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Weird Science

Two odd stories from the world of science caught my attention recently, and got me to thinking about non-political stuff.

First up, courtesy of Scott of amcgltd.com, we have news from Chernobyl. It seems that some plants in and around the site of the world's greatest nuclear disaster have adapted to not only survive, but thrive in what we all thought would be utterly inhospitable to life.

I am reminded of what Michael Chrichton wrote in one of his "Jurassic Park" novels. "Life will find a way."

Ever since the beginning of the atomic age, we have terrified ourselves with scary stories about how we will destroy the earth, blow up the earth, end all life on earth. Nowadays, it's the environmentalists doing the preaching but the basic message is the same.

Good god, how vain are we. We actually think we could obliterate all life on earth. Hell, a giant asteroid tired that, and all it did was clear the slate of the dinosaurs and make room for the mammals to take over.

Yes, we can make a real mess of the planet, if we put our minds to it. Or even if we just don't pay attention to what we're doing. But we ain't God. We would have to put a huge amount of effort to destroying all life on the planet, or destroying the planet entirely -- and even then we'd most likely fail.

On a lighter side, there's this story, lifted from Hot Air Headlines. Ever wondered just what it means when someone says something is "lower than whale shit?" Here's your answer.

Oh, and yeah, if you've ever wondered if whales fart, there's your answer, too.

It'll take a braver person than I to tell you just how foul a whale fart smells. I'll pass, thanks.


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Comments (26)

I'm betting it's like a shi... (Below threshold)

I'm betting it's like a shithouse door on a Tuna Fish boat.

Chernobyl was such a huge e... (Below threshold)

Chernobyl was such a huge environmental disaster that one simply cannot become too excited by some news of some plant survival against the backdrop of this radiation cloud nightmare. Even though this serious nuclear accident took place in 1986, we cannot forget that the halflife of radiocesium is around 30 years, and many crops in Sweden as well as other parts of Europe still show some higher levels or radioactive contamination due to the effects of radioactive rain, soil and groundwater contamination.

And medical science continues to find strong evidence of human DNA and immune system changes as a result of the continued background of radiation on humans in Europe as a result. Belarus continues to have new cases of thyroid cancer grow at huge rates unlike at any time in the past. And the radiation cloud actually floated as far as parts of North America after this nuclear plant explosion and fire.

Some scientific studies even believe that up to 200,000 persons worldwide may eventually die of some sort of thyroid or other cancer related to this nuclear blast before the radioactive levels have dropped to safer levels that have less effect on causing human cell mutations.

This nuclear accident is also a good reason why some nations such as North Korea or Iran should not develop nuclear power stations, as these nuclear sites might lack the same safety standards used by safer nuclear sites in nations like the U.S. where such a nuclear plant explosion and resulting radioactive cloud is highly unlikely.

Years ago some pundit state... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Years ago some pundit stated that grass would not grow at ground zero in Hiroshima for 100 years.

As you can see, it's doing quite nicely, thank you.

http://www.csi.ad.jp/ABOMB/PPM/ppm01.gif

Is this a contest?... (Below threshold)
Master Shake:

Is this a contest?

My entry is "It smells like Wizbang Blue".

One of my favorite "we're k... (Below threshold)

One of my favorite "we're killing earth!!!" hyperventilating bumper stickers is "Pavement is forever."

I'd just like to invite those with that bumper sticker on a favorite little hike of mine. The hike starts out on about 1 mile of closed pavement before leading to the trailhead. That was 20 years ago. Today, that pavement is overgrown and covered with plants, weeds, moss, pine needles; it's cracked and shattered by rocks from underneath and covered by mini slides. I've seen this repeated all over the Sierra Nevadas and in the Cascades. In short, the earth is swallowing the pavement up.

Lesson: Pavement isn't forever; human arrogance, however, seemingly is.

Paul, your same "scientists... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Paul, your same "scientists" are probably also saying humans are destroying the world.

JT gave an interesting story on the plant life, and so no one attempts to just enjoy the good news, along comes a lefty to pee all over it. Do you people enjoy nothing? ww

Re: #6 Thank you ... (Below threshold)
Laura:

Re: #6
Thank you for that. I enjoyed the post and the Cosmos article that Jay Tea linked to and then came to see what others had to say and there's Paul popping everyone's balloons.


Paul, couldn't you have waited til oh, I don't know, post #20 for all that?

Paul, it's more than just p... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Paul, it's more than just plants thriving in the area. Moose, deer, large cats, wild boars, birds, fish, etc are all doing quite well. As a matter of fact there are some 40+ endangered species multiplying there quite nicely. No increased instances of birth defects in them either. Yes, there have been elevated instances of thyroid cancer in humans, and not to downplay that, but humans seem to be the only ones adversely affected. So some are advocating that it be designated a protected area for wild life.

Now, would I eat a fish caught in one of the ponds there? Probably not, but no one's asking me to either.

Do you people enjoy noth... (Below threshold)
Clay:

Do you people enjoy nothing?

They can't, and you don't need to guess why. To rejoice in the resiliency of the earth would set back their agenda another decade or two. It is imperative for them to sound a constant and shrill clarion call to wrest control from the establishment.

Earth good. Man bad. Technology evil.

JT gave an interesting s... (Below threshold)
Dave:

JT gave an interesting story on the plant life, and so no one attempts to just enjoy the good news, along comes a lefty to pee all over it. Do you people enjoy nothing? ww

Despite what Jay said this was an obvious political article trivializing enironmental damage.

Paul,Your wasting ... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Paul,

Your wasting your time quoting scientifc evidence. Most of the commentators here ignore what the scientific community has to say. Kind of like ostriches with their heads buried in the sand. Ignorance is bliss

Dave, Paul, I kinda thought... (Below threshold)

Dave, Paul, I kinda thought I spelled it out, but let me reiterate for the obviously stupid here:

1) The thriving life at Chernobyl IS a scientific fact.

2) The human race has tremendous potential to seriously fuck up the earth, and wipe out most -- possibly -- all human life. We could do it deliberately, or accidentally, or inadvertently.

3) I don't believe we have the capability of wiping out all life on earth, or destroying the planet entirely. And the thriving ecosystem that has developed at Chernobyl (which was a horrific disaster, and a savage indictment of Communism, socialism, central control and planning, and all sorts of things) is proof of that.

4) Chernobyl is still very dangerous to human beings, yet more proof that Mother Nature doesn't really give a shit whether or not we live or die as a species. That's entirely up to us. Unless we get nailed with an asteroid or some killer virus or any of a zillion ways the "natural world" might wipe us out.

Yup, I'm a real "denier," ain't I?

Go suck some whale farts, morons.

J.

I posted this at the Cosmos... (Below threshold)
RadiCalMan:

I posted this at the Cosmos Magazine page Jay cited, but I've pasted it below for your information:

This Effect May Be More Widespread Than Just Fungi.

You may want to take a look at this recent announcement of some research being conducted at Stamford.

http://med.stanford.edu/news_releases/2008/july/dark-mice.html

It seems that dark skinned (I'm assuming here with large amounts of melanin) mice have the ability to produce a protein called p53 which increases apoptosis (programmed cell death) which in some cases prevents cancers, but in this case causes anemia by its effects on the bone marrow. It just goes to show you that biology is a lot more complicated than it looks on the surface.

In addition, life began and evolved in an environment with much higher levels of radiation than today. Just considering the radioactive decay of naturally occurring long lived isotopes, the average radiation levels when life is believed to have begun on Earth would have been about 7 times higher than today's levels. That's not even considering the additional levels of radiation from whatever the early atmosphere allowed from solar and other cosmic sources of radiation. So, it should be no surprise that some forms of life can thrive at high radiation levels like the radio-resistant bacteria radiodurans.

http://web.mst.edu/~microbio/BIO221_2000/Deinococcus_radiodurans.html

The lefty's life is so mise... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

The lefty's life is so miserable. How do they wake up and face every day? ww

If you haven't read it chec... (Below threshold)
Dan:

If you haven't read it check out:

http://www.michaelcrichton.net/speech-complexity.html

For those that don't follow links, it describes how Crichton was researching real disasters for background on a book about a world-wide disaster. He quickly learned that the common knowledge about Chernobyl versus what actually happened couldn't have been more different.

Jay, the fact that some lif... (Below threshold)

Jay, the fact that some life can survive nuclear radiation is no big surprise to any scientific person. Cockroaches have the awesome ability to survive much of the radiation of an atomic war for example, and could well be the only living creature survivors of such a conflict. By contrast, some animals such as mice have very weak hearts for example and many can easily die of fear, believe it or not. You can live catch a mouse with no injuries for example, and it would often die of fear just attempting to release it back into the wild because mice have such weak hearts overall. Some life is simply more durable than others, as science proves.

But contrast the rather gentle nature of mice with some breeds of rats who are aggressive in nature and will challenge humans or other animals if the need arises and will sometimes run around in packs for a sense of strength, but strangely have poor eyesight. The fact is that all life, animal or plant has some strengths and weaknesses, but most of the strengths are centered towards the survival of that life and the ability to adapt to the environment.

My point is also that the effects of Chernobyl will only continue for years to degrade the food quality in Sweden and elsewhere and that thyroid cancer continues to soar in the wake of what will become a 30 year halflife of the massive release of radiocescium.

I found your story about the plant life that has been able to adapt to this background of radiation interesting, but it is also highly predictable that some life has that ability to adapt to the very worst of conditions as long as oxygen exists to support life.

But at the same time, doesn't the Chernobyl event also raise safety questions about any peaceful use of nuclear power in either North Korea or Iran, where vital safety features could be short-cutted as well? Even if these nations had no nuclear weapons ambitions, still the use of nuclear power in either of these states raises serious accident risk questions that could impact millions of persons outside of their borders.

Dave, you are getting funni... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Dave, you are getting funnier and funnier.

Jay said, "Two odd stories from the world of science caught my attention recently, and got me to thinking about non-political stuff."

Yep, obviously political.

"Some life is simply mor... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"Some life is simply more durable than others, as science proves."

Paul, strangely enough, mice and rats are one of the scant few species NOT overly represented there. That is attributed to the fact that people don't live there. And why are mice and roaches relevant to the discussion at all? They do not equal moose, deer, wild boar, all manner of fish and birds, otters, large cats, etc that are alive and well there. Not only are they all thriving, but the the actual diversity of plants and animals has increased.

You did not refute this or anything Jay said. You just flat out ignored it and argued a totally different issue.

Oyster, more is simply know... (Below threshold)

Oyster, more is simply known about rats and mice because of their role in medical research and other science than most other forms of life.

I never disagreed with the point of Jay that mankind cannot possiby end all life on the planet by their own means, even though his argument seemed thrown together from a couple of SciFi websites here. But his premise is correct. Some life form will survive the worst of conditions, although it may only be some insect like a cockroach or some plantlife.

The cockroach has a history as old as 354 million years compared to the bone remains of the oldest human known as "lucy" in East Africa which dates back only between 3 to 3.6 million years ago. Land plants dated back to around 700 milion years ago, and land fungi to around 1,300 million years ago.

Certainly lower life forms like some plants or some insects or bacteria may be able to survive the very worst of conditions compared to the more fragile life forms like animals or mankind who easily die off when food becomes scarce or a bacteria illness strikes.

"Most of the commentators h... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"Most of the commentators here ignore what the scientific community has to say."

Ignore? I don't think so. Demand SCIENTIFIC (repeatable) methods and results? Yes.

30 years ago we where headed for a new "ice age" PER THE SCIENTISTS. Did it happen? Not to hear them now. By 2000 the world was to be overpopulted and running out of food. You starving? Overcrowded?

In 1992 SCIENTISTS said that Kalifornia's 7 year drought would take SEVERAL YEARS OF ABNORMAL rainfall to replenish exhausted reservoirs. Then the rain began. 30 days later every reservior in the state was overflowing.

Ignore? No. Skeptical? Yes. Or as someone once said, "Trust, but verify".

"...Chernobyl which was a h... (Below threshold)
John S:

"...Chernobyl which was a horrific disaster, and a savage indictment of Communism, socialism, central control and planning, and all sorts of things ..." that Paul and Dave just happen to love.

Years ago some pundit st... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Years ago some pundit stated that grass would not grow at ground zero in Hiroshima for 100 years.

In 1992 SCIENTISTS said that Kalifornia's 7 year drought would take SEVERAL YEARS OF ABNORMAL rainfall to replenish exhausted reservoirs.

There was never a consensus among the scientific community stating the above.

There is a consensus amoung the scientific about global warming

The reason why so many o... (Below threshold)
Dave:

The reason why so many on the right are in denial about global warming

For 20+ years one of the favorite targets of those on the extreme right have been environmentalist. They have enjoyed painting environmentalists as just a bunch of wacko's. Many in the extreme right continue to value their favorite pundits opinions on global warming over those that are experts on the matter. Now that the affects of global warming have been undeniably felt, those on the extreme right are in a state of denial. It would totally turn their world upside down to have to admit the environmentalists were right.

Dave, tell me, why are so m... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Dave, tell me, why are so many on the left (including you here) misrepresenting the argument of many on the right on global warming. There's a big, huge, difference between the argument on whether the temperatures have risen overall and what is the cause of it.

Dave - If 3 out of 4 method... (Below threshold)

Dave - If 3 out of 4 methods of measurement don't agree with the 4th, and there's serious validity questions about #4 - should you accept that #4 is right and the others wrong?

Seems like that's what NASA's doing. Odd, isn't it?

Nasa is out of line on global warming - Telegraph
.
Considering that the measures recommended by the world's politicians to combat global warming will cost tens of trillions of dollars and involve very drastic changes to our way of life, it might be thought wise to check the reliability of the evidence on which they base their belief that our planet is actually getting hotter.
.
There are four internationally recognised sources of data on world temperatures, but the one most often cited by supporters of global warming is that run by James Hansen of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).
.
Hansen has been for 20 years the world's leading scientific advocate of global warming (and Al Gore's closest ally). But in the past year a number of expert US scientists have been conducting a public investigation, through scientific blogs, which raises large question marks over the methods used to arrive at his figures.
.
First they noted the increasingly glaring discrepancy between the figures given by GISS, which show temperatures continuing to race upwards, and those given by the other three main data sources, which all show temperatures having fallen since 1998, dropping dramatically in the past year to levels around the average of the past 30 years.
.
Two sets of data, from satellites, go back to 1979: one produced by Dr Roy Spencer, formerly of Nasa, now at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, the other by Remote Sensing Systems. Their figures correspond closely with those produced by the Hadley Centre for Climate Studies of our own Met Office, based on global surface temperature readings.
.
Right out on their own, however, are the quite different figures produced by GISS which, strangely for a body sponsored by Nasa, rely not on satellites but also on surface readings. Hansen's latest graph shows temperatures rising since 1880, at accelerating speed in the past 10 years.
.
The other three all show a flattening out after 2001 and a marked downward plunge of 0.6 degrees Celsius in 2007/8, equivalent to almost all the net warming recorded in the 20th century.
If you had two and two, you could flip a coin on validity. 3 against 1? Seems to me you'd be looking real hard at the one that's not lining up with the other three to see if all the data you're using is valid. If it isn't, then you toss out that data set and start fresh. If it IS, then you try to figure out why the other three are so far off.

Over at Wattsupwiththat.com, an effort is being made to survey pretty much all the ground stations in the US to see if there might be environmental factors causing error. And there's been a LOT of error, apparently. You wouldn't think that locating a thermometer next to a blacktop parking lot, a furnace outlet, or an air conditioning unit would skew the record, would ya?

AGW's stopped being about science. Now, it's about politics... and by extension, power gained by control of people through persuasion or coercion.

Add in the fact that the arctic ice is thicker, Australia's having a cold winter, Alaska's having a cold summer, and there's no sunspots...

We may wish for warming in a few years.

And for one rather good exa... (Below threshold)

And for one rather good example of a weather station where the temperature data is compromised... check here.

Of such things are global warming made...




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