Stewart Brand’s 1997 look at adaptably “Low Road” Buildings, Boats and Abodes

Stewart Brand’s “The Low Road” from series, “How Buildings Learn” explores highly adaptable, cheaply made but long-lasting buildings in this BBC presentation from the 1990’s. His dialogue is interspersed with commentary, both thought-provoking and slightly prophetic in predicting upcoming trends of “low road” entrepreneurs making way for high end developers. He says, “Economic activity follows low-road activity.”

One of his interviewees, a building owner in London who happened to snatch up his property cheaply the day it went on the market worries about developers out-pricing the market for artists seeking cheep spaces. By charging exorbitant rents, developers make these buildings unaffordable for poor inhabitants of these districts as well, I might add.

Overuse of Antibacterials and antibiotics stressing health and environment

The USGS found the anti-bacterial triclosan in 58% of freshwater streams, despite attempts by water municipalities to filter it out.  Article explains what triclosan is and what it does.

Triclosan is in antibacterial soaps, detergents, carpets, paints, toys, and toothpaste. These products can feel comforting to germ-wary consumers. However, these products are only slightly better at removing bacteria than regular soap and water. And in antibacterial soaps, triclosan may not add any benefit to removing bacteria compared to regular soap and water.
The problem with triclosan is that it kills both good and bad bacteria. Studies also show that it contributes to medically necessary antibiotics becoming less effective. Triclosan is also toxic to algae and disrupts hormones in animals. This can hamper normal animal development. The FDA is currently investigating its impact on humans.

American Society of Agronomy summarizes it this way:

Most U.S. homes are full of familiar household products with an ingredient that fights bacteria: triclosan. Most of the triclosan is removed in waste water treatment plants. However, a U.S. Geological Survey found the antibacterial in nearly 58% of freshwater streams. What does that mean for the food and soil irrigated with water from streams? As triclosan breaks down, it can turn into other harmful compounds. The breakdown of triclosan produces more effective hormone disruptors.

Washington Post report states that antibiotics are being overprescribed. From report:

Nearly a third of antibiotics prescribed in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and hospital-based clinics in the United States are not needed, according to the most in-depth study yet to examine the use and misuse of these life-saving drugs.

The finding, which has implications for antibiotics’ diminished efficacy, translates to about 47 million unnecessary prescriptions given out each year across the country to children and adults. Most of these are for conditions that don’t respond to antibiotics, such as colds, sore throats, bronchitis, flu and other viral illnesses.

Overdosing livestock with antibiotics might be causing problems too. From Science News report:

Dung beetles (Aphodius fossor) make their living on cattle dung pats, which are rich in nutritious microbes. To investigate the effects of cattle antibiotics on this smaller scale, Tobin Hammer of the University of Colorado at Boulder and his colleagues studied the tiny communities around tetracycline-dosed and undosed cows. Compared with untreated cows’ dung, microbes in dung produced by treated cows were less diverse and dominated by a genus with documented resistance, the researchers report May 25 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Is there a ‘last resort’ antibiotic to wipe out drug resistant bacteria?

“The problem, scientists have been pointing out for years, is that people are taking antibiotics too frequently. More use means more opportunity for bacteria to develop resistance.”

Bacteria carry most of their genetic information in a tangle of DNA contained in chromosomes inside the cell. But tiny loops of DNA called plasmids hang around outside of the tangle. These loops carry extra information that bacteria can use, like how to protect themselves from antibiotics. Bacteria can swap plasmids like trading cards, effectively spreading instructions for antibiotic resistance.



Floods and solar coronal holes

It’s flooding down in Texas and up in Belgium, Germany, France and India. I wonder if the big, black blot NASA calls a coronal hole on the sun has anything to do with it? Or maybe it’s being churned up by Earth’s weakening electromagnetic fields. Of course, we’ve only studied our great solar charger spectrographically for maybe 50 years.

Historically, solar Maunder minimums have coincided with damp, cold weather on Earth. Could less sunlight correlate with weakening of Earth’s electromagnetic shield?

The connection between solar coronal mass ejections and auroras seen in the northern skies is obvious. Why are Earth’s ‘Van Allen belts’ only seen as magnetic fields? Why are auroras seen in the visible light spectrum not considered at all to be electrical? Lightening bolts are obviously electrically conductive on Earth, so why would there not be electricity conducted in space? It makes no sense to have magnetism without electricity, makes gravity really hard to define.

Thor news covers the floods.

“We’re all part of the Earth family,” Thor says and I concur.

Smithsonian reports anti-bacterial triclosan found to ‘impair muscle function’

“Triclosan a chemical used in antibacterial soaps is found to impair muscle function.” reads Smithsonian magazine headline. This is old news to some of us, as indicated by report’s comment section.

Triclosan is an anti-bacterial chemical used in hospitals and consumer products, like hand soaps and sometimes, toothpastes.

Triclosan - Wikipedia
Triclosan – Wikipedia

It’s used in hospitals, in surgical prep for instance, where its use seems perfectly necessary. But, its also contained in common consumer and household products.

Antibacterial hand wipes are my least favorite, as they leave a filmy residue that is hard to wash off.  A commenter reports that children from the school where she cleans rub the antibacterial hand soap off onto the walls, from where it is extremely difficult to remove.

Studies show that basic soap and water are something like 98% effective at removing bacteria and fungus from hands. So, why overuse this chemical? Like antibiotics and MRSA, overuse of triclosan could create a superbug that becomes immune to it. Overtime, the heart muscle could, foreseeably be effected by continual use of triclosan, as well. I sure wouldn’t brush my teeth with it.

Article author, Joseph Stromberg describes triclosan as an endocrine disruptor, capable of penetrating skin and entering the bloodstream.

In recent years, though, research has shed light on a number of problems with employing triclosan so widely. Studies have shown that the chemical can disrupt the endocrine systems of several different animals, binding to receptor sites in the body, which prevents the thyroid hormone from functioning normally. Additionally, triclosan penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream more easily than previously thought, and has turned up everywhere from aquatic environments to human breast milk in troubling quantities.

Tools for Women Farmers

Civil Eats blog explains why tools made especially for women are becoming more necessary.

Photo of farmers holding Green Heron tools.
Photo of farmers holding Green Heron tools.

For starters, women are usually several inches shorter than men. Shovels and forks are often too long and require a great deal of upper-body strength to work effectively. And pruning shears don’t often fit smaller hands. When women farmers and gardeners have to stoop, bend, or wrench their bodies just to use a tool, they can get hurt.

Two female entrepreneurs have so far introduced ‘Hershovel’ and ‘Herspade’ to the market place. They have plans to roll out a battery powered tiller. These farm tools are available online at Green Heron Tools. Herons are birds known for their use of tools. In this case, the tools are her very own.

Under heading, “Women & Farming” Green Heron tool developers share some research on the rising numbers of women entering farming fields.

From 1997-2002:
• The number of U.S. farms declined by 4%*
• The number of farms operated by women increased 13%*
From 2002-2007:
• The number of women-operated farms grew by an even greater 29%*
• The number of farms overall increased by only 3.6%*
* U.S. Census of Agriculture
Women-operated farms tend to be:
• smaller
• more diversified
• less mechanized
• sustainable / organic
• involving direct sales to consumers, such as selling at farmers’ markets
Globally, women play a huge role in food production.
Rural women produce half of the world’s food and 60% to 80% of the food in most developing countries — United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization

Renaissance scholar John Dee’s book collection exhibited in London

John Dee: Scholar Courtier Magician,” reads NewScientist headline. Some books from his collection, some even annotated are on exhibit at Royal College of Physicians in London.

Editorial piece by Philip Ball tells the story of Renaissance scholar and perhaps scientist, but certainly first rate mathematician John Dee. After all, calculating planetary positions by hand was no small feat. Ball writes:

One person who would have welcomed Galileo’s statement, had he not lived half a century too early to witness it, was the English scholar John Dee (1527-1608 or 1609). Yet Dee doesn’t appear in most histories of science, and some of Galileo’s champions might regard him with a degree of horror. Dee is more or less uncategorisable by today’s standards. Some of his Tudor contemporaries might have considered him a philosopher, an astrologer, perhaps even a magician – but they would have agreed that he was, above all, a mathematician.

John Dee had one of the largest libraries of his time in the 1550s, according to a video taken with curators from this exhibit. This multi talented Renaissance man even served as a Courtier to Queen Elizabeth. Although, most of his books were lost in the great fire of London, the ones on exhibit are mostly books that had been stolen from Dee’s library. A man Nicolas Saunder stole Dee’s books while he was away on travels. 800 books were taken, according to one curator. Saunders blotted out Dee’s name. (who inscribed his name in books he owned) And overtop, he scribbled his own.

During his college years, Dee read many of ‘the Classics’, as seen from his stunning collection remains. Many of them he adorned with excellent penmanship in Latin. Here’s a photo of a page of this collection from the Royal College of Physicians’ site.

John Dee annotation

Another curator contends that Dee involved himself in governmental affairs of the day, partly because this 16th Century scholar invented the term, “British Empire’. Ball concludes:

That’s why Dee is a noteworthy figure in the history of science. And his example stands as a warning: that if we cherry-pick from the time when Renaissance magic was morphing into modern science, we will never understand what that extraordinary time was really all about.

For more on RCP exhibit, visit their website:

Distillation of research shows GMO soy contains elevated levels of formaldehyde

Email inventor’s distillation of large body of published research shows GMO soy is NOT ‘substantially equivalent’ to soy of our ancestors.

There’s an interview called, “Smashing Technological Neo-Colonialism with Email inventor Shiva Ayyadurai and Jordan Flesher.” Interview is conducted by Sean Stone for a recent episode of his web-show, Enter the Buzzsaw.

Ayyadurai Shiva created the first ‘electronic mail system’ as a 14 year old with a vision to create electronic typing. “Email is the interconnection of these parts of the system,” he says.  Creating an electronic means of typing messages and sending via computer required a synthesis of knowledge in electronic applications.

Here’s a screen shot of young Shiva Ayyadurai.


He has since helped to create a way to study molecules via a research aggregator. It’s  ingenious because it uses a whole systems approach to increase understanding about how molecules and cells actually function. It’s called Cyto(meaning cell)Solve.

“CytoSolve was an electronic way to model molecular pathways, systems of systems of systems of pathways. So, If email is the electronic version of the mail communication system, CytoSolve is the electronic version of the molecular system.

Recently scientists have started using this because they know that their drug development model sucks, it doesn’t really work.. a lot of the functional food companies want to use it to find out the difference between snake oil and supplements and what works. And we’ve actually used CytoSolve to actually validate some traditional systems of medicine. So, it’s a revolution. If, email was a revolution, CytoSolve is even going to be a bigger one.”

That’s how Shiva became involved in the GMO debate. He wanted to find out whether genetically modified plants are really ‘substantially equivalent’ to the food that our ancestors ate and furthermore, whether GMOs are actually safe for continuous human consumption?

“If you look at genetically modified foods, like a very objective position.. I’m not pro or anti GMO. Let’s take this position that Monsanto and others have taken that if you do a teeny weeny, little change to soy, you know change one little gene, don’t worry, it’s not going to affect anything else. Right, so that’s the supposition. Based on this, they have a principle called ‘substantial equivalence’. And what happens is, you and I, right now we could start a GMO company. We could do a GMO blueberry. In order to get it allowed to go to market, all we have to show is that GMO blueberry is substantially equivalent to the non-GMO version.
So, how do we do that? Well, we can choose any criteria we want. I can choose fat content, water content, and we can just show, hey look, it’s about the same. In fact, plus or minus 20%. We send a letter to the FDA saying we did this analysis and the FDA will send a letter back to us, saying, “Sean and Shiva, thank you very much for doing that analysis.”

With that letter, we can go to market. The FDA (this is a big..) does not take a position on GMOs. They simply issue what’s called a ‘safety consultation’. It’s up to you and me, self-regulation, that we did this material difference analysis.”

FDA guidelines for GMO products are pretty lax, if Shiva’s description of the process to bring them to market is accurate. He further describes what he calls ‘pillars’, or theories that are prevalent about genetically modified foods.

“One is don’t worry. This GMO is no different than the non-GMO counterpart. That’s one pillar. And, by the way, if you consume this GMO, it’s not going to harm you. So, what we did as researchers is go after that first pillar. And, we used systems biology. We used CytoSolve. And what we did was, we said let’s take GMO soy and we went through 11,000 papers that had been written in the literature.

And from those 11,000 papers, we found 6,800 experiments have been done, across 184 institutions in 23 countries. So, this is a distillation of the scientific method. And, CytoSolve let’s us aggregate this. And what we found was a set of molecular pathways called ‘C1 Metabolism’. Without getting into the details, this molecular system is in every plant. It’s in every bacteria and it’s in every fungi.

So, in first paper, we just published that, very quietly. This is the C1 Metabolism pathway. Second paper, what we did was we modeled that mathematically. What we showed was, in the normal case, non-GMO case, plants create formaldehyde and they also get rid of formaldehyde, detoxify it. It’s a system that they have. At some level, all plants have a background level, but they have this capacity to detoxify it.

In the third and fourth papers, what we showed was, what happens when you do a genetic modification at a molecular level. And what we showed was, when you do that modification, particularly in soy, that it perturbs this entire system. That, in fact glutathione, which is a master antioxidant.., that glutothione is depleted and formaldehyde accumulates. Glutothione is an antioxidant. And, in fact what we found was, that genetic insertion, the plant goes into oxidative stress, it thinks it’s being stressed out, very similar to what a plant undergoes when it’s under drought or in different conditions.

What that resulted in was something very interesting, again from this academic community. This research helps dispels theories like plant-breeding is the same as genetic engineering. No big deal, this has been going on for 5,000 years. You know, conflating plant breeding with single genetic modification.

Over 90% of corn and soy available in America is now genetically modified, according to Shiva. I’ve read similar statistics elsewhere. If it is true that genetically modified plants contain elevated levels of formaldehyde, then what effect does consuming these plants have on the human body? Formaldahyde is a known carcinogen. It’s also what embalming fluid is made of, a great preservative.

According to website:

“In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure (1). Since that time, some studies of humans have suggested that formaldehyde exposure is associated with certain types of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen (2). In 2011, the National Toxicology Program, an interagency program of the Department of Health and Human Services, named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens (3).

Further and more objectively undertaken research should be conducted on the effects genetically modifying plants have. Shiva and his colleagues used the scientific method, gathering repeated studies, synthesizing results and showed that, genetically modified soy is a probable source of cancer causing carcinogens. In my opinion, non-biased research(not self-regulated by companies) should have been conducted before genetically modified ingredients were first allowed onto the market in 1996. Until non-biased research concludes that GMOs are safe for human consumption, I’d recommend eating only non-GMO soy and corn because there’s no way to guarantee that they are safe in the long term. But, the market is flooded with GMO ingredients in processed foods. And, there’s no telling how much livestock is raised on them.

This Buzzsaw interview covers a much broader range than could possibly be stated here. Interview-ee Jordan Flesher had pertinent and timely information to add. And, Stone chimed in at one point with Pontius Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” Good one.

For more about Shiva and his research, visit his website here.