Louie Schwartzberg’s Scenes from IMAX Film in this TED Talk

No one can better capture -on film- the beauty from Nature that is all around us — than film maker Louie Schwartzberg. In this latest TED presentation by Schwartzberg, we are privileged to see portions of his upcoming 3D IMAX film, “Mysteries of the Unseen World.” (7 minutes = well worth your time)

Happy Earth Day April 22, 2014!

Also, see previous post: TED: Louie Schwartzberg Films the hidden Beauty of Pollination.

Change is Good

FYI…

One thing I’ve liked about running a website is that it feels like there is a flow, like it is alive. Just as in the transient nature of life, a post is made, then it fades, and a new subject takes its place. It is in the moment. Then, it has become a building block woven into the interconnectedness of the web.

But, as I hinted at earlier this year, I’m planning to change my priorities somewhat in how I spend my writing time. Much as I wish I could do it all, I’ve got some projects pending that simply won’t get done unless I spend less time doing the online work at the pace I’ve been keeping around here. Plus, I don’t believe in stagnation. Change is good.

What are my new priorities?

For more than a year, I’ve wanted to work on a freelance piece that never gets done because of what I do here. I want to follow that through to completion. There will be more after that.

Some work that I’ve done on this site in the past warrants more attention. I knew that when I worked on a particular subject a couple of years ago here, but, now, with the recent encouragement of a Professor from Australia who has taken interest in the project by giving me guidance, I plan to work on getting it published in, at minimum, E-book form, and, hopefully, hard copy, too. Thank you, Keith.

Unrelated to writing, I’m also on the schedule to do an art show here in Boulder a number of months down the road, which I’m looking forward to very much.

So expect posts here on Big Picture Agriculture to be less frequent and more sporadic going forward, perhaps more like twice a month.

All in all, my new goal is to try to enter a more professional level in my writing efforts, not to diminish that this has been a Google News site which I’ve been proud of, but I will have far more flexibility in the way I approach writing, which by now has become an important part of me.

Finally, I will leave you with a photo of a baby hummingbird fledgling which I took two days ago on Balboa Island. Being from the Midwest, I’d never seen a hummingbird nest before, and I’d be lucky to ever see one again. I hope the bird makes it, since there was a cat living on the porch below.

Quantum Computing “Hype”


Schrödinger’s cat: a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other.
(source: wikipedia)


Last night, April Fool’s night, I attended a talk by 2012 physics Nobel Prize winner, Dr. David Wineland. The talk was titled, “Quantum Computers and Schrödinger’s Cat”. Though I won’t pretend to you readers that I understood what he was talking about, and the audience included two other physics Nobel Prize winners, so I was clearly out of my league, I’d gone to hear what he had to say about cats, since I have three at home.

And he did have quite a lot to say about cats, so I was not disappointed. He said that he didn’t think Schrödinger liked cats very much, since he put them in theoretical boxes only to wonder whether they were dead or alive.

The simple take-away from the evening, however, I thought was worth reporting.

Dr. Wineland is on one of the relatively few teams around the world that is working on developing quantum computers, and, his Nobel Prize was awarded for “ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.” His job has been with NIST, (National Institute of Standards and Technology), here in Boulder since 1975.

He began his talk by showing us the cover of the February 17, 2014 issue of TIME magazine, titled “The Infinity Machine”. He used it as an example that there is a lot of “hype” in the media about quantum computing, gently, but clearly implying that he wasn’t smitten with TIME’s article.

The Nutshell
In reality, the teams working on quantum computers have some major obstacles to overcome and there is no big optimism on the near term horizon that they’ll overcome them. To date, what they’ve created can’t do as much as your hand held device can do.

And, that, readers, is the big highly simplified take-away of the evening.

Alegría Fresh: A Prototype Urban Farm in Irvine, California Uses GardenSoxx

A commercial venture is on the move, and its timing is great, as it proposes to save water, fertilizer, and space, while providing fresh, nutrient-dense produce in urban areas.

This Southern California company is setting up an urban micro-farm -which claims to save large amounts of water- in Irvine, California during this time period when the extreme-drought of California is grabbing so many headlines.

The company is called Alegría Fresh, and they have various products on the market which are intended to grow fresh produce by using hydroponic techniques.

They have devised a mini-vertical garden system for urban dwellers for use in small spaces. Their vertical farm set-ups use coconut fiber (coir) instead of soil.

Their latest venture, Alegría Soxx Farm, uses 7500 linear feet of GardenSoxx on one-fifth of an acre in Irvine, California to grow 15 different vegetables, for a total of 13,000 plants.

They expect a 70 percent reduction in the amount of water needed to grow this produce, and a 50 percent reduction in fertilizer required because of the rich growing medium used. They also expect high yields, greater pest resistance, and faster growth rates, calling this a “paradigm shift in urban ag”.

Furthermore, they suggest that this prototype farm, and other future urban micro-farms like it have a juice bar, salad bar, and small farm stand alongside it to sell produce direct and employ local workers, creating a revenue stream that can support the farms.

All Sounds Great, But a Few Comments . . .
One question that I have, should any of the fine folks from Alegría drop by and read this, is how does this farm save water, when the GardenSoxx Q&A states, “as the mesh breathes, it will dry out sooner than normal soil.” I’d love to see an answer in the comments below, please, as many people are looking for solutions such as this to help grow food in our urban areas.

My other question is how adaptable would this system be to other regions of this nation, besides our prized Mediterranean climate growing region of Southern California?

Finally, I love innovation in food growing, but how I wish it didn’t (so often) involve greater use of plastic.

UPDATE: I’ve noticed the video isn’t working, which really is necessary to understand this set-up. See this page for another video. And here is a video of their vertical hydroponic gardening system.

Map of Countries Sized by Population & a Changing Global Economy Dominated by Asia

This map was tweeted by @incrediblemaps and shows us the size of countries relative to their populations, which as we know has big implications for food security and the commodity trade markets.

On a related note, one of the news items that really got my attention last week was the WSJ sideline interview of Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard, during his speaking engagement at the Credit Suisse Asian investment conference in Hong Kong.

From the WSJ’s blog:

…he can foresee a tri-polar world in which China and India are the major economic powers, counterbalanced by a bloc of the United States, Europe and Japan, whose populations together will total about one billion people.

“We’ve said the U.S. is a superpower, an economic superpower. But these are giants, they’re bigger than a superpower,” he said. “What would that world be like, both economically and politically? I think that’s really hard to understand. How much would the Western bloc be willing to cooperate politically to be a counterbalance to China and India?”

Mr. Bullard offered few specifics of what such a world would look like, but did acknowledge that it might require some adjustment on the part of ordinary Americans like those he serves in the heartland.

This future is a challenge to imagine, but has implications for the competition for oil and energy, number one, I think, and all of the other commodities, with ever-bigger demands on the Earth’s natural resources. It has jobs implications; global communications will continue to improve and evolve; technological advancements and innovations will be coming more and more from Asia; and, global politics and alliances will change, as Bullard states. Finally, it has big implications for food and agriculture. My personal view is that there will be very surprising innovations in both of these sectors.

In another weekend article, the NYT’s travel section contained this interesting paragraph:

Ernst & Young estimates that by 2030, nearly one billion people in China could enter into the middle class and have a disposable income that allows them to travel domestically and abroad. Ten years ago their government singled out tourism as a key pillar of economic growth, and as a result, they have invested well ahead of the curve in high-speed trains, hotel complexes and airports to absorb growth within the middle class. In fact, right now they are busy building 69 airports around the country, so that in the future no person in the country will be more than a 90-minute drive from an airport.

There are a few “somethings that are gonna haftagive” when we consider these rapidly changing global dynamics.

If you have any visions of where this puts people in Bullard’s heartland, in, say the year 2035, please let us know your ideas in the comments. What does the future look like for your children under this scenario? What will their standard of living look like? What will transportation and supply chains look like in the U.S. and in Asia? Where will the job opportunities be? Will there be enough jobs? What will global cooperation look like by then?