Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Russian Diamonds Are Forever (Link Round-Up 9/18/12)


[via Gawker]

A less politics-heavy link round-up this time around:

Forget charter schools, Honduras is building charter cities
The Honduran government has just signed an agreement with the U.S. developers MKG group. The agreement involves a plan to establish three charter cities. The cities will have their own government, laws, courts, police forces and even tax systems. Building is to start early next year.

Promoters say the charter cities, which are a type of special development area, will enable Honduras to start development in a country with the world's worst murder rate and where almost two thirds of the people live below the poverty line. I have appended a video meant to promote the charter cities.

Critics, however, claim that the charter cities are simply a 21st century version of the days when Honduras was a banana republic. At that time U.S. companies controlled the government and owned vast tracts of territory. They used the police to control and even kill striking workers.
Make solar energy better with...spinach and kudzu?
The study, which was published online in the journal Advanced Materials, was inspired by the fact that spinach plants are able to convert sunlight into electrical energy with nearly 100 percent efficiency. Most manmade solar cells can achieve only 40 percent efficiency or less. It’s taken several decades for scientists to figure out how to extract this PS1 from the spinach plant, and now, they’ve demonstrated that it can be made into cells that produce electrical current when exposed to sunlight.  
...
The implications of this technological advancement are not to be ignored. A major criticism of photovoltaic solar cells is that they require rare earth materials, the extraction of which is expensive and bad for the planet. Biohybrid cells, however, could be made from renewable and relatively cheap sources, like spinach or even kudzu, which is an invasive species.
Faded Coptic Christian papyrus refers to Jesus' "wife" 
She repeatedly cautioned that this fragment should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married. The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, historically reliable Christian literature is silent on the question, she said.

But the discovery is exciting, Dr. King said, because it is the first known statement from antiquity that refers to Jesus speaking of a wife. It provides further evidence that there was an active discussion among early Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and which path his followers should choose.

“This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a tradition that Jesus was married,” she said. “There was, we already know, a controversy in the second century over whether Jesus was married, caught up with a debate about whether Christians should marry and have sex.”
Los Angeles: America's next mass transit city?
The process started in earnest with the construction of the often-scoffed-about Red and Purple subway lines in the 1990s. This began to create the bones of a major rapid transit system. But it’s kicked into overdrive in the 21st-century thanks to the confluence of three separate incidents. First, Rep. Henry Waxman, the powerful House Democrat who represents L.A.’s Westside, went from being a NIMBY opponent of transit construction to an environmentalist booster. Second, Antonio Villaraigosa was elected mayor in 2004. Third, in 2008, L.A. County voters passed Measure R, a ballot proposition that raised sales taxes to create a dedicated funding stream for new transit. Thanks to Measure R and Waxman, a new Expo Line connecting downtown to some of the Westside is already open, and work will begin on a “subway to the sea” beneath Beverly Hills soon. The same pool of money also finances expansion of the light rail Gold Line and the rapid-bus Orange Line while helping hold bus fares down.
Russia reveals its secret massive supply of asteroid diamonds 
The type of stones at Popigai are known as "impact diamonds," which theoretically result when something like a meteor plows into a graphite deposit at high velocity. The Russians say most such diamonds found in the past have been "space diamonds" of extraterrestrial origin found in meteor craters. [Editor's note: The original version misstated the type of deposit needed to create impact diamonds.]

They claim the Popigai site is unique in the world, thus making Russia the monopoly proprietor of a resource that's likely to become increasingly important in high-precision scientific and industrial processes.

"The value of impact diamonds is added by their unusual abrasive features and large grain size," Pokhilenko told Tass. "This expands significantly the scope of their industrial use and makes them more valuable for industrial purposes."
Plastic chemical BPA linked to higher childhood obesity rates
Trasande and colleagues measured body mass and urinary BPA -- an indirect way of measuring BPA exposure -- in more than 2,800 American children and teens. While over 92 percent of the study subjects had detectable levels of BPA in their urine, those with the highest levels were 2.6 times more likely to be obese than those with the lowest levels, even after controlling for diet and exercise.

The findings, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, add weight to calls for a broader ban on BPA in food packaging.

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