Common Sense

…backed up by real math and science, instead of ideology. Thoughts on Kyopenhagen and Climaquiddick from Bjorn Lomborg:

…let’s say we index 1990 global emissions at 100. If there were no Kyoto at all, the 2010 level would have been 142.7.

With full Kyoto implementation, it would have been 133. In fact, the actual outcome of Kyoto is likely to be a 2010 level of 142.2 ― virtually the same as if we had done nothing at all. Given 12 years of continuous talks and praise for Kyoto, this is not much of an accomplishment.

The Kyoto Protocol did not fail because any one nation let the rest of the world down. It failed because making quick, drastic cuts in carbon emissions is extremely expensive.

Whether or not Copenhagen is declared a political victory, that inescapable fact of economic life will once again prevail ― and grand promises will once again go unfulfilled.

Fortunately, reality will still prevail, despite the speechifying and bloviating.

Another Obama Promise With An Expiration Date

What happened to the Space Council?

I find it hard to get worked up about it. As Dwayne notes, the history of the utility of a space council isn’t encouraging. If civil space were important, we wouldn’t need one, and since it isn’t, one can understand why the White House doesn’t want to have one more clamoring voice at the table.

Also, Jeff Foust has a more detailed report of last Monday’s events in Mojave, and a book review of The Extraterrestrial Imperative. Other people have told me that it doesn’t do justice to Ehricke’s work and legacy.

Emily Bazelon’s Problem

Emily Bazelon isn’t aware of the depth of the irony of her piece at Slate, that describes her apathy to space (which she defines as “astronomy”):

The other night, my boys curled up on the couch with my husband and went to the moon. They were enthralled by a grainy video of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 shaky descent onto the pitted lunar sand. “Mom, the Eagle has landed!” they shouted in unison. “Come watch!” I was in the kitchen, reading Elizabeth Weil’s New York Times Magazine story on the perils of trying to improve a companionate marriage.

She and Liz Weil are soulmates. Liz spent many months hanging around Rotary Rocket in the late 1990s (I had dinner with her once in Tehachapi), doing research for a book that was roundly panned by everyone actually involved. For instance, see Tom Brosz’ review. It was quite clear that she had little interest in space herself, but was treating the thing as more of an anthropological expedition — a Diane Fosse “space engineers in the mist” sort of deal. Emily goes on:

I sat down, put the magazine aside, and tried to care about the moon, the planets, the stars, the galaxy. I concentrated on the astronauts and Sputnik and the race with the Soviet Union from JFK to Nixon. But I was interrupted by a stingy voice in my head: Just think what we could do on this planet with all the time and energy we spend trying to reach other ones. I know, I know: It’s anti-science, anti-American, anti-imagination. But I am incorrigibly, constitutionally earthbound. I have never willingly studied a single page of astronomy. My knowledge of the planets begins and ends with My Very Elderly Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Pillows (except, no more P, as Simon has informed me). I relish stories about NASA boondoggles for confirming my suspicion that the agency is a budget sinkhole.

Well, the agency (at least the human spaceflight part of it) is largely a budget sinkhole. We certainly don’t get value commensurate with the costs. It doesn’t have to be, but because most people are, like Emily, not that interested in space, at least as done by NASA, politicians are free to do whatever they want with its budget, so much of it ends up being simple pork. That’s just Public Choice 101. If Emily and others actually cared, perhaps NASA might have to do more useful things with the money.

But her ignorance extends far beyond simple astronomy. For someone who seems to revel in the fact that NASA wastes its money, like much of the public, she is profoundly unaware of how much (or relatively, little) money it actually is:

Simon has been asking for a periscope. He also says that when he grows up, he’s going to be an astronomer and an astronaut. I mentioned biologist as an alternative a few times. But then I stopped. Now I tell him that I can’t wait for him to teach me all about the solar system. Maybe he’ll be a rebel astronomer, and someday reform NASA, or call for an end to manned space missions so that the money can be used to fix Social Security? A mother can dream.

If she thinks that ending human spaceflight would be more than spitting in a hurricane with regard to the Social Security budget, she is innumerate beyond belief. You could either double, or zero, the NASA budget, and either way it would barely be a rounding error in SS, or the rest of the federal budget in general. I wish that more people thought that space was important, and that it was about more than astronomy. I also wish that people would think and care more about how, not whether NASA was spending the money. But as long as they’re so ignorant as to think that NASA, wasteful or not, has anything to do with the deficit, or the failure to solve intractable social problems (we saw an excellent example of this during the presidential campaign, when candidate Obama’s first space policy was written by an education staffer who thought that we could use the NASA budget for more education funding), we’re unlikely to get better space policy, or policy in general.

Hiding The Decline At Google?

I got this email (I’ll keep the emailer anonymous unless (s)he notifies me otherwise):

It’s very disturbing how Google is behaving with regard to Climategate/Climaquiddick. I put both of those in my custom news page. For a while, it steadfastly refused to update Climaquiddick, and then it began to update Climategate only with stories attacking climate change skeptics. I could find many more stories on Yahoo, most of which were alarmed at the fraud which seems to be occurring.

Then when I logged in today, Google News had deleted those two categories from my custom section. When I reestablished them, they brought up only a few of the old, outdated original stories plus a few newer attack stories.

Web searches on Climaquiddick yielded only 72,600 hits on Google and 84,300 on Bing, but 565,000 on Yahoo. None of them will autocomplete the word “Climaquiddick.” They won’t autocomplete “Climategate” either, but Yahoo alone will suggest “climate gate.”

Does everyone in Silicon Valley think that pretending information doesn’t exist will make it so? If so, how much can we trust the technology they produce?

I think that there are going to be huge reverberations of untrust throughout many areas of authority resulting from this. As was pointed out early on, it’s not just a scientific scandal, it’s a journalistic one.

A Trip Down Mammary Lane

Now this is a life-extension treatment that I can really get into:

According to Dr. Karen Weatherby, a gerontologist and author of the study, gawking at women’s breasts is a healthy practice, almost at par with an intense exercise regime, that prolongs the lifespan of a man by five years.

She added, “Just 10 minutes of staring at the charms of a well-endowed female, is roughly equivalent to a 30-minute aerobics work-out.”

I’m pretty sure that it would be hard to OD on it. Though if you do it with the wrong female, it could shorten your life dramatically, I suppose.

Drive-By Morons

The post on the Virgin Galactic rollout problems seems to have attracted some trolls. I just got a comment there, that was held in moderation, from some creature calling itself “Joe PAO” with an email address (probably fake) of “joe@nasa.gov.” But the IP address is from an AT&T account in mid-town Manhattan.

I’m not going to approve it, or repeat it here, because it consisted of nothing but a completely baseless personal attack on me and my journalistic integrity. But it is strange to see which posts bring these cretins out of the woodwork.

Buy Local, Act Evil?

For some reason, this doesn’t totally surprise me:

In an experiment, participants were randomly assigned to select items they wanted to buy in one of two online stores. One store sold predominantly green products, the other mostly conventional items. Then, in a supposedly unrelated game, all of the participants were allocated $6, to share as they saw fit with an anonymous (and unbeknownst to them, imaginary) recipient. Subjects who had chosen items from the green store coughed up less money, on average, than their counterparts. In a second experiment, participants were again assigned to shop in either a green or conventional store. Then they performed a computer task that involved earning small sums of cash. The setup offered the opportunity to cheat and steal with impunity. The eco-shoppers were more likely to do both.

I never fail to be simultaneously amused and disturbed by the hypocritical self righteousness of the same leftists who criticize Christians for the same thing. I also like the way they accuse businessmen, who actually create the wealth in this country, of “greed” while being themselves very generous only with other peoples’ money. Michael Moore is the canonical example of someone who claims to love humanity, but treats actual people like manure.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!