Saturday, September 13, 2003
Tuesday Morning Quarterback has been running at a different location since it ceased on Slate. Why was I not informed.... Tasty.
"BIOSPHERE-2: ANYONE LOOKING FOR A REAL CONVERSATION PIECE?
Biosphere-2, the $200M dream house of oil billionaire Edward P.
Bass, was built as an experiment to see if a self-sustaining
human colony could be built on Mars as a refuge from the unruly
masses on Earth. Alas, a Garden of Eden it was not, although
ants and morning glories have reportedly thrived. Bass turned
Biosphere-2 over to Columbia University to convert into a
legitimate science project. Columbia soon tired of it (WN 24 Jun
03), and DOE was approached next. Sadly, the rather neat idea of
climate change research in a terrarium never quite caught on.
Bass, who might have been getting a little testy by then, sued
Columbia claiming they had let the property run down. Last week,
Columbia and Bass reached an undisclosed settlement, so once
again the owner is looking for a new tenant. Anyone interested
in acquiring a place with lots of windows and an indoor ocean,
should contact Decisions Investment Corporation."
On the other hand, for a mere £90, a desktop model is available from iwantoneofthose.com. Sure, it supports only limited life, but is quite cool:
"The spheres contain freshwater amphipod shrimp (Opae'ula), algae and micro-algae and typically have a lifespan of 3-5 years, but have been known to live for as long as 12 years. Now you can keep a part of the planet as perfect as it should be."
"What's wrong with the world, mama
People livin' like they ain't got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma
Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin'
In the USA, the big CIA"
The CIA are terrorists? This may be chatting about various cold war stuff, in which case we're in well charted regions of politics, fine, let it slide. But the context makes me feel much more suspicious that we're talking crack epidemic/September 11th/Oklahoma conspiracy theories
"The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK
It just ain't the same, always unchanged
New days are strange, is the world insane
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don't belong
Nations droppin' bombs
Chemical gasses fillin' lungs of little ones"
Other than tear gasses etc, which can be dangerous but which don't come from bombs normally and aren't intended to be fatal, what chemicals have been used as weapons recently? (I include Russian use of sleeping gas). Last use of chemical weapons I know of by a nation state was by Iraq, over a decade ago...
"With the ongoin' sufferin' as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin' really gone
So I could ask myself really what is goin' wrong
In this world that we livin' in people keep on givin'
Makin' wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin' each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin' on but the reason's undercover
The truth is kept secret, it's swept under the rug...."
Did I mention conspiracy theories?
There's other stuff in there too that seems a little suspicious. But it strikes me that odd facts and at least hints at conspiracy theories are on the play list at Radio 1 (and I think high in the charts, though the catchiness of the tune may be a factor there....)
However, a couple of potential memes that the Economist describes as "nuggets of common and conservation sense [that] beg to be quoted" strike me as being of limited real usefulness. Original quotes in italics, potential parallel arguments in bold:
“As a scientist, I am dismayed by the common tactic of pleading scientific uncertainty as an excuse for inaction;”
"As a scientist, I am dismayed by the common tactic of pleading scientific uncertainty as an excuse for action"
“Foregoing the opportunity to make money is not the same as losing money.”
"Foregoing the opportunity to find a cure for cancer from a rainforest plant is not the same as losing a cure for cancer"
There's not exact parallelism between the two, but basically an indication that we should try to consider cases... One of the crucial disputes about the greenhouse effect runs:
1) The environmental impact of the greenhouse effect is highly uncertain (with a few doubting much effect at all)
2) The costs associated with the effect are therefore uncertain
3) Should we a) spend lots of money to avoid potentially small costs, or b) not spend lots of money, risking very large costs
And the answer to what is an appropriate strategy surely depends partly on a serious analysis of what the costs are of various strategies, and whether we'll have the chance to spend moderately more, if things are going badly, to improve things. I.e. - spending money now is in part insurance, in part maintenance spend. The right level of spending depends on what the risks are you're exposed to, and how much it would cost to patch things up later.
Similarly, the balance between gaining "cash" welfare now, vs some potential future benefits of other types, depends on how valuable you think the benefits are, how else they could be achieved, etc. So, for example, I think future availability of cod (indeed, greater availability from a much larger stock) would justify forgoing modest present catches. I can also be persuaded that there are enough biologically active compounds out there that biodiversity should be maintained.
However, evidence of massive success of fish sanctuaries, or geographically limited "park" areas in maintaining breeding populations or diversity could significantly shift my stance on the right level of exploitation of the rest of the resources.
So - quotable, but trite....
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Sunday, September 07, 2003
"Phase n: before the ink on our Nobel Prize certificates if dry, we will confiscate the property of our competitors, including anyone foolish enough to have invest4ed in their pathetic companies. We will sell all of these people into slavery. All proceeds will be redistributed among our shareholders, who will hardly notice, since Spreadsheet 265 demonstrates that, by this time, the company will be larger than the British Empire at its zenith."