Archive for the ‘Oceans’ category

Conservatives are always wrong: Death of the Oceans edition

June 1, 2010

As part of my attempt to return to blogging after a case of end-of-semesteritis combined with some grims magnified by sad family news, here’s the first of what I hope will be some resurrections of posts begun but not completed during the last month or so that might (he fondly hopes) retain some relevance.

To begin:

Some while back, as in before BP et al. wreaked havoc on the Gulf, Andrew Sullivan flagged this TED talk by Jeremy Jackson.

In it, Jackson covers some, but by no means all of the disasters wrought by last fifty years spent demonstrating the tragedy of commons on the world’s oceans. The BP/Global Horizon catastrophe is signal in the size of the single incident, but, as Jackson begins to convey, is itself dwarfed by the accumulation of thousands, then millions of much smaller bad decisions.

The key point that emerges from Jackson’s talk as much as it does from the more spectacular market failure evident in the Gulf of Mexico tragedy, is that self correcting invisible hands do not work their magic on a resource in which the logic of the commons leads to uncontained exploitation of a resource.So watch the talk — it’s worth the full twenty minutes or so.

Full disclosure: it will ruin your day, the more so when you realize that every word was spoken before we ever heard the terms “top kill” or “junk shot.”

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Getting Ready To Atone — So Here’s a Completely Snark/Aggro Free Amazing Vid. to Enjoy

September 27, 2009

Got to the film maker via Sully’s paean to a Burning Man video. But this one is better: Also Sprach…, Brazil, and coral. What more could you desire?

Truly, time lapse artist/film maker Ben Wiggins has done an amazing job — enjoy:

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Morning Link: Start-the-week with beauty/Gorgeous Photography edition

September 21, 2009

Both sturm und drang promised for this space this week — but before we get to the ritual gnashing of teeth over the mendacious folly of the plague of politico-scientific culture warriors infesting the intertubes these day, a moment of sheer, breathtaking, astonishing beauty-and-terror to be found in these photographs.

Look at them all; virtuouso photographic technique combined with exceptional artistic reach in the images themselves — and all the wonder of the human-and-the-sea connection in a mere fifteen frames.

And credit where credit is due:  give the great grey lady (no longer) of 43rd St., the embodiment of MSM-hood itself, The New York Times credit for getting these to us.

With Apologies to PZ Myers: Not one penny for tribute, unlimited sums for mechanical cephalopods.

May 2, 2008

The next episode of Friday Newton blogging is going to have to wait for an off-day edition; end of term woes and committee meetings have sucked up all the time I was going to spend putting together my material on Newton’s gambling habits.

But what would Friday be without some rather off-axis look at science in the public square?

So, stealing a patch of PZ Myers turf, I thought I’d share what I picked up from my MIT colleague Anette Hosoi a few weeks ago.

Hosoi’s lab uses biological sources to provide inspiration for the creation of small robots; Hosoi and her group are most famous for their work on a robotic snail. (Video, courtesy of my students in the Graduate Program in Science Writing, can be found here— bottom of the page, after two videos on the humanoid robot, Domo.

As it happened, I was taking around a visitor the other day — the incomparable David Macaualay. (Name dropping alert — at least for those of us sufficiently steeped in geek to know the wonderfulness of Macaulay’s books and films on engineering, the made world, design, the brain and pigeon’s eye-views of Rome.)

Professor Hosoi and her students were in fine form, showing us the latest in mechanical swimmers, the updates to the artificial slime on which the labs’ snails crawl and so on. Last up was a student new to me since the last time I hung out over there. Her project…well it seems that the Department of Defense’s wild eyed boys and girls at DARPA got a look at this video

Someone over there said “I want me one of these.”

So Hosoi’s team, among others are now trying to deliver a design for, a robotic octopus, a deformable robot capable of carrying a payload — sensors, weapons, whatever — into and out of the tightest spots evah. Your defense dollars at work.

What can I say? Actually, it’s a sweet, rich problem, with all kinds of potential applications in peace as well as war. If Hosoi or any one else responding to DOD’s prompt comes up with a good solution, it will have confronted a number of serious physics and engineering hurdles to get there; this is the kind of problem folks come to places like MIT to research.

What’s really going on is something PZ has known for years: we are humbled by the powers of the mighty cephalopod. Besides which, this is a hell of a lot better way to spend my tax dollars than on ESP, trained naval warfare dophins, and ballistic missile defense.