Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Perspective on the world today from a World War II Era Woman

I was in downtown Boston over the weekend and had the chance to talk with a very long time resident.

When I say long time I really mean it in this case. She moved to Boston at age 20 during World War II!!

I asked her a lot of questions obviously but one of her answers sticks in my head. I asked her what she thought of the world today versus other periods in her life. Her answer was interesting and frightening: “It is far more dangerous.”

I of course had the immediate follow up of why do you think that…

Her answer was long so I am going to paraphrase but this is close….

Today we have North Korea, Iran and to a lessor extent China all being openly aggressive or in the case of China diplomatically aggressive. Her other concern was it took years for people like Hitler to come to power. In the modern day it can happen in months. From Junior Senator to President. (She nor I am saying President Obama is Hitler it is merely an example of rapid rise to power).

Now here is the other concern she had. Weapons and day to day tools are far more dangerous than they ever have been before. Airplanes flown into buildings can kill on the order of the same number of people as an organized attack by a large part of the Japanese Navy did at Pearl Harbor.

Here is her final concern: Celebrity Politicians have gotten worse. She cited John Kerry (to a lessor extent unless you are here in Boston), Hillary, Palin. Many to all of which are more concerned with their ‘brand’ so they can sell the next book than they are with world peace. She was very big on world peace and her dream that one day armies were unneeded (I’m sure all military members hope that day comes until then they proudly serve).

I have to say this was the most intersting and frightening random conversation I have had in a very long time.


Underwater Oil Leak, A Scientist Perspective

Ok, I have remained silent on the oil leak.

I do have a few things that have been on my mind about it.

As a scientist I want to point out that fixing a leak that is a mile below water is really hard. This is not an area that you can just dive to. This is specialized undersea vehicles of which there are not many. You must get one there, then get the right guy to drive, then of course make sure the right equipment is with him.

Now let’s throw in the extreme pressure seen in that environment…The extreme temperatures (pretty cold)…Now let’s throw in fast flowing jets of foreign material (oil) being thrown about. This is anything but an easy fix. This is not just something you can say ‘fix my leak and I need the pipe for the weekend’ (using a loose broken car analogy).

So what do we do? That is a good question. It is clear that it isn’t going to get fixed quickly. So let’s triage. If I were in charge I would get some folks moving on cleanup and keeping the oil away from the shore right now. Without delay. Throw lots of resources at that.

Second, get some guys fixing the leak. The right guys. Quit interviewing them, quit dragging them up to DC for questions. Just let them work…..

Not sure how I would react if I were the President. Its one of those times I’m happy to not be that guy.

One interesting bit is some of the media trying to come to his rescue saying not his fault…He couldn’t do anything. Nancy Pelosi even blamed Bush. The man has been President for a year and a half. I have to say that if Bush had been President and this happened oh good lord the backlash that I think would happen. I was no Bush supporter but this is bad. I have noticed a few guys ticked at Obama on the left. That is a start.

Now logically would I blame the President for this? No…I wouldn’t. Accidents happen and this is a really bad one. But let’s play equal opportunity if it was a republican there would be hearings, the word Haliburton would come up a lot…

Let’s leave politics out of this one though and just let BP fix their mess….

Al Gore and The University of Tennessee, Global Warming etc

I just want to start with I don’t like pollution more than anyone else.  I hate LA for this reason.  I don’t want to inhale it and I am a strong supporter in not polluting.

I do have issue with the man made global warming debate.  I want to say that I have not seen credible scientific evidence that man caused any kind of warming.  If warming existed, and its so close to in the noise that is a tough call, its difficult to assign a source to it.  Maybe it is man, maybe it isn’t.  The sun does vary its output that is well known so perhaps there is a connection there.

Ok now to my main point of this rant.  I heard on the news that Al Gore is getting an honorary degree from University of Tennessee…

Normally who cares, he is an alumni, a famous one and if it makes them feel better have fun with it.

I think the timing is interesting.  Its in some kind of climate science (I don’t remember how they are phrasing it but you get the point).  Given the current debate not only on the news but what I am sure is about to be in the open scientific literature given the news is this a good thing?

Is it a smart idea to give an unqualified man who takes the data he wants and ignores data he doesn’t like a degree in a science?  I say no.

Global Climate Change a.k.a. Global Warming

Ok I have been thinking a lot on this subject.  Before I start here I have to say I do have a PhD in Physics.

When I heard the President say, a few months back, that every scientist agrees that man made global warming (he may have said climate change) was real I laughed out loud.  If you put a dozen scientists in a room you can barely get a consensus on color of the sky.  Sure blue but the shade of blue will be up for debate.  Its not that we are bad people its just that we like precision.  So the wavelength of blue light is something we will argue based on who did the measurement, how many clouds, time of year, latitude and longitude, see there is no one correct answer.

Climate Change….I, as a graduate student, did some work in this area.  Yes I was just a student and the work I did and published in a refereed journal didn’t turn the world on its ear but it did show one thing.  Our Sun, the source the of Earth’s warmth, does change its output over time.  It gets warming it gets cooler.  VERY slightly…This is pretty well known to happen even outside the physics community in the astronomy community even amongst amateur astronomers.  Probably not that wide outside of that community.

So we studied changing global temperature vs changing solar temperature.  You get a GENERAL match.  I say general because global temperature data is a mess…We saw it at the time.  There have been changes in instrumentation which changes your accuracy.  These changes can be by as much as a degree or so.  Over the last hundred years if I remember right there have been 3 major changes in the types of instrumentation (I probably am off on that number but you get the point).  That throws error into the data.  Whenever I sit and watch a story on the news of global climate change or see Al Gore talking about it they never talk about the potential error rate.  There are error bars.

If the error rate is what I believe it to be the global climate change they talk about is well within the error bars.  Meaning that it may be a mistake.  Just like political polls have an error rate of plus or minus something.  Temperature data has an error rate of plus or minus something yet you never see that quoted.

Now I hate pollution like anyone but before we spend LUDICROUS amounts of money funding reversing, shifting or whatever climate around which I don’t think man can really do shouldn’t we fund a few million bucks for a study that says what the heck are those error rates?  See just what the real data looks like since it all seems to be missing at this point?  I’m just saying lets do this right.  Look at it from first principals and not go off half cocked with something like cap and trade which will cause much higher taxes on everyone regardless of income bracket?