Random Stew It seemed like a good idea at the time.

29Aug/081

You Have *GOT* To Be Kidding

Stupid is as stupid does. --Mrs. Gump

As I'm often wont to do, I was watching The Discovery Channel the other evening, specifically an episode of the series Discovery Project Earth. The series bills itself as "eight crazy experiments bold enough to change the world". The experiments are ways to reduce or reverse the effects of global warming.

So, what are these bold, world-altering experiments? Well, I've seen three of the experiments so far.

  1. Save the glaciers. The scientists running this experiment propose to save glaciers from accelerated melting -- due to global warming -- by wrapping glaciers with a reflective plastic. The experiment was performed on a glacier in Greenland that was tagged as being endangered by global warming. The glacier actually had a large meltwater lake in the middle of it -- something I had never seen before. To be honest though, I'm not sure how saving glaciers was supposed to reduce or reverse the effects of global warming.
  2. Create more clouds. Clouds are much more reflective than water or land. So this proposal is to create automated fleets of ships that will atomize sea water, spraying the mist high into the air to form clouds. The computer simulations of this experiment showed this being performed off the west coast of Africa. In theory, a 10% increase in clouds would cool the Earth to pre-industrial levels.
  3. Diffract part of the sunlight that reaches Earth. This was, by far, the boldest idea. The proposal is to launch billions of refractive lenses into space between the Sun and Earth so that a portion of the sunlight that currently reaches Earth will instead be diffracted into space. A reduction of sunlight as small as 1-2% would cool the Earth to pre-industrial levels.

As I'm listening to each of these proposals, I was immediately struck by how amazingly stupid and ill-advised each one is. Not a single one of the ideas suggested discovering and addressing the root causes of global warming.

I know that the popular theory of the cause of global warming is a dramatic increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. And that might be true. But it's not proven. Yes, CO2 levels have increased along with global temperatures, but correlation does not imply causation. An alternative, tongue-in-cheek, yet statistically valid theory shows an inverse relationship between the population of swashbuckling pirates and global temperatures. Specifically, that a decrease in the pirate population has caused a rapid increase in global temperatures.

I'm not saying the alarming increase of atmospheric CO2 is not the cause of global warming. I'm saying that it appears to be a promising theory with a strong correlation, but we still don't know. The Earth has experienced temperature fluctuations before that were not caused by CO2. Are we sure this trend isn't one of those flucuations? I think these experiments should have been directed at finding the root cause of global warming and not these absurd ideas.

After all, wrapping a glacier in plastic is such a stupid idea that I can't believe it was even discussed -- so, I'm not going to.

As for creating more clouds, let's ask the survivors of Katrina whether pumping warm water vapor into the air off the west coast of Africa sounds like a good idea to them. Our understanding of climatic systems is embryonic, at best, so why even contemplate creating 10% more clouds? How can we possibly predict the global environmental impact?

Brilliant thinkerAnd diffracting some of the Sun's energy away from Earth? Let me think about that. Hmmm...every bit of the energy used on Earth comes from the Sun. And now we're discussing decreasing that energy source? By spending trillions of dollars to manufacture, launch, position, and maintain billions of strategically positioned lenses? Riiiiggghhhtt.

I have a couple of ideas to reduce global warming that would fit right into this TV series. What if we paint all the cities white! That will greatly reduce the heat absorption of all that pavement. Not to mention stimulating the economy by employing all the painters in the world.

Here's another "great" idea. A person breathing at the average rate of 12 breaths per minute, exhales 1.3 grams of CO2 every minute. What if everyone breathed slower? If every person would cut off 2 breaths per minute, their respiratory contribution to atmospheric CO2 would be reduced annually by over 116 kilograms. If everyone participated, the amount becomes 697,422,960 metric tons (1 metric ton = 1000 kgs)! The average American automobile annually spews 4.5 metric tons of C02 into the atmosphere. So merely by breathing a bit slower, we can effectively remove 154,982,880 automobiles from the road -- that's well over half the number of cars in the United States.

Thank you. You've been a great audience. I'll be here all week.

12Nov/070

Another Sign of the Apocalypse

The omen.My partner and I drove by a Sharper Image store today and, being the gadget geek that he is, he just had to stop and browse. As he remarked, Sharper Image is a chain built completely on products you will never need. Items such as the "rainproof" electronic meat fork with built-in thermometer. Or the lighted pepper grinder. And, not too far from the atomic clock that was 1.5 hours behind the correct time, was a true sign of the apocalypse. Of what possible use is a ropeless jump rope? If there's no rope, then it's not really a jump rope is it?

I guess this gimmick is for people who can't count jumping jacks.

19Oct/070

Parents Behaving Badly

Warning: this is a rant.

I have a vice of absolutely loving good coffee so I'm familar with Starbucks' The Way I See It campaign, which is, in their words

a collection of thoughts, opinions and expressions provided by notable figures that now appear on our widely shared cups.

And I admit, I've seen more than my fair share of Starbucks' cups. The cup I received yesterday had the following thought on it.

The Way I See It #252
Give me world politics, gender politics, party politics or small-town politics ... I'll take them all over the politics of youth sports.

Brenda Stonecipher
City council member and Starbucks customer in Everett, Washington.

This cup's communiqué conveyed a colossal conjunction of coincidence (I couldn't resist the alliteration). My son's football team has been the stage for truly ugly politics this season.

Before I begin truly ranting, let me say that all of the coaches in his league are purely volunteers and --having been a youth sport coach myself-- I applaud them for their huge commitments of time and energy to what is largely a thankless job.

OK, now let the rant begin.

My son plays football in a league for 11-13 year olds; his team is a brand new, expansion team in the league. Before the season, all new players participated in workouts so that the coaches could grade them. The coaches then held a draft, allotting new players to each team. Normally, this would be a fair system.

But it's not.