Anthropogenic climate change may have permanently destabilized both the West and East Antarctic Ice Sheets, meaning the planet could experience 3.3 to 4.3 meter sea-level rises in the next few centuries. And even better, gravity will push more towards North America than towards anyplace else:
In the event of a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, scientists have determined that the United States will receive moresea level rise than almost any other part of the world. (Granted, so will other countries in North America, like Canada and Mexico, which have considerably less global warming responsibility.)
In this case, West Antarctica is so large that it pulls the global ocean toward it, which slopes upward toward the ice sheet and the Antarctic continent in general. But if West Antarctica were to lose a substantial part of its ice, then the gravitational pull would relax, and sea level would actually decrease near the ice sheet even as it spreads and increases across the global ocean.
But not evenly. Instead, areas farther from West Antarctica would get more sea level rise, and North America and the United States might get more than any other inhabited place on Earth. “The water that had been held close to West Antarctica spreads out across the ocean,” explains Penn State glaciologist Richard Alley, “and we’re far enough away that we weren’t in the ‘pile’ that was held close to West Antarctica when the ice sheet was there and its gravity attracted the water to make the pile, but we get our share of the water from that pile when it spreads out.”
So possibly, a couple centuries from now, there will be an enormous dam protecting the Long Island Sound from the Atlantic, and Florida will be an artificial island somewhere near Miami. Good work, humans.
I was nowhere near Wrigley Field over the weekend, which is good because the St. Patrick's Day "celebration" up there netted 17 arrests (by 3am Sunday) and over 90 police visits to a single McDonald's:
1:47PM — RING THE BELL! We have our first knock-out of the day. An ambulance is summoned for “a guy so drunk he can’t stand up” at 3525 Clark.
1:49PM — Another prize is awarded as police issue the day’s first ticket for drinking on the public way. Rahm’s budget office thanks you, sir.
[many, many reports later]
9:44PM — Couple having sex on the wood chips at the back of a playlot. 918 Fletcher. “It’s unknown if it’s consensual.”
I lived in that neighborhood from 1994 to 1997, and I don't remember it being that bad. Ever. But since about 2010, street festivals and major drinking holidays have made the area impassable. Maybe there are some policy options, do you suppose?
It didn't help that we had our first tolerably warm weekend of the year. I mean, freezing rain would have quelled the violence a bit, I think.
Apparently my last four weekends have been pretty busy. Once again I have almost no time to post anything, not least because it's sunny and 13°C, so Parker and I are getting ready to go hiking.
So here's a listicle. Generally I hate them, but this one from Inc. listing frequently-misused cliché phrases made me point to my screen and shout "yes, that!"
11. Baited breath
The term "bated" is an adjective meaning suspense. It originated from the verb "abate," meaning to stop or lessen. Therefore, "to wait with bated breath" essentially means to hold your breath with anticipation. The verb "bait," on the other hand, means to taunt, often to taunt a predator with its prey. A fisherman baits his line in hopes of a big catch. Considering the meaning of the two words, it's clear which is correct, but the word "bated" is mostly obsolete today, leading to the ever-increasing mistake in this expression.
I'm waiting with bated breath for the next bit of list bait to cross my Facebook feed...
I'm in my office, looking outside at the sunny 15°C day and—oh, dear, I must be coming down with something, perhaps I should go home and rest?
Chicago was last this warm on November 10th, when it got up to 17°C. That was four months ago. Four. Months. One hundred twenty-three days.
Yep, definitely too sick to stay in the office now...
Yesterday NPR's Fresh Air interviewed Lee Jackson, author of Dirty Old London. Apparently my second-favorite city in the world came late to the sanitation party:
[B]y the 1890s, there were approximately 300,000 horses and 1,000 tons of dung a day in London. What the Victorians did, Lee says, was employ boys ages 12 to 14 to dodge between the traffic and try to scoop up the excrement as soon as it hit the streets.
This is the thing that's often forgotten: that London at the start of the 19th century, it was basically filled with these cesspools. There'd be brick chambers ... they'd be maybe 6 feet deep, about 4 [feet] wide and every house would have them. They'd be ideally in the back garden away from the house, but equally in central London and more crowded areas it was more common to have a cesspool in the basement. ... And above the cesspool would be where your household privy would be. And that was basically your sanitary facilities, for want of a better term.
He goes on from there.
Chicago, one should remember, also had disgusting streets, and nowhere to put sewers. Our solution? In the 1850s, we raised the city about 1.2 meters above the surrounding terrain. Note that it still took London 50 years to develop that level of sanitation.
Now London is one of the cleanest cities in the world. Still, people from outside the city—particularly from the north of England—refer to it as "the Big Stink." Cultural memories last for a long time.
The author of 70 books, including the Discworld series, died this morning at his home in the UK:
Pratchett, who had early onset Alzheimer’s disease, leaves his wife, Lyn, and their daughter, Rhianna.
He continued to write and completed his last book, a new Discworld novel, in the summer of 2014 before succumbing to the final stages of the disease.
He was the UK’s bestselling author of the 1990s and sold more than 85m books worldwide.
After his diagnosis, he urged people to “keep things cheerful”, adding: “We are taking it fairly philosophically down here” and predicting he had time for “at least a few more books yet”.
"God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time."—Good Omens
Eurozone economic stagnation has beaten up the currency this week; Krugman explains how it might affect us:
[T]he main driver [in the euro's fall] is the perception of permanent, or at any rate very long term European weakness. And that’s a situation in which Europe’s weakness will be largely shared with the rest of the world — Europe will have its fall cushioned by trade surpluses, but the rest of us will be dragged down by the counterpart deficits.
Now, this is not how most analysts approach the problem. They make a forecast for the exchange rate, then run this through some set of trade elasticities to get the effects on trade and hence on GDP. Such estimates currently indicate that the dollar will be a moderate-sized drag on US recovery, but no more. What the economic logic says, however, is that if that’s really true, the dollar will just keep heading higher until the drag gets less moderate.
So, great if you're traveling abroad, as I will be later this spring; bad if you're the United States or United Kingdom and have lots of exports to Europe. I'll be watching this carefully.
Rebecca Leber at New Republic states the obvious:
The phrase, “believe in climate change” returns almost a quarter-million Google results. As McCarthy said, science is neither a faith nor a religion, yet the term belief pervades media and politics. Why do advocates so consistently play along with the climate-change-denier narrative?
Conservatives have long drawn comparisons between climate change science and a fervent religion. A 2013 National Review column articulated the parallels thus: “Religion has ritual. Global-warming alarmism has recycling and Earth Day celebrations. Some religions persecute heretics. Some global-warming alarmists identify ‘denialists’ and liken them to Holocaust deniers.”
Leber makes good points, but it's not a great article. I'm posting it because I agree with her main point, and also because it's an example of the slide in quality at TNR since they destroyed their editorial board.
Business lunch, business dinner, 8:30am call, 1:30pm call—and right now, six minutes to click "Send to Kindle:"
Time to get some water, plug in my Fitbit, and prep for my 1:30 call.
Paul Krugman explains:
[W]hat fitness devices do, at least for me, is make it harder to lie to myself. And that’s crucial. It’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ve done enough walking, that shuffling around filing books is a pretty good workout, that you only miss exercise once a week or so — OK, maybe twice. But there’s your Fitbit telling you that you only walked 6000 steps and burned 1800 calories yesterday, that you only did serious exercise three days last week.
You might say that the truth will show up on the scale and your waistline eventually; yes, but that’s too future oriented. You need to guilt-trip yourself in the here and now.
Yes. And since I've started counting steps every day, and making decisions that result in even more steps, I've lost 7½ kilos—one stone two, to my UK friends—and brought my resting heart rate down to 60-65. I've also been able to correlate sleep quality with mental performance and diet, which doesn't mean I always sleep well or long enough, but it at least helps me plan my days better.
Oh, and I bought the Fitbit Surge, which is even cooler than the Flex I've been using.