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By: RevElvis, 3:29 AM GMT on October 30, 2012
WASHINGTON — The United States is facing a year or more without crucial satellites that provide invaluable data for predicting storm tracks, a result of years of mismanagement, lack of financing and delays in launching replacements, according to several recent official reviews.
The looming gap in satellite coverage, which some experts view as almost certain within the next few years, could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit the East Coast early next week.
The endangered satellites fly pole-to-pole orbits and cross the Equator in the afternoon, scanning the entire planet one strip at a time. Along with orbiters on other timetables, they are among the most effective tools used to pin down the paths of major storms about five days ahead.
By: RevElvis, 5:57 PM GMT on October 02, 2012
From Start to Finish: Why We Won and How We Are Losing
Paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall ends his recent book about the "Masters of the Planet" with such reflection:
[A]part from death, the only ironclad rule of human experience has been the Law of Unintended Consequences. Our brains are extraordinary mechanisms, and they have allowed us to accomplish truly amazing things; but we are still only good at anticipating — or at least of paying attention to — highly immediate consequences. We are notably bad at assessing risk, especially long-term risk. We believe crazy things, such as that human sacrifice will propitiate the gods, or that people are kidnapped by space aliens, or that endless economic expansion is possible in a finite world, or that if we just ignore climate change we won’t have to face its consequences. Or at the very least, we act as if we do (p. 227).
We humans routinely believe crazy things, but are we a crazy species? Does the big brain that allowed us to master the planet have a basic design flaw? Given the depth of the social and ecological crises we face — or, in some cases, refuse to face — should we be worried about whether we can slip out of the traps we have created?
We may not be driving ourselves into extinction, but we are creating conditions that make our future frightening. Our symbolic reasoning capabilities, impressive as they may be, are not yet developed to the point where we can cope with the problems our symbolic reasoning capabilities have created. And, what’s worse, those capabilities seem to make it difficult for us collectively to face reality — call that the delusional revolution, perhaps the scariest revolution of them all. The message transmitted and/or reinforced by the culture’s dominant institutions (government, corporations, media, universities) seems to be: (1) it’s not as bad as some people think, but; (2) even if it is that bad, we’ll invent our way out of the problems, and (3) if we can’t invent our way out we’ll just pretend the problems aren’t really problems. In short: deny, minimize, ignore.
By: RevElvis, 4:19 PM GMT on October 02, 2012
Scientists ask for legal safeguards to keep their work out of court
How much privacy is the scientific process entitled to? During the course of their work, researchers produce e-mails, preliminary results, and peer reviews, all of which might be more confused or critical than the final published works. Recently, both private companies with a vested interest in discounting the results, and private groups with a political axe to grind have attempted to use the courts to get access to that material.
Would it be possible or wise to keep these documents private and immune to subpoenas? In the latest issue of Science, a group of researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) argue that scientists need more legal rights to retain these documents and protect themselves in court.