Archive for August, 2006

Circular Bioethic Reasoning and the Media: Does Destroying Embryos Matter?

August 30, 2006

The recent media buzz about a technique to start a stem cell line from a single cell removed from an embryo was… premature.  None of the embryos in the study survived, though the technique has the potential for just that.

But, does it matter? The President’s Council on Bioethics had previously criticised the approach “…for potentially harming the embryo. The Council also pointed out that the biopsied cell might be totipotent and could therefore be an embryo itself, raising further ethical problems. ” (See  Ah, so the removed cell assumes the same status as the original embryo. Could one be more circular?

But, what if we didn’t need embryos at all? As the same article points out, the media totally missed a real breakthrough whereby adult cells behave like stem cells (see

So, we have a Mobius strip of ethical reasoning that leads nowhere for embryonic-based research, while a real breakthrough is ignored.  Reporting on the medical field with the most potential to reduce human suffering seems to be largely stuck on a single circular path….


Power Up the Clothesline

August 30, 2006

   During the heat wave this August, we followed the guidelines and did not use our major appliances until the evening. In order to get laundry done, however, we resorted to that ancient practice long forgotten in modern urban and suburban life: the clothesline.  Instead of stuffing wet sheets into a metal can and burning methane and consuming kilowatts to blow air and turn the contraption, we hung our laundry on a line. And do you know what? The first linens were dry about the time we hung up the last of them. Towels and rugs also dried more quickly in the day’s heat than the usual 40+ minute cycle. We have since discovered that this primeval technique also works when there is not a heat wave (whoa!).

   PG&E [San Francisco Bay Area’s major utility] would do well to promote this natural major appliance alternative, giving away clotheslines, or a token payment for the 20 to 40 cents one saves letting nature’s dryer do the work.  While some places and people might have a prejudice against clean laundry swinging in the wind (see, its not necessarily a sign of poverty, but perhaps that someone is not just recycling recyclables, buying a hybrid car, or installing solar cells on their roof, but actually taking a little extra time and effort to leverage natural resources, to not put carbon into the air, to not stress the power grid – that is, to save planet earth in some small way.  

    How about it PG&E?  Wouldn’t a million clotheslines be cool?

Scientific American Saves the World – At least somebody has a plan

August 29, 2006

The Sept. ’06 issue of SciAm is a masterpiece, laying out a paradigm to understand how to bring carbon emissions under control. See  Here’s my letter to them:

Dear Editors:

Congratulations for putting together what our governments have failed to do: a framework to understand and solve the carbon emissions problem, and thus, save our planet as we know it.

Some comments: You mention both high concentrator solar power and themochemical separation of water (albeit nuclear-based) to generate hydrogen, but did not put the two together.  There is some activity in direct solar hydrogen generation that deserves serious funding to see if its scalable, as it just might power the hydrogen economy with renewable energy.

Also, dismissing cold/sonofusion as “entertainment” closes the door on what could possibly be the silver bullet. There is good science being done in the field and none can say it is impossible, lest we practice ” Pathological Disbelief”.  Even if the chances are slim, the rewards are great. It also deserves some real funding as every dollar would be streched to the maximum by many qualified researchers. 

Lastly, thanks for presenting wind power not tied to massive towers (the key to its future), but your illustration of a laddermill in an urban setting is not a safe deployment.  

Retroactive unconstitutional CYA for GWB and the NSA

August 22, 2006

See Act for Change’s Call to stop Sen. Specter’s  Senate Bill 2453 .

 Click here to tell your Senators to reject the Cheney-Specter bill:

Senate Bill 2453 would not only legalize the wiretapping program; it
would also transfer all lawsuits pending against the program into the
secretive FISA court — where they could be dismissed for no reason at
all. Simply put, if we care about our privacy and the Fourth Amendment
to our Constitution, this legislation must be stopped.

Click here to tell your Senators to vote NO on S. 2453:

I would expect illegal wiretaps in Russia.  I would expect the Russian parliament to ex post facto legalize spying against its constitution. I never thought I would see the day Americans would throw out the constitution, due process, probable cause and the checks and balances that restrain law enforcement from trampling civil rights.