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Quick Takes and Random Stuff Sept 14, 2023
Planetary boundaries, free speech, billion dollar disasters, the Stones and more
Planetary boundary graph: helpful or not?
This graph is from the Science Advances article Earth beyond six of nine planetary boundaries (9/13/2023).
If you want to try and figure it out, here is the caption:
Fig. 1. Current status of control variables for all nine planetary boundaries.
Six of the nine boundaries are transgressed. In addition, ocean acidification is approaching its planetary boundary. The green zone is the safe operating space (below the boundary). Yellow to red represents the zone of increasing risk. Purple indicates the high-risk zone where interglacial Earth system conditions are transgressed with high confidence. Values for control variables are normalized so that the origin represents mean Holocene conditions and the planetary boundary (lower end of zone of increasing risk, dotted circle) lies at the same radius for all boundaries (except for the wedges representing green and blue water, see main text). Wedge lengths are scaled logarithmically. The upper edges of the wedges for the novel entities and the genetic diversity component of the biosphere integrity boundaries are blurred either because the upper end of the zone of increasing risk has not yet been quantitatively defined (novel entities) or because the current value is known only with great uncertainty (loss of genetic diversity). Both, however, are well outside of the safe operating space. Transgression of these boundaries reflects unprecedented human disruption of Earth system but is associated with large scientific uncertainties.
On the one hand, this single graph contains a remarkable quantity of information. However, this won't necessarily help spread that information to the general population. It features a log scale as you read out from the center, and log scales can be perplexing enough in basic scatter plots.. It's brilliant to blur the graph to reflect uncertainty, but it also causes more confusion at least at first. Focusing on the three of the nine categories that are in the safe zone will help me picture the glass as being 1/3 full rather than 2/3 empty. I’m being sarcastic. The report is not optimistic.
Anyway, we have the tools to create images that are visually stunning and packed with information, but I'm not always convinced we should. Perhaps we ought to concentrate on more straightforward graphics that make important information more obvious.
Fun 2 minutes
After deciphering the graph above, take a break. In this sketch, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) does a fantastic job of humorously exposing the hypocrisy of both the left and right.
Two easy-to-read graphs from Who Is Happiest? Married Mothers and Fathers, Per the Latest General Social Survey (9/12/2023).
These results parallel other recent research from the University of Chicago indicating that for both men and women, marriage is “the most important differentiator” of who is happy in America. Meanwhile, falling marriage rates are a chief reason why happiness has declined nationally, according to that same study. The research found an astounding 30-percentage-point happiness gap between married and unmarried Americans.
Other factors do matter—including income, educational achievement, race, and geography—but marital status is most influential when it comes to predicting happiness in the study. What’s more, other research indicates that the United States is witnessing a growing happiness divide between the most educated and least educated Americans, and marriage is likely the biggest driver of that decline.
Social psychologist Jean Twenge attributes the growing happiness divide in America along class lines to a faster decline in marriage among those with less education and income. In Twenge’s view,
The growing class divide in happiness clearly has many causes, including income inequality. Still, relationships are also crucial for happiness, and for many people, marriage is their primary and most stable relationship.
How should we count CO2?
According to the eia (9/12/2023), the United States exported more LNG than any other nation in the first half of 2023. Additionally, in the last four years, U.S. LNG exports have roughly increased by a factor of five. The issue I have is how to account for exported fossil fuels when calculating a nation's CO2 emissions. There are CO2 emissions somewhere due to the significant increase in U.S. LNG exports. If we don't export this LNG, it won't be consumed, which prevents the emission of CO2. However, the nations who don't receive it miss out on the energy. It is, as they say, complicated.
Knowledgeable and intelligent are not the same thing. Someone can be overall intelligent and highly educated about one thing while being completely ignorant of another. However, "smart" individuals will speak with assurance about nearly anything. This makes me think of a saying that says something like, "The one thing a Ph.D. guarantees is that you can't convince a person with one that they are wrong."
Phys.org reports: US hit by record number of billion-dollar disasters so far this year (9/11/2023)
Between January and August, the United States was struck by a record-breaking 23 weather and climate disasters where losses exceeded $1 billion in each case, official data showed Monday.
The tally for 2023 has already exceeded the previous record of 22 such events in 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said, and four months still remain in the year.
Let’s go to the data. From NOAA:
True, there are 23 billion-dollar disasters in 2023 (read the number off the left axis), but look at the red line instead. The red line shows the overall price tag for all disasters to date, which is just over $50 billion, making it one of the lesser totals over the previous six years. It's likely that this year will see a few additional disasters costing a billion dollars, but unless they're catastrophic in scope, it won't be a particularly costly year for such events. The issue with publishing pieces like this one is that credibility is lost when something that seems incredibly horrible—like "record number of billion-dollar disasters"—isn't actually that bad. Climate catastrophizing doesn't help, as I'll keep stating.
Harvard scores 0 out of 100
FIRE has its 2024 college free speech ranking out.
At the other end of the rankings, Harvard University came in dead last with the lowest score possible, 0.00, more than four standard deviations below the mean.
This is where many of society’s “leaders” come from. I don’t find this encouraging. One of the ten key findings:
More than half of students (56%) expressed worry about damaging their reputation because of someone misunderstanding what they have said or done, and just over a quarter of students (26%) reported that they feel pressure to avoid discussing controversial topics in their classes. Twenty percent reported that they often self-censor.
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The spinning CD
The Rolling Stones are still making albums. Their new single:
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Disagreeing and using comments
I'd rather know the truth and understand the world than always be right. I'm not writing to upset or antagonize anyone on purpose, though I guess that could happen. I welcome dissent and disagreement in the comments. We all should be forced to articulate our viewpoints and change our minds when we need to, but we should also know that we can respectfully disagree and move on. So, if you think something said is wrong or misrepresented, then please share your viewpoint in the comments.