Caribbean Reef Sharks Posing for the Movies

I was scanning some slides to preserve the images and found some nice shots of Caribbean Reef sharks.

In the first two, the shark is a lady and she was feeling a bit grumpy so would swim right at us then slide by quite close to us testing our reactions. The place was off Nassau and we were doing a TV show about sharks and their behaviour for the Canadian Discovery Channel.

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The One Percent Syndrome

The 1% syndrome — the concentration of wealth in a mere 1% of the population. Why does that happen in essentially every economic system from dictatorships, to communism, to capitalism? It happens because all organisms including people need energy and water to survive. So all organisms including people develop strategies to ensure that energy and water is constantly available. The “requirement” to have such a strategy means that on an evolutionary basis, there is a drive to access or control energy and water either by remaining close to the sources, or by defending a territory around or to the sources. In economic terms such a strategy also applies to energy and key resources. The concept of controlling production and distribution of products so that wealth can be distributed among a select group is derived directly and spontaneously from the inner drive that organisms have to ensure a safe and secure future. By controlling production, or the source of production, and how it is to be shared or distributed leads, willy-nilly, to the potential for acquiring more than individual need and spills over to broader support for families and extended families in many species and certainly among people. In an economic system, the concept of an extended family can reach out to favoured friends or in capitalist systems to corporate shareholders. The more successfully the strategy of control is implemented, the more production and sharing is limited to that individual’s or corporation’s influence.
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I am a Seventh Generation Grandchild.

I am, like you, a seventh generation grandchild. I am also a grandfather. What did Chief Seneca have in mind when he suggested we should consider the needs of the seventh generation grandchildren when we make decisions? He spoke as an adult, an Elder, a decision-maker, and a leader, but his advice was for all. What does that mean to look ahead seven generations? If I look back seven generations, I would see my parents (#1), my grandparents (#2), my great grandparents (#3), my great-grandparents (#4), my great-great-grandparents (#5), my great-great-great-grandarents (#6), and finally my great-great-great-great-grandparents. How many years ago did they live? My parents were in their prime about 60 years ago. Each of their successive parents lived for many years.

So my seven generations looked back from where I stand some 300 years. The early 1700s. Inventions: the mercury thermometer, the flying shuttle, the discovery of oxygen, the steamboat, the circular saw and bifocals. Musicians: Albonini, Bach, Couperin, Handel Hayden, Mozart, Pachelbel, Telemann, Vivaldi. Writers: Austen, Burns, Defoe, Pope, de Sade Schiller, Scott, Voltaire. Philosophers: Bentham, Diderot, Hume, Paine, Rousseau, Wesley. Scientists (although the name didn’t exist then): Banks, Bernouli, Celsius, Faherenheit, Lavoisier, Linneaus, Lomonosov, Malthus, Smith.
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“KISS”ing Global Warming

Keep It Simple Stupid

For the moment let’s forget fancy climate models. Forget what might or might not have been causes for the world to get warm or cold in the past. Just ask two simple questions:

1) What do we need to know to decide if global warming is happening now or not?
2) What do we need to know to decide if global warming is caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases or not?

Some Simple Answers: Global Warming

If global warming is happening, the average annual temperature of the air over the land and the ocean should be rising.

Yes, average annual temperature is rising.
Data and graph from Climate Indicators, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Climatic Data Center. CRUTEM3 (blue) NASA/GISS (green) Lugina et al. (red) NOAA/NCDC (grey)

If global warming is happening, the average annual sea surface temperature should be rising.
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IPCC, Working Group 1, and CMIP5 (AR5): Random Thoughts

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has become the primary agency, although certainly not the only agency, for advising governments around the world on strategies and actions that recognize climate change as a factor that can affect economies, health, safety, and much more. The IPCC is a governmental organization (not really a scientific organization) although it makes extensive use of scientific and other materials and information to make its recommendations through a series of reports known as Assessment Reports. There have been four such and a fifth (AR5) is due to be completed in 2013 and 2014.

The IPCC does not carry out any original research and does not monitor or oversee any original research. It’s role is to summarize and discuss the results of climate change research and its implications. IPCC does attempt to ensure that the work it does is of a high standard: “The AR5, summarizing the state of scientific knowledge about climate change, is going through an elaborate system of drafting, review by experts and governments, and revision to ensure that it meets the highest standards, is comprehensive and reflects the published literature and a range of scientific viewpoints.”
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Climate Model Perspectives

What is a Climate Model?

A climate model is not CO2 concentration, nor is it Galactic Cosmic Rays or even the changes in the sun’s cycle. It is an entire but simplified reconstruction of the climate to make it easier to predict the future climate. A climate model attempts to incorporate as many of the natural processes that have an effect on the climate.The Community Climate System Model (CCSM version 3) incorporates a very large number of variables and each variable is accompanied by a large database of numerical values that is constantly updated and fed into the computer. There is so much information that only a supercomputer can run the model. This diagram illustrates the variables that are included in a full climate model. But the picture is only part of the story.

(From Windows to the Universe, at from the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA).)
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Motivational Shades of Capitalism

So just because you run a business, does this mean you are a “CAPITALIST?” If I operate a consulting business out of my basement, am I a capitalist? What about a local bakeshop or an independent family farm, or a medical doctor or a dentist? Now if I asked you if the owner of the Walmart chain is a capitalist, you would be likely to say yes — and you would be correct. But what about the small bookshop with funny little owner-guy who knows every book in the shop?

Capitalism (the word dates from the mid-19th century) is an economic system where investment and ownership controls production and distribution to make possible exchange of wealth among private individuals or corporations. A different system by comparison might be a co-op or state-owned wealth. The underlying strategic goal of control of production and distribution is to dominate the market and capture all the potential wealth to a single corporation or conglomerate. That competitive strategy is devoid of any value structure except as it applies all tactics to increasing profit by gaining greater control of production and distribution. Huge corporations develop at the expense of smaller independent corporations and businesses. Employees within this logic are packages of energy and skill. Thus, one tactic is to replace current employees by machines or less expensive employees if that is possible because it leads to higher profits.
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Unintended Consequence? Traditional Inuit Ring Seal Hunt

While the intentions of the anti-seal activists are laudable, in at least the case of the Inuit people, the indiscriminate strategy of undermining the market for sealskin has had a profoundly negative impact on the Inuit people who do not really have an option to move to a second income source. This has resulted in an increased loss of income and added to food insecurity for the Inuit people.

Commercial seal hunting has a conflicted reputation. Atlantic coast fishermen hunt harp seals to supply tanneries with skins and pharmaceutical companies with Omega-3 fatty acid-rich blubber. Seals off Namibia are also hunted for commercial purposes and that government emphasizes killing pups to prevent population increase because the government suspects the seals add to the mortality in other fisheries. Unlike the Atlantic coast seals, the seals off Namibia are also a tourist attraction. The tourists bring in approximately $2 million per year whereas the commercial harvest only brings in about $500,000.
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Measuring Natural Justice, Fairness, and Empathy in Political/Economic Systems

People are naturally interested in justice, fair play, empathy, altruism, reciprocity and many other aspects. A method of measuring the degree to which these concepts are applied in an economic and political system would be both interesting and potentially instructive. Any economic and political system is a complex interplay of an enormous number of factors and interrelationships, but the end result of all those interactions defines for any individual within the system, how fairly the resources are distributed and in what way society provides for efficient and humane (or not) convenience and safety nets. We can judge economic systems according to the way they operate with regard to individuals and communities on all the basics of natural justice. For example fair play implies that when people exchange things, they generally assume there should be a high degree of similarity in the total value each has received. We are all familiar with comparing the relative cost of purchasing something ready-made to the cost of time and materials involved to make it ourselves. We also expect to be paid a fair wage for work we undertake for someone else. We also know that this is not very often a truly “fair” exchange. Of course, we are all familiar with the idea of helping out someone who needs a temporary helping hand. This might be a neighbour who asks to borrow a cup of sugar, or it might be a donation to a worthy cause. These empathetic motives are common to us all, but are often differently developed or contextually important. For example, I might be in favour of giving to a women’s shelter in favour of abortion, whereas another person might not be in favour of helping such an organization, even though in each case the women are in trouble and need help.
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Exponential Population Growth

In general people think in arithmetic terms. We are very good at extrapolating if things expand by adding. So if something is piling up by having a certain amount added each day, it is pretty simple to estimate how long it will be before the bucket is half full. For example, if a bucket has a capacity of 100 items and you add one each day, it is a pretty simple calculation to know that in 50 days the bucket will be half full. Here is a good question to illustrate how much more difficult it is to estimate when the addition is exponential. Let’s suppose we have a strange and dangerous organism in the bucket. If we feed the thing it will split each day and make two of itself. Then if we continue to feed them they will each split and make two more of themselves daily. Let’s also suppose that if the creature escapes from the bucket you will be in serious trouble. The nasty creature cannot escape by climbing out, it has to spill over the top. If I tell you that the bucket will be full in 100 days, can you quickly tell me when it will be half full, and how much time you have left to stop the creature from escaping? Now let’s also suppose you have a business meeting that will require you to be away at day 100, but you know you will be back for Day #106 when you can handle the problem. In the five days after day 100, some of the nasty beasts will spill out of the first bucket, so you know you need a second bucket to handle the problem. Can you tell me how big that bucket should be to handle five days growth after day 100?

This is the nature of population growth, it is an exponential rate of change. So while it may not look like much at first and for a long time nothing much seems to be happening, if you let it go until the change is half way, you may not have as much time left as think you do.

The answers to both questions are here.
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Controversy: Distinguishing Fact, Theory, and Belief

Systems vs People

Belief systems have no theories, no hypotheses, no fact-checking, no experiments, and no system to test the accuracy of the beliefs contained in the belief system. Science on the other hand has no beliefs, no absolute truths, and no faith. A person can have moral values, understand the concept of fairness, natural justice, and empathy, all independent of either science or a belief system. In fact, for most people, theories, hypotheses, facts, experiments, testing accuracy, beliefs, absolute truths, faith, moral values, fairness, natural justice, and empathy are all mixed up together. Add to that our many other physical abilities, experiences, learned information, and cultural attitudes or behaviour patterns and that is the incredible porridge of what makes us who we are and shapes what we believe and think to be true.
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World Opinions About Anthropogenic Global Warming

Climate change is a fascinating topic from a wide range of perspectives, not the least of which is that if the current hypotheses about global warming turn out to be true, the current uncontrolled experiment in global terraforming could be extremely challenging for all of humankind in the centuries to come. In an earlier blog, I summarized some of the facts and controversy about global warming. If you refer to another earlier blog, however, you will notice that almost every country in the world has a government strategy, or is developing a strategy, on how to adapt to the global warming effects that are most likely to affect their country. In other words most governments accept global warming as a fact and are gearing up to adapt to it. The question in this blog is about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and what people think about the idea that the global warming trend is actually caused by people, not nature.
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Climate Change: a Testable Hypothesis

Climate change is a relatively simple concept. Over the course of the planet’s history, the Earth’s temperature has risen and fallen many times. In the distant past, temperature extremes reflected geological changes of great magnitude, but in relatively recent times, the changes have been more moderate. In examining these charts it is important to recall that these are not actual measurements until we get into modern periods when we actually used thermometers and CO2 direct measurements. The charts of ancient times are based on indirect measurements of temperature, dust, and CO2. So while these are good indications, they are necessarily relatively approximate estimates of the real data at the time. For example in the past 500,000 years (relatively recent times), the temperature has ranged from about 8.5C colder than now to about 3C warmer than now. During that time there were four “ice ages” and five “warm” periods, the last warm period is the one we are in just now. During warm periods CO2 was high, about 250 to 280 parts per million (ppm). During the cold periods the CO2 concentration was about 150 to 220 ppm. At the same time dust in the air was up during cold periods, and down during warm periods.

This original graph is courtesy of Vostok-ice-core-petit.png: NOAA, and is a derivative work: Autopilot, to which I added the warm cold text and graphic. The original data sets are available from: Noaa set #1, Noaa set #2, and Noaa set #3
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Why Capitalism Fails Society


Capitalism is an economic system, not a social system. Capitalism regards an employee as a cost, an expensive package of skills and energy, not a person. The cost of employees needs to be reduced as much as possible to increase profits. Capitalist owners monitor profits, and expectations of profits in the stock market based on their investments. Capitalist strategies control production and distribution to dominate the market. This domination trends to mega-corporations eliminating smaller businesses and corporations while reducing employee numbers or their wage levels as much as possible. The end-point has the unintended consequence of reducing the financially capable consumer base to just those who own capital, or who manage to maintain an entrepreneurial business against the competitive pressures of capitalist giants. Everyone else is a low-paid employee or unemployed and not able to purchase many products or services. On a world scale capitalism has not reached this point yet, so has not yet had to adapt to the end point of the trend. Instead it has moved to global markets and employee bases to delay that inevitable end point of capitalist strategies that necessarily omit people from the equation.
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Econosystems: Spontaneous or Planned?

No one would question the fact that economic systems have planning within them and that successful business ventures have elaborate planning often right down to the tiniest percentage of a market share point and how to capture it. But is the system itself planned?

Consider the same question from a biological perspective. Is an ecosystem planned or spontaneous? Is the evolution of biological organisms planned or spontaneous? How might one frame this as a question that can be tested? For example in a planned system one should be able to describe the outcomes. The outcome of natural evolution is biological organisms that can be broadly grouped into species, genera, families and so on. The outcome of ecosystems is individual and species associations and relationships into patterns depending on their interactions. Those are the forms of the results. In each case a conceptually simple process of elimination based on how well the fit is to the conditions. In the case of evolution, the selection takes place at the genetic level and is expressed at the individual level. In the case of the ecosystem, selection takes place at the individual level and is expressed at the species level.
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