The population of the United States is hitting 300,000,000 today (Tuesday).

US Census Bureau Population Clock (11:30 AM Tuesday Morning, Eastern European Time Zone)

A few observations:

  • The United States is not overpopulated. Even relatively high-density areas, such as the Northeast and southern California have lower population densities than much of Europe and Asia.
  • High population has not necessarily led to environmental disasters. Yes, there are environmental problems, but many of them were worse (air and water quality) when the U.S. population was lower.
  • Population growth in the U.S., as in most of the world, is at a slower rate than it was 40 years ago. It won’t keep on growing to a billion or more.
  • If there is a problem, it is with consumptive, materialistic lifestyles. Does all that stuff make us happier?


Grace and Peace

Ununoctium — Element 118

Ununoctium (element 118, symbol Uuo) has been created by a lab in Russia, as part of a joint U.S.-Russia project. They created three atoms of ununoctium-294 by colliding nuclei of californium-249 with nuclei of calcium-48:

I’ve already added it to my classroom periodic table:


  • The creation of Uuo has been announced before. In 1999, a team of American scientists announced that they had synthesized this element, only to have other scientists pick their evidence apart.
  • I haven’t seen this reported on news sites yet; I’m not sure why not. It is on the Wikipedia home page today, with the article on ununoctium giving more details. Being that anyone can edit a Wikipedia article, this left me a little sceptical until I found the news release from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory online.
  • The name “ununoctium” is a temporary name meaning 1-1-8. It may take years for a decision to be made on its official name and symbol.


Webelements page on ununoctium — gives the story of the retracted 1999 creation of ununoctium
Wikipedia article on ununoctium

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory press release

Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna, Russia

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Lake Effect

The first major winter storm of the season is hitting the Great Lakes right now. The weather radar at Intellicast shows lake-effect snows hitting both the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. As the air moves over the Great Lakes, it picks up moisture, which is then dumped as snow over the land downwind.

Lake effect snows produce the greatest amount of precipitation when the air is cold but the water is still relatively warm. The greater the contrast, the greater the precipitation. Over the Great Lakes, these types of storms typically occur less frequently in late winter, as either the lakes freeze over, or as the lake water temperature decreases, which reduces evaporation.

I love snow; I wish I were there.


Wikipedia article: Lake effect snow.

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Pleistocene megafauna — Coming to a drive-thru safari park near you

North America just isn’t the same without its native camels, horses, mastodons, and saber-toothed cats. Not all of these can be brought back, but how about reintroducing what we can into the wild? And substituting elephants for mastodons, and lions for saber-toothed cats. That is the proposal in the November issue of The American Naturalist. The article, by Donlan et al., is entitled Pleistocene Rewilding: An Optimistic Agenda for Twenty-First Century Conservation. It is not available online, but a news summary of it can be found at ScienceDaily. The abstract can be found here.

(Megafauna = large animals)

image from Wikipedia

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Nobel Prizes 2006

The three 2006 science Nobel Prizesfor physics, chemistry, and medicinehave all been awarded to Americans.

  • Chemistry awarded to Roger Kornberg of Stanford University, for his work on the transcription of DNA to messenger RNA.
  • Physics awarded to George Smoot of UC-Berkeley and John Mather of NASA for their discovery of small variations of the microwave microwave background radiation.
  • Medicine awarded to Craig Mello of the U Mass Medical Center and Andrew Fire of Stanford University for their work on RNA interference in cells, which helps to understand the function of individual genes.

American science is far from being dead.

Grace and Peace