Friday, October 31, 2008

High School Dropouts

I find this absolutely flabbergasting:
The U.S. is the only industrialized country where youths are less likely than their parents to earn a diploma, the report says, citing data compiled by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development....

One in 4 kids is dropping out of school, a rate that hasn't budged for at least five years. Among minorities, more than 1 in 3 drop out.
Sometimes it seems the United States is coming apart at the seams. And honestly, I am not so sure even a Obama presidency can reverse this.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Tyranny of Oil

This looks like it could be a good book:

The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry--And What We Must Do to Stop It

by Antonia Juhasz

Antonia Juhasz, a leading industry critic and expert on corporations and globalization, gives us the hardest-hitting expose of the oil industry in decades. In The Tyranny of Oil she investigates the true state of the U.S. oil industry — uncovering its virtually unparalleled global power, influence over our elected officials, and lack of regulatory oversight, as well as the truth behind $150-a-barrel oil, $4.50-a-gallon gasoline, and the highest profit in corporate history. Exposing an industry that thrives on secrecy, Juhasz shows how Big Oil manages to hide its business dealings from policy makers, legislators, and, most of all, consumers. She reveals exactly how Big Oil gets what it wants — through money, influence, and lies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Kris Kristofferson: "Don't let the bastards get you down."

Sinéad O'Conner: "I'm not down."



I understand a few things -- calculus, how to make your way up a steep mountain with a heavy pack on your back, one-loop QED calculations, how to make animals feel at home -- but I don't understand music at all. I know that I like it. But I don't know how to make it, or read it.

And I've always thought I'm missing something for that.... I'd just like, for once, to be part of something like this DCFC's experience here onstage from about 5:00 to the end.... I'd like to know what that is like....

What is it like?

My Rule About Voting

I will not vote for any candidate who does not have a Web site -- I don't care if they're running for dog catcher or sidewalk gum scrapper.

If you don't understand that the Web is the greatest innovation since the printing press and the absolute best way to communicate with your potential supporters, and to let them know who you are and what you stand for, then you do not deserve to be part of any government in the 21st century.

Example: Steve W. Blanchard, running for City Council Position #2, St Helens, OR. Sorry dude.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More NF3 Nonsense

Here's a piece of giant misunderstanding about the NF3 news announced last week, from the Hindu Times:
'NF3 contributes more to global warming than CO2'

New York (PTI): Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the most potent gas responsible for global warming.

They do correct themselves (or, at least, provide the right answer) later in the article. But the headline is seriously misleading.

Monday stuff

Just some things that have crossed my path:
  • is bisphenol-A safe? It's a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics, and has been in the news a lot lately.... The FDA released a recent report on it, claiming that it is safe. Guess who wrote the report? Yes, that's right: the plastics industry.
  • Bisphenol-A sales in 2007: $6 billion.
  • The Heartland Institute is holding another climate change conference in New York next year. The theme is: "Global Warming Crisis: Cancelled."
    "All of the event's expenses are being covered by individual and foundation donors to Heartland," said Dan Miller, executive vice president of the institute. "No corporate dollars earmarked for the event were solicited or accepted."
    They don't say which foundations.
  • The IEA says not nearly enough money is being spent on researching Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). "To date, only four full-scale CCS projects exist in the world; none of these projects captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from a coal-fired power plant."
  • Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion has sold 1.5 million copies. Still, Dawkins thinks science is losing the battle against religion.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Nitrogen Trifluoride Scare

Thinkprogress again fails to deliver a trustworthy picture on climate change. Today they write:
In an upcoming issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, NASA reports that “new research indicates a powerful greenhouse gas might be at least four times more prevalent than has been thought.” The level of nitrogen trifluoride — which “is thousands of times more effective at warming the Earth’s atmosphere than an equal mass of carbon dioxide” — has increased by a rate of 11 percent per year. Previously, “emissions of nitrogen trifluoride were thought to be so low the gas has not been considered a significant potential contributor to global warming.”
These are all true facts, and makes NF3 sound very scary. But what they don't tell you is that current NF3 emissions contribute only 0.15% of the total global warming effect of current manmade CO2 emissions.

UPDATE: The AGU issued a correction overnight. The correct figure for NF3's contribution is 0.04%.

Gore quote

"When I hear of a new outrage, I have to download some old outrage to make room for it."

-- Al Gore, Harvard, Oct 22, 2008

Exponential Growth

Here's a very interesting graph from New Scientist:

Of course, most of these parameters were much larger during the Medieval Warm Period.

Southwestern Pennsylvania

Yesterday on Hannity and Colmes, Karl Rover said this about southwestern Pennsylvania:
ROVE: But it’s a conservative part of the state, and then if you take the far southwestern corner over there near Pittsburgh and the suburbs, that’s coal country, and that’s the kind of people who really do cling to their guns and their faith, and took a lot of — you know that was part of the state where Obama might be expected to do well.
I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania, in a little place up in the mountains too rural to even be considered a village, and Rove is simply incorrect. People there have guns, sure, for hunting, but they are by no means fanatical about it. Yes, my dad took me to shoot rats at the dump, and a few times we had to pull over so he could shoot a groundhog or two in a field. I wasn't ever much interested, personally. Faith? Hardly. Growing up I never heard anybody in my family or extended family talk about faith or religion. We went to church for awhile and then gave it up. I went to Bible summer school one year and mostly remember it for the girls there. No one in my family goes to church. No one in the community or nearby communities talks about religion, if at all. There is no evangelicalism. Religion was not discussed in schools or anywhere else. The churches are modest and not ostentatious. The biggest religion there is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In my visits back there I don't see that it's changed much back there.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hadley's September Anomaly

Hadley has September at +0.371°C above the long-term mean, their coldest September since 2000. That compares to NASA GISS's +0.49°C.

Program Alert

Tomorrow night: Heat, on PBS's Frontline, about climate change:
For the past 18 months, veteran FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith and his production team have tracked this complex story around the world. Now, in a wide-ranging, two-hour special edition, they report on what they've seen, and it isn't pretty. From the First World to the Third, the demand for energy continues to grow, driven by the needs of emerging giants like India and China, where environmental concerns take a way backseat in the headlong rush to development. Smith and his colleagues spent weeks in these two countries....
Preview here.

You can watch the full program here (after tomorrow).

A quote from the program:
"The western model of growth is inherently toxic."
-- Sunita Narain, Centre for Science and the Environment, India

McCain Concedes

In any great endeavor--and we've all had a couple, whether it was in athletics, or finishing college, or perhaps your true love, or something else -- there comes a point where -- and we've all been there -- you have failed. You have previously keep going, kept plugging away, been inspired by some motive or image or person or dream, but at some point, it suddenly sinks into your soul that you're not going to make it. The goal is too high, or the pain is too much, or you just don't have what it takes. Your shoulders slump. Your trick knee acts up. After that you keep at it, but it's just going through the motions, and deep, deep down you know it. You just have to let it work its way out. And it does and you feel a great disappointment and some part of you, at least, moves on.

McCain has reached this point. He's lost. There's nothing more he can do.

On Sunday, Fox News host Chris Wallace asked John McCain how he would feel if he lost the presidential race to Barack Obama:
"Oh, sure,'' Mr. McCain said. " I mean, I don't dwell on it. But, look, I've a wonderful life. I have to go back and live in Arizona, be in the United States Senate representing them, a wonderful family, daughters and sons that I'm so proud of and a life that's been blessed. I'm the luckiest guy you have ever interviewed and will ever interview. I'm the most fortunate man on earth and I thank God for it every single day.''

"So if the world turns an unfortunate way on November 4th, don't feel sorry for John McCain?" Mr. Wallace asked.

"Don't feel sorry for John McCain and John McCain will be concentrating on not feeling sorry for himself,'' Mr. McCain said.

Mr. Wallace said, "And you might just be president."

"You never know,'' Mr. McCain said.

You don't talk this way if you're winning, or if you're thinking you're winning, or if it's close and you know you really need to dig in and find out what kind of man you are, or even if it looks kinda bad but you know life takes strange twists and turns and you still hope of winning. You don't even concede the question.

You talk this way when you know you know you've lost.

And his side knows it. Read The Corner -- the coming loss drips off nearly every post they write.

If you're a progressive, or a liberal, or a Democrat, or if you see America as perched on the edge of a cliff -- i.e., if you're not "pro-American"-- enjoy the next two weeks. They're as good as it's ever going to get.

Marc Morano

Marc Morano: disputes the validity of climate models, except when they're in his favor.
Volz noted that the IPCC does not even call the climate models "predictions" and instead refers to them as "projections" or "story lines." Volz said the projections might be more aptly termed "fairy tales." (, 5/14/02)
Also in September, American Craig Loehle, a scientist who conducts computer modelling on global climate change, confirmed his earlier findings that the so-called Medieval Warm Period (MWP) of about 1,000 years ago did in fact exist and was even warmer than 20th-century temperatures. (via Planet Gore, 10/20/08)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Palin on SNL

Perhaps the only thing worse than a vice-presidential candidate who won't give a press conference is one who goes on television and mocks the country about it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Investing in the Economy

In their endorsement of Obama, the LA Times writes:
On paper, McCain presents the type of economic program The Times has repeatedly backed: One that would ease the tax burden on business and other high earners most likely to invest in the economy and hire new workers.
I never understand this. Why is it that only rich people's money creates jobs and investment? Money is fungible. If you're middle-class -- or, frankly, any-class -- and you get a tax break, you're going to either (1) spend the money on, say, soap, which will increase soap demand and create jobs in the soap industry, (2) put it in savings, which will funnel though your bank into investment firms that invest in small and large businesses, or (3) pay off debt, which again puts more money in the hands of banks and credit bureaus, enabling them to either invest the money or loan it back out again to people starting companies, etc.

Am I missing something?

Oil Prices and all that

Roger Lowenstein, today's NY Times:
Well, gas still costs $3.50 a gallon, and the price of a barrel of oil, last week close to $80, still is four times what it was all of six years ago. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, consider that in the half-dozen years of the housing boom, residential home prices rose only 125 percent, whereas oil prices, even now, are 300 percent higher than they were six years ago. So the energy issue is still here. Remember the winter after Katrina, when home-heating-fuel prices caused an uproar? This winter they are likely to be much higher.

When the new president takes office, high energy costs will be — as they are already — a drag on the economy, one that is becoming conflated with the credit crisis. Last month, the U.S. auto industry sold fewer than one million cars — its slowest sales rate in 15 years. Tight credit and high gas prices each contributed to that. There is no way to completely unravel the two, but here is one fact: In the early part of this decade, when oil was cheap, Americans spent only 2 percent of their income on gasoline. Recently they have been spending about 4.5 percent — more than twice as much. And you can bet that the percentage is higher among families with lower incomes.

Cp here.

Linear Correlations - A Love Story

When I was a dumb undergraduate, a sophomore I think, I decided I wanted to take a one-on-one course with a professor and do something experimental. He didn't really care what and sent me off on my own. I decided to try and measure the change of the index of refraction of glass with temperature.

One afternoon a week I went to a little room with a bunch of old equipment, including an oven and a spectrometer. I found some glass slides and a lamp and a thermometer and started to make measurements, heating up the glass, watching diffraction fringes change, etc. etc.

At the end I plotted my results, and they were all over the place. I mean, simply scattershot. I took out my trusted HP calculator (remember Reverse Polish Notation?) and plugged away and came up with a best-line fit. And when I took it to my professor (Bryon Dieterle), he pretty much laughed right in my face and told me you can't just draw a stupid line between a seemingly random set of results, and anyway, I hadn't considered the uncertainties of my data (or my result) and that was actually most of experimental science. I felt pretty humiliated -- I could go back and show you the exact spot in the hallway he told me all this, almost like it was the Kennedy assassination. Then he explained uncertainties in terms of partial derivatives and it started to make sense. I think he gave me an A-.

I was always a lousy experimentalist -- I still panic at having to change a flat tire -- but in fact that humiliation taught me a great deal about what data analysis was all about and insisting on good data and precise data and not being stupid about it and all that. Anyway.

So when I see something like this

from the blog Stochastic Democracy, more or less endorsed by Matthew Yglesias here, I have to laugh. You can't just take a scatterhot of points and draw a line through it because that's what your calculator (now Excel) tells you. Sure, you can, but it's meaningless -- it's a blob! -- and it's more important to understand that it's meaningless than going through the nitty gritty details of calculation slopes and intercepts and Pearson coefficients.

I don't know the moral of this story, except that you can do a lot of stupid things with the linear correlation function on your spreadsheet. Be sure to think first.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Voting By Mail

Oregon has Vote-by-mail, and it seems more and more states are heading in that direction, such as Colorado (as reported in the NY Times article today).
With Election Day less than three weeks away, the number of people voting by mail has exploded in Colorado, a pivotal battleground state up for grabs in November. Nearly half of the state’s registered voters have requested ballots by mail, compelling the Obama and McCain campaigns to kick-start their get-out-the-vote efforts — and devise new and imaginative ones.
I appreciate the convenience, but I do not like this trend. I much preferred, in New Hampshire, going to my community's polling station -- it made me feel like a citizen in a community. Sure, it was usually a cold snowy mess, and I hardly ever knew anyone there, and I'm not that social to begin with, but for that day, at least, I felt part of something. I saw people with placards. I got to see people voting. There was something about that.

It helps a little bit that in NH, during primary season, as soon as you come out of the building a couple of pollsters descend on you (I always declined to answer them). You feel a little special.

But I think the breakdown in community is ruining our country, and so I hate to see anything that contributes to its decline. No doubt we will all, in 8 or so years, be voting via the Internet, making it even worse. Voting rates may go up -- that doesn't necessarily mean it's a better system.

Obama to Classify CO2

Obama would classify CO2 as a dangerous pollutant, his energy adviser said today, possibly immediately upon taking office.

You can expect a slew of jokes about Obama outlawing our ability to breathe, live, "We call it Life" and all that. (Here's a giveaway: Bill Clinton might have been the president who didn't inhale, but Obama will be the first one unable to exhale.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tonight's Debate

I'm not going to live-blog tonight's presidential debate.

I'm not going to try and listen and watch and type and read blogs all at the same time. I'm not going to jump to conclusions or imply that my instantaneous, brief reactions are of any value to the rest of the world.

Instead, I'm going to sit quietly and listen carefully. I'm going to watch how a candidate responds (or doesn't) to the questions, and how his opponent responds to that. I'm not going to go write something and thereby miss the next minute of the debate. I won't jump around and look to see what ThinkProgress or Kevin Drum or Andrew Sullivan had to say in the last 45 seconds, as if the world depends on it, and when the debate is over I will turn off the computer, read a little Matt Ridley, and let my brain sleep on what I have just heard.

McCain and Honor

From Willamette Week, a biting but spot-on comment:
As for John McCain, what five-plus years in a POW camp couldn’t do—make McCain forfeit his honor—the hunger to be president has.

Fixing FFFD boxes in Firefox

Perhaps you're experiencing strange little boxes with "FF FD" in them when using Firefox 3.0. Here's the fix that worked for me:

View >> Character Encoding >> Auto-detect >> Universal

More in the Firefox Support Forum.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Smashing Bugs

Once when I was an undergraduate I was in a backyard sitting at a picnic table reading Messiah's book on quantum mechanics. A bug landed on the page and I instinctively swiped him off, killing him completely, leaving nothing but a thin red smear across the page.

Suddenly I realized: my God, what had I just done? I had obliterated a life without hardly even thinking about it. I had reduced it to essentially nothing.

I still think about that when I find a bug where I'd rather he not be. (I still have Messiah's book, too.) Sure, I kill my share, but often I'll simply coax them onto a piece of paper and take them outside. (And yet, I have not committed to vegetarianism.)

So there is something becoming in this video of Obama brushing a spider off his shirt:

In my book this speaks highly of his as a person.

World's First Nuclear Accident, in Idaho

It's often said that there have been no fatalities from nuclear accidents in the US, including Three Mile Island, but I was doing some research today on another subject I was surprised to come across this:
On January 3, 1961, the first and only fatal nuclear reactor accident in the United States occurred at the NRTS ["National Reactor Testing Station," near Idaho Falls, Idaho]. An experimental reactor called SL-1 (Stationary Low-Power Plant Number 1) was destroyed when a problem control rod was removed incorrectly leading to core meltdown and explosion. All three military personnel working in the reactor were killed. Due to the extensive radioactive isotope contamination, all three had to be buried in lead coffins. The events are the subject of a book published in 2003, Idaho Falls: The untold story of America's first nuclear accident.
By the way, Idaho National Laboratory's budget is about $800M/yr. Who knew?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Peak Oil and all the Crap

In retrospect, a lot of people who blamed the recent oil peak on Peak Oil seem to be quite wrong, including myself. Oil is now 43% below it's peak, and down 6% year-to-year. It seems a lot of people saw in the market what they were predisposed to see (including, again, me).

That's not to say that Peak Oil will not be a factor in the long run. It will be (if it's true that we're running out oil.) I think the lessons, though, are that
  1. few people really know what's going on when markets are in turmoil, and
  2. few people really know what's going on otherwise, and
  3. people tend to find what they're looking for.
Sure, we may be running out of oil, i.e. oil production may be peaking. But it's a long process and you can't expect the world to turn around on a dime. And you can look very stupid in the process.

Krugman on Interstellar Trade

Paul Krugman's Nobel Prize in Economics is richly deserved, from everything I've ever heard about him, though naturally the right will call it politically motivated, etc. (What isn't considered politically motivated these days?)

Here's something he wrote tongue-in-check in 1978: The Theory of Interstellar Trade.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Einstein letters

A new batch of letters from Einstein have come up for sale. There are several highlights:
  • Einstein brands religious beliefs as "childish superstitions" and the "product of human weaknesses." (Of course, he also said "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind," so maybe he wasn't completely clear in his own thinking.) In it he writes: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."
  • Of the Jewish people, he wrote: "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."
  • He absolutely rejected that his theories implied any kind of "moral relativism": "Unfortunately, I cannot recommend your manuscript for printing, because it doesn't reflect the essentials of the theory. This topic has nothing to do with the superficial statement that 'everything is relative' ... This is, by the way, not a philosophical theory, but purely physical."
  • He doesn't seem to like journalists much either: He also chides journalists for failing to understand one of his greatest scientific achievements. "The twaddle that the theory is extremely difficult to understand, is complete nonsense, spread out by superficial journalists."
(I don't think he's right on this last point. Maybe it was obvious to him, 35 years after the fact, but if it was that easy to understand there wouldn't be advanced undergraduate and graduate physics classes in special relativity.)

Sad Guys

There's at least one funny thing to come out of this financial crisis: Sad Guys on Trading Floors.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Has a US president ever appeared to be so weak, so useless, so unneeded, and so uninterested in a crisis as Bush does right now? I can't recall one.


I still think my theory of the impact of rising oil prices is a good one. What popped the housing bubble? It was a bubble, sure, but it was popped by the oil bubble. From that came all the decline and lock-up of the credit markets, etc. The fundamentals of just living became significantly more expensive, and energy is the one place you can't cut back on -- you have to have so much gas a week, and so much food, and so much heat or A/C. You can't live without these. And so the difference came out of mortgage payments.

At least, it's worth mentioning.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, Oct. 2008:
And before we leave the theme of falls and collapses, I hope you read the findings of the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration that followed the plunge of Interstate 35W in Minneapolis into the Mississippi River last August. Sixteen states, after inspecting their own bridges, were compelled to close some, lower the weight limits of others, and make emergency repairs. Of the nation’s 600,000 bridges, 12 percent were found to be structurally deficient. This is an almost perfect metaphor for Third World conditions: a money class fleeces the banking system while the very trunk of the national tree is permitted to rot and crash.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Martin Chalfie, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry (today):

Dr. Chalfie never received the phone call from Sweden. “I slept through it,” he acknowledged at a news conference at Columbia. He said he had inadvertently turned down the ringer on his telephone a couple of days ago. He woke up at 6:10 in the morning and thought the soft ring was coming from a neighboring apartment.

“I was a little bit annoyed that they weren’t answering their phone,” he said. “I then realized because it was after 6, that they must have announced the Nobel Prize in chemistry. I decided to find out who the schnook was that won it this year. So I opened up my laptop and found out I was the schnook.”


US Nobel Prizes (pct), by decade:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tonight's Debate

I am seriously starting to worry about my country.

Getting older, I suppose part of that is my responsibility, or my right, or perhaps just custom. I'm sure other periods in our history have looked just as dire, and other candidates as doppy. Maybe this isn't a unique time.

But maybe it is. I listened to tonight's presidential debate and I heard nothing -- nothing -- that gave me an indication that either candidate has an idea about how to solve our enormous problems -- let alone the leadership and charisma with which to do it.

I heard platitudes. I heard generalities. If I hear "My friends" again I just might jump off the roof. I am not McCain's friend and I never will be.

But I don't hear any answers out of Obama either. He's on the 35-yard line with 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter, up by a touchdown, and just wants to run out the clock.

Tom Brokaw, supposed to be some kind of heralded superstar journalist, didn't ask anything of the slightest significance. He has neither the balls for it or the understanding, living in some $5M penthouse in New York City. His knowledge of the world is so abstract it's useless and embarrassing.

Who does not think that the US is headed downhill? I don't need to be Number 1...but I'd like us to at least show some competence. Our financial system is collapsing. We are stuck in a war no one cares the least about and no one cares to win. We cannot provide adequate health care for many our citizens. The Europeans, better cared for, are routinely growing taller than we are. Our government and our politicians are completely bought off by corporations and us idiots don't even seem to notice or care, even though they just took $700 billion from us in the course of 2 weeks. There is no help for the ordinary person -- no health care, no retirement benefits, little unemployment benefits, nothing at all -- and yet we hardly even complain about it, let alone revolt. And the planet is going to hell -- climate change rearing up to decimate the future, half of all mammals in danger, the ocean's acidifying -- who really cares? NASA can't keep shuttles in the sky after 2010, and so must rely on the Russians for lifts. How utterly humiliating. Americans can't even seem to win any Nobel Prizes anymore. And all we get are puppet candidates like Bush and Palin who serve at the behest of some tiny group of men hiding in a hollowed-out mountain in Switzerland (my theory).

Where do I get off?

Climate change illustrated

Here's an interesting illustration of climate change in New York City:

This first picture, from the 9/22/08 NY Times, is of the Cubs-Giants playoff game on Oct. 8, 1908 at the Polo Grounds (north Manhattan).

Notice how the trees are bare.

Now compare this to a Webcam picture I just captured today, of Pier A in Hoboken, NJ (just across the river, to the west, of NYC):

The trees are still green and don't even appear to be changing color yet.

This last one isn't the best picture and perhaps you have a better one -- if so, please let me know.

Polar Bears, Noise, and Stress

Greg Pollowitz at NRO's The Corner is making fun of a recent study that shows polar bears are sensitive to excessive noise in their environment. Ha ha.

Just to show you how sensitive animals can be, a black rhino being transported from the Kansas City zoo to the Oregon zoo in Portland apparently died on Monday simply from the stress of being moved. Imagine.

Moving stresses me out. It really stresses my cat Eli -- he spent a week hiding under the bathroom sink, and hardly ate at all. But to actually die from stress -- it really makes you think. (Unless you're Greg Pollowitz.)

Conservation of Calamities, Take 2

Perhaps there is a kind of conservation of economic calamities:
Atmospheric scientist Paul J Crutzen, who has in the past floated the possibility of blitzing the stratosphere with sulfur particles to cool the earth, said clouds gathering over the world economy could ease the earth's environmental burden.
Of course, it won't nearly, nearly be enough, and it's the wrong kind of CO2 cutback--that from reduced economic activity, not changes in energy technology.
"It's a cruel thing to say ... but if we are looking at a slowdown in the economy, there will be less fossil fuels burning, so for the climate it could be an advantage," Crutzen told Reuters in an interview.

"We could have a much slower increase of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere ... people will start saving (on energy use) ... but things may get worse if there is less money available for research and that would be serious."

September Temperature Anomaly

NASA GISS's September temperature anomaly is in: +0.49°F above the long-term average.

Significantly, last month's anomaly was revised from +0.39°F upward to +0.50°F.

Year-to-date, though, this year is still the coldest since 2000.


Neel Kashkari is Paulson's choice to run the $700B financial bailout program. According to the radio item I heard about this, his last name is pronounced "Cash Carry." Really.

Conservation of Calamities

This year's arctic ice loss may not have been as steep as 2007, but this year's ozone hole over Antarctica was larger than last year's. Perhaps there is a conservation of calamity principle we are only now discovering. (Obviously it doesn't apply to the economic realm.)

Maskawa's response

Maskawa had the best response this morning:

"There is a pattern to how the Nobel prize is awarded. I did not think I would get the award up until last year, but I predicted it pretty much this year," he was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

"I am very happy that Professor Yoichiro Nambu was awarded. I myself am not that happy. It's a noisy celebration for society."

Nobel background

If you're looking for a good background and explanation of today's Nobel Physics prize, try the one from the Nobel committee itself. It has enough detail that you can understand a few things, a few equations, and a nice history.

Monday, October 06, 2008


“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be
given you because you would not be able
to live them now. And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then
gradually, without noticing it, live along some
distant day into the answers.”

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter to a Young Poet

Nobel Prize schedule

Three Europeans won the Nobel Prize in medicine today for their discoveries of the Human Pappolima Virus and HIV (Although some people think the US's Robert Gallo was seriously overlooked.)

Here's the schedule for the remaining Nobel Prizes:
  • Physics - Tuesday, October 7, 11:45 a.m. CET (5:45 am EDT) at the earliest
  • Chemistry - Wednesday, October 8, 11:45 a.m. CET (5:45 am EDT) at the earliest
  • Literature - Thursday, October 9, 1:00 p.m. CET (7:00 am EDT) at the earliest
  • Peace - Friday, October 10, 11:00 a.m. CET (5:00 am EDT)
  • Economics - Monday, October 13, 1:00 p.m. CET (7:00 am EDT) at the earliest
(CET is Central European Time, UTC + 1 hour.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Darwin at Home

Here's a really interesting video about the possible evolution of pure mathematical objects. (I can't get it to embed.)

I think the saddest thing about the anti-evolution movement is that evolution by natural selection is probably the most beautiful idea every discovered by anyone -- elegant, explanatory, simple, sharp, refined. It's probably the best scientific idea ever found.

Amazing But True

The wheat genome is five times longer than the human genome, and contains three copies of each chromosome.

And you thought you were complex.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin on Climate Change

Sarah Palin doesn't seem to have a clue about what's causing climate change -- though she seems to lean towards natural causes -- but she supports anyway capping GHG emissions. Arghhh.