Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Crick in your neck? Move your tablet!

After hours of Hearthstone on your tablet computer, are you starting to feel a crick in your neck?

Researchers at Washington State University say tablet users experience neck muscle strain at levels up to 3 to 5 times greater than when sitting with the head in a neutral position, like glancing at a desktop computer monitor.

Anita Vasavada, associate professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering at WSU, published the results in the February issue of the journal Ergonomics. She and a research team studied the tablet use of 33 people, including students and faculty, at a laboratory in Pullman. They used x-rays to determine the curvature of the spine when users typed and read on tablets in several different positions, including allowing the user to pick how they held the tablet. 

Muscle strain was most severe when users typed on the tablet as it sat in their lap. It was least severe when the tablets were propped up to the highest angle using the Smart Cover stand produced by Apple, but researchers did not test multiple brands of tablet accessories. 

To the surprise of researchers, there was no noticeable difference in muscle strain between men and women in the group. Past research has shown women are at greater risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders, according to the WSU researchers.

Vasavada and the researchers note the sample size is small, but the laboratory findings could go a long way in introducing ergonomic guidelines for tablet use. A booming industry of ergonomic keyboards, desks, chairs and other accessories has already developed for desktop computers.

The Tech Deck's advice? It's probably best to take a break between hourlong card battle bouts, anyway.

We’re going to mars!

I don't know if you were paying attention to the Twitters this morning, but NASA started off the morning with an awesome announcement:

We're sending humans to Mars! Watch our #JourneytoMars briefing live today at 12pm ET: http://t.co/6XtjOi1yJo #Orion pic.twitter.com/wrf89sn35A

— NASA (@NASA) December 2, 2014

This is the most exciting announcement out of NASA for an entire generation, the first deep space program since the Apollo missions landed on the moon.

Per NASA.gov:

In the not-too-distant future, astronauts destined to be the first people to walk on Mars will leave Earth aboard an Orion spacecraft. Carried aloft by the tremendous power of a Space Launch System rocket, our explorers will begin their Journey to Mars from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the spirit of humanity with them to the Red Planet.

The first future human mission to Mars and those that follow will require the ingenuity and dedication of an entire generation. It's a journey worth the risks. We take the next step on that journey this Thursday, Dec. 4, with the uncrewed, first flight test of Orion.

Sure, they're projecting 2030-ish before it actually happens, but there is a lot of work to be done between now and then. The only problem I have with any of it is that I will be in my 50s, far too late to train for the trip, so I'll have to decline when NASA shows up at my door asking me to be the commander of the mission.

Nature and science are soulmates

For those who still think we're stuck in a state of climate denial, it's science to the rescue. Nobel Prize-Winner Richard Feynman is regarded as one of the greatest physicists to have ever lived. In this uplifiting video, he explains the link between nature and science. It's kind of a mashup from TEDx Speaker Reid Gower who has produced a series of videos based Carl Sagan's works. There are lectures mixed in from Feyman, incredible footage of space, and a properly moving M83 score. Thank science he's taken on Feynman as a subject with the goal of promoting scientific literacy. Enjoy. 

Today’s fun video: Slamming liberals for fighting science


The Daily Show points out that it's not just conservatives who fight science. Liberals can be virulently anti-science, too, just not on the same topics.

Tuesday Video: Imagine a world of anti-science

Step into an alternate reality a la "The Twilight Zone" where people believe "gravity is just a theory" and "cigarettes aren't addictive." Welcome to the Heartland Department Of Education courtesy of Al Gore's Climate Reality Project.  Other favorite quotes: "Scientists are, like, altering their data just to get paid." Sound familiar?

Or: "Of course it's true. I learned it in school."

You've been warned.


Adventure scientists document chilling facts of global warming

ENVIRONMENT – “Chasing Ice,” a fascinating and award-winning National Geographic documentary about adventure-scientist documenting changes in the arctic will be presented by the Idaho Conservation League and other local environmental groups on Monday, 7 p.m., at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint.

Read on for details about the making of this 2012 film, and why local groups are bringing the stunning images to the big screen in North Idaho.

Women, climate change topic of Gonzaga environmental series talk

ENVIRONMENT – Sustainability expert Gloria Flora will be in Spokane this week to discuss how women worldwide are confronting the challenge of climate change.

The free public lecture titled, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat: Women and the Global Response to Climate Change” at 5:30 p.m., Friday (March 22) in the Wolff Auditorium of Gonzaga University's Jepson Center.

The lecture is part of the Gonzaga Environmental Studies Speaker Series — which recently sponsored Dr. Jane Goodall — and is sponsored by the Gonzaga environmental studies, and women’s and gender studies departments.

Read on for more details about Flora and her quest to keep flora and fauna functioning on earth.

Are you 27 or younger? Then you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month

In the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration's "State Of The Climate" there are more than a few scary findings. The winning statistic: If you were born in or after April 1985, or if you are currently 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. 

Here's what the NOAA said about October 2012's weather: The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces during October was 14.63°C (58.23°F). This is 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average and ties with 2008 as the fifth warmest October on record. The record warmest October occurred in 2003 and the record coldest October occurred in 1912. This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature.  

Yikes. This image from the NOAA summarizes most of 2012:

The sound of smog

You can't always see pollution but can you hear it? Aaron Reuben and Gabriel Isaacman have come up with a frightening way for people to feel pollution: They’ve made it audible. Over at the Atlantic, they explaine their bizarre creation: 

We created sounds from air samples (atmospheric particulate matter collected on filters) by first using gas chromatography to separate the thousands of compounds in the air (try it with markers at home) and then using mass spectrometry, which gives us a unique “spectrum” for chemicals based on their structure, to identify the compounds and assign them tones. Some compounds end up sounding clear and distinct, while others blur together into unresolvable chords. The result is a qualitative, sensory experience of hard, digital data.

Below is a creepy audioclip from Bakersfield, California which has the worst air pollution of any city in the country.

Tuesday Video: Watching the Arctic thaw


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a number of cameras near the North Pole and this is a timelapse from one, beginning on June 30 and running until August 12. This is something worth watching in full screen view as the ice gets smaller and smaller.

Fish extinction greatly accelerated, study shows

CLIMATE CHANGE — Out of sight, out of mind.  Next thing you know, they're extinct.

And it's happening faster than ever to fish species, according to a recent study detailed in a Columbia Basin Bulletin report.

From 1900-2010, freshwater fish species in North America went extinct at a rate 877 times faster than the rate found in the fossil record, while estimates indicate the rate may double between now and 2050, the Bulletin reports.

This new information comes from a U.S. Geological Survey study to be published in the September issue of the journal BioScience.

In the fossil record, one freshwater fish species goes extinct every 3 million years, but North America lost 39 species and 18 subspecies between 1898 and 2006. Based on current trends in threatened and endangered fish species, researchers estimate that an additional 53-86 species of freshwater fish may be extinct by the year 2050.

Since the first assessment of extinct North American freshwater fishes in 1989, the number of extinct fishes increased by 25 percent.

"This study illustrates the value of placing current events into the context of deep geologic time, as rocks preserve an unbiased record of natural rates of processes before human activities began to alter the landscape, the atmosphere, the rivers, and oceans," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt.

Conservatives Lose Trust In Science

Item: Conservatives lose trust in science, study shows: Better educated change the most/Los Angeles Times

More Info: A study released Thursday in the American Sociological Review concludes that trust in science among conservatives and frequent churchgoers has declined precipitously since 1974, when a national survey first asked people how much confidence they had in the scientific community. At that time, conservatives had the highest level of trust in scientists. Confidence in scientists has declined the most among the most educated conservatives.

Question: Is science ever influenced by politics?

Pumping Up

President Barack Obama pumps up a gun designed by Joey Hudy, left, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, to shoot a marshmallow in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington Tuesday, during the White House Science Fair. Obama hosted the second White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Question: Were you a good science student?

Naomi Shah, Google science fair winner, takes on clean air

Naomi Shah was the winner of the Google science fair in the 15-16 age group. Her project focuses on the effects of air quality triggers on asthma sufferers and highlights why other people should be environmentalists too.


Her report and speech is amazing. Shah observed that medical practitioners immediately prescribe steroids and inhalers, rather than addressing the quality of the air asthma sufferers are breathing. Why? Nobody knows exactly how much air pollution affects lung function. But she tried to find out. .

Miss America contestants asked about evolution

Nobody looks to Miss America for intellectual guidance for obvious reasons. However, this funny YouTube clip of contestant answers to the question "Do you think evolution should be taught in school?" is blowing up the internets today. Why? Mostly because a majority of them said "No."

Two important new Hanford books

Here are two new books about a crucial and controversial issue in our region:

  •  “Atomic Frontier Days: Hanford and the American West” (University of Washington Press, $24.95), by John M. Findlay and Bruce Hevly. The authors tell the complex and fascinating story of Hanford’s atomic legacy. It was a vast area of sagebrush which was converted overnight during World War II to a super-secret federal bomb-building facility. Our region is still dealing with many Hanford-related issues today – environmental, political and socialOne reviewer has already called it “a must-read for anyone interested and concerned about this nation’s nuclear legacy.” Both authors are history professors at the University of Washington. Findlay specializes in the Northwest and the American West, and Hevly specializes in the history of science and technology. They “offer perspective on today’s controversies,” according to the publisher. It was just released this month and you can find it at local bookstores, online or here. .
  • “Made in Hanford: The Bomb That Changed the World” (Washington State University Press, $22.95) by Hill Williams. Williams, a former science writer for the Seattle Times, is particularly well-suited to this subject. His father was editor of the Pasco Herald during World War II – and one of the few people in on part of the secret. Williams went on to write about Hanford and other nuclear issues for the Seattle Times. He also had access to the personal diaries of one of Hanford’s key figures. The book combines his personal story with detailed scientific and historic research. You should be able to find it at local bookstores and online or at wsupress.wsu.edu.

Nerd Alert: Zero out your energy bill with solar panels

George Musser is the man.  The physics editor at Scientific American always dreamed of powering his home with solar panels. In New Jersey, no less, to challenge one commenter's disparaging remarks about the Garden State. And now he does it.


Luna Wants To Scrap Science Test

Idaho high school students would no longer have to pass a standardized test in science to graduate from high school, under a rule change pushed by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and approved by the state Board of Education yesterday; lawmakers still must sign off on the change, which would take effect with the class of 2013. Luna said it wasn’t an accurate measure of how students are performing in science/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Should the standardized test in science for graduation be scrapped?

Glowing walls, big ag, and a shady mining company - Thursday news bites

In mid December we brought you the story of ASARCO, the American Smelting and Refining Company LLC, and the bankruptcy reorganization that resulted in $1.79 billion being awarded to fund environmental cleanup and restoration.  Now comes news that, Grupo Mexico, the company that bought ASARCO in 1999 may have “maneuvered Asarco into bankruptcy in an attempt to evade its environmental responsibilities,” this according to the Tacoma News Tribune.  “Grupo Mexico tried to use a bankruptcy court to avoid Asarco’s cleanup responsibilities, and they almost got away with it,” charged Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell. 

Some are calling this a wake-up call for federal regulators and Congress, while others, including Sen. Cantwell, are saying that, “another company almost certainly will try to manipulate the bankruptcy system the way they charge that Grupo Mexico did.”  Read more from the  News Tribune HERE. And we’ll be sure to stay on top of this story. 

Are you ready for light-emitting wallpaper?  In a story that recently appeared in the London Times, a London government body that supports low-carbon technology said light-emitting wallpaper may begin to replace light bults by 2012.  According to the story, “a chemical coating on the walls will illuminate all parts of the room with an even glow, which mimics sunlight and avoids the shadows and glare of conventional bulbs.  Although an electrical current will be used to stimulate the chemicals to produce light, the voltage will be very low and the walls will be safe to touch. Dimmer switches will control brightness, as with traditional lighting.”  We wonder what Thomas Edison would think?  Read more of this story HERE. 

Make sure you’re not eating when you read this: researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs — 28 million pounds — went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it’s 50 percent. “This is a living breathing problem, it’s the big bad wolf and it’s knocking at our door,” said Dr. Vance Fowler, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University. “It’s here. It’s arrived.”  Also arriving is the battle over this issue that is starting to gain steam in D.C.  Lawmakers are fighting for a new law that would ban farmers from feeding antibiotics to their animals unless they’re sick.  And as expected, this move is backed by strong convictions and big money on both sides.  “Chaos will ensue,” said Kansas Republican Congressman Jerry Moran.  Moran is backed by the usual suspects, an array of powerful interests, including the American Farm Bureau, the National Pork Producers Council, Eli Lilly & Co., Bayer AG, Pfizer Inc., Schering-Plough Corp., Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto Company.  Read more of this story HERE. 

Welcome To The Academy Of Sciences




The California Academy Of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is a modern marvel, focusing on sustainability in an interactive way. Here were thousands of visitors from all over the world, checking a climate change exhibit where kids sat at a kiosk and contacted their local representative to request carbon caps and incentives for renewable energy. Visiting from a town where, in the last primary election, only four out of the twelve City Council candidates believed humans impacted climate change, DTE felt like we had stumbled out of a bizarre dimension where hamburgers ate people.

Seriously. At the Carbon Café, you were greeted with “Food is 25 percent of our carbon footprint.” The objective: Pick a breakfast, lunch, dinner menu and then add up your points to see your score and what you could do to lower it. For example, when you ordered a slice of pizza, you earned two points since most dairy comes from industrial farms responsible for emissions. Sorry but add another point for pepperoni.

Wandering outside the climate change exhibit, every water fountain had a conservation tip. One, titled “Pure Drink or Pure Hype” said “plastic bottled water is tested less often and subject to weaker safety standards than tap water.” The museum even knocked off $3 for admission fees if visitors took public transportation.



Innovation Thursday

Because science, technology and innovation are cool, and we’re geeks at heart, enjoy the following videos about market-ready products and services that are designed to save energy, save resources, make our society cleaner and more efficient, and most importantly, get people thinking about the next great green invention or idea.


Another Green Monday

It’s getting close to that time again.

Back to school is upon us and DTE agrees that getting older has its benefits when the yellow bus comes around. However, we are occasionally wistful for our university days. W.B Yeats said “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” and it’s a formative time. We were thrilled that Sierra magazine released a list of “the most-eco-enlightened U.S. colleges” because two-thirds of applicants say a school’s green record would influence their enrollment decision. On the list, University of Washington lands at number two for focusing on local, organic food services and LEED Silver standard for new campus buildings; Evergreen State College has a fleet of electric vehicles and students rallied together for a clean-energy fee, hoping to become waste-free and carbon neutral by 2020. Even our alma matter, Eastern Washington University constructed a new recreation center with LEED Gold Certification for $26.3 million dollars last year, something that would’ve seemed unimaginable during our tenure there. (And Washington State University will actually reinstate Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Sheesh.) This impact on students for smarter, sustainable decisions can not be understated and to see colleges now going green around the country, as Eastern Eagles are quite known for doing, has us literally soaring with pride.

Another Green Monday

The heat was on in Spokane over the weekend and two local events in Brownes Addition, Elkfest and ArtFest, reaped the benefits of Mother Nature’s cooperation.  And of course it didn’t hurt that each of the well-attended events offered a variety of quality entertainment and activities. But there was something about this year’s festivities that seemed more robust.  Maybe it was people’s outpouring sense of excitement that they didn’t have to spend money to travel to experience a scene they can usually only see in Seattle, Portland or San Francisco.  Whatever the case, it reaffirmed our belief that anything worth fighting for is worth fighting for.  Buried somewhere underneath a coating of skepticism, apathy and hesitation Spokane possess the ability to create community, yes, we’re talking about the “C” word.  And it’s worth talking about because community is what you make of it.  Hopefully this weekend, if nothing else, showed that people in Spokane yearn for a vibrant community, and not just in a marketing sort of way, but in a genuine way.  A way that is sustainable so as it keeps people around, and keeps people wanting to work towards improving it.  This summer there will be three races for open Spokane City Council seats -  there is no better time than now to demonstrate what sort of community we envision.  Next year in Brownes, we don’t want to hear people say, “I wish Spokane was like this every weekend.”  Here are some stories you might have missed last week.

“We need leaders who want to invest in cleaning up our river because it’s good for the health of our community.”  So said Spokane Riverkeeper and local attorney Rick Eichstaedt in an op-ed that ran in the Spokesman on Saturday.  Rick, who was just recently named Spokane Riverkeeper, is fast at it in his attempt to raise awareness for river protection and the importance of a healthy, clean Spokane River.  Read Rick’s piece in the Spokesman HERE. 

Friday Quote

Here at DTE we’ve lived by a long-standing credo that says, “the verdict is still out on science.” Albeit we say it very tongue-in-cheek. In fact, we have over the course of 2-plus years doing this blog, become somewhat science geeks. And how can you not when you spend so much time pouring over scientific research, reports, and observations. So it was to our amusement and gratitude that Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, pointed out in the recent issue of Sierra magazine that, “respect for scientific integrity appears to be a hallmark of the new [administration].” As reflected by Obama’s early appointments: marine biologist and former American Academy for the Advancement of Science president Jane Lubchenco to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Nobel laureate Steven Chu to head the Energy Department, and eminent physicist John Holdren as science adviser, to name a few. Pope makes a point by showing what happens when, “science is brought to bear on environmental issues,” by quoting a passage written by John Holdren with coauthor Peter Gleick in 1981…. 1981!!!

“The most important environmental liability of oil as an energy source is probably not air pollution or oil spills but the chance that war will be waged over access to the world’s remaining supplies. The most important environmental liability of coal is not the occupational toll of mining … rather it is the threat of global climate change posed by accumulating atmospheric carbon dioxide… . The most important environmental liability of nuclear fission is neither the routine nor accidental emissions of radioactivity, but the deliberate misuse of nuclear facilities and materials for acts of terrorism and war.”
John Holdren with coauthor Peter Gleick –

Eco Nerds at heart

DTE really admires those who spend little time online. Now that may sound strange coming from us, being that your presence on the internet is essential to our sustainability, but it’s true. It’s been years since we’ve been able to sit down in front of the computer and just check our email, or just check the score of the game.

Each time our fingers touch the keyboard, it’s a chaotic dance of key strokes, mouse clicks and rolls, and new tab and window openings. And just when we thought we’ve exhausted every genre on YouTube (we just got into street performers, awesome!), and every episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – Google unleashes an update to the biggest online time suck of all time – Google Earth.

As The New York Times reports, “the new version of Google Earth allows users to mouse around under and over the seas, click on video clips of hydrothermal vents, read up on which seafoods are being harvested unsustainably, look at marine dead zones and sanctuaries and the like.” But what DTE found most intriguing was the feature that let us scroll back through time for a look at coastal lines and forests of the past for perspective on the human impact of natural resources. Go have fun diving deep into the ocean for a look at old ship wrecks and coral reefs and spend a few minutes considering the impact of humans on natural resources – preferably you. It’s a wild world out there, and Google has it all on your screen.

For a bit of opportune contradiction – DTE has recently switched from Google Search to ecosearch.com. We had our love affair with Blackle, only to learn that we were cheated on, and then came the inevitable revert back to the comfortable Google, where we weren’t safe either. But now we’re happy to announce that we have fired up a monogamous relationship with ecosearch.com- a search engine that plants trees for all the searches that suck up electricity and put off CO2. Using Yahoo search technology, Ecosearch helps reforesting trees and safeguard water resources in the Amazon region.

Another Green Monday

The presidency of Barack Obama is off and running and it was made brutally clear this week that despite recent emotions and energy of unity and hope that we are still a much divided nation.  DTE is only hoping that partisan politics will be able to take a back seat to much needed reform and focus in order to see us through these hard times.  So while our bank accounts might not be growing like we would have hoped - you can always count on something growing.  Here are some stories you might have missed this week.

Bicyclists, speak up.  The City of Spokane Plan Commission is set to make a decision on the city’s Master Bike Plan and they are meeting on February 11 to decide.  Fortunately they have decided to hold the paper record open unti February 6, which means you have until Friday to submit you input (but it has to be there before Friday, not postmarked by Friday).  What is it like for you out there?  What would you like to see Spokane do to promote bicycling and alternative transportation.  Speak now or forever hold you peace (not true, read the Constitution) but seriously - use this opportunity!  If you’re interested, send or bring your letters to:
Pat Hall
Planning Services Department
808 West Spokane Falls Blvd
Spokane, WA 99201

Understanding the science behind sustainability. 
Times are tough in higher education with many local universities cutting programs to save money, but at the University of Idaho, a fascinating new course titled Environmental Psychology is promoting the kind of forward thinking that DTE thinks will help our country focus on a more sustainable future.  The course covers three primary areas: “built environments, or the ways in which buildings change the thoughts, feeling and behaviors of individuals; conservation efforts and attitudes toward sustainability; and understanding how populations respond to crowds, the natural world, and build demographically diverse, fiscally and environmentally sustainable communities.”  “Understanding why people choose to engage in some behaviors rather than others can allow for the creation of programs that promote sustainability even in its broadest senses,” said Traci Craig, associate professor of psychology.  Read more of the U of Idaho press release HERE.

In other University of Idaho news, two U of Idaho scientists are working on refining and improving the quality of climate change maps given the importance of policy decisions related to climate change.  “Given the urgent challenges created by climate change and the importance of maps in climate change research and policy making, the role of map design deserves attention,” said one of the scientists.  Read more of the U of Idaho  press release HERE.


The Beats, Goracle, and flibbertigibbets: A book wish list for 2008

Since the online publication Crosscut apprehensively announced they were switching to a non-profit something has changed for the better: Their site is more frequently updated, with an abundance of top-notch environmental stories. One item that caught our eye: A list of book suggestions from 2008 on the environment, featuring some of DTE’s favorite authors and topics, chosen by Christian Martin.

There’s just too many good ones to pick. Nature’s Beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muir’s Botanical Legacy, and the 600-page monster The Encylopedia or Earth: A Complete Visual Guide are impressive.


American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, edited by Bill McKibben with a foreword by Al Gore. The always dependable McKibben has compiled a remarkable list of authors for this unique collection. Some are celebrated environmentalists—-Walt Whitman, Theodore Roosevelt, Robinson Jeffers, Barbara Kingsolver—-and some less so. We’re fascinated to read what John Steinbeck, Philip K. Dick , Robert Crumb, Alice Walker and many more brilliant and unexpected choices have to say.

But we’re stoked about these two selections.

The Selected Letters of Alan Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, edited by Bill Morgan. The Beats definitely were a formative experience for DTE, an outlandish rite of passage. So it would be fun to go back and read the correspondence of these two influential poets. The journey starts around “Howl” at the Gallery Six reading, and spans four decades as these friends inspiringly correspond on philosophy, hiking, and travels. In other words… the meaning.

Martin has his own thoughts on what this collection says: “In a time when inter-personal communication has devolved into texting, Twitters and emoticons, reading the well-crafted, thoughtful letters of Stegner, Snyder, and Ginsberg feels like a bulwark against transitory chattiness and flibbertigibbets.”

And while we had to look up flibbertigibbets, though not on a cell phone, we say amen to that brother.