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Comment Re:record-shattering recording instruments (Score 1) 507

Because a controlled experiment involving the actual Earth would mean telling a few billion people they have to keep their population, technology, and society constant for a century, and a) nobody's gonna agree to that, and b) if they did there wouldn't be an issue.

Comment Re:Deniers? (Score 5, Informative) 507

Just to pick the top story on that realclimatescience.com site: it's looking at NOAA's statement that 2015 had record *average* temperatures in the US, and is rebutting with data on the *frequency of hot days* in the US, which is an entirely different idea. Since greenhouse gases control the rate at which energy *leaves* the earth to cooling it down, you would predict it should warm the coolest days more than the warmest. Which is exactly what's happened. IPCC report finds, globally, a significant increase in night and winter temperatures, a statistically insignificant change in temperature of the hottest days.

The match between theoretical prediction, and basic physics is the best way to assess the truth. You'll notice that the denialists will try to poke holes in the standard global warming story, but very rarely will they show show that their revised data agrees with a physical theory. (In particular, if CO2 and water vapor concentrations are rising, why *doesn't* that cause global warming in their view? By everything we know about these gases, it should.)

Comment Re:record-shattering recording instruments (Score 2) 507

[E] is not possible when the experiment is being carried out over centuries, with a civilization growing inside the test chamber.
[D] leads to biases (chiefly the urban heat island effect) which *increase* the apparent trend (see Layzej's reply). If you don't correct for them, global warming looks *worse* than it actually is.

Comment Re:Environmentally unconscious (Score 1) 197

Having some green spots in the city is hardly an "environmental problem"

Agree, except that it's a non-renewable resource: once a cemetery, always a cemetery, and there's a social taboo against using them as public parks or letting them revert to nature. I first started thinking about this when my commute took me past some of the big cemeteries on the north side of Chicago. Square miles filled with the corpses of just one century's worth of Chicagoans. Give it another few centuries, and the dead will own more land than the living.

Comment Re:Environmentally unconscious (Score 0) 197

Let me break it down for you: I eat my weight in plants and animals about every six months or so. So the amount of biomass in my actual body is less than 1% of the biomass in the food I ate, and the inedible plant and animal parts I threw away. You can try to recycle your body if you want to, it's a nice gesture, but it's an insignificant part of the environmental problem.

(You're also wrong on the biochemistry, "useful proteins and specialized molecules" are not assembled over centuries and preserved through the food web. Plants build all their complex biomolecules from scratch; animals break the biomolecules in their food down into simple organics and reassemble them.)

Comment Re:Environmentally unconscious (Score 1) 197

Yes, cremation requires energy input: my point all along has been that that input is tiny compared to what a living human uses over any length of time: it amounts to a few kg of carbon. Your post doesn't counter that point.

Accumulated mercury doesn't go away during cremation, but people typically keep the cremains rather than dumping them back into their food supply, and crematoria are starting to take this issue seriously. And yes, all animals pose a drug and pathogen risk even now, which is why we typically render them rather than composting, and we take extra special care when recycling animal parts and waste back into the food supply. If you don't, you get e. coli infested vegetables, mad cow disease, etc.

In any case, my point was not that composting is definitely a serious threat, but that the potential risks aren't worth the tiny benefit.

Comment Re:Environmentally unconscious (Score 2) 197

Cremation takes a LOT of energy

Your link says 3 liters of fuel oil? That's about 1 hour's worth of fossil fuel usage for the average living American. Cremation probably takes longer than that, so you actually burn less carbon while you're literally on fire than while you were alive.

at least you're getting *something* of value at the end.

Yeah, a lifetime's worth of accumulated mercury and other heavy metals, a bellyfull of e. coli, and any parasites, viruses, and prescription drugs you happened to have when you died. Thanks for your generosity.

Comment Environmentally unconscious (Score 5, Insightful) 197

I mean, whatever you and your family want to do with your body is fine with me, but this is just idiotic from an environmental perspective. The environmental value of your body's chemical components is totally negligible compared to what you consume over your lifetime. I mean, I eat my weight's worth of food in a few months, so returning my body's nitrogen to the farmland is almost worthless. My share of fossil fuel burning is about 17 tonnes of carbon per year, so cremating the couple of kilograms of carbon I contain makes no difference.

The only real environmental problem with burial is that it ties up valuable urban land in a cemetery forever. Which is definitely an issue, but it's easy to solve: just get yourself cremated. This composting thing is expensive, unsafe, and a waste of time.

Comment No they didn't. (Score 4, Interesting) 412

Nuclear weapons create earthquakes, and you can roughly estimate the size of the bomb from the magnitude of the earthquake. In this case, we're looking at a 5.1 magnitude quake:

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/ear...

There's an empirical law for calculating the size of an underground nuclear blast from the magnitude of the earthquake.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

This law is a little sketchy (earthquake size depends on how tightly the bomb is packed into the ground), but taking it at face value I calculate a 45 kiloton blast. That's nowhere near a true fusion H-bomb (typically hundreds of kilotons up to megatons): it's consistent with a large fission bomb, a boosted fission weapon, or a failed fusion test, where the fusion secondary failed to ignite.

Comment Do these guys understand public infrastructure? (Score 4, Insightful) 107

This sounded like a fine idea until they mentioned USB ports. Those suckers are gonna be full of gum, or worse, in 60 seconds. The fact that they're even trying to provide USB charging makes me worry that they totally don't understand how to protect public hardware from vandalism.

If somebody taking a fire axe to your touchscreen isn't part of your interface design document, you don't know what you're doing.

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