MastersConnection 2020
Issue 412 In This Issue January 10th, 2015

Editors Corner

Did you know that Toyota is now releasing more then 5,000 patents, from two decades of developing hydrogen fuel cell technology, for free? I think it's wonderful to see this kind of thing happen because, at least in theory, the more exposure research has, the more likely science and/or technology will advance and something wonderful will come of it. Click here

It would be nice to see technology advance to the point where humans are no-longer dependent on hydro-carbon fuels. In the mean time, you may have noticed the price of gas and/or oil dropping. Apparently, to counter this, major oil traders are booking supertankers to stockpile crude oil at sea while they wait for the price to go back up. Click here

On a different subject, are you aware that you are suppose to wash new clothes before wearing them? Maybe you do know this, but do you know why? If not, we have an article this week that should help answer this question. Click here

That's about it from me for this week.
Have a wonderful week.

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Technology Watch

Toyota is giving away its tech secrets for hydrogen-powered cars
Remember when Tesla released all its intellectual property to the world, for free? As a refresher, Elon Musk decided last June that his company’s patents, having already made Tesla (and him) extravagantly wealthy, could more speedily electrify the global automobile fleet if all car manufacturers and smart people had access to them. Sharing information, like it’s some sort of public good? Hell yeah! Now Toyota is following in Tesla’s tire treads, breathing in the exhaust-free air. In a press event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, the company announced that it’s releasing 5,680 patents from two decades of developing hydrogen fuel cell technology. Wait, pull over for a minute. I know George Dubyuh once used his State of the Confederacy, err Union, speech to get a bunch of starry-eyed techno-optimists psyched on the hydrogen-powered transportation economy.  But didn’t fuel cells officially lose the vehicle-of-the-future competition to electric motors around 2009? Wasn’t hydrogen declared dead?

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Food Watch

USDA refuses to test foods for glyphosate contamination, says pesticides are safe to eat
The American food supply is teeming with deadly pesticides. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), headed by former Monsanto lawyer Tom Vilsack, says people shouldn't worry because pesticides are completely safe to eat! The latest pesticide data released by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) claims that most pesticide contamination on fresh fruit, vegetables, butter, and other food commodities is below the legal tolerance limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Only 23 of the 9,990 food samples tested, says the USDA, showed pesticide residues exceeding the established tolerance levels. Based on this, the agency is now claiming that the food supply doesn't pose a safety concern, and that consumers can eat up without worry. But what the agency isn't divulging is that tolerance levels continually change as a result of corporate lobbying. As more pesticides are needed to grow genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and other unnatural factory foods, more residues remain, thus the need for new limits.

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Australia is so hot even the grapes wear sunscreen
I may not have absorbed a lot of the good advice I got when I was younger (floss every day; sit up straight; don’t make that face or it’ll stick), but I did absorb a lot of one thing: sunscreen. As someone who loathes sunburn but loves being outside, my only real choices were a) wear a lot of sunscreen or b) move to the Pacific Northwest (spoiler: I did both). Faced with the record-breaking heatwaves of a Down Under summer, Australian grape vines are as at-risk as a Urry on an average day at the beach. But while Aussie vintners don’t have the luxury of following me to Cascadia, they CAN take a hint from camp counselors everywhere and liberally apply SPF to their crop. At least one vineyard is doing just that, according to the BBC:
The quality of the vintage depends not only on the sun and the soil, but the temperature. Very hot weather can inflict serious damage, and too much heat can cause the berries to shrivel or suffer sunburn.

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Nature Watch

Seeing Electricity, Hearing Magnetism & Other Sensory Feats
It’s pretty obvious that dogs have sharper ears and cats a keener sense of smell than we do. But as powerful these senses are, they are merely keener versions of the ones we humans possess. The animal kingdom also boast some senses that are arguably more impressive—senses that are far more exotic than our pets’, and that seem unfathomable to the human brain. From electric fields to infrared radiation, here are some of the most bizarre ways animals perceive our world.

Elephants communicate seismically
With their great, big ears, it’s no surprise that elephants have an especially keen sense of hearing. What’s less expected is that some of their sonic communication goes not through the air but through the ground. Elephants can make very low-frequency vocalizations—too low for the human ear to catch—that vibrate through soil for miles. In one experiment, Stanford biologist Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell transmitted recorded “danger” calls through the ground to a group of elephants, who immediately starting acting nervously. But they didn’t react to gibberish ground rumblings that she produced.

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Triad Theater
Calendar of Events

Jan 10th @ 7pm & 11th @ 4pm: The Immortalists
2 scientists finding immortality even if it kills them.

Jan 15th @ 7pm: POETS of Yelmshire
With Mind Mason and Mike Apau. Poetry readings by the fireside.

Jan 15th: George Sharpe, Director of Visitor Convention Bureau
Time TBA

Jan 23rd @ 7pm: Independent Music Showcase

Jan 24th @ 6pm: Conversations with Miceal

Jan 31st @ 10am: John Hogue

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In The News

Major oil traders book tankers for stockpiling crude at sea
A continuous fall in global oil prices has prompted major oil traders to start hiring supertankers as they can benefit from stockpiling crude oil at sea. The oil giant Shell and energy traders Trafigura and Vitol have booked crude tankers for up to 12 months, said Reuters, referring to the fixture lists provided by tanker brokers and oil traders. Traders reportedly use the vessels to store excess crude at sea until prices stabilize as in 2009, when more than 100 million barrels were stockpiled this way. Then the news caused outrage over oil “speculators” supposedly waiting to sell oil at higher prices in future. Shell has reportedly booked two vessels, and Vitol, the world's largest independent oil trader, has booked the TI Oceania Ultra Large Crude Carrier, one of the biggest ocean going vessels with a three million barrel capacity. The move can be explained by the market phenomenon known as “contango”, when spot or current prices fall below the cost of future shipment. It has happened for the first time since 2009 as spot prices fell by more than 50 percent in the last six months. This gives traders more reason to buy oil now, store it in tanks and benefit when demand recovers.

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Earth Watch

Fracking is definitely causing earthquakes, another study confirms
Yet another study has found a link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes. This one examined 77 minor quakes near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
The sequence of seismic events, including a rare “felt” quake of a magnitude 3.0 on the Richter scale, was caused by active “fracking” on two nearby Hilcorp Energy Co. well pads, according to the research published online (Tuesday) in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. The study found that although it is rare for fracking associated with shale gas extraction to cause earthquakes large enough to be felt on the surface by humans, seismic monitoring advances have found the number of “felt and unfelt” earthquakes associated with fracking have increased over the past 10 years.
Studies have found that it’s not just the actual drilling and extraction that causes the earthquakes; more often, the routine practice of injecting fracking wastewater into deep disposal wells is to blame. Once the toxic mix of water, sand, and chemicals is underground, it can travel for miles, changing the pressure on fault lines and sometimes triggering earthquakes.

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Something Worth Knowing

These Mailbox Stickers Help You Borrow Stuff You Need
If you like the idea of sharing your stuff, and borrowing stuff your neighbors are willing to share, you’re going to love this new project from Switzerland. It’s called Pumpipumpe, and it works by making it easy for people to put stickers on their mailbox to indicate the goods they’re willing to lend. The idea started when people who had bicycle tire pumps wanted to help out bicyclists who got a flat tire and were stuck without a pump. Since then, it’s expanded into a bigger variety of offerings that include lawn mowers, kitchen scales, children’s toys, clothing, kitchen utensils, power tools, and even Internet access. Though Pumpipumpe is only operating in Switzerland and Germany right now, there’s no reason why you couldn’t adapt the idea in your own community. Here’s how it works. Pumpipumpe has printed up a few dozen small square stickers. Each sticker features an image of a common household item. Users order the stickers online, and get them in the mail. There is no cost for the stickers, but there is a small shipping charge.

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Why You Should Wash Your Clothes Before You Wear Them
As many as 2,000 chemicals may be involved in making the clothes in your closet. They include pesticides, toxic dyes, and formaldehyde — a known carcinogen used as a mildew preventive in the fashion world (and as an embalming agent in the funeral industry). “Many of the chemicals used in manufacturing textiles have hazardous properties,” says Kirsten Brodde, PhD, of the Greenpeace Detox campaign, which is working to spark industrywide change. “Clothing should be toxin-free.” Julietta Rodríguez-Guzmán, MD, of the Pan American Health Organization, warns, “Chemical pollutants in the fabric can be absorbed through the skin, especially when combined with sweat or products such as deodorants, creams, and colognes.” This year, the Norwegian Consumer Council found harmful substances in one out of three children’s garments tested from major clothing chains. One offender is dibutyl phthalate (DBP) — an endocrine-disrupting plasticizer banned in toys but often found in screenprinting inks. It has been linked to cancers, type 2 diabetes,ADHD, fertility issues, and more.

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