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Comment Have you ever heard of "positive feedback loops"? (Score 1) 1657

This seems to be a key point that is obfuscated or ignored by deniers. That there are gigantic sinks of fossil carbon, in addition to the fossil fuels we bring up, that have been sequestered safely under the conditions prevelant during all of human civilization. Many of these are predicted to, or have already begun being released, as global temperatures rise. Positive feedback means the more it happens, the more it will happen, until the system spirals wildly out of control.

Example of this are the permafrost areas at the edge of the Northern polar region, the Methane Clathrates, reversal of the Amazon rain forest from a carbon sink to a source, and the greater absorption of heat from sunlight as melting ice and snow changes Earth's albedo.

And here is what is meant by irreversible--that these feedback loops will accelerate and cause massive disruption in time scales directly relevant to human civilization--i.e. the next few centuries, at least. Deniers like to bring up crap about there having been massive changes in temp all throughout the billions of years of the fossil record, so we should all relax. That is true, but in each case, these changes caused massive dislocation or extinction of the dominant plant and animal species of that time.

We're talking about what happens to this particular race of animals that is here spending its time reading and writing Slashdot postings. It is disingenuous for deniers to claim some lofty halo of wisdom that transcends mere human-centric concerns, especially when, for the most vociferous of them (such as the paid lackeys of Exxon-Mobile), they are more concerned with making a buck in the next fiscal quarter than they are about the concerns of even the humans alive today, much less those not yet born.

Comment Pixel Qi screen -- better than Kindle (Score 3, Insightful) 584

See the Adam device from Notion Ink. It will ship with a Pixel Qi screen that works in reflective mode (like the e-ink screen on a Kindle) in sunlight. However, unlike e-ink, it can also run in full color with normal video-friendly refresh rates, just by turning on the backlight. You get the best of both worlds, including very low power usage when running in reflective mode. On most Pixel Qi devices this switching on and off of the backlight can be done manually or automatically with an ambient light sensor. The Adam device runs Android, rather than a direct Linux OS.

Feds Target "Mongols" Biker Club's Intellectual Property 393

couchslug writes in with a Reuters account of a Federal raid on a California-based motorcycle club, the Mongols, on charges "ranging from murder and robbery to extortion, money laundering, gun trafficking and drug dealing." The interesting twist is that the authorities are asking the courts to seize the IP of the biker club — specifically, their trademarked name "Mongols." "Federal agents and police in seven states arrested more than 60 members of the Mongols motorcycle gang on Tuesday in a sweep that also targeted for the first time an outlaw group's 'intellectual property,' prosecutors said. The arrests cap a three-year undercover investigation in which US agents posed as gang members and their girlfriends to infiltrate the group, even submitting to polygraph tests administered by the bikers ... [T]he name 'Mongols,' which appears on the gang's arm patch insignia, was trademarked by the group. The indictment seeks a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any police officer 'who sees a Mongol wearing this patch ... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back' ..."

Comment Re:Skeptics, what's your program? (Score 0, Troll) 659

I think "vast sums of money in government handouts" is a bit overblown. The entire budget for the U.S. National Institute of Science (NIST) is about $640 million for 2008. According to this summary, about $5 million of that was set aside for "Measurements and Standards for the Climate Change Science Program" (although NASA and NOAA probably spend a lot more). Exxon Mobil alone is making 10 billion dollars of profit (not revenue) every 3 months. Who is getting the "vast sums of money"?
I suspect this fear of environmentalists is mostly just a fear that someone will try to tell you what you should (or should not) do, and you might not like what they say. That is understandable. However, the mentaility of the lone rugged individualist "doin what I want with MY land" has always been a false abstraction even when people were spread thin, as no piece of land exists in isolation from the rest (unless you happen to live in the biosphere project ;-). It is suicidal when applied to a population approaching 7 billion armed with technology, a market-driven mythology of infinite growth, and 10 million gallons a minute of oil equivalent fossil energy (to put this number into perspective, one gallon of gasoline provides usable energy equivalent to about 2 months worth of human physical labor. Thus, every minute, fossil fuels provide the equivalent energy of over 200 billion extra humans working).
And why the hyperbole of "Gaia-worship-by-force"? Most enviromentalists I know are exquisitely practical in their thinking. They see systems in operation that SIMPLY CANNOT BE SUSTAINED OVER TIME and treat this as a problem to be solved. I suspect that you too would acknowledge, if asked in a respectful manner and encouraged to extrapolate things you already observe or believe, that things cannot go on this way much longer. Environmentalists look for workable solutions to this dilemma that can be applied early enough that there is some hope of having an effect before critical natural systems reach a point where they essentially fail to operate. Mostly they want to start by leveling the playing field for alternatives, or by giving them a minor start-up boost to help overcome the inertia of entrenched approaches.
As for Gaia worship, yes, environmentalists frequently look to biological systems for guidance. This is because they are the only systems known that can continue to operate successfully for extended time periods without catastrophic failure. Properly cared for farmland can be (and has been) productive for tens or hundreds of generations WITH NO EXTERNAL INPUTS except for the input of the sun and the natural distribution mechnisms of the water, carbon and other cycles. No technological solution ever devised can come close to doing this (the majority of farming done today is an industrial process for turning petroleum and natural gas into food--see The Omnivore's Dilemma for a good exploration of this).
Again, I ask, what is the program? Because one's personal unease with the consequences being a sprawling race on a fragile lifeboat is no substitute for a workable plan.

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One can search the brain with a microscope and not find the mind, and can search the stars with a telescope and not find God. -- J. Gustav White