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Deep thought - Jan 15

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Embracing Petrocollapse
(Lundberg interview) (audio)
KMO, C-Realm Podcast
KMO has another go at finding "the upside of down," this time with Jan Lundberg of CultureChange.org and the Sail Transport Network. Could petrocollapse be right around the corner? Jan Lundberg thinks that it might be, and what's more, that might not be such a bad thing. Topics include the plastic plague, peddle-powered produce, and unearthing sustainable living by de-paving paradise. Music by the Depavers
(14 January 2009)



A New Kind of Big Science

Aaron E. Hirsh, The Wild Side (blog), New York Times
... Across many different fields, new data are generated by a smaller and smaller number of bigger and bigger projects. And with this process of centralization come changes in what scientists measure — and even in what scientists are.

In physics, a slow drift toward centralization was given a sudden shove during the Second World War — think Manhattan Project — so it is perhaps not surprising that colliders today epitomize what historians have called “Big Science.” But a similar evolution is now evident in virtually every discipline.

... A young discipline is bound to move first through the data it can gather most easily. And as it does, it also defines more exactly what it must measure to test its theories. As the low-hanging fruit vanish, and the most precious of fruits are spotted high above, bigger investments in harvesting equipment become necessary. Centralization is a way to extend scientists’ reach.

But of course, there are also some drawbacks. There’s something disturbingly hierarchical about the new architecture of the scientific community: what was before something like a network of small villages is today more like an urban high-rise, with big offices at the top and a lot of cubicles down below.

The trouble with this is not just what it means for the folks in the cubicles, but also that the entire business should rely so heavily on the creativity and vision of relatively few managers.

... There is another way to extend our scientific reach, and I believe it can also restore some of what is lost in the process of centralization. It has been called Citizen Science, and it involves the enlistment of large numbers of relatively untrained individuals in the collection of scientific data. To return to our architectural metaphor, if Big Science builds the high-rise yet higher, Citizen Science extends outward the community of villages.

... In the end, though, what may be most important about Citizen Science is what it could mean for the relationship between citizens and science. When everyone is gathering data, that rather austere and forbidding tower becomes a shared human pursuit. In 1963, Alvin Weinberg, who was then the director of Oak Ridge, likened Big Science to the greatest monuments civilizations have ever built: the cathedrals of medieval Europe; the pyramids of Egypt.

But just as we build higher our temples of scientific investigation, so too should we strengthen their foundations, and broaden their congregations.
Aaron is a biologist and writer based in Colorado. He has a doctorate in Biological Sciences from Stanford University, where he studied aspects of how molecules such as proteins evolve. He has, for several years led a summer field course in Baja California, Mexico, looking at the animals that live in the Sea of Cortez — otherwise known as the Gulf of California. A book about his adventures there, called “Telling Our Way to the Sea,” will be published next year. He is also a research associate at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
(13 January 2009)



Seven Grams CO2 per Google Search? Not True or Relevant, but Fun To Repeat

Mark Ontkush, TreeHugger
Many of us will remember the whole seven grams of CO2, kettle of tea thing with Google, and guess that it probably isn't quite right; the dude that supposedly said it now supposedly denies it, apparently blaming it on London Times ax grinding against Google. At this point, who really knows what's going on - maybe TechNewsWorld has an ax to grind for the Times too - but one thing is for sure; all day today, the entire audience following this story will get their pleasures from figuring it out. And that, environmentally, is 100% exactly the problem.

Well, I actually I lied about that - it's not 100% of the problem, only part of it, but I wanted you to click through to continue reading; ironically, perhaps that's 'part of the problem' too! At this point, you are probably demanding some sense out of this article; ok, here's the sense.

Grams of CO2 Per GoogleScryve Corporate Social Responsibility Rating Search
Let's start with the numbers themselves; the initial claim was that the average GoogleScryve Corporate Social Responsibility Rating search emits 7 grams of carbon dioxide; this figure immediately gets pasted all over the Internet. Terrific! Now we know! Invariably, other comparative figures are included in these stories as well, like boiling a kettle or water to make tea, or a book, or a cheeseburger, or a car. One would suppose these numbers are used to provide some sort of perspective or 'level playing field'.

What really needed to happen is that someone should have taken a look at that 7 gram figure and determined if it was realistic. Few considered this; gladly, Nick Carr did on Rough Type, and it turns out he was probably right:
(13 January 2009)

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