Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘enviroment’ Category

NO, THERE IS NO DEBATE ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING. PLUS VACCINE THEATER AND LIFE ON VENUS.

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America, land of denial. Trump has visited the fire ravaged West coast: US West Coast fires: Row over climate change’s role as Trump visits. Western governors are pointing out that global warming is a big part of the fire problem now raging across the west. Trump claims it’s poor forest management. Both are right and wrong, though as usual Trump is wronger. (Is that a word? It is now.) Yes, poor forest management is definitely a big part of the reason. Apparently Trump is overlooking that over half of forest land in the west is under federal management. So Trump is literally admitting to a big share of the blame. Since Trump is never wrong and never takes blame, only credit, I doubt that will get much mention in the circus that passes for the mainstream media in the US.

And no, the debate about global warming ended decades ago, Earth is rapidly warming up, and human activity is the cause. While we’re on the topic, the debate about evolution ended around 1870, the debate about creationism ended around 1830. I digress. This is America though, where if a powerful interest finds some scientific finding might hurt its profits, the science of science denial has made great progress in recent decades, and they are quite capable of creating “debate” where there is no debate. That American politicians are basically for sale to the highest bidder doesn’t hurt either. Welcome to Global Warming World, Northern Hemisphere summer was hottest on record, scientists say, where it’s just going to get worse and worse while Washington fiddles.  

Oh, wait, Trump is going to save us all. I missed this, but he declared he’s the greatest environmental president since Teddy Roosevelt! Trump Declares Himself “the No. 1 Environmental President” Well, he’s consistent at least. He’s also declared he’s been the best president for blacks since Lincoln, and the best president for LGTB rights ever. Basically, he’s the best at everything. The fact that all three claims are not only wrong, they are in complete opposite of the facts of his record is irrelevant. Some close to him say Trump apparently can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. Psychotic is a term one acquaintance used. Beats me, but someone who literally spent his term gutting and cancelling every environmental law and regulation he could is not an “environmental” president. If he actually believes it, then it’s partially true, he’s mental. 

Trump officials rush to introduce untested vaccine tracking system. Yes, Trump’s gonna be distributing a vaccine just before the election! What a guy! Trump’s gonna save the day! Sigh. No, this is pandemic theater. The date was chosen for political reasons, the chances a safe and effective and well tested vaccine will be available then is almost zero. You’d think that the fact that Trump keeps saying everything is going to come up roses … and it doesn’t … might cost him support. No, at this point Trump followers are committed, they’ve built their whole world view and identity around Trump, there’s nothing so blinding as deciding a leader is the Messiah. Look at Jim Jones and his followers.

An interesting article: Why Are Right-Wing Conspiracies so Obsessed With Pedophilia? Short version: “They’re baby killers!” is really effective propaganda, has been throughout history. They go into the McMartin preschool case, where one obviously not-quite-right-in-the-head mother claimed her son had been abused. (The fact that she kept her kid in the center even after making the allegations should have tipped people off.) The police interviewed a bunch of preschoolers, and oh my, the stories they told. Underground tunnels, animal sacrifices, satanic rituals, the whole works. They even sacrificed a giraffe! (Again, someone should have said, wait, what? Where would they get a giraffe?) 15 millions dollars of investigation later, multiple lives ruined, and it was all so much nonsense. Turns out preschoolers are easily encouraged to make stuff up to please the friendly policemen questioning them. A giraffe? Oh well, interesting read.

In some good news, life on Venus! Well, that came out of the blue. However, let’s not get carried away, like so many headlines: A gas found on Earth that signifies life has been detected in the clouds on Venus. So no, actual life detected, not quite. Phosphine, a nasty smelling swamp gas produced by anaerobic bacteria has been detected in Venus’s atmosphere. Entirely by surprise I might add. The reason scientists think this discovery might signify  life is because no one knows of any other way Phosphine could be produced. We’re likely not talking surface life, the surface of Venus is hellishly hot and unlikely to support life. Some of the cloud layers are quite temperate though. In fact it’s been seriously suggested that Venus is one of the best colony spots in the Solar System: Our Future in Space. Why pray tell? Because Venus has Earth normal gravity, unlike anywhere else in the Solar System but Earth. It’s the one thing that can’t be easily artificially created, and at this point it’s pretty clear for long term habitation, Earth normal gravity is likely essential for healthy human life.

I digress. It is exciting news, Venus is close, much closer than Mars. No doubt sample return missions are already being sketched out, don’t even need a lander, just a probe that swoops through the atmosphere and then returns samples to Earth. The discovery of life elsewhere in the Solar System would be a huge leap in our understanding of life. Essentially there are two possibilities. It’s related to life on Earth, which means panspermia is possible and life is likely all over the Solar System. Or more exciting, it’s not related to Earth life, which means life arose independently in two places in the Solar System. Which pretty much means life is all over the Universe.

Which then brings us back to, if life is everywhere, where are the aliens? Good question, hope there’s an answer in my lifetime. Stay safe everyone as we spiral into an insane election. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #InsanusTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved. 

(Image: Facebook image of unknown attribution, used without permission. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 14, 2020 at 8:27 pm

AMERICA, THE SICK MAN OF THE WORLD?

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118309276_3768962039799839_8353999546671144835_o

And yet there are people still thinking Covid-19 is no big deal. If we keep finding long term problems with Covid-19 sufferers, America is setting itself up for a very bleak future. A future where tens of millions of American have long term health problems and shortened lifespans. The costs of this to America would be staggering. And add to that the costs of endlessly fighting Covid-19 outbreaks and all the other economic costs incurred by a country with a pandemic essentially running out of control, and America in a few years is going to be a dystopian nightmare. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not seeing a whole lot of encouraging news.

And now the Republican Convention. For all practical purposes Trumpland has declared independence from the rest of America. Hell, they’ve declared war on the rest of America. The only message I’m seeing from them is “If you don’t support Trump you’re an enemy of America out to destroy it.” They’ve also declared independence from reality itself. It’s not going to end well, global warming is real and Covid-19 isn’t going to magically go away no matter what Trump says or how many people believe him. So the only question is how much damage will occur before reason prevails. A lot, judging from the current mess. What a time to be alive.

To be fair, Congress has also completely dropped the ball, too concerned with partisan bickering to actually do their job. And now they’ve gone on vacation: The Senate Is on Vacation While Americans Starve, Thirty million households didn’t have enough food in the last week. Only the Fed has acted forcefully. The GOP blames the Dems, the Dems blame the GOP, the rich get richer, the rest of America is on their own. On the plus side, I have endless time to write, lots to write about, and I’m getting pretty good at growing food.

I guess one good sign is that moderate Republicans are starting to desert Trump and endorse Biden: More than 70 former GOP national security officials wrote an open letter backing Biden, calling Trump corrupt and unfit to lead. Not surprising, Trump’s, cronyism, nepotism, out of control spending, and corruption are well documented outside of the Rush “It’s just a cold folks!” Limbaugh and Fox News Universe. And especially Trump’s decision to fight Covid-19 using magic: How Trump let Covid-19 win, Trump’s magical thinking couldn’t beat the coronavirus. America is stuck with the consequences. It’s a nice overview of a horrifying topic. The rest of the world is fighting Covid-19 with various methods, some more successful than others; all more successful than Trump’s “thoughts and prayers will do the trick” approach.

Here’s another one that just shows how grotesque Trump’s “management” of the country is: How a Plan to Save the Power System Disappeared, A federal lab found a way to modernize the grid, reduce reliance on coal, and save consumers billions. Then Trump appointees blocked it. It will make any right thinking reader sick to their stomach. Basically a federal lab did a study and figured out a simple way to massively streamline the nation’s antiquated power grid, making it far more friendly to renewable energy, greatly reducing our dependence on coal, thus saving consumers billions of dollars and countless lives. Guess what, Trump has a hard on for coal for some reason, and his appointees quashed the study. This is insanity, the rest of the world is moving into the 21st century and modernizing their power grids, we’re sticking with 19th century technology with horrific ecological and health costs … because coal barons have Trump’s ear.

Yeah, the Ottoman Empire in its long decline was known as the Sick Man of Europe. If America stays in its current death spiral, will we be the Sick Man of the World? I think the next six months is really going to be crucial for seeing where America is headed. Will the slogan for the 2024 election be “Make America Liveable Again?” Stay safe everyone. Shares, comments, likes appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #UtMelioremPeiusAnteTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An image found on Facebook. Credit: Claire Jordan on Quora Used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US Copyright Law. Properly attributed, I thank her for her insight and hope she would be cool with me using her thoughts here.)

Written by unitedcats

August 25, 2020 at 7:02 pm

HUMANS ARE CAUSING GLOBAL WARMING AND IT’S A BAD THING

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retreat

Global warming. There’s been a lot of bad news about it lately. Not surprising, no more surprising than damage occurring when a building is on fire. The difference of course is that when a building is on fire, people band together to fight the fire. They don’t stand around arguing about who set the fire, or claiming that the fire really is a good thing and people should just let the house burn down. Especially if it’s their only house. There is no real doubt humans are causing global warming, but because science deals in probabilities, not certainties, it makes it really easy for deniers to claim there is controversy where there isn’t any. And there’s no doubt global warming is a bad thing, the only complication is there’s uncertainty as to how bad.

This is a favorite tactic of deniers of all stripes. Biblical literalists love to claim there is debate about evolution, evolution is just a theory, evolution is a theory in crisis, etc. In point of fact the scientific debate about evolution was over by about 1870. It’s a bedrock theory in biology that has been demonstrated in the field and in the lab countless times. Until someone comes up with a theory that better explains over a century of experiment and observation, evolution is fact for all practical purposes. Or even something as solid as the Sun coming up tomorrow. Scientists cannot say for certainty that the Sun will come up tomorrow, just that the probability that it will do so approaches certainty. That subatomic sliver of uncertainty is all deniers need to create the illusion of controversy.

It’s frustrating to say the least. In many areas it doesn’t really matter what people believe no matter how unscientific, flat earthers or Moon landing deniers aren’t going to cause any real problems. (Knock on wood.) Global warming deniers, yeah, major problem. An extremely well funded industry, fossil fuels are the world’s number one industry, is literally putting humanity’s future at stake in order to keep raking in profits. It was bad enough when industry did the same regarding cigarettes and leaded paint/gas, this is far worse. Granted global warming isn’t the only thing humans are doing to destroy Earth’s habitability, but it’s easily the worst.

And one of the most frustrating things about the situation is that human caused global warming is really simple. It doesn’t depend on obscure theories, complicated models, or rocket science. A freaking fourth grader can understand it. Simple physics and measurements, neither of which is debatable. We know that the huge increase in atmospheric CO2 the past two centuries is caused by humans. And we know this is warming the globe. There aren’t any alternatives, this has been settled science for decades.

Wait, how do we know these are facts? As follows. The huge increase in atmospheric CO2 the past two centuries is beyond dispute. It’s simply a matter of direct measurement, I don’t think even the hardcore deniers dispute this. And we know it was caused by human activities. How? Basically there are two types of carbon, C-12 and C-14. C-14 is an unstable radioactive isotope of carbon that is created by cosmic rays striking carbon atoms in the atmosphere. It’s created at a certain rate, and it decays at a certain rate, so the percentage of C-14 to C-12 in the atmosphere is basically constant. And since living organisms get virtually all their carbon from the atmosphere, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 in living tissue matches that of atmospheric carbon.

This is how carbon dating works, when an organism dies, it stops absorbing Carbon. The C-14 in its tissues continues to decay into C-12 though, so the older organic tissue is, the less C-14 it contains. Thus the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in organic tissue tells us when the tissue died, making it very useful for dating organic artifacts. Well, all the new carbon in the atmosphere contains no C-14. There’s only two possible sources of carbon devoid of C-14, human activity or volcanoes. Burning fossil fuels produce only C-12, the carbon in them having been sequestered in the ground for millions of years. And volcanoes can only account for less than 1% of the new carbon in the atmosphere, they contribute about 200 million tons of C02 per year. About 29 billion tons of new CO2 is added to the atmosphere every year, and burning fossil fuels are the only other possible source for this. Both these numbers are gotten from actual measurement, again, no room for debate.

So it’s a slam dunk that the huge increase in atmospheric CO2 in the atmosphere is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. The second part of the picture is even simpler. Different gases reflect heat at different rates. So one can go outside, point a spectroscope at the sky, and determine what gases are reflecting heat back towards the ground. And turns out there are five main gases that account for almost all of the heat trapped by the atmosphere: CO2, methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide, and ozone. We’ve known this for like 200 years, simple measurement and physics. Increase the amount of these gases in the atmosphere, and the amount of heat trapped by the atmosphere goes up. Solid, well established science.

Backed up by over a century of increasingly sophisticated measurements. Earth is warming up, and it’s warming up at an unprecedented rate. Sure, the CO2 has been as high as it is now in the distant past, and Earth was wildly warmer then too. Neither fact in any way, shape, or form implies that humans aren’t behind the current rise in CO2 or global warming. Worse, sometimes deniers like to claim “It’s been like this before, what’s the big deal?” The big deal is when it was like this before the Earth was a wildly different place, the oceans were hundreds of feet higher, and the tropics and continental interiors were uninhabitable.

So we are literally racing towards global calamity, all so the fossil fuel industry can keep raking in the profits. I thought about naming this post “Global Warming for Dummies” but decided against it. I want to engage the deniers, not insult them. And sadly conspiracy ideation is no indication of lack of intelligence, smart people can be anti-vaxxers or Moon landing deniers. Our brains are simply not wired for logic, and thus easily get led astray. I sometimes think that if formal logic was standard school curriculum, maybe someday progress can be made out of the scientific Dark Age we are sliding into. Still, we can’t even get teachers to stop hawking their religion in schools, let alone get them to teach logic.

So make hay while the world burns I guess. So far the effects of global warming are running considerably ahead of the worst case models, and there’s no reason to think this trend won’t continue. Unfortunately the American Empire, the new Roman Empire, is sustained entirely by fossil fuel exploitation, so it’s not going to willingly give up its oil addiction. Many actually seem to think it’s no big deal. Yes Mr Pompeo “The climate’s been changing a long time. There’s always changes that take place.” Unfortunately for your facile “analysis” Mr Pompeo the changes that took place over the past 11,000 years or so have been mild, and the Earth has enjoyed a very stable climate regime. The changes taking place now are extreme, unlike anything the Earth has seen for millions of year, and it’s only just begun.

Oh well, like always, half the reason I wrote this post was to increase my own understanding. So all I’ve done is depress myself. Our only hope is that the future is mutable, it looks grim now, but maybe our civilization will evolve to meet the challenge. We have come some ways since the Roman Empire, and despite all the parallels, at least wholesale politically motivated murder is no longer practised in Rome. I mean Washington. Those Emperors were a homicidal lot. Tell me this is an improvement. Please.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: I put together the above image from images I found on Wikipedia. Credit: Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 10, 2019 at 6:47 pm

FIGHTING THE WRONG FIGHT

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glyphosate

I see ads on Facebook now: “Do you or a family member have Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)? Call our lawyers now, big settlement awaits!” Yes, if someone with NHL was ever within a hundred miles of a glyphosate application, bingo, they just won the lottery! Their disease could be worth as much as 2 billion dollars! Hundreds of cases have already been filed against the makers of glyphosate. Monsanto will finally be forced to pay for poisoning the planet with Round-Up, the trade name for glyphosate. Ecowarriors are celebrating everywhere.

Me, I scream and pound my forehead bloody on my desktop every time I see one of those ads. Because the only people getting rich are lawyers and a tiny number of NHL sufferers. And the makers of glyphosate will just pass the additional costs on to the consumer, so ultimately farmers and consumers get to foot the bill. Even worse, this wave of lawsuits might ultimately result in glyphosate bans, resulting in the use of far more dangerous herbicides.

All of this cashing in is because of a freaking hoax. Or lie if more accuracy is desired. Or misunderstanding if I’m going to be diplomatic. My frustration is because glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer! Let’s review: Glyphosate can’t be absorbed through the skin. If ingested it’s less toxic than salt and quickly breaks down into harmless organic components. It doesn’t bioaccumulate in tissue. In fact its only biological effect is that it breaks down exactly one specific enzyme. An enzyme found only in plants. Add that to the fact that decades of studies have found no link between glyphosate and any health problems. Which is not surprising because no one has even proposed a plausible mechanism by which glyphosate could harm animal tissue in any way, let alone cause cancer.

In other words, science is not decided by court cases. Because juries have been bamboozled into huge payouts for Glyphosate “victims” doesn’t actually mean glyphosate is dangerous. Science says it’s safe beyond any reasonable doubt. In any event, here’s a link about how this nonsense about Glyphosate got promulgated through society. And another about Glyphosate’s safety. And no, no one at the links works for Monsanto, nor do I.

It’s infuriating because lawyers are making piles of money because in America if you get sick suing is often your only option, unlike civilized countries that take care of their citizens’ health. And of course now the idea that glyphosate causes cancer will become even more established. Farmers may even be prohibited from using glyphosate, forcing them to use more dangerous alternatives. And no, the global agriculture system that feeds humanity can’t switch over to organic farmer, that’s as realistic as giving up cars and going back to horses. Organic farming has its place, but it’s not a magical solution to our problems.

Possibly the thing that annoys me most is all the energy activists waste on this, when there are plenty of other corporate practices that do cause harm. The fossil fuel industry being the biggest one. And CAFOs, OMG I wish more activists were fighting CAFOs. If all the activists wasting their time on opposing glyphosate, GMOs, and cell phones spent their time fighting climate change and CAFOs they might make a difference. Or not. The older I get the clearer it gets just how much common knowledge is just plain wrong, the more I think the world really is a hopeless mess. And all I can do is try and spread the gospel … science and logic are wonderful things, we just need to embrace them.

In local news, my housemate turned on the radio last night and a man was saying: “A tornado is on the ground, take shelter immediately.” Possibly the creepiest thing I have ever heard on the radio, fortunately the tornado was one county over. Iowa does get a fair number of tornadoes, my little town has a tornado alarm that goes off occasionally. I made sure to sleep with the window open so I could hear it, just in case. Living on the surface of a planet is hazardous, but what is one to do?

And yes, I did slip GMOs and cell phones in there. Same as glyphosate: no evidence of harm despite widespread use and good studies failing to find any ill effects from exposure, combined with a complete lack of any plausible mechanism by which they could harm animal tissue. Back to science and logic again. Happy to debate anyone that wants to contest my understanding of the topics. I can change my beliefs if presented with logical argument and evidence.

I hope so at least. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Glyphosate model. Credit: Public Domain image from Snappygoat.

Written by unitedcats

May 31, 2019 at 8:53 am

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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game-of-thrones-starbucks-coffee-cup-mistake-fb6Photo from this website.

This one really is an extemporaneous post. It’s Thursday night, exhausted from a long day of physical therapy, treasure hunting, and politics. The therapy went well, I am slowly but surely recovering the use of my left arm. The treasure hunting, great exercise! Sunshine! Good company! Treasure, no. A 1982 quarter and a rusty 60s matchbox car. Oh well, it was a proof of concept treasure hunt, so in that sense it was a success. The politics. Sigh.

So, I went to a water quality meeting. It was depressing, but at least people are doing something. Or trying to. In a nutshell, Iowa’s environment is being destroyed by out of control factory farm growth. A wonderful example of how capitalism has failed, or been hijacked by moneyed interests, in the USA. In a nutshell, factory farms pass terrible environmental costs onto the public, destroy property values, destroy quality of life, and destroy jobs and family farms. All so a tiny handful of people, often foreigners, can profit. And that a tiny number of rich people can basically screw 3 million Iowans shows just what a farce our “democracy” has become.

Speaking of failed democracy, Alabama has passed the most restrictive “Strip Women of Their Rights” bill yet. It claims it’s about preventing abortion, but of course does nothing of the kind except make abortions dangerous and expensive. If these self styled “Christian” lawmakers wanted to prevent abortion they would pass bills calling for comprehensive sex education, birth control on demand, and Planned Parenthoods everywhere. They don’t, just Evangelical Christians trying to force their medieval beliefs on everyone. Fortunately the law is blatantly unconstitutional so unlikely to ever go into force. And for the record, no, having a heartbeat no more makes a fetus alive than it makes a person alive. One’s heart can be beating just fine while they are legally and actually dead. It’s a functioning brain that makes someone alive, not a heartbeat.

Trump continues to ratchet up tensions with Iran. Even our allies are confused. Hell, I’m confused. Not sure why Trump suddenly got his knickers in a twist about Iran. Nothing has changed I’m aware of. The Mueller Report and other political distractions are no more a danger to Trump than they ever were. Trump’s not going to be impeached, and even if he is, the GOP will be calling all the shots. IE a Trump impeachment is far more likely to benefit the GOP  than the Dems. If Trump somehow gets forced out, we get Pence with a wildly invigorated base willing to rally round him in 2020. The Dems already forming circular firing squad won’t stand a chance.

The big struggle I have been having with my blogging lately is truth decay. I find myself living in a world where facts and opinion have been increasingly conflated. A world where (just for example) a major political party and tens of millions of Americans reject global warming and evolution. And there’s so many others these days, flat earthers, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers, birthers, etc. I don’t want to ridicule or put down such people, I don’t see how that helps. Plus I like having friends and readers. I suspect I have my blind spots too. I guess I am going to resolve this issue by being honest about the facts, and be open to debate if someone wants to challenge them. We had some great climate change and 9/11 truther debates on my old blog. Certainly open to suggestion.

Game of Thrones is almost over. And yes, a Starbucks cup was left in a scene. Meh, these sorts of errors are far more common than most people realize. We just don’t notice them because we aren’t looking for them. No worries. Season 8 is getting some shade though, a lot of fans find it too rushed and shallow. A petition has been launched. They’re kind of right. A huge amount of time was spent setting up a bunch of characters and their character development/story arcs … only to have them come to abrupt squishy ends. Me, meh, the good way outweighs the bad, so enjoying immensely. Looking forward to having it be done so can talk about it.

Tim Conway and Doris Day passed in the last week. I quipped to my housemate that “celebrities always die in threes, I wonder who is next?” I regret my flippancy as I see we lost another celebrity this morning. Grumpy Cat of Internet meme fame as died. RIP little cat, you brought smiles to a lot of faces for seven years.

Shares appreciated. Have a great weekend everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

May 17, 2019 at 6:30 am

It’s the End of the World

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WAIS

The suspense is over. The Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man is here. The End Times have arrived. Yes, the Walking Dead are at the door. OK, that went on too long. Let me get right to the point, one of the many doomsday scenarios facing humanity has indeed arrived. Granted it may take a few more decades or centuries, but our doom is assured. WTF am I talking about? Antarctica of course. More specifically, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS.) This is a giant slab of ice sitting on West Antarctica. About the same size as the western United States or Europe. That’s a lot of ice. And it is apparently now inexorably sliding into the sea. Yes, according to the latest scientific research, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun, and nothing can stop it.

OK, so, more icebergs near Antarctica? What’s the problem. The problem of course is that while much of the WAIS is floating, much of it isn’t. And when the parts that aren’t floating slide into the sea, global sea levels rise. How much? Well, depends on how much of the ice sheet slides into the sea. In the image above, pretty much all you see is the WAIS. See the two glaciers, the Pine Island Glacier and the Thwaites Glacier? They are the problem. They have basically been acting as plugs in a dam, holding back the WAIS. Well, the ocean waters under them have been warming, and they have been retreating rapidly. And now they appear to have given way completely and it’s only a matter of time before the ice behind them slides into the sea. How long? Two centuries at most, maybe much much sooner.

And just how much sea level rise are we talking about? Four to twelve feet (one to four meters in the civilized world.) Yes, on some levels that doesn’t sound like much. However, and it’s a big however, the vast majority of humanity lives near the sea. Even protecting the world’s great cities against that kind of sea level rise would be prohibitive. Entire island chains, and countless small towns and cities, will be partially or wholly inundated. Hundreds of millions of people will be refugees. And the environmental changes wrought by a sea level change that severe are unknown, but very likely to be catastrophic. The economic disruption caused by this is going to be global in scale, and unprecedented in effect.

You’d think this would make the news. And it did, sort of. Since most humans don’t look much past next week, and many of the rest live in complete denial of science, only the occasional science geek like me got excited. Well, and I am sure smart military and counterintelligence people the world over are looking into it. And smart politicians. They do exist, despite what one sees in the USA. The science deniers will ignore or deny it though. The media will move on and continue to essentially ignore climate change or pretend that there is a debate when there is none. And the world will adapt to rapidly rising sea level change. The adaptations may include global depression and global war, but hey, anything is possible. Maybe a Gandhi/Einstein clone will come along and save us all.

My point? I always have points. I’m back to blogging, point number one. I took a one year hiatus. I’ve learned many things. I’ve unlearned a few things. I’ve looked at different perspectives. I’ve come to new conclusions. I’ve come to refined conclusions. I’ve been an idiot. Personal growth, deal with it, or be an ant. I don’t make a very good ant, conformity makes me vomit. I tried to find an image of a vomiting ant to illustrate this point, but couldn’t find one. Please feel free gentle reader to visualize for yourself. Point two, I wonder when the Christian End Times people will catch on to the looming global flood. I mean, global flood, shouldn’t we be building arks?

In conclusion, the future is known to no one. Humanity’s just started to look a little more bleak, but no one has a crystal ball. Still, I have plenty of observations and trenchant remarks to add to the mix. Times are a changing, and I might as well chronicle it as anyone else. Could scientists be wrong about the collapse of the WAIS? Certainly. When it comes to Antarctica our understanding is still very limited. Still, more effort is being made all the time to study it. And so far the more we learn about Antarctica, the worst it looks. On the plus side some of my readers living in lowlands now have time to move. You will thank me later.

Coming soon, further depressing posts. Suggestions welcome.

(The above image was created by NASA, and as a government created image, is OK for public use. There’s probably a more legalistic way to state that. And yes, my conversion of feet to meters makes no sense. I think I was using the Dutch foot.)

Written by unitedcats

June 4, 2015 at 10:58 am

The Big Picture: Fracking, Global Warming, and War

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usa_night

One of the hardest things about trying to keep up with what is going on in the world is that things change. Sometimes very quickly. Yet the model of the world we have in our heads changes a lot more slowly, or not at all in some people. Things that were stable for decades do eventually change, and if we don’t update our mental models to reflect this, our understanding of the world becomes flawed. Frankly most people’s understanding of the world is a more reflection of their prejudices than any true understanding, but still, some of us are trying to make sense out of it all. And in trying to make sense of it all, a huge shift has taken place over the past few years. Illustrated above. That’s the USA from space. See the big lighted splotch near the upper left middle of the image? That’s in North Dakota. How many huge urban areas are there in North Dakota? None. So what the hell is that huge lighted area? That, dear readers, is fracking. More specifically, that’s the Bakken Formation being exploited for oil. Even five years ago the expert opinion was that the Bakken Formation wouldn’t be producing oil any time in the near future, I even blogged about it. Then a breakthrough was made in oil extraction, fracking as it is known, and the Bakken Formation is now a major and expanding oil producer. The lights by the way are excess natural gas simply being burned off.

OK, so what does this mean? I think it means we’re screwed. We were already in trouble, but this is a huge change, and I think it’s going to have some disastrous consequences. First, the huge change part. Remember peak oil? Well, despite decades of expecting peak oil to hit around 2010, it hasn’t. And now, with fracking, peak oil has been put off for decades. And instead of being an oil importing country, the USA will soon be an oil exporting country once again. These are huge changes and futurists must be scrambling to adjust their models and forecasts. Oil is at the centre of modern civilization, so these changes will ripple outwards and affect everything. And yet this huge change in where our civilization is headed is taking place almost unnoticed. That’s a topic for another day, most people miss anything less than sudden catastrophic rates of change. And as a codicil to my following two points, I don’t think much could derail this. Keystone pipeline or no, the fracking accessible oil deposits in North America will get used, they are way too valuable and the oil industry is already the most powerful industry on the planet, weapons possibly excepted. Of course the weapons industry also wants these deposits exploited, since one can’t fight modern high tech wars without oil. And if one is at all familiar with American politics, big oil has huge influence. Not to mention more or less corporate control of the mainstream media, so opposition to massive fracking will be marginalized. Whether we like it or not, oil is going to be the prime mover in the USA for decades to come.

Speaking of opposition to fracking, that’s where the first major problem rears its ugly head. A massive new wave of oil exploitation is going to be the death knell for any serious mitigation of global warming. Just the lights in the image above illustrates that. We’re talking a mind numbing amount of CO2 being added to the atmosphere just from the production of oil in the first place, and then of course that oil will almost inevitably be used in such a way as to also add to the CO2 in the atmosphere. I don’t even blog about global warming any more. The people who are in denial about it are no more rational than people who deny evolution or the Big Bang. Eventually it will get bad enough that maybe something will be done, but by then it will be far too late. Fracking just means it will get worse sooner.

OK, so fracking means global warming is going to destroy civilization even sooner than was feared, there’s something worse than this? Yes, yes there is. War and oil. Or more specifically, it takes oil to build and run tanks. If one has lots of oil, one can build a lot of tanks. Yes, that’s the simple version. Let me try a different approach. The rich of a country come into a huge pile of money. They are urged to spend it on consumer goods or war to make even more money. They already have all the consumer goods they need. War it is! I posit that the USA will do what every imperialistic power in history has done when it came into some profound new source of wealth … go on an orgy or war and conquest. And since the USA has been on an orgy of war and conquest since 1900 at least, it’s just going to get much worse. I think in the 21st century the USA is going to try and reassert western colonial control over the entire world, at the point of a drone if need be. That’s certainly been the path we’ve gone down under Obama.

So, world war and world climate catastrophe all because of some lights in North Dakota? Yeah, that’s pretty much my theory for today. Earth is a strange planet.

PS: The day after I posted this, I got this link in email: Geologist’s provocative study challenges popular assumptions about ‘fracking’ Who knows?

(The above image is by NASA and is Public Domain under US copyright law. Yes, I’m blogging again after a hiatus due to odd events in my life. Future posts will get back to weird history and such, I’m getting all my negatively out on this post. For the moment.)

Written by unitedcats

February 20, 2013 at 9:38 am

Injured kittens, elections, and worse stuff

with 5 comments

On the way to work today the bus got mired in traffic. Then I saw emergency lights ahead, the police were routing traffic into one lane. Getting closer I saw why. There was an injured kitten in the road, a half grown little stripey guy. One of the cops was standing so as to keep him in the shade. For some reason the sight just about to broke my heart, I cried on and off all day. So much sadness in the world, this just put me over the edge I guess. I hope the little guy made it.

I’ll be glad when the election is over. It’s been one of the uglier elections in my memory, if not the ugliest. I still honestly don’t give a crap who wins, both candidates have aspects that are so so creepy it makes my flesh crawl. Both candidates are a tool of the bankers, militarists, and energy cartel. Obama’s social policy window dressing is a bit better, but living in a theocracy might actually make Americans snap out of their revery. More on point, I think if Superman got elected, we’d still be hosed. America is like a stately old oak tree … completely rotted out inside. It looks majestic, but one of these days there will be a stiff breeze and down it goes. It’s not going to be pretty.

Obama. Barrack “kill list” Obama. I find it more than disturbing that the POTUS maintains a kill list, a list that can and has included Americans. It’s disturbing in and of itself, but that no one is upset about it is just plain scary. Nixon had an enemy’s list, and was excoriated for it; Obama has a kill list, and no one cares? People went wild over non-existent “death panels,” but don’t care that Obama has set himself up as a death panel of one? I am not reassured.

Then we have the rapist’s right’s party. Think about this: We have a Senate candidate Mourdock claiming that a rape  pregnancy was a gift from God and couldn’t be aborted. He said he anguished over this question before coming to that conclusion. I’m a little unclear what he anguished over. He couldn’t have anguished over how he would feel if he were raped and impregnated, since that can’t happen to him. So he must have anguished over how he would feel if he raped and impregnated someone. And he concluded that whoever he, or any man, chooses to rape;  if the woman is impregnated, she must bear the child. The rapist gets to choose, the raped victim doesn’t. Right. Romney endorsed this guy. Ryan holds similar view. This is crazy, a perversion of Christianity, and an example of rape culture. Again, not reassured.

I like Jill Stein, but nothing short of a miracle will get her in the White House. It might make a good science fiction story, or an unlikely Hollywood movie. I think they put Ron Paul back in cryogenic suspension, I don’t know where he went. Probably conveyed to media purgatory. There’s other stuff on ballots. I’m cynical about it all. The special interests have it locked up, even when they lose, they have the lawyers and the money to fix it. Legalized corruption on a scale never before seen in history. See, the USA is still number one! On the other hand, unlike so many people, I’m not going to freak out no matter who gets elected. Whoever gets elected has my support, at least initially. Whoever wins has an unholy mess to contend with, and the last thing America needs now is sore losers. My studied neutrality may only last to the acceptance speech, tomorrow is another day.

Lastly, so as not to be accused of excess negatively, can I envision an encouraging outcome on election day? Yes. Yes I can. I hope the winning candidate sees an injured kitten in the road, and his heart is softened and his mind is cleared, and he gives an acceptance speech that resonates with all Americans, and opens a dialog that begins to heal this fractured land. See, I can still dream.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Not being used for profit, it’s just such a lovely image, I couldn’t resist. I got it from this site. It’s destruction from Hurricane Sandy. The image says a lot to me. Who is this woman? Where is she going?)

Written by unitedcats

November 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Hurricane Sandy and Related News

with 2 comments

This close to the election, everything seems to revolve around the election. At least if one is a hard-core Republican. Or more on point, everything seems to revolve around hating Obama. The bodies weren’t even cold in Benghazi and Romney was heaping criticism on Obama, and he never let up. Odd, I don’t recall the GOP ever criticizing Bush for his military fiascoes, but once Obama was in charge, nothing but criticism. Hurricane Sandy appears to be the same. A Republican governor praises Obama for his prompt and effective response to Hurricane Sandy, and right wing pundits are foaming at the mouth. Classy, real classy. I used to be a Republican, but the party I knew at least acknowledged that we were all Americans, and that it was the politician’s job to work together to run the country.  Now Republicans seem to be trying to outdo themselves at reaching ever more ridiculous levels of partisanship. Granted there are voices on the left falling into the same trap, but I’ve yet to hear any liberals criticizing Obama for helping out a Republican governor. Plenty of them have praised Governor Christie though, I was impressed. Yeah, the storm was a break for Obama, but the Republicans could have handled the situation with far more dignity, instead they made it clear no matter how bad things get, no matter how many Americans die; Obama and the people who support him, tens of millions of Americans, can go f**k themselves. I’ll be glad when the election is over and Romney can move on to being a rodeo clown.

Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, or Superstorm Sandy as some are calling it, it was quite the storm. At least 90 dead in the USA, far more in the Caribbean. It wasn’t a super powerful storm, but it was super huge, one of the biggest hurricanes on record, it affected 24 states in the USA and numerous nations in the Carribean. Sandy wasn’t unprecedented, but it was certainly unusual. It’s already on track to be the second most damaging USA East Coast hurricane ever. Still, several times a century a storm like this can be expected to hit New York. And the frequency will be going up as the tropical seas get warmer. The real damage was caused by the storm surge. A storm surge is a pile of water pushed ahead of a storm by winds, surges of over 30 feet have been recorded. Think a tide thirty feet high. Not a pretty sight, storm surges are the big killer in hurricanes and cyclones. On the plus side, they can be prevented. A storm surge killed thousands in Holland in 1953, giant coastal defenses were built to prevent it happening again. Such were suggested for New York long ago, the idea is being revisited in the aftermath of Sandy. We’ll see.

A discussion of Sandy wouldn’t be complete without some mention of global warming. Was Sandy caused by global warming? It’s impossible to say, global warming is about climate, not weather. A fact that global climate change deniers conveniently ignore pretty much every time there is a severe snowstorm somewhere. Granted plenty of global warming activists are claiming that Sandy is clear proof of global warming. I feel their frustration, the globe increasingly is having the kind of extreme weather events that global warming predicts, the fact that it’s not possible to conclusively say that a particular event was caused by global warming is very difficult to explain to people who want to resist science they don’t approve of. However, even if global warming didn’t cause Sandy, it made it worse. That seems to be pretty clear to the climatologists. And at least it got the topic back on the news, that’s a good thing. Good for everyone except the coal and oil industry, sadly they own a lot of think tanks, politicians, and journalists … and they’re not afraid to use them.

In other Sandy  news, a Brazilian model, Nana Gouvea, thought it would make a nice backdrop for a photo shoot. One pic helpfully posted above. Her pics went viral. She got heaps of criticism and outrage. Granted it is a tasteless and tacky thing to do. On the other hand, she got tons of publicity. No harm, no foul. It’s not like she’s aspiring for political office, and she didn’t actually hurt anyone. I think it’s a clever idea. Ya, people are outraged. So what? On a scale of one to ten when it comes to outrageous items in the news, this is a zero. There’s tons of sleaze and crime every day far more deserving of outrage than a tasteless photo shoot. Priorities people, priorities. Heck, as my friend Steve Burke said: “Some guys will be seeing the damage for the first time thanks to these photos.”

Have a great weekend everyone!

(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, they aren’t being used for profit and are central to illustrating the post. I don’t know who to credit the top one to, the second I assume is owned by Ms Noumea herself. Since I linked to her site and praised her photo shoot, hopefully that’s attribution enough. It would be nice if someday copyright law could be re-written to reflect reality, alas industry is easily the slowest element in a culture to adapt to changing times, and often uses its influence to impeded progress.  Another blog post for another day.)

Sliming Towards Babylon

with 7 comments

 

I’ve been involved in a  work project the past four days that has kept me tired and covered in sawdust. Neither is terribly conducive to blogging. I did get one post sort of written, but it stalled. So here I am, churning out a random post. Well, not entirely random I suppose. In fact generating a post by random would just yield gibberish in virtually all cases. No, these are the disjointed and tired thoughts of an aging hominid on the surface of an unremarkable planet orbiting an unremarkable star. OK, mostly gibberish.

Well, Romney looks like he’s going down in flames. He can’t even make a joke anymore without getting pilloried. He does seem to have a way of putting his foot in his mouth. I’m back to my original 2012 election analysis of some time ago, The Repubs will field a weak candidate because no one in their right mind wants to take on Obama. And the Repubs are also paying for four years of obstructionism; I mean, for four years, if Obama did it, they were agin it. Their programmed core voters of course all know Obama is a socialist who is destroying the country, the same way Liberal core voters think Obama is some sort of liberal humanitarian, but to win the election the Republicans needed to appeal to middle of the road voters and just in general people who don’t strongly identify with either party. And not only have the Repubs failed to do this, they seem to have gone out of their way to alienate a number of demographics. Right now I’m calling the election for Obama.

In science news, scientists have been studying how slime mould might take over the world. Helpful illustration above. Yes, scientists really did cover a globe with agar and corn flakes to see how a slime mould would spread. For those unfamiliar with slime mould, it’s a mould that grows branches in search of food. Is there any practical use for this research, or are scientists just wasting money? Of course there is! People who think scientists should study useful things are idiots. Idiots in the sense that their opinion shows they know dipsquat about science. There’s nothing stupider than someone who holds an opinion about something they are ignorant about. Why is it idiocy? Because there’s simply no way to tell in advance what research may lead to useful advances. In this case scientists are interested in slime mould’s pathfinding ability, and this research someday might contribute to designing transportation systems. That’s a pretty practical application from growing mould on a globe.

Speaking of the global scene, the chances of war have gone down, though it’s still ugly. And it’s already war, so I mean a bigger war. It is fascinating to me how we have drifted from being more or less at peace to being in constant war. In the eighties if a US serviceman died overseas, it was front page news. Now they die all the time and no one cares. (Political posturing doesn’t count.) Syria is in full armed insurrection. It’s not really a civil war, but the media’s use of war terminology is muddy at best. Ahmadinejad showed that his international diplomacy skills are on par with Romney’s. A lot of what he says makes perfect sense, but if he’d leave out the egregious insults to Israel and Jews he’d make a lot more headway on the world scene. His term is almost up, that should be interesting. Afghanistan: We’ve surrendered to the Taliban, but aren’t going to admit it until after the election. IE all joint training and exercises with the Afghan army have been halted. It’s over folks.

BS aside, world drought and climate changes are the elephants in the room. My contacts in the Midwest say they’ve never seen anything like it before. There’s been serious global drought issues for a number of years now, and it may get worse. Arctic ice is at unprecedented lows this fall as well. World wide bacon shortage unavoidable at this point. Some sort of secret plot of Obama’s no doubt. I think humanity may survive, but the global civilization we have built has foundations of sand. And a Wind is Rising.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is being used for educational purposes. The fine scientist who holds the copyright: Professor Adam Adamatzky. I’ll end with a science nerd joke: We don’t allow faster than light neutrinos in here, said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.)