Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Taking a break

'Grains of Sand' is taking a nap.

'Prepare for 4 C'

says Bob Watson


Nature publishes my interview with Brian Aldiss.

The ultimate in geo-engineering?

An army major passed up an idea for us to look at a rectangular array of 10,000 Atlas engines, the most powerful rockets we had, all pointing horizontally in one direction. The idea was that in the event of early warning they would ignite simultaneously and stop the earth’s rotation for a few seconds and cause the Soviet missiles to overshoot their target. This was not a joke. But it was a back of the notebook calculation. I took it to a physicist who did the sums and said, ‘No ten thousand would not be enough’. I remember thinking, could I be in the wrong line of work?
- a former employee of the RAND Corporation remembers in All Your Tomorrows Today, BBC Radio 3 (listen again here).

[P.S. 1 Sep: The Royal Society has now published a serious collection of articles on the topic (and I'm not being sarcastic). But thumbs down to them for not making all the articles freely accessible.]


In 2002 there were 200 mobile phones in Afghanistan. Today there are more than four million, and over 70% of the country has signal coverage -- Ashraf Ghani talks about hope, development and much else in GlobalBiz, 29 July 08

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A new way of seeing

Britain from above

Fatality rate: 27%

on K2

Big beasts

A review of The Predator State by James Galbraith

'After Nature'

Something is happening in artists’ studios: a shift of emphasis, from surface to depth, and a shift of mood, from mania to melancholy, shrugging off the allures of the money-hypnotized market and the spectacle-bedizened biennials circuit.
-- from Feeling Blue ('The art world gets serious')

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Does discount?

...Much more unsettling for an application of (present discounted) expected utility analysis are the unknowns: deep structural uncertainty in the science coupled with an economic inability to evaluate meaningfully the catastrophic losses from disastrous temperature changes...
-- from On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change by Martin L. Weitzman (7 July 08)

Paul Krugman cites Weitzman, and thinks Mr. Obama was "dismissive when he should have been outraged" at John McCain's plan to increase offshore drilling.

In Britain, NEF gets a headline or two with 100 months until 450ppm, and activists prepare to go to jail.

[On the economics, see also Discounting rhetoric]

The games

To me it is not a choice of whether or not to speak out, it is a matter of dignity of life.
-- Ai Weiwei.
Trapped by its grandiose goal of embracing the entire “human family” at whatever cost, the IOC has repeatedly caved in and awarded the games to police states bent on staging spectacular festivals that serve only to reinforce their own authority. Of course, the most notorious example is the 1936 Berlin Games...Pierre de Coubertin, the French nobleman who founded the modern Olympic movement, called Hitler’s games the fulfillment of his life's work.
-- from Think Again: The Olympics by John Hoberman.

See also Isabel Hilton, The Economist and George Packer.