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Archive for April, 2008

Foreclosures in Lexington

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Few in the city, but a fair number in the new construction suburbs.

Lexington foreclosures 4-08

Image from

When did scientists become aware of global warming?

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol agreement to reduce green gases was signed by 30+ nations including (as best I can tell) all the Western countries except the US. So it was clear in 1997 that the world was warming and green house gas emissions needed to be reduced, but *when* exactly did scientists figure this out?

My memory of the issue with a little proding stretches back to the 1992 climate agreement signed by George HW Bush, officially called the U.N. Framework Convention of Climate Change. It called on countries to cut green house gas emissions but didn’t set binding targets. So global warming was understood back in ’92, and must have been known about years earlier for political action to have been taken then. I didn’t know about research earlier than the 1970s modeling research.

A great talk laying out the history of global warming science by historian Naomi Oreskes is on the web:

She lays out a number of landmarks. She gives an interesting talk–I’ve pared it away and just list the landmarks here:

  • 1931, E. O. Hulbert, increasing atmospheric CO2 2-3X will lead to 4-7°K increase in world temperature.
  • 1938, G. S. Calender, increasing CO2 leading to increased temps, 1880-1930s
  • 1957, Suess and Revelle paper pointing out that dumping back into the atmosphere over a few decades CO2 stored over millions of years in coal and oil could heat up the world. Calls for detailed research into the world CO2 budget–where will the CO2 go, and what secondary effects will there be?
  • 1964, NAS committee warns of “inadvertent weather modification” caused by CO2 from burning fossil fuels.
  • 1965, Keeling, about 1/2 of CO2 from burning fossil fuels will end up in the atmosphere.
  • 1965, President’s Science Advisory Committee, Board on Environmental Pollution, by 2000 there will 25% more CO2 in the atmosphere and marked and uncontrollable changes in climate could occur.
  • 1979, JASON committee reports that predicted increases in atmospheric CO2 will increase world temperature 2.4°C or 2.8°C (two different JASON models). Further, the increase will be much greater at the poles, 10-12°C [Now observed].
  • 1979, Charney report summarizes climate science “If CO2 continues to increase, [we] find no reason to doubt that climate changes will result, and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”
  • 1988, IPCC created to study climate and suggest solutions.
  • 1988, US National Energy Policy Act, “to establish a national energy policy that will quickly reduce the generation of CO2 and trace gases as quickly as is feasible in order to slow the pace and degree of atmospheric warming…to protect the global environment.”
  • 1992, U.N. Framework Convention of Climate Change
  • 1997, the Kyoto Protocol

Impressions of Battlestar Galactica Season 1

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Things I dislike about Battlestar Galactica:

Over done ‘artsy’ odd angle close-ups and misdirection camera focus. It builds up false drama and is annoying to watch. Combined with this is occasional bursts of drama highlight music building up to… nothing.

1980’s style gauges. On year 2200, 2500 or whatever year tech gear. And what year is it? The scene hasn’t been set, I don’t know what freakin’ year it is. And somehow they have spaceships but little other new technology. No AI, no nanotech, no advanced biotech.

The intro credits, with flashes of scenes that haven’t happened yet on the show, and introduce things not yet part of the show.

The weird, faux scenes. Are they set in the past, the future, are they dreams, hallucinations, or virtual reality? OK, the woman in lingerie/party dresses is hallucination. The other bits are annoying. I hope this isn’t a show like “Lost” that is lies and cheats the audience.

Who’s bright idea was ‘there are only 40,000 people left’? That means, say 400 engineers, 40 biologists, maybe 100 scientists of all types. Various specialities will be very thin or completely absent. Humanity has completely lost its agricultural and manufacturing capability and most workers with experience in those fields. These folks are going to be screwed. Even without running from and fighting an enemy. This might be workable with 400,000 people. With 40,000 people, technological capability will slip every day.

And yet when the President makes an announcement, there are 30 – 40 reporters there. That’s one per 1,000 people. Reporting to what news org? And how do they move from ship to ship? Shuttles would be rare and hard to get access to. These reporters can’t ‘drive across town’ to attend a press conference.

As space opera, the spaceships all run on fantasy drives and have artificial gravity. And star drives that jump from place to place.

Worse than that is the fighters using reactionless, inertialess drives. Inertia? What’s that? Instead of Newton’s second law we have, “A spaceship that starts out centered in a camera shot will remain centered on screen.”

Cylons that are indistinguishable from humans. No doubt ‘nearly’ indistinguishable, a macguffin will be invented when necessary. Look, if it is that hard to tell, what you have is a ‘human’. Made of flesh, cells, DNA and has a human brain–that’s a human. The Terminator movies pushed the ‘fake human’ idea about as far as it could go without getting stupid.

Medicine apparently has not advanced since the present. Still no effective treatment for common breast cancer, and the runs show morality plays on crappy alternative medicine. If in the far future people are still hoping odd brews will cure cancer, that’s one depressing future.

For some reason everyone ignores that the super scientist is nuts. Everyone relies on him, but he never actually does anything.

The huge, solid metal doors open like they are made of styrofoam.

BG has jumped on the trendy “Photos can be zoomed and ‘enhanced’ infinitely” idea. And for some odd reason this image enhancement process takes just as long in the future as it did in the movie “No Way Out” (1987).

Nobody specializes in the future. The image enhancement analysis gets done in a lab with organic chem glassware. Eh?

BG is really short on personnel–Starbuck, the ‘best fighter pilot’, is also the flight combat instructor, which makes sense. And is reverse engineering cylon ships and running intelligence interrogations, which makes no sense at all.

Hey, Season 1, Episode 11 (S1x11) has the Starbuck with one more job, now running security for the big political event.

And now Season 1, Episode 12 (S1x12) has the President doing the primary aerial reconnaissance analysis. Wow, the BG military seems to completely lack an intelligence command.

And it is the Bush years in the United States, so prisoners get tortured by the ‘good guys’ just like in real life. Got to keep America accomodated to torture. Even if it makes no sense because the man being tortured is a machine that doesn’t feel pain the way humans do. How fucking evil.

In the future, phones are the size of game consoles. And no one has a cell phone. Come on, even in the Star Trek 60’s the future had communicators. How did the set designers miss out on old Navy style talk tubes?

Things I like about Battlestar Galactica:

Gritty, nice sets.

Pretty CGI.

The basic ‘last humans on the run from bad aliens’ overarching plot from the old, horrible Battlestar Galactica series. Gladly, that’s all they kept.

US biomedical funding

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Most recent numbers I find are from 2005 JAMA study in data through 2003. Total biomedical research is $94.3 billion in 2003, with 57% industry funded and 35% US government funded, 5% state and local, and 3% from private foundations.

This is 5.6% of total US health spending.

Financial Anatomy of Biomedical Research. Hamilton Moses III, MD; E. Ray Dorsey, MD, MBA; David H. M. Matheson, JD, MBA; Samuel O. Thier, MD. JAMA. 2005;294:1333-1342.

Press release for the study.