Some of my earlier postings discussed ocean fertilization as a means of geo-engineering remediation to address rising carbon dioxide levels and global climate change. Now here's a really interesting, if slightly icky realization: Sperm whale poo may be a vital part of keeping the seas vibrant and healthy!
Vital Giants: Why living seas need whales: It seems that each whale takes iron from the depths where they feed and scatter it above, fertilizing the sea and removing CO2. Indeed, whales may be even more important than that, creating turbulent areas that mix nutrient-rich cool (lower) waters with sunlit but barren shallows -- in an exact parallel with proposals that we emulate this on a big scale. Some think the seas were more fecund with life before humans almost eliminated the top of the food chain through whaling... then stepped back from the brink in time to save not only the great behemoths, but (in time, as their numbers recover) vast swathes of rejuvinated ocean. We can hope.
And now supporting evidence: Scientists solve a 14,000 year old mystery: At the end of the last Ice Age, as the world began to warm, a swath of the North Pacific Ocean came to life. During a brief pulse of biological productivity fourteen millennia years ago, as Ice Age glaciers began to melt and sea levels rose, they submerged the surrounding continental shelf, washing iron into the rising sea and setting off a burst of life.
Oh! consider this. When global sea rise starts inundating coastal cities, won't that add lots of iron and calcium and other important nutrients, as well?
Regarding the ocean zones suffering from nutrient-based choking -- the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Gulf of Mexico -- these represent pictures of Gaia in trouble. Hypoxia and algal blooms are associated with decreased total biomass (and carbon). They also lead to increased emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas. These regions are sick places, but they all share the trait of bad drainage… just like realms like the ancient Fertile Crescent, where primitive and ill-thought kinds of irrigation spread salts without washing them away to sea. Fertilization in the open ocean is unlikely to lead to hypoxia which is typically found in enclosed waters such as lakes or partially enclosed waters such as bays and gulfs.
So each zone calls for different kinds of intervention. (Assuming all is tested, experimentally validated and proved safe.) In some well-drained ocean zones with fast currents, go ahead and stir in iron and other nutrients, or use wave power to stir upward nature's own nutrients from below the thermalcline, imitating the wise intervention of whales. Let's at least find out if that would both remove atmospheric carbon and spur new fisheries.
Considering the Gulf of Mexico and Black Sea are suffering from a lack of oxygen, why not set up floating windmills to push air underwater? As you do for a fish tank. Tell me how that isn't at least worth trying?
== Oh, but who will thrive if the oceans rise? ==
A perennial topic is the recurring libertarian fantasy of creating "sea-steads" or sovereign "nations" somewhere beyond the reach of today's meddlesome, busybody legacy states. I've long been fascinated by this notion going back to childhood and still feel its draw, which especially pervades the community of science fiction authors. Indeed, I have portrayed such havens taking shape in EARTH (1989) in EXISTENCE (2012) and in online essays comparing the notions of Seasteading to Shoresteading and free-moving alternatives like Sea-State.
Naturally, big-thinkers have tried to make dreams real. The oldest and most famous of these experiments is SeaLand, a former WWII anti-aircraft platform, seven miles off the English coast, that has been the site of comic-opera posing for more than 50 years. Now an article by James Grimmelmann takes you on a tour of how attempts at creating pirate radio… then data… havens have never worked out as utopian dreams collide with the real world.
And while we're talking about advantages of living with the sea… According to a new study, after iodized salt was introduced in America in 1924, there was an increase in IQ of 15 points in iodine-deficient areas.
Alas, as Paula Luber points out: "The scary thing is, iodine consumption in the U.S. has dropped by 50% in the last 30 years. When we were young, our moms cooked our meals with liberal use of iodized salt, and commercial bakeries used iodine as a dough conditioner - one slice of wonderbread and you had the RDA for iodine. Now bakeries use bromine in place of iodine - bromine has no known use in the body, but does block iodine binding, making the situation even worse." So is idiocracy coming… because "I… oh… iodined all alone…"
== Speaking of which ==
An interesting article in the Economist, The Curious Case of the Fall in Crime, documents the stunning drop in crime in the western world: "Last year there were just 69 armed robberies of banks, building societies and post offices in England and Wales, compared with 500 a year in the 1990s. In 1990 some 147,000 cars were stolen in New York. Last year fewer than 10,000 were … "
Cherished social theories have been discarded. Conservatives who insisted that the decline of the traditional nuclear family and growing ethnic diversity would unleash an unstoppable crime wave have been proved wrong. Young people are increasingly likely to have been brought up by one parent and to have played a lot of computer games. Yet they are far better behaved than previous generations. Left-wingers who argued that crime could never be curbed unless inequality was reduced look just as silly."
They don't mention the coincidental elimination of lead in gasoline, which correlates with low IQ and violent crime. Nor do they mention the "abortion effect" that legalized abortion abruptly increased the ratio of kids were were actively wanted by their parents, another proposed explanation for the fall in crime, about 17 years later.
Well, well. There are many theories for why intelligence seems to have been (to gradually!) rising in the industrialized world -- The Flynn Effect. And why we seem to be getting (too slowly!) a bit calmer too. (See my own small role in getting the lead out of our air.) Our descendants will know a hundred other factors and shake their heads over our tragic inability to notice what should have been obvious!
That is… if we only had a brain...
== Science Stuff! ==
Ultrasound vibrations applied to the brain may affect mood and potentially could lead to new treatments for psychological and psychiatric disorders.
It's known as the Hum, a steady, droning sound that's heard in places as disparate as Taos, N.M.; Bristol, England; and Largs, Scotland. What causes the Hum, and why it only affects a small percentage of the population in certain areas, remain a mystery.
3-D printed rocket parts have the potential to save NASA and industry money and to open up new affordable design possibilities for rockets and spacecraft. Now engineers have tested rocket parts critical to engine combustion in a hot-fire environment.
And finally, having just passed the annual Moon Landing Day (July 20) I am reminded that Robert Heinlein suggested future generations will mark their calendars from the moment Neil Armstrong said "Tranquility Base, the Eagle has landed." Following that proposal, have a look at the "Tranquility Calendar" which is far too sensible for ornery humans ever to adopt.
University of California San Diego neuroengineers have developed a real-time electrochemical biosensor that can alert marathoners, competitive bikers, and other “extreme” athletes that they’re about to “bonk,” or “hit the wall.”
Use of "phages" or viruses to attack diseases or pests has long been promised. Now one crop devouring moth is in the cross-hairs.
It happens daily. A tsunami of good things. While we spend most of our time either complacent or ... whining.
Looking at the data rates given in the iodine article, it seems to be most likely that those IQ increases were the highest in the Pacific Northwest. Nice to see something with such a direct, measurable impact on my home area.
David wrote: "When global sea rise starts inundating coastal cities, won't that add lots of iron and calcium and other important nutrients, as well?"
It'll also add candy bar wrappers, pesticides, soda straws, car chemicals (oil, gasoline, antifreeze, transmission fluid), and the occasional rubber sandal.
Also, this is the wave of the future. http://www.salon.com/2013/08/19/madrid_and_london_clash_over_an_artificial_reef/
Tensions between Spain and the UK over fishing rights versus ecological preservation of fishing grounds. The tensions in the South China Sea are also similar.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-15/an-asean-sth-china-sea/4890742
As we slowly realize that the oceans requires active, technological management, we are going to see this sort of thing much, much more often.
A step towards "Smart Mobs"?
The Internet Response League seeks to call gamers to civic duty. IRL’s first project is to develop a plug-in for World of Warcraft that will notify gamers in the virtual world when real-world disasters break out and ask for help. Gamers would be asked to tag data and other simple but labor-intensive tasks.
Hee; I'm the one who founded and wrote most of the Wikipedia article on the Tranquility Calendar, and I'm happy to see it mentioned here. :)
As an aside, I've written up a page on a version of the Tranquility Calendar in the more sensical Lojban rather than standard irrational English; and using the carefully-designed characters of Tolkien's Tengwar rather than Latin characters; at http://www.datapacrat.com/calendar/ . If anyone ever finds a use for that, I would love to hear of it. :)
Coincidentally, today at Cracked they had an article about the flood of good news, and why we tend to disregard it:
Thanks for the CRACKE link. I enjoyed: "This is why I've grown to find cynicism so frustrating -- cynicism doesn't cause inaction. The desire for inaction causes cynicism. And so you fight to defend your cynicism tooth and nail."
Alas he ignores the MAIN reasons for nostalgic cynicism! (1) The look backward romanticism of lost world-views in history and (2) the tendency of the right to deny that human improvability is possible and hence worth paying taxes to pursue... and (3) the tendency on the left to angrily denounce any admission of progress, because it might "reduce the perceived urgency to improve and do more reform.
About to get on a plane for the long flight home from Greece... sigh
Interesting article that introduces (to me, at least) the term of elite panic, a state where regular citizens behave cooperatively while elites (government, business, religious leaders, et.al.) lose their collective cool to paranoia. Describes a great deal of our recent past, IMO. http://www.salon.com/2013/08/20/im_not_a_terrorist_im_eight_years_old_and_thats_my_science_project/. It says that the article is an excerpt from an upcoming book. Might be interesting, and certainly plays on some themes we've seen here.
Groklaw closes. The Lavabit closing is problematic also.
PS I wonder if this is going in *my* file.
I think NY judge Shira Scheindlin may have read The Transparent Society, or maybe this blog. In her ruling against the NYPD stop-and-frisk policies she ordered one precinct to start wearing micro-cameras to allow for data collection on compliance with her orders. From Slate: Police the Police
"That’s what federal Judge Shira Scheindlin prescribed a week ago, when she found the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk methods unconstitutional. “The City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” the judge concluded. To rein in this practice, she ordered “a trial program requiring the use of body-worn cameras in one precinct per borough, a community-based joint remedial process to be conducted by a court-appointed facilitator, and the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure that the NYPD’s conduct of stops and frisks is carried out in accordance with the Constitution.”
Correction to the last, she ordered wearable cameras for one precinct in each borough.
"the tendency on the left to angrily denounce any admission of progress, because it might "reduce the perceived urgency to improve and do more reform.""
I'm just curious to know where, specifically, anyone actually sees this. I mean, we may all know some luddite hippies who think this way, but in the establishment left? Really? I'm not saying it ain't so -- I'd just like to see an example or two.
Andrew you are kidding, right? Have you seen how the left has laid into Steven Pinker for showing that per capita worl violence has been plummeting while today well over half of all kids live in homes with electricity and go to school?
TRY mentioning how much better many things have become. This will unite actual leftists with a large fraction of liberals, normally different species, but they unite in outrage over any mention that major progress may have happened. I just experienced this with an audience in Greece!
The rage they express is nearly universal and it is proof that political sickness is not COMPLETELY a function of the loony-entire-right
One of the minor counter-arguments I've heard against Pinker is that police forces are financially motivated to under-report on certain violent crimes if they need to show a trend of success to support current policy or to hire a few more people. I know one cop (retired) who pointed out that her bosses wanted some creative interpretation from her.
I suspect there are statistical tricks one can play to look for too much correlation between budgets and improved violent crime numbers to show this. As a voter, it would be useful to know where the correlations were too strong. 8)
"One of the minor counter-arguments I've heard against Pinker is that police forces are financially motivated to under-report on certain violent crimes"
On the other hand minor offenses or even non offenses forty years ago are now regarded as violent offenses
(Things like domestic violence)
So if "things are the same" we should see a dramatic INCREASE in "violent crime"
Murder is the "gold standard" as it is assumed that it is a constant
But then - is improved medical treatment saving people who would be murder victims??
Still on the subject of dramatic improvement
When I was young there were two
"Totally Intractable Unfix-able Problems"
Most if not all science fiction operated with these as a background
Population will increase forever
Mankind will always love and practice war
Now both of these impossible problems seem to have gone away (or be in the process of going away)
This is .......words fail me!
No David, I haven't and as a member of "the left" (a term I have come to hate, honestly) I think I would see it more often.
I'm not saying it never happens, but I'm inclined to believe that you are letting an obnoxious minority -- those who exemplify (in the words of Tom Baker's Dr. Who) that there is an inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain -- define your perception of an entire political quadrant.
Fifteen years ago when I was a wee twenty-something, I worked in a Barnes & Noble in central Berkeley (I am referring to No Cal here, lest there be any scintilla of misunderstanding). We chose Pinker's book as a "book of the month" and it flew off the shelves, generating almost universally positive feedback. Pinker's career is hardly suffering, he is a prominent and widely read intellectual, and I highly doubt that he is floating on residuals extracted from the political right exclusively. There are those who vehemently disagree with him, sometimes on frivolous grounds, sometimes on sound empirical grounds. Like any intellectual able to make provocative claims and back them up reasonably well, some people react reflexively. That's a human trait, in no way confined to a region of the political spectrum. Darlings die hard, for some.
My perception is that "the left" for the most part finds Pinker's ideas rather interesting. As do I.
I've noticed, David, that you denounce the broad and generalized use of terms like "left" and "right" almost as often as you employ them, and that you seem willing to defend the same kinds of gross generalizations -- such as this one about the "left" and its pessimism and, for that matter, that of the "right" as well -- which you at other times denounce.
As for your "try mentioning to leftists..." challenge, it's funny but not even a week ago I watched a recent Chomsky interview online in which he stated quite clearly that he felt there were many areas in which America had vastly improved over the past four decades, politically and materially, especially in free speech matters. Also a view I share.
To the extent that I encounter this kind of pessimism of which you speak -- I usually find it closer to the political center. "Liberals" and "moderates" who are not particularly engaged with politics but who freely digest the endless parade of apocalyptic storyline in movies and television. Its an unthinking, reactionary mindset. Among the more politically focused, I find this attitude to be much rarer, reserved more to really basket-case truthers and the like.
Incidentally, I live in New York City, in case you felt like speculating about my degree of social isolation. Just putting that out there.
Andrew I read with great respect your response and understand it. Nevertheless I find personally that any mention of substantial progress tends to elicit anger from politically active people who are "left of center."
I will soften it with this. The reflex is shallow. I find I can get through to nearly all oif them... even the recent leftists in Greece -- by parsing out what a silly "sales pitch" is is, to proclaim "None of our efforts for 70 years have worked, buy more!"
I point out the better sales pitch: "Look at how much has already been achieved through progressivism! Racism, Sexism, injustice, war have all been driven into ill repute and more kids than ever have hope! Of course we'll all DIE if we don't do the rest, but we've proved good actions bear good fruit, so buy more!" ...
... and generally most of them show enough adaptability to grasp the difference and smile, That is not what right wingers do, when their habits are questioned.
Still it is a filthy reflex and it deeply undermines progressivism. Just look at the completely unnecessary gloom of AVATAR
In regard to the 30 year trend of decreasing societal violence noted by Pinker & others, we've talked & hypothesised about a number of potential causative factors which include (but are not limited to) the eradication of poverty, prenatal folate supplementation, gerontrification due to an aging population, iodinized salt, decreased childhood lead exposure & the easy availability of abortion, but there's one other major factor we may have overlooked:
Oral Contraceptive Use.
Since the advent of the Oral Birth Control Pill in the late 1960s, the use of hormone-based contraception has increased exponentially, so much so that approximately 23% of all reproductive aged western females (aged 15 to 44) now take hormonal supplementation, preventing pregnancy by mimicing the hormonal state of pregnancy, which is also known to alter the physiology of males in close proximity, leading to increased male prolactin levels associated with male parenting behaviours and decreased aggressiveness due to lower testosterone levels. According to animal & human studies, that is (1)(2).
So, in effect, Pinker is correct about the increasingly metrosexual Western Male who has been subdued, pacified and partially castrated by our chemically-mediated 'Sexual Revolution' which has liberated western females from physiologic oppression, created a truely egalitarian male/female domestic partnership, and may or may not lead to the genderless Neutropia foretold, assuming that we can convince our Islamic neighbours to follow our primrose path.
Matt Groening be praised.
Dopeybranch has it all wrong (as usual)
The last 30 years of decreasing social violence is just a continuation of a trend that is thousands of years old from hunter/gatherer bands with 30% of deaths due to murder to our current rate of 1/100,000/year
or 0.08% of deaths
Has anyone actually looked at whether the rise in environmental levels of estrogenic compounds that is "feminizing" males (for many species, not just humans) may be having some influence over violence levels the last half century?
Then there may also be the "Wisdom of Crowds" effect. Over the last century we have formed bigger crowds and they communicate better.
While an insanely violent crowd (not necessarily co-located) can be a very frightening thing, so can a sanely peaceful one. I'm sure y'all can think of examples.
Here is an article by David Sirota alleging NSA blackmail of Congress members, with a few good pull quotes and lots of links to other sources. David Sirota
I think that the link to the main article is only good for two days, if I read the timer at the bottom correctly. I do not usually like to link to tags that are impermanent, but this is pretty germane to a lot of discussion that has gone on here in the past.
Duncan C. noted that improved medical treatment may be altering statistics by saving people who would have been counted as murder victims. That reminds me of the Iraq war statistics of only about 4,000 dead -- but over 100,000 amputations and other injuries that might have been fatal in World War II.
Good discussion. In any event, Duncan you are being unfair. Locum this time was at his best and his hypothesis (his?) certainly merits looking into, if only at a science fictional scenario level.
Locum? How much of what you wrote just now was in your own words? Çogent and interesting.
to all I am now back (exhausted) from Greece.
Here's hoping this is a hoax.
Because if it's not, then we'd have been better off with McCain as President. And I must admit I'm curious as to how they forced McCain to choose Palin (who was a factor in McCain losing) over someone competent.
"that in the late 1990s, the top US Treasury officials secretly conspired with a small cabal of banker big-shots to rip apart financial regulation across the planet."
Why are you surprised?
This is exactly what they said they were doing.
The argument was that regulation was excessive and crippling the market
So of course they were working "to rip apart financial regulation across the planet."
They were wrong!
But even now only the Democrats are willing to say that that was a bad idea McCain and his merry men still think we need less regulation
The rise in environmental levels of 'feminizing' estrogenic compounds, also known as 'Endocrine Disruptors', has been correlated with a slight increased risk of Prostate Cancer in human males, but it has never been formally correlated (as far as I know) with a decline in human violence.
The data I was citing was actually quite different, well-publicized by the likes of Louann Brizendine, that Human males produce 30% less testosterone when kept in close proximity to pregnant human females, the hypothesis (my own) being that western males are less violent, more 'domesticated' & less stereotypically masculine because of this type of indirect androgen suppression.
And, although there is no grand conspiracy here, we can create one if it suits our scifi fancy:
Enter the evil cosmetics conglomerate set on world domination, eliminating their virile male competitors with a combination of (1) contaminated water, (2) faux pregnancy, (3)fast-food based obesity and (4) soy-based meat analogues, all from the relative safety of their secret volcanic lair.
Save Us, Flint !!
Duncan, did you miss the part about their claws being in a young State Senator named Barack Obama... who is now the President of the United States and nominally in charge of "fixing" the problem?
Mind you, if we'd allowed the big banks to go under and instead the government provided direct liquidity to small businesses during that period, then the end result would have been the big banks declaring bankruptcy, breaking into smaller banks with their poisonous investments stuck in special zombie firms, and come out leaner and significantly smaller. It would have caused far more damage to the economy and could have caused an actual Depression... but the patchwork fix seems likely to have just pushed back how long it takes before the next big crash hits.
Of course, if McCain had gotten into office, the stress of the job may have killed him, resulting in an extremely inexperienced and at-times idiotic Sarah Palin being president of the United States, which would have damaged every woman politician in the country as male politicians everywhere used Palin as a brush to smear every other woman politician out there.
So... damned in either case.
locumranch, I think your hypothesis fails for the lack of an obvious necessary countercomitant rise in female crime stats due to the enraging and constant scent of metrosexuals in their midst.
Fails for another reason. If he were correct then when women go into menopause, they'd be more likely to commit violent crimes. They aren't.
Rob H., I'm noticing parallels between Babylon 5's "Shadows" and the finance industry .
This was what I was thinking of:
I suspect Obama was confronted by something like this, and any future occupant of the White House will face the same thing, unless the finance industry exhibits spectacular weakness.
Re: Tranquillity calendar.
"Before Tranquillity" and "After Tranquillity"?
Sigh. Zero, people, remember, cardinal numbers. Then "before" is simply negative (Tranquillity minus 3, 2, 1...) and "after" positive.
The quote by Benjamin Franklin resumes it well.
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb."
He was not just talking about guns but being armed above all by processes and law to control the extremes from taking over. The far Left and the far Right both have the same agenda; that is to control the majority of people by force. The far Right does this by economics and the far Left by naked coercion. In the end they both use violence against the Center. Franklin puts us on guard in saying that the extremes want us and it is up to us to defend ourselves through reason and law and in extremis by arms. The only defense of the Center is to be vigilant and not let the extremes define who we are.
Thank you for your response. I don't generally equate "activism" with "pessimism" since one is only active if you believe you can change things -- though of course I realize in saying that I am essentially walking right into a tautology.
You are correct that there is at times a reluctance on the left to admit that great benefits have come about through capitalism and/or technology, as opposed to political change (though really the two are inextricable, in my view). Sometimes, however, this is more accurately a concern (whether justifiable or not) that if we rely too heavily on capitalism and technology to solve problems, other more dire problems can be created. When expressed more crudely, this can come across as gloom or ludditism.
The only thing I really remember about AVATAR were the sexy blue aliens. I did debate conservatives who claimed it was a leftist parable against capitalism and civilization. I countered that the plot concerned a native population protecting its property rights. But I don't recall it being gloomy. "Unintentionally funny" was more the word I would use. Basically put Apocalypse Now, a Miyazaki anime, and one of Cameron's underwater documentaries into a Brundlefly transporter and the resulting biomush would be Avatar.
I actually did enjoy (a little) the romantic impulse towards paganism. But it seemed to me the alien society had achieved many technological benefits through their unique ecosystem. I dunno. Avatar is a film no one wanted to take literally. They kept reading the subtext at the expense of the supertext.
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Andrew, it's not worth trying to point this out to Brin. Namely, that people on the left have barely even heard of Pinker and couldn't care one bit about him, and most of the left that have either have no problem with him or just think he's empirically wrong.
What's going on is that Brin _thinks_ he's on the right, and is smart enough to see how completely unhinged the right is, so desperately keeps searching for ways in which the left is also unhinged. He's decided that it's because the left 'rejects progress', which makes literally no sense. (At least, he thinks they reject progress when they're not, uh, overly optimistic, which is the _other_ problem he has with them.)
It's some sort of cognitive dissonance. Brin is what you get when someone completely rejects the political reality he's living in and tries to invent a better one, where conservatives are the sane rational ones (He's at least honest enough with himself to admit that _that_ is a pipe dream at the moment.) and the left also has plenty of crazy people and they just don't have a lot of power, which he hasn't quite noticed is also a pipe dream of his.
That's his theory, that both sides are equally crazy, and somehow the right just _expresses_ it more.
He's completely failed to notice that political craziness is not some sort of magical-appearing thing, it's something that has to be _taught_ to people, from the top down. (Otherwise they say _different_ crazy bullshit.)
For someone that just wrote an essay about how we should stop every once in a while and think about how amazing it is that humans manage to work together and whatnot, it sure it is odd to think how much of the population he thinks is spontaneously crazy. Because if he didn't think they were spontaneously crazy, he'd have to admit someone taught them to be crazy, and if he admitted that, he'd have to admit that there's almost no section of the left doing that, and thus the left has a lot less crazy people.
And unrelated to any of that:
They've done further studies, and the correlation between the drop in violent crime and the rise of abortion is not relevant.
While abortion did rise over time, and crime did drop later, the amount of abortion in different areas has almost no correlation to the amount of drop off in crime in those areas. (Although, strictly speaking, abortion does reduce crime, because abortion reduces the amount of people, period. But there's no evidence that the fetuses that would have grown up to be criminals are more likely to be aborted.)
However, the link with lead has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt at this point, that even low level of lead during development cause increased risk of violence _and_ lower IQs. (That is, while lower IQ is already linked with more violence, lead causes increased violence on top of that.)
Contraceptives, OTOH, I don't know anything about.
Nor about iodine, although I'm pretty certain we already knew iodine deficiency was a serious problem, which is why we added it in the first place to salt. The government needs to get its act together and not let that get undone by changing food habits.
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