first_imgTwo elderly brothers who beat off raiders with just a brush have been targeted again.Well-known farmers Jim and Eric Steele saw off a gang of four burglars who called to their home looking for cash.The pensioners, aged 69 and 75, gave one raider a beating and chased them from their home on Main Street in Manorcunningham on Monday week last. One of the attackers was injured and they fled empty-handed.However the brothers have revealed they were set upon again just four days after they saw off the first gang.Doors on the brother’s outhouses were broken, machines were damaged and oil was stolen in the second raid.The brothers didn’t hear the break-in at the rear of their home and only discovered the damage and robbery the next morning. Eldest brother Jim told Donegal Daily he suspects it could have been the same gang again.He said he will deal with the raiders in “his own way” if they call back again.“The first time I used a brush and gave one of them a good shot to the guts.“They weren’t expecting that but this is our home and we will do all we have to do to defend it.“The next time it might not be a brush if they come in here,” he warned. Brother Eric said they are now taking in turns sleeping in case the gang come back.“The guards can’t be everywhere so we have to look after ourselves and our property.“We don’t have anything in our house but this is our home and we won’t be frightened out of it,” he said.Nobody has been arrested in relation to the burglary on the Steele brothers’ home. More than 20 burglaries have taken place across Donegal in recent weeks with a number of elderly people hurt during some of the raids.A number of people appeared at Letterkenny District Court this week charged in connection with other alleged burglaries across Donegal.All seven people were released on bail to appear at future court sittings.Jim Steele said he was outraged when he heard that all suspects have been released.“The Gardai are bringing these people before the courts and they are just allowed to walk free again.“What kind of message is that sending out to old people living alone that these people are back out on the streets again,” he said.WELL-KNOWN FARMING BROTHERS HIT BY GANG AGAIN was last modified: January 24th, 2013 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:Eric SteeleJim Steelemanorcunninghamlast_img read more


Super Designs in Amazing Animals, Part I

first_img(Visited 370 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Animals of all kinds, sizes and shapes have mastered physical principles in astonishing ways.Super-Black SpidersPeacock spiders, those incredibly fast-moving dancers with colorful fantails to impress females, know another trick to make their shimmering abdominal displays stand out. Phys.org reports, “Bumps on peacock spider make dark spots super-dark.” The fantails of these tiny (4mm) Australian spiders seem to almost glow, not because of pigment, but because of optical tricks.The researchers report that part of the reason the colors were so striking on the abdomen was because the black, velvety parts next to them were incredibly black. When they took a very close look at the black parts, they observed bumps with a unique structure. When they reproduced the bumps in a simulation, they found that they manipulated light in two ways to reduce reflection. First, their curved surfaces made light bounce in random directions, directly reducing reflection. And second, they found that each of the bumps was a tiny microlens—each forced light that entered to take a longer path as it interacted and was ultimately absorbed by the black melanin pigment. Together, the features of the bumps reflected less than 0.5 percent of the light that struck them.How did these spiders learn both pigments and structural colors to do this? If you haven’t seen them perform, by all means take a look at some of the YouTube videos posted by Peacockspiderman (Jurgen Otto), the biologist who brought their ‘spiders’ got talent’ dances to light in 2008 for the enjoyment of millions of viewers. His latest new video was posted just a week ago.Aerodynamic DiversKingfishers are kings at fishing partly because of their aerodynamic beaks that plow through water smoothly and silently. Scientists at Bangor University, according to Phys.org, searched all species for the champions. Not unexpectedly, the species that spend the most time diving after fish had the best beaks.Asked why this research was valuable, Kristen explained that although designers use the natural world as inspiration and that the kingfisher beak shape had been used to redesign bullet trains to remove a sonic boom as they compressed air when entering tunnels, the design solution had come through observation, but no one had actually validated the kingfisher beak shape under lab conditions.Achieving a greater understanding of how shapes behave could lead to more bio engineering solutions in the future.The article makes a common mistake in evolutionary theory by claiming that “Some kingfishers forage rather than dive for food, so their beaks have not evolved to break the water so seamlessly.” No animal part “evolves to” do something or not do something. Evolution is blind and purposeless. A better explanation is that the kingfishers that found other ways to eat than diving for fish lost the ideal beak shapes of their champion counterparts.Color Vision in Total DarknessHow do deep-sea fish get around and find their prey? They have amazingly adapted eyes. Scientists studied the eyes of five species of fish that live below the photic (light) zone, and found retinas rich in highly-sensitive rods and cones, layered in a way that accentuates light – not light from the sun, but light from bioluminescent organisms. Elizabeth Pennisi exclaims in Science, “Jeepers, Creatures, Where’d You Get Those Peepers”?When the ancestors of cave fish and certain crickets moved into pitchblack caverns, their eyes virtually disappeared over generations. But fish that ply the sea at depths greater than sunlight can penetrate have developed super-vision, highly attuned to the faint glow and twinkle given off by other creatures. They owe this power, evolutionary biologists have learned, to an extraordinary increase in the number of genes for rod opsins, retinal proteins that detect dim light. Those extra genes have diversified to produce proteins capable of capturing every possible photon at multiple wavelengths—which could mean that despite the darkness, the fish roaming the deep ocean actually see in color.The finding “really shakes up the dogma of deep-sea vision,” says Megan Porter, an evolutionary biologist studying vision at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu who was not involved in the work. Researchers had observed that the deeper a fish lives, the simpler its visual system is, a trend they assumed would continue to the bottom. “That [the deepest dwellers] have all these opsins means there’s a lot more complexity in the interplay between light and evolution in the deep sea than we realized,” Porter says.Where’d you get those peepers, indeed. One could claim that existing opsins just got duplicated and enhanced. Perhaps. But it would be far less costly for fish to stay in the light. Duplication, furthermore, does not add information any more than photocopying does. The real question is the origin of opsins in the first place in animals without the neurons and brains to use the information. Why would an organism evolve a light-sensitive spot when it doesn’t even know what light is? Opsins alone do not create vision. Many interacting genes, proteins, and organs have to be present simultaneously. Since eyes presuppose foresight to use it, the sensible explanation is that the Eye-Maker gave organisms ability to adapt to different environments.No matter where you look in the biosphere, animals have superpowers that our engineers drool over. One thing is clear: these animals did not design themselves. Something more clear: the Stuff Happens Law did not hit on these designs by sheer dumb luck.last_img read more

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An Epidemic of Duct Disease and Enclosure Problems

first_img Allison Bailes of Decatur, Georgia, is a speaker, writer, energy consultant, RESNET-certified trainer, and the author of the Energy Vanguard Blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @EnergyVanguard. Call #2: No cooling anywhereA three-story townhouse, probably less than 10 years old. One zoned system served the first and second floors. Another system served the third floor.Problem #1: Dirty filter (photo #2 below). We were 2 for 2 here. Again, the coil probably had frozen up but melted before we arrived. We checked the refrigerant charge at the condenser, as well as the superheat temperature. After replacing the filter and cleaning the condenser coil, the system worked fine.The third-floor system wouldn’t come on at all. Phil figured that the capacitor was blown, and indeed it was. When he opened the condenser panel to take a look, the condenser cap was blown outward (photo #3 below), the telltale sign that it had “popped.”This house also had a pretty bad duct system, but the homeowner couldn’t afford to do anything about it. That would be quite expensive, too, since the first and second floors are served by ducts that are mostly buried behind drywall. Thinking of buying a townhouse? You may well end up with a similar piece of crap.Lessons: (1) Homeowners should replace the filter regularly. (Have I mentioned that yet?) (2) Capacitors last about 5 to 7 years, according to Phil, so you’re gonna lose your AC sometimes. Even worse, it’s most likely to happen in hotter weather because the AC runs a lot and the capacitor doesn’t have a chance to cool down. (3) Have a knowledgeable pro take a look at the HVAC system if you’re thinking of buying a townhouse. Well, when I say it worked, I mean that it started blowing cool air again. We know that because we had direct access to the cool air while we were in the attic: A 12-inch supply duct was completely disconnected from the supply plenum, as you can see in the photo above.That’s a lot of cool air being lost to the attic. I wonder how long it was like that. When Phil asked about cooling in all of the upstairs rooms, the customer told him that her sister’s room was pretty hot even before the AC went out.A third problem showed itself when we measured the static pressure. In this system, designed for 0.5 inch total external static pressure, we found 0.9 inch. That means reduced air flow. In this case, as in many, the system is probably oversized for the house and the blower is oversized for the coil, so the reduced air flow is probably about the right amount, sort of. It’s certainly not efficient, though.Looking around the attic, I saw a fourth problem: a Swiss cheese building enclosure. It had vaulted ceilings, attic kneewalls, and lots of air leakage sites. It had insulation that missed being in contact with the air barrier. And the cable guy screwed things up again, too.Lessons: (1) Homeowners can keep their AC running by changing the filter. (2) Homeowners can spot disconnected ducts by poking their head in the attic or crawl space. (3) Too many duct systems have air flow problems. (4) You can cool a tent with an air conditioner, but you’ll spend extra money doing so. Call #5: Cooling problem upstairsThe homeowners here are in the process of moving into this 50-year-old home in Atlanta and have noticed that it’s difficult to cool the upstairs. The closets get very hot and the laundry room gets even hotter. Yes, they have a typically bad duct system, but the bigger issue in this home is heat gain.If you’re a home energy pro, you know what the problems are already just from photo #7 below. This house had 5 dormers on the front, and you can see two of them in the photo above. The attic spaces get very hot. The walls aren’t insulated well — or at all. The vaulted ceiling insulation isn’t doing its job either. Heat pours into the conditioned space.We couldn’t get into the spaces between the dormers to see how well they were insulated, but the laundry room (photo #8 below) on the back side of the house had a scuttle hole. Before even looking into that attic, though, I knew that those innocent-looking surfaces you see in the photo were guilty of First Degree Heat Gain. I could feel it in the air of the room. I could feel it by how hot the walls and ceilings were. Looking and seeing no insulation on many of the surfaces only confirmed what I already knew.Lesson: Even with a functional air conditioner, some building enclosure problems are so bad that they really need to be addressed. This is one of those cases. At the end of the day…I really hate that expression, but in this case, I did indeed get to the end of the day of my ride-around with Phil of Moncrief Heating & Air. And, at the end of the day, I saw a bit of what HVAC service pros see every day. I imagine many of them suffer from PTSD.When an air conditioner service company gets a “no-cool” call, their immediate concern is to get the AC performing up to its capacity again. Many customers only want that cool air blowing out of the vents again and don’t want to go further. Of course, many of those no-cools are easily preventible by regular maintenance, like changing the filter.Some customers, however, have the resources to fix the bigger problems, and are interested in doing so, and that’s why HVAC companies are well suited for home performance work. Once you know about building science, you understand that “the box” is only one component of the heating and cooling system, which also includes the duct system, the building enclosure, and internal heat gains. Then it becomes difficult to go in and just change out a filter or capacitor without also addressing the other problems.Moncrief has been around since 1898, so they’re used to focusing on the box, like most HVAC companies. In the past decade, though, they’ve begun the transition to putting HVAC in the context of home performance. They’re addressing the duct system problems and regularly measure static pressure, for example, and have been involved with some spray foam jobs to fix faulty building enclosures.If you’re in the HVAC business and not doing these things, just look at all the business you’re missing out on and all the customers you’re not helping as fully as you could. If you’re a homeowner, keep in mind that your problems with cooling may have other causes. Also, change your filter. Go, do it now. I changed mine today, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it was past due (although not as bad as the two above). RELATED ARTICLES Air Conditioner BasicsThe Magic of ColdGBA Encyclopedia: Air ConditioningClimate-Specific Air ConditionersKeeping Ducts IndoorsDuct Leakage TestingSealing DuctsHot-Climate DesignSaving Energy With Manual J and Manual DWindow-Mounted Air Conditioners Save Energycenter_img When an air conditioner breaks down in hot weather, homeowners reach for their phone. The HVAC company then sends someone out to the home with the immediate goal of getting the AC running again so the occupants will cool off. The thing is, though, that most homes have problems that run deeper than the cause of the broken air conditioner.Last week, I spent a day going on calls with Phil Mutz of Moncrief Heating & Air Conditioning. It was a good reminder for me of what it’s like to spend all day responding to homeowners’ air conditioning complaints. I’ve written before about the summers I spent going on calls with my grandfather, who owned an HVAC, electrical, and plumbing company in Leesville, Louisiana.Phil and I went out on five calls last Thursday, four of them for homeowners with problems keeping their homes cool. We got the air conditioners running again without much difficulty, but we also saw a lot of other problems begging for attention. Here’s a brief rundown on what we found. Call #3: No cooling anywhereThis was one of those cases that’s both really easy and really hard. Their system wasn’t coming on at all. It’s a zoned system. We went into the attic and asked the homeowner to turn it on. And…Voilà! We fixed it. Well, not really. The system came on and started cooling again. Phil figured there’s an intermittent problem with the zone control board. Maybe it just needed a reset and will work fine now. A more likely possibility is that Moncrief will be back out there trying to track down exactly what’s happening.Intermittent problems can be very difficult to find and fix. “I don’t like to replace parts unless I catch a problem while it’s happening,” Phil told me.Oh, and again, the duct system was a mess. Lots of flex. Ductboard junction boxes (photo #4 below) squishing flex ducts. The standard fare.Lessons: (1) As with computers, rebooting solves some problems. (2) It’s hard to find a house with a good duct system. Call #4: Water damage on ceilingThis one was different, and the water damage had to do with a bad condensate line. But let’s cut to the chase and go straight to the duct system. The air conditioner we looked at was in the unconditioned attic. We were there in mid-afternoon, so it was HOT up there. I don’t generally sweat a lot but I was sweating that day. Anyway, you can see what we saw in photo #5 below.How many problems do you see there? Here’s my short list:System and ducts in unconditioned atticSupply duct coming straight off of endcapSloppily installed flex ducts with poor support and excess lengthProblem #2 means that the duct coming off the top will get more than its fair share of the air. That big turn of ~120° will choke it down a bit, but still, you shouldn’t put a supply duct right at the end of a plenum or trunkline. (Mike MacFarland of Energy Docs in California does this on some of his jobs, but he says it only works when “your supply takeoffs are well designed/thought out, and when you provide supply dampers for all outlets at the plenum for airflow balancing.”)Photo #6 below is another example of how poorly the installers of this system understood air flow. Sharp bends add a lot of resistance!Lesson: No matter what the cooling problem is, it seems that most homes visited by an HVAC repair person are full of bad duct systems. Call #1: No cooling upstairsThis was a fairly new house, probably less than 5 years old. The system had power, so we went straight to the attic and found the dirty filter you see in Photo #2 (below). The AC hadn’t been cooling at all, so Phil figured that the evaporator coil had frozen up. We replaced the filter and turned it back on. The ice had melted after they turned the system off, so when we turned it back on, it worked.last_img read more

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