Category: nature

A World Without People

The show is named, “Life After People“.

I don’t know what possesses a television network to run programs based on this idea. Just what does a world without people mean? Why would anybody be interested in a world without people? What’s the point?

Certainly, embedded in this meme is the thought that humans are bad for “nature”. People are not “natural”. Mankind is destroying the earth.

Who cares? Logically, if humans are suddenly gone from the face of the earth, why should anyone care what things would happen? If we are dead, let us stay dead. The earth can take care of itself.

For some unfathomable reason, certain people firmly believe that humans are bad for the earth, and everything we do is not natural. How does anyone come to the conclusion that humans are not natural?

picture of beaver dam
Natural Beaver Home

People are as natural as ants, beavers, bears, lions, tigers, and sloths. Our houses and high-rises are just as natural as beaver dams and ant hills. Have you seen the damage beavers can do to the environment? Those are tough little buggers.

People who believe humans are not natural are the same people who firmly believe that mankind is the result of millions of years of very natural evolution. If we evolved alongside other predators and prey, why are we not considered natural?  I have imported a couple of pictures from Wikipedia. One is of a beaver dam, and one is of the tallest skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

wikipedia picture of skyscraper
Very Tall Skyscraper – A Natural Human Construction

Beavers cut down valuable trees along the banks of creeks and rivers. Mankind mixes concrete and manufactures steel beams to build magnificent buildings. Some people buildings are beautiful, and some look like beaver dams which are hard to differentiate from accident locations.

Those who complain about forests being cut down may have a point about the degradation of rain forests, but don’t forget how much land is damaged every year by fire ants in the American Southwest and Southeast. If people were to disappear from the earth another species will become dominant, and will do its part in changing its environment to suit.

Come on, people. What’s the point of all this humans-are-bad stuff?


“Some Days Are Diamonds…”

picture of diamond ring
Diamonds Are Good

So says John Denver in his famous song, “Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stones)”. His sentiment may have been about lots of things. You can make this song mean anything you want. The message is quite clear. Some days are better than others. Lots better.

Last night while driving in the wilds of North Carolina on the way to my brother’s house, I was listening to an Audible book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “Fooled By Randomness”. This may sound like an uppity title, but be assured it is understandable by almost anyone.

Mr Taleb talks about signal and noise. The task is to not be fooled by the random occurrence of information.  It is kind of like the diamonds and stones of John Denver. You see, you want to get the “signal”, or real value out of all the news, information, and chatter going on in the world everyday. Everything else is just noise, or stones if you will.

Just like the song, you are looking for the diamonds, or value in your everyday dealings and information flow. There is no reason to look for the stones. Usually somebody is throwing the stones at you.

Under the current conditions in the nation today, most of the stones are from the Federal Government. One of those stones is the new health care regime. Another is the catastrophe taking place at our southern border. Another stone is our government’s spying programs. It just never stops.

Somehow in our stoney lives, we have to learn to live and prosper in spite of our government. It is getting harder and harder to find the diamonds.

I suppose we have to learn to be thankful for the few diamonds coming our way. Shield yourself from the stones, and don’t pay attention to the noise, or mixed metaphors like this one.

For your entertainment, John Denver.

Our Goldilocks World

You know how it is sometimes fun to sit around and Google things that just pop into your mind? Well, I was doing that tonight while pondering the world around us. I was thinking about trees and plants, and how they figure into our environment. The process I looked up was photosynthesis.

We would not have oxygen to breathe if it were not for carbon dioxide (CO2) and plant life.

6H2O + 6CO2 ———-> C6H12O6+ 6O
Six molecules of water plus six molecules of CO2 makes one sugar molecule and six oxygen molecules.

This is what happens. Plants get their water from the ground through the root system, and they suck in carbon dioxide gas (CO2) from the atmosphere. That’s when the fun starts.

Sunlight is the energy that drives the whole process. When sunlight strikes a leaf of a plant, energy is absorbed. Some sunlight causes heat, and the rest causes chemical reactions between the CO2 and other stuff in the plants. Oxygen is split from the carbon dioxide and water (H2O), and sugar and enzymes result growing the plant.

If it were not for CO2 we would not have trees, plant life, food, or oxygen. It gets that simple.

Global warming is blamed on CO2. There is only a small bit of truth to this in that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and greenhouse gases cause the earth to keep warm enough to support life, but not too warm. CO2 is not the driving gas in the process. The real driver is water vapor, by far the strongest greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Photosynthesis is yet another process that can be called a Goldilocks process. It takes in carbon dioxide (CO2), and produces food and oxygen, all necessary for life.

Our earth is just far enough from the sun to keep it warm within a livable range. We live on a water planet where the climate is pretty much automatically maintained by clouds, water vapor, water vaporization and condensation, and the associated heat engines.

When things heat up, clouds form, rain happens, and things cool down. That’s one of the mechanism that keeps the world from getting too hot. Greenhouse gases keep the world from getting too cold for life.

Food and water are plentiful almost everywhere because of the natural processes.

What more can one ask? We do live in a Goldilocks world. It is almost like things were planned that way. Our Goldilocks world is just right.

Note: Yes, I noticed in the chemical equation that the Oxygen molecules did not balance. I did a cut and paste from some web page, and am now paying for my own inattention. I think that the six oxygen molecules should be molecules made up of 2 oxygen molecules. Oxygen does that, you know. I just don’t know how to do a subscript in WordPress.

Car Wash In The Rain

Here I am at the car wash, waiting on my car to be washed, waxed, vacuumed, and flushed of all dirt and grime our recent beach trip generated. It is raining.

Yeah. I know. It is really dumb to wash your car on a rainy day. But, what do you do when your boss, err wife tells you to get the car cleaned out? You have no choice but to obey. When She Who Is To Be Obeyed speaks, you learn to listen after forty or so years of marital bliss, or something like that.

So, I sit here, typing a little blog into my computer, and lo and behold, the sun is coming out. Maybe the daily rain is over!

On the other hand, I think I have discovered a new physical principle.

Do you remember the rule about washing your car? If you wash your car, it is certain to rain. Now, we learn that this is a world of opposites. The new rule is, when you wash your car in the rain, the sun is bound to shine.

It all makes sense, now. Sunshine brings rain, and the rain brings sunshine. Get used to it.

The Real Risks of Fracing

Picture of a gas drilling rig
Gas Drilling Rig In Texas – Thanks to Wikipedia

In my last blog post I took the position that natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracing) is a good thing. This is an assertion that is born out by the history of natural gas drilling around the world over the last twenty to thirty years. Indeed, hydraulic fracturing has been used in one form or another for the last seventy plus years!

The technology has enough history, and the practitioners enough expertise that hydraulic fracturing should not be a problem, anywhere. It is physically impossible for seepage from a fractured shale formation over a mile deep to get to the surface. There are just too many layers of other, different types of rock prohibiting that seepage. The greatest risks for environmental problems lie elsewhere, not with the actual fracturing of a shale structure.

The environmental risks of any drilling technology can be expressed in three categories:

  • Water
  • Air
  • Land Use

Water – This is perhaps the most common pollution problem found at a drilling site. The hydraulic fracturing itself does not cause a problem. Most environmental problems linked to fracing are caused by the mishandling of drilling muds, fracing water, waste water, transportation spills of toxic chemicals, and improperly constructed wells. The literature is very clear on this account. If the well is properly constructed, and if the fluids are handled properly, there is no problem. Please read this article from the Shale Gas Wiki.

Much of the so-called evidence against natural gas hydraulic fracturing is anecdotal. It is just one uninformed, emotional story after another. The people in New York State are rightfully concerned about the natural gas drilling into the Marcellus Formation. The same shale formation underlies portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.There have been reports in these states of methane pollution of the drinking water. This is not unusual.

Graph of Marcellus Shale extent
Extent of Marcellus Shale Formation

In one study it was found that out of 60 water wells tested in Pennsylvania and New York, eighty-five percent showed thermogenic methane content. This means that the gas was caused by natural seeps from deep in the earth. Thermogenic methane comes from deep underground, and biogenic methane is the stuff produced by biomass (garbage, etc.) near the surface. There had been no natural gas or oil drilling in that area.

The Marcellus shale structure shows up at different depths across Appalachia. In some places it is barely 1,000 feet under the surface, and in others it is over 8,000 feet beneath the surface.

Water drawn from wells that receive water from a coal seam has methane and other toxic chemicals with it. Water wells are a large source of the methane problem, but the consumer doesn’t know this because methane is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. There are about 20,000 unregulated water wells drilled in Pennsylvania and New York, every year. The probability of getting methane in the well water from natural sources is high.

Also, in  about a thirty year stretch lots of gas wells were drilled in the Marcellus shale. Mistakes were made as the technology was developed. Many of the negative attitudes and stories originate in that development period.

Fracing is blamed for a lot of things. Just because there are natural gas wells in the area does not automatically mean that hydraulic fracturing is at fault.

Air Pollution – Natural gas is mostly made up of methane. In the natural gas extraction process, there are natural gas liquids produced, also. These are ethane, butane, and propane. There are some nasty gaseous compounds removed, also, and this is where air pollution can occur. If the removal processes are faulty, there will be escaping gas into the atmosphere.

Because there are over 860,000 oil and gas wells in the USA, it is safe to say that the oil company people have figured out how to keep the air unpolluted at drilling and processing sites.

Environmental activists go overboard  on the danger of methane, and the risk it may pose to the environment. Remember, the natural gas drillers cannot make money from gas that is escaping to the atmosphere. They have a huge incentive to be safe and responsible with their operations.

It comes down to the fact that air polluting wells are not a technology problem.

Land Use – Here come the earthquakes. One of the most misunderstood risks about hydraulic fracturing is that they can produce earthquakes, usually micro-seismic events. We are not talking about the New Madrid quakes of 1811 and 1812 (the largest in the nation’s history). The seismic events caused by hydraulic fracturing, for the most part, cannot be felt on the surface. So, when someone says that they felt an earthquake and it was caused by fracing, season the information with a little salt.

Drilling wells is an ugly business. Ugly is pollution, too. The drilling structure is from fifty to one hundred feet tall. There is cleared land to accommodate the drilling equipment, fluid storage, and transportation equipment. Plus, roads have to be built to access the sites. With all those roads and tanker trucks come chemical and toxic water spills. This is the most common and greatest environmental risk in the whole process. This is also the most manageable portion. There are state and federal regulations about drilling, transporting, and cleaning up spills. Spills are avoidable.

So, there are real risks linked to natural gas shale hydraulic fracturing. All these risks can be properly mitigated. The technology is basically not a problem. The problems are management problems. With proper well construction, liquid transport and handling, and attention to details, environmental risks are relatively small.

Dinosaur Gas Story Is Science Fiction

Picture of BS button
Press Here To Initiate BS Flag

There’s a new study by British scientists that tries to answer the following question.

“Could methane produced by sauropod dinosaurs
have helped drive Mesozoic climate warmth?

To bring this into perspective, a bunch of inebriated British professorial types were sitting at their usual pub table one evening having a bull session. One of them, probably the lead author, jumped up and shouted, “dinosaur farts!” This kind of epiphany, no doubt triggered by a notable methane event at their table, is the way climate science is done. One of the old boys cut a big one, and that lone, gaseous event became a government-funded, peer-reviewed study.

That’s how climate science is done, nowadays. Somebody has a brain fart, and off to the government they go to get their flatulence funded.

So, what does this latest exercise in scientific Tom-Foolery purport to show? Well, for one thing the authors try valiantly to estimate the world of 200 million years ago, and to calculate the number of a certain breed of dinosaur, how much vegetation the being consumed, how much methane was emitted by each one.

In other words the so-called peer-reviewed study is all guess-work. There are no facts supporting the study. You can tell the authors are BS’ing you when the very first sentence uses the words, “likely to have”. That means that they have no clue what they are talking about.

Throughout the paper, the charade continues with phrases which include words “would probably”, and “estimate”. Where are the facts? Where is the evidence?

Many of you know exactly what I am talking about. You, too, have had those alcohol fueled brain storms, and left cocktail napkins on the bar covered with your idea of the next billion dollar business, or your scheme for a perpetual motion machine. The next morning you were over it, although a bit hung over.

Many peer reviewed studies are nothing more than somebody’s exercise in computer spoofing, or just plain people spoofing. You can spot the computer spoofing by the revelation of a mathematical model being used in the study.

There’s a lot of spoofing going on in the world of science, and this is but one example.

Hat tip to Watt Up With That.

Super Moon Rising

picture of full moon
Full Moon

Heads up, Chicken Little fans. The sky will definitely fall this weekend as we will have a really large full moon. The moon will be at a perigee, its closest point to earth as it orbits.  This alone scares some people.

Tomorrow, we will have what is called a super moon. A super moon is a full moon at its perigee, aligned with the sun for a maximum gravitational pull on the earth’s surface. Roll, tide, roll will be the cry as we should see larger tides on our coast lines.

The moon and sun are responsible for the changing tides, and they change due to orbital changes of the moon, and orbital changes of the earth with relation to the sun. Since both the sun and moon will be pulling the earth in the same direction, the tides will be bigger. Some people think that this alignment can cause not only extra-large tides, but earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, too.

People will go crazy, as is usual during a full moon. Emergency rooms will over flow. Police will work overtime to tame the crowds demonstrating on, well, something. The Occupy Wall Street loonies will be out in spades.

Don’t worry. Be happy!

Peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars. Tune out of the craziness, and into your peaceful inner being. Let the world know you will not join in the insanity.

It’s just a big moon, man. Enjoy the show.

Hat tip to Jennifer Marohasy’s article, Bad Moon Rising.

So Many People

In visiting various sites on my blogroll, today, I found some interesting stuff on Dr Roger Pielke, Jr’s site.

Dr Pielke is an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado, and writes about some interesting things. Today he talks about How Many People Have Ever Lived On Earth, an article by the Population Reference Bureau. What you may have heard is wrong about the total number of people who have lived.

There is apparently some misinformation that about seventy-five percent of all the people who have ever lived on earth are alive, right now. The article puts the kibosh on that. Somebody once made this up, and stuff like this just never seems to die.

You can watch the video, and look at the chart in the article. The numbers are based on estimates, but approximately 107 trillion people have been born in this world. Note that there is a cutoff in how far back the estimates go, and you  had to be a registered homo sapiens to be considered people.

So, 50,000 years BC is  used for the estimated starting point. The article works it out that only about 6 1/2 percent of the people are alive, now with the 2011 population estimate of the earth at about 6 blllion, plus.

Argue with the estimates all you want, but you will still come up with the answer that a LOT of people have tread this earth, most of them for a short time.

If I had a penny for every person who has ever lived, I wouldn’t need to win the lottery. I could fund the lottery, and even launch a real stimulus program as opposed to what we have seen, lately.

The Critter Man Cometh

picture of flying squirrel
Flying Squirrel

Yep. The critter man came out to my house and checked out my attic where I had heard some varmint sounding things making merry the other day. He was in the attic for about fifteen minutes, and then he walked around the house. I learned later that he was taking pictures of the crime scenes.

Taking pictures? I felt like I was being set up. I already knew I had illegal alien animals in my attic, and I wanted them out. But, nooooo. Nothing is that easy.

Sure enough, I got the sales pitch, including a couple of dozen pictures of wild partying that had been going on in my attic.

First of all, there was tangible evidence of flying squirrels in the attic. The picture showed a tiny wadded-up picnic cloth, along with a pile of acorn shells. Apparently, the squirrels thought they were safe while in my house. I thought so, too.

picture of raccoon
Raccoon, The Fastidious Diner

The next series of pictures brought a whole new meaning to the term, party animal. There had been a raccoon in the attic, just waiting for the squirrels to get into their feast. He wanted a head start on his meal.

The masked bandit waited patiently for the right moment to strike. When he jumped the little rodents, the picnic was over in a big way. The wise old raccoon had brought some of his own picnic fixings.

Indeed, the old raccoon had taste, and devoured his game meat with a Cabernet. The old boy brought along a couple of bottles. This guy was obviously a connoisseur of sorts. It helps to try to put a civilized face on nature.

You would think that with the old raccoon taking care of the flying squirrels, part of my critter problem had been eradicated, but there seems to be an infinite supply of flying squirrels in Georgia. Therein lies the demand for professional assistance.

The drill for animal exterminators is to first, seal up all the avenues of ingress into the attic. Second, after all the holes are covered and no more critters can get in, they set traps in the attic to catch the odd squirrel or rat that was hiding. Those little buggers really know how to hide. In fact you almost never see them.

So, after setting the traps and getting rid of whatever is left, the critter experts then sanitize the attic space to make sure the house will be germ and disease free. That’s a pretty powerful argument for having the professionals on site.

After the sales pitch comes the close. The guy was almost as graphic as I am in this article, and he made the sale. The guys came this morning, and now I have critter traps in my attic, and no more holes.

My instructions are that if I hear a trap snap shut (it will pop, loudly), I must give them a call. Hopefully, there will be no other incidents.

Happy crittering, everybody!

Aliens In My House

picture of rocky the flying squirrel
Attic Alien

Something was going on. For the last couple of nights, we have been awakened by sounds in our house. The problem is that by the time I am awake, the noise stops. It is almost as if someone is sneaking up the stairs to do us a whacking, Soprano style.

Yeah, I know that’s paranoid, but you get that way in a two story house after all the kids have moved out. But, wait! They left their dog. Certainly our trusty, faithful hound would make lots of noise and defend us if someone broke into our house.

Or maybe not. The little wiener dog is going on sixteen years old, and he not only cannot hike his leg, anymore, but he can’t hear it thunder. Plus, when he knows we are gone, he goes nuts because he is afraid to stay by himself. He thinks our job is to protect him, not the other way around.

So much for our guard dog. What can we do to keep ourselves safe? Did some alien vessel follow me as I returned from the other side of the Milky Way the other night? Maybe I didn’t shake them during the chase, after all. I may have to call out the Fleet Guard to help me.

Today as I was preparing for my nocturnal battle, I was working at my computer trying to figure out the best way to fight life forms that are other than carbon based. That is when I heard the noise, again. This time, I was not asleep and didn’t wonder if I was dreaming.

Scratch, thump, bump. rattle, rattle, rattle. It was very disturbing until I realized that my problems were terrestrial rather than space based.

I have critters in my attic!

I hear scratching, scraping, rattling, screeching, and yowling. There is little doubt that a family of squirrels have set up housekeeping in my attic. Plus, I hear some peep-peep-peeping, like there are little ones up there, too.

This problem may be worse than space aliens inhabiting the upper reaches of my house. At least, I don’t have to worry about droppings, disease, and fleas from my space buddies.

So, I called one of those Rid-A-Critter services, and expect a callback any second, now.

Folks, this is serious!