Tag Archives: Ecology

How to play mathematics

BOOK REVIEW

The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, Author: Margaret Wertheim.
Physics on the Fringe, Author: Margaret Wertheim.
African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design, Author: Ron Eglash.

(glasbergen.com)By Margaret Wertheim – The world is full of mundane, meek, unconscious things materially embodying fiendishly complex pieces of mathematics. How can we make sense of this? I’d like to propose that sea slugs and electrons, and many other modest natural systems, are engaged in what we might call the performance of mathematics.

Rather than thinking about maths, they are doing it.

In the fibers of their beings and the ongoing continuity of their growth and existence they enact mathematical relationships and become mathematicians-by-practice. By looking at nature this way, we are led into a consideration of mathematics itself not through the lens of its representational power but instead as a kind of transaction.

Rather than being a remote abstraction, mathematics can be conceived of as something more like music or dancing; an activity that takes place not so much in the writing down as in the playing out.

Since at least the time of Pythagoras and Plato, there’s been a great deal of discussion in Western philosophy about how we can understand the fact that many physical systems have mathematical representations: the segmented arrangements in sunflowers, pine cones and pineapples (Fibonacci numbers); the curve of nautilus shells, elephant tusks and rams horns (logarithmic spiral); music (harmonic ratios and Fourier transforms); atoms, stars and galaxies, which all now have powerful mathematical descriptors; even the cosmos as a whole, now represented by the equations of general relativity.

The physicist Eugene Wigner has termed this startling fact ‘the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’.

Why does the real world actualize maths at all? And so much of it?

Even arcane parts of mathematics, such as abstract algebras and obscure bits of topology often turn out to be manifest somewhere in nature. more> https://goo.gl/ifKV2Z

Updates from Aalto University

A new method for converting wastewater nutrients into fertilizer
By Riku Vahala – Researchers of Aalto University have developed a new, energy-efficient method for capturing nitrogen and phosphorus from different liquid waste fractions. In laboratory studies, with the help of the method, it is possible to separate 99% of the nitrogen and 90-99% of phosphorus in wastewater and produce granular ammonium sulphate (NH4)2SO4 and phosphorus precipitate suitable for fertilizers.

The capture method is based on the use of calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2 to convert ammoniacal nitrogen NH4+ into ammoniacal gas NH3, which are separated through a semi-permeable membrane. Following this, the ammonium is dissolved into sulphuric acid to produce ammonium sulphate. In the process, the phosphorus is precipitated with the help of calcium salt.

‘A patent application for the method is currently under way, and the aim of the project is to find company partners who could make use of the patent in the best possible manner, create products with its help and market the new process. If successful, the new process will also create a competitive export product’, Anna Mikola, DSc (Tech), points out. more> https://goo.gl/kOrqHP

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Deep time’s uncanny future is full of ghostly human traces

By David Farrier – The Anthropocene, or era of the human, denotes how industrial civilisation has changed the Earth in ways that are comparable with deep-time processes.

The planet’s carbon and nitrogen cycles, ocean chemistry and biodiversity – each one the product of millions of years of slow evolution – have been radically and permanently disrupted by human activity.

The development of agriculture 10,000 years ago, and the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 19th century, have both been proposed as start dates for the Anthropocene.

But a consensus has gathered around the Great Acceleration – the sudden and dramatic jump in consumption that began around 1950, followed by a huge rise in global population, an explosion in the use of plastics, and the collapse of agricultural diversity.

There is also something disturbingly banal about the Anthropocene.

Arguably, it’s in the encounter with everyday objects, surfaces and textures that we get the best sense of its scope and scale. Some 60 billion chickens are killed for human consumption each year; in the future, fossilised chicken bones will be present on every continent as a testimony to the intrusion of human desires in the geological record.

Plastics, which began being mass-produced in the middle of the 20th century, give us back the world as the West has been taught to see it – pliable, immediately available, and smoothed to our advantage. Yet almost every piece of plastic ever made remains in existence in some form, and their chemical traces are increasingly present in our bodies.

Humans created 5 billion gigabytes of digital information in 2003; in 2013 it took only 10 minutes to produce the same amount of data. more> https://goo.gl/q9dRCD

Updates from GE

GE Reports [VIDEO] – In December 2015, 195 countries gathered in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (known as COP 21 after the 21st Conference of the Parties) and collectively agreed to reduce global emissions in an effort to combat climate change. This agreement is referred to as the Paris Agreement.

GE Reports Perspectives talked to James Cameron, global climate policy expert, Partner in SYSTEMIQ, and GE Ecomagination advisory board member, on how the process works, why it matters to business and what people should know about the next climate talks held in Morocco in November.

  • How does the UN Climate Change Conference process work, and why does it matter?
  • What’s happened since the Paris Agreement was signed last year at the COP 21 meetings?
  • How will businesses be affected by the Paris Agreement at the global and local level? How will it impact industries such as energy?
  • The 2016 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 22) will be held Nov. 7 to 18 in Morocco. What will happen at those meetings, and what should businesses know about it?

more> https://goo.gl/E9X2CX

Updates from Siemens

Siemens’ comprehensive LNG portfolio in operation
Siemens – For EWC’s planned LNG operation in Sengkang, Siemens has delivered four compressor trains and the associated process automation and electrical solutions. And in Livorno [2, 3], Italy, a boil-off-compressor is at the core of the “FSRU Toscana.”

Siemens’ LNG (liquefied natural gas) portfolio comprises compressors and drives and also products and solutions for electrification and process automation. For the LNG installation planned for Energy World Corporation Ltd. (EWC) in Sengkang [2, 3], Indonesia, Siemens is supplying four compressor trains with electrical drives, each capable of liquefying 0.5 million tons of gas per year, along with dedicated electrification, energy and process automation solutions. more> https://goo.gl/nge08d

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Updates from GE

Fortune Magazine List Names GE As A Top World Changer
GE – It took considerable time and investment to boost the efficiency of GE’s gigantic HA gas turbine, affectionately known as “HArriet,” by just a few percent. The company’s scientists used super materials and other technologies borrowed from jet engines to coax every last bit of performance from the machine, and gained the notice of Guinness when it hit 62 percent efficiency.

The efficiency drive also encapsulates what propelled GE to third position on Fortune magazine’s Change the World list. The magazine ranked companies that are tackling the world’s biggest problems for their measurable social impact, business results and degree of innovation.

In the case of HArriet, a 1,000-megawatt power plant using two of the turbines paired with steam turbines, a configuration called combined cycle, could save an estimated $50 million on fuel over 10 years from a 1 percent gain.

Increasing efficiency also makes the already clean turbine – when it burns 3.3 tons of natural gas mixed with air, it results in just 6.3 fluid ounces of pollution, a volume slightly larger than a half-can of soda – even cleaner. more> http://goo.gl/JYfCSE

Is the Oil Industry Dying?

By Richard Heinberg = Back in the early years of the current millennium, I was among a handful of authors warning that world petroleum production rates would soon hit a maximum level and start to decline, and that the eventual result would be economic mayhem.

Indeed, the entire petroleum business is currently in deep trouble. Countries that rely on crude oil export revenues are facing enormous budget deficits, and in some cases are having trouble maintaining basic services to their people.

The worst instance is Venezuela, where hunger is rampant. But hard times have also fallen on Nigeria, the Middle Eastern monarchies, Russia, and even Canada to some degree.

Any way you look at it, the industry faces a grim future.

Even if prices go up, there is no guarantee of recovery: Investors may be shy to rush back to oil since they have no assurance that a price rout won’t recur in months or years. more> http://goo.gl/LGBYQB

Your Microbes, Yourself

BOOK REVIEW

The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome Is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life, Author: Rodney Dietert.

By Louise Fabiani – In Dietert’s account, humanity is overly hung-up on competition as a concept, which we apply pretty much across the board.

In the health-care realm, this “us versus them” mentality regards “purging the microbes and creating a biologically pure human as the ideal outcome.”

A more holistic view would use cooperation instead: we scratch their backs, they scratch ours. While the microbes on and in us can certainly live up to their bad reputations as pathogens from time to time, their influence is predominantly neutral or benign. Those benefits are often more than nice perks too; they can be vital to well-being.

There are more than enough reasons to keep our microscopic buddies as happy as possible. The first step is learning how to adjust our thinking.

If our microbiome is incomplete or otherwise unhealthy, there are any number of ways it got like that. Dietert says that we aim for unnatural purity “in our modernized world of antibiotic-administered, formula-fed, cesarean-delivered babies growing up in urban environments, surrounded by hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps.”

This quest for purity can leave us bereft of the life-enhancing (sometimes life-saving) “ecosystem services” granted, almost free of charge, by our little roommates. All they ever ask in return are food and lodging. more> https://goo.gl/22WPqu

Extinction is forever: de-extinction can’t save what we had

BOOK REVIEW

How to Clone a Mammoth, Author: Beth Shapiro.

By Brian Switek – A small but growing number of scientists say that they could reverse that loss through de-extinction – genetic resuscitation in the style of the sci-fi yarn Jurassic Park.

The idea is also now being marketed as conservation’s great hope to forestall the loss of biodiversity caused by humans. Biological Xeroxing was held up as one of the possibilities for species resuscitation at a National Geographic TEDx event on de-extinction in 2013. That same year, the discovery of a particularly juicy mammoth carcass, dripping with what appeared to be blood, sparked a flurry of reports assuring readers that the return of the mammoth is nigh.

For if there’s blood, there’s DNA, and if there’s DNA, then we can have the Ice Age beast back, right?

We’re in the age of conservation triage, when we are deciding daily what we want the future of nature to look like. more> https://goo.gl/LntcCD

Updates from GE

Full Steam Ahead: This Software Brain For Coal-Fired Power Plants Could Help Eliminate 500 Million Tons Of CO2
By Tomas Kellner – It was just in April that GE Power, the GE business that makes power generation equipment, acquired the Boston-based machine learning and data analytics startup NeuCo Inc., which uses software and artificial intelligence to improve the efficiency of coal-fired power plants.

These power plants burn coal to boil water and then use the steam to spin turbines and generate electricity. They are the most common source of electricity, providing around 40 percent of the world’s electric power.

GE says it could help eliminate 500 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions if deployed at all existing coal-fired power plants globally. That’s the same as removing 120 million cars from the road – or every tenth car in the world – or covering Earth with carbon-trapping forest the size of Europe.

The technology is “equipment-agnostic,” which means it can optimize machines made by any manufacturer, says Ganesh Bell, GE Power’s chief digital officer.

“Utilities will need to generate 50 percent more electricity than they do today by 2040 and meet ambitious goals to cut emissions set by COP21,” says Bell, referring to the United Nations climate change conference that took place in Paris last year. “Using data science, software and intelligent automation to optimize every aspect of the electricity value chain – from generation to delivery and consumption – will do both.” more> http://goo.gl/XOMhju