Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: Why overengineer? (Score 1) 314

I'm sure that it's partially because Slashdot is a high-tech oriented site, but it seems like everyone skips to bizarre schemes before considering any of the really simple, really tame geoengineering options available. There doesn't need to be a fleet of aircraft spaying a mysterious chemical to increase Earth's albedo. There doesn't need to be a techniological marvel at the poles freezing CO2 out of the air. As with most things, simple is better.

Look at endeavors like the Marin Carbon Project (links to published peer-review articles within) which diverts waste, composts it, puts it on managed grasslands and improves plant productivity. Some fraction of the plant biomass gets stored below ground for decades or centuries. The dairy farmers don't need to buy/import as much feed which saves them money (and is an additional CO2 offset). Initial numbers look like 1 ton of CO2 per hectare over a 3 year period from one application.

I'm just not certain why we're looking so hard for lots of difficult solutions when there is so much low-hanging fruit. Some pretty simple changes in management practices (I'm looking at you, agriculture) can go a huge way to not only lowering CO2 emissions, but making land be significant net carbon sinks without compromising productivity.

Disclaimer: In the past I worked with one of the lab groups involved with the Marin Carbon Project.

Comment: unedited summary (Score 1) 110

I don't normally bitch about editing on summaries but, good heavens, does anyone even read this shit? The same "85% of solar energy..." line is used twice. The final line begins with "i-e" which means "that is," but it doesn't reference anything relevant to scaling. What's the appropriate tag here? !sensical? !edited? !proofed?

I'm probably just burning through karma here, but I like to think that if it's a "legitimate" rage, that the body had a way of rejecting the negative effects.

Comment: Re:And hippies will protest it (Score 1) 396

by estitabarnak (#47247981) Attached to: "Super Bananas" May Save Millions of Lives In Africa

Before CO2 becomes a limiting factor, water and nitrogen come into play. We can fertilize (for a while, anyway), but swings in water availability will make the water part harder.

Even for areas which will become better suited will produce foods will make products that are less nutritious: A recent study published in Nature suggests that in addition to lower levels of iron and zinc, C3 crops produce less protein under increased CO2 conditions. http://www.nature.com/nature/j...

Comment: Read your links (Score 1) 187

One of the first sentences on the nuclear reprocessing page linked reads "Nuclear reprocessing reduces the volume of high-level waste, but by itself does not reduce radioactivity or heat generation and therefore does not eliminate the need for a geological waste repository." Emphasis mine.

Of course reprocessing would be great, but it doesn't let us side-step the political bungling of the repository issue.

Comment: Because one causes harm. (Score 1) 794

by estitabarnak (#46379789) Attached to: Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience

Growing up in the bay area in CA, I've seen my fair share of people who buy into these types of things. I've hung my head many times in shame and disbelief. But at the end of the day, all we need to do is look at the net results of these beliefs to justify how much we should care.

Homeopathy, by definition, cannot hurt you. Due to the serial dilutions used, the chances are that there are 0 molecules of the original thing in any given dose. The worst thing it can do is cost people money for no result. Some people may turn down medicine and take homeopathics instead, but once again, that's only to the end-user's detriment.

Disbelief in, say, climate change is a different story. If you think climate change is all a big lie, you are likely acting to the detriment of everyone else on the planet. If you believe that the world is a self-correcting machines and our actions have no consequences, you are likely acting to the detriment of everyone else on the planet.

So, while new-age hippie BS is annoying, it's generally quite harmless. Not so for the creation museum and its ilk.

Comment: Re:And never pushed: not profitable. (Score 1) 400

by estitabarnak (#44810583) Attached to: Interview With Professor Potrykus, Inventor of Golden Rice

Anyone who wants to can label their food "Non-GMO". People can buy what they want.

That's just the problem: Anyone who wants to can label their food "Natural" or "Non-GMO." But it's not really regulated. Naked Juice, which has a label plastered with non-GMO claims finally had it catch up to them with a class action lawsuit about it. But that took people getting together to sue; it's not the government penalizing companies.

The FDA doesn't have a set of rules for the "All Natural" label, so it doesn't mean anything. The "Organic" label, on the other hand, is regulated. Most folks don't seem to recognize the difference.

Comment: Re:Even with AGW aside (Score 1) 111

Connecting carbon sequestration with fire-excluded forest is short sited (well, for most forests in the US, anyway). While I'm sure there are folks all across the spectrum who are short sited, the point is that the liberal institutions that people point to aren't supporters. Equally myopic, however, is your view of forest management, history, and ecology in general.

It's pretty well recognized (including by me above) that a management plan to maximize revenue and productivity is going to include thinning (and fire is the easiest way). Maximizing carbon production or sequestration doesn't mean maximizing vulnerability to fire, though. Not all fuels are created equal.

In terms of history, you're forgetting what was happening in Yosemite (and had been for centuries and centuries): fire-based management. The natives of California (and this is by no means an exception) have a documented history of using fire to maintain a state in ecological succession. For instance, Quercus kelloggii, the California black oak, was valued for its acorns so the forests were managed to maximize their presence and production. So the "natural characteristic" you're referring to isn't really a model for how an unmanaged forest will look. But it's okay, John Muir made the same mistake.

There isn't any permanent "end state" in a forest (okay, who's gonna come in and say "bare ground?"). There are lots of states which are local maxima in terms of stability, but those are all subject to stochastic events. There is no global maximum to which nature inexorably and violently drives. We've put our forests in a less-stable situation which can't be maintained long-term, but fire isn't nature's way of punishing us for putting two different types of trees in the same forest.

I'm glad you agree with me about fire exclusion not working, though.

Comment: Even with AGW aside (Score 3, Interesting) 111

In this discussion, we can completely ignore global climate change and end up with the same general calculus. If you let fuels accumulate (as they always have and always will) by putting out every fire, you will keep kicking the can down the road until there's a fire so big that you can't put it out. Add in budget problems and the situation is ripe in California.

This isn't a matter of wacky tree-hugging liberals preventing logging from saving our forests either. Use of prescribed burning and selective logging are taught extensively at the UC Berkeley Forestry program. Selective logging is used for various management goals in the Santa Cruz mountains (including revenue maximization). Neither of those places have a history of being particularly conservative.

This isn't a problem that you can micromanage your way out of. You can't take out a few juicy trees and declare your forest safe from fire. Regular, prescribed burns allow for the kind of patchy diversity and general fuels reduction that prevent these big fires from happening.

Comment: Re:Fault Irrelevant: Shows Flaw (Score 5, Informative) 700

by estitabarnak (#42878637) Attached to: Tesla Motors Battles the New York Times

Right, the power needs to come from somewhere. But electricity transmission is significantly more efficient than gas transmission, there's the difference. A non-trivial amount of gas is used to drive gas to a station so you can get it. Last time I checked, the EPA estimates that electrical transmission is 10% more efficient than taking gas to a gas station.

Doesn't change the fact that coal is shitty, but you can't really polish a turd.

Comment: Politically Correct is Incorrect in Summary (Score 4, Interesting) 210

by estitabarnak (#42356821) Attached to: DARPA's Headless Robotic Mule Takes Load Off Warfighters

"Darpa figures that it's illogical to make a soldier hand over her rucksack to a robotic beast of burden if she's then got to be preoccupied with 'joysticks and computer screens' to guide it forward." (Emphasis mine.)

I know that people love sounding politically correct by arbitrarily changing "he" to "she," but in this particular case, it's not only silly but probably wrong. We've been hearing a fair amount lately about how female soldiers aren't allowed in designated combat zones, such as in this piece http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=166303415 In other words, "she" is statistically unlikely compared to "he," here.

It's a funny time when we start to trade in /actual/ correctness for political correctness.

Comment: Re:Can it prevent large earthquakes? (Score 5, Informative) 145

by estitabarnak (#39604815) Attached to: USGS Suggests Connection Between Seismic Activity and Fracking

No, for a number of reasons. Even if smaller quakes simply "relieved stress," preventing larger quakes, the Richter scale is logarithmic so it'd take many small quakes to prevent a large one. USGS agrees: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/megaqk_facts_fantasy.php

Comment: 58% figure is bogus (Score 4, Interesting) 111

by estitabarnak (#39081605) Attached to: Deadly H5N1 Flu Studies To Stay Secret... For Now

The 58% figure is not the number of people who were exposed to the virus and died. It is not the number of people who have been exposed and successfully infected and died.

The 58% figure is the number of people who were SO sick that it warranted going to the hospital, and then died.

Serological surveys have shown that in the populations where H5N1 has been historically present there are an extensive number of people who have been infected, successfully mounted an immune response, and survived. And even that says nothing about the people who were exposed and did not get sick.

The 50-60% figure has been getting a ton of coverage in the press, and is total bullshit. As a reason to censor scientific research, it is total bullshit.

Comment: Mercury rarely used in vaccines (Score 1) 383

by estitabarnak (#37794206) Attached to: Proposed Mercury Ban Threatens Vaccines

Thimerosal is pretty rare in vaccines. First, it's only used in vials with multiple-doses in it, so that eliminates a fair chunk already. DTaP & Tdap, polio, MMR, Hep A, Hep B, rabies, smallpox... No Thimerosal. The only vaccine that you're likely to come in to contact that MAY have some of the preservative is some seasonal influenza vaccines. Even then, a Thimerosal-free version is often available.

Find a list of vaccines and their Thimerosal content and history here: http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228

I'm assuming the case is similar in the EU. As previously stated by others, the concern shouldn't be over vaccines but just about everything else. There're so many Hg sources and uses that a total ban is bullshit.

Comment: Old hat, new paranoia. (Score 4, Informative) 52

by estitabarnak (#37548134) Attached to: Encoding Messages In Bacteria

These techniques are old hat. We've been modifying bacteria to serve as biomarkers for a long time now. They're used in quick and easy assays for chemical contaminants, for instance. Basic idea is just that you have your "certain condition" from the article be one with, say, arsenic. The bacteria create a fluorescent or coloured compound as a result and you have a positive hit for contamination.

So before we get too deep in to evil corporations tracking their products, keep in mind that the tech has been around for a long time and if it was a valuable thing to do, they probably already would. But it seems like there's relatively little point in, say, Monsanto tracking crops by inserting a gene when we have much simpler options like PCR available.

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman

Working...