Thursday, December 14, 2006

Northern Lights Come South

Try to get outside, if its clear tonight. Bad weather on The Sun has sent a "severe geomagnetic storm" our way. The space station astronauts are already hiding out in the most heavily shielded sections of the ISS, and we here on Earth should start to feel the effects about mid-day. These might include power outages, satellites going out of service,'s the good part...this evening the storm is expected to generate an aurora or Northern Lights as far south as the northern United States.

I've only seen this phenomenon once in my life, and never here in Toronto. It can be quite spectacular.


Anonymous said...

flunked high school science class eh ??

The More Important the Decision, the Less it will be Studied
by Tim on Sat 09 Dec 2006 04:25 PM EST | Permanent Link

I am the happy participant in a Master's program at the University of Ottawa on Law and Technology. Our compulsory course is called "Technopolicy". Its premise is that lawyers must stop and think about a series of questions before they reach for the statute, regulation, lawsuit, or injunction as the ways of solving a problem.

The OECD issued a Regulatory Checklist of Questions which, if they were systematically used in the formation of every legislative scheme, would have prevented much wasted effort throughout the world and much more effective - if limited - government. The first question on the list asks "is the problem correctly defined?".

We had the opportunity to select our topic areas for discussion. Some chose file sharing and peer to peer networks, which is the way lawyers now discuss music downloading issues of copyright evasion. Others chose "biofuels". The "biofuels"discussion was predicated on the following:

1.Global warming is largely happening because of fossil fuel consumption.

2. Global warming is a Bad Thing.

3. We must move to less polluting fuels, and these include ethanol, hydrogen and varieties of seed oils.

The discussion proceeded accordingly, with law students earnestly discussing energy cost benefits of various forms of engine, which were to be measured in terms of their "pollutivity" as much as their mechanical efficiency. Naturally, lawyers know as much about physics and mechanics as physicists and mechanics know about torts, legislatures, regulatory commissions and other legal institutions. I was reminded of the story about the East German cabinet considering whether they should upgrade the Trabant, the 1947-era 3 cylinder car. They eventually decided not to because it conflicted with other social spending programs. Why are a bunch of politicians deciding car factory upgrades? Or trial lawyers deciding medical risks?

My readers will know that I consider global warming the greatest fraud since Marxism, on the following data points:

1) The earth has been losing atmospheric carbon dioxide for the last 40 million years as it is leeched into rock and the oceans;

2) We have been undergoing at least 18 ice ages in the past few million years characterized by periods of fifty to a hundred thousand years of glaciation, with short 20,000-year interglacial periods.

3) We are in such an interglacial period now. All of the recent rise of humanity has taken place in this period.

4) Global warming happens every time there is no ice age. The St. Lawrence River was covered with 4,000 feet of ice only 9,000 years ago. The ice has been retreating for some time (fifteen thousand years) and will continue to do so until it advances again. Then Toronto will be bulldozed by advancing ice into Chattanooga, Tennessee, by which point David Suzuki's spiritual descendants will have changed the topic.

The discussion that ensued in Technopolicy class was polite but somewhat incredulous. Quoting Bjorn Lomborg's Skeptical Environmentalist liberally I managed to persuade them that if I was not right, I was at least sincere in my error, and that serious minds contested that we were running out of oil or that global warming was all that serious a problem.

In the end, it was the belief that we must get off our fuel-consuming ways that drove the biofuels discussion. When the layers were peeled off, it seemed as if global warming is the excuse to do something, the noble lie of statecraft. In the end it did not really matter if it were a true assessment of the situation, it served a noble end.

I pointed out that whenever the scales of science were influenced by politics or religion, disaster ensued. The prestige of the Roman Catholic Church has still not recovered from its defence of Aristotle against the claims of Galileo; the eugenicists besmirched Darwin, and Lysenko's theory of the inheritability of acquired characteristics wrecked Soviet genetic research, under Stalin's malign influence.

The greatest irony for me was the contrast between the classes' views (if I may make this unfair generalization) on file sharing and peer-to-peer networks, copyright and music, about which their knowledge was accurate because informed, their views nuanced because they see all sides, and the biofuels discussion. In the latter case, the urgency to do something outweighed all other considerations. It reminded me so much of electoral politics, where even a skeptical conservative administration must appear to do something even as its disbelieves the efficacy of the Kyoto Treaty and its rationale.

Year in year out, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ) is producing pseudo-scientific fables to alarm the public: rising sea levels, more and more severe storms, species lost: not a sparrow shall but that global warming shall be blamed. The Financial Post has being doing a splendid job of presenting the many scientists and statisticians who dispute the entire thing. You have to be a careful reader even to be exposed to the possibility that global warming is a hoax - in the limited sense that humans are preponderantly responsible for it. Of course there is global warming - it happens every time we are not in an ice-age.

I am convinced, from what I have seen in every part of government, and human life generally, that the best single predictor of all outcomes in any situation is the model people have in their minds of what is going on in the world. The global warming model satisfies many requirements. It provides its believers with justification, divides the world morally into the saved elect and the evil deniers, and gives its adherents the moral certitude to rearrange vast social and economic arrangements in the name of ideology. What more could you ask of an ideology?

When you know what the problem is, further study is a waste of time. Rational inquiry is just a mask for reaction, for evil thoughts, for (gasp!) denial.

Thus my concluding conjecture, that the bigger the problem, the less it will be studied. Because, as we all know, the problem is__(fill in the blank). The solution is __(already known)___.

Global warming is a misleading map, but it assures the elect of their moral superiority. It seems to me from some conversations I have had with its strong adherents (outside of the Technopolicy class ) that self-imputed moral superiority is the primary attraction of the model. It identifies their enemies and allows them to rule in the name of a higher good. It is the much-needed replacement for Marxism.

bigcitylib said...

What has this got to do with the Northern Lights, cheesehead?

canuckistanian said...

what a fucking moron!!! its called aurora borealis fuckhead, not global warming.

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