I hate it when scientists are conservative in their models


Doubling of Antarctic ice loss revealed by European satellite | 
[Via Environment | theguardian.com]

Antarctica is shedding 160 billion tonnes a year of ice into the ocean, twice the amount of a few years ago, according to new satellite observations. The ice loss is adding to the rising sea levels driven by climate change and even east Antarctica is now losing ice.

The new revelations follows the announcement last week that the collapse of the western Antarctica ice sheet has already begun and is unstoppable, although it may take many centuries to complete.


When making estimates or creating models, researchers often error on the conservative side. Knowing the conditional nature od science, they would rather be a little right than a lot wrong.

Yet again and again with respect to climate change, we find that they are often much lower with their estimates than reality produces. We see that here.

This new satellite, sent up in 2010, can produce much better data than we have ever had before. And for the entire continent  The amount of ice lost found by the satellite is 100% greater than most of the previous estimates.

The real worrisome thing is that about 13% of the loss has come from East Antarctica. We actually had expected that to see a small increase in ice, not a decrease.

West Antarctica is on an apparent unstoppable collapse which will raise sea levels 6-7 meters. But the huge East Antarctic ice sheet hods a tremendous amount. If it completely melted, sea levels would go up perhaps 60 meters.

This would put Houston completely underwater, Florida would be gone, Philadelphia would be ocean front, Manhattan would be gone, downtown LA would be on the water, San Francisco would be an island, with an inland sound extending from Chico to Fresno.

The Olympic Peninsula would be an island, Seattle would be a small island and Lake Sammamish would be part of Puget Sound. My house would be about half a mile from the new Sound.

Not likely but then, we did not expect the amount of melting seen in West Antarctica. I guess we will know soon.

Watch Texas as it deals with climate change in order to gain insights


Warm Texas wind blows green for Mars
[Via BBC News | Science/Nature | World Edition]

Dire climate change warnings in the US begin to hit home


The BBC makes the good point that Texas is so large and diverse that it serves as a simpler microcosm of climate change. in the US. Necasue it will likely seemore of it than any other.

Politicians are screaming and denying but individuals are making their own choices.

Politicians rant about needing to stay on coal while companies are moving green by using wind. All in the same state.

The authoritarian hierarchies encompassing politicians and one set of corporations are using every tool to maintain their unsustainable processes while distributed democracies encompassing individuals and another set of corporations are trying to find sustainable processes.

All in one state. The size of Texas means both these processes have ramifications elsewhere.

As with any dynamic equilibrium,things can change very rapidly over a very short period of time. So keep an eye on Texas.

Neil deGrasse Tyson moderating a debate on selling space

From March 2014. We live on the cusp of an amazing age. It will save us all.

The next El Nino may be on the way. And it looks like it will be huge

 Super Swells Again

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths: Nose of Massive Kelvin Wave Breaks Surface in Eastern Pacific
[Via robertscribbler]

Monster El Nino

(A monster Kelvin wave, possibly more powerful than the 1997-98 event, is now rushing toward the surface of the Eastern Pacific. Image source: NOAA/ESRL.)

We are observing an extraordinarily powerful Kelvin Wave, one that was likely intensified by factors related to human global warming, traveling across the Pacific. It appears to be an epic event in the making. One that may be hotter and stronger than even the record-shattering 1997-98 El Nino. What this means is that we may well be staring down the throat of a global warming riled monster.


Good times might be over. If this new El Nino is anything close to the one in the late 90s, temperatures could begin rising fast. That first animation is shocking.

There appears to be more heat in this water than was in the huge El Nino of 1997.It was the largest such event in the 20th century. The global temperatures due to that event increased to such hugh levels that it would be almost a decade before the world became that hot again.


This is what happened along the Washington Coast during the 1997 event: huge rises in sea levels making storms much more destructive along the coast.


Sometimes the sea level was almost half a meter higher than normal, with wave heights a full meter higher than normal. It will not be a good year to be along the West Coast.

And while it may break the drought in Texas, it could well bring huge amounts of flooding due to extreme weather events. That it, lots of frog stranglers hitting dry ground and running off instead of penetrating.

The West Coast will get little rain and be much hotter, so the food producing areas of the state will be hard hit. 

Change is Coming – listen to Peter, Paul and Mary

The times certainly are changing.

From 1965.

And from 1995

The lyrics have never been more appropriate,particularly the one about Senators and Congressmen.


Come gather ’round people 
Wherever you roam 
And admit that the waters 
Around you have grown 
And accept it that soon 
You’ll be drenched to the bone 

If your time to you 
Is worth savin’ 
Then you better start swimmin’ 
Or you’ll sink like a stone 
For the times they are a-changin’. 

Come writers and critics 
Who prophesize with your pen 
And keep your eyes wide 
The chance won’t come again 
And don’t speak too soon 
For the wheel’s still in spin 

And there’s no tellin’ who 
That it’s namin’ 
For the loser now 
Will be later to win 
For the times they are a-changin’. 

Come senators, congressmen 
Please heed the call 
Don’t stand in the doorway 
Don’t block up the hall 
For he that gets hurt 
Will be he who has stalled 

There’s a battle outside 
And it is ragin’ 
It’ll soon shake your windows 
And rattle your walls 
For the times they are a-changin’. 

Come mothers and fathers 
Throughout the land 
And don’t criticize 
What you can’t understand 
Your sons and your daughters 
Are beyond your command 

Your old road is 
Rapidly agin’ 
Please get out of the new one 
If you can’t lend your hand 
For the times they are a-changin’. 


Come gather ’round peopleWherever you roamAnd admit that the watersAround you have grownAnd accept it that soonYou’ll be drenched to the boneIf your time to youIs worth savin’Then you better start swimmin’Or you’ll sink like a stoneFor the times they are a-changin’.
Come writers and criticsWho prophesize with your penAnd keep your eyes wideThe chance won’t come againAnd don’t speak too soonFor the wheel’s still in spinAnd there’s no tellin’ whoThat it’s namin’For the loser nowWill be later to winFor the times they are a-changin’.
Come senators, congressmenPlease heed the callDon’t stand in the doorwayDon’t block up the hallFor he that gets hurtWill be he who has stalledThere’s a battle outsideAnd it is ragin’It’ll soon shake your windowsAnd rattle your wallsFor the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathersThroughout the landAnd don’t criticizeWhat you can’t understandYour sons and your daughtersAre beyond your commandYour old road isRapidly agin’Please get out of the new oneIf you can’t lend your handFor the times they are a-changin’.
The line it is drawnThe curse it is castThe slow one nowWill later be fastAs the present nowWill later be pastThe order isRapidly fadin’And the first one nowWill later be lastFor the times they are a-changin’.


Great explanation for how pCell works and how it might change everything – wireless power transmission

Red sky 

→ How pCell Works, And Why It’s A Bigger Deal Than Anyone Realizes
[Via Marco.org]

The more I learn about pCell, the more interesting it sounds. It still blows my mind that such a concept can work at scale at all.


The pCell could do more than help cell phones.

WARNING— the article has equations and matrix multiplication!

I skipped them and went right to the conclusions. Wireless power transmission to single points,such as an electric car, would change everything.

Will it happen? Could be exciting.

Third industrial revolution? It is bigger than that


Why I’m Bullish About the Third Industrial Revolution
[Via Big Think]

This is a terrific time to be an entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurs succeed when the rules of the game are changing.  Entrepreneurs thrive in a moment of uncertainty and relative instability.  Entrepreneurs exploit the changing rules. 


He is looking at this too small – as a way to make a lot of money. That is an important part of what is happening but is only a small part.

I’ve been working on a report regarding the coming abundance fostered by this revolution. There will likely be somuch wealth created that the very idea of money becomes hazy.

It may cost less to send a pound into space than it currently costs to send it across the country. We will produce more metal resources than exist on the entire surface of the Earth. We will have access to more water than in all the oceans, to unimaginable amounts of power. 

We will be as different from where we are today as the hunter-gatherers were with the farmers. The difference will be as fundamental and as epoch marking.

Making money is thinking too small. But it is a point.

What open source can accomplish – develop a smart thermostat for $70 in 20 hours


Nest at Home 

Open source smart thermostats rise to compete with Nest after Google acquisition
[Via Ars Technica]

Since Google acquired Nest for $3.2 billion last week, current and prospective smart thermostat or smoke detector owners have been apprehensive about what Google might do with the company. In the last few days, a couple of companies have stepped forward with potential open source alternatives to the service and hardware that Nest offers, sans the new implications of Google ownership.

The original Nest is a smart thermostat that uses motion and temperature sensors to “learn” the routines and comfortable temperature zones of its owners. It can detect when no one is home, and it normalizes to a certain temperature range over time. Users control the Nest with an app and through a Web interface.

At Spark, four engineers set to work on an open source version of a smart thermostat using their own Spark Core, an Arduino-compatible Wi-Fi development board. They added in a humidity and temperature sensor, IR motion detector, and some LEDs and LED matrices to put together and mount inside a custom wood and acrylic enclosure.


Now, the development costs of most commercial products is actually a small part. as apple has shown, knowing how to package the hardware and create compelling software is critical.

Nest did both of these and sold for $3 billion. But the low development costs means that there will be many low end possibiities, some with very different business models than Google’s need for my data.

What Nest did was demonstrate a new area to create smart products with a cool design and software. What open source means is that others can rapidly adapt  to these new areas. 

And now companies can come into existence whose oly purpose is to provide these devices for the CUSTOMER’S use, not the company. This then puts pressure on companies like Google to actually do the right thing. Maybe

Radioative waste from fracking

oil rigby aoenday

Fracking May Be Polluting River with Radioactive Waste
[Via Climate Central - News, Blogs & Features]

The natural gas-rich Marcellus shale is seeing a drilling boom, part of a nationwide rush to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, techniques to extract shale gas and oil. Studies have shown that energy production, including the waste water associated with fracking — a method of injecting chemicals, sand and water deep underground to crack rock formations to release oil and natural gas — may release significant fugitive methane emissions, helping to drive climate change.

Duke researchers looked at sediment samples collected downstream of the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility in Indiana County, Penn., and found that radium levels were 200 times greater in those samples when compared to those collected upstream of the plant. The plant processes fracking flowback water — highly saline and radioactive fluid that is returned to the surface as part of the fracking process.

Researchers have long been concerned about concentration of bromide, chlorides and other contaminants being discharged from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility. One researcher, Conrad Volz, former director of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities at the University of Pittsburgh, testified before the U.S. Senate in 2011 about the high level of contaminants in Josephine’s effluent.


The radioactive levels in sediments downstream from the treatment plant were so high that it will have to be taken to a radioactive disposal facility. ANd the levels of other contaminats were also extremely high.

Methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is one of those contaminants, along with other volatiles. And thanks to the rapid increase in fracking, there are hundreds of billions of gallons of contaminated water to deal with.

Sequestration of carbon dioxide -Using chemistry to save the world

limestoneby Alison Christine

Mining Baking Soda From Greenhouse Gas Emissions
[Via Big Think]

What’s the Latest Development? This week San Antonio, TX saw construction begin on what will be the first-ever commercial plant designed to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into baking soda, hydrogen gas, and chlorine gas. The aptly-named Skymine plant will work alongside a cement works, where it will treat emissions with sodium hydroxide to create the products, which can then be used in industrial and commercial applications.


You have to love an article with a chemical equation in it:

CO2 + H2O + NaCl —> NaHCO3 + H2 + Cl2

That is how this Texas company hopes to ‘scrub’ carbon dioxide from emissions at plants.

Cost of sequestration of CO2? About $20 a ton.Not bad at all. And it is carbon negative, a necessity for any such process.

This chemistry is limited as it used sodium producing sodium bicarbonate. They hope to use another process involving calcium that could make limestone.

Limestone would be a phenomenal way to sequester carbon dioxide in an inert fashion. it is actually one way how nature does it.

We have a long way to go. The US alone produces over 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. This approach can, at the moment, sequester 83,000.

Let’s hope the limestone route works out. That could do much, much more.

New, better data does not alter conclusions on climate change

Climate Models Show Potential 21st Century Temperature, Precipitation Changes |
[Via  NASA

New data visualizations from the NASA Center for Climate Simulation and NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., show how climate models used in the new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate possible temperature and precipitation pattern changes throughout the 21st century.

For the IPCC’s Physical Science Basis and Summary for Policymakers reports, scientists referenced an international climate modeling effort to study how the Earth might respond to four different scenarios of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions throughout the 21st century. The Summary for Policymakers, the first official piece of the group’s Fifth Assessment Report, was released Fri., Sept. 27.

This modeling effort, called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5), includes dozens of climate models from institutions around the world, including from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.


The model has not changed today. It has not changed in 35 years. It has not changed in 100 years. Better data, same model.

Science is all about creating models of the natural world. Better data leads to better models that more accurately reflect the reality of the natural world.

Science works by endlessly trying to construct a better model. It does this by competition between multiple models. The model that best explains all the data, that can best predicts the most results without requiring them, and that can best  survive attempts to falsify it usually wins.

That does not mean it is a perfect representation of reality. Few things humans do can claim that.

It is simply the best model we frail, imperfect humans have now.

Sometimes better data leads to a major shift in the scientific model. We saw this with Copernicus, Galileo, Boyle, Darwin, Einstein and Feynman.

Most times, though, better data simply leads to a greater understanding of the best scientific model, a minor shift. A good model is resilient.

We now have exponentially better data for climate change models than 35 years ago, which was exponentially greater data than 100 years ago. 

The basic scientific model, presented by the great scientist Svante Arrhenius, was proposed over 100 years ago. As I wrote 3 years ago:

I have read the Arrhenius paper. It provides an estimate of global temperatures based on increasing or decreasing carbon dioxide levels. No one has shown that his basic premise is wrong – increasing carbon dioxide levels increase the global temperatures.

Over 100 years ago the first scientific model of the effect on global temperatures by carbon dioxide was proposed. In the 70s, increasing data gathering and the use of computers allowed another look to be made at this proposal.

Here is a graph based on a model from data 35 years ago on what temperatures  would do with increasing carbon dioxide. It is a primitive model based on very primitive data. We can also see just how well this primitive model predicted its future and our past:

climate change

Not bad at all.

None of the data discussed 35 years ago changed the basics of the model proposed 100 years ago. The data just provided greater granularity, allowing is to gauge the extent of change over time. Not too bad a job for the computing equivalent of using abacuses.

The primitive data we had 35 years ago actually did a pretty remarkable job of predicting the future. If we had made policy bets based on that model, we would have been correct.

Unfortunately we did not make many policy bets. We waited for better data. Then we waited again. And again.

None of that data has shifted the model that is over 100 years old. Exponentially better data have not shifted it. Exponentially greater data have not shifted it.

The current model is the best at fitting all the data. It has shown a tremendous ability to predict the future. And it has stood up to decades of falsification attempts.

It is based on a model that was first proposed before airplanes, before the Model T, before the NFL, before women could vote, before airlines. Before the idea of a 20th century even existed.

There simply is no better model. More data will not substantially alter this model.

It is not only the best we have right now. It is the best we have had for 100 years. Nothing suggests that waiting another 10, 35, 100 years will alter its predictions.

The chance of it being totally wrong is vanishing low, and getting lower every year. The chance of it being mostly correct is tremendously high. and getting higher every year.

We have the tools to fix its predictions. We have the ability to shift the path of the future. With all our oars in the water, humanity can find a solution that works.

But waiting for better data accomplishes nothing. Denying the model accomplishes nothing. Just as it did 35 years ago. Just as it did 100 years ago.

Listening to Chris Kraft is always worthwhile

 moonby shahbasharat

NASA’s original flight director calls agency’s direction a “tragedy”
[Via Ars Technica]

The Houston Chronicle recently spent some time with NASA legend Dr. Chris Kraft, and the man who oversaw NASA’s first steps into space didn’t have many complimentary things to say about the things NASA has done lately—or the things it has on the drawing board.

Kraft, who will be 90 next February, is directly responsible for the initial shape and structure of NASA’s flight controller hierarchy, and he sat at the flight director’s console for all of Project Mercury. In 1982, he formally retired from his position as director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, but he has never been shy to speak his mind about manned space flight. Among the topics drawing fire in the Chronicle interview are NASA’s asteroid landing plans, the upcoming Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket, and the eventual goal of landing on Mars.

Chris Kraft is one of the important guys in the US space program. So you have to listen to what he says.

I agree with him on a heavy launch vehicle, especially one seemingly designed to take people to Mars. We do not need it. It will be too costly and be used to seldom to be worth much.

Half the energy needs to get to Mars are simply getting out of the Earth’s gravity well to LEO.  Why not work to make it cheaper,easier to get ther?

NASA does not need to do that as Space-X is working to reduce the cost to $800 a kilogram. Without the SLS system.

Now Craft denigrated landing someone on an asteroid, and I agree with him there. Sending people just to send them is not a good use of funds.

But, what would be really useful is capturing an asteroid and moving it into orbit around the Moon. Why? For the same reason I agree with Craft about mining on the moon – resources.

The moon has many of the things we need to make a lot of stuff, particularly solar arrays. There are multiple proposals to put solar arrays on the far side of the moon, where they are pretty much always in the sun. Then that energy can be beamed back to the Earth.

This could provide energy that would never get to the Earth and could never be captured on its surface. It would require robots to build all of this. But a useful telepresence for operating robots needs the lag for communications to be less than 0.5 seconds. It takes much longer than this to communicate from the Earth to the moon.

But, put a manned space station at a Lagrange point on the far side of the moon and you are well within range. And that is just what NASA wants to do.

So NASA wants to put an asteroid in orbit around the Moon, at the same place it wants to put an orbiting base for robotic telepresence of mining on the moon. It turns out that asteroids may have a lot of stuff that the moon has little of – like water, which can be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen, both needed to construct power arrays.

So, why has NASA not outlined this cohesive plan? Move needed asteroids close to the moon where humans, using robots, can mine the needed resources, along with those on the moon itself to build solar arrays to provide power for all of humanity.

All the pieces are there. They have all the studies. The costs are dropping every day. Now we just need the will.

Keep an eye on China?

China: The Watermelon Revolution
[Via Global Guerrillas]

We’ve seen two events over the last couple of days that could trigger mass (open source) protest in China. 

The first is a watermelon street vendor that was beaten to death with his own scale by a city militia.  

The second is a wheelchair bound man that was blew himself up (after warning people to back away), at the Beijing airport.  He was crippled by an urban militia for running an informal taxi service with his scooter.

Both incidents have been accelerated by social media — blogs and a short message service like Twitter — due to widespread public disatisfaction with the militia system called Chengguan.

Chengguan militias were set up in Chinese cities in 2001 to enforce urban codes (a Chinese variant of “broken windows” in US cities).  They are run by local officials with little central oversight.  


It will be interesting to see if anything arises from the abuse of authority at the local level like this. Because there is this, something we have know since the Declaration of Independence was written – “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

If it doesn’t happen now, it will. Remember, China is operating on borrowed time.

It’s run by a government without any basis for legitimacy other than fast economic growth.

To maintain power, that needs to be true, and it’s not true anymore.

Planetary Resources Vanguards. Priceless!

PRV Mastercrd spinoff

The Vanguard – helping explore space, one step at a time.

I am having a kick and a half working with the Vanguard. Got to listen to a Google + Hangout with Bill Nye, Ed Lu, Peter DiamandisJose Luis Galache, Lori Garver and hosted by  Cristin Dorgelo.

Here that is:

So much energy from so many people. We can do this.

We can do a satellite

Cutting edge capitalism that can change the world

solar panel by Abi Skipp

Dot Chat: From Energy Campaigners to Solar Finance Entrepreneurs
[Via Dot Earth]

An online conversation with a young energy activist turned solar entrepreneur.


Here we have a couple of entrepreneurs who are leading new approaches to financing the needs we will have for future energy.

What is interesting is both were clean energy activists who have taken to new approaches for raising capital to fund needed cleantech projects. Instead of fighting capitalism, they are bending it to their needs.

Mosaic allows people to make microinvestments (as low as $25) into clean energy projects with perhaps 4.5% interest on their investment. The projects were funded with hours. It has invested over $2 million using about $1000 in marketing expenses.

Mosaic raises money for solar projects and as the projects generate revenue, some of that revenue accrues to the investors. Those investors are regular people.

And they are doing this with just 3 employees focussed full time on origination, underwriting and servicing of loans. No Wall Street firm could ebven look at this with just 3 employees. (Mosaic actualy has 7 people working on its IT.)

Think of that – a financial services company with over twice as many people working on IT than working on the financial services.

It does not even build its own IT infrastructure. Mosaic uses Amazon Web Services to do its work. It can expand as much as it needs by leveraging what AWS provides.

And it does it by directly brokering projects with community investors. Wall Street is not in on the process. 
There are other groups using these sorts of approaches but this one is even more focussed – it just does solar.

It can work because the cost for solar panels has dropped tremendously. And crowdsourcing approaches permit them to disintermediate Wall Street brokers. 

That is, ‘notes’ can be issued for projects that would not be moneymakers for Wall Street. A community project costing $100,000 would not be worthwhile to most companies because their profit would be too low. Their models require tens of million or more for it to make money for them.

Here, being able to broker many, many notes to people  can work. They make it up in quantity, along with the drop in actually doing the process.

They take a small fee for administrating the note of 1% of the total interest. So the note is actually at perhaps 5.5% and they pay out 4.5%.

Read a prospectus to understand more. As with most investments, there are risks. But the ability to directly invest in local community projects that would have a very hard time selling binds is truly amazing.

It is like a whole new way to create bonds in the days of the Information Age.

Mosaic has over 10,000 people waiting to invest in the next projects.

And things will really change when the SEC publishes the rules about crowdinvesting. That will make it easier for microinvestment in corporations, altering the way stocks are sold in the same way this is changing the way bonds are created.

The other company is taking a non-profit approach to the same thing – letting people donate money rather than invest.

Both will be hugely disruptive to Wall Street, all while making capital flow more easily for small investors.

So expect the big guys to do what they can to stop it.


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