Glocalism

glocal

This week I have had an article published in an international peer reviewed journal called Glocalism. The article is about food production, and reports on many of the arguments that I touched upon in my recent food series.

The article, rather catchily entitled “Collective food Purchasing Networks in Italy as a Case Study of Responsible Innovation” by J. Hankins and C. Grasseni is free and can be downloaded here. It is slightly more of an academic article than my blog writing, is co-authored with anthropologist Cristina Grasseni, and reports our joint fieldwork looking at alternative food production networks in Italy and the USA.

Glocalism

As I said above the article is in the journal Glocalism, which is all about glocalism. So what is glocalism? Well it is all in the name, it is being local and global at the same time. To take part of the explanation offered by the Globus and Locus Association

“The term “glocalism” identifies the momentous changes generated by globalization, changes which have resulted in a permanent intertwining of the global and the local dimensions. In fact, there is no longer any place on the planet which has not been touched to a growing degree by various types of global flows and, at the same time, there are no global flows which are not increasingly parsed according to the many different characteristics of the places”.

Do you agree with this? That globalism means that the local can only exist in relation to the global? Or that globalization has effected every corner of the world?

Globalization

If we think about changes in the environment that maybe we should accept this line. If we think about how event in one part of the world effect others (or all) then we can see the local as part of a global system. If we look for local solutions to a problem are we in some way involving the global? If we are talking about anything that has to do with poverty, or pollution, or the environment, or anything related to technology, then we would probably have to accept that these are not local issues, but global. A house in Detroit is not sold for $1000 because of the state of Detroit, but because the world that Detroit is in has produced a situation that makes a house in Detroit (some areas) worth $1000.

If we think about technology use through this framework, we can see how much the Internet (to give one example) is taking the local and moving it into the global. The proportion of our world’s population living in cities of a million or more has risen from thirty-seven percent in 1970 to fifty percent today. By 2030 more than two-thirds of world population will be in large cities, and most of them will be in Asia. Why is this? Well one reason is the need to operate via high speed Internet. The infrastructure is in the big cities, and it has become a necessary part of working life.

So the fact that a city in India or Thailand has high speed Internet infrastructure effects mobility across the globe, the local and the global are entwined. This has an effect on food production capability, transport, the environment, and everything else you might like to think about across the globe.

How about that for a thought on an autumn morning in front of the computer in the Netherlands or a wintry start to a New York day shovelling snow?

The ISS

The International Space Station is amazing. Humanity has a permanently manned space station.

You may think I’m saying that in every article of this series, and I probably am. But that’s because space and our accomplishments are quite frankly brilliant!

Mir

The International Space Station (or ISS) is not the first manned space station. The Russian space station Mir is widely considered the first successful long-term space station. Before the launch of the ISS, Mir was the largest satellite in orbit, and until 2010 when its record was surpassed by the ISS, Mir housed the longest continuous human presence in space; an impressive 10 years.

The Russians were leaders in space station technology, and without their expertise, I would argue the ISS would not be here today.

A Joint Venture

The International Space StationThe ISS is a joint space venture between Russia, the United States, the European Space Agency (the people who put Philae on a comet) Japan, Canada and Brazil.

The station was initially launched in in 1998 and has been continually manned since November 2000. Currently the station’s future is confirmed until 2020. It’s long-term future is to be determined by the relations between its key partners, the US and Russia.

The ISS is constantly being improved and upgraded, and is still being built. Amongst their most recent upgrades, includes the installation of a 3D printer. All the add-ons and upgrades are making the station heavier and heavier, and it now weighs more than 400 tonnes! But don’t worry, it isn’t going to fall from the sky any time soon.

The ISS can be seen from Earth, and if you have a pretty jazzy telescope, then you can view it in pretty remarkable detail. If you want to give it a go, check out NASA’s ISS spotters guide.

ISS as seen from Earth

The ISS as photographed through a telescope on Earth.

You can also track the ISS, and see exactly where above the Earth it is in real time. Check out this site which has a live view of what part of the planet the station is over. You may be surprised just how quickly it is moving!

Next Week

After the Thursday post last week and yesterdays site issues, I’m hoping that next Monday’s post will go without a hitch! See you then.

…and we have touchdown!

This week I was going to write about Black Holes, however with history being made yesterday afternoon, how could I not write about the Rosetta mission?

Jonny gave some background to the Rosetta mission a few weeks ago, so now that Philae (the probe) has landed, it’s time for an update!

Philae Has Landed

At 16:05 GMT yesterday afternoon, Philae successfully landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It wasn’t a perfect landing, as when Philae first touched down, it is thought that the harpoons did not fire, and as such, it bounced off potentially up to a kilometer high, before landing again. The European Space Agency belive that it first landed at 15:33 and then it landed again at 17:26. It is thought that the second landing wasn’t a success either, but after another short bounce it is believed that at 17:33 Philae finally landed properly. With so little gravity, it is very fortunate that after one unsuccessful landing Philae didn’t sustain major damage, or wasn’t thrown off into space.

Whilst scientists aren’t sure if Philae is properly secured, they do know that it is functioning as it has already sent communication including pictures, back to Earth.

Delay

Sunlight takes 8 minutes and 19 seconds to reach Earth. The signal confirming that Philae had landed took 28 minutes from leaving Rosetta to reach Earth, showing just how far away it is. The comet Rosetta has been tracking takes 6 years to orbit the Sun and is currently around 450 million kilometers from the Sun. To put that into perspective, Earth is around 150 million kilometers from the Sun.

Singing

A sound clip from Rosetta has also been sent back to Earth. Want to know what life on a comet sounds like? Check out the clip below.

The sound is going viral, as millions of people on social media speculate as to what it is. It is the lonely sound of space, or could it be aliens crying out?

More?

If you are interested in finding out more about the landing itself, take a look at this handy BBC guide. You can also follow Philae and Rosetta on Twitter. For more information on anything Rosetta, head over to the European Space Agency’s dedicated site.

Naturally, keep a close watch on social media today, for more exciting developments.

DIY Electric Brain Stimulation

electric shock

Many years ago when I was just a teenager, I came across an interesting machine. It was supposed to tone your muscles while you sit on the sofa eating crisps and drinking tea, by using electric current. Easy to use, just plug the leads into the box, attach the pads to the skin using elasticated bands, and pass the current through your leg muscles. You feel a little twitch, the muscle flinches maybe and somehow is exercised.

Well I of course didn’t need to lose weight or build up my muscles, I weighed 68 kilos, but I had the very thought that any teenage adventurer home scientist idiot would have, “I wonder what it does if you stick it on your head?”

Unfortunately my experiments were soon discovered and the offending article was removed (the machine, not my brain or sense of experimentation) which is a shame, because if not I would today be considered a pioneer, the father figure of the growing DIY brain stimulation movement.

I do not want to suggest that anyone should try it at home, but the movement for self brain stimulation is on a roll. I won’t include any links but you can discover how to build your own stimulator and where to place it either using text, photos or videos easily and freely available online. The small army of practitioners are conducting experiments upon their own brains, circulating their findings and claim real results.

Although these results are anecdotal (not totally “scientific”) users claim that their capacities for mathematics have improved, problems of depression have been lightened, memory is better and that chronic pain can be relieved.

This week the Journal Science News carries an article about the movement, and a couple of months ago WIRED also addressed the problem, and I would like to raise a few issues to add to their arguments.

We might think that it may not be a good idea to conduct such experiments upon ourselves without any expert help, but the people who have had their lives improved through these actions would not agree. Experimentation in this field goes back many years, far longer than you would imagine (in the 11th Century experiments included using electric catfish and other charge generating fish were proposed to treat patients, rays placed on people’s heads etc), and many of the practitioners today are doctors. There is even a commercially available set up that is marketed to gamers, as one finding suggests that the use improves their playing capacity.

This field in some way reflects the path of home treatment using non prescribed drugs in cases of cancer. Many groups exist that experimentally treat themselves with medication that has either not been approved, trialled correctly or is not commercially available for other reasons. If these trials are reported correctly the information they produce becomes important data, and we tend to find that people report extremely well when they are talking about their own bodies and choose their own treatment. And trials of this type may not be possible (or wanted) under the control of drugs companies or research organizations.

So there are obvious ethical issues to take into account, including issues of trust, reliability, risk, responsibility, legal implications and the list goes on, but people will always experiment. According to Doctor Who that is why the human race is what it is, why it is so wonderful.

Once again I find myself thinking about the enhancement problem and its series of fine lines, ideas of the democratization of medicine flow in, and we must not forget how much science is done in this way and how much good comes out of ad-hoc garage experimentation. Do you know what Benjamin Franklin did with a kite and a key in a lightening storm?

A lunar base

You may be wondering whether we have the ability to have a permanent base on the Moon. In the late 1960s and early 70s twelve men set foot on the Moon. Nobody has set foot on the Moon since… but why?

The answer is quite unfortunate really. People got bored.

In the 60s the Soviet Union and the United States – arguably the two most powerful nations at the time – were racing to the Moon. Russia won the race to send a man into space – and return him safely. Russia also won the race to construct a space station. America however won the all important race to the Moon.

For a space explorer looking up into the night sky in the 50s and 60s, the goal was always to get to the Moon. So what happened when America got there? The space race lost public support. People started questioning why there was a need to go into space, why money wasn’t being (better) spent elsewhere. The US had shown that it could get to the Moon, and it could get there first, so why carry on?

Today

As the recent crash of the Virgin Galactic test flight and the ISS destined rocket which exploded show, going into space can still be dangerous. That said however with today’s technology we are more than capable of travelling into space reasonably safely.

It is thought that the Moon has a lot of water buried within its surface. Water is a critical element required by us to live. Water can also be used to make rocket fuel. Rocket fuel uses hydrogen and oxygen – the key components of water.

Rockets on Earth need huge amounts of fuel to escape the reaches of Earth’s gravity. The Moon is significantly lighter than Earth, and therefore rockets would need much less fuel to take off. This makes flights into space (to Mars for example) much more viable, if they take off from the Moon.

A manufacturing plant on the MoonNow, you may be thinking that we would need to get the rockets to the Moon in the first place, so why waste time relaunching them from the Moon? Well maybe we wouldn’t. The Moon has many of the resources we would need to build rockets. We would be able to create manufacturing bases on the Moon, with very little supplies from Earth. Progress would only be accelerated by the use of our new friend (or foe?) 3D printers.

All electrical power could be provided by solar panels – which we could build on the Moon. Lunar sun is very predictable, and with no atmosphere, the energy we could generate would be much greater than here on Earth.

Moon Base

A permanently manned Moon base is not a new idea. The US has had many plans over time to create a Moon base – originally for military reasons, however now for other reasons like energy and space travel. Japan, Russia and India are also currently all exploring the concept of establishing a base on the Moon within the next few decades.

What a Moon base could look like

The Moon could be a great service station for rockets. Missions into outer space could use the Moon as a pit stop to pick up supplies and refuel, before going on their way.

The Moon’s potential for solar energy could also be another interesting use for a Moon base. If we could cover vast areas of the Moon in solar panels and then transmit the energy back to Earth, we would be able to solve the global energy crisis. Naturally you would have to somehow persuade fossil fuel companies that it is a good idea first – and considering the power and influence they have, this could be difficult.

We currently have the technology and capabilities to create a permanent lunar base, now all we need is the enthusiasm and funding to make it happen.