Wikipedia Coffee Break 28 Feb 2008: Alfred Wainwright

  1. Start. "Today's Featured Article:" M62 Motorway
  2. M62 Motorway. The M62 motorway is a west–east trans-Pennine motorway in northern England, connecting the cities of Liverpool and Hull.
  3. Pennines. Britain's first long distance footpath, the Pennine Way, runs the full length of the Pennine chain and is 429 kilometres (268 mi) long.
  4. Pennine Way. A popular guide was authored and illustrated by the writer Alfred Wainwright, whose offer to buy a pint of beer for anyone who finished the Pennine Way is estimated to have cost him up to £15,000 until his death in 1991.
  5. Alfred Wainwright. Alfred ("A.") Wainwright MBE (17 January 1907 – 20 January 1991) was a British hillwalker, guidebook author and illustrator.

Back to work...

Wikipedia Coffee Break 25 Feb 2008: Mukurthi National Park

If I'm going to take a break for five minutes at work, I figure I might as well learn something. I suppose I'd have a cigarette if I was a smoker, but I'm not, so I don't. A five minute Wikipedia cruise is more interesting to me.

  1. Start, Wikipedia Main Page: "Did you know..." ...that the railcar that ran on the Shimoga-Talaguppa railway in India had to be reversed on a turntable, so that it could start its return journey?
  2. Shimoga-Talaguppa railway: British Indian authorities started laying the metre gauge line in the year 1938 from Shimoga to Talaguppa to provide access to Jog Falls.
  3. Jog Falls: created by the Sharavathi River falling from a height of 253 meters (829 ft) is the highest plunge waterfall in India and the 7th deepest in the world. From the "Western Ghats" navigational box at the bottom of the page: Sispara Peak.
  4. Sispara Peak: Sispara Peak is in the core area of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Location is 11°12'N, 76°28'E at the northeast end of Silent Valley National Park and the southwest end of Mukurthi National Park.
  5. Mukurthi National Park. See especially: link to photos on Flickr tagged as Mukurthi.
  6. Back to work.

Space Debris Analogy - Pacific Ocean Debris

Reading this article [treehugger.com] about a large area of debris in the Pacific Ocean made me think immediately of space debris. It's not the action of how things get there -- on one hand you have junk being dropped off ships, on the other you have junk dropped off rockets or satellite -- but the question of how to remove it.

Or maybe the question is: is it feasible to remove it? The article about the ocean debris claims that the area is approximately twice the area of the continental United States (~16 million km2 [Wikipedia]). The surface area of a sphere with a radius of 6600 km, i.e., less than 250 km above the Earth's surface or near the lower bound of Low Earth Orbit, is approximately 500 million km2.

That's a lot of area in either case. I don't think you just send the CCC out to the problem areas in rowboats or spacesuits to pick up the junk. What you would need is something automated. But even then: what do you do with the junk after you pick it up? How do you measure what you're doing so that you know you're doing something good, and not causing a new problem? (Recovering 1000 kg of space debris seems like a nice thing to do... unless you end up just dropping it into someone's dining room in Perth.)

It's a problem -- and I consider the irresponsible dumping of garbage a problem, even if it is out of sight -- that occurs on a huge scale that's difficult to understand. Because it occurs in a remote location, there is no real urgency to remove the junk; if the cost of large-scale cleanup is X, the amount of money lost due to leaving the junk in place (decreased fish harvest? re-routing ships?) is Y, and X >> Y, I don't see any governments or other institutions making that investment. What if it was possible to use this as a test bed for remotely operated cleanup? It would be a smaller-scale endeavor, thus taking longer, but it would be win-win: amount of loose garbage decreased plus field experience for the pickup system. Is there any market for the junk that is picked up? Is there any market for such a remote system?