Annoying blue lights, annoying politicians, annoying fish. Be annoyed.
May 30, 2005
When your appliances get the blues--Few things in the modern world are as ubiquitous as light emitting diodes. My desk looks like a Christmas tree at night when all the other lights are turned off--LEDs on the DSL modem (3), on the Airport base station, the printer, the telephone. They are mostly green, but orange and red are not uncommon in this age of twinkling things. But until very recently, you never saw blue. Now you do, and lots of people don’t like it. LEDs are junction transistors. When electrons move into a hole in the semiconductor, it emits a photon which glows on the surface of the semiconductor. The color of the LED depends on the chemistry of the material, and until recently, the right compound to produce blue was problematic. In 1994, Nichia Chemical in Japan figured out that the right stuff to use was gallium nitride, and suddenly they are in everything, from computers to toaster ovens. One problem, apparently, is that they are much brighter than the normal LED and people find them very distracting. According to Wired, complaints are popping up all over the web in a minor consumer revolt, and manufacturers may have to rethink the old adage, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.
I don’t much care what you want; I’m running for President—Massachusetts’ odd governor George Romney (odd because he is governor of Massachusetts, not, say Utah) did what he said he would do, he vetoed the bill permitting embryonic stem cell research. He does, unlike the current president, accept the use of left-over embryos from fertility clinics, but wants to ban cloning because it involves the destruction of embryos. "It is wrong to allow science to take an assembly-line approach to the production of human embryos, the creation of which will be rooted in experimentation and destruction," Romney wrote in a letter to lawmakers explaining the veto. It is a gesture as opposed to governance because both houses of the legislature have enough votes to override the veto and surely will do so, and he knows it. But he has been mentioned as a presidential candidate in 2008 and he is playing to the right wing. [And yes, the illustration is an in joke. AMC Gremlin, get it?]
Wait a minute, didn’t I have some Jews behind me?—One of more interesting political alliances of the time is that between observant (mostly Orthodox) Jews, President Bush and the evangelical wing of the Republican party on many social issues. Since Jews are supposed to be all liberals, that intrigues people, but the right wing of the American Jewish population is socially conservative. On the issue of stem cells, however, they are taking a walk. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the umbrella group for the most conservative (that is a small c), which sides with the Christian right on Terry Schiavo, same sex marriages and federal support for religious activities, has broken ranks, applauding the U.S. House of Representative bill that Bush threatens to veto. The "potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life," it said. "Moreover, the traditional Jewish perspective does not accord an embryo outside of the womb the full status of humanhood and its attendant protections." Liberal Jewish groups, the vast majority in the U.S., agree completely, and that unanimity is rare. Stem cells are a unique issue.
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water: snake heads—They are ugly. They are totally alien. We can’t get rid of them. No, I don’t mean Republicans, I mean snakehead fish. They even have an ugly name. They popped up last year in the Potomac River, the waterway that separates Maryland from Virginia and runs through the capitol. They are by no means the only aliens in the river (would you believe feral gold fish?), but they do represent a threat, and unfortunately, they are still among us. More than a dozen have already been caught this spring. Of all the alien species in the river, they are the greatest environmental threat. They reproduce like mad and have very healthy appetites, particularly for baby fish of other species, which endangers the fishing industry. Particularly threatened are a species of bass called rockfish when they make it to Chesapeake Bay, a local culinary glory. Snakeheads were imported as food and as an aquarium fish and first showed up in a tributary in 2002. Poison hasn’t worked. Scientists are now trying fish tasers. I don’t suppose speaking harshly to them will help. Maybe if we sent some Congressmen swimming...