Late Night at the Lab (YAWN)

It’s Friday night, and I’m at the lab. I feel like a real scientist again!

What keeps me here on a Friday night? Well, there are several factors in this one. The first is that Jodi is at a detector workshop at Berkeley, and I’m supposed to pick her up at Stanford when she returns. She expected to be back by 8-9, but got trapped at a reception. The result is that I don’t expect her until midnight. Thankfully, at this hour traffic is light and Berkeley is just 1.5 hours away…

In addition, I have work to do. I am running out of time to get all the things done that need doing. Right now, I am trying to catch up on service work for the Babar collaboration. This is also a good time to check on a number of other things. But, I’m pretty tired and it’s not getting any easier to think as the hours wear on…

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Cool it? Who started the shouting first?

Tonight, on the Lehrer News Hour, Bjorn Lomberg was interviewed about climate change. Mr. Lomberg accepts climate change, but doesn’t buy the argument that we have to reverse it. He thinks we should also be trying to adapt to it. Of course, from a purely evolutionary viewpoint he is right. However, one argument he made was that it doesn’t serve the climate change issue well for those who argue its case to shout. It shows a lack of faith in a democracy, he argued, to believe that you have to shout in order to make yourself heard (or believed).

I disagree. You see, it wasn’t the climate change science that had power. Climate research doesn’t make $9 billion profits for single energy companies in one year. The President is not a former climate scientist. In fact, neither is his Vice President, or any member of his cabinet. The highest ranked climate scientist in the government is Dr. James Hansen, who was famously censored for his views on policy toward the climate change problem. If you want to be heard in the vast halls of power, you have to shout loud and, if possible, all at once, and pray to God that somebody at the other end hears the echo.

Maybe, if so may people opposing the idea of climate change weren’t in power or in control of the tone of the debate, the people with the facts on their side wouldn’t have to shout.

Farewell, Yeltsin

His actions marked the transition from the Soviet Union to the more uncertain Russian Federation. His life was marked by triumph and scandal. His death has been solemn, at least as reported in the West. Today, President Boris Yeltsin was laid to rest, his body open for viewing at the Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow, near Red Square. I have always had a soft spot for Russia, her people and their culture. Today, that soft spot is a little more tender.

Racing to the Galapagos

When Charles Darwin was a young man, he made a 5 year journey as ship’s Naturalist on the Beagle. During that journey, ideas that he had read about in books – biological and geological evolution – came to life. An earthquake on the western coast of South America, which raised the land near a village many feet in just a moment, awakened his mind to the possibility that the firmament of earth wasn’t quite that firm. The towering Andes inspired his thoughts about life, for if mountains can be pushed up from the surface of the earth slowly over time, then the earth must be very old.

It was his time on the Galapagos islands, and the biological treasures that returned from those islands on the Beagle, for which Darwin is most remembered. However, for many years these islands have been continually threatened by our presence. So popular, for their beauty and their history, the islands attract tourists and conferences. All that human presence has damaged the fragile, once self-contained ecosystems. Sad to say that even physicists have conferences there. Stop it.

This past week, an event called the “Great Turtle Race” was kicked off on the internet to bring awareness to the increasingly endangered Leatherback Turtle. These turtles, nesting in Costa Rica and now returning to the Galapagos, are being tracked and their locations shown on the internet to bring attention to their extraordinary endurance and dwindling numbers. Have a look: