Friday, March 30, 2012


Look what's happening at the convenience store across the road from my place today.

WTF? I puzzled over it a while then realized there must be a big lottery jackpot that you can get in Georgia but not Florida? I do not get what's fun about the lottery.

Ashes and Dust

Wednesday morning I got up early while the woods were wet with dew and the wind was still. 
I made a cup of tea then went out in the yard and set my brush pile on fire.

I sat in my folding chair with my tea and photographed mosquitoes while I watched the fire burn down.
When it burned down enough to get close to it I used my pitchfork to throw the ends back in the middle.
It was done in half an hour.

Thursday afternoon I noticed the pile of ashes looked funny.
This morning I was on the lookout.
That turkey was heading straight for my fire place.

He gives it a little scratch to test the quality.
Yes this is fine.

And he gets right in there and shakes around.

Here's the shape he made in the dust by the fire.
This must be like the shampoo.

Then he gets up and moves over a bit.

Rub it in good.

Here's the mess he made right in the middle of the cold ashes.

Feeling refreshed.
He gave a final shake as he headed up my driveway
Surrounding himself in a cloud.

More of the view from my East window.

This is who lives in the burrow by the stump.

The aptly named Stump Gopher.
Who I believe is Driveway Gopher with new digs.

This is the warning sign I painted for delivery men who drive too fast.
I hope Johnny Hart doesn't mind that I used his art.

Here's the hole of the juvenile gopher right on the other side of the driveway.

I like having tortoises I can see from my windows.
If I go outside to take their picture they scoot back down their hole.
It makes a funny noise.
I wish I could record it.
Make it my ringtone.
Leave me alone.
Leave me alone.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Time of Peak Activity

From @grrlscientist Mystery Bird, adult Barred Eagle Owl at nap time.  Click that link for a beautiful picture of a juvenile owl and a discussion of owl eye color. Apparently owl eye color doesn't correlate to the time of day they're active, but is it related to where they live? These dark eyed owls are tropical where the light is more intense.

And speaking of time of peak activity, yesterday was the Reason Rally in Washington, DC where non-believers showed themselves in public. There's a good summary on Discovery News.
  • An estimated 10,000 people rallied in Washington D.C. to celebrate the rejection of the idea of God.
  • The fastest growing 'religious' group is campaigning for a bigger place in public life.
  • Deep-seated fear of discrimination leads many Americans with no religious affiliation not to acknowledge themselves as atheists.
I support their effort in every way. I am a straight up atheist here on my blog, but that's not the same as real life. Nobody near me reads my blog. I don't pay that much attention to my analytics, but last time I checked only 25 people in Georgia read my blog in a month. More people in Germany read my blog than in my home state. Some Christian members of my family found out I'm an atheist because they read it here. And now mostly I never hear from them. (Although that could also be because they asked me if I voted for Obama and I said I did.) My cousin whose creationist beliefs prompted me to make the evolution video called to invite me over for bible study last week. I told her I was busy that night. Why didn't I just tell her I am an atheist and I'd rather eat figs filled with live ants than go to bible study? Well it's very awkward! If I told her I'm a non-believer she might just try even harder to SAVE me. That's not what I want at all. Also it seems impolite.

Basically I feel like I need to check off one of the remarks in the Discovery article. I am afraid of discrimination in my community if people knew I was an atheist. I'm afraid my property would be vandalized. So I keep a profile so low nobody even knows I'm back here. All they see is woods. Being an atheist is a big part of why I had to become a hermit when I left Austin. You can be an atheist in Austin. Hell, you can fill the Paramount theater with atheists and tape a comedy CD. But in my immediate vicinity there are 5 churches, 4 auto title loan outlets, 2 places to buy gas and lottery tickets, a giant furniture store, a bridal boutique, and a denture clinic (and I'm not cherry picking. That's every single thing). These are not my people.

I have three atheist relatives here and they aren't out either, as far as I know. I think everybody assumes we're Episcopalian because my great-grandfather was an Episcopal priest. On Facebook I have my religion as Misanthropalian because it's not just that I don't believe in God, I really don't like people. Look at what I'm surrounded by. Why would I have a high regard for people? The reason all those title loan places are here charging 300% interest for a loan is because Florida has a law limiting the charges to 30% a year. So they just don't bother to set up shop in Florida. They come right across the line into Georgia and start extorting poor people. I despise people that consider this a good business. And people that would take out that kind of loan? I can't imagine we have a lot in common. I feel disconnected from people here in several ethical areas. It reinforces my revulsion for religion in fact. Because I would bet the full value of my car that all the people making and receiving those loans are believers.

Kenneth K posted a link to a YouTube video of scenes from the Reason Rally in the comments on the Discovery News article. I'm not embedding it because it activates all my worst symptoms of being a highly sensitive person, introvert, and misanthrope. Crowds are bad enough, but crowds having arguments? No no no no no. Two of my subscribers were there, Darron and Zoe. Maybe they'll give us a first hand account in the comments.

I want to give credit to some of my believer friends who are perfectly alright with me being an atheist. It can be done. I got a lovely email from my college roommate from the hospital when her father first showed symptoms of the cancer that quickly killed him.
We are in pre-op for a brain biopsy. No sinus issues or vertigo but
doc says more likely a tumor. We won't have diagnosis for up to 2
weeks following this biopsy. Wish us luck since I know you are not the
praying type.
That she could respect my lack of belief in a moment like that really touched me. My hope for the world is that one day we can all get along this way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Haterphernalia List Topper

I made up "haterphernalia" a few years ago and snapped up the URL I thought there should be a special word for accessories that spread hateful propaganda when I saw a bumper sticker on a truck that was an anti-forest/pro-logging message. I thought I'd start a gallery of these hideous things, then I never did. If this is how the year is going to go maybe I should get back on this project. But it would be contrary to my intention if Paula Smith, the owner of, got more traffic to her site because I put her "cute" stickers in a slideshow of things I despise.

“Don’t Re-Nig in 2012,” reads the sticker — a not-too-subtle play on a word that invokes one of the most repulsive racial epithets to attack the country’s first black president. Yet, Smith sees absolutely nothing wrong with it....

Would there be any positive outcome from horrifying thinking people with the incomprehensible taste of people proud of their lack of critical thought? (This sticker isn't just blatantly racist, if you give it a moment's thought it doesn't even make any sense. If it is a play on "renege" then it's actually a PRO Obama sticker.) Does anybody qualified in PR want my URL? Throw it up on Tumblr and take a poll on which is the most horrible?

UPDATE: Haterphernalia is a non-partisan word. A sticker that said something mean about a Republican issue would make the list too, I just can't think of an example of one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Read the Fine Print

I am working on this big project to restore two Spartan trailers. When I see trash bags on sale I buy them. I got a bag of Hefty bags and opened them when I was pulling the carpet out of one of the trailers. There was a thick dust of some kind of powdered carpet be-stinking product mixed in with the regular dust, rat feces, .22 bullets, and candy wrappers. I crammed the carpet pad in these bags and swept up the smelly dirt and shook that in there, too, tied it up and took it to the dump. The next day I started collecting the insulation from under the floor, so I shook out another bag and smelled that Carpet Fresh again. I looked carefully at the box to see if there was some smell added, but it didn't say anything. I figured I got some Carpet Fresh from the floor in the box of bags. Two weeks later after the box got wet and I took the bags out and used one again they still smelled like that. I finally became convinced it was the ACTUAL garbage bags that had a smell. So I went back to the store and saw these Glad bags on sale. Next to them was a box labeled "Now with Febreze scent!" So I stayed away from those and got these.
Well I'll be damned if these don't have a strong and offensive perfumed smell too! What the hell?! It's a TRASH BAG! I went back to Walgreens and asked to exchange them for some that didn't activate my negative reaction to artificial scents. They found these that say specifically that they are UNSCENTED.

Is this one of the signs of the fall of civilization? The tipping point on the slide into Idiocracy? The introductory scenes for The Incredible Shrinking Woman? Where the least common denominator is that EVERYTHING has an artificial smell? Where you have to assume things have unnecessary additives and if you want the least ingredients possible you have to be smarter than the average consumer to pick that item out of the lineup? I'm just grateful these options exist for me.

But for how long? When do I start hoarding the products that don't activate my chemical sensitivities, fearing they will be discontinued? Should I just start making my own soap from pine sap, wood ash, and fat rendered from the flesh of my enemies?

"Corporations are people, my friend," says Mitt Romney. So I put it to you, Mitt, what is WRONG with people?! Here's Proctor and Gamble ahead of the curve to serve the depressed citizens of America..... 

P&G also makes Cheer. I need to go look at the store to see if they have Cheer with More Spirit! And a white bottle called free spirit Cheer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rockets Aren't Rocks

I love the solid rocket booster videos from the shuttle launches. You probably thought you were done with me posting those 30 minute long things on here. No such luck. Today Phil Plait led me to an edited down best-of reel. Only some of the cameras have sound so they must have played sound from one over video from another to get this compilation. (Thanks to Skywalker Ranch for sound mixing.) They also made up this mph number in the upper right calculated from instrument data.

Phil was apparently as transfixed by watching these flashing numbers as me. He was watching on the ascent.
I was also interested in watching the numbers flashing past: on the upper left is elapsed time, and on the upper right is the air speed as calculated using on board instruments. Watch as the speed increases… and then the increase increases! In other words, the acceleration of the whole system increases quite a bit with time. That’s because the thrust from the rockets — the force they apply to the stack — is roughly constant, but as they burn fuel, the mass decreases. Since force = mass × acceleration (F = ma, with a hat tip to Isaac Newton!), as the mass drops, the acceleration must increase.
But I couldn't take my eyes off the numbers on the way down. I was trying to figure out where the SRB stopped going up and started coming down. Unlike the simple physics problem in high school where you throw a rock straight up, it stops, and falls back down, this never goes to v = 0. This takes college physics. I remember this from Classical Mechanics.

It stands to reason that these rocket motors are going to keep going up for a while after they detach. Of course the air speed immediately starts to decrease when the source of upward acceleration detaches, but it's not going STRAIGHT up. It's just going to make an arc where only the portion of the velocity vector perpendicular to the earth goes to zero, the vector tangent to the earth is still quite large. My gut tells me that the point where it stops continuing up and starts heading down is where the change in air speed is minimized. Around 3:46 in the video the air speed drops to around 2556 mph for a few seconds, then it begins to increases again. Still outside the atmosphere the SRB picks up speed from gravitational acceleration. Then it hits the atmosphere and very obligingly lets friction slow it down to just about what my terrible math memory remembers as terminal velocity for our atmosphere, 275 mph. It takes the whole atmosphere to get there, too, which points out that there is only just enough of that stuff up there. The thinness of our atmosphere really weirds me out if I think about it too hard, like I feel when I try to pick up trash around my driveway with cars whizzing by on the highway.

It's funny that I can remember Dr. Stanford standing at the blackboard working out that terminal velocity problem, and I can remember the answer, but I sure couldn't recreate any of those equations from memory. Just knowing I understood it once makes me appreciate this video more, though, so it was time well spent.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reuse: Cute Kitchenette

A Small Year Reuse Project: The Cute Kitchenette

This Dwyer Products Sink/Stove/Refrigerator unit was in one of the Spartan trailers I bought. It wasn't original -- there was another sink, stove, and refrigerator in there already. It had "FSU" and an inventory number written in Magic Marker on the cover for the refrigerator compressor. I assume it was in graduate student housing or something and got liquidated during a renovation. I think it was maybe made in the 1960s or 70s. It was a Freon 12 refrigerator and Freon 12 was phased out by the early 1990s. Dwyer still makes industrial furnishings. Most stuff like this sells for over $1300 new, but with stainless steel tops instead of this neat old enameled steel.

My friend Steve helped me pry the kitchenette out of the door of the Spartan and lift it into the farm truck. It was 25 1/2" wide and the door is 24" wide. Whoever put it in there had already cut the frame and bent back the aluminum to get an extra inch. To get the knobs and handles through required a Superbar.

We took it out of the truck in my shed and I commenced trying to clean it. First I took the top off and wheelbarrowed it over to my outdoor shower near the hose and scrubbed it with Bon Ami. The trick to this kind of work is you have to scrub HARD for a LONG TIME. There are not naturally spots in enameled products. If you can't feel a nick in the finish keep scrubbing and every spot will go away.

After I got the top clean I went back to the shed and scrubbed the gray left side. That came clean nicely too.

Then I opened the refrigerator and my heart sank. The entire bottom of it was brown and crunchy looking. I thought it was completely rusted through. I poked at it with a putty knife and a big piece flaked off. I decided it was probably just a spilled Pepsi, based on the empty can under the sink. I allowed as how I better suck it up and see how much damage was under the filth. The top cleaned up so nice! I couldn't stand to waste that cute sink and drainboard. The cabinet itself seemed very high quality.

So I went looking for the sponge that has a Scotchbrite pad on one side and filled up my bucket with warm water and got to work on the covering of roach egg cases, mildew, and ancient pool of Pepsi. Pepsi is a very corrosive material so I was pretty worried. This was really a high quality item though. It scrubbed up great! I couldn't get to the all the roach eggs between the freezer thing and the top though.

I decided to test the refrigerator the next day and if it didn't work then I could take that part out and finish cleaning it. Sure enough, it didn't work. I messed around bypassing all the switches and thermostats and it just wouldn't do anything. The battery was dead in my multimeter so my troubleshooting was not that great, but I pretty much wanted it not to work. With the shelf brackets ruined by rust I couldn't really see how I could make it a passable refrigerator again anyway. I took the compressor and freezer out and finished cleaning up all the rest of the disgusting animal refuse.

After I finished dismantling it as much as I could I went to Home Depot and got an 8' piece of 1" aluminum angle stock for $13. The stainless steel acorn nuts that held the shelf brackets in place were nice. I used them again to hold the aluminum after I cut it and drilled it using the old brackets for a template. I used scraps of tongue and groove pine paneling from my house to make wood shelves. It's very fat pine so it should release resinous vapors and completely mask that old refrigerator smell.

When I finished working on it I took pictures and put it on Craigslist. Then Steve came and got it in his larger-than-mine car so I could try to sell it at his yard sale Saturday. I marked it down every half hour, starting a $100 and ending at $50. Nobody bought it. At the end of the day we carried it onto Steve's front porch. I decided I could put it back in the shed and save it for my laundry room that I might build one day. But then somebody emailed me Sunday night from the Craigslist ad and said they wanted it. Steve sold it for me this morning for $50 cash!

Moral of the story: Good quality stuff is usually worth scrubbing with Bon Ami. Don't be dissuaded by filth. You might not get rich off it, but it beats paying a junkyard to take it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reminders App Tip for iOS 5.1

After I updated my iPhone 4S to iOS 5.1 the Reminders App was all messed up. When I started the app I just got the Completed list and that was it. Everything was gone and I couldn't find a + symbol anywhere. There was no list for adding reminders. It was very frustrating. I looked in Settings for a way to fix it and didn't see anything. I searched the forums and couldn't find any mention of this problem.

Last night I finally figured it out. They added iCloud Syncing for Reminders. So I looked in the iCloud menu of Settings and found that Reminders was Off. I turned it on and all of a sudden all my reminders were back and I had two lists and could add stuff again.

Screen shot simulating the original state.
When I first upgraded there was only the
one dot at the bottom and no second
screen available with a swipe.
I turned Reminders Off again in iCloud
to make this screenshot but the original
problem stayed fixed.

So if your Reminders don't work, go look in Settings under iCloud and turn it on. If you don't actually want to sync over the air turn it off again. Should stay fixed.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Wave Equation

There's a lovely audio slideshow on the Guardian Science website that attempts to explain the wave equation. It's done by Ian Stewart, who gives it a good dumbing down. But it still sounds complicated to me. And I spent some of my best and brightest years studying this equation in all its realms, from Physics of Music to Optics, Electromagnetism, Geology and Oceanography.

I remember when I changed my major from Industrial Engineering to Physics my grandfather asked me, "What IS Physics?" I didn't have the presence of mind to explain it as well as Ian Stewart. I said something like, "Everything is physics, Granddaddy. Like this..." And picked up a book and dropped it on the sofa. "Gravity is physics." He said, "Oh, I see," and went back to reading those incomprehensible columns of figures in the Wall Street Journal.

I like this wave equation inspired explanation. Physics is the analysis of where things are and when. It's useful for predicting where they will be later if you do different things to them. Things can be ordinary objects like strings, thin membranes, and rocks; or less solid things like water and air; or really esoteric things such as light, radio signals, and atomic scale particles. The same calculus works for all of them.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

iOS 5.1 Oh Wow!

I upgraded my iPhone 4s with the latest OS and look what I got! If you slide UP you go straight to camera. There was a direct to camera shortcut before with a double click but I could never remember it. This is awesome!

If I walk up my driveway until I get out of range of my WiFi I also get a 4G icon instead of the old 3G, which I don't believe even a little bit. Nearest 4G is Atlanta and that's hundreds of miles away.

Turns out the HSPA+ data radio in the iPhone 4s is called 4G in a lot of other phones. Under pressure from ATT Apple agreed to finally call it 4G. ATT wants to be able to have the iPhone compared equally to other phones with the same radio by calling it the same thing. So there's 3G (in the iPhone 4), 4G (iPhone 4s), and 4G LTE, which is what is in the new iPad. That 4G LTE data rate is fast enough to use up your whole 2 GB data plan in 4 minutes (at theoretical throughput, probably not really possible.) 

I'll stick with the WiFi only iPad with lots of memory. I can load it up with photos to edit and books to read and all sorts of other media if I go out of WiFi range. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Just iPad

iPads are like eggs. The first iPad was a fresh, raw egg. Pretty, but I didn't think it was ready to eat. The iPad 2 was an egg cooked in a Ronco microwave egg cooker. It was food, but I didn't want to eat that either. The new iPad is like a sous vide egg, cooked in warm water for over an hour to achieve the perfect creamy, custardy yolk. It's highly technical and very smooth. I was waiting for this iPad.

I'm relieved they didn't call it iPad HD. It's kind of gratifying that Apple is calling this just iPad, like 1 and 2 were really just beta iPads and this is the alpha iPad. They're going with "Generation" like they do with iPods. Ask me what generation is my iPod Classic? I have no idea. 6th?

I followed the press conference on Twitter on my iPhone at Starbuck's in Tallahassee. It was very frustrating. I wanted to know if it had anything actually new, like an SD card reader, new docking connector, or maybe they made it WATERPROOF! Why didn't they make it waterproof?! I was already convinced by manufacturer evidence that it had doubled the pixels in both directions. Pretty much nothing new but the display and processor, which anybody that reads MacRumors already knew.

They never really cleared up the details on the name. I went through the very slow store site just now to preorder one and found a picture of the box.

OK, so what does the iPad2 box look like then? They're still selling that in the 16GB version only for $399. I went looking for those tech specs with a picture of the box.

If it weren't for that section about AppleCare+ for iPad 2 you would have no idea which one you were looking at. That's the same damn graphic. I hope their shipping is handled by robots that only read bar codes and not people that read labels. There has to be more to the box than this. That's just a retail disaster. How long before Best Buy puts giant stickers on all of them?

I can tell by the price I ordered the right one. Now I'm under a lot of pressure to have something done in iBook Author before it gets here so I'll be ready to load it up and try it out!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lighter-Than-Air Litter

Look what I found in my yard this morning. For some reason NOAA's Mylar balloons don't bother me, but these do.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Adapt, Non-negotiable

My friend John Callender over at is obsessed with the climate change deniers. I think he's really terrified by global warming. I'm trying to figure out why I'm not. I guess I look at it from an individual perspective, not culturally. When my situation changes I adapt. When the pond goes dry, I don't try to think of ways to fill it up so I can go fishing again. I just eat something besides fish. I am personally sequestering a lot more carbon than I produce. I haven't burdened the planet with any offspring. I'm doing about the best I can for good ol' Earth.

One of John's links to a Nathan Myrvold interview, Myhrvold: 50 simple things won’t fix the climate — but a few complex things might, has a quote that kind of scares and confuses me. If I hadn't already given up on people and become a hermit it would infuriate me as well. I'm repressing that emotion right now.
I think we also need to investigate geoengineering. Right now, 2012 will have higher CO2 than 2011. Does anybody believe we are doing the things now so that 2013 or 2014 will be less than 2012? We are not over the hump yet, and until we are, I think that we need to understand that set of options — they may be real, they may not be, but it would be inexcusably irresponsible not to understand them.

We probably also need to investigate adaptation to a warmer world.
PROBABLY need to investigate adaptation?! No, that's THE MAIN THING we need to do. Our stupidity and short-sightedness messed up the balance of nature. Thinking we are qualified to adjust the large number of factors involved to get it back to balance is illogical. I'm for researching it, just vehemently opposed to actually trying to manipulate climate.

Also, who is defining the balance we're going for with geoengineering? Rich people? Why the hell do they get to define the ideal average temperature? Which also implies they get to set sea level, ocean acidity, atmospheric convection systems, global ocean currents, sea and land ice area, rates of weathering of rocks, growth of coral and erosion of beaches, eruption of volcanoes, or anything else that's part of climate. Who the HELL do they think they are? It is NOT their planet to engineer to suit their plans.

There are no master specs on Earth Climate. Sea level changes. A line on a map does not mean that's where the land is "supposed" to end and the ocean begin, that's just where the high water line was when they drew that map. If the Apalachee Indians that lived at the mouth of the Aucilla River had the kind of unbridled hubris and disposable income that Nathan Myrvold does their village wouldn't be an archeology site under 20 feet of water in Apalachee Bay right now. Humans have amazing coping skills. We can move. We aren't like migratory birds that time their arrival to Chesapeake Bay so they can eat the eggs of millions of mating horseshoe crabs. We have far more options. Granted we are belligerent as hell and want to keep what we think is ours. The Apalachee certainly did. They fought the Europeans to keep their land, and lost. But they didn't fight the OCEAN to keep their land. They just moved to Tallahassee! (I know all about that. It feels like defeat, I know, but we have to suck it up.)

I don't think human coping mechanisms should include things like sea walls, canals and dykes, or anything that disrupts the physics of entire ecosystems. That sort of thing costs gobs of money and starts a spiral of side effects we can't even monitor, let alone predict. There are huge programs to remediate the side effects nobody expected from things like putting canals in the Everglades, and it is impossible to get it back to the way that sorta works without constant expense. A lot of this sort of difficulty is because nobody has a record of what it was like when it worked all by itself. When Lewis and Clark got to the mouth of the Columbia River they'd built a damn jetty before anybody even took an aerial photograph of how it was naturally. The Army Corps of Engineers has been fighting that estuary ever since.

If you leave nature alone it will clean itself up, it will level out the bumps, it will grow back. If you are poor, and patient, things will become stable. If you are rich and think what you want is more important than what is stable, then you are sort of a dick. I don't want to be too mean because there are a LOT of people around here that practice that kind of small scale geoengineering to make more quail live on their land than ought to be there. I don't want to be rude or bossy. But honestly, I do look at my creeks with crystal clear water because I have native ground cover and then I look at their pond muddy with erosion and I think, "What a dick."

Before you can spend money you have to make money. All money-making has environmental costs. It would sure slow down global warming and ecological harm if we could just all stop trying to get so much damn money. I believe that the less money it takes to maintain our environment to suit us the better off the planet is in the long run. The better off our descendants are. People with kids dwell on the national debt, but to me the continuous expense to maintain countermeasures to control the environment is much more disturbing.

I am so relieved that my grandmother subscribed to a philosophy of minimal disturbance to the land. Her goal was to manage it the way it was when it was all one open hunting ground between the Creek and Apalachee Indians. Because we have neighbors with their own disparate goals we have to go to some effort to start and stop the fires we set within boundaries. But that's a tiny amount of effort and expense compared to what our neighbors do. Their tractors must burn the annual diesel fuel equivalent of all my energy use in a decade. Sure am glad I don't have to pay for that!

I hope people like Myrvold keep supporting the funding of research into earth science and work on alternative energy sources to reduce anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission. I think that is very important. But if the United States can't even scrape up the money to build an earth observing satellite they already paid to design, I just don't have any confidence they can complete a job like geoengineering. (I mean Aquarius, which I talked about a lot here. American engineering firms designed it but then the funding was cut and Argentina had to step up to finish the damn thing.) Americans as a culture are not committed to even quantifying the basics that we need to understand the physics of Earth climate. Hell, the US even let their ordinary weather satellites get old and fail without planning replacements in time. There is no way America funding can keep engineers and scientists working on it climate engineering consistently to the point they are worthy of mucking around with geophysics. And how is the American public going to take it if Japan starts mucking around with it first?

Let there be no mistake, we don't know what is going to happen as CO2 levels keep rising. We know ocean acidity will go up. Eventually the calcium carbonate of coral reefs will dissolve. Then the unprotected beaches will erode. Land will go into the sea. But this is just generalities. Once all that CO2 goes into the ocean can it get sequestered? How long will it take? We don't know with any detail what will happen when the albedo of the arctic ice is gone. We can guess, and we can analyze this year's weather and say what we think was a result of this loss of ice.

We only have a rough idea of the values of all the variables in all the previous states of the climate. The more information we gather from ice cores, deep ocean sediment samples, speleothems, mountain tops, and coral beds is great. The earth observing satellites sent up in the last few decades are great. But mostly this wealth of new data just makes the scientists more keenly aware of the daunting complexity of the interaction of all the natural processes on the earth. I loved my Paleo Oceanography class for giving me this awareness. I am deeply suspicious of anybody that thinks humans can change just one factor out of hundreds and it will cause an improvement in whatever is most important to them. Average temperature perhaps. This just tells me they lack a proper appreciation for the interconnectedness, complexity, and time frame of earth physics.

If you don't know what's going to happen it's best to be nimble. Don't hesitate to investigate ways to adapt.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Blue Eyes Are More Sensitive to Light than Brown

I saw some nonsense today about a Chinese boy born with blue eyes. They claim he can read in dim light and has to squint in bright light. He must be a mutant with super powers!

Um, you guys? EVERYBODY with blue eyes can see better in low light than brown eyed people. The irises of blue eyes are more translucent and admit more light. Brown eyes are a result of light-blocking pigment in the irises. Blue eyes result from a gene change that doesn't tell the body to make as much of that pigment.

Because he lives in a place where brown eyes are predominant the other people probably don't know anything about blue eyes. He's not an alien, or an X-man any more than I am. Yes, it is a mutation that the child of two brown eyed people would have blue eyes. But it's not a NEW mutation (Read about it here).  Obviously this random genetic change happened before, was replicated through reproduction and enhanced with natural selection until there are whole groups of people where blue eyes are predominant. It happens to be an advantage in a place with low light to have blue eyes and the light skin that often goes with them. The gene to make the body create less pigment in the iris of the eye usually turns down the amount in the skin as well. Blue-eyed, light skinned people like me can synthesize the Vitamin D they need with less sun exposure than people with darker eyes and skin.

Why is the media giving him super powers? They need to get the poor kid some sunglasses and a hat, not make him a spectacle. I feel awful for Nong Youhui.

I also feel awful that people are so SILLY! Why would they say he has the eyes of a cat? They're normal blue people eyes! And it gets repeated by more people that want to believe in X-men type powers. Now you just stop that, all of you. This is ridiculous.