January 24, 2011

Occasional repost: Be careful with those compact fluorescent bulbs

Filed under: Australia, Environment, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:59

Reposted from 2009, but still valuable information:

Andrew Bolt wonders why the Australian government — which has banned the sale of old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs — is not being more pro-active about handling and disposing of the replacement compact fluorescents:

Tens of thousands of Australians will next month be forced to buy these new greenhouse-friendly CFLs without the Government warning them that, unlike normal light bulbs, they contain mercury and are dangerous when broken. What’s more, they shouldn’t just be thrown out with the rubbish.

How many consumers know this?

How many of them have looked up the Environment Department’s website to find what its bureaucrats falsely describe as the “simple and straightforward” precautions to take against poisoning should one of these lamps smash:

– Open nearby windows and doors to allow the room to ventilate for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken lamp. Do not leave on any air conditioning or heating equipment which could recirculate mercury vapours back into the room.

– Do not use a vacuum cleaner or broom on hard surfaces because this can spread the contents of the lamp and contaminate the cleaner. Instead scoop up broken material (e.g. using stiff paper or cardboard), if possible into a glass container which can be sealed with a metal lid.

– Use disposable rubber gloves rather than bare hands.

– Use a disposable brush to carefully sweep up the pieces.

– Use sticky tape and/or a damp cloth to wipe up any remaining glass fragments and/or powders.

– On carpets or fabrics, carefully remove as much glass and/or powdered material using a scoop and sticky tape; if vacuuming of the surface is needed to remove residual material, ensure that the vacuum bag is discarded or the canister is wiped thoroughly clean.

– Dispose of cleanup equipment (i.e. gloves, brush, damp paper) and sealed containers containing pieces of the broken lamp in your outside rubbish bin – never in your recycling bin.

– While not all of the recommended cleanup and disposal equipment described above may be available (particularly a suitably sealed glass container), it is important to emphasise that the transfer of the broken CFL and clean-up materials to an outside rubbish bin (preferably sealed) as soon as possible is the most effective way of reducing potential contamination of the indoor environment.

“Simple and straightforward”? Peter Garrett’s department not only deceives you about global warming, but about the ease of this useful “fix”.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to foresee a lot of lawsuits down the road, as the majority of folks who need to change lightbulbs won’t have read these instructions, and will try to handle them the same as the ordinary light bulbs they’ve used forever.

A more recent (May 2010) source indicates:

. . . each fluorescent light bulb contains about 5 milligrams of mercury. Though the amount is tiny, 5 milligrams of mercury is enough to contaminate 6,000 gallons of drinking water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Low level mercury exposure (under 5 milligrams) can cause tremors, mood shifts, sleeplessness, muscle fatigue, and headaches. High level or extended length exposure can lead to learning disabilities, altered personality, deafness, loss of memory, chromosomal damage, and nerve, brain, and kidney damage, as stated by the EPA. There is a particular risk to the nervous systems of unborn babies and young children.

Ten things you didn’t know about orgasm

Filed under: Health, History, Humour, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:44

Probably NSFW, although it’s all science.

H/T to Radley Balko for the link.

Recognizing the right to self-defence

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:38

Lorne Gunter wants our government to recognize that Canadians have a right to self-defence:

Canadian officialdom is conducting an all-out assault against self-defence. Quite simply, few politicians, Crown prosecutors, judges, law professors and police commanders believe ordinary Canadians have any business using force to defend themselves, their loved ones, homes, farms or businesses.

The latest example of the campaign against self-defence comes from southern Ontario. In August, retired crane operator Ian Thomson, who lives near Port Colborne, awoke early in the morning to find masked men attempting to burn his house down with him in it. When he fired at them with a licensed handgun he had stored in a safe, he was charged.

How out-of-touch are police and prosecutors when you are not even allowed to defend yourself and your property from thugs attempting to incinerate you? Their attitude seems to be that it is better to die waiting for police to respond than to take matters into your own hands.

[. . .]

When Canada became independent at Confederation in 1867, Canadians retained the rights they had at the time as British subjects. These included three “absolute rights”: the right to personal liberty, the right to private property and the right to self-defence, up to and including the right to kill an attacker or burglar.

William Blackstone, Britain’s famous constitutional expert, argued the right to self-defence included the right to kill even an agent of the king found on one’s property after dark, uninvited. He also traced the right to armed self-defence back to the time of King Canute (995–1035) when subjects could be fined for failing to keep weapons for their own protection.

Introduction to NFC, Register style

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:51

If you’re wondering what the buzz about Near Field Communications (NFC) might be, you’ll want to read The Register‘s Beginner’s guide to NFC:

Near-field communications (NFC) will take off very quickly — once it’s clear who can make money from it.

From the look of it, 2011 is the year that it will all become clear.

Mobile handset vendors are rushing to incorporate NFC into their roadmaps, with several high profile NFC-enabled handset launches pencilled to lauch mid-2011.

RIM recently hinted at incorporating the technology into new BlackBerry devices, the iPhone 5 is widely expected to include an NFC chip, and Samsung and Nokia are understood to be planning several NFC-enabled phones.

Mobile operators are gearing up too. In the UK, for instance, O2 is building out an NFC team and forecasts that near field communications will enter the consumer mainstream in mid-2011. Orange UK is equally bullish, forecasting sales of 500,000 NFC-enabled phones this year.

So what’s the fuss all about?

If they’re right, expect to start seeing this symbol on lots of things in the near future:

The N-Mark standard defines an embedded tag, which can communicate and provide encrypted authentication using power induced by the reader – such a tag can therefore be embedded in a credit card or key fob without needing its own power supply.

An N-Mark device, such as a mobile phone, incorporates a reader as well as a tag, to enabling communication with passive tags and other N-Mark devices. That communication takes place at 13.56MHz, but as the power is magnetically inducted the range is extremely limited – 200mm at best.

Investing in fine wine doesn’t diversify your portfolio

Filed under: Economics, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:31

Following up to this post, The Economist agrees that fine wine tracks too closely to the price of oil to offer much diversification for investors:

A bottle of Château Pétrus ’82 can cost over $5,000, whereas the equivalent volume of crude oil sells for less than 50 cents. Château Brent may taste a tad rough, yet fine wine and crude oil have more in common than you might think. Their prices have risen and fallen in step in recent years (see chart).

Wine experts usually explain price movements by supply-side factors such as the effects of the weather and age, but research by Serhan Cevik and Tahsin Saadi Sedik, economists at the IMF, finds that supply has only a small impact on prices. Instead, fast economic growth in emerging economies has been much more important in recent years — as is the case for oil and other commodity prices.

Between 1998 and 2010 there was a correlation of over 90% between changes in oil and wine prices.

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