- It’s about damn time: Fairfax “County will officially rename L** and L**-J*cks*n Memorial highways next month.”
- Jacob Fenston on the current moderate drought condition in the DMV.
- Team develops autonomous robot to stave off spotted lanternflies. I wish that phys.org didn’t have to finance itself with skeevy ads.
- Benj Edwards bought an encyclopedia that doesn’t require Wi-Fi or USB.
- Adverse effects on South American farmers of pesticides used on coffee grown in the sun: “skin disorders, respiratory problems, to high blood pressure, organ damage, cancer and cardiovascular disease.” Elsewhere, In Hawaiʻi, trials are underway to control Coffee Berry Borer with a parasitic wasp, Phymastichus coffea.
- Tasty. Might tempt me back to eating beef: Rachel Leah Blumenthal discloses “The Mysterious Origins of Steak Tips, a Uniquely New England Dish.”
- Missy Dunaway paints the birds of Shakespeare, including the unloved Eurasian Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). She explains Hotspur’s joke, and pulls in Fugate and Miller’s debunking of the Central Park urban legend.
- Grace Abels asks, “Can ChatGPT fact-check?” “While sometimes reaching accurate conclusions, ChatGPT struggled to give consistent answers, and sometimes was just plain wrong.”
- Beautiful small pleasures, One: Tap dancing in the New York subway. “The notes that you’re not playing also have just as much importance as the notes you do play.”
- Beautiful, small pleasures, Two: David Greer tastes a wild strawberry. Epicureans vs. Stoics. 3QD has a problem with crapola ads, too.
Farmers and town-dwellers cope with the collapse of California’s water supply in the Westlands Water District. Great longer form reporting by Dan Charles.
And two pieces about what’s happening with water in the West:
- Luke Runyon checks in with a water district in Colorado that has imposed water taxes on itself, lest the aquifer that it depends on run dry.
- Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow report from Sacramento: New Deal-era water decisions threaten to clobber a massive rework of an aging water distribution network. A map by Sharon Okada, with four different colors to represent stakeholders, lays out how messy this problem is.
Akiko Busch suggests that we learn the names of some of our rivers and other natural features.
The name of the Brazos River in Texas was derived from the Spanish Rio de los Brazos de Dios, meaning the “River of the Arms of God” — what the waterway appeared to be to early settlers in that parched part of the country.
Ed Yong has put together an excellent background piece about the outbreak of Proliferative Kidney Disease that has killed whitefish and threatens trout species. The fish kills led Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to shut down of 183 miles of the Yellowstone River. The coverage elsewhere that I saw simply repeated the FWP statement that a “microscopic parasite” was responsible and left it at that. But Yong did the reading, and used it to describe the peculiar morphology and life cycle of the infectious parasite Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae, a jellyfish relative and one of the myxozoans.
Myxozoans have performed a crazy evolutionary double-back:
In this free-swimming form, they look very jellyfish-like, with identifiable tentacles, mouths, and guts. Perhaps the ancestors of myxozoans went through a similar phase in their evolutionary history, when they were already devoted parasites, but still kept some obvious traces of their cnidarian heritage.
As they evolved further down the parasitic path, they lost these ancestral physical features. They did away with many genes too. “They have the smallest known animal genomes,” says [Paulyn] Cartwright [at the University of Kansas], “and they lack some of the genes that we consider hallmarks of animal development.” For example, the all-important Hox genes, which direct the construction of animal bodies… are simply missing in myxozoans.
An afternoon in Baltimore, visiting an old friend, a new friend, and friends through Leta’s G&S qwert.
My newly-met friend is the Inner Harbor Water Wheel, views fore and aft. The wheel is positioned at the channelized mouth of Jones Falls, where it empties into the harbor. Floating trash and debris, man-caused and otherwise, is steered into the maw of the machine by the booms; trash is lifted and deposited into a dumpster. River currents, augmented by solar panels, power the gizmo. The googly eyes? Because Baltimore.
Drain Lake Powell? Abrahm Lustgarten writes that it could happen, and indeed be for the best.
Drain Lake Powell! That’s one of the provocative suggestions by former head of the Bureau of Reclamation Dan Beard. He makes his case on an episode of Colorado Matters.
State-of-the-art stormwater management—in Los Angeles? Yes, indeedy: Jacques Leslie explains.
I submitted my class report on the Experimental Lakes Area of western Ontario for grading. This was the last paper that I needed to write for my certificate!
Brian Hayes meets Stanley Crawford and gets to know the New Mexico acequia system.
The water in an irrigation ditch is a shared resource, like the unfenced common pastures that so famously became so tragic in early-modern England. In fact, the irrigation ditch is even more vulnerable to selfish exploitation than a pasture that’s equally available to all: Those on the upper reaches of the ditch have it within their power to divert all the flow into their own fields, depriving those below. Yet they choose not to do so. What explains their forbearance?
The streetscape in south Texas is dotted with coin-operated water vending machines, like this example from Watermill Express in a convenience store parking lot on U.S. 281 in Pharr. What a great idea! A simple way to cut down on the amount plastic that goes into water bottles!
Now, it’s probably a litle naive for me to be so enthusiastic about a business model that perhaps depends on the unreliable quality and quantity of municipal water supplies in this part of the world. (I found the tap water potable, but some profess to dislike it, seeing as how the lower valley is downstream of several large states.) And providing drinking water for farm laborers working in the hot sun isn’t the same sort of problem as hydrating your kid’s soccer team.
Nevertheless, I wish companies like this well, and I hope that they can expand northward.
I dropped a quarter in the slot, placed my festival-issue water bottle under the spout, and pressed the button. The bottle holds much less than a gallon, so some of my purchase was wasted. The water isn’t chilled, but it’s wet and tasty.
I also saw drive-up ice dispensers around town. And the drive-through espresso huts that you see in the Atlantic Ocean tourist communities are replaced here by Hawaiian ice kiosks.
Via Utne Reader, Samiha Shafy profiles Azzam Alwash, co-founder and director of Nature Iraq, that country’s only environmental organization. The organization’s focus is reclaiming the wetlands at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which were drained and poisoned during Saddam Hussein’s regime for political purposes.
Good special report from The Economist on the state of the world’s fresh water demand and supply. Not surprisingly, the report stresses the point that water is woefully underpriced:
[Chris] Perry, the irrigation economist, says water is typically priced at 10-50% of the costs of operating and maintaining the system, and that in turn is only 10-50% of what water is worth in terms of agricultural productivity. So to bring supply and demand into equilibrium the price would have to rise by 4-100 times.
Unfortunately, water access and pricing is a hot, hot political issue; the report concludes that a mixture of regulation, property rights, pricing, and small-community management (a farmers’ co-op in India’s Andhra Pradesh state is visited) may be the only way to go. One thinks of the acequias of the American Southwest as described by Stanley Crawford in The River in Winter and Mayordomo.