23 June 2011


RISING SEAS. According to a new study that offers the most detailed look yet at the changes in ocean levels during the past 2100 years, "researchers found that sea level was relatively stable from 100 B.C. to A.D. 950. Then, during a warm climate period in the 11th century, sea level rose by about half a millimeter per year for 400 years. That was followed by a second period of stable sea level associated with a cooling period, known as the Little Ice Age, which persisted until the late 19th century .... The researchers found that since the late 19th century -- as the world became more industrialized -- sea level has risen more than 2 millimeters per year, on average. That's a bit less than one-tenth of an inch, but it adds up over time. It will lead to land loss, more flooding, and salt water invading bodies of fresh water .... Rising sea levels are among the hazards that concern environmentalists and governments with increasing global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.

" .... Although melting icebergs floating on the sea won't change sea level, there are millions of tons of ice piled up on land in Greenland, Antarctica, and elsewhere. Melting that ice would have a major impact by raising sea levels. The result could include flooding in highly populated coastal cities and greater storm damage in oceanfront communities .... Two co-authors calculated in an earlier paper that sea level could rise between 30 and 75 inches by the end of this century." Others suggest it might rise even faster.

These results are, of course, not new, but they do confirm in detail what others have predicted. To understand visually the effects of rising sea level, here is an interactive tool, a world map which you can center on a coastal area of interest (say, the San Francisco Bay area, Bangladesh, New Orleans, the Netherlands, or the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil), then choose a sea level rise and watch the projected flooding.

QUANTUM WOO. You learn something new every day (hopefully). Yesterday I found a website called RationalWiki, whose stated purposes are to "analyze and refute pseudoscience and the anti-science movement, document the full range of crank ideas, explore authoritarianism and fundamentalism, and analyze and criticize how those subjects are handled in the media." Cool. The particular link which led me to RationalWiki was a reference to Quantum Woo, which I learned is "a phenomenon where many irrational beliefs are justified by an obfuscatory reference to quantum physics." Who knew? The smoke-and-mirrors tactic is consistent with political conservatives who, when faced by irrefutable facts, seek to distract their opponents and the public with ad hominem attacks and/or a blizzard of unrelated (and usually false) factoids, then wave the flag to suggest that anyone who disagrees is not patriotic. Sound familiar. Now we have a generic term for such behavior -- quantum woo. Heh.

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