Sunday, June 06, 2021

Facing the future post covid? Dangers and resilence

The dark cloud of the past year may have silver linings sych as: A recent field trial demonstrated a 77% effective malaria vaccine. Good news! In addition, consider: Three spectacular advances in biological/medical science that either accelerated because of Covid-19 or came to the rescue and may change the future.

Alas, though. This is what I feared. A third of COVID survivors may suffer neurological or mental disorders, according to a recent study.

Of course the most incredible news – scientific or otherwise – from 2020 was the way that the covid emergency hastened introduction of mRNA vaccines and other therapeutics, which were ready for testing within a month of decipherment of the virus’s genetics. You can be sure that old-fashioned, 20th Century testing and vetting procedures will change after this and miracles will start to flow. There are many more good things on the near horizon.

And worries as well...“Viruses that infect bacteria – fittingly called bacteriophages - and their prey have been at war for eons, each side evolving more devilish tactics to infect or destroy each other. Eventually, some bacteriophages took this arms race to a new level by changing the way they code their DNA.” Some have replaced the “A” in that standard GATC coding with a “Z” nucleobase. Z for zounds.

Moving on. As climate change dries up or destroys arable land all over the globe, science rushes to find solutions to both feed a hungry world and lessen the environmental effects of agriculture. For example, the meat-substitute industry has taken off way earlier than I expected (I thought we’d reach the current level around 2028!) I know some folks in the rising algae industry who are working to combine over-fertilized agricultural runoff (of the sort that killed the Caspian and Black Seas and is harming the Mediterranean and Caribbean) with CO2 from local big-emitters, like cement plants, blending them to grow algae as both animal feed and bioreactors for industrial oils. 

Now comes a joint venture between US and Chinese companies making a new “single-cell protein” substance called FeedKind that is manufactured by fermenting natural gas with naturally occurring bacteria. The resulting pellets are used to feed fish. Used instead of soy, it will free up huge quantities of land and fresh water.

Side note, when you shop at Costco, tilapia and catfish are the farm-raised fish with the lowest environmental footprint. One is vegetarian, feeding on grain, and the other eats… well, catfish recycle. Ocean caught fish should be an exception and the farmed salmon industry needs to continue making big adjustments.

== Dangers and Resilience ==

Pre-Covid I would give speeches annually in DC abut topics like near-future threats and overlooked, needed actions to foster resilience. Some of you have seen my interview on that topic, following my mini-course at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

One of many areas where our civilization could have been far more robust, by now, had earlier small measures been taken, is that of EMP or the potential for crippling damage wrought by either natural or intentional ElectroMagnetic Pulses. This article is not very cheering about the current situation. 

But we can still begin the long haul of securing the future! I would start by imposing a micro-tax… say 0.001%... on every chip set or piece of electronics that doesn’t meet voluntary industry standards for EMP resistance, tested by Underwriters’ Labs. A tiny tax will cause very little resistance, but a small, steady pressure for industry itself to just do it. Just solve it. (Even if our devices had old-fashioned replaceable fuses!)

Okay, this will sound familiar. Is it noteworthy that the state of Louisiana is planning to divert the mighty Mississippi River into new paths, to rebuild protective wetlands and to counter mistakes of the past… an event that I portrayed happening all at once, by terrible accident, in my 1990 novel EARTH? Of course it is better that such things happen in stages, by sapient care, than waiting for nature to have Her revenge on the unsapient.  Still, I think many of you will agree that my depiction of the Father of Waters freed, rampant and un-vexed -- unleashed by an uber-feminist-eco-warrior -- was kinda cool?

== back to origins ==

In an earlier posting about Uplift, I remarked on how a good case is made that the most-rare event or fluke in Earth’s life story was the one-time joining of two separate genetic trees. “It’s the scientific consensus that a primordial eukaryote emerged 1.5 billion years ago when a less complex cell tried to ingest an anaerobic bacterium but was unable to digest it. The stalemate turned into a symbiotic relationship in which the bacterium became the power supply to the host cell, which provided a safe environment for it to thrive in return. Today we refer to the powerhouse of the cell as the Mitochondria.” The resulting eukaryotes proliferated and experimented with multi-cellulatity for 800 million years before suddenly getting the hang of it and bursting forth with the Cambrian explosion of complex forms, including us.  Moreover, if that combination fluke truly was both necessary and hugely rare, well, when we descendants of that marriage forge across the galaxy, we may just find…  life in the form of soup.

Let’s dive into this a little deeper. Comments a member of my communities, Peter Hug: I think a pretty good case can be made that such an endosymbiotic event happened at least three times on Earth - the first being a merger of eubacteria with sulfidogenic archaebacteria to create amitochondriate mastigotes; these then engulfed some proteobacteria which turned into mitochondria and then evolved into the animals and fungi; one of these organisms then endosymbiosed (is that a word?) a cyanobacterium to create a plant lineage containing chloroplasts.

“Additionally, it's certainly possible that such an event could have occurred multiple times deep in the past and have been lost due to competition and eventual loss by the other candidates. I found an interesting article that discusses some aspects of this (linked below); nevertheless, I think it's clear that it's not a common event, at any rate. Endosymbiosis to create a eukaryote that then evolves into multicellular life that develops civilization certainly might not be the only path to a technological culture, if we posit a large number of candidate worlds upon which to test possibilities...”
according to this research article.

And finally...

A thought of the day: In a series of experiments published in Science in 2011, Sparrow, Liu and Wegner conclude:

“When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.”

Um what were we talking about, again?


scidata said...

The externalizing of memory & cognition is not only a human trick. This is one of several studies I've seen on spiders and their webs.

David Brin said...

Guy I know suggested erecting monoliths across elephant grounds where they could manipulate simple abacus like objects... or else touch screens... and leave them in some kind of order for the next elephant or herd to come across. And thus see if they develop a habit of some kind of "messaging." I think such a project would be fantastic!

David Brin said...

4 more vaccines coming, none of them RNA based. The plant based one looks fascinating. These techs may combine to make an incredible silver lining to this whole pandemic.

I mean, how can we NOT be much more ready now? Despite utter dysfunction of the US polity.

Joel said...

"The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.”

The problem of course is the protagonist's job in 1984. Changing the news to reflect what the current leaders want society to remember history. It doesn't matter if real books document it without modification if none of us search for it there, or not enough of us, as the popular opinion will follow what the collective knows, not what actually happened.

Tony Fisk said...

Australian indigenous techniques of memory involve 'songlines' that are embedded in the landscape. They're used to recall learning through cues of place, song, and dance.

In fact, the recall has been found to be superior to the 'memory palace' techniques we've inherited from ancient Greece.*

'phantograms' would be an interesting thing to try, although elephants are bit more connected than it might seem. Cetaceans would surely be capable of some dance moves.

We were earlier discussing the apparent barrier that denies full sapience to many species. One contributing factor might be an ability to sustain a culture ie learning. Apes, and some parrots, have been shown capable of learning the meanings of several dozen words and phrases and of using them themselves to hold simple conversations. They have even shown some capacity to pass these phrases on to their offspring. However, it does appear to taper off. Could the barrier be that inability to retain learning. Is the magic sauce the ability to embed learning into the environment? Maybe not, but this line of thought raises another interesting question: do elephants already do this?

* Not that these techniques are unique to Australia. Indeed, Homer was said to have made use of some of them when rehearsing for oral recitals from memory

Paul451 said...

From the last thread, Re: Jerry Pournelle.

duncan cairncross,
"the brain damaged Boomers that have given us Trump and BREXIT will have all died off by then and our children are better and smarter than we are
In Pournelle's defense he was in his 30's when the murder rate was rising - and probably too set in his ways when the corner was turned in the 90's"

What amuses me about this is that Niven/Pournelle used the same concept in the first two Heorot books. Especially the sequel. Cryo-sleep caused brain damage in the original settlers. Their undamaged children surpassed them, and they reacted by trying to restrain them further. They had the very concept right there, they just didn't apply it to themselves and their peers.

DP said...

David Attenborough as usual nails it. If you have Netflix, then watch this:

"Breaking Boundaries" actually crunches the numbers and have quantified just how badly screwed we are.

Welcome to the Anthropocene.

Larry Hart said...

"It's really happening, Reg! Something is actually happening!"

It’s not like what’s happening is being done in secret. After democracy dies, we will remember that Republicans built the architecture of fascism under our very noses by baselessly undermining the credibility of the 2020 election and passing a series of voter-suppression laws. And Politico reports that conspiracy theorists who think Donald Trump was robbed of victory last year are campaigning to become election officials in battleground states.

Imagine: Next year, the question of whether or not your ballot counts could be in the hands of some Q-following fabulist who considers Trump the chosen of God. Good luck with that.

Clearly, the GOP constitutes a dire threat to this democracy. That’s why more than 160 professors from Duke, Yale, Stanford, Georgia State and elsewhere, scholars who study how democracies rise and fall, have signed a letter that declares that several states are being transformed “into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.” It is something many far less-credentialed observers have been saying for months.
The problem is that sometimes, imagination fails. Sometimes, we don’t avoid the catastrophe because we literally cannot conceive it. Titanic, you’ll recall, was called the ship “God Himself could not sink.” And though God famously proved otherwise, that failure of imagination persists.
After democracy dies, what will you wish you’d said to them [Democratic Senators who won't pass voting rights laws without Republican support]

What legal thing will you wish you’d done?

What hue and cry will you wish you’d raised?

Whatever that is, please do it now, before democracy dies. This is an emergency.

And after will be too late.

Robert said...

When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it.

Cue people complaining about how printed books are spoiling memory, and how young people nowadays just can't remember things anymore… :-)

A few years ago when my school admin was looking at switching to ebooks from printed textbooks I found some research that indicated that students learned faster from ebooks, but retained less long-term. The authors speculated that this was partly because of the cues we use to recall information being less present on a screen — fewer senses involved and so on.

Larry Hart said...

Democracy dying to thunderous applause in plain sight...

Specifically, at the state convention on Saturday, Kemp was booed, but he wasn't formally censured. In contrast, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was formally censured. Politico interviewed over 30 party officials, strategists, and activists there and asked: "How come?" The answer was that Raffensperger was not willing to put his thumb (or foot) on the scales to help the Republicans whereas Kemp gleefully signed a bill that would make it harder for people, especially minorities, to vote in the future. That is something that the delegates really appreciated. Also, everyone there knew that Stacey Abrams (D) is going to run again against Kemp in 2022, and she was a formidable opponent in 2018 and will be just as formiddable in 2022, if not more so now that Democratic voters know that Democrats can win in Georgia. Taking Kemp down a couple of pegs would simply help Abrams. In contrast, Raffensperger is expendable because Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) is running against him in the GOP primary, more-or-less promising to use the office to "help" Republicans win elections.

scidata said...

The rational population of the world isn't gonna meekly march off back to the caves (or worse) just because of some US statehouse hokery-pokery. The higher ground wins (I'm sure that's in Sun Tzu somewhere). Begun, the Transistor Wars have. An epic thrilla featuring The Pillow Guy vs Marshall McLuhan - they screech, we launch satellites. I like our chances.

Dave Rickey said...

Sorry to hijack an unrelated thread, but I've been vexed by a couple of astrophysics questions:

1) Empty space has mass-energy (the Higgs Field false vacuum). So, the space being created by "dark energy" as the galaxies accelerate away from each other has to be getting this energy from somewhere. Is it possible that this *is* the actual mechanism, dark energy is something decaying into new false vacuum, literally creating space? If neutrinos can decay, what do they decay into?

2) Is it possible there's more than one false vacuum state, and they are stable in each other's presence? Would the higher energy version (which would have more mass) be meaningfully different from dark matter? Would most proposed dark matter formulations be functionally different from "massy space)?

I realize these thought experiments are probably hopelessly naive, and I don't have nearly the level of math it would take to describe them properly, but they seem to account for a lot of things that have bothered me: The incompressibility and uniformity of dark matter, it's failure to meaningfully interact with super massive black holes, etc.

David Brin said...

DR you are dancing along questions that are Jesuit level physics while I am a barefoot Franciscan. I may know a little more than you in these matters, but not enough more to feel happy opining... at least not till a second beer!

Don Gisselbeck said...

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."

Samuel Johnson
Johnson would go through bookstores just looking at titles.

Don Gisselbeck said...

It wasn't uncommon for Athenians to memorize all of Homer. I find I have a hard time reciting texts I can sing from memory.

Paradoctor said...

About mitochondria originally being bacteria that an archaean tried to eat but failed... or in other words, mitochondria were originally invasive parasites.

Alfred Differ said...

Singing our memories is an OLD technique. What counts as singing has probably changed a lot, but it HAS to be old to provoke a religious response from a lot of us.


I like our chances.

Me too. I'll regret the blood running in the streets, but we shall win.

Dave Rickey,

There are still quite a few who think 'dark energy' will calibrate out. Something strange is going on that we can't see, but don't get too hooked on any one explanation. It's likely they are all wrong. Happens a lot.

Jon S. said...

"It wasn't uncommon for Athenians to memorize all of Homer. I find I have a hard time reciting texts I can sing from memory."

Singing makes it easy. I can sing almost all of the back catalog of Rush, Weird Al, and Tom Lehrer, and will if provoked. If there were a song properly describing, say, general relativity, it'd be a lot easier to learn! (Queen's "'39" brushes the topic, as it describes the effect of the travelers returning to Earth after experiencing a century's worth of time dilation, but it's not exactly a comprehensive survey.)

Pappenheimer said...

Re: memory...

Heinlein (b. 1907) mentioned being drilled in the multiplication tables up to 20x20, whereas my schooling only went to 10x10, and I'm not sure my son ever had any drills. Calculators made them obsolete.

When our grandkids all get direct neural links to the 'net, they'll probably offload all their datafiles onto it.

Der Oger said...

German proverb preceding the internet: "It is okay to be stupid if you know where to find it/in which book it is written." :-)

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

Singing makes it easy. I can sing almost all of the back catalog of Rush, Weird Al, and Tom Lehrer, and will if provoked. If there were a song properly describing, say, general relativity, it'd be a lot easier to learn!

That's how most of us remember what alphabetical order is.

I never learned this one, but my wife and her sister learned a song in grade school which lists the "Fifty Nifty United States".

When I was in eighth grade in the early 70s, I had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution. Two years later, when it was my brother's turn, his class had it easy, thanks to Schoolhouse Rock. He related how you could even see the mental singing that students were doing when they were reciting.

DP said...

I know every word to the Who's "Tommy" and Pink Floyd's "The Wall". Singing does make it easier.
But does anyone know the music played with the Iliad? Can it be reproduced with modern instruments?

Pappenheimer said...

"Of arms and the man I sing..." though that's Vergil, composing the Aeneid, the biggest crock of pro-Roman steer manure - well, I digress.

Lyric poetry means poetry of the lyre, so we know the instrument it's meant for, but I doubt there's any way of being certain of the chords. Youtube has some people playing reconstructions, if you're interested. It's not an overly complex instrument, but you do have to start with a turtle.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Singing does make it easier.

That certainly explains how I can remember verbatim the Mad Magazine parody songs for all of the 1972 presidential candidates.

Or the songs from their parody of "My Fair Lady", casting Betty Friedan as Henr(ietta) Higgens and Burt Reynolds in the Eliza Doolittle role.

Or the words to:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Onassis gave to me...

Two weeks allowance,
Communist Asia,
Pablo Picasso,
Fort Knox, Kentucky,
Westminster Abbey,
Rio de Janeiro,
General Motors,

The.... New York Mets....,

Fifth Avenue,
Plymouth Rock,
Niagara Falls,
and the Statue of Liberty.

Alfred Differ said...

My son CAN multiply numbers, but I was worried for a while when he simply asked Google to do it.

Then he figured out how to get entire multiplication tables on-demand. I used to find him staring at them looking at the way pixel patterns happen when you have WAY too many table cells to fit on a screen and resolution fails. It's neat how commutativity shows as a pixel pattern.

He DOES have more of the double digit problems memorized than I ever bothered doing that way.

DP said...


IIRC we do have at least one example of bronze age lyrical poetry with the musical notes, a hymn to the Hurrian moon goddess Nikkal, is the oldest piece of music for which we have both the words and the accompanying musical notes.

The oldest song (though we don't know the music) is a hymn to the Sumerian beer goddess Ninkasi.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

He [my son] DOES have more of the double digit problems memorized than I ever bothered doing that way.

I remember learning that very old computers had explicit multiplication tables stored for single-digit factors. I suppose it was more expensive to calculate such results than to simply retrieve them.

When I was in grade school, we routinely used flash cards for multiplication. For some reason, 8 x 7 in particular always eluded me. I could not answer that one to save my life until I finally just committed to memory the fact that "The one I can't remember" is 56. That's the biological equivalent of a stored table, but I still don't understand why I had to use a different cognitive path for that combination.

( 'Course that was before Schoolhouse Rock. Now it's just a matter of "Multiply seven by eight--you get fifty-six flavors and I just can't wait!" )

Larry Hart said...

Just sayin' (emphasis mine) :

In terms of specific states and regions, Grumbach found that “states on the West Coast and in the Northeast score higher on the democracy measures than states in the South,” which lost ground over the 18 years of the study. At the same time, “states like North Carolina and Wisconsin were among the most democratic states in the year 2000, but by 2018 they are close to the bottom. Illinois and Vermont move from the middle of the pack in 2000 to among the top democratic performers in 2018.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Let's give a nod to Tom Lehrer and his song about the elements! They Might Be Giants has some very nifty songs that will help with learning facts: Here Comes Science, Here Come the 123s, and Here Come the ABCs. Learning things with a melody is much easier than dry facts; anyone want to speculate on why this is so? Something about how the information is stored and retrieved, I suspect.

Alfred Differ said...


8x7 is the one I stuck on too. Can't remember why, but it wouldn't pop from memory easily. One day my very non-math oriented mother asked what 4x7 was and I had a ready answer. Then she said 'double it'. I had a ready answer for that too. That's how I think of it today if 56 doesn't pop quickly.

My mother did not think of her self as math-fluent, but I've learned to see that more as her self-image than an actual truth. Decomposing 8x7 into 2x4x7 is much more about what mathematics IS than memorizing calculations ever can be. Intuitively grasping associativity means running it forwards AND backwards enabling a kid to understand WHY 8x7 comes out the same as 4x14 and 2x28.

Then some day they have to learn the difference between multiplication and functional composition and they realize their K-12 teachers were all teaching multiplication wrong from the start. By then, though, they are ready for it.

David Brin said...

I think it was Asimov who had a short story where our interstellar enemy had a ray that crippled computers. Then an obscure pedant shows the military how to calculate trjectories by hand and it wins the war. Those of you who stuck it out thru INFINITY'S SHORE know I extended that idea prodigiously with analog computers that bypassed detectable "digital cognizance."

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Intuitively grasping associativity means running it forwards AND backwards enabling a kid to understand WHY 8x7 comes out the same as 4x14 and 2x28.

As a very young child, when I first saw a multiplication table written out as a grid and realized that, for example, the "18" at the intersection of the "3" row and the "6" column represented three sixes and six threes, it felt like an epiphany. Not just that commutativity worked, but that it had to work.

Robert said...

Lyric poetry means poetry of the lyre

So, perfect for Republican politicians and media figures? :-)

Robert said...

Learning things with a melody is much easier than dry facts; anyone want to speculate on why this is so?

More of the brain involved, for one thing.

Also, songs have a definite structure, which carries you along and provides lots of mnemonic hooks. Rhythm and rhyme both, as well as melody.

Enjoy Ohm's Law:

Robert said...

IIRC the problem was that computers were expensive, so replacing them with people give one side the edge. One general is speculating about being able to make manned missiles to win the war, while the chap who originally rediscovered arithmetic committed suicide when he realized what his discovery would be used for.

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle's Twitter feed:

We've been right here before. Over and over. This is just part of the same set piece that happens every single time a goddamn Republican gets into office.

They collapse the economy, bankrupt the Middle Class and put the poor out on the streets with that trickle down Reaganomics bullshit, reward the Rich and defense contractors, foment civil unrest until the cities are on fire, and then they start a war.

And it's always the Democrat who has to clean up the mess. Every fucking time.

Don't try tell me it's not, because it is. Every goddamn time. Every time.

It's always the Democrats who have to fix everything, while the people who actually made the mess vilify them and fight them every inch of the way -- all while demanding they do it faster, pretending they're not responsible, and crying about "socialism!"

David Brin said...

I do quibble with STonekettle.

1) "Defense contractors" obsolete in so many ways. They are far from a worst money pit and they deeply favor infrstructure and many other liberal positions. And denouncing them does us no good politically.

2) Use of "trickle-down" is self-defeating. Be agile and move on. Actually actually use the fact that "Supply Side" voodoo has never made one successful prediction, ever. TRUST the audienceand use the ENEMY's terminology! Especially since it doesn't matter what the oligarchs and the confederate unwashed think. We must peel away just ONE million fience sitting Old Style Republicans and their demographic collapse will be complete. THEY will know what Supply Side means.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin re Stonekettle,

Fair enough constructive criticism, but the point I was cheering was that Republicans create a mess and then vilify Democrats for trying to undo the mess and simultaneously for not undoing it quickly enough. Every time.

A.F. Rey said...

Here's a question that maybe you could help with, from Rep. Louie Gohmert.

During a House National Resources hearing, he asked an official from the National Forest Service if they or the BLM could change the orbit of the moon or sun to help alleviate the problems of climate change.

The official said she would follow up on that question, but maybe you could provide some insight for him? :D

David Brin said...

I have seen the argument that Gohmert was being ironic.

Larry Hart said...

I believe Gohmert's "point" was that since it is impossible for anyone--even liberals like BLM--to do the things necessary to halt global warming (such as change the orbit of the moon or the earth), that there is no point doing anything.

My wife thinks I'm giving him too much credit for thought, but the inclusion of BLM in there argues for some sort of snideness on his part.

Jon S. said...

Apparently Gohmert believes the rather silly claim that climate change is caused by such factors as the moon's orbit receding from Earth (I don't think he understands how very slowly that changes) and the Sun heating up (which, what??), and if we can't alter orbits then of course there's nothing to be done about climate change.

It did, however, lead to an interesting Twitter discussion in comic-book writer Gail Simone's feed, about how to alter the orbit of the moon by firing melons from a cannon (upshot, if you'll excuse the term, is that it would take on the close order of 100 million melons, fired at over 10,000 mps, at a rate of 6000 per minute, in order to move the moon. There was also discussion of how many you'd need to fire into space to affect the moon's orbit through the melons' gravity, and the feasibility of construction such a cannon on the moon itself and feeding it melons via a hydroponic garden in a lunar colony).

David Brin said...

Moving the moon's orbit in the right way, over a long time:

Lift the Earth! -

Tony Fisk said...

Moving the Moon via melon?

We have the technology!

Jon S. said...

"...even liberals like BLM...

The shorthand was used in news articles - he was referring to the Bureau of Land Management, not the Black Lives Matter movement (which can't do much of anything anyway, as that BLM is not an organization as such, but rather more of a slogan than anything else).

Not sure what he expected the Bureau of Land Management to do about planetary orbits - wouldn't that be the Space Force's purview? ;-)

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

The shorthand was used in news articles - he was referring to the Bureau of Land Management, not the Black Lives Matter movement

Ah, that makes sense. Like Depression-era references to the NRA, which means the National Recovery Administration rather than that other thing.

So Gohmert's snark wasn't directed at radical leftists. He was asking whether the government agencies could fight global warming by astronomical means. In deference to my wife--not wanting to give credit for thoughtfulness where none is due--I suspect one of two interpretations:

1) We should do what really needs to be done--increase the orbit of the moon/earth--rather than worry about carbon footprints and that sort of thing.

2) We obviously can't do what really needs to be done--see above--so why do anything?

Larry Hart said...

One part snark, one part explanation. Emphasis my own:

There was some risk that Gohmert might yield his crown to Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is definitely an up-and-comer in this area. However, on Thursday, he reasserted his status as the champion in truly impressive fashion. Attending a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee, he asked U.S. Forest Service associate deputy chief Jennifer Eberlien if her agency might be able to combat climate change by "chang[ing] the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the Sun." As viewers of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" know, that's a simple matter, all you have to do is change the gravitational constant of the universe. It would appear that Eberlien is not a Trekkie, however, as she was forced to explain that would not be possible.

Please understand that our purpose here is not to dump on Gohmert, and to use him as a little bit of comic relief. Well, ok, that's part of our purpose. But the more important purpose is to point out that even most Republicans know that climate change is a problem; they just don't particularly like the solutions that will be necessary to combat it. If there was a simple fix—like, say, changing Earth's orbit—they would be right on board. The problem is that while most of them are clever enough not to speak the truth out loud, some of them are not.

matthew said...

Interesting article in Just Security on whether Gen. Flynn should be court- martialed over his incitement of insurrection, written by Lt. Colonel Vindman. Highly recommended.

Larry Hart said...


on whether Gen. Flynn should be court- martialed over his incitement of insurrection,

"Should be"? Of course he should. But "will be"? Probably not. Because too many people in the decision-making process are on his side, and too many others accept the notion that "If an old white Christian general does it in the service of righteous grievance, then it is not illegal."

Pappenheimer said...

I wonder if Gohmert is familiar with the "Massive Robot Exhaust" method demonstrated in Futurama. IIRC, Al Gore played himself in that episode. Well, his head.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I have sent Gohmert Pyle an explanation that the Moon does not actually orbit, but that it is repelled by Earth's magnetic field, and so the only way to change its distance and bring rain to California is by injecting it with Covid vaccines, making it more magnetic.

David Brin said...