This is Dave Cohen's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Dave Cohen's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Dave Cohen
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Interests: evolution, energy, the economy, climate, astrobiology, music, paleontology, culture
Recent Activity
Image
When I first saw "The Newsroom" clip, after I stopped laughing, I thought I would dust off my science chops to get to the bottom of that sea level question. It wasn't too hard—it took about an hour and a half to get confident about the current state of the science, which is based on paleoclimate proxy data. Years ago, when I still thought there was a point to things, I used to read paleoclimate stuff all the time. I see that Aaron Sorkin's "end of the world" video (the one I linked to) has gotten up to 6,963 views,... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Decline of the Empire
Image
Unfortunately, I can not embed The Newsroom video in which Aaron Sorkin tackles climate change (episode 3, season 3). I suggest you watch it and then return here for the analysis. Here's the relevant part of the transcript. McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is the anchor of the fictional news network. Westbrook (Paul Lieberstein) is the climate expert being interviewed (emphasis added). McAVOY: Okay. Tell us about the findings in the report that was just released. WESTBROOK: The latest measurements taken at Mauna Loa in Hawaii indicate a CO2 level of 400 parts per million. McAVOY: Just so we know what we're... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Decline of the Empire
Image
Having finished Part III, and as I contemplate Part IV, which will be short, I ran across another instructive example of what Flatland is all about. I am referring to yet another book about the human prospect called Adventures in the Anthropocence by science journalist Gaia Vince. I will quote from the Salon interview. Here is Lindsay Abrams' introduction to that give & take. The Anthropocene: Don’t worry about trying to pronounce it. Don’t even worry about whether or not geologists decide we've officially entered it. This is the Age of Man: the epoch of mass extinction, of rapidly acidifying... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
This is the third of four essays summarizng my work on DOTE. The last part will be short, covering one more topic (social stratification) I didn't get to here. Comments are open but moderated. Here are links to Part I and Part II — Dave This third chapter of Adventures In Flatland deals with human sociality. The most striking characteristic of Homo sapiens is our sociality. Social relationships pervade every aspect of human life and these relationships are far more extensive, complex, and diverse (within and across societies) than those of any other species. And for survival and reproduction we... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
16
Image
I'm in a posting mood. This mood won't last, so I'm striking while the iron is hot. Anyway, as I was looking around the intertubes this morning, I ran across this item at Zerohedge, which is not a favorite website of mine because the anonymous posters over there are doomer attention whores who rarely document their stories. Zerohedge is the Huffington Post for pessimists. But this article made some good points and had a few working links to outside sources. Mostly the article had internal links to other Zerohedge crap, like this broken one to the WSJ "source" of the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
Let's finish off this brutal week on an entertaining note, shall we? I will quote from a recent interview with Elizabeth Kolbert, whose book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History came out earlier this year. I love this shit. Q: Is there any chance that evolution will save the day? That the world will adapt and adjust to us? A: I think there are two time frames in which to answer that. The first is, if you have very elevated extinction rates, evolution is just not fast enough. You would not assume that because things are dying out faster than... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
There is no education in the second kick of a mule — attributed to Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn When it was clear that the Republicans had taken the Senate, and upped their majority in the House, the stock market celebrated like there's no tomorrow. As soon as the market opened Wednesday morning, the Dow leaped to a new all-time high. The indexed finished the day up 101 points to close at 17,484.52. Not to be outdone, the S&P 500 also set a new record close of 2,023.56. A few days before Election Day, CNN anticipated the party to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
11
Image
Another meaningless election was held yesterday. Well, OK, it was meaningless for regular folks. As Andy Borowitz reminds us, it wasn't meaningless for those hoping to prosper from the result. WASHINGTON —Congressional seats are on pace to fetch a whopping four billion dollars on Tuesday night, a record-smashing sales figure that has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic insiders. The seats, which include four hundred and thirty-five in the House of Representatives and thirty-six in the Senate, have attracted buyers from a broad spectrum of industries, including investment banking, energy, pharmaceutical, and gun. “With all of the uncertainty... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
As I mentioned, I've been taking my time with Part III of Adventures In Flatland. But I have completed the first section of that essay. It wasn't easy to write because of the subject matter. I was trying to explain the Flatland perspective on bullshit. How do we define bullshit? What motivates it? And so on. Anyway, that was the easy part. The hard part was taking humans seriously. Consider Paul Krugman's recent Rolling Stone article In Defense of Obama. By the way, Krugman does not appear in Part III. I said to myself, "Why are you writing this? Virtually... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
Normally I wouldn't say anything, but stuff like New Technique Offers Faster, More Accurate Way to Count Brain Cells compels me to respond (Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014). Such stories seduce me. I am weak. Counting brain cells helps scientists explain how humans differ from other animals, but until recently, enumerating billions of cells by species was too onerous a task to tackle. That changed with the work of a Brazilian researcher who pioneered a technique that is both fast and accurate. We’re looking at the most basic properties of brain tissue,” said Suzana Herculano-Houzel, who developed the approach.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
I've got time on my hands and haven't mentioned the U.S. economy in a while. Some stuff is too good to pass up. I'll quote from Bloomberg's The $11 Trillion Advantage That Shields U.S. From Turmoil. Call it America’s $11 trillion advantage: Consumer spending is likely to steer the U.S. economy safely through the shoals of deteriorating global growth and turbulent financial markets. The combination of more jobs, falling gasoline prices and low borrowing costs will help lift household purchases. Such tailwinds probably matter more than Europe’s struggles or the slackening in emerging markets that caused the Dow Jones Industrial... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
In a post called Slow Steaming and the Supposed Limits to Growth, Paul Krugman doubled down on the delusional optimism he recently expressed in Could Fighting Climate Change be Cheap and Free? The Conscience of a Liberal was responding to a Bloomberg View piece by Mark Buchanan, who is an actual physicist. Buchanan's editorial was called Economists Are Blind to the Limits To Growth. Allow me to explain why I am one of those scientists who are preoccupied with the physical. Economists are correct in saying that growth doesn't necessarily require more pollution, more carbon pumped into the atmosphere or... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
10
Image
When I woke up this morning, nursing a hangover, you can't blame me for thinking I was dreaming when I turned the radio on and heard NPR talking about "regulatory capture" at the Federal Reserve. In the six years that have passed since the Financial Crisis, I never once heard NPR discuss corruption in the United States. I later confirmed that I was wide awake when I read Michael Lewis' The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes (Bloomberg View, September 26, 2014). Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever heard NPR talk about corruption in the United States.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
I am aware that some of the concepts introduced in Part II are difficult. Species extinctions driven by human actions are easy to understand, but thermodynamic models relating energy and the global economy are very hard to understand. I want to point out that humans, especially orthodox economists, are just as deluded as I said they are, a point which becomes easier to make when we consider Paul Krugman's Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free? (hat tip, reader Reed). This just in: Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
This is Part II of my essay Adventures In Flatland. These essays are an attempt to summarize my work on Decline Of The Empire (DOTE). There will be a part III. This essay comes to about 26 printed pages. You can comment, but if you're just another optimist, you'd better know what you're talking about — Dave The Human Relationship To The Natural World Perhaps the destiny of man is to have a short but exciting life. — Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen In "Consume, Screw, Kill," a review of Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction, Daniel Smith sums up the human relationship to... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
11
I've been know to go off sometimes, but where rants are concerned, I can't hold a candle to Umair Haque. And everything Umair says is True. Also, this reminds me that I always regretted that so few young people (under 35) read DOTE. So, without permission and further ado, here's Umair's Ode to a F**cked Generation. Hi!! Smile!! This generation is fucked. Not just minor-league mini-fucked. Not a little bit cutesy aww Pikachu feels sad levels of fucked. This generation is full on holy bazoly did that really just happen ZOMG WTF kthxbye degrees of fucked. Here’s what you already... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
This is Part I of a three-part essay summarizing my work on DOTE. The second part will be published in the 2nd half of September. The third part will appear sometime in October. This essay is closed to comments. I know that's not the "spirit" of the internet, but that's my preference. My e-mail is included at the end if you want to contact me — Dave How Goes Life Among the Humans? Imagine if you can a wise, compassionate, and reasonable species quite unlike the one you belong to. This other species does not wage war or destroy its... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
More sharing... The journal Science has published a special issue called Vanishing Fauna (aka. The Sixth Extinction). You can read the introduction to the issue here. Let's look at some of the abstracts. This first one gives a succinct statemate of the problem. An animal-rich future (Joshua Tewksbury and Haldre Rogers) The rate at which animals are vanishing from this planet is one of the signatures of this age, as sure a sign of human dominance as our impact on Earth's nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon cycles. This disappearance of animals from the world's ecosystems is generally a by-product of human... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
I thought I'd take a look at The Daily Ticker, Yahoo Finance's blog. It was gone. Shut down, presumably by Chairman Marissa or one of her toadying Silicon Valley underlings. Some of you may remember that I used to quote that blog and embed their videos. That was 3 or 4 years ago now, when the 2008 meltdown was still fresh in people's minds. Henry Blodget and Aaron Task were running the show then, and they had some good things to say about this god-awful mess called the United States. But no more. Yahoo watered the blog down, and then... Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
I thought I'd share again today... With all the hype surrounding U.S. shale oil production, Americans forgot to think about what they fondly call the Rest of the World (RoW). But that omission has been addressed by two British papers on the same day, the Telegraph (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard) and the Financial Times (Guy Chazan). You may be wondering, from an American perspective, whether the U.K. is included in the RoW. You know, Iraq, Tony Blair, extreme toadying, and all that. Rest of World? Hard to say! Sorry, with Iraq falling apart and all ... but I digress. I'll quote the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
From Elizabeth Kolbert's Save The Elephants. Poaching data from Thomson Reuters. Meanwhile, as disturbing as the recent carnage is, the long-term view is, if anything, worse. Elephants and rhinos are among the last survivors of a once rich bestiary of giants. Australia was home to thirteen-foot-long marsupials. North America had mammoths and mastodons, South America glyptodonts and enormous sloths, Madagascar massive elephant birds and giant lemurs. Before people arrived on the scene, these megafauna were protected by their size; afterward their size became a liability. The giant beasts couldn’t reproduce fast enough to make up for the losses to human... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
I first realized about 16 years ago that the loss of the Earth's most vulnerable ice sheets (West Antarctica, Greenland) was inevitable and irreversible. And so here it is. The collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in West Antarctica appears to have begun and is almost certainly unstoppable, with global warming accelerating the pace of the disintegration, two groups of scientists reported Monday. The finding, which had been feared by some scientists for decades, means that a rise in global sea level of at least 10 feet may now be inevitable. The rise may continue to be relatively... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
11
Image
Reader Alexander Ač of the Czech Republic (blog here) put a question to European commissioners discussing climate change adaptation and mitigation: key messages from the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report and implications for policy and decision making. Whew! — a long title, but very official sounding. There is a video at the website linked-in above, but I can not embed it. This Q&A took place at the 2:44:20 mark. If you watch the video, you can jump ahead to that point. Here is a partial transcript. Alexander Ač — I have a very short question. The Club of Rome told us... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
16
Image
Folks in D.C. are surrounded by their own bubble. A bubble where there are lots of telecom lobbyists walking around who describe net neutrality as politically toxic — Marvin Ammori, a lawyer who has been vocal in his support of net neutrality Today's subject is net neutrality, which is basically what we've got today. In our likely future, the big ISPs (internet service providers) will give most of the internet bandwidth they control, which is 70% of it, to "content" providers (like Disney, ABC, NBC, etc.) who will pay for privileged access to their data pipes. Source Sometimes the ISP... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Image
Hope springs eternal in the human breast — Alexander Pope, An Essay On Man This post is not for the faint-hearted, because I am going discuss "hope" honestly without illusions. This post was prompted by a TED talk by Lawrence Lessig (brief discussion and video below). First, what is "hope"? Common definitions include— wanting something to happen or be true and thinking that it could happen or be true or a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen Clearly, wanting or thinking (believing) something could happen or be true is not the same as a derived... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2014 at Decline of the Empire