On March 11, 2011, a devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck just off the coast of Japan, creating a tsunami which did vast amounts of damage to the island as it swept across the land.
At a park in Japan, an American tourist happened to have his phone out as the first earthquake shock waves traveled through the ground beneath him. He captured the first ever footage of the earth expanding and contracting with the waves of a quake.
He also captured the phenomenon of liquefaction, in which water held in loosely backed ground soil get pushed up to the surface by the extra pressure applied from the earthquake.
It all started back in 2006 when the U.S. Border Patrol Agency was searching for new ways to combat illegal immigration from Mexico. An increasing number of Mexicans were trying to cross the border illegally, and Border Patrol was finding it more and more difficult to combat the issue.
So the agency paid an undisclosed sum to Elevacion, a Washington, D.C.-based advertising company that focuses on advertising to Hispanic markets, to write and record a Mexican folk album. The songs were about tragic stories of people who tried to cross the border and were met with tragedy.
Those who decide to attempt to enter the United States illegally face a number of potential perils on the journey:
“Professional smugglers and bandits who beat, rob, rape and abandon them; bitingly cold or scorching temperatures; snakes, scorpions; drowning; and death by dehydration or exhaustion.”
U.S. Border Patrol figured that producing music about these dangers might help dissuade Mexicans from trying to enter America illegally. They had Elevacion distribute that first CD to radio stations across Mexico over the past two years. Apparently, the majority of stations playing the songs and the listeners requesting them are totally oblivious about the original source of the music.
With the success of their debut album, the agency (along with Elavacion) is now working on its second CD, entitled “MigraCorridos“. The title was supposed to mean “songs of the immigrant,” but the word “migras” is also often used as slang for Border Patrol in many parts of Mexico.
The new CD brings with it a whole new set of tragic stories, including,
“a cousin who dies from dehydration, a mother who is raped and beaten by a child-killing smuggler, [and] one man’s suffocation in an airtight tractor-trailer.”
Here’s some excerpts from the upcoming album (translated from Spanish):
“He put me in a trailer / There I shared my sorrows / With 40 illegals / They never told me / That this was a trip to hell.” - El Respeto (Respect)
“After some hours / Abelardo opened his eyes / And in the middle of the cold night / Discovered his dead cousin at his side.” - El Mas Grande Enemigo (The Biggest Enemy)
It all comes down to the debate over whether or not it’s a good idea to wash eggs before putting them on the shelves. In the United States, USDA standards require that all eggs must be washed before being sold to consumers.
The standards specify that American eggs must be washed with an odorless detergent and water that is at least 90°F and a minimum of 20°F warmer than the internal temperature of the egg. The eggs must then be thoroughly dried.
This last step is where a lot of the controversy arises. A completely dry egg is almost completely impervious to bacteria, but even a thin layer of moisture facilitates the flow of bacteria into the egg.
Health officials in Europe are worried that washing eggs may do more harm than good, fearing that the drying process won’t be meticulously carried out every single time.
They also fear the possibility that some eggs could end up soaking in cold sanitizing water that hasn’t been changed out in a while. Cold water causes eggs to contract inwards- this contraction pulls liquid from the shell’s surroundings into its interior. If this liquid happens to be old, cold water, there is a high chance it contains bacteria.
Then there’s a little something known as the cuticle. As a hen is laying an egg, she applies a thin, mucous-like coating to the outside of the shell. It is wet for the first few minutes, but it quickly dries and creates a protective layer that keeps out carbon dioxide and moisture which can spoil and contaminate the egg.
The EU’s egg regulators say that the egg’s natural cuticle provides,
“an effective barrier to bacterial ingress with an array of antimicrobial properties.”
This is one of the main reasons why they oppose the washing of eggs, which often removes part or all of the cuticle layer.
Finally, there’s the issue of refrigeration. In Europe eggs are on non-refrigerated shelves and stay close to room temperature from the time they are collected to the time they are bought and consumed.
This is because when you take a cold, refrigerated egg out into warmer air, moisture in the air condenses on it. According to the EU regulations, this facilitates the growth bacteria both outside and inside the shell.
So why would we refrigerate eggs in the United States? The answer in related to another major difference between American and British eggs: salmonella vaccination.
Salmonella is the main bacterial culprit of contaminated eggs. It can come from feces getting on the egg, but it can also come from feces getting into the hen’s reproductive tract before the shell even forms. When this happens, the salmonella is inside the egg from jump- no amount of washing can de-contaminate it.
During an outbreak in the late 90s, thousands of people in the UK got salmonella poisoning in a very short period time. Ever since then, British farmers have been vaccinating their hens against salmonella to avoid the costs of being the source of a health crisis. While hen vaccination is not required by law, farmers must do it if they want their eggs certified by Britain’s official Lion Quality Mark.
Today, 90% of all eggs in the UK are from vaccinated hens, and most of the remaining 10% come from small farmers who don’t sell their eggs to retail chains. Reported cases of salmonella poisoning in the UK dropped from 14,771 in 1997 to just 581 in 2009.
Here in the United States, there’s no vaccination requirements. Consequently, we have about 142,000 cases of illness from consuming salmonella-contaminated eggs every year.
So back to refrigeration. A study in the early 90s showed that non-refrigerated eggs didn’t experience any significant salmonella growth in the first 21 days. After that, however, the eggs quickly became contaminated. More research has shown that storing eggs in colder temperatures inhibits the growth of bacteria over a much longer period of time.
So, to keep eggs from our unvaccinated American hens on the shelves longer, we refrigerate them. What do you think?
If you’re not familiar with the TED organization, you really ought to be. TED, which stands for technology, education and design, is a series of conferences where great minds give presentations (known as TED talks) on the topics I just mentioned.
While browsing videos of these presentations on their website, TED.com, I stumbled upon this awesome illustrated video which shows what happens inside your body when it is attacked by a virus. It’s a great way to understand a pretty complex scientific process, plus, the illustrations are awesome! Enjoy!
Lesson by Shannon Stiles, animation by Igor Coric.
The New York City Police Department decided it would be a good PR move to utilize social media to generate support for the department. So, they encouraged people who had pictures with NYPD officers to tweet them using the hashtag #myNYPD.
Naturally, everybody immediately started posting pictures of police brutality by the NYPD, focusing on the controversial “stop and frisk” policy put in place by now former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Here’s some of the tweets:
Today, April 22, is Earth Day. The first Earth Day, celebrated in 1970, was organized by environmental activists in a number of major cities who were fed up with the high levels of pollution that existed in many cities during that time (there were more factories in the cities in 1970 than there are now).
Earth Day is now celebrated in over 192 countries, promoting activism in conservation and environmental protection. A lot of other things have changed since 1970, though. For one, the global population has nearly doubled. The graphic below shows the relationship between our population growth and our use of resources.
With manufacturing growing rapidly in countries like China and India in the past few decades, we have also been increasing the amount of carbon dioxide we’re emitting into the atmosphere.
This interactive graphic allows you to see total emissions and emissions per person in different countries, as well as how much these numbers changed between 1996 and 2006. Click the image to link to the interactive map.
One of the most simple but most effective ways to promote a healthy Earth is recycling. The United States is notoriously wasteful. Here’s Dave Tilford from the environmental activism group The Sierra Club:
“With less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper.”
This graphic gives 10 quick facts about trash in America (click image to enlarge):
It’s not all gloom and doom however. The good thing is, we still have time to change the way we view our relationship with the Earth and adjust the way we live accordingly.
There’s lots of little things you can do to help this transition. The National Resources Defense Council put together this great graphic showing a few ways you can actively promote the health of the Earth in your everyday life (click image to enlarge):
Oh, and plant a tree if you can!! Happy Earth Day!