An old weed becomes a modern problem

The so-called “Sargasso Sea” in the North Atlantic Ocean is a time-honored name, dating back to well before Christopher Columbus’ day.  It may have been known as early as the sixth century BC, according to one ancient navigator‘s oral history.  The map below is courtesy of Wikipedia. Its name was derived from the sargassum seaweed that proliferates there.  In more recent times, the Sargasso Sea has become the heart of the so-called North Atlantic Garbage Patch. Now it looks as if sargassum is spreading south, into equatorial regions, and posing a new and highly unwelcome threat to the tourist industry in South America, the Caribbean,

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A voyage in a vacuum produces a different sort of vacuum

I didn’t know that the Dustbuster was the fruit of the Apollo moon landing program, but it seems it is, along with several other iconic products. The Dustbuster was only made possible thanks to Black & Decker’s work with NASA on developing a lightweight and power-efficient tool for the Apollo Lunar Surface Drill. The same motor design used on the 1969 moon landing was then used to create the Dustbuster. There’s more at the link. There’s a certain wacky circular logic to that.  Design a motor that will work in a vacuum – then use the same motor to power a vacuum-cleaner in atmosphere. 

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A marketing stroke of genius

I wasn’t in the USA at the time that Softsoap was developed, so I didn’t know its commercial and industrial background.  A recent article was very informative. SoftSoap … was essentially the first mass-produced liquid hand soap ever sold to the public, all packaged in a convenient bottle featuring a pump. Of course, a key problem with this idea is that, while it was revolutionary in some ways, no part of it was original enough to patent. From his previous experience having bigger companies copy his ideas not long after he made them successful and then taking over the market, Taylor knew that if

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We need a season to dry out from summer!

It’s been far wetter and stormier than usual in northern Texas during spring, and that looks set to continue into early summer.  Miss D. and I have only lived here for three and a half years, but people who’ve been here all their lives are also complaining.  The ground is sodden – it has almost no capacity to absorb new moisture, so any fresh rain that falls simply runs off into creeks and rivers.  This is the result (clickit to biggit): That’s the Red River, on the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma, where it’s crossed by Interstate 44.  It’s been about ten

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Crocodile tears for the swamp denizens

I was very pleased to read about one attempt to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C. Two small agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) may be moving outside of Washington, D.C. and the federal employees involved are not happy about that. Both agencies are seeing an increase of resignations on a monthly basis. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced his intention to relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) from the swamp to the heartland. Perdue said to think of it as moving the department’s scientists closer to its “customers”, the farmers. Perdue

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Sometimes the jokes just write themselves

I did a double-take on reading this report. The owner of the life-size replica of Noah’s Ark in Northern Kentucky has sued its insurers for refusing to cover, of all things … rain damage. Ark Encounter, which unveiled the 510-foot-long model in 2016, says that heavy rains in 2017 and 2018 caused a landslide on its access road, and its five insurance carriers refused to cover nearly $1 million in damages. There’s more at the link. But . . . what if the insurers claim that rain damage to (of all things!) Noah’s Ark was, almost by definition, an Act of God? Peter

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Scurrying for cover?

This is most interesting: John Durham, the prosecutor tapped by Attorney General William Barr to investigate how Trump-Russia allegations emerged and spread within federal law enforcement, has already been looking into whether the FBI’s former top lawyer, James Baker, illegally leaked to reporters. In fact, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut appears to have begun that work more than seven months ago, to judge from an underreported transcript of an October congressional interview with Baker. The Baker interview, at which Durham was not present, suggests that the prosecutor nevertheless has some people very worried. There’s much more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is

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That was an “Oopsie!” moment, all right

Last week’s failed test of the SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule has been conspicuous for the absence of any comments from SpaceX or NASA about what went wrong.  Until recently, all that was known was that, from several miles away, smoke was seen drifting from the launch pad. It now appears that the failure was pretty catastrophic.  The Dragon capsule’s ejection rockets were to be tested.  They’re designed to pull the capsule clear of its launch rocket in the event of a malfunction, before the capsule parachutes to a safe landing with its occupants.  This video, allegedly taken from one of the launch

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Spring preparations

Aesop, over at Raconteur Report, has a very useful checklist-type post about checking your emergency gear and preps for the change of seasons.  Here’s an excerpt. And you probably moved your clocks up. Here in earthquake country, that’s also when you should be checking over your emergency/disaster stuff. Add to your stash of supplies, rotate food and water. Pull old batteries and purpose them for everyday use, and put fresh ones in the O Sh*t! Kit. Change the batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. (I do the clocks too. YMMV.) Go through your car kit (you have one of

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The perils of automating restaurants

An unexpected side effect of automating fast food restaurants may be the threat to human health posed by touch-screen technology. Traces of faeces have been found on every single McDonald’s touchscreen swabbed in an investigation by metro.co.uk. Samples were taken from the new machines that have been rolled out at restaurants across the country – every one of them had coliforms. Senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University Dr Paul Matewele said: ‘We were all surprised how much gut and faecal bacteria there was on the touchscreen machines. These cause the kind of infections that people pick up in hospitals. ‘For

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