Sea Turtle Safety, Chemical Accidents, and the Human-Powered Speed Record

This short series of reports includes homestead news on sea turtles, chemical accidents, and the human-powered speed record.

| September/October 1986

  • Sea turtle safety
    Sea turtles in Brevard County, Florida, are safer now, thanks to an ordinance requiring beach-facing windows in new condominiums to be covered with window film or shade screens.

  • Sea turtle safety

Here are the latest reports on homestead news, including sea turtle safety, chemical accidents, the human-powered speed record, Big Brother, police surveillance tools, and a fast food guide.  

In Homestead News . . .

Shades of Compassion for Sea Turtles

Sea turtles in Brevard County, Florida, are safer now, thanks to an ordinance requiring beach-facing windows in new condominiums to be covered with window film or shade screens. The area's beaches are a favored nesting habitat of the 80-million-year-old endangered species, and nighttime light from condo windows and other sources disoriented sea turtle hatchlings, drawing them inland onto Highway A1A. Dr. Ross McCluney of the Florida Solar Energy Center, who recommended the ordinance, says that condo residents not only are saving sea turtles by shading their windows, but are lowering their air-conditioning costs, as well.

Chemical Accidents

An Environmental Protection Agency study says that nearly 7,000 accidents involving the release of 420 million pounds of toxic chemicals occurred in this country between 1980 and 1985. The accidents killed 139 people, injured 1,478, and caused the evacuation of some 217,000. Chlorine was cited as the chemical responsible for the greatest number of deaths and injuries. Perhaps most disturbing are the figures concerning the causes of the accidents: Although 13% of the mishaps are attributed to human error, the causes of 40% are simply unknown.

Human-Powered Speed Record

Last May 11, former Olympic cyclist Fred Markham pedaled the 31-pound bicycle Gold Rush to an astonishing record speed of 65.48 mph. In the process, he and Gardner Martin, designer of the bicycle, won the $18,000 DuPont Prize, which had been offered since January 1984 for the first single-rider, human-powered vehicle to exceed 65 mph on level ground, unaided by wind or other vehicles. Computer modeling had suggested a theoretical top speed for a human-powered vehicle to be between 65 and 70 mph, but most experts considered such a speed simply impossible. The Gold Rush, which looks much like the front section of a very skinny supersonic jet, is a recumbent ("sit back") bicycle enclosed in an aerodynamic fairing made of super lightweight Kevlar aramid fabric.

Shades of Big Brother

A computerized video "cop" capable of scanning license plates on cars at highway speeds and then automatically checking the numbers against a stored list of stolen or "suspect" vehicle numbers may soon be available to police forces. Previous versions of such systems have been too expensive and inaccurate for practical use-but the new design can recognize target numbers 65% to 95% of the time, and is said to be relatively inexpensive.

Sun Down

Recent studies show that the sun's irradiance has decreased by almost .02% each year over the past five years. The change may be a result of the sun's 22-year magnetic cycle, or symptomatic of the gradual expansion of the sun, which scientists say has grown by about 100 kilometers in the last several years. The cause, however, is less a matter of concern than is the possible effect on our climate. At the current rate, light from the sun could decline .2% per decade. According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a decrease in sunlight of only 1% is thought to have brought on Europe's "Little Ice Age," which lasted from 1500 to 1850.

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