Thursday, May 19, 2016

Damn the Pigoons, Full Speed Ahead?

"The goal of the pigoon project was to grow an assortment of foolproof human tissue organs in a transgenic knockout pig host - organs that would transplant smoothly and avoid rejection, but would also be able to fend off attacks by opportunistic microbes and viruses, of which there were more strains every year. A rapid-maturity gene was spliced in so the pigoon kidneys and livers and hearts would be ready sooner, and now they were perfecting a pigoon that could grow five or six kidneys at a time."
From Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood. ( 2003)
Margaret did it again...

In Search For Cures, Scientists Create Embryos That Are Both Animal And Human

Friday, May 13, 2016

Does our Tech Mirror Our Biology?

Just a rumination.

While listening to a lecture today, I heard a person say that Photosynthesis & Combustion are opposites? Never thought about it like that. Lets see...

"Photosynthesis is a complex series of reactions carried out by algae, phytoplankton, and the leaves in plants, which utilize the energy from the sun. The simplified version of this chemical reaction is to utilize carbon dioxide molecules from the air and water molecules and the energy from the sun to produce a simple sugar such as glucose and oxygen molecules as a by product. The simple sugars are then converted into other molecules such as starch, fats, proteins, enzymes, and DNA/RNA i.e. all of the other molecules in living plants. All of the "matter/stuff" of a plant ultimately is produced as a result of this photosynthesis reaction. An important summary statement is that during photosynthesis plants use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen." 
"Combustion occurs when any organic material is reacted (burned) in the presence of oxygen to give off the products of carbon dioxide and water and ENERGY. The organic material can be any fossil fuel such as natural gas (methane), oil, or coal. Other organic materials that combust are wood, paper, plastics, and cloth. Organic materials contain at least carbon and hydrogen and may include oxygen. If other elements are present they also ultimately combine with oxygen to form a variety of pollutant molecules such as sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides.

 Metabolism occurs in animals and humans after the ingestion of organic plant or animal foods. In the cells a series of complex reactions occurs with oxygen to convert for example glucose sugar into the products of carbon dioxide and water and ENERGY. This reaction is also carried out by bacteria in the decomposition/decay of waste materials on land and in the water.
 An important summary statement is that during combustion/metabolism oxygen is used and carbon dioxide is a product. The whole purpose of both processes is to convert chemical energy into other forms of energy such as heat." 
Metabolism  is the set of ...chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms. The three main purposes of metabolism are the conversion of food/fuel to energy to run cellular processes, the conversion of food/fuel to building blocks for proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and some carbohydrates, and the elimination of nitrogenous wastes. ...Metabolism is usually divided into two categories: catabolism, the breaking down of organic matter by way of cellular respiration, and anabolism, the building up of components of cells such as proteins and nucleic acids. Usually, breaking down releases energy and building up consumes energy."
In Air Water Ground , I mention how what our species apparently does is externalize its morphology & metabolism; and we call that "technology". Yep, maybe so. 

Climate Change 101 From the Atmospheric Chemist Perspective

General Chemistry 1B. Lecture 11. Global Warming: Why, When, and How 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Another Curt Stager Lecture

"Most debate over global warming looks only as far ahead as 2100 AD, but what happens after that? As Curt Stager, author of "Deep Future: the Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth," argues, our fossil fuel emissions will interfere with climates for much longer than most of us, scientists included, yet realize. Even in the best-case scenario, the world won't fully recover for tens of thousands of years, and possibly much longer. What will life in that shockingly deep future be like? Some will win and some will lose. On the bright side, we've already prevented the next nation-crushing ice age. But as the Earth finally starts to cool down again, "climate whiplash" will force people, animals, and plants to reverse their adaptive strategies. Losers may then become winners - but exactly how the future plays out is ultimately up to us as we search for a sane, sustainable path forward in this new geologic epoch, the "Age of Humans."
The Planet Ocean Seminar Series offers four lectures each academic year, featuring prominent speakers from UNCW's own faculty and other leading research institutions, from well-known environmental organizations and from government agencies"

Sunday, April 10, 2016

In Case You Still Think the Term "Anthropocene" is Not Warranted

"Earth’s spin axis has been wandering along the Greenwich meridian since about 2000, representing a 75° eastward shift from its long-term drift direction. The past 115 years have seen unequivocal evidence for a quasi-decadal periodicity, and these motions persist throughout the recent record of pole position, in spite of the new drift direction. We analyze space geodetic and satellite gravimetric data for the period 2003–2015 to show that all of the main features of polar motion are explained by global-scale continent-ocean mass transport. The changes in terrestrial water storage (TWS) and global cryosphere together explain nearly the entire amplitude (83 ± 23%) and mean directional shift (within 5.9° ± 7.6°) of the observed motion. We also find that the TWS variability fully explains the decadal-like changes in polar motion observed during the study period, thus offering a clue to resolving the long-standing quest for determining the origins of decadal oscillations. This newly discovered link between polar motion and global-scale TWS variability has broad implications for the study of past and future climate."

Monday, April 04, 2016

Getting a Rise Out of the Media

"Sea levels could rise nearly twice as much as previously predicted by the end of this century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated, an outcome that could devastate coastal communities around the globe, according to new research published Wednesday. "
On-Point show on the story (should be streaming by tonight):
I find it interesting how sea level seems to be the one aspect of the current rapid climate change era that gets a headline, at least for a day. In human time spans sea level change  is very slow, but it does have that Shake & Bake* / Jerry Bruckheimer cache to it. 
Of course another reason is that it affects so many people. Humans tend to create large group habitats on the coasts of oceans and seas.
In addition, one should also think about the salinization of coastal freshwater aquifers also. Sea level rises due to the thermal expansion of the sea water. That means it is also pressing into the coastline. That is also causing problems in some places, such as South Florida.

* The late film critic Judith Crist coined the use of the phrase "Shake & Bake" as a genre name for the then emerging disaster films.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bright Air, Brilliant Fire *

A PowerPoint with narration about the link between early childhood brain development and workforce quality and lower social costs. Last few slides contain links to resources on the subject.

*This title is the title Bright Air, Brilliant Fire, by nobel laureate Gerald M. Edelman, a book for the popular audience covering the pioneering neurological work he and others did in the 1980's and early 1990's. 
"Your brain develops depending on your individual history. 
What has gone on in your own brain and its consciousness over your lifetime is not repeatable,
ever - not with identical twins, not even with conjoined twins."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

For all the Paleoclimatology Fans Out There

Ruddiman, W. F., et al. (2016), Late Holocene climate: Natural or anthropogenic?Rev. Geophys.54, doi:10.1002/2015RG000503.

For more than a decade, scientists have argued about the warmth of the current interglaciation. Was the warmth of the preindustrial late Holocene natural in origin, the result of orbital changes that had not yet driven the system into a new glacial state? Or was it in considerable degree the result of humans intervening in the climate system through greenhouse gas emissions from early agriculture? Here we summarize new evidence that moves this debate forward by testing both hypotheses. By comparing late Holocene responses to those that occurred during previous interglaciations (in section 2), we assess whether the late Holocene responses look different (and thus anthropogenic) or similar (and thus natural). This comparison reveals anomalous (anthropogenic) signals. In section 3, we review paleoecological and archaeological syntheses that provide ground truth evidence on early anthropogenic releases of greenhouse gases. The available data document large early anthropogenic emissions consistent with the anthropogenic ice core anomalies, but more information is needed to constrain their size. A final section compares natural and anthropogenic interpretations of the δ13C trend in ice core CO2."

"For over a decade, paleoclimate scientists have argued whether the warmth of the last several thousand years was natural or anthropogenic. This brief comment updates that debate, ..."

Monday, March 14, 2016

New Report on Teaching About Climate Change in American Schools

Eric Plutzer, A. Lee Hannah, Joshua Rosenau, Mark S. McCaffrey, Minda Berbeco, Ann H. Reid. 2016. Mixed Messages: How Climate is Taught in America’s Schools. Oakland, CA: National Center for Science Education.

"These results demonstrate that the landscape of climate change education is particularly complicated. No single policy or program will fundamentally change how climate change is taught in U.S. classrooms. But we hope that the results of the survey — the first to investigate in depth exactly what is being taught in the public schools about climate change, by whom, and how — will help guide those whose goal it is to ensure that today’s students and the next generation of citizens have the scientific foundation that will allow them to grapple with complex proposals to address the challenges of climate change."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Goats and Tortoises and Fisherman Oh My

“People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” 

A very interesting RadioLab:

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Not Really Something New

Wealth = {choices + mobility}.
That equation has probably been true since at least the rise of human agricultures (plural intentional).
But an interesting playing out of that calculus is underway in the Miami area. 

"Taking the High Ground—and Developing It As sea levels rise, investors in Miami are buying up land with higher elevation, sometimes displacing low-income residents.

BTW: If you live in the Miami area, check out , an online app by Florida International University to help you visualize the changes. As in the graphic above.

and, Once in a lifetime

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Meanwhile, over at RealClimate

"One way to view the greenhouse effect is the vertical distance between the place where incoming energy is deposited and where the average outgoing heat loss takes place. This distance depends on the concentration of greenhouse gases, and at what height the OLR can escape to space without being reabsorbed by air above..." 
An interesting piece:

What is the best description of the greenhouse effect?

And, a post with links to some on-line climate science and modeling classes...

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Looking at Things in Context

I stumbled upon a series of "Systems Literacy" videos 
The site as a whole I stumbled on awhile back, and it seems to contain some really useful stuff. 
Background is here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

American Academy of Pediatrics & Climate Change

 "In the 2015 policy statement, the AAP states that:
  • There is wide consensus among scientific organizations and climatologists that the broad effects known commonly as "climate change" are the result of contemporary human activities.
  • According to the World Health Organization, more than 88 percent of the existing burden of disease attributable to climate change occurs in children younger than 5 years old.
  • Climate change poses a threat to human health and safety, but children are uniquely vulnerable.
  • Failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children."

A Refreshing Political Debate

 ""Solar trees," which suspend solar panels over parking spaces in San Diego, collect electricity. Generating solar power like this is just one rung on a ladder the city will have to climb to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2035."

Wow. If you live where i do, Wisconsin, this story is is very refreshing as a local politics story.
I mean, if you are a member of the Chamber of Commerce, who do you back; the utility that is 50% renewables already, or community supported distributed generation?
 ""A thriving business environment is one in which the quality of life is high so that we can attract the best and brightest talent from around the nation [and] around the world," says Sean Karafin with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce."...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Oooops? (maybe?)

One to keep an eye on...
"If you've got a systematic underestimate of what the greenhouse gas-driven change would be, then you're systematically underestimating what's going to happen in the future when greenhouse gases are by far the dominant climate driver,”

The Paper:

Post and discussion (including one of the paper's authors), on RealClimate about the subject:

Why is Big History Important?

To get the sweep of things, read these:

Information, Entropy, and Progress by Robert Ayres (1994)

Nature: An Economic History by Geerat J. Vermeij (2004)

The River That Flows Uphill: A Journey from the Big Bang to the Big Brain
by William H. Calvin  (1986)

Its about Time

Finally! I have hoped for this since i was a sprout. If you are into STEM, critical thinking, science literacy, systems thinking, etc. take note...

"Big History is an emerging academic discipline which examines history from the Big Bang to the present. It examines long time frames using a multidisciplinary approach based on combining numerous disciplines from science and the humanities, and explores human existence in the context of this bigger picture. It integrates studies of the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity using empirical evidence to explore cause-and-effect relations, and is taught at universities and secondary schools often using web-based interactive presentations." Wkipedia

Big History NPR story
Big  History TED talk

Big History Project

Bill Gates & Big History

Monday, January 04, 2016

Paul Kingsnorth's Thoughtful Meditation

And apparently controversial.

From 2012:

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

"Don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt the potency of climate change to undermine the human machine. It looks to me as if it is already beginning to do so, and that it is too late to do anything but attempt to mitigate the worst effects. But what I am also convinced of is that the fear of losing both the comfort and the meaning that our civilization gifts us has gone to the heads of environmentalists to such a degree that they have forgotten everything else. The carbon must be stopped, like the Umayyad at Tours, or all will be lost."

COP 21: The View from the Dark Mountain





After Paris by Chris Smaje

" The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We see that the world is entering an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling, and we want our cultural responses to reflect this reality rather than denying it."

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thomas Lovejoy Lecture at Santa Fe Institute

"Our planet's biology and its climate are inexorably coupled. Warmer and less predictable climates will continue to diminish the planet's biodiversity. But biological systems can be part of a solution. Conservation biology pioneer Thomas Lovejoy will examine the present and possible future impacts of climate change and explore how we might manage both biological and human economic systems to reduce the long-term effects of climate change."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Do You See Change?

"iSeeChange is a community climate and weather journal. Our groundbreaking environmental reporting platform that combines citizen science, participatory public media, and cutting-edge satellite and sensor monitoring of environmental conditions.
Incubated in 2012 by executive producer Julia Kumari Drapkin at Colorado public station KVNF via AIR’s Localore project, the award-winning iSeeChange has expanded nationwide in 2015. The team is working with media and scientific partners across the country to help audiences document environmental shifts in their backyards and connect to the bigger-picture climate changes transforming all of our lives and livelihoods.
The project’s growing list of collaborators includes NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Berkeley BEACO2N project, Yale Climate Connections, the Allegheny Front in the Western Pennsylvania, KPCC in Pasadena, WDDE in Delaware, Developing Radio Partners, and more..."

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Weather Forecast Add-on

" Your forecast, with climate context. Your weather, explained. Your world, made a little clearer.
WXshift (pronounced "weather shift") is a collection of ​independent journalists, ​climate scientists, and ​meteorologists working to bring you the latest in weather and climate information. 

Our ​daily ​mantra is "come for the weather, stay for the climate​"​ and it permeates every aspect of our work. That means our team is committed to providing you with the most up-to-date weather forecasts, news and information​, all​ with a side of climate context​. 
This​ site is a project of Climate Central, an independent group of journalists, and leading scientists and researche​rs who are committed to communicating the science and effects of climate change. We are a non-partisan, non-advocacy organization and we do not support any specific legislation, policy or bill."

Saturday, December 05, 2015

A Call to Earth

Thanks to David P for the heads up on the first link

Call to Earth
- A Message from the World's Astronauts to COP21

I really hope folks listen.

A couple other things from the Department of Deep Sustainability:

Overview (short film)

Smithsonian presentation 1:16 long (includes the short film linked above)

Overview Effect

Overview Institute

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

U of California Wants to Bend the Curve

I always chuckle when i hear people call California radical or socialist when you are discussing climate change mitigation and adaptation. Since passing the toughest climate change legislation on the planet (still, at the time of this writing) they have also managed to run government budget surpluses.
Whats actually going on, is their economic model is the old fashioned one of grab the next big thing (a California specialty) and make things to fill the need. An example of a state that seems to know the important part (money-wise) of the phrase "rapid climate change" is the word change. Yep, change = both high risk and high opportunity. Good for them.There is a reason they have the 7th largest economy in the world, on their own.

 "The 10 scalable solutions Tuesday, October 27, 2015. More details on each of these solutions can be found in the executive summary of "Bending the Curve." A full report will be published in spring 2016.

Press release and short video:

Web Soil Survey Tool

New to me, thanks Jamie for this one.

"Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. NRCS has soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation’s counties and anticipates having 100 percent in the near future. The site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information.
Soil surveys can be used for general farm, local, and wider area planning. Onsite investigation is needed in some cases, such as soil quality assessments and certain conservation and engineering applications."
The actual tool interface:

The Great Dithering

Thanks to David for the heads up on this one.

The Economist is the oldest business magazine still in continuous publication (since 1843), and is the original model for all "news" magazines.
I am not surprised they found the best word for our time, that being, dithering...*
The Economist Special report on Climate Change 11/2015

* dither diT͟Hər/verb, gerund or present participle: dithering
Be indecisive.
synonyms:hesitate, falter, waver, vacillate, change one's mind, be of two minds, be indecisive, be undecided...

You Gotta Love This

Monday, November 30, 2015

Resources on Existential Risk

"Modern science is well-acquainted with the idea of natural risks, such as asteroid impacts or extreme volcanic events, that might threaten our species as a whole. It is also a familiar idea that we ourselves may threaten our own existence, as a consequence of our technology and science. Such home-grown “existential risk” – the threat of global nuclear war, and of possible extreme effects of anthropogenic climate change – has been with us for several decades.
However, it is a comparatively new idea that developing technologies might lead – perhaps accidentally, and perhaps very rapidly, once a certain point is reached – to direct, extinction-level threats to our species. Such concerns have been expressed aboutartificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, and nanotechnology, for example...."
The Cambridge University  Centre for the Study of Existential Risk resources page

In Case You Need a Distraction from Climate Change Stuff

From the All of Humanities Eggs in One Basket Department
National Space Weather Strategy

National Space Weather Action Plan 

What is "space weather" 

NOAA Forcast/Prediction Center

NOAA Space Weather Enthusiast Dashboard:


Should be streaming by this evening, CDT

"Diplomacy And Debate At COP 21 Paris Climate Talks
World leaders converge in Paris for the big climate talks. We’ll look at what it will take to get a global climate agreement..."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Law and Forgotten Liberty

Mosaicin Library of Congress representing both the judicial and legislative aspects of law. The woman on the throne holds a sword to chastise the guilty and a palm branch to reward the meritorious. Glory surrounds her head, and the aegis of Minerva signifies the armor of righteousness and wisdom.

A very interesting legal history of corporate powers in the United States:
Coates, IV, John C., Corporate Speech and the First Amendment: History, Data, and Implications (February 27, 2015). 


This Article draws on empirical analysis, history, and economic theory to show that corporations have begun to displace individuals as direct beneficiaries of the First Amendment and to outline an argument that the shift reflects economically harmful rent seeking. The history of corporations, regulation of commercial speech, and First Amendment case law is retold, with an emphasis on the role of constitutional entrepreneur Justice Lewis Powell, who prompted the Supreme Court to invent corporate and commercial speech rights. The chronology shows that First Amendment doctrine long post-dated both pervasive regulation of commercial speech and the rise of the U.S. as the world’s leading economic power – a chronology with implications for originalists, and for policy. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals decisions are analyzed to quantify the degree to which corporations have displaced individuals as direct beneficiaries of First Amendment rights, and to show that they have done so recently, but with growing speed since Virginia Pharmacy, Bellotti, and Central Hudson. Nearly half of First Amendment challenges now benefit business corporations and trade groups, rather than other kinds of organizations or individuals, and the trend-line is up. Such cases commonly constitute a form of corruption: the use of litigation by managers to entrench reregulation in their personal interests at the expense of shareholders, consumers, and employees. In aggregate, they degrade the rule of law, rendering it less predictable, general and clear. This corruption risks significant economic harms in addition to the loss of a republican form of government."