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The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic July 31, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, In The News.
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$150K, which was the largest funding source for this research came from the Koch foundation. The Koch brothers are billionaire conservative benefactors and probably hadn’t expected or wanted these results.

Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years.  Why it is man-made is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.

The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at BerkeleyEarth.org. That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity.

via The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic – NYTimes.com.

See How Fast “The West Was Won” July 21, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Life.
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By 1881, Indian landholdings in the United States had plummeted to 156 million acres. By 1934, only about 50 million acres remained (an area the size of Idaho and Washington) as a result of the General Allotment Act* of 1887. During World War II, the government took 500,000 more acres for military use. Over one hundred tribes, bands, and Rancherias relinquished their lands under various acts of Congress during the termination era of the 1950s.

By 1955, the indigenous land base had shrunk to just 2.3 percent of its original size.

Click the map to see it happen.

via Somersaultr – This is a series of maps charting the shrinkage of….

No free beer when frugal Swiss get their say July 21, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, philosophy & politics.
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Swiss research shows that giving citizens a direct say over how their taxes are spent leads to lower public debts, more cost-efficient services and even less tax evasion. “Because Swiss citizens feel they can control politicians’ spending through referendums, they are more prepared to give the government money and have a more positive attitude towards the state,” said Daniel Kuebler, co-director of the Centre for Democracy Studies in the northern Swiss town of Aarau.

To be sure, direct democracy is not the only driver of the Swiss success story. The country’s neutrality, bank secrecy, liberal labor market, low taxes and stable government have all played their part in drawing investment and driving growth. But the system has forced politicians to be more frugal than elsewhere.

In the United States, direct democracy is frequently blamed for the fiscal mess in California, where a 1978 referendum known as Proposition 13 changed the state constitution to ban increases in property taxes in line with inflation. Supporters say the measure put a sensible limit on state spending, but opponents say it warped the property market to benefit the rich, forced other taxes up and made it impossible for towns to keep pace with the cost of public services. This year, three Californian cities filed for bankruptcy in the space of weeks.

Kuebler said Switzerland’s referendums, which allow voters to overrule spending decisions by the legislature, do a better job of encouraging fiscal responsibility. “You might think that direct democracy would lead to greater public spending because anyone can put forward an initiative, for example, proposing free beer for all,” said Kuebler. “But it would never have a chance, because the preference of Swiss citizens is fiscally conservative and not redistributive.”

via No free beer when frugal Swiss get their say | Reuters.

Afghanistan to Resume Civil War? July 13, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, In The News.
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A long sobering look at the strong possibility of a return to Civil War in Afghanistan, after we leave.

Nasir celebrated the American invasion in 2001, and, in the decade that followed, he prospered, and fathered six children. But now, with the United States planning its withdrawal by the end of 2014, Nasir blames the Americans for a string of catastrophic errors. “The Americans have failed to build a single sustainable institution here,” he said. “All they have done is make a small group of people very rich. And now they are getting ready to go.”

These days, Nasir said, the nineties are very much on his mind. The announced departure of American and NATO combat troops has convinced him and his friends that the civil war, suspended but never settled, is on the verge of resuming. “Everyone is preparing,” he said. “It will be bloodier and longer than before, street to street. This time, everyone has more guns, more to lose. It will be the same groups, the same commanders.” Hezb-e-Wahdat and Jamiat-e-Islami and Hezb-e-Islami and Junbish—all now political parties—are rearming. The Afghan Army is unlikely to be able to restore order as it did in the time of Najibullah. “It’s a joke,” Nasir said. “I’ve worked with the Afghan Army. They get tired making TV commercials!”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/07/09/120709fa_fact_filkins#ixzz20VVwuHd5

Fire and Ice and Aurora in Iceland July 9, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Cool photos, Science & Technology.
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Sometimes both heaven and Earth erupt. In Iceland in 1991, the volcano Hekla erupted at the same time that auroras were visible overhead. Hekla, one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, has erupted at least 20 times over the past millennium, sometimes causing great destruction. The last eruption occurred only twelve years ago but caused only minor damage

via APOD: 2012 July 8 – Volcano and Aurora in Iceland.

That’s One Big Croc… July 9, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Cool photos, Enviroment.
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Villagers along the Zambezi river in northern Zimbabwe, called in the hunter Steve Curle to get rid of this Nile Crocodile, because it was eating their  full-grown cows.

The 11 Ways That Consumers Are Hopeless at Math July 8, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Life.
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You walk into a Starbucks and see two deals for a cup of coffee. The first deal offers 33% extra coffee. The second takes 33% off the regular price. What’s the better deal?

“They’re about equal!” you’d say, if you’re like the students who participated in a new study published in the Journal of Marketing. And you’d be wrong. The deals appear to be equivalent, but in fact, a 33% discount is the same as a 50 percent increase in quantity. Math time: Let’s say the standard coffee is $1 for 3 quarts ($0.33 per quart). The first deal gets you 4 quarts for $1 ($0.25 per quart) and the second gets you 3 quarts for 66 cents ($.22 per quart).

The upshot: Getting something extra “for free” feels better than getting the same for less. The applications of this simple fact are huge. Selling cereal? Don’t talk up the discount. Talk how much bigger the box is! Selling a car? Skip the MPG conversion. Talk about all the extra miles

via Business – Derek Thompson – The 11 Ways That Consumers Are Hopeless at Math – The Atlantic.

Car Converted into Motorcycle in Desert Survival July 7, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in In The News, Technology.
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A Frenchman named Emile who reportedly found himself stranded in the deserts of Northwest Africa after breaking a frame rail and a suspension swingarm underneath his Citroën 2CV.
What to do? Why, disassemble the broken hulk and build yourself a motorcycle from its pile of parts, of course!

The link Google Translate  will take you to a translation from the French article. Click on the arrows at the bottom of the page  to advance.

A Quiet Revolution: Drug Decriminalisation Policies in Practice Across the Globe July 7, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Lifestyle, News and politics.
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This report looks at over 20 countries that have adopted some form of decriminalisation of drug possession, including some States that have only decriminalised cannabis possession. The main aim of the report was to look at the existing research to establish whether the adoption of a decriminalised policy led to significant increases in drug use – the simple answer is that it did not.

via A Quiet Revolution: Drug Decriminalisation Policies in Practice Across the Globe.

California Doesn’t Learn From China’s Train Wreck July 7, 2012

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Enviroment, News and politics, Technology.
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In California’s Legislature just authorized to spend, with Federal assistance, an under-estimated $100 billion to build a route between San Francisco and Los Angeles that will consist of a government monopoly riding on tracks near one of the largest earthquake faults in the world for most of its length, all to deliver passengers slower and at greater overall cost between two fixed points.  Airlines give consumers a choice of carriers and airports on either end of that route, will deliver passengers more quickly, and probably with a much wider choice of departure and arrival times.

In China the problem — beyond the idea of spending untold billions on the antiquated technology of static choo-choo trains — is that the three people making all these wonderful decisions  now have a high-speed rail system plagued by failurecorruption, out-of-control costs and legitimate safety concerns

The fact is that China’s train wreck was eminently foreseeable. High-speed rail is a capital-intensive undertaking that requires huge borrowing upfront to finance tracks, locomotives and cars, followed by years in which ticket revenue covers debt service — if all goes well. “Any . . . shortfall in ridership or yield, can quickly create financial stress,” warns a 2010 World Bank staff report.

Such “shortfalls” are all too common. Japan’s bullet trains needed a bailout in 1987. Taiwan’s line opened in 2007 and needed a government rescue in 2009. In France, only the Paris-Lyon high-speed line is in the black.

via China’s train wreck – The Washington Post.

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