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Dave Cohen
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Interests: evolution, energy, the economy, climate, astrobiology, music, paleontology, culture
Recent Activity
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 4 days ago at Decline of the Empire
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
I seem to be taking my time writing Part III of Adventures In Flatland. And why shouldn't I, given the extraordinary impact of the first two essays? My subject in the first half of Part III is human bullshit. It's a subject which, not surprisingly, has not received the attention it deserves. You can think of bullshit as the opposite side of the filtering coin I discussed in the original essay. Here's a teaser for Part III, just a taste, because I don't know when I might consider the last essay finished. I think you'll find this entertaining as a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"Finally, here's a useful subject," I thought when I saw the Marketplace story Climate Change — how to talk about bad news. Maybe these guys could give me some useful advice And the story's subtitle? Talking about global warming makes people's heads explode. It's a tough subject. Here's the audio. I will quote the story itself (a rough transcript) below. Here we go. It’s been almost eight years since "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore’s call-to-action on climate change. Now the televison channel Showtime is taking up the challenge with its nine-part docu-series "Years of Living Dangerously." In between these two... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Every morning I wake up (at least so far ). Every morning I turn on NPR, I make some coffee and I peruse the internet. And every morning the Human Condition is exactly the same as it was the day before. And so it was again yesterday when I learned about Louie Psihoyos' new movie project "6" [hat tip, reader Alex]. I suppose the title stands for "sixth extinction". Louie founded the Ocean Preservation Society, which makes documentaries about saving animal life the oceans. Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) is a non-profit organization that creates film, photography and media, inspiring people... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
It appears that I've "underestimated" activist Naomi Klein. I last demolished her delusional views in my essay Confusion In The Twilight Zone, but her new missive Climate change is the fight of our lives – yet we can hardly bear to look at it is so over-the-top that I need to reconsider my position. Before I look at her epic self-delusion, let's take a brief look at the facts (up to 2010). I'm talking about carbon dioxide emissions (CO2). Source Things have gotten worse since 2010, and the EIA now reports that U.S. emissions grew in 2013, the first increase... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
I wrote this post during the time when my blog service provider Typepad was subject to multiple denial of service attacks. I don't think this post got the attention it deserves, so I'm putting it at the top for the next few days. — Dave Lately, here in the United States, we have witnessed an astonishing socio-economic trifecta which tells us where we stand. Unfortunately for progressive thought, we are not in a good place, to wit— 1. In the McCutcheon decision, wealthy campaign donors were given the go-ahead to buy political candidates and elections by the "conservative" majority on... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
... the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy — Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page [study cited below] There’s got to be a difference between these two men, or else we’re all part of a cruel, cruel joke — Stephen Colbert, upon being asked whether anything meaningful separated Barack Obama from Mitt Romney Some stories write themselves. I'll quote from the Huffington Post's U.S. Policies Favor The Wealthy, Interest Groups, Study Shows. U.S. government policies reflect the desires of the wealthy and interest groups more than the average... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
A Google News search reveals that Obama's 2015 budget includes a much-needed Boost in Ocean Funding. And the best news of all is that there has been a 150% increase in funding for ocean acidification research. Ocean Acidification Research Funding Sees a Big Increase— Notably, the president’s budget would provide a much-needed $15 million for ocean acidification research, an increase of $9 million. As the ocean absorbs the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the carbon dioxide is changing the chemistry of the ocean and adversely impacting marine life. This is already having serious economic... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Wealth, as Mr. Hobbes says, is power — Adam Smith I love this kind of stuff. I've got time on my hands, so I was perusing the latest wealth/income inequality data. There's been a flurry of activity on this front, especially after the publication of Thomas Piketty's Capital In The Twenty-first Century. Long story short, denizens of Flatland, especially economists, love to measure shit. Based on recent work by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, both of UC-Berkeley, those happy House of Debt guys Atif Mian (Princeton) and Amir Sufi (University of Chicago) wrote a post called Measuring Wealth Inequality. Before... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Being a weird guy, I was delighted by yesterday's edition of the Diane Rehm Show, which included Elizabeth Kolbert talking about the Sixth Extinction. Unfortunately, Diane was trying to swim in the Deep End of the Pool, so she was way out of her depth. Thus the show was called "Bringing Extinct Species Back To Life"—the de-extinction fantasy/stunt/sideshow—and thus Diane also included delusional fantasist Ryan Phelan in the discussion. Ms. Phelan is the executive director of Revive and Restore, which advances "genetic rescue for endangered and extinct species." What made this so entertaining for the weird is that everytime Kolbert... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2014 at Decline of the Empire