Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do they have oil in Iowa?

Iowa's the corn state, right? I think it's the flat state where Napoleon Dynamite was set, but I'm not too strong on the geography in that region. I know Idaho is potatoes, but when I think of U.S. oil reserves, I know the big players are Texas and Alaska, and I don't think that Iowa contributes much.

It figures that the non-oil-rich states would be the ones working hardest on oil alternatives. After all, there's no incentive to come up with a scientific development that might undermine one of your state's big industries. Anyway, the point is that Iowa State University has come up with an organic asphalt that doesn't require petroleum to produce. They're testing it on one of their bike paths.

I'm happy about the idea, because even if I don't completely embrace all the "peak oil" hysteria, I still think it's important to use renewable resources. Non-renewable resources, by definition, have to run out sometime, after all. An Iowa bike path is a small start, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it catches on.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

But what if you're allergic to mice?

Remember a few years back when there was a news story about a lethal "peanut butter kiss"? A girl had died, and the rumor that was circulating was that her boyfriend had just eaten a peanut butter sandwich and kissed her, and she was so fatally allergic to peanuts that she had a reaction and died. It turned out to be a load of crap--the coroner released an official report after her autopsy stating that she did not have an allergic reaction to kissing her boyfriend--but the urban legend was just too juicy for people to let go. I still hear coworkers talking about it.

I haven't seen anyone die from a food allergy, but I have seen some pretty bad reactions. Allergies to things like wheat, peanuts, and milk can be serious business. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it must be for allergy sufferers since those items end up in so many of the food products available in stores and items on restaurant menus these days.

Given all that, I think it's kind of a big deal that Johns Hopkins prevented mice from having fatal allergic reactions. I think that's good news. Granted, it usually takes a long time for something to get from the "tested in mice" stage to the "making life better for everyone" stage, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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