February 2014


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chart and plant

bird at suet feeder

Bird at suet feeder.

sunflower feeder

Cardinal arriving at sunflower feeder.   At times there are as many as 40 birds feeding there including a lot of juncos on holiday from Canada.  The snow fence keeps deer and crows from devouring the sunflowers.

bird tracks

We got an inch of snow overnight which I didn’t get around to sweeping off the kitchen steps. By late afternoon it was covered with bird tracks.

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The sun strives to free
dried bamboo leaves trapped in deer
snow hoof prints

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Deer highway leading past garden shed to my house

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They don’t sleep here every night but it is in an L formed by my house and my detached garage that is sheltered from the wind. At least four of them there at a time.

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Here is where they are stomping down the snow to get at plant material to eat.  A lot of work for a few calories.

In the winter their digestive systems convert to being able to eat this past year’s twig growth and buds. That is why they are so destructive to new tree plantings and why I have to shroud my azaleas so I can get blooms next spring.

If this winter keeps up like this for another month the stress on the deer population could  cause a large drop in numbers.

by Zeke Barlow, Virginia Tech

A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were published today in the journal Nature Communications.

While other sugar batteries have been developed, this one has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled, Zhang said.

In as soon as three years, Zhang’s new battery could be running some of the cell phones, tablets, video games, and the myriad other electronic gadgets that require power in our energy-hungry world, Zhang said.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

In America alone, billions of toxic batteries are thrown away every year, posing a threat to both the environment and human health, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Zhang’s development could help keep hundreds of thousands of tons of batteries from ending up in landfills.

This is one of Zhang’s discoveries in the last year that utilize a series of enzymes mixed together in combinations not found in nature. He has published articles on creating edible starch from non-food plants and developed a new way to extract hydrogen in an economical and environmentally friendly way that can be used to power vehicles.

In this newest development, Zhang and his colleagues constructed a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, low-cost biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalyst instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.

Like all fuel cells, the sugar battery combines fuel — in this case, maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch — with air to generate electricity and water as the main byproducts.

“We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade,” Zhang said.

Different from hydrogen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells, the fuel sugar solution is neither explosive nor flammable and has a higher energy storage density. The enzymes and fuels used to build the device are biodegradable.

The battery is also refillable and sugar can be added to it much like filling a printer cartridge with ink.

We heard how Raghupati Raghva Rajaram was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite bhajans. Here is one he used  in his daily prayers.

Vaishnava janato is a popular Bhajan, written in the 15th century by the poet Narsinh Mehta. It is in Gujarati and the bhajan was included in Mahatma Gandhi’s daily prayer. The bhajan speaks about the life, ideals and mentality of a Vaishnava Jana (a follower of Vishnu or Krishna).

Here’s the translation:

One who is a Vaishnava (one who is a devotee of Vishnu)
Knows the pain of others
Does good to others, especially to those ones who are in misery
(even if he does good to others), he doesn’t take pride about his act.

A Vaishnava, Tolerates and praises the entire world
Does not say bad things about anyone
Keeps his/her words, actions and thoughts pure
O Vaishnava, your mother is blessed

A Vaishnava sees everything equally, rejects greed and avarice
Considers some one else’s wife/daughter as his mother
Will never speak lies with his/her tongue,
Does not even touch someone else’s property

A Vaishnava does not succumb to worldly attachments
Who has devoted himself to staunch detachment to worldly pleasures
Who has been addicted to the elixir coming by the name of Ram
For whom all the religious sites are in his own body

Who has no greed and deceit
Who has renounced lust of all types and anger
The poet Narsi will like to see such a person
By who’s virtue, the entire family gets salvation

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