February 6, 2012

Here comes the sun, doot-n-doo-doo

OK, so obviously I care about the environment and wanna get people to think about how they live their lives and what kind of impact that makes on the Earth.  I’ve always thought that wind power was an amazing idea, equally as good as solar power.  But now it turns out maybe not, in the long run.

My Earth Science teacher from last year, Mr. Hoekbaard, emailed a bunch of us who run the Environment Club at our school about this article he thought we would find intriguing.  We’ve been, um, discussing it a lot, which is really saying something, ’cause we’re a hyper-opinionated group.  Anyway, it’s from New Scientist, and it’s completely fascinating, and you should absolutely read it.  It basically says that as the global demand for energy grows (’cause of population growth, and more people getting access to energy), nuclear energy is too risky, and large-scale wind power could negatively affect the environment, too.  Strap on your nerd helmet, ’cause this here’s a diagram to show how it works:

This basically shows why solar is going to be the way to go. Copyright New Scientist.

One of the scientists quoted in the article says:

Sagan used to preach to me, and I now preach to my students, that any intelligent civilisation on any planet will eventually have to use the energy of its parent star, exclusively.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, read the last third of the article, about how pulling down cool air from the four jet streams of wind ten kilometers above the Earth could be harnessed to “geoengineer” the temperature of the Earth.  In other words, counteract and even reverse the effects of global warming.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re like, This is all really far in the future.  But it shouldn’t be.  It could start happening more now.

Not sure why? But this article makes me really happy.  Hence, my totally corny title for this post, which is a nod to my mom and dad and their olde-tyme musical tastes.  Also, I’m finally finished with all the stuff I was supposed to do today, so now I can treat myself to the latest episode of “Fringe”.  Don’t worry, I’ll be watching on the lowest-possible brightness level on my computer to save energy.  ; )


January 5, 2012

“Generation Hot”

So, this author & journalist named Mark Hertsgaard (who’s kind of old, no offense) wrote an article for The Huffington Post called “Meet Generation Hot.” It’s about how every kid born after June 23, 1988 belongs to “Generation Hot.” Not Generation Y or Z or whatever.  It’s based off the title of his book, HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.

Anyway, his name for us younger people kinda makes me cringe a little bit because it can totally be twisted into something gross.  (I know you know what I mean.  Shut up.)  But basically, the idea is good.  What *he* means is that you’ve basically grown up under the threat of global warming:

This generation includes some two billion young people, all of whom have grown up under global warming and are fated to spend the rest of their lives confronting its mounting impacts.

So why June 23, 1988?

I date the beginning of Generation Hot to June 23, 1988 because that is when humanity was put on notice that greenhouse gas emissions were raising the temperatures on this planet. The warning came from NASA scientist James Hansen’s testimony to the U.S. Senate and, crucially, the decision by the New York Times to print the news on page 1, which in turn made global warming a household phrase in news bureaus, living rooms and government offices the world over.

He talks about how in 2020 there will be twice as many really hot days in the summer, and how growing enough food will be a challenge for the by-then even more populated planet.

Many members of Generation Hot are active in the climate fight, but they cannot succeed without much more help from their elders. The threat of nuclear annihilation — the other great peril of the last fifty years — called forth a powerful movement of parents, especially mothers, that eventually helped convince the superpowers to choose a safer course. Now, parents across the country and around the world should mount a similar campaign to preserve a livable future for our children, the precious young people of Generation Hot.

I wonder if enough parents are listening.

December 14, 2011

Whale FM: Calling all Citizen Scientists

Pilot whales. You can hear their newest singles on Whale FM.

We’re professional scientists, ooh aah.  But do you know about “Citizen Science”?

Citizen Science falls into many categories, and usually involves harnessing the power of the Internet.  Laypeople can work on projects like SETI@Home, the groundbreaking project that had millions of participants (with time to kill) helping in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also  volunteer to classify heavenly objects, like in Galaxy Zoo,  observe the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project, and even solve puzzles to design proteins, as in the project called FoldIt.

Scientific American keeps tabs on such projects, and has co-sponsored this one with the Citizen Science Alliance (CSA).

The Whale Song Project (also known as Whale FM), invites citizen scientists to help study whale communications and pass along their observations. The Whale Song Project, which is also available as part of the CSA’s suite of Zooniverse projects, was created to help with  killer (Orca) and pilot whale research being conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

This orca duo's about to go platinum.

(You can tell the Scottish whales because of their charming brogues.  Sorry, we couldn’t resist.  Ahem.  Moving on…

Here’s how it works. You’re presented with a whale call and shown where it was recorded on a map of the world’s oceans and seas. After listening to it —represented on screen as a spectrogram which shows how the pitch of the sound changes over time—you’re asked to listen to a number of potential matching calls from the project’s database. If there’s a match, the citizen scientist clicks on that sound’s spectrogram to store the results.

The data set generated by this project should help the researchers to answer a number of questions about how whales communicate. For example, the (professional) scientists want to know the size of the pilot whales’ call repertoire, and whether repertoire size is a sign of intelligence. They’re also trying to understand whether the two different types of pilot whales (long fin and short fin) have different call repertoires, and, if so, whether this “signifies a distinct dialect.”

We think it’s extraordinary and hope you’ll give it a look — or rather, a listen.

As Steely Dan says, “no static at all.”

October 21, 2011

How to Be a Climate Hero

I like this article from Orion Magazine a lot.  It’s by a woman named Audrey Schulman who tries to make us snap out of it and take action on the environment. And how an incident on board a train with a little boy and his epileptic mom actually illustrates the point perfectly.

Uhhhhhhhhhh... somebody do something!!!

She thinks people don’t do anything because of a phenomenon called the Bystander Effect, which means people are passive because everyone else is too. She says,

We bustle about our normal lives, assuming it can’t be as bad as it seems because surely, then, everyone would be marching in the street about it.

She talks about realizing how urgent it is to protect the Earth after her first child was born.  And she says she’s cut her family’s carbon emissions by 50%.

Even though it took her becoming a mom to do it, she woke up and did her part.  Good job, Audrey.

October 19, 2011

Arctic shipping routes: the upside of global warming?


One of my shipspotting buddies saw this article in the New York Times about how warmer ocean temperatures are shrinking the Arctic “ice pack.”

Means shippers are opening more new sea lanes and more routes near shore will be accessible more often during the year:

[C]ompanies in Russia and other countries around the Arctic Ocean are mining that dark cloud’s silver lining by finding new opportunities for commerce and trade.

Not gonna lie, when I heard about this it made my mouth water, and I started polishing my binoculars.  But guess who’s the most excited about this news?  Yup: oil and mining companies.  Even Pootie-Poot, aka Vladimir Putin, thinks it’s a great idea for cutting costs. 

Alaska’s lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, was among those who attended the Russian conference. He noted that about $1 billion worth of goods passed through the Bering Strait last year. “The ships,” he said, “are coming.”

Can’t put anything past that guy.

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    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
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