Categories
Climate Change Energy English Environment Politics UK

Nuclear Warming

Is this what months and months of Global Warming scares by the UK government were all about: building up a consensus towards the re-establishment of nuclear power stations?

Tony Blair’s very last contribution to the future of Britain may as well be this 343-page Energy White Paper, with all its customary “public consultation” that will inevitably result in confirming what was already written in the white paper. Check in fact what happens when the consulted people don’t provide the “right” answer: the Governments marches on regardless.

I am quite skeptical on the feasibility of large-scale nuclear power generation, and even more so when it is blatantly advertised as a way out of purported CO2-related disasters.

Shortly: it is not clear where the uranium will come from and how long it will be available; nuclear power stations are not built in a day, a month or a year, so we’ll be lucky to see any of them providing power before the middle of next decade; sizable pieces of land will be out of reach and contaminated for centuries to come; costs are way too high (if one takes them all into consideration, and not just the marginal costs as in the usual propaganda); there is no clear plan on where to safely stock radioactive waste for thousands and thousands of years; and finally, it can all very easily become a gif waste of time and money: all it will take will be another nuclear accident, and the mood against uranium power will be on the up again.

Are we sure we want to risk all of that just to protect ourselves from CO2?

Categories
Catholicism English Evolution Philosophy Science Theology

Anti-evolution at the Vatican

Catholic circles especially in Rome are unwisely toying with the idea of discounting the Theory of Evolution, as it would confine God “to just lighting the blue touch paper for the Big Bang” (Evolution and Religion – In the beginning“, The Economist, April 19).

Furthermore, if natural selection works with random steps, according to some people we lose the “unique, God-given role in the animal kingdom” for the human species, especially favoured by Pope Benedict XVI.

Actually, the “blue touch paper” issue is ill-posed. Even if the Universe has been created to follow Natural Laws such as Evolution, there is enough built-in uncertainty, such as in Quantum Physics, to allow any Creator to tinker at His pleasure.

And regarding man’s unique role…I would rather promote more humility…it makes little sense to try to defend one’s standing when the counterpart is… God!

Categories
Atheism Catholicism Christianity English God Humanity Philosophy Religion

The High Priests of Contemporary Atheism

Truly gone are the days of Epicurus.

Gone are the discussions about Free Will and the existence of Evil. Recently, some vocal atheists apper to be thinking it is time for puerile opinions instead.

Sure, many “persons without God” (including agnosticists such as Breaking the Spell”’s author Daniel C. Dennett) have a healthy respect for the experiences and beliefs of fellow human beings, be them atheists or not.

But then what can one say when an otherwise brilliant thinker like Richard Dawkins publishes without a grain of self-awareness the “Ultimate 747” argument, a so-called “definitive proof” that God does not exist?

It is a sort of an updated “who created the Creator” question that anybody with a brain can beautifully, simply and quite obviously take apart (hint: the Creator doesn’t have to be part of the Creation).

In Italy, philosophy Professor Maurizio Ferraris finds it worthwhile to spend his time arguing that Jesus is akin to Santa Claus, whilst mathematician extraordinaire Piergiorgio Odifreddi can’t even think of belief in God as anything else than irrational superstition.

Things look like going even more downhill now, with Christopher Hitchens’ new book “God is Not Great”: apparently, a masterpiece with pearls of wisdom such as asking if the Jews did not know that murder and adultery were wrong before they received the Ten Commandments.

Obviously, the problem is not with Hitchens, a professional polemicist that utters outrageous statements for a living (sort of a male Ann Coulter with just a tad less smell of sulphur). The problem is not even with Dawkins’ anti-fundamentalist crusade that truly throw the baby (Faith) with the bathwater (religious establishments).

There is a much larger issue at hand: the blind acceptance of their half-backed arguments by people evidently in need to justify their atheism to themselves.

Take for example Michael Kinsley’s review of Hitchen’s book (With brio and anger, an atheist takes on religion”, International Herald Tribune , May 12, 2007).

Mr Kinsley finds “entertaining” some blatantly silly questions such as “How could Christ have died for our sins, when supposedly he also did not die at all?” (Answer: please do read at least one Gospel, once).

Worse, Mr Kinsley is “satisfied” with (yet another?) “disproving” of the existence of God. Wow…it’s nice to know that age-old questions can finally be set aside: why don’t Messrs. Hitchens and Kinsley explain to us the Meaning of Life too?

Mr Kinsley is also quite happy to repeat Mr Hitchens’ thoughts on religious ecumenism. “if any one of the major faiths is true, then the others must be false in important respects – an obvious point often forgotten in the warm haze of ecumenism”. Boy, have they “obviously” squared the circle or what?

Do people like Kinsley and Hitchens realize how deeply, reactionarily catholic (with small “c”) is such a limited view of Faith (one God, one Truth, one World)?

How much was the Mahatma a “moron, lunatic or liar” then? That’s their definition of a modern believer. After all he did say “Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man” and “One’s own religion is after all a matter between oneself and one’s Maker and no one else’s.”

Doesn’t anybody remember Quintus Aurelius Symmachus? One of the last pagans in ancient Rome, Symmachus protested the removal of the Altar of Victory from the floor of the Roman Senate by a Christian Emperor by saying “We contemplate the same stars, the Heavens are common to us all, and the same world surrounds us. What matters the path of wisdom by which each person seeks the truth?”.

(No need to waste your breath on our activist atheists, o civis Symmachus! They wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about).

Anyway, there is just the faintest of hope of some reasoning capability left in the activist atheist’s mind. Mr Hitchens writes that a sustained argument about the (non-)existence of God shouldn’t be either necessary, nor sufficient. I am sure only the most fundamentalist believers and atheists will disagree with that.

What is for atheists then the point of writing books belittling something they do not have?

Perhaps, just perhaps, one day people like Mr Hitchens and Mr Dawkins will realize that they may as well uselessly ponder on mysteries such as why a wonderful person as my wife ever fell in love with a less-than-perfect guy like me. Good luck with that!

Is this really what millennia of debates between believers and atheists have gone down to? Somebody will rightly point out that there are plenty of idiots that believe their Faith should be expressed by insulting, outlawing, threatening and killing others.

Yes, there are!

But two wrongs don’t make one right: weren’t Dawkins et al. supposed to be the Brights, the superiorly intelligent humans capable of shedding silly arguments and superstition from their lives, and from the lives of anybody that would follow them?

Why are they then switching off their brains whenever the conversational topic is Religion?

If theirs is the Light, we live in a very dim world indeed.

Like the Conquistadores in the Americas, these Brights are fighting to destroy what they can’t understand in the belief of improving the human lot. The bringing down of anything spiritual, it has become their spiritual quest. The attitude of the vast majority of their fellow humans, they consider it a primitive relic unworthy of their own perfection. Several thousand years of contributions in logic and philosophy, that doesn’t mean a thing to them.

Having discovered the “definitive arguments” for the double impossibility of proving the non-existence of any Divinity, they put themselves outside of human history. And they even gather around their books of wisdom, to accept with little sense of critique anything that is said to belittle the very idea that human being can believe in God.

It’s a hubris extravaganza.

Contemporary (activist) atheists truly set themselves in competition with God: here’s a hint of why they find so compelling to make however flawed an argument against the scandal represented by anybody not believing in their “religion of atheism”.

Categories
Blogging Culture English

Taking Ownership of Our Online Identity

Robert M Lucky’s thoughts on IEEE Spectrum magazine for May 2007 deal with the problem that our online identities are seemingly out of our hands:

No one I know seems to like what the Internet thinks of them. It seems that there is a haphazard collection of vignettes that lack any coherence or soul.”

Well, there IS a first line of defense, and that of course is to “attack”.

As we are almost certain the Internet will talk about each one of us, then why don’t we talk about us, ourselves first?

We are free to write whatever we want in blogs, comments, articles, anything and everything that will put our preferred vignettes in that “haphazard collection“.

For all but the most famous people, internet search sites will quickly turn into showing our self-generated content on top of everything else: alas, and indeed, as each ego is the sentient being most interested into itself.

Categories
Business Computing English

Millennium Bug A Different Virus

Seven and more years later, we can definitely close down the story of the Millennium Bug as one of the greatest wastes of money in the history of Humanity.

In hindsight, it has been as useful and as value-generating as one of those chain-mail messages, just a different kind of computer virus.

Nothing of significance happened on Dec 31, 1999. Perhaps nothing at all, zilch, nada, niente (but it’s hard to demonstrate a negative).

Even the stories with the flimsiest relevance and interest should have surfaced by now.

People that were actually employed in fixing the fantasy Bug don’t usually like such a train of thought. Somebody actually tried to tell me the Bug caused no trouble because of the dedication of so many people and resources to fix it.

I do not buy any such excuse.

Surely a lot of people worked on the Bug very professionally and conscientiously.

But then we all know any kind of software does contain errors…the Millennium Bug Fixes by miracle or extraordinary coincidence, not even one. How can that be possible?

And how can it be likely that everybody everywhere on the planet lost their capacity to make mistakes in the process of fixing the Bug? Italy was a well-known laggard on considering the Bug, and in Kenya there was no funding to do anything until March 2000 (three months after the Bug should have stricken).

Categories
English Innovation Physics Science Star Trek

Beam Me Cold, Scotty

Fact: we already know how to teleport single ions of calcium and beryllium.

Fact: such “teleportation” means the transfer of quantum states between ion A and ion B, so that at the end of the transfer B becomes for all intents and purposes identical to what A was at the beginning of the transfer.

Fact: we already know how to make groups of atoms behave as one quantum entity, by cooling them very near absolute zero until they become a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).

Vision: all we need to make Star-Trek-like teleportation a reality then, it’s finding a way to cool a person into a BEC, transfer its quantum state into just the right BEC far away, and then heat this back as the teleported copy of the original person.

In the meanwhile, let’s wait for a few confirmatory experiments…

Categories
Democracy English EU History Kosovo

Kosovo, Another EU Failure

The European Union is chugging along with its Ahtisaari Plan for the future of Kosovo, the quasi-independent province still nominally and legally part of Serbia albeit occupied by NATO and a UN protectorate since the end of the 1999 war.

In truth, that Plan seems more the result of a vision-free EU that is trying its might to get out of a region that has seen the Union’s reputation hit rock bottom several times for the past 15 years or so.

Of course, ultimately any failure and the blame for any violence lie with the Kosovo residents. It’s their lives that they themselves seem so apt to make more miserable than should be.

But the sudden push for making Kosovo independent does not look like the wisest of choices for the EU.

They are now claiming that they want to prevent development of local dependency on foreign aid, but foreign aid will surely continue flowing to Kosovo for the foreseeable future.

Also, the Ahtisaari Plan is highly-detailed: yet more evidence that there is no comprehensive vision for both communities. Expect further hardships for the Serbs.

What are the alternatives? For example, simple allow Serbian areas of Kosovo to rejoin Serbia, rather than remain a small minority in a brand-new State that Serbian will never be.

And what is this idea of attaching peoples one to the other with superglue even when they blatantly do not want to live together?

The EU itself is made up of nation-states that were established and are still run on the idea that people of the same nation (traditions, culture, but at the end of the day a matter of shared heritage with dubious genetic aspects) must be allowed to govern themselves free from the influence of other nations.

The Kosovo plan makes no sense in this respect. Why force them something we have no intention to do ourselves?

Categories
Behavioral Economics Culture English International Herald Tribune Obesity

The Economics of Getting Fat

During the past week arguments about obesity have popped up quite often on the International Herald Tribune. A comprehensive reading of the various contributions may clear out the issue about fat.

In the letters section on May 6, Dr. John A. Talbott of the University of Maryland at Baltimore finds “frightening and misleading the importance given by author Gina Kolata to genetic factors in determining an individual’s weight.

Kolata’s new book “Rethinking thin” is indeed reviewed on May 4 on the IHT by Emily Bazelon (“Is the obsession with obesity (and thinness) overblown?”). Ms. Bazelon quotes Ms. Kolata as suggesting that “early nutrition, vaccines or antibiotics somehow ‘precipitated changes in the brain’s controls over weight.’

Talbott’s and Kolata’s views can be reconciled, however, as they both briefly refer to the problem of contemporary portions.

Look in fact at David Leonhardt’s contribution on May 1, again on the IHT (“Economic View: Economics of acting against our own interests“).

Mr. Leonhardt reports on the finding by Brian Wansink, a Cornell professor and author of “Mindless eating“. Very briefly, Wansink and his team are finding strong clues that the larger the size of our plates, the more we eat (likewise, “squat glasses” make us drink more).

In a sentence, large containers make portions look smaller to us.

Can Behavioral Economics provide what Ms. Bazelon calls “the smoking gun in the mysterious fattening of America“? Perhaps.

But for those of us with a “larger-than-average build”, it does indicate a way forward outside the usual journey from one diet to another.

Categories
English Ethics EU Humanity International Herald Tribune Letters Politics

The Elephant In Europe’s Integration Room

HDS Greenway leaves as an exercise to the reader to complete his reasoning on European attitudes on integration (“Europe’s integration problems“, IHT, May 4).

What would it mean if Europeans accepted “that theirs is a society of immigrants the way America has always been“?

Under those most unlikely of circumstances, Europeans would publicly recognize that no nation comes from a single heritage, and immigrants have been positively adding to the new home nation’s culture for centuries.

It is high time indeed that European societies abandon their superiority complex to allow those to contribute culturally and socially as well as economically.t

Alas, nothing of the sort is currently allowed by the snobbish ways of France’s total assimilation or the UK’s diversity-conservation. And so there is no such a thing as a Moroccan-French or Indian-Briton to compare to Irish-Americans or Italian-Americans.

Even President Sarkozy of France is and cannot be no Hungarian-French…he is, and he has to be, just French. Anything else, and he would be rejected.

Categories
Business English Outsourcing

Outsourcing – A Daft Idea?

I have never been a big fan of all the Outsourcing fashion that came into vogue around 2000-01 with untold savings promised by getting non-core-parts of a company’s business managed and conducted by outside personnel and structures.

Now I am starting to think there is something potentially quite daft about the whole idea. Let’s say there are three types of Outsourcing:

(a) One-to-many: for example the relationship between a company and courier services;

(b) Many-to-one: for example all the clients of news- and data-gathering enterprises such as Reuters;

(c) One-to-one: the modern way of Outsourcing, when for example part or the whole of the IT functions are managed by a single external company.

Now, in case (a) the client has the upper hand, as it can shift business from one courier company to another in an instant and for whatever reason. Service has to be pretty good to prevent that.

Also in case (b) the clients are reasonably safe: even if costs can go high in a situation of quasi-monopoly, any problem on the Reuters or Bloomberg side would cause a massive uproar. Once again, service has to be as good as needed.

Unfortunately, that does not necessarily happen in case (c): the external company, in fact, does know its contract is large and complex and it covers many aspects without which the outsourcing company’s business will fail. And the latter has to invest much money and time just to start the process, whilst exiting from the contract is almost just as expensive and long an endeavour.

The end result then is that in (c) it’s the service provider that obtains the power to make expensive decisions for its client, for example justifying an incredibly complex hardware or data processing arrangement on the basis of unverified risk scenarios.

 ————-

Of course nothing is fixed, nothing is preordained. The opposite strategy may in fact be just as bad, when Insourcing means creating a self-sustaining internal apparatus of un-necessary costs and complexity, also called “the IT Department”.

Still it would be great news the day when companies, especially the largest ones including the public sector, will consider the downsides properly and protect themselves (i.e., their shareholders’ interests) against being taken advantage of by their Outsourcing Partner

Perhaps it is time for a new business field: independent outsourcing auditors.

Categories
Catholicism Christianity Cosmos Culture English Parallel Universes Philosophy Physics Theology Universe

The Physics of Miracles And Of Free-Will

A scientific finding published a few months ago on Physical Review Letters and reported on The Economist may soon send religious types of all sorts and shapes to salivate back to their Physics books.

5% of a proton’s magnetism is contributed not by the host quarks but by visiting strange quarks that have popped out of nowhere“.

It is a perfectly reasonable discovery. Current quantum physics in fact

predicts that so-called virtual quarks, together with their anti-matter partners, are continuously emerging from the vacuum of space and then disappearing again as a result of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. So, while a proton has three resident quarks, it also plays host to a lot of short-term visitors

Nevertheless, such a discovery may herald fascinating consequences.

First of all, 5% is not exactly a negligible quantity.

Second, the measurement is obviously an average, so one proton will get a little nudge in one direction, another proton a slightly larger or smaller nudge in another direction, and so on and so forth. There is no macroscopic effect…but only insofar as the virtual particles pop up randomly in the protons.

Third, if this happens for one kind of particle, it is extremely likely it will happen for all kinds of particles, not just protons

Fourth, if this happens for one kind of force, it is highly likely it will happen for all kinds of forces, not just magnetism

—————–

The end result is that when we will be able to control where, when and how virtual particles pop-up within real particles, we will be capable to do all sort of currently deemend impossible actions. Imagine being able to “focus” the properties of a magnet so that it will attract a particular metallic object, instead of all the objects within a certain distance range….suddenly, one could move specific objects from a distance. That’s telekinesis for you.

Or look forward to the time gravitational fields will be strengthened, weakened, focused at will. That’s levitation for you. And spaceflight and levitating cars will become a child’s play to build and pilot.

—————–

Those are just dreams at the moment, impossibilities, what we could call Miracles if we were to witness them (as per A.C. Clarke’s famous saying: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic).In fact, what is there to prevent God from using those same virtual quarks exactly to perform…Miracles? (God of course could be prevented by being non-existant 😎 ; but let’s assume for now that’s not the case…).

Levitation does indeed allow one to walk on water or fly from Mecca to Jerusalem, or telekinesis the parting of the Red Sea. Some good control of the strong force and quark mechanics simplifies transforming water into wine or anything else.

Etc etc. So virtual particles popping all over the place may be God’s Backroom Control: invisible and intangible but still very much of consequence. Sort of a Miracle Physics (MP) Model.

—————–

For the Theist, it all makes sense.The Deity would have created a Universe that can take of itself but still not completely impervious to on-the-fly modificationsAlso the main objection against miracles would lose ground, as in the MP model the Divinity can intervene without foregoing the natural laws inscribed in the Universe

Just as light is a wave AND a particle, and an electron is a wave and a particle, we could say that the Universe is at the same time deterministic AND random. Not to mention that Evolution can then be a random walk AND the guided unveiling of some underlying plan.

—————–

So do we (well, IF we exist) have free will or are we in the hands of an omnipotent figure (if He/She exists) that decides things for us? Both.

Categories
catastrophism Climate Change Earth English Environment Humor Skepticism

Save the Planet, Freeze Hell Over!

Dear Friends and Colleagues

With carbon dioxide levels shooting up to unprecedented levels, it is high time we group together for a concerted action against the huge amounts of climate-change-inducing emissions…from fires in Hell.

Known GHG polluter, local manager and evildoer Mr. Lucipher can indeed be stopped…all we have to do is abolish taxes, defeat prostitution or whatever else will make the place of eternal damnation turn into a glacial wasteland!

Categories
Business English Ethics Politics UK

Business IS Personal

British society (but not only British society) is trapped in the myth that business is business, whilst personal stuff is personal stuff.

This brings out all sorts of pretensions, such as the illusion that business deals can simply be rooted in “logic” with the consequence that the most important learning topic is “how to debate” as power is firmly in the hand of the Best Talker.

The Best Talker is the person able to talk everybody else into doing anything he or she wants.

Cue Tony Blair, and now David Cameron not by chance much on the way up compared to rhetorical troglodyte Gordon Brown.

This is truly a pity and a missed opportunity, as it removes content, ideas and personality from the main focus, in business as in politics.

The best one can hope is that invisible advisers will actually implement something good for the country, when it doesn’t interfere with the leader’s personal advantage.

That’s something more akin to Enlightened Dictatorship than to liberal democracy.

========

But in truth Business is Personal. For most of us at least. Business is impersonal for bored public sector employees and stressed-out private sector middle managers (aka “Cannon Fodder”).

For everybody else, there is a reason to be engaged in business activities that goes beyond the actual performing of our particular duty.

The existence of one’s salary is often vital to the persons one cares about most, one’s family. The desire to perform well and/or to get a promotion or expand one’s business, it’s all deeply rooted in one’s own need for self-esteem and fulfillment.

Being able in one’s business to cut a deal or even keep one’s job in the face of adversity is very much personal stuff.

And that’s why logic cannot be enough. We have to recognize that in the choice of a new IT system or Managing Director or people to fire during next cost-cutting exercise, gut-feelings and emotions are just as important as what’s “rational”.

Business is Personal, and it will remain so until negotiation will only be done by machines.

Categories
Darfur English Humanity International Pambazuka Politics

The Darfur Conflict From a Different Perspective

The Dirty Political Underbelly of the Darfur Conflict by Ayesha Kajee – April 25, 2007, Pambazuka News

[…] Darfur possibly has undiscovered reserves of uranium, bauxite and copper. Geological surveys also imply that Darfur has unexploited oil reserves, which may go some way to explaining the intense and sustained global interest in Darfur over the past few years.

There is indubitably a massive humanitarian disaster in Darfur, and the mobilisation of civil society around the globe is warranted and welcome. But it is worth questioning why this tragedy receives concentrated attention from the world’s media and why advocacy for multilateral intervention in Darfur has managed to mobilise millions, including celebrities from every sphere, when similar situations in northern Uganda or Central African Republic get far less coverage […]

Given the complex internal and external political implications of the Darfur conflict, the biggest losers are the Darfuris who have been killed, maimed and driven from their homes and livelihoods.

They are the ‘dispensable’ pawns of political manipulators from within and outside Sudan.

There is a crying need for multilateral intervention in Darfur, and an enhanced peacekeeping force with a strong mandate to protect citizens would bring much needed stability to the region as a whole. But the potential ramifications of such an intervention merit careful consideration as to the composition of the deployed force and its mandate. […]

There are several things I never understood about Darfur, including why there would be several rebel movements none of which able to protect civilians, and why would the Sudan government embark into such an awful adventure immediately after freeing itself from decades-long war in the South Sudan…the above is a good start to understand the situation.

Categories
catastrophism Climate Change English Environment International Herald Tribune Policy Politics Skepticism

From the Neo-cons to the Neo-warms

(Letter to the IHT – published on April 28, 2007 – reply from other IHT reader published on May 2, 2007)

Dear Editors

The phraseology of one of your Op-Eds is quite clear: the new “terror” is called “climate stress, and it will cause a long list of disasters and upheavals if “nations fail to aggressively limit carbon dioxide emissions and develop technologies and institutions” “to cope with a warmer planet.”

(“Terror in the weather forecast” by Thomas Homer-Dixon, IHT April 25, 2007)

And so: just a few years ago the neo-cons pushed for an ill-judged preventative “war on Saddam” to protect us against fantasized Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

And to export the institutions of Democracy.

Nowadays it’s the turn of the neo-warms: recommending a preventative “war on carbon dioxide” to protect us against (future!) climatic changes of just as massive (predicted) destruction potential.

Ominously, this too will mean exporting political institutions.

Don’t we ever learn?

Categories
Catholicism Christianity English Intelligent Design Religion Theology

Intelligent Design – Blasphemy?

Religious discussions about the theory of Evolution crop up every once in a while. Now it’s the turn of The Economist to dedicate one Briefing to “Evolution and religion”.

In that article it is reported the well known fact that in certain Christian and Muslim circles there is now support for so-called “Intelligent Design” (ID), “the idea that some features of the natural world can be explained only by the direct intervention of a ingenious creator“.

Frankly, as a Christian and Monotheist myself, I do find ID insulting to the very concept of an Omnipotent God and therefore bordering onto the blasphemous.

Let’s assume some computations mentioned by ID proponents are correct (“it would require about 300 times the age of the universe to by chance form just one protein molecule“). The alternative is to have an Intelligent Being making something as complex as a protein, or as an eye appear.

This God or Gods would continuously interfere with the Universe, adding bits here and there, making eyeballs and noses and whatever else.

Such a notion should be rejected at once. It directly implies that the Being was/is not Intelligent enough to create a universe where proteins, eyes and everything else would indeed come out of a natural mechanism such as Evolution.

It all becomes clearer once we stop separating “natural” from “God-made”. Such a step should be quite easy for a religious type.

Therefore: since God is designing the whole of nature, including all “natural mechanisms”, what prevents Him from making evolution a natural process, using a rather more elegant solution than having to clumsily get any or all parts, big and small, made on purpose?

And think again of the eye: ID proponents say it is “too complex to have evolved on its own“. It’s them putting some kind of limitation to what God could and could not do.

That’s blasphemy: the implication that God would not be able to devise something called “evolution”, and had/has to intervene “personally” in the making up of new species.

Au contraire: the Theory of Evolution is so much more compatible than ID with the whole idea of an Omnipotent God.

The Intelligent Being, if any exists, has created us with a clear instant-by-instant perception of time flowing in a particular direction. This applies presumably to all creatures on Earth. Why not use that constraint then in designing and implementing them all?

===============

Catholic circles especially in Rome are unwisely toying with the idea of discounting the Theory of Evolution anyway, as it would confine God “to just lighting the blue touch paper for the Big Bang“. Furthermore, if natural selection works with random steps, there it goes the “unique, God-given role in the animal kingdom” for the human species, especially favoured by Pope Benedict XVI.

These arguments should be aired after extremely careful consideration. First of all, as reported by The Economist, there is no point in devaluing the Church by letting it proclaim things that are manifestly false (a warning first made by St. Augustine).

As for the “blue touch paper“: the question is ill-posed. Even if the Universe has been created to follow Natural Laws such as Evolution, there is enough built-in uncertainty, such as in Quantum Physics, to allow any Creator to tinker at His pleasure.

Finally, regarding man’s unique role, I would rather promote more humility.

It makes little sense to try to defend one’s standing when the counterpart is… God!

Categories
Culture English Future History Humanity Philosophy Sociology

Reasons To Be Optimist

Early XX century: millions in Europe dream of a bright future of “continuous progress”.

They will confidently march towards their deaths in the fields of the First World War.

Early XXI century: millions in Europe can only imagine a nightmare future of environmental and social catastrophes…

Categories
catastrophism Climate Change English Environment NYRB Science

My Correction Printed on the New York Review of Books

I had sent a rather longer letter on March 15 but I appreciate their honesty in recognizing their mistake.

The New York Review of Books
Volume 54, Number 8 · May 10, 2007
Letter – CORRECTIONS By The Editors – In response to Warning on Warming (March 15, 2007)

In Bill McKibben’s “Warning on Warming” [NYR, March 15], the caption to the two photographs of the Upsala Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina, taken in 1928 and 2004 should have said that most of the glacier visible in the 1928 photograph had melted by 2004. Today the glacier still covers over eight hundred square kilometers.

Categories
Astronomy & Space China CNSA English Moon NASA

Return to the Moon – a Guessing Game

It was refreshing to see Dwayne A. Day start his “Outpost on a desolate land” article with pragmatic words about calendar slippages in NASA’s return to the moon (on the British Interplanetary Society’s “Spaceflight” magazine, May 2007).

One has just to look at the history of the Space Shuttle and then the International Space Station, compared to the Apollo project, to understand that big space projects without fixed deadlines will cost a lot more than anticipated, and achieve (much later) a lot less.

Some say that’s the way Governments work.

Is there perhaps a case for launching a “Moon Landing” competition, with a prize for whomever will guess the date of the “seventh American landing” (and another for the “first Chinese landing”)?

My entries are the following:

a. Without another Space Race, NASA will finally land again on the Moon on July 11, 2069 (mostly, to avoid feeling ashamed of themselves)

b. With a Space Race with the Chinese, American astronauts will walk on the Moon around July 11, 2029

c. Chinese taikonauts, if things get serious, will reach the Moon around July 2027

Nothing to be enthusiastic about, but what’s the point of deluding ourselves into believing that things will be any faster?

Unless there is some major breakthrough in commercial space activities beyond LEO…

Categories
English Ethics Humanity Star Trek

Spock’s Principle: The Many, The Few, The One

or…”Ethics and Emotions

There’s been quite some interest in new scientific evidence about “the Heart ruling the Head“. But I haven’t read any mention of its extreme consequence: the extraordinary, apparently illogical moral code we reserve for the special persons in our life.

A new study published in Nature has hinted on the fact that ethical decisions are a combination of emotional and rational choices:

[Some] philosophers […] psychologists and neuroscientists [argue that] when faced with a moral dilemma […] we rely on emotional reactions as well as our powers of reasoning. In a study of brain damage […] neuroscientists report evidence that emotions indeed exert a powerful influence on moral judgments.

Paradoxically, of all the fictional characters ever imagined, the one that comes nearest to declare as much is logic-fixated Mr. Spock, when in the second Star Trek movie uses this line to justify his sacrifice to save others:

“the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.”

In fact, one can easily follow the reasoning about “the many” vs. “the few”…but was there any need to specify “the one“?

=============

There was. Because it’s easy to speak in general terms, but much more difficult if we are personally involved in the outcome.

For example, more or less everybody will declare that bringing down an airplane of 100 is morally justifiable if such an action will save the life of 4,000 (even if the German Constitutional Court was not impressed by similar thoughts last year). It is much harder if not impossible to follow the same line of thought, when the plane is carrying is one of your special Ones, a close friend or family member.

Who could honestly say that they’d kill without any doubt or ado their mother or son or husband or daughter or father or wife, or best friend?

Even when things may rationally be clear-cut, we are likely to end up emotionally scarred. In the movie I, Robot Will Smith’s character Del Spooner cannot bear the thought of having been rescued by a robot that abandoned a little girl instead on the basis of survival chances: a little girl that became for a few, very important moments the One for Spooner.

Is this because of innate tribal solidarity? Would life be bearable otherwise? Whatever the reason, we are indeed hard-wired to this apparently “irrational” behaviour. And so, in the third Star Trek movie, Kirk tells the resurrected Spock how little he actually cares about the latter’s original thought.

Because the needs of the One really outweigh “the needs of the many“.

(this expands on my previous blog The One And The Many – The Truth Behind Spock’s Principle)

Categories
Astronomy & Space English Journalism NASA Space UK

The Average Brit Flying to Work at 18,000mph

So what is my local car rental manager doing, parading in NASA coveralls in London’s Queen Mary University Theatre in late November 2006?

No, wait: it must be Gary Lineker, guest speaker of the British Interplanetary Society, with a 8’-by-5’ poster of Saturn and the secret aim of taking chips and sweets from the noisy local student contingent.

Or…is that a bird? Is that a plane? No, it’s Piers J. Sellers, Ph.D., former Global Warming researcher and now Space Shuttle crew member and quasi-UK Astronaut Extraordinaire (“quasi” as UK persons need opt for a different citizenship to work in Earth orbit).

Sellers, born in Sussex in 1955 but now an American citizen, is following up his July STS-121 mission with a UK trip that has generated good-natured interest in the press, and even some air time on BBC Radio4’s Today.

Luckily (for Sellers) and blissfully (for all of us), Sellers’ Shuttle trip companion astronaut Lisa M. Nowak hasn’t yet destroyed her career by wearing nappies for a 1,000-mile drive to pepper-spray a love rival in February 2007.

And so instead of a sex scandal, the talk is about the less risky enterprise called space travel, as told by a bloke so average in appearance and so relaxed about himself to make taciturn Neil Armstrong a veritable space alien.

Aliens won’t invade us, because [on streets like Mile End Road] they can’t find where to park”: Sellers is definitely no warplane pilot turned moonwalker spiritualist. He’s “simply” a space walker, slightly “disoriented” only by the first sight of the white-and-blue jewel called Earth.

His description of the piling up of task upon task may sound familiar to office workers the world over. Still, very few of those usually validate if their cubicles will destroy during atmospheric re-entry, as Sellers and the rest of the STS-121 crew did after the Columbia tragedy of February 2003 and the half-botched first “return-to-flight” mission of STS-114 in July 2005.

A NASA video hints at the peculiarities of working in space. First of all there is nobody within a 3-mile radius of a ready-to-start Space Shuttle: and for good reason, as the bunch of aviation and navy pilots, space commanders and Ph.D’s collectively called “astronauts” are literally sitting on top of a giant bomb hoping it will explode in a controlled manner, pushing them upwards and forwards rather than into smithereens..

There is lots of sound and bouncing at lift-off. Somebody touches a control button, but Sellers reassures “We were just pretending to work. The launch [really] blew me away.” Orbital life is a piece of cake in comparison, with a couple of days of procedures to proceed and checklists to check, before approaching the International Space Station at the snail-like pace of 1m/sec (a little more than 2 miles an hour).

The video recording moves on to Lisa Nowak working with a large boom, at the time not to threaten a love rival but to move cargo to the Station with fellow astronaut-ess Stephanie Wilson, and then finally on mission day five maneuvering Sellers and colleague Michael Fossum locked on top of a 100-foot pole.

Sellers recounts a few funny details. For example, even in the most comfortable spacesuit one better gets used to spending up to ten hours without luxuries such as toilet breaks and nose scratching. And so a big deal of one’s resting time is spent cleaning up bodily odours and outpours from the spacesuit (no mention of any solution to the nose itching problem).

Furthermore, gloves for orbital work are more apt for a The Thing impersonation from the Fantastic Four, and so one handles multi-million-dollar wrenches knowing some will drop on their own sidereal orbit. Last but not least, one gets occasionally stuck in a phone-boot-like airlock for more than one hour.

Back inside the spaceship, in-between risky zero-g adventures with M&M’s of all things, one can look forward to a “shower” of damp cloths, a dinner of bland food and a night chained to a bed (kinky orbital fun, anybody?). Ah, and the toilet has a noisy fan and too thin a door really.

After some four days of that, it’s time to pull the jet brakes on the Shuttle (“feeling like on a truck slowing down”, Sellers remembers) to start the “unforgiving landing sequence”, after gulping in a disgusting salty drink designed to help the body readjust to Earthly life.

Outside the vehicle, “cherry-red windows” show the same tongues of fire that consumed the unfortunate Columbia astronauts a mere three-and-a-half years earlier. Falling almost helplessly, the Space Shuttle is somehow guided without engines to a hard touchdown, at the end of which gravity is felt like having “brick on the shoulders”.

Still Sellers opines, “The real dangerous bit is the lift-off.” No need to remind anybody of the crew of six that died on the 1986 Challenger accident, during the ascent phase.

Has Sellers got any chance of going back to the Space Station? “Sure. There is plenty of work available,” he answers. “Perhaps there will be 15 missions with 7 astronauts each between now and 2010.” Such chances are presumably slightly larger now than Ms. Nowak has been removed from NASA’s roster.

Before a strange, nostalgically catchy set of photographs of Seller’s mission is shown to the tune of Coldplay’s “Speed of Sound”, the evening fades away in a torrent of questions about medical facilities (“We can’t do heart transplants in space as yet”); rubbish management (“Thrown overboard”); launch delays (“Frustrating”); the justification for space budgets (“The money is spent on Earth”); and Orion, the Space Shuttle replacement (“Safer and cheaper and brings us back to the Moon”).

There! Has anybody else caught the tiny sparkle in Sellers’ voice when mentioning future manned Lunar exploration? Who knows, by 2025 the UK government may have found the negligible additional resources to fund a trip to the Moon for a couple of lucky British passport holders.

For the time being, I better check if my local car rental manager has moved to Houston.

Categories
Climate Change English Philosophy Politics Skepticism

About Intellectual Dishonesty

Recently, concentration-camp doubter David Irving moved to a different table rather than have lunch with a Shoah survivor. As Leo Tolstoy (may have) said:

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.

Yet, there is a straightforward way out of intellectual dishonesty: and it is to declare publicly under which circumstances one will agree to change one’s mind and conclusions.

This tells healthy skepticism from denial and close-mindedness.

And it applies to all sorts of circumstances. For example, try asking a person that doesn’t believe people landed on the Moon in 1969, what kind of proof he or she will accept, to change their mind…

======================

Myself, I will convert to the Climate Change scenario, as soon as any part of the world climate will change in a manner as significant, say, as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

And I will be convinced of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) when that change will happen in ways that are overwhelmingly explained with increases in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

In fact, it’s been a couple of years since I have asked, even on pro-AGW sites such as RealClimate, for anybody able to point me to any recent “change” in climate, of any sort but not just in temperatures, apart from known natural variability factors such as, of course, the NAO.

I am still waiting…

And I am still waiting for pro-AGW campaigners (and Moon-landing doubters) to explain what if anything would change their minds.

If nothing will, the only wise choice is to abandon them to their lives of self-deception.

Categories
Climate Change English Environment Taxes UK

Gordon Brown’s Not-so-Green Car Tax

There is something rather fishy about Gordon Brown, the UK Treasury/Finance Minister, increasing taxes for larger cars from £200 this year to £300, then next year to £400 (a little less than $800) “to combat greenhouse gas emissions”.

Who in their right mind will be deterred by a £400/year car tax after having bought, say, a £40,000 Land Rover???

On the other hand, if Brown had raised taxes to £3,000 or more, there would have been just too many brand new cars suddenly destined to be recycled (or sold to places with lower taxation): hard to see the greenery of that situation.

Perhaps it could have made more sense to introduce a £3,000+ yearly tax on new large cars: like a “buy at your own risk” alert for everybody thinking of getting a pickup truck.

Or maybe not: the unintended consequence would be to keep old cars on UK roads…

The whole thing will just end up as a boost for the UK Treasury, with no discernible advantage on the CO2 emissions side.

—————–

Methinks the old tax of £200 was just too cheap. But fellow big-car drivers are the first victims of the Anthropogenic Global Warming steamroller, that provide the likes of Brown with the excuses necessary to sneak in tax increases of all sorts.

Anyway, I suggest drivers of smaller cars to refrain from schadenfreude, drawing pleasures from so-called gas guzzlers’ misfortunes.  

AGW hysteria will soon hit your wallets too.

Categories
Climate Change English Science Scientific American

Controversy-free Scientific American

On the Scientific American (SciAm) web site, George Musser has recently posted a blog “Please Stop Talking About the Global Warming Consensus“.

IMNSHO Musser is on the right path to an “undestanding” of the huge issue caused by Holier-Than-Thou attitudes used by environmental activists to effectively undermine their own work and aims (alas, just as by a lot of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)-concerned climate scientists).

The last thing the AGW debate needs now is any hint of debate-stifling.

============

Anyway, the above reminded me of my main criticism of SciAm: namely, how hard it is to find the magazine putting forward non-conformist scientific views.

One wonders if the Editors are pursuing the misguided goal of trying to prop up Science against the Forces of Obscurantism, and in the process anything not smelling of 100% scientific mainstream is left out in the cold.

If anybody wants to know a couple of articles that should have been on SciAm, here they are:

(1) Terry L. Hunt, “Rethinking the Fall of Easter Island“, American Scientist, September-October 2006

New evidence points to an alternative explanation for a civilization’s collapse

(2) Richard Seager, “The Source of Europe’s Mild Climate“, American Scientist, July-August 2006

The notion that the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe anomalously warm turns out to be a myth

(3) Carl Wunsch, “The Myth of Gulf Stream Shutdown” (expanded from a Letter by Wunsch published on The Economist)

Obviously one could simply get a subscription to American Scientist but that’s besides the point. My question is: have the SciAm people (the Editors that is) become simply too buttoned up? Is SciAm in danger of drowning in a sea of “consensus”?

Categories
BBC British Airways Business English UK

BBC: Last for News

Either the people at BBC News are having a Seriously Bad Monday, or there is something fishy in the relationship between the BBC and British Airways.

(Alternatively: here some evidence of BBC incompetence and tardiness:)

British Airways has been forced to reveal that there is free upgrade to First Class available for you and your family, if you happen to die during the flight.

As of now (10:30AM GMT) , such piece of… news is absent from BBC News.

According to Google News, it is appearing in 45 other news outlets on the web, first of which was 21 hours ago.

====================

I always find it suspect that the BBC News web site mostly finds lead stories in the morning, rather than randomly during the day. So much for being a leader in web-based news provision. The first-class-corpse episode just will make things look even odder…

As for Brutish Airways, why oh why am I not surprised to find them out once again with procedures taking precedence over common sense?

Categories
catastrophism Climate Change Earth English Environment Science

Gulf Stream Myths

Myth #1: The Gulf Stream will fail if a massive outpour of freshwater will come out of Greenland glaciers due to increasing temperatures.

Answer: No, it most definitely will not. As explained by Carl Wunsch, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at the MIT in Cambridge, Mass. (USA), in a letter published on The Economist:

The Gulf Stream is a wind-driven phenomenon (as explained in a famous 1948 paper by Henry Stommel). […] Shut-off would imply repeal of the law of conservation of angular momentum […] focusing on near-impossible Gulf Stream failure is an unproductive distraction

Myth #2: The Gulf Stream is responsible for the milder weather in the United Kingdom and part of Northern Europe than North American regions at similar latitudes.

Answer: No, it most definitely does not. As explained by Richard Seager, Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in an article published on American Scientist:

That the Gulf Stream is responsible for Europe’s mild winters is […] nothing more than the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend.

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Seager’s comments are particularly telling on how current Climatology is self-destroying by way of catastrophism:

Pretty much everything we had found could have been concluded on the basis of results that were already available […]

All Battisti and I did was put these pieces of evidence together and add in a few more illustrative numerical experiments. Why hadn’t anyone done that before? […] The blame lies with modern-day climate scientists who either continue to promulgate the Gulf Stream-climate myth or who decline to clarify the relative roles of atmosphere and ocean in determining European climate. This abdication of responsibility leaves decades of folk wisdom unchallenged, still dominating the front pages, airwaves and Internet, ensuring that a well-worn piece of climatological nonsense will be passed down to yet another generation.

Categories
Climate Change English Environment Geography Letters NYRB Skepticism

Misleading Pictures, Wrong Caption…

And so once more Global Warming has meant the publication of misleading pictures, with a wrong caption…why oh why does the mere mention of AGW force so many otherwise thoughtful and wise people to switch their brains off?

Here a “Letter to the Editors” just sent to the New York Review Of Books:

Dear Editors

Clarifications and at least one correction are required about the pictures of the Upsala Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina, “from Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006)”, on the first page of Bill McKibben’s “Warning on Warming” (NYRB, March 15, 2007).

At the top, the 1928 photograph of a vast flat glacier; at the bottom, the 2004 ice-free landscape as captured from a similar vantage point as the one 76 years earlier (at least two peaks are clearly distinguishable).

I was surprised indeed to see the New York Review of Books reproduce without much commentary and with a wrong caption a couple of photographs that may turn out to be exceedingly misleading.

(A) CORRECTION

First of all: the caption is wrong. Contrarily to the published text, it is _not true_ that by 2004, “most of the glacier had melted“.

Upsala Glacier still occupies well in excess of 850 sq km (330+ sq mi), an area vastly larger than the one covered by the photographs.

You can see pictures of Upsala taken from the Space Shuttle in January 2004 at the NASA website.

A discussion of the situation 2001-2004 is available on the same site.

================

(B) CLARIFICATIONS

If one could rely on photographs alone, those of Upsala could be the definitive, final, closing, incontrovertible evidence that something has warmed up during the XX century, at least at the location of the Upsala Glacier.

Pictures, however, are not everything, as any modern consumer must have learnt one way or another by now.

Do some little research about Upsala, in fact, and more than one doubt arises about the glacier’s changes having not been mostly caused by warming, global or local or otherwise.

They may be the result instead of the behavior of a large glacier when subjected to particular mechanical stresses.

See for example “Historic Fluctuations of Outlet Glaciers from the Patagonian Ice Fields” at the USGS web site.

That web site reports a picture from “Thinning and retreating of Glaciar Upsala, and an estimate of annual ablation changes in southern Patagonia“, by R. Naruse, P. Skvarca and Y. Takeuchi (Annals of Glaciology, Vol. 24, 1997).

In that paper, it is suggested that “considerable retreat due to calving may have resulted in reduction of longitudinal compressive stress exerted from bedrock rises and islands near the glacier front, causing a considerable decrease in the emergence flow.”

R. Naruse repeated similar considerations at the 2nd International Symposium on Arctic and Antarctic Issues, at Punta Arenas, Chile, in November 1998 (“Dynamic features of glaciers in Patagonia“).

More recently, in “Recent behavior of Glaciar Upsala, a fast-flowing calving glacier in Lago Argentino, southern Patagonia” (Annals of Glaciology, 36, 2003), P. Skvarca, B. Raup and H. De Angelis proposed again that “drastic glacier retreat in the last two decades” may be explained “partly due to the release of back stress when the glacier retreated beyond the islands in Brazo Upsala […] which acted as pinning points.”

You can also read an earlier paper by Mr Skvarca: “Significant Ice Retreat in the Region Patagonia – Antarctic Peninsula Observed by ERS SAR” (ESA ERS 1997 Workshop, 1997) by H. Rott, W. Rack, M. Stuefer and P. Skvarca:

It cannot yet be assessed if the ice retreat in Patagonia […] indicates just regional changes of the atmospheric circulation patterns or can be assigned to global climatic change.”

Last but not least, Upsala is not the only glacier in Patagonia.

Surely if the dramatic retreat of Upsala were related to global warming, all the other glaciers would be retreating too? And yet that is clearly not the case.

Read “Recent Fluctuations and Damming of Glacier Perito Moreno, Patagonia” by H. Rott, M. Stuefer, T. Nagler and C. Riedl (ESA Envisat and ERS 2004 Symposium):

The satellite data, in synergy with field measurements, confirm the stability of the [Perito Moreno] glacier, showing only minor front fluctuations and indicating an approximately balanced mass budget since many years.”

Furthermore, they report the Pio XI glacier as having experienced a “net advance of about 10 km […] from 1945 to 1995“.

=================

Some revealing considerations should be made about Perito Moreno glacier indeed, the advancing glacier whose pictures have been used by Frank Capra in 1958 and by Al Gore in 2006 to demonstrate the retreat of glaciers due to global warming: but those will have to wait for a future article or letter.

For the time being, I am confident the above makes the main points clear:

(1) Most of the Upsala glacier has not melted.

(2) The Upsala glacier 1928-2004 pictures can only be seriously understood with an in-depth commentary of what is being shown, including “what lies beneath”.

And there are all the indications that the local characteristics of the terrain, rather than “Global Warming”, have had a major role in what has been happening.

======================

Given the reputation of the New York Review of Books then, I will be expecting a prompt publication of this letter and of all the necessary explanations.

Keep up the good work

Regards

Maurizio Morabito

UPDATE: The NYRB went only as far as admitting the caption was wrong (read it here)…

Categories
Climate Change English International Herald Tribune Letters

Global Warming Overkill – My Letter on the IHT

For the 12th time, the International Herald Tribune has published a letter by Yours Truly.

As usual, here the text as printed in the newspaper, followed by my original message.

Letter on the IHT:

Global warming overkill (March 8 )

I have been rather disappointed by your three-part “Global warming, land by land” commentaries (March 5).

In “Losing Bangladesh, by degrees,” Tahmima Anam barely mentions the country’s real problems — poverty and overpopulation. We may discuss which one generates the other, but the main issue is not global warming. It’s Bangladesh’s inability to cope with any change.

In “While Australia burns,” Iain McCalman makes the flimsiest of connections to global warming. We barely get a hint of the fact that Australia’s environment has been shaped by thousands of years of fires, independent of any recent climatic change.

Finally, “Memories of a colder Iceland” by Kristin Steinsdottir appears to be an exercise in self-delusion. We are treated to a series of Icelandic climatic quirks and changes, but, for no apparent reason, they are ominously linked to global warming.

If you wanted to demonstrate that global warming is an all-encompassing Mother of All Evils that risks distracting us from real issues, impeding our understanding of nature, you have been successful.

Maurizio Morabito, England

Original:

Dear Editors

I have been rather disappointed by your choice of Opinions for page 6 of the IHT on March 5 (“Global Warming, land by land”).

In “Losing Bangladesh, by degrees“, Tahmima Anam barely mentions the real problems of that country: poverty, and overpopulation. We may discuss which one generates the other, but the main issue is not “Global Warming”: rather, Bangladesh’s inability to cope with _any_ change.

In “While Australia Burns” Iain McCalman makes the flimsiest of connections to “Global Warming”. Again, we barely get a hint of the fact that the Australian natural environment has been shaped by thousands of years of fires, independently of any recent climatic change.

Finally, “Memories of a colder Iceland” by Kristin Steinsdottir appears to be an exercise in self-delusion. Just like years ago everybody seemed to be developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, nowadays everybody can feel “Global Warming” in anything that can happen. In the case of Ms. Steinsdottir, we are treated to a series of Icelandic climatic quirks and changes, but still for no apparent reason whatsoever they are ominously linked to “Global Warming”.

Not sure what you had in mind when designing that page. Anyway, you have been very successful if all you wanted to demonstrate was that “Global Warming” is an all-encompassing Mother of All Evils that risks distracting us from the real issues, impeding our understanding of nature, and in general consigning us all to a depressing, self-castrating mood.

Categories
catastrophism Earth English Overpopulation

Sustainable People

Planet-wide Overpopulation?

(a) Acres needed to feed a person at US dietary standards = 1.2 (= 0.49 hectares)

(b) # of people = 6.5 billions

(c) Land needed to feed them = (a) * (b) = 31.5 million sq km

(d) Land available = 74 million sq km (from Wikipedia = half of the planet’s “dry” land area)

—-> “Current occupation index” = (c) / (d) = 42.4%

In other words, even if all humans were fed according to US dietary standards, there would be space for 15 billion people.

Even by being very conservative on the figures, it is hard to imagine why the planet would not be able to feed 10 or 12 billion humans.

==============

Interestingly, in an article published in Nature (“The end of world population growth” Nature 412, 543-545, August 2001), Lutz et al. forecast a maximum of 8 billion people, around 2075.

And I haven’t even mentioned likely, incremental agricultural improvements.

Planet-wide Overpopulation, then? Not at all.

And there goes another myth of contemporary catastrophism…

Categories
catastrophism Climate Change English Policy Politics

Blair and Gore Cannot Be Wrong on Climate Change

UK PM Tony Blair, former US VP Al Gore and so many other politicians: why have they been so eager to jump on the Climate-Change-is-Humanity’s-Fault bandwagon?

A cynical explanation is in order: because they can’t lose by joining in.

They risk losing a lot instead, by staying out.

In fact, if (a) they can appear to be doing something about Human-induced Climate Change (CC):

  • a1. If CC doesn’t happen, they will claim victoryor
  • a2. If CC does happen, they will blame us all for not trying hard enough, and introduce ever harsher policies in order to… appear to be doing something about CC

On the other hand, the opposite position, of (b) publicly expressing doubts that Climate Change is caused by humans if it is happening at all, will mean:

  • b1. If CC doesn’t happen, they will claim victory, but
  • b2. If CC does happen, they will be blamed by us all for not trying hard enough

Worse, as climate is bound to naturally change if we just observe it for long enough a time, the “If CC doesn’t happen” options are simply immaterial.

It is self-evident then that (a) provides unlimited reward and no risk, while (b) vice-versa carries little reward and career-breaking risks.

Only naive or honest politicians, provided they exist, will refrain from shouting that Humanity is bound to destroy the planet by overheating it with carbon dioxide.

If anybody believes that the above is going to inspire good policies, I’ve got a bridge to sell them

(blog inspired by messages on the Climate Sceptics mailing list)