Monday, March 31, 2008


"What's the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if in the end all we're willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?"

-- F. Sherwood Rowland, whose theory that the introduction of huge quantities of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere would reduce the ozone layer around Earth was dismissed by industry as "merely theories."

Friday, March 28, 2008

2008 Templeton Prize

Michael (MichaƂ) Heller, a Polish cosmologist and Catholic priest whose research specializes on the origin and cause of the universe, won the 2008 $1.6 million Templeton Prize a couple of weeks ago.

Upon winning, Heller described his work as:
"Various processes in the universe can be displayed as a succession of states in such a way that the preceding state is a cause of the succeeding one… (and) there is always a dynamical law prescribing how one state should generate another state. But dynamical laws are expressed in the form of mathematical equations, and if we ask about the cause of the universe we should ask about a cause of mathematical laws. By doing so we are back in the Great Blueprint of God's thinking the universe, the question on ultimate causality…: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" When asking this question, we are not asking about a cause like all other causes. We are asking about the root of all possible causes."
Please, can someone tell me what this means? I can't see that it means anything whatsoever, beyond what a freshman physics student would tell you. It is just gibberish as far as I can tell, no different from anything in the Dancing Wu Li Masters or What the Bleep Do We Know? There's just nothing remotely profound about it -- and this guy gets a million and a half for spouting such nonsense, merely because he says it in a deep, introspective tone? What garbage....

Conserving Gas

See what high gas prices do? Truckers may be slowing down to save fuel costs -- I read the other day that each 10 mph over the speed limit is like spending an additional $0.54/gallon.

By the way, gasoline use per capita is down about 2.5% in the last year....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

US Health Insurance

The entire discussion of health insurance in the US is going in the wrong direction, and its clear that none of the presidential candidates has the courage to confront corporate America. McCain, of course, like Bush, could not care less who has insurance and who doesn't, as long as the military is fed, oiled, and greased.

But Clinton and Obama.... Tonight Clinton announced that she'd like health care premiums to be no more than 10% of an American's income.... This is a complete give-in to corporate America and it can never lead to affordable and efficient health care. Corporations and insurance companies are always going to want their 20-30%, and they are so greedy that they will take it regardless of the health of Americans -- regardless if they are, literally, dying. The service they provide has been proven time and again to be inferior and useless, compared to single-payer systems.... they must be completely eliminated.

Neither Clinton or Obama has the courage to do this, it is now clear. I wonder how much money each of them is receiving from these corporations? A lot, clearly. Enough to corrupt them, clearly.

I really thing that the US is teetering on the edge of existence, and that if it cannot solve the health care issues of tens of millions of its citizens -- one-sixth of the population, soon to be more as employers -- including yours -- increasingly opt out of the system (and who can blame them when medical inflation is running at 7-12% a year), this country will quickly sink in a very mediocre status. At this point I really see no way out of it.

This is Funny

From the film "The Job."

via: Dark Roasted Blend

Ice Shelves

Yes, of course I worry that large sections of ice breaking off of Antarctica are due to global warming, but there's a bias in stories like this. Since large chunks of ice break off suddenly, but form only gradually, you will never see a headline like "Scientists Startled: Massive Ice Shelf Forming Rapidly." Really, you need a full picture of ice buildup and melting to really mean much of anything, and that's a lot less dramatic.

Cold Winters and Greenhouse Gases

This has been an unusually cold winter in the northern hemisphere, and as The Oil Drum points out, natural gas use is up. Presumably heating oil is too.
Q: how much more CO2e will be emitted because of the cold winter?
I've seen this type of calculation done -- somewhere -- about the additional power consumption of air conditioners as the world warms. Ought to be a similar calculation here....

Spencer's Exaggeration

Roy Spencer has an op-ed in the Energy Tribune, that ends with this:
I am not claiming that all of our recent warming is natural. But the extreme reluctance for most scientists to even entertain the possibility that some of it might be natural suggests to me that climate research has become corrupted.
I just don't think that's true. Mainstream climatologists seem to me to be somewhat imprecise on the exact amount of current warming is manmade, and use words like "most." Never "all."

Here's exactly what the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report says:
Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica).
(Emphasis mine.)

I think Roy Spencer is exaggerating, and it doesn't help his cause any.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


From the isn't life ironic department: Mary Louise Parker (Nancy Botwin) is engaged to Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Judah Botwin), who played her real-life but dead husband on Weeds. They broke up once ( you would too if you were involved with her), but made up (you would too if you were involved with her.)

PS: Yes, I like Weeds. In fact, it is the only program I have ever paid for and downloaded from


Hillary says the reason she lied about undergoing sniper attack in Bosnia is because she was "sleep-deprived."

OK. But I assume this is a not uncommon state for the President of the United States, to which she aspires. Can we therefore expect each time she reaches it we can expect inconsistencies and factual muckups?

I've been sleep deprived. But I'd never confuse something like a kind welcome for sniper fire. Neither would you.


ThinkProgress are big fans of arguing about the consensus of climate scientists on global warming -- case closed.... but when they're on the other side, the minority view is "blistering" and must absolutely be taken into account, even when the consensus view comes from the National Academies.

Hypocrites, pure and simple.

I've no doubt that smaller cars do lead to more deaths via accidents. But I'd also like to know the number of deaths, and the amount of environmental damage, that CO2-belching cars enact on people and the environment. It' s a complex calculation, to be sure. But it's not zero.


OK, I am as happy to get rid of the Clinton machine as anyone, but still, you have to like Chelsea Clinton's response today at Butler University:
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Chelsea Clinton had a quick retort Tuesday when asked whether her mother's credibility had been hurt during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the, I don't know maybe, 70 college campuses I've now been to, and I do not think that is any of your business," Clinton said during a campaign visit for her mother, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton had picked out the male questioner as she wrapped up a question-and-answer session at Butler University. It wasn't immediately clear what statement by the first lady the questioner was referring to. Before she was fully aware of her husband's relationship with Lewinsky, a White House intern, Hillary Clinton said the allegations about that relationship were manufactured by a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

Clinton's answer was met with loud applause from the about 200 people in the audience. After the applause, Clinton responded, "and I also don't think that should be the last question."

Let's hope for more responses like that.

Mercury's cliffs

Did you know that the planet Mercury has cliffs that are 2 miles high and hundreds of miles long?

That must be a sight to see....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Major US City Preparedness for an Oil Crisis

The environmental group Common Current has released a report, "US City Preparedness for an Oil Crisis," and here are the top six prepared cities, they say:
  1. San Francisco (#1 in the telecommuting category)
  2. New York (#1 in public transit commutes and metro area transit use)
  3. Chicago
  4. Washington, DC
  5. Seattle
  6. Portland, OR
I'm sorry, but I really see these kind of lists, and this kind of planning, as completely ridiculous. So 5-10% of San Franciscians telecommute. So 50% (or whatever) of New Yorkers take the subway. Such statistics vastly underestimate the impact of peak oil. So you workers can take the subway to get to work. What are they going to eat once they get their? How will you heat or cool their buildings? What will power their Internet and phones?

We live in far too interconnected of a society and an economy to think that Portland, Oregon is going to smoothly survive Peak Oil just because there is some plan sitting on a shelf. This is a civilization-wide problem. The cost of food being trucked around is going to rise drastically everywhere. Most people -- let's be honest -- just do not have convenient mass transit available to them. What are people going to do when gas is $9/gallon, and delivery trucks are parked idle because they can't afford to run? You think some little plan sitting on a shelf in city hall -- produced by a bunch of amateurs -- is going to save the day? Please. I know they mean well...but it is very short-sighted.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Big Dog

Every so often you get a glimpse of the future and it strikes you that it's going to be very weird. That was my reaction to watching this demonstration of Boston Dynamic's Big Dog robot. Maybe it's its resemblance to the Star Wars AT-AT walkers. In any case, I actually felt sorry for this thing when the guy in the video tried to push it over, for a couple of seconds.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hadley's February Temperatures

The Hadley Centre in England is out with their February temperature measurement: +0.194°C above the long-term average. That compares to NASA GISS's +0.26°C. Both indicate a +0.14°C increase (in the anomaly) from the month earlier.

sea level

For a really good review of the state of knowledge about past, current, and future sea-level rise, see the WaterWired blog.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Betting on McCain

Currently you can buy a futures contract on John McCain winning the Republican nomination for 94.3 cents on the Iowa Electronic Market, paying $1 if he wins it. That seems like a lock, with the only downside is that he might drop dead in the next five months.

You could also sell a futures contract on Giuliani winning it for 0.3 cents, where you pay $1 if he should happen to be the nominee.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gary George's bigotry

Wow, here's something you don't see much anymore: raw, naked anti-gay bigotry from a Oregon state senator. And he's not even ashamed to admit it.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Yes, I am tired of the Larry Craig's and David Vittner's and James McGeervey and, now, Elliot Spitzer. It's mostly a matter for him and his family...EXCEPT that he made political hay out of busting other prostitution rings. He was all moral and uppity when it benefited him...despite his weaknesses (and simple humanness) that he was well aware of. He and his wife will now step easily, because they long ago sold their souls for power. Both of them. And we bought it.

Should prostitution be legal? I really, really do not know. Kevin Drum wrote: official position is: who cares. This stuff shouldn't be illegal in the first place and I don't care what these guys do in their private time.
Let's be real: very, very few women are choosing to be prostitutes out of simple choice. They are doing it because they are out of choices and are scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Only a very tiny few of them are brilliant, sexy, forceful women taking care of their destiny, like get written up in New York Magazine. Almost all of them are, in fact, poor, desperate, and perhaps have substance abuse problems. They are poor. It sucks.

I'm disappointed that a liberal like Kevin would think otherwise. There are so many god-damned more important things than where Eliot Spitzer puts his dick. Tens of millions are living without health care. Our very civilization is destroying the planet's atmosphere. Our major means of energy production is starting to decrease in abundance.

And we're worried about who Eliot Spitzer sleeps with. It nearly makes me puke.

Romm's Alarmism

Here's a perfect example of how Joseph Romm, who paints himself as some kind of climate expert, exaggerates the dangers of climate change:
It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and sleeping. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something is happening in the world….

The 44th President, groggily: “Hello?”

Voice: “Mr(s) President, we have a situation.”

President: “Terrorists?”

Voice: “No, it’s the climate again. Another series of tornadoes has struck Manhattan. There’s massive damage and loss of life and a complete power outage.”

It is, of course, absurd to suggest that climate change is going to be so quick that tornadoes are going to ravage Manhattan anytime soon. It's just a completely unscientific position, designed as nothing but a scare tactic, and I can't believe anyone gives him any credibility with stunts like this.

But, like David Roberts, the more he exaggerates the more attention he gets. It's kind of depressing for a legitimate science writer.

Data Shows Immediate Catastrophic Warming

NASA GISS is out with their February 2008 temperature data, and the world is warming up fast! February's anomaly is +0.26°C, well above January's meager +0.12°C.

That's right, despite billions of frozen pipes in China and unprecedented amounts of yellow snow atop Mt. Kilimanjaro and Bahama residents having to put on a full t-shirt before 8 pm, the world is warming up at 0.14°C/month[*], or 3°F per year, or a dramatic 30°F per decade! By 2018, Fairbanks Alaska will be like Atlanta was this year. Atlanta will be... well, like Hell....

We are doomed. Doomed, I tell you.

[*] Based on well-established, peer-reviewed, sophisticated skeptic logic.

God and Climate Change

If the Heartland Institute can't convince the Southern Baptists on climate change, they probably can't convince anyone.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Decrease in US emissions

US emissions of greenhouse gases were down 1.5% in 2006, compared to 2005, according to an EPA report released today. They attribute the decline to "due primarily to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions associated with fuel and electricity consumption." That doesn't tell you much.... we do know that American's are, in the last few months, using less gasoline than they were a year ago, in absolute terms. The economy is dropping, and winters are getting warmer, so you'd expect a decrease in those terms. On the other hand, summers are getting warming so you'd expect an increase from air-conditioning.

Overall, emissions have grown by 14.1 percent from 1990 to 2006 while the U.S. economy has grown by 59 percent over the same period.

I still wonder how they can specify US emissions data to the nearest MMT (out of a total of 7202 MMT) -- if their models are really that accurate. As John Fleck demonstrated for Albuquerque, these numbers are not always accurate and the modelers seem to make whatever targets their boss has provided them.

Total Wind Power

Total generation of power via the wind will pass 100,000 MW/yr this month, up from less than 20,000 MW/yr in 2000.

That's not bad, except total worldwide energy consumption is about 500 Quadrillion BTU. Revert back to your freshman days of converting units (personally I will be much happier when you can just tell a computer to do this and it knows exactly what you're talking about), and you find that's about 17,000,000 MW.

So total wind power production is only about 0.5% of worldwide energy production. But it's rising exponentially.

NYers and sea-level

This surprises me:
69% of New Yorkers say it is likely that parts of New York City will need to be abandoned due to rising sea levels over the next 50 years.
I don't think that's unlikely, see as how sea-level is only rising about 3 mm/yr. So 50 years is 150 mm, or 6 inches. Maybe a few more if sea-level rise rates accelerate.... surely they can keep the sea out of the city for at least that long.

Other results from the poll:
  • 78% are convinced that global warming is happening, and of that number, 82% believe that global warming is caused mainly by human activities or caused equally by humans and natural changes.
  • 66% support a $2.50 surcharge on the average household’s monthly electric bill for a special fund to help make buildings more energy efficient and to support public education on energy use. [OK, but that's only $30/yr.]
  • Only 53% support a congestion pricing plan.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hillary & god

Hillary Clinton gave an interview last summer about her relationship with traditional religion, and it's a pretty stinky thing that you have to hold your nose to read. I simply can't believe that someone as intelligent and progressive as Hillary Clinton has never doubted the canonical stories of religion and that she has fallen for so many of the traditional myths of Christianity. In this interview she seems eager to just gulp it all down in one big swallow, sucking up to Christians everywhere and failing to demonstrate an independent or intelligent bone in her body. I don't believe her for a second -- I think she's a complete hypocrite who will say anything -- anything at all -- to gain the power of the Presidency. Deep, deep down, it is really revolting.

This alone disqualifies her for the presidency. In any rational country.

Matmatah -- Lambe An Dro

Big planes landing in big crosswinds to the sound of a big French rock song....

I don't know -- it's just cool. Isn't life surprising?

Extreme Pilot Footage - Funny home videos are a click away

Oil Prices

Business journalism can be very frustrating -- and basically useless. For example, oil today reached $106/barrel -- the reason? A little explosion in Manhattan, if you believe this business journalist who seems to have heard it from one -- only one, mind you -- analyst.

OK. So why, then, had oil risen to $105/barrel before it rose that one extra $1 on the terrifying news that some little military recruiting was bombed, when by the time oil markets opened in NYC police already knew wasn't terrorism?

I hate business stories that attempt to attribute a whole market's worth of business, worth hundreds of billions of dollars, on some obscure reason somewhere, as if oil investors were some skittery scardey-cats who were reacting to last hour's events and not maybe to the fact that we are starting to run out of oil....?


In the Southern Hemisphere, does DNA spiral in the opposite direction?

Sho Dozono

Maybe it's just me, but you have to like a mayoral candidate who has the guts to wear white sneakers with a black business suit.

It also helps that he is not Sam Adams.

Demetri Martin


(via 2 Blowhards)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


"The thing about life is that one day you'll be dead."

-- David Shields, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead

Did You Know....

...that the secessionist, biblical law candidate for John Cornyn's Senate seat in Texas, Larry Kilgore, received 18.5% of the vote (225,000) on Tuesday?


Gov. George W. Bush, 2000 campaign: "I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply. Use the capital that my administration will earn, with the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, and convince them to open up the spigot." (NY Times, June 28, 2000)

March 5, 2008: "Oil prices reached a record close, surging above $104 after OPEC decided Wednesday to keep its production unchanged. The cartel ignored calls from President Bush to pump more oil into an ailing economy." (NY Times, 3/5/08)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Heartland's conference

The Heartland Institute's conference concludes today, and I really think, in my most objective bones, that you have to conclude it was a serious failure. The only press they got, that I saw, were quite skeptical articles in the NY Times and Washington Post. I suspect they got written up in NewsMax, and were perhaps on Fox, and places like that, but no one believes in their objectivity in the least and frankly, I can't even be bothered to look up what they said. The HI must have spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on this, and it's really hard to see how they got their money's worth. This was just a quick piss in the middle of the night, nothing more.

I think this might well serve as a significant turning point in the broader debate, and if this didn't succeed, it is hard to imagine what would. They pulled out all the guns, and hit nothing. I can't imagine they feel anything but disheartened.


You know, at one point I really wanted Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. But I didn't want her to win it at all costs, which is what her and her husband think is the case. I like her health care plan better than Obama's. But her campaign has played too many dirty tricks in the last week or two and it's a real turn off. First with their picture of Obama in some native African garb, then with the rejoinder that "He's not Muslim, as far as I know," and now with what seems to be deliberate darkening of Obama's skin in her ad. This is all just old, shitty politics and, unlike her husband, she is not oily enough to pull it off. Almost, but not quite. And that difference is why she is an inferior campaigner and why she deserves to lose.

It is, overall, a disappoint. But one you can accept.

Proof of the Nature Claim

The title of the report of the newly constituted "Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change" (can we call them "Nopsy"?), the group of skeptics now meeting in New York City thanks to the money of energy and health-care corporations and some conservative foundations, is

That's a scientific statement. A scientific claim. It says, essentially, that natural forcings are more important than human forcings and can explain the rise in global temperatures of the last 30 years.

But I don't see a proof anywhere in their document. I don't see any of their models, or calculations of warming potentials and radiative forcings, etc. I see a lot of carping about the IPCC's science -- about, seemingly, everything the IPCC ever did -- but that's relatively easy to do.

But it doesn't constitute a proof. It you claim to have proven the Riemann Hypothesis and I claim that your proof is in error, that doesn't mean Riemann's Hypothesis is false. It just means there's a problem in your particular proof. I really haven't proven anything.

This isn't a perfect example, because it seems on the whole most scientists think the proof of AGW is fairly strong.

But Nopsy has made a scientific claim -- a quite strong one -- but has offered no proof whatsoever.

This just isn't how science is done. It's not science.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Daylight Savings Time

I'm sorry, but I can't get all upset about the energy losses associated with Daylight Savings Time.... It's 1-3 percent, and I don't even care in which direction.... We're not going to solve global warming by living in caves huddling around candles afraid to expend a couple of pounds of CO2. I mean, really, slit my throat. We're going to solve GW by reinventing our entire method of generating energy. I like Daylight Savings Time. I like going for walks in the evening. I'm not willing to skip that so the atmosphere has 0.01 ppm less CO2.

Wikileaks is back

The judge who ordered offline has come to his senses, remembering, apparently, that there is such a thing as the U.S. Constitution.

I especially liked this:

Paul Levy, an attorney with Public Citizen, said he doesn't believe a loose network of activists like Wikileaks is even susceptible to a lawsuit.

As he announced his ruling, White observed that he was encountering "a definite disconnect between the evolution of our constitutional jurisprudence and modern technology."