Durable Human (2 book series)

Yearly Archives: 2010

Playing it Safe with Cell Phones

I’ve been skeptical about reports that body contact with cell phones can cause problems, but a strange sensation and a new book have changed my attitude. I first noticed the whooshing sound in my right ear after I spent a few days in October visiting my parents.

I’d talked a half hour or so each night with my husband, the phone nestled between my ear and a pillow. I took a decongestant to see if it was a sinus problem, but the strange sound has continued since I’ve been home: when it’s quiet, I can hear the blood pulsing on the right side of my head.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across a review in the Washington Post. A new book claims there is definitive proof that radiation from cell phones, cordless phones and even blue tooth devices can be harmful over time. In Disconnect, author and epidemiologist Devra Davis reviews four decades of research, explaining complicated technical concepts in clear and simple language.

She concludes there are enough disturbing findings and unanswered questions that we should actually pay attention to the warnings manufacturers stuff into the box with their wireless products – not to press them directly onto the body.   Continue reading

Crowd Control in Washington, D.C.: Taming a Human Hurricane

View from inside the rally

Technology can come to the rescue at D.C. events such as the October 30 Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Sanity rally – where huge crowds fueled by social media come together in a real place.

That’s according to Curt Westerphal of Digital Design & Imaging Service Inc., also known as AirPhotosLIVE.com. The Falls Church, Virginia firm was hired by CBS News to count heads at both the Comedy Central and Glenn Beck rallies. Curt got in touch after reading my Sanity rally followup in the Washington Post.

From a balloon tethered high above the Air and Space Museum, AirPhotosLIVE took pictures with an array of high-resolution cameras, combining the images with photos taken from atop the Washington Monument and a GeoEye satellite. In the same way a person looks down on a busy ant hill, these sophisticated eyes in the sky watch how people swarm and surge.  Stunning photography and 3-D views of the Sanity rally can be seen on the Photosynth website.  Continue reading

Social Media and The Stewart Colbert Rally

View from inside the rally

Chalk it up to Reddit, Facebook and Fark for packing them in at the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Rally on October 30. That so many people heeded the digital drumbeat so quickly is a loud wakeup call for D.C. event planners, as I pointed out in The Washington Post.

It paid that day to be a local. Heading out two hours before the rally, my cousin and I planned to take the subway, but when we saw the line, kept driving – to a parking space at her office eight blocks from the Mall. Our luck held when, walking toward the entrance, we spied people stepping through a break in the fence and slipped in behind them.

We were one jumbotron back from the stage. The crowd was blissful, but standing up and packed in like sardines. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, but looking around, I couldn’t help but worry: what if something spooked the crowd? The city was not prepared. Continue reading

Recycling Rocks the Empire State Building

As of last week, all the windows in the Empire State Building have been replaced…using the existing glass…repurposed right on site.  Please excuse the ellipses, but this is really exciting.

As Kevin Surace of Serious Materials tells it — Tony Malkin, owner of the New York City landmark, wanted to save money on his energy bills, but didn’t want to waste his existing glass and Kevin said, “I can do that.”

So there, in a temporary shop on the fifth floor, Kevin’s crew remade each of the building’s 6,500 windows, crafting them into a new product which is 400% more efficient than what was there before.

The windows are part of an energy-efficiency retrofit that will achieve the astounding feat of making the Empire State greener than 90% of other office buildings. Tony expects it will save him $4.4 million a year.

Kevin Surace is a game-changer. He’s one of those rare individuals who give humans a good name because they’re so darn smart – not just in book learning (his degree is in Electrical Engineering Technology), but about how to influence other people to do what’s best for humanity at large. Continue reading

Depending on The Potomac

The Great Falls of the Potomac River

Water from the Potomac River supplies the entire Washington, DC area

If you live near the Nation’s Capital and don’t care whether the Potomac River runs dry, prepare to get very thirsty. That’s because the water for every person, business and industry in the area comes from that single source.

Every day, a small number of intake dams near northern Virginia’s Great Falls National Park suck 400 million cubic gallons of water from the river.  But, if we aren’t careful, the thundering falls could go silent. Continue reading

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