still haven't read this one...

The Foundation Novels by Isaac Asimov: I stopped midway through Second Foundation.

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov: Supposedly one of the greatest sci-fi short stories ever written.

There are also about 10 or 15 papers and essays lying around my office that I have not had time to read in the past few months. I'll post links to the more interesting of the bunch.

What are you reading this summer?

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>Earth to America: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

May 22 2006 Published by under Climatology, Environment, Evolution, [Politics]


"How will you hold Saddam responsible?"

One response so far

>Black Moth/White Moth

May 22 2006 Published by under Creationism, Evolution, Links

>I allowed myself to be dragged into an internet argument (on this post about intelligent design) and I should be ashamed:

Orikinla Osinachi. said...

Nothing exists by chance.

Man is the evidence of God.

God bless.

8:41 PM

jbruno said...

This is just bad logic. "The building has to have a builder" argument is sophomoric and entirely unscientific.

This issue has nothing to do with the Constitution and our "rights" to teach without discrimination. You can believe what you want, but there is no evidence whatsoever that there is a "designer" inherent in nature, and such a baseless claim has no place in a science class, period.

Furthermore, if the evidence for design is so "abundant and convincing," why didn't you link it to this post? There's not even a paraphrasing of this evidence. If ID and its clones are so scientific, there must be concrete evidence published somewhere.

I think the proponents of ID & creationism are confused. There is no problem with holding the belief that the universe and everything in it was designed, just keep it to a humanities course.

Evolution is a scientific theory, not a personal philosophy. When science teachers introduce evolution, they are not promoting naturalism, they are teaching the pillar upon which all of biology is firmly planted.

4:06 PM


Dawn Benko said...

And what's your proof of evolution? Oh yeah, man evolved from apes.

2:04 AM

jbruno said...

Dawn: Here is your proof of evolution: antibiotic resistance. Please click on the link; it will explain a lot.

The organism that is the most fit, the most well-adapted to its environment, will live long enough to mate and pass on its genes. That is the essence of evolution.

A textbook example:

During the industrial age in the UK, the factories expelled enough soot to turn the trunks of trees black. There were black & white speckled moths living in this forest. The moths that were lighter colored stood out more against the now black trees, and birds and other predators ate them. The moths that were darker (better adapted to the changed environment) were well hidden from predators, not eaten, and lived long enough to mate. They passed on their genes to the next generation, and those subsequent moths ended up being darker.

You see, it's not strictly about human beings evolving from apes (although that is the problem that most people have with the theory) and it's not necessarily about the origin of life.

Dawn, there is plenty of evidence for evolution if you look in the right place: science textbooks, journals, magazines and websites devoted to research, not to forging a new foundation for atheism.


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