Thursday, May 31, 2007

Misc wonders...

For many years I have consulted with government agencies (e.g. DoD, CIA, AirForce, DTRA and Homeland Security) about potential “unusual threats and opportunities.” So have several of my colleagues in the futurist/science-fiction game - proving that there are many skilled professionals at the upper-middle ranks who know the value of technologically informed imagination, in peering at the dangers that may lie ahead. Some scientifically qualified authors even formed a think tank consultation outfit called SIGMA years ago, in order to provide this kind of service at a larger scale. Alas, SIGMA never really took off...

...till now, that is. In a recent issue of USA Today you can read about the latest DHS conference at which SIGMA members explored dire scenarios of peril for the US Homeland. I was unable to attend. But do read abouyt Greg Bear and Larry Niven and others, hard at work using those “lamps on the brow” to peer ahead for the greater good.


----- More Misc Items ----

-- Consider someone who has just died of a heart attack. His organs are intact, he hasn't lost blood. All that's happened is his heart has stopped beating—the definition of "clinical death"—and his brain has shut down to conserve oxygen. But what has actually died? As recently as 1993, when Dr. Sherwin Nuland wrote the best seller "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter," the conventional answer was that it was his cells that had died. The patient couldn't be revived because the tissues of his brain and heart had suffered irreversible damage from lack of oxygen. This process was understood to begin after just four or five minutes. If the patient doesn't receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation within that time, and if his heart can't be restarted soon thereafter, he is unlikely to recover. That dogma went unquestioned until researchers actually looked at oxygen-starved heart cells under a microscope. What they saw amazed them, according to Dr. Lance Becker, an authority on emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "After one hour," he says, "we couldn't see evidence the cells had died.

But if the cells are still alive, why can't doctors revive someone who has been dead for an hour? Because once the cells have been without oxygen for more than five minutes, they die when their oxygen supply is resumed. "It looks to us," says Becker, "as if the cellular surveillance mechanism cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and a cell being reperfused with oxygen. Something throws the switch that makes the cell die."

With this realization came another: that standard emergency-room procedure has it exactly backward. When someone collapses on the street of cardiac arrest, if he's lucky he will receive immediate CPR, maintaining circulation until he can be revived in the hospital. But the rest will have gone 10 or 15 minutes or more without a heartbeat by the time they reach the emergency department. And then what happens? "We give them oxygen," Becker says. "We jolt the heart with the paddles, we pump in epinephrine to force it to beat, so it's taking up more oxygen." Blood-starved heart muscle is suddenly flooded with oxygen, precisely the situation that leads to cell death. Instead, Becker says, we should aim to reduce oxygen uptake, slow metabolism and adjust the blood chemistry for gradual and safe reperfusion. WOW!

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a way to stimulate the slow waves typical of deep sleep by the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to send a harmless magnetic signal through the skulls of sleeping folks.

India Looks To Produce World's First
European researchers have integrated thin-film organic solar cells with a flexiblehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif polymer battery to produce a lightweight and ultrathin solar battery for low-wattage electronic devices, such as smart cards and mobile phones. The battery can recharge itself when exposed to natural or indoor sunlight

Scientists at Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (Spawar) claim they have achieved a low energy nuclear reaction (LERN) in an experiment that can be replicated and tested.

Much more efficient solar cells that make solar power about as cheap as electricity from the electric grid may soon be possible as a result of technology that more efficiently captures and uses light.

NASA will likely shut down its Institute for Advanced Concepts, which funds research into futuristic ideas in spaceflight and aeronautics, such as spacecraft that could surf the solar system on magnetic fields, motion-sensitive spacesuits that could generate power, and tiny, spherical robots that could explore Mars.

"metamaterial" that selectively filters terahertz radiation could perhaps be used for short-range wireless communications. The device is essentially a sheet of metal foil incorporating a carefully designed pattern of holes. It is a so-called metamaterial, since it interacts with electromagnetic waves in novel ways.

A sensor chip controlled not by wires and transistors, but by a living slime mould marks an important step towards more widespread use of biologically-driven components and devices.

Interesting interview re the quest for “intelligence” in . ”Ihave set these goals: the object recognition capabilities of a 2-year-old child, the language understanding of a 4-year-old.”

To which I would add a third & hardest far-out goal. The common sense of a chicken.


TerraPass is a company that sells "carbon offsets," mostly to individuals. What is a carbon offset? I’m glad you asked. Here’s how it works - customers come to the website, plug in the cars they drive, home energy usage, and airplane travel, and get back a calculation of how much carbon dioxide they are putting into the atmosphere every year. TerraPass then lets them pay renewable energy and efficiency projects to reduce emissions by the equivalent amount. So for example you might find that the "carbon footprint" of your minivan is 4 tons of carbon dioxide/year. Through the TerraPass website, you pay about $35, and your money is bundled with money from other customers to pay for reduction projects, or to keep ongoing projects in business. Typical project might be a landfill that is seeping methane gas (one of the worst of the global warming offenders), and TerraPass customer money is paying a developer to destroy or flare off that methane so it never enters the atmosphere. TerraPass is still small enough that we aren’t supporting projects single-handedly, and some projects also make some money by selling electricity, but you get the idea.

At the other end, Russ Daggatt offers this: ”By the time global warming got to the point where there was a broad scientific consensus that action was required there wasn't a whole lot of time to act before the problem gets beyond our ability to mitigate it. To our great misfortune, George W. Bush became president just as recognition of the problem became clear. Eight years is a long time in that context.

“Of course, it hasn't helped that ExxonMobil has spent $23 million since 1998 ($2.1 million in 2006 alone) funding various global warming denier groups http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-david/catching-the-tiger-in the_b_48787.html. There should be a special place in Hell for them (actually, if Houston, where they have their headquarters, gets any hotter and smoggier than it already is, it might qualify). But even Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson now says, "It is clear that something is going on. It is not useful to debate (the issue) any longer." Not that he is actually doing anything about it (like ... you know, maybe cutting off funding to deceptive pseudo-science).”


A special place in hell, indeed.

Speaking of which...

"Star Wars" documentary reveals nothing.

In interview after interview, punctuated with film clip after film clip, one "Star Wars" authority after another compares the stories in the films to great epics and classical mythology. Over two hours, experts (an assortment that includes anchor Dan Rather, director Peter Jackson, journalist Linda Ellerbee, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and political satirist Stephen Colbert) find parallels to "The Iliad," "The Odyssey," "The Lord of the Rings," "Paradise Lost," "Jason and the Argonauts," "Hamlet" and the story of Christianity, among others. Rarely has so much time been spent on elaborating the obvious.

On this, the 30th anniversary of the first "Star Wars" film, it would have been more interesting to assess how well Lucas fulfilled his vision, but there is not a syllable of criticism uttered. Not even about JarJar Binks. And, although Lucas' production company helped make the special, there isn't a single frame of Lucas discussing the underlying philosophy of "Star Wars," how it evolved and how well, in retrospect, it was reflected in the films. Was he off in some galaxy far away?

ah well....


And now, from the Transparency front...

The Visible Man: An FBI Target Puts His Whole Life Online

Hasan Elahi whips out his Samsung Pocket PC phone and shows me how he's keeping himself out of Guantanamo. He swivels the camera lens around and snaps a picture of the Manhattan Starbucks where we're drinking coffee. Then he squints and pecks at the phone's touchscreen. "OK! It's uploading now," says the cheery, 35-year-old artist and Rutgers professor, whose bleached-blond hair complements his fluorescent-green pants. "It'll go public in a few seconds." Sure enough, a moment later the shot appears on the front page of his Web site, TrackingTransience.net.

...Elahi's site is the perfect alibi. Or an audacious art project. Or both. The Bangladeshi-born American says the US government mistakenly listed him on its terrorist watch list — and once you're on, it's hard to get off. To convince the Feds of his innocence, Elahi has made his life an open book. Whenever they want, officials can go to his site and see where he is and what he's doing. Indeed, his server logs show hits from the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense, and the Executive Office of the President, among others.

The globe-hopping prof says his overexposed life began in 2002, when he stepped off a flight from the Netherlands and was detained at the Detroit airport. He says FBI agents later told him they'd been tipped off that he was hoarding explosives in a Florida storage unit; subsequent lie detector tests convinced them he wasn't their man. But with his frequent travel — Elahi logs more than 70,000 air miles a year exhibiting his art work and attending conferences — he figured it was only a matter of time before he got hauled in again. He might even be shipped off to Gitmo before anyone realized their mistake. The FBI agents had given him their phone number, so he decided to call before each trip; that way, they could alert the field offices. He hasn't been detained since.


I’d have to classify this as something that may have started out 80% self-protection but is now 90% “art”. Great art, but the story hardly looks like top case on my Amnesty International intervention list. The guy seems to have seized the initiative in ways that we all approve-of, here. You go, boy.

And finally...

Gotta see these way cool handmade Steampunk Rayguns From the F/X Guys at Weta.

28 comments:

Andrew said...

Sci-fi writers join war on terror

And, combining two of the original topics: Steampunk Star Wars

Anonymous said...

Reviving the "dead" heart without killing it is great, but the research really needs to focus on the brain, because I don't care how good my heart is, if my brain is damaged it is still "sayonara".

The whole thing reminds me of research that was done to see why soldiers from the Falklands had a much better survival rate than those in Vietnam with similar injuries despite conditions meaning evac could not take place sometimes for hours. It turned out to be the temperature and the lack of immediate treatment for blood pressure and clotting that made the difference.

Don Quijote said...

Sci-fi writers join war on terror

a) terror is a tactic.

b) war on what terror?
LUIS POSADA CARRILES - THE DECLASSIFIED RECORD

The National Security Archive today posted additional documents that show that the CIA had concrete advance intelligence, as early as June 1976, on plans by Cuban exile terrorist groups to bomb a Cubana airliner. The Archive also posted another document that shows that the FBI's attache in Caracas had multiple contacts with one of the Venezuelans who placed the bomb on the plane, and provided him with a visa to the U.S. five days before the bombing, despite suspicions that he was engaged in terrorist activities at the direction of Luis Posada Carriles.

US insists it is acting in 'good faith' over Posada Carriles

Is it a war on terror, or one on people we just don't like?

zorgon the malevolent said...

The URL for the interview with AI researcher Rodney Brooks seems to have been left out.
Here it is:
http://news.com.com/Sizing+up+the+coming+robotics+revolution/2008-11394_3-6183596.html

Kevin Rooney said...

Ditto to anonymous's comment about needing to keep the brain alive, not just the heart.
It would be fascinating to see if the same were true for brain cells too. It might not even be necessary to run experiments first. If brain cells die from over-sudden reperfusion, there should be unexplained cases of people whose brains survived without oxygen much longer than thought possible because they accidentally did not receive over-sudden reperfusion.

Cliff said...

This NPR story that aired this morning gives some national attention to the "war on professionalism" that David Brin has been talking about for quite a while. It refers to "a gross politization of the Army's officer corps," just like you've been hearing about here....

Tony Fisk said...

I read about Hansan Elahi a while back and thought you'd be interested... then promptly lost the link!
Oh well, you seem to have found it.

This reperfusion report is fascinating, and seems to be yet *another* example of medical science putting the theory before the observation (although this is a pretty subtle one: who'd have thought!)

With tongue in cheek(!), I've been suggesting to certain globe trotting futurists who are agonising about their sooty hoofprints that they should consider 'pickling' themselves and get shipped by cargo container to their next meeting point, rather like the Scottish 'scampy' that does a return trip to Thailand for processing. This 'hold the reperfusion' trick may be a step in allowing this idea to come to fruition...or it may form the basis of the next instalment of 'the Ancient Ones'!

(The emergency oxygen regime actually has parallels to the emergency treatment given to wounded troops in Vietnam: medics quickly arriving on the scene by chopper would administer plasma to maintain blood pressure. The troops subsequently died. 15 years later, troops wounded in a remote Falklands bog had to wait hours for medical assistance, and survived. Seems the partially formed clots could not withstand the increase in blood pressure, and the patient would succumb to internal bleeding.)

(aside: Check out the article describing a possible cure for rabies in a recent edition of Scientific American. That is one bizarre virus!)

The only war on terror worth fighting is the war on tyranny: the tyranny of the 'zeroth commandment' (thou shalt think as I). While repressive boarding security measures continue to be applied to the common citizen, they remain a sign that tyrants from both ends of the political spectrum have the upper hand.

Enterik said...

The Physarum brained robot from Kobe sounds gee-wiz cool as does the biosensor chip.

However, the real future of bio-electronics is in eubacterial domain. Geobacter sulfurreducens produces so-called microbial nanowires, actually a diverged pili, which is capable of conducting electrons to an electron accepting electrode. Of course, such application will have to compete with development of the organisms U(VI) reducing ability AND it's potential use in fuel cells...

ERic said...

But if the cells are still alive, why can't doctors revive someone who has been dead for an hour?

Ah, for a Prediction Registry.

It would be my first hit, had it existed. I wrote a short SF story, one of very few stories I've written. Austin SlugTribers might recall it, about 5 years ago. Never tried to publish it. Sluggers roundly panned my ending -- deservedly so. Never could figure out a good ending. Endings are a bitch.

A key aspect was a finer definition of death. I thought about how death was, at one point, the point where the heart stops and won't start again. And now, there's brain death. I extrapolated that in the future (I predicted ridiculously far in the future -- 70 years. Did Star Trek communicators teach me nothing?:) death would be defined even farther down the line -- at the cellular electrochemical level.

I'm not a biologist, so I'm sure my terminology is crap. But, hey, it was a story. Nevertheless, I take great pride in having imagined something pretty darn close to what looks like might be true.

Anyway.

WOW is right.

It gets me immediately imagining the "emergency" rooms of the future. Where they bring in someone who's been shot, hook him up to whatever stabilizing device has been invented, take their time fixing the damage, then sit back and relax as they wait for the body to gradually come back online. No high-stress, no excitement.

I don't recall ever seeing "trauma/emergency" rooms of the future ever being presented that way in any SF I've seen -- slow, calm, low-stress, nothing to hurry about.

Combined with the brain controls that are coming along, I can imagine someone in "ICU" carrying on with their work and conversing with friends and family while their body's "on ice."

Seems to me like this is one of those out of nowhere surprises that will make a part of the future entirely different than we imagined.

Once again WOW. Seriously effing cool!

Enterik said...

Musing more on the Kobe Slime Mold cyborg, I realized that the we may have witnessed the Genesis of the Daleks. Chalk up one long range prediction for the creators of Dr. Who?

ErnieG said...

Another explanation for climate change, Its the sun stupid.

http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2007/05/08/neptune-news/

Quote
... Nonetheless, they find that the correlation coefficient between solar irradiance and Neptune’s brightness is near 0.90 (1.00 is perfect). The same relationship is found between the Earth’s temperature anomalies and the solar output. Hammel and Lockwood note “In other words, the Earth temperature values are as well correlated with solar irradiance (r = 0.89) as they are with Neptune’s blue brightness (|r| > 0.90), assuming a 10-year lag of the Neptune values.” The temporal lag is needed to account for the large mass of Neptune that would require years to adjust to any changes in solar output.
...

It seems sheer hubris to assume we did it based only on models.

And again warmer atmosphere more evaporation, which is an isothermic process. there by storing more energy in atmosphere locked up in heat of evaporation. Which also cools the air. More water vapor would seem to indicate more clouds thereby increasing effective albedo of Earth decreasing energy reaching surface.

A model is not the thing as a map is not the terrain. It is only our poor attempt to mimic something.

Do not decry commercial entities until you look at what an industry Anthropogenic climate change has become for it's propounders.

And what really gets me hot under the collar is religious like fervor of this. It seems to me like it is another group of people using fear tactics and the big lie.

Repeat it often enough and the gullible will believe it.

An Inconvenient Truth, more like propaganda film.

Arrrgh...
I feel better now.

Stefan Jones said...

"It seems sheer hubris to assume we did it based only on models."

"And what really gets me hot under the collar is religious like fervor of this."

Gee, Ernie, do your hands ever get itchy from all of the straw men you bat around?

I love the smug tone of the "Global Climate Report" entry. I suspect the emotional payoff of imagining themselves as the sole sane people in the face of a tide of irrationality the real payoff of their blog.

No, their blog isn't the only place that the solar forcing issue is discussed. I guess they're not counting on people to do some elementary footwork:

Why greenhouse warming looks different than solar warming

A little more footwork shows where the guys behind Global Climate Report get their money:

Dr. Patrick Michaels is possibly the most prolific and widely-quoted climate change skeptic scientist. He has admitted receiving funding from various fossil fuel industry sources. His latest book, published in September 2004 by the Cato Institute, is titled: Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media.

'Michaels is the Chief Editor for the "World Climate Review," a newsletter on global warming funded by the Western Fuels Association. Dr. Michaels has acknowledged that 20% of his funding comes from fossil fuel sources


More

This is more F.U.D. from the usual suspects.

TheRadicalModerate said...

The blurb on reperfusion causing cardiac death reminded me of several recent reports about hydrogen sulfide putting mice into suspended animation. See also this Wikipedia article.

As I recall, one of the theories for why this works is that H2S binds to receptors that actually throw cells back into something resembling anaerobic respriation.

----------------------

Ernie--

I'm still a bit of an anthropogenic global warming skeptic, but I keep bumping up against this following nearly inescapable chain of logic:

1) CO2 is a pretty potent greenhouse gas.

2) Levels of CO2 have skyrocketed over the past 100 years.

3) Therefore, it seems reasonable that human-triggered CO2 emissions are likely to warm the planet to some extent.

I'll freely admit that looking at tempting first-order terms in a non-linear system like the planetary climate can lead you astray. But this sure seems like one of the few times where whipping out the precautionary principle seems like a good idea. (The fact that investing in green energy improves US national security doesn't hurt, either...)

David Brin said...

RM, it's even worse.

The right's psychotic need to play see-no-evil over this issue is based on a Big Lie premise.

The premise that ANY burden of proof falls upon those who counsel basic prudence and values like efficiency and research and developing less wasteful ways to do civilization's business.

Yes, it is possible to overshoot such things. But there isn't a gnat's wing's worth of evidence provided to show that researching and promoting greater efficiency and less waste has EVER harmed the economy, at any time, in any place.

The burden of proof is ENTIRELY at the feet of those who say we can befoul our nest and that the best policy is to CUT THE RESEARCH that might settle whether it is harmful or not.

People like that do not deserve any credibility. They do not deserve any control over a great civilization.

They are cranky brats, at best. Screeching crichtons who say that consensus by 95% of qualified atmospheric scientists
can be ignored by those controlling public policy, while 51% ignoramus pundits and politicians ARE qualified to make declarations and policies without even referring to science.

Hear that whirring sound. Barry Goldwater is spinning at 50,000 RPM.

michael vassar said...

Reperfusion seems like it could be the biggest medical discovery of my lifetime. I have been watching it for about 18 months since the news first hit regarding mice, but I didn't expect results to reach humans this quickly

On the good side, it could essentially eliminate most premature death in the developed world. (will greatly improved survival of the wounded lead to less resistance to starting wars or drafting citizens?) It could also essentially eliminate the biggest killer in our society, heart disease, and less probably stroke as well.

On the bad side, that means pretty much eliminating all the significant inexpensive causes of death. If life expectancies rise by 10 years over the next 15 and suddenly everyone dies of cancer or Alzheimers the situation with Social Security benefits and especially Medicare/Medicaid is MUCH more dire than predicted. In fact, I'd say it's suddenly our number one social problem (other than the current administration?). The problem is far worse still if the use of reperfusion leads to many survivors with varying levels of brain damage. What on earth will we do if we rapidly acquire millions of often severely brain damaged citizens of all ages?

How long do people here think it will take for the standard treatment in hospitals throughout the world to respond to this info? A few months? A few decades? Many decades as in the case of hand washing before delivering babies? How many years do you guys think it will add to life expectancy? How much will it add to the cost of medicine, the elderly, and chronic care? Should prudent investors dump all their money into long investments in life insurance and short investments in health insurance (possibly with margin on the longs)?

jbmoore said...

Am thinking that H2S induced hibernation research and resusitation research will likely converge into some form of treatment. Likely the underlying cellular mechanism involved is the same.

ErnieG said...

I am always willing to debate on facts.

But facts can be revealed by anyone. Do not shoot the messenger because of who he is.

I will stipulate that we are performing an open ended experiment on adding CO2 to the atmosphere.

What I do not see is how there can a sudden phase change or trigger. The Ocean is a tremendous heat sink.

I say that CO2 sounds like some kind of swindle.

We would be better served by pushing for Energy Independence from fossil fuels as a first choice.

Then there is the fact that a warming will lead to more arable land with longer growing seasons. This is a benefit.

As far as the research he did not do it he is reporting it.

James Hansen has admitted that he may have exaggerated or overstated catastrophic effects
IN ORDER TO GET ATTENTION on the issue.

I say do the things that make pragmatic sense, but do not get carried away.

Straw man alert big lie
95% atmospheric scientists have a consensus.
Whoo boy very convincing argument.

Statement has null factual value.

What we need is a decision duel.

See David's Sling by Marc Stiegler

ErnieG said...

I say that CO2 sounds like some kind of swindle.

I left out trading.

David Brin said...

Silly, plain silly.

There is no evidence of “more arable land”. During hot epochs, rain tends to fall at sea. Deserts increase. Live with it.

“I say that CO2 sounds like some kind of swindle.”

Yes, that’s a common crichtonism. Sounds so cool and underdog-ish! Only there's a problem. Nobody ever explains it.

Like how the billion dollar conservation “industry” could hope to out-graft the trillion dollar carbon-burning industry! Have you guys no sense of proportion or embarrassment about this? "Ooooh the corrupt greens are controlling the hysteria... while our oil zillionaire pals and Rubert Murdoch are helpless little, little little guys.

By all means, let’s cheer as the elephant screeches “You cheating bully!” at a mouse!

You suggest we seek “energy independence from fossil fuels?”

The CO2 deniers overlap PERFECTLY with the same interest groups that are sabotaging BOTH the research to find out what’s happening and the measures that would increase use of carbon-free energy. The overlap is perfect and sorry, Ernie, you are one of those who are drinking their Kool-Aid.

Problem is, we have to share the planet with you guys.

Dig it, I don’t give a %$##$@ about Paul Ehrlich or James Hansen. Even mentioning them, while ignoring the nearly UNANIMOUS consensus of the entire atmospheric science community, is just another attempt at distraction.

I know David’s Sling. My own EARTH dealt with these issues. So has my paper on disputation arenas. I know far more about new discourse methodologies and I am at the forefront of pushing them.

And yet, all these calls to ignore science until some better adjudication process comes along boil down to one thing... attempts to obfuscate and delay.

Dig it. And we’ll repeat it. YOU GUYS BEAR THE BURDEN OF PROOF. Period.

Your pals claim scientific consensus is wrong.
You claim we can go on despoiling our nest.
You claim there is no need for urgent precautions against a potentially devastating calamity.

These positions MAY prove to have been right!
If so, you are welcome to say "I told you so."

But you are the ones who bear a burden to prove it.

NOT those who want to go with science and prudence and conservation and research and efficiency and energy independence.

synergy said...

The "carbon offsets" link goes to a CNET story about robotics or somesuch. Any chance of getting that link?

TheRadicalModerate said...

David--

OK, I'll play devil's advocate:

Yes, it is possible to overshoot such things. But there isn't a gnat's wing's worth of evidence provided to show that researching and promoting greater efficiency and less waste has EVER harmed the economy, at any time, in any place.

This is of course not what global warming hysterics are advocating. I'm all for some government-sponsored R&D (or at least "R"), but there is a substantial minority that is rattling on about highly restrictive carbon caps and 3 buck-a-gallon gas taxes.

There is self-evidently a point at which you can restrict carbon emissions to the point where the developed world's economy collapses. That point lies somewhere between where we are now and zero carbon emissions. (Just think of it as the Laffer Curve for climatology.) So the questions to answer are:

1) Where's the economic pain point?

2) Where's the economic catastrophe point?

3) Where's the climate pain point?

4) Where's the climate catastrophe point?

If we can avoid economic and climate pain (i.e. pretty small carbon caps cause emissions to drop fast enough to avoid any substantial climate change) then we're all happy. If climate catastrophe will ensue even if we set policy that causes economic catastrophe, we're screwed. In between are a set of workable solutions that require hard compromises.

So let's gather data as quickly as possible to determine what's really possible. Meanwhile, as we gather data, let's enact a little bit of carbon restriction and a little bit of R&D to go with it. (This is a little bit like Kurzweil's vitamin regimen: keep yourself alive long enough for the technology to improve.)

Now: Has Bushco put the arm on some government scientists and deep-sixed some grant applications to boot? Sure. Don't you think that there are reputable AGW skeptics and deniers out there that are losing tenure or being pressured by their institutions and green policy advocacy groups?

This is big science. Big science gets politicized. This is not something new. Don't get me wrong--I wish Bushco were being a tad more aggressive about AGW. But their error is merely one of degree, not of kind. As usual, shouting "Bad faith!" at the top of your lungs does no good. Better to push for the answers we need than to throw rocks.

Now, if you really want to look at serious science policy gone hopelessly wrong, what the hell are we doing putting all of our fusion eggs in the ITER basket? A few months back, somebody on this forum put up this link to Robert Bussard's Google lecture, which was so fascinating on so many levels that I wound up watching the whole ninety minutes, bad sound and bizarre overheads notwithstanding. But the first 5 minutes or so contain Bussard's remarkably succint description of why tokamaks will never work. If you haven't seen it, you should take a look.

ErnieG said...

Consensus is not germane to a factual debate,

Unless we poll all scientists studying climate and ask them a series of questions. Then publish the results.

I can think of many questions I want answered head to head with the backup facts.

I think this is doable without a disputation arena or a decision duel. I want the facts laid out without emotional overlays. I think that scientists would welcome a forum such as I suggest.

The decision should be dragged back out of the political and into the scientific or technical or engineering area.

Because it is an engineering and economic decision at heart.

We have all the science and most of the technologies right now to make a big dent in the alleged problem.

Everywhere I go on the Web, or MSM there seems to be an agenda that goes with the reporting of the science. Or at least a set of assumptions.

TheRadicalModerate said...

David, one more poke at your argument:

Dig it. And we’ll repeat it. YOU GUYS BEAR THE BURDEN OF PROOF. Period.

This is completely the wrong way to look at this. Per my post above, we all need a specific set of information that we don't have yet. Forcing the AGW deniers to prove their claims is pointless. It does nothing to enable or disable whatever policy changes need to be made.

Also:

...while ignoring the nearly UNANIMOUS consensus of the entire atmospheric science community...

Uh, doesn't this strike you a little bit like the unanimous consensus of the 17th century medical community that bleeding a patient to balance his humors was the proper therapy?

Look, the empirical evidence that something is happening is overwhelming. I'd even say that the evidence is quite strong that something bad is happening. Beyond that, please let's not make policy based on what the cool kids at school are wearing.

There is a workable policy for this: Start slow. See how the economy absorbs some modest carbon restrictions. If small restrictions are OK, make them a little bigger. There are two advantages to this:

1) It's conservative. If bad things start to happen economically, you can adjust.

2) Assuming that Big Oil and Big Coal won't be happy with discontinuities in their revenue stream, starting slow presents them with the problem of how to boil a frog--with them as the frog.

(Personally, I think Big Oil's main problem is with sudden changes to carbon consumption. These are huge, diversified companies. If you give them time and incentives to adjust their product mix, they'll be happy to sell us nuclear reactors or PV solar panels or zero-point energy extractors or whatever.)

Rob Perkins said...

"Uh, doesn't this strike you a little bit like the unanimous consensus of the 17th century medical community that bleeding a patient to balance his humors was the proper therapy?"

Or... for that matter, the unanimous consensus of 20th century medical community that hyperoxygenating the heart is the proper procedure for resuscitating a patient?

Jes' sayin! ;)

Brendan Podger said...

Radical, I think you may be underestimating Oil and coal companies with your start small approach. I don't know what the Boards of Directors are like in the US but I do know that many companies like BP & Shell are investing in alternate fuels and have plans in place if any carbon trading or taxation comes in place. These are multinationals and need to do planning for all their markets, not just the US and Australia who are dragging their heels on these issues.

In Australia many of the major companies are more ready than the current government for any changes that may need to be taken. They of course are quite happy to live with the status quo since they can maximise profits by not doing much, but they are ready for any changes in regulations that may be passed by government.

You and Rob also have the scientific method back to front. Once a newer theory has gained general consensus it is fairly safe to assume the old one can be discarded. Your arguments would validate creationism, and despite what we hear of the US from here, I don't think anyone reading this page is quite that outdated in their thinking.

TheRadicalModerate said...

You lost me on that last paragraph, Brendan. You're assuming that consensus==theory. Mature theories produce consistent results from models based on those theories. We ain't there yet with climate theory. Also, please note that there are lots of clinical techniques that are completely empirical, i.e., they're not based on theory at all. Rob and I seem to have described two of them, for the purpose of pointing out that current climate policy isn't based on theory either.

As for Big Oil/Coal, I completely agree with you. These guys are not dumb, and I don't think they're any more or less evil than anybody else. They'd love to provide a return to their shareholders that makes the world a better place, but their first fiduciary responsibility is to their shareholders. Give them a set of changes that allows them to maintain their short-term value and they'll be happy to produce new, better, long-term values.

Rob Perkins said...

You and Rob also have the scientific method back to front.

Nah, just snarking. Don't mistake me for a crichton. Unless it's that goofy Red Dwarf Crichton. Or the Crichton on Farscape. Fun shows.

Even so, the scientific consensus *could be wrong*!

Just... not as wrong as the opponents of AGW suppose it is.

David is right anyway; it's a distraction from the fact that higher energy consumption efficiencies lead to more wealth, not less.

Enterik said...

I don't get you guys? Are you arguing for a maintainance of the status quo of low efficiency living? Global warming or not, how will mandated improvements in efficiency harm the US economy? How will indigenous sources of energy hurt?

Maybe you're right, maybe anthropogenic emmissions aren't the primary source of the apparent atmospheric temperature increase. Maybe the industrial revolution just happened to coincide with Milankovitch cyles and Earth transit through the plane of the galaxy. And maybe the greenhouse effect of anthropogenic emmissions, superimposed upon unavoidable astonomical factors, is making the future far more unpleasant than it might otherwise need to be...

CO2 is way up, outside the range of previous cycles, due to the excesses of a sloppy civilization. The basic mechanism of CO2s contribution to warming has been known since Arrhenius made his first predictions in the 1880s. And CO2 is only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. Why play russian roulette with a clathrate gun?

Corporate profits, individual inertia and personal hubris.

As to the AGW hypothesis itself, is it not consistant with what we know of chemistry and climate data? Is there a more robust/rigorous hypothesis out there?

Scientifically speaking the Null hypothesis is that anthropogenic emmissions have no effect. The alternative that they do has supporting evidence, admittedly incomplete as any predictive science has to be, that leads me to disfavor the null.

Actuarily speaking, I would rather spend the 1% of annual GDP to address the issue now rather than lose the predicted 5% annual GDP for having done nothing.