The Sauropod Formerly Known As

“It’s my firm belief that the greatest threat facing humanity today, perhaps the greatest threat we have ever faced, is the one posed by climate change. I realise this is a divisive issue. Not everyone’s on the same page with climate science and the conclusions of it’s practitioners. Some people agree with me that it presents a clear danger to our continued existence and well-being – and the others are wrong.”
Marcus Brigstocke

An article in today’s BBC Nature site tells us that:

Giant dinosaurs could have warmed the planet with their flatulence, say researchers.

British scientists have calculated the methane output of sauropods, including the species known as Brontosaurus.

By scaling up the digestive wind of cows, they estimate that the population of dinosaurs – as a whole – produced 520 million tonnes of gas annually.

They suggest the gas could have been a key factor in the warm climate 150 million years ago.

All fascinating stuff.

Later in the article, this caught my eye:

Sauropods, such as Apatosaurus louise (formerly known as Brontosaurus)

Huh? They changed the name?

When did that happen then?

Well, as far back as 1989 apparently, when according to the Wall Street Journal the United States Postal Service caused uproar amongst purists by daring to mislabel

its new 25-cent dinosaur stamp, a drawing of a pair of dinosaurs…’Brontosaurus’

I wish folks would keep me up to date…

BBC Nature

Apologetics Press

Impressed (again)

More stuff that impressed me….

french biochemist pierre calleja has developed a lamp for use as street lighting as well as in indoor spaces
that is powered without electricity, absorbing carbon dioxide as it functions. beta testing of a prototype streetlight
is currently in progress in a parking lot in bordeaux, france.

the lamps are composed of a tube containing microalgae, as well as a battery during the day, the batteries are charged
via photosynthesis of the algae, using both solar power and CO2 (both of which are usable by the plantlife).
this means that the lamps represent a viable electricity-free lighting solution even for locations where there is no
or little natural light, such as underground parking garages. at night, the stored power is used for lighting.

calleja notes that about 25% of CO2 present in the air is thought to be generated from car exhaust, so using the devices
as roadside lighting helps solve two social problems at once, each unit absorbing an estimated ton of emissions per year.
in fact microalgae is more efficient than trees, to the extent that each lamp absorbs a reported 150 to 200 times from CO2 than a tree.

Lifted from designboom again.

Easily Impressed

Hardly a day goes by without me whispering “WOW!”, or, “I want one of those!” at something i’ve seen on t’internet (I’m easily impressed).

After you have dragged your minds out of the gutter, have a look at these:

The following text is lifted direct from Make:

This simple demonstration of eddy current braking (Wikipedia) will probably be familiar to many of you, but this video from YouTuber JamesRB1995 is a short, well-shot, impressive documentation of the effect. Keep in mind that copper is not ferromagnetic, and there is no direct magnetic attraction going on here.


I was a washing machine engineer in a former life and love this example of recycling, these words were also stolen, this time from 2012architecten:

The Miele Space Station is an architectural installation made entirely of washing machines, hence the name. This multifunctional mobile unit is compounded out of five separate modules, each of which can be carried by two people. Washing machines have a standard width of 60 cm, and, accordingly, so do these segments. The modules can be rolled through a standard door of 210 x 70 cm. To facilitate transportation the five portions can be assembled on a trailer as a caravan. Once on site, the segments can be placed in various configurations so that the object can be used for many purposes and in different sizes. The space station has already done duty as a bar cum art vending machine, a pavement café and a music shop/office/bar; during PARASITE PARADISE it served as a mobile architects’ office.

Team: Jan Jongert, Césare Peeren, Denis Oudendijk, Jan Körbes, Barth Steenweg

Science of pee

I stole this fromThings I learnt on Radio4 today after listening to the radio programme.

The sound of presenters Sally Magnusson weeing very loudly in an echoey toilet got us right in the mood to discuss the powers of urine. By the sound of it, once research on urine fuel cells is complete, Sally could power a small town all by herself.

It’s not actually urine that we’re interested in, it’s the urea within urine. Urea is made from ammonia generated during protein metabolism. It is converted into urea in the liver so the body can then excrete it, after further filtering by the kidneys. Don’t let Sally’s prolific peeing put you off urine, because wee comes into the world perfectly filtered, sterile and unstinky. The pong only starts once it comes into contact with micro organisms in the air, in the toilet bowl, in the carpet (if you miss). These micro organisms convert the urea back to toxic ammonia which stinks. So stop being so squeamish about wee wee, because as you may have heard our natural resources are depleting, and when they do, wee might have the answer.

In laboratories somewhere in Scotland, toilets have become wasteful relics. Scientists are looking into Carbamide Power Systems also known as Youtricity. These are fuel cells that convert urea into water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and electricity. If you haven’t access to mains electricity, say when you camping, you can wee on your fuel cell (please go outside the tent) which will light your lantern and as a by product give you a nice drink of water as well. If it’s good enough for NASA astronauts it’s good enough for you.

I know it sounds a bit messy but the technology is in its early stages. Who knows what advances are to come in the next few years? If I could pee in my petrol tank every morning before work and drive right passed Esso, then they’re onto a winner I think.

Human urine is good, but so is pig’s urine. D’you know how many pigs there are out there in the pork industry? 285 million. 285 million pigs peeing is a problem – a stinky problem. The Dutch pork industry can no longer expand because of the government’s odour control restrictions. Not to worry, as always there’s someone who can help.

There is a company, Waste to Green, that will come to your farm and collect your urine for free. I’m talking about the pig’s urine, but you can add some yourself if you like, it’s all good. This solves your pollution problem, you won’t smell of wee and you’ll get yourself a girlfriend. Everyone is happy. The company can then use the urea to make plastics, fertilizer, glue and lipstick (don’t kiss that new girlfriend). If Waste to Green can collect urine from 1% of the 285 million pigs out there, they will make 1 billion US dollars per year (says the excited owner). Where’s my wellies and bucket?

So if collecting millions of gallons of pig’s wee is going to make you a billionaire, why can’t we collect our own? There are millions of gallons of pee waiting inside bladders right now and there’s a man, who used to own a portaloo business, extracting the urine. He is a urine miner. From human urine he can extract proteins, growth hormones, Prozac, in fact any drug that ends up in the bladder. Once extracted these drugs can be remanufactured and remarketed. The portaloo guy reckons mining urine is more lucrative than mining gold or oil. There’s a fortune right under our nostrils.

Just as an aside, I’ve got to ask: how’s your plumbs? Or your carrots or rhubarb for that matter? If your fruit and veg aren’t doing to well and the garden centre’s charging too much for its fancy soil mixtures, instead of wasting your urine in the toilet, nip outside and put it to good use. Urine is an excellent fertilizer and already used commercially on a large scale. Fertilizer urea is manufactured though, so it’s not the real stuff. Once manufactured urea becomes too expensive, there might be openings for full-time Tinklers, you never know.

Sally ends her urine journey at the Malt Whisky Society. She tries some whisky made from the urine of old people and diabetics. Older people and diabetics can’t convert sugar to energy, so these highly processed molecules are extracted and added during fermentation of the whisky. Sally didn’t sound to happy about it, but was quite chuffed with her joke ‘it’s a wee dram’ This turned out to be a con, the whisky wasn’t made from urine it was just some artist making some point that I didn’t understand, but worth putting into the programme for the joke.

It’s going to be difficult to make urine into a respected, recycled commodity. It’s just a bit nasty. But in this world of declining resources, we need to make more use of our wee before the high tech alternatives run out. Oh no, Sally needs to go to the toilet again. The programme ends with either Sally standing next to a large body of water falling into a deep gorge or back in cubicle three of the echoey toilet. Yuk…


“A wand’ring fire
Compact of unctuous Vapour, which the Night
Condenses, and the Cold environs round,
Kindled through Agitation to a flame,
Which oft, they say, some Evil Spirit attends,
Hovering and blazing with delusive Light,
Misleads th’ amaz’d Night-Wand’rer from his way
To bogs and mires, and oft through Pond or Pool,
There swallow’d up and lost, from succour far.”

As readers of this blog may know, I am interested in all things scientific, indeed, hardly a day goes by without me having to frantically investigate Buchner’s Funnel , give Signer’s Dog a once-over or look into Craig’s Rotavap, so it was that I found myself being kept up to the early hours after New Year’s Day by Prof Andrea Sella telling me all about Spooklights.

Listening to the Prof’s lecture I learnt it is possible to produce X-rays by simply unrolling Scotch tape.

Apparently peeling back ordinary sticky tape can generate bursts of X-rays intense enough to produce an image of the bones in your fingers.

That’s what Seth Putterman and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, found when they used a motor to unwind a roll of sticky tape and recorded the electromagnetic emissions. Ripping the tape from its roll at 3 centimetres per second generated X-ray bursts lasting one-billionth of a second, each containing over a million photons.

The researchers suspect the emissions arise when the two surfaces involved acquire electrical charges of opposite sign. In this case, the adhesive becomes positive and the polyethylene roll negative. The charge difference builds until electrons jump from the roll to the adhesive, apparently with enough energy to produce X-rays when they hit the tape.
(Source: New Scientist 22 Oct 2008)

Other Spooklights I was informed about included the phenomenon known as Will-o’-the-wisp which is said to be seen chiefly on summer nights frequenting meadows, marshes, and other moist places. It is also often found flying along rivers and hedges, as if there it met with a stream of air to direct it.
The Will-o’-the-wisp has been recorded as flickering over marshy ground since at least the middle ages, in the centuries that followed, dozens of antiquaries have recorded anecdotes and personal accounts of the ‘ignis fatuus’ as it is also known, with even Sir Isaac Newton mentioning them in his 1704 opus Opticks. The lights have also been incorporated into modern literature, e.g. Dracula, and have even had a children’s television show named after them. The most commonly cited explanation for them is that they’re the product of ignited marsh gas: most likely slowly leaking methane whose ignition is triggered by phosphene.

Andrea Sella’s blog:
BBC WS Discovery prog