Archive for May 2012
The gold fever has an ancillary dark lining to it…the use of toxic mercury (aka quicksilver ) to assist in extraction and refinment. The complete article outlines further the woes associated with gold mining as it is carried out in small scale gold mining…..
“Mercury’s dangers were well-known before the invention of tests that could detect it in the bloodstream. The once-common English expression “mad as a hatter” described the psychotic symptoms displayed by European hatmakers of the 18th century who were poisoned using mercury to process fur pelts. Similar expressions can be heard in everyday conversation across Segovia.
Edgar Segura, who helps run a shop offering quicksilver, says some of his friends have gone mad inhaling fumes. Aceneth Castrillon, a local health worker, says town residents exposed to mercury display symptoms including depression, tremors, drooling and impotence. She even blames mercury for increased suicide rates. “Everyone who lives in Segovia is contaminated,” she says.
An estimated 15 million small-scale miners in Latin America, Africa and Asia use quicksilver to refine their gold. That makes selling mercury an increasingly lucrative business, and the global market is dominated by a handful of traders who buy it in bulk, store it and then sell to distributors in gold- rush nations across the developing world. Like the men who made fortunes selling pickaxes during the California Gold Rush, mercury traders today are cashing in on gold fever, but by selling a hazardous material. Perversely, international efforts to outlaw the trade are making it more profitable.”
via Gold Boom Spreading Mercury as 15 Million Miners Exposed – Bloomberg.
“At the root of every seemingly technical problem is a human problem. Five Whys provides an opportunity to discover what that human problem might be.”
via To Get To The Root Of A Hard Problem, Just Ask “Why” Five Times | Co.Design: business + innovation + design.
A brilliantly simple concept but powerful , practical method to get at solutions.
Connect to the link to get the whole article.
The big news in Quebec universities is not just about tuition fees. It’s also about top-notch research.
This month, ACFAS – l’Association francophone pour le savoir – held its 80th annual scientific congress in Montreal. One of the highlights was a symposium on bilingualism and multilingualism, which asked: “What determines the capacity of humans to learn more than one language, and how does this affect brain development?
There was plenty of discussion and debate, especially between two eminent McGill University colleagues. Psychology professor Fred Genesee has spearheaded decades of research on language acquisition, and along the way has challenged several myths. He’s found that a child’s brain is not unilingual but rather bilingual, and thus fully wired to learn two languages at once, coherently and effectively, without confusion. Meanwhile, Karsten Steinhauer, the Canada Research Chair in Neurocognition of Language, has discovered lent his expertise in new technologies such as electroencephalography (yes, it’s a word!) to bust a few myths as well: namely, that only children have the capacity to learn a new language. It turns out that adult brains have similar capacities, but it’s the method of training – specifically, immersion – that determines success. Like riding a bike or playing tennis, practice makes perfect.
Beyond this, scientists have already figured out that bilingualism is actually good for the “little grey cells,” as the famously smart and bilingual Hercule Poirot would say. People who learn two languages tend to have “thicker” brains, which leads to more positive outcomes in healthy aging and cognitive functions. More recently, Canadian neurologists found groundbreaking evidence that bilingualism may even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
If bilingualism can improve our brains and keep us lucid longer, why haven’t we been able to harness that opportunity in an officially bilingual country? As English becomes the global language of the 21st century, people all over the world are rapidly becoming bilingual and, presumably, smarter and healthier, boosting their global comparative advantage. Why can’t Canadians do the same, learning both English and French as a matter of course and, at the same time, strengthening our national character?
This is not as much of a pipe dream as it sounds. The real reasons for our blockade against bilingualism in Canada have to do with institutional structures, cultural effects and political choices.
The institutional structures are obvious: Language education remains the purview of the provinces. The Constitution may set out guarantees for linguistic minorities, but the provinces call the tune in decisions about curriculum and funding. Even though second-language learning varies across and within provinces, the historical record is far from stellar. Still, even in the officially French province of Quebec, English is required as of the first grade in public schools, and many schools have opted to teach the sixth grade in English only. French immersion is one of the most popular alternatives for English-speaking parents. The most competitive public schools are the écoles internationales, where multilingual training is part of the curriculum.
But most Canadians live in a cultural space that remains resolutely unilingual, shaped by an Anglo-American view of language. The dominance of English in the United States has had a continental effect in Canada, leaving little room for the inclusion of other languages into mainstream learning.
And then there is the fear factor, reinforced by the way many politicians have made a bogeyman out of official bilingualism. We tend to treat language as a zero-sum game in Canada, as if encouraging French in Red Deer or English in Rimouski somehow diminishes the other. But what if we envision second-language acquisition for the benefits it provides rather than the fear it evokes? Science is now confirming that bilingualism can be good for us – so why not encourage a national strategy for language education? And while we’re at it, we may end up not just as healthier Canadians but with a healthier sense of Canada as well.”
via Learn French, Canada, it’s good for you – The Globe and Mail.
Sustainability of another sort. When manufacturing components become diminished and in short supply, there is a need for concern and a need to pre-emptively seek out alternatives.
The element indium , or more specifically indium tin oxide ( ITO ), is used extensively in high tech screens. ITO’s ideal properties to become transparent plus its tremendous ability to conduct electricity, allows our mobile phones to be smarter, our TV flatscreens to be larger and our tablet computers to be more sleek. Availability of indium is decreasing and alternative have not tet taken hold in the manufacturing process. Graphene is a potential viable alternative.
So why have we not already moved from ITO to carbon?
Mark Hersam, a carbon nanotubes pioneer at Northwestern University in Illinois, believes we’re waiting for an industry tipping point. “There’s tremendous inertia in the electronics sector because the entire industry is modelled around ITO. Big companies like Apple are wedded to the ITO manufacturing processes and will need to invest substantially to start using carbon,” he says. However, as the price of indium goes up and it becomes harder to get hold of, there is likely to be a switch.”
With solar cells and electronics all competing for the same rare metal, industry is already under increasing pressure to start using a different material, whether that’s another metal oxide or novel carbon chicken-wire. Looking through the breathless coverage of the iPad 3 launch on my phone, one thing is for sure: our unwavering enthusiasm for touchscreen/display-screen technologies means we desperately need to find alternatives soon. ”
via BBC – Future – Science & Environment – Touch-and-go tablet and computer screens.
Solid, revealing article that provides some insight into medical health care coverage in the International arena.
“This is truly a global movement,” said Dr. Julio Frenk, a former health minister in Mexico and dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. “As countries advance, they are realizing that creating universal healthcare systems is a necessity for long-term economic development.”
via Global push to guarantee healthcare coverage leaves U.S. behind – latimes.com.
“Shifting Mindsets: Sustainability has Five Ps
(Written by Warren Te Brugge)
This is a recently released definition of sustainability:
“Sustainability is an honest attempt to create positive social, environmental, and economic impacts through transparent organizational and sustainable performance.”
Among people engaged in the sustainability movement in its many variations, most talk about ‘People, Planet, Profit’—the ‘triple bottom line’ of sustainable enterprises. At a recent conference, though, a person I respect added two more words: Passion and Purpose.
These are vital and powerful additions to the worn triple bottom line metaphor: When there is no passion and when work is not undertaken with an inspiring purpose, strategy often fades from active consideration as mitigating or ‘normal’ business factors intrude. The original intent is diluted when actions don’t follow leaving financial considerations to reemerge as the only imperatives.
Broadly speaking, then, sustainability is about shifting mindsets: How can we evolve social norms inside organizations to think about sustainability proactively and embed sustainable perspectives in day-to-day decision-making? For many in third world economies, sustainability is simply about creating a life that is acceptable as a community and even a nation. What can we learn from this perspective?
In a Washington Post article today, “Giving is Personal. Make it Political,” the writer expresses the surprising strength of the status quo: What is reasonable and acceptable is still being defined by a small group remote from where this ‘normality’ will be established—rather than being defined by local members of affected communities, based on their real current needs and cultural beliefs. Creating change is about changing the mindset of the global population: Real, lasting progress on sustainability needs to be part of who we are as a global society—not the exception of individual choice and expression.
Shifting mindsets requires more than rational arguments: Minds are changed when people and communities see a vision of a better life—Purpose—and are inspired to pursue it—Passion.
Five Ps sustainability balances people, planet and profit, while also engaging communities—political or corporate—to see their day-to-day work in a broader context, and energizing them to pursue the grand vision. Leaders cannot impose their own values on their communities. Instead, they must engage and cultivate the values of the culture that already exists. (And that’s a significant part of Manzimvula’s approach.)
What do you think?”
via Shifting Mindsets: Sustainability has Five Ps.
There is a a paradigm shift in science and technology stemming from some basic observations from origami- paper folding. Whole article worth unfurling…
“Folding is, at heart, a geometry problem, and the groundwork for much of the new research is being laid by mathematicians. The increasingly ingenious applications, though, are driven by collaborations between engineers, scientists, and programmers: “Biologically inspired engineering” is an ambitious new way of doing science that treats living organisms like mechanical systems. Just as the diameter of a gear or the strength of a spring determines how a clock works, the shape and tensile qualities of folded proteins determine their roles in the countless processes that keep the human body running. Deciphering those relationships and building off of them are part of what the new science of folding is about.“
via Is Origami the Future of Tech? – Businessweek.