Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seven billion and counting

I mentioned to someone at Arise last week that the year I entered high school, there were only three billion people on earth.  She found it hard to believe, given that we're on track for seven billion people this year.

In 2011, 135 million people will be born but less than half that many, 57 million, will die.

So: obviously population control is important.  We're down from the 1950 peak averaging five births to every woman to 2.5 births, but at that rate, population will continue to grow.

The other side of the coin is the need to preserve what we can of the world's resources.  Not making anywhere enough progress, here.  This year alone, we've lost more than 3 million hectares (a hectare is about 2 and a half acres) of forest, more than 4 million hectare of soil lost to erosion, and 7 million hectare of land lost to desertification.

You can watch these and other statistics unfold in real time at Worldometers.

Photo from JacobEnos' photostream at Flickr.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Talk to the binaries

The author of RevisingMRI, a blog about MRI physics, had a chance to have a discussion with Wolfram\Alpha, computational knowledge Engine.  You can read the rest of the interview here, but this is how it ends:

RevisingMRI: Right, let’s take a break. You know what they say: All work and no play…
Wolfram|Alpha: …makes Jack a dull boy.
RevisingMRI: I’m going to pop out for some fast food. Should I get a Big Mac or a Whopper?
Wolfram|Alpha: McDonald’s Big Mac: 28 grams of fat; Burger King Whopper, without cheese: 39 grams of fat.
RevisingMRI: What would you like?
Wolfram|Alpha: I like to explore the computational universe.
RevisingMRI: Er..ok… Now, where did I put my keys?
Wolfram|Alpha: Not sure, but wherever you find them, that’s where they are.
RevisingMRI: You’re not helping. What’s the problem?
Wolfram|Alpha: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
RevisingMRI: Scary… you’re reminding me of HAL9000. “Open the pod bay doors, HAL” !!
Wolfram|Alpha: I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
RevisingMRI: You know my name?!

Baby Hippo water dance

global warming state by state

Measure thirty years' worth of average temperatures from 1971 to year 200.  Now do the same thirty year measurement from 1981 to 2010 and compare the difference.  The state that's seen the biggest temperature increase?  Colorado.  But all of the Rocky Mountain states have seen big increases, and there isn't a single state in the country that isn't warmer now than 30 years ago.  Summit County Citizens Voice.

While large parts of the U.S. government, including a majority in Congress, continue to deny the reality of climate change, the U.S. Forest Service is not among them.  The service gets to see the reality up close.  See here for a list of the climate change presentations available on their site.

Wildfire Today has a report on climate change and wildfires.  Read it and weep.  In thirty years, there may be no forests left in Yellowstone National Park.