WEIRD SCIENCE: My last article featured a “Bluff the Reader” challenge to find which of three seemingly ridiculous scientific efforts was, in fact, under way in response to climate change. One of these was to genetically engineer the human body to make it smaller (less resource consumption) and another approach was to create drugs that would make people allergic to meat (again, less resource consumption).
I suppose I should have pointed out that these are not experiments currently being conducted in a laboratory; they were proposed by a team of bioethicists and philosophers unburdened by actually trying to execute the proposals.
However, a recent magazine article reported on two trends among tick populations. One, ticks, and tick-borne diseases, are taking advantage of a warming climate by moving into areas where they were not previously found. Two, and you might want to sit down for this one: Researchers from the University of Virginia claim that people bitten by the Lone Star tick can become allergic to meat. The article says this phenomenon has been documented in 1,500 people so far (including author John Grisham) and victims can break out in hives or go into anaphylactic shock.
To be clear, thus far scientists have not found a direct link between the ticks and conversion of meat eaters to vegetarianism, but nine out of 10 people who develop the meat allergy have a history of tick bites.
One might conclude from its name that the tick comes from Texas. It is found there, but it’s widespread east of the Rockies and takes its name from the white spot on its back. I’m not sure if it adds to or subtracts from the validity of this strange claim, but it has also been reported on both CNN and ABC News.
WIND ON A SMALL FARM: I also wrote recently about wind energy in Yolo County, and a reader emailed to ask if I knew anything about the wind turbine on County Road 99 about a half-mile north of town. The column pointed out that many turbines on wind farms can be huge and the blades slicing through the air can be loud and disruptive and this local design might be less noisy.
So I went and looked. I’ve lived in this town for more than 30 years and I’m still amazed at how many interesting people and places there are that I’ve not met or seen. Tom (a surgeon at Sutter) and Diane (who raises and trains Section B Welsh ponies) live with their two golden retrievers, Ice and Cream, on the site of the old Sutter hospital. (You’ve been in town a while if you remember that building.)
Diane operates Toile Farms, including a barn, an arena and other facilities for the ponies. They’ve installed solar panels to produce electricity for both their home and horse farm buildings but have also installed a Chinese-built, very low-noise, vertical-axis wind turbine. The turbine is difficult to describe.
Think of a cylinder (like a tin can) on a pole, except that the cylinder consists of five equally spaced vertical “blades.” The whole thing, pole included, is only about 35 feet tall. Click on this link to see what it looks like (http://saffehanda.en.made-in-china.com/productimage/obJQPpWOXXYK-2f0j00iBOTPHrCZszM/China-Vertical-Axis-Wind-Turbine-SFV-300W-.html) or try gazing north from Covell Boulevard on a windy (or just breezy) day.
MORE ON AIR TRAVEL: I’m still digesting the reader response from my article about how we resolve the conflict between the need to travel and the enormous amount of greenhouse gases produced by flying. Folks had a lot to say about that, and I’ll get to more of it in a later column.
But, for now, I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman who has two homes; one in Davis, the other in New Zealand. He works as a consultant to agencies interested in alternative transportation. Clearly, one person using energy to travel to build projects that might enable thousands or tens of thousands of persons to use less energy is a good thing. It doesn’t apply to all of us, though so I’m still thinking about the dilemma.
But, what really stood out to me in our conversation was the news that this person, John, is the only person I know or have heard of who rides his bike to and from the airport, complete with suit and briefcase, when he travels by air. He says it’s an easy ride of 17 miles in 1.5 hours. And he uses a dynamo for a bike light — no batteries.
That a person so careful about his energy use would still be worried about his air miles is impressive. To my astonishment, the airport even has designated bike parking, for free. He says he gets honked at by motorists while crossing the bridge over Interstate 5 but other than that he doesn’t feel he is in any danger.
SPEAKING OF BIKE SAFETY: It turns out that, unbeknownst to either of us at the time, we were both at a recent talk by an expert in street design who mentioned, among many other things, that kids in school in Holland are required to take training on how to ride a bicycle safely. They also wear helmets, which is good if you crash, but knowing how to avoid crashes in the first place seems quite useful.
— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis; his column is published on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Send comments to [email protected]