Saturday, June 09, 2012

Spending a little time in the finest tower of Babel yet erected ...

(Above: real scientists, doing real observations, story here. Where's Christopher Pearson and the Latin mass and Cardinal Pell in this shot?)

Numbers are inclined to be symbolic.

It really doesn't make much difference between turning 29 or 31, but 30 has that nicely rounded feel that makes it different. Ditto 40, 50, 60 and 70, and for some peculiar reason 21. A kind of golden guinea number ...

Perhaps that's why some largely symbolic news has largely passed unnoticed in the Australian media.

During the month of April for the first time carbon dioxide exceeded over 400 ppm in the atmosphere throughout the Arctic.

The usual suspects noted it much as you might notice a birthday or an anniversary, with a glum air of predictability - not the fortieth already - and so in the New Scientist you could read Carbon dioxide levels reach a new milestone.

Anyway it's a northern hemisphere anniversary, in much the same way that news that to date 2012 has been the warmest year the United States has ever seen since record-keeping began in 1895. (tell us about it Calgary Herald, proudly Calgary since 1883, in Climate change: warmest U.S. spring on record, says NOAA).

Well there was one southern hemisphere rag that paid attention. Who'd have thunk that the Antarctic has its own paper, The Antarctic Sun, bringing the world news about the USAP, the Ice and the People?

In an email to The Antarctic Sun, (Jim) Butler (NOAA Boulder Colo) said the South Pole observatory would likely reach 400 ppm in about five or six more years. It currently records about 390 ppm.
“In seven years, you can figure we will have seen the last CO2 value in the atmosphere [below 400 ppm] for a very, very, very long time. And that last value likely will come from South Pole,” Butler said.
The lag between the two remote locations is due to atmospheric circulation patterns, as well as the fact that the Northern Hemisphere accounts for more than 90 percent of the CO2 in the air, according to Butler.
“We’ll be having [more] press releases, as this disturbing milestone works its way south and higher in significance,” he said. (Going Up CO2 hits 400 ppm in Arctic, with Antarctic not lagging too far behind).

Ah that'd just be to inform real scientists on the ground in faraway locations performing real observations, as we say farewell to that other long ago milestone, 350 ppm.

Of course the pond much prefers the views of that eminent scientist Bob Katter:

"I mean, if you could imagine 20 or 30 crocodiles up there on the roof, and if all that roof was illumination, and saying that we wouldn't see anything in this room because of a few croco-roaches up there", he continued, "are you telling me seriously that the world is going to warm because there's 400 parts per million of CO2 up there?" (thanks Bob Katter's wiki here).

Stay calm, rest assured Bob's in charge of the science.

Well after that, a little googling led to one thing after another, including Bill McKibben railing at denialists like the Heartland Institute and Lord Monckton in The climate change deniers: influence out of all proportion to science.

And then following a link provided by McKibben, the pond ended up discovering that climate-denying Republican Senator Jim Inhofe frequently cited Lubos Motl, a Czech climate science-deying theoretical physicist (here), who didn't just agree with Anders Breivik's views that environmentalism and global warming aren't bout the climate but about a new world order, but also thought he might have a higher IQ than the average terrorist because he's right-wing:

Apparently ultrapolite right-wing people may also build their anger and do some shockingly horrifying things. And they may even be more efficient while killing - and the probable reason is that Breivik (or his potential counterparts) may have a higher IQ than your garden variety left-wing or Islamic terrorist. (here)

Indeed. It's not just sex and Bettina Arndt that can be turned into an ideological gulf in the style of a Janet Albrechtsen, you can even do it to the sociopaths in our midst. If you want to become an efficient sociopath, get some right wing views. That means you're smarter and a cleverer killer.

How Stalin would have thought about this, since he did way better than Hitler in terms of body count, must remain a matter of speculation.

This is where a mis-spent night googling and hopping can lead you. Down the rabbit hole with Alice.

Two conclusions. Every so often the pond pauses to marvel at the immensity, diversity and infinite variety of information now available on the interubes, in just a couple of decades. It's possible to hop from the Antarctic to London to Calgary to a loony Czech in just a few keystrokes or clicks. It always astonishes and delights, has done ever since the first few moments gazing at Compuserve at thirty bucks an hour back in the early nineteen nineties.

The downside? It took the long absent god a couple of thousand years to perfect the Tower of Babel, but finally it's landed.

As for Motl, is it any coincidence that Sheldon Cooper, the fictional character in The Big Bang Theory, is a theoretical physicist at Caltech? Right about everything, but also infinitely wrong about everything ...

Stephen Hawking: You made an arithmetic mistake on page two. It was quite a boner.
Sheldon: No, no ... that can't be right. I-I don't make arithmetic mistakes.
Stephen Hawking: Are you saying I do?
Sheldon: Oh, no, no, no, of course not. It's just, I was thinking.... Oh, gosh, golly, I made a boo-boo and I gave it to Stephen Hawking.
Stephen Hawking: Great, another fainter. (season five, ep 21, and more here).

Yes, Motl has made a posting about that very topic. You can read it in Sheldon Cooper's revenge to Stephen Hawking: Hawking made a boo boo. Oh really, it's just too much. You couldn't lard out the irony with a ladle ...

Meanwhile the world was astonished - I mean truly astonished, perhaps even gob-smacked - when Jim Parsons, who plays Cooper, revealed he's gay and has been in a long standing relationship for ten years. Who'd have guessed, and why on earth should it matter?

Ten years. Now that's a nicely symbolic figure ...

Well here's hoping that it all means something, and that the sceptics and denialists - so certain in their faith - are right, because at certain moments it seems to the pond that the blather about Europe's financial situation is going to be very small beer up against more dramatic events coming on down the track.

Never mind, the science is in the very best of hands. Bob Katter has spoken, and it seems onetime greener than greenie Brisbane mayor Campbell Newman, turned drier than dry Queensland Premier, is now safely in the denialist camp. (Newman can do climate science denial).

Oh okay, time for another confession. The pond is jaded. It's such a big world out there, way too big to spend time with provincial, parochial types like Christopher Pearson in The Australian, dreaming of armageddon, and the rapture, and revenge, and the forthcoming arrival and elevation of Tony "climate change science is crap" Abbott to the premier political position in the land.

When he's not indulging in the Latin mass, along with Cardinal Pell, Pearson is also a denialist. But just the splash copy defeated the pond, because, well because Labor backbenchers don't go door-knocking until election campaigns have begun, and by then, it'll be too late. The pond counts on Albo - admittedly a front bencher - sending a note for money once a year ...

What a goose Pearson is, with his yearning for doorknocking to begin right this instant, but how indicative of the impatience of the Abbott camp, which is to seize power, however ungraciously, and with rampant negativity, and so electioneering must begin forthwith - as if each week a hostile poll didn't arrive to put nervous nelly backbenchers on notice.

As for climate science? Well that's off in the never-never land of Catholic dreaming ... perhaps the third coming (Abbott having claimed second place) will intervene.

No doubt the rest of Pearson's column is just like the splash, an exercise in oneiric onanism, but the siren sounds of other songs call out to the pond.

Why you can read in The Christian Science Monitor - a rag derived from the absurd hokum and nostrums of Mary Baker Eddy more news of the Arctic in Bizarre Arctic discovery baffles NASA scientists. Surely this is a better use of time compared to wasting a nanosecond on the blithering hagiographic Pearson?

And how about the climate wars currently festering on the pages of the Montreal Gazette, which erupted again a few days ago in Climate change deniers blinded by political ideology?

Meanwhile, The Australian is back in the culture wars with the ABC, and "an exclusive", scribbled by Dennis "the tie" Shanahan which contends that the source used by the ABC in relation to its recent Four Corners people smuggling program is "unreliable". You can avoid the paywall by googling:

The ABC's prime source on allegations of people-smugglers operating within Australia is being discredited as a former Australian Federal Police informer and agent who was taken off the federal police books because he was "unreliable" and got things wrong "most of the time".

If he was so unreliable, why did Ali al-Abassi - Captain Emad to you - scarper? Do unreliable sources make innocents head for the hills?

Or is it just another case of sour grapes from the Murdoch press wanting to dress up a snarky 'exclusive' after having missed the original scoop?

Here's a suggestion. How about an "exclusive" story about 400 ppm in the Arctic, in a big front page splash?

In your oneiric onanistic dreams and there you go, the choice is yours.

Intrepid parochialism, Murdoch press style, or international cosmopolitan globe-trotting courtesy the intertubes.

Roll on the NBN - before Abbott and myrmidon Murdochians stop it reaching the pond - and let the world keep flooding in ...

Oops, let's not take "flooding" too literally or symbolically ...

(Below: feeling relaxed? Found here).

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