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Comment Re:Why is diversity a goal? (Score 5, Insightful) 319

Well, the temperature that maximizes biodiversity across the planet.

Could you expand on why "biodiversity" ought to be the goal? If I had to pick something, I'd have picked "comfort of humans" or, perhaps, the humans' longevity or something like that.

Why do you pick "biodiversity"?

Maximizing biodiversity is a decent goal to have high on your list. The more organisms there are, the more resistant a given system is likely to be. If you've got one species of tree in a forest and beetles come and wipe out that species, you're in trouble. If you've got high biodiversity, you're more likely to have less trees that will be affected, plus a better chance that there's somebody that calls the beetle dinner.

Why should humans care about resilience? We derive a lot of services from natural systems. Protection from extreme events (flood, fire, insects, etc); diverse food stocks; tourism; unique chemicals for pharmaceuticals; groundwater purification; local weather stabilization; and so on. Even if you don't "like" nature, you derive a tremendous number of services from it. The best way to maintain longterm comfort/longevity of humans is to make sure those systems continue to be able to perform those services.

Comment how about some logical consistency? (Score 4, Insightful) 212

Not only was science not "wrong," but if science was wrong there would be no story. The science says that this was a statistically improbable event. If the science was wrong, this would happen all the time and the fact that it happened again wouldn't be newsworthy. So not only is this the dumb clickbait that we know it to be, but contradictory to the whole premise. No internal logical consistency; complete garbage.

Comment Misleading Summary (Score 5, Insightful) 681

Summary is misleading. Nye basically says US as a whole is failing when it comes to educating average people about science. He admits that, sure, we have top top-tier institutions and scientists, but we need to do a better job educating the average person.

Hardly the swipe aimed specifically at Slashdotters that TFS makes it out to be. Furthermore, if we use /. as a case study, given some of the gems I've seen here recently, I think "semi-science-literate" isn't a bad estimate of the average.

Comment Used in conjunction with other sats... (Score 3, Interesting) 25

I'm excited to see data from this and the atmospheric CO2 satellite which was launched (again) not long ago overlayed. Seeing how CO2 and soil moisture correspond is important for understanding limitations on microbial communities which make up a large part of the global carbon budget. It will be particularly interesting to measure changes to how these correspond over time -- it'd be a great way to get solid data for future modelling and for quantifying changes currently happening.

Also particularly interesting is the ability to monitor changes as a result of permafrost thaw globally. There's currently some discussion whether and where permafrost thaw will be a net C sink or source. Throw in some data from a Leaf Area Index satellite (which is/are also in orbit currently) and you've got some pretty compelling global/landscape data.

Comment Start low or re-educate (Score 1) 280

In my position I hire a lot of students for a lab work. I've come to realize that the best workers aren't necessarily the people with STEM majors; the best workers are generally people who are interested and feel a little over their head. I've had many terrible pre-meds, and always had good luck with my English majors. If you're willing to start low in the food web, get a job as a lab technician somewhere (universities are often a decent bet). If you can, prioritize places that look like they have work or instruments that you'd enjoy working on. You can amass a pretty good amount of technical skill from a decent lab job.

If you have higher ambitions for aerospace technologies... probably means going back to school. But that would have meant going back to school regardless of your undergrad degree.

Comment Why overengineer? (Score 1) 367

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

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

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

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.

2 pints = 1 Cavort