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//engtech at Internet Duct Tape has a variety of useful tools for productive research, one of which is to automatically bundle together stuff he has noted elsewhere for a weekly post at his blog. I haven’t quite mastered this yet in a way most useful to you the readers. Iron-age chalk figure Homer Simpson briefs These “Briefs” are one way to note items I think are of interest but to which I can’t add anything new or useful enough for a separate post.

A new technique is to make use of my del.icio.us account regularly to add newsclips specifically for this web log. Check the new sidebar entry (or for Microsoft Internet Explorer users, check somewhere near the bottom) called FYI brief newsclips of relevance which presents the last 5 or so found items. Clicking the title or a specific item will take you to the entry.

Seeing like an Inuit family: The relationship between house form and culture in northern Canada
Peter C. Dawson (pages 113-135)

In his classic essay Seasonal Variations of the Eskimo, Marcel Mauss argued that a strong relationship exists between the spatial organisation of traditional Inuit house forms and the social morphology of the families they shelter. These observations anticipate later works in anthropology that examine how cultural processes are reflected in, and sustained by, the built environment. Such ideas are important when considering the effects of post-war housing programs on Inuit families in the Canadian Arctic. During the 1960s, attempts were made to restructure the routines of Inuit families through Euro-Canadian architecture and home economics classes. Recent ethnographic observations of Inuit households in operation, however, reveal that many continue to use their houses in traditional ways. By doing so, Inuit families are attempting to adapt to dwellings designed around another culture’s concept of homemaking and family life. Mauss’s ideas are therefore a poignant reminder of the need to take cultural factors into account when developing aboriginal housing policy.

Scientists discover new key to flu transmission
06 Jan 2008 18:00:16 GMT Source: Reuters
By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO, Jan 6 (Reuters) – Flu viruses must be able to pick a very specific type of lock before entering human respiratory cells, U.S. researchers said on Sunday, offering a new understanding of how flu viruses work…. Shape difference may explain why humans can get bird flu from a bird and not pass it along easily to other humans, he said.

So far, the bird flu virus has found a way to bind only to the cone-shaped structures in human upper airways. The virus has already killed 216 people and infected 348 people in 14 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

But the study found that the most infectious human flu viruses bind with the umbrella-shaped receptors in the upper respiratory tract. […]

EID Journal Home > Volume 14, Number 1–January 2008 Avian Influenza Virus (H5N1) Replication in Feathers of Domestic Waterfowl
Yu Yamamoto, Comments to Author Kikuyasu Nakamura, Masatoshi Okamatsu, Manabu Yamada, and Masaji Mase

We examined feathers of domestic ducks and geese inoculated with 2 different avian influenza virus (H5N1) genotypes. Together with virus isolation from the skin, the detection of viral antigens and ultrastructural observation of the virions in the feather epidermis raise the possibility of feathers as sources of infection.

Global Patterns in Seasonal Activity of Influenza A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and B from 1997 to 2005: Viral Coexistence and Latitudinal Gradients Brian S. Finkelman, Cécile Viboud, Katia Koelle, Matthew J. Ferrari, Nita Bharti, Bryan T. Grenfell

Despite a mass of research on the epidemiology of seasonal influenza, overall patterns of infection have not been fully described on broad geographic scales and for specific types and subtypes of the influenza virus. Here we provide a descriptive analysis of laboratory-confirmed influenza surveillance data by type and subtype (A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and B) for 19 temperate countries in the Northern and Southern hemispheres from 1997 to 2005, compiled from a public database maintained by WHO (FluNet). Key findings include patterns of large scale co-occurrence of influenza type A and B, interhemispheric synchrony for subtype A/H3N2, and latitudinal gradients in epidemic timing for type A. These findings highlight the need for more countries to conduct year-round viral surveillance and report reliable incidence data at the type and subtype level, especially in the Tropics.

Can We Turn Garbage Into Energy? The pros and cons of plasma incineration. By Brendan I. Koerner Updated Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008

This is a really good questions and answer–
Should We Throw Hazardous Waste Into Volcanoes? An answer to the Explainer’s 2007 Question of the Year. By Daniel Engber Posted Friday, Jan. 4, 2008

Last year’s leftover question was good, too Can soap get dirty, or is it self-cleaning because it’s soap? Bar soap is good, even if Local health agencies and inspectors are sometimes more wary of [public] bar soap. They either ban it outright or suggest that the bar be placed on a draining rack to dry out between washings. (The gooey bars are more likely to harbor germs.) And they have a link to a new resource for handwashing, Hand Hygiene Resource Center of the Saint Raphael Healthcare System, in New Haven, Connecticut

Plastic bags are killing us By Katharine Mieszkowski

The most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, the lowly plastic bag is an environmental scourge like none other, sapping the life out of our oceans and thwarting our attempts to recycle it…. Dr. Richard Bailey, executive director of the institute, is most concerned about the bags that get waterlogged and sink to the bottom. “We have a lot of animals that live on the bottom: shrimp, shellfish, sponges,” he says. “It’s like you’re eating at your dinner table and somebody comes along and throws a plastic tarp over your dinner table and you.”

… The plastic bag is an icon of convenience culture, by some estimates the single most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, numbering in the trillions. They’re made from petroleum or natural gas with all the attendant environmental impacts of harvesting fossil fuels. One recent study found that the inks and colorants used on some bags contain lead, a toxin. Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags after they’ve been used to transport a prescription home from the drugstore or a quart of milk from the grocery store. It’s equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil. […]

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