Purifying water with sunlight and photocatalysts

Drinking clean water is something that many people in the world can’t take for granted, as they rely on polluted sources and often have no access to purification systems. In response to that problem, Panasonic is developing a new technology that looks to the sun to clean water extracted from the ground. The company recently presented a system that uses sunlight and photocatalysts to purify polluted water at a high reaction rate, to improve access to clean water where it’s needed.

The breakthrough is in the new system’s ability to bind titanium dioxide (TiO2), a photocatalyst that reacts under ultraviolet light. One of the difficulties associated with TiO2 is that it is difficult to collect once dispersed in water, since it comes in super fine particles. Previous methods of binding it to larger matter have already been used, but they suffered a loss of active site surface area. Panasonic has found a way to bind the TiO2 to another particle, zeolite (a commercial adsorbent and catalyst), which solves that problem by enabling photocatalysts to maintain their active site. And, the method requires no binder chemicals because the two particles are bound together by electrostatic force.

When the novel photocatalytic particles are stirred, TiO2 is released from the zeolite and dispersed throughout the water. As a result, reaction speed is much faster than other methods of fixing TiO2 on the surface of substrates, and a larger volume of water can be processed in a short amount of time. If the water is left still, it will cause TiO2 to bind to zeolite again, making it easy to separate and recover the photocatalysts from the water so they can be used again later.

The technology was recently unveiled at Tokyo’s Eco Products Fair. Panasonic is working with a number of institutions in India to test the product and its capabilities. The company says around 70 percent of the population of India relies on ground water, which is exposed to different types of pollution, from agrochemical residues to metals from leather tanneries.

The history of the evolution of economics is the quest for scarce goods. Water being the most life-critical of any scarce commodity.

Why are scams more common on the Right than the Left?


Click to enlarge

Since the tea party burst onto the political landscape in 2009, the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them….A POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses.

….[Democrats] have mostly avoided the problem, though they also benefit from the lack of tea party-style insurgency on their side. That could change if the 2016 Democratic presidential primary inflames deep ideological divisions within the party. But on the right, this industry appears only to be growing, according to conservatives who track it closely.

And this problem isn’t limited just to consultants who set up PACs to line their own pockets. Media Matters reports that right-wing outlets routinely tout—or rent their email lists to people touting—all manner of conspiracy theories and out-and-out frauds. Here’s an excerpt from Media Matters’ list:

Mike Huckabee sold out his fans to a quack doctor, conspiracy theorists, and financial fraudsters.
Subscribers to CNN analyst Newt Gingrich‘s email list have received supposed insider information about cancer “cures,” the Illuminati, “Obama’s ‘Secret Mistress,'” a “weird” Social Security “trick,” and Fort Knox being “empty.”
Five conservative outlets promoted a quack doc touting dubious Alzheimer’s disease cures.
Fox analyst Charles Payne was paid to push now worthless stocks.
Newsmax super PAC boondoggle.
Right-wing media helped “scam PACs” raise money from their readers.

…So here’s my question: why is this so much more common on the right than on the left? It would be nice to chalk it up to the superior intelligence of liberal audiences and call it a day, but that won’t wash. There’s just no evidence that liberals, in general, are either smarter or less susceptible to scams than conservatives.

One possibility is that a lot of this stuff is aimed at the elderly, and conservatives tend to skew older than liberals. And while that’s probably part of the answer, it’s hardly satisfying. There are plenty of elderly liberals, after all—certainly enough to make them worth targeting with the same kind of fraudulent appeals that infest the right.

Another possibility is that it’s basically a supply-side phenomenon. Maybe liberal outlets simply tend to be less ruthless, less willing to set up scam fundraising organizations than conservative outlets. In fact, that actually does seem to be the case. But again: why? Contrary to Vogel’s lead, this kind of thing has been a problem on the right for a long time. It definitely got worse when the tea party movement created a whole new pool of potential patsies, but it didn’t start in 2009. It’s been around for a while.

So then: why is this problem so much bigger on the right than on the left?…It’s got to be something institutional, or something inherent in the nature of American conservatism. But what?

Ken Vogel probably grew up in the age of solid-state communications – instead of vacuum tube-powered radios. He missed the generations of Americans who were told by radio preachers to “place your hands on the radio and feel the warmth of God reaching out to save you!”

Of course they were warm. You could burn yourself on those suckers if you reached inside the radio – or first couple generations of TV’s – and touched the tubes.

True Believers accept authority easier than any skeptic. While folks on the Left often get there because of skepticism learned from watching a corrupt establishment lie about damned near everything. The veneer of lies was more than evident in that classic Republican candidate debate when the moderator asked how many didn’t believe in evolution. A few – the preachers – threw their arms up right away. The rest dragged their arms up as they looked out at the audience of True Believers. They knew they had to join in or be rejected by the idjits.

And so it goes. Want to buy some underwear woven with copper wires to aid your virility?

Expensive placebos work better than cheap placebos — Gotcha!

For the most part, there is no difference — chemical or otherwise — between generic drugs and their more expensive, brand-name counterparts. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have varying effects, especially if their users are under the assumption that expensive drugs are more effective.

In a recent study, researchers found a patient’s perception or expectations of a drug (based on how much it costs) significantly affected the drug’s efficacy.

“Patients’ expectations play an important role in the effectiveness of their treatments, and the placebo effect has been well documented, especially in people with Parkinson’s disease,” explained lead study author Alberto J. Espay, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati who is currently serving as a fellow with the American Academy of Neurology.

“We wanted to see if the people’s perceptions of the cost of the drug they received would affect the placebo response,” Espay added.

To find out, Espay and his colleagues gave a group of study volunteers two shots of a placebo drug for Parkinson’s disease. Of course, the participants weren’t told it was a simple saline solution. Doctors told them that they were receiving two drugs, one shot and then the second after the first “wore off.”

Prior to the shots, doctors told the participants each drug had proven equally effective, but that one was significantly more expensive than the other — one costing $100 per dose and the other costing $1,500 per dose.

Despite being the exact same saline solution, the “expensive” placebo minimized hand shaking and improved motor skills among the Parkinson’s disease patients more effectively than did the “cheap” placebo.

After eventually revealing the ruse, researchers found the difference in efficacy was most pronounced among patients who admitted to expecting an improved result from the expensive version of the drug.

The brain is powerful drug — one that researchers hope to use to improve treatments.

If you casually note the number of miraculous cures popular through history – you shouldn’t be surprised at any of this. Both the placebo effect and the belief in “getting what you pay for” are demonstrably strong. Combined in a society rife with ignorance, the sophistry is destined to have some effect.

Homeless adults – mental illness and cognitive deficits

Nearly three-quarters of homeless adults with mental illness in Canada show evidence of cognitive deficits, such as difficulties with problem solving, learning and memory, new research has found…

“This points to an often unrecognized problem for the segment of Canada’s homeless population that suffers from mental illness,” said Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, chief of psychiatry at St. Michael’s Hospital and a scientist in its Centre for Research on Inner City Health.

These are the skills that people need to follow treatment or support recommendations, maintain housing stability or successfully complete day-to-day tasks.”

Each year up to 200,000 Canadians are homeless. The prevalence of mental illness among homeless individuals is much higher than the rest of the population, with more than 12 per cent suffering from severe mental illness, 11 per cent having mood disorders and close to 40 per cent reporting alcohol and drug addictions.

All of the participants in Dr. Stergiopoulos’ study experienced mental illness. About half met criteria for psychosis, major depressive disorder and alcohol or substance abuse, and nearly half had experienced traumatic brain injury…

“The data doesn’t help us to predict whether someone will have cognitive challenges, but it does show that if they experience homelessness and mental illness, it’s very likely,” said Dr. Stergiopoulos. “It adds to our understanding about why people may have difficulty accessing or keeping housing.”

Dr. Stergiopoulos noted the study is important for those who work directly with disadvantaged populations because it highlights that adaptations and improvements need to be made to treatment and support options. Lack of engagement is not necessarily because someone doesn’t want help, but may be because they don’t understand how to access or make use of it.

At least it sounds like our Northern Neighbors are trying. Perhaps Harper isn’t as callous as his role model Ronald Reagan.

Every Republican’s favorite Tin Jesus just about single-handed created the tidal wave of homeless, especially those with mental illness. His efforts to crush the US Public Health Service and hospital system put thousands of the mentally ill on our streets.

Space telescope capable of images 1,000 times sharper than Hubble


Aragoscope – artist’s conception

The Hubble space telescope has given us decades of incredible images, but it’s reaching the end of its service life and the question is, what will come after? One possibility is the Aragoscope from the University of Colorado Boulder, which uses a gigantic orbital disk instead of a mirror to produce images 1,000 times sharper than the Hubble’s best efforts.

The Aragoscope is named after French scientist Francois Arago who first noticed how a disk diffracted light waves. The principle is based on using a large disk as a diffraction lens, which bends light from distant objects around the edge of the disk and focuses it like a conventional refraction lens. The phenomenon isn’t very pronounced on the small scale, but if the telescope is extremely large, it not only becomes practical, but also extremely powerful.

When deployed the Aragoscope will consist of an opaque disk a half mile in diameter parked in geostationary orbit behind which is an orbiting telescope keeping station some tens to hundreds of miles behind that collects the light at the focal point and rectifies it into a high-resolution image…

The new orbital telescope was selected last June by NASA as one of 12 proposals for its NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) program – each of which received US$100,000 to fund nine-months of research for projects ranging from capturing asteroids to sending submarines to the lakes of Titan. The Aragoscope is now up for being one of six projects that will receive an additional US$500,000 in April.

The team sees the Aragoscope as a way to penetrate farther into the universe to observe phenomena like black hole event horizons, or turned on the Earth to pick out objects the size of a rabbit. The next phase of the project involves testing the concept. This will involve laboratory work using a one-meter disk set several meters from a telescope. If this is successful, a more dramatic demonstration will use a disk set on a mountain top while a telescope mounted on a helicopter tries to focus on the star Alpha Centauri.

“Pick out objects the size of a rabbit”, eh? I recall a scientist cautioning me BITD when the US and USSR were involved in a race to develop spy satellites with the finest resolution. He told me if I was going to have sex outdoors – make sure it was under a tree.

I hope someone offers an app which automatically notifies everyone whenever our government turns the Aragoscope around to face Earth instead of deep space.

Nursing Homes have the power to seize control over patients’ savings

Lillian Palermo tried to prepare for the worst possibilities of aging. An insurance executive with a Ph.D. in psychology and a love of ballroom dancing, she arranged for her power of attorney and health care proxy to go to her husband, Dino, eight years her junior, if she became incapacitated. And in her 80s, she did…

But one day last summer, after he disputed nursing home bills that had suddenly doubled Mrs. Palermo’s copays, and complained about inexperienced employees who dropped his wife on the floor, Mr. Palermo was shocked to find a six-page legal document waiting on her bed.

It was a guardianship petition filed by the nursing home, Mary Manning Walsh, asking the court to give a stranger full legal power over Mrs. Palermo, now 90, and complete control of her money.

Few people are aware that a nursing home can take such a step. Guardianship cases are difficult to gain access to and poorly tracked by New York State courts; cases are often closed from public view for confidentiality. But the Palermo case is no aberration. Interviews with veterans of the system and a review of guardianship court data conducted by researchers at Hunter College at the request of The New York Times show the practice has become routine, underscoring the growing power nursing homes wield over residents and families amid changes in the financing of long-term care.

RTFA. Pissed-off is a perfectly reasonable response.

As my wife and I plan for the possible disasters that can disorder the end of life – processes guided by the medical-industrial complex – legal agents perfectly willing to rollover at the least request from corporations committed to siphoning every last penny from your declining life fill me with the greatest anger.

Pic of the Day


Ebola handshake going strong as Ebola cases decrease

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Dr. Peter Graaff, the World Health Organization’s representative in Liberia, are among the first to publicly use the Ebola handshake. It’s a trend that’s catching on.

When this new form of salutation was introduced in disease-torn west Africa in October, it was considered yet another way to temper the Ebola epidemic. Today, bumping elbows, hitting arms and knocking shoes — each considered an Ebola handshake — is the new normal, especially among young men.

It’s not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. As the three hardest hit nations — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — cope with the aftermath of Ebola, some are considering new ways to institute safer health practices. In parts of hard-hit Sierra Leone, where some 3,000 have died from Ebola, the handshake is law…

The Ebola handshake has even spread beyond the borders of Africa. Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was seen using the Ebola handshake.

Maybe this will help us all out with the flu, as well.

Awareness of thinking – awareness of dreaming

metacognition

To control one’s dreams and to live out there what is impossible in real life – a truly tempting idea. Some persons – so-called lucid dreamers –can do this. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when being awake.

Lucid dreamers are aware of dreaming while dreaming. Sometimes, they can even play an active role in their dreams. Most of them, however, have this experience only several times a year and just very few almost every night. Internet forums and blogs are full of instructions and tips on lucid dreaming. Possibly, lucid dreaming is closely related to the human capability of self-reflection – the so-called metacognition…

The differences in volumes in the anterior prefrontal cortex between lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers suggest that lucid dreaming and metacognition are indeed closely connected. This theory is supported by brain images taken when test persons were solving metacognitive tests while being awake. Those images show that the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex was higher in lucid dreamers…

The researchers further want to know whether metacognitive skills can be trained. In a follow-up study, they intend to train volunteers in lucid dreaming to examine whether this improves the capability of self-reflection.

You, too, can join the ranks of Sartre and Camus. :)

It is especially interesting to me – to see these attributes often referred to in the Existential offshoots from Materialist Dialectics getting special attention from one of the leading researchers in the world.

In the expanse of free time accrued since retirement, I have found myself from time to time wandering back to questions like these for the first time in decades. I’ve been aware of being a lucid dreamer since childhood. Metacognitive processes have always been equally provocative, equally challenging.

Fascinating as ever.

Koch Bros biggest charity? The most backwards politicians in the country!

A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries.

The massive financial goal was revealed to donors here Monday during an annual winter meeting hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign…

The group — which is supported by hundreds of wealthy donors on the right, along with the Kochs — is still debating whether it will spend some of that money in the GOP primaries…GOP Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio — along with Sen. Ted Cruz — discussed what they see as the economy’s weak spots at a forum Sunday night at the Freedom Partners conference.

Golly. Did they pretend to care about the weaknesses they refused to aid: crumbling infrastructure, mediocre education, low wages?

The three-day conference was held at a luxury resort perched on a rocky hillside near Palm Springs, Calif., with stunning views of the palm-tree-speckled desert floor below. The event drew 450 attendees, a record number, as well as the largest number of first-time contributors to the network…

Sens. Steve Daines, Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton, Thom Tillis, David Perdue and Cory Gardner were on hand to thank donors…

…Much of the weekend was spent looking ahead to 2016…

The network’s influence was underlined by the number of prospective 2016 contenders who flocked to Rancho Mirage to mingle with the deep-pocketed crowd. Scott Walker arrived Saturday from Iowa, after addressing conservative activists at a forum in Des Moines. That night, over an al fresco dinner of filet mignon, the Wisconsin governor thanked the Freedom Partners donors for their past support and touted his efforts to curb state spending.

Right. What conservative in his right mind would spend money on schoolteachers?

Started by Charles Koch in 2003 and originally hosted by Koch Industries, the twice-a-year donor seminars are now sponsored by Freedom Partners.

The network has evolved into a sophisticated political operation that mirrors those of the official parties. Along with its main political advocacy arm, Americans for Prosperity, the network finances groups such as Concerned Veterans for America, the Libre Initiative and Generation Opportunity. Last year, it added a super PAC to its arsenal, but most of the allied groups are nonprofits that do not disclose their donors.

Freedom, Republican-style. Stage-managed transparency, reporters banned from forums, about the only accurate reflection of American history were the organizational names crafted in the Madison Avenue tradition of hypocrisy and political correctness. After all, we were the first country to change the name of our War Department to the Department of Defense. While our government established over 750 military bases around the globe.