Genius from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
A friend notes that he can’t seem to get good explanations of evolution from scientists or science-knowledgeable people, not without a great deal of condescension and snark against creationists.
My experience is quite the opposite — I generally find it difficult to maintain a discussion without creationists blowing up at me, and calling names. So this will be a great exercise in snark and manners control for me.
Rules of this thread: Ask any question about evolution. Avoid snark and rudeness. Be polite. Provide information without condescension, ridicule, and especially hoax. Any and all questions on evolution should be fair game.
Let’s see what happens, in comments.
More – sources, resources and commentary readers may find useful:
- Science education wins, Christian creationists lose in Texas (examiner.com)
- Texas Creationism: Big Shootout Tomorrow (sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com)
- Science: Explaining evolution 1 – Species (ool.co.uk)
- Evolution debate again engulfs Texas board (richarddawkins.net)
- SBOE Stands Up To Creationists, Approves Science Textbooks Containing Actual Science (burntorangereport.com)
- Ohio Supreme Court upholds the firing of a creationist science teacher (richarddawkins.net)
- Bill Nye: Debate Over Evolution In Texas Schools Is Jeopardizing Our Nation’s Future (accidentvictimsalliance.com)
It’s difficult to improve on NASA’s matter-of-fact explanations.
The Day the Earth Smiled
On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings — and, in the background, our home planet, Earth.
With the sun’s powerful and potentially damaging rays eclipsed by Saturn itself, Cassini’s onboard cameras were able to take advantage of this unique viewing geometry. They acquired a panoramic mosaic of the Saturn system that allows scientists to see details in the rings and throughout the system as they are backlit by the sun. This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn’s orbit; and the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.
With both Cassini’s wide-angle and narrow-angle cameras aimed at Saturn, Cassini was able to capture 323 images in just over four hours. This final mosaic uses 141 of those wide-angle images. Images taken using the red, green and blue spectral filters of the wide-angle camera were combined and mosaicked together to create this natural-color view. A brightened version with contrast and color enhanced, a version with just the planets annotated, and an unannotated version are also available.
This image spans about 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across.
The outermost ring shown here is Saturn’s E ring, the core of which is situated about 149,000 miles (240,000 kilometers) from Saturn. The geysers erupting from the south polar terrain of the moon Enceladus supply the fine icy particles that comprise the E ring; diffraction by sunlight gives the ring its blue color. Enceladus (313 miles, or 504 kilometers, across) and the extended plume formed by its jets are visible, embedded in the E ring on the left side of the mosaic.
At the 12 o’clock position and a bit inward from the E ring lies the barely discernible ring created by the tiny, Cassini-discovered moon, Pallene (3 miles, or 4 kilometers, across). (For more on structures like Pallene’s ring, see PIA08328). The next narrow and easily seen ring inward is the G ring. Interior to the G ring, near the 11 o’clock position, one can barely see the more diffuse ring created by the co-orbital moons, Janus (111 miles, or 179 kilometers, across) and Epimetheus (70 miles, or 113 kilometers, across). Farther inward, we see the very bright F ring closely encircling the main rings of Saturn.
Following the outermost E ring counter-clockwise from Enceladus, the moon Tethys (662 miles, or 1,066 kilometers, across) appears as a large yellow orb just outside of the E ring. Tethys is positioned on the illuminated side of Saturn; its icy surface is shining brightly from yellow sunlight reflected by Saturn. Continuing to about the 2 o’clock position is a dark pixel just outside of the G ring; this dark pixel is Saturn’s Death Star moon, Mimas (246 miles, or 396 kilometers, across). Mimas appears, upon close inspection, as a very thin crescent because Cassini is looking mostly at its non-illuminated face.
The moons Prometheus, Pandora, Janus and Epimetheus are also visible in the mosaic near Saturn’s bright narrow F ring. Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers, across) is visible as a faint black dot just inside the F ring and at the 9 o’clock position. On the opposite side of the rings, just outside the F ring, Pandora (50 miles, or 81 kilometers, across) can be seen as a bright white dot. Pandora and Prometheus are shepherd moons and gravitational interactions between the ring and the moons keep the F ring narrowly confined. At the 11 o’clock position in between the F ring and the G ring, Janus (111 miles, or 179 kilometers, across) appears as a faint black dot. Janus and Prometheus are dark for the same reason Mimas is mostly dark: we are looking at their non-illuminated sides in this mosaic. Midway between the F ring and the G ring, at about the 8 o’clock position, is a single bright pixel, Epimetheus. Looking more closely at Enceladus, Mimas and Tethys, especially in the brightened version of the mosaic, one can see these moons casting shadows through the E ring like a telephone pole might cast a shadow through a fog.
In the non-brightened version of the mosaic, one can see bright clumps of ring material orbiting within the Encke gap near the outer edge of the main rings and immediately to the lower left of the globe of Saturn. Also, in the dark B ring within the main rings, at the 9 o’clock position, one can see the faint outlines of two spoke features, first sighted by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s and extensively studied by Cassini.
Finally, in the lower right of the mosaic, in between the bright blue E ring and the faint but defined G ring, is the pale blue dot of our planet, Earth. Look closely and you can see the moon protruding from the Earth’s lower right. (For a higher resolution view of the Earth and moon taken during this campaign, see PIA14949.) Earth’s twin, Venus, appears as a bright white dot in the upper left quadrant of the mosaic, also between the G and E rings. Mars also appears as a faint red dot embedded in the outer edge of the E ring, above and to the left of Venus.
For ease of visibility, Earth, Venus, Mars, Enceladus, Epimetheus and Pandora were all brightened by a factor of eight and a half relative to Saturn. Tethys was brightened by a factor of four. In total, 809 background stars are visible and were brightened by a factor ranging from six, for the brightest stars, to 16, for the faintest. The faint outer rings (from the G ring to the E ring) were also brightened relative to the already bright main rings by factors ranging from two to eight, with the lower-phase-angle (and therefore fainter) regions of these rings brightened the most. The brightened version of the mosaic was further brightened and contrast-enhanced all over to accommodate print applications and a wide range of computer-screen viewing conditions.
Some ring features — such as full rings traced out by tiny moons — do not appear in this version of the mosaic because they require extreme computer enhancement, which would adversely affect the rest of the mosaic. This version was processed for balance and beauty.
This view looks toward the unlit side of the rings from about 17 degrees below the ring plane. Cassini was approximately 746,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Saturn when the images in this mosaic were taken. Image scale on Saturn is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) per pixel.
This mosaic was made from pictures taken over a span of more than four hours while the planets, moons and stars were all moving relative to Cassini. Thus, due to spacecraft motion, these objects in the locations shown here were not in these specific places over the entire duration of the imaging campaign. Note also that Venus appears far from Earth, as does Mars, because they were on the opposite side of the sun from Earth.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
What do you think: Tax money well spent?
- Saturn like you’ve never seen (news.yahoo.com)
- New Cassini Photos: NASA Releases New Cassini Photos of Saturn (theepochtimes.com)
- Saturn photographed as Earth smiled (bbc.co.uk)
- Planets galore! Big picture shows Saturn and more (photoblog.nbcnews.com)
- NASA Cassini spacecraft provides new view of Saturn and Earth (earthsky.org)
Don’t get complacent, yet. Has enough water fallen in the Great Lakes drainage area in the past six months to change this situation at all? From the New York Times last June:
Drought and other factors have created historically low water marks for the Great Lakes, putting the $34 billion Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping industry in peril, a situation that could send ominous ripples throughout the economy.
Water levels in the Great Lakes have been below their long-term averages during the past 14 years, and this winter the water in Lakes Michigan and Huron, the hardest-hit lakes, dropped to record lows, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Keith Kompoltowicz, the chief of watershed hydrology with the corps’s Detroit district, said that in January “the monthly mean was the lowest ever recorded, going back to 1918.”
While spring rains have helped so far this year, levels in all five Great Lakes are still low by historical standards, so getting through the shallow points in harbors and channels is a tense affair.
It’s not just storms, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers, you know.
- NOAA’s Great Lakes dashboard
- “Does Lake Michigan’s record low mark beginning of a new era for Great Lakes?” first part of series from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel On-Line
- National Geographic busts five myths about where the Great Lakes water went, or goes
- Great Lakes fish on a diet (northcountrypublicradio.org)
- A chilly Lake Superior warms up (northcountrypublicradio.org)
- The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – 38 years ago (blogs.woodtv.com)
- Portman’s Toledo Blade Op-Ed: It’s Now or Never to Keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes (portman.senate.gov)
- SUNY Fredonia Research Leads to Call for Ban on Microplastics (wkbw.com)
- The 1913 White Hurricane on the Great Lakes (netnewsledger.com)
- Face scrub micro-beads are choking the Great Lakes (boingboing.net)
- 100 years after ‘deadliest’ winter storm (newsnet5.com)
- Up or down? Which way are Great Lakes water levels headed? (mlive.com)
In Oregon, a scientist’s view from a field research station at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
A photo from the actions of President Theodore Roosevelt:
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Bird Reservation. Roosevelt set aside unclaimed lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud and Harney Lakes “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” The newly established “Lake Malheur Bird Reservation” was the 19th of 51 wildlife refuges created by Roosevelt during his tenure as president. At the time, Malheur was the third refuge in Oregon and one of only six refuges west of the Mississippi [six, then].
- The Oregon Outback – September, 2013 (oregonfieldnotes.wordpress.com)
- Oregon DFW Fish Passage Task Force to Consider Passage Waivers for Baker County and Malheur Basin Projects (outdoorhub.com)
- Burns explores Roosevelt legacy in new documentary (thenewstribune.com)
Looking for something else, I restumbled on the Constitution Club, where they continue to club the Constitution, its better principles, and especially the great nation that the document creates.
And one of those grotesquely inaccurate posts blaming liberals for everything sprang up — bedbugs, this time. If only those liberals had let the good DDT manufacturers poison the hell out of the entire planet, the blog falsely claims, there would be no concern for bedbugs surging in hotels worldwide today, and especially not in Charlotte, North Carolina, back during the Democratic National Convention.
Looking through the archives, I now recall I dealt with most of this issue on this blog before.
The post’s author made a response I hadn’t seen. God help me these idiots do need a trip to the intellectual woodshed. He said “Congress overreacted on DDT, I think. It likes to do that.”
In reality, Congress did nothing at all, other than pass the law regulating pesticides, if we stick to the real history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the rule on DDT, which still stands today. Over react? Two federal courts had to twist EPA’s arm to get any action at all, and after delaying for nearly two years, EPA’s rule didn’t ban DDT except for outdoor use on crops, which by that time meant cotton in a handful of states in the U.S. — DDT has never been banned in Africa nor Asia, Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty notwithstanding.
Did Congress ever “react” to DDT?
EPA was tasked by the 1950s’s FIFRA to check out safety of pesticides, and did. FIFRA had recently been amended to give EPA (USDA, before) power to ban a pesticide outright. Two federal courts found DDT eminently worthy of such an outright ban, but refrained from ordering it themselves as they saw the law to require, on the promise of EPA to conduct a thorough scientific review. At some length, and irritation to the Eisenhower appointees to the courts, EPA got around to an administrative law hearing — several months and 9,000 pages. In a panic, the DDT manufacturers proposed a new label for DDT before the hearings got started, calling DDT dangerous to wildlife, and saying it should be used only indoors to control health-threats. Alas, under the law, if DDT were allowed to stay for sale over the counter, anyone could buy it and abuse it. The hearing record clearly provided proof that DDT killed wildlife, and entire ecosystems. But, it was useful to fight diseases, used as the proposed label suggested . . .
Administrator William Ruckelshaus took the cue the DDT manufacturers offered. He issued a rule banning DDT from outdoor use on agricultural crops except in emergencies with a permit from EPA. But he specifically allowed U.S. manufacturers to keep making the stuff for export to fight malaria in distant nations, and to allow DDT makers to keep making money.
“Over-reacted” on DDT? Not Congress, and not EPA. The rule was challenged in court, twice. The appellate courts ruled that the scientific evidence, the mountains of it, fully justified the rule, and let it stand. (Under U.S. law, agencies may not act on whim; if they over-react, they’ve violated the law.)
No study conducted carefully and judiciously, and passed through the gauntlet of peer review, since that time, has questioned the science conclusions of that rule in any significant way — if any study questioned the science at all (there are famous urban legends, but most of them lead back to people who didn’t even bother to do research, let alone do it well and publish it).
But so-called conservatives have faith that if Congress will just repeal the law of gravity, pigs can fly. In the real world, things don’t work that way.
I’ve captured most of the earlier exchanges below the fold; one can never trust so-called conservatives to conserve a record of their gross errors. They’re there for the record, and for your use and edification.
We had to fight to keep this stuff in Texas science books.
Then, out on the street, I see a U-Haul truck.
Well played, U-Haul. Can Texas catch up?
Update, October 24, 2013: Turns out U-Haul has a website that features all of the graphics they use on their trucks. I sense a geography or state history assignment in here, somewhere, social studies teachers. Reminds me of the animals that used to (still do?) grace the tails of Frontier Airlines airplanes, the Native American on the tails of Alaska Airlines, and other specific destination promoting tricks businesses have used over the years. Wish more businesses would do that.
A well-fitting image in the few days before the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) opens its 2013 convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee (October 2-4). It was the power of the typewriter in 1963; the power of the word processor in 2013, more likely. In either case, it’s the hard work of environmental journalists, who are out to make the world a better place by showing us what it is, what shape it’s in, and how we might conserve it.
- How Rachel Carson Are You? (sierraclub.typepad.com)
- Ecofeminism and The Sense of Wonder (hypatiasheritage.wordpress.com)
- 13 of the World’s Oldest (and Most Beautiful) Typewriters (gizmodo.com)
- Rachel Carson: The Obligation to Endure (umcollegewriting1.wordpress.com)
- The Rise of The Environmental Movement (zoningthegardenstate.wordpress.com)
- Jessica Mitford: A radical touch of class (dangerousminds.net)
- Terrence Stutz’s story of the hearing in the Dallas Morning News; preview story from the previous weekend
- Jacquielyn Floyd, columnist for Dallas Morning News, “Why can’t Texas evolve beyond anti-science foolishness?” (may be behind paywall)
- Joshua Fechter story of the hearing in the San Antonio Express-News
- Mother Jones, “WATCH: These global-warming-denying creationists want to rewrite science textbooks”
- “Adventures with the Texas State Board of Education,” Violent Metaphors
- Scientists Plead to Education Board “Not to Let Texas Once Again Become a National Embarrassment” (alternet.org)
- Evolution, creationism conflict reignites at board of education (kvue.com)
- Let a thousand ignoramuses bloom: Texas creationist wants pro-evolution texts adopted! (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- Zombie Festival of Texas Creationism (sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com)
- Usual Lefties Show Up: Evolution Debate at Sboe – by Dohna Garner – 9.18.13 (educationviews.org)
- Texas Wades Into Evolution Debate At Textbook Hearing (personalliberty.com)
- Texas Creationism: Textbook Selection Time (sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com)
- Biblical Biology?: Texas State Board Of Education Continues Descent Into Scientific Illiteracy (secularnewsdaily.com)
One of the anti-environmental, anti-green false myths kicking around is that DDT is not harmful to humans, and therefore it probably shouldn’t have been banned, “and Rachel Carson was wrong.”
Reality is that DDT is a poison, but acute poisoning of large animals tends to take a lot. Insectivorous animals or their predators can get those fatal amounts, but humans generally don’t. DDT as a toxin kills mammals and birds and amphibians and reptiles and fish with equal alacrity, slowed only by the size of the organism and whether the organism’s diet consists of other things that consume and accumulate DDT.
Often that misperception is coupled with a claim that DDT does not cause cancer, and so should have its ban lifted.
But, the facts:
- DDT is a neurotoxin; in accumulates in fat, and if enough of it courses through the blood of an animal at a given point, it kills off parts of the neurosystem including the brain.
- DDT kills mammals (humans are mammals); in fact the U.S. Army argued to keep DDT on the market to use against bats that infested barracks in training camps (bats are mammals, too). Death depends on the dose, which depends on body size. Takes a fair amount to kill off a large mammal, quickly. DDT is implicated in the near extinction of different species of migratory free-tail bats in the Southwest.
- DDT is carcinogenic. Fortunately for humans, it’s a weak carcinogen for most cancers, though research points to a troubling link to some cancers (breast, reproductive organs) that appear very late relative to exposure, especially if exposure to DDT occurs in utero, or in infancy.
- DDT was not banned as a hazard to human health; it was banned as a hazard to wildlife. DDT in almost all concentrations becomes an indiscriminate killer of wildlife when used outdoors.
- DDT can kill humans with acute poisoning.
That last point isn’t easy to document in the U.S. During the go-go DDT years there was one case of a young girl who drank from a prepared DDT solution, and died a short time later. The incident was a tragedy, but not unique for the 1950s and 1960s. It was written off to lax safety standards, and because it occurred long before the origin of on-line databases, essentially it has fallen out of history. Just try to find a reference to the death today.
Partly, this lack of information on human toxicity is due to the fact that DDT use was slowing dramatically by the late 1960s (it was becoming ineffective), and after the ban in 1972, there were few cases in the U.S. where humans were exposed to the stuff, except in emissions from DDT manufacturing plants. EPA’s order banning DDT in the U.S. applied only to agricultural use, and the chief agricultural use remaining was on cotton. Manufacturing was not banned, however, which meant U.S. DDT makers could continue to pump the stuff out and sell it overseas, in Africa, and Asia. This continued right up to that day in 1984 that U.S. companies became subject to damage for the poisons they make under the Superfund law — almost every DDT maker declared bankruptcy to escape liability in the weeks before the Superfund became effective, saddling taxpayers with a few dozen Superfund sites to be cleaned up on the taxpayer’s dime.
DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia, however. And there we find a badly-documented history of people poisoning themselves with DDT, usually in suicides.
Whatever other pathologies these cases may exhibit, they reveal that DDT does, indeed, kill humans.
Like this recent case, from Ghana; yes, that’s the illustration used in the newspaper; from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation:
Sep 11, 2013 at 11:52amMan commits suicide over wife’s confession
Benjamin Kwaku Owusu, a 40-year-old former Manager of Unity Oil Filling Station in Suhum, has committed suicide by drinking DDT Gamullio 20 insecticide.
A family spokesperson who spoke to the Ghana News Agency on condition of anonymity said Owusu and his wife lived at Suhum and had been married for five years but never had a child.
He said the situation often developed into misunderstanding between them but later the wife got pregnant and left for her home town.
According to the spokesperson, whiles Owusu was preparing for the wife to deliver, he had a shocking message from the wife that the pregnancy belonged to another man and not him.
He said Owusu, who had a shock, rushed into his room and drunk the DDT Insecticide and fell unconscious.
“Owusu was rushed to the hospital but died soon after he was admitted,” he said.
When the police at Suhum was contacted, they confirmed the story and said the body of the deceased had since been buried after post mortem examination at the Suhum Government Hospital.
Not sure what “Gamullio 20″ means, but it seems to be the brand name of the poison used.
- Study: Rare condors harmed by DDT (redding.com)
- AP Exclusive: Study: rare condors harmed by DDT (seattletimes.com)
- Infidelity causes 2 men to commit suicide (modernghana.com)
- The People All Said Sit Down, Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat (ecofeminism-mothering.blogspot.com)
Can you recall what you were doing on September 5, 1977?
That’s the day NASA launched Voyager I, on a trip to photograph planets in our solar system more close up than we can get with Earth-bound telescopes. The Hubble Space Telescope was not even on the drawing board then.
After completing its mission, Voyager I continued on its path. Scientists thought it would survive to leave the solar systems, and a few forward-looking thinkers hoped to learn more about just how far the influence of our Sun really extends. At some point, Voyager I would leave space where the chief gravitational and wind influence is the Sun, and move into truly inter-stellar (“between the stars”) space, where gravity and particle emissions are dominated by other objects in our galaxy.
Last week NASA announced that time came in August of 2012, confirmed by data transmitted back to earth by Voyager’s primitive capabilities, over the last year.
Space.com explains it well:
Interesting to think of the investment in thought, money, effort and patience by scientists and policy-makers to wait more than 35 years for such a research result.
- Voyager 1 captures first-ever sounds of interstellar space (nbcnews.com)
- Voyager 1 captures the sounds of interstellar space (earthsky.org)
- NASA: Voyager 1 Officially Reaches Interstellar Space (sciencespacerobots.com)
- Voyager 1 Treks Into Interstellar Space, an Unexpected Frontier (bloomberg.com)
- It’s Official: Voyager 1 Is an Interstellar Probe (science.slashdot.org)
You’ve heard the news by now: Voyager I has left the system.
What are we to think of that?
” . . . astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience.”
- Carl Sagan on how images of Earth from space change our perspective
Sagan’s words in the full passage impart a larger message, about caring for our planet and our neighbors on it.
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997 reprint, pp. xv–xvi
In other words, we’re on our own. What are we going to do about that?
Hey, if I had the program and the time to fix the misspelled planet, I would. Also, it would be good to have photo credits.
- The Message Voyager 1 Carries for Alien Civilizations (kielarowski.wordpress.com)
- Pale Blue Dot – Carl Sagan (wonderfanatic.wordpress.com)
- Dreaming Like Carl Sagan (astronaut.com)
- The Green Universe: Carl Sagan (sierraclub.typepad.com)
- Words of wisdom from astronomer Carl Sagan: We inhabit a pale blue dot in an endless universe. It’s about time we all got along. (diverjency.com)
- Voyager: Through the door to eternity (richarddawkins.net)
- Voyager: Through the door to eternity (bbc.co.uk)
- Voyager site at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories
- Story on Voyager at Space.com
September 12 — Anniversary of the 1962 day JFK challenged all of America to go to the Moon, “because it is hard”September 12, 2013
Kennedy’s speech at Rice University, “We Choose to Go to the Moon,” was delivered in the football stadium (not nearly full), on September 12, 1962.
Obviously, that was back before global warming held such a tight death grip on Texas (it’s so bad here, even Rick Perry is trying to move north, out of the state).
Day in and day out, Kennedy’s speech, the text, the audio, and sources of commentary on it, are among the most popular of the nearly 5,000 posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. Go see why:
- Encore quote of the moment: John Kennedy, “We choose to go to the Moon.”
- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s comments on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech at Rice
- NASA’s page on the speech, with sources for even more
September 12, 1962, was also the ninth anniversary of JFK’s marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier. She let him go out of town to talk rockets?
Anything for the nation, I suppose.
- Jeffrey Sachs: To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (Excerpt) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Quote Assignment (mmswimmer12.wordpress.com)
- JFK: 50 years later “There’s still a healing going on” (star-telegram.com)
- Jeffrey Sachs: To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (Part Two) (huffingtonpost.com)
Emerald green beetle, looks a lot like a longhorn. I feared it to be a dreaded emerald ash borer, but it’s not.
Okay. What is it? Any body know?
From our Backyard Collection, two weeks ago:
It’s too big to be an emerald ash borer.
Perhaps a flower longhorn beetle?
Update, mystery solved: Ted C. MacRae said (see comments) it’s the bumelia borer (Plinthocoelium suaveolens). He wrote about it here. So, Kathryn, what are they eating in our backyard? Bumelia lanuginosa is a Texas native; do we have one, or a relative, in the garden? Dallas-area Dirt Doctor Howard Garrett says they’re mostly harmless in the garden. (Here’s a closeup, from MacRae’s blog):
2012 was one of the 10 warmest years on record globally
The end of weak La Niña, unprecedented Arctic warmth influenced 2012 climate conditions
August 6, 2013
Worldwide, 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record according to the 2012 State of the Climate report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The peer-reviewed report, with scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., serving as lead editors, was compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries (highlights, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice, and sky.
“Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place,” said Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. “This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment.”
Conditions in the Arctic were a major story of 2012, with the region experiencing unprecedented change and breaking several records. Sea ice shrank to its smallest “summer minimum” extent since satellite records began 34 years ago. In addition, more than 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet showed some form of melt during the summer, four times greater than the 1981–2010 average melt extent.
The report used dozens of climate indicators to track and identify changes and overall trends to the global climate system. These indicators include greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, cloud cover, sea surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean salinity, sea ice extent and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.
- Warm temperature trends continue near Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record, ranking either 8th or 9th, depending upon the dataset used. The United States and Argentina had their warmest year on record.
- La Niña dissipates into neutral conditions: A weak La Niña dissipated during spring 2012 and, for the first time in several years, neither El Niño nor La Niña, which can dominate regional weather and climate conditions around the globe, prevailed for the majority of the year.
- The Arctic continues to warm; sea ice extent reaches record low: The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes. Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September and Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in June each reached new record lows. Arctic sea ice minimum extent (1.32 million square miles, September 16) was the lowest of the satellite era. This is 18 percent lower than the previous record low extent of 1.61 million square miles that occurred in 2007 and 54 percent lower than the record high minimum ice extent of 2.90 million square miles that occurred in 1980. The temperature of permafrost, or permanently frozen land, reached record-high values in northernmost Alaska. A new melt extent record occurred July 11–12 on the Greenland ice sheet when 97 percent of the ice sheet showed some form of melt, four times greater than the average melt this time of year.
- Antarctica sea ice extent reaches record high: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.51 million square miles on September 26. This is 0.5 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.47 million square miles that occurred in 2006 and seven percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986.
- Sea surface temperatures increase: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2012 was among the 11 warmest on record. After a 30-year period from 1970 to 1999 of rising global sea surface temperatures, the period 2000–2012 exhibited little trend. Part of this difference is linked to the prevalence of La Niña-like conditions during the 21st century, which typically lead to lower global sea surface temperatures.
- Ocean heat content remains near record levels: Heat content in the upper 2,300 feet, or a little less than one-half mile, of the ocean remained near record high levels in 2012. Overall increases from 2011 to 2012 occurred between depths of 2,300 to 6,600 feet and even in the deep ocean.
- Sea level reaches record high: Following sharp decreases in global sea level in the first half of 2011 that were linked to the effects of La Niña, sea levels rebounded to reach record highs in 2012. Globally, sea level has been increasing at an average rate of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.
- Ocean salinity trends continue: Continuing a trend that began in 2004, oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation, including the central tropical North Pacific, and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, including the north central Indian Ocean, suggesting that precipitation is increasing in already rainy areas and evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.
- Tropical cyclones near average: Global tropical cyclone activity during 2012 was near average, with a total of 84 storms, compared with the 1981–2010 average of 89. Similar to 2010 and 2011, the North Atlantic was the only hurricane basin that experienced above-normal activity.
- Greenhouse gases climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2012. Following a slight decline in manmade emissions associated with the global economic downturn, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production reached a record high in 2011 of 9.5 ± 0.5 petagrams (1,000,000,000,000,000 grams) of carbon , and a new record of 9.7 ± 0.5 petagrams of carbon is estimated for 2012. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.1 ppm in 2012, reaching a global average of 392.6 ppm for the year. In spring 2012, for the first time, the atmospheric CO2concentration exceeded 400 ppm at several Arctic observational sites.
- Cool temperature trends continue in Earth’s lower stratosphere: The average lower stratospheric temperature, about six to ten miles above the Earth’s surface, for 2012 was record to near-record cold, depending on the dataset. Increasing greenhouse gases and decline of stratospheric ozone tend to cool the stratosphere while warming the planet near-surface layers.
The 2012 State of the Climate report is peer-reviewed and published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This year marks the 23rd edition of the report, which is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making. The full report can be viewed online.
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- Warmest years on record
- State of the Climate described clinically
- 2012 warmest year on record for U.S., Chris Clarke for KCET
- You can’t deny global warming after seeing this graph (washingtonpost.com)
- 2013 shaping up to be one of Australia’s hottest years on record (theconversation.com)
- Arctic ice grows darker and less reflective. (newscientist.com)
- El Niño, La Niña unlikely to make an appearance in 2013 – WMO (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Evidence that global warming has stopped [Greg Laden's Blog] (scienceblogs.com)