Posted by: bkivey | 3 June 2011

Bits and Pieces

From the Real Science blog:

Newsweek May 29, 2011

In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future.

Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage. The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years, forcing the Mississippi to flood thousands of square miles, even as drought-plagued Texas suffered the driest month in a century. Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions. The 2010 heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 15,000 people. Floods in Australia and Pakistan killed 2,000 and left large swaths of each country under water. A months-long drought in China has devastated millions of acres of farmland. And the temperature keeps rising: 2010 was the hottest year on earth since weather records began.

The Cooling World

Newsweek, April 28, 1975

There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas – parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia – where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.

The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree – a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.

To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”

Fractured English

From an article containing advice to women embarking on a road trip with their significant others:

“I helped him out with accessing his food and drink while we were on the road”.

One hopes that the writer is not an English major, or if she is, she gets her money back.  As written, the sentence would seem to say that she assisted her boyfriend in consuming his food and drink. While it’s clear that she means she handed food and drink to him, ‘accessing’ is not a very good verb choice. Better phrases might be ‘by fetching’, or ‘by retrieving’. I’m fairly certain that not even the geekiest of computer savants would say ‘Dude! I totally accessed that beer!”

Word Watch

From another essay, we get the neologism ‘engaud’. The essay concerns people who inflate their military records, so the meaning of the word is clear from context. The word has the advantage of explaining its meaning through its construction, a trait not shared by the synonymous ‘enhance’.

Why Diploma Mills Exist

An ad from the local Craigslist, in its entirety:

Dissertation Statistics Help (Vancouver)

Date: 2011-05-30, 12:30AM PDT
Reply to: ***************** [Errors when replying to ads?]
I am looking for someone to help me choose the appropriate analyses, walk me through the statistical analyses for my dissertation,and make sure I understand it enough to explain it during my defense. Must be familiar with SPSS or similar. I prefer someone who has access to SPSS or other statistical software, is very flexible in their schedule, and can get it done asap. Please contact me for further details.
•Location: Vancouver
•it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
•Compensation: TBD   

The poster is apparently trying to finish up their Ph.D., and has somehow managed to get to the dissertation defense stage with a minimal knowledge of research methodologies. I especially like the phrase “. . . make sure I understand it enough to explain it during my defense.” It appears the efforts of the academic institution have been in vain. They don’t say what their field is, but I would be unsurprised if it contained the word ‘studies’.

Groan Moments in Sports

I was listening to the Mariners – Rays game on the radio while writing this post. The Mariners lit up Rays starter Jason Shields for 4 homeruns before he was sent to the showers. One of the dingers was launched by 1B Justin Smoak, a shot Mariners announcer Rick Rizzs charactrized as a ‘Smoakbomb’.


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