Friday, November 20, 2015

Instructions for EII Climate Change quiz

The quiz will be given in class on Monday December 7th. It is worth 20 points. There will be ten multiple choice questions and a short essay.

The multiple choice questions will be based on our class discussion, as well as on the booklet Maine's Climate Future (2009) and the 2015 update, both available at this website:

The essay question prompt will be "Describe your own climate philosophy." You should prepare this essay ahead of time, and will be allowed to use one ordinary flash card of notes (three by five inches) for the purpose. You should also study Dr. Nesbitt's useful taxonomy of climate thought discussed in class (see below -- click to enlarge).

ESS final community-based learning project assignment

All students in the Womersley Section of ESS have opted by vote to produce a survey of environmental values in Unity College students as their community-based learning project submission.

The following instructions comprise the outline for the rest of our coursework. They will take care of both assignments, and are worth fifty points total for the class. They are broken into three stages.

There are forty points available to use for the overall survey assignment. This does not include your participation, for which there are a further five points available.

Stage one: Working as individuals: Code your transcripts, and generate hypotheses (Ten points)
  1. Using all five focus group transcripts provided, use the coding technique described in class to collate statements with (per Graham) "commonalities."
  2. Cut and paste these statements into tentative groups using a word processor (MS Word or Google Docs). Give them placeholder titles.
  3. Choosing your words very carefully, reword the placeholder titles so they better reflect the overall grounded theory contained in the excerpts
  4. Generate at least three testable hypotheses on the basis of the grounded theory
  5. Get help from the instructor if you need it
  6. Provide both excerpts, grounded theory, and hypotheses in a document as your submission for twenty points
  7. Due Wednesday December 2nd
Stage two: Working as individuals: Write survey questions (Ten points)
  1. Create survey questions to test your three individual hypotheses generated above
  2. Use the resources below or similar resources to help you do this, or consult with the instructor
  3. Submit by Wednesday December 9th 

 Stage 3: Working as a group: Design a survey (Twenty points)
  1. Using the individual survey questions above, design the overall survey 
  2. Be sure to pay attention to descriptive as well as inferential statistics
  3. Again, get help if you need it
  4. Use MS Word or Google Forms. Do NOT use SurveyMonkey
  5. Submit by Friday December 11th.
  6. If using Google Forms, submit by "sharing" with the Instructor. Instructor must be able to "edit."
Final stage

I will take the results, five draft surveys, and meld them into one. We will then share our survey with the campus. I won't be able to share the results with you until after the break, but I will be sure to do so.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fall 2015 Vehicle Safety Report

Around twenty students from this year's Physics: Mechanics and Energy class and one instructor performed vehicle safety inspections on over forty student vehicles Monday. This was the largest number of vehicles ever seen for this activity.

Most vehicles seen were serviceable, although a number were noticeably battered or rusty.

The following particular safety conditions were noted, documented here for the purposes of education and for the record, so we can compare year to year:
  • Three vehicles were very low on engine oil, and required three or four quarts to get them "up to the mark." These engines would have seized had this condition been allowed to continue for very much longer. If your vehicle is using or losing this much oil, it is no longer sufficient to wait for oil changes to add oil. You have to check the dipstick and add oil more frequently. The best thing to do is to check the oil each time you add gas, until you begin to get a better idea of how much oil your vehicle is using. Then, once you really know what is going on, you can put yourself on a less frequent schedule. Don't let your engine oil drop below the minimum mark on the dipstick. And, if you can possibly afford it, get the vehicle repaired. Generally speaking, a vehicle that is losing oil from a leak can be repaired less expensively than one that is using or burning a lot of oil internally and needs an engine rebuild, a replacement engine, or simply to go to the junkyard.
  • Several tires were low in air pressure, below 20 psi. Tires this low are dangerous because the steering is affected. Steering becomes spongy, and the vehicle will wobble noticeably on corners.
  • Some tires were over-inflated, above 40 psi. The correct operating air pressure for the tires is written on a sticker placed inside the driver's door jamb. It is not the pressure written on the sidewall of the tire. That is the tire's maximum pressure, not the vehicle's design operating pressure. Most sedan cars and light trucks use a tire pressure between 30 and 36 psi. Adding more pressure makes the vehicle bounce on bumps, and you can bounce right off the road on a corner, especially on "washboarded" dirt roads.
  • One vehicle had a worn tie rod end or steering box. This is detectable because of thunking noises in the steering mechanism on slow turns such as those used in parking lots. This is an unsafe condition and should be rectified immediately. Tie rod ends when worn will simply fall out, causing a catastrophic lack of steering.
  • Several owners of vehicles with high mileage, over 150,000 miles, had check engine lights on and asked for the trouble codes to be "pulled" and checked, even though they had had them pulled before and had no intention of rectifying the particular problem. In general, this is a good procedure. Even though it's often not cost-effective or sometimes not possible to fix some minor check-engine defects in high mileage cars, and so we might drive with the check engine light permanently on, it's still best to pull the codes periodically, in case a new defect has appeared that is more dangerous.
  • A new difficulty we observed this year for the first time: An older vehicle was found with failing automatic tire pressure sensors. These resulted in tire pressure warning lights coming on, even when the tires were correctly inflated, or at least within the normal tolerance of one or two psi. Either the tire pressure warning sensors should be replaced, or the tire pressures must now be checked more frequently, since there is no other way to tell whether tire pressure is low or not.
This concludes your Fall 2015 vehicle safety report.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vehicle Safety Day

 The rust troll surfaces.

Dear students:

Please consider taking advantage of free vehicle check-outs this Monday afternoon November 16th, 12.30 – 4pm, in front of the Activities Building.

Is your vehicle’s population of parts likely to persist to the next generation? Or are they perhaps dying one by one and going extinct? What are the minimum nutrient requirements of oil, lube, and fuel? Has the rust predator taken hold of its prey? Or is this just an unsustainable analogy?

Either way, don’t miss the opportunity Monday to have the old beast checked out thoroughly. In particular, don’t risk being stranded someplace remote, dangerous, or worst of all, without cell phone service!

Before you get in the olde jalopy and drive off over the hill and through the woods to grandma’s house for a fine local food Thanksgiving, let the experienced mechanics and other techy-geeky students of this year’s team of volunteers check the poor beast out.

We will check your tire pressures and pump them up if necessary, check and top off the oil and other fluids, and finally and perhaps most usefully, if your CHECK ENGINE light is on, we will use our computer reader to “pull” your trouble codes so you can finally know just what it is that your poor neglected automobile has been trying to tell you all these months.

(Did you know you can save lots of gas by keeping your car’s tires at the proper pressures? And that tire pressure changes as the weather warms and cools with the seasons, so you have to check them regularly! Did you know that a blown oxygen sensor is easy to fix and can save on gas too? Did you know that low oil level can kill your car’s engine? Well, now you know.)

Each participant will receive a written report on the serviceability of their vehicle, with details of any trouble codes and what they mean.

The college accepts no responsibility for the use or misuse of any of the information we give you about your vehicle, or for your car’s safety after you leave the campus, but we do suggest that it’s always better to know than not to know. In most cases.

(Employees are welcome too. Thanks to the Maintenance and Student Affairs departments for aid in providing this service.)

Be safe, drive safe.

Mick Womersley

ESS second take-home exam

Monday, November 9, 2015

EII third and fourth assignments

Assignment #3:

Create a script or storyboard for your final digital storytelling assignment.

  1. Choose a group, or chose to work alone. 

  2. Chose the environmental leader or issue you wish to highlight with a presentation. Remember, presentations may be audio, video, narrated slideshow or any of the choices listed below. The only requirement is that the presentation play itself (or be staged, if a traditional play or sketch)

  3. Prepare a storyboard or script

  4. Each individual or group member must hand in their own storyboard or script. In the next assignment you will come together to make only one final submission, but for now, you work alone. This is so I can be sure that each of you learns the basic techniques

  5. If making a video, study the You-Tube how-to below, and prepare a storyboard

  6. If making audio or a narrated slideshow, prepare a script

  7. Produce an introduction to your storyboard or script that explains your project, including thesis statement, evidence, and conclusion

  8. Hand in the introduction plus the storyboard or script

  9. Due either Friday before Thanksgiving break or Monday after, by email

Assignment 4:
  1. Research an environmental leader or issue of your choice. You may work in groups or alone. Identify a thesis related to the issue and supporting evidence, as well as the environmental or conservation organizations that are working on the issue. Prepare a video, audio, narrated slideshow, or other media production built around the thesis, providing supporting evidence, highlighting the work of the leader and their organization

  2. Due either the last day of the semester (Friday Dec 18th) or in time for the student conference (Wednesday Dec 16) -- your choice. Student conference participation is optional, but may be
    recommended for the best products

  3. The options are deliberately wide. Don't get lost in your choices! Pick an issue and format for your presentation that you or your group feel confident you can finalize, and then stick to it.

  4. Use "backwards design" to help structure and outline your presentation, and also to organize your schedule: Start with your topic, and decide on a thesis. Then decide what your want to achieve with this topic and thesis. What is the story that you want to tell, and to whom do you wish to tell it? From that, pick a media format that will best reach your audience, and then organize your schedule so you can deliver a product using this format.

  5. Workshop time will be made available during class hours and by appointment with the
    instructor so that you can get help with this project. The Quimby Library Media Technician is standing by to help you with video and other formats.

  6. Here is a winning example from the year before last

Examples of allowable media:

Video storytelling
Stage plays
Sketch comedy
Traditional video documentary
Narrated slideshows and presentations
Others, after timely negotiation with the instructor

Monday, November 2, 2015

ESS focus group assignment

You are assigned to complete a focus group interview with 4 to 5 fellow students. 

  1. Working in groups, identify a Resident Advisor from the list provided and set up an appointment for the focus group. The RA will help organize the members of the group from their floor or wing. No more than five students and no less than three should take part. The RA may be one of the participants.
  2. Conduct the focus group using the techniques already taught in class. Be sure to employ the Informed Consent script (see below for the script).
  3. Record the group using one of the several techniques/devices taught in class. If you wish to borrow professional transcribing equipment (with foot pedal operation) see the instructor.
  4. Make sure each member, including the RA gets one of the five gift certificates you were issued.
  5. Transcribe the recording, anonymizing as you go (student 1, student 2, etc). Make sure no student names are on the final transcript. 
  6. Check the transcript for accuracy, then erase the original recording.
  7. Hand in only the transcript, together with the names of all the ESS class members involved. This will be your second graded assignment in this class.
  8. The following are the focus group questions:
  • What is your major?
  • Can you describe the environment you grew up in? For example, was it rural, suburban, or urban?
  • What did you learn about the environment before college?
  • Can you describe your environmental values?
  • Which environmental issues concern you the most?
  • Do you think Unity College is “America’s Environmental College”?
Informed consent script:

(To be read out and handed to focus group members, and to appear on page one of the survey, with a check box “I have read and understand the informed consent form: yes/no”.)
You are invited to participate in a research project being conducted by Professor Womersley and the Fall 2015 Environmental Scenarios and Solutions class at UC. The purpose of the research is to measure the orientation and prevalence of certain environmental values and behaviors of UC students

What will you be asked to do?
If you decide to participate, you will be asked to answer questions in a focus group/on an Internet survey. It may take approximately (40/20 minutes) to complete.

Potential Risks
There is a possibility that you may become uncomfortable answering the questions.
If confidentiality is breached, there is potential for you to be judged by other Unity College community members because of any controversial statements you may say.

Focus groups: You will receive a $5 coupon for the SAC, a ticket for a raffle for a $50 Amazon gift certificate, and the satisfaction that you have contributed to the body of knowledge on this subject.

Survey: You will receive a ticket for a raffle for a $50 Amazon gift certificate, and the satisfaction that you have contributed to the body of knowledge on this subject.

Confidentiality and Data Security
This study is anonymous. Please do not state your name or write your name on the questionnaire. There will be no permanent records linking you to the data.

Your participation is voluntary. If you choose not to take part in this study, you may stop at any time (without loss of benefits, if applicable). You may skip any questions that you do not wish to answer.

Contact Information
If you have any questions about this study, please contact Dr. Mick Womersley, the Principal Investigator at If you have any questions about your rights as a research participant please contact Crista Straub, Chair pro tem of the UC Institutional Review Board (IRB) at

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Movies for EII this week

On Monday we talked about the Romantics, the Hudson River School of painters, the Transcendentalists, Civil Disobedience (H.D. Thoreau), John Brown, and George Perkins Marsh.

Wednesday, we will pick up the story with Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, and the founding of the federal conservation and preservation agencies, as well as the Great Depression and the CCC.

All of these are easily researched online.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Physics final project

From Janet's syllabus:

Final Project: In the lab portion of the class you will create a Final Project. The project should involve something you are especially interested in or perhaps something you need.  The idea is to demonstrate or explain the physics behind your special interest or need.  For example, if you have a particular activity that you do, find the physics involved.  It might be rock climbing, canoeing, soccer, or biking.  If you are artistic, you might create an art project illustrating physical principles. If you like animals, you might explain the forces at work on an animal or animal part. If you like to build things, you might create a machine that performs a task. You might also like to “hack” a repair or modification to a broken machine, appliance, or vehicle to make it work again, do something different, or last longer. You may work together with someone else, a small group, or alone, but all projects will be demonstrated to classmates, and all participants must be able to explain during the demonstration what their particular contribution was. Be sure to talk your ideas over with the lab instructor, who has a workshop for you to use, lots of experience making and fixing things, as well as tools, parts, and special shop equipment, all of which may help. (You need permission and training to use the shop tools. It also takes a few weeks to order parts, so be sure to plan ahead.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Physics Lab Reports: Assignment

All students in PS 2003 Physics Mechanics and Energy are assigned to produce two lab reports this semester:
  1. On a Physics Lab experiment of your choice, from the number of different experiments we have done so far
  2. On your final project
The first of these is now assigned, due by email or hard copy by five pm, Friday October 30th.

Some hints:
  • Pick an activity for which you have good notes
  • Use the Physics Lab notes grading rubric as your guide (particularly to completeness)
  • Add a discussion that relates the experiment or activity to the Physics lecture material
  • Get help with writing if you need it. See the instructor or a writing tutor

Monday, October 19, 2015

Draft Focus Group Questions for ESS


  • What is your major?
  • Can you describe the environment you grew up in? For example, was it rural, suburban, or urban?
  • What did you learn about the environment before college?
  • Can you describe your environmental values?
  • Which environmental issues concern you the most?
  • Do you think Unity College is “America’s Environmental College”?

EII second assignment

This assignment is an exercise in research, critical thinking and informal writing.

Follow all instructions. Due Friday October 30th by email or hard copy.
  1. Identify two extant US environmental organizations, one you generally agree with and support, and one you don't
  2. Research their missions, goals and methods carefully, using online and print resources, as well as any other social science case study methods you like. Be sure to ask the instructor ahead of time if you choose to interview human subjects
  3. Identify some of the different types of careers that are possible within both institutions, and determine the qualifications and experience required
  4. In an informal essay, compare and contrast the two organizations and summarize these career pathways
  5. Conclude with your own considered viewpoint of each organization
  6. (Added after class discussion) Cite your research sources. No particular citation format is required, but your citations should be consistent and give complete information to the reader in case they wish to review your sources.

For EII today

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Poster child

The World Wildlife Fund, one of the "Big Ten" environmental groups, has sponsored a poster competition for the UN Climate Conference, scheduled for Paris this December.

The caption directly translated reads, "To change everything, we have need of everyone," or in slightly better English, "To change everything, we need everyone." This is a very direct reference to Naomi Klein's recent book, This Changes Everything, which is interesting to me, considering that historically the WWF was never quite as radical as Klein's book is.

All this might be a good kick-off for the discussion of the history and background of the environmental movement that we'll begin next week in EII. 

The original for the poster is a classic revolutionary painting, considered a French national treasure, titled Liberty Leading the People (La Liberté guidant le peuple). The allegorical French female Liberté, also sometimes called Marianne, is of course "Lady Liberty" in the United States.

The new, and very obviously millennial version of Liberté has a skateboard and headset. 

Really? Isn't that rather a distraction from the revolutionary mission?

Just saying. 

La liberté guidant le peuple by Eugène Delacroix

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

General problems with EII written work

First and foremost: you must proof-read. To catch sentence level errors, proof-read aloud.

If you get distracted by your own beautifully-forged outline, read the last sentence aloud first, and then the second last and so on.

Major problems:
  1. No proof-reading
  2. No outline, or contradictory outline
  3. Sentence fragments
  4. Run-on sentences
  5. Multiple parenthetical phrases
  6. Comma splices
  7. Misuse of commas
  8. Repetitive words
  9. Tense choice problem
Minor problems:
  1. Spell out small numbers, eg "seven" not 7. Large numbers eg "$10,000", are fine.
  2. Comma after prepositional phrase
  3. Its versus it's
  4. There versus their

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Debate: Monbiot vs. Ecomodernists, an advanced discussion, for EII and ESS

Most students in both classes are trying to get their heads around the root environmental ideas, I know, but if you're sitting there already understanding everything, and want to read something a little deeper and more advanced, this opportunity is for you.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Physics lab notes grading rubric

Item/Level of Achievement
Does not meet
Is there a research question?
No question or wrong question
Logical question, not narrow enough
Logical, well-stated and narrow question
Identifies materials and quantities?
No/inadequate materials list, incorrectly I.D. of materials
Adequate but minimal details
Expanded, complete, relevant details
Drawing or sketch?
No/poor sketch
Labeled, clear, concise
Labeled, clear, concise, neat and organized
Procedures (narrative)
Missing steps or no procedure
All steps present, could be better explained, more specific
Complete, relevant, well-worded explanation

Friday, September 18, 2015

ESS first take-home exam

Environmental Scenarios and Solutions
First Midterm (Take Home) Exam
Professor Womersley
(Worth 15% of final grade)
Due Friday October 2nd by email or hard copy.

Answer both questions. If you don’t know an answer, put down what you do know.
You may research answers. Give diagrams if needed. Cite important research other than material given in class or in the texts for the class. You must work alone.

1.     Microeconomic applications

You are a staffer working for New Vermaineshire state government in the Fish and Wildlife Division. You are asked to prepare an analysis of a proposal in the legislature to regulate moose permits using an online bidding system (similar to eBay) instead of the existing lottery. The same number of permits will be issued, only via open bidding. The only requirement to bid is that the bidder be a US resident and have taken a hunter safety course.

Specify in plain English, using diagrams if necessary, the effects on state revenue, on the price of permits, and which sections of the public will be either winners or losers as a result. State whether or not, in your own opinion as an experienced staffer, this policy is likely to be successful, reasoning from the available evidence and what you know of the local culture.

2.     Macroeconomic applications

If the state of New Vermaineshire chooses to implement the above policy, what would be the general macroeconomic effects to the state’s economy? List and detail these. Use diagrams if necessary.

Common Ground Fair assignment for EII

The fair is an all-around good time, so you should need no incentive to go; however, the following notes are added to help you along:

Note: Regular class is cancelled Friday 25th September.

Assignment instructions:
  1. You are assigned to go to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Common Ground Country Fair held Friday through Sunday September 25-27 right here in Unity, and then to complete the response paper detailed below
  2. You may get into the fair for free if you volunteer. Be sure to do so well ahead of time. See the MOFGA webpage for details
  3. If you are a MOFGA member you already get in for free. Check to see if your parents have a family membership
  4. For those of you who were planning to go home, or who cannot attend the fair for any other valid reason, such as work or a medical appointment, your alternative assignment is to visit a local or organic food outlet, such as a farmer's market or food cooperative, or any other food source that seems likely to be able to give you the provenance information that will be needed, and complete the same assignment as the fair-goers (below)
The fair/local/organic food response paper:
  1. Obtain food for a meal at the fair, at some local or organic food outlet, or from a friend's or relative's kitchen garden. Be sure to find out where each ingredient comes from
  2. Make and eat the meal. (If you live in the residence halls and otherwise eat on the meal plan, the meal can just be a snack.)
  3. Describe the meal and track the ingredients geographically and ecologically in a short informal essay. Explain why this was (or was not) a good meal. Humor and/or pathos are optional
  4. Due Friday October 2nd in class via email
  5. This is the first check-in opportunity for me to evaluate your writing and critical thinking skills. Be sure to do your best, or you may find yourself getting unexpected remedial attention!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Black Earth

There's been a buzz in the papers lately about this fellow Tim Snyder who has written a book, Black Earth, directly comparing the Holocaust to climate change.

Here's a couple examples, the first one, from the NYT, sent in by Jake from our EII class, the other from the Grauniad.

You can find a lot of material in the pages of this blog and annex where I look at climate change through the lens of twentieth century history. WWII is an important comparative case, but so, I tend to think, is the Cold War.

More on this later in class.

Monday, September 14, 2015

North Woods National Park, for ESS

(As an example of macroeconomic arguments for and against environmental action.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fessing up

A French spy has confessed to bombing the Rainbow Warrior in 1985. As a just-starting environmentalist, this was an incident that had a huge effect on me at the time:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Getting ready, plus highlights of our family summer

School starts next Monday, and students will be back shortly, if not already for those in rental housing nearby. I've switched gears and am in get-ready mode. Some reminders and notes for all the SEM students:
  1. For new SEM students, seek me out as soon as possible in the semester. I'll need to talk to you about career expectations, about your internship, and about your academic plan. This is not optional. Not coming to get the correct information can cost you an extra semester or two. 
  2. All new SEM students should try to get into Physics during drop-add if you aren't already assigned to it. If you don't have moderately good (high school) algebra, you can delay this a year while you catch up (come see me to talk about this), but otherwise you should be in Physics. There are still seats in the Friday lab.
  3. For existing SEM students, the key engineering course, PS3003 Renewable Energy, will be taught in the spring of 2016. It gets taught only every second spring. There's a recommended tool kit, some of which you may be able to bring from home. If not, and if you can't afford to purchase these, don't worry. We have enough in the Physics Lab to go around. But professionals have their own tools, and the sooner you start getting at least some, the better. Buy only good quality tools. The cheap stuff doesn't hold up, and can hurt you by breaking at inopportune moments. Here's the list:
    110/220 Volt pen-style voltage detector
    12 Volt test light
    Pencil and tape measure
    Jackknife or craft knife or both (for sharpening pencil, shaving splinters, etc)
    Philips number 3 and number 2 screwdrivers
    Flat screwdriver
    Pliers (linesman’s, small)
    Wire cutter-strippers
    Multi-meter (volts, ohms, milliamps)
    Small pry bar or “cat’s paw”
    Screw-gun or battery powered drill and selection of bits
    Hand-held “laser” thermometer
    Kill-a-Watt ® meter
Finally, for those of you who'd like to know what the Womerlippis got up to this summer, here are some photos of our various activities:

We own a small farm, and one thing we did was grow a lot of food. Here little Roo is getting ready to feed waste apples to the pigs.

We took a fmaily trip to Aimee's home in southwest PA, where I met this old friend, one of the airplanes I worked on while an engineer in the RAF. This is a Jet Provost airplane, used for pilot training. I used to service and repair the propulsion systems, including overhauling the Rolls Royce engines.

I also overhauled the engine in my own Land Rover, a complete rebuild.

Here's the engine going back in after the rebuild. This kind of thing is fun for me.

We built a swing set for little Roo.

Here we are enjoying the swing set.

Later in the summer, I dragged our old VW campervan out of the woods where I'd stored it for several years, and began to restore it, pulling and stripping the engine and repairing all the rust damage with new metal. When we get done with this, it will look and run like new, and we'll use if for family camping..

Monday, July 20, 2015


This letter just released from a consortium of UK professional and scientific bodies, including the RSA (of which I'm a fellow):

(Full text.)

The scientific evidence is now overwhelming that the climate is warming and that human activity is largely responsible for this change through emissions of greenhouse gases.
Governments will meet in Paris in November and December this year to negotiate a legally binding and universal agreement on tackling climate change. Any international policy response to climate change must be rooted in the latest scientific evidence. This indicates that if we are to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming in this century to 2°C relative to the pre-industrial period, we must transition to a zero-carbon world by early in the second half of the century.
To achieve this transition, governments should demonstrate leadership by recognising the risks climate change poses, embracing appropriate policy and technological responses, and seizing the opportunities of low-carbon and climate-resilient growth.

Risks. Climate change poses risks to people and ecosystems by exacerbating existing economic, environmental, geopolitical, health and societal threats, and generating new ones. These risks increase disproportionately as the temperature increases. Many systems are already at risk from climate change. A rise of 2°C above pre-industrial levels would lead to further increased risk from extreme weather and would place more ecosystems and cultures in significant danger. At or above 4°C, the risks include substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, and fundamental changes to human activities that today are taken for granted.

Responses. Responding to the challenge will require deploying the full breadth of human talent and invention. Creative policy interventions and novel technological solutions need to be fostered and applied. This will require a sustained commitment to research, development, entrepreneurship, education, public engagement, training and skills.
Opportunities. While the threats posed by climate change are far-reaching, the ways in which we tackle them can be a source of great opportunity. There exists vast potential for innovation, for example in low-carbon technologies. Capturing this potential quickly and effectively will drive economic progress. There are also significant additional benefits available from climate mitigation and adaptation actions, including food, energy and water security, air quality, health improvements, and safeguarding the services that ecosystems provide.
Actions need to be taken now, by governments, individuals, businesses, local communities and public institutions, if we are to tackle this global challenge, deliver the required cuts in emissions, and take maximum advantage of the available opportunities and additional benefits.

Signatories in alphabetical order:

Academy of Medical Sciences, Academy of Social Sciences, British Academy, British Ecological Society, Challenger Society for Marine Science, Geological Society, Institution of Civil Engineers, Institute of Physics, Institution of Chemical Engineers, Institution of Environmental Sciences, Learned Society of Wales, London Mathematical Society, Royal Astronomical Society, Royal Economic Society, Royal Geographical Society, Royal Meteorological Society, Royal Society, Royal Society of Arts, Royal Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of Edinburgh, Society for General Microbiology, Wellcome Trust, Zoological Society of London

Monday, May 11, 2015

The toad abolished -- for now

College is out for the summer -- graduation was Saturday -- and the pace of activity has shifted from frenetic to manageable. The last few days were transitional, as we finished up grading and attended meetings still, but no longer had to show up for classes. This week we have two "in-service" training days. So Friday is our first official day of summer, and my calendar is free and clear of commitments from then until late August, except for one monthly meeting. This summer I have no field research, and so my primary college remaining responsibility is pen-and-ink scholarship, which, frankly is no hardship. I have a paper that needs to be revised for a different publisher, and a lot of fairly serious new books to read.

Work, or at least Philip Larkin's kind that feels like work, being essentially banished from our lives until fall, what will I do with ourselves?

Well, we'll work, of course, but it will be the kind of work that doesn't feel like work. We have five new chickens, three piglets, and six lambs to raise and sell, the older sheep and chickens to tend, some of which sheep will also have to be sold, a Land Rover that may need a clutch and certainly needs an emergency brake job, three other vehicles and a tractor and several miscellaneous items of small equipment to service and maintain, a garden to plant and grow and harvest and put up, three acres of rough pasture to keep weed free, several hundred skeins of yarn to sell, two more cords of firewood to put up, three hundred bales of hay to find, buy, truck, and store in the barn...

... and last but by no means least, a very small child to help learn to walk and talk.

Because of this new element in my life, I won't be adding much to my college blog this summer. Sometimes there are more important things. Apologies to long-time readers. We'll be back on track this fall.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Vehicle Safety Report

A total of twelve students and one instructor from Physics: Heat, Electricity, and Magnetism performed standard safety checks on a total of forty-eight student vehicles Tuesday, April 28th.

Thanks to students Andrew, Thomas, Clark, Sierra, Steven, Arthur, Carolyn, Matthew, Stephenie, Jacob, Wesley, Sylvester, and Andrew for all their hard work, their superior appreciation for the finer points of vehicle safety, and their high regard for their classmates' lives and property.

Photos: Students Wesley and Sierra in action on the day

There was high demand for our services, the most ever, and we were short staffed at times, so I couldn't get photos of each student worker, as I have done in the past. Apologies for that.

Most vehicles passed inspection. Vehicles were, on the average, noticeably safer than in the past.* Several more egregious safety concerns were noted that would have almost certainly related in a holiday travel "fail" and possibly a stranding, or worse, an accident:
  • Several vehicles were significantly low on oil, up to three quarts down. When you only have one or two quarts of oil remaining in your engine, the engine will begin to overheat because that little oil can't do such a great job of cooling and lubricating. You also might want to know why your oil is so low. Most likely you are leaking it or burning it. Either way, you must now monitor your oil level more carefully or you will cause a catastrophic engine failure, called a seizure. Essentially, your pistons will stick to your cylinder walls and/or your main bearings will stick to your crankshaft. Check the oil level every time you get gas. Write down how much you add, when you added it, and the odometer reading each time you check. Check the ground under where you park for signs of a leak. Monitor your oil pressure light or pressure gauge, check engine light, and temperature gauge. Hopefully, you'll figure out how much oil you're using and find the leak if there is one, then get it fixed.
  • Many vehicles had tires that had only a millimeter or two of tread remaining. The Maine regulations require at least a millimeter all round, but this isn't enough for Maine summer driving conditions if there is heavy rain or mud on the roads, especially in a rear-wheel drive vehicle. These students were advised to get new tires, preferably before taking any long trip.
  • Although a few were five or slightly more PSI down, no tires had dangerously low tire pressure. This is a first. Maybe our efforts to educate about such things are paying off!
  • Two vehicles had scored and rusty disc rotors visible through aluminum wheels. If disc rotors are scored, they need to be replaced or turned down on a lathe. Replace pads at the same time, and do at least the rear or front brake sets together, if not all four sets. If they are rusty, your brake caliper is not working and needs to be repaired. This is a very dangerous condition on any vehicle.
  • For the second time in a row, several students did not know how to turn on their headlights manually. Automatic headlights are fine, but Maine law requires you to have the headlights on whenever the wipers are turning, so you need to know where this switch is! Consult your owner's manual. You can get copies of your manual online if you have lost or never had yours.
That concludes our biannual community vehicle safety report. If you didn't get chance to get your vehicle checked out yesterday and are worried about the drive home, stop me or one of our student volunteers and ask us about it, or take it to a shop for a check up before your drive home.

*Enter "Vehicle Safety" in the Google Blogger search engine above to previous reports. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Vehicle safety checks next Tuesday 28th 


(And yes, this was a car once driven to and from college by a Unity student!)

Dear students:

Graduating? Or just getting out of Dodge for the summer?
Before driving off into the wild blue yonder, consider taking advantage of free vehicle check-outs next week, Tuesday April 28th, 1.00 - 4.30 pm, in front of the Activities Building.

Are you a stereotypical Unity College "rugged individual” type? How rugged? Do you really want to find out? Getting stranded in an unpleasant, uncool, or just plain dangerous neck of the woods is one really good way to find out.

Alternately, take advantage of the service offered by your fellow students to prevent such occurrences.

The new Star Wars movie isn’t quite out yet, but we know aging-but-truly-rugged pro star pilot Luke Skywalker always does his own maintenance and lubes on his X-Wing Starfighter. But are you properly trained to fix up your trusty star-steed?

Instead, let the experienced mechanics and other student grease warriors, this year’s team of brave volunteers, check the poor beast out.

We will check your tires and tire pressures and pump them up if necessary, check and top off the oil and other fluids, make sure everything seems firmly attached, and finally and perhaps most usefully, if your CHECK ENGINE light is on, we will use our computer reader to “pull” your trouble codes so you can finally know just what it is that your poor neglected automobile has been trying to tell you all these months.

(Did you know you can save lots of gas and help the climate just by keeping your car’s tires at the proper pressures over the changing seasons? That tire pressures can naturally raise around 4-to 8 PSI between winter and summer if not checked, because of cold? Did you know that a blown oxygen sensor is easy to fix and can save on gas too? Did you know that low oil level can kill your car’s engine? Well, now you know.)

Each participant will receive a written report on the serviceability of their vehicle, with details of any trouble codes and what they mean.

The college accepts no responsibility for the use or misuse of any of the information we give you about your vehicle, or for your car’s safety after you leave the campus, but we do suggest that it’s always better to know than not to know. In most cases.

Employees are welcome too. Thanks to the Maintenance and Student Affairs departments for aid in providing this service.

Brought to you by the students and faculty of this semester’s PS 2004, Physics: Heat, Electricity and Magnetism class.

Remember: Go green, or don’t go.

Mick Womersley


Thursday, April 2, 2015

ESS Project descriptions and work plan

Following your discussions with Dr. Kahl today, outline in your groups and prepare a formal, one page project description and work plan:
  1. A paragraph description of your project, including target audience/survey population, and technology requirements
  2. A workplan, including timelines, deadlines, and individual assignments for group members. The grade for the project will be split 50-50 between how good the the overall project is, and any individual performance, particularly in meeting deadlines and producing high quality work. The workplan should assign as many tasks as can be assigned, and detail who is going to be responsible for which task. If it's a group task, not individual, say so. I will be asking for anonymous assessments of individual performance from each group. You may change the workplan as you go along, but you need to file one with me by next Thursday
  3. This assignment will be worth 5% of the 30% grade for the project
  4. HEADS-UP: Groups will present their projects in class at the end of the semester