Friday, December 28, 2007

Distorting The Pope's Words:
Fox News, Daily Mail and Drudge Claim Pope Condemns Scientists as the "Prophets of Doom"

There are probably over a billion people out there that would hope that if one person on the planet that could be exempt from the often slanderous and distorting hands of sensationalist reporters it would be the holiest of holies, the Pope. However, that assumption has just been proved wrong. Earlier this month the Vatican released a transcript of a speech given by Pope Benedict XVI. Following the Pope's address The Daily Mail ran the rather sensationalist headline "The Pope condemns the climate change prophets of doom." The Daily Mail described the Pope's speech as:
a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology. The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.
This was picked up by the Drudge Report, Fox News, the Heartland Institute and several other media outlets that seem to cater to industry friendly figureheads. Naturally this created garboil for some and motivated others into a tempestuous uprising. PZ Myers Ph.D. runs a highly visited science/politics/evolution blog named Pharyngula that bears the self descriptive motif "random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal" and seems to take great pride in comparing the Pope to lizards. He of course reacted with a rather predictable backlash:
IRONY OVERLOAD! The pope opened his mouth again. let us be uninhibited by ideological pressure and throw the words of that pretentious old man in the trash.
There were even those that used this as an excuse to call the Pope "a nazi, who is pro child molestor." So what did the pope say? Well among other things he said (emphasis mine):
We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. ... Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow.
Clearly something is amiss here. This is something most of the climate consensus supporters find perfectly reasonable. Nature, a top of the line peer-review scientific journal that also runs a news column, printed an article titled "Wise words from the Vatican" which described the Pope's statement as "simply the one that any reasonable person would make."

So how did The Daily Mail find enough ammo to support their position? Well maybe it has to do with the following quote from the Pope:
It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.
The only way I can possibly read this as critical of the "prophets of doom", which doesn't appear in the popes speech, is if he looked at the skeptics while saying "experts and people of wisdom" and stared at everyone on this massive list while saying "ideological pressure". As far as I can tell that simply did not happen.

While high profile organizations like drudge and highly visited "godless liberal" blogs like Pharyngula took The Daily Mail's demonizing report hook line and sinker other outlets like the liberal Daily Kos and Deltoid's Tim Lambert actually took the time to read the Pope's words.

Tim Lambert concluded that Simon Caldwell, the author of the inflammatory and possibly defamatory Daily Mail article, is a "liar". Pericles, who writes for Daily Kos, ended his analysis by giving a few very wise words of wisdom:
So here's the moral of my story: When the media tells you that somebody said something surprising, don't react, check. Your first response shouldn't be: "How can he say that!" It should be: "Did he really say that?" Very often the answer will be No
This is something that cannot be said enough. Meanwhile the New York Times, despite being part of the "elite media", seems confused. One of their staff-editors ended a column with:
Is the Pope really a righteous skeptic? Or, per what the Mail has to .... is he trying to head off the green fundies at the pass?”
This whole ordeal, from the "prophets of doom" to throwing the Pope "in the trash", reminds me of some words of wisdom I read a few days ago:
Talent is way over-rated.
Insults get results -- and pay the electric bill.
Just ask Ann Coulter.
In conclusion the largest and most "elite" media outlets (NYT's, Fox News, Daily Mail, Drudge) and blogs (Pharyngula) all performed very poorly and deserve nothing less than an opprobrium. On other hand the smaller media outlets (Nature) and blogs (Deltoid, Pericles from Daily Kos) performed admirably. Mistakes happen and everyone deserves grace of all the people that reported. However, this is just one more day where I find the quality of writing is inversely proportional to the number of people that read it.

After reviewing over a 100 hits on this topic (the vast majority were blogs) it turns out that Christian Science Monitor and the Spectator screw up while the Guardian gets it right.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

A 300 MPG Car Laughs In the Face of Rising Oil Prices

The above car from Aptera is so aerodynamic that it has the same profile of the average windshield wiper. This allows the car to travel 120 miles on battery power alone or get 300 miles per gallon when the plug-in hybrid is running on petroleum. There is enough storage space to fit 15 bags of groceries, two full-size golf club bags or even a couple of seven foot surf boards. Safety has not been forgotten as Formula 1 technology is used to protect the passengers. Rollover strength exceeds the FMVSS(Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) 216 and the doors also far EXCEED mandated strength requirements for passenger cars. No official top speed has been released but it is supposed to go over 85 mph.

Production begins in late 2008 with a cost of $26,900 for the all electric version and $29,900 for the plug-in hybrid version. Popular Mechanics has a video covering this very unique vehicle.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

R.I.P. Polar Bear Habitat
BORN: 100,000 B.C. - DIED: 2012 A.D.

The above is from NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio which shows the massive ice melt that is occurring at the north pole. Today the AP reported on some history making news:

Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.

"The Arctic is screaming," said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colo.

Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions."

Looks like some animals are going to be going extinct much sooner than we thought. The septics (a term apparently coined by Dr. Connolley for one who spews pure rubbish) have simultaneously launched a Senator Inhofe press release claiming "Warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence." It features an "expert reviewer" from the International Climate Science Coalition which is so new that Google hasn't even indexed it yet. This made-to-order climate coalition contains many of the usual septics like Balling, Ball, Monckton, Sonja A. Boehmer-Christiansen et. al.

More on Inhofe's press release later....

AP, Ominous Arctic Melt Worries Experts Dec 11, 6:48 PM (ET) SETH BORENSTEIN
h/t Desmogblog and Ms. Sparrow.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Massive Breakthrough in LEDs

It looks like LED efficiency just went through the roof. A North Carolina newspaper recently reported.
He said a just-released federal study confirms that the product is the most efficient in the world. It uses 5.8 watts of power, compared with 60 watts for an equally bright incandescent bulb. According to the report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the new fixture uses less than 9 percent of the energy consumed by common bulbs and less than 30 percent of that consumed by fluorescent lights. LLF's best existing product consumes 15 percent of the energy used by an incandescent bulb and 50 percent of that used by fluorescents.
So why is this a big deal? Count the greenbacks:
"The Department of Energy has estimated that LEDs could reduce national energy consumption for lighting by 29% by 2025. That would save U.S. households $125 billion on their electric bills."
The News & Observer , LED Lighting says lamp will be world's most efficient Breakthrough could spur use of LEDs, Frank Norton Nov 28, 2007 12:30 AM

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Judgment Day:
Intelligent Design on Trial

In 2005 a federal court case known as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District made history when it put not only evolution but the definition of science itself on trial. Creationists had relabeled their biblical beliefs as "Intelligent Design" in hopes that the semantics would allow their teachings to slip past the 'separation of church and state' requirements in the Constitution. This episode of NOVA, which is available on DVD, summarizes the conditions that led up to the court case as well as the trial itself in a style that is engaging and remarkably easy to understand. The two hour special details with actual court transcripts the battle between experts from the creationist promoting Discovery Institute think tank and leading evolutionary biologists. Perjury, deceit and misrepresentation of scientific research which is rife in the battle on climate change rears it's ugly head in here as well. Simple arguments such as "evolution is only a theory" are exposed as the deceptions they are. For those that don't know scientists generally consider theories far more robust than individual observations. The theory title in front of evolution does not mean it's any less correct than the general "Theory of Friction" or the general "Theory of Gravity". Other more technical questions like 'Why do humans have 23 chromosomes when their primate ancestors have 24?' This NOVA episode is well made, informative and anything but dull.

For a link to Nova's website on the show:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Trucks Costing Us Billions Per Year?
A Commercial From CSX Boasts Impressive Statistics

A TV commercial from the train company CSX is promoting the "transportation of tomorrow". In this commercial they trumpet their efficiency statistics which are rather impressive:
[Our] Trains can move a ton of freight 423 miles on a single gallon of fuel.
I would be interesting to see under precisely what conditions these statistics hold true and how often this level of efficiency can be maintained. Those nittty gritty details will have to be researched more thoroughly in the future. However, this does make semi trucks look like money pits in comparison. According to Robert Clarke, president of the Truck Manufacturers Association, and the Department of Energy, increasing fuel efficiency of freight trucks 10% from 5.5 mpg to 6.5 mpg would save the US approximately a billion gallons of gas. And all of this could be be obtained by adding aerodynamic skirts, side mirrors, and gap enclosures to semi-trucks:
if every tractor/van semi-trailer combination truck in operation in the US adopted these technologies and improved fuel efficiency by 10%, it would translate into nearly one billion gallons per year of fuel savings. These small improvements collectively could make a huge difference in reducing fuel use.
At $3 a gallon this means that we could save $3 billion dollars a year by simply adding some plastic pieces to the sides of semi-trucks. Now imagine if we switched over to trains which are not only vastly more efficient but have lower equipment and labor costs than semi-trucks. I haven't come across an in depth study on this topic but I would love to know how many billions of dollars would be saved per year. It would seem the number would be incredibly large.


Out For The Count:
I've Been Sick As A Dog

I've been out of commission for a while thanks to this little thing called mononucleosis. If your throat ever gets so bad that you are forced to a liquid diet I suggest that you try drinking the high calorie smoothies on this list. The Bursting Blueberry and Cinnamon-Peach are easy to make (pretty important if you can't stand up for 3 weeks and need someone to feed you) and soothing on the throat. Cepacol with Benzocaine is really good for the throat pain as well. And today, as I'm officially on the recovery, I found out that for $7.99 you apparently can give the gift of rabies to your loved ones. Interesting stuffed doll concept. I think I'm going to buy one for the girlfriend as payback for the mono she gave me.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Most Chiropractors Don't Believe in Vaccines

Although there is overwhelming evidence to show that vaccination is a highly effective method of controlling infectious diseases a significant portion of the chiropractic profession maintains a strongly anti-vaccination bias. There is at least one survey (Table 1. from PDF pictured above) which shows that a whopping 51.3% of chiropractors do not believe vaccines are effective in the prevention of disease. Another survey queried 1% of American chiropractors and found that:
One-third agree that there is no scientific proof that immunization prevents disease, that vaccinations cause more disease than they prevent, and that contracting an infectious disease is safer than immunization.
Clearly something is amiss among the chiropractic schools. But stealing a line from St. Francis of Assisi: " Where there is darkness, light". Two Canadian chiropractors, Jason Busse and Stephen Injeyen, writing in the highly respected journal Pediatrics with microbiologist James Campbell, identified tactics used to oppose and confuse the public about immunization. The playbook sounds much like something used to fight climate change:

1) Doubt the science
2) Question the motives and integrity of the scientists (greed)
3) Magnify the disagreements among scientists, and cite gadflies as authorities (doubt the consensus)
4) Appeal to personal freedoms
5) Claim action will cause more harm than good

and more...

Anyone that doubts the efficacy of vaccines needs to read up on polio. In the summer of 1916, 27,000 people were paralyzed in the US, with 6,000 deaths. All of which were from polio. In 1952 the United States had a polio epidemic with nearly 58,000 cases reported cases, 3,145 deaths and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.[5] Today polio survivors are one of the largest disabled groups in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 10 to 20 million polio survivors worldwide with 254,000 persons living in the United States who had been paralyzed by polio.[6][7] Many of these survivors face new disabilities 15 to 40 years after their original illness, which could leave them using wheelchairs or ventilators for the rest of their lives[6] Polio is one hell of a disease.

In 1955 an injection vaccine was announced to the world and in 1962 an oral (pill) form became available. The two vaccines have eradicated polio from most of the countries in the world[8][9] and reduced the worldwide incidence from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 2000 cases in 2006.[10][11] In 2006 only four countries, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, had active polio outbreaks. The success of the polio vaccine has led the World Health Organization claim that "global polio eradication now hinges on" these four countries.[12]

Unfortunately chiropractors are not the only group of people on the planet that feel threatened by vaccines. Datti Ahmed, the President of the Kano-based Sharia (Islamic Law) Supreme council, which administers Islamic law, claims that the polio "vaccine is part of a United States-led conspiracy to de-populate the developing world."[13] As with all conspiracies, this one does not escape irony. From the Washington Post:
Six countries in the world still have "endemic," or freely circulating, polio virus in their populations. All except Nigeria are in the late stages of eradication campaigns. That country has had 259 cases of paralysis from the disease this year -- nearly 80 percent of the world total.
And on the chiropractor side:
[A] boy whose chiropractor father did not believe in immunization was the first fatal case of childhood diphtheria in the nation that year.
Clearly Hygeia, the goddess of health, does not like chiropractors or even certain Muslims. Of course if you believe the chiropractors "natural cycle" argument then I guess polio is just that disease that mutated so it no longer affected humans. And so the most fit strain of polio will forever live on... somewhere else. And that my friends is what we call evolution. :-p Darwin would be proud of the chiropractors.

  1. Attitudes on immunization: a survey of American chiropractors., J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1994 Nov-Dec;17(9):584-90. PMID: 7884327
  2. Chiropractors and Vaccination: A Historical Perspective, PEDIATRICS Vol. 105 No. 4 April 2000, p. e43
  3. Attitudes and Beliefs toward Routine Vaccination: A Survey of Kansas Chiropractors, S. Holman and S. Nyberg, Department of Physician Assistant, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas 67260, U.S.A.
  4. NLM
  5. Zamula E (1991). "A New Challenge for Former Polio Patients". FDA Consumer 25 (5): 21-5.
  6. After Effects of Polio Can Harm Survivors 40 Years Later. March of Dimes (2001-06-01). Accessed on 2007-10-07.
  7. Frick NM, Bruno RL (1986). "Post-polio sequelae: physiological and psychological overview". Rehabilitation literature 47 (5-6): 106-11. PMID 3749588. Retrieved on 2007-06-04.
  8. Aylward R (2006). "Eradicating polio: today's challenges and tomorrow's legacy". Ann Trop Med Parasitol 100 (5-6): 401-13. PMID 16899145.
  9. Schonberger L, Kaplan J, Kim-Farley R, Moore M, Eddins D, Hatch M (1984). "Control of paralytic poliomyelitis in the United States". Rev. Infect. Dis. 6 Suppl 2: S424-6. PMID 6740085.
  10. "Update on vaccine-derived polioviruses". MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 55 (40): 1093-7 (2006) . PMID 17035927.
  11. Kew O, Sutter R, de Gourville E, Dowdle W, Pallansch M (2005). "Vaccine-derived polioviruses and the endgame strategy for global polio eradication". Annu Rev Microbiol 59: 587-635. PMID 16153180.
  12. BBC, Kano shuns Nigeria polio campaign, Friday, 12 December, 2003, 13:09 GMT
  13. Washington Post, Polio Warning Issued for Travel to Nigeria, David Brown Thursday, July 1, 2004; Page A02
  14. Global polio eradication now hinges on four countries, Polio-free countries seek to protect themselves, World Health Organization, 12 OCTOBER 2006
    Wind Power on the Cheap:

    From Popular Science:

    Frayne’s device, which he calls a Windbelt, is a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between metal coils. Prototypes have generated 40 milliwatts in 10-mph slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines. Frayne envisions the Windbelt costing a few dollars and replacing kerosene lamps in Haitian homes. “Kerosene is smoky and it’s a fire hazard,” says Peter Haas, founder of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, which helps people in developing countries to get environmentally sound access to clean water, sanitation and energy. “If Shawn’s innovation breaks, locals can fix it. If a solar panel breaks, the family is out a panel.”

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Six Degrees:
    "A must read for those who can stomach it"

    "A must read for those who can stomach it" are words recently used by Stephan Rahmstorf Ph.D., a top notch climatologist at Potsdam University and contributor to Recently he wrote a book review in Nature on Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas. Mark Lynas has spent months trawling through thousands of papers on climate change. The culmination of his research is a book of six chapters, each of which discusses the repercussions of every degree Celsius of potential impact for global warming. So if anyone has ever asked you "What is going to happen?" or "What are the consequences?" this is the book. In Rahmstorf's eyes the book is not perfect but it is still a work of exceptional quality:
    His statements are referenced throughout, and, as a palaeoclimatologist, I was familiar with fewer than half of the 500 or so papers he cites. [snip] I have my quibbles with some of Lynas's interpretations and there is the odd error, but such complaints seem petty in view of the overall achievement and importance of this book. [snip] Gloomy as his story sounds, in some cases he may even be too optimistic. [snip] Lynas is a gripping story-teller, making the book infinitely less tedious than the papers it is based on. A must-read for those who can stomach it.
    So if somebody asks you "why should I care?" this is apparently the book to read.

    Nature, Degrees of change, BOOK REVIEWED-Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. by Mark Lynas, Stefan Rahmstorf
    Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Hello and Goodbye Mr. Walrus

    Recently Eli Rabett has reported on the opening of the Northwest Passage, a sea route for ships to travel from Europe to Asia via north of Canada. The Washington Post is reporting that the recent ice melt is unprecedented:
    According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, September sea ice was 39 percent below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000. Sea ice cover is in a downward spiral and may have passed the point of no return, with a possible ice-free Arctic Ocean by summer 2030, senior scientist Mark Serreze said.
    Clearly records are being broken. But one thing that has flown under the radar of most of the climate blogs is *why* this is important to those concerned about climate change.

    #1 Predictions & Rate of Change

    The first reason why this is important is the rate of change:
    Deborah Williams _ who was an Interior Department special assistant for Alaska under former President Bill Clinton, and who is now president of the nonprofit Alaska Conservation Solutions _ said melting of sea ice and its effects on wildlife were never even discussed during her federal service from 1995 to 2000.

    "That's what so breathtaking about this," she said. "This has all happened faster than anyone could have predicted.
    In other words all of the worst case scenario predictions made pre-2000 have underestimated the impacts of Anthropogenic Climate Change. This stands in stark contrast from the "fear monger" name calling coming out of the CFC's-don't-harm-ozone and Exxon funded Heartland Institute.

    #2 Loss of Habitat

    The second reason sea ice melt is important is was reported on yesterday in the Washington Post. Walruses are normally "spread over thousands of miles of sea ice" so they can dive down to eat clams, snails and other bottom dwellers. Floating ice is the perfect hunting ground for walruses as it act like a moving conveyor belt allowing them to rest between dives and catch lots of food. Yet the ice has receded to water deeper than their 630 foot diving range and so their natural habitat has literally disappeared. Now the thousands of walrus have picked Alaska's rocky beaches. The walrus has lost thousands of miles of hunting grounds, a natural conveyor belt of food and are not collected in one tiny spot. Clearly things are going to get rather uncomfortable for the walrus.

    #3 Albedo

    The third, and possibly most important, reason why ice melt is important is the albedo effect. Ice acts like a mirror and shines light back into space. When this ice is gone the ocean will absorb quit a bit more light. The effect is rather strong and during the ice ages the albedo effect was calculated to account for 2/3's of the cooling while CO2 was only 1/3. Melting ice can be a massive positive feedback for global warming.

    Of course climate critics like Lubos Motl are praising this as a "Nature's gift". And so the debate starts to exit a scientific field and starts to enter a moral one.


    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    Sending The Great Dragon Back to Gehenim:
    A Feathered Friend Brings A Gift for Eli

    Apparently Eli Rabbet isn't the only bunny fighting serpents (symbols of deception in the Bible). Ophioneus might have been a suitable metaphor since Eli loves to discuss Ethon, but pious literature from the Anno Domini epoch seemed to fit the situation with far more accuracy than classical antiquity.

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Bugs of the Corn:
    Our Government's Subsidized Killers

    Corn-Ethanol is frequently touted as a solution to our energy problems. As discussed on logical science's main site there are some major problems with this statement and there are many professors and even nobel laureates that claim "it would be better if we just burnt oil." In addition to the long list of complaints with regard to corn-ethanols poor energy economics, lack of scalability and 'worse-than-oil'* CO2 problems there are also massive health concerns. One of these health concerns is the under appreciated killer known as E. Coli.

    E. Coli can cause several intestinal and extra-intestinal infections such as urinary tract infections, meningitis, peritonitis, mastitis, septicemia and Gram-negative pneumonia. According to peer-review research this little bug is a horribly under appreciated and growing problem:
    the pathogenic potential of different groups of E. coli strains for causing intestinal versus extraintestinal disease, and (iv) increasing antimicrobial resistance. In this era in which health news often sensationalizes uncommon infection syndromes or pathogens, the strains of E. coli that cause extraintestinal infection are an increasingly important endemic problem and underappreciated "killers". Billions of health care dollars, millions of work days, and hundreds of thousands of lives are lost each year to extraintestinal infections due to E. coli.
    Clearly E. Coli carries massive economic implications. Michael Pollen, who is a New York Times Magazine writer and Berkeley Professor, wrote a book called The Omnivore's Dilemma. This book has been discussed by NPR as well as several higher ups at the USDA:
    ... a corn fed cow forms a slime covering the rumen which prevents gas from escaping. The treatment is to put a hose down their esophagus to let gas escape. This happens to some, but not all of corn fed cows. A more common problem is liver disease. If the cow eats too much corn in a short period of time, the rumen can become inflamed and ulcerate. Bacteria are able to enter the bloodstream from the rumen to cause a liver abscess. Although now the farmer has to treat the sick cow with antibiotics, it is still more economical to treat disease than offer a grazed diet.
    It would also appear that the E. Coli experts at Lehigh Valley Hospital agree:
    Q: How can I make sure the food I buy is safe?

    A: Cattle that are fed grass instead of grain have less E. coli O157:H7 in their intestines, but most of the beef in supermarkets is from grain-fed cattle.
    To make matters even worse all of this antibiotic usage is literally breeding super bugs. A study of 56 E. Coli strains from 20 years ago and 15 different antibiotics found that every antibiotic was effective against every strain of E.Coli. But times are changing. A recent study found that "All E. coli exhibited resistance to five or more [antibiotics]". Many scientists blame the overusage of antibiotics in agriculture as a major part of the problem. And some scientists are worried that farmyard E.Coli will serve as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes and these genes might be transfered to other bacteria. Another study found that E. coli O157:H7 actually releases more toxins when exposed to antibiotics. The researchers concluded that patients might be at a higher risk of developing the life threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome and kidney failure when treated with antibiotics. So if antibiotics must be used it is more important than ever to have quick acting drugs. Antibiotic resistance will make that feat much more difficult.

    Recently the NYT's reported a 21.7 million pound beef recall due to E. coli O157:H7. While this is certainly a special case it would appear that meat recalls aren't exactly a rare event. A quick search of the web reveals a 25 million pound recall in 1997 and a 19 million pound recall in 2002. Now to make the matter even more complicated it appears that E. Coli in the fecal matter of cows can contaminate crops on farms. The FDA claims the antibiotic resistant E. Coli outbreak in spinach in 2006 has been linked to cattle:
    FDA and the State of California announced October 12 that the test results for certain samples collected during the field investigation of the outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in spinach are positive for E. coli O157:H7. Specifically, samples of cattle feces on one of the implicated ranches tested positive based on matching genetic fingerprints for the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that sickened 204 people
    So why are we feeding cows corn? Giant Miscanthus, a grass that can grow 13 feet high, is much easier and cheaper to grow than corn. It's even been trumpeted as a very promising bio-fuel.

    Funding our nations corn and corn-ethanol industry isn't cheap. The NTU estimates every dollar of ethanol profit costs taxpayers $30 in subsidies. In 2002 congress approved a $190 billion farm-subsidy package with much of it going to corn. If you take away the multi-billion dollar corn-ethanol subsidies and add the costs of E. Coli related health care costs it would be interesting to see if corn could even come close to the economics of grass.

    It's not just scientists that are attacking corn. Senator John McCain had also been on the offensive. Well, that is until it cost him the state of Iowa, a major corn growing state, when he ran against George W. Bush. In November 2003 McCain said:
    "Ethanol is a product that would not exist if Congress didn't create an artificial market for it. No one would be willing to buy it … Yet thanks to agricultural subsidies and ethanol producer subsidies, it is now a very big business - tens of billions of dollars that have enriched a handful of corporate interests - primarily one big corporation, ADM. Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality."
    Using surplus grain and corn cobs to supplement a natural grass diet and balance farming surplus is one thing but spending billions of tax dollars to feed cattle an almost exclusively unnatural diet when many scientists and even politicians claim that it does lots of harm and only benefits a select few is something entirely different. I don't have the time, money or manpower to perform a thorough analysis of this enormously complex situation to arrive at reasonably precise economic impact estimates. And e-mail communication with Berkeley Professor Tad Patzek has informed me that discussion of certain aspects of agriculture is discouraged. A bold claim but nothing worse than the widespread politicization and even blocking of research that has occurred in other fields. Maybe someone with ample resources will produce a Stern style report which will hand reporters more than enough ammo to report on the obvious.

    Grass fed beef is supposed to be much healthier for you for nutritional reasons and many claim that it even tastes better. So maybe your local steak house and the average beef conisour will benefit from a switch to grass as well. But the most important thing is simply managing the high starch diet in a way that reduces the amount of antibiotics needed.

    *Corn ethanols CO2 emissions are highly dependent upon the fuel used for brewing the beer, distillation (natural gas > coal), costs of transporting the corn over distances and many other factors.


    Sunday, September 30, 2007

    Corn Ethanol: The Great Boondoggle

    The auto fuel known as corn-ethanol has been getting lot of press lately so it seemed like a good time as any to open up the main site's ethanol page for comments. The above pic is an abscessed liver of a cow. Their natural diet is supposed to be grass (cellulose). Corn animal feed, a byproduct of the government subsidized corn-ethanol industry, is mostly ground up corn cobs and is high in starch. The cows liver can't handle high levels of the unnatural diet so farmers will often have to use lots of antibiotics just to keep the cows alive. The result is a much lower quality beef than what comes from grass fed cows. When it comes to carbon dioxide and even energy economics many claim ethanol is a loser as well. To understand why the Nobel Laureate Steven Chu says "it would be better if we just burnt oil" please make the jump to our main website.

    Saturday, September 29, 2007


    Ms. Sparrow recently forced Mr. Sparrow to take a trip to northern California. There was supposed to be access to the world wide web. Unfortunately Ms. Sparrow meant business when she said "vacation" and Mr. Sparrow could barely even check his email. Apparently Mrs. Rabett, the wife of the beloved long eared professor Eli Rabett, is much kinder than Ms. Sparrow. Internet withdrawal can be a shockingly large pain in the arse. However, lots of wine did ease the pain. If you get a chance I highly recommend Gundlach Bundschu and Loxton. Their red zins and ports are hard to let go. Also, if you are into waterfalls make sure you visit Yosemite in May and not September.

    Mr. Sparrow is alive and well and will be blogging and documenting the schism between science and politics within the next 24 hours.

    Friday, September 21, 2007

    Alarm Bells Are Ringing Willie

    The who's who of the oil industry have given ominous predictions about oil demand outstripping supply in the near future.

    From the National Petroleum Council:
    The findings suggest that, far from being temporary, high energy prices are likely for decades to come. "It is a hard truth that the global supply of oil and natural gas from the conventional sources relied upon historically is unlikely to meet projected 50% to 60% growth in demand over the next 25 years," says the draft report, titled "Facing the Hard Truths About Energy."

    "In geoeconomic terms, the biggest impact will come from increasing demand for oil and natural gas from developing countries," said the draft report, a copy of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. "This demand may outpace timely development of new supply sources, thereby pressuring prices to rise."

    The study, which was requested by U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in October 2005, was conducted by the National Petroleum Council, an industry group that advises the secretary.
    MSN MoneyCentral's soothsayer Jim Jubak writes in The oil squeeze has just begun:
    "World will face oil crunch in five years."

    That's not exactly the kind of headline you want to read when crude oil is already at $73 a barrel. When things are this bad -- crude prices are up 12% in the past two months as of July 12 -- you don't want to hear that they're going to get worse.

    Yet that's exactly what consumers -- and investors -- should expect, the International Energy Agency said in its latest Medium-Term Oil Market Report, issued July 9. The market for oil will get even tighter over the next five years. (And in case you're looking for a way out, natural-gas markets may be even tighter.)
    In the IEA's July 2007 Medium-Term Oil Market Report (available via the WSJ), they reach the conclusion of Peak Lite:
    Despite four years of high oil prices, this report sees increasing market tightness beyond 2010, with OPEC spare capacity declining to minimal levels by 2012. A stronger demand outlook, together with project slippage and geopolitical problems has led to downward revisions of OPEC spare capacity by 2 mb/d in 2009. Despite an increase in biofuels production and a bunching of supply projects over the next few years, OPEC spare capacity is expected to remain relatively constrained before 2009 when slowing upstream capacity growth and accelerating non-OECD demand once more pull it down to uncomfortably low levels.
    Now the former chairman of Shell has come out with harsh words of his own:

    Oil industry 'sleepwalking into crisis'

    Lord Oxburgh, the former chairman of Shell, has issued a stark warning that the price of oil could hit $150 per barrel, with oil production peaking within the next 20 years.

    He accused the industry of having its head "in the sand" about the depletion of supplies, and warned: "We may be sleepwalking into a problem which is actually going to be very serious and it may be too late to do anything about it by the time we are fully aware."

    The Independent, Oil industry 'sleepwalking into crisis', David Strahan and Andrew Murray-Watson, 17 September 2007, US Petroleum Industry Draft Sees Energy Demand Soaring, Bhushan Bahree, Monday, July 16, 2007
    MSN Money, Jubak's Journal, The oil squeeze has just begun, 7/17/2007 12:01 AM ET

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007
    Pouring Salt On Climate Critics "Contaminated" Wounds

    Over at our sister site we've listed some very strong evidence that heat islands do not impact NASA's surface temperature records. Some of the evidence includes two independent satellite system that show the same temperature trend as the surface stations

    and the observation that most of the warming is occurring at the north pole (far away from major cities).

    One would think that obvious conclusion is that global warming is real and is not a set of false readings caused by urban heat islands.

    Despite this, climate change critics (the word critic does not distinguish between denier and skeptic) Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre have been harshly criticizing the surface record. They've been on a nation wide effort to photograph and critique every surface station in the US. Out of 1,221 surface stations they've already photographed and cataloged 33.09% of them. The stations have been ranked anywhere from class 1 (best) to class 5 which are described as:
    Class 5 (error >= 5C) - Temperature sensor located next to/above an artificial heating source, such a building, roof top, parking lot, or concrete surface."
    Professor Eli Rabett recently pointed out that John V, over at Climate Audit, analyzed the temperature records of the worst stations and the best stations.

    As you can see from the picture above NASA's temperature trend (black) matches closely with both the best (red) and the worst (green) temperature stations. It would appear that even the most "contaminated" stations the climate critics use to refute global warming (whether or not they are actually part of NASA's temperature record) do a surprisingly decent job of reporting temperature trends. Clearly the surface stations are tough little instruments. It is also wise to notice that the best (red) stations match NASA's readings (black) with very high precision.

    So I decided to create to see just how tough these stations are. will be posting pictures of the class 5 surface stations, their USHCN identification number, GHCN identification number and the official critique/description. Each picture will also come with a link to so you can see all of the pictures relevant to that station. will post 10 stations at a time until the original 58 class 5's are all posted. Remember, these are the worst of the worst. Since NASA uses satellite photos to remove stations that are near bright lights I will try and figure out which of these stations (if any) are a part of NASA's official temperature record.

    Station #1:
    28815 TUCSON U OF AZ
    Photo not available

    Station #2
    electronics package within 8" of sensor, asphalt 20'

    For those that can't tell the box in the bottom right is a battery.

    Station #3
    41758 - 72290002
    building/asphalt/vehicles about 3 meters away

    Station #4
    42910 - 72594000
    building/asphalt @ 10 & 5 meters away, tree shading

    Station #5
    43747 - 74702001
    building/asphalt @ 2 meters away large parking lot

    Station #6
    43761 - 72597002
    building/asphalt/vehicles about 2 meters away

    Station #7
    building/asphalt/vehicles about 2 m away, shading

    Station #8
    44713- 74501004
    building 3 meters away, over rock/boat metal tower

    The old location of the sensor:

    And the new location of the sensor (on the tower)

    Station #9
    asphalt about 3 m away, building 10 m

    Station #10
    asphalt 1 m away, buildings with a/c unit 3 m

    Station #11
    building w/ac unit about 3 meters away, asphalt 2 m

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Global Warming Consensus Disproved Again:
    Denial Study Part III

    There is an obvious scientific consensus on climate change that supports the IPCC. Thanks to propaganda tactics outlined in Frank Luntz's famous memo there has been a massive effort by vested industrial and political interests in hopes of falsely convincing the public that no such consensus exists.

    Round I: Benny Peiser

    First there was Benny Peiser who claimed he found 34 abstracts out of 1,247 peer-review journals/abstracts that disagreed with the consensus. One of Peisers most obvious errors was including a paper that promoted carbon sequestration and alternative energy through micro-algae biodiesel as one of his 34 'consensus busting' papers. It took him two years to admit he was 97% wrong.

    Round II: An Illegitimate Journal

    Then there was a survey published in a very small journal edited by none other than Benny Peiser that also rejected the consensus. This journal is not listed in the ISI index's master list of 14,450 peer review journals. A journal that does not make this list is in all probability not a legitimate journal. The surveys credibility was strongly attacked by many scientists that do have publications in top journals.

    Round III: A Study of Misrepresentation

    Now there is a study produced by the Exxon Mobil funded Hudson Institute. WorldNetDaily is touting this as proof that "500 scientists refute global warming dangers". So I downloaded the PDF of the study and took a quick scan of who these 500 scientists were. A few familiar names popped up. The first of which is the weather channels Heidi Cullen from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO). She is listed as publishing skeptical material which is kind of peculiar since she made newspaper headlines for chastising skeptics on her blog:
    “If a meteorologist has an American Meteorological Society Seal of Approval which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming . . . . If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn’t agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It’s like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise . . . It’s not a political statement . . . it’s just an incorrect statement.”

    Obviously there are some pretty major flaws with the Hudson's consensus debunking study. Despite this, I kept on scanning the document. Apparently almost half of the contributors to are skeptics:
    Gavin A. Schmidt, University of Virginia
    Michael E. Mann, University of Massachusetts
    Thibeault De Garidel-Thoron, Rutgers University
    Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany
    The Hudson Institute did have a curious disclaimer though:
    The List of More Than 500 Scientists Documenting Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares**
    **Citation of the work of the following scientists does not imply that they necessarily support our conclusions.
    At this point I'm literally left speechless. This report is claiming that some of the ardent supporters of the consensus on climate change are publishing consensus debunking work. This is a blatant attempt to confuse and take advantage of the layman with highly technical gobbledy-gook. The fact that something this ridiculous has the name of one of Ronald Reagan's advisers on it makes it all the more bizarre.

    Hudson Institute,Press Release: Analysis Finds Hundreds of Scientists Have Published Evidence Countering Man-Made Global Warming Fears

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    NYT's Trumpets Bjørn Lomborg

    A little background first. Bjørn Lomborg wrote an extremely controversial book called The Skeptical Environmentalist. This book launched a firestorm of controversy with the vast majority of mainstream scientists criticizing Lomborg. An editorial in the prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature described Lomborgs work as 'employs the strategy of those who argue that... Jews weren't singled out by the Nazis'. And National Academy of Science member Norman Myers said Lomborg had not done "a fraction of the homework that could give him a preliminary understanding of the science in question." Scientific American has a 12 page article titled "Misleading Math about the Earth" dedicated solely to debunking his book. Clearly Bjørn Lomborg is not a mainstream scientist. Recently the New York Times had two pieces on him. How did the NYT's author John Tierney science columnist and blogger describe him?
    Dr. Lomborg believes in global warming but isn’t a zealot — he doesn’t refer to scientists who question the climate models as “denialists,” as if there were some revealed dogma about future climate. [snip] The lesson from our expedition is not that global warming is a trivial problem. Although Dr. Lomborg believes its dangers have been hyped...
    In both of NYT's pieces on Lomborg a book is mentioned. The title:
    Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
    That name has been used before. A quick look at Amazon shows that it's first review is none other than climate change critic and fiction author Michael Crichton. He of course gives the book a glowing review. However, the Washington Post's editorial review is in stark contrast of Crichton:
    In one case after another, Lomborg asserts, it's cheaper and better to do nothing immediately to combat climate change, but instead to invest in other things.

    The deepest flaw in Cool It is its failure to take into account the full range of future climate possibilities. The computer models project outcomes ranging from mild, which he acknowledges, to truly catastrophic, which he ignores. While the chances of catastrophic climate change may still be small, they are increasing: By comparing real world data with the 2001 IPCC projections, researchers have shown that the sea is rising more swiftly than even the worst case scenarios in the projections.

    Lomborg's mantra is the supposedly high costs of dealing with climate change. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is a detailed analysis of those costs, commissioned by the UK Treasury and reported to the prime minister. Stern, a senior government economist, argues that it's much cheaper to combat climate change than to live with the consequences.
    It would appear that the NYT's needs a new science columnist. If there is one thing that the NYT's columnist is good at is realizing what he his. This is from John Tierney's bio:
    John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through.
    That certainly seems to describe this situation rather nicely. In full disclosure this post does not intend to criticize Lomborg's solutions. This post is merely pointing out that the logic and supporting statistics used by Lomborg is clearly in conflict with statements given by numerous leading scientists and institutions. The NYT's columnist did not do an adequate job of informing their readers just how controversial Lomborg is.

    Update: In the "Further Reading" box of links one, and only one, article Lomborg is cited. This article is also devoid of harsh statements made by Lomborg.

    Update II:
    The WSJ editorial board member Kimberly Strassel reviews his book in a similar manner:
    On the other side are those who don't think that the Earth is warming; and even if it is, they don't think that man is causing it; and even if man is to blame, it isn't clear that global warming is bad; and even if it is, efforts to fix it will cost too much and may, in the end, do more harm than good. Standing in the practical middle is Bjorn Lomborg, the free-thinking Dane who, in "The Skeptical Environmentalist" (2001), challenged the belief that the environment is going to pieces.
    Let it be known that the editorial board of the WSJ has avoided invitations from Scientific American to have a simple sit down with the worlds top scientists and learn the material.

    NYT's, Findings, ‘Feel Good’ vs. ‘Do Good’ on Climate, JOHN TIERNEY, Published: September 11, 2007
    NYT's, Tierney Lab, A Cool Look at Global Warming: Your Turn to Take On Bjorn Lomborg, John Tierney, September 10, 2007
    The New York Times, SCIENTIST AT WORK/Bjorn Lomborg; From an Unlikely Quarter, Eco-Optimism, NICHOLAS WADE, August 7, 2001