Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The mirror-immage of Cassandra

The Goracle

Once Al Gore was a mere vice president, but now he is a Nobel laureate and climate-change prophet. He repeats phrases such as "unified national smart grid" the way he once did "no controlling legal authority" -- and the ridicule has been replaced by worship, even by his political foes.

Cassandra had the power to tell the future, but the curse that nobody would believe her. Gore is cursed with always being wrong about the future but he has the power to make everybody believe his wrong predictions.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Marathon training

86 minutes a couple of Wednesdays ago and 85 minutes today, so that is progress however slight. Last October I was able to run this route in 78:30 but that was ideal conditions--not the 20F of today.

Not sure if I should be pleased or disappointed...

Yesterday I was musing on radiocarbon dating. (Yeah, well what do you daydream about in the shower?)

The idea behind the technique is that carbon 14 is constantly made in the atmosphere and decays at a known rate. So the ratio of carbon 14 and carbon 12 in living things will be about the same as in air. But things which are dead will slowly loose their carbon 14 and so you can see how long they have been dead from how much carbon 14 is left.

The thought I had was that if the concentration of CO2 varies over time, then either depleted carbon is being added to the system or enriched carbon is being taken out of the system. So, assumptions about the past ratios of 12C/14C could be wrong. Just as an example: If we add carbon to the atmosphere by burning coal, we are adding exclusively 12C since coal is very old and all the 14C has disintegrated.

It turns out that someone has thought of this already: Hans Suess. So, this can be looked at in one or two ways. If nobody had thought of it already then either the idea has no merit (I didn't consider something important) or it is genius. Since it has already been thought of, it does have merit but is unremarkable since others have already come up with the same idea.