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« postmodern prometheus | Main | physicists behaving badly »


You may well have convinced me to check out the movie. Although during the viewing I no doubt will repeatedly be thinking "manbearpig", thanks to a recent South Park episode.

"...Otherwise we'll have another Alan Sokol scandal on our hands."

That should be S-O-K-A-L, of course.


The Human Spell-Checker

If human beings are indeed an animal just like all the rest then the global warming caused by humanity is a very natural process. We're just setting the stage for the next wave of evolutionary super beings.

great post! Similarly and unfortunately the NY Times wrote an article yesterday (or was it the day before---senior moment) that gave the film a loud yawn...

I like your Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle reference; I too recently gave an article a philosophical spin based upon this conundrum.

Great site!!

Interesting article on the movie here:

A good article, Ms. Ouellette.

That NYT article by noted Brookings Institute fellow and all-around Conservative Dude Gregg Easterbrook was interesting to me, in that if former global warming skeptics like GE are taking their cue from the mounting physical evidence *and* the Conservatives/Republican Party that There May Be Something to this Gloabl Warming Stuff, maybe *now* we can have a converstion about What to Do Next.

On the other hand, Easterbrook may stil be a bit disoriented by the fact that the Houston Texans passed on raking Reggie Bush first in the NFL draft (he writes what I consider to be the best NFL blog/analysis anywhere - Tuesday Morning Quarterback - though it's moved off of and I don't know where it will end up next season.).

"manbearpig", that was a good one.


I should have added that if What to Do Next means taking The President's suggestion to develop an alcohol dependency (not really a surprise, when you think about it), I think we need to plan some sort of an intervention sooner rather than later.


I haven't seen An Inconvenient Truth, but David Attenborough has a two-part program on BBC1 about global warming. It may be easy to get political all over Al Gore, but I'd like to see anyone listen to one of the greatest explainers on earth and not come away at least a little uneasy.

An important question that governments should consider; How many of the world's capital cities are at or near sea level?
Let's see . . . Washington, London, Paris, Rio, Dubai . . . Can anyone add to the list? Then add all the really imoprtant cities you can think of. Cross New Orleans off, because that's already had it's catastrophe. Add New York, Sydney, Boston, any city in Florida, Liverpool, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Amsterdam (well, the Netherlands, really) . . .

Is anyone getting worried about the rising tides?

Not sure if Venice counts as an important city, but I'm sure that the ruthlessly efficient Italian government is planning for the worst.

Speaking of New Orleans, I don't think you can cross that one off the list. I doubt that just because they've had a catastrophe that the city is immune from another, or a sea level rise of a meter or two. Or more.

I built my house on top of a hill, in the foothills of the Catoctin mountains. Plenty of wind for generating electricity in a pinch, and a few hundred feet above sea level. As much as I love DC (my hometown and where I choose to work), I did think about the future when planning where I'd live out the 21st century. Well, as much of it as I'm going to live out, anyway.


Venice has been sinking for decades, actually, if not longer -- the city has been dealing with its own slow-moving demise for quite some time now. The Venetians certainly consider it an important city. :)

It was a bit of a rant, I'm afraid. Still, I do feel that rising waters will surprise a lot of governments, despite all the warnings. Predictions are that New Orleans's troubles are barely begun; hurricane season may get more intense year by year as average ocean temperatures rise.
And of course Venice is an important city! I visited it when I was a teenager, in the previous warm period between major glaciation, and it was sinking then. And the gondoliers were on strike.
But the restaurants were splendid and it's the best city for strolling in the world.

I'm sure I'm too late on this thread to get anyone's attention, but the underlying ethos of this post is all wrong. It's easy to show, by introspection, that science has nothing to do with enthusiasm for CO2 emission reductions. Perform the following thought experiment:

Scientists discover that because of changes in solar output, the earth's temperature is likely to drop drastically, triggering an Ice Age in the next few years. The best way to avoid this scenario is to burn lots of fossil fuels, cut down forests, get cows to burp more methane, etc., to ramp up the greenhouse effect. This will require cutting gas taxes, driving more, buying SUVs, etc. How many of the green brigades would favor this policy under the circumstances? Answer: zero.

Now, I've doubly loaded the psychological dice by assuming both a) that the source of the problem is not anthropogenic and b) that the cure is more consumption of energy. But you probably don't need both of these conditions to get the same psychological effect. For example, suppose we are talking about solar-induced global warming. How many people would feel the same emotional urgency to do something about it, even if the exact same policies were called for? Answer: zero. It's all about Rousseauean guilt and romanticism.

In my opinion, the idea of a global consensus on the proper temperature of the earth, to be enforced by a coercive international regime, is an impractical and undesirable one regardless of whether climate trends are anthropogenic or not. Husbands and wives can't agree on the thermostat setting in their living rooms--we're supposed to have India and Brazil and France and Russia agree? It is one of the most foolhardy projects imaginable. We would be much better off growing our economies as fast as possible to make adaptation to any changes as easy as possible. (BTW, if we were to try to have a deliberate, political decision to control the climate, the cheapest way [in money and human life] to do it would be to change the planet's albedo with particulates and added sulfur to airplane fuel; cutting back on CO2 is likely an order of magnitude more costly as a policy solution.)

So, let me get this straight: SRP's response to the huge pile of amassed scientific data on climate change collected over decades is -- an abstract thought experiment? How convenient. (Pipes in Jen-Luc: "Talk about a wrong-headed underlying ethos...") As for his hypothetical prescription of "growing out economies as fast as possible to make adaptation to any changes" (regardless of whether such growth is sustainable) -- well, I guess to an economist, who has a single hammer, every problem looks suspiciously like nail. :) But thanks for posting!

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.