Technology

TRENDING IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

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TRENDING IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

 

What is information technology about?

What are some of the latest trends in information technology?

New-Information-technology-newsThe current world is techno-centric more than ever. The rapidly expanding information sector has left a huge disparity between where the world is heading and the approaches businesses are employing to run their operations. The challenges to businesses are therefore phenomenal especially considering the fact the IT industry is undergoing a tectonic shift in technology. Different aspects of the computing landscape are changing at the same time including communication, delivery platforms and collaboration channels. With the information technology sector, technological innovations are short-lived as they are frequently changing with time. Nothing lasts forever.

Information technology (IT) is the application of computers and telecommunications equipment to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data, often in the context of a business or other enterprise. The term is commonly used as a synonym for computers and computer networks, but it also encompasses other information distribution technologies such as television and telephones. Several industries are associated with information technology, including computer hardware, software, electronics, semiconductors, internet, telecom equipment, e-commerce and computer services.

Humans have been storing, retrieving, manipulating and communicating information since the Sumerians in Mesopotamia developed writing around3000 BC, but the term information technology in its modern sense first appeared in a 1958.   This term consists of three categories: techniques for processing, the application of statistical and mathematical methods to decision-making, and the simulation of higher-order thinking through computer programs.

Devices have been used to aid computation for thousands of years, probably initially in the form of a tally stick. The Antikythera mechanism is considered to be the earliest known mechanical analog computer, and the earliest known geared mechanism. Comparable geared devices did not emerge in Europe until the 16th century, and it was not until 1645 that the first mechanical calculator capable of performing the four basic arithmetical operations was developed.

Electronic computers, using either relays or valves, began to appear in the early 1940s. The electromechanical Zuse Z3, completed in 1941, was the world’s first programmable computer, and by modern standards one of the first machines that could be considered a complete computing machine. Colossus, developed during the Second World War to decrypt German messages was the first electronic digital computer. Although it was programmable, it was not general-purpose, being designed to perform only a single task. It also lacked the ability to store its program in memory; programming was carried out using plugs and switches to alter the internal wiring

The development of transistors in the late 1940s at Bell Laboratories allowed a new generation of computers to be designed with greatly reduced power consumption. The first commercially available stored-program computer, the Ferranti Mark I, contained 4050 valves and had a power consumption of 25 kilowatts. By comparison the first transistorized computer, developed at the University of Manchester and operational by November 1953, consumed only 150 watts in its final version.   Early electronic computers such as Colossus made use of punched tape, a long strip of paper on which data was represented by a series of holes, a technology now obsolete. Electronic data storage, which is used in modern computers, dates from the Second World War, when a form of delayed line memory was developed to remove the clutter from radar signals, the first practical application of which was the mercury delay line. The first random-access digital storage device was the Williams tube, based on a standard cathode ray tube, but the information stored in it and delay line memory was volatile in that it had to be continuously refreshed, and thus was lost once power was removed.

IBM introduced the first hard disk drive in 1956, as a component of their 305 RAMAC computer system. Most digital data today is still stored magnetically on hard disks, or optically on media such as CD-ROMS. Until 2002 most information was stored on analog devices, but that year digital storage capacity exceeded analog for the first time. As of 2007 almost 94% of the data stored worldwide was held digitally: 52% on hard disks, 28% on optical devices and 11% on digital magnetic tape. It has been estimated that the worldwide capacity to store information on electronic devices grew from less than 3 exabytes in 1986 to 295 exabytes in 2007, doubling roughly every 3 years.

Database management systems emerged in the 1960s to address the problem of storing and retrieving large amounts of data accurately and quickly. One of the earliest such systems was IBM’s Information Management System (IMS), which is still widely deployed more than 40 years later, IMS stores data hierarchically. The first commercially available relational database management system (RDBMS) was available from Oracle in 1980.

All database management systems consist of a number of components that together allow the data they store to be accessed simultaneously by many users while maintaining its integrity. A characteristic of all databases is that the structure of the data they contain is defined and stored separately from the data itself, in a database schema.

The terms “data” and “information” are not synonymous. Anything stored is data, but it only becomes information when it is organized and presented meaningfully. Most of the world’s digital data is unstructured, and stored in a variety of different physical formats even within a single organization. Data warehouses began to be developed in the 1980s to integrate these disparate stores. They typically contain data extracted from various sources, including external sources such as the Internet, organized in such a way as to facilitate decision support systems (DSS).

Data transmission has three aspects: transmission, propagation, and reception. It can be broadly categorized as broadcasting, in which information is transmitted uni-directionally downstream, or telecommunications, with bidirectional upstream and downstream channels.

XML has been increasingly employed as a means of data interchange since the early 2000s, particularly for machine-oriented interactions such as those involved in web-oriented protocols such as SOAP, describing “data-in-transit rather than data-at-rest”. One of the challenges of such usage is converting data from relational databases into XML Document Object Model (DOM) structures.

Massive amounts of data are stored worldwide every day, but unless it can be analyzed and presented effectively it essentially resides in what have been called data tombs: “data archives that are seldom visited”. To address that issue, the field of data mining – “the process of discovering interesting patterns and knowledge from large amounts of data” – emerged in the late 1980s.

In an academic context, the Association for Computing Machinery defines IT as “undergraduate degree programs that prepare students to meet the computer technology needs of business, government, healthcare, schools, and other kinds of organizations IT specialists assume responsibility for selecting hardware and software products appropriate for an organization, integrating those products with organizational needs and infrastructure, and installing, customizing, and maintaining those applications for the organization’s computer users.”

In a business context, information technology has been defined as “the study, design, development, application, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems”. The responsibilities of those working in the field include network administration, software development and installation, and the planning and management of an organization’s technology life cycle, by which hardware and software are maintained, upgraded and replaced.   The business value of information technology lies in the automation of business processes, provision of information for decision making, connecting businesses with their customers, and the provision of productivity tools to increase efficiency.

So what are the latest trends in information technology? Next generation mobile devices and mobile apps: They are the smart phones and tablets. The different varieties of smart mobile devices incorporate mobile applications such as iOS, Androids, Symbian OS, webos, Windows Phone and the Blackberry OS/QNX. Their usage is already increasing globally and is quickly replacing traditional handsets. The next generation mobile devices are slowly gaining momentum with the sale of PCs. Within a few years’ time, the sales will have leveled. Mobile applications are increasingly being used in marketing strategies such as mobile affiliate marketing.

social_media_businessSocial media – The world is increasingly using social networking sites to stay in touch and communicate. The focus of enterprise marketing has now shifted to the use of social media for promotion of products and services. Organizations are now becoming social enterprises. Social media has provided a platform for business to directly access a global audience. Businesses are employing social media marketing due to its affordability compared to traditional marketing strategies. Social network is quickly shaping the direction of society and business.

the-cloudCloud computing – It is certainly one of the most sophisticated of the latest trends in information technology. Cloud computing provides services such as software, computation, data access and storage services without the end- user knowing the knowledge of the physical location and the configuration of the system that provides the service. It is especially effective in cutting running costs for business for data storage and other operation costs. Data- centers are now being down- sized to pave way for cloud storage. Cloud computing also has in- built scalability and elasticity features which can efficiently guide the growth of businesses.

Spreadsheet data greenConsumerization of Information Technology – Technological innovation is actually driven by the consumer world. More mobile applications are increasingly being built for the purpose of mobile users but not for the replacement of computer applications. The days of monolithic suits are slowly fading away and are being taken over by applications meant specifically for mobile tablets and smart phones.

Big data/ analytics and patterns – As companies continue to drown in unstructured data which they hardly access; p1innovations like the SLDF are being incorporated in order to manage data. There are different kinds of SLDF which include waterfall and the Agile Development Methodology. Some of the features of ADM include continuous integration of data, pair programming, offering spike solutions and refactoring. The waterfall is more traditional but is being fast replaced by the Agile Development Methodology systems. Other effective systems of data management include technologies such as in- line duplication, flash or solid- state drives and automated tiering of data.

Resource management – Servers are being virtualized which benefits businesses in reducing work load management. resource-managementData centers are moving towards smaller sizes but with greater density for data storage, i.e. creation of infinite data centers. Virtualization enables the improvement of vertically scale data centers. Its use optimizes server performance hence creating more floor space and saving on energy. New scripting languages: They include Java and .NET. Some of the features and benefits of .NET include a fast turnaround time, a simpler AJAX implementation, and a single framework that handles a variety of operations. There is therefore no need for multiple frameworks from different vendors in order to perform different functionalities. It is also better funded thus, enabling new features to come out at the fastest pace possible. Some of the features integrated into the platform include LINQ, AJAX, the Unit Testing Framework, Performance Profiler, and Client Side Reporting among various other features. Java is quite similar to .NET in features and benefits.

Fabrics – This is the vertical integration of server systems, network and storage systems along with components that haveboxes plugged to server element- level management software which lays the foundation that can optimize shared data resources effectively and dynamically. Systems that are incorporating this feature are Cisco and HP which use it to unify network control.

 

 

 Kathy Kiefer

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COSMOLOGY

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COSMOLOGY

Cosmology is the study of the cosmos, as well as the study of the origin, evolution, and eventual fate of the universe.    All cosmologies have in common an attempt to understand the implicit order within the whole of being. In this way, most religions and philosophical systems have a cosmology.

Physical cosmology is the scholarly and scientific study of the origin, evolution, large-scale structures and dynamics, and ultimate fate of the universe, as well as the scientific laws that govern these realities.  Religious cosmology (or mythological cosmology) is a body of beliefs based on the historical, mythological, religious, and literature and traditions of creation and eschatology.

Physical cosmology is studied by scientists, such as astronomers and theoretical physicists; and academic philosophers, such as metaphysicians, philosophers of physics and philosophers of space and time.   Modern cosmology is dominated by the Big Bang theory, which attempts to bring together observational astronomy and particle physics

Although the word cosmology is recent, the study of the universe has a long history involving science, philosophy, esotericism and religion.  Related studies include cosmogony, which focuses on the origin of the Universe, and cosmography, which maps the features of the Universe. Cosmology is also connected to astronomy, but while the former is concerned with the Universe as a whole, the latter deals with individual celestial objects.

Physics and astrophysics have played a central role in shaping the understanding of the universe through scientific observation and experiment. What is known as physical cosmology has been shaped through both mathematics and observation in an analysis of the whole universe. The universe is generally understood to have begun with the Big Bang,  followed almost instantaneously by cosmic inflation; an expansion of space from which the universe is thought to have emerged  13.798 plus or minus 0.037 billion years  ago.

Metaphysical cosmology has also been described as the placing of man in the universe in relationship to all other entities. This is exemplified by the observation made by Marcus Aurelius of a man’s place in that relationship: “He who does not know what the world is does not know where he is, and he who does not know for what purpose the world exists, does not know who he is, nor what the world is.”

Physical cosmology is the branch of physics and astrophysics that deals with the study of the physical origins and evolution of the Universe. It also includes the study of the nature of the Universe on its very largest scales. In its earliest form it was what is now known as celestial mechanics, the study of the heavens.  The Greek philosophers Aristarchus of Samos, Aristotle and Ptolemy proposed different cosmological theories.  In particular, the geocentric Ptolemaic system was the accepted theory to explain the motion of the heavens until Nicolaus Copernicus, and subsequently Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei proposed a heliocentric system in the 16th century.   This is known as one of the most famous examples of epistemological rupture in physical cosmology.

With Isaac Newton, and the 1687 publication of Principia Mathematica, the problem of the motion of the heavens was finally solved. Newton provided a physical mechanism for Kepler’s laws and his law of universal gravitation allowed the anomalies in previous systems, caused by gravitational interaction between the planets, to be resolved. A fundamental difference between Newton’s cosmology and those preceding it was the Copernican principle that the bodies on earth obey the same physical laws as all the celestial bodies. This was a crucial philosophical advance in physical cosmology.

Modern scientific cosmology is usually considered to have begun in 1917 with Albert Einstein’s publication of his final modification of general relativity in the paper “Cosmological Considerations of the General Theory of Relativity” (although this paper was not widely available outside of Germany until the end of World War I).   General relativity prompted cosmogonists explored the astronomical consequences of the theory, which enhanced the growing ability of astronomers to study very distant objects.   Prior to this (and for some time afterwards), physicists assumed that the Universe was static and unchanging.

In parallel to this dynamic approach to cosmology, one long-standing debate about the structure of the cosmos was coming to a climax.   A Mount Wilson astronomer had championed the model of a cosmos made up of the Milky Way star system only; while there were arguments for the idea that spiral nebulae were star systems in their own right – island universes. This difference of ideas came to a climax with the organization of the Great Debate at the meeting of the (US) National Academy of Sciences in Washington in April 1920. The resolution of this debate came with the detection of novae in the Andromeda galaxy by Edwin Hubble in 1923 and 1924. Their distance established spiral nebulae well beyond the edge of the Milky Way.

Subsequent modelling of the universe explored the possibility that the cosmological constant, introduced by Einstein in his 1917 paper, may result in an expanding universe, depending on its value. Thus the Big Bang model was proposed by the Belgian priest Georges Lemaitre in 1927 which was subsequently corroborated by Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the red shift in 1929 and later by the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964. These findings were a first step to rule out some of many alternative physical cosmologies.

Recent observations made by the COBE and WMAP satellites observing this background radiation have effectively, in many scientists’ eyes, transformed cosmology from a highly speculative science into a predictive science, as these observations matched predictions made by a theory called Cosmic inflation, which is a modification of the standard Big Bang model. This has led many to refer to modern times as the “Golden age of cosmology”.

In March 2014 astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the detection of gravitational waves, providing strong evidence for inflation and the Big Bang.  However, in June 2014, lowered confidence in confirming the cosmic inflation findings was reported.

However, one should not assume that the current scientific conception of cosmology is correct. Although the general picture has remained the same since the 1920s, the specifics are often revised based on new observations and theories. Most notably in the history of cosmology, in 1964 the cosmic microwave background radiation was detected.

Modern cosmology has accumulated massive evidence, such as the cosmic microwave background radiation, that the universe began with a huge explosion known as the Big Bang. This occurred approximately 13.7 billion years ago. Starting from a singularity with zero volume and tremendous mass, the universe was born. Not only was matter ejected into space, but space itself originated with the Big Bang.   Asked on a talk show “what came before the Big Bang”, the legendary physicist Stephen Hawking responded, “What lies north of the North Pole?” indicating that the question was meaningless. However, some physicists consider it likely that our universe is a baby universe of an earlier parent universe.

Our current observable universe is estimated to be about 90 billion light-years in diameter. This is only the observable universe, however, and the entirety of the universe may be much larger, or even infinite. Most physicists working in cosmology also argue that the universe is just one among many, embedded in a larger multiverse.

We find ourselves in a universe capable of sustaining life. Physicists have performed thought experiments where the fundamental physical constants have been modified by tiny increments, and they have concluded that many of these possible sets of physical law would preclude the formation of stable planets or other requirements for life. Rather than suggesting that the universe was fine-tuned by a deity, this indicates that our universe is likely one in a huge ensemble of largely lifeless universes.

Mythological cosmology deals with the world as the totality of space, time and all phenomena. Historically, it has had quite a broad scope, and in many cases was founded in religion. The ancient Greeks did not draw a distinction between this use and their model for the cosmos. However, in modern use it addresses questions about the Universe which are beyond the scope of science. It is distinguished from religious cosmology in that it approaches these questions using philosophical methods.   Modern metaphysical cosmology tries to address questions such as:

  • What is the origin of the Universe? What is its first cause? Is its existence necessary
  • What are the ultimate material components of the Universe?
  • What is the ultimate reason for the existence of the Universe? Does the cosmos have a purpose?
  • Does the existence of consciousness have a purpose? How do we know what we know about the totality of the cosmos? Does cosmological reasoning reveal metaphysical truths?

KATHY KIEFER

 

VIPASSANA MEDITATION

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VIPASSANA MEDITATION

Vipassana in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality

 

In the Theravadin context, this entails insight into the three marks of existence:   (1) the impermanence of and (2) the satisfactoriness; a very conditioned thing that exists, and (3) non-self.    In Mahayana contexts, it entails insight into what is variously described as sunyata, dharmata, the inseparability of appearance and emptiness, clarity and emptiness, or bliss and emptiness.

Vipassana is commonly used as a synonym for vipassanā-meditation, in which satipatthana, four foundations of mindfulness or anapanasati, “mindfulness of breathing,” is used to become aware of the impermanence of everything that exists. Vipassana is commonly used as one of two poles for the categorization of types of Buddhist practice, the other being samatha. Though both terms appear in the Sutta Pitaka, but there are so me that argue that the distinction as two separate paths originates in the earliest interpretations of the Sutta Pitaka, not in the suttas themselves.   Various traditions disagree which techniques belong to which pole.

Samatha is a focusing, pacifying, and calming meditation common to many traditions in the world, notably yoga. According to the contemporary Theravada orthodoxy, samatha is used as a preparation for vipassana, pacifying the mind and strengthening the concentration in order to allow the work of insight, which leads to liberation.

Vipassana-meditation has gained popularity in the west through the modern Buddhist vipassana movement, modeled after Theravada Buddhism meditation practices, which employs vipassana and anapana meditation as its primary techniques and places emphasis on the teachings of the Satipatthana Sutta.   A synonym for “Vipassana” is paccakkha, “before the eyes,” which refers to direct experiential perception. Thus, the type of seeing denoted by “vipassana” is that of direct perception, as opposed to knowledge derived from reasoning or argument.  In Tibetan, vipashyana is lhagthong. The term “lhag” means “higher”, “superior”, “greater”; the term “thong” is “view” or “to see”. So together, lhagthong may be rendered into English as “superior seeing”, “great vision” or “supreme wisdom.” This may be interpreted as a “superior manner of seeing”, and also as “seeing that which is the essential nature.” Its nature is a lucidity—a clarity of mind.

The suttas contain traces of ancient debates about the interpretation of the teachings, and early classifications and hierarchies. Out of these debates developed the idea that bare insight suffices to reach liberation, by bare insight alone in the three marks of existence are dukkha, anatta and anicca.  This is in contradiction with the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, in which the Buddhist path starts with insight, to be followed by practices to cultivate the mind and reach Nirvana.

In the Sthaviravada progress in understanding comes all at once, ‘insight’ does not come ‘gradually’.  The Mahasanghika had the doctrine of ekaksana-citt, “according to which a Buddha knows everything in a single thought-instant”.  The emphasis on insight is also discernible in the Mahayana-tradition, which emphasizes prajana:  The very title of a large corpus of early Mahayana literature, the Prajnaparamita, shows that to some extent the historian may extrapolate the trend to extol insight, prajna, at the expense of dispassion, viraga, and the control of the emotions.

Although Theravada and Mahayana are commonly understood as different streams of Buddhism, their practice too may reflect emphasis on insight as a common denominator:  In practice and understanding Zen is actually very close to the Theravada Forest Tradition even though its language and teachings are heavily influenced by Taoism and Confucianism.    Vipassana meditation differs in the modern Buddhist traditions and in some nonsectarian forms.  It includes any meditation technique that cultivates insight including contemplation, introspection, and observation of bodily sensations, analytic meditation, and observations about lived experience.  Vipassana as practiced in the Theravada centers on mindfulness, including mindfulness of breathing, combined with the contemplation of impermanence.

Mindfulness of breathing is described throughout the Sutta Pitaka. The Satipatthana Sutta describes it as going into the forest and sitting beneath a tree and then to simply watch the breath. If the breath is long, to notice that the breath is long, if the breath is short, to notice that the breath is short.    By observing the breath one becomes aware of the perpetual changes involved in breathing, and the arising and passing away of mindfulness.

One can also be aware of and gain insight into impermanence through the observation of bodily sensations and their nature of arising and passing away. Contemplating on these perpetual changes one becomes aware of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and lack of an inherent, independent essence or self.

The Vipassana  practitioner develops various level of insight and reaches the step where gross bodily sensations/feeling tone dissolve and there is a subtle flow of sensations throughout the body, which is called bhaṅganupassa naṇa, knowledge of dissolution. This is an ongoing process that continues to reveal layer upon layer of mental purification.   The Vipassana yogi experiences increasing cessation of cravings and aversions (fears) strongly founded knowledge of equanimity of all formations.

Similar to the Theravadan approaches Mahayana includes contemplation on Buddhist teachings as well as experiential awareness. The latter is particularly prevalent in East Asian traditions such as Zen.  But in addition and in particular the Mahayana practitioner contemplates the two truths doctrine:  the nature of conventional truth and absolute truth. Through the cultivation of this awareness, one realizes that both self and external phenomena lack an inherent existence and have the nature of emptiness. This is determined by the inferential path of reasoning and direct observation through meditation.The Mahayana also introduced meditation upon visualizations, such as an image of Prajnparamita in female, deity form, as a way to contemplate Buddhist teachings. Each component of the visualization evokes a particular teaching and the practitioner then contemplates using a visual symbolic representation.

The polarity of samatha and vipassana is discernible in the Chinese and Tibetan debates over gradualism or subitism.   Nevertheless, Huineng, sixth patriarch of the Zen, considered the practice cannot be described as gradualistic nor subitist, but implies people with more or less clear minds.

It appears that Indian Mahayana Buddhism employed both deductive investigation and induction investigation in the practice of vipasyana at the level of sutrayana, corresponding respectively to the “contemplative forms” and “experiential forms” in the Theravada school.

The practice tradition suggested by the Treasury is one in which mindfulness of breathing becomes a basis for inductive reasoning on such topics as the five aggregates; as a result of such inductive reasoning, the meditator progresses through the Hearer paths of preparation, seeing, and meditation. It seems at least possible that both Vasubandhu and Asaṅga presented their respective versions of such a method, analogous to but different from modern Theravada insight meditation.  Because the great difference between this type of inductive meditative reasoning based on observations.   It appears that only the tradition of deductive analysis in vipasyana was transmitted to Tibet in thesutrayana context. This tradition is outlined in the Bhavanakrama texts, following in turn an approach described in the Lankavatara Sutra.   One scholar describes his approach thus: “the overall picture painted is that kind of serial alternation between observation and analysis that takes place entirely within the sphere of meditative concentration” in which the analysis portion consists of Madhyamama reasoning’s.

The approach in the sutras is to develop a conceptual understanding of emptiness and gradually refine that understanding through meditation, which eventually produces a direct experience of emptiness we are proceeding from a conceptual understanding produced by analysis and logical inference into a direct experience this takes a great deal of time we are essentially taking inferential reasoning as our method or as the path. There is an alternative  which the Buddha taught in the tantras  the primary difference between the sutra approach and the approach of Vajrayana is that in the sutra approach, we take inferential reasoning as our path and in the Vajrayana approach, we take direct experience as our path.

In general there are two kinds of meditation: the meditation of the paṇḍita who is a scholar and the nonanalytical meditation or direct meditation of the kusulu, or simple yogi. . . the analytical meditation of the paṇḍita occurs when somebody examines and analyzes something thoroughly until a very clear understanding of it is developed. . . The direct, nonanalytical meditation is called kusulu meditation in Sanskrit. This was translated as tromeh in Tibetan, which means “without complication” or being very simple without the analysis and learning of a great scholar. Instead, the mind is relaxed and without applying analysis so it just rests in its nature. In the sūtra tradition, there are some nonanalytic meditations, but mostly this tradition uses analytic meditation.

Mahamudra and Dzogchen use vipasyana extensively. This includes using some methods of the others traditions but also incorporates different approaches. Like the Mahayana they include meditating on symbolic images as contemplations but place a greater emphasis on this form of meditation. Additionally in the Vajrayana path, the true nature of mind is pointed out by the guru and the practitioner practices with that direct experience as a form of vipasyana. Many Kagyupas, consider Mahamudra not-specifically-Tantric a path of direct perception from a general Mahayana path of inferences and a Vajrayana path of blessing.

In the Sūtra path one proceeds by examining and analyzing phenomena, using reasoning. One recognizes that all phenomena lack any true existence and that all appearances are merely interdependently related and are without any inherent nature. They are empty yet apparent, apparent yet empty. The path of Mahāmudrā is different in that one proceeds using the instructions concerning the nature of mind that are given by one’s guru. This is called taking direct perception or direct experiences as the path. The fruition of śamatha is purity of mind, a mind undisturbed by false conception or emotional afflictions. The fruition of vipaayana is knowledge and pure wisdom. Jnana is called the wisdom of nature of phenomena and it comes about through the realization of the true nature of phenomena.

The ways these two aspects of meditation are practiced is that one begins with the practice of shamatha; on the basis of that, it becomes possible to practice vipashyana or lhagthong. Through one’s practice of vipashyana being based on and carried on in the midst of shamatha, one eventually ends up practicing a unification of shamatha and vipashyana. The unification leads to a very clear and direct experience of the nature of all things. This brings one very close to what is called the absolute truth.

Insight, or vipashyana, is extremely important because it can eradicate the mental afflications, whereas tranquility alone cannot. That is why we want to be able to practice tranquility and insight in a unified manner. This unified practice has three steps; first, we practice tranquility; then we practice insight; and then we bring the two together. Doing this will eradicate the cause of samsara (which is mental afflictions), thereby eradicating the result of samsara (which is suffering). For this reason, it is improper to become too attached to the delight or pleasure of tranquility, because tranquility alone is not enough.

KATHY KIEFER

FACEBOOK

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FACEBOOK

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Facebook is an online social networking service.   Its name comes from a colloquialism for the directory given to students at some American universities.   Facebook was founded on February 4, 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow students from Harvard University.   The founders had initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students, but later expanded it to colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University   It gradually added support for students at various other universities before it opened to high-school students, and eventually to anyone aged 13 and over. Facebook now allows anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old to become a registered user of the website.

 Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, exchange messages, and receive automatic notifications when they update their profile. Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups, organized by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics, and categorize their friends into lists such as “People From Work”, “Close Friends”, or Family.  Facebook has over one billion active users, of which 9% are fake.   Facebook has about 180 petabytes of data per year and grows by over half a petabyte every 24 hours.

In May 2005, Accel partners invested $12.7 million in Facebook, and Jim Breyer  added $1 million of his own money. A January 2009  Complete.com study ranked Facebook the most used social networking service by worldwide monthly active users. Entertainment Weekly included the site on its end-of-the-decade “best-of” list, saying, “How on earth did we stalk our exes, remember our co-workers’ birthdays, bug our friends, and play a rousing game of Scrabulous before Facebook?” Facebook is considered the 5th most successful startup company of all time, by market capitalization, revenue, and growth.

Mark Zuckerberg always said Facebook was started not just to be a company, but to fulfill a vision of connecting the world”.

Zuckerberg wrote a program called Facemash on October 28, 2003 while attending  Harvard.  According to The Harvard Crimson, the site was comparable to Hot or Not and “used photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine houses, placing two next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the ‘hotter’ person”.    Facemash attracted 450 visitors and 22,000 photo-views in its first four hours online.

 Zuckerberg expanded on this initial project that semester by creating a social study tool ahead of an art history final. He uploaded 500 Augustan images to a website, and each image was featured with a corresponding comments section.   He shared the site with his classmates and people started sharing notes.

A high-school version of the site was launched in September 2005, which Zuckerberg called the next logical step.   (At the time, high-school networks required an invitation to join.)   Facebook expanded membership eligibility to employees of several companies, including Apple, Inc.  and Microsoft.  On September 26, 2006, Facebook was opened to everyone at least 13 years old with a valid email address.

 In late 2007, Facebook had 100,000 business pages (pages which allowed companies to promote themselves and attract customers). These started as group pages, but a new concept called company pages was planned.

On October 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a total implied value of around $15 billion. Microsoft’s purchase included rights to place international adverts on the social networking site.  In October 2008, Facebook announced that it would set up its international headquarters in Dublin,  Ireland.   In September 2009, Facebook said that it had turned cash-flow positive for the first time.   In November 2010, based on SecondMarket, Inc. (an exchange for privately held companies’ shares), Facebook’s value was $41 billion; it slightly surpassed  eBay’s became the third largest American web company after Google and Amazon.com.

Traffic to Facebook increased steadily after 2009. More people visited Facebook than Google for the week ending March 13, 2010.

In early 2011, Facebook announced plans to move its headquarters to the former Sun Microsystems campus in Menlo Park, California.

Release of statistics by  DoubleClick  showed that Facebook reached one trillion page views in the month of June 2011, making it the most visited website tracked by DoubleClick.    According to the Nielsen Media Research study, released in December 2011, Facebook is the second most accessed website in the US (behind Google).

Kathy Kiefer

ENERGY CONSERVATION

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ENERGY CONSERVATION

Is energy conservation and energy efficiency the same thing?  Or what is different about energy conservation?  Why and how should it impact on my life?  What about the planet?

energy-conservation-techniques1-1Energy conservation means to reduce the quantity of energy that is used for different purposes. This practice may result in increase of financial capital, environmental value, national and personal security, and human comfort.  Energy conservation refers to reducing energy through using less of an energy service. Energy conservation differs from efficient energy use, which refers to using less energy for a constant service. For example, driving less is an example of energy conservation. Driving the same amount with a higher mileage vehicle is an example of energy efficiency. Energy conservation and efficiency are both energy reduction techniques.

Allow me to make one thing clear, Energy efficiency is not energy conservation; energy conservation is reducing or going without a service to save energy.  But both efficiency and conservation help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Even though energy conservation reduces energy services, it can result in increased financial capital, environmental quality, national security and personal financial security.  It is at the top of the sustainable energy hierarchy

Some countries employ energy or carbon taxes to motivate energy users to reduce their consumption. In the book, Green Illusions, carbon taxes can allow consumption to shift to clean power and other alternatives that carry a different set of environmental side effects and limitations. Meanwhile, taxes on all energy consumption stand to reduce energy use across the board, while reducing a broader array of environmental consequences arising from energy production. The State of California employs a tiered energy tax whereby every consumer receives a baseline energy allowance that carries a low tax. As usage increases above that baseline, the tax is increasing drastically. Such programs aim to protect poorer households while creating a larger tax burden for high energy consumers.

One of the primary ways to improve energy conservation in buildings is to use an energy audit.  An energy audit is an inspection and analysis of energy use and flows for energy conservation in a building, process or system to reduce the amount of energy input into the system without negatively affecting the output(s). This is normally accomplished by trained professionals and can be part of some of the national programs discussed above. In addition, recent development of smartphone apps enable homeowners to complete relatively sophisticated energy audits themselves.   Building technologies and smart meters can allow energy users, business and residential, to see graphically the impact their energy use can have in their workplace or homes. Advanced real-time energy metering is able to help people save energy by their actions.

In passive solar building design, windows, walls, and floors are made to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer. This is called passive solar design or climatic design because, unlike active solar heating systems, it doesn’t involve the use of mechanical and electrical devices.   The key to designing a passive solar building is to best take advantage of the local climate.   Elements to be considered include window placement and glazing type, thermal insulation, thermal mass, and shading. Passive solar design techniques can be applied most easily to new buildings, but existing buildings can be retrofitted.

In the United States, suburban infrastructure evolved during an age of relatively easy access to fossil fuels, which has led to transportation-dependent systems of living. Zoning reforms that allow greater urban density as well as designs for walking and bicycling can greatly reduce energy consumed for transportation. The use of telecommuting by major corporations is a significant opportunity to conserve energy, as many Americans now work in service jobs that enable them to work from home instead of commuting to work each day.

Consumers are often poorly informed of the savings of energy efficient products. The research one must put into conserving energy often is too time consuming and costly when there are cheaper products and technology available using today’s fossil fuels. Some governments and NGOs are attempting to reduce this complexity with Eco labels that make differences in energy efficiency easy to research while shopping.    To provide the kind of information and support people need to invest money, time and effort in energy conservation, it is important to understand and link to people’s topical concerns.   For instance, some retailers argue that bright lighting stimulates purchasing. However, health studies have demonstrated that headache, stress, blood pressure, fatigue and worker error all generally increase with the common over-illumination present in many workplace and retail settings.  It has been shown that natural daylighting increases productivity levels of workers, while reducing energy consumption.

The European Union (EU) pledged to cut its annual consumption of primary energy by 20% by 2020.   The ‘European Union Energy Efficiency Action Plan’ is long awaited. As part of the EU’s SAVE Programme, aimed at promoting energy efficiency and encouraging energy-saving behaviour, the Boiler Efficiency Directive specifies minimum levels of efficiency for boilers fired with liquid or gaseous fuels.

Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) is an Indian government body created in 1977 and engaged in promoting energy efficiency and conservation in every walk of life. In the recent past PCRA has done mass media campaigns in television, radio & print media. An impact assessment survey by a third party revealed that due to these mega campaigns by PCRA, overall awareness level have gone up leading to saving of fossil fuels worth crores of rupees (Indian currency) besides reducing pollution.

In Iran, the Iranian Fuel Conservation Company is responsible for promoting energy efficiency and conservation for Fossil fuels. Ahmadinejad’s administration launched the ‘Targeted Subsidies’ initiative primarily to reduce the energy intensity of the nation’s economy.

Since the 1973 oil crisis, energy conservation has been an issue in Japan. All oil based fuel is imported, so indigenous sustainable energy is being developed.  The Energy Conservation Center promotes energy efficiency in every aspect of Japan. Public entities are implementing the efficient use of energy for industries and research.

Sri Lanka currently consumes fossil fuels, hydro power, wind power, wind power, solar power and dendro power for their day to day power generation. The Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority is playing a major role regarding energy management and energy conservation. Today, most of the industries are requested to reduce their energy consumption by using renewable energy sources and optimizing their energy usage.

Despite the vital role energy efficiency is envisaged to play in cost-effectively cutting energy demand, only a small part of its economic potential is exploited in the Asia Pacific. Governments have implemented a range of subsidies such as cash grants, cheap credit, tax exemptions, and co-financing with public-sector funds to encourage a range of energy-efficiency initiatives across several sectors. Governments in the Asia-Pacific region have implemented a range of information provision and labeling programs for buildings, appliances, and the transportation and industrial sectors. Information programs can simply provide data, such as fuel-economy labels, or actively seek to encourage behavioral changes, such as Japan’s Cool Biz program that encourages setting air conditioners at 28-degrees Celsius and allowing employees to dress casually in the summer.

The United States is currently the second largest single consumer of energy, following China.  The United States categorizes national energy use in four broad sectors: transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial.   Energy usage in transportation and residential sectors, about half of U.S. energy consumption, is largely controlled by individual consumers.  Commercial and industrial energy expenditures are determined by businesses entities and other facility managers. National energy policy has a significant effect on energy usage across all four sectors.

In Nigeria, the Lagos State Government is encouraging Lagosians to imbibe an energy conservation culture. The government is spearheading an initiative tagged “Conserve Energy, Save Money” under the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. The initiative is designed to sensitize Lagosians around the theme of energy conservation by connecting with and influencing their behavior through do it yourself tips and exciting interaction with prominent personalities. To get Lagosians started on energy conservation, Solar Lamps and Phillips Energy-saving bulbs were given out at each experience center.

Individuals and organizations that are direct consumers of energy may want to conserve energy in order to reduce energy costs and promote economic, political and environmental sustainability.  Industrial and commercial users may want to increase efficiency and thus maximize profit.   On a larger scale, energy conservation is an important element of energy policy.  In general, energy conservation reduces the energy consumption and energy demand per capita. This reduces the rise in energy costs, and can reduce the need for new power plants, and energy imports. The reduced energy demand can provide more flexibility in choosing the most preferred methods of energy production.

By reducing emissions, energy conservation is an important method to prevent climate change. Energy conservation makes it easier to replace non-renewable resources with renewable energy.  Energy conservation is often the most economical solution to energy shortages.

The United States is currently the largest consumer of energy, although there are a lot of current levels of growth, it is possible that in the future China could become the leading energy consumer. The U.S. Department of Energy categorizes national energy use in four broad sectors: transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial.

 The transportation sector includes all vehicles used for personal or freight transportation. Of the energy used in this sector, approximately 65% is consumed by gasoline-powered vehicles, primarily personally owned. Diesel-powered transport (trains, merchant ships, heavy trucks, etc.) consumes about 20%, and air traffic consumes most of the remaining 15%.   Another focus in gasoline conservation is reducing the number of miles driven. An estimated 40% of American automobile use is associated with daily commuting.  Many urban areas offer subsidized public transportation to reduce commuting traffic, and encourage carpooling by providing designated high-occupancy vehicle lanes and lower tolls for cars with multiple riders.  A vehicle’s gas mileage normally decreases rapidly at speeds above 55 miles per hour. A car or truck moving at 55 miles an hour can get about 15 percent better fuel economy than the same car going 65 mph. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, as a rule of thumb, each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is similar to paying an additional $0.21 per gallon for gas (about $3.00 per gallon).

The residential sector refers to all private residences, including single-family homes, apartments, manufactured homes and dormitories. Energy use in this sector varies significantly across the country, due to regional climate differences and different regulation. On average, about half of the energy used in the U.S. homes is expended on space conditioning (i.e. heating and cooling).

The efficiency of furnaces and air conditioners has increased steadily since the energy crises of the 1970s. The 1987 National Appliance Energy Conservation Act authorized the Department of Energy to set minimum efficiency standards for space conditioning equipment and other appliances each year, based on what is “technologically feasible and economically justified”.  Despite technological improvements, many American lifestyle changes have put higher demands on heating and cooling resources.

Energy usage in some homes may vary widely from these averages. In most residences no single appliance dominates, and any conservation efforts must be directed to numerous areas in order to achieve substantial energy savings. However, Ground Source Heat Pump systems are more energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective space conditioning systems available and can achieve reductions in energy consumptions of up to 70%.

The commercial sector consists of retail stores, offices (business and government), restaurants, schools and other workplaces. Energy in this sector has the same basic end uses as the residential sector, in slightly different proportions. Space conditioning is again the single biggest consumption area, but it represents only about 30% of the energy use of commercial buildings. Lighting, at 25%, plays a much larger role than it does in the residential sector. Lighting is also generally the most wasteful component of commercial use. A number of case studies indicate that more efficient lighting and elimination of over-illumination can reduce lighting energy by approximately fifty percent in many commercial buildings.

The industrial sector represents all production and processing of goods, including manufacturing, construction, farming, water management and mining. Increasing costs have forced energy-intensive industries to make substantial efficiency improvements in the past 30 years. For example, the energy used to produce steel and paper products has been cut 40% in that time frame, while petroleum/aluminum refining and cement production have reduced their usage by about 25%. These reductions are largely the result of recycling waste material and the use of cogeneration equipment for electricity and heating.    Unlike the other sectors, total energy use in the industrial sector has declined in the last decade. While this is partly due to conservation efforts, it’s also a reflection of the growing trend for U.S. companies to move manufacturing operations offshore.

The usage of telecommuting by major corporations is a significant opportunity to conserve energy, as many Americans now work in service jobs that enable them to work from home instead of commuting to work each day.

kathy Kiefer

RENEWALABLE ENERGY SOURCES

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RENEWALABLE  ENERGY SOURCES

Why renewable energy?   Why are people and companies going “green”?   Must everyone go with this wave in an effort not only to save valuable resources?

Renewable energy is a socially and politically defined category of energy sources. Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are continually replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.  But it is important in aiding to turn the tide on global warming, and protecting the environment, and with the majority of the population becoming more energy conscious today…….

The importance of solar energy was recognized in a 1911 Scientific American article: “in the far distant future, natural fuels having been exhausted [solar power] will remain as the only means of existence of the human race.     In the 1970s environmentalists promoted the development of renewable energy both as a replacement for the eventual depletion of oil, as well as for an escape from dependence on oil, and the first electricity generating wind turbines appeared.

While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to both rural and remote areas, where energy is often crucial in human development.    Renewable energy sources, that derive their energy from the sun, either directly or indirectly, such as Hydro and wind, are expected to be capable of supplying humanity energy for almost another 1 billion years, at which point the predicted increase in heat from the sun is expected to make the surface of the Earth too hot for liquid water to exist.  Renewable energy flows involve natural phenomena such as sunlight, wind, tides, plant growth and geothermal heat.    Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. In its various forms, it derives directly from the sun, or from heat generated deep within the earth. Included in the definition is electricity and heat generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydropower, biomass, geothermal resources, and biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources.

I have found that over 44 million households use biogas that is made in household-scale digesters for lighting and/or cooking, and more than 166 million households rely on a new generation of more-efficient biomass cook-stoves.  It’s an interesting note that carbon-neutral and negative fuels can store and transport renewable energy through existing natural gas pipelines and be used with existing transportation infrastructure, displacing fossil fuels, thus reducing greenhouse gases.   Renewable energy resources and significant opportunities for energy efficiency exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and technological diversification of energy sources, would result in significant energy security and economic benefits.

Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four distinct areas:  electricity generation, hot water/space heating, motor fuels and rural energy services.  Power generation. Renewable energy provides 19% of electricity generation worldwide. Renewable power generators are spread across many countries, and wind power alone already provides a significant share of electricity in some areas: Heating.  Solar hot water makes an important contribution to renewal heat in many countries, most notably in China, which now has 70% of the global total.  Most of these systems are installed on multi-family apartment buildings and meet a portion of the hot water needs of an estimated 50–60 million households in China. Worldwide, total installed solar water heating systems meet a portion of the water heating needs of over 70 million households. The use of biomass for heating continues to grow as well. In Sweden, national use of biomass energy has surpassed that of oil. Direct geothermal for heating is also growing rapidly.  Transport fuels. Renewable biofuels have contributed to a significant decline in oil consumption in the United States since 2006.  The 93 billion liters of biofuels produced worldwide in 2009 displaced the equivalent of an estimated 68 billion liters of gasoline, equal to about 5% of world gasoline production.

At the national level, at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20% of energy supply. National renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond, and some 120 countries have various policy targets for longer-term shares of renewable energy, including a 20% target of all electricity generated for the European Union by 2020. Some countries have much higher long-term policy targets of up to 100% renewables. Outside Europe, a diverse group of 20 or more other countries target renewable energy shares in the 2020–2030 time frame that range from 10% to 50%.     In international public opinion surveys there is strong support for promoting renewable sources such as solar power and wind power, requiring utilities to use more renewable energy (even if this increases the cost), and providing tax incentives to encourage the development and use of such technologies. There is substantial optimism that renewable energy investments will pay off economically in the long term.

Climate change and global warming concerns, coupled with high oil prices, peak oil and increasing government support, are driving increasing renewable energy legislation, incentives and commercialization.  New government spending, regulation and policies helped the industry weather the global financial crisis better than many other sectors.  Solar power generators may produce most of the world’s electricity within 50 years, dramatically reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment.

Energy in water can be harnessed and used. Since water is about 800 times denser than air, even a slow flowing stream of water, or moderate sea swell can yield considerable amounts of energy. There are many forms of water energy.     Solar energy, radiant light and heat from the sun, is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating.    It has been said that “the development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance  sustainability,  reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global. Wood remains the largest biomass energy source today examples include forest residues (such as dead trees, branches and tree stumps), yard clippings, wood chips and even municipal solid waste.   Biomass includes plant or animal matter that can be converted into fibers or other industrial chemicals, including biofuels.  Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants, hemp, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, sugarcane, and a variety of tree species, ranging from eucalyptus to palm oil.    Grains can be used for liquid transportation fuels while the straw can be burned to produce heat or electricity. Plant biomass can also be degraded from cellulose to glucose through a series of chemical treatments, and the resulting sugar can then be used as a first generation biofuel.   Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.   Rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, all release methane gas—also called “landfill gas” or “biogas.” Crops, such as corn and sugar cane, can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Biodiesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats.   There is a great deal of research involving algal, or algae-derived, biomass due to the fact that it’s a non-food resource and can be produced at rates 5 to 10 times those of other types of land-based agriculture, such as corn and soy. Once harvested, it can be fermented to produce biofuels such as ethanol, butanol, and methane, as well as biodiesel and hydrogen.  Biofuels include a wide range of fuels which are derived from biomass.  The term covers solid biomass, liquid fuels, and various biogases.  Liquid biofuels include bio alcohols, such as bioethanol, and oils, such as biodiesel.  Gaseous biofuels include biogas, landfill gas and synthetic gas.

Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of plant materials and it is made mostly from sugar and starch crops. With advanced technology being developed, cellulosic biomass, such as trees and grasses, are also used as feed-stocks for ethanol production. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled greases. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles. Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats and is the most common biofuel in Europe.

Renewable energy technologies are getting cheaper, through technological change and through the benefits of mass production and market competition. A 2011 report said: “A portfolio of renewable energy technologies is becoming cost-competitive in an increasingly broad range of circumstances, in some cases providing investment opportunities without the need for specific economic support,” and added that “cost reductions in critical technologies, such as wind and solar, are set to continue.”    Renewable energy is also the most economical solution for new grid-connected capacity in areas with good resources. As the cost of renewable power falls, the scope of economically viable applications increases. Renewable technologies are now often the most economical solution for new generating capacity.

Geothermal energy is from thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth’s geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet (20%) and from radioactive decay of minerals (80%). The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface. The adjective geothermal originates from the Greek roots geo, meaning earth, and thermos, meaning heat.     Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels.      Renewable energy projects in many developing countries have demonstrated that renewable energy can directly contribute to poverty reduction by providing the energy needed for creating businesses and employment. Renewable energy technologies can also make indirect contributions to alleviating poverty by providing energy for cooking, space heating, and lighting. Renewable energy can also contribute to education, by providing electricity to schools.

The military has also focused on the use of renewable fuels for military vehicles. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable fuels can be produced in any country, creating a strategic advantage. The US military has already committed itself to have 50% of its energy consumption come from alternative sources.

The incentive to use 100% renewable energy has been created by global warming and other ecological as well as economic concerns. Renewable energy use has grown much faster than anyone anticipated.  Other renewable energy technologies are still under development, and include cellulosic ethanol, hot-dry-rock, geothermal power, and ocean energy.  These technologies are not yet widely demonstrated or have limited commercialization. Many are on the horizon and may have potential comparable to other renewable energy technologies, but still depend on attracting sufficient attention and research, as well as funding.  There are numerous organizations within the academic, federal, and commercial sectors conducting large scale advanced research in the field of renewable energy.

Marine energy (sometimes referred to as ocean energy) refers to the energy carried by ocean waves, tides, salinity, and ocean temperature differences.   The movement of water in the world’s oceans creates a vast store of kinetic energy, or energy in motion. This energy can be harnessed to generate electricity to power homes, transport and industries.   The term marine energy encompasses both wave power — power from surface waves, and tidal power — obtained from the kinetic energy of large bodies of moving water. Offshore wind power is not a form of marine energy, as wind power is derived from the wind, even if the wind turbines are placed over water.  The oceans have a tremendous amount of energy and are close to most concentrated populations. Ocean energy has the potential of providing a substantial amount of new renewable energy around the world.

There have been “not in my back yard” concerns relating to the visual and other impacts of some wind farms, with local residents sometimes fighting or blocking construction.     A recent UK Government document states that “projects are generally more likely to succeed if they have broad public support and the consent of local communities. This means giving communities both a say and a stake”. In countries such as Germany and Denmark many renewable projects are owned by communities, particularly through cooperative structures, and contribute significantly to overall levels of renewable energy deployment.   The market for renewable energy technologies has continued to grow. Climate change concerns, coupled with high oil prices, peak oil, and increasing government support, are driving increasing renewable energy legislation, incentives and commercialization.

Kathy Kiefer

STEM CELL RESEARCH

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What is stem cell research and why is it so important?

 

image2Stem cell research is a relatively new technology that takes primitive human cells and develops them into most any of the 220 varieties of cells in the human body, including blood cells and brain cells. Some scientists and researchers have great hope for this research and its ability to uncover treatments and possibly even cures for some of the worst diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Along with these hopeful possibilities, stem cell research also gives rise to fear of human cloning and serious concerns over the ethics of conducting scientific research on, which includes the destruction of, human embryos.

Types of Stem Cells

Human stem cells primarily come from embryos or adult tissue. Embryonic stem cells can be created solely for the purpose of stem cell research or they can be the leftover from other processes, such as from in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Fertility treatments usually result in the creation of multiple embryos, and since only the most viable are selected for implantation, some embryos are not used. These extra embryos can be discarded, donated to others seeking fertility assistance, preserved, or donated to research; most commonly, leftover embryos are discarded.

The overall debate over the ethics of stem cell research involves two major ethical concerns: (1) the potential for human cloning, and (2)Clonazione-cellule-staminali-embrionali-dolly whether these embryos, or pre-embryos as some refer to them, are human life. Perhaps the initial controversy is related to the possibility of human cloning. Especially when it first gained popularity, researchers were concerned with the potential for using stem cells to clone humans. Proponents make many arguments in support of human cloning including the possibility of creating another “you” should body parts or tissues be needed later in life as one may develop illnesses and diseases. Opponents primarily argue that it is not within man’s judgment to manufacture, manipulate, or destroy human life.   But cloning appears to work in animals though and seems to be a non-issue on this front, yet remains more of an issue when it comes to human life.

clonazione_tThe other major ethical issue related to stem cell research involves the ongoing debate over when life begins. Some say that life begins at conception and that the use of humans, even immature ones, for research purposes is unethical. Others claim that the embryos are only tiny amounts of undifferentiated tissue and since they are already scheduled for destruction, and have great potential benefit, they should be used to potentially help others.  By helping others it is meant those that have diseases or a disability to help in finding a cure to these issues.

It is legal to conduct stem cell research in the United States, even for the purposes of human cloning. In 2001, President Bush authorized the issuing of federal funds for the research of over 60 existing stem cells lines. The funding was restricted to these cell lines because the issue of life and death was already decided; that is, the stem cell lines at that point were capable of independent and infinite regeneration. In 2009, President Obama reversed the policy and allowed federal funding to be used towards additional stem cell lines.

Other countries permit stem cell research to varying degrees. Countries such as Japan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have made it legal, even for purposes of human cloning. Countries including Australia, Canada, and France allow adult and leftover embryonic research but not human cloning. Austria, Ireland, and Poland have some of the most restrictive laws on this type of research.

Stem cell research has been the subject of controversy since some years. All across the internet and other forms of mass media publications, one will find researchers taking up sides – for and against promoting stem cell research. Most probably, you too must be wondering about the same – what exactly is stem cell research? How does it affect the future of humankind? Is it legal to conduct the same in this country? There are plenty of queries concerning stem cell research; yet, it seems that there are no clear-cut answers to these questions.

The human body is composed or made up of various kinds of cells. These cells are preprogrammed to act in a specific manner. For instance,figure42 the functioning of the stomach cells and the cells lining the liver happens to be different. The data stored within the genetic architecture of the body will preprogram these cells. Here is an interesting observation – what if we have the ability to control these cells? I mean, what if, with the aid of intricate biological techniques, we can alter the programming of cells in order to examine their functioning. The same is occurring in this niche too.

Stem cell research is nothing but the cultivation of stem cells with the intention of examining and studying them for the benefit of humankind. Consider an embryo or a developing fetus present within a mother’s womb. During the initial stages, there are only groups of cells within the embryo. These cells have no specific functionality and can aggregate themselves to develop into the brain or the liver or the heart. In other words, these cells present in the fetus are nothing but a blueprint for the cells that will occur in the coming weeks. These cells are otherwise termed as stem cells.

Researchers utilize stem cell research to study the effect of various biological techniques on inaccessible cells. The procedure is as follows – the professional would take some stem cells, inject it with genetic information that will enable it to act like the cells taken from the brain. Now, the same exert can spend hours experimenting with various techniques and remedial measures on these stem cells. How does that sound? It might appear easy as well as exciting; however, it is a tedious process, which has highly beneficial vantages. Many organizations and pharmaceutical companies conduct extensive studies on these cells to develop newer treatment strategies.

UnknownI recently have read a fascinating article of a journalist’s scientific divulger Alessandro Sicuro  : STEM CELLS.  TO SALAMANDER FROM THE MODERN THERAPIES. ITs ‘MORE’ TOUGH DEFEAT THE EVIL OR PREJUDICE AND INTEREST !? (click here for read more=>  http://wp.me/p2kXuA-1sw )  detailing some of the intensive research being done and the success that has been found  thus far, what has been learned from past trials and what they are continuing to learn.   A question that comes up and has been worked on with such interesting results, and that is if salamanders can grow back limbs, why can’t we?     This is what the founder of ACell always wondered and was the inspiration for his work on cell regeneration that began in the 1950’s.   In doing research, he discovered something special about the basement membrane: if you remove it and a salamander’s tail (or limbs) would not regenerate.   This basement membrane – it exists in everyfingersgpxxDM3004_468x662 living cell in our bodies – is responsible for constructive remodeling.   If the basement membrane is maintained, bodies may heal differently.    He eventually made significant strides in regenerative medicine using extracellular scaffolds. ACell, Inc. was founded in 1999 to manufacture MatriStem®, the only commercially available form of urinary bladder matrix (UBM), containing basement membrane and numerous collagens.     But it appears to me that if the salamander sustains a cut or loses a limb it would have the ability to heal itself and to have the missing limb regenerate itself.  http://www.acell.com/index.html

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In Italy, there are great scientists like Dr. Vannoi, who invented the stamina, but far too many politicians, run by pharmaceutical companies, have banned testing and administration.   The reasons for these rejections do not make sense at all, and appears that donors are subject to rigorous controls.  The pharmaceutical companies also play a role in medical research, how else would we have the medicines that we do today and continue to improve on.   

I know from first-hand experience that having a staph infection plus MRSA is resistant to most of the antibiotics that are used to treat it, and only respond to a select few and those are used in combination together to treat the infection.

I find it shameful that Italian politicians will always for a reason not to support such important and necessary research that helps in studying and finding cures for health issues such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, all forms of Muscular Dystrophy, ALS and so much more.   Without the research would diseases such as polio have been eradicated?

 Kathy Kiefer