Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ciao to Ted and Jennifer as they go off for African research.

Last night was a farewell bbq for Ted L. and Jennifer J. as they go off to do their research on Lake Victoria and water sharing, and stuff. I would post photos of the event, but my camera was dropped and its LCD screen is kaput. (Darn.)

However, the bbq was well-attended, and many people brought good and scrumptious foods as well. I got to catch up with old friends and colleagues that I hadn't had a chance to really talk to for a few years, and got to chat with a bunch of new people.

Yesterday, Mike's lab group did a brief poster session showcasing what each person will be doing for their dissertation work. Four of Mike's students weren't there, but we still had a large number of PhD students talking about their work. (It's amazing that we all work with Mike, and we all look at different things on related topics. Well, maybe not terribly amazing, but interesting nonetheless.)

Forecast for today: hotter than I would prefer. (But it is summer, after all.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You spin me right 'round baby right 'round, like a ... skyscraper?

The future city of skyscrapers, Dubai, is building a new one that has rotating floors! I would like to know what the skyline of the future will look like. Now that there are buildings with large moving parts, I think this will be an interesting future in design (obviously), and may (if it takes) be the start of a near-future paradigm shift in architecture.

Of course, I hope that this shift will parallel the ongoing "green architectural revolution" to make future building even more energy and materials-efficient.

In other news, I purchased a bike last Friday: a Giant Sedona LX (2006) with a 21" frame (the largest they had at the store). I tower over people on the road. Still, regardless of how large I think my bike is, it is dwarfed by Yao Ming's bike.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ann Arbor Book Festival

The Ann Arbor Book Festival going on in town, and I purchased the book on Ann Arbor's fairy doors for Sabrina. I could have also purchased several books that would go onto the "I'll get around to reading it eventually" area of my shelves, all new for $5, but thought better of it. I did look at almost all the books that were on sale, including the Hare Krishna book stall, the Christian book stall, the Buddhist book stall, and (of course) the graphic novel book stall.

There were authors that were trying (with differing levels of insistence) to get you to buy their books. There were also people selling very expensive food to passersby. (I think the only people who purchased it were the people who didn't want to walk down the street - say 100 m - to the shops and restaurants on State Street to get food there.) In all, I didn't get a whole lot of academic work done...

On my way home, I saw this view of what it means to live in a town dominated by a university (and its commuters). Luckily, these houses back up onto a blank wall. There are some apartment buildings that abut a different structure that is open on all sides, meaning that headlights shine into bedroom windows.
That lovely "small town" feel of Ann Arbor.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Yellowstone National Park

So, yesterday I was reminded (by my dad) of a show I saw on the Discovery Channel a while ago on Supervolcanos. If we get an eruption of the bubbling mass of magma simmering under Yellowstone, there is going to be enough ash to significantly cover an area of 2000km2. The benefit is a little perverse: we won't have to worry about global warming, since the ash cloud spewed up in such an event would cause a multi-year winter that will kill off much of the animal and plant life on Earth. (Yay nature!)

(And Cheney's home state will have some new rock formations in the place of Yellowstone.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Acclimatizing to Climate Change

This week, a conference in taking place in Ann Arbor called "Confronting Climate Change." For those of you who read this and ask why we should care, I would say this:
  1. A recent report in Science magazine indicated that since 1990 (the publication of the first IPCC report), actual observed climatic trends have followed the upper bound trajectories of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, global temperature change, and global sea level rise.
  2. A report has come out from the CNA showing that retired US generals and admirals have stated that they believe that climate change is happening, and that we must anticipate the impacts for purposes of national security.
  3. If you thought that rising sea levels were the only thing to worry about in the oceans, you have forgotten your basic aquatic chemistry: greater atmospheric CO2 means increased water acidity (just think of any fizzy drink's ability to clean a dirty penny). This means in the short run that coral reefs will die out (causing massive problems to local economies - think Australia, Palau, Thailand, Egypt, Florida, Bermuda, etc.); shorelines will erode faster since reefs will not be acting as a energy disperser; and associated fish communities will crash causing sharp declines in local and international fisheries). In the long run, this can likely affect crabs, shrimp, and lobster - and all species that require the presence of CaCO3 in ready abundances (and not changed to CaCO2 because of increased water acidity).
  4. Increasing numbers of coal-burning power plants are being constructed each year. This will only exacerbate the volume of CO2 produced, leading to (potentially) upward deviation from even the upper-bounded estimates of the IPCCs future climate projections.
I'm not blaming anyone (although I do have a long list). However, much of the previous and current work in climate science (and climate change science) has been in the basic research. This conference (and my own personal belief) is that this needs to change. Already in 2007 the US we have seen:
  • unseasonable weather,
  • abrupt weather changes,
  • wildfires in Florida and Georgia scorching over 100,000 acres,
  • the formation of a tropical storm 5 weeks before the official start of the 2007 hurricane season,
  • massive ongoing drought in the southwestern states,
  • increased rates of flooding in the Mississippi River basin,
  • stronger tornadoes,
  • and the list goes on (and it's only May for F*ck's sake)!
The above maps and charts only show part of the story. The continuing economic impacts of not adapting our social, governmental, and economic planning to incorporate a future under a changed climate scenario is (IMHO) stupid. Without research into adaptation mechanisms running parallel with national and international climate change mitigation science and technology research, we might as well admit to ourselves and the rest of the world that we are driving blindly along a dirt road with no headlights, map, compass, or common sense.