Assorted Links (Spring 2019)

It's a new season (even if it did snow here this week), which seems like a good time for another links post. (I'm quite busy with my job right now, so this will probably be the last post until around Easter—but it provides plenty to read if you follow the links).

Summer will be here before we know it, so it's not too soon to plan some adventures. I've been to most of the Canadian national parks on this list (aside from the ones in the territories), but I haven't been to Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. I don't know if it will work out yet, but I'd like to go camping there this year. Grasslands also makes an appearance on this list of great campsites (the entries for Waterton, Fjord-du-Saguenay, and Cape Breton Highlands also look really appealing).

An article in The Economist about "rewilding" looks interesting (unfortunately only a couple of paragraphs are available without subscribing):

Scientifically, [rewilding] rests on the theory of trophic cascades. This holds that ecosystems are shaped by “apex consumers”—large herbivores and carnivores atop food chains. Remove them, as humans are wont to do, and the mixture of species lower down the food chain mutates, often to the detriment of biodiversity. When wolves were chased out of Yellowstone National Park, in the United States, for instance, unchecked deer outcompeted bison and beavers for food. The wolves’ return in 1995 rapidly unwound these changes. That success has spurred dozens of other projects.

An artsy documentary I watched recently showed some mine sites around the world and how they impact the landscape, so I was interested to read this article about mine rehabilitation in Australia. Topsoil is an important piece of the puzzle.

A less cheerful environmental story is this one, showing which rivers discharge the most plastic waste into the oceans. On the bright side, the amount of plastic coming from rivers in North America is low, so if best practices for waste management can spread around the globe it would do a lot to stem the flow.

Also about the ocean, this article about the Ocean Observatories Initiative discusses using multi-sensor arrays and big data techniques to hopefully gain a better understanding of the big picture of interconnected oceanic ecosystems.

The BlueTech Forum is coming up in a couple of months. I don't expect to be going, but it looks like a nice event for the water industry. Their website has some interesting conversations with people who will be presenting, including an overview of the history and future of water infrastructure.

What Sedlak discovered through his deep-dive into the history of urban water systems was that the history of solving problems in water infrastructure was not one of incremental change and development, but rather of rapid catch-up when the problems became too big to ignore.

NASA has some timelapses of satellite photos showing changes in land use or the environment at significant sites around the world. This one shows the tentative recovery of marshland in Iraq. On a related topic, Ramsar keeps track of significant wetlands in countries around the world.

Cellulosic ethanol is a very attractive biofuel. As ethanol, it can be blended with gasoline and used (up to a certain blend) in the engines of existing vehicles without modification. Unlike conventional ethanol, cellulosic ethanol can be made from low-value parts of agricultural crops (like stems and leaves) instead of parts we eat (like corn kernels). However, it hasn't yet become commercially viable without subsidies. Here is a really good article about the history of attempts at producing cellulosic ethanol and how government mandates can't bring technology into existence simply because they want it:

Interestingly, there was no commercial cellulosic ethanol production when the mandates were established, but proponents of the technology were certain that commercialization would come in response to the mandates.

Here is a cute tutorial on evaluation matrices that draws on classical mythology and OKCupid.

This comic about college costs, admission processes, and credentials raises an interesting point, in my opinion. (I read a book by the author and his wife last year).

Here is a brief biography of Confucius.

Harissa is a tasty Moroccan spice with a bit of kick. I picked up a jar of it recently so this page of recipe ideas seems handy.

In Spanish, "por qué, porque, por que and porqué" all have different meanings. Here's a guide.

Apparently around 11% of new businesses in Canada fail within the first two years. But this post argues that a certain level of constant churning is essential to a strong economy and shouldn't be stifled (and entrepreneurs should be willing to fail and try again).

Here's an article about how cryptocurrencies can be useful in places where people don't have good access to conventional banking. It also touches on the crisis in Venezuela.

Last, but not least, here are some articles about a couple of mathematical topics: knots and pentagon tiling. (Tiling is a topic I've blogged about before).