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Comment Re:Nobody mentioned it to me. (Score 1) 403

The meteorology survey course I took back then pretty much blamed water for everything - including the greenhouse effect - and was far more interested in soot and dirt seeding clouds than anything else with carbon in it.

That's still true isn't it? But water increases the earth surface temperature with about 30 degrees C and the first decent one dimensional model (Manabe) gave an additional 2 degrees when CO2 is doubled. That means we have a significant impact. One can argue that the modern climate models don't offer much extra predictive power over the original model, but the original model offers a stark warning.

Comment Re:How to end all arguments (Score 2) 403

It always depends on how you compare. "All other things remaining equal" is one of the ways one can compare. It's valid but one has to be careful about conclusions because the other things are not remaining equal.

CO2 has a large impact on plants in arid regions because plants have to sacrifice a lot of water in order to get the CO2, and when there's more CO2 in the air the plants lose much less water. See for instance here

When water is not scarce most plants benefit from the extra CO2 but there are plants with an enhanced carbon metabolism that are more efficient at capturing CO2 and they don't benefit from rising concentrations: corn, sorghum, sugar cane , a range of tropical grasses.

Comment Re:Batteries and Buffers (Score 4, Interesting) 146

You underestimate the value of boring solutions. There's always this hope that high tech is going to save us but if you want to reduce the carbon footprint, the best place to start would probably be to isolate the house as much as possible and get a high yield gas furnace. And get a small low power car instead of a big one. These are boring low tech solutions but they make a large difference. It's hard to find hightech solutions with the same impact.

Comment Batteries and Buffers (Score 0) 146

Batteries have always had energy densities that were orders of magnitude less than fossil fuels. I would fully agree that having high density energy storage is hugely important and especially so with renewable energy sources because they're so variable. But somehow people always look at the energy sources and not at the buffers.

The gap for batteries is so large though that I doubt claims that we'll be moving to a situation where most cars are electric.

The most interesting buffer I can think of is dams. Using solar power or wind power to pump up water. And at some point a hot bath: solar power heats a liquid that goes into a large reservoir, and then electricity is generated around the clock from the reservoir.

Electric cars are more an upper middle class thing.

Comment Re:So basically (Score 1) 684

Or maybe Mars is not yet a stepping stone, more a cool challenge? It wouldn't be so much for the science. The science can be done in unmanned missions.
  There are people willing to go there even if they won't survive very long.
  I think the idea that we're trying to colonize the planet is a bit of a straw man. A first attempt at an outpost that will probably fail after a while, is there support for that? I think there is.

Comment The Tree of Life can't Handle Open Source (Score 2) 72

Just the odd observation, but the treelike organisation is suitable for well defined species, in other words when lifeforms act pretty much according to closed source strategies (but not completely). According to some smart people in the beginning the dominant organisation was open source, lots of exchange.

The open source thing still happens of course, and it's fascinating when it happens. It gets the news sometimes when the subject is Influenza.
There was an important article almost 50 years ago (Symbiogenesis, see Lynn Margulis) stating that some components of the eukaryotic cell have actually been imported from prokaryotes: mitochondria and organelles.

Comment Re:About over-reactive police state, not genius (Score 1) 662

It would be a good idea to reintroduce the pillory for this and put all those involved in there for a few days. Teachers and police. It would send a clear message that mistakes like that aren't just understandable overreaction but are in fact despicable behaviour that should not be tolerated.

Oh wait, we all think it's understandable overreaction that sort of got out of hand! Damn. My bad.Wrong planet. Or wrong country.

Comment Re:Stupid people are stupid (Score 2) 956

Well, the initial reaction is not the only issue, but it is also an issue and it's related to the other issue. There is something seriously wrong if a kid brings a device to school declaring it a watch, and a teacher thinks it's a terrorist with a bomb. And it only gets worse after that.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye