Slower boats, cleaner air
"Setting a speed limit for cargo ships sailing near ports and coastlines could cut their emission of air pollutants by up to 70 per cent, a U.S. study says," reports United Press International. David Crocker of the University of California, Riverside, and colleagues say speed-reduction policies would help reduce the impact of marine shipping on Earth's climate and human health. "While marine shipping is the most efficient form of transporting goods with more than 100,000 ships carrying 90 per cent of the world's cargo, the researchers said engines on large cargo vessels burn low-grade oil that produces large amounts of air pollution. Fuel consumption and smokestack emissions increase exponentially with speed, they said."
A taste for the blues
"As a raft of surveys has shown, blue love is a global affair," writes Natalie Angier in The New York Times. "Ask people their favourite colour, and in most parts of the world roughly half will say blue, a figure three to four times the support accorded to common second-place finishers such as purple or green. Just one in six Americans is blue-eyed, but nearly one in two consider blue the prettiest eye colour, which could be why some 50 per cent of tinted contact lenses sold are the kind that make your brown eyes blue."
Heated bicycle paths
Towns in the Netherlands could heat cycle lanes to encourage greater use of bicycles in winter, says Orange Co. U.K., citing a BBC report. "The scheme proposes to use geothermal energy to prevent ice forming on cycle lanes. … The idea has been provisionally costed at the equivalent of [$40,000 to $80,000] per mile. The man behind the proposal, Marcel Boerefijn, said there would be savings from fewer accidents, less salt needed to grit roads and reduced car expenses. Boerefijn said it was possible that the final cost would be less than putting straw down on the paths. Arien de Jong, a spokeswoman for the Dutch Cyclists Union, said: 'We are very excited about the heated paths, because they could prevent so much misery. If cycle lanes are frozen over for four weeks, that results in about 7,000 more accidents involving cyclists.'"
Those darn machine guns
Virginia, says Pacific Standard magazine, "leads the nation in ownership of legally purchased, registered machine guns, the Roanoke Times reports. Some 30,200 fully automatic weapons are in the hands of the state's eight million people – a total higher than any other state, including second- and third-place holders Florida and California, which both have far larger populations. Not that local law enforcement are particularly concerned. 'Why do we have so darn many in Virginia? Who knows?' [said] Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police."
Little Miss Mozart
"Most children of her age would struggle to sit through an opera," writes John Stevens of The Daily Mail. "But at just seven years old, Alma Deutscher has already composed her own. The talented youngster has become a classical music sensation after her first major composition was highly commended by the English National Opera. And not only is Alma an accomplished composer, she is also a skilled violinist and pianist. … Alma wrote her own sonata at the age of 6, followed by her opera, The Sweeper of Dreams, this year. She said: 'The music comes to me when I'm relaxing. I go and sit down on a seat or lie down. I like thinking about fairies a lot, and princesses, and beautiful dresses.' She added that her best compositions are created when she is on the swing in the garden at her home in Dorking, Surrey."
Thought du jour
The desire of acquiring the comforts of the world haunts the imagination of the poor, and the dread of losing them that of the rich.
Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinker (1805-59)