Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

I've posted a bit about space debris, but what about good ol' floating ocean trash? Not much time to post today, so I'll just provide this link, and discuss the disgusting possibilities soon (hopefully).

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who's Joey Yung?

One of the biggest (if not the biggest) singing stars in Asia!

Now, if you don't understand the Chinese language, that probably wouldn't mean much. But hey, I don't understand Portuguese, and yet I still "get" Shakira. And even though I don't understand Chinese, I also still "get" Zhang Ziyi. (The subtitles in her movies help.)

Well, simply put, Joey Yung is a mega-singing superstar.

And... I brushed elbows with her (and a few members of her entourage) in the year 2000, when her star was just beginning its ascension. See, I got to enter China via Hong Kong for some energy consulting work; they still burn way too much coal, Mr. Lomborg! Well, when you stay in a big hotel, you never know who you're going to get on an elevator with. Now -- I'm pretty sure that at this moment in time, Joey Yung and her entourage don't let anybody they don't know on an elevator with them, but back then, timing was everything. And here I thought all those photographers and reporters in the lobby were waiting for me!

Joey's a looker, besides being a wonderful singer. I recommend YouTube to hear her voice (even better if you UNDERSTAND Chinese). But based on what I see below, I can "get" Joey Yung, too.

New album cover (released in September 2008):

She's got a great smile:

So you don't believe me that she's a major star?

Glamourous "tough" rock-star shots:

Starlight 2008 concert: she had a lot of costume changes. To see them, go here: Joey Yung Starlight Concert 2008

Good news/bad news for the Mars Rover Spirit

The good news for the Mars Rover Spirit: a "cleaning event", otherwise known as strong wind and maybe even a dust devil, cleared off enough dust to raise power levels 10%.

The bad news: the computer keeps resetting itself, and the controllers don't know why.

Mars Exploration Rover Mission

SPIRIT UPDATE: Another Reset and a Cleaning Event - sols 1879-1885, April 16-22, 2009:

Spirit experienced another reset event over the weekend, but otherwise has been well-behaved.

The investigation into Spirit's recent anomalous behavior continues, but there is still no explanation. A team of experts involved in the original design and construction of the rover has been consulted. Although the anomalous behavior is frustrating, the rover continues to be healthy in terms of power, temperature and communication.

The plan going forward is to implement some enhanced data-collecting techniques in order to gather more information from any future anomalous events, and to resume near-normal operations. A short drive for Spirit has been sequenced on Sol 1886 (April 23, 2009).

Spirit also had a small dust cleaning event on her solar arrays on Sol 1881 (April 18, 2009). Solar array energy improved by more than 10 percent

As of Sol 1885 (April 22, 2009), Spirit's solar array energy production is 306 watt-hours, about as much as is used in lighting a 100-watt bulb for three hours. Atmospheric opacity (tau) is estimated around 0.964. The dust factor has improved to about 0.377, meaning that about 37.7 percent of sunlight hitting the solar array penetrates the layer of accumulated dust on the array. Spirit's total odometry remains at 7,726.78 meters (4.80 miles).

A couple of thoughts triggered by the party switch of Arlen Specter

Like anyone cares what I think... but reading about Arlen Specter made me think a lot of things about politics.

First of all, reading the various commentaries led to one comparing the so far-right he's far-out Senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint, with the more moderate senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham. Lindsey quoted Ronald Reagan (and reading around, apparently others have been doing so too) as having said, "The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor." So let us ponder that a minute. The Republican party has been expelling those who don't follow the hard-line espoused by DeMint either through deliberate action, i.e. Jim Jeffords, or by inaction (such as letting Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island get knocked out in a primary -- see below). So there are much fewer Republicans in Congress because of this. And with Specter switching and Al Franken likely the winner in Minnesota, the Democrats have the legendary filibuster-proof majority.

Which I don't like. This is the loss of a check in the checks-and-balances system. There's a reason cars need brakes and there's a reason Senates have filibusters. To slow things down. Sometimes (clearly not always) no action is better than wrong action. It's hard to tell when, so that's when talking about it might work.

Now, along those lines, the political reading led to this amazing interactive map site at the NY Times -- and a good reason to point out why losing the NY Times will be disruptive to our knowledge-state in general.

President Map: Election Results When the map is loaded, clicking on "Voting Shifts" -- you can see the shifts down to the county level.

What is really needed is a map that shows the shifts on the Congressional district level. Congressional districts have been so gerrymandered to favor the party in power in the state so as to render the point of voting moot. Voting should provide a choice between alternatives, but there are none when the district is so drawn that the party choice will win barring sudden death (and even then, the parties can put in an unknown alternate who by virtue of party affiliation wins anyway!)

Here in Maryland, the 5th district which includes Calvert County where I live is actually almost geographically realistic:

But the district to the north, the 3rd, is absurd! (Hey, I can be Dr. Suess, too!)

Now, if you go back to the map, you'll see that it allows a zoom to any county you prefer. In Maryland, Calvert County stayed Republican, but by a lesser margin than previous elections. The percentage point drop in Calvert (Democrat vs. Republican) was 12%; in Frederick County, the drop was 19%. The Democratic counties got considerably more Democratic. So either on a district or county-basis, the Congressional composition in Maryland is very unlikely to change, and this is true of most other states.

So the Senate is a place where moderation and deliberation should prevail. But when you see someone like Specter getting forced out, it's because the primary system is knocking them out. There are many, many less voters in the primaries than in the general election, and they tend to be much more ideological. So... if a Senator is supposed to represent the entire state, why should a small number of people get to choose who the major party candidate is, and force them into ideological allegiance or be forced out? This is what the Republicans have done, and this why there are a lot less Republican senators in Congress, and this is also why there are a lot less moderate Republican senators in Congress -- and the same can pretty much be said for the lack of moderate Democrats.

So here's my unlikely to be even considered serious proposal: eliminate the primary system for Senate candidates. Just let anybody who wants to run in the general, and let them have to build a winning "coalition", much like Parliamentary systems have to do to form a government. This will force moderation, because someone far-right or far-left will not have a chance. Even in South Carolina, I think the likelihood of another Jim DeMint would be considerably lessened.

To make this government work and not be just a low-talent debating society, we need more moderates and particularly more moderate Republicans. We need the Republican party to be freed from its ideological constraints. We need Michael Steele to stick to his principles and not kowtow to the intellectually vacuous positions of the demonstrably-wrong most of the time radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Otherwise, the Republicans will continue to drive pell-mell down Irrelevancy Road. And darn it all, that's not good for the country.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If she's not smiling...

If she's not smiling (because she has a very nice warm smile that makes her look "cute"), actress Parminder Nagra is smokin'.

Demo 1: Go here to see what I mean

Demos 2 and 3:

Unlikely occurrence: I agree with Bjorn Lomborg

Human nature is to be comfortable, rich, greedy, and never to plan for the future until it rears up and bites us on the buttocks. Which is why countries that supposedly commit to emissions cuts won't honor them. It's a shell game and a sham game. We are truly going to screw our grandchildren (subject of an essay that I'm going to write).

So... the thing is, a carbon-based energy economy will keep getting more and more expensive. That's what will change things. Which is why stop-making-sense Bjorn Lomborg actually makes sense in the soon-to-be-defunct New York Times, when he says:

"The Copenhagen agreement should instead call for every country to spend one-twentieth of a percent of its gross domestic product on low-carbon energy research and development. That would increase the amount of such spending 15-fold to $30 billion, yet the total cost would be only a sixth of the estimated $180 billion worth of lost growth that would result from the Kyoto restrictions."

And I also agree with him here:

"No green energy source is inexpensive enough to replace coal now. Given substantially more research, however, green energy could be cheaper than fossil fuels by mid-century".

But in between those two paragraphs, he unfortunately said this:

"Kyoto-style emissions cuts can only ever be an expensive distraction from the real business of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. The fact is, carbon remains the only way for developing countries to work their way out of poverty. Coal burning provides half of the world’s electricity, and fully 80 percent of it in China and India, where laborers now enjoy a quality of life that their parents could barely imagine."

The other fact is -- and I saw this on my one and only business trip to China -- more on that tomorrow -- coal burning is making the citizens of China gag on their own industrial exhalations. Unless there's a lucky breeze, the entire country is enshrouded in a pervasive, appalling gray haze. (Beijing actually got better for the Olympics because they throttled back so much.) No, I disagree with Lomborg -- despite the expense, China and India need non-carbon energy or the people will rise en masse in revolt against the environmental injustice they are forced to endure in the name of progress and growth.

Here's the article:

Don’t Waste Time Cutting Emissions

One other thing he doesn't mention: a carbon tax will force the pace of innovation faster. Oh yeah, I almost forgot!

Lab finds new method to turn biomass into gasoline

Bjorn, the future is not carbon, even for growing Third World economies. Yes, we should invest in green energy, because the future is nearly now.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Representative Scalise believes in fairy tales

In case you haven't seen some of Al Gore's testimony to Congress when being badgered by Republicans who don't understand the relationship between carbon dioxide, plate tectonics, and the Earth's climate, the following YouTube video on shows a bit of what it was like:

Gore: Those Who Challenge Man-Made Global Warming Like Moon Landing Deniers

Well, you know what: they are.

Global warming denialism is basically pseudoscience. The vast majority of the manufactured research that is paraded out as legitimate isn't -- and the supporters of the snake oil ask "why don't you believe my experts? My experts are finding flaws in the science!"

Forgive me; finding flaws in the edifice of scientific knowledge regarding how greenhouse gases affect climate is like finding a few chips in a couple of bricks at the base of a brick wall and saying: "Look, a couple of these bricks are less than perfect -- so the whole wall is unsound and in danger of falling down!"

It's not going to happen. Nothing new has been added to the arguments from the handful of denier "experts" for a decade -- and in fact, they've been shown repeatedly to be making bigger and larger and more egregious mistakes the harder they try to hold up their flimsy end. So now they are grasping at straws, like a solar minimum lasting a bit longer than average, while meanwhile there are discoveries that even the scientists employed by a climate change denial coalition indicated that the science was right!

(From the Washington Post: you might need to subscribe (for free) to read the entire article)

Industries Buried Internal Findings
Climate Wording Cut From Public Report

"The Global Climate Coalition, a group of representatives of the oil, auto and coal industries, spent years telling the public that the link between human activity and climate change was too uncertain to justify U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 treaty aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. In 1995, however, a "primer" on the issue produced by the organization's own scientific experts concluded that "the scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied."

This language was deleted from the primer when the group released it to the public."

OK, folks, that's pseudoscience at its BEST. Because that's basically saying that the science is wrong when it's really right. That's basically like saying that despite huge amounts of scientifically verifiable evidence that 12 human beings walked on the Moon, it was actually a staged hoax.

Some of these fringe nutcases (like John Coleman or Christopher Monckton) are calling for a "debate". It'd be easy to destroy these guys, provided the debate was done in print, point-by-point. They think they can win this issue with soundbites and appeals to public fears and public ignorance.

It's too important an issue for that. And Rep. Scalise should do a little research himself and find out (rather quickly) that his so-called "experts" are paper tigers.

But he won't. He just wants to make sound bites, too.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What did Anne Boleyn really look like?

There are a few portraits of Anne; the one shown here is the most comely.

We'll never know what she looked like with her hair down.

But compare the first picture to the one below from the Tudors. Natalie Dormer might actually be fairly close to the real thing.

Lucky Henry. For a 1000 days, at least.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Am I being serious?

OK, I've been trying out this blogging thing for several months now, and having fun with it. I have the freedom of virtual anonymity -- virtually nobody is reading what I write and post. And in fact, I haven't had a chance to fire off some of the many multitudes of thoughts into text that I want to (and I still plan t0). And I like pretty women.

So is there a point to what I'm doing beyond self-indulgence? I hope so. I am truly concerned about the future of the planet -- what's the point of leisure pursuits, like the time-honored male pastime of girl-watching, if the planet is headed for catastrophe? Or even if the planet is just headed for a future in which day-to-day existence is more difficult, a future in which our planet's incredible treasures of natural resources have been profoundly and irreversibly depleted, a future in which there is more internecine and inter-religious and international conflict, a future with too many people and too little water and barely enough food and an increasingly restive populace with too little that is envious of the too few that have too much?

So there's a lot more that I want to say. And there's a lot more I want to say that's serious. Most of what I have put up here isn't frivolous, it is serious -- but I like sharing the benefits of variety. Why should I care -- nobody is reading my blog! If I suddenly develop a devoted following, maybe I'd provide both more food for thought and more thoughts for food. Or something along those lines.

Anyhow, just to remind myself, here's some of what I still want to say:

  1. More on the prospects of famine and pestilence (umm, swine flu, anyone?)
  2. Whatever happened to Maria Grazia Cucinotta and Belinda Stronach?
  3. My musings on what I can say to children with a growing awareness of the world around them, while I feel I know too much about the world around them
  4. Observations on why female figure skaters are so darned good-looking and fit, both
  5. Baby steps toward world government
  6. Prospects of a realistic energy future
  7. More climate change gloom-and-doom, some of what I know too much about
  8. Occasional forays into minor sports news (and I must STILL state why I hate ESPN)
  9. Hottest love/sex scenes in movies, according to my personal criteria
  10. Scientific breakthroughs and scientific trivia, whichever I happen to notice first.

So I'm going to be serious. When I want to be. Because it's my blog and nobody else cares. But as long as there's a Google, people will know what I was thinking. And sometimes I was actually being serious.

Meanwhile, I just thought this was entertaining:
Connections between "House" and Holmes

I hope this Anne Boleyn doesn't lose her head

By total accident, I found some pictures and video from "The Tudors", which is on Showtime. Which I don't have on my system. It appears that there will be some DVD renting in my future on this one, because the actress that plays Anne of a Thousand Days, mother of the Virgin Queen (Elizabeth I, you historically ignoramuses) would definitely raise any kings's royal sceptre. So I'm providing a modern and a historically inaccurate view of actress Natalie Dormer.

Not only is she just plain stunning, her eyes are incredible.

From her own site, looking like she does in the Tudors:

Honor the King:

Thoroughly Modern Natalie:

Better news for sharks; bad news for ice

Found two things of interest on the World Wire:

Pew Applauds New Senate Bill Mandating Shark Conservation as Europe Fisheries Ministers Respond to EU Shark Plan

"The Shark Conservation Act of 2009 would strengthen the current U.S. ban on shark finning, removing loopholes that the fishing industry has exploited and mandating that any imported shark products come from countries that have equivalent conservation standards."

Further down:

"In February Europe sent a strong and united message that urgent action is needed, and now Congress is sending one as well," said [Joshua] Reichert [Pew Environment Group]. "Approximately 100 million sharks are being killed every year, with potentially enormous negative consequences for the global marine food chain. Every country that allows shark fishing will need to adopt strong conservation measures if sharks are to be saved."

100 million? That's insane. Well, the manner in which the world is driving fisheries to destruction is generally insane. Have we no foresight? (The answer to that would be, of course, most of the time, no.)


Melting Ice: Regional Dramas, Global Wake-Up Call

"The situation in the Arctic can be seen as a warning to the rest of the world. Climate change scientists say that over the next few decades, 1.3 billion people will be threatened by more serious flooding, followed by the loss of drinking water, as their rivers swell and then dry up. Many of the world's main rivers depend on meltwater from the mountains for part of the year. Scientists predict that ice and snow in the mountains that feed these rivers will melt away because of global warming. Rivers flowing from the Himalayas, the Andes Mountains, the Rocky Mountains and the Alps will be affected. In Asia, the Himalayas are the source of seven of the continent's largest rivers. These and other rivers from the mountains of Central Asia are vital to the livelihoods of 40% of the world's population."

Have we no foresight? See my answer above.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NASA seeks direction before riskiest Shuttle launch ever

Since I've been harping on the subject of the risks of the upcoming Hubble repair mission (which I certainly and totally and completely hope goes according to plan), I ought to point out that NASA is undertaking this mission during a period when it doesn't have an Esteemed Leader (otherwise known as the official NASA Administrator):

I don't normally quote Fox News but this was actually well-written:

Lost in Space: Months After Obama's Inauguration, NASA Is Still Without a Chief

The thing is: it's not just the Administrator. NASA doesn't have an official appointee in the top THREE positions:

"Four weeks later, NASA is still without a permanent chief, and its normal leading triumvirate remains an army of one — Chris Scolese, the former No. 3 who has been acting administrator since Jan. 20. "It's not a very good situation," said James Logsdon, a former member of the NASA advisory council who helped craft Obama's space policy during the presidential campaign. Logsdon said Scolese is hamstrung by not having deputies to help handle the triple tasks of management, engineering and politics that make up the administrator's job."

Which makes me wonder if Dan Goldin is still available? (Ha, just kidding. Well, not really. But I doubt he'd come back.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's about time

Humans do like to consume various unusual parts of animals, but one of the most horrendous practices I think I know of is shark-finning, just to get the fin for shark-fin soup. First the article and then an image that illustrates horrendousness. It's about time that this barbaric practice got significantly more protest time. I think I'd stuff myself on pate de foie gras before I'd ever consume shark-fin soup.

Rally against shark fin trade opens in Singapore

Is it really worth it?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Follow-up on space junk

Two articles about the conference a couple of weeks ago about space debris, otherwise known as space junk.

Space debris: Europe to set up monitor in 'two or three years'

The level of technology being talked about is somewhat astonishing.

"Over the past year, tests have been been carried out using three facilities, said Klinkrad -- a radar at Wachtberg, in northwestern Germany; a 100-metre radiotelescope at Effelsberg, western Germany; and a network of radar stations, called Eiscat, in Finland, Norway and Sweden. "With those facilities, we could detect objects with a diameter of one centimetre (0.4 inches) and we could track (objects of) four centimetres (2.5 inches)," said Klinkrad. Eventually, he hoped, European facilities will be able to track debris of 10 centimetres (4.5 inches) in low Earth orbit, and one metre or smaller in geostationary orbit."

But here's the paragraph of daunting obstaclity:

"There are around 600,000 objects larger than one centimetre in orbit, of which more than 13,000 are greater than 10 centimetres (4.5 inches), ESA says."

And just one of those 600,000 objects would put a hurtin' on an expensive satellite if it hit.

Key findings From The Fifth European Conference On Space Debris

There are, as would be expected, several key findings. This was the one that caught my attention:

"Space debris remediation, i.e. active debris removal from orbit, was identified as the next necessary step. Several contributions addressed technical and operational aspects of implementing such measures."

So there are still openings for garbage collectors in space!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sacrifice is scary

Lots on my mind these days, and I'm going to comment on the new EPA finding on CO2, hopefully very soon. But while it's on my mind, how much is Arctic ice worth to us?

Massive emissions cuts can save Arctic ice: study

"Cutting greenhouse gases by 70 percent this century would spare the planet the most traumatic effects of climate change, including the massive loss of Arctic sea ice, a study said Tuesday." (That was the first paragraph.)

"This research indicates that we can no longer avoid significant warming during this century," said Washington, who ran a series of global supercomputer studies." (I'm not surprised by that.)

"This study provides some hope that we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change--if society can cut emissions substantially over the next several decades and continue major cuts through the century," [study author Warren] Washington said." (Is that realistic? More about that later. I promise.)

To each his own

Everybody has their own tastes; Kelly Brook is certainly my flavor.

Click for Kelly, lovely and impressive at the beach. I promise.

While we're on the subject of British birds, I have to admit that I was one of the millions moved by the singing of Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent" -- a show I never knew anything about until I heard about Susan Boyle singing on it. The video is impressive, and it really is due to the surprise factor. Of course, watching it I was also impressed by the prettiness of judge Amanda Holden. A little searching indicated that she's got an impressive body -- of work -- in modeling. She is quite pretty and she's been doing this awhile, so the image collection covers her when she was younger, when she was pregnant, and up to present day. If you're into birdwatching, it's a nice safari. The one shown here is one I brought back.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More prep for NASA's pivotal Hubble mission

Update on the upcoming Hubble mission: the rescue shuttle has been moved to the pad.

NASA Moves Rescue Shuttle for Risky Hubble Repair Mission

Key paragraph:
"NASA has been preparing Endeavour for an unprecedented rescue mission to retrieve the seven-astronaut crew of Atlantis in the event that shuttle suffers critical damage and is unable to return to Earth. As designed, the mission would launch Endeavour and a skeleton crew of four astronauts on relatively short notice to rendezvous with Hubble, where Atlantis astronauts would perform a series of spacewalks to leave their stricken ship."

OK, sorry, but it's time for American Movie Classics to screen this one a couple of times:

Speaking of which, the novel was written by Martin Caidin, more famous for Cyborg aka "The Six Million Dollar Man", who had a heck of a life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nyaaaaah - what's up, Doc?

OK, I never knew that rabbits could be a big urban problem. Sure, they love eating the stuff in prize gardens and they reproduce like... well, rabbits, but I figgered rats and mice and more of the vermin-level rodents would constitute a larger problem. Apparently not in Helsinki.

Helsinki aims to tackle growing rabbit MENACE

OK, so here's what they do:
"The floppy-eared fiends have been nibbling their way through some of Helsinki's most-prized city gardens, damaging footpaths as they build their burrows underground, and eating into 200,000 euros (265,000 dollars) from the parks' 12.5-million annual budget in the process."

So what are the authorities going to do about it?

"Now, the ministry of agriculture and forestry says it plans to change the law to cut the protection time in the spring and the summer when hunting is forbidden."

I hope you realize where this is going.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Find the idiot

See if you can find the idiot in the following article. It isn't difficult.

Analysis: Warming could devastate parks (that would be National Parks)

America's most endangered rivers

I just happened across this article; the one that surprised me the most was the Saluda River in South Carolina. The one that I think is the most troubling is the Lower St. Croix (because I've been there). It's amazingly spectacular for a "Midwestern" river. It'd be a shame if there were homes on the shores of this beautiful wild river.

America's Most Endangered Rivers - 2009 Edition

Here's a picture of the Lower St. Croix in autumn.

Two research methods following the same theme

This first one is REALLY cool. What a fabulous idea -- except for the deployment aspect.

Blubbery 'researchers' lend fin to climate science

Basically, the climate researchers deployed instrumentation on the backs of elephant seals, and allowed them to investigate the temperature/pressure characteristics of Southern Circumpolar Ocean waters during their long-distance foraging.

Here are a couple of quotes to sketch this out:

"The fat-snouted pinniped, two ugly tons of blubber and roar, is plunging to its usual frigid depths these days in the service of climate science, and of scientists' budgets.

"It would take years and millions and millions of dollars for a research ship to do what they're doing," Norwegian scientist Kim Holmen said of the instrument-equipped seals, whose long-distance swims and 1,000-foot (300-meter) dinnertime dives for squid are giving investigators valuable data about a key piece of southern ocean."

and in addition:

"Institute teams captured 20 of the animals on Bouvet's stony shores where they are at their most ungainly, throwing hoods over their heads and gluing small instrument packages to their backs. The devices measure depth, salinity, water temperature and locations via the Global Positioning System."

Pretty amazing. Imagine throwing a hood over one of these animals, especially when they aren't in a good mood:

Now, continuing a similar theme, but mechanized:

British-built robotic fish to detect pollution

"A shoal of robotic fish which can detect pollution in the water are set to be released into the sea off Spain, British scientists said Thursday.

The fish, which are some 1.5 metres long and resemble carp, will be fitted with detectors which can identify the sources of pollution, such as ship fuel or chemicals in the water.

Five of the robots, worth some 20,000 pounds (21,000 euros, 29,000 dollars) each, are being released into the Bay of Biscay at Gijon in northern Spain as part of a three-year joint project between engineering consultancy BMT Group and researchers at Essex University in southeast England."

Let me just point -- those are EXPENSIVE fish.

The darned thing is: they actually work. (YouTube video)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Esoterica and miscellanea

Lots of stuff has been piling up so I'll just put a lot of it here. There is some GREAT stuff coming up, but I can't devote sufficient time to it right now.

1. There may be a sector that doesn't understand that the ice shelves breaking up all along the Antarctic Peninsula are a significant sign of climate changes afoot, but the phytoplankton are telling a very convincing story in their own right:

Phytoplankton Is Changing Along The Antarctic Peninsula

"What is new is that we're showing for the first time that there is an ongoing change on phytoplankton concentration and composition along the western shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula that is associated with a long-term climate modification," Montes-Hugo said.

2. I told you it wouldn't work:

Climate scientists admit defeat in ocean experiment

"As expected, this stimulated growth of tiny planktonic algae or phytoplankton, which it was hoped would take out of the atmosphere carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas blamed for climate change, and absorb it. However, the scientists from India's National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) did not count on these phytoplankton being eaten by tiny crustacean zooplankton." OCEANS ARE VERY EFFICIENT. Scratch this off the geo-engineering list (sorry, Dr. Martin). Conserve and efficiencize.US announces new fuel economy standard for 2011

3. I wrote Senator Mikulski about this a couple of years ago, and she said No... back then.

US announces new fuel economy standard for 2011

"The change "will save about 887 million gallons of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 8.3 million metric tonnes," the agency said."

4. Can I get an "Amen!"? Followed by a "Finally!"?

EU tightens bluefin tuna fishing rules

"The rules introduce "significant cuts" in bluefin tun quotas by 2011 and shortens the period in which the species can be fished by four months. The season begins on April 15. They impose a freeze on fishing capacity to 2007-2008 levels and tighten laws on sport and recreational fishing. Imports and exports of fish caught outside the quota system will also be banned."

If it was up to me, I'd just call for a moratorium on all bluefin tuna fishing for three years and see what happens. The fishermen would be STUNNED at the success of just giving the fish a fighting chance.

5. Just when I thought that technology had pushed the limits of what was possible:

The intelligent bra that takes the jiggling out of jogging

Now how did I miss this a year ago? Anyway...

"Reporting their findings in the latest issue of the Journal of Biomechanics, they say: "A consequence of current brassiere design is that the brassiere straps bear much of the load generated by breast momentum during physical activity.
"As breast mass increases, breast bounce momentum also increases, placing large loads on the straps and, in turn, excessive pressure on the wearer's shoulders."

Well, I am glad that they have come up with a better way to assist women with the aggravating problem of breast bounce. After all, sometimes these things are necessary.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Looking ahead to the Giro di Italia

If you want to see some pretty country being cycled through by a peloton, I recommend the stage taking place on Tuesday, May 13, San Martino di Castrozza to Alpe di Siusi. Here's the map. Unfortunately Versus doesn't have it on the schedule. I'll have to figure out where there's a Webcast. might have this information later. Have to keep looking for it. Go back to my first post ever on this blog for an inkling why.

Flying Spaniard

Another new swimming world record in Europe:

Spain's Munoz sets mark in 50-meter butterfly
(also snagged the European record in the 100m fly)

I checked Swimming World on the April 6 Morning Swim Show site, and they said he was 30th in the 100m fly at Beijing and 21st in the 50m fly at the last Worlds. That's very quick improvement -- not always a good thing. (Thinking Michelle Smith here.) But Munoz hasn't been that far off; sometimes a good taper results in a surprise; thinking Misty Hyman here.

I think Phelps will be smart to stick to the 200s (butterfly, individual medley, and freestyle) this summer.

Let them eat cake (reprise)

Walker's World: New food crisis looms (written by Martin Walker, UPI Editor Emeritus, and also Senior Director of the Global Business Policy Council)

I'm only going to talk about this briefly, because the "seeds" of a longer essay are planted in my mind. And I want it to be good. Awhile back I said Ehrlich (Paul, not Bob) was right (or would be, eventually) -- here's another example, and maybe not even one that he anticipated. It takes money to grow food. If you don't have money (and you're a farmer), you can't buy the seed to grow the food to sell and get more money to buy more seed and grow more food...

Joel Grey was right, money does make the world go 'round. And it also keeps it fed. So now we're facing the possibility of an economic food crisis: not one caused by an inability to grow sufficient food, i.e., yield, but a crisis caused by the inability to buy the resources necessary to sustain high yield. Once again, this demonstrates the knife-edge of global dependence on high-yield agriculture. If the chain breaks somewhere -- lack of money, lack of water, insufficient transport capability -- then there will be scarcity. And the trend is toward more scarcity. This particular problem could mean quite a bit of scarcity, fairly soon. So I'll keep that in the back of my mind.

Monday, April 6, 2009

All along the Ring of Fire

The Ring of Fire has been really active this year. Chaiten in southern Chile in the spring, Kasatochi and Okmok in the Aleutians over the summer, and now following up on Redoubt's activity, Chile's Llaima keeps things active back in the Southern Hemisphere.

Chile volcano spews lava, ash; dozens evacuated

Here's Llaima during a brief eruption in January 2008:

New deep diving record

This sport is crazy. And deadly. But heck, if you survive and set a new record, it's worth mentioning:

British woman does 314 foot ocean dive (that's 96 meters in the system used by most of the rest of the world)

Believe it or not, there's a YouTube video of this:
Sara Campbell World Record 96m Constant Weight

I wish her continued success in pursuit of her goal to make it to 100 meters. In this sport, "continued success" means continuing to inhale when you reach the surface.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Watching the climate change canary

I'm going to start off with this link:

Arctic Could Lose Most Ice In 30 Years (may I add: in the SUMMER, d*mmit!)

but anyway, here's a couple of quotes from this article, describing a new modeling study:

First of all, the lead paragraph does get it right, even if the headline doesn't:
"A nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer may happen three times sooner than scientists had previously estimated. A new analysis of computer models coupled with the most recent summer ice measurements indicates that the Arctic might lose most of its ice cover in summer in 30 years."

now for some more happy news:

"The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 assessed what might happen in the Arctic in the future by running 23 global climate models.

But Wang, a climate scientist, and Overland, an oceanographer with NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, reasoned that dramatic declines in the extent of ice at the end of summer in 2007 and 2008 called for a more refined approach.

The new projections are based on those six of the 23 models that are most suited for assessing sea ice, according to Wang, the lead author of the study. She and Overland sought models that best matched what has actually happened in recent years."

SOOO, what happened?

"Among the six models fitting the researchers' criteria, three have sophisticated sea-ice physics and dynamics capabilities.

Once the extent of ice at the end of summer drops to 4.6 million square kilometers - it was actually 4.3 million square kilometers in 2007 and 4.7 million in 2008 - all six models show rapid sea-ice declines.

Averaged together, the models point to a nearly ice-free Arctic in 32 years, with some of the models putting the event as early as 11 years from now."

For more detail: Ice-free Arctic Ocean Possible In 30 Years, Not 90 As Previously Estimated

and if you're really interested: A sea ice free summer Arctic within 30 years?

Now here's what I've been thinking:

The Arctic sea ice extent is clearly worrying the arch-skeptics. By this I mean the guys who actually examine the science and critique it -- usually unfairly, usually in a very biased fashion, but they are forced by some semblance of honesty to actually consider new scientific data as it comes in. That's one of the main reasons Watts and McIntyre (proprietors of a couple of blogs I keep tabs on) kept checking back frequently in 2008 to see if the sea ice extent was going to be less than in 2007 -- and when it barely didn't break the record, they (and many other skeptical channels) trumpeted this as sea ice "recovery". Mack even had a running pool about whether or not it would break the record. And then they watched the Arctic Ocean refreeze during a slightly-colder-than-the-mean-over-the-last-decade winter, get back up to "normal", and the skeptics launched many missives declaring that sea ice was not a problem -- in the winter, no less. George Will has been lambasted nicely for misusing this data, even if The Ignorant One can't ever admit he's in error -- and an idiot on issues of science, anyway, I might as well add. (These are the same skeptics who criticize legitimate scientists for releasing new journal papers about climate change during particularly warm, even record-setting, summer days in the Northern Hemisphere).

OK, so now we have this paper. I think of it as the classic "canary in the coal mine" scenario. Why did miners have canaries in coal mines before the days of portable gas monitors? Because canaries were reputedly very sensitive to unsafe concentrations of methane and carbon monoxide. These are both bad for miners because the former can blow up in sufficient concentrations and the latter can suffocate you without you being aware of it. So canaries in coal mines reputedly indicated a dangerous condition by succumbing to it, and the absence of an audio signal from the canary would alert the coal miners to before a) they blew up or b) they lost consciousness. [Note: there were also Davy's Lamps that would indicate increased methane levels, but they couldn't do much about detecting CO.] I must point out that neither (a) or (b) would be considered an optimum outcome.

Arctic sea ice has now become our climate change canary in the coal mine. The problem is: do we really have to wait until the canary is dead, or can we just start noticing when it's being metabolically challenged, i.e. dying? Climate change skeptics watching the Arctic sea ice make me think of coal miners checking on the canary, seeing it lying on the bottom of the cage with labored breathing, but every now and then emitting a feeble "chirp" ... "chirp" ... "chirp" -- which because the canary isn't dead yet, they interpret as an ALL CLEAR signal and declare that everything's FINE -- time for another day in the mine!

Arctic sea ice is something people notice. It effects the most charismatic megafauna of the North -- the polar bear -- and this report is bound to keep pushing regulation of greenhouse gases on the basis of the Endangered Species Act. (Gee, I can't wait until Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas get a hold of that one: the Bush legacy should make that pretty interesting. If any of the current liberals passes on, Obama will just appoint another liberal, so there won't be any change in the balance of the court. Kennedy is the key.) More loss of sea ice will also make more children worry about the fate of Santa and Rudolph. The thing about Arctic sea ice disappearing every summer, and setting new records, is that it becomes one of the hardest things for the skeptics to deny or explain away with their typical handwaving tissue-thin justifications. Declining Arctic sea ice will make the pseudoscience of the climate change skeptics start to look nearly as foolish as the pseudoscience of the Young Earth Creationists or the Intelligent Design fringists.

Declining Arctic sea ice (in the summer, of course) might actually end up being to climate change skepticism what the Grand Canyon was to Scientific Creationism: something so undeniably real that it will require such a great amount of cognitive dissonance that a great deal of the gullible herd that is currently following the lead of the snake oil salesmen will start shaking their heads and say "No, no, no... despite everything I've read and said on all these climate change blogs, and despite my constant worries about controls on carbon emissions actually being the method of choice to usher in global socialism, and despite the fact that I shrugged off "An Inconvenient Truth" as political propaganda because Senator Inhofe asked Al Gore how much energy his house in Tennessee used -- I've really got to admit that I'm worried about the Arctic sea ice, and despite all the conservative indoctrination I've been force-feeding my kids, I'm having a lot of trouble explaining to them why we should keep burning oil and coal when they keep asking me what's going to happen to the polar bears".

Much as I hate to say it -- I hope there's a new minimum sea ice extent record in September 2009 -- while the Sun keeps looking as pristine as a teenage on Accutane. Because that's going to be really, really hard to deny or explain away. If that does happen, I think there's going to be a whole lot of bloggers; journalists (the few that remain by then, of course); Senators; Congressmen; guys and gals on the street; and particularly a cadre of cognoscenti who will definitely, and should, in big loud words that everybody can hear, start saying "I TOLD YOU SO" over and over again.

I'll try not to be the first to do it. But there will be more than few people who have doubted me numerous times in the past who will hear about it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Speaking of sports and women

Jenny Finch. Maria Sharapova. Anna Kournikova. Danica Patrick. Natalie Gulbis.

Tanith Belbin. (The category is: fine-looking female athletes.)

It's hard to find figure skating on TV anymore (how many cable networks have Oxygen?) And this is very difficult for those of us who know that figure skating has some nice-looking ladies. And Belbin is Numero Uno.

She and Ben Agosto overcame some adversity to skate a tremendous Worlds program, and finished only 1.22 points behind the Russkies (who train with them in the U.S.) If you don't get Oxygen, watch it on YouTube.

Russian couple beats Tanith Belbin, Benjamin Agosto for ice dance title

Tanith with partner Ben Agosto. I predict that when Tanith finds true love, she will make that man very happy:

I'll also mention Sasha Cohen, who is also eventually is going to make some man VERY happy. Guaranteed. True love or not.

"Chariots of Fire" - in the pool, with women

OK, hearken back to the movie "Chariots of Fire". Two chaps from the UK, Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, uphold the honor of the British Empire with two gold medals in the 1924 Paris Olympics. For various reasons (such as not running in a 100m prelim on a Sunday), Liddell ends up winning the 400 meters and Abrahams the 100 meter dash. Which is historically accurate, though not every part of the movie was. Liddell set a world record in the 400 meters to boot.

Flash forward to March 16. Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Adlington and rival Joanne Jackson -- both from the UK! -- duel in the pool stroke for stroke in the 400 meter freestyle at the British national championships. Jackson holds the lead most of the way, but Adlington nearly catches her at the end. Result: a new WORLD (that's right, WORLD) record for Jackson, who nearly breaks the 4:00 barrier (for women, obviously) in the race.

While the Brits have always had good swimmers; breaststrokers David Wilkie and Adrian Moorhouse come to mind -- they're just not a powerhouse with stacks of swimmers like the US or the Aussies. So it's good to see the girls setting a record for the glory of Queen and country.

Here's the race, with video:

British Long Course Championships: Flash! Joanne Jackson Sets World Record in 400 Free

Oh yeah: was any of this on ESPN Sportscenter? Was it even MENTIONED on ESPN Sportscenter? Of course not. How can non-professional sports get more than a toehold in this country when the major networks don't cover them? (And there's no more ABC Wide World of Sports any more, either).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I think I'd like some pecan pie

Global warming is expected to result in an increasing incidence of ice storms in the United States and North America:

Warmer winters bring in ice

Major ice storms in the United States, 1949–2000

Changes in freezing rain patterns in the South Central United States

Possible impacts of climate change on freezing rain in south-central Canada using downscaled future climate scenarios

Section 6: The Impact of Climate Change (note the question "What effects might climate change have on Canada's transportation sector?")

With all that said, it seems somewhat like divine retribution that a massive ice storm hit one of Oklahoma's main cash crops: pecans.

Ice Storms Devastating to Pecan Orcards

MEANWHILST, over on Accuweather's Global Warming blog, someone asked Brett if warming is expected to result in more lake effect snow. Brett said "a little".

Aw heck, Brett, it's predicted and observed:

Global Warming Means More Snow For Great Lakes Region
(for the Finger Lakes region; actual paper was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society)

Very simply: areas that get lake-effect snow have shown an increase in snowfall. Areas that don't get lake-effect snow don't show a significant increase. The paper was published in 2003.

That was easy! But wait, there's more!

Lake-Effect Precipitation in Michigan (same conclusions, but now for Michigan)

Unfortunately, the longer-term prediction is for less snow, because it'll be too warm. It'll just rain.