Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

“IT IS WITH MUCH EMBARRASSMENT THAT I RETURN.”

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24 January, 41 AD. Roman Emperor Caligula is walking through Rome with his friends and cohorts, guarded by the Praetorian Guard, the Secret Service of their day. They come to a pedestrian tunnel, and the guard insists on separating Caligula from his cohorts while walking through the tunnel, for security of course. Then in the middle of the tunnel, the guard drew their swords and killed Caligula. Let’s just say Caligula wasn’t very popular. He had a nightmarish upbringing, so no surprise he turned into a monster. He only reigned for about four years, and was 28 when he died. The Praetorian Guard then proclaimed Claudius the new emperor, not the last time they would kill a caesar and appoint a new one.

I went and saw the latest Jumanji movie. It was what I call a parts movie. IE it had all sorts of good parts, good actors, good special effects, decent writing, all fun to watch. But it didn’t add up to anything, it was all basically formula. They took the previous movie, jazzed it up a bit, and ran with it. Modern sequels all just kind of blur together. If one likes Dwayne Johnson movies, or the previous Jumanji movie, lots of fun. Note it’s not a kids movie, at least little kids.

January 24th 1900, the Battle of Scion Kop. Part of the Boer Wars. One European colonial army conquering another European colony. The British of course. They got a lot of their empire by conquering other empires’ colonies. Hyenas feeding on jackals, colonialism is really ugly if one thinks about it, but so fully normalized in western society that the ugly bits are overlooked. Anyhow, yeah, bad day for the Redcoats. I don’t think they were wearing red in 1900 though, but I could be wrong. The British climbed to the top of a hill at night, made a disorganized and poorly planned attempt to dig in, and in the morning found themselves in a very exposed position. Which the Boers were happy to exploit, eventually driving the Brits off the hill with heavy losses. Speaking of Redcoats, the French went into World War One with their soldiers wearing bright red trousers, because, you know, that’s what Napoleon would have wanted. Turned out to be a bad idea on a modern battlefield.

Speaking of colonialism, here’s a wonderful example of the colonial mindset in action. Greta Thurnberg suggested maybe people shouldn’t invest in the fossil fuel industries that are knowingly destroying the climate for profit. A suggestion up there with saying maybe don’t invest in industries that use slave labor, IE one of those no-brainer suggestions. So the US treasury secretary suggested she go study economics before offering her advice. No need, letting the fossil fuel industry destroy the planet’s climate is going to be very bad for the economy. No economics degree required. Here’s a tip. Any time someone says “It’s going to be bad for the economy” what they mean is “It’s going to mean slightly less obscene profits for the rich.” Can’t have that.

“It is with much embarrassment that I return.” 24 January 1972, Shoichi Yokoi is discovered hiding in the jungles on Guam. He was a Japanese soldier in hiding since 1944 when the US recaptured Guam during World War Two in the Pacific. Mr Yokoi was among the last three such holdouts to be discovered. Guam is only like 10 by 20 miles, so hiding for 28 years is impressive. A replica of the cave he hid in is a tourist attraction to this day. The quote is something he said upon his return to Japan, it apparently gained some popularity there.

There were a number of Japanese holdouts after World War Two. A subcategory of “people hiding from civilization.” One could write a book I suppose. A family of Old Believers discovered in remote Siberia. The Bounty mutineers. The Australian aborigines I blogged about. A handful of stone age tribes. The guy who hid in the woods in Maine for decades. I’m debating it myself. I have no family, and my friends hate me. And I have lived in a cave before. On the plus side, I’m a moderately successful blogger. Life, always full of decisions. I guess when you’re dead, no more decisions. The appeal of suicide suddenly becomes clearer.

But no. As a friend once said, you’re gonna be dead a lot longer than you’re alive. Have a great weekend everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An 1887 painting of a famous Old Believer being arrested. Credit: Vasily Ivanovich Surikov 1848-1916. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 24, 2020 at 10:19 am

BLEACHING LAMPSHADES

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The cat got my frozen dinner roll the other night. I was distracted because I was bleaching a lampshade. It ran under my housemate’s bed, much yelling. The cat, not the lampshade. Finally driven forth, sans partially eaten dinner roll. My life.

In the entire history of the human race, the above paragraph will likely never be written again. I find that astounding. It’s why card games are fun. Get a deck of cards. Shuffle it well. Lay it out. That particular order of cards has likely never been shuffled before, and likely never will be again. Keep shuffling if you don’t believe me.

So, yes, I really was bleaching a lampshade. It had coffee stains on it. My housemate processes coffee constantly, there’s almost always coffee stains after he passes through the kitchen. He’s like Pigpen on Charlie Brown, except it’s a haze of coffee droplets, not dirt. And he was near the lampshade once apparently. The shade looked good when done, matches the newly waxed floor. Still, my cleaning jag may be getting out of control.

In other news, apparently Trump is considering pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty. Who cares about preventing nuclear war when you’re as great as the US I guess. On the plus side, by the time Trump is done no one will ever negotiate a treaty with the US again, why bother if someone like Trump is going to come along and cancel it? I’m missing the greatness in this, but I’m having trouble seeing the greatness in anything Trump has done lately. Still waiting for infrastructure spending, withdrawal from Afghanistan, health care for all, and taxes on the rich. Snort. On the other hand, our media is so messed up now that who can tell. I recommend this article on the failure of the American MSM.

In other sagging greatness news, the once great National Geographic has issued a “Science of the Supernatural” special that any scientist or right thinking person will find appalling. They were always a sexist, racist, and colonialist publication, but at least they fostered an appreciation of science. No more, it’s just another sensationalist rag now writing for its chosen demographic. Which apparently no longer includes anyone who appreciates science. RIP old friend.

Lastly, the Golden Rice saga. Misguided environmentalism may be the death of us all yet, I swear to God.  Global warming is going to end civilization as we know it, and so much activism is aimed at side issues like GMOs or glyphosate. Or worse, fighting against nuclear power, our last best hope for shutting down the coal fired plants that are destroying the climate. The good news is that claiming global warming will be the death of us all is no longer alarmism. That’s because it’s already happening, it’s not some nebulous future threat as the MSM likes to pretend. Fun times.

For Halloween viewing pleasure, watch this movie. Under the Skin. It’s on Netflix. Wonderful movie, but definitely not the typical Hollywood sci fi schlock. It’s about an alien on Earth. I guess. Reminded me of “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” Sort of. Or maybe “Being Human.” Or unlike any of them, idk. It’s a thinking person’s movie, atmosphere, subtlety, etc. No giant robots duking it out, no explosions, nothing bursting from anyone’s chest.

There will be a Halloween horror post, there may or may not be a Friday post. Happy Halloween Eve. Thinking of starting a new Halloween tradition in my home. Roast cat. Goes good with dinner rolls.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Scarlett Johansson in “Under the Skin.” Credit: Various parties involved with making the movie I guess. Used without permission. Since I’m enthusiastically promoting the movie, I hope I can be forgiven.)

Written by unitedcats

October 30, 2019 at 2:54 am

SURVIVED ANOTHER WEEKEND

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Survived another weekend. The weather is getting a little chilly, but still hitting 50F (10C) during the day, so good enough for me. Lots of fall colour showing up, which sucks for me because I have to rake up the leaves. I suppose I should be happy because I did say that exercise in chilly weather is a good way to lose weight. Most of the lake’s docks have been pulled out for the winter. The Lady of the Lake has gone to wherever it goes in the winter. It’s basically a barge with a bar built on top of it, powered by two tractor motors. Iowa through and through, like pocket corn strippers. I spent thirty years making fun of California, starting to hit my stride in Iowa.

I will be posting on Thursday, as that is Halloween. Used to be a fun holiday where kids wore costumes and went trick or treating. Now commercialized and child-proofed to the point of sadness. Kids aren’t even allowed to go trick or treating in my little town, no, they go to some police run function in downtown Clear Lake while it’s still light out. An entire kid’s holiday helicopter parented out of existence. The next step will be moving it all to virtual reality where the risk to the kids will be even lower. I digress. I came across a true story that is so freaking horrific that it beats anything Hollywood would dare film. In other words, the perfect Doug’s Darkworld Halloween post, brace yourselves.

In California more mass evacuations and power outages. Welcome to global warming. A one-two punch in this case. Global warming has lengthened and intensified the fire season in California (and around the rest of the globe.) And since our infrastructure was built and designed for the stable climate regime we enjoyed since the last Ice Age ended over ten thousand years ago, it is being overwhelmed by the new more extreme climate. The negative effects of global warming are starting to really kick in now, gonna be a fun ride.

Sadly, even though almost everyone agrees that global warming is a reality, they are still mostly missing the point. Even if global warming isn’t being caused by humans, it is still the biggest planetary emergency the race has ever faced. The freaking planet is warming at a frightening rate folks, and it’s just going to get worse, not better. And except for the Pentagon, we are doing nothing to prepare for it. Great, our economy will be destroyed and hundreds of millions of people will be homeless world wide, but America will still be able to continue its endless wars on poor brown countries. So much greatness, brings tears to the eyes.

And speaking of greatness, Trump claimed the US military killed the leader of ISIS. Some have claimed this is a cynical attempt to distract the media from his impeachment issues. Seems farfetched to me, like the people for whom Jeffrey Epstein’s murder is a “fact.” Doesn’t matter how suspicious circumstances are, minus actual evidence, they are just suspicions. That being said, the US and Israel routinely announce the killing of some insurgent leader or another. We’re all supposed to cheer, and not notice that this never seems to bring the situation closer to a solution. That’s because when the leader of an insurgent organization is killed, he is almost always replaced by a leader more inclined to violence and less inclined to compromise. If ISIS killed Trump or any prominent American, what would be the typical American’s response? Safe to say there would be few calls for compromise and negotiation. Basically the “War on Terror” is just an endless gang turf war.

One last point from items in the news. An old painting found in a woman’s house, a long lost piece from the thirteenth century, sold at auction for nearly $30 million, far more than expected. And Curt Cobain’s dirty sweater, right from his body to the buyer’s, sold for nearly $350 thousand dollars. The high end collectibles market has exploded since the 1970s, with new records being set all the time. Isn’t it great that the super rich have taken such an interest in preserving art and history that they are spending staggering sums of money on it! Snort. No, it’s another symptom of the rich having far more money than they could possibly need, and how worthless our money is really becoming.

Have a great week everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: My life. Credit: Anonymous Facebook meme, used without permission. I will properly attribute or remove as needed should I become aware of the copyright holder.)

Written by unitedcats

October 28, 2019 at 4:57 am

LONDON BURNING, GERONIMO, BERNIE AND NUCLEAR POWER, AND FLICC

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Geronimo_and_his_warriors

Some dates in history, nothing happened. Most though there are a number of things to choose from. In the first week of September in 1666 the Great Fire of London was raging. It’s a story with some interesting tidbits. I think I will write a dedicated post to it on Friday. Or not, one can never tell with these things. Maybe there will be some new shocking current event to write about. Or I could just make one up. “Nun Machine Guns Choir in Dispute Over How to Spell Arpeggio.” We’ll find out Friday I suppose.

More recently, on September 4 1886, Geronimo and his band of warriors finally surrendered to the US army. Him and his men had been more or less continuously fighting Mexico and the US for decades. All pretty ugly, especially the war between the Mexicans and the Apache. A lot of massacres on both sides. Against the Americans, he was mostly wanted for cattle rustling and “escaping” from the reservation. At one point near the end about a third of the US Army was hunting for him, 20,000 guys looking for a few dozen Indians. Whose big crime at that point was cattle rustling and leaving their reservation? Overreactions to minor threats on the frontier is a hallmark of imperialism. Just saying.

Once Geronimo and his men  surrendered, they were treated as prisoners of war. They were never allowed to return to Arizona. They were however taken out and about, IE the US government paraded Geronimo around at various events to show off the US. A tradition going back to at least the Romans. In his case, he got to make some nice pocket money. He’d sell pictures of himself, bows and arrows. Even his hat. Geronimo wrote an autobiography, which I am now putting at the top of my reading list. An interesting life indeed, the changes he saw. On his deathbed it’s reported that he regretted surrendering, who knows.

So he’s in the picture above. One of my favourite photographs of all time. Taken in the spring of 1886, it’s Geronimo and his men. I’ve probably posted and talked about it before. Cest la vie. It’s the only known photograph of a Native American military force operating in the field against the United States. These guys were at war with the US. Fun times.

Back to the here and now, I found out that Bernie Sanders wants to phase out nuclear power plants. I must admit I find that dismaying. There’s a huge problem with phasing out nuclear power plants, since they provide about 20% of the nation’s electricity, what do they get replaced by? Solar and wind can’t really take up the slack, since they can’t vary their power output on demand. Instead, exactly as is happening in Germany and Japan, they will get replaced with coal burning plants. The exact opposite of what we need to do. Nuclear power has its issues, but it is much safer and greener than burning oil and coal. And it has negligible carbon emissions, which is kind of an emergency species goal right now.

So I wonder if Mr Sander’s opposition is sincere, or his he only pandering to his base. The good Doctor Novella goes into the politics of nuclear power in his last post. Not surprisingly, Republicans are far more pro-nuclear than Democrats. I’m not sure what to think about it all. I guess I need to do more research. I’ve changed my mind before, it’s painful but the alternative is worse.

Lastly, FLICC. A new concept to me, or at least stuff I already knew in pieces, put together in a coherent package. Fairly new algorithm, 21st century. It’s a list of the big things to use to flag science denial. F is fake experts. L is logical fallacies. I is impossible expectations. IE, science can never be 100% sure of anything, and nothing is 100% safe, so one can point to the exceptions and claim they invalidate the science. C is cherry picking. And the last C is conspiracy theories. The more of these that show up in an article, the more likely it is science denying garbage. Not surprising, when both science and logic refute your position, stuff like this is all that’s left. Alas tens of millions of people listen to CNN and Rush Limbaugh, and fall for it every time. The FLICC article here.

Hope everyone had a good Labor Day holiday. There ended up being a party here. An introvert’s nightmare, a house full of friendly strangers. After enough beer I finally ventured forth and joined in the festivities . Parties here always involve the cat escaping and leading a merry chase through the neighborhood. They got the cat back, then locked me outside by mistake. All’s well that ends well though, they let me back inside, and I had a good time.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Photo by C. S. Fly of Geronimo and his warriors, taken before the surrender to Gen. Crook, March 27, 1886, in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. Fly’s photographs are the only known images of Indian combatants still in the field who had not yet surrendered to the United States. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 4, 2019 at 3:40 am

BERNIE, WORLD WAR ONE, AMAZON FIRES, AND FORTIFIED SCHOOLS

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green-sky-c6f49480-4d18-4b7d-af26-65b5e91471f3

Maybe I should rename it Doug’s Cynical World. I do have hope for the species, in that I think extinction is unlikely. And there are good people in the world. And that’s about as far as it goes in modern America. I posted this story in my last post. People for the most part have no clue how easy it is to manipulate people. And with science being brought to bear (Yes, I have recommended this book before, read it and weep) on the issue, advertisers and political entities can shape people’s thoughts and even memories like never before. And few if any of these entities have the health, welfare, and betterment of humankind as their mission.

I did some volunteer work for the Bernie campaign, but I gave up on it. I like what he has to say, he has plenty of enthusiastic followers, but the same applied to Obama and Clinton. Both of whom moved the Dems even further away from their working class roots. And the Bernie campaign seems to be designed by coastal liberals, which means doomed to fail in the midwest. My current guess is that Bernie will be tapped for the VP slot, since the Dems have to have his followers if they want to ensure a victory over Trump. And then he can be safely sidelined, since the VP’s only job is to be a cheerleader for the POTUS. This assumes the DNC wants to win the 2020 election, which is far from clear to me.

105 years ago today the Battle of Tannenberg was raging. It was between Russia and Germany as Russia invaded Germany in the early days of World War One. It was an epic German victory, an entire Russian army was surrounded and destroyed with near 200,000 killed or captured. The German losses were trivial. Hindenburg was the big hero on the German side, going on to to play a big role in post war German politics. There is some doubt as to how much of the credit should go to him, but that’s a moot point by now. I mention it as an example of a crushing victory that was then overshadowed by subsequent battles, and pretty quickly all but forgotten. The Battle of Chancellorsville and the Battle of Stamford Bridge being two other good examples. Food for future blog posts.

World War One is officially history now by the way. About 65,000,000 served during the war, the last one died in 2012. The last one who saw combat in 2011. The last who served in the trenches in 2009. Tens of millions of people, locked in a life and death struggle. For many of them it was the defining event of their lives. For about ten million of them, it was the end of their lives. The War to End All Wars. And ultimately all for nothing, it was just the prelude to an even greater war. If that’s not depressing to think about, I don’t know what is.

In current world news, the Amazon basin is on fire. Well, Brazil’s new president did run on increasing agriculture and decreasing environmental protections. A politician who keeps his word, how did that happen? Oh, wait, a politician who keeps his promises to big business, never mind. It’s an environmental catastrophe, but at least it’s not depleting the world’s oxygen supply as many claim. I’d be upset, but that’s what they want. The whole freaking human race is an environmental catastrophe, this is just another float in the parade. There will be outrage for a week or two, then on to the next outrage. With both ruling parties of the US* determined to ignore environmental issues, nothing will be done until it’s way too late.

In America, schools are now being built with mass shootings in mind. My mind, formerly boggled, reels uncontrollably. We have failed as a people. On the plus side, 10,000 years and three dark ages from now, archeologists studying the ruins of early 21st century America will discover we started fortifying our schools about 2020. It will be the enigma of the age, numerous theories, each more clever than the last, will endeavour to explain why we did so. None will even come close to the truth. Our culture is sick.

Here in Iowa, fall is in the air. Some say it’s going to be a bad winter. Iowans complain about how cold their winters are a lot. Not sure why, it’s basically a Southern Ontario winter. IE the tropics of snowy winters. I’ll survive it, or not. If the former, more blogging! I really am working on the second installment of ‘Falling.’ If not, well, as Mark Twain said:

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Have a great weekend everyone!

*No need for a link about Trump, who has abandoned all efforts to mitigate Global Warming and is rolling back environmental protections wherever he can.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Green Sky. Reminds me of an alternate reality I briefly visited once. Credit: Arnaud M. Used without permission, but he’s not a professional, and from what I can find he just wants people to share and enjoy his work.)

Written by unitedcats

August 30, 2019 at 2:43 am

HEAT WAVE

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We survived the heat wave, I hope all my gentle readers did the same. Oh heck, all my readers, who am I to judge? I do like weather, but extreme heat or extreme cold I can live without. Fortunately my garret has an AC unit, so my suffering was limited to the times I ventured forth to obtain beer. Sadly, extreme weather events are the new normal as we proceed with our planetary experiment: ‘What happens when the Earth’s atmosphere is pumped full of greenhouse gases?’ We’re finding out more all the time, and oddly enough very little of it has been good. Who would have guessed? That’s a rhetorical question.

Someone asked me if the current nonsense going on with Iran will lead to war. I am always honored by such questions. The answer is, damned if I know. I don’t think so, the US has been goading Iran since 1979 or so, and it hasn’t led to war yet. Without the Iranian bogeyman it would be a lot harder to justify American militarisation in the region, not to mention it’s a great distraction for Saudi Arabia and Israel’s aggressive foreign policy.  I can predict that a war with Iran would almost certainly be a bad thing with unintended consequences. Always a safe prediction when it comes to wars.

In crime news I was pleased to see that the Jenner beach murders have been solved. A couple sleeping on the beach were shot to death in 2004. A horrible crime, big news at the time. I lived in Northern California then, heck, I’ve slept on beaches there. Basically the killer recently murdered his brother, and while being questioned about that, he essentially confessed to the beach murders. The murders were senseless, the killer had apparently damaged his brain with an LSD overdose. He was sentenced to life without parole. God rest the souls of his victims, I hope his capture and sentencing gives the friends and families of the victims what peace it can.

In today’s ‘What is wrong with people?’ file, some people are keeping leeches as pets. Let me repeat that, some people are keeping leeches as pets. Frankly I find it a bit disgusting, I couldn’t even finish the article. I grew up swimming in lakes with leeches, and I honestly have a hard time seeing the appeal. Some of them have striking colour patterns, but still, it’s a freaking leech. On the plus side, no need to worry about stocking leech food I guess. And another item for my upcoming post on “Things third worlders have a hard time grasping about Americans.”

And on the topic of disgusting creatures, Congress has called for an investigation into the theory that Lyme disease was created as a biological weapon spread by ticks. I note lots of people are taking it at face value, I’m skeptical. Pretty sure Lyme disease has been around a long time, and it’s easily treatable and not debilitating/fatal. And ticks as a vector? They are slow moving and easily defended against. Seems like an odd choice for a biological weapon all around.   And digging just a little on the Interwebs, expert opinion agrees with me. So I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this investigation to find anything. Anything is possible though, money was spent on some pretty crazy stuff during the Cold War.

Did I hear a voice in the back? What about Chronic Lyme Disease (CLD,) that’s certainly debilitating! Well yes, it would be, if it actually existed. Like MSG sensitivity, CLD doesn’t appear to be an actual condition. Or more accurately, whatever it is, there isn’t any scientific reason to link it to Lyme Disease. People convince themselves of all sorts of things, which doesn’t mean their suffering isn’t real, just that science doesn’t know how to treat it yet. And yes, not kidding, double blind studies have yet to find a single human who has a bad reaction to MSG if they don’t know it’s in their food. Food for thought for some I hope.

Looks like India is poised to become the fourth spacefaring nation. They are doing it for the same reasons as Apollo in my last post. Good for them, India’s ambitions are no threat to the world. I actually wish the best for the people of all countries, we’re all in this together. People are people, most of them are decent human beings when push comes to shove. That’s why I am horrified by the current situation in America. So many on the right think liberals are monsters who should be put in zoos, and so many on the left think Trump voters are all knuckle dragging racists. Neither attitude is helping.

OK, that sure wandered. As always comments appreciated, shares as well, envelopes full of portraits of dead presidents on linen paper especially appreciated. Have a safe week everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Heat Wave. Credit: Snappygoat image, public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 22, 2019 at 4:10 am

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

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 Three Biggest Issues Facing America, What Do They Have in Common?

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In my considered estimation (I have a lot of time to think at work,) the USA has three issues facing it that dwarf other issues of the day. These would be the upwards transfer of wealth, the so called “War on Terror,” and global warming. What do these all have in common, aside from taking place on Earth? Easy, as I’m sure my astute readers recognized, all three were basically completely ignored during the election. Furthermore, they get short shrift in the mainstream media at the best of times. The upwards transfer of wealth is the most ignored, most Americans aren’t even aware that the middle class and poor have stagnated since the late seventies, while the rich got ever richer. Global warming gets some coverage, but it’s lame coverage that claims there is still scientific controversy about the topic. And the War on Terror gets lots of coverage, all of it ranging from sickening adulation to criticism so tepid it’s embarrassing in a  so called free society. This is why we’re doomed, the agents of our destruction are running amok, and our national debates are about abortion, gay marriage, and marijuana.

The first of the big three would be the upwards transfer of wealth. This isn’t debatable, anymore than Evolution or Young Earth Creationism are debatable. Since the 1970s the rich have gotten ever richer, while the poor and middle class have stagnated. A process that continues to this day, over 90% of the gains from the last few years of “economic “recovery” have gone to the 1%. This is both a recipe for disaster, and the complete opposite of what made America great in the first place. Sure the richer the rich get, the more they figure out ways to make even more “wealth,” but none of that money goes anywhere. Having trillions of dollars sitting in financial instruments may make the rich very very rich … but it not only does nothing for the economy, it’s a brake on the real economy. This is why interstate banking shouldn’t be allowed, along with a host of other now-gutted laws and regulations that kept money circulating locally instead of piling up in offshore accounts. The Occupy movement at least succeeded in getting more people aware of this, but unless it is stopped, we will eventually (and maybe sooner than later) be a land of poor serfs with a  few fabulously rich overlords. History teaches us that this isn’t the road to national prosperity, it’s the road to national disaster.

Then there’s the endless “War on Terror.” OBL gave the people who want to maintain western hegemony over the planet, IE the upwards transfer of wealth on a planetary scale, a blank check. And they have spent it on building a vast “security” state and creating an overt world wide empire. This is crazy on several levels, not the least of which it’s the greatest over-reaction to a threat in history even on the face of its putative rationale. It in essence is a staggering waste of resources that would be far better spent on infrastructure, education, and health care. The US is lagging well behind the rest of the developed world in all three, just to maintain a military larger than the rest of the world combined? A military largely designed to fight a war with a country that no longer exists? And yes, building a giant security state is a threat to our liberties; it’s both unnecessary  and will eventually be misused when the wrong person gets in power. Lastly, waging war around the world and the ever increasing use of flying death squads, aka drones, isn’t making us safer, it’s creating new enemies. Look how well that policy has worked for Israel, they live inside of a fucking giant wall in complete isolation from their neighbours, yeah, that’s peaceful co-existence.

And lastly, the elephant in the room so big that it’s started flattening whole states, global warming. The facts behind this are overwhelming, the world is rapidly getting warmer, and human activity is contributing in a major way. Yet the energy industry’s legions of well funded think tanks, not to mention their just plain overt influence on the mainstream media and politics, continue to confuse the issue and create the illusion that there is some sort of scientific debate. And this process is made worse by a religous-political party that is actively denying all sorts of science, not just global warming. And when they aren’t denying it, they are claiming we can adjust. That makes about as much sense as “adjusting” when your house catches on fire. When your house catches on fire, you put out the goddamn fire, you don’t “adjust” to it.

Sadly I don’t see much chance of any of these issues being addressed any time soon. I hope I’m wrong.

(Noah’s Ark, oil on canvas painting by Edward Hicks, 1846 Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since it was painted in 1846, under current US copyright law this image is public domain. It’s a painting of Noah’s Ark, a Bronze Age myth that apparently many adults still literally believe in.  I still find it hard to get my mind around the idea that functioning adults believe in the reality of something in the same category as Santa Claus. Kinda scary really. Maybe I should have listed religious fundamentalism as the fourth crisis facing America, but I dunno, in some ways it over-arches all the others. Hell, in some way all of the crises facing America, and much of the world, have their roots in religious fundamentalism. A topic for another day.)

Injured kittens, elections, and worse stuff

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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