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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Armchair Climatologist

[UPDATE 9/14/2010] This post was moving up the Digg ratings and then suddenly stopped. Digged was being rigged by a gang of climate skeptics that call themselves the Digg Patriots who reflexively vote down any climate change articles.

You know who I'm talking about, that stereotype who inevitably appears in the comment field armed with irrefutable evidence that climate change is a giant conspiracy theory. He dares other commenters to engage him in nuanced debate so he can bury them with the (erroneous) data he's gleaned off the internet.

As with the debate over dark matter, or string theory, or any number of other science topics, the debate over the "science" of climate change is between climate scientists using the scientific method. Real climatologists engage in debate in peer reviewed science journals.

There's a lot of room for debate over what should be done and we should all participate in those debates but the science is not ours to debate. The science is settled. Human activity has increased the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by burning forests and grasslands and by releasing hundreds of millions of years of stored fossil fuel carbon into the atmosphere. That fact is utterly irrefutable. End of story. What remains to debate (among scientists) are the ramifications of that fact--the magnitude and timing of climate changes to come.

Don't encourage the armchair climatologist. Unless you happen to be a published, recognized expert in the field of climatology, you are no more qualified to debate the science than the armchair versions are, the only difference being, you should know that and they don't. Feel free to post links to peer reviewed science or you can just post the following link in response to their spittle-flecked diatribes, which will point them to the peer reviewed science for you: A Few Things Ill Considered.

Here (in response to the recent lay press feeding frenzy claiming that the earth is actually cooling) is a taste of what can be found there:

Why waste your time playing armchair climatologist Whac-A-Mole when there are websites that do it for you?

It can be hard to resist sometimes.

Against my own advice, I was recently drawn into a short debate with a couple of armchair climatologists in a comment field over the latest incarnation of the global warming hoax hoax involving the illegal hack into a university server.

And again later in the thread, here, and over on Grist here.

[Update 11/28/2009]

Thought this comment on the DOT EARTH blog is worth linking to as is this post at Stoat: Talking to the layfolk.

[Update 11/29/2009]

And another good blog post over on RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE about the theory of Crank Magnetism.

Foil hat image from Wikipedia Commons.

[Update 12/06/09]

Take the time to click on this video (found on Pharyngula) about McExperts:

Click here--to see a list of articles and to subscribe to future posts or subscribe by email by adding your address to the box in the upper right hand corner of the blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Exercise in Futility?

(Photo credit via the Flickr Creative Commons license).

My wife brought home tuna for dinner the other night. My fifteen-year-old daughter, member of her school's environment club, 4-H, and a consummate organic gardener, whipped out her Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood card to see how tuna ranked. Yay! There it was on the Best Choices card. In fact, the card had six variations of tuna and one caveat:

Oh, and look, six variations of tuna and one caveat are also listed on the Good Alternatives card:

Ah crap. There are also about five variations of tuna on the Avoid card:

So, what was this lying on our plates? You can imagine how easy it would be to poke fun at three people who, after much deliberation, have no idea if the fish they are about to eat is the worst choice or the best. Not that it matters. Those cards will never make the slightest dent in what kind of fish is harvested. The only thing that can do that are strictly enforced science-based fishing regulations, and even those are far from fool-proof.

These cards may have some value as a way to increase public awareness but I think they need a sentence at the top that says something like, "Best not to eat ocean fish period."

[Update 11/16/2009]

I just ran into a related article by Andrew Revkin. Check out comment #3 found there. I can't think of a better post cold war use for our nuclear submarine fleet than patrolling fisheries and handing out tickets to violators ; )

[Update 11/27/2009]

From Mongabay:

Restaurants sampled in New York and Colorado are serving up bluefin tuna without informing their customers know they are dining on an endangered species

...nearly a third of tuna sampled in one restaurant in Colorado and thirty restaurants in New York served bluefin tuna, and nine of the restaurants did not label the tuna as bluefin.

...the FDA's approved market name for all eight species of Thunnus is simply 'tuna'," explains Lowenstein. He adds that if the FDA required that tuna be listed as individual species, it would allow consumers to make an informed decision [NOT!]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mass Production of Multi-purpose Large-capacity Lithium-ion Battery Packs Begins Next Year

Just found this press release over on Green Car Congress:

SANYO to Mass Produce
New Large-capacity High-voltage Lithium-ion Battery Systems

This is big. I've been waiting for this announcement. The pack for "light" electric vehicles (the one with the disembodied hand) has twice the amp hours of my electric bike (but about 25% lower voltage). They sell about a million electric bikes a year in China.

Inside each of those plastic boxes are rows of batteries about the size of a C cell along with some sophisticated battery management circuitry including a charging system. Instead of trying to develop big batteries they are saving money by finding ways to effectively string together small ones using sophisticated electronics to make them behave like one big battery, which is exactly what the Dewalt packs that I use on my bike do as well, except the charging system is separate.

The battery is the weak link in all electric vehicles and solar power as well. These packs are the start of what the world has been waiting for. Put one on each motor for each wheel and you have yourself a low speed four person EV worth owning.

Get the storage version (the one on the left) for your solar panels and you can charge your light electric vehicle when you get home.

The next step will be bigger packs for electric car conversions. That will be a paradigm shift. The big car makers will be forced to compete in price with mom and pop shops converting cars to electric.

For those out there waiting for a pack to replace the V-8 in their F-150, don't hold your breath. That may never be cost effective. The cars of tomorrow will barely resemble the tanks we drive today ...IMHO.

I have not been this excited by since Dewalt power tools announced they would be using A123 batteries in their high-end power tool line. I was first in line to buy and adapt them to an electric bike.

Keep in mind that this is not another pie-in-the-sky technological lab experiment. This is nothing but meat and potatoes mass production of existing, commercially viable technology and it is all that's needed to make these modules affordable. Entrepreneurs will take it from there.