Saturday, March 29, 2014


The Current Extinction Rate

There are myriad estimates of the current rate of species extinction, some of which estimates are clearly impossibly high. So what's the truth? First a sampling of the estimates.

This guy says dozens of species are going extinct every day. Call it 36--more than 13,000 a year.

These guys say it's 72 per day (more than 26,00 a year) and another says 50,000 to 100,000 per year.

Now that's just absurd. Name one species that went extinct in 2013. One! Even the science magazine Nature says cool it with the too-high-for-anyone-to-believe estimates.

Now keep in mind this is species, not sub-species or breeds or races. Thus, if you say, for example, Caspian tigers are gone but Sumatran, Bengal and Siberian tigers etc. are not extinct, then tigers are not extinct as a species but only one sub-species of tigers, one local race of tigers is gone. That's not what we're talking about. If you're saying the species we call tigers (Panthera tigris) is extinct, that means there are no tigers at all, anywhere, anymore.

A little more on the rational side is this German site, which says that 263 vertebrate species have gone extinct in the past 513 years or just under two such species a year about 1 species every other year.

Now there is no doubt that the average 'normal' background species eradication has ticked up a bit since mankind started hunting in earnest (Mammoths, Ground Sloths and their their predators Saber Tooth Tigers, Dire Wolves, etc,); and then ticked up again when humans began transporting species which had involved elsewhere onto islands around the world--first with boats and then with airplanes. But that's not global warming as a cause, nor, I would argue, is it a massive extinction as some are alleging. Although I do miss each of the species we hunted to extinction, I realize it probably would have each been impossible to have them in great numbers and still have modern agriculture, which supports Earth's large human population (which is good).

Global Warming Climate change has done nothing to cause even one species to go extinct. Or so the IPCC is apparently prepared to admit, say the Germans, to which admission the alarmists are quick to add "yet!"

It's not warming and that's becoming impossible to deny and not look completely looney (some don't seem to mind seeming completely looney). It's not warming, yet all the pre-1998 climate models said it would so the only so-called evidence the alarmist true believers have (and computer simulations are NOT evidence) are looking ever more worthless. It's not warming and the ever more desperate search for an explanation that doesn't degrade the central alarmist tenet has again and again come up empty. (My favorite was hidden warmth in the deep seas measured not in degrees but in terawatts or gigajoules of energy, which sounds massive until you do the math and realize the temperature equivalent is about .07 degrees C higher which is too small for the Argo buoys' temperature sensors to measure, Oopsie).

As Dennis Miller said, one man's Global Warming is another man's "it's nice out."

But I see I've strayed from the over-hyped subject of species extinction.

UPDATE: Anonymous points out my simple math inability. Thanks. Fixed now.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014


Alien Art



It's a Mystery to Me

Real Nimitz class aircraft carrier.

Fake, 3/4 size mock up of a US carrier in an Iranian shipyard. Little narrow at the prow and stern.

What's up with that?


Friday, March 21, 2014


Question of the Day

If non-anthropogenic influences are strong enough to counteract the expected effects of increased CO2, why wouldn’t they be strong enough to sometimes enhance warming trends, and in so doing lead to an over-estimate of CO2 influence?

The Quadrant

(h/t Steve Hayward)



Cool Literary Photograph

Eric Blair, with the puppy, and Hemingway, the one with glasses looking to Blair's left, fighting for the wrong side in the Spanish Civil War. Blair, who took the nom de plume George Orwell, was later shot in the throat and nearly lost his voice. The rifles look like Moisin-Nagant 91/30s to me. So, Soviet rifles were the weapons of the anarcho-syndicalists losing to the fascists overthrowing the 2nd Spanish Republic.

I almost always root for those least-to-the-political-left in 20th Century fights. The only exception is with the National Socialists fighting the International socialists 1941-1945.

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Monday, March 17, 2014


We're On the Road to Nowhere

(h/t This Isn't Happiness)



OMG--Andrew Sullivan Making Sense

It's been a long time since I read him but this is a very good article and good on Mr. Sullivan for writing it. As he says, money quote:

One of the worst traits of some left-liberals is their easy resort to calling those who disagree with them bigots or racists or worse. There are some sites on the web that seem almost entirely devoted to patrolling the discourse for any sign of sin. This one’s a homophobe; this one’s a racist; so-and-so said this and that could be – shock! – prejudiced. It can sometimes be a way to avoid engaging arguments rather than tackling them. And so, on cue, Paul Ryan is taking heat for these remarks:
We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

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Friday, March 14, 2014


The Universe Is More Strange Than We Imagine

And at times it is more strange than we can imagine.

We all get the idea of a spiral galaxy from watching water spin as it drains away down a pipe. But what outside force could cause a flat spiral galaxy to rotate in a flat plain but also have the flat plane rotate or spin on its axis, yet all the while the spiral galaxy remains intact?

I wonder if the new narrator of the revamped Cosmos series, Mr. Tyson, could explain this one, NGC 2685?


Monday, March 10, 2014


Media Weekend

I finally got out and saw some movies, 300 II and Stalingrad, this weekend plus Walking Dead, True Detective and Cosmos on TV.

The sequel to 300 was about the important naval battle at Salamis (east of Athens) in 480 BC. The movie has the same position relative to the contemporary histories by Herodotus and Aeschylus as The Cat in the Hat has to the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus by Wittgenstein. Artemisia, tyrant of Halicarnassus, was a real woman admiral but I'm seriously doubting she had sex with the Greek general Themistocles on the eve of battle and was a superior sword fighter. She could have looked as good as Eva Green. Could have. The problem the Persians had at Salamis was the same problem the French knights had at Agincourt--too many vying in too small a space. The Persian triremes in back forced the ones in front on and left no room to maneuver. The less numerous Greek boats chewed 'em up.

Stalingrad was a battle involving a million people so the movie focused on about 7 and seemed nearly neighborly. The Germans still lost.

Walking Dead continued to show the separate fates of the former prison survivor clan. Kinda boring. BetterBattlePlan: Check to see who's on the other side of the door before you open it. Like it that Jeff Lorber has joined the fight semi-permanently.

True Detective ended as well as it started. Could there be a sequel, a second season, or even a third? Not unless we want to see Marty and Rust solve crimes in their 70s. Can't tell if Carcosa is a Civil War or a Spanish-American War fort. I'd guess the latter.

Slightly disappointed so far by Cosmos. It's beautiful and Tyson is avuncular and informing and says 'billions' properly. But the stupid spaceship of the imagination goes whoosing by with full doppler effect in the vacuum of space where, they sometimes remind us*, there is no sound. Not good for a real science show. Kubrick could do it right, why not anyone else? Also Tyson is saying we must be skeptical to be real scientists but he is clearly a global warming climate change alarmist (we're burning coal to our peril, he solemnly states--I thought it was to have enough electricity to make and watch shows like Cosmos, but what do I know?). That's a little off putting. And I've never accepted the Big Bang Theory (nihil ex nihilo I always say). Gaia out of Chaos in the Theogony has the same problem. Maybe next I'll be yelling "get off my lawn!" to neighborhood children.

Oh, and Venus does not have a runaway greenhouse gas problem. It is hot because it is a lot closer to the Sun (duh!) than us, and it has a very thick atmosphere which heats the surface from pressure alone. Yes, the atmosphere is mainly CO2, but Mars has an atmosphere with an even higher concentration of CO2 than Venus, but Mars is a lot colder than Earth because it is a lot farther away from the Sun (Duh!) and its CO2 atmosphere is very thin with no pressure heating.  CO2 never controls the temperature of a planet. Not looking forward to more climate change propaganda, science about which one dare not be skeptical.

*The tag line for Alien was, "In space, no one can hear you scream." True, but nuclear detonations came through just fine in the film. Non Alanis Morissett type irony there.

UPDATE: This gal liked 300 II. Huh?

UPDATE II: This guy found three more things to criticize about Cosmos beyond Venus and CO2 and whoosing through space. One seems trivial but the show's editing of the true history of Arian heretic Giordano Bruno is monumentally misleading. And I really like the jujitsu move of pretending to believe the one calendar year timescale comparison of the life of the universe was literal to show the hypocrisy of Tyson's ilk sneering at the unscientific 6 days of creation in Genesis.

Oh and the word is True Detective will have a different cast and a new story line next time it airs. What? No Marty and Rust? Now I feel like people I knew and liked have died


Sunday, March 09, 2014


Slavery Was Bad Everywhere

The Atlantic Slave Trade, which supplied South America, the Caribbean and North America with black slaves from Africa who had been captured and sold by other black Africans along the African west coast, the slave coast, for about 400 years was evil. However, it was no worse nor better than any other slave trade which existed in slightly varying forms all across the World from the time humans started living in clans a few hundred thousand years ago to the mid-19th Century when very religious people stopped it (I agree with director Steve McQueen that there are still slaves in the World, many in Africa, still). There was during that period nearly as booming a business in slaves on different African coasts--Europeans enslaved by Muslims in North Africa and black Africans enslaved by Muslims along the East Coast of Africa. Wherever slavery existed, it was evil. I'm glad it's been stopped (or slowed). Progress is possible. But there was nothing about the owning of slaves in America which stands out as a greater evil than the owning of slaves anywhere else. And the people who pretend that America was worse than any other slave owning country are ignorant of history. Pig ignorant.

I won't even get into the ethical morass of judging people long ago by contemporary mores. It's moral onanism as far as I'm concerned. 



Edgar Rice Burroughs Would Be Proud

This crater on Mars has punched through to an underground space the floor of which is probably 20 meters below the opening. I don't know if the white is dust, ice or dry ice. It's on the the Pavonis Mons and the photo is 3 years old. Why doesn't anyone tell me about these things? Let's send a 'rover' there next and then to the Utah of Mars; the Afghanistan of Mars, where we are now, is not getting a lot of people psyched for further exploration.


Sunday, March 02, 2014


Oscar Pick Results

I guessed right 22 of 24. I missed best live short and best animated short. Those are generally hard and I never get to see them before or after.

The show was difficult to watch, and I generally didn't (True Detective and The Walking Dead instead) but what I saw of DeGeneres was pretty good. The banter for the category announcers was particularly lame. Repeating the words hero or heroes every third sentence was galling (play actors are heroes? grips and gaffers and assistant directors are heroes?--right. The military has heroes, sometimes firefighters and cops, that's about it). Some of the acceptance speeches were either maudlin self congratulations or interminable lists of names. Unwatchable, particularly Cate Blanchett's. I might be less inclined to watch her work in the future just for her interminable speech.

There is, unfortunately, nothing to be done to improve them. Some people watch no matter how bad they are.



Thought of the Day

Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.

Joseph Epstein


Saturday, March 01, 2014


Take 'Em to the Bank Oscar Predictions -- 2014

Here are the big nine:

Best Picture-- 12 Years a Slave (slightly possible Gravity, less slightly possible, but possible American Hustle)
Best Leading Man-- Matthew McConaughey (slight possibility for Di Caprio to upset here)
Best Leading Lady-- Cate Blanchett
Best Supporting Actor-- Jared Leto
Best Supporting Actress-- Lupita Nyong’o (strong chance of Jennifer Lawrence to upset here)
Best Foreign Film-- The Great Beauty (Italy) (most Americans might like Bluegrass but Academy voters don't so the Belgium entry has no chance)
Best Director-- Alfonso Cuarón
Best Screenplay, Original-- Her
Best Screenplay, Adapted--12 Years a Slave

Easy calls:

Cinematography-- Gravity (bet the house)
Documentary Short-- The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (about a Theresienstadt concentration camp survivor who just died last week at 110) (bet the house)
Animated Short-- Get a Horse!
Visual Effects-- Gravity (bet the house)
Original Song-- Let Her Go (Frozen)
Animated Feature-- Frozen

Here are the not that easy rest:

Documentary Feature-- 20 Feet From Stardom (Although The Act of Killing is a better film)
Sound Mixing-- Gravity
Sound Editing-- Gravity (even though there is no sound in space)
Film Editing-- Gravity

Makeup-- Dallas Buyer's Club
Documentary Short-- The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (about a Theresienstadt concentration camp survivor who just died last week at 110) (bet the house)

Here are the  next to impossible to call:

Art Direction-- The Great Gatsby (possibly 12 Years a Slave)
Live Short-- The Voorman Problem
Costume Design-- The Great Gatsby (which proved, again, the great novel is unable to be adapted into a great movie)

I'm glad that Ellen DeGeneres is back and I really hope she doesn't bomb. Let's hope there will be time for more clips.

On, and for the first time I have only seen two of the movies in actual contention--Dallas Buyer's Club and American Hustle, both of which I gave B ratings. You don't have to see the movies to know who the winners will be here, you just have to know the basics and read the liberal critics. The secret: The Oscar competition is not an award show for the best in category but a general Hollywood PR campaign. What film winner puts Hollywood in the best light? Go with that to guide your choices and you will beat the odds.

UPDATE: I left out score. Gravity. Wild ass guess.


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