planetwater

ground- water, geo- statistics, environmental- engineering, earth- science

Archive for March, 2010

Identi.ca Weekly Updates for 2010-03-31

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March 31st, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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Identi.ca Weekly Updates for 2010-03-24

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Written by Claus

March 24th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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Just Enough

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I just read through a wonderful book. Wonderful refers to both its content as to the way it is made, designed, and illustrated. The book is called “Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan

The book is about the Edo Period, which is a period in Japan’s history when ‘the mentality of the time found meaning and satisfaction in a life in which the individual took just enough from the world, and no more’. This is a fascinating approach, and as the author points out, difficult to judge for any of us who has never lived in a mostly self-sustaining society.

we will need to learn again what it means to use ‘just enough’, and to allow our choices to be guided by a deeper appreciation of the limits of the world we have been bequeathed as well as a determination to leave future generations with better possibilities than what we have given ourselves.

A central element necessary for this self-sustainability was the concept of re-use. The book is full of descriptions of how everything was used over and over again, and if something was not good for anything at all anymore, it was used to be burned for heat. The book illustrates clearly, how the concept of re-use propagated through design decisions for every little detail: the architecture of houses, the surroundings of houses, the planning of the city, how water is used, how food is used including how most people were vegetarians, or how manure was a precious resource and was collected in cities to be used as fertilizer on farm land. This went so far, that people with many children hat to pay less rent, because they provided so much fertilizer.

The movie “Plastic Planet”, about which I blogged, demonstrated clearly that our current society doesn’t re-use many things at all, and pointed out clearly that very soon we people on planet earth have to re-learn how to re-use things very quickly. From the view of “society”, there is also a relation to an article in the german paper TAZ, entitled “Ungleichheit zersetzt Gesellschaften“, which presents a study that showed that people live happier in countries with more equal opportunities, such as Japan (sic!)

preserving water in traditional Japan

Preserving water in traditional Japan

Here is the interesting part which is especially related to this blog: The people in Edo-Period Japan had realized that especially the resource clean water is very critical for their self-sustainability. Methods and designs for preserving water appeared in every facet of daily life:

  • it was known that forests plays a critical role for storing water that is released over summer from glaciers at the high mountains. Hence forests determine the availability of water during the summer months. Hence they need to and were protected;
  • for the cities, water sources such as rivers and ponds were protected for drinking water supply, and the people realized that people far away need to make sakrifices for source water protection in order to facilitate supply in cities via aqueducts;
  • water in these aqueducts was mostly kept flowing by gravity, which required very sophisticated design — and allowed flowing water in all parts of the city 24/7, almost a luxury and unknown to european cities of the time.

Here is another review of “Just Enough”.

Written by Claus

March 18th, 2010 at 11:00 pm

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Identi.ca Weekly Updates for 2010-03-17

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Written by Claus

March 17th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

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Python on OSX with “Scientific” Flavour

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This post is for everybody who uses python on Mac OS 10.6 together with some “scientific” goodness such as numpy, scipy, matplotlib.

I installed MacPorts today, and it’s all there.

No problem whatsoever.

I tried individual packages with easy_install before, I tried Fink before. Both options were painful. MacPorts is reasonably well up to date, and works just fine, so far, knock on wood.

Written by Claus

March 16th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

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Cool Stories About Numbers by Steven Strogatz

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I mentioned a little while ago that Steve Strogatz’s has started a series of posts on numbers. By now, Steve has published six sequels. Every one of his posts explains in a very understandable manner either seemingly simple or seemingly complex issues related to numbers. They are very joyful and entertaining reads.

around here Steve moves from grade school arithmetic to high school math

  • The Joy of X” — “…in the end they all boil down to just two activities — solving for x and working with formulas.” … and always check for the units!
  • Finding Your Roots” — the square root of -1; complex numbers have all the properties as real numbers […], but they are better than real numbers, because they always have roots; a flip of 180 degrees can happen by multiplying twice with i or by multiplying with -1, so i^{2}=-1; fractals

Update Saturday; March 13, 2010:

Seedmagazine just published an interview with Steven Strogatz. The occasion of the interview was a book recently published by Strogatz: The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life While Corresponding about Math

Written by Claus

March 12th, 2010 at 10:16 pm

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Identi.ca Weekly Updates for 2010-03-10

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Written by Claus

March 10th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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Plastic Planet

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I watched the documentary Plastic Planet last night. Despite its similar title compared with this blog, water occurs a few times in this documentary. In fact, it is shown in this documentary, how by-products of plastic are measured in human blood and linked to infertility.

The two most pressing problems with plastic are:

  • The amount of garbage it turns into. 2 examples:

    1. the ratio of plankton to plastic in the oceans is as high as 1:60. This is very much related to the plastic in Albatrosses I have blogged previously about. The movie talks about a trip with the sailboat Algalita from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. You can check out one of their presentations here.
    2. annual clean-up weekend on a japanese island (a fairly small island, the kind where you can walk around in a day) results in 120 truck loads of plastic. That’s one small island only!
  • The health problems it causes. None of the “direct problems” are deadly immediately. There is one interview however in the movie with a scientist who says something along the lines:

    “When you drive to your chemotherapy session to treat the cancer you got because of continuous low-level exposure to plastic, you will ask yourself if all the plastic you ever used has been helping you”.

Both problems are intertwined: a PVC diaper continues to degrade and release substances for 200 years.

Alternative Text

Plastic Planet movie poster

Here are some more pieces of information from the movie:

  • the production of the actual plastic is secret. Here is an illustrative example: A company that manufactures water bottles usually doesn’t “create” the plastic they use but they buy it from a third party. Hence, the company that builds water bottles doesn’t know what substances are contained in the “raw plastic” (the pellets) they use. Finally, the company that fills water into water bottles is yet another company.

  • 60 million tons of plastics are produced in Europe per year

  • big business: sales: 800 billion Euros per year

  • common misconception: plastics are inert. Not true! it degrades and bound molecules get free

    • ubiquitous (present everywhere) — clenup on island: in 2d 120 truck loads
    • persistent (chemical compounds that don’t change with changing environmental influence)
  • the first plastic was created just after 1900: Bakelite

  • Two of the most critical compounds of plastic are Phtalate and Bisphenol A. There is also Vinyl chloride, which is needed in the production process of the pellets. Exemplarily a chemical process factory of a company called Montedison near Venice, Italy is shown in the movie, where a worker with state attorney Felice Casson has linked the use of Vinyl chloride with health problems.

  • A key concept related to health effects originating from plastics is “endocrine disruptor

Like the movie, I want to close with a positive outlook: There are attempts to create products with similar properties like plastic, but from regenerative sources. Such products are called “Bioplastic”. A company that produces Bioplastic is called Novamont based in Italy.

Written by Claus

March 8th, 2010 at 8:22 am

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Water on Moon and in Space

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I have a draft of a blog post on water outside earth in the works since quite some time now. Various information has been added, whenever I read something about water on the moon or on mars, which are the two places where it has been found, I think. I am not sure exactly where I am going with this. However, I noticed over the last half year or so an increased rate of published news on this topic. So at least this is a start to reflect on what is going on.

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Water and Moon

Photo via FlickR

Recently, water has been found on the moon

  • NASA mission: LCROSS, see also Wired or NYTimes
  • Nov 13 2009 reported
  • 26 gallons (about 14 kettles) supposedly identified
  • all based on remote sensing of pictures that were taken from a satellite crashing into Moon (October 9th).
  • there have previously been hints/guesses/evidence that there is water on Moon (here or here …). So this is really not overly surprising, except it might indicate water in frozen form
  • last week (March 1st, 2010) is was reported that millions of tons of water ice have been found at moon’s north pole

I am not sure how this fits into the big picture, or why we do care. Here is Peter Gelick’s opinion why we care:

Why do we care? Obviously, this water isn’t going to help solve any of our water problems here on earth. But if we do, as a species, move out into space, water is the single most important resource we can find. It is too heavy to move water from the surface of the Earth into space, but if we can find it out there, it can be used for drinking water, to make oxygen for breathing, hydrogen for rocket fuel, and to produce food.

I agree. Water in space can be very helpful if we humans want to go into space. Is there more? Is this in the wake of the 40th birthday of the first landing on the Moon?

  • there is evidence that there is water on Mars: here are two things that have been found out recently:

    • clay minerals have been found which indicate that water has flown through them (summary interview part 1 and part 2)
    • the presence of perchlorate has been confirmed, which is a molecule metabolized by some earthly bacteria
    • some people have developed already hydrogeologic numerical models for the flow of water and CO2 on mars
  • there is some evidence pointing to water really really far away

It seems likely that if there’s water in space, this water could be or could have been used by life:

But most noteworthy might be the NASA chief’s optimism for detecting extraterrestrial life. “I would be very surprised if we didn’t find life elsewhere, and frankly I expect to live to see it,” Griffin said. “I would be surprised to find that life never originated on Mars, and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to find dormant or quiescent life underground,” he added.

Written by Claus

March 7th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

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German-Arabic Master’s Degree Integrated Water Resource Management

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Recently I saw a presentation given by Ulrike Pokorski da Cunha in Stuttgart (and I had blogged about it). She just informed me about a master-level course that she is involved in. Please find more information below, on this flyer (pdf), or on the course’s webpage. Deadline for applications is March 31st 2010

If you are interested, please feel free to contact me, I will forward any requests you might have

The Cologne University of Applied Sciences is offering a “Bicultural Master Course ‘Integrated Water Resource Management for Arab and German Professional’ “. The master program will be offered to selected Arab and German applicants. The preparatory course, as well as the first term, will be offered in Amman (University of Jordan, WERS Centre), Jordan. The second term will be offered in Cologne (Cologne University of Applied Sciences, ITT), Germany. During the third term the students will work on their master thesis related to the Arab or German water sector. Besides the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), students will also be imparted with professional skills, which are essential for the success of international projects: intercultural knowledge, project and information management, communication and leadership skills.

Unique of this master course is its emphasis on the bicultural aspect. Each module is conceived and taught together both by an Arab and a German lecturer. Additionally, students work throughout the program in tandem aiming at a mutual exchange of language and culture. The exchange of social and economic aspects of both countries occupies an important part in the master course.

The Arab students may apply for a full scholarship for the entire duration of the course, whereas the German students may apply for a partial scholarship covering their journey to Jordan and their stay during the Master thesis in an Arab country.

Written by Claus

March 4th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

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