More misc stuff to get rid of!
First and most important... one of the core concepts of modernism is skepticism in the sense of watching out for the worst human trait (and sometimes its best) that has been responsible for most bad governance... and some great art... our relentless subjective willingness to be fooled. As Richard Feynman said, “the easiest person to fool is yourself.”
This matter will come up here, time and again, so let me just cite a couple of interesting items. (Isn’t this the underlying notion behind CITOKATE?)
One of the great flamboyant impresarios of skepticism, “The Great Randi,” will be holding a grand festival of skepticism and magic (yeah you heard that right!) along with my pals Penn & Teller and the MythBusters and many others, in Las Vegas in January. I hereby forgive them for not inviting me. And I urge you all to drop by http://www.tam4.com/
And there are few things you can do to help that will come easier, cheaper, and better than subscribing to Skeptic Magazine. http://www.skeptic.com/
Also, buy my novel EARTH and look on the back pages. There’s a list of other organizations you can join in order to help save the world, without doing anything more than writing a check for subscription to a cool magazine, once a year. It’s called “proxy power” and if you are not doing at least THAT much - joining half a dozen groups who will use your dues to go save the world FOR you -- well, then, then you are simply part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Now to miscellany. Any of you out there Huxley aficionados? A friend recently discovered a very direct debate in the 1940s between Aldous & Julian Huxley on the possibility of progress. Dour old Aldous called it another "idol" while Julian (co-founder of UNESCO and the World Health Organization) was all for it. JH makes his case for progress with the caveat that progress is not inevitable as some millenarians had thought. But, since we're in charge of the planet now, it is absolutely necessary.
Ah, but if you go back to my initial modernism articles, you can see that the Huxleys were arguing during in the can-do period of 1945-1969, when nothing seemed out of reach, the social diamond was at its flattest, and modernism seemed unstoppable. The unbelievable irony? We have accomplished vastly more than anybody then could have expected.
No, we don’t have unmetered/free nuclear power & nuke cars. But we have better race and gender justice than even a utopian would have imagined, then! And many wonders like this one I am using now. And after all of those accomplishments? A civilization with plummeting confidence! Aw, man.
Among our purposes online is to help each other find useful sites. Here is one. The Progressive Policy Institute examines mostly trade matters but with an eye to policy. http://www.ppionline.org/ Here’s a recent excerpt:
U.S. "edible ice" imports, 1996: 1,024 tons
U.S. "edible ice" exports, 2000: 6,800 tons
U.S. "edible ice" exports, 2004: 16,300 tons
What They Mean:
“Ingenious attempts to cool off are not at all new. In the 16th chapter of Walden, for example, Henry David Thoreau notes the arrival of a hundred Irish workmen at Walden Pond, who spent the winter of 1846-47 cutting blocks of ice from the pond's frozen surface. By March they had built an ice tower weighing 10,000 tons, which stood by the pond, insulated under a pile of hay, until it was dismantled and shipped off to India by ice king Frederick Turner the following autumn. The ice boats left in September and reached Bengal in May. New England at the time was exporting 5,000 tons of ice a year -- a figure which reached 12,000 a year in the 1870s -- to Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Brazil, Cuba, and Central America, as well as India. Turner was also the first man to sell ice cream in Cuba, the Virgin Islands, and St. Kitts. Thoreau smugly comments: "the sweltering inhabitants of Charleston and New Orleans, of Madras and Bombay and Calcutta drink at my well ."
“America's modern ice trade, though growing fast, is still pretty small. The "edible ice" totals last year were $3 million in exports, mainly to Mexico, and $28 million in imports. U.S. trade in ice cream is considerably bigger, at $50 million to $100 million a year in exports and $10 million in imports. Hong Kong and Singapore are still on the ice cream export map, but India is not. Trade in air conditioners and refrigerators of course is bigger still...” “... Probably more interesting, China's first major industrial manufacturing venture in the United States is in refrigeration. Appliance giant Hai'er opened a plant in Camden, South Carolina, in 2003, which now employs 225 people and has the capacity to produce half a million refrigerators a year...
Fascinating! Now more snippets. Mostly about science persevering amid and despite the new barbarians...
'Strange Things' Along Pacific Coast Waters -- (Associated Press -- August 2, 2005)
Marine biologists are seeing mysterious and disturbing things along the Pacific Coast this year: higher water temperatures, plummeting catches of fish, lots of dead birds on the beaches, and perhaps most worrisome, very little plankton - the tiny organisms that are a vital link in the ocean food chain. "The bottom has fallen out of the coastal food chain, and there's just not enough food out there," said Julia Parrish, a seabird ecologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Siberia's Rapid Thaw Causes Alarm -- (BBC -- August 11, 2005)
The huge expanse of western Siberia is thawing for the first time since its formation, 11,000 years ago. The area, which is the size of France and Germany combined, could release billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This could potentially act as a tipping point, causing global warming to snowball, scientists fear.
Scientists Sound Alarm on Arctic Ice Cap -- (CBC News -- July 29, 2005)
Satellite data for the month of June show Arctic sea ice has shrunk to a record low, raising concerns about climate change, coastal erosion, and changes to wildlife patterns. The National Snow and Ice Data Center in the United States uses remote sensing imagery to survey ice cover at both poles. The center says 2002 was a record low year for sea ice cover in the Arctic, since satellite observations began in 1979. There's evidence that may have been the lowest coverage in a century. Now scientists fear this year could be worse
How Earth-scale Engineering Can Save the Planet -- (Popular Science -- August 1, 2005)
As scientists stretch to find a solution to global warming, an array of innovative and imaginative ideas have emerged that constitute tinkering on a global scale. We already are inadvertently changing the climate, so why not advertently try to counterbalance it? asks a community of forward thinking scientists and designers. Here are some of the proposals.
And a FINAL QUOTE... which could be almost a modernists motto or manifesto...
“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.” --- Richard Feynman
(I met Feynman several times and attended lectures while I was a student at Caltech. In fact, at a party he once borrowed my date to dance, not realizing the song was Inna Gaddadavita! After 20 mins he (sweating/panting) returned her saying “You...you must take my place.”
(Like an idiot, I misunderstood and switched my major to physics. Agh! ;-)