- Stealing Commodities – Our infrastructure is (unwittingly) built around the assumption that the materials it is composed of are, and will remain, cheap, and not worth the trouble of stealing. If this assumption breaks down, copper power lines start disappearing from the desert, and iron manhole covers begin to vanish in the night. Problematically, the raw materials (even when valuable) are still only a small fraction of the value of the infrastructure, meaning replacement costs are high. If commodities were to remain "expensive" in the long run (i.e. worth stealing), how would we re-design our infrastructure systems? (tagged: sustainability economics security infrastructure commodities )
- Dyson as Sociologist? Death Trains, Values, & Climate Action – Not sure I know quite what to make of Nisbet's take on Dyson. I agree that the catastrophe narrative is dangerous, and much prefer Richard Alley's precautionary point of view, but I really think Dyson is catastrophically wrong on this, and potentially dangerous as a figurehead, whether knowing or unknowing. (tagged: climate science policy propaganda politics )
- Argentine economics and maker culture – An interesting and personal look at mass production vs. local/handmade goods based on currency strength and protectionist trade barriers. Where labor is cheap, the food and goods are often unique. Where it's expensive, you get mass production. Makes me want to bike S. America. Again. (tagged: economics argentina local money food )
- China Out to Dominate in Electric Cars (and Why Not GM) – A short chronicle of GM's missteps toward electric vehicles, and China's long view of the same. Honestly, I don't care much who does the dominating, so long as somebody gets this market going. (tagged: cars transportation technology economics china )
- Oregon’s mileage tax experiment – If you can imagine an America in which vehicle fuel economy increases with time (despite the fact that our national fleet today gets the same mileage as a Ford Model T), then eventually, funding road maintenance with a gas tax becomes a problem. Instead of taxing the fuel, you need to directly tax the road usage – miles driven, normalized by some kind of wear-and-tear factor for a given vehicle. Thus, the idea of a VMT (vehicle miles traveled) tax. Political suicide, you say, but it worked in this (politically insulated) trial in Oregon, and is going ahead gangbusters in the Netherlands and other nations, coupled with GPS enabled congestion charging, and time/location dependent parking fees, it could go a long way toward making personal transportation costs transparent and efficiently priced. (tagged: transportation privacy taxes vmt cars oregon policy )
- Postopolis LA – Presentations, films, talks slideshows, discussions and parties, centered around architecture, design, and the future of cities. Wish I knew someone who was going… (tagged: losangeles architecture design urban )
- Seville Orange Marmalade Recipe – Going to get a bunch of naranjas agrias from Jon and try making a batch of this. (tagged: recipe seville orange food cooking canning marmalade )
- Dear A.I.G., I Quit! – One might hope that all the executive collateral damage would provide a future incentive in other companies for people to call bullshit on each other when doing things that will get the whole company into trouble. (tagged: nytimes AIG bailout politics )
- Make Textbooks Affordable – Student-Faculty alliance to put the textbook publishers out of business (or, at least, force them to update their business model!). $100 textbooks are a joke. We should be providing grants and prizes for people to write free and open textbooks, that the whole world can use (and translate) instead of extorting cash out of the education system. (tagged: copyright openaccess creativecommons open education )
- skeptic etiquette – OMG, this woman should open a charm school for scientists and engineers. What *is* the right way to respond when somebody asks you at a cocktail party "What's your sign?" (tagged: science funny pseudoscience skeptic astrology )
As animals, and especially visual animals at that, we have a particular experience of the light. For us it is illumination, information about our surroundings. For that purpose moonlight or even starlight will do. And for tens of millions of years, that’s all we ever saw. Somehow a few of us made it through the Permian extinction, and into the Triassic, but the ascendancy of the dinosaurs eventually forced us into the darkness of the night. Our world became dim, and our eyes went colorblind. Most mammals today see only two colors, but a few of us have re-evolved a third photoreceptor. Three colors is still inferior to the four or five or six seen by many near-surface fish, birds, reptiles, insects, and other arthropods. The stomatopods are almost biological spectroscopic imaging systems, with 12 color channels in each of their independently movable trinocular eyes. We are lesser than the eyes that never left the light. They stole the colors from us and made us hide within the night. They kept the sun for themselves, not knowing that our small and furtive ways, our burning endothermy and our fur would see us through the aftermath of the KT impact.
- Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable – A good epitaph for the newspaper, by Clay Shirky. Now if only Elsevier would go bankrupt too. (tagged: technology economy history internet copyright publishing newspapers )
- Will Banks Start to Walk Their Talk? Don't Hold Your Breath – I thought that whole spiel about how Citi and friends were suddenly going to be profitable sounded suspicious. All they had to do was redefine the word "profit" to mean whatever they wanted it to mean! Brilliant! The innovations that flow from our Commanding Heights never fail to amaze. (tagged: baiilout finance economics policy politics banks citi )
- Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health – Massive overuse of antibiotics in livestock feed breeds bacteria resistant to antibiotics? Whodathunkit! WTF is this article doing on the Op-Ed page? Shouldn't someone be out there in Iowa winning a Pulitzer over this? Or is it too obvious to even warrant investigation. We're going to look back in 100, or 50, or 25 years and deeply regret squandering the limited miracle of antibiotics on cheap bacon. This is what we get for refusing to teach evolution. (tagged: health evolution antibiotics agriculture food mrsa livestock farms )
- Obama Tells Business Roundtable: “If You’re Giving Away Carbon Permits For Free … It Doesn’t Work” And “The Science Is Overwhelming” – Joe Romm usually bugs the crap out of me, but this is actually a decent piece, trying to get across the point that Obama really, actually appears to understand what would be required to get carbon pricing implemented and functional, both from a policy and a political point of view. The sooner industry starts planning around this, the better it'll be for everyone. (tagged: climate carbon economics auction policy obama energy )
- Hussman Funds – Weekly Market Comment: Buckle Up – I don't see any reason to trust Hussman more than the normal investing talking heads who do about as well as chance would predict, but he can do division:
The course of defending the bondholders of insolvent institutions is not sustainable. Do the math. The collateral behind private market debt is being marked down by easily 20-30%. That debt represents about 3.5 times GDP. That implies collateral losses on the order of 70-100% of GDP, which itself is $14 trillion. Unless Congress is actually willing to commit that amount of public funds to defend the bondholders of mismanaged financials so they can avoid any loss, this crisis simply cannot be addressed through bailouts. Bondholders have to take losses. Debt has to be restructured. There is no other option — but the markets are going to suffer interminably until our leaders figure that out. (tagged: finance crisis banks investing bailout )
From a purely climatic point of view.
Assuming the following:
- For each calorie of food you consume, the equivalent of 9 additional calories worth of gas were burned to get the food to your plate (this is industrial food production).
- You eat 2000 calories per day.
- Your car gets 30 miles per gallon.
- Each gallon of gas contains the equivalent of 30,000 calories worth of energy. Continue reading How important is local food?