Physicist Richard A. Muller was in the news last year after his Koch-funded study of global climate change concluded that it’s real, surely to the Koch brothers’ dismay. Now he’s penned an op-ed for the New York Times in which he says that his ongoing research has led him to the same conclusion as 99.9% of other experts in the field—that "essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases." Muller’s research shows that the UN and the IPCC actually understate the problem. He researched the climate change causes claimed by non-scientist skeptics (urban heating biases, cherry-picking data, faking data, solar activity, and global population), and found that none of them explained climate change. What did explain it perfectly was atmospheric carbon dioxide. →
We have gone 332 months in which every month has been above the historical average temperature. There hasn’t been a single colder-than-average month since 1985. →
Physicist Richard A. Muller was in the news last year after his Koch-funded study of global climate change concluded that it’s real, surely to the Koch brothers’ dismay. Now he’s penned an on-ed for the New York Times in which he says that his ongoing research has led him to the same conclusion as 99.9% of other experts in the field—that “essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.” Muller’s research shows that the UN and the IPCC actually understate the problem. He researched the climate change causes claimed by non-scientist skeptics (urban heating biases, cherry-picking data, faking data, solar activity, and global population), and found that none of them explained climate change. What did explain it perfectly was atmospheric carbon dioxide. →
It’s been hypothesized that pesticides are the source of the global collapse of bee populations, but there had been no controlled experiments demonstrating correlation. A French government group performed just such an experiment and found that, indeed, colonies exposed to low levels of imidacloprid (a common, Bayer-developed insecticide) failed to thrive. They were 100–200% more likely to die while away from their nests, possibly because imidacloprid damages their ability to navigate back. →
Here’s something I never thought to wonder about: the average height of clouds. From March 2000–February 2010, clouds got 100–130 feet lower. There’s no long-term monitoring, so it’s not clear whether this is part of a larger trend. One theory is that this might be part of a negative feedback loop as the planet responds to global climate change, allowing the surface to release heat into space to counteract warming. →
- BBC News: CO2 climate sensitivity ‘overestimated’
Of all that is very clearly known about global climate change, the one connection that is not well understood is the quantity of climate forcing that results from each unit of CO2. That is, exactly how much additional heat can the atmosphere store for each each ton of CO2 that is added to it? One new study proposes that the existing model might be too pessimistic, basing that on the authors' theory that the last ice age wasn't as cold as has been believed. Their theorized rate of increase is still globally catastrophic, but comparatively speaking, it would be good news. The team's paper is published in Science magazine.
- Wikipedia: Franksgiving
In 1939, President Roosevelt made the annual declaration of a day of Thanksgiving—as had been done such President Washington—but selected the third Thursday in November, rather than the traditional last Thursday. That was at the request of retailers, who didn't want to violate the taboo of starting Christmas sales before Thanksgiving, but were worried that the fourth Thursday would fall too late in the year—November 30—to give them enough sales time. The moved date split the country, both along partisan lines and along state lines. Many states declared Thanksgiving holidays on the third Thursday, some on the fourth. This was repeated in 1940 and 1941, but it was settled by Congress, who officially designed the annual holiday as being the fourth Thursday, as of 1942.
- American Radio Relay League: US Amateurs Now 700,000 Strong!
There are more ham radio operators in the U.S. than ever before. Over 700,000 now. When I got licensed, in the early nineties, there were just under 500,000 licensed operators. I was one of the first people to get a codeless license, meaning that I didn't need to learn CW (aka Morse code); if that new class of license hadn't been established, I couldn't have passed the test. These days, I don't think CW is required for any of the three license classes—Technician, General, and Amateur Extra—which has surely helped this surge in licensing. (Fun fact: Long-time ARRL president Harry Dannals, aka W2HD, is a Charlottesville resident.)
- Science News: Columbus Blamed For Little Ice Age
Here's a fun theory of the origin of the Little Ice Age, lasting from around 1550–1850: that massive losses of New World population, as a result of disease spread by explorers, resulted in reforestation of huge swaths of the Americas, removing billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, decreasing its capacity to hold heat. The theory itself isn't new—it was first proposed six years ago—but this new theory is based on a combination of evidence that CO2 levels dropped then and archeological evidence that charcoal accumulation plummeted during the period, evidence that the smaller populations weren't burning trees to clear land for crops. No doubt the link between exploration and climate would have struck people as impossible at the time. Kind of like how many Republicans will feel about it now.
- LA Times: Dietary supplements linked to higher risk of death in older women
A longitudinal study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that women who take multivitamins regularly die younger than those who do not. Of all of the supplements studied (B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and more), only calcium appeared to lower the risk of death. More and more data show that supplements simply aren't useful, save for to compensate for a shortage resulting from a health problem, and prescribed by a doctor.
- AP: Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax
Republicans are complaining about how 46% of Americans pay no income tax, despite that the fact that half of them make no payments because of income tax cuts that Republicans championed and, in many cases, enacted. (The other half have little to no income, which makes criticism of their lack of payments particularly heartless.) "I'm so angry that my agenda has been enacted!"
- Washington Post: Former US Attorney General John Ashcroft joining security company once known as Blackwater
Good Lord, I'm glad that Bush is no longer president.
- A Computer Scientist in a Business School: An ingenious application of crowdsourcing
After discovering that product sales increase when reviews are well-written, Zappos has been using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to copyedit reviews that are submitted to their site. It's a clever use of Mechanical Turk.
- CBS-19: Dominion Virginia Power Pushes to Increase Rates
The average monthly bill would go up by $12.76. That's a really, really large amount of money. I'd sure like to see the state extract some concessions from Dominion for this. For starters, they should start buying back green, customer-generated power at a rate substantially higher than the rate at which they sell their lousy coal power.
- Guardian: Honeybees ‘entomb’ hives to protect against pesticides, say scientists
Bees are awesome.
- New York Times: More Physicians Say No to Endless Workdays
I'm glad to see that more doctors are ditching the habit of working endless hours. Though I appreciate that a small-town doctor or a specialist has an obligation to always be available, it's great that doctors who have a choice are working 40-hour weeks. The inventor of the residency program wrote of a doctor's obligations: "What about the wife and babies if you have them? Leave them." Enough of that.
- Good: Scientist Beloved by Climate Deniers Pulls Rug Out from Their Argument
A climate change doubter funded by the Koch brothers presented a report to Congress on climate change the other day. He intended to expose existing global temperature data as inaccurate. And, after a bunch of research he discovered that…climatologists are absolutely correct. AWK-ward.
- Discover: Sex, Ys, and Platypuses
Instead of the XY/XX chromosomes that most mammals have, the platypus has a much more complicated sex chromosomes: five pairs instead of one. The male platypus is XYXYXYXYXY. That's the biggest number of sex chromosomes of any vertebrate. Man, platypus is weird. And so are the others.
- Christian Science Monitor: Pepsi bottles—no more plastic
PepsiCo is testing out a plant-based plastic bottle, with the intention of converting all of their bottles from the now-standard polyethylene terephthalate. Coca-Cola says they're doing the same thing. What I'd like to know is whether this material will biodegrade, or if it can be composted. I hope that, at least, it can be recycled, although I'm dubious of municipalities' ability to add a new class of recycling to their systems.
- New York Times: Mormon Politicians Feel Tea Party Heat at Home in Utah
"'On a good day, he’s a socialist,' said Darcy Van Orden, a co-founder of Utah Rising, a clearinghouse group, referring to Mr. Huntsman. 'On a bad day, he’s a communist.'" That's a leader of Utah's radical conservative movement describing Jon Huntsman, the state's former Republican governor.