Farmer and Mechanic Invented Pivot Irrigation System

(p. D1) LINDSAY, Neb. — Paul Zimmerer’s contribution to agriculture is now forever immortalized.
A recent ceremony in Lindsay dedicated a memorial to the late inventor whose irrigation system dots the landscape throughout the country.
Zimmerer, inventor of the Zimmatic Pivot Irrigation System, died July 31, 2008, at the age of 94.
. . .
Dave Albracht, chairman of the Lindsay Village Board, said Lloyd Castner, a member of the Platte County Historical Society, first approached him about a memorial.
“I’m sure everybody knows that the small towns struggle, and Lindsay wouldn’t be where we’re at if it wasn’t for the Paul Zimmerer family,” he said.
. . .
Zimmerer opened a blacksmith shop in 1955 and sold modified car engines to be used on irrigation wells. His idea became the foundation of one of northeast Nebraska’s largest companies, Lindsay Corp.
He was a farmer and mechanic and owned Zimmerer Auto Repair and Gas Station in Lindsay before founding Lindsay Manufacturing Co., which is now Lindsay Corp.”

For the full story, see:
Patrick Murphy. “Memorial dedicated to Zimmatic Pivot inventor.” Omaha World-Herald (Fri., Nov. 25, 2016): 4D.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Dignity and Equality Before the Law Unleashes Creativity in the Poor

(p. A23) We can improve the conditions of the working class. Raising low productivity by enabling human creativity is what has mainly worked. By contrast, taking from the rich and giving to the poor helps only a little — and anyway expropriation is a one-time trick.
. . .
Look at the astonishing improvements in China since 1978 and in India since 1991. Between them, the countries are home to about four out of every 10 humans. Even in the United States, real wages have continued to grow — if slowly — in recent decades, contrary to what you might have heard. Donald Boudreaux, an economist at George Mason University, and others who have looked beyond the superficial have shown that real wages are continuing to rise, thanks largely to major improvements in the quality of goods and services, and to nonwage benefits. Real purchasing power is double what it was in the fondly remembered 1950s — when many American children went to bed hungry.
What, then, caused this Great Enrichment?
Not exploitation of the poor, not investment, not existing institutions, but a mere idea, which the philosopher and economist Adam Smith called “the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice.” In a word, it was liberalism, in the free-market European sense. Give masses of ordinary people equality before the law and equality of social dignity, and leave them alone, and it turns out that they become extraordinarily creative and energetic.

For the full commentary, see:
DEIRDRE N. McCLOSKEY. “Economic View; Equality, Liberty, Justice and Wealth.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., SEPT. 4, 2016): 6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date SEPT. 2, 2016, and has the title “Economic View; The Formula for a Richer World? Equality, Liberty, Justice.”)

McCloskey’s commentary, quoted above, is related to her book:
McCloskey, Deirdre N. Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital, Transformed the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Wind Turbines Kill Bats

(p. D2) Wind power can help the world fight climate change, but it’s not so great for bats.
A new study of wind turbines in Britain found that each turbine killed one to two bats each month on average, with some killing more than 60. The researchers said that the efforts that are required in many countries to assess the environmental effect of planned wind farms have proved faulty and inadequate in measuring the risk to bats.

For the full story, see:

JOHN SCHWARTZ. “Kind to the Planet, Not to Bats.” The New York Times (Tues., Nov. 15, 2016): D2.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date NOV. 7 [sic], 2016, and has the title “When Bats Look for Meals Near Wind Power, Bats Die.” The online version is much longer than the print version, and differs somewhat, even where they overlap. The passage quoted above is from the online version.)

The “study” summarized in the passage above, is:
Lintott, Paul R., Suzanne M. Richardson, David J. Hosken, Sophie A. Fensome, and Fiona Mathews. “Ecological Impact Assessments Fail to Reduce Risk of Bat Casualties at Wind Farms.” Current Biology 26, no. 21 (Nov., 7, 2016): R1135-R1136.

Federal Regulations Suppress Organic Innovation In Order to Protect Incumbents

(p. A1) If a fruit or vegetable isn’t grown in dirt, can it be organic?
That is the question roiling the world of organic farming, and the answer could redefine what it means to farm organically.
At issue is whether produce that relies solely on irrigation to deliver nutrients to plants — through what is known as hydroponic and aquaponic systems — can be certified organic. And the National Organic Standards Board, an advisory group that makes recommendations to the federal secretary of agriculture, will get an earful on the topic at its meeting in St. Louis this week.
On one side are the growing number of big and small growers raising fruits and vegetables in these soil-free systems. They say their production methods are no different from those of farmers who grow plants in dirt — and, they add, they make organic farming more sustainable by, for instance, reducing water use.
“Soil to me as a farmer means a nutrient-rich medium that contains biological processes, and that doesn’t have to be dirt,” said Marianne Cufone, an aquaponic farmer and the executive director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, which lobbies for aquaculture.
. . .
(p. B2 [sic]) The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 states: “An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation and manuring.”
“To me, it seems simple and always has been,” said Sam Welsch, chief executive of OneCert, an organic certification business in Nebraska that has refused to certify hydroponic produce. “There are things the law and regulations require you to do to the soil that you cannot do in a hydroponic system.”
. . .
Colin Archipley’s farm, Archi’s Acres, grows kale, herbs and other produce hydroponically in greenhouses in San Diego. He is frustrated that there is even a debate over whether his produce is organic.
“The reason this has become such a big deal is that systems like ours are becoming more popular because they’re more efficient, which means farmers are more sustainable and profitable,” he said. “That’s put competition on farmers, specifically in Vermont, and so what this really is about is market protection.”

For the full story, see:
STEPHANIE STROM. “Is It Organic? Ground Rules May Be Changing.” The New York Times (Weds., NOV. 16, 2016): A1 & B2 [sic].
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 15, 2016, and has the title “What’s Organic? A Debate Over Dirt May Boil Down to Turf.”)

Space Trash Start-Up Aims to Be Quicker than Government

(p. D1) Mr. Okada is an entrepreneur with a vision of creating the first trash collection company dedicated to cleaning up some of humanity’s hardest-to-reach rubbish: the spent rocket stages, inert satellites and other debris that have been collecting above Earth since Sputnik ushered in the space age. He launched Astroscale three years ago in the belief that national space agencies were dragging their feet in facing the problem, which could be tackled more quickly by a small private company motivated by profit.
“Let’s face it, waste management isn’t sexy enough for a space agency to convince taxpayers to allocate money,” said Mr. Okada, 43, who put Astroscale’s headquarters in start-up-friendly Singapore but is building its spacecraft in his native Japan, where he found more engineers. “My breakthrough is figuring out how to make this into a business.”
. . .
(p. D3) “The projects all smelled like government, not crisp or quick,” he said of conferences he attended to learn about other efforts. “I came from the start-up world where we think in days or weeks, not years.”
. . .
He also said that Astroscale would start by contracting with companies that will operate big satellite networks to remove their own malfunctioning satellites. He said that if a company has a thousand satellites, several are bound to fail. Astroscale will remove these, allowing the company to fill the gap in its network by replacing the failed unit with a functioning satellite.
“Our first targets won’t be random debris, but our clients’ own satellites,” he said. “We can build up to removing debris as we perfect our technology.”

For the full story, see:

MARTIN FACKLER. “Building a Garbage Truck for Space.” The New York Times (Tues., Nov. 29, 2016): D1 & D3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 28, 2016, and has the title “Space’s Trash Collector? A Japanese Entrepreneur Wants the Job.”)

Intellectuals Embrace Despair

(p. A23) Public conversation is dominated by people’s ahistorical insistence that this country is sliding toward decline. As Arthur Herman writes in his book “The Idea of Decline in Western History,” “The sowing of despair and self-doubt has become so pervasive that we accept it as a normal intellectual stance — even when it is directly contradicted by our own reality.”

For the full commentary, see:
Brooks, David. “The Age of Reaction.” The New York Times (Tues., SEPT. 27, 2016): A23.

The book quoted in the above passage from the Brooks commentary, is:
Herman, Arthur. The Idea of Decline in Western History. New York: Free Press, 1997.

Uber Reduces Need for City Parking Spaces

(p. B8) Landlords battling high land costs are turning to a new partner: ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc.
As urban real estate becomes ever-more expensive, some property developers are shrinking or killing their parking spaces and offering Uber subsidies and other incentives instead.
Developers of shopping malls, stadiums and theme parks, meanwhile, are reimagining their exterior footprints to account for more Uber traffic, playing with new ideas such as widening curbside drop-off areas resembling those found at airports–some with concierges offering beverages–and shrinking parking lot space.
The moves show how ride-sharing is starting to change the way cities and urban landlords think about real estate.

For the full story, see:
ESTHER FUNG. “Dear Tenant: Your Uber Car Is Here.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Nov. 23, 2016): B8.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 22, 2016, and has the title “Dear Tenant: Your Uber Is Here.”)

Gates Foundation Funding “Second Green Revolution”

(p. A12) URBANA, Ill. — A decade ago, agricultural scientists at the University of Illinois suggested a bold approach to improve the food supply: tinker with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction powering nearly all life on Earth.
The idea was greeted skeptically in scientific circles and ignored by funding agencies. But one outfit with deep pockets, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eventually paid attention, hoping the research might help alleviate global poverty.
Now, after several years of work funded by the foundation, the scientists are reporting a remarkable result.
Using genetic engineering techniques to alter photosynthesis, they increased the productivity of a test plant — tobacco — by as much as 20 percent, they said Thursday[November 17, 2016] in a study published by the journal Science. That is a huge number, given that plant breeders struggle to eke out gains of 1 or 2 percent with more conventional approaches.
The scientists have no interest in increasing the production of tobacco; their plan is to try the same alterations in food crops, and one of the leaders of the work believes production gains of 50 percent or more may ultimately be achievable. If that prediction is borne out in further research — it could take a decade, if not longer, to know for sure — the result might be nothing less than a transformation of global agriculture.
. . .
“We’re here because we want to alleviate poverty,” said Katherine Kahn, the officer at the Gates Foundation overseeing the grant for the Illinois research. “What is it (p. A24) the farmers need, and how can we help them get there?”
One of the leaders of the research, Stephen P. Long, a crop scientist who holds appointments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at Lancaster University in England, emphasized in an interview that a long road lay ahead before any results from the work might reach farmers’ fields.
But Dr. Long is also convinced that genetic engineering could ultimately lead to what he called a “second Green Revolution” that would produce huge gains in food production, like the original Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which transferred advanced agricultural techniques to some developing countries and led to reductions in world hunger.
. . .
The work is, in part, an effort to secure the food supply against the possible effects of future climate change. If rising global temperatures cut the production of food, human society could be destabilized, but more efficient crop plants could potentially make the food system more resilient, Dr. Long said.

For the full story, see:
JUSTIN GILLIS. “Taking Aim at Hunger, By Altering Plant Genes.” The New York Times (Fri., NOV. 18, 2016): A12 & A24.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 17, 2016, and has the title “With an Eye on Hunger, Scientists See Promise in Genetic Tinkering of Plants.”)

The Science article co-authored by Long, that is mentioned above, is:
Kromdijk, Johannes, Katarzyna Głowacka, Lauriebeth Leonelli, Stéphane T. Gabilly, Masakazu Iwai, Krishna K. Niyogi, and Stephen P. Long. “Improving Photosynthesis and Crop Productivity by Accelerating Recovery from Photoprotection.” Science 354, no. 6314 (Nov. 18, 2016): 857-61.

Prehistoric Hunter Suffered from Ulcer-Causing Microbe

(p. A7) Microbes that once troubled the stomach of a prehistoric hunter known as “Otzi the Iceman,” who died on an Alpine glacier 5,300 years ago, are offering researchers a rare insight into the early settlement of Europe.
In findings reported Thursday [January 7, 2016] in Science, an international research group analyzed remnants of ulcer-causing microbes called Helicobacter pylori exhumed from the well-preserved mummy of the Neolithic nomad. With modern DNA sequencing technology, they reconstructed the genetic structure of this ancient microbe–the oldest known pathogen sequenced so far.
. . .
“We know he had a rough lifestyle,” said Frank Maixner at the European Academy Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, who led the team of 23 scientists. “We found a lot of pathological conditions.”
. . .
The researchers also determined that the bacteria had inflamed his stomach lining, indicating that the prehistoric hunter, fleeing into the icy highlands where he was shot in the back with an arrow and beaten, may have been feeling ill on the day he was murdered.

For the full story, see:
ROBERT LEE HOTZ. “Iceman’s Gut Sheds Light on Human Migration.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Jan. 8, 2016): A7.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 7, 2016, and has the title “Otzi the Iceman’s Stomach Sheds Light on Copper-Age Migration to Europe.”)

The research summarized in the passages quoted above, was more fully reported in:
Maixner, Frank, Ben Krause-Kyora, Dmitrij Turaev, Alexander Herbig, Michael R. Hoopmann, Janice L. Hallows, Ulrike Kusebauch, Eduard Egarter Vigl, Peter Malfertheiner, Francis Megraud, Niall O’Sullivan, Giovanna Cipollini, Valentina Coia, Marco Samadelli, Lars Engstrand, Bodo Linz, Robert L. Moritz, Rudolf Grimm, Johannes Krause, Almut Nebel, Yoshan Moodley, Thomas Rattei, and Albert Zink. “The 5300-Year-Old Helicobacter pylori Genome of the Iceman.” Science 351, no. 6269 (Jan. 8, 2016): 162-65.

Do Manic Spells Help or Hurt Entrepreneurial Boldness?

(p. C1) In an author’s note, Mr. Kidder explains that “A Truck Full of Money” is a kind of sequel to “The Soul of a New Machine” (1981), his Pulitzer Prize-winner about the race to build a next-generation minicomputer. Fair enough: The writer is returning to his roots.
But a book about a software guy and software culture in 2016 isn’t nearly as novel as a book about hardware guys and hardware culture in 1981, and Mr. Kidder is not in the same command of his material.
. . .
(p. C4) There is, however, an element of Mr. English’s story that’s quite striking, one that makes “A Truck Full of Money” feel very much like a Tracy Kidder book.
In his 20s, Mr. English was told he had bipolar disorder. For a long time, he kept his diagnosis a secret. But today, he is wonderfully open and courageous about it.
Many of Mr. Kidder’s subjects are coiled with enough energy to launch a missile, of course, but Mr. English has a psychiatric diagnosis to go with it. The questions Mr. Kidder raises — Are Mr. English’s manic spells responsible for his entrepreneurial boldness? Or does he succeed in spite of them? — are well worth probing, and Mr. Kidder’s portrayal of living with manic depression is as nuanced and intimate as a reader might ever expect to get. On a good day, Mr. English’s mind is gaily swarming with bumblebees. On a bad one, though, he’s “Gulliver imprisoned by the tiny Lilliputians, laid out on his back, tied to the ground with a web of tiny ropes.”
Many of the features of Mr. English’s biography fit a familiar pattern. He was a low-achieving student with a high-watt intelligence. He discovered computer programming in middle school and was instantly smitten; today, he thinks fluently in layers of code — “each hanging from the one above, like a Calder mobile” — and his brain is a regular popcorn maker of ideas.
. . .
When he’s “on fire” (his term), he grows irritable with the slow dial-up connection of other people’s brains. He exaggerates. He slurs his words. His ideas range from extremely creative to flat-out wackadoo.
. . .
Over the years, Mr. English has tried a Lazy Susan of medications to subdue his highs and avert his lows. Many left him feeling listless and without affect. Being bipolar meant constantly weighing the merits of instability versus a denatured, drained sense of self.

For the full review, see:
JENNIFER SENIOR. “Books of The Times; The Road from Mania to Wealth and Altruism.” The New York Times (Tues., SEPT. 13, 2016): C1 & C4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date SEPT. 12, 2016, and has the title “Books of The Times; Review: ‘A Truck Full of Money’ and a Thirst to Put It to Good Use.”)

The book under review, is:
Kidder, Tracy. A Truck Full of Money: One Man’s Quest to Recover from Great Success. New York: Random House, 2016.

Kidder’s wonderful early book, is:
Kidder, Tracy. The Soul of a New Machine. 1st ed. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1981.

U.S. Start-Up Helps Foreign Start-Ups Navigate U.S. Bureaucracy

(p. B7) Stripe, the San Francisco-based e-commerce start-up, thrives when other businesses do well. So the company wants to help many more businesses get off the ground.
That is the reason behind Stripe Atlas, a new product the company unveiled this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. It aims to make it easier for entrepreneurs to set up small businesses in the United States. If all goes according to Stripe’s plan, Atlas could let start-up founders sidestep some of the bureaucratic hurdles that often hamper building a new business.
Determining eligibility requires little more than filling out a form. After that, Stripe will incorporate an entrepreneur’s company as a business entity in Delaware, and provide the entrepreneur with a United States bank account and Stripe merchant account to accept payments globally.

For the full story, see:
MIKE ISAAC. “A U.S. Start-Up Offers to Lend a Hand to Foreign Entrepreneurs.” The New York Times (Thurs., FEB. 25, 2016): B7.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 24, 2016, and has the title “Stripe Atlas Aims to Ease the Way for Foreign Entrepreneurs.”)