Sea Shepherd Helps Whales Survive

Japan’s notorious killing spree of whales has been challenged by Sea Shepherd for years and this past year Sea Shepherd literally saved whales.

Japan’s whaling ships have returned from the Southern Ocean with their smallest catch in years, prompting the fleet’s leader to blame harassment by the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group for the shortfall.

The Nisshin Maru, the fleet’s mother ship, returned to Tokyo harbour yesterday with just 507 whales, a little over half the target catch of 935, according to the fisheries agency. The haul of minke whales and a single finback was well down on last year’s catch of 680.

The fleet said Sea Shepherd’s attempts to sabotage the hunt had deprived it of 31 days’ whaling.

The annual confrontation between the two groups reached its height in January with the sinking of Sea Shepherd’s high-tech powerboat, the Ady Gil, after a collision with the Shonan Maru 2 harpoon boat.

Read more at The Guardian.

Iceland and Norway also participate in annual whale killing.

Let us not forget that Bluefin Tuna is endangered and we need to protect them too.

Smoking Bans Decrease Hospitalization

Toronto phased in a ban on smoking starting in 1999 and ending in 2004 and the results are in: banning smoking was (and still is) a good thing.

“It confirms that public policy can make a difference,” said Dr. Alisa Naiman, lead author of the study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences study was the first to look at the effect of anti-smoking legislation on a wide range of smoking-related conditions. It examined three cardiovascular ailments — heart attacks, strokes and angina — and three respiratory ones — asthma, pneumonia and chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Previous studies have focused solely on heart attacks.

Naiman said researchers were surprised by the findings’ consistency — the fact that hospital visits plummeted in much the same way for both cardiovascular and respiratory conditions.

Hospitalization for cardiovascular conditions dropped 39 per cent, including a 17.4 per cent decrease in heart attacks, while hospital visits for respiratory conditions fell by 33 per cent.

Read more at The Star.

Why Finnish Schools Always Finish First

Education is a very important part of any good society and a good equational system makes for a better world. In Finland, they have found a way to have a relaxing, effective, and the world’s best educational environment. The BBC has an article with some videos (which I can’t embed here) on the awesomeness of Finnish schools.

The Finnish philosophy with education is that everyone has something to contribute and those who struggle in certain subjects should not be left behind.

A tactic used in virtually every lesson is the provision of an additional teacher who helps those who struggle in a particular subject. But the pupils are all kept in the same classroom, regardless of their ability in that particular subject.

Read and watch more here.

Origami Solar Cells from MIT

Those ever smart people at MIT are using origami to model solar cells to make them more efficient. The greater the surface area the more sunlight can be absorbed and used, check out these crazy creations:

Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), was inspired by the way trees spread their leaves to capture sunlight and wondered how efficient a three-dimensional shape covered in solar cells could be, and what its optimal shape would look like. He worked with a second-year DMSE graduate student, Marco Bernardi, to create a computer program that mimics biological evolution, starting with basic shapes and letting them evolve, changing slightly each time and selecting those that perform best to start the next generation. He found that such systems could produce relatively constant power throughout the day without the need for tracking, and produce significantly more power overall for a given area — for example two and a half times as much as a flat array when the height equals the length and width. He is continuing to work on finding the best shapes and teaming up with Professors Vladimir Bulović and David Perreault (EECS) to build a prototype system. The team believes that solar panels based on this concept could be shipped flat and then unfolded at the site to their complex shapes.

From MIT.

BOB Powers Texas Town

It’s true everything is bigger in Texas from trucks to people to batteries. A relatively small town in Texas is using a battery the size of a house for energy storage and transmission. It’s hoped that batteries like the Texas one can be used to store energy from more sustainable sources during high production periods for use later (capture solar during the day and store it for night).

BOB, short for “Big-Old Battery,” began charging up this week. The giant sodium sulfur powerhouse, which is literally the size of a house, can store four megawatts of power for up to eight hours. Before BOB came online, a single, 60-year-old transmission line was the only thing connecting Presidio to the grid. The town frequently experienced power outages. BOB serves as a much-needed back-up plan, and it holds enough power to generate electricity for the whole town.

Read more and get some pictures from Inhabitat

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