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Friday, July 21, 2017

Pediatricians urge EPA to ban pesticides that hurt developing brains

Chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned but the EPA is not going to ban it after all. The American Academy of Pediatrics is a nonprofit professional organization, sent a letter to the EPA about this pesticide. Children and their brains are especially vulnerable to chemicals because chemicals can cause brain changes which are permanent. Big Big-Agro is more about money than safety, and this is why many dangerous chemicals are still used on food.

Some portions of the letter:
Children come into contact with pesticides daily through air, food, dust, and soil, and on surfaces through home and public lawn or garden application, household insecticide use, application to pests, and agricultural product residues

Epidemiologic studies associate pesticide exposure with adverse birth outcomes, including preterm birth, low birth weight, congenital abnormalities, pediatric cancers, neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits, and asthma. The evidence is especially strong linking certain pesticide exposure with pediatric cancers and permanent neurological damage. 
Chemicals are especially dangerous if they affect brains (which affects later behavior) or act as hormones like other chemicals do, or remain in the food or environment long-term (like glyphosate).

Environmental Working Group.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Loose lid provokes recall of 325,000 pounds of lard and fat products

Supreme Cuisine, of Montgomery City, Missouri, is recalling approximately 325,000 pounds of meat and poultry fat and lard products due to a single report of a loose lid. This might cause pathogens to grow inside the oil and make people sick. No reports of sick people yet.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Internet In A box for $50usd

Internet In A Box (IIAB) is a Raspberry Pi computer that acts as a wifi access point (WAP). It is designed for poor people and poor countries without reliable internet access, to help with their access to information, to further their education. It's also good for people with no internet access, home schooled kids, and if internet is unreliable, or in an off-grid scenario.

You can hook it up to a real internet connection, but you don't have to. You can also add your own content via a USB flash drive. Here are some of the content collections in the box you receive from IIAB:
  1. Wikipedia for Schools
  2. Offline Medical Encyclopedia
  3. Wiktionary
  4. Wikispecies
  5. Khan Academy Lite
  6. Moodle
  7. OpenStreetMap
  8. Owncloud
  9. PhET (interactive mathematics and science simulations)
  10. Science TED Talks
  11. Sugarizer
  12. Wikibooks
Brought to you by the people who made One Laptop Per Child. 

Similar links with similar devices or downloadable content
  1. Kiwix is a reader program for reading ZIM files offline. However all content must be converted to ZIM in order for Kiwix to read it. 
  2. Lantern receives data from satellites so you can use it offline. Pick and choose which "packs" you want to update. 
  3. lists more similar projects. Some come with hardware and content, other projects are just content. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lumir: a candle-powered LED light

Lumir, the LED powered by a candle. I can see why this would be useful. It's hard for many people, especially older people, to read by a single candle. But I can also see why people would not understand the concept. I can see them thinking "Why would I use a candle if I could just use my $4 LED flashlight or headlamp?"

That's a valid thought. But the technology in Lumir is pretty neat if a bit impractical for many western nations with power. However for nations without power, this might help them study at night by generating enough light to read by. However Lumir is much more expensive than some of the other solar charged lights for Africa.

There are several variations of Lumir and Lumir Spot would be the best for reading a book or magazine.

This appears to use a thermoelectric generator (TEG) and a voltage booster. But TEGs don't product much power, and the voltage boosters to boost the volts up high enough for an LED are expensive.

Wow! It seems they are $109usd on Amazon now.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The REAL story behind Trump and clean water

During Obama's reign, he extended the Clean Water Act to small streams, some of which only contain water for some months of the year. Trump's rollback of this rule would only roll back that addition: small streams that would be covered under the Clean Water Act.

The Obama rule tried to expand the definition of "navigable waters", waters where you can travel on a boat on them, to included 1 inch deep streams, and stream beds that didn't even have have water in them for parts of the year! This includes drainage ditches on the side of the road.

The claim behind the hysteria: 117 million people in the US get their drinking water from small streams. (The footnote says "Streams classified by the U.S. Geological Survey as intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams.") Intermittent, and ephemeral, mean the stream is not even there the whole year! From the USGS PDF:
  • Intermittent: "Contains water for only part of the year, but more than just after rainstorms and at snowmelt."
  • Ephemeral: "Contains water only during or after a local rainstorm or heavy snowmelt."
  • Headwater from here: "(1) the source and upper reaches of a stream; also the upper reaches of a reservoir. (2) the water upstream from a structure or point on a stream. (3) the small streams that come together to form a river. Also may be thought of as any and all parts of a river basin except the mainstream river and main tributaries."
The claim: 117 million people get 100% of their water from these sometimes-dry streams. The 2009 EPA map classified counties according to the percent of people in that county that use these types of streams for drinking water. In fact, the 2009 EPA study that EWG used shows somecounties use these streams for 87-100% of their drinking water.

Since "headwaters" were grouped with temporary streams in the 2009 EPA study, this makes the 72 million number suspicious.

  1. EPA 2009 study about drinking water from streams. This has a similar map to the EWG map. PDF of data by county.
  2. EWG article
  3. EWG analysis.  They provide an interactive map of US states and counties.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

LED light that creates more energy than it uses?

(This is from 2012 but it's still interesting to see if this technology became a product.)

With incandescent bulbs, only 10% of the energy used is converted the light, the rest is converted to heat. Current LED diodes, (as opposed to "LED bulbs" which can contain many diodes) use only about 17% of the energy of an incandescent bulb and do not create heat, which is good for heat-sensitive applications. For example, when I used standard (incandescent) bulbs in my outside yard light, and winters got to -20F ambient temperatures, the heat from the bulb would eventually crack and destroy the bulb itself from the sheer difference in temperature and the speed at which the bulb heated up. This was long ago and we moved to fluorescent bulbs at the time.

What if there was an LED bulb that produced more energy than it used? MIT researchers claim they have a bulb that creates energy as it uses it. It is 230% efficient, and seems to defy the laws of physics. But how to harvest that energy?

They researchers had a theory of using less voltage.
As you may have guessed, significantly lowering the input power creates a very weak LED bulb. In their tests, the MIT researchers succeeded in generating about 70 picowatts of light from 30 picowatts of energy — an efficiency of 230 percent! 
Artugo Verdugo comments on the Inhabitat story:
From what I know, this LEDs are more than 100% efficient because they are using electricity+environmental heat to produce light. That means that a large portion of the power being used comes directly from the environment.
At this point, neither 30 nor 70 picowatts will light any LED, but it's an interesting observation.

Inhabitat, 3/24/2012. Retrieved 7/6/2017.
Gizmodo article. Retrieved 7/6/2017.
The journal article. Feb 27, 2012. Retrieved: 7/6/2017.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Henry Miller: Small amounts of poison are good for you

When people selectively ignore facts, that could be called religion, or a cult. So here's Henry I. Miller. He was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology. He's written numerous articles about GMO foods. He is against labeling GMO foods and against informed decisions. He gets paid for writing articles supporting something so you know his opinion is biased.

Be careful with religious fanatics. The results could be bad.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Can LED lights run for 25 years? 10 years?

Some people are working on circuits to make a dim LED light run for a year, or even 25 years. The initial attempts are to provide "marker lights". These lights are not light enough to use to walk around in the dark or read by, but they are perfect for marking tent pegs, camp sites, or trails at, for example, concerts or camp sites. They can also be used to mark latrines which are often some distance from camp sites, and be used in astronomy to possibly read text (although the lights are not very bright).

Tritium gas tubes last about 10 years, but they are expensive and not available legally in the US for hobbyists. Also there are some fakes sold on Ebay that only last a few months. In the US they can only be sold as part of a watch, gun sight or compass.  Ebay does not appear to regulate plain tritium vials sold to the US.

First a quick review of how batteries work.
  • An item, like an LED, needs a minimum amount of volts and amps (or milliamps) coming from the battery to make it work. If the minimum amount of both are not provided, the device does not work.
  • Volts is one measurement of how much power a battery puts out. As the battery is used up, the amount of volts it can provide goes down. So an LED might require 3 volts to work, or about two 1.5v AA batteries. As the battery is used up the volts go down, and the LED might go completely off at 2.5vdc.
  • Amps is another measurement, amps get "used up" as an LED is powered on. An LED might require 20 milliamps (ma), and the battery can supply only so many milliamps. Once those are used up, the battery no longer powers the LED light. But also, as the battery is used, the volts also go down, and the amps it can provide also goes down. Eventually the battery can only provide 10ma, which does not light the LED. 
  • Typical LEDs currently use 20-50ma (milliamps) but these projects are an attempt to use micro amps (a much smaller unit), instead of milliamps.
I have personally used voltage boosters to get more power out of AA and other batteries. The battery life is improved around 30%. Link here. But I don't use low-brightness LEDs. I have used 14,000mcd to 1 watt LEDs in my designs.

Here are some examples of current projects from

TritiLED is a circuit used to power an LED for 1 or more years before the battery needs changing. It is not a tritium vial, it is a low-powered LED with a special circuit.

ATTiny45 Everled. This runs at 10 microamps (ua) and has run for 2+  years on a single 3v coin cell. In this case the ATTiny45 is pulsed on for just one microsecond, which lights the LED, then the power is turned off. However the flickering is so fast that the human eye does not notice the LED turning off.

Decade Flashlight. Estimated run time is 10 years on 2 AA batteries. 3 boards for $3.05 on Oshpark but you must also pay shipping, buy the parts, and assemble it. You must also program a PIC microcontroller.

Quarter century lamp. Will work for 25 years on 2 AA batteries which provide 3.6vdc. Lithium Iron Disulfide batteries also seem to only lose 5% of their energy after 20 years of storage so the author might use these in his device.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

DIY camping stoves

Like to make new things? Like to make new things from discarded items? Like to have a stove to cook on during a power outage? Take a look at these easy to make DIY camping stoves.

The basic stove

The basic stove is called a "hobo stove" and uses small bits of wood or pinecones for fuel. Leaves or paper are sometimes used to start the file. It is normally big enough to put a small one-person pan on top or boil a quart of water. Fuel can normally be found all over the US.

The hobo stove

The hobo stove usually has holes in the bottom and top edges. They can be made from a variety of metal cans like paint cans, or metal coffee cans, or large food cans. Fancier hobo stoves will have a sliding door to cover the air holes in the bottom of the can.

One variation of hobo stove from metal coffee can.
 Hobo stove cutaway:

The Rocket stove and variations

The rocket stove is similar to the hobo stove in that it has an insulated vertical chimney. The insulation can help direct more heat to the pot sitting on top of the stove. Larger versions of rocket stoves can also be used to heat a house as the insulated portions of the stove, which are often cement, act as thermal mass to release heat slowly over time.

Another rocket stove.

Monday, July 3, 2017

What is the truth about GMOs and pesticides?

EarthOpenSource has a 330pg PDF for free that claims to cut through the corporate BS. But be careful, even well-meaning groups can misinterpret studies or even have their own agenda.

You can read the PDF here. But they want your name and email address, so you will surely be put on a "newsletter" list.

The truth is, many studies from many countries show the harm pesticides can do to people, not just farmers. Some of these studies are covered in this blog. You can click on the right sidebar to find a tag name to narrow down the blog posts you want to see. For example, all blog posts where the main topic is "glyphosate" have the "glyphosate" tag. But tags also are for the main agencies involved (like "FDA"), countries involved (like "India", but not "US"), and the pesticide name (like "dicamba").