Sunday, March 31, 2013

The science in Doctor Who and Game of Thrones

As I wrote in James Bond and drum corps, a blast from the past, "this blog is about science fiction as much as it is about collapse." In fact, it's really about the science connecting both topics. As such, I can't pass up two news items about the science in two series, one science fiction and one fantasy, that are returning with new seasons.

The first is Doctor Who, the new season of which is beginning next month. Discovery News on YouTube examines the science of the show in Doctor Who's Real Life Tech Toys.

Doctor Who is coming back for a new season and he's bringing along awesome technology straight from the future! But some of these gadgets are actually being used in the real world today. Anthony shows us the actual science in the Doctor's arsenal.
The other series is Game of Thrones, which is returning with a new season tonight, in fact, in less than an hour. Miriam Kramer of explores the Seasons on 'Game of Thrones' Planet: How They Work.
Winter is coming on the HBO series "Game of Thrones," but no one seems to be able to predict when.

The planet's last summer persisted for seven years, while winter has been known to last a generation on the show. Understanding when the seasons will change is just one of the many issues plaguing the characters of the fantasy series based on the books by George R.R. Martin.

Although science doesn't play much of a role in the fictional world — which comes complete with dragons, magic and a red comet that serves as an omen — planetary science could help explain the odd seasonal changes on the three continents in the TV show's universe.
Happy viewing, fellow geeks and may this entry have the success of my other posts about Game of Thrones.

Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Kunstler's Tea Party

For this blog's 1000th post, I look back at the most viewed entry in the history of the blog so far according to the primary view counter, Happy 4th of July from James Howard Kunstler's Tea Party! While I posted this response to Kunstler's My Tea Party on July 4th, 2011, it was not among the top ten posts from the first year of the blog as of March 21, 2012. Follow over the jump for the story of how I came to write the entry and how it went from obscurity to the most read piece of writing here at Crazy Eddie's Motie News.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

SciShow on sequestration's effects on science

In the same vein as the graphic I linked to in More science and the Satan Sandwich, Hank of SciShow makes the following appeal on behalf of science research and education in NASA needs you.

Hank usually likes to keep science and politics separated, but the reality is that a lot of scientific research in the United States is funded by the government. This is a problem right now because the disfunction in the world of politics has begun to seriously affect the realm of science. Because of sequestration, NASA needs our help!
Not just NASA, but also the NIH and NSF, which got cut worse than NASA. Just the same, not only the commercial crew program is in jeopardy (the U.S. might lose its independent human spacefaring capacity if that is cut and never restored, which would mean that we would be acting out the archtypical science fiction tragedy), but also all of NASA's outreach and education programs. Hank wants social media people like me to do that work to fill the gap. As if I needed any more incentive.

To heed Hank's call and help NASA, I begin by presenting last week's Cassidy and Crew Ready for Launch on This Week @NASA from NASA Television on YouTube.

NASA Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy, and Soyuz Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency are now at their launch site in Kazakhstan after finishing final training and prelaunch activities outside Moscow. The Expedition 35/36 crew is scheduled to liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Thursday, Mar. 28, U.S. time, and head for the International Space Station. Also, mitigating meteors; 50 years of cooperation; a Suni reception; ISS research; New Planck cosmology; first light of Landsat's latest; SXSW; and more!
Here's to my small part in countering the ill effects of the Satan Sandwich on science!

Climate change: Risks and responses

Time to follow up on Risks from climate change from two weeks ago with more climate change news that I originally posted at Daily Kos.

First, this item from LiveScience, which I first included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Life possible on ancient Mars).

February 2013 Was World's 9th Warmest on Record
Last month was among the top 10 warmest Februaries for the planet since record keeping began in 1880, U.S. weather officials announced today (March 14).

February 2013 tied with 2003 as the 9th warmest February of the past 133 years, according to scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). They calculated last month's globally-averaged temperature at 54.93 degrees Fahrenheit (12.67 degrees Celsius), or 1.03 degrees F (0.57 degrees C), above the 20th century average of 53.9 degrees F (12.1 degrees C).

This means February 2013 was the 336th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average February, in terms of temperature, was in 1985.
Follow over the jump for more climate news.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Eating bugs on the Beeb

I've been blogging about eating insects for a year and a half now, beginning with my personal experience, continuing with insects as the future of food, and then including a segment about edible insects among other food news. It looks like I hit upon a trendy topic ahead of the pack. Yesterday, this clip from the BBC appeared on my YouTube feed.

Worm Pizza, Thai Cricket Salad or Dry Roasted Bugs? - Horsemeat Banquet Preview - BBC Three

Worm Pizza, Thai Cricket Salad or Dry Roasted Bugs? Are these the foods of the future? Rick Edwards presents a provocative and entertaining one-off experiment in which a chef cooks up a horsemeat banquet designed to challenge the prejudices of a group of diners.
I'd be the guy eating the caterpillar pizza. What about you?

The S&P 500 record close has arrived

In case anyone is why I haven't written an entry about the stock market since March 7th, look no farther than my comment at Kunstler's blog Monday for an explanation.
As for compound interest not working because of energy issues, look no farther than the U.S. Treasury notes. The 30-year is offering 3%, and the 10-year only 2%. People who expect a return on their investment just aren't getting it, in more ways than one. I guess that's why they're running up the stock market, although the Ides of March put a knife in the back of the ten-day rally, the longest since 1996. I got bored with that rally after three days, but the bull market might still have another top in it yet.
I was so bored that I saved the following headlines, but didn't bother to blog about them two weeks ago when they were news.

Will the Ides of March Stifle the Rally? (The answer ended up being yes)
Stocks Retreat: Dow Halts 10-Day Winning Streak, but Ends Positive for 4th-Straight Week
Dow Average Snaps Rally as Consumer Confidence Declines
Consumer Sentiment in U.S. Falls to Lowest Point in Year

Just the same, I did save them for future use. Today, the opportunity arrived, as the L.A. Times headline read S&P 500 hits record to cap rally while Reuters stated it more succinctly: S&P 500 ends at record closing high. Follow over the jump for the details.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

More science and the Satan Sandwich

In Jared Diamond on risk, I repeated something I had written earlier, "I have more to say about the science of the Fiscal Bluff when I have more energy." It turns out that I have more to share on that topic than what Jared Diamond had to say about it. First, here's another article excerpt on the topic from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Fiscal Bluff Bungee Jumping) on Daily Kos.

LiveScience: Psychology of Compromise: Why Congress Fails
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 03 January 2013 Time: 02:33 PM ET
Hyenas do it. Elephants do it. But apparently congressional representatives do not.

"It" would be cooperation, which has been little-seen in Washington during the "fiscal cliff" negotiations. Despite a deadline they themselves set with consequences no one wanted, Democrats and Republicans went down to the wire before passing a bill that averts major cuts and tax increases but sets the stage for more bickering over the raising of the nation's debt limit and other budgetary issues.
Why all the rancor? A major contributor is partisan polarization, which political scientists say is at historic levels among the political elite. But simple human psychology may also explain why it's so tough to compromise, with feelings often trumping logic in heated debates.
That's the cause of the Satan Sandwich, which then led to the Fiscal Cliff Bungee Jump, and now to the Sequester. Now for one of the effects, which I included in another diary on Daily Kos, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Life possible on ancient Mars).

Scientific American: Sequestered Science: How Research Got Tied Up with Federal Dollars [Timeline]
By Daisy Yuhas
March 12, 2013
More than 10 U.S. departments and agencies that receive federal funding for scientific research will suffer from budget cuts enacted by the federal government on March 1, aka "the sequester"
Check out the graphic at the link for the full effect of the Sequester on federally funded science research.

Jared Diamond on risk

I couldn't ask for a better video on the topic of this month's theme to appear on my YouTube feed.

The author of Guns, Germs and Steel, Professor Jared Diamond discusses the differences of risk evaluation between modern and traditional cultures.
I was expecting Diamond to say he survived driving, but I can accept that taking a shower might be riskier at his age.

Follow over the jump for more from Diamond about the lessons modern societies can learn from traditional ones.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Evolution in action

I'll be showing this video to my students tomorrow to explain natural selection. I've already included it in my slide show.

Discovery News: Humans Are Speeding Up Evolution

Turns out evolution isn't always slow. Scientists in Nebraska have discovered a bird evolving right before our eyes.
I can't resist quoting Larry Niven from Oath of Fealty: Think of it as evolution in action.

A bump on the gas price rollercoaster

Back on the Ides of March, I was complaining about the ride becoming boring.
On Tuesday, February 26th, prices had fallen to $3.79 at the local stations. I didn't see the prices for a week, as I was on break and also recovering from surgery. By the middle of last week, the price had fallen to $3.65, where it has remained since then. As I wrote in the title, boring. That's bad for a rollercoaster, but good for the economy and people's budgets. May the prices stay there for a while.
I didn't get my wish. The next week, the prices at all the local stations rose to $3.79 again. They stayed there until yesterday, when they all dropped to $3.69. It looks like we'll be going up by small steps instead of a sharp rise for a while.

As for how high gas prices are likely to rise, check out this graph from Econobrowser.

Looks like we'll be going up to $4.00 again as long as the pattern holds.

The present and future of energy

I'm showing my students "The End of Suburbia" this week, which reminds me of the centrality of energy to civilization and the risks of collapse posed by inablity to use it. On that note, here is a review of a talk and the talk itself about the current state of energy generation and how that might look in the future that I first posted in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (In Soviet Russia, Space explores you!) on Daily Kos.

Scientific American: Everything is (Old/New) Energy
By Melissa C. Lott
February 12, 2013
The world’s energy is primarily rooted in fossil fuels – oil, natural gas, and coal. Add in nuclear power, and you have the fuels behind the vase majority of the world economy. And, we have not really changed the fundamentals of how we harness energy in over a century.

But, according to Roger Duncan – the former general manager of one of Texas’s major utilities, Austin Energy - this does not mean that our energy systems are stagnant. Rather, these systems are changing fast – from conventional 1-direction energy flows and a disconnected transportation system to a unified energy system.
Here is Duncan at the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association (TREIA) explaining what he sees as the future of energy.

Webber Energy Group member, Roger Duncan, gives his unique view of the future of energy, renewables, and the Unified Energy System at Texas Renewables Conference 2012.
He should give this talk at TEDx someday. I'm sure he'll get a better reaction from that crowd.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marche du Nain Rouge

In The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 8 of several, I mentioned two phenomena in the same breath.
I also note that Hipsters have found Detroit an "inhabitable city." The brewers of Pabst Blue Ribbon will be thrilled to have another market. Also the Nain Rouge, Detroit's own Red Dwarf and local ill omen, has hit the big time among devotees of the paranormal. Yes, even Detroit's demons are becoming cool. Just hope you never see the Nain Rouge. He's a harbinger of disaster.
It turns out that my juxtaposing hipsters and the Nain Rouge turns out to be more than a coincidence, as one can gather from reading between the lines of the Free Press reported Sunday.
We're talking about Le Nain Rouge (The Red Dwarf), the malicious prankster who will be honored, banished or (hopefully) placated by a procession down Cass Avenue today.

How malicious? Well, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founding father of our town, credited this "small child-like creature with red or black fur" with some serious financial reversals to his bank account. The Red Dwarf was also spotted in 1763 when 58 British soldiers fell to Pontiac's warriors at the Battle of Bloody Run. The 1805 fire that gave the city its "rise from the ashes" motto? He was seen that time as well. An 1884 account indicates that the joker's appearance didn't improve much during the intervening years; a woman who claimed to have been accosted by the creature described him as "a baboon with a horned head ... brilliant restless eyes and a devilish leer on its face."
WXYZ illustrates the history of the imp and interviews someone who portrays the supernatural bogeyman in Detroit's legendary Nain Rouge talks to WXYZ's Stephen Clark.

Can all of Detroit's problems be blamed on one evil spirit? That's the idea behind the legend of the Nain Rouge. Sunday, Detroiters will parade through the streets to banish the troublesome "red dwarf" during the Marche du Nain Rouge.

7 Action News anchor Stephen Clark had the opportunity to interview the Nain Rouge for the evil spirit's first TV interview in over 300 years of haunting the city.
Note who is marching in the parade--hipsters. Also note the timing of the revival of the festival in the following passage from the Free Press article.
The Marche du Nain Rouge itself may be described as the ultimate tip of the hat. A 2010 revival of a custom that originated in Ft. Pontchartrain days, it has become an unofficial civic event where participants are encouraged to wear costumes, play instruments, sing, shout and join in banishing the Nain Rouge for at least one more year.
2010, just about when hipsters discovered Detroit. For more confirmation, WXYZ interviewed a couple of the event's organizers in Event organizers explain Detroit's Marche du Nain Rouge.

Organizers of the Marche du Nain Rouge talk to Tara Edwards on 7 Action News. The Sunday afternoon event takes place from 1 to 3:00 p.m.
As I wrote, hipsters are running this event. Mind you, I think this is a good thing, but realize that it sometimes takes enterprising outsiders to realize what lost traditions help define a place and should be revived.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News:

The third most viewed entry of the second year of this blog and eighth most viewed overall according to the primary counter is article on Michigan Supreme Court nominees posted on September 12, 2012. The primary counter shows it has 372 page views. The secondary counter lists it as having even more, 814.* Based on the alternative method, this entry would be the second most viewed of last year, not the third. This is one of the three entries I mentioned in the installment about Eastwooding that rank ahead of Old man yelling at chair accidentally reveals a deeper truth with 441 page views according to the backup counter that I promised would get posts of their own.

I can't attribute this article's success to my promotion of it at Kunstler's blog. There, I merely mentioned it in passing as one of "several entries about the election, including a couple promoting my writing at" Instead, it's because of Googling a misspelled search term followed by a mystery. As I wrote in an edited footnote to the entry:
*I didn't catch this mistake until today (10/24/12), when I decided to Google for 'Mindy Berry Michigan Supreme Court'--one of the top search terms for the past week or so--and found this entry to be the number one result. For all of you who are looking for information on Mindy Barry (not Berry), click on the link to the article about the Taxpayer Party's nominees. You'll find what you're looking for there.
People searching for "Mindy Berry" (sic) explains the first hundred or so page views. It doesn't seem to explain the next two hundred or so, all of which have come during the past month. I see no search terms that should lead to this article and no incoming links, either. As I wrote last year about the success of U.S.-China EcoPartnerships: The CoDominion plans for sustainability, mystery to me.

Two other articles promoting my writing at make the 20 most viewed of the second year of the blog according to the secondary counter, article on Free Press endorsements posted October 14, 2012, with 261 views, good for 13th place, and article on tax policy forum, posted September 17, 2012 with 211 views, enough for 18th place. The latter article I promoted in the same Kunstler blog post that I promoted the entry about the Michigan Supreme Court nominees, so it might have received some collateral views from that entry. The former was also promoted at Kunstler's blog, but again as an entry about the election that I wrote for In any event, I'm glad people found them, and I hope they led people to read the related articles on and used them to inform their votes.

I leave you all with this video about voting for Michigan Supreme Court justices that I included in article on Free Press endorsements, thus tying together that entry with article on Michigan Supreme Court nominees. It features the surviving cast of The West Wing and promotes the candidacy of Bridget Mary McCormack, the only Democratic nominee elected last November to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Walk and Talk the Vote - West Wing Reunion - Bridget Mary McCormack

The cast of the West Wing reunites to walk and talk about why it's important to vote on the nonpartisan section of the ballot -- and why Bridget Mary McCormack should be on the Michigan Supreme Court.
*It still mystifies me why the two ways of determining page views show such a discrepancy. For all I know, one may be showing unique page views, while the other lists all page views, including repeats. If so, I have no idea why so many people would read this entry so many times. Even more baffling, it also has no comments.

Previous entries in this series:

De-extinction: moral imperative or techno-narcissism?

Two weeks ago, TED Talks posted Stewart Brand: The dawn of de-extinction. Are you ready?

Throughout humankind's history, we've driven species after species extinct: the passenger pigeon, the Eastern mountain lion, the dodo .... But now, says Stewart Brand, we have the technology (and the biology) to bring back species that humanity wiped out. So -- should we? Which ones? He asks a big question whose answer is closer than you may think.
Megan Gannon of LiveScience just reported the facts in Reviving the Woolly Mammoth: Will De-Extinction Become Reality?
Biologists briefly brought the extinct Pyrenean ibex back to life in 2003 by creating a clone from a frozen tissue sample harvested before the goat's entire population vanished in 2000. The clone survived just seven minutes after birth, but it gave scientists hope that "de-extinction," once a pipedream, could become a reality.

Ten years later, a group of researchers and conservationists gathered in Washington, D.C., today (March 15) for a forum called TEDxDeExtinction, hosted by the National Geographic Society, to talk about how to revive extinct animals, from the Tasmanian tiger and the saber-toothed tiger to the woolly mammoth and the North American passenger pigeon.

Though scientists don't expect a real-life "Jurassic Park" will ever be on the horizon, a species that died a few tens of thousands of years ago could be resurrected as long as it has enough intact ancient DNA.
Alan Boyle at NBC News included more opinion in his fairly even-handed article Should we revive extinct species? Watch experts debate de-extinction explaining both de-extinction and linking to the conference. In it, science writer Carl Zimmer made a vain wish.
Zimmer said the last thing that Church and his colleagues want is a genetic free-for-all over de-extinction. "They want this to be something where there's a strong consensus," he said. "This is not an off-the-reservation project."
Too late. Very shortly thereafter, the scientific and popular press went wild over it. Follow over the jump for the reaction, both pro and con.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fireball over U.S. east coast

Last week, Congress held hearings on preparing for Near Earth Objects, as described on Daily Kos by jamess in Space Rocks move Congress, Climate Change impacts not so much and DarkSyde in This week in science: and Neo was its name-o!  I'll have more on those hearings later. Right now I'll just note that an event happened Friday evening that may have focused the attention of the U.S. Representatives involved, a fireball visible from Washington, D.C. Tariq Malik of has more detail in Meteor Over Manhattan: East Coast Fireball Sets Internet Abuzz, published in LiveScience.
A bright meteor briefly outshined the lights of New York City Friday evening (March 22), according to reports by witnesses who used Twitter and the Internet to report sightings of the fireball streaking over a broad stretch of the U.S. East Coast.

"Strange Friday night … a meteor passed over my house tonight!" wrote one New Yorker writing as Yanksmom19.

The first fireball sightings came at about 8 p.m. EDT (0000 March 23 GMT) and sparked more than 500 witness reports to the American Meteor Society. Reports of the meteor flooded Twitter from New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.
snowhound on YouTube has a video of the fireball in Meteor on March 22 on security cam in Thurmont MD.

This footage was shared on my FB page by Kim Fox in Thurmont MD. Thousands across the eastern US saw this around 7:50 PM EDT on March 22 2013.
First Twitter, now Facebook. Welcome to the era of social media in science.

Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Eastwooding

The second most viewed entry of 2012, at least according to the primary counter, is Old man yelling at chair accidentally reveals a deeper truth, which I posted on Aug 31, 2012. The primary counter, which the site uses to give the daily, weekly, monthly, and overall top ten at any time, says it has 386 page views. Not only is that good enough for second place for the second year, but it puts the entry in seventh place overall.* However, it still has no comments.

This entry took off like a rocket, as it had more than 100 page views the first day. In fact, it got 50 page views in the first hour or two. It looks like I got lucky and hit a hot topic/meme at just the right time.

I promoted the entry at Kunstler's blog, but that was after it had already gone viral. Instead, it did a much better job of describing what Clint Eastwood's monologue with a chair revealed.
I've blogged about the conventions already over at Crazy Eddie's Motie News. In particular, my entry about Eastwooding earned more page views than any other entry posted last month. It turns out that his stunt with the chair made a perfect metaphor for what the Republicans have been doing to Obama all along--engaging with the Obama of their imaginations, not the real person in the White House.
A few days later, I followed this post with National Review ironically reveals another deep truth about the current GOP, which described how what was intended to be another joke for internal consumption by the GOP faithful ended up revealing a lot more about them than it intended.
[P]eople who are supposed to be the messengers of the GOP are unintentionally showing the authoritarian reality behind the party's republican facade.
"Eye spy the GOP's authoritarian impulses on display."
By the way, that entry earned 203 views according to the secondary counter, enough to earn it 20th place among the entries from the second year of this blog. I credit that to good promotion, including at Kunstler's blog, where I got 436 page views from Zeitgeist Failure, the most from any of Kunstler's entries for all of 2012. That tide lifted another boat higher, though, and it will get an entry of its own later.

I finish with an ironic salute to the topic of the original post, Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz.

*The secondary counter lists it as having 441 views, which places it behind three other posts that never made the official top ten. Those entries will get a post or two of their own later on.

Previous entries in this series:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Earth Hour 2013

After celebrating the event in 2011 and 2012, there is no way I was going to skip marking it this year.

First, I present this video from Russia Today.

Planet Power: Over 150 countries turn lights off for Earth Hour 2013

It's an event that has united millions around the world - Earth Hour also saw Moscow turn the lights off in the Kremlin for the very first time. The lights are now back on in the Russian capital, and earlier I spoke to Madina Kochenova about the fascinating event.
For more details, read this article from The Canadian Press via CBC, which lists Earth Hours as 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM local time.

Vancouver leads Canada as Earth Hour 'capital'
Canadians will join millions worldwide in marking Earth Hour at 8:30 p.m. in local time zones
The Canadian Press
Posted: Mar 23, 2013 12:04 PM
The City of Vancouver beat out 66 other cities around the world for the title of Global Earth Hour Capital in a challenged issued by the World Wildlife Fund.

The WWFund, which is the driving force behind Earth Hour, said it bestowed the 'capital' honour on Vancouver in recognition of the city's efforts to reduce pollution that causes climate change.

The city also received the highest number of online votes in a People's Choice ballot, and the city's government passed an official "Earth Hour 2013" proclamation.

About 13-million Canadians turned off their lights for an hour last year in the symbolic event aimed at drawing awareness to climate change.
BBC also has a slideshow: In pictures: Earth Hour around the world.

For more Earth Hour videos, surf over to the Earth Hour YouTube channel.

Happy Earth Hour, and remember to turn all unnecessary lights off tonight!

Pure Michigan sells the sizzle about Michigan wines, while MSU sells the steak

Two videos about Michigan's wines crossed my YouTube feeds last Monday. The first came from Pure Michigan, and it sold the attractions of Michigan's wines to tourists and other consumers. As I pointed out in the subject line, it sold the sizzle.

Wineries | A Pure Michigan Summer

With more than 100 wineries nestled among 15,000 acres of scenic vineyards, Michigan truly is wine country. Paired with fresh, local ingredients found in local cuisine, a Pure Michigan wine tasting trip is something you can't find anywhere else.
The second came from Michigan State University, and it was more substantive, selling the steak about the state's wine industry, as well as Michigan State's role in helping develop it.

Cultivating an industry—from vine to wine

Michigan is becoming an internationally recognized wine-producing region with help from Michigan State University, which has played a pivotal role in all aspects of the industry's growth. Michigan wineries draw more than 800,000 visitors annually and pump $300 million into the state's economy.
That's an impressive number of tourists, a figure that the Pure Michigan ad hopes to at least maintain and possibly increase.

For more from MSU on the subject, I quote Michigan wineries raise a toast to 2012, the press release accompanying the second video. It relays two interesting facts about how last year's unseasonably warm March weather, followed by a cold snap and then record heat and drought, not only didn't hurt the grape crop, but actually helped it.
Last March, temperatures spiked to 80 degrees. The bitter-cold weather that followed wiped out much of the state’s fruit crops. The one exception ­– wine grapes.

Michigan has already established itself as a wine destination, and 2012 will certainly further the state’s premier status, said Paolo Sabbatini, Michigan State University assistant professor of viticulture.

“The quality of grapes last year was exceptional, perfect ripening conditions of the fruit allowed several grape varieties to perfectly express all their varietal characteristics,” he said. “Much of the fruit harvested last year will produce reserve-quality wine.”

Surprisingly, one of the biggest contributors to earning the coveted reserve status, bestowed to only the best wines, was the drought. Since wine grapes bud later than most fruit, they avoided the damage caused by the April freeze. March’s early warm spell, however, did give them an early start. The longer growing season, combined with the hot and dry summer, gave the grapes more time to fully ripen to levels that are pivotal for the production of quality wines.

“The early drought was actually beneficial to the vines; it reduced berry size and canopy growth – two factors that are fundamentally important for fruit quality. Reduced berry size concentrates flavor and aromas and vine growth was reduced, improving canopy microclimate and overall efficiency,” Sabbatini said. “Grapes in southwest Michigan experienced a season quite similar to those in California’s Napa Valley for heat accumulation or growing degree days.”
Looks like Michigan's wine industry might actually be helped by climate change. Fancy that.

Conditions right for life on ancient Mars and other Curiosity news

I've been a laggard in posting about one of the most important science stories of last week here at Crazy Eddie's Motie News, although I did make it the lead story of Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Life possible on ancient Mars) over at Daily Kos. Time to catch up with myself.

NASA Televsion also made this their top story in last week's Mars Once Habitable on This Week @NASA.

Analysis of the first ever sample of rock powder collected by the Mars Curiosity rover has proven that the Red Planet location it's exploring once had everything needed to support microbial life including a lakebed filled with not salty or acidic but fresh water. Also, innovative space technology; students help space exploration; women aspiring, inspiring; IceBridge preps; SLS @ TennTech; career day; and more!
That wasn't what I used for the lead at Daily Kos. Instead, Alan Boyle's artile at NBC News got that honor.

Curiosity rover sees life-friendly conditions in ancient Mars rock
Powder drilled out of a rock on Mars contains the best evidence yet that the Red Planet could have supported living microbes billions of years ago, the team behind NASA's Curiosity rover said Tuesday.

"I think this is probably the only definitively habitable environment that we have described and recorded," said David Blake, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center who is the principal investigator for Curiosity's CheMin lab.

The findings are in line with what the scientists hoped to find when they sent the 1-ton, six-wheeled laboratory to Mars' Gale Crater. "It wasn't serendipity that got us here. It was the result of planning," Caltech's John Grotzinger, the $2.5 billion mission's project scientist, told reporters at NASA Headquarters in Washington on Tuesday.
Follow over the jump for more from NBC News and Discovery News about this topic.

Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Top post of 2012

In the first installment of my retrospective of the second year of this blog, I promised to begin the reverse countdown of most viewed posts from the past year. Time to follow up.

In first place among entries posted during the second full year in second place among all entries posted during the history of the blog so far* is Dungeons and Dragons alignments for Game of Thrones characters, posted on May 4, 2012. As of March 20th, it had 867 page views according to the primary counter, and 1338 page views according to the secondary one. Despite the many views, no one has left a comment, making it the most viewed entry without a comment.

The highlight of the entry is the graphic above, which displays the characters and the interpretation of their alignments that I agree with. It joins a companion entry, Game of Thrones: 2012 Campaign Edition, in using images from the HBO fantasy series to make a point.

As for why this entry became so popular, it's no mystery to me. While I didn't mention it at all over at Kunstler's blog that week, people managed to find it all by themselves, as "game of thrones dungeons and dragons" is currently the number one search term in the history of the blog, with 515 searches. Go SEO and the power of memes, however accidental.

I'll continue with the reverse countdown tomorrow. In the meantime, I leave you all with Jason Yang performing his Game of Thrones Violin Cover.

An acoustic and electric violin cover of the main theme song from Game of Thrones. Arranged and performed by Jason Yang. Original song and soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi.
*The first place entry is from the first year of the blog, but wasn't among those that made the top ten list that year. I will give it an entry of its own later on.

Friday, March 22, 2013

We reveal ourselves on Facebook

A year-and-a-half ago, I pointed out that there is no such thing as a free lunch on Facebook with this cartoon.

It's time to revisit that theme as new research has come out that Your Facebook Likes Reveal Everything.  Follow over the fold for the video from Discovery News and more on this topic from NBC News and CNN.

Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Statistics

Time to start the cycle all over again. Just like I did a year ago, I'll start with the stats.

During the second year of this blog, from March 21, 2012, to March 20, 2013, I posted 493 entries, readers posted 129 comments, and the blog received 97,535 page views. In comparison, during the first year of this blog, I made 483 posts, readers posted 204 comments, and the blog received 47,808 page views. That means that with only ten more entries posted, an increase of only 2%, the blog managed to get 49,727 more page views, an increase of 104%. It also got 197.84 views per post and 8127.92 views/month, almost exactly double the 99 page views per post and more than double (204%) the 3984 views/month from last year. Considering that the blog has exceeded the average every month since October 2012 and is on pace to do so again, I feel that I am definitely building on my baseline from last year. Here's to the readership continuing to increase!

Like last year, the only stat I find disappointing is the number of comments. More people are reading, but fewer of them are commenting. Readers left 75 fewer comments this year than last year. That's 0.26 comments/post, 10.75 comments/month, and 0.0013 comments per page view. Those are all striking declines from last year's 0.42 comments per post, 17 comments per month, and 0.0043 comments per page view. I enjoy the increased readership, but wouldn't mind more reader participation, even if it means arguing with denialists. That would be a step up from spammers.

The next installment will begin the reverse countdown of most viewed posts from the past year. As for the number one entry, I'll give you this hint.

That would have been a more accurate prediction than what the groundhogs actually forecast.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I tried to see this comet last week, but it turned out I was looking too high in the sky. Since then, I've either been inside working or it's been cloudy in the evening, so I haven't had a chance to look for it again. Here's to hoping I see it before it fades. Otherwise, videos and articles like these will be how I'll remember the object. Sigh. I would rather remember it like Hale-Bopp, a vivid first-person experience.

NASA Television: ScienceCasts: Sunset Comet.
Comet Pan-STARRS has survived its encounter with the sun and is now emerging from twilight in the sunset skies of the northern hemisphere. A NASA spacecraft monitoring the comet has beamed back pictures of a wild and ragged tail.
NBC News: Moon pairs up with Comet PanSTARRS for big show By Alan Boyle
Two elusive superstars came out on Tuesday evening to greet their adoring fans — in L.A. and Vegas, as well as in California's Mojave Desert and the mountaintops of Arizona and California. As a matter of fact, observers around the world could catch a glimpse of Comet PanSTARRS and the barely lit crescent moon, as long as the skies were clear. Like most superstars, Comet PanSTARRS doesn't always live up to its advance billing. For months, skywatchers have been looking forward to PanSTARRS as one of the top sights in the night sky. The long-period comet is now thought to be at its brightest, due to the fact that it has just come out of its close approach to the sun. But finding it has proved more difficult than expected, because it's so easily lost in the glare of sunset.
DarkSyde on Daily Kos also covered this story in This week in science: night of the comet.

Happy birthday to the blog and Happy Nowruz to all of you

Today marks the second anniversary of the first post to this blog. I already wished the blog a happy birthday last year, so I decided to do something different this year--appropriate Nowruz, the new year of Iran and its neighbors, as an official celebration on this blog.

Although the holiday actually coincides with the Vernal Equinox, the United Nations has conveniently declared March 21st as the International Day of Nowruz.
International Nowruz Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/64/253 of 2010, at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday (Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as a cultural tradition observed by numerous peoples, Nowruz is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. It promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities.
I celebrated Nowruz with my now ex-girlfriend once. We went with one of her co-workers, a Baha'i woman, to what she called a "Persian New Year" celebration in Canada about ten years ago. We had a great time. In memory of that occasion and the remarkable coincidence that the blog's birthday just happens to fall on the day the U.N. declared for the holiday, I wish all of my readers a Happy Nowruz!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

China's top six environmental problems

China's air pollution isn't just a problem that is causing trouble with its neighbors, it's a major domestic health issue. It's also only one of six environmental problems the country faces, according to LiveScience.

China's Top 6 Environmental Concerns
China's environmental crises seem to arise on a scale as sweeping and epic as the vast nation itself:

Thousands of dead, bloated pigs floating down the river that supplies Shanghai with its drinking water. Air pollution in Beijing so impenetrable the U.S. Embassy's air quality measuring station can only call it "beyond index." Industrial towns where rates of cancer are so high they're known as "cancer villages."

Compounding these problems is the Chinese government's stony silence about anything that might imperil the country's economic development — including environmental regulation.

But China's increasingly restive population of 1.3 billion people is now starting to demand government action to combat the deadly plagues of pollution and disease that are stalking the 21st century's economic powerhouse.
Follow over the jump for the full listing of all six issues along with recent stories illustrating each one.

Looks like the groundhogs were wrong and I was right about the weather

On the eve of Groundhog Day, I made my own forecast.
Based on this forecast, I expect both Punxsutawney Phil and Staten Island Chuck will agree that we'll get six more weeks of winter.
That's not what ended up happening, as The groundhogs thought we'd have an early spring after all.
They agreed, all right, along with Woody in Howell, but none of them agreed with me. Instead, all of them forecast an early spring. So much for my prognoticating power.
It looks like I sold myself short. While I was wrong about the groundhogs, it looks like I was right about the weather, as CNN reports in Not so fast, spring!

On the verge of spring, Mother Nature is playing by her own rules. CNN's Alison Kosik reports.
Doesn't look like an early spring to me.

That's the national picture. What about here in Michigan? WOOD-TV has the more current clip up on YouTube, so they have the honor of going next.

Yes, it's going to be cold and snowy through the weekend and it will still be below freezing overnight through next week. WXYZ here in Detroit has an older forecast, but it still shows the temperature predictions all the way to Sunday, and they're almost as chilly as those predicted for Grand Rapids.

So, did the animals get anything right? Yes, they did, the Super Bowl, as they picked the Ravens 4-3 over the 49ers.

Happy Vernal Equinox!

The honor this year belongs to Accuweather The Weather Channel (Accuweather took down their video again, so I'm embedding one from their competitor to serve them right).

What exactly is the vernal equinox and when does it happen this year?
March 20 is the vernal equinox. What does this really mean?
Meteorologist Jim Cantore and Winter Weather Expert Tom Niziol explain what the Spring Equinox is.
According to the video (I used to have embedded but that Accuweather took down), it's at 7:02 PM, March 20th. That's today!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Biodiversity news from Michigan: beaver and deer

First, some serious news from the Detroit Free Press: Yes, beaver making a comeback along Detroit, Rouge rivers. Here's the video.

Here's the takeaway message:
The cleanup of Detroit and Michigan waterways, in general, in recent decades has heralded a comeback of several species severely diminished or killed off completely by pollution, hunting and other man-made activities. Some have returned and are making a strong stand. John Hartig, a manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, calls it “one of the most dramatic ecological recovery stories in North America.”

Among the species:

• Sturgeon
• Whitefish
• Walleye
• Bald eagles
• Osprey
• Peregrine falcons
• Beaver
Normally, I'd punctuate a report like this with Professor Farnsworth proclaiming the good news. Instead, I'm leaving my readers with this funny video from WOOD-TV: 'Dead' deer jumps out of trunk.

As the Free Press version of the story remarked, "the death of a deer in a motorist's trunk was greatly exaggerated."

Where the Catholic Church stands on science and the environment

This morning, I awoke to Pope Francis I's inaugural mass.  The new Pope said some hopeful things this morning, as the Associated Press reported in Pope: Protect Environment, Weak and Poor.

Pope Francis urged the massive crowds gathered for his installation Mass to protect the environment, as well as the weakest and poorest people of the earth.
Yes, but how well can one protect the environment and the poor without dealing with reproductive issues?  That's enough to convince me to share Where the Catholic Church Stands on Science from Discovery News.

The Catholic Church has a conflicted history with the scientific world. But with the election of Pope Francis I, can we expect that to change? Laci Green shows us how far the Church has come, and how far they have left to go.
Francis's stand on the environment isn't new, as Benedict also called climate change a threat.  As for their stance on what Laci called "medicine and public health," I'm not optimistic, even if Francis has a chemistry degree.  At least I don't think I'm going to call him Pope Palpatine.

The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: last of nine parts


Here's where I left off yesterday.
There should be one final installment of this project.
Finally, there are posts that were in the top ten between January 1st and March 21st, but which fell out by the time I compiled the list. That should take care of the series.
I've found one and mentioned another, so I already have the next entry half composed.
The first of those articles is Shrinking Detroit in the New York Times by way of the Columbus Dispatch, posted on April 11, 2011, which was in the top 10 during the time frame in question, but was knocked out before the first full year was over.

Here's what I had to say about this entry over at Kunstler's blog.
I suspect the largest political unit that is aware that it is managing contraction is the City of Detroit, where they can't avoid the realization. I blogged about it in THE LATEST INSTALLMENT OF CRAZY EDDIE'S MOTIE NEWS. Of course, Detroit and its collapse and renewal are the subject of more than half the posts on my blog. The topic is, as Spock would say, "fascinating."
That's not very informative. I like my justification for using it better.
[I]t's not every day that the New York Times covers exactly those aspects of Detroit that I cover in this blog. Better yet, it was picked up by the Columbus Dispatch, which doesn't have the 20 article limit before hitting a paywall that the New York Times has. Also, a friend of mine in Columbus posted the link on my Facebook wall. Who am I to refuse a good story when it's dumped in my lap?
Who am I to refuse, indeed? It had plenty of readers. I can't say how many it had when it dropped out of the top ten, but it currently has 580 page views according to the alternative counter on my site, which overcounts the number of readers relative to the one I use for my official top ten. That's 234 more than Detroit as a travel destination? The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times think so, which has 346 page views using the alternative method and which made the end of year top ten.

The second runner-up is Video clips from last night's Republican debate, which I posted on November 10, 2011. It currently has 433 page views according to the alternative counter. I already mentioned it in The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 7 of several. Here's what I said about it then.
One of the many entries I posted about the GOP debate here in Michigan also cracked the top ten, although briefly, during the primary season, as people Googled it after every debate: Video clips from last night's Republican debate. Unfortunately, the clip of Perry being unable to name a third federal department to eliminate got pulled down, but there is a funnier version still up in Rick Perry blowing his answer to the Jeopardy theme.
That clip is still up.

As I wrote back then, "Sorry, Governor, the correct answer was 'What is the Department of Energy?'"

The listing of the dozen most viewed entries at the end of the first year is now complete, but I'm not done yet. Follow over the jump for the ten most viewed posts from the first year that didn't make the official top ten after January 1, 2012, along with their dates of posting, current page views according to the alternative counter, and the image or video I think best represents each one.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 8 of several

Detroit: "Street cred; Something vague about hopeful post-apocalyptic gardening."

In Nablopomo for March: Risk, I pointed out that I needed to get cracking to complete a retrospective of the first year of this blog.
I haven't blogged about Model D since last June; I really need to correct that oversight, and I have the perfect opportunity in reviewing The Buzz about Detroit for the week ending May 28, 2011 from Model D Media, the one top-ten-most-read articles from the first year of the blog I haven't posted a retrospective about. It's time to correct that oversight as well.
It turns out that I've been promising to write about this entry since July.
[T]here are the two other posts I wrote especially for Kunstler's readers that were built around New York Times articles. Both of them discuss Detroit as a tourist destination, a topic I return to occasionally.
The first of those two entries is obviously The Buzz about Detroit for the week ending May 28, 2011 from Model D Media posted on May 30, 2011, which was in 6th place a year ago with between 311 and 360 views. I'm vague because the viewership stats are on my old computer and I didn't think to copy them down when I got my new tower. Right now, the post sits in ninth place with 355 page views.

As I mentioned, I promoted it at Kunstler's blog.
I decided to cover something more hopeful at CRAZY EDDIE'S MOTIE NEWS: a New York Times story about how Detroiters who are concerned about sustainability are reaching a consensus that food, particularly urban agriculture, is central to the future of the city. The future the foodies the author talked to reads like Detroit is already working on "A World Made by Hand." I have a link to the N.Y. Times article in the blog article.

I also note that Hipsters have found Detroit an "inhabitable city." The brewers of Pabst Blue Ribbon will be thrilled to have another market. Also the Nain Rouge, Detroit's own Red Dwarf and local ill omen, has hit the big time among devotees of the paranormal. Yes, even Detroit's demons are becoming cool. Just hope you never see the Nain Rouge. He's a harbinger of disaster.
That's a pretty good summary of the entry, especially considering that I wrote it on the fly as I do most of my comments over at Kunstler's blog.

As for the other post about Detroit as a tourist destination, it has already fallen out of the top ten posts. Fortunately, I left myself a reminder in New York Magazine thinks Detroit is a travel destination, too.
One of the ten most viewed posts from the first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News was Detroit as a travel destination? The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times think so. It, like the most popular post from last year, fit the pattern of promising Kunstler's readers a link to an article in the New York Times about Detroit and getting their attention.
Reading that beats the hell out of going by memory.

Detroit as a travel destination? The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times think so, which I posted on June 6, 2011, was the ninth-most-viewed post as of a year ago with between 216 and 250 page views. Here's what I posted about it at Kunstler's blog.
Speaking of Detroit, the place is figuring out what to do next and how to thrive in the middle of being the largest municipality aware that it is managing contraction (Chicago has been contracting over the past few decades and has 25% fewer people than at its peak, but it doesn't seem to have any awareness that it's been managing contraction). Last week, I posted about how growing food is becoming central to the future and identity of Detroit. This week, I found that art and culture might fill the number two spot in the future identity of Detroit. The resulting spectacle has attracted the attention of the adventurous in New York and London. I documented the reaction in DETROIT AS A TRAVEL DESTINATION? THE NEW YORK TIMES, BBC, AND FINANCIAL TIMES THINK SO. Yes, Detroit, Ground Zero of the post-industrial future, is now a place for the cutting-edge tourist who wants to see art, agriculture, and grand ruins, exactly what one would expect in "A World Made by Hand."
This entry has the distinction of being the first entry I tagged with the tourism label. I've had a lot of use for that label since.

There should be one last installment of this project.
Finally, there are posts that were in the top ten between January 1st and March 21st, but which fell out by the time I compiled the list. That should take care of the series.
I've found one and mentioned another, so I already have the next entry half composed.

Previous posts in this series.

The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 1 of several
The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 2 of several
The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 3 of several
The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 4 of several
The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 5 of several
The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 6 of several
The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Part 7 of several

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Follow-up to Pi Day

It took me long enough, but I finally found something from this year to post about Pi Day. First, here's a clip from Discovery News on YouTube that I included in last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Life possible on ancient Mars) on Daily Kos.

Happy Pi Day! Pi and Pie are AMAZING

March 14th is Pi Day, a worldwide tribute to the mathematical constant. To celebrate this geeky holiday, Anthony heads down to San Francisco's Mission Pie bakery to eat pie and talk pi with Destructoid host and mathematician, Tara Long. What's the significance of this irrational number? Why is there so much mystery around it? Watch and learn!
Finally, in the spirit of the follow-up to Star Wars Day, here is a video of performance that Drum Corps International repurposed to mark the day.

Happy Pi(e) Day! - '78 North Star Drum & Bugle Corps

[T]here is also an endearing and enduring ritual enjoyed by drum corps fans that cannot make the journey to downtown Indianapolis for Pi Day. By the tens of thousands, they cyber-unite with fellow fans and watch a famed video clip of the now defunct North Shore Massachusetts-based corps North Star at the 1978 World Championship Finals in Denver.

In this clip, you will see contra player Joey "Moose" Interbartolo get hit in the face by a pie launched by percussionist Bruce Wallas. And because we at DCI appreciate conceptual high art, as evidenced by our recent "Harlem Shake -- Drum Corps Style" video, you will see Joey get hit in the face not once, but multiple times during Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," the anthem Wonder wrote to commemorate the Hawaiian musical influence of famed surfer and Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku.

I believe you'll agree that we can refer to this singular act of loony silliness internationally as the most glorious 3.14 seconds in the history of drum corps.

Enjoy your (3.14) day!
As I wrote in my follow-up to last years' Star Wars Day, I have a personal connection to the performers and the performance.
I wasn't marching in North Star that year, but I was in the stands for this performance and I marched with them in 1979 and 1981.
First Star Wars Day and now Pi Day--I had no idea 35 years ago that this show would become so good for geeks!

The science of drinking for St. Patrick's Day

I begin with Discovery News' contribution: St. Patrick's Day: Beer Goggles Explained.

Does alcohol help make your date appear more attractive? It certainly seems to help for some! Laci takes a look at the phenomenon of "beer goggles" and whether there's any truth to it all.
Speaking of beer, Jeffrey Kahn of the N.Y. Times brings us How Beer Gave Us Civilization.
HUMAN beings are social animals. But just as important, we are socially constrained as well.

We can probably thank the latter trait for keeping our fledgling species alive at the dawn of man. Five core social instincts, I have argued, gave structure and strength to our primeval herds. They kept us safely codependent with our fellow clan members, assigned us a rank in the pecking order, made sure we all did our chores, discouraged us from offending others, and removed us from this social coil when we became a drag on shared resources.

Thus could our ancient forebears cooperate, prosper, multiply — and pass along their DNA to later generations.
But then, these same lifesaving social instincts didn’t readily lend themselves to exploration, artistic expression, romance, inventiveness and experimentation — the other human drives that make for a vibrant civilization.

To free up those, we needed something that would suppress the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive. We needed something that, on occasion, would let us break free from our biological herd imperative — or at least let us suppress our angst when we did.
Beer isn't the only beverage associated with Ireland.  Whiskey is, too, and Scientific American examines Barreling Ahead: Whiskey-Makers Break Cherished Traditions to Create New Flavors.
Armed with modern analytic tools, distillers are studying the wood in the barrels and experimenting with the aging process. Is nothing sacred?

Master distiller Harlen Wheatley of Buffalo Trace Distillery draws a bourbon whiskey sample out of the barrel and pours it into a brandy snifter glass. Wheatley raises it into the light; the bourbon illuminates with rich colors of caramel, gold, straw yellow and light brown. He tastes the seven-year-old drink known as W. L. Weller and says, "That's really coming along."

As Wheatley moves onto the next barrel, the glass sits in the light, the bourbon shining brightly and illustrating the chemical change wrought by the barrel. After being poured into the barrel, the colorless spirit sat there or "aged" for seven years. The liquid mingled with the wood, giving the bourbon it's color, taste and smell.

A new generation of distillers have begun to break time-honored tradition and tinker with the barrels, relying on science and experimentation to bring new flavors into the spirits. For the bourbon whiskey business, the barrel is everything.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

China and Japan in diplomatic row over air pollution

Fast Company via Scientific American: Can Air Pollution Start Wars?
By Terry Tamminen
February 15, 2013
Mixed up in the current spat between China and Japan is an accusation that Chinese pollution is damaging Japan.

In recent months, Japan and China have blustered over disputed islands that don't appear to have any real economic or territorial benefits for either nation. Jets have scrambled and radars locked on opposing vessels, all signs of increasing tension. But the two Asian powerhouses have now begun to argue over a shared threat that actually does have impacts on the health and future of their respective populations--air pollution.

Japanese media and environmental authorities have accused China of being the source of increasing levels of soot in the air (particulates 2.5 microns or smaller, which can lodge deep in the lungs and bloodstream, called PM 2.5). That PM 2.5 in the air comes largely from diesel exhaust, causing asthma and other respiratory diseases. It is also linked to heart disease and, therefore, more than 6 million premature deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization. China shot back that the cause is Japan's switch from nuclear power to new dependence on burning coal and trash for energy.
Two of the points I make in class are Barry Commoner's admonitions that "everything is connected to everything else" and "there is no away." Both of them work very well in a class that's as much about global awareness and understanding as it is about scientific literacy. This fight over air pollution between the two most powerful nations in Asia serves as an example of both, as well as how environmental issues become foreign policy and national security issues. While I've mentioned China's air pollution as a problem for its neighbors before, I haven't made the reciprocal point about Japan, mostly because they weren't a big coal burner until after Fukushima. I think I will, which will serve as an example for another of Commoner's Laws, "there is no free lunch."

Risks from climate change

I've been focusing on the more spectacular and fast-acting risks, from meteor strikes and other natural disasters to the stock market here lately, which means I've been ignoring the usual long-term problems of pollution and resource depletion and their consequences, such as climate change. Time to remedy that.

I begin with the following from Nature via Scientific American, which was the big climate news of last week.

Global Average Temperatures Are Close to 11,000-Year Peak By the end of this century, Earth is set to get hotter than at any time since the last ice age By Sid Perkins and Nature magazine March 8, 2013
Global average temperatures are now higher than they have been for about 75% of the past 11,300 years, a study suggests. And if climate models are any indication, by the end of this century they will be the highest ever since the end of the most recent ice age.

Instrumental records of climate extend back to only the late nineteenth century. Beyond that, scientists depend on analyses of natural chronicles such as tree rings and isotope ratios in cave formations.

But even these archives have their limits: many detailed reconstructions of climate, particularly of temperature, apply to only limited regions or extend back at most a couple of millennia, says Shaun Marcott, a climate scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
More climate news over the jump.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gas price rollercoaster having a boring ride lately

Last month, I noted that the gas price rollercoaster had returned to $4.
I have seen gas at that price, although not nearby.  The corner station is still selling regular for $3.85, as are the three stations a few blocks away.  I should consider myself and my neighbors lucky.
Since then, prices went down, then stabilized.  On Tuesday, February 26th, prices had fallen to $3.79 at the local stations.  I didn't see the prices for a week, as I was on break and also recovering from surgery.  By the middle of last week, the price had fallen to $3.65, where it has remained since then.  As I wrote in the title, boring.  That's bad for a rollercoaster, but good for the economy and people's budgets.  May the prices stay there for a while.

While gas prices may be boring, there was other energy news that I found both exciting and positive: President Obama Speaks on American Energy.

President Obama discusses the need to continue investing in American-made energy to help create jobs while further reducing our dependence on oil, better protecting consumers from spikes in gas prices, and reducing pollution. March 15, 2013.
Music to my ears.

Beware the Ides of March!

Thus begins today's installment of Today in History for March 15th from the Associated Press.

Highlights of Today in History: Julius Caesar assassinated in Rome; Johnson urges passage of Voting Rights Act; Worldcom CEO Bernard Ebbers convicted of fraud; Elizabeth Taylor marries Richard Burton; "My Fair Lady" debuts on Broadway. (March 15)
Looks like Bernard Ebbers should have been wary of the Ides of March, too.  This year, the most endangered item on the list is the Voting Rights Act.  Here's to hoping that Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA survive the current Supreme Court challenge.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day 2013!

As I wrote late yesterday:
Expect more in this vein for the rest of the month, as tomorrow is Pi Day, the day after that is the Ides of March, Sunday is St. Patrick's Day, and Thursday after that is the second birthday of this blog, with days of retrospectives after that.
This year, I give my readers a three-year-old Moment of Geek from the Rachel Maddow Show.

Yes, a perfect storm of geek.  Happy Pi Day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Harlem Shake on my YouTube feed

Just so I don't run the risk of missing the Harlem Shake craze before it's over, here are three videos from some of my regular sources performing this silly meme.  I begin with NASA, which is following up on NASA Johnson Style with NASA Wallops Harlem Shake.

So, you think you're having a nominal countdown and then all of a sudden...
HARLEM SHAKE: WALLOPS STYLE. — at Wallops Range Control Center.
Wallops is the suborbital launch facility in Virginia, which doesn't get much attention.  This should do it for them.

Next, Wayne State University posted this version with their mascot and a bunch of their students rocking out in Harlem Shake Wayne State Style.  Look for the Guy Fawkes mask.

We did it and we're proud. Go, Warriors!
Finally, Drum Corps International created a promotional video to the song using existing footage of drum corps before and after they start dancing and posted it as Harlem Shake - Drum Corps Style.

Expect more in this vein for the rest of the month, as tomorrow is Pi Day, the day after that is the Ides of March, Sunday is St. Patrick's Day, and Thursday after that is the second birthday of this blog, with days of retrospectives after that.   Hey, I can't be all doom all the time!

Risk updates on nuclear reactors and sinkholes

Here are a couple of examples of how recent stories influence selection of stories to cover.  First, on the heels of Monday's second anniversary of the Fukushima meltdown comes this report from WOOD-TV about the Palisades nuclear power plant.

The plant must monitor metal used in its reactor.
Finally, here is coverage of an event that probably would not have made the national news without the Florida sinkhole disaster happening first, as CNN reports Golfer swallowed up by sinkhole on course.

A golfer in Illinois fell 18 feet into the ground when a sinkhole opened up on the golf course where he was playing.
Sinkholes, who knew?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Second anniversary of Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and meltdown: video tributes

To follow up to last year's video memorial, I commemorate the second anniversary of the event with videos about the event from the last 12 hours of my YouTube subscription feed.  I begin with a local angle from WOOD-TV.

Japan Earthquake: Two Years Later

Next, an overview from a more sophisticated international source, Link TV.

3/11, Two Years Later: How is Japan Coping Today? (LinkAsia: 3/8/13)

March 11th marks two years since Japan's devastating triple disaster of a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown that left 20,000 people dead or missing. LinkAsia's Toshi Maeda reports from Tokyo on how people in Japan are coping today with the aftermath.
More videos over the jump.