An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

21 August 2005

While gas prices climb and politicians wring their hands about the choice between coal and nuclear energy, solar cell technology has been in a slow, steady advance for decades. If the trend continues, then solar cells will soon be the cheapest source of electric energy.

Solar cells contribute nothing to global warming, generate no waste and no pollution, and deplete no resources. They are made of silicon, which is refined sand.

Recently, a research team from UC Berkeley has developed a way to make solar cells from silicon that is not so highly refined lowering the cost another big step.  Read more ...

20 August 2005

In the novels of Dickens, simple working folks are frequently portrayed with the common sense to do the right thing, while the rich and powerful, the businessmen and the barristers evade responsibility, profiting from their own bit parts in a corrupt system.

In one scene from Bleak House, Mr George consults a trusted friend: how should he respond to a lawyer’s offer to pay him handsomely for evidence in a trial, for what cause he is willing to reveal nothing. What is the friend’s counsel?

"It is, that he cannot have too little to do with people who are too deep for him, and cannot be too careful of interference with matters he does not understand; that the plain rule, is to do nothing in the dark, to be a party to nothing underhanded or mysterious, and never to put his foot where he cannot see the ground."
Chap 26

19 August 2005

Dolphin Convention

About 2000 dolphins gathered this week off the coast of Wales.  Marine biologists have no explanation for what brought them together.

What is the topic of their meeting?  And how do they arrange to call one another together?  (This could give a whole new meaning to the idea of podcasting.)

These could be the elected leaders of a worldwide community, a United Cetaceans Security Council Meeting.   But I like to think they were top linguists from the seven seas, working together to decipher the human language.  They wish to explain to us how to live cooperatively, in peace and harmony across the world, as soon as the translation is available.


18 August 2005

There are hundreds of diseases whose cause has been traced to a specific gene, and hundreds more genes that are known to affect our susceptibility to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia. These genes are copied from the single egg cell that was the beginning of each of us, and the same genes are present in each cell of our body. A cure for all these genetic diseases and weaknesses would be ours if we could modify the chromosomes in every cell of our bodies.

For more than a decade, there has been a technology to do this. Common viruses are modified for the purpose, genetically engineered to cause no harm, but to infect our cells and insert a new gene with which the virus has been programmed. Early tests on humans resulted in one death, and the technology has been sent back for further development in animals.

But soon gene therapy may be ready again for human tests. Dr Xiao Xiao of the University of Pittsburgh reports success in curing muscular dystrophy in mice, using a genetically engineered virus to insert a gene into the mouse’s muscles.

17 August 2005

Ed Churchwell and a team at the University of Wisconsin have constructed a new view of our galaxy, which suggests a different shape from the classical spiral which is usually described. Because we’re inside the Milky Way galaxy, and most of the galaxy is obscured by dust, it’s a hard problem to visualize what our galaxy would look like from the outside. The best methods at present combine data from infrared telescopes with image-reconstructing software. Infrared passes through the dusty regions somewhat better than visual light.

The new data suggests that our galaxy has the shape of a "barred spiral", similar to the one pictured here.

16 August 2005

The classic way for a leader to organize others toward good ends is through the force of his personality. But Ernesta Ballard’s was the Women’s Way. She accomplished all that she did by supporting others to realize their own ambitions. She recognized and supported a generation of young leaders, worked with them one-on-one, and paved the way for their success. She had little classical charisma, and certainly claimed no blind followers, yet dozens of grateful civic leaders said of her, ‘she believed in me when no one else did - even myself.’  Through them, she built parks and playgrounds, fountains, community gardens, cultural institutions and advocacy organizations.

Philadelphia civic leader, feminist and mother of the Philadelphia Flower Show, Ernesta Ballard died last week at 85.

15 August 2005

I wake at four,
waiting greedily for the first
note of the wood thrush. Easeful air
presses through the screen
with the wild, complex song
of the bird, and I am overcome
by ordinary contentment.

-Jane Kenyon