A long commute may push you toward divorce

I’ve been a proponent for telecommuting for years, and I’m glad to see more proof — such as this article, which presents research from Sweden, where they’ve found that long commutes (around 45 minutes) make you 40% more likely to divorce, and also re-inforce gender-based stereotypes, where the man will usually have the better job and do the long commutes, while the woman is forced to take a lower-paying job closer to home.

According to the study, 11 percent of Swedes have a journey to work that consists of a 45-minute commute or longer. Many commuters have small children and are in a relationship. Most are men.

The risk of divorce goes up by 40 percent for commuters and the risk is the highest in the first few years of commuting.

And more Swedes are travelling farther distances to work.

“The trend is definitely pointing upward. Both the journey to work and the working hours are getting longer, “ Sandow told The Local.

The study was based on statistical data from two million Swedish households between 1995 and 2000.

This article in The Economist echoes the research, and offers additional arguments:

Ms Lowrey ends up running through the whole litany of traditional commuter complaints—that it makes us fat, stresses us out, makes us feel lonely, and literally causes pain in the neck—and finds research to prove that the moaners are, more often than not, right. “People who say, ‘My commute is killing me!’ are not exaggerators,” she concludes: “They are realists.”

This of course is in addition to the arguments I’ve already put forth in the past, such as in this article offering reasons for telecommuting, or this article about reducing waste in business operations.

Solar windows finally feasible

Back in 2004, I wrote about an idea of mine, to integrate solar panels into house or apartment windows, and thus help offset the cost of electricity. I’m glad to say it’s come to fruition. The technology to do this has been discovered. Granted, it’s still in the research phase, and the efficiency of these 1st generation solar windows is only 1.7%, but I’m thrilled to see that it’s a workable idea, and look forward to the day when we can purchase these windows from a store, presumably with a higher efficiency and a long working expectancy.

Richard Lunt, one of the researchers who developed the new transparent solar cell, demonstrates its transparency using a prototype cell. Photo credit: Geoffrey Supran and Cosmic Log, MSNBC.com.

Thanks to RAPatton on FriendFeed, who made me aware of this!

Is global warming a cyclical event?

While most agree that global warming is occurring, they do not agree on the root cause. Some say global warming is caused by man, mainly by CO2 emissions, while others say it is part of a larger picture of cyclical global warming and cooling events that have occurred throughout history. Unfortunately, the debate is mostly one-sided, with man-made global warming proponents getting most of the media coverage, and the cyclical global warming proponents ostracized and denigrated as false scientists.

A new salvo was launched recently against the man-made global warming side, with the publication of an article by Danish professor Henrik Svensmark, entitled “While the Sun Sleeps”. As the title alludes, Mr. Svensmark believes the sun shows reduced magnetic activity and is about to go into a period of hibernation, which means a period of global cooling will likely begin soon. The full translation of the article from Danish to English is available on Anthony Watts’ blog, and I encourage you to read it. Here’s a quote:

When the Sun is active, its magnetic field is better at shielding us against the cosmic rays coming from outer space, before they reach our planet. By regulating the Earth’s cloud cover, the Sun can turn the temperature up and down. High solar activity means fewer clouds and and a warmer world. Low solar activity and poorer shielding against cosmic rays result in increased cloud cover and hence a cooling. As the Sun’s magnetism doubled in strength during the 20th century, this natural mechanism may be responsible for a large part of global warming seen then.

That also explains why most climate scientists try to ignore this possibility. It does not favour their idea that the 20th century temperature rise was mainly due to human emissions of CO2. If the Sun provoked a significant part of warming in the 20th Century, then the contribution by CO2 must necessarily be smaller.”

As for me, I’m still on the fence about this, but I’m leaning toward what Svensmark says. It makes more sense to me. While there’s little doubt that the Earth has been warming for the past few decades, that weather patterns are screwed up, and that pollution and emissions are running rampant and must be reduced drastically or eliminated where possible, I’m still not sure we’re behind the global warming phenomenon.

What tilts the balance of my opinion further away from man-made global warming is the face being used for the campaign — that of Al Gore. Try as I might, I can’t stomach the guy. When I think about his claim to inventing the internets, and his electricity-chugging lifestyle (which goes in stark contrast to what he’s saying when he speaks publicly), and his face, which just isn’t the face of a man that should be trusted — I’m sorry, I just have to look for more proof before I believe what he’s got to say. I’m also still in shock that the man got a Nobel Prize for the stuff he talks about — after all, he’s little more than a pusher of carbon credits, which are dangerously close to a green, global Ponzi scheme in my book.

Who knows, I might be wrong about Al Gore — he may be genuine for all I know — and in that case, I hope the agenda he and his supporters are pushing goes through, but right now, I believe global warming is cyclical, and only time will tell for sure who’s right.

More importantly, I believe global pollution must be addressed regardless of who’s right and wrong on global warming. Our environment is on the verge of collapse due to all the crap we’ve been pouring into it since the 1800s. Pollution is a real threat to our survival, as countless studies have shown. Let’s do something about that, right away.

Peruvian vampire bats carry silent strain of rabies

Courtesy of the Greenhall's Trust - WI
Courtesy of the Greenhall's Trust - WI

In Peru, vampire bats are increasingly biting people, and death is often the result of their normally innocuous bites. Researchers are exploring the possibility that the bats are carrying a strain of rabies known as paralytic or dumb rabies, which causes disorientation, muscle weakness, then death.

The vampire bats normally stick to biting wildlife or livestock, but as more people infringe on their habitat, through deforestation and agriculture, the growing bat population turns to them as another food source.

Research is focusing on how the disease persists in the bat population, and also on where it is located, so that health authorities may know where people will need to be vaccinated against this particular strain of rabies.

Countering the effect of gravity

In 2005, I wrote an article entitled “Gravitational propulsion-levitation vehicle“, where I detailed an idea of mine that I’ve had since 1997 or so, of a vehicle that could harness the gravitation field of the Earth and use it to move on the ground or in the air.

Now, in 2009, I see that my twelve-year old idea was first investigated, albeit in a more limited way, back in 1992, by a Russian scientist named Evgeny Podkletnov. Furthermore, in 2003, an Austrian scientist named Martin Tajmar developed Podkletnov’s research and found a measurable reduction in gravitational pull with the help of a spinning superconductor.

You see, that’s where our ideas are related — in using spinning discs that would generate their own gravitational fields. Back when I started thinking about this stuff, in 1997, I had no idea about Podkletnov or Tajmar. It was just me, a guy who took two college physics classes, trying to figure out how this might work. But I think it’s very interesting that people in different regions of this world, some whose life is physics and some who only have a basic understanding of the subject, are thinking along the same lines when it comes to countering the effect of gravity. It’s the sort of thing that encourages my belief that we’ll get this figured out somehow, that a vehicle powered by gravity isn’t just sci-fi stuff.

I’m not alone in thinking this way. Since I wrote the original article, I’ve gotten contacted by a number of people, some who sounded kooky, and some who sounded like they were serious. I still haven’t written back to any of them, since I’ve had no new spark of inspiration that would make me believe I could contribute anything useful beyond what I already said. But I’m glad to see that we’re possibly on the right track.

My thanks to New Scientist for publishing “Seven things that don’t make sense about gravity” — a very interesting series of mini-articles that brought me up to date with the research done on gravity so far.

National Arboretum

This past May, Ligia and I visited the National Arboretum here in DC. We try to go there at least once a year. The grounds are huge, and they have both outdoors and indoors facilities. Admission is free, and the grounds are open from 8 AM to 5 PM daily, every day of the year except on Christmas.

The National Arboretum was established in 1927 through an Act of Congress. It is administered by the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. Its mission is to “serve the public need for scientific research, education, and gardens that conserve and showcase plants to enhance the environment”. It sits on 446 acres and has 9.5 miles of roads.

Among its gardens are:

  • Single-genus: azalea, boxwood, daffodil, daylily, dogwood, holly, magnolia, maple, and peony.
  • Major gardens: aquatic plants, the Asian Collections, the Fern Valley Native Plant Collections, the Flowering Tree Collection, the Flowering Tree Walk, the Friendship Garden, the Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-Growing Conifer Collection, the Introduction Garden, the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, the National Capitol Columns, the National Grove of State Trees, and the National Herb Garden.

If you’re in the area and you haven’t been yet, please visit, it’s worth your time.

Condensed knowledge for 2008-03-12