Category Archives: Science

My observations about, interest in, and advocacy for science

Change the naming of hurricanes

Over at there is this too funny video. It won’t even take three minutes for you to watch it, so don’t hesitate, click now!

Flash of the electrons to my pal Frank for turning me on to this.


Leave a comment

Filed under Amusements, Eco-stuff, News, Notes and comments, Politics, Science

Can you believe it?

Those tree-hugging, Nobel Peace-Prize winning, one-world people are at it again. On 1 November 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released another report—actually batch of reports—alerting us that climate change is real. There will be colder colds. Hotter hots. The oceans will be higher and more acidic. Our human activities are causing the changes and most of it has happened in my lifetime. It is the most extreme change in 800,000 years.

It is possible to mitigate the effects and we shall have to adapt to the changes, but we have to start doing things now. By the end of this century, or sooner, things are likely to be out of hand.

It’s as if they think we only have one Earth!

This link goes to the 40-page summary for policymakers, this link goes to the 116-page full report for those without time challenges, and this link goes to the IPCC Web site where one can find links not just to the summary but to the papers of the working groups and other materials generated by those lovers Polar Bears and other living things.

Leave a comment

Filed under Eco-stuff, Equity, Neighborhood, News, Notes and comments, Peace, Politics, Science, Thanks for reading, What I'm reading

What’s your point?

In March of 2008, just a few years after Web 2.0 had really taken hold on the Internet and people were interacting with content (i.e., commenting on blog posts was becoming common; newspapers were opening up fora; social media were launching left and right; etc.), a guy named Paul Graham wrote a commentary about how people often disagree with what they read on the Web (and elsewhere, of course).

The web is turning writing into a conversation. Twenty years ago, writers wrote and readers read. The web lets readers respond, and increasingly they do—in comment threads, on forums, and in their own blog posts.

Many who respond to something disagree with it. That’s to be expected. Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing. And when you agree there’s less to say. You could expand on something the author said, but he has probably already explored the most interesting implications. When you disagree you’re entering territory he may not have explored.

Mr. Graham anticipated the slapdash nature of disagreement that we’ve become accustomed to reading on the Internet since the first decade of the new millenium. He offered a preliminary seven-level hierarchy of categories of disagreement, ranging from “name calling” to “refuting the central point.”

I shan’t reproduce the details of all seven levels here. Interested readers should review Mr. Graham’s full descriptions on his original page. Also, however, someone sometimes identified as “Loudacris” (AKA: “Rocket000”) from created a nice graphic representing these seven levels of disagreement. The accompanying graphic shows them.

We might want to stretch the levels a bit. Those scientifically based readers might refine the top couple of levels of Mr. Graham’s hierarchy by making references to trustworthy or replicated studies. Sure, but maybe that’s included in “explains by it’s mistaken” or “explicitly refutes.”

Those would be good discussions to have, provided we get away from employing name-calling, ad-hominem, responding to tone, and such as our primary forms of argument.

So, what are you arguing?

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Notes and comments, Politics, Science, Skepticism, Thanks for reading

A ‘fatberg’ as big as a bus?

Just what is a fatberg? The term is evocative, no? If it seems like a mash-up of “fat” and “iceberg,” that seems to be accurate from my reading. But, imagine a mass of fat so large that it’s the size of a bus!

There are news reports of sewer workers finding what is apparently an especially large fatberg in the pipes below London (UK). In one Canadian source (“‘Fatburg’ discovered in suburban London sewer&”), Danika Kirka of the Associated Press reported, “Utility company Thames Water says it has discovered what it calls the biggest ‘fatberg’ ever recorded in Britain — a 15-ton blob of congealed fat and baby wipes lodged in a sewer drain.”

Thames Water has a press release of its own dated 30 July 2013 describing the event. (The image links to it.) It includes extensive quotes from Mr. Gordon Hailwood, supervisor for the company, as well as an HTML5 video showing a trip through the sewer. He said

“While we’ve removed greater volumes of fat from under central London in the past, we’ve never seen a single, congealed lump of lard this big clogging our sewers before.

“Given we’ve got the biggest sewers and this is the biggest fatberg we’ve encountered, we reckon it has to be the biggest such berg in British history.

“The sewer was almost completely clogged with over 15 tonnes of fat. If we hadn’t discovered it in time, raw sewage could have started spurting out of manholes across the whole of Kingston.

“It was so big it damaged the sewer and repairs will take up to six weeks.

“Homes and businesses need to change their ways, when it comes to fat and wipes, please remember: ‘Bin it — don’t block it.'”

Now, a note about spelling. Ms. Kirka’s headline writer used “burg” rather than “berg.” This makes some sense, as fat is rendered from burgers. However, the sewer folk’s press release uses the “berg” spelling, Ms. Kirka used that spelling in the body of her article, and “iceberg” is spelled with “berg”, so I’m going with it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Amusements, Eco-stuff, News, Science

Snake dreams—don’t run away

Among the many marvelous features at Virginia’s Herpatological Society are excellent photographs of of indigenous snakes along with important information about their status in the Commonwealth. For example, not only can one learn where different subspecies are usually found—I saw a beautiful, > 1-meter Northern Black Racer on our porch this afternoon; it went racing down the garden stairs after it saw me!— but also size, alternative names, and many other facts (e.g., conservation needs). Of course, because folks get freaky about venomous snakes, there are identification guides, though that part is pretty easy.

Glossy Crayfish Snake

But, back to the other interesting stuff. For example, I was surprised to learn that there is a Glossy Crayfish Snake. I’d never heard of such! It turns out that this beauty has a range that is restricted pretty much to what is called the Virginia Pennisula, and then only a small part of it. The Wikipedia page about the GCS didn’t have it even living in Virginia, so I updated that document, based on the VaDGIF documents.

What’s a serious bummer is that this snake apparently is on the verge of extirpation in the Commonwealth. Now, I like crayfish, but I don’t mind competing against a little snake for a few. They may have have their share, but I don’t want to drive them out of Virginia; they’ve surely been here longer then I have. I have to guess they are losing in the space wars…people probably are moving into their territory. Read all about it! Wouldn’t that be a bummer if they were no longer living in that neighborhood?

Meanwhile, among the other cool things one can do at the Herp Site: If you see a Box Turtle, submit the data! Yep, you might remember Brer Terrapin because he won the race. Well his appearances on roadsides and backyards are being collected by the Herp Folx. Send yours in today using this link. (There ought to be an app for this, but for now, the image is hot, too.) It’d be pretty cool to help track the movements of large numbers of Box Turtles, no?

Leave a comment

Filed under Amusements, Eco-stuff, Neighborhood, News, Notes and comments, Science, Technology

Global light maps

satellite view of Earth at night showing western hemisphere
NOAA-NASA Satellite Image

I look at maps frequently and at length. I find them fascinating. Aerial images also appeal to me, because they have a map-like quality. Among those that have intrigued me are images of Earth showing lights at night. I came upon a new one to me recently and am sharing it here, in case others might has a similar interest.

I snagged this image from a section of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Web site devoted to the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. Interested readers can go to the page called “Our Earth at night” to read lots more, but here’s a snippet to explain a bit.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Amusements, Eco-stuff, Notes and comments, Science, Technology

U.S. Election Mega-analysis

Political pundits are second in line after the politicians themselves in putting spin on political poll data to make those data sound as if they support a particular interpretation. But there is another class of analysts who do not prognisticate. Instead, they simply examine the data and tell what those data show at this time.

Nate Silver of the New York (NY) Times has gotten a lot of publicity recently for his versions of this sort of work, but there are several others who are doing similar work (and to me, some are maybe even better, but let’s not argue about that right now). These people aggregate data from the polls (and, in many cases, other sources of evidence) to arrive at statistically dispassionate estimates of the situation. They don’t use hunches about momentum, ad-buys, and so forth. They follow the data.
Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under News, Notes and comments, Politics, Science, Technology, What I'm reading