Tuesday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Yep, you need to hold your line, apparently Mr Ferrari has forgotten that elementary point.
  2. Tolerance and the much abused “Black Studies”.
  3. Mr Krugman (and others) often goes off against EU austerity. Can you spot it? I guess austerity means something besides a cut in spending.
  4. A book recommended.
  5. A million years of global warming didn’t kill the dinosaurs, why fear a few tens of decades? In fact, this gives support to the climate warm = good hypothesis.
  6. Of Parliament and separation.
  7. Something, I gather, the pro-choice movement has nothing bad to say about.
  8. A tree falls in the forest, see no noise.
  9. One view on gay marriage.
  10. Checking some results. What do you think the outcome will be?
  11. Equine domestication and the Cossack.
  12. He “got a few things right” (Mr Obama that is) … starts as damning with faint praise and goes downhill fast when the fact checking begins. Perhaps the article “a”, was unnecessary.

28 Responses to Tuesday Highlights

  1. 12.He “got a few things right” (Mr Obama that is) … starts as damning with faint praise and goes downhill fast when the fact checking begins. Perhaps the article “a”, was unnecessary.

    Most of the ‘facts’ checked are opinions. For example, was the ‘turning point’ an Afghan surge in 2007 or the one under Obama? The author says the ‘inflection’ point was 2007 but it accelerated under the Obama surge….wouldn’t an increase in acceleration be an inflection point? My Calculus may be rusty but this is clearly less a fact than an opinion.

    Likewise whether or not defeat of Al Qaeda is ‘within our reach’ is pretty clearly not a clearcut fact that you can call true or false. It may also be motivational given that it was said in a speech which implies it should not be measured on the same scale. Given what has come out about Bin Laden’s musing when he was hiding in his Pakistani mansion, it does in fact seem like Al Qaeda’s luster is gone.

    He said, “Our goal is not to build a country in America’s image.” There are several problems with this. First, Obama refutes an argument no one is advancing. …

    Ok but a less than a sentance away:

    the real danger has always been the opposite: that we haven’t tried hard enough and we’ve continually crippled ourselves by thinking too small. The idea that reconstruction and stabilization in Afghanistan is a mythically impossible mission that goes against the laws of history and culture is one of the most enduring, pernicious, and groundless myths of the last decade

    The real question should be do we want to make Afghanistan our version of East Germany? Why? In the hurried debate authorizing military action after 9/11 this was not part of the deal and the default position should not be yes.

    In regards to Obama’s ‘original sin’ being a timetable to get out. I disagree. Ultimately the Afghan gov’t, for good or bad, has to stand on its own. Without a line in the sand, a clear sense that we will not be there forever, there’s no incentive for them to take on the Taliban themselves.

  2. #5….let’s dispense with the stupid argument that global warming didn’t kill the dinosaurs. Maybe but dinosaurs didn’t have cities and vast complicated economies that would incur major costs by disruptions to the climate, and even if they did it’s not like they left behind much of a historical record. We have no idea whether or not warming stressed dinosaurs or not.

    I think though the article misses an important point; the conservation of matter. Brontosaurus’s produced greenhouse gasses by farting. But no Brontosaurus ever produced a fart out of a pure vacuum. He or she had to eat tons of plants to produce that fart, which means the less entertaining world of plant life had to pull tons and tons of greenhouse causing molecules out of the air in order to grow the plants that Brontosaurus’s needed to eat. The Brontosaurus’s were not adding matter to the system by, say, digging up buried carbon and methane and burning it to make their farts.

  3. Boonton,
    You’re off base on #5. The big boy ate plants, which are not dug up … but their plant digestion (decomp) need not have produced methane, which is many time (72?) more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2.

  4. True, but you’re still stuck with conservation of matter….To make methane you need carbon and hydrogen. Where does the carbon come from? From plants which need to pull it out of the air. The big boy ate big plants which means big carbon getting sucked out of the air, while methane is more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, it has a shorter lifecycle in the air of about only 10 years.

    Given the vast stores of fossil fuels we enjoy today, we know that most of the earth’s history had to be one of putting down more carbon than up.

    This seems to be another equilibrium issue here. If two forces aren’t balanced, then the number will change. If brontos were putting more into the air than was taken out to feed them, then the air would keep filling with methane until the earth was nearly 100% methane and about as hot as Venus. Since that didn’t happen some counterforce must have operated to keep the system in check. I suspect it was plants. If there weren’t enough plants to pull the carbon out, then brontos would starve to death which lowers their methane production.

  5. Boonton,

    To make methane you need carbon and hydrogen. Where does the carbon come from? From plants which need to pull it out of the air. The big boy ate big plants which means big carbon getting sucked out of the air, while methane is more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, it has a shorter lifecycle in the air of about only 10 years.

    Yes, that was noted. The point is that the bronts were putting greenhouse gasses into the air faster than our society is.

    If brontos were putting more into the air than was taken out to feed them, then the air would keep filling with methane until the earth was nearly 100% methane and about as hot as Venus. Since that didn’t happen some counterforce must have operated to keep the system in check.

    So? There was an equillbrium, one which resulted in a hotter world than today, which alas, wasn’t covered with deserts as you pretend and supported a far more energetic (more plant growth) ecosystem than we have. Again, why is that a bad thing?

  6. Unlike heat, simply having a ‘hotter world’ is not a counterbalancing force. The counterbalance IMO would be plants. For Bronto to shoot one carbon atom into the air out of his butt, he needed a plant to pull one carbon atom out. Even if bronto butts were shooting atoms up faster than our cars and smokestacks do, they were likelly offset by more plants pulling carbon atoms down IMO.

    We could achieve the same effect today, provided we only burned plant matter

  7. Boonton,
    But carbon atoms in the atmosphere are not equivalent, if you burned plant matter you’d get CO2. You need large scale anaerobic bacterial processing to move it to large quantities of methane. Like, say lots of big herbivores like the bronts.

  8. Boonton,
    Furthermore burning -> CO2 which plants can readily reabsorb. Methane is not in that cycle.

  9. Methane reacts with OH in the upper atmosphere to eventually convert to CO2 as well as with bacteria in the soil that uses O2 molecules to produce CO2 and H2O from methane in the air. I would suspect a surplus of plant and soil life might very well have neutralized Bronto’s farts. Why would it make sense to assume there would be a surplus of plant and soil life back then? Well our friend Bronto was making how many tons of fertilizer each day?

  10. Boonton,

    Methane reacts with OH in the upper atmosphere to eventually convert to CO2 as well as with bacteria in the soil that uses O2 molecules to produce CO2 and H2O from methane in the air. I would suspect a surplus of plant and soil life might very well have neutralized Bronto’s farts. Why would it make sense to assume there would be a surplus of plant and soil life back then?

    Hence the 12 year half-life of methane in the atmosphere. Why a surplus of plant life … the higher global temps (it really was warmer then … why would that be?).

  11. Who has more plant life, a desert or the forests of the Pacific Northwest? Who has a higher average temp?

    Re: Austerity missing…

    It’s found
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/05/euro-crisis-0

  12. Boonton,
    Are you saying the temperate rain forests would have less plant life if they were even colder? Or that the deserts have little life because of their heat and not lack of water?

  13. Boonton,
    Or that less evaporation/transpiration occurs in a warmer world?

  14. I’m saying you have to build your model from the ground up. Big dinos make big po. Big po means big methane. Fine. Big po also means big fertilizer which impacts what the plants and soil does. Before we start thinking about wind patterns and whether warmer zones will be deserts or rain forests, that should be addressed. If you’re just going to look at the farts and ignore the po, well you’re going end up stepping in it.

  15. 7.Something, I gather, the pro-choice movement has nothing bad to say about.

    Sounds like an urban legend to me. Not sure why you think the pro-choice movement should say something about it? Might as well as why the NRA hasn’t said anything about it.

  16. Boonton,
    JA used to regularly remark that removing fetal tissue was just morally akin to cutting off a wart, i.e., fetus had no existential claim. Seems to me the people who think that the fetus has no existential claim have little to say (and more relevance than the NRA, in that pro-choice is in the business of promoting extermination of feti and the NRA is not).

    I’ve seen it in print newspapers. Why urban legend? People make pills out of lots of things (rhino horns for example).

  17. Boonton,
    The basis of “big poo” is unclear. Lots of little dinos make the same amount of poo given a commensurate consumption. The difference is that bronts have anaerobic activity going on whereas little dinos don’t. That’s why chicken farts don’t contribute like cows do. Chicken digestion doesn’t involve breakdown of cellulose by anaerobes.

    I suppose you’d have to ask a biologist if termites and caterpillars produce methane per tonne of herbage at the same or similar rate that cows do and why or why not.

    Decomposing fecal matter won’t make methane … unless you’re decomposing it anaerobically. Looking at the elephant and elephant beetle chain … I’d say that other things break the fecal matter up before you get anaerobic activity.

    Again, you concentrate (why?) on carbon and not (as instructed?) on greenhouse gases of which methane is the key as it far more effective.

  18. JA used to regularly remark that removing fetal tissue was just morally akin to cutting off a wart, i.e., fetus had no existential claim. Seems to me the people who think that the fetus has no existential claim have little to say (and more relevance than the NRA, in that pro-choice is in the business of promoting extermination of feti and the NRA is not).

    Actually the question would seem to be whether using human tissue for food (or medicine in this case, though I think most would think any medical claims are just snake oil gimmicks…assuming its even true) is or isn’t ok. Pro-choicers have no more relationship to that question than the NRA or the American Chess Federation for that matter.

    Perhaps you’re assuming that if the story is true then the tissue is coming from abortions, as opposed to still births or babies who die.. Even if that is the case, I see no relationship there to either pro-choicers or lifers. Their issue is the abortion itself, both are in agreement after the abortion there is no human person in the dead tissue.

    I’ve seen it in print newspapers. Why urban legend? People make pills out of lots of things (rhino horns for example).

    I once had a teacher who claimed that Pantene used aborted babies. I recall at that young age I was a bit baffled as to why the media seemed to have so much debate over medical research on aborted fetuses why would nothing be said about a shampoo and conditioner company using them! That lead me to conclude the odd chap was either not telling the truth or had himself been mislead.

    Anyway, it has a lot of the airmarks of a legend to me. Taking place in a far away land (with customs that are strange to most of the blogs intended readers in the US), add in some primodorial memes like cannibalism and supposedly gaining powers through it, as well as the fear that the people who prepare things you consume like food ‘do things’ to it in secret that are disgusting…add to that that it’s the type of thing that appeals to pro-lifers, confirmation that they hold the moral high ground and those outside of their club are so out of it that they are almost hopeless….you got all the elements needed to pull off a really successful urban legend.

    Re Big Poo

    The basis of “big poo” is unclear. Lots of little dinos make the same amount of poo given a commensurate consumption.

    The basis is more or less anything going in is coming out. Now if Brontos displaced little dinos, then lots of plants were needed to make big poo. If little dinos were not displaced then you need lots and lots of plants to make big poo and little poo.

    Again, you concentrate (why?) on carbon and not (as instructed?) on greenhouse gases of which methane is the key as it far more effective.

    I’m concentrating on the question of equilibrium. Actions produce counter actions and that keeps things constant. Only if you see change does that mean one action is not counter-balanced by another. Eating candy doesn’t make you fat. Eating candy while not increasing activity to offset for the candy makes you gain weight until the amount your body burns simply keeping itself running increases to offset your candy consumption. Likewise you can gain weight even if you keep eating the same stuff if your activity level goes down (hence many of us get fatter as we get older….even though we might have pigged out more when young)

    If Brontos caused net warming, their rise should match to warming periods (not simply a period that was warm relative to us or some other period) and their fall should match to a cooling period. Note this has to be a period of *changing* climate, not simply hot or cold. The question isn’t whether or not a person is fat or thing but is he gaining weight, losing it, or keeping it stable.

    If Brontos were not rising in an era of changing climate (after factoring out other known causes of climate change), then their greenhouse gas contributions would have to be matched by some other type of greenhouse deduction. Hence I put forth that ‘big poo’, which would need to have increased with Bronto’s increases, as a possible offsetting factor…(and one that nicely balances out automatically with Bronto population, more Brontos means automatically more poo and less means less no matter what).

  19. Trying to be briefer about this….let’s say you told me you weight 190 lbs and eat a full steak dinner with desert at Chicago’s best steakhouse once a week. What does that tell me about your weight? Nothing. You may be losing weight, gaining it or staying the same depending upon everything else. Are you working out two hours a day? Going 3 days a week with nearly no food? Without this knowledge nothing much can be said about this eating habit.

    If you told me that your have been losing about 1 lb per month then I could say you’re either not eating much besides your weekly splurge or you’re active enough to counter the big Friday dinner.

    Given that we are today using vaste amounts of fossil fuel which consists mostly of various types of carbon, that would imply that for very long stretches of time there’s been either a fixed amount of carbon locked up in the earth or the ecological system has been taking carbon out of the atmosphere and locking it up more often than not. Otherwise we have to ask if Brontos were putting more into the air then where was it coming from? Certainly prehistoric plants weren’t drilling oil wells to obtain the carbon necessary to make more of themselves.

  20. Boonton,

    Trying to be briefer about this….let’s say you told me you weight 190 lbs and eat a full steak dinner with desert at Chicago’s best steakhouse once a week. What does that tell me about your weight? Nothing. You may be losing weight, gaining it or staying the same depending upon everything else. Are you working out two hours a day? Going 3 days a week with nearly no food? Without this knowledge nothing much can be said about this eating habit.

    So? You have other data. It was warmer in that period than now. Imagine a situation where herbivores start getting larger and producing more methane … warming, which allows more plants, which allows larger animals. This cycle continues on an evolutionary timescale and eventually you get the big bronts, which can’t really get larger because of other physical material/design limitations on size of land based animals. One unfortunate, for the CO2 alarmist camp, is that global warming is actually a good thing for land based animals and plants, its not bad.

    I’m not clear on what relevance that has to methane. If you start converting carbon in plants to methane in preference to CO2 you’re going increase the greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere while still leaving the same Carbon content in play. That seems the salient point which you keep ignoring.

  21. Boonton,

    The basis is more or less anything going in is coming out. Now if Brontos displaced little dinos, then lots of plants were needed to make big poo. If little dinos were not displaced then you need lots and lots of plants to make big poo and little poo.

    Yes, but big poo creator emit far more methane for the same plant consumption. And its the methane to total carbon, where the total carbon is roughly constant that we’re examining.

  22. To use just one off the cuff example, Brontos didn’t care if sea levels got higher, they just moved inland as necessary. For us it would mean trillions of dollars in costs to either move major cities or build protection for them. Even if we had to do that, though, that would not be an extinction level event for humanity.

    I’m not clear on what relevance that has to methane. If you start converting carbon in plants to methane in preference to CO2 you’re going increase the greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere while still leaving the same Carbon content in play

    I suspect the outflow of carbon (both methane and CO2) from the air was higher due to the action of the Brontos. In that case you have cause and effect mixed up. Brontos can’t cause global warming which causes more plants because to have more Brontos you need more plants to begin with. Big poo causing more plants makes sense because it is a self sustaining cycle.

    Yes, but big poo creator emit far more methane for the same plant consumption. And its the methane to total carbon, where the total carbon is roughly constant that we’re examining.

    We are making an assumption here that the atomospheric life of methane and CO2 is constant. That may not be reasonable. Humans have dramatically altered the ecosystem, it’s quite possible the lifetime of methan in the air was different back then.

    Something else that occurs to me, Brontos may or may not have eaten plants whole. That may create a different dynamic. If Brontos ate the leaves off of trees, but not the trees themselves, then their big po might have promoted the long term growth of more trees and other bulky plants with plenty of fiber. Instead of carbon in the air being kept stable, you might have had a net carbon sink partially or fully offsetting the methane contributed by Brontos.

  23. Boonton,

    That may not be reasonable. Humans have dramatically altered the ecosystem, it’s quite possible the lifetime of methan in the air was different back then.

    The cycle of methane reduction you cited … how would human activity impact that?

    In that case you have cause and effect mixed up. Brontos can’t cause global warming which causes more plants because to have more Brontos you need more plants to begin with.

    No. It’s an evolutionary thing, I noted that earlier. Herds of dinos (far smaller than bronts) become successful but which introduce the new digestive mechanism that hosts an anaerobe (methane production). That produces methane slightly warming the planet. That adds new plant life. That allows bigger dinos producing even more methane. More plants. Bigger. More plants. Bronts appear.

    Not cause/effect problem. Evolutionary. I said this once before. Don’t you see its not an cause/effect thing? They evolved together. Its a positive feedback … halted by both the eventual size limits of land animals and the ecological or parasitical or cometary crises that ended the big dinos. Little animals eating plants have similar waste quantities. It’s just that methane is a far more effective greenhouse gas and that takes big animals.

    To use just one off the cuff example, Brontos didn’t care if sea levels got higher, they just moved inland as necessary.

    Yes yes yes. Neither do we (care). If over 200 years the sea rises that’s not a real big deal. On the plus side we have far more land area which is arable, which means we have more, not less places that people can live. Warm is good. You’ve failed to make the case that warming is not good yet.

  24. That produces methane slightly warming the planet. That adds new plant life. That allows bigger dinos producing even more methane. More plants. Bigger. More plants. Bronts appear.

    Except warmer doesn’t make more plants. Plants don’t grow from heat, they grow from sunlight, dirt and water. Warming helps certain plants adapted for warmer climates and harms others adapted for cooler ones but all that warming has to do with it is the window of temperature where H2O is a liquid rather than a solid or gas. All things being equal that would seem to be a wash. Moving the average temperature up may unlock some areas that are icy or snowy with more access to liquid ground water but it will also lower or eliminate liquid water in other areas (there are extreme plants adapted to grow in frozen areas or areas with highly limited rain but they are exceptions that prove the rule).

    Yes yes yes. Neither do we (care). If over 200 years the sea rises that’s not a real big deal. On the plus side we have far more land area which is arable, which means we have more, not less places that people can live.

    Probably not, if sea level rises that’s an absolute decrease in liveable land and imposes a huge cost of relocating major cities, which are almost all clustered around coastlines. Marginal increases in arable land we don’t really need does nothing to pay that back, if it did you’d be able to pay for all the land in lower Manhatten with a few thousand acreas of good farmland in Canada. Your argument that the cost of moving cities around 200 years from now will be less doesn’t really fly. It would have been easier to relocate NYC in 1750 than today and it seems more sensible to assume it would cost even more in the future, a little bit more corn each year doesn’t seem to offset that IMO.

  25. Boonton,

    Plants don’t grow from heat, they grow from sunlight, dirt and water.

    Actually more CO2, more heat, and more water does make more plants grow, which is why plant growth was stronger in the warmer (supposedly higher CO2) Cretaceous.

    but it will also lower or eliminate liquid water in other areas

    Why? More rain means more rain, which won’t eliminate or lower liquid water in other regions.

    On a side note, It occurred to me “shrinking ice caps” in a warmer global climate doesn’t necessarily follow. Warmer climates are accompanied by more precipitation. More precipitation means more snowfall in the winter, so which wins? The warmer summer or the greater snow accumulation in the winter? It’s not trivially obvious which wins.

    Marginal increases in arable land we don’t really need does nothing to pay that back, if it did you’d be able to pay for all the land in lower Manhatten with a few thousand acreas of good farmland in Canada

    Replace “few thousand acres” with “few hundreds of thousand (millions?) square miles” in Canada and Siberia. You do realize that “feeding the starving planet” is a theme on your side? Seems to me warming might be the answer.

  26. Why? More rain means more rain, which won’t eliminate or lower liquid water in other regions.

    Double edged sword, make things hotter and on the bottom of the scale you may liberate some liquid water, on the top of the scale, though, you start turning some liquid water into vapor which is not helpful for plants. It’s not ‘hotter = more rain’. Rain falls when its cool enough for water to condense into liquid drops.

    Actually more CO2, more heat, and more water does make more plants grow, which is why plant growth was stronger in the warmer (supposedly higher CO2) Cretaceous.

    I think soil content is more important for plant growth than CO2 air content. Plenty of work is done in agricultural sciences on soil, I’ve yet to hear much work done with farmers piping CO2 enhanced air onto their fields to promote growth. Drop a lot of poo on land and it’s a direct route to more plants, increase CO2 in the air and it’s a pretty indirect route IMO.

    Replace “few thousand acres” with “few hundreds of thousand (millions?) square miles” in Canada and Siberia. You do realize that “feeding the starving planet” is a theme on your side?

    Are most of the world’s starving people located in Canada or Siberia? If not then are people in Canada or Siberia starving? If no to both questions why not? Answer that last question and you’ll answer your assertion.

  27. Boonton,

    Plenty of work is done in agricultural sciences on soil, I’ve yet to hear much work done with farmers piping CO2 enhanced air onto their fields to promote growth.

    Gosh I’d be hard pressed to make a more irrelevant statement than that. Have you ever heard of “greenhouses”. Plants growing in these places in the winter, oddly enough, in places where there is more heat, water and warmth than outside.

    Rain falls when its cool enough for water to condense into liquid drops.

    Apparently when people talk about global warming they talk about a few 2-4 degrees C, not as you seem to assume 30-40 degrees.

    Double edged sword, make things hotter and on the bottom of the scale you may liberate some liquid water, on the top of the scale, though, you start turning some liquid water into vapor which is not helpful for plants.

    Go back to 4th grade. You’ll learn some basic meteorology and how that water vapor later becomes clouds, which release that water back to earth in something called, if I recall, “rain.” Newsflash, plants grow almost explosively when compared to the tundra in regions we call “tropical rain forests” which contrary to your impressions are not arid and dry even though very warm. Which brings us to …

    Are most of the world’s starving people located in Canada or Siberia?

    Yes, and “most of the starving people” of the world also don’t live in deserts. Why? Because very little grows there. However (strangely) if those regions became ones which would support good crops, say corn and wheat, people might actually come to live there. Demonstrations that where food cannot grow, people don’t live is support for what I’ve been saying, not you.

  28. Gosh I’d be hard pressed to make a more irrelevant statement than that. Have you ever heard of “greenhouses”. Plants growing in these places in the winter, oddly enough, in places where there is more heat, water and warmth than outside.

    The greenhouse is selectively used, though. Plants are protected from freezing weather in winter and then *removed* from it in summer to enjoy the summer warmth. It’s not at all clear that you’d do better growing plants with a year round greenhouse (and, of course, it’s only used for certain types of plants, not plant life in general).

    Apparently when people talk about global warming they talk about a few 2-4 degrees C, not as you seem to assume 30-40 degrees.

    You want to have your cake and eat it too. YOu want to assume global warming will make more rain because wamer temps mean more water evaporates…yet you want to turn around and say that warmer temps won’t keep rain from falling. Fact is the air is always holding onto some water in gas form and warmer temps increase that amount.

    Yes, and “most of the starving people” of the world also don’t live in deserts….

    I’ll chalk that yes up to a typo on your part. No most starving people do not live in Canada or Siberia. In fact, most starving people live in climates that are relatively warm and most people in Canada or Siberia are not starving or anywhere near it. You seem to be thinking that if Canada got warmer, starving people in Africa would move there and grow food. Errr, is Canada going to get warmer than Africa? Probably not and again it’s not like Africa’s all that cold right now. If the problem of starvation was due to vaste areas of tundra then maybe you’d have a solution but starvation is almost always due to the politics and economics of food distribution.

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