February 16, 2012
The beauty and fragility of reefs
There’s a wonderful blog post right now on NPR by Robert Krulwich, one-half of the amazing team that produces Radiolab (a show that makes science not just accessible but downright captivating). It talks about sculptors and weavers who’re drawing attention to the beauty and fragility of coral reefs.
This is one of many sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor, who designs underwater “parks” to relieve tourism from the world’s endangered coral reefs. His sculptures are made out of pH-neutral cement that’s designed to host undersea life.
A new "White Reef" coral reef crochet by Dr. Axt.
Here’s a crocheted coral reef by an artist pseudonymed “Dr. Axt,” a member of The Institute for Figuring, which strives to create and appreciate the beauty in and of natural and mathematical forms.
Lots more photos and intriguing descriptions on the original blog post over at NPR.
November 27, 2011
This stuff exists
Paul Nicklen is a white man who grew up in an Inuit community way up in Northern Canada near Greenland. He takes pretty amazing pictures of polar bears, seals, penguins and the like for magazines like National Geographic. He’s trying to put (animal) faces to the story people otherwise are getting kinda sick of — that polar ice is disappearing.
Watching him talk about the polar food chains, you can see his respect for the fragility of the world he grew up in.
I appreciate that.
It takes guts to hang out in the water for days on end with leopard seals. He’s putting his money where his mouth is. He’s funny, too.
Gotta restock my shelves. See you later.
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.
September 21, 2011
I love that old Beatles song. “I’d like to be/Under the sea/In an octopus’s garden in the shade.”
So the polar icecaps are melting and the sea level is rising. It’s already risen about 20-40 centimeters, depending on where you are on Earth. And there are a lot of predictions about how much more ice is going to melt, and when.
Some folks made a chart about it in January of 2010 with the funny title When Sea Levels Attack!
It shows how many years it will take for various big cities around the world to become completely submerged. It’s spooky stuff, that’s for sure. The chart shows that if everything goes as predicted, in 1,000 years almost all the world’s major coastal cities will be underwater. There are these little tiny world maps on there too. There’s one that depicts what a world map will look like 8,000 years from now. The data sources are at the bottom of the graph along with a spreadsheet if you want to really be a geek about it.
Then again, the water levels might not rise that far. Though I’m sure there must be some folks already investing in real estate in sub-Saharan Africa.
Know where the title for Octopus’s Garden came from? Ringo Starr, who wrote the song, was on a boat with Peter Sellers and the ship’s captain told Ringo that octopuses travel along the seabed picking up stones and shiny objects to build gardens. (Those gardens are more like rocky dens for the octopuses to live in, but ‘garden’ sounds nicer, doesn’t it. )
I suppose if all this sea level stuff really happens, the octopuses will really go nuts with their gardening. Imagine all the stuff that’ll be submerged underwater!
The future of shipspotting may well involve stilts.
Gotta go warm up my potful of Sanka.
September 20, 2011
The Long Now Foundation are people after my own heart. They want to be a counterpoint to today’s culture of acceleration, help make long-term thinking more common, and help humanity think ahead 10,000 years into the future. Hard to comprehend, no? Yet fantastic.
They’re trying to build a 10,000-year clock. And they are creating a gigantic database of languages they’re calling The Rosetta Stone. On their website you can challenge others to bets about the future. They have many cool projects and ideas. Very theoretical but also rooted in pragmatism.
They posted an item I find remarkable, especially because of how much planning and preparation must happen in the future, due to accelerated storms caused by global warming. It talks about the final Deltawerken (“Deltaworks”) project completed by the Dutch government in 1997, the Maeslant Barrier (pictured above). It’s one of the largest man-made moving structures in the world, opens and closes over one of the world’s busiest ports, and is strong enough to withstand a once in 10,000 years storm event. It cost nearly $1 billion. They write:
It seems unthinkable that a country could have this much resolve for such a rare event. In fact the barrier has already been closed multiple times and prevented minor flooding, so it is already paying itself off.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina (considered a once-every-100-years event) which killed over 1,800 people and cost more than $81 billion, it seems unlikely the US will build infrastructure like this to protect the Southeastern seaboard. I am not sure how much more adversity the residents of the gulf coast need however, they have had a tough decade. It could be that the culture in the US looks more to dealing with problems of the future with insurance rather than prevention. But if I lived in New Orleans, I think I would much rather have better levees and barriers, than a new insurance policy.
I’ve always thought the Dutch are cooler than Americans. Alas, the Americans’ music is still superior. But 10,000 years from now, who knows if that will be the case — want to bet on it? hehehe.
Do you think the US will ever spend this kind of money on this kind of project?