Friday, September 1, 2006
Gov. Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat seeking a second term,
has a plan for Illinois to reduce dependence on foreign oil: burn
food instead. Corn and soybean farmers love the idea, but there
are a few problems; most frequently cited is the energy balance.
A Department of Agriculture report claims modern farming methods
have turned the energy balance positive, but others, Ted Patzek
at UC Berkeley in particular, say if you include everything,
including production of fertilizer and insecticide, the energy
balance is still negative. If ethanol has any future as an
energy source, it will come from cellulosic waste products and
not corn (WN 31 Mar 06) , but
that process has a long way to go to be practical. An energy
supply that depends on the weather is another worry. This year
many of the major corn producing states are in a severe drought.
Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, the state hardest hit by the
severe drought in the plains, proclaimed the last week of July to
be A WEEK TO PRAY FOR RAIN. Not a drop has fallen from the
heavens on South Dakota since. The governor used the wrong
technology. You pray to get out of Iraq, for rain you dance.
Never mess around with a George Bernard Shaw quote. Last week I
added a phrase to a line from Annajanska, The Bolshevik Empress,
to make a point. You can't imagine how many Shaw fans wrote to
tell me the phrase does not exist. A few people, however, saw
right through it. They knew Shaw would have said it better.
It appears, however, that the departure of George Coyne as
director of the Vatican Observatory was the result of a colon
cancer operation earlier in the year. He asked to be replaced.
The Vatican, unfortunately, made no comment at all, leading to
speculation about the cause. It is widely believed that the
Church will become more closely aligned to anti-evolutionists.
Scientists have succeeded in growing colonies of embryonic stem
cells using a technique that does not destroy the embryo from
which the initial cell is taken. Religious opposition is based
on the belief that a soul is assigned to the zygote at the moment
of conception. Therefore the colony is a twin. One might wonder
exactly how a single cell enjoys the delights of heaven.
Not to worry, the agency says, the new rule won't be implemented
as written. The price of logging on to a DOE computer is a
banner asserting the DOE's right to monitor your computer habits.