Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Disappointment with Russia

This is a little bit of a tale. It's a personal tale in the end and it's a tale that since it's being written by an American is supposed to have a sacchrine sweet ending. It doesn't. In fact, it seems that it has a very disappointing and depressing end to the tale. It's open ended, but there's such forewshadowing of doom at the latest chapter that it ought to make the reader see that there's probably little hope. Perhaps though the reason for this is while the tale is being chronicled by an American, it's not really an American tale. It's a Russian one.

Back in the 1990s, after the shock and uncertianty of the collapse of the Soviet Union had abated, I had a few different surprises in my communications with Russians and encounters with them. I was young and uber naive, but the Russians that I met and talked to were often quite friendly and intelligent. They weren't the vodka swilling, dour villians that I had been expecting. Rather they tended to be jovial, impish, and friendly. And intelligent. And just plain fun to be with. Alexei, Sergei, and others were fun to be with and around. They seemed so interested in the future without recrimination or anger over the Cold War that I was swung around from previous stances about them to genuinely liking them. It's not that unique a pattern. Old prejudices for people are often overcome by being exposed to positive representatives of the Alien. I always knew that they were people, but I didn't realize that we had as much in common as we do. I then took an interest in the xUSSR in a more positive light.

That's when I started being distressed. The Russian economy was in the tank. And it looked to be getting worse. People had stopped having children. Organized crime in Russia made the attempts at it here in the States and in Italy look like pail wannabe attempts instead. I kept wondering where Yeltsin, the energetic young leader that stared down the coup plotters and then marginalized Gorbachev, really was. Additionally, the technology of Russia was behind, at best, yet I kept encountering individuals online - I know, bad me - that kept talking of magitech that would pwnd anything that the West had, especially you obnoxious Americans! Even more troubling than a few kooks was the fact that the Russians started worrying about NATO expanding east. Then there was Kosovo. At that point, I began to wonder if the truth to some of my old suspicions and concerns.

However, I kept the hope that Russia was just going through a rough patch because they were transitioning from the totalitarianist regimes of the Soviet Union to democracy. It looked depressing and over time I thought it would last quite a while. Probably until the last of the old leaders and memories of the Soviet Union had faded away. At that same time I kept thinking that with aid from the West, opening of the markets to Russian goods and vice versa, capitalism in action, all those wonderfully bright people and all those reasources at hand, they'd pull through and join the West as they should have been for the past century. Indeed, even with the protestations about NATO, I had hoped that Russia would join that alliance as a full partner and even the European Union as a full member.

A good friend of mine and I had even had a long talk about this prior to me coming to the SF Bay Area. He saw Putin getting elected as an embracing of the very people that had been pushed out of power and into the criminal element. A bringing them in from the dark, you might say, that would help heal the rifts of Russia at least to some extents and reduce the gawdawful crime. After all, all the people that had been the best and brightest were told everything they'd done and would do was junk prior...and then they were brought back in. I ought to have thought those words through more and not been so accepting of the 'fact' there was 'democracy' in Russia. The truth then wouldn't have been so painful these days. However, before the truth would out and my crushing depression with respect to Russia consume my thoughts of that nation, there would be a whole 'nother step to take place. That would be three months after moving from New Mexico to the Bay Area when the apalling moments of 9/11 would come crashing into our world.

At that point, Russia and the world stood with we, the Americans, to go do a take down on those murdering terrorists. I thought at that moment that Russia was truly, finally, joined us in the West. Here we stood, together, the greatest nations, indeed, nigh on all the nations, to bring down a malignancy that threatened us all. Rahrah! Yet I should have taken into account Putin. I never stared into his eyes and saw his soul, but just reading his own words and watching his actions since Russia started making so much money from the increased oil prices was more than sufficient. No one took into acount Putin. Or Putin's soul.

To take him into account and see him for him, you have to think as he does, and one thing has come through in his own words, jujitsu is a nontrivial part of personal philosophy. He even goes on to say that you need to use a person's strength against him in the authorized biographies. Think about that for a moment. That tells me a lot. In fact, it's exactly what he's down with the US. And Shrub.

Once we were off tied up in two wars - Afghanistan and Iraq - and the oil wealth began to flow into Russia, Putin suddenly saw weakness, began beating his drum, and showed his true colors. Would he have tried the Gas War with Ukraine's Western leaning politicians if he didn't think that the United States was in a very weakened position to respond? Or would he be threatening Poland and the Czech Republic over a very few antiballistic missiles? Or that the two people he's putting forward as his annointed succesors are rabidly anti-West, especially anti-America! Would he have tried desperately with the aid of China to try to leverage the US out of Central Asia especially since our bases there are nearly useless against Russia or China? Or would he have repeatedly found ways to abrogate agreements with Western companies and force them out of the country? Or ban all those NGOs? Or appoint the formerly elected governors of the regions of Russia? The list goes on.

The fact of the matter is that there's no democracy in Russia. Its a sham. Read Putin's own words and you can see even he getting into the Presidency had little or nothing to do with democracy. His annointment of successors makes it even worse. The election will at best be a sham. More likely they wouldn't even have anything close to outside monitoring since that would be 'foreign influence'. Putin is even talking of rewriting history to his tastes, with more favourable textbooks. I guess Big Brother never left the building after all.

I mean, consider what should have been: even with the worst demographics of the next century, Rusia would have been the single most populous country in the EU. It's representation in the EU parliament would have been greater than Germany, France, or Britain. It would have been one of the most, if not the most influential nations therein. As an EU member they would have had part of the great eurozone economy, which is doing rather well over time. As a NATO member, their defense would have assured and they would have gained access to all that the West had to offer militarily. Protected and integrated they would have been a fantastic place to do business with, been allies with, and even politic with. Yet, that was the dream and dream it will remain. A bitter and rapidly fading dream at that.

Putin and his potential successors have made it clear: the sad and depresisng truth of the matter is that Russia is on course to try to be our enemy again. It is certainly not our friend.

At Home Today

Avrora has a fever. It's not huge but she's fussy and sick. We're doing our part to limit biological exposure to everyone else in her daycare. :S

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Step Closer to "It Flies? It Dies!"

The JHPSSL program is focused on building a 100kw laser for force protection and strike missions such as wide-area, ground-based defense against rockets, artillery, and mortars; precision strike missions for airborne platforms, and shipboard defense against cruise missiles.

A reliable, durable, easily portable - as in mountable on a vehicle - high energy laser will be something that's going to shake up a lot. There will be issues with using it inside a city during an occupation - very important that - but as far as an active battlefield? It's going to make taking potshots at troops a whole lot economic. Ditto for aircraft.

While this doesn't help much with the IED issue, another laser-sensor combo that is being worked on has already been demonstrated in the lab: a laser spectrometer. I've been loking for recent news of it, but a quick google is failing me. hmm. I'll search again later.

Semi Paleo Question

My blog has been paleo light lately. I have some posts that I want to get out,, but simply haven't had the time. Thank GPFS, SLES 10, my obnoxious workstation, and Cray for that (though not all together and not at the same time). However, a thought did cross my mind multiple times and been reminded back again after I watched the Bone Diggers on Nova last night. It's pretty simple, but something I think would be fun to bandy about a bit.

Fast forward about 30 million years. WAIT! Yes, this is a paleo post. Or rather, this is question for the paleo types that read at least occasionally this blog. You see, you've working to uncover a lot of fossils from what would have been our time. Perhaps you are human back from the stars. Perhaps you are some other form of intelligence. It really doesn't matter that much. Just assume, for a moment, that you are working under the the same assumptions that you are now - humor me - wrt to classifying fossils. That said...

One area that you are working you're finding a lot of skeletons. It's not the large biped found elsewhere (if you're an alien or a forgetful post or transhuman), but rather there are a lot of carnivorous quadrupeds. They seem related, but they come in all shapes and sizes. From very small to quite large. Would you ever guess that in reality despite that the fact that they are so polymorphic that it was a single species?

If you haven't guessed it by now, I'd be shocked, but I am talking about dogs. The thought occurred to be that even while using cladistics, you would realize that they were relatives, but I've got a hunch that they would be classified as a myriad of species. At least from the paleontologist POV.

Am I wrong?

So, in turn, asking the bio types, in reality are they? After all, isn't a Great Dane going to be mildly reproductively isolated from, oh, a Chihuahua?

Just asking.

What Would Happen Faster If Immigration Was Tightened

As if the debate over immigration and guest worker programs wasn't complicated enough, now a couple of robots are rolling into the middle of it.

Vision Robotics, a San Diego company, is working on a pair of robots that would trundle through orchards plucking oranges, apples or other fruit from the trees. In a few years, troops of these machines could perform the tedious and labor-intensive task of fruit picking that currently employs thousands of migrant workers each season.

The robotic work has been funded entirely by agricultural associations, and pushed forward by the uncertainty surrounding the migrant labor force. Farmers are "very, very nervous about the availability and cost of labor in the near future," says Vision Robotics CEO Derek Morikawa.


[I]t wasn't just technological challenges that held back previous attempts at building a mechanical harvester –- politics got involved, too. Cesar Chavez, the legendary leader of the United Farm Workers, began a campaign against mechanization back in 1978.

Chavez was outraged that the federal government was funding research and development on agricultural machines, but not spending any money to aid the farm workers who would be displaced. In the '80s, that simmering anger merged with a growing realization that the technology was nowhere near ready, and government funding dried up.

This time around, growers' associations are funding the research. By the end of this year, the orange growers will have invested almost $1 million in the project, says Ted Baskin, president of the California Citrus Research Board. He estimates that it will take about $5 million more to get to the finished product.

The farmers are willing to pay up because they've been rattled by a labor shortage over the past few years -- California growers tell horror stories of watching their fruit rot on the trees as they waited for the picking crews to arrive. Last fall, growers rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol, frustrated that Congress still hadn't created a program to ease the passage of foreign guest workers across the Mexico border.

With the supply-and-demand equation uncertain, growers see the robots as a better option. "You can predict what it's going to cost to buy a machine and maintain it," says Baskin. "You can't predict the bargaining that we go through with contract labor," he says.

There are two industries that are stronger attractors for people here in California that are illegal immigrants: agricultural and construction. If we were able to automate the these jobs then we would greatly reduce the pull factor of illegal immigration. To be sure, not end it since there are also the lower paying factory jobs and horrifyingly paying Walmartesque ones as well, but it would be a way of reducing it in a nontrivial way. Technology can and does impact society.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Not So High Without the Heat

A University of Utah study shows how various regions of North America are kept afloat by heat within Earth’s rocky crust, and how much of the continent would sink beneath sea level if not for heat that makes rock buoyant.

Of coastal cities, New York City would sit 1,427 feet under the Atlantic, Boston would be 1,823 feet deep, Miami would reside 2,410 feet undersea, New Orleans would be 2,416 underwater and Los Angeles would rest 3,756 feet beneath the Pacific.

Mile-high Denver’s elevation would be 727 feet below sea level and Salt Lake City, now about 4,220 feet, would sit beneath 1,293 feet of water. But high-elevation areas of the Rocky Mountains between Salt Lake and Denver would remain dry land.

“If you subtracted the heat that keeps North American elevations high, most of the continent would be below sea level, except the high Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascade Range,” says study co-author Derrick Hasterok, a University of Utah doctoral student in geology and geophysics.

“We have shown for the first time that temperature differences within the Earth’s crust and upper mantle explain about half of the elevation of any given place in North America,” with most of the rest due to differences in what the rocks are made of, says the other co-author, David Chapman, a professor of geology and geophysics, and dean of the University of Utah Graduate School.

People usually think of elevations being determined by movements of “tectonic plates” of Earth’s crust, resulting in volcanism, mountain-building collisions of crustal plates, stretching apart and sinking of inland basins, and sinking or “subduction” of old seafloor. But Hasterok and Chapman say those tectonic forces act through the composition and temperature of rock they move. So as crustal plates collide to form mountains like the Himalayas, the mountains rise because the collision makes less dense crustal rock get thicker and warmer, thus more buoyant.

The study – published online in the June issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth – is more than just an entertaining illustration of how continents and mountains like the Rockies are kept afloat partly by heat from Earth’s deep interior and heat from radioactive decay of uranium, thorium and potassium in Earth’s crust.

So were we not under that plume during the Creaceous or did it abate somehow that would cause all those transgressive seas?

Report: S Korea Extracts Methane Hyrdrate

South Korea has extracted gas hydrate — an alternative fuel source Seoul hopes might help reduce its heavy dependance on oil imports — in its eastern territorial waters, a news report said Sunday.

Gas hydrate, a crystalline compound of water and natural gas found in ocean beds, can be converted for use as liquid natural gas.

The gas hydrate extracted last week in waters about 85 miles northeast of the southeastern industrial city of Pohang was of top quality, Yonhap news agency reported.

It said the area is within South Korea's exclusive economic zone, and that the country plans to start drilling at five spots there in September.

Oh Gawd, I hope their efficiencies are astronomically high. Methane is a far better greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is. The climate guy that I have been fortunate enough to work with had stated in his talk that I blogged a bit about that the efficiencies of extracting methane hydrates that he was aware of was 10% (where the rest was released into the atmosphere.)

Can you say, Hello Permian?

Uber Penguins

I have to put this one up. My daughter loves penguins.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Not Going to Do This Often

However, I came into my office this morning and - holy shibbit - this place was clean. I mean as in sparkling clean. They'd moved everything, cleaned everything, and reorganized it in a manner that makes it not cluttered at all (note, nada was missing, just organized!). That's impressive considering who inhabits the office for 8+ hour stretches.

Uber double plus tres kudos to the staff.


This is turning into a Good Day.

Blog Rating?!

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating


Seen via laelaps.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Return of the Rule of Law?

The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

President Bush's national security and legal advisers are expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday and, for the first time, it appears a consensus is developing, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The advisers will consider a new proposal to shut the center and transfer detainees to one or more Defense Department facilities, including the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where they could face trial, said the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations.


They could still block the proposal, but pressure to close Guantanamo has been building since a Supreme Court decision last year that found a previous system for prosecuting enemy combatants illegal. Recent rulings by military judges threw out charges against two terrorism suspects under a new tribunal scheme.

Those decisions have dealt a blow to the administration's efforts to begin prosecuting dozens of Guantanamo detainees regarded as the nation's most dangerous terror suspects.

In Congress, recently introduced legislation would require Guantanamo's closure. One measure would designate Fort Leavenworth as the new detention facility.

*crosses fingers*

Economist's View: A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard?

Over at the the Economist's View they have a small discussion whether or not a a tax, emission standard or market is best. I think that an emissions standard for the fuel is not a bad idea. Yet, I have to say that I think that a tax would work best overall and they note some areas where the tax would be great - power generation - but would have minimal impact on gasoline consumption.

What do you all think?


BTW, I do think that $25/ton is too low. However, you would have to incrementally introduce that tax no matter what.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

China Overtakes the US

China has overtaken the United States as the world's top producer of carbon dioxide emissions — the biggest man-made contributor to global warming — based on the latest widely accepted energy consumption data, a Dutch research group says.

According to a report released Tuesday by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China overtook the U.S. in emissions of CO2 by 8 percent in 2006. While China was 2 percent below the United States in 2005, voracious coal consumption and increased cement production caused the numbers to rise rapidly, the group said.

"It's an expression of their fast industrial production activities and their fast development," Jos G.J. Olivier, the agency's senior scientist who compiled the figures, said Wednesday. The agency is independent but paid by the Dutch government to advise it on environmental policy.

The study said China, which relies on coal for two-thirds of its energy needs and makes 44 percent of the world's cement, produced 6.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006. In comparison, the U.S., which gets half its electricity from coal, produced 5.8 billion metric tons of CO2, it said.

The group's analysis makes sense and had been predicted to happen by 2009 or 2010, said experts from the United Nations and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and outside academics.

Please see Why Global Warming is Inevitable.

Cenozoic Dinosaurs?

Pondering Pikaia has a post about another claim that in the San Juan basin there are post KT dinos. This has surfaced before and the researcher has been trying to prove this for some time apparently. I don't think I'm convinced but evidence is evidence and we ought to consider it.

Read and ponder for yourself.

Vertical Farming? In NY?

Downtown Manhattan is hardly a place you would associate with agriculture. Rather, with its countless restaurants, cafes, shops and supermarkets this is a place of consumption.

And so every morsel, every bite of food New Yorkers munch through every day must be trucked, shipped or flown in, from across the country, and across the world.

Now though, scientists at Columbia University are proposing an alternative. Their vision of the future is one in which the skyline of New York and other cities include a new kind of skyscaper: the "vertical farm".

The idea is simple enough. Imagine a 30-storey building with glass walls, topped off with a huge solar panel.

On each floor there would be giant planting beds, indoor fields in effect.

There would be a sophisticated irrigation system.

And so crops of all kinds and small livestock could all be grown in a controlled environment in the most urban of settings.

That means there would be no shipping costs, and no pollution caused by moving produce around the country.

It's all the brainchild of Columbia University Professor Dickson Despommier.
I have a hard time believing that this was fly at all. The economics of it would be loss generating I would think wrt to the value generated via using it as a high rise for homes or offices. Strange. Carlos? Doug? Thoughts?

2007 LBL Summer Lecture Series

Want to have lunch with someone at the forefront of science? You can, thanks to the 2007 Berkeley Lab summer lecture series. These illuminating talks take place Wednesdays at noon in the Building 50 auditorium. The lectures are designed for Lab staff, visiting students and teachers, and anyone who is curious about cutting-edge research explained in everyday language. Bring a bag lunch and questions.

First up is Chris Somerville with "Development of Cellulosic Biofuels".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


So, today is meeting day. I have been in and out of meetings since 9 AM and its just consuming time. I really want to post something meaningful and to get some real work done, but, alas, it's meeting day and jack is going to get done.

Ah well.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Arctic Spring Sooner

In the Earth’s cold and icy far north, the harsh winters are giving way to spring weeks earlier than they did just a decade ago, researchers have reported in the June 19th issue of Current Biology, published by Cell Press. The finding in the Arctic, where the effects of global warming are expected to be most severe, offers an “early warning” of things to come on the rest of the planet, according to the researchers.

“Despite uncertainties in the magnitude of expected global warming over the next century, one consistent feature of extant and projected changes is that Arctic environments are and will be exposed to the greatest warming,” said Dr. Toke T. Høye of the National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Denmark. “Our study confirms what many people already think, that the seasons are changing and it is not just one or two warm years but a strong trend seen over a decade.”

To uncover the effects of warming, the researchers turned to phenology, the study of the timing of familiar signs of spring seen in plants, butterflies, birds, and other species. Shifts in phenology are considered one of the clearest and most rapid signals of biological response to rising temperatures, Høye explained.

Yet most long-term records of phenological events have come from much milder climes. For example, recent comprehensive studies have reported advancements of 2.5 days per decade for European plants and 5.1 days per decade across animals and plants globally.

I wonder if my grandkids will live to see the return of Boreal temperate forests?

Putin Two Faced? *GASP*

Iran said Sunday it had received indications from Russia's president that he would not follow through with an offer to allow the U.S. to use a radar station in neighboring Azerbaijan for missile defense against Tehran.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed Washington use a radar station in northeast Azerbaijan — rented by Moscow — to counter a potential threat from Iran. It was a surprise counteroffer to U.S. plans to install a missile defense shield in eastern Europe to protect NATO allies against a missile launch by Tehran.

But Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Sunday that Russian officials had indicated to Tehran that Putin would not allow the plan to go through.

"It seems Russia does not plan to make decisions that may cause instability and insecurity in the region, where it (Russia) is located," said Hosseini. Azerbaijan shares borders with both Russia to the north and Iran to the south.

Russia has not publicly altered its offer for the U.S. to use the Gabala radar station.

In all fairness this could be FUD from the Iranians. OTOH, I ahte to say it, but they're slightly more credible than Putin is these days.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Could Some Come Out Ahead with Global Warming?

Northern homes could save on heating fuel. Rust Belt cities might stop losing snowbirds to the South. Canadian farmers could harvest bumper crops. Greenland may become awash in cod and oil riches. Shippers could count on an Arctic shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific. Forests may expand. Mongolia could see a go-go economy.

This is all speculative, even a little facetious, and any gains are not likely to make up for predicted frightening upheavals elsewhere. But still ... might there be a silver lining for the frigid regions of Canada and Russia?

For that matter, Alaska might come out pretty well in the medium-longer term. I would think that melting permafrost is nontrivial issue though for all of the four major polar land areas.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cribbing My Own Work

I have this post up on alt.history.future, but there's not a lot of traffic there any more with the impending heat death of usenet, so I'll CnP here:

I have been trying to ponder some ways to improve the educational process here in the States. At one point - from 1992 through 1997 - I was actively involved as a volunteer at the local high school teaching computer programming, science, and some technical writing. It struck me then - and it still doesn't seem to be a lot better now! - that the educational system needed a very serious overhaul. Now, i came out of a school system that was considered a much better than average one: Los Alamos (New Mexico) Public Schools. Yes, /that/ Los Alamos and not every school system can be as good, but I think that there was even serious room for improvement there: a lot of the quality of the education had to do with the almost unique culture of the place[1].

Often times when we Americans start discussing education we start talking about either raising salaries of teachers[2] or accountability. Another talking point that gets raised is that of student teacher ratios. Also the suggestion that we provide vouchers so that kids can be moved from bad schools to good ones is another that keeps coming up: introduce a market structure basically. The first is desirable, but must be done carefully. The second has produced a case where they don't teach generally, but rather they teach The Test here in California even in the good schools. The last often gets tripped up in budgets and the perception that its a jobs program for teachers without really improving the quality of the education. The last is...very politically charged and will end up leaving a lot of students behind, IMO, simply because schools can only accept so many students.

I get the impression though from being exposed to other cultures and their methods of teaching - and performance from it - that there must be others ways that we can attack this problem than just the above few ways. Some real reform seems like its necessary. I guess what I am seeking here is from you all are a some ideas as to what the possible changes might be. I have a few and I'll share them and I am hoping that you all will critique them and add some of your own.

The first idea is that we need to push students more, sooner. One experience I had when I was attending school that I originally was falling behind at the California public schools. My folks as a desperation measure enrolled me in a private school for a year to try to help me: I was headed to special education unless they did something and they did. Even though they really couldn't afford it. It helped. Not only did it help, but I accelerated up to and past my cohorts in public school. If my folks could have kept me there, I'd have been much further along. Possibly even doing algebra by the time I was 10 based on the progress I was making in math and reading. The keys here were low student teacher ratios: 10 kids to one teacher with assistant /and/ the fact that we were pushed big time and not in a boot camp sort of way. This requires more one on one time and lower teacher ratios as well as the willingness to make
individualized study plans.

Second way is a deeper linking between universities and the high schools through project related teaching. I was involved in the New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge (now Adventures in Supercomputing Challenge, iirc) where students would learn to code and make science projects through access to Crays and whatnot. Often times this REALLY helped kids when they found mentors that were really interested in teaching. They would pick the project - it'd be rescoped by the mentor if it was too ambitious - and then the mentor would teach the necessary math, programming, and science to get them able to do the project. This worked wonderfully even after the kids stopped participating because they GOT why they needed to know x, y, or z subjects and made the process of learning interesting. If this was the rule much earlier like say in the 6th grade rather than the voluntary or semivoluntary exception this might make a big impact. However it requires very knowledgeable and broad-based individuals to teach to this style.

Finally, not because its my last idea, but because I have to run, perhaps we need to consider that since the volume of knowledge we are expected to absorb between the ages of 6 and 18 has greatly increased - or should have - perhaps school hours ought to be from 8 until 5 rather than at least around here 8:30 to 3ish. This always daily teaching in all courses as well as nontrivial block based classes for ones that need that time (like Chem Labs).

An honorable mention is to Carlos' everyone with a 3 year premed degree as I cram this in as I run off to an appointment.

Any other thoughts?


1. When something like 40% of adults have PhDs...

2. Something that does need to be done there, but I have met so many frakkin useless teachers: "I don't understand war, so I am not going to teach about [the First World War]. Read your book. Test on Friday."

Education is one of those areas where I have strong opinions and think we need to seriously overhaul. The world has changed since the 1960s. Let's update our educational system for crying out loud!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Announcing the 12th Annual CCSM Workshop

NCAR's Climate and Global Dynamics Division is pleased to announce its 12th Annual CCSM Workshop. This year's workshop is a combination of plenary presentations, special interest presentations by the CCSM working groups, and a poster session for attendees to highlight their work. With CCSM 3.5 in the works and 4 coming up soon, there's a lot to talk about. We hope you'll join us this summer in Breckenridge

They even have a webcast page.


This is on June 19 - 21.

NOTE: If you live-blog this, MAKE SURE YOU PUT IN ATTRIBUTIONS!!! Having a first post with an index of presentations and then individual posts is NOT considered enough. Trust me on this one.

Carbon Taxes: A Canadian Perspective?

Call their tax

Why not tie carbon taxes to actual levels of warming? Both skeptics and alarmists should expect their wishes to be answered.


With this stalemate in mind, I would like to propose a thought experiment about a climate policy that could, in principle, get equal support from all sides.

The approach is based on two points of expert consensus. First, most economists who have written on carbon-dioxide emissions have concluded that an emissions tax is preferable to a cap-and-trade system. The reason is that, while emission-abatement costs vary a lot, based on the target, the social damages from a tonne of carbon-dioxide emissions are roughly constant. The first ton of carbon dioxide imposes the same social cost as the last ton.

In this case, it is better for policy-makers to guess the right price for emissions rather than the right cap. Most studies that have looked at that the global cost per tonne of carbon dioxide have found it is likely to be rather low, less than US$10 per tonne. We don't know what the right emissions cap is, but, if we put a low charge on each unit of emissions, the market will find the (roughly) correct emissions cap.

Second, climate models predict that, if greenhouse gases are driving climate change, there will be a unique fingerprint in the form of a strong warming trend in the tropical troposphere, the region of the atmosphere up to 15 kilometres in altitude, over the tropics, from 20? North to 20? South. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that this will be an early and strong signal of anthropogenic warming. Climate changes due to solar variability or other natural factors will not yield this pattern: only sustained greenhouse warming will do it.

Pondering this one. I have a feeling that I want to play with a couple scenarios and then do a write up later this summer.


Damnit, Carlos!


Mars' Wandering Poles and Seas

Scientists have found new evidence to support the presence of large oceans on Mars in the past. Published in the June 14 issue of Nature, the research suggests that changes in Mars’ orientation with respect to its axis might be responsible for large variations in the topography of shoreline-like features on the planet. Scientists have studied these features for more than 30 years, and the current study presents a new, alternative explanation for how they formed.

Geophysicists have discovered that irregularities in proposed Martian shorelines might be explained by surface deformation from “true polar wander.” Through this phenomenon, Mars' spin axis and poles shifted by nearly 3,000 kilometers along the surface sometime within the past 2 or 3 billion years. Spinning planets bulge at their equator and solid surfaces deform differently than liquid sea surfaces. As a result, surface topography of the shorelines deformed as the planet’s rotation axis shifted.

In the 1990s, NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft mapped the Martian topography and found that ancient shorelines aged between 2 and 4 billion years, known as Deuteronilus and Arabia, vary in elevation by about a half of a mile and more than a mile and a half, respectively. In contrast, changes in shoreline elevation on Earth are much gentler, leading many experts to argue against their connection to past oceans on Mars.

“A similar scenario to what we are proposing on Mars has been used to explain sea level variations—deformed shorelines—over geologic time scales of 1-100 million years on Earth,” said study coauthor Isamu Matsuyama of Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. “But the deformations along Deuteronilus and Arabia are quite dramatic, so the connection has not been as easy to make. We believe this work significantly strengthens the case for large Martian oceans in the ancient past.” Matsuyama developed models for true polar wander driven by internal and surface processes on Mars.

The team proposes that true polar wander combined with the presence of vast oceans could in fact account for the striking deformation of the Deuteronilus and Arabia shorelines on Mars.

Interesting. You have to wonder how fast the poles could shift like that...

More Gigantoraptor Pictures

Mexico: Remittances Hurting Local Economic Development?

Each year Mexicans in the United States send billions of dollars in remittances back to Mexico. In 2006, Mexicans working north of the border sent back US$23 billion. Remittances have become (after petroleum) the second highest legal source of income for Mexico. And that’s one of several reasons why Mexican leaders don’t want emigration to end.

But are these billions of dollars really helping Mexico?

You might think so, but if you look at the Mexican regions that receive high levels of remittances, they’re not exactly booming economically.

Take for example Michoacan, President Felipe Calderon’s home state. That state is the highest recipient of remittances, with 11.2 percent of its families receiving them. Nevertheless, Michoacan is still one of the more economically undeveloped states in Mexico. Other high-remittance receiving states have also failed to develop.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) did a study of the phenomenon, and according to spokesman Alfonso Sandoval the study determined that remittances in Mexico are not developing the country economically.

Most of the remittance money is spent on groceries or daily expenses, buying fancy vehicles, or remodeling houses. But little of it is being invested in permanent job-generating enterprises. Therefore the regions aren’t advancing economically.

Remittances also encourage some Mexicans not to work, since they can earn more from remittances than working on a Mexican job.

Mexico’s central bank, the Banco de México, has examined this issue. A 2005 study by the bank showed negative correlation between remittances and development. In other words, the more remittances the less development!

This is one that I have been sitting on for a few days trying to wrap my brain around as to whether or not I believe it. If I could summon Noel Maurer, Carlos Yu, and Doug Muir to comment, I would. I really don't know enough to make meaningful contributions here, but damned if I am not curious.

New Triassic Ornithischian

Seen via Afarensis.

Bizarre Disk, Hidden Planet

Future Biotic Timeline: Antarctica 25myfn

Note: we have a warmer, wetter earth scenario: booster rocketed out of the glacial cycle by humanity, but it has maintained itself since.

NOTE! After googling, it looks like this was borrowed from another website and edited. I am unsure whether or not permission was sought for inclusion in the Future Biotic Timeline or not. I may take this down because of it.

New Chinese Dino

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My Interests Make Me...

Oh and my weirdness rating is a 39. 20 more than James. Should I be worried?

Nuclear Power Required

Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, who is also the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, echoes the desire to rethink nuclear. He reasons that despite the fears and concerns about the energy source, nuclear power must be considered because it does not produce greenhouse gas during generation. Anything, he said, would be better than carbon-spewing coal plants. [emphasis added]

And what of the people who don't want to consider nuclear energy in the hope that less controversial solutions like renewable energy and conservation will be enough?

"If you start thinking like that, then you doom yourself," he said.

Yes, yes, Dr Chu is my boss' boss' boss' boss' boss. However, I happened to agree with him even before coming to the Lab or he took that position...and he's not a lowly puter grubber like I am.

New Triassic Gliding Reptile

A remarkable new long-necked, gliding reptile discovered in 220 million-year old sediments of eastern north America is described in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (Vol. 27, No. 2), scientists report. Mecistotrachelos apeoros (meaning "soaring, long-necked") is based on two fossils excavated at the Solite Quarry that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina state line.

Nick Fraser of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, who discovered the fossils, said said "one of the really neat things about the new glider is the feet. They are preserved in a hooked posture which is unusual and strongly suggests a grasping habit, further emphasizing a life style in the trees." It probably fed on insects, scuttling up tree trunks and foraging on the way, before gliding onto neighboring trees.

Fraser said that while two other reptiles with similar gliding membranes are known from the Triassic Period, they have much shorter necks and therefore conform more to the modern gliding lizard, Draco.

The relationships of Mecistotrachelos are unclear, but Fraser considers that it is probably related to the protorosaurs. Protorosaurs are a group of extinct reptiles characterized by a long-necked, including the bizarre Tanystropheus which had a neck longer than the length of the body and tail combined.

It seems that everything wanted to get in the air in the Triassic!

Update: National Geographic also has a post on this, but I think they boo-boo'ed wrt to the relatives of this critter. I don't think anyone meant this to be a pterosaur relative. The pict is from there too.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Conference on Parallel Processing for Scientific Computing

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics is proud to present the Thirteenth Conference on Parallel Processing for Scientific Computing. This series of conferences has played a key role in promoting parallel scientific computing and parallel numerical algorithms. The conference is unique in its emphasis on the intersection between high performance scientific computing and scalable algorithms, architectures, and software. The conference provides a forum for communication among the applied mathematics, computer science, and computational science and engineering communities.

They are seeking minisymposium proposals. Themes for this year's conference are programming languages, models, and compilation techniques; going multicore/manycore; computing using special purpose processors (cell, etc); architecture aware algorithms; software scalability; tools (development and performance eval); POVs on HPC; industrial applications of parallel computing; distrbuted/grid computing; fault tolerance; parllel visualization; data management (perennial that one); and future architectures wrt to parallel computing.

New Self Healing Material

The next generation of self-healing materials, invented by researchers at the University of Illinois, mimics human skin by healing itself time after time. The new materials rely upon embedded, three-dimensional microvascular networks that emulate biological circulatory systems.

“In the same manner that a cut in the skin triggers blood flow to promote healing, a crack in these new materials will trigger the flow of healing agent to repair the damage,” said Nancy Sottos, a Willett Professor of materials science and engineering, and the corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in the journal Nature Materials, and posted on its Web site.

“The vascular nature of this new supply system means minor damage to the same location can be healed repeatedly,” said Sottos, who also is a researcher at the university’s Beckman Institute.

In the researchers’ original approach, self-healing materials consisted of a microencapsulated healing agent and a catalyst distributed throughout a composite matrix. When the material cracked, microcapsules would rupture and release healing agent. The healing agent then reacted with the embedded catalyst to repair the damage.

“With repeated damage in the same location, however, the supply of healing agent would become exhausted,” said Scott White, a Willett Professor of aerospace engineering and a researcher at the Beckman Institute. “In our new circulation-based approach, there is a continuous supply of healing agent, so the material could heal itself indefinitely.”

Very kewl. it'd be very useful even for kids toys, but even better if it could be used to repair nicks and scratches on paint for cars.

Gringolandia: Something Not Oft Talked of

A recent, path-breaking article published in Dissent magazine described a group that doesn't learn the new language, displays its native flag, maintains its traditional customs, and even celebrates its old holidays in the new country. "Some live and work without proper documentation and have even been involved in the illegal transport of drugs across borders," stated the piece. Sound familiar?

Written by Sheila Croucher, a professor of political science at Ohio's Miami University who is studying US migration to Mexico, the article delved into the complex aspects of the new Gringolandia south of the border. Professor Croucher found that many of the same issues that surround the Mexican immigrant community in the US ring true with the US immigrant community in Mexico as well. As Croucher summarized it in an interview with Frontera Norte Sur, "The precise things that politicians and pundits are railing against in the US."

Nobody knows for sure how many people of US origin reside in Puerto Vallarta and other regions of Mexico, but Croucher said that one US State Department estimate made several years ago pegged the number at about 600,000 souls. Since 9-11, the US government has become reticent about disclosing information concerning US citizens living abroad, Croucher added.


Some lament what they regard as the contamination of Mexican culture by rampant consumerism imported from the United States. Credit cards are back in fashion in Mexico, and status symbols prevail. According to world "citizen" Denise, a money game goes on between Mexican nationals and migrants. "You get a lot of Americans here who think they can overrun Mexicans with money," she added, "but Mexicans aren't stupid. They'll charge them double for everything."

In comparison to the immigration debate-polarized US, Miami University's Sheila Croucher hasn't detected a nationalistic resentment in Mexico boiling up against the gringo migrants — at least until now. According to Croucher, natives of San Miguel de Allende maintain that the gringo presence allows the town to economically survive. Intriguingly, Croucher has heard more put-downs against the newer arrivals voiced by longer-established gringos. "The idea," she mused, "that these newcomers are messing up 'our' authentic Mexican towns."

I need to get that Next Si! Mexico Yes! written up. This is something though that few people think about much at all. That the Americans are overrunning Mexico! Damn those immigrants!

Why Does Russia Object to NMD in the EU?

Something that has bugged me for a while is why Russia has been so adamantly opposed to the US putting ballistic missile defense sites in the EU. The proposed sites would have a radar in the Czech Republic and a set of silos in Poland that would contain a paltry ten missiles. If you take the point of view that the deterrent effects are not swayed much by a mere ten missiles - since theoretically there should be thousands of effective nuclear weapons in the in the Russia arsenal - then you have to wonder why. The balance of power wrt to wiping each other out hasn't really changed with this. So, what's the reason that Russia is so annoyed with the ballistic missile defense in the US and especially in Europe?

There have been a few theories. The first one is that this is all political smoke and mirrors. Putin is making the noises to play up the nationalistic card and that this is sound and thunder signifying de nada. There has always been a strong Russia-first-last-and-foremost attitude in Russia. They're a proud people. The state they found themselves in after the Cold War hasn't been terribly pleasant for them. The fact that there one time enemy has gone on to prosper while their world has collapsed, well, some of it is understandable. When someone comes out and says that to be Russian is something to be proud of the people will listen, after all, to some extent, its all they have left. Their pride, that is. So when that same someone stands up to the most powerful country in the world, waves his fist, and scream defiance, those that seek something to be proud of will be. After who all doesn't enjoy the little guy flipping the bird to the big bully? However, this fails to cover all of the reasoning wrt to the Russian objections to missile defense - even though they have it (or had, depending on its state of repair) for Moscow.

The fact of the matter is that the Russian military - since at least the First Gulf War - has had the policy of using nuclear weapons first when fighting the West. The idea that you can use nukes and be immune from them being used on you is something that is often war gamed by the Russian military. Nominally, its wrt to NATO and the US. They find themselves losing and pop off a couple nukes and get the 'bewildered' West to backdown in some imaginary confrontation rather than risk all out nuclear warfare. This is a huge contributor. While in the West, using nukes like that is uber verboten. It's not with the Russians. At all. The tactical use of nuclear weapons is definitely embraced. Now the question is how they would delivery those weapons.

With the relatively superior radars and dense packing of European countries, it makes it a little questionable to lob nukes via the cruise missile route. The US and Europeans have done work on specifically countering this tactic and with any whiff of a conflict AWACS would be placed into the air making the outcome quite possibly much lower than what would be desired. However, the Russians could always lob some nukes via the ballistic missile route. Right now, this is a low probably of being intercepted - but increasingly likely for tactical weapons - but has been still safe for the more strategic missiles. Even if the THAAD and PAC3 missiles could take down the tactical missiles, the Russians felt they had a safe fallback. Then here comes the proposed ballistic missile defense.

These few ABMs would render the last bastion of the minimal nuclear strike option extinct. Or at least under vast question. It completely obsoletes Russian stratagem if faced with their Western "enemy". Through their nuclear weapons, the Russians felt secure wrt to the West. Short of annihilating their enemy - and in turn being annihilated - those nukes would become - from the Russian point of view - tactically worthless. In short, their comfort blanket would be taken away since despite their bluster their conventional forces could not stand up to Western military firepower. This is the reason why they are angry about the ABM sights in Europe. It takes away a tactical card and they really like that one.

The sad part is that Russia shouldn't be going down this route at all. Russia ought to be working towards joining the European Union and - *GASP*SHOCK*HORROR* - NATO to have a full say and sway in the politics of the West. Yet, they've embarked down the foolish and depressing path they have and the objections to a measly ten missiles is only a symptom of that sad choice.

Future Biotic Timeline Map Iteration 3

Still more things to fix, but we're moving along. To answer the question, no, this isn't done with a computer program. I wish I had the program to do so, I'd have some fun with it given the resources at hand, but, alas...

Friday, June 08, 2007

Future Biotic Timeline Eurasia Map Iteration 2

The first one is the official iteration 2. I made some modifications - badly - and submitted it back as part of the prep for iteration 3. Somewhere around iteration 4 the Americas will be tacked on. Keep in mind that this is a warmer, wetter earth. Call it an Eocene-ish world.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Future Biotic Timeline: 25 myfn Eurasia Map Iteration 1

We're taking the objective of going through one snapshot at a time. The first is the first step. We're well within the Cenozoic here with a stop at 25 million years from now. This is the first iteration of the world map or more properly that of eurasia+. There are a nontrivial amount of changes to be done based on discussions, but it is interesting to see how this is progressing. The group is only about 5 - 6 strong at the moment.

China Delays Moon Probe

China will postpone its first unmanned mission to the Moon by at least 5-6 months, a delay that under current scheduling means Japan will beat China to lunar orbit, with a far more ambitious triple-spacecraft launch in mid summer.

The Asian space race to the Moon is politically important in Asia-Pacific technology circles where China talks a good game, but Japan has produced far more concrete results, especially in space exploration.

The country that prevails with first lunar bragging rights will be noted in the region, where China is perpetually trying to spread influence at the expense of Japan.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hawaii of 25 Million Years From Now?

This is part of the world building project I mentioned before. I didn't come up with it, but it was well worth sharing.

Caribbean Frogs Descended From Single Species

Nearly all of the 162 land-breeding frog species on Caribbean islands, including the coqui frogs of Puerto Rico, originated from a single frog species that rafted on a sea voyage from South America about 30-to-50-million years ago, according to DNA-sequence analyses led by a research group at Penn State, which will be published in the 12 June 2007 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and posted in the journal's online early edition this week. Similarly, the scientists found that the Central American relatives of these Caribbean amphibians also arose from a single species that arrived by raft from South America.

"This discovery is surprising because no previous theories of how the frogs arrived had predicted a single origin for Caribbean terrestrial frogs and because groups of close relatives rarely dominate the fauna of an entire continent or major geographic region," explained Penn State's Blair Hedges, the evolutionary biologist and professor of biology who directed the research. "Because land connections among continents have allowed land-dwelling animals to disperse freely over millions of years, the fauna of any one continent is usually a composite of many types of animals."

The field work for the study required nearly three decades to complete because many of the species are restricted to remote and isolated mountain tops or other inaccessible areas. Some species included in the study now are believed to be extinct because of habitat degradation and possibly other causes such as climate change. A recent global assessment of amphibians found that the Caribbean Islands have the highest proportion of amphibian species threatened with extinction. Hedges and coauthor William Duellman, a professor emeritus of the University of Kansas, were involved in much of the field work. A third co-author of the study is Penn State graduate student Matthew Heinicke, who performed DNA sequencing and analysis.

One prominent theory had proposed that frog species on the large islands of Cuba, Jamaican, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico had walked there across land bridges that existed when those islands were connected in a geologic arc about 70-to-80-million years ago. A second major theory proposed that they arrived, instead, by rafting across the Caribbean Sea after the giant asteroid impact near Cuba 65-million years ago, which is widely believed to have exterminated the dinosaurs. "Both theories acknowledged that the frog faunas must have arrived by rafting over water to the smaller and younger islands, the Lesser Antilles, because they never were connected by land to South America, but neither theory proposed that all of the Caribbean-island frog species had a single common ancestor," Hedges said.

The anatomy of Caribbean frogs previously had led the advocates of both theories to conclude that species in Cuba and other western-Caribbean islands were related to different mainland species than were the species on Puerto Rico and other eastern-Caribbean islands, regardless of how they got there. "Discovering a single origin for all of these species from throughout the Caribbean islands was completely unexpected," Hedges said.

tres kewl. Very interesting that one species spawned so many and in a trackable way.

Introducing the Raptor's Nest

Manabu Sakamoto is Yet Another Brit Based Paleontologist that I have come across as of late via Fish Feet. He has a blog about his research, things related to his research, and other things paleo (including some very nice dinos he's drawn). It's well worth reading.

The World A Little Smaller

Aerospace researchers have been trying for decades to build engines that can send planes and projectiles flying at hypersonic speeds -- 3,600 miles per hour, or more. So far, they haven't had much luck. But one of the most promising hypersonic projects to come out of government labs yet is looking better and better. The X-51 hypersonic cruise missile just passed its critical design review, and fired its engine for the first time. Things appear to be on track for test flights in 2009.

White Sands Missile Range is probably going to be too small for this one.

A Talk Today at Noon: What Killed the Mammoths

The Extraterrestrial Impact that Killed the Mammoths and Caused 1,300 years of Global Cooling

Richard B. Firestone
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Thirteen thousand years ago more than 35 species of megafauna including mammoths, mastodons, ground sloths, horses, camels, and many smaller mammals and birds suddenly disappeared. Simultaneously the Earth, which was warming from the last ice age, was suddenly plunged into a 1300-year period of cooling known as the Younger Dryas. At the onset of the Younger Dryas a black layer formed over much of North America and Europe. This layer is sometimes found draped directly over the bones of extinct megafauna and the artifacts of Clovis culture. No evidence of megafauna or Clovis people is found within or above the black layer. We have investigated sediments from the Younger Dryas boundary layer (YDB) at 10 well-dated Clovis-age sites from California to Belgium and 16 Carolina Bays that are believed to have been formed at that time. Within the YDB and throughout the Bay rims we find an impact ejecta layer enriched in iridium, metallic microspherules, carbon spherules, glass-like carbon, soot, and charcoal. The carbon spherules and glass-like carbon contain abundant nanodiamonds and fullerenes with extraterrestrial 3He/4He ratios. The distribution and composition of the ejecta layer and the orientation of the Carolina Bays suggest that the impact was an airburst over the Laurentide Ice Sheet near the Great Lakes. Analysis of the ejecta layer indicates that the impactor was unusually enriched in titanium, very different from known terrestrial or meteoritic sources, but remarkably similar Lunar Procellarum KREEP.

I have some nodes I need to configure, so I can't attend, but if there are Berkeley-ites/SF Bayers that are interested, it's a direct challenge to the megafauna overkill hypothesis.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Higgs Boson Found?

A rumor flying around physics departments these last few weeks claims that physicists working at the Tevatron, an accelerator located outside of Chicago, have found something new. Originally passed by word of mouth and private e-mail, the rumor made it into the blogosphere May 28, with an anonymous comment on the blog of a particle physicist living in Venice, Italy. Since then, the rumor has spread.

We will have to see if its true. A little interesting if so.

The Japanese Stealth Fighter

Sweetman is arguing this is to ease concerns that the US would be exporting stealth technology with the purchase of the F-22. It might be the flip side to that the Japanese are saying they are going to design and build a stealth fighter anyways and have done their homework: think of it as an exercise in trade negotiations. The above could be made into a competitor for American fighter exports...causing some nontrivial issues. Esp for the F-35.

An Interesting Spin-off from the Lab

AMYRIS BIOTECHNOLOGIES has almost finished developing a cheap cure for malaria that could save the lives of millions of the poor. Now, using the same technology, this start-up in Emeryville, Calif., wants to create new biofuels that may help save the planet.


Amyris’s technology derives from the research of Jay D. Keasling, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and the director of the synthetic biology department of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Mr. Keasling’s lab is widely credited with making commercially practical an emerging technology called metabolic engineering.

Until recently, genetic engineering of the sort associated with traditional biotechnology has been limited to modifying a cell’s processes by inserting, mutating or deleting a single gene or a few significant genes. Genetic engineering has coaxed microorganisms like the common bacterium E. coli to produce drugs like human insulin, but has produced little else besides such protein drugs and a few antibiotics.

Mr. Keasling’s metabolic engineering is farther-reaching and, potentially, much more productive. His lab has invented techniques that rewrite the metabolisms of microorganisms. By modifying the structure of a microorganism’s proteins and adding genes from other organisms, Mr. Keasling has designed microbial factories that can produce a tremendous variety of drugs, biofuels and other chemicals.

Amyris was founded in the summer of 2003 by Mr. Keasling and three young postdoctoral students from his lab: Neil Renninger, Kinkead Reiling and Jack D. Newman. They received the large grant from the Gates Foundation a little more than a year later.

It's Lab-derived, Emeryville based, and damned kewl. What's not to like? (no biases here ;)

Them Bones on Ice

So what is it?

What Science Am I?

What Science are You?

You are Physics! You're quirky and you set yourself on fire alot. You're really really into your science. I had a physics teacher who singed his eyebrows off...twice. Man. You're a danger to yourself and others, but mostly to yourself. It's great that you're so caught up in your science because it is way awesome. Oh, yeah... the picture. I guess particle physics falls into your domain. and physics people love stick figures.
Take this quiz!

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| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Monday, June 04, 2007

Titan: World with an Subterrianean Ocean?!

A mysterious radio wave detected on Saturn's largest moon may point to the location of an ocean hidden beneath its surface, the European Space Agency announced.

There's almost an SFnal setting waiting to be used! On the surface of a cold, cold world is a methane solvent biochem based biology. Beneath it is a water based one. Both develop a sapient species. Then...the water guys start to get curious and explore their world above. Hijicks ensue.

China's "Plan"

China promised Monday to better control emissions of greenhouse gases, unveiling its first national program to combat global warming, but rejected mandatory caps on emissions as unfair to countries still trying to catch up with the developed West.

While the program offered few new concrete targets for reducing emissions of the greenhouse gases that are believed to contribute to global warming, it outlined steps China would take to meet a previously announced government goal of improving overall energy efficiency in 2010 by 20 percent over 2005's level.

"China is a developing country. Although we do not have the obligation to cut emissions, it does not mean we do not want to shoulder our share of responsibilities," said Ma Kai, the minister heading the National Development and Reform Commission, the Cabinet-level economic planning agency.

"We must reconcile the need for development with the need for environmental protection," he told reporters. "In its course of modernization, China will not tread the traditional path of industrialization, featuring high consumption and high emissions. In fact, we want to blaze a new path to industrialization."

Ma, however, stressed that the bulk of responsibility for battling climate change still lay with industrialized countries, which "are in a better position to cap emissions."

He said they also have the obligation to provide financial and technical support to developing nations -- like China -- whose "overriding priority at the moment is still economic development and poverty eradication."

See earlier post.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Why I Haven't Been Blogging About Ukraine

Lately, I've just been posting links about Ukraine without actually putting a lot of personal commentary into them. The reason, frankly, is that the whole situation is just plain depressing. My NSHO is that Ukraine is headed for a train wreck of a disaster. To some extent it already is one, but the harbinger was the fact that the Ukrainian President ordered out troops against the Radha. The Prime Minister's crew ordered out the police to stop them. They did. Without opening fire. There was a compromise that wa supposed to have been struck for when the elections were to take place - in September. yet there are rumblings that this may in fact be melting down. Already. My take is that this will eventually turn to blood shed. Either now or after the election as the projections show an approximately the same situation developing again from the coming polls.


We're VERY focused at this point of getting the relatives out of that country. When that's done, we'll probably wash our hands of that place. However, that Gem of an Immigration bill might jus screw us but good because of the nuking of the family reunification in it.


An Observation

My wife will be back in 36 hours and I will be very, very happy when that happens. In the mean time, I find myself unable to sleep and decided to watch THEM! again. Quietly, to be sure, since my daughter is fast asleep and that last thing I want is for her to have some ant enduced nightmares especially because of bad child actors.

However since the net is such a useful tool, I decided to browse up some info on the movie. IMDB was a place to start and decided to go through and look up abit on the actors and actresses. There were a few actors there that caught my attention. I didn't realize the hero policeman - a New Mexico State Police Officer (*looks green* just kidding, mostly, but if he'd been border patrol, I'd not be) was also the old and suicidal parolee in The Shawshank Redemption. Wow. Talk about a very long career. Another interesting one was the old professor. My mother loved Miracle on 34th Street and damned if as soon as I read that in his bio that the voice snapped into place. Also there for a blip was a rather younger Spock: man, talk about getting stuck in a genre.

However, the one that struck me more than any was the woman that played Pat, also supposed to be a PhD Dr. It wasn't for anything that she was overly beautiful or whatnot: not bad, not really my taste, but y'know the period costume might have had some neagtive effect. No, what struck me, big time, was that at the time of the film, she was 21. Yep, 21. I'd have guessed a half decade older. Perhaps even pushing 30. Nope. Just 21. Interesting that I took her for that. I thought about the 21 yos I've known, and...I just have to wonder if we're aging a bit differently these days. I mean, the 21 yos these days still look, well, almost like teens, comparatively.

That's not meant as a put down or whatever, just that it's a "Huh! That's odd!" moment.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Carbon Tax vs Carbon Market & What to do With The Money

A friend of mine sent me an article he saw from The NY Times blog article about what works better: a carbon market or a carbon tax to contain and curtail greenhoues gas emissions? That article deeper links to another one at Reason Magazine. It's an interesting little study. Here's something of my take on the subject.

The difficulties with the Carbon Market in the EU happens to be the lack of a central authority issuing the carbon 'credits'. If every State here in the US were to do that, it'd fall apart too. No single state would want to draw down their economy because their energy cost were higher. The centralized EPA in the US helps with this a lot, especially with the example of how well it's worked for the SO2 emissions market. However, as we are seeing from the fact that asian pollution is now drifting across from Pacific Ocean to effect the US - something the SO2 emissions market cannot deal with - we will still have nontrivial issues with other nations not curtailing their own emissions of greehouse gases.

That's one way that the carbon tax is useful - if you extend it to a tariff. My wife did a paper on the carbon tax that Gore proposed for her business class last semester. However, as our critique on the blog states, you need to use a carbon tariff as well as a carbon tax. You could really, and thoroughly screw the US industry by knee capping them with the carbon taxes while letting China get worse and worse. It would be a form of off-shoring yet again. However, if you were to impose a carbon tariff on the goods from China to the US, it would have some pretty profound effects and even encourage the Chinese to invest in other power sources than carbon emitting ones....even if they play monetary games.

I have to say that I prefer the carbon tax/tariff combo, but I have been looking at this from the point of view from how to cut emissions. This will be inflationary to some extent. Goods from other countries would go up in price because of the carbon tariff and energy costs here in the States would go up, especially for those that are dependent on coal based energy. It would also cause the market to divest itself of coal mining over time: that would have profound effects on certain states economies. The question is with all this revenue coming in, and I assume that it'd be pretty large, you'd want to use it for something or help offset the inflation that the average American might face.

I do like the idea of removing some of the payroll taxes. Nuke income tax below a certain point and reduce it for the rest. Additionally some revenue for health care payments and other major projects that are insanely priced but worthwhile to do.

However, it should be noted that this money will be temporary, even if we have a robust intake from the carbon tariff via China, India and the developing world. The whole point of the carbon tax/tariff is to shift investment from emitting technologies and industries to ones that do not. This means the money is going to be temporary as the market responds - and respond it will with some of the hefty taxes and tariffs that could/would be imposed! The issue is then that over 20-30 years that money will dry up and we will not be able to collect it anymore. Therefore, it's best not to count on it being there for, say, social security except as a temporary measure. I am sure though that my readers will have some ideas on what we could use it on for thirty years that would be self contained in that time frame.

Some of my thoughts are for educational reform. One idea that I have grown fond of was proposed by Carlos Yu of New York whereby we would add a step to the educational process: this would require that everyone get a 3 year, premed degree as a step between high school and college. This could help immensely with education in the ever more important biotech arena and also help significantly with the undereducation of the American public here. it would also help with getting enough people trained to deal with the aging population. Getting it into place initially is damned expensive, and so the question comes to where the money would come from...*beams*points finger above* That seems like a good, but temporary kick-off source of funding to me.

Of course, there's that perenial space exploration bit too. I'd vote for it, but it'd have to be for a smaller percentage than the rest. $5 billion per year could be added to the agency's budget with it earmarked for robotic exploration and another $2 billion for aeronautics research as well. However, since I am guessing that this intake would be somewhere around $100 billion, I doubt that 7% taken off it would cause too many howls. Then again, with the relative pittance that NASA getts now percentage-wise and the still howling fools that are out there, I am probably wrong.

Finally, as part of a grab bag of ideas, I'd also say that I think that a good chunk of this ought to be used to service the national debt. Knock that sucker down a lot. It'd help Americans in a nontrivial way. However, on the lower end of the pay scale, we ought to have a nontrivial payroll tax relief as well.

In wrapping up, the tax vs market debate rages on. The US seems to be headed to a market, even with the issues with the EU's version. The tax/tariff combo seems like a better route to me, and there are some very good places to spend that money. However, that's just my opinion.